Chapter 215: Paying Attention

on May 30, 2014 in Volume 2 Book 6: Career Counseling, Volume 2: Sophomore Effort

In Which Lessons Are Learned

Bringing up the issue with the logo seemed like awkward to the point of daunting, though maybe it was a sign of how far I’d come that awkwardness in and of itself no longer an insurmountable obstacle.

The problem was that Andreas preferred that I be the one to come forward with it as he was afraid he’d already been pegged as a negative voice, and I’d managed to put my suggestion about an artist forward without a lot of drama. But I couldn’t consistently make myself see the problem, and the more time I spent looking at the powerful illusion, the less sure I was that there was one.

I had to believe my teammate over my own eyes, if only because I knew he was less likely to be fooled by an illusion than they were… I just wasn’t sure how to describe what was going on, or convince anyone else of the truth of it.

Then I realized I didn’t have to convince the group. Wisdom had woven the illusion, so it stood to reason that she was aware of the flaw, even if she didn’t see it as one. I had her demonstrate the problem by reducing the believability of her work until everyone could see it.

“I still don’t understand what’s wrong with it, though,” she said. “No one will question it.”

“If it doesn’t work for dwarves, it probably won’t work for all gnomes, either,” I said. I thought about how Twyla had seemed to reflexively see through it. “Or people who are otherwise magic-resistant for other reasons. And even if it works fine in practice, it doesn’t work on paper, and that’s a problem.”

“I’m glad you brought this up… because I’m afraid I’ve become aware of a potential problem, this one with the marketing and sale of our little project,” Acantha said. “But, taking a page from the notebook of our own Mackenzie, I decided to wait until I had a solution in mind before I raised this… and it might even allow us to kill four birds with two arrows, by allowing us to defer the naming question and all related branding to someone else entirely.”

“I’m not seeing how that’s a solution,” Andreas said.

“Well, it may or may not result in the outcome that you prefer, but at the very least, we wouldn’t be responsible for it,” Acantha said.

Andreas looked like he thought that was debatable, but he didn’t say anything.

“The problem is that the university might have a claim to what we’ve developed,” Acantha said.

“The hell they do!” Micah said. “We made it for ourselves.”

“Yes, and I think we could make the case that we didn’t use university resources,” Acantha said. “Which would be the basis of their claim. They don’t own your work simply because you are students. Our venture is not a university-sponsored group… although if things were to get nasty, they could actually hold your participation in a non-sanctioned group activity over your heads. I doubt it would come to that, even if we somehow ended up in a protracted legal battle, but it seems worth mentioning. The fact that we’ve been using the university’s facilities for our meetings complicates things, also.”

“This sounds like the kind of thing that could take years to sort out,” I said, speaking from related experience. “Even when the facts are fairly clear-cut.”

“This is true,” Acantha said. “Whether or not they have a solid claim from a strictly legal point might be difficult to tease out, but if it seems close enough, they might well make a play for it. And we don’t really have the time and resources that they do… they could tie us up forever at very lost cost to them, relatively speaking, and while that’s going on we wouldn’t be able to make any money or do anything else with our work.”

“So, what… we just give up?” Sapphire asked.

“As I said: there is a solution,” Acantha said. “The university isn’t likely to relinquish its claim without a fight, but that doesn’t mean it desires one any more than we do. When this project first started… before we had settled on a product or even a direction… I raised the possibility that we might find it easier to hand it off to someone rather than trying to mass-produce it ourselves. Allowing the university to buy it from us would accomplish that, while neatly sidestepping the need for any fight.”

“Well, I don’t think anyone here would say we should turn them down if they want to put in a bid,” Memphis said. “But commit to doing business with them without hearing an offer? Or shopping it around? I don’t see how that’s good business.”

“I am not saying we need to accept whatever they deign to give us,” Acantha said. “If I didn’t think we could get a fair price from them, I wouldn’t be suggesting this. Shopping the idea around might seem like it would result in a better price, but there would be other costs, in time and legal fees. The delays might be enough for someone else to get wind of what we’re doing and steal a march on us, and if we end up going back to the university because no one else wants to put money into something that they can’t own free and clear, we won’t get as good a deal as we would have if we simply went with the school first.”

“But if we make the offer to the school first, would that be an admission that we fear their claim?” Wisdom asked. “That might impair our bargaining stance.”

“Not necessarily,” Acantha said. “On some level, I believe everyone in the room will understand what is going on, but there are admissions and there are admissions. If we approach them, we can control the message that we send… make it clear that this is first look, not last resort.”

“May I ask something?” Twyla asked. She sounded annoyed.

“Certainly,” Acantha said.

“Was this an issue that you knew about before I signed on?”

“You have to understand, academia is not my usual arena,” Acantha said. “I’m not a lawyer, and as a freelancer, I’m not usually the one who hires or talks to the lawyers, either. There wasn’t any reason for this to come up until we were ready to start talking about the disposition of the product.”

“Was that a yes, or a no?”

“I had a suspicion that it might be an issue, but not an insurmountable one,” Acantha said. “I didn’t want to say more until I knew more, and until I had a solution in mind. Look, I can understand that you’re all disappointed. I don’t think this is as bad as you’re all thinking it is right now… having a ready-made customer could simplify our endgame… but I understand that it’s not the outcome that you were hoping for. It’s not what I was looking for, either. It just is what it is.”

“Do we have a ready-made customer, though?” Andreas asked. “I mean, knowing that the school might believe it has a right to our work is one thing… are they going to see the value in it?”

“Well, yes. This is how I caught on to this wrinkle,” Acantha asked. “While researching potential markets, I became aware that some fairly canny… people… high in the school’s administration are very aware of the proliferation of the soldier game and believe it has the potential to be the next big thing. As the birthplace of the modern, above ground incarnation of the game, I believe Magisterius University would be very interested in finding a way to put its stamp on things, so to speak.”

“So that’s it,” Andreas said. “Our work becomes a way for them to own the game.”

“Not own so much as brand it,” Acantha said. “No one can own the game. It’s spread with scribed rules and hand-made pieces, and legally, no one can claim ownership of rules or processes… which means that MU can’t truly own the game, but no one could stop them from publishing their own ‘official’ rules. One way or another, this is something that’s likely to happen.”

“That doesn’t mean we have to profit from it,” Andreas said.

“Profiting from it doesn’t make us responsible,” Acantha said. “The hours we’ve spent on this and the work we’ve done are ours. They belong to us, and we can do with them as we please. We don’t owe them to the university, but we also don’t owe them to the game as an abstract concept, or to anyone else. Throwing them away in a vain sacrifice isn’t going to change anything.”

“If you don’t see the difference between an axe in someone’s back and an axe in someone’s back with your hands around the haft, then I don’t know what to tell you,” Andreas said.

“I see the difference between murder and a simple business decision,” Acantha said. “Look, we haven’t even agreed on a course of action. I’m just sharing some information that might help us as a group to come to a consensus.”

“Well, I will tell you here and now that I’ll never approve of selling to the school,” Andreas said. “I’d sooner give it to the league for free or slap it up on the ethernet for anyone to use than let the university turn it into a way to control the game.”

“Your league is a university-sponsored club now, in case you have forgotten,” Acantha said. “Things have been pretty laissez-faire so far, but I assure you that changes are coming. As for the other option you mention: we could certainly explore that, if the group is amenable to it. There’s even something to be said for pay-what-you-will distribution models, in terms of speed of adoption and low overhead… but that’s generally more useful when the potential market is widely dispersed and you have no other way of reaching it. Here, the demand is still primarily local, and we do have a way of reaching them.”

“All the more reason not to go through a middleman,” Andreas said. He looked around the group. “Tell me I’m not the only one who thinks we can do better for ourselves, by ourselves.”

“I don’t know, man,” Micah said. “It’s been fun, but I don’t really see myself going into marketing… if we can just hand it off for a bundle of coins, I don’t see why we shouldn’t. I mean, we’ve all got other stuff to do.”

“I would be concerned about how big a bundle of coins we can pry out of the university,” Memphis said. “All I was hoping for from this project was some pocket money… as I see it, any lump sum I get will be at the cost of making my normal line of work less profitable as highly detailed figures will be in less demand.”

“I hear your concern,” Acantha said. “And as I said, this isn’t the outcome any of us were expecting. Just to make it a little more palatable,let me say this: if as a group we decide to give the university first shot and they take it, I will give up my share of the project just to make everyone else’s that much bigger. Admittedly, splitting it once less way may seem like more of a gesture than anything else, but I believe it’s the right thing to do.”

And that was when I knew.

“How much is the university paying you?” I asked her.

“Excuse me?” she said.

I didn’t bother to say you heard me. She was an elf, after all.

“I just asked how much the university is paying you.”

“Well, my teaching salary for the semester is basically a stipend compared to what Icould be making, but don’t worry about me taking a loss on this… my expenses are modest and my pockets are deep.”

“That’s not what I meant,” I said. “How much did the university pay you to come up with a way to take over… re-brand, whatever… soldier stones and turn it into something they could sell?”

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39 Responses to “Chapter 215: Paying Attention”

  1. Klaus says:

    Wow. That was very confrontational from our very own Mackenzie

    Current score: 12
  2. Truth says:

    If they play their cards right they stand to make a lot of money. Acantha on the other hand just got put into a very tight spot, and stands to lose a lot of money.

    Current score: 0
  3. cnic says:

    I wonder when the last time Mackenzie has fed. We don’t hear about it much lately because she has her schedule down pretty well now, but I could easily see it slipping her mind with everything else that has been going on. A demonic hunger would be a good source of aggressiveness for confrontation.

    Current score: 0
    • Guitardrumr says:

      Or perhaps the realization that there is someone on campus who is potentially even more conniving than an Elf, and far more interested in money.

      Mr. Vice-Chancellor. Dragons are generally interested both in collecting things (so there is the potential that he became aware of it through one of the custom sets of Stones), as well as copious amounts of gold. As the person basically in charge of the school, I sincerely doubt he’d be adverse to using school resources to get something he wants. And as a dragon, he’d be perfectly willing to play the long game, so letting the group slowly develop this for him wouldn’t bother him.

      Current score: 10
  4. Dani says:

    Mackenzie’s been eating red meat! Or so we can hope…

    Current score: 0
  5. Cadnawes says:

    Huh. So Twyla’s immune to all manner of bullshit.

    Current score: 10
  6. pedestrian says:

    Okay, I did not see this coming. If Mackenzie’s charge is proven I will be very disappointed in Acantha.

    However, If the suspicions are proven incorrect, it will be difficult to repair the relationship between Mackenzie and Acantha or for that matter with the rest of the group.

    I suppose the other elves would be amused by dramatics but I doubt if anyone else will be.

    Some comments asked about Mackenzie’s feeding? I doubt that is involved, but.. What if our lil’demon-girl is being mischievous from an innate demon instinct? Unconsciously seeking to sabotage the group, cause, why the hell not?

    Current score: 1
    • Lunaroki says:

      No, I’m pretty sure Mackenzie just doesn’t like being taken advantage of or seeing others being taken advantage of. Everything she’s ever learned about right and fair play has just been triggered. This isn’t demonic mischief. This is the righteous indignation of a paladin. Whether she’s right or wrong remains to be seen, but when Mack sees people she cares about being mistreated, and not in the fun ways, she armors up for battle. Granny Blaise would almost be proud of her.

      Current score: 15
      • pedestrian says:

        Would not Brimstone reject such a relativistic POV? From a Paladin’s concept of Good vs Evil. A demon spawn is fundamentally evil.

        Even though Mackenzie makes the extra effort to do Good, for Good reasons, even if she achieves Goodness. Simply does not matter on the fundamental level of absolute opinion.

        Current score: 0
        • Ducky says:

          Objectively? Yes. If we take the emotion out of context of “demonspawn?” I think Granny would be proud.

          Current score: 0
          • pedestrian says:

            Duck, I have to disagree with your assumptions. From personal experience of being related to a number of religious fanatics.

            Who make the Taliban look moderate and reasonable. They do not do objective or factual. They will never surrender their hatred of the modern world.

            There is only Absolute Good and Absolute Evil and absolutely no compromise in between.

            Current score: 0
    • Ilya says:

      I agree, it’s too bold play for Acanta.
      I mean, even if she is working for university, she should convince the group that selling to university is good for everybody, including herself.
      Pragmatic as she is, giving away her share, even if it’s smaller that she thought at the beginning, immediately means that something is not right here.

      Current score: 1
    • zeel says:

      Mackenzie has significantly increased snarkiness within the last few lines of a chapter. The potential for suspense increases both her confidence and ability to articulate a thought.

      Meta-analysis. . .

      Current score: 0
  7. readaholic says:

    Heh heh heh. So. Now we know. Acantha is in the pay of Embries. Who was no doubt behind her examination of the mock box.

    Current score: 1
    • zeel says:

      Why would he even be involved? He doesn’t own the school, or even directly control most of what it does. There is no reason to believe he has any more to do with it than potentially having (rubber stamp) approved the allocation of funds to pay Acantha.

      Current score: 1
      • Ducky says:

        Dragon custom says that, yes, he “owns” the school in terms of dragon status.

        There’s an OT about it somewhere…something to do with a purple dragon in the employ of the Emperor so he can claim the capital city as his.

        Current score: 1
        • zeel says:

          He might own it in the eyes of other dragons (but not under imperial law), but that is irrelevant to my point – which is that he wouldn’t really be involved in this, some committee thought it would be a good idea to capitalise on the game and came up with the scheme. The extent of his involvement might be giving them his approval.

          Current score: 0
  8. Lunaroki says:

    Typo Report

    Bringing up the issue with the logo seemed like awkward to the point of daunting, though maybe it was a sign of how far I’d come that awkwardness in and of itself * no longer an insurmountable obstacle.

    The word “like” seems extraneous here. I feel the sentence would read better without it. Also, there seems to be a “was” missing after “itself”.

    they could tie us up forever at very lost cost to them, relatively speaking,

    I believe that was meant to be “very low cost” or “very little cost”.

    Just to make it a little more palatable,let me say this:

    Space missing after the comma.

    Admittedly, splitting it once less way may seem like more of a gesture than anything else,

    That reads awkwardly. I think it would read better “splitting it one less way” instead of “once”.

    “Well, my teaching salary for the semester is basically a stipend compared to what Icould be making,

    Unless “Icould” is the Muniverse version of the Apple corporation, I think there’s a space missing there. 🙂

    Current score: 1
  9. Order of Chaos says:

    Yes! I would love it if Mack goes on the offensive against the tarnished teapot with this. I know that sounds like suicide but…
    1. Mack let Embries have 1,000 platinum on the grounds that she did not want LAW in her life. He did not deliver so she can honestly say he screwed her over and used mind control to keep her from telling anyone.
    2. If Amaranth gets mummy on side to protect Mack he can’t touch her because even if Embries was willing to see the world end over this I bet the other dragons using it to store stuff would remove the problem.
    3. I just really want Mack to beat him.
    Please AE. 🙂

    Current score: 1
    • zeel says:

      What? I have no idea how any of that makes sense. . .

      Current score: 0
      • readaholic says:

        While I have to agree with zeel, I LOVE the description of Embries as “the tarnished teapot”.

        Current score: 3
    • Order of Chaos says:

      Sorry. Mack can use point 1 to stop the sale as the group would not want to deal with someone like that untill she can tell them more, it’s a dangerous move but point 2 is since Mother Khaele threatening to end the world if her nymphs are abused got even dragons scared she could (but might not) protect Mack. Point 3 was going to be that since Acantha recruited them in bad faith on behalf of a member of staff the law might accept Acantha was an agent of Embries and as such speaks on his behalf but my mind went blank when I got to it.
      Tarnished teapot is the nickname Coach Callahan gave to Embries in chapter 175.
      Hope that makes more sense.

      Current score: 0
      • Glenn says:

        I’ll be disappointed if this accusation turns out to be the truth, because I hoped that AE was setting Acantha up as a long term opponent of Callahan, who has, after all, been shown to want to kill Gods, start global wars, and commit genocide on immortals. It may be that Acantha is working with Embries, not for money as Mack suspects, but as a way to gain his support against Callahan.

        Current score: 0
        • Order of Chaos says:

          Someone with motivation that makes sense but isn’t what you would expect in Tale of MU? could be. To be fair we don’t know why Callahan killed that god and she did stop the giants twice.

          Current score: 0
      • zeel says:

        This is MU though, none of that really makes sense for this story.

        I keep seeing comments like this that treat all the characters that have at times been antagonists as major villains, and make wild guesses about how all of them are interacting behind the scenes. As if Mackenzie is the big hero that’s going to save the day – Sooni logic.

        To your points:

        1. Irrelevant, since she made no deals or agreements with anyone. He didn’t screw her over, and she can’t claim anything about mind control since she can’t actually talk about it. Also, I doubt Embries has any association with what Mackenzie is accusing Acantha of. It might be profitable, but not that profitable.

        2. While in theory Mother Kh could potentially stop him from harming Mackenzie she is incredibly unlikely to do so – Law might have been mildly agitated by the prospect, Embries not so much. But there is no reason to believe that he would attempt to harm Mackenzie.

        3. She isn’t going to “beat” him, for one he isn’t a villain, he isn’t the enemy. He can be a problem in some situations, but he isn’t going to get involved with something like this. Also, he’s a fucking dragon.

        And most importantly: This isn’t that kind of story. In this arc the institution of the university (no single person) is probably trying to pull a fast one on some students, and Mackenzie is in the middle of it. This is a fairly (unfortunately) common occurrence in the real world, and it will certainly have a fairly mundane conclusion.

        Many commenters are mistaking the genre of this story, expecting some kind of showdown, where Ebries, Acantha, Callahan, Mercy, and all the other antagonists get what’s coming to them. Where Mackenzie wins the day and racism is abolished and everyone is so happy for the demon girl.

        That isn’t going to happen.

        Current score: 9
        • Order of Chaos says:

          All true but I can dream. 🙂

          Current score: 1
          • pedestrian says:

            zeel, I have to agree with your cogent analysis.

            I agree that readers, sometimes myself to be honest, will project what direction they prefer AE’s storyline to play out.

            Ignoring that none of us are the author. Hmmm? Who obviously is developing her own agenda. Which is why we keep returning to see what she has imagineered this time.

            Current score: 1
  10. Zathras IX says:

    “Works fine in practice”
    Is no good if it doesn’t
    Work fine on paper

    Current score: 3
  11. Trent Baker says:

    Wait a minute, I thought they were just coming up with a method to apply illusion to the miniatures?

    “the student generates IP using university facilities and/or resources and it has been agreed by the university that those facilities and resources can be used but on condition that the university owns the IP arising.”

    This is not the case, there has been no communication with the university about this.

    “the student generates IP which arises because it is created jointly with an employed member of university staff working in the course of his or her employment.”

    I think this is where Mack is coming from. If this is what Acantha has done its pretty underhanded. The way I see it is that the situation could be a poisoned chalice for MU. If they try to “own” Stone Soldiers and come down all heavy handed on the players then they are going to generate alot of bad blood right from the start. Love and Hate are the two sides of the same coin after all.

    Current score: 4
  12. Cadnawes says:

    Acantha’s BEEN bold and pretty overt in her dealings so far, she’s just surrounded by people who decide not to notice. It’s obvious she’s up to something. Everyone seems to know it, but because they’re not sure WHAT she’s up to, it’s easy to override the little voice in the gut telling you to run.

    Much like the Man, any advice she gives, good or not, is linked to an agenda that isn’t clear. And it isn’t clear because she’s masking it. She may be trying to save the world or something, but I wouldn’t help her do it.

    I know a lot of people like her, but oh my goodness I can’t stand her. (and not in the “love to hate a good villain” kind of way.) I love Twyla a little bit more for slicing through her verbal sleight of hand so fast, and I’m not sure Mack would have come to the conclusion she did without that.

    Current score: 4
  13. N'vill says:

    Hum, much talk about Embries as if this dragon is a third party, if dragons are shape shifters, it doesn’t mean a dragon always has to be in the shape of a male human, it can be in the shape of a female elf. just a thought is all.

    Current score: 0
    • Seth says:

      Embries tends to keep a low profile, since a Greater Dragons presence and will alone is enough to have reality bending effects.

      Besides which, it’s infinitely more amusing to offer Acantha “continued use of lower limbs” as compensation for services rendered, and watch her squirm.

      Current score: 3
    • zeel says:

      I guarantee he isn’t even involved.

      Current score: 2
    • Anon says:

      Embries’ aura affected the entire school when they looked at little more than an image of him – and he wasn’t happy about it. I’m not sure he can rein it in enough to stand in a room full of humanoids without it being extremely obvious to Mack that it’s him.

      Current score: 2
  14. Anvildude says:

    Sounds like Games Workshop to me!

    Current score: 1
  15. Riocaz says:

    Simple. GOLD.

    He’s a Dragon, dragons like the shiny stuff even more than dwarves do. And he’s been a part of university structure long enough that he knows how much this could add to his hoard.

    IIRC his position is given to him on the basis that the university is sited in his dominion, and that the university pays him for his stewardship. I’m willing to bet his contract includes a direct percentage of profits from things the university “owns”.

    Current score: 1
  16. That one guy says:

    I’m going to tell you exactly what’ll happen…

    Acantha: If I was getting paid by the university, why would what be a problem?
    Mack: Because blah.
    Acantha: Woah, isn’t that what you’re doing, with the secret payments from me that nobody else is getting?
    Everyone else: Wait, what, screw you Mackenzie, what’re these secret payments?
    Mack: Uh, oops.
    Acantha: Ok, I’ma just gonna use my 1337 elven stealth to sneak out while everyone is distracted without every answering the original question.
    Everyone else: Hey, Acantha’s gone, you were in on it too with your secret payments, Mackenzie? We all hate you now.
    Mack: Woah is me, for I have become that which I hate, I am so conflicted.
    Amaranth: It’s ok, baby, you’ve been bad so here’s some spankings and other sexy times.
    Andreas: Screw Acantha and your human laws, I’m going to write out everything that happened with her, publish it, then go back home to the dwarves.
    Embries: Not so fast…
    Acantha: Hee hee, I’ma gonna do it again next year with a different batch of students.
    Mack: Well, I’m going to do this that and the other thing.
    Mack’s lawyer: Mack, WTF, you’re supposed to run these sorts of contracts by/through us first!
    Mack: Woah is me, for I am become that which I hate.
    Amaranth: It’s ok, baby, you’ve been bad so here’s some spankings and other sexy times.

    Current score: 5
    • Seth says:

      Mackenzie accepting up front payment for service to the group isn’t a conflict of interest.

      Acantha accepting payment from an outside source to influence the decisions of the group, or founding the group with insincere goals, are both conflict of interests.

      Current score: 4
    • zeel says:

      While I am all for the ending (I mean who doesn’t want sexy times?), I think even Mackenzie can argue her way out of such an obvious and weak attack as that. There is nothing similar about her taking money up front and Acantha being paid by the school.

      Current score: 0