Chapter 216: Closing Arguments

on June 7, 2014 in Volume 2 Book 6: Career Counseling, Volume 2: Sophomore Effort

In Which Mackenzie Takes Heart

Time stopped, or at least it seemed to… I definitely wished that it had, because that would mean that things would stop happening. The words had risen up out of me almost against my will, torn free by the force of the sudden certainty behind them.

They were out there now, and there was nothing that could be done about that.

“Where ever did you get that idea?” Acantha asked.

Not an answer.

Not a denial.

Somehow, this gave me something approximating more courage.

After having had the importance of never lying… which was not the same thing as being honest or always telling the truth… for nine years, the significance of this non-answer rang out in my head like a bell.

Acantha had told out-and-out lies before, but a lot of people were less comfortable with telling a complete lie in response to a direct question.

“From you,” I said. “You never gamble. You don’t work for free. You don’t seem broken up enough about the turn of events to explain why you’d start now.”

“Not all rewards are financial,” she said, her voice careful and her face still… so very still.

Still not a denial.

“Sure, you might have given your time to the project for future opportunities, contacts, or goodwill,” I said. “If we’d come up with something that didn’t have the legs to go very far… but this is what you described as a great idea. It’s going to be a real moneymaker, or at least you think it will be one.”

“I’m pleased to see that you have taken my lessons to heart, but you may be interpreting them a bit too strictly,” she said. She’d hedged things with may be, but this somehow pinged as more of a lie to me.

That didn’t just make me braver, it made me angry.

“You’re getting paid for this,” I said. “Or you’ve already been paid. That’s why you’re willing to give up your share. That’s why you didn’t care about the naming issue. That’s why you didn’t care that we might not be able to sell it elsewhere.”

“Okay, Ms. Mackenzie,” Acantha said. It was the first time she’d used the formal style in anything project-related. “You are clearly invested in this theory. So imagine that what you’re saying is in some way true. Would that in any way change whether the university is the best buyer for the project? Would it motivate me to accept anything less than the best price we can get for our work?”

“What do you care, if you’re not taking a piece of it?” Memphis asked.

“My point is that Ms. Mackenzie may be leading you to imagine a conflict of interest where there isn’t one,” Acantha said.

“We could have done anything, though,” I said. “We didn’t set out to work on something for the game to begin with.”

“And I didn’t set our course,” she said.

“But you didn’t steer us away from it, either,” I said.

“We share responsibility for these decisions,” she said. “Anyone who was simply sitting back and relying on me to make the big decisions bears as much responsibility for decisions I made as those who actively supported them.”

“You didn’t give us all the information that you had. Even if it was never your plan to have us specifically come up with something you could use as a solution for this contract or whatever, there’s still a conflict,” I said. “If you already had an agreement to help them commercialize the game, you knew they would be interested in anything we came up with that related to it. If there was even a chance you could have missed the fact that the university could claim ownership of our work in general… and I’m not sure how likely it really is that you would miss that… you definitely wouldn’t have overlooked it if you were already thinking of them as the buyer.”

“I’m flattered that you think me so diligent.”

“I’m in your lab,” I said. “I know how diligent you are.”

“Enchantment is highly energetic magic,” she said. “I’ve lived long enough to learn that it’s easier to walk away from a deal that blows up in one’s face than a wand or powerstone that blows up in one’s face.”

“I don’t buy it,” I said.

“It’s the truth.”

“I’m sure it is,” I said. “But that doesn’t mean you enjoy having deals blow up, either.”

“What do you want from me, exactly?”

“I want to know the details of any deal you have with the school,” I said. “And… I’m not going to accept any agreement to sell to them until all the cards are on the table.”

“Yes, well, I’m afraid that’s simply not your decision to make,” Acantha said. “You have one vote, the same as everyone else. I’ve told you the truth about the school’s potential claim, and I’ve told you my honest judgment about the best way to handle that. I have enough experience negotiating that I am confident I can get us… you… a fair price for our efforts. Are you really going to convince your friends to jeopardize the chance of turning a profit in order to satisfy your curiosity?”

“I don’t see the jeopardy,” Wisdom said. “Unless the window to negotiate is likely to close in the next few minutes, I don’t see how telling us the truth is going to cost anything… at least, I don’t see how it would cost us anything.”

“I’m really not comfortable with having been brought onboard without knowing all the details,” Twyla said. “If there’s something going on that we don’t know about… I definitely am in favor of going no further until we know what that is.”

“The thing you all need to understand is that I rarely give my full attention to a single job at a time,” Acantha said. “What I am working on is what I’m working on, but if I wasn’t always looking out for the next thing as I go, most of my time would be between jobs, trying to line something up. Sometimes this means that I’m juggling a bit, with a lot of balls in the air. Ms. Mackenzie has spun out a theory where these balls have lined up in a particular way by design when the simpler explanation is that this simply how they happened to come down.”

“So, you are getting paid for finding a way to wrap up the game with a bow and give it to the university in a form they can package and sell,” I said. “You just won’t admit to having planned it.”

“I don’t see why it matters… why any of it matters. I am going to get you a fair price,” Acantha said. “It has never been my intention to cheat any of you.”

“No, just trick us and use us,” Andreas said.

“A lot of people who graduate from this university with the degrees you’re all pursuing will go on to work for wages for the rest of their lives,” Acantha said. “Even some of you will likely go through a period where the compensation I can secure you for a part-time labor of love will seem generous by comparison, in order to get anywhere.”

“But we were never supposed to be hirelings,” Memphis said.

“No,” Acantha said. “And I’ve never treated you like one. This was meant to be a lesson in what it’s like to take control and make something for yourself, to work for yourself. I’d like to point out how much simpler all of this would have been if I’d simply recruited some random promising students to do straightforward work-for-hire. But I didn’t want to do that. I wanted to give you the dignity of being your own masters.”

“Thank you for thinking of me, but I’m full up on dignity,” Memphis said. “The reason I stuck around was that you promised me money.”

“And you will have it,” Acantha said.

“How much more would I have, if you’d been dealing honestly with us?” Memphis asked.

“Please, don’t be distracted by the specter of what you think could have been,” Acantha said. “As long as there are more numbers to count, it will always be technically possible to have more money. That doesn’t mean it’s practical or likely.”

“We’re not talking about some impossible hypothetical,” I said. “Whether this was a master plan or pure improvisation or somewhere in between… and as I say that, I’d bet it is something in the middle… it’s you holding back information that put us on this path, where we’re stuck negotiating with a single buyer and you stand to collect a fee that you obviously think will be worth your time and effort.”

“If I am or not, it’s not any of your business,” she said. “Why don’t we focus on what is your business? I think if we could just discuss some proposals for selling, you might all find that you’re far less concerned with how much money other people are making. In fact, one advantage of dealing with the school is that we could very well arrange some credit hours for the work you’ve put in.”

“Wonderful,” Memphis said. “Refresh my memory. What is the resale value on those again?”

“I don’t want to talk about selling until we know how much you’re going to be collecting if we sell,” I said.

“That isn’t any of your business,” Acantha said again.

“I think it is,” I said.

“How in the world do you figure that?”

“If one of us is making a profit on the project, then it belongs to the project,” I said.

“I… this isn’t… that’s… no,” Acantha said. “No. I see where you would have that impression, but we are talking about two different things. There is payment for the sale of property, and there is payment for services rendered. If selling the project allows me to perform a service for which I can be paid, that’s a fortunate confluence of events.”

“If you planned on doing it… or even saw the opportunity and snatched it up… then it’s not exactly a lucky break,” I said.

“No, but it is still a confluence of events and not a single occurrence,” she said. “Legally, you have no claim.”

“I don’t know about that,” I said. “But I think we could make enough of a case to tie things up… and at the very least, we could collectively refuse to sell until this is resolved. Like you told me earlier, you have one vote, the same as the rest of us.”

“I don’t know why you’re willing to quibble over my fee when you have an eighth of the sale price waiting for you,” she said.

“Because I’m guessing your fee is worth more than an eighth of the project,” I said.

“But for all you know, it could be worth exactly the same as you’ll be getting,” she said.

“I don’t think so,” I said. “But if I’m wrong… you have nothing to lose by telling me.”

“This is foolish,” Acantha said. “What would you do if, while you are all holding out and hanging on with your stubborn pride, the university decides to simply swoop in and claim what we’ve created for themselves?”

“How would they find out?” Andreas asked. “That’s what I’m wondering. Would you be the one to tell them? Or… do they already know?”

“I doubt she’s been filing reports,” Wisdom said. “Freelance is more your style, isn’t it?”

“Yes, but… my… contact at the university has been very interested in my progress,” she said. I sensed something more in the hesitation than simple discretion. A thought came to me, as sudden as it was awful.

“So much for non-disclosure,” Andreas said.

“I never signed that form,” she said. “It didn’t seem necessary. Look, if you think you have a superior bargaining position here, you still have a lot to learn. I don’t like to take a loss, but if we all walk away from this without seeing a copper from it, I can assure you that the money I will miss out on means less to me than the money you stand to lose would mean to any of you.”

“There are more ways to take a loss than financial,” I said. I hesitated myself, and then decided this was a situation that was worth gambling. “Was your agreement with the university itself… or with the vice-chancellor?”

Acantha said nothing.

“I bet he’s been very excited about the glimpses you’ve been showing him,” I said. “He’s not going to be happy if you can’t deliver.”

“He won’t be happy with any of us, in that case,” she said. “By making this stand, you’ll be the one most directly responsible.”

“I’m not the one who promised him anything,” I said.

“You also won’t be the one reporting to him,” she said. “You know, he’s not very fond of you.”

So now she was tacitly threatening me. Well, I could own up to the fact that I’d raised the stakes by mentioning Embries in the first place.

“I know that,” I said. “But how do you? I don’t think he’s the sort of… person… to just mention that casually. He warned you about me, didn’t you? He warned you against including me, when you were filling him in on our progress.”

“If you must know, yes. He said he feared you would bring a chaotic element to the process,” she said. “So you see, he’ll naturally be inclined to blame you for any failure to deliver.”

“I won’t be the one reporting to him,” I said. “Do you think he’ll be so pleased to have been right about me that he’ll forgive you for not listening?”

Acantha paused to gather her thoughts. I plunged ahead.

“I have seen the vice-chancellor’s disappointment,” I said.

I didn’t elaborate. I couldn’t have if I’d wanted to, and I didn’t have to. The thing is, I’m not an elf. I can’t access the kind of preternatural stillness that Acantha could when she didn’t want to give anything away. I don’t have perfect control over my voice or the muscles beneath my skin. I don’t know what Acantha or anyone else in the room heard in my voice or saw on my face, but it took the heart right out of her. I watched her marble facade crumble in response to it.

“How much is he paying you, Acantha?” I asked.

“You must realize I can’t divulge the details of my agreement,” she said.

“Then don’t,” I said. “But here’s what you are going to do: tell us how much additional revenue the project is going to generate upon successful sale to the university. You don’t have to tell us the source of that revenue. Just how much it is.”

“But that’s ridiculous!” Acantha said. “I would have no reason to tell you the truth, and you would have no way of verifying.”

“So make sure you say a big enough number.”

“Fine,” she said. “Six… six hundred.”

“Six hundred gold?”

“Yes,” she confirmed.

“Okay,” I said. “Here’s the deal I want to propose to the group. You take twenty-five percent of that. Call it a bonus, for finding this extra revenue. That way the rest of can will split the rest evenly. One hundred and fifty for you, fifty for each of us.”

“Fuck that,” Micah said. To judge from a quick glance around the room, it seemed everybody else was cowed… or in Memphis’s case, reasonably satisfied… with the prospect of fifty gold coins. “If it’s all our money, it’s all our money. Why does she get three times as much for trying to cheat us?”

“It’s more money than any of us expected,” I said. “And since we wouldn’t be getting it if she hadn’t tried to cheat us, I say we can afford to recognize her contribution.”

“Who put you in charge?” Sapphire asked.

“No one,” I said. “We can vote on it. But my way, you get fifty gold, plus whatever the school feels like paying out. If you want to hold out for another ten gold a piece… which is what you’d get extra if we split the whole thing ten ways… you can do that, but that hinges on the idea that she’ll put her fee into the pot without a fight.”

“And she’ll agree to your split?” Memphis asked.

“Yes,” I said. I glanced at Acantha. “You will, won’t you?”

I couldn’t say where it came from, but I had the feeling that throwing her the bone of extra shares would be the quickest… and maybe only… way to get her to agree to this. At the moment, she was both frustrated and frightened. If she had time to withdraw and think, she might become convinced that she could safely spin this into my fault. It might occur to her that she could relay her version of events to Vice-Chancellor Embries from a safe distance, which in this case simply meant anywhere that she would be harder to reach than I was.

“If you say yes, we can vote on this,” I said. “Which gives us all a huge incentive to sell to the school. Otherwise… I’m going to move that we table all talk of sales or distribution until we can clear up the ownership of the project completely.”

“I’ll second that,” Andreas said.

“I’d be with her,” Wisdom said.

“I hate the idea of working for nothing,” Twyla said. “But I like the idea of having worked for someone else’s small fortune even less.”

“That’s four,” I said. “Do you think I couldn’t convince another person or two that it’s better to hold out for more than let you walk away with five hundred gold while we settle for a sweetheart deal you probably negotiated in advance?”

“You planned this, didn’t you?” Acantha said. “That’s why you wanted to bring your friend in. So you could have another vote in the bag when you made your play.”

“We aren’t that close friends,” Twyla said. “Actually, I can’t imagine being friends with anyone who would expect me to back them like that… but congratulations on winning me over with your elven charm.”

“Honestly?” I said. “This is just the way the balls came down. I couldn’t have planned any of this… I would never in a million years have guessed that I’d be standing up and doing this, even if I’d known all this stuff long in advance. And I didn’t… I’ve had the idea in my head that you were holding something back and maybe doing more advanced planning than you were admitting to, but I couldn’t figure out why… what benefit it would be to you to keep us in the dark instead of just coming out and saying, ‘Here’s what I need you to make.’ But it’s the image of the thing, isn’t it? It looks better if it comes from students… like Andreas said, it’s our hands on the axe. That, and as long as we didn’t know you were working for someone else, we couldn’t get curious about how much you were being paid, or where your loyalties were.”

“You should have been,” she said. “You were thinking of my loyalties in terms of myself, which is correct but not nuanced. Remember? I told you that looking out for one’s own interests usually coincides with looking out for one’s client. You should have been wondering who my client was, when you figured out that I wasn’t working strictly on your behalf… you might have wasted a lot less time going in circles.”

“I’d remember that for next time, if there was going to be a next time,” I said.

“Oh, there will be,” she said. “If not with me, then with someone else. Your instincts are too good, even if they have been deeply buried.”

“So, do you agree to the split, or are we voting to fight?” I asked.

“I agree to the split you proposed,” she said. “Pending the approval of the group.”

“Okay,” I said. “Everybody in favor of this plan, raise your hand. Remember: the nine of us get fifty gold apiece, on top of our share of the sale.”

There was some grumbling from Micah and Sapphire, but the decision was unanimous, although Acantha abstained. Come to think of it, I’m pretty sure I didn’t bother to raise my hand, either. It didn’t matter, though… there was still a clear majority.

“Okay,” I said. “So now we can talk about the terms of possible deals with the university.”

“Yeah… about that,” Andreas said. “If we’re going to talk about terms, I have a few I’d like to mention on our side… things like protection for the league’s rights, and the recognition of the game’s origin and traditional character.”

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73 Responses to “Chapter 216: Closing Arguments”

  1. Maevarious says:

    Okay I simply have to say wow just wow Mackenzie just cornered and floored Acantha while taking full charge of the group right out from under her.

    Current score: 4
    • Arancaytar says:

      I’m getting the suspicion that whatever that owl-turtle thing did in her mind came with some side benefits re confidence. Remember her phone call with Kent.

      Current score: 2
  2. N. says:

    Oh good, they’re still going forward with this. Had me worried.

    Current score: 1
  3. H.ailias says:

    Wow, that was bad ass. Thanks for the good story. Few typos but one of the better chapters I’ve read in a while.

    Current score: 2
  4. moridain says:

    Hmm… I am unsure I would have handled it quite like that.

    I mean sure she weasled out the facts but she also put Acantha on the spot, someone who she could have ended up working with in the future for even more profit.

    She respects Mack more now, true, but that same respect could have been earned by a private conversation after the meeting laying out the facts.

    A contact like Acantha is worth a lot more than 50g in my opinion.

    Current score: 2
    • zeel says:

      Honestly though, I think in the end Acantha is still a pretty good contact she has made. If Acantha has even been slightly honest about her values the respect this earns Mackenzie should more than mitigate the ill will. Also Acantha is a businesswoman, she won’t let her personal feelings towards Mackenzie get in the way of profits if something comes up in the future.

      Perhaps not a good person to put down as a reference, but still a useful person to know.

      Current score: 5
      • Oni says:

        Being a business professional and having a grudging acknowledgement for a contemporary is NO WAT stops you from having a persistent urge to find a way to throw them under a bus.

        Current score: 3
      • Trace says:

        remember what her father told her about not making friends but having associates.

        Current score: 0
    • RJ says:

      maybe, and i doubt that Mack thought about any of this before hand, but a private conversation is also dangerous, like Acantha reporting to Embries dangerous. Also, Mack is earning good will with her fellow class mates, who may also become big names someday. Andreas good opinion alone would be worth losing Acantha.

      Current score: 14
    • Seth says:

      Acantha’s not the kind of business partner you would really want to continue dealing with. You can’t trust her to act in good faith on the partnership. If it’s more profitable to throw you under the bus and justify it with half truths or technicalities, she’ll do it.

      If she’s pulling this kind of stuff on what amounts to an Academic Research project, imagine what could happen if the stakes were higher.

      Current score: 10
      • tomclark says:

        …which is what I figured about her all along. Ever since the mockbox testing, the whole “subtly sleazy” side to her character has been way too strong to ignore.

        It’s a bit strange, really. The author’s gone way out of her way to deliver a completely unsubtle anti-racist message for the story as a whole, that judging Mackenzie to be evil because she’s a demon is just wrong. But then we have the elves, and can anyone give even a single example of an elf who’s not massively screwed up in one way or another? 😛

        Current score: 2
    • Calia says:

      On top of everything already mentioned, do you really think Mackenzie would have gone through with a private meeting regarding this? She still gets anxiety about conflict, and she’s being awfully accusatory here (with good reason). Had she had time to mull on it and second guess herself, she’d probably have chickened out.

      Current score: 7
  5. zeel says:

    God motherfucking damn it. Embries was directly involved.

    Anyway, I loved the chapter. Her rather cryptic conversation about the vice chancellor probably has everyone in the room pretty damn confused.

    Current score: 10
    • readaholic says:

      This also explains the sudden illness of Mack’s original advanced enchantment professor, to allow Acantha as a replacement. Either voluntarily assumed, at the Vice-Chancellors’ “request”, or a simple act of will on the part of the tarnished teapot.

      Current score: 4
    • Cadnawes says:

      Heh. Til recently I was convinced she WASN’T working for the school, as it looked like she was trying to steal something they already owned. I stand by that she may be working for more than one persson, tho.

      As for Embries being involved, it makes sense in retrospect. He is known to be seeking property for the school. But you’re right that his involvement was coincidental to Mack’s. He’s not out to get her; altho the likelihood that he will be goes up now.

      Current score: 1
      • Lunaroki says:

        I don’t think so. Embries is in no way harmed by what Mack has just done. He still gets what he wants, and there’s little chance this will cause it to cost him more than it would have otherwise. The only one hurt here is Acantha. She’s the one who will walk away making less than she had planned on.

        Current score: 4
        • Ilya says:

          Less yes, but not too much. I’m sure 600g is at least twice less than her real payment. It’s like if someone see child holding rare emerald thinking it’s some glass or something. He can convince the child that it’s some very special glass that costs $100, when it’s actually $10000.
          Such things happen all the time in business.

          Current score: 4
          • Elle says:

            Yep. You just made me reread to see if the agreed split was agreed to by shares or by everyone but Acantha getting 50. I’m sure Acantha will try to say later that everyone was only supposed to get 50G out of her 6,000 (I’m guessing).

            Current score: 0
            • Mike says:

              6000? Notice she never says 600 what. Mackenzie just assumed gold, but it could easily be platinum or something completely ridiculous, like ‘pounds of diamonds’ or something.

              Current score: 0
      • Burnsidhe says:

        She’s still not working for the school on this. She’s working for Embries. The school’s just Embries’ ‘hoard’ as it were.

        Current score: 0
      • Mist says:

        If she wasn’t working for the school, she could be in deep trouble. Poaching talent like that is rather poorly regarded. Students are school property (contractual agreement). Thus outsiders should approach the school and pay the school for the right to utilize the schools assets/property.
        I don’t imagine dealing with a dragon would be much worse than many university deans/chancellors in that regard….

        Current score: 0
  6. Rick says:

    I loved this episode.

    Current score: 0
  7. Thinker of Thoughts says:

    Wow, Mack is really coming into her own here. It sure is a good thing she didn’t ‘light up’ during her rather fiery speech. Although it seems like Acantha may have seen a glimpse of a potential future Mack that accepts and uses both sides of her heritage in her dealings…
    On a somewhat related note, I wonder when Mack last ‘ate’. Come to think of it, I can’t actually remember when she had her last dose.
    That brings to mind the end of her deal with The Ridiculous Owl-Turtle Thing, and how her part of the bargain included Mack finding out about other demons. With the semi-end of the Acantha arc maybe we will see the results of that deal…

    Current score: 5
    • zeel says:

      All those other plot points are on hold for this arc. They are on-going, but for the time being they are glossed over. There will probably be a jump back to tell about such things once this arc ends.

      Current score: 1
      • readaholic says:

        You also guaranteed that Embries was not involved 🙂

        Current score: 3
        • zeel says:

          One is speculation, the other was stated explicitly in the text.

          Current score: 2
    • Tomo says:

      Erin seems to have dropped the feeding thing at the beginning of the semester. she has a guaranteed source of blood, and she’s doing it on a more regular basis than once a month, per her shrink’s orders.

      mentioning it constantly would be rather pointless.

      Current score: 10
      • Yumi says:

        Wasn’t their some indication way back that she could potentially feed from Amy? When Barley shoved her blood at Mack and then Mack found it gross and Barley freaked out– I thought that was supposed to show that Barley had lost the purity of nymphhood and just realized it in that moment. But then that idea seemed to be dropped, if it ever actually existed outside of my head.

        Not that Mother Kheele would be particularly fond of that anyway.

        Current score: 0
  8. sliversith says:

    I do wonder about the value of the deal with Embries though- While, based on the value of various coins from other chapters, 600 platinum would be EXCESSIVE (massively excessive, really), Mackenzie clarifying the unit is riskier than making Acantha do the same.

    But again- I REALLY can’t imagine it is 600 plat. Not a treasure to Embries maybe, but that is a ridiculous settlement as a finder’s fee, for a starter project, on top of whatever the University pays for the intellectual property.

    Current score: 2
    • Elaborate says:

      Acantha hesitated before adding ‘hundred’, so it might well be six THOUSAND gold, or six platinum (however much that is), or six percent of the profits, paid yearly.
      In Mackenzie’s place, I’d want a written contract that specifies the members get, not 50 gold, but a fixed percentage of Acantha’s bonus, with a minimum of 50 gold if the bonus goes below 600 gold.

      Current score: 8
      • Mike says:

        Yup, always go for a percentage of the gross. And I love Andreas’ last line. He is going to rake that elf across the coals!

        Current score: 7
      • Dani says:

        > I’d want a written contract
        A written contract would support the option of going to court with a lawsuit that cites a verbal contract with Embries and makes Embries look bad? Not a prudent option.

        > Acantha hesitated before adding ‘hundred’
        Good observation! But do you think that Mackenzie should have gambled that she could push Acantha into naming a higher payment?

        Current score: 3
        • readaholic says:

          Agreed on the written contract.

          I also think she may be prevaricating on the ‘hundred’.

          Current score: 0
  9. adsipowe says:

    mac shouldn’t have clarified the coin, make her do it. what if she guessed wrong?

    Current score: 3
    • Cadnawes says:

      Eh, could be worse. This way they each get a lot more money AND a group of people she wanted to work with knows not to take her at face value in the future. The very fact that she avoided signing the non disclosure will shine a warning beacon for future endeavors. I call it a win even if she IS lying.

      Current score: 1
  10. Zathras IX says:

    Enchantment: highly
    Energetic magic for
    Even the lowly

    Current score: 2
    • readaholic says:

      From the tarnished teapot,
      Acantha fears far worse than
      A scolding verbal shower.

      Current score: 3
  11. Helge says:

    I don’t believe for a second that Acantha is losing control here. She’s an elf, and she schemes on reflex. Mac’s already learned that Acantha didn’t do the middling thing, and it’s been suggested she might be having a late middling, now. Heck, if it turned out that her crumbling facade was just an act it wouldn’t surprise me.

    But that brings up a new question: why would she invite Mac when Embries warned against that? It’s not as if Mac was an indispensable member of the team. There were no doubt dozens of other students she could have chosen instead.

    Let’s just say I’m still waiting for the other shoe to drop.

    Current score: 3
    • Order of Chaos says:

      Maybe she just likes Mack?

      Current score: 2
    • Brenda A. says:

      After seeing Mack’s work in class and with the mockboxes, she thought it was worth it to have her on the team?

      Current score: 1
  12. Lunaroki says:

    Typo Report

    After having had the importance of never lying… … … for nine years,

    Something is missing here. After having had the importance of never lying what for nine years? Pounded into her? Drilled into her? Pressed upon her?

    when the simpler explanation is that this * simply how they happened to come down.”

    Seems to be missing an “is” either before or after “simply”.

    Current score: 1
  13. Anvildude says:

    You know what I’m liking about this little arc? It’s that this arc is showing everyone’s first steps into the wider world of business, outside of academia. Even the issue with the non-disclosure, and Acantha working behind a veil, is a good life lesson, helping to teach these ‘children’ about how to take control and deal with others as equals- breaking them out of the academic and childish mindset of “Adults/teachers are right and know more/better than you”.

    Current score: 4
  14. Miz*G says:

    Excellent chapter. I was very impressed that Mackenzie kept her cool as well as she did.

    On a side note, I didn’t get an email notification for this chapter. Is it a problem with the email system again or is it just me?

    Current score: 2
    • Yumi says:

      I didn’t get one either. Luckily I was excited enough for this glorious chapter that I remembered to check in anyway.

      Current score: 2
  15. Trent Baker says:

    Ha! Never thought I’d see the Mack we knew as a freshman back in the day pulling this off.
    Really loved the subtext too- “You won’t like Embries when his angry” 😀

    Current score: 7
  16. Barnowl says:

    Acantha had a card she could have played, and I wonder why she didn’t. How would the rest of team feel if they found out Mackenze was getting guarenteed pay for being in this project? Will they suspect this is a double cross?

    Current score: 1
    • Seth says:

      The fact that Mack is getting an advance on earnings isn’t relevant. At best it would be a straw man argument / distraction.

      In Real world business people are paid different rates and different contract schemes all the time. It’s not a-typical that details on pay contracts in a non-unionized house are considered confidential. Confidentiality in agreements is not inherently wrong.

      The issue is that Acantha has accepted a job from two parties to the same contract, and the parties are at conflicting purpose. From the team, she benefits from having the largest possible sale price. From Embries, she benefits from having the lowest. She’s in a situation where acting professional and impartial isn’t possible.

      Having entered into multiple agreements, she failed to disclose this to all parties involved and didn’t recluse herself either.

      Current score: 1
      • Mist says:

        Although that is a very modern US/Australian way of doing business. In other counties such extra agreements are actually expected, and it is improper to bring them up.

        Current score: 0
    • Hollowgolem says:

      I doubt she’s the only one getting it. And obviously Acantha knows who did and didn’t push the way Mack did.

      Current score: 1
  17. OhPun says:


    That way the rest of can will split the rest

    extra “can” or “will”

    I note that although Acantha could be paid 600 (or more) platinum, it was Mackenzie who suggested gold. Acantha simply agreed. However, everyone seems happy (more or less) with 600 gold.

    Current score: 0
  18. Trace says:

    I have a Feeling Daddy dearest is going to be soooooo proud of this, it may even bring a tear to his eye. Though i have to say this here….. “Oh, there will be,” she said. “If not with me, then with someone else. Your instincts are too good, even if they have been deeply buried.”…… That show in and of itself that dad aka the Man had a hand in it. I can’t wait to see the next few chapters soon

    Current score: 0
  19. Sapphite says:

    Wow – very impressive Mack!

    Even at “And then I knew” I still didn’t think she’d stand up to her. Bravo!!

    Current score: 0
  20. Dirndl says:

    It’s always fun when Mackenzie finds her spine. I’ll bet Callahan would have loved to watch this.

    Current score: 4
    • Tim says:

      No, Callahan would have been bored to death (killing something) two minutes into that meeting.

      Current score: 0
  21. Tierhon says:

    Considering that the others didn’t find the “Six… six hundred” unreasonable suggests in that AE’s world it is not too far out of line. If I recall correctly Andreas has some “family business” background, so while he may doubt his value, he is aware of values. The thing that bothers me is that with Acantha’s background why she would move much less risk her reputation for such a small sum. ((guesstimating that 600 gold is near an equivalent for one of these values $60,000.00, $600,000.00, or $1,200,000.00) <- guessing the value of a fictional currency a bad idea since the invention of currency.) I guess it is an example of youthful elvish restlessness.

    Current score: 1
    • Tierhon says:

      I forgot she is a consultant not an entrepreneur she normally works for others not herself, that puts the coin in a different category.

      Current score: 1
    • Yumi says:

      I agree that it’s not really the best idea to guess at the value of a fictional currency. That said, I do it anyway.

      We know Mack is making a wage of 5 silver an hour. From her discussion with her friends leading up to her working out a wage with Acantha, we know that 2 silver is stated as being more than the minimum wage (technically somewhat more than somewhat more than minimum wage). This makes it seem reasonable, to me at least, to place the value of 1 silver at an equivalent of $5 (also, that’s just an easy number to work with).

      Now the silver to gold rate is 50 silver per 1 gold. 600 gold therefore is 600*50=30,000 silver. We could estimate this to be a value of around $150,000.

      I know the silver to gold rate because I went digging for it in the past; I haven’t to my recollection come across a rate for gold to platinum, however if it’s the same 50 per 1, 600 platinum would be $7,500,000. My point in this is that I see a lot of people saying that Mack shouldn’t’ve specified the coin– but I feel that if Mack had given some indication that she thought something actually worth a bonus of $150k was actually worth $7.5mil, possibly by guessing up and say “Six hundred platinum?” instead of “Six hundred gold?” or even by just saying “Six hundred what?,” she would have risked coming off as somewhat ridiculous.

      Even without my guesses at a value for their currency, I’d say it’s better for Mack to try to come off as confident and in control in that moment than to indicate she may be a number of times off on the value of something, which could potentially be used to weaken her stance.

      Current score: 1
      • Mist says:

        The other thing Acantha didn’t mention was whether or not the 600 was a fee, or a retainer, or deposit. It might have just been the set up money, or could have of been a finder fee, it could be a fee split, it might be first year projections.
        Given the nature of the enterprise I would suspect the 600 is actually the advance! Probably with monthly updates based on project milestones, with, given she’s an elf and probably not fresh out of school, a minor percentage of gross, eg 0.25% of gross sales. (As talent scout/consultant)
        On top of any actual participation share (as active in-project project manager)

        There’s a reason the talent on creative endeavors tends to end up with sweet stuff all of the pie.

        Current score: 0
      • Lyssa says:

        To be honest, I feel like specifying gold was a good move here anyway. You want to nail down the specifics, and you would not want Acantha to even try to claim she meant silver.

        Current score: 0
  22. Tapestry says:

    Good gods, Kinzi needs blood BAD, she’s getting mean.

    Current score: 0
    • Yumi says:

      She’s standing up for herself and others, one of whom is her friend, and some of whom she is friendly with. She might not be handling it in the most polite way, or necessarily the most effective way, or the way you would, but I don’t think that makes it a sign of her hunger.

      Even if she was being mean, that doesn’t have to mean it’s her demonic side emerging. I’m about the same age as Mack, and while I don’t really think of myself as nice, I’ve been told by other people that they think I am. There are times when I get angry at someone though, and I’m… well let’s just say I don’t think anyone would be describing me as “nice.” To my knowledge, I do not have any demonic heritage to attribute this to (and no, it is not because I’m “on my period” either).

      Current score: 2
  23. Ilya says:

    Updates on wednesdays, updates on fridays…
    It’s better to write “updates in some near future”, then we still would be sad that it’s not yet here, but at least not disappointed 🙁

    Current score: 2
    • Yumi says:

      She posted on Twitter that the next chapter would be posted on Monday. Personally, I’d feel nervous about “updates in some near future,” having followed this series through periods of far worse schedule slippage than what’s happening now. Maybe saying “Updates once a week” would be good and give AE some more flexibility, but it’s also good to have more specific goals and to post them openly.

      Current score: 2
      • zeel says:

        Well it didn’t update this week, so even that would be incorrect. Perhaps “Updates most weeks” or “I’ll update it when I damn well please, thank you very much”.

        Current score: 0
        • Lyssa says:

          “Updates semiweekly?” or “as inspiration comes” with more encouragement toward automated notification?

          I’d mind her not sticking to schedules better, if she stopped claiming to do it so rigidly as set days. 🙂

          Current score: 0
          • zeel says:

            I think the claims of rigidity are mostly for her benefit really. If you read her blog it’s clear that trying to stay on-task and on-schedule is a challenge. By publicly stating strict goals it makes it easier to follow through. So while the schedule slips a bit, not giving one would probably be worse.

            Current score: 0
            • Legendary says:

              The problem is that Wednesdays come and go without anyone saying anything. If you’re trying to make yourself stick to schedule publicly, you need to view failure to do so as a significant embarassment. But AE is clearly able to live with that, because she hasn’t actually been on time since March (she did post on a Wednesday once this month, but she hadn’t posted at all in the last week so I don’t think that counts). Thus, it’s not really benefiting her at all really. And we’ve already established it’s not benefiting us either. So the best course of action is to update it to reflect something more useful for SOMEBODY.

              Current score: 0
            • taulsn says:

              As a web serialist as well. Yeah my scheduled updates are more for my benefit than my reader. By promising my readers Monday/Friday updates, I damn well make sure I get them out on time. If I hadn’t I probably wouldn’t have managed to write as much as I have.

              Current score: 0
            • Lyssa says:

              Does it really make it easier to follow through? She hasn’t, yet.

              Current score: 0
  24. scifi_chic says:

    “He warned you about me, didn’t you” – didn’t he?

    Current score: 0
  25. Arancaytar says:

    Yes, well, I’m afraid that’s simply not your decision to make,” Acantha said. “You have one vote, the same as everyone else.

    I have an inkling how the others might vote, though.

    Current score: 0
  26. Arancaytar says:

    “You also won’t be the one reporting to him,” she said. “You know, he’s not very fond of you.”

    So now she was tacitly threatening me.

    Mack, I don’t think “tacitly” means what you think it means.

    I didn’t elaborate. I couldn’t have if I’d wanted to, and I didn’t have to. The thing is, I’m not an elf. I can’t access the kind of preternatural stillness that Acantha could when she didn’t want to give anything away. I don’t have perfect control over my voice or the muscles beneath my skin. I don’t know what Acantha or anyone else in the room heard in my voice or saw on my face, but it took the heart right out of her. I watched her marble facade crumble in response to it.

    … honestly, if Mack walks out of this with nothing more than not being eaten, this one moment was worth it. That moment where she scared an elf into losing composure just with her own unspoken terror.

    Current score: 0
  27. Lara says:

    “If one of us is making a profit on the project, then it belongs to the project,” I said.

    Hoooooly crap Mackenzie was so awesome in this chapter. That line alone made me exclaim out loud with delight. I love when she stands up for herself like this, it’s so immensely satisfying.

    Current score: 0