237: Standards And Practices

on June 13, 2008 in Book 9

In Which Two Is Weirdly Admired

“Steff!” I cried, dropping my mocked weapon and running over to her.

She was laid out on her back, still in her princess dress. She had blood trickling from her nose, a split lip, a purple bruise forming around her eye, and a big, ugly double knot swelling up on her head. She was badly dazed, if not actually unconscious. I couldn’t tell at a glance.

“Your friend’s fine,” Callahan said. “Just a bump on the head. Nothing that a simple Potion of Cure Getting All Up In My Face And Interfering With A Class Exercise won’t fix. Dhambizao, go form up with the others for testing.”

“Yes… ma’am,” Gloria said, glaring sullenly at me as she spoke. She stood there for a moment, and then walked around the crowd of other students and disappeared from sight.

Some of them were standing around talking like nothing was going on, but a good number of them seemed utterly bemused or even scared.

Me? I was angry… as much for Callahan’s utterly blasé attitude towards the whole thing as for the injuries she’d inflicted. I was so mad I didn’t even look at Callahan, for fear of what I’d do.

“What? You couldn’t just fucking restrain her?” I asked, keeping my eyes on Steff… but not on her face.

“This look like a Rope Use class to you?” Callahan replied. “If a student does something stupid, I put them down hard so they don’t have time to do something really stupid and make me put them down harder. Now, I’m going to be busy doing evaluations for the next hour. I don’t have anything else for you to do today, but if you’d rather stay and be the target dummy than get your friend’s head fixed, that’s your call.”

“Did you just take this job because you like beating the shit out of people?” I asked.

“Please, Emo Kid. There’s better paying jobs where I’d get to beat the shit of people more often than this one,” Callahan said. “I took this job because I hate seeing dumbass kids get themselves killed because they don’t know how to fight, and I love beating the shit out of people. Now get your friend out of here before I decide to send somebody else, and you and I can spend the rest of class working on a new nickname.”

I glared at her but there wasn’t really anything I could do. The waivers we’d signed for combat classes protected the instructors from consequences for pretty much everything but lasting harm.

Steff stirred and moaned. I looked and saw her eyes flutter and then find me. She smiled.

“Hey, you,” she said.

“Hey,” I said, returning the best smile I could manage.

“She… she stop the fight?” Steff asked.

“Kind of,” I said. “I won.”

Steff’s eyes bulged and she tried to sit up.

“How hard was I hit?” She groaned and grabbed her head, settling back down.

“Not hard enough if you’re flapping your cockslot already,” Callahan said. “Get the fuck out already. Johnson, I want to see you in my office at ten. Tonight. Emo Kid, I don’t want to see you at all until you’ve read five chapters of that book. If you’re not done by class Thursday, don’t show up.”

“Come on,” Steff said, using me to help pull herself up. “Let’s not antagonize Teacher any more.”

I helped Steff to her feet, and we headed off across the field. She kept wanting to drift sideways as we walked, and was leaning on me for stability.

“How do you stand walking so slow?” she asked after we’d left the field.

“I don’t, normally,” I said. “I’m walking slow for you.”

“I’m faster than you are,” she said.

“Yeah,” I agreed. She was a little out of it, it seemed.

She started laughing. I stopped us moving.

“Are you okay?”

“She wants to see me in her office,” Steff said. She was grinning drunkenly. “At ten. Tonight.”

“Steff, you can’t have sex with your teacher,” I said. “There’s got to be like seventeen different rules against that.”

“For her, maybe,” Steff said. “What are they gonna do to me, fire me? Anyway… all kinds of things two people can do that aren’t sex, and she’s got a waiver for most of the best ones.”

“A personal relationship’s a personal relationship,” I said. “If you’re going to her office for… one-on-one fun, I don’t think it matters if it’s actually sex or not.”

“Whatever,” Steff said. “It’s her job. Anyway, I have to ask Viktor but I think he’ll say yes. He’s been keeping me in the room at night lately and I think he’s starting to get frustrated. His playing’s been getting even worse, if you can believe that.”

“Steff, he’s not bad,” I said.

She snorted.

“Hon, I love you like air, but you’ve got no taste,” she said.

We started moving again.

“What happened, anyway? Weren’t you supposed to be changing?” I asked a while later.

“Yeah, but I didn’t get very far,” Steff said. “I decided to come back and make sure Callahan wasn’t getting me out of the way for a reason. How’s the back of my dress? Is it alright?”

“I can’t check without dropping you,” I said. I didn’t mention that she was dripping blood down the front of it. “But if there’s anything wrong, I’m sure Two will fix it.”

“Khersis Fuck, I love that weird little pseudowench,” Steff said. She even sounded a little drunk. “You know that?”

“I know,” I said. “Please don’t call her weird.”

“Sorry,” Steff said. “I don’t mean weird. I mean… weird. But good weird. We’re all weird. I want to get her a present. Let’s go to the bookstore and look for one.”

“Maybe after the healing center,” I said. “And the library.”

“I gave her a bottle of vanilla spray,” Steff said.

“I know you did,” I said, uncomfortable at the memory of Two smelling so much like delicious food. “Maybe next time a nice floral scent?”

“I just gave her it because I didn’t want it, and she was so happy she cried,” Steff said. “I want to give her a real present.” She stopped suddenly, and I almost tripped. “Hey! We should give her a party!”

“We should,” I agreed. “Seriously, Steff, let’s get you healed. How many times did Callahan hit you?”

“Only till I stopped moving,” Steff said. “I think she stomped my balls at least once after that.”

There’d been some changes in the healing center. There were signs posted everywhere reminding people that it was a secular sanctity-free zone, and to please conceal or check their holy symbols. Scrying orbs had been installed up near the ceiling, along with signs reporting that the area was monitored for our protection.

There were two people behind the desk, the middle-aged receptionist Yvette and a slightly younger man in a white shirt and tie. His eyes widened slightly when he saw me leading Steff towards them, while Yvette didn’t appear to have noticed us lurching across the anteroom at all. The man nudged her, and she looked at him uncomprehendingly while he pointed. He rotated her chair until she was facing us.

“You,” she said. She cackled. “Not your period again already?”

“I’m not here for me,” I said.

When we reached the counter, I noticed there was a sign on top of it, with the words facing the other side. It proclaimed that the front desk was to be staffed by two people at all times. Another sign, facing out, announced that visitors must use their own pens.

There was a staff roster that I’d never paid attention to on the back wall, behind the counter. It caught my eye because the top line had been covered with a sticker. It read “Acting Director: Morgan Yarrow.” Another one placed Lynette Havilland down with the staff healers.

I felt a moment of pity for her. She hadn’t impressed me in the slightest, and bore a good deal of the responsibility for what had happened to me the week before, but it was a very odd thing to realize that somebody had been demoted because of me.

Of course, it might have been temporary, pending an investigation or whatever. They probably would have had the sign altered if they expected the changes to last.

“Hello, my name is Ernst,” the man said, pulling out a form and a pen. “Do you request healing from the Magisterius University Gygax Memorial Healing Center?”

“Yes,” I said.

“If the patient’s able to respond, I need to hear it from, ah, her,” Ernst said.

“Sure,” Steff said. She giggled. “Why not?”


“Steff,” she said. “Steffain Johnson.”

“How’s that spelled?”


“Never mind. Let’s see… nature of injuries?” he said, then looked at Steff. “Multiple contusions, split lip, cartilage damage and bleeding in nose,” he said, writing as he spoke. “Anything else?”

“Crushed testicles,” Steff added.

“Don’t be smart,” Yvette said.

“Crushed testicles,” Ernst echoed. “Cause of injury?”

“Is all this really necessary?” I asked. “When I was here before, they just wrote ‘foot’.”

“I’m not at liberty to comment on previous practices,” Ernst said. “Cause of injury, unarmed blunt trauma?”

“Yeah, I guess,” Steff said.

“Do you wish to report an assault?”

“It was combat class,” Steff said.

“Do you have any sensitivities or vulnerabilities?”

“Cold iron turns my skin green.”

“Please sign this waiver of liability and consent to treatment,” Ernst said, pulling out another form and pushing it across the desk towards Steff.

“I don’t have a pen,” Steff said.

Ernest looked at me.

“We came here from the combat field,” I said.

“I have a pen right here,” Yvette said, digging in her purse. Ernst put his hand on top of the bag to stop her.

“Then I need you to read the statement aloud for the monitors,” Ernst told Steff.

“This part at the bottom?” Steff asked.

“The whole thing. Please face the scrying orb and speak in a loud clear voice.”

Steff sighed and read off the dense legalese in her slightly slurred voice, made worse by her lip’s continued swelling.

“Thank you. One moment, please,” Ernst said. He did something under the desk, and a blond guy came out from the back with a wheelchair.

“I can walk,” Steff said. “Mack’ll help.”

“Please,” Ernst said, gesturing towards the chair. “Only patients are allowed in the treatment area.”

“Since when?” Steff asked.

“I’m not allowed to comment on our policy changes,” Ernst said.

“It’s okay,” I told Steff. “I’ll be right here.”

“You’ll have to wait for your friend outside,” Ernst said. “There’s no loitering in the healing center.”

“You’re kidding,” I said.

“I am not.”

“It’s a waiting room,” I pointed out.

“Yes, and it isn’t going anywhere,” he countered.

I sighed.

“I’ll see you outside in a few,” I told Steff.

“Bye bye, sweetie,” she said, waving as the blond healer wheeled her into the back.

“Bye,” I said after her.

“Thank you, and have a healthful day,” Ernst said, giving me a curt nod.

I waited outside for what seemed like at least fifteen minutes, maybe even twenty.

“Everything go okay?” I asked Steff when she finally came out.

“Yeah,” she said. “They healed me quick, but then they checked for dizziness and had a diviner go over me. I thought they were going to stick a divining rod in my ass before they let me go.” She laughed. “I was disappointed when they didn’t. You know, I used to blow Andrew every time I had him, but he wasn’t interested.”

“Probably wasn’t allowed,” I said. “They seem to be running a lot tighter ship now.”

“So, did you say you actually beat Gloria?” Steff asked.

“Into the ground,” I said, a little ruefully. It was hard for me to picture myself. I didn’t really want to dwell on the image of her, writhing on the pole like that.

“I can’t believe Jill pulled that shit,” Steff said. “What was she thinking?”

“Yeah,” I said. “That whole thing was really unnecessary.”

“Oh, it was totally necessary,” Steff said. “But Glory?”

“Gloria,” I corrected. “And she’s not… well, she’s never been that bad, before.”

“You’re deluding yourself, hon,” Steff said, shaking her head. “I get the hotness of her, but she’s not worth it. Just masturbate over her image, like any sane person would do, and forget about the real person.”

That wasn’t an argument I wanted to have, so I looked for one that I did.

“Anyway, what do you mean, it was necessary?” I asked.

“You’re never going to learn how to fight if you’re not willing to fight in the first place,” Steff said.

“I was learning,” I said. “It must have done some good because I won.”

“If you won, it’s because your huge advantage in strength beat her small advantage in skill,” Steff said. “What if she’d had more numbers on her side? Ranged weapons? What if she’d used spells… or divine power?”

“Well, in that case I might as well not learn to fight at all,” I said. “In a real fight she would have signed the hell out of me, or held me, and then just killed me when I was helpless.”

“Oh… Mack,” Steff said, shaking her head.

“What?” I asked. “It’s true. I’m dead meat.”

“It’s always two steps forward, two steps back with you, isn’t it?” she said. “You’re still better off knowing how to fight if it gives you a chance to put someone down before they can get a prayer off in your face, and anyway, if you ever learn to overcome that stuff…”

“How do you learn to ‘overcome’ divine power?” I asked. “That’s the power of the fucking gods, Steff.”

“Yeah, and you need to figure out how to resist it.”

“That’s pretty close to blasphemy,” I said. “Divine power burns me because it’s supposed to.”

“And you’re supposed to fight it off,” Steff said.

“That is blasphemy,” I said.

“Oh, shit,” Steff said. “We’d better stop, before the gods stop liking you so much.”

“I’m not having this conversation,” I said.

“Okay, fine,” Steff said. “You probably shouldn’t focus on too many things at a time, and right now you’re working on physical defense. But even if you don’t want to talk about it, I’m going to have a conversation about this with Amaranth, and maybe Two. She’s still reading up on demons.”

“I wish she wouldn’t,” I said. “Do you know why she tried to summon that one?”

“Amaranth does,” Steff said. “They won’t tell me.” She shrugged. “But, Khersis, Mack… if all the dark powers were pushovers like you are, there wouldn’t be any demonhunters. There’s got to be something you can do to bolster your resistance.”

“Look, I said I don’t want to talk about this. Let’s just go to the library, okay?” I said. “I’ve got to read five chapters of this stupid handbook for Callahan before next class and it isn’t like I don’t have any real coursework to do.”

“Oh, you are so getting your ass kicked on Thursday,” Steff said. “And I am so going to watch.”

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5 Responses to “237: Standards And Practices”

  1. pedestrian says:

    That happy thought will hold Steff in thrall.

    Current score: 0
  2. Anthony says:

    That almost belongs in Dr. Strangelove. “You can’t loiter in here! This is the waiting room!”

    Current score: 5
  3. MentalBlank says:

    I’ve known a few people who needed a potion of Cure G.A.U.I.M.F.A.I.W.A.C.E. before.

    Current score: 3