486: Lawful Conduct

on February 4, 2011 in Uncategorized Chapters

In Which Mackenzie Is Dealt With Undiplomatically

Gwendolyn was lurking in the stairwell, halfway down. We caught her not-too-subtly shooing some of the juniors into their hallway as we were coming down the stairs.

“You tell them I was coming?” I said.

“I told them you were,” she said, her eyes flicking to Amaranth.

She didn’t say anything more, though… she wasn’t going to be the one to drop the charade that our downstairs guests just wanted a simple chat. I doubted she was privy to anything like what they actually wanted, but she had to know it was more than that.

The downstairs hallway was being occupied by a couple guys in gray suits, one of whom whispered something into the air as we came out of the stairwell. They couldn’t have looked more like guards if they’d been patrolling. Amaranth gave them a big wave as we crossed over to the basement stairs.

I’d somehow been expecting it to be dark in the downstairs lounge, but the lights were on like normal. The TV was even on, showing the local news. There were a few agents watching it. There were about six or seven guys in suits, and they weren’t all dark. There was only one man wearing robes, which were uniformly black to my eyes. That didn’t mean there weren’t others around, of course. I trusted Dee’s sense, even if she was kind of predisposed to notice robes.

They were probably outside, maintaining some sort of perimeter. If they weren’t diabolists, they were wizards of some kind.

The only person I recognized was Del McAvoy, who’d represented Law during our interrogation. That meant I was right about the identity of our guests, and I’d never been less happy to be so. A lot of people didn’t really understand the difference between law enforcement, like the IBF, and intelligence, like Law. They weren’t aware of the role Law had played in international affairs over the past half-century or so, or they believed it to be the stuff of conspiracy theory and over-the-top thrillers. As a student of history, even an amateur one, I knew better.

“Dirty tricks” was too clean a term for the sorts of things Law did. They engaged in assassinations of both the character and the regular type. They’d both instituted and toppled regimes in other nations… they were generally a bit better at the latter than the former, which was ironic given their original charter. Chaos was just that much easier to foment or sustain than order.

There were few limits to what they could do, and no limits on what they would do if they thought they could get away with it. The end always justified the means, and Law had got a lot of mileage out of being able to creatively interpret an end into something that justified the means they wanted to use.

McAvoy had stationed himself behind the front desk. I had been expecting to see him, but while he did look like he wanted to say something, I was sort of surprised that he didn’t approach us.

The other thing that surprised me is that, without realizing it, I’d been expecting to see him looking triumphant or something. I couldn’t read his expression. Nervous? Frustrated? Whatever… he wasn’t happy, and I counted that as a good thing, or at least a neutral one. If I thought he was getting his way in anything, I’d have been really worried.

I was really worried, of course, but that was one specific thing I could be less worried about.

“Ah, you must be Mackenzie Blaise,” a man who surely had my face and name memorized said. He was a tall, broad-built man, with light brown hair that had an impressive amount of spike to it without looking like he’d spiked it up on purpose. He crossed the floor towards us, holding out a hand. “Kent. Art Kent. We’re so glad you could come down to have a little talk to us.”

“Just a talk?” I asked. I took the hand without hesitation. It wasn’t that I trusted him or anything… but if there was a trap for me, I’d sprung it by walking into the room.

“Absolutely,” he said. He glanced at Amaranth. “This must be Amaranth. I’m awfully glad to meet you, but I really think Mackenzie and I should be having this talk in private.”

“Certainly, Mr. Kent,” Amaranth said. “Perhaps your men would like to come with me to the food court, then, so you can be alone?”

He stared at her for several seconds before he burst out laughing.

“Oh, that’s funny,” he said. “But I’m afraid we’ll need them ourselves, to act as an escort.”

“An escort where?” I asked.

“That’s the sort of question I’d be more disposed to answer privately,” he said. “These sorts of things tend to work better, the fewer people we involve.”

“What sorts of things would those be?” I asked.

“Oh, come on… you can’t expect me to answer that,” he said.

“At least tell me what this is about,” I said.

“Oh, you know, really we’re just winding things down in the matter of Leda’s death,” he said.

“You know, I heard on TV that it was a wandering monster,” Amaranth said, with the innocence that only an intrinsically pure being could muster.

“Yeah, well, let’s say it was,” he said. “There is still one or two more steps to be taken before the whole thing can really be resolved to everyone’s satisfaction.” He smirked, like he had some great private joke, and then he decided to share it. “Satisfaction guaranteed, you know? That could be like our motto.”

Charitably, I decided it probably sounded better inside his head.

“I’m really not sure I like where this is going,” I said.

“Look, why don’t you and I just duck into the back office for a few minutes?” he said. “I can answer your questions there, try to set your mind at ease…”

“Talking in front of Amaranth would do more to set my mind at ease than anything else you might do,” I said.

“Well, be that as it may, it’s simply the nature of the beast,” he said. “See, I have to ask you to do your imperial duty, Mackenzie, and I can’t ask that of her, legally. She’s not an imperial subject, you see?”

Somehow, I wasn’t reassured that he’d feel the need to do or avoid anything else based on its legality. He wouldn’t leave Amaranth out of his schemes out of respect for the law. In fact, he probably was only invoking it as a convenient excuse… if I’d walked down the stairs with Ian or Steff, he wouldn’t be swearing them to secrecy and then getting down to business in front of them.

“You’re being a lot friendlier than I expected,” I said.

“Oh? What were you expecting? Whips and chains and thumbscrews? Holy water?” he asked. “I don’t see any reason to resort to those sorts of messy extremes when a little friendly talk will work.”

“If it’s such a friendly talk, why won’t you have it in front of my friend?” I asked.

“You two… if you knew how little I’m actually going to be able to tell you when she’s not in the room, this whole thing would seem silly,” he said.

“And that’s supposed to make me want to hear it?” I asked.

“Listen, and I’m only going to say this once,” he said, his smile freezing in place and his manner changing from a mask of phony friendliness to one of understated but very real menace. “Your assistance is not actually required here.”

“You mean we don’t need to help you?” Amaranth asked, in what I kind of hoped was a deliberate misunderstanding, because he wasn’t exactly being subtle with his meaning.

“I mean we don’t need either of you to help us to get what we want out of your girlfriend,” he said. “Your cooperation is the ideal we strive for. It’s not part of the bare minimum that we need to succeed. So if you don’t want to hear what’s going on, if you don’t want to walk out the door with me under your own power, if you don’t want to cooperate with our efforts here today to resolve the matter to the satisfaction of all parties involved, just say the word and we can skip to the end.”

I looked at Amaranth. She didn’t quite shrug, but the impression was there. It was like she didn’t know what to do or say, and that meant I had to make up my mind.

“Okay,” I said. “We’ll go in the back room. Amaranth’ll be waiting out here. Afterwards I’m going to talk to her before we go anywhere with you.”

“She isn’t coming along,” he said. “Have no illusions about that.”

“Fine,” I said. Hopefully Dee would be able to trail along. “But I’m going to want a mirror to contact my lawyer before we go anywhere.”

“Don’t worry, Mr. Jenkins already knows where you’re going,” he said.

As far as reassurances went, this one… didn’t. I couldn’t imagine how or why Lee would have become aware of what they had planned, but if he knew and he’d tried to get me away from the school… probably at the risk of serious repercussions to himself… then I could only think that it would mean my life.

“Remember what I said,” Kent said. “Your cooperation is not needed.”

“But you want it,” I said. “Look, if you’re trying to bargain with me…”

“We’re not,” he said. “I just told you…”

“I know what you told me,” I said. “And taking it at face value, this means that you could have had what you wanted as soon as I walked through the door, or sooner, but you’re holding back and asking for my cooperation. This means either you’re bluffing… and don’t bother jumping in there because I know that you’re not, but logically it’s one of the two possibilities… or you really want my cooperation. You’re asking me for something. You’re trying to convince me to give it to you. This is bargaining.”

I had a sudden memory, clear and sharp, of having stood in that room weeks ago and standing up to authority without even meaning to. That had ended with me running out of the room to throw up. I felt like I wanted to throw up, on a mental level, but physically my stomach was almost placid.

How things had changed.

“Okay,” Kent said. “Well, what do you think I should give you for cooperating?”

“Some reassurance that when we’re done I’ll be coming back here safe and sound,” I said.

“Absolutely,” he said immediately.

“Uh huh,” I said.

“You don’t believe me?” he asked. “I give you my word that no harm will come to you.”

“Yeah, when I don’t believe you in the first place, your word’s not worth anything,” I said. “See how that works?”

“Just because you don’t trust someone doesn’t mean they’re never telling the truth,” he said.

“No, it means I’ll never know if you’re telling the truth,” I said. “Which means the first time I could be sure that I’m going to be back here safe and sound would be when I got back here safe and sound, which is exactly the same boat I’m in without your word. You said before you can’t tell me much. If you want my cooperation, tell me straight up: do you even know if I’m going to be able to come back here tonight, alive and whole?”

Several seconds passed.

“I do not,” he said. “But I can tell you, honestly and unequivocally, that no one has shared any plans with me that would involve detaining you or harming you in any way.”

I took that to mean that Mr. Kent’s job consisted entirely of delivering me to someone else who did have plans for me. My mind ticked through several possibilities without prompting.

The most obvious explanation was that I was being arrested, for a value of arrested that didn’t involve a trial of any kind. But they knew I wasn’t behind Leda’s death and I wasn’t going to be publicly scapegoated, so there was a big question of why they’d go through so much trouble.

Perhaps Law had cut a deal with Mercy… she was an assassin, after all, and while I believed her when she said she wouldn’t step outside the bounds of the law, it wasn’t illegal when Law did so. If they engaged her to take care of Iona in exchange for ownership of me… well, I didn’t know if the Department of Law would go that far or not. If they ever had pressed a citizen into slavery to pay off a clandestine operative, it wasn’t like it would make the news. Mercy wouldn’t be able to parade me around or anything, but my life with her wouldn’t be better for that fact, and it wouldn’t impact her long-term plans.

On the other hand, if Mercy had a slave whose provenance she couldn’t ever reveal or explain to the authorities, Law would have her on a leash for the rest of my life. I hoped she was too smart for that. I wasn’t at all sure that she was. She was very old and very experienced, but she seemed to be more than a little cracked around the edges.

Then there was my grandmother. She’d given me until the end of the week to change my mind about coming home with her… it was possible that she’d always had a back-up plan in mind in case I didn’t assent. Did she have the kind of pull needed to get a notoriously clandestine and autonomous imperial agency to abduct me for her? I would have doubted that very much, but I also wouldn’t have believed she was ever in the White Dragons if I hadn’t been handed proof of that. Maybe she was owed favors.

There were no happy outcomes that I could see… there was no reason for the cloak-and-dagger games or the levels of secrecy if someone had found out my part in the anonymous tip and wanted to thank me, for instance. As bad as all of the above were, though, I could see one that was worse, in terms of immediate consequences and long-term prospects.

Unfortunately, it also seemed to be the most likely.

I wasn’t going to be the public scapegoat, but Kent had said that Law was trying to resolve the matter to everyone’s satisfaction. The public might be satisfied, but that didn’t mean the royal family of Mariinsky Lake would be satisfied with blaming their daughter’s death on a random accident involving a wandering monster bypassing the protection of the paths. They would most likely require an actual culprit, somebody who could be punished… brought to something resembling justice.

If Leda had been from any other part of the world, the question of their satisfaction would probably be seen as a diplomatic matter, and it would be handled by diplomats, not spies and assassins. Imperial diplomats would look for the most diplomatic way to convey to royal visitors that they wouldn’t be allowed to torture or kill imperial citizens no matter what.

But because Leda’s family were from the Shift, any hint of tension with them would carry a hint of a flare-up in the still-smoldering ashes of the Chaos Wars. That meant that Law was on the case. Investigators from the Judgment Department would try to resolve things according to the laws of the empire. Diplomats from the Estate Department could be counted to represent the rights of imperial citizens. Law was old school and hard core. It dealt with subjects, not citizens.

There were probably individual agents and factions within the agency that would have welcomed a return to the previous levels of open hostility, but the official policy was that they were supposed to prevent further wars, not try to win them. Would they sacrifice the life of one imperial subject to further that or any other goal? Only if they were sure that a few more lives wouldn’t hurt anything.

But I believed Kent when he said they would do what they wanted with or without my cooperation. I believed they would, and I knew they could. Even the one wizard I knew was in the room would be enough to make sure I was incapacitated before I could so much as scream. They had to be more careful in dealing with Amaranth, but there was a limit to how much resistance a pacifistic nymph could offer.

Well, directly, anyway.

“Okay,” I said to Kent. “Let’s just do it, then. There’s no point in having a big cloistered briefing or anything when you’ve admitted you don’t have anything to tell me. Let’s just go.” I turned to Amaranth, and I almost literally prayed that she would understand why I said what I was about to say, and she wouldn’t say anything to undercut the effect of it. “If I’m not back in two hours… call your mother.”

“Er, it might take a little bit longer than that,” Kent said, visibly uncomfortable.

“Call her anyway,” I said. “Tell her to be ready.”

That was better anyway, I thought. It made it sound like we expected something specific to happen when Mother Khaele heard from Amaranth, rather than simply notifying her that something had happened.

To my considerable relief, Amaranth simply nodded.

“Well, then… I suppose that’s… well… your chariot awaits,” Kent said, gesturing towards the front door.

Soon: In the dragon’s den.

Reminder: The roommate derby will conclude Saturday night at 11:59 central standard time. It’s been a great success and I couldn’t have hoped for more, but if you would still like to participate (as some people have told me they won’t have money before today), please keep the deadline in mind as I’ll find myself in an awkward position if I get a bunch of “votes” arriving after it.

If you haven’t the money to participate but you would like a chance to put a mark on the year two story, I’m going to be making a poll/discussion post about which minor characters people are most interested in. Feel free to throw out stuff like that in the comments at any time… it’s never too soon to start whipping up support for your favorites, and it’s always encouraging for me to hear about what and who people like in my stories. But I’m going to make a centralized place so I don’t have to go searching or trying to divine trends.

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62 Responses to “486: Lawful Conduct”

  1. rien says:

    The end always justified the means, and Law had got a lot of mileage out of being able to creatively interpret an end to cover what the

    the sentance just stops.

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  2. Frelance says:

    s justified the means, and Law had got a lot of mileage out of being able to creatively interpret an end to cover what the


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    • Frelance says:

      commented after reading, obviously beaten to the punch. feel free to delete 😛

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  3. Don says:

    All I have to say is: wow.

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  4. Jennifer says:

    “creatively interpret an end to cover what the ”
    Sentence needs to finish, here.

    Also, intense chapter!

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    • Jennifer says:

      Wow, doubly beat to the punch on that one.
      And clearly, my assumption it WASN’T Embries was a total and utter failure…

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  5. Gorgonopsid says:

    Dun dun dun!

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  6. Sorry, that’s the second chapter in a row that’s had a trail-off sentence like that. Usually when I have an unfinished thought I leave a placeholder symbol to search for when the story’s finished. I’m not sure why I neglected to do so here.

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  7. Kevin says:

    Okay the one in a sexdecillion (that would be a 1 with fifty-one zeroes afterwords) chance of the Charlie’s Demons theory seems slightly more possible now.

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    • Oniwasabi says:

      I believe the line from one of my favorite webcomics that would apply if this becomes true: “That would make my sarcasm more accurate than your paranoia.”

      I really hope that those long odds don’t pan out though.

      Though ya know, if these updates were coming in March and not February, that could lead to the awesomest April Fool’s chapter update in the history of teh interwebz

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      • beappleby says:

        Which webcomic would that be?

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        • Kevin says:

          I don’t know the line but it sounds like something that would show up in Something Positive.

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  8. Kaila says:

    You know, the speculation irritates me so much I may have to stop reading the comments. That’s not to say that people shouldn’t speculate, I may just have to avoid reading them.

    But I’d miss Xathras. 🙁

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    • Billy Bob says:

      I find Xathras to be overrated.

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      • 'Nym-o-maniac says:

        … much as I hate for most of my comments here to be corrections… do you guys mean Zathras?

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    • beappleby says:

      Zathras always posts in the LJ community as well, and there’s hardly any discussion or speculation there.

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  9. Burnsidhe says:

    Well. This should be interesting. I hope Mack will be substantially unharmed after this, but even given the assurance she’ll be around for the next year at least, there’s still room for bad things to happen.

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  10. Elisabeth says:

    Wow this is starting to get interesting again.

    I bet they’re going to use her as bait to lure Iona out of hiding.

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    • barnowl says:

      Ha…I think you got it, Elisabeth.

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    • Mathias says:

      I have to disagree. Though your over all logic is sound you are missing a few points. LAW wouldn’t be dealing with this if it could be done publicly. They need to use Mack as bait to prevent Iona from taking a hostage or really from being noticeable in any way. They can’t endanger the story that this wasn’t a random attack by a monster. The political relations between the imperium, the shift, and the merfolk, are all in the balance. Sure they could probably track Iona and take her down but not without making a fuss and a fuss means embarrassing the imperium and the school for not being aware that a danger such as the mermaids existed. That being said they will absolutely classify this.

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  11. Laszlo says:

    Really great chapter, but caught a couple of spelling errors:
    is: identify of our guests
    should be: identity of our guests

    is: phoney friendliness
    should be: phony friendliness

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  12. TJHairball says:

    Two hours? That’s a pretty short deadline.

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  13. The Dark Master says:

    “If I’m not back in 2 hours, call your mother.”

    That kinda sounds like: “If I’m not back in 2 hours, obliterate me.”

    Thats kinda weird, while I was reading this, I was thinking she should insist on Amaranth comming with her, saying that if they tried to take Mack away, that Amaranth should distroy her with her divine powers.

    Why did I have to catch up with the series just when it was comming to a climax?!

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    • drudge says:

      I believe the line of thought is “If I’m not back in two hours, it’s probably a better course of action to risk Khale.” Given Mackenzie’s probable afterlife and the fact that she’s suspecting that any deal they cut that needs her alive at the end won’t exactly have her happiness in mind to say the least, you could argue that the risk is worth it.

      Besides, she said “tell her to be ready”, not “have her come here”. It seems like she’s risking a brief period of pain more than obliteration, if things get too difficult for her to handle on her own.

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  14. ylistra says:

    Lol – good thing Mack has had lots of practice dealing with people who are never 100% truthful. It’ll be a 1000 years before this guy can keep up with MackDaddy level dishonesty.

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  15. Peter says:

    oooooo…. great build up of tension, love it.

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  16. Alice says:

    The suspense is KILLING ME! I might have to just not read for a month so I can get it all at once!

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  17. Andy says:

    I have to say, I was getting kinda bored. But this chapter, and the one preceding it, really pulled me back in.

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  18. Abeo says:

    I can’t decide if the preview blurb is a flase trail or not. It would make sense if Embries was involved, an agency that is above the law would be my first choice to deal with an entity that is as well.

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  19. MistyCat says:

    “There’s no point in having a big cloistered briefing or anything when you’ve admitted [*] don’t have anything to tell me.”

    Something missing at the [*].

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  20. Oniwasabi says:

    You know, it’s always fun when the big bad government agent gets to talk about how they absolutely don’t NEED your cooperation to get what they want, but then everything kinda gets turned around because you mention that your girlfried is going to call her Mom, the Goddess, on you. It may be a bit of a bluff, but that is one HELL of a trump card ^_^

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    • Kevin says:

      Callahan worked for Law during the chaos war (it was Law that Hydra Company was a part of unless I’m mistaken) in order to get a pardon for a number of crimes including a successful attempted deicide so I would be more worried about a known god killer being in the area.

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      • Oniwasabi says:

        There are little gods and big gods, and I get the impression that Khaele is one of the bigger ones.

        Also I think Callahan is retired

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        • Kevin says:

          I was referencing the damage she could do if her pet project (Mackenzie) died before Callahan gave her a chance to learn to defend herself and I almost forgot to cite the deicide. Which I believe THIS counts.

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    • Oitur says:

      Wait…a _goddess_ is a _hell_ of a trump card? Maybe a divine trump card.

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  21. ami says:

    “Imperial diplomats would look for the most diplomatically way”
    … Should be ‘diplomatic’?

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  22. Shan says:

    Hi, been a while since I’ve commented on a chapter I think.

    My rumor would be that *thinks*… that Mack is not just half demon as she has seemingly a grandfather who is also her half brother. Anyhow, methinks big talk with Embries and a big social gathering is coming up. Maybe Callahan will come up too? *grins*

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    • Kevin says:

      Her half brother isn’t her grandfather unless I missed something.

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      • 'Nym-o-maniac says:

        Her half-brother isn’t a half-brother, either. He’s a full sibling.

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        • Kevin says:

          Why yes yes he is, him being referred to as a half brother made me miss that note.

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        • fka_luddite says:

          On the other hand, spwculation iover the recent “Other Tales” offered the psibility that there may other unidentified (half-)siblings around.

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  23. Greenwood Goat says:

    So it was an offer she can’t refuse… …to take a ride downtown. Or uptown. Or wherever these people are based. That’s a hell of an acquisition team. Overkill, perhaps. We’ll have to see if we can spot a person who was guarding the spot below Mack’s window as they rejoin the group.

    Art Kent can probably lie as well as Mack Daddy can, so it’s difficult to mine his statements for meaning. The CIA Law presumably has people who can force cooperation from demonbloods with immediate and possibly longer term effect. Professor Einhorn induced static paralysis in Mack more or less on a whim, and Mur-si and her people had no problems controlling Mack even in the depths of bloodlust. Sure, they’re good at what they do, but so are the Company Law guys. So they probably could get whatever they want from Mack, without doing anything permanent. So what do they want?

    It’s still not going to be part of the official investigation (still located a short walk away), by which I mean the investigation that was concerned with uncovering cause of death, evidence for foul play, alibis and possible motives among connected parties, identifying suspects, and possibly building a criminal case against a named suspect. It could, however, involve hunting someone down on the basis of an unsupported statement and presenting them, dead or alive, to the family of the deceased; in which case, it would be entirely down to them how they dealt with prior withholding of evidence by the giver of said unsupported statement.

    Or it could be more to do with Steff. Del McAvoy had a serious and apparently negative interest in her when Mike Gregory questioned Mack, Ian and Amaranth. They presumably know about her relationship with Viktor, and what he stands to inherit, and are concerned about how he will treat petrochemical interests merchants on the trade routes that pass through his domain. Any information or means of persuasion gratefully received. Maybe McAvoy was hoping that Steff would come and join the party, sticking her oar in deep enough that he could grab something.

    It could still be any of the options that I gave last chapter. And it could be something unrelated to anything that has gone before. The “dragon’s den” reference doesn’t necessarily refer to Embries: it could be metaphorical, or even refer to some other noble dragon. The spooks Law agents might be taking this off site so that Embries doesn’t get territorial. Or maybe she’s actually going to be facing a group of self-made entrepreneurs. >:=)>

    Mack tried to stop herself from shaking. How could they do this to her? She was going to die here – it would be an execution, plain and simple. ‘The venture,’ she began hesitantly, ‘is a clothing retail website, selling garments designed, and, initially, manufactured by my partner, Suzune Hoshinotama.’ The skeptical frowns of the seated figures deepened; she’d been given no opportunity whatever to prepare, and it showed. >:=)>

    Ooo – a British TV reference there! I don’t care! My name’s Greenwood Goat – goodnight!

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    • fka_luddite says:

      “Art Kent can probably lie as well as Mack Daddy can.” Probably not; Mack Daddy has had a lot more time to praqctice.

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  24. Miss Lynx says:

    Well, the tension level in these parts has certainly jumped by an order of magnitude or so in the past couple of chapters! Definitely on the edge of my seat waiting for the next one…

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  25. Zathras IX says:

    In which Mackenzie
    Gets more than her quotient
    Of Intelligence

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  26. durragh says:

    ok, i may be in a minority here, but i get the feeling this might actually be a positive thing. it’s possible that the unfinished business is the royal family wanting to reward, personally or otherwise, the person that revealed their daughters killer, and this guy just isn’t high enough on the food chain to know exactly WHY Mack’s presence is wanted. even Lee wouldn’t know, if all he found out was that they were on the way to pick her up.

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    • beappleby says:

      Ooh, now that would be interesting, unlikely though I believe it to be…

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  27. Burnsidhe says:

    I suspect behind the scenes negotiations with Embries. Mack’s lawyer might have been picked up at the same time, and the whole thing being arranged as a very “Poirot” like denoument.

    “Perhaps you are wondering why I have gathered you all here today…”

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    • Jennifer says:

      Agatha Christie reference for the win. This would be awesome.

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  28. TheTurnipKIng says:

    And if Iona is still alive when Mack gets there? And if her fate comes down to Mack’s testimony (willing or unwilling)?

    This is bad, very bad. And potentially very messy, to boot.

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    • erianaiel says:

      I am thinking that they are going to throw Mackenzie at Iona and trust in Mackenzie’s attractiveness to predators and Iona’s lack of self control to make the later assume her native man hunter form. They can then execute Iona and provide the body to the parents as proof of both the nature of the killer and the fact that the killer was punished.
      They probably are not overly fussed by the chance that Mackenzie is going to get maimed or killed in the process.

      A plan like this does not require Mackenzie’s active cooperation, but it does make things easier if she goes actively looking for Iona instead of her being left unconscious at some place they hope Iona is going to show up.

      Also, too bad that Murci is such a good threat to have hanging over Mackenzie’s future or she could use this to get Law to step on her behalf to force Murci to leave her alone.

      Current score: 0
      • drudge says:

        Of course, if Mercy was going to do something on Mack’s behalf, I don’t think she’d wait for permission. She doesn’t just think of Mackenzie as an dog, but more or less a caricature of an animal with even less intelligence. She doesn’t exactly think Mackenzie is capable of making her own decisions to begin with.

        Current score: 0
  29. Kitsune 9tails says:

    There are some very big things to consider here:

    1) War with mer-kind may be on the table. This may not be a war the land folk can easily win, since sea-folk likely outnumber them, have magic, and at least some can function on land. Law may want a guarantee that Mack isn’t going to push this info out (although Ian may be more inclined, he doesn’t have firsthand knowledge).

    2) War with the Shift may be on the table. The Swan Royalty may want to have words with Mack on what she knew about the merfolk abilities and tendencies, how long she concealed that information and why. Law may want to ‘debrief’ her before the Swans get hold of her.

    3) If Law was unaware of the origins of the teeth marks (possible though unlikely) then they may just want to get hold of the relevant info first (and confirm that Mack is telling the truth) before anyone else.

    4) This level of security may just be Standard Operational Procedure for dealing with half-demons involved in international incidents.

    I still believe that Mack should have pushed for Amaranth’s presence at any questioning. If you think there are even odds on you being either executed or vanished, it’s a little late to worry about irritating your captors. =D

    Current score: 0
    • erianaiel says:

      Regarding 1) War with the merfolk may not be on the table for practical purposes, but public knowledge that they are opportunistic man hunters is not going to improve trust in international trade and travel, nor by extention law and order in the country. And the military has to be concerned that they might not be able to win should it come to war.

      Regarding 2) This depends of course on how much influence the swan maiden nation(s) have, but I got the impression from reading this chapter that the last chaos war was not so much won as well as fought into a costly draw, with at some point there being sufficiently concern that the empire might actually lose (otherwise they would not have pardoned the likes of Murci or Callahan. That sounds like a tactic of desperation). Unrest in the Shift may be something that Law is ordered to prevent at all cost.

      3) If they wanted info they could have asked, even in the presence of Amaranth. If they needed Mackenzie to keep quiet they definitely should have talked in the presence of Amaranth.
      This chapter points that they need Mackenzie to -do- something, and while whatever it is works best if she does so voluntarily, I got the impression that he was not lying when he said they did not -need- that cooperation. An unconscious Mackenzie tied naked to a tree somewhere close to where they believe Iona is hiding would still work as bait.

      4) It all depends really on which kind of half demon character we have seen so far is the more common. If the norm is like Mackenzie or her brother then this level of enforcement is definitely overkill. If on the other hand most half demons are more like Murci’s pets then it is entirely understandable (and mr. Kent is quite brave to sit so easily in front of somebody with prodigious amount of raw physical and magical power and a temper that is likely to flare into homocidal rage at the least provocation. Mackenzie may be dead within seconds after attacking but he is not going to survive being simultaneously set on fire and having his head ripped off either).

      I do agree that pushing a little harder for having Amarant present would be smart, but she was already told that the ‘personal briefing’ was not going to actually tell her anything either. Mr Kent’s associates may be hesitant to offend Mother Khaele, but the did seem willing to tie up Amaranth (hey, it could be sexual and they could argue they were just helping her do her religious duty) and clonk Mackenzie on the head with a little bit of divine magic and make away with her.
      Mackenzie decided apparently, and if so I agree with her conclusion, that these people were going to do whatever they had planned to do and only needed Mackenzie’s body, not her understanding nor her assent. They did it as polite as they ever were going to get not out of consideration for Mackenzie or even Amaranth but simply because they did not want a lot of ‘noise’ on the campus to warn the real target of their operation (likely Iona) that something is going down. Bringing in a lot of men for a forceful extraction of Mackenzie was likely to cause a lot of fire and lightning (literally) and bring in the entire Harlowe residence, if not the entire campus. (and of course the ‘explanation’ that Mackenzie was offered alone in that other room might simply have been being conked on the head with a little divine magic.)

      Current score: 0
  30. Gorgonopsid says:

    “and mr. Kent is quite brave to sit so easily in front of somebody with prodigious amount of raw physical and magical power and a temper that is likely to flare into homocidal rage at the least provocation. Mackenzie may be dead within seconds after attacking but he is not going to survive being simultaneously set on fire and having his head ripped off either).”

    Something tells me he’s not so fragile as to be unable to handle a barely trained half-demon with no actual combat experience.

    Current score: 0
  31. Pate Granzeau says:

    Something I’ve been noticing: Mackenzie has been expressing ideas in conversation which don’t really sound as if they were ad lib-instead, she sounds as if she were re-thinking the conversation, and making her conversation suit. She’s expressing much more sophisticated ideas than I’d expect from an 18 year old adolescent with such a restricted upbringing. She is remarkably sophisticated in her thoughts.

    I realize this is something that is much more general in Mackenzie’s story than a comment on this chapter; I wish there were a more general discussion on the story than these daily observations allow.

    Current score: 0
    • Sylvan says:

      I can kind of see what you are saying here, but I don’t think it is inappropriate for the character. You say she has had a restricted upbringing, but she is obviously familiar with something similar to the internet and has spent a lot of time in chats, forums, etc.

      She is now getting used to speaking out loud, in public, with strangers, and in all sorts of other previously awkward situations, so she is getting better at communicating her whole intent on the fly. Plus, adrenaline, and Kent seems like the kind of guy to let her say her piece until she seems like she might be stalling.

      Much like conversations with the man (previous comments seem to agree) Mackenzie doesn’t want to ad lib this. She wants to think carefully about what to say to these scary men and has had maybe 5-10 minutes to change and head down the stairs while thinking about it. (Between updates)

      Meh, long comment short, I can see it, but I think we will see a return of conversational Mackenzie when she is not in a situation that makes small talk impossible.

      Current score: 0
    • drudge says:

      I asked exactly how long Mackenzie spent thinking on formspring. The answer was “If you read that section aloud in a somewhat deliberative tone, you’ll have an approximate answer.”

      Current score: 0
      • drudge says:

        Whoops, hit reply too early. The point is, Mackenzie spends a lot of time thinking. She’s got a decent idea what she wants to say.

        Current score: 0
  32. 2nt9 says:

    Into the den of fire and offal…this cant end well.

    Current score: 0