Chapter 268: In The Bubble

on December 10, 2014 in Volume 2 Book 8: Elven Holiday, Volume 2: Sophomore Effort

In Which Glory Knows Better

I was a bit confused about how ordering room service in advance worked better than getting a reservation, but as soon as I saw the suite, I remembered that the brochures Glory had lent me had shown several “hospitality gift” packages ranging from a box of chocolates to bottles of wine to full-fledged meals consisting mostly of cold finger foods on platters.

It looked like Glory had combined at least a couple of the platter options. It was the second such meal I would have had in the day, but the quality was definitely up a few degrees, at least compared to the cold options on the party boat: smoked salmon, way more types of olives than I’d need to know existed, bits of cheese and sausage that didn’t look like they’d come from a grocer’s catering department, stuff that looked like cat food and crackers but was probably actually the expensive vital organs of some animal and “toast points”… that kind of thing.

Even the veggies looked they were probably actually crudités in disguise.

“Do you approve?” Glory asked me.

“It looks good,” I said. “But I don’t understand how you can approve of this and badmouth buffets. At least buffets have sneeze guards and some temperature controls.”

“First, this is all food that was intended to be served at room temperature,” she said. “So it hasn’t been getting cold, or drying out. Second, I’m quite sure no one has been in here to sneeze on our food… or touch it, or slop things into each other. Also, it was only set out around when we checked in. Anyway, I was asking about the accommodations as a whole.”

I took the room in. It was a cozy seating area, with a loveseat that was just too small to be comfortable for two people who weren’t into cuddling, and two chairs that looked like things you’d find in a higher-end waiting room. There was a dimensionally flattened TV box hanging on the wall over a fireplace whose depth along with the fire was likely to be illusionary.

On the wall opposite the fireplace was something that looked like a cross between a bar and a vanity, with a marble top and a small sink. Above it was a mirror, in which the image of a woman in the blue and tan livery of the Cloud Chariot was frozen with a placid smile on her face, probably with a trapped message of greeting.

The carpet was certainly plush, a deep blue color with the walls in paler blue. They were papered with that kind of accent stuff that makes it look vaguely like there’s molding where there isn’t. The accents were a weird mishmash of sea and sky, clouds with old timey nautical shapes hidden within them. Maybe there was a big spoked steering wheel somewhere on the ship, but I couldn’t imagine what an airship would need an anchor for.

The room was smaller than I would have expected based on the quality of the furnishings, but I supposed that even with a ship competing for the title of landmass, space would be at a premium.

“This is bigger than what everyone else got?” I said.

“It’s a suite,” she said. “Even in first class, most of the cabins don’t have a separate sitting room and bedroom. Anyway, the bedroom is mostly what I care about, since there are vanishingly few reasons I would be holed up in my room when what I’m really paying for is access to the rest of the ship and everything it has to offer. But there might be times when we want to be sociable in a more low-key way, especially since they won’t let you into the bars.”

“On the subject of bedrooms, I only see one,” I said. “When you were first trying to lure me along, you told you had rented a room for four people.”

“If I recall correctly, the loveseat hides a double bed in it,” she said.

“You’re kidding,” I said. “It barely holds a loveseat. You’d practically have to be sitting on each other to use it.”

“That’s what makes it a loveseat,” she said. “You don’t have to love someone to share a couch with them if you both get a whole cushion to yourself. That’s more like a tolerate seat.”

“I’m just trying to imagine how comfortably two people could sleep on it,” I said.

“Probably the same way that two people sit on it,” she said. “On top of each other. Would you like to try it?”

“Would you really like to go from your magical floating pillow bed to sleeping on a foldout thing?”

“…not really, no,” she said. “Honestly, that is among the reasons I’m not intending to do much sleeping until we get back.”

“Is sleep voluntary, too?”

“Not without shedding a hell of a lot of pseudo-mortality first,” she said. “But it’s honestly not that hard to get by with little and light sleep for several days when you’re excited enough. If I get so exhausted that I crash.. well, then I’ll have an easier time sleeping on whatever passes for a bed. On that subject, do you want to check it out?”

“…how in-depth are we talking about checking?”

“I don’t intend to do anything that commits me to being in the room this early in the voyage, or the day,” she said.

“You don’t intend to be at the railing when we cast off, do you?” I asked.

“Well, I’d like to be outside,” she said. “But I imagine anything close to the railing is going to be far too crowded for my tastes. Fortunately, elves rarely require a front row seat for anything. I’ll let the humans clamor for the close up view and we can find somewhere to settle back. Anyway, you really are nervous, aren’t you?”

“I had some legitimate reservations about the safety of the ship, but being based on reason, they were susceptible to reason,” I said. “So I’m here.”

“Yes, but you’re griping about everything,” she said. “I’m not going to turn you out or anything, but I will be disappointed if you don’t enjoy yourself.”

“I seriously think I’ll be okay,” I said. “It’s just new… I didn’t realize I was still being negative.”

“Well, just promise me you won’t spend too long adjusting,” she said. “We don’t even have a full week to enjoy ourselves here… anyway, do you want to see the rest of the ship, or the rest of the room?”

“Maybe we should check the message in the mirror,” I said.

“What for?”

“It might be important,” I said. “Rules, evacuation procedures… safety stuff.”

“If opening one of the dresser drawer causes the hull to fall off, I’m sure they’d put a warning sticker on it,” Glory said. “I guarantee there’s nothing in it that they don’t expect ninety-nine percent of their guests to ignore.”

“Well, then we’ll be the best-informed percentile if there’s an emergency,” I said, heading for the mirror.

“I don’t know why you’re bothering,” Glory said. “In the event of an evacuation, your exit’s straight down.”

“That’s not funny,” I said. “And anyway, what about you?”

“If I couldn’t find a lifeboat and get to it while the ship was falling apart around my pointy little ears without watching some informational echo first, I wouldn’t be an elf,” she said, though she slid in behind me in front of the mirror. “But if it will make you feel better…”

“It would make me feel better if you didn’t act like I’m putting you out,” I said. I invoked the mirror. The woman unfroze, her already scarily impressive smile widening and brightening even more as she launched herself into an exaggerated wave.

“Hi, and welcome aboard the Imperial Cloud Chariot!” Glory said right along with her… I had to admit, it wasn’t exactly the most original opening. “On the Cloud Chariot, the voyage is the destination.”

“See? She’s just repeating the brochure,” Glory said as our illusionary guide showed us a cross section of the ship and maps for each deck, showing us where we were on the starboard side. “Oh, hey, that’s right! We have a porthole!”

She glided to the inner wall of the living room, where most of the wall was draped in a kind of gauzy curtain that she drew back to reveal a round window that bubbled outward. It was almost the size of the wall. Granted, the room wasn’t that big from side to side, but big enough that the window was huge.

“Oh, freaking wow… Mackenzie, I don’t think we have to go above deck for cast-off if you don’t want to,” she said.

“You didn’t know how big the window was going to be?” I asked.

“Did you?”

“I didn’t think of it as a feature worth noting,” I said.

“Well, just between you, me, and the bulkheads, I don’t actually have a great head for human measurements,” she said.

“Yeah, that’s make two of us,” I said. “I mean, I’m reasonably good with numbers, but bad at visualizing space.”

“Anyway, it’d be one thing to know how big the thing is, but it’s another thing to see what kind of view we actually have. Come on over here.”

I waved away the echo, which was rattling off the evacuation route… but it had also said that they were posted, and that our wrist bands would lead us there… and joined Glory at the porthole. Well, a little bit back from the porthole at first, though I edged forward a bit.

Despite being in port, the size of the ship plus its hovering posture meant we were a good ways up in the air, higher than any building except the most improbable wizards’ towers. If we’d been on the other side of the ship, we might have had an inspiring view of the brick and concrete harbor center. Instead, we had rolling, forested hills under a light dusting of snow laid out before us. It was hard to imagine how even the open ocean itself could have been more inspiring.

At first blush, I couldn’t see any signs of artificial construction at all, though I did notice after looking a while that I could see a road in the distance with a few carriages moving across it, though it was more the impression of movement that I knew must be carriages than any definite shapes. Once I saw that, I thought I could see some buildings nestled in the trees along it.

“It’s like a painting,” I said, leaning a bit into the bubble in spite of myself.

“I think we found our vantage point for takeoff,” Glory said, turning and sitting in the window.

“Are you kidding?”

“You can drag a chair over here if you want to,” she said.

“I could bring the loveseat over here.”

“Please don’t break the loveseat,” she said. “Or the window. I was going to say, you can drag a chair over, but then you’ll be looking out, not down. If that’s how you want to spend your first take-off… well, there will be other ports of call along the way. Maybe you’ll be more used to it.”

“I suppose if the window wasn’t intended to hold people’s weight, there would be some kind of warning,” I said.

“If the window wasn’t intended to hold people’s weight, it wouldn’t have been built out like this,” she said. She patted the curve next to her. “Look at it, it’s perfect for a seat.”

“Are you really going to sit there until we cast off? I thought we were still going to be parked here until like four.”

“That’s a good point,” she said. “If we make a point not to lose track of time, we even could check out the bed, especially since we won’t have to make ourselves presentable to sit at the window.”

“I’m not going to sit in the bubble naked,” I said.

“I think even elven eyes would have a hard time picking you out from among all the windows, from the ground,” she said, leaning back in it like it was a particularly expansive throne.

“You already told me we’re not in ultra mega super first class, so I’m pretty sure there’s another window just like it on either side, if not above and below.”

“Oh, that’s another good point,” Glory said, looking around. “I guess I felt like I’m floating in my own private world here. You know, the soundproofing here is phenomenal. Anyway, since we are going to be here for a while… how about we eat, and then see some of the amenities?”

“Do we have a bathtub?” I asked.

“Oh, I was going to surprise you with that, but we have both a bathtub and a shower were clearly designed for people to have sex in,” she said. “I suspect that’s a big part of why our living room is so small. Anyway,don’t tell me you need another soak already… you spent half the night in one hot tub or another.”

“I didn’t mean for right this minute,” I said. “I’m just… I like to be in water when I unwind, so I think it’ll help my ongoing adjustment to the realities of flight if know that there’s a bath in my near future.”

“I know. Honestly, Mackenzie, if I didn’t know enough about your history with mermaids, I’d suspect you were one.”

“…what do you know about my history with mermaids?”

“…probably too much?” she said. “Sorry, I definitely know enough to know not to joke about it.”

“It’s okay,” I said. “I’m sorry, I just… it’s weird, sometimes. We didn’t meet that long ago, and sometimes it feels like that, but then other times it feels like you’ve been my friend forever, and then other times it… it feels…”

“It feels a bit like a creepy stalker?”

“I wouldn’t have said that.”

“Because you are nice,” she said. “When you’re rude, it’s usually due to obliviousness. I know how it must seem, from a human point of view. Among elves, it’s just… you pick things up. It’s like floating in a sea of sound. You breathe in information. I could have tuned you out, yeah, but that would have been… basically, that would have been like deciding in my head that I’m not interested in you.”

“I’m sorry,” I said. “I didn’t hear anything past ‘human’. You know, that’s the nicest thing anyone’s ever said about me, and you say it all the time.”

“I think I’ve said nicer things than that,” she said.

“Probably,” I said. “But if you said them after ‘human’ then I wasn’t listening.”

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20 Responses to “Chapter 268: In The Bubble”

  1. N. says:

    Very cute.

    Definitely adding ‘tolerate seat’ to my vocabulary now.

    Current score: 4
  2. S says:

    Does that make a regular couch a “I don’t particularly like people seat” and a big sectional couch a “I hate everyone seat”?

    Hmm. I have a big sectional…

    Oh, and one typo – there should be the word ‘know’ between ‘definitely’ and ‘enough’ in the following snippet.

    “…probably too much?” she said. “Sorry, I definitely enough to know not to joke about it.”

    Current score: 0
  3. Endovior says:

    typo: “Sorry, I definitely enough to know not to joke about it.”

    ‘I definitely enough’ is obviously wrong, but it’s not quite clear how to fix it… maybe something like ‘I definitely know enough not to joke about it’?

    Current score: 0
  4. riocaz says:

    I assume they were in front of the “mirror” not the “mere”…

    I also like serving “vital organs” with toast points. 🙂

    Current score: 0
  5. Nocker says:

    Obvious question is: If elves can apparently pick that much up through osmosis, how much else do they all know, at least on average?

    Current score: 2
    • zeel says:

      I would hazard a guess at “way too freaking much”. Probably far more than they care too, and certainly more than most people would be comfortable knowing about.

      Current score: 1
      • Nocker says:

        I get the feeling that it’s not just for them that treehome was established. Elves can hear everything and get past locks as if they weren’t there. You integrate that into a campus of teenagers and early twenty somethings and that’s basically a slew of bullshit waiting to happen. Especially if they’re half as grabby as Grace suggests and half as sexual as well… everyone suggests.

        Current score: 3
        • zeel says:

          Though Treehome’s existence predates the MU campus, I would suspect that this is part of why MU uses it to house elvin students.

          Current score: 2
      • Daez says:

        Which is why I find it incredible that laurel Ann was able to keep her privacy even working alongside not only an elf…. But a nosy elf! 😀

        Current score: 1
  6. Dani says:

    Mack is being rude well beyond the point of obliviousness. She finds fault with almost everything Glory tries to do for her, does not seem to have the ‘thank you’ concept, and is consistently petulant.

    Mack would survive being thrown overboard, so Glory’s motivation for not doing that is narrowing down to “the ticket was expensive”.

    Current score: 7
    • zeel says:

      I think the legal repercussions for throwing a person off an airship, even if they survive, are probably pretty harsh. I mean there are feathfalling charms, and demons aren’t the only ones with high survivability. There are surely laws to cover those cases.

      Current score: 1
      • Nocker says:

        That’s kind of complicated, since it presumes a whole lot. Dragons aren’t beholden to normal law and half a dragon is still a dragon, including in form if it practices a bit or is hatched. Giants aren’t imperial citizens and thus don’t really count except as visitors. Kobolds have iron bones, but they’re so deep underground compared to even just dwarves I doubt they answer to any imperial authority or count as citizenry by any definition(aside perhaps from the occasional craftmen we see in some OT). Other than that you have say, demigods, which are rare almost by definition, and maybe part elementals like Twyla, which seems to be roughly on par with Half Demons in occourance(this is a bullshit guess, we aren’t folliwing Twyla or that side of things, so we don’t know much about her deal, just that one wound up in harlowe at the same time, and that the local professor who’s part human has both).

        You can only really make a law if something requires it or if you see it as a recurring issue. All of the cases where it’d come up are incredibly rare, and cumulativley not much better. That being before you take into account things like Giants and Demons culturally, both of whom have had invasive armies described, or Kobolds being delver targets and lumped in with goblinoids described as being lynched.

        Current score: 0
        • zeel says:

          I think the law would primarily deal with those wearing feather fall charms. It’s easy for an attacker to unwittingly throw a magically protected person from a ship. And then that law would extend to those who survived by any form of magic, racial bonus, or chance.

          And that isn’t getting into the civil case you could bring up, since law or no law the trauma is certainly real.

          Current score: 0
          • Nocker says:

            Hey, other laws probably cover elements of it. If nothing else, Mackenzie IS an unambiguous citizen of this empire and entitled to all the rights associated therein. She made that abundantly clear and there’s no doubt a law against throwing them off an airship, even if you assumed they’d survive.

            It’s just that there’s probably no specific law against fucking with superhumans in a way that’d kill normal humans.

            Current score: 0
            • zeel says:

              That might actually fall under (the analogue of) civil rights, if you were doing something to them that would normally kill a human only because you know it wouldn’t kill them.

              That’s actually an interesting thought, I wonder to what extent the legal system handles things like invulnerability, or fantastic allergies.

              Current score: 1
            • Seth says:

              Perhaps Ms. Calahan’s three counts of “attempted” deicide would count as an example?

              Current score: 4
            • Gruhl says:

              Also, one might be able to hit the thrower with a charge of recklessly endangering public safety with a supernatural projectile. I doubt any farmer/craftsman/noble/etc would appreciate being demonbombed, wether half or whole.

              Current score: 3
            • zeel says:

              You both make excellent points

              Current score: 1
  7. Zathras IX says:

    Gift” packages can be very

    Current score: 2
  8. Arancaytar says:

    “I know. Honestly, Mackenzie, if I didn’t know enough about your history with mermaids, I’d suspect you were one.”

    … I don’t remember that coming up, so I guess what Glory knows comes from her elven hearing?

    I really do want to know what she knows, considering that parts of it are known to extremely few people.

    “I’m sorry,” I said. “I didn’t hear anything past ‘human’. You know, that’s the nicest thing anyone’s ever said about me, and you say it all the time.”


    Current score: 1