Mirrohreart - Book #2.

46 – In The Field

October 9th

He had been social once, he was sure of it.

Curt stared into the mirror and required the eighth new shirt in the last twenty minutes.

Easy. It had been easy in the old days. Agreeing to meet up with people to kick a ball around, or watch a movie, or sport, or just have a BBQ and talk shit about work.

He didn’t remember his palms sweating.

He didn’t remember the driving urge to finally agree to one of Parker-2’s medical malpractice experiments.

Somehow, having his liver extracted without anaesthesia seemed like a far better idea than going out for a quiet evening with some of his peers.

He lowered the lid of the toilet, and sat, his head in his hands.

Getting used to the normal things was the hardest aspect of rehabilitation.

Agency life was a fairly simple A, B, C lifestyle. Get up, do a mission, chat with some fae, do some paperwork, sleep, have horrific nightmares, and wake up to do it all again.

The fact that the rest of his department were a bunch of dicks had made it somehow a lot easier to manage – he didn’t have to manage multiple personas – all he had to do was keep a single, quiet and capitulating facade up while they talked about him behind his back and used him as the butt of all Solstice jokes.

It had made the harder aspects of Agency protocol and procedure easier, because he hadn’t had to focus on all the niceties of social interaction for over a year.

Magnolia was easy to get along with – their interactions were short, direct, sexy and without the need for too much talking. And if she did want to talk, it was thankfully about Agency protocol and procedure.

And hanging out for a few doing stretches with Hewitt was a far cry from spending several hours with recruits he had barely had a conversation with.

His resolve had cracked and he’d peeked at each of their files – just so that he didn’t make any mistakes.

Or, at least, to lessen the chances of his making mistakes.

Mags was a known quantity.

Hewitt was the only other combat recruit coming – his test score chart was interesting, scoring just as high for Tech as he had for Combat – he was sure that would have been an interesting pissing match between Taylor and Jones as to who got to dibs the recruit.

At least he was involved with someone – rule of conversation, people always liked to talk about their partners, so Caipe would be a great conversational motivator if things got too dead.

Sacha was a tech, there was no interesting aberration in his test chart, like with Hewitt. He’d been born in Germany, but been here for most of his life – he was also one of the older techs that this Agency had – at thirty-five, he appeared to have been a recruit for most of his professional life, though that was relatively common with Techs.

Long-term recruits usually fell into two camps – those who were in it for the long haul, who wanted to be recruits for the rest of their lives; and those who treated it more like mining or project work – something to dedicate yourself to for a decade, then use what you’d built up to set up the rest of your life.

So far, Sacha seemed to be falling into the former.

Screen was the one techs he’d had little to do with – a short, fat tech who seemed to be a whirl of purple hair and references he didn’t understand.

Stef had liked her.

He slumped again. Stef. He had managed to forget about her in the couple of weeks that had passed, which was right in its own way – the Agency was doing its “best” to see to it that Duty was satisfied.

On the other hand, it was wrong that any half-decent life should pass with so little remembrance.

People died, but then they died again when people forgot about them.

Like Tara.

He’d understood death, even back then, even if he hadn’t accepted it. People got…switched off, and no amount of crying could ever, ever bring them back.

It had been the final straw with his parents, and the divorce proceedings had started after the funeral.

His mum hadn’t put pictures of her up in the apartment they’d moved to, and they didn’t talk about her.

Forgotten was worse than dead.

And Stef was both.

There was a knock at his door, and he quickly stood, checked himself in the mirror once more, and went to it.

Magnolia was there, ribbons wrapped around the short braids that hung either side her of her face, her dress the usual combination of lace, ruffles and hidden weapons.

‘You ready?’ she asked.

‘I am,’ he said, ‘but you’re early. I didn’t think you’d want to be seen with me.’

She gave a slight shrug. ‘We can catch the end of happy hour if we hurry, and everyone else is ready.’

He pulled back, and grabbed the jacket he’d required earlier from the hook on the back of the door, checked for his wallet and phones, then nodded to her.

She stepped back, and gave him room to come out.

He started to reach for her hand, but stopped himself – this wasn’t a date, and she wasn’t his girlfriend. If she wanted things to progress on that path, she’d give him a sign, until then, there were protocols to respect.

Being seen with him was one thing, showing affection – was another entirely.

She strode ahead, heading for the elevator, and he lagged behind a little, wondering how fucked-up they would be as a couple.

He didn’t love her, he knew that for certain. He respected her, he was attracted to her, but his brain couldn’t make the leap to imagining sharing a room on a regular basis, going for breakfast, or watching movies together.

Then again, he couldn’t imagine that with anyone.

Which was probably for the best. People didn’t want damaged goods in their life.

*

Orrick’s Field was a strange little venue – by turns it was a cafe, a nightclub and a theatre restaurant, all – apparently – without contradicting itself.

These kinds of establishments were, from what he could tell, fairly common outside of Faerie – small outposts of fae culture without having to find stairs or go too far out of the way.

The multi-business aspect also allowed entrepreneurs to pool resources – buy a larger single building, schedule staff across the different aspects and get more bang for their gold.

Curt sipped his second drink as Hewitt continued to explain the set-up.

The cafe ran from breakfast to afternoon tea – when the kitchens started to organise dinner. The evening aspect was the one most susceptible to change – dinners often ran to a theme, matching the entertainment. Sometimes it was simply a complementary menu – pub food for a pub band, or hobbish meals during a poetry reading.

Other nights were events, when every aspect tied together – like the Tural theatre event that night with the timed meals that matched the mood and content of the show.

And every table had to be a group of five – five was an important number within the stories surrounding the Cycle of Life – which the play was based around. The origins of the plant fae and Life’s direct involvement – which was, according to their creation mythology, how they made the split from a single fae progenitor, to the nymphs and hobs that existed now.

The further deviations from the strict dichotomy of “maker” and “shaper” weren’t generally spoken about in the mass-consumption Tural theatre, as the stories were less of a romantic creation myth than plain old evolution.

Sacha returned to the table, a large pitcher of angel water in his hand. Magnolia turned away from giggling with Screen for the first time since they’d sat and held a hand up to stop Sacha from sitting. ‘You made changes,’ she said, putting a hand to Sacha’s short red skirt. ‘Where’s the tartan?’

‘Too many people were asking if it was a kilt,’ he said as he sat, ‘and I was disappointing them by not showing if I was a true Scotsman or not.’

‘You’re fucking German,’ Mags said as she poured herself a glass of the sweet, vaguely alcoholic blue liquid, ‘they couldn’t tell from the accent?’

Sacha grinned. ‘The accent might be strong to your delicate Aussie ears, Mags, but my parents say they can barely hear it anymore. I’m just hoping my future children are adorable, otherwise things could be troublesome.’

Curt poured himself a glass of the angel water. ‘You should be safe, it’s a…restart when grandkids are in the picture. You’re irrelevant, except as a delivery vehicle. They get the best parts of parenting without the day-to-day pressures. You’re giving them a better version of their experience raising you.’ He stared at the table. ‘That’s the impression I got anyway.’

He counted to three, then looked up. Magnolia’s look was neutral – he hadn’t doubted that she knew, her Aide access gave her all the detail she would ever need on a recruit, and he would bet large sums of money she knew his file as well as he did.

Sacha, Screen and Hewitt, however, were surprised.

‘I had to leave her behind,’ he said, trying to cut into the awkward silence. ‘She’s with my ex in Adelaide. Probation and all that.’ He took a drink of the faux-blue, and wondered how the taste compared to the real thing – the real blue probably wasn’t sweet, but it wasn’t a theory he really cared to test.

‘I’ll hit you up for advice when I decide to spawn,’ Sacha said, then lifted the pitcher and filled the remaining glasses with the blue drink.

‘I’ve got a question of my own actually,’ Curt said, wanting to lighten the atmosphere a bit.

Sacha folded his hands, his posture already more awkward, and looked to Magnolia. ‘Should I get the bingo card?’

‘Huh?’ Curt asked.

‘Give him the benefit of the doubt,’ Mags said.

He felt his mind screaming for an escape, all he’d done was ask to ask a question, and everyone was turning on him. He should have kept quiet, like he did around the Field recruits. It was harder to hate someone who said nothing. ‘Huh?’

‘I’m black, German and queer,’ Sacha said, his voice flat. ‘I have it down to a statistical science what people who aren’t my friends ask me.’ He held up his hand and a piece of paper appeared. ‘Hence, bingo card.’

‘I was going to ask what a stroopwafel was,’ Curt said quickly, ‘I’ve been hearing the techs talk about them every time I’ve come to drop off a file lately, and I figured you might not know.’

Sacha grinned, and the tension seemed to slip away. ‘How the fuck would I know? It sounds Dutch.’

Screen leaned closer. ‘You have heard of this thing called Google, right?’

‘I…don’t like randomly searching for stuff on the internet.’

‘Then use Urban Dictionary, it’s usually the safest way to find out if something is a disturbing sex act.’ She pulled out a phone and stared at it for a minute. ‘Huh, it’s pretty tame actually. And he’s right, it’s a Dutch thing. Now stop confusing Dutch and Deutsch, drink up and start to relax, Agent C.’

‘I’m functionally as Aussie as the next guy,’ Sacha said, ‘well when the next guy isn’t a fucking Kiwi,’ he said, jerking a thumb at Hewitt. ‘When I require a cookie, it’s a Timtam.’ He laid his hands flat on the table. ‘I’ve had a long enough week explaining to people that miraculously, I’m not related to Agent Jane, I just want to relax.’

‘You’re right, I’m sorry,’ Curt said, hoping he hadn’t fucked up things too badly, ‘next round’s on me, okay?’ Across the table Mags gave him the slightest of nods, and he fought an urge to sigh in relief.

Everything was fine. He hadn’t fucked up too badly. He didn’t need to submit to the Parkers’ experimentations.

He’d been social once, he could be social again.

 

BE AWARE THERE ARE SPOILERS FOR THE REST OF THE SERIES IN THE COMMENTS BELOW.

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  33 comments for “46 – In The Field

  1. October 18, 2013 at 5:32 pm

    hmm. I like it, but it seems a bit heavy handed in setting up curt and stef for later. I know that’s the POINT, but its REALLY obvious. (you may want that, I don’t know )

    • Stormy
      Stormy
      October 20, 2013 at 11:53 am

      It wasn’t intentional (I’ll reply more to Macditch more below) – for the moment (ie, moment that lasts right up until OUB) I’m trying to have him associate her with “little sister”.

  2. raven
    October 18, 2013 at 9:21 pm

    it may be obvious to those of us that have read the other books but not so much for new readers.

    • Stormy
      Stormy
      October 20, 2013 at 11:54 am

      I’m hoping it’s not too obvious to new readers – I’m not putting too much more into their relationship than what was there the first time around…and I didn’t know they were going to hook up till I got a decent chunk of the way into Oubliette. >_>

  3. MacDitch
    October 18, 2013 at 11:32 pm

    I think it seems abit obvious to us (a) because we know but (b) because it’s come from left field. We haven’t seen Curt in a few chapters and suddenly he’s back. If you look at it objectively, he thinks about Stef and relationships (which we all jump on) but they are actually in no way related. I think. Gimme a min…

    Yep, anxiety about meeting, running through list of people. Screen links to Stef, two line remorse over already forgetting her after a couple of weeks, depressing thoughts about death generally, mostly his sister’s. Having read it through again I think the only odd bit is the leap back to Stef to close the chapter as that is more of a ‘she’s on his mind’ kind of reaction rather than a happenstance random thought.

    I dunno, I’m probably talking complete rot. In an attempt to justify this post, here’s some editting/proof-reading considerations for Stormy:
    “Screen was the one techs he’d had” – “techs” should be singular, or possibly the sentence juggled to “Screen was one of the techs he’d had”
    “and Life’s direct involvement – which was, according” I don’t thik the hyphen is needed (or beneficial) in this…

    • Stormy
      Stormy
      October 20, 2013 at 6:29 pm

      I think it seems abit obvious to us (a) because we know but (b) because it’s come from left field. We haven’t seen Curt in a few chapters and suddenly he’s back. If you look at it objectively, he thinks about Stef and relationships (which we all jump on) but they are actually in no way related. I think. Gimme a min…
      I do think it’s really a “reading warm” thing, rather than it actually being in the text (as you agree below). I’m not trying to push them together any sooner in the rewrite than what happened in 2.0, as I simply adore the friendship that builds between them until it naturally becomes something more.

      Yep, anxiety about meeting, running through list of people. Screen links to Stef, two line remorse over already forgetting her after a couple of weeks, depressing thoughts about death generally, mostly his sister’s. Having read it through again I think the only odd bit is the leap back to Stef to close the chapter as that is more of a ‘she’s on his mind’ kind of reaction rather than a happenstance random thought.
      You’re completely right on the last line, so I’ve gone back and changed it – tied the whole thing back into him, so that thinking about Stef was just a blip in the middle (the next chapter is also a Curt chapter, and he doesn’t think about her there).

    • Stormy
      Stormy
      October 20, 2013 at 6:43 pm

      “Screen was the one techs he’d had” – “techs” should be singular, or possibly the sentence juggled to “Screen was one of the techs he’d had”
      I think I’ll juggle.

      “and Life’s direct involvement – which was, according” I don’t thik the hyphen is needed (or beneficial) in this…
      I think I get a little hyphen-happy sometimes…

  4. October 18, 2013 at 11:48 pm

    you both have points. I’ll shut up and let Stormy do her work! heh.

    • Stormy
      Stormy
      October 20, 2013 at 3:09 pm

      You could shut up and send care packages of chocolate and cute masseuses. 😛

      • October 22, 2013 at 2:53 am

        i’ll see about the chocolate, and one day, I shall visit Australia! and hopefully the east coast (no promises)

        • Stormy
          Stormy
          October 22, 2013 at 7:41 am

          If you step foot on this continent, you had better come visit!

          Plus, um, seriously, there’s not really anything on the north or west coasts. Southern coasts contains a megalomaniac frog and a mad Frenchwoman.

          East coast has theme parts, the best beaches and…the landmarks like the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Opera House.

        • raven
          October 23, 2013 at 7:17 am

          theme parts? you mean like Berlin’s red-light area or are other themes available

  5. Stormy
    Stormy
    October 19, 2013 at 9:25 am

    I’ll reply to comments later, for now: I’ve actually gone ahead and altered the last paragraph, to make it tie back into the rest of the chapter better.

  6. October 19, 2013 at 10:32 pm

    Hmm… I think for the sake of first time readers BIG spoilers of the kind mentioned above should be avoided in the comments… And discussion of stuff like this should be moved to somewhere in the forums you can avoid easily if you’re in the middle of an archive binge…

    Stormy, your thoughts?

    (Stormy you can delete the post awaiting moderation by Ski Hemulen. That’s just my blog account).

    • Stormy
      Stormy
      October 21, 2013 at 7:43 am

      My thoughts are numerous – I’m still considering it, I’ll probably post something later.

      Cat’s out of the bag on this chapter anyway, so feel free to continue discussing stuff.

      • October 21, 2013 at 5:26 pm

        Maybe edit in a comment warning of major spoilers in this discussion?

      • October 22, 2013 at 2:55 am

        i don’t seemto be able to edit in this stream, but im cool with editing in a spoiler over my comment with “comment about a future event” next to it. And I shall endeavor to remember that this will be soome people’s future first run, and use spoilers.

  7. MacDitch
    October 21, 2013 at 3:35 pm

    cute masseuses.

    Where do I sign up? 😀

    • Stormy
      Stormy
      October 22, 2013 at 7:46 am

      Cool coincidence? I was told by my manager yesterday that they’re going to get a roaming masseuse in to give us shoulder rubs. 😀

      I’ll report if they’re cute or not.

      • October 22, 2013 at 5:12 pm

        I want to work where you work! although, my company is opening a call center in queensland next year, maybe i can get a paid 12 week trip to train people!

        • Stormy
          Stormy
          October 22, 2013 at 5:28 pm

          Fuck yeah! Come to Brisbane and I’ll give you the penny-tour of all the places Stef has died. 😛

        • October 22, 2013 at 6:13 pm

          that would be at least a nickel tour.

        • Wraith
          Wraith
          October 23, 2013 at 1:54 am

          That was a fun tour, although I don’t think we got to all of them. I did get to see Queen Street though, and a couple of the malls where Stef has hung out, and one of the outposts where the Agent never works late, but gets away with it because Ryan is kinda a shit director. . .

          Long story short: Everyone should try to visit Brisbane if they can.

  8. Stormy
    Stormy
    October 23, 2013 at 6:18 am

    //That was a fun tour, although I don’t think we got to all of them. //
    Well, not all of them exist, so it was hard to show you those. 😛

    //and one of the outposts where the Agent never works late, but gets away with it because Ryan is kinda a shit director. . .//
    Oh, Agent Kelly…I do like him. Even if he’s a bit shit as an agent. (Then again, most of our boys are).

    …and I don’t think I’ve even introduced him in canon yet. Maybe mentioned him?

    //Long story short: Everyone should try to visit Brisbane if they can.//
    Yes, yes! Mwhahahahah!

  9. Stormy
    Stormy
    October 23, 2013 at 7:36 am

    //theme parts? you mean like Berlin’s red-light area or are other themes available//
    Parks. You know me and stupid typos. Theme parks.

    Basically Queensland is the only place with any sort of funpark/theme park etc (there’s one in each Sydney and Melbourne, I think, but they’re tiny).

    Just south of Brisbane is the Gold Coast (if you’ve ever seen pictures of “Australia + Beaches” there’s a good chance it was the Gold Coast.

    Down there is Seaworld (…not explaining Seaworld). Dreamworld (your more standard giant rollercoaster-type park), 2 water parks, and Movieworld (which is kind of the shit version of Universal Studios if I have to draw a comparison – there’s movie themed rides [some of which are pretty cool]) and it assists with movie productions at the same time.

    • raven
      October 23, 2013 at 8:22 am

      yeah sorry about that i kinda new what you were on about but 6 litres of cola and god knows how many packets of skittles has made me kinda silly.

      • Stormy
        Stormy
        October 23, 2013 at 8:41 am

        How have you not exploded?

        • raven
          November 3, 2013 at 5:29 am

          thats not all i had that day i had 2 100g bars of chocolate and breakfast tea and lunch. one of the advantages of long term insomnia is i need to eat considerably more then most people as i’m awake longer.

  10. edorfaus
    November 3, 2013 at 12:41 am

    I figured you might not know
    I think this has a “not” too many, it wouldn’t really make much sense for him to ask otherwise…

  11. October 22, 2014 at 7:55 am

    FWIW, I’m reading warm and I didn’t think it was leaning on a future Curt-Stef relationship. Why, because he has a child and she wants one? Or because romantic entanglement was mentioned and Curt thought of her in the same chapter? I don’t think either of those are related – I mean, the whole reason Curt matters in this story is that he values Stef and remembers her when she’s gone, so we need to see him doing that, and the only one he’s thinking about pairing off with is Magnolia. And we haven’t seen the flashbacks with Stef’s desperate attempts to get a baby.

    On that subject – I was thinking about those the other day and wondering whether they’d been written out of 3.0 (I cannot remember at all where they fell when I read them), and if that’s in question, I want to say that I think they’re important; Stef is only ever described as a child and interacted with on that level, and it’s easy to forget that she’s an adult. She’s totally crazy and heartbreakingly damaged in that flashback, but in a more adult arena, and it points out that her default child mode is a defense rather than something natural. It rounds her out as a character. Also, interesting that both she and Ryan have this drive to parent.

    And maybe we’re nowhere near when that happens and there was no intention of axing it…then, a nonsequitur “yay for that part!”

    • Stormy
      Stormy
      October 22, 2014 at 12:20 pm

      Ok, so a tonne to unpack here, let me know if I miss anything!

      Or because romantic entanglement was mentioned and Curt thought of her in the same chapter? On that subject – I was thinking about those the other day and wondering whether they’d been written out of 3.0 (I cannot remember at all where they fell when I read them)
      Definitely, definitely not being written out – that’s still a huge part of Stef’s character, but it hasn’t been relevant to bring up as yet.

      The flashbacks were predominantly in a short story/novella called “The Nature of Nurture”, which can be found by using the category drop down. (This will be slightly expanded and released as an ebook next year).

      I’m considering dropping some stuff into the MS rewrite, but there’s nothing yet.

      Stef is only ever described as a child and interacted with on that level, and it’s easy to forget that she’s an adult.
      I think it’s something she forgets herself a lot of the time – but she does have these moments of being an adult – even if she does need a lot more of them.

      There’s also the element that she’s…safe enough to be a child – or to be treated as a child – whereas in her own childhood, she had to be a lot more grown-up than her age. In those NN flashbacks you mention – look at the way she does some stuff – she hides her toys, and recognises the behaviours that are most favourable (acting like “Stephanie” vs “Stef”), and she always had to be on guard, lest James yell at her for something or other.

      And – this isn’t really discussed anywhere in canon yet – even more so as a teenager, where she tried self-medicating through alcohol to get bold!voice to shut up, whilst trying to maintain a façade of normality. Ryan, and by extension, the Agency is really the first safe space she’s had where she can be herself, but also have support. So it has let her regress a lot more – it’s evident even if you look at “beginning of MF Stef” vs “end of MF Stef” – compare her interactions with Dorian, vs those with Ryan after she stops being scared.

      She’s totally crazy and heartbreakingly damaged in that flashback, but in a more adult arena, and it points out that her default child mode is a defense rather than something natural. It rounds her out as a character.
      Part of it is also arrested development; and there’s also the influence of Peter Pan – he went to Neverland and never grew up, so she figured that – even though he left her behind – that she shouldn’t grow up either.

      Also, interesting that both she and Ryan have this drive to parent.
      Word of god: Ryan’s desire to be a parent is one of his influences from Rhys.

      I think Ryan’s desire to parent, and his adoption of her will play into how she eventually handles the problem of children – I haven’t decided anything yet, but I do like the idea of her continuing the trend of adopting a child who needs a parent. But nothing concrete yet, I probably have a decade before I even need to think about it.

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