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Hello, Kiana. Thank you for the fruits – at least I assume that’s what they were. At the moment they look a bit like shriveled hearts. Perhaps they will also become trees. Certainly I don’t think I can eat them, even if it would be a surprisingly appropriate image.

I think that if the chess board is worth something, you should fix the roof, if it needs it. A small leak can sicken a house from the inside out. So can bad water, and termites crawling up into the heart of the house, so I suppose it is good that you have started to fix the garden, so that things can grow there instead of simply dying.

Your friend may not have a house, or be had by one, but she seems the sort who a house might want to keep. The thinking kind of person, someone who can see beyond other people’s peeling wallpaper shells.

To answer what I think may be your most important question: I have been infinity. For each person I have been, there are ten more behind those memories, and another ten, and another ten, stretching on and on. I do not have a beginning. The doors prevent me from having an end. Perhaps the mathematicians will say that I loop back around and contain myself, but whether I am a chorus of ghosts or a snarl in the fabric of the universe, I have always, to my knowledge, been myself.

That self just hasn't always been the same. )
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I put up the first part of Shadows Fall in Halloween of 2015. It got longer. For now, these links are going to the Tumblr posts, but I'll probably crosspost full chapters here at some point in the future.

As a special event, Chapter Two is going up, one section per day, over the 2016 Halloween Weekend. Also, be sure to check out my tumblr for random build and play pictures.

Chapter One:
Part One * Part Two * Part Three

Chapter Two:
Part One * Part Two * Part Three

Chapter Three:
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A selection from the journals of Zaliander the Wise
Pride Goeth before a fall... )

Life Update

Mar. 8th, 2015 05:42 pm
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So, I got a job just last Thursday: I'm going to be a proper chemist (well, "Contract Formulations Chemist" but yeah, not an internship, actually doing chemistry,) as soon as I start on Monday.

This may mean I'm less social in the immediate future while working on other projects. Speaking of -

- I'm a hair's breadth from finishing the first draft of Switchpoint.
- Progress has been made on the new chapter of the EHL. Granted, large portions of that are written rather than filmed, but I have less than twenty new scenes to film (as of now) and a better plan for the next two chapters, which will include an interlude. This one may even be relatively short - no four-post several hundred picture monsters this time around.
- Despite my better judgement, I made a simblr for those of you interested in that. It updates on a "when I can be assed to import pictures to the laptop" basis. I'm also still working on the graphics for the banner/my new EHL banner in general. Yeah, I'm mouse-drawing trees again.
- I am now almost caught up with Secondhand Reviews, meaning that I ought to finish one of the two books I'm currently reading (Diana Wynne Jones' The Tough Guide to Fantasyland, Ursula K. Le Guin's The Disposessed.) Especially since I finally ovaried up and reviewed the shitpile that is Lunar Descent, which has been sitting on my "to do" pile for almost three months. It is almost (but not quite) as bad as the Gideon Crew novels, if anybody here besides MM remembers my first attempt at book reviews. ;)
- I made massive amounts of progress cleaning a triceratops braincase/squamosal fragment. (I'm no expert and it's not quite clean enough for diagnostics yet. Whatever undergrad inherits my glorious bone had better be grateful and avoid scraping the edges.)

In other news, I continued to publish fanfiction: I blame Jupiter Ascending for being a terrible trainwreck with bees.

... with no little shame, I present to you Sovreignty: or Space Bees, the Ficlet.

And I'm going to PaleoFest next weekend, which is a formal-dress convention for fossil nerds in Rockford, IL. (It probably means I'm going to hang out with my dino-lab coordinator and the professor that runs the museum while satisfying my curiosity about the Triceratops I've been working on, but the fraternal unit has plans for meeting and greeting the senior paleontologists in 'his field' rather than learning about pollen like me.)

I tried to write something for femmeslash February. It didn't work, it isn't finished, and you guys are just going to have to wait for me to stop trying to get through Switchpoint for pointless Allie and Lindsay fluff. Until then, have something I wrote in December for the 30 day OTP challenge, in which Allie and Lindsay watchThe Cabinet of Dr. Caligari and thus ensure that they will go to the special hell reserved for people who talk in the theatre.

The Special (Effects) Hell

“It’s such a lovely painted circus tent,” I said to Allie, sotto voce, as we watched the crowd onscreen gather around a stage. She nudged me for silence, though we were the only people in the theater besides the projectionist and a young couple in front who were thoroughly engrossed in each other: the benefit of going to the movies at two on a Tuesday afternoon. “It looks like the walls are made of rubber,” I added a moment later, as two young ladies, their arms around each other’s waists, bought tickets.

The orchestra segued from playing a jaunty tune suited to a carnival, to an odd tense scampering as the magician worked his magic. I couldn’t help but glance over at Allie to see how she took it – she was busy rolling her eyes.

Somnambulism,” she muttered.

“Sleepwalking is a magical experience,” I told her with a grin. She didn’t dignify that with a response until a moment later, when she read the card onscreen. “Look into your future?” she hissed, incredulous, “seriously.”

“Shhh, we’re in the theater,” I told her facetiously. The next title card, which read you die at dawn, seemed to me to be a little overdramatic, but we followed the orchestra along and then saw a young woman in a long shawl walking through a ridiculously crooked “alleyway” with two young men, and I started laughing – trying hard to stifle it to avoid drawing the attention of the young couple in the front row.

“Theater, remember?” Allie murmured.

“The shadows are painted on the walls,” I said, when I could breathe, “I don’t care about the quack magician, this might just be the best movie I’ve ever seen.”

Allie rolled her eyes and slipped her hand into mine. I smiled warmly over at her and settled in, still giggling a little, to watch what I was sure was going to be the funniest horror film in the world. The only thing missing was the popcorn.

~ *** ~

*Popcorn was "invented" well before 1900, but it was popularized in movie theaters until the very late 1920's, which is both a little too late to be equivalent to the world where Allie and Lindsay chose to live most of the time, and waaaaaay too late to be congruent with early silent films. Yes, I did research for a 300 word drabble that isn't canon. Fear Me.

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Someday, somehow, I will get the embed right on the first try. Of course, the fact that either Slideshare or Livejournal changes their interface between chapters tells me I need to start producing them faster...

Also, if my math is right, this is my sixth Legaversary! Approximately. I've forgotten the exact date I started playing (it was sometime in the summer after Junior Yea of High School) and I know my first upload to the Exchange was sometime in late August of 2008, but all records of that are, of course, gone. So I'm just going to say that my Legaversary is approximately twelve to sixteen days into August from now on.  Screw it, it's just the 13th. I can remember that.
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Lament for a Best Friend

When we were children we shared the same dreams,
We sighed the same sighs and we screamed the same screams.
Yet when we met again the other day,
You said things I never thought you’d say.

Fifteen years ago we both thought that the world
Was beautiful and endless, full of choice,
Like a map just waiting to be unfurled.
Yet now that we’re old enough to find our voice,
I see how much further inward for you it’s curled.

I remember that I checked out banned books for you,
We sat in the tree behind my house and you read, one chapter at a time,
What you had been denied.

You loved fantasy and were deprived of magic.
They told your parents it was wrong: the devil’s work.
We never truly believed in any magic not of our own making,
Just childish secrecy and midnight wondering.

          We laughed because your mother thought I was a good influence.

A decade ago you were the only one who knew my fears.
Thank you for sharing a little of the shit I went through,
I’d like to look back on the innocence of those years,
But we both know that no nostalgia can make that true.

These memories are why your rejection of me brings me to tears.

I would ride my bike to your house at least twice a week.
I picked up the phone when you called, day or night,
I helped you discreetly bury the evidence when you burnt an entire batch of cookies.

You took hours and hours of your life to teach me,
(Unsuccessfully) to knit; the best way to make pizza dough
You told me I was clever and important when I needed it most.
You told me you couldn’t wait to get out, leave home;

            Even then, your parents’ world was suffocating you.

I felt so guilty leaving you behind to go to school;
We knew then that it was the end of an age
No more time and space for our youthful misrule.
We were both ready to turn a new page;
I thought we would remain the same, and I was a fool.

Over the years the world has made us different women,
Strong, as you knew we’d be, maybe even enough to
Square off against a cold and unforgiving future, more or less alone.

I don’t know why I stayed silent – perhaps I was afraid,
Yet ignorance always screams louder than truth.
These ugly words were placed in your mouth by another’s hand;
Last December, you told me I was unnatural and wrong.

           (You didn’t know you did, but my heart hurts all the same.)

*  *
I dump my poetry on you at the beginning of every summer, it seems. Though, now that I wrote this one, it doesn't hurt anymore.
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Why Creative Writing Teachers Should Encourage Reading and Writing of Genre Fic

First off, literary fiction is a myth, and I mean that both figuratively and literally. The western tradition of writing comes not from what we think of as realism in the realm of literature, but from a mythical and allegorical understanding of the world. Some of the earliest literature that most students are exposed to is Homer’s Odyssey and Illiad, (some students get to read Virgil’s Aneid and the Epic of Gilgamesh as well,) which contains magic, action, interpersonal relationships, contradictions, people’s political and philosophical thoughts, improbable adventures, romance, horror, gods, fate, and long sea voyages. It’s also one of the world’s best-known works of fanfiction. (After all, Homer did not invent the stories of Odysseus or Achilles any more than Hesiod invented all the stories of the Olympians. Homer is just who we attribute the composed and written versions to.)

Most “literary” fiction that is presented to students as a classic has similar elements, yet escapes being labeled as “genre” fic because it’s old, or written by famous people. Just going down my own high school required reading list – Frankenstein and Dracula are both in many ways horror and adventure novels, Great Expectations (actually, anything by Dickens) is a long, slice-of-life type soap opera with adventure, mystery, and supernatural elements, Romeo and Juliet is actually just a stage adaptation of a much older tragic romance, (Shakespeare is the world’s most famous author of fanfiction in the English language,) The Scarlet Letter is essentially a work of magical realism with some psychological horror, The Great Gatsby is yet another tragic romance with slice of life and soap opera tendencies, and Brave New World, 1984, and Fahrenheit 451 are all sci fi.

All of the above were not written to fit the specifications of “literary” fiction as imposed by English teachers: they were all written for the mass market of their day. Any teacher who insists that “fantasy,” doesn’t sell should be banned from teaching anything with magical or supernatural elements, such as Dracula, Hamlet, Macbeth, The Odyssey, The Divine Comedy, and many works of Edgar Allen Poe, to name just a few staples of the middle and high school English curriculum. (They’re also living under a rock, since many of the best-selling franchises of the 90’s and the first decade of the 2000’s have been fantasy or sci fi, a genre which also includes superheroes somewhere along the spectrum.)

There is no one true literature, and here's how genre fiction makes you write better anyway )

 TLDR; If you teach "literary fiction" as being both completely seperate from and better than "genre fiction," you're doing it wrong. If you say that "It's that way because that's how literature is taught," you're committing a variety of logical fallacies, foremost among them being appeal to authority. If you say that my essay is essentially wrong because I have a degree in science instead of literature, you're technically launching an ad-hominem argument in conjunction with your appeal to presumed authority. And since anyone with access to wikipedia can sit here and play spot the fallacy as well as I can, it's time to start thinking critically about why people revere literary fiction so much (besides that they're taught to in school.)
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I've decided I should write short stories more often. I think I'm a little under a quarter done with this one (no working title yet, but it's an Allie and Lindsay mystery that isn't quite as complicated as Switchpoint,) and I have to say that it's going pretty well so far. Probably because everything's on a very tight schedule that doesn't leave anyone stranded on a train to fool around for a couple hours when it turns out to be the wrong one... yes, that's what they're doing in Switchpoint right now, fooling around on trains.  
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In Medias Restitution;
Being an Account of the Noble, Refined and Courtly Love of a Dragon for his Horde

The knight and the princess glanced around the bejeweled cavern and the dragon’s gleaming horde. It looked like a museum, with swords and cups and shiny bits of broken glass lovingly arranged on fire-scarred antique tables, set into alcoves in the rock, or stacked in tottering piles.

To the knight it meant just one thing: treasure.

“Well,” the knight declared, “I like this place and willingly could waste my time in it.” He didn’t add and cart away all the gold, because it didn’t do to talk of crude matters like money and treasure in front of a high-born lady, even one who sounded like she’d swallowed several books of etiquette and was still waiting for them to stop blocking her insides. “I mean, if I wasn’t busy saving you from the dragon,” he amended gallantly, because she was after all a princess, and her father was richer than Croseus.

“Whether I shall turn out to be the hero of my own life, or whether that station will bee held by anybody else, these pages must show,” the princess declared, rather dramatically given that she was wearing a crooked crown and her skirts were singed to the knee, “For that matter, though I thank you for the attempt, it’s really not worth your while. I am perfectly content here.”

“In a dragon’s den,” the knight replied, incredulous.

“Prejudices,” lectured the princess, “it is well known, are most difficult to eradicate from the heart whose soil has never been loosened or fertilized by education: they grow there, firm as weeds among stones. I do not fault you on your lack of enlightenment, as it is clear by your mode of speech that you have not been fortunate enough to receive a good education, and now make your way by common thievery even from our bescaled brethren.”

The knight rolled his eyes at her, princess or no. “Look, sweetheart,” he said, “I’ll put it to you  this way: there’s a shortage of perfect breasts in this world. It would be a pity to damage yours. And that dragon has claws that would go right through your body like a knife through butter, and it doesn’t care for your fancy manners or your pretty face. It’s an animal.”

“The dragon is far better spoken than you, churl!” the princess replied, blushing furiously, “Was that remark intended to be romantic? It came off as rather lewd.”

“Well, excuse me, princess,” said the knight, “and my lack of education. If you’re coming with me, I’m leaving now before the dragon wakes up, so you have two minutes to decide.” He then deliberately turned his back on her and began stuffing his pockets (there was no use facing off against a dragon in plate armor unless you wanted to be a pre-cooked can of spam) with the highest denomination coins he could find. Call it insurance, just in case he wasn’t getting paid for a princess rescue after all.

“Well, I do miss my mother,” said the princess, “and regular baths.”

The knight tuned out her soliloquy on the virtues of personal hygiene as they headed out through the tunnels. In his personal opinion, the princess talked entirely too much and if she expected this to be some sort of romantic entanglement born of a heroic rescue and instant chemistry, he’d take the cash please.

In the heart of the mountain, the dragon awoke, though the knight and princess had all but forgotten him.

It does not do to leave a live dragon out of your calculations, if you live near him. Dragons may not have much real use for all their wealth, but they know it to an ounce as a rule, especially after long possession, and Smaug was no exception. In addition, he was possessed of a keen sense of smell and knew that there was an additional human, species Chevalier Errant, in his perfectly climate-controlled catacombs. Except for the Princess, who had been shaping up to be an excellent assistant archivist, it was only logical to assume that humans only had one thing in mind: theft.

That was why, when Smaug came roaring out of the tunnels, he did not flame at the mouth – he’d lost precious renaissance paintings that way in the past, and he still had heart palpitations at the thought of what could have been, were he less careless – but he did smoke enough to give the knight a fright. After all, if the man dropped the treasure Smaug could get his new archivist to polish it (one of the advantages of having opposable thumbs) and then file it away, and not even bother chasing the theif.

The thief fled like a mouse. Smaug pounced like a twenty ton cat.

Author's note: This was produced as a quote-based writing prompt, wherein a love story (in this case, between a dragon and his treasure,) was produced by incorporating randomly selected quotes. The quotes used are, in order:

"I like this place and willingly could waste my time in it." As You Like It, by William Shakespeare.

"Whether I shall turn out to be the hero of my own life, or whether that station will bee held by anybody else, these pages must show." David Copperfeild, by Charles Dickens.

"Prejudices, it is well known, are most difficult to eradicate from the heart whose soil has never been loosened or fertilized by education: they grow there, firm as weeds among stones." - Charlotte Bronte

"There’s a shortage of perfect breasts in this world. It would be a pity to damage yours." The Princess Bride, written by William Goldman.

Well, excuse me, princess." The Legend of Zelda

It does not do to leave a live dragon out of your calculations, if you live near him. Dragons may not have much real use for all their wealth, but they know it to an ounce as a rule, especially after long possession, and Smaug was no exception." The Hobbit, by J.R.R. Tolkien
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So guess what guys? I've been busy. And I've taken several people's advice to get my ass in gear and start actually writing my mystery novels, so...

(Now, how did that font become the semi-official header font for the whole series? Eh. It's pretty and readable, which is the only thing that matters. Besides, formatting doesn't matter in a first draft so long as you do the right paragraph breaks and can find where you left off without having to re-read the whole thing. Not pictured here: witty chapter titles. Yes, I have a confession to make: witty chapter titles are often the last thing that I think of.)

  So far, my J-term schedule has been

1) Pound the snot out of paper pulp for three straight hours in the morning, and then throw water everywhere in the name of art.

2) Spend two hours in the afternoon pounding the snot out of bags of dirt, then sift through them for seeds and discard any dead beetles I find.

3) Work on Switchpoint for some amount of time between fifteen minutes and an hour. Despite my own laziness, [ profile] sh_marr's competitive spirit and unsubtle taunting (we're racing to the ends of our respective novels this semester: blame S. and not me for that brilliant idea,) has driven me to complete the scariest 2,000 odd words ever since we started last week: the official beginning of my entire series... and the first impression anyone will ever have of it.

4) Get distracted by the internet, watching movies and shows with the girls (I'm catching up on Supernatural one painful episode at a time, and I'm letting myself watch Sherlock, in accordance with how many chapters I get done,) going to the gym, or booting the sims and making over Riverblossom Hills. Or just doing anything that doesn't involve a) having the main cast age, b) actual shooting pictures. I'm also avoiding Myst 4 Revelations because I am stuck. And thoughts of what happens after Thesis - job hunting and the real world.

Time to go start chapter 2... and blow off class-related research about Chuck Close, considering that I had to write a three page biography of him and do a portfolio of three pieces in his style for honors art sophomore year of high school. I better damn well know who chuck close is, guys. It's his fault that I once made a 24"x36" self-portrait using nothing but my own fingerprints (and my thumbnails dipped in ink when my fingers weren't fine enough.)

This is how artists go mad, guys. Not that being a scientist has a better outlook for continued sanity...

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Somehow I got into the habit of doing these things, but today I feel quite lazy.

Last Year's highlights:
January: I put out one chapter (yes, I know... all the blame is mine,) of The Elven Heritage Legacy last year. For those of you who showed up to the journal at some point since last January, The Elven Heritage Legacy is a serial Sims 2 machinomic in a Legacy format, wherein we follow the descendants of a single family... or in this case, because I hate following the rules, four families of Elves who have emigrated from the vaguely medival-ish world of Elphemera to areas in and surrounding the modern, mildly rural community of Riverblossom Hills.

Since I have no clue when I started the EHL anymore (I think it was some time in the summer of 2010 or even earlier... my notes say that the first post was in late August of 2009,) I'm counting this year as the official fifth year of my legacy. New readers be warned - I didn't take the first five or so chapters seriously beyond editing for grammar and consistency. The quality has increased exponentially since then, so it might be best to hop in at The Three Musketeers part two or three. Or if you want the quick version, start with Memoria. Either way, the EHL is by no means required reading, and definitely not dead, despite my extremely awful updating schedule. The next chapter, Sophomoric, will be chapter twelve on my official counter and out soonish. Emphasis on the ish.

June: I went to Israel. I also dug up some stuff. I saw every single Corinthian column in the country, it seems like. I then came home and spent the rest of the summer working on the Thesis which shall not be named, which went badly enough that I had to start over.

August - December: I worked on Thesis, take two. I also researched and wrote Poor Unfortunate Souls, the forty-thousand-odd word novella length spitefic that was born after I got so mad that Fifty Shades of Grey existed that I decided to research the crimes that were actually committed in the book and end it as civilization, human decency, and common sense intended: with Christian Grey's arrest. The fic was primarily intended for members of [ profile] das_sporking, and anyone else who likes mysteries, hates Fifty Shades, or blunders by my journal. As of the new year, I'm cross-posting what chapters I haven't already shamelessly promoted to [ profile] twispitefic.

Longtime browsers over here might sort of recognize the two detectives starring in Poor Unfortunate Souls, probably from snippets of my past attempts at Nanowrimo. Allie Veldon, mage (not wizard or magician, thank you!) and Lindsay Pilot, detective, are in fact part of their own original series, which brings us to my plans for 2014: I'm having a go at writing their first novel, Switchpoint, during spring semester. So I'll probably babble about that at some point without giving you guys anything much to read for it, as I intend at some point to try and get them published. :D

New Year's Resolutions:

1) Finish Thesis and then forget it ever happened. I have to defend the sucker in March. After March, assuming I pass, I can cheerfully kick the monstrosity to the curb, secure in the knowledge that I will never have to do it again and that I hate academia anyway.

2) Graduate. I've been at my college four years - longer than I've known most people who actually come to this blog. While I'm terrified to leave, it's high time for me to go, and Roommate has already expressed her desire to move to the city with me, where we will hopefully have accomplished resolution 3.

3) Get a Job. I'm looking at a lot of chemistry/practical microbiology/water and food safety type of jobs for now. I've been told conflicting things about the job market. I keep hearing of places that supposedly will hire graduates right out of school  because they're so focused that they don't care if you have higher education, they'd have to train you on their instruments regardless of how many degrees you have.

The dream job is one at the state water and food safety lab. The c-string backup option is water management... for those of you not in the know, that's often water reclamation, as in purification of wastewater.


4) Move out. Insofar as I live anywhere, since I am a college gypsy, I live above my parents' garage in a room stacked full of boxes, because the damn things follow me from school to home like needy puppies. Assuming I get a job, somewhere, I'd prefer my own place by this time next year, and I'm sure my parents would prefer it too. (I know this because my mother keeps giving me secondhand furniture and dishes.) I'd prefer to get it with Roommate, and potentially some of the other girls from college, but that all depends on who gets jobs and grad schools where. We've located a suitable rental as a best-case-scenario, and for me the worst case scenario continues to be waking up whenever the garage door opens or closes.

5) Write Switchpoint. It's high time for me to finish something geared towards actual publication. I've had Allie and Lindsay as characters for nearly the same amount of time that I've had everyone from the Elven Heritage Legacy. This won't be appearing on Live Journal (undoubtedly, yelling about the research process will, because there's always something you haven't yet researched,) but it's a major goal nonetheless. I've been writing more or less continuously since I was seven, and though college has done it's best to throw a monkey wrench into that fifteen-year streak, I think I've done my ten thousand words by now.

Switchpoint is a dieselpunk science-fantasy mystery (with a cherry on top) involving smuggling, the mob, sarcastic detectives, take-no-shit police officers, a railway timetable (or several), magic, and lots and lots of trains. You will not believe how many trains there are.

6) Put out the yearly two chapters of The Elven Heritage Legacy. In theory, doing this will keep me more or less sane through research, job hunting, graduation, and the mysterious world of actual adulthood.
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So, for Christmas I got Judgement at Proteus, the very last of Timothy Zahn's Quadrail series. I... well, I actually can't tell you much about the plot without spoiling at least book one. I've been following the series since about '08 or so: waiting for installments is actually the reason I've read so much of Zahn's other stuff. (Icarus Hunt is a particular favorite, but for people who prefer urban science-fantasy to space travel, The Green and The Grey is pretty darn awesome.)

In a nutshell, half of the reason that you should read the Quadrail series is that if you like thrillers, mysteries, noir, or sci-fi in any capacity, you won't be disappointed. (Unless you really wanted Firefly. It's not Firefly. Nobody gets a ship. Actually, it has space trains. I kid you not, there are trains in space, and it's not as ridiculous as I'm making it sound.) It's got a great thriller/detective noir protagonist in Frank Compton, the man who always has a plan, plenty of memorable allies, old contacts, and antagonists, lots of yummy worldbuilding, and fight scenes. If you want a protagonist who uses their brain in fight scenes, go for Zahn - but if you want fight scenes that go on despite the best efforts of a hypertechnical alien equivalent to the TSA at their most prodding, make sure you stop on the Quadrail. Oh, and there's Bayta, whose presence throughout the series was amazing and very, very ship worthy. She's awesome, and her partnership with Frank was highly refreshing - when they get around to the respect and trust bit, they complement each other perfectly.

Oh, and whenever you think a book is over, you get to check the page count and realize that you've been had - there's more going on! Half the fun is trying to pick up on everything when Compton does, rather than when he lets on what he's learned. Which could be several books down the line. Zahn pulls the unreliable first person narrator in a lot of books, but the Quadrail series turns it up to eleven.

Plus, there's five books at three hundred odd pages apiece - they can be picked up in a small bundle and then read at any speed. :D
scribal_goddess: (A very bad book)
Haven't finished reading Poor Unfortunate Souls yet?

That's okay. All but two of Christian Grey's crimes were committed canonically, over the course of Fifty Shades of Grey and the first nine or so chapters of Fifty Shades Darker. This is just the list of ones that I managed to research.
Christan Grey’s crimes according to Washington State Law, and his subsequent sentencing:

Warning: Christian Grey's Crimes include stalking, rape, kidnapping, identity theft, unlawful imprisonment, physical, psychological, and financial abuse, and if I've missed something, let me know. I went for the big ones during the sentencing. Every one of these crimes is supported by evidence within canon.
Rape in the first and second degrees. (In canon, he 1. breaks into Anastasia’s apartment after delivering a threat to rape her, 2. threatens physical harm to her in his parents’ boathouse unless she has sex with him, 3. Just read any chapter with a sex scene in it, there will be coercion involved (second degree), 4. Any of the several times he got Ana drunk (second degree).)  Rape in the first degree is a class A felony and has a minimum sentence of ten years, and in Washington the convicted party has no chance of a reduced or deferred sentence, and cannot be released in the first three years of his imprisonment.

My jury recommended a minimum of ten years for Leila, ten years for Sophia, and ten years for Anastasia. (30+)

Improperly Obtaining Financial Information, Identity theft (He has the bank account numbers and social security numbers of all fourteen of his victims in canon. In the fic he also transferred funds from his victims’ accounts. Welch is canonically an accomplice in the act of obtaining this information and was also charged.)

Since there are fourteen counts, Grey and Welch are repeat offenders, making their identity theft felonious each time even if they hadn’t stolen anything. As we know from canon that he has messed with Anastasia Steele’s bank account to the tune of at least $24,000, (adding it is still a crime, because he got in there illegally - would it have killed him to write a check?) and felony identity theft is a minimum of two years plus restitutions. *Warning, it’s a PDF. My jury went for two years per girl. (28+, for a total of fifty two years so far.)

Kidnapping in the Second Degree (In canon, he attempts to carry Ana away by force. Ana didn’t press charges in this fic, but Sophia did.) Kidnapping in the second degree with sexual intent is a Class A felony and holds a minimum sentence of ten years.

My jury gave him a minimum of ten years for Sophia, ten years for Leila, and three for Anastasia, who didn't speak against him. (23+ or seventy five years so far.)

Unlawful Imprisonment (He had Leila involuntarily committed to a psychiatric hospital in canon. This is illegal. After the timeline between canon and my fic diverged (June 11) he also had Leila restrained and held within the private practice of his therapist, which is also both awful and illegal.)

Unlawful Imprisonment is a class C felony, and according to Washington state law, knowingly restraining someone is Unlawful Imprisonment. This can, to the best of my knowledge, be added to the kidnapping charges above, so if we say three years each for Leila, Sophia, and Anastasia, our current total is eighty four years in prison.)

Stalking (This is absolutely and completely canon. Instances of stalking in this fic which occurred to Leila or Sophia in this fic are either canon or are legally identical to those experienced by Anastasia Steele to the best of my knowledge.) I did not find a minimum sentence for stalking, mostly because I’d already racked up close to ninety and was more interested in the Unlawful Imprisonment.

My jury recommended a year each for stalking Leila, Sophia, and Ana, but my inner judge would like to give him an additional four for his contribution to Leila’s mental state. Officially, we’re at eighty seven.

Custodial interference in the first degree. (He used Leila’s personal and financial information to control her medical and mental health treatment in canon. He has no legal relationship to her whatsoever, being neither her husband nor her next of kin, and should have no right to dictate her treatment even if Leila was found to be temporarily or permanently incompetent to decide her own treatment.)
Custodial interference is a class C felony, which probably means a minimum of two years or so. Our total is now at eighty nine years.

Perjury and contempt of court. (Grey lies so often in canon with no concern for whether or not Ana or anyone else will discover the truth that adding perjury to his list of charges was pathetically in character. All that I really needed to do was make sure that the judge was female to guarantee that he’d make a misogynistic comment that would get him charged with contempt.) this is the only crime listed in this sporking that he has not outright committed in plain sight in canon.

My jury gave Grey a year for being an unrepentant dickwad and for insulting the judge, bringing the total up to ninety. (Okay, so the words ‘unrepentant dickwad’ probably didn’t feature in the jury’s actual report.)

I don’t know much about sentencing, so I went with the minimum for all that I could pin on him. It's possible that I undercut it, yet it still came out to a lifetime. Your romantic hero being eligible for a lifetime in prison is a sign that you’re writing romance and likeable heroes wrongly.

Many, many thanks to Gehayi and to Ket Makura for sporking Fifty Shades of Grey and Fifty Shades Darker as well as helping me find several of Christian’s crimes. If anyone knows of ones that I have missed, feel free to add them here. If anyone has more legal knowledge than me (I’m an environmental science [chemistry/biology/geology] major, after all,) then feel free to correct me here!
scribal_goddess: (A very bad book)

In the end, they had to move the trial out of Seattle. It was a preventative measure to keep Grey’s relative fame from influencing the jury – and to keep the jury relatively free of past connection to any of his businesses. Before the trial, however, Grey Enterprises Holdings Inc filed for bankruptcy: an infamous CEO is not good for stocks, even when the board of directors is only too eager to fire him in an attempt to save their public image. I lost track of the financial wrangling after a while, but it appears that after the bankruptcy, the company shook off its various investments and emerged more or less in one much smaller piece, under a different name, with different management. It was bought up almost instantly by an electronics company named after a raincoat.

The trial itself took nearly a week. Grey was charged with fourteen counts of felonious identity theft, stalking, unlawful imprisonment, custodial interference, kidnapping, rape in both the first and second degree, and to top it all off, perjury and contempt of court when he lied about each and every one of his charges and screamed across the room that the judge was a filthy whore.

Nobody sitting on the side of the prosecution was surprised in the least. Especially not when the jury took only six hours to find him guilty of all charges, and to recommend a sentence of ninety years or life imprisonment.

Grey’s evidence against Elena Lincoln was not considered admissible by the court after he had already lied on the witness stand. The sudden lack of financial aid from Grey Enterprises Holdings Inc and the lawsuit that her husband brought against her within the month, however, ruined her personal fortune, and would have ruined Esclava if Franco hadn’t bought it right out from under her, at what I’m told was a ridiculously cheap price. He allowed all of the workers to stay with the company if they wanted to, and before long the chain, renamed Liberté, was open again. Nobody ever asked where he’d gotten the money, but rumor had it that he had an older sister who had decided to fund the purchase.

Sawyer and Taylor were tried separately for their involvement in Grey’s crimes, and found to have only been accomplices under extreme duress, so they were each given a year of community service. The last I heard, Sawyer was teaching a practical self-defense class and volunteering at the humane society rehabilitating neglected dogs, and Taylor was working for a nonprofit dedicated to raising money and awareness for a variety of mental health disorders, and driving down to Oregon every weekend to see his daughter Sophie.

Although Leila and Sophia testified against Grey, Anastasia Steele did not. It seemed to me that she still didn’t understand what he’d done wrong, and I wondered how deep you could sink into denial without drowning in it. After the trial, she left Seattle.

It bruised my heart all over again when Kate called us to say that Ana had found out she’d hired us to investigate, and proceeded to blame Kate for everything, before packing her things and moving to Georgia to stay with her mother while she looked for a new job. I told Kate that she’d done all she could, and that it was the right thing, but I’m not certain it sank in.

Some people will always hate you for saving them.

Allie and I took on a few more cases that summer, but by late August we both felt that we’d overstayed our welcome in that world. The days, never terribly warm in Seattle, had already started to loom down to fog and soon the mysterious scent of wet leaves would be in the air. It was time to go home.

With the kind of timing that would do a psychic proud, Officer Rayne turned up for an impromptu visit on the very day that we’d finished packing everything up, donated everything we couldn’t carry, and run out the lease.

“Going somewhere?” she asked in surprise, raising an eyebrow at the sight of our apartment, completely bare except for the furniture that had come with it.

“Home,” I said to her, and didn’t bother explaining further.

“I forgot, you’re not from around here, are you?” Since she was standing in our doorway and wearing a t-shirt with a cartoon skunk on it, the question was unofficial as well as rhetorical. “Business in town not what you expected?”

“Anything we can do for you?” Allie asked her. The hurrying but supposedly casual tone she used never works on cops. They see right through it.

Officer Rayne was not the exception that proved the rule. “Yes, actually,” she said, taking a step forward into the empty apartment, “You used to be a stage magician, right? Now, I know how you saw a lady in half and put her back together, but I’m still curious as to how you break a reinforced security door neatly down the middle and forget to put it back the way you found it.”

I exchanged a glance with Allie. We’d planned to be gone in fifteen minute, and this looked like a long conversation if Officer Rayne got any traction.


She cut me off in the middle of stepping forward. “Ah, yes – I forgot, half the show is really the assistant doing all the work. Why don’t you tell me how you managed to get into the Fairmont – and the Escala building, for that matter?”

“She’s not my assistant,” Allie said, sighing. “And for that matter, I’m not a stage magician and never was.”

Officer Rayne’s eyebrows tried to reunite themselves with her scalp.

“Why don’t you sit down?” I asked her. “The furniture’s still here.”

With a completely unnecessary roll of her eyes, Officer Rayne parked herself in a chair and Allie and I took the fold-out couch. I gave Allie a little prod with my foot, seeing as the explanation here was more of her department.

Allie poked me back and went for the blunt force approach. “I’m not a stage magician, I’m a real mage. I bend the laws of physics, and I can prove it to you.”

For a moment, Officer Rayne just stared at us. Then she frowned. “You’re a wizard?”

“If you need a title, I prefer Mage,” Allie replied.

“Are you for real?” asked Officer Rayne in disbelief.

I rolled my eyes. “Don’t pay any attention to her,” I advised the officer, “There’s an unnecessarily complicated system of titles and responsibilities to go with those two words where she grew up. She keeps getting bent out of shape when people who don’t know any better use the wrong one. The only thing that you really have to remember is not to call her Lady Veldon – that’s her sister.”

Officer Rayne blinked. “You’re what, European nobility? You don’t have an accent.”

Allie smiled. “Further away than that.”

It took a moment – and a few blinks – for Officer Rayne to work her way to the next question. “Okay, then, what does she do?” she asked, tilting her chin at me.

“I see auras,” I explained.

“… Auras,” she repeated, “like… new age medicine and crystals and Ouija boards and dancing around Stonehenge kind of auras?”

“No. I see magic,” I corrected her, “Or, if you want to get really technical, I have a form of synesthesia that allows me to see extra energy leaking into our part of the multiverse as colored lights, noises, smells, and other fun sensations. Some people, like Allie, are able to harness a fair bit of that energy, while other people, like you and me, get only a little of that energy attracted to us.”

She seemed to consider it. “You’re aware of how completely nutty you sound, right?”

“Extremely aware,” I told her, “If it helps, I was still shocked when I found everything out, even though where I grew up everyone knew that magic existed, even if they mostly ignored it.”

“Where you grew up.” Officer Rayne was fast becoming an expert at making a flat, bemused statement and having it interpreted as a question.

“It was a completely different world,” I explained, with more than a little sense of the irony. “To make a very long story extremely short, there are plenty of alternate worlds due to the technical nature of the actual high level laws of physics, and Allie can travel between them: I’m just riding shotgun.” Seeing the officer’s look of blank disbelief, I turned to Allie. “I think you’d better prove to her that we’re not completely crazy,” I said.

Allie sighed. “Pick a piece of furniture -”

“No,” Officer Rayne cut in, “You don’t get to pick the proof – it could be rigged somehow. Here,” she said, pulling a pen out of her bag.

“Turn this into a caterpillar.”

“Transfiguration only happens in fairy tales and fantasy novels,” Allie replied, “pick something that is actually possible in the real world without breaking the laws of physics.”

As she spoke, the pen slowly and smoothly lifted off the table, floating upwards until it came to a rest in front of Officer Rayne’s face. She gaped at it for a second before she snatched it out of the air and felt it all over for wires.

“Right, what else can you do?” she asked quickly. “Because, assuming that you didn’t find a way to rig that, I need to know. Is it just the stuff from Matilda, or do you need a wand?”

“Fire’s always easy,” Allie replied. “Got a post-it?”

Officer Rayne offered her a folded napkin instead, and Allie took the pen back from her and scratched a perfunctory string of symbols. Then she held it in front of her face and we all watched it combust.

“The symbols help, but aren’t always necessary, unless you want to do something specific,” Allie explained, as the flames turned from yellow to blue to green, then to red, “They also keep things from getting out of hand, and once you start the spell, you don’t have to worry as much about getting distracted. Some people still prefer speaking the spell, or tend to get caught short. I can do this in my head and you’d never know it was me, but I’ve been in practice since I was five, so you probably don’t need to worry about meeting anyone else who can.”

The flame went out. Officer Rayne leaned forward and snatched up the charred napkin. “How many of you are there?”

“Usually, about one in every twenty has enough magic to use,” I told her, “But around here, on your world? I’ve got no way to be sure, but I doubt it’s more than one out of a hundred, and most of those would probably go through life never knowing.”

“We don’t mean for you to worry too much about mages,” Allie added, “But you do deserve to know.”

Now the officer’s look was calculating. “If I learn the symbols, then I can tell if magic’s been used -”

She broke off as Allie shook her head. “The words and symbols don’t have any power, really,” Allie said, “They’re more of a means of focus, or a bit like a personal programming language. You train yourself to direct energies according to this or that command, and since you’re the conduit, they’ll keep on behaving that way when your back is turned, rather than, say, starting a forest fire.”

Officer Rayne winced visibly, then seemed to settle into her disappointment. “All right. I’ve seen enough movies to know that playing with the forces of nature isn’t actually a good idea, no matter how much I’d like to be able to use the Force,” she said, “I’ll probably have more questions in a minute, but for now I’ll settle for knowing why both of you took such extra measures against Christian Grey.”

Once again, Allie and I traded a look.

“We were concerned that he might be controlling his victims through magic,” I told Officer Rayne, “as it turns out, he wasn’t, but -”

“You mean that mind control actually exists?” she interrupted, suspiciously.

Beside me, Allie twitched in her seat, and I laid a stilling hand on her knee. “Not precisely,” I said, “It’s more subtle than that – the best scientists have only just been able to start pinning down the possible particle physics behind magic, it’s interactions with the mind are completely unknown -”

“Cut the lecture, I’m here for the evidence,” said Officer Rayne, leaning forward in her seat, “If there’s any possibility that someone’s out there, doing awful things to people with magic -”

“Then you’ll never hear about it,” Allie cut in darkly. “You wouldn’t even know about it if it happened to you. You’d go on seeing what he wanted you to see and the only way you’d ever know is if he made a mistake. And if you ever meet someone with that sort of ability, my only advice is to shoot him dead on sight.” Her eyes were digging holes into Officer Rayne, and I reached over and squeezed her hand.

“The chance of that is about one in four billion, or even less, near as we can tell,” I said, trying to be comforting.

Officer Rayne still looked alarmed. “That means that there’s probably one or two of them out there in the world right now,” she protested.

“Everyone chooses what they do with their gifts,” I replied. “If it’s any comfort, we can’t even be sure that the membrane of this universe is even thin enough to let that amount of energy through. The turbulence when Allie and I arrived was unbelievable.”

It was a poorly timed joke, and earned me a look of utter disbelief from Officer Rayne, but the tightness in Allie’s face and eyes uncoiled.

“Backing up a step,” I continued, “when I observed Christian Grey’s aura, it appeared to consume the auras of women that he interacted with, and it left… traces on some of his victims.” I stumbled over the thought of those twining grey vines, but continued on quickly. “There are some things that can leave a mark on a person’s aura other than magic – the onset of some mental illnesses, traumatic events, travel between worlds done very wrong – so, while I couldn’t rule out the possibility that Grey was a mage, I also couldn’t rule out the possibility that his physical actions were causing those traces.” Especially since I’d heard Sophia’s story before I’d checked her aura, so there had been no way to tell if my brain was incorporating what I already knew, or if the disorganized part of my brain that actually took in and sorted that particular type of energy was even functioning properly at the time.

I was used to second guessing my own brain by that point, but that didn’t mean that I had to like it.

Allie took over. “Of that one in twenty people who are potential mages, four out of five are usually what we call latent mages: people who have a borderline capacity to direct energy, or who have simply never tried it due to lack of knowledge, lack of training, or lack of dedication. People like that can sometimes use their abilities, but they tend to be sort of one-trick ponies. Some are, say, extremely lucky at cards, or very good with animals. In a lot of cases it can be more of a charismatic thing – people are drawn towards that energy, even if you don’t use it and nobody but Lindsay can see what’s going on.”

“But for most people, their latency does nothing unless they’re in a very dangerous situation,” I added, “focused by fear or desperation, really. Then it kicks in and you get things like mothers lifting cars off their children, soldiers dragging wounded comrades impossible distances to treatment, people surviving for amazing amounts of time without food or water, that sort of thing.”

“What she’s trying to say is that we did some extra digging on Christian Grey between his arrest and his trial,” Allie put in helpfully. “His adoptive parents, Carrick Grey and Dr. Grace Trevelyan-Grey, have been quite public in the past about their middle son’s adoption and -”

“I actually look these things up,” Officer Rayne reminded us, “Clearance, and all that, which neither of you officially has.” She didn’t sound too much like she was scolding us though, just thoughtful. We’d dumped a lot of information on her in the past half hour. “You think that his magic got, um, triggered or something due to child abuse, and it sort of - if this is even possible – takes energy from other people?”

“If it does, this would be the first case we’ve seen,” I said. “But it would explain why his aura seeks out women, and since your magic is part of your mind, it’s entirely possible that when he seeks out a young woman who reminds him of his mother, he’s breaking down her resistance with his aura before any of his other abuses start. There’s a very small field of research starting up a few worlds over that suggests that sudden changes in the amount of extradimensional energy you receive can have a negative impact on your mental health.” I shrugged, not knowing how else to explain it.

“So the abused became the abuser, is that what you’re saying?” Officer Rayne asked, settling back and crossing her arms. “I’d say that if you take out all of the psi-ability mumbo jumbo, that’s hardly an original statement.”

“Well, it’s what I’ve got,” I replied. “If there’s anyone else in the multiverse who sees auras, I’ve missed them in passing, but you’re free to consult them if you like.”

“Linds, knock it off,” Allie said. “She’d be lost even if you’d given her a textbook. And that’s not a comment on your competence,” she added, turning to Officer Rayne, “but it’s just that we might as well ask you to wake up one day and start playing with the Higgs Boson -”

“Oh, so that does exist?” Officer Rayne asked.

“Well, there you go then,” Allie said, waving a distracted hand as she unfolded from the couch. “I know it’s a lot, and if we were planning to stay any longer we’d answer more of your questions, but… it’s how the world is. You’ll get used to it.”

Officer Rayne didn’t look so sure.

“What happens if we do start having problems with mages?” she asked.

Allie just winked at her. “We’ll check in from time to time.” It was only natural for Officer Rayne to worry, but given what we’d seen of this world, she’d never have a problem. Still, checking in wouldn’t hurt.

Once Officer Rayne had left, we locked up the apartment behind us, and nearly tripped over the package that had been left for us by the front mailboxes. There was a brown box about six inches tall, and a foot and a half by about a foot wide, addressed to both of us.

Allie slit the tape with a word and I picked up the postcard that was nestled on top of the wrappings. The writing on the back was tiny.

Allie and Lindsay,
Thank you for everything. It’s not enough, I know, but without you I wouldn’t be out here, or anywhere in particular, really.
I wanted to write earlier, but I just couldn’t find the words. There was too long that I couldn’t say anything, could hardly remember everything. My throat used to close up whenever I talked about anything that reminded me of it, but yesterday I finally talked to my mom. She cried, obviously. So did I. She’s been coming with me to all my doctor’s appointments, for emotional support I guess. Maybe to keep an eye on me? I don’t know though, it’s been kind of weird. I haven’t spent this long at home and actually been happy since I was eighteen.
Mark’s going to be back in a month. He says that if I want to stay separated or get divorced, he’s fine with it, and is behind me all the way. I don’t know, though. I mean, I’ve known Mark half my life, and I’ve always thought of him as something safe and solid, hard to move, just there. Supposedly, he had a crush on me since we were seventeen, but we really haven’t spent much time together since the wedding. He was only home a month before he went back to Iraq, and then I was in the hospital, and now I guess I’ll see. I don’t feel like an army wife, but maybe that’s a good thing. I’m thinking of commuting to school in spring term, depending on how things go.
Until then – see that lighthouse on the front? Yeah, I’m going to paint that.
-- Leila Cooper Williams

“Hey, she returned my coat,” Allie said, and dived into the box, effectively shredding the wrapping. “Got it washed too, I see.”

I smiled and tucked the postcard into my pocket as she shrugged on the trenchcoat, settling it on her shoulders like a superhero’s cape or a medieval cloak. Then she offered me her arm, and, as an afterthought, sent the packaging sailing towards the bins with a flick of her other hand.

“Ready?” she asked.

“For the next great adventure? Yes,” I replied, and we both stepped forward.

The afternoon sun shone merrily down on the square of sidewalk where we’d just been standing.
* Apparently, Lindsay still hasn’t acclimated to our world. You only get one guess as to which electronics company is named after a Scottish raincoat.
** Christian Grey’s multiple class A felonies are what racked up to ninety years. The fact that we as the audience know he has raped fourteen girls should put him well over ninety years alone, but given the amount of information available to my fictional Jury (not all the girls were able or willing to come forward,) he got as much as they could conclusively prove him guilty of, which is still complete removal from civilized society. I’m posting his crimes and my notes on them separately, as a sort of appendix.
*** Taylor and Sawyer’s sentencing might not be 100% realistic, but I think a sympathetic jury (such as the entirety of the readers of this fic) could probably settle on it. Let me know what you think.
**** Having Officer Rayne reference Harry Potter was tempting, but since this book is set in 2011 she’s a bit old for it to have been a sure bet. Matilda is by Roald Dahl, but it’s more likely that Emily Rayne has seen the 1996 movie.
***** The Higgs Boson was discovered on July 4 2012, and Fifty Shades is set in 2011.
scribal_goddess: (A very bad book)

The thing about Seattle is that even the police stations are proud of their coffee.

Not that I was in any state to properly enjoy it; the combined forces of fading adrenaline, a long night, and boredom had caused me to take an unscheduled desk nap. A nap which was rudely interrupted by a hand holding a cup of what looked like suspicious station coffee, but tasted like the first step towards forgiveness, maybe mine.

I was really, really out of it.

“Well, well,” said an exasperated voice that I recognized from over the phone, “I should have guessed. What part of ‘do not confront Christian Grey’ didn’t you understand?”

I looked up at a scowl, which matched the uniform. Officer Rayne was in maybe her late thirties, early forties, had short hair, and looked like a particularly strict grade school teacher.

Well, it wasn’t the first time I’d faced the music after throwing the rules away when they kept me from doing the right thing. It was kind of a pity, though – I’d been starting to like Officer Rayne.

“I know you hear this all the time, but it sort of happened on accident.” I smiled at her without any real hope that it would help. After all, she was just doing her job, and I was undeniably in her way.

She snorted, then gestured at the other cop in the room, the one who had firmly cemented his role as good cop when he’d given me the coffee. I hadn’t noticed anything except that his hand held caffeine on the first go – now I saw that his hair was gathering around his ears out of some frantic herd instinct, and that he had the eyes of a long-time officer. Better yet, at least as far as I was concerned, he had a smirk threatening to escape his professional expression.

“Tell him that,” Officer Rayne said. “He’s Officer Cross.” Then she turned to him. “Frank, meet the newest pain in my ass.”

The smirk poked its head out the door. “The private detective?” Cross asked.

“One of two.” Officer Rayne’s exasperated sigh and the subsequent widening of the smirk were good signs.

I decided that was as good of an opening as any.

“Lindsay Pilot,” I put in. “Usually, I’d have come into the station under my own power, but…”

Officer Cross’ smirk was approaching Cheshire proportions. Apparently, word had gotten around the station while I’d been busy taking a desk nap.

“Miss Pilot,” he began, “We need to take your statement regarding the events of last night - well, earlier this morning,” he amended, checking his watch.

To make a very long story extremely short, I told him the essentials. There were holes in the story – usually magic-shaped ones – that I was just too exhausted to try and patch up, but Officer Cross didn’t ask me many questions. By the time I was finished, it was the dog end of the night and my mouth tasted like cold station coffee and a dead hamster. All I really wanted at that moment was to go home and crash on the bed, safe in the knowledge that Christian Grey was currently taking his nap in a cell. Maybe some time in the next century, I’d go boil myself in the shower.

Officer Rayne, who was a good cop with a healthy dose of cynicism, bought approximately fifty percent of it. Officer Cross, who was cast as the sympathetic cop today, just sat and listened and took notes. Lots of notes. Notes that I was too groggy to read upside down, even if he hadn’t been a good enough cop to keep his arm in front of them so an irrepressibly curious and irredeemably nosy witness couldn’t see what he was writing.

It might even have worked if I wasn’t too tired to get nervous, or even to give a damn.

I finished everything with a skull-splitting yawn. The coffee was gone, and it hadn’t even made a dent in my by now monumental caffeine tolerance.

Cross flipped through his notes. “So, in the time since you were last in contact with Officer Rayne, you and miss Aliea Veldon followed Christian Grey to Bellevue in order to observe his actions, have been harboring a fugitive from a mental hospital, followed said fugitive to Christian Grey’s place of residence, somehow came into contact with two members of his security team, discovered that he was staying at the Fairmont, immediately went to the Fairmont, again attempting to find said fugitive, and… entered the hotel room. You neglected to tell me how, by the way.” His voice was quiet and not quite amused any more. The smirk had disappeared some time during my statement.

I decided to cut to the chase. “You know it’s all in how you phrase it,” I told him, “I do actually know my job, and you’ll find that nothing that Allie and I have done in the course of our investigation has been against the law.”

Technically, we’d probably been guilty of trespass in Escala, but trespassing was one of those laws that’s easy for the police to ignore if nobody’s actually complained to them about it. I didn’t think that Taylor was going to complain. Besides, all they had was a vague glow on the security cameras.

“It’s your job to check, of course,” I added.

“Of course,” Officer Rayne replied dryly.

“As far as Leila being supposedly a fugitive from a mental hospital, Allie cleared that with Officer Rayne,” I added, “I’m not a psychologist, but I believe she’s been wrongfully imprisoned. She definitely wasn’t committed voluntarily, and she can’t have been committed here by a family member with power of attorney, because her husband is deployed and her parents are still on the east coast. As far as I know, she’s still listed as a missing person in Massachusetts.”

“She is, actually,” Officer Rayne told Cross, “I looked her up yesterday.”

“If you can get a hold of the records of the hospital in Massachusetts, as well as the one here, I’ll bet you a cup of coffee that you’ll find that Christian Grey or someone who traces directly back to him had her committed at both of them.”

Cross looked at me with subdued interest again, while Rayne seemed not to know whether to perk up or not.

“Did she tell you which hospital?” Cross asked me.

She hadn’t, and I sincerely doubted she was going to want to talk to me now. I realized that I was going to go home to that pile of neatly folded sheets on the pull out couch and the accusing silence that lurks in hollow places, like the inside of emptied soup cans and the extra mug sitting in the sink.

I shook my head. “I’d start from the one closest to Escala, or just the downtown area, and work my way out,” I said. “I think that maybe he’d have tried to keep her close by.” My unprofessional knowledge of psychology had firmly placed Grey in the box of ‘asshole who will milk the most human suffering possible out of any given situation.’ It wasn’t an unbiased assessment, but it was right anyway.

“That your hunch?” Cross asked mildly. I noticed that he’d dropped the whole somehow getting places at three in the morning angle of questions for the time being. The benefits, I supposed grimly, of cooperating with the police.

“We found Leila downtown,” I told him, “unless a twenty three year old woman who currently weighs about ninety pounds soaking wet and has two injured arms managed to walk all the way across Seattle after breaking out of a psychiatric ward, she hasn’t come from very far away.”

This time, Officer Rayne smirked at Officer Cross and he frowned at her.

“If you could tell us once more for the record why you went out hunting for your houseguest at three in the morning,” she continued, using the kind of professional voice that encourages you to fill in the blanks.

That sounded like a wrap-up question if I’d ever heard one. “She left us a note that she was going to confront Christian Grey,” I replied, summarizing quickly, “It was sort of imperative that someone find her and talk her out of it.”

“Did you fear that she would commit suicide?”

I’d known the question was coming and it still stuck sideways in my throat like a fishbone. I tried to explain and couldn’t get that barb of emotions out, so I swallowed quite a bit.

“Yeah,” I said.

“Any particular reason why?” Officer Rayne asked, leaning back and crossing her arms at me. “As you’ve explained to us, you’re not a psychologist. Why did you choose to go and try to help Leila on your own? Why not call in the police, especially if you thought she might force entry somewhere? Why not bring in a professional, someone who actually is qualified to assess the situation and to keep things under control?”

I’d thought I was too tired to be angry. What would have been a flash of irritation at the way that Officer Rayne had detached herself from the situation, the way she picked it all apart after the fact, on a full night’s sleep and in daylight, coiled behind my ribs.

“It’s not that -” I stopped myself before I said too much, forced myself to wait until my eyes no longer burned. “Look, I know the signs,” I told the officers, “you don’t have to be a psychological genius to -” I stopped myself again. It didn’t seem to be working. Anybody who says I have an analytical mind and a sharp tongue hasn’t seen me falling apart in a police station at the first wince of dawn after a difficult case. “She’s got scars from attempts,” I said instead. “Grey was abusive to her in every possible way, and I know that at least two of her attempts were prompted by contact with him. I should have called the police, but I thought we could catch her before she got to Escala, and you’ve already heard – and agreed with – my unprofessional opinion that she’d panic at the first sign that someone wanted to hospitalize her again. I can’t say I blame her.”

I pushed my glasses up and rubbed at my grainy eyes. A strain of music floated past my ear as I saw the dusty, denim blue haze of Officer Rayne’s aura. Something with horns. Bizzarely, I smelled the sweat of horses and had the distinct impression of gravel crunching under my feet. It was gone when I looked at her again through my glasses, and saw the wrinkles forming on her forehead, and the bags under her eyes that only come with living on a diet of coffee and useful work.

It was terribly quiet in the interview room for quite a few minutes. Long enough for my anger and frustration to saddle up and go out prospecting to find my lost adrenaline, and for disappointment to put on its house slippers. I presumed that I’d eventually be let go, and so would Allie. But they were going to put Leila in a tiny box again, at least until they’d contacted her parents and decided whether or not she should have been in a psychiatric ward in the first place.

I couldn’t help the feeling that I’d failed her.

“What’s going to happen to her?” I asked Officer Rayne. Her expression did a brief, bad impression of a smile.

“Special Victims is sorting out a safe place for her,” she said. “Pending an assessment to make sure she’s not still a suicide risk. She’ll contact you if she wants you to know any more, until then -”

“Yeah, I know. Give her some space.”

Officer Rayne walked me out down the halls dimly lit by the pre-dawn greyness coming in through the windows, which had already overpowered the buzzing fluorescents. Allie was sprawled on one of the benches, asleep with her face tucked into her elbow, looking for the entire world like napping on couches in police stations was ordinary and fairly comfortable. Rayne and Cross must have interviewed her first, before they got around to me.

I proceeded to shake her awake.

“What, no coffee?” she said to Officer Rayne as soon as she’d levered herself up from horizontal and was on her way to her feet.

“Only the first cup is free,” Rayne replied, a little sharply. I concentrated on her expression for the first time since I’d left the interview room, and wondered sleepily why she looked so frustrated. Then I wondered if she was angry at us. “If you’d been good little detectives, we might let you visit for a while, but as it is -”

“As what is?” I asked, and then found myself staring cross eyed down my nose at Officer Rayne’s finger.

“I don’t know what you two idiots thought you were doing,” she said in a very angry undertone, “but you came very close to jeopardizing this investigation. Grey is likely to press charges against you both, now that he’s got that expensive lawyer in there with him, and your names are all over our case files. Do you know how that looks to a judge, especially when your ex-military friend went all Die Hard and probably would have shot Grey if we got there a minute later?”

“Taylor’s more of an acquaintance,” said my mouth.

Even Allie glared at me.

“Look, I know your type,” Officer Rayne said to me, “You’re a smartass with an overdeveloped sense of justice who thinks that you can make a difference. In most circumstances, you’re probably even right about it, as long as you stay out from underfoot of official investigations. But when you do stick your fingers into the official pie, it’s not just a millionaire businessman sueing you – it’s days of police time fixing what you’ve screwed up, it’s contaminated crime scenes and crucial evidence that’s suddenly inadmissible, it’s disqualified testimony, it’s you potentially getting hurt or even killed. You think you’re Sherlock Holmes, Lord Peter Wimsey, Nero Wolfe, Dupin? You’re in the wrong century. After ten years of experience, you should know better than that.” She shook her head, stepped back, and glanced between me and Allie. “Both of you should. Just… go home. Don’t leave town, someone might decide to call you in later.”

With that, she turned and left.

So did we, racing the sun home in a cab. The world was just waking up around us: in half an hour or so, cars would race down the streets like ants down the corridors of an anthill, thoughts and instinct driving forward, building. Everyone in their appointed place, doing their appointed task. At dawn, the city no longer felt empty, but made of numbers and delicate gears, the way the mathematicians dreamed of it. It was a city that breathed the easier, I thought, now that it was no longer playing unwitting host to Christian Grey. It was the poorer for having failed Leila, and despite the early rays of the sun painting the buildings gold, I knew it would be a long while before my conscience let me forget how much better it would be if I could reach back and erase the past. If I stopped arriving just a minute too late.

When I opened the door to the apartment and the comforting hand of the sunlight between my shoulder blades was long gone, the spare sheets were still neatly folded on the couch, and there were still empty cartons of Chinese lying on the floor, collecting silence like dust, echoing with doubts.

I went to bed. Allie was there to chase the silence away.
* It’s not a modern detective drama if nobody banters with some friendly but disapproving officers of the law.
** Again, I owe Gehayi research kudos for figuring out which hospital Grey used to unlawfully imprison Leila. And for doing a damn lot of timelining and other detective work.
*** Officer Rayne may have been borrowing my reading list. Sherlock Holmes should be fairly obvious, but the Lord Peter Wimsey mysteries are written by Dorothy Sayers, Nero Wolfe belongs to Rex Stout, and Dupin stars in Poe’s Murders in the Rue Morgue. Other book recommendations from my years long research project on how to write mysteries includes The Thinking Machine stories by Jaques Futrelle, Lord Darcy Mysteries by Randall Garrett, Inspector Lynley Mysteries (The TV series, not the books,) and Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple mysteries.
**** Damn. I’d intended this to be much happier… but Lindsay’s overdeveloped sense of responsibility doesn’t necessarily allow for her to be happy when she thinks she could have done more to help someone. And I totally wanted sap but forcing it wouldn't have worked. There’s always the epilogue, though!
scribal_goddess: (A very bad book)
Chapter Eleven: War Far From Over

Chapter Warnings: Mild fantasy violence, some regular violence, there are guns, mentions of rape and identity theft, PTSD again, big pile of conflicting goals, don't try this at home at your local hotel.

“What do you mean, you can’t find Leila?” asked Taylor, echoing my alarm. Allie looked like she was struggling to keep her concentration on her spell without actually speaking the words aloud.

Sawyer shot Allie and I a sidelong glance as he replied. “The files she was working on haven’t been copied, she’s not in any of the rooms, and as far as I know, she’s not in the apartment.”

“But where would she go?” I asked.

“I don’t know!” Sawyer almost shouted, turning from me to Taylor, “I leave her alone to do the job, and then she’s just gone - this was always a bad idea -”

“It was necessary,” Taylor said, cutting him off, his voice suddenly much brisker. “Shut up and think, private! If she’s not in the penthouse, she’s gone somewhere, and I want to know where!”

Sawyer was still blinking at being addressed as private, but I had a sneaking suspicion. “When you say you got Ana and Grey out of the apartment, how did you do that, exactly?”

“They went to the Fairmont,” Sawyer replied automatically, before realizing who was asking. “Is there a reason we’re telling them everything?” he said to Taylor in almost the next breath.

The Fairmont… Cleaned up, Leila looked so much like Ana… And she certainly hadn’t left our apartment earlier tonight intending to help two security guards sort papers.

I reached out and grabbed Allie’s hand, ruining her spell for good. “She’s gone to the Fairmont to confront Christian Grey,” I said.

“Stay here,” Taylor ordered us immediately, though we’d already turned for the door.

“Absolutely not,” Allie snapped back, and I was half way out of the room behind her again.

“I’m coming -”

“For God’s sake, stay and finish your job!” Taylor said to Sawyer, and that was the last thing I heard of the two of them before the four-step of Allie racing down the stairs with me drowned out all other sound, but not all other thought. We could get to the Fairmont Hotel on foot almost as fast as Taylor could by car. It was a good thing, I thought, that Allie and I were so used to running.

We settled on a high speed jog down Fourth Street, but when a dark grey car passed us doing about fifty five at Union Street, I knew we’d be walking in on the aftermath. We still ran the last block, dodged the lightweight bistro tables next door, nearly tripped over the shrubberies lurking in our way, and hit the doors at a breathless pace.

There was a minor commotion at the check-in desk, which was probably going to tie Taylor up a few minutes, but we weren’t headed there: Allie had already put her tracking spell to good use. “Upstairs,” she said, and we marched quickly past the front desk before anyone could think to stop us. Then there were even more stairs.

“I think,” I panted at Allie on the fourth floor, “that it was safe to use the elevator.”

She didn’t bother replying to that. “We’re close,” she said, and darted away, upwards and onwards, down the empty halls of the early-morning hotel, casting about for the right room.

Most mages who are more powerful than average, and moderately clever, can get regular, tumbler locks open with sufficient preparation: a spell that mimics a key might rely on changing air pressure, or a spell that detects the tumblers might aid a mage in picking the lock more traditionally. For key card doors, you have fewer options, but melting or destroying the latch is one of them.

Ever-subtle Allie cracked the door in half down the middle and pulled it out of its frame. We weren’t exactly spoiled for time.

It was a good thing that she did, because we were only just in time.

Lelia was standing in the middle of the room, gun pointed at Christian Grey.

I could say that I spent time examining the surroundings and coming to conclusions about the events that had lead up to this, but that would be a lie. I was more concerned that somebody might get shot – and though I wasn’t sure I’d weep tears of grief were Leila to put a bullet in a certain scumbag CEO, an untrained gunwoman running on revenge and almost twenty hours without sleep was not a good scenario.

Allie and I pulled up very short on the inside of the door.

I saw Leila’s hands trembling, Grey smirking at her, and the terrified face of Ana behind him in the second before her gaze flicked over to us, he lunged, and she pulled the trigger.

He was on top of her before the echo of the bang had faded, one hand around her throat while the other twisted her wrist around. The gun hit the ground before I was halfway across the room, knocking over an end table and a lamp that were in my way – and Allie tore Grey off

Leila with all the force of a minor hurricane, blasting him into a couch, which capsized backwards onto the floor with a thump.

“Lindsay, help Leila,” she said tightly, her spell keeping Grey pinned to the furniture.

I went and gently chivvied Leila up and off the floor. She was going to have some bruises on her neck and her wrist – thankfully it hadn’t been the injured one – but for now she was more shaken than damaged, and breathing in ragged little pants.

Unfortunately, miss Anastasia Steele chose that moment to try our patience.

“What do you think you’re doing?” she half-squeaked, half-shrieked, “What did you do to Christian? Who do you think you are?”

I’ve always entertained the thought that I can practically hear Allie’s eye-rolls; this one was a classic for all the senses. “Room service,” she replied, and Ana floundered in the depth of her sarcasm, gaping like a goldfish.

Meanwhile, Lelia had shaken herself together. “Why did you stop me?” she shouted, shoving me away and diving for the gun. I attempted to tackle her gently, which resulted in me getting a very sharp elbow to the face, which knocked my glasses askew for a blurry brightly washed-out moment. I shoved them back on.

“Leila, it’s all right, it’s me, I need you to calm down -”

“Traitor!” Leila screamed at me, “I could have fixed this! I could have won!” she kept screaming at me as she turned on me and started fighting back.

Allie had telekinetically shoved the gun out of the way, but Leila clawed at my arms and I had to practically sit on her. It was too easy – she was too shaky and weak, still – but I ended up with a throbbing eyebrow and scratches across my chin in the minute or so it took to subdue her. Once Leila was sprawled, exhausted on the floor, I registered that Ana was still shrieking at us and that the much lower pitched shouting was Christian Grey.

“SHUT UP!” Allie bellowed at them, and made a gesture that dumped Ana on her ass and pinned the struggling Grey back on the couch.
For a moment, there was blissful silence while I took the opportunity to surreptitiously work my jaw and try to pop my eardrums back into place. If the gunshot hadn’t woken the whole hotel, Allie certainly had.

“The police are on their way,” she informed everyone, and I could see that she was swaying on her feet with exhaustion, “so everyone shut up and sit down so they can arrest us all together, yeah?”

“They’ll take me back and put me away,” Leila said in a small and squashed voice – I was still holding her restrained by leaning on her.

I eased off her, but she didn’t bother moving even when I sat up properly. Instead, she lay there like a puppet with all its strings cut, empty even of anger.

“I never should have trusted you,” she said, and I heard her voice break.

I blinked a lot, and swallowed. I must have gotten dust in my eyes and throat during the fighting. Yeah, right.

Predictably, Grey sneered, looking at us all with cold, predatory eyes. “Do you know who you’ve just assaulted?” he asked, “By the time my lawyers are done with you, you’ll never see daylight again.”

“Christian will hire the most expensive lawyers in the country,” Ana piped up from where she was still sitting on the floor. This time, when she got back up, I saw that she was wearing a very ruffled silky nightgown that was in grave danger of eloping with gravity. “Don’t you understand? They’re going to sue you and put you in jail,” she said with a high, nervous laugh, “There was never any way that you could get away with this! Even if you could delude yourselves into working with this – this psycho,” she spat, pointing at Leila, “who just can’t give up – how did you ever think you could get away with this?”

Surprisingly, the fact that she had seen her asshole boyfriend tossed across the room by someone who hadn’t touched him, and the fact that she’d just been knocked on her ass with no apparent physical cause hadn’t entered her mayfly-sized brain.

“Actually, we’re here to make your boyfriend answer for his crimes,” I informed her, before deciding to ignore her completely in favor of trying to help Leila, who twitched away.

The running footsteps in the corridor had to be Taylor. Strange, how he was only a few brief moments behind us – the cops would be here soon.

“What the hell?” I heard him say when he saw the broken down door and the strange tableau before him.

“Taylor!” Ana cried when she saw him, “Leila attacked us!”

“This is your idea of a secure location, Taylor?” Grey barked at the same time, “Restrain this rabble immediately!”

“Don’t worry, Miss Steele, I’m on it,” Taylor said, not even bothering to acknowledge Grey, whose face was slowly going the color of an apoplectic fit, and crossed the room to Leila’s side right away, reaching for her elbow. “Come on, you’ve gotta get out of here,” he said to her in an undertone, but she flinched away.

Then he turned one of the most chillingly murderous glares I’ve ever seen on me. “What the hell did you do to her?” he growled as he stood up.

Allie had taken half a step towards us, despite needing to focus to keep Grey restrained, and I shook my head at her.

“Mr. Taylor,” I said quickly, “I swear to you that we are still on the same side -”

Shut up, now.”

“What do you think you’re doing, Taylor?” Grey demanded, and Taylor finally looked directly at him, letting an expression of satisfaction cross his face.

“What I should have done years ago, Sir,” he said, drawing his gun and pointing it at Grey. Because we needed this cat’s-cradle standoff to get even more convoluted. The only blessing was that Grey turned white and, miraculously, shut up.

“Drop it!” Ana shrieked, and my head snapped up – she’d picked up Leila’s gun and had it trained, shakily, on Taylor. “I can shoot, you know,” she continued uncertainly. “What do you think you’re doing? Doesn’t Christian deserve your loyalty after he generously used his money to save your daughter?”

Taylor didn’t look at Ana, but he didn’t shoot either.

“Miss Steele,” he said, “Your Christian Grey has ordered me to help him steal the identities of eight young women in the past four years, conduct illegal espionage, sabotage his competitors, and look the other way as he repeatedly beat, raped and persecuted young women such as yourself – all because I was desperate, and he offered to pay for the bone marrow transplants that saved my daughter Sophie’s life.”

Ana’s brain tried to turn over, but failed to gain any traction. “No,” she said, and her gun’s trajectory wandered around the room, “You’re lying, he wouldn’t do that, not my Fifty -”

“Police!” yelled a voice from the hallway, “Drop the guns and put your hands above your heads!"

* I owe Ket and her instructive videos from the sporking of chapter 8 research kudos for showing many ways how Taylor, Allie, and Lindsay could not only get into the Fairmont, but discover the room number and get through the door. I ended up going with magic anyway. :D

** Fairmont Pictures are here (scroll down) and here. I spent some time reconstructing the floor plan from the 360 tour, but it’s not perfect. I’m pretty sure based on that and logic that the hallway door opens on the living-room area with that fireplace, though.

*** … Yeah. Everyone who was rooting for the “rescue Ana” storyline, I stuck to the canon portrayal, where she is several ells deep in the Nile and has the self-preservation instinct of a frog in a saucepan.

**** Meanwhile, I’ve been sitting on my research into Leila’s mental state as suggested by canon, so have some research here. (Most of these are various legal perspectives, but I also have some research on Complex PTSD, which I found pretty valuable as a baseline source of different symptoms in PTSD from domestic violence and psychological abuse that aren’t always recognized in literature that focuses on post-combat PTSD.)

***** The fanwiki says that Grey pays for Sophie Taylor’s schooling (Incidentally, I named Sophia Colonomos before I knew that Sophie Taylor existed,) but Gehayi and Ket mentioned the possibility of a medical procedure in their sporks… and I’ll take them as more authoritative than the Wiki, any day, as the wiki editors don’t appear to have actually read the books. EDIT: Except the one who just dropped in to tell me that they lurk at Das-Sporking and that they've been trying valiantly to raise the overall content, but that they're fighting a lemming army to get shit done. Everyone, bow to the valiant anon who makes our research at least somewhat easier. (By the way, I also stand corrected in that it's never explicitly stated that Grey paid for any medical procedure for Sophia, but my headcanon has already diverged from canon at this point and will not be moved.) :D
scribal_goddess: (A very bad book)

The staccato click of shoes grew closer, and a man in a grey suit entered the room.

My first thought was relief – he wasn’t Christian Grey – but he was still definitely armed and professional. I could tell because of the military stance and the earpiece, and decided, from the way that our captor subtly paid attention when he entered, without taking his eyes off of Allie or myself, that he was important.

It took a few seconds for my brain to click into gear beyond registering that I’d probably seen him distantly amongst Grey’s security entourage at the party. I blame the fact that it had to be nearly three in the morning.
The double take that he did upon seeing us was enough to jog my memory.

“Who are you,” asked Jason Taylor, “and why are you here?”

I mentally sighed. “I’m Lindsay Pilot,” I told him, “This is Aliea Veldon, and we’re detectives.” Then, trusting that it was now all right to make more than the minimum amount of movement, I leaned back in my uncomfortable seat. “I don’t suppose the name Lelia Williams means anything to you?”

I could feel the look of fond exasperation that Allie was giving me. More than that, I could feel the tension slowly starting to seep from the room, like air from a leaky balloon.

Taylor opened his mouth to say something, but there were a few soft footfalls that cut him off.

“I told you not to come,” Leila said softly from the doorway.

The spring-tightened corner of my soul relaxed as I looked at her. I could almost hear Allie’s shoulders unwind next to me. Leila looked a bit ruffled, and Allie’s coat hung on her like a deflated circus tent, but she looked calm and was only hunched in on herself a little. Considering where she was, it was almost a planted flag of defiance.

“Lindsay insisted on chasing you down so that she could remind you when your stitches had to come out,” Allie said.

“You know these people, Leila?” Taylor asked, eyeing us suspiciously.

She came half a step into the room, and nodded at him. “They’re working with the police to bring him down,” she said. “They took me in.” Her eyes flickered down to the painfully gleaming tiles, and though her expression didn’t exactly tremble, it flickered a bit.

“This is ridiculous,” I said to Taylor. “I take it you’re no longer holding us at gunpoint?” I stood up and crossed the room to offer Leila a hug. She put her arms around my shoulders and hung on with surprising strength. “Believe me, I know you want to help,” I told her when I let go, “but you don’t have to do any of this alone. You don’t have to work with these guys unless you really want to, and-”

“No, we have a plan,” she said. “And I do want to help. I think – well, this is the least I can do. I found out that he’s been… controlling… her, by telling her how dangerous I am.” Her voice quavered a little. “I shouldn’t have come back.”

There were only two people here who could have told her that, so I split my glare between Taylor and Sawyer. Hadn’t they ever heard of giving people only the information that they actually required?

Taylor was unimpressed, but he’d put his gun away and apparently instructed Sawyer to do the same, which effectively meant that Allie and I now outnumbered them. “And how did you come into this?” he asked, extending his cynicism to Allie as well as me.

“We were hired to investigate Christian Grey, and we have an overdeveloped sense of responsibility,” Allie replied, deploying an equally sardonic eyebrow.

“By who?” Sawyer chimed in.

“You can’t seriously expect us to answer that,” I replied. “Your turn: what’s the plan?”

“Ladies first. How did you come into contact with Leila, and why are you here?” Taylor’s voice was all business. “Sawyer, we need to get back on track before Welch or someone shows up – take Leila and keep making the copies. Leila, are you good to go get what we need?”

“Yessir.” Leila replied, and gave a frankly awful salute.

“Good girl,” Taylor said, giving her his full attention and an almost paternal smile. “We’ll be out of here as soon as we’re done.”
I watched the relief slide over her face before she turned around and disappeared through the door again. Sawyer shot a glance at his boss before following her, giving her a wide margin of space.

That left Allie and I alone with Taylor, which meant one of two things: he trusted us, or he was confident that he could take us. Either way, he gestured for us to sit down with him at the table, and we cooperated.

“Think carefully before you answer,” he said in a low voice. “If you’re only trying to get information out of her, I swear you’ll live to regret it.”
I could feel my indignation bristling up, so I took a deep breath and tried to answer diplomatically. Allie got there before I did. “We bumped into her on the street,” she said, “Like we’ve already told you, we were hired to stop Christian Grey, and that’s what we’re here to do.”

“If you think you can force her to testify, you’re wrong,” Taylor continued, his voice level and somehow painfully earnest. It was the voice of a man who doesn’t need to rely on volume or anger. “I’m willing to do whatever it takes to put Grey away, but if you think you’re going to drag her through all that, again -” he shook his head. “I’ll testify myself, give more information than you knew existed – but you have to let her go.”

The indignation settled out of my shoulders. “We’re not exactly officially with the police,” I said. “Private Detectives. I’d just hoped… she left us a note,” I finished lamely, and shrugged. “Said that we should contact you if -” unexpectedly, I felt my throat swelling with the ache that came just before tears, and Allie shifted closer to me. I tried to clear my throat and only partially succeeded. “I thought something awful was going to happen, so we came straight here.” It was all I could still manage to say.

I watched Taylor sag, and scrub at his face.

“What a mess,” he said, and I couldn’t help but agree.

“What about you?” Allie asked, drawing Taylor’s gaze. “We’ll work together better – or at least get in the way less – if we know what you’re up to.”

Somebody had clearly given Taylor pointers on how to drag himself back together. In under a second, he’d gone back to efficiency and command.

“You don’t want to get involved,” he said. “Grey’s dangerous. I’m sure you know that already, but – no offense – you don’t understand what he will do to you. And he’s not the only one who we’re going to take down. I still wish that we didn’t have to get Leila involved, but the truth is, we needed her, to get him to leave the building without us. In a couple hours, we’ll have enough information to go to the police and give them everything, including the evidence against everyone who has been enabling Grey, and they’ll be able to catch them all in the same net.” He glanced between me and Allie and came to a decision. “I’ll let you out the back way with Leila before we do. She’ll need somebody to help her get out of the way.”

It seemed fair enough to me. We’d come to see Leila safe, and we couldn’t push our way into the circle of this heroic conspiracy any more than we could force the police to allow us to investigate alongside them.

“This isn’t our first rodeo,” I told Taylor, “but all right. Allie?”

Allie made a dismissive gesture with her hand. “You’re in charge of this investigation,” she said. Her eyes were tired, and my heart swelled painfully when I realized what she was trying to say. Of course she’d want me to keep talking, cover for her while she tried to scrape together some magical protection for Taylor and Sawyer.

She’d keep going until she dropped.

“The girl that… Ana,” I fumbled. “She’ll be okay?”

Taylor nodded, but grimaced. “All right as she can be,” he said, “don’t worry, we’ll take care of it. With any luck, Grey won’t know what’s happened until he’s been arrested. She’s a sweet kid, and she doesn’t deserve anything he’s put her through.”

“Nobody does,” I said, quietly. “If it helps – between your case and ours, there’s almost no way he can walk free. Leila’s testimony could help, but she won’t need to if she doesn’t want to.” And I was fully resolved that after tonight, our couch was hers for as long as she needed and wanted to stay. Home was something I doubted she’d had much experience with in the last few years, and if she didn’t want to go back to her parents in Massachusetts right away, she should have somewhere to stay.

Taylor nodded and stood up. “Please stay in this room and out of our way,” he said, “this will be over far more quickly if I don’t have to stay here and watch over you.”

At that moment, Sawyer stepped back through the door.

“I can’t find Leila,” he said.

* I fixed the medicine fail in Anoxic with the gracious help of dragonclaws, who should know. PSA: keep your bandages clean and dry, and your stitches away from water to prevent infection, and use iodine or chlorhexidine to clean them rather than rubbing alcohol, to prevent scarring. Never use hydrogen peroxide. This has been a public service announcement by Scribbles.

** An overdeveloped sense of responsibility is not the same thing as an overdeveloped sense of vengeance.

*** After so many self-contained chapters containing multiple days, I have to say it’s nice to be able to do proper cliffhangers again.
scribal_goddess: (A very bad book)
Chapter Nine: The Sound of Never

By the time we returned to our apartment after a cold bus ride, my phone was well and truly dead and it was almost two in the morning, with a sky full of cold stars.

Our apartment was also empty. Eerily so, in fact, considering that we’d left that evening with Leila comfortably installed on the couch. She wouldn’t have just gone for a walk: not in the middle of the night.

Nothing appeared to have been disturbed; everything was clean and in its proper place, the door and windows were still shut, and the sheets had been pulled off the fold-out couch and neatly folded.

That sight sent my heart diving down into my gut.

I crossed the room towards the phone and the notepad we kept beside it, and I only confirmed my suspicions. My thoughts ran out of my head like water under a bridge when I picked up the note that Leila had left for us.

I’m sorry.
I know what I have to do now. I can still save Ana, and probably some other people too. If I stop him now, nobody else will have to suffer. I won’t be coming back, either way.

Don’t come looking for me.

Thank you for everything. I hope you can prove what he’s done, but not everyone can wait that long. Talk to Jason Taylor; he knows nearly everything and will help you if you tell him I sent you. I’ll put the spare key under the welcome mat when I go. If I win, I’ll find a way to pay you back for everything, if not, IOU.

Don’t worry about me, and don’t blame yourselves. I don’t intend to die tonight, but if I do it will be for a good cause.

- Leila

I stared uncomprehendingly at the spots that had bled from the ballpoint pen for a long moment while Allie read over my shoulder. She’d written almost straight through the paper, in a round, even, girlish handwriting that for some reason surprised me.

Allie made a move to rush right back out the door, and I reached over and grasped her wrist before she could leave.

“It’s no use,” I told her, “she’s been gone for hours.”

She didn’t want to believe me, but I knew. There were, on second glance, neatly rinsed dishes in the sink, a pair of cartons in the trash, and very few other traces of our vanished guest.

Allie kicked the sofa quite hard, but I went into the bathroom and checked the first aid kit. We were out of bandages.

Something in my heart thawed.

In my experience, a woman who suddenly resolved to kill herself didn’t take the time to have leftover Chinese for dinner and change her bandages first. Nor did she take several packets of antiseptic wipes, extra clean bandages, and the bottle of ibuprofen.

“Damn it,” Allie said from the living room, “She took my coat.”

The only question was, where? I doubted that she’d gone to Grey’s parents’ home – for one thing, she’d known that we’d be there – but realistically, she could be nearly anywhere. Even if she’d intended to leave when we’d last seen her, she’d taken the time to eat, change her bandages, clean up after herself… she could have left any time between about six thirty and, say, midnight.

I conjured up my memory of how she’d been when we left. She’d been relaxed, more so than yesterday, and I thought – hoped, really – that I would have noticed if she’d been lying about staying in.

She’d obviously been agitated when she left the note, but she’d written it slowly. She hadn’t been in any hurry.

Allie got quickly out of my way as I bolted from the bathroom and violently tossed the Chinese cartons out of it. She wouldn’t have stuffed it too far down, not with fresh bandages – there.

I fished out the crumpled piece of notepad paper triumphantly, only to be interrupted.

“Lindsay,” Allie said, in a hollow voice, “you’ll want to hear this.”

She held out my cell phone; she’d pulled it out of my purse and plugged it in. I walked over and we put our heads together to listen to a voicemail from only hours before.

 “… a really stupid idea,” Leila’s voice said from the speakers, tinny and quiet. “I thought-” the rush of passing cars obscured whatever else she said. “- broke in at Escala, through the garage. I trashed that awful car, I know he bought it for her, just like the one he bought for me. They saw me-” Another car drowned her out. “I didn’t get to finish. There’s a back entrance. I have to try, but I don’t think I’m going to make it.” She seemed to reach a quieter place, because the level of noise in the recording abruptly went down. “Anyway, I thought you ought to know that -”

The message was cut off in a beep, and Allie was halfway across the room already. She tossed a pair of pants out of the door of our bedroom at me, and had changed out of her dress by the time I’d managed to unhook the catch that held the zipper of my own dress in place. I suspected telekinesis.

“We can be at Escala in thirty minutes if we hurry,” she said as she jammed her bare feet into her shoes without bothering to untie them first. “That message was left at a bit after eleven, but -”

Almost three hours ago. Not that it would stop Allie, I thought, as I finally worked the zipper free and threw on yesterday’s shirt. We were out the door the second I’d snatched my partially-charged phone off the counter and had my shoes on my feet.

Downtown Seattle in the small hours of the morning is like any other major city – dark, chilly, and vaguely eerie, with the red eyes of stoplights glaring balefully at anybody half-jogging down the sidewalks, barely stopping to check for oncoming traffic.

Escala loomed ominously above us, a jagged spike stretching away towards the empty darkness of the sky, loosing itself above the line of streetlights in the clammy night.

There was nobody but us on the street surrounding it, and no signs of life other than the swoosh of a passing car and the burning lights of the lobby across the street from us. We needed to get in, to follow Leila, but we weren’t getting in that way.

“Around back,” I muttered to Allie, and we headed towards the back of the building, searching for the telltale red eye of a fire exit nicely hidden in the shadows. Were there cameras? Probably. I searched the darkness for them, but found nothing.

By unspoken agreement, Allie and I passed the door the first time, pulled up the hoods of our sweatshirts a little further down the road and returned in a haze of bright blue light.

Allie worked quickly, short-circuiting the automatic alarm in the fire door, and telekinetically pushing it outwards just enough that we could slip through. She stopped only for a second on the inside, to throw the cloud of light away from the door and to turn the alarm back on, then she was only a few steps behind me as I found the stairwell and we clattered up it at a slightly winded run. There were far too many floors, and we were headed to the top.

My heart was pounding when we reached the top, and I hardly had the breath to make any smart comments when I turned the corner and found myself face-to-face with a gun for the second time that night.

The person holding the gun was definitely focused on us, this time. I got a good look at him – tallish, age impossible to guess, hair cut so short that it could be brown or blond, standing like a soldier – while I stood as still as possible in the stairwell. He didn’t shoot us, though, which I took to be a very good sign.

He reached up to his earpiece with his free hand. “Intruders apprehended, sir,” he said, and listened for a second. “This way, please,” he told Allie and I, gesturing with that same hand rather than with his gun, never taking his eyes off us.
We walked in through the door. We didn’t exactly have a choice about it.

Even at gunpoint, my mind had to register how white the room that we were ushered into was. It glared in the light of what seemed like a thousand fluorescent bulbs. The click of footsteps on tile gave way to a view of the dull shine of a long glass dining table in the center of a white and grey room.

“Sit, please,” said our captor, and Allie and I traded half a glance as we did so. Behind us, the gloom of the Seattle night at twenty two stories up pressed against the glass, sealing the apartment.

It said something about the direction of our lives, I thought, that this still ranked as one of my most pleasant experiences with being captured and held at gunpoint. So far, at least, our captor showed no interest in killing us or obtaining information – probably waiting for his boss, I thought.

For several long moments, nobody spoke. I could hear, in the distance, the ticking of a clock, but no other noises.

Adrenaline had stopped burning through my body, and it was now drizzling away through the cracks. I was two parts terrified, one part morbidly curious, and three parts exhausted.

I couldn’t help but notice that nobody appeared to have called the cops, and the phrase “deal with it ourselves,” lurked menacingly in my mind. All I had to go on at this point was that Christian Grey was probably not a mage – and that mages weren’t bulletproof.

Then I couldn’t help but sneak a glance at Allie – one which I knew our captor saw – only to find that she was staring at him, waiting patiently. All she needed was a moment of distraction, I knew, and then she would take my hand and we would conveniently disappear, out into another world, where we couldn’t be reached or followed. We could walk the worlds, work our way back to Seattle, pick up the case as if we’d never been gone. The perks of working with an adept were that you could go anywhere, and given the requisite moment, run away from anything.

The price, of course, would be abandoning Leila, assuming that she was still somewhere in this apartment. If we left as soon as our captor’s back was metaphorically turned, we might never find out what had become of her.

I wasn’t going.

There was a second, when I considered how best to let Allie that she needed to form another plan. Then I heard the click of footsteps on a tiled floor, steady, determined and getting closer.

I rallied my stubbornness and my anger together and prepared to meet Christian Grey.

* Leila seems to have a thing for long coats. I don’t blame her. Lindsay does, though – stealing Allie’s coat is her job.
** For the timing on all their arrivals, I checked in Google Maps. A lot. I have a timeline and addresses, if anyone else wants to be that anal about it.
*** These are some of the places that I found the pictures and layout of the Escala penthouses. Yes, houses. And they're not as big as canon claims, either.
**** I would apologize for the cliffhanger, but I’m really not sorry in the least.
scribal_goddess: (scribbles)
No spitefic tonight - editing buffer still not outstripped - so have something from my club's 20 minute prompt session instead.

The Required Raven

Tap, tap, tap – the sound came from underneath my bed.

Damn those deathwatch beetles. They’d been ticking away, night after night, all year – was it any wonder I never got any sleep? They were going to drive me madder than a hatter, beyond bedlam, if they didn’t stop their damn telltale heart ticking.

Not that I could stop them – oh no, I was only the crypt keeper, guardian of the gates between the mortal world and the spirits and their… invertebrate tenants. It wasn’t as if the spirits gave me any respect, so it wasn’t like the beetles would, only being tenants in the shuffled mortal coils and all.

Well, that was enough pretending to sleep for one night – maybe I should just shut myself in a coffin like everyone else. Hell, maybe I should retire. I’d only been doing this for a couple centuries, I probably had a pension coming to me.

I got up, shook the spiders out of my socks, and jabbed a broom under my bed. The beetles scattered to the four winds, away from the light of my single lantern. Maybe they were just roaches. The required raven looked balefully at me as I shuffled away to get my coffee.

“Aren’t you supposed to be the pest control?” I asked it, rhetorically.

“Nevermore.” It croaked, shuffling on it's perch as it fixed its beady eye on me.

“Ah, shut it.” I’d learned a few hundred years back to never make conversation with the required raven – then unlearned it, because nobody else gave me the time of day. Then I took the coffee out of the pot and the great big needle and put another eight hours worth of sludgy brown goo into my veins.

Coffee’s shit at circulating oxygen, but when you’re undead-condition-not-specified, you don’t need to breathe. Or eat, or sleep exactly, but I wasn’t going without my coffee. Best thing they ever invented.

I went to wake the zombies – not a brain between them – and knock on the vampires’ coffins. I rattled the skeletons out of bed, and whistled up the spirits. Then, my job of waking up the mob was over, since it was too wet here for mummies. I headed back to my room by the gate, passing a few instances of nosferatu-like bedhead, and old Grandad Jefferson, who was still looking for his lower jaw.

“All right,” I said, stirring myself up to my nightly little speech, “you all know the rules – no fighting, no biting, no bringing back living pets, and be back by four in the morning.”

“Nevermore!” piped in the required raven. I threw somebody’s anklebone at it.

“Behave yourselves,” I added, ignoring the jaded looks that several of the vampires were giving me, “and don’t eat anything funny!” Honestly, you’d think I was the babysitter.

Then I opened the gates and let my charges out into the midnight world.
scribal_goddess: (scribbles)
I really should be working on Thesis or Poor Unfortunate Souls, but... it's been so long since I've played "Spot the Fallacy." So you get an educated rant/freeform essay/rebuttal.

Sexism and Wish-Fulfillment:

I found this quoted recently.

"A smoking .45 and six corpses at his feet is a male fantasy. A woman will settle for one live hero at hers.

I’m sorry, but no.
I read that on a usually intelligent, pro-feminist blog. Granted, it was:

1. A quote from elsewhere, specifically a piece by Daphne Clair in Dangerous Men and Adventurous Women.

2. An interview on a blog about good and bad romance novels, and they were using it in context as a way to explain why so many romance novels and romantic plotlines feature “bad boys,” or at least a subplot of a man finally “settling down” with a woman, treated as a contest between the genders wherein the woman ‘wins’ by causing the man to realize that he wants monogamy with her.

3. Otherwise a pretty good interview that can be accessed here. (It’s about the prevalence of virgin heroines in romance, and hits both the “lazy writing” and “society’s fetishization of good sex as the only indicator of a truly worthwhile romantic relationship” angles.(1))

It still strikes me as a mode of thought that needs correcting, since assigning gender to wish fulfillment or escapism in literature is a generalization wrapped in a stereotype stuffed in a fallacy.

The first point is that this false dichotomy is traditionally heteronormative to the point of being a caricature, along the lines of “Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus.” I’m not even going to go into gender identity here – I’m not qualified to do a deep analysis – but the primary fallacy of categorizing broad swathes of the population and saying that they all want the same thing. There are plenty of people, including men, who don’t necessarily like James Bond type violent thrillers, and women who don’t like romance novels. The assumption here seems to be that people’s literary tastes are primarily influenced by their gender above all else, and that women’s reading in particular is mostly influenced by their (presumably hetero) sexuality. The idea that it paints the typical male reader as stereotypically bloodthirsty and violent, at least in his paperback wish-fulfillment fantasies, is just as bad, but I’ll save that for later in my rant. What about people who *gasp* don’t give a damn about sex, a relationship (or monogamy), or “taming” anyone? Granted, you could say that those people are in the minority and don’t fit the standard romance novel demographic, given that they’re not all heterosexual middle class females with somewhat sheltered upbringings and romantic aspirations, so romance novelists and those discussing romance novels can safely ignore them. That seems a bit exclusionary to me, because it should be pretty clear to anyone connected with reading, writing, media or fandom that people don’t have to be able to project their whole selves into a character to enjoy them. Plus, what people want for their favorite characters isn’t necessarily what they want for themselves.

Secondly, I’d like to point out the huge popularity of action-oriented fandoms among the female population. Works like Lord of the Rings and Star Trek and Sherlock, starring primarily male main characters(2), varying degrees of sausagefest-ness in their supporting roles, and plotlines that feature fighting, exploration, and crime, have plenty of fangirls. In fact, fanfiction for all of the above is overwhelmingly written by girls and women. And while there is a lot of shipping going on in this fanfiction, there’s also a lot of the original action and adventure premises. In fact, since very few shipping fics that don’t exist solely to have two characters do the deed can avoid including these elements, I’d say that there’s an overwhelming presence of action and adventure plotlines. Female authors writing about female characters and focusing on adventure, exploration, intrigue, and action are also very common – see any of Tamora Pierce’s books, approximately half the works of Diana Wynne Jones, and Anne Mc. Caffery’s works outside of Pern. Check out Ursula K. Le Guin’s more recent books, especially the Gifted universe, or Madeline L’Engle’s heroines, for whom coming unstuck in time, or rescuing their family members from diabolically conformist planets most definitely does not take a backseat to romance.

Making the same point, but in reverse, how many male authors have written romantic plotlines as significant chunks of their series? Taking the examples above, J.R.R. Tolkien may not have written much romance into the final draft of Lord of the Rings, given that the only romance that we witness during the plot is that of Eowyn and Faramir, but had romances – Beren and Luthien, Elwing and  Eärendil the Mariner, Arwen and Aragorn – play an enormous role in the backstory and future of his world. As far as Star Trek goes, how many points during the original series alone were potential or past love interests brought in for Kirk, Spock, or McCoy? Sherlock, being an adaptation of Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes, which contains one of the few authorially confirmed asexual characters in literature, is also a little bit low on main character romance, unless you happen to ship Sherlock and John. Still, several attempts are made by Moffat and Gatiss to bring in competent female characters as love interests: Molly Hooper and Sarah Sawyer stand out, though John’s string of easily-dismissed temporary girlfriends serve very little narrative function except to show the passing of time. The third season will supposedly see John married, as he was in the original stories, to Mary Morstan. And there are plenty more male authors who devote a significant amount of their male protagonists’ time to romance, successful or not. Poe is perhaps the most famous for his protagonists’ borderline obsession with the women in their lives: read Ligea, Annabel Lee, Berenice, Eleonora… anything he wrote that’s named after a woman, actually. Alexandre Dumas had romance at the heart of his “historical romances,” relying on it to provide motivation for his protagonists and pathos to their opponents. D.J. Mac Hale, Timothy Zahn, and Jim Butcher all have significant romantic plotlines in their series, and they all take care to have their female characters competent and plot-relavant.

Thirdly, I’ll put the final nail in the coffin, by listing the fondest wishes of some major characters which directly contradict the false dichotomy that female fantasies are romantic or domestic, while male fantasies are adventurous or full of action. Please note that some of these are not the case for the whole plotline, but they’re significantly large chunks.

Keladry Mindelan, from Tamora Pierce’s Tortall Universe: Become the kingdom’s second-ever lady knight. (Alanna of Trebond also counts: she wanted to be a knight, but had to pretend to be a boy throughout her training to get there.)
Vierran, House of Guaranty, from Diana Wynne Jone’s Hexwood, itself a mind-screw wrapped in an unreliable narrator wrapped in a double take: Bring down the corrupt Reigners. Preferably while not getting herself or anyone she knows killed.
Michael Carpenter, from Jim Butcher’s The Dresden Files: To be able to spend more time with his (enormous) family, hopefully in a world where it’s safe enough for him to do so. Granted, he’s a supporting character, but a very major one.
D’Artagnan, from Alexandre Dumas’ The Three Musketeers: He has three major goals throughout the book. The first is to become one of his majesty’s musketeers, the second is to chivalrously protect his queen’s reputation, the third is to woo and later rescue his lady love.

You don’t even have to write characters of your own gender to get it:

Eowyn of Rohan, J. R. R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings: Defend her country. It’s seriously that simple – attack Rohan and you’d better believe this lady will be riding to slay you.
Peeta, from Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games: Although he’s got a pretty general goal shared by all the tributes (don’t die,) he spends a huge portion of the book being crazy about Katniss, and it’s largely due to that that he can’t accept the idea that she might die in the arena.(3)

In conclusion, I think we can safely throw out the idea that a particular genere or theme inherently appeals to a specific gender. Fiction is meant to be inclusive and, above all, entertaining: if your readers care about the characters and the world you present, they should be pleased to read more whether you send everyone out to sabotage the evil empire or whether you finally get those two characters – you know which ones, don’t play dumb – together. Including action shouldn’t be done halfassedly in order to “widen the fanbase” and neither should adding an irrelevant romance.

(1) I’ll save this – and the rest of the interview - for another rant later. Suffice it to say that I found this a very interesting interview in multiple ways, though I have more rant fuel for later with this quote:

[on virgin heroines] “There are a lot in categories in particular that annoy the shit out of me: usually the ones that have reached the age of 25 or whatever without ever once experiencing the least flutter of sexual desire. It's not so much because I find them unbelievable as immature - are they really in a position to engage in this intense committed long term relationship?

The Interviewee is clearly falsely conflating emotional maturity with sexual desire, as if one cannot be had without the other. While at least one person has acknowledged that romance doesn’t work if both partners aren’t mature enough for the relationship, which is a real problem in romances that I’ve seen, the rest of the quote shows a lack of awareness.

(2) Yes, I know about later seasons of Star Trek featuring significantly more recurring  female characters than the original series, but the fact stands that the most recent non-reboot series, Enterprise, still featured a 70% male bridge crew, wherein females received exactly the same percentage of representation as nonhumans. Janeway’s bridge crew likewise had only three female members at any given time, giving them a 66.6(repeating)% male presence, which ties with Voyager as having the highest female presence in the bridge crew in the whole franchise.  At any given time, at least one of the females on a Star Trek bridge crew, assuming that there are more than one, will be a twofer demographic: female and some species of alien, cyborg, empath, etc.

(3) No, I haven’t read the second or third book of The Hunger Games. I haven’t seen any movies either. I liked the first one okay, but I’m not a major fan of extremely obvious and absurdly powerful dystopian societies in my literature, so I never looked for the next few. In case you were wondering, I didn't finish 1984 either.

TL;DR – Don’t make gender-based generalizations on the internet. Somebody like me might find them and use you as an example. 


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