Readthroughs and Random Thoughts

Writing about what I'm reading…

Housekeeping post!

So, some more housekeeping… if anyone’s still around…!

Man: I just looked at the last date on an entry on here and feel horrendously guilty, and I owe some huge explanations.

Firstly: a HELL of a lot of stuff has happened in the last year for me, and updating the blogs haven’t been a priority or sometimes doable for me.

Another thing that’s happened is that I’ve actually LOST my copy of Shades. I don’t know if this is my subconscious desire to just stop reading it, but I have. I miss doing the blog-throughs, though, and I miss talking about The Administration, and this year I’ve actually tried to make more of an effort to read fiction. My Kobo died on me a few months ago, which had me acquiring a new one, and then having to rationalise the purchase with, “Fine, then I need to read books on it.” Which I’ve been doing. The great thing about ereaders is that they can give you the chance to support indie publishers and writers who won’t get a look-in in mainstream publishing houses let alone bookshops, so in between university and the gazillion other things I’ve crammed into my life, I’ve started reading just for the sake of reading again. And I realised that I wanted to talk about some of those books, too, and since this is “Read Throughs and Random,” I might as well throw some other book-related stuff up here as well.

So what else am I doing? Uni degree (still not doing the degree I was hoping to be doing), cat fostering, playing Ingress (a virtual turf-war played with smartphones and GPS), being a nerd about law and now falling in love with Finance (I know, even I didn’t see that one coming), pole dancing (nor that one, but ohmyGOD it is amazing for building upper body strength and fitness: I’ve become a bit of one of those “fitness people” again), and I might have written some stuff for the university newspaper, have tentatively tried to start writing original fiction again, and have been makeup blogging about Essence. (Well, that all stopped when uni got a bit more hectic and my camera broke– long story there.) And then there’s the sleep requirements, family stuff, etc, etc. Oh, and I stopped smoking. Again.

But my point is: I’m coming back and I wanted to put my foot down and say something about it and explain the changes around here, though that the Administration chapter read throughs and opinions are coming back on air soon.

And that I’ve missed you guys, and if anyone’s still around, I thank you for your patience.

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Happy New Year!

Just popping in quickly to wish you all a Happy New Year (in the spirit of Administration celebrations!) and I hope 2013 has brought awesome things for you all and that 2014 brings you even more.

Of course I’m still working on the entries– Christmas and assorted projects have been a bit overwhelming of late– and I hope I’ll see you around in the future for more discussion, squeeing, snark and cheering on what I consider to be one of the best– and one of the worst– series I’ve encountered in the literary world. Of course I didn’t plan for things to take this long, but I also didn’t plan on my life becoming a bit… interesting as well.

Would like to offer a special shoutout to the lovely Ms. Manna, as well: thankyou SO SO SO much for joining in the discussion and allowing me to do this (especially since I don’t think we see everything the same way in the series!). Being involved in these discussions has definitely been one of the highlights of both 2013 and my life overall. You are awesome, and your willingness to share these characters and this series with us is most appreciated. Thankyou.

Mind Fuck, Manna Francis, Chapter Eighteen

The initial interrogation took Parsons an hour and three quarters. Toreth resisted the urge to spectate on the screen in his office– watching other people doing his job, even very talented people like Parsons, always drove him mad.

One can only imagine, especially since Toreth has some control issues and is a perfectionist.

Frustratingly, too, nothing is forthcoming from Tara Scrivin.

Parsons wasn’t apologetic, simply matter-of-fact. In the eight years he’d known the man, Toreth couldn’t remember hearing him sound anything other than calm and cold. His lined face and deep-set dark eyes were equally expressionless.

Again, we get this idea that there’s something a little bit… dead about the people suited to this role. And it’s fascinating; Parsons doesn’t come across as some kind of sadistic bully, he’s just… good at his job.

It’s interesting, too, how the characters in this universe are very much products of their time and the environment and its politics, and by the end of my first reading of the book, rather than going, “I hate this crapsack world” or being able to go, “Evil bad guys are evil,” I was asking myself, “Realistically, where would I fit into things in this setting?” I’ve only done that with a few fictional universes: the most prominent other one I can think of being J. K. Rowling’s Potterverse– and I love it wen I can get so immersed in a setting that I start considering stuff like this.

I’d even argue that what’s going on here is so well organised, and that there are so many protocols behind what they’re doing that it doesn’t even have the craziness of current-day situations like Abu Gharib where culture and a lack of protocol– but and end goal– reigns supreme. (Or even something more benign: the participants in Zimbardo’s infamous Stanford Prison Experiment– where university students were given roles of prison inmates or prison officers– weren’t actually given guidelines beyond “control the prison.” They developed their own means of doing so– which essentially came down to bastardisation, causing a whole heap of people in the experiment significant distress– and the experiment to get ended prematurely.) The system in the Administration isn’t unrestrained; we’re frequently reminded of the paperwork and protocol and justification required for people like Toreth to be allowed to take things a step further. They’re supervised and they have rules and bureacracy to worry about. It seems entirely different to soldiers torturing prisoners because they’re “bored”.

I’m not sure if that’s comforting or terrifying: the situations nowadays seem to be almost devoid of protocol, and hushed up when they occur– because there is public understanding that These Things Aren’t Good. In the Administrationverse, it’s almost as though the subjects get the chance to just ‘fess up before things hit higher levels, almost giving the upper-end interrogations a social function: as a warning not to step out of line. But in the same way that capital punishment doesn’t stop people committing crimes in the countries where it’s a potential penalty, the threat of dying at the hands of the Administration’s people doesn’t stop them from ending up there.

Which then brings in a couple of other considerations: what happens when it isn’t warranted, but the desire to get something makes the Administration keep going? Our generation has seen military campaigns continue even when they’ve looked doubtful (weapons of mass destruction, anyone?) with no real admission of “we fucked up and we’re sorry” afterwards: is this something like that on a micro scale?

And the big question: what the hell made the government decide that any of this was appropriate? It’s never explained, but it is fun to speculate on, especially since the government is so heavy-handed about dealing with minor offences like sedition… what the fuck happened to make this seem appropriate? And why have the public accepted it?

Parsons isn’t convinced Tara can offer anything, and advises Toreth that everything checks out in Tara’s story according to what’s on file for Tara, “bar variations for error in recollection well within standard limits.”

I love the way the workplace lingo is so believable, and there is an allowance for such variations. It seems a lot more practical than the current popular ways of assessing someone’s guilt or innocence (even body language is completely subjective, and can be feigned/ignored/detracted from… one reason Lie to Me annoys the hell out of me despite my love of Tim Roth): it’s like a more finely turned lie detection… so it’s believable that there’s not much margin for error.

Sign of someone telling the truth rather than well-rehearsed lies. “Damn. Well, there’ll be a level three waiver coming through, so you can see if she’ll loosen up for that.”

Parsons nodded. “Yes, Para. However, I should tell you that I’m sure I’ll be wasting a room booking. I can do her, no problem there, but she doesn’t know anything she isn’t talking about.”

Fuck. Exactly what he’d thought himself. “Are you sure?”

I actually quite like Parsons for his honesty and his lack of “I’ll keep at her with brute force if she doesn’t say anything.” But there’s something quite telling about the way he’s so casual about what he does: is it evil? Not really: like Toreth, he’s a product of his time and workplace culture and the lingo that gets thrown around so flippantly: and that’s something that happens in a LOT of workplaces where people are dealing with people and tense situations. I’ve come across police, nurses, trauma workers, prison officers and social workers who do it. Is it insensitive? Yep. Does it make them evil and inhuman? No.

Parsons nodded again. “Positive. And for once, Justice is right that she’s a fragile witness. She isn’t a wreck, but she isn’t so stable that I can fill her full of drugs and be sure she’ll come out the other end exactly the same as she went in. If she’s got good lawyers rather than a Justice rep, I’d prefer a level four, maybe five, before I’d even try the top-end level three drugs. Just thought you’d want to know, before I got started.”

And I really like that Parsons is prepared to let Toreth know this. I can only imagine how dangerous things could be if, say, workplace politics got in the way: Parsons withholding information like that could get someone like Tara killed– and someone like Toreth in a world of trouble. So far, things seem okay because people are honest about these things, and Toreth, in his own way, is fair– and no one really seems to have any vendettas against others and they’re professional about what they do.

Imagine if they weren’t. Seriously, that’s where things could get horrific. (That said, I wonder if anyone with such petty tendencies would be weeded out through psychological testing and the like when going for roles in jobs like this.)

Toreth trusts Parsons, and decides that he’s not going to risk wasting time with– or further damaging– Tara, and that he’s going to try “something else.”

Exactly what that would be, he thought as he watched Parsons leave, was a different question.

He checks out Tara’s medical file to confirm that yep, Parsons is right and she’s fragile, but annoyingly, Tanit has okayed her for working in the sim.

Shame she couldn’t have glued the girl sufficiently back together for a decent interrogation, too. Not much of a cure, from that point of view.

I shouldn’t have, but I giggled at that. I love the way Toreth is so focused on getting information that he drastically overlooks the fact that the poor girl’s a mess, and I love the way he’s so dismissive of psychology.

Toreth spent fifteen minutes searching through the I&I system, read a lot of things that stirred uninformatively hazy memories of interrogator training psychology courses, and decided he needed another opinion. He opened the door to the outer office. “Sara, do you know what a dissociative state is?”

Sara looked around. “Nope. No idea.”

There’s so much said in this section that damn, I love it: it’s a perfect example of how crisp and succinct the writing is, and it’s something I wish I was good at: we learn so much from this, and on a re-read, it brings up some questions: what sort of training do paras get? (I’ll admit: it sounds interesting, though this bit gave me flashbacks to my own workplace training!) Is there some sort of database with basics on it for dealing with and explaining things like this that still doesn’t give much practical information? And what’s the training people in Sara’s role- as Admins– get?

I like how Toreth isn’t arrogant enough to not seek out second opinions, and how he isn’t afraid to bounce ideas off his colleagues either. He isn’t afraid of or particularly interested in hierarchy: he seems to treat everyone as a potential source of knowledge.

There’s a bit of explanation here, and while I’d like to go over it all, I feel like I’d be doing Ms. Manna a huge disservice and probably be breaching fair use regulations, so I’ll summarise a bit. We learn about Toreth’s history with the Interrogation Division, and his decision to level up to Para. The role wasn’t always there, clearly the organisation needed someone who could deal with and understand the work of the interrogators and what they needed– but also be able to work on the investigations in a broader sense. And again, we get a sense of realness about the organisation: it’s a government division: they adapt and change and restructure as required.

Interrogation was a profession that had certain basic requirements. Primarily, the ability to hurt people, sometimes kill them, and not care. Plenty of interrogators had applied for the para conversion course, and few had made it. The successful ones were on the more socially adept end of the spectrum– those who could be let near citizens of The Administration without the precaution of a damage waiver. At the time, Toreth had heard the term “high-functioning” used.

Again, this makes me think of a few real life examples, and the example fro Oz that I offered in one of the comments on the last chapter: the description of the SORT team compared to the regular prison officers. It’s interesting that the Administration is so blunt about its requirements: it seems to be something that present-day workplaces aren’t so forthcoming about.

Or, as Sara put it in her less tactful moments, the difference between paras and interrogators was that the former weren’t so dead behind the eyes.

I love Sara and her observations. She’s so awesome– and beautifully observant about people, and she honestly comes off as one of the warmer cast members amongst the people in the series. And when put like this… it’s so easy to understand.

I also love that Manna Francis doesn’t make all interrogators one and the same– a criticism I couldn’t help but have about J. K. Rowling’s Slytherins for most of the Harry Potter series. Parsons is described as a classic example of an interrogator, but it’s quickly added that “they weren’t all so icy.” Which both makes perfect sense (good cop, bad cop partnerships are an effective staple of police procedurals) since different people are going to respond to different stimuli: at the start of the read-throughs I think I mentioned Hans Scharff who managed to get a hell of a lot of information out of people by putting them at ease and getting their guard down– rather than by scaring the crap out of them.

Toreth decides to ask someone more specialised for some insight on the dissociative state: Psychiatric Specialist Senior Interrogator Warner (I wonder what his training entailled?) who is very much one of the creepier and colder examples. He’s unimpressed to be interrupted in the middle of work, too.

He had a combative stance, legs apart, heavy shoulders braced, leaning a little forward. At the same time, his gaze kept flicking away from Toreth’s face, searching the interrogation room, before returning to glare for a few seconds. Overall, it left an odd impression of aggressive disinterest.

I love the use of body language. It’s accurate and so easy to visualise here. And Warner does come off as particularly old-school and scary: he doesn’t believe in it, despite his training (not really a comforting thought, is it?), writing it all off as “corporate lawyer-spawned bullshit.”

Toreth asks if it’s still possible, for Warner to say it sounds like Disassociative Identity Disorder, which is, according to Warner, more crap designed to get people off scott-free. But Toreth keeps pushing him, pointing out that he is an expert in the field, only for Warner to say that in theory, yes, though if all the symptoms check out, it’s probably a lot of shit.  Which… I can understand his logic. No one fits the textbook definition perfectly.

Warner reluctantly agrees that it is possible, though even though he’s seen the tougher nuts over his thirty-five years in the job, he’s only come across a very small number.

“[…] Ninety nine times out of a hundred, it’s someone spinning a line to get out of here.”
“How do you tell the difference?”
The man shrugged again. “Send ’em down here on a high-level waiver and I’ll tell you in a couple of days.”

Toreth’s already imagining the issues that’s going to cause– SimTech and their benevolence and access to good lawyers doesn’t bode well for him getting Tara down to Warner.

“If you’re that keen, send the prisoner to Psychoprogramming and get a deep scan done. DID is only nature’s version of the fast re-education crap they pull over there anyway.”

Oh-kay, um, fuck. This is the part where you go, “What the fuck is going on here?” But if any of you guys are fans of Blake’s 7, you’ll have a fair enough idea.

I’ll admit, the first time I watched B7– which was after re-reading the series earlier this year, and hungering for more, and knowing there was no more— I saw the first episode and kind of squeed and went, “OMG, Psychoprogramming!” I happened to be watching it with someone else who looked at me like I was batshit crazy. But… damn, I love the tie-ins between the series SO FUCKING MUCH. B7 left me in a weird place; I started out with probably a lot more emotional investment in the “bad guys” than other fans would have, given their resemblance to the people in The Administration.

Again, it raises the question of “What the hell happened to make dealing with people like this acceptable?”

More alarmingly still: there’s a waiting list for the services of Psychoprogramming. Just think about that for a moment… a waiting list. For people to get their minds, well reprogrammed.

Warner’s final comment is a classic, too, and– ye gawds, I’ve encountered doctors like this–

“Send her down,” Warner repeated. “If she’s a real DID, I can shove the results through the expert system when we’re finished with her. They’re so rare we’re short of comparison data.”

Is that the heartless interrogator talking, or the medical professional?

Toreth goes higher up for that access to Psychoprogramming, but Tillotson’s been put in his place. Psychoprogramming is for political criminals, not your regular garden variety. (Which begs the question of Holy fuck what political crimes are bad enough to amass a waiting list for this? and then Hang on, what does society tend to do when they hear the word “terrorist” or “pedophile?”) even though Toreth points out that Pearl Nissim’s death makes this definitely political.

But murdered  is, at the moment, speculation, and it could always be that tech failure killing people, even though it totally isn’t, which just makes the whole thing so fucking frustrating.

Toreth thanks Tillotson for trying, at least, and has some less than pleasant thoughts about his boss.

The man was a good waste of oxygen, Toreth mused on the way back to his office. In fact, you could take every Administration official at Tillotson’s level or higher and sink them in the North Sea and it would only improve Europe.

It’s lines like this which make me think “Damn, this is what it looks like when a writer really gets it.” That frustration, that complete uselessness of particular branches of management in government departments, and their ineffectiveness– and generalised inability and lack of motivation to fight for their underlings. (Something else I love about Toreth later on in the series.)

Not to mention violate a slew of intercontinental treaties regarding toxic waste. The idea generated a small smile of satisfaction, not least because, if you had the right kind of petty mind, it was treason.

*snort* I completely understand that satisfaction and amusement at breaking the silly little rules like that. And can only imagine the intensity of them in a world like theirs.

If he’d said it out loud in the coffee room, it could be incitement to discontent. It wasn’t, of course. He was anti-moron, not anti-Administration. Not his fault if the two often coincided.

*cackles* She so gets it.

But then there’s the issue of sedition, of course, which almost detracts from the humour. Rather than getting out and out slaps in the face of how extreme and harsh the laws are, and what seemingly minor things are transgressions, haunting little reminders are placed throughout the story. How do change even happen in a system if the people working at base level can’t express that it’s flawed? I’d suspect the higher-ups have the power to make changes– one reason why it’s a smart idea to get in with them– or that that system fails so terribly and obviously that change, or the appearance of change has to happen.

Toreth decides to use a little schmoozling. Good thing he’s a bit more socially adept than a regular interrogator (and that he has the motivation to solve the mystery). He decides to pay a visit to Psychoprogramming.

Psychoprogramming had been created at the time of the reorganisation, stealing experts away from many divisions.

Hehe. Totally believable, again.

Int-sec made a natural home for them, but they were one of the more clandestine divisions. Unlike I&I, they had no public contact numbers, nor access for private legal representatives to bother them over the fate of the majority of the unlucky citizens who crossed their threshold.

Of course. Again, entirely believable, and haunting, but it echoes so much of government organisations who do this sort of stuff. Maybe it’s not as scary as psychoprogramming, but… having dealt with certain government organisations who have branches like this: it’s perfectly believable. Only this time, we’re talking about an organisation that has the ability to destroy people… in a really horrifying, end-of-the-line kind of way. And even in the somewhat bleak, clinical and cold world of the Administration, Psychoprogramming is held in… different… regard to the other divisions.

(Colloquially, they’re known as Mindfuck. Which is so perfect on several levels, and of course which echoes back to the title, of course, not to mention the recurring manipulations and mind games throughout the story. Can I just say I love this book, people?)

Everything looks nice and new, in that way that the newness stands out even more when compared to the regular government buildings– something which annoys Toreth compared to his own surroundings.

Toreth suspected that one reason Mindfuck was so secretive about their techniques was to hide the fact that most of the time they did fuck all. If they were really so fucking busy, where did they find the spare budget for fresh paint and new carpets?

Hee. Budgetary issues. Or trying-to-impress-higher-ups issues?

We get some more insight.

Still, like I&I, the detention levels were underground, and they were probably noisier than the admin areas.

I love the way such a matter-of-fact description can still sound completely chilling and point out a similarity.

He passed a door marked Research, where a serious and heavily armed guard watched him pass. Toreth’s lip curled. Pretentious wankers. Who the hell were they expecting, here in the middle of the Int-Sec complex? Packs of armed resisters come to find their friends?

Of course, that detail stood out, and it’s interesting, especially since there’s… security issues… down the track. But maybe there’s a reason for either the visibility– or the actual presence– of security who could fuck your shit up in here? Such security isn’t just an actual threat, but a visual one, in the same way that huge (or little ones: I’ve known guys who will think nothing of a refrigerator-sized bloke outside a door, but will worry when they’re confronted with a small security guard, because, as one guy I talked to put it, “You can see why a huge guy would be able to win a fight, but you wonder about someone who’s little who can.”) bouncers at doors serve as a warning to not dick around.

Toreth’s smart though, and not easily put off. Locating Ange, the senior administrative assistant to the head of Psychoprogramming, he pulls out the charm, despite the fact that she’s on her way elsewhere.

Toreth made it a policy to keep on the good side of senior admins, whatever their division, and he’d been hoping for a better reception. Ange was a favourite because, as well as making a useful contact, she was married but not very married. That gave him an easy way to her keep friendly, as well as to fill the occasional lunch hour.

ROFLMAO. I love the fact that he is being smart about things (he gets that there’s a bit more freedom in the Administration’s bureaucracy when you know the right people) and also managing to satisfy his libido at the same time. And, oh fuck, I want to get all into theories and meta about Toreth and sex, but I’ll do that sometime later.

He sat on the edge of her desk, to get his eyes lower than hers, and gave her his patented admin-melting smile. She looked resolutely unimpressed. “I wanted to talk about booking an m-f– about booking a psychoprogramming session with one of your esteemed and preferably discreet colleagues,” Toreth said.

“So fill in a request and send it to Scheduling.”
“Ange, sweetheart…”
“No form, no session. Anyway, they’re booked up two months ahead for externals.”

Ouch. And… time. Something which Toreth is acutely aware of, maybe even as much as Warrick is. So he offers her dinner. Somewhere nice. And it works: a bit. Ange offers him a place in three weeks, which still isn’t enough.

“I need it now. First thing tomorrow morning I’m going to have corporate lawyers crawling all over me.”

Absently, she reached out and rested her hand on his thigh. “Lucky lawyers. But I can’t do any better.”

ROFLMAO. I like Ange.

Ange asks for Tara’s prisoner ID, but she’s not a prisoner, and Toreth explains the details–

“[…] She’s talking, all right, but I think she’ not remembering what happened.”
Ange’s eyes narrowed. “Illegal memory blocks?”

Aaaaand, things take a turn for the even more disturbing… because how the fuck did someone manage to do that to Tara? It’s like any technology, I guess: the government might have some things, but… so do civilians. And probably the only thing scarier than regulated technology like this is… unregulated technology like this.

Toreth explains that he just wants a scan to see if there’s anything there, not anything too intensive– to which Ange softens a bit and starts asking about damage waivers, agreeing that if Tara consents, Ange can get things happening the next day.

“This is just for you, Toreth. I don’t want you telling anyone else I’m a soft touch.”
“Cross my heart. You’re an angel, Ange.”

Aw. I love the way they interact here, the flirting and the banter, and I love that I’m curious about a minor character like Ange: she’s not just a gatekeeper, she’s interesting.

With that sorted, Toreth goes to collect Tara for the m-f– I mean, psychoprogramming session.

Watching the process, and nervous that Warrick and SimTech’s corporate lawyers could make an argument for gaining Tara’s agreement under duress, Toreth is also a bit nervy that going against Tillotson might get him in trouble. It’s only going to get worse if something bad happens, too.

“This is safe, isn’t it?” Toreth asked.
Seiden didn’t look up from the screen. Yes. As safe as it can be for someone with a history of mental instability.”
“Oh hell.”
“If you don’t want to know, don’t ask. If she has been tampered with, then it’s possible that messing around without knowing what was done to her could be unfortunate. ” He scratched the back of his neck, and then added, “That’s why the prisoners we get here have high-level waivers.”
“She’s a witness, not a prisoner, so be careful.”

Oh shit. Just something else to worry about, and again a nice description of how end-of-the-line m-f really is.

Seiden looked around, offended. “I’m always careful. Even with the low-life resisters that get passed through for reboring. Of course,” he added more thoughtfully, “that’s different. We don’t need a waiver at all after they’re convicted.”

Okay, we get a bit more of the picture now, illustrated by the language: resisters. Not terrorists, not criminals– but resisters, which opens up a whole new load of questions about what exactly someone need do to land in the division getting “rebored” as Seiden so charmingly put it. Again, a flashback to Blakes 7: we know that even leaving a particular area is enough to get someone in big trouble. But then again; language changes, and what we have here is a replica which has some vast differences– to the world we know. Perhaps tomorrow’s resisters are today’s terrorists. But then again, perhaps the culture in the Administration is incredibly conservative– and hostile to anything that threatens those values? (Again, a feature I understand is typical of government departments…) Seiden doesn’t seem evil, though: he does his job properly and takes care… probably more because he’s worried about doing his job properly than because he’s concerned about the people hooked up to his machines– which I’d say is a feature he shares with Toreth. It makes me wonder again about the suitability for their respective roles.

Toreth hums to himself– out of key– while Tara rolls into the machine– which sounds a bit like an MRI machine– and Seiden snarks about his humming.

“I play the cornet; bet you didn’t know that, did you? Jazz. Nearly professional standard.”

And just when you think he’s a bit inhuman, you get that insight about him. Also, I like that jazz still exists in the world of The Administration.

Seiden starts getting things happening, and explains to Toreth what he’s doing: essentially matching up the information Tara’s already given them with what’s going on in her brain. While that’s happening, he studies the machinery and considers what m-f means to his role– extracting information from people’s minds is his territory, after all, so it’s understandable that he feels a bit threatened– yet comfortable that the procedure is prohibitively expensive for most of his interrogations– so the threat it poses– at the moment– is largely an abstract consideration. Not to mention, there are still… screw ups.

Toreth leaned against the glass of the observation gallery and stared down at his valuable, vulnerable witness. Neural scanning, direct stimulation and manipulation of memories– the basic technology here wasn’t so different t0 the sim. Yet while Seiden was willing to admit to the dangers of the m-f, Warrick was unshakable on the safety of the sim.

And funnily enough: the mindfuck is like the medium between what Toreth does and what Warrick does. It’s a really nifty mid-point even though it’s underscored by the harsh reality that they’re living in, though side-by-side with the sim, the realities are similar: though the danger and the intent doesn’t seem to be. And comparing the two, you can see even more why Warrick is so protective of it.

All Seiden gets from the m-f is a few “anomalies” which could be data issues or something else: and that’s going to need processing, which is going to take time. And already Seiden has stayed back late.

Returning to his office– it’s late now– after seeing Tara off and dealing with calls from SimTech’s legal department, Toreth is interrupted by Sara. He asks her for surveillance from SimTech’s pharmacy given the issue with the injector– and points out that Belqola was meant to have sorted it out but doesn’t seem to have. Belqola’s still being useless, but trying to make it look like he’s staying back late at SimTech. Annoyed, Toreth asks her to tell him to stay there and that they’ll catch up.

Given that he’s already fucked up a few times, I’m cringing for the guy. I’m interested, too, though: Toreth clearly chose him, but Sara didn’t like him– and she’s quite perceptive about other people– and their failings. Of course, the fact that Belqola implied things about her didn’t help, but Sara is a sharp shooter who is good at seeing through people– and she doesn’t like him.

 

So, after hours, Toreth goes to the AERC to confront Belqola about his latest incompetency.

Knowing that he should have checked that the surveillance was in place himself only made it worse. However, nursemaiding idiot juniors wasn’t Toreth’s job.

Again, part of me is just wanting to see Belqola get his arse kicked because he’s fucked up so many times that it’s ridiculous. He probably could have gotten away with coming in late on the odd occasion had he not screwed up so much in other areas, too: it’s like watching someone you want to feel sorry for just dig themselves into something even deeper. It almost makes me wonder if Belqola is just not that interested in the job, and is subconsciously self-sabotaging and resenting where he’s wound up after trying so hard to get there. Underperformance in workplaces interests me, as do people’s tendencies for self-sabotage and letting the truth leak out one way or another.

Toreth didn’t make many mistakes when selecting for his team, and the failure was another irritation. So much for high fucking training scores. As he slammed the car door, he vowed he’d never again make the mistake of relying purely on those when picking new team members.

I like that there’s a learning curve for him, too, and that he’s good, but he’s not perfect. And… high marks aren’t always an indicator of success or competency. (Not to mention there’s always the possibility they might not have been honestly obtained.) An ex of mine who was involved in selecting university students for degree intake actually told me that marks were only part of the picture and that interest and drive counted for a lot more– both in his view and in a lot of other people’s. But I can see why Toreth would associate good marks with an ability to be fastidious about detail, to be dedicated– and interested– and possibly something of a perfectionist. While he’s never screaming it from the rafters, Toreth has his own perfectionist tendencies.

When he finds Belqola, he also learns that the guy has only just set up surveillance– talk about closing the gate after the horse has bolted– and is apologising.

“Sorry is no fucking good to me. And no fucking good to Pearl Nissim, either.” Toreth stepped closer. “Why the hell wasn’t it in place a month ago?”

The junior shifted his feet, but didn’t back away. “I forgot to arrange it, Para.”

Oh, burn. You silly little fucker. As they say: YOU HAD ONE JOB.

Toreth can at least appreciate the fact that he didn’t lie or try to fumble about with idiotic excuses.

“You can tell that to the disciplinary board. I’m sure Tillotson’ll be sympathetic.” He waited, but Belqola had decided that silence was the best approach. “Do you know what?” Toreth said. “I can’t be fucking bothered with disciplinary reports and turning up to hearings when I should be running my cases. I don’t need to waste any more time on you.”

Yet another reason Toreth is fucking awesome: I can only imagine how many power-tripping fuckwits there would be in an organisation like I&I who would LOVE the paperwork and cutting down of someone like Belqola, who, in all honesty, deserves it. But Toreth can’t be fucked. He’s there to solve his cases and get shit happening, and I fucking adore his work ethic.

Belqola perks up, only to be told that he’s off the team tomorrow morning and getting an awful reference from Toreth, and that he’s most likely got a career of grunt work and level one interrogations ahead of him.

Belqola, for  some reason, decides to plead with Toreth: I’m interested in the why, because he hardly seems interested in the job (maybe he likes the idea of ascending to a career? Maybe he just doesn’t want the shame of failure– he did have good marks, after all), and offers to do “Whatever it takes, Para.”

Toreth, because he’s Toreth, decides to see exactly what that means, and what he can get out of Belqola before getting rid of him, inviting him out for a drink to “discuss his performance.”

 

So, Toreth’s had Belqola buy a drink for him, and is listening to the guy explain why he needs his job: all believed to be fictional by Toreth. After their drinks, Belqola mentions needing to go home to his wife.

First time he’d mentioned his wife. Just testing Toreth’s intentions– it was quite clear he’d stay if required to do so. Toreth smiled indulgently. “All right. But first–” He looked over towards the toilets. After a moment’s hesitation, Belqola stood and led the way.

I feel mean saying it, but fuckit: this is fucking awesome. Belqola only has himself to blame, and hey, he accepted the invitation. Toreth’s just capitalising on the guy’s half-arsed bandaid attempt at fixing things, and probably enjoying the power. You totally get the impression that Toreth doesn’t even think of the guy as a team member any more, too, so there’s hardly an argument for him taking advantage of an underling in the aftermath of the meeting.

“Done this before?” Toreth asked. Belqola nodded. “Good. So I won’t need to give directions.”

Not that Belqola was much good at following directions Toreth has given him.

Turns out the guy isn’t completely failtastic at at least one thing, and Toreth enjoys himself for a few moments, and they leave afterwards.

Back at the table, Toreth sat. Belqola hovered by his chair for a moment, then said, “I’ll see you tomorrow, Para.”
“Don’t be late. And give my love to your wife.”

Okay, if it wasn’t already established that Toreth is fucking awesome, I think this is a perfect final argument.

But… something else is about to happen: the random bar? Is also the same one that Warrick has decided to visit– it’s near AERC, so it makes perfect sense– but in all the time we’ve been dealing with the investigation, with Tara and the m-f, Warrick has hardly been a consideration. And now… he’s looking at Toreth, which he’s finding unsettling.

Toreth wondered briefly if Warrick had followed them there. As soon as he caught Toreth’s eye, Warrick picked up his drink and strolled over. “Good to see the forces of law and order working so hard,” he said, as he dropped into the chair vacated by Belqola.

EEEEE! You have to hand it to Warrick: just as Toreth basically establishes himself as being completely fucking awesome on so many levels, and a total boss and as slick and cool and clever as anything, Warrick just casually rocks up and manages to do the same thing. It’s one of those utterly perfect moments where you just look at the two of them and realise that they’re so beautifully suited because they’re pretty much the only reasonable “competition” for one another like this: they make me think of my other OTP (Phoenix and Miles from Ace Attorney) who are so at the top of their game, and who balance out one another’s flaws and issues that they’re just divinely perfect for one another. They’re equal on a level: it seems like no one else can really match them in terms of their skill and just manner of dealing with others. And they’re both fiercely independent and just *cool*.

Warrick is clearly aware of what’s going on and seems to want to know about things.

“Just getting to know my staff,” Toreth said. “Harry Belqola. He’s a new junior– finished his training this year.”
“Ah. So how’s he enjoying the investigation?”
“I don’t care. It’s a job, not a hobby.”
His sharp tone didn’t scratch Warrick’s poise. “And how’s he enjoying the investigator?”

ROFLMAO. Oh, Warrick. *cackles* I can so totally see this filming beautifully, as well.

Warrick manages to get Toreth to give away what happened, to which Toreth playfully calls him a bastard and suggests he work for I&I in Belqola’s role. Which is so subtle and perfect: it’s clear that Warrick is damned good at dealing with people and getting things out of them in the same way Toreth is (again, they’re so fucking awesomely Miles-and-Phoenix perfect for one another!!!) though he seems t0 find the whole thing amusing rather than anything else: Toreth doesn’t like jealousy, especially not in these sort of circumstances.

Warrick sipped his drink and eyed Toreth appraisingly. “You didn’t really want him anyway.”
“How the fuck would you know?”
“He was too keen to go along with it,” he said judiciously. “Not putting up enough resistance. You could’ve had him over the table if you’d wanted to– more comfortable than your ten minutes in the toilets probably were.”

ROFLMAO. I’m almost wondering if there’s a twinge of *something* from Warrick, who seems to have shown a bit much interest in observing them to be not especially interested in him.

He noticed an attentive silence at the next table. “He’s married,” Toreth said, as if it made a difference to how willing the junior had been.
Warrick snorted, unimpressed. “I know. He hadn’t even bothered taking his wedding ring off. Which probably means he isn’t feeling guilty about it, either, and that makes him even less interesting. To you.”

Oh, snap. I love how perceptive Warrick is here (and would agree with all of his statements) and also how blunt he is about them, and I love the way that he basically takes ownership of the conversation by making it damn clear that he knows exactly what Toreth is.

“Big assumption from someone who’s known me for, what, five weeks? I thought scientists were supposed to consider the evidence.”

Ouch. Nope, not at all a touch defensive, Toreth. You’re revealing that your hand isn’t as nice as his and that you know he knows it.

“And the evidence tells me you like to play games. Particular games, at that. Tell me something, how often do you have sex with the same person, on average?”
“Once.” Toreth shrugged. “Twice, maybe, if–”
“Well?”

Oh, beautifully done, Dr. Warrick, but ouch. On one hand, it’s awesome that you’re thinking this much about Toreth, on another hand, part of me is raising eyebrows and thinking, “What’s it to you, Mister?”

Another fucking interrogation, but what the hell. “If they regretted it the first time. You’ve been spending too much time with Tanit.”

Oh, he has, hasn’t he: and you have no idea that he was defending you in there, either. Also, E. L. James, since you’re so fond of using the word “interrogation” to describe conversation: this is how it looks. Note how Warrick is sneaking in on him and getting him to reveal stuff he doesn’t want to? This isn’t the same as one character asking another “How was your night?”

Warrick spells it out: that Toreth likes it when his target is putting up some resistance (which: come on, makes things interesting, and means you have to work for things) and Toreth then points out that Warrick doesn’t exactly play hard to get… and that he has the sim, of course.

Warrick changes the conversation to Tara, and explains that she’s talked to Dr. Tanit at her place after Toreth offers something of an understatement about what happened. Deciding to capitalise on the fact that he’s in a good mood– and that Warrick hasn’t talked to Tara about what happened yet, Toreth asks if Warrick would like a drink.

Warrick brushes him off and changes the topic (playing hard to get or just wanting answers?)  back to the investigation. Toreth explains that his boss still thinks the sim’s the killer and that the coders from I&I haven’t ruled it out, and Warrick asks why so many of the files at SimTech are irritatingly sealed– it’s annoying the sponsors. Toreth explains it’s procedure and offers to have a word to Tillotson about it.

“Really?” Warrick sounded genuinely surprised. “Thanks. Can I do anything in return?”
“Such as?”
Warrick sighed. “Or, in the less subtle version, do you want to fuck? Or was your staff management session too taxing?”

ROFLMAO. Beautiful. Better yet, those people at the next table are still eavrsdropping.

A woman at the next table spluttered red wine all over her white and silver skirt. A man Toreth guessed was her boyfriend started to stand up with intent, took a better look at Toreth’s uniform, and at down quickly. Toreth stifled a laugh, because there was no point in starting trouble. Warrick looked openly amused. “That’s a handy perk of the job.”

Hehehe… I love it. Again, another one of those scenes that’s so visual and would translate perfectly to the screen.

They head off (Toreth winking at the woman, the boyfriend not happy about it), and start taking about hotel rooms, when Toreth’s comm rings. Unfortunately, there’s another hiccup in their plans.

Another body’s turned up. Toreth and Warrick aren’t the only ones feeling a bit annoyed and cockblocked here.

Merch… sort of!

 

WP_001358

Sadly, barring the books themselves, there’s no official merch for The Administration. (FFS, a dodgily-written, unedited “erotic” series gets board games, underwear, CD collections, probably a perfume and fuck knows what else, George R. R. “I hate fanfiction even though I wrote it myself but I’m a special and talented writer and you people are just hacks” Martin’s series gets more fucking crap than anyone would want to fill a house with, even the Hunger Games [which, okay, I think is a decent series, I just couldn’t get into the books because the narrative grated at me] gets laptop stickers— my son has them– amongst all sorts of other nifty merch…) so being the same sort of fan who started watching Blakes 7 because there was no more Administration and I wanted MOAR and knew of the connection… I’ve developed a bit of a thing about plastic ducks which fans will probably get.

At work, I had a running theme of plastic duck desktop backgrounds on the computers (because I didn’t think fanart would be terribly appropriate); I have duckie pyjamas, a cute little “plastic duck on a chain” and now… these guys, who sit on one of the shelves amongst my other fannish stuff in the room which is my study/grrlcave/library/cat foster room/crashspace for guests.

50 Shades of Grey, E. L. James; Chapter Seventeen

Ana dreams that she’s a moth, being drawn to and burned by a candle flame. Because clearly if there’s one thing this book needs, it’s more Captain Obvious metaphors. The best bit about the dream sequence is that it goes for a paragraph– and then she wakes up, “draped in Christian Grey.”

He’s wrapped around me like a victory flag.

Pretty hollow fucking victory, if you ask me, but hey.

He’s fast asleep with his head on my chest, his arm over me, holding me close, one of his legs thrown over and hooked around mine.

I’m trying hard to imagine this. It sounds like he’s even clingier than Ana, and that he’s played Twister with her in his sleep.

He’s suffocating me with his body heat, and he’s heavy.

This quite seriously sounds nightmarish to me. I realise that YMMV with stuff like this, but I having slept in beds with people who are all grabby like that, and waking up amongst them and their sweat just… doesn’t appeal. I’m also wondering why Grey, who apparently has so many issues with being touched, is doing this.

Anyway, Ana runs her fingertips over him, waking him up. I’d like to point out that E. L. James could have gone to town with some character reveal about how he looks when he’s sleeping: seeing someone sleep is an intimate thing, and when someone truly is off-guard– but instead Ana is oblivious to this. Anyway, he wakes up, telling her he’s drawn to her even in his sleep. And he’s got a morning glory. Ana’s all surprised about it, but he says it should wait til Sunday because he only wants her to do things with his erections when they’re doing the TPE thing, I suppose.

I flush, but then I feel seven shades of scarlet from the heat.

Yet again, we get this tie-in to the title.

They talk about feeling hot and wake up, and when Grey realises the time, he comments that he’s running late and that he doesn’t do late, and that this is another first for him.

“Sunday,” he says, and the word is pregnant with an unspoken promise. Everything deep in my body uncurls and then clenches in delicious anticipation. The feeling is exquisite.

Really? It doesn’t sound pleasant. It sounds like labor pains.

Promising that Taylor will deal with the Beetle, and that he’ll email her with a time for Sunday, Grey then nicks off, leaving Ana to feel smug that she’s slept with him three times after he’s said he doesn’t sleep with anyone. One of those times involved her being passed out, though, and I think the other time was when she was highly distressed and he was being manipulative. But it makes Ana feel optimistic.

Ana then gets up and emails him, explaining why she felt confused about the spankage. She titles the email “Assault and Battery: The After-Effects,” which is either a) a joke that doesn’t translate well to print (especially after some of the decidedly unfunny things of an abusive nature which have already happened between them) and b) Ana really not feeling that the spanking was consensual funtimes.

I’m not typing out the whole email because I’m lazy, but will highlight the bits that stood out:

“Well, during the whole alarming process, I felt demeaned, debased and abused.”

Abused. Since her inner monolgue has also talked about “never having been hit before” and now we get these little insights, I’m just failing to see happytimes consensual BDSM here. Especially when I present this gem from the email:

“What really worried me was how I felt afterward. And that’s more difficult to articulate. I was happy that you were happy […]”

So… you’re doing something that makes you feel abused in order to make him feel happy?

This isn’t about your pleasure, Ana. This is skirting on abuse, to put it mildly and to be as open-minded as I can about it. Combined with your fear that he’ll leave if you don’t go along with the sex stuff he wants…

And okay, she admits that the spanking wasn’t as bad as she thought it would be, but what happens when he starts wanting other stuff? I’ll be honest: even if something isn’t painful, if someone just plain isn’t into it, and you’re still either reckless to their consent, you outright don’t have it, or you’re manipulating the person into providing that consent under duress… you know what? A healthy relationship that don’t maketh.

At the end of the email, Ana says, “Thankyou for staying with me,” which probably isn’t meant to be analysed much, but given the evidence we already have, it just comes across as really sad and pathetic.

Grey emails her back and basically shits all over her feelings about feeling abused, and then says of her confusion:

Do you really feel like this or do you think you ought to feel like this? Two very different things. If this is how you feel, do you think you could just try to embrace these feelings, deal with them, for me? That’s what a submissive would do.

Once again, dismiss and invalidate feelings she’s explicitly stated having, and THEN telling her how she should be behaving. YUCK YUCK YUCK.

Another point: I thought submissives came in all different varieties of human, and that there wasn’t one set way of dealing with, or doing things. This is another one of those “Not my scene,” things that’s still managing to piss me off because, you know, seeing a whole group of people get boiled down to one thing based on what toasts their marshmallows is off. It’s like saying that all doms are twisted abusive fuckwads, but wait, E. L. James has pretty much done that, too.

I’ll say this, too: as someone who writes some rather disturbing characters, and some kink… this is far too close to how, say, I’d write a manipulative and abusive Kristoph Gavin who is decidedly not meant to be the romantic hero. (Actually, this is pretty much how I’ll write Kristoph trying to headfuck his assistant into sexual activities and claim innocence and normalisation of what’s happening. It’s fucking creepy.) As Ms. Manna said in a comment, being a sexual sadist doesn’t equal BDSM, and fucking with someone’s head to get them to do what you want isn’t part of it. It disturbs me that this is meant to be “erotic romance.”

Then, we get true horror from him.

I am grateful for your inexperience. I value it, and I’m only beginning to understand what it means. Simply put… it means you are mine in every way.

Holy god. He likes that he can convince her that this is normal and how she should be thinking.

He then goes on to say that erotic spanking is different to punishment and that if she commits “some major transgression” (like what? Getting drunk? Making a sarcastic comment?) he’ll use “some implement” to punish her.

Hang on. I thought she’d put caning as a hard limit. But… limits schmits, I guess.

More gaslighting pads out the end of the email.

Don’t waste your time on guilt, feelings of wrongdoing, etc. We are consenting adults and what we do behind closed doors is between ourselves.

Remember when family violence was considered “business that happens behind closed doors” and “not something for the community to meddle with”?

You need to free your mind and listen to your body.

Yeah. Because clearly all that’s wrong here is the way Ana is perceiving the situation.

And then Robin Thicke’s Blurred Lines starts playing and everything is all peachy.

Jesus fuck.

Anyway, at the end of the email, all Ana can think is

Holy crap… mine in every way. My breath hitches.

Ana emails him back to say that if she listened to her body, she’d be in Alaska.

Since this is a looooong chapter, I shall attempt to move on quickly.

Grey emails her back, pointing out that she didn’t safeword (because she was scared of losing you, you dick), that she’s an adult with choices, and then that if she went to Alaska, he’d track her down.

Grey sounds like an ex of mine, who would threaten to break up with me (or point out that if I didn’t like it, I could leave) whenever I’d criticise the behaviour of his children towards me. When I finally had enough and went, “You know, I’m leaving,” he cracked the shits and attempted to make it incredibly difficult to reclaim my property that was in the house. (The story ends happily: I got most of my stuff back and I have nothing to do with the guy. But the control-freakish behaviour was completely disturbing and Not Cool.)

Ana considers nicking off and asks him if he’s sought therapy for his stalker tendencies. Grey replies that he is seeing a therapist (I wonder if he plays headgames with the therapist too) and tells her to go to work. Ana then points out that the therapist isn’t very effective. The therapist is probably just relying on a lifetime of Grey appointments to put his/her kids through college. Grey says that this therapist is the second opinion and that it’s none of her business and tells her to go to work. There’s a bit more banter over the email, and then Ana drives to work in the Audi, with a description of its power steering that makes me wonder if someone just Googled a car review, and she thinks about Grey and his Pain and how she wants him without all his baggage, and blah blah blah and she goes to work.

Grey has sent her a BlackBerry (do people still use those?) via courier to her work. Ana just switches it on and starts using it to tell him he’s a stalker (don’t they need twelve hours of charging up first? EVERYTHING I’ve bought, from my laptops to my phones to my Kobo to my DSXL has needed a few hours, at least, to charge up prior to use) and there’s some more banter.

Ana hates it already, but that doesn’t stop her from, you know, pulling out the battery, and because she’s special and it’s her last day at work, and everything is always about Ana (unless it’s her being all about Grey) she gets a wonderful send-off from her employers as she thinks about the entire past three weeks.

Scene change! Kate’s coming home, and she asks about the car, and notes that he stayed the night. Grey emails Ana to tell her that her doctor’s appointment is at 1:30 on Sunday.

Taylor comes along and picks up the Beetle.

Jose joins them for Chinese takeaway after Kate and Ana have packed everything up, and they all reminisce about things over beer. Apparently everything is back to normal with regard to Ana and Jose.

Well, it’s been swept under the rug that my inner goddess is lying on, eating grapes and tapping her fingers, waiting not so patiently for Sunday.

What the fuck else is under that rug?

Anyway, Elliot turns up and gives Kate a hug, and Ana gets all weird about seeing them being affectionate together because apparently a hug equals “get a room.”

Jose and I stare at one another. I’m appalled at their lack of modesty.

I’m appalled at Ana’s hypocrisy, personally.

Anyway, Ana and Jose walk down to the local bar, which makes me think that the whole denial-of-what-happened-last-time-there-was-Jose-and-alcohol has taken a turn for the inability to suspend my disbelief (I’m not going to FORGET, even if I do FORGIVE someone who’s pulled shit like he did) and all that happens between them is Jose asks if Ana’s going to his photography exhibition thing.

Ana gets home to hearing Kate and Elliot are making sexy noises, and goes to thinking about how Jose now has a show and how awesome that is, and about how Jose doesn’t know that the Beetle is gone, and then she checks her email. There’s a rather ominous one there, asking her to call Grey lest he call Elliot (wow, being a bit of a cockblocker, much?) and then she checks her phone. Five missed calls.

I think you need to learn to manage my expectations.

Yes, Grey actually says that. And… fuck. No, Mr. Cockblocking Stalker, you need to learn to manage your expectations.

If you say you are going to contact me when you finish work, then you should have the decency to do so. Otherwise, I worry, and it’s not an emotion I’m familiar with, and I don’t tolerate it very well.

Jesus fucking Christ. Maybe she went out for a celebration with her workmates after work? It amazes me that in spite of all the stuff Ana has going on, Grey is still acting like she has to drop everything for him.

Anyway, she rings him, even though she’s feeling suffocated. They talk about their evenings. If I were the editor of this book, I’d have red-penned the whole section because absolutely nothing happens barring him talking about punishing her for disobeying him and neither of them wanting to hang up.

Scene change again– which makes me think that E. L. James is as bored with this chapter as I am– and Elliot’s hooked up their satellite TV in the new apartment. Funny: Elliot has pretty much the same speech patterns and terms of affection for Kate as Grey does for Ana. Ana shifts away from them when they’re being lovey dovey because

They are going to get icky.

Icky. Other than sounding like a ten-year-old boy, I wonder what the fuck she thinks her sitch with Grey is. That’s “icky.”

Anyway, Elliot can’t hang around, and gives Kate a “Laters,” and Ana has this reflecton.

Elliot is adorable and so different from Christian. He’s warm, open, physical, very physical, too physical, with Kate. They can barely keep their hands off each other– to be honest it’s embarassing– and I am pea green with envy.

All aboard the good ship Katana! I think she’s meant to be jealous of how normal their relationship is, but methinks there’s so jealousy towards how much he’s getting to get physical with Kate. Wouldn’t a good friend be happy for Kate? She’s sounding more like a jealous girl who’s had a thing for Kate rather than a good galpal here.

Anyway, there’s a brief description of them chowing down on some pizza and then a delivery boy arrives at the door, mesmerised by Kate’s appearance. He brings champagne and there’s a helicopter shaped balloon attached to the bottle. Guess who sent it?

“Why can’t he just write ‘from Christian’? And what’s with the weird helicopter balloon?”
“Charlie Tango.”
“What?”
“Christian flew me to Seattle in his helicopter.” I shrug.
Kate stares at me openmouthed. I have to say I love these occasions– Kate Kavanagh, silent and floored– they are so rare. I take a brief and luxurious moment to enjoy it.

Yeah, bitch, my man has a helicopter. When’s the last time you could say that about anyone you’ve dated? Seriously, I’m over this whole female fantasy thing of “relish other women’s envy.” It’s boring and insecure.

Anyway, Kate wants to know how Christian has the new address (as though Elliot wouldn’t have told him?) and Ana says that stalking is one of his specialties. Charming.

“Somehow I’m not surprised. He worries me, Ana. At least it’s a good champagne and it’s chilled.”

Warm champagne would have made him WAY more suspicious.

Anyway, cut to the next morning, and Ana’s thinking about how she should be packing, and her subconscious is annoying her about it, but… she’s got a date! With Grey’s doctor.

Anticipation hangs heavy and portentous over my head like a dark tropical storm cloud. Butterflies flood my belly– as well as a darker, carnal, captivating ache as I try to imagine what he will do to me… and of course, I have to sign that damned contract, or do I?

Hang on, who’s she talking about? The doctor, or Grey? Is this going to lead into medical fetish play? I love the way she thinks about the contract like it’s an afterthought, like, “Must get milk on the way home.”

Grey sends her the security code to get into the underground garage at his place, as well as the elevator code, and Ana sends a thankyou for the champagne. She’s started calling him “sir.”

Ana drives to his place, realising she can drive in high heels, and as she gets into the place, starts describing her outfit. She’s wearing that plum dress of Kate’s again, makeup, and the underwear that Taylor bought for her. I mean… who doesn’t dress up to go see a doctor?

Anyway, Taylor welcomes her at the door, and Grey is there lounging around in casual clothing that gets described piece-by-piece.

He rises and strolls toward me, an amused appraising smile on his beautiful sculptured lips.
I stand immobilised at the entrance of the room, paralysed by his beauty and the sweet anticipation of what’s to come.

What, an IUD?

She says hello, they kiss, he remarks on the dress, and then he tells her he has something to show her. Instead of getting a pornoriffic scene, we instead get him showing off about the fact that they’ve been featured in the Seattle Times in a thing about Grey being at her graduation.

There’s some more nondescript conversation, and I’m momentarily distracted because I’m about a page away from the end of the chapter, and he asks if she’s eaten, chastises her for not eating, and advises that the doctor will be there soon.

“What can you tell me about Dr. Greene?” I ask to distract us both.
“She’s the best ob-gyn in Seattle. What more can I say?”

Hang on: why the fuck does Grey have a gynaecologist? I thought the doctor was his doctor: at least that’s what he said last chapter.

Grey explains himself, believing it’s more appropriate that Ana see a specialist for some reason. Ana wonders about how much it’s costing him, and then Grey springs on her that his mother’s invited her to a family dinner along with Kate and Elliot. He seems to think it would be odd for him to introduce her to his family, despite the fact that she’s already met his mother.

Taylor advises that the doctor is in, and Grey of course gets his creep on again.

“Ready for some contraception?” he asks as he stands and holds his hand out to me.
“You’re not going to come as well, are you?” I gasp, shocked.

Nothing would shock me from him any more.

He laughs. “I’d pay very good money to watch, believe me, Anastasia, but I don’t think the good doctor would approve.”

Thankfully the doctor has some professional ethics.

The chapter ends with his pulling her into an embrace, kissing her and saying that he can’t wait to get her naked.

Mind Fuck, Manna Francis, Chapter Seventeen

Back in Strasbourg, Toreth and B-C have gone over everything… and found nothing.

“Do you read much, B-C?” Toreth asked.
Barret-Connor looked up from his own screen. “I’m sorry, Para?”
“Fiction, I mean.”
The investigator shook his head. “I’m afraid not.”
“Me neither, much. I used to read thrillers, until I noticed they weren’t. And mysteries. Of all the setups, you know which ones really pissed me off? Sealed room murders. They’re always so contrived, and yet here we are with three of the bloody things.”
B-C looked back at his screen. “Yes, Para.”

I’m going to go off on a little bit of a tangent here: I love B-C. For some reason, he was one of the characters I found it easy to visualise right off the bat, and I love how beautifully deadpan he is about everything. He makes Toreth look incredibly emotional.

And I love his exchanges with Toreth, too.

Toreth gets onto Byrne, one of the forensics, just before he’s about to call it off for the day, and suddenly, there’s something.

Anti-nausea drug traces have shown up in Pearl Nissim’s system. Interestingly enough, they weren’t prescribed for her, though: Keilholtz had even mentioned that he felt sick when getting out of the sim sometimes, and it’s his name on the prescription. But the anti-nausea drugs weren’t enough to have killed Pearl, anyway, nor did she have an adverse reaction to the stuff.

Being thorough, and good at her job, Byrne’s already checked the remainder of the batch from SimTech: nothing wrong there, unfortunately for the investigation. And nothing suss, either: the drug’s contained in single-use injectors, distributed by SimTech as part of their service that comes with the sim.

“The used injector?”
“No sign of it in the room– probably already in the recycling system, Para.”

Which makes sense: Keilholtz does not seem like *cough cough* the type of bloke who’d leave used things lying around like some characters might. (Refer to the most recent update on Shades if you’re wondering what I’m snarking about.) I also like that recycling is a thing in this timezone, too, and I’m wondering what the fuck happened to bring the world to where it is in time. Did people start getting serious about environmental destruction and waste– and if so, how much of the planet got completely fucked up before they did?

Toreth asks her to scan Nissim’s body for everything. Just in case. Because as even he says in a quasi-humorous fashion, he’s clutching at straws now, but an anomaly… is something.

He then calls Keilholtz, less than impressed that he wasn’t informed about the anti-nausea drug.

But Keilholtz explains that Pearl gave him the drug due to the sim sickness, and that he was completely unaware that she’d used it herself, and that he would have mentioned it. Turns out Pearl had used it on occasion if she was having ear issues, and that the SimTech staff were aware of it… and all of that checks out with Nissim’s medical records.

“When did the legislator take the drug?” he asked Keilholtz.
“Just before we went in, or rather, that’s an assumption. That’s when she gave me mine. I was already sitting in the couch. Just after I’d had the injection, the guard strapped me in.”
He paused, and Toreth prompted him. “Yes?”
“I don’t remember seeing her take another injector, but I can’t swear she didn’t. She would’ve had time to take a shot before the guard finished with me.”
“And dispose of the injectors?”
“Oh, yes, Para-Investigator. Pearl was very tidy.”

So it was Pearl who wouldn’t leave them lying around. Nonetheless, my earlier point still stands.

But the injector wasn’t linked to her death, anyway, and everything’s still looking pretty normal.

“How is it possible to have so many bodies and so few suspects?” Toreth wondered aloud.
Barret-Connor had been listening to the conversation with Keilholtz. “They are a bit thin on the ground, yes, Para.”
“People always get more popular when they die, B-C. Fact of life.” Toreth pushed his chair back from the desk and stood up to pace. “I’ve never met a corpse who wasn’t saint material if you believe what people tell you. Then you open their security file, and they’re exactly the kind of bastard that someone would want to murder. Or they’ve got ‘natural victim’ stamped all over them and it was only a question of who got to them first. Either way you’ve got to dig through dozens of suspects to find the right one. But these three… what do you think?”

Again, I love their conversation. It has a beautiful noir feel about it, and I love the way we see Toreth work through things aloud. Even if B-C is pretty much agreeing, we’ve seen Toreth do this a bit: with B-C, to a degree with Warrick, and also with Chevril. While a strong argument can be made for him just projecting, he also uses the opportunity to get ideas. Sometimes he just needs to verbalise around him, I guess. And sometimes, input from others helps him.

B-C doesn’t do so well with spontaneous opinions, though, and like the kid called up to solve a Maths problem in class when they haven’t been paying attention, he methodically shows his working when explaining to Toreth that as corporate supporters, they’ve both got ‘natural victim’ qualities.

“Killing a legislator is a hell of a risk, though. If there is a killer, they must know that. It won’t get covered up now, however big the corporation behind it. The Administration doesn’t like to encourage corporate sabs targeting legislators– the idea might catch on. They’ll be found and nailed for it, no matter how long it takes.”

So… despite the power money can buy you in this world: you don’t go killing people that high up on the hierarchy. It’s almost comforting to know that, especially the further into the series you get where just about everything seems shrouded in greys and the potential for discretionary measures and corruption. I suppose it’s a career perk of getting that far up the ladder, isn’t it?

B-C nodded. “So we’re back to square one: why pick Nissim?
Why indeed? “Maybe they didn’t.”

Keilholtz does seem like a more realistic target.

“[…] Killing Nissim brings you big trouble, killing her boy toy and blaming the sim gets you an avenging angel ready to take down SimTech. Hmmm.” Toreth thought it over. “Teffera took drugs for the sim. Maybe he had a contaminated injector too.”

It all makes beautiful, perfect sense, and funnily enough, he’s pretty much nutted it out by doing nothing more than having B-C listen to him and confirm his suspicions by logically working through things. Toreth adds, though, that Kelly Jarvis doesn’t fit the model.

B-C wonders if it was the sim, but Toreth is convinced now that it can’t be. So he goes through the post-mortem results for his three victims again, and wonders if they had any kind of reaction to the drug in common– genetic susceptibility? Vulnerability to the sim, maybe? The fact that the sim is all but a wild card in the whole equation means he’s not getting much back from the system because it can’t yet recognise its limits and capabilities entirely. And he can’t change the system to accommodate this.

Worse, the only people who understood the sim well enough to do that worked at SimTech. Asking witnesses and suspects to modify I&I systems was even less standard procedure than fucking them.

Hehe. I had to giggle at the idea that it even occurred to him. And I’ll admit, first time I read this, I was all, “Why can’t he and Warrick just interact again?!” and I’ll admit that it was not because I had this idea of them helping one another, but thought they were hot together, and was initially under the idea that this book was… pornier.

Yeah, I’ll admit it: I first read this book when I had discovered homoerotoc fiction novels on the internet, and buying books online. And since Mind Fuck falls into a class of its own, it got mentioned on a few of those lists… and a lot of the others in that genre… get fairly sexy. So my first reading of the book was… it was unexpected. But I got utterly seduced by the quality of the writing, and completely drawn in to the Toreth/Warrick dynamic. And the more we got to see of Toreth, the more I could identify with him …a lot.

Basically, the best things that have come into my life have tended to be happy accidental discoveries, unentirely unexpected surprises, or random decisions made on a whim– something I tend not to do– but it pays off. This series? Was totally a case of that.

Toreth spend a minute or so cheering himself up by imagining applying for high-level damage waivers on the entire SimTech staff, half of P-Leisure, and all known professional corp sab teams, and then cranking through the interrogations until someone said something helpful.

He’s frustrated, and god, does it show. You can see why it’s such a nice little fantasy for him– especially given that he’s not really sadistic– it’s an easy, brute-force way of solving things, because for weeks, now, he’s essentially got nothing. But he’s also smart enough to realise that he is in fantasy and that things don’t work like that, and he’s too delicate in his work to resort to something like that. Not to mention, I suspect it would take a lot of the puzzle-solving fun out of it for him.

Start with Warrick and the Tefferas, and work his way down the social scale. It might be worth proposing the idea simply to watch Tillotson turn purple. Pity that he wouldn’t get the waivers. Maybe he could arrange to have a few more Administration higher-ups killed. So far, producing a big-name corpse seemed to be all he’d achieved in the case. He snorted with laughter, and B-C looked up. “Para?”
“Nothing.” Time to get back to work.

I love watching his thinking processes. Love how as he goes further into his idea, he smooths out the details, shaping it, and you wonder if he’s getting more serious, and then he turns it ridiculous, has a laugh, and brings himself back to reality and gets on with the job. It’s perfect. And I love his thinking about it in terms of a work process– about things like Tillotson, about the “achievement” of getting the killer to respond by killing Nissim– rather than him just having interrogation power fantasies about, say, the Tefferas and Warrick, who clearly do frustrate him. Toreth is awesome, and I love his sense of humour.

He works around on the system a bit more, trying from the angle of “undetectable poison.” And whose name should come up but Tara Scrivin’s? Remember ….she was the biochemist? The only problem is that Toreth isn’t convinced she would have; he’s worked long enough in the field to know when someone’s putting it on, and she wasn’t– and she had an alibi for Kelly’s death, too.

While he had nothing better to do, he should at least consider an interrogation. The idea certainly had potential, although Justice (or at least SimTech’s lawyers) might make trouble over her mental state.

I love that Toreth never has absolute power the way a lot of “bad guys” in dystopian things do. I’m sure I’ve mentioned it before, that there are still rules in place for him– and procedures and laws and red tape– governing what he can and can’t get away with. I think that’s one reason the series has such strength: it’s toned down from the usual free rein that the “controlling people” get in… most other things. I mean– okay, I love the movie (the graphic novel didn’t do as much for me, I’ll admit)– V for Vendetta? The thugs working for the government got away with everything. While the movie suspended my disbelief, and I adored it, I still thought afterwards, “Those guys have got to be accountable somewhere along the line.” Part of the thing Ms. Francis nails with the system is that in order for it to work convincingly, there has to be some sort of boundary placed upon the rule-makers. They have to give the illusion of looking fair. Sure, corruption can happen, but in such an organised– and in some ways, normal– world, you can’t just have Sauron or Scar sending out the troops and demanding anyone who gets in the way get killed. It’s not a dictatorship, and the illusion of things being fair and fine sustains it for awhile, and, of course, makes it easier for regular citizens to just get on with their lives.

However, with Nissim dead, he had a feeling that waivers of all levels would be a lot easier to come by.

There’s that, too, and again, it’s perfectly feasible, but it still doesn’t mean he can break the rules too badly.

He gets onto Sara, and asks her to organise Parsons to deal with her, then turns to B-C and advises him that they’re heading back to New London.

50 Shades of Grey, E. L. James; Chapter Sixteen

So, the chapter starts with some post-coital snuggling and Ana trying to touch Christian through his t-shirt, and we get the classic Snakes on a Plane line from this book.

“Why don’t you like to be touched?” I whisper, staring up into soft grey eyes.

“Because I’m fifty shades of fucked up, Anastasia.”

Yeah, you and everyone else, emo kid. And you, unlike most of us, have both the resources and self-awareness to get some fucking help.

Because he’s all about the honesty and clarity, he explains it with the following:

“I had a very tough introduction to life. I don’t want to burden you with the details. Just don’t.” He strokes his nose against mine, and then he pulls out of me and sits up.

Oh god. This is the second time he’s been in her for what seems like a while after sex. Maybe he was thinking of going another round but discussing his awful childhood has a pretty awesome way of deflating an erection.

Also, that wasn’t much of an explanation, but we’ve had Ana asking him several times why he doesn’t like being touched now and it’s pretty obvious that a) he doesn’t like talking about it, and b) it has stuff to do with him previously being sexually abused.

And his level of “don’t touch me” seems to fluctuate a hell of a lot, which probably makes it worlds of confusing for Ana, and the further I see repetition in this book along the lines of this, as well as the inconsistencies, I wonder if E. L. James kept releasing this as a work in progress and forgetting stuff that she’d previously written (which is a feasible explanation since we’re 268 pages into the book), but ye gawds. I haven’t picked up this book in a hell of a long time, and I haven’t read over the recaps, but even I’m picking it up.

One of the things I’ve been doing at uni has been a writing class, which I have enjoyed immensely. Part of that has involved writing fiction (duh!) and the other major part has been learning about editing– both our own, and other people’s work. In tutorial discussions, I used Shades as an example of why editors are very, very important, and also why it’s good to edit your own work.

There’s some sweet talk, and Christian tells her that she’s not just a pretty face, and that she’s had six orgasms and they all belong to him.

Wow. He wasn’t wrong when he said he was fifty shades of fucked up.

The problem with that, though, is that it just made me think of that famous internet meme: ALL YOUR BASE ARE BELONG TO US.
ALL YOUR ORGASMS ARE BELONG TO GREY. Hell, I was hesitant to even mention that because I’m guessing that the internet has already jumped on this one.

Ana decides to admit that she was dreaming about him and that she came in her sleep, and of course Grey wants deets, which makes her all coy and hiding her eyes with her arm.

[L]ike a small child, I briefly entertain the thought that if I can’t see him, then he can’t see me.

Theory of mind, Ana-style.

He gets up, and asks when Ana’s period is due, because he hates wearing condoms.

“Next week.” I stare down at my hands.

“You need to sort out some contraception.”

Or you know, you could just wear condoms. But Grey’s too important for this, or E.L. James has exhausted “how the make condoms part of foreplay,” I assume, and even though they’re cheap, easy to obtain and don’t have side-effects for most people, he’s too precious for them.

He is so bossy. I stare at him blankly. He sits on the bed and puts on shoes and socks.

Okay, I wouldn’t so much as call that bossy but him being a douche again, and secondly, wouldn’t your put your socks on before your shoes?

“Do you have a doctor?”

I shake my head. We are back to mergers and acquisitions– another 180 degree mood swing.

He frowns. “I can have mine come over and see you at your apartment– Sunday morning before you come and see me. Or he can see you at my place. Which would you prefer?”

No pressure then. Something else that he’s paying for… but actually this is for his benefit.
“Your place.” That means I am guaranteed to see him Sunday.

So that’s the doctor sorted, I guess. I hope Doc doesn’t have a round of golf on that morning or anything else to do.

Grey gets up and says he’s going to go, and Ana offers to drive him in her lovely new car.

He gazes at me, his expression warm.
“That’s more like it. But I think you’ve had too much to drink.”
“Did you get me tipsy on purpose?”
“Yes.”

Charming. Again, I draw a comparison between what he’s done in the past and what Jose did (which, albeit was a far more extreme example) and think that the guy’s a creep.

“Why?”
“Because you overthink everything, and you’re reticent like your stepdad. A drop of wine in you and you start talking, and I need you to communicate honestly with me. Otherwise you clam up and I have no idea what you’re thinking. In vino veritas, Anastasia.”
“And you think you’re always honest with me?”
“I endeavour to be.” He looks down at me warily. “This will only work if we’re honest with each other.”

He talks the talk, but doesn’t walk the walk on this. Seriously, I’m just sitting here shaking my head thinking he’s got some serious fucking double-standards and that translates to how he feels about honesty. But he’s back to using “we” language, including Ana in his statements about what will work for them (classic manipulator trick, btw), which is irking me. But hey.

Ana says she wants him to stay so they can use the second condom, but he seems to dislike them that much and talks about how he’s already crossed so many lines that he has to go. He says he’ll see her Sunday with a revised contract, which he assumes she’ll agree to, and then they’ll start playing.

“Play?” Holy shit. My heart leaps into my mouth.

This was not at all unexpected for anyone reading this book, but it warrants a “holy shit” (which ranks higher than a “holy crap”) from Ana, who then asks what will happen if she doesn’t sign. Grey tells her ominously that he might crack under the strain and it could get really ugly. He’s teasing her, but still.

“Ugly how?”
“Oh, you know, explosions, car chases, kidnapping, incarceration.”
“You’d kidnap me?”
“Oh yes.” He grins.
“Hold me against my will?”

Not like he didn’t, you know, lock her in a room not long ago while she was graduating and he wanted an answer from her.

Ana decides this is all hot, and then Grey brings out the reality:

“And then we’re talking TPE 24/7.”
“You’ve lost me,” I breathe, my heart is pounding … is he serious?
“Total Power Exchange– around the clock.”

Um, a couple of things here: there’s a world of difference between some BDSM and a TPE situation, and you really shouldn’t be foisting that onto someone who has the lack of knowledge on it that Ana does.  But, okay. Whatever.

They sarcastically giggle about how Ana will totally have no choice in the matter, Ana rolls her eyes, and Grey decides that he’s going to fuck her quick and hard and will need that second condom after all.

My insides practically contort with potent, needy, liquid, desire.

Hooray! Let’s defy the world of physics and the English language at the same time, hey?

Ana, in her liquidy needy potent practically contorting insides way (does it feel like a burst appendix when your insides contort? Or just like really bad indigestion?) feels that the relationship lies in the balance of her consenting or not, and that if she doesn’t, it’ll all be over. Because Grey has such a wonderful history of caring about consent from her, demonstrated by so many acts earlier. Anyway, Ana’s inner goddess is pleading with her and her subconscious is paralysed, and so she goes along with it.

So much for the fucking: we get spanking instead because she rolled her eyes at him. And even though he warns her he’ll spank her each time she rolls her eyes, after eighteen spanks (that’s a lot of eyerolling), and her crying out, and him informing her that “No one will hear you, baby, just me” (which probably wasn’t meant to sound creepy but did), he stops and tells her he’s going to fuck her.

Another sex scene where he “pours into me” despite the condom, and where Ana gets an orgasm of epic proportions.

“Oh baby,” he breathes. “Welcome to my world.”

I’m giggling at this one. Of all the stuff to say post-sex, this is like something out of a kids’ animated feature: you know, the streetwise stray hooks up with the posh purebred type and they have a night on the town with G-rated innuendo, and she has a great time, and then: “Welcome to my world.”

Afterwards, he picks at the strap on her camisole, and tells her she should be sleeping in silks and satin and that he’ll take her shopping.

“I like my sweats,” I murmur, trying and failing to sound irritated.

I’m not sure if she’s trying to defy him so he can spank her again or something, or if she’s genuinely happy wearing sweat pants and he’s just being controlling, but he tells her “We’ll see” anyway. There’s more lying together, some implied dozing, and then he asks if she’s okay.

And then he gets rid of the used condom. EW. One of the grossest stories I know about someone was that he hooked up with someone at a friend’s party, and utilised their bedroom. There was a lot of utilisation going on that night, because post-party, when the poor host went to bed, he found a little surprise in there. And another one. And…

Maybe I’m anal-retentive about tidiness (my previous ex would say that, but the ex before me would argue that I’m a complete slob) but seriously, you just don’t leave used condoms lying about, especially when they can get hidden amongst bed sheets. That’s just gross. You get rid of that shit as soon as possible, or at the very least, get some tissues onto it. Here’s Ana thinking about her sore arse, here I am just thinking about the fact that in the previous paragraph she suggests they might have dozed off and there’s a used condom lying around on the bed. Remember when Ana said that there was “nothing worse” than wearing day-old knickers? I can think of one: sleeping in a bed with used frangers in it.

Ana’s not thinking about that, though: she’s thinking that she feels so much better after being spanked, and that she doesn’t understand why. Grey returns with baby oil and rubs it into her skin, and then decides he’s leaving. Ana gets up and is glad that Kate’s not home and didn’t hear what just happened.

“You didn’t cry,” he murmurs, then grabs me suddenly and kisses me fervently. “Sunday,” he whispers against my lips and it’s both a promise and a threat.

There is so much fervence in this book that trying to envision this happening is like imagining a high school drama production with far too much *emphasis* on everything. But hey.

Anyway, he leaves, and Ana has a brief moment of thinking about how she’s going to leave her apartment now, and then an angst moment which somehow, like everything else, becomes all about Grey.

[…] I feel lonely and uncomfortable here, unhappy with my own company. Have I strayed so far from who I am?I know that lurking, not very far under my numb exterior, is a well of tears. What am I doing? The irony is that I can’t even sit down and have a good cry. I’ll have to stand.

Cue some My Chemical Romance and the world’s smallest violin playing. Also, you could lie dramatically on your stomach and look all moody, ala that picture of Diana Dors on one of The Smiths’ album covers if you wanted to.

Instead, Ana calls her mother. Because that’s always a great idea.

Ana is all teary and her mother is worried and sympathetic in that way that you can afford to be when you’re a million miles away and you know that you can’t actually do anything. It all reeks of false sincerity, which might explain where Ana gets it from.

They instantly start talking about Grey, after mom’s asked how graduation was and Ana hasn’t replied (I still can’t get how flippant everyone is about it: she’s fucking graduated, for fuck’s sake) and a few paragraphs in, after mom’s given some advice about how she can’t possibly know someone in three months, it occurs to mom to suggest that Ana go and visit her and Bob.

Oh boy, is this tempting. Run away to Georgia. Grab some sunshine, some cocktails. My mother’s good humour… her loving arms.

Da fuq? When did Mom have a sense of humour? This is the first I’ve heard of it, and it hasn’t been demonstrated through the text.

A wild Kate appears, so Ana has to get off the phone for some in-person attention.

“Has that obscenely rich fucker upset you again?”

Um… That’s not quite an insult. “Obscenely fucked up,” maybe. “Obscenely douchey,” yes. “Obscenely arrogant,” totally. But… rich? I’m not sure if Kate’s meant to be jealous of Ana for her supposedly good fortune in finding this catch.

Kate tells her to tell him to take a hike, which is probably the best bit of advice Kate’s given her, but Ana dismisses it.

The world of Kate Kavanagh is very clear, very black and white. Not the intangible, mysterious, vague hues of grey that colour my world. Welcome to my world.

It’s like watching advertising in action, with tied-in themes blatantly permeating everything. For fuck’s sake, we get it. If Ana really was a lit grad, we’d see some more subtlety here, but nope-a-dope, none of that here.

Kate suggests she sit down and they crack open a bottle of wine, because the other thing this book likes emphasising is that wine solves everything (I’m not sure I can snark about this, though), and Ana gets funny about sitting.

“I fell over and landed on my behind.”

Pfft. Fell over from what? A fucking two metre height? Bitch, I’ve fallen on my arse at speed, in fucking roller skates, and I’ve never been so sore that sitting down has been painful. But okay. Kate doesn’t give the explanation much thought, because Ana is teh klutzy, and Ana sits down and has a memory about Grey telling her that she wouldn’t be able to sit down for a week after “that stunt you pulled yesterday.” What stunt? Oh, wasn’t that about Jose getting her drunk so he could date-rape her? What’s killing me is that she’s remembering this and still not realising that Grey is a fucking creep. Instead, she thinks about it as a warning sign about Grey being serious about teh spankage.

Kate gives some weird advice telling her in the same breath that Grey’s got commitment issues and that he’s clearly smitten with Ana, which ain’t helpful. Ana asks about Kate’s situation, and Kate says that Ethan might be coming to live with them. Oh, okay, fifty shades of awkward, especially since we all know that Creeper von Moody isn’t going to be thrilled with this at all.

Their convo ends after some more wine, and Kate goes to call Elliot, and Ana checks for emails. Of course, we have email.

Dear Miss Steele,
You are quite simply exquisite. The most beautiful, intelligent, witty and brave woman I have ever met. Take some Advil– this is not a request. And don’t drive your Beetle again. I will know
.

Okay, I call horse shit. When a guy comes on with this much flattery, this early in things, you start freaking out. Because he’s either a glib, lying creep who feeds people shit like this to get what he wants, or he’s bugfuck crazy. Or both.

Given who he is, and his worldly experience, he’s met plenty of beautiful women. Given Ana’s persistent stupidity, calling her bright is like calling Tony Abbott a champion of women’s rights issues. Given that she’s come out with the odd sarcastic comment and he’s chastised her for it, it’s hard to argue that he appreciates her wit. And given that he’s had fifteen others before her, odds are that he’s met far braver souls than her.
Secondly, what’s he done to the Beetle? Wired up a detonator so when she starts the engine, kapow? As Ana would say, Holy fuck.

Ana emails him back saying that flattery won’t get him anywhere, that she’s driving the Beetle to a garage to sell it, that red wine is better than Advil, and that caning is a hard limit. Grey emails back saying he accepts no caning, and that Taylor will get rid of the car for her. There are more emails; Ana expresses concern that he’d risk his right-hand man in a “dangerous” car and not some woman he sometimes fucks, and Grey emails back explaining that Taylor is ex-army and has driven all manner of dangerous things, and that he’s mad that she’s referred to herself as “some woman [he] fuck[s] occasionally.” There’s another threat about making him angry and more spanking along the lines of “you really wouldn’t like me when I’m angry.”

Dude, we know. You get passive-aggressive, you go silent, and you become even creepier than you usually are. We’ve seen you angry.

Ana tells him she doesn’t think she likes him right now, Grey asks why, Ana says that he never stays with her.

Oh. God. This has just taken a whole new level of Stockholm Syndrome.

Ana goes to bed and reflects upon her day (I hope the movie shows this with a montage of stuff happening throughout the day and Fall Out Boy’s Thanks for the Memories playing through it: that would be glorious) with the graduation, seeing Ray, Christian and the car, and realises that she hasn’t told Kate about the car. Then again, didn’t it occur to Kate that there’s a new car in front of their place? Ana then thinks about how she’s never been hit in her life and this genuinely surprises me (seriously, I’m not a particularly violent person, but you know how you just want to hit some people? Ana is one such specimen) and then starts crying again about him, and about his tortured past and about how maybe he wouldn’t like her if he was normal.

I am momentarily distracted from my dark night of the soul by Kate shouting.

Dark night of the soul? Oh, bitch please.

Kate is evidently going off at Christian Grey. It is glorious, and I’m hoping she’s throwing in some punches, too, since her “What the fuck do you think you’re doing here?” suggests she’s not on the phone to him. Even though she’s clearly telling him to GTFO, he ignores her and bursts into Ana’s bedroom.

“Do you want me to throw this asshole out?” [Kate] asks, radiating thermonuclear hostility.

YES.

Christian raises his eyebrows at her, no doubt surprised by her flattering epithet and her feral antagonism.

Wow, E. L., using the thesaurus now, are we?

Ana worries about making him mad, like he’s going to spank her or something worse, Kate then tells Grey that he’s on her shit list (GO KATE!) and advises Ana to “holler if you need me,” and makes an exit.

Grey asks what’s going on, like it’s not obvious, and then explains that part of his role is to look after her needs, and that he’s staying because that is apparently one of her needs. Turns out he thought she was okay, and she wasn’t; turns out Ana thought she was okay and she wasn’t, and then they discuss the spanking, that she wasn’t meant to enjoy it, and Ana asks why.

I’m genuinely mystified here on a couple of levels. One being that Ana couldn’t work out why she felt so good immediately afterwards (adrenaline?) so there was the suggestion on some level that she enjoyed it. Two: Grey should have some idea of how someone feels about “after the first time” given that he’s been there himself. Three: wasn’t this whole thing meant to be about “exploring Ana’s pleasure”? And yet, he quite bluntly says that she wasn’t meant to enjoy it. Four: I don’t think that’s entirely how this works. Isn’t the point that the person being spanked enjoys it and has somewhat masochistic tendencies and stuff? I honestly don’t get that, but then again, I’m not agreeing to being someone’s 24/7 submissive and will acknowledge that like Supernatural, Will Ferrell movies, Ugg boots, bacon and vodka, there are things that loads of other people like, but I don’t.

Grey explains.

“I like the control it gives me, Anastasia. I want you to behave in a particular way, and if you don’t, I shall punish you, and you will learn to behave  the way I desire. I enjoy punishing you. I’ve wanted to spank you since you asked if I was gay.”

Holy fuck. So much to dissect here. Firstly: you can control people without laying a finger on them, Grey. Actually, violence strikes me as the last resort of someone who has lost control and who’s clutching at straws. Sheesh. Secondly, as a method of “training,” it’s fairly haphazard and prone to unexpected results or undesirable ones, like fear and psychological problems. Thirdly, the fact that her asking if you were gay is clearly something you’re a bit preoccupied with, and that is far more interesting to me than any of your other issues, Mr. Grey.

Ana asks if he doesn’t like how she is, and he says he loves her the way she is, but

“I don’t want to change you. I’d like you to be courteous and to follow the set of rules I’ve given you and not defy me. Simple,” he says.

So in other words… you want to change her behaviour and break her will so she won’t defy you? Nope, that’s not changing anyone at all. Anyone else wondering what happened to the previous fifteen now? If they were failed experiments he never quite controlled and now they’re decaying in shallow graves in some bit of mostly-undisturbed wilderness somewhere?

“It’s the way I’m made, Anastasia. I need to control you. I need you to behave in a certain way, and if you don’t– I love to watch your beautiful alabaster skin pink and warm up under my hands. It turns me on.”

Why not just say, “I have a thing for spanking people”? That would make it far more palatable. Why all this crap about “This is how I am because of my experiences!”?

He then goes on to explain that the control is a turn on for him, which, again, makes it more palatable than “I need you to do stuff.” Sorry, but need versus want comes to mind here, too. And given all of his understandings about basic needs and Darfur and the rest of it, surely he realises that need is a bit too serious a word for something he, well, wants. I’m not criticising his kink whatsoever. But I’m suggesting that it’s not a necessary thing for his survival. And throwing in that since he’s talking about and to Ana like they’re in a relationship at times… surely the “need” isn’t all-encompassing. I’d have less of a problem with him saying he “needs” it from Ana if this was purely a transaction based on the BDSM thing, but Grey keeps blurring things and making out that it’s an emotional relationship, too. Not fair.

Grey explains that it’s not the pain that he’s putting her through that’s getting him off, but the control, and that’s what turns him on. Then he offers this gem:

“Look, I’m not explaining myself very well… I’ve never had to before. I’ve not thought about it in any great depth. I’ve always been with like-minded people.”

Yes, Grey, but you chose to pursue things with someone who clearly wasn’t, this time, so that’s a pretty shit-poor excuse.

“And you still haven’t answered my question– how did you feel afterward?”
“Confused.”
“You were sexually aroused by it, Anastasia.” He closes his eyes briefly, and when he reopens them and gazes at me, they are blazing.

Way to go! Ask her how she feels, then tell her! Nice one, Mr. Manipulator.

His expression pulls at that dark part of me, buried in the depths of my belly– my libido, woken and tamed by him but, even now, insatiable.

“Don’t look at me like that,” he murmurs.

Ana wonders what she’s done wrong now, but it’s just Grey explaining that he has no condoms and Ana’s upset. Which should be irrelevant, but I think there’s a suggestion that her expression is making him verge on losing control and giving less of a shit about consent than usual. This is fucking horrible. Seriously, it’s another point where I’m verging on chucking the book across the room.

He then tells her she’s fine being honest in emails, but not in person, and asks if he’s really that intimidating.

Let’s see: he’s locked you in a room, ignored your desire to dine and discuss with him in public where there are onlookers, he’s blamed you for nearly getting date-raped, he’s warned you about making him angry, and every time he asks you something and you give him an answer incompatible with his wants, he tells you how you’re feeling.
I’d say that’s already pretty fucking intimidating.

“You beguile me, Christian. Completely overwhelm me. I feel like Icarus flying too close to the sun,” I whisper.

And oh god, I feel like I’m going to puke.

He tells her that she’s bewitched him, and tells her to email him and that he’d like to stay. So… what? Ah, he’s staying. Silly me. He empties his pockets (in amongst all the drama, Ana reflects on how men carry so much crap in their pockets), Ana gives a completely unerotic list of all the items of clothing and articles he removes, and then he lies in bed with her, telling her to cry in front of him so he knows what’s up with her.

So here… and still so bossy, but I can’t complain; he’s in my bed. Maybe I should weep more often in front of him.

ARRRRGH! See what I mean about spanking not being the only way to condition particular behaviours? Great: now she’s learned that she can cry in front of him to get what she wants, and if you must know, there is little more that disgusts me than people who pull that shit. I’ve had exes do crap like that. I went to school with people who did that. My sister had it down to a finely-honed art form. It’s fucking disgusting and a special kind of cowardly-manipulative, and sorry, but Ana making that observation just makes me dislike her even more.

He tells her how to lie in bed, and puts an arm around her, and then tells her to “Sleep, baby,” and miraculously, she does, peacefully and sans irritatingly not-so-symbolic dream sequences. Awesome.

Mind Fuck, Manna Francis; Chapter Sixteen

Remember when Toreth set up that nifty little plan to see if anyone close to him within I&I was tipping off the possible killer/saboteur, and it looked like nothing had happened?

Looks like something did happen.

The call for Toreth to go in to I&I came just after four on Monday morning. When he arrived, he found Sara already there. She stood up when she saw him, her eyes wide with excitement.

“Is it really Pearl Nissim?” he asked her, and she nodded. “Legislator Pearl Nissim?”

“One and the same,” she said.

Oh… fuck. While we don’t yet know huge amounts about the Administration yet, I don’t think it would take many calculations to realise that killing someone that high up the food chain is Pretty Fucking Serious Business.

Worse yet, Pearl was a fan of the technology: she was a fan with a lot of pull, too. And like the others, as Sara says, she’s been found dead in her sim machine.

Given the seriousness of the whole situation, Toreth decides to head over to Strasbourg himself—and now, getting Sara to make the necessary arrangements. Tillotson has already decided that his best paid team need to be onto it and over there, so at least he’s got full authority.

The murder of an Administration higher-up—damn near highest-up, in fact—wasn’t something a para got a chance at solving every day. Even less frequently when it was their fault. When he’d thrown out his bait, he’d expected another death at the AERC. Another student, or maybe one of the more senior staff. Legislator fucking Nissim? Better hope Tillotson never found out about this one.

I love his attitude; it’s so casual but quite clearly demonstrates—so subtly—that there is something very different about the way Toreth looks at the world. He doesn’t even notice the lack of guilt he feels about his involvement in things; yet he acknowledges his part in things—just not the severity of the outcome. To him, people are chess pieces, and, well, to win this particular game, too, sacrifices have to be made.

Pretty risky when you accidentally lose your queen when you thought you’d maybe lose a pawn or two though.

Heading over to Strasbourg with B-C, Toreth reads over Nissim’s file, once again detecting nothing out of the ordinary. Like Jarvis and Teffera, Nissim seems to be a likeable person with no enemies, and no shady background and no suspicious connections, despite her powerful position. She’s in her sixties, she’s worked her way up to her position over the years, and looks thoroughly clean.

And that’s the only thing—other than using the sim—that all of the deceased have in common.

Everything about deaths screamed either natural causes or technical fault. It screamed it so loudly, in fact, that it only strengthened Toreth’s belief to the contrary.

I love Toreth’s scepticism about it all being so benign. Most people, I can imagine, wouldn’t look any deeper than that, and you can see how in his field—especially since the whole case seems to be so frustratingly devoid of evidence—it would be tempting to move on and do something else instead. And Toreth has been bored enough to want that. But… he doesn’t want it to be easy.

They head to Nissim’s place of residence to find an unfortunately contaminated crime scene: Nissim’s body has been moved to the hospital, and the forensics people have already been through the place. Toreth sends his people out to get the evidence, at least, and looks through the security-heavy house. Given Nissim’s high profile, she’s living with security people keeping an eye out for her, though obviously they weren’t able to stop what happened to her.

Toreth recognised the first man they met inside—Clemens Keilholtz.

First time I read this, I knew I recognised the name though I had to skip back and find out who he was, though I like his inclusion here and found myself quite liking him.

The legislator’s death had hit him hard. However, while shock and grief tended to dull people’s expressions, in Keilholtz’s case they had supplied some character to his previously non-descript face.

I think that’s where you realise the gravity of what’s happened to him: it’s a beautiful description and it perfectly illustrates what sort of person he is: everything can be hidden beneath a cool professional grey, yet something as shocking and sad is a different matter.

Once again, he looked pleased—or perhaps this time, relieved—to see Toreth, and Toreth had the impression that the man had been waiting for him. Keilholtz’s first words confirmed the guess. “I heard you were coming.”

Oh, ouch. I want to imagine Toreth squirming like all hell because clearly this guy is upset and it’s kind of his fault, but of course Toreth is Toreth and he’s all don’t-give-a-fuck business about things and he just goes into his professional information-gathering mode.

“When did you find out about the legislator’s death?”

“I was there when it happened.” He said it with the unconscious ease of someone who hasn’t thought through what that might mean.

Oh gawd. I know I’m probably being weird here, but to me, that was just sad. You already know what he’s going to say, and why he was there, and he’s half just blown away by what’s happened and some part of him seems eager to hang onto what’s familiar—like Toreth—and being professional. But it’s still so fucking sad. And accurate. I completely get that sense of not 100% comprehending a huge reality like that: when my grandmother died, I remembered seeing a statuette of a horse (she loved horses) in the window of a gift shop about a week later, and automatically thinking “I’ll get it for her for Christm—Oh. Wait.” After grandfather died, even as we were leaving the wake thing held for him, I remember thinking about how surreal it was and how in my mind he could be back in the old people’s home where he’d been only a few days before. Death is an enormous thing to think about… moreso when you’re close to someone, and when it’s sudden, you have to get your head around a hell of a lot that you have more time with, if, say, it’s kind of impending.

“You were in the room?”

“No. Or rather, yes. Next door. We’d both been in the sim—“ And now he hesitated. It couldn’t have been more obvious if Keilholtz had worn an advertising screen.

“Go on.”

Oh, man. Dunno if it took Toreth a bit longer than me to get that one or if he’s just dragging it out to make sure he’s got the story 100% straight.

“Ah, there isn’t an easy way of explaining this, Para-Investigator.”

Easy enough: you were fucking her.

Toreth realises that Forensics have managed to miss that and gets B-C to secure the area and move on everyone else hanging around, and he and Keilholtz go back to Keilholtz’s flat so they can talk about things more privately. They sit down to discuss things, and Keilholtz explains that for the last four years, he and Pearl Nissim have been in a relationship and that barring a few close people, they kept it private.

“How old are you, Mr. Keilholtz?”

Keilholtz clearly expected the question, even if he didn’t welcome it. “Thirty one,” he said tonelessly. “Exactly half Pearl’s age.”

Keilholtz then explains that yes, that’s why Pearl liked the sim, but then elaborates:

“I should say– I want to say that I had no problems at all with the situation. I much preferred sex in the real world, to tell you the truth. If you haven’t been with someone in the sim, it’s difficult to explain it. It lacks intimacy. Perhaps it’s just me, but I’m always aware that my body is elsewhere, and alone. But outside the sim, Peal was, well, self-conscious. It spoiled things for her, and I hated that. So we compromised: we alternated between the two.”

Can I say here that I really kind of ship Keilholtz/Nissim in a huge way now? They just seemed like such a sweet couple. And it’s nice seeing a less conventional pairing just pop up in a story without there being any sense of weirdness about it, and Keilholtz just being so… nice.

I totally see Pearl as Helen Mirren, by the way. And let’s face it, Helen Mirren is kinda hot.

Of course, this is something of a reminder for Toreth, who gets his mind back on task and starts asking questions about what happened.

The house was empty barring the two of them– and security, but as Keilholtz points out, if they’ve done anything untoward, it’ll be caught on the video surveillance. Toreth doesn’t think that he’s a potential suspect, but still asks about what they got up to in the sim; he explains that had “a slushily romantic evening,” (in Toreth’s view) and then Pearl stayed a little later to tend the “garden” in the sim room.

“[…] I unfastened my own straps, stood up, I went over and–” He stopped, swallowing hard. Toreth waited. “I went over and loosened Pearl’s straps, so she’d be able to get out easily. Then I went through to the bedroom. I started running a bath for her. Then I sat on the bed for a few minutes. I felt a little sick, from the sim; I often do. When then bath was full, I turned the sheets down, put the lights on by the bed and–” He was crying now, making no attempt to hide it or wipe away the tears.

Come on, folks, this is fucking sad. Seriously, what a sweet bloke. Tell me you’re not even slightly sad for him.

Anyway, he expected her to come through… and she didn’t, so he went back, found her not moving, and then realised what had happened. Afterwards, he’d called security, or the medics (he can’t remember because he was in shock) and Toreth points out that he’d noted that her eyes were open– so her visor was up.

Nicely spotted, Toreth.

Keilholtz also points out that her left arm was, too.

So similar to Kelly. This was stretching the realms of coincidence too far, and the sim room here was secure as the one at SimTech.

When Toreth asks about it. Keilholtz says that no one else could have come and gone in the time that he was running Pearl a bath and that the room was locked only to them and that he had to let security in, too.

Then, before Toreth could speak again, Keilholtz said, “Do you know what was in the legislator’s will, Para-Investigator?” Toreth, who had been considering asking Keilholtz something very similar, blinked, then shook his head.

“I do.” Keilholtz’s voice was cold. “Pearl had three children, a daughter and two sons, by her estranged husband. Everything goes to them.”

Aw. You get the impression that poor Keilholtz feels like he’s trying to make a case not for himself as innocent of killing Pearl, but innocent of being a gold-digger. He explains that he gets the gifts she’d given him, and their letters to one another, and that he’ll even be leaving their apartment once the I&I people have finished investigating. He even explains that he gets along with Pearl’s children, and that they had no problems with the relationship.

“But I always wanted to make it clear why I was with Pearl, to her more than to anyone else. I couldn’t prove it wasn’t career ambition– although it wasn’t– but I could very definitely prove it had nothing to do with money. I never took a cent from her and I won’t start now that she’s gone.”

“I didn’t–”

“No, but you were about to.” Keilholtz smiled slightly. “I spend a lot of time in meetings, Para-Investigator, watching people think. […]”

*sniffle* So people are still suss about age differences in relationships in The Administration’s time, too? I suppose money still has power, possibly even moreso than it does in today’s world, so it’s understandable. But it’s sad for someone like Keilholtz who seemed so sweetly devoted to Pearl, yet is smart enough to realise that people assumed ulterior motives of him.

Toreth decides that he believes him, though will run the usual financial checks on him and see if the story with the will matches up.

“Does SimTech have any other champions in the Legislature?” he asked before putting the camera away.

So we’re back to that old idea about the victim being the sim– and by extension, SimTech– rather than the end user.

And frighteningly, Keilholtz comes out with this.

“Not that I know of. And certainly not right now. Para-Investigator, Pearl Nissim had a great many friends there. If the sim had anything at all to do with her death, I can promise you that SimTech is finished.”

Oh. Fuck.

We get a nice little cut to what’s going on at SimTech; what happened to Pearl has become news around the workplace, and they’re in a crisis meeting amongst the directors and the senior staff.

Warrick opened the meeting with a blunt question. “Do you think that we ought to suspend work in the sim?”

You can see why he’s doing it, but at the same time you can also appreciate how awful it must be for him to say that.

He expected a rush of responses, but the room stayed silent except for the low hum of the airconditoning, switching itself on to deal with the heat of so many bodies. Warrick looked around the table, finding all eyes on him. Almost all– Lew was staring down at the table, frowning.

Again, one of those moments where I sit here gnashing my teeth, going “DAAAAAMN,” because it’s so easy to see this all happening, and how much of a fucking epic series would this make? Yeah, I know. There’s not much of a chance of the BBC making a series that would cost this much and which features explicit gay sex with a fairly hefty side-serving of kink, where the cops are essentially the really bad guys (and does anyone want to imagine what the conservatives in the States would do if it happened? LOL) but damn it would be awesome.

Also, the first time I read this, my initial thought was, “Oh fuck. What the fuck is Lew Marcus up to now?”

“Three people have died,” Warrick continued. “Personally, I do not believe that the sim had anything at all to do with their deaths directly. I say that not because of my pride in my work, or because we can’t afford a delay in the program, but because I think it’s safe. I know it’s safe.”

He explains that he thinks that they’re under attack from people trying to sabotage them, and that in his opinion, closing the sim is giving the attackers what they want.

Asher agrees, pointing out that the sponsors would start to get even nervier, and that she’s been assuring them that nothing’s wrong with the technology.

Lew explains that they’ve taken all the sims outside the AERC offline and now everything in the workplace is heavily guarded; precautions have been taken, though Warrick’s wondering how the students and less senior staff are going to feel about working with it.

Since their resident psychologist is in the room, Warrick asks for Marian’s opinion on things, finding it understandably strange that such a vocal critic of the sim hasn’t already spoken up.

“Overall, I would recommend re-emphasising that sim work is voluntary. Forcing people to work with it would be damaging. From a commercial point of view,” she added, placing the words with precision, “continuing on a voluntary basis is the best option. If all work is suspended and staff believe that SimTech is going to fold, they’ll start looking for other jobs.” She shrugged. “Nothing you didn’t already know.”

Warrick agrees with this plan, and puts it to everyone that SimTech will go with it and let the rest of the people working there know about it.

Then he raises something else: someone’s been accessing test data.

Evidence he’d found while examining the supposedly closed files himself.

Of course.

“As you know, I&I has sealed all the data for the duration of the investigation. I do very much appreciate the efforts everyone is making for SimTech, but I don’t want anyone to end up in I&I answering unfriendly questions.”

And hearing him say things like that almost makes the company feel like one big warm happy family, doesn’t it? You can’t help but like the way he treats his fellow staff members; even though he’s at heart a pragmatist, he’s also actually a decent bloke.

But he’s not stupid, and he’s watching everyone’s reactions as he says it, and he tells them they’re to pass it onto their staff, too.

Meeting completed, everyone starts leaving, except Yang, who admits that he’s hesitant to work in the sim at the moment and asks Warrick for some time off. Warrick is nice about it, of course, but inwardly worrying: what  if they don’t manage to fix up the whole mess and other people join Yang?

The directors discuss it amongst themselves: after about two months, they’re going to have run out of money. Sponsors are withdrawing. Even P-Leisure are getting a bit toey and they’re ‘still reviewing their options‘ according to Asher.

She’s tired. They’re all tired, and they’re all worried. When Warrick notices Asher looks tired, ever the optimist about his company, he suggests that maybe after some sleep, things will look different in the morning.

Lew rose. “Well they’d better look different soon or it will be too damned late.”

Talk about ending that on an ominous note.

Baaaaack… At. Last.

And so, I crawl back.

I apologise for the hiatus; it’s been much longer than I anticipated it would be. Part of it’s been real life stuff getting in the way– uni, which has to take priority over pretty much everything else for reasons I don’t need to articulate– and some pretty up-and-down-all-over-the-place relationship drama that is thankfully sorted right now but managed to significantly rattle my studies. I could go into details, but it’s fairly long and boring: suffice to say that for the significant part of the last semester, I’ve felt like I’ve been spinning plates, and unfortunately, what had to give, and what I didn’t really have the energy for– was the fun fannish writing.

Also, in amongst two house moves, I managed to lose my copies of both books I was read-throughing. (Which is a pretty fucking shoddy excuse in Shades‘ case because the local op-shop always has them, but I’m stingy and didn’t want to buy a second copy.)

I guess one would argue that this project wasn’t exactly at the forefront of my mind a lot of the time, or in social psychology, they’d argue it, it wasn’t a particularly accessible thought.

And then: internet distraction. I’m talking the supposed “casual” things you do online and think will take a few minutes but then end up consuming a whole evening, not to mention getting seduced by more utterly fabulous and messed up things. A friend of mine introduced me to DRAMAtical Murder— a Japanese “yaoi” visual novel (a bit like a choose-your-own-adventure script-based game with very pretty graphics and music) which is basically a fucked up psychological thriller set in a cyberpunk-esque dystopian future with the types of equal parts insanely ridiculous and gut-wrenching “OMG, this got under my skin” ability that Japanese games can do to you in their own special way. And then, I somehow got encouraged into NaNoWriMo.

So it’s been partly circumstance and partly my own fault.

The point is, I’ve missed it like all hell, though it has, from time to time, occurred to me to come back: when I was asking the IT staff at uni for help with my laptop and found myself explaining the post-coital-Toreth-and-Warrick fanart on my desktop to the poor wide-eyed guy at the helpdesk when I couldn’t get my computer hooked up to the library server for printing an assignment, when I went into a certain Australian department store to buy some underwear and saw, well, this:

[yeah. I don't know what they were thinking either.]

Shades: the underwear/pjs. Because apparently some women who aren’t Ana want to sleep with Christian Grey.

Not only did I burst out laughing at the weird (there’s other underwear in the range which is actually quite okay… then there’s some more which just… no.) but I had to take a photo and went, “I need to update…”

And that was ages ago.

Anyway, a few things have happened lately, including the end of the semester, so it looks like I’ve got the time to get back to the fun stuff.

I’ve missed you guys, and I’ve missed the discussions on here. If anyone’s still around, I’m sorry I disappeared for so long and I hope to get back to what I was doing.

 

*waving, not drowning*

Just a quick update…

Firstly: I have half-finished recaps which I need to get back onto, but at the moment things have changed yet again in my life… I’m back at university. In other words: I GOT IN. So far I’m loving it and getting to do a bunch of subjects that interest me, so all is good. Actually, pretty fucking fantastic, I must admit.

(And on that note: Social Psychology is fascinating. I’m also doing Writing Fiction and we’re looking at what works in short stories at the moment and it’s awesome and it’s probably going to assist with doing this blogging. 🙂 )

Anyway, uni means I possibly have more time and ability to get some regularity happening, so hooray for that, and I’ll see you soon. 

 

On another note, I read in the paper last week that apparently detainees at gitmo are reading Shades

Consider this for a minute. Then consider that America apparently is opposed to “cruel and unusual punishment.” (Then again, they were waterboarding people over there, depriving them of sleep and pretty much fucking with them in pretty horrible ways, but… honestly…? If I was held captive and so starved for books that I was wanting to read Shades in all seriousness… I think that’s pretty fucking brutal.) 

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