Interlude: VanderLinden

Mike studied his Student’s face thoughtfully for a few heartbeats. She was far too disingenuous for the naïve farm girl her records suggested she was, and far too good at concealing her emotions.

He was fairly certain that she would do as he’d told her to and unweave the ensorcellment she’d worked on Ambrus. He was also fairly certain that she had long-term plans for the poor kid, and that she was far more confident than she ought to be that her plans would succeed without whatever “thingy” she’d managed to pull off.

And, of course, that was the other thing. For all that they all thought of him as a child, Ambrus was no amateur at the art of seduction – and Manira ought to be. She shouldn’t have been able to catch the boy at all, much less as strongly as she had, and certainly not before her Change.

Reid was going to be all over his case until he figured this out – having decided it was his business, he wasn’t going to let go of it. And Mike didn’t really know what to do. Discipline wasn’t something he was good at. Dealing with kids wasn’t something he was all that good at.

He caught himself before he could devolve further into whiney misery. It was a little too late to not want to deal with kids. Besides, it was his fault – if he hadn’t introduced Luke and Regine, he never would have been in this position.

Luke. What would Luke do? Frown disapprovingly at the whole mess, probably. Not the most useful idea. Or threaten to kill the kid as a Nedetakaei. Mike didn’t think either one would be really appropriate here.

Nedetakaei. Crap, he had to discuss that with her, too, since she’d managed to miss his carefully-planned Don’t Be Evil seminar yesterday. ”Manira, while we’re talking about ethics…” (sort of) “…I wanted to bring up the matter of the fainting epidemic Wednesday afternoon in the Dining Hall.”

“It wasn’t me,” she said promptly, far too promptly. He narrowed his eyes at her.

“I get the feeling, young lady, that you’re not telling me everything.”

She blinked innocently at him. ”I wouldn’t lie to you, sir. That would be wrong.”

She was lying through her teeth. He couldn’t read a single emotion off of her, but she had to be lying. He shook his head mournfully at her. ”I expected better of you, Manira. You’re such a sweet girl.”

She frowned at him. ”I don’t know what you’re talking about, Professor. I’ve been good – except that little mess with Ambrus. I’ve kept my nose clean and haven’t started any trouble.”

“Well, ‘that little mess with Ambrus’ nearly drove the poor boy insane, so I wouldn’t say you start off with a clean slate here.” He was getting a little riled up now, channeling Luke’s righteous anger.

“Okay, sir,” she said contritely. ”But, sir, I…” For a moment, looking into her wide eyes, he almost felt sorry for her. But Mike had mastered the wide-eyed innocent look centuries ago. “I haven’t done anything else. I really don’t know why you think I’m up to no good.”

“Don’t lie to me,” he snapped. That got her attention, and for a moment, he saw real shock in her eyes.

“I… I didn’t…”

“Expect me to notice?” he finished dryly, and was rewarded by a look of chagrin, quickly hidden.

“Sir, I…” He borrowed an imperious gesture from Reid that shut her up effectively. If she made any more excuses, he was likely to get really angry.

“Don’t bother, Manira.” He steepled his hands and watched her get her confusion and dismay under control. ”Go deal with your Ambrus problem first. Release him from the ensorcellment. Apologizing to him would be a very good idea, too. He may be a pet, but he still has feelings.”

That he felt like the world’s largest hypocrite saying that was something he’d deal with on his own time.

“Okay, Professor.” She wasn’t even trying to hide how much she disliked that idea. Good.

“Good. I want to meet with you again on Monday after classes. By that time, I want you to have thought about what you are going to say to me that explains fully what is going on, without even the slightest hint of dishonesty. Because I will find out, even if I have to pry it from your brain.”

She winced. “Everything, Professor?”

“Everything, Manira.”

She nodded slowly. “Yes, sir.”


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