Istain seated himself, thinking furiously of ways he could express his opinion, both of sadistic military mind-games and smart-ass college girls. He wished his notebook worked out here. He could write down some of the insults in his head.
But his implants were so much dead ink and crystal, and Madene and the two proctors didn’t provide much in the way of scintillating conversation. Istain was traveling with two stuffed-shirt, power-tripping fascists and a girl who thought a good time was an hour spent meditating under a waterfall, and a good conversation was an argument that she won, probably conducted through her hair.
And even that would have been an improvement over Madene’s grim silence. The surly environmental-science-major hadn’t said two sentences to him since the Proctors had arrived at Eldritch College and bundled everyone into transport spheres. Zathara had gone back to the Nation of Love, Kendrick to Between, and Istain and Madene were on their way to Virgin Soil. For some reason.
Now, Istain could only take so much boredom before the words in his head started to overflow. No matter what the Proctors said about socks and his vocal chords.
“What in the burning libraries are we doing here?” asked Istain for what must have been the ninetieth time. He wondered if they were as tired of hearing the question as he was of saying it.
The Proctors exchanged a look and, glory be, one of them actually returned the conversational volley. It was Lucan who spoke. Maybe he was bored too. “Well, our, you know, good friends to the north have asked for a visit from your friend Madene, and your government is happy to oblige, that’s what.”
“Right,” said Istain, “because the High Maiden got all those heart-shaped letters Madene sent her through the Warrior Maiden consular services and decided she reciprocated. Come on, guys. What on earth does our friendly neighborhood dictatorship want with two college kids?”
“I am glad to see your Eldritch degree hasn’t entirely blunted your analytical skills,” grunted Clanat, the boss.
“I haven’t gotten a degree yet,” said Istain. “In fact, I’m missing classes right now, rolling through the frozen ass-end of grassy no-where.”
“The High Maiden herself requested me, Istain,” said Madene.
Istain narrowed his eyes at her. “That’s what these Proctors say, anyway.”
“When we cross into Virgin Soil, I’ll come into my Maidencraft powers.”
“Yes,” said Istain, “but the High Maiden has powers too. And all the women in her army. They don’t oppress two thirds of their population on the power of suggestion alone.”
“Ha ha. Cute.” Clanat leaned into Istain’s field of vision. “Remind me to smack you on the head if you open your mouth in the presence of a Warrior Maiden official.”