May 27, 2020 6:02 PM
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The guest list winds up being pretty huge.

To start with, there are now eight Bells. Pattern isn't bringing anyone besides herself, and Aegis no one besides herself and her Whistle, but everyone else -

Between Alice, the Joker, the rescued Queenie, Kas, Micaiah, and Sue, plus Ghosty who Amariah picked up on her way home, that's seven Whistles. (Stella thinks ahead: there is a soundproofed orgy chamber away from the main party awning. With a few nodes off of it in case more than one orgy forms; she can think of at least two other likely ones.)

There's an equally absurd number of Sherlocks and Tonies if you count them together. They have Juliet's matched set, Shell Bell's matched set, two other matched sets from Bell-less worlds (one with souled vampire, one both human), a stray Tony, and a stray Sherlock from Downside.

Amariah grabbed a random Libby on top of the random extra Whistle, but at least she's not incorporating anyone from home.

Golden's bringing much of her family and many of her friends - although Edward is staying home, that still leaves Elspeth and Jacob, Alice and Jasper with little Brandon, Rosalie and Emmett and little Henry, Nathan accompanying his mate and their child Kerron, Esme and Carlisle and their Lily, Addy, and Elena who'll get to see her brother. Golden claims that this is a conservative list and she could easily have produced another twenty enthusiastic guests. Stella doesn't doubt it. She puts up a few signs reading Please Conduct Adult Conversation Only Via Brainphone. Little Half-Vampires Have Good Ears And Perfect Memories. As a last-minute surprise, Golden has taken Elspeth's suggestion to bring Edward's deceased mother Elizabeth, too.

Juliet has, on top of her boyfriend and his - progenitor? - her tiny Libby, James, a tagalong thereto called Virginia, and a ghost called Minnie, plus Giles.

Angela's list is more modest: her, her husband, and their friends Alleluia and Caleb.

Shell Bell is responsible for half the Sherlocks-and-Tonies all by herself, a tagalong called Pepper, and also someone called Darcy and also Matilda. (Shell Bell is also the reason Angela is not inviting her brother-in-law.)

Stella herself is responsible for inviting Libby, Orfeo, Chris, Mary, Anna, Sandy, Eights, Chainsaw, Lazarus, Kolya (who is informed that it would be awfully inconvenient for a majority of Bells to all have to coordinate on pretending he doesn't exist when only one of them has even met him to be able to identify him in the first place, so he can simply stay home if he's planning to be hidey), and Bridget.

Stella sets up a name tag system. Everyone will have a tag stuck to them. Solo persons - a minority - will just have their names. People with template names and nicknames will have both stamped on automatically. ("Hi! I'm a Bell, and you can call me Stella!"; "Hi! I'm a Whistle, and you can call me Alice!" "Hi! I'm a Sherlock, and I don't have a distinguishing nickname yet but as soon as I pick one it will appear here!")

She conjures up a nice buffet of food and beverages which will stay its correct temperature until consumed, and assorted synthetics for the vampires (labeled not for human consumption), and dishes and flatware (all glass; even some of the food-eating guests might dissolve anything else) and fusses with the awning opacity until it lets in just the right amount of sun, and, what the hell, she throws in a stage in case Angela wants to sing or she decides to play the flute or someone decides to pentagon some other performative skill to entertain the crowd. She makes sure there are enough bathrooms for all the people who still need bathrooms.

She puts out a few tables here and there with little bowls of squares and triangles - a mix of her glowing red and Alice's shifty black - in them for everyone's convenience. She accumulates coins in those sizes faster than she generally uses them and has a great many, so there are plenty for anyone to dip and wish if something comes up. She double-checks to make sure the Martian ground rules prohibit any misuses available for those size coins.

Jane gets one of those high-tech holographic projectors, on wheels, which she promptly manifests in, drives around the floor, and makes faces through.
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James arrives with the initial wave of the Sunshine contingent, which also includes Juliet and Virginia.

"Ooh, nametags," she says, peering at hers.

"...Why," wonders Virginia, "does mine say I'm a [Template unnamed]?"
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"Uh," says Juliet, peering at the nametag, "good question, I guess there's another of you who was previously unidentified as same so Stella's nametag program got confused and this is what the error message looks like?" She looks around for other redheads.

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There's one! She's with that older Tony.

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Shell Bell has also noticed the nametag error. "There must be an alt of you here," she tells Pepper. "Now wh- Oh, over there with Juliet. Want to meet her?"

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"I would love to," says Pepper. "Coming, Tony?"

"To meet a tiny Pepper? I don't know whether I should be endeared or terrified," he says, "but around you that's not news. Let's go."

And he heads for the Sunshiners like it was all his idea. Pepper smiles to herself and follows.
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Shell Bell trots after. "What should we call the template?" she asks. "I bet Stella's nametags pick it up as soon as there's something for them to latch onto."

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"Hi, Template-Unnamed-Who-I-Can-Call-Pepper," says Juliet, waving. "Hi - oh, you have a nickname, you might be the only Tony with a nickname and only a handful of the Sherlocks do and mine's is out of date now - hi, Iron Man."

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"What if you can't call me Iron Man," says Tony, smiling, "what if I find it deeply embarrassing, what then?"

Pepper laughs. "Hi, Bell-who-I-can-call Juliet! It's very nice to meet you. And..."

She turns her smile on Virginia. Virginia smiles back.

"What should we call our template?" says the younger of the two.

"Would 'Virginia' not work?" wonders the older.

"Well, then I'd have to pick a distinguishing nickname..."
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"Would you object to everybody calling you Virgo instead of just James doing it?" inquires Juliet. "Besides, Stella apparently went and called James's template 'Libbies', so at least one of them does not have a sufficiently distinguishing nickname either."

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"I don't think Stella would've had the nametags put things that we would rather not be called," Shell Bell assures Iron Man. "Not with so many Whistles around."

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"I'd rather be Virginia," says Virginia.

"Virginia it is," says Pepper. Their nametags alter themselves accordingly.
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"So, why 'Iron Man'?" Juliet inquires of Iron Man. "I can't really see my Tony running with that, although to be fair he's only been un-dead for, like hours, but I can't really see the one who visited to install Sunshine's Jarvis doing it either and he was around for days."

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"It's the media's fault," says Iron Man, "like most things I've been called in my life, really, I should be used to it by now."

"I think it's cute," says Pepper. "It's very you."

"Yes," he deadpans, "I tend to rust if you leave me out in the rain, I'm glad you noticed that."
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"Okay, but why does the media call you that?"

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"Because of the suit," says Iron Man. "It's actually not iron, it's a gold-titanium alloy..."

"What Tony means to say," says Pepper, "is that he's a superhero."

"That would be one way to put it," says Gold-Titanium Alloy Man. "A not entirely inaccurate way."
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"Darcy is too, but she went off to mingle," volunteers Shell Bell. "She has a magic space hammer instead of a suit. It's apparently a thing in their world."

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"I was doing something very like superheroing until I got murdered!" says Juliet. "James here was called up as my successor - it is not a voluntary superheroing gig, it's kind of awful - but since I also got minted at around the same time I'm hoping to render it unnecessary that she engage in fisticuffs with demons."

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"Not that fisticuffs with demons doesn't sound exciting," she says, "but it's not how I'd prefer to use my time."

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"Back up," says Iron Man, "murdered?"

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"Yeah, several of us are dead - including my copy of you, and sort of my Sherlock - I got murdered, Shell Bell got assassinated, Pattern got hit by a car. People have tried to kill Golden twice and Amariah once but they didn't pay enough attention to Golden to finish the job and the guy took too long about it with Amariah and her boyfriend's daemon killed the bastard. The guy who murdered me is in jail. He did it right in front of my dad, who is the chief of police, not a smart cookie."

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"Ooh, ouch," he says, "I'm sorry. I was kidnapped once," he offers. "That stuff's never fun."

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"It's not! Murderer dude drugged me to take away my powers, swiped my magic swag, and locked me in a house with a vampire, and when I talked my way past him and went to confront him he used my last square to kill me. But all's well now, pretty much."

She pauses for a moment. This is probably a good time to share her confession with the other Bells.

[Peal, a little more detail on what happened with vampire-me than I put in the book. Sheeeeee raped my boyfriend. Do not, repeat, do not, become one of those things.]
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Shell Bell flinches just a little at that. [Got it,] she replies.

"Your last square - tell me again how you managed to use them all up that fast," she says. "I made you hundreds - thousands - before I left."
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"Yeah, there were hundreds-thousands of this kinda golem monster thing that were totally indestructible - one of them nearly killed me, I would've died if it weren't for Amariah's blessings probably - fire wand didn't faze them one bit - but a square would knock them over. One per, though, so when we ran into a ridculous number of them we had to go through every last square thinning the herd to let Sherlock get to the guy who was controlling while I led the others away."

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"That sounds exhausting," says Iron Man. "Still, you heroed your way through it, good for you."

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