May 18, 2021 3:26 AM
Teddy, recent orphan*, works through new powers, a new school, and grief.
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"No, the church thing turns out to be me being intuitive and amazing. I have been given a standing invite to an 'Alpha function', apparently. Whole conversation made me feel like I was a kid in the first act of a don't-do-drugs PSA. Or, like, a pyramid scheme, or a murder fraternity."

It's still gauche to use Greek letters like that. How generic. Victoriatus remains equally dubious. Nothing wrong with drugs, though, Teddy.

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Isaac whistles. "Teddy, you should definitely take that invitation. I'll leave it to you whether you want to actually join the club, it is kind of a lot of work to be one of the official cool kids at a school as ambiently cool as Whateley, but their parties are great. No drugs necessary. Only group on campus with better parties than the Alphas is the Golden Kids, and that's just because they're all rich as shit and can fly in French people to make hors d'oeuvres."

"Have you actually been to an Alpha party?" Morty wonders.

"Once. It fucking ruled. No inexplicable purple mixed drink, but that's why I've got a hip flask."

"I thought your hip flask was full of cream soda."

"Not when I'm in Party Mode."

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A sort of golden lens flare occurs around Teddy's eyes for the duration of Isaac's description of the Golden Kids, which she simply does not appear to notice. It really ought to have blinded her?

"I'm going to continue being standout-level cool anyway, although if Callum registers as cool around here, I dunno. I might be working off a different standard." Teddy sighs theatrically. "But if it means Isaac gets to use me for party access, I can't imagine how I could refuse." She has Callum's email, might as well start figuring out where she has time this week to check out the, eurgh, Alphas.

Ask about the rich golden children. Vic is trying to be sly, almost subliminal, which means he's just getting ignored.

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"You're a gentleman and a scholar, Teddy," Isaac grins.

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Teddy types without looking, letting Callum know just how committed her schedule already is (very) and how interested she is in attending a meetup (somewhat) and can they work with that? If she comes off cool and undesperate then it's a happy coincidence. She ends the email with a

B)

"You're a damsel and a felon, Isaac," she replies. "I should however probably avoid the Golden Kids, since their whole aesthetic deal seems to make Vic want to lead a cult."

A god does not lead a cult. He is its beneficiary. Its fulcrum.

Huh?

This is, like, basic stuff, Teddy.

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"You don't have to worry about the Golden Kids unless you're secretly a millionaire or something," Morty says sagely.

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"They don't, like, hunt down millionaires and force them to attend fancy parties, right, that'd be very fucked up," Parvati says with some concern.

Isaac shakes his head. "No, but they'll keep sending you fancy invitations with gold in the ink and stuff until you at least try it out. At least that's what I've heard from Callum."

"Wait, Callum's in the Golden Kids, too?" Morty blinks.

"Yeah, his family does pharmaceuticals and they're loaded."

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Teddy makes a noise like, Well of course Callum is rich, and she makes the noise like she isn't herself a multimillionaire. Well, presumptive inheritor of a multimillionaire. Given that her mom is unfindable. There's a trust, it's a whole thing with lawyers. Callum's setup is probably simpler. Teddy slams back a palmful of roast cashews, and chews grimly.

"Can you imagine," she says after a gulp of carrot juice, "getting to a mutant school with giant crystal domes and mythical wizard professors, and then founding a weird country club for teenagers?"

(At somewhere around 'gold in the ink', anyone with gold or silver fillings nearby tastes something abruptly sweet, somewhere between olive oil and honey. It lasts a few seconds, with a long tail. Teddy, with perfect teeth, continues cashewing.)

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"I know," Parvati says. "Like, are they-"

There's a silvery flicker of motion near Teddy's elbow, and suddenly there's a cream-colored envelope on her tray. On the front, in gold-flecked black ink, it reads Teddy Ntkima Terentin.

"-trying to- uh?" Parvati blinks. "...you've got mail."

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Teddy starts, rolls her eyes,  and snatches up the envelope. "They could just send an email! This can't be what magic is for!" She's actually impressed, that was very slick, but still: No sense in letting lurking rich kids know that.

She's about to just rip the letter open when she has an idea. Shiiiiing, with five full Is, is the actual sound as she unsheaths the Sword in the middle of the cafeteria and uses its improbably honed tip to slice a straight line through the expensive envelope's lip. This thing can't be vellum, can it? (Well, it can, actually, she saw some on sale at the student store a while ago.) At least they got the name right.

They could have gotten more gold in the ink. I could have, at least.

Not so impressed now? Teddy mentally raises a brow.

Well, now, I can't expect every teenager to completely bowl me over. That would be unfair.

Belatedly, eyes scanning the contents of the envelope, Teddy resheaths the Sword. Safety first, people.

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Ms. Ntkima Terentin,

The Superior Court of the Golden Crown, more colloquially known as the Golden Kids, invite you to our inaugural gathering of the 2012 school year, to be held this Saturday evening.

You are currently thinking to yourself, "why would I want to hang out with these boring rich kids, talking about stock options and eating caviar?" This is not an unreasonable thought. Let us explain.

You have powers beyond the mortal ken. We all do. Our powers, however, are not what set us apart from the crowd of Whateley. What sets us apart is money. Our classmates do not know what it is to grow up surrounded by every conceivable luxury, yet still feel something missing. Conversely, we do not know their struggles - "can we really afford this", quietly hiding their off-brand sneakers, whatever. We can certainly cross those borders, make friends with those who envy us without knowing what it is that they envy, but we will never truly be like them.

That is where the Golden Kids come in. I promise you, we are not so pretentious as to have parties where we act like our parents. We have parties where we are free to act like ourselves. Where we can complain that our parents were emotionally neglectful, without someone butting in to say "it must have been nice to be neglected in a mansion". Where we can tell each other things that are helpful to those with our resources - if you have ever wanted to know whom to bribe to get Armagnac through security, we can help. Where we can eat caviar without people making fun of us for eating caviar. (Honestly. It tastes good.)

This particular event, being our inaugural meeting for the year, will feature a brief talk by Ayla Goodkind, an alumnum of Whateley with a unique perspective on wealth and power(s). (Since you likely take pride in not knowing who that is, a brief primer: They were disowned by the notoriously mutophobic Goodkind family of billionaires following their manifestation as a mutant, and were cut off with a sum of several million dollars in exchange for dissociating their identity from the family completely rather than causing a scandal. Their time at Whateley was characterized by distrust from nearly everyone around them, but through a series of well-planned financial moves they grew their wealth and personal influence, and following the events in Detroit, they stepped in to help coordinate response efforts and make a name for themself. They are now one of the richest people in the world, one of the only mutants on that list, and one of the only people of any description on that list to actually use their wealth to help people on a regular basis.)

We eagerly await your response.

-Nkechi Maiya

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Teddy reads the letter aloud, which takes several minutes including color commentary. She maintains a disaffected tone throughout, and definitely doesn't stumble at all when she gets to the part about mansion neglect. Vic meanwhile tabulates the amount of gold fleck per sentence. In Roman numerals.

This letter ends up being good enough at predicting Teddy's feelings to be really annoying, while being just wrong enough about her motives to be also really annoying. It's a really annoying combo! Of course she knows who Ayla Goodkind is, they're... some rich person. It would be idiotic to specifically avoid learning pop culture trivia for, what, clout with the poor kids? Is that what the Golden Kids think, that she's slumming it trying to look cool? Strategizing, signalling, trying to seem all impressive? Teddy doesn't need to try.

"Honestly, I was planning on ignoring them entirely but they seem to think I'm going to do that for stupid reasons, which obviously can't be allowed to stand." She says this definitively, no question marks, but is in fact awaiting responses from her actual peers.

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"Jeeeeeez," Morty says.

Isaac snorts. "You don't need to bribe Security to get alcohol on campus. It'd be like cutting a hole in a sieve so you can pour water through it."

Parvati preens one of her wings distractedly. "This Nkechi person has an... interesting view of poor people. Off-brand sneakers and making fun of people for living in mansions? Really? I mean, mansions suck, but if somebody grew up in one it's their parents' fault, not theirs."

"In fairness to Nkechi, she grew up in an estate in Nigeria, followed by a series of European boarding schools," Isaac says offhandedly. "So she doesn't have a ton of perspective on how people behave when their families aren't obscenely wealthy."

"Why do you know literally everyone?" Morty complains.

Isaac just shrugs.

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Teddy snorts. "Like, just jump the booze over a fence! I know about ten people just so far with jumping powers!" She wonders how the Golds arrived at the decision to have their African kid write to her. "Isaa–"


There's a blurring, and Teddy is in her head again. A (dream of the) corner of her bedroom, with her dormitory desk arranged to mimic an office, and cloth-of-gold hanging from the ceiling, implying walls.

Teddy, would you say that you feel these children have challenged you to prove yourself against them?

Vic is seated, with the letter in one hand. He looks, again, somewhere between Dad and Teddy herself, like a sibling she never met. He's dressed like one of Dad's terrible lawyers, beige, but with gold jewelry.

Uh? Teddy says, or imagines she does.

Well, I would just note, Vic continues, tapping the letter, that they announce themselves as the Superior Court of the Golden Crown. Superior to whom? This dining table? Your pleasant lunch cohort? You, specifically?

Teddy rubs the back of her head. Is that not kind of a stretch, Vic?

Teddy, that is what I am asking you to answer. If they demand that you prove yourself, then that falls within my purview. And that would be fun. He's a child, now, in his lawyer costume. The only thing more satisfying than a precious metal cult, one full of youth and hedonism and bribery, would be its glorious and publicized defeat at my hands. He looks at his hands, soft and kid-sized. Well. At your hands, really.

...It sounds like you want me to do this, Vic.

It feels like you want you to do this, Teddy.


After about ten seconds of awkward unconsciousness, Teddy's focus returns to the table. She fumbles for her bag.

"Sorry, guys, technical difficulties. Vic says hi." She snatches the first blank piece of paper she finds, a college-ruled sheet ripped from a spiral notebook, and slaps it down next to her food on the table. "Actually, he says 'Let the children know that their worth is represented, not determined, by gold.' but I'm going with hi."

The letter from the Golden Kids buzzes audibly in Teddy's hand for a moment before a cloud of sparkles flies out of it. The swarm of glittering particles orbits a few times before stabbing at the blank page Teddy has offered it. In a fair imitation of her handwriting, it now says Challenge accepted. It says this in solid gold. She folds it in thirds.

Almost before she can finish, the page floats away vaguely, across the cafeteria, over heads. Teddy has no idea to where. She sips her juice. The letter from the Golden Kids now consists of paper and black ink.

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Morty grins. "Oh, that's fun."

Isaac whistles. "Was that an off-the-cuff spell or just - gold manipulation powers? I guess there's not so much a difference when you're a gold-and-victory spirit. Very fun."

Parvati looks mildly concerned. "Please don't start a blood feud with a cabal of emotionally stunted rich kids, Teddy."

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Yeah, magic is as magic does. Or something. Isaac seems to be able to answer his own questions pretty well. Teddy just got the paper out, was all. For all she knows, Vic's response is going to get stuck in some rafters somewhere.

"Come on, Par, I can't let you be the only one agitating for change around here!" She chucks her on the shoulder. "Like I said, I was all ready to let them be wrong but then they just had to be wrong about me." Teddy will be needing to structure her time even more stringently than normal, if she's going to attend two distinct weirdo shindigs with option for more. Nothing she can't handle, of course, but... she may need to add a quaternary highlighter color to her schedules.

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Her phone buzzes with an email from Callum.

Hey Teddy,

Great to hear from you. We can work with that schedule! Friday night looks clear from where we are, and it's a pretty traditional party night; how's that sound for the Alphas party? You can bring your roommate, too, she seemed cool when I apparently met her.

Also, you may be interested to know that Nkechi choked on her falafel when your missive came in, and is still coughing occasionally. Haven't seen her that surprised since - I don't remember, I might have just never seen her that surprised. She's back to chuckling doomily, though, so I don't think there was any permanent damage.

Oh, she also wants me to tell you that we didn't have her write the letter because you're both black (sorry if that was how it came off), she chose to write the letter because she thought it'd get under your skin more effectively. And she's the one who writes the letters. I'm super looking forward to you meeting her, I feel like you're not going to get along at all but you'll both have a ton of fun with it.

-CD

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Hi, Cal.

Another example of my exemplary abilities. Another knock against Nkechi's 'we're not so different, hero' stratagem. Shrug! You can tell her it was less 'both black' and more 'both have a phoneme in our name that is incredibly rare in New England. And both African.' But hey, no foul. On that specific count. Watch your backs!🗡️

...

"Par, do you want in on the Alpha shindig?" Teddy asks, tapping. "Sorry, Isaac, it seems like I'm going to have to work on getting them to be into you." She raises an eyebrow at Parvati, implying certain Things.

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Parvati flutters slightly. "Ooh. Um. Hm. The whole 'Alphas' thing is weird but also weirdly enticing. ...you know what, sure, I'm not going to get anywhere declining party invites from the cool kids."

Isaac shrugs. "No problem. Callum knows by now that I'll probably show up anyway."

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"See, you don't even need me there, Isaac. Very enterprising."

'Enticing' isn't quite how Teddy would describe it, but then that's why Whateley gives you a roommate and not a clone. Should be good to have someone there with her, anyway, and if Par can distract Callum, all the better.

...

My roommate can probably make Friday, and so can I. Thanks, by the way, for infecting me with Invited to All of the Clubs Disease. You absolute vector.

Thanks,

-TNT✨

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Callum sends her a thumbs-up, a winky face, and a firecracker emoji.

Dinner is concluded before too long. The boys head off to their own dorm, and Parvati turns to Teddy as they leave the Crystal Hall. "Do you mind if I go flying for a bit, instead of heading right back to Whitman? I haven't gotten the chance to just fly for fun in a while."

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"Is this a wanna-be-alone-for-a-bit thing, or just a flying-is-fun thing?" she asks back.

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"Oh, it's just flying-is-fun, but I don't think it'd be that much fun to just sit out here watching me fly around? So you can head back to the dorm, don't feel like you're abandoning me."

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"I was just thinking that if you kept it more horizontal than vertical on average, I bet I could keep up with you."

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