May 18, 2021 5:15 AM
wwx and brenda banner do a science project
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"Do you want to do all your group projects with me for the rest of forever."

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Oh dear, it's one of those times where someone is definitely telling a joke and she can't tell if it's a nice joke or a mean joke. She hesitates a bit too long, then laughs and says "sure" like it was a nice joke while internally bracing for it to turn out to have been a mean joke.

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"Okay, see, you're making a face like you think I'm joking, which is very reasonable because I joke a lot, but in fact I'm completely serious about wanting to do all my group projects with the pretty girl who actually does work."

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"Pretty girl" is an entire minefield all on its own but wanting to do group projects with someone who does work is pretty reasonable separate from that.

"You also do work, so, sounds good to me." It's not like she has friends she especially wants to do projects with instead. Time to stare very intently at these here sketches and come up with something useful to say about them.

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"No, I don't. I build railguns, that's completely different from doing work. It's just that, by coincidence, building railguns is what I'm supposed to be doing right now. If I was supposed to be building a paper-mache model of Colorado I'd be playing a game of Don't Do The Work Chicken until it's the night before and I make Wen Ning do it."

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"Oh, I see. Railguns are admittedly more fun." Building a paper mache model of Colorado would also be fun because she could use different colors of paper for different rock strata and possibly represent the aquifers with giant paperless blobs of the goop but that is Off Topic. 

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"You should meet Wen Ning. He is the best person in the world. You'd love him. Unless you have terrible taste but I feel like you don't have terrible taste. You have a vibe of a person who has good taste."

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"I hope I have good taste, but of course I'm the least well-positioned person to evaluate that. I'd be happy to meet Wen Ning." This last is sort of a lie, in that her actual emotion around meeting people is a sort of vague undirected fear, but this is one of those cases where nobody wants or has a use for the full truth and it's fine to just make the expected noise.

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"Right, so, let's look at the diagrams. --This is in Spanish. I don't speak Spanish."

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"Oh shi--shoot, sorry, I was doing it in Spanish class, just a sec--" she snatches the paper back and scribbles translated labels.

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He snatches it back. "No! Don't translate it! I want to figure it out!"

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"Oh! Okay, sorry." He likes puzzles! She can definitely respect that. She goes back to looking at his designs, making very faint annotations he can erase easily if he doesn't want them. They're very practical, aware of the ways that hardware-store materials are not the same as idealized objects in a textbook problem. She likes his idea for the shape of the armature and how the golf ball will sit on it better than her own, but thinks her way of arranging the capacitor array will be more reliable.

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Wei Wuxian does NOT make annotations. He shoots questions at her as soon as he has one and half the time gets distracted or figures out the answer before he finishes the question.

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Brenda is happy to answer questions and doesn't mind being interrupted with the answers. She sort of minds being interrupted with something tangential but it's usually something interesting so hey, whatever. At least he understands what she's talking about and doesn't ask her to use smaller words.

Eventually she forces herself to ask, "So, um, what kind of supply budget are we looking at here? Just because there are some ways to make it more reliable or more powerful but we'd have to buy extra parts, and I don't know, like, what seems reasonable, in that area, for you." She has some money saved up from her cashier job and not a ton to spend it on, but she's by no means wealthy and good luck getting her parents to chip in.

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"...we can get whatever parts you want as long as you promise not to ask me where I got it from."

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"That is way more tempting than it should be but actually I would really rather we not steal anything. Not that I can stop you or anything. But I would really prefer if we didn't, if that's okay with you."

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"You don't know that I'm going to steal it. Maybe I know a really good Dumpster near a Home Depot and I'm worried that if people know about it they'll grab all the stuff before I get there. Maybe I can spontaneously generate railgun parts and I don't want anyone to know my powers because they'll experiment on me. Maybe I'm Lan Wangji's secret mistress and I'm going to use my womanly wiles to get him to buy it for me out of his trust fund."

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She is pretty sure he is joking but if he actually wasn't talking about theft she has just been very rude, so. "I can promise not to ask where you got stuff if you promise the answer isn't stealing?"

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"Oh, no, it's definitely theft. But I could be Lan Wangji's secret mistress. You don't know I'm not."

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"Oh, yes, definitely. I am completely ignorant of who is who's secret mistress." And also of who is publicly dating. 

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"If you're not going to let me get it the fun way-- is taking Wen Ning's allowance also going to be against the rules."

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"That sounds like it's between you and him, really." If someone told her that an important part of modern teenage friendship was constantly pickpocketing each other she would be skeptical, but only because people in books usually don't go in for that.

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"Oh! Excellent. In that case our budget is, uh, my entire savings which is like a hundred dollars and also maybe seventy-five dollars from Wen Ning. I could probably steal forty or fifty dollars from my brother and that doesn't technically count as theft because he's my brother."

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"And I can also put in about that much, and that should be enough to make it really powerful if we're careful with it." It's not literally her entire savings but it will leave her with somewhat less than she likes to have on hand in case of emergencies. It will be fine; she'll earn it back eventually. Cashiering is reliable work.

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"We are going to have the COOLEST project."

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