Jan 29, 2022 1:58 AM
Julian rescues Naima from Paris
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The apartment is smaller than he remembers. 

That's the first thing Julian thinks, inanely, lying on the living room carpet while baba cries and mama tries to patch up a nasty-looking abdominal wound. He wonders when it happened; he certainly wasn't paying attention. Before graduation, he'd worried he wouldn't be able to focus with nothing between him and that solid mass of maleficaria, and he was right to worry, it's really nothing like the obstacle course at all – but he hadn't counted on the gates. The second he saw them, rising up over the horde, it was like he couldn't see anything else, and all he could do was cast, cast, cast – and at this point he's pretty sure he could cast a time spear in his sleep. 

The second thing he thinks is that Naima must be out by now.

He'd been at the front of the formation, and she was at the back – they'd offered, for the obvious reason, and it made sense anyway since Malak and Julia needed to stay in the center to keep up the spell that made their team the least interesting thing in the hall. That means she can't be more than 15 seconds behind him.

"...need a phone."

And, oh, Choi-fung has hers out, that's convenient, he's just going to grab that now, but the cut in his side seems to have other ideas, and in the end baba ends up holding the screen to his face so he can start to find out who's still alive. 

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It takes about three minutes for the email from Naima to appear. The first one is cc'd to him and half a dozen other people, including Julia and Malak and Annisa.

hey guys i'm alive

- naima


And that's it.

About sixty seconds later a second one appears, this one not cc'd to anybody.

Some guy from Paris is here already. I probably have an hour but I don't know if this contact info will work after that. If you don't hear from me then that's where I am, I'm not deliberately ignoring you or anything.

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An hour? It's not like he didn't know the man in Paris who arranged for Naima's slot was deranged, but seriously, what the hell. Whatever. They're both alive. Deranged elderly Frenchmen aren't the scariest thing they've had to face. 

To the rest of his friends (a slightly longer list). 

I'm alive. Will send you my own phone number as soon as I have one. 

And to Naima. 

I love you too. If they don't let me write I'll cause a diplomatic incident. 

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There are eleven minutes between that and the next email, according to the timestamps.

Love you. Very cool how we're both alive. Will figure something out.

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They'll figure something out. So that's that. 

The rest of his contact list has about a 50% response rate, which he's decided in advance he's going to process in two weeks when being alive feels a bit more normal. In the meantime, he can watch bad TV and eat alarming quantities of seafood stew and ask his parents how Ching-hsia died (early mana spurt, crawler, nothing anyone could have done). He's too wired to sleep until his mother gives him something and then he's out for nearly 15 hours. 

The next morning (Hong Kong time) he calls Julia to talk logistics. 

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There's a bunch of background noise. "Hell -o?" says Julia's voice, unmistakeable including, these last years, in its slight edge; she doesn't recognize the number.

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"It's me. Is this a bad time?" 

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"Now's fine! I'm at a spa, so I might be vague, I promise it's not that I forgot who you are the minute I graduated."

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A spa? Wow, Julia is brave. The Scholomance might be a horrifying death trap, but he knows it, down to every last blind corner to avoid and which tables in the shop need a little extra care before it's safe to sit down. And now he's supposed to just go outside? In a city he hasn't even cased? Not yet, no fucking thank you. 

"Lucky you! I got a little bit stabbed towards the end and my mom is giving me dirty looks every time I try to get out of bed." Which is even technically true. It doesn't matter at all, now, but he still want to sound like a coward.  "Anyway. I want to get things set up with New York as soon as possible since it's not going to be straightforward. Is there someone in the enclave I'm supposed to call? Or do you think I should fly out to talk it over in person?" 

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"Tell your mom she's in good company, Magnus has, like, a scratch on his arm and med's refusing to discharge him. I don't have a scratch and they made faces about letting me go. 'your iron levels are low' - uh huh, and you know what's good for that? Sunbathing." Muffled - "hey, Annaka, who's the HR person -"

There's further background noise, and then Julia again, chipper. 

"You want to call Teresa, and she'll probably have you fly out, if you can travel - you don't need to, like, pack all your stuff, or anything, most people take a gap year or three - do you have a pen or something to take down Teresa's number -"

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"I think I'll be able to fly by next week. Seeing a real healer in New York wouldn't be the worst idea, actually, I was being a little facetious about the stabbing, I think I saw some intestines. And I can do one better than a pen, I've got a real bona fide cellular telephone, dad picked it up last night. Isn't it amazing how thin they are now?" 

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"I think iPhones here have actually, somehow, managed to get larger rather than smaller! Maybe Hong Kong's doing better. Okay, Teresa's 212-365-5540, she should know to expect you."

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"Cool. Have – fun? Have whatever emotional experience you're supposed to have at a spa." 

It's probably way after working hours in New York, but whatever, this is why they presumably pay Teresa the big bucks. He'll give her a call. 

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"Broder Financial Instruments, New York office, how can I help you?" says a perfect receptionist voice, picking up on the first ring.

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Of course they'd have some mundie front organization. Fuck. Is the receptionist in on it? What is he supposed to say

"This is Julian Chan, calling for Teresa." Seems safe enough. 

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" - oh, hello, Julian, this is Teresa. It's good to hear from you. Congratulations on graduating!"

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Yeah, thanks, not being eaten alive feels pretty great! Hopefully this level of chipper dissimulation is an HR thing and not a New York thing or the rest of his life is going to be completely exhausting. 

...and that's not something to dwell on right now because he's about to make the biggest ask of his life. Courage, sticking point, etc. etc. etc. He just needs to sound confident. It shouldn't be hard. Teresa's not a maw mouth and he stared down one of those just yesterday.

"I don't know how much Julia told you, but my situation is a little unusual. I'm asking New York to take my younger siblings. There are three. I know this isn't something you normally offer, but in my case I think you're going to want to make an exception. I'm thinking of flying out next week to talk things over." 

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"Julia mentioned that that was a priority for you. I think it's a great idea for you to fly over and talk with us, it's definitely complicated and we'd want to make sure it's a good idea for everyone involved. And of course our gates are open to you whenever you'd like - would you like us to book you a flight?"

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Irritating HR-speak, yes, but not an overt fuck you! Julian is optimistic. "That'd be great, thanks." Nice of them not to make him admit he doesn't have the slightest idea how to book one for himself. "I'm still recuperating, so sometime next week would be ideal." 

His parents are probably going to be upset he's flying out so quickly, but, hey. They'll live. 

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"Sure thing. Do you have mundane identification you prefer to travel under, or would you like us to mail you some?"

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"Oh, I'd have to ask my parents, just a second –" he covers the phone. "Hey, baba! Do I have a legal identity? – cool, thanks." 

Back to Teresa – "Okay, I have a birth certificate but not a valid passport. Probably easier for you to send me something and work that out later." 

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"All right. What name would you like it under?"

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"This would be an American passport, right? My own name is fine. There have to be a million Julian Chans."  

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"All right. Will anyone be traveling with you? Parents, siblings, guards..."

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"Oh, god, do you think I'll need them?"

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"No. But some recent graduates prefer not to travel alone out of habit, or if you want to bring your siblings along, I don't have down with me how old they are..."

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