Jan 29, 2022 2:52 AM
Julian rescues Naima from Paris
Next Post »
+ Show First Post
Total: 243
Posts Per Page:
Permalink

"Eleven, eight, and six." Ching-hsia would have been fifteen. "I think it makes more sense to stay here with my parents for now. We can figure out how to get them to New York once they've decided. Ah. What's best for everyone involved." Okay, there's one thing he does want, and it's crazy, but this is New York, so – "Is there any way to arrange for me to board before everyone else? I know it's very rare to find mals on planes but I think I'll want to. You know. Check."  

Permalink

"I'll see what we can do. Date of birth for your identification? It doesn't have to be accurate but you will need to remember it."

Permalink

"March 19th, 2006." 

Permalink

"And mailing address for the identification?"

Permalink

He can give her one. 

Permalink

"Great. In about fifteen minutes I'll forward you an email with your flight confirmation for next Tuesday, July 9. The last thing we'll need from you is a picture of your face, with a neutral expression and a white background, for the ID; if you don't have a camera, you can look online for a person who looks close enough. If you send that to me by the end of the day tomorrow, your US passport and US citizenship documentation will arrive on Saturday; in a separate letter we will send a credit card connected to your enclave credit account. The credit limit is eight thousand US dollars or 62000 Hong Kong dollars per month; if you need to spend more than that, you can request an exemption by calling or emailing."

Permalink

Okay, cool, Julian has no idea how much money that is in terms of ability to purchase goods and or services. Probably a lot? It's New York. But the only amount of real world money he's had to think about lately is the value of Naima's indenture. It's hard to find up-to-date information on the value of the euro inside the Scholomance, but they'd done their best. It came out to somewhere in the neighborhood of a hundred million dollars. 

He lets himself wallow for exactly ten seconds before thanking Teresa. They have time. They'll figure something out. 

Permalink

His U.S. passport arrives in the mail three days later, as does his credit card. The credit card is in a general welcome package, which also contains blueprints of the enclave, a glossy magazine with pictures of all his new enclavemates, a list of mundane restaurants that do delivery to the enclave, and a page of phone numbers to call in emergencies. Someone has scribbled Welcome, Julian! across the front cover but it's otherwise clearly mass-produced. 

Permalink

You really have to hand it to New York – their production value is excellent. There's no way they have enough people joining the enclave every year for these to be efficient, so it must just be for the look of the thing. Do they update the magazine every – yep, there's last year's valedictorian, and her smile only looks a little bit forced. He shoves the rest of the welcome materials to the bottom of his suitcase and starts poring over the blueprints, trying to reconstruct the map in his head, exercising his senses for how it conforms to the existing magical terrain, where the wards must be placed, how the mana flows, where it can expand. He's going to be so fucking good at his job. 

His parents insist on a big family meal the night before he leaves, and it's only a little bit more award than he was expecting. Baba still won't shut up about financial products and mama still thinks he's going to eat shark fin soup and the kids don't even check under the table before they sit down even though it can't hurt to get into the habit early. They're definitely less fixated on their own impending death than he was, which is probably healthy, but does mean they don't have a whole lot in common. Choi-fung has an excuse – her affinity is apparently near term divination, which is fantastic, he'd be overconfident too – but he wishes their parents would do more to set her straight. He's disappointed, but not surprised. Mama and baba are good, normal, loving parents who want their children to be prepared but can't be drill sergeants 24/7.

That's exactly why they should never have had kids in the first place, of course. Indie kids with normal parents, to a first approximation, die. Ka-fai is almost nine, which is as old as he was when he realized that if he wanted to live he'd have to figure things out for himself, but he seems more interested in convincing mama that JRPGs count as language immersion. Julian isn't sure if he's letting the last four years seep backwards in his memory or if he was just a weirdly intense kid. Probably both. 

After a while, he tunes out of the conversation and starts going back over the blueprints in his mind. He knows he loves his siblings. He remembers their first words and helping them learn to write and how little Man-yuk, aged one and a half, cried for two whole days when he told her he was going away to school. He has the leverage to save their lives and he hasn't for a moment considered not using it. But he's not sure he likes them. Ka-fair is back on the subject of video games, and he has this dizzying flash-forward to his little brother at fourteen, having spent half his life in New York, as a smiling alien in glossy print. 

The flight is easier than he expected. He brings a tripwire. Mama gives him something to help him sleep, and he keeps dreaming he's back in the Scholomance except it's also New York but everyone is speaking French and the mals look like anime characters, and by the time he wakes up the plane is landing. 

Permalink

There's a man outside Arrivals at JFK, holding a sign that says "Julian Chan", dressed in a very sharp suit. Someone looking closer will notice that his shoes are oddly bulky for dress shoes, probably because they're a dress-shoe veneer over something you can fight in, but otherwise he fits in fine. 

Permalink

Julian is wearing his dad's old clothes because obviously nothing he owns is fit to wear in public and he hasn't felt up to going shopping! 

"Hey, I'm Julian," he says, like a cool collected human adult who didn't just almost have a breakdown in customs because he couldn't figure out how the passport reader kiosk thing worked. 

 

Permalink

"Hey, Julian! Have you been to New York before?"

Permalink

"No, this is my first time." First time outside Hong Kong, actually, except for the time his parents took him to Singapore when he was really little, and not counting the Scholomance, which obviously nobody does. 

Permalink

"It's about an hour in a car - quicker by subway, but I've never met a kid just out of school who didn't hate the subway, so we sent a car. Can I get you anything before we leave?"

Permalink

Julian has no idea if he'd prefer the subway or a car. Julian has never been in a car. He is having lots of new experiences today! 

"I'm fine, thanks."  

Permalink

The car is black and glossy and mildly sickening to be in. There's another person in a suit driving it. The man who picked Julian up opens the door for him and then waits several minutes in case Julian wants to check anything.

Permalink

Oh, that's very thoughtful of him, Julian does want to check everything. Up to and including lying down on the asphalt to examine the underside, which he refuses to feel embarrassed about. He's not paranoid, he's just cautious and has subclinical PTSD, and that probably describes half the enclave. 

Eventually they can get going. Turns out: cars are bad. "Hey, uh – I don't suppose you have anything for nausea?" 

Permalink

They do have something for nausea! Little white pill.

Permalink

How nice. 

Julian's take on New York is that he was led to believe it was a city, until they get to Manhattan, which at least looks like a real place where people live. 

Permalink

They enter an underground parking garage in the financial district, and the car winds down three levels past a sign that says 'no entry' and then past a dingy garage door that opens for them. There are three identical cars parked there, and four adults standing attentive with their backs to an elevator on the back wall.

 

"Hey!" the man who fetched Julian says to them, getting out of the car. "This is Julian Chan, valedictorian of the class of 2024 and our newest member! Julian, gate security. They should know your face, but if they ask you for ID these first couple weeks, don't give them a hard time, we ask them to err on the side of ensuring no one wanders in who shouldn't."

Permalink

"It's good to meet all of you." He wonders if they have magic illusion-proof contacts or something, that would be cool. "I assume I'll have to meet all the guards at some point?" 

Permalink

"Yes, but there's no rush as long as you're generally leaving out the same gate you came in; the shifts are day and night, switching at 2am and 2pm, so unless you're expecting to straddle one you can just introduce yourself on the way out."

Permalink

"And are the gates on the blueprints the only ones we're allowed to go in and out of?" 

It's pretty obvious from the blueprints that there have to be more, otherwise the lower level loops around itself in a way that makes no earthly sense. He checked on a map and he's pretty sure there's one in the west 90s but beyond that it's hard to be sure. 

Permalink

They look mildly startled. "- uh, there are some emergency exits, and some maintenance ones, but the blueprints reflect, uh, what's public," the man says.

Permalink

Ohhhhh. "You don't have to worry, nobody blabbed. My affinity is enclaves." 

Total: 243
Posts Per Page: