Aug 17, 2022 3:57 AM
Julian rescues Naima from Paris
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"Oh. ....Well, that's a useful one. At least out here."

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"I certainly hope so."

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"None of the buttons do anything," the man says gruffly as they enter the elevator. "Or, well, they all take you either up or down to mundane places. You want to ignore them all and just wait, and then someone on a camera will - ah, there we go." They go up.

 

The doors open out on a small park, surrounded on all four sides with buildings about ten stories high. There are tall trees shading a playground where some young kids are playing; there are picnic benches. The fake sun filters convincingly down through the treetops; there are cloud formations in the sky above.

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It's both incredibly impressive and somehow underwhelming. He knows exactly how hard it is to build something like this into the void, but it still seems off that the greatest and most powerful society of wizards in the world looks like a nice suburb. 

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"So, tell us about this boy," says Julia's mother. 

 

"Oh my god, Mom," says Julia, mostly on reflex. And then more seriously - "he wants to get his siblings in. He's got an enclaves affinity and he figures someone will take him up on it - and he's right, someone will - the Scholomance keeps giving him its blueprints and we're really fucking lucky that Shanghai offended him at some point -"

"We don't usually do that," says Julia's father. 

"You don't say. You can do it or lose him. Probably not to Shanghai, but maybe; I bet if he cools off about them enough to get in a room with whatshisname the artificing genius he'll be seduced within the hour."

"It's hard on the kids, adding a new one to their cohort -"

"They're, like, little kids, we're not talking about a thirteen year old. And it's not that - all that unit cohesion stuff is slightly overrated, honestly? You can't teach a bunch of children what it's going to be like and once it is like that they catch on real fast. Plus they're probably smart, cause, you know, genetics. I think we should do it. You know, the saying about how America is going to beat the Chinese cause our Chinese are smarter than their Chinese."

"It's a little impolitic," says her father. 

"What's that, is it a kind of mal?"

Annaka is beaming at her and Annaka's approval feels a little bizarre, she's not sure how she got it and she's not sure she wants it. 

"Enough politics," says Julia's mother, "tell us about him as a person! How'd you meet? What's he like?"

"...he's the valedictorian. That's really - I'm not sure you can be the valedictorian and also have another personality trait on top of that. I met him, uh, freshman year actually, he helped me appease my rug by writing Buddhist sutras on my wall. He's got a girlfriend, she got herself into Paris."

Julia's mother looks very disappointed that Julian has a girlfriend.

"Mom, I couldn't date someone named Julian, it'd be awful. No one would ever be able to talk about either of us separately."

"Girlfriend got herself into Paris and they're...planning to do long distance?" says Julia's father. 


"It's not that long distance, right? Train to London and then walk right through the tunnel. Maybe they'll break up, I dunno."

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They have a room set aside for Julian. It's a hotel room, approximately -- a nice hotel room, but that's all. It has a main room with a queen bed and a desk and then a spacious fancy bathroom with a hot tub and a fancy shower. It has no other furnishings, probably because kids just out of the Scholomance don't appreciate it. A sticky note on the desk informs him that the wifi password is 'passionate artisans eat deviled eggs'.

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This is more space than Julian has ever had to himself in his entire natural life. He checks the perimeter, because, fine, maybe he's a little paranoid, and draws a bath, and lets his parents know he's alive and in New York, and checks his email just like he does every day to see if there's anything from Naima. There isn't, of course. 

He was just unconscious for almost fifteen hours, but he figures another ten can't hurt. 

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In the morning he has an email. 

Hey! Welcome to our home sweet slightly larger box in the Void. My parents want to have you over for dinner! This is not the negotiation about the kids, that'll be later and everyone will wear suits for it so you know they're being serious. 

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It's good to hear from Julia. They're – well, he's not sure if they'll be friends, on the outside, but whatever else happens they are allies and he very much needs an ally right now. 

I'm looking forward to it! The dinner. Not the negotiation about the kids which I expect to be incredibly stressful. Do you know where I can get a suit? Right now I barely own clothes. 

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Oh no! We should go shopping.

 

Nice places will fit you for a suit on the spot and then tailor it, we can get same-day if we make faces at them

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When Julian was very small and still watched non-educational television, he remembers seeing this documentary about endangered wild horses in Mongolia. There was this one bit where a horse fell ill with some kind of endangered horse disease and had to be nursed back to health by horse scientists, and the thing that always stuck with him was the moment where they were finally able to let it return to the steppe. The poor animal took a few shaky steps and then something in its overloaded horse brain connected and it took off and ran, full of the wild exultant joy of being being back where it belongs, doing exactly what it was meant to do. 

When he tries to picture Julia shopping, that horse is the first thing that springs to mind.  

Sounds good! I'm free whenever; if I have a schedule nobody's told me yet. 

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There's a knock on his door about five minutes later. 

 

 

Julia was well-dressed in school and sometimes illusioned her clothes colors. This is...different. She's wearing a flowy silk purple top with a light wool jacket with oversized ivory buttons, and she's wearing jean-leggings and knee-high boots with fur poking out of the top and she's holding it all together with a rope belt with a shiny bronze buckle. She has a designer handbag and a necklace with unpolished emeralds and a watch with a see-through cover where you can see all the machinery, whirring and ticking. 

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Julian is still wearing his dad's clothes from yesterday, because he fell asleep in them. They consist of a sensible oxford shirt and slacks. 

"That was fast."

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"You're not quite five rooms away anymore but you're not far. Though you shouldn't let them stick you in this room permanently, the ones that aren't awkwardly on a corner have balconies and it's a good exposure-therapy to the existence of the outdoors, a balcony. I think we should go get you fitted for your suit now so they have more time to tailor it. Are you ready to go?"

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Well until about thirty seconds ago Julian thought he was reasonably well calibrated as to what the people were wearing in the year 2024. Then again, Julia is Julia, and if he maps whatever is happening here onto her usual level of over-the-topness for the Scholomance – yeah, okay, he's probably fine. 

"As I'll ever be." 

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"Great. Did HR give you a relocation payment?" She trots over to the elevator, opens the door next to it, and casually jumps - down to the ground level, which is apparently warded to make for gentle landings when people do this.

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aaaaaah he's going to follow her aaaaaaah okay that was fine. 

"No. Maybe? I did get an enclave credit card." 

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"Cool, then let's swing by HR first and arrange that, because I don't want to be trying to keep track of the monthly limit while we're getting you an entire wardrobe." Trot trot trot knock knock - "hey!"

     "Good morning, Julia!"

"Can you get Julian his relocation payment now? We're going shopping!"

      "Sure," Teresa says after just the slightest hesitation. "Is he, uh, definitely staying, then? My understanding was that there was some matters still to be worked out -"

"Has the stock market crashed horribly and the country suffered an economic depression without precedent."

       "- no."

"Oh good, then we don't need to worry about the possibility we'll accidentally give someone relocation money who then leaves the enclave, which last I checked people are allowed to leave if they feel like it and it doesn't affect their allowance."

       "I can put it through. It's fifty thousand dollars," she adds to Julian. "There's a process to ask for more if that's inadequate but that usually only comes up if someone's transporting a home alchemy lab or a home shop."

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Julian still has no idea how money works! This is probably the kind of thing he should figure out before he goes shopping. 

"I'm sure that's more than enough, I don't have anything I need to transport." 

And then, to Julia – "So, uh, how much does clothing cost?"

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"Depends wildly, you can get clothing at a thrift shop for, like, five dollars, but bespoke suits start in the thousands and you do actually want a bespoke suit, you don't want to look like a high school student who borrowed his dads' for prom. We're going to go to a nice men's tailor and it'll probably be, like, ten, twenty thousand, for a couple suits and shirts and pants and shoes and undershirts and ties...the other thing you should have is your power-sharer hooked in, Teresa can you do that or do we have to go downstairs -"

        "He'll have to get a temporary one, and also complete the training on it."

Sigh. "The training's all super obvious stuff. Don't lose it, don't be a kid in a candy store about it, if you do lose it tell HR right away, like, literally know a comms spell you can do in your sleep or have them on speed dial or both."

        Teresa hands Julian a training packet that is, indeed, pretty much to this effect. You should generally aspire to put into the power-sharer 20% more than you take out, to cover the mana usage of the guards who are protecting you at the gates; if you're doing that, there won't be any scrutiny of your usage. If you're not doing that, you might have to account for your usage. Work-related and defensive usage are obviously fine, limited usage for assuaging civilian suspicion is fine, large personal workings need to be paid for. Do not use New York mana to commit serious crimes, obviously you shouldn't commit serious crimes in general but if you do it with your New York power sharer then when it gets audited and you are discovered to be routinely using mind-control to sleep with women at bars or whatever you will be widely known not just as a rapist but as a really, really stupid one.  

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Julian is neither stupid nor criminally inclined so he doesn't expect that to be too onerous! Having mana again feels great, he hasn't even thought about exerting effort since graduation so he's totally dry. 

....his plan was to take whatever number Julia came out with and divide by two. So he definitely shouldn't let her go over ten thousand? It seems vaguely wrong to spend more than one's monthly income on clothes, but, hey, she's the expert. And it's not like he'll be limited to his stipend for very long. 

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Julia consults her phone and declares they're leaving the enclave through the exit in the garage that Julian came in through, "it's closest to the place I've picked. - oh, hey! Orion!"

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"Hi Julia!" Orion does not look traumatized. He looks kind of like he just got back from a long vacation and already misses room service. He has his incredibly anime sword-whip thing but he is wearing a nicer outfit now. He would not look out of place on an action movie poster.

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Orion is not going to remember Julian's face. "This is Julian," Julia says to the guy Orion is paired with, "he's the valedictorian and our spot offer this year."

      "Nice to meet you," the guy says. 

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"Hi Julian!" Orion adds on. He remembered Julian existed, and what his name was since it's almost exactly like Julia's, but yeah this could easily have been some totally other Asian boy. Or, like, an Eskimo, Orion doesn't think he can distinguish Asians and Eskimos. Thank you Julia.

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