May 29, 2022 5:33 AM
Julian rescues Naima from Paris
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"Making that horrible affinity work for herself after all," says her mother proudly. 

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"Hey, when I was thirteen you told me it was a great affinity and anyone who said otherwise was a bully."

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"The Scholomance - wants improvements?" Annaka says curiously to Julian. "Is it, uh, going to attempt self-modification -"

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"I'm not sure if I have any special insight, but – I don't think so? If I had to guess, I'd say it's unsatisfied because it can't do the job it was built for. It doesn't have a lot of room to self-modify on its own. The best tools that it has to work with are us."  

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"Well, we will see what we can do," Julia's father says tiredly. "I'm Tim, by the way - I don't know if Julia said -"

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"Dad, no one talks about their families at school, it's lame. Also if you do everyone else is like "I have fourteen dead siblings" and then you feel like the world's biggest jerk."

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"The average indie family size is eight!" Julia's father says. 

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"Damn, I should've said that the last time someone was like 'I have fourteen dead siblings'."

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"My girlfriend's mother was making good progress towards thirty." 

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Julia's father shakes his head tiredly. "An active debate we keep having, Julian, is whether, given the capacity to expand the school, it'd be better to add a fifth year and some adult support roles or to throw in more kids. We're probably not going to be able to stretch the life support far enough to do both."

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That's easy. Let in more kids. 

...except, with a fifth year, some of the indies might be able to build up enough mana to have a shot at the graduation hall. The indies who aren't getting in right now are the least prepared, the least resourced, and overall the least likely to make it out. If there was a second Scholomance – but, no, he already made his decision about working for Shanghai, and even if he changed his mind there's no guarantee they'd ever build one.  

"They're different technical challenges," he says instead. "I think adding another level to the school would be harder than trying to scale its existing capacity? But I don't know what constraints you're working under." 

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"Oh, adding another level will be a nightmare, and it's also wildly unpopular because - it doesn't improve Julia's odds, right? The longer she's away the more the chance some random thing goes wrong and that's the only way we lose her is some random thing going wrong. But there's not a lot of point packing the place to the gills with steadily less prepared indies - or maybe there is, who knows, different models output different things. There are a lot of constraints and I probably shouldn't get into them all at the dinner table."

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"think we should offer a three-year pre-Scholomance training school for all the horribly unprepared indies."

 

 

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"Is that the plan that requires a moon base."

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"That's the one, thank you Julia."

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"Are you two also on the expansion team?" 

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"am working on an anthropology degree at USC. It's just - hard not to talk shop, right, every kid has a wishlist a mile long except the ones who've given up on wishing for stuff."

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"I'm going to fix the food. We're going to have nine different food lines around the cafeteria, Chinese and Mexican and American and Italian and Thai and Korean and Indian and one that rotates, and a coffee shop that makes decent coffee and is open all hours and takes vending machine tokens. - to be clear this is completely unaffordable and everyone's like 'sorry Julia we can't fit that into our plans' but I haven't had very long to wear them down yet."

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"My crazy pipe dream is a movie theater. It's – okay, I can't even come up with a justification for it, it's not even like I would have had time to go. But sometimes it's fun to want things that aren't, you know, the difference between life and death." 

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"No, I completely agree. Especially if they're considering giving indies the option of staying five years - you have to be able to just live for a little while! And there's so many kids who have breakdowns and give up when I bet if they could've just spent the weekend watching movies they'd have turned it around. Naima's right that depression and burnout aren't good for your productivity. That one's not even outlandishly expensive, you can do it in the mal studies auditorium."

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"It's still a ton of mana you could instead spend on wards."

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"And it's all a ton of money we could instead spend on, I don't know, malaria! I want the school to have a movie theatre."

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Julian decided a long time ago that if he starts thinking about his moral responsibilities to mundanes he's going to have some kind of nervous breakdown. 

"I did some back-of-the-envelope math and it's not even stupidly expensive – and it comes out to about two more dead kids per year in expectation. Maybe you should have the New York artificers work on those little portable pocket projectors." 

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"Huh, that might really be worth it," Julia's father says. "I bet it helps kids with languages, too."

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"Just think about it! We could have had movie nights! That weren't Legally Blonde!" 

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