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Nov 27, 2020 11:43 AM
summer camp!
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"I'm just saying you're going to make her miserable."

"I don't think so," Maedhros says.

"I wasn't accusing you of doing it on purpose." He turns and looks out the window. He doesn't like looking at Maedhros. Maedhros had dyed his hair so it looked like it was greying, or possibly deliberately greyed it, and surgically rounded his ears and wrinkled his skin. He looked a well-preserved forty. Everyone Maedhros worked with knew he was immortal. Celegorm couldn't think why he'd bothered. It made him uglier. 

"I won't learn anything if I make her miserable," Maedhros says. "I need to figure out how she's going to work with resources and allies that are less - romantic - than a devoted mysterious immortal tormented bodyguard, and if -"

"It's not romantic."

"I don't mean that she wants to marry you."

"She doesn't."

"No, she doesn't. I mean that - working with people is always easier than working with institutions, and working with intriguing, compelling, supernaturally gifted people who are training you to achieve your destiny is the easiest sort of arrangement. And if I want you out of that damned city I obviously need an adequate substitute, which means I need to figure out how she can interact with an organization as effectively as she interacts with you. I won't make any progress towards my goal if she's miserable, so I won't let her be miserable, so you can stop bristling at me."

This really shouldn't be reassuring but it is. Betting on Maedhros's competence is always much surer than betting on his compassion. And if Maedhros wants her to have a good summer vacation for reasons other than appeasing Celegorm then he doesn't have to worry that things will get worse if he lets himself be appeased. It's very clever and he resents it immensely. He walks to the window and turns around to scowl at Maedhros's ugly face. 

"I also think this is a good idea from Karen's perspective," Maedhros says peaceably. "She doesn't know much about us."

"She hasn't asked."

"She should care, a lot, about the motives and attitudes and competence of people who will be coming to join her in Sunnydale. She should care how they think about presently inactive vampires like her friend, she should care how they think about sixteen-year-olds with superpowers, she should care what their vision of success looks like, and whether they're competent to pull it off. I think if she spends the summer figuring that out she'll be happier than if she spends it roaming around the cemetery staking vampires you let her have because it's good for her self-esteem."

"Or," says Celegorm, "you could tell her, and then she would know, and then she could spend the summer doing whatever she likes."

"I don't know yet. Who I send and what they want and how they operate is going to depend on her, and what she works best with, and I need this summer to get that right."

"Fine."

Maedhros doesn't smile. Maedhros's smiles are all lies and Celegorm hates being lied to. "Thank you."

"I haven't done anything."

"You heard me out. I know you hate that."

"If I ever won an argument with you I wouldn't hate having them."

Maedhros looks mildly surprised. "That's not true. If it were -"

" - I mean, if I ever won an argument with you and it wasn't because you let me win in order to make me more willing to hear you out generally."

"Tyelco, sometimes you're right and I'm wrong, and sometimes we don't agree and you end up getting the thing you want, and sometimes I end up making a lot more concessions than I planned to and sometimes I end up getting nothing I want. The only sense in which you've never won an argument is that you've never walked away feeling like you're adequate. That's not what it looks like when I have conversational superpowers, it's what it looks like when you have a searing inferiority complex."

"I don't want to talk about this," he says, because the alternative is trying to come up with words in response to that and he doesn't have any. "I'll tell Karen to go to summer camp."

"Tell her why, too."

If this conversation were with someone else he'd end it by threatening them, but you can't threaten someone who wants, more than anything in the world, for everyone who loves him to stop so that if he ever finds a way to die he can pursue it guiltlessly. 

"Don't hurt her, Nelyo."

"She'll have a lovely time."

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"They want to build a government installation in Sunnydale and conduct experiments on demons. They have an idea to make them harmless, or something. Doesn't work yet, but maybe with more research. If they ever got it to work, we'd be done killing them."

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"That would be really good." She smiles, because dancing about it would be weird.

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"Yeah, it's a great solution for vampires - possibly the only one. Gonna be a bit awkward with demons but maybe they'll handle that reasonably, I don't really know."

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"Yeah, a lot depends on the specific kind of demon. But it's better than a lot of possible alternatives."

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"Yeah. Guy I know wants you to accept your summer camp invitation. He thinks it'll be a good chance to learn about the people doing this project, how they're thinking about demons and vampires, how annoying they're going to be to work with, how much we can trust them with - whether they'll look out for Zeke -"

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She bites her lip.

She can't very well let Zeke outdo her on the heroic-defense-of-friends front. That would just be embarrassing. And it is, actually, important to know who they're dealing with.

"Yeah, OK. I can do that."

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"I don't think it'll be dangerous or I'd keep you well clear of it. Just - lotsa being polite to people in uniform and figuring out how they work and what they want."

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"I can be polite to people. Probably. As long as they don't have high expectations. What, uh, exactly do these people know about me right now, I assume they don't just invite random people to their... summer camp?"

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"They know you're a new slayer who hasn't had your Watcher training. - word has gotten out, not through me, that there's a slayer in Sunnydale. I think it was all the slaying."

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"Ahh. Yeah. I can see how that would happen. If magical dogs can find us then presumably at least a few other people have put two and two together."

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"Yeah. Past time we talked about the Watcher's Council so you're prepared if they try to show up. Anyway, these people know you're a slayer."

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"Yeah. Uh, Wishbone's told me some stuff, but I think his last contact with the Council was in the 1800s or so. It'd be good to know what they've been doing lately. Besides, uh, killing all of their slayers at eighteen."

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"Technically not all of them. They do a 'coming of age' test where they drug the Slayer until she's weaker than a normal human, then lock her in with a vampire. To test her wits, or something. Our understanding is that they were finding the adult ones very hard to control, especially because they don't have that much to offer them - uh, training, but they're all unenhanced humans and there's really only so much an unenhanced human can teach you - access to a library, which is genuinely important, but which grates when it comes with a lot of conditions on who you fight and how and when..."

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"Makes sense. The being drugged and locked up with a vampire sounds, uh, bad. ...these people are probably less likely to cause serious problems for us if we make friends with people like the summer camp people, aren't they. Conditional on the summer camp people being at least slightly less terrible."

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"Seems like it, yeah. If you're affiliated with some humans who are doing.... legible human things... they might be less inclined to meddle than if your allies are all mysterious - I think the Watcher's Council also does not admit the existence of any categories other than 'demon' and 'human', or consider any of the former civilians."

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"Figures. Be too simple if there were an uncomplicated good guy faction with only a couple shortcomings. All right. What do we know about what, uh, summer camp consists of?"

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"The secret government agency that deals with supernatural stuff is called the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, in the Department of the Interior. It's based in Virginia. The director is one of us... our word for ourselves, the thing Michael and I are, is Quendi. It means 'user of words', because that was distinguishing, uh, way back when."

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"Ahh." This is a more sensible and alien-sounding name than 'not-archangels', really. "So is the director, like, a sort of OK Quendi, or like a 'your mind is going to be being read a lot' Quendi?"

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"We only do that to hostiles or in emergencies. I've been really pushing the line because Sunnydale has so many ways to randomly kill you but you don't need to worry about him reading your mind."

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She adjusts down the odds of being mindread slightly.

"All right then. Anything else I need to be prepared for? Just, like, in general? List of items to pack?"

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"I think there's...swimming? And hiking? And lectures on patriotism?"

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"...It is at this point super unclear to me to what extent this is actually a summer camp."

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"I think it will check all the summer camp boxes but, uh, some of the people involved are thinking of this in a 'superheroes are an asset to America' kind of way? Which is part of what - it'd be useful to know how many of those there are and whether they're reasonable about it -"

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"Cool. I will, uh, pack with that in mind and take copious notes on our colleagues in the superhero business."

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"All right. Take care. Page Matthew Carter if you get into any trouble that doesn't look like it can just be punched in the face."

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