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So What Fork Do You Use? [IC]


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August 14th, 2013

Katastrof & Sorensen Technologies - Freedom City Headquarters

City Center

9:00 AM


Authority is a funny thing; in many ways it makes the world a lot easier for you. In many ways it makes the world a lot less friendly towards you. It makes it hard to go get a cup of coffee in the morning, if the person behind the till knows he probably works for you, and if he gets your order wrong he could be fired. It makes it easier in the sense of that you had people to get coffee for you. Well, if that was your kind of thing.


Baron Katastrof? Was likely not one of those people. He built his empire with sweat and toil and tears, fighting demons both figuratively and literally to get to where he was today. He was a man of the world, a powerful figure, one that you wouldn't dream of approaching in a business sense save through several dozen different intermediaries and human resources figures and secretaries and...


Well, you get the idea.


So it made it all the more humorous when, by dint of pure luck and chance (probably), and a slipped cup of coffee (soaking a form), and a tweaked form (replacing a folder), and a dropped piece of paper (opening the folder), and an errant gust of wind (purely by chance), a small business card landed into some of his reports for the prior fiscal quarter in Freedom City; reports that were always placed precisely on his desk at exactly 8:30 AM. His secretary prided herself on her timing - even if others didn't.


The card read as follows -


Crowe Security Consulting

Matters Arcane And Mundane

Professional Help / Reasonable Rates / No Guarantees

(732) 609-1733


It was stuck between two security reports, funnily enough.

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When you're a businessman by day, engineer by night, and armor-clad hero in between, you tend to appreciate schedules. When your organic brain is supplemented by the most potent computing material in existence, you like precision even more.


So it was only reasonable that the Baron gave his personal attendant a smile and nod for her typical prompt delivery. She was excellent at what she did; that's why she made more than many professional athletes. Because Magnus couldn't really both run his business and juggle the thousand little things she did. Delegation was a beautiful thing.


He was going through the quarterly reports much faster than he used to; thinking at the speeds he did had its advantages! He didn't take that long to make it to the security reports, which were even more of a concern after that break-in a few months ago...


When the card fell onto his desk, he spent a good 20 seconds blinking in surprise at its presence. As if an equation wasn't adding up for him. Finally, he raised an eyebrow in curiosity, before putting his assistant on the line.


She was quickly placing a call to this "Crowe Security Consulting", trying to schedule a lunch meeting at 12:00pm sharp. In the rather imposing Katasrof & Sorenson Technologies tower office building, in one of the Baron's meeting rooms.

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That just about summed up Morgan's opinion in a nutshell as he got out of the taxi, and actually looked at the downtown edifice of K&ST. Actually, no - amend that.


Very big.


He shifted the duffel bag somewhat uncomfortably, still looking up...up...up...ye gods and little fishes, just how tall was that office building? When he got the call arranging a meeting, he was expecting some local tech group - and given Freedom City's rep as the superpowered capital of the world, a name like Katastrof sounded more like good marketing. And now...this. Downtown, at a giant metal and glass edifice. He'd even asked the taxi driver twice if this was the right address, 'till he saw the letters halfway up the building.


...did I even drop any business cards in the City Center?


Best not to think about that. The graduated teen hero tugged at his best pea coat's hem, looking down at the blue jeans that had been freshly pressed, and the shoes that, whilst not quite respectable, were certainly durable. He'd even worn his best hat today, too. Old-school pageboy cap - Vickie liked it when he wore that to fancy places...thinking of her made him idly finger that Celtic knot ring on his middle finger.


Morgan took a deep breath and mounted the steps towards the building, crossing the courtyard quick-as-you-please, and stepped through the revolving doors shortly after a small procession of gentlemen with briefcases. He just stared somewhat gobsmacked at the lobby then, for a goodly few seconds, before shaking his head and walking over to the...well, he hoped that desk was a receptionist.


"Crowe Security Consulting? Here to speak to an..." He checked a small paper from his pocket, and held it up. "M. Katastrof?"


He tried to look as professional as possible. Adjusted his hat a bit. Don't let them see you sweat, old boy...

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The man at the front desk, dressed in a crisp security guard's outfit, gave Morgan a polite smile that didn't quite reach his eyes (probably just tired and sees hundreds of people a day).


"Yes, of course, just a moment."


He looked down, typed a few things on the slick, metallic keyboard set into his desktop, then reached below Morgan's sight-line. After a moment, he was handing the young man a badge.


"That will let you into the elevator, elevator lobbies, public restrooms, public visiting areas, and the small science exhibit section on the ground floor. Oh, and access to the section of the building where your meeting is. And here's the directions on how to get there."


Which said he was to take an elevator to the very top floor. Down a crisp, clean hallway, into a room with a large (but not ridiculously large) dining table, as well as a full wall of floor-to-ceiling windows, and a few discrete tech-bits scattered about the ceiling. The other 3 walls looked like they might be computer displays....


The table was empty save a couple of settings. Thankfully for Morgan, there were only 2 forks, 2 spoons, and 1 knife at each spot. Shouldn't be that hard to remember the order....


Not that there was a plate, food, or anything else around. Or anyone else, for that matter.

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Morgan was actually fairly calm when the guard started shuffling papers and computer screens around, only once letting his hand drift into his pocket when the man reached below the desk. Call him a paranoiac (he was) or unreasonably nervous (he was), just because you didn't know there was a secret magic weapon hidden under a desk didn't mean there wasn't one.


Good, you are learning. Go away.


The teen just shuffled his feet a bit when the man rose with the badge - taking his hand out of his pocket and clipping the thing to his chest. He gave an amiable smile - at least as far as he could on a normal sense. There was a moment of indecision as he debated checking out the science exhibit, if only for a bit of background on the company - but whoever the guy was that he was meeting had to be pretty big to run a building like this. Keeping him waiting would likely result in career suicide. Or being dropped into a piranha tank. He wondered if a building like this had a piranha tank. He'd probably have put in a piranha tank. Well...okay, a tank of water with stuffed piranhas. Be great for scaring people who annoyed him.


That last thought was what got him through the door of the dining room - and he looked about with some curiosity. Computer screens...ooh, techy things on the ceiling - and DAMN, was that the view? Morgan placed his duffel bag beside one of the chairs, and walked over to look out the window - heights holding no fear for him. Rather, he had a sparkling look on his face - normally he saw these from the rooftops, with strong winds stinging his eyes or clouds covering part of the view.


This was just...crystal clear. He savored it for a while.

Edited by Quinn
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"The view's rather magnificent, yes. Though occasionally, it can go to one's head."


Suddenly the windows were shining mirrors, and Morgan saw the man standing in the doorway. He was tall, but not overly so; in fact, the two stood nose-to-nose, if Morgan had a guess, though the young crime-fighter out-massed the finely-dressed man by a bit.


Of course, between the shockingly Scandinavian features and the finely-tailored, sharply-pressed, very-expensive-looking suit, he was likely the Baron Katasrof himself. The man wore a friendly smile on his face as he walked into the room, clearly sizing Morgan up, taking his measure. Finally, the owner of the building stopped in front of Morgan, and the Crowe boy realized the Baron only had a few years on him in age. Either way, the European nobleman and business mogul held out a hand for Morgan to shake.


"Mr. Morgan Crowe, head of Crowe Security Consulting, recent graduate of Claremont Academy? I'm Baron Magnus Vilhelm Katastrof if you didn't know before. A pleasure to make your acquaintance."


After the introduction, he gestured to the table.


"Shall we sit? What would you like to drink, and then we can begin with our orders."


Suddenly there was a respectable-looking gentleman in a a black suit standing next to the table. Morgan might think him a ninja at first, but really he was just a skilled waiter. Probably.

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Crowe took the hand in a stout grip, shaking it well - nervousness taking a brief back seat to the infectious good humor of the fellow in front of him. The young man sized up Katastrof as he approached - and approved of what he saw. Despite the suit, he carried himself tough - shoulders up right, arms held nicely braced, and if he had an ounce of fat on him then Morgan was a ruddy trout. The age was a bit of a surprise, though - and the height! It was rather amusing that he had a pound or two on the fellow... 


Still, it was fairly obvious at this point; the title Baron was no marketing ploy. Which left him a bit more spooked than before, joy.


"Hey, thanks for having me - though I'm not sure whether to call you Baron or Mr. Katastrof." Beat. "Sir."


The invitation to sit was met with a nod, and he stepped to a chair - half-sitting down before his idea of protocol had him stand upright again. "Uh..." Another beat. "Soda?"


He tried not to flush - that would be just fantastic. Whether or not a drink came, he shook his head and rubbed the back of his hair. "I admit, uh, sir, you've got a bit of an advantage on me. How did you know I recently graduated from Claremont?"

Edited by Quinn
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The Baron simply sat; it seemed that "protocol" dictated both men seat themselves. He gestured again for Morgan to sit, but otherwise made no fuss of it. The waiter calmly spoke up.


"Would the young master like a particular kind of soda, or shall we surprise you?"


Magnus chuckled.


"Sir is my father, so definitely not that one. Baron or Mister is alright, whichever one you would prefer. I realize not all Americans are entirely comfortable with the idea of nobility. Anyways, Anthony, I'll have my usual."


The older man gave a polite nod and, after taking Morgan's order, stepped out of the room, silent as a ghost. Likely a lifetime of practice at being discreet.


Magnus smiled at the question, and raised his left hand, running it through a couple of odd gestures...before a floating holographic window appeared to one side. It was the Claremont website, along with a couple of other sites, and it showed a list of the names of the most recent set of graduates from Claremont.


"The almighty power of Google, and a screening department that knows how to use it on prospective consultants. Call me intrigued, when a young man just graduated from such an exclusive school opens up such an interesting sort of business."

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Morgan's eyes would have narrowed if he was a different sort of person - as is, he just shrugged and flopped back into the seat; a root beer being his choice of drink. So fizzy, and cloying, and happy. It was insidious.


"Not that exclusive - I got lucky on a scholarship." For a given value of the term 'scholarship'. As to the interesting business angle, he'd already worked out several dozen explanations for the link without drawing back to Claremont's more...unique...forms of education. Defense in depth - hopefully the Headmaster would approve. Gah, have to stop thinking that way; he was a graduate now, with approvals from several colleges in the area come September. He was a working man as well! Completely equal to the...the...ai-yi-yi he couldn't even think that still. Double gah.


"And it's not tha-..." Beat. "Okay, it is that interesting." Grin. "Well, more cool than interesting. Ever since the reality of the esoteric hit the airwaves, a lot of us have been coming out of the woodwork."


He tapped his fingers a bit, picking his words carefully - he'd planned a pitch, but at this level he was likely sorely outgunned when it came to salesmanship or organization. Triple gah. Info for now. "I s'pose you have questions, then?"


Gaaaah, WHY are we listening to this organized, dignified fool? So...NEAT. So...TIDY. And he practically RADIATES bloody ORDER! One, because he asked. And two, now because he annoys you. GAH.

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"Scholarships are but the entry point to education. Typically, a student needs a sharp mind to keep it. Though admittedly, formal education can sometimes stifle creativity a bit, or provide frustration for those with somewhat non-linear thinking patterns."


If Morgan had done any research of his own, he'd know the man saying this held multiple college degrees and a small mountain of inventions and patents, and so was probably reflecting on his own life as much as anything.


"Tell me more about what you consider "esoteric". I have some inklings of what you mean, but your business card was somewhat vague, and currently your online advertisements are similar. I'd be interested in knowing your perspective, interpretation, and wording of what it is you do and interact with. That will help me decide if we'd like to bring you on long-term for consultation, keep you on the books for ad-hoc work, or simply smile and part ways."


Anthony came in with the drinks, before pulling out two small menus that were apparently flexible computer screens shaped like paper sheets. Morgan found he could scroll through a fair-sized list of dishes.


Being CEO, and a noble to boot, had advantages.

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Morgan nodded in sympathy with the non-linear thinking patterns; he knew a few folks like that. Not himself, unfortunately - he tended to be fairly straightforward in his thinking and planning. Crow, on the other hand...he shied away from thinking about that right now; right now he was Morgan Crowe, professional consultant. He tapped his fingers against his chair, pondering the man's next statement - looking a bit more at ease, as well; this was the situation he'd been waiting for and rehearsed answers for a great deal.


"Ask a dozen different casters the same question, you'll likely get a dozen different answers. I've tried to make mine at least as approachable as possible. Best we get some points clear right off the bat, then." He took a breath, arranging it in his head, and launched the verbal salvo. "Alright, so - first off, I'm not by any stretch of the imagination a 'wizard'. Not a 'warlock', or a 'mage', 'magus', 'magician', or a pretty staggering number of other choices - so don't bother trying to apply one of those titles while I'm going through my list of services. Secondly, I don't do artifacts of legendary power - I'm not a serious smith or a magical forger. I can do some things, order in others - those'll be on the list - but don't expect indestructible golems wandering about with giant flaming swords. Seriously, those things are a pain in the arse."


He was building up steam now, and sounding a lot smoother in the process - even looking the Baron right in the eye as he said so.


"Third, don't trust magic wholesale. I cannot stress this enough. Put it this way - I can make something better than a pack of guard dogs and a set of security cameras; and it'll do the job, but determined mundane can get through as the arcane if they know what they're doing. Most don't, but those that do rarely expect guard dogs or security cameras afterwards. Fourth, the impossible is doable, but rarely worth it. And it costs extra."


A crooked smile crossed Morgan's features there, and he leaned back in his chair. The disclaimers seemed to be at an end - as he commented somewhat wryly. "The guy who I tested that on said I wouldn't sell at all if I didn't big up the product. But frankly, it saves both you and me time and a lot of headaches if you know what's reasonable. Granted, magic usually isn't, but beat it enough with a baseball bat and it generally can appear close to it."

Edited by Quinn
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The Baron watches impassively as Morgan gives his spiel. At some point in the conversation, drinks are delivered, alongside a plate practically-steaming rolls that all but melt in your mouth. Katastrof snags a couple and chews thoughtfully as the young Crowe boy winds down.


He locks his choice into his menu and sets it aside. Morgan is of course free to browse the very thorough and diverse menu.


"Many men of science view magic as a crock. Fake. Sleight of hand at best while using somewhat-more-understood technology or innate meta-human powers. Many people of magic seem to view it as some vaguely sentient "force" that they make nice with.


It is...refreshing...to break bread with someone who seems to have something of a "middle ground" view. It's almost...scientific...of you."


He falls silent for a moment, but coming from a man like Magnus Katastrof, that's no small praise.


"If we did pursue your active services, it would be in a supplementary role to our existing security infrastructure. Beyond advising ways to guard against certain types of intrusions, and perhaps setting up warding schema, we would perhaps see if you knew of anyone who could "stress test" the holistic defenses that would result from these efforts. Such assistance is not common in the "mundane" world, but it is available, especially for those with some small means to themselves."

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"Eh, I won't say one way or the other on the idea of a force to make nice with - gods know I've met several forces where it's somewhat sensible to make nice with them, otherwise they'll probably try and squish you like a bug." Hello Tuatha, are you listening in? "Though in their cases it's not so much mystical and ineffable as arrogant and improbable." Yeah, you still suck.


"As for scientific...I dunno, si-err-Baron. Maybe it's just the way I actually work things - in an arcane sense, I'm akin to an engineer or a hardware specialist; I work with pre-existing systems and symbols of power, rather than work with the 'code' itself, like a wizard slash programmer. Which lets me segway right into my list of actual services." He nearly blushed, recalling the fact that he'd actually not said what he could do - still, given what the man was after, it was well within his reach.


"My specialty is runes, the creation and manipulation thereof - whether engraving, painting, carving, enhancing, tweaking. For flavor, they mostly come from Celtic traditions, but that's more due to my family ties than anything else - it's easier to think and work in a language you already know, if you get my meaning." He nommed a pastry, with the appropriate noise of enjoyment - now that was a roll. "So fortunately, you're asking for nothing that isn't fairly doable - slap a rune on a doorframe and you're usually good to go, at least for quick-and-dirty stuff. I've got a decent line of wards, from your straight intruder-is-here alarm type deal, to full-bore hexagrammatic circles that can prevent entry by any number of individuals (though the reagents are a pain to get a hold of); I've got a wide range of information available for supranatural creatures and how they can make your day hell; and I know a few folks who can stress-test, though they'd want separate bills."

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When Morgan Crowe finished his excited explanation, Baron Magnus Katastrof sat silently for several long moments. His face may as well have been carved from tungsten, it was so still and impassive. Then, suddenly...


He smiled. Broadly and with a friendly glint in his eyes.


"An engineer! Even better. Science is all well and good, but theories just aren't as much fun as making something, am I right? Of course."


Their food was there already; those cooks were good! Magnus gave a smile and nod to Anthony and the other two servers as things were dropped off and glasses were refilled.


"I'm definitely looking at longer-lasting solutions. Quick and dirty has its place, but for such things I could probably research something. I am no magician, but I try to understand many things in the world, and magic is starting to grow in prominence, yes? Though admittedly my research has naturally led more to Norse methodologies."


His hand not occupied with a fork loaded with some sort of exotic pasta in a thin, clear sauce waved a strange pattern in the air (probably triggering fancy sensors), and a fairly simplistic (to Morgan) arrangement of Norse runes popped up.


"Saw this one time when I was taking a 15-minute mind break from some troublesome metallurgy work. Your thoughts?"


Well, it's basically a useless collection of runes; when "activated" it would just glow and make noise, but did the Baron know that? He pressed on after Morgan's answer.


"I would be more interested in what sort of redundancy you think you could apply to any schema you came up with. My primary concerns are prevention of magical spying, prevention of magical transport via portals or teleportation, prevention of magical mind control, and prevention of magical summonings. And I'd like such arrangements to be such that even if one set of wards is down, another set's ready and waiting with an extra alarm. I'll pay extra for anything that can cancel out illusions or the like, especially the illusions that fool cameras and other sensors. I'd pay even more extra if you ever felt like trying to apply some of those anti-illusion wards to non-static artificial constructs."


Probably satellites or something?


"If you feel these goals are within your capability, we would select one of my secondary lab facilities and one of my secondary office facilities to do a "trial run" at. After the setup, we'd contact one of your "stress-testers" and have them give a go at it. From there, we'd determine what further ventures we'd pursue."

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Morgan squinted at the Norse runes, and there was a moment of head-tilting; to the degree that his head was at a 90 degree angle. The other talk floated by, him logging it for a few seconds in the future, but for now a bit of translation, a bit of pondering, investment of will and mental ability and...


"...huh. Turn that algaz rune left and you'll have a fairly decent booby trap, but as-is it's basically a flashbang. Lots of glowy and noisemaking, but otherwise..." Shrug. "It's the equivalent of a school project circuit board - turn a switch and a lightbulb turns on. The algaz turn just makes the lightbulb explode."


Magnus might have gotten the impression the young man was rather familiar with the explosive qualities of runes - given his penchant for trial and error (mostly error), he was very familiar with the explosive capacity of a rune array gone highly awry. For a given value of the term 'awry'.


"Prevention of scrying and metaphysical intrusion aren't complicated - simplest I can think of'd be proper tactical application of disruption runes; think basically a 'magical' Faraday cage. Outside can't come in, inside can't go out; in layman's terms basically a lot of energy being thrown around that plays merry hell with anyone trying to do something particularly focused. And I like your idea of defense in depth - redunancies are a paranoiac's best friend."


Grin. A self-identified paranoiac, Morgan loved it when people agreed with him on the idea.


"Though the cameras could be both simple and a pain in the ass - I can kitbash a rune of true sight lens for that kind of thing as a stopgap solution, but they'd play merry hell with the cameras themselves on long exposure, and they're also stereotypical as hell. Fact is, a lot of magic is tossing around questionable energy, and sometimes it screws with other forms of energy; especially electrical. Don't ask me how - if I did, I'd make a bundle writing treatises on the subject. There's ways around it, usually with classic materials like lead shielding or straight up rebuilding the camera with less delicate materials."


He stroked his chin for a time then, cogitating on the testing aspect as they munched and chewed. The food really was remarkable, even if with all the excitement of planning and sales pitch it was mostly being distracted from. The idea of stress-testers was giving him some pause, mostly since he had about three people he could bring in, with one of them being himself. Ah, the benefits of a dual-identity in the business world; the pain in the ass was submitting cheques.


"My stress-testers are a bit protective of their identities, just as an FYI - they...err...moonlight. I'd have to ask for confidentiality clauses and permission to enter under assumed identities before bringing them in."

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Magnus gave a distracted nod and waved away the runes.


'The pasta's excellent today.'


He dabbed his mouth with a napkin after swallowing his latest morsel.


"I will admit, that was a bit of a test. That was generally what I knew, minus the bit about the explosion. My knowledge in the arcane is mostly theoretical, a collection of bits of facts gathered over the last couple of years."


A bit more eating as he listened to Morgan's explanations and proposals.


"I think a Faraday cage setup would work fine. I don't anticipate any magical experiments being done in my labs, and I'd have warnings posted so any visitors with magical abilities and senses wouldn't be taken by complete surprise. How reasonable would one or two fallback Cages be?"


He frowned a bit at the description of the difficulties with cameras, but nodded.


"I anticipated that goal wasn't as feasible, hence why it was an "extra" instead of a main requirement. I've seen how non-hardened electronics don't stand up well to all sorts of exotic energies. Though I've found that few cranky particles cant' be calmed down with liberal applications of liquid bakelite. A bit crude, but when laced with carbon nanotubes it's a surprisingly good emergency insulator. Still and all, if the camera plan isn't workable for now, it isn't. At some point in the future we may look into anti-magic technology for a similar application."


He quirked a smile at the mention of "assumed identities".


"Assuming they agreed to our terms to prevent excessive damage to facilities, I would find identity protection entirely reasonable. Especially in this town, where everyone seems to enjoy wearing a mask from time to time. It's a bit less exciting in Sweden, I'm afraid. Only a handful of heroes at all. But I'd allow them to sign under their alternate identities, as well as promising no electronic copies of signatures be stored, to prevent handwriting analysis and matching."

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A nod. "Good enough, they'll probably find that acceptable." Crow probably would, at least. "And don't get me wrong, the cameras are quite feasible - it'd just take a bit of extra work to pull off, and wouldn't be as fast as the Faraday cages to bring in."


Morgan was working through the pasta at a fairly respectable rate despite the discussion, having learned from long experience how to consume on the job or while researching without misssing a bite. Usually by Wisp's constant trying to push food at him when he was neck-deep in research and maybe having not eaten for a week. But damnit, magic science was awesome! And highly distracting.


"And one or two fallback cages would be doable - simply link them with the runic equivalent of a time-delay or a no-action failsafe; if one isn't working then the other automatically kicks in. Either that or a killswitch runestone a security head could keep on themselves - we've got them in various flavors for your activation needs, from command words to simple touch-activation (which we can bind to thumprint or DNA) to (for the more lurid-minded) application of an actual bloody thumprint. Though I don't reccomend the third - it's highly unsanitary and generally gives a poor impression to visitors."


A slightly crooked smile.


"One thing that a lot of folks miss with this is you do save a bundle in expensive metals and tools. We use a lot of rocks."

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"As well, I can arrange most any legal payment method they would prefer. Cash. One-use credit cards. Precious metals. That sort of thing."


As if it was normal for most folks to talk about paying people in gold or silver. He nodded at the comment regarding the cameras.


"Let's table the camera idea for now. Perhaps at some point we can have something of a research project made out of it. I would say at least one of the fallback cages, assuming we had 2, would need to be fairly automated. And you're correct; blood-drawing requirements are unsanitary. I would be satisfied with a non-invasive DNA activation. Some shapeshifters can mimic thumbprints, but DNA's at least a bit trickier, and most of the methods to copy that with technology put off a rather noticeable amount of energy of some kind or another. I'd wager magical means wouldn't be undetectable, either."


He gave the younger man his own smile at the talk of using rocks.


"Well, if you ever hit a point you need metals, tools, or so forth, that could be negotiated."


He finished up his own dish and patted at his lips with his napkin. His staff, knowing his tastes, brought in ostkaka slathered in chocolate.

"If it's not clear, I'm definitely thinking you'll be doing at least one "demo" setup of this schema you've spoken of to me. So now it's not "will I hire you", but "how much"."


He gave Morgan a smile with a twinkle in his eye.


"So. Name a number, Mister Crowe."

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At the talk of one-use items, Morgan just shrugged; frankly, he hadn't the slightest what the others (if he could find any, truth be told) would be wanting for payment. Precious metals was probably likely - if only because gold and silver and assorted others tended to be hell on wheels when it came to elaborate rituals. And fancy enchanted jewelry. And eng-wait what. That line of thought brought his train to a screeching halt, and he blinked several times - completely missing Magnus's talk of metals or tools; he had his own, anyway. Granted, they weren't with the assets of a multinational corporation behind them, but he trusted them more than any other artificer's tools you could assemble. He'd made them himself, after all!


His attention dragged itself back as the dessert arrived, and Morgan bowed his head in thanks - lingering over it with a fork as the man asked him to name his own number. Now that was something he'd never heard before - and it made his eyes nearly pop out of their sockets. Thank heaven he was a disciplined fellow - all Magnus saw was a quirked eyebrow and a placid face. For the time being, prevarication.


"Hrm...naming a number...well, let's list off what you're looking at so far. Services-wise, at least two Anti-Magic Fields (you could hear the capitalsfor your requests of general magical intervention; possible magic/illusion detectors, for lack of a better term, for security personnel - I admit I'm adding that one as a possibility; I should have suggested it earlier. Probably about a week of general consultation, another week...no, half-week of actual planning...I'll lowball it a bit, and say then two, maybe three weeks of actual installation, and personnel training - allowing for acquisition of the items we'd need for them. Then I'd want at least two weeks of stress testing and tightening things up."


He stroked his chin, leaning back in the chair. "Let's stay grounded on this. Put it in terms of a mundane security company, connecting a new system, replacing cameras, and distributing new equipment to your security personnel. Four, five weeks' work. How much would you expect to reasonably pay them?"

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The Baron regarded Morgan as he ran through estimates, no real expression showing on his face as he slowly ate his delectable dessert. Finally, the magic-user in front of him finished his...sales pitch? Either way, the Baron didn't show any reaction to the proverbial tables being turned back on himself.


"There is no one rate in this situation. But. Considering the build we will be targeting, the utterly thorough nature of the work I'm expecting to be put forth into this, and the length of time you're estimating for me..."


He paused, seeming to run calculations in his head, and certainly not drawing this out for the sole motivation of inserting a bit of drama into the proceedings.


"Let us say $50,000 or the equivalent, with a potential rider of another $15,000 upon conclusion of the work and pending my personal evaluation of the initial setup. This is for the Anti-Magic Fields alone; considering the potential difficulties with the camera system, we will set that project aside for a research venue, to be negotiated later.


If the work on this office building is found acceptable, we can begin negotiations on other locations as both your and my schedules allow."


He looked down and took the last bite of dessert, dabbing his mouth again before looking back at Morgan, his eyes calm and his expression one of innocent curiosity.


"Do you find that an acceptable offer?"

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Judging by the fact that the young man promptly did a prime impression of a freshly landed fish in front of Magnus, despite his prior impassive demeanor, that offer was likely more than acceptable. Sweet baby Jesus in a runaway carriage, sixty-five grand? That'd be enough for...for...gods, the things he could build with that - hell, he could put together battle armor on that money! Or at least a better utility belt...yeah, something like that. If he was frugal, and didn't go overboard. His innate grounding kicked in, and he promptly snapped his jaw shut.


"...y-" His voice sounded like a croak for a split second, and he promptly took a kachug of the root beer, shaking his head. "Yes, that would be acceptable - generous, almost. Very much so. You'll get top service for that, most definitley. Well, you'd have gotten that anyway, but I think I'm supposed to say that for a quote like that." Another draught from the drink, and he tried to regain his equilibrium. There was a moment of casting about for other things to say, and he managed to eke out a crooked smile as he leaned on the table.


"I think this would also be where I'd say something like...I'll have my people talk with your people - except I don't have people."

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"You did ask for a quote for an equivalent technological security system setup. Keep in mind such situations involve companies of at least a half-dozen people working on the project, with more expensive materials. Still not cheapskate territory, but consider that such a figure is not a major impediment for myself or my company. 


I'm giving you the offer I am not only because it is generally in line with industry standards, but because you have talent, Mister Crowe. I set this up expecting the typical magic-user spiel, which I would have paid for as a "consultation" and left at that. That's not what I got. Your mind approaches magic differently, and, more than that, seeks to find solutions that aren't exclusively magical. Something I appreciate. 


We still have to do this first building as a demo, of course. Theory is all well and good, but application and testing are the only way to be sure. If for some reason the plan fails, you will still be paid the original amount, which hopefully will give you some capital to further your own research."


The businessman smiled at the "my people your people" comment.


"I can give you the contact information for a few people who could, in time, become "your people"."


His expression became slightly serious for a moment.


"My one suggestion, and it's only a suggestion, is that when you do receive the money, you try to invest at least some of it. Hire a person who does investing, and tell them to go to town. I know plenty of intelligent, ethical stockbrokers who can grow initial investments quite healthily, without engaging in some of the more...morally dubious...methods. After all, even if something's legal doesn't mean it's really honest or ethical....Anyways.


One way or another, I'm hoping this is just the first of many business meetings between us, and that, in time, we might be able to work together on more eclectic pieces of research and experimentation. There is a part of me that's always wondered how high-energy physics and magic might interact."


The answer might be "explosions", but what proper scientist doesn't enjoy one or two of those on occasion?

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"I've always wondered what would happen if radiation met pure elemental chaos." Morgan deadpanned, reaching for humor and snark when his well of gratitude and just plain dumbfoundness was filled to overflowing. He wasn't quite overwhelmed at this point, thankfully - after hearing about investment and such, that grounding he'd had pounded into him through training really kicked in proper. No shopping sprees, no staring at ludicrously expensive reagents - get set up properly, be smart, and only use enough as you had to.


Though he'd be darned if he didn't at least pick up a new PS4 when it came out. File it under buisness expenses. For...uh...psychological breaktimes. Yeah.


"Well, all I can say is...I'll do my best, si-Baron. I won't promise miracles, and I can't say you'll find half of it believeable or reasonable, but I do promise that it'll work. I do that well enough." A grin. "And eh, magic's just as prone to magibabble as science is to technobabble. Trick is figuring out how to get rid of the babble part."


He didn't mention the reason why he thought of magic differently - there was no need, or cause. Still, he did wonder how any of the other Parkhurstians would have fielded the interview. Out of sheer curiosity, he asked just one more question before the man seemed game to close up the interview - the meal having been mostly demolished by now.


"You've run into mages before?"

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"That's an interesting question. I don't have a sample of 'pure elemental chaos' to work with. And of course, the question also becomes 'which kind of radiation?', because there are quite a few our labs can cook up on short notice, and....oh. My apologies, that was a jest."


The Baron had been seriously considering the matter for a few moments. 


"Well, I didn't ask for miracles, and again, that's why we're doing a demo site. As far as I'm concerned, if you've never done something of this scale before, it's a test for both of us. Even if things don't go perfectly, depending on how they do go, you can always fix them later. As for believable or reasonable, you might be surprised. As I said, I have some knowledge of the arcane, at least in passing."


And then Morgan asked if he'd ever "run into mages". Magnus's glass paused for a half-second close to his lips, his grip tightening just slightly, his eyes...his eyes. Morgan might swear up and down that for just a split second, his eyes were the color of polished steel, not the bright blue they'd been the whole time they'd talked.


"I have dealt with those who wield forces referred to as magic before, yes."

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Despite the situation and being ridiculously far out of his depth, Morgan's perceptive skills weren't reduced any. Nine hells, he'd once cold-read something akin to a demigod; granted, it'd taken a riot and a lot of thrown stick dudes who could hit like freight trains to prove him right, but still. So when those eyes flickered and his grip tightened an ace, certain facts or conclusions may have drawn into his head.


He didn't speak immediately, just sitting quietly, rotating those facts in his head as he pondered what to say. He sipped from the root beer in his hand, putting the cup down real slow. Best approach it cautiously.


"...take it you got a few of the programmers instead of the engineers." His favorite metaphor. "Sorry, frequent analogy. Some of us who use it tend to obfuscate - honestly, given how magic operates half the time...it's like a chicken-and-egg thing; I'm not sure if the wizard came first or the mystery."

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