Jump to content

Recommended Posts

Winifred lowered the blouse in her left hand and raised the buttoned dress shirt on its hanger with her right, frowning at her own reflection in the full length mirror on the back of her dormitory room's door. "If I'm meeting her at her apartment rather than her office I shouldn't be too stuffy, yes?" she reasoned, raising the blouse again to look at the pair of tops side by side. "But the apartment is still inside the company's building and it's still a business meeting. I can't look childish so erring on the side of professionalism might be wiser."

 

Despite her limited wardrobe she'd already been debating her outfit for a good half an hour before asking for Raina's assistance. She'd been preparing for her meeting with Ms. Albright of AEON for the past week and while it would have been one thing if she were simply delivering scientific findings proposing a line of alchemical cosmetics necessitated a certain level of panache she wasn't confident she could meet. If any of her friends knew how to dress for success it was the self-assured pyromancer.

Share this post


Link to post

Raina wasn't in her room this morning, but a few inquiries directed Fred to the computer lab, usually closed at this hour of the morning. Raina and Merlin were ensconced at separate workstations, the monkey involved in some complex project that had the computer partway disassembled as he carefully sprayed the inside with some kind of compressed air canister. Raina was playing a colorful browser game that involved falling fruit. She looked up as the door opened and gave Fred a casual wave. "Hey, aren't you supposed to be doing your thing with the money people this morning?" 

Share this post


Link to post

"I'll be leaving for the meeting shortly," Winifred confirmed, craning her neck to observe what Merlin was working on with passing interest before smoothing out an imagined line in her pants. She's settled on her slate grey slacks and a cream coloured dress shirt done up to the top button. After not-so-subtly checking to make sure there wasn't anyone else in the computer lab she raised her arms as though presenting herself for inspection. "Is this right? Don't dissemble, it's terribly important I make a good impression. Is it too casual? Should I borrow a tie? Not enough colour? Too stiff? It's too masculine, isn't it. I'm speaking to a businesswoman, it's too masculine. I could find a scarf." It didn't sound like she was going to stop even to take a breath unless she was interrupted.

Share this post


Link to post

"Shhh," Raina commanded, rising from her chair. She was always good for an interruption when one was needed. She walked over to Fred, looking her over critically, then motioned for Fred to turn in a circle and show off the back. "It's simple," she decided, "but it's not masculine. More classic, sort of vintage-look with your hair, but not in a bad way." She cocked her head, considering. "Lemme just try something. Come on." She waved Fred towards the door, then turned to Merlin. "No huffing while I'm gone, you know that kills brain cells." 

 

Raina led Fred all the way back to the dormitory floor and stopped off at her room, empty at this hour though with a thin rime of frost from Cathy's slumber. Whatever Raina wanted was apparently buried deep in the closet, to the point where Raina wound up doing a quick spell to find it at all. "Gotcha," she exclaimed at length, emerging with a deep red silk scarf. "Okay, here's how we do it. I'm gonna tie this around your neck like so." She suited actions to words, tying the scarf in a very loose knot that draped to nearly the middle of Fred's chest. "Now you undo the top two buttons and see what you think of that look. And use one of these in your hair." She handed Fred a sparkly rhinestone comb. "Extra-girly sparkle." 

Share this post


Link to post

Winifred hadn't realized her shoulder had been pulled tight together until Raina placed the scarf around her neck and they fell back into her usual straight-backed posture with a palpable sense of relief. The blonde's self-assured attitude had a way of making social interactions seem like solvable equations rather than nebulous quagmires. She tried to watch the way the scarf was tied closely enough to memorize the technique but it was done in a blink and she filed it away as a skill for another day. She followed instructions and undid the buttons without hesitation, taking longer to decide where in her hair to position the comb. She hadn't really acquired any jewelry or accessories as she'd rebuilt her wardrobe for the modern day; there was always something more pressing and functional and things like rings or bracelets were a lousy idea given her condition.

 

Clearing a bit of frost off of the mirror so that she could briefly fiddle with her collar she offered Raina a small smile in the reflection. "You're a lifesaver. It's possible I'm a little nervous about this."

Share this post


Link to post

"You shouldn't be," Raina advised breezily. taking a seat on the bed to watch Fred fiddle with her hair. "Or at least you should try and pretend like you're not. You aren't going hat in hand here, remember. You've got the goods, and there are always people with money willing to pay up if you've got the goods. Even if this first one's a bust, you've got six or seven other possible investors right here in town, right?" She swung her legs idly. "Speaking of the goods, want me to do your makeup for you? You're going to want to go a little more dramatic than usual, show off the product on a live model." 

Share this post


Link to post

The alchemist paused in smoothing a largely imagined crease out of her shirt to meet Raina's eyes in the reflection of the mirror before turning around to face her. "If you have time, that would be brilliant," she agreed a bit hurriedly, ignoring that she'd found her friend wasting time with computer games. She'd always been a little reluctant to ask for assistance to begin with, a feeling only compounded by a sense of being an inconvenience and burden to those around her at the Academy but it would have been foolish to deny that Raina was the more practiced hand in this case. Spending a little more time around her morale-boosting confidence wouldn't hurt, either. "I left my kit in my room. It's, ah, a tad heavy. I didn't want to forget anything."

Share this post


Link to post

"Just as easy to do it in your room, and I won't have to defrost the mirror first," Raina pointed out. "I'd use my stuff on you, but those are way the wrong colors." A moment's travel had them back in Fred's room, with Raina surveying the damage from Fred's lengthy battle with her wardrobe. "It's probably just as well you don't have that many clothes to choose from. Sit down." Once Fred was positioned to Raina's satisfaction in the desk chair, Raina opened the kit and went to work. As a veteran of countless slumber party makeover's, her hands were careful and expert as she cleaned and moisturized Fred's face, then started to apply the actual cosmetics. "You should pitch to this girl the way you did to Cathy and me. Start with the natural ingredient stuff, hypoallergenic, sustainable, whatever, all the good buzzwords. Then expain the superhero pitch. Save the magic-looking stuff for your grand finale, and have her put it on herself. You'll do great." 

Share this post


Link to post

Winifred looked embarrassed to have her side of the dormitory room be seen in such a state of disarray but Raina's efficient regimen didn't leave her much time to dwell on it. Having someone else clean her face was an odd sensation; it made her a little too self-conscious to be relaxing but there was an element of ritual that quieted some of her anxiety. "You're quite good at this," she observed in the moments when she could move her mouth without risking disrupting her friend's work. "I'm not sure I'd know where to start going about it from the opposite angle." The suggestion to let Ms. Albright apply the samples herself was a good one. Winifred hadn't had many close friends before arriving at the Academy, certainly none she would have practiced applying makeup on.

 

"I at least feel properly prepared to explain the benefits of the product." Indeed, tucked into the pre-owned toolbox behind the various jars and brushes was a stack of stiff paper with hand drawn graphs and diagrams, all notated with flowing calligraphy. Winifred had seen plenty of slideshow presentations in their classes but hadn't quite gotten around to embracing the software typically used to create them. "How, ah, 'dramatic' were you thinking?" The quirk of her raised eyebrow seemed less tentative than curious, edging into cautious anticipation.

Share this post


Link to post

"I'm not making you look like a hooker, if that's what you're worried about," Raina assured her, a smile tipping one corner of her mouth. "But it's not exactly an office-wear look either. Smokey eye, liner on the brows, a little shimmer, brighter color on the lips than you normally use. It's more like what you might wear on a date, or if you were going to be wearing makeup out superheroing. I'm not putting any of the FX stuff on you, that's for your grand finale. Hold still." She took hold of Fred's chin to apply the lipcolor with a small brush, painting it quickly into place. "The outfit you've got on is conservative enough that you can do extra with the makeup and not look weird. Anyway, that ought to do it. What do you think?" 

Share this post


Link to post

Winifred gave Raina a look when she mentioned prostitution but had enough self-control to avoid moving her face too much. That resolve was strained as the witch took her chin in her hand and she nearly overcompensated by pulling back. She thanked her own prescience in making the cosmetics resistant to sweat without the need for a layer of something to set them and held her breath while the little brush tickled again her lips. She was reasonably confident that she held a neutral expression until Raina was finished but the moment the lip colour was applied she gave in to reflex and parted her lips enough to run the tip of her tongue from one corner to another.

 

She didn't realize she'd still been holding her breath until she turned around to look at her reflection in the mirror and let it out. "I hardly recognize myself," she admitted, "which I believe counts as a success." The eyes in the mirror belonged to someone cool and collected, the small smile drew attention and suggested a private joke. "I think I'm prepared to 'strike 'em dead'." She turned to give Raina a broader smile and a pair of thumbs up.

Share this post


Link to post

"That's the spirit," Raina encouraged with a grin. "Remember that you're the one with the negotiating power. All she's got is money, and money's the same no matter where it comes from. You're the one with the product nobody else has, and if she wants to get in on the opportunity, she's got to play ball." Wiping her fingers with a cleansing cloth, Raina stepped aside to let Fred put away the makeup how she wanted it. "She's probably got a huge office at the top of that huge office tower, but don't even think about that. It's just a bunch of empty space in the sky, really, and four years ago she was living in these dorms just like we are. Don't let anybody make you feel small over there." 

Share this post


Link to post

Alex's directions were simple and precise; there was always a concierge staff member stationed in the building's grand lobby who handled the traffic for Alex's personal domain. It wasn't certainly the most optimal staffing solution in terms of ensuring that people were busy all the seconds of their day but optimization was regularly sacrificed at AEON for human comforts; both staff and guests. It did ensure that when Fred crossed the comfortable lobby with its dotting of couches and terminals that felt equal parts coffee shop and hotel lobby, that there was no line to wait in. 

 

The staff member that greeted Fred was polite but warm as she provided the vistor's pass that would allow elevator access to the penthouse levels. She pointed the way to the elevator that led to those floors and with a swipe of the card, Fred would be headed directly for the apartment via the high speed elevator. It opened into a small lobby that held a small couch on one side while the other side held simple receptacles for holding mail and depositing trash. The door  was framed by colorful vases that held equally colorful flowers in what might have been a little jarring in their brightness after the soothing color palate of AEON's well furnished lobby. Before Fred could knock, the door clicked, opening under Alex's telekinetic direction as she called out, cheerfully, "Come in! Would you like something to drink?"

 

Alex's apartment took the idea of 'open floor plan' to a whole new level as it had been designed specifically for two fliers. Stairs were tucked back and out of the way and the living space Fred walked into was roughly three stories with landings for rooms that leap frogged their way up the space. On the main floor, though, was space for living, dining and making meals. Alex waved one hand towards the white couches draped in jewel bright pillows and the occasional throw, from where she stood by the kitchen. Clearly the splashes of bright color matched Alex's personal aesthetic as she wasn't dressed for work today, instead wearing a colorful circle skirt and peasant blouse. Crystals definitely sparkled from the pins that held her curls up and back from her face. "Make yourself comfortable."

Share this post


Link to post

Remembering that Ms. Albright had been a student at the Academy herself only a handful of years prior did not have quite the intended effect when confronted with the towering AEON building. If anything Winifred was glad that the campus was far enough from the city proper that she didn't have to contend with the vertigo inducing view from street level on a daily basis. The high speed elevator was a similarly disconcerting experience and by the time she entered the unexpectedly open 'apartment' her knees were threatening mutiny with each step.

 

Good English manners saved the say as she reflexively responded to the question while most of her concentration went toward walking and not hitting anything with the large red toolbox she was carrying. "Tea would be lovely, thank you." Her hostess' casual attire made her wonder if she's overdressed after all but she took the riot of colour in the apartment as a good sign. That was an aesthetic to which she was prepared to cater. She hesitated near the couches, debating whether or not to set the toolbox down on the coffee table or floor or perhaps simply holding it in her lap; scratching the furniture would be a poor way to start the meeting.

Share this post


Link to post

As if sensing her discomfort - which, considering who this was might very well have actually been the case - Alex offered a warm smile of reassurance, "Oh, its sturdier than it looks, I promise. Everything in the apartment is," There was a flash of bemusement in her bright hazel eyes as she offered that cheerful adage. After all, the apartment furnishings had been custom ordered to ensure that any unintentional display of Mike's strength wouldn't crumple them. The couch that Fred sat on was large but firm, the pillows softening it from Mike's comfort level to Alex's. 

 

"My fiance's a good foot and a half taller than I am," Alex added as she made quick work of setting up a small tea tray with mugs, honey, sugar and milk. Adding a plate of cookies to the side, she continued to make small talk as she waited for the water to heat, "So I had to have most of the furniture custom made so it fits his frame while at the same time, I don't vanish into the cushions. I thought he was going to beat you here but something came up after his work day so he might come home while we're talking - if that won't bother you?"

 

She added with clear pride as she crossed back to Fred, "He's a kindergarten teacher."

Share this post


Link to post

Off-kilter as she was Winifred felt her cheeks colour slightly as she put the toolbox down as delicately as its weighty metal allowed. In private moments she might have admitted to herself that there was something appealing about a pronounced height difference between partners but a foot and a half seemed like a genuine medical risk. That was not a train of thought she'd have usually had but trying not to think about things one shouldn't think about around a telepath was proving more difficult than anticipated. Ms. Albright's reputation for not prying with her abilities was sterling but then how would anyone know differently? That probably wasn't a useful train of thought, either.

 

She took a seat on the couch with her legs neatly crossed and back ramrod straight despite the cushions. No, of course. Thank you for meeting with me in your home." The modern American school system was one of the things that had been explained to her as she was being enrolled at the Academy. "That must be a... very large man around very small children."

Share this post


Link to post

"Everyone is large to a five year old." Alex replied with a chuckle as she sat the tray down on the table and sat down a companionable distance from Fred. Despite the modern setting, and the certainly modern accouterments, Alex settled into her chair, her hands neatly folded in her lap and her posture straight. It wasn't so much that she was going out of her way to set Fred at ease by aping the mannerisms of the era she was raised in, but more that Alex always tried to make anyone feel comfortable in a social setting and those were the expectations that her current guest happened to have. If it had been a different student, the response would have been equally modulated, not with the goal of manipulating anyone but simply to put them at ease.

 

"I'm happy to meet with you, Fred, of course. I was your age when I started AEON, after all," Alex replied with a brief, gamine grin, "You're giving me a chance to pay it forward which I always try to do... and AEON can always use another luxury brand if you decide  you want to go with us - which, I should note, you don't have to by any stretch. There are probably a good half a dozen companies in Freedom City that might be a good match for you and half of those have ties to Claremont that you could certainly utilize to get a foot in the door so really, a business meeting should be a chance to get to see if our company is a good fit for your product just as much as the other way around." Alex provided helpfully, despite the fact that she was arguably putting herself at a larger disadvantage for any negotiations down the line, "Which is why we're having the meeting here rather than in more formal settings. I'd like to offer my help in refining your pitch if you do go another route and the CFO tends to have a fit when we're not maximizing the company profits."

Share this post


Link to post

Winifred blinked a few times at the explanation of her options, nonplussed. Raina had made a good point earlier in the day but the alchemist hadn't been expecting it to be reiterated in quite that way. "Er, well," she began lamely only to clear her throat and regroup. "That is, why don't I show you what I've developed so far?" Undoing the latches of the toolbox she lifted the lid and let it unfold itself into tray after tray packed with bottles of nail polish, small pots made from burnished aluminum for eye shadow and blush, similarly crafted tubes of lip colour and more. Some of the trays held risers that looked to have been custom made to accommodate yet more little containers. Each was labeled in neat handwriting with a letter and number though the specific method of organization escaped Alex at a glance.

 

"Probably best to start with the foundation," Winifred suggested with the delivery of someone who'd practiced a joke too many time in the mirror. She indicated a row of colours in a gamut of skin tones. "Everything in the basic assortment is hypoallergenic and resists smudging or perspiration without the need for a setting powder, though naturally the results are best when it can be formulated specifically for the wearer's personal pH level." She paused to give Alex a small frown. "You don't run especially alkaline, I hope?"

Share this post


Link to post

"I don't," Alex said simply, like it was customary for someone to know that sort of detail about themselves. "So do you intend it to be a custom manufacture line? The price point is higher but the labor is more intensive at that point," Alex pointed out as she glanced over the vials before selecting the one closest to her skin tone to test on the inside of her wrist. "Have you sought a patent for your formulas yet? There's a bit of a mixed take in legal about seeking patents for formulas for cosmetic products. Its not the sort of protection that you'd expect - certainly not like our biomedical division enjoys on their patents. Avoiding copycats is a bit more reliant on keeping formulas secret more than anything."

 

Alex offered the information alongside her question as she went to blend the makeup out and check the coverage, tipping her pale wrist towards the light to look it over. Her features were bare of even the light makeup that Alex wore most of the time. "Personally, I think its best to provide a mid-range line - something you'll see at a makeup store like Sephora, and then offer a higher level through a proprietary website. It'll help build your base faster and I think you want to avoid the drugstore brand tier." Alex suggested before adding, "Not that there's anything wrong with the drugstore tier but you don't really see a profit unless you're seriously engaged in mass production and that tends to mean cutting corners somewhere."

Share this post


Link to post

"Oh, the standard line outperforms the, ah, 'drugstore tier' on anyone within the usual human range, it's simply a question of holding oneself to a standard higher than 'good enough'," Winifred clarified. "Everything I'm wearing right now comes from that selection." She quickly indicated each of the containers Raina had opened to do her makeup practically without looking, so familiar was she with her own handiwork. "I have been working on acquiring patents, although the process is... byzantine. Really, the secret is the process more than the ingredients. Which, admittedly, makes mass production past a certain point largely untenable without a considerably investment in skilled labour."

 

She produced her hand-lettered graphs, each one packed with information in neat calligraphy that outlined material costs and the optimal level of production that could be reached without sacrificing quality. Not every chemist was suited to learning alchemical techniques; it required a looser adherence to certain established rules. "What you have there isn't too difficult, the qi distillation is the more delicate step and there's no reason a version couldn't be formulated that isn't also a moisturizer and cleanser, I suppose. It's far more a concern with the special line up." She allowed herself a bit of theatre, raising her eyebrows dramatically in a way very much enhanced by her uncharacteristically bold liner.

Share this post


Link to post

"Not to mention more esoteric processes tend to involve significantly more scrutiny when you're talking about mass production. AEON's dealt with that before as some of our more profitable goods come from esoteric origins. I don't know how familiar you are with what all we do, especially since we do utilize subsidiaries since having a flag-waving T-baby is not always the best marketing tactic," Alex said with a small smile. "I can tell you that an all purpose product is going to have significantly more traction than multiple products. People purchasing would rather spend more money on a single creme than have several that they're having to layer into a routine as you can market it at the busy woman with not enough time in her day."

 

Alex gave a small nod of her head, setting the carefully lettered graphs and charts to the side after having flipped through them quickly. For most people it might seem dismissively short but Alex's ability to take in information was significantly faster than even peak human capacity, "Let's see your showstopper product? A good presentation rythm is to establish credibility and having show the breadth of your product, you want to hook their interest by revealing what makes your collection so very special. You're going to want to convince your audience that you're more than worth the special training, or materials that you need for it." Alex's gamine grin was easy and friendly, "Which is mostly advice for future presentations. I already believe that what you have is worth the extra effort but I can't imagine this will be the last invention that you see about selling."

Share this post


Link to post

"Ah, well! The more interesting pieces are indeed intended for a very particular sort of 'busy woman'. Or gentleman. Or, ah, otherwise inclined." Winifred generally found herself playing an awful lot of catchup when it came to identity politics but she did like to make an effort. "Individuals who might have to work around unique colouring, for example." She pulled a riser tray out of the tool box and set it down on the coffee table. Along the top row was a version of the suite of cosmetics she'd engineered for Cathy's paleness. The shelf below them had an identical row of products but suited for someone with lavender skin and below that a set that would have been quite striking against a metallic silver. "Or who might require something suited to reptilian scales or velvet-like fur. Someone of a primarily aquatic disposition, even." The alchemist produced another tray, this one featuring several bottles of the same brown-black colour but each labeled with a different formula and accompanied by an appropriate applicator.

 

She set that down next to the other tray before pursing her lips slightly and running a finger down a row of containers in the back of the tool box. "Of course the need might be less one of physiology and more a question of... flag waving, as you say. Here." She produced what looked to be a fairly sober, business appropriate shade of eyeshadow and extended it toward Ms. Albright. "This was formulated with a friend in mind but you possess telekinesis, correct? If you would, try some of that on your hand then vibrate the air about an inch or so above, enough to generate a bit of heat."

Share this post


Link to post

"I can do that," Alex agreed cheerfully as she accepted the makeup and leaned over a small mirror to apply it with a light hand. Pausing for a moment to admire the subtle results, Alex kept her eyes on the mirror as she did as Fred instructed, turning the muted professional shadows into a rainbow that sparkled. The delighted laugh was genuine as she turned her head back and forth to catch the light, "Well that's certainly a show stopper, yes. I love it."

 

The praise was easy and warm, and she turned her attention from the mirror to Fred, "And very splashy for your pyro kinetic. Do you think with some tinkering you could have results that were affected by ambient light. I think a cultivated line for metahumans would have significant traction but for marketability, you'd be better served by a product that anyone can apply." Alex smiled, the gesture only a little bittersweet. "Everyone wants to be just a little bit... magical, really."

 

Reaching out, a pad of paper flew into Alex's hand and she began to jot down suggestions, her handwriting neat and precise, "So the question really is, do you want to proceed down a business partnership with AEON or would you like some help and guidance for pitching your line to someone else." She paused in her writing to glance up and add with utter honesty, "You're certainly smart enough that you could go about trying to found your own business but it will take significant time away from both school work and friendships. I... don't recommend it; the cost is very high - but it is your choice and you have my guidance in whatever path you choose. You're certainly able to take your time in deciding your course of action."

Share this post


Link to post

"Ah, well the rainbow option wouldn't be for her specifically, I'm reasonably sure. I'd made a whole set for her for when she's 'on the job' so to speak and that formula was just a good baseline to work from while I was experimenting, you know, in case I came up with something else she might like, um..." Winifred began speaking more and more quickly until she realized she was rambling more than a little and she coughed into her hand to cover her embarrassed expression. "Er, regardless. I do have some day-to-night variants here. The tricky bit was accounting for artificial light versus daylight but I'm pleased with the results. The nail polish that turns phosphorescent in the dark is a favourite." She recovered enough of her composure to give Ms. Albright a small smile. "Those are just a bit less theatrical than what I handed you."

 

She busied her hands collecting her graphs and tidying up while she collected her thoughts. When she spoke again it was slowly and deliberately. "Ms. Albright, I believe you're familiar with my... unusual circumstances but I feel the need to underline that I arrived in this fine city with nothing, in the most literal sense of the word. The Academy has been tremendously charitable but my final year there will be starting soon and I must admit I am somewhat adverse to accepting that sort of aid anyway, as a matter of pride." She ran a hand through her hair, looking briefly as though she were carrying the weight of the world on her shoulders. "Moreover a number of the dear friends I have made are in similarly dire straits. My roommate is a genuinely remarkable young woman who was living on the streets themselves not long ago and has resigned herself to returning to that existence. We are quite a collection of orphans and paupers, one way or another."

 

Winifred lifted her chin to look her hostess in the eyes. "I'm explaining this so that you understand that I will not shy away from any investment in time nor effort if it means I can provide for myself and my new family. If you can help me to do that then I should very much like to work with you."

Share this post


Link to post

Alex reached out to gently squeeze Fred's hands, her smile kind and knowing at the same time, "Oh, I know you won't but its something you should walk into eyes open. I had people to take care of too. I still do." Alex said simply, the physical contact brief as she straightened up in her chair once more. "We all have our pride. I'm pretty sure if I offered to buy your line outright with an egregious sum of money - I could, though I don't think that's what you want - that you would say no. A sense of self is important, really, sometimes its all we have."

 

Her head tipped to the side for a moment, the gesture very subtle as if she were turning to say something to someone else in the room, but far too quick for even most telepathic conversations. "I can absolutely help you do what you wish. I think in terms of your school, we can structure it as a business extra curricular to take up a block of time in your week. I'll have my team draft up the details for you to approve and if you have any questions, we'll go over the meaning of things together. In the future, you'll want your own legal counsel though I promise you can trust me. The school does have lawyers that you could utilize but, frankly, I'm not a big fan of that firm personally." Alex didn't elaborate more, her nose scrunching up with faint distaste. Undoubtedly the Summers had a top notch lawyer on retainer but Alex had never enjoyed ruthlessness, even when it was on her side ostensibly. 

Share this post


Link to post

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

×