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Jessie’s first day of work at the new job was an odd experience. Given that she’d sought out Illusion Consulting with the explicit goal of corporate espionage she assumed she wasn’t really an ideal employee. Yet she wanted to make as good an impression as possible. She needed to keep the job as long as possible.
She set her alarm way too early and spent a good 45 minutes agonizing over her clothes before settling on the same sort of upscale business casual she’d worn at Finer Things. Then she started in earlier then she would have had to, stopped on the way for coffee, got an extra coffee for her new boss in a purely sucking up gesture, and arrived 10 minutes before 8.
Then she waited another 25 minutes until Kyle staggered off the 8:15 bus rubbing his eyes, carrying a laptop computer, and looking half confused to see her there.
“Um, hi?” He greeted her. “Have you been here long?”
“No,” she lied, “I basically just got here. Coffee?”
“Thanks,” he took the drink without asking how she’d had it prepared. She’d gone with a little bit of cream, and a little bit of sugar, based on the theory that nearly everyone could drink it that way even if it wasn’t their favorite. He took a big swig, and smiled, so she’d either gotten that right, or he wasn’t picky. Probably he wasn’t picky, the long wait had rendered the drink lukewarm at best. “What do I owe you?”
She waved him off. “It’s just a thanks for bringing me on.”
“Ah, well, thank you.” He punched a code into the door’s lock, and it clicked open for them. He paused for a moment looking thoughtful then said, “The code is 12357. The first 5 primes. Actually, I didn’t set that code. Thinking of 1 as a prime is a common mistake- but it’s not. If you go back to Euclid he was looking for a way to build up other numbers through multiplication and of course 1 is…” Kyle trailed off again. Perhaps her eyes had visibly glazed over. “Anyway, that’s the code. For if you get in before me. You probably also don’t need to get in before 8:30. I guess we don’t really have ‘hours’ yet, but I can’t see them starting much before that.”
“Cool, thanks,” Jessie said. She thought, that will make it easy to snoop around. Not that she necessarily would snoop around after hours, but it was a nice card to be holding in case her ‘contact’ thought she wasn’t coming up with information fast enough. She’d sent off her first report the previous evening. She’d detailed Kyle’s “hiring process” if she could call it that, noted she was his only employee, and described the illusions around the office. It hadn’t felt like much information, but hopefully it would keep her contact happy. She shuddered remembering the Enchanted man.
They made their way into the office and Kyle handed her the laptop he’d been carrying. “It’s just an old one I had around the house. We’ll get you something better eventually, but this was all I had on short notice.” He hesitated again, and glanced at his feet. Kyle was clearly not a commanding boss. That had been obvious from the first. It was starting to become apparent he was sort of a fuzzy duckling of a boss. Jessie felt her first twinge of guilt over the whole ‘spying’ thing; she thought it was a shame she wasn’t doing this to Nathan. Screwing him over would have felt like a public service. “You’re going to need an office. You don’t have to sit at the reception desk all the time, but if you could pick one of the front ones where you can hear the door then you can greet people if I can’t.”
“And I guess I don’t really have any furniture right now, except for the front desk.” He glanced over at the “reception desk.” Just now, the illusion that had cloaked the interior of the building was gone and it was revealed to be a simple card table. Jessie actually had to suppress a giggle at the look on Kyle’s face when he saw that.
She helped him out, “Maybe you’d better show me how to turn on the illusion as well.”
“Yeah. It’s simple. I’ve got it attached to a macro.”
“The front desk is also fine. If we get a lot of people stopping in, then it’ll be important to have someone out here. If not then it won’t matter if I sit here. But what did you want me to work on?”
That topic clearly came as a relief because Kyle quit shifting around uncomfortably and smiled, “Actually, yes, you had some great ideas in your interview. I wanted to expand on those.”
Jessie wasn’t certain her ideas were great, but she thought she had an advantage over Kyle. She’d majored in advertising in college. It hadn’t been her first love; she’d wanted to be a writer, but getting into something that involved both art and actually getting paid had seemed like a good compromise. She’d discovered something of a talent for it, and had been carrying a good GPA with the possibility of a prestigious internship for the summer between her junior and senior years. That had been before her mother got sick. Thinking about that she had to push down an unexpected rush of emotion. It felt like another life now – a better one.
They worked for a few hours. Kyle told her about his spell, what it could do, his frustrating business meetings, and his plan or lack thereof. At first Jessie mostly listened, then she asked questions, finally she started to develop a bit of a plan.
“You’ve been thinking about this all wrong,” She said at last.
He raised his eyebrows, “How so?”
“You’re not locked out of the illusion industry, you’ve created an entirely new industry.”
Kyle looked skeptical. “No this is all illusions, and no one will touch them. At least no one local.”
“You said illusions cost a minimum of a hundred dollars every few minutes in terms of the magical power bill, plus a skilled caster, plus equipment, plus development costs. Minimum,” she glanced at her notes. “It can go up to a thousand for some more expensive effects, and that’s all a small area spell, right?”
“So at that kind of cost, illusions only make sense for high budget advertising that’s going to get a lot of views.”
Jessie smiled, “I wasn’t asking. I was telling. We didn’t even study them much in college because, a small company would be blowing a month’s worth of advertising budget on a single illusion at that rate. She drummed her fingers on her desk and considered for a moment. “It’s possible for that to be a good deal with the right sort of crowd, and I guess that’s why you always see a few illusions at parades and fairs and such. Anyway, that doesn’t matter; current illusion technology is basically geared to big budget advertising and the special effects industries.”
“You aren’t in that industry at all! You said you’re drawing pennies an hour in magical current; you could do a kid’s birthday party at 25 bucks an hour and make a profit.” Kyle scowled. Jessie waved his potential objection away. “It’s an example. My point is that’s the entertainment sector. You’re so cheap you might even be successful in outdoor lighting if you could develop the right device!”
“Alright, but what’s that mean?”
“It means we ignore traditional big budget illusion advertising. We sell something entirely different.”
“And how do we do that,” Kyle was starting to look excited.
“We advertise of course!”
Kyle rolled his eyes at her, “Of course. So how do I set that up?”
“You don’t do anything. I can handle everything.”
Jessie watched some debate carry itself out behind Kyle’s eyes. She had no idea what he was trying to work out. Maybe he didn’t trust her to handle such an important task, maybe he even doubted her loyalty, or maybe he’d just never delegated before. Whatever it was, he settled on letting her do it with one last question, “What kind of budget will we need to start with?”
“Time, we’re going to do this in house.”
He nodded, “Alright. I’ll be in the back I guess. I’ve got a few industry contacts still. Nothing great, but there’s a couple of metaphorical doors I can metaphorically knock on before I start doing kid’s parties.”
Jessie gave a half nod, but nothing more. She was already focused on making her idea work. It took some cold calling, but 45 minutes later she had something arranged. It wouldn’t cost them anything, and they’d even make some money on it. Now she just had to figure out how to explain to Kyle exactly what he’d be doing. He’d seemed really cold towards kid’s parties.