Chapter 199: Unbalanced Encounters

on January 29, 2014 in Volume 2 Book 6: Career Counseling, Volume 2: Sophomore Effort

In Which Mackenzie Makes Her Case

While Steff seemed to view all talk about the future like some sort of unavoidable pit of doom, I found that contemplating future pitfalls just firmed up my convictions about what kind of a life I wanted to live.

I still didn’t have a plan, exactly, but my goals were getting clearer, and it would be easier to chart a course if I knew the destination. The freedom and money to travel were definitely big on my list. Talking with Steff had put the idea into my head, and the stuff that happened after we were done talking had convinced me to keep it.

Well, the only way to plan for an uncertain future was to shape it myself, then making sure I got paid for whatever work I did now was a good first step. Assuming that Acantha’s project was at all on the level, then participating in it was another step. I wouldn’t do it just for the experience or the exposure or networking opportunities, but if I could sure I’d be paid then they would be a nice potential bonus.

I needed to present my terms to Acantha before her next get-together, so I wouldn’t be any more invested in what she was doing if I needed to walk away. At the same time, I didn’t want to feel rushed in a negotiation, which I would be if I tried talking to her before or after class. Also, her classroom mode was so stiff and practiced.

I needed her to be flexible, with her guard down… though that makes it sound like I was planning on ambushing her. It was more that I didn’t want her to be on the defensive, so she wouldn’t react to my proposal like it was an ambush. So, I made an appointment to see her in her borrowed office during my afternoon break. It was short notice, but I’d had every reason to believe she would see me. If she hadn’t, it might have been time to re-evaluate my strategy.

I wondered if this was how she saw the world… and a dim, distant voice in the back of my head wondered if it was how my father did. Okay, both of them were far smoother operators than I was. I didn’t have any illusion that I was some kind of master negotiator or manipulator. But strategizing for conversations, figuring out people’s weakest moments…

Okay, again, “weakest” sounds like I was planning to attack her. Least guarded? Most receptive, I guess, would be the best wording. I was figuring out how to approach her when she would be at her most receptive.

I practiced my approach on the way over. It seemed like the simple, straightforward approach would be the best. I would lay out my case, using arguments based on the very principles she’d expounded to me in private and to the group at her meeting. I couldn’t guarantee she’d agree with my application of those principles, but if I was clear in my stance then I could walk away without a doubt or regret if we didn’t come to an agreement.

As soon as I saw her sitting behind a very clean desk reading something on a tablet, I knew I’d picked my moment well. The difference between Acantha in the classroom and Acantha on her own was almost as drastic as a physical transformation. It was the same person, but free of a position of authority and a score or so students handling volatile items under her direction, she was a lot more fluid and full of life. It went beyond simple relaxation and into something more like stepping out of a rigid suit of armor.

“One moment, please,” she said, not looking up from the clay fragment in her hand. She was wearing a pair of rimless half-moon spectacles that must have had translation or memory functions, because there was no way her eyes needed correcting. She put the tablet aside and took off her glasses. “There.”

“That seems a little old-fashioned for you,” I said.

“There are other ways to weave the enchantments I need, but these are stylish and practical,” Acantha said, giving the glasses a flourish before tucking them into a case.

I’d meant the tablet, but since that wasn’t what I’d come here to talk about I didn’t correct her. It was hard to imagine Acantha messing around with scrolls, much less something so bulky and inelegant. The state of the art had moved on, and while there were traditional wizards who kept up the traditional trappings, that seemed like the opposite of Acantha’s whole vibe.

“Had a good evening?” she said.

“Yeah, pretty good so far,” I said, before my brain caught up with what she’d said. “…it’s not even two in the afternoon, though.”

“I meant last evening… you have a touch of what elves call ‘the well-done walk’, or at least, that’s the polite version,” she said. “Oh, I’m sorry, I’ve made you blush… I’m sorry, I didn’t think you would be self-conscious about this of all things.”

“I’m… pretty self-conscious in general,” I said, not sure why this of all things would strike her as something someone would be less likely to be self-conscious about.

“Yes, I just had a hard time imagining someone blushing at the oblique mention of an act that she herself performed.”

“I think you’d be surprised,” I said. “It’s probably more of a human tendency than an elven one, though.”

“Very likely true,” she said. “But it’s more of an elven act, so I would have thought that any human who underwent it would have more of an elven outlook. I really should have left it alone, but keeping my mind off all the subjects considered taboo by humans or otherwise not fit for discussion between instructors and students wears me down, so I jumped on what seemed like an opportunity… but as your face is making increasingly clear as this conversation goes on, you did not actually stop in here to talk about this.”

“Uh, yeah… I mean, no, I didn’t,” I said, trying to get my feet back underneath my thoughts. It had all seemed so simple a minute ago. I’d expected Acantha to be relaxed, not…conversational

“Why don’t you have a seat and tell me about it?” Acantha said. “If that’s more comfortable than standing, I mean.”

“It’s about, uh, your project,” I said, easing myself into the chair opposite her.

Our project… in the sense that I hope you’ll be a part of it, but even if you choose not to, it still won’t be solely mine,” she said with a polished air. “A group endeavor is the whole point. If it were something I could manage on my own, I’d manage it on my own.”

“Right,” I said. “The thing is… well, I think you can count me provisionally in… but… it’s a pretty firm provision, I have to tell you.”

Okay, that was less straightforward than I’d hoped for, but I was starting to get my footing.

“If you’re angling for more information, I’ll tell you what I said before,” she said. “I can’t give you the particulars of the project because I don’t have anything in particular in mind. Ideally, it will take shape in response to the strengths and resources of the group, but I have only an incomplete and secondhand picture of what those strengths and resources might be. That’s part of the appeal for me: I’ll get to see what you’re all made of. As untested and untried as you are, that should be appealing to you, too.”

“I guess… I mean, that’s true, but that’s not actually my condition,” I said. “The thing is… well, the thing is that I’ve been thinking about what you said about gambling and stuff, and I don’t think I can give my time to a serious endeavor if I’m not being paid.”

“Naturally, we’ll have a profit sharing agreement in place before any actual work is done,” Acantha said. “I don’t work with anyone without written terms, and that’s the first lesson I would teach to anyone working with me.”

“I…” I said, then stopped. Acantha took her time to gather her thoughts before speaking, when she needed to. I needed to. What would she do if I did the same? I took a deep breath, cleared my head as best as I could, and then tried again. “Future profits on a project to be decided later isn’t my idea of a sure thing. Maybe you can say with certainty that we’ll come up with something, but that doesn’t mean it’ll be something that could be easily marketed or sold.”

It was for that reason that I was almost certain that she did have a specific idea in mind… how else could she be as sure of success as she seemed? I doubted she would admit it, though, and if there was a way to use my suspicions as a bargaining chip, it would take a more skilled negotiator than me to do it.

“Well… as to that,” Acantha said, and this time she paused to find her thoughts and organize them into words, “since you know I don’t waste my time on a gamble, you could take it as given that I expect this enterprise to be profitable… and since you know I’ve had a successful career, you could infer that my judgments in such matters are generally sound.”

“I could,” I said. “But just because you’ll profit from it somehow doesn’t mean that there will be money in it for me, or that the money will be worth my time.”

This time there wasn’t even a preamble before she went into stop-and-think mode. She went very still, the way that only elves can, and either regarded me with cold, careful calculation or just happened to still be looking at me while she worked her way through her reaction.

“Well, I can’t say you haven’t been paying attention,” she said, finally. “Here’s my offer: you will be paid five silvers an hour for your participation in the project… strictly as an advance on future earnings. How does that strike you?”

Five silvers an hour…

“Well… I like the price, but I’m not sure,” I said. The money was right… double my floor, even… but I was familiar with the pitfalls of the word advance from my fascination with writing during my fanfic days. If you can believe it, I once considered that I might become an author when I grew up. “That still sounds like a gamble, and maybe a worse one… what happens if the projectdoesn’t pan out? I’m not going to accept a deal that might leave me on the hook after I did my part. I want to be paid up front, period.”

“But if you are paid up front and it does pay in the long run, that would leave you being paid twice for the same work,” Acantha said. “And while it’s possible that some extra silvers here and there would be a drop in the bucket compared to your potential earnings, there’s a principle at stake here. It wouldn’t be fair to pay you twice when everyone else is getting paid once. Unless you’d like to make the case that everyone should be paid up front?”

I sensed that there was a test here. If Acantha wasn’t Acantha, then it might have been a test of morals.

“If anyone else has a problem with the terms you offer them, they’re free to take it up with you themselves,” I said, carefully.

“What if I were to offer you payment up front in lieu of participating in the profit sharing?”

Another test… or maybe, more accurately, a trap. I had a strong feeling that if I bit on this, Acantha would decide she didn’t need my help after all. Either that, or she would take it as a sign that she could take me for all that I was worth.

“That wouldn’t be fair to me,” I said. “Let’s stick with the advance, but let’s be clear: it’s against possible future earnings. What I make, I keep, even if the whole thing goes belly-up or somehow loses money.”

“What money is there to lose?” she said. “We’re not starting with any capital.”

“Either way,” I said. “What I earn, I keep. You can deduct it from my share of the profits if there are any, but either way, I get paid for the hours I work. Is that not reasonable?”

“You realize that of all the people I tapped, you are the least experienced and have the least specialized knowledge or training?” she asked.

“I realize that you wanted me enough to tap me anyway,” I said. “You came up with the figure of five silver an hour. Are you going to argue that I’m not worth that?”

“No, I don’t suppose I will… done,” she said. “But with one caveat: my agreement is contingent on your agreement not to discuss the terms of your compensation with the rest of the project. I’ll be paying you out of my own pockets, and while it’s not a difficult cost to absorb, I also don’t want the whole process to be bogged down by negotiating terms with every member of the project. I expect some of them will have the same idea, anyway, but you came to me on our own initiative. Let them do the same.”

“Agreed,” I said.

It was obvious from the way she spit it out without hesitating that Acantha had practiced the bulk of this speech in her head. I’d thrown her for a moment, but she must have foreseen this conversation happening in some form, at some point. Though maybe she hadn’t necessarily planned on having it with me. I realized that she must have intentionally seeded the idea when she’d talked about her dislike of gambling at the first meeting… or maybe she realized that at least some of the people in the room would have the temerity to take her at her word.

Either way, I had a feeling now that the entire thing had been a test. I supposed that I’d passed it, in her eyes, but I found I didn’t actually care about her approval. Well… I cared about it a little. The main thing that mattered, though, was that I’d accomplished what I’d set out to do. I was getting paid.

With that settled, I started to turn to leave, but my eyes fell on the tablet, still sitting on the desk. Even upside-down, something jumped out at me, if only because I’d been seeing it almost every day for more than a year now: a rune, the forked staff of wizardry that was one of the three symbols of power bound into Two’s forehead.

“Golem runes?” I blurted out.

“What?” Acantha said. She picked up the tablet, glancing down at it. “I suppose some of them are in use for golems, but it’s really just an old curiosity I picked up.”

“What’s it do?” I ask.

“It’s not a functional item, just a fragment… it might never have actually been enchanted,” she said. “If there’s nothing else, I have a number of things to attend to… including putting together our next meeting. After all, I can’t pay you if there’s no work.”

“I’ll let you get to that, then,” I said.

“We’ll talk soon.”


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50 Responses to “Chapter 199: Unbalanced Encounters”

  1. kappa says:

    The “Five silvers an hour…” paragraph comes before the actual figure of five silvers an hour is named. I’m going to assume that’s a typo.

    Current score: 0
  2. Oni says:

    Ugh. One step forward, two steps back.

    Five pieces of silver, one giant red flag towards the future.

    Current score: 4
  3. Order of Chaos says:

    Nice chapter, It’s good to see Mack standing up for herself under her own initiative (Amaranth would be proud) and it’s nice to know the project will soon be revealed.
    I hope.

    Current score: 0
  4. Yumi says:

    Five silver an hour? That seem like a lot– a suspicious lot, going back the conversation that happened a few chapters earlier ( http://www.talesofmu.com/2book06/chapter-195 )

    As Hazel said then, “If you come to her with an absurd offer and she doesn’t blink, then chances are she isn’t… either because she knows she’ll never have to pay you, or because she plans on making out so well for herself that it’ll be a drop in the bucket.”

    Now, the difference here is that Acantha is the one who proposes the wage– but that doesn’t mean it’s not in the “absurd: be suspicious” range. Two and a half silver is said to be above the line worker wages, which themselves are a little above what minimum wage is. I know our economies aren’t likely equatable, but to equate them anyway, I’d think that would make two and a half silver around $15 (USD). Double that to five silver, and that’s $30 an hour…and that seems, again, like a suspicious lot.

    Maybe that’s not an accurate estimate of what it would be; finding prices for things would probably be a better way to go, but that previous conversation stuck out in my mind while reading this. Basically, I think this chapter gives two reasons to be suspicious of Acantha: the runes at the end and the wage.

    Current score: 5
    • Zukira Phaera says:

      good supposition –

      as for the numbers, 15$ USD is nearly double minimum wage, at least in the part of the US I’m in. I’m going to hazard a guess that you’re an Aussie, Yumi?

      IF the currency were to be comparable and/or minimum wage to be based on relative ones to the time of writing, my own guestimate is

      1 Silver = 3$ (usd)
      5S=15$ (usd)~2x min.wage

      Suddenly I want to go digging back in old chapters for what the x#c=S x#S=g x#g=plat ratios are or if there is commonality to any particular game’s conversion ratios mentioned and canon for figuring.

      Current score: 0
      • Yumi says:

        No, I’m American.

        The thing is, in the chapter Mack said she was between asking for two silver and two and a half silver– both of which are implied to be somewhat above the line wages which are somewhat above minimum wage.
        I’d still put line wages (low end line wages) at around $10, as that’s comparative to the low end for automotive line workers. Therefore even if two silver was equal to this and not somewhat above it as implied, two and a half silver would still be at least $12.50.

        Mack specifically said that she wouldn’t work for her for minimum wage– which, if you want to make five silver equal to twice minimum wage, contradicts her having two and a half silver as her bottom line.

        I had the same idea of wanting to go digging last night, but I couldn’t find any specific prices; what I did find was that fifty silver equals one gold (“Four gold was equal to two hundred silver coins,” http://www.talesofmu.com/book0x/413 )

        Current score: 2
        • Zukira Phaera says:

          good points – and thanks for doing the legwork I was too tired to do last night.

          sounds like you’re in a more affluent region than I’m in too. doubt we find a direct corollary, though it’s likely we’re book-ending it.

          Current score: 0
  5. Godric says:

    Hmm, runes of control/animation (I can’t quite recall what that rune was for, or if it was even mentioned), added to Acantha’s extra investigation into Calahan’s Mockboxes. Maybe creating phantom duplicates that can be controlled by a specific individual?

    Current score: 0
  6. Cadnawes says:

    Mack… You DO keep a lawyer on staff, you know…

    Current score: 8
  7. Anon says:

    Assuming you’re basing this off US minimum wages, then it’s a little above 7.25 and then a little above that. I’d put 2 and a half silver at something closer to 10-11 an hour, which puts 5 around 20-22. Which is still pricy for a college student, but maybe not so much if they have a known talent to bring to the table that you can’t find elsewhere, like deep energy reserves and an affinity for fire.

    Or inside knowledge of the project you intend to steal from.

    Current score: 1
    • Yumi says:

      I was initially I was thinking of saying “between $10-$15 and hour.” But then, there’s her saying that two and a half silver is “way closer to line wages than it is to what an actual enchanter would earn in a salaried position, but at the same time, it feels extravagant.” That pushed me more toward the higher end, the idea of it being potentially extravagant. Also, it doesn’t necessarily say that it’s only a little above line wages, just that it’s closer to those than what an “actual enchanter,” a position that generally requires multiple degrees, makes.
      I was also comparing the line worker wage to automotive assembly line work, which is often around $10 at the low end and doesn’t require a bachelor’s degree. (I don’t know offhand what education level it does require.)
      So it might not be as high as what I said, but I do think it’d be higher that $10. Of course, it could be misleading to even try to equate them.
      Either way, based on the conversation Mack and friends had previously, it’s still a suspicious amount.

      Current score: 1
  8. zeel says:

    So this tablet, was it given to her perhaps by one Professor Chekhov? Or does merely bare a depiction of a rather colorful fish?

    Current score: 5
  9. Amelia says:

    “reading something on a tablet”.
    Nice play on people’s expectations there.

    So, some of the runes are used in the creation of golems.
    I wonder if the rest of them are also used in the creation of golems?

    Now I need to go and see which runes Two has and what they do.

    Current score: 0
    • zeel says:

      She has the tree of life (life), the wizards mark (magic), and the circle of will – negated (free will, but subservient).

      Current score: 1
      • Ducky says:

        The subservience is just her personality.

        Current score: 0
        • zeel says:

          No, the “want to do what I am told” is personality, Mackenzie makes it clear that without the negation (which is a slash through the circle) on the circle of will she wouldn’t have been bound to her master in the first place (essentially created ‘free’). However releasing her negates the negation on the rune. Her personality defect on the other hand is still there.

          Current score: 1
  10. Order of Chaos says:

    Do we know where the first “Five silvers an hour” came from? Mack seemed to think it before Acantha said it.
    Mind reading glasses anyone? It seems high end magic even without the training Owl Turtle gave Mack which coming from Dee I expect would cover this as well even if this was not its’ intent.

    Current score: 0
    • Seth says:

      It’s a stretch, but what if both Mack and Acantha are playing out post-hypnotic suggestions from the ROTT?

      Maybe the end-game here is that the ROTT is assembling info & a team to give itself physical form.

      Current score: 6
    • Lunaroki says:

      I was gonna comment on that Five silvers an hour… just sitting there before Acantha made her offer. The isolation in its own paragraph and the italicization make it feel like a thought, but whose thought? Since Mack is our viewpoint character obviously it was in her head, but was it her thought that somehow transferred over to Acantha’s head or was it Acantha’s thought that Mack somehow picked up on before she said it aloud? Did Mack unknowingly push the thought into Acantha’s brain or did Acantha fish it out of Mack’s mind and then toss it out for her? So many possibilities, and the fact that Mack herself didn’t notice that she had the thought before Acantha spoke it is also a tantalizing clue with no clear answers as of yet.

      I really doubt the glasses had anything to do with it. Acantha wasn’t wearing them by the time Mack got around to the subject of her visit. For the glasses to be involved Acantha would have had to scan the entirety of Mack’s thoughts behind her visit before she took them off. If that’s the case then Acantha is even more deviously clever than I thought already.

      Now the idea that the ROTT is behind this team and using it to build itself a body, that’s some inspired guesswork. Mind you, I’m not seeing how that would prove profitable to Acantha, but if the ROTT wanted to make this happen I’m sure it could find a way to make it seem like a money-making enterprise. Perhaps the end result even would be marketable somehow. I still think it’s going to require Pitchy for the ROTT to have enough of a soul to exist outside of dreams, but bring those two together with a golem body and you could have the makings of a whole entity.

      One thing that I just realized: thus far we only have confirmation of the ROTT visiting the dreams of individuals who have handled Pitchy. Two, Dee and Mack, specifically, though there were others who handled Pitchy for whom we have neither confirmation nor negative confirmation. I keep wanting to go back and check whether the ROTT first appeared before or after Two handled the pitchfork, but I haven’t taken the time to do so yet. Anybody know for certain on that?

      Current score: 0
      • Ducky says:

        Before. The ROTT came about as Two’s dream, when she asked Hazel very early freshman year what people dream of and Hazel remarked something to the effect of “ridiculous things, like owl-turtles and whatnot.” Two took that literally, because Two takes everything literally, and her dreams henceforth contained the ROTT. His first appearance in the main story was when the fish-beast from the underworld was hanging out over Harlowe, and everyone interacted with it then. I am uncertain whether or not that occurred before or after the pitchfork; I’m working from memory here.

        Current score: 0
        • Oni says:

          Fish-Beast was way after the pitchfork. That was after the swan-girl was killed, whereas the origin of the pitchfork was practically in her first month of school.

          Current score: 0
      • 'Nym-o-maniac says:

        That threw me, too, but I’m pretty sure the “five silvers an hour” thing is just a proofreading error. It was likely meant to come after Acantha’s offer.

        Current score: 0
        • zeel says:

          Yep, it got fixed. This whole thread of insanity is based on a typo. That’s pretty darn funny.

          Current score: 1
          • Order of Chaos says:

            That makes me the one to spot a typo? Can we keep the updates at 12 GMT I like coming back from role playing to get a new MU update.

            Current score: 0
    • Zukira Phaera says:

      Remember Amy saying something about Mack being lost in her mirror when they were at a meal and Mack explaining she was looking at rates and so forth? Acantha may just have overheard enough by chance to have a notion of what rate to offer to Mack.

      Current score: 2
    • zeel says:

      You guys are taking the wild mass guessing a little too far. Five is a nice number, it’s also the number that Mackenzie and her friends arrived at in a previous chapter. I is not crazy to think that perhaps Acantha simply came up with the same number as Mackenzie did.

      Now if it had been like 4.97 silver and she pegged that number then it could look weird, but 5 is just too neat a number to look funny. There is no reason to believe that they didn’t simply both come to the same conclusion.

      It is highly unlikley that she could read Mackenzies mind (in fact, it’s a certainty, doing so would have hospitalized her), and the ROTT would not have been in a position to contact her, nor would it make sense for it to do so.

      Current score: 1
  11. Zathras IX says:

    Each Silver is worth
    One hundred Copper, which buys
    As much as a dime

    Current score: 3
  12. not her, the other girl says:

    Random thought – what if someone made a very skilled golem (which presumably would be expensive) and then just mocked it a bunch of times in Callahan’s mock boxes? It would keep working for however long, let’s say a day, then you just have to mock it again the next day* and carry on with production. Depending on the cost of the mock boxes/initial golem vs. normal wages, that could really screw with employment rates.

    *Presuming the golem is not created with the need to eat/sleep/etc. and is therefore working about twenty-four hours.

    Current score: 0
    • Seth says:

      No actual work would be done. The phantasms on the line would only create the illusion of production labor. Any “work” finished by the phantasms would snap back to the un-finished state when the mockbox either resets or overloads.

      You’d also be pushing the all encompassing magical law that all magic, science, and combination of effects is subject to the will of your universes GM.

      Such a combination is likely to cause a freak lightning bolt to blow up the mockbox. Just because.

      Current score: 3
      • Order of Chaos says:

        I think stuff moved would stay moved but anything left from the golems like magic would go so don’t use this for enchanter work and as the mock boxes only make one at a time you would only end up with n+1 mock boxes where n is the number of mock boxes.
        So good for moving stuff like boxes and sweeping but not a I win at making money thing. Good for mining work thow.

        Current score: 0
        • yarhar says:

          nope. specifically physical stuff done by a mock definately reverts. like stabbings. I think it was mentioned that a mock acanthia could preform actively destructive tests on the other box and have it undo, so that would over most forms of “things moved” and mining too

          Current score: 0
        • bjpof says:

          No. ANYTHING the mockeries do is phantasmal and stops being a thing as soon as it does. Thats the entire point.

          punches bites stabbings fireballs ect, all go away when the person “dies” or the illusion expires. Same goes for things like “move this box” or “disect the second device” thats why it was mentioned aicanthia could have even done destructive testing of the boxes with the duplicate

          The only way to get any work done with one is a major rewrite to get rid of the “harmless” bit. So you’d need the military version.

          Current score: 0
    • Lunaroki says:

      Mocked golems. Wow. Fascinating concept! I’m not certain we have any evidence yet that the golem runes Acantha was looking at will have any direct connection with the mock box “research”, but it is a possibility.

      Personally, I’m thinking that the tablet with the runes on it was as much a test as anything. Having it out and leaving it where Mack could see it seems a bit odd. Acantha could easily have put it away when she got done looking at it. Heck, she could have put it away before Mack arrived. Surely she would have heard Mack’s footsteps approaching, and she was expecting Mack’s arrival. And there was nothing else left out on her desk, making the tablet the sole focus of the desk once she set it down. I’d bet money the whole thing was staged, either to test whether Mack knew anything about golems or to plant another hook to reel her in.

      Current score: 1
  13. Lunaroki says:

    Typo Report

    Well, the only way to plan for an uncertain future was to shape it myself, then making sure I got paid for whatever work I did now was a good first step.

    This sentence reads oddly. It feels like either an “if” is missing at the beginning or the “then” in the middle is the wrong word. It could be correct as it stands, but if so it just feels weird stated that way.

    but if I could * sure I’d be paid then they would be a nice potential bonus.

    It seems like there’s a word missing in front of “sure”, probably “be” or perhaps “make”.

    what happens if the projectdoesn’t pan out?

    Space missing between “project” and the italicized “doesn’t”.

    Current score: 0
  14. Thinker of Thoughts says:

    About the 5 silver. The majority of the world seems to be based on what Dungeons and Dragons would look like if it evolved naturally to become analogous to present day. (I think AE said as much at one point in the comments) That said, I looked up the prices for Non-Player Character hirelings in the Dungeon Master’s Guid. If we assume that inflation from essentially mideival era converts a daily wage into an hourly one, then minimum wage would be about a silver an hour. With laborers, cooks (think fast food), maids, and porters, sitting at 1S/Hr, and a mason, scribe, or craftsperson at 3S/Hr, (which appears to match up with Mack’s numbers). The 5 silver offered by Acantha would then be equivalent to what a professional architect or engineer would make. Probably, but not positively, in the ‘danger stay away’ zone.

    Current score: 3
  15. Aran says:

    “That still sounds like a gamble, and maybe a worse one… what happens if the project doesn’t pan out?

    yeeeeah, no. If Acantha is that convinced they’ll make a profit, she should be willing to bet Mack’s advance on that. If Mack went for anything less, she’d be suckered.

    Current score: 0
  16. JS says:

    Everything was staged! She brought up Mack’s sexcapades of the night before to throw her off, then left something like that out for her to see it. Mack should not be dealing with this lady at all.

    Current score: 1
    • Order of Chaos says:

      I think not. In MU anyone that good lacks somewhere else, dragons can’t make small talk and elf-nice is still on the creepy side of the uncanny valley. I don’t feel that Acantha could pull that off, this setting does not support chess master types.
      Having said that I would expect the Law of Balance to kick in when you start trying to mass produce TVs and make the ether-net so what do I know?

      Current score: 1
  17. PrometheanSky says:

    Acantha’s offer seems suspicious to me too, but I have an inkling what the trap in it may be. Since it is advanced against the final shared profit, Mack might be put in a position to see the project through when she might otherwise walk away for other reasons. Such as, moral objections to a project involving golems…

    Current score: 0
    • Oni says:

      I don’t actually find the offer suspicious. She’s a natural talent with a whole lot of potential/power; that’s the kind of things that these people look for in starter-level. Mack also has the potential to be an ally for decades if not centuries; which is a probably plus to an elf; but is also mortal-upbringing and thus less likely to catch on like someone who had already been around for a generation.

      No, what I find suspicious is everything to do with what she was doing in the final meeting. Chechov’s Wand is going to say that her having anything to do with golem-involved runes isn’t good for anyone.

      Current score: 1
  18. Iain says:

    This question I have… I don’t quite have the understanding of how magic works that some of the rest of you do…

    But could you use the “life-giving” rune from a golem to somehow augment an mock-person so that they don’t disappear and continually exist?

    Illusion Golems. Hard-Light Simulacrums?

    Current score: 0
  19. Jack V says:

    Ooh, very nicely written. I found that negotiation quite realistic, and am applauding Mack for sticking to her guns and insisting on a fair wage which is worth it to her.

    I still expect it to go wrong somehow (where else would there be a plot?), I would have advised Mack to try something on her own, not with Acantha’s group, but it’s certainly a reasonable thing to try from Mack’s perspective.

    Acantha is still very suspicious. If she was genuinely intending to foster the students ambitions equally, why would she want to pay one out of her own pocket? She seems to want something specific from this project, likely from Mack personally.

    I’m also mildly suspicious of the confidentiality clause. If Mack breaks confidentiality, she gets kicked out and not paid, fair enough. But if Acantha pays her a lot, can she claim it back after Mack’s spent it, if she manoeuvres Mack into breaking confidentiality?

    Current score: 0
  20. Ilya says:

    Nice to read about Mack negotiates for herself, but comparing to real-world startup creation, the whole negotiation is kind of impossible.
    If I have found a company and got people to work for a share, they are there only for a share as a co-founders, like myself. Moreover, sometimes everyone need to pay their part of the budget to get things going. And only after initial investment we could pay some salaries to ourselves, probably minimal. And if the project doesn’t get any investment and no success, then you left with nothing.
    That’s the gamble everyone have to take if they’re invited to new projects as co-founders.
    But if I pay people normal salary from the start, then they’re normal workers that have no share in the final profit. Moreover, if I as an owner have some budget and believe in a project, I’d prefer that, since that leave more share for myself.
    That’s the only way things work in the real-world, at least on hi-tech startups – you can’t sit on 2 seats at once.
    So I was really surprised when Acanta agreed to that. Maximum that she should have agreed to is paying minimum wage, until there’s some profit, only so that developers will have money to eat.

    Current score: 0

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