In Which Mackenzie Overqualifies

My best chance for catching Twyla was after the design class we shared. There were a couple of potential obstacles with this, one of them being that this was also my designated time for catching up with Nicki.

I knew that getting away from her long enough to have a private conversation with Twyla while not making Nicki feel like I didn’t want to hang out with her… something she was prone to worry about… would be a delicate operation, requiring just the right approach.

That’s why I just straight up told her what I was doing.

“Hey, not that I don’t want to hang, but I need to have like a quick chat with Twyla about something,” I said. “And It’s kind of confidential.”

“That thing you’re doing that you can’t talk about, right?” she asked.

“I can neither confirm nor deny that,” I said, in what I hoped sounded like a joking tone. I mean, I was pretty sure I could actually in fact confirm it without running afoul of the agreement

“It’s cool,” she said. I think she was masking genuine disappointment, but I was pretty sure she was sincere in not wanting it to be a problem even if she couldn’t just turn off her feeling. “I’ve got my secrets, too. I have things I can’t tell you.”

“Yeah? Like what?” I asked.

“Well, the way Gra… oh!” she said, actually going so far as to clap a hand over her mouth. There was something quintessentially… animated… about Nicki, which was probably part of why I liked her. It reminded me of Amaranth. “You’re tricky, Mackenzie.”

I laughed, though it was more that I wasn’t that great at making conversation and had blurted out the most natural-seeming response.

“Anyway, I’d better try to catch her,” I said.

“Good luck,” Nicki said.

Twyla had left the room, but she hadn’t gone far. She never seemed to stick around much, but she was also never exactly in a hurry. I thought that had something to do with not wanting to attract attention to herself: loitering invited conversation, rushing risked attention.

“Hey, Twyla!” I said as I caught up with her.

“Oh… hi, Mackenzie,” she said.

“Do you mind if we duck out of the flow a bit?” I said. “I wanted to talk to you about something.”

“Uh, s ure,” she said, and we slipped into a little alcove made by two round irregular bulges in Emily’s hallway. “What did you want to talk about?”

“An opportunity… I guess,” I said.

The “I guess” wasn’t helping me sell it, I know, but I just felt so cheesy saying “an opportunity”.

“What kind of opportunity?” she asked.

“I’m… well, it will probably be easier to just have you read this,” I said, handing her the paper. She took it from me a little uncertainly, then looked at it. “It explains more than I can… better than I can, too.”

“This is… you’re… offering me a job?” she said.

“Not me personally,” I said. “I mean, not just me… it’s more like offering admission to a group. You wouldn’t be working for any of us any more than we’d be working for you.”

“Doing what?”

“Unfortunately, I can’t really tell you much more than what’s on that paper,” I said. “I signed a non-disclosure agreement, so you’re kind of better off just reading it.”

“So if I decide to join you, I’d have to do the same?”

“Only if the group picks you,” I said. “That’s sort of the point of the vagueness, so we can approach people without swearing them to secrecy before we even know if they’re interested, or if their art will work for us.”

“So this is an application?” she said. “I’d be competing against other artists?”

” Sorry, I should have made it more clear that this thing is really mine to offer. I think you’d be perfect, but I can’t just say that you’re the one and have everyone else accept it. ”

“I’m pretty sure I’m not interested in a competition,” she said. “Thanks for thinking of me, though.”

“Does it make a difference if it’s a narrow field? I mean, we’re not exactly advertising for it,” I said. The words not exactly rang in my head. We weren’t advertising at all, but I was just so used to hedging everything I said when I felt uncertain or uncomfortable, and I was doing that like crazy now. Sort of, kind of… the weasel words wormed their way on and on. “There will probably… there will definitely be only two, or at most three, other people in the running for it.”

“I don’t want to sound like I’m making excuses,” she said, “but… that honestly sounds worse than than a big competition that’s open to everyone. Like, more personal? If that makes sense.”

“You don’t have to make excuses to say no, Twyla,” I said, and that came out naturally, as it was something I genuinely meant and a sentiment that I had spent a lot of time internalizing. Once I said it, I felt like I was on firmer ground. I took a moment to gather myself before I said anything else. “I feel like I’m giving you the wrong idea and I would like it if I could try to explain better… but I’ll totally respect it if you don’t want to hear it.”

“Well, it won’t hurt to listen, I guess,” she said.

“Okay, the thing is… oh, and thank you for listening… but the thing, it’s not going to be like a head to head competition. We’re approaching a few artists that we think would be right for the project. If you’re interested, you just provide the requested samples and I’ll share them with the group. You won’t have tomake your case, or stand there and be compared to the other applicants. The only way that you’ll even be in the same room while we’re discussing your artwork is if we have decided we want to bring you in.”

“Still, I don’t know if I’d be comfortable being… judged… like that,” she said. “I have a lot of anxiety about that kind of thing… well, about things, including that.”

“You put your stuff up on the ethernet, though, right?” I asked. As I said this, I was internally kicking myself for not looking for samples. If I’d found examples of her artwork, I might possibly have been able to impress the others enough that we wouldn’t have needed to do an application process. “That’s not exactly the demiplane of hugs and puppies.”

“No, but that’s… anonymous,” she said. “The only face I have up there is my art, so… it kind of feels separate when people are dumping on it. If that makes sense.”

“Kind of. Is it all people dumping on it, though?” I asked. I had a hard time believing that. I knew that no one’s art was so universally acknowledged as great that they wouldn’t have anyone griping about it, but I also knew that Twyla’s stuff was pretty impressive.

“No… some people actually are pretty nice about it,” she said.

“They’re not just being nice, though,” I said. “Your work is really good, Twyla… and the thing is, this isn’t like a school assignment where you’re going to get it back with a grade or a bunch of peer critiques on it. If you don’t get picked, that’s kind of the end of it… all you know is that the group liked someone else better. Not even that they’re a better artist. It might just be that their stuff fit better with what we’re doing.”

“But you can’t tell me what you are doing. So I’d have to guess about what would be a good fit, and hope I’m right.”

“Sorry, but that’s kind of the nature of it,” I said. “I can’t tell you anything that’s not in the briefy thing. The good news is that no one else who’s trying for it will have any more of an inside track than you do. It probably won’t hurt anything to tell you that we started looking for outside artists because I thought of you, so at least one person in the group thinks that the stuff you do when you’re not trying to fit our project is a good fit.”

“When did you ever… oh,” she said. She looked at the sheet again, this time like she was reading for detail. “This has something to do with that game that’s going around, doesn’t it?”

“I can’t tell you that, but I’d appreciate it if you don’t speculate about the project around other people,” I said.

“Why is there so much secrecy, exactly?”

“Because it takes a lot more work to come up with a good idea than it does to implement it,” I said. “We just don’t want anyone beating us to the punch, that’s all.”

“I guess I can’t really figure out a sinister secret purpose that would involve designing outfits,” she said. “‘Equal share of profits’… so this is something that will make money?”

“We hope so,” I said. “I think it will.”

“No money up front, though.”

“Sorry, but… no.”

“Do you know how many people there are out there on the ethernet who have a great idea that’s bound to make a fortune if only some artist will draw it for them for free?”

“We actually have artists,” I said. “You wouldn’t have to do a lot of work from scratch… there’s a reason the title at the top says ‘artistic coordinator’. This is more about creating a consistent look than just like sheer output.”

“I’m… not sure I’m cut out for coordinating people,” she said.

“It’s really more about coordinating artwork,” I said. “The group is really… it’s pretty easy-going? I mean, there are some prickly personalities, but we’re kind of managing ourselves.”

“Is it all students?”

“With one grown up, who’s sort of laid-back manager who keeps us on track without trying to assert direct control over the group,” I said, deciding it wouldn’t hurt anything to say that. Disguising the identities of the people in the group was covered in the NDA, but if she asked around enough, she’d be able to find out that I was working with Acantha, since I’d been talking about that with my friends since before the project actually started. I wasn’t sure that would mean anything to her though.

“The thing is… I’m not sure how I’d fit into that kind of dynamic,” she said. “I’m not a big fan of conflict.”

“Yeah, I’m not, either,” I said.

“Really?” she asked. She didn’t sound critical, just genuinely surprised.

“Seriously,” I said. “And okay, like I said, there are a couple of people who are kind of… not really jerks, so much as jerk-ish… but I can promise you, you wouldn’t be the shyest person in the room, by far.”

She laughed at that.

“That’s… okay, that’s something,” she said. “One question, though.”


“Why didn’t you go to one of your friends with this?”

“Well, I thought about that,” I said. “I mean, I know people who are good artists, and I know people who I think probably technically have all the same on-paper qualifications that you do, but… I came to you because I thought of all the people that I know, you would be the best. And I’m maybe qualifying that too much, because while I can’t exactly compare you to people I don’t know, I just… I think you’d be really good for this. It was my idea to look for an artistic coordinator because I thought we seriously needed one, but I didn’t want to point out a problem without having a solution, and you were the solution.”

“So… if I do this, then when it’s time to pick… you’ll be in that room wherever, defending my work?”

“I don’t think it will need defending,” I said. “But yeah, I’ll be advocating for you. Fighting, even.”

“Even though you don’t like conflict,” she said.

“I’m not saying I’ll be the most articulate person in the world,” I said. “But I’ll be making the effort.”

“What if someone else’s work is better?”

“Well, it’s kind of subjective, isn’t it?” I said. “I mean, I think you would be good on objective measurements, but I also think what you can do what we need.”

“Yeah, but that doesn’t mean you won’t look at someone else’s work and think it would be an even better fit,” she said. “Like you said, you can’t compare me to the artists you don’t know. And it’s not like you’ve seen a lot of my work.”

“Okay, you’re right, that could happen,” I said. “And if it did… well, I’ll be really conflicted.”

“If you like someone else’s work better, I would prefer that you were honest,” she said.

“I’m being honest with you right now,” I said. “I’m in your corner, Twyla, and I wouldn’t leave that corner casually. If someone else’s work really is that much better than yours, they probably won’t need an advocate. Like, I’m not going to bury my head in the sand and deny it or tear the group apart fighting over it or anything. Just…”

“Just that you have my back,” she said.

“Yes,” I said. “That.”

“Okay,” she said.

“You’ll do it, then?”

“I’ll think about it,” she said. She held up the sheet. “I mean, this is a bit more than a sign-up sheet, and if I go for it, I’m not going to do it halfway, you know? But because of that, I’m not one hundred percent sure I want to go for it, or that I can right now.”

“So we’re both beign honest,” I said. “That’s a really good start.”

“Yeah, well… I think we both know where poor communication gets you,” she said.

“I guess we do,” I said. “Thanks for listening to me, Twyla.”

“Thanks for thinking of me,” she said. “I’ll probably do it, to be honest… I kind of feel like I owe you one.”

“You don’t owe me anything.”

“You know that’s not going to make me feel any less like I do, right?”

“That’s why it doesn’t cost me anything to say it,” I said.



“There’s such a thing as too honest.”

“Sorry,” I said.

“I’ll play around with some stuff tonight and tomorrow,” she said. “I should have a pretty good idea whether I’m in or out by our next class.”

And that… for the moment… was that.

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29 Responses to “Chapter 213: The Pitch”

  1. peter says:

    Lovely and honest

    Current score: 0
  2. Riotllama says:


    Current score: 0
  3. Anthony says:

    “Because it takes a lot more work to come up with a good idea than it does to implement it.”

    Ugh. This is *so* not true, and that’s the principal reason why our patent system today is such a horrendous mess: because people think this is true as a general rule when it’s actually very much the exception.

    Current score: 5
    • Rey d'Tutto says:

      6 years (part time, weekends & the like), $25,000, two near-death instances, 137 failed attempts, 8 total successes, 3 partial successes.
      Some good ideas take a bit more work than others when it comes time for the rubber to meet asphalt.

      Current score: 0
      • Lunaroki says:

        That’s an intriguing and cryptic statement. Care to shed a little more light on what you’re talking about?

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        • Gruhl says:

          Oh, I would guess that means designing a horseless carriage meant for extreme circumstances, probably high speeds and tight maneouvers, possibly in a high-stress environment. In short, I think it is a sport-vehicle of some sort that is refered to, possibly a street-racer or a drags… probably not a dragster, the money seems a bit low for that.

          But thats just a guess.

          Current score: 0
  4. zeel says:

    “You know that’s not going to make me feel any less like I do, right?”

    “That’s why it doesn’t cost me anything to say it,” I said.

    That sounds like something Acantha would say. . .

    Current score: 6
    • Sapphite says:

      She practically did in their last conversation.

      Evil creeping into Mack!… Or honesty…

      Current score: 0
  5. Zathras IX says:

    It takes more work to
    Get a good idea than
    To implement it

    Current score: 1
  6. N'vill says:

    Mackenzie, welcome to the world of management and how to get people to work the way you need them to. A few problems in the way you did it, but next time you will know better.

    Current score: 2
  7. Zukira Phaera says:

    You know, I hadn’t realized I was missing Twyla until I caught myself smiling at this in quite the idiotic fashion.

    Current score: 4
    • Lunaroki says:

      As little as we’ve actually ever seen of Twyla, I feel quite the same way. It’s wonderful to have her back. 🙂

      Current score: 2
  8. Lunaroki says:

    Typo Report

    And It’s kind of confidential.”

    Either “It’s” shouldn’t be capitalized or the “And” needs to go.

    I mean, I was pretty sure I could actually in fact confirm it without running afoul of the agreement

    Punctuation missing at the end.

    “Uh, s ure,”

    Extraneous space in “sure”.

    ” Sorry, I should have made it more clear that this thing is really mine to offer.

    Extraneous space after the opening quotes. Also, I believe Mackenzie meant that this thing “isn’t” really hers to offer?

    that honestly sounds worse than than a big competition that’s open to everyone.

    Double “than”.

    “With one grown up, who’s sort of laid-back manager who keeps us on track without trying to assert direct control over the group,”

    Missing an article in there somewhere, like a “the” in front of “sort” or an “a” in front of “laid-back”.

    but I also think what you can do what we need.”

    Either that first “what” needs to go or or there needs to be an “is” in front of the second “what”.

    “So we’re both beign honest,”

    Misspelled “being”.

    Current score: 0
    • HiEv says:

      ” Sorry, I should have…” – wrong quote mark before the unnecessary space as well

      “You won’t have tomake your case” – to make

      Not to be rude, but why not run the text through a spelling/grammar/punctuation/capitalization checker like you’ll find in most word processing programs? It would have caught many of these errors. You can get Open Office for free. These kinds of errors really break the flow for me, so I’d appreciate it if there were fewer of them.


      Current score: 0
      • Lunaroki says:

        The quote mark is an automatic thing. It’s determined by what characters are around it. Removing the space will automatically reverse the quote mark.

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        • HiEv says:

          So what? Between the two of us we found eleven errors, and at least six of them would have been caught before publishing by a decent word processing program. So why not use one?

          I find these errors to be an annoying disruption which takes away from my enjoyment of the story. Why annoy your readers unnecessarily when a 30 second copy-paste-spellcheck run would cut the error rate to less than half of the current rate? That’s a lot of bang for a pretty cheap buck.

          Current score: 0
          • pedestrian says:

            in my opinion

            Spellcheck programs are homophone-phobic. Auto-word replace functions can be hilarious when they put the wrong word in the right context to trigger my sense of the ridiculous.

            Alliterations and malapropisms, catachresis and euhemerisms, satire and mondegreens, macaronics and lampoons, bad puns and slapstick humoresque are just plain fun!

            Worshiping the false gods of Noah Webster and Thomas Dewey ignores that the Britamerican language is a universal conglomeration of all other languages.

            Constantly, insistently recycling old words from a thousand different languages. Some of them not spoken in thousands of years. Simultaneously creating new words in an apparently endless cycle of evolution.

            Current score: 0
            • HiEv says:

              But humans aren’t slaves to spellcheckers, you know? If you want to make up a word or use a foreign language, the spellchecker won’t hold a gun to your head and make you change it. Just tell it to ignore the word and move on. No big deal. Heck many of the things you discussed, such as alliteration, wouldn’t even make a spelling/grammar checker raise a metaphorical eyebrow.

              However, that totally isn’t the issue here. I’m pretty certain none of “And It’s”, “s ure”, ” Sorry”, “than than”, or “tomake” were intentional. A good spelling/grammar checker would have quickly caught all of those plus the unpunctuated sentence before publishing, thus saving the OCD readers like me a bit of unnecessary annoyance.

              The chapter that followed this one was a *vast* improvement error-wise, so if this was from following my suggestion it’s greatly appreciated.

              Current score: 0
  9. Seth says:

    It’s cute how underdeveloped Mack’s demonic persuasion skills are.

    Current score: 1
  10. rylen says:

    I’m hoping one of the others approaches Sooni. My memory of the first year epilogue tells me she was building a nice part time business in custom clothing. She is likely well acquainted with the doll programs and capable of showing a number of different outfits that demonstrate a unified theme. Going from the other direction, it will be fun seeing Mackenzie struggle to be fair in the face of their history.

    Current score: 3
    • hoppy says:

      I wouldn’t want work with some one who thinks it is good idea to set such a ego-maniac loose in such a unstructured project, plus she would try to make everything moe.

      Current score: 0
      • rylen says:

        That was certainly Mackenzie’s experience with Sooni. But, it has been a while and when we left her, outwardly at least, she was getting more professional.

        As for pushing everything into a particular style, that is one more area of potential growth.

        Current score: 0
        • Nigel says:

          Noooo… not a Science Princess themed Stone Soldiers set!

          My memories of Sooni make me think she may be inclined to ignore the legal side of things and try to pirate the idea; could be an interesting story thread to show how that’s resolved. The other thing I thought is that with Science Princess having been shown directly before Mech Knights, that could be an introduction route for MK.

          Current score: 0
  11. Oniwasabi says:

    That conversation reminded me a little of this:

    “Too honest” is a fun mark to hit! ^_^

    Current score: 1
  12. LML says:

    “Well, the way Gra… oh!” she said, actually going so far as to clap a hand over her mouth. There was something quintessentially… animated… about Nicki, which was probably part of why I liked her. It reminded me of Amaranth. “You’re tricky, Mackenzie.”

    Grace???? Nicki is in league with Grace???

    Current score: 0
    • Arancaytar says:

      You could say that; she’s dating her, isn’t she?

      Current score: 0
  13. N'vill says:

    For anyone not in touch with her blog, Alexandra hasn’t been too well, not serious but enough to hinder writing, more here

    Current score: 0
  14. Arancaytar says:

    > “Well, the way Gra… oh!”

    The way Grace does what? 😛

    Current score: 0
  15. Arancaytar says:

    Also, Mack is inadvertently getting too caught up on the competitive aspect of the application process.

    The fact is that the whole application process is a formality arising from a (justifiable, if somewhat kneejerk) resistance to letting her unilaterally recruit a friend to the project. I’m not saying there won’t be any other serious candidates, but I’d be surprised if the others put remotely as much effort into the recruiting as Mack is doing.

    Current score: 0