Magical Scribe Eleanor Slam versus Magical Entrepreneur Jael Russ

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Here comes the person who takes over my shift. Her arrival would normally mean quitting time and lunch time for me, but looking at the hands on the clock at the front of the store – don’t look at the numbers – I still have forty-five minutes, I think. And I’d spent the last fifteen trying to put stuff on the high shelves. I could get a ladder, but that’s really embarrassing.

"Hey, new kid!" she shouts. I guess she does want something.

"Mm?" I murmur. I feel that was too quiet, though, so I also ask out loud, "Yes?"

The girl jerks her thumb over her shoulder towards the double doors in back, and informs me, "Boss says it's your turn for Zoo Duty."

I give her a look. "Zoo Duty?" I wasn’t being serious about the kangaroos, and yet there it is.

My coworker nods her head. "Just head through the other double doors way in back," she informs me. “I’ll take over here.”

Well this wasn’t in the job description I was given, but beggars can’t be choosers. "Alright, thanks for the heads up!" I tell her, “and have a nice day!”

With the taller person taking over, I head back into the employees only area. Instead of going left or right, I head down the dirtied hallway straight ahead. I have to resist the urge to take a broom to the dirty footprints all over the floor. Maybe I can scrub them up if I come in during off hours on the weekend. I know overtime is frowned on when it’s not necessary, but this is just something that bugs me a little. I doubt Jael would mind too much if I did.

Hah. Look at me, being this fussy about cleanliness at fourteen. I must be finally catching the craziness that’s inherent to magical girls. Or Eversors, anyway. Soon I’ll be jumping out windows to get to places faster instead of trying to plummet to my death. Or I could go breaking down walls like I’m delivering drinks to people. Maybe I should get a boat to go with the cereal mascot outfit, hehe.

Pushing through the second set of double doors brings me to a much larger, even dirtier room. And by dirtier I mean holy shit I think that’s a dried bloodstain on the floor! The imposing metal door taking up the far wall does not help that macabre image. It looks more like an airlock than something that belongs in a corner store. Or it may be something to hold back a monster, with all those deadbolts, locks and such on it.

“Earth to Eleanor, come in Eleanor!” calls out the high-pitched voice of a child.

Snapped out of my gawking – that seems to happen a lot lately – I adjust my posture and stand up straight. “Hello, Boss,” I reply with some forced enthusiasm, “you needed me for something?”

“Absolutely!” Jael chirps, hands in both pockets of her trench coat – why is she wearing a trench coat over a suit, it doesn’t go with the hair bobbles – and fiddling with something. “I’m almost done verifying your identity as well.”

"What're you-" I try to ask before she shushes me. An odd, tingling feeling washes over me, before Jael claps her hands together.

"Well, either you're not a Callidus,” she says, as though that explained everything, “or you're really, really, really good."

"I... Huh?" Callidus? I’m not a Callidus.

"Anyway,” Jael continues, ignoring me and gesturing to the big scary door, “welcome to the Zoo, Eleanor!"

She looks so enthusiastic.

“…Could you explain what this is about?” I ask meekly. “I’m confused.”

Jael cants her head at me and frowns. "Eh? Didn't Sis-“ Hah, her face went red for a second. “Er, Leman Russ tell you about it?"

I shake my head. "No,” I respond, trying not to offend my boss. “She said I should work here for behind the counter experience while I'm doing my Eversor training."

Fuck, I must have said something wrong. Jael actually looks kind of upset. Well, her smile faltered, anyway. "The agreement was to not send me any rookies..." she grumbles under her breath.

“Um,” I ask after a moment’s silence, “am I in trouble?”

"Er, no!” Jael reassures me, sort of smiling again. “Not specifically! Well, it sort of is, but I should have read over your papers instead of simply taking Leman Russ at her word. Or she means to offend me intentionally, but I would really like to believe that is not the case." Her words really are not reassuring at all. Neither is her pacing around me like a predatory animal.

"So,” she continues, her smile never leaving her face, and her voice still cheerful as ever, “you claim she wanted you to work behind the counter, but from what I can tell, you haven't done so even once. Why is that?"

I thought this would have been explained to her, but I tell her anyway, "...Numbers and words trigger my Vanus trance, even if I'm out of-"

Jael comes to a halt in front of me, causing her ridiculous trench coat to swish around, and shouts, "a Vanus trance?!” Crap, she looks like a kid whose parents brought out the big birthday present. “You're an honest to goodness, real-life Vanus? And you're working here? For me?"

I feel like I need to proceed really, really cautiously right now. "Y-yeah." I answer slowly.

"I mean, I just assumed from the arm that you were another Eversor,” she babbles rapidly, pointing at the bulky robotic arm. “That was the agreement - Leman Russ said you were an Eversor - but you’re a Vanus, too!"

"Huh? Uh, the arm is from Fu-" Ah, probably shouldn’t swear in front of her. "From Heather Crunch doing... Something I can't talk about." The Warmaster was very particular about what I couldn’t say about the incident if I wanted to keep my memories to anybody that wasn’t a rank leader, which was pretty much everything other than names.

This seems to drain away Jael’s enthusiasm. "Oh,” she murmurs sheepishly, “the incredibly dangerous girl with kangaroos loose in the top paddock? Yes, that would explain it.” She offers me a pitying smile. “You have my sympathies."

I sort of smile back, but it’s a bit forced. "Thanks." Try not to think about it. Don’t think about how you almost had your head bitten off by-

"Eleanor?” Jael asks, snapping me out of my daze. “How would you feel about a change of position?"

"...Does it require working with letters and numbers?" I ask suspiciously.

"Yes?” Jael answers, her smile slightly bewildered. “It's clerical work, but-"

"No,” I interrupt her. Probably a bad thing to do, but I keep talking. “I don't want to do that sort of thing anymore. That's why I'm here. That's why I'm training as an Eversor. I hate… being a paperwork slave."

Jael says nothing and just continues staring at me with the same smile on her face. To fill the awkward silence, I tell her, "I'm sorry. I just can’t do it."

"Eleanor,” Jael says, her voice carrying a sinister growl, “you're surrounded by letters and numbers all day. That indicates to me that you have some control over it. So I don't buy your excuse at all." Fuck, she really wants me doing her number crunching for her or something.

"If...” I croak, then swallow before continuing, “if I try really hard not to focus on them, then it doesn't go off." Or I just focus on it and accept it, and hope to God I remember everything I’m supposed to when I’m awake. It took a lot of attempts to get Checkers’ number right.

"Eh?” Jael inquires skeptically, looking me straight in the eyes, “you've been doing that this entire time?"

I don’t dare blink. "Y-yeah,” I answer.

"This could be a problem in the future,” she muses, resuming her pacing around me. “I'm kinda-" she stops and clears her throat, "that is, rather surprised that you haven't done anything about it yet."

"What -can- I do about it?" I ask dejectedly, suddenly in a bit of a sour mood.

Jael shrugs. "I don't know,” she admits, “but I'd assume that, if not from the Sixth, you could get help from the Second, the Fourth, or the Thirteenth in some capacity.”

Yeah, no, I’m not going back to the Second for anything that’s not life-threatening. They started giving me really scary looks after somebody pointed out my uncanny resemblance to a portrait of one of their old Inquisitors of Heresy/Witch Hunters.

Also they were kind of stuck up.

"In any case,” Jael continues, “you are relieved from Zoo Duty until you're a full-fledged Eversor."

"Okay...?" I still don’t know what Zoo Duty is about, but I guess I don’t have to do it.

"I'll go over your file tonight and see if any other accommodations need to be made, but you need to take steps to deal with your trance issue on your own,” she orders. “Even if Leman Russ said you're okay, if you can't find something soon, I'll have to let you go."

I’m going to get fired if I can’t control my uncontrollable ability?

"Isn't that a bit much?" I groan.

This was a mistake. Jael’s smile melts for the first time since I've met her, leaving only a deadly serious expression in its wake. "Eleanor, you would do well to remember that I am your boss,” she informs me with icy coldness, her earlier cheerful tone gone as though it had never been there. “It is my job to put you to work and to make a quid, not to be your friend. Whatever your circumstances are, however badly Heather Crunch ruined your life, however much Leman Russ pampers you, I'm not going to help you any more than necessary. Is that clear?"

I swallow audibly before I dutifully reply. "Yes. Clear as crystal."

Jael’s not looking at me anymore, instead staring at the ground and growling. “I don't know what Sis was thinking, letting someone like that run wild...”

This time I just keep quiet. It feels like I’m -this- close to being in trouble, and I don’t want to cross that line.

“In any case, I believe that's everything for now, though I might have more questions for you tomorrow.” Jael glares at me and gives another order. “I suggest you forget you saw anything here.” Feels like a damn lion is staring me down.

“Saw what?” I squeak like a cornered rat.

This was apparently the right thing to say, as Jael brightens immediately. “Exactly!” she shouts, seemingly in high spirits again. “Well, your replacement is already on the floor, so you're free to clock out and head home now."

"Oh!” I exclaim, kind of startled by her proclamation. I suspect that means I won’t get paid as much for today, but that can’t be helped. “Alright, uh, bye?"

"Have a nice day, Eleanor!” she calls after me as I leave the room with the frightening door. “And good luck with your training!" She shouts after I’m in the hallway. “And watch out for Callidus ambushes!” She shrieks after I’m through the second set of double doors.

I just go out and put my card into the reader before heading outside. As soon as I leave, everything starts to ache again.

Yeah, I… I guess this could be worse. But I don’t think I’m crazy enough to be a good magical girl.