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The Necessary Evils

Posted on Thu May 11th, 2023 @ 11:57 by Rebecca McMillen & Jhanvi Dhar

Chapter: Prologue: Dawn of Avalon
Location: Storeroom 2 to Jhanvi's Office
Timeline: TBD
3538 words - 7.1 OF Standard Post Measure

Rebecca had been through hell throughout her life. When she was human, she was ill prepared for the harshness life and people were capable of. When her mutation activated, she found herself in impossible situation after impossible situation. She endured, she survived, she even thrived at times. Though nothing could have prepared her for the next challenge society was going to throw at her: Paperwork.

"Paperwork makes the world go round, nevermind love." Rebecca grumbled, walking about in slippered feet... paws... whatever she had, looking for the offices to get the next stage in her accreditation taken care of. "Was it two lefts and a right, or..." she mused, regretting not bringing a guide around. She paused, to try to get her bearings, and then headed off with confidence. Or at least projected confidence. It took a little longer than she'd ever admit to, but she eventually found herself in front of the door she was directed to. "Looks like all the others, ummm, hello?" she called in, knocking on the door. "Don't want to disturb anyone." she offered, though in truth the blonde would have already disturbed anyone within. Oh please don't be a dorm. PLEASE don't be a dorm.

One thing that Jhanvi had learned very early on was that, whilst her office was technically in the space adjacent to Claire's, making her somewhat of a front reception for those wishing to speak to the Head Mistress, her work space was the entire damn campus. This was mostly because, as another thing the secretary had learned within days of arriving, that managing a school full of mutants was about as difficult as you'd assume it to be, with a few extra thrills thrown in for good measure. Her purchase orders looked like they had possibly be written by a mad scientist and, even more perplexing, the job of inventory and stocktaking kept turning up supplies stashed in nooks and crannies without a discernible system for keeping track of them. Oh they were organised enough, if you considered being stacked neatly on shelves in about twelve separate locations to be organised. They just weren't organised.

And so she'd discovered that at least part of her day was spent tagging and cataloguing and creating a comprehensive list of assets and stock so that, should any one of the numerous inspectors from various sectors decide to pay a visit, she stood some chance of being able to produce a list of the location of all fire equipment. The one that existed was probably close to standard, and decently comprehensive, but it wasn't cross-referenced. Nor was it colour-coded.

She was gradually descending into a fixated mess.

Being hunted down was a normal part of her day, also, but that didn't make the deep frown that etched her forehead any more likely to dissipate. Clipboard in hand, labelling machine in the other, the harried woman emerged from the rows of shelves in the double-room she'd determined to be inventory storage for office and stationary supplies, and blinked several times at the new arrival. "Yes?"

The woman before Rebecca perfectly matched the description given to her, even down to the clipboard and her perfume. "Oh, I'm so sorry. Didn't mean to interrupt." the mousey blonde started, her thin tail dropping to rest against her legs... but inevitably she continued directly on interrupting. The damage, as they say, had already been done.

"I don't want to take up more of your time then a I have to, my name's Rebecca. Rebecca McMillen and I'm a new addition to the faculty. I was told to find Miss Jhanvi and start the paperwork, but you weren't in your office. So when I asked around, the bits I got were what led me here." she offered, at least with a soft smile. "The directions around the campus were rubbish, but they got me to you just fine."

"Also, being new here, a lot of the landmarks and 'turn left at the' didn't really help either." a giggle. Then she calmed down. "Should I come back when things are..." she looked around the office turned supply room, "... less hectic?"

The impassive features twitched only slightly at Miss Jhanvi, which was marginally more preferable to being called by her surname, a name that had emerged from the shadows to claim her after an entire childhood without use for it. She had no connection to it, severed along with her parents' decision to cast her aside. With no definitive outward expression to define her harried disposition, Jhanvi nevertheless gave the impression somehow of long-suffering resignation as she broached the distance between them and replied dryly, "That would depend a great deal on whether you are able to wait a month or ten." If it was an attempt at humour, it was made with a tone quietly despairing at the need for it. "I believe Ms. Cavendish informed me of your instatement. Have you secured adequate identification? We will need to run a police check."

"One month, maybe. Ten, I think that might put things a bit strained." Rebecca replied, relaxing slightly. "I've got my IDs with me right here." she patted the thin wallet in her pants pocket. "I try not to leave them anywhere, I never knew when I'd have to dash out of a situation."

The mention of a police check didn't deter her at all. "My record's clear, run whatever you need." and Rebecca took a step to the side, to allow for the conversation to either continue here in the executive lounge, or become slightly more mobile.

Though it rankled to leave a job half-finished, Jhanvi spared one last glance at her current handiwork and lead the way towards the door, not bothering to spare a backwards glance to see if the other woman was following. In the early days of her arrival, Jhanvi had been hesitant and meek, willing to do a good job of what was perceived to be a great opportunity to transition from the relative safety and predictability of education to an adult's undertaking. That had been before robots had descended from the sky and the world had refused to apologise for it. With the list of allies growing thinner by the day, being good at organising shelves didn't really cut it. Big questions required big answers.

She could do more.

But that had been classified as a talent that warranted control and restriction and Jhanvi had been lead to believe it was the best course of action to supress her natural urges. She'd been somewhat successful at it but, like so many of her fellow mutants, the recent attack had ripped off layers of safety netting and left the shapeshifter restless and discontent. As she lead the way upstairs to the floor that housed the main offices, Cavendish's being central, Jhanvi frowned at a pair of bickering students down the other end of the hallway but didn't move to intercept. It wasn't as if they didn't have a right to feel decently agitated.

Rebecca followed a few steps behind as she was lead through the complex by someone with a much better grasp of the layout than she could have on her own. Sure, she could ask the rats for help in getting from place to place, but rats navigated differently than people did. Their landmarks were scents and constant sound rather than just visual cues. A rat would tell her to run until she smelled cleaning supplies, then turn left and go until she heard the gym, and so on.

Sometimes, rats were much more civilized than people. People had thumbs, a highly overrated advantage at this point in time. The general feel from the people in the academy was tense, without blame. If even half of what she heard in the speech was absolute, things had been catastrophic. She saw the bickering students down the hall, and frowned as well. "Things will get better, they have to." she said softly, mostly to reassure herself, before turning her full attention to Jhanvi. "Sorry about that. Just, long silences give me time to think." she offered. She wasn't a fan of long silences but she didn't find them awkward. Spend two weeks with rats as company, and you get used to little to no conversation.

Rats were NOT conversationalists.

Neither were street rats, so-called for being the human equivalent, Jhanvi supposed. Of course, language had not taken into account the existence of people like Rebecca and their ability to fulfil the role in a much more literal sense. "The only thing we can say with any certainty," the secretary pointed out, "is that things will progress. You have chosen an interesting time to ally yourself with an educational facility currently earning the tabloids a fortune."

"Right, that whole keep putting one foot in front of the other bit. We shall overcome." she remarked. She believed it, but that tone was a bit dismissive. It'll happen, but it was going to be rough until then. "And that about sounds right. Not like it's going to be easy for us now is it?" she shook her head as she continued to trail.

"Not a single one of us is a stranger to how bad things can be. How bad people can be." she offered, "But that doesn't mean it isn't worth trying."

When it came to blind optimism, Jhanvi had found herself a curious observer of certain people's capacity for it rather than an eager participant. Removal from her childhood situation had been met with an understandable cynicism that hadn't so much dissipated as relaxed enough to allow indents of very specific people and situations to reshape it. Trust was almost a foreign concept, settling instead on the neutrality of calm diligence to permit a path forward without assuming it would never again be littered with obstacles. She wasn't big on motivational speeches; such psychological trickery seemed counterproductive to anticipating an actual likelihood of occurrence.

And so, she said nothing, leading the way until they reached the doors that lead to the foyer, beyond which Claire's office lie. It was here that Jhanvi had her main desk, a receptionist in every sense of the word. It had also slowly been transformed into a functional, efficient space where everything appeared to have its place and a label to go with it. Holding the door open, Jhanvi turned to invite the other woman to enter.

Rebecca entered as bidden, noticing the immaculate layout of the desk, and the region around it. She made a mental note of it, and then realized where she had initially met Jhanvi. Very organized, very orderly. Everything has it's place. Oh this whole thing must be such a terror for her when something goes out of place.

Note to self: Put things back exactly.

"It's very orderly here. I like it." An honest compliment.

"The Institute deals with complicated matters. The less we leave up to chance, the more difficult it is for others to dress up their interference as legal obligation." Nothing had been inherently wrong with the way the space was set up when Jhanvi arrived, except for the fact that the system in place wasn't transparent enough. Hiding in plain view was somewhat of a personal theme and the secretary had every intention of thwarting any official intervention with a sheer overload of administrative compliance. The woman was thorough by nature, prone to in depth research because if she didn't immerse herself entirely in a situation, she could hardly adapt well enough to be mistaken as belonging in it. Those who had known her back when she was less inclined to hide her nature understood the capacity of her performance; she put method actors to shame.

Slipping behind her desk, Jhanvi whirled on her chair and pulled down a binder from a shelf filled with identical versions. "Have you reached a decision regarding the duration of your employment contract since speaking with the head mistress? She indicated a preference for leaving that open to you."

"Honestly no, I hadn't thought it out that much. Never really thought of the end before I even got to the beginning. Is there a standard? Like, I dunno, three years?" the mousey blonde inquired, uncertain about the intricacies of the paperwork.

The secretary merely arched an eyebrow. "Standard, especially for initial contracts, would be 12-months. Under normal circumstances, tenure would be afforded certain expectations when it came to the fulfilment of contractual obligation." The woman's calm deadpan was already capable of conveying how much hope Jhanvi held in this being a normal circumstance, however. "Since I suspect you will be permitted to come and go as it suits you, it more or less boils down to how often you want me to hound you for updated paperwork."

Rebecca smiled, "Oh I was way off the mark there. Okay then, you know what let's keep it simple for everyone's sake." she offered. "Twelve months. Standard, and no no please, if I miss anything please let me know. I want this to go as smooth and clean as possible for everyone's sake. I'm going to be dealing with a ton of paperwork so something is bound to get shuffled or lost. I won't take it personal if you remind me."

"I'm coming into the system. I don't want the system to bend too far for me." she clarified.

Once again, it was near impossible to get a read on the other woman's impassive features, but there was an air of weary annoyance that had failed to dissipate and would have astonished those who had encountered Jhanvi in the first couple of days of her transfer. Certainly Claire, who had been understandably too preoccupied to notice much of anything that flew so discreetly under the radar, would have been surprised by the sudden brusque attitude. Jhanvi herself felt out of sorts; she just hadn't determined the best way of dealing with her sudden impatience with the state of things. Taking out several forms, she slid them across her desk towards the other woman and then rested a pen atop. "Take your time."

Rebecca gave a nod, claiming the forms and pen, "Will do, Thank you." and she started to fill them out. Her thin, lithe tail swished at the halfway point, though sometimes when the paperwork started to get a bit intense, the swish became more of a flick. Gauging her responses to the questions being asked was easy with her obvious tell tale tail.

Now required to wait, Jhanvi took a moment to glance around the space and, in a moment of agitation, realised that the reason she had been in the stockroom in the first place was because that was where all her immediately-pressing work existed. She had worked tirelessly in the first days to bring the office up to code, and to initiate systems that would eventually streamline a lot of processes and minimise the kind of work she'd been forced to undertake, but the problem with designing efficient protocols was that you eventually did yourself out of a job. Keeping busy, even with this relatively repetitive and mundane work, had been imperative to controlling her sense of restlessness. Now, as she waited, the only thing the secretary could find to do was sharpen her pencils.

"Why have you chosen Avalon?"

The question surprised Jhanvi herself somewhat, not usually one to initiate conversation. In the first few days, she'd been too tentative about it, meek to the point of virtual invisibility despite it not being on her list of current credentials. Now that the world felt different, so too did she, though there was an aspect of her current attitude that traced its origins back to the secrets buried within her DNA. Her alternate appearance brought with it a degree of brusque cynicism, had always been the harsher of her two dispositions, but usually didn't bleed over quite this much. Her oddly pale eyes regarded Rebecca as she waited for a response.

"You could work anywhere, your skillset seems useful. Why opt for a school current beset by bigoted rhetoric?"

Rebecca's thin tail twitched at the tip, "Because it's safe here." what an ironic answer. To be safe in a place besieged by ignorance. "Because I can do more good here than in any other public school. Not that any public school would take me." she noted.

"I was kept in a cage back home. I was my sisters' pet. I endured that until I couldn't stand it anymore, and took a chance on the outside world. I don't think I have to tell you how scary it is out there for someone with no one in their corner, and your sister's pocket waited for you back home."

"I'm here to help every one I can that has nothing to go home to." a pause, "And... Avalon was the only academy that took my credits." she added as an attempt at humor to defuse the moment. "And yourself, if I may?"

Jhanvi bristled. It didn't help her disposition that she had been asking herself the very same question over the past day or so. "I..." For a moment, there was a glimmer beneath the uptight posture, the uncertainty and fragility of a wary soul who had never found trust an easy commodity and now had all the more reason to withhold it. "I suppose my reasoning is similar," she said after a moment, her tone markedly quieter. "It isn't always easy to find somewhere to belong."

Rebecca gave a nod in agreement, then went back to the paperwork. To her credit, she filled out the pages rather diligently and, shock above all, took the time to read what she was signing. She didn't blaze through it like some would. She even stopped to ask for clarification on one item, but it was just the one.

"Okay, and I think that's it." she announced, and returned the paper and clipboard back to Jhanvi. "That should be everything, I'm pretty sure I didn't miss any."

A wary glance eventually dropped to regard the paperwork, scrutinised intently until the secretary seemed to be satisfied. "I'll need a copy of your identification for our records," she declared, rising out of the chair to staple the pages together and pull down a fresh folder to start a staff file.

With that, Rebecca dug around her pockets for her thin wallet and produced her license. Currently listing her residence as somewhere in London. "Never got around to updating my residence." she said in half-jest. Of course someone who left home wouldn't send in paperwork to tell the world where they were.

"Begs the question, will I need to update my residency?" she asked, "I know it's a silly thing to consider. Is there an alternate location or, is this fine as is?"

There was a moment where the secretary paused, mid-paper shuffle, and then very deliberately set the half-created file aside to ask. "That depends what you mean by residency. If you are simply talking about a mailing address, then I would advise you to consider whatever is best for your situation." It was a tactful way of saying that if there was need for secrecy then it would likely trump any concern over electoral role issues. "On the other hand, if you are referencing a legal capacity to work in the country..." An eyebrow hitched. "A work permit is required at the very least, for publicly-declared income, at least." This was the problem with an ideal like Avalon; it was all well and good to broadcast themselves as a bastion of hope and refuge but that didn't make the banking any easier.

Rebecca considered the options, and the notions put before her, before she shook her head. "I meant more updating the residency to the manor. What's on the ID is valid and fine until I get that changed over. The rest of the paperwork is in good order, unless you found something off."

"Not that I can tell. Nothing is ever finalised until I've processed the paperwork but I will assume everything checks out." Jhanvi's eyebrows quirked slightly. "Otherwise, that will be another boring conversation we have to have."

It was, in some regards, the slightest hint of a reprieve, almost passing for self-deprecation as if Jhanvi herself realised that the dry nature of her enquiry was about the least inspiring thing they could be talking about. Truth be told, though she'd always been reserved and prone to introspection, the secretary hadn't, for a long time, struggled this much to respond to pleasant overtures. Making friends had been difficult but not impossible and she found herself craving the counsel of the scant handful of confidants she'd learned to rely upon over the years. Perhaps this mood she found herself was just cause for a conversation with Diana.

"I will make this a priority," she promised and then, with blatant awkwardness, added, "Welcome to Avalon, Ms. McMillen."

"Thank you for your attention, and the welcome." Rebecca offered with a smile. "Looking forward to getting started."

(Good end?)


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