[Originally created and posted in a reactions thread.]
Charlie had a reputation in the Magic Kingdom. His contracts were rare, the details secretive and invariably involving major nondisclosure agreements -- and paid at premium rates accordingly. Ima Anon's casting discipline was one that Charlie seldom hired from, so the Thinkagram of a contingent job offer had been a surprise. Apparently, however, some other caster had worked for Charlie under an NDA, and mentioned Ima as someone who might be suitable for a job.
In this case, it was a little more mysterious than most, in that there would not be a full explanation on the details until he went through to consult at Charliescomm. Ima had been a trifle reluctant to agree to this, initially. However, Charlie had offered to pay at fifteen times upkeep rate, with a five-turn minimum payment, and that only if Ima were to decline the actual job. Charlie estimated that it would be twenty to thirty turns of employ if accepted, which was enough that part of the payment would have to be in gems to keep from exceeding his personal purse before finishing. That -- plus the morals clause that would allow Ima to take his minimum payment and opt out of all but the NDA terms if he found the work objectionable -- was sufficient temptation.
With some slight trepidation, Ima stepped out of Portal Park through the golden portal's shimmer and into Charlie's home turf, and the most heavily armored room he'd ever seen. An archon with a short and narrow purple haircut was floating nearby. "Welcome to Charliescomm, Ima," she said, "I'm Kaydet. Would you care to step over to conference room A to cover the final details?"
"Charlie's paying for my time, so if that's how I'm to find out what I'm being paid to do."
"Charlie wanted me to make sure you were comfortable. I understand you prefer green tea?"
"Yes, if you have some." Ima walked out of the heavily armored room around the portal, crossing through the lavishly carpeted antechamber past several other watchful archons, and into a smaller side room with a dozen comfortable leather chairs around a sturdy and well-polished dark wooden table, and a matching leather couch along one wall next to another door. A tea set sat on the table, along with a plate of biscuits and a folder marked "CONFIDENTIAL". The anticipated details.
"When will Charlie be joining us?"
"He won't be coming in person, but may clarify any ambiguities in the instructions by thinkagram if needed. He doesn't expect that will be necessary, as I should be able to answer your questions." She slid him the folder. He opened it up, and glanced down the single sheet of paper inside. Remain in conference room A and/or adjoining washroom. Eat provisions. Drink tea. Continue this for 24 turns. Return via portal to the Magic Kingdom on turn 25. He looked at it again. The instructions remained the same. He flipped over to the other side, which was completely blank except for the faint watermark in the shape of the Charliescomm crest.
"This... this makes no sense. Charliescomm is paying me several thousand shmuckers per turn to drink tea for him, and then not discuss with anyone that I did? Why?"
Kaydet smiled in what seemed a slightly apologetic manner and began, "Details about the strategic role of this mission, and a wide variety of other intelligence points, are available --"
Ima cut her off with a wave. "No, no. It's just...."
Kaydet's expression grew more concerned. "My briefing indicated that there was a morals contingency clause in your hiring contract. Are you invoking it?"
"Well, no. I mean, the tea service looks to have a tea spoon in the sugar bowl rather than a sugar spoon, but that's hardly to the level of a moral breach."
"We'll fix that at once, regardless." Kaydet looked appalled at this error. "Was there anything else?"
"I suppose not." Bemusedly, Ima sat down to enjoy his tea as the archon went off (in presumed search of the correct spoon) and wondered why Charlie would hire a caster to essentially do nothing at all.
(Note: user was awarded 25 Shmuckers for this post. -Rob)
I mean its certainly good, and well within canon, but I want to know what the point is, really. We dont know what Ima's discipline is, or any explanation, so that would be very helpful. Will there be a follow up? Or some sort of breakdown? Would be nice! :)
Nevertheless, great writing, great feel, I am intrigued. SO GIVE ME MORE!!!! :D
Theory - Ima is a turnamancer, who provides a bonus to city management if he visits all relevant structures within the city during a turn. He does not need to spend juice to do this. Charlie has carnied his city such that "all relevant structures" means "Conference Room A".
It won't pay for what he's spending hiring Ima, but it will defray expenses a little.
Too bad there's no edit button here. So, this is my theory:
Ima is a Rhyme-o-Mancer and someone Predicted to Charlie that if he'd be given a lot of shmuckers so he wouldn't have to worry about surviving for quite a few turns he would write poetry just to pass the time and thus involuntarily create new spells that would become very useful to whomever got their hands on. Charlie plans on making him forget them again after salvaging them. He will only remember having drunk tea etc.
The Prediction contains a conditional "if", because he doesn't have a "Fate bubble", so his future is undetermined.
There's no indication any caster type is so rare in the MK that hiring a single caster could effect a denial of resources; so, a direct denial of resources scenario seems implausible. I was pretty sure that Charlie was engaged in a counter-intelligence operation; so, it’s unlikely to be intended to directly deny anyone else Ima’s services, because that could give too much indication about Charlie’s goals. There may be some diversion of resources element involved, by trying to induce the Great Minds to waste time and juice over-analyzing a random act. (Possibly the caster who recommended Ima was a Mathamancer hired to produce some random Numbers?)
It seems nigh-certain there's nothing extra in the tea -- nor, for that matter the biscuits, nor the air itself in the conference room. That sort of shenanigan is very bad for business, and Charlie seems to have enjoyed having the option to hire from the Magic Kingdom. Anything lethal might result in someone noticing Ima's vanishing after entering Charlie's portal; anything subtle might result in Ima complaining that working for Charlie is a bad idea. Either is bad for Charlie's reputation. This contract probably will get Ima to say that working for Charlie can be weird, but give no reason to say it's bad. It's not that Charlie isn't utterly willing to kill a few thousand neutral casters to make an omelet, but there's relatively few omelets that far up his "TO DO" list that such expenditures are justified. He's demonstrated that he's willing to spend modestly large numbers of shmuckers to screw with people's heads, even if those schmuckers go directly to an enemy's pockets. Sending a smaller number to the benefit of a neutral as means to screw with someone else seems even more likely within his character.
If a ConIntel gambit, he almost certainly has some secondary collateral benefits in mind -- it's Charlie, for crying out loud. Perhaps he's observing Ima for a number of turns as part of establishing some manner of "control group" behavioral baseline for a caster with nothing to do. (Is Charlie that meticulous an experimentalist researcher?) Possibly the "mistake" with the tea service is a test of Ima's observational abilities. (Is it some manner of study of Lookamancy?) Perhaps another of his Archons is off in conference room B, practicing Foolamancy by veiling herself as Ima for other Archons to periodically look on rooms A and B to see if they can tell the difference. (Why would he have Archons practice posing as casters?) It might be Charlie's drilling Kaydet on formal hospitality, using a relatively unimportant visitor, so there's no mistake with the spoons when someone important and touchy is getting tea service. (Is he getting ready for more encounters with Jillian?) It's conceivable Charlie has imagined a scenario where he might eventually find use for a caster from Ima's discipline some time down the road, and considers the contingency significant enough to be willing to put in significant up-front expense establishing a good relationship so as to speed any future negotiations. It seems all but certain this contract will end with Ima willing to hire on with Charlie again, should Charlie ever have interest... which seems anything but certain. And, as others have noted, other scenarios are possible. Still, most such speculation seems to lead to at least as many further questions as it might answer.
I'm afraid, however, that I have absolutely no clue what discipline Ima Anon is. If anyone buys that intel off Charlie, please be kind enough to let the rest of us know; for now, your guess is at least as good as mine. Meanwhile? Charlie is apparently in a war with Fate itself, and his ConIntel is very, very effective.
Seeing as Erfworld has a way of mirroring real life, I would say that today Charlescomm is playing the role of a highly beurocratic corporation where they pay Nobody (Anonymous) to do nothing, and then hire a manager to manage that person.
Charlescomm may seem like a well-oiled machine, but then, don't most corporations (or governments)? And then you find out that things like this are going on all the time.
Love it. I think that Ima is a Carnymancer ("Ima Anon's casting discipline was one that Charlie seldom hired from") or maybe Predictamancer. If Carny, then my guess is it is one or more of below:
1) form of charity, a Carnie that made it big and is now helping a fellow Carnie
2) probably denying a resource to the enemy. We don't know who is inside other rooms.
3) Training exercise/ chicken coop assignment for the archon
4) Observation experiment in turnamancy/madness-inducing boredom. 24 turns is a lot of time of doing nothing. Maybe Charlie is doing reality tv one-man show :)
If predictamancy, 2-4 apply.
Those are my guesses, at least. Good story, though.
I'm surprised it hasn't been mentioned. I thought it was obvious that Ima is a Carnymancer, and charlie was hiring Ima as a cover for charlies own carnymancy. That way when Great Minds/others have someone to point too should evidence of charlescom using carnymancy. Someone to question who is bound by contract to not confirm or deny things.
Misinformation isn't just for kids!
Can't steal dice rolls from someone who isn't throwing a die. Forecastle had to actually throw dice for the eagle to be able to charge up from him.
I like that. I usually like purely speculative work, and this one is quite fun. No need to follow up with Ima necessarily, but we could try some other iteration of all the messed up research Charlie have been up to all those past turns.