The Audacity Gambit, XVII:3
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Bored and restless, Emily started cleaning her room while she waited for school to let out. She was surprised at how much detritus a person could accumulate in the short span of a childhood. Most things held little more than hollow twinges of nostalgia for her, which was more surprising.
She’d sorted out a couple bags of toys and clothes in good enough condition to donate and was picking faded posters off the wall when her alarm went off at three. She grabbed a notebook threw it and a pen in her backpack with the envelope of the king’s money and headed to the coffee shop.
Dawn was with the group this time, homework on the table. Emily smiled at the pair she and Tank made. Where he was all hair-in-eyes surfer affecting a punk toughness, Dawn emanated a slicked-back ponytail competency of perfect grades and varsity sports. Emily still felt awkward around the group, but the happy swiftness with which Ian grabbed a chair for her helped somewhat.
“Wow, you do look exactly the same.” Dawn raised a perfect eyebrow as she gave Emily a once-over. “Only, I guess, shorter.”
“Still older than you though,” Emily grinned. “Just not by as much.”
“Our parents were acting super weird last night.” Ian spun his empty cup idly. “What’s the news?”
“It’s good and it’s bad. They have to figure out what to do with you guys—how to provide for you, what to tell you—”
“Have to?” Abby interrupted sceptically.
“The folk are bound by promises and deals, I’m sure you know your fairy tales. I’ve got them by the nuts on this, because they owe me. They may not do much, but they’ll do more than abandon you in the night, which is what they were going to do.” The group tensed. Emily guessed they hadn’t really thought out what the consequences of who their parents were. She moved to the next point before general gloom could fully settle.
“I’ve also arranged it so that if any of you ever want to go the Sidhe you can. But there’s kind of a hangup.”
“Why would we want to go anyway?” Dawn sneered.
“It’s better if we have the option, who knows what we’ll want to do when we’re grownups. Besides,” Abby cocked her head as she thought. “It’d be way better, or at least different, than backpacking Europe, or whatever people in their twenties do now.”
Emily nodded. “Sure. But the payment is something I guess they don’t make anymore, so I tried to use the internet to help and that didn’t work.” She looked at her hands, embarrassed. “I figured, you guys might be able to help?”
“What will you give us?” Tank demanded. Dawn punched him in the arm.
Michael piped up. “I’ve got an eBay account, I bet I could find you whatever this is.”
“It’s Polaroid instant film. I promised the hare I’d get him more to experiment with. In the Sidhe it works like a magic mirror.”
Everyone looked incredulous besides Michael, who had pulled out his laptop and was typing.
“I’ve been buying and selling comic books mostly. I’m not that interested in them, but you can turn a hella profit—especially if you pretend to give a shit about them. Folks’ll totally give discounts to kids buying longboxes, think they’re investing in my cultural literacy or something.” Michael’s face was intent, lit blue by the screen. “It’ll be a nice boost to my feedback, I’m still trying to balance out a negative from some butthurt bitch.” He smiled and thumped the table.
“Yeah, camera nerds are total hoarders, I can get you good prices even, despite the scarcity panic. Which film did you want?”
“Uh, what was the regular one?”
More keystrokes. “It looks like 600 was the most common film.” Michael lifted the laptop and angled it so Emily could see the screen.
“That’s it!” Emily squinted at the webpage, pretending confidence. “And if you could find one or two cameras to go with, that would be perfect.”
“No big, how high do you want to go? I won’t charge you a handler’s fee or anything, since you’re doing us a favour, so you don’t have to figure that.”
Emily dug the money out of her backpack and thumbed through it under the table. She gave Michael a number and he whistled low. The others, who’d gone back to homework and gossip, perked up.
“Is that fairy money?” Ian tried to peek into the envelope as Emily returned it to her bag.
“Wait, yeah, is it gonna disappear when I deposit it?” Michael scowled.
“I was promised that it was perfectly good money for the mundane world.” Emily shrugged. “Once it’s a money order it’s good as gold anyhow.”
“It’d be faster if I just front you and you give me cash.”
Ian almost tripped as he got up to get a refill. “Shit Mike, how much have you made?”
“It’s Michael and none of your business, Julian.” The boys made faces at each other.
Emily fished out some cash and handed it over to Michael. “That should be enough for now.”
The boy kept his face admirably calm as he slipped the thick wad of bills into his pocket. He turned back to the laptop and hit more keys. “Okay.” He smiled at Emily in triumph and she saw a flash of the six year old he’d been. “Purchased, confirmed and will ship tomorrow.”
Ian came back with his refill and a drink for Emily, carefully balancing the to-go cups while checking his phone.
“Time to go, guys. Hannah just texted me. There’s an all-court meeting.” He bit his lip, chewing on the edge of his already struggling moustache. “Highest priority. Looks like we’re about to see what the fuck is up.”