: Laurell K. Hamilton owns all things Anita Blake. Joss Whedon and Mutant Enemy own all things Buffy. I am but borrowing the characters for a brief time and shall return them intact at the end.Note
: TTH FFA entry #1483 for Anita/Anya.~~*~~
Anita checked her watch. "Larry's late."
"Larry's always late," John Burke said. "Someone ought to tie a rope around him."
"I thought you were supposed to tie a string around your finger to remember," Jamison Clarke said, not looking up from his magazine.
"If we tied him up, he couldn't run off," Anita pointed out.
"Do we know why Bert wants to see us?" Charles Montgomery asked. The burly animator made the office chair he sat in seem frail.
Manny Rodriguez, the most senior animator at Animators Inc., shook his head. "Maybe he has another animator for us."
Jamison swore and slapped his magazine on the conference table. "That's all we need, another person to cut into our profits."
Anita raised her eyebrows. "What are you talking about? We're still turning away business! I'm raising six zombies a night, and we still can't keep up with demand!"
"Oh, so it's my fault we can't keep up?" Jamison spat. "Most animators can only raise two zombies a night, Anita, the rest of us--"
The board room door slammed open, startling everyone. Anita was halfway for her gun before she realized that Larry Kirkland had just come through the door. "Sorry," Larry panted. "My car broke down and I had to get it towed, then catch a cab." He collapsed into a chair, trying to catch his breath.
Anita smirked at him. "Now do you see why I say you should quit smoking?"
"Ha fucking ha," Larry said. "Anyway, Bert's on his way down the hall. He's got someone with him. Some woman."
"A young woman?" Jamison asked, perking up.
Manny glared at Jamison. "Don't you have a meeting with your latest divorce lawyer tomorrow?" he asked.
Any further acerbic banter between the necromancers and animators of Animators Inc. was cut short as Bert Vaughn, former owner and current business manager, guided a stranger into the room, then closed the door behind them. "I'm glad to see you all could make it," Bert said, with a pointed glance at Larry. "I have someone I want to introduce to you."
Anita looked at the young woman. Younger than Anita herself, with blondish-curly hair. The smile on her face made her seem a bit vacant, but then Anita got a good glimpse of the woman's eyes. They reminded her so strongly of Bert that she frowned.
"This is Anya Jenkins, Animator Inc.'s new business promoter."
"What?" Anita exclaimed, sitting up straight in her chair. "You can't be fucking serious!"
"I'm very serious, Anita," Bert said, trying not to frown. "As our business grows, we need to consider adding another experienced hand to our managerial staff." The resulting silence from that pronouncement was so intense, the ticking from the heating unit seemed loud. Bert smiled nervously and stepped back. "Ms. Jenkins, why don't you take the floor?"
As Bert made his way to the back of the room, Anya faced the table of animators. She ramped the smile up a tiny notch. "Hi," she said. The single word was said with conviction, not the waffling tones that Anita would expect from one of Bert's picks. "I've got some ideas that I'm sure will help Animators Inc. become the top animating firm in the country."
"We're already the top firm in the country," Jamison pointed out.
John made a small noise in his throat. "If some rogue vampire were to take out Anita, Elan Vital in New Orleans is the top firm in the country."
Anita twisted around in her chair. "I can hear you," she said incredulously. John politely ignored her.
"Yes, well, then we can make it even better," Anya said, moving on. She went to the side of the room and picked up some large charts that she had obviously placed there earlier. She placed the stack on the table and held up the first chart. "This is an example of what the company's business was like last year."
As Anya went into great detail about the whole business of raising zombies and the resulting profit margin, Anita thought furiously. The sales pitch, because that was what this was, was well-thought-out and efficiently presented. All of it pissed Anita off to no end. Had Bert put Anya up to this? Was she some tactic Bert had to get the animators fall in line with some sort of plot to find "synergy" and all those other crap business buzzwords?
Looking around the room, Anita knew that her co-workers weren't falling for it, either. Manny and John looked sceptical, while Larry seemed valiantly trying to pay attention. Jamison was paying more attention to Anya's body language than her words, and Charles... Anita wasn't sure what Charles thought.
"So to conclude, with limited resources, we need to work smarter, not harder." Anya put down her flip charts.
"And how are we supposed to do that?" Charles asked.
"Go for the niche markets," Anya said immediately. "Animators Inc. competes with Elan Vital and the Resurrection Company for the same client base. We need to make ourselves stand out."
"How are we going to do that?" Jamison asked. "A zombie is a zombie."
Anya nodded. "Not the zombies, the clients. We seek out the one growing client group in the States that historically has not been big on the zombie scene."
"Christians?" Larry asked.
Anita, who had been watching this exchange with growing dread, answered before Anya could speak. "Vampires," Anita growled. "She's talking about vampires."
The other animators broke into frantic conversation, mostly arguing the viability of such a scheme or the possibility that a vampire would want to raise a zombie for any legitimate purpose. This was just the kind of underhanded, insane scheme I should have expected from Bert!
Anita thought furiously. And handing it to us through Anya, so we wouldn't turn him down flat!
Chancing a glance at Bert, Anita was surprised to see him looking at Anya, a thoughtful expression on his face. If he had set this up, wouldn't he have been watching the animators for their reaction?
She opened up her mental links with Jean-Claude, vampire master of St. Louis. Quickly appraising him of the situation, Anita waited for him to be as appalled as she was. Ma petite, perhaps you are overreacting?
Jean-Claude queried. You can't think this is a good idea!
Anita mentally shouted.
In her mind's eye, Anita saw Jean-Claude lounging on his sofa, one hand held gracefully in midair. I do not think it is a good idea, ma petite, for the uses a vampire might have for a zombie are not something discussed in polite company.
Anita shivered with revulsion at that thought. But you react to the idea, not from a standpoint of harm to the zombie, but because how the idea was presented.I'm so not doing this because Anya's a woman,
Anita thought.I never said you were, ma petite.
Jean-Claude faded from Anita's mind, until only his cultured voice remained. If you are asking my advice, I would focus on what this proposal might mean for you and your associates, rather than concentrating on disliking the messenger.
When Jean-Claude was gone, Anita looked again at Anya, trying to focus on the idea, not the woman. Anya was trying valiantly to keep the smile on her face, but her fingers were clenched together tight. Anita frowned. None of this made any sense. Why would Anya be so nervous about one of Bert's ideas?
Unless it was Anya's idea. Those colour charts, professionally printed, would have taken time. Bert never made charts, never had any props when he gave his new ideas to the animators. Why would Anya spend so much time on something, unless it was something she really wanted?
Taking a deep breath, Anita found herself wondering if she was being hasty in turning Anya down, just because the woman seemed to have Bert's blessing. Was that fair? More to the point, would the other animators turn down the idea in the long run, if Anita dismissed it out of hand?
"Guys," Anita interrupted. "I think we should look at this idea before we throw it out."
Manny looked at her as if she had lost her mind. "Anita, you more than anyone knows how dangerous vampires can be! Seeking them out as clients--"
"Trust me, I'm not saying yes," Anita cut him off. "But instead of just saying no outright, we can look at the pros and the cons logically before saying no."
"We shouldn't be discriminating against vampires as clients, they are people under the law," Jamison said, jumping back on his favourite case of vampire rights.
Anita glared at him. "There is almost every chance that any purpose a vampire has for raising a zombie is either disgusting or immoral. But seeing as how it's likely that I’ll be the one raising the zombies, I want to know what I'm saying no to, and why."
Manny shook his head. "I am not taking part in this," he declared.
"At this stage, it's just research," Anita said. She felt irritated that the others wouldn't at least look into this further, very aware that just a minute before, she would have agreed with them.
The meeting broke up, and the other animators trickled out of the conference room. Bert went to make a phone call, leaving Anita alone in the conference room with Anya. The other woman carefully placed her presentation cards in a stack, seeming to ignore Anita.
"Are you new in town?" Anita asked after a minute.
Anya's fingers stilled. "Very new," she said, with only a tiny hint of bitterness. She looked up at Anita. "Is this the part where you ask if I want to go out shopping and do girly stuff?"
"Hell no," Anita said. "This is the part where I tell you that your vampire idea probably won't fly, for a number of very good reasons. I'm not sure what Bert told you about us, but we're not all in it for the money. There is a very real chance that offering to do this for vampires will come back and bite us on the ass, and if that's so, I'm not letting anyone in this office do it."
"But you're still going to look at it," Anya pressed. "Why?"
Anita stood. "Because I'd rather know why I'm saying no, not just doing it because I dislike marketing gimmicks." She looked at Anya again. There was something about her that reminded Anita of... something. Not Bert and his money schemes, but someone. She was sure it would come to her in time.
"This will work," Anya insisted. "And even if it doesn't, I've got lots of ideas that will help us make money."
Anita raised her eyebrows. "Us? Let me guess. Bert said you'd get a finder's fee on any new cases you brought in."
"Well, yes." Anya looked momentarily disconcerted, but quickly recovered. "I've got a whole plan for adjust our pricing, based on a matrix of zombie age, method of death, animator ability--"
"Maybe later," Anita interrupted, edging toward the door. If there was one thing she loathed more than Bert's schemes, it was talk of raising prices. As Anita escaped the conference room for the safety of her office and a phone call with Jean-Claude, she started to seriously hope she wouldn't regret not booting Anya Jenkins out on her ass. --fin