Hat in the Ring

She frowned in turn and wondered. Was everything alright? She sighed and leaned in to him. “I think there’s just a lot going on in my brain. Once the submission’s in and I can get back to normal, I’ll hopefully start paying attention again.”

Herne chuckled, as she’d hoped he would, then wandered with her back to the house.

Monday felt uneasily quiet, the only interesting development was the appearance of Eos’s four sons, who had been given permission by Hel to set up a submission-checking service in the café area. Their rates were reasonable, and Hel had been happy with their hypothetical revisions on some early submissions, so they were taking up residence for the week.

Boreas, the eldest if Calypso remembered correctly, had drawn the short straw on one of his reviews. That was definitely rainbow unicorn sticker girl sitting across from him, pouting, twirling her hair, and shuffling papers around. She wondered if whether it was the chiselled jaw, accented by a close-cropped beard, or the cool, grey gaze sizing her up that had the blonde squirming in her seat.

By Tuesday morning the four young men’s schedules were booked for the week, and they were refusing to look at anything that wasn’t online.

On Tuesday evening, Calypso shut down her computer, then took the lift to the transformed basement level for Hephaestus’s launch event. Jason and Hercules were right, there was no one from Z Corp other than Hephaestus and Dionysus, who pressed a glass of champagne into her hand and disappeared in the direction of the caterers.

She made a beeline for the jewellery exhibit, admiring the intricate work and grace of the clearly spring-themed pieces.

A man beside her commented on the necklace they were both looking at and, like that, Calypso found herself deep in conversation about the jewellery, then the venue. That of course led to an explanation of Yggdrasil and her role there, and even a mention of her own application for the accelerator programme, and her use of all the seasons for inspiration.

The man, a journalist for a fashion magazine, was fascinated. “I’d love to do a feature article on the work being done here. Do you think your boss would be open to a profile on your first cohort, once it’s in place? And on you if you’re in it.”

Calypso tensed. She’d been talking way too much and had said way too much. She gave the man a slightly strained smile. “I think my chances are vanishingly small, but it’s so helpful to go through and understand the application process. If you’d like to give me your details, I can check with Hel in the morning.”

The man smiled and handed her a business card. “My name’s Perseus I and look forward to meeting her.”

A throat cleared behind them and Calypso turned to see Hephaestus, usual scowl in place, standing behind them.

She smiled and kissed his cheek. “These are so lovely, although I shouldn’t be surprised given how much I adore the earrings you made.”

She gestured towards her ears, adorned with the crystal butterflies she’d received when she left Z Corp.

Hephaestus grunted, but looked pleased, then said. “Arachne’s got the drops for those, to turn them into evening-wear, so make sure you have them with you for that blasted wedding.”

She nodded, then said. “Am I allowed to ask what the wedding rings are like?”

That brought a smile. He looped her arm through his and steered her away from her new acquaintance. “You can ask, but you’re going to have to wait, just like the rest of them. Only the grooms get to see them before the day.”

She chatted a few moments more with him, then made her excuses and left.

Once home, she compared thoughts with Jason and Hercules, who’d seen the range that morning and made them laugh at the admission of her attempt to get details of their rings out of the close-mouthed IT Head.

She wasn’t laughing when she checked her email and found a message from her mother.

Here’s the submission, tidy it up in a way that will get it accepted and put it in under your name.

The attached document was a mess, and several key pieces of information were missing.

Jason put a glass of wine by her hand and said. “I hope that’s not some bad news about our wedding present you’re scowling over.”

She’d completely forgotten about the wedding present. She put that in the mental box marked ‘deal with next week’.

She spun the laptop to show the email on the screen. “Hecate wants me to try and game the Yggdrasil system by putting an application for her in under my name.”

Hercules turned from the stove. “No!”

She replied. “It’s all right here, and she’s missing mandatory fields. I couldn’t submit this even if I wanted to.”

Jason sipped at his wine. “So, what are you going to do?”

She looked at his smugly evil grin. “What are you suggesting?”

He leaned against the table. “The way I see it, you have a few options. The Adonis way is to ignore it and hope it all dies a death. The Calypso way would be to do as instructed and fret over not being able to make it work while also fretting over it being dishonest. Hercules is a genius for malicious compliance – following instructions to the letter, knowing it’s going to fail. And then you have the Jason way. Take it to the boss.”

He made her sound like such a doormat. Calypso scowled, then registered the rest of the sentence. Take it to the boss. That could work.

She nodded. “I’m not sure I can manage Hercules’ feats of bravery, but I think I might look into the Jason way tomorrow. Thanks.”

Jason toasted her with his mostly empty glass. “Any time.”

As soon as the morning rush was over, Calypso headed upstairs to see if Hel had a moment.

She did and looked curious at Calypso’s request.

It didn’t take long to run her through the situation and Calypso ended with. “I have a few ways I could handle this but wanted your opinion on the best course.”

Hel leaned back. “I’d hope one of those ways isn’t you putting it in as your mother has asked.”

Calypso snorted. “No on two fronts. One, it’s dishonest and two, she’s left out key information, it would fail on the first review.”

“You could just ignore it.”

Except she wasn’t Adonis. Calypso replied. “I don’t think it would go away though, so I’d rather deal with it and move on.”

Hel thought for a moment, then said. “It depends on how much trouble you want to go to. As I see it, you can either put it in as best you can, under her name, and let it fail, or you could put it in front of one of Eos’s boys and send her their assessment. If you go via Eos, I’m sure you could get a freebie.”

Calypso sat up straighter. “I like that idea, but I don’t think they have any time slots left.”

Hel waved a hand. “For their mother, they’ll find a moment or two. Talk to Eos.”

Interpreting that as a dismissal, Calypso rose. “Thank you, I’ll do that.”

Hel called after her. “And your submission?”

She turned in the doorway. “On track to go in tomorrow evening, I don’t want it distracting me on Friday.”

Her boss nodded, and Calypso headed back to the front desk.

A word with Eos had her sitting across the coffee table from Boreas at the end of the day. Finding herself on the receiving end of his storm-grey stare, she resisted the urge to squirm and wondered if she would have the nerve to pass his review on to her mother.

He scanned over the documents and frowned, then turned his attention back to her. “How familiar are you with AI?”

Calypso grimaced. “Hardly at all.”

He tapped his chin. “That might be a problem. This submission has made some fundamental errors around the proposed AI engine. Specifically, its natural language processing capabilities, especially for non-English-speaking markets.”

She just knew she was giving him a deer-in-the-headlights look.

He leaned forward, both forearms on the table, hands clasped. “Look, you’ve left the email address of the person who asked you to do this in the message. It would save all of us time and stress if I send my assessment to them directly. They’ll hopefully understand enough to be able to take the feedback on board.”

Calypso hesitated. If he did that, Hecate would know what she’d done. She was bound to be angry about it. She quailed at the thought, then caught herself. What did she care if her mother was angry? It wasn’t like she had to have tea with her.

She put her shoulders back and nodded. “That’s fine. As you can see, though, she likes to get other people to do things for her, so…”

He gave her a sardonic but understanding smile. “I’m not that nice. If she wants solutions, she’ll be paying for my time and expertise.”

He sat back. “You may as well head off. I’ll take this home and deal with it from there, cc you on the reply so you know it’s done.”

He blinked as she gave him her sunniest smile and stood. “Thank you. This is such a weight off my shoulders. I’ll be able to focus on my own submission now.”

He raised a brow. “Do you need help with that review? I’d be more than happy to look it over.”

Eos’s voice came from behind her. “Are you saying I’m not capable of helping my friend build her submission?”

Boreas affected innocence. “If I’d but known your involvement, Mother Dearest, I would never have suggested it.”

Eos sniggered at him. “Liar. Besides, she has a boyfriend.”

Boreas grinned, and shrugged, Calypso felt her cheeks flame but couldn’t hold in her smile. “Thanks again, and I’ll see you both tomorrow.”

She left the office still grinning. Boreas was taking care of her mother’s submission, and he’d thought she was attractive. He wasn’t a patch on Herne of course, but it was awfully nice to feel admired.

She bounced in the door of Dragon House and powered through the final gaps in her submission form, leaving it in draft for a final check with fresher eyes the following day.

Jason was waiting when she arrived home. “Well? Did you channel my brilliance?”

She grinned at him too and told him what had happened.

He looked smug. “I’d love to be a fly on the wall when she sees the guy’s feedback. He’s the tough one, you said?”

She replied. “Yes. All of them are thorough in their reviews but the other three are a little warmer in their delivery.”

The next day, the phones rang hot. People wanting to know about extensions and requirements. The same questions were asked during the lunchtime, mid-afternoon and end-of-day rush. So far though, only two people had tried to hand in physical copies of the forms, Aaliyah was a little disappointed.

She smoothed a fold of her headscarf and said. “I’m about to jinx us all but I’d been sort of looking forward to the ridiculous bids for attention you and Tish were talking about.”

Calypso replied. “We still have one more day. If your wish comes true, you can deal with them.”

Aaliyah chuckled; and answered the phone.

She sat in the studio at Dragon House that evening, sketches and scribbles around her. She’d cross checked her numbers, made sure the right images had been uploaded, read and re-read the whole thing three times. This was it. She moved the cursor over the ‘Submit’ button and clicked.

The new page loaded. No error messages, no alarms or crashes, her business idea had been thrown into the ring and now it was up to Hel’s review team to decide whether it was good enough.

Maria-Philippa poked her head through the door. “Is it in?”

Calypso nodded.

The housekeeper grinned and bustled across the room, plonking a glass and a mini-bottle of champagne on the table in front of her. “Compliments of Miss Amy. She says it’s important to celebrate all milestones, and bubbles is the best way to do it.”

Calypso grabbed her phone and took a snap of the ‘Submission Successful’ screen with the bottle and glass in front, then sent it to Amy. I would never have managed this without you.

A moment’s thought later, she sent the same to Eos. She was tempted to message Hel as well but felt that might be a little inappropriate.

Maria-Philippa shook her head. “You social influencer people, so busy taking pictures, you let the champagne get warm.”

She picked up the bottle and popped the cork, then filled the glass. “Now you take a sip and I’ll send a picture to the family.”

So now she had a photo of herself, sipping champagne amidst piles of papers, doing the rounds of the various Quin Luong message groups.

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