The UC Sunnydale career fair is smaller than Willow expected. She supposes that’s true of a lot of things in Sunnydale—for a place with so many mystic-y demon-y goings-on, her hometown really is pretty tiny. Too tiny, apparently, for a lot of the top tech companies to bother coming down from Silicon Valley to set up booths. Willow thinks of all the energy she spent reading up on what to expect in a Google technical interview, looks at the empty booth set aside for the tech giant, and sighs. She wouldn’t have come, only her mother’s been asking in increasingly pointed tones when Willow is going to land her first internship, and anyway, it was this or another afternoon of fruitless research in the Magic Box, of feeling weak and angry at the way the entire store still feels like one big temptation and the way Buffy and Xander know it, their eyes locked on her from the moment she walks in.
So Willow tours the booths anyway, dropping off her resume, wiping her clammy hands on the skirt she hopes sends a Mature Normal Person vibe. Why yes, I am a regular girl, and yes I do know four programming languages but I’m definitely not too nerdy, I mean, look at me and my social skills and my conservative-yet-stylish fuzzy-sweater-free outfit—I bet you look at me and think wow, she sure must have her life together, and I do, absolutely, hello, 3.9 GPA! My free time, you say? Of course, I have a whole bunch of completely normal hobbies that do not involve destructive magic binges—in fact, hey, magic free for almost a month now!—or bringing friends back from the dead.
She even shyly visits the booth in the corner decked out in rainbow flags, picking up a pamphlet on LGBT labour rights in California. She almost grabs a second copy for Tara, but in the end she just takes the one, slipping it into the folder she stuck her name tag on to cover up the Lisa Frank sticker she’d forgotten was already there.
Willow has been to almost every booth that remotely interests her when she feels a light tap on her shoulder. Turning, she sees a man in an impeccable suit holding out a business card.
“Ms. Rosenberg?” he says, and for a moment Willow thinks of D’Hoffryn, wonders whether she’s about to be offered some new improved vengeance demon gig. Pulling herself back to the present, she takes the card and studies it. It’s so shiny and deeply black that she can almost see herself reflected in the surface. In the middle of the card are the words, Rossum Corporation.
She looks back at the man. Is she supposed to shake his hand? Before she can decide whether to stick her probably hopelessly sweaty palm out, however, the man continues, “Ms. Rosenberg. The Rossum Corporation would like to request an interview with you. We have several job openings which my superiors feel you might be qualified for. If you would come this way, please?” He begins to walk towards one of the smaller rooms just off the main hall of the student centre.
Willow follows, although everything about this man is giving her maxi-wiggins. If anything really bad happens, I could always do just a teensy spell, she tells herself. Just something really small, just if I’m really in danger. Which I won’t be. But if I am, I could temporarily blind everyone here, for instance—just temporarily! That’s not a hard spell to do without any supplies.
They reach the room, and the man holds the door open for Willow. Willow is about to turn and just run away, future career prospects be damned, when she feels her hand clasped in another, smaller one.
“Ms. Rosenberg,” says the woman in front of her, her grip firm in Willow’s, her voice hard and British. “How lovely. I am Adelle Dewitt, and this is my colleague Topher Brink. Please have a seat.” She gestures to a chair.
“Um,” says Willow, sitting stiffly. “Um. May I ask—?”
“Why you’re here?” The woman—Adelle—smiles. “Of course. It has merely come to our attention that you possess certain skills that could be useful to us at Rossum.”
“Oh! You mean computer-type skills. Yep, I have those skills, you betcha. Do you want a copy of my resume?” Willow reaches into her folder, glad she printed so many.
Adelle waves her hand away. “That won’t be necessary. And yes, we are interested in your technical knowledge, but I must admit I am even more intrigued by your other talents.”
Willow isn’t sure she likes where this is going. “Um, research?” she ventures, wishing she was being more articulate. “I can do that too, for sure. Or, um, I’m a pretty good writer as well, if you’re looking for that?”
Adelle sighs. “Ms. Rosenberg, you may talk about your magical abilities here. You do not need to worry about protecting my ears from the occult.” This earns Adelle a confused look from the man—or really, boy; either this Topher guy isn’t that much older than Willow, or he’s doing the perpetual adolescence thing worse than the nerd trio currently after Buffy. Star Trek tie and Hawaiian shirt, Willow thinks, probably not the best career fair outfit. Topher seems about to speak, but Adelle shoots him a pointed look and he holds up his hands in mock surrender.
OK, Willow really doesn't like where this is going. “I’m not making with the magics anymore, sorry,” she says. Does she have to go into some speech about it? Great, her most promising job interview yet, and she’s going to ruin it by talking about being an addict.
“Oh?” says Adelle, but instead of pressing further, she asks, “So, you’re studying cognitive science, is that right?”
Willow feels herself relax slightly. “Yep! I like it because it’s a mix of computer science and psych, and also some more humanities-type things like philosophy and linguistics, but right now I’m mostly into the psych part, especially the more science-y part of that, like, the neuroscience-y side of things?” She stops, worried she’s babbling.
Adelle smiles, her lips pulled thin. “So, Ms. Rosenberg, what makes the human brain such an interesting area of study for you?”
Willow takes a moment to organize her thoughts—they say that’s an OK thing to do at job interviews, that it shows you take the question seriously, right? “Well,” she begins, “there’s still so much we don’t know about how the brain works, and each part connects to so many other parts—it’s like, if you change one tiny thing, you could completely alter someone’s thought processes, and we don’t even know what all the things we alter could be, or what all the parts of the brain do. There’s just so much left to discover.”
Even with her preparation, Willow realizes, she’s still a mess of run-on sentences. Adelle doesn’t seem to mind, however. She waits for Willow to stop, then says, “When you talk about altering brains, would you say one could do that to help someone? I mean,” she clarifies, “do you feel that technology—or, perhaps, magic, although we absolutely don’t need to discuss that unless you want to—that these forces could change brain functioning in ways that could be beneficial for humanity as a whole?”
Willow isn’t quite sure where this question is going, but she nods.
“OK…Willow,” says Topher, speaking up for the first time, studying Willow’s nametag as he talks. “So here’s a question. A completely, one hundred percent hypothetical question. If you had to, let’s say, erase someone’s memories, how would you do that? For the good of humanity,” he adds, smirking, looking at Adelle.
“Yes, well,” says Adelle, expression unreadable. “That is usually a question we save for later interviews, I must admit, but now that it’s on the table—any thoughts?”
Is talking about magic she definitely would not do allowed, Willow wonders. Probably. She goes into the Magic Box, after all; she researches demons. If she had to research an evil witch doing memory spells, she would have to talk about them, right? Not that it’s only evil people who do memory spells. There are lots of reasons why someone might need to do all kinds of spells. It’s about whether you mean to help people or hurt them. Willow, for instance, has never meant to hurt anyone.
“Well, actually, there are a number of spells someone could do, although if you were hoping to make further brain modifications afterwards you would need to know a bit more than is currently known about what exact areas of the brain the spells effect?” Adelle smiles encouragingly. “OK, so, the most common ones all use a plant called Lethe’s Bramble, and then, you know, some witchy-woo stuff, I mean, some words you say. There are different spells depending on the level you want to go—like, do you want to just get rid of one eensy memory, or someone’s entire identity?” Willow feels the familiar itch of pent-up magical energy growing inside her. Maybe this conversation wasn’t such a good idea.
“You know what?” says Willow, getting to her feet, “I actually—I’m sorry, but I—have somewhere to be, something important, with, um, it’s a family thing. It was very nice to meet you, though.” She holds out her hand to Adelle, and then to Topher. She finds it strangely comforting that Topher’s palm feels as clammy as her own. Then he winks at her, and she feels her affection for him lessen once again.
Adelle rises. “It was a pleasure to meet you, Ms. Rosenberg,” she says. "And I know you still have another year of school after this one, but rest assured, whenever you are ready, the Rossum Corporation would love to discuss the possibility of your employment here further.” She hands Willow another business card, this time with a number and email address on the back.
As Willow leaves the career fair, she tries to feel worried, or scared, because hello, creepy much, and because that was the closest she’s been to relapsing since the last time Amy came over, but really, all she can feel is a certain pride. These past few months have quite possibly been the worst months of her life so far, and she still has companies scouting her for interesting—if, OK, a little freaky—jobs. It’s nice to know that even if she falls off the wagon big time, she’s not in any danger of working at the Doublemeat Palace. Willow places the two business cards carefully in her folder, and heads out of the student centre and towards home.