The Science Of Magic

The Science Of Magic

Chapter 17

When you're up to your arse in alligators

"Of course, I won't say anything but, you had best cover your tracks." Therol maintained a gracious manner, outwardly; inside he had become a drooling moron. "What is it about this girl..." He thought, and let it drift away. "And redirecting their dislocations," He sighed, unsure what motivated it. In their corner of the Omniverse it was considered extremely bad manners to interfere with dislocators, aside from the very real danger involved.

"Father will be furious if he finds out I came here in the flesh." Therol cringed, involuntarily, when she said 'flesh'. Arrianna shook her hair from her face. Her frown was not aimed at Therol, but was an indication of the depth of her thoughts. She had come to a major crossing in the continuum; a decision that she must make alone.

If she continued to act on this issue, she would be violating a basic tenet of her upbringing; not to mention opposing her father's position. It would mean big trouble if she failed to make this work. On the other appendage, she would probably be hailed a genius, if she succeeded.

"It will affect the Mainstream; those kind of fluctuations will be easily detected-"

"They haven't re-calculated in years-"

"They hold all the cards, They own the Mainstream calculations and aren't looking for your input."

"Yes, but-" Arrianna hesitated. If she didn't find the right tactic for Therol pretty soon, she was going to wind up back on Prime calculating birthdays. Therol was never as easy for her to sway as most males. She couldn't figure him: so cool and strong, his eyes never left hers. Most men's' eyes headed straight for the breasts.

Unlike the typical soldier type, all brittle and hard, a container for anger and intolerance; there was a soft strength about him. Therol smiled at the world. And his face was more than handsome, it was filled with wisdom and courage. He accepted his abilities and used them to great benefit. He got to use his talents. Father, intent on keeping her "out of trouble", had seen to it that she became a "seed counter", despite her high aptitude scores for field research.

She felt a little soft in the head around Therol. It was a feeling which she reluctantly described as 'fluttery' and probed no further. At the most unlikely times in their discourses, she would get the urge to kiss him. Arrianna flirted at every opportunity, so far to no avail. She had done everything but strip for him; and there was the time he got her out of that little scrape on Trialous, she was pretty much unclothed through most of that. Maybe he was gay?

Therol, for his part, was stoically developing an erection. In silent desperation, he was trying to remedy it by pressing his thumb against the spiked end of his sword hilt.

"I noticed you were quick to rescue Hanna's young friend from the Elves," perhaps if she put him on the defensive.

"It was necessary, I couldn't very well let him get slaughtered..."

"Oh, so the Charter now reads: "absolutely no intervention without Prime authority, unless Therol thinks it's necessary." She was slowly leaning closer to him, her voice down to a throaty whisper. Both her hands shot out at once and each latched on to one of his ears. She pulled his face toward her. Overcoming his initial resistance with a tug, she planted one on him.

Later she would describe it as "a reflex action, one that [she] really didn't think about." But she had imagined it so many times before that if it was not a reflex, it was well-rehearsed.

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Will and Doris

Will and Doris were fleeing from the, possibly-collapsing, definitely-shuddering, Centerville City Hall. Were it not possibly collapsing, they would have had to flee because of all the Elves chasing them. The Elves had given chase because Will and Doris were the only thing they saw moving. They weren't sure exactly why they were chasing the pixies, but it seemed like the thing to after the "Big Click" at the City Hall.

Were they not running from all those Elves, they would have had to flee from twenty or so of Phineas' Personal Guard who had orders to arrest them.

They knew nothing of the guards' orders, but may be forgiven for looking over their shoulders as they ran, none the less. They finally lost sight of the elves as they cleared the northern boundaries of Centerville.

In another one of those astoundingly convenient literary coincidences, they chose to face front, just as Dot and Pie were popping in front of them.

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Tiela nearly wet herself when Arrianna popped in between them. It was almost as if the lever summoned her. She stopped in mid-"Haaaanaa" and quite nearly forgot to don surprise expression number thirty-fiive. Without so much as a How-do-you-do, she began a rapid conversation with Hanna.

Tiela's gaze flitted between Hanna and her near-twin, Arrianna. She sculpted her features into a mask of innocence and tragedy, a victim of circumstances. That she remained incredibly cute throughout the transfiguration, gave mute testimony to the depth of her skill.

"Oh, Tiela." Hanna made a palatal click, quite involuntarily. It was the first time Tiela ever heard Hanna "tsk", about anything. "Do try to keep up. No one's blaming you for anything. But it would have been better for us all if you hadn't tripped that lever."

"Tiela did just fine," Arrianna was still a bit shimmery. "I re-directed you here so you could find the switch. It may not have been premature, after all."

"Well," thought Tiela, "things haven't changed much." She removed herself to a distant table to work up a really good pout. While she was working on a proper lip quiver, she unwittingly slipped into contact with her ruby.

The ruby, left to its own devices, is naturally attuned to its mates. The first contact Tiela made was with Phineas, who was currently examining the ruby ring. She gasped aloud when she realized what he was thinking about.

"Hey girls!" She shouted aloud. "I gotta go, Phineas has a ruby." She disappeared before Hanna or Arrianna could get there.

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Maggie decided that she was against me doing anything foolish. She said as much, as we strolled around the back of the Pottrattle's sturdy farm house. A tracery of tree limbs scrabbled at the eaves, twitching in the winter wind. By summer, the bright green leaves would shelter the house from the sun. It was the largest House in the area, not because the Pottrattle's were wealthy, but because they had 14 children.

It had a Living Room for rolling about with puppies and children and a Parlor for visitors, which was off-limits to children and dogs, alike. The structure had grown up around a base of blue stone, which was, architecturally, much like the library wing of our cottage. It had grown more (and more often) than our little cottage.

Around the tower-like center were four wings; two of two stories, one of three stories, and a final wing which was only one story above ground. Elias built the final wing during a three-month fit of pique, after his wife announced they were having the thirteenth child. He built that wing by himself, raising the number of bedrooms to fifteen. It was rumoured about the village that he told his wife that he would move out if they needed any more bedrooms. When asked, he stated that he "loved kids but a man can only take so much."

Maggie led me to the back of the tower, between the two story wings. We had visited it many times, when we were younger. Because of the nature of the structures, there was a lengthy stretch of grassy hillock, which no windows overlooked. We had played many rounds of "Show-and-Don't-Tell", in the growing shadows. We had also had many long philosophical discussions, in that same spot.

Perhaps it was the nature of our past encounters here that made it seem intimate to me. Whatever the reason, I sat Maggie down and spilled my guts. I told her everything (excluding my evening with Hanna,) and begged her to forgive me for being so inattentive, since Herbert came around.

She looked at me for a long time, I could sense her sweet and gentle thoughts probing at my soul, peering through my eyes, into my head. It was at once unnerving and puzzling. I had always thought the world of Maggie, but I was beginning to think I didn't give her enough credit. She apparently had some talent, I could sense it through the ruby.

It was at this point that I felt a mild twitch, in the back of my mind. Tiela brushed right by me, in thought, as one would bump into a stranger at a fair and not really notice. It did bring me back to the moment.

"Maggie," I started but had no idea what I wanted to say. My long hesitation brought her out of her reveries.

"Nod, I can see that you have to do this; even if I didn't agree, I don't see how I could stop you. But if you think I've waited around all this time, just to see you kill yourself-" She turned away from me.

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Phineas turned the ring in his hands, trying to position the gem to catch the light. However he turned it, the stone remained dull and lifeless. It appeared to be a talisman, if so, it wasn't working. He was puzzled.

None of his aides recognized it, or could tell him ought about it. Hesitantly, he slipped it over his finger.

Nothing happened, he was not surprised. It might, after all, be a family heirloom; in older times, many trinkets were fashioned to resemble items of power.

He held it in the diffuse ray of light streaming through the window, running through the various actualization spells he knew. As if he had the power to actualize anything; he grunted to himself as he thought of it. He kept a faint hope, in the back of his brain, that if he found the right trinket at the right time, he could make something happen. He always kept an extensive array of charms and talismans to keep up appearances, and an army of incantors to run spells for him. But his spells never worked: Not even Doris knew that.

"I must let this thing go for now, too much going on to worry about a trinket." He thought. "I'll send it on to Lotho, see what he can make of it." He laid it on the desk, and moved to the anteroom to call the guard.

He was deep in concentration, so he missed the rainbow sparkles that appeared over the desk, blossomed into a sphere and dissipated. So deep in thought was he that he didn't see the somewhat buxom fairy, appear in it's wake.

Tiela bent quietly and picked up the Ruby, she briefly considered a devastating squinty-nasty face, but felt it a shame to waste a truly good one, when it wouldn't be seen. Then, with a self-satisfactory glint in her eye, she moved her hand, in a clumsy and obviously unfamiliar gesture. Tightening her fist, she raised her middle finger at Phineas' retreating back.

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"Aw, Margaret."

"No, Mag-pie. I can't take you with me." She was, in fact, wearing me down. I secretly wanted her to come with me, but I knew I would not be able to concentrate, while seeing to her safety. After thirty minutes or so of arguing, and she was good at it, she had run out of rhetoric and was resorting to pouting.

"I'm quite serious, Mr. McDonogh. It's time you got some help, there's lot's of folks who'd pitch in. We could find your folks, gather a militia, go to the Mayor of Centerville- he and Father are old friends. You don't have to do this alone, Nod," She moved closer and placed her hand on my chest, "take me with you." She locked my eyes with hers.

"Mag-pie, the reason I'm doing this is to keep you, and folks like you away from harm. You could be the most help by being here and healthy, when I get back." I took her both hands in mine and tried to catch her eye-to-eye, but she glanced away. I remembered them as capable, hard working hands. Hands that could knit a sweater or catch a ball with equal facility. I realized how soft and expressive her hands were, for the first time.

"I have to go, now."

"I know," she responded without looking up. She slid her very soft hands through mine, and grabbed a handful of my hair. She pulled me close to kiss me, and I let her. This was not a first fumbling kissWe had both been there, done that and got a T-shirt, it was different than any other time we kissed. She had my complete attention.

I reached the conclusion that Maggie had grown up, and quite nicely at that.

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"Listen fish-face, I didn't do anything magical- I didn't do anything un-magical. I didn't have anything to do with this and you know it." Dot wagged her index finger at Piewacket, until she realized it was something she had seen Tiela do.

Piewacket simply gurgled, way back in his throat, in manner even an idiot Pixie child could not fail to understand. He briefly considered clipping her a good one in the head, but decide it would not further the relationship. He didn't want to have to disembowel the Queen of Cats, before she claimed the title. Not for the last time, he wondered if it might be better, to forget the whole thing.

"Look, skin-bag, we really don't have time for this. Unlike your kin, if I ask you a question, I'm looking for an answer." He balanced on his hind legs. "If I want to manipulate someone," He flashed his claws, and grinned, "I use these."

Dot had enough. She had been bossed around, pushed around, bullied, beaten and raped. She be damned if she'd take shit from a house pet. She walked away from Piewacket, opposite to their current direction. She said nothing and did not look back.

Piewacket watched her retreat, and yawned. He figured to take a twenty minute nap. After all, the worm-child was headed down a dead-end path. The path wound down a steep canyon and ended at a precipice. Locally, it was referred to as "Lover's Leap". The only way out was to retrace her steps, and that would bring her back in about thirty minutes.

Perhaps she would be too worn out to be much of a bite-in-the-ass.



Dot was mumbling to herself, once again. She was busily casting aspersions on the genetic lineage of cats in general, and the ancestry of one cat in particular. She did not notice the steep angle of the massive walls of rock looming around her. It did not occur to her that she was headed into the Glen, far from where she needed to go.



Several large bunny-rabbits, who did not know Dot well enough to know any better, leant their silent spiritual support to the miserable Pixie. It was Dander who ran to the others, intent that they should all get there in time. The Pixie was in crisis.

"Stumpy, Butt-wipe, Phlegm-ball," He cried, for such was the manner of naming among rabbits. "Hurry, we must hurry." His white whiskers twitched. "This bitch Pixie is going to off herself, and yer gonna miss it."



"It's all his fault, really. If it wasn't for that goody-two-shoes, and his pet bumbling wizard, I wouldn't be in this mess." Dot complained aloud.

A spotted squirrel, who was sunning on a nearby rock, looked up at the sound of her voice. He had noticed the crowd of rabbits gathering and figured this must be the reason, this weird Pixie is going to jump in the Glen. He was about to respond, when she stared at him. The squirrel instantly decided to stay silent and stare right back.

"Don't say a word!" She pointed at the fuzzy rodent.

The squirrel did his best to shrug his shoulders, and sauntered away.

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Search Party

The trees practically glowed with the waning sunshine, and this stretch of the day seemed particularly warm and green. I was still a bit warm-and-fuzzied, by this unexpected revelation from Maggie. I had always supposed I was little more to Maggie than convenient, I suppose I have always viewed us through the blindness that follows proximity; after all, we grew up together. Though I consider us equals, I always felt that Maggie was somehow morally superior. This newest encounter left me with the distinct impression that I had been severely mistaken, and more importantly, I had been missing out.

I re-set my thoughts on the Quest. Surely it has taken on all the trappings of a formal Quest:

we were vastly outnumbered
Our party was a comfortable mix of heroes, refugees and misfits
We had an legendary object to find. (We had, in fact, done this; we were just unsure what to do with the object, now)
We were the good guys (I think)

Well, so far I had done a fine job of the misfit and refugee part, maybe I should take another stab-er- try at the hero part.

I glanced through the trees as I passed, as soon as I found a comfortable spot-

There I went again, procrastinating. I realized I had reached a decision at the same time I realized I was grinding my teeth together. With new-found (I don't know where I found it) determination, I dropped my few belongings and dove into my thoughts. "Maggie, you stay at home here, I'll be back as soon as I can." I located each of our band, and dragged them with me, to the Null and Void.

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Bedenman dropped his stylus on the table, "Do they have Delaney engines, yet?"

"Actually, no." There was no denying it, this was a primitive race. They had a spirit to them, a little arrogant, but politely so; one got the impression that these racial morons could, eventually, accomplish anything. It had taken them about 3500 years to get to space flight, which is incredibly slow, even for a first-growth civilization. But they were pre-industrial until the last 200 years of this re-growth, and they haven't blown themselves up, yet. They hadn't even got to anti-matter drives, much less Delaney engines.

"But I would like to mention that their system scores low on the D/v scale." I shuffled through the documents at hand, strictly for effect.

"You've obviously developed a case for this race of retards, out with it." Bedenman waved his hand at me, impatiently.

"Well, one of the reasons for the low score is background a-m count, something on a local order of 10 x 10 -9 grams of antimatter/year-"

"M-m-m, not much there to work with," agreed Bedenman.

"Yes, sir. They are in a flat edge of their galaxy, a low activity plane of the Omniverse TA-DA.

"So they're not even close-"

"Well, sir, you know how tricky that can be. Predicting the emergence of Spatial Dislocation technologies in any given culture is nearly impossible. They are being attacked by a race with Spatial Dislocation technology, though."


"Yes, sir." I had won my case.

"What is the status of the attack to date?"

"It is still in recon, sir, but a convoy of six line divisions is on route, there is no doubt about their intentions."

"And on Sol 3 they are still using chemical propulsion. I have no choice, the Nunkians have breached the treaty, once again. I'll have to report it; it means full interdiction."

Out of the frying pan into the fire. "But sir, they'll be helpless and unable to process through the technology."

"I can't help that, Wearnes, I must do what I must do." His face wilted a bit and he continued more quietly, "But we won't abandon your ape men, I'm sending three fleet divisions out there. They'll intercept and take out the Nunkian ships."

I couldn't help but grin.

"After that we'll talk about lifting the interdiction."


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The Red General: Argyle 12

The Red General paced the length of the cabin. The crimson armour was attached to the ship with an umbilical, that carried information as well as fresh life support. While scanning the logs, a reference flag dsiplayed in the margin. The general tried to ignore it as the dizzying feeling of long unresolved frustration wheeled about. Finally, the general opened the project update report.

The best brains were working on this, had been for three years now, to no avail. It was Argyle 12, a standard little G-3 planet circling a G-type star. The pacification process was going by the numbers, a small portion of the resources had been slagged and ready to transmit when the STD generators ceased functioning. At least, they were unable to transmit planetside.

No one could explain this satisfactorily, to the general. Three class A engineers had to be spaced, before anyone came up with a theory. It was a brazen red-headed lieutenant with an outworld accent.

"They must have a dispruption field of some kind, y'know like scrambling radio signals."

"I thought that Folley's theory precluded that."

"Apparently, he was wrong."

Three years and those pompous bastards were no nearer an answer. Three years while Argyle 12 sniggered at their backs. Now this report. No more, if Argyle 12 could not be passified, it would be eliminated.

The ensigns face bacame very serious, very quickly when she saw who was calling.

"Yes, general."

"Order a Slag Program for Argyle 12, I don't know it's catalogue listing, look it up."

"Yes, General. Captain Peebody is available."

"Very well." The general suppressed a sigh, and closed the link. Ah well, even Peabrain should be able to drop a single device into a planet's atmosphere. That would be the end of Argyle 12, and the Omniverse would be a little tidier tonight.

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Chance Encounter

"Well, where have you been?"

"Walking, mostly. Your friend never bothered to tell me she could dislocate. We are bound for the Centerville City Hall.

"I would advise against that, right now. Things are amiss at the City Hall." Doris was not sure but it seemed pretty obviuos to her that the disturbance directly coincded with Will's "Switch" lever. She reserved commenting.

"We really need to get to Centerville, immediately." Piewacket punctuated with a bubbley growl.

"We should really stear clear of Centerville for now. Some very odd things are happening, and we don't know why." Stated Will, plainly. Doris sniffed in a recriminatory manner.

To everyone's surprise, Dot had remained silent. She was thinking that if anything was amiss, it was because of Nod's pet wizard. As usual, she did not entertain the notion that she might be completely wrong. While her condition was improving on a daily basis, she still felt just awful. Her injuries were healing rapidly, but were still tender and sore. The very nature of Pixies made them unused to pain as humans experience it. This, then was the first time she had ever been hurt and, if the narator may beg the reader's indulgence, she was dealing with it in an heroic fashion.

"We've come a long way, we should probably rest before we get to Phineas-" She felt a whirling tickling in her abdomen, then in her head. Before she could finish her sentence the air began to shimmer around her.

"Ah, shit!" was the last thing Will and Doris heard from her as she and Piewacket shimmered and disappeared. They stared at each other for a long moment.

"Well," proclaimed Will, "that was rather rude."


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