The Science Of Magic

Chapter 18


I don't know why I didn't think of it, which is to say I would have thought of it myself, in her situation. Twice, now, I had shown her how the process behaved. I not only knew that Maggie was clever and determined, but had just made a mental note of that fact. Moreover, I made that note right after I told Maggie she could not do what she wanted to do. The results were inevitable, I was just too dim-witted to realize it.

It seems a shame, to me, that we do not get smarter as rapidly as we get older.

Anyway, just as I popped out Maggie whirled and hurled herself at me. She managed to wrap her arms and legs around me just as that shimmery feeling started. She was along for the ride. I did my best to compensate for the added mass, but with everyone along for the ride this time, it was a difficult maneuver.

I make this dislocation business seem simpler than it really is. It is at once basic but very complex. Moving mass like this, requires a good deal of precision; with the entire universe from which to pick, one could wind up anywhere, without serious concentration.

The steps are basic:

  1.  Decide how much mass needs to be elsewhere. People are good about judging weight, it's why we tend to heft an object before we hurl it, but not so good with mass.
  2. Decide where elsewhere is. This, too falls under the ridiculously simple and incredibly complex description. There is a bunch of elsewhere out there.
  3. Don't be here.

It is simple, unless you change the parameters in mid-dislocation, say by adding 30 kilos of extra mass. Maggie and I, together, would not wind up at the point in space I would have, alone.

Ah, well.

Null and Void

They were all a bit taken aback, especially the large, writhing pussy-cat, who had not been invited. I assumed that it was Dot's companion. Paddling in the nothing, as if in water, the cat's motions were futile. Apparently, even inertia doesn't behave in the Null and Void.

The rest were used to this type of thing and took it in stride. I 'looked' about to see be sure I'd missed no one. As far as the Quest was concerned, we were all flailing-away futilely, like that cat. 

Hanna had a twin, a slightly larger, slightly older twin. The twin had both Hanna and Tiela by the hand.

Rosie and Spike were together, neither seemed as large in the Null and Void. Spike was rotating slowly, I imagined it would be dizzying if there were any proper visual references about. Rosie slithered a fragile arm toward him and stopped his rotation, though he remained upside-down.

"Dis, how Herbert says, is biting der big von."

I glanced toward Herbert, who was being quiet, though I was hoping he would start pontificating, so I had time to think.

Maggie was the least confused looking of the lot. I reached out to touch her, and when I did our minds connected. Though she willingly allowed my entry, I don't think she realized the possible extent of the contact.

Dear Gods! Maggie saw me as a hero! The knight in shining armour bit. The surprise of it made me forget the extent of the contact.

"It's because I love you, silly." Maggie's thoughts were broadcast to all, she had no measure of control.

"Maggie, I have to send you back, I mean, it's for your own good."

Arianna interrupted, her voice a melodious mind-massage, "Don't send her off yet, Master Noderick. If you please, the young lady has a place in this, before we are through." She moved effortlessly in the empty chunk of non-reality. Even Herbert still struggled with that.

Arrianna approached us, reminiscent of sunlight on flowing water. At first she faced Margaret, but flowed to face me. She handed me a ruby ring. "I would be pleased if you would offer this to the young lady."

Maggie was flushed and beaming, her mouth open, pupils dilated; there were only two situations, in which I had ever seen a female with that set of symptoms, and I was pretty sure we weren't having sex. This was beginning to smell like a marriage proposal, which brings us immediately to "Uh-oh".

"Maggie, I don't want you to read more into this than is intended, this will help you stay in contact with us wherever we are." I was swallowing hard, to keep from gibbering; pulse racing, blood pounding in my ears, my thoughts racing in circles, I can only describe my state as panic.

"I understand, Nod darling, do what you must."

"Oh, brother!" Chimed a familiar and sarcastic voice. I turned my attention to Dot and her pussycat.

"Yeah, what do you want?" Said Dot.


With a gun

Apparently, Herbert had never used a sword as a weapon before. He was swinging it wildly from side to side, without regard for point or compatriots. Dyna and I had to dive to the ground, Spike lost the end of his cotton tail. Herbert raised the sword above his head, before I could utter a warning, he had over balanced and wound up flat on his posterior.

"Perhaps," I suggested, "we should see how you are with a long bow?"

"Not much better, I'm afraid." Herbert seemed quite disheartened.

"What about one of those silvery Warrior thingies?" Offered Dyna.

"Well, I didn't want to call attention to us-"

"A bit late for that, old man." I pointed to the 300 odd battle armoured Elves, who were bolting across the plain to our position. "It seems they know we are here."

"This will take a few minutes."

"Let us fall back into the tree line while you prepare." Dyna turned and gestured to his men and we moved.


Herbert gestured and Warrior 3000s fell from the sky. There were two dozen of them, which didn't account for Spike, Rosie, Enkvil or Piewacket, as they lacked the proper digits to operate the things. Herbert began a crash course in the use of the shiny weapons.

"This," he began pointing at the narrow end of the thing, "is the dangerous end: Point it at the bad guys." He glanced about the open faces. He tucked the beast under his arm and wrapped his finger around the metal guard at the bottom.

"This is the trigger, don't yank on it," He demonstrated, "pull it back gently, squeeze it." Herbert did so and the machine let out a whirring fizz of slugs. "This lever changes the ammo, move it up or down. The important thing is don't point it at any of us!"

Science and Sin

The Elves were dispatched quickly, almost effortlessly. We murdered nearly 300 of them in a little under seven minutes. Even Herbert, who must have been used to this kind of thing, was silent and withdrawn. Dyna was examining his Warrior 3000 in minute detail, and handling it with extreme reverence. Tiela was the only other one of our band still clutching the thing. She, too, was examining it, but did not do it with the air of worship that Dyna affected. It was a tad bigger than she, and she was wrestling it.

I had thought myself a believer in science, but this was...

I'm not sure what I thought. I turned to Herbert and said, "Science has learned sin."

Herbert stared into my eyes. I noticed that he had tears forming in his own eyes. "You ain't seen nothing, yet."


The field was littered with bodies and parts of bodies. Rivulets of blood pooled in the low areas. Herbert insisted that we check every body for signs of life, after which, Rosie and Enkvil would set the plain ablaze. It would have taken days to bury them all.

During this grisly task, I noticed Tiela flitting form corpse to corpse. While she was diligently checking for signs of life, she had slung the Warrior 2000 over her shoulder. It bounced and jiggled on the ground each time she moved. As she landed the stock would touch down first, levering the weapon around so it interfered with her landing.

I was about to issue her a warning, "Tiela?" I thought at her during her next landing.

The distraction caused her to trip over the stock of the weapon as she was thinking "What!" back at me. As she moved the weapon out of her way, she turned about to face me.

That's when she fired the weapon at me.

I thought I could see the tiny sliver slugs coming toward me, but it may have been the combination of Herbert's description and my imagination. In any case, they came too quickly for me to duck. My attempt to pop out was far too slow. I felt the pressure of them entering my flesh, three across the ribs and two in the shoulder. As consciousness swam away from me, I realized that though I felt no pain, now, eventually this was going to hurt alot.


"You will not understand most of this, it's going to be very confusing." A very pleasant face informed me, as the room hovered into view. The walls and ceiling were colorless, white and grey borders on silver.

"Not to worry, we caught you in time." The pleasant face beamed at me, it's mouth never moved. "What you would call telepathy." Fine, but this was coming across as language, words sentences, etc. Until now, my experiences with telepathy led me to believe it was conceptual rather than linear. The gang and I never thought at each other in words, but linked blocks of concepts. It was a staccato shorthand that developed fluidity through practice. This was more like music.

As I looked about I 'heard' differing communications; the murmur of tightly beamed thoughts between individuals, two or three 'group' thoughts and a 'louder' set of instructions being broadcast to all. The outward serenity of these silent faces belied the frenetic mental activity going on.

"We have a lock!" Was beamed to everyone. while in the corner three minds were discussing something else.

"hold them until we collapse this branch, or they wind up off the Mainstream again."

"They certainly have made a hash of it."

"We need to un-hash it now, no more chit-chat, yank the line behind the first stemming, there."

I didn't understand most of it, so I collapsed my thought-bubble and focused on the first pleasant face again.

"Where am I?"

"Far off the Mainstream, but we'll have you inserted in no time. Try to relax, things will be hectic for a few spans."