In Which Two Heads Are Exactly As Good As One


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I might have objected to being “volunteered” on principle, but I had to admit that I found the whole idea behind the boxes intriguing. Who would have thought of Jillian Callahan as a benefactor to the field of enchantment, using unspecified funds whose origins probably didn’t bear thinking about to push forward the boundaries of what was possible with our current understanding of magic?

“I can tell you want to take a closer look at my babies, so why don’t you go ahead and get familiar with them while I get a few things set up,” she said. “Since you’re into that kind of crap, I might ask you to write up some bullshit observations or something.”

“I honestly wouldn’t mind writing a whole essay,” I said, which was true, but I felt bolder saying so because I knew Coach Callahan would never require it. “The more I think about it, the more I’m amazed that this even works.”

“Yeah? I didn’t think I was asking for that much,” she said. “But apparently it was a big deal. I’d always wondered why no one had ever thought to make these things before… turns out lots of people had, but no one had thrown enough money at the idea to make it happen.”

“I’m not surprised. For one thing, I’m amazed that you found a way around the doppelganger paradox.”

“Yeah, I don’t know what that is,” she said.

“Well, it’s not really a paradox, that’s just what…”

“Yeah, I don’t care,” she said.

“It means perfect duplicates of intelligent beings won’t be able to rest until they’ve destroyed each other,” I said.

“Oh, I just thought that was just me,” she said.

“It’s kind of a big deal… no one knows why it happens, though there are all kinds of theories,” I said. “And it’s one of those things that doesn’t really seem to have an exception. Even if they’ve never met, the two instances will become increasingly aware of and drawn to each other, or tear their minds apart trying to resist.”

“Well, that’s surprisingly interesting,” she said. “I guess that’s why so many people murder their twins, huh?”

“…I don’t think that’s a thing that people usually do.”

“Okay, so that one is just me,” she said.

“It’s not just physical appearance,” I said. “Otherwise, you couldn’t make an illusion of someone without setting it off. It’s got to be a perfect copy inside and out. It usually springs up when someone makes a simulacrum… or when an actual doppelganger settles into a form. But if this works on the same principle as a standard mockbox, I’m really surprised that’s not close enough to set it off. If your enchanters managed to find a workaround for the doppelganger problem, they could re-write the thaumatology books.”

“Well, the dupes do come out color-coded,” Callahan said.

“Oh,” I said. “I guess that would do it.”

She left me alone to look over the boxes. I cautiously extended my senses towards the red one, and wasn’t the least bit surprised to find out that the enchantments on it were strongly wrapped in cloaks to prevent them from being picked apart in detail. They couldn’t hide everything… it was like draping a cloth over a chair. You could still tell that there was a chair under it. I could “see” the shapes of the enchantments, but they were complicated shapes and I felt like I was getting dizzy just trying to follow them around.

It made sense. A magic weapon was a three-dimensional object with complex properties, but a living, thinking person with a mind and personality and animation was more complicated than that on an order of magnitude that had to be greater than the difference between a magic weapon and a picture of one.

Even without having to deal with the nightmare of a doppelganger scenario, the enchanters she’d employed had had their work cut out for them. I had a feeling that they’d actually gone about things the hard way by following the directive to make an advanced kind of mockbox… there had to be easier ways to make an artificial copy or simulation of a person, including ways that would have worked with Callahan’s first idea of having the original in direct control.

But using the mockbox as a starting point, you would always end up with a mockery, and a mockery of a living body would either be inanimate or it would be alive in the same way as the original was.

I wondered if the enchanters had pointed this out and had their concerns overruled or not understood, or if it hadn’t even occurred to them to try something else… if they were presented with an order for an end product rather than a description of its intended purpose, they might not have thought about other ways of getting there.

That sort of thing was stereotypically pretty common when people in highly technical magical fields worked with people who weren’t in them.

I remembered a saying that had come up in my first semester class on logic: “You get what you ask for, not what you want.” It had been said in reference to dealing with certain classes of extraplanar beings, but in a rare moment of wry humor the professor had noted it often applies to mortal enchanters as well.

In the absence of being able to pull apart the box and make it tell me its secrets, I found myself envisioning my own alternatives to it. What about an ethereal arena, with borrowed astral bodies formed to the specification of the original? In the bad old days that would have been suicidal for all but the best-prepared wizards, but we’d tamed the near-ethereal plane to the point that we used it for sending messages and arguing with thirteen-year-olds on the other side of the Imperium.

It was something to think about. Somehow I thought Coach Callahan wouldn’t be as interested in it, since it would be even farther removed from the reality of warm, solid bodies hacking each other into tiny pieces, but it was still something to think about.

I was at least three years away from being an actual enchanter, but it wasn’t too soon to think about what I might try to do with my degree. For something like that, I’d probably need more than a B.A., though.

While I mused, the rest of our group had arrived and Coach Callahan had explained the basic principle behind the box. I heard her say my name, so I came and joined the group.

“First thing we’re going to do is Frybaby vs. Tiger, rounds 2-A and 2-B,” she said. “Frybaby, you’re in the red box. Tiger, you’re in the blue box. When you come out, check your hands. If they’re normal colored, pair off with the weird glowing other one and fight. If you’re the weird glowing one, pair off with your normal opponent. Spread out, because there’s only going to be two fights and I expect them to be free range.”

I had to take a moment to remind myself that it must have been tested before as I stepped into the confines of the box. The inside glowed a soft red, so it wasn’t like it was completely dark with the door shut.

“All the way in the back!” the coach’s voice said as she thumped on the door. “There’s a couple of footprints, put your feet on them.”

I did, and there was a soft humming in my ears and a sensation that’s too unlike anything else to describe, and then suddenly I blinked and found myself standing nose-to-nose with myself.

“Oh!” we both said.

“I hope to hell you dykes are both decent!” the coach said, and then the door jerked open and we stumbled out into the light.

Nae and her redder-than-usual duplicate were just coming out of their box. Even though I could see my blue-skinned dupe… and could see her glancing at me… I still couldn’t help looking at my own skin to make sure that I was me.

I wasn’t feeling any maddening urges to destroy her or anything, but it was still weird… really weird… to see a stranger with my face and build and stance. It was weirder still to consider that she wasn’t really a stranger, that we could have sat down and talked and she would remember my mother and know about my Mecknights toys and what I’d done with Amaranth and Ian the night before… or rather, what they’d done to me.

“Enough existential philosophical crises, ladies,” Coach Callahan said, making us both jump. “Pick out your opponent and assume the position. Fights will begin on my mark. Everyone else, pay attention… you’ll all be fighting both of these people before long.”

I lined up against my illusionary opponent. Something felt off about the whole set-up, and I kept glancing at the other pair of combatants to make sure that the real Nae was there fighting the fake me. Each time I did so, the other-me looked over as well, which just made us both look awkwardly away. That could be really distracting once we started fighting… I decided to just buckle down and ignore the temptation to check out what the other side was up to from that point on.

I decided I was just feeling uneasy because I knew the staff in my hand wasn’t mocked. It shouldn’t matter, because my opponent’s knives were, and so was she. Maybe for the next fight I’d ask if I could mock my staff separately… I’d feel better about swinging it around without restraint if I knew that a stray blow couldn’t take anyone’s head off.

“Begin!” Coach Callahan said, and it was on. No more time to worry, or figure out what was bothering me.

The opening steps were a bit like a redo of our last fight, unsurprisingly. I’d been too preoccupied to prepare my air shield spell, but my air-umbrella was still pretty firmly in my mind and I used it to get a little breathing room when Mock-Nae came on hard and fast. The air burst barely moved her… kobolds are heavier than they look… but it made her blink and rocked her back a bit, which was enough for me to get in a wham with my staff that sent her farther away.

She responded by throwing one of her knives, which caught me unprepared, and also in the shoulder… but of course, she knew that she could use her claws and teeth without fear. She’d need a magic weapon to finish me off, but she could incapacitate me with pain first. Actually, I wasn’t sure that it wouldn’t register as a win if she did incapacitate me with pain, since she was part of the mockery system.

I spent too long thinking about that and she managed to close the distance again. She raked one of my thighs with the nails of her empty hand, and slashed at the calf of my other leg with her knife, scoring a decent hit. Damn it! I would have had an easier time with the whole thing if it hadn’t been fascinating from an enchantment standpoint… I imagined that Coach Callahan would understand the reason for my poor performance, but I couldn’t imagine her excusing it.

I had to get it together. We circled around a little, but I was hurting… this fight would belong to my opponent if I didn’t do something to change it up. The whole point of the mock opponent was supposed to be that we wouldn’t have to hold back anymore, so I wreathed my staff in fire… my best element… and swept it low in front of me. I half expected some reaction from the coach or from the automated safety enchantments, but if there were any general anti-fire spells in effect she must have disabled them.

The fire earned a little more respect from Mock-Nae. I imagined if the duplicates existed long enough, they might be able to think of themselves in terms of being illusionary and not having anything to lose by braving something like that, but it would take them as long as it would take us to come to terms with the situation, since they were actually us… and there I went again, analyzing when I was supposed to be fighting. My Nae had darted in past my guard, and got another hit.

I stumbled back, partially in reaction to the pain and partially in a conscious effort to get away from her. My head smacked against something both unexpected and hard, suspended in the middle of the room. I though I must have hit it hard enough to jar my brain when my cry of pain and surprise echoed around in my ears, and I slumped down against something.

“Stop!” Coach Callahan called. “Just stop… that is the eeriest fucking thing I’ve ever seen. Stop it.”

Rubbing the back of my head, I turned around to see what I’d collided with… and found my duplicate doing the same thing.


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85 Responses to “Chapter 143: Fearful Symmetry”

  1. Xicree says:

    Beautiful. New meaning to the term Mirror Match.

    Current score: 1
  2. Max says:

    How many chapters do you think its going to be before someone tries to have sex with themselves? I’m going with 25.

    Current score: 1
    • Jennifer says:

      That many?

      Current score: 1
      • Not her the other girl says:

        Well AE does have some other stuff she needs to get to first probably, and this class alone has already spanned over two chapters.

        Current score: 1
    • clodia says:

      I’m going with as many chapters as it takes for Steff to hear about the machines.

      Current score: 1
      • TheTurnipKing says:

        Oh gods. Steff with a Mocked Mackenzie.

        Current score: 1
        • Zergonapal says:

          Really? Mack would be totally cool about watching Steff fuck her mockMack to death or whatever it is Steff wants to do? Mack is into some kinky stuff but I think that would exceed tolerances.

          Current score: 1
          • Luke Licens says:

            The real question in that scenario is ‘How long til MocKenzie panics and accidentally illusion-kills Steff?’ Granted, it’s just a Mock-kill, but what would it do Steff’s conception of their dynamic?

            Also, severely doubt that Mack would watch the scenario even if she allowed it. One girl’s fetish fuel is another girl’s squick. Literally, in this case.

            Current score: 1
        • William Carr says:

          I warned you the first DAY. Steff will mock Mackenzie so she can snuff her over and over.

          Current score: 1
    • Anvildude says:

      23, it looks like, if you don’t count OTs and AUs and Blog Posts.

      Nice guess!

      Current score: 1
  3. Burnsidhe says:

    Callahan thinks it’s eerie. CALLAHAN.

    Wow.

    Current score: 1
  4. Jonathan says:

    I’m sure Amaranth will find a way to work this in with her kinks as well.

    Current score: 1
    • Alter-Alias says:

      Technically a mock horse isn’t actually an animal so much as a complicated spell.

      Current score: 1
    • Erm says:

      Mock cannibalism?

      Current score: 1
    • Zukira Phaera says:

      Amy gangbanging herself?

      Current score: 1
  5. Dani says:

    You go into the box expecting to make a duplicate of yourself – and you come out of the box to learn that you are the duplicate and you have half an hour to live.

    Current score: 1
    • TheTurnipKing says:

      Would that bother you, unduly? I mean, you’re going to be spending that half hour doing exactly what the “real” you is doing anyway so there shouldn’t be any significant divergence of personality.

      Current score: 1
      • Zergonapal says:

        Yeah the box needs to dose them with essence of honey badger so they just don’t give a fuck.

        Current score: 1
  6. DevanGelic says:

    So Callahan HAD a twin sibling? Would love to read about that!
    Good chapter all around, especially liked the “mirror-match” and nae’s use of her “other” self to back mackenzie between a nae and a hardplace “mack’s head” lol Just goes to show that Mack is still self centered/oriented (kept checking herself out in the other ring) while Nae/Nae has a broader situational awareness going on (took in the scene from both fights, and adapted pretty damn well). On Nae’s part, being a successful Fulltime sub probably gave her the skills to be situationally aware most of the time.

    Also, random thought tangents from many chapters ago…

    I think that The Man in the present is Samuel. Which makes him Mack’s Daddy, or is that Daddy Mack? *shrugs* What better place to hide than as someone else? A Known somebody else, with an established line of fear and deterrence. Demonic Identity Theft/Borrowed. The old The Man is trapped as the Pitch Fork, or at least the part that remains to this day of him, is intact. Oh and I think the pitchfork is still hiding out in Amaranth’s ‘nether’ regions. But its all guesses at this point. Can’t wait to find out what happens.

    Current score: 0
    • Burnsidhe says:

      That theory is instantly shot down by the ‘needs’ that both Mack and her brother have; both dealing with fluids from virgins. Their father feeds on the hearts of virgins.

      Samuel fed on the joy of children, and was a *half* demon.

      We know that mixed heritage dilutes in strength over successive generations. Further, we know that the needs of mixed heritage demon-blooded always relate to their particular forebear.

      Since both Mack and her brother are absolutely confirmed half-demons, and since they have needs related to virgins, that completely shuts out the possibility that Samuel is related directly to them.

      Current score: 0
  7. Athena says:

    …I want to see a comic or animation of this SO. DAMN. BADLY. Just…two Macks? Amazing~

    Current score: 0
  8. pedestrian says:

    So who’d of guessed a duplicated twin of Mackenzie would be as clumsy and uncoordinated? Anybody? Yeah, me too.

    And I bet Callahan is going to relish ‘mocking’ Frybaby.
    As often as possible…

    As for sex with your mirror image, I would suspect that the reality of attempting to make such an event erotic, will turn out to be as uncomfortably futile and physiologically unwieldy as attempting coitus in zero-gravity.

    Current score: 0
    • Sejemaset says:

      First commercial spaceflight someone will succeed in that attempt pretty much guaranteed so I think following your analogy that someone will succeed in having sex with a mock-them.

      Current score: 0
      • pedestrian says:

        My suggestion for a new motto for the USofA was:

        “If it is worth doing, it is sure as hell worth overdoing!”
        or
        “Excess is never enough!”

        So yeah, I could agree that some lame-ass narcissist celebrity will eventually blow through ten or twenty million dollars for the opportunity to publicly humiliating themselves, with such a publicity stunt.

        But read the commentary by actual experienced astro/cosmo-nauts, the actual physical constraints of two bodies in space, in zero-gravity is going to be a lot less titillating and a lot more like a revival of slapstick.

        Maybe skilled acrobats or ballet dancers with very specialized training might be able to make fucking-in-space appealing to an audience. But I suspect the attempts will just break down into giggling and laughing by the participants, at all the ridiculous and futile effort.

        Hell, that’s happened to me here on this plane, without an audience. One of us would fart or queef or we would fall off the bed or the dog would stick her nose into sensitive anatomy. Coitus interruptus is proof that ‘practice makes imperfect’.

        Current score: 0
        • Daemion says:

          You’re supposed to use a special harness or suit in zero gravity. The guys at NASA already came up with several solutions for sex in space. They -are- geeks after all. 😉
          And yes, they tested this already. ^^
          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sex_in_space

          Current score: 0
          • pedestrian says:

            So…Bondage-In-Spaaace!!!…

            Comedy ensues!

            Current score: 0
    • William Carr says:

      Nah, an elastic waistband solves that problem.

      Current score: 0
  9. Bonzaii says:

    DevanGelic, I suspect what happened wasn’t that the Naes utilized better situational awareness, but that both fights proceeded in an absolutely identical fashion on opposite sides of the room, as both Macks “independently” chose the exact same actions, as did both Naes. That would much better explain Coach Callahan’s reaction.

    Easy solution: Have the fights in different rooms and just deal with the fact that they’ll both end the same way.

    More interesting solution: Add a green mockbox and have three fights: Ab, Bc, Ca. Since none of the pairings are identical, none of the outcomes will be either and eerieness will be averted.

    Current score: 0
    • TheTurnipKing says:

      You actually WANT both fights to end in the same way. If they don’t, the difference could be the result of external circumstances (say, one Nae and Mack fight in terrain that advantages one, while the other pair fight in terrain that advantages the other) or something has potentially gone very wrong with the Mockboxes.

      The problem is that any knowledge gained by the mocked duplicate appears to be lost, so there’s no particular reason to advantage or disadvantage either combatant.

      In essence, identical fights are a means of establishing the safety of the Mockboxes.

      Current score: 0
      • TheTurnipKing says:

        What might be useful though in the long term is to stagger the fights. Mock one participant at a time, and allow one of the the original participants to watch the battle, and see their own fighting style from the outside.

        Current score: 0
        • Zergonapal says:

          I like that, that seems like a good idea.

          Current score: 0
        • Brenda A. says:

          They could just as easily watch a video of the fight later.

          Current score: 0
          • Brenda A. says:

            That is to say, it’s not about seeing how they fight – it’s about being able to fight no-holds-barred. In Mack’s case, being able to go all out against an opponent without worrying about hurting someone with her strength.

            Current score: 0
  10. P says:

    It sounds like Callahan either didn’t think this one through or she has some kind of ulterior motive. I wonder how long it is before she thinks to have people match off against themselves.

    The duplicate actions could probably be fixed by making sure the two groups have different starting points, eg making illusionary Nae and illusionary Mack have some kind of advantage starting off. If I were the mocked person I don’t think I would have any interest in fighting, though. At some point I’d come to the realization that as things stand I had 30 minutes left to live and I would see that as having quite a lot to lose.

    Current score: 0
    • TheTurnipKing says:

      Thats not quite how it works. The mocked person is you, and you were there to fight. The fact that one of you goes into class and one comes back out again is exactly right.

      The fact that “you” are a colour coded duplicate of yourself who will cease to exist in 30 minutes is largely irrelevant because (a)you feel exactly like yourself and (b)”you” will continue to exist after the class, even if this particular duplicate version ceases to exist.

      Current score: 0
      • P says:

        But if the duplicate can have unique thoughts or experiences then it takes on its own existence. Those thoughts and experiences would not continue to exist.

        “You were there to fight,” maybe Nae and even Mackenzie were but I’d be pretty hesitant to even step into the thing and would be thinking about the possibility that I would end up being the duplicate. Mackenzie seemed to pretty much disregard the possibility on the basis that she was “real” and then when Callahan started yelling at her she didn’t give anymore thought to it (Nae is probably desperate enough that she just didn’t care). But the moment one of her realized her skin was glowing and the other didn’t they were two different strands of experiences.

        Current score: 0
        • P says:

          “I still couldn’t help looking at my own skin to make sure that I was me.”

          Keep in mind that until Glowing Mackenzie looked down, she was thinking exactly the same thing as the other Mackenzie. She thought she was the real Mackenzie and the other was mocked. Then she realized she wasn’t, then she started getting knives thrown at her.

          Current score: 0
          • Sapphite says:

            Glowing Mackenzie still thinks she is the real Mackenzie.

            Current score: 0
            • Cadnawes says:

              I was thinking that too. What do you want to bet somehow the perceptions of the mocked one are such that they don’t know?

              Current score: 0
            • Daemion says:

              Even if you knew, why would you care? The real you doesn’t cease to exist, the real you isn’t lost to the world and mock you doesn’t have to worry about much beyond the next 30min. Simply fading when the time is up isn’t going to hurt and the dying usually is the bad part of death.

              I would see it as an opportunity. Nothing I do in the next 30min will have any consequences for real me unless I start to tell people about my secrets. I can cut loose, I can try stuff that’s totally dangerous because in the worst case… I simply disappear. But if it works… it would be awesome!

              Current score: 0
            • P says:

              Unlikely sense Callahan had the glowing opponent pair off against an opponent that wasn’t glowing. If you’re fighting someone who’s not glowing then it’s obvious you’re not fighting a mock, ie you ARE the mock. Mackenzie may not have come to terms with that in the 5 seconds she had to think about it, but all the information is there.

              To Daemion: Why would I care? Because “real me” isn’t me. If I can sit across the room and observe the person externally, I am going to cease to think of them as myself, the same way Mackenzie thinks of the mocked her as someone other than herself even though they have the same memories.

              ” It was weirder still to consider that she wasn’t really a stranger, that we could have sat down and talked and she would remember my mother and know about my Mecknights toys and what I’d done with Amaranth and Ian the night before… or rather, what they’d done to me.”
              -Mackenzie

              She therefore thinks of Mockenzie as an external being who shares her appearance and memories.

              Then we also get into the aspect of it is acceptable to privilege one entity over the other or see it as more real on the basis of how it was created.

              To respond to you further:
              ” I can cut loose, I can try stuff that’s totally dangerous because in the worst case… I simply disappear. But if it works… it would be awesome!”

              This is -already- the case. If you do something dangerous and it doesn’t work out then your consciousness ceases to exist (taking my atheist worldview into account here). The only potential cost is pain (which the mocked people can presumably still feel) and the fact that people who care about you or rely on you would no longer have access to you. Unless I was feeling particularly suicidal removing the second wouldn’t impact my choices.

              Current score: 0
            • Daemion says:

              The real you and the mock you are pretty much identical. The fact that one of you will vanish in half an hour wouldn’t have such a huge impact as you think. At least, it wouldn’t have one for me.

              30 minutes aren’t enough to develop many differences or to make lots of new experiences. There is no sense of loss, no dread of dying, no existantial anxiety or anything else. The mock me would be fully aware of the fact that his life ends in a few minutes… but that could be rather liberating.
              Mock me wouldn’t have to concern himself with anything important. Student loans, health issues, unfinished chores, relationship trouble… nothing of that matters. It’s not his problem anymore.

              Maybe that’s just me though. 😉

              Somewhere down in the comments someone had the theory that both Macks are color coded but each sees herself as the real one. The same is true for the Naes.
              After all… Mack enters the -red- box and comes out -blue- … and vice-versa for Nae.
              Which means the audience saw one blue and one red Mack step out of the box, so now there are two fights red vs. blue going on.

              If each Mack thinks she is real, then there wouldn’t be an issue. 🙂

              Current score: 0
            • P says:

              But again, Cahallan said for the nonglowing person to pair up with a glowing person and the glowing person to pair up with the glowing person. If -both- Nae’s were glowing how would Mackenzie know who to pair with?

              I guess it’s possible that Blue Nae/Mackenzie see each other as nonglowing and Red Nae/Mackenzie see each other as nonglowing. We’ve seen no in story evidence of this, however, and it would only work once. As soon as someone tells Mackenzie “You are both glowing” (or both were glowing) she will know what’s up. So will everyone in the room who saw the fight.

              To your “none of that matters,” if you were to put yourself in a situation where you were going to die then that would -also- be true. If you jump in front of a moving train you don’t have to worry about your student loans anymore, it will become someone else’s problem. I hope that doesn’t mean you’re going to jump in front of a moving train.

              I’m not trying to argue against that you feel the way you do, but to say “that’s not how it works” as a blanket statement (as turnip did) isn’t actually logical. Based on what we know, it does work that way. I know emotional reactions will vary from person to person but that doesn’t change the wider point that I’m making. In fact, I even suggested that Nae might not care for emotional reasons so I’ve been taking that into account.

              Current score: 0
      • HiEv says:

        I don’t quite think it works like that. Once you’re an independent being you will want to continue existing as much as the original will. Heck, that’s what makes them a duplicate. Whether some copy of you will continue to exist isn’t really relevant to the fact that you will cease to exist.

        I highly recommend watching the video “To Be” (YouTube link) by John Weldon, which actually cleverly examines this exact sort of situation.

        Current score: 0
        • TheTurnipKing says:

          “You” cease to exist, but you don’t.

          The only reason to exist is the reason you’re here for – to fight your opponent so you can get a passing grade and pass Callahan’s class so that you (plural) can get a decent enchanting gig.

          The goals of both you and your duplicate align.

          Current score: 0
          • P says:

            I guess what I’m not getting here is… say you are the copy and you do not stop existing, but are imprisoned for 50 years afterwards, after which you will cease to exist. Let’s also say the original Mackenzie goes on to “get a passing grade and pass Callahan’s class, [leading her to] get a decent enchanting gig.” Is it going to be any consolation to you that the original Mackenzie got to do those things when you’re locked in a dungeon? If not, I’m not sure how shortening the duration before death fundamentally changes the situation.

            Naruto’s “kage bunshin no jutsu” avoids this issue by having the memories and experiences of the shadow clones rejoin the original Naruto. He even uses this to make progress more quickly in his training. So the clone knows it’s a clone, it knows it’s going to rejoin the original Naruto, and it only exists for a short time, not long enough for its goals to diverge. Mockenzie never gets to rejoin Mackenzie, though, and so there’s no particular reason for Mockenzie to take solace in Mackenzie’s accomplishments. For Mockenzie there’s no tangible benefit.

            Current score: 0
          • HiEv says:

            Whether your goals align isn’t the point. I’m sure you would take no solace in dying simply because there is someone else out there with the same goals.

            From the duplicate’s point of view, it’s the same thing.

            Current score: 0
  11. Fnark says:

    “…If your enchanters managed to find a workaround for the doppelganger problem, they could re-write the thaumatology books.”

    “Well, the dupes do come out color-coded,” Callahan said.

    “Oh,” I said. “I guess that would do it.”

    Jesus fuck I am laughing.

    Current score: 1
  12. JS says:

    Just wait until Callahan has Mack fight herself…

    Current score: 0
    • zeel says:

      She already pointed out that it would be basically futile to do that.

      Current score: 0
  13. That one guy says:

    If the duration of a mock was extended long enough for a mock to bear children, would the children be mocks?

    I’m seeing a new Imperial punishment/information gathering technique — duration extended by hooking the original up, then torturing the original forever (or the life left of the original). The mock couldn’t die because it would only be taking phantasmal pain. Perhaps this would become a new Jason Bourne method of producing an assassin who is immune to phantasmal pain.

    I think the whole fighting mocks in Callahan’s class thing would only work with three mocked people, A->B, B->C, C->A. That would ensure that the fights aren’t mirror images of each other and they would all be fought exactly as the “real” person would fight the fights.

    Current score: 0
  14. Riotllama says:

    Devangelic: Calahan was freaked out because both fights were exactly the same. Mirror images of themselves. Nae didn’t outmanouvre real Mack. She was doing exactly what her double was doing.

    Current score: 0
  15. Morten says:

    It’s stupid to have the original fighting at the same time as the dupe. You could learn a lot from watching yourself fight so they should rotate it so there’s 4 people fighting at the same time, two of them mocks.
    But yeah, why isn’t existential / mortal dread a problem for the mocks? Don’t they realise that they only have half an hour to exist? Actually if the mocks are okay with the lack of existing for long they could talk to their originals after the fight and relate what they’ve learnt.

    Current score: 0
  16. x says:

    Just being duplicates isn’t enough to explain the fights proceeding in a similar manner. Being in a different part of the room would be more than enough to make the two fights completely different – not much more similar to each other than two fights between the same people on different days would be. There’s also the question of why the duplicates hit each other. Was the direction just random, or were the two fights for some reason like mirror images? That would also imply the duplicates have left and right swapped – right-handed becomes left-handed and vice versa.

    Current score: 0
    • Sapphite says:

      No, I think the mirroring could come from how they stepped out of the boxes together, facing the Nae’s opposite them, and then motion started in opposite directions (“Spread out!”)

      Current score: 0
      • x says:

        No, nothing like that could create a mirror image situation. If you have two identical duplicates with one rotated 180 degrees, that’s not a mirror image. In that case a collision would be possible only at single point on the field: the exact middle point between their original starting positions (the positions from where they started behaving identically). Consider what happens if they walk toward each other. If one moves a bit to the right, the other does the same – but that’s “right” for someone rotated 180 degrees, so it’s the opposite direction. Thus they move to opposite sides, and pass each other without colliding.

        A “mirror image” situation requires that one fight has a right-handed Mack and the other a left-handed one, and when one moves to her right the other moves to her left.

        Current score: 0
    • Brenda A. says:

      Well, as long as there was sufficient space around each pair, why would that make the fight different? If each Mack made the same initial move, implementing the air umbrella, the reaction would be about the same from each Nae, and so on.

      Current score: 0
      • x says:

        Because “about the same” isn’t enough to keep the fights similar. If one reaction is a hundredth of a second faster or slower, the resulting differences quickly become larger. Then something hits in a different place in the fights, or is dodged in one fight but blocked in the other, and the two fights will follow completely different courses from then on.

        Current score: 0
        • TheTurnipKing says:

          Blocking and dodging are two completely different actions. The cumulative effect of changes might result in completely different outcomes, but apparently enough of them were the close enough that the effect of these fights was a mirror.

          Which is a statistically possible outcome, though what the probability of it is, I don’t know or care to guess.

          Current score: 0
  17. TheTurnipKing says:

    Those thoughts and experiences SHOULD be fundamentally near identical to the original. And they shouldn’t significantly diverge over the course of 30 minutes, certainly not in the application to which these are being put.

    The point is, the duplicate feels that just as the original. Which means they probably dont want a copy of themselves running around anymore than the original does.

    Now, you could quite sensibly say that we’re generally on shaky moral ground and I’d agree but the use as described seems OK. The problem is the djinn it lets out of the bottle. Where the line is drawn, I wouldn’t want to decide.

    Current score: 0
    • ss says:

      “The point is, the duplicate feels that just as the original”

      No? In real life, the duplicate will diverge from the original dramatically the minute that it finds that its hands are glowing…

      Current score: 0
  18. RJthewolf says:

    it’s real simple 😉 the mock sees the original as a mock, red/blue skin w/e. neither knows which one is the -real- one until the duration ends.

    Current score: 0
    • Daemion says:

      Brilliant idea… and perhaps what happened, too. After all… Mack enters the -red- box and comes out -blue- … and vice-versa for Nae.
      Which means the audience saw one blue and one red Mack step out of the box, so now there are two fights red vs. blue going on.
      The question is… would it work on subtle artists? Mack is currently training to stop anything or anyone messing with her mind, so she’d soon figure out what the boxes do. And some other students in her class are probably real subtle artists, too.

      Current score: 0
      • TheTurnipKing says:

        In theory, it should. Because the mock version should know everything that Mack knows, and because the duplicates are created fresh every 30 minutes, they should continue to “keep sync” with the original.

        Current score: 0
  19. TheTurnipKing says:

    Given that both are still Mackenzie, neither of them are likely to participate voluntarily with the kind of stuff that Steff is into.

    Current score: 0
  20. Burnsidhe says:

    Look at the chapter subtitle. What’s going on here is that at some level, their *minds* are identical, to the point that they’re thinking the same things at the same time, and reacting to things in exactly the same way.

    If a subtle artist were to examine them, she’d probably find that there was only one mind there.

    Current score: 0
    • SilentSooYun says:

      Their minds might be identical up to the point of experience, but after that their circumstances were altered to the point where it must have made a difference in perception. Mack was worried about the intricacies of the enchantments involved, whereas Mock would be confronted with the certainty of mortality. Just those circumstances ought to have altered their thought patterns to the point where they could not have been of one identical mind, just permutations of a template.

      Current score: 0
      • Brenda A. says:

        Mack was distracted and almost missed the opening of the fight. Her immediate response was one she’d been planning: using the elements – in this case, the air umbrella, all she had time for. I see no reason why this would not have been an identical situation in the other fight. Then, each Nae would have reacted similarly. And so on.

        Current score: 0
        • HiEv says:

          Actually, the “Butterfly effect” should have prevented that. Many small differences, for example the fact that they were facing different directions in the mockbox, were mocked or unmocked, thus were positioned slightly differently in the sparring arena, etc., should have multiplied up into differences that would have become larger and larger over time until they were acting totally differently.

          Then again, this is magic we’re talking about, so there may be some “law of sympathy” or something that tries to sync them up if possible. (Perhaps related to the reason for the doppelganger paradox?)

          Current score: 0
          • TheTurnipKing says:

            Chaos theory would suggest so, but in the MUniverse it’s still figuring out what to make of these mockboxes.

            Current score: 0
  21. Mad Nige says:

    So, Mack’s feeling a bit blue…

    Current score: 0
  22. Erm says:

    “It means perfect duplicates of intelligent beings won’t be able to rest until they’ve destroyed each other,” I said.

    “Oh, I just thought that was just me,” she said.

    Yeah, I see what she did there 😛

    “Well, the dupes do come out color-coded,” Callahan said.

    “Oh,” I said. “I guess that would do it.”

    … oh! 😛

    Current score: 0
  23. Zathras IX says:

    The more I think on
    It, the more I’m amazed that
    Anything even works

    Current score: 0
  24. Greenwood Goat says:

    “What about an ethereal arena, with borrowed astral bodies formed to the specification of the original? In the bad old days that would have been suicidal for all but the best-prepared wizards, but we’d tamed the near-ethereal plane to the point that we used it for sending messages and arguing with thirteen-year-olds on the other side of the Imperium.”

    Sooo… if Mack was ever able to implement this, she could call it an Unreal Tournament…? Or, with an expansion of capability to allow groups of players and fortifications, and considering the nature of the mockeries that would be fighting, how about Half Life: Team Fortress? Indeed this could provide an alternative to a Skirmish field, allowing squads to practice their fall out, tactics, and drill, and captains to command and conquer mocked troops and enemies, honing their strategic abilities. And, of course, concerns about safety would be eliminated, permitting total annihilation of enemy forces – a far cry from the problems currently present. Shall I stop there? Yes, I shall. >:=)>

    Current score: 0
  25. HiEv says:

    As a programmer, I’ve been on the other end of the “you get what you ask for, not what you want” problem, and it’s really frustrating.

    I once subcontracted with a software company, writing software for another company through them. However, my employer wouldn’t let me talk to anyone at the other company directly, so I had a really hard time figuring out exactly what would work best for the customer. Every time I had a question I’d have to go through my employer, who would (eventually) get back to me with (often less than all of) the answers. I don’t know which answers he got from the company we were writing this for or which he answered himself. The only time I got to talk to the company directly was the day I installed the software for them.

    It was so frustrating working with that company (not to mention the constantly late checks) that I stopped working with them.

    In any case, it’s often as bad for the people on the manufacturing end as it is for the customer when you can’t properly communicate “what you want,” so you just have to deal with getting “what you asked for” instead.

    Current score: 0
    • Greenwood Goat says:

      Not to mention that “what you want” and “what you ask for” are both completely independent of “what you actually need” or “what best fulfills your real requirements”.

      Here is a recent rendering of a very old meme that has been going around offices for decades, certainly pre-dating the internet, the desktop computer and the word “meme” itself, and possibly pre-dating electronic computers and easy duplication as well.

      http://codinghorror.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a85dcdae970b0128776faf6b970c-pi

      Current score: 0
  26. Bolongo says:

    Didn’t the colors get mixed up? Mack went in the red box and got a blue dupe, and vice versa.

    Current score: 0
  27. Zukira Phaera says:

    even if the whole of the fights aren’t identical, just seeing Mack back into herself and clock herself and the back to back identical reactions to the self inflicted injury would maybe be enough. One klutz is bad enough, two accident prone instances k.o.ing themselves on themselves? Hell-eeriety ensues.

    Current score: 0
  28. X'o'Lore says:

    All this and no mention of the William Blake reference in the chapter title. It would have fit better if Nae had more focus in this chapter.

    Current score: 0
  29. Computer Mad Scientist says:

    I can definitely see Jillian mistaking the Doppleganger Paradox for an aspect of her own personality. At least if she hasn’t seen it happen to anyone else.

    Current score: 0
  30. ss says:

    Wait…maybe I missed something in the earlier chapters but…

    Why do the students consent to go into this box? Why don’t the duplicates flee as soon as they find out that they are duplicates? Why is Mack going along with this horribly unethical thing?! WHY IS EVERYONE SO OKAY WITH THIS?!!?

    Current score: 0
  31. Ephemeral says:

    Erk…

    Am I the only one who is utterly horrified by the caviler way they plan to routinely CREATE AND THEN MURDER dozens or hundreds of people every week? What kind of callous evil idiot would just shrug at the fact that they’re repeatedly creating PEOPLE with the life expectancy of HALF AN HOUR? And you even go out of the way in Mack’s thoughts to point out that the mocks ARE people, not just mindless simulations.

    Also, that doppelganger paradox… whatever sadistic god set that up needs to lose their powers quick.

    Current score: 1
  32. Cadnawes says:

    On the sex in space thing that somehow got off the ground…

    When I was in high school, an astronaut came to speak. We could ask anything and weren’t coached, so of course someone asked if anyone had had sex in space. She stammered a lot, mentioned that there were close quarters and it would be hard to arrange, and ultimately said she doubted it, even tho couples had gone up on the same mission before.

    Given that answer, I’m pretty sure our speaker had given it a shot.

    Current score: 0
  33. Lara says:

    I am amazed that Mackenzie got in that box. I thought for sure she’d refuse, or at least object. I know I would!

    Current score: 0