In Which Love Is In The Air

As I went to Nicki’s dorm after dinner, it occurred to me how weird it was to be go to someone’s room to knock on their door because I wanted to see them, not because I felt some kind of obligation or because someone had managed to intimidate me into doing it.

Given how intimidating I’d once found the idea of approaching someone without a clear signal to proceed… a signal that definitely wasn’t present when they were behind a closed door… you can imagine how much pressure it took to get me to do that. And the one fear being stronger didn’t cancel out the opposing fear, the two just trapped me between them.

But it was no big deal to go back to Burlew Hall to knock on Nicki’s door again… was this because I had grown so much, or was it because the situation was so different? She was my friend, made at my own initiative, and I’d managed to separate my life out from the people who would put me in uncomfortable situations with no regard for my feelings.

I figured it was probably a combination of the two… after all, it had taken growth to get my life to this point.

But there were limits to growth, to how far and how fast a person could change, and in the course of thinking about how what I was doing would have freaked me out in the past, I started to get a little tingle of dread and uncertainty creeping down my spine as I went down Nicki’s hallway. It grew and spread until I ended up hesitating in front of the door, frozen on the verge of actually knocking.

That was silly. Nicki was my friend… if I started second-guessing whether she wanted me around or not, then we’d both be doing that, and that would pretty much be the end of that. Of course she wanted me around.

I knocked.

The response was silence, and I mean the space behind the door became noticeably more silent in response to the knock. It might have been my imagination, but I didn’t think so. I had been working on paying more attention to my senses, and they were telling me that the occupant of the room had just gone very still.

Well, no surprise there… how did I respond to an unexpected knock on the door? If I didn’t yelp, I froze. There really needed to be some kind of socially acceptable standard way of easing someone into a knock. It didn’t mean she didn’t want to see me. It didn’t mean anything personal about me, period, because she had no way of knowing it was me.

“Nicki?” I said. “It’s Mack.” And then, in case she had more than one friend with that name, I added, “Mackenzie.”

“Mack?” she repeated.

“Yeah,” I said. There was no further reply or sound of movement, so this seemed to be the part where I would tell her why I was there. Why was I there? The direct cause was the adventuring thing, but that seemed like a weird way to open. I was also worried that she hadn’t been coming around to eat with us and I wanted to make sure that she knew she was welcome, but how did you say that without sounding patronizing? “I haven’t seen you around, so I was just… wondering.”

I’d almost said “worried”, and that seemed like a better way to end a sentence. I’d veered to “wondering” because that sounded more positive, but it left the whole thing sounding kind of… unfinished.

Whatever, I’d said it. If it sounded a little awkward, Nicki would understand. It was a language we both spoke.

“Could you come back later?”

“I… what?” I said. The words had been clear enough, but they were so much the opposite of what I’d consciously been expecting and so perfectly in line with the sort of thing my anxiety had been fearing that I couldn’t be sure I’d actually heard them.

“I’m… a little busy right now,” she called. It didn’t sound like she was right on the other side of the door, more like she was in bed. I had the sudden thought that maybe she was sick, but she didn’t sound sick. She sounded more… embarrassed.

And then I caught a whiff of something that had been nagging at the edge of my senses, and my brain put it together. Nicki had a single room. She was sexually frustrated. I’d probably interrupted her in the middle of one of the things that many sexually frustrated people with privacy do.

“Sorry,” I said. “I’ll, uh, see you in class.”

I wanted to get out of there as fast as I could, but even though there was a door between us it kind of felt like turning on my heel and running would have made it a little too obvious that I knew what was going on, so I hesitated before I turned away.

In that moment the door opened, suddenly.

It wasn’t thrown open… just swung open smoothly with a lot of speed and control. There was an elf there, an elven woman… definitely a woman, “dressed” in a set of diaphanous scarves that were knotted together end to end and wound around her limbs and torso. The only things they left to the imagination were how long she’d spent getting them just right and what the point of them was. Not only were they see-through, but they weren’t even slightly obscuring anything that it would be considered crucial for clothing to obscure.

After hanging out with Steff and Dee as my exemplars of elven women, my brain registered her breasts as being really small, but then I remembered the different ideals of Dee’s people and realized that what I was staring at would be considered a bit too full-figured by the dominant standards of the surface elves… and then I remembered that what I was staring at was also the body of a total stranger… though in fairness, she had answered the door and was making no effort to move away or cover herself.

“Grace,” she said, and it took me a moment to realize she’d just introduced herself.

“That’s not an elven name,” I blurted out, which wasn’t the absolute worst thing I could have said under the circumstances, but it hardly seemed tactful. At least Grace had the good grace to accept it as an interesting observation.

“No, my parents named me Charissa,” she said. “I just prefer the Pax. It’s less… flowery.”

“I should… go,” I said.

“No, stay!” Grace said, clasping my wrist with both hands. “Come in! I’ve wanted to meet you even before Nicolette…”

“Nicki, I told you,” said Nicki. “Only my grandma calls me by my full name.”

“Sorry, I am such a hypocrite about these things,” Grace said. She put a hand on my butt to push me past her into the room and closed the door behind her. “But it’s such a sweet and charming name, and when I saw it on the door it knocked the one I knew right out of my head. Sit!”

She sat herself down on the floor, cross-legged, and gestured for me to do the same. Nicki was seated on the bed, wearing a tiger-striped bra and a matching glamour over her skin. If she had anything else on, it was under the blanket on her lap.

Grace had blonde hair in a honey-colored shade that would have been considered dark among the dominant surface elven body types. She wore it up a high pony tail and had long bangs hanging down in her eyes.

I wanted to ask her how she could see, but being an elf the answer was probably “better than you”.

“Anyway,” she continued, “I’ve wanted to meet you since before Nicki even caught my eye.”

“What for?” I asked. I was really knocking them to the ground when it came to giving polite answers to polite conversation, but unexpected nudity has a way of disconnecting my tongue from my brain.

“You seem interesting,” she said. “And you vex my aunt, and that pleases me greatly.”

“Your aunt?”

“Cousin, really, but of a much older generation,” she said. “Ariadne. You must realize that there are far fewer elven families in the world than human ones, even in proportion to our respective populations.”

“I suppose that would be true,” I said. “Were you… you were in that poetry club, weren’t you?”

“Yes… not my idea of a good time, but my mother ‘suggested’ we join,” she said. “My sister and I. Middlings are mostly left to our own devices, but we’re still expected to support the family.”

“You have a sister?” I asked. It wasn’t surprising in and of itself, but that they’d both be of an age to be attending school at the same time.

“I know what you’re thinking… she’s sixty years older and has a different father,” Grace said. “Flings, basically. We look like twins. Even other elves had a hard time telling us apart, before we started wearing our hair differently.” She turned to Nicki. “See, I told you we should let her in. Look how interested she is! We’re talking, and it’s nice. We have been having sex for two days, Mackenzie, and it’s been great, but she never once asked me about my family. I mean, we just met and there isn’t really a timetable for those things, but it’s nice to switch things up.”

I wanted to apologize to Nicki, who looked like she was about ready to die… but I figured saying anything to her at that moment would just make it worse.

“You were one of the ones who distracted her while I visited Professor Stone,” I said to Grace.

“I guess I shouldn’t be surprised you don’t recognize me,” she said. “I was a bit more dressed at that point.”

“Um… were you going to get more dressed now?”

“I wasn’t planning on it?” she said. “I don’t have another set of clothes, and I know you’re comfortable with the female form.”

“You walked across campus like that?” I said.

“It’s funny how prudish you can be!” she said. “I do have the clothes I brought with me, but I have no intention of putting them on before I’ve showered.”

“You’re Nicki’s admirer,” I said.

“I’m an admirer of women,” she said. “Human women, generally. I like Nicki in particular, to be clear, but admiration sounds so impersonal.”

“I meant as in secret admirer,” I said. “It’s a saying.”

“Oh, I’ve heard it,” she said. “I wasn’t sure of the complete connotation… I would say that I admire you, but I desired Nicki.”

“Wait… you said you’ve been having sex for two days,” I said, my brain clicking back to that. I hadn’t thought much of it at the time because it explained Nicki’s absence, but after it had had a chance to rattle around a bit.

“There’s been some wordless snuggling,” Grace said. “And some sleeping. And pizza breaks. But, basically, yeah.”

“So… you guys didn’t go to any classes?”

“Classes?” Nicki squeaked.

“…there aren’t any classes on the weekend,” Grace said.

“It’s Monday,” I said. “Monday night.”

They both stared at me like I’d just told them that the dorm was on fire. As Nicki’s friend, I was wary of the idea that her new playmate might have intentionally lured her into losing track of time, but Grace looked just as alarmed as Nicki did. I looked at the window… Nicki had hung a throw blanket for the MU Tri-Dragons over the flimsy dorm curtains to keep the light out in the morning. Couple that with how dark and gray it had been over the weekend, and it was easy to believe that a couple of newly nesting lovebirds could have lost track of the number of sunrises that they saw.

The longer I sat in the room, the more obvious it was that a couple of horny teenager-equivalents had been holed up in it for three days in a row. The smell of sweat and sex and greasy pepperoni was heavy in the air, and the most disconcerting thing was how much of the smell was Nicki. It was no wonder I thought that she’d been masturbating.

I made an executive decision… it wasn’t the sort of thing that at all came naturally to me, but with two half-naked people both staring at me like stunned bunnies and me feeling an increasingly desperate need to get out of the room and having no socially viable option for doing so, I managed.

“Okay, you guys need to get out of here and into the open air before it gets too late to go out again and you spend another night in here,” I said. “You go shower while I hang out with Nicki, and then she can shower, and then we’ll, I don’t know… take a walk to the food court and get some real f… some other kind of fast food into both of you.”

“Wow, you’re not what I expected,” Grace said, though she was getting to her feet and grabbing a towel off the back of the desk chair as she said that.

“Yeah, well, we should never meet our heroes,” I said.


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72 Responses to “Chapter 146: Grace Under Pressure”

  1. ArteminKhaldrem says:

    Awesome chapter. It’s been a while since I posted, so I thought I’d toss a few words of encouragement your way. Still following, and loving every bit of it!

    -AK

    Current score: 2
  2. Daemion says:

    Awesome. 🙂
    This matches my thoughts on “where has Nicki been the past days” to 99%.

    Current score: 2
    • Marian says:

      I am guessing you missed the ‘see through silks’ ?

      Current score: 0
      • Daemion says:

        Actually, I assumed the elf responsible for Nicki’s absence would be overdoing it and keep her tied to a bed for days or something similiar.
        I’m glad it worked out even better than I thought… well, except for the missed classes, of course.

        Current score: 0
  3. Iason says:

    I had to go make a cup of tea and then re-read this so I could splutter when Mack took charge of the situation.

    Current score: 1
  4. Zathras IX says:

    When Mackenzie knocks
    It generally signals
    Opportunity

    Current score: 1
    • Iain says:

      You know, I should really collect all of these and see how good of a blurb they are!

      Current score: 1
  5. Burnsidhe says:

    Mack is definitely learning more social skills and getting more confident. This is a good thing.

    Current score: 1
  6. Leon931 says:

    Huh. My little sister’s name in Nicolette. It seems like a fairly unusual name around here so it’s kinda neat that Nicki’s full name is that and not just boring Nicole. We spell here nickname Nikki though. And her grandmother is also the only one to call her Nicolette.

    Current score: 1
    • Dizzie says:

      Or it could have been short for Nicola. Which is the more common variant of the full version of “Nicki(/Nicky/Nikki)” around here. I had one Nicole in my school year compared to 5 Nicola’s.

      Current score: 0
  7. Brenda A. says:

    I had forgotten all about the secret admirer!

    I absolutely hate that moment of panic that coms from realizing that you’re not only late, but you completely missed whatever it was. Good for Mack, being able to get the ball rolling at the end there.

    Current score: 1
    • JS says:

      I hadn’t! I was super hoping that was what was happening when it went quiet behind the door! Yay Nicki!

      Current score: 1
  8. Anne says:

    Mack has definitely been growing. The interesting thing to see is when she realizes that she has been growing.

    Current score: 1
  9. zeel says:

    And this is why we have clocks. . .

    I love that Mackenzie is finally learning to take charge.

    Current score: 0
    • Jennifer says:

      No clocks in this universe (that would imply clockwork). Only “time pieces.” And they don’t seem to be as predominantly displayed.

      Current score: 1
      • Eris Harmony says:

        Didn’t one of the gnomes have a clockwork-clock? I don’t think machinery is entirely non-existent, just not a human thing.

        Current score: 1
        • Brenda says:

          One of the gnomes did, but Mackenzie did not recognize what it was. She figured out what it was for, but didn’t see why such a complex device would be used.

          The gnomes also have pianofortes (aka pianos) where everyone else is only familiar with harpsichords.

          I think maybe clockwork and other such mechanisms are right on the boundary of Science, but the gnomes are overlooked by whatever makes Science not work…

          Current score: 1
          • Lunaroki says:

            Not surprising. Everyone and everything else seems to overlook Gnomes all the time.

            Current score: 1
          • Marian says:

            Leave it to the gnomes to quietly use science when everybody expects magic

            Current score: 1
          • Zukira Phaera says:

            it might be that they’re edge-runners and thus both works for them, OR – and this is my preferred way of looking side-wise at it; to the gnomes mechanical and clockwork things are also a ‘kind’ of magic so that is why they work. Have had that happen a time or two.

            person a: could you try to fix it?
            me: I don’t know, I can try but I don’t know what is wrong or how to fix it.

            person b: if you can’t fix it, we’ll know it is broke beyond repair.

            person a: just try please.

            me: ok ok – but if it doesn’t work after this, not my fault. *tinkers and mutters and tinkers without a clue for a bit declares it as ‘good as it is gonna get by my hand*

            person a: *flicks switch or turns ignition*

            mechanical item works

            person a: YOU DID IT!

            me: well, ta least it is working now.

            person a: you fixed it you fixed it

            person b: its that darn voodoo hoodoo you do so well again isn’t it.

            me: has to be – cuz I’ve not a clue what I did but it’s working. Get it home while you can, and plan on replacing it or having someone knows what they’re doing look at it. A wing and a prayer only lasts so long as the fairy dust glues it tight.

            Current score: 0
            • Allan says:

              I too am considered to have “magic fingers” about things. Sometimes I just have to be in the same room, particularly with a computer issue.
              Conversations often go like this:
              Them: Can you come and sort this out for me, I’ve tried 3 times and still can’t get it to work.
              Me: Ok. (walk over) what were you trying?
              Them: I’m trying to do…..hey! it worked this time!
              Me: Glad I could help (walks off)

              Current score: 0
          • hoppy says:

            I have never heard it said that science does not work, It has been said to have been pretty thoroughly discredited by magic bending reality and wizards trying to apply a somewhat scientific method to magic which is subjective to each person.

            Current score: 0
      • zeel says:

        Well that is what I mean. But your right about being uncommon, seems strange. And how do people ever make it to class on time?

        Also, they do have clocks (as mentioned).

        I wonder just how far into “science” one can stray in the MUniverse? I mean, clockwork works on basic principles of leverage and whatnot. It’s all moving parts, so as long as things can move it works in that world. But where is the point at which it all falls apart? Seems like explosions cause pressure like in our world, so what about internal combustion? It should work. Where is the line?

        Current score: 0
        • Brenda A. says:

          “They” don’t have clocks. It’s not something in common usage, easily recognized upon glancing into a room. Mack had to stand studying it for a couple of minutes before she figured out what it was probably for – and didn’t see the point.

          Whatever line it is, the gnomes are apparently sneaking under it…

          Current score: 0
        • chris says:

          My understanding is that the line is whether one tries to reproduce a result repeatedly or how sure you become of a certain result. So the internal combustion engine might at some point combust “a bit” more strongly than desired and instead of driving the piston become either shrapnel or a crater.

          Current score: 0
        • Marian says:

          The rule seems to be that the muniverse does not like order and it really dislikes wiseguys.
          So, science and its ordered principles of cause and effect tend to run into the problem that the muniverse is not so obliging most of the time and just simply refuses to provide the effect most of the time.
          And those who try to game the system will find their attempts backfire in unpleasant and quite likely fatal ways.

          Which only leaves the conclusion that gnomes are so inconspicuous that not even the universe is paying attention to them

          Current score: 0
          • zeel says:

            I like that theory. . .

            Current score: 0
            • Zukira Phaera says:

              so do I. better than mine that they’ve convinced the universe that clockwork is their own special magic

              Current score: 0
        • Mist42nz says:

          I always figured the science was there but when magic is successfully being implemented on a daily basis why would anyone (except gnomes etc) waste time fiddling about with energy and time hogging science.
          But then, I’m sitting in the heireus’ chair ATM in a operational magickal temple typing this on an iPad…

          Totally excellent chapter AE

          Current score: 0
          • Brenda A. says:

            Except we know from Mackenzie’s internal ramblings early on that science is NOT there – any consistent research ends with the universe getting annoyed and making things go boom!

            Current score: 0
            • Yrroth says:

              I always thought that only scientific research into -magic- ends with the universe getting annoyed.

              Current score: 0
            • Daemion says:

              If that was the case, then there wouldn’t be a Magisterius University.

              Current score: 0
            • Brenda A. says:

              But there is magic in everything. It is a part of the structure of this world. You might have an object that hasn’t been specifically enchanted or whatever, but it would still contain aspects of those elements. You couldn’t separate it. Trying to would probably be a really big Kaboom…

              Current score: 0
            • Mist42nz says:

              Probably less of the annoyance at nosing around science, than at the denial of established magical reason. Eg pick your favorite raving god or mystic nutter.

              So not magic or science but the annoying type of religious superstition that people make up to explain the way they want to explain the universe in a way that makes them feel more comfortable about things.

              Current score: 0
  10. Pangaea says:

    AWESOME.

    Great to see Mack have a good plan and a good punchline.

    Current score: 0
  11. pedestrian says:

    I’m too clumsy to wear wristwatches and literally too spastic to be entrusted with a cell phone. So I am constantly deficient on the date and times. Yesterday I thought it was Tuesday and this morning I was thinking this is Friday. Sigh….

    “Wow, you’re not what I expected,” Grace said,….
    ….“Yeah, well, we should never meet our heroes,” I said.

    Khersis, I love that.

    Current score: 0
    • Brenda says:

      The last several days I have thought that tomorrow is going to be whatever day it already is.

      Current score: 0
    • Zukira Phaera says:

      I hear ya. I can’t wear wristwatches or pocket ones because they’ll eventually run backwards or stop within a couple hours of me putting one on. My bio-electrical field is funny. Seems to run in my family. I blew 8 lightbulbs the other night because I was angry when I was flipping switches. Some were brand new bulbs. Toasted a hard drive as well. It was not a fun night. Maybe it is coincidence, maybe it is me being superstition plagued but that is just the most recent example, not just an out of the blue one. Mind you. Those of us in the family with the electrical issues are also very adept at water-witching.

      Current score: 0
      • pedestrian says:

        I remember an old SF story, in Analog or Galaxy or Asimov’s magazine, I’d guess. It was a very clever tale of how the people working in the Space Program discovered that technology, from simple mechanics to complex spacecraft, only worked correctly when in the presence of a machine compatible human psychic.

        There were funny bits about the use of magic charms and testing people to see if they are compatible with machines. We’ve all experienced a malfunct car, that when the mechanic gets to work on, he cannot duplicate the problem. It runs fine as long as he is present!

        Turned out some people, such as myself and Zukira are jinxes for technology. We should be practicing cuneiform on mud tablets. This would explain why, after all these years, I love to hate computers. And I swear, they are hating me right back at every opportunity!

        Current score: 0
      • Oni says:

        I’ve known more than a few people who were death to digital watches in the short-term.

        Thing is, here in the real world they HAVE done research on this stuff. Can’t be bothered to dig up a specific article (it’s several years old), but the study showed that certain people farked with computers just by being around them (not to mention coming into contact with them). No explanation so far; it falls into the category of “we have no idea, but here’s the data indicating there’s SOMETHING we’re not seeing.”

        Current score: 0
        • Burnsidhe says:

          Well, we know that different people have different concentrations of iron, and that the body carries an electrical charge. The obvious hypothesis to test, then, is to measure the subtleties of the individuals’ magnetic fields against ‘controls’. ie people who jinx electronic things vs. people who don’t jinx electronic things.

          Current score: 0
          • Oni says:

            True. Problem is that recording magnetic fields extending out of a person accurately without costing a buttload of money or having the equipment/person go “boom” is a prohibitive factor. Then there’s the issue of image resolution, scale, duration of the data captured, etc etc. “Fine Magnetic Fields” is still an area of science that human technology and knowledge lags behind in.

            Current score: 0
          • Zukira Phaera says:

            The iron thing makes sense. When I was bleeding 24/7/365 during my illness I was -never- anemic. My iron count was actually high despite all the blood loss. Imagine if you would what that means for when I’m healthy.

            Current score: 0
  12. Oniwasabi says:

    We’ve been having sex more or less non-stop for 2 days!

    Sorry, it’s actually 3 days.

    I think they should get a trophy or something! Probably from Amaranth.

    Current score: 0
    • Zukira Phaera says:

      totally possible to do. been there, ah to be 20-23 again.

      Current score: 0
  13. YayGasm says:

    More Yay!

    Current score: 0
  14. Julian Morrison says:

    “Love Is In The Air” – bwahaha. This episode cracks me up. And I hope Grace becomes a new member of the gang, she’s nifty.

    Current score: 0
  15. Pete Granzeau says:

    Lessee. Nicki is a diminutive of Nicolette, which is itself a diminutive of Nicole, as I understand names. So she’s “little little Nicole”, huh?

    Current score: 0
    • Mist42nz says:

      Apparently a little Nicolette goes a long way…

      Current score: 0
  16. Dave says:

    Gaining confidence and independence is what being at University is really all about!

    Good to see this happening to Mackenzie, great to see her taking charge when needed, and even better to see the level of self-realization (and sufficient confidence for some self-parody) in “we should never meet our heroes”.

    Current score: 0
  17. Oniwasabi says:

    I never got the impression that real science won’t work at all, just that in forms other than, say, applied mathematics (and ironically the standardi*tion of magic) it is not at all pursued. Possible somewhat due to old religious intolerances, the fact that magic can do all that stuff right now (hard to fund an expensive project who’s end goal is to do something you can already do) and far more than all other factors, you have to work with guys who want to be called things like “Prevailing Wind Silver Flouride.”

    Current score: 0
    • Daemion says:

      I think trying to read too much into it is going to be futile. Science in the MUniverse is simply what Fantasy is in ours.

      From our point of view, trying to explain the different laws of the MUniverse is never going to work because we look at it through a filter made from our laws of nature.

      To us it makes no sense that something simple like baking bread would -not- involve several physical and chemical processes, but it seems to work in the MUniverse anyway. Why? The answer is probably: Magic.

      The main part of science isn’t the collection of theories that make up our current laws of physics etc… it is to look at something we don’t understand, come up with a theory and then try to prove it is right (or wrong). A world where this process doesn’t work, is something we can’t really understand. I’d even go as far as saying we would be really uncomfortable there.

      If you look too hard at any fantasy world, then it will start to fall apart. It’s fantasy for a reason, it can never work for real.

      At the basis of all sciences is math. You can always rely on numbers, they are definite. In the MUniverse they would be subject to change in a chaotic, unpredictable manner for any higher science not to work.
      There’s the example with the combustion engine which can never work. They have the necessary metallurgy to build the parts, they have alchemy to produce the fuel and the rest of it, too. But the moment it’s all put together, it either blows up or doesn’t work at all… and from our point of view, there is no reason it shouldn’t.
      Something must have changed then and since you can express all scientific processes in numbers, then those numbers must have changed.

      The question is… how can anyone live in a world where 1+1 doesn’t equal 2 all the time? Where is the point that math stops working? They do have banking and trade after all… and that’s as complex as the physics equations involved in combustion engines.
      This is where looking too hard for an explanation unravels the fantasy world.

      In my opinion it’s better to enjoy the story and accept everything in it as it is. Trying to explain things too much is like… ruining movie night for yourself through your extensive TV Tropes knowledge. 😉

      Current score: 0
      • Marian says:

        It is not actually that impossible to grasp.
        In our reality the basis for our existence is found in molecules and the way they interact. It defines all types of matter that we recognise, it defines their properties. And our technology is the manipulation of matter into slightly different arrangements of molecules. Cooking is just that, the careful burning of molecules so they are more eadible and pleasantly tasting to us. Chocolate consists of many types of crystals but by carefully heating and cooling we can turn some of those crystals into others, making chocolate that has a higher melting point and is more suitable for eating..

        In the muniverse however everything is made out of the four elements. It is obvious that matter not simply consists of different proportions of these elements. We even have been told that properties of an object are intrinsic to it and can be manipulated. Mackenzie’s staff is a good example. It is mostly earth for its element, but what makes it a staff is that it has the properties. Mackenzie could magically enhance one of those, which she called ‘whamminess’ which made it a more effective weapon, even if she did not change anything to the staff that we would recognise as contributing to that (e.g. weight or tensile strength of the material). She simply magically enhanced that property and got a more effective weapon. And this year she is using a rod, which has the intrinsic quality of being better suited to holding magical charges. Geometrically a rod is just a staff scaled down, but its magical properties are entirely different in the muniverse. Mackenzie can not easily enhance the whamminess of a rod, nor can she magically turn a rod into a wizard’s staff.
        With cooking the same thing applies. Food is not a combination of ingredients. It must be magically transmuted to give it new properties that make it suitable to eat. Even if the same ingredients go into a bread as they do in our reality, it is not the process of heating that causes a chemical alteration but a magical transmutation that is facilitated by elemental fire that turns a mixture of ingredients into a bread or a pancake for Two.

        Current score: 1
        • Daemion says:

          The question is… why would baking bread using the same recipe/process work a million times* but the combustion engine wouldn’t work once?
          It comes back to this: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scientific_method
          If we assume that the scientific method does not work in the MUniverse (because that universe is a jerk) then -anything- you do has a chance to go wrong or not work at all for no obvious reason.
          And if that was the case, then there would be no sane living creature in that world… and certaintly no civilisations, either.

          At which point does the MUniverse say “Nope, not going to happen.”? Simple mechanics work but complex machinery does not? Where do you draw the line? What is simple and what is too complex?

          And if complex things are a problem… then why do intricate enchantments like the new mock boxes work? Even if that’s magic… it’s still something you expect to work in the same way again and again. For every user, no matter what they want or expect.

          So either the MUniverse operates on completely different laws which are alien to us and can’t be understood or described using our logic… or every single entity in the MUniverse has their own set of laws of nature. Like a bubble surrounding them. It would explain why a dragon can change reality just by willing it.

          The combustion engine can’t work in the MUniverse because the underlying laws of nature that enable it to work for us don’t exist over there.
          For example, they don’t have gravity, instead everyone and everything has a corresponding attribute.

          In the end, this is a world created by someone from Earth, to tell a story that wants to be understood by people from Earth, so it has to be familiar in some way. If we tried to build a world based on the facts we know about the MUniverse, then we would not end up with anything like it… because the world was created first, then those facts were imposed on it. It’s a melange and a compromise, otherwise we wouldn’t have the mirror universe it is now.

          *Since they have a fairly large population and a living standard that can be compared to ours, we can assume there are millions of loaves being baked every day.

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          • pedestrian says:

            We mustn’t overlook divine intervention.
            The conflicting deities of the Muniverse are
            a buncha squabbling, infantile, practical jokers.

            “It’s funny until someone gets hurt…
            then it’s hilarious!”

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          • Hollowgolem says:

            “At which point does the MUniverse say “Nope, not going to happen.”? Simple mechanics work but complex machinery does not? Where do you draw the line? What is simple and what is too complex?”

            Whenever the GM decides enough is enough.

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          • Marian says:

            There is plenty of room for things to go in unexpected directions when transmuting bread. The bread may burn, or rise unevenly, or be only partially baked, or rise too strongly and spill over the pan. And that is just the obvious ways. No two loafs of bread are ever exactly the same, so that should satisfy a universe that abhorrs too much order.

            A machine on the other hand is trying to replicate something exactly over and over again. The muniverse is not taking kindly to be told exactly what to do.

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      • Marian says:

        And the magical combustion engine does not work because the muniverse does not feel like obligingly doing the exact same thing 4000 times per minute …

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        • Mist42nz says:

          Or perhaps it runs into the practice effect, gets better at it each cycle, and unless underlying magical bleed-off is in place the result would be detonation.

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          • Daemion says:

            The point Mackenzie made when she told us about the engine is that it isn’t magical and thus doesn’t work.
            People are so sure it can’t be done that there is a high reward for creating one.

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            • Burnsidhe says:

              Getting an internal combustion engine to work reliably took a couple decades of trial and error, and that was after they already had the basics of a steam engine down.

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            • Mist42nz says:

              That’s what Mack believes…doesn’t mean it’s absolutely true

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      • JS says:

        Even in our universe, just because the math works doesn’t mean the reality of it will. For instance, it has been mathematically determined to be possible to have something be bigger on the inside than the outside.

        Just think of the MU universe as the same as ours, but with everything having an additional set of magic-based properties that are inherently unstable within a unknown variation. So the math will always work, but it can’t account for the unpredictably unstable magic properties.

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        • Burnsidhe says:

          First, there are scientists in the MUniverse. I seem to recall a very offhanded mention of them, along the lines of them being crackpot eccentrics who were not quite harmless but not intentionally dangerous.

          The issue with Science as a way of understanding the world, is that you have a hypothesis. You put the hypothesis to the test by gathering evidence. You do experiments, and if the result is consistently repeatable by anyone, well, congratulations.

          The problem with Science in the MUniverse is that magic exists. Imposing one’s will on the universe means that, basically, experiments might not be repeatable consistently by anyone. A person with a strong will expects a particular result, perhaps consistently getting it. A more disinterested person, or one with a weaker will, might get a different set of results.

          I suspect they’ll never get to advanced physics, but the principles of Newton’s Laws certainly seem to be in effect. Which is why waterwheels, mills, carriages, and, yes, clocks, work.

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        • Daemion says:

          That’s not my point.
          What I was saying is that you can express anything through numbers and equations. You can reduce anything to pure math. Which means you look at something like a chain of miniature explosions in a confined space and end up with a lot of numbers.
          In our universe, those numbers are definite and will never change. You know the force the engine can withstand, you know the force of each explosion, you know how they stack up and create motion and so on.
          In the MUniverse, the engine doesn’t work. If you express what happens in the engine with math, you’d see that the numbers have to change constantly.

          Unpredictable, unstable, magic properties would make -anything- chaotic and dangerous. Even baking bread.
          And you can’t muddle through with experience, because then you’d be back at the scientific method… which doesn’t work.

          The MUniverse is a mirror universe. Things may look the same, but they are not. It starts with being just a world and a sky with sun and moon overhead. There is no giant ball of fusion fire, no satellite reflecting the light from the sun and certaintly no planets or anything like outer space filled with other stars. Instead they have a ceiling like sky with the stars etc pinned to it.

          Our laws of nature don’t exist there. They have no gravity… everything has the property of weight or “fallingdownness”. 😛
          On the surface it makes no difference but the underlying principles are fundamentally different.

          The MUniverse is definitely not the same ours plus additional stuff. If it was, then you could make high tech gadgets work somehow.

          It’s a fantasy world (and an excellent one, too), which means it only makes sense up to a point. Sooner or later you will run into problems trying to explain how some of the details actually work.

          P.S. There are a lot of things in nature that have a bigger surface on the inside than on the outside. 😉

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    • zeel says:

      I think one key factor is that the MUniverse is a bit of an ass hole.
      By this I mean that an attempt to do something in an orderly scientific way is going to be met with failure not because it doesn’t work, but because the universe isn’t going to let you do it.
      Magic is in everything, and is what makes anything work at all. The best way to do anything is the most direct way: To spin a wheel you do it directly by spinning the wheel. Trying to use explosions that push pistons that turn a shaft that spins the wheel is an over complication, and the universe isn’t going to like it. And it is going to fail to work (if your lucky), or explode.

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  18. Marx says:

    Good thing we had Grace in this chapter, cuz that seems to be what Mack’s lacking in this conversation 😉

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  19. pedestrian says:

    From a historical viewpoint, there are three major reasons we have clocks. The first, was the prevailing church authorities needed to communicate the the series of prayers and other public services, 24/7. See bells and azan.

    The second reason, is military necessities such as the navy to determine position.. The result of several centuries of Classical Humanism creating the industrialized nation-states to produce really lethal weaponry.

    By the second-half of the 19th century and especially during the Last Dynastic War {1914-1918}. The desire not to charge into one’s own artillery barrages encouraged the common use of wrist-watches and coordinating a multitude of timepieces to a general consensus. {You may prefer the term Second Global Conflict, 1905-1990}

    The third reason is social engineering and eugenic enforcement. Forcing a diversity of peoples/tribes/language-groups into a singular national language, social standards, legal system. The schools were flooded with peasant children, who were to be “Skinnered” into becoming useful proletariat and soldiers. That means everything was done by the clock. Without exception.

    I find it hilarious, that today the dixiecrat ridden GOP has disavowed their Progressive Republican predecessors in order to kiss ass of the WASP’s. {Wealthy, Avaricious, Self-centered Predators}.

    The Progressives were deeply concerned about improving the quality of workers and soldiers. The same as they did for their horses and cattle. When private charities were unable to handle the influx of population, the Progressives pushed through what would become the modern State and Federal welfare programs.

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    • Mist42nz says:

      Industry age brought in work hours, rather than bells of the earlier ages.
      The use of machines also meant time was usefully sliced in minutes and seconds, instead of bells/hours

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  20. That one guy says:

    I can’t believe people haven’t pointed out Two as a prime example of how the scientific method does in fact work in the MU universe. No, I’m not saying that she’s a robot, there is obviously magic inherent in her, but she approaches everything and does everything by the Scientific Method. She absolutely expects the same results from the same procedures and if things don’t work out the way she expects, by Jimeny she’s going to figure out why.

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    • pedestrian says:

      TOG, i like your explanation. I have always considered TWO to be an AI {Amaranth, also}. With socialization, her character has developed and matured. She has become more resilient, more sentient in addition to her sapientcy.

      A chronic problem in modern Physics/Cosmology is the constant failures of experiments to prove any of the Grand Unifying Theories more correct then Einstein’s General Theory.

      My hypothesis is that we face a language barrier. We use the terms ‘Force’ and ‘Energy’ to have similar meanings. That is our error, in my opinion. The Three Energies, Electromagnetic, Weak & Strong Nuclear are also Forces.

      It is Gravity that is a Force but NOT an Energy. This is the sticking point. And, I do not believe that we will ever reconcile this difference into a singular final version of GUT, that we can all agree on.

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