In Which Feelings Are Mutual

That afternoon, fighting class did end with the bell, as Coach Callahan had promised. The last thing she had Pala do before she dismissed her oversized TA was move the red box from its side of the divided room to put it next to the blue one.

“I guess that will save some walking back and forth, if I need to compare them?” I said. “Though, if they have identical enchantments, I’m not sure why I couldn’t just work on one.”

“Right, and the wonk that the school of enchantment is sending over could work on the other one,” the coach said. “In another room, with no one to see what she’s doing.”

“What, you think the school would send someone to mess with them, or sabotage a test somehow?” I said. “From what you said before, the university’s invested in making the idea work.”

“I’ve pretty much guaranteed that the university’s going to be on the side of the boxes working,” she said. “But that doesn’t mean people working for the university won’t have their own agendas… and I can smell one all over this chick. Don’t know what it is, but I know it’s there. You’re going to need to keep an eye on her.”

“Aren’t you supposed to be keeping an eye on me?” I asked. “I’m pretty sure the boxes aren’t supposed to be used without supervision, and there’s only so much I’ll be able to poking at them from the outside.”

“I got shit to do,” she said. “Plus, elves make my sword itch, so I’m bugging out before she gets here… that’s the official reason I’m putting the boxes together. She’s going to be your babysitter. So, this is me leaving.”

I had no complaints about not having Coach Callahan hovering around me while I played with her new toy, especially since I could only think of one person who fit the bill for the special guest expert… granted, I didn’t know everybody associated with the MU college of enchantment, and arguably anybody in a university teaching position could be described as a wonk… but I was pretty sure there weren’t any female elves among the enchantment faculty, which meant I’d be spending the after session working alongside my favorite substitute teacher instead of fighting for my virtual life against phantom opponents.

Sure enough, within minutes of the coach’s departure, Acantha glided in. She’d traded her elven-tailored business suit for white sleeveless robes. Between that and her hair being up in a bun, I might not have recognized her if I hadn’t been expecting her.

“Ms. Mackenzie,” she said. “I find myself both impressed and disappointed to find you here.”

“You don’t approve of Coach Callahan?” I asked. There wasn’t much surprise in my voice, and even less hurt. However much more I might respect her, I couldn’t say that I liked her, and I didn’t expect anyone else to… especially when it was obvious that it was mutual.

“Approve? I suspect her of being a serial killer,” she said. “Well, several serial killers. But I have been emphatically informed that she’s a member of the faculty in good standing and is not currently wanted by the Imperium for the commission of any crime, and thus I can do nothing more than keep my own guard up around her. More to the point, my disappointment is not in your association with her but your association with these.”

She gestured to the pair of boxes.

“So, you are against their use,” I said. She was being forthright about her bias, so I didn’t see any point in beating around the bush. It was my turn to be disappointed… I wasn’t sure I could be an effective advocate for the new mockboxes if it meant arguing against my favorite teacher. I did think they were cool, but I wasn’t nearly as invested in them or in keeping Coach Callahan happy as I was in Acantha’s good opinion of me.

If I couldn’t get an A in this one class, it would affect my GPA, but Acantha’s good will could help the course of my career, academic and otherwise.

‘“I’m broadly opposed to the existence of these devices, but must nevertheless contend with the fact that they exist,” Acantha said. “A classroom teaching aid is one of the more innocuous of their potential uses, so you may provisionally classify me as not implacably skeptical about their place in the school.”

She meant to be tough but fair, in other words… assuming she was a fair judge of her own mind, I thought I could work with that.

“Have you examined them before?” I asked.

“Yes,” she said. She laid a finger on the red box and traced the inlaid wood pattern on the door. It was abstract curlicues, but organic enough to slightly resemble vines. “A friend of mine even let me look at a prospectus that contained an inventory of the enchantments used… though not the manner in which they were woven together. You have used them yourself?”

“Yeah,” I said. “And seen them in use.”

“Do you feel anything in the process?”

“No,” I said. “I mean, I can feel the magic, but only when I’m actively detecting it, and only in the normal way. There’s nothing intrusive about it… no pain, no discomfort.”

“What about something more… existential?” she asked.

“You mean, do I feel overwhelmed by the knowledge that there’s a perfect duplicate of me standing in front of me?” I asked.

“My concerns include but are not limited to the doppelganger effect, yes,” she said.

“No,” I said. “The color change seems trivial, but it’s enough… there’s no feedback at all, at least on my end. I couldn’t say for sure what the duplicates feel, but there’s no sign that they’re angsting at all over their existence. I mean, any more than a given original person may be at the time they’re created. It might help that we don’t spend any time standing around… maybe if they were allowed to sit down and think for half an hour about the meaning and nature of existence it would be different, but somehow I don’t think so. Actually… that’s kind of the weird thing.”

“What is?”

“A duplicate of me is supposed to act just like me,” I said. “But I think my reactions would be different if I came out of a box, saw that my skin was slightly luminous and discolored, and knew it meant that the memories in my head were copies and I would cease to exist soon. The duplicates know that they’re duplicates… they know what color they’re supposed to be and what the colors mean. I just feel like if I were in my duplicate’s shoes… and in a very real way, I am… I would be reacting more to that knowledge. The fact that they don’t makes it seem like they aren’t as exactly like us as they’re supposed to be.”

“An interesting paradox, but it is, in fact, the opposite case,” Acantha said.

“What do you mean?”

“Illusion is not numbered among my specialties,” she said, “but in the past week, I have endeavored to give myself something of a ‘crash course’ in mockeries and phantasms. Do you know why illusionary objects are so much more popular than physical duplicates, Ms. Mackenzie? For applications beyond mock combat, I mean.”

“There’s the lowered energy cost,” I said. “And the lack of a material requirement… or additional energy to create the material… helps. The finite duration can be a feature, if you don’t want the duplicate to stick around. And then there’s the complexity problem.”

“Yes, the complexity problem,” she said. “It is relatively simple to use magic or automata to fabricate a simple object from raw materials, natural or conjured. Increasing the complexity of the object increases the complexity of the operation in a manner similar to making such an object by hand. When attempting to conjure a complete, finished product from the proverbial thin air, any degree of complexity or specificity increases the energy costs and the complexity of the magical workings by an exponential degree… hence why we still prefer to prepare our meals, despite the widespread existence of spells to create food. A spell that conjures food defined no more specifically than ‘suitable for this person to eat’ is relatively simple. A spell to summon a pepperoni pizza on thick crust with extra cheese would be difficult and costly out of proportion with its usefulness. Thus, the noble profession of pizza delivery boy is in no danger of being rendered obsolete by conjured pizza.”

“And a phantasmal pizza wouldn’t sustain you,” I said.

“Yes,” she said. “The consumer would feel pleasantly satiated… or possibly unpleasantly full… up until the duration of the phantasm expired, at which point all its effects… including any burned mouths or grease stains… would vanish. Hmm. One moment.”

She snapped her fingers, and a memo pad and pen appeared floating in the air in front of her. I could dimly perceive the wispy outline of a vaporous, semi-humanoid figure holding them.

“Memo: research phantasmal alcohol, divided keg or bottle as mockbox,” she said. The pen began to move rapidly. “Including practicality, prior art, legal issues as compared to ever-full tankards and similar. Execute. End memo.”

The pen moved only a little bit past the point she’d finished speaking, but only a little bit.

“You have a spectral assistant,” I said.

“Yes, such things are fairly indispensable in my line of work,” she said. “My true line of work, I mean… you will not see me making use of it in the classroom, as that might be distracting. I must ask you not to discuss what you’ve just heard with anyone. It may be that nothing will come of it, but if it is practical then it could be worth quite a bit to the right buyer.”

“You didn’t need to let me hear it,” I reminded her.

“I trust you’re pointing that out to indicate that you’ve realized the level of trust I deliberately placed in you,” she said. “Ideas come and go, but knowing if one’s trust is founded can be worth quite a bit, too.”

“I won’t tell anyone,” I said.

“I trust you won’t,” she said. “To return to our prior subject, fabricating or conjuring a real item runs into the problem of complexity. Creating an illusion from whole cloth… producing an image of an imaginary person or object out of one’s head, for instance… also runs into this problem. To produce an original image requires the same kind of creativity and artistic talent that it would take to paint or draw it, adapted across a different medium… and yet, even the least creative illusionist can create a convincing illusionary duplicate of another person’s face, at the same level of detail that this face possesses in the original. Do you know why?”

“Illusion’s not really my area of expertise, either,” I admitted.

“You know, I thought it might not be,” she said. “There was a bit of a scramble when the university’s request reached Dean Mitchell. Apparently, no one in the department is particularly well-versed with illusions.”

“It’s not the hardest of magic arts,” I said.

“A common sentiment,” she said. “One I’m guilty of as well. But magic is magic, even if it is illusory. Tell me, if you don’t know why it’s easier to copy than to create, why do you think it would be?”

“If I had to guess… I mean, infer from what I know… I’d say it’s because the illusionist is somehow copying the properties of the original’s appearance. That’s not possible when you’re creating an original image, but if you’re copying something that’s right there…”

“That is more or less the case, but it’s even simpler than that,” she said. “There’s a single quality that is possessed by illusionary duplicates of all stripes. Call it… likeness. Or sameness. When you pull a mocked weapon out of a standard mockbox, it seems to possess all the qualities of the original, but only by virtue of possessing this one singular quality of identicalness.”

“But mocked weapons have individual properties,” I said. “I know… I’ve enhanced them on the fly.”

“Viewed one way, they do,” she said. “Because the original does. They wouldn’t be just alike if they didn’t. Viewed from the other perspective, they possess only one quality, that of being alike… the look on your face is understandable, Ms. Mackenzie. This property was not uncontroversial when it was discovered, but it forms the basis of the whole field of phantasmal mockery.”

“Well, you’re the one who’s been studying the subject, so I’ll take your word for it,” I said.

“Believe me, I spent some time grappling with this, and even spoke with a few of the professors of illusion,” she said. “And believe me also when I say that the illusion department is not easy to find. But this brings me to my point: the duplicate of a living being created by a mockbox also possesses this quality of sameness, and these boxes use that quality to impose what you might call a safety precaution onto the duplicates. Absent any external imposition, they will default to the behavior of the original. A phantasm that is just like you but blue will not act like someone who knows that they are a blue phantasm doomed to expire, even if they do in fact know those things.”

“That actually explains a few things,” I said, thinking about the eerie mirror match that had resulted from our first attempt to use the boxes in class. “But… it seems to me like this might possibly increase the odds of the doppelganger problem cropping up, despite the color difference.”

“Oh? I can see where you are coming from, but I hardly thi… no, on second thought, I am inclined to agree,” she said. “Admittedly, it isn’t a classic doppelganger situation… the mockery is still differently colored and is aware of that difference on one level, but can only act on that difference in a limited fashion. In my opinion, it would be unwise to allow a phantasmal duplicate of a person to persist indefinitely, or even for very long.”

“So far, they haven’t tended to last very long,” I said. “Even if they weren’t eliminated, class doesn’t last forever.”

“And the upper limit on the items’ duration is only a few hours to begin with… though I can well imagine that interested parties will be looking for ways to extend that in the next model,” she said. “In the interest of embracing safety over sorrow, I intend to emphasize the importance of a limited duration in my final report and I would urge you to do the same. Even if the duplicates cannot affect the physical world in more than a transitory fashion, the psychological damage to the original from being caught in a potential doppelganger situation could be considerable.”

“Would it affect the original, though?” I said. “If we’re talking about myself and a mocked me, I will know the copy is a copy and I will be acting on that knowledge without anything overriding or interfering with it.

“Who can say?” she said. “But this is all just so much speculation… I think if we’re really going to get down to it, we need to start duplicating.”

“No argument from me,” I said. “So… who’s going first, you or me?”

“Ms. Mackenzie, there are two boxes,” she said. “Why in the world would we need to take turns?”

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77 Responses to “Chapter 165: Expert Opinions”

  1. N says:

    I LOVE this chapter AE. This was right up my alley. I can’t wait for the next chapter!!!!

    Current score: 1
  2. pedestrian says:

    Oh! Alexandra!! Arrghh….dammit!

    It has been difficult enough for this old dog to get my mind around some of the complexities of a magical alternity.

    A lot of my fictional writing has been about alternate universes, alternate histories. So I have no problem shuffling between the MU and the AU.

    But this, phantasmal illusions. This is as bad as trying to sort through all the impossible versions of GUT.

    Schrodinger’s cat just took a dump in my hat!

    Current score: 0
    • Anvildude says:

      Or it might not have. You don’t know until you try to put the hat on.

      Current score: 1
      • pedestrian says:

        I am usually certain that
        the cat in the hat
        has shat.

        Except when I’m not
        Cause I am entangled
        Like Lot
        with feline causality
        in a hypercube knot

        Current score: 4
  3. Devin says:

    Loving the last line. The next chapter sounds like fun.

    Current score: 0
  4. 'Nym-o-maniac says:

    Oh man, I am loving all this information on magic. I can’t wait for the next chapter!

    Also, Acantha’s brainwave about illusionary alcohol made me laugh harder than it had any right to.

    Current score: 0
  5. PrometheanSky says:

    Now I’m wondering if AE had the similarity principle in mind when she wrote the scene with the first mocked combat. At the time exact duplicate fights struck me as implausible. I had to remind myself that magic is magic, and if you poke at it too hard, it just might poke back.

    Current score: 0
    • rjthewolf says:

      while i agree an -exact- fight is unlikely in the end without enough experience to differ them the fights would in the same. my guess is it also switches your prefered side like a “mirror” version of you. which would remove the difference in experience of facing the opposite way. if you put them in seperate rooms and said different things to them, then sent them out it would probably help.

      Current score: 0
  6. Miz*G says:

    It’s chapters like this that simultaneously make me so happy that I never have to wait more than a week or so for a new installment, and make me annoyed that I can’t just keep reading.
    Well done. I was super happy when Acantha showed up, and even happier with that last line. Can’t wait for the next one 😀

    Current score: 0
  7. Bolongo says:

    Arrgh. The idea of “sameness” or “differentness” being actual inherent qualities of a thing always makes my head hurt so bad when Plato brings it up. Being forced to think through the logical implications of something that I honestly believe is a semantical error is not enjoyable.

    Current score: 0
  8. Spartakos says:

    As cool as this is, just as magical theory…I am secretly hoping that this will turn sexual. Does that make me a bad person? 🙂

    Current score: 0
    • zeel says:

      No, that’s pretty much what anyone would want to do with it.

      Current score: 0
    • pedestrian says:

      Bad to the bone?

      Having sex with the mocked yourself. would that be intercourse or masturbation?

      Current score: 0
      • Anvildude says:

        Don’t forget the possibility of it being Incest! You are, after all, your closest relative.

        Current score: 0
        • Potatohead says:

          Chapter 166: Natural Inclinations
          In Which Mackenzie Screws Herself

          Current score: 1
  9. Chris says:

    “And believe me also when I say that the illusion department is not easy to find.”

    I see what you did there.

    Current score: 0
  10. Readaholic says:

    om nom nom. This is going to get interesting.

    Current score: 0
  11. Mike says:

    Great chapter. Acantha is starting to become one of my favorite profs. Her and the demon-blood enchantment professor, can’t remember her name at the moment.

    Current score: 0
    • JewceGewse says:

      elemental magic not enchantment, and its light on demon(generations) heavier on ginn(but still not half)

      I want to say its “bhold” but not 100% on spelling

      Current score: 0
      • Lunaroki says:

        Bohd, actually. And yeah, she’s more djinn than demon.

        Current score: 0
  12. x says:

    Missing word or something:
    “there’s only so much I’ll be able to poking at them from the outside” – able to what?

    Not sure if you consider this an actual error or slang that has become common enough to be accepted:
    “hence why we still prefer to prepare our meals” – “which is why” would be more standard English.

    Current score: 0
    • JewceGewse says:

      “hence which is why we still prefer to prepare our meals” ?

      nobody speaks like that

      sounds fine to me the way it is

      Current score: 0
      • x says:

        No, of course “It increases the energy costs… which is why we still prefer to prepare our meals”. Not “hence which is why”.

        “hence we still prefer” (without “why”) would of course also be OK, with a somewhat different connotations.

        Current score: 0
    • Lunaroki says:

      This isn’t an error, and it isn’t so much slang as it is archaic. This usage of the word “hence” has fallen out of common parlance but is still perfectly valid.

      Also, Typo Report

      In addition to the above-referenced omission of the word “learn” in the line “and there’s only so much I’ll be able to * poking at them from the outside” I also spotted the following two typos:

      ‘“I’m broadly opposed to the existence of these devices,

      You have a single quote followed immediately by a double quote at the start of this sentence.

      The pen moved only a little bit past the point she’d finished speaking, but only a little bit.

      While not strictly speaking a typo, the double appearance of the word “only” in this sentence distracted me such that I had to go back and reread the sentence to see what had just happened. Might I suggest removing the first one?

      Current score: 0
  13. rjthewolf says:

    to be honest without a complete understanding of the doppleganger phenomenon its hard to know exactly in what way things would react. but i believe that the mocks see themselves as a part of the original, dopplegangers go insane due to lack of purpose and envy of the original as well as fear of death. but when you don’t see yourself as a unique individual but as a piece of the whole it makes a difference. to be honest, if the memories were transfered from the duplicate back to the original on death it would up the usefulness of the boxes quite a bit, and then there would be -no- fear of death or non-existence because the copy would simply be returning to their primary existence as a part of the original.

    Current score: 0
    • rjthewolf says:

      or in much simpler terms. “i am not me, i am you”

      Current score: 0
      • TheTurnipKing says:

        I think it’s more like “I am me. You are also me.”

        Current score: 0
    • Burnsidhe says:

      The MUniverse likes people to be unique. Uniqueness is *very important* to the MUniverse.

      When someone tries to get around the uniqueness rule with cloning or exact copies, the MUniverse reacts by creating feedback between the copies; this feedback is distracting and painful. The only way to remove it is to eliminate one of the duplicates.

      Mocking a person like this is both cheating and not cheating at the same time. It’s cheating because it is creating a duplicate, and it’s not cheating because it is simply making an illusion of someone else, an illusion that just happens to act the way the original does.

      Current score: 0
      • Erianaiel says:

        And I can see the universe being ‘amused’ by the idea that the illusionary duplicates are created specifically to be eliminated with great haste and efficiency.

        Current score: 1
    • JewceGewse says:

      psychological issues involved with dumping memories into the original’s head. minds don’t work like that, its been explained

      Current score: 0
      • Rafinius says:

        Who says MU minds wouldn’t work like that. If there are qualities like “sameness” there can well be memory transfer. And if you are able to copy the text from an illusionary letter onto real parchment permanently than it may be possible to copy illusonary memories with enough understanding of the subtle arts. …Or the minds of everyone in the room get fried in the process. Depends on what the universe thinks about this creative idea.

        Current score: 0
      • Anvildude says:

        I think you need to meed a certain Ms. Jade Sinclair of Whateley Academy.

        Check it out, you won’t be disappointed.

        Current score: 0
        • Christy says:

          Yay! A Whateley fan! And better yet, a Jade fan!

          Current score: 0
          • Brenda says:

            Whate’s – I mean, what’s that?

            Current score: 0
  14. Erm says:

    Plus, elves make

    Oh hey what elven enchanter could it possibly be.

    I like where this is going.

    Memo: research phantasmal alcohol, divided keg or bottle as mockbox,

    I also like how Acantha thinks.

    Current score: 0
    • JewceGewse says:

      congrats you’ve invented synthol. prepare for daggers from the brewer’s guild

      Current score: 0
      • William Carr says:

        You beat me to it with the Synthehol reference !

        I had thought about this PseudoMatter issue before, quite seriously.

        And it worries me.

        If you had Virtual Matter of any kind, and ate it, the atoms would be digested, broken down by enzymes, and incorporated into proteins in your body.

        Then when the time limit expired, the Virtual Matter would decay, breaking down into pairs of anti-particles.

        Suddenly your protein has a hole in its structure !

        As if a real atom had been selectively blasted into bits with Gamma Radiation.

        This would be indistinguishable from Radiation Sickness.

        You might want to skip eating that “Mock” steak.

        Now, if it was just fats, that’s easier.

        Your body might simply store the fat from that Virtual Matter Snickers Bar(TM).

        And when the atoms in the fat molecules vanished, the lipids would be gone, the fat cell would shrink under atmospheric pressure, no real harm.

        But if you BURNED the fat molecules for energy… I don’t care much where the “crap” goes, that’s not a problem, but I’m worried about the Energy Deficit.

        The Conservation of Energy will not be “mocked”.

        Maybe you’d suddenly lose heat energy when the Virtual Particles vanished.

        BTW, does MU have a Conservation of Magic Law, or is it too chaotic for that?

        Can Magic be created or destroyed ?

        When the Silver Dragon puts the whammy on Mack, do spells somewhere else in the world weaken by the same amount?

        What’s the magic version of “waste heat”, when a spell is cancelled ?

        Current score: 0
        • Brenda says:

          Molecules are what make up the elements in our universe.
          The elements in the MUniverse are fire, earth, air, and water.
          Not quite the same effect…

          Current score: 0
  15. Thinker of Thoughts says:

    Hmmm, if illusions function exactly like the real thing then in the pizza scenario would the mock pizza sustain you (ie prevent starvation even if you were literally about to starve) for its duration? If so that brings up some highly exploitable issues, like creating an illusionary body for a decapitated person long enough for them to drink healing potions and recover, normally a feat that would be impossible without a very high level cleric or the expensive components required to speak to the dead. Even if regeneration is beyond its abilities you could still use it to sustain a very recent murder victim long enough to question them about the killer. Or what about a fully functional illusion enchantment of someone being unharmed where the illusion essentially covers up any damage they recieve, effectively making them an invincible juggernaut on the battlefield for its duration? When it expired they would probably disinitegrate from recieved damage but that could still vastly improve the effectiveness of infantry or cannon fodder. What about an illusion of a fireball failing to go off? Would it actually detonate and do damage or would it function the same as a delayed fireball? Argh so many questions and possible implications (head explodes).

    Current score: 0
    • Lunaroki says:

      Mind. Blown.

      Current score: 0
    • Rafinius says:

      I don’t think the illusionary body would work. Where would you find the original? You’d not just need the guys headless body, but a functioning headless body. And then it would just be easier to attach the original and make him drink the potion.
      The Juggernaut idea I don’t even understand. If I make a healthy copy of you that lasts a month, that wouldn’t mean you (the original) can’t get harmed. It is fully possible for the original to die while the copy continues until it expires non-the-wiser.
      An illusion of a fireball that can’t go off by it self would be an illusionary fireball that doesn’t go off by itself. What is much more interesting is having an enhaced item that can fire of a giant meteor once, copy it a few hundred times with long-effect illusion, distribute it to your army, bombard the enemy and surround and incapacitate them in the time their illusion of being burned to cinders is wearing off.

      Current score: 0
      • Erm says:

        I suspect that there’s a more straightforward battlefield application of illusion:

        The original red mockbox can already be set to emulate various effects (from pain to incapacitation) and one without safeguards might even be configured to do actual harm. (And even if it can’t, an enemy incapacitated by illusory wounds is easy to kill for real.) The new mockboxes can clone a soldier, and might be able to do it on a grand scale.

        And just like that, you have infinite reserves…

        Current score: 0
      • William Carr says:

        Well, actually… if this Property of Sameness works like an Alias under OSX, so the Mocked replica just refers back to the original constantly…

        Then what happens if the Original gets killed ?

        We know that deleting the Alias has no effect on the Original, but vice-versa ?

        The Mocked Replica feels no fear of death, because they’re just a pointer that refers to the original.

        Have we established that memories are NOT transferred when the Mock expires ?

        Because if you could do that… you could read a dozen books a day by mocking yourself a dozen times. You would know how to defeat someone your duplicate had been beaten by.

        And… can you mock a mocked person?

        Current score: 0
        • pedestrian says:

          I wonder if that would be considered mockery of a mock.

          Maybe that explains the reason doppelgangers go amok.

          They are as humiliated as that drunken intern you wheedled into xeroxing her butt?

          Current score: 0
    • Anvildude says:

      You know, the idea of the “Illusion of non-harm” could very well explain Berserking- it may, instead of being an enchantment, be an illusion- at least at lower levels. You shrug off damage, because there’s a constantly refreshing illusion saying you’re not hurt, but when it wears off, what has happened in the meantime comes back to you.

      Current score: 1
    • Dani says:

      How long could a mocked person survive on mocked pizza?

      Current score: 0
      • William Carr says:

        In theory, a mocked person would expire before the pizza, leaving a mess to clean up until it too, vanished.

        Current score: 0
  16. Burnsidhe says:

    Heh. Clearly, Acantha is confident she’d be able to handle a copy of herself AND a copy of a half-demon if something goes wrong.

    Not that Mack has any particularly self-destructive urges.

    Current score: 0
    • JewceGewse says:

      if she knows enough about illusions maybe the right variation of “dispel” would make that easy enough?

      but her objections to the boxen’s military uses seems to say otherwise

      Current score: 0
    • Abeo says:

      The illusions can’t harm the originals. The only scenario where they’d be able to would be if they modified the mockboxes on the fly to include some sort of phantasmal killer effect.

      But keep in mind that the modifications to the mockboxes would, themselves, be illusory and then we start getting into illusions of illusions of illusions territory, and I’m not sure that works. More relevant though, is the fact that neither of them are illusion experts and so they’d have zero chance of managing such modifications in the first place.

      Current score: 0
    • Erm says:

      Would it count as Something Goes Wrong if the next chapter is just one extended four-way clone-sex scene, or is that more of an Everything Goes Right?

      (Of course it won’t happen.)

      Current score: 0
  17. Rafinius says:

    Copmletely irrelevant to the chapter, but please don’t ever put in several month-long time skips in a row over just a handful or chapters. Even though it sometimes could go a bit faster I really like following Mack’s life and not just it’s highlights.
    Don’t worry, this comment wasn’t caused by anything you did. There is this other very great web serial which I can’t read at the moment because the amount of the characters life that I missed makes me to angry/sad.

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  18. Frederick says:

    Oh No! I just caught up to live, finishing a very long and fun archive trawl. It’s been a great read, and I’m looking forward to reading more!

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  19. Zathras IX says:

    Cunning linguistics:
    “Acantha” is Elven for
    “Thorned” or “sharp-pointed”

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    • Erm says:

      (Greek, but I gather that MU elven names and words are largely based on that.)

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    • tomclark says:

      Acantha suspects
      Jill of being several
      serial killers!

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  20. pedestrian says:

    I was just thinking and this is just tentative speculation.

    Acantha is what {to this point of the plotline} Mackenzie Blaise aspires to be. Professor Bohd’s influence would seem to be useful for Our Mack for the remainder of her time at MU but be limited past that.

    If Mackenzie could subordinate herself to Acantha, establish a long-term relationship. Acantha as Mack’s mentor and counselor, adviser and advocate. This alliance would provide several advantages for Our Mack.

    First it would check possible entanglements with the Treehome cliques. Glory may be more rational then the other Queens but she has to share some similar characteristics. Glory has expressed her concern for her future when she reaches the Big One Hundred and I have to believe that the other Queens face the same bleak reality.

    Once they leave MU, they will find themselves at the bottom of the Elvish adult society. If they have any ambitions, they might want to attach themselves to an older Elf whose is already well established such as Acantha. At the very least they would not wish to alienate her influence or offend her pride by battery upon a subordinate Mackenzie.

    Right there, I can see a possible rivening between the short-sighted who cannot see past the games of intrigue and those smart enough to take the long-view by defending Glory to positively influencing Mackenzie, attempting to gain favorable attention of Acantha.

    Second and most important for Mack’s future, attaching herself to Acantha would provide the opportunity to never have to return home again.

    Third is most tentative and I realize that I am going out on a limb. If I offend you Alexandra with this suggestion, please accept my apologies. Acantha, with Mackenzie and what ever other of the best and brightest students she can gather around her could put together a MU version of Apple Corp. or Facebook.

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  21. J4n1 says:

    “It’s not the hardest of magic arts,”

    This kinda hit me most of this chapter, largely because i’m a fan of well used illusions in fantasy.
    Subjective opinion from Mackenzie, that Acantha shares, but is it objective reality or just prejudice of two enchantment geeks (shared by lot of people)?
    I would have thought that illusion magic would be just as hard, if not harder (need more attention to detail needed), than other magic, but also fairly useless because it’s not worth the effort most of the time.

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    • Silverai says:

      I would say that Acantha’s reply already answers that.

      ““A common sentiment,” she said. “One I’m guilty of as well. But magic is magic, even if it is illusory.”

      The use of the word ‘guilty’ suggests that it is a very common subjective opinion and very likely an incorrect one. The ‘magic is magic’ then suggests that it’s definitely at least equal to other fields.

      Specifically, I think Acantha revised her ‘common sentiment’ after looking into the subject for a week:

      ““Illusion is not numbered among my specialties,” she said, “but in the past week, I have endeavored to give myself something of a ‘crash course’ in mockeries and phantasms.”

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  22. William Carr says:


    What if Mack digs into this “Similarity” Property and accidentally toggles the bit tagged “Sex M/F” ?

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    • Erianaiel says:

      I am fairly certain only incompetent stoner angels are allowed to do that …

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  23. William Carr says:

    And I suppose this would be a Marital aid for half demons.

    No worries about getting pregnant from a Mocked lover, and every night is a four-way.


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  24. Kaila says:

    ‘A spell to summon a pepperoni pizza on thick crust with extra cheese…’

    I swear the universe is conspiring to get me to order pizza…

    Also, love the magical geekery.

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    • Erianaiel says:

      After one try at ordering a pizza to be delivered I now am firmly in the camp of those who believe the only good pizza is one you make yourself.

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  25. Zukira Phaera says:

    Am I the only one who wonders what would happen if Two were to be mocked?

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    • Erianaiel says:

      Must resist pun.
      Must. Resist. Pun.

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      • Cylpheed says:

        Sorry, but I rolled a 1 on the “resist making pun roll” so here’s my critical fail:

        > There would be TWO.
        > TWO times two would be FOUR.
        > Would two TWO make twenty two?
        > Would two TWO make twenty TWO? O.o

        > Can’t forget they’re TWO mock-boxes.

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      • pedestrian says:

        Resistance is futile,

        unless you enjoy bondage.

        For us analogy retentives,

        who are linguistic sado-masochists.

        We switch back and fourth

        from punishing ourselves,

        to punitively abusing everyone else.

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  26. Seajewel says:

    Finally caught up, and still thoroughly in love.

    I wonder what happened to Feejee? I rather liked her.

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  27. Burnsidhe says:

    I think the last we heard about Feejee was that she made it through the first year, but for the entire second half of it she looked lost and probably a little depressed.

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  28. Lunaroki says:

    One thing I’m still having difficulty getting my mind around with this mocked combatants thing is the issue of identical movements having non-identical effects depending on the placement of various items in the environment. For instance, you and your mocked double come out of the mock box moving either identically or in mirror image. Your opponent does the same. You head toward each other’s mockeries. Suddenly your opponent veers off to one side and performs a flying leap at nothing. You see your opponent’s mockery take the identical flying leap smack into your mockery. Suddenly you’re standing and your mockery isn’t. Now what?

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    • TheTurnipKing says:

      That wouldn’t happen.

      You’re not controlling the mockery. The mockery is another entity that behaves approximately identically to you.

      Veering off to one side wouldn’t be nessecary to make the mockeries collide, because they’re not merely aping your movements. They’re individuals who are performing movements that are co-incidently near identical to the ones you would make because they’re “copies” of you.

      Or am I misunderstanding what you’re asking?

      There doesn’t seem to be any problem here. The fights will continue even if they become desynchronized by asyncronous room clutter. Syncronization isn’t a nessecary feature of the fights, just an interesting side effect of the mockeries so closely resembling the original.

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      • Lunaroki says:

        OK, I think you may have just cleared things up for me. I really wasn’t getting the whole “The clones do what the originals do” thing. It was really leaving me confused.

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      • Erianaiel says:

        Synchronised combat, the new olympic sport of the Muniverse 🙂

        And yes, the reason the synchronisation happened seemed to be because Mackenzie and Tiger were fighting each other and doing what they felt logical in action and reaction.
        Being a near identical copy the idea of what felt natural was near identical in both cases. With nothing disrupting the fights they started and ended in exactly the same way, just as would have happened if somehow time got rewinded and the two got to fight all over again.
        No doubt over time tiny differences would have crept in and in the way of the butterfly effect have become big differences. Only neither the fight nor the illusions lasted long enough for that to happen.

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