In Which Mackenzie Works Out Some Kinks With Her New Device

The one thing that everyone—Amaranth, the ridiculous owl-turtle thing, and even myself—agreed on was that I desperately needed to get some nights of normal sleep under my belt… or head, or wherever sleep goes under… to get my mental equilibrium back. So, naturally, the last thing I thought of before I fell asleep was the likelihood that in the absence of the owl-turtle thing’s presence my natural sleep would be disrupted by a visit from the man who literally haunted my dreams: my dear father.

It didn’t happen, and it hadn’t been a wholly rational fear anyway seeing as my mental defenses were stronger than ever. It might have influenced my dreams, though, because I woke up with a vague impression of… him-ness. I had a feeling that he’d been very angry, screaming mad and completely beyond the point of reason, but also a very long ways away.

If this was a dream that I could only half-remember, then it seemed like a disturbing one, and that’s exactly how I felt about it when I woke up. Disturbed. Then I considered the possibility that it hadn’t been a dream, and felt a little better.

Was he mad that he couldn’t get in anymore? Good. As long as I got nothing from him but silence, it was impossible to tell if my shielding was keeping him out or if he was just leaving me alone… and it would be just like him to lie low long enough for me to think I was rid of him.

But I doubted he could fake the kind of rage I’d woken up with the memory of having felt. Not that a person couldn’t act angry, but he’d never pretended to be mad to try to rattle me. His style, his image, was about control. He might put on an air of righteous indignation, but the kind of bestial fury…

Well, I knew that anger too well to believe it was fake. That was the wrath of a demon.

A demon’s wrath was a terrifying prospect, except in this case it was anger that I was slipping out of his grasp. I wasn’t there yet, of course. The fact that I was aware of the attempt and his reaction to it meant he could still get close and could still communicate with me at least dimly, though he might not have realized that yet. That wasn’t too surprising, since we hadn’t even been focusing on keeping him out at night lately, so much as keeping my shields up during the day. This whole development could be a side-effect of that… I wasn’t sure how, but then, I was hardly an expert.

…and there was still the possibility that it had been a dream after all. It had been a weird night, I’d been operating under a lot of stress, and I’d hit myself upside the psyche with a building recently. An oddly intense dream I could barely remember wouldn’t be out of place.

I might have spent the whole morning brooding over whether it had been real or not, but I had things I needed to do while Amaranth was taking her morning shower, so we could head over to the Emily Center for an early start and potentially swift resolution. Having a brand-new wand waiting to be tested out was a lot like what I could remember of the last few Khersentides I’d had with my mother… I’d had a pretty good idea what I would be getting in the morning, but I’d been excited anyway.

The wand stored spell patterns and had a separate reservoir of energy, but the two weren’t tied together in a charge system so that the energy could be used for other things, though there was a small efficiency gain when it was channeled through the wand’s spells. I hadn’t actually filled the reservoir yet, though, so I’d be pouring my own power into the spells directly.

I tested the wand on a few small, ordinary objects first… the desk and things on it. I just sort of pinged them for their properties without any attempt at alteration or enhancement. It worked just fine. There was a distinct difference between doing it through my wand and doing it directly. With the wand, there was a sense of being a step removed from the thing, but the hold was also firmer, less wavering.

Once I was sure that it worked, I tried it on the building. There was an immediate sense of immensity, but it was like the difference between being told that something is heavy and trying to lift it. I was being given the information that the building was immense beyond my direct comprehension, I wasn’t experiencing that for myself

I couldn’t get anything more than the idea that it was overwhelmingly huge to begin with, but the wand didn’t lose its connection the way I had and I was able to narrow my focus from there. Translating qualities like the height and weight to real-world terms would take some additional spells, but I could query the building’s status in various ways. I round that its structural integrity was sound, which was always good to know. All of its physical properties were a little bit… flickery… because of the background magic inherent in a tower, but they were mostly stable and didn’t swing enough to throw the wand’s grip off. That was promising, since Emily’s status as a living building could make her similarly slippery.

I also found I could do things like find the status and properties of individual component parts of the building by focusing on them. With a little thinking my way around it, I managed to unlock and then re-lock the room’s front door at a negligible energy cost.

Okay, that was potentially very cool… not directly applicable to my immediate needs, especially given that Emily would probably not appreciate that kind of direct manipulation and she’d have every right to not be subjected to it… but when dealing with a mundane, inanimate building it was potentially very cool.

I tried a couple of other manipulations… sticking to stuff in or connected to my own room, of course, though I felt out some of the built-in furnishings in the public parts of the floor just to verify that I could access things outside my immediate area if I needed to. There was no good reason I wouldn’t be able to, but it was nice to know for sure.

Of course, to really know for sure I’d have to actually change something… I wondered if I could pick out my way to Ian’s room to mess with his lights or something. We could turn it into a private communication system… though it would be one way, and the amount of information would be limited. The most obvious use would be a way of letting him know I wanted him, and me summoning him like that didn’t really fit our relationship dynamic.

Maybe now that I’d achieved my first major enchantment… with help… I could try to rig up some way that he could contact me? It was something to think about… something I enjoyed thinking about. Being at Ian’s beck and call, able to be summoned in the middle of the night for no other reason than Ian wanted me?

Okay… immediately after I thought of it I realized that was one of those things that could be more frustrating than actually sexy, outside of my head where I could schedule his beckonings and callings to my own convenience.

But still… it was a thought.

I heard the water shutting off, and I closed my open connection to the building. As soon as I did, I felt a little light-headed and realized that there had been a slight but persistent energy drain the whole time I had been using the wand. I hadn’t dipped below safe levels, but still, I’d already used up more power than I was used to using in a day, and this was after a late night of heavy magical activity.

I didn’t know if the drain was normal, or if it was function of being connected to something so huge. I’d have to watch it, either way.

Amaranth came out of the bathroom a minute later. She was wrapped in a big fluffy white towel, despite the fact that her hair was dry and as full of volume as ever and only a few bits of water glistened on her skin like strategically placed dewdrops.

“Is your toy performing to your satisfaction, my toy?” she asked.

“So far, so good,” I said. “There are a couple of things I’m going to have to watch out for, but I think it will do what I need it to do… who knows if it will be enough to make a difference or not, but at this point even if I have to drop the class, I think this thing will be enough of a consolation prize all by itself.”

“I’m glad to hear you say that,” she said. “I don’t want you to lose sight of your goals, but…”

“But I’ve been kind of single-minded and stubborn about it?”

“I wasn’t going to put it that way,” she said.

“You would have been right if you did, though,” I said.

“I would have been charitable,” she said, sticking out her tongue.

“Well, I don’t know if it’s the sleep, or getting a fresh injection of Two’s perspective back into my life, or what exactly, but I am feeling more… optimistic, I guess?” I said. “Like, I’ve gone from feeling like this has to work to thinking that it probably will. Which somehow makes it easier to deal with the possibility that it won’t.”

“That’s really great, baby,” Amaranth said. “I think this might make Emily a little more receptive… you were kind of jangly-edged yesterday, which she probably noticed. Having a softer outlook on the whole thing should make it easier on her.”

“Here’s hoping,” I said.

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34 Responses to “Chapter 181: Test Run”

  1. Apologies for such a short chapter so late in the week. Next week may not be completely back to normal (and even if it is, the week after won’t be) but the prognosis is much better. My moving preparations are well on track, there isn’t any heavy lifting to do next week, and the forecast looks great.

    Thank you all for your patience in the lead up to the move!

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  2. Alex says:

    “I round that its structural integrity” typo found

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    • Lunaroki says:

      Found a couple more typos too.

      Typo Report

      I was being given the information that the building was immense beyond my direct comprehension, I wasn’t experiencing that for myself

      Closing punctuation absent.

      I didn’t know if the drain was normal, or if it was * function of being connected to something so huge.

      Missing an “a” before “function”.

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    • Marian says:

      Though oddly appropriate for a tower

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  3. Not her, the other girl says:

    That’s okay AE. Even though I did do a “Hell yeah” when I got the alert that there was a new chapter up, we understand that moving = crazy. And that’s not even taking into account moving across the country, that’s gotta be, like, crazy to the crazyth power or something.

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  4. tomclark says:

    Is The Man angry
    about getting Brimstone Blaise
    sicced on him by Mack?

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    • Erm says:

      That was my first reaction too. But if Kent did his job right, Martha shouldn’t even know Mack instigated it; and The Man definitely doesn’t.

      And if he doesn’t know why Martha is after him now, there’s nothing for him to be angry about – only either dismissive or worried depending on how much he fears her.

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      • rini says:

        Even if he doesn’t know, he might plot to use Mack against Martha..but couldn’t get in this time.

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    • Burnsidhe says:

      If Brimstone did go after him, odds are she’d have found any other ‘projects’ of his first; Mackenzie and Aidan aren’t likely to be the only ones. And from there, it would be a very short deductive step to figure out that *someone* had given her the right kind of information to go after him.

      He could also be furious that his little ‘agent’ inside Mack’s mind was rooted out, and the ‘sudden’ appearance of the barrier would have frustrated him immensely. In addition, for the past couple weeks, TROTT has been actively keeping Mack from dreaming. The Demon can only contact her in dreams. So he’s had two weeks of no contact.

      That must be infuriating, given the size of his ego.

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  5. Seth says:

    Speaking of rounding out Structural Integrity, it would probably be a decent idea for Mack to do a set of structural/fireproof enchantments on the wand itself. Two “fixed” it, but it’s still basically some random bits of stuff around the room held together with a wire tie.

    It just wouldn’t do for her first “real” enchanted item to fall apart due to random clumsiness.

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    • zeel says:

      I can just see that thing breaking. . . and exploding.

      So ya, she should probably shore up the integrity. Though she may have done that already, we don’t know exactly what she did with it.

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    • TheEyes says:

      Well, it’s a magic item now; doesn’t that already impart some amount of invincibility to it, much like how Mack herself is magically invulnerable? Sure, adding in additional elemental resistances and maybe some structural reinforcement would probably be a good idea, but it’s not like this is a smartphone that’s going to break from being dropped five feet.

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      • Lunaroki says:

        I don’t know about “invincibility”. Mack’s invulnerability to non-magical damage isn’t just from being magical, but from being a half-demon. Remember, the TV didn’t hold up so well back when Mack and Sooni had their fight in the hallway and Sooni hit it with a stray shot. Just because something is enchanted doesn’t make it nigh indestructible, merely somewhat more durable, and just how much more is debatable. Some reinforcing magic to make the wand more klutz-resistant would definitely be a good idea, especially considering the owner’s propensity toward inflicting accidental damage on stuff.

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        • pedestrian says:

          Even in the Muniverse, Entropy has the final say.

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        • asdfasdf says:

          “hit it with a stray shot”
          right. magic items aren’t damaged by nonmagic though I thought. that stray shot was magic. of course the sidewalk is magic… all surfaces within and nearby emily are magic, a halfdemon’s entire body is magic so she can still snap it of land on it even if she tripped in the grass, loads of things are magic these days

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    • Winkrometer says:

      Fireproof: Definitely a requirement given Mack’s tendency to, well, set herself on fire.

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      • pedestrian says:

        Isn’t Our Mack already basically fireproof?

        Though a method to channel infernal energies to avoid burning that or whom she’d rather not, would be a good idea.

        And a better, more controllable method of summoning flames then hysterical anger could be helpful, especially thirteen times a year.

        Word to the wise…..

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        • Seth says:

          Mack is fireproof – the Wand, not so much.

          Since it’s Mack’s wand, there are three things that it is guaranteed to come into incidental contact with at some point:
          1) A Critical failure Dexterity attribute check, combined with demonic strength.
          2) Fire.
          3) Sex.

          The third probably won’t destroy it, but it should probably have some passive defense against the first two cases snapping the wand in half or reducing it to kindling.

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  6. Zathras IX says:

    A demon’s wrath:
    A terrifying prospect
    (Purposefully so)

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  7. Peter says:

    I was just thinking “..well, kinda a short chapter, don’t you think?” – then read Alexandra’s post and just went Awwwwwww…..
    I hope it all goes well, thanks for posting the chapter.

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  8. Crissa says:

    The interogatory declaritive makes its comeback in dialog.

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  9. Mike says:

    Long chapter, short one, OT, whatever. The fact that you were able to put out anything while in the middle of your move great! Don’t kill yourself, we’ll still be here even if you don’t post anything else until you’re all moved.

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  10. I’m pretty sure that we’d all understand if you totally put the story on hold until you were settled into your new place. The fact that we’re still getting any updates during such a stressful and action-packed time for you is amazing.

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  11. pedestrian says:

    The reason a predator would roar on a hunt is to see how the prey reacts. To trigger movement, sorting out the edible from the quick. Mack should simply avoid doing anything precipitous and just concentrate on calming Emily.

    Perhaps discuss this ‘dream’ with Teddy? Certainly with Dee. And for a hunter’s advice, I would suggest Mackenzie talk to Viktor.

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    • Lyssa says:

      I don’t think Viktor would be very receptive to her. But I think the rest is spot on.

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      • pedestrian says:

        Oh, if Our Mack allowed Viktor to do something painfully demeaning to her, he may be satiated enough with his own smug egotism to feeling pedantic.

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  12. Order of Chaos says:

    I just came by to share some thoughts on Two and found a new chapter. This is a good thing.

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  13. William Carr says:

    The aspect of using the Wand to ping items is a gimme, but using it to POKE items… to the extent of changing the state of a physical lock…

    I think it’s a VERY good thing TWO suggested banishing the “martial” influences.

    Seriously, if you can unlock a lock from ten feet away, you can stop a heart too.

    As a side-note; in the MU-verse, are Magic Death Rays banned?

    Remember that ‘nutter who actually built a portable Death Ray into his van in our universe? I ran though the design and yes, it would work.

    Given the van’s back doors were replaced with wood or fiberglas.

    Building a Magic Death Ray in the Mu-Verse would be child’s play.

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    • Rip says:

      Not necessarily. Remember that the physical laws of the MUniverse aren’t consistent, and that the MUniverse is more concerned with ‘balance’ (in the RPG sense) and punishing hubris than our own. It would probably be child’s play to create a wand that stopped someone’s heart by physically inserting the tip of it into someone’s chest cavity, but it’d get exponentially more difficult and dangerous with distance. The universe permits crafters to make magic door-unlockers because they don’t directly harm the building, but might balk at magic that can remotely and fatally disrupt the life-force of a living being.

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      • Seth says:

        Unlocking a door isn’t that big of a deal – she’s feeling out the “locked” physical property of the door, and then altering it to be less locked. Being locked and unlocked is a normal operating state of the door. Same thing with the lights. She’s not telekinetically twisting the knob, she’s just tweaking it’s physical property from one normal state to another.

        “Dead” isn’t really the normal operating state of a heart, and “alive” is a pretty complicated and powerful existing enchantment to workaround.

        They probably could make a Wand with some heart-crushing charges in it, but I’d imagine that Steff’s expertise would be required to write/weave the spell, and Mack would design the enveloping spells to imbue it into the item.

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      • TheTurnipKing says:

        build heart stopping wand with inadequate focus
        stops every heart within a 100ft radius including your own

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      • Ermarian says:

        It would probably be child’s play to create a wand that stopped someone’s heart by physically inserting the tip of it into someone’s chest cavity

        Yeah; we call that a dagger. 😛

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