She is still six. As far as she can tell, she is the only child in the place - everyone else is an adult or at least in their mid to late teens.
Except - oh, there is a girl her age, over there. (Only maybe not. Last time she was warned that appearances can be deceiving.) But she's certainly worth investigating.
Bell drags her shells over in that direction.
"Well, yeah," she says. "That's why I need a plan first."
"Well, you can think of plans, but I'm going to look for magic," says Bell. "I think magic will be useful. And I can get some here even though there isn't any at home."
"Magic is useful," she agrees. "I wish I had lots of it. Then I could do more stuff."
"I wonder what kinds there are and which kind is best."
"There might be infinite kinds," Matilda says consideringly.
"No, I think that seems like too many," Bell says, on reflection. "At least not that many different sorts. Maybe if two people have the same kind one of them can pick up one pound without touching it and the other can pick up two pounds without touching it and so on. There could be infinity of that. But any two people with magics different besides in their numbers should be able to explain to each other how they're different in English without taking forever. So, it can't be infinite kinds."
"But there might be infinite different kinds of universes connected to Milliways," she says. "And if some fraction of those have magic, that's infinite universes with magic, and they could all be different kinds. Anyway, your proof doesn't hold up. There's infinite integers, but you can describe any integer in English without taking forever. Same with the rationals, I think."
"That's why I said they had to be different in ways other than numbers to count as different," Bell points out. "I know you can talk about infinity numbers just fine."
"But why can't you talk about infinity different kinds of things?"
Bell considers this. "Well," she said, "maybe you can. Maybe there's a boring way for magics to be different, like if a bunch of them only work in their own world, or something. Then it would be different because you couldn't float the same specific things without touching them, or whatever, and that's not a number difference. But I don't think there's an infinite number of ways for magics to be interestingly different. If the difference is interesting it shouldn't take forever to explain. You should be able to say 'well, I can make the weather do what I want, but she can make food appear, and he can do one or the other but it depends on what day of the week it is' - and then you find someone else who does weather and you talk to each other for a while, and you say, 'well, I'm doing it by asking the sky, and it listens to me, and she does it by waving her hands around in a pattern'. Any fiddly little difference that did take forever to explain wouldn't be interesting. Does that make sense?"
"Hmmm," says Matilda, frowning. "But I don't think you're right about what's interesting. What if it takes a long time to explain because it uses a lot of concepts we've never seen before? I always think that kind of stuff is really interesting. And there's already more kinds of not-magic knowledge just in my world than most people would be able to learn in their entire lives even if they tried really hard, and before now there were a bunch of different kinds of knowledge that are actually wrong in my world but might not be in somebody else's. You could have kinds of magic that work by alchemy and kinds that work by quantum physics and kinds that work by geology, all different kinds of each one depending on how they work and what they do, and then you could have even more kinds than that because there's lots of worlds where the whole laws of physics work differently than they do in mine and there'll be sciences there I can't even think of. And I don't think that's boring, I think it's the opposite."
Bell considers. "Does that add up to literally forever?" she asks dubiously. "I go to a lousy school, so maybe there is literally infinity stuff to learn and they're just not telling me, but I don't think you can get infinity just by adding up a lot of laws of physics and things magic could do. You could get a really huge number, though, so long that unless you lived forever you could just pretend it was infinity. I want to live forever but I don't know how. Did you know that quahog clams can live for hundreds of years if no one eats them?"
"I did not know that," says Matilda. "I want to know everything, which means I have to live forever, because there is infinity stuff to learn especially at Milliways."
"If I figure out how to live forever, I'll tell you," Bell assures her cheerfully.
"And if I figure it out first, I'll tell you!"
"Great! Now we both have twice as many chances to learn it."
"On average, yeah!"
"I think I'm most likely to find that sort of thing here," Bell muses. "I'm pretty sure my world has no magic. And the only way I could get anywhere near the serious science would be to pass the removal tests and I don't want to do that because if you do that you get removed. And if you could gain a clam's powers by eating it somebody would have noticed already."
"I don't know enough about my world yet to say really for sure if we have magic or not," says Matilda. "It could go either way."
"If someone had hiding magic," Bell amends, "then maybe the Capitol wouldn't have found it and started using it, but I don't see how I'd find it either unless I had some finding magic from here to start with."
"I have something that might be magic but I don't know if it is or not."
"What?" Bell asks, sitting bolt upright.
"Telekinesis," she says. "Or something that's a lot like telekinesis. I can move stuff around without touching it. But I don't know how it works, and I've never heard of anybody else who can do anything like it, so I don't know if it's really magic or something else."
"That sounds like magic to me," Bell says, "especially if it's not just something that everyone can do where you're from. Lemme see?"
Her book lifts up out of her lap and then settles back down again.