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Generated: Apr 01, 2019 3:02 PM
Post last updated: Apr 01, 2019 3:02 PM
whoops?
Aether at Whateley
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Morty knows he shouldn't be screwing around with multidimensional shit. It's dangerous, it's impractical, it's blah blah blah. But it's a potential key to unlimited energy, how does nobody see that? He's built a dimensional siphon (it kind of looks like a cardboard box with a funnel and a TI-84 taped to it, but it damn well works), keyed in the dimensional coordinates to a random plane, and by God he's going to use it.

He flips the switch and waits for the energy bar to fill up.

It does! It fills up very rapidly. Then it explodes, along with the box. There's rather more smoke than there should be, and once the smoke clears someone is standing there.

"Whoops?" Morty says faintly.

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A girl who was in the middle of tying her bootlaces looks up from where she's crouched on the floor.

She says something confusedly in a foreign language.
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Morty opens and closes his mouth a couple of times.

"P... parlez-vous francais?" he attempts after a moment.

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I said, 'what in the abyss did you do'.
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"Gah!"

Morty jumps backwards and hits his head on the corner of his bunk bed. He falls over, then jumps back to his feet, hits his head on the bedframe this time, falls over again, and elects to remain seated until he is quite sure the scenery will stop attacking him.

You- you're a telepath? he manages. I wasn't trying to, um, anything. Can you hear my thoughts?

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I'm not going to intrude on your privacy, but if we don't have any language in common I don't have a better plan. I can hear what you mean to send me in particular without getting much of anything else. I repeat: what did you do.

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"I was-" Whoops.

I was trying to get unlimited clean energy from dimensional bleed. It... didn't do that. The devise has nothing to do with transportation, so I don't know what the heck went wrong enough to teleport somebody in. Where are you from, even?

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Magisterius University. Prax, Imperium. ...Prime Material. Where am I?

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Morty blinks slowly.

Not any of those places. Whateley Academy, Massachusetts, USA, Earth, Milky Way. Laniakea Supercluster?

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I've never heard of any of that.

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The back of Morty's head comes to rest on the wall behind him with a thunk.

Well, I've got bad news and I've got good news. The bad news is that you're in an alternate universe and Hartford is going to have me thrown off a cliff by wild horses. The good news is that people who aren't me occasionally know what the fuck they're doing. So they might be able to put you back. After having me thrown off a cliff by wild horses.

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You're some kind of extraplanar studies student? From, I assume, another plane.

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Yeah, probably. Sure. I do not have enough energy right now to argue about your choice of bad sci-fi words.

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Planes aren't sci-fi. You just literally summoned me from one.

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He waves a hand. Yeah, but they still sound like it. American culture's pretty new to magic and mutants and shit, all that's still sci-fi as all hell. He looks thoughtful. You'd think a hundred years would be enough to get used to that kind of thing, but that's humans for you, I guess.

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Huh?
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Oh, yeah, alternate universe. Nobody really knows what happened, but about a hundred years back folks started cropping up with Powers That Science Could Not Explain*. So now you get psychics, blasters, wizards, Devisors... But when you haven't had that kind of stuff for the rest of your history it still seems kinda fake. Like, my roommate is literally full of dog ghosts. And he's growing extra nipples. The fuck is up with that, right?

*The communication of unnecessary capitalization through telepathy may or may not be one of these.

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Did you pull me into some kind of crazy science fantasy universe?
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Morty's brow furrows. You could say that, I guess. Is yours just kinda normal? Apart from the, uh, telepathy.

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The telepathy is normal! I'm a subtle artist!

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Morty holds up his hands, laughing. Don't get me wrong, it's cool! We've got psychics too! It's just they all popped up after the Weirdness Threshold went down, so I put them in with the rest of the Weird. Normal is, like, accountants, not wizards and telepaths.

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Wizards are normal too! What's this about 'science could not explain'? Why were you expecting science to explain wizards?

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Um. Well, science is using the fact that most things work in basically the same way to figure out how our world is set up, right? And we'd been using it for a really long time, so we had most of the rules figured out. But then there's all these wizards, and they're turning teacups into frogs and shit, and it doesn't work in the same way as anything else. (Or at least it didn't seem to at the time, the really advanced physicists and theoretical gadgeteers are making some headway on making mutant powers make some damn sense in the context of the rest of everything. More power to them, I guess.)* But we hadn't really run into anything science Could Not Explain before then. So it was kind of fucked-up.

*Mortimer Halliwell is not aware of his ability to think in parentheses, or for that matter footnotes. It probably wouldn't surprise him, though.

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I'm in some kind of crazy science fantasy universe that finally got fed up with you. Great.

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Morty looks slightly affronted!

Science still works, you know. We thought lightning was God throwing spears at us for thousands of years, and now we make it in our houses and use it instead of candles. Just because there's some hocus-pocus we can't account for yet doesn't mean it can't be accounted for.

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So yours is more patient than mine and likes killing you less, sure, but it definitely sounds like it got tired of you having such an easy time of it with the starting rules and decided to jazz it up to keep you on your toes.

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I-

He thinks for a moment.

I can't actually dispute that. But it's being pretty nice about it, if so. There's mutations that are literally "be good at science," so I don't think it's trying to discourage us too hard. If mutants are the world fucking with us, I don't mind its style too much.

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What a friendly universe you have.

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It's pretty nice, honestly. He pats the floor. Thanks, universe. You just keep doing what you're doing.

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...It can't hear me, Morty feels the need to clarify. I'm being facetious.

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I figured. So, what gets done with me?

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Morty sobers somewhat. Yes, that. Um, I don't know exactly, but I think you get put back as soon as they can manage, and... I think you get a gift basket of advanced medical technology? Or comparable magical or technological goodies. Except if you'd rather stay they'll let you immigrate and give you a bunch of apology money to start living with. They like to stress the "we're very sorry you got kidnapped, here's free stuff" angle.

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I can't bring medical technology home!

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...How d'you mean?

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My universe isn't as friendly as yours. It doesn't hold with understanding things through the power of science or any of that sci-fantasy wishful thinking. If I bring home science fantasy technology of any kind I will be lucky if the only thing that happens is it all spontaneously melts.

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Morty is speechless. Or, in this case, thoughtless. Although that's nothing new.

He's really mad, though. At what is unclear.

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What?
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Fucking- no science? That is fucked. I wanna punch your universe in the face.

He hops to his feet belligerently and starts pacing, muttering under his breath. Passing his desk, he acquires and begins fiddling with a piece of cardboard angrily.

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I mean, we have a sort of okay standard of living, it's all just magic instead...

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I mean, that works, but it's the- science is like social mobility for an entire species, you know? With enough work you can make everything better, for good, you can win. Like, hey, anybody get polio lately? No? Fuckin' great! That's because we killed polio! With science! And anyone can do science.

He pauses. If they're smart and got a good education and they don't need a real job, I mean. But it's the principle of the thing.

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I'm sure your friendly science fantasy world is very nice.

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It's shitty that you can accurately describe your world as unfriendly, that's what it is. Like, your world actually, literally dislikes you.

A thought occurs. Hey, but you've got options! You could move here! You could live the friendly science fantasy! That'd rock!

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...Well, maybe. I have parents back home... and I was studying subtle arts, which apparently aren't a thing here... but it's very tempting.

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We've got psychics. The principles might carry over? Plus, summoning your family: totally an option, pretty much exactly as easy as getting you home.

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I don't know if they'd want to leave, though, their whole lives are there. And... somehow I think science psychics might not work like subtle artists.

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I mean, you can check, there's like three psis on this floor. Parents not wanting to leave... Maybe somebody could set up a two-way communicator or something? Hell, I could set up a two-way communicator, I'm a mad hypergenius! If I could just figure out the coordinate error, and...

He fiddles somewhat manically with the bit of cardboard, which folds in implausible ways. "Need more cardboard," he mutters.

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She doesn't know nearly enough science to complain that cardboard is not a reasonable material for that. So what's your name? I'm Bella.

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He looks up, burgeoning obsession fading from his eyes. "Morty. I-"

Whoops. Morty. Morty Halliwell. Codename Smokescreen, because my shit blows up all the time. Sixteen. Hi.

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Telepathy is not strictly necessary to tell me your name. Why do you have a code name?

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Everybody with powers has a codename, pretty much. If you're going to go around superheroing or supervillaining you don't want to mix it up with your personal life, and if you aren't, you can still use it for the strength of your brand, or whatever. He scratches his head. Plus, y'know, tradition.

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So most people have to get by without any magic or subtle artistry or anything?

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Yeah, pretty much. I mean, they've got technology, plus whatever publicly available gadgets they can afford, but they can't do it themselves.

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...And the rest of you give yourselves names like early morning cartoon characters and fight crime or rob banks or whatever.

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...Sort of? The villains do things because they're jerks and they want more power so they can be bigger jerks, the heroes try to stop them from doing that. I think without the villains there'd be a lot less heroes. But there's still a big contingent of the mutant community that just, like, does things. Like strength guys working construction, teleporters doing courier work, gadgeteers selling inventions... Not superheroes or supervillains, just superfolks. My dad knew a real estate agent with the lower body of a snake. They just do stuff.

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...Is it just humans here? I have met people with the lower bodies of snakes but it is not usually a conversation starter.

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Um. Pretty much. Some mutants don't really look human, but they're closer to it than anything else. And the magic guys say there's fairies and stuff but they mostly just stay in the spirit world or wherever they live. I mean, demons and ghosts and all that sometimes pop up to murder people, but mostly everything that isn't human keeps to itself.

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...Okay. I suppose that must make things simpler.

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It's actually much more complicated, Morty thinks drily. We have to make do with hating people because they have the wrong pigments, instead of because their ears are pointy; it's so primitive.

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Oh, but we have that too, you see.

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He claps politely. Victory is yours. Anyway, yeah, humans are the order of the day. Mutants are almost-not-quite a different species, though. For what that's worth.

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Almost-not-quite? What, like part-elves...? I suppose you wouldn't know what part-elves are like.

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More like, uh, if elves sometimes had babies that came out looking like dwarfs. Or could breathe fire. But were still elves, in... many ways? Genetics is fucked.

He scrunches his face in confusion. Wait, why am I assuming you guys have orcs? Stop generalizing Tolkien to Fantasy Hellworld, Morty.

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We have orcs. And dwarves. And the occasional firebreather.

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Yeah, me trying to explain genetics was pretty hopeless. I'm an engineer. To whatever extent I'm actually an engineer instead of some bizarro technowizard. But mutants are, like... Sort of a neighbor species. It's not apples to oranges, but it's not apples to apples either.

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Like goblins and hobgoblins, maybe.

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Sounds about right. We can still interbreed, but there's definite differences in the genetic code.

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You sound like a cartoon character. It's weird.

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The science thing? I have to say, it is kind of fun being more exotic than the wizards for once.

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Wizards are totally normal to me. Well, wizard students, I don't take a lot of arcane magic classes so I'm less accustomed to wizard teachers, and you can't always tell who's a wizard out walking around unless they wear archmage getups.

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Same here, really. People are just more familiar with devisors just sort of... doing stuff? I guess? Everybody takes gadgeteer vitamin supplements or lives in a hypersteel apartment complex or something, so it's sort of become an everyday thing, but wizards don't do as much in the public eye.

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Why not?

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He shrugs. Less mass-production capability? If Algernon invents a new computerized ocular implant or something, he can make a factory to make more. Even if it's a true Devise, the kind that can only be built by hand by the one guy who came up with it, he can just do that as many times as he wants and sell it to as many people as he wants. Wizards are working from a finite source of energy. I think. That's what they say, at least. So they're not going to be flooding the market with enchanted backscratchers, they're going to save up for their own shadowy ends or whatever it is wizards do.

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Huh. I don't actually know that much about industry in my world, but we have plenty of mass produced stuff, including magic stuff.

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Again the shrug. Also possible they just don't want to sully their dignified hands with menial labor. Wizards around here can get kind of prissy.

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This is certainly going to be an interesting adjustment. Should you be telling some kind of authority figure I exist?

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Morty winces. May have been trying to put that off. In retrospect Hartford probably isn't going to have me thrown off a cliff by wild horses, but she is probably going to rip me a shiny new asshole. If that's an idiom you have.

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I mean, of things that could happen to me this is much better than being eaten by a ghoul or something, so I'm not really mad at you, if that helps.

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It might! Somewhat! But there's still, like, the punishment element. The fact that accidentally plucking unsuspecting victims from their home universes into a world they never made is a bad thing. He waves a hand self-deprecatingly. That old saw.

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Yes, I imagine most people you could have grabbed would be more upset about it.

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I get the feeling that's how they'll put it. And I'm very contrite! I recognize the potential consequences of my actions! ...Now that I'm no longer making them.

He gets up and makes his way phonewards.

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Bella looks curiously at the phone but figures this isn't the time to ask.

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With palpable dread, he picks up the phone.

"Ms. Hartford! Um. How- yes, okay. Could I- yes. Could I speak to Mrs. Carson? I- yes, but- Code 8236? ...no, that's- dimensional summons. Accidental. Yes. Thank you."

He puts the handset down as gently as he can, much as one might a venomous snake. Well, she's in fine form. An administrator will be here in a minute or so, apparently.

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Okay. Um, any tips on how I should act? I don't know if your administrators are like mine.

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Try not to seem like an extradimensional threat? You're probably good, the procedure for humanoids is "innocent unless obviously intending to murder someone".

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...So if I were not a humanoid...?

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He shrugs. Minimally intrusive brain scan? They might want to do that anyway, but I don't think they'll stress the point, you don't seem very cagey. We're not, like, lizardperson racist, it's just easier to read people when they look more like us, and the folks in charge want to be sure when they're dealing with potential interdimensional shit. And if you had tentacles or something you might have your movements restricted a bit so the normies didn't see you and freak out, but that's just a practical concern.

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I see. Well, I'm just a human. A subtle artist human who objects to brain scans. My shields are good enough for everyday at home, are they liable to be tested here...?

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Uh, psychics aren't supposed to read people or poke their brains without consent, but around campus it's... not as well enforced as you might want? If you're worried I'd go to Fubar and have him shoot some probes at you. He's, I think the most powerful psychic in the world? And he can probably do something like testing you against a Psi-1 and a Psi-2 and so on up the scale. He can't keep himself from getting a low-power impression of everyone around him, but pretty much any amount of shielding can keep that out, so I wouldn't worry.

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Okay, sounds like a plan. Ugh, I didn't like having my shields rated the first time, but better under friendly circumstances.

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He's very nice. Probably you'll barely feel it, unless you've got some kind of psychic sensitivity, in which case I guess you might. But I get counseling from him sometimes, and I forget he's even reading me until he answers a question I didn't ask.

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Sounds like he's good, then. If receptively uncontrolled.

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Yeah. Fringe benefits of turning into a horrible fish-monster, I guess. ...no, wait, actually he was psychic before he turned into a horrible fish-monster. Scratch that.

There is a knock at the window. Morty sighs and opens the blinds, revealing Mrs. Carson hovering in the air bearing a glowing platinum scepter.

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Bella blinks at the hovering glowing-scepter lady, then bows politely as a hedge and attempts to figure out the window mechanism.

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Morty helps! The window opens sufficiently for Carson to swoop through.

"She doesn't speak English, but she's a telepath, so you can-"

"Thank you, Mr. Halliwell, that will be all," she says sharply. He wisely shuts up.

Hello. My name is Elizabeth Carson; I apologize for all of this, and promise that I will do everything in my power to set it right. Do you have any pressing needs?

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Isabella Swan, ma'am. If it's at all convenient I'd like my parents not to be too alarmed about my disappearance; they'll probably think I did something really stupid and got eaten either literally or metaphorically, otherwise. I don't know how long I'll be staying but I haven't seen anything that makes it look like I have locally unusual needs, since I'm a human. Morty suggested that I get my shields tested against local psi, which sounds like a good idea.

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Carson sighs. It would not be strictly impossible, but the effort involved in getting a message across the dimensional border would be almost as much as getting you across, so we would probably prefer to just get you home. Unless you'd like to stay here for longer than a few weeks, in which case arrangements can be made. If you're identical to local humans, that does simplify accommodating you somewhat. We can test your shields at your convenience, though there are some more urgent matters, such as vaccinating you against various local illnesses and making sure you aren't carrying anything serious yourself.

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If you're going to do science things to me it probably is not safe for me to go home again. And I was considering staying anyway.

Bella bounces Carson's contributions to Morty and includes him in her own as a courtesy.
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Carson blinks.

I may need that sentence unpacked a bit.

Thanks, Morty "whispers".

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It sounds to me from what Morty's told me that you have a very friendly universe which lets you get away with a lot of science and doesn't kill you, just occasionally drops novel sorts of magic on you to give you a new challenge. Where I'm from, vaccinations are a science fiction thing and anybody trying a stunt like that in real life is lucky if all that happens is they get the disease they were trying to ward off and find it mysteriously resistant to ordinary magical healing.

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Carson takes a moment to process this.

Would that still apply to a disease with no equivalent in your world? she asks. We can waive the standard flu shots and such on practical grounds, but what we're really concerned with is airborne Ebola, hyperplague, that sort of thing. Profoundly lethal, extremely quick onset, and only existing due to very specific events in our universe. Do you think your... world... would object to that?
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I don't know, we haven't met socially, I just live there, but it's not the sort of thing you want to guess on if you can avoid it because the last time somebody decided to exploit the tendency of mockdragon handlers not to get pleurisy half the population of the Glorious Mountains died.

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Well, we definitely don't want the Glorious Mountains getting hyperplague. Different tack, then - what about magical protection from disease? I can ward you against infection more or less airtightly, and if necessary dispel the ward before you return.

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I don't know, is it normal magic or science magic of some kind? I mean, frankly I'm not sure my universe won't decide I've been hanging around bad company and squish me the moment I go back no matter what I do. I'm very tempted not to return and just live here in Science Fantasy Plane.

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Liz snorts. I certainly wouldn't blame you. I don't think our magic is particularly sciency, it seems very appropriately mystical to me, but then again I'm not a malevolently insane universe-monster.

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How quickly does all this need to be decided?

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Not very, but if you want more than a few hours to decide, then I am going to want to put you in quarantine while you do it so that you don't either die or infect someone with space flu. We've got some very nice quarantine facilities, though. Considering.

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I don't know that I need hours per se but I do need to know what my options are with respect to contacting my parents, maybe getting some subtle arts textbooks, and generally continuing to exist here if I'm going to do that.

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We can arrange that. Long-term parental contact is proportionally less of a problem than short-term; the textbooks we can probably manage using you as a dimensional anchor, or if we're very lucky we might find them in the Great Library; and generally continuing to exist is quite feasible and would be generously subsidized by the Academy by way of apology for putting you in this position in the first place.

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That's very kind of the Academy. As long as my parents can be convinced that I have not been vivisected by demons or run afoul of fey or savaged by ogres or something I don't feel the need to contact them on a particularly frequent basis.

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That much can certainly be arranged.

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What's the Great Library?

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...Difficult to explain. A few decades back an unusually unhinged Devisor created a building which... structurally resembles a library, is apparently infinite in volume, and contains, to all appearances, all of the books that have ever been written in any universe. The only problem is that every book is placed completely at random, scrying is very difficult in the stacks, and going too deep can lead through pockets of badly distorted time. There are people with the talent or skill to reliably check books out of the Library, but their services are expensive and always in high demand. Our main hope is that the books you need would crop up in the front thousand shelves or so, which occasionally rearrange their contents and can be scried.

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That seems like a fairly thin hope. Maybe my parents could get together a decent curriculum's worth for me and you can just bring that in?

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Also an option. Probably a better one, but it costs very little to keep track of the Library entrance, so we may as well see.

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Okay. Depending on how dramatic my vanishment looked on the other end I might not be missed for a day or two, and then the school will probably put a token effort into finding me again before bothering my parents, so there's no need to have a message to them ready to go particularly soon.

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Carson suppresses a snort at "token effort". This universe sounds like more fun than a barrel of lemures. Well, you're welcome to write such a message whenever you think best. Have you decided whether you want to stay and be vaccinated, was that a decision?

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It's probably not worth the risk to go back and pursue a career path I was mostly picking as a default anyway, given this nice science fantasy universe to live in and a way to write my parents a letter. I am going to ask them to empty their savings accounts to get me books if your library doesn't have them, though, since it sounds like you will want them all in one batch.

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I'd say that we could help them out by sending them appropriate payment, but I suspect your belligerent universe would object. It being belligerent, and all.

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I mean... yeah, pretty much. If there is any stuff you haven't gotten your science all over and which the universe doesn't consider inherently valuable and therefore inappropriate to conjure, I'm all ears, but they'll probably just have to take it out of not having to pay what of my tuition wasn't covered by scholarship, anymore.

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Gemstones, semiprecious stones, oysters containing pearls? Gold, silver, platinum, copper? Some of our universe's slightly more accurate science fiction?

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Inherently valuable and therefore not the sort of thing you want suddenly appearing in your house... the fiction might actually work.

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I was mostly being facetious, but we can actually send over a cartload of out-of-copyright sci-fi, so if that works then it works.

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It was not made with nonfictional science in any way?

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Does the printing press count? If so, we can get someone to write it out by hand. Other than that... The science is sometimes based on real principles, and it builds off of existing technology, although it's not exactly a how-to.

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Just... be really thorough. The story is almost certainly safe, but no science paper, no science ink, etcetera. And don't send too many. The universe doesn't have a known opposition to plagiarism per se but it doesn't like too much cheating. They can probably get away with like... one author apiece.

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We'll be sure to use thoroughly nonscientific paper, ink, and methods of reproduction. Would it be best to choose two very prolific authors, or does that defeat the point?

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Prolific is fine, I'm erring on the side of caution.

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Good to know. We'll go with Verne and... mm, Asimov, he's mostly out of copyright and robots are nothing if not innovative. And the man wrote like someone'd set him on fire.

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I'll take your recommendation there.

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They're quite good. Does that settle everything? Does anything remain unsettled, beyond the process of putting plans into action?

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I think that's basically everything except implementation details.

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Carson claps her hands together. Excellent. Then I can put a translation spell on you, find someone to show you to the infirmary, and get started on the absolutely disastrous paperwork that Mr. Halliwell has brought upon us yet again.

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Okay. Should I just expect to be escorted pretty much everywhere for now so I don't need to memorize where it is and isn't safe to go immediately?

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...One of the nice features of our world is, I think, fewer places that aren't safe to go. Whateley is unusual in actually containing a few, namely the sewers and certain clearly marked parts of the forest. Outside those areas you are vanishingly unlikely to be eaten.

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Oh, that's nice then. Am I also less likely to be attacked by students and faculty? Make it a hat trick?

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I'm finding myself more and more thankful for it, yes, Carson thinks drily. Faculty will under no circumstances attack you, unless possessed or something to that effect. Students may, infrequently, but almost always nonlethally, and it is technically illegal for them to do so. So you can report them to faculty, who will punish them accordingly, or retaliate in kind, which is frowned upon but a legitimate response for those more comfortable with it.

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That's good then. Does 'in kind' mean that if someone comes at me with a knife (Bella is, in fact, wearing a knife) then it has to be a knife fight, or can I just knock them out...?

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Morty looks very slightly horrified. Mrs. Carson seems to be finding a sort of black comedy in this whole affair despite herself.

Just knocking them out is not only appropriate but highly encouraged. Knives are generally frowned upon, since they're easier to accidentally kill someone with; however, if someone with mental shielding assaults you, your best effort at nonlethal self-defense will be fine. Though I might recommend pepper spray or a shock wand, instead, as a matter of personal preference.

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I was mid-semester on Arcane Defense but I know a couple things. Subtle arts knockout would just be my go-to. The knife is only there because I needed one for the Magisterius weapons policy, I'm hopeless with it. Something else as backup sounds fine to me.

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Liz rubs one temple gently with her finger. Naturally. You may be pleased to hear that we don't have one of those.

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Good, I kept forgetting my knife and having to go back to my dorm for it so I wouldn't get stopped. Although that would have gone away as soon as I passed AD.

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Well, it's always good to be prepared, but Whateley won't require you to keep your companion knife handy.

Her rod lets out a bell-tone. Ah, there's the translation spell. This won't feel like anything in particular, don't worry-

"-testing, one, two, three?" she asks aloud.
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"Four five six."

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"Excellent," Carson sighs. "That was- well, it wasn't going to give me a headache, I'm not delicate, but it does get a bit irritating after a time."

"Do you want me to be the one to take you to the infirmary?" Morty blurts out. "It's just- um. I know the way?"

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"I don't see why not."

Permalink Eye

Mrs. Carson raises an eyebrow. "Speaking of which: Mortimer, before I forget, you'll be retaking Interdimensional Threat as a tutored course, detention in Hawthorne for a month, and I want you back with your therapist until you can work out some way to stop yourself from doing idiotic things when you're having an episode. If that means getting Mr. Conway to physically pin you to the ground every time you get near an Allen wrench unless you can explain what you're doing with it, then you do that. Are we clear?"

Morty grimaces. "Yes, ma'am."

"Well, don't let me detain you," she says, and steps out the window to sail back towards her office. (The window shuts itself with a wash of blue light.) Once she's safely out of sight, Morty resumes breathing.

Permalink Eye

"Are therapists usually - psychics - here?"

Permalink Eye

"Huh? Yeah, some of the really good ones. Not all of them, though. I sometimes work with Louis, but usually I'm with Doctor Bellows, and he's just a baseline with a psychology degree."

Permalink Eye

"Huh, at home you basically can't go into the field unless you have a little arts. I was studying to be a therapist."

Permalink Eye

He nods. "We don't really have all that many psychics. You can train for it even if you don't have the talent, but a trained baseline can't even approach the kind of power you get as a mutant, so most of them don't bother trying. Plus, we were doing psychology before psychics were even a thing. Force of habit, I guess."

Permalink Eye

"Yeah, I suppose that would change things. So what are vaccinations like in real life?"

Permalink Eye

"They come at you with a little needle full of a clear liquid, it stings like a bastard when they jab you, and it feels like somebody slugged you in the arm for a couple hours afterwards. And then you don't get hyperplague. I've never had a bulk vaccination, though, so that might be different." He declines to contribute the mental image of about fifteen hypodermic needles sticking out of Bella's arm, suspecting that it would be unhelpful.

Permalink Eye

"Joy."

Permalink Eye

"Little bit, yeah. But having been vaccinated is nice. Polio was not a fun experience by anyone's account. Anyway, shall we?"

Permalink Eye

"Yeah, lead the way."

Permalink Eye

He does so.

Down through the halls of Emerson they go. Boys stare, wondering dimly about the presence of a female of the species.

Morty grits his teeth. "Sorry, I probably should have mentioned it's, um, single-sex housing. So. This looks a little bit weird, possibly."

Permalink Eye

"Is it a suspicious time of day or just an unprecedented social event?"

Permalink Eye

"Not unprecedented, just... weird. I don't think anybody's going to assume this is a walk of shame thing, though. That would imply me having physical contact with a pretty girl, which is, uh..." A nervous, self-deprecating chuckle. "Implausible."

Permalink Eye

"...If you say so. I don't have the local stereotypes but I'll take your word for it."

Permalink Eye

"Mm. The assumption is that if I tried to flirt I'd have a fit of Diedrick's and end up screaming at you about how I'm a superior life form and probably vaporize you with a cardboard ray gun."

He considers. "Though, I mean, they're not necessarily wrong."

Permalink Eye

"Diedrick's?"

Permalink Eye

Morty makes a sour face. "The mental disorder of choice among mutants, especially Devisors. Characterized by fits of egomania, along with regular mania, plus a tendency towards obsessive and antisocial behaviors. Most of the time I'm pretty much alright; when I'm in a fit, I'm Doctor Insano. I was having a fit when I built the machine that summoned you, for reference. I'm pretty sure I actually said the words 'I'll show them, I'll show them all!'" He shakes his head in disgust. "What a fucking tool."

Permalink Eye

"Oh. I haven't had nearly enough actual therapy training to begin to comment on that and I'm sure the locals are better equipped anyway."

Permalink Eye

He shrugs. "The therapy thing isn't really for treatment, anyway; that's all about how the wires in my brain line up, nothing much they can do about it. It's mostly just to keep me from feeling too shitty or not shitty enough about the stuff I do when I'm riding the crazy train."

Permalink Eye

"Gotcha. How often does this happen?"

Permalink Eye

"Depends on my stress levels, really. It averages out to about once a week, with a really bad attack every month or so. I'll get little flickers of it if I get too worked up about something I'm making, but that can be headed off pretty easily by distracting me with something shiny. Fred- my roommate, he's gotten really good at that."

Permalink Eye

"The guy with the dog ghosts? ...I hope you don't wind up summoning people every time this happens to you, most of them wouldn't be so gung ho about it."

Permalink Eye

He laughs uncomfortably. "No, this is a one-strike kind of deal. If it became a habit, I would be in a lot more trouble than I am. Usually what I end up doing is accidentally blowing something up, but that's what blast shields are for. And yeah, Fred's the one with the dog ghosts. Real good guy. We're in the same basic combat class."

Permalink Eye

"So you do have combat classes but you don't have a weapons policy. Not sure what to extrapolate from that."

Permalink Eye

"Um, probably that we don't stab each other? Mandatory combat classes are all unarmed. And you can take weapon training if you want to for some reason, like you have the power to manifest a sword or you're training to be a big-league super or something. But otherwise it's just aikido and tae kwon do and stuff, unarmed nonlethal combat. Half of it's just so we get some exercise."

Permalink Eye

"Huh. ...Is this a college or a high school?"

Permalink Eye

Morty shrugs. "Honestly, it's kind of both. It's for high school age kids, but half the students are geniuses one way or another, so if you want more advanced course material you can go all the way up to grad school classes if you want. It's weird."

Permalink Eye

"So I'm probably older than everyone here, being nineteen?"

Permalink Eye

"There are older students! Most people manifest in their teens, but it's been known to happen in the twenties, and if you come to Whateley to learn to use your powers, you enroll as a freshman regardless. It's a special arrangement, but there's usually a few of them in every year."

Permalink Eye

"I pretty much already know how to use my powers and I don't think anybody here is particularly likely to know the kind of magic I was learning. Maybe I'll wind up somewhere else."

Permalink Eye

He sighs. "Fair enough, I guess. It's a great place to learn science too, though. And you could learn our kind of magic?"

Permalink Eye

"That could be fun. Both of them."

Permalink Eye

He perks up a bit. "Yeah! Especially since you're sort of starting from zero, there really is probably nowhere better than Whateley to get yourself up to speed on science stuff. And the local magic- well, I never really got anywhere with it, but you could see if your experience with your kind makes it any easier to understand? Or something?"

Permalink Eye

"That seems unlikely, but arcane magic and subtle arts are completely different and I like them both, so might as well add more."

Permalink Eye

"I can get behind that. I'm a specialist, but it's kind of hard to resist the urge to specialize when your specialty lets you pierce the heavens and fly in the face of God using only cardboard and duct tape."

Permalink Eye

"...So, you can also get away with thumbing your nose at deities, here?"

Permalink Eye



"Yes."

Morty once again looks like he wants to throttle an alternate universe.

Permalink Eye

"Are they real and just uniformly really laid-back about blasphemy, or... not real?"

Permalink Eye

"Some of them do exist? Or at least it seems that way, like, there's an Avatar of Ganesha and it seems like that'd imply there is a Ganesha to be an Avatar of. But they don't smite anyone on their own. Supposedly they used to smite people thousands of years ago, but these days I feel like they're worried someone might smite them right back."

Permalink Eye

"...That's weird. I mean, people sometimes get into fights with gods at home, if they're epic enough - I think attempted deicide is a formal crime in the Imperium, even - huh. I don't know what to think about that. But talking about them any which way is definitely safe?"

Permalink Eye

"I mean, I'm sure that killing Zoroaster or someone would be frowned upon. They might be subject to murder laws, even. All I'm saying is that a particularly thunderbolt-happy deity might end up being classified as a supervillain and Thwarted. And yeah, god-bothering's 100% safe. I mean, don't do it to their faces, but that's rude anyway."

Permalink Eye

"...Okay. I like this place more all the time."

Permalink Eye

He grins. "Hubris: a delicious part of this complete breakfast."

Permalink Eye

"My parents were always worried my hubris would get away from me."

Permalink Eye

Morty makes a face. "I know I sound like a broken record, but seriously, that is the worst sentence. Hubris is great."

Permalink Eye

"I'm accustomed to getting it out of my system with lucid dreaming."

Permalink Eye

"That is pretty neat," he allows.

Permalink Eye

"It's not as good as being able to really do stuff, though."

Permalink Eye

"Yeah."

Oh look, the infirmary! Inside: A receptionist. She is poised and alert, though mostly to the state of her crossword.

Permalink Eye

"Hi, um, I'm supposed to be vaccinated?"

Permalink Eye

She glances up reluctantly. "Caduceus' office is third door on the right. She'll get you done." Before the last word leaves her lips, she's returned to the crossword.

Permalink Eye

So Bella goes to the third door on the right. Knock knock. Is knocking even a local custom?

Permalink Eye

Well, the woman who opens the door doesn't seem shocked by it, or anything. Her hair undulates idly. "You must be Bella. And- Morty? Oh, helping her around? That's good of you."

"Yeah. Here for shots."

"Well, yes," she titters. "Come in, come in."

Permalink Eye

In comes Bella. "I've never had this done before," she comments, in case there are about to be procedures that would seem startling to the uninitiated.

Permalink Eye
"Oh! I guess... hm, alright. Does your world know about- well, actually, are you willing to take it on faith that the things I'm doing are to keep you from getting sick? Because that would probably be easier. I'm not a biologist, just a doctor. And a wizard, but that's less relevant."

As she speaks, locks of her hair seek out and arrange objects including vials of unclear liquid, hypodermic needles, and a wand of some strange material tipped with metal. Very esoteric.
Permalink Eye

"I'm familiar with the concept from science fiction, and it sure seems like I'm in science fiction now, so yes. Although if you need me to completely relax and you're comfortable with subtle arts - or psi, I guess - I could do an intention check."

Permalink Eye

"Well, you don't need to relax completely, just trust that I'm not poking you for no reason. But I am comfortable being read, as long as you can stay within a small area - not that I'm worried about your control, you understand, but some of my memories are hazardous to psychics, so I'd want you to be safe."

Permalink Eye

"I won't pick up anything I'm not looking for, I've been specifically trained in that."

Permalink Eye

"Feel free, then." Her hair busies itself stacking paperwork slightly more evenly.

Permalink Eye

Peer.

Permalink Eye

She's on the level. This is in fact how vaccination works. Needles are involved. Her bizarre prehensile hair is very sanitary.

Permalink Eye

"Okay, go ahead."

Permalink Eye
"You may want to close your eyes. Some people get squeamish about the needles."

Wielding several hypodermics in several different portions of her mane, she gives Bella a few jabs on each shoulder, then intones something. "That'll reduce the swelling, keep it all circulating through you instead of staying in your arms. Now, I can also take the opportunity to give you a basic physical checkup, which you'll need to get eventually; would you like that now?"
Permalink Eye

"I guess so."

Permalink Eye
"Excellent. Now, remain still..."

A perfectly standard physical examination follows. Bella is pronounced quite healthy for someone who received such necessarily unscientific medical care and offered a lollipop.
Permalink Eye

Bella is not used to being prodded in any of these respects but she puts up with it gamely. And accepts her lollipop (grape).

Permalink Eye

Doctor Tennant's hair returns the lollipops' coffee can to its shelf. "And if you need anything else, whether for health reasons or just to talk, I know this is going to be a very strange experience, then feel free to drop by. My door is always open! Within office hours, of course."

Permalink Eye

"When are those?"

Permalink Eye
"Oh, they're on the door."

They are indeed on the door. They are reasonable office hours, clearly devised by a person who understands how time works and does not need to talk around scheduling as though it were some arcane secret from beyond the stars.

She also repeats the hours aloud.
Permalink Eye

"Thanks. ...Now what."

Permalink Eye

"Morty's waiting just out the door. He can take you to the dining hall, campus store, registration office, or wherever else you need to go. You should probably register first, unless you're hungry, in which case you should probably eat first!"

Permalink Eye
"I'm not super hungry yet. Thanks again."

And Bella goes out to where Morty is waiting.
Permalink Eye

He startles slightly, having been engrossed in what looks like a cardboard tesseract. "Hi!"

Permalink Eye

"Hi. I'm all done in there - she said I should register next?"

Permalink Eye

"Yeah, probably. Right this way." He leads Bella out of the infirmary towards the building attached to the giant geodesic dome in the middle of campus.

Permalink Eye

Bella trots along after him. "It's a good thing my boots still work here," she comments.

Permalink Eye

"Boots?"

Permalink Eye

"I'm very clumsy, so I have magic boots for it."

Permalink Eye

"Neat! That is definitely not something you can do with technology, score one magic. Actually score probably a lot magic, there's kind of a lot of stuff like that, magic is really versatile. But tech's still cool!"

Permalink Eye

"I believe you completely," she assures him. "But my boots are useful so I don't trip while walking on perfectly level surfaces. I can even break into a run, it's great."

Permalink Eye

"That's good! It's possible I could use something like that, I trip more than any human should. On the other hand, I have the fine motor control necessary to make an origami swan out of cardboard, so maybe it's just bad luck."

Permalink Eye

"I don't know how to make more, but I am going to ask my parents for magic textbooks, so maybe in this nice friendly science world I could eventually figure it out."

Permalink Eye

"Ooh, alternate universe magic textbooks. Betcha the Mystic Arts staff will want copies, they're crazy about new stuff."

Permalink Eye

"I'm asking for a lot of books so they'll have to be copied locally lest my parents not be able to make rent, but sure, I don't mind."

Permalink Eye

"We can do that, we've got plenty of sciencey ways to copy books."

They arrive at Schuster Hall. Morty ushers Bella inside, then gestures her towards a secretary. The secretary looks up and says "Ah, are you Bella?"

Permalink Eye

"That's me!"

Permalink Eye

The lady rummages around in a drawer, then hands Bella a small stack of papers attached to a clipboard. "Just fill these out and we can get you all set up."

Some of the questions on the forms are relatively normal (name, age, blood type, sexuality, a broad selection of genders), while some are less normal (date of manifestation, list of powers [tentative], alterations to body by mutation). "Some of these won't apply to you," the woman says, "being that you're not a mutant. Just fill out what you can."

Permalink Eye

Bella is named Isabella Mariel Swan and she's 19 and straight and female and doesn't know her blood type or what a blood type is. She provides the date she was diagnosed with subtle artistry in the Pax calendar but assumes this will not be very helpful and lists her powers as "7/10 subtle arts, 101 level arcana" and her alterations to body as "none".

Permalink Eye

The secretary takes the form back and nods. "We can get your blood type from the medical exam, no trouble. I've got no idea what the powers mean, but I'm not a powers testing type, am I."

She fiddles with a machine on her desk, which spits out an ID card for Isabella Mariel Swan complete with a photograph that was never taken of her. She hands this to Bella, along with a laptop, another card with some silvery heraldry on the front - "that's a debit card for monetary needs, you've got a generous stipend since we accidentally summoned you" - and a thick Student Handbook. "There we have it, you're good to go. Mortimer, are you providing the tour?"

"Yes ma'am."

"I'll open the Homer Gallery for you, then."

The wall of a small nook opens, revealing a set of stairs leading downwards.

Permalink Eye

"Ooh, secret tunnel. How does the debit card work? I assume it debits something into which money has been put, but how do I use it?"

Permalink Eye

"There'll be a card reader at most establishments, you just let them scan it and that's that."

Morty shows her down the stairs into the Homer Gallery, which contains a large painting of a patrician man standing next to a weird-looking bust, a large pile of gold bullion, several strange devices behind glass, and a few wax figures wearing brightly colored costumes. "Welcome to the Homer Gallery! You have absolutely none of the cultural context required to find any of this impressive except maybe the gold, but we are contractually required to show it to you anyway! Especially the painting of Lord Paramount, who made himself ruler of a small country in Eastern Europe by singlehanded mutant strength and thinks you should find this very impressive."

Permalink Eye

"It does sound very impressive but not necessarily positively!"

Permalink Eye

"Yeah, same. But he was one of the founding members of the Academy, and he's part of why they're able to take in the children of supervillains, which is I think a good thing, and also he's donated a ton of cash. Still though. Any questions about anything else?"

Permalink Eye

"What are the things behind the glass?"

Permalink Eye

"Uh, let's see. This one is Professor Ripper's Quasar Gun, it shoots highly destructive bolts of plasma at incredible rates. This one is the Tartarus Projector, which traps its target in a bubble outside conventional time and space forever, or probably actually until they die of thirst, which takes like three days. And these are the dowsing rods used by Ideomotor to diagnose mutant powers back when the Academy was first founded. The weapons are trophies various superheroes took in battle from defeated enemies, which is, uh, kind of barbaric? But also kind of cool."

Permalink Eye

"Is that just... normal glass?"

Permalink Eye

"No. It's really strong. Some really high-tier mutants could break it, but also this place is really well fortified and locks from the outside really comprehensively. Also it's right under Mrs. Carson's office, and she can kick the ass of basically anybody in the world. It would be a phenomenally bad idea to try to take any of this stuff."

Permalink Eye

"Okay, good!"

Permalink Eye

"And now for the rest of the tour!"

Morty leads Bella around the campus, pointing out the various cottage-dorms and classroom buildings, as well as the arena, library, and campus store.

Permalink Eye

"Where am I staying?"

Permalink Eye

"You'll probably be in either Dickinson or Melville, check your ID card?"

Permalink Eye

Check.

Permalink Eye

Melville!

"Nice. Melville's the newest and fanciest of the dorms, a lot of kids whose parents are donors to the school mysteriously end up housed there. So they can be kind of snotty, but some of them are cool."

Permalink Eye

"How mysterious. Why am I there?"

Permalink Eye

"I summoned you from your home world without permission or warning and you could reasonably sue the school for negligence, so they're being as nice as possible to avoid that. We live in a very litigious society."

Permalink Eye

"I'm not going to sue you. But I appreciate the niceness."

Permalink Eye

"They like to make sure."

Morty shows her into the Campus Store, where she can purchase toiletries, bedding, clothes, several different sizes of porcelain water pitcher shaped like cows, throwing knives, or a wide variety of other Earthly material goods.

Permalink Eye

"Oh wow. Oh wow," she says at the array of Earthly material goods. "Okay, what's the currency here and how many of it do I have in the account this is hooked up to again?" She waves her card.

Permalink Eye

"Currency here is dollars, a hot meal is ten to thirty dollars, you have I think it's ten thousand of them right now, that's a lot because you have to start a new life here et cetera and, again, being very nice. You can reasonably purchase pretty much anything in this store without having to worry about it. Prices should be listed."

Permalink Eye

"Do I need to pay for food? Does the account get replenished or do I need a job by the time I need more?"

Permalink Eye

"Food is included in your free tuition unless you go into town, but the food in the cafeteria's actually really good. The account gets a thousand dollars a week."

Permalink Eye

"Gosh, okay. Is there more tour, I don't want to make you follow me around while I'm shopping if you have other things to do -"

Permalink Eye

"There's not really more tour but I don't have anything else to do right now, it's afternoon and I'm kind of a boring person. Besides, I'm a helpful resource if you get confused about anything."

Permalink Eye

"Great, I appreciate that!"

She begins browsing, filling a basket with a sheet set and toiletries, holding up clothes to herself to see if they'll fit, totting up prices in her head.

Permalink Eye

Morty follows dutifully! He doesn't hate shopping, and Bella's cool.

Permalink Eye

"It's weird that this plane also has jeans and t-shirts," she says. "Is there a fitting room?"

Permalink Eye

"It's pretty weird, yeah, ours are totally made with science. Fitting room should be right over there."

Permalink Eye

Bella tries on jeans and t-shirts. "Am I like to run into any situations when I need something more formal?" she asks, finding everything eerily well-sized and getting duplicates of a couple things.

Permalink Eye

"Maybe? There's like, dances and stuff, plus you might just want to be fancy at some point. - oh, and you'll need a karate gi unless you're taking Survival instead of Basic Martial Arts, that's a thing."

Permalink Eye

"...can I wear my boots during whatever karate is?"

Permalink Eye

"Huh, I actually don't know. Normally you're not allowed to wear shoes, but they're kind of an assistive device for you... You'd have to check with Sensei Tolman, I think. I can do that and get back to you tomorrow?"

Permalink Eye

"Thanks. I'll hold off on the martial arts clothes till I know if I can do martial arts." She rummages through nicer clothes and picks a nice dress.

Permalink Eye

"That looks nice!" Morty agrees.

Permalink Eye

"Thanks." She tries it on. "Why does everything I try on fit?" she asks, coming out in her original extraplanar jeans and t-shirt and tossing the dress in the basket. "I assume if I tried on the stuff that obviously isn't my size it won't, but anything that looks about right if I hold it up is perfect!"

Permalink Eye

"The Campus Store is weird, I think there's enchantments on it. It also has weirdly precognitive stocking, whenever you're looking for something really obscure they usually just got it in. That kind of stuff is above my paygrade."

Permalink Eye

"Gosh. Well, it's really convenient. Okay, what do you have in the way of crystal balls, or science crystal balls...?"

Permalink Eye

"Might need to know what a crystal ball is. I mean, they've got literal orbs, some made of crystal, but they don't do anything for you if you're not a wizard."

Permalink Eye

"I'm not a wizard, I just know a handful of spells. Crystal balls browse the ethernet and let you 'scape presentations and documents and art and ethernet sites?"

Permalink Eye

"Oh! You have magic computers, that's... strangely charming. Also very convenient. We call those 'computers,' the secretary gave you one, it's the rectangular plastic box? We have an internet instead of an ethernet, ethernet's just a way of connecting to the internet, it's confusing, but otherwise it sounds pretty much the same. The Whateley-issued laptop is all-around decent and pretty much indestructible but not top-of-the-line in any other way, plus it's firewalled so you can't get to, uh, certain sites, so if you want a better computer they are over here." He shows her to the computer section.

Permalink Eye

"Oh, okay. Why is it a rectangular box? And I don't know what the specs are in comparison to crystal balls so I don't know if I'll be disappointed - what's the science version of ether gazing to do stuff on it -?"

Permalink Eye

"Rectangular box is convenient because - uh, electronics 001, the way we do things without magic is usually that we bind electricity to complicated pieces of metal? And the complicated pieces of metal are flat, so, rectangular box full of complicated pieces of metal, plus a screen you see things on. We have, um, video games? Ether gazing sounds like maybe it's video games. Whateley laptop can't handle most of them, and you're technically not allowed to download games onto it anyway."

Permalink Eye

"Ether gazing is - the interface for the ball; you gaze at it, and kinda concentrate on what you want to do. I'm not hugely into video games and figure even having jeans doesn't mean you'll have Island Nations Four."

Permalink Eye

"Oh. Instead of ether gazing we have keyboard and mouse - not a literal mouse it's just called that - and you do things with your hands to tell the computer what to do. You're probably going to be put into the Computer Literacy class, they'll explain it way better than I can. We don't have Island Nations Four but we probably have something similar, I think most of video game space has been explored at this point."

Permalink Eye

"Okay. I don't think I'll get a fancy computer till I know how to operate a computer at all. Island Nations Four is a game where you control a bunch of settlers on an empty island and then you sometimes have to manage conflicts with neighboring islands but mostly you customize your society and expand to more islands."

Permalink Eye

"Yeah, we've got plenty of civilization building games. They're fun. Anything else you need?"

Permalink Eye

She grabs a pack of socks. "What do most people get? How much furniture and stuff does the dorm room come with, do I need a pillow?"

Permalink Eye

"Room comes with two desks, two lofted beds, two closets, and a sink. You will need a pillow. Also pillowcases, but I think that's in the sheet set. Um, dorm checklist... You'll want an alarm clock and a wastebasket and a laundry basket, and I think that's all you're missing. Unless you want, like, snacks, or posters. They've got some nice posters."

Permalink Eye

"Oh, I'll have a roommate? I had a single at Magisterius but okay." She takes a pillow, fails to identify alarm clocks on her own but picks one once Morty points them out, and takes a laundry basket. She inspects the poster selection.

Permalink Eye

"Yeah, only seniors get singles. I mean, seniors and Hawthorne kids, but with the Hawthorne kids it's because they might accidentally kill them."

Posters are available in many varieties! Some denote affection for a band or singer. Some are reproductions of presumably famous works of art. Some are just nature scenes or pretty patterns. One is of a cat hanging on to a branch with the caption HANG IN THERE!

Permalink Eye

Bella takes a nature scene; they're not that expensive. "They might kill their roommates?"

Permalink Eye

"Hawthorne's the dorm for kids with uncontrolled or otherwise dangerous powers. There's a boy who can't be looked at directly because he drives people insane with his beauty, a little kid who's the involuntary host of an ancient demon, a girl who projects her own emotions so strongly that she gives people aneurysms... It's nasty all around."

Permalink Eye

"Oh dear. Is not sharing rooms enough of a precaution?"

Permalink Eye

"No, they've got specially built containment measures too. But for obvious reasons, Hawthorne rooms are singles."

Permalink Eye

"Understood." What's the snack situation?

Permalink Eye

Expansive, if not healthful. There's chips, there's candy, there's soda. Also an incredible variety of chewing gum.

Permalink Eye

She will take some candy after reading all the ingredients and some single serve bags of cheese popcorn, for snack emergencies. "Is gum really popular here?"

Permalink Eye

"I think having way more gum than seems reasonable is just a natural feature of convenience stores."

Permalink Eye

"If you say so." She doesn't buy any gum. She swings through the aisles to see if anything else catches her eye. "What's that?" she asks of a rack of cell phones.

Permalink Eye

"Oh, I knew I was forgetting something - those are cellphones. They're like tiny computers that also allow you to talk to anyone who also has a cellphone. They're very useful and you should probably have one."

Permalink Eye

"Okay. Science pocket mirrors."

Permalink Eye

"Sounds about right."

Permalink Eye

"Are there also wall mirrors? Big stationary ones on walls so you can get a better view of each other?"

Permalink Eye

"You can video chat on a laptop? That's the closest thing I can think of. Oh, and phone calls are audio-only - there's ways to send text and pictures but that's a separate thing. You can technically video chat on a phone but I find it kind of annoying to deal with."

Permalink Eye

"Huh, okay. I think mirrors used to be visual only."

Permalink Eye

"Parallel technologies are always fun."

Permalink Eye

"You'd know better than I would! Which of these is easiest to learn to use from a cold start?"

Permalink Eye

Morty looks through the phones, then picks a model. "None of them are going to be super easy, but this one takes voice commands, so I think it'll make more sense."

Permalink Eye

"Cool." She baskets it. "I guess I'll have to come back for textbooks later so it's okay if I've forgotten something."

Permalink Eye

"Makes sense."

Permalink Eye

She makes her purchases!

Permalink Eye

And Morty shows her to Melville so she can drop off her purchases in her dorm room!

"I'm gonna have to leave you here - the Melville housemother or fixer's gonna take over now that you're in their territory. It was nice meeting you! Even given the, uh, circumstances."

Permalink Eye

"Thanks for inadvertently rescuing me from my sucky plane!"

Permalink Eye

"You're welcome and I will hopefully never do it again because that was absurdly lucky!"

He makes his way back to Twain.

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And she lugs her laundry basket full of stuff to her room. If her ID card has her room number.

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It doesn't, but a woman approaches her as soon as she steps in the door. "Welcome! You must be Bella, am I right?"

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"That's me! Hi!"

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The woman smiles broadly. "Hello! I'm Lillian Dennon, Melville's housemother. Would you like me to carry that? I can lift fifteen tons, and it doesn't look like you can."

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"I cannot! You are welcome to carry my basket." She hands it over. "Do you know where my room is?"

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"Hmm, yes - you'll be in 114, with Alice Carver. Lovely girl, you shouldn't have any trouble with her." The woman takes the basket with no effort and floats a few inches off the ground, heading towards the stairs.

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Bella trots up after her.

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She heads up the stairs and knocks on door 114.

A tall black girl wearing a partial suit of power armor opens the door. "Hello, Ms. Dennon!"

"Hi, Alice. You're getting a new roommate - this is Bella."

The girl turns to Bella and extends her hand. "Hello, Bella!"

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"Hi, Alice!" Bella shakes her hand. "I'm from another plane and was accidentally summoned here and am staying because my plane is bad!"

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Alice nods. "Glad you're here, then!"

Ms. Dennon ducks in to put the laundry basket on Bella's desk, then ducks back out. "Well, I'll be off unless you have any questions! And do feel free to talk to me about anything, my office is on the ground floor."

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"Thanks! Oh - one thing - do you know who I talk to about whether I can wear my magic boots during the martial arts class?"

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She thinks about it. "I think you'd have to talk to Ms. Tolman directly. She makes the rules in her dojo."

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"Okay. Where do I find her?"

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"Her office is in Laird Hall, though I don't know if she'd be in there. You can also send her an email, and she'd get back to you as soon as she gets it, she's very on top of that."

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E-mail is - oh, a-mail, okay. "My plane doesn't have computers."

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Ms. Dennon takes a second to process that. "Oh! Well, I guess you'd want to drop by her office, then. And you should take Computer Literacy as soon as possible, they're very important in this modern world of ours."

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"That's my plan. I'm hoping it's a straightforward translation from crystal balls. And how do I pick and sign up for classes?"

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"...on the computer. Ah, I can take care of that for you, I've got administrative access. Just come down when you're ready and I'll get you set up."

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"Thanks! I'll find out if I can take martial arts and then come do that."

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"Alright then!"

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She unpacks some of her things so if she's tired come bedtime she doesn't have to make the bed right then, and then goes to the relevant office.

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The door is answered by an extremely tall woman with her hair in pompoms. She looks at Bella assessingly. "Hello."

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"Hello! Are you Ms. Tolman?"

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"Yes."

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"Hi! I'm Bella and I was accidentally summoned here from another plane, which is terrible anyway so I'm not going back. I'm told you're the person to ask about wearing my magic boots in martial arts class. Without them I routinely trip while walking at a sedate pace on level surfaces."

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"Hmm."

She takes another look at Bella.

”Do you wear these boots every day, under all circumstances and conditions?”

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"I don't wear them to bed or in the shower."

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Ms. Tolman nods. “That’s enough that I can at least be sure you won’t be caught without them. Ordinarily I would not allow shoes in my dojo, but if yours are truly so indispensable, then you will be permitted to wear them. Make sure that they are extremely clean before you step onto the mat."

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"Okay. Do I need anything besides a gi for the class?"

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"No."

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"Okay, thanks!" And she goes to beg the use of Ms. Dennon's computer for class picking.

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Ms. Dennon is available! However: "You actually need to be tested before we can sign you up for classes, I'm afraid. It looks like you've got a testing appointment for tomorrow at 10am, so we can get you set up right after that."

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"Oh, okay. Is there a library I can hang out in? I know you have paper books, I saw some in the store..."

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"Yes, Beck Library is directly north of us."

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"Great, thank you."

She goes to Beck Library to see what she may see in the time remaining before the next mealtime (what time even is it here).

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Clock says it's 4:30.

Beck Library contains many books!

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Awesome. She looks for some kind of gentle high level overview of world history.

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This world: has some history. This particular book, despite being ostensibly world history, focuses disproportionately on a continent called Europe, apparently because they beat everyone else up and took their things. Then they slowly stopped doing that, in fits and starts. At the time the book was written, everything seemed to be going okay.

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Is she in Europe at the moment?

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No, she's in America, which appears to consider itself to have taken over from Europe at being the most important people in the world.

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Okay.

Reading through the world history book has taken her to dinnertime. She asks a librarian if they prefer she reshelve it or not here.

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"You can reshelve it or just leave it on the table," the librarian says, "doesn't matter much either way."

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She puts it back where she found it and head to the dining hall.

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The dining hall is expansive and beautiful! It has many buffet lines, each of which is denoted by a charming legend! There's a carrot, a piece of cheese, a steak, a cow, a baguette with a line through it, a geode, a banana, and a cake.

(If she looks at the people frequenting each line, she can probably rule out the cow and geode lines, because they're populated by people who do not look very human.)

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Bella goes through each line except cow and geode once to see what is there, without taking anything, then circles back for stuff in the cheese and steak and banana lines and looks for a place to sit.

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Well, Morty's sitting over here with a blonde boy and a distinctly green boy with tiny sparks of light flitting in and out of his long, flowery hair. He doesn't seem to notice her.

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She'll go over and sit with Morty anyway. "Hi Morty."

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He jumps a little. "Bella! Hi! Um, this is Isaac and Ethan, they're my friends?"

"Yes," Isaac confirms, tapping two fingers on his brow. "Isaac Biely, Mooncast, nice to meet you."

Ethan waves a hand. "Ethan Hart. Mulch. Also nice to meet you."

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"Bella Swan, no codename at this time."

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"Welcome to Whateley," Isaac says. "Morty here had just finished explaining your arrival, actually, very well timed."

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"Well, I'm glad to be here!"

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Isaac smiles broadly. "We're glad to have you."

Ethan speaks up, leaning forward. "You come from a world without science, right? I'm worried that you may not have gotten the best first impression of the field from Morty. Science is usually very reliable, very carefully experimented with, and does not involve cardboard in any way, shape, or form."

"I'm not the first person to ever make a mistake while building a new invention," Morty sulks.

"That's true. However, if making mistakes while building inventions was a field of study, you would have a Nobel Prize," Ethan says.

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"I wasn't sure what to expect from real science! I mean, TV scientists do things like Morty does all the time, but TV wizards are wrong too."

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"Even I don't do 'real' science," Ethan admits. "Science as it's done by baseline humans is agonizingly slow and tedious. But I have a power that allows me to skip past a lot of that. I have an instinctual understanding of many of the steps involved in what I'm doing, and so I don't have to experiment nearly as much before coming up with something like a superstrong variety of grass to weave a costume out of, or a flower that creates sleep-inducing pollen."

"And I just do something that seems to make sense to me, and then it either turns out fine or explodes," Morty says cheerily.

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"What other kinds of things have you made?" Bella asks Morty.

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"First thing I ever made was a derby car that ran at something like 150 miles an hour. Since I got to Whateley I've made about twenty different power sources, all of which exploded after at most a few weeks; a handful of ray guns as proof of concept, most of which exploded but one of which still works; a quantum entanglement communicator, which worked perfectly but then exploded after a month; and, as a test of general principles, a grenade. Which failed to detonate."

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"It sounds like something is mad at you."

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"Yeah, I try not to be all 'oh, God hates me' about it, but it's kind of hard sometimes."

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"What I mean is that sounds like the sort of thing that would happen if you made something like a god mad where I came from."

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Morty looks like he's trying to find something to say to that and failing.

Isaac raises his eyebrows. "Morty, be honest: have you personally offended Zoroaster?"

Morty shakes his head slowly. "I... my dad has a story about how my great-grandpa... offended an old woman once? And she told him something about her curse being upon him for seven generations? And he was rich before that, and then he lost it, and we're still kind of poor? But I really don't think-"

"Jesus Christ, Morty!" Ethan says.

Isaac nods vigorously. "That is essential backstory information."

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"- wait, is something in fact mad at you?"

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"No," Morty says, at the same time as Ethan says "Apparently!"

Isaac stands up. "I'm getting Arjun."

"Don't get Arjun, Arjun hates me," Morty argues. "I really don't think an old family story is-"

"You have not taken Intro Magic," Isaac says. "We both have. You are cursed. I am getting Arjun." He strides off.

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"...sorry?"

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Morty shrugs helplessly. "Not your fault? Isaac's, um, excitable."

Ethan flicks him. "I'm not."

"I don't know what's up with you," Morty says.

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"Who's Arjun?"

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"He's this kid who says he's the Avatar of Ganesha."

"Not Avatar, Paladin," Ethan corrects. "Ganesha's this big Hindu god, so Arjun's a really powerful wizard. Specializes in blessings."

"And he thinks I'm a danger to myself and others and should be locked up," Morty says. "So I'm not thrilled Isaac's bringing him over."

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"Oh. Well, if removing curses is the sort of thing that can be done maybe he can help?"

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Isaac comes back over with a blue, four-armed boy with very large ears. "-a mysterious old woman."

Arjun furrows his brow. "Really?" He looks at Morty seriously. "You really should have mentioned this earlier."

Morty glares at him. "I'm sorry that I don't consider weird stories about why my family's poor to be vital information."

Arjun ignores him, and all four of his hands start tracing patterns in the air as he mutters.

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"What are you doing?" Bella asks.

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Isaac responds. "He's doing a magical analysis. Most mutant wizards can see the flows of magic naturally, but this curse is hiding somewhere inside Morty. So he needs to look a little closer."

Arjun finishes waving his hands and chanting. He squints at Morty for a few seconds, then nods. "Cursed. Very cursed. I can probably remove it, but I want to check with Circe first. And I want to bring you with me."

"Why?" Morty whines.

"Because if I fuck up you might die."

"...valid," Morty admits. He stands up reluctantly.

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"Good luck?" says Bella.

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Arjun and Morty walk off, presumably towards Circe, whoever that is.

Isaac sits back down. "Well, that was fun. Where were we?"

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"Before we started talking about Morty's problem? I don't remember. Uh, do you have any opinions on what classes I should take? I need to figure that out. I'm taking the recommended martial arts course plus computer literacy but I don't know what else."

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Isaac hums. "Well, you're going to be taking Intro to Powers, too - that should help you understand what everybody's talking about with 'Avatars' and 'Paladins' and 'Energizers' and all that. Otherwise... Morty said you're already in college, right? Does No Science World apply to math, too?"

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"I think math is understood to be safe, but I haven't studied any advanced mathematics so I'm not sure if they're avoiding some topic you study carelessly here."

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"Algebra, geometry, trigonometry? Is that not taught in your high schools?"

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"Yes, I took them."

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Isaac nods. "Alright, then you're good on math unless you want to go for calculus. Obviously you're going to need to start from the bottom up on science, but fortunately, Whateley also gets kids who don't know anything about science from this planet, so there's remedial classes that go pretty deep. Same for history. You might want to take a Lit class, get a look at our culture; on the other hand you might not. Morty mentioned you were interested in magic, that means Intro to Mystic Concepts. Then you've got one two more optional slots, depending on if you took Lit. You can either keep those as free periods, or pick something else to go there, like Home Ec or an art class."

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"Home Ec might be useful since I assume you have completely different kitchen appliances. I can postpone art for when I know more about what-all the fuck. Probably you don't have any classes about subtle arts or my kind of magic, though honestly there's enough going on here that I wouldn't be astonished..."

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"Never heard of subtle arts," Isaac says. "And we don't have any classes in your kind of magic, at least not yet, but I'd bet if you told what you know to one of the really high-tier Exemplars they'd be able to rederive it from first principles."

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"Subtle arts is also called psi. And I know high school level arcana and half a semester of Arcane Defense, so maybe they can, with science?"

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"Oh. We have something called psi, but I don't know if it's compatible with what you do. I mean, alternate universe and all. You could take a class in it and see, technically you can learn it without having a mutant power for it but it doesn't work as well like that as magic does."

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"Is there a... placement test?"

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"Oh, yeah, you have to go through placement tests before you can even sign up for classes. There's not a placement test for psi but if it's part of your powerset they test you as part of powers testing, which happens at the same time."

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"Oh, cool, I have an appointment for that tomorrow, I'll remember to ask then." She writes this down.

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"So that all sounds like a schedule!" Isaac says.

Ethan speaks up. "Be careful if you're going for magic and psi. I'm taking psi, magic, and gadgeteering classes, and there are not enough class periods in the day."

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"Well, I don't think I'm going to take gadgeteering, at least not in my first semester."

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"Probably a good policy," Ethan says. "Especially with you not being a gadgeteer."

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"I'd think so, yep. Maybe I can do some kind of independent study about my own magic, see what I can rederive based on what I know and the textbooks they're gonna summon out of my plane for me."

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"Ooh, textbooks," Ethan says. "A whole different magic system does sound fascinating..."

"If you pick up another field of study your teammates will start hitting you with a rolled-up newspaper," Isaac predicts.

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"Oh dear."

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"He's the only psychic on the team," Isaac explains, "but he keeps dividing his attention between psi and magic and gadgets and everything else he gets into for like five minutes. -it's a really weird team anyway though, they're all gadgeteers or devisors who just happen to have other abilities. They're gonna get trashed when they go up against a team that wasn't just thrown together by the sorting algorithm."

Ethan sticks his tongue out at Isaac. (It's also green.)

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"This is some kind of skirmish game?"

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"Yeah, Combat Sims. It's all safe, they use tech to make it so you can feel everything - dulled down, but you feel it - but you're fighting in virtual space, none of it actually happens. It's pretty incredible."

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"My plane has mockboxes. You put a weapon in it and you get a mock weapon out. It hurts and impairs as normal but doesn't do real damage and you undo it all at the end of the game."

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"Nice," Isaac says. "How do they handle magic?"

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"I'm not actually sure. I've never played skirmish. They have something that works for it, people definitely use magic in skirmish."

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Isaac nods. "Sounds cool. I'm not as into the combat sims as some people, but you get some really good fights sometimes."

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"Does everybody do these or is it optional?"

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"It's optional as long as you don't join a team."

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"Okay. Probably not my thing."

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"Fair enough. I don't fight recreationally either, I just watch the fights. The cool fights, at least. Nobody watches the Underdogs versus... whoever they put the Underdogs up against, once again I don't watch their matches."

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"They named themselves that?"

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Ethan speaks up. "Oh, yeah, they're one of the really old legacy teams. Been around since the 80s. They're the scrappy kids with shitty powers - the kind of thing that rates maybe a 1 or 2 on the power scales. They're surprisingly good actually, usually if they're angry enough to be on the combat team they're dedicated enough to really hone that one little thing they can do. There's also an Underdogs social club, the social club is bigger than the combat team because most of them don't want to fight people with their shitty powers."

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"An understandable preference."

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"Yeah," Ethan says. "We've gone up against the ones who do in the sims, though, and they're surprisingly vicious. Nothing says just because you can't bench-press a pickup truck you also can't pack a handgun."

Isaac raises his eyebrows. "Who the fuck on the Underdogs carries a handgun?"

"Hazzan. He's all happy-happy in person, but the son of a bitch shot me in the leg during capture-the-flag."

"Damn. Note to self, don't fuck with Hazzan."

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"I don't know what that is."

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"Launches small lead bullets at astonishing speeds. A powerful enough gun can punch a bullet right through you. He had a little one, though, it just went a couple inches into my leg. Still hurt like hell, of course."

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"Charming. Uh, what do these look like?"

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Isaac thinks about it. "Basically like a crossbow without the bow part. -do you have crossbows, or are they too techy?"

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"We have crossbows."

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Ethan furrows his brow. "I wonder what the development process on that was like. I guess most of the surviving inhabitants of your world would probably end up with some kind of instinct of where the world starts biting back?"

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"Yeah. And it's usually safe to try something that seems like it should work once."

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Ethan shudders. "You're probably going to get tired of people saying this, but I would hate living in a world like that. Science is cool."

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"There's a reason I'm not going back! I mean, that and it might kill me if I tried for having touched the science."

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Ethan nods and absently pushes back his hair with one hand. A couple of little sparkles fly up from his scalp and then settle back down.

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"What was that?"

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"Oh, those are sprites - little magical pollinators, basically. Since my hair's made of plants they sort of stay in there, and I've got a familiar bond with them where they get nectar from my flowers and drink a little bit of my blood and in exchange I get control over nonmagical plants. Not very strong control, mind you, but I can make them grow quicker and in certain patterns and such."

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"Oh, I see. Is that wise? Letting them drink your - fluids?"

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Isaac snrks. Ethan makes a so-so hand motion. “It wouldn’t be safe without the familiar bond - giving something your blood gives it some power over you - but the bond means they won’t hurt me.”

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"Okay. It sounds really weird given where I'm coming from for pretty much exactly that reason so I assume you know what you're doing in local terms."

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"Yeah. The sprites like me, I like them."

"I've considered getting a familiar," Isaac says, "but it's a big decision. You're basically externalizing part of your soul."

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"It doesn't sound appealing to me, but familiars the way wizards back home do them didn't either and I think it's less of a commitment."

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"How do they do them back home?" Ethan asks predictably.

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"I don't know that much about it but I don't think it affects your soul at all."

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"Ah. The way we do it you're basically pinching off a bit of your soul and popping it into a nonsapient animal or spirit - or in my case a eusocial hive of mystical insects - and you reinforce the bond by giving something up to the familiar in exchange for some gift from the familiar itself. From then on you get a sort of feedback loop that makes you a bit more powerful, you get the familiar's gift, and you get a friend."

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"Drinking your blood is friendly?"

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He shrugs. "Bugs gotta eat. They're better-behaved than Isaac, at least."

Isaac clutches at his heart.

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"If you say so. I'm not sure wizards can have a hive of creatures as a familiar but that seems like a less important difference anyway. Are familiars popular here?"

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"Pretty common, yeah," Isaac says. "A little less so among full-time supers; no matter how useful they can be, they introduce a serious point of vulnerability. Ethan mostly bypasses that with his technique of having a bunch of bugs and storing them in his hair, but if you've got a rat or something and somebody gets ahold of it, you're kind of screwed."

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"Oh, what happens if it dies?"

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Ethan winces. "You lose the bits of your soul that went into the familiar, and there's a lot of mystical and emotional trauma associated with that. But if an enemy mage has access to your familiar it can get a lot worse than that, they can torture you from a distance or drain your essence or all kinds of bad stuff."

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"Ick. Pass."

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Ethan shrugs again. "I keep my sprites close and I don't plan on having many enemies. Maybe I'm just an optimist that way."

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"I wish you luck."

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"We appreciate it," he says.

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Om nom nom. "The cafeteria food is really good here. Is that more science?"

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"That's more about money," Isaac says. "Whateley kind of has more money than they know what to do with and a policy of 'high pay gets better work', so they pay the chefs as if they were a decent-quality restaurant, which means they get really good chefs even though it's line cook work."

"How do you know all this stuff?" Ethan wonders. "I just know the food is good."

"I talk to people, Ethan."

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"Huh, I was figuring maybe good food was cheaper here somehow. Anyway, it was nice meeting you - where does this go -"

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"Nice meeting you too!" Ethan says. Isaac points her towards where the tray goes.

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And she buses the tray, and goes back to the library to pass the time before she thinks she could get to sleep, whereupon she asks if she can checks out some books and brings them back to her room.

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Alice is already asleep when she gets back to the room.

Tomorrow dawns bright and early, as it often does. Alice gets up before sunrise and heads towards the showers.

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Bella does not get up before sunrise; she gets up a couple hours later, figures out a shower herself, puts on some of her new clothes, and heads to breakfast to be nourished for her powers testing appointment.

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Breakfast is available, including Kharoline frybread, which is presumably called something different here but is not labeled.

Nobody she knows seems to be breaking their fast at the moment, though a blonde girl floating several inches off the floor is peering at her thoughtfully.

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"...hello," says Bella, loading up her plate with Kharoline frybread.

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"Oh! Hi. I was just noting that I haven't seen you around, which is weird because I've seen everybody around and I remember them all perfectly, which would imply that you're new, which is interesting. Sorry for staring. I'm Ariel. Stormhammer."

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"Bella Swan. Yes, I'm new. Morty had an interplanar accident."

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"Ah, Morty. How're you adjusting?"

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"Really well! I like it here and I'm gonna stay, my plane sucks."

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"Ooh, that's way better than the alternative! Not better than your plane being cool, I mean, that part sucks, but it makes us kidnapping you a lot less problematic. Wanna sit at my table?"

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"Sure, thanks."

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Ariel, carrying her own tray of frybread and various syruped meats, leads Isabella over to a table containing a handful of other people: a dark-skinned girl covered with swirling purple tattoos, a couple of skinny white boys, and a living marble statue with feathered wings sitting next to a boy wearing a techy-looking visor thing. "Hey guys! This is Bella, she's new and from another universe."

Most of the table nods to her. Visor boy looks up sharply. "Interesting. I do hope you realize the fact you're recognizably human flies in the face of the laws of evolution."

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"I don't think we have evolution where I'm from."

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He frowns. "Even worse. Though I suppose an intelligent designer could have been working from an existing template."

"If you don't have evolution, can you still breed horses and dogs and all that?" one of the white boys asks. "-Xan, by the way, is my name, I'm Xan. The sciency one is Hakim, the statue's Sky, my boyfriend is Leo, the girl with tattoos is Sally."

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"It's nice to meet you all. I believe people do breed dogs and horses, yes."

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Hakim nods. "You've got evolution, then, wherever your humans came from. Though I suppose you could have inheritance without that implying evolution per se... hmm. -I'm an engineer, why am I going on about biology."

"Because you're a nerd," Sky says fondly. "Nice to meet you, Bella. What kind of powers do you have?"

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"I'm what's called a subtle artist, which means telepathy-type powers and also a little weak teekay. Some subtle artists are pyrokinetic but I'm not. I also know barely more than high school level arcana from my world's magic system."

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"Oh, interesting - kind of a Martian Manhunter situation, powers unexceptional for the home world but incredible anywhere else," Sky says thoughtfully.

"And you call me a nerd," Hakim scoffs. "Did I hear that right - you learn magic in high school?"

"We're learning magic in high school," Xan points out.

"Public high school, then," Hakim says impatiently.

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"Not everybody took the class but yes, I was in honors arcana in public high school."

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"Not everybody took the class," Hakim mutters.

"I'm not in magic classes," Sky points out. "Not everybody thinks magic is as cool as you do, hon."

"It's objectively cool!" Hakim objects.

Most of the table nods, with the exception of Sky.

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"Some people just weren't interested but there was actually also a test you had to pass to get into even the non-honors level, and almost half the people who took it failed."

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"Oh," Hakim says, mollified. "That makes sense, then. Aptitudes vary."

"What's your world's magic like?" Leo asks. "I want to know if I should be jealous that I wasn't a messiah of Bella-world magic instead of ours."

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"I don't think arcane magic has messiahs, and I know way less about divine magic. I could show you a spell but there are a lot of different ones, I'm not sure what you want to know."

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"Ooh, if you can show us a spell that'd be cool. Mostly I just meant like, what's the natural aptitude they're testing when they test whether or not you're good enough to take the class? Like, for us that'd be your willpower and ability to control your own mind. And how flexible is it, but I guess you're saying it's very flexible."

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"It was more of an intelligence test, but it was architected specifically to check if you'd be able to do all the steps of learning to read scroll notation. I know almost twenty spells, they're not all suitable for a cafeteria demo but I don't want to list them all, should I just pick something or is there anything in particular you wanna see?"

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"Eh, go ahead and surprise me."

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Bella rummages in her belt pouch and comes up with a dead firefly and says a magic word to make her ponytail holder glow.

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"Neat! I'm guessing the firefly's required, though?"

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"Unless I learn to not do that, yeah."

Permalink Eye

"Oh. I was gonna say we're more versatile if so, but if that's just a shortcut then I've got no real way of determining if your system's better or not."

Permalink Eye

"It's not just a shortcut - fireflies and stuff are cheap and light, lots of actual wizards still use them - but even without doing science to it it's possible to learn to skip material components. And verbal and somatic ones, for that matter."

Permalink Eye

"Might want to learn to do without fireflies then, they're not so much available for purchase. Unless the campus store is feeling particularly weird today, I guess."

Permalink Eye

"All the clothes I tried on fit me. All of them. It doesn't do fireflies? I can be conservative with what I had on me."

Permalink Eye

"Nobody really uses fireflies for anything, is the thing? Maybe if you reinvent your magic and everybody starts using it."

Permalink Eye

"I might!"

Permalink Eye

"I'll look forward to fireflies being available for purchase, then."

Permalink Eye

"Will you? What would you do with them?"

Permalink Eye

"Look forward in the abstract. I've got no particular use for fireflies but it'd imply you've done well for yourself, which would be nice."

Permalink Eye

"Oh. Well, then, thank you."

Permalink Eye

"You're welcome! I'm also kind of curious to see how relatively easy, accessible magic might affect baseline society. I've always thought more baselines should be encouraged to try our kind of magic, too, but with our kind it's sometimes hard for the untrained eye to pick out the real stuff from the New-Age hippie bullshit. Not that the hippies didn't have magic."

Permalink Eye

"It might be hard to separate what effects that had from what effects all the other differences had. We use magic for a lot of things you do with science stuff. Also a lot of people aren't human, so we're not what you might be thinking of as a baseline society, even in majority human areas."

Permalink Eye

"Oh, yeah, trying to work out the why and how of our societies' differences would be a clusterfuck. I'm talking about if you end up popularizing your kind of magic and it goes mainstream, what kind of effect that might have."

Permalink Eye

"Oh! Yeah, that would be really neat to watch."

Permalink Eye

"It would!"

Permalink Eye

"Now I'm curious about your world in general," Sally comments. "What kinds of species of people do you have? We've got humans, Sidhe, various kinds of spirits and gods, werewolves, vampires, demons, and the creatures of the Mythos, and I don't think I'm missing anything but I wouldn't be shocked if I was."

Permalink Eye

"We have more kinds than that including all of those, or things that translate that way, except whatever creatures of the Mythos are unless they just aren't translating generously enough. Plus lots more, some of which I would absolutely forget if I listed them because no one has ever written a comprehensive mnemonic poem. There are elves and dwarves and sylphs and orcs and ogres and mermaids and nymphs and dragons and goblins and hobgoblins and stuff."

Permalink Eye

"Wow," Sally breathes. "That's- a lot. Um, I think we used to have dragons but they're extinct now if we ever did. Creatures of the Mythos are various flavors of horrible monster from outside our reality that disagree with our existence. They're thankfully quite rare."

Permalink Eye

"Oh, we have those but the crystal sphere surrounding the planet generally keeps them out."

Permalink Eye

"Ah. We don't have one of those, but there are defenses in place, hence their relative rarity. -oh, I knew I was forgetting someone and it turned out to be me. We have golems, though they're very uncommon. I'm technically one, hence my general, ah, metallic appearance, but I was transformed into one rather than being constructed."

Permalink Eye

"We have those too! They vary in whether they have independent will or not but some of them do."

Permalink Eye

"Truly sentient golems were never common in our world, and their creation is now illegal, at the existing golems' request. I tend to agree with them."

Permalink Eye

"Still legal on Prime Material, at least in any country I've heard of. I'm not aware of major golem-related political activism, but I suppose I might not have been. But, I mean, slavery in general is also legal."

Permalink Eye

"...Oh dear."

Permalink Eye

"Yeah."

Permalink Eye

"Well, at least you seem to already be against it. You may be pleased to know we got rid of that."

Permalink Eye

"Delighted to hear it!"

Permalink Eye

"I'd like to thank any gods currently listening that I didn't have to explain why slavery is bad today."

Permalink Eye

"So I shouldn't put on my most convincing impression of a hardline slavery partisan?"

Permalink Eye

"...now I'm actually curious. Maybe you can give me the talking points without the impression?"

Permalink Eye

"Their strongest argument is probably that being able to put yourself up as collateral means that no free person is ever fully without access to credit?"

Permalink Eye

"Oh, that's a much better reason than we had, I thought they'd be leaning on the inherent inferiority of goblins or somesuch. Unless that's also in play. Also that's still a terrible reason, to be clear."

Permalink Eye

"There's enslavement of a lot of species and some of them are in fact what happens when a delver doesn't kill everybody in a place they're raiding, but the collateral thing is in play."

Permalink Eye

"Ugh. Yeah, that sounds about right."

Permalink Eye

"People," Sally sighs. "Well, that's something to be proud of, I suppose. Go Earth."

Permalink Eye

"It seems like a very nice planet!"

Permalink Eye

"For the most part it is! The part we're in is nicer than many others, even, we're not at war and there's a good standard of living and superheroes enjoy a solid majority over supervillains."

Permalink Eye

"Hey!" Xan says indignantly. "There's no need to be partisan."

Permalink Eye

Leo rolls his eyes. "It's a perfectly legitimate way to measure quality of life and you know it, Xan, don't be a dick."

Permalink Eye

"Some of you are planning to be supervillains?"

Permalink Eye

"Leo and I. We're not gonna, like, kill people, but we've got some disagreements with the establishment."

Permalink Eye

"What disagreements do you have that you want to express with nonmurderous supervillainy?"

Permalink Eye

"Where do I fucking start," Xan snorts. "Uh, the Crystal of Sa'Koresh is on display in the New York Museum of Natural History, instead of somebody using it to kill Deathlist or something. Same with thousands of other powerful artifacts scattered through the museum collections of the world, but the Crystal particularly gets me because they know how useful it could be and they still don't want anybody using it because they think it's too powerful to be in the hands of any one person. That's kind of - not the root problem but it points at it?"

Permalink Eye

"What does it do? The Crystal."

Permalink Eye

"Empowers one person with the powers of whoever Sa'Koresh was - flight, strength, intelligence, magical power, probably some other stuff. It was donated to the museum after the death of its previous holder, a supervillain by the name of Redoubt."

Permalink Eye

"And you're really sure that it doesn't make people who have it supervillains or anything like that, because that's what I'd expect if I heard of something like this sitting in a museum on the Prime Material."

Permalink Eye

"Can't strictly speaking rule it out, but the historical Sa'Koresh was a hero, Redoubt was just kind of a dick."

Permalink Eye

"Huh. Okay. And - that concentration of power is actually unusual, or just one of the only concentrations you can theoretically keep away from people?"

Permalink Eye

"It's high-percentage, but Ariel's about as powerful as Redoubt was and nobody's throwing her in a black cell."

Permalink Eye

"Black cell?"

Permalink Eye

"Uh, oubliette? It's where you put really bad supervillains you can't kill and people whose powers are uncontrollable and apocalyptic."

Permalink Eye

"How's that work?"

Permalink Eye

"Time-freezing magic, I think? It's not exactly public record, I just know that's where they put Maelstrom and Tearaway and stuff like that."

Permalink Eye

"I am so behind on all the cultural knowledge here."

Permalink Eye

“Maelstrom and Tearaway were big-time mutant terrorists back in the 50s. Maelstrom was a psi and a blaster, Tearaway ate people. They were seriously bad news. Then they got captured by the Mystic Six and tossed in a black cell, where to the best of my knowledge they remain to this day.”

Permalink Eye

"Are there a lot of movies about something going wrong with the black cells and plucky heroes having to defeat all the villains of yesteryear?"

Permalink Eye

“Thrillers prefer making up their own mutant villains. Less chance of survivors’ advocacy groups boycotting you.”

Permalink Eye

"That makes sense." Her Kharoline frybread is all gone. "I think I'm due for powers testing soon, but it was nice to meet you all."

Permalink Eye

"You too!"

Permalink Eye

The powers testing labs are underground and very extensive. She's greeted by a man in a rather stereotypical labcoat whose nametag says he's Dr. Duncan. "Bella Swan, right?"

Permalink Eye

"That's me!"

Permalink Eye

He smiles. "Good to meet you. Let's see, we're going to be in Lab E - just follow me."

They pass by a couple of different labs on their way to Lab E, including one with a treadmill on the ceiling. Lab E turns out to be a medium-sized room containing weights, a computer, and a more conventionally floorbound treadmill. It also contains a middle-aged gentleman in a tweed coat, who waves as they enter. "Hello! I'm Louis - I'm the psychic test."

Permalink Eye

"Okay. It's a pity I can't just submit my application for the subtle arts major here."

Permalink Eye

He nods. "They'd want to evaluate your level anyway, though. 'Subtle arts' is a nice name for it, 'psi' always sounds so businesslike. Ready for the test?"

Permalink Eye

"You didn't tell me what it is, is that part of the test?"

Permalink Eye

"Oh, I'm just going to poke your shields while you think of a number, then you're going to poke Darren's brain while I shield him and he thinks of a number. And we'll see if you can pull off a sampling of psychic knacks and talents while you're here."

Permalink Eye

"Okay." Deep breath. "Go ahead." Twelve point two.

Permalink Eye

It takes him a few seconds. "Twelve point two," he declares. "You have excellent shielding, I'm sure you'll be happy to hear - easily Psi-6, very few people would be able to get through that but me. Now we'll try some iterative shield-penetration on Dr. Duncan."

Permalink Eye

"I assume this would not be your job if you were not pretty comfy with it," she remarks to Dr. Duncan, "but when I signed up for a therapy major I took an oath to be scrupulous about consent and so on, so if you wouldn't mind confirming verbally..."

Permalink Eye

"Of course," he says. "I consent to have my surface thoughts read and prodded however Louis assigns you to do so."

Permalink Eye

"Cool. How shall I start?" she asks Louis.

Permalink Eye

"Just pull the number he's currently thinking," Louis says. "Then we'll repeat the test with me bolstering his defenses to various benchmark points."

Permalink Eye

"Alrighty." She peers at Dr. Duncan's brain, hand to her temple to politely signal that she's doing so in her local parlance.

Permalink Eye

42.

Permalink Eye

"Forty-two."

Permalink Eye

Louis gives Dr. Duncan an unimpressed look.

"She's from another universe, it's not like she's gonna cold-read me," Dr. Duncan argues.

Louis pinches the bridge of his nose. "Alright. Pop culture references aside - I'll put up a rudimentary shield. Should stop a baseline psychic, but any mutant above Psi-1 would have no trouble. Darren, think of an actually random number this time."

Permalink Eye

"- what is forty-two a reference to -" She starts attempting to read.

Permalink Eye

"A widely beloved science fiction novel posited it as the answer to 'life, the Universe, and everything'," Louis says absently. Darren is thinking of the number 153, but it's pretty fuzzy.

Permalink Eye

"Hundred and fifty three?"

Permalink Eye

Darren nods.

"Alright, one level up," Louis says.

When she goes to check, Dr. Duncan's mind appears to be encased in a shell of some kind. In the vaguely synesthetic sense of telepathy, it has NO ADMITTANCE written on the front.

Permalink Eye

"...no admittance?" she says. "Uh, I don't have any combat arts training except being able to knock people out, and that I don't know how to do through this. I can try randomly flailing but it will be a little like trying to beat down a door with a carrot."

Permalink Eye

"Well, try what you can," Louis says. "If you can't break through we'll just move on to manipulation."

Permalink Eye

"Okay." She sets about trying to beat down a door with a carrot.

Permalink Eye

It stands firm.

Louis eventually nods. "Well, the disparity between defense and offense is a bit odd, but oddity is to be expected from an interdimensional visitor. I'll take the shielding off, and we can start on the fun stuff."

Fun stuff includes: "zapping" Dr. Duncan's brain so that he loses his train of thought, causing him to see a vase of flowers floating in midair, temporarily preventing him from saying the phrase "I am an elephant," causing sudden inexplicable feelings of fear/happiness/irritation, and making him raise his left hand above his head.

Permalink Eye

"Um, a lot of this stuff is stuff I could do but would normally not do without someone around to fix it if I screwed up in some unfortunate way, are you pretty confident you can handle all of that?" she asks Louis. "Bearing in mind that my mistakes may be weird in some way compared to local psi mistakes."

Permalink Eye

"Very confident," Louis says. "Reversing a sudden change to someone's mind is easy, especially when I've been paying attention throughout the process."

Permalink Eye

"Okay then. Some of this would be easier if I'd thought to bring my textbook but if you're playing safety net I should be able to work it out from first principles." She wants verbal consent from Dr. Duncan again, and then she can... do everything on the list just like that.

"I can't keep doing this all day," she mentions. "If you need to know what I can do when I'm at full capacity and there's a lot more to come, I might have to come back later."

Permalink Eye

"We're actually pretty much done," Louis says. "Do you have any specific capabilities this test hasn't gone over that you'd like tested?"

Permalink Eye

"I mentioned I can knock people out. I can do a coffee-like thing. I was using arts for translation till I got this spell done. I have minor teekay I might train up. I can lucid dream? Uh, separately I have some arcane magic, I don't know if that counts as part of the same test."

Permalink Eye

"Knocking people out from a standing start is actually quite high-power by our standards, usually you'd see that as a psychic knack rather than a principled technique. Coffee-thing isn't something I've heard of but I wouldn't be shocked if it's out there, it sounds handy. Psychic translation is a thing, telekinesis is a separate test, lucid dreaming is not considered a superpower, and arcane magic is another separate test."

Permalink Eye

"Okay. Do you want me to knock out Dr. Duncan as a demo? He'll wake up with a headache but I can fix that. I don't know if you need to see it to rate it."

Permalink Eye

"Yes, let's see that," Louis says thoughtfully.

Dr. Duncan preemptively sits on the floor.

Permalink Eye

"If you could just again confirm..."

And when Dr. Duncan has just again confirmed he is unconscious!

Permalink Eye

"Good, good," Louis says. "Can you also wake him up again, or should that fall to me?"

Permalink Eye

"I'm not as reliable at that but I can usually -" Yup, there he is. She fixes the headache too.

Permalink Eye

"Excellent!" Dr. Duncan says, clambering back to his feet.

Louis claps his hands together. "Alright. Ordinarily, ranking is easy, because defense, oppositional power, and versatility scale together in psis from our world, but obviously in your world they don't. Offensively you've got some punch but no penetrative power, defensively you're a fortress, and utility-wise you're more versatile than anyone I've seen since Sahar - she was a student a few years back whose knack was the ability to appropriate and use the knacks of others. If it was accepted practice I'd recommend a split rating, but it isn't, so I'm going to recommend a rating of Psi-3 with a knack for high-level shielding." Darren nods and marks something on his clipboard. "Any questions?"

Permalink Eye

"What are the material consequences of this rating?"

Permalink Eye

"Few and far between," Louis says. "It will be displayed on your official MID - the Mutant ID card, which before you ask does in fact get issued to nonmutants who attend Whateley - when you receive one. You can use it when explaining your powers to disambiguate them, though this particular rating will only serve to ambiguate them further because it's hacky and weird. I honestly can't think of any other implications of the rating."

"If you get a high rating you can brag about it," Darren mentions.

Permalink Eye

"Okay. I think that's my only question."

Permalink Eye

"Good to meet you, then." Louis vanishes as if he were never there, which, technically speaking, is true.

Darren checks his clipboard. "Alright! Are you ready for the mental test?"

Permalink Eye

"Sure! Probably! What does that involve?"

Permalink Eye

"You sit at this desk, and- oh, okay, you get the printed version. You sit at this desk, then. It's just like any other test, there's a multiple choice part and an oral part and there's sections on math and grammar and science and such."

Permalink Eye

"Can do."

She does.

Permalink Eye

The test is fairly long. There are sections on memorization (increasing strings of numbers, skimming and immediately reciting paragraphs or pages of text), spatial reasoning in up to eight dimensions, and an absolutely brutal strategy game like a cross between Go, 3D chess, and the Game of Mao. There are also, as Dr. Duncan mentioned, straight math and grammar and science sections. She probably doesn't know enough science to recognize how bizarre the science section gets toward the end.

Permalink Eye

She answers the science questions like this universe is a cross between Golden Ballistic Angel and Super Aluminum Moonbase Alliance modulo things she has noticed blatantly contradicting those media.

Permalink Eye

Dr. Duncan runs the test through a machine and takes a look at the results. "Alright, not an Exemplar but you are in the upper percentiles for baseline IQ, and the science results are, uh, as expected. Want to move on to the physical, or take a break?"

Permalink Eye

"Can I look at the science answer key if I take a break?"

Permalink Eye

"Sure, I'll get it to print one out. It won't have explanations for the answers, though."

He moves over to the grading machine and prints a few sheets of paper, which he hands to Bella.

Permalink Eye

She skims it. Snorts occasionally. "Okay, next test. I am wearing magical boots of dexterity because if I don't I fall down when walking sedately on level surfaces, I don't know if you need me to take them off but I don't have other shoes."

Permalink Eye

"You can keep them on, we'll just record that you're using an assistive device."

There are tests of speed, deadlift capability, endurance, et cetera. Breaks are at regular intervals, including drinks and snacks.

One of the later tests appears to be another test of speed. She is placed on a treadmill and set to go at a certain rate.

Abruptly, out of the console pops a boxing glove on a spring, moving faster than aerodynamics should allow it to.

Permalink Eye

"Augh!" She has no particular reflexes suited for this and the boots don't help that much, down she goes.

Permalink Eye

The treadmill and floor are both padded, almost as if this were the expected reaction.

Dr. Duncan is over immediately to help her back up. "Sorry about that, it's a standard test for reflexive powers and danger sense. You alright?"

Permalink Eye

"I'm fine but I could have told you I didn't have those!"

Permalink Eye

"A lot of the kids who come through don't know about some of the stuff they can do, is why it's on the test. ...probably could have skipped it for you in particular, though. Given you're not a mutant and you already know the scope of what you can do. Sorry." He ducks his head apologetically.

Permalink Eye

"Apology accepted." She smooths out her shirt and gets up.

Permalink Eye

"Anyway, that's the physical done with. Now we're just testing your magic and telekinesis and then we're done. Telekinesis first; let me get the TK weights. What kind of weight can you lift, ballpark?"

Permalink Eye

"Less than two pounds. Less than one if you need it flying through the air, I can drag slightly heavier things along a surface. I have decent fine manipulation if I'm concentrating hard enough though."

Permalink Eye

"Ah, alright, that's TK-1a. We'll just verify that and move on, then."

He verifies this with a small array of weights between 0.5 and five pounds, then moves on to categorizing her magic. "This obviously isn't going to translate into a conventional WIZ rating, since you're not using our kind of magic, so I'll just be asking you a few questions about your level of ability with your own system. Do you have any special advantages or intuition for your magic?"

Permalink Eye

"Nope, pretty run of the mill."

Permalink Eye

"How many years have you been trained in your magic?"

Permalink Eye

"Two and a half."

Permalink Eye

"Alright, so you're a Wiz-0 by the system. Of course, that's no indicator of actual power or potential, Circe is officially a Wiz-0 - she's the immortal demigoddess in charge of the magic department - but it's what we've got."

Permalink Eye

"Is training time relevant to the rating?"

Permalink Eye

He makes a so-so hand gesture. "Not really? That's why I say Circe's officially a Wiz-0, if we counted training time I think she'd be a Wiz-5 easy. But all the Mystic Arts people claim there's no reason to count that kind of thing. For this situation specifically I think if you had like ten years of training under your belt I'd be tempted to put you at a 1 or 2, because you'd have kind of an advantage despite not being inherently talented."

Permalink Eye

"Ah. Nah, I just have high school stuff and one semester of Arcane Defense."

Permalink Eye

"Hence Wiz-0. So the overall spread is... Psi-3 with shielding knack, TK-1a, Wiz-0... we need a name for your kind of magic - 'arcane?' You mentioned it being arcane as opposed to divine magic, I think?"

Permalink Eye

"Yup. I do not have the necessary disposition for divine magic. I guess if I crack immortality I'd get around to inventing secular druidism."

Permalink Eye

"Alright, so Psi-3, Tk-1a, Wiz-0 arcane. If you want to be immortal maybe you should ask Circe, she managed somehow. Hasn't shared with anybody to my knowledge, but she presumably won't bite if you ask."

Permalink Eye

"Oh, I was imagining just applying science to arcana until omnipotence fell out but if that looks like it'll take a long time I'll definitely look into other options."

Permalink Eye

“Sounds like a plan,” Dr. Duncan says. 

Permalink Eye

"I think so too! What should I know about what classes this qualifies me for and where do I get my ID?"

Permalink Eye

“You’re going to have to be tutored for basic background knowledge in history and science, for obvious reasons, so you’re not going to be able to select anything in those departments this semester. You’re covered on your math requirements, so math classes aren’t going to be suggested automatically, but if you want to take statistics or something, the option is open. As far as powers go, you seem basically compatible with our psi, at least enough so that you could get something out of the psychic track; I'd recommend starting with Intro to Psychic Disciplines so you can get a feel for how the two systems differ. Other than that, go wild. And you'll get your MID in November, you have to have an interview with a government agent about what goes on it."

Permalink Eye

"Okay. How do I set up tutoring?"

Permalink Eye

"It'll be set up for you; you just determine when in the day you want it."

Permalink Eye

"Okay, but then who do I tell when I'm free?"

Permalink Eye

"You'll set it up when you register for classes. It's all handled by the registration system."

Permalink Eye

"Okay. Is this student tutoring or a faculty member?"

Permalink Eye

"Faculty. Student tutoring is for students who're having trouble passing a class, not students who need an entire ambient knowledge base imparted in one semester."

Permalink Eye

"A reasonable policy! Does it come up a lot?"

Permalink Eye

"Occasionally! We get students from all sorts of backgrounds, and some of those backgrounds are 'no formal education whatsoever'. You're notable for simultaneously falling into that category and the 'already graduated high school' category, depending on the subject. Usually you just get one or the other."

Permalink Eye

"Well, I will do my best to catch up."

Permalink Eye

"I'm sure you'll do admirably! You're very intelligent, the test says so."

Permalink Eye

"Well, you have to be at least moderately bright to get into arcana classes."

Permalink Eye

"Makes a certain amount of sense. Mystic Arts folks say you have to be self-possessed and forceful, for our system."

Permalink Eye

"Huh. Well, I don't expect to have time to try it for a while yet."

Permalink Eye

He blinks. "Not going to take Intro to Mystic Concepts this semester?"

Permalink Eye

"Do they teach you to actually do magic in that class?"

Permalink Eye

He makes a so-so gesture with his hand. "A bit. Mostly you just learn theory, but by the end of the semester they do teach you a couple of simple spells."

Permalink Eye

"Huh, okay. I guess I'll see then."

Permalink Eye

He nods. "Anyway, that's all the testing - ordinarily I'd grill you on your world's magic, but I hear we're getting copies of some textbooks on it, so I don't have to. So you're free to go if you don't have any other questions."

Permalink Eye

"Do you know concretely how I go about that, by the way - it'll involve sending my parents a message and getting them to buy the books and then collecting the books and then compensating them safely probably with some local fiction -"

Permalink Eye

"I imagine Mrs. Carson will send you a note when she's got a specialist who can send the message, and you'll hash out with her what the note should say about when the books should be gathered by and all that. If you want to confirm that you can always drop by Schuster Hall."

Permalink Eye

"Waiting for a note works for me."

Permalink Eye

"Fair enough. Mrs. Carson's good about that kind of thing."

Permalink Eye

"Thanks for everything. I'll go sign up for classes, shall I?"

Permalink Eye

"Sounds good!" Dr. Duncan waves goodbye.

Permalink Eye

And she goes to the person who was going to help her sign up for classes.

Permalink Eye

Ms. Dennon is ready and willing to assist!

Required classes for Bella's first semester are Powers Theory (Powers Lab is, unusually, not automatically highlighted), History Tutoring, Science Tutoring, Word Processing and Technological Literacy, and Basic Martial Arts.

Recommended classes include Introduction to Psychic Disciplines, Introduction to Mystic Arts, Home Economics, World Literature, and Statistics 101.

Permalink Eye

"Remind me how much course load is recommended?"

Permalink Eye

"There's eight class periods in the day, but some classes have a Saturday morning option instead."

Permalink Eye

"- oh, right, this isn't actually a university. Okay." She puts Psychic Disciplines and Intro Mystic Arts and the literature course on the heap.

Permalink Eye

"No, it really isn't. Winter session is structured a little more loosely, where you choose up to four 'special topics' classes, but that's winter session. Anyway, that's all unless you want a Saturday class, but I imagine you'll have plenty on your plate either way."

Permalink Eye

"Not my first semester. I imagine I'll want to spend a lot of time on self-study about stuff from home once my books come in - I can probably make some progress even without - and I don't know how the workload here compares to what I'm used to yet and if I do get bored I can always read things."

Permalink Eye

Ms. Dennon nods. "If you end up thinking it's too much with a full courseload, you can always register that self-study officially and have a free period in your day for it. But if it all fits together, this seems like a very respectable schedule."

Permalink Eye

"I do like to be busy! But I can't spend all that long experimenting with arcana, I'll hit mana limits."

Permalink Eye

"Ah, resource limitations. That's why I never got into our kind of magic, it always seemed like a bit too much management for me."

Permalink Eye

"They have mana limits too? I guess that bodes poorly for science fixing it readily."

Permalink Eye

"Not mana but essence - as far as I can tell you sort of accumulate essence over time, and you can save away as much as you like but if you want to do magic you're using a bit of it every time."

Permalink Eye

"Huh, okay. I have a capacity limit but it can improve with practice."

Permalink Eye

"Well, it sounds like you'll be practicing plenty!"

Permalink Eye

"Anyway, thanks for registering me - do I get my booklist now -?"

Permalink Eye

"Yeah, it's on the site. ...and I can print it for you, let me do that." She presses a couple of buttons and a piece of paper emerges from a device next to her. "You can buy or rent the books from the bookstore, or if you don't they'll have copies to hand out on the first day."

Permalink Eye

"I think my stipend will more than cover it, but it's nice that they have handouts."

Permalink Eye

"Definitely! We have plenty of students without money to spare, so we make allowances as much as we can."

Permalink Eye

Bella smiles at her and trots off to the store to collect her books and gi and anything else that looks like she might need it.

Permalink Eye

The Mystic Arts syllabus recommends she purchase a quartz crystal, as crystals provided by the school are synthetic and therefore mystically inferior. There is, conveniently, a display of quartz crystals for this exact purpose.

Permalink Eye

It's so convenient. She likes this store. She gets the nicest-looking quartz.

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There's a couple different bins of quartzes of various grades; the very nicest is a lovely piece of rutilated amethyst, which costs noticeably but not bank-breakingly more than a simple chunk of rock crystal. There are helpful signs indicating the differences between the various types of crystal (this one helps with clear thought, apparently), and clarifying specifically that any of these stones will be acceptable for Intro to Mystic Arts.

Her books, gi, and quartz are rung up and she's free to go.

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It's not quite lunch time yet so she goes to the library and reads a bit until it is lunch time yet.

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Once it is lunch time, there is as usual something of a rush on the Crystal Hall.

Despite this, Morty is seated by himself, looking introspective.

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Bella loads up her tray with weirdly good cafeteria food, mostly a generous quantity of frittata and some spaghetti squash, and goes and plops down next to him. "Hey."

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"Oh! Hi."

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"How's your curse?"

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"Um, supposedly removed? I don't... feel any different? But, like, Circe said it's gone, and Circe is scary enough that I trust what she says, I guess."

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"Scariness is trustworthy?"

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"When it comes to magic, kind of? Like, I'm not scared of Arjun, I just know he's good at what he does. But Circe's super old and powerful and she kind of has this air of- not scariness per se, just 'I saw the civilizations that birthed your ancestors rise and fall, and I'm still going to be alive centuries after you die, and I'm allowing you to talk to me'? I guess I'm kind of conflating the scary part of that with the respectable part of it."

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"Huh. She sounds - yeah, scary."

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"I'm told it goes away when you get to know her. Which I do not plan on doing."

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"Makes sense. Were you expecting your curse disappearing to feel like something?"

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"I mean, sort of? Maybe a weight lifting off of my shoulders, a veil falling from my eyes. Some kind of object changing its position relative to my body, probably vertically. Instead I got Arjun waving his hands at me for fifteen minutes with a very intense Greek woman standing by in case he waved his hands wrong, then both of them nodding decisively and sending me on my way. It was like getting an MRI, or something. That's a kind of medical scan, you lie down inside a big machine and it makes loud noises and then they have a picture of your brain. Anyway, supposedly my inventions will stop exploding now, except the workshop's not open until school starts back up, so I can't even verify that. It just feels weird."

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"Huh. Well, what do you suppose you'll invent now?"

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"...probably a laser gun? I could start with something more, uh, useful, but I've never been able to make a working gun, not once, and they're supposed to be so easy to make. And apparently it's really satisfying to shoot things."

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"Things like... what? Is there a target range around?"

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"Oh, yeah, of course. I'm not gonna go out and- hunt rabbits with a laser gun, or something, that'd be crazy. And mean. The firing range is a thing."

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"Why is hunting rabbits mean, are lasers a very bad way to die?"

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"Not really. I just don't like the idea of killing things. And, like, I know that's hypocritical when I eat meat and stuff, but - rabbits are cute? Also there aren't any on campus, I don't think."

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"Huh. Okay."

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"Most people don't like killing things, way more people than you'd think looking at the stats on vegetarianism or whatever. -I know I'm kind of harping on vegetarianism but it is genuinely kind of weird that we're so willing to let animals die for our food when we wouldn't kill animals in person and it'd be really easy to go vegetarian, but like, chicken is delicious and vat meat is expensive and I guess I don't care that much about being a good person when there's an actual cost to me. Like I said, it's weird to think about."

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"I would kill a rabbit if I were hungry and rabbit was handy. What's vat meat?"

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"Vat meat is - meat without involving an animal, basically, you make chicken or beef out of a vat of proteins instead of a bird or a cow. It's more ethically consistent than meat you have to kill things for, but we can't make it without Devisors or Gadgeteers yet, so it's way more expensive than real meat. It's mostly a thing in California, I think, they're really big on caring about their ethics."

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"Gosh. What exactly is the difference between Devisors and Gadgeteers anyway?"

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"Gadgeteers follow the laws of physics. Like, if a Gadgeteer makes something, then theoretically somebody else could've made it, the Gadgeteer just did it faster and better and without needing to look up the science behind it or waiting a hundred years until science got to that point. Devisors, on the other hand, don't have to follow the laws of physics, we just have to be internally consistent. Powers Theory folks say it's a kind of Warper ability, that we believe in something so hard that we create pockets of unreality where the things we make can actually work. Like, the stuff I make out of cardboard - cardboard is just a kind of paper, really, but I've got this intuition in my head saying that it can do pretty much anything if I just give it a chance, and what do you know, it does. Historically most of what it does is explode, but. Anyway, most Devisors aren't as obvious as I am about it, they do things that seem to make sense unless you actually know something about the field they're working in."

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"That sounds confusing, but it's all going to look like a mess of crazy technology to me for a while..."

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"Yeah, probably. I apologize on behalf of Devisors everywhere for making it even more fucked up."

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"That's okay."

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"Anyway. What were we even talking about... vat meat, killing things, laser gun, inventions. Yeah. I've got a ton of stuff I want to make, but I'm gonna make the gun first so I can be sure it's not all just gonna blow up."

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"Well, good luck."

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"Thanks! I'm kind of hoping it isn't a matter of luck, though. Luck having historically been kind of not my thing."

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"You're meant to have a normal allotment now though, right?"

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"Supposedly! It's a weird thought."

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"Takes some getting used to?"

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"Yeah. Maybe I'll get used to it when good things start happening to me. Well, I'm open to the possibility."

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She giggles. "What classes are you taking?"

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"Uh... English, French, math, history, Devisor workshop, AP physics, and patent law 101."

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"What does AP mean?"

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"Advanced Placement - it's college level difficulty and when I go to college it'll count as preexisting credits. If I go to college. There's some college-level courses without AP in the name, but it's always stated somewhere."

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"This place is a weird hybrid of high school and college. I guess maybe it's more like other high schools here."

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"Nah, it is in fact a weird hybrid of high school and college. Other schools have AP classes, but usually only a few, and no other college-level courses. Hell, some of the higher sciences are graduate-level. Typically they're reserved for Exemplars or Gadgeteers, though. I'm going to see if I can get into a couple of them, though. The more I know about the laws of physics, the more efficiently I can break them."

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"Having laws of physics is a luxury you should appreciate!"

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"Oh, for sure. I will break them very politely. But if the universe didn't want me making some waves, it shouldn't have given me this power."

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"I guess that might or might not be a valid inference here, I don't know!"

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"Fortunately, we don't have much evidence that the universe is even sentient. So I feel pretty good about my chances."

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"That's fortunate."

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Morty will focus on his portion of fried rice until either he is interrupted or the rice is gone.

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When Bella's done with her food she goes outside and finds a nice place to sit and practice teekay.