Mar 18, 2019 7:35 PM
A Margaret in Fabulous
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Very little is more important than school, but this algebra test means nothing next to the sight of her body against a starry background.

She’s been aware for years that her body is wrong, skin and meat and juices and Incorrectness, but none of the makeup ads and style magazines had understood the reason why or what she wanted to do about it. The dream state almost gets it.

Would she like to recolor her hair? Sharpen her cheekbones? Grow wings? A unicorn horn? Claws, fangs, crystals, purple eyes, pointed ears, platinum teeth?

So many options, so much freedom, but the first thing to do is obvious. She has to get rid of her skin. Pores and hair and sweat glands melt away, replaced by blue metal scales as shiny as a just-washed car. And as the metal spreads, power accumulates.

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That's enough all by itself. She's got magic. Not much, because she didn't color coordinate her outfit with her scales when she got dressed this morning, but enough. Which means no going back now, but who wants that?

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Not her! This is awesome. And she looks awesome, or she will anyway, once she gets out of these ratty jeans and into something pretty. What goes with royal blue . . .

Math test. Arrgh. She needs to stop admiring herself and deploring the state of her pants and get back to the classroom.

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One of her classmates is distracted by her change and is staring at her.

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That's a pretty reasonable response! Margaret smiles sheepishly (smiling with metal lips feels different!) and tries to get back to test-taking.

Between the time she spent in the starscape and the time she spends staring at her hands and tapping her fingers together to hear the soft clicking noise they make, there's no way on Earth she's passing this test. 

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The teacher has also noticed the scales, and says, "The guidance counselor probably has a pamphlet about this," when she collects Margaret's test.

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"Oh, thanks, good idea." She thinks about apologizing for not using her time well, but has to move out of the way for the kid behind her to hand their test in and then it's too late.

Next class is English, which Margaret spends doodling dress shapes. Fortunately this looks pretty similar to taking notes from where the teacher is standing, and she's with it enough to provide the occasional comment on The Tempest when called upon. And then school is over and she skips chess club to visit the guidance counselor.

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The guidance counselor blinks at the scales. "Congratulations," he says. "What can I do for you - uh - I do know most of the students' names but the scales are throwing me, here -"

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That gets a giggle. "It's fine, I probably wouldn't recognize myself in a mirror right now! Uh, Mrs. Hicks said you might have pamphlets? Or, like, advice on what I should be thinking about next?" She tries to fidget with her hair, remembers she doesn't have any, and goes back to fidgeting with her fingers.

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"I do have pamphlets somewhere. Who are you please -?" He rummages for literature.

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"Oh right. Margaret Perry. Sorry."

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"Margaret! All right, congratulations, Margaret. Here you are -" He hands her a glossy pamphlet. So You Could Be A Magical Girl! it reads. "I don't have anything specific for people who've already taken the plunge - I'm assuming the scales count -"

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"Yup, they count! I am definitely doing this. Pamphlet should still help though." She takes the pamphlet and opens it, keeping one eye on the counselor in case he has anything else to say first.

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He seems content to let her read the pamphlet. It has the following sections:

The Ins And Outs Of Starscape - mostly stuff she already knows and has obsoleted for herself anyway, like that she has a week to decide, longer if she changes something, and a little chart of examples of things that she could fix if she had them (acne!) and things she could not fix without some research or expert guidance (asthma!). It explains how to get usable magic beyond what the starscape itself starts out by offering you need to change things about your body - enough, but not too much; there's a little infographic with a frowning girl with blue hair and no other changes on on end of the spectrum, a smiling girl with solid black eyes and wings in the middle, and a frowning girl who has turned herself into an octo-mermaid with pebbled cuttlefish skin all over herself on the right.

Magical Romance - a "so you're gay" introduction aimed at people who may be weighing the decision to become thaumosexual, written by someone who was trying to be PC but wasn't really sure how to do that.

Powers And You - vague and not particularly helpful, since powers vary so much, but it has examples, and it gives basic tips on how to dress for success - no copying more than a partial element of someone else's outfit but getting advice is fine, pick a theme and wear your theme hard, wear a skirt, hair emergencies are real emergencies, if your magic lends itself to anything visible you can get more out of it than you put in by using it to boost your costume, using "second layer starscape" effects for Technically Makeup is nearly as good as using "first layer starscape" effects for Actual Skin Repigmentation, the difference being that you're more likely to have to fix your makeup if it smudges but it won't cause more psychological changes...

Further Reading - a list of website URLs with names like elementsofstyle.com and swarmwatch.com and pairwise.com and inskirts.com, which are respectively "costuming tips" and "a community for swarm-hunting magical girls" and "magical girl dating site" and "magical girl fan and networking forum".

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That infographic is cute but decidedly unhelpful when it comes to walking the tightrope between "more cool changes" and "should probably try not to die".

Magical Romance is uninteresting for the moment; she hadn't figured out which if any genders she was into before and it's kind of nice to have that nailed down now.

Powers And You will be more interesting once she's gotten some more magic and taken the time to figure out what it actually does.

Those websites look like an excellent next destination, especially Elements of Style and Swarmwatch, but she resolves not to look at the former until she's gotten as far as she can on her own ideas.

If the guidance counselor has no further input, Margaret will thank him for his help and start walking home.

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The counselor is happy to answer questions but if she doesn't have any he's got nothing to spontaneously volunteer besides more paper (scholarship applications for magical girls: apparently a thing).

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Sure, Margaret will take some scholarship applications on the way out. You can't not go to college, after all. Then home and into her bedroom for some uninterrupted designing time before her parents get home.

First off, how much more physical change is she willing to risk? Minor cosmetic changes should be no problem, so she lengthens her fingers and makes her face more symmetrical while thinking about the weirdest girls she's seen on TV.

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Weirdest TV-going girls include "Dryad", who's skirting pretty close to turning into a tree; Laurie Brown (no code name) who is a rainbow mermaid; and "Aquila", who's still got arms and hasn't traded her face for a beak but is otherwise going really hard on being a giant bird.

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None of those are her cup of tea, which is just as well given the plagiarism penalty, but they provide a good sense of where she'll have to stop. And it isn't yet. Next up, a tapetum lucidum. And slit pupils to go with it. And all this blue is a bit one-note, let's turn her irises and the scales where her fingernails used to be silver.

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She does not turn into a cryptid on the spot! Good for you, Margaret!

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There's just one more temptation she can't resist. Scaly dragon wings sprout from her shoulders, blue to match her skin at the base and shading to silver at the edges. Yes, she thinks as she stretches them, that feels just about right.

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She looks almost cool enough in spite of the clothes that she can detect little bits of magic trying to come in. She could probably cast a spell if she were naked-and-scaly instead of schlubby-and-scaly.

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Yeah, these clothes have got to go. The jeans and robotics club t-shirt Margaret is in were picked for being durable and free respectively and those are no longer concerns. Also she probably ripped the t-shirt putting the wings on. Anyway, now she's nude.

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Magic!

...It's not doing anything, but it would be if there were something for it to do!

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Well, that's not ideal, but magic!!! Surely it'll do something eventually. In the meantime, outfit!

She'll start with a white shirt that leaves her arms bare and stays on with a loop of cloth around her neck, the back scooped low to leave plenty of room for her wings. Then a matching skirt, ankle-length, as light as possible to make sure it billows and twirls.

Now to start adorning them. The skirt can be embroidered with hundreds of tiny blue gemstones, densest near the hem and swirling up like snow in the wind toward her waist. The shirt can be similarly bedazzled, with the stones densest at her throat and radiating out and down across her chest.

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Now she has two spells that aren't doing anything!

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