« Back
Generated: Jun 17, 2019 10:31 PM
Post last updated: Jun 17, 2019 10:31 PM
endless days
Kanimir and Jaromira in Fabulous
Permalink Eye

She is sitting in the library, studying. It's her most common pastime, by hours; spending time with her sister is more enjoyable but Jaromira prefers to socialize more broadly and Katarzyna would only get in the way. This is better on net; the two of them share a room, so it isn't as though her sister's time is entirely hogged by the other girls who call this boarding school "home." Or at least "prison." Katarzyna doesn't mind it, though; the school library is excellent, and basic manners and care for the books has endeared her to the librarian to a sufficient degree to lubricate the interlibrary loans process when there's something she wants to read that they don't have. 

Permalink Eye

 

A moment later she is not studying, because something much more interesting has come up. 

She has always wanted magic, does not understand those who are offered it and turn it down. She has not fantasized about it actively in many years--supposedly her great-grandmother's sister was a magical girl, and this is enough to fuel the imagination of a little girl who wants more than anything--but an older girl, who has learned to see the world more cynically, who comprehends statistics--an older girl has better areas to focus her attention on. 

Until now. 

She remembers, from her extensive childhood research, that wings are always enough. 

She is not choosy. She can be choosy later. For now--a set of generic feathered angel wings, pure white. 

Permalink Eye

There, that's out of the way! Now the magic can get started on judging her dress sense! It's not impressed so far.

Permalink Eye

Yes, well, her dress sense has been totally irrelevant so far in her life, not being a social sort anyway. 

She stands up from her carrel, spreading her wings. The librarian squawks. Katarzyna ignores her, striding towards the bathroom with its irritatingly inadequate but at least extant mirrors. 

Alright, the pants are the first to go. The shirt isn't great either. The dress she coveted as a little girl--a knee-length amber gown with short puffed sleeves, a square neckline, and bow in the back--is going to need to be improved upon, but is at least a better starting place than this. 

Permalink Eye

The dress is marginally better than what she was doing before, maybe, hard to tell.

Permalink Eye

She was wearing pants before. This does not bode well. 

She darkens her hair a shade and lightens the dress a few, then remembers that looking human isn't a good bet. The wings are enough, but that doesn't mean they're enough. She points her ears, and then--can she gather her hair into a high ponytail and then turn the ponytail part into heatless flame?

Permalink Eye

Nope, the ponytail part works, the flame part doesn't even sort of start to work.

Permalink Eye

She takes deep breaths. She is over the minimum, she has magic and no one can take that from her. She would rather not present herself to the general public without a halfway decent outfit but if it turns out she needs Jaromira to dictate her look then that's fine. It is much much more fine than accidentally encrypting herself in a panic. 

Okay. Calm. Magical girls need fanciness--for that matter, she doesn't love this color as much as she did when she was five. Let's start over. 

Hair back to its original color, dress red, hugging her upper torso perfectly but not embarrassingly. Long sleeves ending in pointed cuffs that sweep over the backs of her hands. Embroidery in--what color, fuck--gold--no--yes. Don't overthink it. You don't need a good outfit now, just one that isn't embarrassing. Gold embroidery at the neck and hems and cuffs. Topaz cabochons on the cuffs over the backs of her hands. A gold sash. 

Permalink Eye

That's much better. She could do some magic now. Well, she can't, but she could if there were something to do it to.

Permalink Eye

Okay. She snaps some selfies so she can get back to this if whatever she tries next doesn't work. 

...What does she actually think would look nice?

Seafoam, is the obvious answer, once she actually asks it of herself. Seafoam green, in--hm. Let's just start by palette-swapping the current dress. Seafoam green dress with dark blue embroidery and cabochons, and make her eyes the same shade of dark blue. Lighten all the blue a little so her eyes look less like black with a hint of color. 

...Lighten the blue some more, make the cabochons opals, and color her irises to look like blue opals too. 

Permalink Eye

That's an improvement!

Permalink Eye

This looks like something she wouldn't mind people seeing, at least. She's not going to get anything really impressive off her own sense of style; anything really interesting is going to need Jaromira's help. 

But she can thread silver in with the blue embroidery, and turn her hair silver, and make her feathers silver with a gyrfalcon pattern of crescent stripes on the primaries in opal blue. 

Permalink Eye

Yay! She could do somewhat more magic now if there were anything to do it to. ...Or is there?

Permalink Eye

Is there??? She tries to do something--anything--

Permalink Eye

She... exists!

Yup! She exists.

Permalink Eye

...Huh. Well. Perhaps it does something else under other circumstances. 

Still. 

She just did magic!!!

Time to go find Jaromira! Her sister has an actual sense of style, this is just the tip of the iceberg. 

She leaves the bathroom and then the library altogether. She will probably get reactions from people in the hallways who are not her sister, but she can just ignore those. 

Permalink Eye

People do look at her, but it's not like they've never seen a magical girl before. Only one guy tries to pet her wing.

Permalink Eye

Rude. She beats her wings warningly and hurries on. 

It doesn't take her long to find her sister. 

Permalink Eye

"Katarzyna! Oh my gosh!" Jaromira leaps up as soon as her sister enters the room. 

Permalink Eye

"I know!!! Come on, let's go somewhere a little more private, I need you to advise me, insofar as I have aesthetic sensibilities the magic seems most unimpressed with them, I suspect you'll do much better." 

Permalink Eye

"Sure," she agrees, giving the girls she was with a brief wave before linking arms with her sister and striding off. 

She had been hanging out in the dorm area anyway, so it doesn't take long to get back to their room. 

She inspects her sister's transformations so far. 

"Try a circlet," she suggests, "in titanium anodized the same blue, with a seafoam opal centerpiece."

Permalink Eye

She does. 

Permalink Eye

Magic approves! Yup, Katarzyna super exists!

Permalink Eye

"It works."

Permalink Eye

"Good. Now modify the circlet so the metal is in a filigree pattern that matches the embroidery on the dress."

Permalink Eye

That helps too!

Permalink Eye

"Yes!" 

Permalink Eye

"Good. Now...hm...you'll need to do something with that hair. Can you give yourself a thin crown braid for the circlet to rest on? And--hm. Make it look like your hair is gently wafting in some breeze?" 

Permalink Eye

She tries those things. 

Permalink Eye

The wafting thing does not work; she does not have wafting powers. The braid is easy and a little helpful.

Permalink Eye

She reports these results. 

Permalink Eye

"Okay, I know I've seen magical girls with crazy hair...can you make your hair unaffected by gravity?" 

Permalink Eye

She tries. 

Permalink Eye

She can make it thinner. She cannae break the laws of physics.

Permalink Eye

"The other magical girls you saw must have been doing something else, because no, I can't." 

Permalink Eye

"Damn. Okay. Try blue highlights."

Permalink Eye

Blue highlights are weakly positive.

Permalink Eye

"That I can do, but they don't help much." 

Permalink Eye

"Yeah...let's do something with your nails. Make them nice and regular and rounded, then--hm. Blue with silvery white opals, let's start out with." 

Permalink Eye

That's also positive, a little better than the hair highlighting.

Permalink Eye

"That's a little better." 

Permalink Eye

"You need more jewelry. Try a filigree necklace in silver, with a centerpiece of blue opal and smaller seafoam opals trailing up to your shoulders." 

Permalink Eye

That's good!

Permalink Eye

"Yes!" 

Permalink Eye

"Now earrings--those will have to contrast more against the silver hair to be visible, so let's go with seafoam-anodized titanium with blue opals."

Permalink Eye

The magic thinks that is yummy.

Permalink Eye

!!!

Permalink Eye

"Now we need to do shoes, you're still wearing your old ones. Let's start simple--kneehigh blue soft leather boots." 

Permalink Eye

Meh.

Permalink Eye

"Hm. Let's try something else--greek sandals with laces spiraling up to the knees? In silver."

Permalink Eye

Slightly better.

Permalink Eye

"Add blue and seafoam opals to the places where the laces cross on your feet." 

Permalink Eye

Ooooh.

Permalink Eye

"Do your toenails like you did your fingernails." 

Permalink Eye

That helps a bit more than doing the fingernails in the first place.

Permalink Eye

"The elf ears are a nice touch, in my opinion. Let's add cuffs that match the earrings going up to the very points." 

Permalink Eye

The magic likes that a little.

Permalink Eye

"Hm...what happens if we add smaller silver opals to the earrings and cuffs and circlet?" 

Permalink Eye

Helps a little bit.

Permalink Eye

"Okay, let's try rings--one on your left middle finger, one on your right ring finger, one on your right index finger, each one matching one of circlet, earrings, and necklace." 

Permalink Eye

Meh.

Permalink Eye

"Hmm. Let's try subsets of the rings." 

Permalink Eye

Any one of those alone is a bit better than all; the one matching the necklace is best.

Permalink Eye

"Hmm. Dress details--how do wide flowy sleeves with embroidery along the hems compare to what you have now?"

Permalink Eye

That's a weak improvement.

Permalink Eye

"Alright, let's try adding bracelets--let's start with a set of bangles on each wrist, three of them, one in each color." 

Permalink Eye

That's good.

Permalink Eye

"Okay, now let's add tiny diamonds to the bangles--white on green, green on blue, blue on silver on the left wrist, then the other way around on the right wrist." 

Permalink Eye

That's even better! Katarzyna is definitely magic! She can tell!

Permalink Eye

Eeeeeeeee! 

Can she tell how many spells she has? 

Permalink Eye

The answer is that she does not have spells, hers is the freeform kind!

Permalink Eye

Huh. Neat. 

Permalink Eye

"Hmm. Let's try making the bodice a bit looser and then adding one of these," she says, gesturing at a picture she's pulled up on her phone, "but in silver for the metal and blue opals for the stones. And we'll probably want to alter it a bit more to avoid the plagiarism thing--let's turn the ropes into filigree like the necklace and tiara and so on, and the centerpiece...how about an eight-pointed star."

Permalink Eye

That's a good addition.

Permalink Eye

"Hm...let's add another set of crossed filigrees over the hips, but without the centerpiece." 

Permalink Eye

That's neutral.

Permalink Eye

"Add the centerpiece?" 

Permalink Eye

Negative.

Permalink Eye

"Okay, let's try replacing the crossed filigrees altogether with a filigree belt-slash-sash."

Permalink Eye

Belt is slightly less good than chest-only crisscross.

Permalink Eye

"Okay, lose the belt. Hm...makeup, let's do makeup. Try lipstick in each of the three colors?" 

Permalink Eye

Silver lipstick is weakly good, the others are bad.

Permalink Eye

"Eyeliner in each of the three colors?" 

Permalink Eye

Eyeliner is also best in silver.

Permalink Eye

"Ooh, that really does make your eyes pop. Okay, let's try adding eyeshadow in green and blue, see if either of those helps." 

Permalink Eye

Either helps, a gradient between them helps more.

Permalink Eye

"Oh, nice. Okay, let's try adding diamonds at the corners of your eyes, start with white."

Permalink Eye

Also good.

Permalink Eye

"Now, the lipstick...we've been running pretty hard with the three-color thing, but you might want to try a few shades of red lipstick, just in case." 

Permalink Eye

Red is worse.

Permalink Eye

"Okay, good to know. Are you okay with trying facial piercings?"

Permalink Eye

"Yeah." 

Permalink Eye

"Okay, try white diamond snakebites."

Permalink Eye

A little better.

Permalink Eye

"Nose stud?"

Permalink Eye

One is good, two is not.

Permalink Eye

"Okay...hm. Silver freckles?"

Permalink Eye

Good! To a point. Diminishing returns hit quick.

Permalink Eye

"Eyebrow piercings?"

Permalink Eye

Worse.

Permalink Eye

"Dermal piercings in the middle of each cheek?"

Permalink Eye

Even worse!

Permalink Eye

Hmm. Alright. What if--

Permalink Eye

They are interrupted by a knock on the door. 

Permalink Eye

"Yes?" Jaromira asks, opening it.

Permalink Eye

There is a math teacher on the other side. "Hello. Can I speak to your roommate, please?" 

Permalink Eye

She gives him an assessing look, then steps aside. 

Permalink Eye

"Yes, hello, what do you want." 

Permalink Eye

"Hi! Word's been spreading about, uh," he gestures vaguely at her wings. "Congratulations, by the way!" 

Permalink Eye

"Thank you, I suppose."

Permalink Eye

"...Anyway. There isn't a magical girl club here, we're too small, but if you'd like to join the one at the public school in town, we can arrange transport!" 

Permalink Eye

She considers it for a time, staring at him until his smile grows slightly strained, before saying, "I accept." 

Permalink Eye

"Wonderful! Now, remember you'll be representing St. Lucia Academy, so--I understand that you've had some difficulty socializing in the past, and of course this is completely normal for a girl your age, but with your new gifts we feel it would be more appropriate if you were to put in more of an effort in that area." 

Permalink Eye

 

 

"Inform me when to arrive where for transport. You are aware of my school email."

Permalink Eye

"Well, yes, but--"

Permalink Eye

"Have you any other specific information you wish to convey?" 

Permalink Eye

"Well, not as such--"

Permalink Eye

"Then, with all due respect, I would appreciate it if you would cease to interrupt my attempts to tweak my appearance to garner more magic." 

Permalink Eye

His jaw works for a moment before he turns and leaves. 

Permalink Eye

She sighs and falls over backwards onto her bed. 

"Where were we?" 

Permalink Eye

 

"Uh, try adding some curl to the very end of your hair?" 

Permalink Eye

She does so. 

Permalink Eye

Neutral.

Permalink Eye

"Hmm. Extra length?" 

Permalink Eye

That's a little better.

Permalink Eye

"Thicker hair?" 

Permalink Eye

Also a little better.

Permalink Eye

"Hmm. Softer hair?"

Permalink Eye

Doesn't do anything. Does feel real soft though.

Permalink Eye

"Hmm. Try a tattoo of some kind between the wings." 

Permalink Eye

She goes for an abstract swirly silver-green-blue pattern. 

Permalink Eye

It's okay, not great.

Permalink Eye

She extends it a bit onto her shoulders and out below the wings, swooping out where they can.

Permalink Eye

That's better.

Permalink Eye

Hmm. 

She changes it from abstract swirls to twining vines, each vine having flowers of the other two colors.

Permalink Eye

That is not as good.

Permalink Eye

She changes it back. 

"I think I've got all the low-hanging fruit on that tattoo," she reports. 

Permalink Eye

"Okay. let's try...blue fingerless gloves with silver embroidery and green opals set on the backs."

Permalink Eye

The magic likes them, though not all that much.

Permalink Eye

"Add tiny green diamonds to the silver embroidery?" 

Permalink Eye

Barely an improvement.

Permalink Eye

"Add diamonds to the embroidery on your dress?" 

Permalink Eye

That helps a little more.

Permalink Eye

"Let's try some different styles of skirt..." 

Permalink Eye

Apparently in this situation the magic prefers a handkerchief hem.

Permalink Eye

"Nice. Okay, try reducing your sleeves to three-quarter length."

Permalink Eye

This is good, but only a little.

Permalink Eye

"Let's add another layer of embroidery to your miscellaneous edges."

Permalink Eye

This is good.

Permalink Eye

"Let's see how many layers we can add before it stops helping." 

Permalink Eye

Three.

Permalink Eye

"Alright...what happens if you thread your hair with strings of blue and green pearls?" 

Permalink Eye

The magic is meh on this.

Permalink Eye

"Hmm. Try doing this," she pulls up another image, "with the hair that isn't in the crown braid." 

Permalink Eye

The magic isn't super into that.

Permalink Eye

She pulls up another image. "Try this." 

Permalink Eye

It likes that better.

Permalink Eye

Another: "This?" 

Permalink Eye

It likes that even more!

Permalink Eye

"Try threading blue and green ribbons through it?" 

Permalink Eye

These are okay, not great.

Permalink Eye

"Lace instead of ribbons?" 

Permalink Eye

Worse.

Permalink Eye

"Embroidery thread?"

Permalink Eye

That's better than ribbons, barely.

Permalink Eye

"Strings of crystals?" 

Permalink Eye

That's another step up, by more than ribbons to thread was.

Permalink Eye

"Strings of alternating diamonds and opals?"

Permalink Eye

That's a small boost.

Permalink Eye

"Okay, that's everything I can think of off the top of my head for hair...silver mascara?"

Permalink Eye

Worse, just a little.

Permalink Eye

"Huh. Non-silver mascara with glitter?"

Permalink Eye

Also just a little worse.

Permalink Eye

"Completely normal mascara?"

Permalink Eye

Very faint plus.

Permalink Eye

"Curlier eyelashes?"

Permalink Eye

Hits diminishing returns real fast but in modest amounts, slightly good.

Permalink Eye

"Try adding some opal seafoam to the wings like you did with the opal blue."

Permalink Eye

This is fine, not a big deal either way.

Permalink Eye

"Hmm..." she turns around and googles some stuff. "Okay, try restructuring the wings to be shaped more like this than this."

Permalink Eye

The magic is indifferent to wing structure in this range.

Permalink Eye

"Yes, but it will probably be better for flying. Try extending the crescent pattern up from the primaries to the whole wing."

Permalink Eye

The magic likes that a little.

Permalink Eye

"Try coiling silver helix bracelets over your sleeves on the biceps."

Permalink Eye

It likes that a little more.

Permalink Eye

"Now add opals and diamonds."

Permalink Eye

That is better.

Permalink Eye

"Magic really likes its glitter, doesn't it. Try adding a beaded fringe to the hem of the skirt."

Permalink Eye

It likes that but not very much.

Permalink Eye

"I think at this point we're micromanaging enough that you'll get much better returns from getting opinions from someone who isn't me." 

Permalink Eye

"Alright. The magical girl club should be useful for that." 

She opens her laptop to see if the teacher has emailed her about when it is. He has; the next meeting is tomorrow, and a different teacher is going to drive her after class. 

Permalink Eye

Jaromira leaves to manage the gossip mill's interpretation of recent events. 

Permalink Eye

Katarzyna stays. Going back to the library would involve more interacting with people than she wants to do right now; the internet is an acceptable source of information, and, when it comes to magical girl stuff, much better than the library. 

She waits patiently until the end of classes the next day. 

Permalink Eye

The big public school is in Phoenix, and its magical girl club has seven members not counting Katarzyna:

- Mercedes, the club president, who introduces herself and everyone else, and has green dragon wings and a dragon tail and horns and wears a lot of gold silk;

- Natalie, approximately a naga, probably culturally appropriating the Roma or at least the pop culture conception thereof with that outfit, jingles when she slithers;

- Alexis, with rabbit ears and a cotton tail, leaning unnecessarily on sex appeal for costume interest but also themed around lavender (plant, not color);

- Faith, who is three feet two inches tall and going for a vaguely period effect with her clothes in homespun-ecru and shades of brown;

- Isabella, with pointy swift wings and nothing else, drapey dress over a clingy underlayer in dark red and dark blue festooned with a motif of circles with circle cutouts;

- Gabrielle, yellow ballgown and sunset-colored wings;

- Brooklyn, managing pants with enough layers and embroidery and rose-themed accessories accenting the black and gold base color scheme that it must take her an hour to get it all right every time she needs to redo it, black bat wings with gold tats of roses.

Permalink Eye

These are magical girls and therefore she has nonzero desire to make a good first impression. 

"My name is Katarzyna Kozlov--I apologize if that's hard to pronounce, my parents are from Poland. It's lovely to meet you all." 

Permalink Eye

"Nice to meet you too," says Mercedes.

"Can we call you Kat or something?" asks Natalie.

Permalink Eye

"Is Zyna acceptable? I share classes with a Kat, it would be confusing."

Permalink Eye

"Zyna it is!" says Natalie.

"What are your powers?" asks Isabella.

Permalink Eye

"It appears to be some sort of--magic perception. Initially all I could sense was that I, myself, existed, but I can sense all of you, as well." 

Permalink Eye

"I have that, I call it my libido," hoots Alexis.

"Huh," says Isabella, ignoring Alexis. "- can I try something with that?"

Permalink Eye

To Isabella: "Certainly."

To Alexis: "I believe that your libido draws your attention to the fact that you know we are present, rather than informing you if you had not previously known and/or introducing a new avenue to this perception. If I am wrong, please inform me."

Permalink Eye

Isabella does something. Now she is unsenseable.

"You have no sense of humor," says Alexis.

Permalink Eye

"I do have one, it's simply malformed." 

To Isabella: "I can no longer sense you. What ability is that?" 

Permalink Eye

"What does malformed mean?" Alexis whispers to Gabrielle.

"I can make things that are happening not happen, pretty much," says Isabella. "I mostly use it when I trip."

Permalink Eye

"Oh, that seems so useful! Could you use it on--a stroke, a hurricane, some more minor natural disaster-"

Permalink Eye

"I don't think I look good enough to do a natural disaster but I would probably be useful if somebody had a stroke," says Isabella.

Permalink Eye

"Well, that's what consultants are for, aren't they--I have no head for it whatever, my sister designed this outfit, I only chose the colors."

Permalink Eye

"My brother helps me. I do have dressier versions, but I've never actually encountered a natural disaster."

Permalink Eye

"I'm lucky enough that so far I haven't encountered anything I'm not willing to wear day-to-day but of course I would take uncomfortable and powerful over neither if I should in some way discover such." 

Permalink Eye

"Anyway!" interrupts Mercedes. "Nobody ever made it to the Olympics through chitchat! Fliers in the air, pedestrians on the track, reconvene in thirty minutes for targets and style presentations."

Isabella shrugs and takes off.

Permalink Eye

So does Katarzyna.

Permalink Eye

It's a little hard to chat in the air. Isabella gets close to Katarzyna anyway and calls, "So what's your range on the sense?"

Permalink Eye

"I am currently uncertain! Fairly long on a local scale!"

Permalink Eye

"What does that mean in yards?"

Permalink Eye

"More than a thousand, less than ten thousand!"

Permalink Eye

"I was thinking you might have noticed when your car came in range of us!"

Permalink Eye

"I did, but there were enough turns that I'm not sure of the distance as the crow flies!"

Permalink Eye

"Did you note the intersection - no you know what, do you have a watch -"

Permalink Eye

"I don't have a watch--I did, but I carelessly got rid of it when I first starscaped and haven't found a sufficiently aesthetic replacement yet--but I did note the intersection."

Permalink Eye

"Oh, cool, what was the intersection?"

Permalink Eye

She names it. "--But we were actually about half a block away from the intersection itself when I sensed you all."

Permalink Eye

"Still a decent ballpark. Okay, that might be longer than your swarm sense, I wonder if it works on swarms."

Permalink Eye

"I sincerely hope so."

Permalink Eye

"You wanna be a swarm hunter?"

Permalink Eye

"No, I simply want the maximum warning possible. Additionally, I prefer to have more rather than less information as a general principle."

Permalink Eye

"I can't fault you there."

Permalink Eye

"I've been spending a mildly embarrassing fraction of the previous twenty-two hours fantasizing about becoming so beautiful that my sense solves all of the persistent mysteries of magic."

Permalink Eye

- giggle. "Good luck with that. What are the most annoying ones in your opinion?"

Permalink Eye

"Well, it used to be 'why are crytpids a thing,' but after becoming a magical girl I have to say it has changed to 'why does magic care about how pretty I am'."

Permalink Eye

"I assume you don't think Thaumatologists have any insight into the matter."

Permalink Eye

"I wouldn't be surprised if they have a deeper than average understanding of magic's sartorial preferences, due to having a stronger reason to care and an absurdly high magical-girl-per-capita ratio, and given that magic seems to care about something as anthropocentric as prettiness I wouldn't be shocked if there was, in fact, some intelligence behind the allocation of magic, and that the Thaumotologists had some hypothesis about its characteristics that matched reality, but I do not take their premises at face value."

Permalink Eye

...snort. "Fair enough. Far as I can tell based on Faith's occasional presentations on the subject they think God likes beauty because beauty is just inherently great, but that's not really helpful, is it?"

Permalink Eye

"I have aesthetic sensibilities, and they do not match magic's. 'Beauty is inherently good' is a reasonable opinion to have; 'this specific type of beauty is inherently superior to all other forms' impresses me less."

Permalink Eye

"Where are your disagreements with magic, do you need to be talking to Brooklyn about how to do pants?"

Permalink Eye

"It's not so much specific disagreements--I don't mind this outfit--as the fact that the first thing I conjured seemed perfectly lovely to me, but my magic considered it barely better than my previous outfit, which consisted of slacks and a button-down shirt."

Permalink Eye

"Huh. I'd need to see it to even start to guess why and if I did I'd probably be wrong, I outsource to my twin."

Permalink Eye

"At a guess it wasn't fancy enough, but I, too, outsource to my twin."

Permalink Eye

"Yay for twins!"

Permalink Eye

"Yay for twins!!!"

Permalink Eye

"Mine wants to go pro at style consultancy."

Permalink Eye

"I only got magic yesterday, so if Jaromira's ambitions have shifted in that direction it hasn't come up yet. Previously she was undecided."

Permalink Eye

"He actually was thinking about it even before I manifested."

Permalink Eye

"Jaromira is more likely to do something involving larger numbers of people at a time, I think. She is the most outrageous extrovert."

Permalink Eye

"There are outrageousnesses of extroversion?"

Permalink Eye

"She prefers being around people whom she actively dislikes to being alone! --With exceptions."

Permalink Eye

"Okay, yeah, that's a pretty severe case."

Permalink Eye

"Exceptions primarily being people who can make her life substantially more unpleasant."

Permalink Eye

"Reasonable! - Do you prefer to be alone, should I stop following you around?"

Permalink Eye

"I prefer to not be around people I find disinteresting. Thus far, I do not find you disinteresting."

Permalink Eye

"Thank you, I'm flattered."

Permalink Eye

"Magical girls have a much higher assumed baseline interestingness but you have in fact been distinguishing yourself upwards."

Permalink Eye

"What, 'cause of my power?"

Permalink Eye

"No, because you ask thoughtful questions."

Permalink Eye

"Oh good, I like that answer better."

Permalink Eye

"From what I can determine, what magic one obtains is almost certainly completely uncorrelated with the sort of person one is."

Permalink Eye

"Sure, but if you're interested in studying magic you could still reasonably be particularly interested in people whose magic interacted with yours."

Permalink Eye

"I distinguish between being interested in the magic and the person. Tolerating someone to study their magic is different from enjoying their company." 

Permalink Eye

"I enjoy some people's company on net in a way I'd be reluctant to round down to tolerating them for instrumental reasons even when I can identify factors which, if removed, would take with them my interest in the person's company."

Permalink Eye

"Enjoying someone's company and tolerating it because I want something from them feel very different to me. I suppose it's possible magic will be different."

Permalink Eye

"Sure, that's fair."

Permalink Eye

"Magic is already wonderful and I've barely scratched the surface, I'm very excited."

Permalink Eye

"You hit diminishing returns pretty fast, fair warning, I think I learned more in the first month than I did in the next couple of years."

Permalink Eye

"That does sound frustrating--but I have hopes that the sheer variety of magical girl powers will keep me in new information for a while if I travel enough, my sense is strikingly fortunate for me."

Permalink Eye

"There is that! You have a lot of affordances for travel?"

Permalink Eye

"My father is rich." 

Permalink Eye

"Convenient!"

Permalink Eye

"It is most definitely his most convenient feature."

Permalink Eye

"Mm?"

Permalink Eye

"He believes it is a husband's job to provide materially for the children and a wife's job to provide emotionally."

Permalink Eye

"And your mom is..."

Permalink Eye

"Dead, as of nine years ago, and replaced by a stepmother who views my sister and I as obstacles in the way of our half-siblings' inheritance as of eight years ago."

Permalink Eye

"Well damn, I'm sorry."

Permalink Eye

"We have each other, and we currently attend a boarding school, so the situation isn't currently dire, but Jaromira has speculated on more than one occasion that I would be less misanthropic if Mother had survived.

"...I do miss her quite a lot."

Permalink Eye

"I'm sorry."

Permalink Eye

"I appreciate the sympathy." 

Permalink Eye

"You're welcome. My parents are divorced and Charlie lives in Washington, we see him summers."

Permalink Eye

"When my mother was alive I didn't see my father very often. I have a vague memory of being very small and asking Mother who he was and she stifled a laugh and said 'that's your father' and I asked 'what's a father?'"

Permalink Eye

"- how sure are you this memory isn't fabricated?"

Permalink Eye

"--I guess not completely. But I really didn't see him very often, he was busy with his business and usually came home later than our bedtime."

Permalink Eye

"I could see this being realistic when you were three but I can't remember being three..."

Permalink Eye

"Oh, I do. At least, I think I do. Not much, just a few individual flashes. Mostly involving learning to read." 

Permalink Eye

"Heh. I can't remember not being able to read."

Permalink Eye

"I can't remember not being able to read at all but I do remember not understanding that p h makes a 'f' sound and stubbornly insisting that the main character of a board book was named 'Puh-hil'."

Permalink Eye

"Hee!"

Permalink Eye

"I also remember insisting on reading Jaromira's bedtime story once because I was proud that I could." 

Permalink Eye

"You read first?"

Permalink Eye

"Yeah, we're both smart but I'm smarter." 

Permalink Eye

"Congratulations."

Permalink Eye

"She's far more skilled with people, though, and I like learning more than she does and she likes people more than I do, so we both find the situation quite satisfactory." 

Permalink Eye

"Sounds good. Xander's more arty than I am, hence the foray into nitpicking my garb."

Permalink Eye

"Specializing differently is one of the many wonderful things about being a twin." 

Permalink Eye

"Having one just like me would have been fun too, but differently."

Permalink Eye

"Having a twin who was just like me would be fun in some ways but I would be concerned that we would--encourage each others' flaws instead of balancing them."

Permalink Eye

"I would handle this by not having any flaws to exacerbate, problem solved!"

Permalink Eye

...Giggle. "That works too! I don't think it would work as well for me." 

Permalink Eye

"It's an inexplicably unpopular strategy."

Permalink Eye

"I mostly manage my flaws by having Jaromira spot-check me, which would be much harder if my twin had the same blind spots I did."

Permalink Eye

"Maybe I am actually terrible and don't know because spot-checking me is not one of Xander's hobbies."

Permalink Eye

"You don't seem terrible to me! I'm not specialized for spot-checking you in particular but I do spot-check my sister, I assume some of the expertise transfers."

Permalink Eye

"Hmm. Well, go ahead and let me know if you discover latent horribleness."

Permalink Eye

Giggle. "I will.

"...Also, you probably don't have a single biggest recurring flaw and a history that exacerbates it. My stepmother has not done wonders for avoiding misanthropy."

Permalink Eye

"Sample sizes," chirps Isabella.

Permalink Eye

"Hm?"

Permalink Eye

"Your stepmother's one person, so she's a terrible source from which to draw an opinion of the whole species, no?"

Permalink Eye

"Yes, that's true. If it weren't, misanthropy wouldn't be a flaw." 

Permalink Eye

"I wouldn't blame you for it if you had met seven hundred people and by some astounding coincidence all of them sucked!"

Permalink Eye

"The problem is that since I don't enjoy being around people who don't interest me it might be difficult to notice ways in which people don't suck if my twin shared my flaws instead of complementing them." 

Permalink Eye

"That makes sense. So you have a selection problem, your sample is mostly people who inflict themselves on you despite your disinterest!"

Permalink Eye

"Broadly accurate. There are other factors, too--I don't only judge based on the people I meet, for example, and since sensationalism sells it's often easier to hear about crimes and other human-caused disasters than, say, the Norman Borlaugs of the world, if you aren't motivated to go looking." 

Permalink Eye

"How great is Norman Borlaug, though."

Permalink Eye

"I don't know if I would find him personally interesting but I certainly appreciate him on an abstract level! There's also the fact that harm is usually easier than good, so if the bad people are doing much more bad than the good people are doing good that doesn't mean the bad people are worse than the good people are good, which is something I might not have thought to factor in if Jaromira hadn't pointed it out." 

Permalink Eye

"If I detect misanthropic tendencies in myself I remind myself that e.g. Norman Borlaug is principally admirable because he didn't decide people sucked too much to deserve adequate agricultural yields."

Permalink Eye

"That's a very good point!"

Permalink Eye

"Thank you!"

Permalink Eye

"The fact of the matter is that I'm naively more inclined to spend my time studying other things than myself--not that introspection isn't important, but there are just so many fascinating things to learn about." 

Permalink Eye

"You are the tool you use to learn those things."

Permalink Eye

"Perhaps if I were less externally motivated to introspect I would run into a point where I was the bottleneck and quickly become intrinsically motivated." 

Permalink Eye

"Ha, okay. I like introspecting. Keeps the gears oiled."

Permalink Eye

"I like it too, but I would probably like it less if it took a form other than narrating my internal monologue to my sister and listening to her commentary, supplemented with writing things down when she's not there so I can recount them later. It's so useful to get another perspective." 

Permalink Eye

"I have an all-writing model. Xander can be a sounding board but he's not really good for this particular purpose, alas."

Permalink Eye

"Jaromira's great for it--it's one of the extensions of her liking-people thing, I think, is that she really appreciates being in a position to--really get into the gears of one? I think I would probably be her favorite regardless but it doesn't hurt." 

Permalink Eye

"Awwww!"

Permalink Eye

"She'd be a terrible psychiatrist, though, always getting too personally invested in her patients. It's--remarkable how much I love it about her, I think, given that it's a trait I don't especially want to cultivate myself. Something about the--integrity of it? It's not a good way for everyone to be, but it's a very good way for her to be, and she really commits to it." 

Permalink Eye

"How old are you guys?"

Permalink Eye

"Fourteen." 

Permalink Eye

"We turned fifteen in September. It -"

"Hey!" calls Mercedes, swooping up to them. "Time to land!"

"Coming!" says Isabella, more polite than earnest, and she banks.

Permalink Eye

Katarzyna imitates her, fumbles slightly due to different wing designs, but recovers and lands safely. 

Permalink Eye

Isabella trips when she lands, but arrests the movement and rights herself and proceeds to where everyone's convening.

"Zyna," says Mercedes, when Katarzyna has arrived, "in some magical girl clubs people take turns being surrounded for amateur style nitpicks, but here we do things differently; we all take turns giving presentations on facts about style for magical girls that will be useful to everyone. There's a club rule that even if you're a Thaumatologist you have to give the presentation in secular terms. Sometimes people stay late to do conventional circle critiques, too. While you're listening, if you have stardarters or a ranged magic weapon you may fire at the targets; I'll muffle the sound so you can still hear the presenter. This week it's Isabella!"

Isabella gets up and produces a notebook with her presentation outlined in it. "We don't have a projector yet, do we."

"No."

"Right, I guess I'll just demo on myself. I did some research on effective hairstyles. Of girls who participated in the Baseline Comparison Survey or equivalent Canadian research more than half found that as long as their hair was not tangled, split, messy, or otherwise obviously flawed in some way, and it was longer than shoulder length, it was competitive with the best-performing updos and braids in lab conditions while worn down. The reason more elaborate styles seem to perform better appears to have to do with the accessibility of ornamentation and the risk that wind and activity will tangle or damage loose hair; Coast Paladins and other Paladin squads generally have tight updos with stuff in them." While she talks she's occasionally blinking and swapping out her hair to demonstrate examples.

Permalink Eye

--Oh that's fascinating. Katarzyna takes out a notepad and earnestly starts taking notes. 

Permalink Eye

"Wait, what's the Baseless Comparison Survey," says Natalie.

"Baseline," says Isabella. "The Baseline Comparison Survey was a huge project they did in the sixties to figure out general principles of magical girling less obvious than 'wear skirts'. They designed a basic boring outfit that worked with wings and surface or extremity mods except tails, made all the participants wear it exactly so they'd all be taking the same plagiarism penalty, and then tried iterations from there, also all the same across participants, so they could shake out some of the statistical noise from girls going 'well, that helps a little but not very much' and 'ooh the magic really likes that' in lieu of producing numbers. And most of my presentation is about what they found out about hair."

"Go on," says Mercedes.

"Bad hair tanks a look fast," she continues. "Clothes can handle some distressing and still look all right - a few people use something along those lines as their motif - but hair basically can't. You can get away with some sloppiness in styling like messy braids and floppy buns if it suits what you're doing otherwise, short hair is not as hard to pull off as pants, but nobody makes a birds' nest work. Now, the Baseline Comparison Survey did include girls of all races, but since this was the sixties, they dropped girls from the study if they weren't willing to wear their hair in an approximately white-person texture. We have way less systematized data about how natural black hair works, especially since on hair that hangs down by default, length past the shoulders matters - is there an equivalent for natural black hair, we don't know!"

"So racist," opines Gabrielle, who is black.

Isabella doesn't directly respond to that. "The anecdotal evidence suggests that natural hair in assorted styles can perform at top levels; for example, Coast Paladin Keisha Vaughn has dreadlocks. But there's less to go on from a data-driven perspective."

Permalink Eye

Natural black hair is of little interest to eastern-European-stock Katarzyna, of itself, but research certainly is, and gaps in research even more so. She is taking notes furiously in her personal shorthand. 

Permalink Eye

"The rules for hair ornaments seem to be about the same as the rules for other ornaments. The rules for hair color are not - you don't take as much of a penalty for having hair of an out-of-scheme color in the natural human hair color range, your original or not, as you do for having an out-of-scheme accessory or clothing item. Basically, magic seems to consider hair to be an automatic candidate for a statement piece - a thing that's allowed to stand on its own without forming a motif. Both curly and straight hair were found to work, as well as all stages of intermediate waviness; worn down, straight hair works better if you go to knee-length or longer, wavy hair works better between there and mid-back, and curly hair works better between there and shoulder-length. Shorter hair performed worse with a few individual outliers - face shape affects this a lot. Also, all the length-and-curliness rules go out the window if you wear it up. Then it doesn't seem to matter at all. From baseline, statistically speaking, bangs are worse -"

Faith raises her hand.

"- but like everything else to do with how your hair is arranged close to your face that varies with face shape, and 'baseline' here means 'worn down', not your braid crown there."

Permalink Eye

It is tempting to start fiddling with her look based on this data right here and now but she will refrain. 

Permalink Eye

"Hair that does not behave like any nonmagical human hair - via the application of the magical equivalent of hairspray, or changing its material, or replacing it with a garden of daisies," says Isabella, "is tentatively hypothesized to revert to the standards for elements elsewhere on your person - so it loses the thing about being in human-range colors, its length and curliness are no longer interacting, etcetera - but the Baseline Comparison Survey didn't get very into a lot of alternative hair options and no similarly sized survey has been conducted since. This can still work if whatever weird hair thing you do plays into a motif; Rockies Paladin Miranda Cooper has feather hair that matches her wings.

"A cautionary note," she goes on, "replacing your hair with twenty-seven snakes is known to carry enough points to turn you into a cryptid if applied on top of wings and basic human-range cosmetic cleanup. We don't know if fewer than twenty-seven snakes would have been fine, since this has only been recorded happening the once, but twenty-seven snakes plus wings and cosmetic cleanup definitely cryptidizes you, so don't do it.

"That's what I've got, thank you all."

Light applause.

Permalink Eye

Somewhat less light applause! 

Permalink Eye

And Isabella collects her stardarters and joins target practice, her hair still in its latest example.

Permalink Eye

Katarzyna...does not have stardarters. 

She can fix that more quickly than most people, but she cannot fix it immediately. She loiters slightly, feeling awkward. 

Permalink Eye

"Do you want to borrow one?" Isabella asks, holding out the one she's got in her left hand.

Permalink Eye

"Thank you--I would love that," she says, relieved. 

Permalink Eye

"I've told the school they should buy one for this exact situation but they didn't think it was a good use of two hundred dollars," Isabella says, trotting over to her target to gather her ammo.

Permalink Eye

"Irritating. If you don't mind my asking--why did you think this was a good use of two hundred dollars? You don't strike me as the type to swarm-hunt."

Permalink Eye

"I'm not. Got them for my birthday. It's not hard to make two hundred dollars with the right powers, though, my dad's a cop and he hooked me up with a gig where I ride along on car chases and stop the car they're chasing, I can do that again and a few days of being on call and one car chase gets me well over two hundred bucks."

Permalink Eye

"That makes sense. My reasons, on top of having a rich father, include: 'it seems like an asset when networking with magical girls,' and 'magical girls are, absent relevant powers, not significantly less squishy than baseline humans and I would be surprised if a magical girl carrying stardarters wasn't legal more places than anyone outside of police officers carrying pepper spray or a tazer.'" 

Permalink Eye

"It is. I mean, these won't stop somebody who really wants your purse, they don't even hit hard enough to kill a swarmling that's been around for six hours and you can still kill those bugs if you step on them hard enough, but you can sure take them places. Not on planes, though."

Permalink Eye

"I cannot imagine the planes are interested in having any weapons whatever on them." She picks up the stardarter; she assumes the magic will ding it for being off-theme but the magic can cope. "I am consoled by the fact that everyone else on the plane will also have been stripped of weapons." 

Permalink Eye

"Swarms don't manifest on planes much but when they do people get hurt before all the bugs get geeshed. I don't think stardarters'd improve the situation though."

Permalink Eye

"Eesh. No, I imagine not." She take aim at the target, taking her time to line up the shot, and fires. 

She isn't a great shot. She doesn't take it personally. 

Permalink Eye

Isabella's okay but slow at picking up her ammo since she walks carefully instead of jogging over.

Permalink Eye

"Do you want some help?" Katarzyna asks once she's gathered her own (technically also Isabella's, but).

Permalink Eye

"If you don't mind!"

Permalink Eye

"I don't!" she assures her, then goes to collect Isabella's darts. 

Permalink Eye

Then Isabella can get in a little more shooting before Mercedes announces the end of the club!

Permalink Eye

Katarzyna hands back Isabella's stardarter and ammo. "Thank you again for the loan." 

Permalink Eye

"No problem! See you next week!" And she collects her bag (it's like a messenger bag, but designed to sit between wings in the back) and takes off.

Permalink Eye

Katarzyna stands there for a minute being happy for no reason she can figure out for a minute before heading back to the St. Lucia car. 

Permalink Eye

When they get back to the school, the first thing she does is hunt down her sister to talk to. 

(It's not gossip if it's the core of your introspection process, right?)

She outlines the club meeting (thus and such was the agenda, this is what my power does) and then launches into details and internal monologue. 

Permalink Eye

It isn't until about the fortieth Isabella this and Isabella that that Jaromira starts giggling. 

Permalink Eye

"What?" 

Permalink Eye

"I guess the magic gay kicks in harder than I thought! You, my dear sister, have a crush." 

Permalink Eye

 

 

"Oh, shit, I have a crush on Isabella." 

Permalink Eye

"That's what I just said! And why, exactly, is this a bad thing?" 

Permalink Eye

"I don't want to be one of those people who only hangs out with someone because they want to date them!"

Permalink Eye

"Then don't be. Ask her out, or don't, but--if she doesn't go out with you, would you stop wanting to be around her?" 

Permalink Eye

"No!!! She's so thoughtful and interesting and insightful and--she's amazing, Jaromira, amaaaaaaziiiiiiing." 

Permalink Eye

"Then you're not like that. Don't stress out about it." 

Permalink Eye

"Mngh." 

She flops on her bed face-first. 

"I can't believe it's a week until the next meeting and I didn't get her phone number or email or anything." 

Permalink Eye

"Aww. You'll live, dearheart," Jaromira says, sitting down beside her sister to pet her hair.

Permalink Eye

"I knoooow." Sigh. "Okay, I have my hair-related notes from the meeting, let's try some things--" 

They try some things. 

The hair length thing turns out to be less good than keeping it partially up in a hair-flower-thing with gems woven in; of other things they try because Jaromira thought of them, replacing the leg laces on her sandals with helixes like her bicep bracelets, adding toe rings, and turning all the metal in her jewelry into diamond and opal of the same colors constitute improvement. She is mildly put out that she will not be able to see the effect this has on her magic sense until next week when she can interact with other magical girls again. 

Permalink Eye

She emails her father to inform him that she is a magical girl now. She looks up stardarters online. 

Permalink Eye

Ones like Isabella has are $200 and come in custom colors; for extra you can get an emblem or other little touches added to them.

Permalink Eye

...Ooh. 

How much would it cost to get them in opalescent seafoam with blue and silver filigree?

Permalink Eye

Opalescence is extra, and the coverage she has in mind is a lot extra on top of that, but she can still get them both for under $500.

Permalink Eye

She goes for it, then, and selects the electronic receipt option at checkout and then forwards it to her father with a note saying that while of course she will not neglect her studies she also intends to take being a magical girl seriously. 

Permalink Eye

Her stardarters arrive in four days, pleasingly packaged and very shiny. The ammo is heavy.

Permalink Eye

Katarzyna has a fight with the school administration over them, due to weapons being Not Allowed on school grounds no matter what. 

Katarzyna does not win the fight, exactly; weapons are still Not Allowed inside the school no matter what. But she is stubborn and while she isn't good at people Jaromira is, and is on her side. The stardarters and ammo live in an equipment shed, to be picked up when she leaves for a magical girl meeting (...or for other reasons, if she really wants, the administration is worn down into conceding) and returned when she returns to campus. 

It's not optimal, but it will do. 

Katarzyna spends much of her free time studying, now, but less. 

Flying is not against the rules. 

Permalink Eye

Flying is great! Depending on how far afield she wanders, she might encounter other girls in the sky (as well as kites, RC airplanes, and balloons).

Permalink Eye

Encountering other girls in the sky is exciting!!! Probably none of them are as good conversationalists as Isabella but she can examine their magic and that is so cool. 

Permalink Eye

She can! It's a little easier than it was at the club meeting, even, probably because she is dressed up more to the magic's liking. Over there is a girl with a kinda creepily elongated neck and vulture wings!

Permalink Eye

"Hi!!!" 

Permalink Eye

"- hello," says vulture girl. "What's up?"

Permalink Eye

"Nothing in particular, it's only that I go to a boarding school and I'm the only magical girl there so outside of a club meeting they ferried me to at a larger school I haven't met many other magical girls. And my power is that I can sense magic! Or, at least, magical girls; I have thankfully not yet had the chance to test if it registers swarms." 

Permalink Eye

"Everybody can sense swarms," says vulture girl, gliding. Her wingspan is huge.

Permalink Eye

"Yes, but I think my range is higher on the magic sense. I like your wings." 

Permalink Eye

"Thanks." The vulture girl is oddly underdressed for a magical girl. She doesn't look like a slob, but she wouldn't look out of place on a Land's End catalog cover. Neck and wings aside.

Permalink Eye

Odd. 

Can she pick out anything interesting about her with her magic sense? 

Permalink Eye

Well, she's not very magic. Which is what you'd expect given the whole Land's End catalog look.

Permalink Eye

What a bizarre individual. 

If the vulture girl seems to want to talk more she's willing to pay her social dues but will not initiate further discourse. 

Permalink Eye

Vulture girl is not super talkative.

Permalink Eye

That's fine. Flying is lovely, regardless of what company there is or is not. 

Permalink Eye

That girl over that way could be Isabella. Pointy wings.

Permalink Eye

 

Probably that is not Isabella but she will wing over that way anyway. 

Permalink Eye

Whaddaya know, it's Isabella!

Permalink Eye

Eeeeeeeee! 

"Hello!" 

Permalink Eye

"Oh hey!"

Permalink Eye

"Flying is awesome!" 

Permalink Eye

"Yes it is! Why'd you bother with the car to get to the club?"

Permalink Eye

"Because the school felt obligated! Also, I didn't know the way, and wasn't at the time confident enough in my flying speed to gamble on being able to make it between when classes let out and when the meeting started." 

Permalink Eye

"Well, I guess now you know how fast you are. How fast are you?"

Permalink Eye

"Fifty miles an hour! It's amazing!" 

Permalink Eye

"Wanna race?"

Permalink Eye

"Sure!" 

Permalink Eye

"First to the clock tower, no contact no magic but messing with aerial fluid dynamics is okay?"

Permalink Eye

"How do you mess with aerial fluid dynamics without magic?"

Permalink Eye

"You know how geese fly in V's?"

Permalink Eye

"Ohh. Sure."

Permalink Eye

"Plus flapping messes with air currents in general! So have fun with that. Ready?"

Permalink Eye

"Ready."

Permalink Eye

"Five four three two one go!" and she's off. She picked fast wings.

Permalink Eye

Katarzyna's wings aren't quite as fast, and she's only been doing this for a few days. She's probably going to lose. But she's going to have a lot of fun trying anyway. 

Permalink Eye

Isabella perches on the clock tower when she gets there.

Permalink Eye

Katarzyna lands beside her, breathless and grinning. 

"I took wings as soon as my starscape came up just because they're always enough and I wanted magic more than anything but they're truly wonderful of themselves!"

Permalink Eye

"I didn't wanna get too far into the weeds of mental mayhem so I considered doing even less, bare minimum, pointy ears and such, but wings are so practical, so I did that and very, very minimum cosmetic cleanup - plus hair and makeup, those don't seem to affect things the same way."

Permalink Eye

"They are exceedingly practical. Do you know which side of that line tattoos fall on?"

Permalink Eye

"That actually depends how you do them! If you repigment your skin in first layer that gets you points, if you do it with ink in layer two that doesn't. I don't especially want tattoos but Xander's working on a heavy-duty ensemble that could incorporate them."

Permalink Eye

"Oh, good--I gave myself a tattoo on my back after I had gotten the wings, while my sister was troubleshooting my outfit, just for extra magic. I prefer not to have my mind altered but also prefer extra magic."

Permalink Eye

"Fortunately apart from 'don't have acne, why would you even do that' magic does not seem to care much if you change a lot as long as it's enough."

Permalink Eye

Giggle. "I was fortunate enough not to be especially overburdened with acne prior to my ascension to magical girlhood anyway."

Permalink Eye

"Me either, but when I looked at myself and saw an optimization problem I found more things to tweak than I would have guessed based on my previous level of satisfaction with my physical characteristics."

Permalink Eye

"Quite reasonable."

Permalink Eye

"So now I'm smoother and more symmetrical but I kept my original ear shape. Sometimes Xander does have me try low-point-value tweaks to see if we can get more out of them but I usually revert them."

Permalink Eye

"I like my ears like this, there's more room for ornamentation."

Permalink Eye

"They look nice! I just took a while to even take the plunge of being thaumosexual, let alone any of the other stuff."

Permalink Eye

"It seemed obviously worth it to me, but then, I hadn't experienced attraction to anyone previously anyway." 

Permalink Eye

"Oh, yeah, I think some magical girls are just ace, they just skip that part."

Permalink Eye

She considers this. 

"I...think I'm more likely to be demi than ace." 

Permalink Eye

"I don't know that definition off the top of my head."

Permalink Eye

"Demisexual means requiring a personal connection to be attracted to someone. I...didn't notice any of the other magical girls as attention-catchingly pretty, at the club meeting. Just you." 

Permalink Eye

 

"Oh."

Permalink Eye

"I don't--intend to be obnoxious about it--my sister noticed I had a crush on you after I came back and had spent a significant quantity of time telling her how thoughtful and interesting you were--but I like you, I have no intention of making my feelings more relevant than you wish them to be." 

Permalink Eye

 

"Let's get dinner tonight."

Permalink Eye

 

"Okay!!!" 

Permalink Eye

"Do you have a restaurant you like, my family's outings run toward like, Olive Garden, but -"

Permalink Eye

"Not an informed one, I haven't been to a restaurant recreationally since Mother died and my tastes have changed. I would be happy to try Olive Garden."

Permalink Eye

"All right, if you aren't hiding any secret holes in the wall with... caviar or something... Olive Garden it is! Do you know where it is?"

Permalink Eye

"Not off the top of my head, but I do have a phone--are there multiple locally such that the results of such a search would be ambiguous?"

Permalink Eye

"There are three, I like the one in the mall."

Permalink Eye

"Okay!"

Permalink Eye

"- and do you know where the mall is."

Permalink Eye

"Vaguely, from school outings."

Permalink Eye

"Should I show you just to be sure?"

Permalink Eye

"Sure." 

Permalink Eye

"This way!" She flings herself off the clock tower and goes (not at racing pace) toward the mall.

Permalink Eye

With a shriek of delight, Katarzyna follows. 

(Flying is wonderful, and the moment of freefall before she catches herself with her wings is such a rush.)

Permalink Eye

Isabella giggles and lands on the mall roof. "It's in here. We might just wind up hanging out till dinnertime, but if we don't, meet there at six?"

Permalink Eye

"Okay!"

Permalink Eye

"My original plan when I set out was to fly around for a while and then go do homework with Xander when he's home from his skating lesson, but I can call him and tell him otherwise if it gets to be four."

Permalink Eye

"What's he like, besides wanting to be a style consultant and not doing spot-checks?" 

Permalink Eye

"He refers to his mental model of me as 'shoulder Bella' by analogy to 'shoulder angel'. - I stopped going by Bella when I activated, it's not obvious if name aesthetics matter but they might and I didn't feel that strongly about it, but Xander's still allowed to call me that. He can draw. He's not very academic, but he's good at stuff I'm not - the clumsiness doesn't run in the family, that's just me, hence the skating lesson - he's funny, not always in a nice way but in a good-natured way, if that makes sense."

Permalink Eye

"I think it does. I don't know that I could articulate it any better but I have a mental model of a way it could be."

Permalink Eye

"Like, he'll accidentally poke fun at things in ways that actually upset people, and it'd be predictable if he were really trying not to, but he's not trying to upset people, he's just not trying very hard not to, and he's usually just aiming at keeping the overall mood light."

Permalink Eye

"Yes, that's about what I was imagining. I think the 'shoulder Bella' thing is cute."

Permalink Eye

"I think so too."

Permalink Eye

"Jaromira and I do something at least tangentially similar--using mental models of each other to cover areas where the other is more skilled--but I'm not sure how similar." 

Permalink Eye

"I don't really use my model of Xander for any practical purpose. It cannot help me dance."

Permalink Eye

"No, that wouldn't work as well. My model of Jaromira mostly makes me more polite to people I don't enjoy interacting with."

Permalink Eye

"Oh, I have my own homemade subroutine for that, it's called 'overt expressions of diplomatic deference actually mean contempt, I'm owning this idiot so hard'."

Permalink Eye

She laughs. "Beautiful." 

Permalink Eye

"Thank you!"

Permalink Eye

"I try not to build habits of contempt, though; the set of people I endorse expressing contempt towards is much smaller than the set of people I am natively disinclined to be polite to."

Permalink Eye

"I don't do this with, like, peers. I do it if the principal is being a jerk, I start calling him 'sir'."

Permalink Eye

"When I start wanting to sass authority figures I usually start sprinkling my speech with 'with all due respect.' Because the respect they are due is none." 

Permalink Eye

"Cute."

Permalink Eye

"Conveniently, it also works unironically if I say it to someone I do respect. Mind, I don't think I've ever 'sirred' somebody unironically in my life, either."

Permalink Eye

"In the 'fun with literal meaning' category there's 'I apologize'."

Permalink Eye

"That one's good too. Occasionally I take advantage of my naturally overwrought diction to tell someone something explicitly disrespectful to their face in terms they won't successfully parse and a tone that doesn't tip them off, but only if I'm very certain or reasonably indifferent to the consequences of failure."

Permalink Eye

"You do have fairly overwrought diction. Are there actually a lot of people who won't understand it?"

Permalink Eye

"Not usually, but how overwrought it is varies, and the high end can get moderately incomprehensible. Speaking like this is genuinely easier for me, in the long run--it makes me think about what I say, in a way that prevents me from saying things I would regret. I used to have problems with that, as a small child."

Permalink Eye

"Awwww."

Permalink Eye

"Also, I have developed an aesthetic preference for it. I consider myself quite fortunate that magic seems to only have visual and not audio aesthetic preferences." 

Permalink Eye

"You missed Faith's presentation on that last year! It does care about audio but much, much less. Coast Paladin helicopters have sound systems. Did you never see their documentary?"

Permalink Eye

"No, I--I didn't do much research on magical girls between Mother's death and becoming one."

Permalink Eye

"Was your mom a magical girl?"

Permalink Eye

"No, if she were I wouldn't have dropped it. But when I was a little girl I used to play make-believe that I was one, and draw pictures, and do research, and Mother always encouraged me. But between when she died and when Father remarried, we had a nanny, and when I told her that when I was going to be a magical girl when I grew up she told me the statistics, and when I pointed out that it runs in families she told me that a great-grandmother's sister wasn't a close enough relation to make my chances high enough to be worth counting on."

Permalink Eye

"My great aunt is one but we're not really close."

Permalink Eye

"My great-grandmother and her sister both died before I was born, I only know about her because my mother told me."

Permalink Eye

Nod. "I always wanted magic but didn't really expect it."

Permalink Eye

"I wonder how many people there are similar to you and I but less fortunate."

Permalink Eye

"Presumably about fifty times as many as there are of fortunates!"

Permalink Eye

"That irks me. Perhaps I'll find a way to give magic to people who don't starscape on their own."

Permalink Eye

"That would be really cool!"

Permalink Eye

"The fact that there exist both persons who want magic and are denied it and persons who are offered it and refuse it is subjectively offensive to me."

Permalink Eye

"I guess you seem like you have the powerset for it!"

Permalink Eye

"I am so pleased with my powerset." 

Permalink Eye

"Does it do anything besides identify magical girls yet?"

Permalink Eye

"I...haven't tried. The obvious extension from sensing magic is affecting magic, which..."

Permalink Eye

"...hm. Uh, do you have a sense for if it would affect a particular casting, or if it would affect the underlying magical properties of the caster?"

Permalink Eye

"...Let me think." 

She turns her attention to her magic sense, in particular scrutinizing her own magic as carefully as possible. 

Permalink Eye

Seems like that's up to her but affecting the underlying magic of the girl in question is going to be harder.

Permalink Eye

"I think I could do either in theory but the latter would be much harder."

Permalink Eye

"Okay, so you probably wouldn't do anything permanent by accident? Do you wanna have me try dropping-and-stopping stuff for you to mess with?"

Permalink Eye

"I wouldn't do permanent things by accident. I would enjoy trying that."

Permalink Eye

"Cool... I don't have anything handy I want to drop off a roof."

Permalink Eye

Katarzyna considers this for a moment, then plucks a feather off her wing. 

Permalink Eye

"That works! All right, whenever you're ready drop it and I'll stop it falling."

Permalink Eye

"Three, two, one," and then Katarzyna drops it, reaching out for the magic Isabella is about to cast. 

Permalink Eye

It stops in midair.

Permalink Eye

What can she do with this? 

Permalink Eye

She could cancel it, cause the feather to resume its fall!

Permalink Eye

Anything else? 

Permalink Eye

She could keep it in place even if Isabella let it go!

Permalink Eye

...Ooh. She tries that--

"Drop it?"

Permalink Eye

Isabella drops it.

Permalink Eye

It doesn't drop. 

"Oh, cool."

Permalink Eye

"Oh wow, you're a power mimic! Kind of! Can you do that from the beginning if I don't stop it, just from me being nearby?"

Permalink Eye

"Let's find out--I don't think I'm just a mimic, it felt like I could have canceled your cancel--maybe that's just higher-level mimicry, though, considering--"

Permalink Eye

"Hm, that might be non-mimicry depending on how it works with other kinds of spells but it's sure hard to test with mine." She reaches to pluck the feather out of the air and drops it again.

Permalink Eye

She tries to cancel the falling by referring to Isabella's magic. 

Permalink Eye

She can stop the feather! Isabella applauds.

Permalink Eye

"Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!" 

Permalink Eye

"What a great power!"

Permalink Eye

"I know! Oh, imagine the synergy possible, if I'm around several magical girls with powers that could combine in interesting ways--oh!" 

Permalink Eye

"Ooooooh! - You might not have it full force, a feather doesn't exert a lot of force."

Permalink Eye

"Even so! --And even then I expect I can improve on it, I just have to look way more fabulous." 

Permalink Eye

"Definitely time to get a pro."

Permalink Eye

"No kidding!!! Do you have any recommendations, I could just look online but it would be more difficult to evaluate them."

Permalink Eye

"I've never sought one out myself! Mercedes went to an expensive one once, Kathleen Morrison, but said she wasn't worth it."

Permalink Eye

"I'll avoid her, then. --I wonder if there are any in this mall."

Permalink Eye

"Seems more like an office building sort of profession than a mall one but we can walk around and check if you like?"

Permalink Eye

"Mm--no strong opinion either way, if there is one it would be nice to find them but I could also check online."

Permalink Eye

"Yeah, they probably all have websites by now, and reviews on the magical girl websites."

Permalink Eye

"What are the magical girl websites?" Katarzyna asks as she pulls out her phone and start searching for stylists in the area. "Googling provided possibilities but I was unsure which were actually frequented by magical girls."

Permalink Eye

"There's Elements of Style, and In Skirts, and I personally like Constellation Center - I plagiarize my club presentations from there because nobody else reads it, it's kind of dry."

Permalink Eye

"Ooh, good to know. I liked your presentation on hair but I got the sense you didn't like giving it."

Permalink Eye

"I didn't hate it. And I do sometimes learn useful things from the other girls. But it's not recreational, no."

Permalink Eye

"Why is it the rule that girls in this club give presentations instead of circle critiques?"

Permalink Eye

"Mercedes prefers it and she's in charge."

Permalink Eye

"Ah."

Permalink Eye

"Faith called for an election last year but a couple people were uncomfortable enough with the Thaumatologist slant she has that Mercedes won."

Permalink Eye

"Mm. I'd be tempted to try to oust her but running a high-school club seems...ultimately unrewarding."

Permalink Eye

"Yeah, I'm in the same boat. She'll graduate end of this year though."

Permalink Eye

"Well, that's good. Pity Jaromira didn't starscape, I'm sure she'd enjoy it."

Permalink Eye

"She still might, I think the odds go up to like nine or ten percent if you have a magical sibling."

Permalink Eye

"Ooh, I don't think I ran into that statistic."

Permalink Eye

"It's still not enough to count on but it's better than a distant aunt!"

Permalink Eye

"It is! Oh, I hope she does, she'd love it--possibly not as much as me, but still--and I have to admit I'm not totally selfless here."

Permalink Eye

"Aren't you?"

Permalink Eye

"She would definitely let me play with her magic."

Permalink Eye

Giggle. "Can you tell what people's powersets are by - looking or whatever you're doing?"

Permalink Eye

"Mm--hard to say--I was distracted during the meeting and I've gotten a little bit glammer since then, but the only other magical girl I met in the air was, uh, not dressed up."

Permalink Eye

"Huh. Interesting choice."

Permalink Eye

"I can imagine wanting to take a break from wearing colors and fancy things for a few hours and going flying."

Permalink Eye

"I guess if I didn't already have a comfortable everyday dressed-up outfit planned? Some high end stuff does get pretty impractical and uncomfy."

Permalink Eye

"She wasn't schlubby, just...outdoorsy, in dress. Maybe she used to dress like that and missed it. I don't know."

Permalink Eye

"Maybe her powers suck."

Permalink Eye

"Also possible. I feel sorry for her if that's the case."

Permalink Eye

"Apparently some powers go off without their owners trying, and that can be inconvenient. Usually it goes away if you glam up enough, but it's way easier just to go with something simple."

Permalink Eye

"Mine is on all the time but I don't exactly mind."

Permalink Eye

"It doesn't do anything inconvenient! It could be trouble if you had a personal force field. Or considering your power set if you automatically noped nearby magic."

Permalink Eye

"Yes, that would be bad." 

Permalink Eye

"I'd be so inconvenienced the next time I tripped."

Permalink Eye

"I don't know what other persistent effects other magical girls are relying upon for what, but I don't prefer to find out by canceling them unexpectedly."

Permalink Eye

"Mine's not persistent, if I trip and don't have good reaction time I still hit the ground."

Permalink Eye

"I was imprecise, the effect is not persistent but your reliance upon it is."

Permalink Eye

"Not if I'm sitting down," says Isabella impishly.

Permalink Eye

"But unless I knew ahead of time only to approach while you were supported by some feature other than your legs, that would not be guaranteed to help."

Permalink Eye

"True enough."

Permalink Eye

"Fortunately it isn't so. This variation is far more useful."

Permalink Eye

"I really hope it can do all that cool synergy stuff - I wonder how many healing girls you have to chain together to get real bone-deep de-aging -"

Permalink Eye

"Oooh--I don't know but I'll enjoy finding out--it's possible that even if I can't synergize copies of all their powers I could just chain them together, if I were sufficiently gorgeous, but of course that would be much harder to find volunteers for."

Permalink Eye

"What do you mean chain them together?"

Permalink Eye

"Synergize them--connect their magics to work together like I would be doing with the copies?"

Permalink Eye

"I still don't think I'm following the distinction you're drawing between that and synergizing copies."

Permalink Eye

"If the copies are weaker it might matter."

Permalink Eye

"Oh, yeah, I guess that makes sense. We could fly out to the desert and get a rock?"

Permalink Eye

"Probably wise."

Permalink Eye

"Off we go then. I'm going to be ravenous at dinnertime." She takes a flying leap and leads the way out to some suitably empty space with rocks in it. She picks up a rock and holds it in the air, waiting for the go-ahead.

Permalink Eye

"Go."

Permalink Eye

Drop!

Permalink Eye

Catch?

Permalink Eye

It - slows down. It doesn't stop.

"That didn't completely not work, so it's not a hard limit. You definitely need a style pro."

Permalink Eye

"Definitely. I plan to look into it as thoroughly as I can make use of as soon as nothing more urgent is at hand."

Permalink Eye

"What else urgent is going on?"

Permalink Eye

"Well, you see, I have a date with a very pretty, intelligent, and thoughtful girl."

Permalink Eye

Giggle.

Permalink Eye

"Also, I haven't yet decided that dropping out of school is worth it."

Permalink Eye

"Would you be allowed?"

Permalink Eye

"I am uncertain. Legally speaking, it would be possible to withdraw from my current school and begin homeschooling, and I am sufficiently autodidactic that I expect to pass any homeschool evaluation tests without the input of an adult, but convincing my father to cooperate with this plan would be more difficult."

Permalink Eye

"I could probably convince my mom to homeschool me, but haven't invested the effort yet. I'd miss Xander, I don't think he'd take to it as well so he'd require more teaching input from Renée."

Permalink Eye

"If I were going to leave school it would certainly be necessary to extract Jaromira, if only because it's a boarding school. Educating her would take up more of my time than educating myself but probably less than school eats."

Permalink Eye

"Where do you live when you're not at school?"

Permalink Eye

"With my father and stepmother. This is the primary source of my reluctance to withdraw."

Permalink Eye

"I meant geographically."

Permalink Eye

"Ah. In Tucson."

Permalink Eye

"Still well within daytrip distance on the wing, okay."

Permalink Eye

"Yes, if being unable to see you were a factor I would certainly have mentioned it."

Permalink Eye

"I didn't want to presume but it did occur to me."

Permalink Eye

"I don't actively like people often enough to break contact with one casually."

Permalink Eye

"You spontaneously mentioned Norman Borlaug."

Permalink Eye

"I consider myself fortunate both to have thought to bring him up and to have met someone for whom this was a significant positive factor!"

Permalink Eye

Isabella laughs.

Permalink Eye

"You're so--I keep coming back to the word 'thoughtful' but I don't mean it the way most people mean it, I mean that you're self-aware and you--seem to do things that work instead of things that social scripts say to do when they clash."

Permalink Eye

"- I'm surprised that's noticeable on short acquaintance but yes I am and yes I do, thank you for observing it!"

Permalink Eye

"The self-awareness was evident from the introspection conversation, the part where you do things that work was garnered from a combination of the misanthropy discussion and the 'how to deal with irritating authority' exchange and to a lesser extent miscellaneous other pieces."

Permalink Eye

"Okay, I guess I did telegraph it, I'm just not accustomed to people taking note."

Permalink Eye

"They are tragically underappreciated traits." 

Permalink Eye

"Thank you."

Permalink Eye

"You're very welcome, although I can assure you that I said it because it was true. I don't go in for false flattery."

Permalink Eye

"I wouldn't thank you if I thought you were lying to me! That would not be gratitude-inspiring behavior at all."

Permalink Eye

"Very true. I also don't--mm, point out factual positives about people if they aren't specifically relevant or emotionally salient?"

Permalink Eye

Isabella's wings are rustling a little self-consciously. "Awww."

Permalink Eye

"Do let me know if at any time I'm--coming on too strong."

Permalink Eye

"You're good so far. I - like being liked."

Permalink Eye

 

"You make me very very happy. When I expressed concern to my sister that having a crush on you put me at risk of becoming one of those objectionable persons who expect reciprocation as their due and are offended when it fails to be forthcoming, she asked me if I would want to hang out with you if I knew for a fact that you were permanently disinterested, and I said of course--simply being around you makes me much happier than I am used to being."

Permalink Eye

"I am in no way permanently disinterested! Forty percent of the reason I show up to magical girl club is that I now have such a small dating pool I can't rely on encountering people I might like without going out of my way to surround myself with magical girls and I was pretty thoroughly disappointed with the selection till you showed up!"

Permalink Eye

 

"Thank you." 

Permalink Eye

"You're welcome."

Permalink Eye

"The point was less about the real chance of whether you would be interested or not and more about making sure I was not at risk of thinking that I was in some way entitled to your interest. It is a failure mode I had not previously had occasion to put effort into avoiding."

Permalink Eye

"Well. Good so far."

Permalink Eye

"Yes, I think Jaromira's test suggests it's not one of the failure modes I'm liable to fall into. But it was important to check. I--strongly desire that my company not become a net negative for you."

Permalink Eye

"I've been weirdly cheerful since I met you, Xander said so."

Permalink Eye

 

"I'm very glad to hear it."

Permalink Eye

"He asked me what was up and I said 'new club girl who spontaneously mentioned Norman Borlaug' and he said 'oh yeah I forgot you're gay now' and I said 'good for you, I didn't!'"

Permalink Eye

She laughs. "What were you before?" 

Permalink Eye

"I was straight. I'd just about figured that out when I starscaped. I wouldn't have been thrilled about editing my brain even if I had been gay but it made it worse."

Permalink Eye

"I think I'm glad I didn't like most people enough to figure it out."

Permalink Eye

"Fewer might-have-beens. I at least didn't get as far as dating any boys."

Permalink Eye

"That seems like a very awkward breakup."

Permalink Eye

"Happened to Alexis. I think they still aren't speaking."

Permalink Eye

"Oh dear. I...suppose I could see that as a reason for turning down magic--I still wouldn't, but it wouldn't be incomprehensible."

Permalink Eye

"I'm glad it doesn't come older than sixteen, considering, people can have strong relationships at that age but they're unlikely to be actually married."

Permalink Eye

"That's certainly a benefit...it's not how I would arrange things but as long as it's assigned nigh-randomly the age limit is probably for the best."

Permalink Eye

"Plus as long as it's arranged randomly at least there's a defined point at which you stop planning your life around the possibility. I don't know, maybe I'm just rationalizing because I don't know how to change it. I wonder if you can diagnose incipient magical girls, do you want to strafe an elementary school sometime and find out?"

Permalink Eye

"Oh, that would be marvelous--it would mean Jaromira won't, more's the pity, but that wasn't especially high-likelihood anyway."

Permalink Eye

"They're probably not in session right now but if you want to be a few minutes late to the club you can maybe catch some buses leaving, enough to get a guess. I can show you where Renée teaches."

Permalink Eye

"As long as it wouldn't be--misinterpreted."

Permalink Eye

"As what? We're teenage girls, not forty year old men."

Permalink Eye

"I think that isn't actually prohibitive but I take your point."

Permalink Eye

"It's not actually prohibitive, it's just going to affect how it's interpreted."

Permalink Eye

"Yes. I don't mind being late."

Permalink Eye

"I look forward to hearing your results. Lemme show you the school." She takes off and makes a beeline for her mother's workplace.

Permalink Eye

Katarzyna follows her. 

Permalink Eye

It's an elementary school, currently deserted.

Permalink Eye

"What does your mother teach?"

Permalink Eye

"Kindergarten."

Permalink Eye

"Cute."

Permalink Eye

"She really likes it."

Permalink Eye

"Not my cup of tea but I can envision the appeal."

Permalink Eye

"Her students love her. It's very sweet."

Permalink Eye

"It sounds it! A teacher who students love is a marvelous thing."

Permalink Eye

"Our fridge is covered in their pictures."

Permalink Eye

"Awwww!"

Permalink Eye

"Also our last name is Swan so sometimes there are randomly swans in the frame."

Permalink Eye

"That's wonderful. I don't have the same problems with small children that I do with adults and my peers at all."

Permalink Eye

"That's good, but might become troubling if you knew a lot of small children over a long period of time."

Permalink Eye

"I'm not sure what would happen in that case."

Permalink Eye

"I suppose you could be a camp counselor? I'm considering it, there are camps for little magical girls."

Permalink Eye

"Besides bringing one into contact with small children, what are the benefits?"

Permalink Eye

"I'm mostly considering it for general networking benefits. I'm not considering it that strongly."

Permalink Eye

"Coming into contact with large numbers of other magical girls but it might be untoward to attempt to perform experiments involving magical girls over whom I have an unrelated position of power."

Permalink Eye

"They probably do powers testing but if you got into weird experimentation yeah maybe."

Permalink Eye

"I have ever been known to get more carried away than I intended."

Permalink Eye

"Then you're probably not camp counselor material. Please don't be too devastated."

Permalink Eye

"I shall simply have to settle for irritating my stepmother by spending my father's money traveling to meet magical girls with interesting powers."

Permalink Eye

"Ooh, grand tour. What are you thinking there, paladins? Healers? Weird niche commercial ones?"

Permalink Eye

"Healers is the most obvious one--imagine if we could do real de-aging!--but I imagine weird niche ones are likely to be the most interesting from a research standpoint."

Permalink Eye

"Real de-aging would be so good."

Permalink Eye

"It would. I have no intention of dying if I can avoid it."

Permalink Eye

"To immortality!" She holds up her hand for a high-five.

Permalink Eye

"To immortality!" High-five!

Permalink Eye

Mad cackling!!!

Permalink Eye

She laughs and twirls around in place. 

Permalink Eye

 

"So, dinnertime?"

Permalink Eye

"Oh! Yes--the mall was that way, right?" she asks, pointing. 

Permalink Eye

"Yup!" Isabella takes off.

Permalink Eye

Katarzyna follows. 

"Incidentally, what wings are those?" 

Permalink Eye

"Swifts. There's been some work done on what wings let you go fastest. These are the fastest available in bird - swift wings plus modifications to make them work better with a human skeleton - there's a faster bat model but Xander didn't like the look of it."

Permalink Eye

"I would have guessed peregrine falcon, but the human body is rather a confounding factor."

Permalink Eye

"So there's different ways to be fast, and what I wanted was sustained overland, not diving - that's peregrine - or short bursts - that's something that eats swifts, I think - and there are still birds that can outperform the swift, but not all their adaptations translate well to a human."

Permalink Eye

"Oh, I see--I think in the long run I'm going to want a set of different kinds of wings, depending on what I want at the moment, instead of a single standard. This pair wasn't terribly well-thought-out."

Permalink Eye

"I recommend Constellation Center's Definitive Wing Encyclopedia."

Permalink Eye

"Can you repeat that when we're on the ground? I want to write it down but I don't want to risk dropping my notepad from this high up."

Permalink Eye

"Sure."

Permalink Eye

"Thank you. Initially I just went with a pair of generic angel wings--I wasn't trying to achieve flight, at that point, just 'wings are always enough'--and then since I was doing the gyrfalcon crescents thing anyways I just shifted to those once functionality came up, I haven't done all the research I want to yet and that includes into wing designs."

Permalink Eye

"I expected to get attached to my first set so I did the research first. Cleanup to keep my options open and then a lot of Constellation Center."

Permalink Eye

"That makes sense. If I get attached to these I'll keep them as part of the lineup but I don't think I'm likely to mind not always having something I'm attached to. If it weren't for the risk of going cryptid I would probably have played around far more with my body plan than I was ever likely to want to keep."

Permalink Eye

"Oh yeah, what would you've done?"

Permalink Eye

"Honestly I probably would have turned into an octopus."

Permalink Eye

Snort.

Here's the mall. Isabella lands and goes in.

Permalink Eye

Katarzyna follows, keeping an eye out for the Olive Garden or anything else particularly interesting. 

Permalink Eye

They go through a Nordstrom and pass a movie theater, an electronics shop, a Hot Topic, a Cheesecake Factory, a jewelry store, and a Rainforest Café before locating the Olive Garden.

Permalink Eye

She makes a mental note of some of the jewelry aesthetics just in case. 

The Olive Garden smells really good. 

Permalink Eye

They are seated and provided with breadsticks, water, and menus. Isabella munches a breadstick.

Permalink Eye

Katarzyna nibbles a breadstick while looking at the menu. 

"Uh--I can pay," she adds after a minute.

Permalink Eye

"If your dad wishes to authorize Olive Garden for two I will not lose any sleep over it."

Permalink Eye

"I have a personal allowance."

Permalink Eye

"Even better."

Permalink Eye

"Father has his flaws but it can't be said that he doesn't commit to the 'provide materially for your children' thing."

Permalink Eye

"I have money but not enough to burn a hole in my pocket."

Permalink Eye

"Awkwardness surrounding wealth differences is a common fictional trope. I have no idea how realistic it is."

Permalink Eye

"I won't be awkward about it if you're not!"

Permalink Eye

"I don't intend to be."

Permalink Eye

"Splendid. I'm getting the bolognese, and do you wanna split this chicken appetizer?"

Permalink Eye

"Oh, certainly--I think I'll have the shrimp scampi."

Permalink Eye

And they order. "What's your school like?"

Permalink Eye

"It's...very rules-oriented, in many ways. There are schedules we're supposed to adhere to, even when classes aren't in session--you can get away with deviating from them, but not with flaunting it. Many of the teachers are excellent, but some of them are also uncomfortably authoritarian. We have an excellent library. The cafeteria is adequate. Rooms are usually shared--there are singles but not many. I room with my sister; having a roommate I disliked being around would be uncomfortable and I'm glad I don't have to deal with it."

Permalink Eye

"I'm glad they let you room with her. Are you violating your schedule right now?"

Permalink Eye

"Technically yes."

Permalink Eye

"Oh nooooo."

Permalink Eye

"They'll get over it."

Permalink Eye

"Why this school in particular, just because it's nearish by?"

Permalink Eye

"I like the library. Also, it is far enough away that I have an excuse to not visit home very often."

Permalink Eye

"You got to pick then?"

Permalink Eye

"Going to a boarding school in the first place was our idea--mine and Jaromira's. We selected one before making our case."

Permalink Eye

"Oh, that makes sense."

Permalink Eye

"Father is--not emotionally available, but he is open to reasonable arguments."

Permalink Eye

"Better than the alternative."

Permalink Eye

"Yes. I don't love him the way I wish I could, but he is objectionable only in relation to the standards I believe it is reasonable to hold a parent to; in absolute terms he is entirely inoffensive to interact with. I believe if he were a coworker or classmate instead of my father I would like him."

Permalink Eye

"I guess that could be worse. My parents are both cool people."

Permalink Eye

"I'm glad."

Permalink Eye

"You'll probably meet Renée at some point but Charlie lives all the way in Washington."

Permalink Eye

"There are probably magical girls with interesting powers in Washington."

Permalink Eye

"It's a tiny town near nothing at all with like fifteen girls in it but maybe some of them have interesting powers."

Permalink Eye

"Fair enough."

Permalink Eye

"I haven't met them, I'm guessing based on the population."

Permalink Eye

"That makes sense. Since genes influence likelihood of acquiring magic it seems that small towns where the gene pool has stayed relatively consistent over time would be more likely to be demographically unusual than large cities, but in the absence of specific information using general demographics is most likely the best option."

Permalink Eye

"Also I think Charlie would have mentioned it if there were any magical dynasties in Forks."

Permalink Eye

"The local genes could also be unusually low on magic instead of unusually high."

Permalink Eye

"True. I've seen girls there but they coulda been tourists or Paladins there 'cause it's coastal."

Permalink Eye

"It actually seems possible that areas that are in general less desirable to live in would have lower quantities of magic genes in general, if people tended to leave whenever they got magic."

Permalink Eye

"Some people like it. Charlie wouldn't leave for the world. It's just very small town and very remote and wildernessy."

Permalink Eye

"Yes, I'd more expect that kind of magical bleedoff from, say, a former coal mining town with no more viable mines."

Permalink Eye

"It's not a strong genetic relationship, so one girl who wanted lots of kids could correct it pretty fast."

Permalink Eye

"True. I probably shouldn't worry about it."

Permalink Eye

"I think China kinda tries to breed for more magic."

Permalink Eye

"China is...the kind of problem I don't know how to solve."

Permalink Eye

"I'm not positive it's all bad."

Permalink Eye

"I don't believe that it is. But the ones that there are are very different from the ones that we have, so they stand out."

Permalink Eye

"Yeah."

Permalink Eye

"Admittedly, our social problems aren't within my area of expertise either."

Permalink Eye

"Very peopley, yeah."

Permalink Eye

"If there's anything in particular for me to do in that area Jaromira will tell me to do it."

Permalink Eye

"Alrighty."

Permalink Eye

"Complementary skills are quite convenient."

Permalink Eye

"They sound it! Does she run a lot of interference for you?"

Permalink Eye

"So much."

Permalink Eye

"Like how?"

Permalink Eye

"Occasionally she interacts with people on my behalf, but more often she feeds me lines."

Permalink Eye

"I'm fishing for examples."

Permalink Eye

"Oh--a few months ago there was a biology lab assignment and I wanted to do an interesting variation that didn't exactly match the lab handout, so I went to Jaromira and explained the issue and she told me exactly what to say when I was asking permission to do it differently. Two weeks ago we had a group project in history and one of the girls in my group was flat-out insufferable, so Jaromira would distract her any time she started talking, so that the rest of us could get the project done."

Permalink Eye

"What's wrong with Insufferable Girl?"

Permalink Eye

"Didn't know how to take no for an answer. She kept suggesting things and people kept explaining why they wouldn't work or would make things more difficult and she kept bringing up the same things over and over again no matter how many times we explained that they wouldn't work."

Permalink Eye

"At least she proved distractible."

Permalink Eye

"Jaromira is good at that kind of thing."

Permalink Eye

"I'm not great at it myself so I'm just imagining her saying 'look, a squirrel' fifty times."

Permalink Eye

Giggle. "Oh, it was definitely subtler than that--Ava, the girl's name was Ava, would say, 'oh, you know what I think we should do here?' and Jaromira would come up with a guess and engage Ava in trying to shoot down Jaromira's idea--and then Jaromira would let her succeed so Ava felt like she was being listened to, and the next time she tried to speak up Jaromira would notice beforehand and say something to her completely unrelated to the project--"

Permalink Eye

Giggle.

Their food arrives. It is Olive Gardeny.

Permalink Eye

Mm, Olive Gardeny. 

"I like your taste in restaurants."

Permalink Eye

"Thanks! I'm pretty sure it's pedestrian and middle-class but have not previously had much wherewithal to refine my tastes!"

Permalink Eye

"The upperclass non-pedestrian restaurants I've been to were with my father and stepmother. It may have soured me on them somewhat."

Permalink Eye

"Fair enough."

Permalink Eye

"This is much better. When my mother was alive she used to take my sister and I to these suspicious-looking little hole-in-the-wall places with surprisingly delicious food."

Permalink Eye

"Oh, my mom does that too! I know some good ones but they seemed a little sketchy for a first date, next time I can take you to the weird Filipino place."

Permalink Eye

"That sounds fantastic."

Permalink Eye

"Awesome. They have this naturally purple cake that's pretty yummy."

Permalink Eye

"Ooh. Ube?"

Permalink Eye

"If that's how it's pronounced, yes!"

Permalink Eye

"I admit I'm not sure if that's how it's pronounced, I get most of my vocabulary from reading so I've been wrong before."

Permalink Eye

"Renée says 'oob' and they haven't corrected her but I really have no idea."

Permalink Eye

"Let's check," she suggests, taking out her phone and googling 'how is ube pronounced'. 

"Ooh-beh, apparently."

Permalink Eye

"Ooh-beh! Okay."

Permalink Eye

"I can see why your mother would think that, though, it's the natural Anglo-Saxon extrapolation of that spelling."

Permalink Eye

"My guess was oo-bay."

Permalink Eye

"I think that's how it would be pronounced if it were Japanese."

Permalink Eye

"Aha."

Permalink Eye

"I know an incredibly large number of things of widely varying levels of usefulness."

Permalink Eye

"May I prompt you at arbitrary moments for fun facts?"

Permalink Eye

"Sure!"

Permalink Eye

"Fun fact me."

Permalink Eye

"The heaviest bony fish--as opposed to cartilaginous fish like sharks--are the members of the genus mola, also known as sunfish. They eat jellyfish and look incredibly silly. They're harmless but curious."

Permalink Eye

"I think I've seen pictures of those. They look incorrect."

Permalink Eye

"They do."

Permalink Eye

"It's weird that an animal can look incorrect! You'd think either they'd all be weird or none of them would be weird. But like, jellyfish, jellyfish don't look incorrect even though ancestrally we wouldn't have seen many of those around either."

Permalink Eye

"We don't have anything for jellyfish to be an incorrect version of, though, and there are lots of other fish that were around in the ancestral environment."

Permalink Eye

"So you think this is purely cultural and sunfish don't look incorrect if you see them all the time?"

Permalink Eye

"It could be. It could also be that we're programmed to find sunfish incorrect but wouldn't be if we hadn't evolved around other fish."

Permalink Eye

"Hmm, I guess. Why don't penguins look incorrect? They don't look like paradigmatic birds, but they don't look incorrect."

Permalink Eye

"I don't know...maybe it's because penguins make sense, and sunfish are just objectively ridiculous."

Permalink Eye

Permalink Eye

"Their primary food is jellyfish. Do you know how many calories and nutrients there aren't in a jellyfish?"

Permalink Eye

"I can't say I've ever tried to subsist on one, but it seems to be working okay for sunfish."

Permalink Eye

"This is true, but it is bizarre that it's true. Well, evolution will fill every niche available, I suppose."

Permalink Eye

"You can't just leave all those jellyfish floating around, not being eaten!"

Permalink Eye

"Well, you can, but then something else will evolve to eat them!"

Permalink Eye

"You snooze you lose... out on jellyfish."

Permalink Eye

"I like the human niche much better."

Permalink Eye

"Sunfish probably think we look incorrect."

Permalink Eye

"Fortunately, I care even less for the opinions of sunfish than I do the opinions of other humans who are judging me."

Permalink Eye

"But maybe sunfish are the only holders of secret aesthetic wisdom. Maybe with a sunfish theme we could be omnipotent!"

Permalink Eye

"Hmm. I suppose if the human form is objectively incorrect, that would explain why things like wings and tails generally win one points."

Permalink Eye

"Turning into a cryptid is a prize for shucking your inferior original body plan."

Permalink Eye

"Not a prize I want to win, though, so perhaps I will forgo the wisdom of the sunfish."

Permalink Eye

"I have startled myself with the occasional weird opinion on cryptid appearances but I think I also prefer that you not be a sunfish."

Permalink Eye

"Are the weird opinions generally variations on a theme by thaumosexuality?"

Permalink Eye

"Yes. Like. You know that dragon who poses for photos sometimes, lives in Montana?"

Permalink Eye

"Vaguely."

Permalink Eye

"The day after I put on wings I saw a picture of her on a magazine and couldn't stop staring at her and it was so strange."

Permalink Eye

"That sounds extremely strange."

Permalink Eye

"Should I show you a picture of the Montana dragon, get it out of the way?"

Permalink Eye

"Sure, why not."

Permalink Eye

"Lemme see your fancy phone, mine doesn't have internet browsing."

Permalink Eye

Katarzyna hands the phone over.

Permalink Eye

Isabella finds a picture of Ann Eriksen (presumed), white dragon of Montana.

Permalink Eye

Katarzyna considers her. 

"She's pretty, but she's not...va va voom."

Permalink Eye

"Maybe your type is yetis, whatever."

Permalink Eye

"Maybe. At the moment it seems entirely academic."

Permalink Eye

"Fair enough."

Permalink Eye

"It's certainly--interesting, the way thaumosexuality works."

Permalink Eye

"You're telling me."

Permalink Eye

"It seems peculiar that it leaves asexuals alone but flips heterosexuals instead of making them asexual."

Permalink Eye

"I guess. I would have been even less enthused about becoming asexual, though."

Permalink Eye

"I'm not saying it's not convenient--but it has different implications."

Permalink Eye

"Yeah, it does."

Permalink Eye

"And if I'm going to figure out the deep mysteries of magic, I have to pay attention to those."

Permalink Eye

"What do you hope to learn by investigating thaumosexuality?"

Permalink Eye

"More about how magic affects the brain in general. Whether it's reversible or preventable, in cases where that would be desirable."

Permalink Eye

"People who lose or surrender their powers aren't thaumo any more..."

Permalink Eye

"I would prefer a less drastic solution than that."

Permalink Eye

"Yes, but it's information!"

Permalink Eye

"True. Thank you."

Permalink Eye

"You're welcome. I'm planning on doing my next presentation on thaumosexuality, actually."

Permalink Eye

"I'll have to consider what to do when she calls upon me."

Permalink Eye

"Think fast, you only get a few weeks' grace period before she assigns you. I like to get mine done well in advance so if she surprises me I don't have to whip it together in a week of spare time."

Permalink Eye

"Perhaps I'll prepare two. A default and a contingency in case she turns out to be egregiously irritating and merits a sharper tongue."

Permalink Eye

"What presentation topic does she get if she irritates you? Or do you just mean you'll talk about it differently?"

Permalink