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Generated: Aug 05, 2021 12:44 PM
Post last updated: Aug 05, 2021 12:44 PM
to ask her for advice and help
cor and jesus!lucy
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Cor checks the blood for wet shine, checks the charcoal marks for gaps, looks in the mirror too, makes sure he has his knife and his little bag of ash.

He chants, he gambles, he - destroys, he destroys, he destroys -

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--He appears, directly in front of a woman walking quickly enough that she fails to stop before colliding with him and sending the both of them tumbling to the ground in a heap. 

She says something startled and apologetic in a language he doesn't understand. 

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He cannot establish that he does not understand this because he collapses unconscious in a heap.

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Random teleporting dudes are not normal! Or, at least, ones who don't have the discretion to teleport somewhere other than a public street. Ones who then collapse unconscious are just straight-up concerning. 

She checks to make sure he doesn't have any injuries such that moving him carelessly would be a bad idea, then scoops him up into a bridal carry and does some teleporting herself. 

When he wakes up, he will find himself alone in a room decorated impersonally in pale blues and heather-purples.

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Apart from having a lot of blood on him - it's not his - he is unharmed.

He sits up and looks around and says, "Uh, hello?"

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A moment later, the woman appears in the doorway. 

In his language, she says, "Hi! I've never heard of this language before, where're you from and where were you trying to go? I didn't find anything physically wrong with you, so I'm also not sure why you collapsed, are you going to do that again, should I be ready to catch you?"

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"- hi! I don't expect to do it again, it can happen when a spell is almost but not quite right. If you tell me about how long I was out I can refine it for next time. I wasn't aiming for anywhere specific because I didn't know of anywhere specific to land. Uh, it's nice to meet you."

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"Nice to meet you! I'm Lucy. You were out for about half an hour. I've never heard of spells having that as a failure mode. Are you from another universe or something?"

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"If I was only out for half an hour then I think I can conclude that yes. That plus you being able to speak Senserke and claiming you've never heard it before."

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"I have never heard it before! Welcome to Earth. Why were you trying to go to another universe?"

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"My planet is being destroyed by out of control magical byproduct."

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Her focus sharpens immediately; she straightens out of her half-slouch against the doorframe. "--Oh, that's not good. How fast? How long will it take you to be able to jump back--or teach someone else to--we can probably help, with evacuation if nothing else, if there's time to evacuate--"

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"We think we have a few months before the place can't hold atmosphere. I can jump back, takes maybe fifteen minutes to draw out my spell diagram, but I can't teach people here, requires access to a magical byproduct location. Also every time I do the spell it makes it worse. A place to evacuate to is good but before we scale that up it may be more important to find a planet we can breathe on but that nobody's using."

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"Okay. How much does doing the spell accelerate byproduct buildup? Is the spell guaranteed to land you somewhere with atmosphere? It might be more efficient to terraform a planet in this universe than to try to find one in another one that's already habitable, I am confident in my ability to terraform a planet one way or another but it hasn't been a priority yet so I don't have a good estimate on how long it'll take, but if I call in enough favors it should be doable in less than two months I think. What's your planet's population?"

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"Bit under a billion - you can terraform a planet?"

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"I'm very magic. But doing it myself might not be the best idea, the fairies have been working on the project of interplanetary colonization for years. They haven't done any yet but there's this neat dome habitat somewhere very inhospitable on this planet. This planet ish. Recreating their project to create an adjacent pocket dimension with a duplicate of this planet on it miiiiiight be faster, if it can be done."

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"I was not expecting this spell to work at all, let alone this well, wow."

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"You got very lucky landing on me! Uh, also, probably shouldn't surprise you with this only after we've sunk a ton of costs, this universe has an afterlife situation." 

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"That... sounds better than the alternative, is it?"

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"I wouldn't trade it in. But, uh, it is not perfect. There are two afterlives, and one of them catches the overwhelming majority of people, and the other one catches one every couple of years and is, uh. It is, strictly speaking, my reason for existence to solve it."

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"...that's a strictly speaking?"

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"I mean, I'm not going to stop solving problems when that one's dealt with."

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"I mean, more, how is it the reason for your existence."

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"Oh! Remember how I said I was extra magic? We have a God. She set up the main afterlife on purpose and the other one not on purpose. She managed to empty it out a couple thousand years ago but she made me to fix it for real. She found a," she waves a hand, "a place, sort of, that had--patterns, stories and people, that happen over and over again in different universes. That's how I knew other universes would exist. She found my pattern and decided I would be good at it. So she made me."

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"O....kay. Nice work if you can get it. Uh, what do you need from me to get on the terraforming thing - we ideally want separate planets, here, one to put refugees on since it'd be a lot to dump on an inhabited planet and one to put more magical byproduct on."

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"Does the byproduct one need to be habitable all over?"

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"No, just needs people to be able to visit for short periods safely to establish byproduct dump sites and visit them when they want to become mages."

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"Okay. That'll be easier. Does byproduct have mass?"

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"No. It's nothingness."

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"Nothingness like vacuum, nothingness like magical annihilation juice, nothingness like something weirder?"

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"It's not... juicy. It warps space, is that weirder?"

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"Pretty weird! Sorry, that was an idiomatic usage of the word juice to mean energy."

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"The warping space can be useful, it can make gates in controlled doses."

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"Sounds useful. If, uh, possibly dangerous."

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"The gates haven't hurt anybody besides small-scale if disfiguring accidents. The disappearance points in the ground are the bad news."

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"Yeah, the planet those go on should be not in this star system. I wonder if falling into your star would destroy them or just eat the star."

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"I would bet against the star."

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"Yeah so that one needs to be not just a planet nobody's using but a star nobody's--ah. Hmm. How long has your planet been appreciably declining in mass?"

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"For thousands of years we thought the disappearance points only grew when somebody used magic. It only became clear they grew on their own very recently. It accelerates as they get bigger. If you want to find us a star no one's using with several destructible planets we could easily put off the question for a long time, longer if your magic can replace the essentials of ours."

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"I can do magic that arbitrary people can't learn, and so can the fairies and the angels, but there is, also, magic that anyone can learn. Actually that's where fairies come from in the first place, not that they'll usually admit it. Anyway. What I was wondering was how your mass reduction interacts with orbital mechanics--see, planets have a velocity, and the reason they don't just fall into their stars is because they're going too fast--my concern is the possibility of accidentally slingshotting reduced-mass planets out of the solar systems in question. But if it takes that long for a planet to get used up probably we can just keep an eye on that even if it does happen, which, I don't actually know if that's a risk because I'm not an orbital mechanics person. How hard is your magic system to learn? Our general-purpose one is versatile but very detail-intensive." 

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"It's - not that hard but it is very dangerous. Falling unconscious is the gentlest possible failure of a spell. I am unusual in still having all my toes."

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"Alarming! I have never met anyone who lost bits from doing magic. I mean I could fix it if you had lost bits, healing's easy, but. Alarming. I guess you'd get a different small subset of people deciding to be mages that way but I think I like our selection effects better."

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"Oh?"

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"If I had to pick, I would rather the people who had magic were people who were detail-oriented and patient than people who were risk-takers."

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"- I mean, mine also requires detail-orientedness, because you only start losing extremities if you don't do the spell right."

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"Well, fair enough. Just, I know a lot of people are--bad at thinking they could possibly be the person the bad thing happens to, even when the statistics are right there."

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"Yeah, we lose folks that way. Uh, the main things we use magic for that people'll be very reluctant to give up are healing - doesn't work on missing toes but works well on infections - and family planning and pest control and the gates. Most other things we can probably put down if we have to."

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"By 'family planning' do you mean birth control or, like, some kind of information-handling thing." 

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"- our magic's purely destructive, that is the only thing it can do. So, some abortion, but also sterilization when people have had enough."

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"Ah. Well, good news, we have birth control that isn't magic at all. In both permanent and non-permanent forms. Also safe abortion but that gets slightly more complicated what with the afterlife."

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"- oh dear, do the babies show up?"

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"Depends on how far along in gestation they are. But once there's a brain, yes."

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"Awkward. Still, your birth control probably doesn't destroy planets. Any joy on the rest of it?"

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"That's the only one that's reliably doable without magic at all. Healing is pretty easy and does way more than just infections, pest control is--well, sometimes you discover the hard way you left a loophole, but it can be done. Gates I'm pretty sure can be done in theory but every mage I know teleports instead."

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"...that's better than nothing but not as good as gates. I guess if we have disposable planets anyway we could keep using gates and chuck them into the disappearance points if they got overgrown."

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"If developing gates is important I can probably convince Kanimir to do it. He's eight hundred years old and the best mage I know of."

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"Wow, eight hundred, how'd he swing that?"

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"Turned into a vampire. Vampires were invented by some mage some thousands of years ago, you get one by taking a human and putting a lot of vampire blood in them, and they don't age and they're nocturnal and they drink human blood."

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"That's weird but okay."

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"It's pretty weird. But you can't do that kind of magic in the afterlife, so his hanging around this long is useful."

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"Why can't you do magic in the afterlife?"

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"Um...sort of for the same reason you can't see the stars in the daytime. The afterlife is made of magic."

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"...in a useful way or just in an obstructive one?"

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"Oh, definitely useful. You can get from any place to any other place effortlessly and block people you don't want to interact with and you don't have to deal with any kind of biological inconvenience and you can read any book ever written..."

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"That does sound nice."

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"Our god has limited power over the earth, and she makes mistakes, but her heart's in the right place." 

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"Can you do evac at all, or will that have to be our magic?"

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"We can probably do it. I'm not sure of all the logistics off the top of my head but it certainly ought to be doable."

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"Okay, that makes the order of operations less urgent to juggle."

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"Yes. Okay, I'm going to call some people who are better at logistical math than I am, and they'll ask you questions about your planet's population distribution while I grab some magic people and start on the terraforming and/or pocket dimension problem?"

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"They'll be able to magically speak Senserke too?"

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"Yes, all of the people I know who I would grab for logistics are angels--that's a kind of divine being created by God who are made of the same kind of magic Heaven is and I use, they can do the same language thing I can."

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"Convenient. Uh, at some point I should send someone - I currently only know how to send people, not unaccompanied objects - to my world to tell people that my spell worked so they can redirect efforts on that end appropriately."

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"Okay. What kinds of things would it be useful for that person to be able to do?"

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"Speak Senserke, though carrying a letter would do in a pinch. Find my colleagues and tell them I made it and found help."

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"But, like, going through gates doesn't cost destroying-things magic such that I should make sure they can teleport or anything."

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"As far as we know using an existing gate does not cost anything at all."

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"Okay, that's probably going to be an angel just in case, you know, things go extra catastrophically wrong and it becomes advantageous not to care about oxygen."

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"The whole planet is sort of high-altitude these days, the air's thinning out."

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"--Yeah that won't require things to go catastrophically wrong then. Definitely an angel."

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Cor nods. "Should I meet some angels now?"

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"Yes, that seems like a good idea." 

She closes her eyes and does something that mundane instruments would pick up as an infrasonic high-amplitude humming noise.

A second after she stops, the people begin to appear. 

They represent a variety of apparent ethnicities and ages, and tend to fall somewhere on a spectrum from normal levels of expressiveness to oddly blank. 

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"Hello, everyone," says Cor.

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"Hello," says one of the more expressive angels. "I'm sorry to hear about your world, that must be incredibly stressful at best."

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"Yeah, I'm not a fan. How much did Lucy tell you?"

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"She said your world's magic system was eating it and she needed volunteers to help with the evacuation."

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"Yeah. The magic produces nothingness, in specific locations, as a byproduct. We knew that - places to put that - were finite but we thought we had a lot of it. It has instead turned out that large enough disappearance points grow on their own. One punctured the planet, looked like an attack, started a war. We only figured out that it wasn't an attack and we had a much bigger problem on our hands relatively recently."

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"Yikes. Okay. Besides you, what steps have people taken to solve this very large problem? Are there people we should be coordinating with?"

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"The next most promising projects are one that's trying to get to the moon in a hurry so we can use that for magic while figuring something else out, and one that's trying to, uh, destroy the disappearance points, even though that's never worked before and it's been tried. I think they should drop what they're doing and help with my thing since my thing works, though."

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"How likely do you think they are to actually do that?"

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"...very, they're sensible people. The insensible people are looting and carrying out obsolete war-era revenge."