Jun 28, 2022 6:36 PM
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The room was as described, five by ten. Desk, drawers, bed. One wall black, so she wouldn’t have the void under her feet. Not likely a mal in a drawer of a room that had just been created and if there was she had no mana to deal with it, emptier than she had been for the past year. Notebook, tablets, healing potion, pen and stylus in the wallet at her side. Her eversharp dagger, a gift from János, in its leather scabbard at her hip, but …

The corridor outside was loud with voices, feet. Out the door. Room 180. She wrote it in the notebook with the pen, opened the tablets, inscribed 180 with her stylus on the wax. The letters vanished, replaced by 352. 549. 577. She wrote all three numbers down in her notebook, folded the tablet, dropped notebook, tablets, pen and stylus back into the wallet, joined the stream of students. Her first task was to link up with her agemates and whichever of the older kids were still alive. With luck all of them. And Ellen.

None of the faces were familiar — not surprising — from all over the world, and Buda didn’t interact much even with the other Euro enclaves. Four years to learn who was competent at what, who could be trusted. For now they were all her equals. The most unlikely Indie might end up, like János, as one of the treasures of Buda.

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The room was as her mother had described it. She had fasted since breakfast yesterday, aside from one apple and a little cheese, both of which she lost into the void wall; her mother had been right about that too.

Once that was over she went to the door, remembered her mother’s parting advice — with a mana stock inadequate to bar the door against an unfriendly ant or burn a hostile bumblebee she had best follow it. She used the tip of the dagger her father had given  her to open drawers — nothing in them. Nothing under the bed.

Next the cafeteria, letters to deliver and a friend to meet. Best to keep her pack on her until she could secure her room. Out the door. Her room number was 512, easy to remember but her mother had told her to write it down, so she did.

The hall was full of people all moving the same way; she joined them. More than she had ever seen in one room — the record for that was seven, when she visited Mari in her enclave. Probably more than she had seen in her whole life before. One thing that would be different.

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