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Jan 20, 2022 8:36 AM
Dairine goes exploring in the oldest house
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Darkness has reconciled with Light. Entropy has made peace with Eternity to produce a limitless unidirectional Time. It has been three weeks since Dairine talked the Lone Power out of their aeons-long campaign of destruction. And she's getting kind of bored again.

Look, school just doesn't seem very interesting when you've got the whole universe to learn from. And since the speed of light is less of a "limit" and more of a "place where the math gets interesting", she can be back before she left. So why not go exploring?

She sets up the parameters of her jump carefully, entering criteria into Spot (her laptop-slash-wizarding-manual) until she has a clear specification of what she wants. It should be somewhere with a breathable atmosphere and reasonable gravity. It should be somewhere with a bunch of nonhumans, because her level of disorientation in that alien airport last month was really embarrassing and she wants to do better this time. But it should also be somewhere with at least one other human, so there's someone with context on both here and there to talk to about any miscommunications. It should be somewhere really far away and really weird. And most importantly, it should be somewhere she can help people.

The program finishes loading. Dairine double-checks her extradimensional pockets to make sure she has all her useful items, including a large supply of food and appropriate dishes and silverware this time, she is not coming back from two adventures in a row covered in mustard. And then she pulls aside the twenty-seven-dimensional curtain that separates every Here from every There, and steps.

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Dairine finds herself in some form of maintenance area of a building, either underground or windowless. The room she's in appears to be large and made of concrete and tall, more than a story high. Some of the walls have a number of freestanding metal cabinets, while others have heavy duty shelving, which are covered with scattered tools and of spools of wire and metal pipe pieces and other construction or maintenance items. Several other similar shelves cut the room into sections.

Additionally, there are large metal pipes running up and across the walls, about as wide around as she is, and several smaller pipes pierce the ceiling and walls in various locations, running along them to meet and terminate at a small desk against one wall. A shelf of canisters stands to either side, and there appear to be slots where the pipes end for the canisters to be inserted. 

If she looks around further, she will find that the corridors leading off in various directions seem to have no consistent plan or layout, turning in one direction or another so that she cannot see very far down them. 

There is a metal door near where she's standing, and a bit further from that there is a sign on posts coming up from the floor, lit by an yellowy fluorescent. "Janitor's Office," it says in big block letters, with an arrow pointing towards the door. 

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This is surprisingly Earthlike, but she did say at least one human. Also OMG they have a pneumatic tube mail thing, those are the bomb. She should figure out a spell to shrink herself so she can ride it like a roller coaster. But not right now, right now is for exploring! She'll go check out the Janitor's Office and say hi to the janitor if they're in there.

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"Advisory," comes a voice from the computer she is carrying. "Environment contains a sound that may have deleterious psychotropic and physical and metaphysical effects. These effects will onset rapidly, beginning in approximately 17 seconds. Program ready to block this sound. Run program, immediately?" 

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If she's listening carefully enough she might start to hear the noise that Spot is talking about, a susurrus of hissing resonating in the back of her skull, compelling and slightly painful, but it almost sounds like there are words in it, words she might be able to make out if she'll just listen a little bit closer... 

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Aw man, she wants to know what the words are but apparently it's going to mess with her head. She should take her manual's advice, it's always good. "Run program!" Hopefully it doesn't block everything and make her totally deaf or whatever.

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The resonating hissing sound stops, as does the pain in the back of her skull and the pressure on her temples. 

The sounds she'd been hearing before are muted, but not entirely blocked altogether. She can still hear her own footfalls, and the dripping of condensation from one of the pipes, but any background hum from a far-off generators and engines are practically unnoticeable. The noises she does hear sound like they're from further away and distorted, like at the end of a bad telephone connection.  

 

 

Any externally implanted desire she might have had to hear more of the noise instantly disappears when the noise and pressure does. Unless she had a lot of intrinsic motivation to find out what the words were, she very well might notice the sudden lack. 

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She's still curious but not nearly curious enough to even consider disregarding an advisory from Spot. Probably it's like that story with the Sirens, where it's not all that cool really but makes you think it is. Back to exploring, now slightly deafer.

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She has another minute, barely, to look around, before:

"Advisory. There appears to be an entity with an aversion to this unit's current form, and is exerting slow but considerable pressure on its internal workings. This unit may soon cease functioning in a violent fashion unless measures are taken. This unit is currently attempting negotiations with said entity to determine the proper format, but the pressure has not yet ceased. Increasing your distance from this unit to at least one meter may be a sensible precaution." 

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Oh heck someone's gonna blow up Spot! She puts him* down and backs up and says, in the wizardly Speech which all things from stars to starfish understand, "Whoever is messing with my laptop had better cut it out right now!"

* If Spot has complaints about being thought of as a boy he hasn't mentioned them to her.

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From behind the metal door comes a voice in an odd accent that Dairine will only be able to recognize in the Speech. "What is it that I am hearing out there? Come in, come in, take a load off, come in. Don't need to be shy." 

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She opens the door, trying to look through it and keep an eye on Spot at the same time.

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There is an older looking man in a blue janitorial outfit standing in the center of a room, his face cragged and back bent, holding a mop as he mops the wet floor. At the back of the room is a desk, and the room is sparsely decorated, but it's clearly occupied and used.

"Come in, come in," the man says, gesturing. "You are hear about the job? Janitor's assistant, yes?" He squints at her for a moment, then goes back to mopping. "They work so very young these days, they do. No matter, no matter. But you are late, too late, the position has been took." He pauses for a moment. "But perhaps she wants her own assistant. There is much to clean, much to do. She will be here soon. She can be asked then. Until then, no need to stand, come in, sit down. She can give you an interview herself when she arrives." 

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Huh. Maybe there's going to be some kind of magic mess she needs to clean up, and there's another wizard already working on it. "Are you also a wizard? Do you know what's messing with my laptop?"

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The man chuckles slightly. "No taikuri here, just janitor. Here to clean, not make rabbits for little kids." He pauses for a moment. "This building is old, newer things do not belong, not liked. 'Lap top' is too new, much too new. Something older, simpler, will be better." 

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"Spot!" She calls out the door. "Search transformation library, parameters: self-targeted; origin form: computer; target form: book!" She knows wizarding manuals can be books, Nita's is a book, maybe Spot can turn into a book and back and not die.

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There's a short pause. "There are millions of programs matching these parameters. Specify further parameters?"

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"Additional parameter: will preserve your full functionality as a wizarding manual and/or mind!"

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"Advisory: some functions may operate at reduced capacity. Specifically, verbal and auditory advisories and other outputs will be non-functional. Tactile notifications can be enabled with authorization?" 

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What the hey is a tactile notification, is Spot going to turn into Braille? No time, deal with it later. "Acknowledged!"

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"Transformation program, self-targeted, starting form: Apple IIIC+, target form: standard earth wizard's manual format. Additional stipulation: transformed object will retain current sapience and manual functionality. Run program?" 

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She almost says 'Run program', but hesitates--"Will the transformation be reversible?"

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"Most long-term transformation of sapient beings carries some measure of danger of permanent changes; intelligence will slowly change to match the form it takes, depending on the method of transformation. This unit's software and nature is more resilient than most due to its format and functionality. Permanent irreversible changes will likely not occur for several weeks, though some noticeable behavioral and instinctual changes may begin to affect this unit in no more than 16 to 32 hours. Warnings will be provided as changes occur. Advisory: this unit's physical form is currently under large amounts of pressure, it may not last much longer in its current format. Transformation is advised." 

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"Run program!" She needs to get out of this place before Spot gets his brain scrambled, but not until she knows why she's here.

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And with a soft rushing sound, where the computer once was there lies in its place a worn blue paperback book, with a faded symbol of a biteless apple emblazoned on the corner of the cover. 

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New Spot gets scooped up and hugged and opened to a random page to make sure he's okay.

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