Kyle ended up trying to sell the spell the very next day.
He came in to work and the morning passed more or less as usual. Or at least it passed like it should have been passing normally had the spinning wheels worked correctly when they were originally deployed. After the excitement of the weekend, sitting at his desk doing basically nothing proved difficult. Kyle drank coffee, goofed around on the internet, walked a few useless loops around the building with a purposeful stride so it looked like he was going somewhere, and talked to Ketan. He checked his email, checked his spam account, and even read some of the missives from Nigerian princes and contemplated the pros and cons of knockoff magical Viagra. (Pro: it works like magic! Con: .1% of the time the targeted area changes into a writhing mass of snakes and you can only date Medusa.) He was considering fiddling with the spells on his spinning wheel to make them work better, somehow, when his boss walked into his office.
Adam was a tall thin man, what was left of his hair was salt and pepper, and that was mostly on his chin. Kyle liked him fairly well, though that was a largely unconsidered opinion. Adam didn’t make Kyle’s life hard by being a bad boss, and Kyle didn’t make Adam’s life hard by being a bad employee.
“Everything going well with the carbon nanotube production equipment today?” Adam never called the spinning wheels spinning wheels. It was an odd quirk, and Kyle didn’t know where it came from. Maybe he was just trying to be professional, or maybe he didn’t like the slang term the workers had settled on, but he always referred to them by function since they didn’t have a proper name.
“The wheels, er, equipment is doing better than it has for months.” It also made for a slightly uncomfortable conversation.
“As I understand it, upper management took action to correct a problem with several of the base spells.”
Wow, Kyle thought, that’s more or less conformation that someone was ripping off the IP. Cool. He didn’t actually say anything though.
Adam continued, “If the equipment continues to perform well, we’re going to be doubling or tripling up on supervision duties. Maybe even outsource some of the work.” Kyle would have put in something there if Adam had given him the chance; for a minute it sounded rather like a lot of people were going to be out of work. Fortunately, that wasn’t the case, “It’ll free up manpower and we really need to do that right now. Work on other projects has fallen behind schedule. The carbon nanotube production work has been a problem.”
Kyle laughed. It was a fake laugh, and he didn’t make much of an attempt at making it sound real. He just sort of dropped a ‘heh’ out there so Adam would understand he was being casual. “Now and then it felt like a problem for my head.”
“We think things will be getting a little easier. You should have the invite in your email now, but I wanted to let you know that there’s a kickoff meeting for a new project in 45 minutes.”
“Oh, sounds good.”
“It’s going to be an interesting effort, and hopefully a profitable one. The initial kickoff runs most of the afternoon. I’ve spoken to Kajal about monitoring your equipment while you’re busy. We’ll get something more permanent set up soon, and you should see new billing codes before the end of the week.”
“Sounds good,” Kyle said again lacking anything more meaningful by way of response. He assumed the details of the project were in his email, and getting involved with something new would be good no matter what. The new work did sound good. Of course, he didn’t know anything about it. It could be a project cleaning all the building’s toilets.
It was an IBM pilot program for high-end memory chip manufacture. They already had a rough design for the circuitry, specs, and system architecture. Now they were tossing a ten FTEs, six month contract, at Magic Materials to figure out a system that could make the chips in a million unit production run. The goal, as always, was to keep the non-scalar principal from rendering the chips hugely expensive. The kickoff meeting mostly introduced the team and saw them brainstorming a broad approach.
There was already a lot of electronics that melded magic with circuitry on the market. Perhaps the simplest example was the MCCPU – Magical Charge Coupled Processing Unit, also known as an autocaster. That was a simple board that took magical current allowing it to execute spells via specialized programs. The equipment hadn’t changed much since the days of vacuum tubes because very few spells required a large volume of memory or millions of processing cycles per second to cast.
The most complex magical electronics were merely rumored to exist in the hands of major governments. At a minimum, those systems probably had superconductive processors set in diamond wafers, operating in magical fields that rendered the progression of time and the propagation of electromagnetic fields thousands of times as fast as in the normal universe. At any rate, that was the cryptographic community’s best guess at how big governments had periodically cracked top rate encryption. The conspiracy sites claimed considerably wilder spells existed. Things that could make the output of random number generators drift towards the most useful figures, or even just give answers directly. Kyle doubted there was any spell that could directly supply answers, but he wouldn’t put a few tweaks to entropy as applied to information theory past magic. That actually sounded pretty reasonable.
The challenge inherent in the IBM project was the target production output. After relatively little discussion, they settled on a textbook strategy for high load magical production. They wanted every effect they were targeting to be reachable by 5 or more spells, ideally 10. Thus non-scalar concerns would be somewhat offset. Production would, likewise, be balanced such that the minimum number of units would share a phase simultaneously.
The real question was: What spells would they need? They didn’t answer that in the opening meeting, but they did come up with a broad outline. Several spells would be needed for physical manipulation of the nanostructures of the chips. Some others could be used to replace expensive or time-consuming steps in the materials fabrication. Gravity negation seemed promising for handling the product during it’s more fragile states; orbital manufacturing facilities could replace those in the long-term if the project was successful. Finally, they’d need to produce really high frequency light, hard x-rays really, to have enough precision in the waves to manage the lithography on the chips.
Kyle didn’t think of his own spell until someone else said, “Can illusion spells be tuned to emit outside of the visible spectrum?”
“Even if they can, I don’t see how it helps. Illusion gets used heavily in advertising, promotion, and special effects. We’ll never find 10 underused spells.
Kyle sat up sharply. “I know a spell that can manage any bandwidth we need. Better yet, we’ll only need the one spell.”
The lead mage leaned back in her chair, cracked her neck, and glanced at the clock. The team’s reservation on the conference room had run out 30 minutes before, but no one had arrived to kick them out yet. In another half hour it would be 5. “You’re thinking of something with a really low scale factor?” She asked Kyle.
“Yup,” Kyle smiled proudly, “zero.”
Wherever he’d been hoping for, he didn’t get the reaction he’d wanted. Instead there was silence from around the conference table, half the room looked bored, the other half looked confused or at least confused and bored. “Did you say, ‘real low?’” The lead asked.
“Zero,” Kyle enunciated the ‘z’. “I mean we could cast it on every square foot of the earth at the same time and the per cast energy cost would be flat.” Kyle smiled proudly, again.
The group around the table looked less board and more confused at that pronouncement. Eventually one guy on the end shook his head, rolled his eyes a little, and spoke up with a dismissive tone in his voice. “You’re remembering wrong. There is no such thing. I mean, that’s the most basic principle of magic. Every school kid knows it!”
“I invented it myself this weekend.”
That was greeted with pure silence until a thin mage began to laugh. Kyle looked at him in confusion and the other mage managed to choke off his laughter long enough to explain, “Good one! You really got them. Those expressions are priceless. Although I think Harold was going for his straight jacket.” The other team members relaxed and several others began to chuckle.
The project lead gave a slight tolerant smile, then looked at the clock again. “Alright! Alright, everyone calm down. You’re all getting a little punchy. We’ve got some great ideas and it’s getting late. I’ll set up another meeting tomorrow and we can assign areas for more research. If you’ve got any specific interests, email me. I’m going to put Kyle on shattering the non-scalar law, but if that doesn’t pan out we’ve got a lot of work ahead of us.”
The meeting started to break up around Kyle with people gathering their notes then packing up laptops and tablets. Kyle stood and tried to catch the project lead’s attention. He managed it, but as he was about to open his mouth and explain he hadn’t been kidding, screams and crashes erupted from outside the conference room.