Ch5: Going Undercover pt10

The house Charles had rented for Jessie and Kyle was huge. It had six bedrooms, four bathrooms, a kitchen, dining room, living room, family room, game room, and a couple of other amenities. Kyle thought Charles didn’t even understand just how overblown it was as a place to crash for a few days. He had described it as, “Adequate,” when he’d given them the keys.

At any rate, it was big enough for Kyle to have a whole room to himself when practicing magic. Jessie called the room Kyle’s laboratory, only she pronounced it lab-OR-atory, which didn’t make any sense at all. Kyle was doing magic and, for its era, Frankenstein had been hard science fiction. Scientists of the time had just begun to work with electricity and, as such, they’d realized it could make a frog’s leg twitch. Shelly had made the jump to assuming electricity was the very stuff of life and a whole heap of it might be able to bring a construction of dead body parts to life. Utterly wrong, of course, but also in no way a fantasy proposition.

Kyle had not told Jessie any of that. Even if there was a universe where the rules of physics allowed one to summon spirits from Tartarus to make cats smarter, there wasn’t one where that information would make Jessie tease Kyle less. Besides, she looked kind of cute when she tried to roll the r in laboratory.

Still, having the room was useful. It was empty, which kept him from bumping into anything if one of the spells he was doing required gestures, and he’d put up blackout curtains. That was useful for keeping people from looking in, or if he needed to see faint lights clearly. Kyle’s current work often had him trying to spot faint lights.

“Merv,” Kyle called. “Merv!”

Kyle’s familiar, the tomcat now named “Merv” because Kyle sucked at picking names, came bounding down the hall and into the converted bedrooms. Kyle reached down and gave him a scratch. The cat had proven stunningly trainable, as proven by the fact that it came when called. Kyle had assumed that was all the work of the spells, but Charles said the cat’s gender probably had something to do with it. Toms were often friendlier than female cats.

Once he’d received his scratch Merv sat primly with his tail coiled about his feet and awaited instruction, or more likely, treats. He was still a cat after all. Kyle flipped off the lights in the room, shut the door, let his eyes adjust to the darkness, and then inhaled a big breath of magical power. Then he inhaled a second time because the first hadn’t done the trick. That done, he reached out to a little above the cat’s head and willed more energy into a tangle of magical power hanging there.

The pattern of magic wasn’t a spell. It had a Greek name, but Kyle thought of it as a breadboard with Merv acting as a power source to hold it stable. Physically, it was a set of lines of power that could be connected if there was sufficiently powerful light in the area to improve magical conduction. With Technikose Lux providing an effectively limitless array of light or dark spells connections could be switched on and off at will. Patterns of light could also act as input buffers. The whole thing was a computer, or at least a computer waiting to happen, thus Kyle’s name for it.

There was currently only one program in it. When light, specifically about 10 lux, hit the base of Merv’s tail power was diverted from the connection to the breadboard back into the spells on the cat. That meant the breadboard was only active in a dark room, or when Kyle had cast a darkness spell over the cat’s tail.

Kyle’s current goal was wiring in a second program. He’d decided it would execute the trigger of a blanket protection spell in case he got involved in another magical dual. The moment when Kyle had made that decision had been an odd one for him as it required him to accept that he might get in a magical dual, and it might be a sudden life and death event, and that wasn’t something he could change. It felt like he was shopping for a car and had realized bulletproof glass was a compelling feature.

Another similarity between a blanket magical protection spell and bullet proof glass was neither one actually existed. Glass can be made bullet resistant. Unfortunately, the sheet of transparent stuff that will shrug off a 22 caliber hollow point from a handgun without chipping will become a collection of dangerous projectiles in its own right if hit with a sufficiently energetic round. Likewise, the spell that will protect its caster from being hit with an effect that negates electrical charge, and incidentally functioning brains, won’t do anything about a spell that accelerates little tiny bits of metal to a few thousand feet per second.

The solution adopted by police, militaries, and the same class of individual that purchased cars with bullet proof glass was to cast an effect that made it difficult to gather magical charge and thus to cast new spells. They then dealt with purely physical threats, even those conjured via magic from outside the magical denial zone, via purely physical means. As a magic user, Kyle had to modify that approach slightly.

His spell did the same thing, but it did it in a hollow sphere surrounding him. As such, Kyle could cast spells but no one could directly kill him with a spell. Of course, he couldn’t directly kill people either, but he liked to think of himself as the sort of person who didn’t see “being unable to directly kill people” as a major drawback.

Ch5: Going Undercover pt9
Ch5: Going Undercover pt11

For some reason I cannot adequately explain, even to myself, I'm trying to write and to write better. So if you like my story let me know. All feedback is appreciated.

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9 comments on “Ch5: Going Undercover pt10
  1. Thaumaturgical_Support says:

    Hopefully it wasn’t obvious, but I’ve been having a small fight with myself over what magic can and can’t do regarding changing the properties of magic.

    Previously, in the comments (and hopefully only there! If I’ve ever contradicted that in the story let me know so I can ret-con!), I said magic can’t change the operation of magic. In this “book” I’ve changed my opinion on that as we see magic changing magic several times.

    First, Charles sucks the charge out of Kyle when he meets the bounty hunters in Ch4. Just a bit ago, Ch5 pt5, Kyle mentally complains that he can’t stun Ivan through his bear spell spell, or directly cancel it, “because he doesn’t understand it”. Above he’s working on another charge limiting spell. So the current cannon is you can cast a spell to alter raw magical charge, but altering an active spell requires some sort of understanding of the spell.

    I now have made up more details on how magic can be used to alter the physics of magic, and I am actively seeking an excuse to explain that in painful detail in the story. So no spoilers here!

    Still, I might hold off on that because “Advanced Metamagic for Professionals” is a great title.

    • AvidFan says:

      We’ll need an entire book to explain how magic works in this story soon. 😉

      Side note: Does it make anyone else sad when you’ve been reading an awesome story with its own in depth magic system, only to finish the story and never see anything quite like it again?

      • Thaumaturgical_Support says:

        Welcome back. I wondered if you were letting the story build up before you read it. I think a lot of people follow that strategy.

        > We’ll need an entire book to explain how magic works in this story soon.

        Heh, if I get the time I was thinking of doing something like that. I think I can make a wordpress post with a date far in the future and that will cause said post to sort to the end of the listing at all times. I was then going to make it an appendix of sorts for the story with character bios, the names and functions of all the spells I’ve included, and the classes of magic.

  2. Syndic says:

    Typo finder:

    Merv’s tale -> should be tail
    another magical dual -> should be duel

    • Thaumaturgical_Support says:

      Thanks, fixed them. I think that’s the second time I’ve written “Merv’s tale”. If I keep doing that I’m going to need to write a spin-off story chronicling Merv’s adventures before Charles got him.

  3. Para says:

    The way you handle metamagic puts me in mind metamath and metalogic.

    Your original impulse to make magic not able to affect magic is very reminiscent of how getting too meta about math seems to break it – re: incompleteness theorem, Russell paradox, etcetera. I have to wonder how a Godel-type paradox would play out with metamagic… would using magical logic to negate a spell cause a Russell paradox? What would happen?

    • Thaumaturgical_Support says:

      Interesting thought!

      I think what metamagic would have over the liar’s paradox (“This sentence is a lie.”), or the more formal “G is not provable in the theory T” is a clear temporal progression through various states of truthiness.

      Consider a mundane spell like Ivan’s bear transformation. It’s triggered by him symbolically saying “I am a bear.” That’s not true when he says it, but by saying it and pushing magic into the trigger it becomes true until he runs out of magic and once again becomes a big Russian man with a socially unacceptable hobby.

      The spell “This spell cannot function” is going to be similar. Not true to start with, then true when cast. However, it will only remain true for an instant because it will immediately knock itself off-line and become false again.

      Magical researchers would be interested in just how fast it could knock itself off line and how much energy it consumes while functioning, but it wouldn’t be paradoxical exactly due to the temporal component. I’m not sure if you could construct the spell to eliminate that as all spells have a discrete duration as a function of their power source.

  4. COB says:

    Edit: “That was useful for keeping people from looking in, or if He needed to see faint lights clearly.”

    –> “That was useful for keeping people from looking in, or if he needed to see faint lights clearly.”

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