Ch5: Going Undercover pt12

Kyle blinked a couple of times and tried to switch mental gears. “You mean the Children of Atlantis have contacted us?”

Jessie nodded. “They were a bit coy, but the DHS flagged an email from an anonymous account that asks if we were going after the communications research and then hints that we share an ideology with them. It even mentions a couple of crimes the DHS had linked to the children.”

“Sounds solid, what’s next?”

“Charles is videoconferencesing in and wants to plan this meeting.”

“Charles, not Sandborn?”

Jessie shrugged, “Apparently they already talked and Sandborn doesn’t have anything new for us. He’d like us to go to the meeting and learn all about these nefarious evildoers, but he can’t really ask us to do so because we’re civilians.”

“I guess that makes sense in a SNAFU kind of way.”

“A what?”

Kyle waved a hand, “Geek speak, never mind. Merv, you’re dismissed.”

Merv looked at Kyle in a serious sort of cat way, then stood up, extended his tail, and walked out of the room. Kyle and Jessie followed.

* * *

“You’ll need a cover story, of course,” Charles said.

Kyle raised his eyebrows, “I thought we had one. You archmagi are hiding a bunch of knowledge that could benefit the world and I’m angry about that.” A little tension in his voice hinted that such a cover wasn’t going to be that hard to fake.

“Not that part, my idealistic young friend. I’m talking about why Jessie is there with you. She used to work for you, but that’s not a good reason to join underworld cabals. Unless your original want ad listed requirements considerably beyond the norm.”

“He never posted one, I went to him.”

Kyle and Jessie were sitting in the media room of the rental house. Until Jessie had led him in to speak with Charles, Kyle had thought the room was just what you came up with if you were really rich and really liked movies. It was that, it had a huge TV screen on one wall, LCD blackouts for the windows, and a bunch of comfortable recliners, and high end speakers, but apparently it doubled as a communications system if you turned on the lights and the camera set above the TV on which Charles now appeared at nearly life size.

“Anyway,” Charles pulled out the word dragging them back onto point, “If you’re going to fight the threat of the Archmagi together you need some sort of backstory, so I propose you’re engaged.”

That took Kyle by surprise. Jessie as well, apparently, because she spoke up first, “What?”

“You should pretend that you are engaged to be married. You’re affianced. What do people call it these days? You’ve got the hook up.”

Kyle blinked a couple of times, “What? No, that’s not what that means at all.”

“But hooking up is a relationship thing right?”

“Um, sort of.”

“And people say they’ve got the hook up.”

“Well, yes…”

“Then it seems like I should be right. I don’t run in the proper circles to discuss relationships casually, so I’m getting it all from TV, but it’s not like I’m being unreasonable here. Surely you understand what I mean.” Charles sounded annoyed, which was out of character for him. Then again, Kyle thought he understood the old wizard’s problem. Charles knew at least a dozen languages, being confused by the drift of the vernacular in his own language must be both confusing and frustrating. Kyle wondered if maybe he could get some consideration on his Greek lessons by teaching Charles slang.

Jessie broke in, “First, we do understand what you mean. Second, no; ‘hooking up’ and ‘having the hook up’ are absolutely wrong, please never say them again. Third, you want us to pretend to be engaged? Really?”

“With the Children of Atlantis, yes. Our mutual friend feels it’s a good cover story. Both of you have talents that will contribute to the investigation. Kyle is the main target of the Children’s interest, and Jessie has…”

“…superpowers,” Jessie supplied.

Kyle raised an eyebrow at her.

“What? I’ve got magical superpowers. I’m not going to pretend it’s not cool.”

Charles cleared his throat, which must have been something they taught you to do in the 18th century; Kyle thought it might have been the first time he’d heard it done in real life. “I was going to say, ‘Previous espionage experience.'”

Jessie frowned slightly, and her eyes widened in surprise. It passed quickly, but Kyle noticed anyway. Apparently, the comment hurt a little. That kept Kyle from laughing.

“At any rate,” Charles continued, “a romantic connection between the two of you would explain why you’re still working together.”

“Well, it’s easy enough to pull off anyway, I just need to get her a ring and a cute nickname.”

“What,” Jessie asked.

“I don’t know, pookie? J-babe, no that’s terrible. J-sweetie? Sweet-j? That sounds like a drug, or maybe something people would drink in the south.” Kyle trailed off scratching his head.

“Alright, so first, you never get to give me a nickname. Like, wow… However, why do I need a ring?”

“Because we’re going to pretend we’re engaged. It wouldn’t need to be real or anything. They’ve got some pretty nice fake ones, what with synthetic diamonds getting so cheap. Set that in a sterling silver band and…”

“Oh my gosh! Do you have a subscription to Modern Bride or something? Are you going to pull out your hope chest next? What I mean is why do you think I’d want a piece of jewelry just because we’re getting married. Maybe I’m not that kind of girl.”

Kyle blinked, Jessie seemed slightly insulted and he wasn’t sure why. “I wasn’t saying you’re greedy or something. Engagement rings are pretty common. It’s what people do, a visible sign of commitment. There’s nothing wrong with that.”

“Oh sure, it’s fine. But you know the whole ‘tradition’ is basically artificial, right? Diamonds sold really poorly until the big mining concerns banded together and came up with the engagement ring thing. A slightly more individual expression of romance just seems more genuine. You know, something personal.”

Charles did his big early American throat clear from the screen again, “You know, this is a very important discussion for a young couple. A real young couple that is! Can we move this along? I have another meeting.”

Kyle and Jessie shot each other a mutual awkward look. “Of course,” Jessie eventually answered.

“How are you intended to make contact,” Charles asked.

Kyle wondered about that as well. Jessie had just told him they could meet with the Children but not how it was to be accomplished.

She leaned forward and grinned her eyes sparking a little. “Oh that’s actually really cool! They invited us to meet in a shared dream space. As we fall asleep we focus some magic and then repeat, ‘Pilan Kai gho’. Apparently, that’s Balinese for ‘lie on sweet dreams’. Then, when we fall asleep, and the spell makes that easier, we’re in a shared dream. Why don’t either of you guys ever do proper magic like that?”

Charles looked offended. “I do proper magic all the time. That’s just classic magic, and I know a number of similar spells.”

“Sure, but if you did it when we fell asleep we’d enter dream space call waiting and then we’d have to enter our conference code.”

Kyle thought about that for a minute. Actually, a conference code made a lot of sense. Otherwise wouldn’t everyone doing the spell show up in the same dream? Maybe the spell was more complex than that and it could pluck who you intended to talk to out of your mind. That or it wasn’t a popular spell.

Charles didn’t respond to Jessie’s jibe, which made Kyle think the spells he knew did include some sort of connection targeting component to their trigger. Instead he said, “Let’s assume you’re on for that for tonight, but I’ll task a research team to make sure the spell is safe.”

“You mean it might be one of those things where if we die in the dream we die in real life?”

“As far as I know, no such spell exists. It wouldn’t be a rational way to put together magic. It’s just something television shows do when they have extra special effects budget and they can’t figure out a good way to spend it all given their normal set. I’m more interested in the possibility that the Children are wise to your game and it’s a trap of some sort. It might send you into a permanent coma, for example. Alright, if no one has any more questions…” Charles leaned forward toward something out of his camera’s view.

Kyle stopped him by raising a hand, “You told me to take magic on the terms of the people who invented it and not try to apply my own logic.”

“I’m glad you paid attention. And?”

“What if the people who invented the spell thought you could die in a dream and it would be permanent? Lots of cultures have considered dreams and visions very important that way.”

“Ah, well, fair enough I suppose. If you enter the dream, try not to die.” Then with that comforting thought, he signed out.

Ch5: Going Undercover pt11
Ch5: Going Undercover pt13

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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12 comments on “Ch5: Going Undercover pt12
  1. DeNarr says:

    The bit about “the hook up” vs “hooking up” amused me. I can easily imagine an older person making that mistake.

  2. COB says:

    Edit suggestions:
    “She use to work for you, but that’s not a good reason to join underworld cabals.” –> “She used to ….”

    “Jessie broke in, “First, we do understand what you mean. Second, no hooking up and having the hook up are absolutely wrong, please never say them again.”
    –> insert any punctuation [.,-:;] after the ‘no’ and use quotes around the two phrases to clarify that Jesse’s first stopping and then correcting Charles’ language: “…Second, no — ‘hooking up’ and ‘having the hook up’ are absolutely wrong, please never say them again.”

    “Third, you want us to pretend to be engaged, really?”” –> “Third, you want us to pretend to be engaged? Really?”” [assuming this is said with a pause to confirm that the speaker wasn’t kidding or completely off his rocker]

    “Then, when we fall asleep, and the spell is makes that easier, we’re in a shared dream.” –> “Then, when we fall asleep, and the spell makes that easier….”

    “It might send you into a permanent comma, for example.” –> “…permanent coma…”

    Enjoyed Jessie’s intonation (technically phrasing, but I swear I could hear her voice in my head) when correcting Charles. Possibly because I’ve heard the exact same intonation (and disbelief at what I was getting wrong) directed at me.

    The thought of a conference-dream with conference code (and the dream equivalent of hold music??) horrifies me beyond words. [shudder]

    Nice pacing. Another vote of support for the sections with description and explanation between the action sequences.

    • Thaumaturgical_Support says:

      Thanks for the corrections! I’ve put them in.

      I’m glad the dream conference code idea got you. 🙂

  3. Para says:

    Copypasta’d so the conversation doesn’t lag too far behind the posts:

    “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.”

    Will reply ~

    • Para says:

      Exactly! The magical statements, especially “The spell cannot function,” must refer to a higher organization of magic – i.e., a controlling ‘thing that makes spells work’, in order to make it *not* work. So, where does it end? Is it turtles all the way down?

      Though “I am a bear” doesn’t necessarily need to be untrue; it can be a progression. Untrue *into* true; (false)I am a bear -> (true)I am a bear. That’s the way I’ve always seen the Liar’s paradox, and it’s an approach that doesn’t seem to get too much airplay… that there is no inherent paradox, not because the statement is incorrect, or the language used is too fuzzy for a truly self-referential paradox – an antinomy – as opposed to a misleading false-statement paradox or falsidical paradox – I believe that the statement is an inherent *progression*, with an initial assumption of ‘true’. So, for example:

      Evaluate “This statement is a lie.”
      Assume true: “This statement is a lie.” -> false.
      Assume false: “This statement is a lie.” -> true.

      For the ‘paradox’ to kick in, you have to assume *infinite* evaluations. True, then false, true, false, etcetera; but NOT, as people who claim the dualistic nature of antinomies advocate, at the same time. You must first evaluate; you have to ‘inject’ truth into the statement in order to get a false outcome, or vice versa.

      This approach turns self-referential paradoxes, like Russell’s, or even the incompleteness theorem (which turns ALL well-structured logical frameworks into antinomies, including pretty much everything having to do with math ever) into a progressive statement; only becoming a ‘paradox’ when you assume infinite evaluations.

      Which then brings infinities and structures of an infinite nature into play, and oh joy does that get fun.

      • Thaumaturgical_Support says:

        > i.e., a controlling ‘thing that makes spells work’, in order to
        > make it *not* work. So, where does it end? Is it turtles all the
        > way down?

        You get away from the meta aspect somewhat there, because it works for the same reason that electricity works.

        There’s a “merliton” in setting that mediates exchanges magical force. Magical force alters the base energy of the quantum vacua which alters physics. So if you wanted to shut off magic you’d need to, for example, alter the charge of the merliton. That would instantly stop magical force from flowing to the area of altered physics which would end the spell.

        As an aside I should note that such spells exist in setting. They’re just astoundingly expensive because you need one any time you want to absolutely secure something against magic. When you cast one you make sure the area of effect doesn’t overlap your magical generator. There are some holes in that explanation, but it’s what I plan to run with at the moment.

        > into a progressive statement; only becoming a ‘paradox’ when
        > you assume infinite evaluations.

        Well or an infinite evaluation speed for the statement. But how fast would such a statement evaluate?

        > Which then brings infinities and structures of an infinite
        > nature into play, and oh joy does that get fun.

        Heh, yeah.

        • Para says:

          >Well or an infinite evaluation speed for the statement. But how fast would such a statement evaluate?

          It evaluates at the speed of the system – whatever closes the circuit.

          For ex., the brain of the person reading “This statement is false” is – it’s probably fair to say – the ‘system’ that evaluates that statement. So, as fast as you can think through the logic of it is as fast as it’s evaluated.

          It doesn’t have to stop there, even for a person. We could instead create a mental abstract – a ‘mind machine’ – that we’ll claim evaluates the Liar’s Paradox infinitely quickly, with infinite repetitions. But in practice, we’d still have to evaluate *it’s* results at our own speed, which means one of two outcomes – ‘we haven’t started this machine’, or ‘it’s still working’. All we get as an output is on/off; we don’t get a ‘result’ for the liar’s paradox unless we alter its parameters, by saying things like ‘machine, stop when you get a repeatable outcome’ or ‘stop when statement = true’. BUT if you do that, you cut into ‘infinite speed’; you can’t have both. You can’t get a meaningful output from evaluating the statement – no matter what kind of mental machine you build to do it – AND have it continue to run infinite evaluations at arbitrary speed; the two options are opposites, like ‘moving’ and ‘stopped’.

          -If you reply, move it forward to the current page so I can see it; digging in archives is not fun.

  4. Para says:

    To be clear, “I am a bear” and “This statement is a lie” are very different progressions. The antinomy present in the Liar’s paradox is not there in “I am a bear”, which is – in a nonmagical universe, at least – simply false. The liar’s paradox, due to its reference of a property that changes *based* on its reference – its inherent truth – creates different outcomes based on the initial assumption, which is its magic and why it’s so darned interesting to me.

    • Para says:

      But imagine a world where any statement whose truth can be evaluated, like “I am a bear”, being subject to antinomy at a base level! I can see an entire magical framework being constructed from that assumtion, and a really cool one too.

      • Thaumaturgical_Support says:

        That gets kind of close to what happens in tekhnikos percipere. ( ) You invent and cast a spell that might have no effect, then you know something based on its lack of effect.

        In writing the story, I’m kind of carefully not pointing out that you could solve all of physics with this. You’d just say, “I think the mass of the higgs boson (or whatever) is X. Let’s make a spell that sets it to X. Oh, it drew no magic. I was right!”

        Now, in mentioning it here, I think there might be a bit of a work around for that setting problem. There’s nothing that says you can’t lower the energy level of the *active* quantum vacua. I.E. make real physics *more firmly* real physics. If doing so consumes a slightly randomized amount of magical energy you wouldn’t learn anything from casting the “E = mc^2” spell.

        I’m sure a good experimental physicist would still be able to learn an astounding amount from spells that do nothing, but at least I can claim they need to work at it. Maybe a whole magical / physics / logical sub-field exists that essentially charts out the structure of possible alternate physics by casting spells that don’t anything? It would be a good way at getting at a question that is barely approachable in the real world i.e. why do we have what we actually have?

  5. Thaumaturgical_Support says:

    Thanks for the comments and corrections. I haven’t had a chance to address (or even read) any of it properly yet. My work has had me spending a lot of time in a classified environment lately and obviously I don’t have much internet access like that….

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