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18 October 2019 @ 09:03 pm
  “Minister Igly, he was a Professor at Daiki before he went into politics, wasn’t he?”

“Oh yes, he was the economics expert there. I was assigned to him when he was elected to the Copuncil, and stayed, of course, when he was appointed Minister of Finances nine years later.”

Rael poured more scotch. Sipped her own.

“Those were the good years. Haggy and I started The Book. She, of course, did most of the writing. I researched, fact checked, and copy edited. Found or made the charts and graphs she needed. And photographs.”

Wiped more tears. “After she died, I finished the last bits of The Book, and got it published.”

“Were you still living near the University?” Rael studied Jues’ body-language. Trying to control it, suppress it. Not faking it.

“I loved that house! Aggie still lives there. They thought about selling it after their father died, but in the end they kept it.”

“Oh! You must have missed them when you were recalled!” Oh, that got her!

“Ha!” Sniffle. “I quit so the boys could stay there and finish high school. Well, it was just a year until Aggy graduated, and two for Illa. They both went to Daiki, you know, so I kept house for them. Between Igly’s life insurance, investment and the royalties from The Book, it worked well enough.”

“It seems like half the Faculty of NYU attended Daiki. Did you know many of them?”

“Oh, yes, Igly and Ejti were good friends. We had him over regularly, and Adse and Eshy as well, when we needed to balance a table. Rather nice young men. Very impressed with Haggy’s book, always telling her she really ought to publish it. In fact, it was Adse who introduced me to Dr. Aqti, the publisher, you know. Aquitain Press. The Book made that company the powerhouse they are today.”

Ejti, Adse and Eshy. All three of them in it from the very start.

And then-Professor Igly was elected to the Council in 1330? So Jues knew Ejti for years before the first field trip to Granite Peak, and possibly those grad students before as well.

“And then they all left for New York, and the New Directorate School.”

Jues gave a generous wave. “Not all at once. Ejti was over there already, and got promoted when the head of Sociology moved to the Directorate School. Then the younger ones followed him.”

She shook her head and had to grab the counter to avoid falling off the stool. “I still can’t believe Adse left Sociology and turned to studying magic!” She lowered her voice. “He’s not very good at it, you know! And Eshy! I barely recognized him the first time he came to dinner after that field trip. The worst beard ever, and he was so proud of it!”

Rael grabbed, as the woman tipped . . .

“Woops! I think I may have had a little too much to drink, you, you, Bad Girl, you! Spilled my guts, didn’t I?”

“Just your grief. I hadn’t realized you were so close to Madam Haig. But I think I’d better get you home. Where do you live?”

“Oh, just right off campus, no trouble. I can get there on my own.”

Rael propped her up and steered her across campus and into the nice neighborhood to the east. To a large house, and handed her over to a live-in maid. Still protesting that she wasn’t that drunk.

Pretty posh house for an unmarried woman on a professor’s salary. I think I’m looking at royalties from that book. Or perhaps an agent’s cut? Sixty-seven years after it was first published, it’s still selling.

“Well. That was interesting.” Xen’s voice out of thin air.

“Indeed. I hope I don’t have to write a counter argument ‘The Magical Child’ book. Because that’s where it’s starting. A generation of unprepared power assumption by teenagers who needed to be suppressed until they had control, turning into standard suppression of magic right up to about the second year of college, when they finally get some training.”

Xen faded into sight as they crossed the street and walked into the campus. “Possibly encouraged and enabled by some Purple agents who substituted themselves for the legitimate researchers on Granite Peak.”

“Have you been reading my notes?”

“I’m a spy, remember?”

She sighed. “Usually.”

Back to her notes.

Eshy grew a beard in the field. Cover for plastic surgery? Or did they find someone close enough to the original Eshy that they just needed a distraction for a year or so until age would explain away everything?

Then there was Adse and Ejti.

Could I have missed a third man? Except Ejti had long term friends. And Adse looks just like his family.
17 October 2019 @ 10:29 am

“One in the morning, all of a sudden instead of just the all-pervasive One, we also had god level magic syrup all over everything.” Arno eyed Xen. “You look surprised. Haven’t you felt the other gods . . . just being there?”

Xen frowned as he handed out sandwiches and drinks. “Usually, only when they’ve been summoned, and the collective subconscious is focused on them. I wonder if it’s an effect of the larger population, here? Or . . . The God of Just Deserts has a mile-plus-wide field of karmic justice . . . ”

Rael pondered that. “I didn’t feel it until you were close. So not all the way from Gate City. We can test that after my lectures.”

Xen nodded. “I wonder what it does? Make everyone spy on everyone else? Make real spies extra good at whatever they’re doing? I hope to hell it doesn’t show up on worlds I’m spying on. That could be . . . awkward.”

Several of the kids shook their head.

Sunny eyed Arno popping open his soda and pried at his. “I didn’t really feel anything. I just, when I woke up, I just felt ready to do anything.”

Exzy was watching too, and Rael opened his. Am I actually giving my baby one of these sweet bombs of Xen’s?

“Maybe it’s a Master of the Multiverse effect.” Arno’s eyes defocused. “Huh. I can see further than I could before. Of course, that could be age, too.” Grin. “I’ll check the next time you leave.”

Xen grinned too.

Not offended?

:: Heck no. He said that with a grin, not a bitter glare. He’s comfortable enough, trusts me enough to make jokes that could be taken wrong. ::

Rael sighed. I did not say that out loud. Nor telepath you.

:: From four feet away? Articulated thoughts of someone so strong are hard to not hear. :: Aloud he said, “Which will be tomorrow morning. People keep expecting me to write reports.” He bit his sandwich.

She glowered at him.

:: Quarter mile. Four hundred meters or so. Shall I buy a house down the block? ::

:: No. :: “That’s what you get for playing with Cyborgs.” Rael grinned. “Any hope of us getting copies?”

“Maybe. I’m spying, not playing, and there’s no way to tell if they’ve infiltrated any of our worlds. But I have got a grip on their government . . . I’ll make that a separate report, so it can go public.”


They munched, the kids compared progress on reports for various classes. Exzy fell asleep and was popped into a bubble, to the bogglement of the students.

“Don’t forget to call Jess.” Ryol gave her a firm stare.

“Yes, Mother.” Rael grinned, the kids snickered, Xen raised his brows.

“Potential Nanny, their old one. I don’t know If she’ll move to New York.”

Rael checked the time. “And now I need to get to class.”

The kids grabbed their packs and headed off in various directions.

Xen disappeared.


Two lectures and she trotted upstairs to head home . . .

And Jues was arguing with Eshy in the hallway outside her office.

“. . . nothing I can do!” Eshy spotted her and shrugged. “You can waste your time trying.” He stomped off.

Jues turned and glared. “I would like to talk to you. Peacefully.”

“Right. Well, come in.”

:: Xen? Disappear. I have a suspect in view, and may bring her home to question on my own turf. ::

Jues followed her into the office. The bear got a scowl, the windows a frown. “So the room is actually . . . about six kilometers east of the campus?”

Rael blinked. “Nearly twenty. The windows are smaller on the outside and magnify the view.”

“Indeed? But it doesn’t dim the light?”

“Xen said something about augmenting it.”

A snarky smile. “So you don’t really understand it.”

“Oh, there’s a lot I don’t understand. I’ve been reading Madam Haig’s biography. Is she why you suppress magic, here at the school?”

“I do not suppress it. I teach control. Haig was a brilliant woman.”

And almost seventy years later, there’s still a wobble in your voice.

“Yes. Arguably one of the most influential people of the century.”

“You think so?” Suspicious glower.

“She changed the early magical education of close to three generations of Oners. I doubt there’s any of us unaffected.” Rael glanced at the door to the house. “And, of course, it’s suddenly personal.”

Snort. “Princesses having babies! Speaking of changing things.”

“Yes. There are going to be a lot of highly magical children . . . well, the first wave of them are college age now, and, as I just discovered, no where near enough teachers strong enough to deal with them.”

Jues smirked. “We all discovered that you aren’t strong enough.”

“Nor cautious enough.” Rael admitted. “So . . . Chancellor Adse seemed quite determined that the training of Warriors should be in the hands of the School of Magic. Has he mentioned any specific plans?”

Her eyes narrowed.

“If Madam Haig had lived longer, what might she have turned her mind to next? High school techniques for handling blossoming, or would she have jumped to the college level?” Rael eyed the other princess. “You knew her better than anyone. What would she . . . Oh, sorry.”

Jues wiped tears. “She always watched her boys. Such wonderful children! So bright and happy.” More tears, and Rael was steering her through the door, grabbing a bottle of . . . scotch seemed like a better choice than wine . . . two glasses . . .

Jues sat on a stool at the bar. “Their children all call me Aunt Jues. I so wish Haig could have seen her grandchildren. But Aggie and Illa were in high school,” Her voice went high, “when she was diagnosed . . . at least she saw them both blossom.”

Rael nodded sympathetically. “Seventy years ago . . . they didn’t have all the medicines and methods that we have now.”

Jues shook her head. “It had already metastasized, it was everywhere. I don’t think they could have saved her, even today.”

Rael poured, Jues reached for a glass and slugged it back.

Well, it’s not going to be hard to get her drunk and talking . . .

I don't _think_ I've posted this, may or may not,keep it:


Tuesday was busy, but uneventful.

No one home. So strange to miss Xen and Exzy after decades of living alone. I’ll just enjoy the peace and quiet. Take a look through a recipe book and surprise someone.

The house was still quiet and empty at midnight.

Nothing has happened to either of them! Don’t be silly!

She searched the house for the bag handles, then checked her office. Back to the house.

If he was doing anything dangerous, he’d have handed Exzy off to Q.

And suddenly felt that deep magical presence, heard the rattle of the garage door, and walked out into the back yard to meet them.

Blinked at Xen’s weary body language, and fresh-scrubbed look.

“Sorry I’m late. We had a really hairy medical emergency. Pretty much had to rebuild a heart, but I think he’s going to make it.” He handed her the handles. “I may be there all day tomorrow, too. We bagged our patient so we didn’t have to worry about his dying while we caught some sleep.”

Rael bit her lip . . . He shook his head, refusing to answer the unspoken question.

“Well, in that case, I’d better feed you and tuck you into bed.” Rael turned and hugged him hard. “I love you, you nasty close-mouthed enemy agent.”

“I have no idea what you are talking about.” He flopped on the sofa. “Have I ever mentioned that ‘Dr. Rael’ is a great villain’s name? Or for a Supervillain, ‘Electric Rael’ would be awesome.”

Rael snorted. “Have I ever mentioned that you’re crazy? All I'm doing is failing to find Purple spies.”

She slid quietly into his dreams. Surgery, spying, purps . . . a warehouse with magic training going on. A dozen kids of all ages, a lot of purple hair . . . watching from the shadows. Watching the woman in charge. Puzzled. Why is a Oner training Earthers?

She eased away, and rolled out of bed. Wrote it all out, with descriptions of both kids and coaches. And especially the woman in charge.

Pity I’m not an artist, but I happen to know one . . .

He kissed her goodbye in the morning, and left.

Rael sighed and glanced guiltily at Exzy’s bubble handles. “We’ll play in the Fast Room later. It’s just one day . . . but I think I really do need a nanny.”


Ra’d blinked at her memory, put down his sketch pad, turned to his comp, and pulled up a series of pictures.

“That’s her! Who is she?”

“United Earth Central Intelligence Agency. Miss Catherine Sideris, General Black’s right hand . . . something. She stays well out of sight, most of the time.”

“Really?” Rael eyed the pictures. “I . . . caught a memory of Xen’s popping up in a dream after I chattered about the Purple complications. In the dream, she was training a bunch of older kids and teenagers, a lot of them with purple hair. He was wondering why a Oner was doing that.”

Ra’d stiffened and he stared at the pictures, nodded. “She could easily be a Oner, from her looks. That thick wavy mid-brown hair is about what you get with several competing engineered color genes. She’s average height for an Earth woman, she’d be a bit short for High Oner.”

He eyed the picture. “How much credulence do you give a dream, and . . . that’s not really a good way to maintain a loving relationship, is it?”

Rael giggled. “It is with the God of Spies. The archetype is rough on wives, but a femme fatalé never gets kidnapped. Although occasionally the hero shoots her.”

“Those people are insane. And I’ll add that information to the Cat Sideris file. The next time she’s on Embassy . . . maybe I’ll try to communicate with her.”

“Don’t. If we’ve actually gotten an agent that far into the UECIA . . . One! Nothing in writing, tell no one.”

“So no leaks. Got it.” Ra’d eyed her. “Urfa probably knows.”

“Yeah . . . but he hasn’t got a bug proof room any more, and there are high probability Earth agents on campus. Damn.” She shook her head at the picture. “A forehead wrinkle so she’s at least a hundred . . . Ajki might know if she’s a mole or gone rogue. Training Purps.”

Ra’d gave her a sharp grin. “Remember that curiosity killed the cat. Cat Sideris, in this case. And your Purps may be pretty well trained. Be careful.”

“Yeah. Damn. Let me have one good picture of her . . . then I’ll have to contain my curiosity.”


15 October 2019 @ 09:19 am

Chapter Twenty-eight

Return of the Native, er, God, er, whatever . . .

Wednesday, 1 Safar 1417 yp

Sometime in the early hours she blinked awake . . . nothing wrong, just a deep smooth layer of safety, of magic . . .

She grinned and rolled out of bed. Met Xen halfway down the stairs.

She broke off a long kiss to look him over. “Got all your body parts, I see. Q?”

“Slight scorching, nothing a haircut can’t fix.”

“You smell smoky.”

“We were burning them down, not them attacking us. Mostly.”

Rael gave up an attempt to frown, and let the grin back out. “Come take a shower. I’ll scrub your back.”


And later, in bed. “So tell me about these Cyborgs?”

“Not that it was all of the Cyborgs. Just a minor branch isolated now, so the locals can deal with them.”

“How many worlds do you think they have?” Rael rubbed her cheek on his arm. And refused to slide into sleep. Business. Information.

“I’m going to guess thousands, but a guess is all it is. I need to trace them all the way back to their starting point and/or their capital. It’s not going to be fast.” Xen yawned and snuggled her closer.

“Didn’t get much sleep?”

“It wasn’t very safe. Either Q or I stayed awake. They use people in their gate machinery, so they do have dimensional abilities. We were afraid that they could see the captured bubbles and home in on us.”

“Oh. I see.”

“And I might have to turn in my D-cop badge. Given the choice between saving the Cyborgs from Eldon, or saving Eldon from the Cyborgs, I saved Eldon.”

“Hmm, sounds interesting, tell me all about it.”

“Oh they started scouting out the Earth Book where Eldon’s settled down, and he wasn’t about to let that happen. I yanked him out of the fix he was in, and left the Dissolution Bomb he’d set ticking away. It was the small version of what he set off on Helios. It took out about eight cubic kilometers then fizzled out.”

“Yikes! Yu said it isolated them? So Eldon dissolved their gate apparatus?” And those dimensionally capable people you said were ‘in’. . . I could have nightmares wondering what you mean by ‘in.’

“But we’ve got what we need to infiltrate now, or at least pass in public, and track them down. God only know what we’ll do with them, then.”

Rael frowned. “Pass in public . . . Xen how do you pass as a Oner? Genetic engineering like when you infiltrated, right?”

“Yes. I change the mage gene to a One gene.” His finger drew a little circle on her shoulder. “Just a small patch, enough to feel, but not give out thoughts, or get them. I’m pretty sure I’m opaque to the One hive mind, and maybe even your collective subconscious.”

Rael stiffened.

A small patch.

Six centimeters by three?

Oh. One.

Someone wanted a chunk of skin. For a skin graft. For the feel of the One, but small enough it didn’t reveal thoughts.

And here I’d been thinking that there was no reason an attacker would do something so odd, so it had to be self-inflicted.

But they’d have to have anti-rejection drugs. Are there anti-rejection spells?

And why leave such a mess, and evidence . . . of a sort.

Why kill Dr. Yppo?


“. . . an’ I ate all the worms.”

Rael giggled as she walked in from the morning run. “Noodles! Honest!”

“Ahno was the big brother bird and I flapped my wings.” Exzy demonstrated. “And I ate the worms!”

Xen laughed. “Sounds like you’ve been having fun. Hmm,” He picked up a piece of bacon. “What do you think? Squashed bug? Yummy.”

“Woad kill.” Exzy crunched and nodded. “Good woad kill.”

Xen grinned over at Rael. “Eggs with your . . . bacon?”

“Yes, please.” She popped bread in the toaster. “Wednesday. My easy day, so I won’t beg you to come help with the scary boys.”

“Team trainees?”

“Nope. Warrior trainees. They failed to level the campus last week, but did manage to break windows with a power explosion.”

“Umm . . .”

“So they spent the weekend on Embassy, at the practice beach. But there won’t be any Triad or Compass practice here.”

He just grinned. “Sorry I missed the fireworks.”

“Oh, and since they got called Warrior trainees in public, the Society page Newsies are flocking. Especially the girls. And the Team Trainees, who weren’t included in Isakson’s roundup, are getting publicly lumped in with them.”

Xen grinned. “I think I’ll try to be invisible on campus, unless you need otherwise.”

“An excellent idea.”

“Can I be visible!” Exzy bounced excitedly. “Nobody see me!”

Rael giggled. “Fortunately you have to be a whole lot older before you can be invisible. Because you’re getting hard enough to keep track of, as it is.”

“Now let’s get you cleaned up and running before I have to go teach.” Rael caught a questioning eyebrow lift from Xen. “Magic practice. Three classes of beginners, then lunch, then my two lectures. Tomorrow I’ll be swamped, and the strongest students--minus Ryol who scorched her brain keeping the damage to a minimum last week—in the afternoon.”

“Do you need help?”

Rael shook her head. “Ajki sent a couple of goo . . . analysts. To help and learn.”

“Goons.” Exzy grinned. “Ice an’ Dog.”

Xen eyed the boy. “That’s very good pronunciation. You’re growing up fast. What do you think? Shall we go watch you Mom teaching college kids magic?”


Despite knowing they were there, she couldn’t spot even a distortion in the air.

After the kids had left, there they were sitting cross-legged, side-by-side. With identical grins. And a picnic basket. Fortunately with lots of bubbled food, as “the Warrior Trainees” zeroed in on them.

Xen’s kids all rolled their eyes.

“One in the morning, all of a sudden instead of the all pervasive One, we had god level magic syrup all over everything.” Arno eyed Xen. “You look surprised. Haven’t you felt the other gods . . . just being there?”

Xen frowned. “Usually, only when they’ve been summoned, and the collective subconscious is focused on them. I wonder if it’s an effect of the larger population, here? Or . . . The God of Just Deserts has a mile wide field of karmic justice . . . ”

Rael pondered that. “I didn’t feel it until you were close. So not all the way from Gate City. We can test that after my lectures.”

Xen nodded. “I wonder what it does? Make everyone spy on everyone else? Make real spies extra good at whatever they’re doing?”

“Maybe it’s a Master of the Multiverse effect.” Arno’s eyes defocused. “Huh. I can see further than I could before. Of course, that could be age, too.”

14 October 2019 @ 12:33 pm

Ryol, with sunglasses and hat pulled low was keeping her back to the big windows. “. . . pity. A triad of us and the building would have been fine, I wouldn’t have a headache from hell, and we wouldn’t all be getting wary looks. And Newsies? One! I wish I’d stayed away, like a sensible person!”

Gior snickered. “I don’t know, I kind of like the idea of publicity. ‘The New Warriors,’ you know?”

Sunny snickered. “The New Warrior Babes are going to get the limelight.”

“Someone hit him, please?” Ryol pulled her hat rim lower. “I swear I’m going to shave my head.”

Milo’s laughing protest was interrupted by the doorbell, and the delivery of massive amounts of Chinese food.

Arno handed over a cash card while the food was hauled off.

“So Raod and Ox are keeping you guys well funded?”

“The biodad. Good thing he’s rich. All twenty-seven of us got together online about the cost of tuition, dorms, and everything else, and told him how much we each needed every semester. Lala pointed out that the tuition was just every semester, not monthly.”

Arno looked innocent. “ We’d suggested three thousand cash a semester to cover books, clothes, transportation and so forth. Apparently he thought that was one of the monthly expenses.”

Rael snorted. “You are such bad children. Carry on.”

Arno and Ryol stayed late, and Exzy came out to run off some energy and make a horrible mess of chicken fried rice.

“I guess I’m finally old enough to see how cute little kids are.” Ryol grinned. “I mostly thought Razzy and Little Ox were inconvenient and messy when I was a slightly older kid.”

Arno grinned and went back to dangling a noodle in front of Exzy. “Open up, little bird, here comes the worm!”

“Hopefully he’ll grow up to be more sensible than a certain twin brother of mine.” But the corners of Ryol’s mouth turned up as Exzy peeped and flapped his arms.

Rael shook her head. “I think I was thirty before I thought babies were anything but gross and disgusting.”

Ryol frowned. “How old were you when we were born?”

“Umm . . . Thirty-three? Right make that closer to thirty-five before I thought children weren’t, perhaps, totally, horrifyingly, messy.”

Arno snickered. “We always thought you were quiet sensible to avoid the yuckiest parts of Razzy and Oxie, when you were visiting.”

Rael nodded. “Got over it fast, this time. Not that Xen doesn’t help, when he’s around. He’s been gone a month, this time.”

“Does he report back to Disco?” Arno ignored his little bird for a moment.

“Sometimes. Not this time.” She huffed out a breath. “Well, no doubt he’ll show up eventually.”

Ryol dipped her chin and eyed her. “And if he doesn’t? You were a wreck last year. Heck, even Arno and I were worried.”

Rael smiled wryly. “And if I were to criticize my non-parenting back when you guys were small, I’d have told you more about him.”

Arno looked around in surprise. “You knew he was our father? But you didn’t know you were our mother?”

“Stupid, wasn’t it? Look in the mirror. Even when you were babies, those dark eyes with highlights were so obvious. And the shape of your eyes and so forth.” Rael shrugged. “Water under the bridge. And it was fun being your aunt.”

Arno fed Exzy the last ‘worm.’ “Yeah, nobody else had an Aunt as cool as you.” He grinned down at Exzy, eating rice one grain at a time. “Remember when you took us to dinner in the revolving restaurant?”

Rael snickered. “Everyone was very impressed at the amount of food you two put away, and with good manners, no yelling.”

“Then ice cream at the pier.” Ryol sighed. “That was a great day. We had lots of great days with you.”

“Yeah. We really did.” Rael grabbed a paper towel, wet it and worked over Exzy’s hands and face. Plopped him on the floor and dealt with dishes. “I’m not sure I’m really cut out for motherhood. Poor Exzy’s spending an awful lot of time bubbled.”

Ryol sat up suddenly. “You need a nanny! You need Jess. Mother and Grandmother were talking, while they hovered over me in the hospital. She was working for some utterly impossible people, who finally fired her last week.”

Arno grinned. “Great idea.”

“I’ve got her comm number . . .” Ryol pulled her comp out and found it.

Rael swallowed. A nanny I know. That I can trust. I really hope she’ll move to New York.

“I’ll call her in the morning.”

Chapter Twenty-eight

Return of the Native, er, God, er, whatever . . .

1 Safar 1417 yp

Sometime in the early hours she blinked awake . . . nothing wrong, a deep smooth layer of safety . . .

She grinned and rolled out of bed and met Xen halfway down the stairs.

She broke off a long kiss to look him over. “Got all your body parts, I see. Q?”

“Slight scorching, nothing a haircut can’t fix.” He shrugged. “Might have to turn in my D-cop badge. Given the choice between saving the Cyborgs from Eldon, or saving Eldon from the Cyborgs, I saved Eldon.”

“Hmm, sounds interesting, come to bed and tell me all about it.”


“Not that it was all of the Cyborgs. Just a minor branch isolated, so the locals can deal with them.”

“How many worlds do you think they have?” Rael rubbed her cheek on his arm. And refused to slide into sleep. Business. Information.

“I’m going to guess thousands, but a guess is all it is. I need to trace them all the way back to their starting point and/or their capital. It’s not going to be fast.” Xen yawned and snuggled her closer.

“Didn’t get much sleep?”

“It wasn’t very safe. Either Q or I stayed awake. But we’ve got what we need to infiltrate now, or at least pass in public, and track them down. God only know what we’ll do with them, then.”

Rael frowned. “Pass in public . . . Xen how do you pass as a Oner?”

“Oh, genetic engineering. I change the mage gene to a One gene.” His finger drew a circle on her shoulder. “Just a small patch, enough to feel, but not give out thoughts, or get them. I’m pretty sure I’m opaque to the One hive mind, and your collective subconscious.”

Rael stiffened.

A small patch.

Six centimeters by three?

Oh. One.

A skin graft. For the feel, small enough it didn’t reveal thoughts.

But they’d have to have anti-rejection drugs. Are there anti-rejection spells?

And why Dr. Yppo?

13 October 2019 @ 12:22 pm

“You genuinely hope they’re rare?”

“Else I’ll be needing a whole lot of help.”

Narrowed eyes all around. Yep. I subtly said I’d need a lot of money.

Adse snorted. “If the University is going to be tasked with training Warriors, clearly the School of Magic is the proper location for that.” A glance at the scorched dorm. “As the Directorate School lacks the necessary staff to safely train . . .”

Eshy bristled. “I don’t believe the Magic School has a sufficiently large practice ground . . .”

“For explosions? No. But enough magically trained staff? Yes.”

Urfa shook his head. “This is an entirely different sort of training than the School of Magic currently teaches. And yes, it is beyond what the Directorate School usually deals with. But we’re not starting from zero, which the School of Magic would be. Plus the connections with the Directorate, which include access to several different training grounds we can utilize, as well as borrow personnel for certain aspects of the training.”

The University Chancellor nodded. “Indeed. Urfa, keep anything that might be dangerous off the campus and someplace where nothing can be damaged. I will consider the best way to handle the training of very strong magicians.

“Right now, why don’t you all join me for lunch?”

Which turned out to be a bit protracted. Rael arrived back at the practice field breathless and late, to find her women students being interviewed.

Oh. My. One. Those are the Society Page Newsies!

“. . . the New Girl Warriors! You six are going to be famous!”

No, no, no, no, no! Their parents are going to kill me.

Joke and Lenny were off to the side, with Dog and Ice. All four trying to not be noticed.

Not a hope Rael wouldn’t have been noticed. So she didn’t even try.

“Sorry I’m late. Now if you Newsies could stay back out of the danger zone,” Rael pointed. “That’s the closest spot where you can see the students’ faces, if you want pictures.”

She eyed Ryol, who nodded. “I’m allowed to watch, but not touch power. If just being near is painful, I’m to leave immediately.”

“Right. Go back there and try to not give the Newsies anything you don’t want to see in the headlines.” Rael dropped her voice to a faint breath. “Xen.”

“Too late. They recognized me.” She rolled her eyes. “Sorry about Granddad. My head hurt too much to point out to him that you were letting me reach for the stars, and that he wasn’t allowed to chain me down, not even out of love.”

Rael hugged her. “Don’t say that to him. Please. Now get well back.”

Letting her reach for the stars. Oh. My. One.

She turned back to the other five. “I’m sure it will come as no surprise that we are going to do some control and safety drills . . .”

Ryol, squinting, departed early.

She sent the other girls—young women, dammit—off a bit early, in the vain hope that the Newsies would go away.

The nine young men trotted in right on time, as a group, and got mobbed by the Newsies. And hammed it up a bit. Rael gave them a few minutes before breaking it up and putting the trainees to work on control drills.

Closed her eyes and studied their auras for complexity. Five of them are ready for a bit more.

She moved Milo, Osti, Agny, Eggo, and Fun down to one end of the line, and showed them how to shunt power they couldn’t deal with around their core and into the ground as heat.

“It’s better to not collect it in the first place, but for instance, if you were under attack, and an energy shield weakening, you could take some of that power and shunt it into the ground, relieving the pressure on your shield. You will get better with practice, to the point that you can do what the Fallen call channeling, and never actually internalize the power, as if the shunt were external to yourself, like holding a hose.”

She held up a fireball. “Milo, put up a soft energy shield, and shunt this power as I feed it to you.” A trickle at first, increasing until he was sweating. She stopped. “Nice. Agny? Your turn.”

They all handled it well, and the other four looked disappointed when she shook her head. “Not yet for you four.”

Kev grinned. “Hey, I’m not the only one left out, this time.”

Then the Newsies homed in on the big tall Team Trainees.

Ha! They can’t tell the difference . . . and there isn’t a lot of difference, other than that the others are younger, stronger than you, and getting stronger yet.

They preened for the Newsies, and Rael ran through control exercises and then let the chop firewood from a distance that had the Newsies sitting up and taking notes and pictures.



Her helpers all followed her home—well, to the office.

“That’s where Ryol was headed. She said she was going to kick back and ignore the world.” Dog grinned. “I don’t know how she expects to get the world to ignore her . . .”

All the “Trainee Warriors” were there, in and out of the antechamber.

“Oops, sorry, magic lock.” Rael tripped it and let them all in, blocked the trailing newsies and locked the outer door.

Joke rolled her eyes. “I hope I can get out of here and go home in a few minutes. Before rush hour.”

“Did you drive?”

“No I use the Metro . . . what are you plotting?”

“To teleport you someplace useful.”

“Ah . . .” She patted pockets. “I have to get my stuff out of the office . . .”

“Right.” Rael craned her neck, “Hey Arno! Let everyone into the house. Order pizza or something. I’ll be right back.”

“I’ll come too, and grab my briefcase, then we can lock up for the night.” Lenny followed them out.

A few newsies still hovered. “Don’t you guys have deadlines?”

She tossed up a shield across the hallway and walked away.

Joke looked back. “I wish I could do things like that . . . And get away with it.”

Rael giggled. “Oh, they love it when they can claim The Rael blocked them.”

“Heh.” Joke hunched her shoulders and closed in on the right corridor wall. “I hate this corner. I usually go all the way around to avoid it. Poor Dr. Yppo!”

Rael boggled. “Oh, I assumed he’d died at home. It was here?”

Deeper hunch. “In Puwd’s chair. At her desk. See, everyone knows she keeps a big first aid kit. Anyone who needs a bandaid or antacid, goes straight to her.”

“Umm, for a heart attack?” She looked left, at the corner office. Nothing to see, but the closed door to the outer office where Puwd reigned.

Lenny and Joke swapped glances.

“Well, see . . . Dr. Yppo was sort of a hypochondriac.” Joke scurried around the corner. “The Friday before he wanted my opinion of this mole. And started to pull up his shirt right there in the meeting room!”

Lenny snickered. “About five people told him to stay dressed and go see a doctor about it.”

Joke managed to hunch even further. “He tried to cut it off in the men’s room, with a slice and took a bit much. Bled all over in there, and down the hall, and all over poor Puwd’s chair, smeared blood allover getting the first aid kit out and a big nano patch on . . . then he keeled over and died.”

Lenny nodded. “Poor Puwd. I was walking up the steps out front and heard the scream.”

“I was already inside and ran to see what the problem was . . . I really wish I hadn’t.”

“Well.” Rael shook her head. “That’s . . . One! Poor man. I suppose he was so focused on the cut that he didn’t recognize the cardiac symptoms. Damn. I hate blood. I’ll have to be nicer to Puwd.”

“Yeah. It shook her. Dr. Eshy bought her a new chair and desk, and had Oliver put in all new carpet. The hallway, just got shampooed.” Lenny thumped Joke’s shoulder. “Sorry. Shouldn’t dwell on it.”

They collected their stuff and walked back out, locking up.

“So, I have a recognition point, a place I can teleport, need the main entrance.”

“Perfect.” Joke sounded relieved. “That’s where I grab the tram.”

Real felt the hallway, the relationship to her office bubble. Then the memorized feel of the sidewalk at the front entrance. She grabbed both their shoulders and stepped to the sidewalk.

“Whoa!” Lenny spun around, grinning. “Now that is how to travel!”

Rael grinned. “I’m glad you like it. See you tomorrow, Joke. Lenny, you want pizza?”

“You bet!”

She touched his shoulder and stepped to the antechamber. “Can’t teleport in or out of bubbles, corridors, or through gates.”

“And you miss the brisk walk through the spring flowers.”

“Yep.” Rael led the way through the office. The kids had the door to the house open and the gang spread out from there to the back yard.

12 October 2019 @ 01:58 pm

She sat up suddenly, and enlarged the picture she’d accidentally wound up on.

Madam Haig, her husband, Minister Igly, two children, and the minister’s assigned princess.

. . . Jues.

She enlarged it further. Same eyes, cheek bones, damn that was almost a century ago, chin and jawline. One Damn me. That is Professor Jues. I hadn’t realized she was ever an assigned Princess.

And suddenly I have a whopping great method shoved in my face.

Rael got up and hunted down the paper copy of “The Natural Child” and leafed through the front matter . . . Dedicated to my dear friend, J, without whom this book would never have been organized enough to publish. You know who you are, Love.

“Well . . . most wives hate their husband’s princesses. But there was that time the wife eloped with the princess . . .”

Rael considered the dedication. “But what the hell does that have to do with my two Purps? Just as well I have classes to teach. This is going to take some research. And thought. And reading.”

Help! I don’t want to read the whole dismal thing!

But it’s going to take careful handling. What the hell put Jues on a lifelong vendetta against Action Teamers?

She grabbed lunch, dressed in one of her “Professor suits” and headed for the Grand Lecture Hall. Where the students did not have their minds on magical theory.

“Professor Rael? Were any of Xen Wolfson’s children in that compass?”

“One. With three other students, a fellow from Interior, and three Warriors, including Isakson and Ra’d.”

“Then how did it get out of control!”

Rael sighed. “Apparently that wasn’t uncommon. And henceforth will happen only in a very remote area so they can have all the power explosions it takes to train the kids how to control that much power.”

“That old man called them Warrior Trainees. How many of those are there?”

“Fifteen who have potential. Mind you, one of the requirements for Warriors is experience, so none of these trainees, even if they meet all the other requirements, will be Warriors for another decade.”

Rael kept her professional face on. “As far as Magical Theory is concerned . . . I’ll try and wedge in a bit out how and why group merges work, and are so strong.”

And then in the Comet Fall Theory class, she was fielding even more questions.

“Yes, the Mage Compasses are just like our Compasses. They use more chants and symbolism—blood bindings—than ours but that’s just the frou-frou around the actual thing.”

And “No. Wizards are fiercely solitary. One may occasionally join in a compass, if needed, but they otherwise work alone.”

I wonder how Purps organize. Must be like Comet Fall, they have both the Wizard and Mage genes.

I wonder if two of them, like Ra’d and Ebsa, can merge and do more than I’d expect from a single one, or the two together?

And not count on the two I’ve detected being the only ones on the World, or even in the city.

She pulled her attention back to the class. “However, getting back to the Witches’ ability to tap Gravity for power . . .”

When she got home, she pulled out the baby bars and opened them to a yawning Exzy, who was happy to “help” her make dinner. At least he didn’t eat much of it before she cooked it.

“Maybe meat loaf was a bad idea. But it tastes all right. Right?”

“Wite.” Exzy crammed another handful into his mouth. Red sauce everywhere.

He’ll probably be sick as a dog after eating raw meat. I’m a bad mother. Poor kid, what was I thinking?

But she looked at the happy mess and her heart melted. Nothing a shower won’t fix. And I’ll sleep in his room in case he is sick.

After cleanup, they went for a walk, and then watched the extra-large sunset from the office, and admired the bright stars as the sky darkened.

Then they curled up on the couch with a big book with beautiful watercolor pictures. And the silliest stories imaginable. “Once upon a time, in the Village of Ash . . .”

When Exzy fell asleep, she set the big book aside and picked up her reader. Madam Haig’s third marriage, business-like but shading into affection. Even his appointment to a high office and acquisition of an assigned Princess didn’t disturb that affection. Mainly because she was business-like herself, and had no intentions of having sex with her principle. Who quickly grew into a good friend.

The birth of her two sons, and vowing to never, ever pressure them when they weren’t ready, to love them without limits . . . Nannies fired when they tried to discipline the boys, her Princess buddy backing her up, babysitting, helping her deal with teething, hurting children.

The sweet easy children, the disastrous play dates with rougher, meaner children.

Motherly bias or fact? Look at Arno. Easy going, so few childhood peccadillos. Unlike the fiery Ryol, who made up for it. All right. I can see the mother of two nice boys not like the more boisterous kids. Heh. And blaming it on their strict raising and discipline, rather than personality differences.

Ah, here we go. The next disaster, pushed out of a swing, panic run to the hospital for a broken arm.

And then she sits down and starts writing a book on how to raise children that’s practically guaranteed to be a disaster for most personality types.

And not teaching them “pre-magic.”

Oh, they’d see “Aunt J” doing her meditations, and run and sit on either side of her, but there was no instruction, and when they got bored, they’d just jump up and run off.

“The way it should be.” Gently easing the children into calmness with no pressure.

Rael looked down at the redhead curled up against her. I remember the kids wanting to do every thing I did, sitting like that, and either getting fidgety or falling asleep. Did Raod drill them? Or just . . . what? They both turned out wonderful. And neither repressed nor wild and uncontrolled. Even Ryol, but then she got a few firm reprimands as needed. And a few swats to her well padded rear, come to that.

I need to spend time with Raod . . . if she’s speaking to me. Find out how she did it.

And now I’m going to have to read that wretched “Natural Child” and see exactly where it goes off the road. And what the heck do I do about it?

She put the reader aside, picked up Exzy and took him upstairs to bed.

Tomorrow I must figure out how to have a nice chat with Jues. She winced. Well, that may take some doing. And it shouldn’t feel too contrived. She’s a princess and she’ll pick up on that.

She crawled into bed and didn’t stir until Exzy woke up and called for her in the early hours. A diaper change, cup of hot cocoa for each of them and they both went back to sleep.

Maybe I can do this motherhood thing after all.


But Exzy was back in the bubble for the morning run, and the first four practices.

That had lots of spectators.

Chancellor Ejti, looking grim. Chancellor Adse, disapproving. Chancellor Urfa, with his diplomatic mask over humor, thank the One. And Department Head Eshy.

Well, at least one of the four isn’t in my chain of command, so to speak.

And they stayed and watched all four classes.

Student spectators came and went. Dawdling as they passed, to watch the not very spectacular knocking over of firewood standing on end. Of course being able to do it from three meters away was unusual for the younger students.

Fortunately only a few newsies. Probably hoping for fireworks.

After the last class galloped off to class or lunch, Rael walked over to the cluster of boss-types.

“Good morning.” A generic greeting and a nod to include them all.

Urfa grinned. “That’s a nice bunch of kids, Only about half what you started with?”

“Yes. Most of the freshmen got the basics they need to practice for a year or so. When they’ve matured, they can start learning the higher skills.

A snort from Adse. “That physical push is a higher skill. As is holding two shields at once. At least you’ve only had a single overload injury . . . so far.”

Ejti looked over the slope. “Well, I can’t say I’m sorry to see a lot of the old strength coming back. I’ve wondered where we went wrong, too many Multitude outcrosses? Too many Natives? All the thing our ancestors could do, that the younger generations were incapable of.”

Adse and Eshy looked at him, twin expressions of disbelief.

“There’s no need for Warroirs!” Adse huffed. “We need Magicfactors, truth matchesfor business and law enforcement! The Army can deal with anything out there! Not wild, uncontrolled Warriors from our darkest times!”

Eshy nodded . . . “Well, we need some advanced techniques, for XR. Although big guns work as well there, as well.”

Urfa shook his head. “We’ve been regularly encountering people of power. Comet Fall, Whirlpool, Zingos, and Cyborgs. And on Embassy we’ve met the Purps, the Arbolians, and all the Earth books that have had some genetic engineering, with a few magicians popping up now and then. We need to show a strong face to the Multiverse. Not aggressive or brutal, but no one to fool with. We need diplomacy, we need an army, and we need magic.”

Adse looked from the practice field, still showing scorch marks, and pits, to the Dorm. The upper two floors soot covered, the window glass cracked or missing altogether.

“But the Compass practices will be held elsewhere.” Rael kept her voice firm.

“Why did you bring those people here?” Ejti frowned down on her.

“Because Compass work is all male. I simply am not able to merge properly with men. Quite apart from feeling like I needed stronger, more experienced people to run it.” She glanced at the sooty building. “And apparently three experience Warriors were unable to contain it.”

“But what . . .”

“With no buildings and no people to worry about, apparently that doesn’t matter. Which I wish they’d mentioned before they started.” Rael frowned. “This is an unusually talented group of students. The younger ones are just ‘ordinarily’ strong, so this large of a group of powerful students will be hopefully rare.”

11 October 2019 @ 11:30 am

Rael popped over to the hospital to check on Ryol again, and this time found her sister and parents in attendance. Black Horse Guards all over the place.

Scar grinned at her. “You missed Madam Raod and Madam Koyl double teaming, Isakson, at high volume, about the advisability of not injuring children, nor damaging buildings. Ox, mind you, got there first and said something about the inadvisability of you and Isakson being allowed in the same hemisphere as each other.”

Rael nodded. “I . . . don’t know whether to hope this batch of kids is a sign of the future, or just a random blip of very strong magic users.”

Her father must have heard her voice. He stepped out of the door behind Scar, and closed it behind him. He took a deep breathe, then released it. And spoke almost calmly. “The main reason we never broke and told you was that we were concerned about your ability to parent. Congratulations on not killing your daughter.” A toothy non-smile. “Dare I ask where Exzy is?”

Rael reached into her inner jacket pocket and produced the bubble handles.

“How nice. Go. Away. We will deliver Ryol to her classes tomorrow, if her proper, Oner, doctors says she’s ready.”

Rael nodded and walked away. I can’t even be indignant . . . because it’s true.

She walked through the corridor to the beach, and walked around the glassy pits . . . noted the size of the area where the melted sand globs had impacted. Two power explosions.

And then with more control they attacked the sand dunes. She noted the depth of the melted holes in the sand dunes.

Rael stood beside one circle of footprints and pulled in the heat of the sun, the heat radiating off the sands. Looked at the sand dune thirty meters away. Started with small diameter punches. Larger. Then slice. Not impressive on a sand dune, but what it would do to buildings, vehicles . . . people. She rolled up as much power as she could hold, compacted all the power into a fireball and threw it. A football sized hole melted and blasted into the dune. Half the size of the older holes.

Right. I’m not a dangerous as a newly formed Compass of Trainee Warriors. But I’m damn close. And I’d better do some practicing myself.

And be careful. Because I really don’t want to kill one of these kids.

Then she headed back to the campus to repair the practice field.


“Relax. You will not be doing anything even close to that near-disaster.” Rael grinned ruefully at the level one kids. “And in fact, neither will the level three kids.”

“Ooo! Professor Rael! Did you get in trouble?”

“Yep. From the Police, from Chancellor Urfa, from Residential Director Ox, from the families of the kids injured . . . and there’s plenty of people who no doubt will be bringing it up as soon as the opportunity presents itself.”

By eleven, she’s had her fill of the spectators; frowning police, senior faculty members, and newsies with their vidcams on their shoulders.

The newsies had even intercepted students and asked “if they weren’t frightened.”

Her students has just grinned and talked about striving to reach their full potential. Too many other students had taken the prompt and carried on about being frightened to walk near the practice field.

In Advanced Martial Arts the grinning seniors had wanted to hear all about it.

Wave was grinning. “We were just heading that way for our session when this huge fireball climbs into the sky.”

Ijjy laughed. “Too bad it was during the day. It would have been even better in the dark.”

Rael winced. “I think it’s very lucky that there were so few students in their rooms at two forty-five.”

A laugh from the back of the dojo. A younger student held up his arm, sleeve pulled back to display a new red scar. “Princess Paer fixed it! Ha! I got a jot of Joy Juice, too! Woot! And all the sympathetic women! What a great night!”

Rael pinched the bridge of her nose. I am a bad influence. I think.


She retreated for lunch, into the double fast room and curled up in bed with a book.

The biography of Madam Haig Withione Paris. So it’s sort of work. If I don’t fall asleep over her early childhood, traumatic older childhood as her pushy control freak parents were verbally abusive over her late blossoming. Frustrated trying to force it, two suicide attempts, and finally an explosive blooming that started a house fire . . .

“Oh. Good. Grief.” Rael thumped her head on the reader, for lack of a better hard surface.

“Oops, lost my place . . .” She sat up suddenly, and enlarged the picture she’d accidentally wound up on.

Madam Haig, her husband, Minister Igly, two children . . . and the minister’s assigned princess, Jues.

10 October 2019 @ 12:29 pm

They hadn’t actually been gone very long. Two ambulances at the curb in front of the dorm.

Paer hustled over, and Rael turned to face the music.

A pair of policemen, the head of the Campus Police and the city’s Chief of Police, turned to loom at her.

“The student who suffered power overload, trying to block the blast will be fine. I take there are more injuries inside?” Rael stepped to where she could see the damaged side of the six level building. It would be the largest of the dorms! “I see she couldn’t get the shield up high enough, strong enough to protect the top two floors.”

“Well, we’ve gotten everyone else’s statements, so let’s add yours to the pile.” The Police Chief waved a younger, uniformed cop forward. “I understand you know the drill.”

“Yes.” Drat. Facing Urfa is going to come next. “I had a large number of highly talented students to train, and called in The Black Horse Guards’ trainer because he’s much more experienced at this.”

The cop snorted. “We met him. Utterly terrifying, and so bloody proud of the kids that almost blew up the campus.”

“Uh . . . broke maybe two dozen windows? They aren’t that dangerous. However all compass practices will henceforth be held off campus and far away from any buildings or people.”

Rael cleared her throat. “The first half of the class had a nice controlled compass. The second group was very strong, collected way too much power and lost control of it. I was on the west side, with a light shield up between the observers and the compass. The previous class—six young women—had stayed to watch. They sat on the north side, just beyond the curb there.

“When the Compass lost control of the power, Isakson shielded the kids, and the energy, in the form of heat and motion . . .”

“Explosion?” The cop prompted.

“Eh, not quite that energetic . . . Anyway I toughened my shield and looked to the girls. One of them, Ryol was up and trying to hold an enormous shield. It almost worked. But she collapsed under the strain. I hauled her to the hospital and returned.” Rael looked around the practice field Burned, pockmarked. “I had no idea . . .”

Arno trotted around the corner of the building. “All right, we’ve checked all the rooms. We didn’t kill anyone, only one serious injury—glass splinters in one eye—Dr. Paer’s dealing with that, said she’d take him to the Comet Fall Hospital to be sure his sight wasn’t affected.”

The cop grunted. “Well, training accident. Minimal injuries, property damage . . . who knows who’s going to pay for it.” He slapped his recorder off and walked away.

Her comm beeped. She glanced at it. “Oops. Ox.”

Arno gulped. “I ought to have known better than to have used the car.”

Rael opened her mouth . . . closed it. “Shut up and let me talk.” She opened the connection. “Ryol is fine. The other injuries are not life threatening, and actually only one hospitalization, just to make sure the eye injuries heal well.”

A deep sigh from the comm. “Isakson called. I did not like the cavalier way he shrugged off Ryol fainting and you teleporting her out of there.”

“I sort of panicked. She got what Dr. Heath called brain scorch from collecting too much power. Three days bed rest in a dark room. I’ll pick her up Sunday . . .”

“Raod and the grandparents will pick her up Sunday. And Dr. Heath? You took her to Embassy? And where is Xen?”

“Off to play with Cyborgs, last time anyone’s seen him. Which was a month ago.”

Another sigh. “Life was so simple before Endi Dewulfe. And it’s two decades too late to tell you to be careful of falling for someone who is . . . rearranging the entire Multiverse.”

Rael couldn’t get up a giggle. “Oh, he just nudges it every once in a while, when it really needs it. Otherwise it pretty much arranges itself.”

“Nudge? More like a swift kick. Well, I’m sending one of the other Warriors to pay for fixing the damage out of the Warriors Fund. One help me. I didn’t realize there was such a thing. Please don’t do that again.”

“I’ll try.” Rael stared at the comm. Looked around and spotted Ra’d.

He looked around as she walked up. “How’s Ryol?”

“Three days bed rest in a dark room. Power scorched her brain.” Rael crossed her arms. “Does this sort of thing happen often?”

“Yes, but we usually don’t do it anywhere near a building or people. I apologize for bringing Isakson in. He . . .”

“Is like me and prone to throwing caution to the winds?”

“Oh, you don’t throw caution to the winds. You just do it anyway.”

“And Ox said something about the damage being paid for by the Warrior’s Fund? What the One hell is that?”

“Oh, we always sort of self-insured for the damage we cause. Made us less unpopular. I wonder if Isakson started up a new fund or if the old was still in existence?”

Rael thought about nearly a thousand years of interest . . . “Right. Warriors with an insurance policy. Uh oh.”

Ra’d looked around and spotted Urfa. “Oops.”

Urfa looked around the practice field. “I see we had a battle here.”

“Sorry, Boss. I think I just destroyed the reputation of the Magic Section.”

“No . . . Changed it, yet again? No doubt about that.” He eyed the dorm. “Isakson said Ryol got her shield extended a huge amount, powered by the heat of the explosion, and over-did rather badly.”

“Yes. She’ll be fine. Back in class Monday.”

“Good.” He looked over his shoulder. “Looks like everyone but the newsies is leaving. Why don’t we all walk over and talk to them about the powerful students the School is about to unleash upon the Multiverse.”

Chapter Twenty-six

On the Beach

Saturday 27 Muharram 1417 yp

The magic school Xen had built for the early sessions with his twenty-seven half-Oner children was empty most of the time. Occasionally used by visiting students. And this weekend, Rael’s top seventeen college students. Along with Isakson, Dog and Ice.

Q and two other local witches grabbed Rael and the girls, and a batch of the local teenage girls and hauled them off to the hotsprings.

Rael cast an anxious look toward the boys. Isakson made shooing motions. She shooed.

Puus, Nugget, and Cindy were thorough boggled by Sunday afternoon. They’d tried, and done moderately well, all the witch exercises. Triad exercises. Had even bathed naked in the hotsprings.

Back at the school, the boys had been beaming.

“Man! We melted a lot of sand before we figured out how to limit the power we gathered.” Arno flopped down in a chair. “But I think we’ve got it now.”

Rael eyed him.

“I know! No compasses without Isakson or Ra’d there. Which they said probably means not till sometime next year.”

Kev sighed. “I did a couple of minor compasses. I know they all say I will be strong . . . but it sure would be nice if it was now while the training is going on.”

09 October 2019 @ 02:25 pm

They retreated past the concrete curb that was the token marker of the end of the magic practice field and the landscaping around the first of the dorm buildings. They spread out in a line and sat cross-legged, to watch.

Isakson pointed out four of them, Unko, Osti, Agny, and Eggo. Turned and summoned Dog.

Yikes! He’s going for a full Compass!

Isakson took north, Ra’d South, Ebsa west, and an apprehensive Dog walked to the east position. The four students slotted in between them, and they reached to join hands. Power circled, grew. Controlled, and then used as the poor hill got smacked with various spells. All through beautifully controlled holes in the right shield.

“Damn. I’ve never seen anything like that! I didn’t know that was possible.” Ice blinked and shook his head. “Wow.”

Rael nodded. “That’s about the strongest power circle I’ve seen. And it was just a bit of practice, with a Compass that’s not used to each other.”

The last of the power huffed upward in a ring of heated air, and Isakson released the merge.

The students, and Dog, staggered over to grab boost and collapse.

Isakson grinned and crooked a finger at the rest of them. Eyed Kev and shook his head. Pointed at Ice. Who swallowed and walked out to take east, with Fun and Sunny on either side. Milo and Arno flanked Ebsa.

The power spun up, leaping and roaring, power flashes . . . Rael threw up a shield between the compass and the guys watching, saw the sparkle of a shield in front of the girls.

Isakson, I hope you know what you’re doing!

The first attack through the shield gouged a hole and sent dirt and flaming grass arching through the air.

Three quick shots . . . Is Isakson trying to reduce power by using it as fast as he can?

The slope heaved, settled. Then more flying dirt.

Agny inched closer. “Is the power supposed to still be building up?”

Rael gulped. “I . . . don’t think . . . so?”

Then a huge blast, straight up.

Rael hardened her shields, stretched them higher, shot a glance at the girls. Ryol was standing, hands out, throwing a shield high.

The blast slammed her backwards, and shield hit the Dorm behind her.

Even over the startled screams, Rael heard the snap of breaking glass, the high pitched tinkle as some shattered and fell. Mostly trapped between the building and the shield as it collapsed.

Rael shoved an angled shield above the girls and the glass hit and slid back against the building foundations. She held it in her mind as she bolted out to the boys . . . who were climbing to their feet, grinning through reddened faces.

Isakson was laughing. “A full Warrior Compass! Trainees, in you fives’ case.” He glanced at the other boys. “Eleven. And I’m think the young ladies are going to count as well.”

Rael heaved a breath of relief. Arno’s fine!

She opened her mental shields a bit, looking up at the dorm. The top two floors have lost most of their glass, I’m only feeling a couple of people, startled, some pain . . . pain down here . . .

Ryol was curled on her side, hands around her head, breathing in gasps.

Rael reversed to grab boost. “Drink. You need it badly.”

“I can’t, I can’t . . .” her privacy shield was crumbling pain leaking out.

And everything getting in!

Rael wrapped a mental shield around the girl. “Drink!” She looked over her shoulder. “Guys! Put out the fires! Then get up there and find out if anyone is injured!”

Ryol went limp.

No, no, no! Rael put her arms around her and reached for the antechamber of her office. Hit the floor there with a jolt.

“Mom?” Ryol blinked.

“I’ll get you to the Comet Fall hospital, they’ll know what to do.” Rael pulled the girl’s arm around her neck and helped her up. Walked her through the office.

“Whoa! Pretty!”

And through the house to the garage. “We not very far from the corridor to Gate City from here. Just hang on . . .” Strapped her into her seat. Forced her to take a swallow of boost. She drove out of the neighborhood and on the first throughway, popped the sort-of-concealed panel on the dash. Presidential level authority . . . and suddenly all the lights were in her favor, the car swerved into the emergency access lane at the corridor and she grabbed the controls to get through the corridor’

“Look at that! Is that strange thing a tree” Ryol squinted and pointed. “It’s really weird. Like it growing all through the inbetween.”

Rael merged onto the highway to the SGA, and let the system control the car—and let it get everyone else out of her way. She contacted the SGA gate guards, and they waved her through. A quick trip through the warehouse district.

“Look at all those gold things. Like decorating a Christmas tree, like in the old vids.” Ryol blinked. “Except it’s more like a bush, isn’t it?”

“I don’t see anything, Honey.” Rael swiped a hand across her eyes to clear her vision. Steered straight at the gate to Embassy.

Ryol screamed and cringed down in her seat. “Don’t hit it, don’t hit . . . it?”

Rael whipped out of the Embassy courtyard, turn right, and right again. And into a parking spot.

The Goddess of Health hustled out the front door of the hospital. “Good heavens, child what did you just do?” Her hands cupped Ryol’s face. “That’s a nasty bit of power scorch. Talk to me.”

“I could absorb it all.” Ryol squinted. “I was trying to shield the building, I grabbed a bunch of the blast energy to strengthen it against itself, and there was too much energy, I sort of pushed it way, around me and into the ground, but I already . . . hurt.”

“Yes.” A huff of exasperation. “Taking after your Aunt Q. That’s not the right way to learn to channel power. Come in here. I’ll you up and let you lie in the dark for a couple of hours and see how you’re doing.”

Rael staggered . . . in a hospital room.

The lights dimmed. “Let’s see. Drink this first . . .”

Rael stepped up and steadied Ryol as she sat down. Drank something bright green. Relaxed a little.

“Are you crying?” Ryol squinted up at her.

Rael swiped a hand across her cheek. “Yes.” It came out a lot more wobbly than she’d intended. “I’m . . . not a very good mother, but I love you.”

Ryol leaned on her. “You’re a great mother. Pretty good aunt, too.” She swapped glasses with Dr. Heath. Took a sip of something milky and chocolaty.

Loud running footsteps out in the hall, stopping, and tentative tap at the door before it eased open.

Arno and Milo.

“What are you two doing here? How did you get here?”

“I drove. Hey Sis, you dead yet?” Arno’s anxious expression eased as he eyed Ryol. Winced as Milo slapped his head.

Milo slipped up to Ryol’s other side. “Hey. Are you all right?”

“No. But Dr. Health doesn’t seem too alarmed.” Ryol shifted and leaned on him.

Oh? Really?

“Indeed. Dr. Heath is no longer alarmed.” The Goddess took the empty glass. “You should recover entirely. But you are going to stay here through the weekend, and you will not be doing any magic for several weeks.”

The door opened and closed again. Q nudged her way closer. “Oh. I remember how that feels. What do you see, Ryol?”

“If I look at the inbetween, all I see is this tree. I feel like I’m stuck up on a branch like some stupid cat.”

Q grinned. “Excellent. That’s the Multiverse. Rest and recuperate. You’ve just hit a threshold the wrong way, so heal first, then more training.”

“She’s going to be fine. Now you lot shoo! She needs to sleep. Rael? Come by Sunday, she should be ready to go home by then.”

Rael allowed herself to be herded out with everyone else. And stopped dead. Her cute little red sports car, very poorly parked, had been joined by a wicked low slung red job . . . that she recognized from the description . . . “I am going to kill Ra’d.”

Arno shook his head. “It was my idea. I suborned him.

She eyed him.

“I had to get close enough to do a gate nearby. And it’s not like I could buy a car, or even rent one, with a learners permit.”

“Bubble that car right now before anyone from Whirlpool One sees it. And get in my car.” Rael kept her voice steady. I will go fetal with my blanky later.

Q was looking amused. “Need a quick ride?”

Rael opened her mouth to politely decline . . . “Ah . . . yes I’d better get back and see what the rest of the damage is.”

Paer trotted out of the hospital, case in hand. “Ebsa called. Some nasty glass injuries. Give me a lift?”

Rael swallowed. “Certainly.”

She started the car and they were suddenly in the embassy courtyard. She drove through the gate, a second twist and suddenly she was in her own driveway. Q stepped away from the car and waved. Disappeared.