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11 September 2015 @ 08:02 am
_Project Dystopia_ part 28  
 

Paer blinked at her new patients.

"They're upset about their ears. Can you do that micro telekinesis thing and fix them?" Ebsa set Ngorei down on the examination table. "Get them nice and pointy?"

"Umm, we'd need more cartilage . . . or to thin what's left. They lost about three centimeters and the forward ridge needs to be thick enough to be stiff." She got absentminded for a moment, stroking the girl's ear. Her voice dropped to a near whisper. "I'll need to get the chondrocytes to multiply and shift them to the cut edge, and then form the extracellular matrix . . . Get the skin cells dividing, too . . . "

She dropped her hands, and turned to Zhodan. He froze, looking a bit spooked as she rubbed his injured ear.

She straightened and smiled. "I'll do just a bit every day, get it right. Everyone else is doing well, as well. And the only hugging and kissing I've spotted was between married couples. So the Joy Juice hasn't created a mass orgy or rape epidemic."

"Good. Good. I didn't actually think about what it might do to an Action Teamer who'd retained those genes."

She shook her head at him. "We're probably going to be in trouble over it. But Dear One, this would have been so much worse without it."

"I will be in trouble. You merely used it when things got desperate. I acquired it, brought it with me, through multiple gates, in and out of the home world. Multiple offenses."

"Oh. Hmm." She leaned her head on his shoulder. "I grew up much more law abiding than you. I try to do thing legally, even when it's not the best way. You . . . were prepared for the worst and didn't hesitate when it was needed. You terrify me sometimes, when I stop and think about it. And I love you."

"Yeah well . . . how can I resist something that makes it so easy for me to show off? And you're scarier than I am. You can see things I can't see and do things I'd leave to a team of surgeons to muck around with and not do as well as you do. And I love you, even though you shoot better than I do."

She snorted and pushed him away. "It's not a complement competition. Get. I'm on duty. Go away. I'll work on their ears a tiny bit every day, and they'll be fine in a week or two. And no joy juice for them. They aren't human, and we don't know how it might affect them."

"Good point." Ebsa hustled the kids out and got to work on lunch.

Iqgu stopped by. "I was wondering if I should put you on the watch rotation."

"Yeah, might as well. How about midnight to oh-eight-hundred with breaks for breakfast prep? When all is quiet. If things are edgy, it'll be fab food."

"You've got the schedule from hell don't you?"

"Cooking is not for the faint of heart. Any days I'm off guard duty, I'll still be up by five at the latest, so you'll have an extra pair of eyes up and hopefully alert about then."

Ebsa mopped sweat off his face and eyed the sun. "It's not officially spring yet. So . . . how hot is it going to be at the height of summer?"

"The instrument readings in the records topped out at forty-six centigrade. The doc's always talked about avoiding heat stroke as one thing to watch for, here. We ignored his talks all winter. Stupid of us." Iqgu eyed the dough he was rolling around meat and vegetables. "I never realized how dangerous flour could be."

"The very fine stuff—and fabbed flour can be very fine—in a thin suspension in still dry air—is very dangerous. "

"Yeah, Ocho explained it to me. He said we were lucky all of it wasn't in suspension like that. Most of it just burned, he said. Just."

Ebsa nodded. "I . . . refuse to indulge in 'I should haves' or 'if onlies.' Can't have a redo."

Would it have been better if I didn't go to the coast camp? Paer would have gone alone, or with one of Ocho's crew for the tire replacement. Maybe, if they 'd had any sense, they'd have given up and come back. The kids would have died all unknown, in the museum. Or if I'd even just gotten back half an hour earlier and taken over the kitchen, I might have prevented the explosion and fire.

Or been in the middle of it and died. So, just shut up, Ebsa, and cook your sausage rolls. And don't tell anyone that it's rat.

***

The next two days were much the same. The kids loved the magic practice. He added a bit of basic karate. Which was totally cute in Ngorei's case. Ebsa suspected Zhodan might be quite good with practice. He had speed, even at his young age. Whatever that was, for an Elf.

A few people eyed the meat in their meals, but no one asked. Then when he ran out of rat, he got complaints about the fab meat being too squishy. Ebsa rather hoped he wouldn't get a resupply . . . and wondered if he ought not be hoping for a resupply. Under controlled conditions, please!

Ocho bulldozed a track around the concrete slab. Six meters wide. Ebsa coated it with insecticides, and Iqgu eyed it and said he hoped they could keep the rats further away, but this would at least keep the insects under control.

***

The bug swarms were getting smaller, and a recee out to the nearest sink hole showed the water level only a dozen meters from the surface.

"So with luck we've seen the worst of the bugs, there's no place left to flush more of them out of." Wxxo sighed. "So long as that doesn't mean they start breeding."

Ebsa looked east, shading his eyes. "Still plenty of snow. Do we know anything about the drainage?"

Ocho nodded. "The elevation drops to the south. Gradually, and there are rivers cutting canyons through. Under other circumstances I'd go take a look. I suspect there are springs and waterfalls all up and down the cliffs."

"Ebsa, how are we doing for food?"

"The fabs are probably good for two months. If I stretch it out with rat, four months."

Wxxo winced. "Dr. Ijho ran a genetic analysis of the rats. They were genetically engineered with some cattle genes, and their size genes altered. Best guess is the colonists lost all their livestock and tried to make their only meat source more . . . palatable."

"Hmm, what about the bugs?"

"Those are all native. A response to the conditions here."

Ocho glanced upward. "The Sun? I've heard the theory that it's more variable than our, with occasional extremes."

"Yeah." Wxxo turned away from the sink hole and headed back to the ute. "And of course then they started arguing about whether this was one of the bad cycles."

 
 
 
(Anonymous) on September 11th, 2015 01:50 pm (UTC)
Question about "weaponizing" magic.
IIRC, a slice is a shield plane used like a knife. What if, instead of a plane, it was narrowed down to a small rod of force? Would the distance be extended? Could it be used as a "gun"? For tgat matter, what if they freatted a tiny "packet" or sphere of force and used telekinesis to accelerate it to bullet speeds? They could even make thrm explosive.
matapampamuphoff on September 11th, 2015 03:27 pm (UTC)
Re: Question about "weaponizing" magic.
Many of the techniques they used to try to steer or break up incoming comets are useful distance weapons. The distance possible increases with a decrease in the area affected. Think of it as a volume, requiring the same expenditure of energy whether it's short and fat or needle thin and very long in one dimension.

Adding enough energy for an explosion from a distance is very difficult.

I've had to limit the reach of magic in order to not have every book a boring walkover. So there are perhaps a dozen or so people capable of the extreme magic. Compasses and Triads and Pyramids can do more, enough to counterbalance the abilities of gods, so the Gods with the desire to dominate and rule are kept in check.

Because the "New Prophets" were marooned on a world with fairly modern conveniences, weapons, and medicine, the things their magic was useful for was very different than on Comet Fall where they had to build a civilization from scratch. So Ebsa has learned a lot more about shields and close in weaponized magic, than distance attacks, building techniques and medicine. Paer's medical abilities have been mostly learned from Xen and her internship in the Comet Fall Hospital on Embassy.
Michawl DolbearMichawl Dolbear on September 11th, 2015 09:48 pm (UTC)
Re: Question about "weaponizing" magic.
The matter is mentioned in Ch 23 of Dark Lady and Rustle then uses narrower/ further to punch a hole in an enemy.


Little Egret in Walton-on-Thames
Bretbretw on September 11th, 2015 05:27 pm (UTC)
You do realize that the size of the insects you describe in this story far exceed the maximum exoskeleton size for a creature?

It doesn't matter since it's fiction, but I had that so pounded in to me in a physiology course in college many decades ago, that I can't help cringing every time the giant insects are mentioned.
matapampamuphoff on September 11th, 2015 06:07 pm (UTC)
Millipedes and scorpions got into this class size, and the aquatic types even larger. So while I'm definitely pushing the size limits at meter long critters, I don't think I'm massively out of line.
Bretbretw on September 11th, 2015 06:47 pm (UTC)
Ok. I stand at least partially corrected. The land dwelling coconut crab can be 1m across, though most of that length is in the legs. It's body is only about 30cm across. The largest scorpion ever observed has a length of a little over 20cm. Same with the largest millipedes.

Aquatic creatures can be a lot bigger because of the buoyancy due to water and other fluid advantages.

I still suspect a meter is way too long for a cockroach, but again, it's fiction, so no big deal, and you're right, it's closer than I would've thought (especially after physiology class). That's a horrifyingly large crab (though I wonder if it tastes good? I suspect it would taste better than giant rat!).

As an aside, the tests in that professor's class were always 100 true-false questions and the student's score was the absolute value of the difference of number right and number wrong ( |right - wrong| ), so if one was feeling rebellious, one could purposely answer every question incorrectly and still get a hundred on the test. Unfortunately, I was never able to answer them all right or all wrong so no hundreds for me. So you can see why I was traumatized by that class. Especially since I think I answered a question about giant cockroaches incorrectly. :-)