Urfa and Professor Ivy exchanged glances. Ivy stood up. “Thank you, Captain Wolfson. Students . . . list the usual functions of Disco and . . . and . . . What the hell. If something interesting occurs to you, write it up. There’s bound to be a use for it sometime. Dismissed.”
Rael, still snickering, hauled him out the secret passage. Where Arno and Ryol were waiting.
“You’ve been so busy, we haven’t seen the house yet, or Exzy since he was three days old.” Ryol bounced and looked hopeful.
“Nor the Evil Biodad since then either.” Arno grinned. “So you didn’t put in being zapped by the Zingos?”
Xen laughed. “I thought about it. Diplomatic duties taking us on trips to meet other world’s rulers on their own worlds. But then most of the audience would have cheered . . .”
“Would not!” Ryol protested . . . hesitated. “Well, no more than half, surely.”
Rael giggled. “In any case, come see the house. It’s an unfinished mess, but . . .”
And suddenly they were catching their balance in front of the house.
Xen lit up the front. “No landscaping yet, but it has been painted, re-shingled, the piping completely replaced, and tomorrow the wiring will be replaced. We’re being very good and getting permits and inspections and everything.”
Ryol snickered. “Careful! Next we’ll be called you, what? Otry Withione?”
“Clostuone. Absolutely no rape genes allowed.”
Rael thumped him. “We all have a single complete set. Not a problem.”
Xen shook his head. “And I don’t think I could ever commit to the Empire.”
Rael unlocked the door and led the way in.
Xen pulled a short metal bar out of his inner jacket pocket . . .
“You aren’t keeping Exzy in a bubble are you!” Ryol yelped.
“Only when we’re both out. We.re all spending a lot of time in a fast room with him, so he’s grown a lot since then. He opened the bars and Ryol gave a little squeak.
“He’s big! Oh! He’s at the really, really cute baby stage! And he’s got red hair! Oh! Can I hold him?”
Rael swapped grins with Xen. Exzy sat up and reach out to be picked up, his gaze turning to study the new people.
So meeting the new sibling combined with being shown the stripped house and having a late snack.
“So . . . are you living here?” Arno was watching Xen.
“Off and on. Right now, with workmen coming and going, I need to be here most of the time. I’m checking in with Disco every morning, then getting back here before the workers show up. Once the house is finished, I’ll be back to working full time.” Xen shrugged. “It’ll work until an emergency comes up. Then Exzy get’s bubbled and handed over to Rael, so he’ll lose some of the extra time he’s gained, depending on whether she’s got her schedule beaten down into something manageable.”
Arno nodded. “So you’re sort of hustling Exzy along in anticipation of emergencies?”
“Yes, and we’re hoping to stay ahead of his calendar age, since he’ll probably grow more slowly than normal for Oners.”
Arno and Ryol both nodded at that.
“And boys get the worst of it. Nobody cares if a girl’s a bit dainty.” Ryol looked up at her twin. “Even if a certain boy just seems to keep right on growing.”
“Finally, and do I need to point out that you’re taller than Mom?”
Ryol blinked and scooted closer to Rael.
Rael looked . . . not very far up. “Eep!”
Xen nodded. “Yep, she’s got a good four or five cems on you.”
“Xen, this is all your fault.”
Then they migrated back through the office, and the kids trotted off to their dorms.
And tomorrow’s Thursday. One of my ‘days off’ that’s become start to finish Magic Practicum.
And when she made it to the practice field the next morning . . . her students were checking out a six-meter diameter dome. Vertical for the first meter, the six wooden ribs curved gracefully to meet in a central point about three meters high. A circle of wood all around it,
Agny looked over at her. “It’s just sitting on the ground, but I can’t lift it. There’s no floor, just a tarp, insulating foam and a carpet.”
“And there’s something between the ribs, too.” Nugget waved a hand through what looked like thin air.
Rael stepped over the ground board . . . into the nice warm dome. “It’s an odd sort of energy shield. It transmits heat one direction.” She put her hand near and closed her eyes the better to ‘feel’ the two shields. “There’s also a gas-porous physical shield, it’ll strip energy out of the wind and convert it to heat.”
She opened her eyes and looked for the control. “There will be a . . . yes, here it is. These two little tabs will control the heat level and the wind velocity. Comet Fall work. Including the wood.”
Scrawny little Eggo touched the wooden rib. “Are they that much stronger than we are?”
“No.” They looked at her in surprise. “Some of them are much better trained in a very different system. Sit. Bring up your shields and hold them while I talk . . .”
When the One Bloody Hell did that man find the time to make this?
“Comet Fall, or Exile Five, as it started out, was settled by about fifty-thousand people. Some were genetically engineered, generally just improvements to otherwise normal embryos. Some were family members, parents and siblings, who had no genetic engineering. So a lot of the normal Exiles were past reproductive age. There were no Natives on that world.”
Rael paused. “Ifnu, feel the warm air, let it soak into your blood stream. Now leak a tiny thread from your forehead into the mirror ring . . . Good.”
Several other kids strengthened their shields as well. Second day, and they’re already better.
“And then the last group of Exiles. The thirteen most dimensionally able Telies ever created, escaped. They made it through the gate and, we think, left a bomb behind that destroyed it, and Earth’s dimensional capabilities for centuries.
“All right. Relax and release your shields. Stretch, get up if you need to. I know you aren’t used to sitting like this for long periods.”
Cindy, the blonde girl, young woman, rather, got up a shook herself. “And those thirteen, those are the ones they worship as gods, right?”
“Yes, but it’s a pretty tepid sort of worship. Only two of them ever had actual churches, with clergy and so forth. The rest have no organized worshipers to speak of.”
They all sat again, and raised shields.
“In any case, the world the Prophets were marooned in had motor vehicles, electrical girds, a petrochemical industry, hot and cold running water, medical care and so forth. One Exile Five? Extensive tectonics had cracked a lot of petroleum reservoirs, they couldn’t refuel their vehicles. It was a howling wilderness, and they had nothing but the clothes on their back—and rudimentary magic.
“They used magic workarounds for lots of things that we had tech for, so our magic systems diverged right from the start.”
Rael stood up and stretched herself. Had the six of them lower and raise their shields several time, had them dismiss the visualization and hold the shield. A bit to their astonishment. Then adjust how strong the shields were.
:: Nugget, can you hear me? ::
:: Say that mentally. ::
A faint whisper.
:: Think about projecting your voice. ::
:: Like public speaking, when the mic dies? ::
Rael sent a wave of approval. :: Just like that. ::
:: Agny? ::
She ran through all six of them, and all six had no problem with the technique.
They were all headachy and grinning as she handed out boost and sent them away.
Damn Jues! These kids are dead easy to teach. What the hell is wrong with you?
Then three more groups. A bit more advanced, they were all able to collect power and use it to support their shields. The second batch already had shaky, weak, physical shields. She worked them on control, on keeping them steady.
Caught a couple of flares. Weak enough that they probably wouldn’t have hurt anyone, but . . . “Do not practice the physical shields without a trained teacher to catch those flares. Because you will very quickly be strong enough to be very dangerous. On your own, practice the mental shields, up and down, vary the strength. Telepath each other, find your range and write it down. I’ll be working you to extend it.”
The third group was shaky on the shields, and just needed practice.
A break for lunch. Wires sticking out of the ceiling and walls, no power, but of course the fridge was cold. I wonder if Xen bothered to plug it in, in the first place?
She downloaded all her mail and took her comp and lunch into the fast room.
A polite request from the Magic School Chancellor asking her to stop by Professor Jues’s office and stop her quaking . . .
“Oops . . . might have not realized how much oomph I put into that one. I wonder who’s giving her lectures?”