Possibilities of Magic
You are Rose, currently at the NPC-PS wizard's classes.
The classroom you are in has several other students, all practicing one sort of magic or another, and at first glance would look like a normal classroom. However, if you cared to stay and watch, you would see students coming and going, asking the instructor for specific advice on raising their skills or learning new spells. Unlike a typical classroom that runs at a set hour, this one is open at all hours of the day, and in the course of a day one or a hundred students may stop in for a lesson. Of course all are NPC-PS agents of one kind or another, needing help with their current, or future missions.
This holds true for you, as well.
"So how exactly does divination magic work?" you ask the instructor.
"I am temped to say exactly in the same manner that every other kind of magic works," he replies, "but I fear that is not the answer you're looking for."
"No it's not, but give it to me from the beginning anyway."
"Very well. Divination magic falls under the ascendancy of Jupiter, governed by RESolve. Jupiter also represents order, truth, punishment and connection. To cast Jupiter spells, one must mentally force the magic to respond to your wishes, rather then through, for example, STRength as with Mars. As with all magic, the intent of the spell is spoken aloud while invoking the mystic energies that power it, and if you have the proper force of will to control those energies and sufficient practice in this skill, the magic will respond to your wishes and the spell will be performed successfully."
"But what if performing it successfully isn't enough?"
"I'm not sure what you mean," says the instructor quizzically. "If you succeed, the spell works. If you don't, you have to worry about backlash, same as with any other planet. The magical energies, having no place else to go, damage you instead of performing their task."
"I know that, what I need to do is find someone, a person that seems to be invisible a lot of the time and is a wizard themselves. So they probably have a lot of anti-scrying magic going around where they are."
"In that case, your casting result must only beat their casting result for the protection spell to have your spell succeed."
"That's doable," you say, thoughtful. "I could use energetic accumulation and put most of my energy into it, that would punch through any sort of protection they had."
"Is this person that skilled then?"
"Perhaps not, but they have shown themselves to think things through obsessively and try to counter any situation before it happens."
"I see. One moment please, I'll be right back."
He leaves and returns a few moments later with a book of Jupiter magic. He starts paging through it.
"It's still going to be tricky, you know," he says, looking over certain spells. "First of all you'll have to learn Jupiter magic to at least a rating of one, which is easily done, of course."
"The only spell I can see that would actually work is Descry Owner, using the hair to ask the magic to show you the person it came from. The thing is, this spell shows you the person as though you were looking at them, which would be problematic if what you say it true."
"Invisibility," you say, darkly.
"Exactly. So this person's planning has served them well. Still, if this person is out and about, you can maintain the spell until you see a landmark or street sign, and have a good idea where they are."
"That does sound promising."
"How much XP do you have?"
"Right now?" You get out your character sheet and have a look. "With my last mini adventure with Rose, I now have nine."
"That's cutting it close, this is a grade eight spell, leaving you with one XP left over which you'll have to put into Jupiter."
"Can I cast it from the writings?"
"Not from my book," he says, shocked.
"If you fail casting it, the writings will be destroyed by the backlash! And if it's part of the book, most likely the whole book would go up in flames."
"Oh. Let's avoid that possibility, shall we?"
"Indeed. I can have someone make you a copy. The casting time is ten minutes, mind you, so you'll have your work cut out for you, reading and casting it that way."
"Let me at least try it. I can use my augment skill spell if I have to."
"Very well. How are your skills of Magical Theory and Scripture, if I may ask?"
"Both slightly above average."
"If you take your time you should be all right. I'll get you started learning to cast Jupiter spells so you can spend the one XP and get this spell copied over to some new pages for you by tomorrow."
"Thank you, I appreciate that."
Having learned Jupiter to a rating of one, you go in search of Jaden, to see if she's doing anything interesting. You find her in the workshop, working on one of her devices.
"What'cha doing?" you say, flying over to her.
It looks like she's working on some small, flat, disk like objects, and is currently gluing a strip of metal into the side of some jeans.
"Hi Rose, did you get what you were looking for?"
"It's not perfect, but I think we have a shot now that we have that hair."
"That's great! You wanted to know about these?"
You nod, landing on the table before them and looking them over.
"They're something I came up with fighting all those cyborgs," she explains, holding one up to you. "They weren't so bad because they were mostly human. But what if I had to fight a full body replacement cyborg? I need a way to take someone like that down fast, so this is what I came up with!"
"What's it do?" you ask, taking a step away from it.
"I'm glad you asked," she says with a smile. "It took all of my skills to put together, electronics, energetics, mechanical and 3d fabrication, for the case. Here," she shows you one that's still in pieces. It looks like two tiny plates stuck together with some goo along the edges, a little circuitry, and a rod going up the middle. "Basically I stick them onto this magnetic strip which keeps the arming pin in the down position. When I'm done gluing this into my jeans I'm going to make a glove with an electromagnet in the palm." She stands up and holds it against her leg with her left hand. "So, as my palm snaps down the magnet picks it up, right?" she demonstrates, now holding the disk in her right palm, which takes up most of it. "Now the pin slides up to hit against the switch here at the top, arming it. The glove will have a motion sensor in it so when I slam my palm against something, the electromagnet will release and the force of the blow will shift the middle rod back away from the switch, which will release the energy stored in the capacitor material along the rod and fry whatever electronics it comes in contact with."
"What's a capacitor?" you say, not following all that but still impressed with the work she's done.
"It's like a battery, but it discharges a lot faster. They've come a long way in the last fifty years, you can store a ton of power in a very small space, and with no dangerous chemicals like a real battery. Basically this paste material is created by nanobots, tiny machines, to have a tremendous surface area, which can store power."
"Oh, is that all?" you ask. "Kind of like using a shrink spell on a tree. The tree still has all that energy it soaked up from the sun, it's just a lot smaller area."
"I guess you could think of it like that."
"And you did all this yourself?"
"Well, I had some help," she says, gesturing to the other people in the lab. "When I explained my idea they really got behind it, because anyone can use it. So they've been working with me all day today."
You look over at another group, hard at work at various tables, computers and manufacturing equipment scattered about the room, and several wave to you. You wave back. One guy walks over with a set of the top and bottom plates. "Here's the next set," he says, handing them to Jaden.
"Thanks Paul," she says, "Keep churning them out!"
"Will do!" He walks away.
Jaden looks them over. "These are printed on that machine over there he's running. Of course 3D printing with plastics has been around forever, so it's not tough, but you do have to watch the machine and make sure it behaves. The tolerances for something like this aren't too bad, so it's not really a big deal, but he enjoys it, so I let him print the stuff even though I could do it myself."
You look around at the other various projects on the table.
"Looks like you've been making some progress on this other stuff."
"If you don't mind hanging out here I could use a little magic boost, if you know what I mean, and maybe I can finish them up today. If we're going to be going after O.I.F soon I may need every piece of gear I can get my hands on."
You nod. "Anything I can do to help."
Several tense days pass as you help Jaden finish up most of her projects and let everyone spend that XP they received. You study the spell, reading it over a couple of times in case you need to actually memorize it, and then get together with everyone again.
"So what's going to happen?" asks Clayton, as Jaden brings out the papers that have the spell written on them. You can't exactly fit them into your inventory, after all, it's all you could do to carry them. Not because the paper is particularly heavy, but the sheets are taller then you are. She spreads them out on the table and you land next to the first page. There are ten of them, a daunting task, hopefully you're up to it.
"The spell normally takes ten minutes to cast, but doing it this way will take twenty. Please don't interrupt me. If it goes off, I'll be able to see what this person is doing right now, and where they are. Hopefully, as they are not expecting this, I can get a good look and figure out where we can go to capture them. If not I don't know how we'll find them. I'm going to put the maximum energy I can into this effort in the hope of smashing through any barriers that are up, so I'll be pretty wiped out afterwords. Get to them and capture them, okay?
The others nod.
"Good luck Rose," says Jake.
"I know you can do it!" says Jaden.
"Get on with it," says Clayton.
You glower at him, and start casting the two spells you know you'll need to succeed. Technically you first check you cards, and sure enough, everyone has new ones, including one you'll want to spend first.
"I declare card 35," you say, and the black haired girl jumping with palm-palms appears, then fades out. Everyone gets another card, and they nod to you appreciatively. You silently turn in card 46 for 3 XP, it's a good card but you may need that XP for an automatic success, so you watch as it fades off your character sheet and increases your XP by 3.
Now you can cast your energy gathering spell, then Augment Skill, leaving you with a total bonus of plus two, after your negatives for maintaining the spells. Now you start carefully reading the ten pages of magical instructions. Eight minutes later you've read the whole thing and make a Magical Scripture check, after declaring card 36 so you get a slight mental boost for this check, getting an 15, and you breathe a sigh of relief, the first check is over and you clearly understand the workings of the spell. Now if you can just make your Magical Theory check to understand how to cast it- you make the check and get a nine.
Obviously, this is not enough, so you spend two of the XP you just received from cards, making it a thirteen, which is enough, and start the tedious twenty minutes of casting you have to do. Throughout you are gathering energy and you drop the Augment Skill spell, you don't need it anymore. Finally, as the final magical energies are taken from you, you make a Jupiter check and spend 35 energy, getting a final result of forty five on the check. You feel the barriers in your way easily punctured by the magical energies you've unleashed, and you see... an empty room.
In the room is a computer, and various notes are being looked at, as the mouse is moved by an invisible hand. Charts, test results and the like hang nearby and cover the walls, and a second monitor shows someone chained up in what looks like a dungeon. The mouse pauses, and the chair moves a little, almost as if the invisible figure is looking behind themselves, and then a new text document is opened on the screen.
**Hello, Rose**, the figure types. **Finally came to have a look at me, did you?**
Oh crap, you think to yourself. This person had some kind of detection spell going as well as the protection spells!
**Don't worry, I'm not mad,** the typing continued. **In fact I've been waiting for you quite excitedly. Nice work with the ship, by the way, you really drove the people around there nuts figuring out where it came from. You'll make an excellent data point in my studies I have no doubt. But we can talk about that when we meet in person. Of course I'm not just going to tell you where I am, that wouldn't prove anything, would it. Of course your team has already proven themselves to me, so little time together and already the four of you show great promise. What I will do is provide some incentives for you and your friends to come to me, not that you don't have enough, of course, but this way you'll all earn some extra XP so when we meet, you'll all be in top form. Right this way, please, as if you had any choice in the matter.**
The chair pushes back and your point of view follows the invisible figure down a set of stairs to what looks like a small prison, and a magic circle appears inside one of them. A fairy appears, startled, and you catch just a glimpse before the door is slammed shut, but there's no mistake, it's your mother. Three other cells are thus filled, and then the ice spell is cast as you watch, horrified, as the four people that have been brought here are frozen. More spells are then cast, and one by one they vanish. Your point of view goes upstairs again.
**Were you watching, sweet Rose? I hope you were. Go outside, away from the protective magics of the building and I'll send you a list of who I just took, and their current locations. Of course you recognized one, yes? So I'm sure you can guess the others, but just to be safe I'll give you the specifics. You each have one person to rescue, and each person is of course guarded. Beat the guardian and you'll get a piece of my location. Is this not a fine experiment? Put the pieces together and come to me. If you can beat me and my honor guard, fine. I will pay for what you perceive to be crimes. But if I win, you get to play your final part in my experiment, a great honor, I assure you. I've tested many people, but you and your friends seem to be particularly strong PCs so I hope to learn a lot from you. Go on now, off you go. I hope to see you soon, Rose!**
You watch for a moment more, but the figure just goes back to work, looking at data on charts and on the computer that you can't make heads or tails of. You break off the spell in disgust.
"What did you see?" everyone asks as you open your eyes again.
"We've got trouble. Is there some kind of protective magic around the buildings?" you ask.
"Sure," says Clayton, who is into that kind of stuff. "So wizards don't teleport bombs in and such. But stuff can teleport out, so wizards can leave. Why?"
"Come with me, we may have to hurry."
Everyone is looking at you confused, but they don't argue, and follow you to the door.
"Wait here. If I get taken, well, I don't think I will be though." The others wait at the door to the outside and you flutter out nervously. You don't have to wait long, as a sheet of paper appears nearby and the others rush out to grab it. You look it over as well, and your suspicions were correct, it was your mother the figure telesummoned, just as it was Clayton's father, Jaden's mother and Jake's little brother.
"What exactly happened when you spied on O.I.F?" Clayton asks, obviously trying to hold his temper in check.
"They somehow knew I was there looking," you explain. "And telesummoned these four people as I watched, then froze them in ice and teleported them away. The person was typing to me, and said each person would have a guardian, and if we each beat that guardian we would get the person they took back, plus a piece of the location we would ultimately find them. I think they're studying us, or something, they kept going on about "the experiment" and how we should be grateful to be chosen."
"Forget that, I just want to get my Dad back!"
"Let's not rush into anything," says Jake, putting a hand on Clayton's metal shoulder. "That's just what this person wants us to do. Think it over. Naturally we go rushing off to save our relatives, each one of us going after their own."
"So, that's what this person is expecting. The guardian will be someone that can neutralize us, right? Like the person guarding my father will be expecting an ESPer, and may be an ESPer themselves. But if you go rescue my father you'll be using bullets, not Telekinesis, and they won't know what to do."
"That's actually not a bad idea," says Jaden, "If we can all trust each other to rescue somebody else's parent."
"It's a good idea, let's do it," says Clayton. "Rose, you're wiped out, right? Why don't you go with Jaden and she'll rescue two people."
You shake your head. "No way. We have to do this all at once, or whoever this is will get wise to it and switch things around. We can't give them the chance. I'll go get someone to cast energy gift on me, and take some of their energy until I'm full again. I'm more concerned about who goes where."
"Well, if what Jake said is true, you'll probably have a wizard guarding your mom," says Clayton.
"You're the most resistant to magic," you say back. "Would you go and rescue her?"
"I will treat her as if she were my own mother."
"Who wants to take mine, which is probably a cyborg?"
Jaden smiles. "I've got that, I want to try out my new toys anyway."
"You got it. That means either you go up against an ESPer, Jake, or you do, Rose. How do you want to play it?"
You look over at Jake. "I'd pit my magic against ESP any day of the week, no offense," you say to him.
"None taken," he says with a shrug. "Magic is pretty amazing, and way stronger then anything I can do. That leaves me with a martial artist, if this is even the right thing to do at all. For all we know, even this has been anticipated, and the person guarding each captive is going to surprise us."
"It's a game of chicken all right," says Jaden. "Let's go end this, once and for all."
You can't help but agree.