Welcome to Monday!
Some stories are just fun to write. Some are challenging. This one was both. I’m not a science person but this one flowed and I had to catch up my gaps of knowledge as I went. If anyone has a critique, I’d love the feedback.
Otherwise, welcome to a new adventure and enjoy=)
The walkway’s stone, multicolored but still dull due to the overcast sky. The deep gray clouds threaten rain in torrential amounts but they haven’t opened the floodgates yet.
You lengthen your strides, just waiting to feel the first splatters of water on the back of your neck.
Of course you were summoned at the worst time of year to travel. The Scholars never take such ‘minor’ details into consideration when they need repairs. All they care about is that their precious equipment works, now!
But the Scholars won’t suffer a repairperson to live in their blessed mansion. Oh no, it would taint their studies.
So you and the few others who know anything about the equipment live down the coast about 20 miles away in the town of Mandril.
When the Scholars need repairs, they send a mouse. Any time of day.
You woke about midnight with the tiny messenger sitting on your stomach twittering at you. The mice always come to you when they’re sent at night. They know you’re the only one who doesn’t threaten to kick or cook them.
Marrick, another repairperson, kicks the poor creatures any chance he gets.
And Adrianna grabs them by the tail and holds them over steaming pots just so they know she’s not pleased.
Your irritation at being woken shows but you never take it out on the messenger. No matter how tempting it might be.
Instead, you take your time collecting your tools and donning warm cloths.
Then you meander to the mansion, knowing the Scholars will be in a frenzy because it’s almost been two days since their piece of equipment broke.
The mouse at your feet skitters faster as wet drops splatter the stone.
You agree. Irritating the Scholars isn’t worth getting soaking wet. It’s not like the Scholars will offer you dry clothing.
To your right the ocean swells with white caps just before breaking on the beach. It knows a storm’s in the works.
Luckily the mansion sits on a cliff and rarely do the waves reach its walls.
You hike up the walk as it rises toward the mansion. The ocean below you continues to roar as the wind kicks up.
The mansion rises before you, a great marble structure that stands out starkly white against the drab background. It’s circular with narrow slots for windows. Light shines through some of the slots in an unorganized pattern.
At least some of the Scholars are awake.
Hopefully one of them is inclined to answer the door.
Banging the knocker, a hand holding a gong, you wait and your mouse guide snuggles under your left pant leg out of the rain. His whiskers tickle your ankle and you hold in a shiver, reminding yourself the little creature, or one of its brothers, has helped you in the past.
The door creaks open to show a narrow face with a long nose.
It’s Scholar Edwin. You think. The Scholars don’t usually give out their names but you’ve picked up a few.
Edwin steps back to allow you in. His gangly frame is covered with a chest to toe apron.
Part of the apron’s smoking.
You point to the spot and Edwin goes cross-eyed looking down at his chest.
He licks his fingers and tamps out the smolder.
“Darned scope,” he mutters.
“What needs fixing?” You ask before he disappears.
“Darned scope,” he mutters again and continues walking.
Maybe one of their magnifying glasses? You follow Edwin. He climbs up several flights of stairs and then walks to a platform against the wall.
He steps on and waits for you, giving you a look like your mother’s evil eye when you were young.
Okay, you step onto the platform and feel a tickle on your ankle.
It’s the mouse, clinging to the top of your sock and quivering.
Edwin gives you an evil, mischievous grin and throws the lever to his side. You didn’t see it before because it was sunk into the wall behind the Scholar.
The platform whooshes and your stomach sinks out the bottom.
Edwin cackles as you escalate up the wall. Up and up and up with cackling laughter the whole way until—thud—the platform stops in the room just below the mansion’s roof
You know this because the entire ceiling’s glass and the rain’s crashing into it with fury.
Edwin points to a large machine in the center of the room. A round thing with glass at either end, one side huge, the other small enough for an eye.
This isn’t just any scope. This is the Telescope. Pride of the mansion. Made of Massidion, an extremely rare material rumored to hold magical properties. The fact that the scope sits in a Scholarly mansion is a bit of irony. Scholars always scoff at magic, although, now that you think about it, you’ve never heard these Scholars say a word one way or another.
Several Scholars stand around it holding their chins and muttering. One holds out a tentative finger and the contact with the scope zaps him.
He yelps and jumps back, part of him smoldering. Judging from his apron, this wasn’t his first time touching the thing.
In fact, all of the Scholars bear black dots all over their cloths.
The best and brightest—don’t come to the mansion but somehow these men and women still surprise the academic community year after year with their discoveries.
How is beyond you.
As you approach, your get a few “finallys” and “about times” but the Scholars step back.
“What happened?” You ask.
They all look at their toes.
“Can’t fix it if I don’t know,” you push.
It’s Edwin who steps forward.
“Struck by lightening,” he confesses.
The telescope’s covered and grounded. It shouldn’t even be holding a charge, for that matter.
They all point to a large cable running across the floor and up the wall. It leads to several large metal poles on the roof.
They meant to strike it with lightening. They’d rigged it!
“It’s holding a charge. What’d you do to it?” You ask.
They all give you suspicious looks.
You simply wait. They’re always like this when you need more information.
Finally Edwin mutters, “Sticky Static.”
Edwin swallows and then holds out his hands. “The charge comes from us. We all infused the scope with it.”
You eye them all, a bit apprehensive. Of all the times you’ve been to the mansion, you’ve heard nothing like this. The only people who claim to channel charges were Magicians. Were these people Scholars and Magicians?
“Sticky Static,” Edwin says again and points at the scope. “Massidion will hold any sort of magic. We gave it our magic.”
They are Magicians! Or so they claim.
“In heavens name, why?”
“Stronger charge,” Edwin says, his eyes wild. “Couldn’t electrocute ourselves, so we moved the Static to the Massidion. Now we can’t get it back.”
You’re jaw drops. They want more power!
“What do you mean?”
Another Scholar touches the scope and yelps. “It pulls more charge from us!” he exclaims.
“And what do you expect me to do?” you ask.
They glance at each other and then at their toes.
“Get the static out of the scope,” one mutters, you’re not sure which.
“We’ve a few ideas but…” he leans in and whispers, “you can’t tell anyone what you see.”
You feel the mouse, still clinging to your sock, start to shake.
A. Offer to help them?
C. Consult the mouse?
Fixing Genius Option C: Consult the Mouse
The mouse might be the only other sane creature in the room. Although you won’t look sane consulting your little guide, who cares? You’re not the one who electrocuted the most expensive piece of equipment in the mansion.
“Pardon me,” you excuse yourself and step away from the waiting Scholars. They eye you with varying degrees of curiosity but look away when one yelps. A short, pudgy Scholar tried to touch the scope again.
Good grief, you’d think they’d stop after the first few tries.
Crouching down, you hold your palm out to your left pant leg.
A tiny whiskered nose peeks out to sniff your hand. Then the creature scampers onto your palm.
“What a predicament,” you mutter as the mouse’s tiny claws dig into your skin.
You jump. It’s Edwin. He must have walked over while you were waiting for the mouse to emerge. The Scholar looks over your shoulder with a scowl.
“Back to your room!” He shakes a finger at the mouse.
Marcus’ small body shakes and-pop -he disappears.
“Now hold on,” you say, “I’ve a few questions for Marcus.”
Pop! The mouse is back in your palm. You shiver a bit. How did Marcus know to come back?
Edwin’s mouth pinches like a lemon’s clamped his jaw shut. Clearly he didn’t call the mouse back.
“Mice are never allowed in the upper rooms,” he shouts.
All the Scholar’s heads pop up like dogs after a scent. “Mice?”
Their attention’s broken by a loud snap!
Lightening zaps the metal rods on the roof, races down the cable and sparks on the telescope.
The Massidion sizzles and turns from its usual dark mahogany color to a deep ruby red.
Edwin races back to join his colleagues chattering about overloading the darned scope.
You turn back to Marcus, who’s crouched tight against your palm.
“What are my options?” you ask.
Marcus scrunches up his narrow face and his gray fur stands on end. It kind of looks like he’s going to poop in your palm.
Pop! he disappears only to reappear at your feet with a poof of hair.
He scrunches up again and pop–he’s half way across the floor.
Now you know how the mice show up in town right after something breaks. You glance at Edwin but he’s still chattering with the other Scholars and has completely forgotten you and the mouse.
Marcus appears in your palm again and flops on his side. His sides heave with breath.
“Tires them out going a few feet,” says a woman.
She’s detached from the group and looks at Marcus like he’s a beloved pet.
You frown, “So they can’t make it to Mandril?”
Her eyes grow round, “Good heavens no! We boost their ability for that.” she glances at the scope, which is throbbing like a hot branding iron now.
“You boost them?’
The woman bites her thumb and glances guiltily at her colleagues.
So between the natural abilities of the mice and the Scholar’s sticky static, they could teleport a mouse to town. Poor Marcus must have run the distance this last time. Without the Scholar’s static, he wouldn’t have been able to teleport far enough.
What would happen if the Scholars were super charged?
“Were you trying to teleport a person?”
The woman squeaks and scampers away.
They’ll never admit it but you know this is why they wanted supercharged sticky static.
The sky above the glass roof arcs with vibrant tendrils of lightening. The streaks collide and shoot into the metal rods, ending with a sizzle along the scope.
There’s your biggest problem. The attraction to the metal rods continues to draw lightening and every time it strikes, the scope throbs more with energy.
Massidion can hold a lot but there are stories about it exploding when over used.
The Scholar’s chatter about overloading the scope makes sense now.
If nothing else, you need to stop the lightening from charging the scope.
But how when the whole system’s electrifying.
Take out the rods?
Disconnect the cable?
Ground the telescope with something?
A Scholar yelps and shucks his apron as it goes up in flames.
The rain pelts the roof above you.
The Scholars aren’t going to be happy with you no matter what you do. The want their sticky static back but you can’t guarantee it’ll return to them when you cut the power.
The scope glows a deep ruby red.
Something needs to be done before it explodes.
Do you attempt to…
Cc. Remove the rods?
Cd. Cut the Cable?
Ce. Ground the Scope?
Fixing Genius Option Ce: Ground the Scope
None of your options offer great appeal and no matter what you try, you’ll probably end up shocked.
You can see the rods on the roof but a closer look reveals no easy egress. You’re not sure you want to know how the Scholars got the rods up there in the first place.
And the cable’s giving off waves of sizzle so touching it in any way seems like a horrible way to go.
So grounding the scope might be the best of the bad options. But with what?
The telescope’s already bolted to the floor but apparently the sticky static doesn’t act like regular electricity because it’s staying in the scope and not traveling through the base. So not just any material will work.
“Do you have more Massidion?” you ask as you rejoin the Scholars.
They look at their toes.
“It’s a simple question,” you press, looking at the tops of their heads.
“Do you promise?” Edwin asks.
What? Oh yeah, they said you can’t tell about what you see. Simple enough, it’s not exactly like the town’s people want anything to do with the Scholars.
“Promise,” you say.
The Scholars look at each other in apprehension.
“No Massidion,” Edwin admits.
Okay, that won’t work.
Your ear tickles. With a start you look over to find Marcus on your shoulder.
He scampers down to the floor and across to the cable connected to the scope. He squeaks at it before coming back to wait at your toes like an expectant dog.
The cable’s still sizzling. Maybe grounding the scope isn’t your first priority. Maybe redirecting the lightening is and the cable clearly can handle the charge.
“Have more cable?”
“Heaps of it,” Edwin shrugs as another strike of lightening races into the scope. They all jump as the scope wobbles from the blast.
You’re running out of time. One more strike will probably make the scope explode.
Connecting a new cable to the scope won’t work. You’ll only end up electrocuting yourself. But maybe if you can create a taller rod and run the cable down the outside of the mansion to the ground, you can attract the lightening away from the scope. Then you can deal with the scope problem with more time.
“How’d you get the rods on the roof?”
They all point to Marcus at your toes. Edwin lifts his hand and Marcus floats into the air. He rises higher and higher until he’s right next to the ceiling and then-pop- he’s on top of the roof.
With another pop, he reappears and Edwin lowers him.
“Marcus,” you address the mouse when he’s back on the floor, “how many mice would it take to raise a taller rod?”
Marcus squeaks and twitters and mice come scampering across the floor from every nook and cranny possible.
Several Scholars give cries of dismay. One faints.
“We need a longer rod and as much cable as possible,” you direct the scholars.
They stare at you.
With a jump, five of them race to the platform and release the lever. The platform whooshes away and you hear a collective “weeeeee” as they disappear.
It’s moments later that you hear another “weeeee” and the five Scholars reappear on the lift huffing for breath. You don’t know how they made it so fast but you haven’t the time to ask. You’re not sure you’d get an answer anyway.
The Scholars bring over a gigantic coil of cable and lift up a rod that barely fits in the room.
“Can the mice teleport the rod and cable to the roof?”
Edwin snorts like you’ve asked if the sky’s blue. All the mice gather on either the cable or the rod and everything lifts toward the ceiling. Your stomach sinks as your feet leave the floor.
Edwin just shrugs as you continue to rise. As the ceiling approaches you start to worry they’ll crush you against the glass. The mice with their items POP! and you can see their dark shapes with the rain on the glass.
Then PoP! Twenty mice reappear on you. You skin crawls and tingles which reminds you of the time you stepped into an ant hill. Then Pop!
Ears ringing and instantly drenched, you’re on the roof with the mice. The wash of water runs toward drains cut into the roof. It’s strong enough that you have a hard time getting to your feet. You save a couple mice from being washed away in the process.
If the lightening strikes now it’ll fry you and the mice in one fell swoop.
“We need to put the rod up!” you shout over the sweep of wind and water. The distant roar of the ocean thrums in the background.
The mice haul the rod to you and once you have ahold of it, they show you a hole sunk into the edge of the building. It’s the perfect shape to fit the rod. It’s meant to hold a flag.
Fighting the wind and the rain that makes the rod slick, you lift it into place and hear it settle with a hollow thunk.
Thank heavens. Now to attach the cable and run it to the ground, fast!
The mice pull one end of the cable to you. Luckily it’s thin, so tying it isn’t a problem. You loop it around the base of the rod a couple of times and tie off the end, then you pull the rest of the cable to one of the drains and use it as a guide to run the cable through. Collecting the heavy coil, you gather yourself and pitch it off the side of the building.
As you watch the cable fly, you hear a loud crack. Snap.
The hair on your head stands straight on end. It’s like the air’s gone. Your lungs ache.
Out of the corner of your eye you see small bodies racing toward you. They launch at you and when they hit, there’s no way to stop the momentum. You sail off the side of the mansion as the dazzling display of lightening blinds your eyes. Twenty mice ride on your shoulders. You can feel their claws digging in to hang on.
You skin pricks. Thousands of tiny ants.
When you come to you’re face down on the stone walk. Every part of your skin feels like it’s been scoured with scalding water. Pushing yourself to your knees, you’re surrounded by the small gray bodies of mice. They’re smoking.
One mouse scampers over to you. It tests one companion but there’s no response. Another mouse emerges from behind you. It tucks itself in against your leg and hides its face.
Glancing behind, you see what remains of the mansion. The entire top floor’s gone in a mass of black rubble. For a moment, it appears all of the Scholars were caught in the after math of their own experiment gone wrong but then you notice small white bubbles floating down from the sky. You can just barely make out that each bubble holds a human form.
You glance at the dead mice and anger courses through you. The stupid Scholars! You feel heat in your palm and hear a sizzle.
Looking down, your palms crackle with sticky static.
Oh dear, you’re one of them!
A mouse, one of the five left alive, pulls on your sleeve. You think it’s Marcus. It pulls at you like it wants you to go with it, away from the mansion.
You agree. Even if you are a Magician, you don’t want to go back to the mansion where their experiments have no consequences for the Scholars.
You rise in the rain and hunch your shoulders as you walk away from the mansion. You’ll learn about your sticky static elsewhere.
Congratulations, you survived and found out you have your own latent magic. But perhaps you didn’t like this ending. Don’t worry, there are nine possible endings to Fixing Genius and I’ll be running the story again some time in the future and not all the endings have sad parts. I promise.