Time for a Race?

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Re: Time for a Race?

Post by Sade »

“And I am Osborne Thatcher, CEO and Founder of Osborne Automation and the Odell Group of Subsidiaries, AnthroTech, and others. But then, you knew all that already, and I suspect all that pomp doesn’t impress you in the least!” Dragon’s had a certain timeless quality to their physical appearance. This Zechariah did not look young, for sure, but Osborne suspected he didn’t look half his age… or a tenth… or an even more outrageous fraction.

No hand had been offered, so there was no hand to shake, and Osborne was not keen on devaluing such gestures by throwing them around anyway. Instead he took a seat opposite Vesperocci and buckled up as the vehicle started in motion. “I’ve heard of the Dragon of the West,” he mentioned offhand, his voice crisp and professional but also revealing his intrigue, “not you specifically of course, but it was part of an old theory discredited, oh, twenty years ago. Some grad-students analyzed the cultures of Feila and found commonality between some of them, and from there they concluded that they must all have sprung from a small number of earlier cultures. And: dragons. Because why not?”

“It was laughable stuff at the time. Now?…”

He straightened in his seat, “One Miss Mia Rackenhammer told me I’d end up recreating an old world instead of bringing on a new one. I took it as the over-exaggerations of youth. She couldn’t possible be speaking from personal experience, but you’re the second dragon I’ve met in this little race of ours, and I get the impression you’ve been around a while. I don’t think Miss Rackenhammer was talking in platitudes at all. I don’t think she was referencing discredited theories or musty old books, I think she was talking about a world you know firsthand.

“Doubtless she’s told you already what I’m after. I asked her at the time why she was here- out in Piriqui, on the chase with the rest of us. She managed to give an entirely unhelpful answer, but of course, I was asking the wrong person.” Now he leaned forward in his seat, angling to face Zed. This was a story he wanted to hear. “So, Mr. Zechariah Vesperocci, Last Dragon of the West, why are you here?”
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Re: Time for a Race?

Post by Asyriel »

"That's understandable, thank you for the safe wishes." Freya replied to Martya before she headed back to her dig. Once Martya was gone, she could almost see the train of thought moving through Etienne's mind without reading it, and she refrained from doing so. She gave a slight smile when the inevitable question came up. She nodded in response. "I can. Let's go see what we can find." She said as she squatted down a bit, and wrapped her arms under Etienne's and around his chest so his back was pressed against her chest. "Ready?...Here we go." She said quietly into his ear before she squatted down just a little more, then launched them into the air. Her wings beat heavily as she worked to bring them up to the spot they had been looking at before. There was a small ledge, that could have been a part of a landing at some point. As it was, the ledge was just barely large enough for them both to stand on.

Freya looked at the area, now that they were right up on it, it was easy to tell the arc that the unusual layer of rock made, but there wasn't an opening of any kind in the wall. "They didn't spare any effort on this one." She commented as she ran a hand along the stone. "amazing work, truly." she said as she pressed the side of her face against the stone. "tell me your secrets..." She whispered as she opened her mind and sought out the psychic impressions left behind. It was a difficult task, the age of the impressions she was looking for combined with the repeated occupation of the area made it a jumbled mess, but she managed to pick out a couple of flashes that strengthened her suspicions. "Earth mages." She told Etienne. "willing to bet they created an underground complex of sorts, put our prize inside, then sealed it when they were done...forced their bath back into the mountainside, and left." She paused. "we're looking at probably a foot of stone between us and any kind of passage....what I wouldn't give for a good ground penetrating radar right now." She muttered. "any thoughts on how to get through a foot of solid stone up here?" She asked Etienne. There were ways that Freya could get through the rock, but she was hoping Etienne may have an idea or two that wouldn't be quite as overtly supernatural....the boulder trick had been bad enough....
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Re: Time for a Race?

Post by Rackenhammer »

If Zechariah was impressed by Thatcher's titles, he certainly didn't show it. The dragon had smiled slightly, but more from amusement than anything else. He merely sat and listened to the feline as he went over what he knew, and finally asked Zech why he was there.

The robed figure didn't answer right away, looking out the window as the sedan turned into the nicer part of Ansach. The boulevard was crowded, both in the streets and walkways. The side roads wandered into the older parts of town, where picturesque pieces of history rubbed shoulders with modern edifices of brick and glass. The twin spires of a gothic cathedral could be seen in the distance, for this part of Gawain was closest to Maze, both geographically and culturally.

"I would call that, Mister Thatcher, a question wrongly phrased. You don't want to know why I'm here, as much as you want to know what I think that I am doing." There was another deliberate pause as Zecharia turned to face Osbourne, one claw resting on the dragon's chin in a thoughtful attitude. "Although I suspect you'd be satisfied with an honest answer to any question about myself. I used to be a teacher, you know; I can recognize an eager student when I see him." Another smile pulled his lips up.

"To give a short answer to your most pressing question, I will say with some confidence that I know more about magic than anyfur living, and that is too much to reconcile its revival with my private conscience or public spirit. As for a longer explanation of my reasoning, that will depend upon how much time and patience you can muster for an old collegiate lecturer. It has been a long time since I had any students..." A faraway look came into his eyes, and Osbourne could tell that the age he was looking at was not the one he was living in just now. Zech was clearly not in any hurry; it took a long time for someone to get on his calendar, but once you did, he would give you all the time you required, which was pretty much why it was so hard to get an appointment with him; he could generally only schedule one at a time.
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Re: Time for a Race?

Post by Sade »

The hairless canine hadn’t considered the full implications of what was being said, so when Freya hooked her arms under his and pulled him close he felt his heart might explode out of his chest. This was all, way, way to close and familiar for comfort or propriety! The way she spoke into his ear set him sputtering nonsense, but too soon the lack of contact between his feet and the ground interrupted whatever feverishly adolescent train of thought was busy derailing in his head. He looked down past his feet once and quickly decided never to do that again, instead staring ahead at their destination and listening to the blood rushing through his ears. If his skin wasn’t so impenetrably black he would surely have been as red as a turnip by now!

Arrival on the ledge brought little comfort. The close personal contact had ended, but now he found himself on a tiny ledge hundreds of feet up. He immediately pressed his back against the rock face and proceeded to stay that way while Freya investigated their surroundings. “Earth mages.” Etienne repeated back at her, “my god, what have our historians been doing all this time!? How does one miss all this magic!?” The hairless canine’s accusations were aimed squarely at those people. He liked a logical world in which people qualified to do a job would do a good job. The thought that any professional would produce faulty work or otherwise 'drop the ball' bothered him greatly.

Luckily Freya forestalled the full-blown Etienne glower-fest before it could start with her next question. “Well,” Etienne considered, turning his head as far as he could to glance sidelong at the solid surface- he dare not turn around to look at it. “We could crash the helicopter into it I suppose,” he mused aloud. He was half-joking. That was a terrible idea… but it was an idea. “But somehow I doubt it would help. It might knock down a masonry wall a foot thick, maybe, but if that surface is solid and integral to the cliffside it will just make a mess out here.”

He turned to look back towards Martya’s camp, “the archeologists probably have equipment for digging through rock, but it would take ages.” More thinking. “If Ivan left any munitions behind we could drill a pilot hole and fill it with explosives, but we shouldn’t do that-“ he continued hurriedly, now looking up at Freya, “they’re ideas, but... I don’t know what I’m talking about. If this were a sealed door at some corporate installation, I could get us in…” He stopped short. He didn’t want to admit just how thoroughly out of place he was out here. She might decide to leave him behind- and he didn’t want the adventure to end.

Truth be told, he was glad his suggestions were so awful. He wanted to see more magic.

—————————

“They say knowledge is power,” Thatcher mused in response to Zechariah’s student comment. “I never liked the undertones of that. What it is, is liberation. It frees the mind to act.” All this talk about teachers and students reminded him of Etienne for some reason. The old tabby wondered briefly how he was getting along with Freya, but he pushed that thought away. Something for later.

In another time and place Osborne thought he would have hit it off with Zech immediately. The man had shown none of the signs of being a monster, so to speak, in the short time they’d been together, and wise scholarly types tended to have a certain charisma in Thatcher’s eyes. However they were not on the same side as things went, and he was perfectly able to keep himself from falling for the dragon’s disarmingly scholarly bearing. “Magic,” Osborne chuckled, reclining against his seat. He adapted easily enough to the other man’s pace, his posture relaxing, his voice slowing to a normal, weightier rhythm, “I would have called you a fool last week, happily oblivious that I was making myself the fool in doing it! I can’t say I know anything at all about magic except that it is more real than I could have imagined such a short time ago.” A thought occurred, “well, nothing except for children’s fairytales of course. They paint the picture of a few men wielding power over others. A tiny, insular elite.” Osborne disliked elitist groups, as hypocritical as that might seem, but that was a discussion for another time.

He’d noticed the surroundings through which they drove and found a useful metaphor there, but he kept this to himself as well, for now.

The question of time set him considering. Etienne continued the chase without him; he had no pressing need to return to Piriqui. He’d charged his ventricular assist devices before arriving, and they were humming away at a low speed setting due to his relaxed state. That wasn’t entirely true- they made no audible sound- but he had plenty of charge for the next couple days. “You have my undivided attention… for about seventy hours, at least,” he spread his arms, his brow creased with solemn sincerity, “and my mind is open. If you’ve got a good reason for doing what you’re doing, I would like to know what it is.”
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Re: Time for a Race?

Post by Asyriel »

Freya nodded as Etienne ran through a list of ideas that were similar to most of those she had come up with herself, at least on the mundane side of things. "I don't think anybody left an explosives unfortunately." She mused "And I doubt Martya would lend tools if we did ask, though I don't feel comfortable putting myself in any kind of debt to her." She frowned at the stone for a few moments before saying. "well....I guess I'll have to use different methods then." She gave a small sigh as she thought about the best way she could go about removing the barrier before them.

After eventually coming to a decision, she took a moment to concentrate on the stone while she formed a sort of lance of telekinetic force. She picked a spot near the top of the arch, and the lance slammed into the stone. It met with a moment's resistance before piercing through, and creating a bore through the stone a couple inches in diameter. "this may take a few minutes" She commented as she set herself into a rhythm, methodically boring holes through the stone in the space that was the archway.

"you know why historians don't make note of magic." She said conversationally as she worked. "at best nobody would believe them, and at worst they would be laughed out of any historical community. Over the ages, magic was slowly replaced with technology, and modern science. Society slowly lost it's belief in magic, to the point that those that practiced real magic were considered charlatans and cheap illusionists. Technology was like magic everybody could use, and they didn't need years of practice and tutelage to do it."

Eventually, Freya had bored a careful grid work of holes in the rock face in front of them. "ok...hold on, this might shake things up a little bit." She said as she spread a wing as a sort of guard to keep Etienne from accidentally falling. She changed the shape of the force she wielded into something large a blunt. She then slammed the force into the rock face. The immediate area of mountain around them shuddered with the blow, and cracks formed between the bore holes. She struck the rock face again, and it began to crumble at their feet. A third strike, and the barrier fell in a jumble of debris in a long, perfectly shaped passageway. "looks like we're in" She said before pulling a headlamp from the satchel of tools she had brought. She peered down the length of the passage, but hesitated to enter....
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Re: Time for a Race?

Post by Rackenhammer »

(Zech's speech isn't bolded for emphasis, just to separate from the description of his physical gestures. I hope this isn't too wearying to read.)


"Knowledge," Zechariah replied, with the air of an academic clarifying a definition, "May be said to share the qualities of power, and one of these is indeed liberation. Another, which follows upon it, is the conveyance of responsibility. When we are given the power to choose, we have an obligation to choose wisely."

When Plato wrote about the Philosopher-King, he may have had someone like Zechariah in mind. Possibly, the sketch was done from life. The dragon certainly spoke as one long used to possessing power as well as knowledge, and who took the responsibilities of both very seriously. He allowed Osbourne to talk on, getting a sense of his knowledge base as the limo continued through the streets.
"Seventy hours..." He mused, amused. "If you can pull all-nighters as well as certain undergraduates I have known in my time, it is just possible I may give you a complete picture of my reasoning.

"I must confess that I have had a certain amount of difficulty in deciding wether to begin in magical theory or my biography; one may misunderstand either without both. But, starting from our remarks about knowledge, we have a decent enough foundation to outline the nature of magic." The dragon unhooked a latch from the separator between the passenger and driver's side, revealing a whiteboard and dry erase marker. He wasn't kidding about that lecture, apparently.

"I think we may begin with the fact that one's ability to work within circumstances depends upon one's understanding of those circumstances, hence the idea that knowledge is power. Now, the circumstances surrounding any action is defined as it's 'context'." Here he wrote the word on the board, the first point in his chain of reasoning. "Now, the entirety of what is conventionally called reality; science, technology, common everyday experience, is all one context. A good analogy would be the Real Number Line, from mathematics." Here the dragon drew a line on the board, with an arrow at each end. He marked ticks off on it, labeling the one in the middle with a zero.

"Now, this line contains all integers, fractions, and irrational numbers. There is an entire set of mathematics specifically for this context, just as conventional reality has an entire body of knowledge surrounding it. And within that set of mathematics, there are certain concepts that are impossible. The most famous example is the square root of -1, or i." He wrote down this on the board. "Given the nature of a square root, a number like this cannot exist on the Real Number Line, but if you expand the theoretical context to include i, a whole new dimension is added to mathematics as a whole." And here he drew another line perpendicular to the first, intersecting at 0, the Complex number line.

"Now, picture an infinite set of numbers like i, from each of which may be deduced a wholly extra dimension to reality, with differing levels of compatibility with each other and with conventional reality, and you may form a picture of magical theory as it was, and is, latest understood by those who knew it best." Zechariah put the cap back on the marker, sighing. "I realize that may have been tedious, especially as similar conceptions may have already occurred to you. But I think it is important at the outset to point out why there were so very few furs who could tell you anything about magic, even at the peak of its practice. A wizard was the scientific expert of his day, and even then, his specialty was quite narrow, and we could no more make that knowledge universal than we can give everyone a Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering today. A great majority of furs had and have much better things to do with their time."

"Now, let me test you imaginative thinking. What do you suppose happens at the intersection of two opposing conceptions of the universe?"
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Re: Time for a Race?

Post by Sade »

Etienne wasn’t nearly so hesitant. The moment the path was clear he blundered his way inside, away from the discomfort and vertigo of the high cliff. “You’re talking about the democratization of power,” he mused aloud, hugging himself now that he was back on firm footing. He wasn’t particularly afraid of heights, but who other than the likes of Freya could possibly enjoy them? “But I can’t believe anyone would attribute what I’ve seen today to cheap charlatanism. Destroying the enemy helicopter as you did was no illusion.”

This explanation smelled to him of conspiracy. A historian today would be laughed out of the room *in the absence of compounding history*, but it should have been a long, gradual process of recording what was known throughout the ages. Scholars in a world of magic would make note of it. Historians a generation later would record it in the presence of those with first-hand experience, and so on down the line to modern times. Or at least that is how it should have been.

“It would seem the world is much better off with modern science and technology than it was with magic. Osborne mentioned gas chambers and nuclear weapons, but there must have been atrocities committed with magic as well. Assuming there have always been cruel people in the world, those people will always use whatever form of power they can to their advantage, whether it be… magic… or chlorine gas.”

———

“Where’s Etienne when you need him,” Osborne sighed as he leant forward and really bore down into the figures on the whiteboard. Now he knew why the student remark had made him think of the canine. His protege absorbed stuff like this like a sponge. Osborne himself was a man of action; he was thoughtful, but he wasn’t used to thinking in such rarified theoretical terms.

And he really didn’t get it, either- a fact plain to see in his expression. He had no idea what the dragon was talking about. If Zech was trying to paint a picture in his mind, it wasn’t coming through. It was simply too far outside of his personal experience- hell, the sum total experience of most of feilan kind! “I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again,” Osborne smirked and shook his head, “I’ll be the first to admit what I do not know, and this” he pointed an index finger at the lines on the board, “is something I don’t know.”

The mathematical metaphor wasn’t the most useful to him either. He was no mathematician. Sure, he’d used math in his engineering work, but using a tool and understanding the deep theory were not one in the same.

“If you’ll humor me, Mr Vesperocci, I’d find it much more useful if you just told me who you are and where you come from. Because I can think of two opposing conceptions of the Universe right now: yours and mine, and a lecture probably won’t bring them any closer together. How could it without a common reference? I may not harken back to days of magic, but I’ve been around quite a while. It is the personal connection, I’ve found, that most often bridges these gaps. Not theoretical knowledge. I need to know who you are, not what you know- at least, not yet.”
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Re: Time for a Race?

Post by Asyriel »

Freya shook her head as she didn't completely agree with Etienne. "Power is still held by a few, though I admit their numbers are larger now. It would hardly be considered power if everybody had it" She replied to his comment about democratization of power. "they may not be so quick to discredit it in this day and age, but they wouldn't exactly be quick to believe it either. You weren't exactly quick to believe" She said with a teasing smile as she stepped carefully into the passageway.

"I don't know that I would be quick to call it better, but it is different, and I will admit to a few improvements." She sighed heavily "there were atrocities in the ages of magic just as there have been in the ages of technology, and I'm sure there will continue to be atrocities in the future. It is the nature of furs to try to ensure their own preservation and comfort above others, and as long as that is true there will always be those that are willing to go the extra mile in that respect and other furs be damned. Of course there are always the exceptions to the rule that will sacrifice everything to help their fellow furs, and they are the ones that keep hope alive..." She trailed off, realizing that she was rambling a bit on that topic.

As they made their way down the tunnel it quickly sloped downward, and began to spiral. "Keep an eye out, and be careful...there may be traps in here" She commented quietly to Etienne as they made their way down. Eventually their path opened into an enormous natural cavern, luckily some of the ancient magic that marked the path through the cavern still survived in the form of runes formed into an occasional stone that gave off the faintest of glow. Freya turned off her headlamp so the pair's eyes could adjust to the darkness and they would be able to follow the runes easier. "technology is actually similar to magic in some ways." She commented as they went. "not everybody can create technology, it takes a properly trained mind, and the best ones also have some natural talent, though everyone can use these creations. It also takes a properly trained mind to learn how to control the arcane forces and elemental energies of our world, and the best mages had natural talent as well. Magic also produced a lot of things that anybody could use, though they couldn't be mass produced like today's technology can, and the majority of those items did eventually loose their potency, though it took time..."
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Re: Time for a Race?

Post by Rackenhammer »

"You propose to use a certain device to change the world, when you do not understand the first principles of its workings, nor, it seems, will you apply yourself to learn them." Zechariah stated calmly, not in any anger or irritation. It was the same tone an understanding professor would use in repeating a students answer, confident that the pupil was smart enough to see his own error.

"But perhaps it would be more useful to begin with biography, though I must point out that I believe it to be the less important half of the answer. I am of the sort that believes facts should come before personal considerations. That is what academics mean when we talk about 'the single eye.'" After this bit of self-revelation, the dragon settled back, relaxing into reminisces, looking over his life as he sought for a good starting point.

"Those grad students were not wrong about the Dragons being the first beginning of civilization on Feila. There is a difference, however, between the dragons that are hybrids between lizards and avians, and the ancient ones. I shan't go into all of the specific ones, but it is enough to say that we had most all the powers that legend attaches to us.
"I only know this by hearsay, however. By the time that I was born, that civilization was dead. It fell in the Great Mage Wars, and they could occupy a full semester or more all by themselves. The Draconic nations fell to a Dark Empire, that Empire fell to an alliance of Rebels, and the Rebels fell out amongst themselves into a kind of barbarism."

Zech sighed, and turned towards Osbourne. "It may sound odd to you to hear that you remind me of myself when I was your age; 78 is not very old for a dragon. I saw the world surrounding me, unpromising as it was, and I determined that I could make it better. The main problem, naturally, was that every fur with power had to war with every other. Without something more than force to bind them together, no hope was there for civilization. Well, the method I chose was to establish a University of Magic, from the rubble of an old Imperial Fortress, in partnership with an old Rebel leader. The aim was to give wizards something better to do than plot against each other, and everyfur else some breathing room.

"And it worked." Osbourne Thatcher could feel an intensity of gaze upon him from Zech, though half the dragon's gaze was still upon times long past. "It was a long task, but I could take comfort in the fact that I could live to see it progress. My influence was mostly over this country, and I took care to be discreet about it, but my example was emulated. Magic users of great power formed more alliances than enemies, non-magical furs were forming guilds, armies, organizations to defend and empower themselves. It was not a perfect system, but it was one under a consistent pattern of improvement. The first experiments in working democratic and representative government date from this medieval time, though that fact was not made very public by later historians.
"And when the great test came to this civilization, when the dark power that rose with the Empire rose again like a great tsunami, we fought; and though battered, we yet survived. I was certain, after this, that it could only go well, or at least better. The trial my birth Nation failed, we passed."


He stopped now, the intensity draining from his eyes, replaced by a kind of ironic tragedy. "And then, a series of hitherto unremarkable developments in Maze set in motion a chain of events that knocked the whole world to pieces. Their Civil War was the first recorded instance of the widespread use of firearms, which changed the whole balance of power. Wars became not only more frequent, but more destructive. I could keep wizards neutral in fights between kings and nobles, but now they didn't need to come to us to have access to destructive power. All the international alliances were tossed to the winds.
"What followed, I... still find painful to recount. Gawain, which I had helped to build and found, ripped itself apart in the 30 years war, and put itself back together in a frightening edifice of blood and iron. Three centuries followed, in which we could be counted to be the friends of tyranny and misrule across the world. At the very end, we were closer to hell than any mortal nation in history, and only mercy from our enemies could save us. Well, your countrymen gave it to us. I roused myself from a black despair to work again, and in fifty years I and my people are strong again, and able to face the world without shame. It is a different world from the one in which I was born, and the one which I helped to make, but I care for it, all the same."


He came down from his reverie, with a serious expression. "And I know, Osbourne, beyond a shadow of a doubt that what you propose to do will knock it into pieces all over again; and neither you nor I will live long enough to put it back together."
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Re: Time for a Race?

Post by Sade »

Etienne’s ears folded back against his head. “I am sorry about that,” he mumbled, and then continued quickly, insistently, “but I didn’t want to believe any of this was possible. What Osborne and I are trying to do- how can we do it with so much lingering historical baggage? And magic? I can’t imagine anything worse than ancient creatures manipulating us. It’s a huge setback, like… like finding out a competitor is ahead in the development of a competing product, except this time they’re twelve hundred years ahead.” It was a terrible feeling burning in the back of his head. “I can’t stand the thought of us falling so far behind.”

At the mention of traps the hairless canine immediate moved to walk just behind Freya, stepping in her footsteps. It wasn’t that he was being callous, but he felt the chances were terribly slim that he would notice a magical trap before running into it; it was best to let the expert lead here. Emergence into the chamber pulled his attention a hundred different directions at once. He so wanted to examine those rune-stones! When they passed by relatively close to a small one he couldn’t help but stoop and heft it up. “How about a self-powering lightbulb that lasts eight hundred years,” he mused abstractly, his lips quirking upwards a tick, “I bet there’d be a market for those.” The understatement was eminently intentional. He carefully sat the heavy stone back on the floor. He was briefly worried by a tingling sensation in his fingers, but it quickly faded.

“A properly trained mind,” the dog mimed a phrase of interest as he often did. They were continuing deeper into the cavern now, though he had no idea precisely what it was the dragon was looking for. He remained in lock-step behind her so far as it was possible for a fur of below-average height to follow the footsteps of 6 foot 6 inch dragon. “Hypothetically speaking,” Etienne began carefully, slowly, “how much would such training cost? In modern times, I mean… by you…” Well, that stopped being hypothetical mighty quick. He grimaced at himself and sighed quietly before pressing on, “would you be willing to teach me these things? I’m sure I could afford whatever price you think is fair.”

———

Legendary dragons and magics, wars between wizards, so many competing details strove to distract the mind from the fundamentals of what was going on in this story. The tabby cat had crossed a leg to sit back and listen. The dragon’s initial gibe bounced off easily enough, because the cat did not agree with the underlying criticism. But he remained silent, and he listened to a tale of events he could understand, unlike the theory coming before.

He listened, and he wondered at how strong an impression he got of looking into a mirror at an older, wiser version of himself. The dragon might not fill his voice to the brim with passion, but it was obvious that he felt it, strongly, particularly when speaking of his achievements which were beyond a shadow of a doubt noble. He’d bent the world to his will, convinced so many others that his was the best way, conquered the minds of others without lifting a sword against them. Well, so far as he claimed, anyway. And then he’d watched as progress caught up to him, as people decided to think for themselves again, and the whole house of cards crashed down over his head.

The old tycoon was reminded of the elation he felt at overcoming some old obstacle, the pride in those solutions when they went on to impact people’s lives for the better, the twinge of guilt when some automated system malfunctioned and killed somebody- spilling blood which was on his hands too, at least in some small way.

The dragon’s closing comment brought him surging back to reality. The old tabby abruptly and with pointed curiosity met Zechariah’s eyes. “How can you be so sure of that?” he asked simply. “What is it I propose? How will it knock the world to pieces?”
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Re: Time for a Race?

Post by Asyriel »

Freya waved her hand in a dismissive gesture as Etienne apologized for his early disbelief. "you and 99% or more of the other furs in this world, I've come to expect it. That disbelief is another reason why histories that include magic don't tend to stick. "The idea of magic being real, and furs having unrestricted access to the magnitudes of power potentially available with the use of magic fundamentally frightens them. Technology, while it may not be completely understood by the average fur, is tangible, controllable. Magic is not, at least not in the same sense." she paused her speech for a moment as Etienne brought up his fears. "It's not that magic is necessarily ahead or behind, it's just different."

Freya didn't mind that Etienne followed her footsteps, it was actually a relief to her that he did, it meant he would be less likely to set something off by accident, and if he did he could be more easily protected. Freya smiled herself as Etienne brought up the glowing runestones. "A perfect example of my point." She replied, continuing her earlier speech "while there my be a market for something like that, it would be near impossible to meet demand. Magic by nature cannot be mass produced, each one likely took a highly trained mage at least an hour to create, more if they weren't well trained, and there is a fatigue that comes with using magic as well, similar to what you would feel after physical exercise. With technology though, we create LEDs that last a significant amount of time, while it's not 800 years, they are able to be produced in quantities that everyone can have them. There are pros and cons for each school of thought." A steady roar had been building while the pair walked through the cavern, and the source was finally revealed to be a fairly healthy waterfall. She paused for a moment, looking fr the next marker before she realized that it was behind the waterfall. The path narrowed significantly, and went behind the waterfall. The water didn't directly hit the path, but the path was wet from the spray. Behind the waterfall, the path entered another tunnel, though the floor of this one seemed to be tiled rather than smooth like the first one. She started picking her steps much more carefully at this point, watching the walls and each tile in front of her as she continued forward.

Etienne's question of training stopped her dead in her tracks. "training?" She asked as her mind raced, a mixture of conflicting ideas moving through her. She eventually regained her composure and continued moving again. "The more appropriate question I think is weather or not it would be possible for me to train you. I've never tried to teach my abilities before. They don't really fall into the normal realms of magic." She gave a shrug. "I may be willing to try, but it's something I would prefer to think on..." she said as she tapped a tile with a toe, then shifted her path to avoid it. She did this several times in the hallway before they emerged into a large chamber with a meandering path about a foot wide etched into the floor, and glowing like the runestones had, at the far end was a large stone box similar to the stone sarcophagi of ancient Kahun. Freya stopped before setting foot on the path, wary of what it could be.
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Re: Time for a Race?

Post by Rackenhammer »

Zechariah coolly returned Osbourne's pointed look. "You are searching for the magicapacitor, with the aim of using the underlying principles as an alternative source of energy, in the hopes of ending, at a stroke, the problems of both global climate change and energy resource wars. That is, unless you have been lying to my friend and colleague about your aims in this matter."

The dragon leaned back against the seat and sighed, clearly not looking forward to addressing the tycoon's second question. "Here, we must return to the realm of magical theory, and therein lies the problem. I wouldn't expect a college freshman to be able to tell the difference between quantum physics and pseudoscientific gibberish. Nor could you, on the basis of what I could teach you in the next 69 hours, make any fair judgment of whether I was pulling your leg or not."

He tapped the whiteboard again with one claw. "I'll try to restate my point so that you at least understand some part. The relation between magical theory and practice is the same as the relation between science and technology. Discoveries of fact in the one influence the practical developments of the other. But they both comprise one consistent system. Now, magic is not monolithic; schools of magic are not like biology and chemistry, two branches of the same discipline. They are as different from each other as the Aristotelian view of the elements as fire, earth, air, and water; and the Periodic Table of the Elements. And yet, they can both be used to produce valid results in the real world."

"Now, this tension in the fundamental nature of things is called Paradox. In practical terms, it works like nuclear waste; it's a by-product of using magic. It's a kind of pollution, and it has rather adverse effects on the environment. I lived for centuries in this part of Gawain, west of the Dresden. It was the epicenter of Paradox accumulation; clouds would rain down small cogwheels instead of water, great stone wheels would roam the land, crops would grow legs and try to run away, and pretty much anything that defied logic or everyday experience would happen at one time or another.
"It's not an unlivable environment, but Wexlar was sparsely populated by a very hardy race of peasants. And, not to forget, magic was still restricted to the few by practice. If you make it as widespread as electricity, it would offset any steps you took to minimize Paradox. Can you imagine what that kind of chaos would do in an urban environment, where lives depend on an organization of food distribution, waste management, medical care, and a host of other things working predictably?"

"Additionally," Zechariah continued, not letting anything interrupt his momentum. "An environment of high magic would make it more likely for latent talent to spontaneously emerge. Only now, magicians would come into a world that had no Masters or Academies to teach them how to wield those powers wisely and well. And this technological civilization no longer has any measures to defend itself against the full range of powers that would then be released for its destruction. Believe me, I have seen what they are. Unleashing that amount and availability of power would simply start the whole Mage Wars all over again. The absolute best you could hope for would be a return to the eccentric balance of the Medieval Ages, only this time on a planet more ravaged and resource-poor."

It was a long talk, and Zech wasn't sure how much of it would sink in to Osbourne Thatcher's mind. He really hoped it would, but he feared that the feline was so bent on his ambitions, that he would not trust the word of someone who knew better. *After all,* He reflected somewhat bitterly, *He's made a career and a fortune denying those who said they knew better. His entire experience and philosophy would compel him to say that I was being too pessimistic.*
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Re: Time for a Race?

Post by Sade »

“LED’s require electric current,” Etienne suggested a key difference between her example and the rune stones, but he saw her point all the same. Still… So many things had been like that until people found a way to mass-produce them. An excerpt came to mind from Osborne’s relics; a shred of transcript from a meeting in medieval times, something he’d discounted as fantasy, “ ‘that the wizards of 1000 years ago didn’t find a way didn’t mean that one didn’t exist.’ “

The hairless canine was profoundly disappointed by Freya’s refusal to give his request an immediate answer. What was there to think about? Her reaction to it implied reluctance, and he couldn’t help but imagine the reluctance was about him more than the act of teaching magic. “…I’ll sign a non-disclosure agreement if you’d like. Nobody else has to know about it.”

When they came to the path and Freya stopped in front of him, Etienne endeavored to peer around her wing to see- and in doing so he lost his balance and tumbled onto the tile floor. The canine immediately pushed himself up from the tiled surface; but one of the tiles depressed under his hand. A sudden distant sound, muffled but huge and foreboding, reached their ears as he fled back behind Freya. “What’s happening!?” Fear was obvious in his voice. He looked everywhere at once, suddenly very aware of how deep into the mountain they’d come- of the countless metric tons of rock over their heads.



Osborne nodded, and the faraway look in his eyes was a world removed from the bemusedly blank expression bought by the dragon’s first attempts. This was information pertinent to him- not arcane theory, but what that theory meant- what it would mean, what it would yield; the practical applications laid out in a way he could understand and imagine. And imagine it he did, as the dragon instructed. The effects he described would critically destabilize the global economy and- more than that- it would lead to death on a scale never seen before. In medieval times, crops running away would be a simple nuisance because the natural land could provide for many of the people living then. Today the enormous population of the planet demanded a precise system of growth and harvesting. Disrupt one cog in that machine and the supermarkets would run dry. Folks believed they’d all grown more civilized over time and less violent. They hand’t; they’d grown fat and contented. Break the current system, deprive people of food, and they would quickly revert to… less pleasant modes of thought and behavior.

But the dragon was also wrong. Now Osborne’s own convictions and optimism came through, and though his years were so few compared to the dragon’s, these qualities were radiant and strong in him in a way few men could match. “I tried to make it clear to your agent that a sudden and violent upset of global civilization would be catastrophic, and that it was the last thing I wanted… Zed, you are correct, I do want to change the world, but not tomorrow, not overnight. Twenty or thirty years from now the world will be unrecognizable to us today- but not to people who lived and experienced those twenty or thirty years!”

His posture angled forward as the conversation turned toward his field of expertise. “I think we’ve had a fundamental misunderstanding here. Please allow me to set straight exactly who I am and what I want.” He clasped his hands easily, looking inwardly for a second, reassessing as he so often did who he was, truly. “You accuse me of wanting to harness a power without applying myself to the problem. But I am applying myself to the problem. Men in my position manage people and information without always dealing with them directly. I use the highest level, and in ways coarsest of data to make strategic decisions for my businesses. This is my responsibility, my job. I helm a very complex, living system and I’m responsible for its wellbeing. I could tell you everything there is to know about how that system works. I could tell you everything you need to know about one of our products or services to make an informed purchase… take an industrial robot, for example. I could give you its specs, tell you how it’ll improve your manufacturing process in very clear and concise language, but I could NOT tell you *why it works*. I did not program the robot, I do not know all the theory involved. Have I failed to apply myself?”

“It is my job to make sure that information is available so that I can make informed decisions. I hire experts who do know the theory and who do deal in fine-grain information and the nuts and bolts. That is their job.” He met Zechariah’s eyes again. The tabby cat did not sound offended in any way, but his voice was firm and just a little challenging. His accomplishments spoke to his skill, “you accuse me of failing to apply myself, but I am applying myself vigorously as I always do; my efforts just aren’t aimed where you think they should be.”

He licked his lips, turning inward again as he often did while grappling with a tough problem, before again meeting the dragon’s eyes. “I did not come here to learn about magic,” he held up a hand, “but I do agree that your expertise is important, I’m not here to argue that. I came here to have two questions answered,” he ticked them off on his fingers, “first, what kind of man are you. Second, are you willing to deal. I have a satisfactory answer to the first question, which takes us to the second…”

“Mr. Vesporocci, I do not propose to resurrect magic. When I see a device capable of storing energy, I smell New Physics. New physics which could advance the state of the art in technology we already have.” He held up his wrist, “my watch won’t run on magic, after all,” he touched his chest, “neither will these. The world runs on electricity. It is too late to start our tech base over using a new principle, and as you said such a thing would be a catastrophe, but if my engineers can turn this ‘magicapacitor’ into an electrical storage system, that would change the world. The goal would be to gradually wean us off of our current petroleum-based systems, which as you know produce their own form of destructive pollution.”

“I’m talking about a managed process taking decades. And I want you to help me. You’ve made terrible mistakes and seen others make even worse ones. Well, help me to avoid them! Work with me, Zechariah. I want you to work with me. That is why I came to meet with you.”

“Now, I apologize for talking your ear off, but these things had too be said. As much as I needed to know you, I need you to know me.” He straightened in his seat, “you know my plan, and I will move forward without your help if I have to. I would much rather have you onboard. You know what I’m planning- the real truth, now. Can we agree, at least in principle, to investigate the possibility of working together toward that end?” That was really the crux of the matter. He’d come here to bring Zechariah onboard, if not on this immediate project than in principle on later ones- he’d come to turn a rival into an associate, a future ally and friend- to enrich his network as well as help Zechariah to enrich his own. If they could not agree to this fundamental principle of friendship and cooperation, there was simply nothing else to discuss.
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Re: Time for a Race?

Post by Asyriel »

Freya shook her head as Etienne brought up a non-disclosure agreement, and secrecy. "It's not a need for secrecy. I was born with the capacity for my abilities, and they manifested when I was young. I don't know that I would know how to teach you..." She had been about to say more, but Etienne's tumble interrupted her. The next events happened quickly, Etienne got up, and triggered a switch in the process. She heard the distant rumble, and answered Etienne's question with action. She grabbed hold of the hairless canine, and quickly pulled him several steps out onto the glowing path in the next chamber with her, and not a moment too soon. No sooner than Etienne was clear of the corridor's opening, a slab of stone dropped from the ceiling with a heavy thud that announced the massive weight of the stone, to fill the corridor where they had been standing. The rumbling continued, and several more thuds could be heard receding down the corridor. "well, no turning back now." Freya commented casually before she suddenly realized she was still holding on to Etienne. She quickly let go of him, and turned to look down at the illuminated path. She spent a long moment concentrating before she spoke again. "we must follow this path, it is going to be difficult. The path itself will resist our moving upon it, but to leave it will likely result in death. there is only one way to go from here, and that is forward." She took one step on the path, feeling the resistance, like she was trying to walk through shin high water. "The resistance will likely grow stronger the closer we get to the end of the path." She said before lifting the end of her tail up to Etienne. "if you find it getting too difficult, grab hold, and I'll help pull you." She said before continuing along the path...
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Re: Time for a Race?

Post by Rackenhammer »

As Osbourne Thatcher gave his impassioned reply, Zechariah Vesperocci had a profound sense of pathos nearly overwhelm him. He felt, with ever-increasing clarity, the presence of that great eternal divide between the Conservative and the Radical, a gulf which signals of understanding may cross, but never a bridge of agreement span.

Nevertheless, it seemed that the feline was proposing to try at least one last time. But there are two kinds of mental strength, one which is manifest in motion that will not let any obstacle halt it, and the other of steadfastness that will let no force budge it. The legendary duel between the Irresistible Force and the Immovable Object was, in a sense, being played out in the back of this Sedan, and the Object wasn't budging.

The Dragon sighed. If the efforts were coming to a head, perhaps it would be pointless to restrain his sardonic streak. If they could not agree, at least they should make no secrets of every aspect of their character. "If I understand your logic, because you have achieved mastery in a system you yourself have built, that could only have been built in this century, in a century whose very mode of thought depended upon the negation of magic, you are competent to make judgment calls about magic and magicians?"

His tone, if not unfriendly, was at least impatient, like a professor who had to deal with a student who ought to know better. "In truth, it is not your ignorance of the technical details of magic that bothers me so much; that is not in any way your fault. But if your claim to competence is a broad perspective from which you can make decisions based upon expert recommendations... well, if what you have said to me is any indication of your real beliefs and state of mind, you lack a perspective and philosophy broad enough to deal with the matters involved.

"Take, for instance, your phrase about 'New Physics.' Now, that is a phrase that is wrong in every particular. The magicapacitor is not New, and does not work on any Physical principle. It's not just magic words that are perilous to get wrong; if you attach the wrong name to a thing, you tend to think about it in a false way. It wouldn't matter how much you know, if your philosophy of it was behind-before. Old Magic has to be taken on its own terms, as a power borrowed, and not a power possessed."

Ticking this echo of Mia's words off on his fingers, he continued. "Your historical perspective is also quite curiously deficient. It is not in any way a rule that 40 years makes the world unrecognizably different. The years 1250 and 1290 heralded no great change; it is only in the last century, in fact, that this sort of exceptional pace was seen at all. Even then, the years 1974 and 2014 did not make a new world out of whole cloth; it simply marked the culmination of developments already present. Those years constitute more than half your lifetime, Mr. Thatcher, so no doubt you feel the changes strongly, but the gulf between them was minimal, compared with the gulf between the world you helped to build, and the one I did. The change from one to the other took centuries, but it was still catastrophic, for all that."

"Finally, there is your belief that a managed process can and will avoid those mistakes. I would ask that you be completely honest to me when you talk about that. You really mean a process managed by you." Zech gave a calm, cool look at Osbourne. "Now, that begs two questions. First, are you actually going to live long enough to see it through? I won't go into that question; modern medicine is steadily advancing, and you are at the very vanguard. But... there is a limit to the control you have over the consequences of your actions. Especially when it involves reactions from other beings."

The dragon's cool look softened, into a kind of pity that managed not to be patronizing. "Freya and I are not the only survivals of that world. It is, I freely admit, a dead world. But it is not gone. Any who are left will be attracted to your work, and many are neither kind nor reasonable. Some that are have only become so after being defeated in pitched battle; Mia may tell you a war story or two about that." He smiled softly at that, but continued in somber tones. "And even things no longer found in this world may yet be called back. There was a time, Mr. Thatcher, when the great and noble search for knowledge brought with it a real danger of demons coming to eat one's soul. I have seen it happen. It will not happen again."

If Osbourne's words could be compared to fire, Zech's would have been a pool of cool water. But the last sentence was ice, all the way down to the bottom.
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