Avalanche – Snippet 19
Most days it seemed as if things were one step forward, two steps back, but now that I had the EggCrates working, I was going to get a day that would be the opposite.
That is, if I could get the Eggheads into their waiting crates….
Hang On to Yourself
Mercedes Lackey and Veronica Giguere
“You’re probably wondering why I called you here today,” said Vickie, standing in the middle of the room in CCCP that held the now-useless interface machine they’d used to talk to Tesla and Marconi in Metis. At the best of times, Vickie always looked frazzled. Now she looked like a train-wreck. Although at least she looked like a train-wreck that finally had something in the way of good news, to mangle metaphors.
Mercurye rubbed his temples with his index fingers and closed his eyes. “I sense that we are gathered here today to get through this thing… called life –ow!” He rubbed a spot just below his ribs. “I was trying to lighten the mood, y’know.”
“Not funny.” Ramona folded her arms across her chest and nodded back at the mage. “Sorry. He’ll be less funny when this is over, but at least it’ll be over, right?”
“Oh I dunno,” Vickie replied, one corner of her mouth lifting a little. “He’s always had a certain nerdy charm as long as he lays off the puns. Okay then, cutting straight to the chase. Thanks to the fact that your mental roommates have a really good memory for math, I’ve worked out the kinks to a magical equivalent of the Metis memory tiles, I’ve tested them, and whoa-doggies, do they ever work like a charm. And our bonus here is that since they don’t exist in real-space, the boys can’t be bombed out of house and home anymore.”
“A particularly clever attribute,” noted Marconi. “A stroke of utter genius, even if I don’t quite understand the thaumaturgic elements and constants. Mathematics succeeds again, and at the hands of quite a talent. You’re to be commended, Ms. Victrix. Absolutely stunning.”
“Nah, nah, I’m not the one that did the math, I just applied it,” Vickie replied, shaking her head vigorously. “Okay, part two is, the reason we are here in the first place is that we’ve done the transfer here, in the past. Any time you do something once in magic, that makes it easier to replicate the second time, even easier the third. Sort of like creating a path through the forest by sending people walking over it. I’ve already hooked the mathemagical memory matrix into the Macguffin before you got here. So, you guys all ready?”
Mercurye nodded vigorously. “Yup,” agreed Ramona. “Not that we don’t like you guys, but it’s time you got your own places.”
“I could not agree more. You have both been unique hosts, but…” Tesla trailed off, apparently unable to find something both polite and complimentary about the prolonged shared consciousness. “Proceed, Ms. Victrix.”
The ritual–for lack of a better term–happened exactly the same way as it had the last time Vickie had put Tesla and Marconi back where they belonged. Same diagrams on the floor, same scribbling in the air–except this time it went a little faster. The entire time, Ramona was torn–on the one hand, Vickie was very confident. On the other–it was magic, and as Vickie had pointed out, in magic there is always the chance for something to go wrong.
Wrong and strange felt surprisingly similar. When the odd resonance between her ears and over the surface of her skin subsided, Ramona expected some sense of emptiness or relief. Instead, she felt a mounting pressure behind her eyes and a ringing that started at the base of her skull and crept over the back of her head. As her vision began to narrow, she glanced at Rick to see if he was experiencing any of the same symptoms.
And then she heard them. Both of them.
“Ah, Nikola. I do not believe that this is the final iteration of the equation.” Marconi’s words echoed too close, a grating wet whisper that made her teeth itch. “One moment more.”
The other consciousness did not share his new companion’s calm. “This is why scientific principles are infinitely more reliable than magic. While I do not discount the effectiveness of the young mage’s tactics, I question whether or not this is truly the best course of action, given the delicate nature of the host and the conduit.” The last few words cracked like a whip in Ramona’s mind. She sucked in a lungful of air and pressed the heels of her hands to her eyes.
“I’m thinking the crazy train needs to make one more stop,” she croaked out. “Too much physics.”
“There is no such thing,” Tesla objected.
“There is right now,” Ramona ground out between clenched teeth. “So please, for the love of what’s left of my sanity, don’t say anything else. I’m sure Vickie has a solution.” She dared to move her head to catch the mage’s expression. “Right?”
Vickie leveled an accusing gaze at Ramona, although Ramona had the sense that she wasn’t looking at Ramona, but at the two entities that were warring inside her for headspace. “Merc? Out. Gents, I warned you before, your intentions have immense Schroedinger-power in magic. You didn’t want to move into your new home badly enough. What you wanted was something familiar. So you both ended up in Ramona, the path of least resistance. We are not amused.”
“No, we are not. And while I want you out pretty badly, you have to want to be in the best place possible. You both need to trust her. Please,” Ramona added.
Mercurye lingered in the doorway. Vickie leveled her laser-like gaze on him. “Out! Or do you want to end up with both of them in your head? Because depending on how chicken they are, we could play musical-heads for the rest of the day.”
His eyes widened and he disappeared down another hallway. Clearly, he didn’t want to repeat the experience.
Vickie turned back to Ramona, her eyes narrowed. “So, gentlemen–beginning to feel a little cramped in there? Maybe you are briefly losing track of a thought you had? Let me confirm that is exactly what is happening. And the longer you are both squeezed into Ramona’s skull, the more often that will happen, and the more likely it will be that the thought or memory is lost permanently. Over the short term, it’s unlikely you’ll lose anything….important. But the longer you put off the transfer, the more likely this becomes. You’re experiencing a form of Alzheimer’s. Your only hope of avoiding it is to jump when I say ‘frog.’ Have I made myself perfectly clear?”
“Absolutely, Signorina.” Ramona had the image of Marconi twisting the other man’s ear in an act of academic reprimand. “Speak the frog, and we will both jump. Yes, Nikola?”
Men, Ramona mouthed. Vickie shrugged, and nodded. Wusses, she mouthed back. Then she began the ritual all over again.
It took longer this time, and not because Vickie was going slower. Ramona had absolutely no doubt that Vickie was adding things she hadn’t done before, presumably to add a magical boot to the metaphorical asses of Ramona’s tenants to enforce the eviction.
Finally Vickie put the last flourish and a spoken “Fiat!” to the performance, and waited.
Shadows of the massive headache remained, but the constant hiss and whisper of conversation and thought had disappeared. Ramona chanced a thought about something related to Rick and waited for Marconi’s inevitable commentary. This time, silence replied and it had no opinion whatsoever. “Finally,” she breathed. “And how do the old guys like their new digs?”
“Gentlemen,” Vickie announced. “Just fire up the interface like you used to. It’ll work. I tested it five times before you got here.”
The fusion of magic and technology leapt to life, and two figures materialized in close proximity to the device. Unlike the Metisan wireframe heads, Vickie’s synthesis allowed them full bodies in remarkable detail and corporeality. Marconi strolled around the room to stand next to Vickie while Tesla smoothed the front of his jacket and straightened his vest. Ramona had to lift her head to look them both in the eye. As she watched, both men became less blue and more true to pigment and color.
“This is magnificent,” breathed Marconi. “Nikola, tell her. It’s magnificent. Never in our wildest imaginings could we have foreseen these sorts of things.”
Tesla pursed his lips and inclined his head toward the little blonde witch. “I should not have doubted your methods, in spite of their unique conventions. As one very familiar with Metisan science, I can assure you that this solution is somewhat superior.”
Marconi winked in Vickie’s direction. “He’s quite pleased. As am I, dear lady.”
Vickie smirked. “Congratulations. You guys are literally ghosts. Instead of holograms, those are ectoplasmic bodies. And you won’t need this interface, once I get done cooking up the pocket models. Anyone who has one will be able to dial you up so you can have a look at things in person. I’ll send a few of the pocket jobs off to people I trust so even if all hell breaks loose and ECHO and CCCP and all of Atlanta gets trashed, you’ll still be able to do whatever you can. Suits?”
“Certainly. I trust that Signorina Ferrari will be one of those people?” Marconi motioned to Ramona, who leaned against the wall of the small room. She cracked one eye open and gave him a wry smile.
“Sure, but not quite yet. I think we need to see other people, but I won’t object to a pocket genius now and again.” Her gaze turned to Vickie. “So, what next? I ask Sovie for a check-up to get cleared for duty? Prepare for more paperwork?”
“All of the above,” Vickie sighed, sagging back against the wall. “Gents, explore your new home. There’s another interface over in the sci-labs at ECHO, with some nano-creation thingies hooked up. Stuff from plans you sent us back when you were still in Metis, so it should be familiar to you. Knock yourselves out. Scare the crap out of people, if that floats your boats.”
“Start with the old guy upstairs who watches reruns and eats pasta out of a can,” Ramona suggested. “He’ll either run screaming or you’ll get to swap stories from when you were all little. You won’t be bored here, that’s for sure. For my part, I am going to find Thea and get food for both of us.” She crooked a finger at Vickie. “You did a lot, and Bella will have my butt if she finds out I didn’t get you to eat something after that exercise. No Chef Boyardee, I promise.”
“Borscht,” Vickie said, with longing. “Thea makes the most heavenly borscht….”