Challenge #02062-E238: Magical Progress Goes TwinklesteemCreated with Sketch.

in fiction •  last year 


Unseen University's Hex nails the math for reliable translocation -- Anon Guest

Magic has rules. This is a fact as real as the turtle that swims underneath the world. Or the four elephants on its back that support the entire disk. In order to fly, one must drop an equal weight and really know how to stick the landing. Magic can turn lead into gold, but that gold will make you sick if you hang on to it for too long. For reasons unknown, it also glows in the dark.

Hex was built to find all of the rules. It was built to twist the rules. It was built to figure out how, exactly, the rules could be bent, warped, spindled or mutilated without breaking them. It was alright saying that the Rite of Ashkente could be performed with two wooden planks and an egg, but what size egg? Did it matter if the planks were meticulously created out of a toothpick?[1]

Fortunately for all concerned, Hex does all of this research in a purely virtual field. It works things out mathematically. Which is a lot better than the alternatives[2]. At least, it was. Until the entire assembly of Hex went "twinkle" and vanished in a cloud of glitter.

Replaced by an equivalent mass of rocks and dross.

The assembled staff of the High Energy Magic Building had just enough time to panic about this before Hex returned with another "twinkle".

Ponder Stibbons, still rumpled from being woken up at the crack of noon[3], complained, "Real magic doesn't go 'twinkle'..."

"This one did," said one of the newer students, who hadn't learned the Most Important Thing, yet. This, of course, was not the relative locations of the Privy or that the Librarian was, in fact, an ape. It was Don't Piss Off The Person Who Makes Your Grades.

Hex was scratching out something on the paper. It read, I+have+a+solution.

Ponder stumbled down to the listening trumpet and asked, "What was the question?"

Is+translocation+possible? Hex wrote. It+is. After a pause, it added. I+have+transported+myself+to+the+counterweight+continent+and+back.

Ponder couldn't argue that it couldn't do that, because it just had. And having that pointed out to him by a first year student was not on his list of preferred activities, this morning. In fact, the phrase 'this morning' was not on his list of preferred activities. "How did you do it?"

The+trick+is+to+make+a+perfect+mathematical+model+of+the+world, wrote Hex. And+then+transpose+two+known+values+of+equal+mass.

"Ah," said Ponder. "So. Not practical, then."

I+am+working+on+less+intense+methods, wrote Hex. I+want+to+see+the+world.

Ponder thought, Uh oh, but didn't say as much out loud. Best not to disturb the students. "Please ask permission, so you don't accidentally start any wars or suchlike," he said. "I'm sure your visits would be welcome once people have advance warning." Now his biggest challenge was explaining to the Archchancellor how much of a challenge this was going to be. He almost missed the latest message.


He nearly tripped on the third stair, but a last-instant realisation helped him recover from his robe getting in the way.

On the other hand, he could definitely sell the idea of Hex as a predicting engine to the Archchancellor. With the occasional translocation as sort of... a side effect.

[1] Death is very upset about this particular avenue of research, by the way.
[2] Such as trying to patiently explain to the vexed avatar of your own mortality why such research was important in the first place.
[3] Wizards keep their own schedules and most of it revolves around food. In Ponder Stibbons' case, it revolves around late night sessions of competitive games on Hex with other staff.

[Image (c) Can Stock Photo / Eraxion]

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