Tabula Rasa [Ather City 3] Main Game page 17

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Arcelia
Two questions. Let’s deal with them in order.
“Actually, I’m not quite finished with her yet. Her problem, as yours, is one that will require somewhat long-term cooperation – even if not, I’ve just paused the discussion with her to- well, to tell you we’ve moved to another continent. That’s noteworthy, and you might have questions why’d we go here. Either way, this is just a little preliminary examination. I will pause it to check on Miss Proctor again, then we can resume it and continue properly. Now…”
“As to if I need to see your true form – well. From what I’ve heard, I have two solutions for your problem. One would be to help you continue using your provisional solution – chronic, sustained identity theft. As my ethics are not yet quite atrophied, I feel a certain amount of revulsion towards that solution, so I would rather use the other one – having you be able to operate normally in said true form. And to design something to be used by you in that form, it’d help if I could measure it in some way. Seeing it would be a good start.”
I didn’t really need to explain myself here.
“That said, I have a question of my own. If I’m right, the change of form is a result of another kind of augmentative magic. Am I right? If so, that opens certain… possibilities.’’

 
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Cyrix

…Mmm, yes. I’m only using Eve’s form to sustain a human form so that my true form does not catch the attention of the public eye. Two people aside from Eve and Michelle have seen me already but I happened to get away smooth. People will take it as an old wive’s tale…

I lean against the table as I sit.

…To cover up my form, which was the result of a botched spell, I learned a doppelganger spell that allows me to copy the form of my target down to fine details. The only difference is that my tastes and typical attitudes are polar opposites. I acquire a weaker form of their abilities when I use it but it’s only temporary…

 
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[Sorry for my absence. Blooming hot autumn here in BD, and I literally drag myself to bed after school and don’t stir till the stars wink through the blinds.]

Ren

“Don’t blame you. I also like knowing everything important about my acquaintances and nothing of that sort about my friends. Anyway, you know my name. I am…” Here we go. Time to pick a profession at random. Inside his head, Ren flipped a coin. “A private investigator.” He let the words sink in slowly.

“Sounds very romantic and unreal in this modern city, I suppose, but I assure you that there is more to the profession than tracking and rescuing stranded kitties off trees.” He feigned a grimace. “Though one cannot really avoid having to do that while still being a gentleman.”.

He thought he heard her laugh. Couldn’t be sure as he was concentrating on scanning the streets with his experienced eyes, imitating the lazy, detached occupation that was such a common sight among the masses in any city. He kept an eye out for strangers, and both of them trained to detect a familiar face amidst the swirling sprays of blacks, blues, reds, greens and an indeterminable number of other colors washing over the grey coast that was the road they were treading.

“Yes, I had a job as a cop once.” He continued. “But didn’t like the thought of wearing a uniform on duty. It is easy enough to be a part of the crowd the more detached you are from it, and there weren’t enough PIs back then to do all the chores that needed done around the city. So I got into the business with a bare-bones idea of what I was supposed to do, and a magnifying glass in my pocket.” He paused. It wasn’t true, but it was a good representation of the truth.

“Not sure what else you’d like to know about me. You can question away.” He pointed to a building, its shade beckoning them in. “Over something more filling than conversation, preferably. Don’t know about you, but being attacked by goons always makes me thirsty.”.

 
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Arcelia
“That is certainly very interesting, but I still do not know about you the parts which could help me solve the problem at hand.‘’
Honestly. No true form, no confirmation regarding the kind of magic he uses. Well, I have time for idle banter, so I offer him a drink if he doesn’t have one yet.

 
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Cyrix

…A drink, is it? Very well then. I shall partake…

What else can I tell Arcelia? She wants information that could help.

…Before the accident, I studied at an academy meant for augmentative magic. The doppelganger spell is one of their more unused spells for obvious reasons. The spell that was botched was supposed to extend my time as a complete snake but instead it warped my physical being…and to think, I was such a handsome man fit for almost any woman. Whenever you are ready, I will show you. I can release my doppelganger form at will, before it expires, if need be…

 
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[It’s okay AN, I forgive you.]

Ana

“I wouldn’t know, I’ve never been attacked myself. Actually…” Then the images came flooding back, from the second the bullet went off, to the moment I woke up in a cell. “…my boyfriend Chase was killed right before my eyes. The blood spray on my face, the screams filling the air as the crowd thinned out… it’s something you don’t forget.”
There was an awkward pause, mainly because I realized the mistake I had made by being so upfront about the murder.
“Look, sorry about the bold confession, it happened not too long ago and I’m still dealing with it. I believe I need that water more than I thought.”

 
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Arcelia
“Snake. Warped, snake-human. Now I know what to expect once you decide to inevitably reveal your true form so that I can try to build some mobile suit human around it. That’s my specialization – I’m an artificer, an augmenter of items. My spells that would try to change your form would not possess extraordinary expertise. That said, I have certain contacts – some other mages of the school which, it seems, we two share. Were you an outsider, they’d be out of the question, but luckily, I could introduce you to them and see if they could help you in a way you’d find more satisfying. Now reveal your true form, if you need my express command to do so.”
I brace myself in some mental way.

 
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Cyrix

…Very well then, Miss Bluespark…

I stand up and glow green for a moment before going to my knees. My legs meld together to form a tail and my hands become claws. My head reshapes itself, becoming like that of an human-sized snake’s head. My skin becomes sand-colored scales and my eyes grow a bit large. I stick out my tongue, now forked to taste the air as I rise up and look at the artificer.

…Iss this better, Miss Bluessspark? Thisss is my true form…a form I hide from the public…

As I talk, my fangs show themselves.

…Don’t mind my appearance…I would not think of attacking.

 
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Arcelia
I try to conserve clinical objectivity. Prior warning has helped considerably.
“I don’t mind your appearance, because I’m curious rather than afraid. I have to admit it’s quite strange to see a weird, nonhuman being with your own eyes – usually, you see things like you as images, maybe three-dimensional models, still viewed through a screen – but nature has much higher resolution. Several megapixels are nothing compared to that many atoms. Still, I should not stand here amazed like that, I should think…”
Random talking helps me take my mind off the scary. So does productive thinking. With a smooth transition.
“Your size hasn’t changed much. Lots of the size is in the tail, which has to support you… hiding it is going to be difficult, if not impossible. There’s no way I can give you some kind of legs in which it could be hidden, I’d have to use some long garment for you to hide it under… then, if you had a levitation item, your movement would be less troubled if the garment was long enough to reach the ground. Face… that extended snout, too… human faces are flat from the front, yours isn’t. Some kind of a lasting illusion? It would have to convey partial invisibility, and then you’d eat weirdly, as your mouth would not be where it looked like it was… Letting you just steal identities would be so much easier, but I can’t just take that way out, it’d be embarrassing… Oh, but I’ve sidetracked myself. Do you have any ideas yourself? While execution is exclusively on me, you might have something that’ll help with design.’’

[Seems Ocelot’s gone somewhere. That’s not good.]

 
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Cyrix

…Thiss disfigured appearance does not help with the issue. If we are going to make me look human again, then the issue should be that of figuring out how to reconfigure the mass that makes up this body. There are five key issues to look at. First, my skull has the same shape as a snake’s head although bigger to match a human’s size. Second, the eyes are too big to be human eyes. Third, my hands should not be a set of claws. Fourth, the tail needs to me reshaped into a set of walkable legs and fifth, my scales need to be human skin and hair if this is going to work…Perhaps a small item like an amulet or something could have an effect of rearranging my molecular composition to match that of a human’s. I bet if I pooled my augmentative magic into it along with what you’re capable of, it would be a success. I don’t care if it makes me look like a man or woman. I could always put magic into it to change my voice…

 
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Arcelia
“In order to make such an amulet, I would need your body to take on that form first somehow, so that the amulet knows what is it meant to turn you into. And that is one thing I have doubts if I can achieve. Shaping living is difficult – special spells that conserve proper blood flow and all other internal structure necessary exist, but I do not use them, as spells that shape in a rougher manner are sufficient for working with items. I can’t provide that knowledge from myself, but you seem to have prior knowledge, having shaped your body into this – if I provided you with power, could you turn yourself into a form you’d be more willing to possess, even temporarily? If you did, I suppose I could make something to keep you in it.’’

 
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Cyrix

…It sssounds like a plan, Miss Bluespark. Very well…you want me to become a person with not just my magic but what you can provide me or do you want me to become the amulet?…

It sounds stupid, I know but I’m a bit confused, at the moment by her statement.

…Sorry if the question makes me seem clueless…

 
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Arcelia
“Now that I think of it, I think I have a good solution. There is a spell of a very old recipe, which enchants an amulet in such a way that it prevents the wearer from changing form. As long as you wear it, you will be stuck in your current form – so all we need to do now is get you into a form you’d like to be stuck in. You have more experience than me in shaping living tissue, so all I can do to help is provide power.’’

 
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Ren

“It’s okay, and I am very sorry.” He hadn’t expected the “confession” himself. At least, not that fast. He was pretty sure that he’d need to do a bit more digging into the past for her to divulge her secret to him. Of course, it was probably going to make the papers soon. Unless someone hushed it up. He’d need to ask her that soon. “I know how that feels.”.

Several silent minutes later, they were sitting at the same table, opposite each other: both of them apparently absorbed in the small menu books though he was, himself, more interested in watching his surroundings. After some time, he looked up at the uniformed waitress, who’d been waiting beside him expectantly, and with some exasperation as he had lowered the menu book at least thrice before.

Pointing out a couple of items that, after some mental calculations, he had decided that he could afford without going broke, and replying to the relieved smile with one of his own, he watched his companion repeat the same actions on the other side of the table. The place was neither too full, nor too empty. He hated places like that. They made him feel insecure. Not for himself. For his companions.

“If you don’t mind me prying into your personal life, can you recount to me what happened?” Hearing the story from a witness was crucial to knowing what actually happened. People involved in an incident were usually less imaginative. “My interest, you see, isn’t just ordinary curiosity.”.

“Might be making it sound morbid, but in the investigative line, murders are so commonplace that whenever we get a sniff of blood, we can usually guess at the underlying cause. I don’t know about you, but what you described to me doesn’t really go with what I’ve seen or heard before.” And I need to know everything you can tell me so this incident doesn’t get repeated. He decided not to act the hero yet. It worked with certain types, but Ana did not seem to be one of them.

The Level Headed Professional was what she needed. Possibly.

 
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Luke Fausten

…I can’t believe they simply left me like that.

But this man, Renault Wolfe, has piqued my interest. Him and his enemies. And I have nothing else to do anyways, so I may as well follow him. My little group and I are still only high school students, so I suspect that much of the criminal underworld escapes our notice. Perhaps following Ren will point us to some of the criminals that eluded us by chance.

I turn myself invisible, and follows Ren as he goes with the girl to some restaurant. There is a certain sense of irony here, as this situation is almost exactly like the one where that shadowy magical construct was following them invisibly. But unlike the mage who controlled that construct, I know I do not bear hostile intent toward Ren and his friend.

They’re speaking of murder. This is getting serious, hmm? I listen to their conversation carefully, using psychic magic to record everything into memory.

 
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Ana

There was an awkward silence before I shifted uncomfortably in my seat. This was never easy, regardless of how many times I was questioned. Ren wasn’t just another cop though, or ex-cop for that matter. He looked like he genuinely wanted to help me, and not just because it was part of his job description.
“As long as this is the last time I have to tell anyone about it.” Without warning, the events began to unfold in my head once more.
“We were walking on the Eastern side of the park, heading Northbound. Chase was closest to the street, which is something he often did unconsciously. Anyway, our conversation took a surprising turn, and I immediately turned to face him. We were face-to-face, and honestly, I was unaware of our surroundings by then. The gunshot I heard after that was loud and clear. Chase fell on me instantly, making me lose my balance as I struggled to keep him from hitting the ground.”
I stopped momentarily to take a sip of water before continuing.
“People all around us were screaming as they ran away, not one single person even bothered to ask if I was okay. After the crowd cleared up, I tried to look for the shooter, but there was no one in sight who’d fit such description. Chase was dead, no doubt about it, and I got up and ran off before the cops managed to get to me. I wasn’t being a coward, but it was both a mix of fear for my life, and not wanting to be involved with that mess. As you would have already guessed, I was caught not too long after that, and was taken to the station for processing. From that moment on the story becomes cliche, with me being ruled out as an accomplice after intense questioning sessions.”
We stared at each other briefly, as I had nothing else to say.
“That’s the whole story.”

[Just in case of formatting malfunction.]

 
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Cyrix

I peer out the drapes by the window and notice the streets are dead save for one woman. This woman is red-headed, with a good figure. She is at least five foot six inches and she is wearing just a black vest, a skirt with a red, white and black plaid pattern to it and a set of shoes with a set of glyphs on them. Her white skin must be skin most women want to have. That’s why they are using skin products left and right. Disappointed, I shake my head.

…Miss Bluespark, save for one young woman who looks to be in her early twenties, the streets outside are dead. I mean I could transform into her but I would be man trapped in a woman’s body, in every sense of the phrase. I could transform into you but I feel that would be a wrongdoing on my part so I will refrain from it. Your thoughts?…

 
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Arcelia
“My thoughts? My thoughts were that you knew more than one spell, more than one way to change form. You’re no taskmage, knowing just a few chosen ones. My other thought is that you misunderstand the Amulet of Unchanging – it can’t affect you if you’re not wearing it, so there’s no fear of being trapped, unless you assume a form that has a neck but no arms to take it off. I’m sorry if I sounded angry, but you sounded strangely helpless for an user of magic.‘’
I shake my head as well.
“Is identity theft really the only thing you can do?’’

 
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Cyrix

…I can understand your frustration, Miss Bluespark but calling it Identity Theft is a bit ignorant of why I do it. Put yourself in my scales and try to understand from my point of view. The public has never seen something like me. If they saw me, there would be the possibility that I would be kept in a circus as some sideshow freak. There would be the possibility that I could be hunted constantly. I’m not keen on becoming the center of national attention so I use Doppelganger to get through towns and cities. When in snake form, I can change the color of my scales to match the environment. I also have quick reflexes and increased strength in snake form. Now, I’ve never killed a human or mage before. Calling Doppelganger Identity Theft makes it sound like I have a penchant for crime when I don’t…

 
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Arcelia
“I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have called your spell that.‘’
I pause for a moment to add more vitriol to my next sentence.
“And you know why I shouldn’t have? Because it allowed you to dodge the question. You’re a slippery snake in conversation, sir. Now, I repeat – is this spell the only one you know, or can you change your form using another spell you know?‘’
Oh, right…
“I know I said ’or’ in that question. If you give a simple affirmative or negative answer, things will get unpleasant.‘’
I try my best to calm myself down for further conversation, but I can’t help feeling somewhat irritated.
“I’m trying to help you, so, please, be cooperative.’’

 
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[You know, guys, Physical mages are totally capable of altering their own forms, and by extension, the forms of others as well. M’just saying. Also, another post will come here at some later point. Expect us.]

 
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Cyrix

I can feel Miss Bluespark’s irritation seeping slightly out of her words.

…I know a few spells but none of them transform me. They are just bolstering spells meant for boosting strength, agility and envenoming my attacks. That last one is a work in progress. I’m trying to head down both paths with it, making a more lethal form and a non-lethal form. I also plan on studying enfeeblement spells so I can weaken targets but not flat-out suppress their abilities entirely. I hope this is an answer you are looking for. My only transformation spell at the time was that of a snake. I was to work on that first if I wanted to move up to bigger things such as eels and even serpents. Now, I’m being as cooperative as you will allow me to be. Have I answered your question now? Is there anything else you’d like to know? You’re not too fond of me. That much I understand. That’s why I’m trying to help make this run smoothly. My apologies for having caused some sort of irritation. It was not my intention…

 
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Diovoga Llunrov
I’ve been on the internet for a while now in order to calm myself down after the encounter with mister silver mask. Nothing too risque, just some image boards and forums and such. And Youtube. But… I feel like the man in question is familiar somehow. Not due to personal encounter, of course not, but I feel like his description would be familiar, if only I could compare him to such a thing. I’ll have to wrack my resources for that at some point in the future…
But first, someone is knocking on the door to my quarters. I close the tabs I’m on, then stand and open the door via telekinesis, revealing a man in a generic white lab coat.
‘Yes?’ .
‘Uh… we’ve had a bit of a breakthrough. Sort of.’ .
‘Show me.’ .
A few minutes of walking later, I am present in the laboratory well below the ground floor of the establishment, in a series of steel-walled rooms that have obviously been designed to blind everyone by reflecting the light from the fluorescent bulbs straight into your eyes regardless of where you look… no, wait, that was intentional on my part. And it’s only the corridors, too. The actual rooms are far better designed for high-tech work, with science. And magic. No friendship, though. Or at least not much friendship; too little between the scientists down here makes working together near-impossible, whereas too much brings a liability for… “costly mistakes”. And let’s go no further than that. Anywho, I end up in one particular room where research into magic constructs is done. This subsector is lead by a Professor Amanda Aachen, one of the few people who I can trust to not reveal my existence to the world without brainwashing them. German descent, apparently, although I don’t see how “Amanda” fits into that, seeing as how it’s actually a Latin name, roughly meaning “worthy of love”… hang on. Maybe my subconscious has tricked me into not brainwashing her. I’ll have to look into that. Whatever. Anywho…
‘So. I hear you’ve had a breakthrough, Amanda.’ .
‘Ve have, to a certain extent,’ she responds, ‘but…’ .
‘Buuut…?’ .
‘…vell, here’s ze thing: ve finally figured out a vay to transfer ze power of a construct into a human body, amplifying zheir magical power several times over. For, ah… for a few seconds. Zhen… vell…’ .
She nods her head towards a particularly non-obscure patch of ashes next to a big, rather dangerous-looking machine.
‘…I see. So what you’re saying is that you failed.’ .
‘Oh, nononono, no. It is a step in ze right direction, is it not?’ .
‘Well, you vaporized a guy. I guess that’s a first.’ .
‘Ve just need to make ze final outcome of ze process more stable-’ .
‘Yes, and if you could do that, you’d probably have done it by now. By the way, who died?’ .
‘…477.’ .
‘He was an idiot. Alright, continue your experimentations towards… whatever.’ .
I promptly turn away from the group and leave. I have people to argue at on the internet.

 
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Michelle

“Uh okay…”

I attempt to recreate some of the things Arcelia did in the other room. “Wait what United-” I call but she is already out of earshot.

“Right.”

I start imitating the final steps and draw some semi-straight lines on the map which join up a very small distance off the east American coast. This map doesn’t have land down in that location, so I decide to go back into the other room quickly, opening the container and shuffling through it. There’s a lot of strange stuff in here but I find an atlas, which should hopefully include this spot of the US.

I sneak back into the other room relatively silently, excluding the shuffle of clumsily held pages rustling against each other.

I end up finding it fairly quickly, latitude 44.2483 N , longitude 68.2603 W. The Cranberry Isles. This has no significance to me but since they know I would have arrived at London by now, and America is too big to cover, it’s only natural that the next place I should expect them is that very island.