Thursday, August 6, 2020

Microstory 1424: How to Protect a Town With Pointless Powers

Some of the source mages wanted the process of gifting people with mage powers to be fair. They wanted to randomize it, so that a selectee could ultimately end up with anything. That seemed fine on paper, but it could cause a lot of problems down the road. No amount of competitive scoring was good enough to measure precisely what an individual would do with their powers once they actually received them. A given person might be incredibly noble and brave with the ability to repulse time monsters, but end up gravely dangerous with the power to manipulate reality itself. Same person, different powers, wildly different outcomes. Still, it would be irresponsible to leave it up to chance. They ought to be trying to tailor powers towards the mage’s innate abilities. There were also countless powers that wouldn’t be very helpful for a mage at all. For instance, it might be cool for someone to have the ability to see what an object will look like in the future, to measure the effects of wear and tear over time, but they wouldn’t be able to fight a monster with that. By the time the first sourcing ceremony began, the source mages had reached a decision, though some were not happy about it. They didn’t feel like they had any choice but to control what power someone received. They would do their best not to play favorites, but making it random was just too risky. It was not, however, so simple. No matter how unbiased they were, or thought they were, people would accuse them of being unfair. They could claim it was random, but some would not believe it, and even if these were only a minority voice, a small group could grow. To protect themselves against this backlash, they decided that someone needed to be sacrificed. His name was Vaion Newport, and he hoped to end up the most powerful town mage of all, but his excellent scores in the Mage Games were exactly what made this impossible.

Source mage Madoc Raptis was tasked with giving Vaion a pointless power. They wanted to show that anyone could end up with any gift, and there was no guarantee they would like it. It was particularly important to use Madoc for this, because he hated the inequity of some of their decisions, and he was considered the lucky one. If even he could source someone a power that wasn’t good for them, then it could happen to anyone, and the source mages must not have been lying when they claimed it was completely out of their control. After being sourced, Vaion learned that he now had the ability to freeze time in place. That kind of thing happened all the time in movies, but in real life, it was practically impossible, and no one had ever heard of it before. If time were to stop completely, then nothing would be moving. Photons couldn’t bounce off of objects, and show an observer what they looked like. Air couldn’t reach people’s lungs. Nothing could move, not even Vaion himself. And of course, that was the whole problem. While technically time wasn’t totally stopped, it was slow enough, and did not really give anyone an advantage, or disadvantage. While this was active, Vaion was able to continue thinking, and even process oxygen in his blood, but once time restarted, everything pretty much just continued as it was, without anyone having detected a change. It was interesting to be able to essentially stop time—and no one in histories enjoyed this same power—but since he also couldn’t move, it was useless in the war against the monsters. If he wanted to help the town, he had to contribute in some other way. Madoc was sick to his stomach that he had to do this to Vaion. None of the winners would have deserved this, but especially not him. Madoc resented his friends for making him do it, and vowed to never do anything like it again. He walked another path, and subverted the Mage Games by sourcing those who did nothing to earn powers at all, every year, and everyone let him do this. Meanwhile, the rest of the source mages continued as they were, and in order to maintain the lie, they always sourced at least one person with a power that was pointless against the monsters.

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