Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Microstory 1428: Waterloo

A great many people turned out to compete in the second vicennial Mage Selection Games. There were now four separate towns on Durus, with a fifth one in the middle of being built, and a sixth one in its planning stages. Knowing that these, as well as two more, would require mages to protect them by the time the next competition could backfill their ranks, the source mages selected a great many winners. Each town was thusly being protected by about fifty per cent more than they figured they needed, with further excess being sent off on other missions, like dam repair, and exploration. Most of the new mages wanted to be assigned to one of these other things, because it gave them a chance to get out, and look around. People otherwise didn’t generally go anywhere. They didn’t even travel to each other’s towns all that often. Being a mage, in some ways, meant more freedom and agency. Rumat Dunn was particularly disappointed when he was sent off to work in Splitsville. There was nothing wrong with this town, but it was the least coveted role, because it still maintained a lot of its border protection through the use of technology. The mages stationed there knew there wasn’t much work to do. Many were perfectly happy with that, being the backup force in the event the power grid suffered some kind of failure. Still, there were not enough of these volunteers, so some just had to accept their positions. It wasn’t like they would be stuck there for the entirety of their twenty-year contract. Transfers happened all the time; they just weren’t known to happen at a town mage’s request. It was something the source mages, and their advisors, decided, using whatever protocols they had in place. It was all a delicate balance that involved placing people where their work would do the most good for the community. For instance, temporal anomaly detectors—which were capable of sensing when a time monster was near—were great for any town to have, but no town really benefited from having more than one. So if there were only four of those, they would necessarily be placed separately. A new town mage spent two months in extremely intense training after being sourced, during which time their powers, their skills to use those powers, and their other talents, would be assessed. So when the source mages told Rumat that he belonged in Splitsville, that meant he belonged in Splitsville. Unfortunately, Rumat never accepted where he was assigned, and spent a lot of his time trying to prove that he was worthy to be transferred somewhere else. He was specifically interested in helping construct the as of yet unnamed fifth town, which was being built by a single construction crew, in realtime. It was located nearest to the broken portal that was sending the time monsters to their world, so Town Five was notably more dangerous than the other four, and required some pretty powerful mages to protect it. Rumat was good, but he wasn’t the best, and either way, Splitsville needed him, and in the future, others would too.

He had the power to open what came to be known as filter portals. No object of significant size would be able to pass through, so it wasn’t like normal teleportation. The best application of this ability was irrigation. He could instantly transport fluid from anywhere on the planet, to anywhere else. For now, Splitsville was located the farthest from Watershed, so it benefited most from this power, but the people in charge of planning Town Six were interested in choosing a site that was even farther away. Rumat didn’t care about any of this, and didn’t have the patience for delayed gratification. He thought he could use these powers to attack the monsters, if the authorities simply gave him the opportunity. They wouldn’t, so he grew angry, and lashed out. He flooded Splitsville from within by portaling massive amounts of water into its borders. They wanted him to irrigate, so he was gonna irrigate, and they weren’t going to be able to stop him. Well, they did stop him, and he didn’t like the way they did it. Now that he was contained, however, there was a problem. They didn’t have any clue what they were going to do with him. The source mages had never come to a decision of what to do about someone with powers who caused problems such as this. They had a jail, and forced labor, but neither of these things would be able to keep Rumat down. Some suggested exile, but that wouldn’t work either. Durus was a very, very small planet. It might even have actually once been a moon. The only reason the surface gravity was comparable to Earth was because it was so dense. There were no oceans or islands, so there really wasn’t anywhere to exile anybody. They might have made him go to the broken portal, but that would be a death sentence, and capital punishment hadn’t been legal here since the Smithtatorship. The source mages only had one option, and they were saving it for such an occasion, because they didn’t want people to know they were capable of it until they had no choice. They stripped Rumat of his powers completely, which few people were aware was possible. This changed everything about the Mage Protectorate, and how people viewed the sources. The good news was that their plan worked, and Rumat would go down in history as the first and last criminal mage ever.

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