06 – The Beginning of New Normal
After the paperwork was done, Magnolia escorted him to the primary Field floor – Field Operations was spread out over three floors, and their primary floor contained most of the communal facilities – the recruit rooms, the gym, and the common areas.
With a look of annoyance that he was beginning to understand was somehow her base state – or maybe it was just how she was when she was made to babysit monsters – she explained that rooms generally weren’t given until placement tests had been done.
‘But either Ryan figures you for Field, or he’s labelling you his responsibility and wants you close like a new pet in case you piss on the rug.’
‘I assure you, ma’am,’ he said, trying to remember what joking around was like, ‘I’ve been house trained.’
She gave him a withering look, came to a stop outside room twenty-seven, and held out a keycard. ‘Room. Key. Lock. Figure it out. Don’t go anywhere. Don’t make any trouble. Eat something, I don’t care.’
She turned and left with a swish of gingham skirts and a stomp of combat boots.
Curt adjusted the grip on the bag, tapped the keycard on the door lock, and let himself into his new room.
Immediately the words “starship quarters” came to mind – most people would have thought of a studio apartment – but his go-to for living spaces that flowed from bedroom to lounge room to kitchen in a basic open plan were always rooms on Starfleet ships.
The effortless corporate luxury continued here – the bed looked expensive, the appliances in the small kitchenette were stainless steel and had that simple look that only came with a hefty price tag.
He moved into the main space, and put the keycard down on the bedside table, next to an alarm clock with bright blue numbers, and sat on the bed, not at all surprised at the quality of the mattress under his ass.
Finally alone, and finally with some time, he hefted the bag onto his knees and opened it.
Farnshaw hadn’t said goodbye or good luck, he had simply shoved the bag into his hands before shifting him away. It had seemed strange, but part of him had been expecting it to be full of newspaper or other filler – that he’d been issued it just to make his transfer look somewhat more normal to the uninitiated observers.
Most recruits probably didn’t show up with just the clothes on their back.
Inside the bag was another set of civilian clothes, identical to the ones he was wearing; a pair of basic pyjamas, a full Agency suit, and a heavy book.
He set the uniform suit aside and took a look at the book. The cover was simple, with the grey circle that he sometimes saw associated with the Agency, the title of “Recruit Handbook”, and a revision number where an author’s name would usually be.
And tucked inside the cover was a caduceus bookmark. Whether or not the clothes had been mandated, the bookmark told him that Farnshaw had added the book. That it was where he should start if he was going to take his second chance seriously.
He rubbed his fingers over the caduceus, tucked the bookmark back inside the cover and set it on the bed.
If he was going to play the part, he had to look the part.
He stood, collected the uniform, and walked into the bathroom.
The bathroom was larger than expected – a shower over a full bath, a sizeable sink with enough counter space for as many hair and beauty products as someone could reasonably amass, and two very fluffy towels.
Slowly, he stripped. As he took off each item of clothing, he carefully folded it and placed it on the empty vanity counter. After a moment, he stood in his boxers, staring at himself in the mirror.
His tattoos stood out from skin that was pale from too little sun and too little sleep. Black and red and green shapes noting each of his accomplishments. A long vine for the first nymph he’d killed, and a leaf for each one after. More shapes, more symbols. A resume for anyone who knew how to read the code.
Permanent marks. Shame he’d always have to live with.
He looked down at his right elbow and the three thin scars there. Small lines, evenly spread, like he’d been attacked by a miniature version of Wolverine. The only scars that Petersen had insisted that Farnshaw not fix were the only ones that Petersen himself hadn’t inflicted.
Curt clasped his hand over the scars, and tried not to think of the fairy woman that had-
Exposed. He was too exposed. Fear twisted, and he needed to be clothed. Needed not to be vulnerable.
He quickly put on the uniform pants, shoes and socks. Those were easy. Covered now, and not so exposed, he felt his heartbeat calm a little, but the reflection of his tattoos, dark spots that seemed to suck in all the light in the hotel-perfect bathroom, still made him feel uncomfortable.
He lifted the white uniform shirt, unbuttoned it, and laid one layer of the fabric over his chest – the shirt was of excellent quality, not the cheap, nearly-see-through kind of work shirt you could buy at a cheap department store, but the tattoos would still show in some light, and that wasn’t acceptable.
He couldn’t be a shiny new recruit if everyone could see his sins.
He needed a t-shirt, a white t-shirt, but- Magnolia had said Adelaide had activated his ability to require. He hadn’t tried it yet, they hadn’t even told him that they’d done it, but that didn’t surprise him.
Activating the ability without his knowledge – probably while he was unconscious was disappointing. There were certain things about the activation process that filtered back to the Solstice – as with all information about the Agency, some of it conflicted, and some of it was probably rumour, but one consistent piece of information was that some sort of huge crystal was involved.
Compared to how cold and clinical the rest of the Agency magic seemed to be, this fact was surprising, and lead many Solstice to believe that there were deeper levels of Agency magic going on, and that the corporate aesthetic was just for show, that one day they’d reveal themselves as just as strange and dangerous as the fae.
It would have been cool to see the giant purple crystal, but that was just one more element of a normal recruitment he was going to miss out on. Maybe in five years he could ask to see it, maybe when he was experienced enough to recruit someone else, he could watch them get their powers activated.
He grabbed one of the fluffy towels, shook it open, then wrapped it around his shoulders – until he got a shirt, it would be enough to keep him- Safe.
“Requirement” was section three of the recruit handbook. He read through some of the initial material, but a small blockquote on the second page instructed him to simply think the word “require”, then the item he was after.
‘Can’t be that simple.’ He looked down at his bare chest, pulled the towel away and put it on the bed beside himself. ‘Okay. Okay.’
Require: white t-shirt.
There was a slight fuzz on his skin, and the shirt appeared.
He touched the shirt – it was exactly as he’d pictured, high-quality cotton, thick enough so that his tattoos wouldn’t show, but still breathable so that he wouldn’t sweat under the uniform dress shirt.
It had been so simple though. One thought and he’d performed…magic. The banality of how it was accomplished almost completely overwhelmed how monumentally life-changing it had been.
There’d been objects that the Solstice had – pieces of fae tech that saw the line between magic and science and decided to give that demarcation point the middle finger, but those spoils of war – few and far between as they’d been – had felt like tools, rather than like real magic.
And now, with a thought, he’d performed magic. No wand, no ingredients, no puff of smoke, just…magic.
There would be limits. The Solstice had nothing more than rumours when it came to what those limits were – even when it came to what could directly be done a human was unknown, as there was no way to know if there were limitations, or if certain things couldn’t be done to Solstice, due to their protections.
He required a watch and felt a pang of anxiety.
There would be limitations for normal recruits – and whatever limitations normal recruits had, he would have far more barriers in place. The handbook would help, and maybe he could get some sort of list of the items he could require.
He thought for a moment, then flicked through the next couple of pages of the handbook. Licences. Access to any particular item was referred to as a licence – which made sense in a kind of computer software-y kind of way.
He set the handbook aside and went back to the bathroom.
With the rest of his uniform in place, he appraised himself in the mirror and saw a recruit looking back at him. A recruit who was pale, who needed sleep, but a recruit all the same.
He adjusted his tie, then left the bathroom.
‘Okay,’ he said. ‘Let me try this.’ He looked at the bedside table. ‘Require: glass of water.’
A glass of water appeared where he was looking – confirming both that requirements could be done verbally and that objects appeared where you were looking.
He settled himself on the bed, the handbook and his paperwork to his side.
‘Require,’ he paused. ‘A bound book showing- No. Books. One book for each department, with photos showing each member of the department, with their name and rank, with a lined page following each with room for notes.’ He nodded and felt the ghost of a smile as the books appeared in front of him.
Field. Combat. Technical. Medical. Agency Staff. Each had the department logo, and each was of varying thickness – with Medical seeming as thin as a brochure.
Field. All signs pointed to the fact that he was going to be Field. He lifted that book and began to read up on his comrades-to-be.
Previous: 05 – The Boring Bits
Next: 07 – Mirror to Be
Possible missing word:
“even when it came to what could directly be done [to? by?] a human was unknown”
The sentence parses oddly even with that addition; removing “when it came to” might help.
And then Curt is unnecessarily wordy in his requirements. “Require: books” should suffice, with the content of the books being specified subconsciously. He’ll get better. Though I wonder how he’d react to leaning there’s not actually a giant purple crystal?
There is a Giant Blue Crystal, though, and I think we’ve dropped the Stef chapter containing it. Either way, it’s going to be mentioned more often in this canon, and there’s going to be a whole Vincent short about it.
Also, it’s unofficial name is “Bullshit Crystal.”
I remember when I sent you through this chapter and you got so angry at the Solstice for ever thinking that the Agency could have anything purple. 😛
And the Stef chapter is queued for Sept 6th.
Oh, huh. I thought they granted the ability to Require with an injection.
Technically it’s just done by having blue in the body, and the right permissions turned on.
Usually the blue is just quietly slipped to a new recruit with a drink or something – in the previous version of MF, Ryan doses the glasses of water he gives Stef with enough tracking blue to get her registered with the System (then when there’s sufficient for tracking, the recruit/aide/etc permissions can be turned on and it will multiply until there’s the correct amount in the body).
The Bullshit Crystal (TM Shade), is a bit of theatre they indulge in (usually) to give outside parties the idea that the process is more complex than it appears – and in fact, because of this, the Solstice believe that if they can get their hands on a Bullshit Crystal, they can give the power to require to their own people, and level the playing field.
Ah, so the crystal exists but it’s not necessary. Got it.
I think in the first version, I was planning for it to be a real and necessary part of the process – in the pre-1.0 worldbuild (I did a NaNo story and a few initial unreleased shorts building up this world before I decided to dive into the Agency stuff), the world was going to be a lot more…weird. Still recognisably urban fantasy, but…weirder.
I once had someone describe Cookie as “grounded high fantasy” because there’s a lot more higher-order magic than is commonly found in UF, and the original concept world was going to dig further in that direction – I’d also been watching a lot of Final Fantasy AMVs, so big shiny magic was definitely on my brain.
Example: in the pre-1.0 world, I had the concept of dead gods being buried in planets (something that carried through to the current build, they’re a key component of how mirrorfalls work), but these dead gods were going to leak “steam” into the world, which was a kind of mineable, gaseous magic that could be used to power a lot of creations and machinery – so it was a lot more like my Squid!World where magic was a known quantity, rather than hiding behind the masquerade, as it is currently.
Right. Totally forgot my point.
So the crystal made it into 1.0, because I was still playing with the exact tone how things were going to work, but as I evolved the worldbuild, I knew it wasn’t necessary, so decided to keep it in, as an in-universe bit of misdirection and theatre. 🙂
He’ll get better at his requirements as he reads more of the handbook. 😀 By the next story we see him in (The Heist), which is about six months before Mirrorfall, he’ll be his normal competent-with-Agency-tech self.
I thought it was a nice contrast to show him being really cautious with the tech, whereas Stef just barrels into it requiring cookies left, right and centre.
And this has nothing to do with anything, but I think if you update your gravatar avatar, it should show here (if you’re tired of being a grey face).
“His tattoos stood out from skin that was pale from too little skin and too little sleep.” – Should maybe be “…pale from too little sun…” ? Regardless, I am SO FREAKING STOKED! to see updates. Squeee!
Love and cookies, always.
Ooops, yeah, that should have been “sun”. I’ve fixed it here, and in the master doc. 🙂
And we’re trying to be more regular with the updates – whether it’s short story content (I was aiming for one a month when I started…didn’t quite make that), or regular chapters.
I think next year, I’m going to try and prioritise main story content, and only work on shorts when I’ve got at least a couple of weeks worth of main story scheduled. (That and…so far, I’ve only got six shorts to work on for next year :P).
You should come play in the Discord server, I tend to let people know what’s going on, so you’ll get a better idea of what content is coming when. 😀