Mana P4y1s11

Mana: And so it was written: Pokiehlember 4th, Year 1, Undine's Day. The scent of smoke and cherry blossoms and new beginnings in the University courtyard.
Mana: The bustle of students moving from here and there on their own schedules that may not correspond to any earthly calendar.
Mana: Classes, you see. Occasionally, rarely, tutorials.
Mana: …That's how you know it was once a mental asylum, you know.
Wilhelmine cracks her neck and moves on. She's got business with a spinner and questions to ask.
Mana: There's murmuring among researchers heading up the stairwells, as you head down to the spinners: "Readings are spiking. Don't know what it could be, but… maybe there's a paper in there." "You're still botherin' with readings?" "Well, you know…"
Wilhelmine cuts in. "How's Merrick taking the news?"
Mana: "Hm, he's…" - The older, scragglier student cuts his friend off "A-poc-al-yptic."
Wilhelmine: "Good. It's easier to get time now, I heard?"
Wilhelmine: "Spinner time, I mean."
Mana: He grins. "Oh yeah. They're scrambling for pretty much anything that sounds good."
Wilhelmine nods in thanks and continues on her way. "Think I've got something, then."
Mana: "Wish you luck!"
Mana: The Basement of the Shade District. The din of the spinners - which, I think, one tends to tune out right until about now - is a low, constant grinding din, that now rises too loud to be ignored.
Wilhelmine looks around at the machinery - first, in admiration, second, to find out who to request time from. (It's been a while.)
Mana: In the middle of a padded white room, a giant clay statue is suspended on cloth straps, carrying eight grinding spinners, wrapped in and feeding in long strips of paper, on its eight upturned palms.
Mana: That, however, is not where time is requested.
Mana: For that, you go to the tiny utility closet of an administrative office, right next to it.
Mana: There's a tiny clipping of a cartoon from an old newspaper yellowing on the ajar door. "How was I supposed to Predict That !!" , it's captioned.
Wilhelmine sidesteps over to the closet, keeping an eye on the statue. Of a spirit, perhaps? - She'll figure it out later. She knocks.
Mana: A rustling of paper. "Come in!" shouts the pushbroom-moustached dog-of-a-man, picking himself up from his desk. He hastily rips wads of paper from his ears.
Mana: The statue: Some portly saint, bald and beatific. Like the Buddha statue in Hexagon Land, if you've seen it.
Wilhelmine does so. As she enters, the thought strikes her that this should be a familiar process - but it isn't. Was Merrick taking up spinner time for that long, or is something else at play here?
Wilhelmine: "Approval goes by you, I take it?"
Mana: "Approval goes by a sixteen-horse committe o' right netherflicks, six years been as I-" There's a flash of lucidity, of intensity in his yellow-milky eyes as the man focuses on you.
Mana: "But they're -wasting spinner time-."
Mana: "So lay it on me and hell come reckoning sends my way instead of yours, as I'll have it."
Wilhelmine: "The Great Stone Hall. It wants to volunteer, even."
Mana: "Dredgin up an old thing pinning it to narrative splicing back into the cycle of souls all-possibly then, that's the proposal?"
Mana: "Definitely testable via kill tag and follow, catch recatch experiments, might actually have some proper ecologists around chomping at the bit to be actual…"
Wilhelmine: "Correct."
Mana: He smiles. "Well, we'll cut you right in. Strip need printin for ya?"
Wilhelmine: "Yes."
Mana: "Say you got council funding if anyone asks. Can right guarantee you three days time easy before anyone notices and if so lose their heads if they think they've found em."
Wilhelmine: "Will do. Thank you very much, mister - professor - " She blinks, blanking on a name.
Mana: He turns to one side, pulling what looks like a nine-key ticker-tape typewriter out in front of him on a rolling tray. He begins meticulously feeding out a strip of spinner tape, working slowly, chording input, two or three keys at a time.
Mana: "Won't have truck with any more than that, wouldn't do to end up on the tapes myself, have you know."
Wilhelmine: "Fair enough."
Mana: Eventually, he hums a little ditty as he shears it off. "Give it to whoevers hands is hot on the wheels in there, cut you in raw."
Wilhelmine: "The - alright."
Mana: A strip of paper. "THE GREAT STONE HALL" , repeated about six, seven times.
Wilhelmine takes it. She looks at the man, pauses, then slowly turns around to hand it off to someone else.
Wilhelmine: Seriously. What do you say when it's that easy?
Mana: Back in the chamber: You've never seen the spinners running this bare. One of them's spooled completely bare, and the student shotus above the din -
Mana: "Got something from the labs upstairs? Bring it over!"
Wilhelmine gives the student a salute and trots over, as if duty-bound. "Here you go."
Mana: He frantically runs over, takes the snippet, and clambers up onto the statue, feeding it onto the bare spool.
Mana: It's fed on in an instant and begins spinning about rapidly.
Mana: "…Well, it's a start."
Mana: "Surprised they managed to move it through committee that fast, but spinner time is spinner time."
Wilhelmine: "They're hard up for requests."
Mana: "Mmhm."
Mana: It's a… shouted mmhm.
Wilhelmine: "Anything else?"
Mana: "Nope! Should be the long of it. About time to water em!"
Wilhelmine: "They're still spinning even with a dearth of requests?"
Mana: "Harder to slow em down and bring em back up than to keep em hot!"
Wilhelmine: "Inertia. Makes sense."
Wilhelmine gives a wave and heads back out. Next stop: Frog's office.
Mana: Frog's office. The biggest. The nicest. Third floor. The sign says: "Professor Frog" . There's a leather couch outside.
Wilhelmine sits down on the couch.
Mana: It's certainly a comfy enough place to wait!
Wilhelmine picks out a bottle of Toada and sloshes the contents around.
Mana: There's a pleasant, green tint to the bottle.
Mana: Eventually, there's nothing to be done but to head in. He doesn't seem to be busy, at least.
Mana: (Maybe he has an open door policy.)
Wilhelmine: "Professor."
Mana: Professor Frog sits on a chair at his desk.
Mana: He is a frog wearing a tiny mortarboard hat.
Mana: He makes this noise: "Croaaaaaak."
Wilhelmine: "It's been a while, hasn't it? I came to ask something about my previous time here."
Mana: Professor Frog hops onto his desk, looking up with sunken eyes. He flexes his throat.
Wilhelmine: "Sir?"
Mana: "Ribbit."
Wilhelmine: "Do you know where I can find my … records? My past work? Anything?"
Mana: Professor Frog skips across his desk in a few short hops, climbing on top of a small pile of books.
Wilhelmine nods and moves over to pick one up.
Mana: Possibly startled, Professor Frog leaps away.
Mana: Huh, that -is- a book of student records.
Wilhelmine flips through it, trying to find herself.
Mana: It takes some time - the damn thing isn't in alphabetical - but there you are.
Mana: Your GPA's a little better than you thought it was, to. Your Appointments mark got bumped up to an A- at some point.
Mana: too, I meant to say.
Wilhelmine: "Not - not academic records. Past papers, an actual body of work, you know - "
Wilhelmine: "I was told my work is done, but I don't feel that's the case."
Wilhelmine: "And I hardly remember that era."
Mana: Professor Frog leaps onto Wilhelmine's head. Ribbit!
Wilhelmine: "I've tried looking there."
Mana: And then he jumps down to your shoulder, then back to his desk.
Wilhelmine: "Croak once if you know, twice if you don't."
Mana: Croaaaaaaaaaaaaaak.
Wilhelmine: "Okay. So it's on the desk? Excuse me for reaching." She leans over to see.
Mana: Professor Frog hops away, down onto the floor.
Wilhelmine: "Or am I following you?"
Mana: His eyes swivel away, as if he's caught sight of something in the air.
Mana: …After some searching, he does, in fact, happen to have a copy of your thesis on his bookshelf, though.
Wilhelmine begins to flip through. How much of this does she actually remember offhand?
Mana: I mean, you remember it - hazily doing the experiments, though it was more research and compilation than anything else - meetings with your advisor -
Mana: But it's foggy. It doesn't seem to matter.
Mana: Professor Frog croaks gently.
Wilhelmine: "Hmm." It doesn't seem to matter?
Wilhelmine: "Why was I originally incarcerateed, for that matter?"
Wilhelmine: "Or is the enrollment record lost?"
Mana: Professor Frog leaps forward, catching a moth in mid-flutter.
Mana: A cursory search doesn't seem to produce the enrollment record. Then again, it doesn't produce anyone else's, either.
Wilhelmine: "Curious."
Wilhelmine: "So my best guess is … narrative splicing out. At some point my work mattered. Should I put my thesis on the spinners?"
Mana: Professor Frog hops back onto his chair.
Wilhelmine: "I was imprisoned for some reason. A troublesome person for the Emperor. Couldn't kill me, so he killed my story and set me in here. But then the Sproutlings came."
Mana: He shuts his eyes. He flexes his throat.
Wilhelmine: "Or did I really never matter in the first place?"
Mana: Croaaaaaaaak.
Wilhelmine shrugs, then picks up a bottle of Toada, uncorking it. "Also, I've always wanted to try this. The seniors considered it as a prank, if I recall." She reaches down to take off his mortarboard and slosh a little on him.
Mana: There is a small puff of smoke.
Mana: When it clears, Professor Frog is a slightly different frog.
Wilhelmine: "Wonder if anyone will notice."
Wilhelmine shrugs and stands back up. "Curiosity abated, then."
Wilhelmine steps out the door.
Mana: He slips back underneath his mortarboard on the way out.
Mana: That's pretty much what all his lectures were like, too!
Wilhelmine chuckles and heads back to the Triple Quarantine.
Mana: The Triple Quarantine…
Mana: …Is as full as ever.
Mana: The Doctor Evervigilant meets you inside: "New events topside, or so I hear. Anything to report?"
Wilhelmine: "Discovery of a fiend engine."
Wilhelmine: "Or so I believe."
Mana: "Interesting. Exciting. Worrying. And where?"
Wilhelmine: "The Forest of Monuments. Joch's old residence."
Mana: The Doctor is silent, for a moment. "…By Joch, I imagine."
Wilhelmine: "Disaster and all that, yes."
Wilhelmine: "I figure I'll see her again tomorrow. It's not different fiends, just the one."
Wilhelmine: "Over and over."
Mana: "Just the one…?"
Mana: "What material is she made of?"
Wilhelmine: "Moel Stram."
Wilhelmine: "Ink, I want to say?"
Mana: The Doctor strokes his chin, for a moment, considering. "Paper and ink, then, likely. Built in the old library. Explains some reports."
Wilhelmine: "Some reports?"
Mana: "Possibly fiendish in nature possibly bestial. Definitely an -engine-, key point of order."
Mana: "Some news burbles up from the Shade. News from nowhere, as it were. Students on research trips. Little hunts. Plying the trade in Magic. Fostering jewelry. Sure you're familiar."
Wilhelmine: "Yes. Which reminds me of something I need to do after."
Mana: "Sudden upsurge in monster population. Expected. Centered on the Forest - not."
Wilhelmine: "Regardless, I came to ask about names. When something's name is gone, what can be done to replace it?"
Mana: "Simple: Take the name from something else. Certainly enough of them lying around. Some of them far more bombastic and self-inflated than necessary."
Mana: "Forest of Monuments. Who does it think it's kidding?"
Wilhelmine: "I think 'Paradise' is the worst offender.'"
Mana: "Name extraction isn't unheard of. Removes a certain essence from the thing. Not all of it."
Mana: "Known in the schools of iron and mercury."
Wilhelmine: "I've had some dealings with mercury recently, yes. Sought it out specifically for this."
Mana: "Filling in the hole in the Luna school, then."
Mana: "Vacuum, nature abhors. So on."
Wilhelmine: "Does a name donor lose its name? Or just… lend it?"
Wilhelmine: "Like if I fill a _ with 'Toada', does the Toada still retain its Toada-ness?"
Mana: "Not a copy. Extraction."
Wilhelmine: "Right."
Mana: "Not, however, necessarily permanent."
Mana: "Possible that our local _ was more useful as something other than what it was."
Mana: "Strictly speaking."
Wilhelmine: "Aha. So when its nameholder relinquishes its name…"
Mana: "Correct. But, vis, how would you know what belongs?"
Wilhelmine: "Hunting down the owner. Brute force, given enough time, will work, even if it's not the most elegant solution."
Wilhelmine: "Though I feel that's been my modus operandi for too long."
Mana: "Modus Operandi. Literally, the mode which works."
Wilhelmine: "Mazes of thought, mapped out not by deduction, but by labor."
Wilhelmine nods. "Think I've made enough progress though. Thanks."
Mana: "Happy to help. Slowly, things unwind. One hopes."
Wilhelmine twitches her nose and turns to the door. "Slowly, but surely. Like erosion."
Wilhelmine: One more matter to take care of. It's been a good day.
Wilhelmine: And it's not even half-over.
Mana: A very good day, I'd say.
Mana: And so it was written.

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