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3,573 Years Before the War

Magdaline ran her pink lacquered nails through her messy curls in an attempt to tame the ink black mass before forcing its submission to a well worn scrunchy. Barely succeeding in that task, she returned to her previous work. Scattered across the polished stone workbench in front of her were pages upon pages of alchemical calculations and figures. Magdaline let out a frustrated puff of air as she wrote out yet another unsatisfying conclusion. She, along with two other mage applicants, had been working on a formula to access parallel universes. This had never been attempted — which was appalling to any curious minded scholar, given that the theory of parallel universes had been confirmed just ten years ago.

“Rico,” Magdaline called out to the one other person in the three man team that was burning the midnight oil.

“What you got, hermosa?”

Magdaline clenched her jaw at the endearment as her latinx counterpart rolled over to her workspace on his swivel chair. Rico looked like he needed days of sleep, and a long shower. His dark greasy hair was pulled into a bun on the top of his head, and deep bags of exhaustion were permanently stamped under his eyes — albeit mostly hidden by his thick plastic square frame glasses. Magdaline was certain she didn’t look any better.

“I am stuck on the calculations.” Magdaline rubbed her forehead before shuffling around the mess on her desk for the right paperwork. “So, we have the base equation — the one proving the parallel universe theory. And we have the equation for portal making. Those are both solid, proven equations.” Rico nodded and Magdaline gestured to where her annotations started, ” I took the next logical step, and tried to combine the two. I have tried every practical equation to combine the two, but it doesn’t work. None of them.”

Rico cocked his head sideways and chewed on the end of his pen as he went over her work. Several minutes ticked by before he finally sighed. “I don’t know what to tell you Dal. We should be able to open a portal to another realm, but it looks like you’ve tried every possible iteration.”

Magdaline let out a long breath before shuffling the papers into a somewhat neat stack. “I’m going to call Angela. Maybe she can help.

Angela was the third member of their terrific trio, and the only one that managed to maintain a healthy sleep cycle. Magdaline picked up the phone from her desk and dialed Angela’s number. Three rings in a groggy voice answered on the other end of the line. “This better be life or death.”

Magdaline winced as she looked at the clock hanging on the limestone wall. Three am. “Sorry Ange. I wouldn’t have called if I didn’t need your input. Rico and I are stuck.” Magdaline explained her issue to Angela as quickly and succinctly as she could and then waited for Angela to answer.

As the silence stretched Magdaline took to chewing on the edges of her cuticles, a bad habit her anxiety seemed to bring out more and more often these days. Finally Angela let out a speculative noise and Magdaline tuned in to what she had to say.

“You’ve been looking at this issue like opening a portal, right? What if instead of a portal, you look at it like you’re putting a hole in a barrier.”
Magdaline blinked and smacked her forehead, “Why didn’t I think of that? Of course. Thanks Ange.”

“Don’t worry about it Dal. I’ll be in around five. Try to get at least a little sleep. We only have three days to test this out before our final execution critique.”
Magdaline nodded absentmindedly, already working on new equations as she hung up the phone.

Angela rolled out of bed, rubbing her bleary eyes. After the middle of the night call from her team she had barely slept. Excitement coursed through her and the magic in her veins hummed. Today would be the first test if Dal had managed to get the equations right. Raising her arms in a lithe stretch she slowly reached down to touch her toes, working out the kinks from sleeping on the academy provided study beds. They were more wood than cushioning and had an awful tendency to slant in one direction or another.

After slipping on her bright orange tennis shoes, Angela made her way into the communal restroom, and paused in front of a mirror to smooth out her bed head. Her thick red hair stuck out in several directions, the waves tangling into one another. She tidied her hair as best she could and criticized her appearance with dark grey eyes. There was a faint glow to her that hadn’t been there weeks before. She dropped her hands to her midriff and allowed herself a small smile. To anyone else she might just look a bit bloated. To anyone else her baggy clothes and glowing complexion could be put down to odd style choices and a great skin care routine. She had gotten lucky with her pregnancy. If anyone on the council had an inkling that she was pregnant, she would have been booted from the academy quicker than pig spit.

Angela let out a sigh at the thought. Just three days. Three days and we will be accepted as Mage applicants and then it won’t matter. After another deep breath she smoothed back one last, stray hair, and headed down to the workshop her team had commandeered.

The oil lamps had burned out, and the only thing illuminating the dark room were mage lights, their faint glow barely illuminating the two figures hunched over a single stone desk.

Angela shook her head at her teammates. Knowing them, neither had managed to get any sleep and they were likely still working on perfecting the calculations they had called about last night.

“So, did my suggestion help at all?” Angela’s voice echoed against the stone walls and both Magdaline and Rico jumped, nearly knocking their heads together in the process. “How can you two even see in here? It’s darker than a witch’s hovel.”
Before the two flustered companions could answer Angela shook out her arms, letting her magic sizzle to the surface. With much less effort than it had taken a couple months ago, Angela let her energy flow to the dying mage lights, brightening the room considerably. Magdaline blinked at the intrusive light while

Rico shielded his eyes. “Dios Mio, did you have to make the lights that bright?”
Angela simply grinned at Rico’s grumbling. “So, did you guys make any progress last night, or did you just stay up for nothing?”

Madaline let out a short laugh, “Progress? After your suggestion, I came up with the equation.” A grin spread across her face and she continued, “Rico had just finished confirming my work before you came in.”

Excitement flooded the room as the three looked at one another. After a moment, Angela spoke, her hushed words carrying across the silent room easily. “What do we need to get started testing?”

The trio worked tirelessly to gather the ingredients they would need to test their mathematically proven theory. If the alchemical elements were in alignment, they should be able to walk into another world after a few short hours. They met outside in the middle of a little-traveled clearing. The wind stilled as they got to work silently, often referring back to the notes Magdaline had so thoughtfully brought with. The woodland around them continued to still until slowly, even the insects were silent.

As they reached the end of the alchemical spell, the world seemed to hold its breath. Angela placed the final ingredient in the center of the rune circle and quickly stepped away. The three teammates watched in awe as a flash of golden light punched through the air, blinding everything in the vicinity.

When their vision returned they could see a glowing doorway, and through it, rolling hills of desert tundra with sand a color they’d never seen before. A stiff wind blew through the opening between worlds and glittering grains of sand scattered onto the foliage. The sand melted through leaves and grass, finally settling into the dark earth, a glowing, other-worldly beacon. Angela looked at her team and smiled. “We did it.” Rico returned her grin with a wide smile.

Magdaline had focused on the destruction the tiny grains of sand had wrought upon their world, finally realizing the potential consequences of their actions. “But what have we done?”


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