Matter flows from place to place, and momentarily comes together to be you. Some people find this thought disturbing; I find the reality thrilling.

Richard Dawkins


The Melody-Harmony Engine, once telescopic in structure, now seems alien, too powerful, too far ahead or too far back for its time, dials and switches from its base to its cylindrical head, four round speakers right, three oblong speakers on its left. Ovelia crouches, stretches, and walks around the machine, trying to convince herself she can get Aleria back. If she just thinks very, very hard, the solution—

"We need to go into the fifth dimension," Lord Hahn of Suns says, too cheerfully for Ovelia's tastes. "And we also need to prevent anyone else from hearing this machine."

"Milord," one of the Sun Mages starts. "All the Red Mages in this vicinity can hear it by now..."

"Not all of them," Lord Vay of the Reds says, brushing himself off. "But most of them, yes."

"Lord Vay," Hahn says. "Please do what you can to prevent the further the spread of this mess. I'll have three of my fellow Sun Mages assist you. Meanwhile, others of us—we must consider how the fifth dimension will—"

"We?" Nalowei starts. "Lady Aleria belongs to the Violet School. If anyone's going to help her—"

"I told you, you won't go in that machine," Macadera retorts.

"No," Nalowei says, "I wouldn't... But I could go in there without the machine, and try to help her out." As Nalowei smiles at Macadera's horrified glare, her muscles tighten, and her teeth bare in more of a grimace. "Be my anchor?"

"I better be your only anchor," Macadera says. "Forever. Do not touch that infernal device."

Lord Alistar of Verdants watches Ovelia's pace around the Melody-Harmony Engine, the way she considers with a predatory stare. He wonders if she is in a trance; if he ought to shake her back to reality. But not yet. He's not certain yet if she's merely in deep thought, or if the Melody-Harmony Engine is also sucking her in.

Hahn tries to reason with the bonded twins, rather than the stranded sister: "Lady Aleria is as much part of the Seven Lords and Ladies as she is the Violet School. While you may feel responsible to her as a community, I would think it foolish for anyone but as more accomplished wizards to risk our lives in unfamiliar places."

Nalowei's dark eyes ignite behind her curtain of curls. "The fifth dimension is plenty familiar to me, Lord Hahn."

"A-are all Violet M-mages h-h-helping her?" Jet stammers.

No one answers him. But he can't help thinking it's his question that spurs Chante to say, "Elochildren stabilize much faster in the fifth dimension than men and women."

Elexus' eyes bugger. "Are you a dimensional wizard, too?"

Chante tilts her head. "We're all dimensional wizards. Just like we're all Violet Mages and Verdant Mages. These labels quarantine your limitlessness."

Elochildren are born genderless, without family or community; they emerge from ancient, massive clams, birthing shells that were mutated by genetic engineers from a time long ago. Though elochildren look human, they age slower; eat less; have no interest in sexual relationships; and they also think up strange and brilliant ideas, the kinds that create new civilizations, movements, and ages—a phenomenon known as enchantments.

While Elexus knew these qualities of elochildren, she'd never heard of them as fifth dimension stablizers. She'd hardly heard of the fifth dimension, though; these were taboo topics in the Wizardhood. Mages who dabbled in dimensions or enchantments unleashed disasters.

Chante continues, "Perhaps, if I chalked out a circle, then turned it into a stabilizing field, Miss Nalowei could bring a small group of us to the fifth dimension, so we could assist her in rescuing her Lady Aleria of the Violet."

"Who is this kid?" one of the Sun Mages near Hahn stammers, but before his anxiety spills through the room like mania, another Sun Mage nudges him to hush.

"If you're confident you could build such a field," Lord Alistar of Verdants says, "then I agree with Hahn that a couple of us should go in there." His eyes freeze on Lord Vay as he adds, "Not all of us, of course; just the ones who have Lady Aleria's safety in mind." 

Ovelia still paces, not acknowledging their conversation. Her circles grow further and wider from the Melody-Harmony Engine, like a spiral stretching out. As Alistar tries to get closer to her, she nearly runs into him.

"Yes, I'm certain I could create such a field," Chante tells him. "But we would need Nalowei and Macadera to agree."

"I'm already in," Nalowei says. "Although I've no clue how you expect me to bring people over; I can barely get there myself."

Macadera sighs and shrugs.

"I'm sure the field will work," Chante tells her. Then she turns to Elexus, adding, "You studied at the Cyber School before coming to us Violets, yes?"

Elexus' eyes widen. Oh hell no she isn't—

"The Sixth Dimension is rather mechanical," Chante says. "So I think it'll be smart to have a Cyber Mage with us; dimensions sometimes bleed into their neighbors, kind of like how the Fourth Dimension bleeds into our Third Dimension, creating Space-time."

"My," Hahn drawls. "There are so many intelligent minds in here!"

Chante points at him, counting, "One," then Nalowei, "two," and Elexus, "three—"

Just as Elexus begins her protest, Ovelia looks up to the ceiling, searching for higher answers. Elexus catches herself as the fluorescent pink lights glint along the rims of Ovelia's eyes.

"Four," Ovelia groans.

"Five," Alistar says.

"Six," Jet says, yet Chante tells them, "Five is an excellent number," then asks Macadera, "Where do you prefer to anchor? The closer to this device, the better."

Macadera wrinkles her nose. Seventh Street is too far from Second Street; she asks Vay, "Are there any garnet geode chambers nearby?"

He nods. "I can have one of the guards take you."

The wall of amethyst geodes in Macadera's and Nalowei's double-wide studio is an incredibly rare resource; most interdimensional walls are instead made of sapphires, rubies, and garnets, from deep blue to blood red, richly marbled with clear and cloudy crystals. Before Macadera and Nalowei moved to the Wizardhood, they had a garnet geode chamber—all four walls, glittering with multifaceted portals to other places. Their childhood bedroom was quite marvelous and warm.

Having four surfaces will make it easier for Macadera to track Nalowei's location; and she'd like as many precautions as they can afford before her sister, for the first time, travels with passengers into the Elsewhere.

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