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Chaos Principle (IC)

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May 26, 2011


Things had been strange for the last couple of weeks for Mark. With his parents gone and his relationship with Zarana petering out now that she was going back to the Lost World upon her graduation, Mark was something at a loss for what he was going to do with himself. His job at UNISON didn't start until the fall, which left him with a long summer of things to do. Since so much of his work at UNISON was going to be dependent on his powers, he'd decided to sign up for an additional round of testing: not at Claremont or the League facilities where he'd already been training, but in at the new high-tech Lab in town that promised to be able to handle all kinds of cases. With double-certification, hopefully he could skip out on part of his UNISON training and get right to work helping people in need! (He wasn't sure it worked that way, really, but he hoped to get lucky.)

Following on a lead he'd gotten from another Claremont student, he made an appointment with a distinguished-sounding fellow over the phone and was there at the door promptly at one PM!

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How peculiar!

Supercape was engrossed in the Lab's particle smasher. He was really spending too long down in the depths of the building, watching the to and fro of quantum events so tiny even he could barely perceive them.

And the little blighters started behaving really peculiar at about 1pm. The random distribution of events became, well, non-random.

The computer alerted him, with a minor "bing!" noise, that he had an appointment at 1pm. He sighed, and shut down the experiment. He walked to the elevator, and in a jiffy was strolling towards his guest on the massive ground floor of the Lab.

"Good afternoon" he started, offering his hand. "And welcome to the Lab!"

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"Hello there," said Edge affably. He'd come in costume, and was glad to see that Supercape seemed to have a fashion sense similar to his own. I like the cut of this fellow's jib! "I'm Edge, I made the appointment. Wow, you guys have a really nice space," he commented admiringly, looking up and around the lab. "I heard about all your equipment, but this is amazing!" He put his hands in his costume pockets and said, "So like it said in my letter, I need to get powers-tested for my job. I'm graduating from high school in a couple of days, and I'm going to spend a couple of years working for UNISON in Africa before I come back and go to college. Since they're hiring me for my powers," he admitted with a rueful grin, "I've got to have professional certification about how they work. Can the Lab do that for me?

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"A noble venture indeed" replied Supercape warmly, with a smile, smoothing down his Superlab costume.

He was still "in costume" of course, but when in the Lab, he usually reformed his splendid huge cape into a shiny what lab coat. Partially it was was people expected of him. Partially it was because a huge cape tended to knock over fragile equipment.

"Be happy to help, old bean. Here, you will be wanting one of these first off" he continued, passing Edge a visitors pass. It was a high tech device, with a holographic display of Edge taken from his entrance into the Lab, and nearly unforagble fractal codes that allowed access to the more restricted areas of the Lab.

"Gets you anywhere. Well, nearly anywhere"

And kept a track of where visitors went, of course.

"So, where to first? what are the nature of said powers?"

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Mark had been a little cagey about that in the email, largely because he had a feeling science types like Supercape might be put off by the nature of his abilities. "My powers are magical," he said with great seriousness as he fastened the lab pass to his lapel. "They're genetically inherited from my grandfather." He could say those words without hesitation, after months of dealing with it, and looking Supercape dead in the eye. "When I was younger, and up until just about a year ago, my abilities were about luck and probability control: I could change how likely it was something could happen, and make accidents happen to bad people. But now...now it seems to be almost anything. I can blow things up, turn them into other things, I can teleport myself places...I haven't really found any limitations to what I can do, and sometimes that's a little scary. I try not to think about it, but I'm going to be using my powers a lot in my job and, well..." He shrugged helplessly. "I don't want to hurt the people I'm trying to save," he said as he followed Supercape into the elevator.

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"Magic eh?"

Supercape didn't realy believe in magic. Or religion. Or myths. Or any hocus-pocus.

Of course there were things that looked like all of those. Things that were impenetrable. But that didn't make it anything more - or less - than science he didn't understand yet.

Still, after fighting demons in the suburbs and meeting beast-men changlings, he was aware that "magic" was something he could only dimly quantify. Nonetheless, it was worth a shot. For starters, if Edge really did manipulate probability (although quite how conscious he was of it was yet to be seen), it could explain the funny non-random spread of particles in the smasher down below.

"Well, I can't say I am the world's expert on that, but if its measurable, I can measure it!"

He stopped outside the simulator suite. It was as good a place to start as any.

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Edge headed straight into the simulator. "I've had a lot of simulator time at my school," he said, "so I'm familiar with holograms and stuff. If that's how you do it," he said with a little shrug. "I don't know very much about really high-tech science these days." He hmmed, looking around. "Okay, I'm ready for whatever you want to do. I can take whatever you throw at me. Just don't make the illusion too good," he said with a little laugh. "Once I blew the hard matter coils right out of our holo-simulator at school, and I had to spend two weeks helping our science teacher put all the pieces back together. That wasn't fun." He winced a little at the memory.

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"I think I can oblige" replied Supercape.

"Just stay there, I'll be communicating via the intercom." he said, as the space around him wobbled and distorted. After a eye-binding dance, it vanished, along with Supercape.

He reappeared in the control panel. Hopefully the kinks had been ironed out after Dragonfly, Etain, and he had encountered the horrors of the "Flush sequence" gone mad.

He sat down by the control panel and started playing with the computer.

"Right then, lets see that smashy bangy thingy you do..." he mumbled over the intercom. A small flashing ball appeared out of one of the portholes, and drifted towards Edge...

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"Okay..." Mark studied the ball for just a second, then decided to go all out. He pointed at the ball, and a wash of black energy like spilled ink came from his fingers, spilling over the ball with a liquid wash. Supercape's instruments could read the wash itself well enough, it read like any other 'magic' blast he'd looked into. But what happened to the ball was exciting even in its mundanity. With a puff of air rushing in to fill the space as Mark's energy wash faded, the hovering ball simply vanished: not teleported, not shrunk, not catapulted into another dimension. The test item had been there, and now it was _gone_.

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"Thanks, young man!" came the voice over the intercom.

The Labs readouts were robust. To Supercapes extraordinary senses, he had felt the globe simply dissapear into... well, something else. It was as if it had lost all its dimensions, or at least most of them.

"Cant say what exactly happened to that. But its not in this time space omniverse anymore!" he chuckled as he pored over the data. It would take a lot of head furrowing and maths - pounding to really get to the bottom of what had happened, if it were possible at all. Looked a bit fractal to him.

"In any case, it looked safe enough. I'm not exactly sure how useful it would be in your UNISON mission, of course. But at least it isn't going to expand and consume the universe!"

He started playing with the computer some more. "Now then, molecular rearrangement next..."

He decided against using his own quantum matter for the test. Things would be complicated enough without throwing in a material that, strictly speaking, didn't exist. Or not-exist either.

He concentrated a bit, and the a small number of oxygen molecules in the room spluttered and bonded together, forming a square decimetre sphere of solid oxygen on the floor.

"Oxygen ball" he explained over the microphone. "Lets see what happens when you change that..."

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This time the change was a little easier to follow, if the insane rewriting of reality itself could ever be easy to follow. All the little oxygen atoms suddenly had more and more protons and electrons in a cascading tide of change at the atomic level, cascading higher and higher in density as more and more atoms spun together in a dance far too small to see, shifting into a nearly organic compound. The ball rippled in the air as it approached Edge, then settled neatly into his hand in a perfectly black sphere. With a little grin, he bounced it off the floor and up into his hand again. "That's oxygen to rubber," said Mark, "I've been practicing it. I thought making toys and stuff would be a good trick to use if I have to work around little kids."

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"Something from nothing eh?" remarked Supercape who had been following the process carefully both with the Lab's equipment and his own extraordinary senses.

"Right then, I think the rubber ball needs testing!"

With the customary wobble of space, he appeared besides Edge again and took the ball.

"We start off with something very scientific!" he smiled. Giving the youth a wink, he threw the ball, fairly hard, against the spotless floor of the simulator suite. True to its nature, it bounced back into his hand.

"Yes, indeed, it bounces! excellent. Now lets do some more boring stuff, down in the particle smasher, lets see what its made of. And I don't mean just its chemistry. I'm talking event-causality split-rigidity!"

He was already on his way to the elevator as he finished speaking, calling the lift for the sub-basement of the Lab.

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Mark obediently followed the adult downstairs, keeping up the chatter that was how he filled spaces in conversation. "I've been experimenting with making different kinds of toys," he added, "but rubber balls are always a classic. I figure I want to give te kids something they can keep and enjoy that isn't likely to get stolen and will be pretty durable even in the middle of nowhere. The biggest so far is a real working tricycle. It's a real Huffy! Well, not a real Huffy." He hmmed. "I guess I shouldn't put fake labels on. Even if I'm somewhere remote, and if my trike is better than the ones from the store, it's wrong to violate copyright, and I don't want to get sued."

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Supercape arched an eyebrow. His young ward for the day seemed a little, well...young.

Was I ever like that? he wondered. Maybe, a little, although he seemed to recall most of his time a s a youth was spent devouring some book at home or in the library.

The Lab sublevel 4: Particle smasher...

"Here we are" announced Supercape as they stepped into the enormous sublevel. Around its periphery was a giant particle accelerator in a circle, and the centre housed the various sensors, engineering, and research equipment that accompanied the device.

Supercape gently popped the rubber ball into the smasher tube, and sat back with Edge in the main control room.

"I'm going to bombard this with particles that hardly even exist, at speeds so fast they will hit before they have set off!" he smiled, as his fingers danced over the knobs, dials and computer keyboards.

"Do you have any notion of what happens?" he asked, as he selected from a menu of particles with which to bombard the creation "or is it more of a gut thing?"

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"Uh, more of a gut thing, definitely. I was never very good in school," Edge admitted. "I mean, I got lucky when it came test-time, every time, and they asked about things I was expecting, or I just guessed all the way through and got good grades like I did on the SATs. All this science stuff...I never thought I'd need it, so I never bothered to learn it." He scratched the back of his head, a little awkwardly, before moving on. "Hey, are you really from Britain? That's neat. Did you ever work with Troy Griffin over at the Ministry of Powers? He's an old friend of my grandpa's and I met him a couple of times. He's a nice guy." Under the examination in the atom-smasher, Supercape found that the rubber ball was good old-fashioned latex rubber all the way down; it had even been vulcanized. Somehow the mass of that space had increased tremendously!

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" Did you ever work with Troy Griffin over at the Ministry of Powers? He's an old friend of my grandpa's and I met him a couple of times. He's a nice guy."

"No, I'm afraid not" replied Supercape, completely unaware of who Troy Griffin was and resolving to look it up. He dimly remembered something about the Ministry of Powers however.

"It was only when I came to America that I donned the cape" he continued. "I never even wanted to be a superhero, quite happy being a scientist".

He shrugged "but I guess I feel compelled, or obliged, to do what I do for the good of humankind. What kind of a man would I be if I didn't? just sitting on my backside playing with quantum strings whilst people suffer and cities burn?"

The question was, of course, rhetorical. For Supercape, there was no option.

"Looks interesting" he added, showing Edge the readouts from the ball. "In that it is unremarkable!"

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I don't get it. "I don't...oh, I get it!" said Mark thoughtfully. "It's weird because it's normal rubber. Yeah, I suppose that is pretty strange. I've never even seen a rubber molecule before, that's kinda cool." He touched the picture thoughtfully. "The things I make almost always stay together, unless I'm really in a hurry and pushing myself in some weird way. The biggest I made was a water tower for my UNISON interview. It was big, like the ones in suburbs. The hardest part was filling it; I couldn't make the water and the tower at the same time, so I had to make a ladder and climb up there to do it."

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"Well, creating something out of nothing. Its not unheard of. The entire universe, for one thing" jested Supercape, wondering if Edge's education covered basic astrophysics.

"Ahem" he continued. "So, what about teleportation then? something I am quite the expert on, if I say so myself. How does that work? how far? how precise? just this universe?"

He stopped, pausing for breath.

"Sorry, answer at your own time, but the more you tell me, the better Idea I have about how to work out what happens. Plenty to look at, so to speak. "

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"I've never tried going out into space," Edge admitted. "At least, not without teleporting. Unless I really push my powers hard, I can't survive in space alone, and that's not a risk I'd want to take just for the sake of experimentation. So far I've been able to go anywhere on Earth I want, or at least anywhere I want to go. The biggest trip I've ever taken is here to Dakana, which is about 8000 miles." He hmmed. "As for what it looks like, these multi-colored dots swoop down and cover everything, and then I'm there. It's like things are breaking down into ink blots around me, and then reforming into wherever I'm going. From the outside, though, it looks like I'm the one breaking up."

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"Hmmm, yes, I see" nodded Supercape with encouragement as Mark spoke.

"Well, my dear boy, this sounds like we need a little experimentation!" he smiled, picking up an electronic note pad and a few electronic gadgets that looked awfully scientific.

"So, testing range, testing mass you can transport, and testing accuracy" he continued. "Hmmm. Space is out of the question, although I could possibly rustle up a Space Suit if need be. I presume you can't push yourself out of this solar system? there are a few more pleasant planets I know only a couple of hundred light years away. "

"Staying on Earth then, is there anywhere you would like to go? South Africa would be a good jaunt, nearly as far as one could go from this location. "

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"Okay," said Edge, standing up as he casually considered popping across the continents. "I'll probably put us down in Kruger, that's the big national park. There's a lot of open space there, we can land and there's no risk of running into anything. Unless..." The old Mark would just have teleported there himself, or maybe have brought the whole room depending on his mood, but at the savvy age of 18 he was a little more thoughtful. "Do you want to come with me, or stay here? Should I bring any of the equipment when I go?" The idea of bringing along other people, even large-scale equipment, was evidently not an issue.

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"Well, testing testing testing!" said Supercape waggling his finger as he tried to carry all the scientific equipment in his other arm.

"Three things. Number 1: Maximimal distance. Number 2: Accuracy, Number 3: Maximal weight"

He picked up a sensitive looking piece of equipment that he had dropped whilst talking to Mark, shook it and held it to its ear.

"Should be ok..." he murmured.

"Anyway" he continued, "First off, we go to Egypt... the desert. Here are the precise co-ordinates..." he printed off a lattitude and longitude for Mark to read, with several decimal points on it. "Then, we come back, and you carry as much sand as you can with you."

He thought about this for a second. "Best come right back into the simulator suite. We can measure the mass much more easily there. Plus, we can clear it up more easily..."

"In the meantime" he said, pointing at the equipment under his arm. "I do some timey-wimey spacey-wacey measurements of exactly what is happening..."

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Edge obligingly headed into the simulation chamber, studying the map thoughtfully. He didn't know that much about latitude and longitude, but he was pretty sure he'd be able to figure things out along the way. "Okay, Mr. Supercape! Another couple of minutes, and I'll be back here with lots of sand!" Just as promised, when he disappeared it was with a shower of four-colored dots, as if he was breaking down into the very stuff of the universe itself and said stuff was disappearing elsewhere. The sensors missed most of the strange lightshow; they simply saw his mass get smaller and smaller even as his size didn't change, until finally he was gone from the face of the universe.

Mere seconds later, suddenly he was cascading back amid a huge pile of sand, one so big his head nearly brushed the ceiling of the room. "Is this right, Mr. Cape?" he called, as he balanced on top of the shifting pile of Nile sand, clearly weighing several tons at least. Balancing was no easy task as the now-untethered sand began to blob down to take up more space in the room. "I tried to get as much as I could, but I didn't want to blow up your lab!"

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"That's very good, dear boy" replied Supercape, blinking. His uncanny senses were almost overwhelmed with the sheer mass that had been transported.

"A whole desert... my my. I just hope you didn't pick up any undiscovered burial chambers along the way. "

He tapped a few instruments. "Nothing to worry about... well, to be honest, nothing. Totally unremarkable. Which probably means safe. "

"I say, would you be so good as to deposit this sand back somewhere. Its going to be a bit much for our cleaning staff..."

He couldn't see his fellow Lab mates being overtly impressed either.

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"Was this too much?" asked Edge, sounding concerned as he sunk down into the shrinking pile of sand. Looking closely, Supercape could see black inky dots bubbling around his fingers, his touch seeming to dissolve the sand like a flaming touch would dissolve mountains of ice. But this left no water behind, just a faint amount of dust as (on his sensors) the sand was pulled apart into tinier and tiner blocks of silica that finally fell apart into nothingness. There should have been more impurities, organic residue or animals or something, but as it was the big pile of sand just faded away into nothing as Mark erased it, finally leaving Mark just standing on a thin pile of dust. "Is the equipment okay?"

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