The rain pounded down on me as if I had lost a bet, the pale yellow light from the street lamp illuminating my slouching, wet body. The cold downpour soaked me through my overcoat and clothes, water beaded up and ran down off the brim of my hat to join the puddles at my feet. It was a lonely night on a lonely road in a lonely city and I was a lonely man.
“Would you knock that off?” a woman behind him asked. Her face was mostly shadowed by the large umbrella she was holding, but bands of light still managed to reflect off her short, tan hair.
“You should stop reading my mind,” he smiled, pushing around some of his wet, black hair and winking at her.
“Shut up. You were projecting all that on purpose,” she grumbled, flicking water at him from her umbrella.
“What good is that going to do? I’m soaked.”
“Whose fault is that? You could have cast a spell—”
“Not if you want out of here anytime soon. I can pull in just enough energy for either the hop or I could cast a waterproof spell and we’d be stuck here longer. Besides, if you hadn’t been late this wouldn’t even be an issue. It started raining 10 minutes—”
“Are you going to hop us or not?” she cut him off.
“I’m working on it,” he said, pulling a pocket watch on a thin silver chain from one of the many pockets on his coat.
With a little concentration, he touched spots on the watch and the hands turned seemingly of their own accord. They moved back and forth, operating in much the same way as a combination lock, until coming to rest on a time of seven hours, thirty-two minutes, and twelve seconds. The face glowed for a moment and went dark, the whole thing was hot in his hand.
“Ready?” he asked.
“Let’s just go,” the woman sighed, resting her hand on his shoulder.
He pressed in the watch’s stem and the two of them were surrounded by a warm light which obscured the cold, wet street corner before causing it to fade from view.
A moment later the light dissipated and they were in a booth in a busy office building. Clerks were rushing around, each acting more important than the other, secretaries were typing noisily, and various objects floated around, waiting to be of use to someone.
The man staggered a little and the woman had to grab his arm to keep him from landing face-first on the linoleum.
“Jeez, if you were that low you should have let me do the hop.”
“And land us in a dragon’s nest again? No, thank you.”
“Sir, ma’am,” a clerk said, sticking his head into the booth. “I need you to go check in at the traveler’s desk.”
“God, I’m soaked,” the man muttered, ineffectually shaking his hat as they walked to the front of the building. “I was always terrible at water manip, too.”
He waved a hand over his coat sleeve and succeeded in floating a small pool of water off his coat and into the air, but he lost concentration and splashed it onto the floor.
“Would you deal with that outside?” the woman prodded at him with her umbrella while presenting an ID card to the attendant at the window.
“Okay, we have Miss Son Cardigan,” she smiled, running the card over a spot on her desk. “And you, sir?”
“Just a moment,” he said, rooting around his coat for his wallet. “Ah, here,” he nodded, putting a slightly damp, much more weathered card in the attendant’s hand.
“Yes, Mister Ashley Hughes,” she said with a slight look of disgust, sliding his card along her desk as well. “No luck in Saim I see.”
“Don’t rub it in,” Ash glared, taking his card back and walking away.
Son gave the attendant an apologetic look before following Ash out the door to find him holding his coat at arm’s length, still attempting to dry himself off.
“Even with the energy boost I still suck at this,” he shook his head as he floated small sections of water off his coat and tossed them to the ground.
“It’s going to take you an hour to do the coat alone at that rate,” Son sighed. She raised her hand and, at once, all the water from his clothing sprang away from his body and was filtered to the ground.
“Why didn’t you do that before?”
“We were inside.”
Ash made vague hand motions in the air out of frustration before slinging his coat over his shoulder and marching down the street, mumbling about water elementals as he went.
“I can’t believe what a waste that was,” he shook his head, running his fingers through his hair. “Following a dead-end lead like that, what are we, amateurs? We’re never going to find that bounty if we keep making mistakes like that.”
“It sounded credible at the time.”
“My ass it did, that guy was probably a drunk.”
Two days ago, Son and Ash had been in Telnay, a largely psychic dimension, when an old man had stumbled out of an alley and had grabbed onto Ash’s coat collar with one hand while holding Ash’s face with the other. A quick burst of information was forced into his head in which the word Saim was repeated and visions of various people flashed in his mind’s eye. Son had pushed the man away once she had realized what was happening and had shaken Ash to bring him out of the trance.
“He gave you a vision,” Son said.
“He gave me a load of crap and a good scare,” Ash replied. “We ran around Saim on our whole free period chasing some psycho’s fever dream.”
“Free period?” Son repeated. “Ash, what time is it?”
“Nine—damn it we’re late for work!”
“We’ll never make it there on time,” she slapped her forehead.
“The hell we won’t,” he said, pulling out his watch again.
“Oh no you don’t, you’re not allowed to—”
“Would you rather get fired?” he asked, swiveling the hands around like before.
She sighed and grabbed his arm just as he activated the watch, quickly teleporting them from the street to the middle of a small lecture hall, nearly landing on a desk in the process.
“Watch your aim next time!” Son shouted as she hurried out the door.
“You’re welcome!” he yelled after her. “Good morning, class,” he turned cheerfully to the bored and tired group of students.
“Good morning, Professor Hughes,” was the standard reply with which he was met.
“I see you’re about as excited to be here as I am,” he said, tossing his coat at his chair but having it land on the floor instead.
“Does that mean we can leave?” one hopeful student asked.
“No, I’ll just have to jazz up my lecture so none of us falls asleep. I’m very tired--”
“Where were you this free period, professor?” another perked up.
“That’s a non-magical dimension, isn’t it?” the first student gasped.
“Well, no dimension’s truly non-magical, remember what we talked about last class. In fact, this ties in well with today’s lecture about the differences between dimensions in regards to magical theory. Davies, tell me why some dimensions don’t develop wizards.”
“The magical level is too low for people to use.”
“Exactly. Angela, what would happen if you hopped into Saim right now? An extremely low magic environment dimension, that is.”
“Um, I’d…” she stalled, flipping through her notes.
“You’d pass out flat on your face. Someone tell me why.”
“Your own energy leaves you to go into the air because it’s trying to equalize the difference between your body and its surroundings,” a girl supplied.
“I’m glad to see Julia reviews her notes before she comes to class,” he smiled. “Energy passes freely from a person to his environment and vice versa! This is constantly happening to you, but since our own dimension has such a large concentration of energy, you don’t notice. This is from beginner magical theory, folks, show me you’re supposed to be in my advanced class.
“Now, once you’ve woken up from your energy drain, you’ll have a killer headache and you’ll probably have the shakes,” he continued. “You’ll want to leave, but what’s the problem with that, Carl?”
“No energy for the hop.”
“Damn right. Your energy reserve’s been totally depleted and no amount of crying is going to bring it back. You’ll have to spend days, maybe even weeks, building up your strength in order to siphon out just enough energy for that sweet hop home.”
“Has that ever happened to you professor?” a hand went up.
“Of course it has, you should know better than to ask that. You get spoiled in a magically saturated place like this and if you guys ever want to go hopping, you’ll need to be prepared for that initial jolt.”
“How can you prevent that from happening?” Davies asked.
“Well the jolt is something you just have to get used to, but luckily for us, there’s a way to store energy for later use. If you charge up an item and always keep it on you, you’ll always be ready. You all know how to charge things up, right?”
The class nodded in unison.
“Okay, stand up, we’re gonna do something fun. Pick an object of yours, charge it up, and see if you can do it in such a way as I can’t detect it. If I can detect it, that means you’re leaking energy and if you’re leaking, it won’t do you any good in a low dimension, right?”
While the class was busy on its assignment, he attempted to straighten his dirty and tangled hair in the window’s reflection, but decided to give up.
TO BE CONTINUED
DUN DUN DUNNNNN