A Pristine, Untouched Wick
rating: +23+x

International Center for the Study of Unified Thaumatology: Three Portlands Campus
November 15th, 2010

Being called to speak with your student advisor immediately after finals was rarely a good sign, even for students attending as bizarre a school ICSUT Portlands. As the advisor looked over her paperwork, young Beatrice Ross idly played with a lock of her red hair, occasionally looking at a clock on the wall to watch the seconds stretch into hours. Eventually, the advisor cleared her throat.

"How do you think your Conjuration final went, my dear?"

Beatrice met the woman's gaze. She was older, somewhere in her 50's or 60's. Her black hair was heavily streaked with gray, and a small pair of spectacles sat on the end of her nose. A thick green cable knit sweater with the School's crest on the lapel finished the ensemble.

"I think I did pretty well on the written exam," Beatrice finally replied. "Better than I originally thought I would do, at least."

The advisor smiled.

"Quite," she said. "You really 'crushed it' as the kids these days say. Your grasp of the theoretical and academic aspects of thaumatology is nothing short of impressive for someone of your level of study. but I think you know that's not why you're here, my dear."

Beatrice nodded.

"The practical exam could have gone better," she mumbled. Her gaze fell to the floor.

The advisor nodded in agreement.

"You were hoping to take the Medicinal Conjuration track, yes?"

"I did. I was hoping I could become a healer."

"An admirable goal," she said with a nod. "Truly, admirable."

"I know I failed, but I can take the course again over the break." Tears began to well in Beatrice's eyes. "I know if I prepare more I can pass. Please, Dr. Laurent, I just need one more-"

The advisor placed up a hand. A warm, sympathetic smile crept across her face as she shook her head.

"My dear, I'm sorry," she said. "As noble as your intentions are, that doesn't change the fact you scored in the bottom 10% of your class on this exam. This isn't the kind of meeting we hold to go over study strategies or create a practice regimen. This is the kind of meeting we hold when you don't have the aptitude to continue in a given school of the craft. You can’t build a fortress upon a pillar of sand, and you can’t make a career in a field your talents are so ill-suited for."

Beatrice winced.

"Dr. Laurent," she whispered. The tears began to run freely. "Please. I'll do anything. Night classes. Summer school. I'll do nothing but eat, sleep, and study. Please."

A hand pressed down on her shoulder.

"I know how hard this is to hear, my dear," she said. Her voice reminded Beatrice of her grandmother. "So many pupils choosing to enter this field do so with a goal in mind. A vision of themselves as they desire to be. But the sad truth of the matter is not everyone's potentials manifest in the same way. Just as I was never destined to be a Diviner, you were not destined to be a Conjurer. And that is okay. I know that we'll find where you need to be. We always do."

"But where?" Beatrice looked up, her eyes red, "I haven't even explored other schools. I can't just randomly pick each semester until I find something that sticks!"

Dr. Laurent smiled. "Why do you think we have you take all those entrance exams?"

The old thaumatologist returned to her seat.

"And, looking at your file, you did exceptionally well in Evocation. You wanted to go into Medicinal Conjuration partly because it is an applied practice, yes? We have an Applied Evocation track here that is quite excellent. With your scores, Dr. Vogel would be quite happy to take you on."

Beatrice's mouth briefly hung open.

"That's a bit of a 180, don't you think?" she said, her brow furrowed as shame became anger. "What on earth makes you think I want to learn magic to hurt people?"

"While it is true Evokers tend to train in more aggressive forms of magic than other mage's, I think you'd be surprised at everything the school covers and has to offer. Don’t be so narrow-minded, my dear." Dr. Laurent held up a single finger. "Start the track, and we can reconvene after one semester. I truly think you will find that you excel, and if not, well, I'll personally eat this sweater."

The last comment caught Beatrice off-guard, prying a brief burst of laughter from her.

"Do I have any other options?" she asked with a sigh.

Dr. Laurent smiled and shook her head.

"Not anything better, I'm afraid."

***

The longest half an hour of Beatrice Ross's life came and went. After the meeting's conclusion, she found herself wandering the campus, a light drizzle starting to come down around her. Defeated, she sat beneath the trunk of a large Douglas Fir and pulled her knees in close.

What the hell do I tell everyone now?

"There you are," a chipper voice said, approaching from the side. "I thought we were meeting up after your meeting, Bea. Bea?"

Beatrice looked up and offered a sad smile to the short woman with a nose ring and braided blonde hair that stood before her. Her name was Angela. Unlike Beatrice, she did not fail the Conjuration final.

"Oh shit," Anglea replied. "That bad, huh?"

She took a seat next to Beatrice in the pine needles and placed an arm around her friend.

"What's the damage?"

"I apparently don't have what it takes to heal people," Beatrice replied. "So I am going to be an Evoker."

"Yikes. That's a lot of damage," Angela nodded. "Just promise you won't blow up my dorm, okay?"

Beatrice's lips slowly crept into a smile.

"I'm really sorry though, Bea," Angela continued. "I knew how hard you studied."

"Yeah," Beatrice sighed. "Well, now I get to be a battlemage. Who doesn't want to do that?"

"I bet you'll be good at it," Angela poked her friend with her elbow, then rapidly fanned her fingers to mimic an explosion. "For real though, it might be worth a shot. They're more than just battlemages, you know? I have a cousin who is a trained Evoker and works for Anderson as an industrial thaumatologist. Pretty sure Meteormancers also need that line of training. Wouldn't that be something? You could literally rain on someone's parade. Besides, you'd get to-"

"Do you have an elective next semester?" Beatrice interrupted. "Will you take the intro course with me?"

"Hell yeah," Angela grinned. "Let's set some shit on fire!"


Portland, Oregon
September 23rd, 2023

Agent Beatrice Ross frowned. The years had come and gone since her graduation from ICSUT Portlands. Canvas sneakers and flannel shirts had given way for work boots and the plainclothes of an SCP Foundation MTF agent. Her long red hair was now trimmed to neck length, with a thick pair of goggles obscuring her eyes. As she knelt on the ground, before her was a shriveled corpse, the life force of which had been forcefully extracted by means as of yet unknown. The corpse's name was Angela Volkov. And, in a past life, she had been Agent Ross's best friend.

"Penny for your thoughts?" asked a lean, bearded man with short blond hair. To the higher-ups in the Foundation, he was MTF Commander Creed of Tau-51. To her, he was just Damion. "I'm not an expert, but I know magic when I see it."

Beatrice nodded, she gently closed Angela's eyes. Or, what was left of them, at least.

"Necromancy. Powerful stuff too."

She looked around. Whoever had done this was strong. In the battle that had ensued most of the furniture inside the home had been destroyed, and something had blown out nearly the entire living room wall.

"Think it was what's-her-name? Annabelle?" Damion asked. "She's a necromancer. And operates out of Three Portlands. Not exactly out of arm's reach."

Beatrice shook her head.

"No real motivation for her to do this," she replied. "Even if she needed human souls for an incantation there are easier targets than an ICSUT trained conjurer. It just makes no sense. You interviewed the family, right? Did they say anything?"

"They didn't even know Mrs. Volkov was a mage," Damion chuckled. "But no. Husband was out with the kids at the park and came home to this mess."

"Any other witnesses?"

"Neighbors didn't see anyone and didn't know something was going down until half the house ended up in the front yard," Damion sighed. "So, unfortunately, our leads right now are few. I'll have Dwyer see what they can dig up from the Three Ports side of things, but I'm not holding my breath on much. Think Spencer’s folks may have a lead?"

"Even if they did, he wouldn’t tell us. Not without something bigger tying his hands."

She looked down at the corpse once more and remained silent. Damion placed a hand upon her shoulder.

"Friend of yours?" he asked.

"A best friend." Beatrice offered a melancholy smile. "I don't know why anyone would do this to her."

***

The trip back to Site-64 was quiet. Years of working together had made the rest of Tau-51 intuned enough to recognize when a colleague needed some space to work something out alone. The rest of the MTF's shared office was deserted, leaving the evoker alone at her desk.

What am I missing?

She sighed, and after a few more minutes of gazing a hole in the wall, reached into the back of her drawer and pulled out an old photograph, circa 2012. Within it were several college students, a class of future evokers, all smiling for the camera.

Left of center, Angela and Beatrice grinned, the former sitting on the latter's shoulders to peer above the rest of the crowd. Next to them was Irida, then Daxton, then Emanuel, Monica, and Adora. Of course, Joaquim, Jannah, and Joann were side by side in front, and who could forget Duncan and Mirza, posing back to back. Her eyes then fell upon a young couple holding hands: Edmund and Alyssa. Beatrice cringed and quickly refocused elsewhere in the photo. It was then her eyes fell upon the man at the center, Dr. Hans Vogel, the Applied Evocation Program Director, and primary instructor. By his side was Robin Thorne, a slim androgynous figure, whose smile was limited to an amused smirk. They served as the class TA.

Wonder if you've heard yet?

Her desk phone rang in response, shaking her from the clip show of memories to be brought back to the modern-day. The agent casually lifted the receiver and cleared her throat.

"This is Ross."

"Oh hey, it worked. I thought this might have been a decoy."

The voice on the other line was that of Agent Robin Thorne, no longer a TA.

"Agent Thorne," she eventually spoke. "To what do I owe the pleasure?"

"Edmund Bray is dead, Bea. And so are Irida Kemp, and Dr. Vogel. I heard from a reliable source that you and Tau-51 were poking around where they found Angela. I think it would be best if we talked."


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