Main Office (II)

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rating: +16+x

I leaned against the wall, breathing heavily with lungs that were not mine, bracing myself with an arm that bent at all the wrong angles and feeling for the life of me like anyone but myself.

I used to consider myself an educated woman. I’d spent countless nights staying up until 3:00 in the morning and memorized more anatomical diagrams and treatment regimens than even my fellow medical students.

But I had learned so much today. About a community of refugee scholars that pays its bills publishing trashy newsletters. About a galaxy and multiverse teeming with sentient life, and about the thousands of apocalyptic visions threatening literally all of it.

I knew focusing on any of that would only make me panic more, and I couldn’t do breathing exercises without my own lungs, so instead, I looked out the window.

The Main Office of the Wandsmen was an incredibly beautiful… Building? Complex? Planet? Dimension? I wasn’t sure which yet. Whatever it was it had windows that showed a massive forest dotted with little fields and quaint farm houses. Ivy climbed up trellises at regular intervals with flowers in glorious colors… some colors I hadn’t even been able to see before.

And the inside of the building was no slouch in the looks department either. The hallway outside the lecture theater was equipped with warm carpeting, wood paneled walls and plenty of benches and even couches and large cushions to sit on.

But there was no getting over what the building’s denizens were.

I liked birds. I had never had a problem with them. I’d had cute little chickadees nesting on my apartment’s windowsill one year and I’d considered myself lucky, chirping or no chirping.

But the birds in this place were not chickadees.

Some of them were attractive in a way. There were a few bluejays in the mix, some strange looking ducks who compensated for unattractive wattles with beautiful feathers, but those were the exceptions, not the rule.

Most of the birds had hideous features. Strange bald patches, wattles that looked like acne pustules and colors that ranged from muddy brown to dusty black. Even worse, they weren’t really birds. They were all… off. I would call them anthropomorphic, but that wasn’t the right word either. They were bipedal for the most part, but oddly hunched and twisted.

It was extremely odd. It felt like if they just stood up straight and carried themselves proudly they’d all look so much better.

But of course, none of them carried themselves proudly. Not one of them was any more comfortable in their new feathers than I was. That was the curse. The price of life.

“… Hey.” Came a voice.

I looked over my shoulder to see a large pigeon in one of those crappy student robes they’d dressed us all in. To my shock, he held out a friging vape pen.

“Want something to take the edge off?” He asked in one of the countless languages I now understood, but could not name.

I stared at him. I had reentered academia two hours ago and I was already being offered drugs.

I seriously considered it. I'd never been particularly drawn to cannabis, but all I wanted right now was to make the gears in my head grind just a little quieter. Still, as I thought about it, I found myself slipping into a different, much more comfortable role.

Forget being a vulture, or a wandswoman or whatever. For right now, I was a doctor. That's all that mattered.

“Very, very tempting.” I told the pigeon. “But we should be careful. There’s no telling how our new bodies will react to that stuff.”

He blinked at me, “What?”

I straightened myself up. I knew I wasn’t going to be able to wow this guy with my smarts or anything, but I could at least be a bit more composed. “I’m not confident in my knowledge of much of anything right now to be honest, but I spent a long time studying how different drugs affected my species. That said, we both have a brand new biochemical makeup I’d rather not put anything in myself that I haven’t had a chance to study.”

The pigeon man’s feathers slicked in discomfort. “I… I admit I hadn’t thought of that. They said we were immune to most poisons, but…”

I cupped the vape in his claws and met his gaze. “There was a guy a long time ago named Paracelsus who said it best: ‘all things are poison, and nothing is without poison; the dosage alone makes it so a thing is not a poison.’”

I gestured to my vulture like body. “I dunno how much of this shit is running on fairy dust and how much of it’s running on chemistry, but until I can clarify all that I’m not taking any chances, and neither should you.”

He stared at me, I swear I could see a thousand concerns rolling through his eyes. “…Thank you.”

“Making friends?” Came another voice.

I turned around to see an owl creature in a clean, simple, green dress walk over to greet us.

I smiled as much as I could manage with my new beak. “I was wondering where you were, Frasia. I thought you’d abandoned me there.”

Frasia was better at smiling with a beak than I was and it reached her eyes with ease. “I never meant to leave you for long. What kind of vector would I be if I left you twisting in the wind after your first class?” She frowned, “But I do have to ask that you call me Tell-14 when we’re in public. Remember, names have power.”

I winced. In the mental swamp of all I’d learned today it had completely slipped my mind. “Sorry about that… What’s a vector?”

“It just means the person who brought you on board.” Tell-14 explained. “Most of us like to keep track of our proteges.”

“Indeed we do.” Said a cassowary appearing behind the pigeon.

I admit, I started a bit. When I say he appeared, I mean I blinked and he was there the next moment.

The cassowary laughed. “I see you’re still getting used to teleportation. Don’t worry dear, you’ll have plenty of time.”

Frasia looked far less amused. “Kassar,” she said, crossing her winged arms. “What brings you here?”

There seemed to be some sort of history between these two, but there was a detail I wanted to clarify. “Kasar? Is that your wandsman name?” I knew that when there was only one Wandsman from a planet they just used the place name, but I wasn’t sure if that was the case here.

The cassowary bowed. “My dear, my full name is Kassar Ji'leth, The Fifth Wandsman of Xing, Scrivener of Secrets and Delver of Truth.”

I raised an eyebrow at that. “You’re one of those name magicians they were talking about in class?” Apparently size mattered with those.

“Indeed,” he replied, beaming at me. “I knew you Earth scroll bearers would be quick on the uptick.”

“Kassar, what do you want?” Frasia asked, gesturing to the room. “We’re kind of in the middle of something.”

“Yes,” he said, slipping a wing around the pigeon who’d offered me weed. “We are indeed. May I introduce to you my new recruit, the Two Hundred and Thirty Fifth Wandsman of Sirt.”

Frasia looked genuinely surprised. “You became a vector? You went out recruiting?”

Kassar shrugged. “Don’t be so shocked! I recognized talent when I see it, and Sirt-235 is one of the most promising thaumaturgists I’ve ever met.”

Sirt-235’s doughy pigeon eyes widened. “You really mean it?”

“Of course he doesn’t.” Came a new voice.

A cuckoo appeared beside us, holding claws with a bald eagle who looked like she wanted to be anywhere else. He was far from the most flashy bird in the hallway, wearing a simple lab coat, buttoned up shirt and slacks. But he had a strange gold medallion with a large red gem in the center of it that… I don’t know. Something was wrong with it, but I couldn’t place what.

The cuckoo turned to Sirt-235 and gave him a level look. “Your vector is a dangerous manipulator and con artist. You should get as far away from him as possible as quickly as possible.”

The cassowary crossed his arms. “Jack, You really don’t-”

The cuckoo ignored him and turned to Frasia. “I need a favor Tell-14.”

Frasia looked completely nonplussed. “What could I possibly do that you couldn’t?”

Jack (apparently) gestured to the eagle shrinking at his side. “I need you to watch over this one.”

I stared at him. “What?”

Frasia stared at him. “Jack, what are you talking about? That’s *your* protege.”

“Look,” Jack asked. “Can we talk somewhere private?”

Frasia sighed and turned to me. “Are you going to be okay if I step out for a few minutes?”

I nodded. “I… I guess so?”

Kassar spoke up, “I’d be happy to watch over our new recruits if you two have some catching up to do.”

“No!” The other two Wandsmen said in unison.

Kassar groaned. “Really you two, I don’t know what I’ve done to earn your ire, but-”

The cuckoo cut him off. “If you shut up for twenty minutes and stay where I can see you, I’ll give you thirty minutes of my time after.”

The cassowary stopped talking and pulled out his map of the multiverse. “Lead the way.”

There was clearly a lot going on beneath the surface of this conversation that I was going to ask Frasia about in detail later, but I decided to play along for the moment. “I can keep an eye on these two.”

Forget being a wandswoman or a vulture or whatever. Now I needed to be a parent.

The seasoned Wandsmen gave us a nod and vanished, leaving us newbies reeling.

Sirt-235 blinked at the empty space. “Did… did either of you know what that was all about?”

The eagle shook her head and I just sighed. “Y’all want to see if there’s a place to sit down?”


So the three of us ended up sitting at a table in what I can only describe as a charming little campus cafe.

Despite the extremely alien clientele, they actually had coffee. The mug the barista had given me had come straight out of a weird looking vending machine, but it was still a shockingly competent mocha, complete with a pretty little snowflake pattern on top and the tiniest dollop of whipped cream.

Sirt-235 looked down at his mug (which smelled like hot cider if it was made with lemon… if that made any sense) and let out a long breath. “So… I guess this is our life now.”

I took a sip of my mocha. It, at least, was a comfort. “If it makes you feel any better I’m 100% certain that Fra- I mean Tell-14 will explain everything when she comes back.” I turned to the bald eagle. She was sipping on a rootbeer float and hadn’t said a word since we met her. “So… Do you have a name?”

The bald eagle reached into her robe’s pocket and pulled out a little spiral notepad and a ballpoint pen. She wrote down something, thought for a moment, then scribbled it out and wrote something else down. She showed it to me.

I squinted. “The Second Wandswoman of Terra?” I asked.

The eagle nodded.

Sirt looked confused. “I don’t want to pry or anything, but did something happen with your transformation? I thought all wandsmen could make a variety of vocalizations.”

“I’m still not used to making the sounds. It’s… weird.” Terra-2 replied, in a voice as light as a feather.

I felt a twinge of sympathy. I’d met a lot of people who had problems with their vocal chords or tongues in my medical career. She’d most likely had a similar issue or had been deaf before she transformed.

I thought about it… If we knew every language…

I spread my talons out and shaped them carefully, in a way that almost felt like second nature. “Is this better?” I signed in ASL.

Her eyes widened and she broke out into a grin. “Yes!” She signed back. “It’s so nice to meet you! Why didn’t I think of that earlier!”

“It’s okay,” I signed back, “I’m still getting used to the new stuff too.”

“This is actually really cool!” Sirt signed.

“Yeah, it’s not bad.” I signed back.

Honestly with everything going on I hadn’t even thought about all the new languages I'd learned. It was beyond bizarre, but it felt… positive. Comforting. Maybe it shouldn’t have been, but it was nice to feel my horizons expanding.

Granted, with how much they had expanded in the last few days I think my brain had stretch marks, but still, I’d take my positives where I could get them.

“I just had a great idea!” Sirt said, abandoning sign language for the moment. “We should form a study group!”

I blinked at him. “A study group?”

He seemed to notice how exuberant he was being and pulled back, scratching at the back of his neck. “I mean… I don’t really know anyone else in our class and I guess our vectors have a whole thing to sort out, but you two seem cool! And if we’re going to try and figure all this wandsmen stuff out it just… kinda makes sense to do it together?”

I thought about that. I didn’t know these two from a hole in the ground, but… well, I didn’t know anyone here from a hole in the ground. And if I was going to be a student again…

“Sure, I'm game.” I said, smiling softly.

Terra-2 nodded eagerly.

Sirt let out a happy coo. “Alright then! Together the three of us will-”

Suddenly, the curtain between dimensions parted, and all three of our vectors popped into existence right next to our table.

“We’ve been talking," The cuckoo said, putting his map away. "And we’ve decided that you three should form a study group.”

We all just stared at them.

Finally Terra just signed “Way ahead of you Dr. Bright.


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