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Deal 1064: The Loose Page

The scrape of page was musty, and not made of the usual sort of pulp paper found in books around here. It was crumpled in the gutter among the other debris and detritus that remained as the flood waters receded. Something about it drew the eye. I snatched it up, smoothed it out, and began to read:

TimeScout Handbook

With your transit device in hand, we welcome you to this elite branch of Scouting.

You will learn to be good custodians of Time, balancing the urge to act against the need to know what action is best.

Of course, there are risks involved too. The obvious urge to mess with one’s own Grandparents is obvious, and easy to avoid. But how well do you really know your family tree?

Before embarking on the flow of time, you will take an oath to make only changes that you can justify to authorities.

While traveling you enjoy some perks. You will be harder to injure. You will have an emergency escape

I turned at looked at the scene around me. Somewhere, someone had to be responsible. Now I knew someone had been meddling. It was time to begin to lay my trap.

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Deal 1060: Rats

The rats in the walls are smarter than they look. They may not talk much, but they listen. And they hear a lot. After all, who suspects that a rat might be listening? And even if they suspect the rat, who imagines that the rat understands?

Of course, to carry information out, the rats need to learn to write, which you already know.

They are almost due for another round of alternatives.

With the right tech selected, the rats can carry their messages further and faster.

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Deal 1048: Glimpses

spiked all over
hardly any safe approach
unless it’s pumpkin

Facing down the wild porcupine on the patio naturally fell to me, and swiftly became an ad-hoc training exercise. Something unpleasant to do? Let Sydney do it — its probably good for him anyway.

This would have been a lot harder to do if I hadn’t remembered seeing once that they are suckers for ripe squash.

After that, it was nearly docile enough to pick up. But even I’m not quite that stupid. I led it away down a garden path, then to the edge, and beyond with scraps of squash.

calm and collected
washing all the window glass
without any ropes

More exercises!

I guess Gwen had always wanted to wash the upper windows, but never got around to it. Having a student provided the opportunity.

And yet, there was precious little in the way of safety equipment available. I was expected to be graceful, coordinated, balanced, and not miss a pane. Or perhaps, use this as incentive to learn how to access my powers.

rampage and conquer
even strings can’t stop me now
the world will be mine

We agreed not to discuss my one attempt at self-animated puppetry.

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Deal 1025: Shiny but not real enough

The mirror had one job, and it cracked. Of course, showing a cockatrice its own reflection it a lot to ask of any mirror. And that leaves Sydney trapped in the maze with one more cockatrice running free, and without the tool he needs to make escape possible.

Syd arrived at this predicament in the usual way. He answered an ad.

“Explorers wanted. No pay. Some risk. Must provide own sword. Knock twice on the second door.”

In the modern world, what could that mean other than an offer to play a game? Or perhaps it was just a coded message drop and the phone number was not real. But the number was real, and the guy who answered sounded real enough too. Syd was heavily into gaming, and had a habit to feed, so he showed up at the virtually unmarked warehouse right on schedule, his trusty handmade longsword strapped to his back, where it had gathered stares all the way there on his bike.

He’d put a lot of work into that sword. It was made out of a stiff but lightweight thermoplastic, bonded to an aluminized mylar layer that let light from the internal ultrabright LED lights shine through the engraved scrollwork and runes that ran down the length of the blade. It could be turned up bright enough to appear to glow in daylight, and at night it could be blinding. The batteries and controls were in the handle for balance.

So when he stepped into the dimly lit, dusty warehouse, Syd was confident that his magical sword was interesting enough to protect him.

He didn’t expect to find a portal to another world waiting.

A world where magic worked.

A world where his pitiful imitation of enchantment was doomed to fail.

A world where the power of story forces the role of barbarian hero on even a nerdy weakling if he steps out in leathers and an apparently enchanted sword. Sydney quickly discovered his mistake.

And that brings us back to the maze. After the dust settled from his first encounter with a raiding party, they threw him into the catacombs under the town’s temple, and told him that he had to find an exit from the maze and return alive, or he might as well just let any of its many denizens kill and eat him. Worse, just returning alive was not going to be enough. He had to return the hero he appeared to be.

His only hope is that he can find a way to survive his fate while avoiding the remaining creatures. Actually enchanting his plastic sword to be sharp and deadly would be icing on a cake he knows he has no chance of seeing.

But he has hope.

And a shiny, glowing sword. Which might be enough to scare the next cockatrice.

So Syd abandoned the pieces of the useless broken mirror where he sat, finished off his last Snickers Bar, and bravely set off to see what lurked around the next corner.