Quicksilver poisoning was a nasty thing.
There was a fairly extensive section on it in Dexter’s textbook.
One of the nastier things it did was kill you, but if you didn’t die, it could leave you with a whole host of unpleasant symptoms. Depending on how much one ingested, it could cause victims to lose feeling in their limbs and skin, cause itching or a sensation like insects crawling through one’s flesh, or worse: permanently damage the mind.
Those effects were increased and worsened when mana was present within a quicksilver solution: tissue would swell, the body would overheat until it actually began to burn itself, and coordination and balance would be forever impaired.
Quicksilver was just one of many substances that Dexter’s textbook had cautioned about, especially when infusing it with mana, unless one had the proper stabilization agents already present to negate the toxicity.
It was obvious that this poor bastard had negated nothing.
“The kit!” Professor Jules barked, crouching beside the choking student.
Alex rushed up beside her—passing by a sign stating: ‘no running in the lab’. “Here it is!”
He opened it, looking at the contents. “What do you need?”
“The emergency mana reducing agent and the aerolizer!” she said quickly. “Then the Potion of Neutralizing Toxins! Quickly, ah wait, her-”
She paused, seeing that Alex had already thrust the aerolizer and small bottle of mana reducing agent into her hand, and was drawing up the potion of neutralizing agents, seeming to follow the specific instructions in the textbook for preparing it. She had no way of knowing that The Mark was enhancing his memory of what he’d read in the text.
Professor Jules wasted no time in attaching the bottle of mana reducing agent to the aerolizer, then tore off the young man’s face mask. “Oh no. I feared as much.”
A silver liquid stained his lips.
Frowning, she quickly pressed the leather cup-shaped applicator of the aerolizer over his nose and lips and then flicked a glyph-marked switch. The aerolizer hissed, drawing the liquid reducing agent into itself then vapourizing it and passing it through the applicator.
The vapour rushed through the young man’s open mouth and nostrils.
He shuddered, and Alex felt the mana shift around the poisoning victim.
It was like the dispelling spell that Professor Jules had cast over him, but far more focused in its effect. As the mana infusing the quicksilver was wiped away, the aggravated effects of the poisoning lessened. The young man began to cough, and Professor Jules turned him onto his side so he could cough up anything that had started to form in his lungs.
Alex handed the potion of neutralizing toxins to the professor and held out his hand for the empty bottle of mana reducing agent. They exchanged bottles and he turned to the closest student. “Here, can you put this in the glass bin?”
The student blinked, looking back and forth for a moment before taking the bottle and scurrying off.
As the toxin neutralizing agent was vapourized into the young man’s lungs, his laboured breathing lessened, and his profuse sweating and skin flushing started to reduce. He heaved another heavy cough.
Professor Jules sighed, looking somewhat relieved, and adjusted his arms and legs into what she explained was the ‘recovery position’: which would let him rest without danger of rolling or choking on his own spit or vomit.
Reaching into a pouch on her belt, she drew out an odd-looking stone disk with a series of glyphs drawn on it, then she concentrated on it. Alex looked on as he sensed a complex web of mana shoot from the stone in a line that travelled through the floor and reached outside of the room.
From the whispers he heard around him, some of the other students had felt it too.
“Emergency office? This is Professor Jules!” she barked into the stone. The mana web vibrated with each of her words. “We have someone who ingested quicksilver from an improperly balanced Potion of Running Enhancement.”
There was a sound of tinkling glass and the invisible mana web vibrated again. A voice croaked out of the stone.
“What treatment has he received?”
“A mana reducer and a toxin neutralizer,” she said quickly.
“Alright. Which Cell?”
“Understood, sending a team up.”
The invisible mana web broke apart from the stone, and Professor Jules looked back to the class. Her eyes were like stone.
“Alright, I want all of you to turn off your flames, siphon the mana from your incomplete potions and go to the other side of the classroom. Now.”
Her voice didn’t leave any room for questions or hesitation.
Most of the students hadn’t even finished cleaning up their stations when the emergency team arrived. They were serious looking folk with satchels with a symbol of two snakes curling around a tower on them.
They bent over the young man and began a quick efficient examination, then one of them cast a modified version of forcedisk to lift the student into the air.
“H-How does it look?” Professor Jules asked.
One of them turned to her and spoke in a clipped manner. “He received what he needed early and fast enough. Hopefully, it was enough to neutralize the toxin and there won’t be permanent damage. But, we won’t know until we do some tests. We’ll have to do a chelation treatment as a precaution. When can you come down to file the incident reports?”
“I will be down shortly.”
She watched them take the student from the room, and then whirled on the class, her eyes narrowing on the other young man who was friends with the victim. “What. Happened?”
“I…” The young man’s eyes darted behind his mask. “I don’t…”
“Before you continue with your answer,” she said. “Know that they are going to examine your friend. I already saw the potion coating his lips, and they will find its traces in him. If you lie about what happened, then know that it will be worse for him, but also bad for you when it comes to disciplinary action.”
“He uh…” the young man swallowed loudly. “He uh, thought it’d be funny to sip it. Like a dare! H-he…I tried to tell him not to-”
Alex didn’t know the young man, but even he could tell that he was lying.
“-but he thought it’d be fine. I didn’t think he’d do it! He even thought it might make him work faster because it was a potion that made you faster.”
Alex glanced at Carey who glanced back at him. The story didn’t make much sense: it wouldn’t be much of a dare if someone dared themselves.
Professor Jules didn’t look like she bought it either. “You should go see your friend: the infirmary will need to know what happened and how. You...witnessed it.”
The young man winced, and quickly removed his safety gear and scurried out of the lab. As he did, Alex noticed Derek watching him. His eyes shifted, noticing Alex, then quickly looked away.
Professor Jules looked at all of them. “Let this be a lesson to you all. Potions are not wine. They are not ale or spirits or whatever people brew in dorm rooms these days.”
She eyed them all steadily. “Incomplete potions can and have killed before. That young man will, at the least, be banned from the lab for the rest of the semester, which means he will fail the practical portion of POTI-1000. And that is a lucky outcome. He might have liver damage—which means no more wine for him—or even other organ damage. Or his mana pool might have been affected, ruining any aspirations he has for wizardry. Today, you will go back and you will finish your labs. If I see even a hint of foolishness, I will not hesitate to have you removed for a period of time at my discretion. Now, get back to work.”
She glanced at Alex. “Stay behind after class.”
Alex froze, slowly looking at Carey.
Carey simply shrugged.
“Are you alright?” Professor Jules pulled off her mask, revealing a wizened face drenched with sweat. Her white hair was limp against her scalp. “That was a fairly rough situation.”
“Me?” Alex asked.
He took a deep breath—like he did when practicing meditation—and mentally checked his body. He hadn’t noticed at the time, but his heart was pumping pretty hard. The event had shaken him a little. It made sense: he had just witnessed someone nearly die in The Cells.
“I uh…thanks for asking, I guess,” he said. “Uh, are you okay?”
“Hm, me?” Professor Jules blinked. “Er, yes. Yes I am. This has happened before.”
“Oh my yes, at least once every couple of years. Come, walk with me. I have to be at the Emergency Office. And you’ll likely have to fill out some paperwork as well, since you were involved in the initial first aid.”
“Alrighty,” Alex focused, conjuring his forceball and hanging his books from it.
He paused when he noticed her looking at it. “Uh…” He pointed to the basket. “You want some forceball? It’s got room in the basket if you want to put some of your things in, professor.”
“Hah, I can carry my own things,” she said, shouldering her bag and stepping out through the door.
They walked through The Cells together—quietly at first—and Alex thought he heard the scuffling of feet down the hall. When he looked, however, he saw no one there. He noted to himself to listen carefully, but The Cells weren’t really conducive to picking up a single quiet noise out of so many others.
Today in particular seemed to be a…busy time.
From Cell-210, smoke billowed that sparkled as though it were laced with shining gems too small for the eye to see. Cell-213 exuded a foul stench, and he could swear he heard enormous hooves scraping against the stone floor within.
There was a heavy impact somewhere behind the iron door of Cell-219—like something gigantic was throwing its full weight against an object somewhere behind the door—but Professor Jules paid it no mind.
He supposed she would be well-used to that sort of thing by now. With a bit of a surprise, he realized he was starting to get used to it himself. At roughly two months into his time at Generasi, he found himself still amazed by certain things, but others had started to become commonplace.
One could only see so many benches in a day that crawled and spoke before they just started to blend into the background. It was too bad, in a way. He remembered when he was very young and absolutely everything was new and utterly fascinating. To his young imagination, every darkened shadow beneath a bridge held a troll, fairies would be dwelling behind every tree in a forest, every rustle in the dead of night was the beat of a dragon’s wings.
As he grew, though, the fantastic mystery of everyday things faded away. Maybe that had been why he’d been so attracted to books: in the everyday routine of Alric, they had been some of the few things that offered continued mysteries, learning and wonder.
He hoped magic would never get to a point where it’d all become no more fantastical to him than putting on his own shoes, or the health of his neighbour’s cow. What had still fascinated him, though, were devices like he’d just seen in the lab. The aerolyzer was able to fill the lungs of the young student without needing to pour a potion down his throat. The stone that Professor Jules used to communicate with the emergency office was even more fascinating: it removed the need for letters, runners and messengers.
Theresa was still waiting for a letter back from her parents; how much easier would it have been if she could’ve simply picked up a fancy rock and used it to speak to them? He glanced at the Professor as they neared the stairs.
“Professor, what was that stone? The one you used to speak to the office downstairs?” he asked.
“Oh, that. That is a far-speaker,” she said, pulling the stone back out for him to see. “A clever little invention: it transfers one’s voice to a sister-stone located elsewhere.”
“Does it do it by using that web of mana that comes out of it? It vibrated whenever you or the person you were speaking to said something.”
She looked at him in surprise. “You sensed that?”
“Well, it’s not an easy thing for most first years to pick up, unless they’re rather advanced in mana manipulation.” She paused. “…which, I suppose you are. I spoke with Professor Val’Rok...he told me some of what you've been up to in his class.”
Alex paused. “Oh, what did he say?”
“He said that you managed to light up two glyphs on two boxes at once?”
Alex coughed awkwardly.
At the rate he was going, he’d have four glyphs lit on both boxes soon.
“Y-yeah,” he said. “But I only lit two.”
“Only ended up lighting two at the same time? Do you know how big of an accomplishment that is? Good lord, that box gave me actual nightmares when I was a student! You have a rather rare gift-” she started.
Alex blinked. Cedric’s words to him when they’d met had been almost identical.
“-for mana manipulation, and you have skill and diligence when it comes to the careful work required for crafting potions. Considering what you’ve done with the box? I’d like to make you an offer.”