Sorry, sorry, I’m so sorry!” the grad student called as he rushed down the hall, already fumbling with his keys. “The tutorial went too long again, and there were just so many questions to answer and…my apologies!”
Alex sighed, using his meditative techniques to keep himself calm as Amir opened the Cell and let them both in. He felt another surge of irritation when he saw the glowing timekeeper on the wall.
They were even later than the last time, and to make matters worse, Alex was supposed to brew a potion that he was not only very excited about, but was more complex than the Potion of Haste.
A Potion of Flight.
The process was going to take longer, possibly cutting down his dungeon core analysis time even more.
“Well, I suppose we should get the extra equipment you’ll need for this one,” Amir said.
Alex only gave a short response, already trying to plan out how to get what he wanted done in the time that was left.
By the time they’d carried the delicate equipment back to the lab, the only thing that Alex was brewing was a rising rage. They’d gotten all the way to the supply station only to learn that the last manometer hadn’t been returned yet.
The two of them had to wait there—making awkward small talk while Alex fought off frustration—until at last a harried upper year student brought the crucial piece of equipment back.
It was like Uldar himself was conspiring against him and his plans.
He shook the thought away.
Anger had its place, but the only thing it would do right now would be to slow him down further and make him make mistakes. He quickly got to work—conjuring two Wizard’s Hands—as soon as the equipment was set up and Amir had sat down.
The key to a Potion of Flight was that it changed the sort of magical ‘buoyancy’ that someone had, allowing the ambient mana in the air, the mana within the potion, and the mana within the person to combine and lift them off the ground. The mana within the potion would then provide propulsion when anyone who consumed it wanted to take flight and—as the potion’s effects began to fade—the mana buoyancy would remain long enough to bring them floating back to the earth as though they were as light as a feather. It was a built-in safeguard just in case the flyer overestimated their flight time.
In order to control the flyer’s direction, a temporary ‘mana organ’ would form in their spirit, allowing them to steer to where they wanted to go like the wheel and rudder of a ship would.
The change in buoyancy was caused by one of the potion’s ingredients: dandelion seeds. One would need to take the seeds from dandelions—which shed their petals to allow their seeds to fly through the air—liquify them using a mana solvent and then gradually change the viscosity of the result until it was slightly thinner than water. Only then would it combine with other ingredients and produce the magical buoyancy altering effect.
Another ingredient—puffball spores—would need to be examined through the piccoscope to make sure that the brewing process had completely bound their tiny particles to the other ingredients. If it didn’t, then the ‘mana organ’ that governed flight control, would degrade long before the rest of the potion left one’s system. The result would be that flight would be maintained, but one would lose all control of direction, speed or elevation.
In particularly gruesome cases where the ‘mana organ’ was defective or had failed, potion-drinkers suffered catastrophic injuries, or died when they’d lost control of their flight direction and parts of their bodies were pulled in more than one direction at once.
If someone was trying to direct their body to fly straight, but directed their arms in two directions at once…
The dangerous nature of a badly formed ‘mana organ’ also provided an interesting possibility for offensive use, though. If he could find a way—and he had several possible paths—to make the potion turn into a gas upon contact with air, say when its container burst upon impact after being thrown, it could make for an interesting gaseous weapon.
Maybe by constructing a gas state Potion of Flight where the puffball essence didn’t bind to the other ingredients properly, that could give whoever breathed it in mana buoyancy for a short period where they’d have no control over flight. The possibilities against an attacker were intriguing. He could see them getting caught by surprise and suddenly launching into the air, and taking themselves out of a fight, or levitating and crashing into a wall or something.
The nice part would be that giving an enemy the power of flight, wouldn’t be doing them direct harm, which should get by The Mark’s complaints. The ingredients for a Potion of Flight were also cheap and plentiful: the reason the potion wasn’t so commonly used was because it was an extremely finicky one to construct, and spells of flight were far easier since they called for simply building the right spell array.
After a Potion of Flight was complete, one would need to test its mana conductivity to make sure that it was at a certain level. Too little mana conductivity, and the potion wouldn’t generate enough power to allow one to move through the air, even if they were ‘mana buoyant’.
Too much mana conductivity, and it would burn through the energies too quickly: the potion-drinker could achieve incredible flight speeds for a few seconds—burn through the remaining mana that kept them buoyant—and then promptly plummet to the ground.
If he could make it into a gas, he should be able to also weaponize the speed aspect of the potion: a flight of extreme speed combined with zero control would be highly useful in a number of ways. It could send a creature speeding into things or shooting hundreds of feet into the air, only to plunge those hundreds of feet heartbeats later.
But, before any of that could happen, he would need to actually prepare the Potion of Flight properly.
He quickly organized the ingredients and began by liquifying the dandelion seeds. The potion made a satisfying hiss over the heat source—giving off an aroma like dandelion tea—as he liquified it, using his mana conductor to stir it and guide the reaction.
Visually inspecting it—and from time to time raising the flask up to roll the potion back and forth across its bottom—he eventually determined that it was close to the correct viscosity. The liquid shot back and forth across the glass even faster than distilled water would. Good. Time for a viscosity test, and he wouldn’t only be testing his potion.
He removed the flask from the heat source and cut the flame.
Slipping the small bottle of liquified dungeon core remains into his palm, he took a quick glance back at his supervisor. He paused. Amir…did not look good.
As he had done during Alex’s previous lab, he was bent over some paperwork—whether he was marking or doing something else, Alex couldn’t tell—but he seemed distracted. He glanced at the timekeeper almost as much as Alex did. Perhaps even more.
While he divided his attention between Alex and his work, he also fidgeted in his chair and stared off as if in a deep contemplation.
Eventually, he noticed Alex looking at him. “Hm? Something I can help you with?”
“No, no,” Alex said quickly. “Just noticed it was quiet back there. Wondered if you’d left.”
Amir gave a quick smile. “Oh I wouldn’t just abandon you like that,” he glanced at the door. “How is the potion going?”
“Um, just fine,” Alex said. “Just about to test its viscosity. I’m between steps right now.”
“Really?” Amir half-rose from his seat, quickly walking over to the experiment. He nodded. “Good progress.” He glanced at the timekeeper. “Listen…would you mind holding off on testing the viscosity for a moment?”
He gave an embarrassed look. “Had to get here in a hurry and I just need to use the lav for a moment. I know you’ve had enough time taken from you, but I promise I shouldn’t be more than a few minutes.”
“Oh, couldn’t I just test the viscosity while you’re gone?” Alex asked.
“Have you ever used a viscometric device before?” Amir asked.
“No,” Alex admitted.
“Then no, I should be around for any parts of the experiment where you’re using new equipment and a reaction might go awry or where equipment might fail. I’ll be back shortly. If you need to run anything through the mana spectrometer, though, you can do that. Same if you need to test anything with Kamookak’s Moss: those are hard to blow yourself up with, and I’ve seen you use those before. They should be alright.” He winced. “Again, sorry to take even more of your time.”
Alex’s eyes flicked toward the timekeeper. “It’s alright,” he said quickly. “Take all the time you need, when you gotta go you gotta go.”
An odd look passed over Amir’s face.
He looked away for a moment as something like a flash of guilt passed through his eyes.
“Right, I’ll be right back,” he said quickly, moving to the door.
Alex watched him go as he prepared both the mana spectrometer and Kamookak’s Moss, looking like he was busying himself.
The door shut behind him.
A rush of nerves and excitement shot through him all at once as he looked at the timekeeper while his Wizard’s Hands prepped the mana spectrometer and the manohmeter.
This was a golden opportunity: he might be able to complete two steps of the dungeon core analysis in the time that Amir was gone if he moved quickly and precisely. Not wasting time constantly looking over his shoulder to see if his supervisor was seeing him analyzing the core remains, would definitely speed things up.
He dropped the liquified dungeon core substance into the mana spectrometer and set it to run for the time needed to analyze a fourth-tier potion or equivalent substance, which was fifty-two seconds. Hopefully, that would be enough.
He turned on the device and let it run, then prepared a sample of his incomplete flight potion.
He turned to the manohmeter. It would test a substance’s level of mana conductivity by running several currents of mana through it to precisely measure both the speed through which mana travelled through a substance, as well as how much mana was lost during the transfer of the mana running through the substance.
Although Amir didn’t specifically give him permission to use that particular device, Alex had used a manohmeter a handful of times during first semester. While he didn’t trust himself to run a test with the viscometric device—since he’d only read about them—while Amir was away, he felt comfortable enough to run the manohmeter.
Besides, if Amir came back and caught him using the device and questioned him about it, it’d be easier to smooth things over since he’d had previous experience with it.
The manohmeter automatically suspended the substance. For this test he decided to use the dungeon core’s substance in its solid form: for many magical substances, the liquefaction process actually lessened their mana conductivity, so performing the test on it in its natural state, would give the most accurate reading.
Listening carefully for the sound of Amir’s footsteps coming from the hall—though that was a largely futile gesture as Cells were fairly, but not completely, soundproof—he dumped a bit of the powder into the collection cup of the manohmeter and set the two magic-diodes on either side of the cup to run the mana current through.
The manohmeter made a cheery, pleasant hum as he turned it on and let it do its thing. He turned back to the door.
No Amir yet.
The mana spectrometer finished his analysis and he took the read-out.
He swore. More of the dungeon core’s make-up was present in those delineated bands of colour, but there was still a portion of the read-out that was still a scrambled mess. It needed more time.
Running it for the time needed for a fifth-tier potion would take a minute and twenty-two seconds: not much time in general, but a large amount of time when one was trying to analyze a mysterious substance before their supervisor got back from the lav.
No sense in wasting time. He’d turn it on, then go wait by the door. If he heard Amir’s steps, he’d use Wizard’s Hand to abort the process and try again another time.
The manohmeter was still running, anyway.
He set the mana spectrometer then quickly crossed the room, listening at the door with an ear pressed to it.
“Alright, so,” he said to himself. “Amir seems alright. Attentive, helpful…just chronically late. Late all the time to the labs. He said he was going to come back from the lav as quickly as he could but hey, it’s Amir. Amir is always late. What’re the odds that he’s going to come back out of nowhere, uncharacteristically earl…”
He told himself he was imagining things.
Pressing his ear closer to the door, he gave a sharp intake of breath.
Through the door he heard approaching footsteps at a familiar, quick pace.
“Oh, by The Traveller,” Alex muttered, glancing at the timekeeper. “The one time you’re coming back when you said you would be.”
He glanced at the timekeeper.
Five seconds left on the mana spectrometer and the manohmeter was done.
He’d have to move fast.