[ExI] a clean well-lighted challenge

Adrian Tymes atymes at gmail.com
Thu Sep 24 07:25:58 UTC 2015

On Tue, Sep 22, 2015 at 3:11 PM, spike <spike66 at att.net> wrote:
> Now, write a short story and teach me something.

Here's another, though you yourself might already know this lesson:


"When you fall and miss the ground, then and only then will you be in

Those were the master's words.  The apprentice mage had been so eager to
prove herself, so full of teenage ambition, that she headed right out to do
it.  After all, the rule was: any apprentice who made it to orbit and
returned alive became a journeyman.

Getting up there took a while, but kinetic control was a basic spell.
Surrounding herself with a bubble of air took a bit more figuring out, but
she had time to practice during her 300 kilometer ascent, and wound up not

Once at her destination, she could feel why just being up here, while
technically "in space", was dismissed by the masters: it took effort to
maintain her altitude if she just hovered like this, but orbit supposedly
let you stay up with no magic required.  She surveyed the world from her
high perch, attempting to figure out the riddle.

Her home planet stretched out beneath her, and when she beheld its beauty
she nearly lost concentration on her air bubble spell.  She had seen
pictures, of course, taken via arcanera from other travellers this high,
but they did not compare to seeing it first hand.  The curve of the horizon
caught her eye...

...and she smiled as the answer occurred to her.  The master never said she
had to fall straight down.

Shifting her kinetic control, she pushed herself forward.  Slightly down,
yes, but forward, and fast.  Faster.


On and on she poured on the acceleration, soon surpassing what on the
ground would have been the speed of sound.  She had been trained to measure
high air speed as a fraction of this, and her training kicked in now.

One times the speed of sound.  Two times.  Three.

By now she was focusing so much on accelerating that she let her hovering
spell cease, and the ground began to rush up.

Faster.  Five times the speed of sound.  Ten times.

Still the ground approached, though its approach began to slow.

Fifteen times.  Twenty!  Twenty five!

And the horizon slowed to a halt.

She was not certain of her exact speed, but judging by how fast the ground
moved under her, roughly twenty five times the speed of sound seemed
right.  She could feel herself falling, but falling forward, along the
planet's curvature.  By the time she fell enough to reach where the ground
had been, she had fallen around the planet, past the "edge of the world"
that was the horizon, and gravity now pulled in a new direction: still
"down", but "down" for a quarter of the way around the planet was ninety
degrees different.

Experimentally, she took out a quill and dropped it in front of her.  It
stayed still within her air bubble - or seemed to, until she realized it
was falling just like she was.  It was only relative to her that it was
effectively in practically zero gravity.

She let herself fall a few times around the world, lazily taking in the
view while only needing to keep her air bubble up, taking a few pictures
with her own arcanera to prove where she had been, before decelerating and
returning to the academy to claim her journeymanship.
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