They performed the unraveling inside the Temple, which was extremely unusual, and required one of those "Think Alike" group decisions to be reached. But the Great Minds had gone ahead and allowed both a Dirtamancer and a Dollamancer inside the sanctuary, in order to hide the details from Charlie when they examined the linked caster’s though.
Two Thinkamancers – Pamelor and Roger – teamed up with Isaac for the procedure. They first had to blind Ace and Sizemore with Lookamancy, before leading them inside. Then each Thinkamancer stood behind them, lightly pinching the backs of their necks, acting as a “conductor.”
Parson didn’t know if that was more like a train conductor or an electrical conductor – or an orchestra conductor, even – but he knew not to ask. He sat there on the white stone floor in silence, watching the six of them for the better part of an hour. Their faces twitched from time to time, but nobody made a sound. Other Thinkamancers got up from their chairs and sofas, and wandered around, staring at nothing.
He had no indication of how they were doing. They might have been unlocking the secrets of the universe in there. They might be going insane.
Eventually, Ace let out a puff of air through his lips, as if he’d been holding his breath for a long time. Sizemore grunted softly, and fell to one knee, hanging his head down low. Maggie, for her part, stood as placid and poised as she ever did. She had let go of the other caster’s hands. Her eyes were open, and no longer glowed blue.
Parson climbed to his feet.
“Everything fine,” sent Isaac, turning to face Parson. “It’s a successful uncoupling.”
The Chief Warlord almost spoke, but caught himself. “That’s great,” he subvocalized. “Maggie, you’re okay?”
Maggie looked drained, but she nodded to him. “Unharmed, Lord,” she sent, “and largely unscrambled.”
“They look pretty out of it, though,” sent Parson, gesturing at Ace and Sizemore, who appeared lost and disoriented. Not only were they blind, but they wouldn’t be hearing the telepathy words that were being in here, either. He had no way to ask them how they were.
“They need to go,” sent Roger.
Switchboard pings of assent from the other Thinkamancers.
“They should sleep,” sent Isaac to Parson. “They’ll be well in the morning.”
Parson nodded once. “Okay, lets get them to their quarters,” he sent, “but then I want to know wha-all you learned.”
Parson sat on the edge of the bed, which creaked under him like a catapult being readied to launch. Ulcch, this bed. He didn’t mind being back in the Magic Kingdom again, but the Ritz-Carlton suite he’d been sleeping in had kind of wrecked him for returning to the Roach Motel here.
“It doesn’t take orders, right?” he said to Isaac, “So it’s gonna be making its own decisions. It’s autonomous. And sentient. Doesn’t that mean it could also be dangerous?”
Maggie, seated in the chair by the desk, was shaking her head.
Isaac gave him a bemused smile. “You know, it’s interesting,” he said. The Headmaster was speaking aloud now, standing beside Maggie and the desk (he’d insisted that standing up made him the most comfortable). “We don’t think about Loyalty as an aspect of a city, do we? The owner of a city sort of takes its ‘Loyalty’ as a given. But give the city a mind… and perhaps a will… and then you have to start asking questions like, ‘could it turn?’ What a fascinating cosmic permutation that is.”
“Um, yeah, “ said Parson, glancing at Maggie. “I mean, it is interesting. But, uh, we’re into my Duty and Loyalty and all that, now. ‘Cause remember, I just left my Ruler there with it. I kinda need to know if it’s a threat to him.”
“He’s safe, Lord,” assured Maggie. “Safer than ever.”
“I think it has a very strong sense of Loyalty, actually,” said Isaac. “Your casters uncovered something primal about Erfworld, that cities in a sense like to be owned. That they enjoy being fought over. I’d say it’s something important to our understanding of Erfworld.”
Parson put his elbows on his thighs, staring down at the floor in thought. “Erfworld is weird,” he said, almost to himself. For a few moments, he chewed over the explanation that Isaac and Maggie had given him about the tower’s function.It amounted to this: Sizemore’s understanding of the tower as a base component of the “Dirtament” of Erfworld- the intersection of the Matter element with the Erf axis- was revealed to the other casters in the linkup. From that new perspective, Maggie saw something which she recognized as manipulable by Thinkamancy, and she gave it (or awakened in it, he wasn’t clear on that) some form of conciousness. Ace and Sizemore used their golem-making and city-shaping powers to let the tower choose a form for itself, so long as it conformed to the Tool’s last-second order to make it ugly and scary.
The result was a tower that actively wanted what you’d expect a tower wants: to stand and protect the city. But given a will, and an unknown set of unique, elemental powers, it was now going to be making its own decisions about what constituted “protecting” Spacerock.
Isaac tilted his head, but said nothing.
“My problem with the tower is that the Signamancy there isn’t great. It says something to me like ‘this is an old god you have awakened, mortal! Bewaaaaare!” He made a spooky hands gesture. “There is currrrrse! You meddle in powers you do not comprehennnd-ah!”
“Perhaps that’s a good form of Signamancy to have, Lord,” said Maggie, “for a city sentinel. Perhaps the curse is upon our enemies.”
“I guess so.”
“Chief Gotti,” said Isaac, “If we never meddled in power we did not comprehend, how would we ever gain comprehension?”
Parson pursed his lips. The Headmaester pretty much had him there. Nuclear weapons and killer bees and shoes with toes aside, science was the way to go. And the tower had been his own experiment.
“Okay,” he said clapping his hands to his knees. “Fine. I won’t worry about it. Let’s move on to the other think I wanted to talk to you about.”
Isaac tilted his head again, and smiled an easy smile. “Yes?”
The Headmaster’s bright and friendly face turned so quickly dark that it was like seeing an emotional eclipse.“Because they do not,” he said quietly, “as far as we are concerned.”