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Cpt. Mahatma Gandhi
Mar 26, 2005

HopperUK posted:

The circlejerk thing isn't even slightly true. I won the second week I ever entered.

I got an HM my second week so yeah, the people here are pretty objective if you're not a complete knob about it.

On that note, I'm in because I haven't done this in a while and have a pretty free weekend ahead of me. Plus wizards :science:


Cpt. Mahatma Gandhi
Mar 26, 2005

The Square Root of 13 (1293 words)

In the stairwell between floors 12 and 14, there's a scar running along the wall--a slight discoloration, like the pieces of concrete were smashed together. I run my hand along it, feeling the raised crease under my fingertips. It's the only physical proof floor 13 was ever here.

"I don't get it, man," Grady says, glaring at the melding point. "I thought he was supposed to be all 'bout lottery numbers and casinos and that type of poo poo. What's he doing wiping out buildings?"

"Building floors," I remind him, "and sometimes he can't help himself. Just gets too wound up. 'Scuse me." I bounce down to the next landing, where the night security guard is sitting in a fat ball of tears and snot. "Can you say again what happened?"

"It's like I said," the guard begins, sniveling. "Guy comes in, done up in a robe with hashtags on it--"

"Numeral signs," I correct him.

"Whatever. Anyway, seems kooky but harmless, plus he's got the credentials. I let him up and next thing I know there's a loud BOOM and the whole building's shaking like we're on a fault. Fire alarm grid on 13 is all down, so I head up here and…and…" The guard breaks down again into hysterics, tucking into himself."

"Definitely sounds like our guy," Grady says from the top of the stairs. "You going after him?"

I think about a sec, then nod. "Put an APB out on him, case he's not at home. If you don't hear from me in twenty minutes, assume I've got him there and haul out the cavalry." I glance again at the discolored wall, where the mad wizard waved his wand and wiped another 13th floor from existence; anyone with the misfortune of being home at the time, snuggled up in their bed or watching late night TV, would have been wiped as well. "Zahlen, you old bastard," I mutter as I make my way down the stairs and out of the building. "You just had to do it again, didn't you?"

Zahlen, the mad wizard of numbers, is an eccentric son of a bitch. Looking for that lucky roll at craps or the perfect credit score for your mortgage? He's got you covered. But every once in a while he'll go off the deep end and rearrange the universe. Ever see a building that superstitiously leaves out the 13th floor? That's to ward him off, in hopes he won't come around and do some open-skyscraper surgery.

He lives on the outskirts of the city, in a gothic number that used to stretch 39 stories before Zahlen did some constructive renovations. His penthouse requires a special code, plugged in on the elevator numbers, which I've got memorize. First 4, loathed in China, where the Chinese word for "four" sounds like the Chinese word for "death." Next comes 17, which makes the Italians quiver for reasons I can't recall. 7 follows after that, the one "lucky" number of the bunch, followed by 39, which in Afghan sounds a lot like morda-gow--literally "dead cow." The final piece of the puzzle is 6, pressed three times for reasons I shouldn't have to explain.

The elevator jerks to life and zooms upwards, the floor buttons of the code blaring. We go past floor 39, up into the stars, beyond a realm of coherent spacial physics. It's outside the fabric of reality, I guess, where wizards make their humble abodes far from the prying eyes of simpletons such as myself. Thankfully, I've got a badge that says Federal Bureau of Wizards on it, which means their hocus-pocus nonsense doesn't apply to me.

The doors shoot open as the elevator stops, and I step into a circular room with a vaulted ceiling. There are all the usual comforts of home: bed, kitchen, flaming hearth with a boiling pot of soup. But all the walls are made of blackboard, upon which are scrawled all manner of arithmetic:
2 + 2 = 3
3 x 7 = 26

And more formulas, all of them glaringly, embarrassingly, wrong.

The old wizard glances up as I enter, his finger pausing on an abacus as the blood drains from his bearded face. "Detective! I…what are you doing here?"

"You know pretty drat well why I'm here, Zahlen."

"Alright, look, look." He stands on skinny bone legs, hashtag/numeral robe fluttering as he scurries to me. "I was formulating an equation, trying to decipher the variables of deforestation. 18 million acres of forest are lost every year, did you know? And I figured I could come up with a mathematical formula that would limit further destruction."

"Didn't realize you were an environmentalist."

"You jest, but it's a growing concern of mine. I wanted to see if there was a numerical answer to the problem."

"And where does destroying a 13th floor come into play?"

He sighs and waves his hand nonchalantly. "I got caught up in my work, notching equations left and right, and at some point I came to a step in the proof where the only correct answer was the square root of 13."

"But…there is no square root of 13."

"Not an integer, no. And that royally pissed me off, so naturally I had to let off some steam."

"Let off steam? You decimated people while they slept, Zahlen!" I pull my handcuffs from my belt, clicking them open; they're made of industrial grade wiz-steel, an irradiated metal that neutralizes the magical properties of anyone unlucky enough to be bound in them. "You've been warned about this before. Now I've got to take you in."

The feeble old man morphed into a seething husk, veins protruding from his neck. "You don't get to decide my fate, detective! I can spin a yarn that'll plunge your odds of surviving the night into the depths!" He waves his wand menacingly, sparks bursting from the end. "Just try to cuff me, you gargoyle!"

I dispense with the cuffs and pull out my baton, reinforced with pure wiz-steel, and swing at him. He dodges, moving more limberly than an old man should. With a flick of his wand, the numbers on the blackboards become physical shapes, hurling themselves through the air like throwing stars. The 5s are the worst, as their combo of a flat edge and a rounded semi-circle turns them into flying scythes. I deflect most with the baton but a few slip through, cutting my skin. A zero loops itself around my neck and tries to slice my Adam's apple, but I wedge my baton between it and my throat just in time. The surge of the wiz-steel causes it to burst into tiny particles.

My scrap with the zero allows a 7 to clip my foot, sending me sprawling to the floor. As I look back up, I see a dozen numbers zooming towards my face, ready to land the killing blow.

And they all explode at once.

I hadn't even heard the elevator open, but Grady is there now, with a whole squad of backup, wiz-steel batons drawn. They're batting away the numbers, charging forward, until they've got Zahlen pinned to the ground. He screams irately as the cuffs go on his wrists.

"Good call on the twenty minutes" Grady says, offering me a hand.

"Thanks." I'm up quickly on my feet, glaring at Zahlen as the squad carries him to the elevator. He's spouting curses, interspersed with random numbers, like some warped kind of Rain Man.

"Tough luck for him. What're the odds he avoids prosecution?"

"About as stingy as my odds of living to retirement," I say, slapping Grady on the back. "Come on, let's make a pit stop at the casino; I'm feeling strangely lucky tonight."

Cpt. Mahatma Gandhi
Mar 26, 2005

Thanks for the crit, Beef.

Cpt. Mahatma Gandhi
Mar 26, 2005

Very much appreciate the crit, Hammer Bro.

Cpt. Mahatma Gandhi
Mar 26, 2005

I would like to write a story about Sweden's Heroes as told by Måns Zelmerlöw


Cpt. Mahatma Gandhi
Mar 26, 2005

Actually gently caress, I'm an idiot and completely forgot I'm going to be away this weekend for a wedding, so I need to back out :(

Sweden is back up for grabs to anyone who wants it

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