10th of Dentis, 2718
"Of course you wouldn't—you can't look for something if you don't know where to find it." Harper's chagrined retort wasn't hurt or angry so much as apologetic, the awkward attempt at keeping up with Fionn's path to processing things not entirely as successful as the Professor would have preferred. A theorist and abstract thinker despite his genuine beliefs, he found himself too often in this situation and yet struggled to get around it every time. Gated passives were all damaged people in their own way, and he didn't even mean that in terms of their magical abilities. Galdori society had broken them to their rules—almost. It wasn't as if the two passives were at all entirely mindless or without their own wills: the dead body in his laboratory examination chair was evidence of that,
"I'm sorry. That's not what I meant. I—"
"Not everything makes sense to me, either, and I'm a Magister, Harper. You can't expect everyone to understand everything at once. A good education takes time—at any age." Castor smirked, aware of the air of impatience that had begun to seep into the atmosphere of the small room crowded with strange instruments and confusing science.
Professor Moore looked at Lars with his questions as if eager to make use of the confusion he'd caused, "Well, I'm not sure what a human would do as they're not allowed on campus and I cannot test them. Currently, I've designed this simple test to measure something, and I'll admit I don't even think I'm testing for presence of mona anymore. The opposite directions help me keep track of whatever the differences are. I have yet to test on functional passives or galdori based on the ranking of their test scores for more of a data set. I have yet to test under the conditions of a diablerie. Without going into the details of the spells and theory involved because we don't have time to catch you up on classwork this evening, yes. A nexus does something. A field does something. They do opposite things. Why? Well, I'm working on that."
This was all new and in its academic infancy and even the younger galdor of the pair lacked the language to describe what, exactly, he'd actually discovered. It was far more than anyone else had in centuries, for as far as he was concerned, that small motion signified a very big, very real invisible breakthrough.
"I have found that I feel a nexus when I have spent my day alone and find myself in the presence of one or two passives. I, being a galdor surrounded more often by other galdori, am somewhat so desensitized by the sensation of fields that I must concentrate to separate them from each other in a crowded room, let alone to notice something so different ... and so ... quiet—" He struggled with the proper phrasing of things, it was clear by the scrunching of his bespectacled face and the way he paused before calling a nexus quiet, "—the same may be true of gated passives, surrounded by each other and their nexi."
While Professor Devlin was neither surprised nor ruffled by the discomfort that began to more obviously express itself in the youngest of the two passives, his dark eyes watching Fionn shift on his feet as if he were a small mammal about to bolt. This had all been enough. Too much, considering the Gated creatures had been through only the Circle knew what before Castor had been almost mowed over by a corpse. He looked up to Harper as if to curb the monic theorist's enthusiasm once again,
"I think these lads are done, my friend. If they want to hear more, they can find us in their own way."
"Oh, gods, I'm so sorry. I can't help myself. Yes. Uh, here." Digging into his pocket, Professor Moore produced a key ring. Fumbling with the thing, chewing his bottom lip between his teeth, he eventually chose a single key and offered it to the two passives, "This is a key to the sitting room out there of Laboratory Beta. It won't get you in the lab, mind you. But, um, if you ever—and I mean ever—need somewhere to lay low and not be noticed and neither myself nor Professor Devlin are in—" Harper refused to admit that he slept on the settee in the lounge more often than he slept at home lately, a bit of color rising to flush his pale cheeks beneath the frames of his spectacles as his voice wavered, "—then please come here. I know, getting here is complicated, but I also know you know the campus better than any golly. I mean it. If you accidentally feel like getting into monic theory, have fun with my library."
He smirked, but Devlin cleared his throat and straightened his vest with an authoritative sort of flair, waving an open hand toward the door, "We both mean it, no matter how strange or suspicious it sounds to you both. Let's go, then. I've got a story to spin, after all. I'll be back for that one tomorrow, Harper."
The younger galdor blanched at the realization that his colleague meant that he'd be hiding the body for the remainder of the night, however much or little of it was left, and his shoulders sagged, "Fine."
Castor glanced at the body of Fred one last time before he let the two passives follow him out, leading them not back to the stair well they'd come up from but through the halls of the Science Wing as if they had nothing at all to fear from anyone. The house was late enough that while a few of the faculty offices were still lit and a few doors were actually open, the hall was mostly dark and silent. No one looked up and questioned Magister Devlin or his charges as they walked out into the Science Ward proper and the cool night air,
"Steady on, lads. We walk like we all know what we're doing, you hear? Because I do." He winked like some spry uncle with a trick and a piece of candy up his sleeve, boldly striding across the campus grounds, past a few inebriated older students laughing and wobbling their way back to their dorms; past a few exhausted sober students heading home after a study session; past a Collie on patrol who may have looked them over but said nothing; and past a member of faculty in his professor robes who bobbed his head in greeting along their way the phosphor-lit sidewalks and streets that made up the most direct route to the Passive Ward. He didn't waver, he didn't cower, and his field was a bastion of confidence.
In through the front doors as if there was nothing at all to worry about, Castor Devlin had the gall to hold the door open for Fionn and Lars as if it was the most natural thing in all of Vita, "Thank the Good Lady you two lads were available for a bit of heavy lifting this evening!" he began loudly, making a show of reaching into his vest and pulling out a handkerchief to dab at a brow that was neither sweaty nor dirty for effect. He spoke so that the elderly galdor at the desk in the center of the main hall could hear him, the woman looking up with wide eyes at the professor and two passives she could have sworn were from a hall that was not on shift right now, "Good evening, Mrs. Knollwood."
"Magister Devlin." Gold-rimmed eyes narrowed at the two young men, her nasal old voice sounding as though it was fresh from the dusty old books rumored to be hidden in the crypts, more akin to the whine of a rusty old door than a sentient being's vocal cords, "Where did you come from? Aren't you two from—"
"—fresh from Laboratory Beta, yes. You know how Professor Moore is, always needing to move this piece of equipment at some godsawful time of night. Fabulous job, Mrs. Rogers did, recommending a couple of off-shift passives to come lend an old man and a wimpy monic theorist a bit of young muscle." Castor was grinning, his warm tone of voice both self-deprecating and yet almost a purr, tucking away his kerchief and making as if to reach for something else inside the pocket of his outer layer, "Do you want to see my work order request?"
"No, Magister. That won't be necessary. I will just make sure Mrs. Rogers remembers to sign out her assignments next time—"
"That was totally my fault, Mrs. Knollwood, and I won't forget again. I swear—" Castor had been here before, that much was clear by the tone of his voice and the ease of which he slid himself into this particular role for conversation.
"Between yourself and Professor Moore, that's six nights this year you have forgotten to sign out your crimps for whatever clocking-odd jobs you mad scientists need them for. And Headmistress Servalis lets you two moony gearjobs teach our children. Good Lady. If you weren't a Magister, why, I'd just—"
"Thank you, Mrs. Knollwood. I'm very sorry."
"—yeah yeah." The old woman looked as though she was about to begin swearing like a sailor from Old Rose Harbor, her gaze sweeping over the two passives, "Go on. Get back to your rooms. If neither of you are up in time for your shifts tomorrow, it won't be the Professor here getting his erse handed to him. Get on." She shooed them angrily, her ire tangible in the crackle of her field before she looked back to the dark-haired galdor who was still attempting to charm her with manners and some boyish smile, "I'll be reporting this to the Headmistress. This is bordering on the ridiculous."
"I understand. Listen, would it be better if I went ahead and filled out some of this paperwork in advance?"
"Actually, I'd never considered that before."
Castor was the epitome of suave calm, leaning against her desk without even offering a farewell to the two passives if they chose to obey the administrator, instead attempting to engage the woman in a bit more distracting conversation with the hopes of keeping her attention and distraction complete, utterly willing to endure the full wrath of her confused judgment for whatever antics she suspected he and Professor Moore were up to.
Perhaps he'd see the pair again, but even if he didn't, the strange galdor hoped he hadn't made a mistake with his assistance, let alone with allowing Harper to let loose the truth of their studies in such intricate details.
Only time would tell, should Alioe choose to bless it.