Three On A Match
⁂ Third on a match. Meaning: bad luck.


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Mid-Summer

It's hot, it's time to hit the beaches!


Many are strong at the broken places
Exchange PI 


#1
Angela Dune Offline
Cursed Human
Mischance
Although the boss had recommended Dalton Cessair by name, it took Dune some time before she got around to contacting him. The reality of living with the curse and recovering from its debut had taken up a majority of her time, and when she had a mundane sling handy, it kept slipping her mind until she had his business card in her hand.

She'd thought the way the circles and triangles had been a trick of the light, some kind of embossing or lenticular printing. When she realized it had been a tiny enchantment, the Exchange agent was suitably impressed. It took a certain level of craftsmanship to enchant one's business cards--it reminded her of American Psycho, but there was actual substance to Dalton's card that set it apart.

And so, naturally, she reached out. With the man being in the Circle and her being in the Exchange, it was easy to arrange a meeting. It was nearing dinner time after her normal working hours when Dune found herself loitering around what she uncreatively dubbed 'nerd central'. She didn't go into the workshop proper, but lingered on the landing, seated on the top stair. Fortunately, nobody was coming up and down the stairs around this time, so she wasn't in anybody's way. While she waited, she had her phone balanced on her knee, idly scrolling Instagram with her good hand. The other arm was still in its sling, pinioned at Dune's side.
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#2
Dalton Cessair Offline
Arcanist Human
Conjurer
It was a bit of a trek between his Baxendale office and the Circle's attic workspace, but Dalton enjoyed his work and the conversations at the Circle too much to mind it. Today, he also had some work waiting for him, an interesting enough challenge that he'd unearthed more of his old research. What the enchantment would do wasn't revolutionary, but the theory behind it was always worth doing the small stuff. The simplest of enchantments could have a trove of valuable theory behind it.

That brought him to the Exchange building, climbing the stairs with an old journal of his tucked under his arm. He already had some of his written work tucked away in the Circle shelves, but this was some of his more personal experimentation in the past. He could adapt the work he'd done in the past, and it would suit the sort of enchantment he assumed the agent would want. Dalton still had to clarify the details, of course, even if he'd come prepared.

As he neared the top of the stairwell and the top floor of the building, he saw the woman sitting on the top stair. Shifting the book to his other hand, Dalton paused a few steps below her, so he wouldn't loom. “Waiting for someone?”
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#3
Angela Dune Offline
Cursed Human
Mischance
She heard the footsteps ascending the stairs before their owner appeared, but Dune didn't look up until they were in visual range. It being around the appointed time, she thought this could her man, but she was expecting the person she'd imagined when Theo first mentioned him. Short, pudgy, doctoral... The man pausing near the bottom of the steps was none of these things. He was attractive, in fact, and Dune tilted her head, putting on a pretty, charming smile.

“Hey.” Clicking off her phone, she shifted it from her knee as she straightened to answer. She didn't stand up just yet, in case this wasn't her guy. “Yeah- I've got an appointment with Dalton Cessair?”
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#4
Dalton Cessair Offline
Arcanist Human
Conjurer
The woman–the agent–was younger than Dalton, attractive, and dressed similarly to the agents he'd seen around the building. Entirely nondescript. Their Inquisitor may have favoured suits and ties, but Dalton had yet to find any pattern to the dress of the agents. Which only made sense, considering they weren't supposed to be noticed in the same way feds or police should be noticed.

“That would be me,” Dalton confirmed, smiling as he inclined his head towards her. As he did that, he started moving again, stepping up the last remaining steps, and gesturing for her to follow him. “You must be agent Dune? Come on, no need to sit outside. There's plenty of space in the workshop.”
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#5
Angela Dune Offline
Cursed Human
Mischance
Dune's expression brightened when Dalton identified himself. “No kidding- nice to meet you.” He looked nothing like she'd imagined, which, all things considered, was a good thing. Not that she would've minded a pudgy doctor, but hanging out with a hot doctor was way better. As he started up the steps the rest of the way, she scooted out of the way.

With his invitation, woman pushed herself up from the step and stood, leaning back and stretching gently. Then, slipping her phone into her butt pocket, she turned and ambled after Dalton into the workshop. “Thanks for coming out here for this,” she said with easy friendliness, glancing around the space and taking in the lofty attic ceilings, and wide windows letting in the last of the light. “I heard your work is top-notch.”
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#6
Dalton Cessair Offline
Arcanist Human
Conjurer
Unaware of the agent's thoughts about him defying her preconceived notions of a professor's appearance, Dalton led the way inside the workshop. Familiar with the space, he went straight for his usual workbench. Not necessarily assigned, but the Circle wasn't so populous that the members couldn't have their own workbenches. The space held more than enough for those who frequented the workspace.

As he placed his bags next to the bench, he glanced up as the woman stepped into the space herself. Dalton smiled, nodding absently as he snapped open the bag and fished out his amulet. He didn't wear it when he was teaching, but he looped it back over his head as he spoke.

“I like to think so when the magic remains stable. And it's no bother, truly, I work here most days.” He pulled out a chair from one of the other benches, setting it next to his workbench. “Have a seat, let me have a look at your arm.”
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#7
Angela Dune Offline
Cursed Human
Mischance
Dune nodded, eyes skating across the workbench he'd picked, before her attention was drawn to the amulet he looped around his neck. As he smoothly guided her to take a seat, she wondered at its purpose. His focus, perhaps? She'd heard that arcanists often had preferences.

Regardless, she obediently perched herself on it. “Sure,” she said without hesitation, a soldier accustomed to taking direction. It was a habit she was letting herself fall back on, when the thought of showing a stranger her cursed limb still made her stomach clench.

The velcro ripped as she unfastened the straps on the sling, shifting her shoulder to loosen them enough to pull it off over her head. With a little sigh, she unfurled the arm, and stretched it out to her side, rolling her shoulder. With her button down on, just her gunmetal-gray hand was visible, hints of gold glinting at the knuckles and finger joints. The stretch felt good, although she wasn't sure the metal could get cramped. Was that in her head?

After a moment, she started undoing her button-down, so she could show him the entire limb. “I wouldn't touch it if you've got your phone on you,” she warned, deftly undoing each button to reveal her white undershirt. “Sometimes the curse makes electronics go a little haywire.”
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#8
Dalton Cessair Offline
Arcanist Human
Conjurer
The agent sat without a complaint and Dalton was almost tempted to compare her to a docile patient. Treatment wasn't what he was offering her, however, so she wasn't his patient. She began stripping her sling without a word as well, the harsh sound of the Velcro loud in the room as Dalton fetched another chair and placed it in front of her. He didn't sit quite yet, allowing her the space to get herself sorted.

Dalton couldn't help but watch, however, as the sling came off and he got a better view of the arm. Undeniably mechanical, gold accents giving it an elegant appearance. Her fingers moved smoothly, human rather than robotic, and as she stretched out the arm it became clear that there was little in its movement that differentiated it from an organic arm. His enchantment would be purely cosmetic, then, rather than doing double duty in covering odd movements. A shame, almost, considering how elegant the limb looked.

As he watched her, there was the barest moment of hesitation before she began unbuttoning her shirt. Discomfort, Dalton interpreted it as, but whether it was about taking her shirt off in front of him, leaving her in just an undershirt, or showing the arm itself, he couldn't guess. Truly he didn't need her shirt off, but it would help.

Her warning got an intrigued murmur out of Dalton, as he pondered what magical mechanisms was at work in the arm. A curse, he'd gathered, but curses were so unpredictable. “So there's a strong magnetic component to the arm?” he queried, both because he was curious and because he wanted to ease her into his mini-physical in preparation for the eventual enchantment.
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#9
Angela Dune Offline
Cursed Human
Mischance
“Umm...” Dune thought aloud, doffing her shirt completely and shaking it out so she could drape it across the table. She looked at him, brows furrowed. “It's possible that's how the magic interpolates the effect, but uh... It also messes with things like locks. Mechanical clocks, watches... just like- things with moving parts, y'know?”

She flexed the arm before stretching it out, offering her hand palm up to Dalton. The gold marked her palm, glinting against the gunmetal, the plates and fibers moving smoothly together to imitate flesh and blood. There was a little hesitation in the movement, the motion uncharacteristically timid. It came from both a sense of unfamiliarity with a full range of motion and from watching Dalton's reaction.
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#10
Dalton Cessair Offline
Arcanist Human
Conjurer
Dalton let out a hum as the agent spoke, making it clear he was listening even as the arm held most of his attention. She'd pulled the shirt off, revealing the full length of the arm. It looked fully mechanical, but not like anything human made he'd ever seen. It could not be mistaken for a prosthetic, he thought, with how it moulded into her flesh, but perhaps someone might mistake her for a dedicated SFX artist. To hear it had the effect of... randomly scrambling things? Another curious element, but knowing it was a curse, he knew it might be magic he couldn't explain or label.

As she offered her hand to him, Dalton took it, resting the back of her hand on his palm as he gently gripped her hand and gently manipulated the limb. The faux muscles and tendons moved, an uncanny display of anatomy in action, but far from human. He felt fascinated by it, already wondering what manner of ritual enchantment might get a similar result. A lot of research and high-quality materials, along with time and exacting work, perhaps something close to it could be achieved.

He shared none of this with the woman, too aware of her hesitant movement. Even in his pursuit of knowledge, he knew something about what to say and what not to say, and revealing designs on replicating her curse would likely not be well received, not unless he knew her better. A surgeon knew anatomy, and to see a wholesale replacement of a limb got a medical mind thinking about how it could be used in other ways. He set the thoughts firmly aside, looking up at the agent's face.

“How often does it scramble things around you? A couple times a week? More?”
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#11
Angela Dune Offline
Cursed Human
Mischance
Dune's metal skin was cool at first, but quickly took in the heat from Dalton's hand, warming to the touch. It was still unyielding like metal, but reacted to his touch with the kind of micromovements one would with expect from touching another person. She could feel his touch as well, made clear by her reactions. A gentle flinch, before her hand relaxed into his, the back of her hand on his palm. She relaxed her fingers, letting them curl up, slightly.

His main reaction seemed to be curiosity and she recognized the calculating look on his face, but to his credit, the man didn't start drilling her with irrelevant questions like the highly practiced arcanist nerds tended to do. Dune privately thought that the deeper an arcanist got into magic, the worse their manners became. They wanted to disassemble practically everything.

Dalton stayed on track, asking her about her magical mishaps, and Dune snickered softly, relaxing into the conversation. “More, maybe a few times a day. I only haven't nabbed my phone because I can't work the screen with the metal hand.” she answered. Then, tilting her head in thought, she smiled and asked shrewdly, “You an MD?”

The way he'd asked about her symptoms felt medical rather than something more technical. Dune had been working under the presumption that he was a doctor of magic, if that was even a possibility. Perhaps it was a degree they offered over in the universities in Erasmus Cross--they were all about that magic across the pond.
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#12
Dalton Cessair Offline
Arcanist Human
Conjurer
Dalton let out a low thoughtful noise as she shared that she couldn't operate her phone and thus, quite conveniently, hadn't bricked it yet. He wondered if magic could replicate that electrical conductivity touchscreens required, or if that would wreck the technology on touch. It was a tricky thing to accomplish, and experience told him it could work for a short while, but would eventually break down the electrical components. Coating her fingertips with some mundane material that did it, like the cheap styluses one could buy, might be the better solution.

He was in the middle of his thoughts on magic versus technology when she prompted him for his career, but Dalton glanced up with a small chuckle. He knew his manner sometimes betrayed his history. “Yes, guilty as charged. A surgeon, to be more precise, but I'm more or less retired now.” He supposed nothing stopped him from continuing practising medicine, just not hands-on surgery, but his passion had been for surgery, not for the endless cycle of patients complaining of run-of-the-mill illnesses.
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#13
Angela Dune Offline
Cursed Human
Mischance
With one hand still in his, Dune grinned and snapped the fingers of her flesh hand before waving a finger at him. “Knew it,” she said with a wink, satisfied at guessing right. It was the mannerisms.

Of course, anyone could've guessed, she supposed, but the typical context clues weren't there, so she felt pretty good about it. “Retired?” she went on, warming and getting comfortable with the conversation. “Retired to become a wizard?” Her smile went a little crooked but she meant the question in earnest.
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#14
Dalton Cessair Offline
Arcanist Human
Conjurer
Grinning at her satisfied words, clearly pleased with herself, Dalton inclined his head in deference to her sharp eye. He was sure he'd given himself away, but not everyone noticed the nuances. She cheerfully fished for more information as he gave her arm one last look-over. It was a valid question, considering Dalton was not obviously in his retirement age.

Dalton let her have her arm back, giving a crooked smile to match her own. “Not quite. I've been a practitioner for longer than that,” he admitted, remembering pouring over texts in his teens, sucking up the theory and scribbling small circles even as he planned more ambitious things. He'd had a firm hand to keep him cautious back then. His smile turned wry, a little regretful, “But I can't deny it's related.”
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#15
Angela Dune Offline
Cursed Human
Mischance
Withdrawing her hand, she rested it in her lap, the fingers curling into a resting state. It felt a little heavier on her thigh than her other arm, even though she'd found she wasn't thrown off balance by it. She weighed the about same, but the arm was denser than her flesh and blood limbs.

Dune was a fairly perceptive person, socially, and so, she picked up the tang of regret in Dalton's air as he answered. She was curious--what would cause a man to pick magic over surgery? And how was the transition related? Very interesting--but this being a first meeting, she was cautious about digging into whatever put that look on his face. It didn't seem to be a funny story.

“Yeah,” she said instead, going for sharing something of her own instead. She smiled, understanding. “I get that. Magic was a big part of my career trajectory too.”
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