Doctor Coker took Lex through a reasonably intensive psychological exam, asking him dozens of thought provoking questions to gauge his beliefs regarding right and wrong, life and death and various other topics people often find compelling.
While Lex didn't have any grand emotional revelations during the exam, he did find some small measure of relief in the fact that he took the test just like anyone else. It made him feel just a little bit more secure in his 'personhood' to know that he had reactions and understanding of the test on par with a 'natural born' person.
Lex and Doctor Coker were in the outer office, so they saw it when Indra and Lucky walked from the examination room to Doctor Williams' inner office.
Doctor Coker set the psychological exam papers aside and said, "It's our turn for the evaluation."
"I've done all this before, back when I was part of G." Lex cautioned him.
"As long as you're sincere in your efforts, I believe that prior knowledge or previous results shouldn't have any impact on your test results today." Doctor Coker said seriously.
"Do you really believe that?" Lex asked curiously.
"I do." Doctor Coker confirmed, then added, "But there's only one way to find out for sure."
"Yeah. Okay." Lex said, then followed Doctor Coker into the examination room.
* * * * *
Lex had actually forgotten the breadth of the testing new students endured.
Most of the tests seemed to be pointless or they revealed such innocuous data that they hardly seemed worth the bother.
"Here's one that you might not have done before. Can you blow up this balloon for me?" Doctor Coker asked as he held out a flat red balloon.
"Inflate or explode?" Lex asked with a grin.
"We'll start with inflation and see where that takes us." Doctor Coker said with a smile, obviously appreciating Lex's attempt at humor.
"Do you want me to just blow it up the mundane way, or did you have some kind of a spell in mind?" Lex asked cautiously.
"I thought that since your specialty was air, that I'd let you decide how you wanted to do it." Doctor Coker said frankly.
"Hemi, demi, swirley, semi, draw and grow, twirl and dance." Lex said poetically as he made a few simple hand gestures.
Doctor Coker watched with interest as the balloon began to spin and writhe as it expanded and filled with air.
"A bit simplistic, but you seem to have gotten the job done." Doctor Coker said, appearing to be mildly impressed with Lex's choice.
"I could conjure a tornado inside there if I wanted to, but that wouldn't really be useful for anything." Lex said honestly.
"I suppose that could be another data point for this test, knowing how to use a spell appropriate to the task at hand." Doctor Coker said speculatively.
"The balloon's full. Did you want me to do something with it?" Lex asked cautiously.
"Yes. Tie it off, then I'd like to see what level of control you have with it." Doctor Coker said seriously.
Lex tied the balloon, then waited.
"Can you move the balloon to the four corners of the room?" Doctor Coker asked curiously.
"Yeah." Lex said, then demonstrated by causing the balloon to move to each of the corners, using neither words nor gestures to enact his spell.
"Very good. You have excellent control." Doctor Coker said as he made a note on his clipboard.
"We can go through all the basic level air manipulations if you want, but I promise that I can do them all. In fact, I can probably do some that you haven't seen before." Lex said seriously.
"Really? Did you have something in mind?" Doctor Coker asked with interest.
In response, Lex held out his hand as the balloon floated directly to it.
As soon as the balloon was in place, Lex turned his hand and the balloon changed from red to yellow. With another twist of the wrist, it became green.
"If you're doing that with air, then I imagine that you're performing micro-manipulations to refract the color gradient." Doctor Coker said speculatively.
Lex gave the gentlest of pushes to launch the balloon from his palm, then made a slight gesture and the balloon suddenly became a bunch of green balloons.
"Reflection and refraction? That's a rather high level magic for someone your age." Doctor Coker remarked, now sounding fully impressed.
"I only look this age. In one way of thinking about it, I'm actually only a few days old, but another part of me is fifteen years old, or at least that's how it feels to me." Lex said honestly.
"Perhaps, but to be able to perform refractory air manipulations is a high level achievement, even for a fifteen year old." Doctor Coker said frankly.
"Well, to be honest, it helps that the balloon is a uniform shape and as small as it is." Lex cautiously admitted.
"Still, this is a good indicator of where you are in your development. You're certainly farther along than I would expect just by looking at you."
"I'm this size because I choose to be. If it's at all possible, I want to be kept with Lucky. Even if I have to take a few of the lower level classes, it will be worth it to make sure that he doesn't have to face this all by himself."
"I would help you if I could, but that's not my decision to make. If you'll be sure to mention it to Mrs. Bright, she might take your wishes into account. She strikes me as being a reasonable type." Doctor Coker said consideringly.
"Is that it for the magic test?" Lex asked cautiously.
"I think so. I'm satisfied that I have a reasonable idea of your developmental level. But if you have any other tricks to show me, we have a few minutes. I wouldn't mind a magic show." Doctor Coker finished with a smile.
Lex slyly grinned in response, then brought up his other hand and began to descriptively sign his spell.
Before Doctor Coker could ask what he was doing, another dozen balloons were present, and now all the previous colors were represented.
* * * * *
"Your test looks like it's a lot more fun than mine." Lucky cheerfully commented as he exited the examination room with Indra.
"Doctor Coker wanted a magic show." Lex said dismissively as he dispelled the balloons with a casual wave.
"How did your test go?" Lucky asked as he automatically moved to Lex's side.
"Everything went fine. How was yours?" Lex asked curiously as he gave Lucky a quick casual hug.
"I think I did okay. At least Indra didn't say I was wrong or stupid or anything." Lucky said frankly.
"Lucky has done reasonably well overall, but his use of magic is exceptional for someone his age." Indra said professionally, then added more gently, "Considering his potential, I think he's found himself in the right place."
"I showed her Zah Zah." Lucky timidly admitted.
"And she didn't run away screaming? Way to go, Indra! You're tougher than I thought." Lex said in an impressed voice.
"It's just an illusionary cat." Indra said hesitantly.
"I used G's smoothy sorcery on Zah Zah like what I did on Paul's uniform spell." Lucky explained.
"Oh. I can't even guess how that would look." Lex said honestly.
Lucky made six distinct hand signs while concentrating on the words of his spell.
In the blink of an eye, a tiny white kitten appeared, with a black spot circling its right eye.
"Oh! Isn't that adorable!" Doctor Coker chuckled with delight as he leaned in to get a better look.
"Stay back! Don't get too close! She'll rip your face off!" Lucky warned as he grabbed firm hold of Zah Zah to hold her back.
The silky, baby kitten fur that Lucky was holding sloughed off the tiny kitten beast, revealing the inky jagged nightmare hidden inside.
"Zah Zah! No!" Lucky said firmly as he kept firm hold on the empty tube of white fur, which was still attached to the hindquarters of the jagged horror.
Indra gave a small yelp of surprise and Lex reflexively took a step back in shock.
The scribbled beast turned it's 'too human' eyes on Lucky, as if measuring his sincerity.
"If you won't do as I say, I won't be able to let you out around people." Lucky firmly explained.
Zah Zah appeared to be thinking about it, then loosed a loud, abrasive 'meow', sounding like an audible manifestation of frustration and impatience.
"I'll let you out to prowl when we get home, while we're horsing around." Lucky promised.
Zah Zah appeared to consider a moment longer, then her scribbled irregular form retreated into the furry husk that Lucky was still holding.
"How did you get Zah Zah to do that?" Lex asked warily as he watched Lucky cuddle the nightmarish little monster close to his chest.
"I took the spell that Uncle D gave me and did like Paul said and made it do new stuff that it didn't do before. I stretched some things and twisted others so that the spell isn't all smooth and the same now." Lucky explained.
"I don't know if Zah Zah is alive or not, but she sure is acting a lot more like a living being." Lex said honestly.
"I don't know either, but Zah Zah isn't like she used to be. I change her a little bit every time I cast her to keep making her better and better... except, I still haven't figured out how to make her nice yet." Lucky reluctantly admitted.
"Do you think that she'd protect you if someone tried to do you harm?" Doctor Coker cautiously asked.
"Maybe... I mean, she probably would attack them... and it might even be on purpose. I really don't know for sure." Lucky said uncertainly.
"Something like this doesn't fall into any of the magical specialties that I can think of." Doctor Coker said as he looked at Indra with question.
"Maybe some of the nature specialties; when they create a golem, they imbue it with a spark of sentience that will sometimes grow into full-blown intelligence. I don't really know enough about that to say if it would relate to this instance." Indra said consideringly.
"I suppose an elemental, like Lex, might have something in common with a creation like this. Perhaps an examination of the spell used to create him might yield some answers." Doctor Coker suggested.
"That'd be fine except that we don't know exactly how I was made. G created a self-portrait illusion and somehow while he was holding a relic of elemental air, he made me become a completely separate being from him." Lex said frankly.
"So he didn't intentionally cast the spell that created you?" Doctor Coker asked to confirm.
"I don't know what he did. My memories are a little blurry about that. I remember being G, creating the illusion to help the spellcasters... Then I was me, helping the spellcasters while G was directing the elemental air. I'm not really sure about what happened in between." Lex said distantly.
"And you say that this G person, Gwayne, was holding an ancient relic at the time he created you?" Doctor Coker asked to confirm.
"Yeah. The Mikael Spear. He needed to be in two places at once so he found a way so that he could be." Lex said frankly.
"If that's the case, I still don't see how you're here with us, by all appearances a perfectly normal witch. At the very least I would think that you would be a force of nature; wild and nearly impossible to constrain." Doctor Coker said thoughtfully.
"I was thinking the same thing." Indra confirmed professionally.
"The only other thing I can think of to account for it is G's family history. His dad, D, can animate things like furniture and mannequins to do whatever he wants. He can command an army of them; he's really powerful. G's grandfather, Grandpa J, has the ability to animate statues and other things that are in a generally human shape. I think I remember hearing that he can even give them a little spark of himself to make them able to follow simple instructions and react to things without him having to control them like puppets." Lex said distantly, struggling to remember conversations from G's distant past.
"So the confluence of G's heritage, him holding an ancient relic AND wishing he could be in two places at once seems to have resulted in your creation." Doctor Coker summarized.
An uncomfortable movement from Lucky drew Doctor Coker's attention, but it was Indra who asked, "Did you have another explanation, Lucky?"
"No. But I saw Lex before he was finished, when G was still working on him. I don't know what happened with that spear thing, but I know for sure that this Lex is the same person that G was working on back then. Whatever G did to make Lex be who he is, was already started back when I was here before." Lucky said with certainty.
"If that's true, then maybe something in G's ability that he inherited makes it so that whatever he creates has the potential to become 'real'. I just happened to be the illusion that he brought up while he was holding the Mikael Spear, and that pushed me over the threshold into being a person." Lex said speculatively.
"If I'm not mistaken, Jevaun is planning to examine Gwayne Darroch this afternoon. I was planning on attending anyway, but now I'll be sure to be there to mention your speculations. It sounds like something that should be investigated." Doctor Coker said seriously.
"Lucky, when you were first making Zah Zah, do you remember if you were trying to copy anything that G was doing while he was making me?" Lex asked hesitantly.
Lucky thought for a long moment, then slowly said, "I don't remember copying G, but I don't know for sure that I didn't. I wanted for Zah Zah to be real so bad that I might have seen something that he did and did it too."
"Since he didn't know about his mimicry back then, he wouldn't have been on the lookout for it. He might not have consciously recognized what he was doing anyway." Lex speculatively explained to Indra and Doctor Coker.
"So, what you're saying is that it's possible that Zah Zah could have a spark of sentience or free will, that she might actually be... alive?" Indra cautiously asked.
"I suppose that might depend on how you define 'alive'." Doctor Coker said honestly.
"Just let me know how you're defining it before we go too far. Remember, whatever definition you use for Zah Zah, you'll probably have to use for me, too." Lex said frankly.
"So far as I know, we've completed all the assigned testing. But I'd like to wait for Jevaun to return before sending you back to the administration office." Doctor Coker said consideringly.
"I can think of one thing that we could do, if you haven't already." Indra quietly offered.
"What would that be?" Doctor Coker asked with interest.
"I saw the notes about their fighting forms. Maybe, since they both have full animal transformations, we could help them stabilize their half-transformation forms." Indra cautiously suggested.
After a moment, Lucky quietly admitted, "I don't know what that is."
"For animal type shape-shifters, there's a place between human-looking and full animal where they can still talk, but also have access to their animal-form level of strength and magic." Lex carefully explained.
"Very well said, Lexington. I believe that Indra is quite right. Since you're both so competent in your animal forms, the next logical step would be to at least introduce you to your half forms. Much like your animal forms, they're something that you can practice with and eventually master over time." Doctor Coker explained.
"Do you want us to do it right now?" Lex asked cautiously.
"We appear to have the time. If you manifest somewhere between human and horse, as one might expect, we should have enough room in here to accomodate you."
"Okay. What do we have to do?" Lex asked decisively.
"The easiest way that I know of is to change fully into your animal form, then begin to change back, as slowly as you are able. As you change, try to speak in your human voice. As soon as you're able to do it, stop the change and try to hold it there. The half-form that you achieve can be the best of both worlds, higher reasoning and the ability to communicate combined with primal strength and peak magic." Doctor Coker explained.
"Do you want me to go first?" Lex asked Lucky cautiously.
"Let's go together." Lucky said with resolve.
"Have you got your changey on?" Lex asked with a grin.
Lucky gave a single decisive nod then, as though it had been choreographed, the two boys began to turn in unison.
* * * * *
The transitions from teenager to horse were flawless. Even a practiced shape-shifter would be hard pressed to outdo their performances.
Once the boys had found their pure animal forms, the unicorn Lex nodded in the Pegasus Lucky's direction, then began the transition back.
As Doctor Coker had instructed, the boys transformed more slowly this time, and made quite a bit more noise. They were obviously both attempting to speak, but achieving only their natural animal speech.
"I don't know if I can." Lucky finally said with some strain in his voice.
"Just hold it right there. Don't change yourself more in either direction." Doctor Coker quickly instructed.
"I don't know..." Lucky said anxiously.
"Don't try to change up or down, but see if you can get more comfortable right where you are. Let your body stop where it is and fill out." Indra said urgently.
The horsehair creature began to take on a shape and develop differentiated body parts.
"That's it, Lucky. You're doing fine." Doctor Coker said supportively.
"Go ahead Lex. You've got this." Indra quickly encouraged.
Doctor Coker looked over and noticed that Lex was only one step behind Lucky in his transformation.
"Indra's right. You're right where you need to be. All that's left is to settle in." Doctor Coker said in a leading tone, trying not to be too jarring or distracting.
"That was tougher than I thought it'd be." Lex finally said.
"Is this how we're supposed to look?" Lucky asked reluctantly as he looked down at himself, then over at Lex.
"When it comes to your transitional forms, you mostly get what you get. In your case, it looks like you both got centaurs... That's not so bad. You could have easily gotten something more along the lines of a minotaur." Doctor Coker finished with a smile.
"Okay. I'm not mad or anything. I just wasn't sure if this is what we were trying to do." Lucky said honestly.
"There's someone I met back in Brynnhollow who can be a centaur, his name is Jim. I don't know him that well, but maybe next time we're there, we could visit him and he could teach us some centaur stuff." Lex said happily as he looked over his and Lucky's transformations.
"Is it comfortable? Are you having any trouble holding your forms?" Doctor Coker asked curiously.
"It's fine for me. This is as stable as any form that I've held." Lex said frankly.
"How about you, Lucky? Are you having any trouble holding this form?"
"No. This is easy... except for having four legs plus two arms.... that's kinda weird." Lucky said honestly as he thought about what he was feeling.
"Since you've adopted 'tried and true' conventional forms, I have no doubt that everything will fall into place fairly easily for you. If you had ended up in a form that we couldn't recognize, then I'd be a little more concerned about its ultimate functionality." Doctor Coker said frankly.
"What do we have here?" Doctor Williams asked as he walked into the office.
"We finished a little ahead of schedule, so Indra suggested that we could give the boys a head start on refining their half-forms." Doctor Coker said seriously.
"I don't know that I've seen a winged centaur or a unicorn centaur in person before, although I'm certain that I've seen depictions of both in the mythology library." Doctor Williams said with a smile.
"I kinda chose to be like Lucky. After that, one thing led to another. Now I'm this." Lex explained disjointedly.
"However it happened, I will consider it a very good sign. You've attained stable, functional forms that can be used in both magical and physical combat situations." Doctor Williams said seriously.
Lex tentatively touched the point of the four-inch long slender horn that protruded from the middle of his forehead.
"Imagine holding a wand of incredible power with both hands and wielding it with all your might." Doctor Williams said slowly, then explained, "That is what I've been told that it feels like to wield the unicorn's power."
"I didn't think I'd have anything new to learn when I went to school. I just kind of thought that I'd pick up where G left off before the work-study field trip. I don't even know how I'll use power on this level." Lex said honestly.
"That's something else that you should probably tell Mrs. Bright before she assigns you to classes." Doctor Coker suggested.
"Is that what we're going to do next?" Lex asked cautiously.
"May I assume that all the testing went well and that there is no need for more intensive tests to be administered?" Doctor Williams asked as he looked primarily at Doctor Coker.
"Lex demonstrated an exceptional aptitude for air, as one might expect. His other abilities are on par with others of his perceived age." Doctor Coker said carefully.
"Lucky has shown marginal aptitude in every discipline that he tested in without showing exceptional ability in any. However, he appears to have the ability to observe and restate spell definitions from any specialty in an equivalent framework." Indra said seriously.
"Well then, if you boys will return to the forms you arrived in, you can be on your way so that you can get your class schedules." Doctor Williams said optimistically.
Lex and Lucky shared a look, then turned in unison in counter-clockwise circles. In one revolution, the boys were standing side by side, wearing matching uniforms.
"Very good." Doctor Williams said approvingly, then quickly added, "Let Mrs. Bright know that I'll have your test records updated shortly, the three of us need a moment to reach consensus before we finalize things."
"I'll tell her." Lex promised.
"Does my uniform still look okay, or should I recast it while I've got the chance?" Lucky asked as he looked down at himself.
"If you have to ask, then it's time to recast. That way you won't have to worry as much about it when we're around other people." Lex explained.
"Is there a problem?" Doctor Williams asked with concern.
"Paul and G didn't have uniforms our size, so we made some illusionary ones to get us by for today. If Lucky is worried about his illusion slipping, then he needs to recast it before we're around regular people." Lex easily explained.
"That seems like a reasonable precaution." Doctor Williams confirmed.
Having received tacit permission, Lucky dispelled his uniform, revealing the red shirt that he was wearing underneath.
Doctor Coker and Doctor Williams exchanged a look, silently sharing their appreciation of the ease with which the boy was performing his magic.
When Lucky started the recasting, Doctor Coker cautiously said, "I'm not a sorcerer, but I've seen enough to know that that's not what we're seeing here."
"This is Lucky's version of a spell that Paul cast using alchemy, a numeric plotter, and I don't really know what all... knowing Paul, it wouldn't surprise me to find a wizard's light in there too." Lex said frankly.
"I don't see the advantage of that." Doctor Coker said honestly.
"Paul can't do sorcery, so this was his way of achieving a similar result." Lex explained.
As Lucky finished his spellcasting, his casual clothing, including his red shirt were covered by a realistic school uniform.
"While I'm not entirely sure what you just did, there's no arguing with the results. Even knowing that your uniform is an illusion, I can't find a single flaw in it." Doctor Coker said seriously.
"It's not an illusion. It's real. It just won't stay real without magic to keep it together." Lucky explained.
Doctor Coker reached forward, then caught himself and asked, "May I?"
Lucky puzzled over that for a moment, but then offered his arm so that Doctor Coker could feel the fabric of his uniform for himself.
After a moment of careful examination, Doctor Coker finally confirmed, "It is real."
"It looks like you two are going to make it necessary for us to come up with a new regimen of testing for prospective students." Doctor Williams said, sounding more uneasy than playful.
"Yeah. Well, blame Paul for that. I'm pretty sure if you put any new student with Paul for a couple days before testing that they'd probably do the same as us. It's not that we're better than anyone else, it's that he's really good at inspiring people to realize their hidden talents." Lex said honestly.
"Yes. Having recently seen him at work, I'd have to agree with you about that." Doctor Williams said consideringly.
"Before we left the house, Uncle D and Aunt Beth told us to be sure not to tell people what Lex really is and what kind of magic I can do. Now that you've tested us, do you think we should still do that?" Lucky asked curiously.
"A very good question." Doctor Williams said seriously, then continued, "I believe that allowing people to assume that they understand your origins and capabilities is probably your best course of action."
"I was planning on saying that me and Lucky are Paul and G's cousins from Virginia, which is partly true. If anyone asks about Lucky's magic, I thought we could just say that his mom is a magic thief and that we're trying to figure out what Lucky's magic is, which is also kinda true." Lex explained.
"If it's not entirely true, then the more you commit to the falsehood, the more likely you are to be found out. I suggest that if you can't avoid it entirely, you keep your answers short, vague, and change the subject as soon as possible." Doctor Coker offered seriously.
"If it comes down to it, you can always fall back on the truth." Doctor Williams suggested, then added with a smile, "You can tell them that there are things that you are not at liberty to discuss."
Lex considered that for a moment before saying, "Yeah. If they can't take a hint and back off when we obviously don't want to talk about it, then we probably should go ahead and spell it out for them."
"A witch with a family secret... no one would ever see that coming." Indra added with a barely restrained grin.
"Yes. Another good point." Doctor Williams said with an admiring smile in her direction.
"I guess we'd better get to the office now. I don't think we're going to get more ready than this." Lex said frankly.
"Remember, whether your need, be it medical, magical or even psychological, we will endeavour to help you however we can. Go out into the world knowing that you're not alone; we are here if you need us." Doctor Williams said confidently.
"Most people would just say 'good luck' when they cut you loose. This place really is top notch." Lex told Lucky as they walked out the door.
* * * * *
Lex and Lucky walked into the office to find it drastically different from when they left.
There were several people working behind the desks and about a dozen people in loosely formed lines, waiting to be helped.
"Boys, if you'll wait outside Marsha's office, I'll let her know that you're ready." Janice said as she hurried past them to a desk where some impatient looking people were waiting.
"I think I know where it is. Come on." Lex said quietly as he led the way.
* * * * *
Lex and Lucky took seats outside Mrs. Bright's closed office door and watched the people scurrying past them, skittering around as if theirs was the most important job in the school.
"That didn't take as long as I expected. Come in and we'll get you scheduled." Marsha said pleasantly as she stood in the doorway and ushered the boys into her office.
"Doctor Williams wanted us to tell you that he's going to need a few minutes to bring our reports up-to-date. I guess that he and Doctor Coker and Indra are going to talk about what our tests looked like to them before they decide what to write down about us." Lex explained.
"From what Doctor Williams told me a few minutes ago, I can imagine that your situations are unique to the point that they might have to interpret some of what they've witnessed." Marsha said frankly.
"Yeah. I kinda got the feeling that we're not like everyone else." Lex said reluctantly.
"I may have some good news for you, then." Marsha said happily.
"What's that?" Lex hesitantly asked, having the feeling that she wouldn't tell them until he did.
"Regardless of what Doctor Williams has to say about it, I have the final word when it comes to your class schedules. If you want to be like everyone else, I can probably do that for you. I can give you a safe and predictable daily schedule that, over time, will grind away any troublesome unique ideas and help you to become exactly like everyone else."
"I don't know if I can be like everyone else, or if I could ever convince myself that I was. But either way, this isn't about me. I'm easy; nothing special. I'm probably just like any other elemental witch in all the ways that count. The only thing I'm worried about is Lucky. He's special and I want to be sure that all of us do whatever we can to help him learn everything that he needs to know to be happy and have a chance at a good life."
To Be Continued...
Editor's Notes: I still can't get over how easy it is now, to relocate the margins, after all the fooling around I used to have to do to get it done. Thank you, MM for showing me how to do it the easy way.
I loved the chapter. We found out a few interesting things, as always. Lex and Lucky are both exceptional people, and even though they still have a lot to learn, they are both very well suited to improving their skill sets.
I am certain that neither of them want things to be dull and or boring.
School should be a place to increase your knowledge and improve your techniques. You should be able and encouraged to think out of the proverbial box. As Lex said this is indeed a high class establishment.
The teachers, doctors and administrators all seem to be intent on giving the boys whatever they will need to bring them to the place where they will be able to be a positive force in the world, both magical and mundane.
Darryl AKA The Radio Rancher