Up until a few moments ago, Makaleki had been feeling downright gleeful. And with good reason. A week ago he had been a lowly, second level technician without much hope of ever advancing or doing anything meaningful in his chosen career. It took a lot of hard work, dedication, a knack for socializing with the right people, and dumb luck to climb the well-greased ladder to that of a master technician in the third degree. And of course, a third level technician occupying the much envied and limited slot had to die. True, Makaleki was a hard worker, but he wasn’t much on dedication, sacrifice, or kissing ass. Fortunately he was gifted, at least twice in the luck category. Just last week, a master had died. That was his first bit of luck. And this particular master, one of the oldest and most respected, had owed Makaleki such a debt that he had willed his slot to him.
The debt itself was the only other bit of luck that Makaleki had ever had, insomuch that he inadvertently found the master in a compromising situation and had the good sense to be discreet about it. The late master had worried that his legacy would be tainted by Makaleki’s knowledge of his indiscretion and in a clever bit of finagling, had left his spot to him, thereby insuring that Makaleki would never gossip about his failings. If Makaleki ever mentioned it, the past master would be stripped posthumously of his rank, and by proxy, so would Makaleki.
Although prone to sharp criticism of others, Makaleki was not stupid. He would never tell a soul about the foul act he caught the master doing, and being the only witness, his newfound place in the world was secure.
With his new salary and the old master’s house and possessions, Makaleki had moved up in the social strata so high and fast, it was as if he had been catapulted over the walled gates of the exclusive neighborhood he found himself in. When he awoke each morning it took him a while to get out of bed because he couldn’t stop laughing. He was living the dream.
There were strange-beast ribs slow roasting on the grill, the cold box was full of beer, and the hot girl from accounting was in the kitchen fixing whatever the hell her specialty was. Makaleki knew only that it involved steak sausage and some rare spices from the other side of Diymonaya. Beyond that, he could care less. It wasn’t her food he was interested in. Of course she had never been interested in him until, being in accounting, she saw what kind of raise he got after being promoted to master technician. He didn’t mind that. He hadn’t had much luck in the dating arena lately, or ever, and he couldn’t be bothered now by the technicalities of why a hot woman wanted to get cozy with him. Best not to question the finer fates of life and just go with the flow.
But it wasn’t all fine wines and red roses. At the moment he was utterly confounded by the complex workings of the hot tub before him. When she arrived, Sheila had been utterly excited at the sight of the expensive hot tub and talked for some time about how she’d always wanted to sit in one such as this and drink fine wine and stare at the stars. She winked at him in such a way as to hint that that wasn’t the only thing she’d want to do in the tub. He knew she would be walking out of the house at any minute, fully expecting the tub to be hot and ready for them to soak in. He did not fancy disappointing her.
But Makaleki couldn’t figure out how to turn the damn thing on. The old master had designed the tub to be heated by a simple third level furnace spell but Makaleki hadn’t had time to study any of the third level spells. He’d only recently been ranked high enough to read them and in those few days had used most of his time buying new clothes and toys and consequently his knowledge was limited to second level spells, and honestly, as stated before, Makaleki wasn’t very disciplined so he didn’t even know many of those.
He did know a fireball spell or two, and although it would probably work, it would be both overkill and uncouth to lob something as primitive as a lava ball into the tub. Maybe he could grab a small one from the edge of Mount Pantelies or maybe just a tiny bit of lava from the river of fire down by his old school.
He heard the oven timer go off inside and realized he’d run out of options. He quickly began the hand movements that would help him remember the magic words needed to open a small portal to the place the lava was. In actuality, the words weren’t really all that magical, just simple coordinates to the deep recesses of the volcano on the other side of the world. Their strange, arcane sound gibberish to anyone unfamiliar with the workings of fifth dimensional matter transfer.
As he strung the words together, he began to feel a bit of vertigo, which was normal. After all, a part of him-his mental state-was reaching through time and space unnaturally at great speed, and naturally his physical body wanted nothing to do with such outlandish acts. It was similar to when he rode in a fast-moving stagecoach and tried to read. His body knew he was moving, but his eyes begged to differ. It was like that, except opposite. His mind traveled quickly to the volcano, but his body anchored itself in the physical knowledge that they had in fact, gone nowhere. The mild vertigo was nothing to be worried about now, for this was the spell he used more than any other and was quite adept at it, but the first time he had tried the spell he had done it in front of a large class and the vertigo had caused him quite a bit of embarrassment. He had been made to stand up and demonstrate the spell as punishment for not paying attention in class. He was paying attention, but instead of to the instructor, he had been caught paying attention to the pretty girl beside him. If he weren’t so cocky he would have quickly apologized to the instructor and simply sat back down and endured a small amount of ridicule from the class. But his ego got the best of him and he walked confidently over to the front of the firing range and worked his magic. His skill wasn’t nearly as developed as his ego though and he was only able to grab a spoonful of lava, and as he brought it back to his dimension the vertigo overwhelmed him and he lost his balance and stumbled. Instead of barreling out of him like a true weapon of fiery destruction, the drop of lava fell right in front of his face and he promptly extinguished the tiny flame by vomiting all over it.
But he was an expert at it now, probably practicing so much because of the years of ridicul that one moment had caused. He went through the motions smoothly and the timbre of his voice as he recited the words would have impressed even a hardened knight. Makaleki saw the volcano before him and he was in the perfect position to scoop up a large blob of lava, for these were the coordinates he had memorized. But he didn’t need a blob at the moment so he smoothly transitioned to the edge of the lava pool where it eased out over the ocean and dropped mesmerizingly into the water. He timed his grab so that he caught a little drip of a lava right as it hit the water.
He pulled back into his own time and place and daftly tossed the drip into the hot tub. He had been worried that the extreme change of place and temperature would cause the lava to explode, but to his delight, it just fizzled loudly and a second later there was mist on the top of the water. He walked over and stuck his finger into it and the water was warm, but not warm enough. He’d have to add one more lava cube.
Just then, Shelia stepped out of the house carrying a large platter of delicious smelling meat. He also noticed she had removed her clothes and changed into a swimming bottom in preparation for the hot tub. He realized as an aside, that in all the years they had worked at the company he had never seen her breasts, and quickly and subconsciously searched his memory for any reason why not. For they were damn nice breasts. It was going to be a fine evening and he reckoned he could wait a minute or two before grabbing the other lava cube. Surely the impressive display of his prowess coupled with the hotter water would result in her removing her swimming bottoms also.
“What are you smiling at?” she asked.
“Watch this,” he said grinning, as he started the motions to grab some more red hot, molten rock.
But things didn’t go quite as planned. The vertigo morphed into the uncomfortable and undesirable feeling of being summoned by a technician of a higher level than he was. He did not want to be summoned away from this perfect moment but he was not strong enough to resist.
“Goddammit! Not now!” he said and disappeared with an unceremonious “poof”.
Sheila stood by the hot tub with an expectant smile on her face. She thought he would reappear at any moment and she stood there, holding the plate of meat for quite some time.