As I finished my food Isambard came over from somewhere. He placed a small white card on the table in front of me. To my displeasure it featured a photo of me. Next to the photo was my name Verity Pour, date of birth and the phrase Acolyte Trainee. In the corner of the card was a simple logo consisting of a light green rectangle with a circle cut out of the centre, and above it along the length of the top of the card was a phrase that I couldn’t read because it seemed to be written in Latin.
“This is your identity card.” Isambard explained. “It should let you get through all the non-restricted doors here, including your room.” He placed something else on the table: a post-it note with Room 227 scribbled on it. “Go up one floor and follow the signs.” I nodded.
“Thanks.” I said. Isambard hovered for a moment.
“How are you feeling?” He asked. It was odd, hearing any amount of genuine concern in Isambard’s voice.
“I’m okay.” I replied, “There’s just a lot to take in…”
“There’ll be even more to take in tomorrow.” Isambard’s voice was back to usual. “Tom wants to see you in his office at nine sharp tomorrow morning.” I nodded again.
“Where is his office?” I asked after a moment.
“Room 221 in the West Building.” Isambard answered. “There should be a booklet in your room with a map.” I nodded one more time and Isambard left. I took the last couple of mouthfuls of food and wondered when I last ate this much in one go.
My meal finished, I decided to go looking for my room.
Save for overshooting and entering the third floor, it turns out American floor numbers work differently from what I was used to, I found room 227 fairly quickly and was able to use my identity card to enter. As Isambard had said, a booklet containing a map of the campus, as well as lots of other information I didn’t quite understand, had been left on the bed. There were a couple of other things left alongside the booklet. A reasonably thick book that was apparently written by Jeremiah Guyard, and a small pamphlet. What to do when you know the world is wrong. A cheerful sounding title. It looked like something that might be handed out to passers-by on the street. I opened it up and read a couple of paragraphs.
We’ve all seen it. Something is wrong with the world today. If there was nothing wrong then why is the world full of conflict, depression, anxiety, broken families and strife? The Church of Mammon have seen the sadness in the world but know that there is a cure. Come to one of the many Church of Mammon meeting houses to find out how you can become a part of something greater, and heal the world and yourself.
I assumed the Church of Mammon weren’t about to reveal the secrets of Divitaetion to just anyone who wandered in off the street. I even wondered how open the Church of Mammon were with their beliefs. While they certainly wore the name of their deity with pride I would be surprised if their sales pitch opened with all that stuff about money being Mammon’s great gift to humanity. I tossed the pamphlet aside. I didn’t want to learn any more about the Church of Mammon that evening.
Finding Tom Beckman’s office proved a little harder than finding my room. While the system of the first digit of the room number indicating its floor was an easy enough concept to grasp, that only got you halfway there, and I found myself wandering around the second floor searching for room 221.
“Are you okay?” I turned to see a woman maybe a few years older than me. She was smiling with her mouth but looked somewhat worried with her eyes.
“Yes um…” I stammered a little. My accent stood out like a sore thumb here and I was starting to feel a little concious of it. “I’m looking for room 221.”
“Oh, Tom’s office.” For some reason it struck me as odd to hear people reference Beckman so casually. “Yeah this building is real confusing. You can’t actually access room 221 from this side.”
“Huh?” I made a noise similar to that.
“There are two staircases in this building, and Tom’s office can only be accessed from the other one.” That seemed like an unnecessarily confusing feature for a building. “I think Tom likes to be hard to find.” The woman giggled a little. “I’ll show you the way, come on.”
“Oh no I can find my own way there.” I resisted but the woman was already striding away.
“Come on.” She repeated. I followed. “I haven’t seen you around here before.” The woman was saying as we descended the staircase, the wrong staircase as I had now been informed. “I’m Faith.” She introduced herself. “What’s your name?”
“Verity.” I said. Faith made an impressed noise.
“That’s a nice name.”
“Thanks.” I squirmed a little. Being complimented could feel awkward, but it was especially awkward to be complimented for something you didn’t really do, like pick your name.
“So are you new here?”
“Yes, I just arrived yesterday.”
“And you’re already looking for Tom?”
“I’ve already met him.” I confessed. Faith made another impressed noise. Back on the bottom floor, Faith took me across the lobby to a small door at the back. Beyond that was another staircase. This one was smaller than the other and was a little darker due to having fewer windows. The walls were still all pure white. We climbed this second staircase and found ourselves on a small landing. At the end of the landing was a wooden door, completely plain save for the plaque that read 221.
“There it is. Just knock and Tom will let you in.” Faith went to depart, her altruism complete.
“Thank you.” I said.
“Don’t mention it.” Faith waved a hand and smiled. “It was nice to meet you Verity.” With that she took off back down the stairs before I had a chance to say anything more. I was left alone in the hallway. I looked down at my watch. It was a cheap digital one, and the strap was held together with a generous helping of tape. 09:12 the display blinked at me. I was late. I took a breath and walked across the landing past a few other doors, all as nondescript as the one to room 221. Only one other room in the hallway had a plaque on it, the Reference Room. I walk past that and came to the door to Room 221. There was nothing else for it. I knocked on the door.
“Come in.” Tom Beckman’s voice emanated from somewhere behind the door. I opened it and stepped inside. Tom Beckman’s office made just as striking an impression as the office of Richard Guyard, but for different reasons. No gold hung from any of the walls. Instead most of the walls had long shelves fixed to them, and all them were filled with thick tomes with a variety of long and overall uninteresting titles. I did spy the book that had been left in my room, Money Maketh the Man by Jeremiah Guyard, at the top of a pile of yet more books that didn’t have a home on the shelves. At the centre of all this was a desk covered in sheets of paper. Somewhere beneath all those loose sheets was a computer keyboard and mouse, for operating the very old looking computer monitor that took up one corner of the desk. Finally, sat at the desk was Tom Beckman.
“Ah Verity. Good morning.” Tom Beckman put the sheet he was reading from to one side. “Please take a seat.” I looked around. There were a couple of chairs by the wall, though they were already occupied by yet more stacks of books. “Just move the books.”
Permission granted, I moved the books from one of the chairs to the floor, pulled the chair over to the desk and sat down.
“I’ve been instructed to teach you the art of Divitaetion, Verity.” Tom Beckman stated what I already knew. “Though you seem to have managed to intuit some of it yourself. First there is something I would like to test.” He reached over his desk and offered a green piece of paper. I took it and looked at it. A one dollar bill. “Can you produce heat using this?” I looked at the note. I’d never tried the process, which I’d recently learned was Divitaetion, with something like money before, but the process couldn’t be too different, right? I did as I had a couple of times recently and warmed up my hand. Beckman apparently didn’t need to hold my hand to verify it this time. Using the note proved to be odd. I had no control over how much heat I produced. I simply drew upon the note and it gave its power. My hand warmed up to a temperature I had no control over, and the note became dust in my hand like the coin I’d seen Isambard launch into the air a few days prior. Beckman murmured something, then spoke loud enough for me to hear.
“Thank you Verity, that will be helpful when it comes to the more advanced lessons. But there is plenty for us to cover before then.” Beckman stood up. “There isn’t enough room for me to teach you here. Follow me.”
For all the effort it took me to find it, I was in Tom Beckman’s office for about five minutes. Beckman led me down the steps and back to the lobby.
“There’s a gym in the east building used for Divitaetion training.” He explained. We crossed the courtyard to the building on the other side. Further within we came to a large hall. Like everything else, the walls were pure white. The floor, on the other hand, was wooden and covered in a variety of coloured lines. I wasn’t an expert on sports but something about the nets at either end of the hall suggested that they were for basketball. “We’ll have room to practice here.” Beckman said. He was right, there was no one else there. “As you’re likely aware by now, producing heat is not the only thing that can be achieved with Divitaetion, though it is what most trainee acolytes learn first.” He took out a small black wallet. “We can skip heat and move on to force.” Beckman emphasised a couple of words as if they were important. He took a small copper coin out of the wallet and handed to it me. I looked at the coin. I didn’t know American currency yet but I figured this was a cent. I wondered if I should ask if I really needed the coin. Beckman answered for me. “I know that you can use Divitaetion without money, but much Divitaetion uses the money itself as a conduit for casts, as well as the source.”
“Pardon?” I said.
“The output of Divitaetion usually comes from the money itself.” Beckman attempted to explain. He saw that the nonplussed expression had not departed from my face. “Like this.” He dropped the coin he had taken out. It hit the floor and bounced a couple of times before clattering away across the floor. Beckman cursed slightly. The coin came to a stop. Just as I realised I’d seen this before, the coin hopped into the air, though nowhere near as high as the coin Isambard had done the same thing with. “I must admit I am not sure what would happen if you performed Divitaetion like that without a physical source.” I imagined myself being launched into the air, and then turning into dust just like the coin. Then I remembered that I didn’t turn into dust when I produced heat.
Beckman took another copper coin out and passed it to me. “Hold the coin out in your palm.” I did so. “The first thing I will be teaching you is what we refer to as force.” Beckman began the lesson as I stood there with the coin sitting in my outstretched palm. “I just demonstrated it to you. Money used for this cast will exert an impulse in a direction of your choosing.” He paused for a moment. “It will push out where you want it to.” So this was what Isambard and Beckman had been doing with the coins to make them jump. It was strange to think that I could do more than just generate heat. In fact, generating heat was a strange thing in itself. Beckman’s voice broke through my musings. “Please see if you can cast force with that coin.”
“Right…” I looked at the coin for a bit. How was I meant to do this? Generating heat was second nature to me by now, I could barely remember not being able to do it. “Sorry… um… how?” I looked up, not too far up, at Beckman’s face. If he was disappointed in my lack of further intuitive Divitaetion, he didn’t show it.
“Learning your first cast is always the one that takes the longest.” His voice was calm and measured. “But you have already shown me that you can cast heat with money. The same principle applies.”
The same principle? Perhaps this would all would have made sense if I’d read Richard Guyard’s work the night before.
“Just try it,” Beckman urged softly, “That coin is a gift from Mammon, and to Mammon it will go. And through that act of offering something of value, a boon of equal value will be granted. That is Divitaetion.”
Would that really work for me, if I was supposed to be Mammon? Was I offering something to myself? This talk of offerings and Mammon wasn’t helpful at all. I struggled for a little longer but… something Beckman had said had made sense to me. None of the stuff about offering money to Mammon in exchange for “a boon of equal value” but… the offering… Money used in Divitaetion turned into dust immediately. Once it was used it was gone, never to be used again… As I thought about it I warmed up to the concept. Yes, the coin had power because I was willing to give it up, just like…
With that in mind, I told the coin to jump.
The coin immediately leapt up from my hand at an alarming speed, flying much higher than the coin Beckman had launched earlier. As expected, it faded to dust at the peak of its jump. Tom Beckman clapped politely as I stared up at the point where the coin had disappeared.
“Congratulations Verity.” Tom Beckman said, “You’ve learned your second piece of Divitaetion.”
It turns out that I could make coins jump. Fancy that.