The (Mad) Scientific Method
The scientist flexed his jaw in the prescribed pattern that triggered the microrecorder in his helmet. It was a useful research device, this helmet, containing not only the recorder for his experiment reports but a variety of lenses including power equal to a microscope's as well as sensitivity to other energy patterns and wavelengths in the eyepieces.
"Experimental journal, August 14, Space Century 342, 2:37 P.M.," he began, checking the date and time stamp that appeared in his field of vision. "Extensive research using the laconian pot has confirmed that when various organic compounds are placed inside it, they undergo certain predictable changes. Specifically, the pot appears to focus the energies called 'magic' into the contents, which has the simultaneous effects of leaching the water from the substance and charging it with said energies."
He paused, then went over to the refrigerator, opened it, and took out a plastic tray, divided into separate, labeled compartments. That reminded him, had he taken his afternoon medication? No matter; it could wait. From one of the compartments, he took a large black berry, ripe and juicy. For just a moment, the scientist had the absurd urge to pop it into his mouth and eat it.
Well, maybe not that absurd. He'd been so busy working that he'd missed lunch, after all. That was the way of scientific research: it demanded sacrifices.
"I am now going to place a maruera berry, the fruit of a tree grown on Motavia, into the pot. From past experience, I predict that this berry will harden into a nutlike object which will contain an excess of magical energy. This energy, in turn, will be released into the body of the experimental subject which consumes the nut."
He dropped the berry into the pot. It made a soft thumping sound as it hit the bottom. More sounds rose from the pot, a sizzling and popping noise as the moisture was extracted and vaporized.
"I recommend that an examination of the pot itself be made by an Esper with training in the scientific method," the scientist noted almost as an afterthought, "in order to establish the precise nature by which it manipulates the so-called magical energies, as these energies, when dormant, are not detectable by mundane analytical instruments."
He picked up a pair of tongs and reached carefully into the pot with them—the scientist didn't want to end up with a dried and shriveled hand!—and withdrew precisely what he was expecting; a small, hard, nutlike object about half the size of the berry.
"Predictable results have been achieved," he said, trying to keep the elation out of his voice. "The maruera berry has in fact been changed into a maruera nut. It now remains to test what effect this will have upon the experimental subject's physiology."
This, he decided, was where he was running into trouble. The various kinds of nuts he was able to produce had widely varying effects, some of which were quite disturbing, and different subjects were affected in different ways. Moreover, these changes, in addition to being physical, also appeared to include magical alterations, abilities, or weaknesses. He recalled the time he'd fed a nut to a sworm and ended up with a giant, fire-breathing fly about six feet long.
"It will be interesting," he noted, "to see if the trend continues that the more magically active the subject, the more pronounced and beneficial the results." He would have liked to have tried an experiment on something like the manticores Medusa had created, but the wizardess had stubbornly refused to grant him access to her research materials. It was intolerable, really. How could anyone gain a perfect understanding of the laws of nature if the Espers and the physical scientists would not exchange information? There were whole bodies of knowledge waiting to be uncovered, if it wasn't for the stubborn territorialism of the researchers!
Recognizing the signs of an incipient fit, the scientist quickly distracted himself (lab equipment was so hard to come by, these days) by making a microscopic examination of the maruera nut using his helmet, reciting the results in a voice that was as dry as dust.
That was when the door opened.
"Who dares disturb—" he began, but then he caught sight of it. A Musk Cat! A big, yellow, cute, fuzzy Musk Cat—possibly the most magically active species native to Palma!
The people with it were saying something about the cruelty of his experiments, how he was terrorizing the populace of Abion, the usual sort of thing he'd heard a thousand times before. He barely noticed as he stared at the cat.
"You have a cat! Give it to me!"
"Give you Myau? Never!" exclaimed the girl in pink.
"Not bloody likely," growled the big blond man, leveling his heat gun at the scientist.
The cat itself hissed and spat, while the white-mantled man in the back of the group merely smiled thinly.
A trickle of saliva slid from the corner of the scientist's mouth and down his chin.
"Those who interfere with my experiments must die!" he screamed, grabbing the controls of the vivisecting laser strapped to his waist. He would obliterate these fools and take the cat!
When the girl's sword plunged through his chest, he reflected that, as a scientist, he really shouldn't have made that assumption without evidence to support it.