Testing the limits of how "Prototype" a prototype is allowed to be.
This WU is INCOMPLETE.
Below is the SYNOPSIS/original dream diary entry. The dream diary entry may be radically different from the (eventually) finished product.
Beneath that is what I've managed to hammer together in the past two days in order to make it presentable. It is NOT DONE.
Also, note: when I write, I write in seperate chunks, then connect everything together later. The "* * * *" indicate actual sequence shifts/"chapters", and the "-----" indicate that it's an incomplete section, with the ----'s acting as a divider/place holder.
* * * * *
Original dream log entry:
Dude has the ability to time travel in two flavors: if he's out and about and doing it on the fly, he can go backwards a maximum of five minutes.
If he actually plans ahead and prepared and created basically a save point by looking in a mirror and concentrating, he can go back months or years.
He uses this ability to break into rare/expensive book and magic artifact collections, steals stuff, then hides it somewhere where he can find it in the future.
He is currently stealing a book called Alanno (which IRL is a city in Italy??) for a wealthy book collector who has no idea that the dude has magic and is stealing books (as the dude passes it off like he's inherited these rare books legally). Dude has sold to this guy plenty of times before.
It takes him the equivalent time of four years (though it's actually only a month) because the security measures for the place it's kept keep changing. He suspects whoever owns the place is also some kind of time wizard, or knows about them. When he finally gets the book and gets back to the collector, he realizes he's being followed and that the last time when he actually successfully got the book, the owner LET him in order to track him, and he basically has a mental breakdown because the only way to go back far enough in time to avoid being followed is to start the heist all over again. (It was very much a "I didn't save often enough and now I have to redo this quest" feeling).
The dream ended with him getting so flustered and angry that right before he goes back in time again, as he's cornered inside the collector's home by the agents following him and the collector who is increasingly upset ("who are these people? What did you do?!"), he starts laughing and tears up the Alanno book, crumpling up and eating pages of it before going back in time.
What I've Got So Far:
Issac didn't like to think of himself as a thief.
It was cold out, mid-September brisk. His watch told him it was 10:32, and the combined chill and time had left business slow at the cafe, and he was the only customer to be seated at the tables outside. He looked up from the newspaper he was ostensibly reading and glanced at the building across from the cafe. The sign above the shop windows proclaimed in swirling letters, Dillon's Antique Books, with smaller letters beneath saying, "We love the old!"
Three, two, one. . .
He made a small gesture towards the bookshop, and the door opened. A young woman walked out, tugging her jacket more firmly around her, and made her way down the street.
Issac smiled and rose from his seat. It was his fifth time experiencing the 12th of September, and this time, he felt like he'd worked all the kinks out.
The young woman was the granddaughter of the eponymous Dillon and the only other full time employee of the shop, and right now, she would be on her way to the Starbucks down the street to get drinks for herself and her grandfather. She would be gone for about fifteen minutes. Plenty of time.
He crossed the road, not bothering to look for traffic-- the red light down the way would keep everyone for another two minutes-- and he slipped into the shop. As he'd expected, there was a middle-aged woman waiting at the checkout, with nobody there. The owner, Mr. Dillon, was in the back room, checking something for her, and would be busy for another ten minutes.
Issac's observation on the book shop about a month ago, his-time, though only two days had passed for everyone else in the world, and he had learned around the 2nd week of observation that the owner's teenage grandson, who was paid to tidy up the place in the mornings before school, sometimes neglected to lock the cases all the way after dusting. The 12th of September was one such day, and unlike the others days, it was on the 12th that the case he forgot to lock also happened to be the one to contain the Ambrose.
And now, after all the preparation, all Issac had to do was walk into the shop, head to the back wall, check the 3rd bookcase on the left, 4th shelf down, and take out the thick leather tome whose title was embossed gold on the front. Ambrose-- which is exactly what he did. The book had some heft to it, but previous attempts told him the customer at the front-- the only other person in the main part of the shop-- wasn't particualrly observant. He slipped the book into the inner pocket of his jacket, and though it weighted his coat down, causing it to fall unevenly, she didn't appear to notice, too engrossed in her phone.
He walked out of the shop.
He walked across the street, got into his car, and drove away.
* * * * *
Issac didn't like to think of himself as a thief, because thieves lacked class. What he did was complex. It was intensive. It required patience, finesse, weeks and months of preparation. It was art, and he was-- as far as he could tell-- the only person in the world who could do it.
He did, however, like to think of himself as a sorcerer, even if nobody else did.
Oh, sure, he'd taken the magical aptitude tests in school and had come back with results declaring him as magically capable as a goldfish, but he'd known even as a child that the tests had been wrong. He knew he had magic. He could feel it, even then, and it wasn't until he was much older that he'd figured out what it was he could do.
Most sorcerers had a number of tricks up their sleeves. He'd heard of ones who could conjure fire, or speak to the wind, or talk to cats, or any number of impressive--if, in his opinion, impractical-- things.
Issac was not blessed with that kind of magic.
Issac had exactly two gifts at his disposal, what he liked to think of as the Mirror Save and the Flash. Part of him thought that the names were dumb things concocted by his fifteen year old self, and that it amounted to the same thing anyway, but still he kept them.
After all, time travel was time travel, no matter what silly names you called it.
* * * * *
For high security ordeals, Issac would leave the items in a hidden cache somewhere, then travel back to his last Mirror Save and live out the remaining time until the item was stolen. All he would have to do then was wait a day or two, then go to the cache where he had hidden it, take the item, and get it to the buyer. Sometimes, Issac wondered about the implications of that sort of game; whether on that day of theft if there were two of him running around, and what would happen if they'd ever met-- all that stable-loop time travel theory stuff that involved the words quantum and paradox a lot. But the universe hadn't unraveled, and he hadn't gotten caught by either the police or another version of himself, so he figured it must not have been all that serious.
The Ambrose was not a high risk item. It was valuable to only a handful of people, one of which was his buyer, and the hardest part about its acquisition was finding the damn thing in the first place. That, and stomaching the poor quality coffee at the cafe. On top of that, he had stolen it once already, on the 4th time experiencing September 12th, and that time he'd intentionally hung onto the book for an extra few week, waiting for any sign that Dillon was looking for it. He tended to do this before turning in his jobs For Real; he would hang around and wait to see what kind of fuss popped up after the theft, and see if anything happened that could connect back to him. It was usually a colossal waste of time, but occasionally there'd be a witness he'd accidentally run into, or a security camera he hadn't noticed, and then he could go back in time and to the job again properly.
For the Ambrose case, after one month of silence, Issac had determined that Dillon either didn't notice it was gone, or had quietly filed a police report, and apparently the theft was considered inconsequential enough not to warrant any kind of investigation-- magical or otherwise. Issac had ditched the book and gone back to his Mirror Save, back to right before the 12th, and had robbed Dillon's again.
And now here he was, walking up the steps to Simeon's office, returning in the book in a timely manner, only two days after receiving the job.
Simeon Cane's office was on the better side of town, surrounded by the professional buildings favored by hedgefund managers and particularly expensive law firms. Simeon owned the building, and it looked almost humble in comparison to some of its neighbors, with decorative flowers out front, and wooden steps leading to the door. Issac had no idea what Cane did as his actual day job, but he doubted the building was for the benefit of Cane's black market antique book fencing operation.
There was a new security guard at the front desk. Not for the first time, Issac wondered what Cane did that he would need a guard, rather than a secretary, but he pushed the thought aside. He went for the elevator door.
"Hey," said the guard. "Guests need to check in."
"Not a guest. I'm here to see Simeon," Issac said.
"ID?" The guard rose to his feet.
"You must be new. I don't check in at the desk."
"Sir, I'm going to have to ask you to either provide some ID, or leave."
"I don't have an ID card. Simeon knows me. You guys are supposed to get briefed on this."
The guard stepped closer. "Sir, I am going to need you to leave."
Issac looked at him for a moment, then determined none of this was worth the bother. Without a word, he took a sharp step backwards--
--and flashed back five minutes.
Now he was in his car, just done parking down the street from Simeon's office. He took out his cellphone and texted Simeon's unlabeled number.
I got Ambrose.
Tell front desk to let me in.
He handed Simeon the Ambrose with a smile. Simeon's eyes lit up, and he ran his fingers gently over the cover.
"Excellent work, Issac," he said. "And in only two weeks! One of these days you'll have to tell me how you do it."
"It's a very precious book," Simeon said. "Highly coveted by historians and collectors, with very few copies remaining."
He'd gone on to describe the book after that-- how it was some memoir of some wizard-king that were all the rage back in the ancient times, but Issac barely heard that part. precious> and meant expensive and easy to sell.
"So it's a difficult case, then?"
"I assure you, the client would be most appreciative of the effort involved."
"Not to be crass," Issac said, "but exactly how appreciative?"
Simeon told him the sum. For a split second, Issac was certain his heart stopped.
"That's. . . That's very appreciative," he said faintly.
"The Allano is of significant historic and sorcerous value to certain individuals." Simeon said, his voice pleased. It wasn't often he managed to stun Issac.
He stared closely into the mirror, looking directly into his reflection's eyes. He did this for a minute, then another. It could take a while to trigger, sometimes.
Slowly, in the mirror, the room behind him began to fade. Then the bed he sat on. Then he, too, appeared to fade; all other features becoming blurred and distant, with only his reflection's eyes remaining clear.
He knew if he were to refocus, to adjust his eyes even a little, then everything would come rushing back, and he would have to try again, so he let the intensity of his gaze continue.
Finally, after what felt like ages, he felt it. The small click in his head, the sudden indescribably certainty in his chest that told him it was done.
He allowed himself to blink, and the world returned to normal; the mirror was just a mirror, the hotel room was back, and there was a crick in his neck from leaning forward. Rubbing his eyes, Issac got up from the chair and went to unpack his laptop.
There was research to be done.
* * * * *
Time travel came in two flavors.
First, and most challenging, was the mirror trick, the "save point." He could go back years that way-- and had, too, once. But the only way forward was the same as everyone else, one day at a time. The longest he'd ever gone back was ten years, and he still considered it to be the biggest, most miserable mistake of his life, bad enough to turn him off the idea of long-saves entirely. He'd been unprepared, had forgotten that the save point had been back during his high school years, and had ten gruesome years of suffering again through the things he couldn't avoid, and finding new and worse mistakes to replace the things he did manage to work around.
These days, the longest he would let himself go without setting a save point was a year, two tops, and usually before he undertook a big job.
* * * * *
It took him four months his-time and two days in everyone else's time for him to find the Allano. He'd spoken to every contact, turned in every favor, read through hundreds of catalogues and records from hundreds of book shops, publishing houses, universities, museums-- anything he could think of.
The Allano had been written by one of the ancient wizard-kings of the west back when any man with a scrap of magic and a go-get-'em attitude could take over a few villages and call himself king. But though most accounts from those days were almost certainly exaggerated to the point of falsehood, Allan TeAmmat was believed by certain sects of sorcerous academia to have been as powerful as his legends painted him to be, and the Allano, though not strictly a book of magic, was accepted as a being magical book. It was a collection of histories relating to TeAmmat and his reign, with sections supposedly penned by his hand. Also included were bit of poetry the king had done, musings on the goings on of the time, and his thoughts on things like souls and magic and philosophy.
The Allano had spent most of the last century stored a secured case at a university across the country; apparently the university was known for its small, but nevertheless impressive, collection of assorted magical artifacts.
Then, twenty years ago, it was stolen. The magic seals on the cases had been in perfect condition when the police investigated, but the book was gone. The state of the seals had thrown suspicion on the staff members of the college of magic, but all of them volunteered to be questioned under the watch of a truthsayer, and all of them had come up clean.
Moriander Sherman, already born rich, was one of the lucky people whose magic had manifested in a way conducive to making money and gaining status. Unlike Issac and countless others who were born with one or two knacks, Moriander appeared to be a throwback to the old days where a wizard could just as easily rain fire from the sky as turn lead into gold.
The pictures of him in the file showed a man who didn't look like he was pushing fifty, but that was wizards for you. Anyone who could make themselves look younger (or who could afford to pay someone else to do it), did. Moriander smiled from the photographs, his black hair tamed in a long braid, his angular face and bright green eyes somehow managing to look like it was challenging Issac, despite being a perfectly innocent photo. Issac blinked, then scowled. The longer he looked, the surer Issac was that the man in the photo was mocking him.
He tossed the photo aside with disgust and started reading through the security details of the Sherman manor where the Allano was said to be.
Vongrim's WU was the one above mine. Writing wise, it was fine, a little 4/5 musing. But the weird sexist undertones make me drop it down to a 2/5.
Nicolastag's WI was the one above that. I can tell there's a longer story in there and I want to see that story. Ideas and intrigue-wise, I give it a 5/5, but for actual prose, I give it a 3/5.
Bookreader's was above that, and that is a 5/5. That's the kind of creatively-crafted surreal shit I like to see. Weird as fuck and working on an entirely alien level of logic, but with an internal consistency that holds through.
GlowingFish: 4/5, another little WU musing, serviceable and slightly intimate in the way that little thought WUs are.
Jet-Poop: Goddamit Jet-Poop, how come you can write your dreams so concise AND have them be good? 5/5.
Npecom: I am pretty sure this is fiction, but it feels like something that happened. Or something that I want to have happened. Either way, 5/5.
Ameriwire: Meta as fuck brah! 4/5. One point off because the last part with the lack of spacing made my head hurt. This is an entirely petty reason, but I have a headache now and am feeling petty.
RedOmega: WRITE MORE. 5/5