Transmutation of Elements

In the bowels of the power plant the alchemists are busy spinning hydrogen into helium. The whistle blows for shift change and seventy sweaty, blue-robed figures shuffle wearily into the Magister’s atelier.

“Good job today,” says Anne “Fafnir” Templeton, grudgingly. She hoards compliments like elf-gold; whence her nickname. “The whole city’s hummin’ like a top. Usage is down, so it looks like our outreach efforts are payin’ off, but we’ve got the batteries topped off. Astrology says there’s a heat wave comin’ in the next se’ennight.”

They groan wearily. Heat waves mean air conditioning, mean people stay indoors, watch tv, listen to music, suck that hard-won marrow from their electric bones.

“Shut it, you lot! Council’s authorized time and a half for the next month, so I don’t want to hear any carpin’. It’ll be a hard slog, sure as hell’s a mantrap, but we’ll get through it, like always.” She glowers at them, breathes fiendish cheroot smoke at them. “All right, get outta here.”

They leave their robes in a heap on the locker room floor. Outside is sunlight, sea air, thick coffee and strong beer. Tomorrow’s time enough for worry.