From: Judi Marko 
Subject: [AM] Applied Science

Hours had passed while Laura explored the seemingly endless twists and
turns of the blue crystalline maze of caverns that imprisoned her. Hours
in the time stream of this Shadow, at least. Its relativity to Amber time
Laura had no way to measure. Had years passed in Amber since Brand (she
could not think of him as Prince Brand of Amber) had whisked her from the
Castle? Hours? Minutes? Had she been missed?

She had been with Brandi when she was snatched, but the Bard of Amber had
been otherwise and intensely occupied at the time -- with some distinctly
un-bardlike activities. Brandi had been facing what looked like
insurmountable odds, yet Laura would put her money on her cousin's skills
and will anytime. Still, how deep were the firebrand's reserves of
strength? Brandi had been through so much in such a short time -- the
discovery of her parentage, the ordeal at the Pattern by Scylla and
Charybdis, the distrust by her elders, and then the face-off with the
unknown entity. Laura had wanted to help but could do nothing. Now, she
was the one who needed help.

The hours of exploration had yielded no way out. Wherever she walked or
crawled, wherever she looked, there was only shimmering blue crystal.
There was no indication that the air was growing stale so Laura reasoned
that there must be some access to the outside, but she was equally sure
Brand had made it impossible for her to find. The mad Prince didn't want
her dead, she believed, not at present, anyway. No, he wanted her alive to
be used for his own twisted purposes, a fate infinitely worse if he
succeeded. An involuntary shudder rippled through her perfect body at the
thought. With it came a determination that he would not succeed.

What to do next? Would any of her cousins come looking for her? Did the
bond of trust and love she felt for Brandi, Zachary, Orbus stretch both
ways? Laura felt she had been the catalyst to break the cycle of family
mistrust that almost defined her family, but she was so new to Amber. The
others had so many more years and so many more reasons to revert back to
the web of cynicism and deceit that made isolation seem the wisest choice.

Some time ago Laura had felt the briefest wisp of a Trump contact. She
tried to answer, felt it fade, then exerted all of her will to bring it
back. Nothing. It had been so fleeting. Had she only imagined it? Or was
Brand taunting her from afar holding out a thread of hope, then snatching
it back? She reached into the pocket of her slacks fingering her own Trump
deck and knowing it would be of no use. For the moment, at least, she was
on her own, would have to find her own way out or, if any of her cousins
were really looking for her, find a way to help them reach her.

"You have a brain, girl," she said aloud, "and the will of Amber flows
through your veins. Use them."

The blue crystals seemed to laugh at her. They emanated a sharp cold that
began to permeate her bones and muscles. Shivering, Laura stood up and
rubbed her arms. Blue had never been one of her favorite colors; she
thought it bland and boring. Now, she was beginning to positively hate the

She had a teleportation spell hung, Fly Me to the Moon, but didn't waste
the time and effort trying to cast it. A fledgling sorceress, she was no
match for the warding spells Brand would have hung. The power of Trump,
her most developed talent, was useless. She held Bloodstone up in front of
her eyes and gazed into the image of the Pattern imprinted in the ruby
looking for inspiration.

"How do I escape this Shadow?" she asked the lines and curls of power.

The Pattern gave no audible answer, nor did Laura expect one, but she felt
its essence surging through her, willing her to find her way.

Shadow! This WAS a Shadow and she could manipulate Shadow. True, it was
Brand's Shadow and so to shift it would be exhausting and time-consuming,
but it -could- be done.

Laura moved to a glowing wall of cerulean crystal and began to touch it,
her brain working furiously to determine what she knew and what it would
help her to find. An idea came to mind. A little applied science.
Anything she wanted could be found in Shadow and there were only five small
items she had to find. It was just a matter of will and Laura took command
of her concentration. Eyes closed, she pictured the items she wanted. And
opened her eyes to find none of them. She took a deep breath and tried
again, willing her mind to see nothing but what she sought. The next time
she looked they -would- be there!

Nothing! Nothing but the caverns mocking her. Laura wailed. Why did she
have to be so inexperienced? Any true daughter of Amber should be able to
find five common items in Shadow. In total frustration, she began to pace.
And felt a subtle, minute change.

"Of course! Idiot!" she chided herself. "Total spas! Are you in blonde
mode? To forget the most basic rule of shadow shifting! You can't just sit
there and think. You have to MOVE!"

Once more she began to explore the caverns, this time making tiny changes
as she walked. As she had anticipated, each small alteration took an
enormous amount of her energy and an even greater measure of time. The
piercing cold grew steadily stronger, numbing Laura and trying to hamper
her resolve. She assumed this was not a natural element of the caves, but
rather a defense designed by Brand.

"If I could walk the Pattern, I can do this."

Her limbs aching with cold, Laura forced herself onward. An eternity had
passed when she looked down and gave a cry of triumph. At her feet were a
hammer and chisel. Encouraged, she picked them up and trod onward.
Another eon went by when she suddenly tripped over two instruments and fell
heavily to the rocky ground, her ankle twisting painfully under her.
Laura winced as she gingerly rotated her foot. It hurt and hurt badly but
the range of motion told her it was only a sprain, not a break. She rested
a moment to look over her new treasures, a spectrograph and a microscope.
These would tell her if the last item she searched for would be of any use,
but she couldn't stop to do her testing now. She had to keep moving while
she still could.

The razor-sharp edges of the wall's surface cut into Laura's fingers as
she used them to pull herself erect. No longer did she waste energy
wondering if anyone would come to help her. Every thought was focused on
moving forward making the minuscule changes that were the most she could
handle now, the changes that would lead her to the last of her objectives.

Each tiny step took every once of her will. The throbbing of her now
swollen ankle really didn't worry Laura. She knew it would heal quickly
and completely. It was the intense cold that frightened her. She knew the
effects of extreme cold. It could, and eventually would, force her to lose
consciousness. If not for her Amber strength, this would have happened
hours ago. It was when she felt she could not take one more step that
Laura spotted a small crevice in the wall to her left. Almost falling
against it, she reached in and found her final item.

"Oh yes! Thank the Unicorn, I've found it. Now to see if Mr. Levinson's
chem and physics classes will pay off?"

The sciences had never been among Laura's favorite classes, but she had
breezed through them getting her customary A's without much effort. She
had not known then of her Amber intelligence. She had known only that no
one would ever tell her the results of her I.Q. tests, and she knew it
wasn't below they were so low as to be embarrassing. Now she set to work
with hammer and chisel. She needed only a sliver or two of the blue
substance, but uttered more than a few colorful expletives when her efforts
didn't even make a scratch.

"What the HELL?" All that effort for nothing. No, she would not accept
that. If the chisel wouldn't break off a piece of crystal, then it must be
too hard. But Bloodstone was rubies and diamonds and diamonds could cut
anything. Laura removed the pendant from around her neck. She was
somewhat surprised to find that it took all her effort to produce the
slightest of scratches in the blue crystal even with the diamonds. Barely
able to hold Bloodstone in her frozen fingers, Laura continued to chip at a
section of wall until she had a think cross-section to place under
microscope and spectrograph.

A look under the microscope confirmed what Laura expected and hoped to
see. The chain of molecules proved that the substance was indeed
crystalline in nature, and forcing a break in that molecular link could
shatter a crystal.

She was about to check the spectrograph when she heard movement from
behind. Laura turned slowly and painfully to find two men who had the look
and build of members of the Russian Olympic weight-lifting team of her home
Shadow coming towards her. The only difference was that their skin was
purple and their fingers ended in claws. In her current condition, Laura
might have a chance fighting one of them, but she hadn't a prayer against

Laura thought furiously and could see only one possible avenue open to her.
With any luck at all, and she believed she was due some, she had shifted
the Shadow enough to work a spell she had prepared and hung the day before.
It was not an escape spell so she believed, had to believe, it had a good
chance. Not moving an inch and bringing her full concentration into the
casting, Laura unleashed Time In a Bottle and managed a smile as she
watched her attackers' pace slow to a crawl, then stop as they froze into
statues. The spell had worked. She had slowed time in a 50-foot radius
around her to a fraction of her own.

With no way to be sure how long the effect would last in this hostile
environment, Laura shrugged and hobbled close enough to the motionless
creatures to thrust her dagger into one of them. It bled fire, the flames
growing higher as its life ebbed away. Glad of the momentary warmth given
off by the dying creature of Chaos, Laura dispatched the second.

That peril quashed for the moment, she went back to her examination of the
crystal sliver. Good grief, no wonder the chisel hadn't worked. It showed
a hardness of 10. Diamonds, the hardest substance known in her Shadow, was
only a 7. Then, how had Bloodstone done the job? The Pattern's imprint,
she supposed, had strengthened the gemstones. Well, the why and how didn't
matter. It had enabled her to look at the molecular chain and its
structure. It wasn't one she could identify, but there was no doubt it was

The flames no longer burned and the chilling cold was again threatening her
ability to continue. Laura winced as she opened the box that had been her
last discovery. It contained a set of tuning forks. What she had
remembered was that crystals could be shattered by sonic resonance. It was
only a matter of finding the right frequency. Her simple instruments
couldn't tell her that. It would be a matter of trial and error.

With every muscle and joint increasing her agony, Laura took out the first
tuning fork and struck it against the glimmering wall of blue. She
couldn't hold back the scream as its vibrations shot up her freezing arm.

"How can I do this?" she thought as tears fell from her eyes and became ice
crystals on her cheeks. But continue she must and did, trying one tuning
fork after another until she heard a sharp cracking sound -- a sound that,
at that moment, seemed the most beautiful she had ever heard. Looking
up she saw the narrowest of rifts in the mass of blue with a sliver of gold
beaming through. It just had to be sunlight, she thought, and I've got to
make it grow. The tuning fork rang once more and the crack widened a
centimeter or two. Laura knew she had to keep working, but when she tried
to bring the fork up for another strike, her arm would no longer move.

"I'll just rest for a little while," she whispered as she sank to the icy
floor. She wanted only to sleep but knew that to sleep in this cold would
likely kill her. Hoping it would warm her a little, Laura began to think
about her relation with Orbus, a relationship that displeased his mother
and hers, not to mention King Random. Too bad about them, Laura thought
defiantly. She would follow her heart and her own instincts in choosing
her friends, lovers, allies, and enemies.

How did she feel about his Chaosian heritage? She had not chosen to study
the ways of the Courts; she had too much yet to learn of Amber. Still, she
did not hate the very existence of Chaos. She thought, perhaps, it was
necessary for what use was there for Order if there were no Chaos? No, it
was the greed for power not only in the Lords and Ladies of Chaos and the
Princes and Princesses of Amber, but in the Pattern and the Logrus
themselves that stirred the cauldron of trouble. She was no different from
the others, Laura realized. She had walked the Pattern, knew its power,
and studied hard to make that power her own.

Maybe there would be times when he was dangerous to her. It was certainly
not impossible, but what she got from him and what she gave made it worth
the risk. Laura knew only that she trusted him, as she trusted Brandi and
Zachary and that the feelings she held for each were feelings she wanted,
and intended, to nurture. Juliana kept her distance; Laura could do
nothing but respect that. She was no match for that particular cousin.
Not yet, at least. The others -- Sarah, Jono, Kail -- she didn't know well
enough yet. Still others, she hadn't yet met.

Laura smiled through her pain as she recalled the previous night's
dalliance with Orbus. The smile faded when she realized the pain was
ebbing, a sign that she was losing feeling. She forced her eyes open,
willing the pain to return. It didn't, but she felt the merest whisper of
a contact.

"Come on, Laura. Answer."

She -had- opened up a path with that narrow little crack in the cavern
wall. With the last of her ebbing strength, Laura fought to hold the

"Brandi? Brandi, I need help."

Laura kept sending the message as long as she could until she could no
longer keep her eyes open and she slipped into the sleep that would soon
become loss of consciousness and later, eternal sleep. The tiny beam of
sunlight would keep her from freezing to death for a while, but only just
for while.