Over the past few weeks quite a bit of investigation has been directed at the Renraku Arcology Barrier.
It was pretty obvious: The arcology rather abruptly sealed itself off – although it continued to supply power to the city grid – and erected an astral barrier of unprecedented size and power. Said barrier took the form of a sphere centered on the arcology itself, with a radius of 1.2 miles – covering a sizable chunk of the city center. A closer inspection showed that it was slowly forcing its way through the astral barrier of the earth, and could be expected to seal completely within a week or so – and that it was of a considerable higher force (somewhere around 50) than should even be possible at the current level of magic. It did not reveal a recognizable astral signature. It did not seem to be associated with any physical component. It showed no sign of wavering, and seemed – judging from the actions of the drones cultivating astral ivy – to be intended to remain up for months. It was far larger than any single mage could be expected to support – and coordinating a sufficiently large number of mages to do so seemed virtually impossible.
This provoked a good deal of curiosity. A sizable number of people – including several dragons – wanted to know how it was being done. Some of the more thoughtful ones who wanted to know why.
A visit to the inside of the arcology via the Ork Underground revealed that the magic level within the structure was notably elevated – and possibly continuing to climb – although not aspected. It also revealed some fairly hefty security precautions – but the group did manage to get an astral peak at a portion of the physical component. It seemed that the physical basis was a variant on the conventional hermetric circle, albeit made up of both hermetric symbols and what eventually turned out to be logic-gate symbols, laid out in a three-dimensional helix around the inside of the synchrotron tube that ran around the perimeter of the high-energy laboratories on the eighth floor. The symbols seemed oddly sharp in astral space – an effect as yet unexplained – and they only got a look at a few dozen of what might be millions of symbols, but it was a clue. It also revealed that something like an inverted lightning-generation spell was apparently involved.
A great deal of guesswork and experimentation with circles (much of it available over at the Virtual Crypt) eventually revealed that the secret lay in the combination of several minor – and in some cases already well-known – advances, rather than any single breakthrough.
A “hermetic” circle could, in fact, be attuned to many different magical styles or operations: you simply had to use the appropriate type of symbols. This had generally been ignored since circles powered by Enchantment or Enhancement tended to be too weak to bother with, those powered by Witchcraft tended to be both weak and unstable, Thaumaturgy – channeling external powers – was blocked off as soon as the circle it was powering went into effect (causing the circle to collapse again), Astral Access channeled the power into astral space, where it could not interact with the circle to power it, and Conjuration – while it works – was of an even more inherently limited duration than Sorcery was.
The size of a circle was limited by the total magic ratings of those participating. Unfortunately, they had to be participating in a coordinated operation. The Renraku trick was simply to use lots of the one type of mage who could be readily and precisely coordinated in a specific magical operation – Otaku, using their magical computer emulation to running a specific program.
The circumference of the barrier created by a magical circle was always equal to the circumference of the physical diagram. Creating the circle in the form of a three-dimensional helix thus placed the barrier itself well outside the physical circle.
A two-dimensional layout generated a simple spherical astral barrier. A three-dimensional one generates a barrier which seals off the metaplanes as well.
The reverse lightning spell starts showing a – detectable – positive magical output at an input voltage of approximately 53 megavolts. It’s not too surprising that the effect has been pretty much missed up until now – or that Renraku would have noticed once they started running experiments in the interaction of magic and high-energy particles. The maximum force rating to which this effect can be used to pump a spell or construct is the upper design limit of the spell or construct in question or approximately twice the natural logarithm of the input voltage, whichever is lower. Whether fortunately or unfortunately, the only known magical constructs that do not have a (known) design limit are Circles and Lodges. The power of the Renraku Barrier is due to it being fed by the 5.3 Teravolt output of the 3.6-mile synchrotron.
When coupled to a barrier-construct the power-feed effect will start raising the magic level within the physical basis of the barrier.
Circles are basically resonant-chamber standing-wave effects, driven by the waste energy from the specific magical operation to which they are attuned. A two-dimensional circle can use any integer number of resonant sequences – most commonly, one. A three-dimensional helix can only use even numbers; the sequence may be repeated twice, four times, six times, or any even number of times – the more times, the finer the structure of the barrier generated. Similarly, while the outer radius may be varied continuously by varying the pitch of the helix, circles with radii other than a prime-number multiple of the base radius waste energy on internal nodes and distortions.
As a note, while it is believed that the magic cycle has a sinusoidal waveform with a cycle of approximately 10,800 years, it is not known exactly when it crossed the 0-point during it’s latest rise. While the first dragon to put in an appearance awoke in 2011, occasional animals with minor paranatural adaptions – “spike babies” – appeared a good deal earlier. Most current models put the “zero point” around the year 1992-2000 on the presumption that transient or permanent magical nexi – or “spikes” – are meaningless until there is some magic available to concentrate. That suggests that the current magic level should be 3-4% of it’s ultimate peak value – although “magic level” apparently expresses a complex mixture of available potential energy (and thus “force”), available total energy, available structural complexity (how difficult or complex an effect can be produced), the ease of movement between the planes, what magical effects are possible, the amount of impact on the physical environment, and various other factors.
For some benchmarks, experimental evidence suggests that the current limit on “Force” is approximately 23. Most theoreticians believe that Dragonflight – and possibly their existence in an active state – requires effects of at least “Force” 8, which would provide a value for 2011. Unfortunately, while a wide variety of “benchmarks” can be listed, they’re all of the “first reported on this date” category, and have yet to be linked by any underlying theory.