WarSpell: The Merge – Snippet 15

WarSpell: The Merge – Snippet 15

9:15 AM PST, Dec 31

Los Angeles CA, Home of House Minority Leader Missy Hartman

Missy Hartman flicked through the cable news channels looking for anything new on the event. Maguey seemed to be bending over backward to accommodate the invaders. And Missy suspected that was what they were. Alien invaders, pod people, taking over and using the magic bullshit as a cover. It damn sure made more sense than magic working. It was technology of some sort, and since she was confident that no one on Earth had the tech, that meant aliens. Possibly interdimensional. Possibly just from a long way away. But in either case, it was an invasion. Why else the scam about magic from a nerd game?

And Maguey, that self-righteous moron, was buying it hook, line, and sinker. Missy toed the party line as necessary, but on a personal basis she hated James Maguey passionately. Four years ago, when she was running against him for the party’s nomination, the campaign got rough. Really rough. He said she was a crook, a phony liberal, and an ideologue, all at the same time.

She ran into a rerun of the transformation of Carla Jackson. There were changes, actual physical changes. Missy paused the TV and tapped a button, bringing up her phone. “Call Willie.”

A short pause, half a ring, and William Larson’s voice came over the sound system. “Yes, ma’am?”

“Willie, I had a thought. I was watching Carla Jackson’s transformation and I wondered if she changed enough so that facial recognition would catch it.”

“Ma’am?”

“If she walks through an airport and you have her face from before the transformation plugged in, is facial recognition going to tag the new version? Also, if you tweak the program, can we use facial recognition to recognize the transformed?”

Willie started to say something, but Missy touched the button again and went back to watching the news. If they could ID the transformed, find the aliens, they might have a chance. At least they might be able to make some sort of deal. It was darn sure the military wasn’t going to be able to help. The idiot warmongers never solved anything, and now that there was a real threat, she bet they were going to be the first taken over by the aliens.

05:45 PM EST, Dec 31

Post Housing, Ft. Benning, Joshua Everett’s Home

Josh Everett had really fallen in love with his wife after they married. It hadn’t been an arranged marriage, exactly. But he and Eleanor were both considered an acceptable match by their respective families. He was black and she was black. He was a West Point graduate; she was the daughter of wealthy parents and had recently graduated from Howard. They got along, it was expected, so they got married. The marriage happened two years after his graduation from West Point, when he was promoted to First Lieutenant.

One of the things they eventually discovered about one another was that they both played WarSpell in high school. Neither ever bothered to mention it during their courtship. It was a happy discovery, one of the many they made over the years since.

Josh started playing again during a tour in Afghanistan. When he’d come home, and sheepishly admitted his hobby, Eleanor joined in the games. She preferred the role of Game Master. She loved building worlds and had a knack of inserting jokes into the structure of the world. Once, when Eleanor was pregnant with their first child, she introduced twin goddesses in the campaign they were running.

The kicker was that the goddesses were twins who didn’t get along. One was the goddess of child rearing and the other the goddess of nature. They and their sects didn’t care for one another, so two of the party ended up as their intercessors and were always arguing the merits of Nature versus Nurture. Josh somehow ended up as the intercessor of Nurture during that campaign. Sometime, somewhere along in there, without really noticing it, Josh began to fall in love with Eleanor.

He continued his fall through the rest of his military career. They played RPG’s, mostly WarSpell, the way other couples played bridge. They kept it up, through a daughter, a son, and a second daughter. Through wars and bases all over the world, the family still kept playing. All three of their children played WarSpell, at least some. Mom and Dad did it, so they wanted to see what it was about. Only Carol, their oldest daughter, really got into it.

Josh was so busy that he only had time for one phone call, but he already knew things were going to be different at home from now on. Eleanor’s favorite character, by far, on those rare occasions when she played rather than game mastered, was an Elven wizard sage named Nollage. Eleanor was bright and witty, but Nollage was scary smart. She was one of those people who had trouble even talking to other people. Probably because she tended to use five syllable words, even if one or two syllables would do fine. It was Eleanor’s voice at the other end of the line, assuring Josh that he should take care of business first. But the vocabulary belonged to Nollage.

***

Josh was worried about his family. He needed sleep badly, but the consequences of the Merge on his family must be faced. Resigning himself to too little sleep, Josh got out of the staff car and waved the driver away. He walked up the old-fashioned brick walkway, and opened the door. The living room was deserted, but he heard voices coming from the kitchen.

“Anybody home?” he called, just to let Eleanor know he was back.

“In here,” came the muffled voice of his wife, “in the kitchen.”

Josh walked in and found everyone seated around the table, sipping coffee and eating cake. “What’s going on?”

Eleanor’s eyes were tired as she explained, “Carol woke us all up screaming from what we thought was a nightmare. It wasn’t until you called and told us about the Merge that we realized it was real. Carol was remembering something that happened in the game world. The funny thing is I put so much of my personality into Nollage, and was so concerned with Carol that I hadn’t actually realized that I Merged till you called. We’ve been up ever since, talking and trying to figure things out.”

The small television on the counter was set on CNN. Josh was distracted by the vision of a golden dragon sitting in what was apparently Central Park.

“We’ve been watching ever since one in the morning, Dad. Is it just WarSpell magic or something else?” J.J. asked.

“At the moment we think it’s WarSpell, mostly, but there’s no telling yet,” Josh answered his eleven year old son. J.J. hated being called Junior, and refused to answer anyone who called him that, starting when he was seven. “We had two people who Merged with characters from a different game, but they had converted from WarSpell. So, they might have Merged based on the original WarSpell characters. We’re not sure, though. They appear to be the same level as their new characters and have memories from the other campaigns. What’s happened here?”

“It’s been an interesting night,” Eleanor answered. “I’ve got memories from Nollage, but I think I’ve got a lid on her vocabulary. Mostly, at any rate. The knowledge might be helpful. I think magic works based on an energy field that responds to or reacts with complex chemical organization.” At Josh’s blank look Eleanor blushed. “Ah, life, I mean. Maybe I don’t have that big word syndrome completely under control. Anyway, Carol seems to have . . . what did you call it? Merged? Carol seems to have merged with Elly, a thirteenth level wizard. J.J. has the champion of Justain he played way back when he was seven. And Janice has an intercessor, an intercessor of Mars, god of war, from that Greco-Roman game we played a couple of years ago. So, dear,” Eleanor looked into Josh’s eyes and smiled, “how was your day?”

 

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