WarSpell: The Merge – Snippet 17
The officers and enlisted people around the table nodded in understanding.
“The thing is; people; that military rank and Merged rank don’t match. We’re going to have the wildest mix of people that you can imagine. Like PFC Simmons, there. On the one hand, he’s nineteen, on the other, he’s forty. Add in his magic, and he’s one of the strongest, most knowledgeable wizards we have. I’m not sure what the resolution of all the conflicts is going to be, quite frankly. But we need to get a handle on it, and we need to do it quick.”
“I imagine,” Stan Watkins pointed out, “that sooner or later, high level warriors and magic users will just be promoted to some kind of equivalent rank.”
“That might be a mistake,” PFC Simmons said, surprising the general. “Sorry to interrupt, sir, but that might be a really bad idea, just promoting people out of nowhere. Yeah, I’m a pretty good wizard, but I don’t know anything about modern military command structures. I don’t have the background and my character is, ah, was–whatever, a duke, not a modern general. Back there our notion of logistics was ‘hope the merchants show up.'” Simmons was overstating the case just a bit, but it was true that he had never attended anything like the command college.
Marie Sims had been thinking about this problem for a while. “For the moment, we just need some kind of emblem so we’ll know who is what. An armband or something. Sooner or later, the powers that be will figure out a pay scale of some sort. And, judging from the past, back pay will probably come into play. I think the kind of armband that the military police wear, with say a W for wizard and a number for level ought to work. It’s temporary, but it will give us a starting point.”
Josh nodded. “That’s the sort of thing we need. Good thinking, Captain. Now, I think it’s probably best that we split up a bit. Stan, you and the magic users take this room. I’ll take the warrior types, and we’ll see what we can figure out in terms of training programs. We need a list of priorities from each group. When we get organized, we’ll get together and see what we have.”
“General,” Stan Watkins said, “I do need to speak with you for a moment, if you don’t mind. In your office, maybe.”
“Problem?” Josh asked.
“I’m not sure, sir,” Stan admitted. “I just need some input.”
“Fine. We’ll go to my office, and the rest of you can start working on the goals I’ve defined. Colonel Mendoza, there’s another conference room down the hall. Let’s go, Stan.”
“What is it, Stan?” Josh asked, as he got comfortable in his office chair. “You look worried.”
“I am. It’s the International School, Josh. Most of the participating countries have called their people home, so they can deal with this business in their own way,” Stan said. “I can’t blame them for that. The Merge has caused all sorts of weird things, in all sorts of places. My problem is that I’ve got about a dozen people, some officers, some enlisted, who have magic Merges and they don’t want to go home. They’re refusing their orders and are asking for asylum in the U.S.”
“Some of them are afraid they’ll be killed by their own governments, like that Muslim Merge on television was. Poor woman. Goes to school in the U.S., plays a silly game, and winds up being stoned to death by her own people–for healing the sick, of all things. There have been a number of downright atrocities against Merges of all sorts, but that’s the worst to my mind. Magic isn’t going to protect a low-level intercessor against a big crowd of lunatics, especially when they’re led by some local fanatic.”
Josh nodded. “I suppose I can’t blame them. And I’ll have to check with command. We can put them in the training program, when it’s developed. And the politicians will probably make the final decision. Get me a list of the people affected, where they’re from and the reasons they don’t want to go home. Get in touch with the State Department. They’ll be the ones handling the asylum requests.”
9:30 AM EST, Jan 1
White House, Oval Office
“So what are we going to do with the Merged military personnel?” President Maguey asked. “Any ideas?”
Joe Kramer blurted out, “I think we should form a new kind of military force. A force dedicated to the use of magic.
“I don’t really know how popular those role-playing games are,” Joe admitted. “Do other countries play them? If they do, we are going to be facing Merged militaries from Russia, China, who knows where. If we consolidate all the magic users that are suited to the military, we’ll have a pretty strong force. Josh Everett, the post commander at Ft. Benning, has 562 magic users, of every level. And he’s found another 240 among the reservists. He’s got them compiling an Army Magic Manual already. You never know, we might need them all.”
The Air Force Chief of Staff immediately objected. “I don’t think so, sir,” General Frank Cashman said. “A new force means a whole new organization and forming one would take a great deal of time. Time we don’t have. There’s no reason we can’t consolidate the knowledge, but a new force makes no sense. Certainly not now, when we don’t even know what we have or what we can do with it.”
Admiral Jonathan Riker agreed. “Sir, we don’t know with any certainty what is happening yet or how long it’s going to last. If magic really does work, and is still going to be working tomorrow, we’ve got things we can use the magic for too. Better communications with submarines, not to mention rotation of personnel and re-supply without having to have them surface. There are any number of good uses for, ah, magic, when you think about it. I don’t see why the individual services can’t find their own ways to integrate the new ability set.”
The Marine Corps and the Army weren’t any more pleased with the notion. General Carter Douglass was giving Joe Kramer a look that said they would talk later and Kramer would not enjoy the conversation. Every service had an objection to the loss of their magic users, and most of them were valid when James thought about it. It was obvious to James that Joe Kramer was out on his feet.
Then Chris Warren added, “It’s also a political non-starter. Congress is not in session right now, though many of the congressmen and senators are coming back. Some of them are already talking about laws to restrict or eliminate the use of magic. Sam Davis, for instance. He’s been on the phone already.”
James wondered who else called, but Chris shook his head, ruefully, and continued. “He wants to know what the White House is going to do about the ‘plethora of charlatans purporting to do miracles in the name of false gods,’ and that’s a direct quote. Sam’s never been all that keen on separation of church and state. I agree that we need to do something to coordinate, but for right now it’s going to have to be something wholly within the powers of the President. And we’re going to take a hit no matter what we do. We have a bunch of people who have powers and abilities that others can’t have. That’s going to upset the people who got left out. ”
“Ah, sir,” Jeannie spoke up, “they don’t have to be left out.”
Now she got a look from the Air Force Chief, General Frank Cashman, but James was interested. Jeannie was still at the White House and James was debating having her assigned to his staff. Shofar’s knowledge would probably be valuable, even if the Secret Service wasn’t totally convinced of her loyalty. “What do you mean, Jeannie?”
“I do magic by talent, like a painter or a musician. A book wizard does it by skill, like an engineer or scientist. Amulet wizards, well, they buy their magic. That makes them popular in the game, but serious magic users don’t think much of them. They don’t have that much talent and mostly aren’t willing to put in the work to be real wizards, but they have, or had in the game worlds, an awful lot of money. And wizards need supplies and… that doesn’t really matter. Certainly, the skills can be learned. The talent may start appearing in the population too. There is no reason I can see why it wouldn’t. I think most people will be able to learn to do at least some magic. And there are the amulets… if we can make them here, you’ll be able to buy magic like wine or consumer electronics.”
“What about intercessor’s magic? That’s what has a bug up Davis’–” Chris Warren paused and clearly edited. “–rear end.”
“I don’t know, sir,” Jeannie shook her head. “I would guess that someone could become an intercessor of Molor, or whoever, but I doubt if that will make Senator Davis feel any better. We do know now that the intercessors got their spells again this morning, so the gods must have come across.”
“Okay, Jeannie. Get together with some of the other magic users and put together a report on how each type of magic works and how a person not Merged might acquire it,” James ordered. Then he turned to the chiefs. “Meanwhile, an office to coordinate the use of magic and training of magic users in the military might work. Can we manage that without resorting to Congress?”
“Yes sir,” the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs said. “We can do it through the Chief’s office. We’ll need to coordinate a lot of things. Suppose the Air Force has a wizard with an ability the Army really needs. This will be where the army sends its requests and vice versa.”
“That should work. Are all the military installations compiling records of who can do what, like Benning is?” James asked.
“They ought to be, Mr. President. The Joint Chiefs sent out orders, but everyone is reporting to their own services.”
James shook his head. “Everyone is to report their findings to the new office.”
“OMS,” Joe Kramer offered. “Office of Magical Services.”
“Maybe, Joe, maybe. It harkens back to the OSS, Office of Special Services. Gives it a nice historical ring, but we’ll have to see what we can manage. Of course, some of the Congress is going to object, but what’s new about that?”