WarSpell: The Merge – Snippet 21

WarSpell: The Merge – Snippet 21

“I can. It’s going to take a while, though. And don’t forget the Esquire, please.” Franklin was surprised to realize that he was actually a little irritated over the lack of title. “Derrydimple doesn’t, that’s for sure. He’s kind of a snob, to tell the truth. But, yeah, I can do it. It’s going to take some time to develop the spells, like I said.”

“Gunny, you don’t seem really happy about this assignment,” Mark said. “You want to tell me why? Because if your heart isn’t in this, I can have you sent back to your unit. We want, need, people who are dedicated to the protection of vital people and places. Not someone who doesn’t believe in it.”

Gunny Lloyd shifted a bit. “It’s not that my heart isn’t in it. It’s just that way back when I was a kid, I couldn’t see myself as a fighter. That’s why I invented Derrydimple. I was a junior high school nerd, believe me. But now I’m a Marine. And I made it through Recon school and I love the work. I can’t do both, I know it. Now I have this whole other set of skills. I know they’re necessary skills, so a part of me wants a quiet lab to do research in, and another part of me feels like I’m running out on the guys on my team. Protecting people is what I do, both as Frank and as Derrydimple. There’s no higher calling. That’s why I became a Marine, when you think about it.”

“So what’s the problem, Gunny? You’ll be protecting people.”

“I know. And I’ll do my very best. Just think about it, though. To do this I had to leave my team and a job I was really good at. To do another job I’m really good at. I can’t help but be a little ambivalent about it. I never wanted to be a REMF. And I feel like I’ve run out on my team mates.”

Mark nodded. Now he understood. “I can see that. So why are the spells going to take a while? I’m not sure I understand that part.”

“A spell to protect a specific place is simpler to craft than a spell that has to work anywhere,” Gunny Lloyd explained. “That’s because a spell that works anywhere has to deal with all the contingencies, like variations in terrain, plant and animal life in the area. Those things can distort the field of magical energy. You have all these variables that make the spell fit the prevailing magical conditions. In a spell to protect one place, a lot of those variables become constants or close enough to constant to make no difference. So you have to know the constants.”

“Huh?”

Gunny Lloyd tried again, “The proper spell must respond to the magic field and adjust itself on the fly. A spell to be cast in just one place is simpler because some of the variables become constants. You still have to know the constants, though, before you can simplify the spell. I don’t know the constants, not yet. I’ll get there, though. I’ll need to go over the places you want protected and find tags to tie the spell to. I can do it. It just isn’t going to get done as soon as you want it to. Okay?”

“But you will eventually be able to wiggle your fingers and use magic to do what needs doing, right?”

Gunny Lloyd’s face flushed. “I’m a wizard,” he said. “Not some dewy-eyed mystic that prattles on about feelings and sensing some vague something. Magic works by laws and practical experience. I don’t freaking just wiggle my fingers. I craft spells. Do you understand that?”

Mark didn’t, but he nodded anyway. Derrydimple Fortinbloom, Esquire was going to be a pain in the butt to deal with. He just knew it.

11:17 AM EST, Jan 2

Hartman House, Georgetown, DC

“Ron, what are you doing here?” Missy asked her husband of thirty-two years. These days she and Ron led separate lives, except for public appearances. He had his “assistants” and she had hers. But their relationship was cordial for all that. Ron handled business. Missy handled politics.

“We need to talk.”

Missy paused at the sound of his voice and looked at him. He was really worried.

“Your office?”

He nodded, and they proceeded to his second floor office. It was swept daily for bugs. More often when he was worried, as he clearly was now. The moment the door closed, he turned to her and said, “I’ve had people reading up on the game WarSpell since this happened…”

“It’s not magic from some stupid game. There are no gods. Probably not even the God, whatever public opinion forces us to profess,” Missy said. All she needed was to have Ron panicking over the wrong thing.

Ron stopped and looked at her. “You know something?”

It was a reasonable question. As minority leader Missy was a member of the gang of eight, and would, or damn well should, be briefed on any intelligence activity that Maguey was getting ready to pull off.

“No. I got no briefing, and though I wouldn’t put going around the gang of eight past Maguey, we don’t have the tech to fake something like this. No one on Earth does.”

“Well then?”

“Well then what?” Missy asked, but it wasn’t really a question. She kept talking before Ron could embarrass himself by blurting out something stupid. “Clearly, someone has the tech to fake this. Magic from a kids game suddenly works in the real world. It fails the laugh test. I’d sooner believe in Superman. It’s not us, Russia, China, IBM, or Google. When you eliminate the impossible . . .” Missy shrugged. “It’s gotta be aliens. And if they were coming in peace, why the subterfuge?”

Ron was staring at her, but Missy was used to being the smartest person in the room, so she gave him time to catch up. While Ron was catching up, she considered the implications. She didn’t think the aliens would be coming into the open any time soon. Again, if they were that powerful, why the subterfuge? They must have a weakness, a projector, something that could be attacked, something that was powering all the special effects. Something they could find and put into the hands of government where it would be safe.

The danger was Maguey. The President was a simple, straightforward man, not suitable for dealing with the complexities of the modern world. It gave him an appeal to the man in the street, but left him woefully unqualified to hold the office he held.

“Be that as it may,” Ron tacitly admitted she was right. “Even if it is a fake, the rules of the game describe spells that can be used to ferret out information, to listen in on conversations, even past conversations. Those spells can be used for insider trading. And–” Ron paused and gave her a fierce look. “I guess they might be used to discover insider trading too. If government agencies or news agencies were to have them.”

Now Missy knew that was what had Ron’s boxers in a knot. Conversations they’d had in this room. Bits of information that allowed Ron to make millions. Bits of information that it was, technically, illegal for her to share with her husband.

“The possibility that thousands of people are able to spy on private meetings or merger negotiations, private stock or proxy trades, all the behind the scenes stuff that makes business work, has the business community in an uproar,” Ron said. “We need some of the people who have experienced these joinings, to put up defences.”

“No. We can’t trust anyone who has been ‘merged.’ They are under the control of whoever is doing this. Probably nothing left of them but memories stored in a database somewhere. Any place they ‘protect’ is just going to be under greater surveillance. We’d be telling them where to look.” Missy laughed. “Have them protect our bedrooms. Nothing interesting will be happening there.” Both she and Ron made sure that their entertainments were out of the house and away from the public eye.

***

Ron snorted dutifully, and let the matter drop. He knew his wife and there was no arguing with her when she was like this. Arguing would just make her dig in her heels. He would see about anti-scrying spells on their separate bedrooms all right, but he would also have something done about his office here, and the private apartments he kept here and in LA. He didn’t know and didn’t care where Missy had her trysts.

 

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