WarSpell Space Race – Snippet 01

WarSpell: Space Race

By Gorg Huff and Paula Goodlett

Chapter 1–The Starting Gun

The Merge decade was characterized by frenetic activity in a number of fields including space exploration, as the magic of the game worlds and technology were combined . . .

Location: Apartment of Jerry Garman, Houston, Texas

Time: December 30, As the Merge reaches Houston

Jerry Garman set the coffee cup down and began to type. “By changing the aerodynamic loading we can the spell is left overstressed.” What the hell? Freedric the Incompetent was also writing an analysis when the Merge hit. He was doing it with a quill pen, but his thoughts tripped off of Jerry’s fingers before Jerry became aware of the Merge.

Between one breath and the next, Jerry gained the memories of the fourth-level book-wizard, Freedric the Incompetent. If he were asked, merging with a fourth-level book-wizard would not have been his first choice, but he doubted that merging with him would have been Freedric’s first choice, either. The more he considered it, the more he knew it wouldn’t have been.

Freedric was twenty-four, less than a year from the mage academy in Callbrige City in the Kingdom Iles. Freedric wasn’t truly incompetent. It was a handle he got stuck with early in his training.

Jerry stretched and reveled in the feeling of movement. He seemed to have Freedric’s energy and physical well-being. Which Jerry’s experience let him appreciate in a way the twenty-four-year-old Freedric couldn’t have. He looked down at himself the pot belly was still there. Exercise might help with that. Well, I seem to have Freedric’s memories and physical well being I wonder if I can do magic.

Jerry/Freedric closed his eyes and went through the routine that allowed a non-magically gifted person to sense magic. It was a spell like any other. But, unlike most, this spell was used so often that most competent book-wizards could do it in their sleep. Freedric didn’t have more innate magical talent than Jerry, but more study and practice. Plus a special tattoo the prospective wizard received in his second year. With the completion of the routine, Jerry could sense the flow of magic fields.

Jerry got up and went to the mirror in his bathroom. He opened his shirt and there it was, a multicolored complex of lines and symbols over his heart, mostly covered by his chest hair, but still visible. 

Where the tattoo was placed was up to the wizard. Some flaunted it, placing it on their hands or face for all the world to see, others placed it somewhere private like their inner thigh. Somewhere where it would never be seen save by their intimates. Freedric, like most, chose a middle course. The thing that freaked Jerry out a little was that in all the games of WarSpell Jerry played, never–not once–had the wizard’s tattoo been so much as mentioned.

He slowly constructed a minor spell. A concept, a gesture, a shape, hold that there. Another gesture, a visualization. Combine the two and gently place them in the tattoo.  It was like trying to tie a bow tie with his toes. At the same time, it was something he remembered doing hundreds of times before, as natural as tying his shoes. Having spent several minutes putting the small spell together from memory, he cast it and looked at the gentle glow on his hand. It was red-gold in color and about as bright as a candle, barely visible in his well-lit living room.

 Jerry played with it for a few minutes, turning off the lights to see it more clearly, thinking about what he knew about light, which was more from Jerry’s college physics than from Freedric’s early-Renaissance worldview.

As a further check of his sanity, Jerry turned on the TV news only to see reports of dragons and people flying without benefit of aircraft. The Freedric part of him was shocked by the TV and even more shocked by Jerry’s knowledge of how it worked. It was apparent that whatever happened to Jerry happened to others around the nation . . . and was spreading around the world.

Then Jerry started making phone calls. For once, he thought, he’d get in on the ground floor of something.

* * *

Tim Walters grinned as he pulled his cell phone from his pocket. He saw Jerry’s name and his grin widened. Tim was on his way to an all-night pawn shop to buy a guitar. He got the memories of a character from WarSpell a little less than thirty minutes ago and guessed that Jerry did too. Jerry was an old buddy who left NASA about the same time Tim did.

“Tim, you watching the news?” Jerry asked.

“No. I’m on my way to the pawn shop,” Tim said. “Did it happen to you too?”

“Yes! Why are you going to a pawn shop in the middle of the night?”

“To buy a guitar. I bet you got old Freedric, didn’t you? I always said you’d regret inventing him.” They were new at NASA when a friend in their department introduced them to WarSpell. They played a few games for laughs and it was kind of fun. But neither one of them played long enough to advance past fifth level. Tim didn’t remember for sure but he thought Freedric was fourth level.

Jerry and Tim both left NASA in disgust when the robot boys won the bureaucratic battles and everything but a token manned presence in space was effectively given up on. Naturally, that decision wasn’t made public.

When people go into space, people die. Not all of them, but enough. That makes for bad press. Bad press meant you were required to go over everything you did again and again and again. Consequently, the cost went through the roof, not that the costs weren’t steep to begin with.

“Smart ass,” Jerry said. “Okay, I got Freedric. Who did you get?”

“I got Alvin. Hence the guitar.” Tim couldn’t help but smile. He was never particularly good at small talk or social niceties. The classic geek, Tim was almost blind to social clues and always terrified of putting his foot in his mouth. Alvin the Bard was his fantasy self, the person who always knew the right thing to say. So smooth he didn’t seem practiced. With the Merge, Tim remembered what it was like to be Alvin and understood that it wasn’t that Alvin knew what to say, but that he was good at understanding what others wanted or needed from him. It was empathy. There was calculation in it, but also a sort of confidence that Tim never felt in any social situation.

“Alvin, the bard. The guy who specialized in persuasion.”

“Yep, and let me tell you the secret, though you won’t believe me any more than I would have. It’s paying attention to the people around you, like you would an airframe design. Like realizing that you didn’t only call to see if I got the memories too. What have you got in mind?”

“Okay, Alvin,” Jerry said. “Do you realize what this means? Space is possible, man. Genuinely possible. Not at a cost of billions per space shot, but at a cost of millions. Maybe hundreds of thousands, if you go with a reusable spacecraft. We can do it. We can get enough capital for that and we can win the Orbit Prize. We have the credentials.” The Orbit Prize was a prize offered to the first group to use the same spaceship to reach orbit three times in a sixty-day period and carry supplies to the international space station at least once.

“Maybe,” Tim agreed. “We need to talk to The Artful Dodger. And maybe Steve Lock, over at Boeing. And I think you need to let me do a lot of the talking. Alvin’s abilities can be a real asset now.” Artemius Dujari√© (the Artful Dodger) was a tech billionaire with a great interest in space.

“Tim, I honestly never cared for Alvin. He was too studied.”