WarSpell Space Race – Snippet 04

Chapter 2–The Pacing Lap

Location: Home of A. Dujarié, San Francisco, California

Time: 3:27 PM, January 5

Honey Abrams stifled a grin when she answered the door. These guys were classic geeks, at least before the Merge. The first guy grinned back at her. She could tell they were merged. It was a subtle thing, but on average the merged were better looking than they were before the Merge. And in a lot of the merged there were incongruities. The pocket protector didn’t fit with the “I’m too irresistible for words” half-grin. The other guy, now, he wasn’t bad. Dark hair and eyes, intense eyes.

Dark-eyes said, “Hi. I’m Jerry and this is Tim. We’re here to see Mr. Dujarié.”

Honey smiled one of her best smiles, the one that said “I’ve got a secret but I’ll let you in on it.” It worked, as usual. Dark-eyes, Jerry, responded to it. He smiled back.

“Dodger is expecting you,” Honey murmured. “Come on in.”

On the one hand, Honey knew that a woman with an MBA didn’t have to open doors for anyone. On the other, she’d never been able to settle on the kind of work she wanted to do. Dodger knew she was a little older than she looked and knew about the MBA. He wasn’t interested in anything long-term, but was willing to spend his money on nice dates and presents. So Honey drifted into his life and expected she’d soon be drifting out of it. Dark-eyes, there, Jerry . . . he might be a nice direction to drift in.

* * *

The conversation was interesting. Tim noted that Dodger brought the girl, Honey, into the talk more than he would have expected. Especially for someone who was obviously not all that interested in space exploration. She asked a number of questions, mostly about magic and money. Tim was intrigued by the girl, but could tell that the feeling wasn’t mutual. That was all right. If Tim was reading her right, she didn’t trust the cool kids. Probably from experience.

Dodger nodded. “It will take a lot of money. I’ve got some money, but not enough to go it alone. At least, not at the price before the Merge.” Then he looked at Honey and grinned. “Tell you what, boys. I’m familiar with Honey’s assets and I know how much is in her portfolio.” Honey stuck her tongue out at him. “For every thousand she puts in, I’ll go ten grand. With the provision that she is the CFO.”

Jerry looked shocked. “Why her? Why not one of us? We know what has to be done to get to space. I can get some money. So can Tim.”

“Because I’m not crazy, guys. Neither of you understands money. More importantly, both of you want this to happen too much. It would be a disaster. You’d low-ball your estimates, try to do it for too little and be running back to me for more money to reattach the corners you cut. Honey, on the other hand, has a sharp eye for money and she isn’t in love with space. So sell her on the idea, sell her enough that she’ll put her own money in. If you boys want to put your money in, that’s fine, but it doesn’t get the multiplier. And once her money is in the pot, she’s not going to let you waste it.” Dodger grinned. “So there it is, Honey. If you can make this work, you’ll be rich as hell. If you can’t, your tits are going to be on public display again, because you’ll have lost your shirt. That’s if you want to try it. If you’re not convinced it can be done with the money we can raise, then you get to tell them no.”

Honey was obviously surprised. “Me? Why me?”

“Why not you?” Dodger grinned. “You’re sharp. You’ve been looking for something for as long as I’ve known you. Besides, this rootless existence of yours isn’t doing you any good. I think you’ve got it in you to be a real player. So this is a shot at the big time for you. A shot, but not the only one. Don’t go for it if it doesn’t look good. Saying no is part of the job too. In this I trust your judgment more than mine.” He grinned. “I’ve got the space bug, like them.”

Dodger stood up, still grinning. “I have other business to take care of, Honey. You three talk this out and let me know what you decide.”

* * *

Tim and Jerry were staring at her like a couple of puppies. Hopeful looks notwithstanding, Honey shook her head. “I’m going to have to research this, you two. There’s no way I’m putting up my money unless I’m convinced this will work. You guys want it too badly for me to take your word for it. We’ll get together in a couple of days for lunch. Then we’ll talk.”

They left, still swearing that yes, the plan would work. Honey shut the door behind them and made a few calls.

The first was to her broker to confirm how much she had available to invest. Her next call was to an old acquaintance, Frank Castle. He published Castle magazine, one of about four high-end men’s magazines that featured centerfolds. “Hi, Frank. This is Honey Abrams. What’s going on?”

“Same stuff, different issue. You got problems? Say, did you Merge? I know a lot of the girls did. WarSpell was popular a few years back.” Frank took a friendly and supporting interest in the girls who appeared in his magazine. It was one of the reasons the magazine was well thought of.

“No. It must have been before my time or after it. I have some questions I need to ask.” She told him what she needed and he said he’d have Lanai Jones call her.

Location: Le Filippe, San Francisco, California

Time: 6:25 PM, January 6

Honey sipped her water from a fluted glass on a snow white linen tablecloth while she watched Lanai Jones saunter up to the table. Honey always envied Lanai Jones her statuesque beauty. Lanai was five eleven if she was an inch. Her coppery skin seemed to gleam with an inner fire.

As she reached the table, Lanai asked, “So what’s all this about, Honey? Not that I mind an invitation to dinner, but I’ve never heard from you before.”

Honey waved her to a chair. “I need some answers. I’ve got an opportunity to invest in a private company to explore space and I’ve got a couple of aerospace engineers who merged with magic users. They claim that the magic will make it cheaper and easier to get into space. Since I know you’re into tech and role playing games, I thought I’d ask you what you thought.”

Lanai grinned. “I think I want in. I grew up wanting to go into space. I still do. Did you see Carla Jackson’s report last night? Translocation to space won’t work, so we still need spaceships. Magic seems to work in space. At least, the effect of divination spells works. Magic can help make spaceships cheaper.”

“Honest answer, Lanai. How much does magic change things?”

“No one can be sure yet, but I think it changes it a lot.” Lanai paused and considered. “On both sides of the equation, to be honest. Opposed to space are the spells that might be used to do what would have taken a zero-g environment or a largish area of good vacuum before the Merge. There are spells that counter or reverse gravity, but I don’t know of any that negate it, which might be what you’d need for some of the materials research. There are wall of force spells, effectively force fields that might allow largish areas of good vacuum. Those sort of spells are going to decrease the need for space travel by letting us do some of it here on Earth.

“On the plus side there are the spells that will make space travel a lot cheaper. The obvious ones are things like the ever-full water skin and shrink, but there are more . . . purify air, for instance.” Lanai stopped and her eyes took on a distant look.

Honey waited till Lanai came back from her world of calculation. “So how does it stack up?”

Lanai fiddled with her drink. “If it were only the spells that came with the Merge, I think it would come out about even. Maybe a bit on the side of space, but not that much. Thing is, it’s not only the spells that came with the Merge. Those spells are important, but in the long run I think they are less important than the magic itself. Part of it is space and the things that can be done there, but that’s not all of it.

“I make my living explaining high tech to the millions of people who use it every day, but mostly don’t understand it. Especially not the history of it. I wouldn’t have a job, at least not this one, without the space program. Better than half of the high-tech wonders that fuel that sector of the economy exist, directly or indirectly, because the people who developed them needed to do something at a distance or make something smaller and lighter. Or some other impossible thing involved in putting people in space and keeping them alive while they were there.”

“And that makes me money how?” Honey arched one of her perfect eyebrows.

“We’re going to be facing the same problems and using magic to solve them,” Lanai explained. “Some of that we can do with spells that we already have, some by modifying those spells a bit. But some of it is going to take new spells that are designed and built to get us into space or keep us there. Many of the spells–not to mention magical and semi-magical devices–that we’re going to have to make to get into space, are going to launch new industries. Research projects work best when they have a goal, but not too concrete a goal.”

Honey was about to take a bite of her dinner, but cast Lanai a curious look. “Say again?”