WarSpell Space Race – Snippet 06

Chapter 3– Jumping in

Location: Cynthia Westin’s Apartment, Orange County, California

Time: 10 AM, January 20

Leaning against the kitchen counter in his sister’s apartment, Jason Westin said, “What I’d most like to do is go to space. I always wanted to do that.” Jason was about six feet one, tall and lanky with wavy brown hair and brown eyes. The Merge gave him an authority that wasn’t noticeable before. In the weeks since the Merge, he and his sister were concentrating on rebuilding their references for the crafting and casting of spells. The kitchen counter was covered in sheets of high grade paper printed in color with spells pulled off the internet. And even more sheets of notes, hand-written in colored pens.

“No.” Cynthia Westin, seated in the dining nook off the galley kitchen of her apartment, looked up from the computer screen and considered Jason. They both decided to grow up to be astronauts after seeing a movie about real space flight in their early teens. “Won’t work. Neither of us have the background.” Neither of them gave up the dream easily.

“We do now,” Jason insisted with quiet certainty, waving at the note on the counter.

Cynthia looked at the sheets, then shook her head again. “I’m not convinced that we do.” She was unimpressed by Jason’s new found authority. She had the same wavy brown hair and hazel eyes that turned green in the right light. They were brother and sister and oddly enough merged with the same character. Jason dropped out of his gaming group for a few months and Cyn took over the character, changing its gender. When the Merge happened they both got the memories of the same character. They both remembered the character as Mandrake/Mandra the Wizard. A nineteenth-level book and amulet-wizard.

“Granted, we couldn’t afford college,” Jason said. “But Mandrake could.”

Cynthia nodded. “True, bro, true. But the college of wizardry in the University of Korbath isn’t the same as Cal Tech. Yeah, we merged and got magic. How would that help you get into space?”

“We got big magic.” Jason grinned. “Big magic. With the knowledge of Mandrake and his abilities, we’re two high-level book-wizards with all sorts of spells. Looks to me like we could send out a call for other people, regular guys like us, and set up a company. If a bunch of bimbo centerfolds can get funding, why couldn’t we? All we have to do is get there first and win the Orbit Prize.”

“Could work,” acknowledged Mandra more than Cynthia. Then Cyn’s own personality came to the fore. “Why not? Why the heck not?” She bounced over to the phone, grinning and twirling a lock of hair around her finger. “I know some people. Let me make some calls.”

* * *

Cynthia thought about it a few moments. Who to call? Who else was interested in space? A few more moments thought.

She hit the auto dialer and left a message for Jan Beckman. “Can you meet me for supper tomorrow night? How about Martie’s, about seven? I’ll be there unless I hear different from you.”

Location: Martie’s Burgers, Orange County, California

Time: 6 PM, January 21

Martie’s was a hole in the strip mall, but they made great burgers. Not only the usual beef, but turkey or chicken or even veggie. And Jan was there, but it was a Jan Cynthia was surprised by. Instead of her usual jeans and t-shirt, Jan was wearing a cotton robe. In pale green, which was a color Jan never cared for. More surprising, she ordered a veggie burger when she’d usually ordered beef double cheeseburgers in the past.

“Lots of changes in your life?” Cynthia guessed. She knew that Jan merged with a cleric but didn’t have the details.

Jan grinned. The grin was the same as it always was, pixieish and full of mischief. She rolled her eyes. “Well, on the one hand, you could say that. On the other, well, I’m much the same as I ever was. But focused a bit differently.”

“Who’d you get?”

“Efima.” At Cynthia’s quirked eyebrow, Jan went on. “I played in college. In one game I wound up as the priest. A nature priest, third level, with a particular affinity to water sources. When the Merge hit, I got her.” Jan shrugged. “Living in California, what with all the desert and all, I figure it will come in handy. I start a job with the Forestry Department next week.”

Cyn took a bite of her burger and ate a couple of the fries. “Guess you’ve lost interest in space exploration, then?”

Jan nodded, then shook her head. “Not exactly lost it, but there are more important things. I’m a little ambivalent about it. I’m still interested, but I want to work on this planet and try to clean it up. I think that’s more important. Once that’s done, well, maybe I could work on a different planet. Assuming we ever get to one, that is.”

* * *

Cyn didn’t have much more luck with the other people she called and arranged meetings with.

Dan Neely gave good advice and wanted in, but didn’t have the right skills.

Sara Dugin merged, but not with a magic user. She was a fourth-level fighter and recently put in an application to the police force. She did plan on learning magic, but it would take years to get good.

Janet Houlton tried to recruit Cyn and Jason for a project she came up with. She wanted to make a dimension-walk to gather magic moss for the purpose of making magic devices. Cyn was tempted by that one.

From the time of the Merge, there were calls from other friends, mostly asking if she merged and with who? Calls from her parents, from coworkers, internet friends and old boyfriends. Everyone was calling everyone in the days after the Merge, trying to find out if anyone they knew merged.

Cyn didn’t hesitate to tell friends that she merged. Well, not that much. They were friends, after all, though Mandra’s experience warned against it. Telling people you were magic was like telling them you were rolling in money. It could change relationships and, more often than not, for the worse. In any case, the fact that they were merged became public fairly early on. Some of their friends wanted nothing more to do with them. Some wanted things from them. Some were merely curious about it.

Cyn didn’t know how it happened but she and Jason ended up on a bunch of spam lists. Also some religious groups’ “Watch the Merged” lists. Apparently someone out there decided she and Jason were dangers to society. So they were now on a privately-owned web page with a list of other merged. It included their addresses, their phone numbers, description and a surprising amount about Mandrake/Mandra’s life history. It seemed to focus a lot on the sex change. Cyn wasn’t sure whether that was because the owner of the website thought it was especially bad or was titillated by it. Maybe both.