WarSpell: The Merge – Snippet 10
“Well,” Private Simmons answered, “The spare set is hidden away, but I know where it is. I think there is a good chance that this particular spell will bring it to me. It’s what it’s designed to do. I should have a little while before Meninor whisks them away again. If everything is set up and waiting at the copy shop, there should be enough time to copy the whole set. I would be willing to donate a copy to the army. You’d have something to trade with, if you had that many spells.”
Uproar broke out at this offer. Book wizards were always on the lookout for more spells, and right now no one had any written spells to look at. Working out the solution took some more time, but eventually a compromise was reached. The copying of spells for the army would be voluntary, but if you didn’t volunteer you wouldn’t get access to the army spells. Volunteering meant providing a complete list of all the spells you had crafted. Any spells that were unique had to be written out and turned over to the army for copying. After a copy was made, the spell would be returned to its owner.
1:30 AM, 31 Dec
Ft. Benning Print Shop
“Hang on a minute, ma’am,” Private Simmons said. “I should probably test this idea first.”
Marie waited impatiently while Private Simmons slowly and carefully wrote out a few symbols with a fine pen. He had apparently noticed Marie’s impatience, “With all due respect, ma’am, there’s no rush and this is not the sort of thing you want to get wrong by hurrying. Let’s calm down a bit and think things through.” He ran the result through the copier. “That will work,” he said with a smile. “I thought it would, but couldn’t be sure, not until I tried it.”
Marie looked at the two papers in front of her. The copy didn’t look any different than the original. “Good. Really good,” she said. “Do you need anything from me?”
Greg Simmons shook his head, “Not really. The staff here can do the copying after I cast the spell. Once the books get here, if you have a spell to hide us from Meninor, or a translocation block to keep him from pulling them back too soon, that would be good. The hiding place is alarmed, so as soon as I do this, he’s going to know the books and scrolls are gone. They’re worth several thousand gold pieces, something like, I don’t know, maybe two million dollars. He’s not going to like this.”
The post print shop was in the headquarters building, and its staff was at their duty stations. Everyone looked dazed and tired, but was ready to do their job.
“There are three things that can happen,” Greg warned the staff. “First, it’s possible that the spell will fail. I know for a fact that if you just try to wish up something that doesn’t exist, the spell will fail or boomerang on you. The thing is, I’ve touched these books and scrolls. I’m sure they exist and I know them and their location quite well. I really don’t think the spell will fail or boomerang.”
Apparently Simmons, or perhaps Melinor, went into lecture mode when he was working things out, Marie realized. The tendency to go into “teach” mode must be an occupational hazard.
“Second possibility, the spell will succeed and it will create the books and scrolls the way whatever happened created the memories and abilities I have from Melinor. In that case, we have no problem because Melinor doesn’t exactly exist. Truth is, I can’t really buy that either.”
Marie nodded at this. Magreth felt really real to her. The thought that she didn’t exist somewhere was a bit unsettling.
“Third, and this is what I believe, Melinor is as real as I am and suddenly the alarm on his cache of backup spells is going to go off and he is going to be really annoyed. Ahhâ€¦” Greg began. “Damn. I should have thought of this earlier. A fourth possibility is that when the alarm goes off Melinor is going to know, or at least guess, precisely what is going on. I have Melinor’s and my memories and a fair chunk of his personality. He may have mine. I think I know what he’s going to do in that case.
“He’s going to gamble and give us a bit of time. He’s going to let me copy his spells because, well, I’m him, sort of. Even so, he’s going to expect something in return. Something that’s easy to get here and hard or expensive for him to get there.
“If we send something back when he retrieves everything, it should be cool. If the event went both ways, he’ll know what I’m doing and why. We need your spells in case the event was one way or in case he guesses wrong about how long copying will take. I could have underestimated the time by half. We need to send him something decent, something he will consider fair. We really don’t want him mad at us.”
“I suppose not,” Marie answered. “I know I don’t want Magreth coming to visit, not if she’s angry. That’s an interesting question though. I wonder if it did go both ways.”
“We may find out,” Greg said. “Meanwhile, I’m ready, but while we’re making these copies, we ought to find some gifts, just in case.”
“I’ll work on it, Private,” Marie agreed. “You get busy and let’s get this done as soon as we can. Is everyone ready?”
The print shop personnel nodded. No one knew what was going to happen, but they would make the copies as required. Greg Simmons cast his spell. The books appeared on the desk in front of him and the copying started. Marie used a quick “hide us” spell, one just strong enough to last about six hours. After the copying was well underway, she started looking for appropriate gifts.
“We need some things,” Marie explained to Staff Sergeant Young, supervisor of the print shop. “I think these books and scrolls are going to be jerked away as soon as the spell ends. The owner might be a little bit ticked off at us, so…”
“I saw the centaur, ma’am,” Jennifer Young said. “I was outside with my dog when he ran past. Gave me quite a shock, that did. If someone can do that . . . well, we’d all look downright silly as frogs. We need to pay for the use of them, didn’t the private say? There’s sort of a problem, though. It’s the middle of the night so nothing’s open . . . Hang on.”
A few minutes later, Staff Sergeant Young had collected a couple of reams of high quality paper, a box of envelopes, some Post It notes and two boxes of pens. She also explained a bit about her plan and the problem to her staff and everyone began to get into the act. The pile of gifts grew and Staff Sergeant Young got a couple of empty boxes to hold them. Chocolate bars, a can of coffee and a box of tea bags went in, as well as a Betty Boop calendar. One young private had a box of colored pencils and another of highlighters that she had forgotten to take home.
Copying continued right up to the last moment before Marie’s spell was due to fade. By that time, forty-one copies of the books and scrolls had been made and the gifts had grown to fill three boxes.
“It’s coming down,” Marie warned. “Stand away from that desk, all of you.”
Marie was almost disappointed when nothing happened. “What do you think, Private?”
“I think Melinor got my memories. And he’s giving us time,” Greg said. He thought for a moment. “We’ve got all the copies we need, but he wouldn’t know that. He may just let it sit for a day or so.”
“You know him better than I do,” Marie said. “What should we do? Leave it alone, move it, what?”
“I’d leave it alone if it was me,” Staff Sergeant Young said. “He might take it the wrong way if we moved it. The office can make do without that desk for a day or so. The longer he leaves it alone, the more I can think about what would be a good gift, too.”
“That will probably work,” Greg agreed. “And I’ll go get a few things, too.” Greg took another drink of the coffee he’d been drinking all night. “I have a hunch that if he got my memories, he may have gotten some of my habits as well. And I’ll bet he starts scrying any minute now.”
“Already has,” Marie muttered, indicating a small, almost invisible distortion of the air near the table. “I can tell. And we’ll probably need to report that we have proof that the event, or merging, went both ways. They got our memories too.”
Greg nodded. “That’s what I thought. Let me leave him a note for the next time. The first thing I’m going to do is go buy more coffee. The game world didn’t have it. I expect he’s missing it already.”
Staff Sergeant Young watched the books and the growing pile of gifts warily for the next two days. When Melinor pulled his belongings back, the gifts had increased to eight boxes, one of which contained nothing but cans of coffee. Staff Sergeant Young remembered at the last moment to add a can opener. Just in case.