WarSpell: The Merge – Snippet 12

“Explain,” General Kramer ordered.

“Different officers have different styles, sir,” Stan Watkins answered. “General Everett has always been a belt and suspenders type of officer–very studied and careful.” There was a hesitation. “General Everett isn’t really less careful than he used to be. But the style is wrong. He projects a less studied style.”

Joe Kramer was beginning to become impatient. “Get to the point, General Watkins.”

“Okay. He did three checks for confirmation, just like I would expect from him, but he already had the fort coming to ready alert before he made the third check. It wouldn’t have really hurt anything if he’d been wrong. It was a judgment call and I couldn’t fault it either way. I just can’t help thinking that before the Merge he would have done all three checks and a couple more before he acted.”

“Any other examples? Anything in his behavior that you think might constitute a threat?”

“No, sir, there’s nothing like that and no really concrete examples either. It’s more of a feeling . . . I don’t know how to say it. He’s the same guy, but different. The kicker is, sir, that my natural inclination is to follow this new guy faster.”

02:40 AM EST, 31 Dec

White House, Situation Room

James Maguey leaned back in the chair and rubbed his eyes. He was bushed. He had been bushed at eleven when he went to bed. He’d gotten less than an hour of sleep before this mess started. Joe Kramer was on his way back to the Pentagon. From all reports, things were getting interesting over there. There were twenty-three thousand employees more or less, civilian, military and the civilian contractors who handled the janitorial services and the assorted shops. All those people had to be checked out, and that was just the Pentagon. The federal government was the largest single employer in the US, after all.

He sat back up and looked at the young airman who had way more self-possession than she should have. “I’ve never played one of these games, Jeannie. I never found the time,” James said. “I never would have believed this was possible. What’s next, I wonder.”

“Mr. President,” a voice interrupted. “I’ve got one.”

“One what?” James asked.

“A manual for that game, sir,” answered Secret Service Agent Mark Williams. “Once we figured out what was going on, I called the owner of a local game store and had him open up. Then I went out and bought the manual because I figure we need to know more about it. I figured that if it was a game it had to have rules. It says here that you can get something called wizard armor to protect you.”

“I can do that,” Jeannie spoke up. Jeannie looked a bit drained after protecting fourteen rooms, but was sounding a bit better after a cup of coffee and a snack. “Sorry, Mr. President. I should have thought of it right away.”

“What will this wizard armor do?” the President wanted to know.

“It’s another layer of protection, sir. About the same as a suit of chainmail armor but good against certain magical attacks too.” Jeannie answered. “With your permission?” Jeannie quirked an eyebrow and waited.

“All right, Jeannie,” James agreed. “I suppose you might as well. After that, though, you look to me like you need some sleep. If it’s all right with you, we’ll put you up here for the night and have our talk in the morning. What do you think?”

Jeannie gave a slight shrug, and nodded. “I’d just be going back to the barracks, sir. I’m probably not going to be that much help, but I’d be happy to stay, if you think it’s useful.”

10:00 AM EST, Dec 31

Washington D.C., White House

When Madeleine Redbear walked into the White House Press Room, the shouted questions nearly deafened her for a moment. Normally the pressroom reporters were a fairly disciplined bunch, but not today.

“Quiet,” she roared. “Calm down. If you can get yourselves under control, I will make a statement.”

“But, ma’am,” an intrepid junior reporter from ABC began…

“I said quiet,” Madeleine interrupted. “And what are you doing here, anyway? You’re not Ardis Rickenbacker.”

The reporter, Amy Henderson, flushed. “Sorry,” she mumbled. “It’s my first time in the pressroom. Ardis won’t be here anymore. She up and quit, then disappeared, they said. I got a call telling me to get up here right away. So I did.”

“There’s a procedure, look it up before the next press conference,” Madeleine ordered. “Now, if you’re all ready?”

Quiet reigned in the pressroom as Madeleine took her place behind the podium. Under the hot lights and the glass-eyes of the camera, she began:

“As near as we’re able to tell, the event that we’ve been calling the ‘Merge’ started at about 11:30 last night in the northeastern United States.”

Actually, they could tell quite a bit nearer than that. As reports had come in overnight from military bases and embassies around the world, the administration got pretty good reads on the time the Merge hit at each place. Those reads allowed them to plot an expanding globe of magic. By backtracking, they placed it as having started on the campus of MIT. That; however, was not for public consumption, not yet.

“The first news report came from Boston, if you’ll recall. It was a healing and didn’t get that much play. By the time the event reached New York City, we were all watching as illusions of dragons cavorted in Central Park. The Merge traveled around the globe at a steady rate.

“Thanks to the quick thinking of some of our military officers, we were able to find protections for the White House, and other vital locations, so it wasn’t necessary for the President to be taken to safety. He’s here and he’s going to stay here, he says. He’s been in meetings all night, dealing with this crisis. Yes, we do consider it a crisis.

“This morning, after the healings that took place last night, even more healings began to take place. Apparently that is due to healing intercessors praying first thing in the morning.

“Other things have happened, too. There have been even more illusions, unexplained deaths, mass healings, and that sort of thing. By the way, with only a few exceptions, the dragons, orcs, ents, and other mythical beasts have turned out to be illusions. The pale colored pegasi that are seen carrying people are the result of a spell and are used for personal transport. They are created by magic and disappear a few hours after they are created. The winged people that you have seen on TV are the product of a similar spell and the wings, like the flying horses, disappear after a while. There have been a few cases where a person or an animal has been transformed by spell into a centaur or other mythical creature, but those are rare. From what I understand, the transformation doesn’t effect the basic nature of the transformed individual.

“The military has been alerted world wide, since one o’clock this morning, our time. We still don’t know what caused it. It may be a natural event. Lucas Holland, the President’s science advisor, says, quote ‘since there has been no measurable weakening in the whatever it is, it’s probably going to last a while.’ But that’s as far as he’s willing to go, considering that we have no idea of the cause.

“What we do know, and it’s as hard for me to believe as it is for you, is that magic works. We don’t know why or how, but we have people tracking that down. We suddenly have what are called intercessors, or intercessors, of a lot of different gods. We not only have magic but it’s mostly concentrated in the industrialized nations. It’s especially concentrated in the US. We have more magic users per capita than almost any of the game worlds. So not only are we living in a world with magic; we’re living in a world with more magic than most.”