WarSpell: The Merge – Snippet 14

John thought for a moment. “Christ, that’s going to cost a bundle,” he said.

“It may cost a bit,” Andrew broke in, “but it will be good for the ratings. Think about it, John. We’ve got the only televised Merge in the world. She’s going looking for what happened and why. The networks are bound to pick it up. They’ll almost have to.”

Carla nodded, while thinking she wasn’t surprised that Andrew agreed. It would get her off the anchor desk and give him a shot at the fame he wanted. As the “at-home” anchor, he’d be introducing her segments. Still, it could work out well. And get her out of town until Dad had settled down a bit. “That’s right, John. And it’s still early. If we get this organized, I can be down in, oh, Bakersfield, by the afternoon. There’s bound to be someone I can interview there.”

John gazed off into the distance, considering the proposal. “All right,” he said. “The best truck, the best equipment we have. I’ll organize it. You go pack, and if there’s someone you want on your team, let me know in the next hour. I want you on the road by noon. And I’ll expect a feed by 6pm tonight. Find me a story, a good one. The weirder, the better.”

Carla nodded, knowing that was coming. John liked strange stories. He sent someone out to Roswell, New Mexico every year, just in case. “I’ll find one,” she said. “I’m going to want Roy Carson, both as my cameraman and a researcher. He’s got his own sources.”

“He does. But they are mostly local,” John said. “I don’t know how much help he’ll be on the road.” Then he looked at Carla and a smile twitched his lips. Carla realized that her relationship with Roy was not quite the secret she thought.

11:00 AM CST, Dec 31

Mercy Hospital, Houston, TX

The doctors had come and gone. The damage was neither permanent nor life threatening. Reverend Jefferson Davis Thompson, called Rev Jeff by all and sundry, as was his clear duty, was making a phone call, the first of what would be many. “I’m sorry to bother you with this, Sam,” he told Senator Sam Davis, the senior senator from Texas. “If it were just me, I would never bring this up. It’s about this thing that has happened, the Merge they’re calling it on the news. Senator, I don’t think it’s a Merge. I think it’s a take over. It is true biblical possession. The Devil got his hooks into them gradually. It happened through this game, and over the course of years slowly infected as many people as possible, all through a seemingly innocent game.”

“Rev, I’ve been worried about the Merge myself, but aren’t you going a bit far?” Sam asked. “Many of these folks seem to be doing good works.”

Jeff hesitated briefly. “Senator, you’ve met my wife. She’s a good God-fearing woman, but the Devil got his hooks into her in college before she had come to the Lord. It’s my fault, Senator. I know it is. I thought I had brought her all the way into the Lord’s house, but apparently she had stopped in the door to God’s holy temple. This morning for no reason she assaulted me, screamin’ heathen oaths to the false god Zagr… something. She started proclaiming that women must rule the men. When I would not abandon the Lord, she attacked me, and Jimmy as well.”

11:07 AM CST, Dec 31

Houston TX, Offices of Senator Sam Davis

Senator Sam Davis was horrified by Rev Jeff’s call. He’d been watching the news all night and was exhausted. First there was that strip tease in Times Square, after that the dragons and flying horses. Then there was that little-bitty girl at the White House, casting that spell. Here in Texas, a coven of witches had actually cast a spell and made it work. Jeff’s call cast the already disturbing events of the last twelve hours in a frightening light. “Tony, get in here.”

Tony Branduzzi, Sam’s aide, rushed into the room, saying “Yes, sir?”

“Jeff Thompson just called me and said his wife is possessed by the Merge.”

“Ahh . . .” Tony began.

“Come on, Tony. What have you got for me? I need facts and figures.” Sam put Tony to gathering facts about WarSpell as soon as he saw the White House press conference.

“The best estimate I’ve found is that six and a half million people have played WarSpell at one time or another in their lives. That’s just a guess. It could be off by as much as a couple of million. If it’s off at all, it’s probably a low estimate. That would give about one in a thousand people or a little less, but they aren’t evenly distributed. Probably a quarter of the people who have played the game are in the US and another quarter in Europe. Most of the rest are in Russia, Japan, China, Australia, and India. What that means is that between a half a percent and one percent of the population of the US has played. There’s no way of telling if everyone who has played experienced the Merge.”

“I know it sounds weird, Tony. But look at what’s been going on all night on that thing.” Sam motioned toward the television. “All night and this morning, it’s been the same thing. Magic, Merge, magic, Merge. Even the President is falling in line. Got himself a little wizard, he does.

“Now I have the call from Jeff about his wife, and the news about that coven. Granted, Texas has its share of nutcases who like to run around naked. But they don’t generally grow a tree overnight. I don’t like the idea of a witches coven that can do real magic.”

“Sir, what do you want me to do?” Tony asked.

“I want you to gather up some facts, Tony, not just statistics,” Sam answered. “How is the Merge affecting people? Are they still themselves? Madeleine Redbear just said that the gods of the game world came across too. I don’t like this, not at all.”

“It’s game worlds, sir, plural,” Tony corrected. “From what we have so far, very plural. There are thousands or hundreds of thousands of them, each with its own pantheon.”

“Fine, Tony. Game worlds, then. Go ahead and pick nits. That’s your job. But don’t lose sight of the big picture. I was struck by how careful that airman was in answering the question about the newsman’s son. And this phone call from Jeff brings up more questions.” Jeff was a significant contributor to Sam’s campaigns, as well as a contributor to many other causes. Sam had appeared on his show several times. “Would you still be you if you were given another person’s memories? It is a kind of possession, now that I think about it. Tony, find out what these Merges are. I want to know if they really are possessions. Yes, I know it sounds strange in this day and age. But enough weird stuff has been going on that we have to be sure.”