Semi-Magipocalypse Intro Play 2

There were always rumors of programs.


During the last world war, they said the Nazis and Allies tried to develop supersoldiers.


During the Cold War, both sides tried remote viewing, like Project Stargate, and superspies.


After the Cold War, into the War on Terror, the focus remained on creating enhanced soldiers and operatives. In the U.S., three secret facilities worked on the most promising avenues: exoskeletons, nanotech, and bioengineering. The old occult research facility was forgotten, but never shutdown.


Rather, it was almost forgotten.


Some bioengineer got the idea to take promising but ultimately dead-end research and shop it to the magic researchers. Somehow, they got it to work in rodent test subjects, and preliminary human trials. All of this was done quietly, unofficially, and off the record, referred to in communications as “Greygem”. The results later became known as the Lansing-Myer Treatment/Virus.


Effects of the LMT varied by subject. Some exhibited external, physical changes, and others did not. Some showed the ability to manipulate energies, others enhanced mental and physical capabilities.


Supposedly, Lansing and Myer decided they did not want this to be entirely in government control or to be weaponized by a government. They brought in a like-minded engineer, Harding, who had made promising advances in nanotech. As we now know, Harding became the mother of the nanobot field.


Together, the trio let their “Project Greygem” loose in the world.


Within a couple months, Harding nanobots carrying LMT/V had saturated North America and spread to every continent except Antarctica. A week later, the first symptoms showed: fever, nausea, mild flu-like symptoms. After a further week, people woke up with pointed ears. Or a foot shorter. Or as wolves. Or said the wrong word and blew up a toaster. Or cut themselves by accident and felt a rush of power.


That was fifty years ago, when magic was unleashed on the world.


Since then, of course, it has become safer and more controlled. Government regulation has been enacted around the globe. And both nanotech and bioengineering have exploded.


Socially, the backlash was violent at first, at least until people realized that only about 20% of the populace didn’t get some ability. These few were naturally immune to the LMT/V. But the rest saw at least minor magic ability, or altered DNA. Not everyone learns to use the ability, of course, but the companies leaped on the profit potential, the government tried drafting every magic person but it was too widespread, and the populace eventually settled and began to benefit from the new normal.


Of course, not everything is perfect. There are those who resent or still fear the new normal. And there are new crimes. New rights movements formed very quickly and rumors of “shadow” governments of magicians and cults have sprung up everywhere.

Post-Magipocalypse Intro Play 1

Maybe fifty years ago, the world was going on its business, probably killing itself twenty different ways. Then, about then, someone made a serum.


I don’t know who, man. And who the fuck cares? Ancient history.


Anyway, maybe it was supposed to kill a plague, end a pandemic, or something. Doesn’t really matter. Didn’t do whatever that was. Maybe killed some test subjects or whatever, but at least one had a side effect.


Dude could open gates.


Not fence gates.


Gates to other worlds, or one world.


No one’s done it since, and good thing.


Dude opened one gate and magic flooded into the world like a tsunami. Overloaded all the tech, shut down society as people back then knew it. Factories went dark, planes fell outta the sky, whole nine yards.


They say they got it closed again, fast, but the damage was done.


Societies that relied on electricity for everything had none. Cars stopped working, guns jammed, phones bricked, everything gone.


Bad days.


Riots.


People fleeing cities.


Breakdown of law and order.


And that was the first three days.


Local governments and corps did what they could, with some other less official groups. But the feds, and even old state, folks were out of contact. In a couple weeks, man, things mostly settled in most places, from what I hear. Not great, but no more riots and a lot fewer murders and stuff.


Figures that’s when they started showing up.


People with powers.


People who could see and control ghosts. People who could make trees grow overnight. People who could curse at someone and really hurt them.


I hear they used to say, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me.”


Ain’t true anymore.


Riots and hangings by mobs started right up again, least until the corps and some others started protecting the witches, wizards, whatever. The corps saw a profit and a resource, the others, who knows. I guess some places were a lot worse, where really conservative religious types took over.


Anyway.


Over the next couple years, the magic people found a niche and the tech started to come back. People started mixing them. The governments were never the same. Too long with local and corp control of areas.


You know the corp areas, got their signs, wards, fences, and cops . . . and armies. And you know all the magic people now, the ghosties, the shapers, the bloods, the crafters, all of them. And the ones the shapers made, and the necros and crafters. People literally in all shapes and sizes now, whatever they can imagine, almost. Just watch out for the other factions, boss.


Keep your eyes open, your knife sharp, and your magic cutting edge.

New Book In Progress

I know things have been quiet around here. Part of that’s Covid, family stuff, and work. Part of it is that things have been moving and shaking behind the curtain.

The result is that about mid-October, I sent a query letter to McFarland Books. Got a positive response in less than 24 hours. Sent out a full proposal a few days later.

Yesterday, I signed a contract to publish a book built out of the series of posts about magic from 2016 (tagged Magic Series). I need to add at least another 7,000 words, and have it all revised for delivery by mid-February. So, if things go well, it should be on shelves around May 2021.

WIP Snippet

Haven House.

The abandoned three story neoclassical colonial had a certain inviting appeal, Gil had to admit. Despite looking out of place, surrounded by corn and soy fields something like thirty miles from the nearest town. These signs screamed run away to anyone who had seen almost any horror movie.

Gilead Hayes smiled at the thought.

Not that Haven House’s appearance meant anything.

It had changed a few times in the several years that he had called it home. Not changed as in a new coat of paint and some landscaping. Changed as in last month it had been a two story Tudor manor.

Gil jogged across the deserted two lane county road, slowing to a stroll up the gravel driveway. He took the opportunity to absorb the changes, noting the wrap around porch. Someone, he saw, had gone all out with the shrubbery around the front. They looked southern, not native to the Midwestern farmland.

The door swung open silently mere seconds before he could knock.

Playing Around 15

(This one was mostly written to see if I could still write a fight scene.  Also to see if I could describe a particular technique.  I’m pretty happy with that part.)


Duck.

Sweep.

Pound.

An instant of resistance against the knife blade, but the Kevlar parted before superior strength.

Beep beep beep.

Damn.  Bad timing.

Roll.

Crunch as the heel of a combat boot connected with a jaw.

Beep beep beep.

On feet, survey surroundings in a second.

Four down, two active.  Target frozen, probably mix of fear and shock.

Understandable, Talya decided.  He’d hired the best he could afford.  But they had no way to prepare for one of her kind.

She turned, blocked an arm with her own, as the beeping came back to her ear.  A quick jab to the face broke the guard’s nose as she flipped his wrist, both snapping his elbow and causing his knife to clatter on the concrete.  A spin and knee to the short ribs left internal bleeding and a single active hostile standing.

The woman had already shot her three times, and missed a couple others.  Good grouping, Talya absently noted, all center of mass, an area the size of her fist.

The incessant, intermittent, beeping continued.

Shit.  No time for this.

With a grin, Talya let a bit of beast show.  Not enough to lose control, but just enough for a feral glow to her eyes and a bit of fang to show.

Just the amount to convince the other woman that she wasn’t getting paid enough.  And that caution was the better part of valor.

As the last guard ran, Talya focused on the target and touched the earpiece to take her call.

“Talya!”

“Gregor?  Dude, I’m in the middle of a job . . . that you set up.”

“What job?”

“The Demetri thing.  Just a sec.”

She thumbed her earpiece to mute.

“Waylon Morrell?  Demetri sends his regards and says he wants his money.  Two days, or this warning becomes the real thing.”

Turning away from the cowering man, Talya unmuted.

“Why was your phone on?  Don’t you use ‘don’t disturb’?”

“Gregor.  You called twice in a minute.  It registered as an emergency and went through.  I was shot, twice, because you distracted me.”

“You’ll heal.”

Talya rolled her eyes.

“I’ll be adding a replacement shirt to my bill, Gregor.”

“Fine.  Demetri can cover it.”

“What’s the emergency?”

“I need a consult, Talya.  Usual finder’s fee.”

“What’s the job?”

“Retrieval . . . I’d offer it to you, but it’s a team thing.  In the community, not norms.”

“What’s the pay?”

Gregor named a figure that caused her to miss a step.

She recovered and slid into a nondescript Toyota.

“Timeline?”

“ASAP, three weeks max.”

Talya thought for a few seconds as she pulled into traffic.

“I can have a team together in 72 hours,” she said.  Five way split, it would still be worth it for a three week job.  Which meant either tough owner or expensive item.

“You sure?” Gregor did not, she thought, do a good job hiding his surprise.  “It needs a team and isn’t your usual . . .”

“Just send me the details.  I’ll cover the rest.”

“No details until the team’s confirmed.  Not after Minsk.”

Talya paused, processing.

“You brokered Minsk?”

“Sadly.  Took a big hit.”

“Fine.  I’ll get in touch in two days.  The usual number?”

“I’ll look forward to the call.  But, come Friday, I’ll offer it to someone else.  Just business.”

Talya disconnected the call as she turned onto an entrance ramp.  The highway, 270, made a rough loop around the city, through the suburbs, and connected all the major interstates that passed by or through.  She liked to think of it as more the heart of the city than downtown was.  Everything passed through 270 somehow.

As her eyes scanned the traffic and sought the Highland Road exit, most of her mind ran down a virtual dossier of people she knew in the business.

Thomas and Mordecai would be in, easy.  If they weren’t on jobs already.  Jade would be good on the back end, and she’d see the challenge.  Only a little effort to convince her.

That would give her entry, magic support, and tech-tactical support.

Marek?

No, he didn’t work well with others, and there was Boston, she thought.

Chen might be good, but she’d heard he died a couple week before.  Siddiq never left the Midwest, so unless the job was limited, he was out.

That left . . . Caroline.

Talya considered as she pulled into a parking spot.

She shouldered a knapsack and small messenger bag, locked the car, and strode toward the train station.  She preferred the train to planes.  They were slower, but there were fewer questions and travel between cities in the state was faster by train than car.

As she took place on the platform, Talya nodded to herself.  Caroline brought a generalist to the team.  She could hold her own and be second to the guys, if needed.  And, most important, she could be trusted.

She’d also be the most difficult to convince, though having Jade in would help that.  Lucifer would need wool socks before Caroline could pass up a cute redhead.

The train pulled out as Talya scanned the nearly empty carriage.  Her phone was out before they cleared the station.

“Hey, Jade.  How’re things?  Good.  Listen . . . Gregor’s got a job he sent my way.  Could use a little help if you’re still freelancing . . .”

Playing Around 14

(Some of this piece may appear in another work, because I like parts of it.  For now, it’s a brief exploration)


To the untrained eye, the main floor of the Luna Nova was a chaotic mix of people and species.  However, an experienced patron could read the topography and tectonics of the room.

Jastian Wells was hip deep in the second group.

With that knowledge, a person could, he knew, see the enforcers and the normal joes, the Almasti and the shtriga, and read the affiliations, alliances, and feuds.  Reading the room was, therefore, reading the city.

He visually swept the room, taking note of who and what was there.  The Carusos and Narvos had half the room between them, which meant their short lives alliance was dead.  And that meant Torvald lost the bet and owed him.

Jastian unconsciously, and subtly, checked the handful of knives about his person as raised voices came from the bar.  He glanced over . . . a big shifter, who’d obviously had a few too many, looked about to go furry on a skinny Black guy, whose bearing and eyes screamed shtriga.  The Luna’s security was already closing in, a mountainous gargoyle and her whipcord Almasti partner.  The Luna’s strict policies on magic, bronze, silver, and long blades kept damage to a minimum, but the staff liked to stop trouble before it got too far.

As he relaxed, a heavy set, middle aged man stopped by his table.  Smelled like a werebeast, canine probably.

“Marcus Isaak?”

“No.”

“But, the barman . . .”

“Well, he was wrong.”

He must have still been able to pull off the ‘bad ass’ face because the were only paused a second before muttering an apology and beating a hasty retreat.

Jastian made a mental note to speak with Kira, the bar manager.  He hadn’t used the Marcus alias in several years.  Not since changing his calling and profession.  A lifetime ago.

Besides, he was waiting on a probable client, not on the market.

The Luna Nova had started its life as a werebeast bar.  They liked the joke in the name.  Within a year, he’d heard, it became the place all the local beast changers hung out.  Then all the changers.  In a few years, Luna had acquired a reputation as the place to go to hire freelance changer talent.  Pretty soon, the entire community began frequenting the place.  The once little werebeast bar became a major night spot for all magical peoples in the city.

“Mister Wells?”

His reverie was interrupted by a trim, fit man just starting to go grey around the temples.  Meeting his eyes, Jastian decided the man had been starting to go grey for a couple centuries.

“Mister Cutter?”

At the man’s nod, he gestured toward the empty chair.

He waited for Cutter to get settled, and let the other man start.

“Mister Wells, are you familiar with Bareth Oren?”

“The number two man in the Three Horns’ presence in Caerik?  Somewhat.”  The man didn’t smell dead, so not a vampire.  Didn’t smell of blood either, so not shtriga.

“The people I represent wish to meet with him face to face, not through intermediaries, to discuss business.”

“And?  I don’t know him well enough to introduce you.”

“Not to worry, Mr. Wells.  We will arrange a date through other channels.  I require someone to ensure my arrival in Caerik, to the meeting, and back to Earth again.  Someone familiar with Faere, Caerik, and our counterparts in that city.”

“And you don’t want the families, houses, et cetera on this side, or the authorities on the other, to know about this trip, I assume.”

Cutter nodded, almost imperceptibly, “Of course.”

“So the Talville gate is out on this side.  The major players monitor it constantly.  You have a gate opener?”

Playing Around 13

The Greeks and Egyptians, and some peoples of Jerusalem, speak of ancient magicians who claimed territory.  This claiming was not the same as the ways in which princes today claim lands.  Magical processes now lost to modern magic were used to bind the land to the magician and the magician to the land.  The ritual of binding was exceptionally dangerous, particularly for large swaths of land, thus a reasons that doing so fell out of fashion and was forgotten.  Those who claimed lands did so for two reasons: to exert their power and authority over the land or to protect the land and its people.

Demosthenes writes that a magician who claimed land could draw power from the land itself, nearly as much as by blood rituals.  In payment, the magician found it difficult to leave the land for any length of time.  Erasmus of Egypt writes, further, that a claiming magician could control parts of the land.  Sextus Gracchus believes this control is the source of stories with the Roman army of forests that walked, whispered, and fought against the legions in Gaul and Germania.

Rediscovering such power could be a sword for ourselves, allowing us greater power to defend our society and people.  It would also be a sword for our enemies, as it would tie our best and strongest to static fiefs and estates from whence they could not move.

-excerpt from “Knowledge of the Ancients”, Sir Thomas Clifford, 1582

Translated from the original Latin by Clarissa Hoyt, 1994