Damon "Rev" Spector repays a favor and helps a friend. Things take a turn for the worse. no sex yet. The first installment of a serial.
Decades after a War of the Worlds type alien encounter in which nations and traditional governments, as well as their armed forces, fell due to the war and targeting by aliens, Corporations have risen and are defacto governments. They were mostly ignored during the short, devastating war and reacted first in the aftermath and usurped power and became "governments". Not only did our native viruses and bacteria kill the invaders, but the invaders brought their own viruses, technology, and specimens that devasted our world. Among the biggest was activation of dormant genes giving about 10% of the population some form of "magical" abilities. Another was changing about 50% of the population into various races resembling those from fantasy such as elves, dwarfs, orks and trolls. Their technology was amassed from across the galaxy and stolen without knowing all the consequences of its use or having paid the price to learn it. Nano technology seems to have been in common use by the aliens. The corporations and even a few individuals who first explored the alien ships after the war leveraged discovered loot into power and position. The gap between rich and poor widened considerably, with the rich becoming bigger and better exploiters and while the exploited did anything to try to survive.
It was a dark and stormy night. Clouds over Seattle obscured the waxing gibbous moon. Lightning flashed, illuminating the windows’ frosted glass etched by decades of acid rain. Seconds later, thunder rumbled through the cluttered room.
Or at least it looked cluttered to the man standing alone to one side, motionless except his eyes. He wore a duster style long coat, held a ballistic riot shield and wore a helmet. Below the duster and above army surplus boots, kneepads were built into the jumpsuit he wore. He knew the items he thought of as cluttered were vital to the arcane tasks carried out in the spacious room.
Amidst the clutter, a second man, humming to himself or perhaps chanting, maybe both it was hard to tell, moved with a conservation of motion totally engrossed in the ongoing procedure. It seemed to require no more than a step or two to reach anything he desired. Beyond his immediate orbit were a wide variety of melee weapons, some in stands, others lying on shelves or worktables. Furthest away was a glass display case with a variety of rings, finely crafted chains of precious metal, earrings and studs laid on a velvet background. Strewn through the jewelry were a few watches, lighters, pins and pens. Seeming a bit out of place was a tooth. Between the two men was a rack of video monitors displaying views of the exterior of the building.
The stationary man moved to scan the monitors more closely. He said, “So what is the story on this new customer that required me to lend a hand?”
The second man continued working as he answered, “Rev, the client that originally commissioned this piece…”
“The monowhip,” Rev cut in.
“…Decided to take a dirt nap at the most inopportune time.”
“Is this an opportune time, Harry?”
“I doubt any time is opportune for the party taking said dirt nap, but the timing was most inconvenient for me, as I was well along in the enchanting process for completing the commission. Instead of just quitting and losing the time and materials I already invested, or completing the enchantment and bonding the focus to myself, which would pretty much be a waste of karma as I have no need or experience in wielding a monowhip, I posted an ad on the matrix proclaiming the benefits for a purchaser of the work in progress,” Harry explained.
“Which are?” Rev asked curiously.
“Less waiting time on a custom fabricated focus which would require less than usual karma to bind,” answered Harry.
“I get the reduced wait period, as you were already underway. Care to elaborate on the reduced bonding cost?” Rev asked.
“I use as many karma reducing techniques as possible during the enchanting. Thanks to you and the group pointing out all the advantages free spirits can impart, I am using the bound free spirit you helped me obtain to further reduce the cost by having the customer give the spirit karma, and this is part of where you come in, while you perform the conjuring ritual to increase the ratio of karma transferred, and then the spirit will pay some of the karma cost from the proceeds,” Harry explained. “I know no one better at conjuring than you, and I am hoping your added presence acts as a deterrent for any double-cross. I don’t know this customer and didn’t have time to do a thorough background check on him. What I did find points toward either some bad luck or untrustworthiness. I’m not sure which. When he was here previously bonding to the focus, he was prepared to expend the karma to bond it, but I got this odd premonition. So I offered to try to reduce the karma and said you were the best person I knew for the task, so we planned tonight's rendezvous.”
Damon "Rev" Spector was glad he had arrived with a full complement of spirits. “So you’re hoping for the best, but anticipating the worst.”
“I am afraid it is a bit more complicated than that. Even if the new customer tries a double cross, I cannot just defend myself to the best of my abilities and perhaps kill the offender. It might drive away business if people start to think dealing with me is an express lane to dying.”
The doorbell interrupted the conversation. Taking a quick look at the video monitors, Harry announced, “It’s show time! Please, go lead the new client back here. And try to look dangerous,” he added with a smile.
Rev could barely stand upright and walk with all the weight of the armor and weapons he was wearing. But he carefully turned, called one of the great form spirits he had summoned earlier in the evening, and whispered, “Come to me, lend me your power,” as he channeled the astral being. Immediately his stride became longer and he lost all hint of toppling. Show time indeed Rev thought.
Rev reached the door, unbolted it, and asked the elven man standing there if he had an appointment.
“I was summoned by the enchanter to be on hand for the first bonding of my focus,” he said.
Curious choice to say “summoned” Rev thought, but motioned him in any way, bolted the door behind them, and led the way back to the enchanting shop. He took the man’s cloak, partly being a good host and partly removing potential armor and the ability to conceal weapons.
Harry greeted the new arrival and explained how they were going to reduce the amount of karma needed to bond the focus by having the customer give it to one of his spirits using a conjuring ritual to multiply the amount, then having the spirit and the man transfer the required karma into the focus. One of the perquisites of the first bonding was karma could come from any source or from multiple sources, with the final karma required to complete the enchantment bonding the focus to that person. The enchanter verified the elf had the required cred on the certified card by running it through a reader. Funds verified, the elven man consented to use the spirit as a conduit and Damon "Rev" Spector moved forward to perform the ritual. The elven man cocked an eyebrow and said, “It seems you are more than just the muscle.”
“So it seems. Muscle with benefits,” Rev said. “Are you ready to begin?” The elf nodded the affirmative. Rev assensed him, somewhat surprised by the number of spirits the elven magician had bound to him, but then again, not really surprised since the elf was otherwise here alone. At least the elf was apparently alone because Rev’s own watcher spirits patrolling the area had not reported anyone armed or astral within the perimeter Rev had them securing. Harry called for the spirit to join Rev and the man. “How much karma do you wish to give this spirit? According to the Malloy Theory, a multiple of three would probably work best.”
He answered with a number slightly less than a regular bonding would require, according to Malloy’s theory, while complying with the suggestion of making it a multiple of three. Damon "Rev" Spector used his magic while speaking Latin phrases. A moment later he said, “You may give the karma now.”
The elven man held his hands out toward the floating spirit and the karma flowed from them to the spirit. The spirit seemed to grow brighter or more vivid. The effect was hard to describe, but it was close to the way a bored child’s face would change when it had become content.
Harry stood over a long trough-like stone. The stone was a few yards long, perhaps a foot wide and a foot thick with its top side hollowed out, leaving the sides no more than inches thick. Looking at it with mundane eyes revealed a monowhip lying extended the length of the trough. Looking at it astrally revealed the weapon bathed in mana, soaking into the whip.
Waving the elf and spirit closer, Harry said, “It is almost time. If everyone is ready we can proceed.”
“I am ready,” the elven man said.
“Come on over here, Igor,” Harry called to the spirit. Rev gave the enchanter a sideways glance. “The assistant in all those old, mad scientist, 2D flicks,” Harry explained. “I have to call him something and I am surely not going to shout its true name all over the place.” The other two men suppressed smiles.
Harry mentally commanded Igor how much karma to impart to the focus. The amount was only about two-thirds the amount the elven mage had given it only moments before so not only had the added step of transferring the karma to the spirit reduced the amount of karma required from the elf but the free spirit was able to keep a third for itself. Free spirits desire for karma was legendary. As Igor finished imparting the greater portion of its newfound karma into the weapon focus, Harry instructed the elf, “Go ahead and use your karma to bind it. You will feel it when you have given enough.”
The man nodded and almost immediately smiled. “That didn’t take much,” he said.
“A happy customer thus far,” said Harry. “Would you like to try it out?”
“But of course,” he said.
“Be careful when you pick it up that it retracts properly and step over this way to the practice area.” Harry motioned to where stood some wood, straw, and cloth padded mock-ups of human torsos. The elven man stepped over and deftly destroyed several of them in just a few sweeps. Then a look came to his eyes that Damon "Rev" Spector had hoped not to see this night.
Rev knew the look. He had felt the tug of emotion before that prompted such looks. The look of greed. The look of knowing how expensive these magical items were and coveting them and the power they would bring. The look of thinking there was a good chance that you could take them, get away with the theft, and no one could stop you.
When Rev channeled the spirit prior to getting the door, it required him to become dual natured, existing simultaneously on the astral and the physical planes, experiencing both simultaneously. It was this ability that allowed Rev to see them converge around the elven man. Elementals. All the elementals he had counted during his assensing of the elf. A hideous look came upon the elementals faces as they looked from the astral plane to the man who controlled them, and then their gaze turned to Harry and Rev.
“He’s attacking!” Rev yelled and dove for cover behind the heavy stone enchanting gear.
Elementals materialized, crowding into what had moments before seemed adequate space in the enchanting shop. The elven man had surely intended a massacre in the confined space, but a perplexed look crossed his features as his elementals materialized. Then did mostly... nothing.
Rev’s preparations were playing out as he had hoped if trouble came. His own spirits had long been materialized, concealed among the many magical and living objects the room contained, and waiting to confuse any spirits other than Harry’s and Rev’s that entered the shop. Rev drew his pistols and took a cautious look over the edge of the limestone trough.
Almost instantly a flaming being native to the astral plane rushed him. Rev involuntarily flinched backward bumping into and getting splashed by a dazed water elemental that had recently appeared. At least it seemed dazed to Rev, as it seemed to be doing nothing at the moment. Rev squeezed the trigger, spraying the fire elemental with his machine pistol. Ordinarily the light pistol rounds would not have hurt an armored man, or in this case, a good sized spirit. But in this case, Rev had loaded capsule rounds - these containing water - anticipating mages preferences for using fire elementals for attacks. The fiery apparition advanced as Rev let fly on full auto, fighting back the panic and focusing at keeping the stream of projectiles on target, fighting the muzzle rise as the weapon’s recoil bucked defiantly. The elemental was upon Rev when it finally explode into a hail of sparks, peppering Rev and the immediate area. The tiny embers winked out of existance almost as quickly as they had appeared.
Thankful for investing in fire-resistant armor, Rev again raised his eyes above the level of the stone enchanting gear and saw the elven man advancing on Harry. Rev raised his Browning automatic and fired a double tap at him. Both shots found their mark, but the capsule rounds were loaded with nothing but air - which would have been effective against an earth elemental - another mage favorite - but did little more than raise welts on the man’s back beneath his clothing. The shots did have the effect of drawing the elf mage’s attention. He flicked the whip toward Rev and Rev ducked behind the stone trough. However, his ballistic shield was too tall to secrete below the piece of enchanting equipment and Rev was too desperately evading to notice. Monowhips had that effect on people. The whip trimmed three inches from the shield's top edge as it sailed above Rev.
Disappointment and fear vied for supremacy of Rev's emotions. Disappointment that the mage had somewhat overcome the confusion power projected by Rev's spirits. Fear of being attacked by someone using a mono whip. Images from accounts of the bloody aftermath of mono whip attacks, recently reinforced by seeing this elf destroy all the practice targets, fueled his fear, trumped any disappointment and refueled his panic.
Without really thinking the ploy through, Rev used the channeled spirit's accident power on the monowhip. The whip’s weighted tip came loose and went innocently sailing into the nearest wall. The mono-filament line of the whip lost its tautness and draped over the elven mage’s shoulder. On the backswing, the elf noticed something was wrong, but not soon enough to stop from drawing the monoline across his own carotid. Arterial spray gushed from the wound, and the man grabbed for his throat. Harry and Rev stood motionless watching in shock as the elf magician did a macabre dance searching for a stance to stop the stream of blood. Seconds later his legs collapsed beneath him, dumping him on the shop’s floor.
“Frag!” Harry yelled. “I said killing the customer was bad for business.”
“Dying is better? Besides, he did it to himself,” excuses rushed from Rev. “He isn’t dead yet. Probably just in shock.” Rev added in a low voice, “Though I doubt he has much time left. Do you have a medkit? I left mine out in the car. And a trauma patch if you have one and really want this guy to avoid dying.”
Rev put one hand on the stone trough and vaulted over it to the downed elf. As he watched, over a half dozen watcher spirits winked out of existence. “Harry,” Rev said sounding almost calm compared to how he sounded only a moment before. Keeping the injured mage's many spirits in view, he continued, “be ready in case some of these elementals go uncontrolled.”
Damon "Rev" Spector reached down and wiped the blood away from the wound. The laceration didn't look long and Rev guessed it wasn't deep but it didn’t need to be. The missing monowhip tip may have been the root cause of the damage, but the same thing had likely kept it from inflicting more damage. Rev put pressure on the neck wound. The blood felt hot on Rev's hands as it tried surging past the pressure to the rhythm of a heartbeat. “He’s still got a pulse. Get that whip away from him,” Rev ordered and started checking the man closer for weapons or magical items that might be brought into play and at the same time trying not to strangle the duplicitous elf with too much pressure on the erupting wound.
Rev noticed a medical alert bracelet large enough to contain biomonitoring gear. “We might just be in luck as far as killing customers being bad for business. He’s wearing a SpeediER™ bracelet.”
“Really?” Harry perked up.
“It sure looks like one,” Rev replied. “Although I don’t know if it’s alerting anyone. Maybe we should take it off so it doesn’t pick up any vital statistics and trigger a rescue call.” Rev reconsidered covering up the accident and said, “ Or maybe give Speedy a call and tell them their customer had a mishap and needs help quick. They may even be able to give us some help keeping him alive until they arrive,” Rev said, the adrenaline from the fight causing him to ramble.
“Leave the bracelet on. I’ll get the number off it and call them,” Harry said.
As he kept the pressure on the laceration, Rev looked around the room. The elementals looked slightly different to him. Something about their auras. It finally came to him. They had gone free. They hadn’t left the room or the plane because his spirits were maintaining their confusion power. “Harry?” Rev inquired as Harry cut the phone connection.
“They’re on their way,” Harry said. “They said to keep the pressure on, making sure not to cut off his air.” Harry carefully removed the monowhip from the man and twisted the handle so that the monofilament reeled inside. “Too bad you caused the tip to come loose. You probably destroyed the enchantment of a force six focus on the Walker-Riggs scale.” Harry read the instructions printed on the trauma patch packaging, bared the elf’s chest and applied the patch according to the instructions. Then he went about hooking the injured man up to the autonomous med kit.
“That’s nice,” Rev flatly replied, unable to care less about the possibility the weapon so recently being used against him had been destroyed. “We have a room full of -” Rev halted himself from revealing the exact nature of the astral beings, “spirits around us that may or may not be all that happy with us.” For Damon "Rev" Spector, being in a room full of free spirits wasn’t like most sane people being in a room full of snakes. Maybe more like a snake handler in a snake pit. “You know, he must have been planning this double-cross all along,” Rev said. “I have rarely seen one guy with this many elementals, plus he had all those watchers. If it weren’t for my precaution of already having my spirits materialized, concealed and commanded for this contingency, we’d be the ones in the pools of blood.”
“Any ideas about how to prevent others from trying something similar?” Harry asked.
“Any ideas about getting rid of all of these,” Rev asked, inclining his head to indicate the elementals while his hands aided the dying man. He was already trying to devise a plan.
“What do you propose? I have no ideas right now. I’m kind of happy to be alive. I thought it was all over when he came at me with that whip,” Harry said. “I’m still shaking. It took three times for me to dial the phone.”
“So you had no problem with me shooting him,” Rev said.
“Like your shots did anything but draw his attention,” Harry said.
“But you weren't complaining at the time about me killing the customers,” Rev said. “How did you know I wasn't using lethal ammo? Back to the problems at hand. For the spirits, I think defend ourselves and release them from the confusion one at a time and let them leave or deal with them. For this drek head and your future customers, I am thinking of taking everything he has that is worth anything, packing the pieces of the monowhip on him and letting the ambulance take him away. That way, you fulfilled your contract with him for the monowhip, then defended yourself and to the victor go the spoils. Frag, he may even think someone at the clinic may have lifted his stuff while he was unconscious. And that's all figuring the fragger survives. It shouldn’t hurt your rep at all. From your partial background check, it sounds like unlucky was not the correct assumption and anyone who knows him probably knows how he is,” Rev said. “What do you think?”
“It sounds like a marvelous idea,” Harry agreed.
“Then come around here and keep the pressure on the wound.” Accomplishing the change in places, Damon Spector wiped his hands as clean as possible, or at least until the palms felt dry and no longer sticky, and started looking around for a fire extinguisher or even a coiled garden hose. It wasn’t until that moment when he actually noticed the walls of the basement
“Harry, have you noticed anything new about your walls?” Rev asked, then looked even closer to the confines of the enchanting shop and added, “or the ceiling and floor, for that matter?”
Harry looked around and said, “They look like they always do What’s the matter with you? I thought you were going to deal with all the spirits this guy brought along?”
Enough of this Rev thought I can see what is in front of my face. Or all around me for that matter. Rev assensed the multicolored, neon-like, glowing sigils all around him as he searched for a fire extinguisher or garden hose. He got his answer. It was convoluted because the sigils were not multicolored, but overlapping and intertwined. They were the true names of these spirits, created at the moment they went free from the elven mage.
Rev asked, “Do you have a fire extinguisher? Or even a garden hose? Something to use against these fire elementals if they decide not to leave?”
Harry told him where the fire extinguisher was and Rev couldn’t believe he had not found it. Maybe it was the room crowded with spirits to his astral sight, with the sigils of true names adding their distractions, but Rev repeated what his father used to always tell him if it was a snake it would have bitten you.
Fire extinguisher in hand, Rev approached one of the fire elementals. He assensed it, noting the aura and the true name with the identical astral signature. Through their psychic link, Rev instructed his spirit to drop the confusion from this elemental. His spirit obeyed, the elemental looked about as it regained its wits and fled to the astral. The procedure was repeated for the last two fire elementals without incident. “Maybe we should keep a ritual sample of his blood,” Rev said as he worked. “Maybe, we let this guy know we might have kept a ritual sample if he survives, so maybe he decides to leave worse enough alone,” Rev said.
“That may be a good idea,” Harry said as he told Igor to remove all the jewelry the unconscious elf wore, then check his pockets for credcard and keys. Harry had Igor bring a small vial and collect some of the elven blood as it leaked around Harry’s fingers applying pressure to the wound. Harry noted with satisfaction that two rings and a cigarette lighter were foci. He slipped the ruined mono whip into the elf’s pocket.
“Harry, do you have a torch of some sort?” Rev asked.
Harry said, “There should be a couple on the shelf under the workbench on the west wall.”
Rev located a propane torch and once more noticed his red hands. Deciding to clean them instead of needing to clean them and everything he touched for a while, Rev looked around for a sink, and finding one, cleaned the blood from his hands. While washing, Rev checked his reflection in the mirror above the sink and wiped blood from his duster. After cleaning the worst of the mess, Rev went back to the torch, lit it, and started toward the water elementals. Brandishing the torch, Rev ordered his spirit to drop the confusion from each, one at a time. Both left as soon as the confusion power was withdrawn from them. Rev extinguished the torch.
For the remaining earth and air elemental, Rev loaded his pistol with appropriate capsule rounds and gathered all his spirits around the confused spirit as the power was dropped. The air elemental left quickly enough and the earth elemental departed after slinging a contemptuous limb in Rev’s direction.
Harry said, “It looks like he was carrying a sustaining focus, a power focus and a spirit focus for fire elementals, keys, personal credcard and the certified credcard. The certified cred goes in my pocket because I delivered the focus as agreed, even if he wound up getting it destroyed the first time he used it. In this case, I think misused is more appropriate. Are you interested in any of the rest of it?”
“I have no real use for the spirit focus and I would just as soon have one of your custom made whips, say force two or so on the Walker-Riggs scale with the reduced karma feature. Why not sell his and we’ll split the proceeds and I’ll apply mine toward the cost of some goodies you can make for me. If you have any trouble getting a good price for the items, let me know. I know a few people who may be interested or even some folks in the group,” Rev said, referring to the members in their magical group. “I could probably do something with the keys and credcard.”
”Harry tossed the keys, saw Rev fumble them and walked the card over as loud banging came from the front door. Rev checked the monitors then went and let in the SpeediER™ crew. Consulting his pocket secretary, Rev noted they had arrived in under five minutes. No questions other than if they knew the cause of the injury and any treatment given. Rev answered, “His own mono whip,” and, “nothing but pressure and a trauma patch as instructed by the expert medical program. He was showing us how good he was with it on the practice targets.” Rev hoped the half truth explanation would satisfy the response team well enough for them to write the incident off as an accident and not report it as an assault or worse. In less than two more minutes, they were gone with their client.
Damon "Rev" Spector was anxious to leave for several reasons, not the least was the possibility that the medical team would report the incident to law enforcement.
“Rev, are you sure you only want a force two whip? I could easily make you a more powerful one, and the cost could be offset by the proceeds from the jerk’s foci,” Harry said. “Or dress it up a bit by stitching or molding gold and silver into the grip, perhaps inlaying some ivory and maybe ruby or sapphires.”
“No. A plain old force two leather whip is all I want. Force two isn’t illegal. And a leather whip is easy to conceal and there’s nothing flashy to make others covet it,” Rev said and then thoughts started coming to him. “Unless it wouldn’t be too difficult to weave some silver filaments into the braid, then it might be more effective against were-beings. No. Scratch that; it might make it harder to get past metal detectors and were folk aren't so common.”
“That sounds challenging - enough silver to affect were beings but not enough to trip metal detectors. I like putting the art in artificing,” Harry said. “And using different materials in their radical form makes it easier to create and reduces the cost to bond.” As Rev was leaving he could tell Harry was getting excited about creating this new focus.
“Keep me up to date on how things are coming along. Maybe I’ll think of something to add after I sleep on the idea,” Rev said. “But I’ve got to get going.” And see about binding that ally spirit I just saw in astral space before it went free. It’s worth more to me than any of the foci I saw tonight Damon "Rev" Spector thought.