Friday, March 23, 2007

Wizard's bane

“The king wants what?” The old man’s voice was filled with a terrible thunder, the very air in the room quivering.
      “A resume,” the apprentice muttered. “They have mad quite a few applicants for chief wizard, master, and we are but one of them.”
      “I am Mardos the magnificent! Mardos the waker of Eldrun, who broke the back of the dragon of Bishalman. My name is known across the seventeen kingdoms!”
      “But, my master, we aren’t IN the seventeen kingdoms anymore.” The apprentice hesitated, then plunged forward like a lemming leaping into a sea, or a princess towards a shoe sale. “You remember? The taxes issue.”
      “A wizard of my stature does not need to pay taxes. Paying taxes is for the little people.” There was a pause fraught with menace, though how this is achieved is best left to the imagination of the reader. The best comparison is the pause between the twisting of a face and the actual breaking of wind, not that a wizard would stoop to such things. “Are you snickering, Harley?”
      “No, master.”
      “Good. Then why does a mere king require a resume? I could provide ample evidence of my -- you ARE snickering, aren’t you?”
      “Forgive me master!”
      “OUT WITH IT!” There was a pause. “I did not mean, apprentice, for you to collapse on the ground laughing. Explain yourself!”
      “Master, your stature has increased since we had to flee, due to the time in the cloud kingdoms and the pastries and --”
      “I am aware of this,” the wizard said, his voice low and deep.
      “Yes, master, well -- the king’s treasurer, master, wonders at the cost of you.”
      “The cost?”
      “To - feed, master. So they want a resume, for proof you are worth that, ah, cost.” Harley the apprentice shivered. “There was a famine recently, and the kingdom has not recovered.”
      “I am merely plump,” the wizard said.
      “I know master, but you need the resume and --”
      “Do they banish plump grandmothers from their kingdom?” Madros bellowed. “I think not! A fat bearded wizard is a tradition! Even though I am not fat.”
      “A resume is useful, though. You made me submit one to you, master.”
      “You put down that you were not sure if your frog was your familiar or was the other way around,” the wizard noted.
      “It’s still under debate,” Harley said. “But, master, you could just list such things, as I did. When did you take the vision quest for a familiar?”
      “When I was six.”
      “Did your familiar die?”
      “No.” The wizard paced the room, not looking over.
      “Then --”
      “I failed.”
      “Master?”
      “I ended up with a rock. I cast the spell at the end of the course and came back with a rock.”
      “So, you - er - you skipped the basics?” Harley said desperately.
      Mardos looked over, then sighed. “Put that down, if you wish. Why do you think you do the chores with magic?”
      “Because you have more important --”
      “Apprentice!”
      “Because you ate fat and lazy.”
      “You fail as a wizard, then.”
      Harley licked his lips. “How?” he managed.
      “A wizard has to train himself to see the obvious. The obvious is: I do not do those spells because I cannot. Float a castle? Simple. Light up the sky? Easy. Mend a shirt? I’d need thread.”
      “Oh.”
      “Quite.”
      “You’ve had many apprentices, then?”
      The wizard chuckled. “Of course. They graduated when they guessed -- this is not an option this time. The king needs a resume,” he said, his countenance darkening from more than just constipation.
      “We could lie?”
      “A wizard does not lie: words are the heart of magic, language the --”
      “I know.” Harley held up a hand, trying to get it to stop trembling. “I know: but I am not a wizard. I am only an apprentice.”
      Mardos the magnificent was silent for several moments. “I see. Why did you want to become a wizard, boy?”
      “Master?”
      “You interrupted me.”
      “I - yes, master. This is your price?”
      “Without such, things would not have value. Every action has an equal one: this is the nature of magic and of eating beans as well. Answer.”
      “The ladies like a man in robes, master. Magic has allure to it. I am not handsome master. I am not brilliant. I have a way with words, for lying, but all men have that. So I needed something to attract a woman for more than an evenings coin.”
      The wizard was silent for a few moments. “You decided to learn the great Art so that you could have sex with women?” he said finally.
      “Yes, master.”
      “I think we will exclude this from the cover letter.”
      “Master?”
      “We both have things to hide now.” The wizard sat down in a chair. “We give given him our resume, with your cover letter. I want larger chairs than this, however. And we will give a demonstration of our magic - if they want it or not.”
      Harley grinned. “To scare the king out of charging taxes, master?”
      “A wizard must maintain dignity. And robes to accommodate that,” Mardos said mildly. “There is also the likelihood of sex, apprentice, since people are attracted to power. You do not need to write that down.
      “Objective: I, Mardos the magnificent, and my apprentice Harley, seek your employ as wizards of the court,” the wizard began as the apprentice wrote quickly, separating fact from fancy and adding in fiction where needed.
      After the resume was done, he added a basic charm so that no one would contact their references.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Reuters headline: "Mohammed says responsible for 9/11 attacks"

<alcar> Oh, fun headline..
<alcar> "Mohammed says responsible for 9/11 attacks"
* alcar sees additional ones: "Jevovah denies responsibility. Other prophets do ritual shunning."
<OnyxFlame> lol
<OnyxFlame> "Buddha not available for comment." :P
* alcar nods. "Joseph Smith stands outside building, wondering if he is invited as a prophet or not."
<Kayara> haha
<alcar> "Angel Gabriel unavailable for comment."

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Just Working

When the President admits you exist, you have problems. Emmett Giron know his superiors understood this. You cannot be the secret rulers of the world and have your name splashed on billboards.
       “Hey, it worked for the Rockfellers,” is all he was told. Which was true, of course. If you had enough money, no one would believe the lies you told. If you had enough influence, though, no one would know you existed at all. This was the real power of the world, the power to decide what stories were printed, which lies were told, which things were buried.
       Emmett knew the truth would out, eventually. Lies fall away, like the myth of the Christ, like the earth as centre of the universe, and the truth remains: But how the truth is told was as important as the fact of it; and facts, as had been drilled into him, were nothing more than opinions dusted off for company.
       He knew all this. He understood all this. And yet he was not sure why the President remained alive, nor why people knew about them, even made jokes: the truth was not something to joke of, but something to revere - and fear. “Each time they laugh, they disbelieve a little more,” Azik had said curtly, when asked. Emmett had questioned no further; there were limits to how far he could push before the Order would push back, and Azik’s terrible weapon left no trace at all, but Emmett wouldn’t be there anymore.
       “Eeeemmett?”
       He looked up from his cold coffee. “Yes, ma’am?”
       “Your mission, should you choose to actually listen to me,” Smith said sharply, “is to deal with the Mac problem. Three people in two weeks going into a convenience store and setting their head on fire is bad for business.”
       “Business?”
       “Keeping order.” She handed him a thin white folder. (They had files on everyone, after all.) “This is what we have on the cashier. Ask questions, find out answers. Low key. And, Emmett, no killing anyone this time.”
       He smirked. “Even if they deserve it?”
       “You were sent to my office to increase your detectual skills, not your body count.”
       “Detectual?” he said mildly.
       She smiled at him. “I can sent Azik with you, if you wish. The Satellite is, of course, ready.”
       Emmet turned and walked out, leaving his coffee behind.

              **

It didn’t take long to find things out. The file had includes Dario’s username for several web sites, and mentioning that alone got his instant attention.
       “Look, you won’t tell my boss, will you?”
       “That you like to dress up as a wolf? Of course not. Do you ask for the full moon off?”
       Dario’s eyes narrowed. “I don’t know who you are, but if BeastBoy23 --”
       “You don’t need to. You just need to answer the question. Three people. None seriously hurt. The police report claims they don’t come here often, but they all live within two blocks of your apartment.”
       “Look, man, I - I need a raise. Danger pay, you know. I paid them some money, it looks really flashy, and we get paid a bit more for having to put up with things like this. That’s all. It’s a scam.”
       “I see.” Emmett kept the camera to static, thinking for a few moments. “Do you know what I think of people who have sex with animals?”
       “What?”
       “You can lower your voice. It is quite simple: I think the programming to stop you from being a molester didn’t take. And it’s only one short step, from animals to children.”
       Dario had time to call him several angry words, because Emmett had to take a few moments to make sure his gun was loaded. He didn’t give a warning, did not bother to explain. One shot, in the face. Another to the chest. And a third lower, because this had been a waste of an evening.

              **

As it turned out, the programming that led to fetishes with animal costumes had to do with an attempt to repress potential Greenpeace activists than any form of actual sexual deviancy. Smith had told him that not everything was programming, but of course she’d believe that: she was programmed to, and management besides.
       There were, Dario felt, as he showed up for his first shift at the Mac’s store in punishment, very good reasons why management made no innovations. Sometimes, if all you saw was the forest, you missed the trees entirely.

              **

The first person to set their hair on fire he threw out the back door and into a dumpster.
       After the fourth, a transient who set his entire body on fire, he wondered who Dario had been working for and why the file had been so very thin after all. He began bringing his gun, wondering if Smith meant to have him taken out of the game crudely. Management at the store was replaced, which did not surprise him.
       He wasn’t even surprised that the new manager had the face of a dead man, or that no one commented. He just waited until his shift was over, went into the office, and finishes the job. The crazies had been burning themselves for a good reason; there are some things only fire could purify, and the answer to his questions had been far too pat for the real world, where there were no easy answers, and always things that could not be solved with guns alone.
       It would seem, he thought, changing clothing as he walked, ignoring the sound of the dog’s sirens in the air, come calling to the fire and never learning anything, that Smith had been correct. Next time, he decided, he would bring Azik along and let the other man’s weapon solve what violence could not.
       He looked ahead to next weeks performance review for the quarter and smiled.