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Deal 1051: Answers lead to more questions.

Yes dragons do dream, no I don’t have a cat, and yes I’m terrified by what happened the other day. Something caught us, entrapped us, and then left us to wonder what it might have done to us. That is hardly something I should allow to happen to me or to my pupil. I have my ways of knowing that nothing happened directly to either my or Sydney during those missing hours, except for the fact that the hours are missing. And of course, I am reasonably sure that what did happen in that interval is not something I would want to have happened.

I detest alarms, necessary though they are, and that may have been a weakness that was exploitable. My habits are reasonably well known, and in the past have not proved to be a problem.

That sword of Syd’s bothers me some too. I’ve asked him about it. “Where did that sword come from?”

He simply said “I made it.”

Which puzzles me greatly because I can tell that he is telling the truth as he knows it to be true, and without any hints or colors of subterfuge. And yet, that sword is much more powerful than any magic he overtly knows how to wield. It positively reeks of magic.

“We have to explore what your sword can do. I don’t understand what happened, and you don’t understand its full power. Tell me again about how it came to be in your possession?”

He studied me for a minute, then spoke at some length. “I said before that I made it. That is true. But I didn’t make it here, I made it before. I put a lot of effort into its making, but almost none of that effort was devoted to making it good at the things a sword is supposed to actually do. In most senses it is not a real sword, but rather a prop or a toy. I formed all of it from lightweight materials that I could work in my apartment, at my kitchen table. The handle is the most real, as it needed to hold up to actual handling. I made it from a carved block of wood, into which I cut channels to inset buttons and wires to control its showier functions. The buttons form a kind of keyboard concealed under the leather wrapping that can be actuated while the sword is in a natural grip. The pommel conceals a power switch for the whole thing, and a battery compartment.”

This was more than he’d said previously, and hinted at powers he hadn’t acknowledged before. But I let him continue before asking about some of the words that had no meaning here, or meanings that did not fit his usage. One wouldn’t expect to fit a ship’s battery into a “compartment” in the handle of a sword, so “battery” had to mean something different to him.

He continued “The blade was the most work. It is made mostly from plastic that I cut to shape, bent with a torch, and formed into the shape of a blade. I concealed lights and wiring along its length, and a processor to control the lights, a haptic feedback motor, some other sensors, and similar features. When requested by my fingering on the grip, it runs several pre-programmed sequences of lights and sounds. One of the programs paints images in the air when the sword is waved. Flashy effects that in my home would have no real or lasting effect. One thing I did not do was make the blade sharp. I suppose it could leave a bruise if deliberately struck, but it cannot cut.”

Now I had to ask. “If it isn’t useful, what was it for?”

“I play games where we dress up and act out fantasy. That is what I expected to go do when I fell into this world, which is why I had the sword and my other toys with me that morning.”

“You put a lot of effort into making a toy.”

“Well, yes, I suppose I did. Many a bottle of fine beer was consumed while I formed it and designed its flashier effects. But that is what I do as a hobby. I make things like this, and use them in the games. I am notorious for making things that look like they could be magical, without magic wield. We don’t have magic where I come from. But we do have technology, and that is what I used.”

“What other bits of your technology came with you?”

“A communications device that is mostly useless here, as nearly everything it does requires other things that are commonplace at home, but entirely missing here. Even its basic ability to carry my voice a great distance and hold a conversation with someone far away cannot work without a network of supporting equipment. About the only functions that could work here are its camera and media players, but then only if I can restore its battery’s charge. At home, I would just plug it into an electric outlet. I haven’t seen anything like that here.”

ALmost none of that made sense to me. “I don’t understand most of those words, I’m hearing that you have a difficult to build shiny block, but not that it is useful.”

“That seems fair. Without electricity, it is just a poor quality mirror. Of course…”

“What?”

“Well, the sword shouldn’t be able to do much here without electricity. And yet, it still flashes lights, emits smoke, makes noises, and more. I should have needed to charge it or replace the batteries by now.”

This was leading only to more questions. “So you brought toys not weapons, and the knowledge to make more like them. But although here they appear to be magical, you insist they are only technology. And not even dangerous aside from their flash and distraction.”

“That about sums it up, yes.”

“Show me something the sword does. We have a practice dummy. Do something to it.”

“All right, let’s see what I can do.”

He stretched then drew the sword and made a few flourishes. The blade flashed, then left a trail of lights in the air behind it as he brought it down in a sharp motion pointing at the dummy across the field.

The dummy exploded.

Sydney stood, dumbfounded.

“Well, my pupil, you have indeed brought a tool of power with you.”

“But it can’t do anything remotely like that at home!”

“What did you expect to happen?”

“Just a projected light. If the dummy had been wearing the usual game equipment, it would have felt a shock, and known I had scored a hit. It would have reacted appropriately to that, perhaps no longer using one arm, or if hit as strongly as I did today, falling over as if dead. But it is only a game, nothing about it could have blown the other player to bits.”

“This is not your home.” He had said that, of course. But it had never been so obviously true. “Things may work differently here. You need to try everything you built the sword to do and find out how it acts here. But safely, please.”

“No, I am not in Kansas anymore. I was pretty sure of that when I first heard a cat muttering at me.”

In the bushes, I failed to notice the annoying cat watching and thinking.

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Deal 1043: Sydney, just Sydney

The illusion was very good this time, I could easily forget it was all a sham. Table games, the distant calls of slot machines, the steady sound of the house draining wallets over thousands of square feet, with me at a table near the center. I’m dressed to at least an eight, in a properly tailored suit. One hint at the illusion is that the actual game I’m playing seems to change every time I let my attention wander, but not the depth of the pile of chips before me. It continues to dwindle steadily, no matter what scheme I try.

But my winning streak hasn’t changed. I continue to win exactly often enough to keep me seated at the table. No win is large enough to be memorable to anyone. To a third party, like that indescribable lady at the next table, I must appear to be part of the scenery. She is definitely not part of the scenery. She is the reason I’m here tonight at all.

At first I thought my mission was to overhear the critical bit of information that would cause the downfall of a kingdom. Then I realized that was silly, no one was going to reveal anything that critical in a casino and even if they did, there would be no attribution attached that could be used to verify the story.

Then I came to realize the truth. No single fact will do. But the mystery and shuffle brought on by a kidnapping would be another thing entirely.

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Deal 1027: The Tower

Distraction is always lying in wait around the next bend.

Sydney set out for the town clearly visible in the distance. His old life was seeming less real by the hour, and a chance of meeting something not out to kill him seemed like a good idea. The road was paved, and must go somewhere to be worth the effort. So that much of the plan seemed reasonable.

A few miles later, Sydney was no longer quite so sure. He hadn’t walked that far in a long time. Sure, he used to get around LA on his bike, but that was really just his immediate neighborhood. Real travel in LA required borrowing a car, or taking the metro, and both options had costs attached. So he usually just stayed near home.

About four miles, when his feet were going to give out, he noticed a narrow track leading off the main road, through a pleasant glade and around behind a hill.

He took it.

It led to the base of a four story tower, atop of where there was a woman leaning on a parapet, and bemoaning her fate.

Her name, it developed, was Raven, clearly for her long black hair. She had wandered into the tower, then found her way to the top, after which the stairs vanished.

Sydney circled the tower. There was no door, and no exterior stairs. Something was definitely amiss here.

What he was facing was yet another manifestation of the “magic” of this place, and it made him uncomfortable. As far as he knew, he had no magic of his own. He might as well wish for an infinite number of saws…

Oh. Wait.