Brian W. Antoine
May 25, 1993
I had been up all night working, my arm was sore from the stupid shots I'd needed to bring my immunizations up to date, and I had gotten to work to find a mail message from my boss asking me to come see him. This was not shaping up to be a real winner of a day. With a smile for the secretary as I walked by, I went to see what crisis had struck this time.
"Hi, what's gone ballistic this time?" With a wave at the chair for me to sit down, I found out.
"I just heard from Mexico. They need you to be down there for a meeting with the customer by next week. The implementation schedule ..."
I had tuned him out at the words 'next week'. "Wait a minute! We've been through this already. I go in for eye surgery next week. I can't be in Mexico then or for at least a week afterwards."
"That's what I wanted to talk to you about. Can you put off the surgery until after the trip?"
I didn't believe what I had just heard. "No! This is an optional trip for information we could really get over the phone. My eyesight is more important to me than this crazy meeting. They can wait until the 14th, and be glad I'm willing to travel there at all." The more I thought about this whole mess, the madder I got.
"Well, we really need you go down there with Larry. He's willing to leave this Sunday for a Monday meeting with the customer and the people from the data center."
"Look! I said..." and I lost it right then and there. The whole mess came into focus before my eyes. I'd said yes to travel once, and this was the result. I'd never be free from this kind of crap as long as I worked here. With a muttered "Fuck it", I made my decision.
I grinned at my boss, which generated a puzzled look in return. "The customer wants me down there for a meeting as soon as possible, right?"
His answer was a cautious "Yes..."
"Get them on the phone."
"You heard me, I said get them on the phone."
He turned around and after looking up the number on a memo pad, placed the call. When he got the contact person on the line, he punched the button to activate the speaker and hung up the hand set.
I ignored both the voice from the phone and the puzzled look from my boss. "Penny, front and center."
I didn't get a reply. "Penny, forget my restrictions. I said front and center, and I mean right now."
From the speaker of my bosses PC came a tinny. "Right here boss, but have you lost your mind?"
The expression on my bosses' face was priceless. He had a horrified look and was staring at his computer as if it had just bitten him. He hadn't seen anything yet. "Lock the phone line from this office and trace it to its destination. When you've got that, tie into the sensor net and get ready to give me a scan of the area." The phone gave a click and I heard Penny telling the person on the other end to please stand by as we were having phone problems.
While she traced the call, I opened a mental call to Smaug. I was going to need my staff and he was the quickest method of transport available. While the phone was making odd noises to itself, Smaug appeared in the middle of the office holding my staff. I reached out and grabbed it as he dropped it. It was rather large for him to have tried to carry and he was more then glad to be rid of it. Instead of vanishing back to the lab, he flew up and landed on the top of the cubicle wall. It was the hall facing the corridor that ran the length of the building and I chuckled as I thought about the reaction of the first person that was going to spot him sitting there.
I turned back to my boss, who had turned an odd shade of gray when Smaug had arrived. He looked like he was trying to inch his way towards the door. "Forget about leaving. You asked me to travel, just sit right there and watch the result." He froze for a moment, then sat back down in his chair.
"Trace complete boss. The guy on the other end tried to hang up, but I had already locked the phone system by then."
"Good enough." I looked around the office for a moment. "The table over there will do for the display. I want a view of the office that was the destination for that call."
"One view coming up. Boss? I sure hope you know what the hell your doing."
"Trust me, and reference a file called 'ConPlan5' in my private archives. It will contain some instructions for things you need to be doing while I'm busy here."
Just below the ceiling, one of Penny's remotes decloaked. Ever since the business with Bob had begun, she had taken to shadowing me with at least one remote at all times. As it descended to hover above the table I had indicated, I heard some odd noises coming from my boss and a scream from the hallway outside.
"<chuckle> I see someone has spotted Smaug." It didn't seem to bother him any. He just turned around to face the hallway and began to chatter at whoever was standing out there. The remote began to form a holotank above the table surface. When it cleared, it showed a view of the Earth from orbit, and then begun to zoom in on Mexico as Penny refined the scan from the sensor net.
While the scan narrowed in, I began to focus on my staff and pour power into it for later use. I was interrupted as whoever had spotted Smaug came around the doorway to see what the hell was going on. She had gathered a few others as she went, and there was going to be a good sized audience by the time I was done.
"What the hell is that..." and then the rest of the scene sank in.
"Quick call security..."
"You shut up," and I gave my boss a look that stated I was not willing to hear any more crap from him. I looked up at the secretary standing in the doorway and the people crowding around behind her. "Would someone get a hold of Larry and tell him he's needed in here, thanks."
I looked over at Rita. I was going to miss the teasing when I was gone. "Yes."
"What's going on, and what is that thing on the wall?"
I shook my head. "It's a long story. I'll tell it to you some time if I get the chance and you still want to hear it."
"Boss, I've got the scan you wanted."
I turned back to the table. The holotank showed a slightly fuzzy image of a computer lab. Around the edges were some folding tables with computers on them and in one corner was the phone that must have been the end of the trace. "Ok, now where to put the gate." I looked around, and decided that one of the wall panels that didn't have any white board or shelves on it would work. "This ought to suit me just fine."
I turned back to the small crowd in the doorway. "Anyone who doesn't believe in magic, prepare to learn something new today." I turned back to the wall and letting a little of the energy I had stored in the staff flare, activated its focus ability. At the flare, I heard at several gasps and at least one scream from the crowd behind me. The staff was now surrounded with a soft golden glow as I held it out in front of me. Using the end, I touched the four points on the wall that would define the bounds of the gate.
"Alpha", "Beta", "Gamma", "Delta"
The four points I had touched began to glow the same soft gold as the staff. I turned back to my boss for a moment. "You will want to turn your computer off unless you like the smell of burnt silicon." He either didn't hear me, or couldn't. "Have it your way."
I turned to the table and began to build up the image in my mind that matched the scan I could see. When the image I held snapped into focus, I knew I had the area in question correct. That done, I turned back to the wall and held the staff out in front of me. Sucking energy from the immediate area, I created the gate.
The staff flared with a blinding light that had to have been seen all over the building. Anyone who missed it was probably wondering why every light and system in the building went dead. As the light died down, I heard most of the people outside the doorway take off at a dead run. The few who remained just stood there with their mouths hanging open. Where the gate had been defined, there now was an opening as defined by the anchor points that opened into the lab in Mexico. Through the doorway I could see the two engineers that had been visible in the scan, sitting there looking back at me. Behind me, my bosses PC was smoking as it dealt with the energy surge that I had caused.
I turned back to the doorway for a moment. "Is Larry out there? No? Hummm... Well I can't say as I blame him." I turned back to my boss and gave him a sad shake of my head. "You keep asking me why I don't like to travel and asking me if I don't like planes. Well here is as much of an answer as your going to get, so listen close. I don't mind travel at all. In fact I've been places you could not believe. Maybe the only problem I have is the fact that planes are such a lousy way to get anywhere. Think on it..."
I signaled to Smaug, who flew down from his perch on the wall to land on my shoulder. As I walked through the gate followed by Penny's remote, I heard my boss bolt for the doorway. I hadn't had time to anchor the far end of the gate, so I had to take a small hop to adjust for the height difference at the exit point. The two engineers I had seen a minute ago had run for it while I had been looking away. There was however a manager of some kind standing in the lab doorway watching me.
"Hello, I'm Brian." I pulled out my pocket watch and looked at the time. "Get someone in here to show me the system that has the network problem and the specs for the host system. I've got an hour before I have a lunch date with someone on another world." The clown in the suit just stood there. "Hey! You've got 59 minutes and I warn you that I get real grumpy when I miss lunch." I don't know whether he was going to get the engineer, or just running for safety. I didn't really care much either. Penny had her orders and I figured I had a little time before I was going to have to cut and run.
I turned back to the gate and saw Rita staring at me. "Tell Larry he's missing a hell of a trip" and I grinned back at her.
* * *
"Ok, that should do it. Save that in my private archives." I typed a few comments for the archive and then sat back to finish my sandwich.
"Will do. You know, I'd almost like to see that played out for real."
"So would I. But until then I'll just file it with the rest of my fantasy stories. The things I'd like to do, but don't dare. Such is the life of a Mage."
"Oh well, on to real work. What's on the schedule for tonight?" I called up the schedule of tasks for drive installation phase on the console in front of me.
"Well, you need to finish the calibration of the maneuvering ..."