Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Nothing More Than Usual

“Nora!” The shout came as she walked down the beach to her friends.
She grinned tiredly and threw her beach chair down on the sand. A towel, a cooler and a backpack quickly followed it. “It is so good to be back.” She collapsed into the chair. “I came straight from the airport.”
“You took the redeye?” Jake asked.
She nodded, “I had to get out of there. If I stayed another minute I would have used one of those tennis ball grenades on someone.”
“That bad?” Cory shook his head, “I don’t believe you.”
“You have no idea.” She stretched and they could hear her shoulders and back popping. “Can we convene? I need a beer like now.”
“All right, we’re convened.” Ben said, “Where do you want to start?”
“I don’t know. How about Promotions?” Nora pushed her feet under the warm sand and wiggled her toes.
“Ok.” Cory said. “We got the ad space in Modern Magus. And we got it for half price because Jill works there and because we’re a small business that uses all U.S. labor.” There was a brief cheer. The company was a startup and they were all working second jobs scanning cargo containers at the port to pay the bills. “She also mentioned that they might want to do a story on us at some point.”
“Sweet.” Jake said. “That would be better than the ad space.”
“Well might do a story is still might do a story.” Nora said, “How likely does she think it will be?”
Cory shrugged. “She said it would be more likely if they knew you were on the board of directors.”
She grimaced. “I’d like to avoid that if possible.”
“Come on Deedee.” Ben said, “You know they’re gonna chase you down for an interview sooner or later. You’re the first in ten years to get certified in Greater Magic.”
She glared at him. “Let’s finish the business first Benfred, then you can go back to being as asshole.” She hated her nickname as much as he hated his given name.
“In that case Research and Development can go next.” He cleared his throat, “I’ve got the ping pong balls holding a charge for seventy-two hours but after that it gets dicey. It shouldn’t take long to get them as stable as the tennis balls and we can push them as crowd control. The spell the target but don’t leave a bruise like the tennis balls.”
“Sounds good.” Jake said.
“I’m going to need some separate lab space soon though.” Ben looked uncomfortable, “The landlord has been complaining about the scorch marks and water damage. Also the tennis balls are solid, but I’ve been working on some, uh, other uses.”
“Interesting.” Cory said, “You’ll have to share your notes at some point.” Ben nodded.
“You next?” Jake asked.
“Oh no.” Nora said, “I’ve been fighting the airline industry for the past five hours.”
“Why don’t you just flash your credentials?” Jake asked.
“I do.” She replied. “And while it cuts down on the questions about the merchandise, it doesn’t stop the questions about what it’s like to be a real live mage. You first.”
“Ok, well, I don’t have much.” Jake said. “We’re ready to hire more people on the production lend. I’ve been talking to some union people and if demand keeps up we should be able to afford them.”
“Well then I’ve got good news for you.” Nora said, “The Chicago Police Department wants to negotiate a contract for the stun balls. They didn’t mention any specific numbers but I get the idea they want a whole freaking lot of them as soon as we can make them.”
“You’re not serious.” Ben said.
She grinned, “I was passing some biker bar in Chicago and there was a pretty good sized brawl going on. The cops were trying to break it up but they weren’t getting anywhere. I pulled out one of your creations,” She nodded to Ben, “Lobbed it into the middle of the whole production and everyone froze. It worked just like it was supposed to. Almost too well, it got a couple of the cops too. They were so happy with it they dragged me in front of the chief of police for a demonstration. When I told him we could spell them to not affect anyone wearing a badge he said to have my people call his people to work out a deal.”
“Clearly he didn’t realize who ‘our people’ are.” Jake said, grinning.
Nora shrugged, “We can probably bring someone in for that. I would imagine we could negotiate an advance big enough to cover a few more salaries. Evidently they’re having some problems keeping the bar fights from getting into the streets.”
“This is unbelievable. Un-be-fucking-lievable.” Jake said.
“Well believe it.” Nora said, “And if we can get someone to negotiate contracts then I fully intend to let them take over any business in Chicago so I never have to go back.”
“What’s wrong with Chicago?” Ben asked, “Does the cold make your tits stick out?”
“Nothings wrong with Chicago except the fact that my family lives there. And once again we see why you’re not in charge of writing the ads.” Nora opened the cooler and pulled out four beers, two in each hand, “Can we adjourn or do we need to discuss the drawbacks of your ‘Buy it or you’re a piker’ ad campaign?”
“We’re adjourned.” Cory said to forestall an argument.
“What’s so bad about visiting your family anyway?” Jake after they had popped the bottles open and toasted to the continued survival of the company.
Nora took a moment to flick her bottle cap in Ben’s direction. “The usual complaints of any wayward child. They don’t understand me or what I do.” She threw her head back and sighed melodramatically, “They are thoroughly un-magical in nature.”
They laughed, as much at her dramatics as at the familiar complaint. “So what was so bad about this time?” Cory asked.
“They always ask when I’m going to find a real job. My grandmother had the gall to suggest that I go back to school learn to be an accountant.” They all shuddered and Nora continued, “They act like it’s all tricks, like that’s all it’s ever been.” She shook her head, “You know what I mean.”
“So prove it to them.” Ben asked, “Turn one of them into a horse’s ass and be done with it.”
“I am not a carnival pony.” Nora snapped, “I worked hard to get my certifications and I work hard to express myself. We all do. And they would just explain it away as something else. Something ‘rational.’ Why waste my art on people who won’t admit it exists?”
“Some people will go to any length to deny what their own eyes tell them.” Cory said.
“That may be, but then last night my loving Earth-Mother-Goddess aunt gave me this.” She pulled a necklace of frosted quartz beads out of her backpack. She held them up and let the sunlight fall on the beads. They could see the light trying to strike rainbows off them, but the beads’ finish prevented it. “They’re healing quartz crystals.” There was a collective flinch.
“Hey can I see them?” Ben asked. She tossed them over to him, almost glad to be rid of the things, even for a moment. He studied them for a moment and then said, “They could be useful. They’re clear enough to conduct a spell pretty well, but they drilled right through the middle so they wouldn’t work for anything very big. The finish will hold a spell but the quartz is too clear to hold it very long, and again, the beads are drilled through. They might be useful for something.” He tossed them back, “And didn’t anyone tell her that rocks are no good for healing?”
“Any number of times.” Nora shoved the necklace into her backpack. “I’ve tried to explain to that woman how molecular structure and geological processes determine the suitability of different rocks to different purposes more times than I can remember.” Nora rolled her eyes, “It was probably as many times as I’ve tried to explain to her that plants are much better for healing because of their organic nature.”
“Some people just have stupidity in their nature.” Jake said.
“She’s not stupid.” Nora waved her hand dismissively, “She’s just … what can I say, she’s just Earth-Mother-Goddess-Healing-Bead crap. I just get irritated when I think of how many people waste their money on that crap.”
“So, moving on to something less frustrating, what are your plans now?” Cory asked.
“Well, I’ll be around for a while. In two weeks I’m going to meet a friend in Las Vegas for a concert, then I’m going to visit my mentor in Phoenix.” She shrugged. “Nothing too interesting.”
Cory gave her a sharp-eyed look, “So, this friend wouldn’t happen to be a possible boyfriend would it?”
“Not really, we’re going to recharge our batteries.” She got a sly, thoughtful look on her face, “But I do have a new red shirt.”