Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Magic Missiles! Magic Missiles! MAGIC MISSILES!

Every so often, Ramzca asks me to design something for projects of his. Whether it's extradimensional cities, psychedelic octopi or children's card games, I'm the one tasked with giving it a back story, a design, a voice. Most recently, I've been asked to help in the world-building process for a tabletop role-playing game/get-rich-quick scheme. As you remember, a while ago I tried to make one myself. That's still being developed of course but he thought that it would be better if we joined forces for the time being.

So, for better of for worse, here I am, drawing a map for the fictional city of Adelphon. An ancient self-contained world of art deco street cafes, cobblestone streets and the all-mighty telepaths that rule it with impunity.

As I understand the setting now, there's no magic in the traditional sense, but many citizens of Adelphon are telepaths that can move objects with their mind and summon fireballs. Think Bioshock mixed with Scanners. At least that's how it is now, these sort of things are subject to change.

The whole setting has a strong relation to old film-noir detective fiction, something I tried to emulate in a little vignette I wrote so both Ramzca and I understand each other's idea of what the setting should be. So, it is with slight hesitation that I present...

Dirk Travis: Telepathic P.I.

Quarter to midnight; Harry's Place, a rundown joint on the edge of the river. Home to all sorts of scum balls and lowlifes; dealers in forbidden lore, practicers of black magic, the works. This was their lunch hour, when they would come out at night, when the cops were asleep. This was their witching hour when it was safe to walk the streets and trade in their unspeakable knowledge. In every alley you could find a coat trying to sell books detailing the finer aspects of telekinetic duelling, all on the black list of course. On the river walk were burnt out wise men, in a haze of fragrant incense, lost in their own secrets.

And here I was, sitting in this street cafe, downing shots of the strong stuff. Something smelled, not unusual for Harry's Place. But this smell was kinda nice, maybe amberwood, blue thistle with a lot of curves. That's when she walked in. My newest client: a dark looking broad with a perpetually arched eyebrow, hiding behind an expensive looking fox boa. Obviously someone who wasn't accustomed to the night shift. Her black satin overcoat barely fluttered as she strode over to my spot on the bar.

"What am I paying you for Mr. Travis?" I heard her say.

It was answer I knew fairly well. But as far as I was concerned her boyfriend was already dead, taken. He disappeared almost two days ago and that meant only one thing: He was taken by the Black Guard. Who they were was a mystery, but not what they intended. They took known practitioners of the forbidden arts away under the cover of darkness. "Disappearances" like these were common in my line of work. All my colleagues knew about the Guard but it was never something to mention in polite company. Certainly not something you'd mention to a pretty young thing who didn't know what her prince charming was getting his nose into.

"I told you, I'll find what I find." I said. "But I ain't gonna lie: this investigation isn't looking pretty."

"I'd prefer if you didn't talk down to me Mr. Travis. I can handle the truth."

That's what they all say. But in my line of work you start to give up on the truth. Getting by is enough for most suits after they turn over enough rocks. I didn't have the heart to tell her Chesterton probably skipped town, or worse, was lying in a gutter somewhere.

After a brief chat we went separate ways; a cushy penthouse for her, the beat for me. The night was still young and Adelphon puts on a new face for anyone who stays up for it. The lights on the trees and cafes come to life and so do the streets. I decided to make my way to the Borges Plaza. There might not be a lead there, but there's plenty to see. Every gazebo is home to a fortune teller and snake charmer of some persuasion and you were bound to lose your dough if you didn't keep an eye on it. I had informants here, plenty of them street kids who gave the Guard the slip and made a living conning young university hotshots out of their wallets and whatever fried-thing-on-a-stick they happened to have in their hands.

Clouds of perfumed smoke wafted through the air here and everything smelled of burning herbs. Vendors tried to entice passersby with useless trinkets. Even someone as hard boiled as myself could sense the intense telekinesis at work here. Plenty of powerful brains hiding out here, not one doing a good job of it.

That's when it happened. From out of the crowd came two of the Versettie boys, trying to settle a personal vendetta after I made off with the Don's prized melon-sized ruby. The one on the left was holding a ball of fire in his hand, obviously concentrating to keep the thing from blowing up in his hand. The other was packing a different kind of heat, a .44. They meant business, but so did I. I snatched a hot dog out of some chump's hand and threw it at the telepathic one. The weenie beaned him right on the face. Loosing concentration, his arm went up like a cheap New Year's firecracker. Sparks flew and lit the nearby tents on fire. In the confusion, the other thug fired, missing me by a mile. I ran up and tackled him as his friend rolled on the floor, yelping like a hyena.

I didn't make a habit of telling people, but I once learned how to create weak psychokinetic fields on an old case. It involved large bats and a weird cult, again, I didn't tell people about that. But there I was, imagining a an orb of telepathic energy forming in my hands as the thug scrambled for his gun. I concentrated, feeling the energy working from my brain down to my fingertips, like the buzzing of a weak electric shock. I never got used to seeing the sphere emerging from the space in my hands. Pushing outward on my palms as I worked it into smaller space. It didn't look like much, like the waves of heat on a road on a hot summer's day. But I could feel it, a ball of own self, a part of my mind forced outward and given physical shape. With all my might I swung it like a bowling ball, in an instant it beaned him in the head, crushing it. I felt drained, dazed. Like I just stood up after sitting for hours. The other one ran off in the panic. Off to tell the Don of his shame.

I went back to the cobblestone streets of Adelphon. This case had reached a dead end. If he was lucky, so had Chesterton. But that's just how it goes.

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