Copyright © 2002 Chris Gonnerman. All Rights Reserved.
The next morning Mark's alarm scared me half to death. I had not
awakened as early as usual, and the strange sound made me leap to my
feet. I was trying to remember why I didn't have any defensive spells
prepared when I remembered where and when I was.
Mark came out of his room looking like a zombie. He went straight
into the bathroom and took a shower without a word along the way. I
decided to prepare us a breakfast; he still had some eggs, and the
stove was simple enough to operate. While I was looking through the
cabinets for oil to fry with, I found a brown tin which had "Cocoa"
written on it. It was in the way of the oil, so I took it down; and
when it got near my nose I smelled a heavenly smell...
Xocholotl! I was elated!
Quickly I got the eggs frying, then I found a pan and filled it with
water. I set it to boil, then looked for a cup that could hold
hot liquid (a coffee cup, of course). I found such just as the eggs
got done, so I turned off the gas flame and began spooning the
powder into the cups.
I didn't know how strong the cocoa was, so I had no idea how much to
put in. It took several experiments before I found the right
proportion. A dash of sugar and a dollop of milk helped the flavor,
and though I had drunk better, still I was pleased.
Mark appeared, dressed, drawn by the smells of my cooking. "What's
the drink? Hot chocolate?"
"Xocholotl. Try it."
Mark took a sip, and made a face. "Bitter. How do you drink this
stuff?" I motioned toward the sugar bowl and the milk carton which I
had not yet put away. He put entirely too much sugar in to suit me,
but evidently he liked it that way.
He ate his eggs on bread, and as he finished he sat back and said,
"Tonight, Solo, you are going to tell me where you came from. You've
kept me waiting long enough." I smiled.
"While you are working today, I'd like to study this world. Where
would I find books on history?"
"The library would probably be best. There's one not far from here.
Since you don't have any ID you'll have to do all your reading there."
Now, in my day no library would let you take works home, so this was
no problem for me.
He went into his room, and came out with a sweatshirt. "This should
fit you well enough." Mark is a bit shorter and smaller than me, but
the shirt was elastic enough to be comfortable.
"In San Francisco, leather pants aren't that strange, so no one should
pay you much attention." I was sure his pants wouldn't fit me, so
this was welcome news. He gave me a twenty from his wallet. "You'll
need lunch money, I expect. Tonight I'll pay myself back from the
proceeds of the gold."
I nodded. We had discussed denominations of money briefly; I hoped I
wouldn't make a fool of myself. "I need my pouch; these pants don't
have pockets," I said. Mark double-bagged the gold in paper sacks,
rolling the tops down to close them, and put the bag in his briefcase.
I put the pouch back under my arm with the bill rolled up in it.
"Try not to get mugged," I said.
After Mark left I cleaned up from breakfast, then sat down on the
couch and prepared a Mind Reading spell. I didn't know if I'd need
it, but it doesn't hurt to be prepared. I tried to prepare Paralysis
but couldn't hold concentration long enough to collect all the power
Mark had given me directions to the library, and it was no problem to
find it. No one paid me much attention, although the librarian at the
front desk did give me a looking over. I pretended I already knew
where to go, diving between the bookcases and trying to look
nonchalant. I started by picking books at random from the shelf and
reading from them, then I worked my way to the section marked History
and collected a few books. I sat down at a table near the Reference
section so I could grab a dictionary or encyclopedia if needed, and
began to read.
I spent all day at that activity; lunch was forgotten. By the time
hunger moved me it was suppertime. I put the books in the bin
provided (for the sign said that the librarian would return books to
the shelf) and I headed for the door. As I passed her desk the
librarian looked at me strangely; I didn't know why, then, but soon I
would find out.
Mark was already there, preparing supper, which appeared to be steak
and some sort of tuber; I had never had potatos, but it turned out
that I liked them. I fixed myself a hot xocholotl as we bantered
about our respective days.
"I got a pretty good return from the gold... ten grand." Mark had a
grin on his face much like the cat that ate the canary. I wasn't sure
how much that was; my people may have invented mathematics, but this
money business still had me confused. Then Mark said, "That's
five hundred of the bills I gave you this morning."
"Ah. That should help matters, shouldn't it?"
"Well, my half is five thousand, and I'm behind just over three
thousand, so I should be able to see my daughter this weekend!"
Mark did a little victory dance then; I dodged the swinging spatula.
"I imagine I will have to spend much of mine on clothing and
"You may have to spend it on ID; as of right now, you're undocumented,
and the government is liable to try to deport you if they can figure
out where you are from."
"Not likely. You are saying I'll need forged papers then?"
"Possibly. I've always lived on the clean side of the law, Solo, so I
don't know anyone who can help. I'm sure there are lots of forgers in
SanFran, but I don't know them personally."
We ate mostly in silence as I considered my next step. Clearly I
needed to get clothing to help me fit in, and I couldn't sleep on
Mark's couch forever.
After supper was over and cleared away, Mark sat down at the table and
began to count out hundred dollar bills, saying "One for you, one for
me" over and over. I reached into my shirt and got out my pouch. I
had not spent the twenty, so I gave it back to Mark and stuffed the
wad of hundreds into the pouch. It made quite a lump under my arm.
"So when are you going to tell me what happened to your nose, Solo?"
My nose? I felt it, and discovered it was almost whole. "I don't
know, Mark, but I have a feeling I'm going to be pleased when I figure
I went to the kitchen and made some hot xocholotl. Mark had shown me
how to use the coffee maker, and I ran it without any coffee in it to
make a carafe full of hot water; then I made the xocholotl right
in it. I took mine straight this time, as I always do when I am going
to be speaking a lot.
I sat down there on the couch and told Mark everything. The more I
told him, the more amazed he looked, but to his credit he took me
seriously. Perhaps growing back my nose proved something to him.
When I was finished with the story, Mark said, "So what about your
"I expect the level of mystic energy was greater at the library,
though I'm at a loss to say how. In my time magic was like air; it
was everywhere, and we took it for granted. This idea of magical
energy having high and low points is new to me."
"What?" I asked.
"Ley lines. I've read about them; they're supposed to be the most
magically powerful areas of the world. I don't know if they are real,
but it does make sense considering your experience."
I thought on this for a moment. "Can we go up to the roof of this
building?" I asked.
"Sure. Follow me." This time we took the elevator, which Mark seemed
to think was slow arriving; he called it several foul names before the
doors opened. At the top floor we got out and walked down the hallway
to the door marked "Roof Access Management Only."
"Shoot, it's locked," said Mark.
"Allow me." I focused my mind and began to gather the power for a
spell of Opening. The power was no greater here, but I was determined
to get out onto the roof, so I made myself maintain concentration.
When I spoke the words and turned the knob, I could tell Mark was finally
We went up the stairs to a second door, then out onto the roof. It
was dark, and the city was beautiful. That wasn't what I came to see,
I reminded myself, and began again summoning power for a spell. This
was a simple spell of Mystic Vision, which needed much less power, and
I completed it easily if not quickly.
"There they are!" I cried. Mark couldn't see them, of course, and I
didn't think I could get the power together for another spell, so I
said "Take my word for it. I can see them!"
They formed a glowing golden net in the sky. Each segment was three
to five miles long, connecting into a pattern of triangular sections.
I wondered if the power was greater at a junction than in the middle
of a segment.
The library was just visible from the rooftop, and it was, in fact,
right under a line. The magic obviously got stronger the closer to
the line you were; what if you got inside one?
Then I saw it... an office building downtown which stabbed up into a
segment of the Ley lines. I counted floors. "That building, there,
Mark, the Ley lines go right through it at the twenty-fourth story."
"That's 50 Fremont Center."
"And that's where I'm going tomorrow."
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