Saturday, March 15, 2014

17325--Doing Research

As you might guess, one of the features not available to those who roam the CITY OF MAGICK is the internet.  Oh, no!  What will people do without the internet?  Well, in some cases, magic is available and more than sufficient to fill that void.  The Aethernet has advantages all its own.  In other cases, people just have to do things in very ordinary ways.  When Brick Stone needs information, he does legwork, asks questions, greases palms and applies pressure.  When he has to, he even cracks a book.

As the excerpt below shows, there are times when distractions creep into his path.  Not so different from the internet after all...


For access to a broad range of research materials, Brick frequented The Grand Grimoire, a social club and voluminous book archive. Entry was available with the purchase of a day-pass or a long-term membership. Unique in both its metaphysical architecture and content ranging from the mundane to the arcane, it was one of the great attractions of The City. That was not to say it drew people in like the nightclubs, much in the manner that neither Bangkok nor Las Vegas were visited for their bookstores, but were The Louvre an option some people would certainly go there, too. Some speculated that The Grand Grimoire was something akin to what the Library of Alexandria might have grown into had it survived the ages, which was an easy argument to make given its accessibility through the special collections wing. Admittedly, some of the club's more ancient patrons found the cash bar and gift shop to be something of a surprise, but Socrates never complained past his first Long Island Iced Tea and was usually good for a spirited debate--especially after his third.

All her femininity sat curled in a plush leather chair behind a thick book. Hazel eyes tracked left and right while she unconsciously chewed at the end of a coiling ribbon of her deep amber tresses. A clerk glided to her side in magically silenced shoes and crouched beside the comfortable chair. The most delicate touch, one hand to another, broke the book’s hypnotic hold.

“I’m sorry to disturb you,” the clerk said as their eyes met to one side of the thick book.  Holding out a serving tray to the rattled reader, she explained, “For you, from the rakish rogue in wildlife and outdoor recreation.  Gift receipt enclosed.”

“Oh?” she asked, craning her neck to scrutinize the tendered gift even as her slender fingers lifted it from the tray.  “e. e. cummings?  Curious,” she decided.

“Intriguing,” the clerk volunteered.

Rakish, you said?”

“With a lean toward the rugged,” came the reply.

“We are intrigued then,” she conceded with a wry smile and a tilt of her head.  “Thanks.”

The clerk stood again and drifted away.  Brick let her wait a minute before he approached, his folded overcoat tossed over his left shoulder and his slouch hat in hand.  He gave her just enough time to wonder if he was more shy than bold, but not enough time to cool off.

“I suppose I have you to thank for this,” she said, setting the book on the table beside her chair.  “They were out of flowers?”

“None of them smelled like books.”

“Thanks,” she said, “but I already have a book.”

“That’s obvious,” he said.  “Hiding those curves behind it brings out the starlight in your eyes.”

“Aren’t you smooth?  Most men just send a drink, y’know, or try to show off with some flashy magic.”

“I’m not most men and you’re already intoxicating enough.  For now, at least one of us should keep a clear head.  May I?” he asked, gesturing to an empty chair opposite hers.

“Oh, I insist,” she said, failing to fight back the smile her full lips formed at the left corner of her mouth.

“Well, how could I not then?” he asked, tossing his coat to the back of another plush chair and placing his hat and his own book on the table between them.  “I’ve never seen you here before.”

“You sound certain,” she said.  “You know everyone here so well?”

“Right now, you’re the only one I care about knowing,” he told her as he unbuttoned his suit jacket and sat, “and I’d remember having seen you before, doll.”

“Impressive,” she said, studying him as he moved.

“You see something you like?”

“The way you move, mystery man,” she answered.  “You carry yourself with confidence and control.  You sit in a chair, rather than fall into it.  Very…manly.”

“I am what I am.”

“Does all that manliness file under a category I’ll remember?”

“Brick Stone.”

“Really?  A category all your own, huh?” she asked, losing a little more restraint over her smile as she looked him over again.  “Does Mr. Dewey know about you?”

“Sure, Melvil and I go way back.”

“I guess he just couldn’t figure out what to do with you.  What makes such a manly man think he wants to get to know me?”

“Something in the way your eyes sparkled when I saw you reading,” Brick said.  “You attack a book with a certain…gentle intensity.”

“Alright, I guess,” she said.

“I’ve known a lot of women,” Brick said.  “Hot ones, rich ones, crazy ones, deadly ones, dangerous curves, first kisses, and mixes of all that and more.  At best, they had maybe half your sparkle.”

“So that told you…?”

“You could probably break my heart.”

“Oh.  Shouldn’t that send a sane man running?”

“Of course not,” he smiled.  “The best dangers are met with passion.”

“You know, Mr. Stone, Yeats or Shelley are the usual first-strike when someone’s making a play to drop my panties.  Why cummings?  Is it enchanted?”

“I don’t use tricks to drop panties,” Brick told her.  “You can try the cummings if you like.  He’s simple and makes me smile sometimes.  Give me a call,” he said, handing her a business card, then fitting his hat back to its perch as he stood tall once more.  “We’ll banter over dinner, I'll find out interesting things about you, and we'll have some laughs.  Maybe I’ll make you smile.”

“Wait…You’re going?” she asked, almost uncurling from her cozy nest.

“Research is done.  Places to be, doll,” he said.  “Evil to stomp.”

“That’s it?  You don’t even want to know if I have a boyfriend?” she asked.

“You were pretty clear,” he said.  “You prefer men.”

“Oh.  I…You don’t know my name.”

“I already told you: I’ll remember you, doll,” he assured her.  “Save a little mystery for next time.”

“You’re so sure I’ll call?”

“If you don’t,” he said, looking back at her from the shadow of his hat brim, “then at least I’ll be able to go on without carrying the heart-crushing weight of the name that ties all that beauty together and makes it real.  You’ll just be a vision that passed by.”

“Oh,” she managed, starting to breathe again and noticing her heart slowing back to a normal pace as Brick Stone got a few steps away and vanished into a crowd of patrons.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

17314--Are We Still Boldly Going to the Undiscovered Country?

Hello!  This is another message from the 21st century.

Welcome.  You're probably aware that we've been making some interesting advances in several different scientific arenas  One of the profound warnings that we've carried forward with us is that we shouldn't let those technological strides outpace our spiritual growth.  Of course, we still have those folks in the mix who are trying to hold us back (you probably don't know who you are) while others are trying to grow and that puts us into odd spins, typically debating life aspects as basic as human rights.

The confusion we experience as a result of our technology can be amusing.  Fifty years ago our science fiction projections had us colonizing other worlds, traveling time, piloting flying cars, and being waited on by robots while we lolled about in skin-tight suits.  One of my favorite comic book covers from back then, in fact, features Superman lamenting  his capture by time-traveling bounty hunters from the year a flying saucer car!

Now, you know as well as I that that level of change hasn't come to pass.  On the other hand some of our advances have caused the sort of stir that came up when the Star Trek: Enterprise TV series debuted and people began to complain that it highlighted how we had already appeared to have surpassed aspects of the personal technologies used in the original Star Trek series.  The show inspired a lot of specific leaps, so we've made some successful inroads.  When I was a kid, I couldn't wait for a communicator with what would come to be known as a Bluetooth earpiece.  I knew we'd have them.  Even if they do drop calls, a smartphone is still a lot more versatile.  The best ones can almost duplicate a tricorder, too.

Even with all that and the medical and military advances, we're still conflicted over the path we want to take.  Do we want to punish criminals or rehabilitate them?  Do we treat them as evil or ill or even victims of their circumstances?  Is the murderer worse than the attempted murderer and is our correct response to their actions to sentence them to death?

We repeatedly preach the virtues of non-violence, but fail to maintain them in our individual lives or in larger manifestations of society.  We promote heroic ideals (Captain America uses an indestructible shield, Superman is an indestructible shield, Wonder Woman is a warrior who fights using bullet-deflecting bracelets and a magic rope, Spider-man uses sticky webs and nets, and on and on) of preserving life, but we watch our police use ever-bigger guns and other surplus military hardware in favor of tranquilizers, tasers, or a number of other incapacitating options.  When the police, our publicly sanctioned agents of "protect and serve", do use non-lethal options, there seems to be an increasing number of incidents where those tools are misused, captives and/or bystanders are abused, and people sometimes die.  On top of that, though it almost goes without saying, the primary tool associated with our police is the gun, a firearm designed to kill quickly even in the hand of an untrained user.  Maybe part of the problem is that humankind has what seems to be an inherent skill at weaponizing virtually anything, which runs in direct contrast to our concept of "humanity".  I suppose that runs hand-in-hand with legislators who are supposed to represent the people continuously voting for choices that support institutions that victimize the people.

Why is there such resistance to a future of peace and possibility?  I understand the logistical problems of flying cars, but the choice to build more prisons than schools confuses me.  I grew up with a love of reading and learning, so maybe that makes it hard for me to see the appeal of steering away from those.  The choice to take lives rather than save them baffles me.  Again, perhaps that's a symptom of my own life decisions.  I've always thought we had a collective goal of moving toward a brighter future.  Too much Star Trek and superheroes on my part, I guess.  I honestly thought "Don't go to the light!" meant something else.  Trying to kill each other off may make the survivors strong, but it doesn't mean that we'll get to the future enlightened if we manage to make it at all.  If we claw our way to the future and don't take our humanity with us, will we still have the audacity or even the right to still call ourselves human or have we been kidding ourselves all along?