Saturday, June 27, 2009

A Daimone-Haunted World: Mark

(Posts 1, 2.)

After Karl had set me up with the equipment and left, I sent a link request to Mark. Without delay - a sign of Karl's superior equipment - Mark's face appeared before me. Unfortunately, a watermark in the upper-right indicated that the speaker was an automated system, not the man whose face it bore. Immediately, the face launched into a tirade: "I'm sorry, whoever you are, but I'm currently quite busy, for reasons I feel no need to explain to the world at large. If you truly think that whatever you have to say will interest me, then call back at a later time. Until then, shove off."

I sighed, then stood from the (quite comfortable) chair. From my pocket I drew a piece of chalk; looking about to be sure that Karl wasn't around, I knelt upon the floor, and there drew a seven-pointed star, and then a circle inscribed within. From memory, I recited the chant; and half a minute later, the air before me warped, and a sight-spirit phased into existence.

Feeling cautious, I checked to be sure that the bindings held; a faint glow ran uninterrupted around the perimeter of the star, and a feeling of static went through my fingers when I passed them above the line. This satisfied me; it was not hard to bind such a minor spirit, and I was scarcely in any danger should it have escaped, but as I said, I was feeling cautious. The preliminaries completed, I spoke to the spirit: "Mark."

The spirit hesitated - then its single, enormous eye swelled, and a face appeared upon the iris. "What?" it barked, with a voice oddly tinny, as though with distance. "Why is this creature here? Who is bothering me now - oh, of course. It's you."

"Hello, Mark," I said cordially.

"Hello, Prathap," Mark replied with somewhat less warmth. "Why are you communicating with me by this unorthodox means? Shouldn't you be using a comm-link, like an ordinary person? Or are you too impatient to take the time to walk to one?"

I began to reply; but Mark held up a hand (visible, distortedly, at the edge of the sight-spirit's eye), interrupting me. "No, I'm sorry," he said. "You can't reach me by comm-link at the moment - I set my gatekeeper to forbid access. Which, perhaps, should have led you to wait until a more opportune time, rather than go to extreme measures to get your no-doubt critical message across."

"This really is important," I told him, keeping my tone level.

"Of course it is," he said. "Well - go on."

"I saw a daimone today," I told him.

"Really!" he replied, sounding startled. "Not one of your own summonings, I'd assume, from the tone of your voice - but a daimone? I'm not resident in the dome of late, no thanks to you, but normally I'd know about something like this by now..."

I shook my head. "That's the thing. It didn't attack - didn't do much of anything. Just appeared - then vanished."

"Extraordinary!" Mark exclaimed, no trace of animosity now audible in his voice. "That's - I've never heard of something like that. I can absolutely understand why you contacted me with such haste - we must work together, hunt it down, study it! The two of us together, the foremost experts on thaumaturgy and summoning on Io, authorities in our field - yes, yes, this will be wonderful!"

Then, suddenly, he paused. Suspicion began to creep into his voice. "But... no. Not you. Not brilliant Doctor Saravagi. You're not talking to me because you want help. You're here for something else."

Sadly, I nodded.

"You see this," he said, anger in his voice. "You see this renegade daimone, this threat to all Io. And, immediately, you suspect me of - unleashing it. Do you think I'm crazy?"

"Not crazy," I told him. "Just careless."

Mark shook his head angrily. "You interrupt my work. You exile me outside the protective dome, to construct my own protection from Io's hostile surface. And now you suspect me of - what - wanting revenge?"

"The way you put it, it does sound entirely plausible," I told him.

Mark was not amused.

"All right," I told him. "You say you didn't summon this daimone, and I believe you. I'll investigate elsewhere - it must have come from somewhere. If you're still interested - "

"You, the amazing Doctor Saravagi, will generously offer to include me in your little project - a sop, to mollify my wounded pride?" Mark mocked. "Thanks, but no thanks. Frankly, I'm not even sure I believe that you saw a daimone. Extremely aberrant behavior, only appearing for a moment - to one person - if anything, it seems more likely that you saw some girl invoking a pithy cantrip, not a daimone."

I sighed. "Best of luck with your work," I told Mark, and banished the spirit.

"You had to cover my floor with that?" asked Karl, having appeared from behind without my noticing.

"Sorry, Karl," I told him. "Mark was playing the recluse. I'll clean it up, if you want..."

"No, no, I'll deal with it later," Karl replied good-naturedly. "Was that all you were going to do here?"

"No, now that you mention it," I told him. "There was one other thing..."

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