6 Dec 2019

Digital Magic - Chapter 6

Chapter 6

The first thing I notice when I wake up is an extra weight in my bed.  I hear someone else breathing evenly beside me.  My heart races.  I open one eye to see who's in my bed.  Relief competes with embarrassment when I see Trish beside me.  I must have fallen asleep before she was done her shower last night.

Trying not to wake her, I roll out of bed.  I get the change of clothes I brought out of my backpack and take them into the bathroom with me.  A quick shower later, and I'm set for the day.  I tie my hair back into a loose pony tail, then leave the steamy bathroom.  As I go downstairs, I hear Trish waking up.

Dad's already up and getting ready for work.  Mom prefers to sleep late when she can.  I kiss Dad on the cheek when I pass him to go into the kitchen.  He already has the coffee on, so I grab a mug for myself.  Trish stumbles down soon after, her hair still a mess from sleeping, her eyes squinting.  "Morning."

Trish mumbles her reply and makes a beeline for the coffee pot.  She fills a mug and drinks it black.  "Mmm."  Her free hand runs through her unruly hair.  "Morning."  Trish's voice sounds like falling gravel.

"Sleep well?"

"First sleepover here where I've slept."  She manages to open her eyes wider.  "It's Tuesday, right?"

"Last I checked."

"Oh, God, I have to meet with a project group this morning."  Trish buries her face into the palm of her hand.  "It's too early to deal with that."

I roll my eyes at the theatrics.  "What time?"

"Early.  Ten or thereabouts."

"I have to be in for a nine-thirty class.  You'll be there in time."

Trish shakes her head.  "It's still too early to deal with a three others who can't agree on a damned thing."

"Yeah, they should just do what you say."  I chuckle.

"Exactly."  Trish laughs.  "How soon are we leaving?"

I shrug.  "Half hour or so?  Enough time to have breakfast and let the morning rush hour die down."

I get up and leave Trish to her breakfast.  I sit down in the den and sip my coffee.  It should get me through the morning.  Mom would lecture me for skipping a real breakfast but I haven't had one since I started at Carleton.  Dad rushes through on his way to the front door.  I blow him a kiss before he leaves.

The time before leaving is quiet.  Trish stays in the kitchen, having toast with her coffee.  I close my eyes and try to relax.  There's a stress headache threatening behind my eyes.  The sleep I had last night helped, but it wasn't enough.  The stalker just keeps at me, assuming there is one and I'm not seeing things.  I feel safe here, but I can't hide at my folks' place for the rest of my life.

Trish shuffles out of the kitchen.  "Ready?" she asks.

"I just have to grab my things from upstairs.  I'll bring your stuff, too."

"Okay.  You okay for driving?"

"I should be."  I run upstairs to grab the bags, then return downstairs.  Trish is already outside at the car.  I join her, sliding into the driver's seat.  With a bit of coaxing, the Honda starts.  It hates the cold weather.  I let the inside warm up before putting the car in gear.

As I hoped, the traffic on the Queensway has lightened.  The Honda picks up speed now that it has warmed up and keeps up with the semis on the highway.  Trish has her door handle in a death grip.  She's never been comfortable with me driving.  Something about speeding and poor weather and a near miss with a car in the opposite lane on Highway 17 a few years ago.  It's not so bad for her in the city - too many lights to get up to a good speed.  On the highway?  I'll admit that I tend to have a lead foot, but I haven't had an accident yet.

I get us safely to Carleton and park near the Herzberg Building.  Trish jumps out of the Honda and takes several quick steps away.  I take my time getting out and smile at her when I catch her attention again.  "Awake now?"

"You're a menace, Jackie."

"I'm the one who has class in ten minutes."

"Meet here at two?"


Trish starts to walk away, then stops.  "Oh, Jackie, if anything happens, call me."

"It's my imagination.  Has to be."

"Call, Jackie.  I mean it.  I'm worried.  You haven't been spooked like last night."

"I'll call."

"You better."  Trish leaves.  "I'll see you this afternoon."

I grab my pack from the back seat before I lock my car.  I dash across the parking lot to Herzberg, trying to get out of the windchill.  The building is warmer, though not by much.    I take the elevator up to the floor my class is on.  The usual suspects are already seated, bundled in their jackets.  Liam, one of the guys who lives in residence on campus, is even wrapped in layers of sweaters.  I sit down beside him.  "Hey.  What's going on?"

"The heat went out all over campus last night," Liam explains.  "Maintenance got res working sometime this morning, barely."

"I thought it was all central heating.  How can they get just several buildings working and not all?"

"Hey, how can the entire university lose heating all at once?"

Dear Universe, please to stop being weird around me, okay?  I need one normal day after the past couple of days.  "I don't know," I answer.  I get my laptop out, then rub my hands to keep them warm.

The prof enters the room dressed like he's about to go skiing.  "Classes are cancelled," he announces.  "The labs are open, but, really?  I don't recommending typing in them unless you don't mind losing a finger or two.  Go home.  It's warmer there."

My classmates gather their gear and leave.  I take a moment to clear my head.  Coincidence, that's all.  Besides, a day off to work from home?  Bonus!  I get out my cell phone and call Trish.  She picks up in the middle of the first ring.  "Trish, it's me."

"Jackie, you okay?"

"Classes are cancelled.  I'll find a place to keep warm.  Call me when you're done with your project thingy."

"Quit sounding so cheerful," Trish grumbles.  "You at least can avoid rubbing your good luck in my face until after I'm done hurding my cats."

"I'll treat you to an early lunch when you're done," I offer.  "Something for getting through your drudgery.  I'll find someplace warm until you call."

"Good luck.  Bye, Jackie."  Trish hangs up.

I slip my cell into my backpack and leave.  I avoid the main stairwell and use the elevator again, this time going down to the tunnel level.  My breath is visible in the chilly air in the tunnel.  Not many people are around.  The usual crowd has probably scampered to their home or for a warm drink.  Not a bad idea.  I head to the Unicentre.  The Tim Hortons might be busy, but it always has something hot.

As I expected, the line is long.  The people working behind the counter are on the ball, though, getting coffee and donuts out in good time.  I ask for and pay for a tea and take a seat.  The wireless connection should be working, so I take out my laptop and boot it up.  As I hoped, I get a signal.  I sign into the university's network, then check my email.

On a hunch, I take a look at Jacinda's Hotmail account.  There's an email from Lance waiting for me.  I open it and read it.  He's asking how the gloves are working.  Oops.  I reply that I didn't get a chance last night.  I hesitate on telling him why, then decide against it.  No need to freak him out.  I'll freak out for the both of us.  That's something I can do today, though, play around with the gloves and get them working with my desktop PC at home.

I work on my database assignment while I wait for Trish.  I figure out the structure and start coding when Trish calls me.  I glance at the time on my computer as I get out my phone.  It's later than I thought, eleven-ish.  The cell trills again.  "Hello, Trish," I answer.

"Hi, Jacks.  Where are you?"

"I'm outside the Timmy's on the first floor of the Unicentre."

"Can you meet me at the car?"

"Sure.  I'll be there in a few minutes.  What's up?"

I hear Trish shiver over the phone.  "It's cold!"

I roll my eyes.  "Duh.  It's everywhere.  Do you want me to warm up the car for you?"

"Please?  I'll be there in five minutes."

I begin packing.  "Okay.  I'll see you then.  Bye."  I hang up and slip the cell phone into my jacket pocket.  Grabbing my backpack, I leave the Unicentre and walk back to the parking lot.

The car is where I left it.  I unlock it and slip inside.  The seats are like ice, sending goose bumps up and down my back.  I start the Honda's engine and turn on the heat.  Hot air blows out from the vents and on to my legs and hands.  I see Trish running out from the Architecture Building.  It'd be a nice thing to meet her halfway.

Trish glowers at me when she jumps inside.  She slams the car door shut.  "Thanks for meeting me."  The sarcasm is as icy as the outside air.  She rubs her hands together to try to warm up.

I back the car out of its spot and begin the drive home.  Trish turns on the radio and tunes it to a Top 40 station.  The music isn't too bad and helps make the admittedly already short drive pass faster.  When we arrive, the the car is comfortably warm.  I'd prefer to stay in it instead of going out even the short distance to get to the apartment.  Trish, though, braves the weather and gets out first.  I follow her, my stuff in hand.

I let Trish go into our apartment first.  Nothing jumps out at her when she steps inside.  I walk in, a little anxious.  I stop just inside, leaving the door open.  A quick glance around shows nothing out of place.  I walk in further and let the door close behind me.  Trish disappears into her bedroom.  Alone, I creep around the living room, trying to place the different creaks and groans of the building, sorting out which are normal, which are Trish, and which are potential intruders.

Trish returns and sits down in the easy chair.  The TV is off; Mom must have shut it off last night.  I go into my room look around.  Again, nothing is disturbed.  I'm starting to feel a little better.  No one's broken in, nothing is missing.

I sit down at my computer and wake it up.  Everything is safe here, too.  I'm feeling a little silly now, panicking last night over nothing.  The relief, though, is good.  The box with Lance's gloves are where I left them, just inside the door.  I retrieve them and connect them through my PC's USB port.  As I expect, I'm prompted for the drivers for it.  I take a look in the box.  Lance thought ahead; there's a disk at the bottom.  With it, I can get the software for the gloves installed.

Time to test.  I start Valor Quest.  The game takes a little longer to get running, probably because of the additional code needed for the gloves.  Jacinda is still at the inn and looks better rested than me.  It takes some doing to control her with the gloves and the mouse, but I manage it.  I take her out of the town again so I can play with the new interface.

Not many people are around.  The ones who are around are off doing their own thing, leaving the rest alone.  Suits me.  I want some privacy for my experiments.  First thing I do is just try different finger gestures, including the middle finger salute.  Different menus appear; I take note of what is in each one.  Some are spells, some are options for Jacinda, some even seem to affect the surroundings.  One menu gives me the the ability to turn the wheatfields different colours.  I give in to the impulse and turn a patch red and another patch purple.  What the heck; I could use it later to remember how to get back to the town later.

I walk Jacinda further away from the town.  This time, I want her to go into the forest to see how dangerous the monsters are there.  Jacinda manages to get there without being attacked by goblins bandits lurking for victims.  She steps into the underbrush.  I use the same menu before to colour the trunk of the first tree I find purple.

Now that Jacinda has a landmark to use to get back to town, I send her deeper into the woods.  The trees look nice; the bark patterns randomized so that individual trees look different.  A nice touch, really.

A twig snaps behind Jacinda.  I whirl her around to see what caused it.  The forest is empty and still, no movement to be seen.  I walk Jacinda in a slow circle to see if whatever stepped on the stick is still around.  She's alone as far as I can tell.  Okay, let's use the gloves.  I make my fingers on my left hand into a circle.  The menu that comes up gives me a list of detection spells.  I select one to reveal invisible creatures, then trace the area of effect onscreen.  The area shimmers.  To the right of the screen, a shape keeps wavering as the spell effect fades.

Jacinda turns towards the threat.  The creature freezes.  I hestitate, waiting to see what the beast wants to do.  It crouches then leaps.  Jacinda steps to the side.  The creature flies past and out of Jacinda's sight.  I turn Jacinda to follow the creature.  Somehow, though, the monster managed to land and leap again.  Jacinda screams when the creature bites into her side.  Her hit points drop hard.  I pull her back away from the monster.

The reveal invisible spell ends, but the creature remains visible.  The monster looks like a larger, more demonic rat, its fur tinged blood red.  I go through several menus before I find the right spell list.  The monster crouches, ready to pounce again.  There's too many spells to scroll through to find the perfect one.  Instead, I chose a spell called Blade Ray.  I click on the demonic rat.

A shining knife appears in front of Jacinda and soars into the rat creature.  It squeaks from the impact; its eyes glow green.  I need a more powerful spell.  I move Jacinda to the side, keeping her facing her opponent.  The rat hops, trying to stop its pounce.  That gives me enough time to scroll further down the menu.  "Ice Frenzy" looks promising.  I'm counting on the rat monster being a demon and demons being susceptible to cold with the spell, though.  This could backfire badly in Jacinda's face, though.

I cast the spell.  A dark cloud forms over the demonic rat.  The sound of hail accompanies the storm that erupts from the cloud.  The rat gets pelted by hailstones and falls over on its side.  Jacinda draws a dagger from her belt and charges the dying creature.  She plunges her dagger deep into the rat.  The monster fades.

I check Jacinda's hit points.  They're at a critical level.  The demon rat was more viscious than it looked.  I access Jacinda's inventory and use one of her healing potions on her.  Her hit points improve, but she's still short a few.  Even she looks relieved to have healing.

My right hand twinges.  Enough of a warning sign that I should take a break.  No need to get carpal tunnel before I've had a career.  I push away from my desk so I can stretch.  Something on my desk seems amiss, not quite right.  I look again.

My mouse, once silver and grey is now purple.

No comments:

Post a Comment