Note: This is flash fiction set in the Magic Born world, starring Trancehack heroine Calla Vesper.
The rhythmic bass from the arcade’s sound system leaked through the concrete and brick into the abandoned building next door. Calla felt it in her chest, down to her bones and sinews. The urge to dance echoed in the sway of her hips as she moved around setting up small candles. Later, she thought. If this worked she’d reward herself with a night in the dancehall at Sinsuality. Right now was not the time for dancing but she did let the rhythm slide around her in a tightening spiral. Music was the easiest way for her to enter a trance state so she used the bleed-over from the arcade to help her get her head in the right place.
Candles arrayed in as near a circle as she could get for what she was doing, she cleared debris from a spot in the middle close to the wall and sat. She had already moved the junk that hid the small rectangle cut out of the old brick. A stray cable from the arcade’s network of fiber optics peeked out. The place next door was full of gamers who couldn’t afford their own systems at home, so they came to this arcade and others like it to play all kinds of games, mostly MMORPGs. The place may have looked like a dump but it was raking in tons of money and using up even more electricity and bandwidth. Nobody would notice Calla sneaking a little for herself.
Her skin tingled with nerves. If she got caught, by a Normal or possibly even another Magic Born, she’d get shipped off to a DMS lab for experimentation. Either that or shot on sight by DMS agents for breaking whatever Magic Laws they wanted to accuse her of. Rational thinking told her she couldn’t possibly be the only Magic Born who could do some of the things she could do. For one thing, she knew kids from FreakTown who scrimped and saved for money to come play in the arcades. Tech wasn’t forbidden to Magic Born by law but few could afford it and after the way their people had been outed decades ago most were deeply suspicious of anything to do with computers and the internet. It was taboo, and here she was breaking all the unspoken rules.
But then, rules were made to be broken, even if you only did it in secret.
Calla let herself slide into a near-trance state. Her consciousness hovered in that middle state between the body and the astral for a long time. She’d gotten good at this, very good, but this time the astral wasn’t her destination so she took her time. Eventually she picked up the old laser pointer she used as a wand in one hand and the cable in the other. She aimed the wand’s light at the cable, making the tip of it glow with the same red.
“Enchantress of Numbers, guide my journey.”
With a push of her will she sent magic flowing through the wand into the cable. Through slitted eyes she saw the candle flames burn blue with electric energy before everything fell away. Darkness surrounded her. She took a panicky breath, not sure where she was. Slowly, blue-white light began to form at the edges of the darkness. Dots and lines like the flow of city lights glowed gradually brighter. She struggled to make sense of the confusion of ones and zeros, the long strings of code, that underscored everything. With another push of intention she began to see images and words, packets of data moving from one location to another. Even avatars of other people online.
Triumph bloomed through Calla. She’d done it. Instead of the astral plane she’d projected her consciousness into cyberspace. She’s been working toward this goal since the first time her hand brushed an antique piece of electronics and felt the ghost of deleted programs itching against her skin. Since the first time she traced her fingers in the air inches above a power cord and heard electricity whisper like secret music.
She’d finally done it and now she had the world at her feet. All she had to do was learn to navigate. Exhilarated and infinitely curious, Calla set herself to the task.