Note: This is flash fiction written in the Magic Born world, starring Trancehack heroine Calla Vesper.
Calla pawed through the box, tossing aside stray bits of wire and broken pieces she couldn’t identify. Ignoring things she had no use for, like several old cell phones and TV remotes. She could make things work but she had no talent for cobbling together bits of this and that. A lack of ability she lamented but what the hell, she only had so much money to spend anyway.
She moved on to another box, about done with this stall. There were other places in the bazaar to visit. She needed more of the jet beads the Craft Emporium in the zone didn’t carry. Some vegetables would be nice too, maybe a few apples. Cloth to make a new set of sheets. Five more minutes at Albie’s and then she’d go.
A flash of pink caught her eye. She dug it out from under a handful of floppy disks. An inch wide, two inches long, one button on the front above a tiny cracked screen and two buttons on the side. The smudged, worn out remains of print were no help in identifying the object but the unmistakable volume dial took care of that.
Calla glanced around. Albie was busy at the other end of his stall with a haggling customer. No one else paid attention. She closed her fist around the device and let her vision slide out of focus.
Plug me in, Nicola. Let the wires speak to me.
It took a moment for her to pick up a tell-tale trace of leftover energy. A hint of music teased, just enough to let her know this would be worth the money. She severed the connection and did a quick grounding, shuffling her feet on the concrete for good measure.
The little player was going home with her but she made sure to haggle a little and show just enough reluctance to not raise suspicion. Albie was a decent sort for a Normal but he knew she was Magic Born. Not a good idea for too many Normals, or other Magic Born for that matter, to know the strange path her magic had taken. Everyone like her, the few that she knew, were secretive almost to the point of paranoia. No one wanted to wind up in a DMS lab as the star experiment.
She finished her shopping quickly, constantly checking her pocket to make sure the player was still there. Usually she walked to and from the bazaar but this time she wanted to get home quickly so she spent a little more of her cash on a train ticket back to the zone. The subway was crowded with Normals, their dull energy oppressive in the hot humid car. An easy glamour kept anyone from noticing her, though purple hair and tattoos weren’t exactly uncommon in this part of the city. Even so, she didn’t want to risk bringing attention to herself.
The stop nearest the zone was still three blocks away. Calla hurried, badging in and ignoring the hard stares of the DMS guards. Another few minutes to her apartment and she was finally able to relax. She forced herself to put the other purchases away first but the whole time she could feel the energy building inside, a quiet hum growing into a heavy rattle.
Gathering a candle and the old laser pointer she used for a wand, she sat on the floor with the player on her knee. She let the rattle in her blood build to a bang and a clatter, thumping harder with every heartbeat. Directing the energy at the candle brought the wick popping to life. She thumbed the button on the wand, pouring magic into it. A short beam of reddish-purple light shone. She focused on the player, ad-libbing a spell.
Help me Tesla
Madman of the Wires
Let your power flow
Fill this with your current
The player floated to eye level, directed by her wand and surrounded by a crackle of blue-white light.
Madman of the Wires
Give it life, give it voice
Charge it with my magic
Charge it with your power
The blue-white light popped and sizzled with the force of the spell. Purple arcs of light flashed quickly before dissipating then blooming to life in another spot. The player spun, slowly at first, then faster. So fast she could barely see it in the middle of the electrical storm. Something snapped in her awareness like the clapping of hands or the slamming of a door. She held out her empty hand palm up. One last burst of multicolored light and the storm collapsed in on itself, the player shooting into her palm.
The outlay of magical energy hit her quickly. She doused the candle and the wand and walked to the kitchen on unsteady feet, eating an apple while digging out the ear buds she’d found in the bazaar months earlier. She finished her snack on the sofa, turning the player over in her hand. The buzz of energy from it murmured to her. That was still no guarantee, though. Sometimes things were too far gone to be recharged. Sometimes she and the Madman couldn’t get the spell quite right, or maybe he wouldn’t be in the mood to help. There was no telling with that one.
Time to see if it worked. Calla plugged the ear buds into the device, then placed them in her ears. She ran her thumb over the player’s surface, hoping. She pushed her will into its wires and waited.
A long moment of silence answered. Then … music. A song exploded from the player, starting halfway through and almost too loud. She jumped from the couch with a squeal of delight.
The music, like the player, was decades old and unknown to her. That didn’t stop her from dancing in her living room the rest of the night.
Sometimes the Madman of the Wires helped her with exactly what she needed.