Ketan’s eyes widened. “Hmmm. Go check your wheel, then meet me outside. I’ll explain.”
Without waiting for an answer Ketan walked off in the direction of his cube. Presumably, he intended to check his wheel’s spells and consumables, then follow through with the plan he’d just proposed. Kyle was bemused, but curious. He pulled up the diagnostics on his own wheel. Every sensor was deep in the green; he’d seldom seen such a solid set of readings. Even if the spells were going to be as fragile as the previous day he should have a good twenty minutes before there were errors.
In a way, it was frustrating. The machines were designed to work like they were now. If they’d been running correctly during the past months he would have suffered a lot less. He noticed the office was much noisier then it had been the day before. Something had changed.
Ketan was leaning just outside the door in the entrance way of the building standing on the ugly little bit of concrete where the smokers congregated. An ashtray and scattered butts bore witness to the number of magicians that kept themselves alert during the long days with nicotine. It was a cool day, bordering on cold, but even that couldn’t entirely kill the smell of burnt tobacco. “So what’s up?” Kyle asked.
The small Indian man pointedly watched the door close before replying. His normally bouncy voice was subdued and serious. “Have you studied Quantum Alignment?”
That was the primary spell used in the spinning wheels as well as several other important Magic Materials products. “Before I interviewed here. Let me see, it allows room temperature materials to form a Bose Einstein condensate. It was invented by a mage named Mathew Taylor. He was born sometime back in the 16 hundreds in England. Quantum Alignment is only the modern scientific name of the spell. He originally called it Strange Luck and used it to cheat at games of dice because it made the die bounce more predictably. He’s rich, though I suppose that goes without saying for a four hundred year old mage. He mostly uses his money to get more money, but he’s also something of a philanthropist. Whenever he makes the news it’s typically for giving away a bunch of money. I think he’s behind the Mars Cup.”
“That’s his public face. In India the old world is closer to the surface than it is here. Taylor has his hands in a lot of things, and not all of them are honest. Strange things happen around him.”
“Bah, just things. I don’t know exactly what.”
“You think these things are published in his official autobiography? I don’t have the details.” At Kyle’s skeptical look he continued. “OK, how about the Mars Cup, or rather the space program in general? Not long before NASA was closed they rejected the idea of building a space ladder as too expensive. Then control of congress shifted. Money poured into the hands of senators that didn’t support the department. At least three who did were involved in some sort of scandal. One died in a car crash. Then, poof, two years later no NASA. You think this is coincidence?”
Kyle scratched his head. “NASA was canceled in the early 1950’s we hadn’t even constructed the moon base then. Didn’t Mathew pour a ton of money into the private programs which ended up building our permanent lunar presence?”
“Exactly, what? I’m saying he would have liked NASA. He wouldn’t have wanted it shut down.”
Ketan waved his hands in the air. “You cannot be this dense! Quantum alignment is the only spell that can make a nano-tube long enough to reach into orbit. By funding the Foothold project just after NASA was closed Mathew made himself the primary figure in private space development. Then, a few decades later, when we were going to orbit regularly, he pressed for the space ladder that uses tons of his product. Today we’re building one. He didn’t just like the work of NASA; he wanted to own it. Or perhaps sell it.”
“You’re saying Archemage Mathew Taylor engineered the closure of the National Aeronautics and Space administration so he could license Quantum Alignment?”
“And why not? Has he not made many billions of dollars doing so?”
Kyle sighed, “An Archmage wouldn’t do that for one thing. They’re the pillars of civilization. Their hundreds of years of experience, and their spells are what make the world everything it is. Really, orbital manufacturing probably contributes as many exotic things to the economy as magical manufacturing, but you’re trying to turn its genesis into some sort of conspiracy. Mathew just had the perspective to recognize the importance of space development before everyone else.”
“If he thought it was important, why did he give money to the people who killed the agency in charge of it?”
“First, you haven’t proven he did. Even if he did, and he did it to get richer, campaign contributions are legal. I’m sure you can’t prove he killed anyone, because if you could he’d be in jail.”
“Alright, facts everyone agrees with. All of that money, and age, and ‘perspective’ make the Archmages powerful, immensely so. Powerful people don’t like to let go of power, and they can bend the rules. To cross one of them is utterly foolish. If someone is using spells without paying the licensing fee then they will surely suffer.” Ketan gave Kyle a rather pitying look.
“Of course they’ll suffer! Magic IP violations carry serious fines and jail time. Not to mention they’ll have their magician’s license pulled and never enchant so much as a match stick again.”
“If that is all that happens to them then they will be very lucky. Now we must return to work.”
Kyle shook his head at Ketan’s retreating back. The man was nuts.