At first, Kyle was inclined to avoid the whole illusion business. Thomas Illusions was clearly willing to play dirty to defend its turf. But a few fairly serious brain-storming sessions left him short of ideas other then illusion. There were things he could use his spell for. His best idea was medicine. He thought he could probably tune the spell to generate light above the visible spectrum, then he could cast it directly on a tumor doctors were trying to treat. Instant radiation therapy and the dose would be vastly easier to focus and manage given it could be emitted from inside the patient. Unfortunately, he’d need years to gain FDA approval and that was assuming he’d even get it for a process where each iteration of the spell was slightly different. He had other ideas, but they had similar flaws. They would require more research, or some sort of device, or a foot in the door of a new industry. Some form of illusion was the only thing he could start working on tomorrow.
Besides, he’d already been fired. It wasn’t as though Thomas Illusions could get him fired again. No, they’d try to undercut his price, and he was almost looking forward to that. He’d keep the other ideas on tap for when he got a bit more seed capital.
Kyle had always been good about keeping up with people from school, and when he’d gone to conferences he saved business cards. He called in those contacts now, spending half the morning on the phone with anyone who worked in illusion, research, or vaguely related fields. He told each one roughly the same thing. He had something great. It was going to revolutionize magic. They could use his new technique for incredible things. He could prove it all with about five minutes of their time.
They were skeptical.
Magic, much like engineering and physics, had a great appeal to cranks, but for the sake of that guy they’d met at the spell scheduling conference / back in school / on project X they were willing to at least listen. Besides, his enthusiasm made the pitch more than any amount of skill could have. By noon the battery in his phone was totally flat, and he had half a dozen appointments set for later that week.
* * *
It was only in the lobby of “Dream Worlds: Illusion Advertising” that the nervousness finally hit him. Just from the building, he could tell the place was in the big leagues. It was huge. One of the city center skyscrapers with the corporate logo projected above the door by a continuous illusion which must have been quite expensive to maintain. The doors opened automatically as he walked up to them, but just when he passed through a perfect replica of a bell-hop shimmered into being, holding it open for him.
Kyle jumped in surprise, then he stopped and examined the illusionary bellhop. It was good, very good. The image was that of a skinny young man in a starched red suit, and a slightly strange hat holding the door open with an earnest expression on his face. There were lots of little touches that really made the image. The thread on his top button was partially unraveled, he’d missed a spot while shaving, and the shine on his shoe was scuffed in places. But he wasn’t perfect. When Kyle got up really close, far closer than he ever would have gotten with a normal person, he could see the illusion’s skin was slightly waxy and it’s hair didn’t fall quite like it should.
He looked around the room and found an autocaster jacked into a line of magical current in the corner of the lobby. He wondered what was the little box was pulling, and more important, how much it was costing the company. Whatever it was, his spell could do better. With renewed confidence he continued through the door. The bellhop vanished before the door was even closed, confirming that it probably burnt cash at a mad rate.
“I take it you’ve never been to Dream Worlds before,” the receptionist greeted him. She was pretty and young, probably a college student. Her hair was dark and ever so slightly messy. She glanced down at something just passed the shielding edge of the desk, probably a phone. She wore glasses.
“Well no, how did you know?”
“You jumped when Mike opened the door. People get use to him pretty quickly, but most everyone jumps the first time or two.”
“Oh, yeah. First time here. I take it Mike is the doorman?”
She smiled, “Yeah he’s the quiet type, but I think he’s kind of cute. So, how may I help you.”
“I’m here to see Mr. Taylor.”
“OK, you’ll need to wait here until he can escort you up, but I’ll just page him and…”
“No need,” a voice said from the open stairs leading up to the mesine. “Kyle?”
Kyle looked up. The tall, salt and pepper haired man that Kyle vaguely remembered as Mr. Taylor was looking down at them. The man looked more like an executive then a mage. He wore a sharp suit, and though he was clearly within a decade or two of retirement he seemed physically strong and hardy. Kyle was willing to bet that Dream Worlds had a gym tucked away somewhere on the premises, or at least that a perk of employment was a free membership. He nodded to the receptionist and went up following Taylor to his office.
“Mr. Taylor, how are you doing?”
Taylor smiled showing a row of impressive white teeth. “Oh things could be better; I could not be so busy all the time. But I expect if I was I’d wish I had more to do. How are you? Still working with Magic Materials?”
“I’ve actually decided to strike out on my own. I think after you see what I’ve got, you’ll understand why.”
Taylor nodded thoughtfully. “Well, as I said today has been nuts. I’ve got a client who just went insane and the last minute and decided everything we did for them needed changed. I’ve got to meet with them and explain that’s stupid at 1:30.”
“Of course. In that case let me waste no time shocking and amazing you.” Kyle smiled confidently but sweat was rolling down the inside of his arms and if he’d picked his foot off the floor it would have been shaking.
Taylor’s office was nice. Nice enough, that Kyle was pretty certain he’d come up in the world since Kyle had meet him while they were both manning company booths at a magical trade show. It was located in the corner of the building and windows dominated two walls.
The Real Dreams autocaster would have been able to adjust the illusion it was managing to cancel out most of the light from those windows. However, Kyle had decided to render his demo as a static program and dump it to the memory chip of a portable general purpose autocaster. He felt the magic was more impressive when played off the palm sized unit, and it was certainly more portable than the Real Dreams board with it’s hundreds of light sensors and it’s bulky digital video processing hardware. Unfortunately, that meant the illusion was considerably less responsive, and among other things required darkness.
Fortunately, Kyle knew how to provide that, “Do you mind if I get the windows?”
Taylor looked at him in confusion, “I suppose not, but I’m not really certain what you mean.”
Kyle grinned lowered his head, and drew in power from the vast river of golden energy. It took a moment, and he probably looked a bit odd standing there centering himself into the sort of half meditation human driving spellcasting required, but Taylor was a mage and would understand.
Once he’d energized himself he drew his spell in the air, only this time he reversed the binding that selected for the brightest area of the spell, so when he released the tiny crack of unfocused energy into it a cloud of darkness formed rather than a cloud of light. He moved that spell mentally and expanded it until it covered all of the windows utterly blocking their light.
It was only after he’d done it, that Kyle realized the wall of darkness was a little unsettling. It looked like nothing so much as a hole into space or some hostile dimension. Fortunately Taylor wasn’t at all put off. He walked over to his now tar-like windows and eyed the blackness with a critical eye for a moment before speaking, “Impressive! I don’t think I’ve seen an illusion black quite that solid.” He looked up and grinned, “I can see why you thought I’d be interested. We cut down on the ambient light with mundane staging wherever we can, and sometimes we even use physical objects for our blacks. What can you tell me about the spell?”
“Um… I can tell you that’s not what I was demoing at all.”