Another month’s distance from the original idea, and I’ve added a chunk of story complication and action.
Who Wants to be a Technomage? (v3)
Two minutes after the start of the discussion panel, and the room remained nearly empty. An uncostumed woman with long, jet black hair and russet skin sat waiting in the front row. The Babylon 5 television show finished in ‘99, by 2005, the fandom convention BabCon still carried the torch, albeit with a tired arm and guttering candle of a flame left. The panel’s scheduled topic Who Wants to Be a Technomage appeared to be like its presenter, a no-show.
A long hanging table cloth covered the single table at the front of the room, which held a microphone, name standee labeled Alex Rune and a rumpled banner of some sort. The woman noted all of this for the fiftieth time while she waited. A noise at the back of the room drew her attention. Three people jostled their way into the room, out of breath. A Narn, a Centauri and a Minbari entered the room, perhaps as the lead-in to a joke.
The male dressed as a Narn must have shaved his head and air-brushed over his umber features. He spoke first, “Is this the Technomage panel?”
The woman in front turned and nodded.
The Indian costumed as a Centauri raised a sepia toned hand up to check his watch. His hair crest wobbled as he gesticulated and spoke with a poor imitation of a french accent, “Then, ah, where is the presenter?”
The woman shrugged. She didn’t look like she belonged here, in her grey leggings and tunic. Maybe if she wore gloves and a PsyCorp pin. Some people don’t do dress-up.
The Minbari opted for the Delenn character look with the bone crest sitting over her hair. Her short, stocky frame presented a different take on the character. She panted, “Fuck this. Let me catch my breath -I had to run to keep up with you guys.”
The Narn thumped his fists against his chest. “Then we’ll rest and see if anybody turns up. Narning’s worn me out.”
“If she’s breaking character, so am I. This hair piece is itchin’ like a sonovabitch.” The three sat down in the back, half investing in the panel’s dismal start and ready to bolt once they rested. The Centauri fidgeted, “Excuse me, ma’am. How long you been waiting?”
She gave a wan smile, “It seems a few years, perhaps a few minutes more.”
The costumed trio talked amongst themselves, as she rose and stretched. Then she walked over to the table. Picked up the name placard and examined it and set it down. Then lifted the part of banner to look it over.
The Narn craned his head to see better, “What’s that say on it? Can you lift it up?”
She grasped the long painted closet dowel run through one end of the banner and lifted it up, so the bottom dropped down to the floor as she held it up with her arms raised and it spread out along her side.
“I’m too close to see all of it, what is the message?”
The Centauri read it out, “Abandon this room if your love of magic is weaker than your resolve. Only the committed shall persevere to see technomagic come into this world.”
The woman’s arms tired out and she brought the outstretched end of the rod down to her side. The banner crumpled to the floor. I stood in my dark grey hoodie with the deep cowl up and my hands resting in front of me so the cuffs appeared joined. Classic mystic pose.
The Minbari pointed at me, “Damn, that’s a better entrance!”
I nodded to my wife and she shifted the rod, freeing it from the banner and then handed it to me. About time, my right knee whined with the force of glassy nails on a chalkboard from waiting. I gripped it tighter and took weight off the injury. Rain returned to her seat, that part of her role completed.
“You’ve come a long way. Have you decided to take the door, or come closer so I don’t have to use this stupid microphone they setup.”
The Centauri got up first and approached, “Are you going to show us magic tricks or are you serious?”
As he neared Rain’s row, I flung out my left hand, a cloud of glitter sprayed out as the words left my lips, “varpa fitu!” while I struck the butt of my staff onto the floor. The lights flickered and the man slipped and fell when he reached the table.
Laughter from the back filled the room. Making my way around the table, I stepped carefully and extended a hand to help the man up. “You OK?”
“Mostly my pride, though my ass isn’t too keen on any more demonstrations.”
“Fair enough, man. Let’s step over here and you all should come up.” Gesturing to the uncostumed lady, “This is my wife, Rain.”
The Minbari and Narn came around the side of the room to the front. Perhaps her shorter stature helped her notice, she reached down and picked up a ball bearing. “So you set all this up ahead of time?”
The Narn smiled, “Of course they did. A technomage is strongest in their place of power. Just like the books.”
The Centauri looked me up and down, “I don’t want to be a practice dummy, but is there anything else you can do?”
“I can produce fire,” I brought my left hand out again from the folds of the sleeve and snapped, a small burst of flame flared out.
The deductive Minbari reached into her pocket and revealed a Zippo lighter. She flicked the top open and a two inch flame flared out. “Yeah, I can do that, too.”
“I know that which can’t be known. You are all acquainted on the BabCom website. You are Harridas,” I said as I pointed to the Centauri. “Named after a famous Indian fakir, I believe.” I turned to the Narn, “You screen name is BlackCrow. And you are Trigoth. You restore classic cars.”
Trigoth turned a deeper red. “You must’ve picked that up from our posts over the years. Who are you on there?”
Harridas slid is feet, careful to avoid bearings to get to the table. He picked up the name plaquard. “Duh, he’s Rune. You don’t even hide your name. You vanished last year and then posts said you went to Za’ha’dum.”
Flashback time almost started, but Rain appeared by my side, somehow dodging bearings and the subject. “After a fashion.” she said. “You’ve seen what he can do now and how some of it was done. Imagine working together to improve and make new abilities, year after year.”
Staring at my painted curtain rod, Trigoth said, “Well, first off, your staff sucks. I could mill a better one at my shop.”
Harridas scratched his chin, “Could it be hollow? We could make it shoot bullets or something.”
Kneeling down to start cleaning up bearings, BlackCrow said, “Dayum, that’s hardcore. But what are we gonna do with it? Because dressing up is fun, but tomorrow, I gotta be me again.”
I could sense a monologue coming on, I didn’t have a script writer to make it sound good. “Who are you and what do you want? That’s what the TV show asked us. You dressed up, but as soon as you got here, broke character. Because that’s not who you are, and it’s hard pretending to be something you’re not. I know,” flipped my hood off, revealing my stark white hair and leather patch over my left eye, ''because I’ve been this my whole life. Took dying and coming back, to realize it and do something with it. Just like I know who you are. I know, because you ran to be here. We are dreamers, shapers, singers and makers. We can make the future, and shape a more just and fair world, once we have the power.”
Before anyone could answer, the PA sounded, “Attention. There is a gunman in the convention center. If you are dressed like a Ranger, remove your costume. Please stay in your rooms or evacuate the main floor until an all clear is given.”
BlackCrow looked toward the door, “That was weirdly specific.”
“Maybe somebody’s after Marcus Cole, this year’s celebrity guest,” said Trigoth
I knelt and started scooping up ball bearings, leaving my staff standing. Rain joined me, the magnet ring she wore drawing more bearings. She whispered, “Alex, what are you up to?”
“Preparing. Can you get these guys to help reset the Slip spell. I’m going to go look outside.” I pocketed the balls I’d scooped up, grabbed my staff and headed for the door.
Her hushed voice carried, “Alex! Uggghhh!” Her exasperated grunt of married spouses signaled she'd take care of it.
Haridas called after me, “Hey, where you going? They said stay put.” Trigoth commented as well, but I was out the door.
The hallway contained pandamonium. Literally. The BabCon convention was really tucked inside a larger sci-fi and anime convention, and a prevalence of panda costumed panickers swarmed the hall. Which reminded me of the the eighties cartoon, and in turn the mighty morphine flower strangers which I vowed to never name that lame show correctly since I turned twelve. So I whistled the theme to the all-time classic Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon. All because the monster of the week is a Ranger-hating Stalker. It helped keep my chill on. I might have ball bearings of steel, but I didn’t need a panic attack right now.
By the second loop through the tune, I rounded a corner and found the back of a man man dressed like the Punisher, taking aim at an awesome Marcus Cole. The long robes matched the TV version. He gripped his Minbari Fighting Pike, ala PVC and stuttered, “w-we live f-for the one, w-we die for the one.”
The throng crowded against the walls, nobody moved. All I had was balls of steel, a big stick, and a few jokes. Without thinking,I hurled my staff at his head. Seasons of spear fishing while growing up in Minnesota paid off, and it pogoed off the back of his skull. The stalker stumbled forward, one hand gripping the back of his head. One of two stereotypical things happen when you hit a man in the head, he stops, or he enrages. I caught my staff on the rebound with a spinning flourish I’d practiced the night before, dropped my balls and ran.
“Motherfucker! Gyah! I’ll kill you fucking rangers.”
Pain lanced up from my aching knee, but I ignored it thanks to the adrenaline boost from knowing a crazy guy chased me. Racing back to the panel room, plaster sprayed me as a gunshot tore out the corner wall before I turned. Hoping they got the trap reset and hid, I opened the door and looked back. My pursuer stalked around the corner, gun at the ready.
Ducking in, I looked around as I moved down the center to the table. Nobody in sight.
Midway down the room, the voice behind me broke my combat mode. “Freeze, asshole.”
I halted, then turned around in slow motion.
“You’re not a ranger! Stupid Jason Carter canceled his appearance.”
Take a step back. “So you’re killing people dressed like him? That’s stupid.”
The stalker’s face burned an irrational red, “Who you calling stupid? They never suspected one of my guns was real.” He advanced, his pistol trained on my head.
Another step back. “You could have stalked him at his house, a lot easier than all this,”
“But this is something they’ll remember me for.”
My step step back changed whatever clever disarming statement I hadn’t thought of yet as I triggered a thread stretched across the aisle and a hundred of bearings rolled out. Instead, my world spun back as I yelled, “Woaaaaaagggghh!” A pair of gunshots tore over my head as my sudden fall triggered his double-tap instinct.
My breath left me, as I stared up while the stalker coolly walked up to me. My staff bounced out of my hand during the fall. Glaring up at him with my one blue eye, he’d better kill me or go on my list of people who pointed guns at me and would regret it. Not much of a plan, but my friends ran the trap wrong and vengeance listing was all I had left.
“Looks like you’re gonna die alone.” He lined the barrel up so I stared down the spiral into infinity of darkness.
Then the light went out and the ghost of panels past flew over my head. The table with tablecloth, powered by four pairs of legs, charged and slammed into the stalker. The pistol tumbled somewhere around my feet. Then a howl and male pain sounded the alarm that an angry Lakota warrior princess’s pointed boot made ball-paste out of the convention party pooper. She might have kicked him a few more times before the lights came back. Which is good because I’d run out of testicular jokes.
Soon, the cops caught up to the room, where the stalker lay disarmed and curled in a ball. We cleared out after a few questions from the authorities. Looked at each other, the costumed trio messed up their makeup during the scuffle. The day of being aliens ended. Rain summed it up, “So, who wants to be a technomage?”
BlackCrow stood up, a bunch of my balls in his hand. Bearings, I mean. “Wizard. Technomage is clunky and too much of a giveaway. And yeah, I do.”
The glint in the Indian known as Haridas gave it away, “I’ve known you on the forum for years.
Count me in. I got some ideas for a staff with power.”
The last one to pick a stance, Trigoth paced back and forth. “You’re gonna need some more women. Let’s be wizards.”
Here we get conflict (very loosely inspired by a few real (and rare) events at conventions). I’ve adjusted BlackCrow’s dialogue, he is a man who chooses his words with more care. This version also shows Alex fail in some way, as the prior version sets his goal to recruit wizards and it went well. He still gets what he wants, but almost didn’t. And he got to demonstrate how some of his power might work in a real situation. The wizards are still primitive in 2005, well before we meet them in the present.
I’ll come back to this story in a month to see what I can fine tune.
You can see the previous draft here:
And the first draft:
Find other articles about Alex Rune and Technomages here: