That bastard Austin and the wizard dwarf did everything they could to burn me. But I beat them both. I have a huge house, great car, nice clothes, and the best medical staff one could dream of. They have nothing left but envy. Sure, I lost a lot of body parts, but I have no regrets. Except maybe the kidney. I wouldn’t have had it cut out if I’d known the other would go bad.
I wasn’t always so lucky. I didn’t inherit my parents’ powers, and I grew up poor.
My luck changed one day while I looked up at Austin’s house through the living room window. There was a knock on the door that would make me the luckiest guy in the world.
“Mr. Mann?” the white-haired dwarf at the door asked.
“That’s me,” I said, buttoning up the worn-out shirt that Austin had given me. “What can I do for you?”
“Quite a bit,” he said, deftly stepping around me without an invitation. “Okay if I call you Lester?” I caught up to him in the living room, where he’d made himself comfortable on the sofa, his fancy Florsheim shoes resting on the coffee table.
He had a pinched look on his face, as if he’d swallowed a bad spell. He introduced himself as the Wizard Sadim. He wore a standard business suit, like any other wizard from the U.S. Department of Magic.
“Do you always barge into people’s houses without asking?” I asked. It was a brave thing to say, considering he carried a thaumaturgic staff.
He ignored my question. “Sorry to hear about your parents, Lester. I knew them at Wizard U.”
“I got over it,” I said icily, sitting in my easy chair opposite him. My parents had been simple country wizards and never should have gotten involved with Wizards Without Borders. After that earthquake in Africa, you’d think that the locals would welcome any help, but some of them just didn’t like outsiders. And so I inherited my childhood home, underlooking Austin’s.
“Ever wonder why you didn’t inherit your parents’ powers?” Sadim asked.
About twenty times per day. “Rarely.”
“You’ve got wizard DNA,” he said. “Only there’s a mess-up—something in the DNA sequence kept your powers from forming.”
“Thanks for the breaking news.” I got up. “Now if you don’t have any more bombshells—”
“Your DNA is worth a lot of money.”
I sat down.
“While most wizards are good, there are exceptions,” he continued. “You can’t let a violent wizard free with all his powers. But with gene therapy, using a sequence of wizard DNA like yours that doesn’t work, we can take their powers away without harming them.”
He stood in front of me. “Your DNA is worth its weight in gold. But we need your permission to use it.” He punctuated his request with several thrusts of his staff.
“Didn’t you need a sample first, for testing?” I asked, gently pushing the tip of his staff to the side.
“We already have that. You’d be amazed at how much DNA can be found in a person’s trash.”
My eyebrows shot up. “You raided my trash?”
“We can’t use your DNA without your permission.” He reached into his pocket. “We can offer you $100,000 in gold if you’ll sign this.”
Woh! This was unexpected. I took a deep breath, and put on my lawyerly poker face.
“Is it worth that much to you?”
“It’s worth that much to humanity. Mr. Mann, you’re in a unique situation to do great good.”
I was just a poor kid out of law school with a low-paying job, and was one second away from signing it when I noticed Austin’s house through the window. I wanted a lot more. After getting cheated out of my parent’s powers, I deserved a lot more. I leaned back in my chair, all the weight I’d gained in law school weighing me down. How much was my DNA worth? He’d said it was worth its weight in gold. Inspiration struck.
“I want my weight in gold,” I said.
Sadim sputtered. “Are you out of your mind? You have a chance to help your fellow man, and all you think of is yourself?”
I think he was on the verge of using his staff on me, but I ignored his protests and threats and held firm until he gave in. We drew up a new contract, and my life as a wealthy man began.
Sadim returned the next day. It took only a few minutes for him to go through the words and rituals of the gold spell that would bring me exactly 223 pounds of gold. Gold sold at $715 an ounce. That came to over $2,500,000—Austin had never seen that much money in his life!
When Sadim finished, nothing happened. “Where’s the gold?” I asked.
Sadim laughed. “You want your weight in gold, you’ll get it!” He handed me a pair of fingernail clippers. “Cut a sliver of fingernail onto the table.”
What did this have to do with my gold? But he insisted. I had let the nails grow long, and so cut a thick crescent off my thumbnail onto the coffee table.
“There’s your gold, you greedy fool!” He picked up the nail clip -- [End of Preview.]