The attack began while Sorcerer Drak and his personal staff stood around the crystal ball in his office. Chief Analyst Flong was explaining that the image of a bull devouring a bear meant their stock was about to go up. Suddenly, the bull and bear disappeared, replaced by large red letters: “You are under attack. Duck to avoid incoming darts.”
Drak hadn’t earned his position as CEO of Microsorce, Inc., without fast reactions. He ducked. His personal staff—Flong, Argyle, Jan and Craig—did not.
The cloud of darts flew by. With strangling sounds, all four of the staffers fell to the ground. Several darts hit the crystal ball, knocking it off its stand. It rolled across the table and fell to the floor. A large crack appeared on its surface. Other darts dug into the souvenir witch’s broom on the wall behind Drak’s desk, and into an engraving of a dragon.
Drak rose to a half crouch, looking for the source of the darts. A man holding a wand leaned out of a horizontal slit in mid-air from across the room. His head and upper body floated in mid-air as the rest of him disappeared into the spatial gate. He was completely bald, wearing a bright red robe, with dark, riveting eyes that locked onto Drak’s eyes. His face was horribly disfigured by crisscrossing scars.
Drak found the situation perplexing. Microsorce was protected by the best computer defenses in the world. And yet, here was this intruder, in his personal office on the top—100th—floor of Microsorce. Only the now ruined crystal ball had given warning, but just barely.
“Computer, defend!” Drak called. But nothing happened. The computer should have deactivated sorcery by anyone not of Microsorce. The sorceware was flawless—something was wrong.
He hadn’t bothered going through the daily defense enchantment to activate his personal defenses since he worked and lived inside “Fortress Microsorce.” And so he was defenseless until he had time to do the enchantment. Worse, he realized that his wand was on his desk behind him, tantalizingly just out of reach.
The intruder grinned with crooked teeth. “You look well. I’m glad to see that.” He looked about. “Your office—it’s even bigger than I remembered! Very nice. I like it.” The man applauded mockingly, clapping his wand slowly into his other hand. “Don’t you recognize me?”
Drak couldn’t quite place the accent—Australian? There was something vaguely familiar about the man. “Never seen you before in my life,” he said. As he spoke, his right hand, hidden by his body, inched backward to his wand.
The man grinned even wider. “Think back eighteen years—when you first started out. Remember your first sorceware? The sorcery that launched Microsorce?”
The blood drained from his face as Drak remembered. “Loz!” The man was one of Microsorce’s first sorcerers. It had been many years—and a head full of hair—since Drak had last seen him. The horrible scars were also new; Drak could only imagine where they came from. He had hoped never to see this man again.
“Now you recognize me. Yes, I’ve had a little battle seasoning since you last saw me.” He grinned, which came out more as a grimace, making the scars stand out even more.
“I wanted you to know who killed you.” As Loz spoke, Drak’s hand felt what must be his wand. “And now....” Loz raised his wand and pointed it at Drak. Drak grabbed for his wand and came up in full offensive mode.
Loz laughed as Drak stood there, holding the remote for his office TV.
“I believe the wand you are looking for is over there.” Loz gestured with his wand. Drak’s wand had been knocked off the table and lay on the floor, partly impaled by a dart. “What a picture you are. How the mighty have fallen!” He laughed. He laughed through his nose and sounded like he had a monster case of the sniffles.
“I didn’t expect it to be this easy,” Loz continued. “I have a backup plan—a very expensive one—but that won’t be necessary now.” His voice rose in pitch and loudness. “Who would believe the great Drak could be defeated in minutes!” Loz suddenly feinted with his wand, and Drak started to duck. But Loz only laughed again.
“And now,” Loz said, “let me introduce you to my good buddy, Flong. May he rise from the dead!”
The lifeless body of Flong was suddenly no longer lifeless as Flong got up, pulling darts out of his neck, shoulders and purple coveralls, and wiping away blood from his aging and balding head with a handkerchief. He grinned sheepishly. “Sorry, chief.”
So Flong had given Loz the computer codes.
“Tomorrow, everyone will read about the hostile takeover of Microsorce, and the world will go on,” Loz said. “But you, like your wandslingers downstairs, will not. This is business—but it’s also personal. My face will be the last thing you see. And now, you die.” He grinned and pointed his wand at Drak, and a horde of darts -- [End of Preview.]