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Enter the Dragon (Harry Potter/Shadowrun)

Discussion in 'Creative Writing' started by Dunkelzahn, Jul 10, 2018.

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  1. Simonbob

    Simonbob Really? You don't say.

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    Instead of getting too political, I'll just say that he might be right, about the towers.

    I honestly don't know, but it wouldn't be the first time. There's some real assholes, well, almost everywhere.
     
  2. Littlenous

    Littlenous Getting out there.

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    100+ in Afghanistan? Well, that was, relatively primitive country, which bordered Russia, so British done all they could to make it Russian's "hot zone" (nothing personal of course, simple matter of dividing attention). Basically, the matter continued after fall of Russian Empire, against USSR. At some point Communists managed to arrange/convert Afghanistan's government to their side, but angered general population "in process". After they killed "untrustworthy" ruler, civil war began, in which communists attempted to support "their side" with military. Around that time, the "flag" of "Big Game" in Afghanistan passed from British to USA, which done their best to repay USSR for Vietnam in similar matter.
    After Soviets left, civil war led on until Taliban "almost won" it, and decided that "Drugs IS heresy!!!" (before that EVERY side in that war made them as quick cash income, and big part of those drugs went "north"), and almost stopped ALL drug production on their territory. The wery same year, "Twins happened", "Usama Bin Laden hidden himself somewhere there", and US army invaded to "search for him". And, as I already said, AFTER THAT drug production began anew :(

    Am i missed something THIS time?
     
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  3. Mashadarof402

    Mashadarof402 Versed in the lewd.

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    Please take your conspiracy illuminati "9/11 was an inside job" nonsense somewhere else. It has no place on this thread, and is literally against the board rules about bringing up current politics.
     
  4. The Unicorn

    The Unicorn Versed in the lewd.

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    this is not the place to discuss this if someone wants to put up a thread to defend idiotic conspiracy theories behind 9/11 I'd be happy to explain why they're nonsense, or you could simply google it, there are plenty of people who went over in detail why they're nonsense already.
    Pretty much everything,
    If you actually want to discuss it in a thread appropriate for it, I'll be happy to explain.
     
  5. Littlenous

    Littlenous Getting out there.

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    Where?
     
  6. The Unicorn

    The Unicorn Versed in the lewd.

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  7. Littlenous

    Littlenous Getting out there.

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  8. FTR2017

    FTR2017 Your first time is always over so quickly, isn't it?

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    I have just finished reading this story and wow, this has been quite the experience! :)

    I loved how you adapted the canon characters into this setting, giving them depth and complexity which fits quite nicely with the Shadowrun-verse. :D

    Thanks for your hard work, and see you next chapter! :D
     
  9. fungame2

    fungame2 Touch fluffy tail!!

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    Question since I just found this is there any fan art for this aka dragon harry?
     
  10. plaguewolf

    plaguewolf Getting some practice in, huh?

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    This is by far my favorite interpretation of space expansion magic to date. Quick question though, more to shore up holes than anything else. If expanded space requires sapient magic users to move, how does it move in relation to the planet's orbit? Cause the planet is moving mighty quick like around the sun, which is moving even more quickly around the galaxy center...

    Off the top of my head maybe some interpretation of Gaia theory? semi-sapient world-soul, elder spirit or some such?
    Or, possibly, the process of creation of expanded spaces includes a step by which the pocket is somehow dynamically tied to local space curvature? Maybe follows the 'wake' of the planet?

    Just some thoughts.
     
  11. The Unicorn

    The Unicorn Versed in the lewd.

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    Presumably the point was "move it relative to the planet's own spacial distortion aka gravity field",
     
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  12. Dunkelzahn

    Dunkelzahn No one of consequence

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    They are not Amerind myths, but the oldest stories of the Bible do share a number of commonalities with many other such stories in cultures around the world, which is what I was trying to draw on. That said, I dropped it from the story anyway, so it's a bit of a moot point now.

    On the expanded space, first I'll point out that the crushed cars I was considering were ones like these, not solid steel billets. Snape didn't plan far enough ahead to do that kind of specialty order; as far as he is concerned, Harry eats scrapped cars, and therefore scrapped cars are what he needs to carry.

    Also note that the trip back was both short and restricted to surface streets and their lower speed limit. I've reworked a couple paragraphs to hopefully make the situation clearer.

    Also, Snape is a tad... overconfident in the scene.

    Not that I am aware of, sorry.

    The Unicorn's post is a good summation of how I was treating the situation.

    It won't be story-relevant for quite a long time, but also note that the flatter the local spacetime gets (that is, the farther you are from any significant gravitational well) the more permissive magical spatio-temporal manipulation becomes.

    The effect is significant, nonlinear, and much like gravity itself, breaks down at zero (though in this case that is at zero gravitational potential).

    As previously mentioned, it will be a while before that is in any way story relevant, and it's planned to be a bit of a reveal. No one has a way of knowing it in-story since at this point no magical person in story has spent any time outside Earth's atmosphere, much less its Hill sphere.
     
  13. The Unicorn

    The Unicorn Versed in the lewd.

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    Unless the fact there is very little (possibly no) steel in those is a plot point, you might want to rethink that. Also note you'd still be able to easily fit 8-10 of those in the unexapnded space I mentioned earlier, meaning there's no need for an expanded space unless they need to be carrying much more than that, or the storage space is very small compared to the vehicle size.

    It wouldn't be any sort of specialty order, in fact it would be easier and more common than buying crushed cars, but if that's what Snape was thinking I can see him getting the pile of aluminum and fiberglass he did by mistake.

    Only change I spotted was
    Which doesn't seem to address this. Assuming you need the expanded space I'd suggest something like

    One additional thing I noticed re-reading, when snape mentions the errant he describes it as "Picking up a purchase from a facility a few miles down the road," but here you describe them as having traveled only a mile and a half, might want to change Snape's earlier comment to kilometers (3 km is close enough to a mile and a half it could be different estimates).
     
    caspian1a likes this.
  14. Threadmarks: Section 5.3 - Friendly recommendations
    Dunkelzahn

    Dunkelzahn No one of consequence

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    5.3 Friendly recommendations


    5.3.1 Morning after

    “Wake up!”

    Snickersnack groaned as she slowly swam back into wakefulness.

    “’s too early,” she complained sleepily.

    “Too early or not, it’s time to go to work,” her roommate, a coworker from the Signaling Department, insisted. “Go back to sleep and you’ll be late!”

    Snickersnack groaned again and threw off the covers as she forced herself to sit up. She winced as the motion pulled at a number of minor injuries ranging from bruises and small cuts to a shoulder she vaguely recalled having dislocated the previous night and a half-chewed ear. She blinked blearily as she tried to make sense of the room.

    “You look like you had fun last night,” the fuzzy form of her roommate chortled on seeing her revealed form.

    The tired gobliness frowned as she considered that. What had she done last night, anyway? Slowly the memories swam into focus; her sort-of-boyfriend Quickknife had gotten off work early, and he’d taken her out for the evening, and... her thoughts trailed off as she grinned a goofy sort of grin.

    “That good, huh?” her roommate smirked.

    “Oh yeah,” Snickersnack agreed. “Quickknife took me out for drinks.”

    “Bar fight?” she asked knowingly.

    “Back to back against the whole place,” Snickersnack nodded. “We beat everyone there.”

    “Back to back against the world...” her roommate sighed dreamily.

    For the goblins, who had been fighting tooth and nail for millennia, struggling for survival and freedom against the wizards, the phrase “back to back against the world” held a special sort of meaning. The words had been used many times as a metaphor for family structures at all levels: friendship, family, clan, and nation. When applied to a courting pair... well, there was only one realistic interpretation.

    “I know!” Snickersnack seemed to glow at the romance of it all. “I don’t know what came over him.”

    “How so?”

    “I enjoy a good scrap, but Quickknife usually sits them out unless it’s about something important,” Snickersnack said with a puzzled frown. “I wonder what was different this time.”

    “Well, I think he sounds like a real keeper,” her roommate opined. “I suspect he knows what you like and decided to put his own preferences aside to indulge you. In my experience, most men would have just left you to do your thing and call it good if they don’t share your hobbies. It’s pretty impressive that he was willing to join in personally despite that.”

    “That makes sense,” Snickersnack nodded. She paused for a moment to consider that before letting out a dreamy sigh. “Do you think... maybe he might be the one, you know?”

    “Maybe, but I suppose that’s for the future,” her roommate agreed. “For now, you are going to be late for work, and so will I if I don’t leave soon.”

    The blushing goblin maiden groaned and swung her legs out of bed only for the motion to remind her of a pulled muscle that she had forgotten about... one in a location that would make it very difficult to walk properly if she didn’t give herself a few more hours to recover.

    “Think it might be a bit before I can manage that, actually,” she said with a wince.

    Her roommate whistled appreciatively. “You really did have fun last night, didn’t you?”

    Snickersnack blushed demurely and turned away.

    “Tell you what,” her roommate offered. “I happen to know that our supervisor is an inveterate romantic. You let me tell him that story, and I’m pretty sure I can spin it such that he’ll be willing to overlook you taking the morning off.”

    “Thanks,” Snickersnack said gratefully as she flopped back down onto her bed. “You’re a life saver!”

    “Bring me lunch when you come in, and we’ll call it even,” she said. “Anything urgent in your inbox that I should deal with?”

    “Not as of last night.”

    “And anything that came in afterward would have been assigned to someone else, right,” her roommate nodded. “Alright, I’ll see you at lunch!”

    5.3.2 Emotional support badger

    The Director of the DMLE had just retrieved her third coffee of the morning and sat down at her desk when there was a knock on her door.

    “Come in!” Amelia Bones called out, not looking up from the folder in front of her.

    The door opened.

    “Hey boss?”

    Amelia Bones looked up to see one of her LEP officers, Constable Simmons, who was currently assigned to look after the Granger girl.

    “Something wrong, Simmons?” she asked.

    “Sort of,” he replied. “You see, it’s about Miss Granger.”

    “What about her?”

    Simmons winced. “She asked if she could go see her parents today.”

    Amelia winced in turn. “You advised against it, right?”

    “Of course! I know how that goes.” He sighed, “Thing is, she demanded an explanation, and... well, I didn’t want to, but in the end, I sort of had to. She would have insisted on going otherwise, and no one deserves to be put through that, not with their own parents, especially not at that age.”

    Amelia nodded knowingly, letting out a sympathetic sigh of her own.

    Obliviation was a tough nut to crack, both magically and emotionally. The latter was especially true for cases like the girl’s parents. Enough had been taken from the Grangers that they wouldn’t even recognize their daughter if they saw her, much like a person in the throes of severe dementia or other neural degenerative conditions. Worse yet, unlike those conditions, an obliviation victim would seem otherwise healthy, alert and fully rational. Seeing your own parents looking at you as if you were a stranger... well, that was a real kick in the emotional teeth... something Amelia wouldn’t wish on anyone, much less an innocent little girl who had already been through far too much.

    Fortunately, it was also something that Miss Granger wouldn’t have to deal with as long as she could contain herself for a few months. With dementia victims, everyone around them, even the children, had to come to terms with the reality of the situation eventually; there was no avoiding it. Obliviation, on the other hand, sometimes could — and in this case would — be reversed.

    Speaking of which...

    “You did make sure to tell her they will recover, right Simmons?” Amelia confirmed. “It’s important to make sure she doesn’t get the wrong idea.”

    They had gotten to the couple in time to preserve the magical traces, so the Granger couple would recover eventually with the right care, which they were getting even now. Unfortunately, the process was slow, finicky, and took seemingly forever to show tangible results. Even now, they were only starting to get fragmentary results from Lockhart’s three victims, and they were nearly halfway through their course of treatment.

    “Of course, ma’am,” the officer nodded emphatically. “Made sure she understood that right out of the gate.”

    Amelia nodded, “Good. Was that all?”

    “Well, ma’am, I was thinking...” he began.

    She gestured for him to continue.

    “Miss Granger... the poor kid’s been through a lot, and she seemed pretty lonely today,” the constable explained. “I know your niece is in her year at Hogwarts, and I was thinking it might be good for her to be around someone her own age. Don’t know if they know each other, but I thought it might be a good idea, regardless.”

    “An excellent idea indeed, Simmons,” Amelia agreed, nodding thoughtfully. “I’ll talk to Susan when I get home this evening, and we’ll see what she says. Maybe that will help both girls, I know Susan always gets so bored during summer holidays.”

    “Thank you, ma’am!” the constable nodded gratefully. “She’s a tough little lady, but she’s been through a bad time, lately.”

    “You’re welcome, Simmons,” the Director nodded in dismissal. “Now get going. We’ve both got work to do.”

    5.3.3 An early morning departure

    The celebratory dinner had turned out to be more of a backyard cookout than the stuffy state dinner that Snape had feared, and the previous evening had passed without further incident, ending shortly after sunset. The early night had led to the group from Hogwarts getting a good night’s rest as they spent their first night in the Winnebago in the Great Longhouse parking lot, parked right next to the significantly larger somnolescent bulk of Harry Potter in his native form.

    Now the morning had arrived, and the well-rested group set out under the silvery light of the predawn sky. The large motorhome shook slightly as its engine started, its rumbling, rattling growl echoing across the otherwise empty parking lot. Soon wheels began to turn, and the large vehicle trundled across the parking lot, tires crunching across the gravel as it made its way to the roadway exit. The wheels thumped down onto the asphalt of the roadway proper, and they were underway.

    As the thrum of the diesel faded into the distance, the parking lot fell silent but for the occasional breeze ruffling the trees.

    5.3.4 Preparations

    In a different stand of trees half a world away, the sound of the breeze ruffling the trees was almost but not quite enough to cover the dull crack of a rotten branch breaking seemingly of its own accord, one end thrusting itself up out of the leaf litter. The stick quickly fell, and a series of odd disturbances, small shifts in the fallen leaves and the occasional small branch swinging suddenly to the side, traced a path towards the tree line. The small movements ended at a point which was still mostly hidden by the trees yet close enough to the edge to provide a clear view of the broad grassy lawn beyond them and the opulent mansion that sat upon the well-manicured grounds.

    Suddenly a section of that idyllic view peeled away as if reality itself were a curtain to be pulled back by an invisible hand, revealing a small room of dark gray canvas. Shortly thereafter, the view swung back into place, and it was if nothing was there at all.

    Within the gray canvas anteroom of the large, disillusioned tent that was Recon Post 1, the red-robed figure of Auror Matt Weasley suddenly appeared as he dismissed the disillusionment charm which had concealed his arrival. As soon as the outer tent flap was secure, he turned around and opened the inner one, and a loud buzz of conversation immediately flooded the anteroom as the auror surveyed the bustling chaos within.

    “Any activity from the house?”

    “All clear, no change.”

    “Found a weakness in the ward geometry at Sector 7, can we use it?”

    “No, too many hedges in that area. It’d slow down the Ops teams too much. Anything in Sector 3? That part’s mostly open field.”

    “How’s the breaker charge coming?”

    “Formula is just about ready. What’s the twist on ward layer fourteen?”

    “Umm,” paper shuffled, “that’s a seven-tenths right-hand.”

    “Damn, we’re going to need to change the base, then.” An exasperated sigh followed. “Give us ten minutes to rework the dependencies, and we’ll get back to you.”

    Matt turned to the man standing near the back of the tent, overseeing it all.

    “Perkins, how are you doing?” he greeted the man.

    “Keeping busy,” Perkins replied. “I take it Trussel wants an update.”

    “She is in charge of this op,” the auror confirmed with a shrug.

    Perkins nodded, “Things are going well. Crabbe is still oblivious, and we have his wards and habits mapped. As soon as we work out the proper formula for the charge, which we should have within the hour, it will just be down to the brewing. Call it... twelve hours for that, the thing’s going to have to acclimate,” Perkins answered. “We’ll be ready any time after that.”

    “Good work,” Weasley congratulated him. “Do you have a current map of the target for Ops? The last one on file is twenty years old.”

    “Sure, we’ll have a copy for you by your next check-in,” the man answered. “Anything else?”

    “Not on my end,” the auror. “Anything you need?”

    “Coffee,” Perkins requested, “the warders have been going through our supply as fast as we can brew it.”

    “Got it,” Weasley nodded. “I’ll try to swing by the pastry shop, too.”

    “Much appreciated.”

    The auror ducked back into the antechamber and waved.

    “See you at the next check-in.”

    Then the inner flap swung closed.

    5.3.5 Friend of a friend

    The workshop was quiet but for the rasp of steel on steel as Ed used a needle file to put the final fit on his latest workpiece. The gunsmith worked quickly, his movements sure as he took seemingly insignificant cuts off the piece and periodically attempted to fit it with another mating piece which lay on the bench. Each time he’d return to the file, repeating the process until finally the part slid home smoothly with just the right amount of play. The man worked the movement a few more times until he was certain it fit to his satisfaction, and then he leaned back from the workbench to stretch and smile in satisfaction at a job well done.

    It had been almost two decades since Ed had retired from the Army. He’d qualified for full benefits by 1970, but he’d stuck it out until the end of the war in ‘Nam because it was the right thing to do. He couldn’t have left his buddies hanging in the middle of a scrap like that... wouldn’t be American, really.

    When he’d come home, Ed had learned, much to his disgust, that a relatively small but unbelievably obnoxious segment of the country he’d risked so much to protect were angry over the political justification for the war, and had decided to take out their ire on those who had fought the war rather than the politicians who had started it, taking it upon themselves to make life miserable for him and his fellow soldiers. The first, Ed could understand, even respect, although he also respectfully disagreed; the second however, Ed found utterly inexcusable, especially since many of his fellows had been drafted into service and had had no choice in the matter.

    He’d gritted his teeth and carried on up until that one day with Dale. The man was a fellow vet who’d lost a leg to one of Charlie’s nastier traps, and Ed had volunteered to drive him in to get fitted for a prosthetic. As they’d left the clinic, some twig of a girl with more flowers in her hair than sense in her head had run up and spit right in Dale’s face while screaming obscenities, calling him a monster and a murderer and... well she wasn’t the most articulate, but she had repeated those ad nauseum. Ed had yelled right back until the girl ran off, Dale had seemed to shrug it off with a laugh, and Ed had taken him back home.

    He hadn’t realized anything was amiss until he’d heard the loud crack of the gun his friend used to blow his own brains out.

    That night, Ed had gone out to the local bar to drown his sorrows and had come very close to hunting that little bitch down for a bit of justice after a little too much to drink. Luckily, his buddies at the bar had talked him down before he could do anything prosecutable. After he’d slept it off and sobered up, Ed had judged it prudent to leave before something pushed him over the edge again and he landed in prison.

    Deciding to take his accumulated pay, leave town, and settle down somewhere quiet — that is, out in the country and far away from all the ungrateful pinko hippies and other communist sympathizers — he’d asked around and eventually found one retiree from his old platoon, a solid sort by the name of Mark Hunker, who’d settled down to running a farm in southern Michigan. Ed had looked him up, explained the situation, and Mark had agreed to sell him a bit of land for cheap.

    Soon enough, Mark had had a new neighbor.

    Now Ed owned three point seven acres of woods on the back end of the farm, complete with a modest little house, a driveway long enough that no one bothered him unless they really meant it, and a well-equipped workshop in which he pursued his combined hobby and retirement career: gunsmithing. He was good at it, too... good enough to cover with commissions those little luxuries that his pension didn’t.

    It was a good life.

    Ed’s most recent commission was a reconditioning job. The piece was an old Civil War-vintage Spencer lever-action that had been passed down in the client’s family ever since. It had been well-used during the intervening century and a bit, so much so that the wear surfaces in its action had gullied out to the point of being nearly useless, which had brought it to his workbench.

    To be honest, the easiest approach would have been to machine a few replacement parts; steel was steel at the end of the day. As long as you got the composition right, it didn’t matter if it had been smelted a year ago or a century, but sentimentality on the part of the owners meant they had insisted on rebuilding the original part rather than replacing it. That was a lot harder, to be honest but with enough layers of weld, heat treating as appropriate, and then a great deal of filing to shape everything painstakingly back into working order it could be done. It was a silly way to go about the repair, but for the price the client had offered, Ed was willing put up with a bit of ‘silly’.

    Speaking of which, Ed cracked his knuckles, he really ought to get back to work. He was about to do so when the low growl of a large diesel prompted Ed to look up curiously. Big diesels were hardly unusual — southern Michigan was prime farming country, so tractors, harvesters, and big rigs were always hard at work somewhere — but the timing on this one was a bit strange.

    Ed’s little woodland paradise was only accessible via a mile and a half of private road... and by ‘private road’, he meant an otherwise unmarked grassy space along the edge of Mark’s Number 6 field which had been cleared of brush so the combine had space to turn around. Other than his friend’s farm equipment, the only traffic it ever saw was Ed’s pickup, and with the corn chest-high and tall enough to shade out the weeds, Ed couldn’t think of any reason for heavy equipment to come out this way... not for another month or two. Still, he supposed Mark must have had something come up, so Ed shrugged and resolved to do the neighborly thing and go flag him down to see if he needed help as soon as he got to a breaking point.

    A few minutes later, the growl of engine had grown steadily louder, and when it culminated with the crunch of a heavy tire on the crushed stone he used outside the shop to keep the mud to a minimum, Ed figured he ought to go check on things regardless. Mark usually didn’t come by to visit until near sunset... not unless it was important, and he certainly didn’t come all this way in his tractor just for a social call.

    To his surprise, as he opened the shop door, Ed did not find his friend waving to him from the air-conditioned cab of his tractor. Instead, he found a massive motorhome parked in his driveway... an older model Winnebago Chieftain, by the look of it, though it had obviously been heavily customized. That model didn’t normally sport commercial-grade truck tires, nor did its engine growl like a well-maintained semi.

    Ed absently reached down to check his pistol just in case, and then walked out to see what in the blue blazes they thought they were doing in his driveway. He had barely made it two steps before the vehicle’s door opened, and a young boy jumped out. He got pretty good distance, ending up about eight feet away from the door.

    “Hey, kid! What are you all doing back here?” Ed called. “You know this is private property, right? You tell your family you can’t just camp out here!”

    “Yeah, I figured,” the kid said in a British accent, nodding as he walked over. “We’re not going to camp out, though; I’m here to meet somebody, and I think I got the directions right.”

    “Meet somebody, huh?” Ed shrugged. That was fair enough. “Who’re you lookin’ for? Maybe I can point you in the right direction. It’s just me back here.”

    “Sergeant-Major Hooktalon said his friend Ed lived here,” the pint-sized kid said. “Are you him?”

    Ed’s eyes widened.

    “Hooktalon? Now that’s a name I haven’t heard in a while,” he smiled, nostalgic. “Sergeant-Major, huh? He was a plain old Sergeant last time he swung by these parts. Huh... well, isn’t that somethin’?”

    Ed had met a lot of odd people over the years, and Hooktalon was one of the oddest. He never did figure out why the little limey looked like he did, but he was a decent enough sort, and Ed figured as long as that was the case, the rest didn’t much matter. Ed had a notion that Hooktalon appreciated the attitude, if the amount of business he’d sent Ed’s way over the years was any indication.

    Ed shook his head. “Well kid, I guess you got to the right place after all, I’m the Ed you’re looking for. How’s that tough old khaki-faced midget doing these days?”

    The kid’s eyes went wide at that statement. “Um, I guess he’s doing alright... um, Mister Ed, are you sure it’s okay to call him that? Sergeant-Major Hooktalon can be pretty scary when you don’t do things proper.”

    “Don’t worry about it, kiddo,” Ed laughed aloud, waving off the boy’s concern. “He’s all bark.”

    During the exchange, the Winnebago had begun shaking, and soon another person exited the massive vehicle. This one, an honest-to-God centaur, made the usual clientele Hooktalon sent his way look positively mundane by comparison. Still, horsey bits aside, she seemed pretty alright. She’d come loaded for bear — carrying at least four rifles that he could see along with a very smart-looking compound bow and enough ammunition to fight for a week in the jungle — and between her obvious good sense and Hooktalon’s recommendation, Ed could find little reason to dislike her. He tossed her a nod, then turned back to the boy.

    “We go way back, Hooktalon and me, ever since that one op in... well, still not allowed to talk about that one...” He trailed off for a moment. “Hey kid, what’d the old midget send you for, anyway?”

    “Well, he said I needed a good pistol,” the boy began, digging in his pocket and withdrawing a crumpled scrap of paper, “and he sent along this note on what to ask for. He said you’d understand.”

    The boy handed the note off to Ed, and the gunsmith gave it a quick read. “A proper pistol for an upstanding young gentleman”, huh? He hummed as he considered the problem.

    Given what he remembered of his conversations with Hooktalon, this commission would be a bit unusual. It wasn’t often that Ed was commissioned to build a pistol that was both fit for practical use and suitable for what he’d have called black-tie occasions. After all, even in America that sort of event didn’t usually call for open-carry sidearms as necessary accessories... which was a crying shame in Ed’s book. They’d probably be a lot more fun if they did... he’d certainly be a lot more willing to dress up for the damned things, at least.

    Ed frowned thoughtfully as he folded the note up again.

    A custom job meant getting the kid’s measure, and that meant some range time. It wouldn’t do to shortchange a customer, especially not one recommended by his old friend. His shop, however, was not fitted out for the purpose.

    “Hey kid, you up for a bit of a side trip?”

    5.3.6 Aftermath

    It was quiet inside the Winnebago. The interior was spotless, brand new and still in its posh touring bus configuration. The luggage was packed away neatly; the usual road trip detritus of food wrappers, empty cans, and receipts had yet to accumulate; and it even still had some of that new car smell.

    The semiconscious bodies sprawled limply across the seats like corpses strewn about a battlefield, though, had a way of ruining the peaceful scene.

    Even though it had barely been quadrupled in size, far less than the enchantments’ maximum extent, moving the expanded space slung under the Winnebago was still an exhausting endeavor, especially moving at highway speeds. Snape had taken care to pack as tightly as he could manage in order to reduce the necessary expansion ratio as much as he could, yet it had still felt akin to dragging a kite along behind the vehicle as it went down the highway... a kite the size of one of the massive billboards they had seen along the turnpike.

    Portable expanded spaces tended to be limited to small, subtle things for precisely this reason. Something like a low-profile wand holster or a hidden coat pocket was usually as far as most were willing to push their luck. Even a so-called portable expanded trunk was only such for certain values of ‘portable’.

    That morning’s two-hundred-and-fifty-mile drive would have been enough to kill most any wizard; it was therefore fortunate that the drive had not been made by a single wizard. The particular spells used were designed to draw from every occupant of the vehicle to support themselves... well, every occupant with sufficient magic for the spells to latch onto that is, which in this case meant everyone except Suze. Unfortunately for the humans involved, the spells drew the same amount from everyone, and that amount meant different things to different people.

    Harry, with his literally inhuman reserves, had barely noticed, while Albus had been feeling the burn after the first hundred miles. The rest of the staff were much worse off, so much so that the sudden cessation of the drain when they had finally rolled to a stop had actually sent a few of the younger professors over the edge into unconsciousness.

    It took several minutes before anyone in the passenger cabin managed anything more intelligible than a groan.

    “Shuid’nae someone be aff tae keek efter th' laddie?” Minerva asked tiredly, having caught the gist of the conversation outside through the still-open door.

    “I suppose I will have to handle that, then,” Albus offered, levering himself up in his seat with a grunt of effort. “I believe that I am the only one capable of it at this juncture.”

    He had just managed get to his feet when another, much smaller engine rattled to life nearby. He looked out the window only to see the young dragon in his human form beside his young centaur lady, waving at him enthusiastically from the bed of an old pickup truck as it rolled by back the way they had come.

    Albus bemusedly waved back as the smaller vehicle rounded a bend in the path and disappeared behind the trees.

    “Well, I suppose he is big enough to look after himself for a time,” he murmured with a shrug. There was nothing to be done about it now, not without apparation at his disposal.

    For now, the elderly wizard thought as he surveyed his subordinates strewn haphazardly about the cabin, there were more immediate concerns. He stumped up to the entry area where one piece in particular of his transfigured luggage had been stowed in a cabinet outside the vehicle’s reconfigurable area. Reaching in, he withdrew a leaden brick and tapped it with his wand, returning it to its original configuration as a rather large cardboard box.

    “Albus, what the devil are you on about?” Snape’s irritable voice snapped as he registered the sudden appearance of the box taking up most of the aisle next to him where he sat in the driver’s seat, revealing that he was not quite as out of it as he looked.

    “Rest alone will not prepare us for the next leg of our journey, Severus,” the elderly wizard replied as he reached into the box, the movement accompanied by the sound of crackling plastic. “A wizard is fueled by his stomach, if you will recall. If we are to recover enough to continue, we must eat.”

    He withdrew a half a dozen colorful bags and made his way back through the cabin, passing them out to his still-conscious colleagues along the way.

    “Our hosts were good enough to take me to a local establishment last night to pick up appropriate victuals,” he explained as he handed the last bag to Snape and reached in for another load. “This should provide everyone with enough energy make it to lunch.”

    Easy to eat and full of starch and fat, crisps — or chips in the local parlance — were just the thing to give a wizard a quick boost and get him back on his feet. As for later... well, Albus had heard some great things about a muggle phenomenon known as ‘fast food’. It sounded almost ideal for their purposes, and it was purportedly even quite inexpensive.

    “Och damn,” Minerva groaned from her seat, her accent thick with exhaustion even as she accepted a red bag half the size of her own torso and emblazoned with bright yellow letters declaring it to be “Family Sized”. “Wur aff tae hae tae dae it again, aren’t we?”

    “Indeed,” Albus nodded. “Though, in hindsight, I believe our morning itinerary was a mistake. In the future, I would recommend shorter driving segments and more frequent stops. I believe we came rather unfortunately close to killing some of our younger colleagues.”

    Poppy’s eyes narrowed thoughtfully as she munched on a handful of some sort of puffy, luridly orange, cheese-flavored thing the precise nature of which she could not readily identify. At the moment, however, it was edible and calorie-rich, and that was enough.

    “Is there any way to reduce the strain?” she asked between bites. “Once or twice will not cause lasting damage, but putting everyone through this three of four times a day as we had planned may well lead to tragedy.”

    “Perhaps we could reduce the size of the expansion,” Flitwick proposed. “Even a small reduction might make a major difference; it adds up quickly.”

    Snape shook his head tiredly from the driver’s seat. A moment later, realizing that no one could see the gesture through the high seatback, he spoke, “I already tightened it as much as possible; the cargo is too big to reduce it further.”

    “Perhaps we could transfigure it into something smaller?” Minerva ventured.

    “It is primarily composed of steel with some aluminum,” the potions master countered.

    “Not without significant preparation then,” the transfiguration mistress sighed, “and certainly not in our current state.”

    “It’s scrap metal, right?” Septima Vector asked, the sudden influx of calories having brought her back enough to speak, at least. “Just smash it a bit. It’s not like it’s a solid steel block.”

    “And how are we to do that?” Snape drawled irritably. “The spells required to crush that much steel to such an extent would be nearly as taxing than those required to transfigure it.”

    “Why not get the dragon who’s going to be eating the stuff to do it?” Septima growled just as irritably. “He’s the reason we’re struggling to carry it along, so he can at least help pack it!”

    The cabin fell silent for a moment.

    “Oh, bloody fu...” HONK. “...ing hell! Why the...” HONK. “...didn’t we do...” HONK. “...last night?”

    As the potions master demonstrated his exhausted irritation through uncharacteristically crude language and a violent assault on the steering wheel, the rest of the professors indulged in similar thoughts.

    It really was obvious in hindsight.

    5.3.7 On the range

    There had been a time when Ed's odder customers raised eyebrows at the shooting range when he brought them ‘round. He still remembered the commotion back when he’d brought Hooktalon over for a friendly round of clays.

    How times changed.

    Nowadays nobody batted an eye when one of Hooktalon’s sort showed up. The centaur girl got some odd looks as she jumped down from the bed of his pickup and set it bouncing on its shocks at the sudden rebound, but most everyone quickly shook them off. As soon as folks realized that she was with Ed, then odd horsey bits or not, that explained everything anyone needed to know.

    Far odder looks were directed their way when the kid started working his way through the assortment of guns Ed had brought along for him to try out. The shooters and firearms buffs quickly realized that this kid was taking a hell of a lot more recoil than anyone his size ought to be capable of taking, and that was a lot closer to home than any level of weird appearance. At first there were shocked stares, and then people started getting enthusiastic, especially as they realized that the kid, though not Olympic-level by any stretch, was a pretty good shot.

    Ed nearly said something when Buck Forrest — a fellow vet, part-time truck driver, part-time mechanic, and borderline member of the tinfoil-hat brigade — after seeing what the kid managed with a .357, unlimbered his Colt Anaconda and offered the kid a try.

    Afterwards, Ed considered what he had seen for a long moment and momentarily wondered whether he was dreaming.

    Had this little kid really just soaked up the kick from everything up to and including a forty-four Magnum without so much as twitching an elbow?

    Hell, in the kid's hands that Colt Anaconda had looked like it kicked like an anemic baby; he'd never seen anyone successfully fire a forty-four with one hand, never mind hitting the target and getting a nice tight shot cluster while doing so.

    "Kid," he said, "just how strong are you?"

    "He can lift me without strain," the pretty centaur helpfully provided. She was smiling at the kid with that proprietary sort of a smile that women everywhere used when boasting about one of their men.

    "Throwing a car's easy." the kid offered, a big hopeful smile on his face as he demonstrated his ability to lift the smiling centaur. "I haven’t tried throwing a lorry ‘cause they don’t show up too much at the scrapyards I get stuff from, but I imagine they’d a bit harder... at least the artics, ‘cause they’re kinda wobbly and hard to get a proper grip on. They’re not too heavy, though."

    Ed considered that, considered the kid, considered the centaur.

    She was built like a brick house; petite and shapely her human parts might be, but the rest of her was a solid slab of honed muscle. She had to weigh as much as a compact car, as his truck’s suspension could attest. If the kid was that strong... the ideas began to flow as he looked speculatively at the selection of pistols he had brought for his newest customer to try. If you could soak up that much recoil...

    “I wonder just how hot you can load a pistol, anyway?” the gunsmith muttered absently as he considered the possibilities.

    He never noticed his young customer cocking a speculative eyebrow of his own.

    Eventually, Ed shook his head, dismissing the notion as a bit of idle musing. He hadn’t even really intended to voice the question aloud, and he would never go on to pursue the idea any further. At the end of the day, Ed was too practical for that; a crazy specialty gun that only fired some off-the-wall hundred-dollar-per-round handmade wildcat cartridge just wasn’t worth the effort. That sort of thing might take pride of place as the exotic centerpiece in some rich eccentric’s gun collection, but it was not the sort of thing his customer needed at all.

    The gunsmith would never know just how much that idle comment had caught his young client’s imagination. If he had... well, if he had, he would have learned a very interesting truth.

    How hot can you load a pistol?

    As with many things when magic is involved, that was best answered by another question.

    How hard are you willing to try?

    5.3.8 Repacking

    “Thanks, Mr. Ed!” Harry called from the steps of the RV, waving enthusiastically.

    In the end, Ed had settled on a custom-made pistol chambered for .45-70 Government as the best choice for his newest client, and they had hopped back in the truck. The round was powerful enough to make for a beastly handgun while still common enough to be readily available. It was a practical compromise.

    When they’d returned to the shop, he’d sat down with the boy to go over the particulars for an hour or so until the boy declared that he was happy with the proposed design, and that was that.

    “It was no trouble,” Ed waved off his thanks. “You’re paying in advance, after all. The piece will ship in sometime in early fall. I’ve got another commission to finish first, and those etchings are going to take time. I’ll send it through Hooktalon’s usual channels.”

    “Right! I’ll look forward to it!”

    With that, the door closed behind the kid, and Ed turned back to his shop. That old Spencer was still waiting on the bench, after all, and the client was expecting it at the end of the week.

    He stopped and turned back when he heard the RV’s door open once more.

    “Something wrong, kid?” he called out when the boy jumped out again.

    The boy waved him off. “Apparently the load in the cargo compartment wasn’t sitting right. I need to get it rearranged.”

    Ed shrugged. It seemed reasonable.

    When the boy opened an underslung cargo compartment on the Winnebago — one that Ed was absolutely certain was not standard — and revealed a massive collection of twisted scrap metal, Ed felt compelled to offer his assistance.

    “Need any help, kid... maybe some gloves, at least?”

    “Nah, I’ve got it.”

    After watching the boy pull out a hunk of twisted scrap metal larger than he was, handling it as easily as Ed could handle a loaf of bread, the gunsmith was inclined to take him at his word, so he turned and continued on back to the workshop. As he was about to close the door behind him, he heard the tearing shriek of tortured metal and turned back immediately only for his eyes to widen.

    In the boy’s place there now stood a great silvery dragon about twice as long as the motorhome. It seemed to have busied itself with wadding the scrap up into tight balls and then molding each into a compact brick of perhaps half its previous volume before loading them all back into the Winnebago.

    A few short minutes later, the great beast had finished its work, turned its intense emerald eyes to catch Ed’s own gaze, and waved cheerily as it suddenly melted back into the much smaller form that he had come to know as his newest client.

    Ed waved back automatically.

    This time, after the door closed behind him, the RV soon rumbled to life and rolled off to parts unknown.

    “Huh...” Ed mused, rubbing thoughtfully at his chin as he turned back to his workshop, the sound of the engine fading into the distance.

    “...guess that explains the dragon motif.”

    5.3.9 Shadowy lands

    While the gunsmith and his client were sitting down to talk details, another man was rolling up the door on a very different workshop set up in a small outbuilding a few dozen miles away.

    As the clatter of the metal door faded, Buck Forrest reached to the side to flip a switch and walked over to his gunrack as the fluorescent overheads gradually blinked on. After carefully returning the pair of rifles he had originally intended to practice with at the range — before that crazy English kid had stolen the show and distracted him — he put a steadying hand on the Colt at his waist to keep the heavy pistol from bumping into anything fragile and stepped deeper into the crowded but functional mess that was his shed-turned-workshop.

    Skirting the HAM radio rig he’d built as a teenager, Buck smiled a little at the memories it represented. Buck had maintained his HAM license, but the stationary radio hadn’t seen much use lately. Nowadays, he got most of his fix using the CB while on his occasional trucking route. To be honest, his youthful interest in radio was the main reason he’d gotten into trucking after the War... of course, after the nostalgic glitter had worn off, he’d stayed for the pay. Trucking could be a lucrative occupation, particularly long-haul trucking, but the schedule was murder on your social life. Buck had kept it up full time for nearly a decade before bowing out and using his previous experience as a mechanic in the Army motor pool to snag a position with more stable hours.

    Even so, Buck had kept his truck — the beautiful candy-apple-red Peterbilt 377 parked just outside the workshop — and still took the occasional long-haul route to supplement his finances. Freelance could pay quite well if you knew the right people, and Buck had the contact list to make it work, at least for irregular piece work. It wasn’t enough to support him on its own, but as a supplement to his mechanic’s salary, it did the job nicely. That was a good thing, because Buck’s most recent hobby had a bit of a price tag to go with it.

    Running extra phone lines to a house in the backwoods of rural Michigan was not exactly cheap, after all.

    Reaching the small makeshift computer desk in the back corner of the workshop, he slid the boot disk — an old 5.25” floppy — into the drive where it seated in place with a mechanical thunk. Then he turned on the thirdhand personal computer as he sat down. The case fan whirred to life, the disk drive spun up with its usual low hum only for the stepper motors that positioned the read head to kick in — filling the room with that knocking buzz that could only be properly described as “the sound of a floppy drive” — as the drive went about its business, status indicator lights began methodically blinking on the nest of scrounged parts covering most of the desk, and Buck sat back, thinking back on how he had gotten started with it all.

    It had been half a dozen years or so, not too long after he’d joined the gun club, that Ed had first brought one of his special customers by the range for one reason or another. Still new to the scene, Buck had been more than a little curious, and he’d asked around the other members. As it had turned out, polite and accepting as they might be, the club members were not all as terminally incurious as Ed seemed to be, and there had long been a great deal of polite speculation in the air. Most had eventually dropped the subject for one reason or another, but not Buck. Eventually, one thing had led to another, and Buck come across another group.

    The cobbled-together rig finished booting up, and the familiar command prompt appeared, glowing amber on the old monochrome screen next to the blinking underscore of an active cursor. As it did so, Buck worked the lever to pop out the boot disk with another mechanical thunk and replaced it with another, this one marked with a handwritten “BBS” on the bit of masking tape serving as a label. As the program disk slid home, he picked out the letters for the necessary command, key by key, and hit return. Orange text began scrolling quickly by as the bulletin board software initialized.

    As it had turned out, Ed’s guests were hardly the only odd things going on in the world — seemed the place was full of strange things that hid in dark corners — and neither was Buck the only one curious about them. It was a loose-knit group of like-minded individuals, spread far and wide and held together via a new communication system, barely a dozen years old. Bulletin Board Systems had been entirely new to Buck, for certain, and sating his burning curiosity had meant developing new skills and learning new ways.

    Nonetheless, he had to know, so develop and learn he had.

    A new prompt appeared on the screen, and Buck complied, popping out the disk marked “BBS” and popping in one marked “Board Data”. There was another brief commotion from the floppy drive, followed by some intermittent clicking as driver software initialized the pair of mismatched modems sitting beside the monitor and put them through their POST routines. Eventually the prompt was replaced with another, and Buck smiled as he glanced down at his wristwatch.

    The Shadowland BBS was open for business, right on schedule.

    As he waited for the first connection to dial in, Buck switched from sysop to his personal handle and began typing a reply to the most recent evidence thread to get the word out. After what he’d seen at the shooting range, he wasn’t going to take any chances.

    A couple of Brits on the lam in the States, one an escaped experimental subject — a successful one, no less! — from some secret government lab and the other a black-haired preteen supersoldier? The world had to know!

    Of course, by ‘the world’, Buck meant the other Shadowland users. He wasn’t anywhere near stupid enough to go to the general public. They were watching for that, and they had stepped in before. After all, Buck wasn’t the first Shadowland sysop… hell, he wasn’t even the tenth.

    He shook his head as he continued to carefully pick out his message to the world with fingers much better suited to a torque wrench than a keyboard. After today, Buck wouldn’t be too surprised if he would soon need a replacement. The scene at the range had been too blatant; he was sure it would attract their attention.

    No one knew who they were, but every time someone had gotten too public, they knew, and then they came, first for the one who went public, and then inevitably for the sysop. Whatever it was that they did, it left the victims alive and seemingly well yet bereft of any memory of what they’d learned of the shadows. A few of the board members had worked that out through face to face verification. It was just one of the safety measures that had been implemented to ensure the continuation of the Shadowland community.

    As he finished the message and confirmed the posting, updating the local copy of the board in the process, Buck sighed. All the old third and fourth-hand equipment had been his own attempt to reduce the likelihood of being traced by eliminating potential paper trails and the like. It was probably a vain attempt — no one knew how they traced people, but whatever it was seemed much quicker and more reliable than going through sales records could possibly account for — nonetheless, Buck had stuck to his guns... no matter how tempting it was to go out and buy a machine with at least an internal hard drive.

    All those damned manual disk switches were a real pain in the ass.

    To be honest though, Buck thought as he watched the slow blink of his command line cursor, waiting for any new activity, at the end of the day, he didn’t care about his own fate overmuch... not so long as he could contribute. Some days he felt he was supposed to have died back in that cursed jungle where so many of his buddies had gone to die while he stayed behind, comparatively safe in the mechanic pool. Compared to the sacrifices they had made, losing a bit of memory seemed a small risk, indeed... a small price to pay to make a difference, to contribute to something bigger than himself.

    As far as Buck Forrest was concerned, the Shadowland board fit the bill nicely, and it would continue long beyond him, no matter what they did.

    According to some of the oldest members, they had forced the board to restart from scratch at least three times in those first days, before the community had figured out how to protect the electronic record. Since those methods had been implemented, however, the Shadowland BBS had never lost more than a few hours’ worth of posts. A subset of users mirrored the main datafiles separately, and each of those had their own independent tree of other users who mirrored their own copies. The software logged neither names nor phone numbers, only anonymous handles, and all necessary contact information was distributed via voice call or face-to-face meeting. There was even a complex protocol for passing on sysop duties in the event that the current one was compromised.

    Buck had been picked according to that protocol after his predecessor — an accountant from Kentucky by the name of Bill Wheaton, whose name had been memorialized alongside all his predecessors in the ongoing “Sysop Memorial” message thread — had been caught and compromised, and Buck knew that his successor had already been picked. Of course, that was all he knew, according to that selfsame protocol.

    Buck didn’t know who his successor would be, nor did he know who had picked whoever it was. The veteran was okay with that; he knew all about operational security from his time in the Army. It was all aimed at preventing them from rolling up the entire network, and it would. As long as even one user remained uncaught, the archive would survive.

    And for Buck Forrest, as long as the Shadowlands continued on, he was okay with whatever came.

    Suddenly one of the modems clicked as it picked up for an incoming call. The familiar muted screech ensued as it negotiated speeds with the new caller, and then it fell silent as the connection was established. As the connection went live, Buck watched the text scroll by. By the handle he knew it was one of those first order mirrors, and as the user pulled a fresh update of the compressed database at a sedate 1200 baud, Buck tapped his fingers impatiently on the desk.

    When the transfer finally completed, Buck smiled in satisfaction. The message was out, and the data was safely away... another mission successful.

    Someday, years down the road, Buck was confident that someone would find a way around them, and then everyone would know the truth. Someday, even if he didn’t remember it anymore himself, the world would know Buck Forrest’s role as one of those brave men and women who had sacrificed to bring the conspiracies to light.

    For the first time since he had retired from the Army, Buck was a part of something greater than himself, and that was enough.

    And someday... someday the Shadowlands would be something great; he was sure of it.

    5.3.10 Hufflepuffs

    “Hermione Granger?” Susan Bones confirmed.

    “That’s right, Susan,” her aunt Amelia nodded, still dressed in her usual work clothes after arriving back at the Manor for the evening. “She’s been through a bad situation, and I think she could use a friend. Would you be willing to come visit her sometime this week?”

    “For Hermione? Of course! You couldn’t keep me away,” her niece declared fiercely. “It’d be the same for anyone in Hufflepuff. In fact, I need to floo Hannah, she’d never forgive me if I didn’t bring her in on this.”

    “I wasn’t sure you knew her,” Amelia explained.

    “I know Harry Potter,” Susan said with a shrug, “and if you know Harry, you know Hermione. She’s always there.”

    With that, the girl set off with a purposeful stride, heading for the manor’s floo connection and leaving her aunt to trail behind, quietly amused at her niece’s behavior. Just before she got to the fireplace, Susan stopped, seeming to realize something, and turned back to her aunt.

    “Aunty, what happened to her anyway?” the girl asked. “I just realized I ought to find out so I can explain to Hannah.”

    “She was kidnapped,” Amelia explained. “And you’ll have to find out the rest from her. It’s part of an open investigation, so I can’t discuss the details.”

    Susan gasped at the word ‘kidnapped’, her eyes open wide.

    “Does Harry know yet?” the girl hissed in an urgent whisper.

    Her aunt shook her head. “He is overseas at the moment.”

    “Oh, Merlin!” the now pale girl turned back to the fire, her hand darting up to the mantle for the pot of floo powder. “I need to call Hannah now!”

    5.3.11 ...the deadliest form of denial

    “Look, I understand that it wasn’t on your desk when you left last night,” the goblin practically yelled into the payphone handset to make himself heard over the road noise from the neighboring interstate. He moved the notebook and pen he had been using to take notes to one hand so he could hold the handset that had been wedged in the crook of his shoulder more closely with his now free hand. “What I want to know is why you didn’t tell me about that this morning!”

    He paused, closing his eyes against the glare of headlights as he listened carefully.

    “I get it, kid. I get it! You weren’t there; you didn’t know. No one is blaming you!” he said, hanging his head in frustration as he tried to get something useful out of the distraught young gob on the other end of the line. “It’s just that the message was marked urgent. Why did it get routed to your desk when you weren’t available? Shouldn’t it have gone to someone else?”

    He leaned heavily against the payphone, gently thumping his forehead against the blue enameled steel of the housing in frustration.

    “I’m not yelling at you!” he yelled. “It’s just really loud out here.”

    The goblin leaned back, staring into the sky as he listened to the response.

    “No, I’m not angry at you.”

    Sharp teeth clenched in a grimace.

    “I know I sound angry!” he ground out. “That’s because I am angry; I’m just not angry at you!”

    Another pause, and the goblin seemed to deflate.

    “Look, it’s getting late, and I have to try to figure this thing out,” he said, still yelling to be heard over the traffic, but more calmly now. “I’ll just talk to you tomorrow.”

    Another pause.

    “I know you probably won’t be assigned as my contact tomorrow,” he sighed. “I meant I’ll talk to the office tomorrow for my next check-in. Good night.”

    The goblin slammed the receiver back on the hook with a plastic clatter and stayed there slumped against the payphone for a long moment trying to make sense of it all. After a moment, he flipped open his little notebook and reviewed the message he had taken, particularly the intended recipient.

    “Shit.”

    Snapping the notebook closed, he stormed back to the sleeper van parked nearby and hopped up into the passenger seat. Popping the glove compartment, the goblin rifled through the messy collection of papers and other assorted debris within until he found what he was looking for. Retrieving the folded roadmap, he climbed into the rear compartment to get some space, slapped the dome light, and yanked the map open, almost tearing the fragile thing in the process. Slamming it down on the bed, he brushed it flat and set about trying to figure out how to salvage the Charlie Foxtrot that had just been dropped on him from on high.

    “Where are you?” the goblin mumbled as he traced the line of I-94 with a clawed finger. “I know you were heading for British Columbia, but that’s a big place.”

    He racked his brain, trying to dredge up any relevant details from his half-remembered conversation with the dark human the previous morning.

    “If only they’d sent the damned message earlier,” the goblin groused. “I could have handed it off in Pennsylvania and been done with it!”

    He slumped for a moment before lashing out to punch the back of the seat in irritation.

    “Damn it! I’ve got no idea where they are, only a vague idea of where they’re going, and no way to contact them,” the goblin snarled. “What do those bastards back in London expect me to bloody well do about this?”

    He fell silent for a moment as he pored over the map, searching for some faint hope before his eyes fell on the long, mostly horizontal line that marked the border between the non-magical nations of the United States and Canada.

    “Maybe the border crossing?” the gob ventured in a tentative murmur, tapping the map thoughtfully with one clawed fingernail.

    Politically, the nonmagical border meant nothing to the Confederacy; it might occupy roughly the same space as the two nonmagical nations, but they were completely separate entities. As a practical matter, however, the wizards coopted the nonmagical road systems for almost all travel, and those roads very much did respect that border. That meant warded and hidden magical bypasses to allow free travel of magicals. Bypasses meant construction, and construction meant money, so such bypasses were few and far between. Furthermore, the ones that had been built were always placed at little-used crossings to reduce the number of witnesses and avoid complications.

    “Pretty sure they were looking up north rather than around Vancouver; I’d have been able to offer more help if it had been that close. That would mean driving through...” he traced the path, “Regway on the most direct route. On the other hand, they’re new here and unfamiliar with the road system. Following only major interstates would take them on I-29 up to Winnipeg and then over west. The closest bypass there would be...” he looked closely at the map, “...Walhalla. Regway or Walhalla, then, but which?”

    Sharp teeth ground against one another in indecision. It all came down to one question: how far ahead were they planning their route? Would they carefully work out the most direct route, or would they realize the problem at the last minute and correct on the fly?

    The gob stared at the map for a long moment, his beady black eyes flickering back and forth.

    “Well, given how hasty their planning has been so far...”

    A claw tapped down decisively on the map, and the goblin leaned closer as he plotted out the route for the next day’s driving. He didn’t know how fast that Winnebago of theirs could move, so he’d have to get moving bright and early if he wanted to guarantee he got to the border first.

    Tomorrow was going to be a long, long day.

    5.3.12 Dinner and a movie

    Green eyes locked on the dome that blazed golden in the sky to the north. Topped with a statue that Harry thought he recognized from that nativity set he had been gifted two Christmases past, the entire thing, dome and statue alike, was covered in real gold. Illuminated from the left by the fiery light of the sunset and framed from behind by the slowly darkening sky to the north, it glittered madly.

    It was beautiful.

    Currently in his usual human form, the young dragon leaned companionably against his centaur damsel’s side as they stood quietly by the flagpole in the middle of the wide grassy field known as West Quad near the heart of the University campus and took in the sights.

    The group had arrived in South Bend early that afternoon. Snape had originally planned for them to make it all the way to the southern outskirts of Chicago in the first day, but it turned out he had underestimated the strain of dragging along the expanded cargo compartment that morning quite badly. Condensing the cargo after the stop at Mr. Ed’s workshop had helped a great deal, but by then the damage had already been done... for today at least. The rest of the group had needed food and rest, in copious amounts, so Madame Pomfrey had called a halt to their progress about halfway across Indiana. They had followed the signs for RV parking until they got to a place called White Field, which turned out to be on the northern edge of the University of Notre Dame campus.

    The humans in the group had been completely exhausted, unable to muster the will to do much more than eat and nap for the rest of the evening. On the other hand, the dragon and the centaur — whose reserves were functionally inexhaustible and too small for the spells to latch onto, respectively — were still full of vim and vigor, eager to go exploring this new and unfamiliar place. Harry had begged a notice-me-not charm for his damsel out of a groggy Albus Dumbledore, and the pair had gone exploring.

    It had been great!

    There were all the buildings to look at, and there were sculptures and murals everywhere, too... not as many as the Great Longhouse, to be sure, but there were still a bunch. The campus had tons of trees, more different kinds of them than the young dragon had ever seen before, and there were a couple lakes to check out, too. There was even a real coal-fired power plant right there on campus... with windows you could look in to see all the equipment! They’d walked right past it on the way in from where they’d parked.

    The only real disappointment of the afternoon had been the library, a great big thirteen-story behemoth that the visitor’s guide he’d picked up said had something like two million books in it. The young dragon had been practically salivating at the idea of looking through it, but it turned out you needed a university ID to get in, so that plan had been sunk.

    Instead, they’d ended up taking a half-hour jog across town — Suze could cover a lot of ground in that amount of time — to a movie theater that had been mentioned on a flyer in the library’s lobby. Harry had seen a bunch of billboards during the morning drive — big, eye-catching black and red things — advertising some new film about dinosaurs, and dinosaurs were cool, so he’d wanted to see it.

    Suze hadn’t liked it too much — something about spiders and bad memories — but Harry had enjoyed the experience, to the point that he had wondered aloud about whether he could find some way to replicate the whole DNA-in-amber thing as they left the theater. On the one hand, some of them looked like they could be great pets, and on the other, even if it turned out that they weren’t really pet material... well, there might be other uses for them. For instance, every single one had looked positively mouthwatering to the young dragon. By the end of the movie, Harry had been licking his lips whenever the tyrannosaurus appeared onscreen.

    Perhaps unsurprisingly, he and Suze had stopped for ice cream on the walk back.

    All that had culminated in this: standing next to his damsel and watching the iconic golden dome on the campus administration building reflect the blazing light of the setting sun.

    It was nice.

    As the sun finally fell below the horizon and the view of the dome became slightly less spectacular, the young dragon straightened his currently human shoulders and motioned to a building off to the left.

    “Okay Suze, I want to go back to the bookstore over there for a bit.”

    “Were there any books left after our last visit?” his centaur damsel asked, amused.

    “Nah,” Harry admitted shamelessly with a shrug and a shake of his head. “I picked up the ones I wanted now, and I had the rest shipped back home. I want to take another look at the paintings and the little sculptures and stuff. I’ve been a lot more interested in those since we went to the Great Longhouse, and I think I might want to buy a few of them. After that, we can go pick up some food to take back to the RV.”

    Suze brightened at the mention of food. It had been a long afternoon. “Very well, Harry.”

    With that, they ambled over, Suze sticking to the grass beside the paved walkway to sooth her aching feet with their unshod hooves. Half an hour later, they left the small yellow brick building, a dozen shopping bags hanging from Suze’s saddle and her hands full with another four besides as they trundled off to the northeast where the student center — and more importantly the burger joint within — awaited.

    It was a good way to end the day.
     
    Last edited: Dec 1, 2020 at 7:15 PM
    Fimconte, Voldis, Tyburn and 115 others like this.
  15. Shance

    Shance Know what you're doing yet?

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    I want to see Harry's reaction to Hermiony's situation! And Amelia's to the reason Harry did what he did to hermiony.
     
  16. naarn

    naarn Know what you're doing yet?

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    It's what, 1993 or so here, and the Shadowlands BBS is already up? That's a looooooong ways before the first Crash.
     
  17. Ayashi

    Ayashi Well worn.

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    Ed "I have all the chill" the gunsmith was pretty hilarious

    I wonder what is happening with Lucy right now ...
     
  18. init101

    init101 The Prime of Primes

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    Ok, so I really like this fic but there is something that I would like to know. Why is there so much stuff about cars and guns and floppy disks? It doesn't really add anything to the story and even if it is leading up to something, why do we need to know the specific makes and models of everything?
     
  19. stads

    stads Not too sore, are you?

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    thx for the chapter
    interesting that the shadowlands board exits in ya verse :D
    loving the goblin reaction to it
    will be fun to see where harry will get the news
     
  20. buffog

    buffog Getting sticky.

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    Whole Ed part was absolutely glorious.
     
  21. drvash

    drvash Your first time is always over so quickly, isn't it?

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    I love the idea of Harry’s passage through America leaving behind a trail of rumors, conspiracy theories, and urban legends.

    QUESTION:
    Did Buck’s post on the “child super-soldier” include Harry’s appearance or his British accent? It’ll be easier for rumors to form if people notice that they all involve a black-haired Caucasian tween with a British accent.

    We Americans are quick to notice accents and will often focus on the fact that someone “speaks funny”.

    From Ed’s POV, it’d be more in-character if your text went “Yeah, I figured”, the kid said IN A BRITISH ACCENT as he walked over.

    A lost RV is one thing, a lost RV of foreigners’ stands out a lot more.
     
  22. Barbaric_Bob

    Barbaric_Bob [Barbarus-Maximus]

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    Malfoy: you can't prove shit!
    Harry: I'm a dragon, since when do we care about the law?
    *begins to push malfoy against the dirt with his back before slowly moving him across it, spreading him across the floor of the wizenmagot like chunky penutbutter*

    At least i think he's going to spread a message about this instead of his usual eat it and be done with it approach
    Angering dragons isn't good for your health
     
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  23. Knightowl

    Knightowl Getting sticky.

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    Like how you keep Spacebattles own EdBecerra as the Gunsmith the Goblins know.
     
  24. Mantrazz Albert

    Mantrazz Albert Getting out there.

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    I'm wondering, why don't they get a mundane locomotive and hook it up to the trailer, harry and Suzy can stay in the trailer till it's time to sleep
     
  25. Alexander H Osterman

    Alexander H Osterman Getting out there.

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    Well, it sounds like it's in its earliest infancy, and more focused on events surrounding the statute of secrecy than what it becomes known for later.
     
  26. Mashadarof402

    Mashadarof402 Versed in the lewd.

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    No railway lines presumably.
     
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  27. Korfayron

    Korfayron Making the rounds.

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    I hope that Harry gets notified of the Hermione situation soon after the magic draining, just so we can see what a magically uber-charged dragon looks like when it is apocalyptically angry.
     
  28. JoelStew

    JoelStew Your first time is always over so quickly, isn't it?

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    I think it's just that Doghead13 likes writing about characters who really care about guns and cars and locomotives and so on. If Dunkelzahn removed all that it wouldn't really feel like the same story anymore.
     
  29. Mantrazz Albert

    Mantrazz Albert Getting out there.

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    Thanks but I meant a car, animal bog standard car
     
  30. Kitty S. Lillian

    Kitty S. Lillian Transhuman

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    It's its own manner of porn.

    Shadowrun often also gets into at least this level of detail, and one must remember that this is in fact a fusion work with Shadowrun, so there needs to be something to presage Jackpoint…and, when I look it up, https://shadowrun.fandom.com/wiki/Shadowland_BBS there it is, predecessor to Jackpoint.

    Specifying actual models of car and gun also allows readers to look up statistics, and infer uses and countermeasures therefrom. The specific precautions Shadowland BBSers take is to answer the question of "Why don't [the local obliviation-squad equivalent] manage to squash this?"
     
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