Ten Gentle Opportunities

 
Having been caught cheating a powerful magician out of ten nuggets of pure uncommitted magic in a rigged card game, Bartholomew Stypek needs a place to hide. As a spellbender he is at best a partial magician, who can read and change magic spells, but, absent a stash of magical force, cannot cast his own. With his anarchic familiar spirit Pickles and the ill-won kitty of magical Opportunities, Stypek throws himself on the mercy of the all-powerful Continuum and leaps blindly across universes, hoping to be dropped someplace far away, boring, and utterly without magic. As the Continuum chuckles in the background, Stypek lands in the break room of a small-town advertising agency in Upstate New York.

Because this new universe doesn't support spirits, Pickles manifests as the nearest local equivalent: AI software in the agency's heavily networked copier. She wanders into a nearby corporate network looking for allies, and discovers a virtual universe where AIs live in virtual bungalows and meet in virtual coffee shops for virtual doughnuts. Pickles is soon seducing Simple Simon, an earnest but naive AI tasked with controlling an immense robotic assembly line in the corporation's manufacturing plant. Stypek, meanwhile, is mistaken for a penniless Eastern European computer science intern, and is taken in by Carolyn Romero, the ad agency's copywriter. Expecting the usual suspicion and contempt, Stypek is humbled by the kindness he's shown, and one by one uses the stolen Opportunities to help his new friends with their problems, including Carolyn's failed marriage.

But Jrikk the magician isn't so easily thwarted. Soon Stypek, Pickles, Simple Simon, and their human and virtual friends must fight for their lives against the evil force sent to retrieve Stypek to the magician's dungeons.
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Jeff Duntemann


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