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Machine Gun Fairies

Blame karnythia for this one, by tagging people with "None of their bed time stories prepared them for fairies wielding machine guns and an evil witch out to save the world."

Machine Gun Fairies

(this is actually a centuries prequel to Diaspora)

The identification and harnessing of actual magic and magical weaponry changed warfare. It also changed humanity, especially when some bright boy decided to combine a supervirus with a magical mutagen/terratogen, released the damned thing, and it mutated itself so that it was *airborne*. Carried by the trade winds, it was slowly changing the world. People were shrinking, growing wings, changing shape, or just plain dying - if they were lucky.

The military-industrial complex was quick to adapt. They even made crew-served machine guns for the "fairies", as the smallest of the changed were now called. By minimizing the amount of actual iron in them, firearms of all sorts could actually be carried and fired by the changed, with only minimal fatigue.

Still, for your average civilian, none of their bed time stories prepared them for fairies wielding machine guns and an evil witch out to save the world. For the press, as usual, made out all magical practitioners who weren't government sanctioned and licensed to be "evil". It didn't matter that it had been their religion for decades or not. If they didn't work for Uncle Sam (in the US) they were "Evil™".

Such was the position of Rowen Westfall. Once a quiet, ordinary, eclectic pagan and executive secretary going about her daily business, she now was on the run. Someone had caught her on MagicScan™ incanting for a parking spot downtown, and she nearly didn't get out of the building before they nabbed her. Fortunately, the receptionist owed her a favor, and alerted her to scram before the government goons managed to browbeat HR into letting them into the cubicles. Bad enough that she'd apparently caught the Change Virus - she'd noticed the beginnings of points on her ears, and her cast iron skillet had zapped her the other night. At least she hadn't gotten the debilitating form of it... yet.

She'd had to ditch her car - they put a watch on it. She have to break in to the tow yard later if she could. Her apartment was just as off limits - they had someone sitting in it. So she had to turn street bum. She also got very angry.

Her bike and backpacking gear was stashed in a friends garage, since her dinky, post-recession apartment had no room for it. Not wanting to get him in trouble, she broke in at night and "stole" it. "I guess I'm really 'evil' now - B&E, for starters." she thought to herself.

The bike had been a gift from a former lover who was into esoteric materials. None of it was steel or iron. Carbon composites, fiberglass, aluminum, etc, but no iron. "Charlie had a thing about iron" Rowen mused "I wonder what he knew. Maybe he was a precog."

Out of curiousity she cycled by her apartment a couple days later, at night. The "house sitter" was gone, but she was sure they had alarms on the door. So she went in through the bedroom window. Her witch kit was there anyway.

Needless to say, the place had been tossed. It was a disaster. Her altar was wrecked, statuary smashed, books shredded, necklaces unstrung (beads everywhere) and even her ritual robes had been ripped up. It was like they thought she was unable to work without her tools. "Idiots." she muttered "A witch is more than her tools." Ironically, her witch kit, in it's plain, battered briefcase, was untouched, stuffed under her bed. She grabbed it, a few clothes from the mess, and headed for the kitchen.

----

When she hit the kitchen she was even more appalled. "Vandals and Visigoths, what barbarians." she growled. Every breakable was broken, and every perishable food item was spilled on the floor and rotting. "So much for my deposit." They hadn't touched the spice cabinet, oddly enough - almost as if they hadn't even seen it. She quickly raked the contents into one of her reusable shopping bags, growing certain that she was overstaying her available time.

It finally dawned on Rowan that she hadn't turned on a single light. The only lights were the night lights that she had for years to keep her from tripping over stuff in the dark. Yet it was bright as day to her.

Rowan glanced in her bathroom mirror, and nearly dropped everything she was carrying. The face that stared back was now fully Changed, and elven. "Great, hunted, elven witch, in a world of steel." she thought as she shook herself and made her way out the bedroom window, snagging a pair of gloves that she'd missed on the first pass.

She dropped into the bushes below the window just as what looked like an ogre in military uniform followed by a squad of disgruntled looking fairies with a couple plastic machine guns disgorged from a troop carrier in from of the building. "Shit, too long." Rowan cursed "Now is when I wish I could just be elsewhere..."

Her bike was parked around the block. Fortunately, there was a shopping cart ten feet away. One of the old metal ones - not ideal, but if it made her sick, they couldn't spot her either. Rowan snuck up to it, quietly arranged her stuff, threw on several coats with her most battered blanket on top. Then she staggered away, leaning on it, muttering 'drunkenly' that "There weren't no fuckin' machine guns ina fuckin' fairy talesh. Nex' ting you know the cops gonna have two heads. World's crazy, but I should be locked up ina nuthouse. Fuck'em..."

This was actually a fairly common sight in that neighborhood, right down to the drunken mutterings. The steel of the shopping cart sapped her strength, made her stagger quite a bit real, as she all but dragged herself to where her bike was. She was glad for the gloves, because she suspected that the raw metal would probably burn her now. Not that she could go to a hospital or a doctor anyway.

Even if Rowan hadn't been on the run, her health insurance had a clause that excluded coverage for anyone who caught the Change virus as it was a bioweapon. Most did, to screams of outrage across the nation. Plus, most hospitals and clinics used stainless steel everything. Society was falling apart, in a lot of ways.

When she reached her bike, Rowan shifted her stuff to the pack she brought, and slowly, painfully rode to the bridge she'd been staying under. It was still too exposed, but it would have to wait until she recovered from tonight's escapades to move to a better location. She activated her passive wards in the concrete, and passed out.

---

The next morning Rowan closed up her camp, and fashioned saddlebags for the bike out of some scraps of leather that she had though was one of her favorite jackets. She was very glad that she found a leather repair kit in one of the pockets, although the irony made her want to cry. When she looked over her haul ther were a lot of odd coincidences like that. Yet everything, when she felt it, was "hers" not someone else's, so it wasn't like it was planted to trace her. Very weird. Another odd item was the ceramic knife set bundled in the pocket of her raincoat.

"I can't be the only one." Rowan sighed. She actually knew she wasn't - there were rumors in the community of people 'disappearing' suddenly, either before or after coming down with the change virus. The major Pagan conferences and gatherings were being canceled left and right, and the mailing lists were reporting that some shops associated with them had mysterious fires. Then the mailing lists went silent, with the occasional posting of "XXX died of the Change." She might be one, unless she tried to log on from the library.

The brightest thing she had done when fleeing from her job is grab her messenger bag, with her netbook in it. Rowan was becoming very adept at "war-driving" and looking for open hotspots and plug in points. It was actually astounding how many people had wireless access with no security, and outdoor power in a publicly accessible place.

Another little thing that was odd is that she was now noticing little pentacles in the damnedest places - a coffee shop, a minimart, a dentist's office. Little as in less than a centimeter across. Yet they were like tiny beacons to Rowan, and soon she noticed that they even had shades and... meanings? associated with them.

Money was a problem, and she was soon foraging for food. She ended up moving farther into the hills above the city, squatting on public land in an old mine shaft, and only riding down to get news, network, and try to get a little money. Having learned the hard way about metal shopping carts, Rowan appropriated, and then hid, a plastic cart for her "bag lady" guise.

With the Change virus and the economic catastrophe that was resulting as the infrastructure and fabric of society fell apart, there were more and more people crawling into a bottle, or otherwise being forced out of their jobs and homes. Let's face it, when your top sales guy turns into an ogre (or troll, as some are calling them), most staid and conservative companies will still drop him like a hot rock, regardless of what it does to him or his family.

The bigger problem was that a good seven percent of the population was either changed or dead from the virus, and the rate seemed to be increasing. The worst case scenario predicted that everyone would have caught it within ten years. It didn't care what your original "race" was, it seemed almost random what you turned into - if you survived it - according to the news. Rowan actually was starting to question the randomness, though.

The few people from the Pagan community that Rowan encountered had all turned elven. It didn't matter the tradition, or the ethnic background, but if they previously practiced magic, they tended to be elves. A few she had heard had turned troll, but they tended to be a bit unpleasant and pushy to begin with. It wasa almost as if the bio-magical virus converted based on magical nature and maybe core personality. But the "authorities" said, when questioned, that that was "poppycock" and that it was random. "How do you know a government spokesman is lying?" Rowan mused, "his lips are moving."

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