Dear readers, tonight with us is a smuggler from a world where magic and technology interact freely. She is here to tell us about living in the shadows of the underworld, about high-rise conspiracies, and about the times humans still ruled the world.

Tell us a little about where you grew up. What was it like there?

Crescent City’s been called paradise on Earth, as you well know, with Mage-grown skyscrapers that climb for miles, all connected by breathtaking, nature-encrusted skywalks. But that’s not exactly where I grew up. Throw yourself over the edge of any one of those buildings and eventually you’ll end up in Low-Town, a red stain on darkened streets, if you don’t smash into one of the countless sun-blotting skywalks first. Low-Town, a place of perpetual darkness, if not for the neon glow of a million signs, will slit your throat just to watch you bleed out. It’s a hard place to grow up, but I’d rather be forged in Low-Town than pampered in paradise with the rest of the sheep.   

Did you have any favourite toys as a child? Any cherished memories?

Favorite toy? Not so much. Cherished possession? Yeah, my retractable palm blade. You see, Black Leaves, one of the more ruthless gangs, get off by preying on helpless girls. They would often loiter outside the orphanage, waiting for one or two of us to head to the store. Their mutilated victims almost always ended up dead or wishing they were. I can’t tell you how many times that old piece of steel saved my life.

What do you do for a living?

Dealing in Magical Technologies (Tech) is one of the more lucrative businesses on the planet. However, as all Tech is required by order of the Administration to be licensed, and all licenses are traceable, it falls to me to find buyers willing to pay for the anonymity unlicensed Tech affords them. Does that make me a Tech smuggler? Sure. Could it get me killed? Sure. But they gotta catch me first.

What can you tell us about your latest adventure?

Breaking about six separate border laws, I bypassed security and portaled up to the world above for what was supposed to be an easy score. Have I mentioned how much I hate going topside? Well, I do—a lot. It rarely goes well, but the payoff is almost always worth it. Fleeing the authorities in Low-Town is a simple thing, given the intense overpopulation and cramped spaces, but up there, where the corporations create laws and machinations to subjugate the weak, the Aquilae have a much easier time of snuffing out crime and either arresting or executing criminals right there on the spot, especially some illegal Townie no one would miss.

A society contact from up there got word to me that a low-level engineer for Corporate Technologies (CorTex) found out that he was about to get the axe, and decided to be proactive by squirrelling away several pieces of high-end Tech before they could let him go. The plan was simple; meet the engineer, inspect the stolen Tech, offer him half of whatever he was hoping to get, secure the Tech, and get my happy-ass back to Low-Town. Well, like every other arrogant topsider, he screwed me over. An entire squadron of Aquilae were waiting when I got there. Overkill, if you ask me. Even one Aquilae is usually more than enough to contend with a Prime Mage, let alone some Townie smuggler like me. It’s a rare thing to catch me off guard, though, and so I unloaded everything I had on ‘em and was barely able to slip through a portal. The only reason I’m still alive at all was because I was wearing a Prime Infernal Ring. Watching half a dozen Administration enforcers turned into so much ash was almost worth all the Tech I had to use up just to save my own neck. To this day, I still don’t know who sold me out, but I never heard from that contact again. Is that what you meant by adventure? For me, it was just another day at the office.

What is like living in Low-Town?

Well, as I’ve said, it’s overpopulated, cramped, and filled with every kind of killer imaginable—but it’s home, and it’s a whole hell of a lot better than having to stomach rubbing elbows with the greasy, corporate cogs, who likely do nothing more than spend the bulk of each day complimenting each other’s ridiculously overpriced suits. The infinite skywalks connecting impossibly high scrapers have created a world of everlasting night, home to the countless Mages who are seen as the bottom feeders of society. Townies are either perceived as having magic too weak to be of any use to the corporations, or they’ve been cast down for one reason or another. Whatever the case may be, the Mages from above don’t give a shit about us, which is why if you live in Low-Town, you’d better learn to take care of yourself. Otherwise, you end up someone’s property or left for dead in some random alley. Plus, we got great bars.

Can you share a secret with us, which you’ve never told anyone else?

As you know, every Mage is born with the ability to access a single system of magic. For example, everyone knows I’m a Phase Mage, but I’m not really all that powerful with it. I can create phase pockets, micro-realms perfect for stashing illegal Tech, and, with enough concentration, I can even push and pull small objects out of phase, great for securing illegal Tech. But what I’m getting at is that all Mages, everyone in the entire world, can only access a single system of magic. Which means that I can’t splinter into multiple copies of myself, or create a fire tempest with the intensity to melt Builder steel.

It also means that if you’re a Shadow Mage, you might be able to coalesce into total darkness but you could never go completely invisible like a Spectral Mage. The only way you’d be able to pull that off is with Tech, which temporarily allows any Mage to access any magic programmed within. The more money you spend, the more impressive the Tech. Everyone knows that. Well, what if I told you that I could access three separate systems of magic—all without Tech? You’d call me insane, right? And you’d be right, because that is crazy. So, instead of printing this, which would undoubtedly alert the Ministry of Defense, leading to all sorts of shit I’d rather not have to deal with, how about you just forget we ever met, delete this entire interview, and know that after you leave here, my crew has already been instructed to tail you home. Once I’m certain you haven’t printed my story, I’ll call them off. Until then, you’d do well to forget we ever met.  

Nicholas Hoy is a teacher, father, husband, and full-time science fiction/fantasy geek. He is a lifelong adrenaline junkie and thrill seeker. His four years in the Air Force only added to his love for flying and adventure. Nick and his wife share their home in Alaska with their growing family and never-ending collection of books.

You can find Em 19 on the pages of Guardian Blood.

Join us on Friday to meet a man from a Middle-Eastern inspired fantasy world, fighting against the end of days. Please follow the site by email (bottom-right) to be notified when the next interview is posted.