Dreamer: A Winning Hand

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This is a 'Dreamer' side-story of 'GNE' in the Xanadu setting. See Xanadu (setting) for details of the universe as a whole. By Dreamer

Xanadu story universe

Dreamer: A Winning Hand? - Edited 31/Jul/10

Owen Johnson gave up. He had been trying to get this right for weeks. "Ace Dreamer" was an easy enough design. Just a re-done "Villains & Vigilantes" superhero role-playing character, with ideas stolen from the competing "Superworld" game system. But, no matter how he worked at it, he couldn't get the idea of the techno genie side-kick to gel.

He'd started, months ago, with ideas of an invisible, ghostly, computer, projecting a holographic self-image, as and when required. He thought it might be based on Keith Laumer's "The Great Time Machine Hoax". Then, he realised that a fantasy role-playing game he'd played at a convention, when he used to live back in England, was probably using something similar. When he chased him up, the GM had generously e-mailed him some design notes on his premier "non-material computer" NPC.

GNE was almost ideal for what he wanted. But, every time he tried to work out a side-kick version of GNE his creative muse baulked. GNE just wouldn't trim-down right. Every time he cut out unnecessary parts of the character he then thought it through, and found they were logically needed. Finally, he just gave up. No way to build her so he could get away with it. At least, not with any GM that Owen would wish to play under.

Perfectionism was one thing, but, the holiday that his therapist had suggested, nay instructed, he take had arrived. The second part was the Xanadu con, the largest he'd ever dared to attend, after a few weeks drifting around, working hard at taking it easy.

Owen knew something of his own faults. He tended to over-work. Anything he did he put maximum effort in. So far, he'd mostly managed to balance computing consultancy with natural breaks. But, that last long contract, where they'd asked him to put off taking a holiday, 'just for a few more weeks', again and again, for eighteen months. That had left him a lot of money in his savings accounts and (ethical) investments. But, what use was money if you didn't have your health?

His last relationship had crashed due to over-work. About two years ago. Yes, maybe they had started to drift apart, a bit, but, that was no reason for him to start ignoring her. When that short-term contract had finished, he'd called Jen, apologetic. But, they only met again, once, and, agreed that things just had finished. After that he wished he did drink, or had some other habit to distract him – late night on-line role-playing sessions only took you so far, as did trying to lose himself in reading fantasy or science fiction.

"Ace Dreamer" was easy. Some half-baked occult ideas about a serially re-incarnated wizard, starting back in Egyptian times. Throw in a superhero wizard costume, that he'd experimented with years ago in his flirt with live role-playing. Then, Dreams. A wizard who can turn anything dreamt of, while asleep, into a superhero power. Weeks were spent studying books on dreams, choosing those suitable to fit together into the wizard's Dream Pool. Then, he realised that a superhero really needed some characteristic powers, and built a few into the basic character – Deep Dreams. Only about eighty hours work in total.

Now, Owen was sitting in his Xanadu hotel room, studying his notes, as a break from walking around the con. He'd thought he could get away with his costume in November, but, Florida proved too much for him. Low blood pressure and bad reaction to hot weather didn't help. Maybe he should have incorporated some high tech cooling tricks he was sure some of today's selection of costumes must have needed, just to be survivable for more than a few minutes.

The notes blurred before his eyes. He'd read them so many times. His voice projection trick seemed to be well received earlier, and a few of the magical tricks he'd concealed in his sleeves and cloak. Trivial electronics and fishing-line stuff, but, it fitted his wizard persona. He had no delusions about winning any prizes, he was only here for his own satisfaction.

Even with his hooded cloak hanging on the back of the door, and without his fine leather boots, he was getting a headache from the heat. Still half an hour before the awards ceremony; that he didn't want to miss. That new Jack Chalker book he'd been saving. If he read it laying down on the bed the rest of his costume should be OK.


Owen's total absorption in his book was shaken, by a dimming of the lights. Annoyed he continued to read, but listened. “What was that?”, he murmured, thoughtfully, after a few seconds. “An earthquake? A power brown-out?”, and he raised himself up on one elbow, to listen better.

Looking around the room he caught a glimpse of his travelling alarm clock. “Oh no. I've missed the awards ceremony for the Masquerade. I guess there is no point keeping this costume on, now”. He got up, rather annoyed with himself. He could have set an alarm on his palmtop computer, but, hadn't thought it worth it.

Going into the en-suite toilet, he started to wash-off the make-up on his face. After a few attempts, he realised this wasn't working, and turned-on the vanity light to get a better look. His face didn't look quite right. He'd shaved this morning, and, even though his beard was pretty pathetic there should have been some sign. He was as smooth as if he'd just shaved. Turning his face in the light he noticed that the faint wrinkles, not bad for someone in his mid 40s, that the make-up was supposed to hide, weren't there. Strange...

Thinking about it, the heat wasn't bothering him any more. And, he felt... energised. Drugs? He hadn't drunk anything but bottled water, today, or eaten anything but his own food, being a bit paranoid about catering at cons. He thought carefully for a moment. No, he was pretty sure he wasn't asleep, his lucid dreaming training of a few years ago was pretty good at checking for that.

He didn't think he was having a break-down, and it was years since he had dabbled in the occult or that group offering psychic training. He'd never done drugs. Still, there was no one around, so, there was likely no harm in checking...

Taking his costume off, he dressed in exercise clothes of plain t-shirt and loose leggings. Then, sat in a full lotus-posture on the bed. "It took me years of yoga to be able to do this. Glad I keep practiced." Then, he closed his eyes, thought through which meditation technique to use, and completely relaxed himself.

After a few minutes meditation he was happy that he was calm again. Fumbling, trying various approaches of relaxed concentration, and focused visualisation, he willed himself to rise. Almost immediately he felt something happen, and the shock was enough to shake his concentration, and the inches fall to the bed snapped his eyes open.

"Why now, after all these years? I'd basically given up", he was careful not to say aloud. Rising from the bed he stepped out of line of the door lens, and stripped naked. No visible body or under-arm hair. Reaching out, his traveling mirror flew from his wash-bag to his hand. He nodded. No visible ear or nostril hair. No scars. Anywhere. No male pattern baldness. He looked, maybe, ten years younger.

If he didn't know better, he'd think he'd just become Owen Johnson, the secret identity of Ace Dreamer...

Dreamer, you know you are a dreamer Well can you put your hands in your head, oh no... Oh Yes!

This side-story is the effective origin for GNE, and is followed by Secret Identity.