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New Title 32

  Back Cover

  Urban Fantasy by Bryan Fields

  Las Vegas. City of sin, neon, and epic bad decisions. David Fraser and his fiancée, the Dragoness Rose Drake, are in Vegas for the BuzzCon gaming convention, seeking an investor for the online game they are developing. It’s a long shot, but even in Las Vegas, long shots occasionally pay off.

  The warrior god Crom has other plans. A centuries-old religious war between the Dark Elves of a distant world threatens to spill over onto Earth. Crom’s followers need an artifact capable of killing the demoness known as the Bloodmaiden before she can become a full-fledged goddess and establish her worship on Earth. It’s a quest worthy of a Hero. A Hero like…David.

  To succeed, David will need all the strength, resourcefulness, and luck he can muster. Fortunately, he has Rose to call on, and she has a way of making her own luck. Anyone who tries to stop them will find out what happens when the dice come up Dragons, the hard way.

  Dragon’s Luck© 2015 by Bryan Fields

  All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.

  The characters and events portrayed in this book are fictitious. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, or events, is coincidental and not intended by the author.

  MuseItUp Publishing

  14878 James, Pierrefonds, Quebec, Canada, H9H 1P5

  Cover Art © 2015 by Celairen

  Edited by Christine I Speakman

  Copy edited by Nancy Canu

  Layout and Book Production by Lea Schizas

  eBook ISBN: 978-1-77127-733-4

  First eBook Edition *July 2015


  The Elder Eddas of Saemund Sigfusson; and the Younger Eddas of Snorre Sturleson

  Translated by Benjamin Thorpe and L.A. Blackwell


  The Dragonbound Chronicles

  Life with a Fire-Breathing Girlfriend

  The Land Beyond All Dreams

  Dragon’s Luck


  MuseItUp Publishing

  Chapter One

  Shall We Play a Game?

  Want to know the secret to having a solid million dollars after only a year in the gaming industry?

  Start with ten million and don't spend more than eight and a half. If you're lucky, you might even have a product to show for it.

  I wasn’t one of the lucky ones.

  I sat at the head of the table in Flatirons, our main conference room, watching a bald eagle stalking through the skies above the open space beyond our parking lot.

  Hey, big guy—If I chain Mitch to a rock out there, would you be kind enough to eat his liver?

  The eagle turned and flapped away. Just as well. Mitch’s liver was probably poisonous. I shifted my chair so I could look north.

  Our building stands on the south side of the Interlocken Technology Park between Broomfield and Louisville, giving a great view of the hustle and bustle of life around the mall and along the Denver-Boulder turnpike. All those other buildings and all those other companies were full of bright, excited people creating brilliant new things. They could get away with giving conference rooms aspirational names.

  I looked back at the whiteboards running along the walls and suppressed an urge to take Mitch’s head off with a two-handed sword.

  That’s…not as unlikely as it sounds.

  On the good side, that would be a great reason to rename the room. How about…Tombstone? Never mind. I can’t even afford a new name plate for the door.

  My name is David, and I’m a careless spender. A year and a half ago, I sold my former employer a bundle of medicines I picked up a hundred and fifty years in the future on an alternate Earth. The sale netted me a good ten million after taxes. I would have been set for life if I had listened to my fiancée. She’s a Dragon, and money management is one of those things Dragons excel at. I didn’t listen. I bought a game studio.

  I’ve been playing games all my life. Video games, pen and paper, board games, live action. I’m an experienced gamer, but making games is vastly different from playing them, and I don’t have that skill set. I had expected to have a multi-player online fantasy role-playing game called The Living Land ready for closed beta testing. Instead, I had lots of lovely art assets and some half-finished code.

  The only person happy with the game’s progress was Mitch Campbell, the VP of Product Development. The previous owner sold me on Mitch’s expertise as a game designer, so I extended his contract and entrusted the game to him.

  Since I didn’t know enough to know when something was wrong, it took me a year to discover the reports he’d been giving me were not accurate. Somehow, every one of the team leads had managed to fool him with doctored productivity numbers. That’s why he and I were on a conference call with Wayne, our art team lead, checking on the status of the team’s deliverables. So far, the numbers Wayne was reporting were as bad as those from all the other teams.

  While Mitch wrote Wayne’s numbers on the white board, I said, “Wayne, eighty percent of the assets your team checked in are grossly over the polygon budget. We talked about this six weeks ago. Did you forget, or just decide to ignore me?”

  Wayne stammered a bit before managing to choke out, “Well, I recall the request, but Mitch felt there was no need to interfere with the team’s creative process.”

  “I see. Mitch, Wayne is throwing you under the bus here. He seems to feel you have the authority to countermand my directions. Any comments?” I leaned back in my chair and smiled at Mitch.

  The bastard shook his head and tried to look innocent. “I didn’t countermand anything. I just didn’t want the work to go to waste. I asked Wayne to fix the poly count and the bounding boxes after the buildings were textured so we could preserve the detail and shadow mapping. I never meant he shouldn’t fix them.”

  I stood up and pointed to the numbers. “And just like that, you managed to waste six weeks and thousands of dollars. You caused this mess, you get to fix it. I want an action plan by the end of the day, Mitch. Wayne, every over-budget model checked in over the past three months is going to be rejected and assigned back to the artist. The artists will have two weeks to fix as many assets as possible. The ones who don’t make the grade get cut.”

  Wayne gasped and sputtered into the phone. “Wait! What do… How…You can’t do that!”

  I snorted. “I can and will. Let me be clear. Your ass is on the line, too. You are going to correct your own work, just like everyone else. And if anyone says anything out of line on social media, I’m drawing a pentagram on the floor and sending a host of demonic lawyers after them. Do you have any questions, or is any part of what I’ve said unclear?”

  Wayne took a deep breath. “Dude, this isn’t necessary.”

  Mitch said, “David, come on. This—”

  If Mitch had been in range, I would have stomped on his dirty stinking bare feet. The ass clown refused to wear shoes unless there was snow on the ground. Goddess knows what plagues he was incubating down there. Instead, I said, “Shut up, Mitch. Wayne. Do you understand me? Yes. Or. No.”

  Wayne didn’t answer for almost a minute, but I could hear him breathing. I let him sweat. Finally, he said, “I understand. I’ll do my best to meet the deadline.”

  I said, “I’m glad to hear that. I hold great hopes for your success. Please keep me informed of your progress.”

  He sighed. “Yeah. If there’s nothing else, I’ve got a lot o
f work to do.”

  We hung up. I looked at Mitch and said, “I have a meeting in five minutes. I suggest you start figuring out how to get all the teams back on schedule.” I started to walk past him and out the door.

  He grabbed my shoulder. “David, what the hell? Yeah, we’re behind schedule, but going nuclear on the staff and threatening to sue people for posting rants is bullshit. Get your shit together, asshole!”

  I kept my fists at my sides and gave his hand a pointed look. His language wasn’t the issue; in truth, the entire office tends to use F-bombs as punctuation. I just didn’t want him touching me. It made me feel unclean.

  He got the message and let go of my shoulder. “I’m sorry. I got carried away. I shouldn’t have done that.”

  “You’re right. Unfortunately, it didn’t rise to the level of a termination offense. You can expect a written warning. In fact, I think it’s your second one of the day. Now, pull your head out of your ass and get to work.” I pushed past him and stalked off down the hall.

  I took a moment in the bathroom to regain my composure. No matter how justified my anger at Mitch’s sabotage, walking in to a meeting pissed off wasn’t a good first impression. I took a deep breath and tried to flush the anger out of my system. I wasn’t an angry person before I bought the company. I’d never behaved this way managing my old database team. This job was changing me, and I didn’t like the person I was turning into.

  I wanted a glass of whiskey. I kept several bottles in my office. It didn’t solve any issues; it just made me not care about them. I settled for washing my face and checking my reflection for burst blood vessels in the eyes. My reflection smiled back and said, “Enhance your calm, David Fraser.”

  He always was a smartass. I turned the light out and left him alone in the dark.

  Nadia, the newest member of the game client programming team, was leaving a note when I got to my office. She had that pale, porcelain skin Goth kids weep for, so pale it made her sky-blue eyes look navy. Black clothes, black boots, black leather belt, and hair as green as a pureed Leprechaun. At least it was this week.

  Without looking up, she said, “Your ten o’clock is waiting in the lobby. When you’re finished with her, I’d appreciate ten minutes. I asked Pete to bring you a suggestion, but he refused.” She finished writing and replaced the pen. “I feel it’s in the best interests of the company to come to you directly.”

  I scowled. “Pete is just one more section of that whole human centipede Mitch dragged in behind him. Hiring you is the one thing he’s done right here. Send me a meeting invite when you get back to your desk.”

  “I already did.” She handed me the paper she was writing on. “This is about a pair of shoes Rose would love. You should get them for her.”

  “Rose never comes into the office unless she has to,” I said. “When did you get a chance to meet her?”

  Nadia smiled and tapped her finger on the note. “We haven’t. I just read her blog.”

  “You actually understand what she’s talking about?” I winced inside the moment I said it. I waved my hands, signaling for a time-out. “Wait, wait, I didn’t mean it like that. I’ve tried to read it and at best I get half of what she’s talking about. If you do get it, I’m jealous.”

  Rose’s blog was a financial advice column, ranging from investment and finance basics to analyzing the impact of international events. It’s not a job, because Dragons are above working for a living. It’s chatting with friends about her favorite subject while she’s lounging naked on our deck soaking up the sun.

  Nadia smiled again and handed me the note. “Don’t worry about it. As I said, these shoes are just awesome and I thought she’d like them. They look like they’re made of gold nuggets and have spikes coming out of them. I thought they’d go with her car.”

  I had to laugh. Rose bought a 1971 Corvette Stingray with a 454 big-block engine at a drug seizure auction last year. The previous owner had layered the body with 22-karat gold and added gold-plated rims and side pipes, a new all-leather interior, and hand-carved rosewood trim. Rose named it Hoardelicious. The shoes sounded like they’d be a match for it. “You’re right, she would love them. Thank you.”

  I tucked the note in my pocket and we parted ways at the lobby. Nadia’s code was solid, and she was faster than a cartoon roadrunner on meth. I wish I had ten more programmers like her; I could fire the other thirty and we’d have a fighting chance to deliver a product.

  I paused around the corner from the lobby and took a deep breath, focusing on feeling calm and outgoing. After four more deep breaths, I decided calm would have to do. I went around the corner and smiled. “Ms. Rolling Thunder, my apologies for keeping you waiting. I’m David Fraser.”

  Geneva Rolling Thunder lived up to her last name. Native American, mid to late forties, hair shoulder-length and textbook professional. Custom-tailored designer pantsuit that had to cost a good five figures. Attractive, but eyes of iron and an it’s-just-business smile that never went beyond her lips. What I hadn’t expected was the vibe she gave off. The last person I’d met who felt the same way had been a Nine-Tailed Kitsune house assassin. It made me wonder what duties were listed in her job description.

  She stood up and shook my hand. “Don’t worry about it. Thank you for meeting with me, and please call me Geneva.” Her grip was iron, too.

  “My pleasure. This way, please.” I stepped back and gestured down the hall. When she reached for her purse, her jacket opened for a moment, giving me a glimpse of a black strap running over the top of her shoulder. I pulled our lockbox out from behind the front desk and opened it. “We keep this for our petty cash. Your firearm should be quite safe here.”

  This time Geneva’s smile was genuine. She drew a Glock out of her shoulder holster and placed it in the lockbox with careful, deliberate movements. “Keen observation, Mister Fraser. Would you like to see if I’m carrying anything else?”

  I shook my head. “That would be inhospitable of me. Would you like something to drink? We have some excellent coffee, water, soft drinks, fruit juices, and Southern-style sweet tea.”

  “Coffee, please. Black, lots of sugar.”

  April, our receptionist, tucked the lockbox away and headed to the break room while Geneva and I walked to my office. We settled at the side table, giving us a great view of the rest of Interlocken.

  “Did you have any difficulty finding the office?” I figured that would be a relatively harmless opening line.

  “Not at all,” she said. “You’re only a few miles from the airport, and my driver is familiar with the area. Why do you have a photo of a cat wearing a cowboy hat on your wall?”

  “Because there was no room for a velvet unicorn poster.” I paused while April delivered our coffees. After she left the room, I added, “Thirteen was a houseguest of ours for a time. He was an interesting fellow, but he didn’t stay long. He moved on about two years ago.”

  Geneva sipped her coffee. “He’s holding a television remote. Are you accustomed to cats with thumbs?”

  “Most people miss that. He had a taste for documentaries and Japanese game shows.” I had another drink of coffee and set my cup down. “I think we’ve covered the pleasant social banter portion of today’s events. How can we help you?”

  “It’s more that we’re well-positioned to assist each other, David.” She pulled a folder out of her satchel and opened it to an illustration I was all too familiar with. “My employer requested I come speak to you on behalf of Llewellyn Industries regarding two matters—the fusion battery design you patented, and a new game project.”

  I sighed. “My apologies, but I’ve already discussed the battery with Josephine Llewellyn herself. I intend to retain control over the technology. The licensing profits over the long term will be far greater than any reasonable sum I could get by selling the plans.”

  “That’s where you’re wrong.” Geneva flipped to the next page and pointed out several enlarged lines of text from the patent diagram.
The lawyer who assisted you with the patent process did you no favors. None of these items are known to current technology. You need to invent them and create a manufacturing process for each. You should have schematics and production information for each of them, and they all need to be patented. LI can help you with that process.”

  “How so?”

  “Sell the patent and all of the actual tech materials in your possession. They’ll do the research, develop the prototypes, and cut you in on a portion of the net profits. I can also guarantee an ethics clause stipulating LI will never develop this technology into a weapon.” Geneva took another drink of her coffee. “Not many companies will be so generous with you, and even fewer will do it without demanding to know how you travelled to the time and-or alternate dimension these plans came from.”

  Not unexpected, but still surprising. I hadn’t expected anyone to give the time-slash-plane travel scenario any serious consideration; in fact, most companies I’d spoken with thought the fusion battery was a marketing gimmick of some kind. I decided to stick with that story. For now, anyway.

  I said, “I’m afraid you’ve been responding to a marketing ploy started for a game we had to abandon…”

  “Don’t bullshit me. I am not a fool. The device is real. You’ve encountered it before, most likely powering a large directed-energy weapon. You’re not the kind of person who would ever want to manufacture weapons, but you could see an infinite number of peaceful applications for the amount of power these things can produce. You might even attempt to develop full-scale reactors running on this principle.”

  Geneva flipped to the next page in her folder. It had a familiar set of numbers on it. She pushed it toward me and said, “We’ve been monitoring your financial filings. Miss Drake has done wonders since she took over as CFO, but Curious Diversions is bleeding cash and has no product. You have ninety days until the opening of BuzzCon, where you are expected to premier a playable demo of Living Land. You have around one hundred and twenty days of operating capital left at current staffing levels. You desperately need an infusion of cash and enough time to replace most of your current staff. No, I haven’t stolen your bank statements or hacked your network. It’s just basic business management and a calendar.”

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