As DaVic and KarJa walked out of the cubicle, JaPok approached them, almost at a run.
“Your father told me about you accompanying the consultant,” he said to KarJa, but the look he shot to DaVic was one which said, “What consultant?”
DaVic considered how he should handle JaPok, but KarJa did not give him a chance to respond. She looked around quickly, probably to make sure that nobody else was in earshot, and said, “Relax, I know there is no consultant.”
“Oh?” said JaPok, apparently at a loss as to how to respond to this.
“But … my father believes that there is a consultant and that you are doing excellent work in the Guild. You want him to continue believing that, right?” continued KarJa.
“Err … yes?”
“Yes. And he will continue to think that as long as I get to go about my business with your friend DaVic here.”
“Your business?” JaPok seemed to be at a loss.
“None of yours, that’s all you need to know.”
“Ah, yes. Of course,” said JaPok. He hesitated, “Before you go though, your father suggested that you visit the Hex Doctor.”
“He was very firm about it. He said that you need the evil eye warded off if you’re starting something new.”
DaVic listened to the exchange in amusement. Some members of the Guild, especially those in the higher echelons, were very big on Hex Doctors. They — the Hex Doctors, not the Guild members — had appeared soon after the arrival of the aliens. The theory was that they were a byproduct of the changes in human culture due to alien influence and the technological advances they brought.
The Hex Doctors claimed that there were cyber-viruses and other nasty digital beings who could affect your daily life in invisible ways. Did your computer crash? It probably was an evil hex put upon you by your neighbour to mess up your digital life and business! And of course, the Hex Doctors had a cure … for a fee.
Some Hex Doctors claimed to have even greater power than to simply ward off the evil eye or to make your luck change. They claimed that they could affect the outcome of elections, for example. Or to give you power over others.
DaVic knew that KarJa’s grandfather, MaLim, had been a great believer in the Hex Doctors. He’d even carried enchanted super-charged digital charms that were supposed to help him make friends and influence people. He was supposed to be unbeatable in any election.
Unfortunately for the Hex Doctors, MaLim had lost the last election for Guild chairmanship. You would have thought that MaLim would have finally seen the light and kicked out the Hex Doctors at that point. But you would have been wrong — the Hex Doctors had a response as to why they failed.
Their response? They claimed that the other side had used even more powerful hexes to overcome their own charms. They announced that they would go on a holy pilgrimage which would charge their hex power batteries and that they’d return even more powerful than before to help MaLim win the next election.
It’s said that MaLim was still waiting for them to come back … But then again, given what he knew of MaLim, DaVic wondered if the Hex Doctors were perhaps atoning for their sins in some other way …
KarJa in the meantime had agreed, after some back and forth with JaPok, to the visit to the Hex Doctor. Apparently a Guild member was supposed to accompany them, as per NaPosy’s orders, to make sure that KarJa did visit the Hex Doctor.
They set out of the Guild offices, again by a side door, and headed across the square, following the Guild member, whose name was JoFer. Unlike most Guild members who tended to throw their weight around, JoFer appeared to be a decent enough fellow. Plus, he didn’t have enough weight to throw around since he was young and slim, possibly just out of his apprenticeship.
He had a shock of unruly hair which kept falling over his eyes and obstructing his vision. He kept pushing his hair out of the way as he led them across the square to a rather unremarkable building. JoFer rang the bell, waited only till there was a reply and the door was opened. He turned and made his way back to the Guild offices without a word to either of them.
The person who opened the door was an older woman. She was dressed tastefully but with restraint. Her head was covered in a multi-coloured shawl but she was no babushka, this one. She carried herself erect as if a steel rod passed through her spine.
“Oh, hello KarJa. How lovely to see you! Your father did mention that you might be dropping by today.”
KarJa scowled but did not say anything as the woman led the two of them into what DaVic assumed was her office.
It was a room which looked as if a shrine and a digital play room had been jammed together violently. The walls were covered in digital picture frames and there was computer paraphernalia strewn around, on and under every piece of furniture. The picture frames showed images of bearded men and strict-faced women who seemed to be toiling away at computers. “Maybe these are people who were famous computer engineers from the past?” DaVic wondered.
“And you must be the consultant that NaPosy mentioned?” asked the woman, staring piercingly at DaVic.
“Umm … yes. My name’s DaVic.”
“Pleased to meetcha, DaVic. I’m WisKa,” she said, waving them to a couple of chairs in front of her desk.
“Yes, yes. Can we hurry up and get this over with?” interrupted KarJa.
“Your father wanted me to do a complete hex shield for you, to ward off electronic evil and to protect you from the jealous gaze of people …”
“Sure, sure, do your thing,” replied KarJa, clearly eager to be away.
“But … I feel the presence of something else here. I get the feeling that there’s danger surrounding your friend. I have to look into it.”
“Oh, come on! No need to drag him into your mumbo-jumbo! Look I know that pappy and my Dad really believe in all your mystical stuff …”
“It’s not mysticism. It’s just technology. One of the ancient sages has said that any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. And that’s what the work I do looks like to most people …”
“Sure, sure, whatever you say! But can we hurry it up?”
“Just let me get a few things together and we should be done in a jiffy,” replied WisKa while she moved around the room collecting various items.
DaVic started worrying. He’d not had much to do with Hex Doctors before, but he’d always thought of them as charlatans. People who preyed on the gullible and parted them from their credits. But the feel of the room and the woman who inhabited it didn’t exactly scream fraud.
Was she perhaps an advanced technology user as she hinted? And if yes, was she perhaps able to identify who he was or that RaBlu was trying to capture him? The more he thought about it, the more uneasy DaVic became. He was about to suggest to KarJa that perhaps he should wait outside while she dealt with WisKa when the woman returned to the desk with several gadgets and what looked like an advanced POD.
She pointed the POD at DaVic, tapped something on the screen, then pointed the POD at a screen on her desk, looked at something, nodded, did some more tapping and then turned around to them.
“Yes, it’s as I suspected, you seem to be in quite a bit of trouble,” she said to DaVic.
“Hmm .. Hmm.. Yes, you are! Apparently you have people who are after you.”
“What kind of people?”
“The kind of people that you don’t want catching up to you,” replied WisKa cagily.
“That could be anybody. I do deal with angry husbands, disgruntled employees, the occasional transportation worker, and even the odd postal employee … and I can tell you, the postal employees are very odd indeed!”
“This is not the kind of danger that you’d normally meet in your line of work, I can assure you of that. But things are not clear enough for me to know exactly what the source of danger is …”
DaVic sighed an internal sigh of relief. That was much better! This sounded like the usual patter of the the street corner fortune tellers and hustlers. They knew something dark was coming for you, but just not from where. But if you were to give them some money, then the vision would miraculously become clearer …
“If you don’t know what the danger is, why don’t you tell us once you figure it out?” suggested KarJa. “We are in a hurry, so why don’t you do the cleansing or shielding or whatever that my Dad wanted, and then we can be on our way?”
“But, you need to listen to me. There’s really danger …”
“Yes, but you’re in danger right now if you don’t hurry on and let us get on with our business,” snapped KarJa.
Visibly reluctant, WisKa took a device, made a pass over KarJa and then did some typing and tapping on her screen. Then she did the same with another gadget, looked at the reading, and nodded.
“There, you’re warded against most electronic attacks. But I tell you, if you continue associating with this man, you’ll be in danger too!”
“Sure, sure. I’ll let my Dad know and he’ll take care of it!” replied KarJa breezily, motioning for DaVic to precede her out of the room. As they hurried out the door, WisKa called out after them, “DaVic, remember that danger stares out of the eye of the needle!”