After turning the remaining warheads back over to the government and getting debriefed (with fourteen nuclear warheads gone missing the military was more than a bit upset) the Mandate returned to the orphanage to negotiate a minor quarrel: Theodore (the youngest werewolf) had been about to catch a rabbit when one of the other kids had thrown up a force wall around it. He’d hurt his nose, and punched the other kid in the nose, and there’d been a big argument over noses, rabbits, hunting, hamburgers, interfering with hunting, cuteness, force walls, and various other topics. Kheilios promptly got into the middle and attempted to explain what it was OK to eat and why – an attempt which wasn’t helped by cultural relativity – and wound up informing them that it was OK to use and/or eat some wild creatures and any creature that had been especially bred for it.
Kheilios hadn’t looked into the children’s history, and didn’t realize that most of them had been genetically engineered and bred by the Minutemen for the 1% or so who would survive the power inducing process to serve as comatose power batteries. The notion that this would have been acceptable – or at least that Kheilios thought so – did not go down well.
Kheilios went off to study the Racaf some more: oddly enough, a group of young-adult stone age tribal alien mercenaries with ultratech weaponry and cybernetic combat augmentations were easier to manage than a few small children of his own species. It looked like they had faster-than-human metabolisms, somewhat accelerated healing and reaction speeds, and a life expectancy of about 65 years. That might present some minor difficulties in providing technical educations.
Meanwhile, Kristin was investigating some really odd theft reports – starting with the skyscraper skeletons which were being replaced with some weird aluminum alloy which was… several times stronger than steel at a fraction of the wieght. Aluminum, titanium, rhenium, osmium and a variety of other trace components. Rhenium? Osmium? Where would anyone get massive quantities of those?
Kristin went and got a sample, plugged into the Genocide Data Node to let it download a monitoring program into her systems (the chemical effects of Rhenium and Osmium exposure were pretty much an unknown). Running her built-in diagnostic programs revealed one hell of a lot of bad results… She went to Monopole, found that the errors were because he’d replaced a lot of her systems – and the diagnostic program was hardwired on her bootup chips, and was checking the original configuration. Still, she wanted to know what else was on those bootup chips – so she had Monopole activate all of them.
The NKVD “scorched earth” program was about the worst: kill all witnesses, destroy the capturing facility and either escape or assure the complete destruction of herself and all classified NKVD technology. That brought the Genocide program up: protect humans (along with magical variants) and destroy all genetically modified humans – like the kids. Of course, Monopole’s friendly-figure recognition program opposed both of them, along with Kristins mind – but even a self-conflicted Kristin running amuck was pretty hard on everyone in the vicinity.
Monopole got flattened straight off, Stephen dived in to protect the children, Arioch tried to divert her, and there was general chaos. It even gave one hero groupie with a camera a chance to get into the mansion. Said groupie tried electrocuting Kristin, but it simply gave her more energy to draw on. Still, there were enough opponents to take her down eventually.
Afterwards it was discovered that all the iron that had come near Kristins samples (and wasn’t exposed to strong magnetic fields) had turned into that weird alloy. So. It was contagious. HAD to be magic… Who was capable of that? And would know enough about alloys? The Dragons, the Transmutor (last heard from in Texas), Ogun (believed dead), the Ten Demons (location unknown) and… dozens of less likely suspects. Feh. No joy in that approach.
So what else was going on? Weird stuff going on in the park, a Kraggan ship had turned up stating that it was in pursuit of some renegades, opening diplomatic relations, and offering technical assistance, Satan was starting a talk show (and the Mayor was going through the roof), 63 children had vanished form a kindergarten…
Well, they didn’t bother going any further. Three teachers mysteriously incapacitated, kids gone from the playground, no signs of violence, several gnomes around… “The Enchanted Garden”. A fairyland theme to the place. No one who knew why. It’d been built atop an old faerie gate – harmless enough as long as there’d been a lot of iron around. Now that it was… OH HELL. Iron vanishing. Fey on the loose. The Black Enchantress. How had they missed the obvious?
Anyway, the iron went away, the gate opened, and a bunch of kids got lured into fairyland.
They persuaded the wannabee-superhero kids not to come – despite Josephi and his scroll of transportation – and headed over after the kindergarteners. An enchanted forest, kids picked up by a noblewoman’s hunting party, more gnomes, assorted foolishness, a castle in a lake, a mystical transportation vortex… Cameras were unexpectedly powerful in faerie. It might be a good thing that the groupie had come along.