Well, it looked like a series of ambushes would be the best way to deal with the British invasion of Battling Business Manhattan. It was pretty small-scale. Unfortunately, trying to get the locals organized proved quite impossible. There were a few who were willing to fight the insurance guys – but most of them could not be diverted from backstabbing each other, forming committees to argue over the proper use and distribution of paper clips, panicking, or quarreling with their office equipment – which had apparently mostly thrown in with the invaders. Raphial was pretty upset about that: Machines SHOULD NOT have unions.
Marty tried – “Look, they’re only a few blocks away. If we don’t unite and stop them, it’s tea, crumpets, and horrible dentistry for everyone.” – but it was pretty hopeless. They’d been killing each other on a regular basis for so many years that emergencies had become Chinese fire drills.
Raphial set up a confusing web site while Kevin set up a broadcast designed to advise everyone in Manhattan that – unless the visited the web site and opted out – everyone in Manhattan was getting an associates position with the Federal Reserve Coalition. Since all the bank management people were too busy stabbing each other to issue a denial, that would put the several million bystanders in Manhattan on the target list, which would be a pretty awkward poison pill.
Meanwhile, quite a few of the locals had fallen into line behind a plan: they’d build a giant paper-mache badger, sneak it behind the enemy lines as a peace offering, and then jump out. Toonworlds… The locals were so suggestible as to be quite mad.
Backed with a little magic, the broadcast went well enough – especially after the computers decided to join in on a spam and email offensive against the entire planet – and the entire island went quite mad.
The Badger project hit a snag though: the locals got into an argument over whether or not it should be a giant opossum instead and had set up a review and redesign committee. Marty, thanks to his respect for his boss (and his bosses fondness for Possums) went along with it.
Even the Thralls were losing patience now, and were starting to throw long-term – if minor – curses on people instead of just killing them and letting them wake up at home.
It looked like the British were operating out of the New World Trade Center – but it might not matter: the global network was crashing, the power grid was in cascade failure across the east coast, the fire hydrants had started exploding, the ground had started to shake, and the cartoon apocalypse had started.
The British tourists were most amused – but some of them seemed to be from off-realm. That was interesting – and they did know something about what was going on. The mess had been set off by some outsiders in military jumpsuits who spoke like Americans and had lots of technology at their disposal. The British wanted territory and money and access to the new technology – but the new guys seemed to represent a substantial population that was in migration and was in serious need of resources. Unlike most groups, their technology tended to work in quite a few realms.
The group speculated for a while on possible reasons – including the possibility that it was all a gambit to delay them personally – but Kevin shot that one down. After all, it’d only been an hour or so, and they’d be out of here in another hour or two. The invasion would be a lot of work to gain a couple of hours up on some minor agents. After all, their next “assignment” was opening an import-export business, recruiting, and some minor surveillance on POSSIBLE suspects. They’d spent more time than this on spontaneous luncheon excursions.
So: where were these technical types? There were only two portals around – Marty’s and one under the New World Trade Center. Raphial took a look around for communications systems which were still operating. If these people were using off-dimension tech and communications, it was probably still running and was almost certainly different from the remaining local signals.
He found lots of heavily encrypted stuff coming from the NWTC. The group considered blowing the place up (or crashing that silly land-capable cruise ship into it) – but Kevin wanted to know who these outsiders were. If they were just refugees – such as from Singular – they were probably just looking for a home.
It was time to break in on their conversations. They turned down the resolution on the communications channels first: they didn’t need to catch that pesky Firestorm Meme and started horning in on the intruder’s network.
The military intruders were pretty happy to get somebody sane on the line – an opinion validated by the fact that Kevin and company also thought that the place was crazy (even Marty – a native – had to agree). Sadly, they only had one gate available – and they didn’t quite understand Kevin’s inquiries as to what kind of a world would suit them better. They decided on a meeting up on the NWTC roof.
The military guys seemed rather shocked at the groups approach via levitation – and at their casual disregard for what they’d always regarded as inviolable physical laws. On the other hand, they WERE currently in a universe where people in a rush leapt out of 40’th floor windows, went flat when they hit, and then peeled themselves off the pavement and popped back into shape. The leaders turned out to be General Martin Wingates and his wife, General Martha Wingates. They were indeed refugees from Singular: from the lunar stations (apparently from about 50-100 years back). They were looking for a relatively-empty and unspoiled human-habitable world with primarily technological laws – not that they’d ever summarized it that way. They hadn’t really known that there was anything about the natural laws that was mutable. They also hadn’t realized that universes spawned more universes – much less new universes based on fantasies. They also hadn’t known that the robots were still functioning and were trying to recover Singular. They hadn’t even realized that Battling Business World was the creation of people laboring under incompetent managers and having passing daydreams about sticking a knife into them – and then waking up to find that they’re still around no matter how much they’d imagined stabbing them. They didn’t even have anyone who could control gates properly, much less create them. They’d just been relying on technology and luck.
They especially hadn’t known that Michelle Wingates – their granddaughter – seemed to be back as well.
After some discussion, and much explanation, they settled on the new Imperium for the moment. They were familiar with the “Star Wars” setting, and a toned-down version seemed reasonable enough. It wasn’t like 10,000 people would even be detectable in a universe that routinely misplaced planetary populations and galactic battle fleets.
Raphial recommended Ealor: it was a planet in the Bysis system, home to the Graivehs (a pre-sapient quasi-primate species), and was covered with grasslands and temperate forests. Near enough to the major trade routes (and to the robots) to make it easy to get any special supplies that turned out to be needed and far enough away that no one was likely to try moving in on them.
Kevin made the gate-opening pretty dramatic, even if he did have to provide most of the special effects himself. It seemed like a big moment, and he felt like it deserved something. “We Stand Between the Worlds, in this Place of the Mind. Two Realms Shall Be Made One. We Have Awakened to the Eternal Gift Which Has Been Given to Mankind, as to All Every Race Which Has Come Before or Will Come After. I Am an Opener of the Way. Between this Place and the Realm of My Desires Let the Balance Be Set and the Door Opened. Fiat Voluntias Mia!”.
Sadly, the Wingates and company were just too distracted and overwhelmed at the moment to get a decent reaction out of them. Oh well.
That pesky Inquistor (last heard from in Scene 24) was waiting for them. (Bloody precogs). The man was actually pretty useful in getting everything set up, although he confused the Wingates. Kevin just told them that – oddly enough – bureaucrats were almost as prevalent in the multiverse as violence and religious themes were – although you often got to choose which you got. There just seemed to be something in the human mind which required SOME form of annoyance.
At least the man had brought along a ship full of supplies and construction equipment. No gate-operators though. Marty assigned a few of his Thralls to that for the moment. It was sort of a tour-guide job.
Battling Business World would reset in a day or so anyway – although the Men In Black showed up first. They didn’t seem to be local either. They looked like some sort of Manifold Faction which wanted to regulate inter-realm travel, the use of off-realm abilities, and limit the number of alternate versions of realms which appeared. Something about the most likely probability lines.
The MIB as a minor aspect of death?
The debate rapidly wandered off into arbitrary definitions, but the MIB seemed to feel that “expedience” meant “the least amount of effort on their part” and that “their interfering with their own fate by trying to escape their own slow death made things difficult”. They were reluctant to discuss just what that meant… They claimed to be agents of fate, and that fate had become a lot more difficult to manage since the Manifold opened up. Kevin had to agree there. In Core, entropy accumulated. In the Manifold, expansion was without end in ever-increasing organization. Fate narrowed in core, moving towards a predetermined end: the heat death. In the Manifold, it also narrowed, but much more slowly – and towards the infinite.
The MIB left in a huff. Everyone else just thought that they were weird, even for Battling Business World.
Kevin was afraid that the MIB might be their own fault: they had been expecting them hadn’t they? Maybe they should be careful what they though about when going through portals. You did pass through the raw interrealm quantum flux on each trip. Who knew how many things their own thoughts had accidently spawned?
He also looked around for any ensouled children or other adults. If there were any, they’d probably be near Marty and his boss – and he kind of felt obligated to offer them a lift out if they wanted one.
He didn’t find more than a few adults – and virtually no children. Leland wanted to see Core though. Well, there was really no reason why not.
M hadn’t heard much about the MIB either. They were oddly scarce, even in a few realms that ought to have them – and they occasionally turned up in places where they shouldn’t. Something seemed to be going on with them.
Still, they had lots of other things to do. They decided to head for Baelaria via the New Imperium (and picking up a bit more information on Singular along the way). Kevin had a few stops to make, and it was likely that the others would too at some point.