Unsurprisingly, an open block victory party with free food and drink (even if nothing stronger than small beer) in a city that had been under siege and short of food got rather large. Kevin and the Thralls did a lot of recruiting, as well as crowd-control and food-providing. It went pretty well once word got around that they’d been the ones who took out the Minister; Kevin got 38 new Thralls and Marty got lots of local employees.
It looked like it really was a victory party: there were still a few mages holding out here and there in the remnants of their strongholds – and one spot that might have been a secret base, since it didn’t line up with any known stronghold – but they didn’t seem to be anything the locals couldn’t handle. After all, the mages major power sources – the secondary wells and the Sunwell – had been pretty throughly drained for the next month or two.
The reports on the ministry’s records and “Experiments” weren’t as good. The records almost all involved purely local concerns, there were only about a dozen people who’d been caught and not yet experimented on, and the experiments mostly fell into three groups:
Roughly 30% were severely mentally or physically crippled, some fixably, some not. Kevin had the golems offer enthrallment to the few youngsters in that group who could comprehend the choice (that would fix anything for those who were eligible) – but most of them refused: they’d had enough magical tinkering.
Nearly 60% were simply gone: body still functioning, but soul long departed. Nothing to do there but turn off what was left.
About 10% were having issues controlling their power, but their training (or execution) could probably be handled locally.
The military was mopping up the constructs and monstrosities – and there didn’t seem to be any big reserve of souls hidden away: some had returned to their bodies, some seemed to have passed on, some had apparently been poked at magically until they’d “dissipated” (Kevin was pretty sure that “dissipated” meant “given up and gone elsewhere”; not even the greatest powers of the abyss could actually destroy a soul or hold one which had truly given up on a particular incarnation), and others had been handed over to Merlin. The mages had been experimenting with soul-magic – trying to create Arrancar (with little success), watching the effects of psychic energy sources and sinks created by souls and the remnants left behind when souls were stolen, trying to artificially modify souls, and trying to reverse-engineer souls in an attempt to create more.
Now that was just sick and stupid.
So: they’d been working with too-friendly weird extradimensional mages of unknown motives, creating huge magical power pools, tampering with souls, creating uncontrolled, ever-growing, magical and psychic nexi, trying to take over running the world, making golem armies, creating hordes of poorly-controlled and ever-growing monstrosities – was there any invariably-disastrous magical experiment or project in the universe which these people had NOT been trying? While they hadn’t INTENTIONALLY been experimenting with lowering the base energy level of the realm to another stabilization point draining the base energy level into artificial nexi could have easily had the same effect; magic wasn’t necessarily governed by entropy.
That pretty much confirmed guidance from a malevolent outside force anyway, there was just no way that they could stumble on THAT many suicidal experimental paths all at once by themselves.
Chief Battlemage Kelsier from the Southern Defense Force showed up about them; he was looking for Jarvian’s companions.
He got a sandwich and – since the military was fairly in the dark about what had been going on – a rather lengthy explanation (clearly divided into known facts, probable facts, strong and weak theories, inferences, and speculations thanks to Kevin’s core education), the information that the group hadn’t approved and had decided to intervene, and a reference to the House of Roses – who had asked them to look into what was going on in Baelaria because their information said the Mages Guild was dabbling in some very nasty stuff. The group also recommended that the military talk with the local underworld: they seemed to be about the most functional government currently available.
Kelsier didn’t like his world being used (or having to be bailed out by outsiders) – but offered his thanks on behalf of the Republic of Baeleria. He also felt that it might be a good idea to get the diplomats in touch with the House and provided some rings which would mark the group as Allies of the Baelarian Military.
A mob representative turned up about then: the group confirmed that they’d accounted for all but one mage, who’d appeared to be an operative for Merlin, and gave him the lengthy explanation. He noted that Taraq felt that he owed them a major favor and headed off to talk to Kelsier. Kevin assigned them each a Thrall to help with the communications and manifold transport. To keep things peaceful, he also left one with the Alchemists, one with the Independent Mages, and one with the Government.
Meanwhile, Marty spent some time checking the potential markets, organizing his new local employees, and checking on the import/export business they’d been setting up with Faerun. It seemed that the Thralls on that route were having issues with opening the route through the realm of Castle, and needed more weaponry – preferably firearms. There was a giant hive mind which called itself the ruler of the entire realm, was blocking the path, and wanted to eat them – but technological weapons had proven effective and gunpowder explosions seemed to disrupt the local magic for some reason.
Well, basic firearms were easy enough to come by; a modest shipment should cover that handily.
Back on Earth, the Thrall Kevin had left with the House of Roses for communications, testing, and evaluation was being treated quite decently; M had been supervising things personally. The House had been giving him performance tests and putting him through a few simulation trials, and he’d been performing admirably. The House would definitely like Kevin to send along a few more.
That was a pretty good sign of approval. Kevin’s impression of the House wasn’t nearly hypocritical enough for them to be saying “these children have been horribly damned already so we might as well use them and employ the demon who’s doing it to get more into that situation as long as WE’RE not responsible”.
Lets see… He’d just gotten 38 Thralls. Assign 5 to the local power-groups, 3 to open an office in Londinium, 4 to open and staff offices in Core Earth London, 4 to Jarvian, 4 to the House of Roses, 4 to McAndrew, 2 to the Singularites, Marty needed 2 to run offices in Waterdeep at the other end of the trade route, so that left 10.
They opted not to try and send any more to the Commonwealth. Merlin seemed to already know more about both the party and the Thralls than Kevin would like. (A thin excuse since he was planning to go semi-public with the details and his sales pitch soon, but Kevin didn’t want the Thralls being at risk of worse than death if he could avoid it). The one thrall already working there was probably safe enough as long as he stuck to the entry-level stuff and didn’t attract attention. After all, at worst, they’d probably just filter his information and assignments even if they spotted him as a spy: the thralls were too useful to simply discard.
They decided to wait on assigning a few to Anakin Skywalker too, at least until they actually met the man. He might take it wrong and he was against slavery anyway.
The remaining 10 could wait for long-term assignments. Kevin had some errands for them to run anyway.
The House would be digesting information from Baelaria for a bit. Marty sent a report to Mr Leland – and Kevin sent the Thralls out looking for gates. He’d spent ENOUGH mana for a while on Baelaria already – and it was SO conspicuous. Now, if they could find a gate to Solaris or any of the battletech worlds (How big could the place be anyway?) They could easily hit Core Earth – and from there he could hit the Dragonworlds, the Roman Imperium, and check on the situation in the Underdark.
Londinium had four gates. Baelaria was a bloody SWISS CHEESE. One in a poor district that probably led to another Victorian or “Gilded Age” realm, one to a battle realm, the one in the guild headquarters to Singular, and one deep underground which could lead damn near anywhere. Practically everyplace had underground areas. Marty was curious, so they took the Londinium Underground.
It did indeed go lots of places. It was a doorway into a gate network. Baelaria was labeled “Firesong” in Thai, the others were labeled in various languages. They took one labeled “Future Samurai” in French – passing up “Five Worlds”, written in English, “Ring War”, written in Tolkein Elven, and “We Made It”, written in Kzinti. The group – including The Mirage – voted for “Future Samurai”
It turned out to be a french dub of “Samurai Jack”. It opened into a bar filled with shady looking aliens/robots/mutants and other horrors beyond comprehension. They all turned to look – and them went back to what they were doing.
Kevin did a little linguistic transmutation. Marty ordered a vodka martini, Jarvian ordered wings, the Mirage ordered liquid helium III (but had to settle for heavy water), and Kevin and the Thralls ordered sodas, burgers, and fries. Checking the databases, it looked like the local things to do were cause trouble for Aku, help him out, hunt for Samurai Jack, get involved in some random heroics, or learn to “jump good”(?). Marty flipped a coin and voted for causing trouble for Aku – at about which point a large body came looming up behind Kevin:
“You got a lot of nerve ordering a burger around here boy!”
Kevin didn’t even bother to look around… “Why? Did you sell your kids for meat? I could understand that if they took after you of course”
“Very funny! I don’t like it when your kind eats beef thinking you’re better than us Minotaurs. I makes me want to put you puny monkeys in your place.”
It was a herd of five minotaurs, apparently equipped with switchblade battleaxes.
Marty noted that “Hey, I’m not a monkey. I just act like one when I’m drunk. At least that’s what my ex-wife says.” – and chugged down his martini before the inevitable bar brawl began.
Kevin asked if they had families. They apparently had entire herds of cows and kids. Good. If they were going to interrupt his lunch, they’d best have enough assets to pay for it.
Marty wanted some steak, Kevin voted to establish “Cruelty to Minotaurs day”, Jarvian made remarks about Oxen, and even the Mirage wanted in: it had never gotten to beat up a futuristic mythological greek monster before.
There was leaping, acrobatics, mighty swordblows, weapons fire, and many explosions. The Minotaurs exploded (like the CHAIRS?!?) when mortally wounded. Apparently they chewed “Nitrocud” because it gave them strength and power.
OK, NOW Kevin felt superior. How could they possibly be that dumb? Injuries could be treated, exploding was kind of permanent! He voted that they find the herds and round them up for sale; if the adults were this dumb, the kids ought to class as livestock (Marty made some remarks about Veal).
They left the battle in full swing – and Jarvian and the Mirage enjoying themselves vastly – and went to look up the herd. The barman had said they kept them in the stables just outside of town.
Meanwhile some of Kevin’s new Thralls were running errands. There were several abandoned and out-of-contact worlds they could easily reach; one where the supernova shockwave was coming in three months, one where the colony had been abandoned, and a third that had been about to be overrun by the Ouratha. A couple of them – one pretending to be a canine-derived creature – used the one with the upcoming supernova shockwave to test the computers definitions of “human” and “property”.
It looked like – as long as it accepted being property and was apparently animal-derived – the system simply treated it as an animal. The computers didn’t even consider obedience programming, near-human anthro forms, OR shapeshifting, but balked when confronted with full physical human form. That was weird: the uplifted species had a fair set of rights, obedience-programming (if not shapeshifting) had been around for quite a while – and nearly 25% of the population had at least minor anthro characteristics due to genegrafting. The computers couldn’t possibly be this dumb… Wait: this meant that the system had to be deferring to humans somehow – a survey or a committee or something – when judging complex social interactions. Since there was no one here to check with they were getting default – stupid – responses. Still, as long as they didn’t protest, it looked like animal-derived Anthros were simply property. Kevin could simply put Thralls into anthro forms and block shifts to full-human if he needed some property in core.
Kevin had both of the Thralls who’d been testing head over to the Roman Imperium for a pleasure-vacation after he got their report. After all, the one had had to put up with being treated like a dog for a couple of weeks of testing.
Checking the acceptability of his contract and sales spiel was easier: all it took was having a thrall “drop by” and ask about this offer he’d found “out in the manifold”.
The computers apparently found the contract quite legal and acceptable – in fact, apparently very very good as far as such things went – although it did need valid consent: BOTH the computers AND their parents in agreement for small children, adolescents if both they and EITHER their parents or the computers approved, and adults (if Kevin was recruiting any) without anyone else’s approval.
Interestingly, the computers didn’t have any major objections other than advising the boy to make very sure that this wasn’t a demon tricking him, and giving him a long lecture on how this kind of contract could affect him for many years to come, and how it wasn’t always best to make major life decisions at a young age.
That wasn’t bad – although what Kevin really wanted was for the computers to evaluate it, find it to be a genuinely good deal – hopefully the best that was at all readily available – and start recommending it (preferably for everyone, but at least for kids who were in danger otherwise or who wanted to go adventuring in the manifold). That was why he was doing his best to make the package as good as it could possibly be, stressed the “resurrection insurance” part, and was taking a rather low price: he was after volume and repeat business with future generations.
Still, it looked like the only ways to get around the “demon” warnings would either be to wait while the computers accumulated data or to convincing some of the major core organizations that the computers relied on for judgement calls that he wasn’t malevolent so that they’d vouch for him. Back to convincing people – and to distributing thralls to organizations.