Federation-Apocalypse Session 59b: Draconic Interlude III

   With the main orientation-lecture and slave-orientation done, and the basic discipline and control system up and running, Kevin assigned more Thralls to the Dragonworlds and got a few more details straightened out over the next few weeks. Another 1% or so of the hatchlings – a surprisingly small number – acted up and wound up in the machines for it. There were a few of the youngsters who already owned a sibling-slave or two due to legitimate challenges. That was fine – but Kevin made sure that all the slaves got properly processed: some of the owners hadn’t been relying on anything but intimidation and social pressure.

   He was pretty generous about interpreting the “doing badly in training” notion. Just being stupid, or awkward, or some such wasn’t necessarily a crippling handicap – magic could make up for a lot – but those who didn’t make an effort, regardless of whether that was due to stubbornness or to that special combination of being talented enough to get away with being lazy yet being too foolish to take being warned about it seriously, went into the slave-processing machines.

   The enthusiasm for button-pushing had yet to wane (most of the kids were keeping a sharp eye on the machines and gleefully pushed the start buttons whenever they got a chance – although there were one or two who either passed up a chance to process a friend or did them the small service of picking the least painful of the available options since it was inevitable anyway), and probably wouldn’t for months – but the total came to a mere 5%. That was considerably better than he’d expected. If that kept up he might manage a “final graduating percentage” of thirty or forty percent! That would be little short of miraculous!

   Next up he’d need some additional real trainers – Thralls from Kadia (or having the hatchlings commute to Kadia), since interacting with real people would help the phantasms develop as individuals, make them a better family for Eogam – and possibly lead to them attracting souls to incarnate in them. He’d also need some career paths. He hadn’t thought he’d need those so soon (OK, honestly he hadn’t really given the kids much thought of any kind while they remained generic phantasms), but he’d forgotten how mature dragons were the day they hatched – and if he wanted them to have better odds than a 99.5% chance of death-or-longing-for-death, he’d have to arrange something. Still, Dragons were proud, domineering, and predatory, which made most conventional jobs a bit awkward. What could he train them for? It couldn’t be anything isolated and away from the few real people around, or they’d just tend to merge back into the background. That pretty much eliminated any attempt to merge into the draconic “middle class” of quiet small-holders – and positions like that were fairly rare and tended to be fodder for adventurer-types building major holdings anyway.

   They didn’t exactly need training to be used for magical components, food, and raw materials – but that was what he was trying to avoid, no matter how common it was in the Dragonworlds. They didn’t need much training to become slaves, industrial magic-workers, or experimental subjects either -but that was still better than dead, especially if they were working for him. There were plenty of openings for riding, training, and guard duty in Kadia. Still, that sort of thing was a default for the ones that fouled up or couldn’t manage another career.

   So: Possible Dragon-Career Path Training Programs:

  • Executive Servant (more accurately, Voluntary Corporate Slave): The easiest of all careers; all a hatchling has to do is volunteer for full slave-processing and become company property, and they’ll be guaranteed all the usual slave-benefits, a certain amount of money and freedom to own things, a limited choice of jobs, some vacation time, protection against serious abuse, and not being a target or challengeable. They’ll become a top-quality rent-a-slaves, guaranteed fully-conditioned, extremely well trained, properly servile, and loyal and obedient to a fault. They’ll be valued company assets – and, if necessary, Kevin will operate the company at a loss to provide a safe refuge for the ones who don’t want to take that 95% chance of enslavement-at-best when they got out into the world. It wouldn’t be HIS preference – but there are bound to be cautious ones, it isn’t a bad deal, and it will be nearly another forty years before they’ll be hitting puberty even for the oldest ones – so giving up real sex shouldn’t be a big consideration even for the males.
  • Thrall Mount/Companion/Bodyguard: The second easiest career, if a somewhat dangerous one and still one that requires being bonded to a master – albeit not to the extent of full slave-processing unless the hatchling is already a slave anyway. Still, the link with a Thrall will provide resurrection-benefits for phantasms and the Thralls will be kind and generous “masters”. This path offers some freedom, some adventure, a decent lifestyle, and even the possibility of remaining sexed if they can maintain control through draconic puberty. The training program will focus on functioning as a sidekick and combat skills.
  • Junior Executive: While this path requires a limited amount of conditioning to suppress the usual draconic tendency to be proud, domineering, and predatory – unless the hatchling in question is just a natural groveler – representing a more powerful dragon or major organization offers fair security as long as that dragon or organization wants to protect you. It even offers some chance of finding a mate and having a small family. Of course, if that protection fails, anyone on this path will wind up leashed or dead in short order. The training program will focus on practical personal powers and skill enhancements, organizational and basic skills, and being properly submissive and attentive when dealing with superiors.
  • Primitivist: Another relatively easy career, involving nothing more in the way of a “plan” than simply going off somewhere uncivilized – or at least outside the Dragon Empire – to be a “natural” dragon. Primitivist’s will be chasing local resources and mates and hoarding treasure – at least until the local adventurers or a bigger dragon gets them. The training program will stress self-sufficiency, putting up with rough living, and developing innate abilities.
  • Adventurer, Mercenary, or Thief: A career for the tough, fast, decisive, and self-confident. The training programs for this will be highly eclectic and personalized – but will include both an equipment allowance, the advice of guidance counselors in getting appropriate equipment (over and above the services available to all the hatchlings), and the occasional mandatory (and many students-option) high-stakes tests – training exercises where the trainees can gain substantial amounts of extra resources and power-boosts if they succeed, have a good chance of getting out without serious injury if they fail but perform competently, but may wind up being captured or “killed” if they really bungle things. If they do wind up being captured or “killed” they will spend the usual forty-eight hour “at risk” period in a slave-processing machine. Fortunately, their friends, if any, will be allowed to try to keep people from pressing the start button if they wish.
  • Duelist: A VERY high-stakes training program, for those youngsters who want to focus on fighting other dragons, either to take over their holdings or as professional gladiators and hired guns. The training program will, of course, focus extensively on combat – including physical skills, special tricks, magical combat, and psychic combat abilities. The basic courses will focus on in-class and controlled-combat training exercises. Students may also opt to fight weakened hatchlings of similar ages bought to be slaves in a private arena. If they perform reasonably competently (and don’t grandstand or get overconfident), they should have a 90%+ chance of winning. If they win, they get some prizes and can keep their new slave. If they lose, they will go into a processing-machine for an at-risk period UNLESS something weird happened and it wasn’t their fault. Winning opponents can go free, opt for the nicer slave-careers (including studying to become consorts for the when the kids hit adolescence), or fight again to win a place in the palace/school. That should give them plenty of incentive to fight hard and cleverly. Students may also opt to fight each other or other free dragons in a public (if still owned by Kevin) arena on equal terms. The winner gets a share of the gate and some prizes, the loser becomes property of the management if it’s the opponent and goes in a processing-machine for an at-risk period if it’s the student (if the fight is between two students, they can set their own bets).
  • Consort: A program with relatively low-end qualifications, save for the ability to get taken in without being enslaved by a more powerful individual. Training will focus on social skills, being entertaining, conversation, being attractive, home and holding management, and – as puberty approaches – sexual skills. Still, this is a relatively safe program for females; the worst that’s likely to happen to them would be to be taken as a slave-consort rather than a free one. Those hatchlings who opt for the consort program but who cannot find a place before full adulthood at 100 will be transferred to one of the slave-programs.
  • Gambler: Kevin doesn’t really approve of this program, but the high-stakes socialite path is a possible avenue for the lucky. Training will focus on understanding odds, intuition, luck, manners, reading opponents, and audacity – not that there’s necessarily any good way to train those qualities. He will set up a local casino or two (with only reasonable house odds) and make buy-back arrangements with any others in the area; the hatchlings who want to can gamble with whatever funds they have available and can get credit against their allowances. After they’ve hit their allowance advance limit, they’re gambling with an at-risk period in a processing machine.
    • Kevin really didn’t approve of this – it was such a STUPID way to get into trouble and risk your freedom – and, after the program was underway, gave in to temptation and chromatic dragon impatience the first few times it came up, making it a point to stroll by the machines holding the idiot gamblers, glance at them, read the “why they’re there” notice, shrug, flip a coin, glance at it, shrug again – and press the start button.
  • Military: While dragons have obvious military advantages, this program focuses a bit more on them serving as scouts and aides in relatively primitive forces, at least at first; they’re at a lot less risk against arrows than against antiaircraft missiles or vastly-powerful spells and psionic powers. This offers a decent chance for loot, a pretty good chance of survival, and – since Kevin has connections with several groups and can arrange an entry and some special consideration – a fair chance of avoiding any serious military discipline. The training program will focus on combat skills, evasion, basic tactics and strategy, and scouting abilities. Various magical sub-specialities, such as healing, come next. The program will also cover training for large-scale land/sea/air/space combat with more modern forces, but he’ll try to discourage that: the risks are higher and there’s less chance for loot. This overlaps extensively with the “Adventurer / Mercenary” category, and the same sort of optional and required high-stakes tests apply.
  • Performer: OK, this is a possible career – and he will make training in various performance-type skills and such available – but the major qualifications for a career as a movie actor, politician, talkshow host, exotic pet, or whatever are simply (a) being entertaining, and (b) finding somewhere where you’ll be accepted, but relatively unique. Even in the Manifold, that’s hard to arrange when you add “(c) has to be around people with souls but outside of Core” to the mixture. Still, if some of the hatchlings think they can manage the trick, he’ll certainly let them try.
  • Expert: Another possible career – but given their instinctive drives, about the only way a dragon could be content in a job like this was to be one of the TOP experts in a particular field. That meant major personal talent and extensive special tutoring, whether the goal was becoming a master craftsman in a particular field, a specialist in draconic medicine, a financier, a powerful magician, an expert geneticist, or some such thing. He’d have to provide special tutors for anyone who wanted to try this sort of thing, and possibly get an adaption of the core educational programs running for them.
  • Finally, Colonizer: training to establish new holdings on new worlds – whether in unoccupied areas of the Dragonworlds or out in the Manifold. The educational program will focus on basic technologies and magic, general holding management and resource management, and general background skills. It should be easy enough to outfit some appropriate expeditions.

   That would do for an initial selection, although it was a nuisance to find tutors who could handle all those package deals. He offered them some Witchcraft pacts as well – which helped a good deal in getting a little edge on other dragon hatchlings. A good allowance, and ways to earn bonuses on it, and guidance counselors to help them shop for stuff that will really be useful to them, was also handy.

   He instituted some several-times-yearly testing rules – and a demerit system for major infractions (occasional tardiness, or stopping to push a button or watch someone in a processing machine was only to be expected). They were basically chaotic after all…

   Too many tests without progress in your chosen field, or too many demerits, meant an at-risk period in the processing machines – but the enthusiasm for button-pushing would wane a bit eventually; once they got to the point where they were considering whether or not there was a reason to push the button on a family member (it would be irrational to expect them to ever have any doubts about rivals from other families), some would start making it through at-risk periods. The kids would know that THEY had a meaningful final decision on who got slave-processed, they’d feel involved – and it looked like they’d feel that it was fair. They’d already knew that he was doing his best to be fair AND to give them all the best possible chance. With any luck he might actually manage to get some loyalty* out of them WITHOUT slave-conditioning.

   *Any who can be considered “loyal followers” – probably including all the conditioned slaves – will get the same follower-bonuses that the Thralls get. At the moment this consists of a 20 CP bonus package:

    • Dimensional Adaption (1 CP): Enthusiast, Specialized: Only for the “Identities” skill, Corrupted: only changes in new realm, reduces the cost of Identities by 1 SP. For wannabes in the Manifold, this will usually provide +8 CP worth of local privileges, wealth, and so on.
    • Relic Mastery (4 CP): Enthusiast x2, Specialized in Relics for double effect the first time, to half the cost on the second time. This lets them have 3 CP worth of relics of their choice.
    • Immunity to Sensory-Based Mind Control (4 CP). Immunity (Uncommon / Major / Minor, blocks effects of up to L3 and provides a +4 on saves against more powerful effects)
    • +1d6 Power (2 CP): Personal Mana converted to Power (for a total of 3d6+20)
    • Create Relic (2 CP): Specialized (2 Point Relics Maximum), Corrupted; only points from Enthusiast.
    • Wealth +1 SP
    • Reflex Action (6 CP): 3 bonus actions as required per day

   Of course, Kevin STILL doesn’t know about this in any detail – although he is aware that the Thralls are getting some bonus powers, he doesn’t know that it applies to anyone else yet.

   Now, processing local slaves would provide a modest number of examples – and, incidentally, demonstrate that if they WERE going to be slave-processed they’d want to get it over with BEFORE puberty, since it would hurt a lot more after that – but it might be best to get them some mild out-of-the-family competition to try and inspire a little family unity.

   He’d institute a testing service!

“We will test and sort hatchlings; those with exceptional talents, disciplines, or skill – and who don’t do anything disastrous during testing – will be sent back with an individually-recommended training program. The 80% who have no real chance will be sorted out and slave-bonded at no cost or bother to you (and a great savings in time), and all for a very modest fee of 10% of the hatchlings selected from among the new slaves. Keep your lair calm and make sure that, when people see your children, they see children you can be proud of!”

   That would give them a constant stream of examples and chances to process hatchlings other than their siblings. He could even offer training services – versions of the programs available to his own children, albeit without button-pushing privileges and with less allowance for demerits and lack of progress – for the most promising. Similarly, he’d tone down the pleasure-circuits for out-of-the-family slaves. The machines could easily be set to display the name, reason for being at risk, time remaining at risk, family relationship, process status, and a few other details. The Thralls could check over incoming hatchlings for ones with souls – and he could probably arrange to acquire those fairly readily. They’d probably be misfits anyway.

   As it turned out, both the testing and the training-school notions got a fairly good reaction from the other dragons. No dragon wanted rebellious or otherwise troublesome hatchlings, and few wanted to be bothered trying to train them themselves.

   Most of his hatchlings reacted fairly well to the custom career paths as well. A few didn’t, or were mostly indifferent. It looked like the indifferent ones either had plans of their own or weren’t doing much – and the ones who didn’t like having custom training options available missed the old chaos.

   That sorted itself out soon enough. The ones with plans of their own pursued them under the supervision of the Thralls. The ones who just liked chaos on principle found it elsewhere; the Dragonworlds had no shortage of chaos. The ones who weren’t doing much wound up being slave-processed for failing to put effort into their training – and the ones who had just liked chaos since it provided cover for their own misbehavior wound up being slave-processed for misbehavior. Oh well; that was only another 20% or so – about 42% enslaved in total counting the duel-losers – and Kevin had been guessing that 20% “graduating” would be exceptionally good. The survivors – the ones who had a good chance at a career – were once again pleased with the notion that the losers brought it on themselves fairly (and with the chance to push buttons and watch annoying siblings get processed).

   The next major chop was probably going to be adolescence – and that wouldn’t be for decades. Perhaps it would be calmer if the first sign a hatchling had of the onset of adolescence was the delivery of a trio of cute functional-but-sterile slaves of the opposite sex to his or her room?

   Blast it. There HAD to be some way to attract souls to incarnate in his dragon-children! It was time to start experimenting.

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