With this session, since most of the players were available again, we return to our regular continuity.
Watching Eogam and his parents was slowly bringing something up to consciousness in Kevin’s mind. It wasn’t a big or abnormal thing, and it wouldn’t have surprised half of the human race for an instant – but it was always a surprise to the remaining half, and it was a fairly basic shift from self-centered male adolescence.
He LIKED having a child of his own to raise and look after. Somehow his son was becoming one of the centers of his life.
Bringing a new soul into the cosmos and raising it was a pleasure as great – if far more subtle and enduring – as the experience of enlightenment. Perhaps it was fundamentally a variant on that experience – touching, however indirectly, whatever lay beyond. Even the darkly addictive rush of ecstasy and mastery that came from a soul accepting him as its master and owner until it should grow out of the darkness-bond wasn’t quite as sweet – although it was both more intense in the short term and far easier to experience over and over again.
He was finding it hard to keep the phantasm-kids and real ones as separate in his head as he should – but he wanted more kids with souls. Preferably, he’d like them all to have souls – but persuading an existing soul to incarnate in a phantasm wasn’t quite the same thing.
Marty grinned as he recognized the symptoms… The realization of parenthood catching up to the perpetually-adolescent dark lord at last? Kevin had dodged it for awhile by farming out the kids early childhood, but now that he was interacting with his son, it was inevitably going to catch up with any undamaged human mind.
Of course, he hadn’t really known anything was missing in practically everyone else in Battling Business World everyone until awhile after he’d met Abigail, and later Mr Leland (and even then he hadn’t really been sure of known what it was) – but having Julia had changed everything. He was sure there’d been a few phantasm-kids along the way – it wasn’t like he hadn’t had quite a few encounters – but they’d just faded into the background.
Oops. It was pretty likely that some or all of the upcoming batch of half-elven kids from that party in the underdark would turn out to have souls – and thus be real – since he’d been visiting Core. How would Julia and Abigail react to them?
He’d have to keep him away from his father. They wouldn’t be from Battling Business World, and might not be able to take being strangled to sleep or shot if they were noisy – and he couldn’t expect the man to change much, he was a phantasm after all. A normal background element, at least for the Battling Business World value of “normal”.
Meanwhile, Kevin was diverting himself from confusion with more fuming. Dammit! His parents had seemed fairly accepting of his owning Thralls at first! What had changed? He’d even started offering MORE benefits, not less! The more they’d found out about his contracts, the better it should have looked! OK, they were all relatively minor abilities, but he still gave them magic, psionics, gatekeeping powers, shapeshifting, enhanced physical abilities, wealth, martial arts skills, relics, boosted reflexes, and – to top it all off – immortality!
Wait; had it looked too good to be true? After all, they knew him as their young son, and he certainly didn’t look impressive what with the “not aging” and all… Were they simply afraid that he was a con artist and that the Thralls had been cheated into becoming property? From their point of view his powers must seem pretty bloody unlikely.
Marty had to agree with him there. It did sound like a pretty absurd litany of bait when you just ran off the list without considering the limitations and the price tag. Even when you did consider that sort of thing, it really sounded too good to be true. They might be willing to acknowledge that magic could do a lot, but the distinction between “magic can do a lot” and “my son is a god” had to be hard to swallow. Explaining how Kevin came to be in charge in Kadia to them was going to be a lot of fun.
It was beginning to make Kevin wonder if they’d really sent Thomas off to Jedi school or if they were just keeping him away from the unethical con-artist.
Nah, they’d certainly sent him – but one of the reasons might have been to keep him away from the unethical con artist.
Still, while they were in Kadia, maybe he should blur the passage of time for them a bit? That way he could set up security – mostly a Thrall-bodyguard force and some equipment in reserve – back in Core for them while they were busy in Kadia. Besides, some time as dragons, with innate magical powers, might help them understand things a bit better. He’d have to arrange to cover their work for them while they were away, but all that would take would be dispatching a few more Thralls.
Marty and Jamie both thought that was a reasonably good idea, so Kevin set it in motion.
Eogam had made several efforts at escaping, but his elder grand-dragons had foiled his every attempt… Kevin opened a private mental link and told him that putting up with your relatives was one of the obligations of having a family – and he’d get something nice to make up for it later.
There was a bit of resignation in the mental “Alright” that came back over the link – but he wasn’t having as bad a time as he was making out.
Marty figured that the boy was just angling for treats and goodies, but Kevin was just going to have to figure that sort of thing out for himself.
The grandchild party took up most of the day, but ran down eventually – so they embarked on showing Adrian and Ruolan around Kadia a bit. They would mostly be spending the next few days waiting on the results from their information-gathering and analysis projects anyway.
Kevin was kind of hoping that they’d start asking some questions about why no one reacted much to seeing Kevin – or them – in dragonform except to greet them. They were still ignoring the three thralls he’d started with, but dragon-instincts should help them just accept servants. He’d make sure that all the services were provided by efficient Thralls; hopefully they’d note them, or be interested in all the unquestioning service, or wonder why people were using supernatural powers all over the place. It’d be easiest to broach such topics if they brought them up.
Unfortunately, they didn’t, although they were pleased to get to spend some time with Kevin. They seemed to simply be accepting the servants and other oddities as a part of the general scenery of Kadia.
They hit the malls and carnivals (including the mecha dueling arenas and resurrection-halls) first, then the feywilds, mountains, and gardens, visited the whitewater rafting and pleistocene ice age zones, and hit quite a few of the better restaurants. Along the way they pointed out a few zones that were busy with research and meme-treatment projects. Kevin didn’t point out the recruiting zones – although he did take occasional recruiting-breaks for the youngsters from the Linear Realms, Five Worlds, and other sources.
Marty thought that he was going to have to force the issue.
Kevin didn’t really want to, but he didn’t see any way around it either.
“I have some serious things to discuss while we’re together. Most urgently, you’re at risk now: there are quite a lot of threats to the Core worlds – and you could be put to great use as leverage against me. I want to assign you some bodyguards.”
“And just what sort of threats are these? Do you need help?”
“No, I don’t think I do – but we’re currently at war with the people behind the weaponized violence-memes, the demon-starship that took out half the colonial defense fleet, a selection of out-of-control demons, the power-armor goons that helped destroy Greenwald, and several other groups. We have evidence that the meme-users are pre-humans, and have been spreading plagues, and stealing souls, across Earth for several thousand years. The war has already claimed many many billions of lives. I’d rather it didn’t get you too.”
“Well given destruction on that kind of scale, where exactly do you think we will be safe then?”
“There are a couple of things I can do: Simplest would be to stay in Kadia for a bit: it has quite a few defenses and you can’t die here. I can assign you a bodyguard force. In fact, I will whether you accept them or not – but they can do a much better job if you accept them. If you want, I can set a link on you that will draw you back here if you’re killed elsewhere. That’s a much more limited version of the link I use on my recruits, and won’t convey much power – but it does convey a fair amount of insurance.”
“Ok sounds reasonable enough.”
Well that had been awfully casual. Blast it! They were HUMORING him.
“Hey, take him seriously! He’s trying to keep you from getting killed!”
“Well maybe it is the sheer scale of it all that makes it hard to take seriously. I mean I can understand that someone out there is fighting a war costing billions of lives, but to really wrap your mind around it is difficult. Or that Kevin, no offense, is causing enough of a disturbance to really warrant coming after us.”
“The kid’s just worried about your safety. I’m doing the same thing for my family.”
“Right… Well, here: AWAKEN.”
Kevin infused Roulan and Adrian with a full set of Witchcraft pacts – a Spirit Pact (so that – if they were killed – he could bring them back), a Gateway Pact (which would let him dispatch some assistance if they were in trouble out in the Manifold), and an Arcanum Pact (which would let him drain the minor powers he was giving them if, for some reason, that became necessary). Three pacts would let him give them basic Witchcraft – or some more advanced bits if they had any psychic training. At a minimum, the basic Mental Defenses, Projective and Receptive Telepathy, basic Telekinesis, Healing, Sensory Enhancement, and either Molecular Telekinesis or Light Manipulation.
“It may take a moment to get used to that.”
“Alright, now that is disconcerting. And not in the same way that becoming a dragon is either.”
“It isn’t much of a trick – but there are limits to what I can do for those past adolescence or without creating a major bond.”
There was a fairly long pause there. It looked like Adrian and Roulan were reconsidering some assumptions.
“So you really can grant abilities to others through pacts? And these powers won’t disappear once we leave the realm?
“Wouldn’t be much point to it if they did now would there?”
“I suppose not. I suppose if you really can do this, then you may very well be perceived as a major threat.”
“Now, here are some bodyguards; I’m assigning you a dozen Thralls each. I’ll also be linking them to you so you can draw on a bit of their powers as well. That will let you power the psychic abilities I’ve given you many times longer, as well as act as gatekeepers. If any of them get killed, here (mental imprint) is the ritual to call them back. It’s easiest in a magical universe, but any one or two of them can provide enough power to work it elsewhere given a few hours. If you don’t have time, when they’re killed they just report back here at one of the malls anyway. I’m sorry to dump this all on you, but I don’t see any easy way to say any of it.”
“I really think there may not be any easy way to say this son. But I think we understand anyway.”
“Um… I hope you’re not going to keep looking past the bodyguard-aides I’ve assigned to you: they’ll put up with it if you want, but I think it would be a bit mean.”
“I think that will be our battle then. To come to terms with this. I think ours will go easier than yours will. Is there anything else you’d like to do then? We hardly ever get to see you.”
Kevin blew a fuse. A “BATTLE”!?! Why the HELL should it be a “BATTLE”?!?
“AAARGH! What is EVERYONE so CRANKY about? They get a tremendous load of benefits in exchange for a temporary indenture! The benefits include IMMORTALITY, so they’re GUARANTEED to come through in good shape! If I wanted to abuse them, it would be STUPID to set up a telepathic link and give them the ability to manipulate reality in so many ways! WHY THE HELL DOES EVERYONE ACT LIKE BEING PAID UP FRONT FOR A JOB IS A NEW IDEA?!?”
Marty was getting used to this: he expressed frustration with a knife. Kevin periodically blew his top. It was best to just acknowledge it and move on.
“Now Kevin, people don’t . . . oh, screw it. Who’s up for golf?”
“I think it is because you are fighting centuries or even millennia of cultural bias. Now admittedly a lot of that culture was superstition, but with the Manifold, so much of that has changed and many people have little to turn to except the old bits of our culture. Give it time, and continue with the demonstrations and I am sure that people’s attitudes will change. Just don’t expect it over night honey.”
Marty sighed. That was Core. So reasonable that it hurt his brain!
Kevin was just as happy to be diverted.
“Oh, we’ve got golf, and mammoth hunting, and gold panning, and giant robot battles, and carnivals, and mountain-climbing, and…”
“I like you two. Do either of you golf? I can probably teach you if you don’t.”
“All of those options sound like fun. Let’s start with the golf, and then work our way up to the bigger attractions.”
“Golf it is then!”
Kevin and Marty picked out one of the midrange-normal courses. The Thrall-courses tended to be pretty weird and exciting what with all the enhancements they got, and the themed courses could get pretty weird as well – but one of the ones with minor faerie phantasms would do nicely. Accommodating a few dragon-golfers would be easy enough.
Marty grabbed his clubs (most people would have called half of them weapons). They were a lot sturdier than normal clubs, since, well, they WERE from Battling Business World. The ones with chainsaw blades for cutting through the deliciously deadly hazard grass were the most fun! At home it was a three stroke penalty if you died!
Still, golf was no match for the cricket game massacres, and even THOSE were minor compared to the Australian Rugby War of 2012.
Kevin made some PROPER introductions while they were headed for the course.
“I’d like you to really meet Daniel, Gerald, Bard, Meara, and Tanis. They’ve been my primary assistants the last few months – and so far they’ve helped defeat two extra-dimensional invasions, helped move a core planet that was threatened by a nova to safety in the Manifold, fought giant robots, cyborg killers, and demon goddesses, helped rescue three planetary populations, and done a lot of other things, including die fighting Merlin’s forces and come back. For that matter, they also made some suggestions for facilities they’d like to see around Kadia while it was under construction. If you’d like, now that you can receive thoughts, they’ll be glad to show you some of those memories.”
“Ok then, we can do that.”
So far Kevin thought that they were having a good time. He had blurred time for them just a bit – it would make it a lot easier for them to come to terms with everything – and they had other things to do. Should they leave them alone for a bit after the golf game to get used to all the new stuff that had just been dumped on them? He wanted to check on the Jedi academy they’d sent Thomas to and get him some bodyguards – and a spirit pact if at all possible. It would be all kinds of fun dropping in, they might well classify him as a Sith.
In the meantime, he’d had an idea – and had been issuing a few orders. (That multi-tasking power was HANDY). Gates could have a modest, if stationary, stable area. That area was an overlay zone while the gate was active – and, in an overlay zone, you could either use force of will or spend mana to hold any appropriate ID, even if the natural tendency was to get shunted into the one that was the best fit for the space-time of the realm you were entering. You could hold a gate open indefinitely too if you had Gatekeepers to man it, although stabilization aids were useful and you did tend to get bleedover between linked universes as the natural laws tried to find a happy medium in the gateway area. Controlling that – if it was a problem – required more Gatekeepers.
Setting up for the Thrall-colonization project was already underway, he’d also set up a large gate to Kadia (in a mountain just to be classical), assign a squad of Thralls to keep it open and stable, and have them set up a series of comfortable dragon-bowers in the overlay area.
Now, who to pick?
Meara was originally from one of the Core colony worlds, and had been with him for more than ten years now. She’d started as a slave-concubine, and had asked to become a Thrall a few years later. She had a draconic ID – and, come to think of it, had been watching children in general, Eogam – and even the hatchling-phantasms – with just a hint of wistfulness for awhile now.
She got the first option. Kevin explained that he wanted to father a few clutches of dragons in Core in an overlay zone that allowed a draconic ID and see how many got souls. For best conditions, they’d need to be fertilized there, gestated and laid there, and kept there until they hatched.
Besides, he liked the fact that there was no helpless, nonverbal, infancy period with dragon hatchlings – and he liked being a father.
Meara was more than willing to participate.
Tanis – who’d only been with him as a Thrall-concubine for a year and a half – was willing as well, although there seemed to be a bit of dynastic / possessive ambition under there. Well, she had been a young magician – noble in a quasi-egyptian realm when she’d accidently summoned him and he’d acquired her. She’d need a draconic ID, but that was easy enough to arrange.
Lysira – his usual representative in the Dragonworlds – had had a draconic ID for nearly ten years now, was due for a vacation from the Dragonworlds (she liked the form, but found the background there a bit silly), and – come to think of it – had also been eying Eogam and making her presence and availability around the harem in the Dragonworlds more and more obvious.
Oh yes, she was willing.
He assigned a bunch of assistants for Kelsaru to make up for the time-off for his most experienced harem manager and had Lysira head over to Kadia and the colonization project.
Hm. Just to test, he recruited one of the newest Thrall-girls and provided her with a draconic ID. That might show if the time in the ID had any effect.
All metallic-dragon ID’s. It seemed to help with the offsprings personalities a bit, although it probably wouldn’t have much effect on the ones with souls.
The accommodations and the girls would be ready and waiting for him to drop by in a few days.
Meanwhile, the game of golf was underway.
“Blast it you dratted pixie! Come back here with my ball! That’s like a three-stroke penalty I think!”
“At least it didn’t EAT the damn thing like it did mine! Deliciously deadly hazard grass was easy compared to this! You just have to set it on fire!”
“Bloody course rules! Who SAYS unicorns are allowed to heal stroke penalties!”
“Why are you complaining? You built the place… GET BACK HERE WITH MY PUTTER YOU PUTZ!”
“I didn’t set up all the details of the course rules! Details you didn’t set up just sort of show up!”
“MINE! MINE! MINE! MINE! MINE!”
Marty caught up to the pixie that had his putter and tackled it; at least it hadn’t managed to get the chainsaw running yet. He was using his size and mass to his advantage, although the thing seemed to be able to carry a lot of weight as it flew around dragging him. Marty yanked the thing free and fell; he could just bounce back from that.
Kevin glared at the mound, the mushroom ring, and the sign. Faerie ring hazard: ball lost in alternate aspect of the dimension, complete quest or take five stroke penalty?!? After a moment some bright golden letters hanging in the sky above the course appeared; “You must climb the mightiest tree in the forest before the sun sets without using your hands or magic.”
“OH COME OFF IT!”
“Hey, Kevin! With a Herring?”
The sign put up a response, still in bright gold lettering: “If you wish. And yes, this text can read your mind.”
Adrian and Roulan were having a bit of trouble with transforming golf balls, minor supernatural fauna, and the various hazards as well.
“Well that is certainly different.”
“Sorry! I wasn’t paying too much attention to the golf rules when I set the place up, and they seem to have gotten a bit fey.”
Kevin glared at the faerie ring; “I’m taking the bloody penalty! It’s not like this is a tournament or something!”
Bright gold letters a hundred feet high appeared in the air; “FIVE STROKE PENALTY”
Marty had to laugh, even as he was plummeting to the ground. He ended up with his upper torso embedded in a sand trap and his feet dangling in the air.
(Dazedly) “But Daddy, I don’t know who broke the window…”
Marty then came back to his senses and dug myself out – only to find a great deal of sand in awkward places on his person. He spent the next few minutes brushing himself clean, spitting out sand, and scooping it out of his pants.
“Yeah, yeah.. Five it is. Oh, Mom? Just turn your coat inside out and the pesky thing will go away!”
“Now, where the hell did I leave my ball?”
The ball appeared to be about a quarter mile back, with a bright gold arrow pointing to it under a sign that said ‘Play where it lies.” Marty sighed and did.
Meanwhile, Kevin had hit “Faerie Mound Trap Penalty, All Night Feast and Dance or eight-stroke penalty. Resume game afterwards”
Oh well. “Want to attend the faerie feast? They try for week-long timeslips on regular tourists sometimes, but they should know better than to try that on us!”
“Why the hell not?”
The feast was an eclectic mix of food, drink, entertainers, party goers, and other guests and hosts. The fey – and even the local construct-fey who didn’t have that much in way of a local tradition yet – always threw a great party!
“Oh they’ve got to be kidding; Pixie sticks for desert?”
“Hey it is tradition!”
“Wow, haven’t had these since I was a kid.”
One of the more wound-up pixies proceeded to consume about 25 of the things in rapid succession and then began to bounce off the walls at warp speed while hauling around a roast boar. Marty promptly had fifty – and time seemed to slow down. By the time he’d consumed his fiftieth, he could hardly tell that any one around him was moving – save for the pixie that was sluggishly buzzing around.
Marty took advantage of it to test out his new Light Foot technique, and started bouncing off the walls.
From everyone else’s prospective, he simply vanished, replaced by something that was moving around too fast to see with the eye.
Kevin contemplated the pixie sticks, shook his head – and then rejected the brownies, and the angel food cake, and anything else that was supernatural or aphrodisiac, before settling for gingerbread. Then he realized that gingerbread was probably considered a construction material around here.
Marty slowed down after a bit, although – save for bumped patrons, knocked over glasses, spilled wine and other annoyances – his velocity wasn’t having any negative effects. Well, if that was all that happened to the patrons at a faerie revel, they were in luck. Half of them were bound to wake up sometime next week polymorphed into weird forms. Well, that was basically harmless, and was also one of the reasons why the release forms were required for going outside the quiet zones. Adrian and Roulan had wandered off to be alone and to make a night of it.
“Someone’s having fun tonight!”
Kevin abruptly realized that – given the urges and physiology of the dragonform – he was likely to have some young draconic siblings in a few months. He threw in his blessing – he was the local god, it should count for something – and tied the place to Core to upgrade the odds of his new siblings having souls. He REALLY didn’t want to have his parents have to deal with some of their kids NOT having one.
At least if anything would account for losing some time, spending time together – probably until they were exhausted – as dragons in a faerie mound should cover it.
Kevin and Marty picked up Jamie and slipped off to pay a flying visit to the original Jedi Academy and see Thomas. Who knew? If they got entangled enough – and dragons had plenty of relevant enhancements – they might be able to fit in a few more things as well while the security setup was underway on Lahien in Core (actually, given Kevin’s experiences, they should be busy for at least a week). Otherwise they were mostly waiting on the evidence-gathering teams at the moment anyway. They could finish the golf game in the “morning” and get back to seeing Kadia. It wasn’t like even Kevin had seen most of it yet.
A little checking revealed that they’d have plenty of time to make that trip. In fact, Kevin had time for a trip to the Dragonworlds – and to take care of some things there – while Marty had time for a bit of a vacation while Ealor got the ship out of storage and they picked out suitable Thralls for Thomas’s bodyguard.
After they were back from that, they picked up twenty-four Thralls and headed off for the Old Republic and the Jedi School. A direct gate might be taken as an attack or something, so they went to Ealor and picked up the Ebon Hawk. They hadn’t used it in several months anyway – not since dropping off the Mirage for repairs – and Marty had kind of missed flying it. It would only take about a day, although the route through the deep core near the central black hole was a bit convoluted.
While they were passing though, Kevin had a mobile discussion with Child Protective Services.
“You’re being silly. The Thralls CAN’T die, all they can do is take a fast jump to a new body. An uncommon privilege, but not death. They just like to call it that to make mischief and upset people; they are kids after all”
That just led to more consternation over the idea that they could not die. Kevin and Marty didn’t see the problem; what was WRONG with being unable to die? It was very handy!
“Everything dies, this is a fact of nature and a fact of life itself. To announce that something is unable to be killed is to say that it is effectively not a part of reality.”
“Not part of your reality, maybe.”
“So what is wrong with that? The soul is NOT a part of reality as you define it, and it is immortal. I’m just allowing them to remanifest instead of reincarnating – and that is immortality.”
“Of course souls are a part of reality, they have definite effects upon reality and conversely can be effected by reality in turn. Merely because all of our evidence is indirect means nothing when the proper application of logic is made.”
“Now, you’re half right: in a thousand years or a hundred thousand years or so, when they’re bored with their current lives and abilities, and long after their indentures are up – probably only a few centuries on those – they can choose to break the link and reincarnate. Where you’re making a wrong assumption is the belief that “Death” actually has a referent in the Manifold other than “changing bodies” and is important. It’s your own definition there: You said that “Everything dies, this is a fact of nature and a fact of life itself. To announce that something is unable to be killed is to say that it is effectively not a part of reality”. Well, there’s no such thing as death as you define it, so – by your own logic – nothing is a part of reality as you define it. Now we’re in a hurry, so perhaps you should fix your definitions?”
“We are going to have to have a discussion with the Science and Engineering department then. But do not think for a second that this discussion is over. Not by a long shot. We are keeping our eyes on you!”
“If it amuses you. Why should I care? “
That led to more consternation.
“Hey Marty! Kindly don’t crash us into the black holes! This is my good suit!”
“Same here, Kevin. Same here.”
The journey through hyperspace was pretty straightforward for the first half. Once they entered the deep core, things begin to become a bit different though.
Kevin got the Thralls organized into a chorus to sing “The green hills of Earth”.
Marty become aware of a black presence in hyperspace off to the ship’s starboard side. The gravity well sensor got jittery – and he got the distinct impression that the ship was listing a bit to starboard. He steered to port to compensate.
Kevin had the Thralls start in on “The Road Rage Theme Song”, and Marty grinned appreciatively.
Dropping in and out of hyperspace, they were treated to the awesome sight of a massive glowing rotating disk whose far side was eclipsed by some unseen object. It was several light months away, but it still dominated the sky.
Marty and Kevin were duly impressed. It had to be revolving near lightspeed for them to see it move at that range.
Marty finally got what he thought was a good course plotted, taking into account the warped space in the region. He even managed to get into hyperspace again before the warnings from the shielding systems got to strident…
“In descant! The Ride of the Valkyries!”
Soon enough they found themselves in orbit around an ancient world. It closely orbited a red dwarf, and had two moons running in retrograde orbits. It appeared to have a thriving ecosystem, a thick atmosphere, and an intense magnetic field. There were beacons for arrivals on one of the temperate continents. Nothing was visible from orbit at that spot, but there were some good sized cliffs on the shoreline.
They headed for it. If they wanted to talk, they can contact them on the way in. If they wanted to listen, they could start another song and broadcast it.
They settled on some humorous music before the messages started coming in.
“Welcome to the Jedi Academy. Here we offer full educational facilities and the best staff to provide one on one teaching in new students with regards to the Force. All applicants are welcome as well as visitors interested in the Jedi Order and it’s mission in the Republic. All new arrivals please follow the transmitted landing procedures and we will guide you in for a safe and secure landing. We hope you enjoy your stay on Tython.”
Marty wasn’t feeling too uppity – or like fixing the ship again – so they settled for following the procedures.
The turbulence was intense, with strong electrical activity and limited visibility – but the instructions were pretty much spot on perfect, and had them leaving the cloud cover and entering calm skies right in front of the bay they were directed to. Several tracking systems locked on and directed them further into the bay – and into the cliff side, where a series of lights illuminated a chamber carved out of the cliff.
That was pretty cool actually.
There was someone waiting for them too.
They wondered if it would be Yoda again? It would be just like him to be there throughout the entire history of the Jedi order.
Outside, the air smelled of salty sea with a pleasant scent reminiscent of mint. Jedi Master Tindale – one of the headmasters at the academy – was waiting to meet them. He was obviously a Jedi – the robes had changed some later on, but were still recognizable – but while he had that Jedi calm, there was some good-humor and a smile evident as well – as well as a lot of red pigmentation. Probably some local variant.
“Greetings! I am Master Tindale, one of the headmasters here at the Academy. What can I do for you?”
“We were just here to pay a visit to one of the students – Thomas Junyi Sanwell – and to arrange a few precautions for him.”
“Ah yes, a fine student, a fine student indeed. Are you friends or family?”
“He’s my younger brother.”
“Ah splendid, it is always good to have family and friends come visit. It help reminds the students that they are a part of the galaxy and the Republic. Too much isolation is sure to be unhealthy. I have been working hard at trying to set up a trust fund for insuring families without the means to come visit are able to at least once a standard year.”
That was a shocker. Had the Jedi actually started off quite sanely?
“That sounds like a very sensible idea: I may be able to help out with that.”
“Ah splendid, it is good to find people who share a vision. I fear young Thomas is in the middle of classes at the moment. I hope you understand that I would rather not interrupt his studies at the moment, although he should be free later this afternoon. Would you care for a tour of the facilities in the meantime?”
Master Tindale did inquire about the Thralls…
“Ah variously – and sometimes interchangably – my employees, students, and bodyguards. That is part of why I’m here: it is possible that Thomas’s presence may bring you a good deal of trouble due to my activities. It would be remiss of me not to have made arrangements to assist in that case.”
“Oh dear, that is most unfortunate. Well I shall tell you what I told your parents when they came to tour the facility. The staff here takes the safety of the students entrusted to our care most seriously and will do everything in our power to protect them. Although more information on the nature of this trouble would be appreciated of course.”
It took Kevin and Marty a minute to come up with the list, and they were sure they were forgetting quite a few things along the way.
“Well, so far we’ve had cyborg assassins, power-armor goons, people driven insane by mental meme-weapons, orbitally projected energy-constructs, pirate starships firing nuclear missiles, treacherous government functionaries with pistols, orcs, drow priestesses of Lloth, crazed sorcerers with bombs, killer golems, soul-stealing mages, cartoon bandits – oh, and a balrog and child protective services, who may not be strictly hostile, but are very annoying.”
Kevin could tell that Master Tindale was truthsensing – but made no effort to interfere or to try and block it. Why should he? It was all quite true.
“I trust this sort of variegated opposition is not entirely a shock to you?”
“It appears that you have been busy and made not a few enemies. Most unfortunate. Yes I can see with enemies like that, that Thomas might be in danger. Although I must admit I have a bit of trouble….. visualizing some of them.”
They gladly showed him some images and records. His normally-calm-and-passive smile got just a trifle strained as they went through some of the images and vids of the enemies they’d encountered.
“I must say they seem a most unpleasant bunch. And most varied.”
“Unfortunately yes. Ergo, I thought I would bring you some extra assistance. It is hardly fair to place you in danger without both warning and assisting you and taking measures to protect my little brother.”
“Understood, and we appreciate it. We shall have to see if we can do something in return before you leave. Meanwhile, on to the tour then?”
“How familiar would you consider yourselves to be with the Jedi Order? I can give explanations as we tour along if necessary.”
“I am somewhat familiar with some of the later developments. I’m not too sure of the extend of Marty’s knowledge. Marty?”
“I think I know the basics.”
“Ah good then, well if something needs clarification or needs explained, just ask away and I will do my best to inform you.”
He lectured as they walked.
“This facility was established 328 years ago, when the Order was founded here on Tython. It was built as a training facility for the Force Sensitives of this world and the neighboring worlds and as a test bed for formal education in the ways of the Force. Since the Republic first made contact with our world 53 years ago, we have been trying to expand our services to the whole of the Republic.
We built the majority of the facility underground in order to minimize the impact on the surrounding ecology and thus allow our students to feel the life around them in it’s natural state while still retaining the comforts of modern civilization. That isn’t to say we spend all of our time down here, we do many classes topside in various environments as training exercises and to help our students adapt to new circumstances. I believe young Thomas is in the Tree city at the moment.
We teach history, languages, customs, biology, chemistry, medicine, physics, science, engineering, and art here. We also teach the students the arts of Alteration, Manipulation, and Sensing with various dedicated facilities spread through the structure. We hold numerous game exercises to teach the importance of teamwork and organization. On site we have over 300 instructors with many more graduated students also on site to give a hand or to pursue their own advanced studies. At the top of the school are the twelve Masters and the Headmaster. They are in charge of making decisions about the future of the school and the Order.”
Master Tindale was evidently very used to giving this tour; he took them through numerous rooms filled with students, teachers and equipment while simultaneously plucking any questions that rose to the surface of their minds out of the ether and working the answers in without interrupting his spiel. His skills were quite impressive, and the Thralls were learning a lot about using telepathy just by watching him.
It was still impressive for Kevin, and he’d had his powers a lot longer than any of the Thralls he had along.
Even more impressively, they seemed sane and reasonable enough, they hadn’t mentioned any sort of dark side / light side dichotomy, they welcomed visitors and family, and they didn’t seem to have any kind of obsessive monastic code.
And Thomas would be done with his lesson, and available for a visit, as the tour wound down. Had that been intentional timing?