The kids seemed mildly distressed by the thought of acting as support against Lord Sanwell – but were more than willing to explain the contracts they were under.
(Sandy) “It’s quite all right sir, ma’am! We’ve been given the powers in advance for our indenture, and if I hadn’t thought that they were worth the price, I’d have gone home or just stayed here rather than signing up! It was all explained in advance!”
It was kind of frustrating to Abigail that she couldn’t really argue with that. On the other hand, how bad was Sandy’s world if Thralldom was the best available choice? She asked about that too…
(Abigail) “So where was home?”
(Sandy) “A world called Balearia ma’am! It’s listed as a “Steampunk Victorian” universe.”
Abigail started pulling data. It certainly looked like Gelman had been given fairly complete access to a great deal of it… Baelaria didn’t seem all that bad. A bit exploitive of the underclasses maybe – and the kid would be considered an adult there.
It did look like the benefits were decent, and choosing to sign up would be understandable if that “advance payment” was good enough. It wasn’t every employer who was willing to pay up front – but not too many employers demanded that kind of service either!
Still, she could understand why the kid might have signed up. On the other hand, this Sanwell character couldn’t be up to any good if he was snagging hundreds of thousands of kids! She doesn’t have as many moral objections as Gelman did – but it was worrying. People in desperate situations did crazy things, but – although the thralls were obedient to the point of being creepy – they did seem to be happy enough.
Hm. What all were they being paid? She hadn’t exactly had a full summary, but it looked like the terms of the deal were available online…
An online, annotated, spirit-contract with full disclosure and a time limit? Not too traditional there.
Hm. Some money of course, and free access to all the facilities, and psionic abilities, and magic, and shapeshifting, and perpetual youth, and regeneration, and returning from death, and martial arts talents, and equipment, and enhanced attributes, and any physical or mental weaknesses were repaired for them, and the ability to open and close the dimensional gates, and more… In exchange, they were linked with “Lord Sanwell” and at his service until they grew out of it – which would require several centuries.
Abigail didn’t want to say so in front of Gelman – not with his religious prejudices – but that honestly sounded like a pretty good deal. Plenty of people spent their entire lives working for less, and throwing in “immortality” made “a few centuries” sound a lot more reasonable. Were those powers available any other way though?
Most of them were – and the training probably wouldn’t take as long – but they got them in advance, got a decent effective salary during their indenture, and they were guaranteed to live to enjoy all those powers.
That wouldn’t have sounded like a big point before she’d talked to her own Thralls – but it seemed that immortality like she’d always taken for granted was a rare commodity in the multiverse.
WAIT A MINUTE! What if Marty started looking closer to home for ensouled individuals? He might be trying to turn Julia into a slave! He seemed to be functioning as “Lord Sanwell’s” strong right arm…
(Abigail, hurriedly) “Well, Gelman, I have to get home. If you find him, tell me.”
(Gelman) “I’ll keep an eye out.”
She thanked him and hurried home. Her daughter might be in danger…
(Julia) “Yah! See! Nothing to worry about! I WANNA GO TO MAGIC SQUIRREL LAND!”
Abigail remained very quiet. She’d be calling her lawyer in the morning.
Wait, Julia had a pony? Where had she gotten a pony! Was Marty sneaking in while she was away?!?
She fed it some barley – and it promptly spoke to her telepathically.
<It’s just me ma’am; it was to keep her distracted>
Oh, one of the Thralls doing the baby-sitting.
<Well, that’s all right.>
Kadia? There are a lot of fun things to do there!>
<Yes and no… Hey, I have a question.>
<Say two people have each hired some of you. They start fighting and ordering you to attack. What would you do?>
<If they’ve each got that authority we’d fight ma’am. It’s not like it can really result in any permanent damage>
She couldn’t let Marty anywhere near Julia right now…his moral compass had been bad enough before, but now he was dealing in child slavery! She could tolerate a lot, but not that! She’d dismiss the ones she had now if she could; they could feed Marty information. It might be a good deal for them, but HER child had someone to take care of her! And she always would!
She snuggled Julia.
Would it be bad to take her to the carnival at least? She seemed to have convinced herself that “Magic Squirrel Land!” was candyland and disney and muppets all wrapped up into one – and it was a nice place. Besides, if she didn’t let her have a peek, she might wheedle the thralls into sneaking her in! An hour at the carnival should do nicely. Maybe disguised in case Marty showed up.
OK, that didn’t seem too likely – assigning eight kids to try and recruit one seemed more than a bit inefficient – and Julia was under “Lord Sanwell’s” age limits – but who knew what Marty might get up to? His moral character hadn’t been all that good to begin with!
Oh well. A trip to “Magic Squirrel Land” was reasonable enough.
Julia enjoyed the carnival, and turned out to have a 110 credit balance on her account. That seemed like a bit much for a seven year-old! Oh well, she had been doing well in school lately – and she had the Thralls to thank for that.
Gelman was right. It was REALLY easy to get used to that kind of service.
She let Julia buy some new stuffed toys and a new staff. It seemed like anything really major would require parental consent at that age anyway.
While Julia was playing she did a little looking into how “Lord Sanwell” had wound up in charge of Kadia anyway – and the story she got certainly sounded absurd to her. This boy had simply CREATED a world? Designed to suit his purposes and whims? Built to give his followers a place to hang out between jobs and resurrections? Sure… Some information on, and recordings of, “Lord Sanwell” were available though.
She got some classical popcorn as a snack and watched the recordings.
A very through, and apparently quite honest, presentation.
Could the boy actually have made Kadia? And that recently? That would help explain why Gelman was so upset… That would shake the entire structure of his religion – not to mention her own vaguely protestant faith. What could be up with the boy? He was acting like a rebellious teenager, but on a cosmic scale! Where were his parents?
What there was on them suggested a fairly normal family… (which would probably explain why they weren’t disciplining their cosmically-empowered son), and apparently currently visiting Kadia on a vacation. It looked like the computers were automatically filtering out attempts to get into touch with them though; she wasn’t on their contact list, and there were apparently quite a few people who wanted to talk to them about Kevin. Still, he apparently did have a fairly normal family and at least one fairly normal sibling.
Still, somebody should beat the boy to within an inch of his life for behaving this way! Every day! For a month! She kind of wanted to do it right now! Even if he was apparently officially of age! (Core was a strange place. Why had Gelman wanted to move his family there, again? Oh, never mind).
Meanwhile, Julia was trying the low-gravity flight-with-strap-on-wings pavilion. She wanted to see what it was like to fly WITHOUT riding on Blackie. After some initial confused flapping, she’d started having a lot of fun… Still, she’d tire soon enough. Even in low-gravity, flapping your arms to fly was a lot of work.
She actually got sleepy – so Abigail scooped her up and headed home. She was definitely calling the lawyer in the morning. She needed to “amend” the custody agreement – as in; “You are not getting ANYWHERE near her.” That might be difficult to do without his agreement, but she could make a case for moral turpitude – and Marty was pretty notorious. And that was in a city where no one looked askance when things got crazy on the New York Stock Exchange floor and it turned into a massacre.
She put Julia to bed and went to catch up on her restaurant and catering. It was so hard being a single mother… Still, she had to wonder what it was like to live somewhere where death meant not waking up tomorrow?
It seemed that the Thralls had done a lot of it for her – which left her plenty of time to ask (and to amend the orders to help with the cooking only when she was there to supervise; she liked working!). Apparently not returning meant a constant small undercurrent of uncertainty and fear, with a lot of doubt – and a lot of people being missed because you would never see them again. It didn’t sound like fun.