The Mirage had been making good progress on it’s magic lessons… Shapeshifting had gone well, although it seemed to be limited to taking on the forms of it’s prior incarnations at the moment. The magic lessons had been going well too; the Mirage seemed to have a good well of magical power within itself (oh, it had decided it was male, and thus it was himself) and a fair degree of control – although he could mostly only do solar magics at the moment.
Well, to be fair, he was drawing his power from a fusion plant.
The Military was becoming increasingly enthusiastic about the Thralls. The logistical benefits of having a ready supply of gatekeepers available had already proven invaluable, having even low-grade magic available was often extremely convenient – and some of the commanders had also seen great benefits in assigning them to scouting and reconnaissance.
Early results from Kelsaru and the others indicated that being impregnated and gestating in Core – even if it was in an overlay zone – did indeed help a great deal with the chances of ensoulment. (And the “clutching in Core even if it was in an overlay zone part would be coming up in the next few days). The “welcoming thoughts committee” and benefits didn’t really seem to have any effect though.
Oh well. Kevin had figured that it was worth a try, but he’d rather suspected that the transference was effectively instant under most circumstances, without any souls “drifting about making disembodied decisions”. After all, a mind and soul was always anchored in SOME sort of host and didn’t really seem to be conscious outside of one. Chalk one up for the negative results column.
Over in the Forgotten Realms – Faerun and the Underdark – the best indications were that one of Elistraee’s priestesses would need to stand up and become a new vessel for the goddess, since her previous one had been slain, before she’d be able to return. The best option was usually a descendent, but sometimes a particularly devout or talented individual could take on the role through some sort of quest. That sort of thing had happened before with other deities in the history of the realm.
The group wasn’t entirely sure about that. It was probably none of their business… Still, they meddled in a LOT of things that were none of their business. Should they offer to help that out somehow? It would be better for Marty’s kids there if the Elistraee priesthood was doing well; they wouldn’t want there to be a Dark Elven social collapse before they were born.
Given that thought, Marty thought that they should help out. He wanted his kids to be born! In a reasonably decent place too!
They weren’t too sure how they could help out though… Channel a lot of power into a relevant subject? Try to empower her priestesses a bit as a sign that she was coming back and to help keep her worship vital and her followers helpful? That might help with the stability if the other gods didn’t get fussy about it… Could they even do that anyway? Marty had told Kevin that he had some priests – but it was hard to take that seriously, and the process obviously didn’t need much of any attention for him or he’d kind of have to have known about them for it to work in the first place.
Marty still thought that was funny. Poor child-priests, their god wasn’t even paying any attention to any of them! He hadn’t even noticed that they existed!
The Linear Realms has thus far managed to avoid a collapse of social order, and the attacks on their defense infrastructure had done some damage, but it was fairly minimal. Several American, Core Military and other Openers had apparently heard the word, and had been busy setting up gateways to realms with substantial military and economic resources. A crash program had been instituted to upgrade the realm’s defense infrastructure as quickly as possible.
The social order was still going downhill though; there’d been a sharp rise in syndicate activity, and the mass disappearances of children – even if they were runaways, unregistered, and otherwise mostly off the official records – still wasn’t helping. Violent outbreaks against “oppressors”, both real and imagined, were on the increase and the police forces were being stretched thin. A perceived near-panic on the federal level was exacerbating the mess even further.
That annoyed Kevin; he’d been trying to take some of the stress off the Linear Realms – at least considering the number of kids who’d be disappearing anyway as the realm slit towards war. He might have to send a fairly high percentage back as Thralls to try and keep the lid on things.
Unfortunately, trying to hire the Syndicates to work elsewhere was a hopeless effort. Some of them – of course – weren’t willing to sign on for unspecified jobs involving “travel” and there seemed to be a near-endless supply of potential syndicate recruits replacing the ones they did hire. It did provide them with a near-limitless supply of thugs with unsavory skill sets, but they were after stability…
Well, once again, it had been worth a try. Perhaps if they just hired existing syndicate hire goon squads for jobs elsewhere? Those don’t need to be thrall-candidates children, just thugs. Was there anywhere where they could use lots of goon squads? Would it be any use hiring them to try and keep order in the Linear Realms? After all, it was their world too, and it wouldn’t help them if it fell apart.
The information network was picking up a lot of activity in Arthur’s court in the Commonwealth. More Knights were coming in all the time with reports on preparations and progress. There was apparently a good deal of annoyance at the lack of success on some of the preparatory work on some unspecified project – perhaps the assault on the Linear Realms? – although various members of the court, along with more unspecified “others” had apparently taken the opportunity to jockey for favor by promising to deliver success.
Master Tindale’s recommended contacts had been located, although trying to get in touch had proved impossible… Marty’s had been found in a realm based on a Science Fiction series written in the twenty-second century. Apparently a mirror or alternate world based on “what if events in the 21’st century had gone differently”. A fairly common type of realm really… Kevin’s had been found in the Shaolin Temple realm – apparently in one of the temples that specialized in enlightenment and inner discipline.
Kevin didn’t know whether that was insulting or not. It wasn’t like he didn’t know exactly what he was up to didn’t he?
They’d probably make contact with them both personally of course, which was what had been recommended anyway. Precognition was like that; it was quite probably the act of going to see them – and possibly the act of intervening in whatever situation they were involved in – that would wind up being helpful.
Marty was curious anyway; he’d never had any experience with precognitives.
On Ealor, the Singularites were expecting a baby-boom in the near future. With a few visits to Core, fertility had skyrocketed – although the recent incident with the runaways was calling their child-care precautions into question; how could they best care for the children and ensure that the mistakes they’d made were not repeated?
They were putting together a team of their own – with the best equipment and training they could provide – to track down the children gone missing in the recent incident if Kevin and company did not respond and if the Amarant Solutions teams couldn’t locate them. They’d even hired a Jedi… It would still take a little while to get the team ready, but at least they’d be ready for a fast response in the case of any future incidents. It had only been a couple of weeks, but the Singular bunch placed a great deal of importance on their children.
They were already on the brink of a trade war between the Kuat-ATE alliance and the Ealor-Corellian partnership too. A new imperial ship construction contract was up for bids, and both parties were keen to get a piece of it. The Emperor had been playing both sides off against each other, much to the annoyance of the Kuat-ATE alliance.
They really should try and get the kids back if there was time – although, come to think of it, it seemed like most of them had taken the basic spirit-pact – so, if they got killed, they’d just wind up in Kadia. They’d have to check and see if any had shown up. Good either way really; if there were some there, they’d probably be able to provide some leads on where the rest were. If not, then probably none of them had been killed – although there was a slim chance that they’d stumbled into somewhere really horrendous where they were either being imprisoned after death or weren’t being ALLOWED to die. Tracing them across space and the Manifold was not going to be easy though.
As for the Trade War… Did they want to get involved at all? A trade war REALLY wasn’t their business.
Interestingly, the anthropomorphic-animal realms were quickly becoming the number two realm for recruitment after the Linear Realms. The operations there weren’t nearly on the scale of those in the Linear Realms, but they were beating out most of the others – Core, Hogwarts, Imperial Rome, and the others – by a good margin. Business was especially good amongst the Rabbits and Mice, where fatalities would normally be especially high.
Marty thought that would be amusing… Odd looking Thralls! A bit more like some of the wilder sectors at home!
Kevin was pretty pleased; he’d been wanting a ready supply of anthropomorphic Thralls; anthromorphs could already be legal property in Core, so they were been helping with the core-acceptance project.
A’ikana was not especially pleased. That was all Kevin needed! More encouragement and a legal basis for his misbehavior!
Hogwarts had been implementing new rules about allowing certain types of children in – and was looking into getting a new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher well versed in Pacts and Manifold travel. Dumbledore’s first pick was noncommittal, although there might be an arrangement in time for the next semester… In the meantime, Paul Malfoy was trying for the temporary position. Who knew? He might be able to turn it into a semi-permanent one.
Shyan had wandered off, and had last been seen in Crusader New York and in the Jedi Temple the group had visited some time ago. He’d apparently been speaking in riddles or prophecies about a conflict of legacies or some such and had last been heard of heading for a world that had been split into two to find out some secret. Master Tindale had found him to be quite odd… Crazy prophet warning!
Kevin was SO glad that time travel backwards with respect to Core seemed to be quite impossible. There were realms that featured “time travel”, but you always left them later than you’d arrived with respect to every OTHER dimension, and the places were so unstable that it was hard to tell if you’d time traveled or just had a reality-shift anyway.
Puck had been known to frequent the fey realms and the realms connected to Shakespeare. He had a long track record of humiliating and enlightening those who encountered him. The general consensus was that people were usually better off for meeting him, and hated him for it. He wasn’t believed to be ensouled, but was suspected to be a major fey or psychic focus specializing on giving people a swift kick in the ass. Enlightenment through jackassery… He was probably very very used to being pursued.
Marty’s best bet on legal advisors in his child custody dispute seemed likely to be a law firm from LA called the “Nazghul”; motto “We might have redeeming features, that is, if we had souls.”
Marty had vaguely heard of that bunch. Corrigan’s territory. If his stories were true, Marty felt that he had better practice his driving – and learn to act really superficial… at least he had the blond part down!
Well, it was better than the “Charon, Yama, and Thanos” bunch from the the Necropolis; Motto: “We’re dead and Hell won’t have us, so we went to law school”.
Marty was still thinking… geez, could he hire a law firm with THAT motto? Admittedly, it was better than hiring form the Necropolis: the Nazghul lawyers have less of an appetite for brains. Still… was his best shot lawyers or personal appeals? What evidence did he really have for a desire to reform? He had dismissed the concubines, but all of them were pregnant, and they’d simply moved in downstairs and set up a creche to raise his half-drow children with theirs. Running a mass enslavement operation wasn’t good evidence – at least not FOR him… He was definitely in a pickle!
OK, he had saved an entire realm from annihilation and captured a Horseman of the Apocalypse, but it wasn’t like that hadn’t been saving his own butt too, and it certainly didn’t have much to do with child-rearing except to say he had horrific enemies.
Maybe he could bring in some knights as character witnesses? But the judge would just think they were crazy…