Abigail did wait a day or two… She needed to calm down a bit. Her usual approach probably wouldn’t work well with Kevin anyway.
Back at home, more talking to “her” Thralls – blast, it was treacherous how EASY it was to slip into thinking of them as “hers”. It would be nice to say it was just because they were kids in her care – but it was the way they casually accepted that they’d been paid in advance to be property for a few centuries! – Anyway, they thought of Kevin as a cross between a deity, an employer, an owner, a patron, and a benevolent demon pacter. It didn’t make any sense at all!
Wait; Gelman had dealt with Kevin. It was hard to doubt his moral code though… She’d have to see what HE thought of Kevin. He’d actually dealt with him directly.
Gelman’s opinion was… almost as odd as the rest. He seemed to think that Kevin was a posing – if fundamentally decent enough – teenager who was coping with an impossible load and far more power and dark energies than any human should have to deal with. A youngster stuck in a cosmic role – whether or not he believed in an Abrahamic religion. According to Gelman, Kevin made it no particular secret that he might be considered a “God”, but that HE accepted the theology of the Unified Church.
Of course, from what he said, that was sort of a generic “minimum theological requirement” religion with very little in the way of doctrine.
Behind the scenes, Kevin’s attitude toward “godhood” mostly came from Crusader, where “Being a God” didn’t mean much. That explained a lot about him… After all, if you’d spent a lot of time in Crusader, it would probably be hard to consider ANYTHING odd – and there were plenty of “Gods” there. They were just more super-beings – even if they were usually older super-beings – with bizarre origin stories revolving around magic instead of weird technology or strange radiation.
Abigail sighed. That was yet ANOTHER viewpoint that didn’t match anyone else’s! She was just going to have to see Kevin herself… Of course, for Kadia’s supposed creator-god, Kevin was pretty accessible. It really did look like she could get in to see him without too much trouble – either by exploiting her link with Marty or by simply arranging to be visiting Kevin’s dragon-harem while he was in Kadia. It seemed that he made it a point to spend time there when he could – a typical male!
Abigail was feeling calmer – and talking to someone in a family environment seemed likely to be better for getting a candid look at them. (However weird that family was by most standards; even in Battling Business World shapeshifting took strong medicine – and she certainly didn’t want Julia taking the wackier stuff!). She decided to wait until Kevin was in and then visit the girls… The Thralls could tell her when it would be a good time.
Kevin got back soon enough – and Abigail went to visit Meara again a few hours later. (She knew what a males first topic would be on visiting his harem!), and to meet some of the others. She’d probably bump into Kevin quite naturally that way.
Meara was glad to see her, and it seemed that at least a few of the others – like Tanis, a young gold dragoness – would like to meet her as well.
Tanis seemed a bit stuck up – although pleased to meet her as well. Perhaps she had a bit of an odd background? Ah, she had started out as an aristocrat of some type – even if she was Kevin’s property now (that was still enough to start getting her upset again! How could any man give such mixed impressions to people who knew that he was a trader in child-slaves?).
They were still perfectly willing to chat about Marty and his two “friends”, Elera and Minel though.
Hm, maybe there’d be ammunition for the child custody battle here after all!
(Abagial) “Elera and Minel, you say? What do you know about them?”
(Meara) “Oh, Kevin gave them to Marty as a present while we were visiting the Underdark of Faerun. They’ve been getting along with him very well!”
A present? That was a bit disturbing – but it wasn’t as if she didn’t know that Kevin dealt in slaves.
(Abigail, with a vaguely predatory smile) “How well?”
(Meara) “Well, they stay with him all the time, just like we stayed with Kevin until he asked us if we’d like to bear his children. Marty hasn’t opted for that with them yet though.”
Sadly for Marty, Meara didn’t want to get him in trouble – but neither she nor Tanis saw anything wrong with powerful men keeping slave-concubines. It was a point that Abigail noted.
(Abigail) “That’s nice… Oops! May I have another glass, please? I shattered this one.”
(Tanis) “Oh, certainly! (There was a copper dragon harem attendant by in mere moments). Er… Is there something upsetting about that? You are divorced…”
(Abigail) “He should know better! What will Julia think!”
(Attendant) “Your drink madam! Is there anything else you may require? Since you are from Battling Business World you should not need a healing charm for your hand, but may I use a charm to clean your clothing?”
(Abigail) “Yes, cleaning would be nice…”
The attendant performed a small cleaning charm and one to mend her sartorial damage and remove the blood stains.
(Attendant) “There you are madam!”
(Abigail) “Thank you. Now how old are these girls?”
After all, Kevin dealt in slave-children.
(Tanis) “About forty I think. Of course, they’re elves.”
(Abigail) “What’s that compared to humans? Twenty or so?”
Meara heard the warning tone in Abigail’s voice. Hm… It looked like “Battling Business World” was a bit more uptight than Core. Not too surprising; an awful lot of historical periods had been. She temporized a bit. Like most of the Thralls, Elera and Minel were physically what an old-style human would have considered equivalent to fourteen or fifteen. It didn’t really matter – they were actually 40-50 year old elves, and shapeshifters – but Abigail’s tone said that she wanted a quicker and simpler answer than that.
(Tanis, chiming in) “They signed up with Kevin voluntarily of course! He never compels anyone. He can’t really…”
(Abigail, not falling for that; she knew some cultures married young, she’d seen it on TV) “A little more specific, girls…”
(Meara) “I think it physically compares to.. maybe sixteen or so? It’s kind of hard to say, a six-month old elf is about comparable to a six-month old human, but the aging curves are very different and the various elements don’t entirely match.”
(Abigail, having focused on one word in all that) “SIXTEEN!?!”
(Tanis) “Kevin prefers girls who are about his age physically, but some of us are younger in actual years and some older…”
(Meara) “Well, like I said, it doesn’t really match to a human age, cause they’re not humans!”
Abigail seethed. At least they weren’t little girls, but STILL! She’d thought that Marty was better than teenagers!
(Tanis) “Like, since we’re being dragons, our kids will hatch able to talk and fly.”
(Abigail) “Do you have bottled tea? I don’t think even a metal cup will hold up right now…”
All in all, it was a good thing that Abigail was in a place with extensive protective measures. She REALLY wanted to hit someone – and neither the two slave-girls nor the poor harem attendant had done anything to deserve it.
The copper attendant trotted in again, with a serving tray hovering alongside of him.
(Attendant) “Here you are madam!”
Abigail thanked the poor creature – but even the force-field bottle her drink had been served in wavered a bit beneath the pressure of her fingers.
(Meara) “You shouldn’t be upset; your culture set the age for such activities unnaturally high you know.”
Well, now she knew why Marty was always complaining about a “Core Education” and how rational and boring people from there were. The girl was just… RIDICULOUSLY rational.
(Abigail) “He has a child! What Kind of role model does he think he is?”
(Meara) “Well, he is out fighting to save the universe and rescuing people. A heroic one in his own way?”
Abigail growled to herself… Finally, something she couldn’t really argue with! And it only took about forty years!
Meara was still talking…
(Meara) “There aren’t any health concerns: since the Girls are some of Kevin’s Thralls, they have the same kind of health benefits you get naturally and more. So they could have children if they want quite easily, and they can control their own fertility if they don’t want them. Isn’t that a good thing?”
That brought Abigail close to screaming. It was a point – but it was like Santa came to Marty here!
(Meara) “Oh dear, we’re upsetting you. We didn’t mean to.”
(Abigail) “Well, I suppose you’re right. But it’s still insensitive! This is exactly why he needs to be away! He doesn’t think about these things!”
(Meara) “I think, that – for all his flaws and being human – Marty is doing the right things and is helping Kevin with the rescue efforts.”
(Abigail) “That’s how you think of them? What about the slaves?”
(Meara) “Only the ones who volunteer get to be Thralls… Kevin is currently hosting a bit over sixty million refugees, providing medical services on several worlds, and fighting a war with the Horsemen of the Apocalypse. He won’t let anyone who doesn’t volunteer for his service – and the ability to return from death – get out where it’s dangerous.”
Wait, what? Sixty… Million… Refugees. Could that possibly be true?
The computer systems said… 60,432,311 as of this instant, and increasing by nearly three million per day as of yesterday – and the influx was accelerating.
Now THAT was a bucket of cold water to the face. Oddly enough, the shock was pretty calming.
(Abigail) “I’m… Kevin needs to decide if he’s a good boy or a bad one! People are going to be confused!”
Kevin had been headed that way after spending a little time with Kelsaru and the others. He’d delayed for a few moments outside – he’d never met Abigail either, but he’d heard a lot about her from Marty too – and that sounded like a good point to make an appearance. He stuck his head in – as a dragon of course.
(Kevin) “Ah, there you two are! Oh, you’d be Abigail? Pleased to meet you!”
(Abigail) “Are you Kevin Sanwell?”
(Kevin) “Oh, I usually go by Aillill when I’m being a dragon – but yes.”
(Abigail, extending a meaty hand) “Good to meet you too.”
Kevin cheerily shapeshifted back to human and shook Abigail’s hand.
Well, Kevin really DID look like a boy! And a quite incredibly handsome one! A powerful grip too… No wonder the girls were so infatuated with him.
(Kevin) “Was there something I can do for you?”
(Abigail) “I’ve heard some things about you and I’m not sure what to believe! Well, you could explain why you set up this place.”
(Kevin) “To have someplace for my agents to hang out when they’ve been killed. Waiting around to have someone perform the ritual to make them a new body was boring – and this way they can get extra recreation and training in. Secondarily, it’s a place to provide medical services, a base of operations, to provide supplies, and to have a place to put refugees, It was easier to create a universe that fitted my own specifications than to try and find somewhere that did.
(Abigail) “You were that picky?”
(Kevin) “Well, I wanted a particular set of natural laws, and where my own powers worked best, and with no local authorities to deal with, and more. It’s hard to just find a place that specific.”
So casual… At least now she knew why Gelman was so skittish. That was godly power – or at least something that could easily be mistaken for godly power – all right!
(Abigail) “It’s certainly impressive. And you seem to be doing well with it… Has my ex-husband given you much trouble?”
(Kevin) “Why thank you – and Marty’s been quite helpful. His particular talents tend to compliment mine nicely, although Mr Gelman and Kelsaru have been better at getting things organized.”
(Abigail) “I’m not surprised. What do you do other than create pocket dimensions and give children superpowers, anyway?”
Hm… She began to understand how Kevin produced such mixed impressions. Even she no longer felt like pummeling him! It was just… The boy was incredibly charming, had a knack for making anything he said sound utterly reasonable – and it usually seemed to be fairly reasonable to start with – and… he flip-flopped from one extreme to another based on his own, eccentric, standards so completely that he seemed to switch personalities entirely. There wasn’t a trace of reluctance once he’d made a decision… No wonder he took to new “identities” so easily.
(Kevin) “Personally? I have somewhat stronger versions of most of the powers I grant; I simply share some portion of those powers with those youngsters who opt to accept them. Thus they become Gatekeepers. I am an Opener.”
(Abigail) “What’s that?”
She’d gotten a little information on that from Gelman – but she’d be the first to admit that Gelman was a lot smarter than she was.
(Kevin) “I can create new gateways between dimensions and manipulate reality in a variety of ways. They can simply boost some of their own abilities and control passage through existing gateways.”
(Abigail) “So you can go anywhere? And you’ve been taking Marty with you?”
(Kevin) “Yes – although I prefer to conserve that ability for emergencies, and mostly use existing gates. There are limits – and it can be quite hard to target some places.”
Abigail was momentarily stunned. A potential INFINITY of girlfriends and love children.
Kevin was pretty perceptive, at least in Kadia.
(Kevin) “If it helps your concerns any, Marty seems to have settled into a steady threesome with Elera and Minel.”
(Abigail) “Really? I never thought that would happen!.. I’d prefer just one, but that will have to do!”
(Kevin) “I take it this visit was mostly about Marty then?”
(Abigail) “It’s always about him these days.”
She almost hesitated to broach the subject – but it had to be asked.
(Abigail) “Why slaves?”
She got the explanation. Why not? Most of it was available in Kadia anyway. He explained the required depth of the bond, the need for the acceptance of the soul-link so that he can bring them back, the limits on giving power to older people, and the fact that it HAD to be voluntary.
Well, if he was lying, he was very very good at it. She’d cut Kevin a bit more slack than Gelman, then. People did desperate things in desperate situations.
(Abigail) “That’s a relief! I was worried Marty could make Julia one of your thralls!”
(Kevin) “That seems to be a power unique to myself. Now, if she wanted those powers when she hit the appropriate age, and you consented, I’d bestow them – although, in courtesy to Marty, her “duties and orders” would consist of “do what you want”.”
(Abigail) “That makes this entire custody dispute a misunderstanding, then…”
(Kevin) “Marty’s been rather quiet about that. I never did hear what it was about, except that it upset him”.
(Abigail) “Well, I can’t back out of it now… No one would let me live it down! And besides, it seems to have knocked some sense into him!”
(Kevin) “Oh, I was given to understand that you might want some of the slave-modifications to Julia’s pet undone?”
(Abigail) “Would he be uncontrollable if I did?”
(Kevin) “Regrettably, undoing the obedience-conditioning, and the neural-control chips, would make him that way. The skill training programming is harmless and useful. The neutering could be undone – although we could give you control over those functions as well – and he’d remain fairly controllable as long as the programming was left, but it will be more than thirty years before he’d start to mature sexually anyway; from the records he’s still quite young. Still, given Battling Business World, who knows? You might want him to be set loose to rampage.”
(Abigail) “I hate to do it, but I’ll keep them. Julia will miss too much school if she’s being eaten all the time!”
(Kevin) “Well, most dragons would regard it as being grossly inappropriate, but you can always opt to restore his sexuality later. There’s plenty of time. Simply praising and petting him will give him considerable pleasure though. That isn’t traditionally part of the process, but I saw no reason not to add it.”
(Abigail) “Maybe when he becomes a teenager… Well, Julia is probably getting hyper. I should go. I can’t believe you got Marty to settle down!”
(Kevin) “I suppose it helps that Elera and Minel are shapeshifters. Marty – like most males – tends to like variety – the old instinctive spur to spread your genes as widely as possible – and now he can have it without constantly seeking new partners.”
Abigail sighed… At this point, even if she did win in court… If Marty really was running around being heroic, it really wouldn’t be fair to forbid him to visit Julia.
(Abigail) “I don’t entirely approve of your behavior, but you are doing some good…”
She inquired a bit as to his background. The dragon-obsession was a bit odd, but it wasn’t like Draco-92 (complete with flame breath) wasn’t a popular recreational drug in Battling Business World. It might just be stress and typical teenage curiosity and hormones – and it might just be having the opportunity. Given the nature of the boy’s powers, he was going to spend loads of time surrounded by beautiful, willing, young women.
Kevin just referred her to Core – which she found grossly permissive by her standards. Still, it looked like Core could afford that; they were safe to a level she never imagined was possible. They could afford to let the kids get up to things… It was no wonder Gelman was willing to stay with Kevin! He was halfway normal here!
She even got the impression that there might be a trace of guilt about his exploitation of some .01% of his Thralls – even if they were told about the possibility in advance and still signed up.
Abigail went home. Blackie and Julia had surely gotten into something.