The outfitters simply decreed her to be eighteen, to have inherited a lot of money from her now-deceased parents, and that she had custody of her adopted younger brother. It wasn’t like he couldn’t keep up with his lessons electronically wherever he traveled with her.
She took a special personal precaution as well; binding to her new residence’s bed. Her parents had found out that Judith had joined the Israeli Defense Force when she died in basic, and it had been AWKWARD. She’d rather not repeat that.
Ver’rin dropped by to issue some VERY strong warnings about taking her servant out of Kadia; he wasn’t soulbound, and so he could actually die. They also threw in some warning about Dr Brenner (probably in hopes that she’d put a crimp in his operations; the NeoDogs were pretty pack-oriented, and his operations did endanger both their friends and human children), and offered to set up some pacts for the kid so at least he’d get pulled back if he did get killed.
She really hadn’t considered that. They were serious. He could really genuinely die and be gone. That was… That was just wrong! People shouldn’t be so vulnerable!
She might have to modify him after all. Maybe some of the genetic boosts and a bit of cyberware? Considering where he was from, he might appreciate it even without that nasty obedience programming. He’d find them useful even after she freed him – and that WAS going to happen!
So, survivability… It looked like the best choice for that was… Wolverine? Huh. Well, so be it. She took him in for wolverine-boosts. It looked like that would also make him considerably stronger, and even more agile.
It only came to about a thousand credits, including the removal-deposit. That wasn’t too bad… Of course, a “Credit” seemed to be a pretty good chunk of currency.
(Medical Center) “Any other alterations you want done?”
(Ruth) “Nah, this will be fine for now.”
She didn’t want the pact. After all, soulbonds were one of the things she was fighting against! That was why she’d gotten him augmented, so that he WOULDN’T die.
Harry was surprised and pleased when he came out of medical with nothing but enhancements – and with his new athletic skills and considerably enhanced toughness.
She set off to organize Neodogs, get kids from their hideouts to Kadia, and shoot anybody who messed with her. The NeoDogs could use the help of someone who could actually direct violence effectively at humans.
The outfitters had everything ready, including a local wardrobe and some local hand computers – not that they’d be anything more than a front for their smartclothes – so she headed off.
She might need to do something about Dr Brenner! He was a complete ass! At least – as far as anyone knew – he wasn’t immune to explosive paintball rounds. The trouble was that, since there was a contract, none of the Neodogs would undertake any direct action against him. Of course, he was currently out in the Manifold – so she might have to settle for blowing up his house.
She left a polite (for a teenager) note with a bit of explanation for her parents. It was more than Judith had done. Poor Sophie was going to spend all day fainting, just like she’d done when Judith disappeared – but that was inevitable, even if it did make her feel pretty guilty.
Unsurprisingly, neither Sophie nor Gelman were at all pleased with their daughters exodus. At least Gelman had learned his lesson about trying to control his kids directly when Judith had tossed him into the Dead Sea. It was better to watch her – even if that did result in him wringing his hands endlessly. What was he doing wrong? Were his daughters doomed to part ways with him like this?
Sandy tried to be comforting. Perhaps he’d done it too right, and they were determined to be heroic?
Gelman wasn’t sure if that was comforting or scary. Heroes rarely lived peaceful lives – although, in Battling Business World, they at least did get to live their lives, even if they were utterly chaotic.
On the other hand, it wasn’t like he could do anything to stop her. He was not a wallbanging man, but he still found himself contemplating his world’s one socially unacceptable addiction… He considered sending Sandy and Illona to try and keep an eye on her – but Sophie was used to having them around, and would worry about them as well.
As for the fact that she’d acquired a personal slave-boy and had him genetically modified… He sincerely hoped that that was a part of a plan to free some kids – because otherwise, Kadia had its temptations hooked into her soul. At least everything she’d done had been an enhancement so far.
That was a small relief.
As for her having been participating in high-stakes combat games…
He went to talk to the games official – and took Fern with him to record.
(Gelman) “Did she seem HAPPY to have a slave?”
(Ver’rin) “She released the first one she won immediately; I recommended that she retain the second until she won another, in case she needed to cover a loss.”
Gelman wasn’t sure how he felt about that. Hopefully she’d been thinking of how her mother and he would have felt about her being indentured… The “Official” was obviously another one of Kevin’s thralls of course.
(Gelman) “Did she say what she was going to do with him?”
(Ver’rin) “Retain him until she won another to cover a possible loss and could afford to release him – or lost and had to use him to pay the debt. I recommended this; if she wished to continue winning and releasing indenturees, she could not afford to become indentured herself. I suspect that – since he was originally from the Linear Realms – she will be using his services as a native guide in the meantime.”
(Gelman) “Native guide… oh, Lord, she’s not going THERE, is she?
Gelman had researched that place – and why there were so many refugees coming from it – and he hadn’t liked what he’d seen. He especially hadn’t liked that “Dr Brenner” character. It might not have been all that bad for a single planet with that high a population – but it wasn’t good!
(Ver’rin) “It was her apparent destination.”
In a world full of organleggers? How valuable would her regeneration make her to such people? At least that ability couldn’t be cloned in a non-magical world, which was something.
He sent Ver’rin away and went to sit down. How was he going to break this to Sophie?
He’d have to do SOMETHING to keep her safe…
He hated to exploit his position that way – but he sent six Thralls after her, in small-animal forms. As guilty as that made him feel, she was his daughter – and at least they’d been paid in advance for their services.
They went right after her.
Poor Sophie was worked up enough as it was, how was he going to break this to her? She’d have a heart attack!
There wasn’t really any choice except to be honest anyway.
(Gelman) “Dearest… Ruthie has decided to travel to a dystopian world. It’s not terribly bad though, just overcrowded.”
Sophie fainted of course.
How could Ruth put her through this? Especially after Judith?
(Sophie) “Why would she go to such a place! When it’s so nice here?”
(Gelman) “I suspect to rescue some children. She is our daughter.”
(Sophie) “But… I thought there was a rescue program underway already! You’ve been doing so much work on that!”
(Gelman) “There is. She must have wanted to help… But she could have asked for an office position… oh, Lord.”
Gelman rubbed his temples.
(Sophie) “I couldn’t see Ruth in an office position here dear.”
(Gelman) “You’re right. It’s not suited for her at all. I suppose we shouldn’t be surprised. She’s following in her sister’s footsteps.”
(Sophie) “Wasn’t her sister bad enough?”
(Gelman) “Yes, well, at least Judith has a fighter plane to protect her.”
He wrote the sapient plane letters sometimes, she was a good friend.
(Gelman) “But this…”
(Sophie) “And what was she doing that she decided to go someplace like that? And without a chaperone!”
(Gelman) “I have no idea, dearest. She was asking me about the thralls and souls, though.”
Could she have been trying to get a soul? How would that even be possible? Even if… according to the systems… it was known to happen on occasion. He’d asked about that, in hopes that he could eventually get his family to Core.
(Gelman) “And the rescue effort as well.”
He told her about the kid Ruth had taken along as well.
(Gelman) “It seems she took him only to ensure she wouldn’t be enslaved. I hope this is part of some crazy plan she has.”
Sophie was quite upset about the notion that Ruth was traveling around with an adolescent or near-adolescent slaveboy, but she did trust her daughter not to misbehave. It was just inappropriate – although at least it meant that she had a reliable guide.
(Gelman) “I’ve sent some agents to watch her. After what happened with Judith, I’d rather not repeat it.”
(Sophie) “Agents? You mean some of Kevins? Is it moral to use enslaved children and put them at risk to watch over ours?”
Oh DEAR. He’d been so busy being a protective father that he hadn’t even considered the tough questions! They’d say that it was fine of course; after all, they’d been paid, and if that’s how he’d like to use their services, it was more than fair. On the other hand, they were obedience-programmed, so how much was their opinion worth?
(Gelman) “I’m not happy about using the thralls. I definitely feel guilty, but they’re not ordinary children. Kevin has made them durable, fast, and strong, and they can handle most threats. And he wouldn’t do it without their consent. Besides… certain elements in that world…” He paused. “They harvest people’s organs. I don’t want our daughter captured and used for that purpose.”
He suspected that that would lead to his wife telling him to man up and retrieve or protect his daughter himself.
It didn’t. Sophie needed him around to provide a sane example for Isaac – and she knew that no one could force their children home.
But if word came back that she had been captured for such purposes, she would certainly expect a major rescue expedition to be launched immediately!
(Gelman) “Of course, dearest. I would never sit still if she were captured.”
(Sophie) “Perhaps this is just teenage rebelliousness… After all, she’s doing EVERYTHING we ever told her not to – but apparently without doing anything that actually defies the values we’ve taught her… I suppose that – in it’s way – that’s really a very impressive trick… But she still shouldn’t be doing it! She’s too young!
Neither of them really recognized that the encounter with the Netzchian had left Ruth craving purpose.
(Gelman) “Well… she is of age here. For once she outresearched me.”
(Sophie) “Well of course she would take advantage of that! (deflating) Oh dear… That means that there isn’t much we can do doesn’t it? I didn’t want her leaving us so early! It’s not time yet!”
(Gelman) “I know. At least she should return here if she dies.”
(Sophie) “And hopefully she’ll have the good sense to do that if she gets into any real trouble!”
For most worlds that would have been an unusual maternal sentiment – but in Battling Business World it was traditional for kids not to debind from their beds at home until they had graduated from college. Finding out that Ruth had broken that tradition as well was going to be upsetting!