In Kadia, Ramira Al’Fatim of the Bronze, Mistress of Technology and Networking, was still trying to adjust… Her mate wasn’t just a dragon. He was a god – if apparently still a “minor” one – who controlled entire universes.
While that definitely went a bit beyond just being a “good prospect”, he was actually still inexperienced enough to be fairly easily manipulated – and to be unused to being pursued by females. That was luck enough to use up a lifetimes supply. How could that even be POSSIBLE? Could Ailill possibly have been so busy – or perhaps so isolated amongst his slaves – that he had never spent much time with females that he didn’t already own?
He certainly had hardly a clue about data security. What few things he apparently considered secret were adequately blocked from direct access – “Core” apparently had excellent encryption and security processes – but there WERE methods of finding out about things other than asking directly! For every secret you wanted to hide, there were hundreds of associated facts, statistics, and secondary secrets that had to be hidden; you needed to hide enough things to keep anyone from deducing the underlying patterns!
About the only things in the dimension that people weren’t freely told about were the origins of the young dragons in the dragon-stables (although it was pretty obvious to any dragon who was familiar with Ailill’s harem in the Dragonworlds where THEY came from – and why Ailill was so nice to them and gave them so many privileges), that many of the Neodogs were Thralls, Ailill’s current project and strategies, the meme-research, and people’s personal information!
Well, OK, there might be some stuff that was still being hidden from her – it wasn’t like she’d had time to analyze everything – but STILL. What is WRONG with these people? Secrecy was a vital part of any sizeable operation! Otherwise anyone could just log in and snatch a lifetime’s work! But how could she change that? This “Core” was based on openness. She wasn’t sure she could conquer a lifetime of computer indoctrination, no matter how obedient the Thralls and the computer systems were! They just didn’t have the reflexes for security – although the ones on rescue operations and such didn’t talk much.
Well, perhaps there was hope. Ailill was making SOME effort to keep the big items secret – and he hadn’t done too badly in the Dragonrealms, although part of that was simply that his presence there seemed to be pretty intermittent. At least he was keeping the big things under wraps. There was hope for him!
She set out to introduce security training courses, starting with the Thralls and passing it on down the chain. You had to implement these things in steps!
Were there any of them who were actually familiar with data security? Ailill did recruit from all over the place…
Ah. Some of the Thralls from some of the Techno-Anime worlds had reasonable ideas about data security. They might be lowly (if enhanced) humanoids, but they were better than nothing! She smiled a nice, toothy, smile, ordered them assigned to her department, and started in on getting them trained up to her standards. Core might have some astoundingly sophisticated programs, but they had no notion of magical or psychic data security.
(Ramira) “We have too much open information around here. Infiltrators and hackers could steal it, so I want to set up some network security. Some data-barriers and access restrictions will do to start with; a lot of the general information – and anything that’s already open-access in Core itself – might as well stay that way, but I want you to get started on limiting access to anything related to Ailill’s operations to what outsiders actually need to know! Make sure that the personal information is still classified, block anything which might lead to people figuring out that Ailill can enthrall Neodogs and nonhumans, bury EVERYTHING related to the meme-research, make sure that the numbers of Thralls are SEVERELY understated, and set up an AUTOMATIC classification – subject to review – for incoming information and new projects! Then work backwards from newest – where less has already leaked – to the oldest of his projects! That won’t be enough, but it is better than nothing to start with!”
Bother. She’d need to designate security levels for information and set up additional priority lists. At the moment, a lot of that information was already somewhat hidden – but with data security, a single leak in the wrong place and you might as well not have bothered in the first place!
Hm… Perhaps she should make all but the most dangerous, well-traveled, or purely commercial gates secret so that Ailill had escape routes in case something happens. Maybe for that chubby thing he traveled with too, though she wasn’t sure that it could open gates.
His less savory activities – by human standards – should be kept a secret outside of Kadia and the Core, the better to attract new people too. For that matter, she set up a publicity department, to play up the more beneficial things he did. It looked like most of the Thralls had orders to show off their powers and benevolence a bit, but there was no organized advertising or public image campaign except for some (extraordinarily bland!) business-side advertising in Core and a few of the nearby realms…
Fortunately, there were plenty of Thralls to assign! She had to give Kelsaru credit: she’d really gotten the recruiting disclosure-and-induction end of things moving, and wasn’t doing badly at arranging the business offices to offer access to good markets and recruiting territories – but as a powerful telepath from a race of powerful telepaths, she wasn’t big on secrecy, however good she was at psychology and finding ways to explain things to people!
Hmm… They might want to keep just how Kadia’s metaphysics worked under wraps as well. That was proprietary information after all – although that might be a bit impractical. It was also enough to state that the fey were present. How were people from fey-shy fantasy realms going to react when they heard that Ailill had more-or-less created a local population of them and had deals with fey from other realms?
Hm. Some of her rivals offspring should be available through the school – and on the markets after being washed out. She’d keep an eye on them – and start having the washouts trained in data security! That would be mildly amusing, they should be quite capable of helping manage the Thralls, and that way, she could set up more effective data security for her beloved!
She put in the purchase order, and soon had a fair collection of hatchlings – mostly metallics of course, just like her rivals. A bit frightened of course… On inspection she had four golds, two silvers, twelve bronzes, and seven coppers. They mostly seemed to be healthy little hatchlings – although one of the young male bronzes did seem to be a definite runt. It looked like he was either cursed or had just turned out badly. A genetic flaw perhaps?
She had him tested. He was definitely flawed – incapable of properly focusing his power, and the excess had damaged his health. He’d need to have a lot of his power artificially drawn off to be healthy… Other than that he was fairly strong, and his endurance would be good if his magical problems were corrected – but he’d still be a washout.
Ugh, this was not what she wanted in her security specialists at all! He’d be a decent bodyguard or pet for a mortal, a reasonably serviceable harem guard, or a pretty good familiar/magical battery for a mage.
Well, she knew who was becoming a power battery! The boy whimpered a bit when she ordered him transmuted into a smaller form, but that was all the better as an example to the rest…
(Ramira, to the others) “Guess what! You’re not dying today! Instead, you’re going to become good little computer security specialists. Or power batteries. It’s really up to you.”
There was a brief pause than a chorus of “Thank you Mistress!”.
Most of them turned out to be bright enough, although the coppers (at least) weren’t very naturally disciplined. They all seemed to be quite dedicated though, rather more than simple fear would explain; it didn’t seem to vary with how recently one of the sillier ones had washed out either… Oh. It was that pleasure-conditioning; it’s was what she wanted, and so working hard at it made them feel good.
She’d had her doubts about that policy, but it certainly did seem to work.
Sadly, owning some of her rival’s offspring was less satisfying than she’d thought it might be. It wasn’t much of a triumph over them when they had freely given them up… Of course, she might be able to do something about them more directly after she’d consolidated her own position a bit.
While she was investigating, it was time to take a look at what made Kelsaru tick – other, of course, than her imminent clutching.
Hmm… Kelsaru liked to keep humans in their place, was fond of really BIG business deals (and was a bit impatient with small deals), and tended to rely a bit excessively on her telepathic powers – which were pretty impressive. As a Crystal Dragon she was a definite rarity – but there didn’t seem to be any good reason why she was still hiding it. Did she just not want to be bothered? Was she worried about some ambitious dragon cutting her up for spell components? Was it simply that she was participating in Dragonworlds society, where gem dragons were almost unheard of? It did help hide her special powers…
It was also possible that Ailill simply liked the look; he did favor the form of a red.
She picked up some better telepathic defenses and went looking for a business deal that would appeal to Kelsaru.
Well, she had a special interest in some of the Cyberpunk realms, and in the Dragonrealms, minor interests in computers, and strong interests in rare magical elements and magic. Stuff that she tended to call “True Earth”, “True Fire”, “True Air”, “True Water”, and Orichalkum (not an especially uncommon word in the magical realms unfortunately). She had a special interest in items that acted as foci in rituals for major changes and transformations and she had a few dozen of her own dragonslaves out acting as representatives.
Well, there are a lot of links to exotic realms around Kadia… Where could she find that stuff?
Ah… Kelsaru had been so busy organizing Kevin’s trade offices that she’d missed a possibility; there had been a recent reset in one of the cyberpunk-magic worlds, and a flood of the stuff was due to become available there shortly as the magic level rose again.
Perhaps she could corner the market there…
She dispatched some of her own slaves to undercut the competition and offer some of the goods that the realm would have a few years in it’s own future – just before the reset point. Cyberpunk worlds almost always needed supplies and such.
Not all that dangerous a world really. Low to mid-level magic – not all that powerful at once, but with few usage limitations. It was powered by a locally-defined source – “astral” energies – and was a strain to use, but an experienced mage could channel power pretty much indefinitely. There really weren’t much in the way of countermeasures, or even methods of weakening it or defending against it either, thanks to that same localized power source. Well, that was a bother, but all the general powers should work against it just fine anyway.
It had fairly standard cyberpunk level technology, some heavy weapons available – although not really like the starship weapons of the Dragonworlds – and some elder dragons, albeit not too many. It looked to be an old gaming universe.
It would be best to favor the cybernetically enhanced dragons when deploying, to make sure that they had antimagical measures, and to warn them that elder dragons might be about.
Why was she doing all of this? She turned some Thralls loose on it. She couldn’t do it all herself anyway; she didn’t want to leave the harem during her pregnancy.
The Thralls eventually dug up a large pile of ancient sourcebooks – but no special method of local magic-damping outside of local countermeasures though. On the other hand, most of the local elder dragons were identified – along with a lot of the local notables and private information for the setting. There was a long list of the various major players and corporations, their primary interests, many of their secret projects and resources, which were involved in which aspects of the economy, event timelines, points of vulnerability – all the stuff a game would need of course.
THAT was bloody convenient. Of course, that timeline also explained the constant resetting – and that meant that any attempt to seize control would simply fall apart when the realm looped back to it’s beginning…
There were several routes – mostly through Anarch – so she wouldn’t need an Opener. It looked like the quickest route would be Crusader New York – Anarch Los Angeles – Realm Seattle. The first two gates were only about ten miles apart, although the Anarch-Realm gate would require traveling to Anarch Seattle. That should be handleable…
How could she have been so silly? With the reset the local timeline had dropped back to “2063”, and was progressing through it’s cycle again. The minor events would change with interference of course – but the major stuff should stick pretty closely to the books – which meant that she had reliable foreknowledge of what was going to happen!
So… within a month or so a major comet would pass, the magic level would surge, and quite a number of sites would suddenly become rich in magical materials. She could be the first major dealer in magical elements!
She went looking in the sourcebooks for some of the ones that Kelsaru was interested in, and found that there was an entire sourcebook on the magical materials rush. There was a timeline of deposits, notes on who had owned them initially, descriptions of the conflicts over them, and notes on the difficulties in exploiting them.
A few were owned by various dragon elders – who knew about them in advance from experience in previous magical cycles – but quite a few were new and just waiting to be purchased in advance when the sites were cheap. Now THAT would be an efficient use of her funds! It would take a month or two to pay off – but then she’d have ownership of quite a lot of material.
Still, why hadn’t Kelsaru found out about this? Did she have some sort of block against it? Or did she know and was working in secret? Were the sites cursed, or did she just not want to attract the elders’ attention?
Wait. The local dragons tapped astral or psychic energies by pure mental power, tended to be self-interested rather than bound to “good” and “evil” like the dragons of the Dragonworlds, they manifested their powers without gestures, components, or invocations, and were all shapeshifting. The sites apparently weren’t cursed, and the local dragons apparently weren’t capable of dimensional travel – or at least they weren’t in the sourcebooks. Of course, anyone who got a soul tended to break the pattern…
Hopefully that hadn’t changed; gaming realms usually stayed faithful to the source material – and the reset had been VERY recent. Maybe Kelsaru didn’t want to administer the area or had secrets there?
Wait… There was a hatchling named “Kelsaru” mentioned in one of the later adventures – and the local dragons were a lot closer to the Geml Dragons than to the conventional ones – physically weaker, but with much greater mental powers.
Well, that explained it… It was unlikely that the new hatchling (due in a few years – and was that ever weird) would be ensouled. Apparently hardly any of the local dragons were, although there were the usual scattering of ensouled humans about. Not too many though.
So: was it bad memories? Simply being distracted by clutching? Having bigger concerns at the moment?
Well, to be fair, the thought of the Dragonworlds resetting had never entered her mind either. That was food for thought. What would happen if she was there at the time? Would she see the world change around her? Be changed herself? Find that her concerns were unaffected but nothing ever seemed to change otherwise? Would her soul wind up in some other dragon or person? Perhaps she would simply not yet have been born?
OK, she didn’t want to pursue that line of thought either – and she was suddenly more than a bit reluctant to visit home again. A good thing she was in Kadia!
The entire line of thought – at least in conjunction with her home – was uncomfortable enough to fully explain why Kelsaru wasn’t pursing the notion.
Getting an early interest in the relevant sites – and knowing just when they were going to pop up – made it easy to skim the cream. By the time the data security systems were up and running (simply not explaining everything to everyone who asked helped a lot) she had a plentiful supply of magical elements and even plenty of that “Orichalkum” stuff.
Kelsaru had clutched by that time; she was, after all, several months ahead of her – and was getting seriously involved in events again.
She dropped by to show Kelsaru her inventory – and discuss it’s origins – just to see her face.
(Kelsaru) “What? How could you do that? All those sites were exhausted decades ago! There’s nothing left there… Wait a minute…”
Ramira smiled. It was nice to have an edge on one of her few competitors. After all… while Ailill was quite fond of Meara, she was just a Thrall. Lysira did the harem managing, but had few responsibilities outside of that. Tanis was more-or-less on the bottom, mostly because Ailill preferred to stress the fact that she had summoned him (which had apparently annoyed him), only to wind up as his property. There were a few other Thralls about – but that still left her second – just behind Kelsaru.
And Kelsaru was pretty obviously in shock. She’d just realized that the dragons that she’d considered rivals as a kid weren’t even hatched yet – although they would be soon. She could interfere with things that had happened before they were even born.
(Ramira) “Well, what do you say? I supply you with those elements, and you make me co-consort.”
Kelsaru considered… That didn’t actually cost her much – especially since she was sure that Kevin favored her emotionally – and Ramira had just pointed out some very important information. Still, she wasn’t letting any concession go that she could manage.
The bargaining was tight, and she got some concessions and a clear division of responsibilities in return – but it was a deal.
Ramira sighed… It was a good thing that she’d gotten those anti-telepathy charms – and that becoming one of Ailill’s consorts had given her some psychic powers of her own. Kelsaru had a VERY powerful mind… Still, at least she have something to hold over Kelsaru’s head now – and, fortunately, Meara and Lysira didn’t seem very competitive; they were just devoted to Ailill. Only she and Kelsaru had joined up without previously being owned. Of course, others might try to do that… she’d have to watch out for new free competition then.
Hm. Had Ailill been looking at anyone outside of the harem? He was pretty busy – but there were dragonesses attempting to move in on him in much the same way that she had – and Ailill seemed to be fairly easy prey for any female who acted attracted to him without being owned first.
Perhaps she could use that… He seemed to like the metallics best, especially golds – although that was a classical attraction for a red: claiming some gold females – especially ones who picked a red over a gold – was about the biggest display of power-dominance-attractiveness a red could manage. He almost seemed bored with reds other than Kelsaru, who wasn’t really one. Of course, he’d had hundreds of reds for years.
She checked what was going on in the dragonworlds…
Hm. There were currently two golds in pursuit of him. No surprise really… He had the power and wealth and charisma. Even if he hadn’t met that many, and there’d be strong social disapproval – since that whole chaotic evil/lawful good thing applied (which was also what made it such an accomplishment of course) – you’d have to expect a rebellious youngster or two (or perhaps someone who hoped to influence his school).
And that kind of rebelliousness – or perceptive opportunism – was often symptomatic of having a soul.
She had the Thralls check – and one of the two did. A girl who’d just barely hit the “young adult” age category. There were a few more phantasms who got uppity in the cells of course – but as slaves-to-be they didn’t really count.
Ah, she could help the girl get into the harem in exchange for some future favors and support…
Ramira sent for the girl. She could evaluate her in Ailill’s stead.
Hmm… Psychic defenses not too impressive… She was slightly arrogant for a gold, apparently used to being more magically powerful than her peers, had summarily dealt with three unwanted suitors, and was trying not to show that she was impressed with the apparent extent of Kevin’s resources. Quite good looking, if – as an early young adult who wasn’t yet used to her growth spurt – a bit gawky.
Well, her powers were impressive for a young adult gold, but nothing like Ailill’s – after all, he was a god! – and he’d almost certainly consider the arrogance as something to tame (not that he should have any problems with that!). Her assets weren’t bad for her age, although they were mostly derived from the three suitors and two rivals she’s dealt with. Her parents would be a bit embarrased if she wound up with Kevin of course – and that alone might be worth telling her to stay. Her magical speciality was Conjurations – especially possessing entities. She was good at channeling spirits, knew ritual magic and pacts, and might have some spirit-based powers.
Now that speciality might be useful! She didn’t think that anyone else in the harem had any powers in those fields…
(Ramira) “I’m not sure when he’ll be back, but I’ll put in a good word for you when he does. What’s your name?”
(Varindyera) ” Varindyera! And yours?”
It looked like she was trying to find out where she was in the pecking order; she had to know that before she could try to move in on it – although she also seemed inclined to assume that she’d have more personal power than Ailill would later on, and thus will have an edge in the relationship. Under normal circumstances she’d probably be right.
(Ramira) “I am Ramira Al’Fatim.”
Might as well give her a little test. Hopefully she’d done at least SOME research first!
(Varindyera) “Ah, security is it? I have no intention of challenging your lord… I believe you can trust me on that!”
Hmm, very good. Very, very good indeed. She hadn’t felt any contact. Evidently the girl had either done her research or was relying on perception alone. She did seem to be assuming that a pregnant female dragon in Ailill’s establishment was pregnant by him – but that was hardly unreasonable for dragons. It wasn’t like there were any other intact draconic males around.
Of course, that was one reason why she advocated data security around Kadia and everywhere else Ailill was operating! She didn’t want people knowing what they were getting into when they challenged him!
Ailill would appreciate the thought later; the only thing that hads kept his powers fairly quiet in the Dragonworlds was his often not being there.
(Ramira) “Anyhow, if you wish to speak with him, he really is out on business. You can wait if you like.”
Ailill was actually available fairly shortly – but that left Ramira with time for some negotiations.
It was obvious enough that Varindyera would LIKE to be the dominant female, and in charge of everything while Ailill did all the fighting. In practice, she’d like to be in charge of the school; she thought it was a gateway to a lot of influence with the next generation. She was trying to hide that ambition – but she was still short on psychic defenses.
Well, that wasn’t too likely to conflict with her ambitions! She would not be overly concerned; they might even be able to work together until their egos inevitably clashed!
(Ramira) “I’m very good with technology. If you support me in my disputes, I’ll ensure the hatchlings have the best educational devices available. It really would be for the best. We metallics have to stick together.”
Varindyera was willing to go for that approach. After all, Ramira didn’t seem to have conflicting ambitions at the moment; she wass leaning towards politics, and Ramira was leaning towards control of the technology.
Ramira was pleased… She might even be able to get some prototype testing in! The Core educational programs were very good – but they also worked very hard at defusing a lot of normal draconic instincts.
She saw to it that Varindyera had a comfortable seat, set up a romantic dinner (showing off a few of the finest slaves and some of Ailills resources) – and a room if Ailill decided to keep her or offer her one – and notified Ailill of the potential new addition.
(Ailill) “Oh? How did that happen? I haven’t been back to the Dragonworlds in weeks… Was someone determined or clever enough to trace things back to Kadia?”
(Ramira) “Actually, I checked for suitors there. You were so busy that I thought I should save you the trouble.”
(Ailill, looking a bit disappointed) “Were you selective, or was there only one?”
(Ramira) “There was only one ensouled among them. But she’s a gold, and she has some conjuration ability.”
(Ailill) “Well now! I shall just have to meet her!”
Ah, he was definitely a bit predatory there. Truly a red!
Ten to one, Varindyera would be taken and impregnated inside an hour.
The girl was a bit shocked later on, but that was of little moment. She had been a bit shocked herself…
Afterwards Ailill was very pleased with himself, and in a very good mood, and very pleased with her as well.
(Ramira) “What do you think Ailill?”
(Ailill) “A very pleasant little conquest! A bit young and inexperienced, but it was good to bring her to my attention! She’d likely have wound up in the cells if no one had noticed her poking around, and a willing concubine is always much more satisfying than a slave!
(Ramira) “Well, I always seek to please you!”
(Ailill) “And a thoughtful and excellent job you’re doing! Is there anything I can do for you?”
(Ramira) “I was trying to calibrate the Teacher devices for draconic society. Would you like to see my work so far? I think you’ll be pleased!”
She’d been busy revising the program a bit – stressing separate courses for slaves and more tolerance for dragon instincts, along with more emphasis on combativeness and getting ahead than the default Teacher – not difficult considering that the defaults placed very little stress on either.
(Ailill) “Now, I intend – if they’re willing to accept – to provide my offspring with the same skill and power package I give the servants. It’s a good starting place I think.”
(Ramira) “A wise choice. The taste of power will encourage them to behave and earn the improved set.”
(Ailill) “It has been busy here in Kadia… I must get back to the Dragonworlds sometime. Do you too have unfinished business there?”
(Ramira) “It wouldn’t hurt to check on my portion of the holdings.”
(Ailill) “Hm… I know that glint! You have someone there you’d like to put into their place don’t you?”
(Ramira, coquettishly) “Maaaybe…”
(Ailill) “Aw now (tickle) who is it? Old rivals? Annoying relatives? Inferior suitors that you want to humiliate?”
(Ramira) “Well, that phantasm gold was VERY stuck up! I think she needs a lesson!”
(Ailill) “Ah, a few old rivals you’d like to see among the servants with their hatchlings?”
(Ramira) “Definitely. We need to clear the chaff!”
(Ailill) “Well, we shall have to see about arranging it!”