In the realm of the Numbers, indifference reigned – at least with respect to the escape of Todd in particular and Traditionalists in general. Things might be different when Zero returned – but that would still be a few days. As far as most of the Number Lords were concerned, the remaining Traditionalists were annoyances at best or people they’d be delighted to see departing at worst; the victory against them had been hard-fought, and – as long as they were in Battling Business World – it was always possible that they would simply revert to their original state, and force them to fight that battle all over again. There wouldn’t be much resistance to – or even awareness of – any “rescue mission” from that quarter until Lord Zero remanifested.
The Number Lords would be quite happy if Lord Zero could just be satisfied with trashing Manhattan. At least so far, nothing in Manhattan had been anything like the debacle when they’d tried to slap Japan around; who would have believed that so many assorted anime powerhouses would be inhabiting one little island?
In Kadia, Gelman was getting some practical experience and a critical lesson; in rescues, mission creep was almost inevitable… Go in to get one critical scientist, and you’d wind up with his wife, his daughter, his neighbor’s kid, and his little dog Toto too. Even worse, if you hadn’t figured out what to do with the inevitable hangers-on well in advance, you were all too likely to wind up stuck with them afterwards.
It hadn’t really occured to Gelman that – in rescuing Todd – he’d set himself up for a series of followup rescues. There were quite a few more traditionalists in Great Britain and even a few in Japan who were attempting to adapt the Japanese power sources to fuel the Traditions. (That probably wouldn’t work, but they were doubtless sure that they could make them apply). Of course, once he started pulling Traditionalists out of Battling Business World Japan, you’d have to start considering the anime-adepts THEY’D been working with, and THEIR families and…
Oh well. It wasn’t like Kadia was short of room, rescue missions were pretty standard, the there were plenty of unassigned Thralls around to send… It didn’t even come out of his departmental budget, since there really wasn’t one in any meaningful sense.
Todd, meanwhile, was contemplating returning to Battling Business World. Could he go there without going nuts again? It wouldn’t be any use to go back if it did, but he didn’t want to send unescorted kids to meet his colleagues; they’d never take them seriously even if they got through.
The Thralls could tell that Zero’s spell was broken – but they didn’t know what would happen with one that powerful if and when he went back, although they could try to drain it if it did pop up again. Still they look older if necessary, a group of them had a very good chance of escaping even if there WAS a confrontation with the Number Lords – and he could simply phone; it was easy enough to patch a connection through a gate. That didn’t work everywhere, but cartoon phones were notoriously accommodating.
Todd considered that. Somehow it had never occurred to him to simply PHONE across universes… Oh, the long distance charges! At least he had an expense account now. Yes… he’d alert his colleagues that he wanted them to meet with some friends.
(Sir Quincy) “What’s this? Todd? I haven’t heard from you in… sixteen years or so? Not that it isn’t nice, but what prompts this call out of the blue?”
(Todd) “Sir Quincy, I might have found a resolution to the Mana issue.”
(Sir Quincy) “Well, now… That would be remarkable news! Remarkable indeed! Something American perhaps? They do have some quite energetic researchers…”
(Todd) “Extra-dimensional, actually.”
(Sir Quincy) “Oh dear! You do have to be cautious with things like that! The people in other dimensions… They’re just not like us dear boy! Not our type at all! That’s just not done!”
(Todd) “Oh yes… but the means I’ve found involves no pacting, no risk of insanity, or even money. At any rate, we’ve got to do something. Otherwise the witches will overtake us!”
Todd glanced apologetically at the thralls to show that he meant no ill will towards them. It was just custom – or at least a nod to the prevalent attitude amongst the other traditionalists. Of course, since the meddling of the numbers, the Witches of England were certainly far more effective than the Traditions anyway. They, at least, could recover their powers in a reasonable length of time.
(Sir Quincy) “Well, it’s all this modern era! People looking for quick satisfaction! It’s sad, but in these degenerate days… It’s not like it used to be! Back in the good old days when the power flowed freely! It was just yesterday that I found myself thinking back, back when there seemed to be almost no limit and the witches were left in the dust! I wonder whatever happened to those days? The modern world I suppose… So gray and cramped, with no style! That’s why I’ve settled down at home my boy, to sit by the fire with a bottle of brandy…”
(Todd) “Well, Sir Quincy, would you like to speak with my associates? I’m afraid I can’t meet with you myself. Research and all…”
It took some persuasive talking – his old master seemed more than a bit tired and discouraged – but he did agree to meet the “prospective students” eventually.
(Sir Quincy) “Oh, very well my boy! It will at least be a pleasant excursion! I don’t have any students to keep me busy these days… Why haven’t you been in touch anyway? (there was a bit of desperation there) Have you found a student or two to pass on the lore to?”
(Todd) “Oh, I could write a dissertation on that. I won’t waste your time with the details; I’ll just say marital trouble for now. And I’m afraid there are few Americans with the patience to handle what you taught me – but some of my current associates have expressed an interest! They would love to speak with you as well”
After all, “teaching” – with a long list of desired topics, including the psychic arts – was one of the biggest job openings in Kadia, and he’d already gotten some queries from the system.
(Sir Quincy) “Well now! New students? It’s been so long… I’m so rusty… You’re not just trying to cheer up an old man?”
(Todd) “Not at all. They’re quite interested in our studies.”
That was… almost as desperate as his own situation had been. Was no one in all the British Isles interested in anything except the basics of creating spiritual weapons any longer? Poor Sir Quincy, left to rot in his old age – and after everything he’d done during the Battle of Britian… Even more for Lord Zero to answer for, and in some ways as cruel as what had been done to him. Sir Quincy seemed ready to cry, although he obviously didn’t want him to see that.
Todd inserted some minor chat to let him recover his composure.
(Sir Quincy) “Well now… Will they be coming by? It’s the gout you know, it makes travel a little awkward… I could invite a few colleagues if they do! I might be able to meet them if it’s somewhere local… I don’t know if I’m up to a long trip!”
There was a definite undertone there… A reluctance to travel beyond what such a minor disability would account for. Oh dear! Had the Numbers already begun stalking his colleagues?
(Todd) “That won’t be a problem, will it? I’d hate to interfere with your prior plans. I have no trouble sending them to meet you either way.”
No… It didn’t seem desperate enough to be the numbers. Not wanting to leave the grandchildren? Prior commitments? Something he couldn’t leave?
None of that made sense. If it had been grandchildren, he’d have more interests. His grandchildren probably thought of him as an eccentric old academic, who’d devoted his life to musty, useless, rubbish. Even the ones who were Traditionalists themselves probably merely focused on shooting or stabbing people with extensions of their psyches. Psychic weapons and Imbuement (which only worked on truly personalized weapons in Battling Business World) were quick, easy, and quite useful – but it was pretty obvious that the traditions were no longer important and that Sir Quincy wasn’t really needed. A far cry from the days when he was off fighting in the war and adventuring in Africa.
Was it just money? There wouldn’t be much supplementary income for Sir Quincy any longer… Did he even have a way to travel very far? The thought of the grand old man crammed onto a bus was unbearable.
(Todd) “What day would be most convenient for you? They are quite eager, and will be glad to pick you up!”
If possible, he wanted to get his old master out of Battling Business World BEFORE Lord Zero recovered.
It was easy enough to push Sir Quincy into agreeing to be picked up the next morning. He’d have to call a few collegues tonight if there really were several interested students.
Gelman had been perfectly willing to assign thirty or forty Thralls to a short rescue mission (he had suffered the touch of the numbers himself once). Still, Todd didn’t want to seem suspicious; a big crowd would be a bit much… Hm. Five for each ensouled individual, two per phantasm. That should be enough to pick up most of the old-style traditionalists. There weren’t too many any more… But if they could all be convinced that there really were interested students, they’d surely all come!
So a pickup… How classical did he want to get? Horse and Carriage? Rolls-Royce? Modern Sportscar?
Well, OK; Horse and Carriage was just silly. A modern sportscar wouldn’t be appropriate, and most of them had too many gadgets and drew counterspies anyway. A Rolls-Royce and a driver – well, several of them – was really the only way to go.
The Battling Business World British Isles had no shortage of gates at least. Most of the “cartoon worlds” were pretty easy to get in and out of.
The Rolls served nicely to convince the more doubtful Traditionalists that – if nothing else – the invitation was at least serious enough that it would certainly include an excellent luncheon, even if most of the potential “students” just wanted to dabble again, as usual. And it would be nice to have a reunion. A lot of them have been thinking about the good old days suddenly.
They had no way of knowing it – but with Lord Zero temporarily incapacitated, his spells were weakening. In the face of Battling Business World’s relentless tendency to reset, even epic level magic could not keep out vague memories of the past without constant reinforcement and supervision. Worse, the more souls that departed Battling Business World, the closer the entire realm came to a truly major reversion.
Todd sent Jacob to Sir Quincy – since he KNEW that Jacob could convincingly do an English schoolboy – and sent some of the boys from Hogwarts (So that really was a real place! Even if it was in another dimension!) since they’d fit in just fine…
Those kids quite liked rescue missions anyway, although that was nothing abnormal for Thralls.
So what routes were available from Battling Business World Great Britain to Kadia? Or to Kevin’s estates in the English Fantasy Zone, which apparently had a direct gate to Kadia?
Route one: the Battle of Britain, to the Outskirts of Narnia, to the English Fantasy Zone – skirting the outskirts of the Talking Animal Zone.
Route two: Through the Wild Forest to Arthurian Britain, through the Welsh Myths, to New Camelot (a version of 20’th century New York apparently) to the English Fantasy Zone.
Route Three: Stonehenge to the Building of Stonehenge, to the Ice Age to The Darkling Wood, to the English Fantasy Zone.
Route Four: Through Beatrice Potter World to the English Fantasy Zone – the shortest route, although one with strong risks of being eaten along the way.
Gelman and Todd settled for the first route. It shouldn’t get too strange too fast.
The pickups went quite smoothly. Sir Quincy, and several of the others, were initially delighted. The Rolls proved that it was a serious invitation – and the youngsters meeting them obviously already HAD substantial mana reserves! That could really mean that his prospective new students seriously wanted to study the Traditions in depth!
Jacob and the rest took a liking to most of the elders as well. Experienced psychics really were pretty personable, and they did have a certain grand-old-man air of nobility about them.
Then they ran into a guard, with a whistle, and in a VERY old-fashioned uniform, blocking the road.
(Guard) “Sorry Sir! You’ll have to go around! The areas unsafe to enter until the bombs have been dealt with! Bloody Jerries! Not to worry though! We’ve got some boys down from ordinance disposal to handle it!”
Jacob sighed. That was a hassle, but not unexpected. They’d just have to go around and see what the best alternate approach would be – or perhaps disguise themselves as ordinance disposal.
Sir Quincy was looking in rather better shape – a bit younger and stronger – and was suddenly wearing a uniform? Oh! He and a lot of the other Traditionalists had fought in BBW:WWII – especially after the awakening of Big Ben – so they had identities to fall into here!
(Sir Quincy) “Jerries? Ordinance Disposal? What’s going on here? Er… (Sir Quincy looked at the arm that he’d held up to gesture with – and the uniform sleeve on it)… And why am I back in uniform? Are… are we retiring?”
Jacob twitched… Sir Quincy was suddenly sounding a bit… frightened? And he was suddenly radiating emotional pain! What was wrong?
(Sir Quincy) “I wasn’t really ready for that, even if there wasn’t much left in my life… and I never heard of anything lying about it to take you away! Just moving to a retirement home down by the shore…”
Oh! Retirement! That was Battling Business World’s equivalent to… death. Sir Quincy thought that he was being FORCIBLY retired. That he – and the others, and the traditions to which they’d dedicated their lives – were being euthanized! That someone had decided that the best way to take them all away quietly was to hold out a hope of purpose again – just to cruelly take it away!
That was HORRIBLE!
Jacob panicked a bit – he couldn’t let the nice old man believe THAT – and blurted out the best thing he could think of. At least the Traditionalists knew about other dimensions.
(Jacob) “No, no Sir Quincy! You’re physically in another dimension, instead of just astrally traveling!”
(Sir Quincy) “What? This isn’t an astral plane! This is… This is World War II! How can that be?”
He’d heard people say that retirees lived in the past – but surely it wasn’t quite so solid!
(Jacob) “I’m sorry to be evasive, but I’ll explain when we get somewhere safer, sir!”
Jacob frantically projected reassurance and calm. That would at least be a diversion, even if Sir Quincy did put his shields up.
Fortunately, they were coming up on the next gate – and turned into a bombed-out church to get to the outskirts of Narnia. Jacob worried briefly – Narnia was an afterlife-realm too, at least occasionally – but surely it wouldn’t be any kind of afterlife realm that a native of Battling Business World would expect!
From there it would be down the valley system to the English Fantasy Zone, and from there to Kevin’s estate and the direct gate to Kadia.
Their passengers were briefly disoriented as they shifted dimensions – but they started demanding explanations soon enough.
Jacob and the others provided explanations as best they could, but Sir Quincy was typical:
(Sir Quincy) “Wait… Stop a moment! Let me look around! This entire area looks… uninhabited! There’s nowhere like this in England today!”
(Jacob) “Well, we’re in Narnia now.”
THAT produced some debate. Jacob settled down to listen… English academics debating. This might take DAYS. Oh well. Narnia would make everyone healthier as long as they were there.
(Sir Quincy) “Are you honestly telling me we’re in an allegorical fairy tale? Full of talking animals and a leonine Christ-figure?”
(Jacob) “Well, yes, sir!”
(Aslan) “INDEED YOU ARE. YOU ARE, HOWEVER, RATHER OLD FOR NARNIA – AND THE CHILDREN WITH YOU ARE NOT SUITED TO THIS REALM. THEY HAVE CHOSEN A PATH TO REDEMPTION THAT PASSES THROUGH DARKNESS, RATHER THAN ACCEPTING WHAT THE LIGHT WILLS. SONS OF ADAM, DAUGHTERS OF EVE, YOUR PATH LIES ELSEWHERE. YOU MAY NOT LINGER HERE.”
(Jacob) “We weren’t planning on it, but thank you for your concern!”
(Sir Quincy) “Are you quite sure we’re not dead, and waiting to wake up in the morning?”
(Jacob) “You’re still living. Honest, sir!”
(Aslan) “YOU HAVE MANY YEARS AHEAD OF YOU, AND PERHAPS A GREATER PURPOSE THAN YOU DREAMED. NONETHELESS, YOU WILL NOT FIND IT HERE. PASS ON: THE LAMP-POST WILL GUIDE YOUR WAY.”
(Jacob) “Thank you, Aslan, we’ll be on our way.”
Jacob and the others respectfully tried to steer the Traditionalists back into the cars and away – although not without a few pangs of mild regret. Childhood innocence was one of the things they gave up when they signed up with Kevin – and there are some very beautiful realms which called for it. Of course, realms like that rarely need much intervention from Kevin… Of course, most of them had already lost their innocence when they were approached, or they wouldn’t have been open to the pact in the first place.
The lamp-post spun past, as a satyr waved to the procession cheerily – and they emerged traveling down a winding country road, once again in a recognizable version of England. There was a small frantic voice screaming “Help me! Somebody, Please Help Me! Noooo!” off to the right.
Oh oh. Traditionalists tended to be heroic types. Jacob prepared to go after anyone who manifested a psychic weapon and ran off to help to make sure that they didn’t get hurt. After all, elderly Battlers were almost as frail as any other senior citizen, even if they did heal quickly.
They were more sensible than to leap from the cars – but they did insist on stopping and at least finding out what was going on!
Jacob and the others weren’t too opposed to that anyway. They thought that their masters would have a lot of explaining to do anyway, so this gave them more time to think and the Traditionalists they were bringing in more time to absorb things gradually.
They found one dead-or-grievously-wounded rabbit, one badger digging out a hole to make it larger – and the pleading voice coming from inside the hole. Something about “Get back! Aaah!”
There was some confusion – at least until the Badger spoke up.
(Badger) “What t’ ell do you bunch want? I found ’em, they’re mine!”
Jacob sighed. The creature wasn’t in the least intimidated by the gaggle of old men (and one old lady) and a couple of kids was he? No surprise really; the badger had teeth and claws, and none of them seemed to be armed. Boy was HE in for a surprise.
(From the hole) “Please! Please don’t eat me! Help me!”
(Badger) “Shut yer gob ya little whiner! You hadn’t got a back door dug yet, and I found ya, so lunch ya be!”
(Jacob) “Step away from the hole, Mr. Badger.”
(Badger) “An why should I? Ye bunch ain’t in charge about ere! Stick around too long, an you’ll be lunch for someone too!”
Jacob and the other Thralls pulled out the traditional weapon of the English schoolboy – cudgels – from various locations.
(Badger) “I think I ALREADY sees some ears and noses goi’n pointy!… Ohhh, sticks and stones is’t? Ya don’ts want to get inter a wrassle with folk’s like me! Ye umans be soft and pink, and yer groins be right at teeth height!”
Jacob had been reluctant to pull out the Witchcraft because he knew how the people he was escorting felt about it – but a few of the others out of the elders line of sight promptly used their Infliction powers to give the pesky beast some really nasty pains and heartburn.
(Badger) “Bloody mages! Ye be a pack of cheats! Ten to one be not enough, ye’s gots to be usin bloody magic to rob me of me bloody luncheon! Ye’ve nay right – but simple folk’s can’t be fightin back when they’s abused by the wizards! I”ll jes takes me catch ere an be gone then!”
The badger reached for the apparent corpse.
Jacob debated internally… Let him have it? This WAS an anthropomorphic realm after all. Still, the Traditionalists were quite horrified, even if most of them believed that the rabbit would be back tomorrow. After all, they lived in a world where sapient anthropomorphic animals did appear occasionally – but you didn’t EAT them, and they didn’t eat each other!
The sobbing from the hole as the badger reached for the body tipped the balance; Jacob and the others subtly tripped the badger up. Even if they hadn’t sympathized, they didn’t want to seem cruel.
(Sir Quincy) “You’re not planning to EAT him are you? Presumably that was another sapient being!”
(Badger) “Of course e’ was! Still might be if es earts ain’t stopped yet! What’s tat gots to do with price of eggs?”
There was no telling who succeeded – but at least three of the “helpless elders” used paralytic or restraining powers on the badger at roughly the same time.
(Sir Cecil) “Well, if you have no objection to treating talking creatures like prey, you can’t have much objection to being treated as prey!”.
The wounded rabbit was still healable – although it was a pretty close thing. Jacob and the others took care of that…
The Traditionalists restrained the badger and dumped him in the back of one of the cars. Even by BBW standards, that had been a bit over the top… Fight, yes, blow things up, yes, eat people… definitely no. Even in a quasi-anarchic Toonworld, THERE ARE STANDARDS.
Especially in Jolly Old England dontcha know!
They offered the rabbits a lift to a safer area – and they were glad to come along.
There were a few more oddities to keep their passengers diverted along the way – but nothing that was a real challenge to their combined power.
They pulled around Squire Jenkin’s manor, through the gate – and up to a splendid English-style manor house in Kadia, temporarily assigned to Todd.
(Jacob) “Gentlemen and madam, we are now in the safe haven of Kadia.”
He shot a thought to Todd to tell his master that his colleagues had arrived.
Todd was busy playing host and making sure that the settings and food selection were JUST RIGHT.
Without the shock of a battle full of reminders to open the floodgates, the powers of Kadia were returning the refugees memories slowly and gently. Things were, however, beginning to move towards consciousness.
In fact, a couple of them seemed rather cautious…
(Doubters) “Mr Jenkins? We’d heard that you were having a bit of a rough time… Are you sure you’re up to a meeting?”
The obvious subtext; “Is this all us being sucked into your hallucination?”
That was a problem with Traditionalists following Cunning; thanks to the Path of Confusion, it had been known to happen.
(Todd) “Oh, I’m fine. This is the best I’ve been in years.”
(Doubters) “Really?… I’m glad you’re feeling better – but I’ve never come to a meeting through Narnia before”.
(Todd) “The first time using a dimension gate is always the hardest. Please, sit down. I have a fine selection of teas prepared for you.”
Todd got them all settled in eventually.
(Doubter) “So… Is this some sort of alternate version of England?”
(Todd) “This estate is part of a larger realm, made as a powerful psychic’s headquarters and staging ground.”
(Sir Quincy) “Ah. A major adept then? And one with access to some easy method of crossing dimensions? Most impressive.”
Ah. They were assuming that “made” referred to the estate.
(Todd) “He made the estate… and the realm.”
(Doubter) “Most impressive indeed.”
(Sir Quincy) “Most impressive indeed; I know of a power for building a pocket dimension; with great work and labor, an area of several square miles can be created – and the edges camouflaged of course. It requires true master to accomplish so much however!”
Todd had the computers pull up a “local” map of Kadia. There wasn’t any way to make a flat one. After all, the place was semi-infinite and had a hyperbolic geometry; the actual area a map covered increased as the sixth power of the radius. Yet is was also effectively flat. Ergo, the “map” was necessarily computer-only.
That did make things awkward. A tour after tea might be the best way to show them. That was easy enough though, there were plenty of those “Flit” things. Besides… the mere fact that there were currently better than a hundred and sixty million inhabitants was fairly dramatic.
It went against his traditions usual ways of dealing with questions, but Todd was trying to be as open as he could be without making too much fuss.
There were a LOT of them. Of course, as his colleagues memories started coming back, they started getting quieter and more confused… Eventually Todd just offered them rooms until tomorrow. After all, they’d had a very tiring and confusing journey.
Besides, the computers were better at explaining things one on one than he could be at explaining to a group. They had lots and lots of answers for various questions.
He directed most of them to lodgings close to his own. Sir Quincy would be staying with him, it was traditional for the student to host his or her mentor when he or she visited!
His apartment obligingly shifted some walls around to add a few more rooms.
In the realm of the Numbers, word was getting around that Lord Zero was on a short vacation – because he had gotten his ass handed to him by a bunch of squirrels. Apparently he’d forgotten the fluffy bunnies rule of cartoon cute; the cute fuzzy creatures ALWAYS win out over the big mean creatures! ESPECIALLY if there’s a small child anywhere’s in the vicinity!
Well, OK, not quite always – but it was a pretty damned strong tendency!
Most of the numbers were laughing – even if they’d stifle it when One got Zero back again (One and Zero were ten times worse together than they were individually). Pi might continue mocking Zero until Zero blasted it into oblivion for a bit, but Pi and E were pretty powerful themselves…
One would, of course, try to soothe Zero – but would stop shy of reassuring it. After all, One had TOLD Zero that fooling around with a mere mortal wasn’t worth it!
Sir Quincy woke up feeling a lot younger the next day. After all, a Battling Business Worlder really was only as old as he or she felt – and feeling useless, alone, unwanted, poor, and powerless had been pushing Sir Quincy into old age very rapidly indeed.
Todd was all too familiar with that feeling.
(Todd) “Good morning!”
(Sir Quincy) “Good morning Todd! What an extraordinary feeling… And how fresh the air is!”
(Todd) “Indeed. Did you sleep well?”
(Sir Quincy) “Indeed yes… A remarkably comfortable bed too. You are doing well here then? Still acting as a corporate raider?”
The old disapproval had pretty well worn away, although Sir Quincy had argued against that choice long ago, preferring government service and such – even if there was no call for it any longer. Oh, the arguments they’d had over Todd’s university major.
Jacob advised Todd that Sir Quincy was about half uncursed. the memories were there, but vague, and he would need to be reminded for the next day or so. Epic-level spells did not give way easily, even if they were spread over a lot of targets. Todd understood…
(Todd) “Actually, I’ve gone into teaching.”
(Sir Quincy) “There really are students then? You wouldn’t tease an old man would you?”
(Todd) “No. One of them is preparing the tea now.”
(Tibernia, while serving breakfast). “Actually, Sir, there are currently several thousand youngsters in Kadia who are interested in advanced psychic training, but not in accepting Kevin’s contract – and so teachers are much in demand”.
Todd wasn’t sure that he wanted Tibernia to be talking about that. On the other hand, the chance to undercut a witch might appeal to Sir Quincy!
(Sir Quincy) “Several thousand? That’s… quite a few. We haven’t seen more than a half a dozen serious students since… since… since the fight with the Number Lords… How could I have forgotten that? Todd? What’s going on?”
(Todd) “Ah yes, the Number Lords. I’m afraid they erased all our memories of the Second Battle of Britain. That’s another reason why I wanted you to come here you see. Kevin has made Kadia a place of mental healing.”
(Sir Quincy) “They… erased our memories, and crippled us, and left us to fade away in useless loneliness and leave England defenseless… I had not believed I would ever see a greater or crueler evil than that of the great war.”
(Todd) “And that was those of us they didn’t make it personal for…”
(Sir Quincy) “Todd… How did you ever escape?”
(Todd) “An old friend of mine came first. After establishing that Kadia was safe, he sent one of the locals for me. I almost DIDN’T escape. That bastard Zero paid me a visit, and if it hadn’t been for Jacob and the others, he would have torn me to shreds.”
(Sir Quincy) “And they defeated Zero? Most impressive! Still, if the local psychic master had the power to create an apparently near-limitless realm, it is not surprising!”
(Todd) “Oh yes. They vaporized him.”
(Sir Quincy) “And yet they want our help in training?”
(Todd) “As Tibernia said, some of the locals would rather not take Kevin’s contract. I believe we could provide an alternative.”
They spent some time looking over Kevin’s contract – and both of them could understand both why many youngsters would take it – and why many others would refuse. Of course, simply being able to offer such a contract said a lot about “Kevin” – and the fact that he really delivered as advertised said more.
(Sir Quincy) “Not even Lord Zero offers it’s acolytes anything like that… What IS this “Kevin?”
(Todd) “A demigod at least… I think he’s drawing off several disparate power sources. How he controls them is beyond me, but I suspect he’s inhumanly disciplined.”
(Sir Quincy) “Perhaps; Still, it is hard to argue with such hospitality – and we were certainly in need of rescue.”
(Todd) “Oh, indeed. I fear I would have eventually started splatting if my friend hadn’t sent Jacob.”
(Sir Quincy) “Hm… I think that Kevin may find that having some more diversified talents among the population worthwhile. The powers he grants are quite potent – but a greater variety offers more options.”
(Todd) “He could certainly use it. The conflicts in the Manifold are apparently becoming heated.”
(Sir Quincy) “I was not expecting another war – but it is better than seeing Zero destroy my life and not even knowing it. Being left to molder was slow despair…”
He didn’t mention his granddaughter. She’d come along (and was ensouled), but she was one of the “new guard” who focused on the weapon and practically used the Paths as toilet paper. That had – at least until now – been making him even sadder – although it was hard to blame someone for that, given how crippled the paths had been since Lord Zero had intervened.
The Thralls had mostly been after the old-school bunch, but she’d been available for hire and had been willing to come along. (She was a bit miffed that she couldn’t smack people in Kadia though). They’d mostly been rescuing people with souls and salvaging knowledge anyway.
They filled in the afternoon holding a trial for the Badger, complete with a large court, wigs, and elderly British folks holding down the various positions – and despite a spirited defense, found that there was no doubt about the Badger’s guilt and sent him to jail. Sapient beings weren’t supposed to eat each other; they were supposed to eat nonsapient beings. Naturally no one would see anything wrong with an anthropomorphic bunny eating an animalistic bunny! And thus Justice was Served!
The “rescue mission” to Japan had mostly turned out to be “would you like to visit here or take a job? Your powers will work better” – and there were plenty of takers, especially among the magic girls, sentai teams, and Shinto orders with a few REALLY weird sapient mecha. Only a modest percentage had souls of course, but it wasn’t bad. Anime is and was quite popular.
They weren’t all Battlers either, the place WAS a dimensional nexus after all – although Kevin was going to have to start watching for infiltrators.
Of course, at this rate, there would soon be no one but Leland and Jenkins left in BBW – if he didn’t take a vacation due to the constant melting-down of Manhattan.
Jenkins was ensouled, but she wasn’t like most of the ensouled there at all. They might be violent psychopaths, but they were allowed to have non-violent positive emotions. If she ever left it seemed likely to result in a swift psychological meltdown, and probably in the devastation of the area of the gate… The influx of emotions not felt for decades unless killing would be a bit to handle. Of course, if you were going to have a meltdown, Kadia or Core were about the best possible places.