Now that they had Vekxin in Kadia – and several hundred miles from anyone but phantasms – Kevin quietly closed the gate and took some precautions against him escaping. Vekxin had been quite enough trouble, and it wasn’t like he’d won or anything. There was no reason to be nasty about it – but this was being taken into custody.
Still, that was no reason not to have a round of golf like Marty wanted; he had multitasking, and he could check up on other stuff while golfing.
Marty got Vekxin a set of force-field clubs. He’d melt anything else at the moment…
Meanwhile, Kadia went to work on yet another set of mental disorders, physical traumas, curses, and other difficulties. Big problems might take a day or so, but the little stuff would melt away in short order.
Vekxin seemed torn between belief – and going on his promised rampage if Kevin and Marty’s claims were baloney. The place certainly didn’t look like any divine realm that HE’D ever heard of. He looked at the scenery – and began to realize that a rampage would have very little point. Still, if he was being tricked…
(Marty, on the private links) “Hey, Kevin, if he does go on a rampage, will the usual anti-violence measures hold?”
(Kevin, on the private links) “Against raw positive energy? Probably not. The restraining fields and such should work, but not if he abandons his physical form. Still, I have plenty of other powers and backup to use here”
(Marty, still privately) “Well damn. Let’s calm him down!”
(Kevin, privately) “Oh well, that’s why he’s in an outlying region. There’s nothing here except scenery and phantasms he can’t really harm for several hundred miles.”
(Marty) “We can get you some clubs. I’m sure you can beat Kevin at least!”
Marty offered Vekxin one of the sturdiest clubs available, and hoped he used it on the ball instead of on their heads.
(Vekxin) “This seems to be a rather silly place.”
(Kevin) “Well, this is a golf course we’re on at the moment. Would you like white water rafting, mammoth hunting, the courts of the fey, a nice restaurant, or a museum?”
(Vekxin) “So you created a entire realm all to yourself and then filled it with attractions?”
(Kevin) “Well, as I mentioned, there are currently about two hundred milllion refugees and guests, and more are arriving all the time.”
(Vekxin) “I am trying to decide if you are the most accommodating or most immature god I’ve ever heard of. Where do the refugees come from? The Realm of Boredom?”
(Kevin) “Oh, mostly places where there are nasty wars, insane rulers, and similar places. No reason not to make the place comfortable for everyone, since I wanted it pleasant for my followers anyway. Gives them somewhere pleasant to take a day or so off when they’re killed before taking another assignment.”
(Vekxin, eyes narrowing) “Assignment? You send your followers on assignment? Are you the source of those remarkably talented but uniform children running around trying to catch me earlier? Veritable lemmings at times.”
(Kevin) “Probably! You were making trouble, therefore they would be out to make you stop. Of course, if they’re killed, they just come back here and take a couple of days off with pay before heading out again. They do have trouble getting back into the same dimension unless they’re re-summoned there though.”
(Vekxin) “Anti-demons then. I must admit they were a major annoyance, if you have a significant number of them hidden in reserve you might actually stand a chance. Very well then, what do you wish to know in detail?”
Kevin was checking something first… They’d set free the stolen souls in Baelaria, and it had been some time since then – and Vekxin had been becoming a major, exciting, role anyway. Even if his original soul hadn’t returned, another one might well have taken up the position.
Ah, he did have one.
(Kevin) “First off, while you do seem to have your soul back now – it may have been among those we freed in Baelaria if that’s where you originally came from – how were you maintaining your identity when moving between dimensions?”
(Vekxin, startedly) “It has come back?”
(Kevin) “Yes. That’s easy enough to see – or, possibly, another has arrived. That’s possible too, if less likely. Souls do tend to take up exciting roles.”
(Vekxin) “Very well… The normal method of maintaining an identity requires a soul to hold the form. That is how it works for the ensouled. The unsouled, or phantasms, are unable to hold a distinct form from realm to realm as they are more or less pieces of the local reality. I take it you know this much?”
(Kevin) “Yes indeed.”
(Vekxin) “In order for an unsouled to hold his form from realm to realm, it must form a link to a soul in some form or another. The best method is to get one yourself, but that is hard to arrange. The other option is to form a link to someone who has one. It involves transforming your identity as a piece of the realm into an identity with a person. If you can forge yourself into a distinct part of someone’s reality, then as long as you stay in their presence, your form is maintained. For instance, by forging yourself into the leader of the group that bestows mystical powers and abilities in exchange for their service. That works really well as the power link helps form a soul bond.”
Kevin was a bit disappointed there. That one was nothing new. That was why Ruth and the rest of Gelman’s family stayed the way they were, why Marty’s father was stable despite the realm shifting, and so on. That was why he’d bonded those of his young draconic phantasm-offspring who wanted to go adventuring with specific thralls. Oh well.
(Vekxin) “So I went from Vekxin, the renegade vessel of god, to Vekxin the leader of a ragtag bunch of mages and psions. It helped that I could form the power link between myself and them to facilitate the interaction… You seem to be disappointed.”
(Kevin) “Ah well. That’s one of the more common methods. There are a few others I’ve found so far – embodying a sufficiently common concept that you fit into most worlds, being a psychic nexus, creating a pattern item – whether magical, technological, or psychic – that will function in a group of worlds, and stabilizing spells and effects. I was rather hoping for something I hadn’t seen before. Of course, that was a bit unrealistic; it was just that I hadn’t yet seen many examples of most of the usual methods when I first heard that you were traveling around and remaining stable without a soul. Ergo, it acquired the association of a new method in my thoughts, and retained that until checked.”
(Kevin, on the private line) “Marty? About the only other thing I can think of that we want offhand is to match the description of “God” to Merlin, Spellweaver, and one or two of our other suspects – so do we want anything else beyond his description?”
(Marty, privately) “Maybe a little more information on what’s going on in Inversion.”
Ah, that was true; what he knew about “God” and what was going on in Inversion then.
(Marty) “So… it couldn’t have been easy for you these past few months. How’d you get through without completely cracking?”
(Vekxin) “Who says I haven’t? Regardless, that is one of the side benefits of linking myself to others as I have or had. So long as their perception of me remains the same, so do I. Now I am aware that you’ve been slowly peeling away those connections from me and that has hurt.”
(Marty) “Sorry, son, we didn’t know what it was doing to you.”
(Marty, privately) “Hmm. What could they do about that?”
(Kevin, privately – and much less sympathetically) “Not much really; he doesn’t need them anyway now that his soul is back. Breaking a strong link with another person is always painful, but those weren’t exactly healthy links. Besides, this really is a capture-and-interrogation, even if a very gentle one. We can encourage him to form healthy links I suppose”.
(Marty) “Now that you’ve got a soul back, though, you don’t need to do that anymore. It’s better for you and everyone around you.”
(Vekxin) “I suppose, call it a habit I’ve picked up from God.”
(Kevin, privately) “Arxus may be out of luck though; he was still stuck being a lab rat when we turned those souls loose, and his may have opted for another incarnation. Of course, since he’s being a hero, the odds aren’t bad that he’ll attract one to incarnate in him. That might happen to Ruth too of course. Wouldn’t that be a surprise for Mr Gelman? Although, to be fair, how would he know?
(Marty) “Well, we can help you fix it. This place should help with some of the side effects.”
(Vekxin) “So I’ve noticed. This is a very unusual place.”
(Marty) “Hey, what was your favorite treat before all this happened? I’m sure we can get you some.”
Vekxin was pointing to another section of the golf course where you had to dodge antimatter golfballs rolling around.
Marty grinned hugely! He HAD to try that later!
(Kevin) “Well, it’s much less bother if the dimension fixes minor problems on it’s own, so that I don’t have to. As for the antimatter golf balls… Some people like hazards, and if they get blown up, they just wake up in the morning anyway.”
(Vekxin) “I was always a fan of the shaved alcohol ice treats back home. Never did figure out how the guy kept the water from separating out while freezing the mix.”
(Kevin) “Freeze them separately and mix the chips?”
Marty had the girls conjure some up for him.
(Vekxin, smacking his forehead) “Why did I not think of that this whole time?”
(Kevin) “Well, that’s why I keep asking. It’s always the simple answers that escape you when you’re looking for something complicated.”
(Marty) “Oh, don’t moan about it. Here, you make some for me and we can enjoy it together! I need to get my BAC target anyway.”
Vekxin didn’t have much luck with his treat; the ice shavings melted too fast. Most of it went up in a blast of steam and flame.
(Marty) “Did you at least get a taste?”
Marty had the girls make another – and Kevin pointed a finger at it and rendered it immune to extraneous heating.
(Vekxin) “Well that helps matters. This power I’ve accumulated is going to present some problems until I can burn off the extra power.”
Oddly enough, Vekxin found that easy manipulation of reality more impressive than anything else so far… Wait. When Kevin had casually guessed at the penalty for a “portal trap” the golfer had looked it up in his rulebook – and found the rule there that Kevin had just invented.
Reality seemed to tilt a bit.
This really WASN’T just a pocket dimension that an ambitious young magus had seized control of – and the power that blazed around Kevin, and was starting to glimmer around Marty, was more than a clever front. This pleasant, obliging, boy – and this overweight businessmen – were windows through which shown the infinite and the massed will of millions. Did either of them even know what that meant?
With that acceptance, the excess power – that he’d been unconsciously hugging to himself in unconscious defense – suddenly settled down under his control. Kevin had been wanting that to happen anyway – and in Kadia it was easily within his power to arrange it.
(Vekxin) “What I know about God is limited. I suspect he is from the place called Core. What his name was there or when he came from there is unknown to me. I do know he acquired his powers from some unfortunate pact he made without realizing it some time ago. He arrived in Inversion two decades ago I believe. Since then he has been steadily hammering all opposition into submission and systematically executing a “one” man takeover. No one has ever seen God himself though throughout this whole ordeal save Merlin. He interacts with the world via six avatars he creates or takes over. They serve as conduits for his powers. Each has unique abilities it inherits from him. Although I do know more talented individuals make better avatars, that is why he had me captured and transformed for his purposes.”
(Marty) “So who are the other avatars?”
(Vekxin) “Of the six avatars, I was the energy absorber, although I suspect I have been replaced in that role. Number two was a body specializing in telepathic abilities and spirit links. Number three worked with summoning constructs and other things created out of ectoplasm. Number four was the one able to regenerate bodies using his psionic powers, supposedly was even able to bring other avatars back from death even. Number five was the one most modified from his original form using cybernetics and genetic engineering techniques. The last avatar was a master of telekinetics. All six were created from phantasms or ensouled with their souls torn out. Merlin usually has a hand in the conversion to avatars, although I think he only augments their abilities and is not necessary for their creation. In terms of physical appearance, all six avatars have more or less normal human appearances depending on who they were created from. They all have red hair and green eyes though.”
(Kevin) “Well, that’s annoying. They can change all the time. Do the Horsemen of the Apocalypse usually work with Merlin then?”
(Marty) “Can you give us names?”
(Vekxin) “Names matter not, for they all act as one. Their will is suppressed by God and they become veritable incarnations of him. To speak of them as separate people with names is like naming your toes. They are all God.”
Marty felt that that sounded like Corrigan talking about that New Age crap, only with more explosions and screaming people.
(Vekxin) “The Horsemen? They receive their orders from Merlin. They act as the generals to God’s army.”
Probably someone who was on a serious megalomania trip. Possibly a solipsist. They could get that way if they wound up in a sufficiently malleable world. Still, that infusion of unwanted power did sound sort of familiar.
(Kevin) Is there anyone else on Merlin’s level?
(Vekxin) “In theory I suppose Famine might be, on the other hand, that may be because he is the oldest and most powerful of the four. In terms of power that is pretty much it, although there are others with considerable power that report to Merlin himself. I do know there is an opener that is also part of that level of authority, although I believe there is something wrong with him.”
(Marty) “What do you mean?”
Flawed? Hadn’t that come up earlier? Flawed openers, who could only go to particular kinds of realms or had other limitations. Most of the early Openers had outgrown that long ago, but there might be some left.
(Vekxin) “I do not believe he can regenerate his power or whatever it is that Openers have. He has to take it from others like him in order to have any.”
Now there was someone who desperately needed some Thralls – although Kevin was really quite surprised that they hadn’t had attempts to snatch any of them yet anyway. He went fishing for as much of the organizational chart as possible. With any luck, “God” wasn’t simply reporting to someone higher up – such as his neanderthal masters.
(Vekxin) “Capturing other openers for him to leech off of proved near impossible to sustain. We were beginning to shift to hunting gatekeepers, but I escaped from Gods dominating will at that point after I learned to absorb the energies he was using to control me.”
Kevin and Marty considered that… The Avatars must retain free will to some extent then – possibly when not being focused on. Huh. All too soon the order was going to go out to all their foes: “Wear earplugs! Swallow hand grenades! Whatever you do, DON’T LET THESE PEOPLE TALK TO YOU!!!”
(Kevin, privately) “Marty? Is there anything else we need from Vekxin at the moment?”
He passed on the information they’d gotten – and the same query – to the House of Roses while he was at it.
(Marty, privately) “Heh. I can’t really think of anything. I’m inclined to give the kid some refugee accommodations, assign him a bodyguard or two, and go to the next task on our list- although if he knows what restored his independent will, that might be a nice trick to hold in reserve. It’s pretty likely that “god” has done something about it by now, but it probably isn’t 100% effective.”
The House wanted full details, What they’d gotten from Death on Merlin and “God” seemed to match pretty well… They were pretty preoccupied with sending resources to Linear Realms, they’d gotten intelligence indicating that some sort of major attack in probably going to occur soon. Most likely on Washington. Getting their forces out of the Underdark – where they’d been pinning Vekxin down – and to the Linear Realms was proving troublesome.
Well, they just needed a gate. Underdark to Crusader. That would be easy enough.
Vekxin was restricted to Kadia for the moment – although, since it was also being a safe refuge for him, he might not even notice. Kevin assigned him some Thrall-bodyguards/servants/keepers – and made sure that any recruits he tried to get received a FULL disclosure.