Federation-Apocalypse Session 121 – The Center of Infection

   As always, there were a few minutes to wait before the plane took off – and Marty found himself starting to think back to Julia’s last birthday party. It had gone very well – and he kind of missed Cookie Monster, he’d been a lot of fun to have around… A year before that might have led him to plan a corporate takeover of Sesame Street so that Julia could spend all the time she wanted there – but now it just led him to make a note; try to come up with some long-term arrangement to cover his kids birthday parties…

   Besides, Kevin would never go for it; last time he’d been to Sesame Street he’d gone wolf and had been beaten into submission by the Big Bad Wolf.

   Urg. This world was REALLY depressing! He didn’t usually start reminiscing about happier times in the middle of a mission!

   Oh well, the plane was probably doomed to crash anyway – or to leak, or to be hijacked, or to have genetically-engineered killer spiders or snakes or something aboard, or some such, and that would certainly liven things up a bit. It surely wouldn’t make it all the way to Berlin with nothing going wrong – and at this point he’d even welcome some of Toho’s special contractors; being intercepted by Rhodan, King Ghidora, Monster X, or even Godzilla could only be an improvement – and even in Battling Business World they usually only came out when the opposition was playing hardball!

   He’d almost concluded that nothing was going to happen when they finally got a hijacker holding the crew and passengers hostage.

   Kevin found that a bit hard to believe – and rolled his eyes in exasperation.

(Kevin) “Excuse me… But with most of the surface uninhabitable and the governments all cooperating under “God”, where do you expect to go Mr… ?”

(Hijacker) “Anderson! And where I plan to take this plane is none of your business! You’ll find out soon enough though! Now get back in your seat and be quiet!”

   Hm. It looked like… a button in his hand wired to numerous gel packs sewn into his jacket and pants. He might be able to use a bit of telekinesis to pull all the wires, the detonating caps, and the battery pack, hopefully without setting it off. Setting up that many gel-packs with an active circuit would be a real pain, would be just asking for one loose wire to set it all off, and would make it near-impossible to take off later (or to put on in the first place) and risked battery failure as well. Anyway, if it did explode, he could probably bend time a bit and catch it. He’d bet on hit the button and the current went through the detonators. If he was wrong, then he was wrong – and this fellow was more psychotic than expected. At least they’d started to – slowly – develop local identities.

(Kevin) “It is my business! I bought a ticket, and flying on my own is a bothersome amount of work!”

(Marty) “And I have to accompany him! That’s even worse!”

   He had to bend time a bit… Fortunately his slowly-developing local ID let him work the psychic equivalents of his usual magics – and damping an explosion was well within his power. A force-bubble would make it hard to talk to the man later – being blown into bloody chunks would do that – and Kevin wasn’t big on that anyway, so he settled for damping the energy release, with little crawling tendrils of blackness leaping forward and crawling all over Mr Anderson.

   The man’s jacket and pants seemed to neatly disintegrate as the bomb was disarmed; in that same instant a bright white light flashed from him before being completely enveloped in Kevin’s tendrils of darkness.

   The passengers were screaming of course.

   That left Mr Anderson standing there in his boxers and t-shirt, smoking and looking horrified: most of the local Landsknecht would not have the control to avoid simply disintegrating him.

(Kevin) “Bloody Idiot! Marco, (Marty’s local ID) why does this sort of thing happen everywhere we go?”

(Marty) “Because the universe hates us?… Put some clothes on, Pal!”

(Anderson) “Why do you protect the bastard?!”

(Marty) “Hey, you calling my pal a bastard? He knows who his dad is!”

(Anderson) “No, that bastard that claims to be God! You serve him despite his utter destruction of our world and way of life! I know you creatures can read my mind and know what I was planning!”

(Marty) “What are you talking about? He can’t even legally drink yet! You’re nutty.”

(Kevin) “Definitely true that! It’s not like “God” is aboard as far as I know – or like blowing up the plane would really bother him if he was!”

(Marty) “Yeah, God’s God. He’s almighty. You know a lot about him, it seems. Can you tell us some?”

(Anderson) “You really are clueless aren’t you?”

   Kevin was extremely tempted to pull out a half-smoked cigar and a plaster mold of a footprint and tell him that “No I’m not! I’ve got some right here!”. This place needed some comic relief SO badly…

(Kevin) “Well, let’s have the obligatory rant! It’s been a slow flight so far!”

(Marty) “Come on, you can impress us! You’re a hijacker! You guys always have the best rants.”

(Anderson) “The Landsknecht that serve the bastard have slain my family, destroyed my home and ruined my career all because I disagreed with his policies regarding allocation to that damnable project of his. Here I was planning on getting the revenge everyone on this world needs against him and here you go and stop me. Filthy degenerates like you have no right to call yourselves human.”

   Kevin considered some line like “If you prick us, do we not spout negative energy and disintegrate the area?” – but it probably wouldn’t help.

   Marty was impressed in a way… taking a Landsknecht ID was already leading to all sorts of moral quandaries!

(Kevin) “So how was blowing up the plane supposed to help?”

(Anderson) “I thought you things were supposed to be able to read minds. Fine, I will tell you, since I am going to suffer a long horrible and slow death anyway. Blowing up the plane was never the plan idiot. Crashing a supersonic plane through the dome and into the building God was supposed to be in before he had time to react was the plan.”

(Marty) “Who cares? Let’s tie him up and let God decide what to do with him.”

   Marty shot a private thought to Kevin; he had no actual intention of handing him over to “god”. He’d like to shelter the guy – and maybe treat whatever psychological problems God’s actions had caused for him.

   Kevin had to agree there… A bit of illusion, combined with a small cloaking spell to hide the magic and his usual transform-victim-into-small-token (to be un-suspended and helped later when there was time) routine should do nicely.

   Hm. It looked like… the news of the plan wasn’t producing quite the expected result. News of where God might be was causing quite a few of the passengers to hide their thoughts and focus on them – and they got the distinct impression that some of them were steeling themselves for something.

   Were they going to try and RESCUE the guy? Either “God” or Landsknecht in general had to be REALLY feared and hated… Either that or “God” was like Voldemort: saying his name attracted his attention to the person doing it and prevented anti-scrying measures from working

   Nah, that didn’t seem likely in a dimension like this one.

   Kevin pulled his phony disintegration stunt; Anderson shouldn’t be able to resist unless he’d been to a magical dimension and could draw on those energies.

   Whether fortunately or unfortunately, he couldn’t.

(Kevin, to Marty/Marco) “What? He was boring anyway!”

   The passengers that had appeared to be steeling themselves a moment ago seemed to lose whatever courage they had prepared as the man seemingly disintegrated. A quick scan showed that quite a number of them had been contemplating making a suicide attack against them in an effort to help this man take over the plane. Apparently the news of where God might be had really been tempting some of them.

   Evidently “God” was REALLY unpopular – and the locals didn’t realize that it would almost certainly be useless and he’d just come back.

(Marty) “I wanted to do my levitation/neckbreak move, you brat! You never let me do it! Somebody hand me something to break! I’m getting pissed!””

   The viral videos would be going out soon; Kevin had the Thralls on the moon inquire as to whether the lunar colonies would like another guest later since they had this one tucked away for now.

   It looked like they’d be more than willing to take a sympathizer – although they had some concerns about the psychiatric issues. They’d just have to take him through Kadia and straighten him out a bit.

   “Marco” acted like he was about to destroy the plane from sheer anger, while Kevin spent a few minutes flippantly “talking him down” (of course, by Battling Business World standards that was still pretty police…). A bit of theater always helped cement an identity.

   There might have been a crew-based attempt to crash the plane into “God” – but none of them knew where he was supposed to be.

   They crew just asked for permission to resume the flight. Those that wished to do something about taking over the plane were unable to do anything, since the one person who had claimed to know where God would be had – apparently – died before giving away that information.

   Oh well, they were very brave, and that did demonstrate that resistance to God was very VERY widespread, but that plan wouldn’t have worked anyway; they’d have died for nothing.

(Marty) “Ugh. Fine, go ahead. I better get compensation.”

   Kevin spent some time probing Mr Anderson’s “sleeping” mind; whatever he knew might be useful… It looked like Anderson had been a member of the “government” under God. He was under the impression that God believed someone was likely to interfere with the trial and execution of the Manifolder and so was going to be present “personally”. Unfortunately the exact nature of personally seemed rather ill-defined – and the memory seemed corrupted. He’d apparently suffered a lot of trauma and some mental attacks – or was a plant (however unlikely that seemed), in which case it might be good that they’d faked being loyalists. Still, there was enough there to identify the Reichstag.

   Oh, of COURSE it would be.

   Hm. He’d disagreed with “God” on his policy on the allocation of resources to a project near the poles and near major cities around the globe. What details there were seemed to indicate that it would require a lot of electrical power… Perhaps the big pit project? There wasn’t enough information to even guess at what it might be about though, unless it was force field domes to try to generate a tightly controlled environment with no easy way to get out of it at all – and that was based on nothing but psychology; a sealed-in population in a strictly limited area was even easier to control.

   The flight crew nervously asked that they please retake their seats if that was all right with them. They registered impatience as part of the act, and did so…

   The plane landed shortly thereafter, and the police detained everyone else – although they only asked Kevin and Marty to make a statement as to what happened.

   They pretty much gave the facts – leaving out the general support from the crew and passengers, and that they hadn’t actually killed their hijacker. “Marco” showed some annoyance that he hadn’t gotten to hand the guy over to “God” for a reward, while “Kierroth” didn’t show much deference to “God”, but showed annoyance at being threatened.

   After all, he was supposed to be a semi-independent sort.

   After some questions confirming what the rest of the passengers and crew had already told them, the police let them be on their way – although they did ask if they needed anything while in Berlin.

(Marty) “All I want is a luxury hotel suite.”

(Police officer) “That can be arranged, we can also give you directions or a guide if that would suit you better?”

(Marty) “Can we have a hot German lady?”

   Nice scenery to look at was always a bonus!

(Kevin, deciding to harass Marty a bit) “Oh for… How lazy can you get? Asking the cops? Just seduce someone if you must!”

(The officer looked appalled at that request, but ended up trying to cover it up as best he could) “I will see who I can find. I’m sure there will be plenty of volunteers. (Forced smile)”

(Marty, privately to Kevin) “Hey, we’re Landsknecht. I don’t NEED to seduce people here, but I’m past sleeping around – and after all this industrial crap we’ve been slogging through, I needs to look at something pretty!”

(Kevin, privately) “Hey, this is a show for the cops and spies, and I’m playing an overpowered brat with no respect!”

   Well, that was fair enough. After all, Marty was playing the part of a grownup who knew just how above nearly everybody else he was!

   A very nervous looking young woman was presented eventually, although it did look like she was shoved the last few feet towards them. She began to talk while stuttering ever so slightly. (Guide) “Where would you like to see first?”

   Kevin reeled off a list of landmarks straight out of an old tourist pamphlet.

(Marty) “Insufferable little-those.”

   Kevin looked smug. There wasn’t a bar or red-light district on the list!

   Marty actually didn’t mind that much; he’d never been to Germany, and was finally starting to wonder about it beyond Oktoberfest – although he would like to snag some beer.

   Their guide took them on a tour of the locations Kevin had listed, gaining more confidence as the tour went on. The arcology structure at ground level looked to be carefully preserving sections of the original city for historical purposes… It was centered on four different locations: Downtown from before the city was split, the two downtowns that had existed during the split, and the downtown after the reunion – winding up with an arcology built around multiple structures as opposed to a unified structure. All evidence of the wall was long gone, save for a few sections that had been purposefully preserved. Oddly enough, there was still a strong East-West rivalry despite the fact the two regions of the city were now virtually indistinguishable… Very little remained that predated the late 1940’s though.

   Well, the Reichstag was on the list; that would give them a chance to see if they could pick up any traces of odd energies about – or if there was a sudden sympathetic “tug”. They cloaked themselves throughly and went for passive detections first.

   At the Reichstag, there was a large gathered around the front of the building, where a young woman was speaking to the crowd in very good German – rallying them with some speech about Manifolders (on how the evil selfish manifolders wanted to destroy them, rather than share their vast wealth and trade resources freely – with notes about suspected dealing with the Lunar rebels no less) and a LOT of psionic power. News Crews were televising the speech, and armed guards lined the roads to and from the building. Kevin could feel a distinct power resonance coming from her. A good thing they all had psychic defenses and various cloaking effects to cover mana and their magical powers running…

   It looked like their speech-making woman rather than an avatar of “God” or just a Landsknecht geared toward telepathy. She fit the description almost perfectly. The blue hair wasn’t a part of the records, but then she was known for odd fashion choices.

   Hm… It had been fifty years – but she did look vaguely familiar in person. From Hogwarts. One of a set of Core kids from some world or other who had arrived at Hogwarts as a group. Serah… Serah Traelin (or something like that). Very charismatic and manipulative using her looks and acting ability. Moderate to high aptitude at Hogwarts with glamours and animation effects. No evidence of her pistol though…

   Well, now the choice was whether or not to wave and go “Hello Serah!” or lurk a bit more. Still, when the local policies repelled even Xellos, things had gotten a bit beyond the “cheerily offer everyone bribes” stage.

   Oh dear. Where HAD Xellos gotten to?

   He… looked to be cheerfully discussing something with some police officers underneath the balcony Serah was standing on. He also seemed to have a cart selling fruity beverages with him. The large pile of fruit on the cart was advertised as “Freshly grown and freshly squeezed for your fresh taste!” In german no less.

   Marty was afraid to ask what Xellos had put into those… He tried a quick probe – but it seemed to be perfectly normal save for the modifications to make them extra juicy and ripe.

   Kevin sighed. Oddly enough, if Xellos opted to attack someone, it would probably be because they were already so corrupt that there was no more fun in manipulating them. If he played pranks, there might still be something redeemable. The fruit bombardment would probably start momentarily.

   Meanwhile, something seemed to have caught Xellos’s attention when he’d glanced at the balcony above him.

(Xellos) “Hmm? Oh dear me!”

   Marty groaned slightly. Xellos had done SOMETHING, but he couldn’t tell what…

   Meanwhile Xellos was speaking to the officer with that smile of his – while pointing at the balcony above.

(Xellos) “It would seem that the supports for the balcony above us is a bit unstable, we’d best move away from here now.”

   Kevin and Marty faded back a bit – although Marty carried a hint of jealousy with him. Xellos was a master of accident and entropy. If he wanted her to break her neck, she very well might.

   Marty considered asking Xellos if he was looking for work, but he was pretty sure that the guy had things going on in multiple fun realms already.

   Just as the police officer was about to protest, Xellos grabbed him and another one and smoothly moved out of the way as the balcony collapsed and dumped Serah into the fruit stand, unleashing a wave of fruit juice all over the people in the front of the crowd. Xellos – of course – did not get a drop on him.

(Xellos) “Oh I’m sorry! I would have warned you about the collapse but didn’t have time to! Luckily I was able to get these men away from that collapse or they might have gotten hurt. Oh and don’t worry about the cart! I can get another readily enough! Good thing it happened to be there to break your fall!”

   Most of the police looked horrified, the crowd was mixed, and Serah looked really ticked.

   Kevin was pleased; evidently she didn’t have reflexive defenses. Good to know if it ever came to combat. He grinned, joining the rest of the kids in the audience.

   He still didn’t know what to do though. His first impulse – as always – was to talk, but he wasn’t sure that it would be a good idea here. That first fellow they’d probed at the construction side had sort of implied that these rulers were pretty well gone, and so did what they’ve done to the place. Still, he had to wonder – what did they THINK they were up to?

   Serah moved to lash out at Xellos, but found that he’d disappeared while no one was looking.

(Marty) “Kierroth, you disrespectful little brat! Remove that smile from your face!” (Telepathically) Couldn’t have done it better myself!

(Kevin, on the private links) “I don’t know! There may be a great deal of darkness in them judging by what they’ve done, and it’s been festering for fifty years! Should we try to get a look at our Manifolder first, or just move in to talk to her?”

(Marty, privately) “Well, we don’t know if these people can trap our souls when we die, but why not?”

(Kevin) “Hey, it’s a classic pratfall! Whaddaya want?”

   “Marco” glared balefully at “Kierroth”. It was a good thing Marty had a good poker face. That was a really good prank setup!

   They opted to go for the Manifolders first. If it DID turn out to be Spellweaver and the kid they did have a promise of sorts to keep – and they didn’t want to leave them in “Gods” hands for too long. They were doubtless some really high-security prison, even if the Girl was supposedly being sent in for counseling. Would they want to make her an Avatar and be watching her more closely? Nah, it probably wouldn’t work; an avatar in her would be subject to her limitations – no use of magic or psionics – and that would make it pretty awkward. Still, they should probably get them to the moon ASAP. The local villains could still do a lot of nasty things to them.

   That was, of course, presuming that they weren’t entirely wrong.

   Still, they should be findable simply by looking for the top-security building with all the guards.

   Marty found himself distracted by all the alcohol available in the city.

(Marty) “I love beer!”

   He drank a mug – and went to start in on a keg.

(Kevin) “Oh geez, he’s started in again!”

(Marty) “This is good! I think I’ll have another!”

(Kevin) “I should spike it with hot sauce again, even if you did say it was blasphemy last time!”

   Security looked to be highest in three locations: the Reichstag, a store front that seemed to be vandalized frequently, and a shopping center centered on the old East Berlin town center that went several floors above and below ground.

(Marty, while drinking his beer) “That storefront looks suspic… suspic… funny.”

   Hm. “God” keeping a personal eye on his catch? A possible gate location? And perhaps the most expensive mall in town?

   Still, people were allowed into the shopping center until curfew. As for the store front, a little digging revealed that it was built over the location where Hitler’s bunker had once lain.

   They thanked their guide, tipped her with a nice gold bar, and got rid of her. Marty said goodbye and inevitably embarrassed himself with his drunkenness.

   She looked pretty shocked at that. The thoughts that had flashed through her mind as she had considered what she thought was going to happen hadn’t been pleasant.

(Marty) “Hey! I’m not a bad guy! I just like looking!”

   Hmm… The bunker might be a nasty gate as well – there were WWII realms in plenty – but Kevin had to say the Reichstag. Although, on a side note, it was nice to give someone a pleasant surprise around this place.

   They went to see about the Reichstag. There was local security of course, but there might be some psionic or mystical effects, and there was probably some manifold tech there too.

   Security at the Reichstag was indeed very tight. There was definite evidence of Core technology at work in the security systems and there seemed to be a psionic shell or barrier around the place, possibly acting as a ward. Interestingly, there were no Landsknecht near the place. Guided tours of the building were on a regular schedule though.

   They went on one. After all, why not? They’d already toured everywhere else!

   As they entered the building, it felt like they’d stepped through a spider’s web – although they found no strands dangling on them. The sensation was annoying.

   Probably either a simple screen, an aversion effect, or something designed to leave them wrapped in either a neutralizing, monitoring, or trapping aura. Kevin tried passive thought reception – and then telekinetically adjusting his camera. Those techniques worked without issue, although he could sense the threads reacting in some fashion. Well, if they could pick up passive witchcraft under the pre-existing cloaking spell, they probably had the sensitivity on their alarm-spells set far too high anyway; they’d be reacting endlessly. It was most likely monitoring for anything high-powered. Little tricks would probably pass unremarked – and if their cloaking effects hadn’t worked the power-load they were carrying would already have set everything off anyway.

   The tour was rather stale, with lots of story-telling about how the place was built before the Second World War, bombed into a hollow shell and then left to rot during the Cold War in the no-man’s-land, before finally being renovated and used as the seat of government after the unification. Again, the place looked very modern and they could see signs of Core technology in the background designed to look unobtrusive to those not knowing what to look for. It looked like they were using… smartfibers, Core computers, and Keith-Ericsson fields imbedded in the walls, ceiling and floors at a minimum.

   At the top of the Reichstag, in the glass dome, they got a good view of the ground level of the city around them with the arcology above it.

   As far as Mana, Magic, and Demonic Power went… there was lot’s of power beneath the building along with electric and magnetic fields. Not enough to interfere with electronics – but given the apparent size and uniformity, they had to be pretty substantial and deep. There were truly massive Psionic and Demonic power signatures down below; there was some attempt being made to shield it, but that was like trying to hide a hurricane using a tent. For mana, there was a local drain centered about a thousand feet down. Magic was relatively weak save for some ongoing magical effects.

   Well, that fit the universe.

   The major guarded locations had been the service elevator, the stairwell, the official offices, and the Chancellor’s Office.

   Well, down below was probably “god”, the mana drain was probably feeding him – Kevin would bet on “god” being the “Flawed Opener” that had been mentioned – the Manifold captive might well be near him (possibly to be drained) or might not here at all or just be well shielded and not wasteful of power… They probably weren’t going to get any further with passive detection, and they had no clue as to how to locate the girl.

   Serah seemed to have headed back into the building and was now working her way underground. The psionic vibrations coming off of her made it pretty clear that she was upset. She was probably off to talk to “God” or somebody close to him.

   They decided to quietly ditch the tour and head on down.

   A bit of suggestion dealt with the tour group, but the guards on the elevator were another matter. They knew that – if someone got past them who wasn’t supposed to – they were in BIG trouble. Oh well, if this didn’t succeed, Kevin had a few of his usual emergency measures available if he really HAD to use them.

   They decided on just using their oratorical talents. Those weren’t really magical – and should more than suffice against normal guards.

   Kevin simply “suggested” that they were some of Gods special agents that it was MUCH wiser not to even see – and neither of the guards proved able to resist him. The elevator doors closed quietly behind them as they cut in some defenses – levitating just enough to avoid it if the floor went electrified or some such, turning on their independent oxygen supplies, activating chemical seals, making sure their meme-filters were on, and so on…

   Annoyingly, the elevator looked to have buttons for the floors above and two floors below, but did not appear to have any for as far down as they thought that they needed. There weren’t any for non-existent upper floors either. There were no traces of any energies being applied to hidden internal mechanisms – but there was, on close inspection, a smartfiber port.

   Marty plugged in, beating out Kevin’s paranoid suggestion to set it up on an independent subsystem.

   A visual interface popped up listing numerous subfloors not shown on the main panel, including Containment, C3 (command-control-communications), Utilities, Quarters, Freezer, Storage, and several dozen more. No passcode request yet though… Was it sophisticated enough to detect unauthorized occupants through neural patterns? Or perhaps it had just have been set up assuming that they were the only core visitors on this world? Either way, they tried divining if they would need a password… Containment would be more guards – and ones probably resistant to manipulation – or they could skip straight to quarters and go talk to the lady or to “god”. They were good at talking people into doing stuff.

   Still, they would like to know who was locked up… Wait! There was probably a visual feed so that incoming visitors could check on that level. Kevin would put one in on HIS jail; he wouldn’t want to open the door into an ambush – and this batch looked to be noxious enough to peek in on people in cells just for fun. They asked for it – and it requested a passcode.

(Marty) “Somehow I knew it’d say that… Let’s see if we can figure it out!

   Hm. Witchcraft really wasn’t up to that kind of divination, although they’d try if all else failed… “Matthias”? “Hogwarts”? “Ryan”? Perhaps “Slytherin”?

   Hm. Divination come back with the phrase “Home”.

   Hm… This is security made by Core people, after all, and Gandalf was a strong meme. Still…

   Drat… if he’d ever known, Kevin couldn’t remember what world the group had come from all those years ago. Just that it had been a relatively recent colony, mostly made up of emigrants from Europe. They’d only been there a few generations before the Opening really began.

   Wait! Greenwald has been colonized approximately 110 years ago. He could see this batch trying to destroy their pasts, what with the demonic infusion and the classical demonic true names thing. That would explain what Spellweaver was doing there, and why he’d wind up here too.

   They tried “Greenwald” and got “Access Granted” – as well as a selection of twenty-three video feeds from the containment level. Four hallways, twelve empty cells, a young girl (about ten to twelve) suspended in mid-air with some sort of device hooked onto her back. Another looked to be of a young man in his late twenties or early thirties held in some really elaborate mechanism of spinning rings. Others looked to be either people in normal looking cells, or in some sort of fluid containers vaguely reminiscent of Bacta tanks. There were no visible guards.

   Well, the girl and the man looked rather familiar, even if they were mostly rotated away from the cameras. Looked like they’d found their targets.

   They headed on down. That might well set off alarms though – if “God” was bothering. Kevin suspected that the locals hadn’t had too many visitors who knew who and what they were in the last fifty years.

   The same password was good for entry. There were no labels, but a basic HUD reference sheet was available… They went for Spellweaver first; he was more likely to react sensibly judging by their last encounter – if this really was the right pair – and she might attack upon release if he wasn’t there.

   All it took to open the door was plugging into the Smartfiber port and requesting it. It looked like their opponents really hadn’t been expecting any knowledgeable core intruders…