The survey of the records didn’t turn up anything that looked like it would be TOO difficult to handle. On Marty’s advice Kevin threw in a few more thralls with draconic Kadia identities to boost security a bit (and provide an impressive physical presence, even if he was having them stay in the background) – but it didn’t really look like it would be necessary. His powers in Kadia really were quite appalling.
So: Themselves, some Thrall-Attendants, their six oddities, a representative from the Unified Church, a few of the people from the Inversion Lunar Alliance,
Hm. The explosives-transmuter would be a pain, but the computer systems and Thralls could handle him as long as he was limited to chemical explosives.
The negator was impossible to predict given how he seemed to negate most everything thrown at him and possibly around him, but he didn’t seem especially irrational.
Hubert Gibbet could be annoying, but again nothing the computers and thralls couldn’t handle.
Ophelia would need watching, to be put into confinement, or to be sent somewhere else.
Lacus should be fine.
Animus shouldn’t be able to do too much in Kadia – although he was going to go nuts without an unholy army of the damned at his beck and call. Still, he was already going a bit nuts on the moon. He was arguing with people there already…
(Animus) “What? It’s perfectly natural to want to raise the dead in an orgy of necromatic power!”
Ophelia’s soulbinding technique seemed to almost divine, as opposed to just magical, psionic or technological. She had probably had access to godfire at some point based on the trace energies around her, and might well have been making pacts with that energy. Still, if she didn’t have any reserves at the moment, she should be manageable for now… Kevin suspected that she wouldn’t have been able to bond very many victims that way, but it would probably be a very tight bond – and it might not require quite as much consent as He needed. Still, they could just keep an eye on her.
Meanwhile, Animus was still ranting.
(Animus) “Hmm, I wonder if I can overcome the limitation that it was never alive to begin with if I put more power behind it?”
(Kevin) “Why not just settle down for an hour or so? Can’t the undead army wait until after lunch and a bit of conversation? After all, we did let you out, and after lunch I can provide transport to any of a wide variety of places.”
Marty kind of wondered if he’d fit in on Necropolis – but it really seemed like a bad idea. They’d already made enough trouble there anyway, and it hadn’t needed any more to begin with.
Animus looked resentful and angry, but he quieted down…. for the moment.
They repaired to Kadia – with Kevin quietly suggesting that – since he and Marty were making trouble for “God” – any useful information they passed on contributed to cheap revenge.
(Animus) “Nothing high quality is cheap! What if I just animated that entire nearly dead world for revenge for all of us! Hell, I’ll even do it for free!”
(Lacus) “Agreed, we need to take that bastard down any way we can. I’m willing to help any way I can.”
(Ophelia) “Information? Sure I can do that”
(Kevin) “Well, it is a no-magic world, which rather limits some of us. I take it you (Kevin indicated Animus and Lacus) can both work around that?”
(Hubert) “Someone else willing to take him down? No problem with that. No contract is worth this much trouble.”
That word – “Contract” – caught Marty’s attention. What kind of… Oh. Professional assassin, right. Presumably someone had wanted to get rid of “God”.
(Lacus) “It’s not a problem as long as I can keep the power and range within limits.”
(Animus) “Nothing can restrain the unholy powers of the necromancer! I scoff at your ideas of limitations. Mortal limitations have no effect on me! – although if Hubert had taken a contract on “God”, capital G, he might be a bit overconfident.
(CMA) “I am quite willing to share information, as long as I get to be in any fireworks that might occur.”
(CMB) “I’m afraid I may not have as much to give as you might be expecting. This “God” as he likes to style himself is rather secretive.”
(Kevin) “Well, that’s not too unexpected – but you never know what minor detail might prove important.”
Kevin kind of suspected that there would be three basic groups here: the ones who wanted to help do something about “God”, the ones who were willing to supply some information and possibly angle for getting Kevin and/or Marty and/or Xellos as useful contacts, and the ones who just wanted to get out – although it was just possible that one or two would inspect the setting carefully and either get curious or want a Thrall.
(Marty) “Don’t forget the donuts. Hey, don’t look at me that way, they’re really important!”
(Kevin) “There shall be plenty of refreshments Marty!”
They started with why they were captured – and any clues as to what “God”, Merlin, and the Horsemen were really up to. They already had a rough summary on the Avatars.
Lacus was a native of Inversion who’d gone adventuring in the Manifold. She’d returned to find his home being taken over and had tried to serve as a rallying point for the defense. Eventually she’d been captured and put in confinement.
Ophelia had wandered in looking for souls to bind only to draw God’s attention and get overwhelmed and captured. God had expressed great interest in her powers.
Animus came because he’d sensed a profound amount of death and had been hoping to cash in on some of it. He’d been overwhelmed by massive modern weaponry and put into confinement.
Hubert had gotten a contract to to track down the “original” and kill him while another group tried to keep the avatars and Serah busy. Unfortunately, he’d run into a trap – or possibly the entire offer had been a trap – and he’d been caught.
CMA – Renalt – liked to blow things up, and had simply been overwhelmed by the authorities.
CMB – Elight – had been following leads on rumors of a group that had found many new ways to manipulate negative energy, and had been caught asking too many questions.
Apparently the people in the “tracking” system weren’t necessarily under surveillance; they’d just been observed, were believed to be still on Inversion, and were EITHER being looked for or were under surveillance at the moment. Ergo, several of them were probably themselves, but they’d been able to get past security so readily because they’d lost the attempts to track them at some point.
Hm. Animus wouldn’t really be much help. It looked like “God” wanted to keep everyone miserable, and so a horde of undead running around wouldn’t actually bother him much. If anything it might make him look a bit better.
Marty suggested leaving him someplace where there were no bodies, but there were lots of therapists.
Kevin considered somewhere where – say – a demon horde was slaughtering all life, and he could have a mighty war.
As for what “God” was up to… what it came down to was that they knew that “God” was gathering people with unusual abilities, funnelling souls through a gateway to somewhere else, taking revenge on someone (they didn’t know who), and trying to prepare for a war with the Linear Realms.
Marty wondered if he could get that on pay-per-view… Wait! There were loads of Thralls, all with Smartclothes, in the thick of everything! Each one capable of relaying live, personalized, coverage! It would be easy!
Spellweaver thought that God was most interested in capturing Michelle and gaining control of her. She was the only one with the Master Control Codes for the American Legion Robots. With her under his thumb, he could add them to the Final Army.
Kevin suggested that it might be a good idea to change those – not that troop strength really means that much in Manifold warfare. For that, she would need to visit each of the central nodes and interface with them directly – unless a remote telecommunications connection could be made.
That was actually easy enough. They could distribute the new codes properly across a committee again, so that no one individual would have override access.
Secondarily, “God” and Serah had been busily trying to erase all traces of their existence back in Core and elsewhere – even going so far as to exterminate an entire colony world to do it.
Marty sighed. Well, nice to be sure what had happened on Greenwald.
Kevin sighed too. Demonic energies. They didn’t want anyone knowing their true names. Silly of them really. Had they forgotten just how redundant the core network was? Or… wait; they’d left Core before the network had been linked through the Manifold. They didn’t know that wiping the records would require destroying human civilization throughout the Core and a dozen other places.
They might not have diverted all of “Gods” and Serah’s attention to themselves though, even though they had to be aware that the group knew their origins. Kevin had another hundred Thralls immediately report to Dumbledore at Hogwarts, with more standing by – even if there were already nearly a hundred there. Snape could sneer at all the new students if he liked.
Well, that was more information than they’d really been expecting, and less than they’d hoped for . About average really, even if most of their stories amounted to “I arrived, I got kicked around a bit by heavy weapons, and I wound up in a cell”.They must have thought that they were going to a world that didn’t have psychic powers AND high tech.
The debriefing experts from the House of Roses had been asking careful questions too… Apparently the Gateway through which “God” was funneling souls was on Inversion itself. Most likely in the Southern Hemisphere. Apparently one of the Avatars and Merlin had gotten into a serious argument over it; Merlin had wanted it relocated somewhere else, and “God” hadn’t been willing to trust Merlin with access to that kind of power unsupervised. Their compromise agreement had involved keeping a Knight-Lord there at all times and some unspecified concessions to the Commonwealth. The House’s information suggested that the gate was most likely in antarctica, given their own intelligence, data from the Lunar bunch, and information on Avatar movements. Most likely in Marie Byrd Land, probably near the coast in one of the cities that have sprung up down there.
Well, the way Inversion was, that was as good a place for a city as any! Come to think of it, with their level of warming, the area should have a reasonable temperature now…
Marty resolved to get ready to do something about that gate, or get “God”. He didn’t want this going on for much longer!
Further questioning had also revealed that “God” had problems when controlling the avatars beyond a certain distance.
As for why so many of them had gotten overwhelmed, it fell into three camps: didn’t do research ahead of time, did research and took precautions and still got overwhelmed, or the fact that traffic in and out has been so closely guarded that the information that things had gone sour hadn’t been available to them.
Well, that did just about cover it – although a location on Inversion for the gate that Merlin was funneling souls through had seemed likely anyway, even if they still had no clue as to it’s ultimate destination.
(Kevin) “Who wants to help assault “God”?”
They had been heavily warned that they weren’t up to confronting Merlin, and presumably not his backers, directly at the moment – but allies would probably suffice for at least a probing raid. Maybe they could weaken the gate or reverse the flow or something. They really needed to make matters difficult for Merlin et al…
It seemed that Lacus would like to, but thought that she would be unable to help in an actual confrontation. Ophelia was out. Hubert was in. Animus was all for massive mayhem and destruction. Elight would like to participate. Renalt is all for participating. Spellweaver was in, and Michelle would like to be in but Spellweaver objected.
Well, Lacus wasn’t really a combative sort anyway. That gave them… The Necromancer, The Assassin, the Transmutor-Bomber, the Power Negator, and Spellweaver. Michelle shouldn’t participate until after she had returned the codes to the government of Singular.
Lacus would like to go to Inversion’s Moon. She still wanted to help with the defense, but she was quite sure that she wasn’t up to a direct confrontation with “God”.
As for Ophelia… The Unified Church representative wanted her in custody to undergo counseling. Unsurprisingly, Ophelia wanted to go somewhere where the Church and other “pushy” people couldn’t tell her not to do her thing.
Evidently she’d been the soulbinder that the Church had pushed out of Core. The Church was not happy to see her again – or in Kevin’s presence.
Kevin pinned down the Church representative and exerted his own talents to get the man to part with a little more information.
(Cardinal Richars) “Although I am loathe to part with this information, I will because it may have relevance to defeating this false god. I do fear what else you may use it for though. This woman is one of the few who possesses godfire. It means she can take the energies of those around her and use them herself. Most tend to use this to enhance themselves and give back a small fraction to those they command in limited bursts. Usually this requires a great number of people in your service to get much of anything as the god skims off the top.”
Ryan had told Kevin that he had “Godfire”… nice to finally find out what it was. The Church probably still wasn’t sure as to whether or not Kevin had this “Godfire”; enough simple magic and mana could create a world (and they KNEW that Kevin had plenty of those), and imprinting part of his self on the Thralls would explain the power-bestowal. For that matter, Kevin might have it – but he STILL had no idea of how it could be consciously used.
(Cardinal Richars) “She makes a much deeper bond, able to pull on more of the powers of those bonded to her and then use them herself or funnel them back to another. The bonds she creates are very deep and very personal. Unfortunately, that level of bonding tends to lead to a massive amount of bleedover and the bonded begins to become a lot like the bonder. The few we were able to treat seemed to be as addicted to being bonded to her and she was to bonding them – and take years to recover even if the bond is severed. The damage she is inflicting on those she bonds is not something we can tolerate… Now, you have shown that you are funneling most of the power back towards the bonded after “filtering” it to some extent. I suspect the children are all taking on some aspects of your personality and that this is the source of their powers. Our projections show you will start running into serious problems with your “system” within two decades at most.”
(Kevin) “Well, it’s entirely an improvisation anyway…”
(Cardinal Richars) “Although, should you feel the need to try and duplicate what Ms Ophelia is doing, then we can accelerate that timeline projection immensely.”
(Kevin) “It sounds like a bad idea to begin with – and there wouldn’t be much point: they all get lesser versions of my abilities anyway.”
(Cardinal Richars sighed and shook his head) “Does that answer what you wish to know child?”
(Kevin) “Unfortunately, yes; Still, I’ll have to send her someplace – and attempting to confine her while she has that power available is a temporary measure at best.”
(Cardinal Richars) “I would then suggest somewhere full of phantasms or otherwise empty. If such a place also had Addiction Counseling Services, it would be nice. Although it does occur to me that there is an option… Would you be willing to allow and outside gate to enter this place?”
(Kevin) “If you need one, certainly. This area is fairly well isolated anyway.”
(Cardinal Richars) “It shall be a few minutes while our Opener gets into position, but a gate should be incoming shortly.”
(Kevin) “I’ll assign someone to help damp the disturbance and help the targeting.”
A few minutes later a gateway did come to Kadia at their location… It opened to show a place with a blinding white light and the Church opener on the other side.
(Church Opener) “I am told there is someone needing a pickup here?”
(Kevin) “Indeed. Ms Ophelia? Your gate is here.”
Ophelia seemed resistant until she saw the look on the Cardinal’s face and seemed to resign herself to the trip. She walked through and the Church gatekeeper waved to everyone before leaving and closing the gate.”
Kevin and Marty waved back. One of the sacred dimensions perhaps? Very near the edge?
Then they got on with planning what they were going to do next!
(Animus) “Raise a massive army of the undead?”
(Marty) “No. No. Just… no.”
(Animus) “Why not? I promise it will be fun with lots of death and mayhem!”
(Kevin) “I think it’s best to hold that option in reserve. After all, “God” – amongst other things – WANTS to wreck the planet and drive everyone there to utter desperation. A massive army of the dead would only help him.”
(Animus) “But….if we are holding that in reserve….. what do we have left? (Sniffles)”
(Marty) “You need to diversify, kid! Maybe go into negative energy channeling, or pacts, something other than raising zombie hordes! It’s the only way you’ll succeed in the modern job market!”
(Animus) “Pacts! Hey, that girl that just left was supposedly very good at those! Just imagine how powerful I could become if I cowed the living into taking pacts to serve me!”
Animus seemed to be awfully specialized… Kevin probed carefully to see what kind of mental shields he had… Nothing worth mentioning.
(Marty) “Is putting people in servitude all you care about?”
Well, Animus was quite welcome to be a necromancer, but a sane one would be much better… Just as importantly, how old was he really? Sniffling seemed a bit… childish.
(Animus) “And destroying the landscape, raping and pillaging, and set the woods on fire with chipmunks… on fire.”
All of about twelve. With an aging effect on his body to make him look like he did now. OK, time for some major mental healing.
(Marty) “That’s going to get boring. Maybe you could learn to do THIS!” (Marty made a bright and entertaining illusion).
Kevin was working the initial spells, and then got the massed Thralls to work, led by Kelsaru. Twelve was a bit young to be burdened with out-of-control necromancy… Not all that long later they had a very confused child. He’d probably tapped into far too much power or something.
Marty easily spotted the change in demeanor, so he shifted the illusion over to things a preteen would find entertaining to help calm him down until they could get some Thralls in to play with him and find out where he came from and such – if that could be done without upsetting him. If he ran amuck and destroyed his home and family, it would be best if it stayed forgotten for now.
That left them with one contract-assassin who was apparently sane enough, Spellweaver and Michelle (who were both wondering a bit; they were both subtle enough to pick up a lot of the power-signs of Kevin’s manipulations), the power negator, and the explosives expert/fanatic.
(One of the House representatives, apparently testing) “Go in with guns blazing, chucking nukes at everything that moves, and see what remains standing and hit that with an orbital strike?”
(Kevin frowned at him) “Actually, I was thinking more sabotage and covert ops…
He thought that he’d be dropping by the trial. It should be due to start in the next day or so, and he just had to replace the prosecutor.
Kevin sent Lacus back to Inversion’s moon with the lunar representatives- although he explained the nature of her powers to the lunar representatives and found out what they thought about them first. She’d be great for morale, but they might object to the ability.
The lunar representatives appreciated the disclosure, and would keep an eye on her. Should she get out of line, then they would remove and isolate her. In the meantime morale could certainly use the boost.
They also got a report on what the youngsters they’d sent over were up to after their first full day of gate-training before they headed back.
Hopefully they weren’t up to anything TOO weird – if only due to lack of funds. Still, they’d have at least 10 credits each, and there were a lot of minor things they could do with that.