Federation-Apocalypse Session 132 – The Gates of Shehaqim

   The Emperor Skywalker was quite concerned about Ryan’s delays in dealing with the Hellstorm. While it was obvious that neither of this pair would be easily swayed by mental pressure, it was also obvious that young Kevin was obliging – and it was the nature of the darkness – even if the darkness was not of the force, but other – to answer when called upon. All he need do was to let traces of his concern leak into the conversation.

   Kevin shifted uncomfortably. The realms of light always made him nervous – and he was being pushed into making a trip to them. The few visits he’d made there, and the identities those realms thrust upon him, had been most uncomfortable.

   Maybe he could find a realm of light that was less troublesome? Perhaps one of the realms that hosted the Confluence of Elysium?

   The Confluence of Elysium was an alliance of the Lesser Powers of Light – assorted minor angels, messenger spirits from various faiths, deceased religious prophets, and similar entities, united by the belief in abstract good. While most were too honest to claim to know the “Truth”, they were still pretty inhuman – and they tended to see themselves as the Swords of the Light – warriors of the faith and the burning blade, guardians against the darkness, guides of the benighted, and punishers of evil. They tended to pop up all over, since there was always SOMEONE calling on them.

   Hm. On second thought, maybe not. He’d might have a run-in or two with them… Hadn’t some of those warrior-angels who’d nearly leveled New York City over in Crusader (and had tried to come after him along the way) been Confluence agents? Not everything was black and white, and Crusader had a place for antiheroes!

   Marty called to consult Gelman; religious stuff was a lot more up Gelman’s alley than his!

(Gelman) “You’re planning to go WHERE?!?! Whatever makes you think that…”

   Gelman sighed. No. The true Lord and true Gates of Heaven were certainly out of the reach of Kevin’s shenanigans, or those of any other Opener – no matter how vast their power! Still, he had to agree with the theologicians of Core to some extent; there was certainly something of the Lord in any place where souls were gathered in the Service of the Light.

   And Kevin’s willingness to acknowledge that some things were not within his purview, and to turn to the powers of the Light for aid in times of need, was certainly a hopeful sign. There was humility there, beneath that colossal arrogance.

   Besides; he would not miss this for a ten-year exclusive trading contract with all of China… According to the maps, the New Imperium allowed incoming psychic gates; he sent for some of the staff to open one for him and told Marty he’d be there in a few minutes.

   He got a briefing on what was up along the way.

   Meanwhile, Kevin was still musing. The realm of the Abstract Light People? No, no, that was far too vague. What they really wanted was one of the major heavens – and one of the more martial ones. What would the Unified Church recommend?

   Marty was wondering too; he hadn’t really been to Valhalla yet, and that certainly sounded like fun… No, wait; Ryan had major trading contacts there; if what he needed could be gotten there, he’d probably have it already. Let’s see, there was Dante’s version of Heaven, some of the realms of the Roman/Greek god/goddesses of War, and more… The eastern religions tended more towards enlightenment as opposed to paradises for warriors, and he’d always found that a bore.

   Gelman, on his way, was considering as well… Amarant Solutions already had established trade centers in quite a lot of pagan afterworlds – no matter how unlikely that statement would have seemed to him only a few months ago – but most of those weren’t much for the Powers of Light versus the Powers of Darkness. For that they’d want one of the great monotheisms.

   By the time he arrived, Kevin and Marty had pretty well reached that conclusion as well. For holy versus Unholy power they’d want to hit one of the great monotheisms; Zoroastrianism, Christian, Islamic, or Jewish. most of the polytheistic have a lot more sides than “good versus evil”

   Kevin was favoring Jewish… the Old Testament was a lot more wrathful than most of the later texts, and – in many ways – it was far more tolerant; it didn’t care what the gentiles got up to, it had “evil spirits from god”, and it had an awful lot of agents sent to test people. He’d probably fit in a lot better there.

   Marty had no problem with that! Jewish angels were cool things like wheels of fire and six winged people that killed mortals when they revealed their faces! He had no problems with Gelman coming along either… If nothing else, his (hopefully) not getting smited the instant he came in might soften Gelman’s attitude toward him!

   There were plenty of routes; most of the realms of paradise and heaven were connected in one fashion or another. The biggest ones were Crusader Jerusalem->Comic Afterlife->Jewish Heaven and Core Jerusalem->Religious Wars->Jewish Afterlife – but both Kevin and Marty felt like the direct approach would probably be best this time. They’d just use a magical gate to just outside the gates of the Holy City of God. That was throughly old-testament.

   The Emperor had no objection to them leaving from right there – in fact, he was moderately curious – so they opened the gate in the middle of the Dark Lord of the New Imperium’s information room.

   As the radiance of the gate grew, and the realms of light and darkness began to overlap the more mundane reality of the New Imperium, the identity of Master – or Darth – Santarous peeled away from Kevin’s soul like mist before a cutting torch, giving way to an older – and far more primal – essence. Belramos, the Voyager in Shadows. The Darkness that Defends. Light of the Abyss and Angel of Darkness.

   Gelman saw that Marty had changed as well – although with him it was more of a subtle hint, a haze of blue power and soft chanting which blurred his features – and physical form – with that of another… Something eastern? Was there a role as a warrior of the light waiting for Marty too?

   The gateway opened to reveal a more classical gate… Everything there was immaculate, and impossibly white or golden. A lone angel was scribbling notes into a giant book on a pedestal.

(Kevin) “Hello there!”

(Archangel) “Greetings. Welcome to the realm of Shehaqim. I am Anahel, what might I do for you?”

(Kevin) “We’re seeking some holy assistance in defeating the Hellstorm. As the recording angel, I would presume that you are familiar with the problem? If not – if your records are limited to this realm – we can provide details at any desired length.”

   Anahel looked through his notes for a few moments.

(Anahel) “Ah yes, the Hellstorm, terrible thing that one. It has been making quite a mess of things has it not? Even a few forays into Core.”

(Kevin) “Indeed yes. Ryan O’Malley has been building an opposing ship to try and handle it – but he needs the aid of high-level holy combat powers to empower it on that level as well. There are many things I can supply him with, but someone with high-order holy combat magic and experience in using it, or a source of such power, does not lie within my purview.”

(Anahel, looking at Kevin quizzically) “Hmm, yes, that would be accurate to say. And Ryan O’Malley has always had difficulty in wielding the powers of the Light or the Darkness in any coherent fashion. For that sort of help, you would probably be best served to head to the Fourth Heaven Machen and speak to Michael. Heavenly combat is his department. Would you like a guide to there?”

(Kevin) “If one is available, we would greatly appreciate such aid.”

(Anahel) “Very well then, one moment please. (Anahel picked up a staff and pounded it into the ground. It’s various metal rings bounced and jingled not unlike a set of metal windchimes. The gateway opened – and another angel stepped forward. He was wearing golden armor and had a flaming sword at his belt.

   Kevin bowed politely. Marty thought that flaming swords were cool (you could stab people AND set fire to them with a single attack), but bowed as well – and Gelman was mildly awed. He was sure that this wasn’t THE heaven, but he had studied the Manifold enough by now that this might be as close as any human would be able to reach in life for long ages to come.

   He didn’t neglect keeping an eye on Kevin and Marty though – especially Kevin.

(Kevin) “Sir? If you have not been informed, we must visit the Fourth Heaven Machen to speak with Michael. Would you consent to guide us?”

(Marty) “We’d appreciate it.”

(Kelial) “Welcome, I am the Angel Kelial. I shall be escorting you to the realm of Machen. Feel free to ask any questions you might have while we journey. (Gestures through the gate.) Right this way please.”

   They followed. Marty – considerate for once – tried to usher Gelman through as gently as possible. They were in a time sensitive situation, but Gelman took his religion quite seriously – and this might be only time he’d see Heaven before he retired.

   Kelial led them through an idyllic grassy field.

(Kelial) “Currently we are in the Heaven known as Shehaqim. Here you might find the Garden of Eden and the Tree of Life. Currently we are in the fields of manna where naturally, manna grows. All souls destined for Paradise or Hell come to this place and are judged and sorted. We will not be able to stop by either of those places right now unfortunately.”

   Well, Kevin wasn’t that big on judgements anyway.

(Kelial) “Do any of you require refreshment? The land will provide plenty if you so desire.”

(Marty, with curiosity) “Sure, thanks.”

   Kelial gestured and a stalk of manna grew out of the ground next to him.

(Kelial) “Take then, and enjoy.”

   Marty handed Gelman some too. Why not be polite? He couldn’t start from a worse base!

   Kevin tried some too. It was only polite.

   It was white, with the general consistency of cotton or very light bread. The taste varied from recipient to recipient, but it always tasted a bit sweet and delicious according to the tastes of the eater. They found themselves refreshed and full, neither hungry or thirsty.

(Marty) “Ah, delicious!”

   That was one thing that Marty and Gelman could agree on!

   Kevin had to admit that – pretty much by definition – it was the equal of any other delicacy of the Manifold. He’d tried quite a few, and they were ALL really, really, good!

   Soon they approached a glowing pillar of light.

(Kelial) “Now here is where we can access the Heaven of Machen. Simply step into the light and you will float to the appropriate level. I do apologize if there is any discomfort in the process, it simply is in the nature of the place to…. reject certain aspects.”

   Kevin sighed… That was pretty blatantly mostly directed at him. Oh well. He could channel both Light and Darkness (and he was SO glad that he’d developed that ability), so he could avoid the problem.

   The Light bathed them as they entered the pillar – and it was obvious that any dark beings unable to channel the light would be pretty uncomfortable. A warm glow infused everyone, and the sensation of gravity dropped away… It wasn’t at all like freefall; it was more of a floating sensation – and they ascended into the sky at an astonishing speed.

   Beneath them they could see green grassy fields, rolling hills, and a bright blue sky. Off in the distance to one side they could see a massive tree that dwarfed the hills in front of it as it towered into the sky. A small walled garden was visible in the distance, along with a white glow to the south and a dark overcast sky to the north.

   Marty, figured that most of it was pretty obvious – but was in doubt about the darkness. Had the war reached this realm as well? Perhaps it was a border?

(Marty) “What’s that overcast area over there, Kelial?”

(Kelial) “That would be the location of Hell. At least in our version of the heavens, Hell is located in the Third Heaven just as Paradise is. This is why all souls are brought here to be judged. It would be rather silly to bring them up here only to have to through them back down and through the Earth now wouldn’t it?”

(Marty) “Makes sense.”

(Kelial) “Although I hear some of the more uncouth angels in other heavens enjoy seeing who can throw souls the furthest.”

   Normally Marty would have said “Cool!,” but the presence of Gelman – his more straight-laced colleague – was stopping him.

(Kevin) “Ah, the great lake of fire then. Hm… ‘The second death’. Is it basically “‘get a spanking and go reincarnate elsewhere to try again?’”

   Gelman was inclined to answer that, but let the angel do it. He knew best after all.

(Kelial) “To some extent yes, although there is also a certain level of punishment involved. Consider it more along the lines of rehabilitative therapy and parole. Truth be told, most who come here worthy of being punished believe they need to be punished. And so begins the first step in the process of redemption.”

   Well, that matched well enough with the theology of the Unified Church. That – and Kevin’s personal experiences – both agreed that “condemned to hell!” meant “have a miserable time until you get out – either by self-realization and reincarnation, by rescue, or by escaping”.

(Kevin) “Ah. That does seem to be more or less the standard; I think the universe is designed to work that way.”

(Kelial) “A special few do get shunted into isolated realms away from other people though. You have to do something spectacularly evil to earn that though. We call it being put into “Time-Out”.

   Marty was surprised at that. Angels had a sense of humor?

(Kelial) “Thankfully that clause hardly ever comes up anymore. I think it a sign that humanity is maturing, although some would say that the sheer scale of destruction required has surpassed the abilities of most mortals to achieve.”

(Kevin) “I’ve heard rumors of that happening once or twice – but only with Openers who have grossly abused their powers by things like trying to open gates from Core into a Big Bang to destroy the galaxy or something.”

(Kelial) “Thankfully most of those are rumors, although we did have an unfortunate soul attempt to obliterate the Core Universe some years back. That incident certainly made a number of powers in the Manifold step back rethink things a bit. Thankfully nothing came of the attempt, but certain.. precautions were put into place afterwards via mutual consent of the various Manifold powers since then.”

   That worried both Marty and Gelman.

(Marty) “What happened to that idiot?”

(Kevin) “Remind me to ratify that agreement myself if I ever get the chance Marty.”

(Marty) “I’ll make a note of it.”

   Marty also made a note to remember to do so himself when the time came – although he carefully refrained from saying so, and buried the thought behind some mental protections. He had a funny idea that such thoughts might not be especially welcome in monotheistic realms, even if they were putting up with Kevin at the moment. Still… they probably both counted as minor powers at the moment.

   Kevin was fairly sure that something would have gone wrong with such attempts anyway. His own faith told him that the Ultimate Creator would have made sure that no single lunatic could destroy so man other races and races yet-to-be – and that the countermeasures to such attempts were built into the basic structure of the universe.

(Kelial) “I’m not clear on the exact details – the greater powers have tried to keep the story quiet – but a companion to the Opener Ryan O’Malley went insane and tried to bring a piece of the big bang into Core. Apparently he meant to use it to cause some sort of “explosion” (for lack of a better word). This blast, traveling at lightspeed, would then have randomly rewritten the laws of nature as it passed by, most likely with fatal results for the entire galaxy if not the universe. I’m told that it wouldn’t actually have worked beyond the solar system it was set off in – although I must admit that the reasons aren’t entirely clear to me. It was something nonsensical-sounding about “virtual event horizons”. In any case, he is now in “Time-Out” until he learns to interact with people in a more normal fashion.”

(Marty) “Ah. Good thing he didn’t succeed then.”

(Kelial) “Yes, the Celestial Dragon came through on that one. All the man was able to do was cause a military computer simulation to crash. I am told the error messages were quite spectacular.”

(Kevin) “I would guess they would be. A computer simulation of a random reality rewrite seems pretty well guaranteed to crash.”

   Marty resolved to get copies of those for Gelman. Those were more his thing anyway!

   Soon enough, they rose through another level of clouds and found themselves in a city… It was a roughly medieval era looking middle-eastern style city, a lot like the Crusader Kingdoms – save for the perfection of the people, buildings, and street.

(Kelial) “And welcome to the Fourth Heaven, Machen. This is Michael’s realm and is the abode of the Heavenly Jerusalem. The true Temple and the Altar reside here as well.”

(Kevin) “Thank you. You have been most informative. Will the warrior angels be taking over from here?”

(Kelial) “Indeed, one should be arriving shortly. Ah there she is.” (Gestures to a beautiful female angel dressed in plate armor.) “Greetings, Menthas, these are the visitors for Michael.”

(Menthas, unfolding her wings to make a large presence.) “Greetings, I am Menthas, one of Michael’s lieutenants in the army of Heaven.”

   Kevin, Marty, and Gelman once again bowed politely and introduced themselves.

   At east for Gelman, the wonder was wearing off a bit – or perhaps it was just the shock. If the powers of Openers didn’t truly extend to reaching Heaven, they certainly reached somewhere that seemed much closer than was open to most mortals.

(Menthas curtsied in response.) “Right this way please. Michael is currently going over the relief efforts to the Crusader Kingdoms, but I am certain he can make time for you.”

(Marty) “We appreciate it. It’s important to a particular realm.”

(Kevin) “Thank you.”

   And so they did.

   The city was, in many ways, almost identical to the city of Jerusalem in the Crusader Kingdoms – save for the angels walking about, the lack of indigent, diseased, starved, or homeless individuals, the general immaculate atmosphere, and the fact that the Temple Mount had been replaced with the Temple of Solomon… There was a distinct lack of religious antagonism as well.

   Gelman was awed again… The Second Temple still stood intact in Battling Business World, but it was veiled behind some epic effect that turned anyone who tried to get in into a pillar of salt. The Lord had not reacted well to representatives of the Roman gods treading in what was essentially his earthly palace – and whatever powers they had called on – whether of their own gods or of sheer mundane resistance to the supernatural – had not availed.

   Marty was impressed too – and even Kevin was. He’d bet that the design and layout of this version was entirely accurate, unlike the speculative reconstructions to be found elsewhere!

   Menthas led them to a large administrative building near the Temple. Inside there were a number of angels and people, all milling about a huge Orrery of odd design. The largest and most “obvious” angel in the room had glowing wings of light as opposed to feathered wings. (Menthas) “Lord Michael, you have guests at the moment.”

   They were all very polite with their bows; after all, they were there to ask a great big favor.

   Besides, Marty wanted to show Gelman that he could visit without bringing down the heavenly host on his head!

   Michael held up a hand, silently asking for a moment as he looked over some portion of the Orrery. After he’d looked at it to his satisfaction, he turned to them.

   Kevin was looking at it too… It looked a lot like the one in the Hoslin pyramid with the Silmarils.

(Michael) “I see, welcome then to the Heaven of Machen. This is the Heavenly City of Jerusalem. I am the Archangel Michael, commander of the Army of Heaven.”

(Kevin) “Greetings Sir. I am Kevin Sanwell – and I fear I am here to ask a favor.”

(Michael) “And what favor might that be young child? You have nothing to fear from asking.”

(Kevin) “Ryan O’Malley is building a ship to do battle with the Hellstorm – but he has been unable to focus sufficient martial holy power to match that entity. I was hoping that I could obtain assistance for him. There are many things I can supply him with – but someone with high-order holy combat magic and experience in using it, or a source of such power, does not lie within my purview.”

(Michael) “The Hellstorm? A terrible creation it is. A great deal of demonic power went into it’s creation. Not to mention the technological innovations that went into it. You say that Ryan O’Malley is building another ship to do battle with it?”

(Kevin) “Yes… Now, I generally prefer to avoid direct confrontations of raw power, but it seems to be Ryan’s preference at times – and he does know much more about that monstrosity than I do.”

(Michael) “Well it is his background to fight things head on with sheer power. That was what started this whole problem to begin with. Oh he meant well and for that he can be forgiven. I just wish he realized the nature of the demonic energy infusing him before he upgraded that ship. I’m sure you understand that sentiment.”

(Kevin) “I fear I do indeed… I spent a good deal of time studying that particular subject once it became relevant to me before attempting to do anything.”

(Michael) “Sadly that thing has been infused with a great deal of the demonic energies from one of the various hells. That is a great deal of power. While the powers of the Light are infinite, they are not without limit either. And unfortunately, certain circumstances prevent me from intervening myself. I can however spare one of my lieutenants for the cause. They can match the power of the Hellstorm for a time, but will need assistance if the battle becomes one of endurance and attrition which I fear it might. You may have to find some means of supplementing their power if it comes to that.”

(Kevin) “That I can supply – presuming that your lieutenant can be assisted by other, lesser, channelers of the light?”

(Michael) “Menthas, what say you to this? Will you join them in their cause if I ask it?”

(Menthas) “A chance to do battle with the Hellstorm and rid the Manifold of it’s evil? I would gladly volunteer for this task without hesitation. And yes, lesser channelers of the Light can be of great assistance with proper training, which I can readily give with some time to prepare.”

(Gelman, telepathically) “Kevin, you’re not going to do anything overly untoward to this angel, are you?”

(Kevin, also telepathically – and rather indignantly) “Why would I do anything untoward? I’m asking for their assistance here!”

(Gelman, still privately) “I was just wondering how you planned to use her. I’m afraid I’m not understanding how she would interact with a starship.”

   Kevin wasn’t entirely sure either.

(Kevin, privately) “Oh well, presumably by adding some of her power to its own.”

(Gelman, privately) “Interesting… do you have schematics? I’m not sure how I can help with this, but it’s worrisome.”

(Kevin, privately) “We’ll have to find out when we get there. I’ve got some general ideas from the Thralls working on it though.”

   Marty sighed privately. GREAT. He wanted to tag along, and he can commute back to Kadia with little trouble in case he gets homesick. What was I thinking?

   Kevin, meanwhile – thanks to multi-tracking – was thanking Michael and Menthas.

(Michael) “Very well, good luck to you and your efforts. I pray for your success in this venture.”

(Kevin) “And our thanks for our support.”

(Marty) “You and Ryan should get along, Gelman. If he had the time, you two could talk tech for hours.”

   Michael had no objection to another gate being opened on the spot – so they took Gelman and Menthas along to meet Ryan. More exposure to the Manifold probably couldn’t hurt both of them – and Ryan could probably use someone to help organize for a bit now that his simulacra had run off. If Menthas needed a reality bubble to work in, Kevin could easily make one for her.

   He had a bunch of Neodogs with positive energy channeling get ready for a mission in Kadia too.

   Ryan was currently working in a low-security area, but the Thralls there provided notice of their arrival anyway. Ryan was ALWAYS under surveillance these days.

   Ryan was currently in the parking lot of the Pentagon – and opening the gateway resulted in seeing the scene of a massive construction project with Ryan arguing with a number of foremen – something about the application of OSHA law in a construction site largely operated with “skateboards” or next generation flit systems. He was arguing that the computers and shield systems were far more reliable than hardhats and yellow vests with regards to keeping people safe.

   Oh dear.

(Kevin) “Hey there Ryan. What’s up?”

(Marty) “Nice to see you again.”

(Ryan) “Clash of cultures and laws again it seems. Trying to integrate the European and Pacific Rim defense systems into the North American Grid. The sheer amount of fiber and ley line connections is daunting to say the least.”

(Marty) “Well, Kevin and I got someone to help with that problem in the New Imperium.”

(Ryan) “Let me guess, it has something to do with that angel standing behind you guys?”

(Kevin) “In part, yes. I’ve been arranging some support for her as well.”

(Menthas) “My name is Menthas, servant of the Light and lieutenant to the Archangel Michael. You must be the famous Ryan O’Malley?”

   Kevin wondered if the right word there was “infamous”, and Menthas was just too polite to actually say it… Still, Ryan generally did mean well, even if he did get into things over his head.

(Ryan) “Yes I am Ryan O’Malley. Well holy magic was never really my forte, even after I tried dabbling in it after a certain…. incident a while back. Channeling, redirecting, and transmuting energies is more up my alley.”

(Kevin) “Well, I was informed that you were having trouble infusing your new ship with enough holy power to match the Hellstorm – so I went to find you some help with that.”

(Marty) “And Menthas here is eager to take it on.”

(Ryan) “I see.”

(Kevin) “Her backup will be along shortly; but they’d prefer to simply go directly to your new ship I think. Easier transport arrangements.”

(Ryan) “Well I can certainly make alterations to the design to accommodate her into the plans. The ship itself is in the Kuat Shipyards. It is the small silvery star destroyer type vessel in dry dock number 1187. Do I need to provide a gate, or can you handle that?”

(Kevin) “Not a worry. I haven’t been to Kuat recently, but I’m familiar with the place”.

(Ryan) “Alright, you can create the gateway, but Ms Menthas will probably need to stay here for a bit until I can determine what modifications would work best with her particular brand of power. Everyone has a signature and if you don’t get it right, the harmonic resonances can kill the user from backlash.”

(Menthas) “You think me unable to handle a bit of backlash?”

(Ryan) “I think you underestimate how much backlash a total conversion system weighing as much as most asteroids can generate.”

   Well, it looked like Menthas could get along in this reality without reality-bubble support – but several of the workers and supervisors had stopped working for a moment to look trepidly at Ryan after that comment. Her powers would be diminished, and she would be annoyed to discover that she couldn’t fly (despite the wings), but otherwise she would be functional.

   Kevin sighed. Ryan was REALLY too tense, and had lost all tact.

(Marty, on the links to Gelman) “As you can see, Ryan is seriously overstressed. He’s overextended himself. I told you about the simulacra, and he doesn’t have thralls to help him out. If you feel like taking on something smaller, would you mind helping him?”

(Gelman, also on the links) “I’ll consider it.”

(Kevin, also on the links) “For a couple of weeks anyway?”

(Gelman, sighing, and still on the links) “If you’re willing… Wait. This is the world Ruthie has been operating in. Definitely then.”

   Oddly enough, Marty realized that he’d miss having Gelman around, no matter how annoying he was.

(Kevin, to Ryan) “Well, have you got any further problems at the moment?”

(Ryan) “Just a quick question for you Kevin. You wouldn’t happen to heard anything about the mass disappearances of children and massively expanded criminal syndicate movements?”

   Kevin was mildly startled… Hadn’t the recruiting operation gone public once Arthur spilled the beans on the Manifold to the world at large? Oh. The story that people out in the Manifold were recruiting locals and then sending them back had certainly been making the rounds, and the Thralls themselves had certainly helped with that as well. The problem was that a certain crazy doctor was still running loose, had been setting himself up as a prophet of Kevin, and had been making his own brand of trouble out in the Linear Realms. Kidnapings, taking over criminal syndicates, and other nefarious schemes.

   In some ways, transitioning from ripping the guts out of people to ripping the guts out of society.

(Kevin) “As last I checked, the usual recruiting was running – and I believe that the local operations director was paying the local syndicates to help maintain order. There was some lunatic doctor who was snatching illegal kids, but he was getting paid off to stop killing them. If you like, I’ll have whoever’s running the local affairs at the moment send you a report.”

(Ryan) “Do that, he’s making people nervous and his access to smart fibers is making tracking him down the mundane way difficult. My magical resources aren’t infinite and are tied up in the defense projects. Otherwise I would have sent some of the “skateboards” to haul his ass to local authorities.”

   Kevin made a note to encourage Dr Brenner to move further out into the Manifold. He had a contract, and that meant no dragging the man off to the depths of the abyss.

   Marty was startled. That madman was still making trouble? Perhaps they could point him towards where Jenkins was rampaging! Even Gelman could probably agree with that!

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