In and about the Linear Realms Dr Brenner was experimenting… He’d accepted that Kevin and Marty were making moves on an infinitely bigger playing field than he had dreamed existed – and had decided that making a place for himself in their organization would be the best way to go. With the prospect of near-immortality before him, there was no reason to rush into anything more.
Amazingly enough, that decision had brought power with it. It wasn’t much compared to the incredible power that this “Kevin” bestowed on his “Thralls” – but it was more than he ever would have credited!
He’d asked the servant-canines that he’d been assigned, and had been informed that anyone who believed in Kevin’s existence – and really wanted to work for him – got a certain amount of power.
That was hard to believe – but when he tried pitching the “Faith of Kevinirl” to a few of the more easily impressionable local idiots – along with rosy promises of heavenly delights and power, more than a bit of chemical and psychic manipulation, and service to himself as the high priest and “interpreter of Keviniril’s will” – it worked on a couple of them, and that convinced more.
He’d long known that religious cults were easy to start – and he’d known that a few of them taught a few minor skills to their true adherents – but he’d never before credited the notion that such small things might actually be supernatural gifts from some sort of deific power!
And THIS… This wasn’t just a few clever tricks, this was genuine power. Power that could be used…
It wasn’t long before he had hundreds of semi-fanatical adherents, that believed that – by serving him – they could have power now and ascend to paradise with Keviniril later.
And the best part was that it was even more or less true!
Still, there had to be limits as to how far “Lord Kevin” would let people take advantage of him, no matter how many servants and how much inexplicable power he possessed. There had to be some way to establish some of those limits…
His canines, unfortunately, had had very little direct contact with their Lord. They had volunteered, and had been ceremonially inducted into Kevin’s service – and had soon afterwards been assigned to him.
They did know that Kevin tended to talk and bribe enemies into submission, that he gave them power in exchange for their loyalty – and that they were eager to serve him in any way that he might require!
So; Kevin lavished resources on his problems, preferred soft methods of resolving conflicts, and tended to talk first?
Hm. The youngster who’d set up the contract with him had apparently been disciplined for it, but the contract had not been repudiated – so Kevin respected contracts, right down to bargains made on his account. He was certainly over-generous with power, and with the creatures that he empowered. A few visits to Kadia had been enough to establish that he could trade Slave-children in Kadia for many other things than just Smartclothes! Even, apparently, for the services of more canines like the ones that he already had – and death apparently simply returned them to Kadia. .
Just how far could he push this child-godling?
Ah. He could test – and when he did go over the line, wherever it might be located, he could count on a chance to apologize, talk, and step back before any serious consequences would even be considered – at least the first few times.
Now what provocation could he most easily explain?
Ah. his contract called for him to stop taking organs out of children, not for him to necessarily trade all he acquired – and not for any particular kind of treatment of the canines, even if their “ultimate ownership remained with Kevin”. Ramirez had expected to be fixed for his assault on him – and therefore that wouldn’t be too abnormal. That could serve as a test of the limits of the canines obedience too, as well as their pain tolerance – and if he was called on it, he could always point out that he’d agreed not to breed them, and was just making sure – and hadn’t been sure what anesthetics could be safely used on them.
He called them in and explained – testing in more ways than one.
(Canine) “Aww… Yes master. Can we use pain control for that?”
(Brenner, evilly) “This is also a pain threshold experiment.”
(Another canine) “Can we whimper? We’re really quite sensitive there.”
(Brenner) “Oh, that’s all right. Do that all you want.”
Impressive… No serious protests, no resistance, and rolling over obediently for the procedure without restraint or compulsion. Afterwards he let them use pain-control and self-healing and fed them. There was no reason to be cruel now that it was obvious that they’d obey almost any order – and would willingly sacrifice themselves to do so.
Now all he had to do was await a response from Kadia while he continued to expand his base in the Green Galaxies and checked out criminal opportunities – and chances to acquire more child-slaves to sell in Kadia – in realms across the Manifold. There were many, many, realms too small or limited to have attracted the attention of the great powers as yet – but there was plenty of profit there for him.
The only response from Kadi was a message that – if the service of his current aides was unsatisfactory – he could be assigned some new ones. Apparently they’d been assigned to him, and having them fixed was well within his rights!
Kevin, in fact, wanted to make sure that his Thralls term of service was not ALL fun. They needed to know that signing such a pact should be carefully considered first, since not all masters would be at all nice to them – and that they COULD be exploited ruthlessly, although he normally chose not to do so. Ergo, if a bit of abuse was part of an assignment – well, that was the way that it was going to be.
(Brenner, half to himself, half to his canine servants) “Will he let me do whatever I please to you?”
(Canine) “We’re assigned to your service master. We are entitled to transfer our spirits back to Kadia if confronted with long-term torture, paralysis, desensing, burning alive, being skinned, or similar mistreatment – and we have been instructed not to breed while in your custody. Having our tails bobbed, ears cropped, or vocal cords cut, being neutered or spayed, or similar domestic-animal modifications is entirely within your rights, as is punishing us or conducting various experiments.” (There was a brief pause) (anxiously) “Haven’t we been serving you well master?”
Brenner was shocked… They were telling him exactly what he could and couldn’t do to them? And it was that lenient? Well they didn’t seem to lie…
(Brenner) “Yes, yes you have.”
Astounding… His telepathic talents were new and limited – but they seemed to be reasonably content to know that Kevin had assigned them to him, and that they were serving him as he desired – although they did hope that he wouldn’t repeat his surgery on them. It had hurt quite a lot.
Wait, Repeat it? How… Oh yes, they could regenerate themselves if he gave permission. There was no reason to do it to them again though; he’d only been torturing them to test their limits.
Was there any reason to let them regenerate though? If he couldn’t breed them, their being sexed was of little use to HIM – which was, or course, all that mattered. Still, it seemed that Kevin”s permissions were exceedingly lenient as far as his options went. They might be less aggressive fixed though. Did he want them less aggressive? They did need to defend his holdings…
He ran them through some combat exercises and evaluations.
Hm… Well, they were slightly calmer and less aggressive, no longer distracted by sexual stimuli or signals, and had one less point of vulnerability while fighting. They were a bit less satisfied with life – but they’d get over that as their hormones settled down and they continued to serve as Lord Kevin had ordered them to.
Excellent! He’d trade some more kids for the services of some more canines! He needed them for his expansion project over in the Green Galaxies anyway! Those offered essentially limitless room and endless resources – and he had an entire galaxy to himself there!
He was a bit disappointed to find that the best he could do was to trade twenty or so kids – with at least two who were willing to become Thralls – for the services of a single canine for fifty years or two kids for a year of service by a human Thrall. Even that was on an one-trade-at-a-time basis; it looked like the Thralls no longer had the authority to fully approve contracts on certain subjects on their own – and the full list of where Kevin was operating was classified.
Still, the major realms were easy enough to discover, and the pattern was obvious. It would be simple to avoid overlapping any of Kevin’s current operations! There were plenty of realms – especially in the outer circles – where he could easily acquire slave-children to sell; he just had to be a bit less ethical than Kevin’s usual agents were – and that was no difficulty.
Brenner had another forty-odd canines under his command in short order. The canines were more dependent, and thus more easily controlled, and the instincts suited him perfectly. He didn’t know that they were actually, as per the orders in Kadia, shapeshifted human Thralls – not having grown up with Neodog instincts gave them considerably more flexibility on certain topics – but he certainly wouldn’t have cared much if he had known.
There was a certain amount of repeating of the “aww” reaction, but if that was what their current master wanted, then that was how it was going to be.
He also purchased some concubines.
Kadia offered a bewildering array of options there as well – but he stuck with tall athletic blondes. They were his favorite – and it would be nice to have some women who wouldn’t try to run away as soon as they started to really get acquainted with him!
Kadia was wonderful! You could trade worthless child-slaves for money, supplies, services… It was like they were a universal currency that reproduced themselves! There wasn’t much of anything – at least within VERY lenient limits – that wasn’t available in Kadia!
He set up an estate, and stocked it with concubines and canines, just on general principles and to have a private retreat. The “no aging” and “no death” features of the realm were quite attractive – but he had to admit that staying there permanently would be silly! Better to just sell enough kids to buy rejuvenation treatments while he built his kingdom in the Green Galaxies! He had an undeveloped, idyllic galaxy to himself, and it would be a dreadful waste not to put it to use! It was time to go into real estate and possibly nationbuilding…
Granted, it would be a totalitarian dictatorship at best, but it would be his nation and he was going to be the one in charge! He could even breed kids there, and bring them back to Kadia to sell, as well as going big game hunting in Kadia and his untamed realm. You couldn’t do much of that in the Linear Realms! He could just use his usual pack for that – and if some got killed, replacements could be sent from Kadia in short order! After all, he’d bargained for a term of service, not for any particular canine.
The canines actually rather enjoyed going hunting too, and were as eager to please as ever.
Kadia, of course, had all kinds of creatures. In the Green Galaxies there were an immense variety of flyers (tiny through colossal birds, some odd fish, a few squidlke things that jetted around, bats, and flying squirrels), tree-climbers (monkeys [tiny through multi-ton], squirrels, sloths, and leaf-grazers), a selection of aquatic creatures, and relatively few large carnivores – although those were exceptionally good sport even if they did eat one of his canines from time to time.
Perhaps he should add a game preserve to his base? It was currently large enough to handle a few thousand inhabitants – and there was endless room to spread out and construct more housing around his manufacturing and import facilities. Anyone who ran off would have no source of supplies more advanced than wood, stone, and crude ores, and could be hunted down at leisure, either to be recaptured, enslaved, or slain for the sport of it!
With his unethical operations in full swing, Dr Brenner started another small project. What use was building an empire without an heir? Now that he had concubines, it was time to father a few…
(Unusually for this campaign, Dr Brenner’s plans here slipped into the future, ergo the following segment is only applicable if conditions do not change – which is all too likely).
He had three concubines a year produce one – too many kids tended to make excessive noise and get where you didn’t want them – and inspected them all when they were seven. The best one per year he kept to raise. The other two – including, of course, any with flaws, underachievers, defiant kids, and the less clever ones – went up for sale in Kadia with the rest of the children that his operations brought in. Children who passed the initial tests, but who became too defiant or showed flaws later on, were sold in Kadia as well.
He never did become aware that there was a modest conspiracy amongst his Thrall-Concubines; THEY saw going to Kadia, and becoming Thralls, as a vast improvement over being raised by Dr Brenner – and cheerily encouraged their kids both to sign up as Thralls if they did wind up in Kadia and to defy their father if they were amongst the ones he picked to keep.
It didn’t always work. For all his evil, Dr Brenner didn’t abuse his own kids. They might turn on him if he did that. He’d seen all the movies… He was impressed though. his concubines seemed to be passing on much of their own genetic augmentations; his children were downright superhuman in some ways.
The concubines are actually simply passing on the basic Genegrafted Core Human genemods:
- Animal Genegrafts: Shapeshift, with Attribute Modifiers, Hybrid Form, Clear Speech, and Variants (human appearance). Specialized/single form only, Corrupted/cannot actually change forms (9 CP)
- This gives the user a set of animal-species modifiers (as adjusted for medium size). The Thralls normally get Leopard Genes (+6 Str, +8 Dex, +4 Con, +10 Move, +1 Natural Armor, +8 to Agility and Stealth skills, Low-Light Vision, and Scent). While this exploit is generally only allowed in the Federation-Apocalypse game, it’s much too good a deal to pass up there.
- +1d0 HD, Specialized/does not actually supply hit points (2 CP). This is needed to qualify for the Genegrafts.
- +4 Int (only 12 CP thanks to being half price for being in a template and to the local world laws which half the price again).
- Fast Learner, Specialized in Skills (3 CP).
- Immunity/Aging (uncommon/minor/minor, 2 CP). They can expect to live for several centuries without much of any signs of aging.
- Grant of Aid, Specialized/requires several hours and Corrupted/does not improve with level. They can recover 1d8+5 damage OR 1d3 points of attribute damage OR one negative level once per day, 2 CP) with the Regenerative option, Specialized/requires lots of food, rest, and basic medical attention (1 CP), allowing them to slowly (in 1d4 weeks) regrow lost limbs and organs.
It’s very common for people with this racial template to spend their first few points (or first level bonus feat) upgrading their Fast Learner (3 CP to +2 SP/Level), Bonus Hit Die (2 CP to + Con Mod HP), and Grant of Aid (+1 CP to let it improve with level) abilities.
Like all Federation-Apocalypse racial templates, this one is extremely powerfulfor a +0 ECL species – especially since it includes that shapeshift exploit. Still, as usual, mere physical bonuses don’t mean much in a setting where combat is often army to army or starship to starship.
Unfortunately, he couldn’t find any way to make them actual, utterly-loyal Thralls. He’d seen the movies, the mad scientist’s beautiful daughter or stalwart son almost always betrayed him… Giving them to Kevin was an option, but hardly a good one unless he could arrange full ownership: they’d be Kevin’s then rather than his. There simply didn’t seem to be any reasonable way to duplicate Kevin’s godlike powers and apparently-divine decrees. Still, there should be SOME way to do something similar!
He got cracking on studying the reality-manipulation power that seemed to underlie all of Kevin’s other godlike abilities.
He learned to sense the dimensional barriers easily enough – but learning to manipulate them still seemed beyond his power unless he drew on his canine servants. They could show him many of the abilities, but that didn’t help him develop Gatekeeping at any reasonable speed.
He got frustrated, and took it out on the canines with random spur-of-the-moment beatings – mostly out of habit; it was what he’d always done with his human minions and playthings.
At first they just cowered and whined, without trying to run away or resist – but they soon picked up on the fact that this was stress relief, and that Dr Brenner would PREFER that they run and hide and make him search for them. The hunt would relieve his nerves – and if they “won”, they’d get a nice big steak later on!
That was almost fun! Much better than being punished with tail-cropping, debarking, ear-cropping, or the even nastier surgical options!
He had the canines watch the kids too. It was only prudent.
He never realized that that let the canines in on the concubine’s little conspiracy, or that the kids who spent a lot of time with the canines, and who were nice to them, tended to wind up being sold in Kadia too. Kadia was better!
They virtually all volunteered for Thralldom there, even lying about their ages if necessary. Some even cycled back through later (after making very sure that their evil father would never recognize them in their canine disguises) since they knew their father well and were prepared for him – and it gave them an opportunity to help recruit their younger siblings and to protect other Thralls from getting stuck with the job.
Back in Kadia, Kevin more or less forgotten about Dr Brenner; he thought that he’d set up an acceptable solution to the problem. Marty checked back eventually though; the guy had been eviscerating kids, and Marty both liked kids and was less inclined than Kevin to toss things into the “problem solved” category. Human problems were only solved when you’d beaten the daylights out of them or otherwise gotten them to knock it off and made damned sure that they knew better than to restart whatever it had been that pissed you off!
He requested the occasional report on Dr Brenner – and pointed out the problems to Kevin as the first few years worth of Dr Brenners kids started showing up for sale in Kadia. Considering what Dr Brenner thought they might be used for, that was just… too ruthless to even describe.
Kevin did consider the matter… still, he had allowed youngsters from the Five Worlds to sign up as Thralls very young due to their lack of other places to go – and it did get them affection and security. Normally a very young child required consent from their guardian as well as their own consent, but purchased slave-kids often didn’t have guardians or anyone who wanted them back, and if they wanted to agree… well, small children were pretty much treated as pets anyway.
Marty felt that was… well, good for the little Brenners then. They could get away from their evil father and get some affection from the… Dark Lord?
Kevin, of course, liked having young souls snuggling up to his evil darkness to be petted and cuddled and be his property! Binding them that way was incredibly addictive after all…
As far as Dr Brenner himself was concerned… Kevin didn’t approve of him at all, but as long as he was sending the kids he acquired to Kadia, Brenner wasn’t an especially urgent problem. He did make sure that the Thralls watching Brenner’s kids made every effort to keep them from growing up to be more little monsters though.
As far as Dr Brenner’s treatment of the Thralls assigned to him went – well, the Thralls had agreed to that kind of treatment, and were warned that it could happen in advance. As long as Brenner kept his abuse of the Thralls fairly short term and within acceptable limits – (enough to make sure they realized that pacts like his did have downsides was a good idea anyway – it was acceptable. It wasn’t like Kevin didn’t have plenty of volunteers for worse assignments – and his attitude towards his Thralls was pretty casual anyway. They had been people, with freedom and dignity, and they would be people again – but for now they were pets and property.
There were rules!
Rules were important!
Maintaining rigid control and sticking precisely to his rules helped him keep the darkness under control! Even in the Dragonworlds he stuck precisely to the social rules of what was “acceptable” evil! The darkness would not rage forth, or inflict itself upon others, while he had anything to say about it!