. It wasn’t long before Martin was enjoying running a high-class casino, with a beautiful girl on his arm, a (non-alcoholic) drink in his other hand, thirty or forty kids getting underfoot, and suckers losing money to him in droves…
. His kids picked up on what Martin approved of quite rapidly. The computers wouldn’t allow children their age to bet themselves into debt past “next weeks allowance”, but they were certainly allowed to learn the bookies trade and to try to induce others to bet foolishly provided that they had enough money to cover their ends of the bets.
. What time Martin spent on parenting mostly went to trying to teach them to bet cleverly; even if they weren’t allowed to bet themselves into servitude yet, it was no fun being broke! (After they hit adulthood, and could make foolish bets, Martin would have bought them out of it now that he had the money to care for his own – presuming that Marty didn’t beat him to it – but he’d certainly rather that he didn’t have too!)
. His teachings soon became the foundation of the Kadian Bookie Package Deal.
. The kids were pretty impressively competent too! It seemed that they’d inherited something called “Core Leopard Genemods” from their mothers, and – whatever those were – they seemed to give them some pretty impressive physical boosts! That was good too! A hidden edge that boosted the odds in your favor was well worth having!
. Martin was pretty disturbed when he heard about “funerals” though… His kids couldn’t get killed in Kadia of course – but they’d eventually want to go exploring! He remembered what it was like to be a kid! And apparently if they went exploring without being natives of Battling Business World they could really be permanently killed!
. Martin wasn’t really prepared to handle the notion of permanent death. No native of Battling Business World was.
. Still… there was a well-advertised way out of that available – and this “Thrall” deal actually looked pretty good. It included an awful lot of powers and benefits – and it carried a guarantee of coming back to life with it, just like at home.
. Martin looked into it, and discovered that – as Marty’s relatives – the kids “missions” would pretty much consist of “have fun, remember your schoolwork, listen to your father and visit him regularly, and don’t get into too much trouble!”. That was a damned good deal! Loads of benefits and hardly any price at all! He started encouraging the kids to sign up as fast as possible!
. The kids were all eager enough, which was no surprise really, they were surrounded by happy Thralls and every advantage of the package was on full display in Kadia. With Thrall-powers you could live out almost every fantasy adventure you wanted to!
. It wasn’t long before the kids were running small-scale bookmaking operations (and collecting strings of slaves) of their own; their father approved, looking like small kids with big bankrolls helped lure in the marks – and it looked like Kevin would approve. He seemed to feel that anyone who was unable to remain free in Kadia, with all the computerized warnings, NEEDED to spend at least a few decades on a leash before they were allowed out into the wider Manifold.
. Any of their slaves who wanted to could become Thralls and be sold to Kevin, while any who still didn’t want to do that could simply take the indenture-term as servants, companions, and pets! It was easy enough to have them all taught basic shapeshifting anyway!
. Martin found it very funny, offered incentives for the best performer, and only asked for a small cut! That was why Marty had made him so proud! His kids were moving up, and possibly even heading to become battling businessmen themselves!
(Kid, to an considerably older – but still youthful – loser) “Oooh! You’re my third slave this week! You report to the slave-kennels while I try to get some more! Daddy says if I get two more slaves before the end of the week, he’ll get me my own apartment! And then I can stay up all night if I want!”
. Kadia was scrupulously fair, but it was also big on “consequences” (if not on “permanence”), which was why those who went looking for risks despite the warnings were allowed to take them. Excessive underage betting was not allowed – and older betters were warned about betting themselves into indentures, just as people heading into the lawless zones had to be of age and sign an release before they were allowed into the unrestricted areas; if someone enslaved them there and brought them back out – well, they had an owner until the indenture ran out.
. It was a good business environment for an unscrupulous old man and his herd of kids, even if his name WAS Martin instead of Fagin!
. What the rest of the universe would think about letting little kids run amuck with Thrall-powers and relatively little moral guidance was yet to be seen.
. Meanwhile, out in the further reaches of the Manifold, Jenkins, Champion of the Numbers, was out testing her new powers.
. Quite a number of passing travelers, villages, and small military outposts were regretting that very much – especially since each battle fueled her ascent towards the hexcrafting powers of the greater Number Lords themselves.
. The rampage had been satisfying in itself – but there had been a deeper purpose; “Lord Kevin” had assigned a good many of his servants to disaster relief – and “disaster” was a role that she was more than qualified to play!
. She’d collected rumors, a little hard information, and even a scattering of direct observations – and one thing was hard to deny; the vast majority of Kevin’s Thralls were apparently HAPPY with their master!
. She hadn’t really been aware that “happiness” could be part of the pact with a dark lord. Surely it sort of defeated the purpose?
. It was enough to make her wish – in a hidden corner of her souls – that things had been otherwise; that she could be following Kevin instead of being bound to the service of the Number Lords.
. And that hidden wishful thought was enough to draw a spark from the flame of power which Kevin provided to warm the souls of everyone who wished to serve him. Jenkins was bound to other masters, and might be compelled to oppose Kevin – but the powers he bestowed on all would-be followers were being added to her arsenal.
. The Kadian refugees from Battling Business World had best beware.
. Marty hadn’t taken Limey along on his last trip; he’d wanted to do a little testing since his laptop had abruptly morphed into a werewolf-child with cybermagical powers.
. Leaving young Limey in Kadia in his apartment with just the house-servants for company might not have been the best of ideas. Limey had been a cheerful little phantasm; a sapient laptop loyal to Marty/”Father” and being raised to be a corporate raider – and then he’d abruptly acquired a soul, the memories of a human childhood, a biological werewolf-body, human instincts, teenage rebelliousness, wolf-instincts, adolescent sexual drives, and Thrall-compulsions, all overnight. He wasn’t even sure who he was supposed to be loyal to any longer – and Marty had never really even mentioned notions like “self-restraint” in his education.
. The first thing that came to mind was classic Battling Business World – usurp daddy! Or at least try to as a training exercise! If he could throw daddy out the window, he’d have won dominance of the apartment, and Kevin had sort of told the werewolf-him to obey the laptop-him! That would sort out a lot of things!
. Like what part of his consciousness was really in charge!
. He filled the bar with Merovingian Moonshine Sipping Whiskey (and high explosive – a popular, if extremely deadly, high-end Battling Business World Brand!), set up a variety of other booby traps for when Marty got back, overrode some of the building computers so that he COULD toss Marty out the window and went looking for other areas in which he could try to show up daddy!
. Perhaps it was inevitable that adolescent urges – and the presence of ten Thrall-girls all pregnant by Marty – would suggest one field where surpassing Marty would be fun.
. It was easy enough to find some willing werewolf Thrall-girls. “Werewolf” was a popular local identity, the female Thralls were being encouraged to have children, and Limey was Marty’s “adoptive child” – which meant that joining Limey’s pack and mating with him would make them loosely part of Marty’s family.
. Marty would be having almost twenty children soon, so that meant that HE would have to have sixty! A lot of the girls would have twins of course, but it was still going to be a big project. He got busy on it right away!
. Gelman might have restrained Limey a bit, but there were – at least from Marty’s point of view – some very, VERY good reasons why he’d never introduced Limey to Gelman; incidents like the mess at Battling Business World Immigration and Naturalization Service – where he’d turned all those bureaucrats into zoo animals – or using him as artillery in the Napoleonic werewolf pirate world, or… well, several other things – would have inspired Gelman to use him (Marty) as a punching bag!
. Marty was somewhat disconcerted when he got home tired, worried, and with too much on his mind already and his house servants filled him in a bit on what Limey had been up to while he was away.
. Kadia did decide age of majority on a species-by-species basis, but Limey was his property – and so that didn’t really apply…
. His first reflex was to ground him, take away the pack, and put him into counseling.
. Then it was to lecture him.
(Limey) “Awww! What’d I do? They were all willing and it was fun and Kevin says we can all breed all we want!.. You’re just jealous `cause your girls don’t have decent tails or fur!”
(Marty) “You should have TOLD ME first! What in the HELL were you thinking, knocking up all those thralls?”
(Limey) “They went into heat for me! And they smelled really good and very ready! There wasn’t much thinking involved! It was like a program override!”
. Marty buried his face in his hands. It looked like – once again – yet another one of his friends had forgotten that the thralls would fulfill any desires.
(Marty) “You’re going to have to support them, you know that?”
(Limey) “That’s easy! The girls have got money, everything important is free, and Kevin supports the Thralls breeding anyway!”
. Oh boy… Could he lock Limey into laptop form or have Kevin order it? Having Limey siring regular litters was not what he wanted!
It would be pretty frustrating for the kid though. Was that fair? He could just order him not to sire any more. The Thralls would obey of course.
(Marty) “I can’t have you making litters all the time. Makes me look irresponsible. So you’re not having any more until I say otherwise.”
(Limey, looking a bit apprehensive)… Uhmmm… You’re just ordering me and them to not be fertile right, not….”
(Marty) “No, no sex! At least not until you’re a grownup.”
(Limey) “Aww! What would Kevin say?”
(Marty) “He’d say what I say goes, you’re mine. That’s the law around here.”
(Limey) “(mutter, mutter, mutter), bet he wouldn’t you meanie…”
(Marty) “What did you say?”
(Limey) “You’re mean! I bet Kevin’s nicer to his Thralls!”
(Marty) “Look, I’m trying to teach you more boundaries than he’s teaching his thralls. It might not look like it sometimes, but I don’t agree with everything he does or says!”
(Limey) “Well, you took a lot of girls, and your dad has taken a lot since he arrived!”
(Marty) “Yeah, I TOOK them. I decided that Elera and Minel were enough and let the rest of them go with support. And Dad . . . Dad’s Dad.”
That sank in after a moment, in a classic double-take.
(Marty) “Whoa. Wait. What did you say about my dad?”
(Limey) “Oh, he got here months ago! Back at the beginning of all that mess with Zero! I found out when I was updating the contact list! You have 157,493 Unread Email Messages by the way! Almost all of them Spam!”
(Marty) “Ack! Minel, go through the ones that aren’t spam and keep an eye on Limey. I’m going to see Dad.”
(Minel) “OK! What shall I do about ones from core kids and such? Set up an evaluation team? And should I contact Kevin and ask him about Limey here?”
(Marty) “Yeah, that’ll be fine. And definitely ask about the kid.”
. Marty picked up a few gifts – soap, garbage bags for liquor bottles, and liquor – and set off to visit his father.
- Federation-Apocalypse Session 137b – The Imperial Debriefing from Emergence Campaign Weblog (ruscumag.wordpress.com)
- Federation-Apocalypse Session 137a – The Forgelight Returns from Emergence Campaign Weblog (ruscumag.wordpress.com)
- Federation-Apocalypse Session 136 – Sunheart from Emergence Campaign Weblog (ruscumag.wordpress.com)
- Federation-Apocalypse Session 135 – The Clash of Blades from Emergence Campaign Weblog (ruscumag.wordpress.com)