Federation-Apocalypse Session 139a – The Council of the Traditions

An Observer Corps Spotter on a rooftop in London.

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The High Council of the Traditions had not met in many years – not since the Second Battle of Britain and the loss to the Number Lords – but the elders of the Traditions were delighted to have both the memory and the cause to meet once more. Already they had several hundred students – and even if a sizable percentage dropped out as usual once they’d learned to create basic psychic weapons, the ranks would still be more than quadrupled!

The dinner – and a fine one it was – was a quiet celebration of endurance, escape, and a new hope for eventual victory. There were excellent wines, and formal toasts, and a celebration of renewal. Their lore, and their ancient order, would not fade into the darkness to be lost.

There was, however, some caution. Extra-dimensional godlings, no matter how apparently well-intentioned, always had purposes of their own – and the apparent lack of strings on this “Kevin’s” generosity was far more startling than some tricky price stated up front! Could he really simply want to provide teachers for those who wished to come to Kadia to learn? Were they  welcome simply because they were another attraction? Where was the profit in that for him?

He had their gratitude of course, and he had taken them in and given them refuge from the horror of the Number Lords – but it was always wise to take the interventions of cosmic beings, however apparently benign, with a grain of salt. Especially when they went to so much trouble to proclaim themselves to be powers of darkness!

Still… there had been no sign of anything to fear in accepting simple hospitality, and they could find no strings attached to the computerized – and apparently limitless – supplies of free food and housing… Even the grand manor at which they were staying and teaching was apparently simply a courtesy, provided because Todd was an acquaintance of Marty’s. Well, when you created your own universe, such things probably were utterly trivial.

It was a tossup; directly meeting an entity of such power could be quite dangerous – and might lay you open to powerful (or perhaps worse, subtle) mental influences – while NOT meeting with the man would leave them with no way to directly evaluate him at all! Their study of his contract, and what portions of his history were available, and speaking with his Thralls, had revealed many things, and speaking with Mr Gelman and others who had met him had revealed more – but much of the results showed the pattern of a shattered mirror, a thousand fragmentary reflections of the investigators themselves.

Those who had accepted jobs teaching and opening minor gates to those worlds which permitted such intrusions had found that – even without a pact – merely working for the youngster had been enough to boost their power considerably. A most generous demigodling indeed.

Todd had elected to break the impasse. He had been in Kadia a bit longer than the rest – and had been assigned two of Kevin’s thralls, and had seen them in action. Even if he had been assigned to bring him in, young Jacob had not needed to find him breakfast, help him across town, or to be kind to the cab. He could not believe that such generosity of spirit could spring from a soul that was truly bound to evil.

From what he saw in their analysis of Kevin, there was mischief there, yes, as well as arrogance, and ambition. There as well was generosity, and compassion, and a will to defend. There were all the qualities of humanity, both good and bad, writ large – and backed by power beyond his ability to measure. In that incandescent mirror, for all its flaws, humanity did not look so bad.

He volunteered to be deeply scanned, and monitored, so that they could detect any subtle changes or influences which a young demigodling might bring to bear, and to meet Kevin directly. At the moment he seemed to be limiting himself to working in Kadia while he recovered from some sort of galactic battle.

Observing a Thrall-induction was enlightening and puzzling all at once; there was no coercion at all, the kids were free to leave at any point, there was a final check for anyone who needed more explanations, and anyone who was unwilling or had serious doubts was automatically unaffected! On the other hand… it seemed utterly purpose and belief free! Unlike every power of which he’d ever heard, Kevin did not ask for worship, or for service to a cause, or for dedication to anything but his service – and that only for as long as the contract lasted. Even the Battling Business Gods were not nearly so… businesslike! The thought of some of the ways in which the Thralls might be abused was unpleasant – but there seemed to be little that was objectionable about the procedure otherwise…

He’d expected there to be some difficulty in getting in to see “Lord Kevin” personally as well – but apparently his loose connection to Marty was sufficient to let him simply… make an appointment. Efficient enough, but a less-than-inspiring way to get to meet the local creator god! Some sort of quest would have seemed more appropriate!

Apparently Kevin would have spare time to converse while he was working on some components for a project of some sort called “Midnight Gardener”.

The foundry area was a thousand-mile across, mostly zero-gravity, pocket, suitable for the convenient assembly of orbital facilities before they were gated into place. Currently Kevin was empowering the feed-regulating assemblies that would collect and govern the plasma-feed into the gate-station. That, of course, involved imbuing them with vast amounts of power while a few hundred Thralls wove runes and spells to bind it into the proper forms.

The last time Todd had seen anything even approaching that level of power had been during the Second Battle of Britain, in desperate circle manifestations powered by dozens of Traditionalist Masters – and, up close, Kevin seemed to be… little more than a boy. Yes, he’d been abstractly aware of the kind of power that creating his own realm implied – but seeing it in action up close was something else altogether!

He took a quick peek a the documentary while he was waiting – and while Kevin was deploying the new structure to the second calculated plasma-feed point, one-quarter of the way around the galaxy.

A project to stop the heat death of the universe? No wonder some of the thralls worshiped Kevin then. Such a project would make even some Battler gods balk.

(Kevin) “Ah. Mr Jenkins is it? How are you finding your accommodations?”

(Todd) “Quite satisfactory, Lord Sanwell. I trust the others and I haven’t made much trouble for you?”

(Kevin) “Oh, not at all. There are accommodations for several trillion if necessary.”

(Todd) “That’s good to hear… Is this project meant to do what I’ve heard? You’re trying to stop the universe’s eventual death?”

(Kevin) “Yes indeed. I see no reason to permit such a thing when I possess the resources needed to stop it.“

And no sign of any attempt to exert unnatural influences… Was it simply that he felt no need to do so?

(Todd) “That’s a worthy goal. Is there anything we can do to help?”

(Kevin) “This particular project will require the serves of generations of gatekeepers for the indefinite future – and probably the construction of another specialized dimension – but those should be manageable. The support services will need to be well-established though.”

(Todd) “What sort of services? I’m afraid a project of this scale is beyond my experience.”

(Kevin) “As long as the human race endures, there will be recruits to man the stations for their terms of service – but, unfortunately, there is opposition – at the moment, primarily from Merlin, the Horsemen of the Apocalypse, and their armies. Those are being fought on a variety of fronts.”

(Todd) “I’ve researched them. They all sound quite unpleasant. Even less pleasant than the Number Lords, I dare say… Oh dear. We still have to deal with them too.”

(Kevin) “I believe that Marty is currently setting up plans on that front.”

(Todd, with some surprise) “What? That lout? I don’t mean to offend, but what does he intend to do, hold a drinking contest? Unless… he has seemed more motivated, from what Fred has told me.”

(Kevin) “Oh, I’d say tjat Marty has grown a bit! And he’s taken rather personal offence at the depredations of the Number Lords.”

(Todd) “Someone to help us in our feud?”

Classic British stoicism fell to giddiness for a moment, but Todd recovered quickly

(Todd) “I’ll have to speak with him. But first, if it’s not too much trouble, my senior colleagues had some questions for you .  . .”

(Kevin) “Oh, I have a few minutes while enroute to my next stop! If you’d step this way?”

The questions were mostly a familiar set, and were easy enough to answer – even if they were a bit more detailed and showed a much keener understanding of the occult. For instance, instead of, “Is it true you draw power from darkness?,” it was “What sorts of demons have you dealt with, and just how strong a hold do they have on you?”

They weren’t as… judgmental though. Todd was fine with Kevin’s moral flexibility. His personal deity was not exactly a shining paragon of light.

Todd found the answers just as confusing as well. “I absorbed a great deal of their power indirectly when they were slain in a massed barrage of antimatter warheads” was not exactly a demonologists usual answer. Neither were most of the others.

(Kevin) “Now, is there anything you would like personally Mr Jenkins?”

(Todd, slipping into witchcraft-telepathy for a moment) “Forgive me for not saying this openly, but it causes me no small distress. I was in the Number Lords’ thrall for a long time as Lord Zero’s chew toy, no thanks to my ex-wife Terry. Fortunately, your Thrall-children saved me from that state. I hold little ill will toward her for her role in it. That’s because I’m convinced she was as enslaved as I was. No sane woman would break her husband’s limbs for bringing her flowers, would she?”

(Kevin, in the same mode) “I certainly wouldn’t think so. What little information I have on your ex-wife suggests that she has been driven quite mad by her masters.”

(Todd) “Then we share the same suspicions. Is . . . is it true that it’s gotten worse over the past few months?”

(Kevin) “From the report of the mission to pick up your pathbooks – and Mr Lelands later encounter – it does indeed seem that way.”

(Todd) “Oh, Terry… Could you promise me something, Lord Sanwell? If she somehow finds her way here, could you inform me? I have to see for myself… and if necessary, end that suffering. I hope for all our sakes it won’t be with my bow.”

(Kevin) “If she finds her way here, hopefully she can be contained until her mind recovers.”

Hmm… Todd was in a lot of emotional pain there. No romantic interest left in the woman – but he did want her to be content and happy. Generous of him really.

(Todd) “Thank you, Lord Sanwell. Some of my peers wouldn’t be so kind.”

(Kevin) “Oh, you’re welcome. I much prefer fixing things to blowing them up – one reason why Marty is so often helpful; he takes a complimentary approach.”

(Todd) “I find that hard to believe from some of Fred’s stories, but he does seem to be maturing.”

(Kevin) “Well, he still prefers blowing things up – but I am often too reluctant to do so, even when no other solution can be found. “

(Todd) “Ah, Americans. Anyhow, shall we return to spoken communication?”

(Kevin) “Next up, some additional gates to link the remainder of the Core worlds and the new business offices.”

(Todd) “Do you need any help with that? It seems all I use my Mana for nowadays is opening?”

Kevin – perhaps unsurprisingly – didn’t need any help, so it was off to report – and then to see Mr Tabard.

(Todd, addressing the Traditionalist High Council) “We might have underestimated Lord Sanwell’s power. Here is a report on his current project, Midnight Garden. He intends to stop the heat death of the universe… Also, the demons of the underworld seem to hold little power over him. He absorbed the energies of several of them after their untimely demises. Amazingly, he shows no signs of being controlled by them. He is no ordinary young man. I’m convinced he’s far older than he seems-and gifted with a will of iron.”

(Council member) “He intends to restructure the entire cosmos? Either his power is unimaginable, or he is seriously deluded. To judge from this world, perhaps it’s both – but he does seem benign.”

(Todd, sighing) “In some ways, he reminds me of the blessed Lord Gwydion. Possessed of mighty magical power, imposing, definitely no crusading holy man . . . but almost always with the safety and happiness of his own as his motivation.”

Todd’s father, a Cymric Battle Orthodox druid-priest of Gwydion, would probably have agreed. Could Kevin actually be a recent descendant of the Tuatha de Danann? His policy of “you can worship me if you want to, but it’s silly” did somewhat resemble theirs; for them, the seasonal festivals had always been fare more important than direct worship.

(Nervous Councilor) “His own, yes… He seems to go to a great deal of trouble to acquire thousands of servants…”

(Todd) “Lord Sanwell has expressed concerns about some of this project’s opponents. Entities such as Merlin, the Four Horsemen, and the like. I know I’m only a mid-ranking member of our order, but I’m in favor of lending some assistance.”

(Sir Quincy) “Honestly, that seems to call for research – and perhaps teaching – more than direct aid in such a battle unless matters are quite desperate or some power of ours is exactly what is required… If Lord Sanwell possesses power on the scale that you describe, it’s hard to see how direct assistance from us might avail him.”

(Todd) “Well, I’m willing to commit myself to the research. I feel a need to do something to repay him for his aid.”

Todd didn’t even want to contemplate how he’d been living before that rescue.

(Sir Quincy) “I understand your impatience my boy! But it’s always best to see where what help we can provide is going to be most useful before leaping into action! Why I remember one time in Africa (Sir Quincy wandered off into a lengthy digression) so you see it’s best to check the situation as carefully as possible before charging in!”

Todd hadn’t stopped listening. After all, you should always respect your elders’ judgment.

(Todd) “You’re right, sir. Perhaps I am moving too hastily.”

Besides, to be fair, the computers here offered tremendous investigative resources. He would see what else he could find out in his spare time before leaping into anything… Besides… the older Traditionalists were, well, they were old. They needed their rest.

First, of course, it was off to see Marty Tabard.

Federation-Apocalypse Session 138d – Family Repercussions

Many 18th c. treatments for psychological dist...

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Back at his headquarters, Marty started making some arrangements… He’d have to make sure that his siblings were keeping up with their educations – although, given how big Kevin was on that and the general semi-mandatory availability of Teacher, that probably wasn’t a big worry.

He’d hold Kevin scolding them for an absolutely last resort. He didn’t want his siblings to have the regrets he did.

Elera and Minel thought that it would probably be possible to counteract his father – although Marty kind of hated to do it,. Still, there WAS a difference between being a fun father, and being completely ignorant of all parenting  He’d had to learn the difference the hard way!

After that was set up, he went to find out about his legitimate Email – encountering some of Limey’s booby traps along the way (which was a bit startling – what was up there? Surely Limey knew that blowing him up wouldn’t work, and even if it would, WHY? Some sort of discipline was in order!) – and to see if Limey was still steamed up.

Limey was – he’d been having a LOT of fun there – but was also a bit subdued.

The legitimate messages included loads of business deals, contacts, and stuff related to Amarant Solutions. The rest included autograph requests, fan mail, and other nonsense. Apparently Core filtering systems approached AI levels. Still, there was some from Mr Leland… It was kind of nice to be able to communicate with the boss through normal means again!

It was easy enough, if a bit time-consuming – although Minel found an answer from Kevin on their inquiry about Limey, and had shown it to them both.

“That’s odd. It must be something to do with the merger. As a Thrall, he should be asking for permission for stuff like that BEFORE doing it. As a laptop, he shouldn’t be doing stuff like that at all – and should just power down when you’re away unless you left him a job. Either way… either he’s doing things that he knows will cause trouble for you on purpose, or you’re indirectly telling him he should and rewarding him. Since Minel here says he’s acted up before, telling him to stop won’t do much; he’ll just find another way to act out. If you don’t want to put up with some other stunt next week, you’ll have to seriously punish him. If he’s being a bad dog, a visit to the vet and a cage for when you’re away might get him over it. It’s not like that kind of thing is really permanent.”

Oh dear. That  was really far more ruthless than he wanted to be with his little buddy! Still, it had some pretty obvious uses on the intimidation front – and getting the boy to THINK about his impulses would help a lot!

Wait, had he just expressed a preference for thinking before acting? GAAAH! Gelman really WAS getting to him!

Oh well.

(Marty) “Did you understand that, Limey?”

(Limey, deciding to bluff it out – or perhaps that Marty would say that he’d “never do that”) “What did he mean a visit to the vet?”

(Marty, rather pleased – he wouldn’t of course, but the suggestion definitely had the boys attention!) “I think he means neutering your werewolf form and boxing you up when I’m gone. What do you think Kevin means, Minel?”

(Limey) “You wouldn’t!!!”

(Minel) “Oh, I’d say so; it’s not like he wasn’t abusing the privilege there. I’m pretty sure he KNEW that he was defying you! Kevin’s not big on Thralls acting up.”

(Marty) “Yeah, just look at what he did to that kid who let the mean doctor abuse the neodogs.”

(Limey) “Oh, him? He’s funny!” (Limey shut up very abruptly, realizing that that particular statement might have been a tactical error).

(Marty, cheerily continuing the “pure intimidation” strategy) “Oh, cheer up little buddy! It’s not permanent! You’re a werewolf-Thrall, and will regenerate! And maybe you’ll learn something!”

Limey was busy trying to think of some way to imply that he hadn’t been flaunting all his fun in front of Ikeran, and was being very quiet.

(Marty just smiled) “So Minel, who’s the best vet in Kadia?”

(Minel looked thoughtful for a moment) “The Thelmon services group is best! They specialize in species-transformations, modifications, and genetic alterations!”

(Marty) “Huh. Well, maybe they can get our little friend to apologize for being a disobedient laptop. Or werewolf. Whatever.”

(Minel) “Shall I make him an appointment?”

(Marty) “Well, buddy, you know how you can fix this. What do you say?”

(Limey) “But you didn’t SAY I shouldn’t! I’m Sorry! Don’t take me there! I don’t wanna be like Ikeran!”

(Marty, deciding that the point was made) “Well damn. You’re right. (He picked Limey up and snuggled him) Look, I want you to be a good boy, okay? Don’t run around with girls, don’t disobey me, and don’t try to hurt me. I’m trying to be a better guy than I was back home.”

He held a private consultation with Minel though. Something really was strange there; A normal thrall wouldn’t have been setting booby-traps, would have checked before starting a harem in the first place – and wouldn’t have protested such a decision from his owner.

Marty had been thinking much the same thing – and had her start probing while Limey was so distracted. It was certainly easy enough to see the “No girls at ALL?” question in Limey’s head!

(Marty) “Yes, kiddo! No girls at all. At least not romantically. You can talk to them though.”

Minel didn’t have the power to probe too deeply – but thought that it had to be some interaction between the Thrall-bond and the Computer-logic. It left him unsure of who to obey – and made him something of a wild card. Conflicted between Marty and Kevin – and between rebellious-adolescent, sapient device, and wolf.

There had to be some way to get one dominant! Marty hated seeing the little guy so confused, and it was his fault! A transformation? But he’d had enough of that… Mental exploration? But he was pretty sure that what was going on wasn’t a misunderstanding, it was suddenly having contradictory stuff crammed into his head!

Could he just pour more power into one aspect until it dominated by default? He knew at least part of the technique and he certainly had power to spare! Would that reconcile things? He REALLY didn’t want to resort to drastic methods! Besides… Limey was due for an upgrade, and he could always fall back on mental exploration once he had him to the point where there WAS a dominant “self” again! The kid – as his personal assistant – would need it when he really got going on the godhood bit!

Hm… It looked like his personality would be… a lot like it was now, but with fewer conflicts. That would do! At least a lot better than him being like this! Plus, he’d have Kevin formally transfer the bond!

As for the sixty-odd werepuppies on their way… Oh well. Kevin was currently running a large-scale planetary colonization / breeding program for the Thralls. There were tens of thousands of participants in that already. Another sixty kids was nothing.