Kevin and Marty’s return to Kadia had started off with a bit of an explanation for Gelman. Kevin had been about 60% of the way along in rebuilding himself – but that still meant a seething cloud of glowing molecular fragments being assembled.
(Gelman) “All right… what’s with the vaguely-person shaped ball of fire?”
(Marty) “That’s Kevin. He blew himself up protecting me from a Sith Lord’s Force Lighting, and he’s still alive. Somehow.”
(Gelman) “Blew himself up and survived as that?!”
(Marty) “Yeah. He’s healing up, though. Should take only a few more hours. I gotta say, I would have been dead meat without him.”
(Gelman) “And at what point did taking on a Sith Lord seem like a good idea? Or is this another one in the “It’s Marty” category?”
(Marty) “Well, Kevin and I thought it would be the best way to stop the invasion. It worked, too! Now ramming his ship with ours counted as ‘That’s Me.'”
(Gelman) “So what major villain of the Manifold are you heading to face next? Some eldritch abomination that consumes stars?”
(Marty) “Nah, we just fought him. Now we’re going on vacation.”
(Gelman) “Right… I suppose the Linear Realms is still the priority at the moment?”
(Marty) “As far as I know. They’re still being hit pretty hard.”
(Gelman) “Well that keeps things simple at least.”
Marty, having read the benefits that Kevin was giving now, arranged a nice gift for Gelman. He’d have an extra burden for a bit, and he’d never really signed up to be manager for a major segment of a cosmic war.
Kevin, meanwhile, was completing restoring himself – and was passing the word to the Thralls to keep an eye out for Ryan. Hopefully he hadn’t gone and inherited the Hellstorm’s massive evil power again. That could get very bad – although he had resisted it before of course. Still, if he followed true to form, he’d accidentally spawn a dozen new menaces purging himself of it again, and the last thing the Manifold needed was more insane godlings to go with the simulacra already running around loose! Just like HE didn’t need competition, even if his head start would be bloody difficult to overcome at this point!
After that – and when he was corporeal again – he settled down to relaxation and recovery for a while.
Unfortunately, Kevin’s pleasantly distracting relaxation period was rudely interrupted by a pair of operatives from Ealor’s Child Protective Services.
Kevin nearly chocked on his malt. Who’d let Child Protective Services get to Kadia? They were pests!
According to the computers… They’d claimed refugee status when they were denied entry, and had shown that they were being ”persecuted and oppressed” by the New Imperium Government and then the rules for entry as refugees had kicked in. What had the New Imperium… No, wait; he could guess. They’d been told to “Shut up and go away”.
Drat it! He’d thought that the entire organization only had one or two live people, and that most of the idiocy was courtesy of the local computers!
Not surprisingly, they were fussing about practically everything – but their biggest complaint was the enslavement betting matches, closely followed by the lack of adult supervision
(Kevin) “The kids need to be ready to deal with the Manifold. If they’re silly enough to get into trouble here – despite all the warnings – they could get HORRIBLY messed up out in the rest of the Manifold. If it takes twenty years on a leash to keep them out of trouble while they pick up an education, it’s really no big deal; they don’t age here, can’t die, and get all kinds of opportunities even as “slaves” – which is pretty light duty for about four hours a day! As for the “Betting Matches”… unless they’re betting with each other – which IS legal once they’re of age – that’s just the juvenile delinquents drawing lots to see who gets spanked!… Well, OK, there may be some of-age youngsters who want to gamble mixed in, but they ARE of age, and so if they want to play a high-stakes game, that’s their business! Now GO AWAY. I’m still adjusting my new body!”
OK, that was a bit misleading… What he wanted to “adjust” had more to do with hormones than physical adjustments, but it promised to be a lot more fun than dealing with Child Protective Services again!
Of course, so was wallbanging.
The Thralls hauled the Child Protective Services bunch away… That was weird really; the last actual human they’d met from CPS had been sensible. Perhaps she’d been the only one and these were just the other two? There couldn’t be THAT many habit-bound CPS agents; Ealor had only had a few hundred children… Maybe these were phantasms?
(CPS Agent, shouting) “You can’t just dismiss us, we will be back, and you will regret this!”
Kevin couldn’t be bothered checking. He had to issue some orders… “Refugee” status was not supposed to be enough all by itself! You were only supposed to get approved to stay as a refugee if your entry was approved normally already! Demons and things didn’t get to take refuge in Kadia just because another demon – or perhaps an angel – was after them!
Fortunately, no one else seemed to have gotten in via loophole… Trouble was, Ealor was on the “known and reasonably friendly” list anyway, they could have just applied normally – and would probably have been approved anyway – especially since Ealor was on record with an open rescue mission.
Oh yes! Being yelled at, or told to “go away”, or even being booted out of someone’s residence, was NOT enough to get you classified as a refugee unless there was a lot more to it! USE SOME JUDGEMENT…
Gaah! Now he needed that neck rub more than ever!
With Kevin still drowning his sorrows – or leftover trauma from being vaporized – in a barrel of sensuality, Marty had a few minor items to pursue. He’d been monitoring what was going on in Battling Business World – and, while it was lurching towards a major reset, the Number Lords were still holding it back. Still, ever-more oddities were popping up as they placed more and more stress on the structure of the realm…
At the moment, New York was having issues with the Central Park Zoo and there was a booze shortage (?). Was the Tux Brigade operating in his realm’s Central Park Zoo again? That might even explain how there could be a booze shortage when neither he not his father were present!
He slipped back into Battling Business World to check…
Reports were a bit confused on the matter, but it looked like – in the interim after Lord Zero’s attacks stopped – a war had broken out around the Central Park Zoo. Small flightless birds were duking it out in massive numbers and the property damage was escalating.
Well, that sounded like an organizational power struggle. Marty headed in to investigate. It had been a bit since he’d visited home!
Near Central Park almost every car was a smoking or burning ruin. The sounds of weapons fire could be heard echoing through the streets. Explosions rocked the ground beneath him as he crept through the streets.
Once Marty would have strode in shouting “What’s going on here!?”, but now – now that he was over his love of violence – he simply wanted to get to Central Park Zoo and see what was going on with as little fuss as possible. Fortunately, he’d gotten good at that too.
Peering around the twisted metal, fallen lumps of brick and mortar, and the still-burning wreckage Marty could see that the park was awash in a tide of black and white. It looked like two small armies were fighting each other in hand to hand combat, with the occasional use of flame throwers, clubs, and swords, and projectile vomiting of all sorts of disturbing things at each other. Some of them looked – especially a bunch at the center of the defensive line – looked familiar from the Car Wars… the Tux Brigade was definitely involved.
Something about the attacking force seemed wrong though… He was no naturalist – but they didn’t quite look like penguins to him. Their beaks were black and orange with a little bit of yellow. They had a dutch accent, and walked more like normal birds as opposed to how penguins walked. They were black and white like penguins though.
Were the avian species fighting for dominance? Well, the Tux Brigade had offered him training!
He pulled on a tuxedo and put on a stray traffic for a beak… Huh. Not that long ago, he wouldn’t have realized just how silly it was that – in Battling Business World – that would probably work! He really was becoming a citizen of the Manifold… That was sad in some ways, but liberating in so many others – and growth always did leave leaving something behind.
It worked too! It was like revisiting a childhood friend, and finding that they hadn’t changed a bit
Meanwhile, back in Kadia, Kevin had settled into his new body – and had re-established his secondary aspects. Along the way, he’d gotten lots of sympathetic attention from his harem, dealt with the foolish young dragons in the cells who’d thought that his odd vanishing had signaled his death – or at least a good time to jump him – over in the dragonworlds, had the roman imperium estate running properly again, and had his projects (or at least a secondary vacation) back underway with several of his identities.
One of the penguins on the defense notices Marty as he approached the front lines from the rear.
(Penguin) “My you are a big one! Are you some sort of insane mad scientist experiment? The humans are really good at those!”
(Marty, removing his cone) “Hey, I just got back into town! What’s with this? You guys need help?”
(Penguin) “Awww, I thought you were some sort of ill-tempered mutated emperor penguin! Anyway, the Puffins are attacking and trying to take over our made forward base in the northern hemisphere. They were hoping that in the aftermath of the evil number god’s attacks that we wouldn’t be prepared. Little did these danes know that penguins are always prepared!”
(Marty) “Sorry, I’m just short and chubby! Want me to do some backstabbing on their end?”
(Penguin) “Ya, if you can get the leader, then the rest will get bogged down in determining who is next in charge, they will be playing paper rock scissors for weeks!”
(Marty) “Any idea where that waste of feathers is?”
(Penguin) “Probably the one insulting the commander from atop that light pole over there.”
There was a lamppost that looked like it belonged on Sesame Street slightly behind the Puffin lines. An oversized puffin perching on it was saying all sorts of awful things about the quality of the commander’s mother’s regurgitated cooking.
Right! Like his mom could do better! Marty ducked behind cover and had Elera cast a flying spell on him while Minel turned him invisible – then rose up like the wrath of god to fly up and attempt a nice, full-force, stabbing, going right for the bird’s beak! His knife sank into the puffin’s beak as he opened it to launch another biting insult. The knife sank in – and all the hot air rhetoric got stuck in the puffin’s throat, unable to escape! The puffin begins inflating rapidly…
Marty grabbed the beak, pulled out his knife, and tied the beak shut. It was hard – the words stuck in it’s throat started to come out as he pulled the knife out – but as he quickly tied it’s mouth shut a look of panic entered it’s eyes. The puffin was now the size of a beach ball and was swiftly growing larger.
(Another Puffin) “He’s going to blow! Run for it!”
Marty hurled the puffin towards the sea!
His throw was off, as the puffin started spinning off center like a balloon instead of going off into the distance. However, it swiftly turned an ugly shade of green.
(Penguin) “If he wasn’t going to blow before, he going to now! Take cover!”
Penguins, puffins, and Marty, all ran for cover with comical expressions of panic! There was much chaos and confusion as the puffin swelled to four feet in diameter… Marty ducked behind a tree as a massive explosion went off – and a whistling sound went off into the distance. The air was filled with the stench of rotting eggs, and penguins and puffins were passing out as the disgusting noxious fog swept over them, although it did seem that the penguin command team had managed to acquire gas masks from somewhere… A faint contrail could be seen spiraling off into the sky – and possibly into orbit.
(Marty) “Yeah, I thought your mom couldn’t cook better!”
(Marty, aside) “Well. That went more smelly than I thought, but at least he’s out of commission!”
He had Limey summon a big gust of wind to send the fumes to the nearest landfill – aiming as high up as possible to keep the humans from getting too suspicious – not that Manhattan wasn’t stinky enough with car fumes.
(Commander) “Thanks for your help there higher mammal. You fight like a penguin would, with cunning and valor!”
(Marty) “No problem! Now, I had somebody offer me training before. Does that still stand?”
(Commander) “Ah, that was you now wasn’t it? We can certainly offer that training. What sort of training do you need at the moment? We offer combat, commando, infiltration, and basic organizational training.”
(Marty) “I’ll take the organizational training. Never paid much attention to it in business school.”
(Commander) “Certainly. What type of organization are you trying to run?”
(Marty) “It’s going to be a pocket dimension, a lot like the one owned by one of my associates. It’ll have at least three planets. One for administration, one for fun, and one duplicating Earth. Is that okay?”
(Commander) “A bit larger than our normal jobs, but we can certainly manage. Is the size just for show or an indication of the size of the organization?”
(Marty) “A little of both.”
(Commander) “Very well, give us directions and we shall send a team of trainers and organizational experts to start setting things up.”
(Marty) “Right, I’ll open up a gate to my friend’s dimension! We can do some test runs there.”
Marty notified – who seemed to be a good chunk of the way back to normal by now – that a lot of phantasm penguins were coming into Kadia and requested some sites to test godrealm-building.
(Kevin) “Penguins? Oh, why not… Can’t be any worse than CPS!”
Temporal Note: since the Federation-Apocalypse game has many different characters in play in several different groups, their timelines require some co-ordination… Most of the events that involve Kevin and Marty from sessions 138, 139, and 140 actually fall into this period – when Kevin is completing his recovery and Marty is more-or-less at loose ends. For those groups, of course, Kevin and Marty are simply putting in cameo appearances during their own activities – which are spread over a good deal of time.
Kevin wanted to visit the anthropomorphic worlds for a variety of reasons, but the biggest one was simply because he’d pretty much concluded that the computers, the Church, and the House of Roses were running interference in Core to ward off “distractions”. The parents of the three Thralls he’d “taken home for visits” were from Core of course – but even that wouldn’t suffice to explain just how calmly they’d accepted the situation; they had to have been briefed in advance. He had thousands of Thralls from Core in his service – and there had been no parental demands, no rescue attempts, and only the most tepid of objections save from a few investigative and crusading types. Even if most of the other worlds were too wrapped up in their own plots to pay attention, Core should be taking more notice than THAT.
The anthropomorphic worlds, on the other hand, were huge and ill-defined. They had no central plot to distract everyone, they had a vast number of local powers – far too many to interfere with at all readily – and they were wide open. Anyone could get there fairly easily. Ergo he could show up with a splash (not quite so easy to trace that everyone looking for him would appear at once – but more than conspicuous enough to let the ones who were really looking start to turn up), make some noise, act out a bit, and – for once – be waiting for people to come to him, rather than chasing them across the Manifold. With any luck that should winkle out some angry parents, any religious sorts whom he was offending, emissaries from annoyed deities, and stray demons that were after him! There might even be some business propositions about buying or renting Thralls! Or some non-business propositions, or attempts to summon him, or some such! It would be fun!
Kevin had been making preparations. He’d had a ship of his own commissioned (the Nightwind Voyager), had had the Lissefea refurbished and enhanced, and had gotten the crews ready to go – leaning towards Thralls with naval skills. He’d loaded them with the richest of cargoes – gold and fabulous gems, ivory, rare spices, the finest of silks, celestial wines, magical materials and items, masterpieces of art, and other fabulous treasures. Even by Core standards, it was a pricey pile…
For a crew… Thralls of course, shapeshifted into anthropomorphs, mostly as wolves and big cats – matching his own wolf-form. More Thralls as his “personal household” – some shape-shifted to look much younger and somewhat like his wolf-form as offspring-apprentices, a few concubines (mostly wolves, but with a lioness or two), some equines to carry things, and his usual three as a lion, a wolf, and a bear. He’d thrown in a matched set of black-jaguar palanquin-bearers, just to show off. Branded and collared of course, and the house-slaves declawed, as was appropriate in most of the anthropomorphic realms… Even the realms that didn’t recognize predation weren’t big on social equity when their populations were so obviously unequal.
Marty, of course, wanted his crew made up of assorted birds or prey and fancy tropical birds – but that was easy enough to arrange with a bit of shapeshifting and local identities.
In either case… a large, and extremely wealthy and powerful, household – or a set of pirate lords.
Marty wasn’t exactly surprised to find that Kevin had gotten a pair of ships together and loaded them with all sorts of ostentatious goods and slaves – but the lengths to which he’d gone were fairly impressive! He hadn’t seen that much loot… well, not since the looting of London, and maybe not even then!
(Marty) “Wow. If we don’t make a big splash, I’ll eat krill for a week!”
(Kevin) “Er… what? (He ran a search)… Er… Tiny arctic shrimp? What have you been doing Marty?”
(Marty) “Getting staff for my own dimension. Why?”
(Kevin) “Just wondering… why Krill? It’s mostly whales that eat that stuff… and fish and things.”
(Marty) “Penguins too. Say hi, guys!”
(Penguins in unison) “HI!!!”
(Kevin) “Well, those are the most FORMAL birds I’ve ever seen! Hi Penguins!”
(Marty) “This is the Tux Brigade. They’ve volunteered their organizational services, since I need work there.”
(Kevin) “Oh! You mentioned them before! Some sort of undercover formal dress ninja birds?”
(Marty) “Yeah. Anyway, I helped them in their fight against the Puffins of the Netherlands, so they’re helping me in return. Who wants an ice floe corporate headquarters?”
(Penguin #2) “Ooooh, me, me, me!”
(Marty) “Okay! Tell those kids over there Lord Marty sent you, and they’ll get you set up. Now I’m going to be away for a while, but I’ll keep in contact. You guys have fun when you’re not on the clock, got it?””
A very large number of penguins went marching past to meet with the Thralls… Kevin shrugged. OK; why not marching penguins?
(Marty) “Well! Now that my work’s done, let’s get this vacation started!”
(Kevin) “Set sail for the anthro realms! One of the areas we’re getting lots of recruits from!”
Marty settled back… As long as there was swashbuckling and piracy, it would be good! And if they were there, could piracy and conflict be far behind?
It took a couple of days of sailing (long enough for everyone to settle into their roles) before they passed through the mists to make the final transition…
The port in the distance was a sizable city, and looked vaguely appropriate to the renaissance or the age of exploration. There were quite a few ships in port, and a fair number of fishing boats in the local waters. A large and wealth city…
(Marty) “Avast, me hearties! I see plunder!”
(Kevin, a bit more practically) “We’ve already got a hold full! We want to sell things and make room first!”
(Marty) “You can never have too much… oh, okay.”
Kevin posed grandiosely in the prow, his cloak fluttering, his sword prominently on his hip, and an elaborate hat with a long feather on his head! Marty flew up to the parrot’s nest (NEVER a crow’s nest!) and squawked “LAND HO!”!
A small boat flying a green and red flag headed out to meet them. It was probably the harbormaster, and so they refrained from blowing it out of the water. Besides… they were here to trade; why make a bad first impression?
(Kevin) “Well then! And what would ye be wanting?”
(Pompous looking official badger) “I am going to need to be told your names, affiliation, and business here in the city of Gan Trego.”
(Marty) “I be Martin of House MacAw, here to make me fortune and sample yer taverns’ rum!”
(Kevin) “I am Angkor Shadowfang, Captian of the Nightwind Voyager! I am here to see the sights of your fair city, to seek amusement, and to sell my current cargo! What in your little city is worth a bit of coin?”
(Official) “Well if you are here to sell goods, then I am going to have to inspect your cargo and levee a tax. As for the attractions of our fair city, we have magical services, many old and venerated churches to visit and pray at, gladiator combat to bet on, slaves for sale, and of course the market with goods from across the world available… Is there perhaps something in particular you are looking for?”
(Kevin) “Taxes is it? There be no greater thieves than the ones who sit in governmental councils! My hat is off to them!” (Kevin doffed his hat to make a sweeping bow in the general direction of the larger buildings).
Marty/Martin augmented the show with cheery squawking and birdsong (and offered to employ a Fascinate effect to facilitate pitching him overboard if Kevin was agreeable). Kevin, if somewhat reluctantly, had to turn that down for the moment… They were here to trade after all!
(Kevin) “I think perhaps I shall be sampling the shows and social whirl! The courtly dance is always amusing, and perchance there will be over-excitable young nobles!”
He grinned conspiratorially at the badger – with lots of teeth. Sadly, the badger seemed to be very well practiced at ignoring such things.
(Official) “Very well then, will you show me the cargo?”
(Kevin, pointing at youngsters) “Show him the cargo Daviros! I smell… good beer, bad beer, slightly overripe fish, some very good hotpot, entirely too much cheap perfume, (List goes on)… Ah, fresh roasts with spicy sauce – I shall have to have some of that…”
Marty wanted to lock him into the hold, but Kevin had to object…
(Kevin) “No, no… we’re arriving legitimately! How else will we get into parties? Well, OK, we may have to be gatecrashers… There will be time enough to throw him overboard if the taxes are unreasonably high and he won’t take a bribe!”
(Marty) “Oh all right. Besides, he might have a pretty daughter.”
(Official) “All right, I have tallied the value of the goods inside your hold and have determined the tax to be levied. Here is the paperwork for your review.”
Hm… the local taxes seemed a bit… excessive, unless the official was skimming pretty seriously. A quick scan showed that the local taxes were actually reasonable enough (even if they would be a fabulous windfall for the city), but it was quite obvious that the official was taking a rather high percentage off the top – far more than the modest “service fee” that most officials would tack on. Almost as bad, he wasn’t actually offering any useful information, or offering to let some goods in tax-free, in exchange! He was even stupid enough not to realize that skimming a percentage or two off a fabulous cargo was far more likely to be noticed than skimming a bit off a lesser one! He could have tried a far lesser scam, and STILL have been a wealthy badger!
(Marty) “SQUAWK! This be robbery!
(Kevin) “Skimming a bit are we now? And what would your masters say to that if I showed them these papers? (He carefully keep them out of the official’s reach). Shall I have your guts out, or perhaps your balls for souvenirs? I think they would make an entertaining ornament to show your offspring in the poorhouse – or bait for a little fishing!”
(Official) “Well if you have a complaint regarding my assessment, you are free to see the tax assessor’s office and file a complaint.”
(Kevin) “Certainly! Lets go right now! The apprentices can handle the docking…”
Kevin picked the badger up and hauled him along.
- Federation-Apocalypse Session 140d – The Last Report (ruscumag.wordpress.com)
- Federation-Apocalypse Session 140c – A Family Connection (ruscumag.wordpress.com)