Federation-Apocalypse Session 148a – Dispatches from the Core, Part I

Thanks to a player shortage, this session was devoted to inquiries about what else was going on around the Manifold…

Back in Core…

The House of Roses was working on contingency negotiations with the Ourathan, in hopes of keeping the near-inevitable (at least in their estimation) overwhelming of the federation defense fleet and ground forces from getting ugly. Like it or not, the Ourathan already controlled much of the galaxy, had obviously successfully dealt with resisting species many times before, and were apparently at least passively backed by many far older species. It simply did not seem likely that Earth would be able to hold out – although it was obvious that withdrawing into the Manifold was always possible.

Unfortunately, Kevin’s Midnight Gardener project seemed likely to draw the attention of some of those elder races. While Kevin’s ability to bestow gatekeeping might actually be unique in the galaxy – with intelligent races rare, only a few thousand Openers race, and his trick unlikely – the networking ability was surely more common. Other races would have Openers of their own, and they would almost certainly be far, FAR, more experienced. Word would spread slowly, and with interested Openers at their disposal an Ourathan/Alien joint expedition to one of Kevin’s galactic feeding stations might be a matter of years rather then millennia.

On the bright side, however, the continuing efforts to organize and train teams of M-Class agents to respond to Manifold disasters could now operate on a far more selective basis since Kevin’s Thralls could fill out the rosters. Still, teams with access to more specialized powers and abilities were still much in demand.

The Unified Church was continuing its efforts to regulate the gateway network. There were some gates that should remain forever shut, others that had been foolishly opened and should be shut, and MANY that needed to be monitored and balanced lest things from the darker realms slip through. One day the human race would be mature enough to face all of it’s ancient nightmares, but that time might not come for many centuries. Until then, they must remain bound.

Their studies of the progression of human souls through the Manifold system – and their progress towards the true godhead – were still in their infancy, but already the great inevitable progression towards enlightenment, the learning of lessons, and the epochally-slow but irresistible breakdown of the boundaries of the self as more and more memories and identities became the common property of the race, was evident. As time flowed into eternity, it would carry the souls of the cosmos with it into realms beyond the imagination of any individual.

While the Unified Church had fewer objections to Kevin’s pacts than might have been assumed – their admitted impermanence, his honest explanations, and the infinite sweep of time ahead made his activities more mischievous (and worse for him than for his recruits) than unholy, it was still a delay on the path. Whether or not the true Godhead expected that was impossible to say. A few theologians even thought that – just perhaps – some souls needed some such experiences for their ultimate growth; otherwise it would not be possible. Did not the Manifold itself show that the Creator gave all that was needed, without limit?

Most, however, saw deadly peril, or at least the possibility of a lengthy dark age and a great delay upon the path, in the fact that they employed infernal energies and granted Gatekeeping… Would not those children – when they began to break away from Kevin in what they estimated might be as little as twenty years – be driven by the darkness that had infused them to use their powers to open the greater gates of darkness? Mankind was not yet ready to face all of it’s legendary evils and unconscious fears unleashed! Were not the difficulties with the Hellstorm alone full proof of that?

After better than a century of maintaining a lot of old institutions out of tradition, The Federated Americas were reclaiming their old continental identity. The antiquated  “Continental Congress” and three Presidential Offices (Canadian, Union, and Mexican) had proved a common factor with many of the Manifold versions of the continent – and the Federated Americas had been asserting their independent identity more and more – and had begun trying to integrate the technologies and  realms of the manifold, shifting processes into realms that supported them best, experimenting with Manifold technologies in the Core, and importing exotic materials. At least some traces of the ancient “manifest destiny” notion had come into play, as the united continents explored, and staked resource claims in, the more convenient realms.

The remnants of the people of Singular were trying to find their own identity, independent of the major power blocs. That would have been hard enough after their long separation – and wildly differing experiences and decades of temporal differences as their realm had fragmented around the various groups of survivors – but the fact that nearly 40% of their population consisted of new recruits from among the more technically-oriented societies of the New Imperium complicated matters even more. So did the ongoing task of rebuilding their research and industrial base – and of resisting integration into the Federated Americas, although the move to Ealor was helping out with that.

Singular had found one advantage though; with Kevin and Marty’s recovery of the remaining Command Unit (the Wingate child) with active command codes, they had been able to regain control of the robot legions consolidating control of the Legions under the Urban Cohorts (the carefully un-advertised production version of the Praetorian prototypes). While the Legions were – like other robots – limited to a fairly small group of realms, they were a powerful force there. They had distributed the command codes again, and limited them in various sets, so as to prevent such a situation from occurring again.

The various trade groups were expanding rapidly. Even those few – mainly headquartered in the Core – who refused to make use of Thrall-services at all on ethical grounds were profiting from their indirect effects. While “ordinary” gatekeepers were relatively scarce, the fact that Thralls were filling such positions elsewhere made more of them available anyway.

Many of the Core traders were also being relatively cautious in their expansion – sticking to the slowly-expanding “safe zones” and the massed markets of the Core. Core traders usually weren’t all that competitive – following the games-theory approach of “wealth for everyone!” – but there were always a few. Those tended to extend feelers into the Manifold as quickly as they could manage.

Other traders were not so picky; while relatively few actively traded in slaves, in a fair number of cases that had more to do with the fact that there usually wasn’t much profit in it, rather than with any particular moral principles… In particular, the Manifold-based groups were using Thralls for trade, magical aides, and assistants quite extensively. The benefits were impressive, and the cost was reasonable enough for them.

A few were compromising – either fishing for voluntary recruits since they could ask for their services for awhile in exchange for bringing them in or – in a few cases in Core – lining up potential recruits either to send to Kadia – or to hold in reserve in case Kevin’s bargain became legal and they could bargain for long-term services or even ownership.

From the Commonwealth, the few Thralls that had been assigned there had a report as well. This version of Merlin was definitely a pain – but his version of Arthur was from some of the oldest Christian writings regarding the various Saints of the era. The man had a strong anti-religious personality with a penchant for doing whatever he thought he needed to do to build and maintain power. A classic Celtic warlord. Unfortunately he wasn’t particularly fond of having “foreigners” and other outsiders running around in his domain. He allowed traders to come and go, and to set up trading outposts near the fringes of his realm – but expected them to make their visits to the interior of his realm strictly temporary. He hadn’t responded well to approaches from the Unified Church or from any other major group in Core, and did indeed seem to have some ambitions towards becoming Imperator or High King. The Thralls were trading peacefully, and had developed a local contacts and had hired locals to do the trading in the interior – but they hadn’t been able to develop any contacts or information sources at court.

The current evaluation of Necropolis had more-or-less removed the realm from the major factions list – it had apparently been put there in the mistaken belief that the realm was a unified version of most of the major “cities of the dead” from classical tales and fantasies – but it was still on the Unified Churches banned list, which was causing problems with Kevin’s recruiting there. They kept finding and closing down his access routes…

Necrosis and his “apprentices”, however, were still well up there on the “Major Trouble” list as some of the most powerful known magical hyperintelligences. They might not actually control the entire realm, but they had more than enough of a power base to handle most intruders – and were known for magical manipulations – and for dumping wealth and dangerous items on the market in service of those manipulations. Most of the other factions responded by trying to keep major mages of their own to hand, by stomping on any groups that turned out to be acting as proxies for him, and by trying to shut down access routes to Necropolis in general.

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