Federation-Apocalypse Session 149a – The Red Crest

The historical one-headed Babylonian Beast (Si...

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Kevin had to smile a bit. An assassination attempt against mysterious visitors – who were already known to be powerful and touchy – by members of an unknown species using exotic powers, and they’d already managed to get the city guard diverted into worrying about their pronouncement that the unknown species was loosely related to birds… Still, all they’d have to do would be to bind the creature, and they’d have a nice source of information! Besides, it was always nice to keep would-be assassins around as servants; it showed why sending them against them was a bad idea!

(Guard) “I know a bird when I see one, they have feathers and wings. This thing has neither of those.”

(Kevin) “Oh, they’re not birds! They’re just more closely related to birds than to anything else around here! Unless you have some feathered dragons about? It might be fairly closely related to those…”

(Guard) “Dragons are things of legend, I don’t believe in such things.”

Marty was rather disappointed. Who made a universe like this and left out dragons? Maybe some of the giant flying turtles filled the role? Or they just didn’t live around Maytheria? It was a pretty big realm after all.

(Kevin) “Well, they might not believe in you either…’

(Guard) “Now, do you wish us to take this one into custody and press charges or what?”

(Kevin) “Well, I think we can safely say that he, she, or it is not a citizen, is not legally present – or you would know about the species – and therefore might simply be a trained imported animal?”

(Marty) “We’re not even sure this thing can talk, you know. I didn’t hear a word from any of them.”

(Guard) “This creature does not match anything we know of, and thereby cannot be a citizen of our city.”

(Guard 2) “Probably some wizard’s experiment then.”

Kevin produced a Smartcollar, set it to “inconspicious monitoring and reporting on specimen” instead of the default “take care of the wearer” and put it on, errr… “Scales” it was.

(Kevin) “No problem then!”

(Marty) “Is there anything else we need to do if we want to keep it, then?”

(Guard) “You will have to sign these papers indicating that you are taking full responsibility for the actions of the creature from this point forward.”

Hey! Legal Magic! (Kevin REALLY doubted that the guard had been carrying around those forms just in case). Maybe the guard Heartstone included a “produce forms” spell? Or maybe some sort of automatic note-taking and printing? That would actually be pretty bloody handy for a city guard… Licences, forms, notes, all instantly filed with the Heartstone, reports always up to date, good records on everything… They wouldn’t have Core-level surveillance, but they’d be way ahead of most worlds on the police procedures!

(Marty) “Right then!”

Marty used his own contract magic to make sure that he had a good idea of the obscure clauses and loopholes before he signed it – and Kevin promptly added a proviso:

(Kevin) “Well, we will take responsibility for it within known limits of an unknown specimen!”

Marty produced some revised forms, inserting some subclauses releasing them from responsibility for the results of the creature’s use of powers which the city guard had not properly notified them of…

That was probably a bit unfair to the poor guard, but Kevin had gotten paranoid about what contracts he committed himself to – and, to be more fair, they hadn’t accused the city guard of any lapses with regards to an attempted assassination.

They returned to the booth – and the embrace of some privacy spells – to let the Thralls continue probing while Kevin used more magic to break mental blocks and lay bindings – as well as using his mystic oratory and witchcraft to change the creatures – ah, her – attitudes. The locals seemed to disapprove of mind-magic, so they didn’t want to use some of those powers in public…

The extended sunset of Cyrweld was fading into darkness as the play entered it’s final acts. There hadn’t been any more assassinations, and everyone else seemed to be avoiding the newcomers who apparently had a big target painted on them. Fortunately, the Thralls were working on the final barriers – and simply ignoring assassination attempts should impress people with how confident they were.

Sadly, even as the play ended, no one else seemed to have the gall to attack or confront them after that little tussle. Servants from the other families present seemed to pass by the booth more frequently than really seemed required – probably to covertly check up on them – but none of them stopped to speak to them.

They didn’t make any approaches after the play either – although they did all make sure that they got a good look at their catch. Well, to be fair, a new assassin-species running about would make the nobility more than a bit nervous.

(Kevin) “Aw… no one wants to talk to us! Hm… I wonder if they were all female? The species might be dimorphic.”

(Marty) “Lizard Amazons? I guess we’ve seen weirder.”

They took their Lizardess-assassin back to the ships before waking her up. They didn’t want to damage her; she did have a soul and it was almost certainly a human one.

They suppressed it’s magical and psychic abilities with neutralizer-spells after checking to see if that would injure her, then ramped up the thrall-probes, checked for deep or hidden barriers, and used more spells to break any barriers that were installed – taking care not to damage her mind.

Fortunately, she wasn’t dependent on magic or psionics for survival. There were several layers of mental defenses and shielding to get past, some artificial and some natural. Eventually they did get them all peeled back so they could get at the bare mind.

Kevin had a side-bet with Marty that all she would know was that the Hidden Fern Village must have gotten a fee to try to get them!

Oh well; even if it turned out that that was all they get, the “backstory of the species” was one of their major interests anyway. Both of them were incurably nosy after all! That was why they were adventuring god-businesspeople!

Still, “what’s the usual procedure when one of us is captured?” might be an important bit. If the procedure was “massed attack”, that was one problem. If it was “abandon them to whatever fate our foes wish upon failures”, that was something else – and it was “adopt mighty foes as honorary members of the tribe”, that was yet another kettle of fish!

Hm… with pretty much full access, it looked like the standard procedure when one of them was captured was to pull back, gather more forces, and possibly bring in males if the opponents looked to be unusually strong. Interestingly, it looked like “rescue” took a slightly higher priority than eliminating the original targets. They’d be upset they kept her then… But that was pretty much an “Oh well” as far as Kevin and Marty were concerned. If the males came after them, they were probably more likely to spot them then the townsfolk.

(Marty) “Well! The males must be fairly tough then!”

Kevin bet that the males were stronger, tougher, and didn’t have camouflage powers; they drew off predators from mates and eggs.

The imagery associated with males was convoluted… The things that seemed to be identified as males in her mind seemed to be… smaller, weaker, and less able to defend themselves than the females would be able to – but the images were mixed with a variety of images of other creatures not of that species, or that were highly stylized versions of the species considered to be “males”. The gender seemed to be strongly associated with ceramics and pottery for some reason. Males were more in touch with magic and psionics than the females and were extremely adaptable to a wide variety of roles. They were physically weaker than the females, but compensated for it by adapting to whatever role was needed by the group.

They also got a fair amount of general species background. They looked to be from… some sort of reasonably modern lab facility, with a lot of genetic and gestation equipment, along with quite a few specimens who were still being grown. There was a sort of a colony existing on the outskirts of the lab, with heavy interaction with human researchers. The total population was perhaps a few thousand.

Huh. That actually COULD be Core – but the gear made it unlikely. They got some genetic samples to take back, both from her and from the blood on Marty’s weapons; if they wanted to, they could clone a few. Why the weird poisons though? Were they perhaps from some world where they were being sent against their own kind? That could be tricky.

They recorded a lot of background information as well, but none of it seemed to relevant at the moment.

They bound her pretty throughly, with a wide assortment of powers – mostly telepathy, mystic artist, binding magic, and pleasure-effects. Her name was difficult to pronounce given the difference in vocal structure, but roughly translated as “Red Crests”.

Kevin made sure that her smartcollar was disguised as a part of her normal clothing, and set a link on it so that – if she did get snatched back – they could try to trace her. He made sure that it stayed in technical contact too for monitoring.

They’d apparently been targeted because they’d been identified as a major source of interference on several fronts. They, and their subordinates had been identified as major obstacles to the plans of their superiors. The worlds of Inversion and the Linear Realms seemed to be involved.

Well, that was probably – ultimately – Merlin again, if quite possibly through more cats-paws again. He’d be wanting non-magical minions to go into Core for him, and wouldn’t want to try to compete with technology – ergo, limited Psi-powers which he thinks will/might work there, training in toxins and stealth-assassinations, and so on. What little they know about Merlin suggested that he didn’t understand technology at all. Tech didn’t seem to be part of the Neanderthal perspective, either – but strange humanoids certainly were… Still, the Neanderthals seem unlikely to be behind that “made in a lab” business unless they’d subcontracted the job.

Still, that did say that their presence had been noted. Fairly quickly too!

They set up security patrols and other protective measures, both for their own and for the Platypus buildings places and ships, fitted “Red Crests” with a normal collar (to be easily removed if she were rescued), inserted the command not to resist – in fact, to go along gladly if she were rescued – and partially rebuilt her various shields and defenses, focusing on making it seem like the inner levels hadn’t been breached, and got to bed.

There were no disturbances that the Thralls couldn’t handle – and up with the morning!

(Marty) “Good morning, Red Crests. How are you?”

(Red Crests spoke with a heavy hiss as she worked to pronounce the words) “Whatsss are you goingsss to do withsss me?”

(Marty) “Oh, keep you around as an aide. Can you make coffee? Do filing? Type?”

(Kevin) “Why? You’d rather we’d killed you? I usually try to avoid that.”

(Red Crests) “Isss heard that you enslavessss childrensss and force femalesss into yourssss harem. Naturally, Isss am concerned withsss whatsss you will do withsss me.”

(Kevin) “Oh that’s true enough! But there are plenty of children to enslave and you’re not my type for the harem!”

(Red Crests) “If Isss am to be a sssssservant, then what are yousss asking of me?”

(Kevin) “Uhmm… I know! Unless Marty has something in mind, you can tell the kids stories about why your world, and life, and why wherever-it-is you grew up is a good place that they should run off to!”

(Marty) “Hey, sounds good to me.”

Heck, they could record, analyze, and listen in! It might be revealing!

(Red Crests, turning a bluish color) “Tell ssstoriesss?”

(Marty) “That’s not going to be a problem, is it?”

(Kevin) “Hey, I enslave people, I don’t make them stick around if they’re unwilling, and it’s not sporting not to tell them about all the places that they could run off to if they wanted!”

She’d tried to assassinate them, so she could just deal with Kevin and Marty’s Bizarro World! Hopefully her head wouldn’t detonate! They were Kevin and Marty! They were beyond rationality, and made all things conform their own warped idea of logic!

(Kevin) “You do know some stories don’t you?”

For a moment Bard considered pranking Kevin – perhaps telling him “Hey! A little known fact! The ability to process logical contradictions became an evolutionary imperative after the brain’s ability to process logically progressed to a certain level, unfortunately, not all species that needed this ability had it when the first logical contradiction was uncovered, ergo the dinosaurs were wiped out when the first proto-monkey did something weird!”

Then he thought better of it. The boss would probably find it amusing, but you needed to be very careful what you told him! Feeding unlikely stories to a reality-warper with Kevin’s power level was all too likely to result in very silly things indeed happening!

(Marty) “Come on, it’s not even the worst thing he could do to you. He could have you clean his socks.”

Kevin delegated some of the Thralls to listen to her, to record an analyze, and to try to put together some ideas about her culture and makers. They were in port, so a lot of the ones in their crews didn’t have much of anything to do. Memory-scanning was great for information, but getting a feel for a new species was a lot harder in some ways – and her shie

Red Crests settled down to telling the Thralls stories of her home and culture – although it was fairly obvious that she was holding some things back. Her color changed as she spoke and seemed to be a form of visual presentation of emotional states.

Hm… Fortunately, the Thralls were immune to sensory-based mind control effects, so even if she could hypnotize people that way it wouldn’t work – and they could probably pick up a lot of what she held back since her outer shields had been broken down…

There’d been an arson attack on the Platypus ships in the night, but the port authority was able to respond quickly enough – although they’d been a bit surprised to find out that the Platypus family was able to pay the bill for the service.

The Platypuses said that this was normal back when they were a bigger shipping rival in the city, but it had gotten pretty rare as the family started going under. Between the thralls and the city guards they’d been able to trace it to a band of hired thugs that hung around the docks. They were currently in custody and were being interrogated now.

Marty was a bit disappointed! No chance to hunt them down and beat them up. Ah well, he would just have to go and find some excitement of his own then!

Kevin kind of agreed… It looked like the normal punishment for arson was a lengthy jail term for a first offense, hard labor digging tunnels for a second offense, and a third offence got you turned over to a mage-school for practice. Most of the thugs were on their first offense of course, since the usual pattern was to shift to another crime after the first conviction. There was no leverage there then.

Kevin had been so wound up in organization that he hadn’t even noticed that Marty was steering them to a bar…

(Kevin) “Hm. Why did I suspect Bars might come up?”

(Marty) “Because I like drinking! Besides, I don’t think we’ve interacted with the regular folks that much. There’s something to be said for being buddy-buddy with them.”

(Kevin) “All right! Off to a bar for a bit! Perhaps one of the more notorious gang hideouts?”

(Marty) “Why not? Who knows what we’ll hear at one of those?”

He hadn’t had booze for breakfast in… why in months! He used to do that every other day!

Kevin started checking things again… The Amarant Solutions office here was mostly shipping and coordinating the over-seas slave trade. Picking up the occasional apprenticeship-seeking youngster or street kid locally was a bonus, and – given that there was good local magic – so were most magical services. There were a few things that the local couldn’t provide – or at least couldn’t provide cheaply. The slave trade had been cycling between boom and bust since they’d been in the city, depending on how successful the slavers were at grabbing people.

His contract was in a bit of a gray area locally… It was definitely legal regarding those bound elsewhere and brought in. Convicted criminals – and children sold by their parents – were legal enough, although the clans had a say over such sales as well. Non-citizens could probably be bound fairly freely, but binding citizens within the city would probably be illegal. Taking them away and then binding them would be legal though, if only for lack of precedents and larger-scale law. The legality of enslaving noble children was likely to lead to lengthy and costly legal battles though.

Marty, meanwhile, for once, was NOT looking for a brawl. He wanted to listen in on the rumors among the lower tier set. It seemed that…

  • The platypus family had gotten new financial backers; most believed that said backers had to be either be pulling off a tax dodge or be incredibly naive.
  • There were tales of a new race of invisible lizard/bird hybrid assassins running loose in the city, and they were currently being blamed for just about anything odd now, including the destruction and reconstruction of the Port Authority Building.
  • The “Eight-And-A-Half” had supposedly returned to the Fox Family after a long sabbatical. There was a lot of awe and reverence for whoever that was… A Fox’s power and social standing seemed to be represented by how many tails he or she had. Eight-And-A-Half lost half a tail in a battle with a pair of powerful mages and a psion from another continent while defending the city. Since then she had been on a sabbatical journey across the world for unknown reasons. Why she had returned was unknown, but it was considered good news by the common folk.

Could that be because of their arrival? If Eight-And-A-Half considered the city under her protection, she might well be concerned over having Kevin and Marty visiting… Of course, it could be the penguins / pirates or any of a hundred other reasons. A good local mage would be quite a challenge. Still, they, at least, were neither invading nor especially hostile – and she seemed to be a well respected member of the community. The people seemed to think of her as someone truly Noble.

They might need to talk to her. It might be fun too!

  • The Otter Family was supposedly calling in a lot a favors from all their contacts – although there were no real details circulating.
  • The moles had supposedly found another gold vein deep in the mines of the cliff walls.

Meanwhile, Kevin was bored – and was starting his tuned-oratory broadcast trick to everyone within ten miles; it would only be audible to kids with souls who felt that they lacked decent prospects – the kids who were in search of apprenticeships but couldn’t find one, weren’t really getting enough to eat (actually going hungry wasn’t too likely since they all had magic), and so on. That would probably mostly be street kids and crafters children and such. He exerted his mighty powers of influence to… strongly encourage them to drop by the Amarant Solutions trading building for a talk sometime within the next day or so.

A few noble kids – ones who felt that they were either getting a really bad deal or were probably going to be killed for some reason – might hear it too of course, but responding was up to them, although Kevin was definitely encouraging it.

Any regular kids who did drop by woukd be offered a good meal, a bit of cash, healing of anything that was wrong with them, and the usual basic pitch – with a quick trip to Kadia if they wanted to get the full details (those would be a bit vague until/if they went and got them, and they’d get the usual memory-blurring before their return if they didn’t want to sign up. Noble kids would get less of the minor benefits (unless they needed them), but would get an offer of sanctuary if they needed it.

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