Federation-Apocalypse Session 150 – Into the Back Alleys

Gray wolf (Canis lupus).

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Negotiating over some drinks left Kevin feeling pleased… Evidently they were conspicuous enough what with his bearer-slaves showing enough of the local power-signs… He checked to make sure of why the Smiths and Artificers Guild had approached them.

(Ramal Hakkan) Well, your servants are showing signs of significant magical and psionic power infusions. That implies one who has excess magical energy to invest in a project of this calibur. I mean, even the ones carrying your chair are showing signs of being substantially enhanced on a number of levels.

(Kevin) “Well, they make much better servants with a bit of enhancement! We can certainly assign some to assist you! It sounds like an interesting project there – and if it succeeds, we can come to some profit-sharing arrangement.”

(Ramal) “Excellent, I am sure you will be most pleased with the results.”

(Marty) “Have fun, Limey! And don’t blast anything they don’t tell you to!”

Limey, of course, was a wolf-pup in a ships ensign uniform, since they did have a naval vibe going – and he was looking sharp with his black fur! He might not be all the way to the top yet, but he was showing a lot more of the local power-signs than a youngster his age had any right to!

Kevin set a couple of his aides to buying fresh supplies for the ship, since they were supposed to be leaving on a new voyage in a couple of days, as well as batches of a wide selection of the local charms and such for the ship’s crew… It could be a voyage bonus!

OK, it wasn’t like their supplies were actually depleted much, but they might as well try the local goodies – not all at once though, it was always possible that something would be sabotaged, drugged, or simply bad for them.

The new dragon, unfortunately, had been interacting poorly with the other people in the marketplace. Most of them tended to ignore it – or told it to go away. They all seemed to be treating it as a wizard’s experiment that had gotten off it’s leash.

Kevin promptly made eleven more (so as to have six pairs) and then sent out some more Thralls to get them a local house, set them up with some accounts and funding, and get a few slaves to defer to them as being their bosses. There would SO be dragons in the city!

Marty sighed. No sense of restraint at ALL. Was it really any surprise that the locals would think a new species was probably just a magical experiment? They’d probably normally just return such a stray to its owner/creator along with a stern lecture about keeping a better eye on animals. Oh well. At least the little guys shouldn’t have any really serious problems. They didn’t need that so early in their lives… Hey, some of the antiques actually looked pretty interesting! He bought a variety of them to decorate his office.

The wandering around – and the rich flow of money – drew a selection of hangers-on as they wandered about, some minor nobles from a few of the major houses stopping by to chat, minor business propositions (some of which Marty invested a bit in, and some of which he didn’t), and even a few invitations to parties and other events – oddly enough, mostly for the next day. Some sort of local holiday or celebration perhaps?

Kevin was very pleased! Parties and invitations at last! Even if there probably wouldn’t be nearly as much backstabbing as with the unseelie fey!

Too many actually… if they wanted to attend them all – even chaining them together – they’d have to split up for a few of them!

Marty voted to go for it! It had been quite a while since he’d been to a real party rather than some impromptu thing at a bar.

Kevin, of course, was more than ready for some parties! Particularly since, unlike most Manifold parties, it looked like everyone above the level of some of the slaves and a modest percentage of the most background-element street kids was ensouled…

Evidently their idiot ship-inspector was either an exception or someone took offense there often enough that ensouled people didn’t want to take the job.

Or perhaps it was just that all tax collectors were soulless!

Let’s see… they had a choice between the Wolf Family and the Fox family for one set of parties, and a choice between the Cat and Rabbit Clans for festive events. Eight-and-a-Half Tails was likely to appear at the Fox party. She’d distanced herself from family politics and showing partiality, but she did still consider them family and was expected to attend their events.

Kevin kind of wanted Wolf and Cat, but he planned to chase women and to see if anyone wanted to either duel him or approach him with business propositions – especially if it turned out to be Manifolders under local covers. It would also be fun to meet eight-and-a-half tails though! Now he had a dilemma!

Marty was a bird now, and had some unconscious concerns about being chased (or at least about being made fun of), so he left the Cat clan to Kevin – and Kevin should obviously take the Wolf, since he was being one.

Well, it was hard to argue with that. It looked like it was… tomorrow morning for the Wolves and tomorrow evening for the Cats.

Getting into the sleazier areas of the market turned up some local action eventually – although, even then, it wasn’t directed at them.

It was a trio of rabbit-ruffians roughing up a young cat-girl in a quiet alley.

Marty sighed as he also spotted a youngster taking advantage of the distraction to pick Kevin’s pockets. It wasn’t so much the money – or that Kevin would probably be anything but amused at the youngsters temerity – but the way Kevin infused things with power, warped reality, and kept pulling random insanity out of his pockets, the kid would be lucky if all he found in there was one of Kevin’s pocket-companions and a scolding (or possibly a recruitment speech). It was just as likely that he’d find Godzilla, or some dark artifact, or an open portal to the gates of hell… There was probably some money in there, but even if it WAS local currency it was just a token amount for show; Kevin was just too used to pulling stuff out of nowhere to be bothered carrying much around.

Kevin really ought to learn to pay more attention to the world outside himself! Maybe a few years spend learning to dodge the kind of cartoon physical comedy setups from that had filled his toddlerhood – rather than relying on Core’s computers to pull things out of the way before he could trip on them.

Kevin cheerily bounced over to the alley to confront the thugs and rescue the girl (even if she was quite possibly simply bait for a mugging) – while Marty elected to leave him to it and go after the kid, who was quite possible in more trouble than the Thugs OR Kevin. Hopefully Kevin wouldn’t nuke the block or anything! It would muss the cat-girls pretty fur!

Huh. Here he was, off chasing a kid who HADN’T stolen his money, while Kevin went to thrash some punks who hadn’t stolen his money. Truly their ways were beyond the understanding of mere mortals!

Yeah, right.

Kevin did have enough sense to check anyway, opening up his telepathic senses to see if the girl was actually afraid or if she was setting him up for something. After all, they might all transform into male reptile-assassins!

Not that THAT wouldn’t be kind of cool too, but it would be nice to have a few moments of warning first.

Hm… Seemed normal enough! Terrified girl, vicious muggers…  It looked like some sort of Inter-clan rivalry mixed with typical male aggressiveness. The girl had wandered off by herself into areas she shouldn’t have gone into without family support or nearby guards, and the rabbits  were wanting to have a bit of fun – even if it would probably lead to a clan war.

Did they want that for some reason?

Still, he NEVER got to do anything physical! He kicked in some speed-boosting, moved in, booted the first mugger in a most indelicate place, leaving him stunned, slammed the next into a wall, and punched the last one twice…

One down, two still standing and not at all happy with the interference.

(Rabbit Leader) “Look foreigner, get out if you know what’s good for you! I won’t warn you again!”

The girl was trying to slink off while the two rabbits were still standing are paying attention to Kevin, which would never do!

(Kevin) “Pathetic! Not only feeling a need to use force on a female, but needing three to one and unable even to come up with a proper threat! (To the cat-girl) Don’t run off my dear! You may need to testify to the city guard!”

At least he was persuasive and confident-sounding enough that she was sticking around for the moment… Stupid rabbits! The proper method was to seduce females and carry them off to your harem – after which they were yours, but you were responsible for keeping them properly and making them happy! He might be an egotistical demon overlord, but at least he took responsibility for it, and somehow he doubted that this trio had any intention of that!

(Rabbit Leader) “This is none of your concern here. I won’t warn you twice.”

The rabbit started gathering magical energy into some sort of destructive vortex in his hand. It looked like… Multiple counter-rotating force effects confined into a ball that fit into the palm of the hand. It could readily tear ordinary materials and weaker living opponents apart on contact as it applied massive sheering forces to whatever the user touched. Silly rabbit! Did he actually expect that to work on HIM? Especially with his boosting-effects still running?

Kevin laughed and felt the joy of combat surge through him as he grabbed the idiots shoulders, headbutted him, flipped over him to kick him from behind, and then hammered his friend a bit more – simply absorbing the spell (along with the rabbits blows to his chest) along the way.

It was probably a good thing he was going to the cat party rather than the rabbit party!

The fight didn’t last much longer… rather disappointing really!

He checked with the local thralls… What did the locals do with assailants who lost? Was it pretty much up to the winner, or was there something formal or clan negotiations involved? After all, one of them had tried a potentially-lethal (at least versus a normal peson) spell while HE’D been sticking with stunning attacks.

Hm… For battles between nobles, some sort of scarring or otherwise visible injury and a public display of humiliation was in order. Formally pressing assault charges generally only led to long and costly legal battles.

Meanwhile, Marty was having a hard time even keeping track of the kid, much less catching him up – and considering how fast he was moving, that was pretty impressive! He was just a bit faster, but the kid was incredibly nimble… He was continually breaking line of sight and dodging into all sorts of small nooks and crannies.

Damn but the kid was good!

He resorted to hitting him with a stunning shot of blissful pleasure-magic while his remaining pocket-companion (he’d sent one off with Limey) went with telekinesis… The kid wiggled of the telekinetic grab, but was tripped up by the bliss long enough for Marty to close and grab him.

Geez, a ferret-kid! No wonder he was such a wiggly little handful! Fast, bouncy, cute, and tricky!

(Marty) “Where’s my friend’s purse?”

(Ferret) “What purse? I don’t have a purse!”

He’d might well have managed to pass it off or ditch it by now, but he might just be lying… All the fuzz made it hard to tell – and the kid was doubtless well-practiced at denial anyway!

Nah, it looked like he really didn’t have it.

(Marty) “Okay, then who’d you pass it off to?”

He opened up his mental senses while he was about it… Picking up surface thoughts was pretty easy after all!

(Ferret) “What makes you even think I took your purse?”

(Marty) “Hey, it’s not my purse, it’s my friend’s! Saw you take it off his belt – and it might be dangerous!”

Drat! The kid was working hard at misdirecting any mental probing! He was avoiding saying any direct lies or thinking of anything regarding his friends. A minor suggestion effect… got nowhere, the local resistance kicked in – and the kid started to panic as he realized that his pursuer was willing to use serious mind-magic on him. Huh… It looked like his (fairly minimal) natural resistance was being augmented by some enchantment or other – something affecting the entire city – and trying to bypass that became apparent to everyone around.

Huh. The locals were SERIOUSLY afraid of mental manipulation!

(Marty) “Tell me where the purse REALLY is and I’ll leave you alone.”

Drat it… He was drawing a crowd, and they were really down on “mind-magic” around here.

Oh well. Dragging the… boy off to the local guardhouse would be normal and expected enough.

(Guard) “What? Another street urchin took your coin purse or something?”

(Marty) “My friend’s purse, actually. Little burrower passed it off, too!”

(Guard) “Well, we can take the kid, submit a report, and keep a look out for the coin purse, but best to recoup your losses elsewhere unfortunately. The urchins are like a sea of thieves moving throughout the city.”

(Marty) “Right. I’ll tell my friend the bad news, then. And you there, kid… warn your friends to be REALLY careful with that purse; there’s no telling what Angkor keeps in there!…. You want work?”

If he knew Kevin, the boy had already put out a general recruiting-broadcast, but it never hurt to make an actual direct offer.

(Ferret, cautiously) “What sort of work? Need something carried for you?”

(Marty) “Nah, you want a job where you only have to work four hours a day, and it’s not even that heavy work?”

(Ferret) “This isn’t some sort of magical experiment is it?”

(Marty) “No, kid. Just something better than running around lifting stuff off people.”

(Ferret) “I’m listening”

(Marty) “Well, first we need to find my friend. Whose purse you stole. Not bad on that, he’s usually savvier than this. Come on, follow me.”

They headed off back towards where Kevin had been – with Marty attempting to keep a good watch on the kid, and the kid busily using Marty as cover while he stole various odds and ends off other passer-bys. The kid seemed to be something of a kleptomaniac.

Well, that could be a problem. Of course, he WAS a ferret.

Back with Kevin…

(Kevin, to the cat girl) “And what do you think their penalty should be, Ms…?”

(Girl) ”Ms Jessica Muirhead! And I want them castrated!!

Huh. She did look to be very upset with the lot of them. Well, there was healing magic available, so they could get that undone relatively easily… According to the local Thralls, that was considered a bit extreme under most circumstances. It was extremely humiliating and would usually invite reprisals – but, considering what they were going to do to her, most of the locals would consider it fair enough.

Well, it was within her rights then.

Kevin healed the wounds enough to prevent bleeding, infection, and shock problems – not that those are big problems in this realm – and threw in a pair of high-powered curses apiece; for the next year anyone they spoke two would know that they tried to rape a girl three on one and that a passerby stopped them and let her pick the punishment – and that punishment would be very hard to undo.

Served them right if they got kicked out of their clan or something! (Or at least got very heavily shamed and mocked).

Marty would probably have stopped him from doing that. The rabbit clan might not get too upset ( rabbits were vicious and competitive little bastards, they might just laugh at them, or they might just sell them or something;), but it really wasn’t a good idea to yield to other people’s vengeful whims by default!

When Marty turned up again, Kevin was offering Ms Jessica Muirhead an escort home, leaving her unconscious assailants to recover in the shadows of the alleyway.

(Marty) “Hey, bad news! This kid stole your coin purse and I wasn’t able to get it back. On the other hand, he’d like to listen to the offer.” (Privately) “What happened to those guys?”

(Kevin) “What, no means of support? Well, I suppose I can go over it and he could certainly use a good meal!” (Privately) “Mrs Muirhead requested that they be punished, what else?”

Marty – assuming that Kevin had far more sense of proportion and consideration for the possible repercussions than he did – assumed they’d simply been beaten and had a few minor bones broken – quite proper retribution for a mugging attenpt – and went about his merry way, although he did warn Kevin that the kid was a kleptomaniac and tended to grab at anything shiny.

Oh well; he was a ferret. Marty was just glad that he’d gotten him this far without too much trouble.

Marty took the kid back to their ships for dinner, trying to keep him from stealing along the way. Hopefully the Thralls aboard could keep an eye on him.

Ms Muirhead gladly accepted an escort back home – and was quite satisfied with her assailants punishment; she had a bit of a a bounce in her step again.

There was a slight scuffle with one of her brothers along they way – the young man was also out looking for her – but Kevin would have been quite capable of handling him even without her protests to swiftly settle him down. Her father was far more dignified…

(Lion) “Ah, thank you for escorting my little niece back here safely. I hope there wasn’t too much trouble?”

(Kevin) “Nothing serious! If she hears from upset rabbits, just refer them to me! There are three of them who may be a bit cranky – but they will live, whether they want to or not!”

(Lion) “The damnable rabbits are trying to provoke something nasty with us. Had they done something to her I would have had no choice but open war and we really don’t have time for such foolishness right now!”

(Kevin) “Problems I take it?”

(Lion) “A tribe of Panthers is working at disrupting trade through the mountain pass and really making a mess of things right now. But enough of my problems, you need to be compensated for your deeds today. Is there some boon that your would ask of me? If it is within my power, I will grant it.”

(Kevin, privately to Marty) “Hey Marty! Do we need anything but goodwill at the moment? I was thinking directions to some renegade panthers, they might be fun!”

(Marty, also privately) “Well, you might want to replace some of those lost funds from your coin purse, but other than that, panthers sound good!”

Oh wait, that was mostly small change wasn’t it? He kept thinking of it like his wallet and credit cards!

(Kevin) “Perhaps directions to your panther problem? I do find that sort of thing to be excellent exercise!”

Kevin was mildly surprised to find that he did have some level of social consciousness; he had correctly judged that it was not a good time to try and seduce the girl! Had his Core education and conditioning held after all? Marty would be pleased! He kept telling him to pay some attention to other people’s feelings!

Kevin didn’t realize that having attention to give to something outside himself either meant that the darkness was escaping his control or that he was finally integrating it into himself to such an extent that it didn’t require concentration any more. Which it was, only time would tell.

(Lion, rhythmically striking his hair underneath his chin.) “Well, if that is what you ask, I can have my people draw up a map of the mountain pass and the locations of the attacks thus far. Maybe you will have some luck tracking them through the mountains. I will even pay a reward for every Panther you kill.”

(Kevin) “Oh, payment is not necessary! I have no shortage of money.”

Kevin repressed a couple more impulses – there were some souvenirs that it was just impolite to offer a young woman, even if she had a right to them – and cheerily wished the girl well and took his leave after providing directions as to where to send the map, and. On the way out, he produced another purse so that any additional street kids in the area would have something to steal… When you tried to steal this one, what you actually got was a small pouch that supplied up to 500 pounds of snack mix with – at the bottom – a recruitment offer and directions to the local thrall-offices on them for refilling. After all, any kid with the skill and guts to steal from him was going to be good at it!

Marty had found that keeping the kid from stealing on the way back to the harbor had become an increasing pain, and was quite tired of baby-sitting once he finally delivered the kid to the Thralls.

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