Federation-Apocalypse Session 160 – Social Pitfalls

Nascer do sol na Fazenda do Lobo - Sunrise in ...

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As far as information went, the Parrot Party offered quite a lot of it – but it was pretty hard to tell what was actually relevant. They loved to gossip and repeat rumors, the more exciting the better.

The more popular stories included…

  • A discussion about the Rabbits and their attempts to provoke a Clan war between them and the Cats.
  • The rumors about some rich and powerful backers funding a new Platypus expedition.
  • Rumors about a number of powerful new magi/psions in the city disguised as children, possibly a prelude to an invasion.
  • A discussion about a recent cargo from a slaving expedition that had managed to escape confinement and might be loose in the city.
  • A delegation from another city that would be arriving tomorrow.
  • A tale of invisible psychic assassins, who might soon be striking at their targets.
  • Sightings of some strange creatures in the mountains around the city.
  • One of the smaller wandering sky-turtles – only observable by telescope or magic – was moving about most erratically.
  • A discussion about the Panther bandits – and how their organization was getting better and they were launching more ambitious raids against the caravans.
  • A story about one of the Guilds gaining a lot of new members, and planning a massive upgrade on their Heartstone.

Looking for information – especially history – on the Cats, Panthers, and Rabbits took a little careful steering. Still, Marty was curious: why WOULD the Rabbits and Panthers be cooperating? What had gotten the Panthers kicked out of the Cat Clan to begin with?

Hm… The Panthers had been a part of the Cat Clan long ago. A disagreement with the other members of the clan regarding the leadership and ultimate goals of the clan led to an attempted coup back while the city was undergoing a number of reforms from a military focus to economic ones after some disaster… The Panthers had ultimately been cast out when the rest of the Cat Clan had involved the Wolf Clan. The Panthers had never forgiven the perceived insult.

And now they were stooping to working with the Rabbits?

The Cat Clan insisted that the Wolves were only brought in to protect assets not immediately involved in the dispute with the Panthers. The Panthers insisted that Wolf soldiers were used against the Panthers.

No one quite knew where the truth of that lay. After all, the disputed battles had occurred at night, deep in what was Cat territory at the time.

At a guess, the two sides had disagreed about what was involved – and thus wolf soldiers wound up in the middle, and thought that it was a stupid in-clan thing anyway. Most likely (given that the wolf soldiers were mostly city-security types and probably wouldn’t have taken sides in an internal cat-clan struggle) it had been city defense assets that had supposedly been uninvolved, but which could have readily been turned against one side or the other.

Now the Rabbits had an almost timeless dispute with the Cats. The Cats were more powerful than the Rabbits one-on-one, but the Rabbits bred fast enough to compensate. The Cats felt a certain disdain towards the Rabbits because of that – but the current batch of Cats kept their disdain well concealed behind politics and being “proper”. Currently the two cooperated and worked together as a part of the larger whole, but didn’t give each other – or expect – a lot of respect – or at least that was the Cat position on it all. Anyway, apparently the Rabbits had been moving from a similar position to the Cats towards increasingly hostility – at least since the rise of a particular son in the Rabbit clan to a position of power. That was probably the same fellow that Conley had tailed.

Oh well. It was generally too much to hope for for everyone to get along.

Marty settled down to enjoy the fruit and the drinks for a bit – although he did ask Conley to write up a record of his observations of that Rabbits…

Meanwhile, Kevin had arrived outside the Wolf/Canine holdings…

Basically a somewhat prettied-up fortification. Thick, hard, and magically-shielded stone walls, a garden inside the walls that was pretty obviously both productive – for supplies – and easily cleared or defended. Central keep, with yet more wards and defenses, and the party mostly taking place in the gardens and outer halls.

If it had been in the Old Empire, he’d have expected to find that the whole thing was just a disguise over a super star destroyer buried under the estate. It just had that “hidden resources” quality about it.

Well, that was one way to hold territory.

Kevin was about to step inside and head for the party when there was a blinding flash of light – and an upwelling of magical energy.

A moment later, he found himself in a magical laboratory. Alchemical equipment and numerous books lined the wall – and, on the floor, he could see a high-end summoning and warding circle.

He hadn’t been summoned in quite awhile! Still, their timing was excretable!

(Kevin) Hey! I was going to a party there!

A six-armed creature stepped forward to the edge of the circle, gesturing excitedly and pulling out a set of scrolls – one for each hand with each hand – as it began chittering rapidly and incomprehensibly.

If this is some demonologists kid who’d gotten into his or her father’s books, and he or she wanted candy, it was going to be annoying.

(Kevin) “Uhrm?”

(Kevin) “Now this is weird!”

Hm. The thing did have a soul – and it looked a lot like an Ourathan Robot. Telepathy wasn’t much help; the lack of a common language structure was causing issues. The creatures mind was… supporting multiple parallel trains of thought naturally, as opposed to his own multi-tracking discipline.

An actual Ouratha? A reaction to the Midnight Gardener project perhaps?

There was more chittering and scroll-waving. A list of issues or demands? Multiple lists? A multiplex vocal system?

Meanwhile, on another track, Kevin was checking the warding… It almost certainly couldn’t  actually hold him, but it would restrain him a lot. It seemed to be pretty well shielded against both magical and psionic interference and carried rather a lot of raw power.

Still, he could probably find a few ways around that if he had to.

On another track, he was working up a language-transmutation spell. That called for a lot more raw power than doing it with divinatory magic, but he couldn’t do divinations. At least the wards didn’t interfere with THAT.

(Creature) “Pesky upstart species using the Manifold to screw with the structure of the cosmos! Do you even have any idea what you are doing?!?”

(Kevin) “Well, the math is actually fairly simple. I take it you have some complaint?”

(Creature) “Prolonged use of Manifold abilities in Core has long terms consequences for the structure of reality! Core is the birthplace of new races and souls! Attempting to bring the powers of the Manifold into Core on a large scale disrupts this process! Are you specifically trying to drive the races of the galaxy extinct?!”

(Kevin) “Piffle. The place is quite well designed and extinction is impossible… You’re operating in a near-Core reality, not actually in Core aren’t you? Now, if you actually have some evidence of such a thing, I suspect that sending messages would be much easier than trying to summon and contain me!”

(Creature) “Piffle? Dimensional overlays with Core cause the flow of souls to reverse in a localized area. Long term overlays tend to cause an expanding distortion of the structure of space/time locally to match that of the Manifold zone on the other side of the overlay. One of the factors of these distortions is the prevention of the occurrence of new souls in the distorted area. As for evidence, my own species lost contact with Core trifling with these powers.”

(Kevin) “Not to mention that it’s downright silly to summon me without a translation effect set up…  Besides, if you lost contact with Core, how did you hear about the project?”

Wait. It was talking about overlays, not gates. Those caused natural-law compromises… Would that remove areas of Core from Core eventually?

The answer to that could be felt through the Thrall-network. Kevin felt the structure of reality from tens of thousands of simultaneous viewpoints… Yes… An overlay was a compromise reality, and required the constant maintenance of gatekeepers around the edges to prevent it from becoming a pocket realm of it’s own – falling into the Manifold so gently that the residents might not even notice for many centuries.

For true long-term stability in his colonization experiment he’d have to accept a tiny percentage of true child mortality from the occasional random accident or use divination to catch the ones who might die so that they could be physically taken to Kadia.

Well, that was easy – if a bit sad. Still, it just meant that their first life would be in the Manifold… They could keep the overlay up until things were up and running though. It wasn’t like he had a shortage of gatekeepers to hold things stable that long.

Oh yes. Conversation on some of the other channels.

(Kevin) “Finally, I’m setting up gates – not large-scale overlays. A hundred thousand light years outside the galaxy in fact.”

(Creature) “Well excuse me if your species has managed to come up with a number of difficult to interact with creatures to incarnate as. The Taractocoli can prove to be most informative of such matters now that portions of their mind have been brought into the Manifolds of various races.  I can also smell the distortions of space/time around you indicative of the use of overlay zones to Core.”

(Kevin) “Gates mostly. Now let me see… Did you set up overlays around your Core planets to allow the widespread use of manifold energies in Core? Or is there a translation difficulty?”

(Creature) “Yes, long ago, millions of years by your counting, we manipulated the energies of the Manifold into overlays over our own worlds. Initially for the convenience, but eventually for defense against the Umal. We didn’t understand the dangers that lay in that route and quickly went extinct in Core. Our autonomous creations are all that remains of our race. I am sure you’ve met them.”

Back aboard ship, Conley was writing up a report on his Rabbit and Panther encounter for the Parrots and the Cats.

It didn’t take him long. These “Thralls” were blasted convenient to have around for a writer; all you had to do was to let one pull the information out of your mind, they’d pass it back through a series of checks, provide cross-references and analytical sections, and then use a bit of magic to produce finished works. It would be awfully easy to get very used to that kind of service. They had copies ready for him to take to the parties in minutes…

He shifted to an acceptable version of a Parrot-form first. You never knew who might be watching.

The Parrots were most interested in that information – and predicted that the Cats would be interested as well.

Marty tried to push the proposed responses towards the Panther’s taking the brunt of it. After all, the Rabbits were simply being used as (literal!) catspaws by the Panthers. Of course, considering the fact that they were already exiles and that the Rabbits were the closer conspirators, he’d understand if the Parrots and the Cats choose to pick on them more.

Meanwhile, back at the outer fringes of the Manifold…

(Kevin) “Yes, the problem with overlays is that they adopt a compromise set of laws after a bit, and drift away from Core. That’s why such overlays as I use are small and – for the most part – simply involve areas of empty space on the core side. I am not, attempting to set up a galactic overlay and reverse entropy. I am simply setting up some gates well outside the galactic disk and feeding normal mass-energy through. Now, if you would like to revisit Core, that is easy to arrange. Reversing the flow of souls is, I suppose, possible – but it would simply mean that some souls were taking advantage of the overlay zone to be reborn in Core, and their own manifold connections would tend to pull the area back out of core again anyway… I suspect you may have some misapprehensions about what the project is about. Perhaps there was some confusion in what was passed along and it’s translations along the way?”

(Creature) “The Hive Mind Taractocoli aren’t exactly good at languages since it does not come naturally to them.”

(Kevin) “I can see that. And our contact interface with the Taractocili is pretty narrow as well.”

(Creature) “There aren’t many connections between the various Manifolds to use for contact, despite their actions. In this respect, the Umal have proven a boon in disguise.”

Kevin laid out the basics of the project for him/her/it/they/whatever.

(Kevin) “I, personally, don’t see any major problems that can’t be managed. Even around the gates, the only serious physical difference between the realms is the continuous-creation rules of the source realms. That may eventually drag my gate-stations through, but the gatekeepers should be able to compensate – and all the disturbances will be outside the galaxy by an amount nearly equal to its radius.”

(Creature) “And how are you ensuring an adequate supply of gatekeepers for this project? The Taractocoli weren’t exactly clear on that issue either.”

(Kevin) “I share my abilities with them.”

How would it react to that?

As it turned out, in no fashion that he could understand.

(Creature) “Just how many have you given this power to now?”

(Kevin) “Er… Lots basically. It’s a big project.”

(Creature) “That isn’t very specific. Either you are deliberately hiding how many or you actually don’t know. The fact that you are contemplating such a project suggests the former.”

(Kevin) “Oh, the projects already underway and active… I’d have to check the computers to find out just how many I’ve empowered though. It keeps increasing. There are about two thousand gatekeepers on duty on each of the four gate-stations at the moment and tens of thousands on duty elsewhere.”

Back with the Parrots, Marty had encountered his festival dance partner, and had been roundly snubbed. She was showing that she COULD dance with dignity when not encumbered by a fumbling idiot of a partner!

Marty sighed. That was to be expected after all. Besides, he HAD learned from his humiliation, and had learned to dance – or at least to extend his enhancement talents to dancing.

He settled down to entertaining people with illusions (since he could also make pretty ones now) and to telling stories based off his cross-realm adventures – albeit with a bit of editing. The stories went over best. They had plenty of musicians, entertainers, and illusionists around, but his stories were pretty original by local standards, and drew a fine audience.

Of course, the people who were trying to figure out where on the tree he (and presumably Kevin) were from, and who they might be, were getting puzzled… A lost colony perhaps? There had been a number of those of course, what with the unreliability of the gate-mists, and all the usual “lost civilization” and “strange marvel” tales circulated about what was to be found in such places – with more justification than usual given that weird local magical resources and species were a rule on the tree rather than an exception.

That got him even more attention of course, and even a few people so lost to curiosity as to ask straight out. For good or ill, however, straight-out questions about his origin were swamped in the sea youngsters who wanted to hear more about life at sea (and his “pirate parrot” undertones) was like – especially given how much treasure they seemed to have come in with, and how free-spending the crew was. Even their most common sailors seemed to be at least well-off…

Marty happily talked about the joys of flying through the rigging and counting the booty.

(Kids) “Oooh! Where does all the treasure come from! From monsters? Are there big battles?”

(Marty) “Monsters, and battles, and enemy ports!”

Sadly, some of the kids found that rather alarming… Attacking enemy ports? They lived in a port! Were they likely to be attacked? Were any of those ports likely to attack back? Would someone attack here? WHAT IF THEY HURT MOMMY!

It was rapidly spirailing towards a child-panic, as they repeated the most exciting, dangerous, and alarming bits in his own voice…

(Marty, a but hurriedly) “Oh, they’ll come, but the knights and Cyrweldan will protect us! Your mommy is safe in her bed.”

Ok, not necessarily from HIM, depending on plumage.

(Marty) “Their sailors are nothing compared to my crew, too!”

(Frightened Kids) “They WILL come!?!? What if you sail away! You have to stay to protect us! Promise you’ll stay!”

Oh dear. Their parents were starting to give him – as the party-disruptor – dirty looks.

(Marty) “Don’t worry, kids! I’ll be sticking around for quite a while. And their ships will take ages to get here.”

He pulled on his oratorical talents to make a calming speech about how strong the Cyrweld fleets were to the kids… That got them soothed in short order; they were little kids after all. Smoothing things over with the parents required a glib tongue, compliments on their kids mimicry skills, and even a few small gifts.

The parents told him not to over-excite hatchlings – and that “It’s a good thing that you don’t seem to have kids of your own!”.

Marty kept his mouth shut on that one.

At least he’d provided material for weeks worth of pirate-raiding games, so the kids would be happy enough once they settled down… Cute little parrot hatchlings with their down. The chittering and mimicry probably got on the parents’ nerves though.

Conley was finding the party experience interesting as well. He’d been to a fair number of parties before, but this one was… a lot more lively somehow, and the people seemed a lot more varied. Was that something to do with so many of them “having souls”?

He really needed to look into “souls”. These people seemed to use an awful lot of words that he’d only seen used to describe vague superstitions as technical terms.

Out at the edge of the Manifold, the Ourath (was that the right term?) wanted to see the Midnight Gardener project first hand.

(Kevin) “Why not? Shall I open a gate there? I don’t know what you used to call me here exactly; it might well be something specific to your own Manifold – so I don’t know if that action will cause a disruption or not”.

(Creature) “It should not be an issue. I had to enter your Manifold to do the summoning anyway. So I doubt that will cause a problem, although you might end up returning whence I summoned you as part of the process.”

(Kevin) “Oh well! I had a social function to attend to anyway! And I’ll instruct my agents there to run a translation effect and show you around. If you have further concerns later on, I’ll drop by in a short time. Will that do?”

(Creature) “For now, although I may have more later.”

Kevin set up the gate – and the release of dimensional energies resulted in him snapping back to in front of the Canine residence. He absently backflipped over a carriage that had been pulling in to the spot where he’d appeared and checked the time…

Fortunately, he’d been showing up a bit early, and so was still well within the arrival window. He was still on time for the party!

And for a message from Marty that he was sharing Conley’s information with the Parrot higher-ups and would be passing it on to share with the Cats.

Well, that was fair enough. He still wanted to catch some Panthers! They made very stylish slaves!

Oh yes!

(Kevin) “My apologies! I fear I was entangled in a summoning!”

(Driver) “Summoning yourself to a location is exceedingly dangerous, learn to use a proper teleport if you are going to try to travel magically!”

(Kevin) “Oh, it was someone else summoning me! That happens once in a great while… Kind of surprised it doesn’t happen more often though!”

That got him some weird looks from the Driver and some of the other party goers. Oh yes… That didn’t normally happen to most people did it? Oh well! Weirdness was par for the course when you were dealing with them!

He cheerily headed into the party… This was the first large, semi-public, event at which his presence was predictable – and he’d certainly made enough of a point of his presence in the city! It was a bit early to expect word to have spread too far, but there might be a few entities who’d been paying close attention to his movements… Now he’d get to see who – if anyone – made an approach. There might be other gods wanting to meet him in a neutral place, demons who wanted to steal his dark power, people who wanted to purchase, rent, or otherwise obtain thralls, people who wanted to make alliances, people who wanted to sell him things, people who wanted kids back, or girls who wanted him.

OK, that last wasn’t the most important reason why he’d been showing off a bit – but it certainly was a factor. He’d displayed vast power, absurd wealth and resources, protectiveness, kindness, consideration, and a willingness to provide indefinite support to go with his incredible charisma. If he couldn’t draw a few groupies and would-be concubines with THAT display he’d have to chalk it up to some sort of instinctive wariness of dark lords or something (even if it apparently didn’t affect dragonesses). .

If he did, on the other hand, he’d have to start wondering about what had been interfering in Core and the nearby worlds.

Oh wait! If this world didn’t really recognize the Light and Darkness as principles, then it might still be a quasi-instinctive avoidance, even if he attracted attention here.

Oh well, if he did it would be fun anyway!

The party was a formal affair, with quite a number of canines wearing uniforms of the city guard and knightly orders. AAAGH! Formal? Oh well, Kevin was doing quasi-military-pirate uniforms of a sort anyway… At least the uniforms fit in well with the overall decor, it was pretty obvious that the place was a remodeled fortification that dated back more than a few centuries…

He waved cheerily at the guard-captain who’d responded to the alarm at the port authority building.

A trio of party-going Canines – two Coyotes and a Dingo – wanted to know how long Kevin had been in the area and what his interests were… Was he just a visitor or was he looking to become a part of the local society?

(Kevin) “Hm. Well, I was originally only planning on a visit, but I think I might stick around for awhile! There are quite a few interesting things going on around here! And you do have quite a lovely city!”

Hmm… According to the local Thralls, the Dingo and Coyote families were partially separate from the larger Canine Clan. In theory the Wolf Clan head was above them, but there is also a degree of autonomy between the families – and, in their own families, these three seemed to be fairly highly placed.

(Coyote) “Interesting, and thank you for the compliment to our home town. A powerful one such as yourself would be a fine addition to our fine city. Relying on the power of a fox for our defense is always a bit shifty.”

(Kevin, giving the Coyote a sharp look) “I suspect that she is far more reliable than you’d think, and may soon be back to her old self.”

(Dingo) “Now, now, it doesn’t do well to be speaking ill of the Eight-and-a-Half-Tails. Sorry, I think what my friend here is trying to say is that he thinks the city would do well to have more than one powerful person to be able to rely upon. You yourself seem to be quite the powerful individual in our estimation.”

Kevin reflected for a moment… Hm… Jerusalem, Gethrid, Kuat…

(Kevin) “Hm. I do often seem to wind up defending cities for some reason. It’s getting to be a habit I suppose.”

(Dingo) “Well I certainly hope it doesn’t come down to actual fighting, but sometimes a good display of power is more than sufficient to prevent hostilities. Interested?”

(Kevin) “What, at the party?”

(Dingo) “No, not at all. We do have a foreign delegation from another city coming in tomorrow though. Perhaps an agreement can be arranged for a good show?”

(Kevin) “Well, I suppose that might be possible… What did you have in mind?”

(Dingo) “Well, I wouldn’t dare presume to tell you how best to use your on power to show off, but I can propose that our clan might be able to provide a number of valuable services in exchange for the effort.”

Meanwhile, Marty was being pinned down by a Magpie speculator, who thought that – if Marty and Kevin were going to be staying for awhile, they’d soon be bringing in another cargo for funds – and that knowing what it was likely to include might bring him a large profit. Especially since the word on the streets was that Marty was taking over the Platypuses to get himself a local trading base. He’d apparently bribed someone at the door to get in.

Well, first up was more of the same! After all, they hadn’t even come close to unloading all the treasure they’d brought along yet. After that… Could be virtually anything, but exotics would be easiest.

Oh, wait! The Magpie was an economic predator! He wasn’t shopping for anything in particular, but whatever they brought in, in the quantities that they’d brought stuff in, would drop sharply on the market. That meant that he could short-sell some stuff, and pick up other stuff at rock-bottom prices!

Well, it was good to know that they were having an effect on the economy. Marty just wished that it wasn’t THAT kind of effect.

He could sympathize with Speculators, but he’d never been able to enjoy working from that kind of remove… That’s why he’d never became a speculator, you were supposed to storm their highrises, not live in them!

He did indeed give the fellow some useful information (before he got ejected). It kept the economy going and all!

Back at the Canine party, Kevin was considering… Were these three representing the Canines, or just their own families? Was this a bit of politicking to upgrade their own influence by showing Kevin as a backer of theirs, or an attempt to push a viewpoint that the Canine higher-ups weren’t supporting at the moment?

(Kevin) “Well, we shall see… When is this visitor expected?”

He was a bit noncommittal – both because he was cautious about promises and contracts and because – if these three were making approaches – the Wolves might be next, and it would be best to know what the options were before deciding.

(Dingo) “The Delegation is expected tomorrow afternoon. I imagine there will be a good deal of ceremony involved in the affair.”

(Kevin) “I shall consider the matter. After all, however, I hold no official position in your city – but things do happen!”

(Dingo) “That is all we ask.”

(Kevin) “And for that much, you are quite welcome…”

Kevin wandered off to see more of the party.

Marty, meanwhile, was approached by Dame Pentwick – a formidable middle-aged Parrot matron with a small flock of daughters.

It was like being approached by a full-scale sailing ship! With a broadside of small talk! She kept shifting from topic to topic too fast to keep her from getting candid opinions!

Uh-Oh! Was she out for a husband for her daughters? She was definitely trying to evaluate him!

He showed a full set of power-seals, and possibly some unique ones (that was hard to say on an unfamiliar subject) – but she was trying to sort out how much of that was authority, how much was personal power, and how much was wealth… If ALL of those were high, or one was grossly so, he was indeed a good prospect for a contract-marriage.

He stuck with his best behavior and conversation – and used his newly-acquired illusion art skills to punctuate points and discuss his business ventures. He did keep quiet as to how much control he and Kevin/Angkor had over the platypi though.

Damn she was good!

She also decided that he was definitely a good prospect, so she started trying to maneuver him into at least a term-marriage with one of her lovelier daughters…

For a moment, Marty considered withdrawing in a panic. With a potential mother-in-law this formidable, no one could possibly blame him! Still, a term-marriage sounded like something temporary… (The local Thralls could assure him that indeed it was; it ran for varying numbers of years, depending on the species and the contract) – and the girl was VERY good-looking… a part of that was doubtless due to cosmetic magic, since it WAS locally endemic, but the natural base looks seemed to be pretty good.

Hmm… He checked on the local attitudes toward married men having concubines!

According to the Thralls that varied a lot with the species too, with some species running towards harems and others pairing off – but mistresses and such were pretty common amongst the upper classes, although being politely quiet about it was expected. It was even more common if the marriage was a political one, or between incompatible species. Some women were rather possessive though.

Oh, like he didn’t know THAT. Abigail’s protectiveness of their kid was why he was divorced!

The daughter seemed a bit shy, but this would be something of an arranged marriage. Mothers did tend to be incredibly protective… Well, she probably wouldn’t object too much to Elerra and Minel then – although he was sensible enough to think that instead of saying it.

So what did she expect? Were the family fortunes getting low? Did she need to marry off a daughter for convenience? Some thought was still in order, even if he was distracted by the girls lovely feathers!

Huh… It looked like she was after… someone who could, indeed, take good care of her daughter, a probable grandchild who would have a strong father-patron, and connections to a wealthy and powerful individual. Apparently a lot of the local potential mates tended to think of her as if she was a fire-breathing dragon.

Oh dear. So that shyness might be a veneer… Dame Pentwick herself had high status, impressive abilities of her own, and intimidated an awful lot of young male parrots, since her standards were quite high. She, personally, was noted for her social and financial skills, and for her mastery of command, creation, and transformation theurgy.

Wow! Well, heck… why not? He’d have to take good care of her and visit a lot, but she sounded like a catch! And those hatchlings were pretty cute! He’d definitely consider it… His ex-wife and Gelman were likely to think he’d gone a bit around the bend if they found out – But if Kevin’s dragon-harem hadn’t gotten Gelman up in arms, a parrot for Marty seemed reasonable. Most of the other Battling Business Worlder’s wouldn’t worry a bit as long as they were both capable of shapeshifting anyway…

Besides, Abigail and Gelman would probably be flabbergasted! That would be amusing in itself! A known darkness-controlled godling was one thing, but your own coworker or ex-husband was entirely different!

Marty offered to dance with her, with her mother’s permission. He fended off a few comments about his two left feet with “All the better for those tough moves!” – but the girl was brave enough to risk the possible accidents…

The young lady was pleasantly surprised – and the rumor that the rabbits had been cursing him got more support. She was quite skilled too! Perhaps he could take some lessons from her, and extend his mystic artistry to dance as well!

Meanwhile, Kevin was getting a number of other party guests looking to learn more about him, his goals, and his visit – and he’d never been good at deception or (really) at being subtle.

It was obvious enough that he was  relatively young, extremely powerful, and surprisingly polite (if with a bit of a temper). As for his goals… He was mostly just integrating into the area and meeting people (although that was a wider goal than any of the partygoers really knew of course). Partly… he was simply on vacation and spending money.

Kevin was a bit sad… A formal party didn’t suggest casual liaisons or much room for seducing a few girls while there – although there were always possible approaches. He HAD been showing many desirable qualities.

He did get one of the Matrons of the Wolf family making an approach and trying to feel him out a bit.

Kevin made no real effort to hide that he wasn’t exclusive (and was never going to be), but he was highly protective of mates and children, was willing to support them in marvelous style, and was otherwise near-ideal for most purposes – barring his tendency to feel that he was entitled to all the mates he could support and protect adequately. He was a bit possessive too – but, oddly enough by Wolf standards, only as long as he was doing the supporting and protecting… If a free female wanted to leave him, that was their business.

(Wolf Matron) “I will admit that few reach such power, let alone at such a young age. Although I do have concerns about that temper of yours. The Port Authority building I think illustrates my point.”

(Kevin) “Well, I felt it necessary to make a point – and it was the quickest way to do so.”

(Wolf Matron) “Indeed, a point was made. But is it one conducive to our own goals is an open question. The adolescent are rash and impulsive, and I think it would take more than impulsive displays of power to earn the respect of others. Tell me, whose respect do you want?”

Kevin had to think about that. Did he want anyone’s respect particularly? It tended to be something that went with roles… Most people were either inclined to offer respect – a sort of social oil and insulation all in one – or not, and there wasn’t really much to be done about it. Was it respect, approval, or simple acknowledgment of competence?

He’d been playing a tough semi-pirate, so someone trying to cheat him was not to be tolerated. The display down at the Port Authority had nothing to do with “respect” really… He’d simply been supporting his role and sending up a power-flare to attract attention.

Did he want the respect of anyone? Who WAS his audience? The Round Table in Jerusalem? The House of Roses? The Core Worlds? The Computers? He was still trying to get his legal maneuvering through there… Dumbledore? M? General Mc’Andrew? The Galactic Elders? Marty? Kelsaru?

A good thing he had multitracking and could cheat a bit on thinking time!

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