Raphael had been pretty happy where he was… OK, running about the Manifold was amusing in some ways – but learning centuries worth of Core Technology – which worked in FAR more places than Imperial Technology – was utterly fascinating. Deciphering the secrets of the Singular Cellular Replacement Technology (and why it slowly failed in Core) and all the other exotic technologies that came into the House of Roses had been challenge enough to fill a hundred lifetimes. He’d upgraded his robots and such a good deal, simply in testing his theories. A depressing amount of the technology that was brought in was reliant on the oddities of it’s realms of origin, or simply made no sense at all – but there was plenty that did, or which suggested new lines of inquiry.
He hadn’t stuck his nose outside the laboratory complex (although, admittedly, it included facilities in several realms (including Kamigawa, where he was studying linking and gathering), to provide greater resources and to allow the use (and study) of magic, powerful psionics, and other methods of analysis unavailable in Core) in MONTHS – and even then it had only been for a mandatory meeting and luncheon. There was so much to do!
Then he was called in for a non-technical conference. Both Emperor Skywalker and the House wanted him for something…
What in the Manifold would cause BOTH the Empire and the House to pull him out of the lab? Was it his Outbound Flight project? But that was SIMPLE! All it involved was launching a normal-space near-lightspeed laboratory flight into deep space from the human world farthest from the Ourathan invasion! With a link through the Manifold, it would be virtually impossible for the robots to ever interfere with THAT. He couldn’t let the robots steal the right to figure out the only independent set of laws of physics from humanity!
They wanted to know about that “Kevin” kid he’d traveled with? Well… An Opener, a fairly minor mage, a minor psychic, and – sadly – with some sort of ability to bond kids to him as special agents – although at least it made them competent. What could the kid possibly be up to that called for the Emperor’s attention?
The construction of his own realm, the recordings of the battle against the Hellstorm, and the synopsis of Midnight Gardener made it a lot more obvious what was up. Worse, the kid was now OPENLY recruiting and binding other kids, and claiming to be a Prince of Darkness…
Had the kid been concealing that kind of power all along or had he really made a pact with the powers of darkness? And he was attempting to restructure the galaxy? On his own, and without even asking for advice?
Yes, that deserved investigation. It was worth at least a diversion from his work; he was one of the few scientists who’d had personal contact with the boy…
The fact that he currently seemed to be most active in Ciarkian, a realm that was relatively near Kamigawa (and one of his laboratories, where he’d been researching the creation of magical artifacts and summoning)) and the fact that he might well have developed from Gatekeeper to Opener status – his powers had improved a great deal recently, what with the ever-increasing flow of energies between the planes of the Manifold – just made him even more ideal for the task.
The trip from Kamigawa was fairly straightforward – and it was easy enough to spot the high-powered newcomers to the city that HAD to be Kevin and Marty. An adolescent wolf-mage accompanied by a small horde of magical children and playing at being a privateer and a military… parrot?
No, that COULDN’T be anyone else.
They didn’t seem to be up to much besides socializing and random interventions in things that were none of their business – and it looked like they’d be attending a series of parties.
Well, it was easy enough to arrange an invitation.
The party was a formal affair, with most of the hosts wearing military and knightly order uniforms. You also see the powerful adolescent you believe to be Kevin as a wolf. He is currently cornered by a Wolf Family Matron and being asked a number of difficult questions.
At that party, Kevin was answering an awkward question about “respect”. Sadly, the wolf-matron had him flustered enough to answer candidly…
(Kevin) “Hm. Actually, destroying and rebuilding the Port Authority Building had nothing to do with respect. I simply needed to live up to a particular role, and to find an excuse to ensure that my presence here was sufficiently conspicious. The casualty was unfortunate; I had not anticipated that someone would be stupid enough to stay as the building slowly came down; I left plenty of time to escape by crawling, much less by any sensible means. As for gaining the respect of others… Those who are inclined to respect others usually need no prompting to acknowledge their accomplishments, while those who are not so inclined never truly do.”
Raphael checked… Yep. The wolf-adolescent was wearing Smartclothes, and it looked like no one else in the area was – except himself of course. Well, those usually worked. Everyone in the Core tended to just accept them as background.
He tapped into the communications system to ask Kevin if he needed a distraction to help him get away. The kid didn’t need one – but promptly struck up a simultaneous conversation with him. Multi-tracking? An unusual discipline for a kid…
(Matron) “All about playing a particular role then? I think there might be a problem when a bit of role-playing causes you to destroy and then rebuild entire buildings. Let alone cause the deaths of others, regardless of how readily avoidable it might have been.”
(Raphael, privately) “Hey is that you Kevin? Its me Raphe. Need some help getting away from her?”
(Kevin, to the Matron) “The death was unintentional and regrettable – if possibly reversible – but, in this case, accepting a role was necessary”.
(Kevin, to Raphe) “Hey! Last I heard you were buried in a lab for Oracle knows-how-long! Did you finish, escape, or get out on good behavior? I don’t think I need help here, but what in the Manifold are you doing in this realm?”
(Raphael, privately) “Oh I got out for good results some time ago and went to study magic a few gates over then found this place mostly by accident. Then I got a request to investigate some project you are up to with the notification that you were in town.”
(Kevin, privately) “Oh? Which project?”
(Raphael, privately) “Oh it was something about a gardener in the dark or night or something.”
(Kevin, privately) “Oh, the galactic rejuvenation project? I might have known… Still, I suppose you’re a good sign! I was wondering what was going on when the first query ews from an alien…”
Over at the parrot party, Marty was getting acquainted with the young and beautiful Lady Fenwick when Kevin called…
(Kevin, privately) “Hey, Marty! Raphael’s here!”
(Marty, privately) “Really? Haven’t seen him since we ran into the Wingates!”
(Raphael, privately) “Wait, did she just say you were responcible for that thing at the docks? I was hoping that was a time gernade gotten caught in customs. Damn. I was really hoping to get a look at one.”
“Thing at the docks?” Oh! The Port Authority Building of course.
(Kevin, privately) “Oh yes, that was me… Kind of had too. The port authority actually.”
At the parrots, Dame Pentwick had left Marty to get acquainted with Ms Fenwick as the party wound down.. He spent some time talking to her; Her mother had virtually gotten him to sign a marriage contract already, and he hardly even knew her yet!
She did seem to be pretty nice, if not as formidable as her mother… That had been like trying to stare down an entire board meeting!
(Matron) “Necessary? Very well, the motivations of others isn’t my concern so much as the actions taken based on those motivations. I have reservations about dealings with you, despite what the others might think. Your actions make me wonder what is making the decisions: you or the power you claim to wield. I suspect that is a question you must face, and face alone. I shall be keeping an eye on you and your friends I think.”
(Raphael, privately) “Are Marty, Jarvian, Benedict, or any of the others still around? I really have been out of the loop for a while.”
(Kevin, to the Matron) “And that is quite fair enough; I have only been here a few days, and you SHOULD have reservations about dealing with me… Now, are you too interested in some form of “demonstration” tomorrow?”
(Matron) “Demonstration? To what end?”
(Kevin, to the Matron) “I as informed that there was some diplomatic purpose in putting on a show tomorrow, although the desired form was carefully left unspecified”
(Matron, her eyes narrowing) “Diplomatic you say? Would you be willing to tell me who is interested in such a demonstration tomorrow? I would most like to have a conversation with them.”
(Kevin) “I suspect that would be considered unfair. I take it that you feel that such a thing would not be politic? As a stranger, I fear I have no idea what they wanted, or who they wanted to impress, anyway.”
(Kevin, privately, but bringing Marty into the hookup with Raphael) “Jarvain is currently managing a battlefleet we picked up, Benedict vanished some time ago, and I never even tried to find out where that idiot paranoid agent – whatever his name was – went.”
(Marty, privately) “Hey Kevin… and Raph! How’ve you been?”
(Matron, sighing) “Bother, well I shall recommend against you performing any sort of “demonstration” tomorrow. And it seems that others still don’t seem to realize how ill-advised such a measure might be.”
(Raphael, privately) “Oh pretty good. I have found some interesting toys to play with and spells to sumon them so I dont have to lug them around.”
(Marty, privately) “That’s great! We’re actually on vacation here, hoping to attract some attention. Not doing too badly either!”
(Kevin, privately) “Now that is handy! Some of our opponents – actually a set of quasi-dopplegangers made a lot of trouble that way)”
(Raphael, privately) “I can see how that would be a problem… Do you have any recordings of it? It is always nice to steal your enemy’s tricks”
(Kevin, privately) “Sure! That was the fight in Middle Earth, where Ryan’s clone was playing Feanor.”
(Marty, privately) “Ah, that WAS fun! He was a tough one, that’s for sure!”
(Kevin, privately) “So, any other reason why you’re here Raphe?”
(Raphael, privately) “Oh just studying magic and psionic effects locally looking to see in animal instincts caused any interesting divergences from most of the other places I have explored. The local colleges are really quite nice here. Never can get enough new tricks. I will need to talk about Midnight Gardener some time but it can wait… I think.”
Kevin looked around the party… None of these people would tell him what they actually wanted! How could he give it to them then? Worse, the place had no games, no fun, no one talking but elders showing how dominant and in-control they were… How depressing!
Marty had to laugh. At least no one had tried to marry him off yet! Not that he was finding it too objectionable…
With no one asking for him, and no reaction from the Matron on suggesting that he could bring back the idiot wolverine guy, and no trace of fun anywhere (there were some kids and adolescents around, but they were all so on their best behavior – and so obviously bored – that he got the impression that they were leashed – although there were a few that seemed to be as obsessed with appearances and perceptions as the adults), Kevin went to talk directly with Raphael; he was more fun!
He seemed to be attending as a foreign Fox researcher, with white robes and every sign of being a mage that he could possibly manage…
(Kevin) “Well, that looks stylish! Haven’t seen you since… that mess on Baelaria I believe? This party is less fun I fear… I think it’s more of a formalized bit of dominance-sorting than an actual party. I’m beginning to be sorry I didn’t go to the Parrot party instead.”
Marty promptly volunteered to make excuses for him at the Parrots! The party was winding down, but it was still more fun than being quizzed by cranky matrons!
Alternatively, he could come over there after chatting up his new fiancee!
(Rapheal) “Ah well, not all is lost. I do not think I would have found you so soon if you had not come here… unless some annoying jedi coincidences have rubbed off on me.”
Well… It was worth a TRY at livening the place up! Maybe starting a few party games of his own since the hosts were such sourpusses as to not have any of their own? Take pity on the bored kids? Per Marty’s suggestion, tell the youngsters stories about the Big Bad Wolf and then claim that it was his autobiography?
Well, probably not that.
Perhaps he should just get a bit of a sub-party going… His tolerance for people who wouldn’t say what they wanted was minimal; it seemed to be pretty much a timewaster.
Kevin promptly gathered up the kids, along with Raphael, and headed out into the garden – and into a much more interesting Kadian amusement park. Why not? They could all have some prizes, and he could just assign a few thralls to holding the gate. The adults could posture, he was going to make sure that SOMEONE had a good time!
He did keep it discreet; he just set up a walk-through route down one of the paths in the hedges.
The Thralls on staff – more from Ciarkian – handed out lots of credit tokens, so that the kids could go on rides, play the games, get prizes, buy souvenirs, and stuff themselves. They wouldn’t be allowed to overspend though; this was a party!
Marty resolved to head over that way. Kevin had no real sense of “consequences” – or of how his powers (and his casual use of them) would look to relatively normal people, and some of the ensuing confusion should be fun!
He spun a few final tales – and impersonations of people he’d met in his travels – for the Parrot Hatchlings who weren’t taking naps and left with his new fiancee.
Hm. Kevin was showing restraint! He wasn’t enslaving the kids in retaliation for being bored! No matter how cathartic it would be!
Oh well. To be fair, he didn’t do that – and probably wouldn’t want to.
(Kevin) “Rapheal? welcome to Kadia.”
Raphael was a bit disappointed in some ways… The fey forest was impossibly inviting and perfect, the rivers and falls were perfect, the cities were full of greenways and lovely, there were loads of amusement parks and inviting recreational facilities – but it wasn’t really that impressive or strange looking compared to Core itself. There were large numbers of magical creatures of course, but nothing much in the way of really exotic environments… Very welcoming though.
Ah, there was some of that elsewhere according to the local net, it was just a long ways off.
Wait, how big was the place?
An… open-ended divergent hyperbolic geometry? With a fractal pattern of short-cuts? Now THAT was exotic for an inhabited world! Subtle though… A lot of spare, and very obliging, computer capacity too – although there was some evidence that an intelligence had moved into the network. The basic system was – once again – modeled on Core’s, albeit with some changes to the legal side and recognition of Kevin as the creator-overlord.
Better than 80% of the kids came to the promise of a better party.
(Kevin) “Well, that party was boring, so we’re having a better one here! Enjoy the park, anything you win in the games is yours to keep, and you’ve got enough tokens to play, ride, or eat anything here for the day and to buy souvenirs…”
He set a greeter at the gate, in case worried parents showed up and demanded explanations. After all, with the gate open they were effectively still on the grounds, and would be easily traceable with a simple spell. If anyone still got upset, he could come in person if necessary.
The children all scampered off to the various games and rides, while the adolescents were mostly preoccupied with the sights, wonders, and entertainment – although a few of them were too engrossed in each other to worry about it.
Raphael decided to get down to business – and inquired about Midnight Gardener.
Unfortunately, he didn’t get much past the publicity-spiel before they were interrupted again.
Marty was on his way… The young lady was quite personable, and far more lively when her mother wasn’t standing over her – and she had quite a few interests, including the exotic creatures of other disks on the tree and of the trunks and branches. She found the number of variations just fascinating!
He might have to look for some!
The first adult through was a drunken dog servant, who was rude, but promptly left again…
The second was a Jackal mage who came through the gateway after tracing its magical energies and started excitedly asking the thrall greeter a large number of arcane questions. Raphael found that amusing and convenient. He was examining the effects of the longstanding and imbalanced gate on the local space anyway.
Third was a Raccoon Dog mother searching for her little girl by scent – who started having a serious fit.
(Kevin) “Is something wrong?”
(Woman) “Where’s my child? You have a lot of nerve, opening up gates all of a sudden!”
(Kevin) “Well, just ask the remotes (he beckoned to one). Where is this lady’s daughter at the moment? And why shouldn’t she have a little fun? The park is perfectly safe, and she was bored to tears…”
The kid was currently in the giant ballpen.
Kevin had the remote display an image.
(Kevin) “See? She’s having fun.”
(Woman) “You could have said something, you know!” She will calm down as she looked around though… “You wouldn’t mind if I joined in, would you? I was a little bored to tears myself.”
(Kevin) “Not at all. Here, have some tokens! You can ask any of the remotes for directions if you need them!
(Woman) “Oh, shiny! This gate is remaining open, right? You’re not trying to trap us?”
She looked for signs of lying, but there didn’t seem to be any. Evidently the boy did indeed intend to leave the gateway open.
(Kevin) “It will remain open until everyone is home – or possibly longer it the children request it.”
(Woman) “Well. I’m off to the ballpen, then.”
She maintained proper decorum, but that did look like a lot of fun there!
(Kevin) “Have a nice time!”
Raphael laughed and threw in a few electrostatic charms to keep the balls bouncing around and to provide amusing effects. It led to an occasionally-surprised raccoon-dog mother and a lot of delighted kids.
(Jackal) “Amazing piece of magical work here. I’ve never heard of anyone able to manipulate space like this before except in legends.”
(Kevin) “Ah well. It’s a knack, and the kids were bored.”
(Jackal) “Can this sort of thing be taught? How mutable are the local laws? How big can you make it? Is it permanent, or does it require constant maintenance or need to be rebuilt every so often?”
(Kevin) “Oh, this one is permanent. The local laws are only mildly mutable once established. The size is potentially infinite; the more people who opt to live here, the larger it can become – and I set no limits on its borders. I’m afraid that only parts of that particular knack can be taught or shared though”
(Raphael) “Wait are you talking about the dimension or the gate?”
(Jackal) “The pocket dimension of course. Although given a potentially nigh infinite size, I am not sure the term pocket dimension really applies…”
(Kevin) “The current population is approaching a billion or so.”
(Jackal) “A billion you say? Surely you jest?”
(Kevin, gesturing at a remote) “As of the moment, 1,108,576,143 residents”.
(Jackal) “Fascinating… I wonder where they all come from?”
(Raphael, somewhat appalled) “Already? this was not made the last time we met was it?”
(Kevin) “No, but I’ve been taking in a lot of refugees.”
(Raphael) “Oh, the refugees. that would do it. I keep forgetting the scale of those.”
(Kevin) “And they come from a variety of places; there are quite a lot of areas with really nasty wars and such going on.”
At about that point, eight wolf parents pursuing their children came through the gateway. Two of them immediately retreated through the gate – but the others immediately began arguing with the Jackal mage.
(Parent) “This is your doing isn’t it? You just cannot stop playing with the weird magicks can you? I swear if any of our children are harmed from this, we will personally see to it that you are banished from the city!”
(Kevin) “Actually, it’s mine. And your kids were bored silly, so I gave them somewhere more interesting to go – and they would have to work at it very hard indeed to get hurt here.”
(Raphael) “Well that sounds like a glowing endorsement of your creativity! We will have to trade stories some time. I have been looking for interesting magic and psionic effects for a while now.”
(Parent 2, to the Jackal) “You created this? I find that a little hard to believe. Illusion magic of this scale is difficult to say the least.”
(Jackal) “It is not an illusion. Why is it that everyone thinks that it’s my fault? And this isn’t an illusion, but a pocket dimension of the greatest sort I have ever heard of.”
(Kevin) “Oh, Illusions are not one of my talents.”
(Parent 3) “You created this because you got bored at a party?! And it isn’t an illusion?! Just who are you and what do you want with our children?”
Marty, who had just arrived, had to admit that this WAS the kind of attention that Kevin had been seeking!
(Marty) “Oh he just opened a gate here this has been here for months at least.”
(Kevin) “I was bored, they were bored, so I let them come play here. What’s wrong with that? Oh, and I’m Angkor, although I must admit to other names… Oh, since you’re here, here are your park tokens, and you can ask any remote (wave more over) for directions or a map display or a communications link.”
Some of the parents immediately went looking for their children – but several others were backing away quietly and another pair went back through the gateway.
Raphael quietly directed his robots to keep an eye on the guys leaving to see where they went – and to watch for signs of a mob coming to make havoc.
Kevin and Marty didn’t care about mobs. They were welcome too!
The robots reported that the ones who were leaving were off to report the situation to the guards. The guards were chaotically massing outside the portal when the Wolf Matron showed up and started verbally shaking them out of their tizzy – barking orders and is giving them directions to keep things quiet for the moment.
Marty had to laugh. He’d been hanging around with Kevin so long that he’d forgotten what his current powers looked like from outside… An adolescent with far more power than the locals usually ascribed to their own gods had come to their party, gotten bored, made off with their children to a pocket dimension of astounding size and power, and didn’t seem to have the slightest notion of why this might be seen the least bit out of the ordinary. They were doing well to not be panicking outright. Not everyone was like Core, and accepting of kids wandering off into the Manifold!
Kevin really didn’t see the problem. Pocket dimension spells weren’t that hard; Kadia was just big…
The Matron led the guards through the gateway, quickly glanced around the place, and firmly suppressed her own reaction to it – while the guards proceeded to gawk and stare.
(Matron) “I had a sneaking suspicion that you would be at the center of this debacle. Got bored with our little party I take it?”
(Kevin) “Well, the children were bored too, so I gave them a route to an amusement park for the evening. Why not? It’s a very safe park, and they can play without distracting everyone else from their verbal fencing.”
(Matron) “It’s also considered rather rude to take people’s children to other dimensions without asking. I especially object when the person taking the children is a known trader of child slaves. You’re lucky that a mass panic didn’t start with parents flinging offensive magic around. Boredom isn’t an excuse to do whatever you want for the sake of entertaining yourself and others.
Hm. It looked like the Matron had additional sources of information!
(Kevin) “Well, my apologies for any upset (he did mean that; he had figured that anyone who wanted to check on where the kids were would just use a bit of magic – which would work fine with an open gate); that’s why I made sure to leave the gate open – so anyone who wanted to know where they were could easily find them with a simple linking spell.”
(Matron) “In the future it would be wise to let the parents know beforehand, instead of letting them get concerned and have to discover for themselves that their children have been spirited off. Would you be pleased if someone came along and spirited off your child when you weren’t looking? Even if it was for a bit of “harmless” fun?”
Raphael started tapping into the local magic just in case this went sour – and was pleased to find it remarkably easy to use, even if that did lead to quite a power surge… He spun it into an astral summoning. It might be handy to have a guardian-creature to call on. He manifested a construct with natural invisibility and some armor and extra durability in front of himself just for kicks.
(Kevin, sighing) “Mine tend to wander off on their own even without anyone spiriting them away – but I always make sure that nothing serious happens to them.”
(Matron) “And how would you claim to manage that? Children are notoriously inventive at getting into mischief.”
(Kevin) “When I created this realm, I made sure that being killed simply results in waking up in the morning here. I extend that benefit to those children who come under my care wherever they may happen to go. It does help with their safety.”
Kevin was beginning to wonder… Would they be able to get anyone important to come to them? They might be better off winding down the rest of their Ciarkian commitments and checking in with the House of Roses.
Marty had to agree. He was getting a little antsy too. While he had been enjoying his wings and talking to people, there was work to be done!
Raphael wasn’t quite so sure… He wanted to see the demonstration at least.
Well, they did have a couple of local commitments.
(Matron) “And does this benefit extend past this…. realm of yours or is it simply an innate property of this location? And is this tied to all those child slaves of yours too?”
(Kevin) “It extends to anyone I set up the basic link to. The children in my service receive that benefit along with a fairly wide variety of others – and it does indeed function anywhere they go. There wouldn’t be much point otherwise.”
(Raphael, looking oddly at Kevin) “I never thought about it before but that is kind of similar to a living hearthstone effect.”
(Kevin) “I think it’s related in some ways, although the available power seems somewhat greater.”
(Matron) “An interesting analogy – although I suspect that the link has issues if the child is ever killed. Such as the binding becoming permanent until they can grow into the abilities through their own power perhaps?”
Hm. Was her source of information in Hogwarts? It would explain a lot!
(Kevin) “It depends on the link level. The lesser links simply last until they’re given up, but provide limited benefits besides being recalled here to wake up if they’re killed. The link with my agents does indeed last until they grow into the powers I bestow. Have you encountered something along those lines before?”
The Matron spent some time on divinations and careful choosing of words before trying to answer that.
(Raphael) “I wonder if hearthstones are hindered by their nonliving nature trying to enhance living things.”
(Kevin) “It seems reasonable; they probably can’t grow and adapt to it properly… Is that what you’re working on these days?”
(Raphael) “Oh no that is just something I picked up locally mostly I have been rounding out my knowledge of magic and studying tapping into the energies of whatever dimension I am in… It has caused some weird concepts to occasionally pop into my head.”
Marty was showing Fenwick around a bit… She ought to meet Kevin, and have some idea of just what she was getting into, well ahead of the wedding!
(Marty) “My friend has his own pocket dimension. It’s very convenient for some things!”
He took advantage of a momentary lull in the conversation to introduce her.
Kevin bowed to Ms Fenwick…
(Kevin) “And I don’t believe we’ve been introduced… Here is your party welcome package though!”
(Marty) “Thanks Angkor. This is Miss Fennwick.” (Telepathic link: “She’s going to be my next wife.”)
(Kevin) “Ah, Raphael, Martin Macaw (Tabard).”
Kevin was covering some shock there – mostly about the high speed! Marty couldn’t have known the girl for more than a day!
(Kevin) “Why then, I am honored!…” (Privately) “Does she have any idea what she’s getting in to?”
(Raphael, waving to Marty) “Hi again!”
(Marty) “Hey Raph! Good to see you again!” (To Kevin) “Well, she knows I’m wealthy and powerful, and that’s what her mother was looking for. I’m going to tell her the full truth before we make it official, though.”
(Raphael) “Good to see you too… good to be out of the lab.”
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- Federation-Apocalypse Session 152 – In the Houses of Healing (ruscumag.wordpress.com)
- Federation-Apocalypse Session 145 – Of Sailing Ships, and Sealing Wax, and Platapi, and Kings from Emergence Campaign Weblog (ruscumag.wordpress.com)
- Federation-Apocalypse Session 141 – Of Plasma, Penguins, and Puffins (ruscumag.wordpress.com)