Federation-Apocalypse Session 163 – The Celestial Gardens

NGC7331, a spiral galaxy

It was quite a view

With the Wolf party winding down in a burst of gossip and Marty engaged, Kevin had another bit of business before the Cat party (for himself and Raphael) and the Rabbit party (for Marty).

(Kevin) “Hey Raphael! I promised an alien that I’d drop by one of the Midnight Gardener stations he went to look at after the party… Would either you or Marty like to come?”

Raphael considered that… A genuine alien? Kevin did tend to be rather precise about such things… It probably came of opening gates so much; you had to be precise about such things or you’d wind up in some private alternate reality instead of where you wanted to be. Still, genuine aliens were pretty scarce…

(Raphael) “Sure! That would be quite helpful.”

Kevin was calculating… He didn’t want to upset the Wolf-guards by disappearing through the gate he’d just opened and re-appearing elsewhere. They were nervous enough already. That meant either spending more Mana or… heading for the Amarant Solutions office, or perhaps – if one would be needed later anyway – making one at one of the Platypus holdings.

It had better be somewhere quiet anyway.

It was about three miles to the Platypus holdings, but only about one and a half to the Amarant Solutions offices… off to Amarant Solutions then!. The security there was pretty good, and they could presumably have business there – and could just call in few Thralls to keep an eye on the gate. Besides, that way they could use existing gates and save Mana!

Raphael gave Kevin a bit of a funny look there… Was that part of being unable to change? It wasn’t like Kevin really NEEDED to be conservative about Mana any longer! On close inspection the links with his followers were pretty obvious… Come to think of it, it was hard to imagine something much more dangerous than an unrestrained Opener… Was “conserve mana” another one of Kevin’s personal rules designed to keep his own powers in check?

Kevin always tried to conserve mana! You never knew when you might need it!

Kadia had only one complication along the way – a group of mercenaries / slavers wanting to be paid for kid-collecting. The thralls and administrators were having issues with the requested payments… they wanted about triple the ususal payout and the services of a Thrall-healer. They were claiming “hazard pay” in consideration of the ugly depths of the Manifold that they had retrieved this batch from – the Sanatorium Realm, a world of madness and despair liable to drive even the most stoic mad.

So they needed a psychic healer. Preferably a thrall healer with mental healing abilities. A thrall healer and the services of a mental healer would also suffice. You could never have enough healers when going adventuring!

Well, quite a lot of the Thralls could do that. As long as they were actually retrieving kids from a really dangerous place (rather than just buying them elsewhere and claiming it) that was all right… Perhaps they’d like an employment contract and some special benefits rather than a price-per-kid deal? That might help keep other slavers from trying to jump up their prices.

Anyway, he’d allow it this time. The Thrall they took along could report back on it if they were up to anything inappropriate.

Wait, Godzilla had tried to come in and had been stopped at the gateway for insurance reasons?

Hopefully that wasn’t the Manga-Ninja-Godzilla version. He’d have probably snuck in anyway, ad would be lurking in the infinite reaches of Kadia. .

He didn’t bother trying to find out. What would be the point? It wasn’t like even Godzilla could actually wreak the place, and the guest areas were well defended.

The trip to the gateway to the Midnight Gardener Station and walk through it. On the other side there was a massive bay with a force field serving as a barrier to space on one side. Cargo traffic was coming and going busily, and automateded drones flitted back and forth through the shield every few minutes carrying equipment.

Kevin asked where the alien was – and belatedly hoped that they didn’t have fifty of them now.

Currently on the bridge, speaking to chief engineer with the assistance of a Thrall?

(Kevin) “Well, lets go him then… Wait. Where did I get chief engineers? Did the project management go and hire some or something? Oh well! Chief engineers probably go with space stations and starships and such!

Raphael nearly choked to death right there. No engineers on a project this big? just relying on computers or something? He put out some queries VERY fast…

Project management had hired a few specialists dealing in megascale projects shortly after the project was started. It was felt that relying entirely on the computers for something this unusual was a bit short-sighted.

And Kevin… DIDN’T KNOW? He’d started a project to RECONSTRUCT THE GALAXY and he wasn’t even keeping track of it?

Kevin didn’t see a problem. He had Thralls to handle project details! Some of them had engineering skills, and presumably they would sort it out.

Raphael nearly throttled the kid on the spot. That was incredibly casual and careless! OK, the kid WAS running a massive organization that had apparently been more-or-less thrown together at random from nothing over the last six months – but STILL. This was one of his major projects! SURELY he didn’t have anything bigger going on! Was he running THIS on the “Hey You!” system?

Was the boy any more in control of his projects than he was of his powers?

Raphael finally found his voice again as they approached the bridge.

(Raphael) “What no engineers on this how could you…”

He twitched again. That sentence seemed to have knocked something loose in his brain.

On the bridge there were a number of technicians, engineers, and thralls bustling about. The Ouratha – easily recognizable as a tall blue alien with four arms and two legs looking vaguely like the Ourathan robots – could be seen discussing technical details with a man in an a large formal lab coat while a Thrall provided translation services.

Kevin waved cheerily, and kept half an eye on the conversation while looking at the view. He’d never actually been out to one of the stations before! The plasma-clouds boiling into space, and the edge-on view of the milky way, were both quite impressive!

(Kevin) “Oh, some of the Thralls who know some mechanics and such would have gotten on it! See? If they need outside advice, they get some. So I guess they hired some people…”

Raphael was looking around in some horror at the idea of this being made without any engineers – or, perhaps worse, with a random selection of talented kids and whoever they thought would be good at it from around the Manifold.

(Marty) “Kevin, you’re scaring Raph!”

Marty had to agree though! It was a very nice view!

(Kevin, to Raphael) “What? There are enough Thralls that some of them are competent at virtually anything!”

Marty didn’t think that Raphael knew that though. It was a classic management strategy! Keep throwing people at it until they’d killed everyone on the opposing side (and the project was thus a success) or until you ran out of funding and got killed! It worked in Battling Business World! It was taught in the “We Have Reserves” management school!

 The alien made some unintelligible gesture, and the Chief Engineer turned to look at them.

(Chief Engineer) “Ah, you must be Kevin. I am Chief Engineer Gunter Meschic, although most of the local personnel call me GM for short. What can we do for you today?”

(Kevin) “Oh, I was just here to oblige our guest here (indicate the alien). He – well, “He” for short anyway – had some concerns about the project.”

(Raphael) “OK, I can deal with this. Surely even a child would have figured out that you need some decent engineers and hired some good people. It was not built with no plans or design… just the guy who had it built did not start with the right people. I can deal. It’s not going to explode.”

Marty gave him a look. He didn’t sound too convinced there.

(Marty) “How’s it coming along, GM? Have you had any problems?”

(GM) “We’ve been covering the basics of portal control, throughput, mass distribution, and several other technical factors. Currently we are discussing some of the potential design proposals I have come up with to accelerate the project and how to better compensate for the Dark Energy issues we’ve been having out here.”

(Kevin, reaching back to old basic science courses) “Trying to push things apart is it?”

Hm… Looking around it looked like they were trying to do a lot of things with technology, rather than just relying on bunches of Thrall-Gatekeepers – leaving the Thralls to focus on the gateway.

(GM) “That and the field intensity is a bit unstable and unpredictable over short time scales. The long term trends follow mainstream physical theories. We are also having issues with interface zone of the gate. It seems the creation laws on the other side are interacting with the Dark Energy field here and causing pair-generation.” (

Raphael was recovering himself as he got some of the plans loaded into his computers and the robots for analysis. Now that he suspected that they might have been designed by amateurs, he was giving EVERYTHING a harder look.

(GM) “The ‘storms’ of pair generation we sometimes get are annoying, but given magical healing and sufficient shielding, we can keep the damage at bay. I would like permission to import some “big ticket” items for experimentation on that note. Apparently Project Management wishes to defer to your judgement on some of these items.”

(Kevin) “What kind of big ticket are we talking about here?”

Raphael was… finding a curious lack of elaborate technologies. At least in the original blueprints there wasn’t anything HERE but a… big ring of basic orbital habitats They were using solid-state, low-powered – but perpetual – Casamir power systems, mounted basic ion thrusters but were holding station against the pull of the nebula they were creating by… using magnetic fields to thrust against the plasma stream they were gating in. Basic greenspace-life-support setups, standard atmospheric and water leak-precautions (but a low priority there since they could be resupplied from Kadia or from the plasma-stream on a moments notice), and one big magical ring – in the overlay zone of the gateway, where the continuous-creation local rules partially inverted entropy and paid no attention to conservation principles – which pulled in, and helped focus, the plasma stream. Wait; it also… did the maintenance? Reversing metal fatigue, component aging and failure, and general wear and tear, by cycling the stations through the inverted entropy of the continuous-creation zone – affecting inanimate objects strongly, but people only enough to prevent aging and… restore sanity?

Good lord. The boy really DID intend for his stations to last for all eternity – or at least until long after the natural heat death of the universe. Nothing too complicated for simple, self-maintaining, effects to keep in repair. There was even enough shield-capacity to handle almost anything that could be expected out here… Still big things did not always scale up properly – and it was handling the radiation coming off anything in the area and directing the plasma.

Kevin was pleased. It was pretty much what he’d specified, even if the engineers had tacked on a lot of research areas… A multi-thousand-mile-across ring-station, mostly consisting of standard linked modules. After all, the only reason for having a station at all was to provide the Thralls holding the gate with someplace to stand while they were doing it.

(GM whipped out a datapad and started reading.) “Let’s see, I would like neutronium, about 30 meters should work for initial tests, although if results look good, I would then like to upscale to more. Some very large scale shield generator systems, I know a place in the New Imperium that can meet the scales required. And lastly I would like to get an asteroid habitat moved out here for a number of minor reasons.”

Wait, where was he from? The New Imperium?

(Kevin) “Uhm… Neutronium really isn’t stable around here. Shields are easy – and there should be negative energy systems in the standard designs… I presume you want an asteroid habitat in case the Kadia gates are unavailable?”

Raphael was calculating… What kind of pair production would it take to overwhelm the shielding? Or was it taking place inside the habitats? What good would neutronium do then? Still…

(GM) “Yes, always plan for failure of the gateways. I have been most interested in seeing how well a large mass does at suppressing the Dark Energy field around here. This station isn’t in the right configuration to confirm that hypothesis though. Sadly, the use of the Negative Energy shields proves to be a double edged sword. It better shields the station, but at the expense of intensifying the storms we get. We haven’t had a scenario yet though where the shields were close to being overloaded, but I like redundancy. So use of low level shields and lots of mass shielding has proven best.”

(Kevin) “Uhm… We’re ten thousand light years or so outside the galactic disk. Will these radiation storms even be detectable at the edge of the galaxy? Because if the shields collapse, the station will be irradiated. If something goes wrong with the neutronium confinement systems, you’d have the mass-energy of most of a stellar mass going up in a burst of radiation, which could substantially damage the galaxy – and there’s always that possibility. This station is intended to last for the next few hundred trillion years. ”

(Raphael) “You do have people here who have to survive full shifts and the equipment will not like it either.”

Wait, would the anti-entropy properties of the creation realm cover that? He wasn’t used to engineering involving tailored universes. Throwing that kind of power at things seemed to be both overkill and unsporting somehow.

(GM) “But the math doesn’t suggest… Oh! Not for direct shielding (he called up a display) it’s to see if a nearby mass reduces the dark energy field! All we need is a chunk, not plating over all the stations! If that works, then we might want to establish a few stars out here, rather than just leaving ALL the plasma to fall into the galaxy…”

Ah. That did make more sense!

Raphael had been briefly confused – but he’d just called up the experimental data

(Raphael) “How much pair generation are you getting? you might be able to switch to some other scheme for shielding. Armor scarabs might actually be useful if the realm next door is capable of having them enchanted for self repair while there.”

Kevin was considering… It would take a LONG time for stars to begin forming. They were feeding plasma into the outer spiral arms, to feed stellar nurseries under the usual physics. Was it just that the projecte engineers were unused to thinking in terms of “we’ll need to keep rebuilding and maintaining this station periodically for all eternity”?

Meanwhile, Marty was enjoying the view. The soft glow of the shields with the occasional crackle of lightning across them was oddly hypnotic. The view of the galaxy – and a few of the “nearby” galaxies – were the only prominent features. He could make out a few halo stars – but the view of the deep field with nothing to drown it out was quite spectacular.

The computers helpfully pointed things out… The lesser galaxies which surrounded the Milky Way were closest – the Sagittarius Dwarf Galaxy, the Large and Small Magellanic Clouds, Canis Major Dwarf, Ursa Minor Dwarf, Draco Dwarf, Carina Dwarf, Sextans Dwarf, Sculptor Dwarf, Fornax Dwarf, Leo I, Leo II, and Ursa Major Dwarf.

Andromeda, with it’s attendant dwarf galaxies – M32, M110, NGC 147, NGC 185, And I, And II, And III, And IV, And V, Pegasus dSph (aka And VI), Cassiopeia Dwarf (aka And VII), And VIII, And IX, and And X.

The Triangulum Galaxy, the third largest, and the only other ordinary spiral galaxy in the Local Group, with its Pisces Dwarf satellite.

They really were lovely… He’d have to visit some time!

Marty used withcraft, transmutation, and divination (courtesy of the nearby Thralls) to boost his senses and see more… beautiful galactic coronas, expanding jets of gases and radiation from the black holes at the core which couldn’t be seen from earth, new stars beginning to shine within dense nebula, and the blazing linear nebula where plasma – irradiated by that “pair production” stuff the technical types had been discussion (according to the computers) was flowing through the immense gateway and beginning to collapse in turbulence – the earliest signs of the density fluctuations that will eventually form stars.

Relayed views from telescopes and cameras pointing away from the new nebula provided astoundingly clear images of the deeper structure of the cosmos, unimpeded by the stars and dust of the galaxy – and with minor spells to correct for various errors. Out there, the station could easily pick up the radio chatter from civilizations in the nearby galaxies. Marty started listening in on that…

Meanwhile, back with the technical bunch…

(GM) Pair generation is usually in the picograms per minute per cubic kilometer range, although we have had substantially higher spikes at times.

(Raphael) “So the actual problems are way more radiation than anticipated from the volume of the interface zone, and the dark energy – and warped natural laws of the gateway – are causing it. You’re worried about a gate collapse from an unpredictable spike of radiation killing everyone on the station?”

Kevin, of course, was looking at the infinite void with every intention of claiming all infinity and infinite time for humanity.

As usual, Marty’s thoughts were simpler: “I wonder what the markets are like over there?”

Raphael was considering… Was there anything in the design to stop the plasma from slowly forming a star around the portal? It was emerging at several hundred miles per second, and was being accelerated into the universe, which would help prevent it – but the dark energy effects might throw things off… Ah, It was relying on the gravitational attraction of the outgoing plasma stream to keep drawing off the accumulating gases. The Dark Energy simply added to the thermal and kinetic expansion…

Huh. This might actually be a tolerably sound – if grossly simplistic – design, even if it DID involve massive cheating. Maybe there was something to redesigning the cosmos to suit yourself. It was also a GREAT location to launch another Outbound Flight project from.

Sadly for Marty, even with translation and formatting spells (courtesy of the local Thralls) to properly display it on the audio and video feeds the end result was almost as incomprehensible as the basic radio chatter. Whatever cultural stuff was going on in those feeds, it probably only made sense if you understand the local cultures.

(Kevin) “Oh well. Sorry Marty, but that stuff will be at leat a million years out of date anyway… It’s still kind of cool though!”

Marty kept recording anyway. Who knew? There might be a need to visit!

(Alien) “This is an ambitious project. A bit too ambitious considering the timeframe you are trying to implement it over. How many of your own people are even aware that this project is going on?”

(Kevin) “Oh, I made a public announcement! Of course, that was mostly in Core… Are we counting people in the manifold? A solid majority of them are pre-technical…”

(Alien, wearing a look that could only be translated as exasperation.) “Fledgling species giving immense power to fledglings…..”

(Kevin) “Why? Won’t it work?”

(Raphael) “Hey its not like anyone here really knows how he got that power. it must have been a really small group involved in giving it to him and I don’t think anyone involved intended to give him anything like this power.”

(Kevin) “Oh, it was a very unlikely accident mostly! But since I have it, this seems to be one of the proper uses!”

(Alien) “All of this power you are throwing around and you don’t even seem to know where the bulk of it is going. How many times have you nearly lost control?”

(Kevin) “Oh, twice I think! But once was almost getting lost in an identity, and the other time I got vaporized which was distracting. I think I’m getting the hang of it!”

Marty looked a little unsure – but not too unsure. HE hadn’t blown up yet!

(Alien, turning to Marty and Raphe) “And how does this make you feel? Knowing that the one with the power to reshape galaxies has nearly lost control twice now?”

(Marty) “Uhhh… not good, but I try to keep him from getting that far.”

Kevin fumed a bit. That wasn’t fair! Any Opener could start importing mass-energy, it only took a lot of gatekeepers to keep it at steady-state instead of bringing it in in big lumps and making a mess! He could be blowing things up like the Hellstorm, or tormenting billions like whats-his-name, or trying to blow up creation like that one looney… He tried to work on making places for people to live, and what did everyone do? They complained! Bah Humbug!

Everyone, including the alien, just ignored that.

(Raphael) “Not that great, but it I don’t think him losing control is going to be that much of a problem. I know how his powers work and they would likely just kill lots of people and leave a destroyed realm in their wake, but it is not nearly as bad as you make it sound. Plus a little nervous to stand next to him.”

(Alien) “Now, do you know who gave you this power? One of your dark lords of the….. abyss of whatever you call it?”

Raphael looked on with curiosity.

(Kevin) “Oh, I got some of it because I was linked to another opener when he blew up a bunch of them.”

(Raphael) “Were you an opener before that?”

(Kevin) “Oh yes. And a mage, and I’d studied some psychic stuff, and I’ve picked up some other bits and pieces since…”

(Alien, although the translation spell seemed to falter a bit.) “Oh…. for the love of…. if you got this much, I can only imagine what happened to him. Who is he and where can I find him?”

(Kevin) “Oh, he dumped part of the power onto various other kids who started doing various nasty things, and a bunch onto a ship which started blowing up planets, and some into a snake which turned into a basilisk, and some bits elsewhere, and some onto copies of himself which have gone mad, and the last of onto some sort of apocalyptic figure who’d turned down the role. At the moment he’s stuck in some sort of memory-dimension based on his prior life and I haven’t been able to get enough on the place to fish him out again yet.”

(Alien) “And yet you still haven’t given me a name.”

Raphael suddenly remembered that he was talking to an actual alien, and clamped down on his urge to reassure the guy that Kevin’s power was mostly just in collecting other people’s power and was not as impressive as it looked.

(Kevin would not have agreed. The cosmos was clearly made for people, and they’d been given the ability to restructure it. There WAS no greater power than that of a mass of people working together!)

(Marty) “His name’s Ryan O’Malley. What, were you thinking of finding him?”

(Kevin) “It’s Ryan O’Malley – I think. He’s gone and died and come back in several other forms since he started with that name.”

(Alien) “Not so much. One moment.

The Ouratha began to make gestures with his hands. A circle formed on the floor of the bridge – and the alien took occasional glances at Kevin during the process.

It looked like… Summoning again? Kevin didn’t know how well that would work on Ryan. HE could be summoned, but Ryan had dumped all his demonic powers. Had his last true rebirth been as a Panda-Warrior back when he’d blown himself out of middle-earth to Iluvatar?

The alien looked to be making an overlay zone in the circle. There was a considerable amount of power being focused on the effort. It didn’t seem to be a magical summoning so much as just pulling the target through the gateway… It looked like the alien was blowing a lot of power on the effort – and might not be able to do any “magic” in Core for a long time.

Kevin supported him. There was no reason a guest should have to strain himself when he had plenty of power available… He didn’t want to overload reality in the area – there was a big gate there after all – but otherwise he let the Alien have all the power he wanted. After all, if he managed to pull Ryan out, they wouldn’t have to go after him!

Reality seemed to twist and turn around them as the various panels in the control room begin to give all sorts of alarms… The power-draw was immense – and Kevin was feeling pretty hot… Raw power flowed into the overlay zone – and then simply vanished with a crack of lightning that thundered across the bridge as the energies imploded into the center of the circle and detonated.

Marty dived for cover (along with the rest of the bridge crew), Raphael threw up shields – and Kevin spun a bit of time around himself as he threw up a containment – but he wasn’t feeling well; that power surge wasn’t as bad as Revan’s had been, but it wasn’t fun.

He wound up feeling very disoriented, as he gained another field of vision (a snowy, forested, road) – and found himself dealing with massive bleeding, tissue damage, and loss of mass.

The alien did not seem to be in much better shape.

(Kevin) “Ow!”

Bother! He’d just been making the power available, not pushing it into the mix! Ryan had to be REALLY stuck!

Marty let the Thralls handle the magical and psychic first aid while he handled the mundane side of things for Kevin. The alien would just have to rely on the Thralls; he had no idea of how to handle injuries on him…

(Kevin) “Drat it! We’ve gone and bilocated or generated avatars!”

The alien was oozing blue fluids, and was currently kneeling on the floor.

They returned to Kadia to get treated. That made it a lot easier – although Kevin had to note that his “other” self was not healing readily at the moment.

Hrmmm.. The place was hard to reach, the local natural laws were probably VERY restrictive, and the copy had only gotten a tiny segment of his power. Was this the same general process that Ryan had used to make his insane duplicates?

(Alien) “It looks like wherever he is, Prohibition is in effect. That does not bode well.”

(Kevin) “Prohibition?”

(Marty) “I already don’t like the sound of that.”

(Alien) “A phenomena rarely encountered and not very well understood. Certain places get a lockdown on all supernatural meddling of any sort. (The translation spell began to have issues) Magic, psionics, reality editing, super-science and what-have-you all become prohibited. Since the use of reality editing gets prohibited as well, that suggests something very powerful is preventing their use. What do you know of that locale?”

(Kevin) “Apparently based on a rather horrific episode in pre-nuclear history, a huge war based on some sort of crazy ideology. Ryan apparently died during it, and now is stuck in a realm based on it.”

(Alien) “And as I recall, your species has a belief in a higher power, and has an organization dedicated to this?”

(Marty) “Yeah, the Unified Church. What do they have to do with it?”

(Kevin) “There are some areas they don’t want opened – and they can focus a LOT of people on that.“

(Alien) “That war must have been a truly horrific event. Probably near species wide I suspect. I believe it would be best to consult with this Unified Church of yours then. They might be able to tell you why it has gone into Prohibition.”

(Kevin) “Well, we shall have to ask them. Unfortunately, I seem to have an aspect stuck there now, which is a bother. Ah well. I trust you’re all right?”

(Alien) “Indeed, the episode drained me considerably, and might have killed me if it weren’t for the intervention. Thankfully your assistance was available.”

(Kevin) “Well, can’t have people getting killed while I’m the host!”

(Alien) “Unfortunately, I must let my powers rest for a bit before continuing on. It does not do well to wander another species Manifold without access to my own abilities.”

(Kevin) “I can assign you a few assistants… Have you any requirements for proper resting?”

The alien went into detail regarding his “native” environment and the conditions therein. Apparently sunning themselves under a green sun was part of their… behavior patterns.

(Kevin) “Well, that should be easy enough to arrange.”

Well, it looked like getting Ryan out would be a project…

Kevin’s new avatar surveyed the area… A warzone of course. Pretty battered. Eastern Europe, possibly Poland. Yep, that fit. So did the fact that virtually none of his abilities were working. Sadly, he couldn’t speak polish, wasn’t familiar with the area, and was used to relying on magic. On the plus side, his physical abilities and genemods were fine – and he could tap into plenty of information elsewhere.

Raphael took a look. This was bound to be an exotic link, and Kadia made plenty of magic available, and he had a recent set of scans to compare with.

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