Federation-Apocalypse Session 184a – Vampires or Lawyers? Vampires please!

John Lomax, South Africa lawyer en tennis play...

We're coming to take you away!

Off in Star Wars: Galactica*, yet another group had taken entirely the wrong turn, and were calling for rescue. The realm they’d fallen into had all too many gates – but they all seemed to lead to more variations on the same realm! Even worse, it seemed that the casualty rates were likely to far exceed 100% thanks to the widespread cloning and duplication of all the important characters!

Bad fanfiction could be very hard to escape from even if you were the captain and the crew of a small planet that was probably plotted to play some vital role in the conflict.

*An obscure fanfiction realm tangent to Star Wars, The Children of the Lens, and BattleStar Galactica) the long war was coming to a close. The sapient stars of the two galaxies had been seeded with battle stations and the equally-sapient planets were in use as light cruisers in the “ultimate” war against the Sith Hordes – who were controlling a fleet of enslaved stars and were attempting to run off to join the Sith Galaxy.

Yes, it was THAT kind of universe. There would be trouble there later; the group contained a set of House of Roses agents with some very valuable information along.

Meanwhile, back with Kevin, Marty, and Raphael – oddly enough – all of them were pondering upcoming court cases…

Marty was most worried about the upcoming case with Abigail in Core; his legal team would be at a definite disadvantage there – although weird things could still happen. Besides… weren’t there some jurisdictional questions or something? It wasn’t like he was a lawyer! There might be testimony from supernatural entities whose weak children Kevin inadvertently snagged, manifold adventurers testifying, their odd attorneys, arguments over which dimension’s laws apply in dimensional crossroads – and all kinds of attempts to make it an argument and precedent over Kevin’s Thralls rather than about child custody in his particular case!

When it came down to arguments about Kevin’s ownership of Thralls… That was a tough one! Kevin was a friend, and he owed him a lot – but he had some pretty big doubts about the Thralls! Social responsibility and – and parental disapproval (whether justified or not) – were pushing him tor argue against; he hated to think of a son of his serving as one of Kevin’s cheerful attendants. While that wouldn’t happen to his kids of course – Kevin had said they’d get the “enjoy yourselves” orders if they did sign up – he could feel for other parents!

Still… It didn’t really seem like it could be stopped at this point, and the Thralls WERE doing a lot of good even if a tiny percentage wound up in “personal service”. Despite those personal doubts, he’d almost have to testify “for” ownership… Perhaps it could be limited? Put in more organization and restrict the “attendant” positions to kids who’d indicated willingness BEFORE becoming Thralls and who had either no parents, or parents who didn’t care, or parents who had no emotional trouble with the “long term benefits” argument?

He did have some leverage anyway. Everyone in the “he agreed to work with these people” group had at least a little – except that secret agent guy who had opted out of the group. Maybe he could did up Benedict and double up that influence? Kevin WAS addicted – even if it hadn’t been strictly voluntary – and he’d be loathe to give up or limit his taking of Thralls… And would certainly argue that they are needed to open the Manifold to everyone else, to move planets, to operate the Midnight Gardener project, and so on.

Maybe he could push for more reforms, rights, and treatment agreements though. And more actual organization… That would mean working with Gelman – but he owed the man an apology anyway. Pesky “responsibility” was slowly bringing him around to the man’s point of view… Some more managers would be useful too. Gelman was good, but he was only one man.

Oh GODS. Had he just thought that middle management – at least in it’s place – was a good thing? Anyway…

Maybe not too many reforms though! There needed to be ways to punish idiots like Ikeran, and Kevin certainly had a nicely appropriate-and-ironic touch there! The kid REALLY should have known better! And he’d hate to deprive Julia of her Thrall-Pets-Bodyguards!

Drat. He’d worked his way around back to Julia and Abigail – and he really had been trying to avoid thinking about that.

Kevin was mostly thinking about the Jesus Realms and a recent request that he appear to testify on Shayhian, in Core. Anything that might have a bearing on his formal ownership of the Thralls in Core and more legalistic worlds concerned him deeply – even if the question was fundamentally just one of labeling. He owned them – but it would be nice if he Owned them and could rent out their services, modify them, and so on without having to bother with subcontracting or rotating them in and out of more legally accommodating dimensions!

There was the practical point too… Youngsters who really wanted to sign up with him could not really be prevented from doing so! A strong desire to work for him would give them a little power – enough to work a soul-dedication ritual which would bring them to Kadia when they died, and enough to control their own bodies well enough to simply drop dead if they wanted to! Once a kid had the idea, and the desire, Thralldom was almost inevitable!

He made a note to make it to Shayhian, even if he had to manifest an avatar there as a special effort! That one was coming up quite soon!

Raphael was thinking of the nightmare avalanche that Kevin’s claims of godhood – and of an assortment of biblical precedents – the old “My Sheep, My People”, “And none shall take them out of my hand”, and so on – could unleash. That could get SO messed up, and would stir people up in a thousand realms if it got beyond the courtroom!

Plus, of course, Kevin’s claims that he was doing it for their own good actually had some merit. It wasn’t just that they could get killed otherwise, or that his contract actually was a really good deal, His argument that he only wanted legal recognition that he owned them because – at the moment – he could order them to do things and not be held responsible for it when they did them, and because there were obligations to care for your livestock well, and supervision, and rules, but no such rules applied to what people “voluntarily” did to themselves – even if they had no ability to disobey the person who ordered them to do those things.

He… couldn’t say he approved. It was better to take your own risks and have your successes be truly your own! The only thing that Kevin was offering that they couldn’t get on their own with a far shorter period of knocking around the manifold adventuring was…

Well, OK: a guarantee of survival, a perpetual stream of material indulgences, instant power with a complete lack of responsibility, and the sure-and-certain knowledge that they were valued and cared for – even if it was as pets. It was still a grossly unequal relationship – but at least the soul-bond went both ways and the whole arrangement WAS only temporary.

Besides, it would be foolish to try to stop Kevin from collecting those kids who WANTED to accept Thralldom… He had already shown that it was possible to acquire the trick to doing so accidentally – and having a supply of children that had been told ‘no’ lying around was just asking for someone else to come in as competition. Worse, whoever that turned out to be might not hold together nearly as well – or be nearly as benign

That didn’t leave a lot of choice; he’d have to testify on the “allow it and make them property” side. After all, it was true – and he really didn’t want to have a precedent for it going the other way if someone figured out the trick to doing something similar

Once Marty managed to shove Julia and Abigail into the back of his consciousness again, it had partially resolved itself. His sticking point was organization… He’d never been big on that personally – but with tens or hundreds of thousands of Thralls running about there needed to be a reasonably clear chain of command. Maybe they could set up separate thrall groups for each dimension or something? Kevin was still trying to run the projects he was interested in at the moment personally and leaving the others to Gelman and/or whoever was handy when he pointed and said “Someone go and take care of that!” – and that was just silly.

While Gelman had been doing his best, he wasn’t really all that familiar with the Manifold, wasn’t entirely clear on the resources available, and certainly wasn’t used to operating on such a scale. The Thralls had gotten to be pretty decent at providing their own, small-scale, organization (especially since Raphael and Gelman had been suggesting some skills along those lines) – but they really weren’t up to the large-scale stuff; it required too many command-level decisions.

He… had been trying to avoid thinking about it – but he was going to have to play mentor a bit and take a more active approach to getting things sorted out. At least enough so that people didn’t go off making decisions that he or Kevin would disapprove of without very good reason.

Or go ramming the backs of other ships! That was just silly!

What had happened to that kid anyway?

Oh, knowing Kevin, probably something like what he’d done to Ikeran. Oh well, he was another one who’d earned it. That “We can’t really die!” – with no concern for all the sailors who COULD – had been pretty astoundingly self-centered!

Raphael was thinking of suggesting a secondary communications link with a computer to allow for project tracking, policy updates, brief lectures form Kevin on what he actually wanted done, and so on. Present generic instructions just would not do! Even the Thralls had more than enough power to create some incredible messes when directed that way!

It would have to be one heck of a computer system to handle tens of thousands of magical links though. Still, Kadia had vast amounts of unused capacity, and magic to back it up, and even the baseline Core computers the system was modeled on WERE pretty good.

Wait; What kind of communications were the Thralls using now? There had to be SOMETHING.

Well, it wasn’t like he didn’t have a thousand or so available! He could simply ask.

(Thrall) “Oh… Well, in Crusader and the New Imperium, and a few other places, you can usually just place a call! Other places you can send letters and couriers! Some places are close enough for telepathy and magic! Most others we have to call Master Kevin directly, but we only do that if it’s REALLY urgent because he’s very busy!”

Wait, what?!?! The only direct communications links they had were through KEVIN?!?! No wonder there was so little organization! The boy couldn’t possibly he handling more then eight or ten channels at a time, and there were hundreds of thousands of Thralls! Even using telepathy, the system had to be impossibly congested!

Kevin never had thought of setting up the Thralls with independent communications! After all, HE was in charge of things!

(Raphael) “Ok… I really need to talk to him about adding some automation to that. that is no way to run an organization this large when it is so simple to extend the conection to his realm a little bit. Perhaps we could hook you up to the computers of Kadia as a secondary link; that might be handy for a lot of things. Could you remind me next time we check in with the lead boats?”

(Thrall) “Certainly sir!”

(Raphael) “It already has a strong connection to him so it should be doable.”

(Thrall) “Uhm… Are you going to be one of Master Kevin’s regular associates from now on?”

(Raphael, thoughtfully) “I think so. I have been the lab for far too long.”

(Thrall) “Will you be needing any more staff?!?!”

OK, the fact that the kid was currently an anthropomorphic dog certainly aided the impression – but the big brown eyes, pleading expression, and wagging tail were pushing the image of a lonely-but-frantically-eager puppy in a pet shop window into his brain.

(Thrall) “Most of us never get to work for Kevin even as close as being a crewman on a nearby ship! I’m good at all kinds of things!”

(Raphael) “… Suuurre…”

He wasn’t quite sure how to take that look…

(Raphael) “I could use some help with a lot of things, but I will have to wait till after we get to port and I talk with Kevin… Are any of the others on this crew shift capable of a telepathic link to Kadia? Specifically the group working on computer maintenance. It would be nice to be able to give specifics and organize this before I suggest it to Kevin and he surprises the system with a bunch of new open communication ports with no hardware changes detected.”

(Thrall) “Only a couple of us at the moment! I can get one set up quick though!”

More of that eager-pleading look… Raphael resolved to change the subject to get away from uncomfortable situation of talking about possible employment as quickly as possible.

(Raphael) “That would be helpful.”

Still with the pleading-eager-willing-puppy look. What was up with the kid? Thralldom was about as secure and safe as employment could get! Was it… literal?

Raphael pushed down the worry that it might be another of those things he didn’t want to know – like the time he tried to divine how a mech from one of the anime realms was powered – and gave it a shot.

The kid knew – right down in his soul – that he was Kevin’s property, and loved that, and desperately wanted to serve him. Just working for him was good, but being closer to him was even better! Belonging to, and working for, one of his associates would be almost as good as working directly for Kevin – and Kevin tended to assign Thralls to his friends and allies.

The kid was jumping at the possibility that Raphael might be willing to own him – regardless of hardly knowing him and of having no idea at all what Raphael might want to use him for. He was eager to be an aide, or a steed, or a familiar, or whatever Raphael might want!

That was exactly what he’d been afraid that look meant.

Well, he had no need for a steed; he had the robots for that. “Aide” was far better – and far less disturbing – than steed, or familiar, or (much worse) many of the roles that were further down the kids mental list.

Oh blast! That made it nearly obligatory! At least any HE accepted wouldn’t wind up being used for anything like THAT.

He’d talk to Kevin about accepting some aides – including (sigh…) this kid.

He needed to get some basic reports from whoever was actually running the computers of Kadia – if it was not the computers themselves – on ways to connect and handle a cross-dimensional remote link

Kevin quite cheerily agreed to let Rafael pick out a dozen or two Thralls (including the one kid who’d asked) to start with, and to transfer their power-links to him so that he could draw on their power reserves and they would regard themselves as being formally assigned to his service.

Raphael would have to think about that; the Thralls did have some variation automatically, and more with training – and he’d have to think about what he was needing.

Marty made sure to tell him that “Female, Beautiful, Not Resembling My Ex-Wife, and Naked” was likely to lead to problems – particularly if you’d unconsciously kind of like a kid. The Thrall-girls were FAR too obliging that way!

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