As the party headed back to their Inn, Marty was musing… Maybe this would be a good time to try and approach Kevin about Rusty. After all, the kid had just proven how skilled he was in a fight – and that bouncing-happy-puppy routine at the end had been… well, a bit sickening. Being a pet dog was REALLY a waste of a Thrall’s potential… Nah, that would never work; Kevin would just point out that he WAS using the kids potential as an aide, the puppy-routine was just a sideline.
Blasted Core logic.
Maybe an appeal based on how much he was distressing the boy’s mother? No drat it! Kevin knew he was distressing LOTS of parents, and mostly just thought they were being silly!
There had to be some angle though…
On the surface, the first inklings of sunrise were evident beyond the walls and trees as the sky started turning red and the shadows turn blue – evidence that, in a mere few moments, Cyarkian’s tiny sunlet would rise above the rim of the disc.
Back at the inn there had been a rush delivery from Kadia thanks to some of the new magical-gate crafters.
When they opened the door to their suite, their rooms had a new occupant – another dog-child, tricked out just like Rusty, and currently sitting up and “begging” just like Rusty.
Marty blinked for a moment. How had Rusty gotten ahead of… Wait. That looked an awful lot LIKE Rusty, but…
A dreadful suspicion rose.
Oh NO. He’d underestimated Kevin’s ruthlessness when challenged – and he’d just spoken to Mrs Anvari! He’d promised to help her! If he’d said something FAST he might have prevented this – and he should have known that Kevin would go after Anvari’s other kids immediately!
(Kevin, to the dog-boy) “Ah, you’ve arrived! (to everyone else) “This is “Sandy”! He’s Rusty’s brother and is here for a play-date with him! He’s (Kevin cheerfully scratched the dog-boys ears and put a doggy-treat on his nose for him to balance) a good puppy too! He’ll just need a little training… (to “Sandy” again) “Who’s a big old puppy-dog then?
(Sandy, panting and frantically wagging his tail) “I am Master! I’m a good doggy!”
(Kevin, cheerily pulling on the kids ears) “That’s a good boy!”
(Marty) “Gah! Kevin! What the heck? ONE wasn’t enough?”
(Kevin) “What? Isn’t he cute? They’ll make a nice pair! And Mr Anvari will go right through the roof!”
(Marty) “What are you thinking? Is this going to be a habit?”
(Kevin) “Nah! How could it become a habit? Mr Anvari only had three kids, and I’ve got them all now!”
AAARGH! And Mrs Anvari doubtless already knew, and hadn’t called him! Did she think that he’d gone back on his agreement and stabbed her in the back?
(Marty) “As if he hasn’t gone through the roof already!”
(Kevin to Sandy) “Roll over!
“Sandy” panted happily as Kevin ruffled the fur on his chest and stomach – and Marty’s stomach twisted a bit, as he considered how he’d feel if that was HIS son lying there, being a happy, dignity-free, pet dog and obliviously displaying what he’d given up to get that status.
Wait, three? Marty consulted his own Thralls… Oh, Mr Anvari had a daughter as well, barely adolescent – and thus barely within Kevin’s age limits… Currently assigned to… Kevin’s personal palace?!?!
That was the harem!
His thoughts flashed back to Julia.
(Kevin, with considerable surprise and a suddenly swelling nose) “Ow! Yo bunched be! Yu bunched be ib by dose! Ow!”
The pets, of course, scrambled to get between Marty and Kevin – although Marty was already turning away. He didn’t like to pick on kids, but for a moment there frustration had gotten the better of him.
And it wouldn’t even help.
(Marty) “Oh, forget it. I’m getting smashed.”
And, with that, Marty did the divine equivalent of storming off in a huff – stomping over to a local bar and settling down to drink his local body into unconsciousness while he transferred his attention back to Kadia for some heavy-duty brooding…
Some of his younger siblings tried to cheer him up, but they were easy enough to lock out of his building! At least his houseboy knew when to be quiet!
Had Gelman been right all along? He’d been hoping that – for once – he’d known a lot more about what was actually going on than Gelman did! Should he try and make up with Gelman? This… might be beyond him! Kevin had seriously gone off the deep end!
Gelman, of course, DID have the background needed for a more deeply considered view – but, until very recently, had had things exactly backwards – and was currently as full of questions and doubts as Marty was. Whether that fact would make Marty feel better, feel worse, or would simply never come up, had yet to be seen.
For once they were both unsure of what to do – instead of having two very different strategies and wanting to argue. Normally they were both very sure of themselves – Marty from a viewpoint of pure pragmatism and Gelman from a viewpoint of pure morality. This time the problem was big enough that the twain might well meet.
Whether they could solve it without constant blowups was still in question – but most of Kadia was not conducive to those and, in some ways, it was an ideal base for an attempt at a “cure” – and hosted Kelsaru and the Traditionalists (in their classical English Manors and Lonely Castles), among some other powerful telepaths. As long as they didn’t let Kevin OR his “Pets” know what they were considering that might work out.
Back in Cyarkian, Kevin healed his nose and frowned for a moment… Something must really have upset Marty! And he’d… gone back to Kadia? Well, he’d give him a couple of hours to settle down and check on him later; he had puppies to train!
He spent a few hours “teaching” his three pet dogs various utterly undignified tricks, and recording Rusty and Sandy for Mr Anvari’s rage-inducing “gift box” (with the engraved “glass paperweight” / holoclip-projector souvenirs of his sons conversions to canine pets, assorted pictures of them doing undignified tricks, and a note thanking him for the wonderful pets) to be presented by his “near naked and ready-to-be-used” daughter when he arrived at Kevin’s palace in Kadia to argue some more.
That was a very temporary assignment for the girl, but it would give her – as she’d requested – a chance to tranquilize her father and help with his treatment directly!
Anyway, if the gift-box-and-more-naked-than-naked-daughter combo didn’t make him utterly blow his top – and give the computers in Kadia a solid reason to take him into custody for mandatory anger-treatment – the man didn’t NEED anger-treatments.
Raphael simply sighed and went back to sleep for a bit. HE didn’t have the privilege of leaving one identity to sleep for him while he was busy in another…
Kevin took Rusty along when he transferred his attention back to Kadia as well. Gelman had wanted to see him about something, and Rusty would like to meet Gelman too! He was, after all, enormously pleased with both his puppies – and with Rusty in particular. The fact that giving Rusty (and Feanor for that matter) the biggest and best prize possible for a male thrall – being able to follow him around all the time, no duties except to please and amuse him, permission to beg and act silly to get attention, and the attention and affection that befitted a prized pet – would also drive their father into a total rage (and get him some help with that problem) was just lagniappe!
Rusty, Feanor, and he were all wonderfully happy with the situation, and wasn’t that all that mattered? No matter what the silly church and parent – or Marty – thought. They had no right to interfere no matter HOW much they kept blabbing about “human dignity”.His pets were Thralls, and Thralls didn’t HAVE any “dignity”. They had an owner and they were very VERY happy with that!
It was all a part and parcel of his many good works in the service of darkness! And he got a wonderfully clever puppy to keep as a pet in exchange! A dream of many a boy of his age!
Never mind that he chose the puppy by “rescuing” and then transforming another kid, enslaving him in the meantime; the kid had volunteered, and it would all come out well in the end, so there was obviously nothing wrong there – or at least nothing wrong that the parties involved could see.
In Kadia, the Traditionalists were.. rather concerned about Kadia’s legal code; even if the basic philosophy – “If you can’t keep yourself out of trouble in Kadia, you aren’t fit to be allowed out in the Manifold without a leash – so we’ll put you on one until you get some more training” – made a certain amount of sense given the existence of the Manifold and the properties of Kadia. Unfortunately, the “If you want to shortcut the training or get more stuff, you can sign up to be a Thrall; they get GREAT stuff AND you can take the collar off!” codicil made it all too obvious that it was as much a Thrall-recruitment device as a system of “justice”. Worse, it meant that you were free to purchase – or at least rent – adolescent-and-up indenture-slaves for quite immoral purposes! Perhaps worst of all, it worked; once you had a collar on ANYWAY, Thralldom looked even MORE attractive!
It was pretty obvious that “Lord Sanwell” had… created this entire dimension at least partially as a recruiting tool – showing off all the benefits of working for him!
Of course, on the other hand, he really had had no need to open his realm to hundreds of millions of refugees and to arrange for them all to be cared for, protected, supported, entertained, and educated for free – or to devote virtually all of his servants time to charitable works. The “I am so EVIL” routine seemed to be little more than a front to keep people from bothering him too much.
Still, the way he put everything – and made it sound so selfish – made for a lot of discomfort, and kept most of them from acquiring the “I want to work for Kevin” power-package.
Most of that wound up being channeled into some fairly intensive training (especially for a bunch of apparently-frail old men and women), focusing on abilities that let you resist psychic powers and magic – such as that of the Number Lords.
Todd, of course, had more-or-less adopted his Thralls, and was treating them like his kids. He was a bit inclined towards strictness, but that was hardly among the most onerous things that Thralls had to learn to adapt to.
Most of the others were treating them as apprentices or youthful allies.
They also wondered what – if anything – should be done about Kevin – and if it was even POSSIBLE to do anything. Still, at least some therapy seemed in order!
Gelman, meanwhile, had arrived to see Kevin about extended Thrall-vacations – with Sandy along to help with the presentation and such… The Thralls needed more time off. – after all, they did work long shifts when they were on duty, and had a dreadful tendency to treat all their time off as recruiting-agent time – and a requirement that those with decent families who wanted to see them spend some time visiting home would not be amiss (even if – sigh – adding requirements to their vacation was kind of contradicting his own initial request)… Well, at least Kevin was actually quite generous about time off and such; it was just that the Thralls were so eager to please him that they rarely asked!
Kevin was fairly amenable – he’d already set up some such rules, albeit without any of Gelman’s fine-tuned gift for scheduling. Of course, he also noted a certain tension in Sandy that seemed atypical; Mr Gelman was a presumably a fine and reasonable master. What was the issue?
He probed a bit.
Ah. THAT was simple enough.
(Kevin) “Mr Gelman? There’s something you might not have thought of about Thrall-treatment. (He nodded at Sandy). Sandy here seems a bit tense. I believe you’ve been asking your Thralls to remain celibate? That’s certainly within your rights as their master – but it isn’t really the same as asking an adolescent child to remain celibate you know! It’s not like they’re going to grow up in a couple of years, or go away to college, or get married and move out. It’s saying “wait for centuries and – since you are in my service and high-status – turn down many willing partners along the way”. It really would be much kinder to simply have your aides there spayed and neutered!
Oh dear! Gelman had to admit that there was a certain amount of truth there – but they were youngsters he knew! They were friends with his own kids! He couldn’t just send them down to medical and have them desexed like a couple of stray cats! He… well, he was squeamish.
And it was awfully hard to maintain that voluntary personal blind spot with Kevin looking at him. The boy certainly had his own blind spots of course – but he was still Core-educated, and acknowledged them.
(Kevin) “They are semi-permanently at an adolescent hormonal peak too, are sexually skilled, and know exactly what they’re missing. They are your property however, and their treatment is up to you.
Ugh. A direct hit on an “I didn’t want to think about this” discomfort zone – and the “centuries” aspect really hadn’t occurred to him at all. Maybe he should just send them off and check on them regularly?
No, that would never work. Not only were they very helpful – but sending them away was just another form of punishment as far a Thrall was concerned, and they haven’t done anything wrong.
He never should have poked his nose into Marty’s business. At least this time. Not that it had ever worked out before….
Kevin kindly slipped a thought into his head – a tiny whisper that said “Hormone Suppressants”. It really wasn’t any different from surgery as far as the Thralls were concerned – but Gelman would feel a lot better about it, it would relieve some subtle tensions around his household very nicely, and it was generally thought of as less permanent than surgical methods (which, at least for a Thrall, weren’t permanent at all).
Gelman seized on that thought with some relief, and promptly ordered appropriate treatments for Sandy and Illona. That wouldn’t hurt them, and wasn’t a big ethical compromise… That was just MEDICATION!
Rusty had, however, returned to the room while that was going on, and had trotted over to sit up by Kevin and lean his head on Kevin’s knee…
(Kevin) “Anyway Mr Gelman… (as he playfully pulled Rusty’s tail and scratched his ears) what else is up?”
(Kevin, to Rusty) “”Who’s a good doggy then?”
(Rusty, enthusiastically, and promptly sitting up) “I am master!”
Oh dear! That was obviously a Thrall-boy – and sitting up like that, with nothing but a collar on, the neutering and sheathe-piercing infibulation were pretty obvious too!
Oh DEAR. That would be young Verence… Fern Blackberry had called his attention to the relevant newsfeeds a few days ago and he’d given them a quick glance. He’d… liked to think that Kevin wouldn’t REALLY be treating the boy like a dog!
Gelman sighed. He would say something, but it wasn’t likely to help – and Kevin was all too likely to do something else to Verence in an attempt to provoke him. After all, he had just successfully pointed out his own mistreatment of Thralls.
Wait… He had just made a point about Thrall-treatment – and he WAS giving the dog-child a hug-and- cuddle. Why would he…
Gelman carefully probed. He might not be very skilled with telepathy – he was quite new to it after all – but even a superficial probe of “Rusty” showed that the boy’s mind was wide open – and that he was deliriously happy with his situation. That Kevin was… indulging Verence as best he could, and was… ALLOWING the boy to be his personal pet and was ALLOWING him to be fixed so that he could come into the harem and sleep at his feet!
That was another thing he’d rather not have known! It didn’t make things easier in the slightest! The blasted child was… a never-ending source of dilemmas, moral difficulties, and choices between evils!
He tried probing with small talk. This was a bit much even for Kevin after all!
(Gelman) “You seem to like your new dog, Mr. Sanwell. Do you plan to get any others?”
(Kevin) “Maybe one or two more to go with the two I’ve got now, but I don’t have time to indulge too many this way!”
(Rusty) “I’m really REALLY lucky! I get to go with Master everywhere!”
Well, that was a bit of a relief there. At least this seemed to be a special thing.
(Gelman) “Understandable. And I suppose you are in a special position, Rusty.”
(Rusty) “I set a precedent! Master Kevin’s ownership of all of us Thralls is being recognized in Core now! I’m legally property everywhere I go! Isn’t that wonderful? Now Master Kevin doesn’t need to use euphemisms any more! And that’s why I get to stay with Master and be his doggy!”
Oh dear. He’d been too busy to get the full story on that one.
(Gelman) “Well. That is definitely a major precedent.”
The more things changed, the more they went back? The Jewish people had kept slaves once, although that was one thing that he had hoped would never come back!
Still, Ruth had owned one for awhile… How much did motives matter?
Looking up Kevin’s arguments…
- Since the Thralls were inherently obedient, would do whatever their master’s told them to do, and could be modified at will, pretending to ask them what they wanted was hypocrisy at best.
- Failing to recognize them as property was simply failing to recognize reality – and such a failure also meant that their Masters had no responsibility for what the Thralls were told to do or for their care.
- Recognizing Thrall-ownership got them neodog-style care standards and made their owners responsible for what they were ordered to do.
…just made the headache worse.
Well, he had to admit that that WAS the case since their first focus was Kevin’s well-being and happiness.
Sadly, that didn’t stop him from being uncomfortable about it – although he was being polite and trying not to show it.
Of course, Rusty was now perhaps the most famous of all Thralls – and, for anyone who really looked into being a Thrall, he was also a clear warning of what MIGHT happen.
Wait… pretending that they WEREN’T property was entirely to Kevin’s advantage – and he had thrown that advantage away in pursuit of honesty.
That actually helped.
Sadly, Rusty could easily tell that he was making Mr Gelman uncomfortable, and so he did not get to angle for an ear-rub from him.
And now guilt? It wasn’t RUSTY, really! It was what Kevin had done to him… even though Rusty had wanted him to do it and enjoyed it! He felt bad!
The binding was getting less and less objectionable the longer he spent in Kadia – it was after all voluntary, temporary, and included so MANY benefits – but the fact that the boy was fixed, and being treated like a dog, and that Kevin saw it as indulging him – even if the boy DID enjoy it – was just SO WRONG!
And now Kevin was scratching the boys ears fondly and feeding him a sausage!
(Kevin, looking at Gelman again) “I can see you’re uncomfortable… But he likes it, and I like him, and it will be only for a few centuries – in the face of millions of years to come. There are much worse things than being happy for awhile, even if what makes people happy is odd by your standards! Is there any real harm here?
The boy did have an uncanny ability to sense these things. And… the child was very happy, and it wasn’t like it was permanent.
(Gelman, sighing) “Certainly not. I suppose I can’t help it.” (And it is a bit of prying, but…) “Is Mr. Tabard more comfortable with this? I know he’s traveled with you for many months now.”
(Kevin, frowning) “I… think he’s rather stressed. He’s gone and gotten some morality – pro
bably derived from you – mixed in with his usual complete pragmatism and love of violence, and he’s not nearly as used to thinking through such things as you are. Given that I’m at the middle of his confusion I can’t help him out much with it. I suspect you might be able to help him out though!”
(Gelman) “Wait, he’s stressed?”
Gelman went deer-in-headlights for a moment! He hadn’t even thought that that was POSSIBLE!
He hastily sent out a trace-command on Marty. Who knew what lunacy he might get involved in to help him cope?
He was home and… NOT DRINKING?
(Gelman) “I think I should leave right now. Thank you for letting me know, Mr. Sanwell.”
(Kevin) “Oh you’re welcome Mr Gelman! I hope that you can help him out!”
The thought struck him on the way out… Kevin had just managed to make him feel that Rusty-the-Dog was just another acceptable-if-strange social relationship, and… he couldn’t even say that the boy was wrong. That was just SO WEIRD.
Still, he headed for Marty… Stressed? Impossible! He had to witness this to make sure that it wasn’t some kind of prank, and help if it was indeed the case!
- Federation-Apocalypse Session 187 – The Vengeance of the Demon God (ruscumag.wordpress.com)
- Federation-Apocalypse Session 185b – Orders and Laws (ruscumag.wordpress.com)
- Federation-Apocalypse Session 184a – Vampires or Lawyers? Vampires please! (ruscumag.wordpress.com)
- Federation-Apocalypse Session 184b – The Return of Ruthless Ruth (ruscumag.wordpress.com)
- Federation-Apocalypse Session 177 – Family Matters (ruscumag.wordpress.com)
- Federation-Apocalypse Session 183b – With an Order of Mushrooms (ruscumag.wordpress.com)
- Federation Apocalypse Session 175 – The Darkness Wandering (ruscumag.wordpress.com)
- Federation-Apocalypse Session 172a – The Wheel of Incarnations (ruscumag.wordpress.com)
- Federation-Apocalypse Session 188a – The Blossomary War (ruscumag.wordpress.com)