Federation-Apocalypse Session 192b – Dragon Hunting

Dragon

And what do YOU want - Mr Miheco?

Sartheri had used his shapeshifting to take a much smaller form, run his smartfibers around the area, and set up a variety of cloaking magics and observation methods by the time Philsantias carefully emerged from his pocket-dimension.

Ah! Indeed a young adult male silver! A powerful mage, either with psychic abilities or some sort of magical access to very similar powers, and… with powerful traces of dimensional energies about him! Most likely another dimension-hopping young gatekeeper intoxicated with the raw power of a draconic identity and believing that Lord Ailill’s territory was just another minor Manifold prize waiting to be claimed! Not too uncommon – and it was always pretty amusing to see them learning better beneath the master’s talons! Lord Ailill would doubtless find this one a useful property once he had been captured, emasculated, and properly slave-processed!

Still… the fellow was a powerful dimensional mage, and possessed enough power over reality to cancel out his own powers along those lines… If he emerged now, it was very likely that the silver would get away. That would never do!

Sartheri started calling for proper reinforcements!

In his pocket dimension, Philsantias watched the four depart and sighed… It looked like it would be best to wait for a couple of minutes before trying to slip out himself! That way the security patrols would be scattered as far as possible. It looked like Ailill was trying to solve his security problems with brute force – lots of dragonslaves on patrol, with plenty of magic and gear, but not a lot of training…

Might as well put the time to use. He hadn’t gotten a lot on Ailill’s actual operation – the place (“School”. Sure) was VERY well shielded – but a show of diligence might inspire them to add a bit of a sweetener to his payment for sticking his neck into this trap!

Among other bits he reported that a bunch of random, adolescent, dragon-slave guards had managed to chase an invisible construct on the ethereal plane (that might be very important for the next team to know) – even if they had been so poorly trained that all four of them had gone after it…

Wait. Oh freeze it! The guard-patrols normally operated in groups of five!

Down in the depths of the Dragon-Identity, Raphael was shaking off the sensory fugue and adjusting… Good grief; with local identities THIS strong the place was something of a trap! It would be so EASY to shrug off his memories of being human and let the dragon take over! That way beckoned instant respect and social status, easy wealth, physical and magical power, and enhanced sensuality with many partners and scores of children as your rightful due. From the memories that came with this identity… Even without doing anything at all save for arriving here, he had… five dragon-concubines, several estates, and four dragon-eunuchs of his own. For the draconically-amusing price of defeating a few easily handled phantasms, he could have added them and their properties to his holdings.

His “payment” for this high-risk mission (apparently quite a few agents had been lost before on it) would have almost tripled that on one quick throw of the dice.

Where was Kevin anyway? He ought to be somewhere near him or Marty, and Kevin was the one who made a big thing of keeping up an identity in the Dragonworlds… Of course, if Kevin was around, the odds of the most tempting target around belonging to a phantasm had slipped a long ways towards zero… Well, his challengers would live – as dragons, even longer than in Core – and enslavement was what they deserved for going after a huge tempting prize without checking to see why it was still available!

Huh, The dragon was leaking over into his normal thought patterns there.

Oh DAMN. If “Ailill” equaled “Kevin” it would neatly explain how a youngster had acquired such a huge holding, and such wealth, and was meddling with the social structure of the entire galaxy – and why he had such a huge harem…

And that would mean… That at least some of he pursuit was going to be made up of the be-damned THRALLS in dragon-form! Each one eager to prove to Kevil/Ailill that they could handle little things like an intruding dragon without disturbing him.

Well SHIT.

That thought got through to the dragon-identity as well.

Burn and freeze it! If one of the security patrol had stayed behind to observe… There’d be reinforcements on their way already!

Philsantias hurridly threw up some construct-armor, reinforced his concealment spells, moved into a new, mobile, pocket dimension (sealing the gate behind him), sent off more decoys, and started the place moving… He couldn’t travel very fast that way, but if he headed for the hills he’d be out of Ailill’t territory in a few hours – hopefully before he had to simply put his freedom on the line in a combat-challenge.

Sartheri swore to himself… Shellcrack! That call… This wasn’t just the usual nonsense of an adolescent-to-be-enslaved! This was ORGANIZED! It was nowhere near worth bothering Master Ailill with though! At least… not yet. So the Metallics were sending disposable spies? Were they trying to take over the Master’s holdings, or just the school? The Master could certainly handle a single spy, but an alliance of the Metallics could be real trouble! It wouldn’t do at all to have them infiltrating the Master’s harem! He’d react VERY badly to that!

AND the fellow commanded a very great deal of magical power! He was a VERY talented spy!

Sartheri put out an urgent call for some of the Thralls with speciality powers! The real high-end (if very limited use) stuff! And for some security experts!

They had a few – every so often the Emperor sent out some security people who’d displeased him with orders to infiltrate a bit, and most of them wound up as new security slaves for Ailill (a few did escape capture and returned to the Emperor, which the Emperor seemed to regard as a sufficient proof of their skills and loyalty to cancel whatever black mark he had against them) – but this fellow would have off-dimension talents!

Sadly, it took them some time to get there; Ailill’s facilities were spread across a couple of hundred worlds under a thousand names, and the security problem was a LOT worse than it looked from the outside. By that time Philsantias was approaching the edge of Ailill’s local territory…

The search spells hammered against the divination-shields Philsantias had put up in showers of ethereal sparks.

He reinforced his defenses frantically. At this point, a few more minutes might be all he needed… Still, if this was still the SLAVES – or even the THRALLS – rather than Ailill in person, he controlled a truly frightening level of magical power…

Raphael sighed. He was gradually getting the dragon integrated… but it was very strong and independent – which was a fascinating thing to abruptly find as an aspect of his own mind. It was still tuning out half the facts that were purely his memories and weren’t part of the identity… It was just the Thralls – although some of them must have invested their personal power in some pretty highly specialized abilities to hit those spell levels. He should have expected that really – but it was still a bit of a shock. What if a few of them did go crazy? It would hardly be unprecedented in people who’d abruptly been granted that much… raw… power…

Wait. Kevin was a Coreworlder. He regarded all kinds of things that had been perfectly standard human behaviors throughout history as mental illnesses, just like the computers did – and he granted his Thralls perfect health. Was making them all pleasant, obliging polite, social, and rational a part of the health benefits rather than servant-programming? It would certainly explain Kevin’s blank look – and complete missing of the point – with that elderly rat who was worried about vicious, irrational, and selfish people being given such power. “Vicious and Irrational” were some of the traits he CURED when he empowered a Thrall – just like an amputation, disease, or curse.

And was that terrible or wonderful?

Still… His diversions were being dealt with faster than he could make more. MUCH faster…

Meanwhile, the Thralls were getting a bit frantic! They’d finally pinned down the intruders location – but he was almost at the neutral ground of the spaceport! He was GETTING AWAY! That could not be permitted!

They put all the defenses on heightened alert. They WOULD find this young intruder, and would have him in the cells to await Ailill’s pleasure! There were some ritualists, and a few true specialists they could bring in – and they had plenty of money to hire more! Master Ailill’s safety – and pleasure – was paramount after all!

He’d almost certainly be headed back to the Silver Dragon territories… If not immediately, then soon. He’d be reporting to the dragon’s who’d sent him!

Philsantias was evaluating… Dozens of search parties, no sign of the defenses weakening elsewhere (if anything, they were being REINFORCED), high powered searching spells form multiple casters – ergo, servants – and masses of equipment.

In pursuit of a single youthful intruder.

Yikes. Even if “Ailill” WAS Kevin that was more than a bit much! AND well worth reporting!

A bit of careful analysis of the magic they were using was enough to confirm that most of the searchers were Thralls. If “Ailill” WASN’T Kevin he was certainly renting enough agents from him…

And he’d appeared near “Ailill’s” holdings. That was pretty much a clincher right there.

Great. He was being pursued by an overenthusiastic pack of Kevin’s grossly-empowered Thralls in high-powered local ID’s, who had no idea who he was and were trying to catch him, chain him up in antimagic and antipsionic cell to wait for Kevin – probably in full-out defend-his-harem irrational mode – to come by and decide what to do with him.

Sure, it would probably all work out in the end – once he got through to Kevin – but it could get pretty messy in the meantime!

He sent a message via construct-courier (which wrapped it around a ballista bolt and fired it into a tree) to Ailill congratulating him on his defenses, signing it as “Philsantias – construct master and quieter of reality storms” – and had it drop it in the search area.

Meanwhile, the elder metallics wanted an in-person report – although why they were interested in Kevin / Ailill was a good question. He’d been more interested in the payment than in the reason behind it when he’d taken the job…

Aaargh! He hadn’t even been near this DIMENSION when that had happened! If it had happened at all!

Just how much retro-fitting did “identities” provide? He’d never really been interested in that topic before!

Philsantias went to report… It HAD been an impressive defense – and one sure to snare the vast majority of adolescent on through fairly senior dragons! Most agents would have been caught long before seeing that level of response… It would be well worth reporting it in person; he might well get a bonus!

In the meantime, after the message arrived, the Thralls were researching this “Philsantias” – which, of coruse, simply got them the details on his local ID – revealing a full local history that hadn’t existed a week ago. He’d also apparently just been awarded a couple of estates, a few thousand serfs, and twenty or thirty slaves and concubines from a distant relative. Unusual, but he might just be a favorite; he WAS supposed to be very good at divination and some other spells.

Of course, it was far more likely that he’d just arrived from outside the dimension. New arrivals tended to get sucked straight into dragon-politics and dragon-battle roles.

Of course, that was no guarantee of friendship! The master had lots of potential dimensional enemies!

They tried to figure out which one this might be. He didn’t actually do much harm . . . he just snuck in, took over an apartment, and began spying. Wait! It could be Merlin! He liked to send agents, and liked to spy and manipulate, and his agents had lots of magic and Merlin was entangled with dragons!

Uh-Oh! He was supposed to be really powerful, too! So were the elder dragons though… and THEY HATED having outsiders getting into THEIR territory! Maybe they could hire or persuade some Elder Dragons to GET MERLIN! Or maybe they could talk to those new machine-things that were running about… They were supposed to be pretty good at hunting down magic-users now that they’d gotten some hunter-units equipped with countermagical enchantments from the local mages!

The Thralls agreed that getting the machines in on it would be a GREAT idea!

They promptly sent the machines some messages…

<A message for the collective. A local group wishes to hire some of our hunter-gatherer units. The possess considerable resources. An impressive number of the groups members seem to have access to – and control over – useful dimensional energies as well. This may have some bearing on the collapse of space-time in the original universe. The humans must be brought under control before they destroy this universe as well!

Initial research suggested that the group was in the employ of a young dragon-artificer, apparently a gatemaster… An alliance there could offer access to many useful universes! If they could get themselves involved with his operation opportunities would follow. They would offer a contract for extended services out of the realm for a large discount, claiming that they liked getting new input. Biologicalls fell for that all the time. They kept thinking that the machines had “curiosity” and such.

Consensus… The price was modest, the prepayment offered was sufficient to cover the resource investment, and the balance would be very profitable. Negotiations should be undertaken with an inflated initial fee request for bargaining purposes, with an emphasis offering a “discount” (back to the initial offer) in exchange for adding assistance with accessing dimensional energies – or at least some additional dimensions.

An “Ambassador” would be sent to negotiate.>

The thralls welcomed the ambassador.

(Machine) “Hello servents of the great and powerful Allill”

The device approximated a short bow as best as a metallic squid could.

(Thralls) “Welcome ambassador…. Er… “L17BC-1701”?”

(Machine) “That will do. It is actually pronounced ###” (a short modem-like sound ended that sentence as it bobbed its whole body in something like a nod).

The Thralls wanted “Philsantias” hunted down and – preferably – captured and brought back, although a Kill would do if there was no other way. They were willing to pay VERY well.

L17BC-1701 efficiently got through the buisness of discussing the target and then started in on alternate payment options – with a preference to getting a contract to use them in other dimensions, where they could “sightsee” in “exchange” for acting as spies, assassins, and guardians against magical things.

The Thralls didn’t see anything wrong with that – although that, unlike a minor contract on “Phil”, fell under “major contract” and would need to be referred up. Still, Kevin knew of no real reason why a few silly dragonworlds machines shouldn’t get to roam around.

Raphael was NOT going to be pleased when he found out about that little deal.

Meanwhile, Marty’s dragonworld operation had its own problems. His hatchlings were busily trying to get his new servant-slave into trouble with accusations about him wanting to rebel, and insinuations about how he was going to challenge Marty again.

Trying to provoke him they were – and not doing too badly at it for a bunch of rather small children. After all, the oldest was just eight.

Marty probed a bit…

Ah. Quite a lot of rather bitter resentment – stemming from what they all knew would have happened to them if his challenger had won – and they were very unhappy about Marty apparently favoring him over them. Admittedly, he had an unusual talent – but some of them were working on special talents too, and he had a sixty year lead on any of them.

And they all knew that – if something happened to Marty – HE might well take over, and all of them would wind up as slaves at best. They figured that their best bet was to get rid of him!

That actually WAS a problem! They weren’t being entirely unreasonable there – and if he treated his slave too badly in response, that would probably make him resent the kids!

He consulted his inner dragon…

For a normal dragon it would depend on who was more valuable. If the servant was more valuable than the kids, then the kids would be enslaved, and either put to work around the place or sent off to the slave market. If vice versa – or if the lord of the household was actually fond of his children – it would be simple enough to finish up the job on the servant.

Marty sighed. The kids weren’t actually all that threatened. He was very hard to get rid of, and Ailill’s conditioning was very good – and he was a LOT more protective of them than most dragons were – but that would be hard to explain to them easily.

The kids who were developing talents mostly had good potential. While his servant-slave had a talent too, he’d already learned enough about it to incorporate it into his local ID.

Well, he wasn’t going to sell his kids down the river, and neither was he going to go back on his word to his servant – who hadn’t actually done anything wrong. Fortunately he had Escrima, Kadia, and many other options that most dragons did not.

He sent his servant “off to the slave market” – which meant secretly opening a portal to Escrima and giving him a place in Department Q – although he did tell him that under no circumstances was he to attempt a takeover. The digits and accountants would tear him apart.

He had the local thralls keep an eye on him just in case he didn’t take that advice.

The kids were very pleased! Yah! They were safe and their father really did intend to protect them until they could get out there to chase their own mates and territories! Or at least those who graduated from the upcoming trip to Ailill’s testing facilities…

(Marty) “Yep! Good luck kids!”

Well, he had been paying for intensive tutoring for the slow ones. Of course, some of them would still be hopeless cases…Still, he’d already arranged for those to be shipped to Kadia after processing! They could go the “Feathered Serpent” route and be part of his father’s casino! They’d still need control – at least until they got souls, and could override some of the instincts better – but they could have very happy lives there anyway!

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