The Chronicles of Heavenly Artifice CXXI – Howling at the Moon

There was a lot of territory in Aden, but there were getting to be a fair number of Kickaha too – and they liked to be close to civilized areas, recreational facilities, and other sources of entertainment. That kind of territory was a lot more fun!

Besides, for many of them, it was closer to work.

The inter-pack territorial arguments were gradually getting a bit… heated. It wasn’t getting violent yet – but they kept appealing to the Baalgrogs to make rulings, and taking up a lot of their time, and Gothmug was getting annoyed! It was starting to cut into naval patrol time!

(Charles) “What’s up there? You look grumpier than usual!”

(Gothmug) “Oh, Charles, it’s dreadful! Those children you imbued at Dun Shunkaha are constantly asking my men to resolve their disputes over pack territory! They don’t WANT to try violence – and considering what some of those Sidereals at the academy are teaching, all the better. But they’re cutting into our patrol time!”

(Charles) “But they’re fuzzy! (he checked) Wait, there are HOW many? Er… I suppose that could be a problem… Arguments? Why aren’t they settling them? They SHOULDN’T need violence… Lets get a couple of the factitious ones in and see what’s going on!”

(Gothmug) “Very well then! I’ll have the Baalgrogs bring the two boys who nearly got into it at their tribe’s arbitration meeting!”

Hamid and Damir arrived shortly thereafter.

(Charles) “Hello there… And what’s going on with you two?”

(Hamid) “Hi, Charles! This jerk tried to punch me when our tribes were discussing my tribe’s claim to the Golden Arcade!”

(Damir) “He tried first!”

(Charles, with some confusion) “Why were you trying to punch each other?”

(Damir) “They wouldn’t let us in when we wanted to play! It’s in OUR territory!”

(Hamid) “Hey, we said you couldn’t play today. It was the alpha’s birthday party! And I TOLD you once! You do not want to face my Mantis Style!”

(Charles) “Wouldn’t territory normally take priority over parties?”

(Damir) “They’re a lot bigger than our tribe. They thought they could push us around. I’m just glad one of the Baalgrogs came to mediate. It could have gotten messy. Messier.”

(Charles) “How do you normally settle on territories?”

It seemed that… normally the border was where some neutral site was, such as an arcade. They were supposed to share – and thus that site served as a diplomatic center of sorts. When the border was disputed, the problem was normally decided by a non-lethal duel between the Alphas. Sadly, Hamid and Damir weren’t respecting that – and didn’t trust each other.

(Charles) “So… neither of YOU are your tribes alphas, and yet you’re not respecting their decisions. That’s a problem!”

He called in their Alphas.

(Charles) “Now… as far as I get this… If you want to belong to a pack, you submit to the authority of it’s alpha. If you want to take over a pack… I guess that would be another nonlethal duel?

It wasn’t like they normally COULD kill each other, but they could force each other to go and wait to be re-embodied…

(Charles, to Hamid and Damir) “Now you two… are claiming to be members of your Alphas packs – er, tribes – and you’re NOT respecting your alpha’s decisions! What should be done about that?

(Kai) “Bother! Damir, I TOLD you not to push this any further. Now Charles is involved! You know how tense things are!… Sorry to bother you Charles! If Damir here wants to be in charge… well, I’m always raring for a duel!”

(Charles, sighing) “You’ve defeated him before haven’t you?”

(Kai) “He doesn’t know when to quit! Most of the time, that’s good, but lately…”

(Charles) “What do you think should be done about this? Toss him out of the pack?”

(Kai) “Well, if I make him an omega, that won’t make him happy at all! Best to stick him someplace far from here, I think. He need to make new friends!”

Kai’s frustration was palpable there… it wasn’t easy being an alpha of a smaller pack with a bigger one around!

(Charles) “And you Hamid?”

(Anri) “He’s been like this ever since he started studying Mantis Style. I think they need to be stuck on opposite sides of Aden, personally… I mean, we have an agreement. We alternate days at the arcade now. “If he can’t respect that, he doesn’t need to be making trouble.”

(Charles) “Which seems reasonable!”

That pleased Kai and Anri anyway… ever since the Sidereals came, and their packs discovered that they could learn Celestial styles… well, it hadn’t been helping. Sure, the Alphas trained too – but alphas had been shifting lately as stylists took over and no one wanted to lose that position!

(Charles sighed) “Light of Revelation!”

That wasn’t particularly powerful really; it couldn’t withstand a simple untruth – which was more or less the point, if you attempted to deceive, or opted to resist, it simply retreated from you.

(Charles, to Damir and Harid) “Are either of you two qualified to be a pack leader? Are you going to either obey your pack leader or accept exile from the pack?”

Hamid… agreed. Unfortunately, the light… receded from Damir.

(Kai, sighing) “Doesn’t know when to quit! Too bad!”

(Charles) “Well Harid? Your answers?”

(Hamid) “Sorry to trouble you, Charles! I know Amri can beat me up any day, so… I’ll just have to control myself better.”

Well… that was truthful unless he had some really good method of concealing an untruth set up!

(Charles) “All right then! Hamid, you can go with your pack leader – but if you go back on your word, he has my personal authorization to kick you right out unless you choose to accept some lesser penalty he wants! And if he kicks you out… the computers will assign you a wilderness area to patrol; you may eventually be able to form a new pack there, but it may take awhile! All right?”

(Hamid) “Got it!”

(Charles) “Damir… want to try that again? Or are you just going to refuse to answer anyway?”

(Damir) “Okay… I guess. I guess I can let bygones be bygones.”

And the light receded again. A shame, he really did seem to be trying to conceal his disdain for the decision.

Charles got in Malinda and Kyrema.

Kyrema Mindsage, the Tutorial Enchantress, Mistress of the Weirding Lore, The Pedagogic Compeller, Fourth Soul of Aden, is an EXTREMELY professional young woman, who’s voice practically crackles with unquestioned expertise and authority. She tends to be brisk, efficient, and pragmatic, is a master psychologist, treats children as small and inexperienced people rather than as subordinates, and can be roughly described as “a Bene Gesserit version of Susan Sto Helit as Mary Poppins”. In deference to Charles’s preferences she does not usually use major compulsions, although she fairly often uses minor ones – “NO YOU DO NOT FEEL LIKE A CIGARETTE. YOU DO NOT AND WILL NOT NEED THEM”. Her primary special power is a mixture of One Mind Within and a Synergistic Overmind: she can tap the unused processing power of minds within her range to enhance herself, share her abilities with some or all of the people she is currently linking, and provide mental communications for them.

(Charles) “Well… Is he suited to be a pack leader? Will he just go back on any agreements he makes after a bit?”

(Kyrema, after some evaluation) “He’s not suitable – and it’s not that he INTENDS to go back on his word; he’s just… awfully impulsive and reacts without thinking.

(Charles) “So; you’re too impulsive to obey, or to be a pack leader, or to accept exile… In a classical wolf pack that would mean being killed! Kai? Damir? Malinda? Kyrema? ARE there any options here besides kicking him out of Aden for a few centuries? And would he accept that, or would he run off and cause trouble?”

(Kyrema) “Hrm… I think he needs a lot of training in impulse control. Therapy and non-invasive magic would help with that. Perhaps we could set something up on one of the colony worlds.”

(Charles) “Well Damir?”

(Damir) “I guess I can agree to that. Aw man, I’m going mto miss you guys.”

(Charles) “All right! I’ll set up some facilities for this sort of thing! Pass the word that the Alphas DO have the authority to send in subordinates for therapy and such whether they like it or not! If they mess up in therapy… I’ll think of something else!”

(Kai) “Will do. And I’ll see what I can do for watching out for this stuff. Things are getting tense.”

(Charles) “Well… what’s a good minimum time on respecting the results of duels? Ten years maybe?”

(Kai) “I wouldn’t know! It’s definitely an insult, so yeah, a long time like that would be good. Ten, plus five if it was direct?”

(Charles) “Direct?”

(Kai) “You know, a direct insult! To the face. You’ve got to cut that stupidity in the bud before it hits – and here I thought I was doing a good job of that.”

(Charles) “Ah! I meant things like territorial disputes and such. ten for those, fifteen for personal stuff – or I suppose people could make bigger commitments if they wanted.”

(Kai) “Hey, I’m not going to stop them if they want to.”

Kyrema… gave Damir about an 80% chance of sticking with the program – at least if he could be kept in a quiet, calm place for the duration. He needed to learn how to play nicely with hierarchies. She could simply edit his mind of course – but she’d really rather not do that!

(Charles) “Right then… Damir? Here’s an amulet; it will let me know if you get into trouble with your program.

It was also mildly soothing – very low-level soothing background music, a vague sensation of being cuddled, and some sensations from his childhood – since Kyrema said that that would help!

So would instituting some rules and training programs – at least until the population got bigger. Kyrema didn’t tell Charles – but the really serious problems were going to be when most of the territory was claimed, the packs were getting large, and the boys started SERIOUSLY fighting over dominance and mates… They would need some planets of their own; the way they were recruiting human kids into their ranks would start having a serious impact eventually.