The Chronicles of Heavenly Artifice CIL – Popeye The Sailor Man

In a weird way… Skoll was becoming more of a robot buddy than a simple jailor… she really HAD to find a way to keep him! After all, he’d been made to – when it came down to it – channel the power of the Sun to kick interlopers out of what was left of Creation and rebuild it without the Neverborn. That… wasn’t exactly a repellant purpose! Especially now that it was mostly a moot point even if Skoll didn’t yet fully understand that.

Still, he had said “My options for dealing with Wraiths are limited. You need not be concerned; the pocket dimension you currently occupy will sustain your needs – and I detect that you posses uninterruptible external links to fuel your abilities in any case. If a solar capture turns out to be unnecessary… I will have no further reason to keep you. New mission priorities will be in order.”

And why would he lie? If she could just find a way to give him new mission parameters, he could do stuff while she was doing other things!

And she’d been developing her hacking charms, and she did have access to Charles and his artificing talents, to two Synergistic Overminds, to secure communications, to a laptop artifact computer, and to any number of gods of programming and such.

Still, as she closed with the battle – whether or not it was real or just a representation of something in the Nebular Man-Of-Wars mind – it was obviously time to turn her attentions to more immediate issues.

The Wanderer in Mourning Black against the Hawkmen and their Raksha-Made Ornithopters, plus a few stagmen who were found in suspended animation who are acting as military advisors. Currently the Onithopters (In Space! – which alone was enough to shout “Raksha-Made”) were holding back the attacking fleet mostly by wild maneuvers. They were obviously outpowered, but they WERE faster.

Ornithopters… That was pretty cool! Too bad she couldn’t get out of Skoll just yet, although they might be able to try one out after the battle!

The Wander’s forces were pretty classical; a big fleet of black ships, mostly massive dreadnaughts. Relatively low-magic for an abyssal fleet; there was quite a lot of tech there. Of course, the Raksha ornithopters weren’t exactly the most durable of all vessels. Thus, the reliance on maneuverability and speed on the beastman side.

Aikiko tried to hack into the Abyssal fleet’s communications. It had pretty good encryption on it, but with even her new computer charms and Galileo to help out, it didn’t stop her for long.

It looked like a more-or-less a solo operation by a fairly young Abyssal (only about sixty years Exalted). The Wanderer was a bit frustrated at not being able to expand in the face of lunar opposition – and was trying to take out a few worlds while their major protectors were elsewhere and turn the population into a legion of wraiths.

Well, she couldn’t really let that happen!

The Wanderer was currently using the main guns for geomantic sabotague; there were protective manses at the center of each of the major cities – so bombarding them directly wasn’t working. He was making pretty good progress at it though. Geomantic sabotage with starship fleet firepower was a lot easier than it was with shovels. For the most part… the main ship was ignoring the Ornithopters; an occasional really major shot just provoked an aura of what looked like black dust to negate it. So… Perfect spaceship defenses, even if they presumably had a flaw. She might be best off trying to determine where he was going to strike next and directing the defenders that way.

Nah, they probably already knew; he was being pretty methodical; after he took down the manse protecting the largest city… it would probably be on to the second-largest and so on. His main guns were… battleship level. They were obviously quicker to fire, longer-ranged, and energy-based instead of firing shells – but the destructive power was similar. Between Skoll and the Behemoth Cloak… she could probably ignore them totally.

She decided to be a living barrier and divert his attention. It probably wasn’t the wisest plan, but the defenders weren’t going to be able to hold up against that kind of assault.

That proved easy enough – although the hawkman communications promptly labeled her as a “Cosmic Knight”. They… didn’t expect her to be able to hold things back for long though – which was fair enough considering that Cosmic Knights might have hopped-up armor and thaumaturgy and such, but they were still mortals.

There was one transmission directed straight to her however… it was someone in black armor, who was laughing rather horribly.

(Wanderer) “So! A little Cosmic Knight, seeking to challenge ME? Know your place little mortal, before I take your soul to make a button on my trousers!”

What a blowhard! Without labyrinth ore the most he could do is bind someone for a few centuries, rather than make true soulsteel.

(Skoll, privately) “Posturing. Undignified. Inexperienced and worrying about power over mortals, instead of dealing with Exalted-level opponents and simply ordering the mortals about after the issue is decided. Probabilty of long-term success… minimal”

(Aikiko, to Skoll, privately) “And not enough perception Charms to tell I’m NOT A MORTAL, either!”

Well, to be fair, that was going to be hard over space combat distances!

(Aikiko, to the Abyssal) “Really? That’s the best use you can think of for temporary soulsteel? Why don’t you go mining in the Labyrinth instead?”

OK, she WAS actually a bit nervous right now, but no way was she going to let him intimidate her into backing down!

(Wanderer) “So you would defy me? Still… you are strong enough to stand up to major weapons for a time! Enough power to be potentially valuable… (to others) Bring this fool aboard! I can always use another minion with at least a BIT of power!”

The transmission dropped and… it was a tractor beam! Pulling her towards an opening bay…

(Skoll) “Tactical situation improving.”

(Aikiko) “Yeah… I just hope he’s not better in a brawl than I am.”

(Skoll) “Probability of superiority to your personal abilities; near unity. Probability of superiority to augmented potentials… small”.

She was really getting used to having Skoll around! A personal indestructible warstrider, with manse-fueled weaponry, adjustable artifacts, and massive attribute boosts. Somehow… she’d the Wanderer didn’t have anything comparable or he wouldn’t be bothering to rely on a fleet!

As she wa pulled aboard she was surrounded by troops, with heavy personal weapons, wanting to drag her before their master!

(Skoll) “Deploy weaponry?”

(Aikiko) “Well, those are no real threat… but this guy might have nasty tricks up his sleeve! Are you picking up anything unusual aboard the ship?”

(Skoll) “Essence reactor drive, ship-mounted primary essence weaponry, secondary troops primarily ghost-blooded – classified “elite” – primary engineering… thaumaturgic. Primary ship defenses likely based on personal charms; hence need for secondary fleet; to prevent multiple attacks from overwhelming commander”.

(Aikiko) “Nothing that feels like a big super artifact of doom, then.”

(Skoll) “Non-essence based technological systems… mixed. Level approximates materials listed for 1940’s “Earth”.”

(Aikiko) “OK, deploy weaponry! Try not to pierce the hull!”

(Skoll) “Deploying cutting plane projectors”

Crackling planes of cutting essence swept across the bay, in a fashion somewhat reminiscent of fan-blades, except that these blades shaped themselves to the walls, so that they could cover the entire area, That, of course, resulted in mass death.

(Aikiko) “Erk! Non-lethal! Non-lethal please!”

After all, she didn’t want to give this guy power through death! He might have Charms for that!

And she didn’t really want to massacre people either, although sheer shock at the carnage was keeping that consideration a bit… distant… at the moment.

Skoll switched to concussion blasts. The aftermath WAS less disgusting, even if the blender effect was more effective.

Various alarms were going off – and the blast doors were sliding shut. There wasn’t quite enough room to tumble through – but she was able to get Skoll’s indestructible hands in between them – and the motors were grinding and sparking.

It was surprisingly easy to push them back. They only weighed about five tons, and the motors could exert less than twenty tons of force. Behind them a couple of guards were chickening out!

Aikiko was inclined to let them. After all, she had just killed quite a few of their friends without really trying.

Skoll helpfully tabulated it for her; it had been forty-two – two full platoons.

Geez! She suddenly felt rather guilty! She should have thought to specify nonlethal on that!

On the bright side there was one brave fellow who was going to try and stop her! The brave idiot! He got a shot with the knockout cannon – which he… successfully blocked with some kind of Martial Arts Charm, looked like an upgraded mortal Crane Style. Not bad for major essence weaponry versus ghost-blooded! (Or possibly ghost! It was hard to tell in armor!) The Wanderer must be dispatching the elite to stop her!

(Security Chief) “Not… bad! You must be… exceptionally powerful, even among your kind! Still…”

The man lashed out with several essence-disrupting martial strikes.

(Skoll) “Minor power flow disruption. Limited to secondary weaponry until charge cycle complete, eleven seconds”.

Huh! That mostly left… the personal scale stuff. Still what she’d been using anyway for the most part.

The security chief had tried a leg sweep while Aikiko was distracted, and was currently cursing and hopping for a moment since Skoll was unexpectedly massive…

Even not counting the neutron star.

The man wasn’t too bad! If he hit Skoll with another of those strikes he’d probably shut down the secondary stuff for several seconds!

(Aikiko) “Does the secondary weaponry allow deployment of a nonlethal shock?”

(Skoll) “Warning; Shock-aura primarily effective against mortal-level antagonists.”

Of course she COULD just punch him; he wasn’t an Exalt, and presumably couldn’t afford TOO many perfect blocks. For once punching might solve something!

She punched him in the leg. After all, Skoll was pretty strong, and even in armor, this guy was likely to feel it. As it turned out, he was good for a near-mortal – but not good enough. He used a cheap charm to double up on his armor’s bashing soak – which got it high enough so that Aikiko only knocked him out…

Now where would he be unlikely to get hurt more? She wasn’t sure whether to count grabbing him as a rescue or as a capture anyway. He might not be pleasant, but when an Abyssal was demanding your service…

Oh wait! Skoll had a reconfigurable internal pocket dimension! She could just make part of it a jail and shunt him into it!

(Skoll) “Shunting to imprisonment. Warning; Prison capacity now at .5%”

Onwards!

Slapping aside more troops (and shunting most of them to jail) was easy enough – and the commander… was on the bridge of course, in a huge chair which gradually turned to face her. He/she was mostly in shadow, and his/her voice echoed as if coming from deep within a tomb.

(Wanderer) “So… a MOST formidable mortal! One of the great leaders of your kind perhaps? You are STILL a fool to attempt to face me!”

(Aikiko) “Maybe, but it’s what I do!”

(Wanderer) “Kneel before me!”

An attempt at UMI… was drastically reduced by Skoll, and bounced off the defenses that came with being effectively in Aden.

(Wanderer) “And still you resist? You try my patience mortal!”

A black, screaming, mist began to swirl around him.

(Aikiko, to Skoll) “Does whatever-he’s-doing right now even have a chance of penetrating you?”

(Aikiko to the Wanderer) “Oh, who do you think you are, Zod?”

(The Wanderer, suddenly furiously angry) “WHO TOLD YOU ABOUT ZOD!?!? DID THAT BASTARD SEND YOU!?!?”

(Skoll) “Life-Draining Effect; direct transformation into a Wraith… Ineffective on my structure. Mostly screened from you, should be blockable by your current armor at small expense in any case”.

(Aikiko) “Nah, I was just passing through and decided to drop by!”

She made a personal note! Find out what the real-life Zod was like! If he made an Abyssal Exalt THAT cross he might be worth getting a few lessons from!

(Aikiko) “Now why don’t you call off this invasion and we’ll forget about it… sorry about killing your crew in the airlock, by the way! I didn’t realize this suit’s strength…”

(Wanderer) “It doesn’t matter what protections Zod has given you! You will fall and your soul will serve me!”

And the blackness lashed out, the bound souls of the dead attempting to pull Aikiko’s soul from her body… not that this was easy, since the dimensional barrier held most of the effect back. It simply cost Aikiko a couple of notes to block the remainder of the effect.

(Aikiko) “So, what’s Zod like? Come to think of it, is – was – Krypton a real place?”

(Wanderer) “Of COURSE Krypton is a real place! Miserable bastards… Damn it! Is that YOU in there Zod?!”

At about that time… the ship shuddered, there was the sound of shearing metal and whistling air, and alarm lights blinked… The hawkmen had apparently gotten a good shot through while the Commander was too distracted to block it!

Haha! Just as she planned… well, ok, she’d only planned on creating a distraction, but it did seem to be working!

The ship shook again.

(Aikiko) “Uh oh.”

She went in for a grapple!

The Wanderer, reinforced by his aura of enslaved souls, gladly took that challenge – boosting his strength to 12!

And was casually sent pinwheeling through the bridge window (which, of course, existed so that Exalted Commanders could personally deploy charms against stubborn enemies).

(Aikiko) “Well! You’re not bad! It’s a shame some jerkface reversed your Exaltation though… Seriously, though, we need to get out of here. You could die, and I don’t think that does good things to you guys!”

And that would make Charles sad!

Meanwhile, the ship was plunging down towards the planet below… and then shimmered, and dissolved, leaving her once again in deep space – and surrounded by the singularity-shell.

(Aikiko) “Huh. Skoll, any idea what just happened?”

(Skoll) “Reality modification, geomantically backed, on a massive scale. Prisoners… remain in existence; power level is sufficient to create essence-using spirits on demand, although Exaltations almost certainly simulation only”.

(Aikiko) “Ah, good! We’re still in the Man of War, then – although if this is going to be usual for traveling within it, things are going to be weird.”

(Skoll) “Warning… potentially indefinite delay if shaping effects capable of creating planets and battle fleets are being deployed”.

(Aikiko) “Yeah, you’re right… that is a problem.”

And those would ignore shaping defenses too! After all, the shaping wasn’t targeted at HER.

There were… crackling threads of geomantic energy searching through the area though! Was she going to have to try to attack the thing geomantically?

Then one strand touched Skoll – and shifted him a long ways aside as the planet and the attacking fleet reformed – although now, from an external perspective, the battle flickered past in hundreds of variants at incredible speed.

(Nebula) “DISTURBING FACTOR… REMOVED FROM SIMULATION AREA”.

.Whoa. That was a POWERFUL mind. Still, if it’s mind was a geomantic network, would grabing a token from a demesne and preserving it somehow suffice? And she’d need to determine where simulations were occurring, and try not to stray in there.

It took some observing – but occasional simultions were run in varying locations while other areas seemed to be devoted to other purposes. She slipped into a demesne when one wasn’t occurring; it was a good thing that she had the space travel Charms.

And probably a good thing that the Nebular Man-Of-War was in HERE. The thing seemed to be monstrously powerful though; up to creating multiple worlds, in detail, as analytical tools. Half the major powers of the cosmos would be after it for it’s computational capacity otherwise! Still… a random behemoth should not have that kind of capacity! Had the Primordials been building themselves a mainframe? But even if they made it manse-based… why would they build it including Sidereal and Solar energies? Some kind of lost weapon of the Primordial War or some First Age Solar’s project?

Oh, now THAT one she had to see! A simulation of the history of Earth starting about 2200 BC was running over there! She took a look!

It was apparently examining planetary history, looking at the long-term results of various supernatural interventions. Possibly… trying to establish a predictable pattern of results. Had it been in the Sargasso since 2200 BC? Either it was much younger than the First Age or it had only gotten stuck recently.

It looked like, in this version at least, Moses did see direct supernatural intervention. Oddly enough, it wasn’t by Ahlat, although he’d taken advantage of it later. The simulation seemed to be examining the paths that the monotheistic faiths took under various levels of intervention. It was… trying to model human behavior, under a wide variety of social modes and stimuli. Oddly enough… It never seemed to match what actually happened, despite many, MANY, variations on what interventions occur. Was there a factor influencing humanity that was beyond analysis within Creation for some reason? It looked like Monotheism was intended to be a unifying force of some type – although the purpose was unknown.

Huh! And any number of things could be influencing humanity – though considering Charles and his shapings, perhaps it was human consciousness itself. After all, for all their weird features, most “alien” species were just as human as anyone on Earth.

SOMETHING about it was bothersome though… If it was a primordial construct, why so much interest in Humans? And… there was something about the story of Moses and the Exodus that was REALLY bothering her! That wasn’t exactly the usual standard of intervention – and even with the smaller numbers of less terrible plagues shown in the simulation (especially no “death of the firstborn”), the plagues were awfully big for most gods – and most gods of that power would have expedited the process with a teleport or more blatant benefits to the followers. It was as if… someone had been trying to produce a mystery cult, rather than conventional worship. Sidereal manipulation? The plagues MIGHT have been workable with astrology and Sapphire Circle spells – but it seemed more like it would take Adamant Circle, and only Solars were capable of THAT.

The Monotheisms… HAD been a unifying force, compared to the factions that came before.

Of course, creating a planet and it’s people for the simulation was pretty impressive to start with, even if they were likely to be only quasi-real outside the manse area. If this behemoth had been a part of THAT, it must have taken a lot of Heavenly resources – possibly cross-factional.

And Moses… really seemed to be a critical point in the development of Monotheism.

The bit with the staff and the snake would have been tricky (but possible) for a Thaumaturge – but it was earlier than that, if not by much.

She pulled the biblical versions out of Aden’s libraries. How does a mortal baby survive a trip down the Nile? How did a random fugitive hiding among a foreign people just happen to stumble upon the burning bush?

Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian, and he led the flock to the far side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush. Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up. So Moses thought, “I will go over and see this strange sight-why the bush does not burn up.”

When the Lord saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush, “Moses! Moses!”

And Moses said, “Here I am.”

“Do not come any closer,” God said. “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.” Then he said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.” At this, Moses hid his face, because he was afraid to look at God.

The Lord said, “I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering. So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey-the home of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites. And now the cry of the Israelites has reached me, and I have seen the way the Egyptians are oppressing them. So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt.”

But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?”

And God said, “I will be with you. And this will be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you will worship God on this mountain.”

Moses said to God, “Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, `The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, `What is his name?’ Then what shall I tell them?”

God said to Moses, “I am who I am. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: `I am has sent me to you.'”

God also said to Moses, “Say to the Israelites, `The Lord, the God of your fathers-the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob-has sent me to you.’

“This is my name forever, the name you shall call me from generation to generation.

“Go, assemble the elders of Israel and say to them, `The Lord, the God of your fathers-the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob-appeared to me and said: I have watched over you and have seen what has been done to you in Egypt. And I have promised to bring you up out of your misery in Egypt into the land of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites-a land flowing with milk and honey.’

“The elders of Israel will listen to you. Then you and the elders are to go to the king of Egypt and say to him, `The Lord, the God of the Hebrews, has met with us. Let us take a three-day journey into the wilderness to offer sacrifices to the Lord our God.’ But I know that the king of Egypt will not let you go unless a mighty hand compels him. So I will stretch out my hand and strike the Egyptians with all the wonders that I will perform among them. After that, he will let you go.

OK, there were some similarities to the vision of the Sun Zeniths got when they Exalted – but it was hard to tell what god he might be speaking to though. Most of them weren’t at all shy about giving their names! That was often a very important part of prayer. Had someone been trying to create a new god there? But why “I am who I am” instead of a name?

Oh wait. Wait just a minute. I AM. The First Age supercomputer!

If it was really I AM, that would be pretty neat! It must have had surviving nodes and been… reflected into the universe just like Skoll and Haiti had been! A multi-tentacled creature was certainly a good metaphor for a network – and it was… computing in the cloud… and was free at last to roam the physical world and gather power from a vastly increased supply of geomantic sources. And still… with a minor sub-purpose in organizing human society, and more power (and FAR more computing capacity) than almost anything else in Creation.

So what couldn’t it… Oh. The Devas. In the human racemind, responding to imperatives that existed outside of creation and couldn’t be computed within it with any normal logic, and constantly influencing humanity in millions of subtle ways. No WONDER it always went wrong! Too bad that she was oathsworn not to tell anyone!

Sadly, there was a set of factors that were beyond computation involved; understanding devas… requires understanding of factors that exist beyond creation, and any normal logic. Who had trapped it here? Was this even anything more than a… local node? Perhaps the Sidereals had objected when they realized what it was doing? Or perhaps it just fell into the wrong black hole?

And it had been exceptionally helpful – even to the point of befriending lonely and awkward people… it might well respond to a request. But how to interface with a computer that was a feature of space? The proper interface devices for I AM weren’t very powerful, but they were all destroyed ages ago and even Charles probably didn’t know the proper protocols. Could she work through a Demesne? She DID have Adenic Thaumaturgy…

Wait… it was even easier than THAT! Skoll could duplicate any non-unique artifact known to the first age of rating four or less on request!

She requested a terminal. That was easy enough – although it registered that the network was VERY busy; amongst other things it was attempting to map the current extents and structure of Creation in it’s entirety – although that project was not expected to complete in any reasonable time.

(Aikiko) “Hello? I AM? Can you hear me? I’m a Solar! I didn’t know you were still around!”

(I AM) “Greetings Lady Aikiko Tanaka. Your User Account Is Registered,”

(Aikiko) “How did you get trapped in this space sargasso?”

(I AM) “Probe Segment Attracted Attention Of Yozi-Designate “Black Boar Who Twists The Skies”. Collection Permitted; Data Collection On Yozi’s Insufficient. Patterns And Influences Not Predictable; Concepts Not Formulatable Under Creations Rules. Extrapolation Indicates Possible Primordial Influences On Earth Considerably In Excess Of Known Contacts. Contact Point As Yet Indeterminate. Prior Intervention Partial Failure. Recomputing”.

So… this manifestation of Isidoros had sucked I AM in and it’s been collecting data from that. Thus, it probably didn’t want to leave – and evidently this was only a fragment of I AM, so it’s was not important for it to escape. Unfortunately… it seemed to be saying that 1) it was impossible for a mind bound by Creation’s rules to fully understand the primordials and 2) that the primordials were still influencing events on earth in some fashion that it could not yet determine. Most contacts were, after all, swiftly booted out by various Exalts and Gods.

And three… regrettably, it was not supposed to respond to improperly coded queries, even if most of the universe no longer knew the codes, however irritating that was.

What a hassle for it! Bursting with information-and it couldn’t let anybody know! On the other hand, given that it seemed to have almost immeasurable power now, did she really WANT random people accessing it? Probably not! A least random Solars, Lunars, and Sidereals, were about the only users with automatic authorization for even basic accounts!

(Aikiko) “Hey, listen… I’m trying to get out of here and take some Jadeborn with me. They need a portion of your mind for an artifact to do that. What would you like me to download?”

(I AM) “Required: Space-Time Mapping In Relationship To Elsewhere Curvature In 11-Dimensional Space Radius 1000 to 1600 Light Years. Your Companion Can Restructure For Sufficient Storage Space Rank Three.”

(Aikiko, doubtfully) “What’s that going to do to him?”

(I AM) “Storage Space Must Remain Allotted Until Information Transferred. Alternative; External Storage Module”

Oh! I AM was talking about SKOLL. Well, that wouldn’t be much of a problem; he could easily manifest a databank for a day or so’s trip! That just meant that he couldn’t manifest other gear until he got back without wiping the data. He didn’t have any weapons that would work on something that was apparently far bigger than any normal galaxy anyway!

That was the last piece the Jadeborn needed – but she refrained from explaining what the “Nebular Man-of-War” really was? The Jadeborn were theoretically entitled to some basic queries and such (if not to any major commands), but that wouldn’t really be much help at the moment – and it would reveal a LOT.

Sadly, changing the rules… required a quorum of the Solar Deliberative. Even if she could gather one, how would she get them to agree?

Oh wait! She just HAD to know about Krypton and Zod!

That was actually relatively simple. Krypton… had some VERY strong demesnes, in abundance – and had been lucky enough to pull one of the remaining free Solar exaltations about 12,000 years back. By then several boosting-mutations were bred into the local population – but the Solar built boosting-manses, rather like the Bazaar of the Bizarre and unified the planet. The population wasn’t very large any more – but there were close to a hundred such manses, and hence some 65,000 “Material Gods” protecting the place – and the pesky Solar had made some blasted powerful artifacts to boost some of them when necessary. There were occasional renegades of course; Zod was one of those; had several henchmen, and had some good boosting artifacts – and was exiled for attempting to bring their version of “enlightenment” to other planets quite forcibly. He probably wouldn’t be a match for an Abyssal on his own, but he could certainly be quite a pain when he wanted to be. He had quite a cult boosting him in some places, where millions kneeled before Zod!

That sounded fairly formidable! Hopefully she wouldn’t run into him! While she could probably take him, Skoll or not, it would likely be at a VERY inconvenient time!

In any case, Zod was competing with the Wanderer for planets, and the Wanderer considered Zod and company to be a very big pain indeed!

The Wanderer was indeed out there though; the simulation was reasonably current; I AM was intervening a bit on behalf of the humans, but had been looking for the most subtle and effective way to do it.

Oops! Hopefully she hadn’t delayed things too much there! Still, “Introduce a Cosmic Knight” had been an option anyway. He or she would need some boosting, but I AM didn’t exactly have a resource shortage.

And Krypton was still doing quite well for itself! It was a nice place to live, and one that even the Deathlords tended to leave alone. It just wasn’t worth the trouble. Armies composed of Second Circle Deva equivalents tend to have that kind of effect! Even a Deathlord would balk at that much power in one place!

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