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Generated: Jul 17, 2021 3:15 AM
Post last updated: Jul 17, 2016 2:47 PM
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demon!Edie in daeva!Arda
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He draws a dozen almost-completed identical summoning circles. Time is short and the stakes are high but a dozen circles communicates 'I am going to keep trying this until I find someone who's inclined to help' and sometimes that makes negotiation go a little better.

He has them triple-checked in person and sends the pictures for a dozen more people to scrutinize. That is just ordinary good practice and under the circumstances practically feels inadequate.

At least if he erred catastrophically and the demon feeds Araman into a black hole only a few dozen people will die. Unless you count Endorë, where hundreds of thousands of them are dying every day. 

He steadies his heart rate, smiles pleasantly, and finishes the first circle.

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The first thing the demon says is, "Holy fuck, I can talk!"

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"Hello!" he says brightly. "You have been summoned to a different dimension, you'll notice the circle's much more complicated than usual. It should simplify paying you; I am guessing you have not heard any of our music, and sometimes I get lucky on the relative tech level. Do you have faster-than-light travel?"

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"...We do not have that thing!"

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He beams. "I want an equipped fleet of three hundred lightleapers. In exchange you get the blueprints for lightleapers. Deal?"

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"...Probably yes but this is the first time I have been ungagged ever and I need to tell you something important. Summoners become daeva when they die. I'm an ex-summoner. So's my sister. She's an angel. Can I talk you up to blueprints and summoning her for a while so we can see each other because if I have to pick it would be socially irresponsible of me to pick my sister."

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"She gets the same binding, and we're leaving in a week so I can't give you longer than that, but deal.

 

Summoners become daeva if they die? I do not think that's the case here."

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"Then I guess it's not salient to you personally, I suppose. Most daeva aren't ex-summoners, we're a minority," she adds. "Anyway for future reference I am the easiest-to-pay demon ever since I have a repeatable intangible, although of course I retain the right to refuse deals on ethical grounds. If you needed a demon again. Where d'you want the ships?"

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"There's space right outside." He gestures. "Maitimo, by the way."

 

If she has ethical concerns she might hesitate when she notices that this is definitely a fleet of two hundred warships with active weapons systems. Hopefully she does not notice that immediately; maybe warships look different where she's from. Or her ethical reservations are more on the scale of 'no feeding planets into black holes', which he's not currently planning to try unless things look really bad in Endore.

He pulls up the blueprints on a demon-safe computer and hands it to her. 

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Some things just scream 'weapon.'

"Are those...battleships of some kind?"

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"Yes. The hwesta-class are carriers and those will each have a couple hundred smaller ships for atmospheric engagement; everything else is a warship. I can also get you the blueprints for a civilian lightleaper to take home when you're done, if you'd like."

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"I think under the circumstances I would appreciate some context for why the battleships."

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"There is a war. We didn't start it, but we are planning to end it. The other side recently fed this system's suns into a black hole, if that helps you evaluate who the good guys are."

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"Do my bindings prevent me from playing Infosec Hazard to the point of verifying this?"

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"You can't break the law, but I bet you can summon scale models of everyone who died in the fighting on Endore yesterday and you can definitely summon our newspapers and so forth. I can also swear to it, but if people in your universe die and become daeva then I'm guessing you also don't have oaths."

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"People make promises but I'm guessing you mean something else from context. Not that I can guess how that interacts with the other thing."

Newspapers! What do the newspapers say.

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The newspapers say that one month ago, Melkor fed the Suns into a black hole, and the Valar are working on replacement options for the star system, please have patience and don't do anything drastic.

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She's pretty sure this counts as something drastic.

"Who are the Valar, and is the fact that it looks like they don't want you to do what you're doing going to interfere with my don't-break-the-law binding?"

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"Building the ships isn't against the law. Emigration is also not technically against the law, just heavily frowned upon and will get our citizenships revoked. Going to war in Endore is against the law but I didn't summon you to participate in that. 

 

The Valar are daeva. Unbound daeva whose summoners are unknown and I'm guessing in artificial suspension on a planet really far away where they will never be found. They are the rulers of this galaxy."

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"Well, then. If my sister and I are going to be here a week I think I'd like to know more about the situation as it stands in that time, but that, uh, yeah."

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"Not the case back home?"

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"Even aside from the fact that we don't have FTL and therefor it'd be pretty damn hard to rule a galaxy even for a daeva, no. ...We also don't have reliable suspended animation, which may contribute."

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"Have you heard enough to decide whether you'll make me my ships? I have no desire to be rude but I am confident of finding someone who doesn't want to check and there are quite a lot of people dying as we speak."

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"Yes." Ships!

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Lovely. 

He did this on Araman because it was safer if they made a mistake - and less likely to catch a Vala's attention - but the rest of the host is still back in Tirion. He draws up her sister's circle while she builds the fleet. 

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"Hello, summoner, what may I--" the angel begins, before spotting her sister and cutting off her greeting and professional smile with a grin of genuine delight. "Edie!"

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Awwww. 

He tosses her a pen. "Want to turn this grey for me in exchange for a week with your sister?"

 

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"Absolutely." Grey!

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So she's out of her circle, though both of them are leashed to twenty-five meters of him. They are trying to technically not break any laws on their way out of Valinor and that is one. 

He writes his father. "I have a fleet, your grace." 

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The sisters are unlikely to notice this in the immediate future, occupied as they are by wingfully hugging and chattering at each other in multiple languages he doesn't speak.

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After a little while he will have to interrupt their happy reunion. "I'd like to return to our capital to coordinate the departure, and you're unfortunately going to have to come along, unless you want to go home."

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"...Why?"

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"Twenty-five meters of me. It's the law. Sorry."

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"Why is that the law?"

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"So it is less plausible you'd get up to bad behavior without me noticing, and if the Valar are really angry they can always dismiss you by vaporizing everything within thirty meters of you?"

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"Sheesh. Anyway, fine, we'll come."

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They get into a non-lightleaping shuttle and he sets its course for Tirion. 

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"So. While we're waiting, what's up with--all of the everything? Sorry, not very helpful--um, you appear to be ruled by daeva, that sounds like it must have an unpleasant backstory. What kinds are they?"

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"There's fourteen. Manwe's in charge, he's an angel. Any unpleasantness was long before my time. The planet of origin of my people, Endore, was badly scarred in a war between them, and when the war was settled the Valar offered us the chance to come live on a planet of their making. Post-scarcity and completely safe and they'd do resurrections, it was a very appealing offer. Many of us took them up on it. We have lived in Valinor for the past - we're not going to have years of the same length, but every universe we've summoned from so far is the same age, 1.3 billion of our Years, do you happen to know how old yours is?"

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"Between twelve and fourteen billion."

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"Then our Years are approximately ten of yours. We've lived in Valinor for the past three hundred fifty of our years."

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"...Unless I'm misinterpreting things, are you about to go to war against a daeva."

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"Yup."

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"Why would that strike you as a good idea?"

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"Endore has a population of around ten billion. He could, obviously, just kill them all, and he hasn't, so that's something, but he's killing them by the hundreds of thousands and we can't just sit here waiting for the Valar to figure out the best way to get rid of the black hole and put the Suns back."

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"Then why aren't you sending covert assassination missions to various interstellar locations that could conceivably contain his catatonic summoner?"

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"Do you know how many stars there are in a galaxy? And it is not remotely guaranteed that he put it in this galaxy!"

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"I'm not saying it would be likely to work, but if you're assigning yourself an impossible mission for the sake of your principles why not pick one that's theoretically capable of succeeding?"

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"I take it with your home universe's tech level this would be laughable? It's - likely to be ugly, to be sure, and no one would bet on us, but it's not impossible. It's certainly not impossible that we can be annoying enough to evacuate most of the people who aren't backed up before he feeds the planet to a black hole."

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"Evacuating is possible," she acknowledges. "But daeva are categorically indestructible. Getting black hole'd is an annoyance."

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"We have immaterial force fields that you can only handle by destroying the generator, and it is at least in principle possible to have them with the generator outside your range."

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"And what happens if a daeva creates enough conceptually-themself matter inside it to be uncontainable?"

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"Then we will be long gone with everyone he can hurt and he'll have to find us, lightleapers aren't traceable."

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"Okay, your plans sound more plausible than aimlessly searching for his summoner. I apologize."

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"I mean, do not take me for optimistic about this operation. But yes, we're not planning to fire projectile weapons at him. 

 

 

If there is a secret way of destroying daeva this would be a splendid time to learn of it."

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"If there were it would take far more proof for me to give it to you than it took for me to make you ships someone else would have anyway."

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"That would be worth providing any evidence you could possibly desire. And very nearly anything you wanted in return, since you'd have to try hard to be an eviller ruler than him."

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She snorts. "Pity there isn't, then, not as far as I know."

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"Wasn't really expecting one. 

 

I doubt that's all you wanted to know of galactic politics; where should I explain next?"

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"Why aren't the Valar reigning in their wayward conspecific themselves?"

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"I assume he's threatened to just hole the planet if they show up. I do not know for sure; they are not communicative rulers."

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"Autocrats who don't explain things. Joy. And. Rapture."

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"My father's working on an interdimensional transport system that is sapient so no demon can reproduce it, and our eventual goal is to pick a nicer dimension and settle there. But that's a long way out."

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"...Nice."

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"May we live to see it. 

 

This is Valinor up ahead, by the way. Lovely place. They did a great job on it - even on the detail work - the ecosystems apparently took them hundreds of millenia, but that was before we were around to complain."

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"Whoah. I can't imagine anyone I know putting hundreds of thousands of years--millions of our years into one ecosystem."

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"I think they'd had a very long time to frolic around and had gotten bored of it? They really did put an astonishing amount of effort into making it nice for us. Every single plant is edible and nutritionally complete. Even getting a stable orbit with two suns was, I take it, a project that required repeated attempts. They are pretty good at their jobs, if very - quixotic."

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"Still. Very patient."

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"Do you not have any billion-year-old demons in your Hell?"

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"Nope. Daeva have been around for about two hundred thousand of our years."

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"I am surprised! Universes with such a distant point of divergence wouldn't necessarily be expected to have enough in common that this conversation makes any sense." The computer wants them to buckle up for atmospheric reentry. "You two too, since you can't break the law. Sorry."

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She snorts. "Your laws require daeva to be within a certain distance of their summoners the whole time and don't have seatbelt exceptions for us?"

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"The Vanyar fill most of the legislative house and the Noldor do most of the summoning. It's terribly inconvenient. I guarantee you that if we wrote the laws they'd be much less stringent on many fronts."

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"Legislative house?"

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"So Valinor is actually made up of three independently-ruled-unless-a-Vala-sees-fit-to-do-something-different kingdoms, but Valimar is the favored one and on laws affecting the whole world, which are made by a global legislative body, they have the majority of the seats."

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"Ah-huh."

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"Funny story - they prohibited sex with daeva because of concerns about coercion on one end or the other, but I guess the Vanyar are all very innocent because they only prohibited penetrative intercourse between a man and a woman. When it eventually came to their attention that this wasn't curtailing the behavior they were worried about, they made a law that all bindings must prohibit daeva and summoners from touching."

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"...Well, demons sorta have a not-universally-undeserved reputation as rapists, back home, so I have a hard time actively objecting to that. I mean, I don't think it's the best possible solution to the problem, and it doesn't seem like it would do anything about daeva and other non-daeva besides their summoner, but..."

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"Really? Are people at home just very bad at the bindings they actually want?"

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She snorts. "People back home usually don't let demons talk because they're worried we'll talk them out of their souls. Anyway the rape thing typically comes up when you have a summoner who's really desperate and a demon who's an enormous asshole."

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"...and the desperate person has the expectation that all demons are terrible, presumably - if you'd wanted sex for the ships I would have filled in the next circle..."

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"I am neither that hard up nor that much of an asshole," she snorts. "The desperate person often doesn't have anything better to pay with. Transdimensional technology boosts aren't something most people have. And expects most demons to at least potentially be terrible."

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"Unfortunate. It's not obvious then that the situation is resolved by prohibiting sex then, though, even if the prohibition is respected."

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"Yes, but out of the things you've told me about your government so far, 'implements a well-meaning if misguided attempt to avoid something that's a genuine problem where I'm from' is so far down the list of things I'd want to yell at it about that it's not really worth bothering with."

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"Fair enough. I haven't even told you many of the bad things about my government."

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"I wasn't assuming that the list only contained things I had heard."

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The computer guides them towards Tirion's shuttleport. "I'm going to be sitting in the palace doing logistics for most of the next week, there's a room adjacent that's within the binding and I would be happy to set someone to data system compatibility or just interface compatibility so you can entertain yourselves."

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"That sounds fine."

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"If you want to go home early just let me know. Please don't annoy anyone enough they want you home early, Mandos would totally hold up my resurrection with months of paperwork and I'd miss the whole war."

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"That reminds me, please explain resurrection, we don't do that at all except insofar as becoming daeva or limboites counts."

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"We all get chips implanted in our heads at a very young age - it's safe to do at three, and most people obviously don't wait - that among other things contain complete backups of our minds. If our bodies are destroyed but the chips are intact, a demon can give us a new body around the chip and we're back and running. The chips are hard to destroy - they'll typically survive even a shuttle accident which is the worst sort of thing that happens here. Summonings break on conventional death, so if someone shoots me in the head you two both go home even though I will be back eventually.

It's illegal to summon your own daeva for resurrection, you have to use Mandos."

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"Of course. How hard is it to catch someone who does it anyway?"

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"Mandos routinely conjures all summoning circles drawn within this star system in the last day to make sure everyone's being careful and obeying the law."

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"Within this star system."

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"The Valar are much less strict about what people outside Valinor do. He might conjure those too but I've never heard of him bothering anyone over them."

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"Talk about good enough reason to leave on its own."

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"Not too many habitable planets nice and terraformed for us. I might end up calling you back."

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"I am okay with that!"

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They land. It is a spectacularly pretty shuttleport, like concept art from some designer's fantasy project instead of a galactic civilization's major transit hub. He has sent in their manifest and it includes the angel and the demon. "I apologize about everything being dark. The Enemy doesn't usually feed the Suns into a black hole, that was a new one."

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"Don't worry, if some demon had fed my solar system's sun into a black hole we wouldn't be doing half so well."

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"The Valar were very quick on stabilizing our orbit and generating temporary sources of light and heat and blanketing the place in reflective clouds to keep it in. They like Valinor, they were pretty devastated and would I think be pretty disinclined to scrap it and start over." People leave them rather a wide berth.

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"I would be too if I'd spent millions of years on a thing."

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"Yep." And they're outside. "Welcome to Tirion." It looks again extraordinarily pretty, and extraordinarily planned for a city. The only thing that isn't perfectly designed to compliment everything else is the lighting, which is all recent and haphazard.

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This is not really surprising on any level!

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They walk. He handles a few dozen logistical queries in his head while they do so.

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The daeva do not yet know that chips enable this ability.

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Then perhaps they'll think he's a little absent-minded. When one of his brothers passes him in the street he will speak aloud for their benefit.

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"Hey! Unusual combo, did'ya find a universe where Heaven and Hell are best friends?"

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"Nope, but these two are sisters - they don't back people up, and you become daeva when you die."

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"Sounds like a pretty good deal."

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"Yep. I'm not asking someone to destroy their backup and test whether it works for us."

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"Well, we're all volunteering for a different suicide mission, we can at least share the results. Hi, by the way. Tyelcormo. He's my brother."

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"Emily Xavier, and this is my sister Edie."

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"Pleased to meet you."

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And palace-wards. "I cannot believe I've really answered all your questions."

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"The trouble is less that we think we know enough and more that we know we don't have enough information to ask the right questions."

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"Okay. This nation is called Túna, its capital city is Tirion, population ten million, twenty million if you count the surrounding metropolitan area. It's a monarchy. My grandfather was the King until Melkor murdered him - melted the chip, too, obviously - so now my father's the King, though contestedly. Being immortal we didn't have clear rules for succession. We are two and a half light Years from Endore, which is the planet Melkor's currently terrorizing. We're going to go there and figure out what's going on and then try to distract him for long enough to grab everyone and run."

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"Who's doing the contesting?"

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"My father's half-brother."

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"What does the dispute look like?"

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"People pointedly obey orders from the person they think is the King. It'll be a disaster if we try to fight a war together, but in the meantime, doesn't really matter."

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"But you are expecting to fight a war together."

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"I'm hoping to have fixed things by then."

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"Good luck with that. Did your grandfather ever summon anything?"

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"No. No matter what was happening, no one'd have been willing to kill him - I'm also taking something of a chance on that front, but under more desperate circumstances..."

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"I suppose having people it would be problematic to see dead summoning daeva has risks," she sighs. "But--given how that works, at least in our universe, and the fact that permanently killing you is possible--I strongly recommend having everyone you can summon something. A fairy for a minute and give 'em a batch of cookies'll do it. And there's Limbo, if that's also the same..."

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"I'll encourage people to give it a try when we're out of the system - it seems like the kind of thing that'd get us called into Mandos for a talk, if they noticed thousands of times as many summonings - we also don't have lots of plates of cookies to go around, crops don't grow without the Suns and panicked people have pretty much cleaned out store shelves..."

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"I will give you as many plates of cookies as you need for this specific purpose."

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"Thank you."

And they're approaching the palace. Even in the dark it's spectacular. 

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"Patience has its virtues, I see."

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"The cities we built ourselves. Well, designed ourselves, the Valar obviously built them."

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"I commend your design sense."

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"I will pass it on to the people who were around back then! Also their foresight; at the time there were scarcely two million of us but they built the city to grow elegantly, and so it has."

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"Nice."

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They reach the palace. He walks in. Neither his father nor Nolofinwe has claimed the throne room; both of them have set up rooms in which to receive audiences. And of course he's already written ahead and they've straightened out the logistics on this, but for the benefit of everyone in the area, he sweeps in, is announced, kneels on the stunning stone floor. "Your grace, we have a fleet."

 

"Good," he says, "let's start shuttle runs to Araman now, then."

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Yeah they're just gonna stand here if they were supposed to do anything else he shoulda said.

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No one is expecting courtesies from the daeva. The default assumption here is that most daeva would be the Valar if they could. He stands and conveys the orders to start boarding shuttles and then he gestures them towards his office - "something to eat? I have the menus of Tirion's three nicest restaurants -" and then closes his eyes and solves peoples' complaints as best he can.

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Ooh, menus. Yes please.

It's sorta weird how he's just sitting there with his eyes closed but whatever.

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He is informing his father's half-brother that he has a fleet and is happy to share, what's the division of ships that seems just and also leaves them a united command on the other side of the jump, because a united command is really important.

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Backups are the only chip-feature that has been explained so far so neither the demon nor the angel knows this is possible.

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Then they'll just think he has a headache, or perhaps does meditative trances. He left them the menus, they can probably entertain themselves.

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They're very impressed with Tirion's restaurants. And happy just to be able to spend time together.

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And once logistics are humming along he can't help but think about whether he can use two currently-friendly daeva to fix the succession crisis. Having them makes his side obviously manifestly more qualified to handle things which might spring up during the fighting, but he's not planning to keep them that long, and having them also makes it less wise for him to be indispensable. His first assessment is that 'rule the world' is not at the top of their list of aspirations, but daeva are harder to read than people, and have more incentive to lie, and no osanwe... 

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If either of them knew about osanwe at least one of them would be keen to see if that last part were fixable but alas.

They continue to demonstrate personality traits compatible with not ruling the world given a less-than-ethical chance to do so.

...Actually, they continue to demonstrate personalities more like people than like daeva.

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Which is kind of weird, so, after a while - 

"I would love to hear more about your native dimension."

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"Fair enough. Are you more interested in the Daeva realms or the mortal one? Or Limbo, technically that one's not either."

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"Either, but I'd expect daeva realms to have a great deal in common across dimensions."

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"Except that ours is orders of magnitude younger. Hell is vacuum, Fairyland is an infinite plane, Heaven is infinite glowing cloud-fluff--don't know that much about Heaven or Fairyland culture, but most demons live on a gigantic plane of gold that exerts its own gravity, it's so big, someone thought it would be a good idea a long time ago and the notion stuck." And she goes on to give a brief cultural/social overview of the city she lives in, and then launches into a somewhat meandering, poorly organized description of earth history. She's not really a historian, so it focuses disproportionately on things that interest her, like civil rights movements and the time period she lived in (early twenty-first-century) and Judaism.

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"If our Hell has a giant plane of gold so big it exerts its own gravity no one's mentioned it. I don't think most demons live in cities, either. Maybe the underlying species difference.

 

We also don't really have religions. People worshipped the Valar before we figured out what they were."

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"Daeva haven't been public knowledge for most of human history," she explains.

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"Oh? When'd that happen?"

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"Early twenty-first century. During my lifetime, in fact."

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"Must have been quite disruptive."

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"It was, but mostly in a good way."

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"And not a single catastrophic mistake yet. I always assumed that without the Valar someone'd let a daeva loose in a matter of Years, and we'd be right back where we started."

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"...Well, there was that one incident with the angel who turned people into furniture, but they found and killed the summoner."

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"Turned people into furniture?"

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"Yeah. While leaving them still somehow alive."

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"Well, that's horrifying."

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"Yes, that was how it was empirically demonstrated that nuclear weapons don't bypass daeva invulnerability. And everyone agrees that it was the right decision, even though it didn't work."

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"...

 

 

How'd they find the summoner?"

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"I don't know off the top of my head."

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"And you don't have lightleapers so weren't looking literally anywhere in the universe. Okay. Guest room next door is yours if either of you like to sleep - it only has one bed, sorry - or if the palace isn't pretty enough I can take you out to the gardens for a few hours."

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"...The palace is gorgeous. Neither of us is going to waste time sleeping when we only have a week to see each other in when we usually go decades without."

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How normal. Which makes sense, if they're ex-summoners. But also feels a little too straightforward. 

"By all means. Let me know if you need anything."

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"Alright."

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Assigning people to ships. Giving promotions to people remaining in Tirion so the city won't shudder to a halt while most of its population is at war. And plan after plan after plan for evacuating Endore. He barely sleeps.

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This whole thing sucks.

"So what are you doing when you're sitting in a chair with your eyes closed?"

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"Oh! Sorry, I even gathered that your world didn't have backups and didn't think through any of the other implications - we're telepathic. I'm coordinating the departure from the city."

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"Lucky," she breathes. "...The telepathy part, not the...other part. Can the chips be installed in daeva?"

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"I can't think why not - it's not as if it'll kill you and if it did somehow incapacitate you that'd be tremendously valuable information and we have an angel on-hand to fix it." He pulls up a brain scan. "They look like that and they go there."

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She examines the scan.

She makes the chip.

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She can sense all of the people around her, thousands of them - the fact they're present, any thoughts of theirs which are public, if she wants she can reach out for their senses and see through their eyes -

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Amazing.

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And he can read all of her thoughts, now, because she hasn't yet learned to shield them. 

Very very unlike the daeva of his world, unlike the Valar. Not fundamentally alien at all. 

Interesting.

"D'you want to load some blessings on that?"

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"Blessings?"

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"That's just what we call them. Chip-interfaced sensory and cognition improvements - perfect recall, better working memory, enhanced senses and sensory processing, that kind of thing..."

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"Ooh, yes."

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"You can pull up a list of the ones I've got and go from there."

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She creates the list.

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Balance (chip), reflexes (chip), autonomic control (chip), deflecting projectiles (area-effect), grounding electricity (touch), wireless charger (area-effect), eloquence (chip), working memory (chip), recall (chip), temperature (area-effect), better osanwe range and precision (chip), sense magnetism (area-effect), improved visual acuity  (chip and surgery), improved auditory acuity (chip and surgery), ability to see ultraviolet and infrared light (chip and surgery), temporary strength (area-effect), temporary inertia (area-effect), healing (touch)...

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"Chip me. I want the magnetism one at the very least," she says, reading over her sister's shoulder.

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"Yeah, okay." She does that. "Wow. Wow. What do the designations mean, though, area-effect and so on?"

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"You don't load the blessings directly to your chip, you make little transponders." He opens his collar to pull out an exquisitely pretty necklace. "Some blessings work just from the necklace, lots of them interface with your chip. Most of them work on you, but the ones designated area-effect have a specific radius from the transponder. Touch means it's activated by contact with the transponder - some people get them in their fingers so it's more convenient -"

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"So anyone a certain range from the necklace could sense magnetism?"

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"Nah, you can sense magnetism within a certain range."

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"Makes sense. Is the healing self or others? Not that it matters as much for me, granted."

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"Touch. 'healing' is actually a nice word for it, what it does it let us transfer our general autonomic control to another person - so you can use it to do things like touch someone who's unconscious and fix whatever's causing it, but you could also, if they didn't have a blessing for autonomic control themselves, touch a conscious person and tell their heart to stop. Your binding won't let you do that, but I'm assuming you're taking it home with you, and possibly eventually handing it out, so - now you know."

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"...I will be careful handing that one out."

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"You'll have a hard time doing so anyway, it's a tricky bit of electronics. But yeah. Part of the reason the Valar discourage travel from here to other worlds is that everyone here is pretty dangerous, there, if we want to be."

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"That is a non-terrible reason. So are the transponders embedded in the necklace such that I can design anything I want to put them in or are they part of the necklace's design such that I'd have to learn to make 'em from scratch to get anything but a copy of one that already exists?"

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"Embedded in the necklace. They come in lots of forms, I can take you out to go see a store - or Edie can fetch the contents of the nearest modern blessings shop -"

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"Will that fit in this room? And fail to be illegal for reasons of plagiarism or what have you?"

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"I have royal prerogative to ignore laws about theft, and I don't have to bind daeva to them either. I don't do it often, it's not good for the economy. But under the circumstances most of the usual considerations don't apply."

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"Royal prerogative to ignore laws about theft. Okay then. Well, you're right that it doesn't apply as much in this situation." She makes the things.

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"We're actually above all of the local laws, though not the laws of the Valar. In emergency situations like this one it's convenient."

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"Pretty," the angel says. She starts looking at the blessings and composing a necklace design in her head. It's very well put together, if stylistically novel.

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"Enjoy. I am not going to get to summon anyone from your dimension again, am I? Pity, you're much more similar to us in goals and personalities than the native daeva."

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"...Not going to get to...?"

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"You're acquiring all our technology; I'm going to need to pull from somewhere that wants things I can give them."

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"Well, there's us, we haven't stopped being different kinds of daeva who live in different planes of existence when not on summons. And it's only demons who get impossible to pay when information gets proliferated anyway."

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"Yeah, we've never had trouble with summoning locally for angels and fairies. I'm thinking the war's going to be mostly demon-aided, though."

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"How long do you think the war's going to take?"

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"I honestly have no idea. It might be that we land, pull a ten billion person evacuation under fire and successfully get half of them out before he gets bored and wrecks the planet, it might be he'll offer us terms, it might be he's constrained some odd way and the war actually involves extended firing of projectiles at each other - it might be we leap to the system and it's already too late..."

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"Insofar as demons have currency, information's it. Humans can use the light leaper ships well enough that that, I'll give away, but I can do that meaninfully until the next Fairyland Concordance at the soonest, because where we're from, people gag demons."

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"So I can keep pulling demons from your world for a little while and hope the local tech level's still new and exciting.  Or, once we're away from the Valar, be otherwise less constrained in what to offer them, I suppose."

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"And, you know, it's interesting here. And the more time I spend not in Hell the less use I have for spending information."

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"Care to stick around and keep summoning things for our war?"

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"Probably. I mean, I am the easiest-to-pay demon ever. I'll want to investigate the available evidence more first, but--probably."

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"Yep. You have another feature, now, for as long as you keep the chips in - try to say "I swear my name is Elda" or something."

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...

"Why can't I do that."

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"You can't swear falsely. You can take out the chip and then you can, again, of course, if it bothers you. You can use it to do lots of things, many of which you would not want to do - swearing to hate someone will make you hate them, for example, forever for we Elves and until you take it out for daeva. Wise people only use them to confirm honesty and trustworthiness and those nice things."

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"...Thank you for telling me that before I naively promised something."

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"Sorry, I suppose it makes sense that in a world where they're not enforced people'd make promises expecting to break them. If you want to be able to do that you'll have to take the chip back out. Anyway, I swear that everything I've told you is true to the best of my knowledge."

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"I don't make promises I don't mean. That doesn't mean I would have liked to be surprised by having one enforced."

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"Your promises are now enforced. No one's going to treat you as reliable on that basis, though, since you can disable the chip. You can't disable ours without killing us, so our promises are very reliable."

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"Noted."

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"I'd say 'you're welcome to walk around and talk to people' but, well, you aren't. You can pull up anything you'd like, though."

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"Yeah. Pity about the twenty-five meters thing."

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"Ordinarily I'd say you could go meet the Valar and argue it but I can't be spared from here."

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"No, it's fine." She conjures a book.

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The day before their departure the Valar announce they are temporarily closing all shuttleports and prohibiting summonings. 

 

To stop anyone from doing anything rash or unwise in light of recent events. 

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"I apologize on behalf of my...whatever daeva are, I don't think we actually qualify as a species."

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"It's fine. We're leaving; should I dismiss you first?"

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"I don't particularly prefer it."

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"Okay. Shuttleport's closed so we're launching from a field nearby - they're going to be angry, I'm just not sure how angry, or how fast they'll realize -" he starts walking.

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"Angry as in liable to write you rude letters or angry as in 'it is potentially useful that we do not prefer to be dismissed sooner rather than later'?"

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"They are half a continent away and most communications equipment went down when we got a black hole and we're running old footage as if it's live. We are hoping to sneak out before they notice we're gone. If not, though, we're leaving anyway. We'd need your help for that."

He'd have to snap the bindings and there's no chance that doesn't end with him dead but if there's some chance it gets a few hundred thousand people out to Araman first -

He doesn't say that yet, obviously.

 

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She has read enough things by now to be confident in oaths.

"I hope it doesn't come down to it being a good thing that we don't prefer to leave straight off, then."

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They head out to Alqualonde, the nearest shuttleport that's still open. Six hundred thousand people, walking because someone might idly conjure traffic records and walking leaves no traces. It's a hundred fifty miles. They will be there in twelve hours; they are Eldar. (They have a statistically-ordinary number of train passengers for everyone unable to run that kind of distance.)

I have a demon, he growls at everyone who speaks of supplies. I will get you your entire house back if you want.

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Is no one going to notice this many people going at this pace on foot?

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Lots of people are going to notice, no daeva should notice. My people have been commanded not to communicate with the Valar, do things that might draw their attention, or put to recorded form information about our plans. Once we cross the border it'll be more trouble, but even if they contact the Valar on the spot we'll have a little bit of time, enough to get into the air - and they might not contact the Valar on the spot.

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Might not?

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The Teleri - that's the country we're entering, Teler - don't have any especial fondness for the Valar and people unauthorizedly using their shuttleport might be the sort of thing they write down in a message titled attn: Varda so they've done their jobs, rather than flying straight for Taniquetil.

 

There's another option but I am guessing you won't like it.

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Does it involve killing people, she sighs.

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You could resurrect them afterwards if you wanted.

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Isn't that illegal? I assume putting knock-out drugs directly into their bloodstreams would also be illegal.

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Yep, all options other than 'pray they don't tell the Valar' don't work with your bindings. 

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Then don't offer me the chance to do things I cannot, in fact, do.

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Swear you won't destroy your chip. Swear you won't kill anyone in a way that destroys their chip, swear you won't render me unconscious -

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She takes his meaning immediately. "I swear I won't destroy my chip at least until I've been dismissed. I swear I won't kill anyone in a way that destroys their chip. I swear I won't render you unconscious unless it's as temporary as I can feasibly make it under the circumstances and I have strong evidence it's for your own benefit."

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And you will not try to bring about the destruction of the chip, and you will prevent it if attempted.

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"I swear that until I have been dismissed I will not allow my chip to be destroyed or impaired to the point of making oaths nonviable without technically being destroyed if there's anything I can do about it."

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He snaps the binding.

 

If there's no one in Alqualonde conscious to send a warning we can get everyone out in time.

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Wow. Wow.

Everyone in Alqualonde--well, no--

I can't get literally everyone there with knockout drugs directly to the bloodstream but I can blanket the whole area with knockout gas after giving everyone here a gas mask, let people know to put them on?

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So he tells people.

 

Some of them infer that he must have unbound his demon and there are horrified glances in his direction but these are his people and they trust him and anyway Edie's mind is readable and so far contains no effort to find loopholes.

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She doesn't want to find loopholes, she wants to save lives. She wouldn't be running amok without the oaths, not that they're not a perfectly reasonable security precaution.

Gas masks for everyone, and then she wants to check to make sure that everyone's wearing theirs securely before she floods the air with soporifics.

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They cross the border to Teler unbothered by border officials. They reach its shuttleport unbothered by anyone. They start getting shuttles out into the air, ten at a time, two hundred people in each. 

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Good. Hopefully they can get off the planet without--well, without it becoming relevant that she's there in the way she originally feared.

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Want to just make the shuttles so they don't have to make return trips -

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Good plan. She does the thing.

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Ulmo shows up an hour into the frantic operation. He's alone. So they didn't realize what was going on, they must have noticed something amiss in Alqualonde but not guessed what, or they'd have come in force - 

 

Ulmo's form is frighteningly and distinctly inhuman; the speed, and the effortless change in direction as he arrives at the shuttleport; tell her fairy, but he doesn't look like the fairies of her world. He looks at her, then sends a rock flying at Maitimo at a good approximation of the speed of light -

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There is a titanium wall between Maitimo and the rock and now Ulmo is encased in layers of every material she can think of as being difficult to get out of in the split-second it takes her to do that.

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I counsel you, he says from within the rock, not to pursue this reckless and futile course. You will meet your deaths in Endore, pointlessly.

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Ah, but does he keep trying to kill Maitimo, is the real question.

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He is a fairy; he does not have a useful way of getting out of that very quickly. He can move things at where Maitimo was standing when he last saw him; he doesn't do that, not desiring collateral damage.

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Oh, good. Never having encased a fairy in miscellaneous solids before she couldn't be sure he couldn't just make all the bits fly away from himself at high speed.

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Well, for whatever reason it takes him a few minutes. Only a few minutes, though, and they they start flying loose.

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Re-encasing him every few minutes is sustainable.

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He does get faster at it. 

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She can encase him in thicker layers.

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And then sirens start from somewhere in Alqualonde. The shuttleport lights start flashing. 

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How bad is that?

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I assume someone woke up. Or didn't sleep. Or happened to have a daeva summoned at the moment - thirty minutes more, that's all we need -

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Will it help if the siren is destroyed, that's probably illegal so I can't do it but I think Edie can still spare the attention span from entombing the fairy.

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I think the sirens are a announcement, not the problem in themselves - I'll break your bindings on the same conditions, if you like, emigrating is illegal in itself at this point -

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"I swear to uphold every oath my sister made as though I had made it."

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And now there's a loose angel on Arda. He usually would not bet on his ability to assess character with daeva, but they seem like people -

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Emily starts clearing up the rubble made by the fairy continuously escaping and her sister continuously re-imprisoning him and helps with the imprisoning thing as best she can.

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Great. Last set of shuttles -

 

And the other Valar show up.

Five shuttles fall out of the sky as fast as Manwe, gliding serenely in, can move them.

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Can he also be imprisoned. Actually, all of them.

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Sure but the instant they realize you're in play everything within thirty meters of you is dead - he is, obviously, no longer within thirty meters of them, he's in the crowd milling on the other side, he's not an idiot - and possibly when they realize you're unbound everyone in the city is -

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Why didn't Ulmo do that then?

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He would find it objectionable. He's not evil. Damn it. Do it anyway, if you can hit them all at once and keep them down a minute or so, and then I'll tell them I'm the summoner and halfway to orbit and swear never to break Valinor's peace again -

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Titanium diamond tungsten that stuff spiderweb is made of--

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Some of the shuttles make it out, some go down, seems like the Valar are striking blindly - but by now they can coordinate moving stuff clear for each other -

and make us a shuttle - 

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She lunges for him, and makes a shuttle around them--

they're almost out, she can't--

she grabs his wrist

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The shuttle falls out of the sky and simultaneously explodes from being suddenly full of a variety of explosives her world did not have and he didn't know his did either.

She's back in Hell. She's holding the upper half of his body.

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Well, at least that plan worked, insofar as it could be called a plan. Now she has to hope she gets summoned back so that what she actually accomplished is "rescued Maitimo from Mandos' mercy and being stuck on Valinor for the duration of the war" and not "irrevocably separated Maitimo from everyone he's ever known and loved."

She cracks the skull open and retrieves the chip and shoves the actual body in a new freezer in the basement in case he turns out to have any preferences on what should be done with it. She makes sure to keep the chip on her person at all times.

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It's a couple hours later. A summons specifically for her.

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Oh, she was expecting it to take longer. She takes it.

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It only took this long because it took this long for the Valar to stop delivering their fucking 'Doom Doom Doom' lecture, he's not exactly going to wait until they're back on Araman. He does it with a light projector on the wall and then fucks with the artificial gravity to make the wall the floor and then fucks with it right back, just in case this impedes Mandos in conjuring records of this illegal summons.

 

As a result he's lying in the corner when she appears.

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Well she will also presumably belly-flop unexpectedly, which distracts her long enough that it takes multiple seconds for Maitimo to get resurrected.

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"Where are we?"

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"Six hours out from Araman, you were only dead for three. Eight thousand dead. Some Teler casualties on the ground, too, some of those shuttles crashed into buildings - we're all exiled from Valinor, no resurrections, may you know death by weapon and by torment and by grief may life grow unendurable to ye blah blah blah -"

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"Wait, are we getting blamed for people they killed?"

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"They killed? They didn't kill anyone, what subversive papers have you been reading? Maitimo here snapped the binding on his demon and she killed a ton of people before they arrived to save the day. The only person they killed was Maitimo."

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She still doesn't even know private versus public thoughts are a thing, so the rage that coils through her mind is perfectly visible, as is the crystallizing intent to hunt down the Valar's catatonic summoners and end them.

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"Be my fucking guest, but how the hell are we going to do that?" He hugs his brother. Maitimo puts on a headset and sits down at the nearest computer.

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Well obviously she doesn't know yet but she never killed anyone, he snapped her binding so she could save people, how dare they, how fucking dare they.

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She kind of looks like she could use a hug, and he didn't put 'no touching the daeva' in the binding. So. 

Hug.

We know. Everyone knows. We know you saved us. 

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Yeah, he's right about her being able to use a hug. Hugs are good. She is a demon so hugs are going to involve her partner getting wing-hugged, that's probably novel for him. It's not about credit, I don't care if people know, but--that kind of thing--spreading lies to support the idea that of course you're a just and righteous person and anyone who disagrees with you is terrible--it makes her blood boil and her eyes well up, it is the source of countless tragedies, it is the root of so, so much evil. She is maybe dwelling on some of that evil right now. Like Grampa Jake's stories about the Holocaust when she was young and alive.

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Hugs don't seem adequate for that, but he's not going to let go, either. Also, wings, that's kinda nice.

We're - there's evil going on so we're going to do something about it. That's all it really comes down to. All of those things - you know now that you're the kind of person who'd do something about them.

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Henh. She already knew that. Or thought she did, anyway, she supposes there are a lot of people who think they are and fold when push comes to shove. The hugs are really nice, though.

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Also super illegal, which makes them more satisfying. Fucking Valar.

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Ooh, that's true! She experiences the emotional equivalent of making rude and likely obscene gestures at the Valar with both hands like they were paparazzi and she was a sassy celebrity who didn't want to get photographed.

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Metaphor doesn't quite translate but he appreciates the sentiment anyway. "So, uh, since we're outlaws anyway, your binding's just 'don't kill anyone in a way that damages their chips and don't put me in a coma', hope that works."

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"Convenient." She wasn't going to do either of those things anyway so for all practical purposes she's actually been summoned unbound. Gosh. She doesn't quite know what to do with that, it never happens.

Well, she will keep hugging this person who is providing hugs, because hugs are excellent.

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"I should probably get back to work," he says reluctantly after a while, to the fantastic demon who brought Maitimo back without even asking for anything. "We want to get into lightleapers and out of Araman as fast as possible."

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"You're right," she says, reluctantly de-hugging. "Thanks for summoning me, I'm really glad that worked, I knew it was important that he not get stuck there but I was worried that no one would think of it and I'd have accidentally deprived him of everyone he ever knew and loved and vice-versa."

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"I wasn't sure it would work, but I thought of trying the second I saw your shuttle go down. You didn't happen to get anyone else, did you? D'you'know if your sister did?"

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"I don't know if she even thought of it, it was a split-second decision on my part and I wasn't even sure it would work until it did."

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"Well.

We all know what we're risking.

Want me to summon your sister back anyway? Is she going to want to be along for the ride?"

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"Yes."

She misses her sister so much, so much of the time.

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He would feel exactly that way about his brothers.

 

He explains what he did with the light and the gravity - "don't know if it'll work, or if it'll matter, but..." and Maitimo requests they go somewhere else to do that please he is trying to coordinate ship transfers and getting tossed around the room will be distracting.

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Oh, that's clever. Neat. Since they're in less of a hurry this time could they maybe set things up so that Emily has something more comfy than the floor to fall onto?

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"Definitely! You wanna make her the floofiest cushion ever?"

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"I don't know if I can outdo thousands of years of demons on floofiness--I don't know about your Hell, but mine is so tacky, it's ridiculous, did Maitimo tell you about the plane of solid gold? But I can sure as hell--pun intended, it's an idiom in my native language--try."

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"Maitimo did not tell me about the plane of solid gold! I'd yell at him for omitting it, but he's busy." That is one floofy cushion.

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Yes it is. "Some demon decided that it would be a fun idea to create a plane of solid gold big enough to exert its own gravity and live on it and for some reason living on it caught on."

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"I can respect that kind of illogic. 'Why am I going to do this? I want to, and I can.'"

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"Yes, and I can't really say he has unusually bad taste, demons in general don't have unusually bad taste but we have all the resources we want to ostentatiously display any particular errors of taste we may have, it's like--your capital city, sort of, only done badly."

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"I can't stand Tirion, it's okay to call it tacky if you found it such." And he projects the summoning circle, toys the gravity -

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"No, no, Tirion was way more tasteful than your average Hell-city, it's just that it had a comparable number of gemstones," she explains.

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"Aule can't help himself, he gets so excited about rocks that would be scarce on a geologically normal planet." And he summons her sister.

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Who squawks and falls onto the highly fluffy cushion.

"--Maitimo's brother!" she recognizes him after a moment. "Fuck, I'm sorry."

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"No, it's okay, I managed to drag his corpse back to Hell with me and now he's fine. Oh, and the Valar killed a bunch of people trying to keep us from leaving and blamed me for it."

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"They what."

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"Yep. Said that everything that happened at Alqualonde was - well, they were really saying it was Maitimo's fault, breaking the binding on a demon, but they said she killed everyone."

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"You know I'd expect rulers who are themselves unbound daeva not to take the 'an unbound daeva is a natural disaster' stance."

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"That'd be expecting the Valar to make any fucking sense. Anyway they had incentives to pin it on Maitimo, people adored him, killing him would have gone over really badly otherwise."

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"I don't suppose there's any way to get solid evidence of him publicly swearing that's not how it went down back to Valinor."

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"We're still in range, right? He could record a message and we could drop it on people. You can fake swearing over a recording, though, and I bet that's what they'd claim he did."

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"Bet they'll be surprised he's alive to do that."

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"...true. We probably don't want to invite the wrath of the Valar until we've leapt clean, though. Maybe we can come back and set the record straight after the war."

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"Fair enough, I guess."

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"Anyway, welcome to Valinor, it's not usually this exciting, can I get anything for the two of you before I get back to work?"

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"What can we do to be helpful?"

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"Want to compare notes on our world's weaponry and yours? If you've got better capabilities at something we can use that instead, use the week in the lightleaper to get systems compatibility..."

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"Yeah, alright." Edie knows next to nothing about weapons technology but she can apparently conjure objects-including-books from home just fine so this is not much of an obstacle.

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And he knows what axes to compare things along.

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Their weapons are mostly better but Edie's world's stuff isn't totally useless.

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Great! He's going to spend the next couple days mix-and-matching weapon models and getting the usable Earth stuff compatible, sorry for being such a terrible host but the situation's pretty pressing.

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Pff, what, no, they're trying to make war on a demon long enough to get the population of a planet evacuated, obviously that's more important than socializing.

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"If you happen to think of any ideas do share."

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"Weapons really aren't my area of expertise," she shrugs. Well, she has some interest in wars, insofar as they involve atrocities and atrocities should be mourned and felt angry over, but she knows less about the weapons fought in World War II and more about the camps...like...the gas...

...

"Okay so this is really horrible and I feel kinda bad just for suggesting it but do you have chemical weapons right now." There's all kinds of poison gasses--her mind flinches away from the actual stuff they used in the camps but there's nerve gas, mustard gas--probably not a good idea, they're trying to fight a daeva and evacuate a population, but maybe there's some use she's not thinking of...

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"...like that it kills everyone without damaging chips. We don't have that. I can think of circumstances where we'd need that. I am glad you mentioned it, even if hopefully it doesn't come up -"

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Mustard gas...probably doesn't do that? She's not sure what mustard gas does but it's apparently really nasty. Like in a pain way. "Hopefully. Oh, there's also poison teeth for that--" you put a capsule of poison in a fake tooth and crunch it if you need to die in a hurry for some reason. Oh, speaking of dying without damaging chips--"Do you have any particular traditions for what to do with corpses of resurrected persons?" She remembers sticking Maitimo's mangled body in cold storage in case dumping it in a lake of fire or a black hole would have been disrespectful.

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"Should crumble to dust of their own accord pretty fast, outside Valinor. I don't think Maitimo'll care."

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"What, really? Crumble to dust?"

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"Not what your species does?"

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"Well, my body was cremated, but if they're not burned they rot."

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"Okay. Uh, you can ask Nelyo if he's gotten sentimental about it but otherwise you can do whatever you want, Also, like, I never got my summoning license and don't really know my shit but you guys can make bodies, right? I expect demons have stronger feelings about disposal than we do."

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"Well, no one's ever lived in a--well, no one had ever lived in a body a demon from my Hell made before I brought your brother back, it's not quite the same thing. Also I should probably see if it has any stuff on it he wants salvaged because it had sentimental value that doesn't apply to the replicas on his new body or something."

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"He's not the sentimental type, but yeah, fair enough."

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"No hurry, the generator in my house'll last for years and I can't retrieve anything without getting dismissed and re-summoned, so."

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"Cool. I just brought you back in case you got Maitimo, but d'you'want to help fight Melkor?"

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"Yes, definitely." She knows intellectually that the fact that he's a demon doesn't make her any more responsible for failing to have somehow magically already done that than if he were some kind of weird extradimensional only-incidentally-physical energy being or something but it still slots him even farther into the category of her problem than he already was just by dint of existing in a way inimical to the non-daeva around him.

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"Good. Got any ideas?"

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"A handful of clever ideas for finding catatonic summoners that probably won't work because no one's done them yet, several centuries of periodic testing of how uncomfortable you can make a daeva and how distracting they're likely to find this, having someone invent a lightleaper big enough to engulf a planet with a hair-trigger starter that I can make around the entire planet save Melkor..."

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"That's something. I'll run it by the King, he was trying to sort surface takeoff but I don't think he tried that. Wouldn't it take you a really long time to make something that big?"

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"That's where the distractions come in."

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"What distractions have you got?"

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"Superficial irritants like itching powder give you the least dramatically different results than for a non-daeva; you can also get decent results by applying multiple kinds of stimulus rapidly and unpredictably, lemme get my notes..." she conjures a computer and begins sifting through files. "Of course most of these results are contaminated by the fact that I was my test subject, so I was expecting everything, but it's better than nothing."

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"Try itching-powder Melkor into not noticing you're building a giant lightleaper around his planet?"

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"Into interfering with his reaction time so I can counter anything he tries to do in response better."

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"Do you happen to know any demons who'd be willing to help with this in exchange for all our nice shiny tech. Or anything else, frankly, the stakes are high enough, but maybe we won't tell them that."

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"I know a couple people who might do it for just the chip's telepathy function," she muses.

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"Then it can be several on one, at least. Can you counter him if he starts feeding the planet into a black hole."

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"Probably not. What if we got a fairy or two to yoink him far enough off the surface of the planet to make a light-leaper around him?"

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"They take some time to set a course and get up to speed, I don't think you could make one at just before the leap point."

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"I can't make one at speed," she acknowledges, "but if the state of having set a course is a physical one I should be able to work with that."

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"I'll talk to my father, see if there's a way it can be done."

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"Probably a good plan. Your dad's an engineer?"

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"He invented faster-than-light travel. And heavier-than-air flight. And the printing press. He's, like, singlehandedly half of Valinor's technological progress."

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"You have FTL and your dad invented the printing press."

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"...yeah? That was over two thousand years ago..."

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"Right. Resurrectible. I just. Wow."

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"If anything I think we developed slowly, technology-wise, there was no real hurry."

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"Yeah, we don't have FTL but we do have spacecraft and we invented the printing press significantly less than a thousand years ago. Still. The guy who invented the printing press. Wow."

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"I wish you'd met him before the King was murdered."

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"Yeah."

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"Anyway, I've been telling him your suggestions so far and I'll keep doing that. Let us know if you come up with anything."

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"I--hm. Have people tried daeva-assisted methods of finding catatonic summoners or would that be illegal?"

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"Super illegal but I've tried it anyway. Pulling 'scale model of Melkor's summoner and the planet under them' doesn't do anything, complete works of Melkor's summoner are pretty generic stuff, some summoning circles with proper bindings, nothing in the last couple million years."

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"Maybe the summoner's not on a planet," she suggests.

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"'scale model of Melkor's summoner and surroundings' gets you a lot of rock. And the guy, who looks like daeva from my universe - they're less Eldalike than daeva from yours..."

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"A lot of rock? Well, daeva in my universe have been around about as long as there've been humans, which are our only sapient species..."

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"There was something before the Eldar. They went extinct."

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"Fifteen members short, technically, it looks like."

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"Yep."

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"At any point you summon something from here and get the opportunity to ask it questions, check if this world has Limbo?"

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"Sure. Want me to do that now?"

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"Seems as good a time as any."

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He has the projector do almost the entire circle, so he can't make a mistake, and then finishes it. No messing around with gravity this time.

 

And here is a daeva. A foot taller even then Tyelcormo, vaguely reptilian, balanced on hind legs and a thick tail like a kangaroo. He nods at it but doesn't comment, nothing that could count as an accidental agreement. 

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"I'm a daeva from another universe. This one has an afterlife for non-summoners, right?"

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"For our race. Theirs is bound to this world, and fundamentally of it, and cannot leave it."

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"...What does that mean?"

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"There are none of them in Heaven or in Limbo."

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"...Or Fairyland or Hell?"

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The daeva shrugs. "One assumes."

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"You don't correspond with them enough to know?"

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"Not personally, no."

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"But you're confident none could have turned up in Heaven or Limbo?"

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"...could be really far away, I suppose?"

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"Okay. Thanks." pause. "I'm sorry about your mortal versions going extinct."

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"I was never mortal."

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"It's still sad," she shrugs, "and there isn't an ex-summoner here to offer my condolences."

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"Well, they're all better off now, if you think about it."

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"Well, the ex-summoners, sure, not so much the ones who ended up in Limbo."

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"It's a constant population and we send them things."

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"Good to know some things are constant across worlds. I guess the population being constant would help, sure."

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"It's been millions of years. They've had time to make the place very nice."

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"What happened, do you know?"

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"I think their sun got tired and they tried to have daeva carry them away but it didn't work out, somehow."

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"Huh."

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"They were only ever in the one star system. Very vulnerable to trouble."

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"On a scale of millions of years, yes."

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"I don't know more."

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"Thank you for what you've told me."

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It swivels its head oddly. 

"You want something as a thanks-for-your-time?" Tyelcormo says. 

The angel names a model of computer.

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Poof.

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And bye, angel. 

Tyelcormo sighs. "Mandos has backup chips, so none of us really die anyway unless we've offended him."

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"Backup chips?"

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"These ones transmit to ones somewhere else - the location's obviously secret  - and if your chip's destroyed but he wants you back alive he can go fetch the backup."

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"...Does mine transmit?"

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"No idea. I doubt you could be brought back from your chip anyway, you're a daeva."

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"If he could fork a mortal me from a backup of my chip I find this highly alarming."

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"Yeah, I bet. Want to take it out and see if you can make a body around it - no, then if it worked we'd have a mortal you running around, that's no good -"

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"Better a mortal me here than in the hands of Mandos," she says, "and if I can make a mortal fork it might be worth testing if I could separately demonify her. Having multiple demons who are all me is not the worst possible outcome."

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"...okay, it's you, it's your lookout."

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"I'm not actually sure yet, but I'm not categorically ruling it out. To be worth it confirming that I can fork would have to let me do something about the possibility of Mandos forking me."

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"I haven't tried hunting down where he keeps the backups because that didn't seem useful. Also, he's not likely to do that, not his style."

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"Good. Any way for me to set up something similar so you guys aren't all fucked?"

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"...we were working on one. Didn't have it set yet."

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"And I can't just naively copy Mandos' setup?"

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"Does your world have demon-safe computers, where copying won't actually get you the same thing because mental signatures - or something like that, I don't actually know this stuff - anyway, nah, copying Mandos' setup won't get backups to start directing to you."

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"Lovely. Will copying his setup give your dad enough to reverse-engineer to figure it out?"

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"He started from that, but it was another twenty years of work. And the resulting thing is intelligent. Not human-level, and not conscious, but too smart for a demon to replicate."

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"That is both very wise and potentially inconvenient."

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"Yeah, well, we weren't counting on friendlies."

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"Very wise, as I said."

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"He could develop a conjurable version, probably. But I'm not sure it's worth it."

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"Possibly in the long term, just in case; almost certainly not in the short term."

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"Short term's hop somewhere way away from the whole mess - if we stay on the move we're not findable - and figure out what we can do for Endore."

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"Yeah."

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"You know how to reach me if you think of anything."

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"Yes I do." She has so many positive feelings about chip-based telepathy.

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Has its advantages!

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She also still doesn't know private thoughts are specifically a thing, so he can see if he cares to look how deep the appeal runs--it's not just highly useful, there's something in her that's deeply satisfied by the idea of being able to interact directly mind-to-mind with someone.

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It's inappropriate to read someone too closely if they don't know how to stop you. He gets a general sense of appreciation and that's it.

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Fair enough. It's a strong sense of appreciation, though.

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What a nice daeva. She's not even planning to demand their obedience yet.

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If she knew the word 'yet' was appended to that sentiment she'd feel--not offended, exactly, given the example available to work with, but further annoyed with the example.

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He's sort of running on the assumption that people with power abuse it.

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Ah, but what he doesn't realize is that even if she were temperamentally inclined to abuse power, she's starting to become fond of him and Maitimo, which means she'd probably be abusing power at least partly on his family's behalf.

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This would endear her to him significantly. 

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Such a pity this isn't actually a conversation they're having, then.

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Instead he gets back to work.

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And the twins will brainstorm things and provide helpful acts of deviltry and divinity when situations that could benefit from it arise.

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Six hours to Araman. They unload and get on the lightleapers and point them somewhere they won't be found.

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Should we be worried about one of the demons pulling a binary search?

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"Takes five days to get anywhere in a lightleaper. They find us, they head at us, we just need to be somewhere else five days later."

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"Makes sense."

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"We will be dependent on you for supplies."

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"I can do supplies." She doesn't like how hard the Morgoth problem is and anything concrete she can do to make a difference is good.

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Daeva always want something. Maybe it's really just admiration. He can't do deferential but he can manage - "thank you".

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"You're more than welcome. I'm sorry I can't do more, yet."

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"...thanks." A little more sincerely.

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"...For not being able to do more?"

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"For wanting to - you're really not like the Valar, it's hard to get used to -"

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"...Yeah, I guess if your primary example to work from is the Blame The Person People Are Going To Be Upset We Killed For Everyone Else's Death Committee I can't blame you for not expecting much of us."

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"It's not 'not expecting much', it's 'expecting things to have a price'. I usually'd just go tell someone to fuck themselves if they wanted to lord it around, but we need you and I can't do that. So. This is me trying to not fuck up."

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She snorts. "I don't want to lord it around. I mean, even if I was naively inclined that way, it sounds way less fun than not having people justifiably resent you for being an ass."

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"'Specially now that you can read our minds and tell."

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"Telepathy is so great," she sighs, folding her wings in enough that they don't get in the way of twirling and doing that. "Anyway, I'm not gonna promise that I'm going to do literally everything forever free but if I need something I'll tell you, okay, and in advance, I'm not gonna try to make you guess what I want and then penalize you for not getting it, and I'm not going to be a dick about the fact that you need to save people from evil daeva."

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He believes her.

It's pretty great. 

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Good, it can get wearing dealing with people whose expectations of her behavior are based on the majority of not-her people.

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They land on Araman. They load up the lightleapers.

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She checks to make sure there isn't anything she ought to make before the lightleapers take off.

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"You made them all stocked the first time. If you want to go around making people the possessions they abandoned back in Tirion, you're welcome to, but you needn't."

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"Yeah, that can wait."

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"We have food and fuel. That's all we really need."

He sighs.

"So, there are a few possible plans in the works. One is to make some of the lightleapers stay in one place for longer than five days, see if we can tempt the Enemy out after us - if necessary, do some runs by Endorë first, being an annoyance - and have some people on Endorë to do a full evacuation the minute we get him after us."

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"...My first thought is, given how I was able to retrieve you, that if you do that it would make sense to have someone on board summon--probably someone from my world, if I can dig up someone trustworthy enough or it seems worth it to have one of us do it, and have them in physical contact with everyone so no one has to let their chips be destroyed or fall into his hands."

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"That'd make the plan much more appealing. Do you have ideas about who from your world might be sufficiently trustworthy? We can pay well..."

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"I think so. And, you know, with the chips we can't really constrain their long-term behavior, because daeva, but we can confirm that they're not currently the kind of person who'd do something super nefarious."

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"If they consent to being chipped. I'll figure out the minimum number of people to operate this class of ship, and whether there's a way to have them all in one room, and then we can try calling up your acquaintances."

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"I mean, the chips are super excellent, although admittedly less so for people who aren't me when you don't factor blessings in."

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"Want to try making our case to some people right away, or should we wait? It'll be a minimum of five days before we need decide whether to set course for an annoy-the-Enemy swing by Endorë, see what we can provoke him into sending after us."

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"It sounds like I can be more productive there than here, at the moment. Oh, that reminds me, were you wearing anything on the upper half of your body when you died that you'd rather have the original back?"

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"There was some jewelry, if it happens to be convenient."

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"I wasn't sure if you'd rather your body be disposed of more respectfully than being tossed into a black hole so everything on your person when you died except the chip and some brain goop I had to wash off my hands is in a freezer in my basement."

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"When we have a bit more time, then." He smiles at her. "I can hardly thank you enough."

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"I'm honestly not sure if I should be flattered or despair at the majority of the population when people express the opinion that something I've done is extraordinary."

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"It was at a minimum extraordinarily quick thinking. I am not going to weep with gratitude because you've yet to demand obeisance, but you really have gone above and beyond getting us out of there as cleanly as - well, as cleanly as one could -"

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"When one has unbound daeva willing to kill to prevent it, yes."

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"Ulmo I think was very careful not to try to kill anyone but me, I rather commend him."

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"I noticed! I do not personally hate him."

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"And the others did permit the departure. Sort of."

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"For definitions that allow murder."

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"I mean that they stopped the murder once you both were gone. They could have chased down the shuttles that had already departed."

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"Still."

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"Oh, I'm hardly a fan." And his eyes flutter shut for another ten conversations. "Care to make us dinner?"

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"Sure, any requests?"

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"Got those menus I gave you back in Tirion?"

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"Yep."

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Then they'll have dinner! And they'll screw around with lightleaper course settings until the last possible second so anyone who conjures the records has a rough go of it! And they'll jump. 

 

"If you were trying to annoy a daeva into following you offplanet," he says, "without provoking them into massacring the on-planet civilian population..."

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"Seems like a sensible thing to try."

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"I just can't think how best to do it."

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"It's not a trivial question."

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"We can manufacture a paper trail of convincingly not caring about civilian casualties - the disaster at Alqualonde may help with that - if he'll be accordingly less inclined to use them against us. But I'm not sure he won't do it anyway, it's costless to him...we can manufacture a paper trail of trying to find his summoner, hope that makes him nervous, but if it's as hopeless as I am inclined to assume then it may not even make him nervous.

 

Also orcs would probably summon him back."

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"Orcs?"

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"He genetically modified my species into one of his own. There are billions of them and they're loyal to him. I don't have any ideas for what to do about them if we do manage to find his summoner - one possibility that has occurred to me is to summon him ourselves, bound."

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"I like that way better than my first thought."

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"Genocide? Yeah."

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"Biologically killing them and storing their chips in Hell, yeah, I really don't like the idea, but."

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"Could build a lightleaper and make them a planet really far away in Hell, where demons wouldn't stumble across them. We - could develop bioweapons for the purpose. If we can't think of a better way."

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She sighs. "It's a possibility. I still don't like it, but I am familiar with the concept of a lesser of two evils."

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"Never doing anything evil sometimes means passively permitting an awful lot of it," he agrees. "I will ask our biologists."

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"All that is necessary for evil to flourish is that good men do nothing," she quotes. "...You said chips could be put in at the ages of three and above."

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"Yeah. We can try for a bioweapon that somehow spares small children but I really can't make any promises there."

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"Summoning circles for Melkor, bound as tightly as tightly as humanly possible--I, I can make, as many of them as--have someone start categorically filling them in as soon as it's theoretically possible we got the summoner--"

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"I can have a couple hundred thousand people on circle-filling. He's got billions, though."

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"So it only works if he doesn't know he needs to--but--"

Her soul is shrieking in horror at the idea of deploying biological weapons against two-year-olds. That's. That's just. No is not a strong enough word, there isn't a strong enough word--

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"We haven't had very long to think about the problem given demon help. Maybe someone will come up with something better. Maybe we can just put them all in a coma."

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"Yeah." Okay yes she can calm down now there are other options. But--still, the very idea makes her want to flinch. "What's he actually doing on Endore?"

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"We do not actually have faster-than-light communications. I suppose it's possible he's going around handing out teddy bears."

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She sort of feels like it might be appropriate to apologize for freaking out but she is not the slightest bit sorry, actually, wiping out every baby in a species is the most freak-out-able concept she's heard, ever.

"So how do you know he's seriously worse than the other Valar, besides that he killed your grandfather?"

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"Well, what he did last time he was on Endore was capture and torture hundreds of thousands of Elves for medical experiments, and wipe out civilizations for entertainment, so I'm not leaning very hard on the 'teddy bears' guess."

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"Okay, that definitely sounds bad." But hundreds of thousands versus--what fraction of orcs were babies...and--babies--think of something more productive. "Not that I expected it not to."

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"We can land a stealth shuttle, get a feel for what's going on."

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"Mhm."

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"Or I can send you home. I do realize, even if we've had longer to think about it."

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"Not being a part of it doesn't make it better. If I'm here I can--

I'm not the kind of person who runs away from something like this."

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"Yeah. We have three days during which we can't do anything but think of options, and then if we decide to head to Endore five more days to get there, and then we'll decide what risks are worth taking..."

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"Mhm."

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"People've tried without any luck finding his summoner, but we should probably give it a more exhaustive go."

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"What's been tried?"

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"Did Tyelcormo not tell you? He used to sneak out of the galaxy and have a go at it...summoner is somewhere encased by rock, no luck summoning 'the summoner and the planet they're on' or anything, rock samples suggest the rock's uniform so maybe demon-made, our one hope is that he made it before the invention of lightleapers and so it's probably within a milion lightyears of Endore or else was moved in the last few decades."

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"He mentioned that, yes, is that literally all that's been tried?"

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"If the Valar had ever found out..."

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"Fair point."

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"Means there's lots still to try, though. Got ideas? That we can do in a spaceship safely?"

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She tries to make a scale model of summoners of Melkor in this galaxy.

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Nope.

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"Not in the galaxy," she sighs. Summoners of Melkor in any galaxy?

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Yup! Reptilian kangaroo thing.

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"In a galaxy, but not this one," she reports. Summoners of Melkor not in any galaxy, just in case?

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Nope.

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Good.

"I have no idea if the galaxy we're in is the same as the one my mortal world's inhabited planets are in, can you call up a list of nearby-ish galaxies?"

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Sure! Map of the galactic neighborhood.

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She goes through the list, trying to create the scale model of summoners of Melkor in each galaxy.

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And eventually she gets one.

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"This one," she says, naming the galaxy. "Looks a lot like mine, come to think of it."

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"Fantastic. Can you narrow it down further the same way?"

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"Sure. What shape of galaxy is it, can you show me pictures?"

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He pulls up more astrological data and models.

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She narrows down galaxy-bits.

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"...got somewhere we can set a lightleaper for? Even if it takes a few weeks' more scouting..."

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She specifies the star system.

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"Great. Let's go there and see if the place is defended."

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"Or, alternately, I could conjure a scale model of the defenses." She does that.

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"...rigged to explode, and hard, wow. That's interesting. They'd only bother with that if there's something that'd deter us from blowing the planet up - is it inhabited -"

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She conjures the planet.

"What the fuck."

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"Hmmm?"

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"This is my planet."

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"...I am pretty sure I summoned you from an alternate dimension."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Yes, but these continents are exactly the same."

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"I'll take your word for it. ...if it's got the same kind of person, how hard are they going to be to persuade to evacuate?"

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"...Depends on what point in history." She conjures a mini inhabitant-of-planet. It's human. "Fuck."

Permalink Mark Unread

"...and if 'persuade' isn't doing it, how hard are they going to be to forcibly evacuate..."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Depends even more on point in history."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Great. Want to make some scale models of the rigged-to-explode setup and see if some combination of you and your sister can defuse it nondestructively?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"Sounds like a plan."

To make a long story short: They can't.

Permalink Mark Unread

"Got a plan better than 'show up on Earth and explain, evac, promise to build them a new Earth and everything'?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"Nope."

Permalink Mark Unread

"...and a plan for afterwards, so he's not resummoned immediately?"

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"...Check to see if he's got some kind of summoning protocol in place already, first of all." She conjures all summoning circles for Melkor from the last year.

Permalink Mark Unread

Nothing.

"So it'll happen once his orcs notice he's missing, but it's not done routinely by default."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Yeah. As long as we summon him promptly on destruction of planet it should be fine."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Let's have the circle ready...check the one used to summon him by that summoner, I don't know if Melkor's his real name..."

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She makes the circle.

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And they set the fleet for the summoner's planet.

Permalink Mark Unread

Right. She really hopes this goes well.

Permalink Mark Unread

"Can you conjure up some samples of the major local languages so we can learn it before we arrive?"

Permalink Mark Unread

She conjures a bunch of stuff.

"...I speak most of this," she announces.

Permalink Mark Unread

"Well. Okay. ...we should land some emissaries and explain the situation, should you come with us? We can hold everyone else farther out in the star system, I take it your world doesn't have ships that can make that distance quickly..."

Permalink Mark Unread

"The fact that I'm a demon might be a complication."

Permalink Mark Unread

"We can consult you on the planet's customs. Unless they are likely to panic and nuke you - are they likely to do that -"

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"They will definitely not do that if they don't realize I'm loose." It doesn't cross her mind that she technically isn't.

Permalink Mark Unread

"They can see the binding, though, right? - if this binding will panic them we could make a tighter one -"

Permalink Mark Unread

"Oh, right, I have one of those." It doesn't prohibit her from doing anything she was going to do anyway so she mostly just forgets about it. "I guess using a tighter binding could work, although it might be better to send a party of you guys with us sort of just trailing along supposedly as daeva you just happened to summon rather than, like, people who would be involved in the process."

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"Okay." Emily?

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Yeah?

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Is it okay with you if we dismiss you two and bring you back with tighter bindings, so we can have you on this planet without panicking the local authorities?

Permalink Mark Unread

Yeah, okay.

Permalink Mark Unread

Thanks. Tyelcormo?

Permalink Mark Unread

Yeah?

Permalink Mark Unread

Can you send Edie and Emily home and then summon them with a binding that will satisfy the most paranoid of locals?

Permalink Mark Unread

Edie?

Permalink Mark Unread

It's valuable to have us along as advisors since we know more than you about local cultures and if you show up with two daeva summoned with bindings this loose no court in the world would convict whoever happened to notice first after they killed you.

Permalink Mark Unread

Oh, I was planning to stay out here behind the gas giant, in case anyone's tempted. What kind of binding will make the people on this planet happy?

Permalink Mark Unread

If you're not along I'm not sure how they'd react but it wouldn't be pretty and it wouldn't be friendly; that was just to illustrate the seriousness involved. She outlines a reasonably tight demonic binding that will nonetheless allow her to make all the things she anticipates needing to make, and leaves off the gag order.

Permalink Mark Unread

I don't suppose 'look, they already had their chance' will help us any here?

Permalink Mark Unread

If people acted like daeva were people it wouldn't have been so easy to pin the Alqualonde Incident on me.

Permalink Mark Unread

This is such bullshit. 

 

Okay. See you soon.

Permalink Mark Unread

Mhm. Binding's not going to satisfy the most paranoid people, fair warning, gagging your demons is standard, but that would have obviated the point of coming along at all, so.

Permalink Mark Unread

What?

Permalink Mark Unread

Oh, there's a certain subset of demons who take summonses just to fuck with humans, which generally involves convincing them that souls are a thing demons can accept as payment and they should do it. It doesn't happen a lot but enough that we've gotten a reputation for it and most summoners aren't interested in putting up with it, so you show up unable to say--or write, or tap out in Morse code, or whatever--anything but "yes, summoner," or "no, summoner" to accept or reject deals. 

Permalink Mark Unread

I'm not doing that. Even if osanwe'd be a loophole.

Permalink Mark Unread

Pretty sure it wouldn't, and like I said, not in the bindings I gave you.

 

Although I do appreciate the sentiment.

Permalink Mark Unread

And she is back in Hell. And in a bad mood he sets himself to the tighter binding.

Permalink Mark Unread

She retrieves the requested jewelry from Maitimo's corpse and disposes of everything else.

Permalink Mark Unread

And she's back, and a minute later so's Emily. Would you like to accompany my people to assist in evacuating this planet? I will give you all our fancy technology and lots of music recommendations.

Permalink Mark Unread

Sure.

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Thanks. I think Maitimo's picked his emissaries, want to practice the local language with them?

Permalink Mark Unread

"Which one?"

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"Dunno, I'm kind of not very good at that sort of thing."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Fair enough, I cheat anyway."

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"My father's always wildly envied daeva that. Dunno why, he picks them up fast anyway."

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"He likes languages?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"Loves them. Finds them fascinating. It might cheer him up, actually - his father dying was really awful for all of us-"

Permalink Mark Unread

"Well, at some point in the rest of forever when he's done learning Earth languages I can probably teach him some demon ones, I've actually done that before, some university's linguistics department summoned me to teach them demon languages, I think they had someone else they summoned to confirm my translations."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Why, didn't trust you?"

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"Enh, asshole demons who would've lied to them exist, it's good academic practice to confirm your sources. It's not even an arguable dick move like the gag thing, it's not like it hurt me for them to summon someone else for the purpose."

Permalink Mark Unread

"I mean, sure, but we've literally lived our whole lives ruled by particularly evil daeva and we still don't distrust them as much as your people apparently do."

Permalink Mark Unread

"To be fair the Valar do appear to be less dramatically evil than the angel who pulled the Furniture Incident."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Melkor'd probably get on great with Lady Furniture Incident."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Granted."

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The chosen emissaries learn English. They're quick at it. Blessings for improved memory. "We've got five days," he says, "once we arrive, before it is conceivable that the Enemy could arrive himself."

Permalink Mark Unread

"That's not going to be enough time to get everyone to agree to evacuate."

Permalink Mark Unread

"So we evacuate them without their permission, or we hope like Hell the Enemy doesn't notice - we can at least have the ships positioned to destroy anyone who leaps into the system after us, and keep destroying any ship he makes, but that does not buy us very much time..."

Permalink Mark Unread

"And the Enemy knows where they are, so the people on the Moon and Mars aren't safe either..."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Once the Enemy's dead they're safe. The Enemy, if he does show up here, will at least be constrained by the fact that if he does anything sufficiently awful we've got no reason not to trigger the planet, we trigger the planet."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Right. I'm concerned about orders he might have left his orcs and so on, though."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Likewise. We could dispatch half the fleet to Endore to do something about that if we had anything short of genocide to do about that."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Yeah."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Four more days to think of something."

Permalink Mark Unread

"It would be nice if we could just put them all to sleep."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Yep. How many trustworthy daeva do you think we'd need and how do we summon on Endore without attracting immediate attention?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"I don't think I know enough about Endore to answer that question."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Once we land this jump we're in the star system with the summoner, but maybe figuring out all we can about what's going on on Endore is really the next step."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Yeah."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Should I divert the fleet? On the off chance he pulls 'alien arrivals in the relevant star system' regularly and will notice we're around?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"Maybe, if we don't have a solid plan for what to do when we get there yet."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Drag them off their planet as nicely and apologetically as we can and then once they're all off try to kill the summoner, which we're pretty sure crumbles the planet. If we can get to that stage without him knowing, summon him back and we're set. If he finds out but with less than five days' lead, act somehow to make sure orcs can't summon him back. If he finds out with more than five days' lead, position ourselves for a fight in this system or possibly for him to try to make some kind of deal.


If orcs summon him back, besiege Endore and shoot down every starship that leaves it, indefinitely, so we know at least the planet his summoner's on and have time to find an orc solution."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Do we have a plan for how to drag them off their planet?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"I was really hoping 'it's going to be exploding soon, we made you a nice new one' will do it. You don't think so?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"I think, if we have evidence, which we do, we can get a lot of people evacuated that way. We won't be able to get everyone to believe us, not in five days. I don't know how many people we're going to have to choose between leaving behind and removing by force but the answer won't be zero."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Given that choice I am inclined to remove people by force but I don't know this species. You do."

Permalink Mark Unread

"I am also so inclined."

Permalink Mark Unread

"It's one thing if their stated reason is 'I prefer to die in my home than be evacuated', but I'm guessing it's going to be 'we don't trust you'.

 

 

I don't currently have enough people to maintain control of the airspace on Endore in case we need to stop him from smuggling off another summoner and to evacuate a system of ten billion. Father's working on ships that require less crew but it'll take time that depending how bad things are on Endore may or may not be worth it."

Permalink Mark Unread

"One or more demons somewhere with a reasonable view of the planet could probably destroy spaceships leaving it."

Permalink Mark Unread

"The binding would have to be one that explicitly permitted chip-destructive murder."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Under very specific circumstances, perhaps."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Yeah. And we should be suitably reminded that one demon on the Enemy's payroll can stop us evacuating just as easily. I am tempted to swear on recording that we'll destroy the planet whether or not we're permitted to evacuate it, so he has no incentive to try. But."

Permalink Mark Unread

"I mean, you or someone else could swear it, and then spend until-the-planet-was-evacuated-or-it-was-no-longer-a-concern-for-other-reasons unconscious, but that's probably not the best idea."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Might be worth it if we were sufficiently confident it'd deter him. Though I can't swear something in the expectation I'll be prevented from trying to do it. I can swear something hopeless, but not something I've orchestrated to be outside my capacity."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Well, you're very good at your job and it's an important job so you probably wouldn't be my first choice for swear-er anyway, but yeah."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Well, that's your problem, it'd have to be someone with the authority to promise it credibly. So that's probably my father, who's trying better ship designs for evacuation and I think also occasionally butting his head against the problem of disabling all the planet's triggers, and who we definitely can't afford to have out of commission..."

Permalink Mark Unread

"So it's not a good idea unless there's a very extreme emergency."

Permalink Mark Unread

"By which time it'd probably be too late.

 

More tempting is to try negotiating, but we don't know enough about the situation on Endore to even know what to negotiate for, and once he knows we've found his summoner then the orc problem is in full force."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Yeah. I'm not fully sure how to find out what's up on Endore; I thought about summoning newspapers but I assume they're not in the same language."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Nope. We can try learning it. The Elven languages at least will share a common ancestor with ours."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Memory blessings are handy," she says, and conjures some newspapers.

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"I will put some people on learning it and extracting everything useful."

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"Lemme know if I should conjure any more written material."

Permalink Mark Unread

"...tempted to say complete works of the Enemy but there's no way he'd be careless..."

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"Couldn't hurt to try." Complete written works of the Enemy?

Permalink Mark Unread

Lots of content. Most of it very very old.

Permalink Mark Unread

Probably worth looking at anyway. She hands it over.

Permalink Mark Unread

"Thanks. What does a forced evac of Earth look like, if it comes to that?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"I'm not sure."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Are people going to shoot at us. Are they going to fire on starships. Do you have the drugs to just render the planet comatose, how's the population concentrated..."

Permalink Mark Unread

"People are likely to be inclined to shoot. Theoretically I could put the whole planet under but there are probably people in airtight places." She starts describing population distribution as she knows it.

Permalink Mark Unread

 

"...so, a disaster. We might be able to take more time but the minute he notices us, the hope of destroying and then trapping him vanishes..."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Yep."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Maybe we can sneak emissaries onto Earth, in a way that doesn't create conjurable records? And trust in the discretion of Earth's leadership? And start planning the evacuation quietly?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"...Maybe. Earth has a lot of leaders, though."

Permalink Mark Unread

"And if I were Melkor I'd routinely conjure 'model of non-humans and non-daeva in the star system' or something else hard to work around. And I take it you're too distrusted to go it alone."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Furniture Angel," she sighs. "I mean, we could try. If we took our wings off and Emily hid the blessings or put 'em back in a necklace instead of the fetching embedding arrangement she's got now maybe no one would realize."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Or you could pretend to have summoned her or something? And claim you noticed the planet's rigged to blow while doing some research or other?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"Hmm. Plausible. On the other hand, at that point it might be better to find a cooperative summoner and have them make that claim."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Great idea. How would we identify one?"

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"...First thought is to make all demon summoning circles that don't include a gag within the last--some short period of time."

Permalink Mark Unread

"...good idea. Go for it."

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"This'll take a minute, I can't technically do that directly, I'll have sort through 'em manually. Well. Technologically." External data storage thingie containing the circles! Plug in to her computer! Sort!

She purses her lips. "About two million two hundred and fifty thousand who've summoned an ungagged demon within the last five years, fewer who make a habit of it...four hundred and fifty thousand who make a habit of it. To three significant digits."

Permalink Mark Unread

"That is a lot of people. Likelier we'll find a suitable one, harder to pick them out..."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Yeah, I'm conjuring what information I can on them," she makes another storage device and plugs it in. "See if I can find anything that stands out with a few searches."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Excuses to have been doing research on the planet's core?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"Yeah, and what kinds of things they've been doing summoning for, and stuff like that, to get a better handle on whether they'd be inclined to...cooperate..huh. This one has the same surname as Emily and me."

Permalink Mark Unread

"...we've been assuming this universe doesn't have you two in it, is that correctly assumed?"

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"...She doesn't have the same first name as either of us, but...what the heck, her parents have the same names as our parents. And she looks like me." She conjures a picture. It does indeed look a lot like her, but with white hair textured more like Emily's and an Emilyish smile.

Permalink Mark Unread

"...so, you don't exist in this universe, but a sort of sister does?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"Or something? I died more than a hundred years ago, this is weird."

Permalink Mark Unread

"I hadn't realized that, that makes it significantly weirder."

Permalink Mark Unread

"No kidding."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Think a lookalike's likely to be truthworthy? And a good liar? And willing to go along with this?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"Based on the rest of her public records...I'm guessing yes."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Then we've found our summoner, now how to sneak the daeva she supposedly summoned onto the planet with her - lightleapers are currently headed somewhere else entirely, just to be safe..."

Permalink Mark Unread

"I can make a new one."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Probably not mid-leap? I can also redirect these, though it sets us back a couple days."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Probably not mid-leap, no."

Permalink Mark Unread

"If we could pull that off we could probably figure out how to do instantaneous planetside takeoff." 

Permalink Mark Unread

"I guess I could try but it seems like the kind of thing that could have horrible failure modes."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Yeah, maybe try back in Hell with some demons who want to play around with lightleaping, after the war's over."

Permalink Mark Unread

"It might actually be safest to do with demons in not Hell since on possible failure mode--granted I have no idea if this is plausible or not--is that it fails in some way that leaves you stranded a distance away from where you started not plausibly traversible without one. And Hell doesn't have a convenient starscape to navigate by."

Permalink Mark Unread

Hmm, fair enough. Well, if we pull this out I can summon some demon friends of yours to try to play around back in my native galaxy.

Permalink Mark Unread

That'd be cool. And if they do get stranded they can write me a letter and I can let whoever's summoned them know to dismiss them.

Permalink Mark Unread

Or they can build themselves a new one, you can usually pilot them home even if you're lost, unless you're very interestingly lost which I suppose could happen.

Permalink Mark Unread

I'll take your word for it. Actually, no, I should probably learn how to fly one of these things.

Permalink Mark Unread

Sure. Good break from brainstorming on the war, perhaps something else will pop into your mind while you do it. 

And he introduces them to the pilots.

Permalink Mark Unread

Emily, in addition to how to fly them, wants to know all about how they're put together, since angels need that kind of information to make things.

Permalink Mark Unread

They have blueprints, and can explain in exhaustive detail.

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Emily is raptly appreciative. Eidetic memory is so great.

Permalink Mark Unread

It is! And after a while they break for a meal and Maitimo asks if they've had any thoughts on landing secretly on Earth.

Permalink Mark Unread

Edie has not, but Emily has! Nerding and learning how things work has so many benefits.

Permalink Mark Unread

If they think they can pull off a stealth landing, he'll trust them with the details. 

Permalink Mark Unread

Should be totally doable!

Permalink Mark Unread

They redirect the lightleapers again. The computers warn them that doing this too often will run them out of fuel. Maitimo frowns. "Technically I don't think mid-leap demonic refueling's been tested, let's make this our last course change."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Good idea. You guys can wait just outside the system, right?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"Yep. If we'd be noticed by local sensors from there, we can wait well outside the system, too, and be in in a day."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Perfect."

Permalink Mark Unread

They arrive about a lightday from the system's sun. Secure protocols for communication are established.

"Good skill."

Permalink Mark Unread

"You too."

It's an uneventful trip. They hide the vessel somewhere convenient and walk to their possibly-sister-ish-person's workshop.

Permalink Mark Unread

Earth is exactly Earthlike. It's uncanny. No differences at all, except that they didn't live and this person apparently does.

Permalink Mark Unread

It's so weird. They get there. They knock on the door.

Permalink Mark Unread

She opens the door. "Yes?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"This is really awkward, can we come in?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"...Sure, why not, she says, opening the door wider and standing aside.

Permalink Mark Unread

She doesn't look up, she's changing around some electronics and that requires concentration. 

Permalink Mark Unread

"So I know this is incredibly hard to believe but my name's Emily Xavier and this is my sister Edie and we're--actually daeva, summoned from a parallel universe, I'm not sure how parallel, and this planet is rigged to blow."

Permalink Mark Unread

 

 

"That's incredibly hard to believe but if it's a prank I would dearly love how you pulled off the planning, let alone the execution."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Rigged by who, and to blow up when?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"Humans aren't the first sapient species in the universe. Aside from the people who summoned us, there's one that died out millions of years ago. Mostly died out. There are fifteen of them alive, and by 'alive' I mean 'in catatonic suspended animation while their unbound daeva do whatever the fuck they want.' And one of those catatonic summoners is in the center of this planet. The demon whose summoner it is is very very evil and rigged the planet to blow if the summoner dies."

Permalink Mark Unread

 

 

"...just really far away in Heaven? I would not have expected us to miss that - anyway, if it's been that way for millions of years, it is probably safe for the medium-term, right?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"Except that he's really really evil and running amok on people right now and even if we don't kill the summoner and save a lot of people he has access to it's possible that if he finds out we know where it is he kills everyone in this solar system anyway and tried again."

Permalink Mark Unread

 

"Well. That's bad news. Is this how the other species went extinct."

Permalink Mark Unread

"I suspect so but the lizard-kangaroo fairy we asked didn't have anything to say on the subject."

Permalink Mark Unread

"How come no one who summons gets a lizard-kangaroo fairy?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"I have no idea."

Permalink Mark Unread

"You have to admit this sounds ridiculously implausible."

Permalink Mark Unread

"We picked you because you summon demons ungagged. I mean, that was our original search criterion, your name came up, we noticed the weird similarities and picked you. But you can, if you want, summon a demon and have them create things like 'scale model of the catatonic summoner in the middle of the planet.'"

Permalink Mark Unread

"Worth trying," she sighs, and starts drawing a circle.

Permalink Mark Unread

"Are you not yourself a demon?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"Yes, I am, but if I make a little lizard-kangaroo thing, you have no proof that my criterion was 'the catatonic summoner in the planet' and not 'fake lizard-kangaroo thing.'"

Permalink Mark Unread

"...okay."

Permalink Mark Unread

"If there's something I can make that'll convince you I'm happy to spare her some negotiation work," she says, nodding at the white-haired Xavier.

Permalink Mark Unread

"Kinda figure 'will you make the catatonic summoner in the middle of this planet' is interesting in its own right, but nah, we know a demon who'll do it."

Permalink Mark Unread

Dr. Xavier finishes the circle.

Permalink Mark Unread

"Hey Mira! Hey, Andreth! ...nice to meet you both, what's up..."

Permalink Mark Unread

"They claim to be independently corporeal alternate versions of my two individual components from another universe, and also daeva. And with very bad news. Is 'small model of the catatonic summoner inside the planet' something you can make?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"...if there were one, yeah..." 

He tries.

Lizard kangaroo, hello.

Permalink Mark Unread

"Fuck."

Permalink Mark Unread

"...daeva's bad?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"Unless these two are in fact lying about things he has the planet rigged to explode if his summoner dies and may detonate the planet and put the summoner somewhere else if he finds out anyone knows where it is."

Permalink Mark Unread

"...I'm inclined to say that Earth is collectively super happy to leave his summoner alone if he'll not explode the fucking planet - how long has that been there..."

Permalink Mark Unread

"I'm not sure. You could try making minis of him at various points in time?"

Permalink Mark Unread

Year ago gets it.

 

Decade ago gets it. 

 

Century ago gets it. 

 

Millenium ago gets it.

 

Million years ago gets it.

 

Hundred million does not.

 

Fifty million does.

 

Seventy five does not. 

 

"Uh. Any chance this dude killed the dinosaurs?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"...Might've happened as a side effect of putting the thing deep enough in the planet."

Permalink Mark Unread

"K. Well. Any problem that's sixty-five million years old is at least not urgent, right?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"Except that he's at the very least instigating a pretty fucking major war."

Permalink Mark Unread

"...where?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"Planet called Endore."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Well. 

 

We could try tracking down exactly where lizardman is and killing him real carefully?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"We tried that, with models. Doesn't work, his death triggers the explosives."

Permalink Mark Unread

"...disable the explosives real carefully first?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"We tried that, it doesn't work, tamper with them in any way and they go off."