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Aberrant: Children of Quantum Fire - [Interlude: Warren] Misc Errands (Finished)


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Fully visible, Warren took his time surfing down to the ground floor of the New York sky rise, he wanted to be noticed. He then walked in and took the elevator up. Years ago some Teragen want-a-bees had attacked this DeVries building and had been disintegrated. Stupid. The premier supplier of nova elites would have some around to guard their offices. The other obvious problem was that joining the Teragen was as easy as announcing you’d joined the Teragen, making it hard on yourself seemed pointless. Thus the elevator, he could Warp into the main office, but there would be elites around somewhere and he wasn’t there to fight.

Upper office: This is building entrance, an unknown nova just flew to the main entrance and walked in. He checked out the building listings then took the elevator, I think he’s heading up your way. He looks about 18, he’s wearing…

Warren wasn’t expected but getting in wasn’t a problem. This was a nova recruitment office, unknown novas showing up was why it existed. Anna DeVries was around somewhere, that’s why he’d picked here and now, but technically he didn’t need to talk with her, any nova relations type would do.

The elevator opened and Warren walked in. He’d configured his Eufiber into a suit and tie with his normal 3rd-eye-obsuring headband. His hair was its usual mess, and tied into its usual pony tail. He’d spring for a professional cut but there was a good chance this would take long enough that there’d be no point.

There were two attractive baseline women waiting for him, one blond, one red head. The blond was standing and wearing a suit. The red head sat behind a receptionist desk and was wearing more trendy clothing. The blond stepped forward to shake Warren’s hand, the red head’s expression froze then she smiled. There was another female baseline hiding behind a door, she was excited, a little annoyed, but not scared. Two men stood behind a wall, one of them had no scent. Both had the ‘professional security’ feel to them, ‘waiting for trouble but not expecting it’, both would be nova elites.

The blond’s reaction was normal, the red head… nova? A nova receptionist? No, the real receptionist was behind the door, red would be a higher level functionary of some sort. Office manager maybe. The blond ushered Warren to a meeting room. One wall was totally ‘window’ and the view was amazing. He wouldn’t be surprised if this room was why DeVries was in this building, there were fresh coffee and doughnuts too. It was amazing what you could do with one minute’s worth of prep.

Ms. DeVries? Sorry to interrupt but a titan class nova just walked in. He’s talking with Carol in meeting room A. Also, ‘titan’ is an understatement, what are the two rankings above that?

The penthouse had six novas other than Warren himself. Red, two elites, three clustered together in another room those last were Anna and two others he’d never sensed before. The building itself had some other novas, the city… it was hard to deal with the city. Within range of his senses, millions of voices all talking at once, tens of thousands of cars interweaving in traffic, millions of footsteps moving around.

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Not “millions of voices”, the exact number was… whoops. With a start Warren refocused on the voice right next to him.

“…are only some of the things DeVries has to offer!” Carol had taken his silence for wanting to be filled in.

Warren held up a hand to interrupt and said, “Sorry, I zoned out there for a moment. My senses make it hard to stay focused, there’s always so much going on. Let me make it easy on you, I’ve given this a fair bit of thought, spent some time on your website and I came prepared. I’ve even filled out the relevant applications.” Warren tapped the folder he’d brought with him and Carol looked pleased.

Several rooms away in another meeting room a man said “Well now” but Anna DeVries kept a poker faced expression.

Warren glanced past the walls at something Carol didn’t see but this time he refused to let himself be distracted. He continued, “Focus… is an issue of mine. I think it always will be. Sitting right here I… never mind. There are two things I think DeVries can help me with; the first is I’m a non-person. I’ve never had a bank account, or appeared on anyone’s taxes, or had any kind of government recognition or id like a driver’s license. I’ve never paid any bills, I’ve never officially gone to school, and I’ve always lived far off the grid. It’s possible I have a birth certificate in the name of ‘Warren Smith’ in the outback of the Appalachian Mountains, but that’s a coin flip. I honestly don’t know and there’re three or five small towns which might have it, if it exists.”

Carol smiled and said, “Unusual, but not unheard of. DeVries’ has one of the best legal teams on the planet. I know this is something they’ve fixed in the past. I’m not sure exactly what is involved, but I know it’s not a big deal.”

In the other room one elite snorted and glanced at the other. Yes, DeVries’ legal could ‘create’ people, like when an elite needed to disappear and become someone else.

Anna DeVries got out her PDA and typed in Carol’s address for a quick instant message.

Warren added, “The other issue is money. I’ve had ‘get rich’ on the list of things to do for a while but I’ve never gotten around to it.”

Carol laughed at Warren’s wit. There was something …alien… about the young man but money was the number one reason people signed onto DeVries. This would be an easy sale.

Warren wondered, had he said something funny? Never mind.

The man sitting next to Anna muttered, “He wasn’t joking. Carol has no clue who or what she’s dealing with.”

Carol said smoothly, “We get that a lot, the DeVries reputation is very well earned. How about I look at those papers you’ve brought?”

Warren handed over his folder. Carol opened it, looked at the top form and said, “Oh, you want to be an Elite.”

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Carol studied the application for several moments and eyed the gentle nova in front of her. He didn’t strike her as elite material. The application read like a bad joke. She read out loud, “Warren Smith. Elite Name: Fractal. Military Experience: None. Powers: Warp. Spaceworthy. Ability to observe and manipulate the universe. Costume: Generic Ninja. Mask: None. Contact information: N/A.”

In the other room one of the elites commented, “Fractal? There’s a reason no one has willingly taken that name for a while. Should we tell him the three previous guys with that name lasted like, 2 seconds each?”

Carol hesitated, collected her thoughts, then said, “We can forward this to DVNT, they’re the DeVries Elites company. I think they’ll want to work on the marketing aspects of this. Ah, going maskless is pretty hard core and warp is a very viable powerset in lots of other areas. I think we can find other opportunities. Obviously being an elite is the short road to lots of money, but how much about elite culture do you know?”

Warren replied, “There are three DeVries’s. Anna DeVries the person. DeVries, the nova job company which deals with nova models, nova doctors, and the various other ‘normal’ or merely unusual jobs. Then there’s ‘DeVries Nova Tactical Solutions’ or DVNTS. It’s for serious elites, warriors for hire. And that’s not me, I’m not a serious elite as you define the subject.”

Warren continued, “To become a Baptist Preacher, you proclaim yourself a Baptist Preacher. To join the Teragen you announce you’ve joined the Teragen. To be an elite, you fill out that form and have someone do the various registrations. DeVries’, excuse me, DVNTS elites are respected. If I have DeVries the contract company process that form then I won’t be able to call myself a DeVries elite. I’ll be an independent, I’ll have no status, no ranking, and I’ll never be hired by serious people.”

A voice muttered with suppressed disgust, “A poser who knows he’s a poser.”

Warren shrugged, and said, “And I’m good with that. Money for fighting seems… absurd. I have no intention of being making any money doing this.”

Carol said carefully, “What is the point of registering as an elite if you have no intention of making any money there?”

Warren replied, “I’m sending a message. But the plan is I’ll be working with DeVries the contract company.”

”Sending a message? Sending a message to who?”

Anna held up a hand for silence and the room quieted. If Warren was who she suspected and represented who, what, and where she thought, then she understood even if the others didn’t.

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Carol realized Warren-the-space-hippy was making a philosophical point of some sort and moved on to more familiar territory. Carol asked, “Supplying transportation via Warp is certainly in demand. How strong are you?”

Clearly distracted again, Warren replied absently, “Strong enough. I’m not sure what my range is, but that’s not a good match. I’m usually not contactable, certainly not on short notice, that’s why those sheets don’t have contact information. Between that and my lack of focus I’d be pretty bad at contract Warping.”

This wasn’t good news. Warren was sabotaging his career. Carol had seen it before, sometimes it ended well and other times it didn’t. With professional neutrality Carol asked, “What did you have in mind then?”

Warren replied, “Gold I think. That should be easy enough.”

In the other room several novas exchanged confused glances with only Anna seeming to understand the reference or maintaining a pokerface.

Carol asked, “Getting paid in gold is unusual but possible. I meant, what did you want to do to earn money?”

Warren replied, “Supply gold. I’ve got another idea too but bars of gold should get the ball rolling.”

Carol asked, “Wait, you have bars of gold and you have no money?”

Warren replied, “Exactly. Silly isn’t it? I need someone to take bars and convert them into money. DeVries can do that without too much trouble I’d think.”

Carol asked, “How is that… how many bars of gold do you have?”

Warren replied, “How many do you want?”

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Unsure of what was going on, and starting to wonder if Warren’s ‘hippy’ impression didn’t include drug use, Carol said, “Um… all of them.”

Warren frowned and said, “That’d destabilize the market. People would be upset. I’m not explaining myself very well am I? Ah… ok. Thought experiment. Let’s say I find the remains of an alien civilization, somewhere close by, 300 light years away or so.”

Carol reminded herself that there were no useless novas and said, “Go on.”

Warren continued, “Economics is basically math, and math is universal. There are probably some civilizations which handle things differently but they’ll be a minority. Assume they left behind something like Fort Knox.”

Speechless, Carol nodded and wondered how much use a nova this delusional could be.

Warren concluded, “So I have as much gold as I want. I have to carry it and that’s a bit of a pain but that’s a different issue.”

In the other room Anna DeVries typed the word ‘Platinum’ into her message to Carol and hit the enter key.

Carol’s PDA binged. Grateful for the interruption to this farce of an interview she glanced at and said out loud, “Platinum?”

Warren said, “OK, Platinum it is. One trip won’t mess things up I’d think…”

Warren looked up, not at the ceiling but through it. His eyes gradually tracked left.

The Red haired woman said, “He’s doing something. I have no clue what.”

The Elites tensed and Warren said, “Be right back.”

Warren vanished.

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Warren appeared above “Gold World”. He’d expected it to be grim, it was worse. Europe/Asia took an extinction event asteroid 15 years ago. Worldwide earthquakes, worldwide nuclear plant failures, and multiple volcanoes erupting afterwards… with no novas, mankind was done.

Or make that, only one nova. Another Warren toting a stack of Platinum bars waved at him then disappeared. Warren mentally sighed. Going back in time after exploring here was a possibility he hadn’t liked, but it looked like he’d do it anyway. He didn’t like running into himself, the lack of free will was disorienting. There was the temptation to try to change time… but he already knew he’d change his mind. Grumble.

Plants were starting to grow back but Gold World was a depressing graveyard of ruins. His senses told thousands of tragic stories, it made his own people’s problems look small.

Warren opened a gate to Fort Knox, in this world called “Fort Stronghold”. Warren became intangible and flew through the walls. As expected, it held more Gold than Platinum, but still far more than he could take. The inside was almost undamaged but still stank of suffering to Warren’s senses. Someone had lived here long enough to understand what had happened and what would happen.

There really needed to be a better way, if he needed to do this again he’d find a different world. The bars of metal were longer than he’d been expecting and had alien symbols. Triangles with dots inside, functional, base 12… somewhen someone had redone the standards for this sort of thing. Whatever. Whatever the US called itself here, they’d no doubt spent time and money on these and Platinum was valued by its weight and purity.

Eager to leave, Warren attuned as much as he could, Warped back where he started, then shifted his location in time back to when he started. He left just as he was showing up.

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Carol said with mixed feelings, “He’s gone.” It was never good to lose a sale but really.

Behind her and outside the room, Warren reappeared outside Meeting Room A’s enormous window; a second gate supported the Platinum bars.

In the other room, the red haired woman announced, “He’s back.”

Warren knocked on the window and waved at Carol as she whirled. Then he opened a gate into the meeting room, flew through and gesturing at his hundreds of pounds of Platinum, asked, “Is this a good spot to drop this off?”

Carol said, “Ah….” as she replayed everything he’d said and reevaluated it. He’d been serious? Finally remembered others were listening and said, “Those are bars of Platinum. Sure. Put it off in the corner. We’ve never had anyone drop off… a ton(?) of Platinum here but there’s a first time for everything.”

Warren replied, “Only just over 790 pounds I think. I don’t know what the spot price for Platinum is but it’s enough to get started.”

The man next to Anna said, “Depending on purity, not quite 11 million dollars. Gold would have been only two thirds that.”

Carol looked closely at the bars and felt a mix of surprise, delight, and almost horror. Trying to get inside his head had been pointless when she’d thought him delusional, finding out he was serious didn’t help as much as she’d would have thought. Carol said, “Those symbols on the bars… you said something about an alien civilization close by?”

Warren shook his head and said, “No, I said that was a thought experiment on how I could have an unlimited amount of gold.”

Carol looked at Warren, then at the alien symbols on the bars, then back at Warren and said, “Wait, did you find an alien civilization or not?”

Warren said with uncertainty, “No? From some points of reference… give me a moment.” He thought about it and said, “I don’t think so. Certainly not from your frame of reference.”

Carol said, “Um… right.”

The red haired woman said doubtfully, “He’s not lying… but I don’t understand this whole ‘frame of reference’ thing.”

Warren tried again, “I cheated a little with this and set it up before we started. ‘Unlimited’ isn’t the right word, there are bottlenecks in the process which are inconvenient. I’m playing to my weak points. 400 kilos doesn’t really have the scale I think I’m looking for. Although… I think the bottlenecks could be worked out… hmm…” Warren paused with asteroid mining he could…

Warren tried again, “Actually I’m sure they could be worked out. There’d be some tradeoffs, if I used a solar furnace we’d probably get spheres of raw material, maybe… I’m not sure, call it hundreds, no, thousands of tons on a regular basis.”

Carol almost choked. The scale being casually tossed around was insane, maybe literally so.

Warren looked up and said, “But that’s not what I’m here to suggest. The big flaw with that plan is it’s a waste of time, specifically mine. Gold or even Platinum just aren’t that valuable, we can do better. This was just… something I could do on short notice, I wanted you to get started on that legal stuff right away.”

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Carol managed to reply, “Short notice? I can see how you’d want… sure, we’ll get right on that. Um… if this is a waste of time, what did you have in mind?”

Warren replied, “Age manipulation. Turning the old and rich into the young and well-off. I think DeVries has done this before? You charge by the year, correct?”

Anna exchanged a glance with the man sitting across from her.

Time manipulating novas were rare. Age manipulation was a small subset of those, and many who could weren’t willing. It was hard and quickly burned through a nova’s juice. It was also boring, perhaps unethical, and attracted unwelcome attention. Occasionally there were rumors of criminal gangs with captive novas.

Profitable wasn’t the word for it. Everyone wanted a drink at the fountain of youth. Rumor placed the going rate for baselines at a million dollars a year. Over the years DeVries had acquired and lost a few novas who could do this, mostly elites like the late “Big Time”.

Carol straightened and said, “Excellent. That is definitely workable. How strong are you? How many years could you take off in a day?”

Warren replied, “One treatment does something like 25 to 30 years. I think a reasonable number would be 50 per day. That’s something like 15 centuries.”

Carol swallowed. They’d moved back to absurd scales. Perhaps he was overestimating his abilities. She asked, “Do you mean, you do this until you get tired, rest, and then continue?”

Warren said, “No, I was thinking something like… once a week I’d Warp in and spend an hour or whatever processing everyone. That way I’m not tied down and you have time to deal with the organizational stuff. Say, two pm in this building on Saturday.”

Red said quietly, “Still not lying. He’s sure he can work at that scale.”

Anna finally commented, “So am I.”

Somewhat flustered, Carol asked, “How long?”

Warren replied, “Yes. How long? A 30 year treatment lasts for 30 years. Those metals will last forever.”

Carol said, “No, I mean, how long a contract did you intend to sign?”

Warren replied, “I don’t see why this wouldn’t be an ongoing arrangement.”

Carol said, “Oh. That’s… um… that’s great. I think this would be a good time to bring this to Anna.”

In the other room Anna DeVries said, “Assuming those bars are pure, we’ll split 95/5. The de-aging will heavily depend on DeVries contacts and organizational abilities, we’ll split 85/15. At this scale the price per year will decrease although I expect it will remain in the 6 digits.”

Warren said, “Understood, and expected.”

The man next to Anna said, “All this from a walk in? Carol will be happy.”

Anna replied, “We’ve had several dealings with him before. Tell Cora I said hi.”

Warren nodded. Anna had figured out who he was and that he was listening to her conversation. Figured.

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Warren signed papers then left. Everyone else gathered in the meeting room.

Carol asked, “Was that our biggest contract ever?” Carol was beyond pleased, as a recruiter she got a commission bonus.

Davis, a regional manager and the man Anna had been meeting with, replied, “We’ve had a few wars which were larger, but those were single events.”

Davis gestured at the Platinum and said, “And he didn’t even have a bank account. Let’s have some financial managers here next week. Smith clearly isn’t used to having money. It’s easy to imagine him just ignoring it.”

Carol asked, “How do we handle his ‘elite’ registration? I’ve always handed that over to DVNTS.”

Davis said, “Forward the papers to the Wizard of Oz with a note explaining the situation. Make it clear he’s not with DVNTS and he’s making some sort of philosophical point. If they can handle ‘Catamite’ then they can deal with him.”

The elite Aggro commented, “He should play to his strengths and stay off the battlefield, which he’s doing. Announcing ‘Hi, I’m Candyass’ isn’t a way to win points. Maybe we should just lose the paperwork?”

Davis said, “No, file it the way he wanted.”

Clearly disagreeing but not expecting or caring that it didn't matter, Aggro shrugged.

Anna glanced at Aggro but didn't point out the painfully obvious.

Warren hadn’t been ignorant of elite culture. He didn’t care about elite reps, or elite money, but he’d known exactly what he was doing. Fractal’s maskless elite registration was a message to her. He’d known she was in the building but dealt with Carol. Then he’d registered as an independent elite before taking a job with DeVries.

He was warning her. Stick or Carrot.

In elite culture, masks were important. An elite’s mask was his combat identity. People could only take his mask in lue of killing him. Every elite contract had the stipulation that if the elite were unmasked they were legally dead.

The Maskless were the hardest of the hardcore. They couldn’t be unmasked so the other side had to kill them. They won or they died.

Warren and his family were drawing a line in the sand over the Congo.

Traveler’s students had used Warren’s warps to enter and leave Anna’s office, ergo he was with ‘The Family’. Cora, Bombshell, and the other ‘models’ had been sighted in the Congo. War was coming, whoever invaded would be fighting a collection of Pax level novas who weren’t taking masks. And Warren had just showed what happened when they got serious.

Anna mentally smiled. The carrot was hers, maybe she’d even get to pick who got the stick.

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