Brothers by Design 3:
A Day at the Capitol

by Fur and Fantasy
PG for Gen
full contents and notes located at the bottom of the file

"Your father has decided that a day off from lessons would be a good idea." The spellcasting instructor said easily, as Kell and Nathan arrived at the usual time. "He wants you to meet him in the Great Hall."

"Thank you, ma'am." Nathan said before getting up, and heading for the Great Hall.

"This is new." The spotted teen grinned, excited by any change in their all too regular schedule.

"Yeah, I wonder what's up? No mention of formal robes, so it can't be too bad." He chuckled.

"And if it was just starting psi training it wouldn't interrupt magic class."

"And he was pretty firm about psi training not starting for at least two years." Nathan agreed. "Too early for pilot training too."

"Maybe a new sibling?" Kell considered out loud. "Though that's probably under formal occasions."

"If it was an adoption, yeah that'd be formal." Nathan agreed. "New students, maybe? Though that's probably formal too."

"Same if he's found a female to mate with." He nodded thoughtfully as they walked. "Maybe we're going outside again."

"That'd be cool." Nathan nodded as they walked down a lengthy flight of stairs. "We haven't done that in a while."

"Yeah, that swim in the mountain lake was seriously cool." He grinned, even more eager than Nathan to be outside, really outside, again.

"And maybe we'll get to see some other terrain on the planet." Nathan said thoughtfully. "I hear they've got some cool forests."

"And deserts and badlands that just stretch on forever." Kell shivered in a mixture of excitement and uncertainty at the idea.

"That'd be cool too, I've never seen a desert." Nathan nodded more excited, the closer they got to the main hall and caught scent of their father.

"Yeah, and it's really warm there, even in the water." Kell added with a widening grin. "Or maybe it'll be the seashore."

"Well, I guess we'll find out soon enough." Nathan nodded toward the big Dracon waiting for them across the Great Hall. "There's father."

"Definitely nothing formal." Kell grinned and ran up to him to hug his leg, which was as far up as the kit could reach. "Good morning, Father."

"Good morning, Kell." Korim grinned, and swept the Kit up into a warm hug, before setting him down and picking Nathan up the same way. "Good morning, Nathan."

"Morning, Father." Nathan grinned as he was set down. "So what're we doing today?" He asked curiously.

"I thought you two could use a break from studying." He smiled. "And seeing as neither of you has ever been in the capitol, I thought we might spend the day there seeing the sights."

"A city?" Kell perked up even more, his short tail moving even faster. "Oh, that sounds so cool."

"That's even better than what we were coming up with." Nathan grinned broadly. "So can we translocate there?" He asked curiously.

"Given that the capital would be some hours by aircar, yes we'll be translocating." He nodded, amused by the kits extra enthusiasm for the magical transportation.

"What is there to do in a city?" Kell asked eagerly, all but vibrating in excitement at this new experience in the promise.

"A great many things." Korim said, as he did the mental preparations for the translocation spell. "Museum and art galleries to see, symphonies to hear, new foods to smell and taste, and that is only a small fraction of the possibilities."

"So how much are we going to do today?" Nathan asked curiously.

"We shall see how much fits in." Korim said easily. "But I expect we shall be getting back late."

"Cool." Kell and Nathan grinned at each other eagerly.

"This is going to be such a blast." Kell hugged Nathan in his exuberance. "I've never seen a city before."

"Me neither, Bro." Nathan grinned back, returning the hug, easily as excited. "I never got out of the valley."

"Then as soon as Father is ready." He grinned up at the elder Dracon.

"Stay close." Korim cautioned, as he pulled the two young felines close. "Transmittio." He intoned as the magic swirled about them, dissolving the world and reforming it into a much plainer stone room with a complex geometric pattern on the floor. "Come boys, this way." He said leading the way out of the room, and out into the street. It wasn't as busy as a main street but still there was a steady flow of Dracons of all sizes and colors, with a small admixture of canines, felines and even a few avians. Many of the avians swooped above mixing in the air with Dracons in a kind of airborne traffic pattern.

"Wow." Kell breathed with wide eyes trying to take in everything at once.

"No way." Nathan grinned, as he spotted a small biped weasel-like creature. "Is that a Ferrin?" He asked Korim in an excited whisper.

"Yes, he is." Korim chuckled quietly. "Now just how do you know about Ferrin?"

"I overheard my uncles talking about them once. He fits the description." Nathan said simply, still in hushed tones.

"What's special about them?" Kell asked quietly, his attention largely on the Avar and their ability to actually fly.

"According to Dad Cazi they're really friendly and really playful, especially in an adult way from the way he was talking." Nathan replied quietly as he looked around. "Are all of these buildings residences?" He asked curiously.

"No, most of these are businesses of one sort or another." He said easily. "The one over there with the books in the window, sells books for example."

"Sells?" Kell looked up uncertainly.

"You give them money and they give you the item." Nathan explained. "Money is something people collect in exchange for work." He said, remembering Cazi's explanation of the subject. "Unless they get it from their parents."

"Money describes the material value society has attributed to a given product or service." Korim said in a very teacher-like fashion.

"Things we'll deal with more when we're older?" Kell half guessed.

"Largely." Korim nodded. "As kits you simply have to ask me when you want something, within reason." He smiled. "And its unlikely that you'll ever want for money, since talented mages usually have their choice of employment."

"And we've got more talents than just magic." Kell grinned and nodded.

"Exactly." Korim nodded. "And since Kar'Arador can support a large number of people easily, there's no rush for you to find employment. You can take as much time as you need to master your talents."

"Cool." Nathan nodded. "'Cause I think that's gonna take a while, on account of how many we've probably got."

"And because there is more to education than just learning how to use your talents." Korim added easily.

"Like what?" Kell asked uncertainly as they began to walk slowly down the wide street and the kits took in everything with open fascination and bright, eager minds.

"Learning encompasses not just the fully practical things, but more general learning that helps develop a broad mind that learns new things easily; things like art, music, history and the study of other cultures." He explained. "And some careers require special study to compliment your talent."

"Is that what Dad Cazi called university?" Nathan asked curiously, with most of his attention darting from shop to shop with frequent stops to look at all the new people.

"University is a common path for Mages once they finish the training of their talent. Not only does it provide more specialized training, but it also gives good exposure in dealing with non-magical people."

"What use is learning about thing that you don't do?" Kell looked up, at a loss. "I mean, besides who to give those assignments to."

"The purpose is because it expands your appreciation of life." Korim said easily. "And you will find that real life has few defined missions and assignments. Those are how the military regiments things for organizational purposes. Things are usually much more fluid."

"Oh," he nodded. Despite not actually getting it, Kell wasn't going to challenge his Father on it, but accepted it as something that would become clear in time.

"It really does work, Kell." Nathan said reassuringly. "A lot of the useless stuff is more fun than the useful stuff, at least that's what Cazi always said."

"And our first destination today is somewhere quite useless." Korim chuckled. "The Royal Museum of Natural History."

"That's old animals bones, right?"

"Among many other things." He chuckled. "It also covers a variety of other natural subjects, such as geology and mineralogy." He explained.

"That could be cool." Nathan nodded, more than a little curious.

"Is there a zoo of restored specimens?" Kell prompted, remembering an odd bit of a spell he'd found in a book far too advanced for him to work with yet.

"We have managed to recover some extinct species." He nodded. "They're kept in the Preservationist Zoo in the city of Zor'Endor."

"Do they use magic for that?" He continued, his fascination for the subject reaching a bright, sharp point that would likely never fade completely.

"We use magic to recover enough members of a species to allow for breeding. We then place the recovered species on one of the protected worlds to allow them to rebuild safely." He explained.

"How far back is the oldest recover?" Kell's short spotted tail wagged in a golden blur.

"Restorative paleontology is not something I'm well versed in." Korim admitted. "But I believe we have recovered some greater sand drakes from approximately two and a half million years ago."

"Wow, that's old." Nathan commented impressed, and interested. "So what is a greater sand drake?" He asked curiously.

"A sand brown lizard approximately 30 meters in length, with teeth and claws to match. Very aggressive, a serious high order predator." Korim said easily.

"No kidding." Kell rumbled, even more excited than before. "Are critters from other worlds brought back to?"

"Only from worlds that don't belong to someone else." He said firmly. "We don't meddle with what belongs to others."

"Umm, okay." The kit blanched slightly. "That still leaves a lot of worlds, I think."

"A great many." Korim nodded. "And it's okay to ask." He said reassuringly. "There are just some rules and ethics of magic that you haven't been taught yet. They come later when they actually relate to the magic you're learning. But there are no wrong questions, even if there are a few I can't answer, it is still okay to ask them."

"That's good to know." Nathan said quietly. "The SG kind of drilled the opposite into us."

"And that one of those 'don't do that' comments was a prelude to punishment." Kell added quietly. "Guess it hasn't completely left."

"It wasn't meant that way." Korim said reassuringly. "But the responsibility of power is very much a part of who the Dracon people are. The understanding that just because you can do something, doesn't mean that you should do it."

"That's not hard to understand." Kell nodded seriously. "Not that the SG would ever get it."

"No kidding." Nathan snorted. "I think they're rule was there wasn't anything they wouldn't do, if they could do it."

"A far from rare occurrence." Korim shook his head. "Even we went through a period of that, during our Medieval period." He said seriously. "Much of what we are now, is a reaction to the excesses of those years."

"Like that rule about the smaller male always making the first move?" Kell asked, trying to put the odd pieces into place.

"Well, yes. That would definitely be a big one." Korim nodded, surprised. "I guess I shouldn't be surprised you found out about that one." He chuckled.

"Well, we probably will always be the smaller male around here." Nathan chuckled. "Even if I get to be as tall as my father, that will still make me short around here."

"And I'm a short breed of Felsin." Kell chuckled a bit. "Even my War-form is going to be short around here."

"With the exception of a few larger Ursans, most races are short by comparison." Korim smiled. "The rule is much older than our contact with other races."

"Just how long have you been in contact with other races?" Nathan asked curiously.

"From their perspective, only since they achieved faster-than-light travel." Korim explained. "However, our mages made contact with many races a couple millennia ago but due to illusions and memory charms, none of the others remember contact with Dracons."

"Why hide?" Kell asked, fighting the near-instinctive distrust of any who would do so.

"We wanted to observe without interfering." He said easily. "And on many worlds, dragons do not have the best reputations because of some of our insane kin." He sighed. "Our attempts at open contact, did not go well."

"Oh," he nodded, accepting the difference he only sort of understood. "Once a race got to FTL travel, they are usually open minded enough to accept that Dracons aren't their historical monsters?"

"Yes, generally they've adjusted to the idea of 'aliens' and are largely beyond the superstitions of their early history." He nodded. "Some of the smaller Canem and Lupo breeds took some convincing though. Largely thanks to a family of Dragons who oppressed the system for some years."

"Snack food?" Nathan asked thinking about the size relation between something that really warranted the term 'Dragon', and some of the smaller canines.

"That would be as good a term as any." Korim nodded.

"Yeah, that would leave a major lasting impression." Kell shuddered a bit at the idea of being on the receiving end of that opinion. "Why didn't Mother-Queen StarFire stop them?"

"There were things happening in the celestial realm that require the bulk of her attention for a long time." He explained quietly. "When she was no longer so occupied, she did send the True Dragons to deal with the problem. But by that time, the damage was done."

"I guess not even She can know everything right when it happens." He nodded, it actually making him feel a little better. "Are there many who go into ... paleo-re ... what did you call bringing extinct critters back?"

"No, she does not know everything right when it happens, unless it is of very great importance, or she is looking for it." He nodded. "Restorative paleontology is very specialized field, much like regular paleontology. Not many have the patience for the detailed spells it requires, so no not many do."

"So it's past the stage where new approaches are welcome?" He asked cautiously.

"I wouldn't go that far." Korim smiled. "Despite the great detail, each mage has a noticeably different touch.

"Kind of 'as long as it turns out right' the exact how isn't of as much concern?"

"Pretty much." He nodded. "With the exception of 'no dragging things from out of the past'. The danger with time-dredging is that you may take something of significance and alter the time stream."

"That's an entirely different category than I was thinking of." Kell snickered. "Even if I don't see how taking a few cells could change anything, I don't get the whole time-movement thing beyond the senses."

"Not surprising, Time travel magic is among the most complicated to learn." Korim nodded. "And the most likely to get you lost for an inconvenient amount of time if you screw up."

"Is forward time travel possible?" Nathan asked curiously.

"Not with any certainty." Korim said easily. "When you move forward of your point of origin your going into realms of possibility, and while the when you end up in may happen, there's no guarantee that it will happen."

"Is there a terminology difference between moving forward in time from now, and moving forward from a trip backwards?" Kell asked with his typical fascination for all things unusual.

"Forward takes less energy than backward, because the temporal currents are constantly moving forward." Korim explained. "However, forward from a trip backwards is much the same in terms of certainty as traveling backwards in the first place. You are traveling in known territory, unless you deliberately leave your own time stream." He continued. "Traveling forward of where you start is what is difficult, because you can not know for certain what will happen."

"Has anyone been known to get stuck in the future? Unable to move back to their point of origin?"

"It has happened, yes. It is, however, fairly rare." Korim elaborated. "It's unusual for a Mage to be unable to get back to 'home'. The home-return spell is the most fundamental spell taught to time mages, and it is rare for it to fail."

"Has anyone tried to 'learn' the genetic code for a creature without moving either side in time, just the full info?"

"That's usually what is done." Korim nodded. "That is where Life spells come into play. Determining the genetic code from what remains."

Kell blinked a couple times, then considered it for awhile as the grand white marble building glowing of protective and soothing magics that housed the main facility of the Royal Draconean Museum of Natural History came into full view.

"I hadn't thought of doing it that way."

"That is why new ways of doing things are still welcome." Korim smiled. "Because each new mind may see some part of the truth of magic that no other has ever seen before."

"So if you do something cool that isn't exactly by the book, that's okay?" Nathan asked, excited by the idea.

"So long as you aren't hurting anyone in the process of doing something cool, yes." Korim nodded as they entered the large central gallery of the museum where several groups of Dracon youngsters were being taken on guided tours.

"This'll be interesting." Kell and Nathan grinned at each other conspiratorially.

"Can we see the recovered critter's zoo soon?" Kell asked eagerly, his eyes and magic on everything with animals in the displays.

"The recovered critter zoo is actually in a different city." Korim explained as they walked past several models of restored previously extinct creatures including a large reptilian quadruped with black scales and a single deep red spiraled horn in the middle of its forehead. "Something for another days outing."

"Okay," he accepted it easily. "Is that one of them?" He regarded the strange beast curiously.

"Black unicorn-dragon from Tauratus." Korim nodded. "Yes, that's one of the newer recoveries. The first complete skeleton was recovered about a decade during geo-exploration."

"Looks dangerous." Nathan commented.

"They are." Korim nodded. "And very unusual for a land carnivore in having that single horn. Horns are usually found on herbivores."

"A lot of reptiles have them." Kell gave the critter another look. "But not like that. It looks like a courting feature, not a defensive one."

"Courting and offensive." He nodded. "That neck is surprisingly flexible and the critter is rather agile at slashing."

"Is that common, for something with claws and teeth like that?"

"Is that common, for something with claws and teeth like that?"

"Usually becomes less common as size increases." Korim explained. "Having the agility to use the horn effectively as a weapon to the side, is uncommon."

"It that the most unusual critter that's been brought back?" Kell asked with the intense fascination that had brought him threw three years of magical training in just over one.

"What is so dangerous that Dracons can't control it?"

"Well, in a couple of cases its not a matter of danger." Korim explained. "We simply discovered after we recovered them, that they were sentient. It would therefore be inappropriate to keep them as zoo displays." He elaborated casually. "The shadowbeasts are simply too large a risk factor, and difficult to contain. The more we study them, the more we think they were originally a biological weapon, that got out of control. There's also some debate as to whether they're sentient or not, which also makes displaying them questionable."

"You mean sentience can be completely biological?" Kell blinked in real surprise.

"Well either its completely biological, or the biological pattern naturally draws in whatever else may be the cause of sentience." Korim said easily. "Still something of a debate, and one that the Powers refuse settle. They seem to think that its better that we don't know for sure."

"And probably never will." He nodded thoughtfully. "At least not without some experiments that would make the SG or my creator seem moral by comparison."

"I expect any experiment on the subject would probably suffer unexplained accidents." Korim said seriously. "Several of the Powers are more than willing to apply subtle interference as necessary."

"Subtle is good." Nathan nodded. "Keeps people thinking that they're experiment just had bad luck. That way they keep wasting time."

"Stubbornness will do that too." Kell pointed out with a bit of a grin. "Nothing is quite as stubborn as a person with a goal."

"And the more impossible the goal the more stubborn some people get." Nathan chuckled.

"Very few goals are truly impossible, though many are so difficult as to occupy a lifetime." Korim smiled. "But some of those difficult ones are very worthwhile."

"And a lifetime is saying something for a Noble." Kell grinned. "Some even take more than a single lifetime."

"There are a few of those." Korim nodded. "Those are usually passed from generation to generation. My great-aunt began a study on the true structure of the multiverse, which my sister is currently continuing the work on."

"Is she likely to finish the study?"

"Possibly." Korim nodded. "She mentioned that things are beginning to repeat which suggests that she may finally have pinned it down. Gathering data on something the size of the multiverse is what took so long. Even accepting that it may repeat after a point, you still have to survey enough of it to be sure, and the big question is 'what part of infinite is sufficient?'"

"I guess she must like to travel." Nathan said quietly, though it sounded like a fascinating thing to do. Seeing all those different places.

"Yes, she does." Korim grinned.

"Is she ever home?" Kell asked even as his eye was caught by a brilliant painting that sparkled of crystal paints.

"Oh, she bounces in about once a month." Korim smiled fondly. "She's probably the most skilled translocater around, both in terms of practical experience and natural talent."

"She could probably teach a thing or two about long-range teleporting." Nathan said thoughtfully as he examined a large chunk of brilliant natural crystal that sparkled with what appeared to be internally generated light.

"Talk about seriously great teacher experience." Kell grinned and tried to figure out what was making the crystal glow.

"That she could." Korim nodded thoughtfully, hoping that she'd be home for awhile when his sons were ready to learn translocation.

"Maybe we can meet her next time she comes by."

"I'll see if that can be arranged." Korim nodded. "She normally stays at my brother's castle when she's home. It was our parents' home, and she's never really established a home of her own. Hopefully she'll let me know she's there more than five minutes before she takes off again." He shook his head.

"Sounds like she's still enjoying life." Kell commented with a grin. "Even if it does make socializing tough."

"Makes socializing with family tough." Korim chuckled. "She's got friends all over the place. She's socialized with more species than most of us will ever see."

"Sounds like she really got bitten by the explorer bug." Kell giggled.

"Inherited it, I think." Korim grinned. "Our aunt was just as bad, though no one objected because of the incredible stories she brought home, along with some of the most incredible souvenirs." He shook his head. "Of course, I'm not sure some of them were intended to be souvenirs. But anything just floating loose in the multiverse is fair game."

"Where'd she keep them?" Kell suddenly perked up even more than the fascinating displays around them caused.

"Her personal pocket dimension, of course." Korim grinned. "It was her solution to the 'never home' problem. She just brought 'home' with her."

"You can do that?" Kell's jaw slipped open.

"It's not an easy skill by any measure." Korim said seriously, as he noticed the intense interest from both kits. "But it is possible."

"Wow, major cool." Nathan murmured, considering the possibilities.

"Oh wow." Kell breathed, half in shock, half in awe of what that could really mean. "What a way to do it."

"It is not a skill to rush." Korim cautioned. "Mistakes in creating pocket spaces can be spectacular to say the least."

"I'll bet." Nathan said quietly. "Just how big are they?"

"Depends on the skill, strength and needs of the creator." Korim said easily. "But even small ones are the size of several rooms."

"What happens to them when the creator dies?"

"Depends on what arrangements the creator made. Some times they pass to another Mage, other times they dump all the stuff into a predetermined location and then fade away. If no arrangements are made they become an annex to the Great Library." He explained. "This seems to happen relatively often as the Library has many annexes."

"Can non-Dracons create them?" Kell continued the line of questions that came to mind without missing a thing in the huge museum.

 "Not that I'm aware of, but then you're both Dracons so that's not an issue." He said easily as they stopped in front of a display of an immense avian with a wingspan at least forty feet across. Nathan was staring at the note on the display pedestal which said 'Model is 1/3 scale'

"That really exists?" He asked, trying to imagine something with a wingspan so big.

"A Star Eagle." Korim nodded. "They most definitely do exist."

"Magical, or a very low gravity world?" Kell asked even as he searched for the sign to explain this creature nearly as unbelievable as a Dragon by physics.

"Magical." Korim said easily. "Though the world does have a lower gravity than here, which is unusual for it being a larger world. There are smaller species which are not magical, simply being products of the low gravity."

"Sentient?" Nathan asked looking at the creature's eyes. Even on a model they seem brighter than a simple animal.

"Yes, one of the occasions that we brought back a species not realizing that it was sentient."

"We try to avoid that?" Kell asked, uncertain why it would matter.

"Sentient species often 'belong' to one Power or another, and it can ruffle feathers to 'interfere'." Korim said quietly. "This obviously is something we run into on worlds outside our home system. Here at home we know that there aren't any extinct sentient species."

"Oh, that makes sense." He nodded. "Don't Powers let you know when you're nosing around their territory?"

"Some of them don't bother to tell non-Powers such things until you do something that offends them." Korim shook his head. "Because they often pay little heed to non-Powers. So you have to take precautions of your own to avoid offending, since Lady StarFire prefers to have to intervene as little as possible."

"How to you do that?"

"Study the area where remains are found for evidence of sentience." Korim said simply. "Look for tool use, keeping of records, evidence of religious practices and that sort of thing. Unfortunately, there is very little you can do if a race happens to be primarily telepathic, and keeps records by 'oral' tradition."

"Is that what happened with the Star Eagle?"

"Yes, they were wiped out before they developed a need for written records." He nodded. "And we mistakenly attributed their statues to the other sentient race on the planet. Misattribution is always a hazard in archaeology, especially when you have multiple sentient species on the same planet."

"The other sentient race was wiped out too?"

"Nope, but they were still rather primitive." He said easily. "Pre-feudal era. They were quite willing to 'sell' us the land we wanted to study. Amazing what you can get for iron ore in the right places."

"Did you ever find out what happened to the Star Eagles?"

"Wiped out by a bio-weapon leftover from a war between to dead races millennia before." He said sadly. "A delivery system crashed into the planet and 'adapted' to the first life form it contacted. It only had one payload and the two sentient species are very different, so there was no cross-contamination. It was a very effective bio-weapon, 100% contagious and 100% lethal."

"That's just sick." He muttered. "Are they doing okay now?"

"Yes, it is sick." Korim nodded. "They're recovering. They're on their fifth generation since recovering and the population is rebounding nicely."

"That's good." Nathan said easily. "So did you put them back on their original world?"

"No, that world has changed too much for them, especially the way the other sentient species is expanding. We found them a very similar world inside the Protectorate, which they've decided is just as good as the original homeworld."

"That sounds like a good ending." Kell smiled. "Something to be proud of being a part of."

"Yes, the Tal'Endors did a good job on that recovery, even if the sentient part was a bit of a shock." He chuckled.

"How many times has it happened, out of how many?" Kell asked, looking at the huge bird with all his senses. "Are the Tal'Endors a family focused on recoveries?"

"As the strongest of the Earth Clans, the Tal'Endors are most experienced at recovery." Korim nodded. "But they're also a large family which means that they are involved in a fair number of things." He chuckled. "And accidental sentient recoveries are probably only a half-dozen out of several hundred recovered species. We are very careful."

"Is it ever done intentionally?"

"Hasn't been so far." Korim said simply. "Which isn't to say that it never will be. With sentient races we usually rescue before they go extinct, if they're in an area we operate in."

"Sounds like there's a lot to do, protecting life around the universe."

"Not the whole universe." Korim corrected. "This galaxy mostly. We've scouted most of the universe, but we simply don't have the people to protect the whole thing. Even magic has its limitations."

"Much to some of the stronger protector's annoyance, I expect." He smiled with a nod as a display of decidedly not-modern Dracons caught his attention.

"There are always some who think we can protect the entire universe from its darker half." Korim shook his head. "But the truth is that the universe exists in balance between light and dark, life and death and so on."

"But we try anyway?" Nathan asked curiously.

"We do what we feel is right and just, trusting that the universe will handle the balance part as it always has." Korim nodded.

"That ... could make for quite a catch 22 headache if you think about it too much." Kell shook his head a bit as he regarded the Dracons in body armor even more brightly colored than their scales.

"We have philosophers who have studied it for centuries." Korim chuckled. "I'm told headache is an understatement." He said looking over the armor. "The Kar'Dranors always did have a touch for flamboyant armor." He chuckled.

"It's pretty. Nothing like the modern kind."

"It was as much art form as it was armor." Korim nodded. "Modern body armor is armor and nothing more. But then again, modern armor is mass produced which tends to discourage art."

"So do modern tactics. Being seen is not a desirable thing, no matter what roll you have. Those look like things to make your ID obvious to everybody."

"They were." He nodded. "But that was a time when single combat between two generals could determine the outcome of a battle. Nowadays, generals don't do battle, not really."

"Tactically unsound." Kell nodded. "You didn't have snipers back then, did you?"

"Sniping was considered cowardly, and no true warrior would have anything to do with it." Korim explained. "To be caught employing a sniper was a serious disgrace. There's at least one recorded instance of a Clan Lord being slain by his own men when they discovered he'd employed a sniper."

"Honor and war, strange to think of them going together." Nathan said quietly. "They sure don't now. All's fair in love and war, and all that."

"Love, war and Felsin politics." Kell muttered, then glanced up at his father. "Is that warrior's honor still alive here?"

"We believe in it, though we no longer fight among ourselves." Korim explained. "And some adjustments to the reality of modern warfare had to be made. The realities of space and air combat do not blend well with the honor code of medieval times. But there are still many warriors who do not believe in attacking by stealth, and I do not know of any Dracon snipers." He explained. "Perhaps the biggest effect is that Dracon forces do not employ nuclear, biological or chemical warfare. The only place a nuclear weapon may be found is in a ship-to-ship arsenal, and there are strict regulations against using them against anything other than a hardened space target."

"The SG sees NBC weapons as just another tool in the arsenal." Nathan snorted.

"We know, and it worries us." Korim nodded.

"Everything is just a tool to them, including people." Kell rumbled softly, his hatred flashing brightly for a moment before he got himself under control again.

"It has been the subject of a great deal of debate." Korim said quietly, noting how the subject had unsettled both kits. "But we can't interfere in the internal matter of another world. We have said repeatedly that we do not run the Alliance, and we try not to." He shook his head. "But there are times when high principles are not easy to live with."

"But if you only keep them when its easy, they don't mean much do they?" Nathan asked quietly.

"That is exactly why we restrain ourselves when our instinct is to act." He said quietly.

"But it isn't an internal Felsin issue." Kell growled in utter frustration. "The SG is just a Mephit unit."

"But it isn't an internal Felsin issue." Kell growled in utter frustration, though his voice remained respectfully low for their surroundings. "They're Mephit flunkies."

"That may be, but the Felsin government must decide that they need outside help." Korim said gently. "We can not simply impose it on them."

"Even though it's an enemy of the Alliance that is responsible?" Kell looked up, at a loss for the logic behind it.

"The Mephits support the SG, but it was started and is still run by Felsin primarily. The Mephits make a show of being in charge, but given that none of them are physically present, its just that...a show, magically projected images. All the real decision making is still done by Felsin, which makes it a Felsin matter, especially since the SG actions are currently limited to Felsinor." Korim explained.

"So the Overlords are just magic holograms?" Nathan asked, more than a little surprised. It did explain why they were never seen outside certain areas though.

"A little more complex than holograms, but essentially the same."

"Magical projections of some kind?" Kell asked hesitantly.

"Actually, a combination of magic and psi projection." Korim clarified. "Very effective for communication, and creates a kind of aura illusion that something powerful is present. If you weren't in the room with them, you might miss the fact that it was just an illusion."

"And as long as it's only funding and Intel and not people, they can get away with it." Kell said quietly.

"As long as its primarily directed internally." Korim said firmly. "The group was founded by Felsin, and the goals have not changed since the Mephit became involved. It just happens that the SG and the Mephits have common cause. But it really is up to the Felsin government to ask for help or not, until such time as the SG acts beyond Felsinor."

"Are all races held to this standard, or is it a Dracon code of honor thing?"

"Alliance policy in general." Korim explained. "Each race's sovereignty is respected. Help is given if asked for, or if accepted when offered."

"They turned down an offer then?"

"Yes, they politely stated that they could handle a matter of internal politics." Korim nodded. "I believe it is more a matter of being embarrassed that they are not handling it."

"Stupid politicians." Kell muttered. "Don't give a damn about anyone or anything but themselves."

"Politicians and a fair number of military leaders who want to deal with the situation themselves as a matter of planetary pride." Korim shook his head.

"Stupid leaders." He muttered darkly. "How many have to die before they see beyond their own egos?"

"Well, given that they are elected leaders, the people have to take a certain amount of responsibility for their actions." Korim said simply. "After all, they do tend to re-elect the same people over and over again."

"I think that's what Cazi meant by 'people getting the government they deserve.'" Nathan added quietly.

"Makes me want to stay in my winged form." Kell muttered and tried to focus on the displays and not his growing distaste of his primary heritage.

"People are like that all over." Korim shook his head. "It's nothing unique to the Felsin, a function of sentience it seems. People prefer to stay with what they know rather than risk change and the unknowns it entails."

"Not everyone." He said very firmly.

"There are few statements that apply to everyone." Korim nodded. "There are always exceptions."

"And some of us are exceptions." Nathan chuckled as he looked over a display of early slug-throwers. The early weapons, like the early armor were as much about artistic style as function.

Kell's attention was held on the other side of the hall with a moving solid hologram display of a group of armored dragonish fish creature.

"The Razorback dragonfish." Korim elaborated. "Though it's neither dragon nor fish, it actually a mammal." He chuckled. "A very strange looking one, but a mammal nonetheless."

"How do things get such incorrect names?"

"Because they're named when they're first seen normally." Korim shrugged. "People name them for what they look like. In this case it does kind of look like some combination of dragon and fish."

"True," he nodded. "And once it's named it doesn't tend to change."

"No, it doesn't." Korim agreed. "Causes too much confusion if you try to stick a new name on a known creature. Half the people will insist on using the old name anyway."

"And as long-lived as some Dracons are, that's just impractical for anyone but an immortal." Kell nodded, still fascinated by all the strange creatures on display.

"Any of the various flavors of immortals." Korim nodded, as they stopped in front of a large case that showed another reduced scale model of an immense creature, apparently about two hundred and fifty feet long resembling a large eel, but it was surrounded by red glowing field that arced lightning. The other strange thing was that its native environment was noted to be 'space' but it was also listed as 'amphibian'.

"And no end of creatures that defy traditional categorizations." Kell snickered. "How many things are native to space?"

"More than you might expect." Korim said easily. "Including at least half a dozen gaseous species and three species that are pure energy. And one annoying quasi-sentient species known as a 'Space Dragon'. Looks very much like a Dragon, but has the intellectual level of a raven, with the same interest in shiny objects."

"Ouch." The tan kitten winced in sympathy. "Can't be any help in the reputation department."

"No, it's not." Korim shook his head. "And trying to find a solution to race short of genocide is problematic at best. They roam all over creation and have a natural 'warp' ability that lets them travel long distances instantly. Makes penning them up difficult at best, though the current proposal is to locate a largely unoccupied dimension and throw them in there."

"Because they embarrass you?" Kell looked up in surprise.

"Because they're a menace." Korim shook his head. "Popping out of nowhere and deciding a shuttle looks a shiny object they'd like to stick in their 'nest'. Getting aggressive with spaceships that wander to close and occasionally deciding that exploration parties are 'edible'."

"What if they weren't space-based?"

"In that case we could just isolate them to a planet and quarantine the planet." Korim nodded. "But they don't stay in a particular region of space."

"And Lady StarFire can't stop them, or won't?" He looked at the huge dragon-creature more closely.

"Well, we're kind of investigating solutions for her. She'd like to stop them without having to change what they are. Fortunately, they're relatively uncommon so they don't cause too much damage. I expect we'll end up going with something like the pocket dimension solution ... just because it's the least damaging."

"I guess we're lucky they don't belong to another Power that'll object to it."

"If they belonged to another Power, StarFire would've had a word or two with said Power. But if they belong to a Power, there's no evidence of it." Korim shook his head. "The multiverse just seems to find it necessary to occasionally manifest creatures that look like Dragons but cause nothing but grief."

"It's way of pointing out that the multiverse is not a safe and orderly place." Nathan suggested impishly.

"And there is no such thing as a copyright on a life form." Kell added with a smirk.

"Well, there is sort of, but have you ever tried to enforce a copyright claim against the universe?" Korim smirked back. "Just finding the right court takes eternity. However, anything less than the universe knows better than to create things that are like Dragons, at least anywhere reasonably close to the Dragonlands."

"And Lord Chaos learned not to ages ago." Kell snickered. "At least that can be traced back to him."

"Yeah, he doesn't want a direct confrontation with Lady StarFire." Korim chuckled. "He knows how that would go. Of course, sneaky is more his game anyway."

"Which would make these guys just his style." Kell chuckled softly. "Untraceable, animal intelligence so extermination is very distasteful and almost impossible to contain."

"The possibility was considered, but StarFire says that they have none of his touch." Korim said thoughtfully. "He leaves a mark of corruption on anything he creates. It's part of his nature, much the way Lady StarFire leaves a spark of fire in anything she creates."

"How much of life was originally created by a Power?" Kell prompted when his attention drifted to a floating crystalline creature of lacy construction.

"Of what we've discover so far, forty maybe forty-five percent." Korim said thoughtfully. "There's more cases of natural evolution than deliberate creation."

"Only just." Kell said quietly, not sure what to think of those odds. "Is it the same for intelligent life?"

"About the same, maybe more solidly forty-five in the case of intelligent life." He nodded. "Funny thing is, the ones who weren't deliberately created seem to have a need to make up Powers and credit them with having done it."

"Gee, I'd prefer natural evolution over our creators." Nathan snorted as he looked over the image of an electric blue predatory avian.

Kell nodded thoughtfully, intensely disturbed without a clue as to why and focused on the creature Nathan was looking at for a distraction.

"Lightning hawk from the Alaran Badlands here on Draconea. A rather uncommon occurrence, bioelectricity in an avian species." Korim elaborated.

"Used for hunting?" Nathan asked curiously.

"And for defense against those who would try to dislodge it from its kill." Korim nodded.

"Bet not many things try that twice." Kell chuckled a bit. "That can't be pleasant."

"No it's not." Korim nodded. "In fact its success inspired the evolution of a copycat, the Azure falcon which looks almost the same, but lacks the bioelectricity. But most creatures having experienced when Lightning hawk, don't want a repeat."

"I wouldn't blame them." He nodded thoughtfully. "Better safe than dead."

"Lightning Hawk doesn't usually kill on the first defensive zap." Korim explained. "Second one does, if the offender isn't smart enough to leave the area after the first very painful shock."

"I can see why." He nodded seriously. "Or too curious to leave things alone."

"Possibly, though creatures that are genuinely curious are usually smart enough to recognize danger." Korim agreed. "As avians go the lightning hawk is fairly smart, and is capable of being trained if captured young, assuming the trainer doesn't mind being shocked during the training."

"That can't be too common." Kell regarded the bird doubtfully. "What is the advantage of them?"

"Nowadays its more of a hobby among certain nobles." Korim chuckled. "But in older times they were useful as scouts, for those with the talent of animal empathy. They're fast fliers and have keen eyesight. You might call them the early version of the spy plane or surveillance satellite."

"And smart enough to train to look for fairly complex amounts of information." He nodded easily. "Sounds like a lot of things. They used to be useful, now they are just hobbies."

"Hobbies or pets, depending on who you ask." Korim chuckled. "Those who fly Lightning hawks nowadays tend to be very attached to them."

"To an animal?" Kell looked at him, then the bird and back again.

"Many people have animal companions that mean a great deal to them, even if its not as common among Dracons as it is among other races." Korim nodded. "It's an emotional attachment much like friendship."

"Okay," he said slowly, doubtful but willing to accept the statement.

"Sort of like the familiars mentioned in the Brief History of Magic on Other Worlds?" Nathan asked curiously.

"Not exactly the same sort of bond, but similar." Korim nodded.

Kell nodded, still having difficulty with it, the comparison to familiars making even less sense, but it wasn't something he was willing to challenge the validity of.

"So is there a separate museum for magic and tech?" Nathan asked curiously.

"Yes, Museum of Magic History and Museum of Technology, both of which happen to be located in the capitol." He nodded. "There are also a great many more specialized libraries and museums across the planet."

"How much of life here was created by Lady StarFire?" Kell asked as they moved threw more displays on Dracon history and accomplishments.

"All of the sentient life was created by her." Korim said easily. "The non-sentient life was created by an evolutionary process that she initiated shortly after the planet formed. While she gave it some general parameters, she had no real idea what the outcome would be." Korim explained. "I believe one of the 'instructions' could be loosely interpreted as 'surprise me.'"

"So, there was the possibility that a sentient species she didn't intend, could've evolved." Nathan commented.

"As much as there was on every world that evolved naturally." Korim nodded. "It didn't happen though."

"At least not yet." Kell mused. "It would be interesting to see what it would be without Her direct influence."

"Very good at hiding at the very least." Korim smiled. "Since we've seen nothing even in the proto-sentient category yet."

The kitten looked up at him, then back at the electric blue bird some ways back and around at other creatures. "Just what is the breaking line between a smart animal and a proto- sentient?"

"Communication has a lot to do with it." Korim said thoughtfully. "And you're right, the Lightning Hawk is close but it still doesn't quite make it the communication area. And it's a fuzzy definition on the best of days."

"Like most categorizations." He giggled softly.

"Especially when it comes to sentience." Korim shook his head. "Those definitions get revised just about every time a new species is encountered."

"I wonder if that's one of the traits of it." Kell snickered. "Endlessly attempting to categorize the unknown."

"Quite likely." Korim nodded. "Never knew a sentient race that didn't categorize things, even if it wasn't anymore complicated than 'us' and 'not us'."

"Or 'useful' and 'not useful'." Kell added with a grin. "Or maybe 'good' and 'not good'."

"Or the ever popular 'good' and 'evil'." Nathan snickered. "Everybody loves that one."

"Very popular in fiction both written and performed." Korim nodded.

"You don't think there's real evil out there?" Kell looked up with a bit of surprise evident.

"Oh, there is." Korim nodded. "But people are often too quick to attribute things to 'evil', when they're really just 'different' or the product of stupidity instead of malevolence."

"That makes sense." Kell agreed, honestly believing it. "A lot of people seem to be afraid of what is different without a real reason too."

"Xenophobia also seems to be a product of sentience, though it's easily overcome by education and exposure." Korim nodded. "Getting beyond the early tribal mentality which labels 'outsiders' as dangerous."

"Is it so easy?" Kell looked at him very seriously. "With all the wars and xenophobia still around, it doesn't seem to be just about education."

"Well, most wars have little to do with xenophobia. More about things like territory, power and greed." Korim shook his head. "And educating people out of those doesn't seem to be taking. Besides, there's always a few folks who insist on being xenophobic, no matter how hard you try to teach them otherwise."

"Seems like such a waste." Kell murmured. "Murder for peace. The only way and it makes you worse than what you're trying to stop."

"Well, not always." Korim corrected gently. "Sometimes to protect life, you have no choice but to kill those who do not respect it at all. A case where neither choice is ideal, but one does less harm."

"That wasn't what I meant." He smiled sheepishly. "You can end the wars and fear and problems, but the only real answer is to eliminate those who are like that. But doing that makes you no better than the ones you are trying to be rid of."

"Very true, one can not defeat the enemy by becoming the enemy." He nodded. "A lesson that people seem to need to learn over and over again. I actually saw a society once that had eliminated all those problems, but in surprising the tendencies that lead to 'disruptive' behavior they also suppressed that indefinable spark that gives rise to creativity and genius. It was a very calm, peaceful and orderly society ... it was also stagnant and interminably dull."

"If that's what you want though ..." He shook his head. "There are times it would be very nice to exist in a place like that."

"Perhaps, but nothing ever changed. No new thoughts, ideas or inventions." He shook his head. "It was a society that existed without really living. Life simply was, it had no meaning. Life of the body, but a death of the spirit."

"Perhaps." Korim said quietly. "I found it terribly disturbing, not all someplace to recover from anything."

"Different people, different needs and desires." He smiled up at the centuries older male. "It makes life interesting."

"Perhaps that was what was missing there ... desires. They literally wanted 'nothing'. Because to want something they did not have would've been potentially disruptive." He said easily. "But you're right, if everyone was the same, it would be a dull universe."

"Yeah, and that just can't be allowed." He grinned impishly. "The Powers have to have something to do."

"I don't believe I've ever heard of a Power complaining of boredom." Korim chuckled. "Of course, with the options they have who would be."

"As long as the varieties of things to do is big enough to last eternity give or take." Nathan smirked.

"I think watching mortals qualifies." Kell snickered back. "We only sometimes do reruns after all."

"And there's enough mortals that they can certainly find someone who isn't." Nathan chuckled. "And if all else fails, some of them can create new ones."

"Not that that is done lightly." Korim said seriously. "Creating a new sentient race isn't a casual act for most Powers. Some of them don't take it as seriously as they should, but those aren't cases to be emulated."

"Why is it such a big deal for them?" Kell asked.

"The responsible ones feel that creating sentient life deliberately carries a certain amount of responsibility with regard to the race created." Korim said simply. "Rather like when mortals choose to become parents."

"And some don't." He nodded seriously. "Is that why so many seem to look like the races they create to some extent?"

"Normally, though most Powers have some degree of shapeshift ability." Korim nodded. "Powers are prone to creating what they find pleasing to look at, at least in the base design. I've never heard of a Power actually going to the trouble of creating each member of a race, it's normal just creating the 'matrix' that defines the race."

"Do designs always work out as planned?" Nathan asked curiously.

"They're usually close, but it's almost unheard of to get everything to come out exactly as desired. The universe is not that cooperative." The elder Dracon chuckled.

"And for mortals, what the Universe doesn't tweak, the Powers do." Kell snickered. "Like the pair of us."

"To be honest, I'd say you had more tweaking than Nathan." Korim said thoughtfully. "Nathan's heritage was pretty mixed to start with. I'm not sure even Caito could have found something to add."

"Maybe not Nathan, but it's pretty likely he did a lot to Nate's Father Ebon, if not all three." Kell added with a grin.

"Cazi? Quite likely." Korim chuckled. "But Nareena, no no tweaking there." He smiled. "Nareena is Felsira's, and comes a very long, carefully bred family line that be traced back to the first Landing, and some say, beyond."

"He does a lot of the tweaking, doesn't he?" Nathan asked curiously.

"As the chief spirit of mischief, its his specialty." Korim chuckled.

"And he has a reputation to uphold." Kell snickered.

"Uphold and expand." Korim smirked. "When he's not dating mortals that is. The little shapeshifter has his bloodlines in most of the major races."

Does anyone know which ones they are?" Kell looked around curiously.

"I think the relevant Powers do, and some of the True Dragons." Korim said simply. "But its not something any mortals are sure of. Its not something you can really test for."

"Then he doesn't tell the mothers?" Kell flicked one ear sideways.

"Usually no." He shook his head. "He likes pretending he's mortal, and he doesn't like to made a big fuss over most of the time." He smiled. "But from what one of the True Dragons told me, he always takes good care of mother and kits, or makes sure they're taken good care of if he can't." He added approvingly. "Not that I think that Felsira would allow otherwise, if he were inclined otherwise."

"Sounds like Cazi was one of his." Kell shook his head. "From what I've heard at least."

"Not a direct Kit, grandkit or great-grand maybe." Korim said thoughtfully. "Cazi's parents are both known, and neither behaved as Caito would." He said quietly, clearly disapproving. "Beyond that its hard to say, but he would be one of the Felsin ancestors."

"Because he doesn't imitate Dracons?" Nathan asked curiously.

"No, because we Dracons know our families very well. The Mel'Dranor line is still an old family, even if its not at the center of Clan power." Korim said simply. "And though Cazi's grandfather has withdrawn into a solitary study of the mysteries of the universe, we know he still lives, and he is not Caito."

"But the Felsin side is no so well documented." Kell didn't really guess.

"Not nearly, and there are more Felsin generations in the same time frame." Korim nodded.

"No kidding." Kell nodded. "A Felsin can life an entire lifetime before a Noble Dracon gets out of school."

"It's been known to happen." Korim chuckled. "Though we try to get the youngsters some real world experience after they turn fifty or so, if they don't do so on their own. Best to get exposed to the diversity of the universe before the mind gets too set in its ways."

"Which happens far too easily in most." He nodded. "Though the ones who never stop learning and exploring kind of make up for it."

"That's why we encourage everyone to take the years between fifty and sixty off to travel and see the galaxy." He smiled. "You two keep on as intense as you have been, and I'll probably suggest such a break earlier." He added seriously. "Remembering to live while one is studying is important. Commitment and drive are good, but one can have too much of a good thing."

"But studying is fun." Nathan smirked. "At least I think it is."

"What we're studying is at least." Kell added with a grin. "And we play and hang out in the pool."

"Good." Korim nodded. "Play and relaxation keep the mind flexible." He said approvingly.

"So what's that?" Nathan asked, looking at a book that floated inside a protective force field across the way from them. The tour groups each stopped at it for a noticeable period.

"That's the original copy of the Book of Honor." Korim said respectfully. "The laws and codes that guided us out of the barbarity of the medieval period."

"That's seriously a long time ago, isn't it?" Kell murmured and moved closer to look at it with much the same kind of respect Korim did.

"Yes, a very long time ago." Korim nodded. "Almost twenty-five millennia."

"I don't think I can even contemplate that long." Kell shook his head. "Not really." He looked up at the Dracon. "Is anyone from that time still alive?"

"With the exception of Lady StarFire, not exactly." He said uneasily. This was getting very close to dealing with one of the true complexities of Dracon existence.

"She's not a Dracon." The kit pointed out simply. "Something you don't want to talk about?"

"It's a complicated subject, and one never discussed outside of noble Dracon circles." He said simply. "The commoners know about it, of course, but they pay it little mind."

"Every race has its secrets I think." Nathan said easily. "But given we're at least part noble Dracon, does it affect us?"

"That is something we don't know yet." Korim admitted. "Much the way we still can't figure out what your lifespans will be."

"Which won't be for a few decades at least." Kell nodded easily.

"Yes, though even then I think it will be uncertain." Korim said thoughtfully. "I think the two of you are a mystery that the universe is not going to let us understand completely." He chuckled. "But the major effect of the complicated matter, is that Dracon society is much older than the rest of the Alliance thinks."

"That's hardly news." Kell snickered.

"How much older may be." He said simply. "Close to a quarter million years, and that's recorded history."

"That's a long time." Kell nodded. "Older than some races."

"Yes, and we find the other races are intimidated enough by the idea of lifespans of fifteen or twenty thousand years." He said easily. "The truth, wouldn't set well at all."

"No, it probably wouldn't." The kit agreed. "It probably never will either."

"No, we don't expect so." Korim nodded. "If you want the full story, ask me when we get home. Discussing it in a public place would be inappropriate, especially with off-world visitors." He nodded toward a small group of Canem exploring the museum.

"You know we will." Kell grinned at him.

"You've dropped way too many interesting hints for us not to." Nathan smirked.

"You two are quite incorrigible." Korim chuckled fondly. "So, what would you like to do after we finish with this museum? Another museum, or something different?"

"I'd like to see a shopping district." Kell grinned, looking at Nathan for the other kit's wishes so they could sort it out.

"And somewhere to eat." Nathan grinned. "It's getting close to lunch."

"Yes, it is." Korim nodded. "And it happens we can combine those two. But was there anything after food?"

"Oh, shopping is good. I remember my folks talking about it, but I wasn't old enough to go." He explained. "So I'm kind of curious."

"Sounds like an afternoon plan." Kell grinned wider.

"Then I think our next stop is the food district." Korim grinned. "We've about covered this museum. More history is covered by the museums of Magic History, Technology and Modern History."

"Is there anything in the food district that we don't get at the castle?"

"Quite a bit actually." Korim smiled. "With the tourist trade, we've had businesses springing up catering to cuisine from across the Alliance. At the castle we stick to Dracon cuisine mostly, just from tradition."

"There's Felsin food there then?" Kell perked up considerably, as did Nathan.

"Definitely." Korim nodded, as they walked. "Which involves some impressive importing for the meat parts of meals. Felsinor has a much larger variety of game and domestic animals than Draconea."

"Most worlds seem to." Kell commented absently. "With so many more environments around."

"We compensate by having a separate world for hunting and plant gathering." Korim smiled. "But even still, they aren't the right meat according to chefs. Which obviously they aren't."

"Sounds like a challenge to expand their ideas." Kell grinned at his friend.

"Oh they do expand, but when you're trying to do authentic cuisine, the ingredients are important. Or so I'm told, I've never been much of a cook myself." He chuckled.

"With the cooks you have at the castle, why would you need to be?" Nathan said curiously.

"Because it's interesting." Kell supplied. "At least for some people."

"Oh, a hobby." Nathan nodded. "Never thought about it that way." He said thoughtfully.

"Some hobbies are useful." Kell nodded, though it sounded more like a repeated phrase he didn't quite get yet.

"Yes, some people do find it quite enjoyable." Korim nodded. "I'm just not one of them."

"No one can do everything." Kell grinned. "Even if some try."

"Trying to do everything is usually a good way to get frustrated." Korim nodded. "Because no one is good at everything."

"And it takes a lot of time too." Nathan chuckled. "Especially if you're trying to do them all right."

"Which would be the point." Kell grinned. "Anything worth doing is worth doing right."

"Otherwise you'll probably end up doing it over." Nathan smirked.

"Until you go nuts, or give up."

"Or do it right." Nathan grinned. "Practice makes perfect eventually."

"For folks like us at least." Kell snickered back.

"We must be getting closer to the food place." Nathan said, as his nose caught the scent of something that smelled good, though a bit on the sweet side.

"Actually, there are stores all over the city that sell food of various kinds." Korim explained. "What you're smelling at the moment is a bakery, which sells breads and pastries."

"Are most of them specialists, like that?" Kell asked.

"There are larger stores that sell all kinds of food, but those are closer to the residential quarters. The closer you get to the city center the more you find specialists. And then you have restaurants, which sell meals to be eaten there, instead of things to take with you." He said explaining things he figured the pair had no real experience with.

"Wow, so a lot of the city is dedicated to selling stuff." Nathan observed as they walked.

"Yes, one of the early functions of cities was facilitating the trade of goods and services. Trading food from those who produced it to those who produced other things of value." Korim explained. "That function has remained fairly constant, though what is being traded has changed over time."

"And there is enough for everyone?" Kell murmured in something akin to shock. "Enough to do."

"Always enough." Korim nodded. "Especially once you add in the manufacture of goods, and the various services required to run a starfaring society. And then you add to that the various people who do things like teach, heal, and entertain. There's plenty to do."

"Wow." Kell murmured. "It's hard to think that big."

"And Dracon cities aren't that big, as starfaring societies measure things." Korim smiled. "But our long lifespans tend to keep our growth at a slower rate, and we have a lot of colony worlds."

"So how does it compare to Forestal?" Nathan asked, using the city he'd been shown pictures of by Cazi.

"Bigger than Forestal, but smaller than the capitol of Felsinor." Korim said easily.

"How many people live here?" Kell asked as they passed the bakery and the reason for the smells became very obvious.

"Two and half million as of the last census." Korim said after a moment's thought. "We'd gotten close to three million at one point, but opening up two new colony worlds has drawn down the population of most of the major cities."

"Two and half million?" Nathan asked, surprised. "Does that include tourists?"

"Nope, they don't live here." Korim shook his head. "I believe the capital of Felsinor is six or seven times as large."

Kell nearly stumbled, his brain so in shock at the numbers he missed a step.

"And I thought Citadel was big." He whispered as he tried to access the numbers into something comprehendible.

"Citadel is large, for a military fort." Korim nodded. "But as cities go its more of a large town."

"That's total people right, not just adults?" Nathan asked, wanting to be sure.

"Yes, that's total people." Korim said reassuringly. "Which means that about a third of the population is youngsters."

"That ... it's just huge."

"Yes, it is." Korim nodded. "Probably best not to think about the city as a whole too much. Just focus on the part you're in and dealing with. It's much more manageable that way.""

"I expect it is." Kell nodded and focused his mind on doing just that. "So most people don't think about the whole thing at once?"

"Oh, some people do." Korim admitted. "But they tend to do so because its their job. City planners and the like, who are in charge of making sure important services are available city-wide. Services like electricity, running water and information-net."

"Kind of like the way the Quartermaster division was in charge of supplies at Citadel." Nathan said, trying to draw parallels to what he knew.

"Similar." Korim nodded.

"It must take a very special person to handle that." Kell murmured respectfully.

"Groups of people normally." Korim nodded. "Too big a job for a single person to handle alone. At least to handle alone and still have a life."

"That makes sense." He nodded. "Like no one specializing in the entire commando skill set."

"My father just about did." Nathan chuckled. "But he cheated."

"Yes, exactly the same thing." Korim nodded. "And Ebon is a very special case, like all of your parents."

"And you." Kell snickered. "You're special times three."

"More like mystery times three." Nathan grinned back. "Haven't figured out what I got from which parent yet."

"I'm sure that that will become clear in time." Korim added reassuringly. "You are both too young for your real potential to be visible yet. Give it time."

"If this is before we start showing potential, it's going to be really interesting when we do." Kell grinned, eager for it to happen. "We're already well ahead of the curve."

"There is potential and there is potential." Korim chuckled. "Some potential shows early, but other kinds come later. Though if I had to guess I'd say Nathan's magic Gift comes from Cazi."

"I kind of thought that." Nathan said quietly. "He was a mage of sorts after all."

"And his good looks from his mother." Kell added with a smile.

"Well, fur pattern is definitely his mother's." Korim nodded. "But build is really more like Ebon." He added thoughtfully. "Or more accurately, what I believe Ebon would've looked like at Nathan's age."

Nathan didn't really have a response to having his looks appraised so bluntly, so he just kind of blushed slightly.

"And height from Cazi." Kell added. "It all came together really nicely."

"Well, I might not stay short, you know." Nathan smirked. "Still plenty of time for a growth spurt or two."

"Hay, I like you short." Kell made a face. "I'm never going to grow up to even the Felsin average, much less the local one."

"I don't expect I'll hit the local average." Nathan chuckled. "But not quite five and half like Cazi, would be a bit much."

"I've often thought that was a subconscious effect of his shapeshifting ability." Korim said thoughtfully. "After all, his mother was a Lion of average height and his father a Dracon. His genetics were not inclined to be short."

"True enough." Kell nodded. "Neither bloodline is short. Only Tigers are taller among Felsin."

"Which really makes me wonder why I'm short for my age." Nathan snorted. "Cazi genes had been short for so long, they just figured they were supposed to be, probably." He shook his head. "If I get his shapeshift to go with the short, that'll be cool though." He smirked.

"It'd be fun to be sure." Kell grinned back. "To be anything you can imagine about the right size. What a blast."

"Why do I think the two of you will be look up transformation magic sooner than any apprentices do normally?" Korim chuckled.

"Cause we do most stuff sooner than the other apprentices." Nathan grinned back. "But I seem to recall our magic instructor telling us that transformation was something to be careful with."

"I so do not want to get stuck with gills." Kell made a face.

"Fur and gills do not mix." Nathan shook his head.

"No they don't." Korim nodded. "Or numerous other mistakes one could make."

"Felsin with feathers." Kell suggested, challenging Nathan in their favorite game of verbal one-upsmanship.

"Felsin with fly-eyes." Nathan replied easily, getting into the game as they walked and earning a respectful look for the nasty mental image.

"A Dracon with no scales." Kell came back with after a moment.

"Canem with two tails." Nathan responded, going for absurdity and inspired by the Black Lab who'd just walked past.

"Ferrin taur." Kell came back with.

"Ouch." Nathan said respectfully for that bizarre image. "Mer-Ursan." He replied, going for the mythological fish tail look.

"Mouse-Insect morph."

"Hummingbird-Dinosaur morph." Nathan snickered.

"Good one." Kell granted him with a grin. "Owl-cat."

"Interesting." Nnathan nodded. "Wolverine-alligator morph."

"Aquatic mouse with tentacles."

"Frog morph with bat wings." He said, thinking they were really giving the universe way too many ideas.

"A frog with fur." Kell countered.

"Salamander taur with hummingbird wings." Nathan grinned broadly.

"Human." Kell came back with a smirk.

"But they're real." Nathan objected.

"*And they're really strange looking.*" He commented silently out of politeness for any nearby, though he didn't see any.

"*Stranger acting then looking according to Cazi.*" Nathan replied.

"*A critter with no fur or scales are weirder than they look?*" Kell looked at him curiously.

"*They have fur, it's just really, really short.*" Nathan pointed out. "*And they're so confused they can't figure out how many sentient races live on their homeworld.*" He smirked. "*They know they're the dominant one, and seem to be in varying stages of denial regarding any others.*"

"Okay, you win." He shook his head. "Human with feather hair."

"Now that's weird." Nathan laughed broadly. "Avar with porcupine quills." He added after making sure there wasn't one nearby.

"Avar with gills."

"Duck morph with antlers."

"Mephit without skin."

"Now that's just messy." Nathan replied making a face. "Skunk morph with peacock feathers."

"Black Lion with peacock feathered wings." Kell shot back even with a bit of a purr for the visual of Nathan's last choice.

"Turtle morph with moth wings." Nathan snickered, as he got an image of uncle Corwin with brightly colored peacock wings. That was just too weird.

"That's an image." Kell snickered and shook his head. "How about a Lupo with antlers."

"There's one with a real reason to chase his tail." Nathan grinned. "Boa constrictor morph with leopard fur."

"A fish with fur." Kell took up the challenge.

"Whole new kind of catfish." Nathan snickered. "Bioluminescent reindeer morph."

Korim quietly listened to the two kits banter, taking notes so he could check how many of their strange notions were actually catalogued creatures. The universe was much stranger place than most people thought.

Brothers by Design 3: A Day at the Capitol

PG for Gen

76 KB, Story is Complete, Series is Finished
Written March 25, 2004 by Rauhnee Ranshanka and Todd McCall

Setting: Galactic Alliance

Primary Races: Dracon, Felsin

Contents: Furry. Gen. Alternate Universe

Pairings: None

Blurb: A break in magical studies is created by a day with their father: exploring Draconia's capitol and many a lesson in the 'useless' subject of entertainment, museums and shopping.

Disclaimer: All things taken directly from the sources listed under 'Fandoms' belong to the owners of those shows. No harm is intended and we're definitely not making any money. Now, the things we created are ours, and if you see 'Non-FanFic' up there, it's probably all ours.

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