This is a partial synopsis, and I reserve the right to deviate from it as I write the story.
caveat lector (let the reader beware)
The following is a work of fiction. The vast majority of the characters and events are fictitious. The vast majority of deviations from known scientific and historical fact are intentional and done either in service to the story or the author’s depraved sense of humor. Any resemblance to real places, persons living or dead, or events recorded in official or occult histories in this plane of the multiverse are a product of the reader’s imagination.
This work of fiction depicts actions, dialogue, and sentiments that may be inappropriate for readers under 16 years of age or offensive and upsetting to adult readers. Parents should preview before allowing children to read it. Adults should bear in mind while reading that the author does not necessarily endorse everything they depict.
This work of fiction is provided for entertainment purposes only. Read at your own risk.
Morgan Cooper’s initial mission is to help a couple that is being denied reproductive healthcare because one of the partners is subject to a copyright dispute over her DNA. They want to have children but can’t, and have no idea why. One partner is in fact artificial, similar to the einherjar1 but without their thaumaturgic combat abilities.
Complicating this mission is a request from his friend Claire Ashecroft. Her bestie Josefine Malmgren has gone missing, and her last communication to Claire included a vague statement about how the lifthrasir2 need her help.
The lifthrasir were originally created by Folkvangr, which was founded by rogue AsgarTech Corporation employees using technology taken from the Valhalla Project, a public-private partnership between the United Nations and the AsgarTech Corporation akin to the Manhattan Project3 which was intended to create artificial soldiers capable of serving as Adversaries and Peacemakers in the Phoenix Society without being subject to the rapid burnout that plagued humans serving in these capacities.
Folkvangr sold infant lifthrasir to couples who wanted children who shared their genomes but couldn’t have children of their own4. In addition, Folkvangr sold lifthrasir to businesses who wanted an easily indoctrinated labor force of disposable slaves, and it was for this that Folkvangr was shut down by the Phoenix Society. Afterward, the lifthrasir integrated into human communities and made lives for themselves. Many married and had children of their own.
However, somebody is kidnapping lifthrasir. Instead of getting implanted computers installed when they turn eighteen, the lifthrasir are born with implants. These implants still provide a POSIX-compliant operating system, but the implementation of various networking protocols like ICMP5 deviates from the standard in ways that make lifthrasir easily identifiable.
A group of lifthrasir have banded together for their own protection and pooled their resources to hire Malmgren to patch the lifthrasir firmware. In addition, they have stolen the source code from AsgarTech along with the original research for the Valhalla Project and the einherjar firmware. AsgarTech regards this technology as proprietary, but as one of the rebels will tell Josefine, this tech properly belongs in the public domain since its development was funded by the UN at public expense6.
The bounty hunters kidnapping lifthrasir are careful to avoid taking their targets en masse lest local police forces connect the dots and bring the Phoenix Society into it. Likewise, they are careful to avoid attacking einherjar lest they draw unwelcome attention from the AsgarTech Corporation, which still keeps an eye on the six hundred and sixty-six einherjar created by the Valhalla Project (of which Morgan is the last). Also, the einjerhar are capable of fighting back, and most live on the fringes as criminals or mercenaries.
While Folkvangr no longer exists, a private equity firm has obtained their assets and knows where to find most of the lifthrasir. They’ve taken the position that the lifthrasir are not human, and as artificial life not explicitly protected by law they are in fact unclaimed property that Muspel has every right to reclaim and use as they please.
Morgan’s search for information about the firm leads him to the AsgarTech Corporation and its CEO, Isaac Magnin. Magnin denies involvement, but suggests that Munakata Tetsuo might be involved. Tetsuo trained with Morgan to become an Adversary, but washed out during the Milgram Battery. Magnin still uses him as a plausibly deniable asset because Tetsuo is willing to bloody his hands to force issues into the open that the Phoenix Society might otherwise ignore.
Morgan finds Tetsuo in Shenzhen, where a large population of lifthrasir act as caretakers for elderly people who lost their children or grandchildren during Nationfall. He catches Tetsuo attempting to kidnap a young lifthrasir and challenges him. Tetsuo lets the kid go and offers to tell Morgan everything.
One of Folkvangr’s scientists found a venture capital firm willing to back him in a venture to create a new generation of lifthrasir that are better than the originals: stronger, smarter, but programmable. They would be the perfect slaves—or the perfect soldiers as long as they aren’t pitted against angels or demons. However, like any good scientist he needs a baseline, a control group. That’s where the kidnapped lifthrasir come in. Since they are not legally regarded as human beings but as artificial intelligence, and the law does not explicitly protect AI by granting them human rights, the VC firm’s legal team has come up with a legal pretext for treating the lifthrasir and similar artificial humanoid intelligence as “unclaimed property”.
Tetsuo is working undercover for the Phoenix Society as a bounty hunter kidnapping lifthrasir and collecting evidence for prosecution. However, even if this particular bunch of scumbags is crushed the root issue remains: the lifthrasir have no legal standing as human beings and without that recognition another bunch of grifters will come along and insist that they’re unclaimed property waiting to be salvaged.
Tetsuo is trying to force the issue by escalating the kidnappings to the point where the world can no longer ignore what’s going on. Before Morgan can react, however, a squad of devas[^devas] surround them. Denouncing Morgan and Tetsuo as asuras[^asuras], the devas attempt to assassinate them but fail as Morgan and Tetsuo put aside their differences and fight their common enemies. They leave one survivor, who insist that by the will of their leader Ohrmazd all asuras are proscribed constructs and must be destroyed for the greater good. Likewise, those who harbor asuras are traitors to life and must also be destroyed.
Morgan gets a call from Naomi Bradleigh soon after. She and Christabel have been attacked by people accusing them of harboring asuras. Morgan suspects that they are under attack because of their association with Morgan. Since Syd Reeves and Edmund Cohen were there as well, they were able to fight off the assassins and get to a safe house. Morgan asks Naomi if the name ‘Ohrmazd’ rings a bell, and she suggests that Morgan talk to Desdinova, who is part of the Phoenix Society’s executive council. In the meantime, Naomi and the others have been granted sanctuary by Elisabeth Bathory.