Preventer 1:1

I came awake with a thrash, limbs twitching against the heavy fabric like a bird thrashing in a net.  My mind seized up with animal panic for a fraction of a second.  There was someone’s arm across me.

The pressure lifted as soon as I moved, and I swiftly returned to myself.  The entangling pressure didn’t come from any net.  It came from my luxurious blankets.  The arm was Thui’s, and he would never dare to allow harm to come to me.  Also, he was only a human, and couldn’t possibly hurt me even if he stopped caring about his daughter’s wellbeing.

I stretched out, kicking my feet beneath the blankets and pushing my arms out as far as they can go.  The king sized bed accommodated me easily.  It stretched beyond my reach in every direction.  This was partly because it was huge, and partly because I’m a goddamn gnome.

“Four feet 6 inches isn’t that short.” I reminded myself. It was such a stupid insecurity to have.  Who cared how tall I was?  I didn’t let myself answer that, long practice with my thought patterns leading me to cut the thought off before it could start me spiraling.

I tossed back the covers and sat up on my bed, blinking sleepily across the master bedroom.  I’d had Knights board up the great windows that used to permit light into the room, but there were gaps between the boards which allowed light from the glorious Shington morning to spill forth across the floor.

Thui was settling down into his chair, reaching for the puzzle cube I’d brought him from my last visit to the Lair.  He had a fondness for the things, and Adder didn’t mind giving them away.  I found them unsatisfying myself nowadays.  There was a simple algorithm that I’d figured out that would, in time, let me solve any variation.

I got up, rolling to the side and lowering my feet gingerly down off the side of the bed.  The floor was cold, and I sort of hop stepped across the room to the bathroom.  My gift grants me level three Ultra durability, basically invincibility, but I still feel hot and cold.  Vexing.

I looked myself over in the mirror.  No wrinkles, no grey hairs, no visible signs of aging.  My reflection showed a woman who could be 45, 35 or 25.  I was 39.  My hair was still cut in the boyish mop it had been going into the Process.  It never grew.  I’d washed the thick skin cream I used off before going to bed, so the sparkles showed behind my skin.  Dancing back and forth like fireflies, the gleams moved behind my flesh, barely visible.

Sighing, I reached for the skin sludge, as I thought of it.  I put my fingers in and pulled out a thick glob of a paper white substance.  It moved and looked basically like the paste that my mother had let me play with when I was younger.  I rubbed it on my cheeks, neck and forehead.  I slathered it on thickly, leaving myself with an albino complexion, like a tiny snow woman.  It hid the sparkles.

I’d put out today’s clothes last evening, and I pulled them down from the hanger and put them on.  Big meeting today.  I dressed myself in a guy’s suit.  It was a very formal look, almost a tuxedo.  My sigil, a fancy little hat that I wore slightly tilted, didn’t exactly gibe with it.  No helping that though.

I went out into the bedroom.  Thui was still ticking away at his puzzle cube.  I’d never considered where they came from.  I mean, I knew Adder made the physical cubes, but surely he didn’t think of each pattern.  He probably had an old world puzzle book somewhere that he took the designs from.

“I’m going out today”, I told him.  “I’ll visit my Garden this morning, then head into the Lair.”

He barely reacted, eyes perhaps widening slightly.  Thui had squinty eyes, so it was hard to tell in the dimly lit bedroom.

“Ah” he said.  That usually meant something like “Yup”, or “Ok”.

“I’ve got a hunch that this’ll escalate” I said, affecting a carelessness that was entirely foreign to my nature.  “I might end up at the Sniper’s Court this evening.”

I didn’t need to ask him to be there.  He understood without it being explicit.  He’d been in my service for a few years now.

“Be careful” he said.  Ironic, for a human to tell me to be careful.  Doubly ironic considering my paranoia.

He had a point, actually.  I was craven in the moment, but today would be an important step on an audacious plan that should ultimately see Prevailer unseated, and me governing the Regime as part of the Pantheon.  It certainly wouldn’t hurt to be careful.

I chuckled and headed out into the house.  Knights fell into the Posture as I walked by, rising again once I went past.  A lot of Ultras let their personal Knights ease up on the formality, but I couldn’t see any reason to do that.

I went downstairs.  They had a fire going in the kitchen, and three breakfasts set out. I picked the rightmost at random and sat down to eat.  Knights picked up the other two.  No sense wasting food, after all.  They’d be served to some of my hostages.

I didn’t actually need to eat.  A long time ago I’d tested, and I was as immune to starvation as I was to any other form of harm.  I continued for a few reasons.  First off, it never payed to disclose the full limits of your abilities.  No one needed to know that I didn’t need food.  Second, while I didn’t know of any way to negate gifts it didn’t mean one couldn’t exist.  If they somehow turned off my Ultra durability and I hadn’t eaten in years, would I instantaneously starve?  I wasn’t anxious to test it.  Lastly, I liked eggs.

Breakfast finished, I searched out Knight Commander Percy.  He was out on the porch, so I called him inside.

“Preventer,” he greeted me.

“I’ll need an escort.” I told him. “4 Knights.  We’ll be gone for most of the day.”

He just nodded, then went out to get them for me.

I sat a moment and pondered.  Today’s objective was one that exposed me to a certain hazard, but the odds were well in my favor and it was important.  I was going to pitch my idea for a sports league to Adder and the other leaders.  Whether they went for it or not it would mark me out as important, a thinker.  My Garden had started that process, and this would complete it.  By day’s end I’d be one of the Ultras that people considered when they were trying to predict what the Regime would do.

It was a dangerous prospect.  A lot of the attention that I was going to attract could easily take the form of assassination attempts.  Beyond that, coming to the attention of the Regime’s leaders, joining their ranks, was hazardous in and of itself.  Very few beings could conceivably harm me, but Her inner circle held most of them.

I let myself be afraid for a moment.  Fear is a valid emotion, no reason to try to suppress it.  I consciously tried to be scared.  After a few seconds it began to feel foolish, and I let up.  I wondered if other folks got these sudden frights.  Those I’d spoken to mostly claimed that they didn’t, but I had no way to verify that they weren’t lying.  Threats weren’t exactly an option for this sort of thing, as they’d expose the degree to which I was concerned about it.

A little while later the Knights came trooping in, 4 skull masked red shrouded figures bearing those scythes.  They would make for an intimidating entourage.  I found that having big goons around helped with the fact that my stature made people discount me.

“Take off your masks” I told them.  The full face design of the Knights outfits was sheer idiocy.  I didn’t want to be the dolt who got assassinated because an Ultra impersonated one of her Knights.

One by one they obeyed.  Paul, Kirsten, Daniel and Travis, or at least people who looked like them.  I didn’t have any way to test for shape shifting Ultras, but those I’d heard of didn’t have any way to harm me.  It would have to do.  I gestured for them to put their masks back on.

We walked out into the street in a formation.  2 Knights ahead and diagonal, 2 Knights behind and diagonal, so that I was in the center.  This was much more about looking cool than it was about safety, but it probably helped out in that regard as well.  I couldn’t find any books about how bodyguards used to operate back in the day, so I mostly made up my formations as I went along.

The streets of Shington aren’t nearly as rubble strewn as those in the rest of the Regime.  Shington is probably the only city in the Regime that has actually grown since the crash of the old world, as folks flock to the strongest Ultras hoping to avoid the terror attacks of the Pantheon.

We headed down the streets towards my Garden.  Few people were out this early in the morning, and those who I saw were predominantly just humans.  They dropped down into the Posture as I passed.  I looked carefully around as we walked.  I scanned rooftops, alleys, anywhere an assailant could hide.  I saw nothing threatening.

The Garden was a large, 3 story house which sat on a plot of land that formerly contained a tenement.  It was one of the few structures built after the new world began.  It had been the Union embassy, during the brief time when Prevailer let them have one in Shington and they believed that doing so was worthwhile.  I’d snatched it up from a human gang a few years ago.  No Ultra was willing to live in it, in case the Union had left behind something we didn’t have the tech to detect, but it was ideal as a place for my experiment.

Turning it into a pleasure house had taken very little work.  I made Knights fetch red cloth, pestered Adder into creating a few choice items, and decorated the whole place with the sort of garish bad taste that seemed to be tradition in such places.

Putting the operation into motion hadn’t been difficult either.  Women would comply when threatened with death, or the deaths of their loved ones.   The men came each evening with no prompting.  I’d crushed a few similar establishments to make mine stand out more, and the whole thing was running much faster than I could have imagined.

Very few people were around at the Garden in the morning.  It was active late into the night, which meant that the personnel were mostly asleep, and the visitors gone, when I arrived.  This was deliberate.  I had difficulty with confrontation, and the women I’d gathered despised me.

Arriving at the door I gestured for one of the Knights to knock, loudly.  He thumped on the door with the staff part of his scythe, and a few moments later Gary opened it.  He must have been downstairs to arrive so swiftly.  He was wearing jeans, a t shirt and shades.

Sunglasses were not exactly forbidden, but they were right on the line of being a Sigil.  It was a cocky thing to do, out of line with Gary as I knew him.

I stepped closer to him, even as he began to greet me, and reached up over my head to pull the glasses off.  He flinched as the sun touched his eyes, his salutation choked off by his surprsise.

His eyes were bloodshot, and now that I looked closer he hadn’t shaved in a while.  I didn’t smell any alcohol on him though.  He was still obeying at least that much of my admonition, at least.  Or he’d washed up.

“What have you been doing to yourself?” I asked, harshly.  My voice has a sort of piping high pitched squeak to it that I hate.

“Sorry, boss” he said, “I’ve just, I haven’t slept well, past couple of nights.  We had the First Fist here.”

I cringed back hands making flappy motions, then hated myself for doing it.

“Really?  They stopped by?  Did they…” I trailed off.

“Yeah” he said.  “they screwed some girls, and some of the guys who’d come by.  The girls had their drugs, before you ask.”

I nodded.  That had been exactly what I was about to ask.  The fertility drugs were the whole point of the Garden.  I’d gotten Adder to make them for me a while back, then taken them to Copyer and had him duplicate them into crates full.

In order to make my name as a great scientist I wanted to crack one of the big problems.  The biggest one that I could think of, aside from the Process itself, was whether the powers that Ultras got had anything to do with their body’s condition.  Were our genes somehow significant to what kind of powers we ended up with when our souls were brought closer to this world, if that was actually what the Process did?

Like many great scientists of the past, I had turned to twins.  There was a pair among the Fists.  Alerter and Blinder were twins, and their powers were disturbingly similar.

Alerter could create and absorb sound.  Blinder did likewise for light.  There was a clear family pattern to their gifts.  It strongly implied a physical element to the abilities granted by the Process.  If I could replicate that effect in another set of twins then I’d feel as though the point was adequately proven.  The implications would be shattering.

Twins weren’t exactly common, however, and the brute math of the Process worked against me.  One in thirty women.  So, just one in 900 pairs of twins would both survive the process.  I hadn’t been able to gather up 900 sets of twins.  I could only find a few dozen in Shington and the surrounding cities, and half of them were boys.  I’d Processed them anyway, hoping for luck, but no dice.  Thus, the Garden.

Women dosed with the pills would often give birth to multiple children.  Some of those were identical twins.  I could get my sample size within a decade.  I hadn’t found a way to age the children to the point where they could undergo the Process yet, but I was reasonably confident that I’d pull it off.  There had to be an Ager out there, and ultimately all Ultras came to Shington at one point or another.

At Gary’s words, however, a new avenue suddenly occurred to me.  Forget twins, any kids of male Ultras would be worthwhile for my research.  Lady Ultras, of course, generally aborted any offspring rather than be made vulnerable.  How many of First Fist were men?

Two, I thought.  Averter and Pursuer.  Remover and the rest were women.

“The girls who the Fist were with.  Stop pairing them with men until you know whether they are pregnant,” I told Gary.

“Only one survived,” he said.  I was taken aback for a moment, but, of course, First Fist had a bit of a reputation.  I really should have expected that.

“Do you think they’ll be back?” I asked Gary, half dreading and half hoping for an affirmative answer.

He kind of shook his head.

“Boss, they haven’t left.”

The root of the rot


You tasked me with understanding why, despite the vast incentives which we’ve established to refrain from such behavior, so many of the citizens of our Regime turn to sedition.

While I approached the task in a spirit of discovery, I’ve since come to realize that you must have known the answer long before setting me to this chore.  It is an elementary conclusion for any semi serious investigation to uncover.

“Bread and Circuses” said the ancients, when discussing how a dictatorial government might keep its people quiescent.  We are, to express it pithily, employing all bread, no circus.  The people receive food from their Company Facility, but that is all that we give them.

In an ordinary nation they might reasonably expected to busy themselves with commerce, but She issues no laws.  They might expend their energies in travel and industry, but She discourages travel, and the fruits of any creation will be seized by the Ultras.  Humans dwelling within the bounds of the Regime have very little to do.

I’ve dispatched Knights and my own agents to observe our subjects, and the experimental evidence confirms my conjecture.  The humans remain within their dwellings, or visit friends.  They eat the paste.  They procreate.  Occasionally they attempt a longer term project which an Ultra inevitably confiscates.

Humans end up driven, by boredom if nothing else, to either aid an enemy faction (KEM, the rebellion, Union or Pantheon operatives) or to undergo the Process.

I’ll come by the Lair tomorrow and meet up with you to talk about what we can do about this.


Indulger 1:3

“Everyone, guns down,” said Mario, frantically gesturing with his hands.

This was probably mostly for my benefit, since he followed it up with a lot of very fast French talking.  It didn’t have much of an impact, other than me not getting shot again.

Most of the soldiers just kind of stood there, guns not pointed at me, but not dropped either.  One of them was checking on their Ultra.  One of them was standing by the hostage, pointedly not pointing a gun at her.  The sharpshooter (as I thought of the guy who’d started out in back with the Ultra and shot during our fight) was arguing with Mario.

This seemed like it might go on for a bit, so I started to walk back over to my pull wagon.  As soon as I took a step the guns came back up and then Mario and the shooter were yelling at the rest of the soldiers instead of each other.  They hesitated and then pointed them down again.

I got to the wagon and took out my mask.  Its really cool.  It looks like a big lizard’s face kind of, but flatter.  I wish I could say that its GreaterGator’s real mask, but actually Adder made it for me after we watched BloodBattle 2042 together.  Refiner blessed it after I built him a statue, so it is super useful to have when guys are shooting me.  Little late today.

When I put my mask on and looked back at them I was disappointed that none of them seemed to recognize me.  I guess they don’t like watching old pro wrestling movies wherever these guys were from.  I walked back over to them.

Mario turned to me.  He seemed really exasperated or frustrated.  Maybe that was just being scared though.  I’m not really good at reading people.

“Why didn’t you use your power from the start of the fight?” he asked.

I sort of shrugged.  I didn’t exactly see why I had to say that, considering that I won the fight.  It wasn’t exactly secret, but I just didn’t feel like saying.

“I only ask” he pressed on, “because some of the guys think you’ve run out of juice or whatever.”

“Nah” I said.  I appreciated that he was trying to sound more like me.

I figured they might not believe me, so I asked my gift to make itself obvious.  I wasn’t sure exactly how this would go, but a moment later there was shudder in the ground.

Before anything could even start to happen the soldiers started throwing down their guns and putting their hands up.  They scanned the ground around them like I was about to hit them with earth hammers like I had their boss.

Mario started to say something in French when the blonde lady snatched up the gun that the guy standing by her had been carrying and pointed it at him.  The soldiers dove for their guns and everyone was pointing them at everyone else again.

“Motherfuckers!” she yelled, voice cracked and broken.  She didn’t pull the trigger, but she moved the gun higher and closer to him a few times, sort of thrusting it at the guy.

“Calm down! Calm down!” yelled Mario, who still didn’t have a gun.  He had his hands up and was yelling not just to her, but to the rest of them as well.

“Put the guns down” I said, and once again the ground shook.  I wasn’t yelling, but somehow my voice seemed to reach everyone.  They lowered their guns and pointed them at the ground.  She took a second longer, but she lowered her gun too.

“All the way down, set them on the ground.” I said.  There was a clatter as everyone complied.

As their guns hit the turf they sank into it.  My gift just sort of scooped each of them down into the ground where nobody would shoot them.  I hadn’t exactly intended that, but it was great.

“Ok” I said to the soldiers and Mario.  “Now you guys go away.”

Its hard to describe the looks that passed over their faces, or at least the one’s I could see.  Mario’s and the lady’s.  Baffled, relieved, incredulous… Basically their eyes got wider and their mouths hung open a bit.

“You’re letting them go?” she asked, at the same time as Mario said “You’re letting us go?”.

“Yeah” I said.  “I don’t want to keep fighting, and I don’t really want to talk with you, so I’d like you to go away.”

Mario gaped a moment longer, but the soldiers were already moving off back the way that they came.  Two of them picked up the Ultra between them and carried her.  Another came to their aid even as they started off.  She probably wouldn’t die.  Even Ultras without Ultra toughness tended to take a bit more than a person would to go.  Adder once told me that the world cherished us, and as long as we weren’t dead we’d tend to get better.

The lady walked over to me.  She was smaller than me, but still pretty tall. Older and blonde, with the wrinkles just starting to show up.  She had tears in her eyes and she was still really angry.

“Do you know what those bastards did to me?” she asked.

“Uh, no.” I said, dropping my gaze to my feet.  It felt like she was going to tell me, but I didn’t really want to know.

“They kidnapped me.” she said.  “They took me from my HOME.  They took me in the middle of the damn night.  Dragged me onto their ship and…” she trailed off.

“Ok” I said, trying to keep my voice casual.  It seemed like she was about to ask me to kill them, but I hoped she wouldn’t.  I tried not to kill folks.

“They, they…” she lost track of what she was saying for a second, then rallied. “they were snatching people up for a week, from what they said.  They were asking for information about this stupid road.  Nobody knew anything, so they’d move to the next little town and grab another person.  As if we know why big city Ultras do anything!”

“Jerks” I said, trying for a ‘there there’ kind of vibe.

“You have your stupid Ultra fights.” she said, glaring at me.  This was alarming.  Why was she mad at me?  “And you don’t care, you don’t even CARE, about who gets caught up in them!”

“Woah.” I said, uncomfortable.  “I care.  I do, I swear.  Remember, I saved you when she was going to shoot you?  I’m the good guy!”

She scowled.  I shifted from foot to foot, uncomfortable.  I had the strangest feeling that I was wrong, somehow.  Like a bruise on my mind.  It made me keep talking.

“I work way out here where no one gets hurt if someone comes after me.” She kept staring, giving me nothing.  I kept babbling.  “I try and make sure that no one dies when we fight.  I’m building a new road.”

Her glare kind of faded out, and she looked away.

“I’m sorry.  I shouldn’t have said that.  You are right, of course.” It didn’t sound like she really meant what she was saying, but she’d been through a lot.

“Ok, cool.” I said.

There was an uncomfortable silence.  The soldiers were reaching the edge of the range I could feel their footfalls at.  They were still carrying the Ultra along with them.

“I’m Indulger, or Dale, whichever you prefer.” I told her.  It was getting awkward just standing there.

“Blair” she responded.

“Ok, Blair” I said.  “I’m going to get back to working on my road.  There’s candy in the pull wagon.  You can help yourself before you head out.”

She nodded, almost absently.  Then she went over to the wagon.  Instead of eating anything she pulled off my old army blanket and curled up under it.

I wasn’t immediately sure how to react to that, but I didn’t really want to confront her about it, so I just lay down and continued to work on the road.

It was slow going.  Images of the fight kept filling my mind, making little statues or depressions form out of the stone that I was trying to mold into a road.

This was always the way for me.  My gift worked well enough in a fight, or at a critical time, but when I was just trying to move the ground around with no tension or stakes he balked or shifted wrong.

I made slow, steady progress during the remainder of the day.  It was hard.  I had to fetch so much rock, and set it into place just right.  Then I had to get the next bit, and not mess with the parts I’d already made.  One time, early on, I’d found out that my gift was just snatching road from outside of where I could sense and adding it to the front, which obviously wasn’t useful.  I had to be sure that this was new rock, pulled out from deep in the ground, or off of a nearby hillside, or wherever.

All day, Blair just rested.  She only slept a few hours, but even after she just lay there.  The ground helpfully let me know that she was crying, or, at least, that there were tear-force impacts coming off her face.  I let her be.  I didn’t have a lot to say to her.

As it started to get dark I walked over to the wagon.  She tensed, but I didn’t take the blanket back.  I set up my viewer and sat down, scanning through the old wrestling programs that were saved on it.  I picked BloodFest 14, an old favorite.  One of the classics.

I watched it for the next three or four hours.  I got into it, mimicking GreaterGator’s moves and slamming dirt manikins into the ground.  He liked wrestling too, so he was obliging about bringing them up for me to take care of.

The ground let me know that she sort of shifted when I started watching the program, rolling over and changing where she was looking so she could see the screen.  As it wore on she sat up and watched openly.  She never applauded or reacted, but I hoped that she enjoyed the program.  We’ve lost a lot of culture.  Very few folks get to see pro wrestling nowadays.

After that I went to bed.  I just lay down on the ground and sank into it.  I figured it would be safer to sleep under it instead of on it.  Channels too small to see would carry the air from my mouth and nose to the surface.  If anyone moved towards me the ground would wake me up before it got to me.

When I got up in the morning, Blair was still there.  She was up and sitting by my pull wagon, and she’d eaten some of my candy.  She looked over at me with basically no expression.

I walked over to her.  This might be awkward.

“Uh” I started off.  Yep, awkward.

“Uh, I was sort of thinking you’d go away.”

“That doesn’t seem very safe.”  She scratched under one arm as she said this, still looking right at me.

“Well.”  I said.  Then I didn’t say anything.

She didn’t say anything either.  The silence just sort of stretched.

“The only food I have is those candies” I tried.  “You’ll starve if you hang out with me way out here between towns.”

“It takes a long time for a person to starve” she said.  “Also, I can hunt for food.  That’s one of the things I did for my town.”

I gaped at her.  Hunting?  Did that mean that her town didn’t have a Company Facility to give them protein paste?  Where had they snatched her from anyway?

“Oh.  Well.  You’ll be bored.”  I didn’t really want to just tell her to go, but that was the direction that this conversation was going.

“No doubt I would” she said.  “But, listen, Dale, can we make a deal?”

I stood looking at her for a while.  I didn’t see that she had anything that I needed, or wanted, but maybe I just didn’t know it.  I didn’t see what I could do for her, but maybe she’d tell me.  No harm in saying yes.

“Sure, maybe” I said.

“I’d like to travel with you for a while.  We could go to towns and build things that help people.  I’ll do the talking and arrange everything, you use your gift.”

She smiled slightly while she said that.  It was a friendly smile.

“Um.  What would you be putting in?  I kind of already do that.”

She pointed at the viewer.

“In that program you were watching, a lot of the wrestlers had managers, right?  They distracted the referees and held the ropes.  They carried their stuff and made themselves useful?”

“The heels, mostly” I said.  “But I’m not really a wrestler.  I’m an Ultra.  I don’t think I need someone to tell me what to do.”

“Not what to do.  More like…how to things.  Or how to do them best.”  She blinked a few times.  “I’m pretty clever.  I’ll make myself handy.”

“I dunno.”  I hemmed and hawwed.

“Look, how about this.  You are trying to build a road, right?”

I nodded, not sure where she was going with this.

“How long has it taken you so far?” she asked, innocently but not really.

“Well.” I said, seeing the trap.  “I mean, its not like I keep an exact count.”

“Yesterday, after we showed up, you added, what, a hundred feet to the road?”  She was asking a question, but she knew the answer.

“Well, yeah.  But some days I do a bit more.”  I said.

“So, you’ve been out here for weeks.”

“Well…” she had that right.  “Yeah, I guess. More like a couple months if I’m being careful about it.”

“If I can tell you a way where it doesn’t take months to build a road, would you agree that I can make a valuable contribution to your work?”  She smiled again.

I put my hands on my hips.

“Listen, little girl.” I said, in my best heel voice. “I know how my gift works, and you don’t.  I seriously doubt you’ll think of a way for me to do this faster that I haven’t thought of.”

“What about fixing the existing road?” she asked.

“The road that’s already there?  Its got wrecked cars all over it.  They aren’t part of the ground, so I can’t make them move like I want to.”

She shrugged. “So make the ground move like a wave, and push them aside.”

“Its broken in some places.”

“In those places you’ve got to bring up new road, like you are already doing for the entire length of your new construction.”

“Well, there’s got to be some…” I trailed off as I felt the ground shifting very slightly beneath my feet.  He was laughing at me.  He’d thought of this straight off from the start.  More, I could tell he liked Blair.

She looked carefully off into the distance.  Not gloating or anything.  Not pressing.  Letting me think it through.

“I guess you’ve got a point.” I told my manager.

Ultra Fight Bill (outdated)

SEE Brutal Ultra Combat!

HEAR Bone Shattering Impacts!

TASTE Terrible Power!

Arranger invites any brave souls willing and able to make the journey to come to York and witness:

Driller vs. Blinker, the Rematch!
Grinder vs. Shouter, in an Inferno Match!
Cutter vs 100 men, with a 2 minute time limit!
Chiller vs. a mystery combatant, captured by the Fifth Fist!
Ponderer vs. Thanker, in a first ever Living Chess match!
Loser’s trial by ordeal, facing death to win back his name!

and our main event!

Indulger vs. Pursuer!!

Indulger 1:2

The shells slammed into me all at once.  When you are Ultra tough bullets don’t go through you, even big ones like these, but its like getting punched.  I was basically getting punched very hard and very fast.  I staggered backwards, holding my arms in front of me like I was trying to block the bullets from hitting my body.  One caught me in the head and I went crashing down.

Shooting me wasn’t stupid.  I only have first degree Ultra toughness.  Enough bullets could kill someone with that power.  But not when I was touching the ground.  No way.  He poured power into me, healing the impacts as they struck, constantly restoring whatever damage was being done.

I surged back up to my knees, trying to keep track of who was where despite the frantic battering.  Most Ultra fights end with someone getting caught off guard.  I’ve been in enough to put a priority on keeping track of who is where and what’s going on, even when a bunch of jerks are blasting me.

I couldn’t sustain myself at up on my knees and I slammed back down on my back.  Through the ground I could feel Mario walking back between the 4 guys who were letting me have it, while the kneeler had jumped back to his or her feet and the 2 in the back were still there.  The 4 soldiers who were shooting me had split into 2 pairs.

After another moment the shots slowed.  Some were reloading.  I quickly pushed myself off the ground and back to my feet, which is mostly only doable from a flat on your back position if you have Ultra strength.  I got a step towards my pull wagon before they were back to firing at full speed again.  Quick reloads.

This time I was readier for the shots, I sort of leaned into it, and the ground dug the nearer of my feet towards them into itself a few inches, bracing me.  I shouted above the gunfire.

“Th-“ I was cut off as a shot hit me somewhere in the jaw or head and I raised my arms up to guard my face.  They redoubled their fire.  If it wasn’t for the ground holding me in place I would have toppled.  Instead I sort of wobbled there for a second, battered back like I was doing limbo, then forward like I was ducking.

I was getting really angry.  Who shoots someone without talking first?  I dove toward my cart, and in the brief moment when I was off the ground I nearly got knocked out.  I ended up rolling next to it on my hands and knees as they unloaded into me.  I’d hoped to get behind it, but I was in front of it instead.

I dug my hands and feet into the ground and just held on, enduring.  The thunder of their guns went on for what felt like forever, but was probably just a half a minute or so, then all of a sudden they stopped.

I slumped back on my ass and looked them over.  They were still standing in their pairs, but Mario was back where I couldn’t see him.  A woman had come forward, from her steps she was the Ultra.  She’d be in charge, no doubt.

She had on a sort of boss version of what they were wearing.  Same basic stuff, but small shoulder pads and some sort of decoration on her chest.  She had a gun belted to her side, and no gloves.  Probably a power that worked through touch then.

She said something in a language I couldn’t understand, and they each answered quickly, none taking their eyes from me.  I thought it might be French, it sounded like an old wrestling villain from my shows who’d had a French gimmick.  That would make sense, France was Union nowadays.

I guessed that they were saying how many bullets they had left.  That was a bummer.  I’d been hoping that they had stopped shooting because they had run out.  They shot me a LOT in a very short time.  Probably too much to hope for though.  They seemed to be trained in this sort of thing, and Mario had said they had a Tally of 4.

“Give up” she said.  She had a slight accent, but not as cartoonish as the old wrestling villains who played foreigners.  “You aren’t going to beat us.  We just want to question you.”

“Yeah, yeah.” I said.  “Your buddy Mario said no one comes back from questioning.”

She looked upset at that.  She gestured at the soldiers again.

Before they could fire I reached over my shoulder and grabbed one of the disk weights in my wagon.  I’d been intending to throw it at her, but my throw sort of wilted into holding it against my chest as they opened fire again.

I focused hard, feeling through the ground as hard as I possibly could.  While they were shooting me I couldn’t really DO anything.  If she rushed me and she had Ultra strength I could die very easily.  I held the weight to shield my core, gritted my teeth and kept my awareness of her position even as my head was knocked about by gunfire.

She was just standing there, watching me get shot.  That was fine by me.  I hunkered down and endured, every instant another impact, a high caliber bullet rendered by my Ultra toughness into a virtual punch.  It went on and on, then stopped again.

As soon as it stopped, I rose to my feet.  She took a step back, almost despite herself.  Her mouth was hanging open a little.  The soldiers also took a step back.  From their perspective it was totally understandable.  I’m huge, and they’d shot most of their bullets into me, and here I was standing up.

“Those Ultras you killed.  That how you did it?” I asked, nodding my head toward the group on the right.  “Those pea shooters?”

She shook her head, lips pursed tightly together.  She put out a hand and the weirdest thing happened.

The whole landscape behind her sort of flowed together, sliding like it was a picture that was getting crumpled up down into a short bar shape in front of her hand. What was revealed was nearly the same, but with some additions. Behind her, the others were suddenly revealed.  Mario and an extra soldier and a prisoner in hand and leg irons.  They’d been hidden by a distortion or mirage, which was now sticking out from her palm like a sword.  It was like she had a heat ripple extending from her hand.

“Cool” I said, meaning it.

She didn’t react at all, standing there motionless, seemingly considering.  The soldiers weren’t reloading again, so they’d either done that while I was concentrating on her or they were out of ammo.

I decided to get things started by hurling the weight at her.  I curled up my arm and then sent it spinning towards her like one of those plastic disks kids toss around. It had some real velocity to it, Ultra strength and all, and I was disappointed when she neatly stepped to one side.

It sailed on past, curving a little before plowing a furrow into the dirt.  I’d been hoping that she would use her mirage-sword thingy on it, both because then I could see how sharp it was and because if she cut down the middle she might just get hit by both halves.  It was smart of her to dodge though.

She rushed at me, footsteps pounding on the ground as she neared.  She had Ultra speed 1, no doubt about it.  I barely got my arms up when her projection came around, slicing deep into my forearm.  I tried to reach out the other and grab her but she was already jumping back.

My arm had a rounded furrow carved out of it.  It was about the width of a glove ball, burned into my forearm just about to the bone.  I howled in pain.  It was already healing, meat growing out at a rapid rate, but this really really hurt.

“Gahrrgh!” I yelled, shaking my other fist at her.  I wasn’t really expecting a response, but she surprised me.

“It is unfortunate that you have a healing power,” she observed, calmly, like we weren’t in the middle of a fight.

“Screw you!” I yelled back.  “You’ve got ninjas and guns and some kind of magic sword.  Don’t bitch about me getting better quick.”

“You mistake my meaning,” she continued.  “It is unfortunate, for you.  Now, this will be prolonged.”

She ran towards me then, in earnest.  Ultra speed brought her close and slashing even as I raised my arms in a partial block.  It earned me another bloody furrow carved from my forearm, and then she was beside me, continuing her strike and carving a bloody valley across my side.

I swung clumsily at her with the less mangled arm while stepping away, but she followed easily, batting aside my arm with her own and cutting once more into my ribs with her sword field.  I kicked, in desperation, and she stepped back out of the way of that one.  She took distance, backing up once again.

Glad for the respite, I breathed heavily.  My injuries healed and pain went away.  She observed carefully.

I breathed heavily, then spat in her direction.  While she watched I stalked back to my wagon and got another weight.  I didn’t really have a plan for it, but it didn’t seem like it could hurt.

“I’ve taken your measure,” she announced, “give up now, or I’m going to dismantle you.  You aren’t fast enough to meaningfully resist.  I’ll cut you apart, piece by piece, and I’ll keep you split up so your gift can’t repair you.  Compared to that, questioning would be a mercy.”

I beckoned her forward with the hand that wasn’t holding the weight.  It wasn’t a terribly badass move, but she spoke better than I did so I figured if we exchanged more words I’d just sound even dumber.

She dashed in once again. She wasn’t the only one who’d gotten used to the speed of the fight on the last exchange though, and I got the weight up to striking position even as she closed.  Just before I swung, I felt the impact of a bullet, which ruined my strike and sent me reeling.

The last soldier, the one who’d hung back with her, he hadn’t used up his bullets in the initial salvo, and now he was picking his shots.  This was bad.

Staggered by the bullet, I didn’t offer any serious parry to her first strike, and she slashed her blade thing right along my jaw.  I got my arms up as her second slash came in, left arm guarding low and right arm guarding high.

My arms took no hit, her hand passing by.  She’d switched the projection to her other hand, and it slammed into my left armpit as she pivoted around my swinging arm.  The pain was phenomenal.  I nearly blacked out, toppling over as my healing gift attempted to repair the stab’s damage.

She didn’t let up, lashing down at me as I rolled away and carving a series of deep furrows across my shoulders and back.  Only a frantic kick backed her off for an instant, and as she jumped back the sharp shooter took the opportunity to blast me again.

She came back again, no words this time.  She wasn’t letting me heal.  She weaved her way around my kicks and slashed down towards my neck, only to roll the projection across my intervening arm, fitting a slash in another she’d made earlier, cutting bone deep and sending lights flashing across my vision with the intensity of the pain.

This was too much.  I was going to die.  I reached out to my gift for help, for safety.  He dragged me across the ground, moving the earth that I was on and leaving her slashing the ground.  The sharpshooter tagged me again as I slid off, but I could absorb that without too much difficulty.

I came to my feet a couple dozen feet away from her, by my road.  She hadn’t followed up, once again watching me carefully.  I repeated my ‘come get some’ gesture.  Maybe doing it twice made it cooler.  I hoped so.

This time she closed in slowly, no more berserk charge.  Her attention seemed concentrated on my feet.  She was probably trying to figure out how I’d slid away from the last impending execution.  I set myself in a fighting pose, fists up in front of my face.

When she got closed I stepped forward and kicked.  She’d already started to step away as before, but my gift made the ground cling to her feet and it slowed her enough that I sort of connected.  I got her in the thigh and sent her rolling across the landscape.

“Hah!” I yelled.  Then I got shot, a lot.  The whole unit was opening up again.

They drove me down, actually knocked me off my feet and sent me toppling onto the road.  I braced and endured, and it was over much faster.

She’d got back to her feet, but she was limping a little.  No Ultra toughness.  Woah.  Some balls on these Union Ultras. No wonder her guys hadn’t shot much while she was close.  Bullets could kill her.

“Give it up.” I said.  “You tried hard, but you aren’t gonna win this one.”

She scowled for a moment, then dashed again.  I raised my arms up in a move that was half block, half cringe.  She wasn’t heading for me though.  Before I could react she had the prisoner, lifting her up and spinning her to face me.

“Really?  A hostage?  You know I’m Regime, right?” I asked her, bluffing badly.  The prisoner was an older blond lady, had a sort of a ‘someone’s mother vibe’.

She shrugged, as well as she could while holding a palm to her hostage’s head and restraining her with the other arm.

Mario came forward again, yelling something at her in French.  If I was any judge it was some variant of “what are you doing?”.  She responded in the same language, shutting him down.  They went back and forth a few times, then she addressed me.

“Dale, if that’s your real name.  You give up, let us restrain you, or this woman gets killed.”  She looked me right in the eye as she said it.  The soldiers seemed unsure of this whole tack, reacting independently for the first time.  Some were looking at Mario, some were still focused on me.

“You want me to give up, just cuz you are threatening some dagger?” I asked.  I didn’t like to use the racial slur, but convincing her I didn’t give a shit was one of the ways I could end this.

“Last chance!” she warned me, tensing up.

“Rachel!” Mario yelled, angrily taking her arm.  As she shook him off I made my move.

I put my utmost concentration into it.  If I messed this up someone would die.  The ground rose up behind her in a swift, silent wave.  She had the speed to dodge out of the way, but with her attention split between me, her captive and Mario she didn’t notice it coming in time.  A half ton of earth and road slammed into her like a wrecking ball, sending her sprawling into her soldiers with a tremendous crunch.

Anything could have happened then, and I was braced for whatever, but Mario was the fastest to react.

“Halt!” he yelled to the soldiers, freezing them in place.  “Don’t fucking move or this guy will kill us.”

I probably wouldn’t but even I’m not dumb enough to say that at a time like this.

KEM : Indulger


Ultrahuman Designation: Indulger

Birth Name: Dale Pitts

Occupation: No official occupation

Appearance: Male, mixed race, late 20’s to early 30’s.  Bulky and very muscular.  Typically wears little clothing, shorts or sweatpants. No weapons other than improvised clubs or other bashing implements.

Sigil: Mask, shaped to resemble a monster or serpent.

Super strength:  Level 2

Super durability: Level 1, and see powerset description

Super speed: None.


Dale Pitts underwent the Process during the last decade, in Shington.  Patriot belief is that the creature was not created as part of a recruiting drive.  It is rather the result of a foolish man throwing away his humanity in order to attain an Ultra’s might.

Indulger generally employs its power to repair buildings or other stone structures which have survived since the old war.  It exhibits little to no interest in its creations once they have been made, leaving them behind like a snake shedding its skin.


In addition to its Ultra strength and durability Indulger draws power from the ground.  It is constantly regenerating any and all wounds that it receives while it maintains contact with the earth.  This contact extends through stone structures, but according to the creature’s explanations, not through wood or other materials.

This Ultra healing is extremely potent.  Indulger has survived decapitation and even dissection.  The ground pushes its parts together and it heals swiftly back to its uninjured state.

It is considered likely, but far from certain, that the Ultra may even lose its strength and toughness if deprived of contact with the ground or stone which rests upon it.  This is unverified, and patriots should behave as though its powers will be available to it at any time.

Beyond gaining strength from the earth, Indulger has the ability to manipulate the ground to its will.  It can raise up hills, excavate deep trenches and call forth stone from the deep.  This ability is astonishingly wide ranging, affecting several miles around the creature.

Patriots are advised, Indulger’s power is entirely out of scale with its significance in Ultra society.  It is one of the most potent Ultras to hold no particular post.

Crimes against Humanity:
Indulger’s general hobbies include battling other Ultras in non lethal ‘matches’ at which humans are encouraged to spectate and place wagers, as well as the repair of old world structures.  Indulger has not yet been observed harming humans, other than those which attempted to eliminate it.

Kill Priority: Very low.  Given this creature’s exceptional power, and placid activity pattern, it is unlikely that attempting to eliminate it is the optimal course of action for any operatives.

Kill Method:  Indulger is, in general, defended by its first degree Ultra toughness.  The usual kinetic interventions (bombs, hundreds of high caliber gunshots) should prove effective.  However, all the work of the patriots will be undone if it manages to reach the ground.  In order to destroy Indulger it must be suspended or tricked onto a platform of some kind.  Once destroyed, it is unclear how long its remains must be kept off the ground.  Patriots are advised to solve this problem before attempting extermination.



Indulger 1:1

The ground let me know that they were coming.

It was a very pretty day.  The sort of day that happens from time to time in New England, kind of a consolation prize for the rest of the weather. There was sunshine, pretty trees, hills and 2 roads.  One was old, and one was mine.

I was lying down, using my gift to try and drag up good stone to be part of my road.  It was hard.  I knew a lot of Ultras who could use their gifts however they wanted, but it wasn’t like that for me.  The ground was like a friendly buddy to me.  He gave me health and strength, and he’d do what I asked, but his own way.

Like, I was trying to make this road.  There was another road nearby, but it was clogged with busted cars and sometimes it was cut by chasms or just blown up.  I just wanted the ground to bring up rocks and make another road just like that one.  But I kept stealing rocks from that other road, which I then had to put back, or bringing up rocks that were like stuff I was thinking about, mainly wrestling and girls.

When these statues would rise, all messed up and half finished, up out of the road I was making I’d have to think real hard to smush them back down.  I scrunched up my forehead and closed my eyes and though about roads.  Roads and roads and roads and roads.

The footfalls were a surprise, and a welcome distraction.  They were coming down from Ston, along the road that the old worlders built, a long long way away.  I sat up and smiled.  No more building today. Something fun was going to happen.  The ground under me wobbled a bit, thinking the same.

“Easy brah.” I murmured, petting the road like a dog.

The ground could tell me that people were coming from a long way away.  They were around a hill, and so they wouldn’t see me for a while yet, but they were coming along pretty quick.  They’d be here in an hour or so.

I needed to figure out my intro.  I looked at my pull wagon, trying to come up with something cool.  I hadn’t thought about what I’d show to anyone who found me out here making the road, because I didn’t really think I’d see anyone out here.

The pull wagon was small and red.  I’d taken it from an old house that hadn’t got wrecked up much.  It worked ok.  I had to make a new wheel once, but mostly it was still fine.  It had my weights in it, my mask, my watcher with the old wrestling programs and my tent.

The coolest thing that I could be doing when they walked up was definitely lifting.  Plus, I liked lifting.  I liked it way better than making roads.  I’d already done a bunch of it this morning, but why not do some more?

This was a bit of an excuse to stop doing the boring work of road making and instead lift weights, but it wasn’t like I had a deadline or anything.  No one was my boss, no one could stop me from slacking off.

I walked over to the wagon, pulled the tarp off, took out some of the heavier weights and then put the tarp back over the rest.  I got the big bar and just loaded it up with the heavy disk weights that go on there, making sure to screw the ends back on tight.  I lay down on the ground when I was ready.

“Spot me” I whispered to the ground, and then began to press.

Some dudes lift weights to get strong.  Others lift weights to get huge.  I was the second kind of dude.  My gift made me Ultra strong anyway, so long as I kept touching the ground.  I was all about getting massive, and I was really good at it.

I look a lot like my favorite pro wrestlers from my videos.  That’s not a thing that happened on accident.  I lift a lot of weights to stay looking like that.  Mostly with my arms and body.  My legs are kind of puny, but who cares about legs?  Nobody, that’s who.

I lay on the ground and hefted the bar, settling into a smooth rhythm.  I was cheating, using my Ultra strength.  I hadn’t cheated in the morning, so I wouldn’t have been able to lift now except that I was using my gift.  This was just for show.  While I lifted I listened to their footfalls through the ground, finding out what I could about the travelers who were getting closer.

There were 8 of them.  There was a person out in front, then a line of 4 walking shoulder to shoulder.  The 4 were stepping at the same time, which was strange.  Then there was 1 who was taking short steps really quick, like his or her feet couldn’t go far apart, and lastly there were 2 in the back.  One of the back people was an Ultra with super strength.  She probably didn’t mean to pound the ground when she walked, but it was sulky and it was sort of whining about it to me.

I tried to guess who they might be.  It wasn’t Pursuer’s fist coming to get me, because they were walking.  Also there were too many, unless they had Knights with them.  It probably wasn’t about me at all, because almost nobody knew that I was out here.  This wasn’t because I made it a secret, it was because mostly nobody cared what I did.

An Ultra walking was weird though.  Mostly Ultras could make someone find them a car, or use their powers to go places.  Also most Ultras wouldn’t walk with a bunch of people.  I couldn’t think of a good reason for them to be here.

I shrugged, which is hard to do when you are laying down and lifting heavy weights, and kept pumping.  Soon enough I would know, and guessing in the meantime would just make me feel dumb when I was wrong.  Patience is a good thing.  I once knew an Ultra named Waiter, but that name just confused everyone.

It got a lot more confusing when they came around the corner, past the trees.  I was looking out of the corner of my eye because it would be more awesome if I was lifting heavy weights when they showed up and didn’t even notice them.  I couldn’t help peeking though, and it was super strange to only see the dude in front.  I couldn’t see the ones behind him at all.  The ground could still feel their footsteps, but I couldn’t see them.

“What the fuck, brah?” I whispered, and the ground sort of rumbled back at me.  Not loud enough that the shaking would reach them though.  I don’t know what that was supposed to mean.

“Hello good sir” the guy in front yelled at me.  “Fine day, isn’t it?”

I heaved my arms as though I wasn’t using ultra strength and set the weight down on the ground above my head.  Well, sort of in front of it.  What’s the word for when you are laying down and you put something more head ways than your body?  Like my body is a lower case I, and I put it down where the dot would be.

I sat up, looking at him, or them, or whatever.  The guy I could see was older than me, like a Dad kind of guy but not a Grandad kind of guy.  He was wearing a beat up old suit and had his hair pulled back in a ponytail.  He was smiling broadly, and gave a friendly wave.  Seeing his smile, I decided to play this one face.  Working heel was mostly fun with jerks, and I was hoping that this guy was cool.

Behind him people I couldn’t see were stopping.  The front 4 stopped exactly in a line, like if you drew a line through one’s feet it would go through the feet of the other 3.  The 1 behind them dropped to his knees.  The last two stood more casually.  This was so weird.

The one I could see came jogging over to me.

“Sup, brah?” I called out to him. I flexed as I stood up, accidentally on purpose.  I felt a bit underdressed.  I wear a sweat suit, but with the lower leg parts torn off to let me bare feet touch the ground and the sleeves torn off to show off how big my arms are and a big tear in the chest because I got hit with a motorcycle there.

“Beg pardon?” he said, turning his head kind of sideways, like he didn’t know what I meant.

“What’s up?” I asked again.

“Ah” he said.  “Sorry.  I’m going that way”

He pointed down the roads behind me.

“Where did this extra road come from, if I might ask.  Also, why are you lifting weights in the middle of the wilderness?”

He talked kind of fast.  Or maybe I talk kind of slow.  It might be either way.

I gave him a big smile of my own.

“I just always lift weights brah.  I love pumping iron.  I’m ALL ABOUT that.”

I said ALL ABOUT really loudly, just to make it sink in how much I meant it.  It seemed to work, because he nodded at me again.  His smile was just the mouth part now, not the eyes or face.  Mostly when people smile like that they aren’t really happy, but as a babyface I shouldn’t mention it.

“Ah, you avoid my question.” He said.  “Perhaps I might venture a guess.  Is it possible, perhaps, that this new road was created by an Ultra?”

I smiled broadly.  He was about to guess how awesome I was.  I loved this.

“I’ll take your grin as a sign that you concur.  My next question, then.  Do you, perchance, work for this Ultra?”

My smile instantly faded.  Why wouldn’t he think that I was the Ultra?  Then I realized.  I wasn’t wearing my sigil.  I’d left it in the cart because I was in such a hurry to get out the weights.  I’d made a huge blunder!  We were never supposed to be seen without our sigils, or at least only when it was obvious that we were Ultras.  She didn’t like it when Ultras acted like humans.

I stood and thought about it for a second, wrinkling my forehead and scratching it.  I couldn’t think of a response that would be safe and truthful.

He sighed with exasperation.

“Is there an Ultra, a lady with powers, who bosses you around?” He talked more loudly now, like I might not be quite understanding him.  He thought I was dumb.

“Yeah” I said.  I didn’t like to lie, but it was probably the best thing to do.  Besides, it is usually better to agree with people.  Maybe he’d do the rest of the conversation for me and then go away.  Also, She does boss me, and everyone else, around, so this wasn’t really lying.

“Where is she?” he asked, with exaggerated care.

“Uh, not here.”  Still not actually a lie.

“I can see that.” He said, which seemed rich when he had 7 invisible friends, but whatever.  He didn’t know that I knew that, I thought.

“I don’t know where she is.”  I was making it a game now, to keep tricking him without lying.  I probably couldn’t keep it up for long, but it helped to distract me from feeling sad about not putting on my sigil.

He seemed frustrated.  He chewed on his lip and looked around, like an Ultra was just going to pop out from behind somewhere and talk to him.  I started to feel a little bad.

“Look,” he said “she’s mean to you, right?”

I didn’t say anything, just looked at him.

“She makes you carry around her weight set.  She left you sitting at the end of her road while she runs off who knows where.  She’s a real jerk.”

He was talking more quietly now, like we were sharing a secret.  I nodded along with him.  I didn’t know exactly where he was going, but it didn’t seem like I needed to talk much.

“What if I told you that you don’t have to work for her?” he asked.

An involuntary snort escaped my lips.  He didn’t mean Her, so he didn’t know how ridiculous that was, but I chuckled anyway.

“I know, she seems super powerful, but I’ve got a secret to tell you, my large friend.”

I wasn’t sure when we became friends, but why not?  He seemed friendly.  At least he mostly smiled.  It helped ease my conscience a bit.  White lies were ok between friends, and anyway I hadn’t said any lies.

“I didn’t just meet you randomly, big guy.  I come from far away.  My bosses heard from some of their agents, err… secret friends that the Regime was building a new road.  They don’t normally do that, so my bosses got curious.  We are here to find the Regime Ultra who is building the road, and take her away to my bosses to get questioned.”

I nodded along again, mind racing.  He must be from the Union, since we were in the north.  He was here to fight me, and I’d left my mask in the box like a total dummy.  Plus, he was telling stuff to his enemy without knowing it.  I was acting like a heel after all.  I had to set him straight.  But before I could talk he kept on going.

“Questioned.” He said again.  “No one comes back from that.  She’ll never bother you again.  You’ll be free!  You can even come back to the north along with us, if you want.  The Ultras aren’t mean there.”

“We?” I asked, seizing on the one thing that he’d said that I wanted to ask about first.  I mostly knew the answer, but he didn’t know I knew it, and it delayed me having to tell him that I was a liar.

He smiled and gestured.  The four people in a line came into view all of a sudden, appearing like from thin air, front to back.  It was like an invisible curtain was pulled off them.  They looked totally awesome.

They were like if a soldier and a ninja combined or had a baby or something.  They had oily black uniforms with plates along the flat parts and spikes coming out from the edges.  They had full face coverings with goggles or something built in, with electric lights blinking scarily around the edges.  They were carrying big guns, pointed right at me.  Even the guns looked future-ey, with bigger barrels and attachments on the outside that probably did awesome stuff.

All four of them were standing straight up in the same exact way, guns held at the same exact angle.  They weren’t the same height, but they stood like they were.  Disciplined troops, definitely.

The veil or whatever it was didn’t keep going back and reveal the kneeler or the Ultra and the person behind him.  Those three stayed hidden and out of sight, but the guy in the front turned back to me and his smile went away.

“Ah, man.” I said.  Nothing to do but own up.  “Ah man. What’s your name?”

“Mario” he said, which was probably a lie because I hadn’t heard that name before except for a video game guy.  “And yours?”

“I’m Dale, Dale Pitts.” I told him.  No reason to lie about this.

“Don’t worry, Dale.” He said.  “We can definitely protect you from your Ultra, even if she seems terrifying.  Our team has taken down 4 Regime Ultras, with very few casualties.  We are strong, and we can help you.”

This was just making things much worse.
“Mario, I’m the Ultra.” I said.  “I’m s-“

I didn’t get any more words out before they started shooting me with their giant futuristic guns.



About the Union


The Union are a bunch of uppity fucks, and we should kill them.

Uh, more specifically, when people talk about ‘The Union’ they are talking about The European Human/Ultrahuman United Alliance.  It’s the top part of Eurasia, plus Canada.  When you and my mom fixed stuff in the United States, and set up your Regime, most of the world followed suit.  The Union is the descendants of the chumps that didn’t.

The Ultras in the Union aren’t officially in charge.  They are part of a Self Defense Force, and they have some kind of parallel state thing (Ultra Cops, Ultra Judges, etc), but they don’t actually tell the daggers what to do.  The leader of the humans is the official leader of the Union.

You know this, I bet, but you asked me to write up all the stuff I knew about the Union, so I’m trying to be more wrong by telling you stuff you know than leaving stuff out.

The Union still puts human soldiers in its attacks, and not just like our Knights who mostly just do shit work.  They really rely on their human grunts.  Their Ultras aren’t even automatically in charge.  Some officers are Ultras, others are daggers.  Whoever is best at figuring stuff out, I guess.  Its dumb.

Anyway, the Union as a country is still a lot like the old America that you fixed.  The cities are still powered, they still let the daggers go from place to place, they’ve got cars and good tech.  A lot of the time when dumb fuckers run away from the Regime they head north to try and get into the Union, because they want to be lied to and told they don’t suck.

The Union is always fighting with the Pantheon on the south.  The Pantheon has a lot more Ultras, because you let the Company help them out more, but the Union has stupid tricks and better and more human helpers, so they do good.  When I send the fists out to fight the Union they get more beat up and killed than when I send them to fight the Pantheon.

What worries me about the Union is that they have much better tech than us.  We don’t know how good exactly, because it is hard to get spies there when all the daggers hate us and like them, but I don’t think the shit they send when they attack us is their best stuff.  I think they’ve got strong things we haven’t seen yet.

When we catch them alive they kill themselves before we can get them to Torturer’s pit, so I haven’t been able to make one of them talk, but I bet that they have secret weapons.  Those wouldn’t work versus you, of course, but it would be a pain in the ass if we lost a fist or something when they decide to use them.

I don’t want to make this too long, so I’m done now.

Written By:


Haunter 1:5

I stood up quickly from the chair I’d been resting in.  What on earth were those three doing together?  I walked over to greet them, making myself smile as I nodded to Seth.

“Haunter, I hear you got into it with the leader of the Towers gang.” Said Reverter, cutting off Seth and Tom as they both tried to speak. “Guess you paid her back for Kicker.”

“Yeah.” I said, letting the word linger.  Should I press her about the inconsistencies between what she’d told me and the reality I’d found?  What would that do?  Either she’d be contrite, and I’d have to pretend to buy it, or she’d be defiant, and I’d have another Ultra fight on my hands.

“Her buddy backed down after I killed Biter.  Stepper probably won’t be a problem for you once you are the Boss.”

Behind the stocking Dawn’s face fell in a scowl.  Good.  Reminding her that Stepper would be her issue to deal with was petty, but it made me feel a little better.

“Careful, Boss.” Joe broke in.  “You don’t get anything out of pissing Reverter off or scaring her.  We are going to be driving with her for a long trip. Maybe it would be nicer if she was friendly?”

He was right, of course, which made it harder to do what he said.  I’d been done anyway, now I looked like I was…No, focus.

“Anyway” I said, ending the minor pause, “it’s late, and I’m not interested in camping out in the Facility all night.  You put us up?”

It wasn’t really a question.  She nodded, looking slightly relieved if the Jury was to be believed.

“Sure, Troubleshooter.” She said.  “You can crash with me.  Mi casa Her casa.”

I nodded and walked away from her, heading over to the Knights.  I pulled Tom back into the reserve as I did so.

“Seth”, I said.  “Give me a brief report.  In particular, how did you end up with Reverter?”

“Can’t your ghost boy tell you?” he asked.

I clenched my fists at my side, hard enough to make my arms tremble to their elbows.  He started slightly.

“Apologies.  We left your company and moved through several streets before being surrounded by belligerent Lantans.  They shouted and threw some things, but I held em off by pretending to threaten your shade.  A big one took charge and came up and told me to let your shade go, but I didn’t think that doing that was wise.  It asked him to bring some specific people, I guess Lantans it had known, and they were brought.  That took a while.  I stepped back when they showed up, things had sort of calmed down, and they talked for a bit.  One lady was crying, but I stayed far back enough not to overhear what they were talking about.  When they left Reverter showed up and told us to go with her.  I wasn’t sure if she was the Boss or not, and if talking to her was part of your shade’s mission, so I went along with it.  We went back to her place for a while, then came here.”

I looked away, implicitly dismissing him, and went back to Reverter.

“Lead the way”.

We left the Facility and walked out into the plaza.  Reverter and I walked side by side, wordless for the most part.  The Knights trailed along behind us, with Corey and Seth having a heated discussion and Caitlyn keeping her silence.  I lengthened my stride to put distance between us.  I didn’t want to deal with the Knights right now.

I wasn’t in any mood to talk to my reserve, so I had the Colonel start giving Tom the full details of his new situation.  He explained about the Rotation, how only one shade would talk at a time, in sequence, so that we could manage the thousands of voices with just one channel.  He told Tom about how shades who I deployed were allowed to move in the rotation, about how I would manifest them, in order, during down times.  Most of all he let him in on the fact that this was all supposed to be temporary.  Just a way to keep their souls in this world until we figured out some way to give everyone bodies again.

He finished up the explanation before we got to Reverter’s, leaving me to ponder how much of it was true.  I’d been at this a long time.  I’d never seen any particular sign that technology was getting any closer to creating bodies that my shades could possess.  No one was working on it.  No one even really could work on it.  Science had mostly stopped advancing when She crushed the old world, at least in America.  Copyer had duplicated Dr. Chen before he vanished, and duplicated those duplicates over and over down to today, but they probably weren’t working on my issues.

I’d asked Adder about it, once, maybe ten years ago.  He told me he’d have the Company look into it.  Were they still doing so?  Would it be safe to ask? She had certainly killed minions for less, and I’d seen Her do it.  It was safer, as always, to keep doing what I was doing.  To do the Regime’s bidding, passing intel and taking minor action for the resistance when I could.

What if that was just cowardice though?  The Union had better technology than the Regime did, by a long shot.  Their civilization had never collapsed to the same extent as ours had.  If I went overseas, would I discover that they’d had the ability to help me out for a decade or more?

Pipe dream, of course.  Snitcher had his leash on me.  Running would be almost impossible when my pursuers could look out of my eyes any time they wished.  More, it would be irresponsible.  Thousands of lives lost because I was stupid and impatient.

Lost in thought as I was, I still noticed when we entered Reverter’s district.  The soft, cool Lantan night gave way to electric lighting shining from shattered windows and through ruined arches.  Reverter’s friends, or subjects, called greetings to her as we moved into the lighted streets, and she returned them with every indication of warmth.  Either she was beloved in this part of town, or she scared folks enough that they were putting on a damn good show.

Her own place was modest, a house built post Toppling, in pretty good repair.  Guards, or folks doing that job, opened the door as we approached.  We stepped into a comfortable and fully powered residence.  A video player was showing an old program on one of the walls, although one of her people immediately turned it off as we entered.

“Guest bedrooms on the first floor for your Knights”, Reverter said. “And there’s an extra main room upstairs that you can use if you like.”

“Sounds fine to me, Boss” I responded.

We split up and headed to our respective sleeping areas.  I noticed without much shock that Corey and Caitlyn were sharing a room.  I climbed the stairs with none of the aches and pains someone of my advanced age might expect, thanks to the strength of the shades that I was wearing, but I moved gingerly and carefully anyway.  I retired to the sleeping area without exchanging further words with Reverter.

Before setting down to sleep I manifested a pair of Vets to watch over me, and asked for whoever was due a night turn in the rotation.  Irene gave me the names and I brought out a dozen or so of them.  They could talk quietly in here, or take their chances outside.  I lay down on the bed and was asleep in moments.

I awoke the next morning, bright and early.

“Jane Trent, in Lanta, Guest of the city’s new Boss”.  I did my orientation, then lay quietly for a moment.  The Vets still stood their vigil.  A few of the Tourists were playing cards, the rest must have wandered off somewhere.  Some had undoubtedly spent the night screwing, which was pretty unsafe for shades, but which I couldn’t stop them from doing.

I lay for a moment in quiet contemplation.  It was a pleasant thought that I could probably literally lie here all day and no one would bug me. The Knights would keep.  Reverter would be too unsure to come up and bother me.  Snitcher wouldn’t bother to look if I kept my eyes closed.  I could spend a few hours doing nothing at all, if I was so inclined.

I stood up, retracting all of my shades, and smiled.  Last night I’d gone to bed wondering if I was squandering my time, and here I was tempted by the idea.  The human condition, unchanged by the Process.

I put my sigil back on.  It had fallen off somewhere during the night, and walked to the door.  I went down and found Reverter eating breakfast, her stocking rolled up at her forehead to let her shovel the nutrient chunks into her mouth.  She was wolfing it down, just tearing into the stuff.  It made her look even younger than she really was.

I walked over and wordlessly handed her my sigil.  She used her gift on, fixing the big hole in the top where Biter had taken a chunk from it, and I put it back on, nodding in approval.

“I’d like to spend a day or so in Lanta before we head back to Shington.  See the sights, stretch my legs, you know?”

It wasn’t really a question, and I was happy when Reverter nodded.

“I don’t mind.  I hoped you’d say that, actually.  I’ve got to let everyone know that I’ll be leaving for a while.  I need to set things in order with Presser and Stepper and the rest, and kick the gangs around a bit to make sure they know not to act up while I’m gone.”

“Want to borrow some Knights?” I asked.  “I don’t really need them, and for a new Boss with no Tally they’ll lend you some intimidation factor.”

“Sure”, she grinned.  “Can’t hurt, right?”

I spent the remainder of the day, and all of the next, doing my usual stuff.  Each time I visit a town I like to spend some time waking its streets, letting my Shades have whole days of life, and making certain that everything was in order.

I visited each of the city’s dagger gangs.  I told them about my ark of the future, let those who were sick or just wanted the insurance get pacted.  Most people didn’t want anything to do with it.  They were stupid or afraid, and so death would have them when their bodies failed.  I was used to it.

The shades walked the city streets in packs, spreading the word of my presence and striving to accumulate experiences, to do and say things that they’d remember once they were trapped in an old woman’s body.  They sought to rediscover their lives.  By and large they would fail, but it was all I could do for them.

The Knights brought me word each evening of what Reverter was up to.  I barely needed their reports, however.  It was pretty much what she’d told me.  She visited the city’s Ultras, told them I was backing her claim to be Boss, got their acknowledgement.  She visited the gangs, told them to behave or else.  She went to the Company helped them with their equipment in ways that the Knights didn’t really understand.

Two days after I’d arrived at her house, we were ready to go.  We walked back through the city streets, got to the Bus.

It was time to broach a subject I’d been curious about since I met her.  While the Knights got onboard I put a hand on her shoulder.  She jumped a bit, then settled.

“Dawn” I asked.  “Does your power work on people?”

She stepped forward, turned back to look squarely at me.

“Not well” she said. “Not like you might think.”

“But it works a little?  This could be pretty important.”

I was leaving unsaid that she’d be questioned fiercely about this in Shington.  Aging wasn’t a problem for Her, and some of her oldest had their own jury rigged solutions that seemed to be keeping them vital, but none the less there were a lot of aging scumbags in the Regime.

“I can fix injuries, damages to the form.  I can revert that.  My gift…sort of tells me when a form is incomplete, lets me revert it to the entirety.  Also, it does the opposite.  I can make injuries reopen, that sort of thing.”

“So, if someone chopped my arm off, you could make me grow a new one?”

She hesitated.

“Not…precisely.  I could give you back the old one.  It would vanish from wherever it had fallen when I unhappened the injury.  Can people chop your arms off though?  Wouldn’t that just kill a ghost?”

She had a point there.  Not the best example I could have picked.  I waved the question aside. The Jury and I weren’t really interested in talking about my own gift.

“So, you can fix things, or break them if they’ve already broken…That’s useful.  But diseases, aging?”

She shook her head.

“Those are more like changes to the form than pieces pulled out of it.  I can’t do anything about that.”

“Can you ‘revert’ a container that is emptied back to being full?  Just zap the material back from wherever it ended up?”

She looked pensive at that.

“Sometimes.  Mostly no.  The container is one form, the stuff in it has its own forms.  But, like, batteries, I can put the charge back in.  Or if the container is made of the stuff inside it, I could restore that.”

“Could you feed someone from an animal for months, then later revert it and starve them in an instant?”

This time she looked positively shocked. I was once again struck by how youthful she was.  Forget knowing the old world herself, I wasn’t sure her parents had even known it.

“Uh…I don’t know?  I guess? I’m not sure…” She trailed off.

“Just a thought.  In Shington, they will try and figure out where you can be most useful to the Regime.  Odds are you can be a Boss like you want, most everyone can, but if someone else wants you for a particular task…”

“I should accept?”

“Depends.  If its Adder, probably.  If its Subtracter, ask what it is.”

I left unstated that it might be a Her.  If Reverter couldn’t figure out that she should indulge Prevailer then there was no helping the girl.

We moved on to the Bus.

Reverter delayed us a bit, crawled around on the bottom and opened up the engine, using her gift on every bit of the vehicle that she could manage.  We certainly weren’t complaining.  Once she pronounced herself satisfied we all boarded up and Seth drove us out of town.

It wasn’t the worst visit I’d made.  Not a Decimation, and I didn’t end up in an Ultra fight where I ended up fleeing for my life.  I’d killed twice, lost 20 shades.  I’d also pacted about that many, and if I could get Reverter set up as Atlanta’s boss things would probably get better around here.

I’d tolerated the Knights, which should buy me some clout with Refiner.  If Eriko was right, that meant that I’d be tapped for something bigger soon enough.  I’d heard rumors that they were reforming the Fourth Fist, maybe I’d be part of that.  That would be one way to stop getting older.

I leaned back in my seat, adjusted my ‘reverted’ sigil and slid down.  The rotation filled my mind, shades murmuring to one another in a perpetual cycle, thousands of lives in my charge.  Irene murmured names and I let a bunch of them out, they could take some bus time.

As they filled the bus, filing past the Knights and the young, frightened Ultra I was bringing back to the Lair, I felt a surge of contentment.  Another job done, and I hadn’t fucked up so badly that my world was in ruins.  That was enough for me.  For now.

I fell asleep quickly, lulled by the sway of the bus and the drone of the rotation.