Disaster. That was the only word for it. We went to Redo to defeat its enslavers, and turned the town into a charnel field. So many things went wrong that its hard to know where to start. Our success, our survival, was purchased at the cost of thousands of lives. Cold comfort that I carry them with my gift.
Our teamwork was worse than I could have imagined. We left Preventer out of the plans, basically just because our moral frameworks are incompatible. Indulger isn’t good with conflict, and responded to my dispute with Preventer by abandoning us. Worse, he left us in a position where we could contribute nothing to the overall battle strategy.
Fisher performed beautifully early on, using Preventer’s scraps of knowledge in order to set fire to a combustible situation. When she received a wound, however, it caused her to revert to her battle form and savagely attack Indulger. She wasn’t honest about her gift earlier, obviously. She seems to have recovered from whatever Thor did to her, but it clearly weighs heavily on her mind. If it wasn’t for her attraction to Nirav I think she might run away.
Condemner took advantage of the distraction of the enemy’s internal struggle to power itself up by feasting on bystanders. It is important not to look past uncomfortable truths. Condemner, who I am working to make immortal…is a monster.
Can I justify this? Is carrying my payload of human souls into the future worth bringing Condemner to that future? A sentient flame that lives only to burn? How many lives must be saved to make up for that? Am I merely glossing over a desperate attempt to preserve my own life?
If I hadn’t spent the previous two nights contracting with the human citizens of Redo I’d have been responsible for an honest to God genocide. Despite the Colonel telling me that I have a duty, that the lives of those I’m carrying are just as important as they were while they had bodies, I’m not a hundred percent sure that I’m not fooling myself about that.
It is easy to say that it is in the past. Put Redo behind me. Linker beckons. But do I deserve to? Can you screw up this badly and then give yourself a second chance, and still tell yourself that you are numbered among the righteous?
About Linker. I have three basic choices.
First, I could follow the Colonel’s plan. Let Linker join me with the others, form Fourth Fist. Take note of the security which protects her. Later on, once our visit is not the most salient fact about the situation, return and assassinate her. The goal of this plan is to strike a crippling blow to the Regime, and also keep my main mission, to carry these souls to the future, viable.
Alternately, I could kill Linker the instant that she stands before me. Prevailer’s goons would then kill me and the rest of the Fist. That solves the problem of Condemner. It strikes the same blow to the Regime, although it doesn’t leave us in position to do any more damage. If I wasn’t responsible for my reserve I would do it in a heartbeat.
Lastly, a hybrid approach. I could kill Linker right after she links us. This is basically the same as the second approach, save that with the Link established we might survive the Regime’s immediate response. The Regime would be crippled, and we would be in direct opposition to it.
I still have some time to decide.
That fight was insane! I’ve never seen so many Ultras in a fight before. The Pantheon sure has a lot of people.
I guess that makes sense. The Pantheon is pretty much the whole world. It’s funny. The Regime seems so big to us, but that’s just because we are in it. To most people it is just a distant thing, a rumor they hear about. Makes you think.
I feel really bad about how I did in that battle. At the start I was good, keeping us hidden and keeping the line open to Fisher. But then I got heated about the girls fighting and left them to cool off. That wasn’t how a team is supposed to work.
To be honest, I’m used to fighting alone. My gift makes me unable to get killed, so I always ask anyone who wants to fight on my side to stay back. I did that this time, and it was silly. Haunter is a super smart grandma with an army inside her. Preventer is invincible. I should have let them have my back.
When I fought Thor I tried to fight him like I was fighting a wrestling match, but he was so fierce. He must have had a lot of fights to fight like that. I was basically pinned by him the whole battle, but I didn’t even realize it. He was two moves ahead the entire time. Fights like that are why I need the others to back me up. He couldn’t have done me that way if they had been there.
It also makes me realize just how poverful She is. When Prevailer showed up it was over so quick. She just killed them all like it was nothing. That must be why most people don’t have a lot of Ultras in their armies. If you have too many, She shows up and kills you. That’s why the Union squad I fought last time just had one.
Speaking of Prevailer, I’m kind of worried about that she’s creeping on me. I know a leer when I see one, but if I tell her that I’m not interested she’ll kill me. It’s scary.
When we get linked we are going to be so strong. Everyone in Fourth Fist is really hard to kill in our own ways. With all of us together there is no way that we could ever die.
I’ve got a secret hope. I want us to take over the fights that First Fist is doing now, let them go watch movies or whatever. We can defend the Regime and not be such dicks about it.
Aside from the initial plan, I didn’t do a single thing in this operation. It was MY plan, and somehow I ended up sitting in a cave waiting to get lectured by Her. That’s insane.
The core problem is that the rest of the group have bonded, and they have omitted me from their amity. That night they went out drinking. Their time scouting. Somehow it has made them friends.
I’ve never really had any friends. People don’t get close to me. Thui aside. Sometimes, I think my gift doesn’t let me respond properly to people’s feelings. Maybe it treats affection as a weakness, and screens it off?
In any case, my design for Fourth Fist has not come to pass. The basic structure is a figurehead leader in Indulger, who takes his advice primarily from Haunter. I had intended that the group would function primarily as added muscle to bring my designs about, but that isn’t going to be the case.
I need to adapt. The key is to gain Haunter’s trust, get Indulger to take his cues from our joint opinion, rather than privileging hers. Haunter’s morality is easy enough to understand. She seeks to preserve human lives from Ultra strife. It should be easy enough to feign coming around to her point of view.
Indulger is another easy study. He is put off by conflict, unable to bear awkwardness or dispute. I must be more pleasant and agreeable in his presence, and undertake any necessary corrections outside of his sphere of awareness.
Nirav came to me in the battle’s aftermath. I was a little surprised to see him, but from what he told me my confrontation with Condemner had its desired effect. Condemner kept Nirav around through its manifestation, restoring his memories when it reformed him. Nirav believes that I saved his life. He and Fisher are grateful to me.
Truthfully I’ll take the credit for that, but it was not my primary objective. I believe that Nirav has more influence over Condemner than he understands. I believe that keeping him a constant presence, rather than a series of quickly changed personas, will allow us to ultimately ‘tame’ Condemner.
Soon we will be Linked, if Haunter doesn’t screw everything up. My immortality will be backed up by four other variants on that power, and I can move on to the next phase of my plan.
The Pantheon will be angered by the blow that we struck against them, but they’ll forgive me. A tame Fist is too useful for them to pass up.
Killing Prevailer can only be done by betrayal. She trusts only her Fists. Once we are a Fist the first condition is accomplished. Zeus’s lightning is the second condition, a light-speed attack that she can’t teleport-dodge. Soon I’ll be in condition to bring the two together, and put an end to the only being that I am certain can destroy me.
Betty’s alright. Fisher, I guess. She doesn’t have a real name. I don’t feel mad that she lied about that. I’ve got two bodies too. Or, at least, I’m one of two bodies that someone else has.
I was so certain that she was using me. So sure that no one could actually be attracted to someone who they know is make believe. I was willing to settle for that.
I’m six months old! I would settle for anything!
But Fisher… she isn’t faking. She’s just as young as I am. Prevailer put her in that place, locked her away and smashed her mind. Fisher tried to explain the way that it gnaws at you, but I know that I can’t really understand.
Day after day, month after month, locked in the dark, with your gift locked away. I can’t imagine. Literally. I’m not old enough to know what it feels like when a year goes by while you LIVE it, to say nothing of what it must feel like to see it go by in a pitch black cage.
I thought I was done for when Condemner blazed up. I resigned myself to it, tried as hard as I could to leave some bread crumbs in what passes for his mind, let him know the things that Haunter and I talked about. But then he put me back together.
I have Preventer to thank. That tiny, cold-blooded woman. She saved my life. Fisher loves me, Haunter advises me, and Preventer, of all people, saved my life.
Even the notion of a support circle is foreign to me. Condemner can’t understand it. Other flames are just power sources for it. It didn’t put anything about the idea in my mind. But this team, the fellowship that we have, I think that’s what cooperation is supposed to be like.
Nothing external can pull us apart. A freight train would shatter on Preventer’s face. You could tear Indulger into a billion pieces, and as long as you threw them on the ground he’d just come back together. Fisher has two bodies, both beautiful.
If I’m holding back from them, it isn’t because I’m afraid for their safety. These are people that Condemner can’t take from me. But, and this is the worry that consumes me, he can take me from them.
Condemner has veto power over me. He can take me apart at his leisure. He sees out my eyes, he knows my thoughts, and he has nothing but scorn for my notions of community.
If I was noble, if I was virtuous, I’d hold myself at arm’s length from them. One day, Condemner will take me away. If I had never returned Fisher’s affections, never drank late into the night with Haunter and Dale, they wouldn’t be nearly so hurt.
I’m not noble. Blame Condemner, he didn’t make me that way. Blame me, if you buy that I’m real enough to be a place for you to assign blame. It doesn’t matter.
When you don’t have much time you have to make every moment count. Every breath that Condemner allows me, I’ll spend with my family.
I attacked Indulger.
Or, at least, my Hook did.
I have never wondered before, never really pondered, exactly how my gift works with my mind. How much of my thinking is transmitted to the Hook, as opposed to the Lure? Do I think the same things regardless of which of them I’ve got embodied at any given time?
Thus, I was blindsided when Thor destroyed the Lure. The state it drove me into was practically feral. Until I regenerated the Lure my higher thoughts were locked away. Or, maybe it is best to say that their implications couldn’t matter. I couldn’t…reach… the world, couldn’t matter.
This has disturbing implications. If destroying the Lure renders me an animal, a creature of pure will and aggression, what would happen if someone destroyed the Hook? Would I be pliable, unable to care about or reject the world? Would I be catatonic? The possibilities are worrisome.
I always thought that I could, in extremis, shuck one of my bodies and escape through the other. It seems like that isn’t the case. Worrying.
Prevailer was here.
Seeing Her again was…disturbing. I don’t really have a word for it. Whatever they did to me, it gets close to the surface when She is around. I don’t know. I think the fact that the Lure had only just grown back might have actually saved us somehow. It’s hard to state.
I saw the way she watched Indulger. Boy’s getting fucked. I hope he’s smart enough not to make a fuss about it. I should probably talk to him.
I didn’t think that we’d get him back. I couldn’t object, because I was only the Hook at the time, but when the fire came out and followed Indulger up out of that cave I felt like I’d lost him. I…can’t lose him.
I know, it is kind of pitiful. Grasping for the comfort of a child’s faith. But as long as he needs me to anchor him, I’m anchored. He’s so pitiful, so lost, and I can help him keep going. I guess I need that. I didn’t mean for it to get so serious. He was supposed to be just a means to an end.
Preventer and Haunter are at odds, and that’s a serious problem. I don’t really have a lot of experience in this area, but we need to do something to get them on the same side. I was hoping, on some level, that the fight with Thor would do that, but it only split them apart even worse.
It isn’t symmetrical. Preventer can barely understand Haunter. She keeps misreading her. Haunter understands Preventer all too well, but that understanding inspires nothing from her but contempt.
It only has to last a little longer. Once we’ve been Linked they can disagree all they want. Nirav and I will be safe no matter what they do.