I have faced a number of difficult choices in my mission, but helping with the Strongboat wasn’t one of them.
It isn’t that I support our mission. I barely understand it. Prevailer is, for the second time, sending us to talk peace with Her enemies. All well and good, except for the fact that everyone knows She has no interest in peace, and particularly not with the Pantheon.
It isn’t that I can’t stand to see a good ship mistreated. The Strongboat was never a good ship, and I always rooted for Army back when there was the big rivalry. I could’ve watched the Regime fail to accomplish a task as old as the Odyssey forever.
No, the motivating factors here were Her tendency to kill the humans who failed Her, and my strong desire to have an ocean between us and First Fist.
First Fist. Even the notion that they are after me chills my heart, but it is a fact that I have to face. Remover wants me dead. The woman who killed the old world, who toppled its cities and buried its people, is finally trying to finish the job.
I have no idea why. They have always seemed generically evil, but I never imagined that they’d assail another Fist. They never have before. Something has set them against us, but for the life of me I can’t figure out what it is. Only Her predatory interest in Dale saved us from a deadly confrontation.
It isn’t jealousy over Dale’s influence on Her, because they attacked us before they even knew about that.
Could it be their grudge against Preventer? God knows the woman is obnoxious, but it is hard to imagine Remover risking their eternal lives to satisfy a petty grudge.
Ultimately, try as I might, there is no way to discern their motivation by sitting here and thinking about it. The Jury chewed the problem over for a few hours, and didn’t come back with anything exciting. That usually means that more information is needed.
At least the Strongboat’s construction went smoothly. I had a few Navy men in the reserve, and some civilians who had owned boats. They pooled their heads together and came up with a plan for Adder and the Company Men to follow. It has been a wonder to watch the ship take shape.
Thinking about the Company Men, about Copyer, is sobering now. During the building process I confirmed what we’d surmised. We do not have final authority on them. They check our instructions with another authority, and only act when She approves.
The method of this verification process is digital, but there must be more to it than that. The Union would have tried what we are thinking of if it was just a matter of spoofing some electronic credentials.
I’m planning on asking Adder once we are out at sea. His heart is in the right place, and I think that he’ll tell me. Actually Fader might also know.
Thinking about it, the Strongboat is going to be a hotbead of rebellious sentiment. With Adder, us and Sixth Fist there we have basically every one of Her internal enemies, all in one place.
I keep expecting Her to get bored of me. I don’t know if I’m looking forward to it, or dreading it. I keep thinking that today is the day that She’ll tire of me, but it never is.
Everyone knows that She goes through guys really fast. A week or two, tops, and then She is on to the next one. You slink back to your life and everyone tries to act like it didn’t happen, maybe a few nervous questions if you know some brave bros.
But it has been nearly a month now, and She shows no sign of moving on. We eat breakfast together, She takes me to the Sniper Court. A few nights ago She showed me some old movies.
It is super creepy. On the one hand, She is generally at least a little kind to me, and Her protection is all that kept First Fist off of us that one time. On the other I see the way that She deals with the people that She doesn’t like, and I keep imagining that it is my skull She is cracking, my guts She is ripping out.
I’m not sure what She gets out of it. Physical pleasure, sure, but She barely seems to care about that. We go through the motions, but She has been at this for a very long time. Jaded doesn’t even begin to cover it. I’m more like a prop than a boyfriend. I fill some need, but I can’t ever figure out what it is.
I have learned some stuff I never would’ve guessed about Her though.
First off, She isn’t nearly as grand as I thought She would be. I guess it is just a stereotype, but whenever anyone imagines Her they picture Her standing on a building, pointing up at the shattered moon or whatever. She is much more likely to be found loafing on a couch or stuffing Her face with cookies.
She spends a lot of time with Subtracter, bossing Her around and generally being a big wheel. She talks to Answerer every couple of days. That chick does not like me. She gave me this death stare the first time we met, like it was my fault she is Her slave.
She also hangs out, from time to time, with First Fist. Remover seems to be Her main gal pal. Thankfully, She hasn’t asked me to go on any of these visits, but I bet they talk about me a lot there. It isn’t a good feeling.
I’ve been thinking, lately, that She hasn’t got tired of me because She knows that I’m going out on this boat soon enough. Like She is making sure to see me now, because pretty soon I’ll be far away across the ocean.
I think She thinks She’ll never see me again, but I can’t decide if She is happy or sad about that.
My mouth has finally stopped hurting, seemingly for good. It took weeks, but I’m feeling much better now. Still look like, in Her words, I spend my days looking for a dick to suck, but at least the pain is gone.
But the wound is not. My lips still have a hole torn through them. It isn’t getting any better as the days go by.
I’m going to kill Her.
I mean, I always was. That was the plan. I’m not safe while She is in the world, so She has to go. But now that She has disfigured me I’m going to take a very particular pleasure in it.
I don’t age. I can’t be harmed. In a thousand years my lips will STILL have a gap in the center, and I’ll STILL have this stupid lisp at the edge of my voice. There is no way to hurt Her enough to make up for this, but I’m going to give it a shot.
We have already deprived Her of Snitcher. Let Her mount as many skulls as She likes on the walls, it changes nothing. He is gone, and She is all but blind.
When we take Copyer away, She will be finished. For, in taking him, we take the Company.
The real reason, I believe, that no one has killed Her, all these years, is the necessity of the Company. The Process is in their hands, accessible only through Chens and Company Men. When they are gone, there will be no new Ultras.
There’ll be no reason to keep Her alive. The lords of the world, the Ruling Council of the Pantheon, who I just sent Andy to, they will move on Her. The Demon will be smitten down by the Gods of the Pantheon.
She’ll never know it was me, of course. No desire for revenge could drive me to the madness that is being openly opposed to Her. But I’ll know.
Even this latest idiocy serves my cause. She is sending me to parley with the very people who will slay Her. The very Pantheon who I have worked with at a distance. I will finally be able to negotiate with them face to face, to grasp for myself the dynamics of the group that I intend to run.
That is the end game, of course. The Fist will join the Pantheon when She is gone. The Company being absent, Ultras will kill one another and dwindle as the years become decades. Age will take its toll. All save those of us who are immortal will pass away. All save me. The Fist and I will rule the Regime, rule America, at first on the Pantheon’s behalf, and later on our own merits.
When the history books are written, they will speak kindly of me. I don’t wish to restate the old chestnut about that being because I intend to write them. No, they will speak kindly of me because I will be standing over the reader’s shoulder, correcting any misapprehensions.
Nothing like a few weeks in Shington to bring you down.
I keep telling myself that I should be elated. I should be walking around on Cloud Nine each and every day. He is gone. Condemner is gone. My life is no longer slaved to the will of a terrible maniac.
Except, it kind of is.
Every day I go walking, I see the skulls. They are impossible to ignore. They catch my eye, and I get flashes of the bones of Condemner’s victims, crumbling away to ash. These grisly trophies aren’t even granted the dignity of such a fate.
At least Condemner, monster though he was, actually killed for a reason. The souls of the slain granted him power, an addictive high. Prevailer doesn’t really give me the impression that She is really even aware of what is going on out here. These people are dying because Remover wanted to kill them, and She didn’t care enough to ask for a decent reason.
Remover…now there’s a terrifying person.
I’ve been asking Haunter about her, as part of my general quest to learn some history, to fix some part of my blank slate. Apparently Remover was part of the original government response to Her, they’ve been thick as thieves since back in the day.
Remover messed everything up, deliberately. The glass half empty world we live in came about because she steered it here. No one knows why.
Maybe it is just the fact that I’m learning all of this for the first time, but that seems insane. Remover has the highest kill count of any known Ultra, her Fist spend all of their time committing atrocities…and now one has any idea of the reason.
I guess I can understand it. Who cares what the misfiring brain of a rabid dog that is savaging you is thinking? You just need to put it down. But to me it just makes the whole situation more chilling. What if First Fist dies and their hatred just moves to another host? That doesn’t make any sense, but neither do their current actions. There is something we don’t understand, and It scares me.
I’ll be glad to get out on the water, even on the Strongboat. Sixth Fist aren’t the worst people in the world, and Adder is probably my favorite of the Inner Circle. I can’t complain about the company.
The Pantheon are reputed to be savages, but so are we. Reputations can be wrong. Krishna wasn’t nearly as bad as the people in Shington. I’m still not sure what exactly went down on that night, but I’d bet my Sigil that there was more to the story of Condemner and the Pantheon than we pieced together. Depending on what it is, we may have a very interesting reception waiting for us.
Most importantly, there will be an ocean or two between us and Her. I’m not sure that’s far enough, mind, but it is a start.
The Strongboat is, objectively, garbage.
You’d think, with the ability to literally create matter, we could make a decent boat. It seems like the ancients pulled it off without any Ultra powers at all. They literally used machines to push stuff around. And yet we weren’t getting anywhere until Haunter stepped in.
Apparently the orders were a big part of the problem. She wanted a boat that carried aircraft, and nobody was willing to tell her that wasn’t going to fit in the river, so we had Company Men sinking portions of a super huge boat in, that would never float on their own.
By the time they got past that, the next problem had become obvious. They build in the water. So there is nowhere stable to work on things. They were assembling the boat out on smaller boats. Haunter put a stop to that quick enough.
None of this was unavoidable. Adder could probably have solved it in an afternoon, if he cared. Prevailer is from the old world. She could have told them what they were doing wrong. (Probably, I don’t really know what She did back then.) She didn’t.
It is hard to avoid the realization that we are, as a whole, staggeringly bad at doing anything that doesn’t involve fighting other Ultras. This is the capital of the Regime. If there was anywhere we were gonna have our act together, it would be here. But it is this ridiculous circus.
First Fist are still putting up more heads. I doubt anyone has ever been fooled by this talk of a new Snitcher, but they are keeping at it. I fervently hope that they are just having Company Men replicate some poor sucker for endless beheading, because otherwise we are going to run out of daggers.
If Haunter hadn’t shoved that guy into Remover’s beam, we’d have had a fight between Fists, over literally nothing. Just two of our best units trying to kill one another.
Not that I’d mind if First Fist turned up dead, mind you, just pointing out yet another instance of the Regime screwing ourselves over.
It really speaks to Her power that she can proceed in such a pants-on-head fashion, and still fend off all comers. It is kind of terrifying.
Haunter and Preventer seemed to have made up, at least most of the way, and that usually means something is afoot. I don’t know what those two have planned, but whatever it is they are probably going to put it in action at this meeting with the Pantheon.
That’s fine by me. I’m here for whatever the rest of the Fist decides. As long as it isn’t Torturer there is nothing that can get to me.
Not with Condemner gone. Not once there is an ocean between me and that place.
I don’t know how far apart Fists can get, but once we are on the other side of the ocean, I’m thinking about testing it. Nirav and I could live quite happily away from all this madness.