Regime Quest 12

Results from Previous round votes:

Three Votes

Plan TalonofAnathrax, on SV forum

One Vote

Plan CCC on my blog

*************************************************************************************

Winning Plan:

[X] Investigate Acquaintance:

-[X] Builder, (Timeslot cost: 1; AP cost 2, refunds 1 on success, 2 if we become allies)

[X] Investigate Acquaintance:

-[X] Grower, (Timeslot cost: 1; AP cost 2, refunds 1 on success, 2 if we become allies)

 

************************************************************************************

Day 9  Log:

10 AP at start of day

+0 for 6 hour sleep, due to already full AP (10 AP)

-2 for [Morning] Investigate Acquaintance, Builder (8 AP)

Investigate roll 8, Success

+1 for Success, +1 for accumulate Ally (10 AP)

-2 for [Afternoon] Investigate Acquaintance, Grower (8 AP)

Investigate roll 5, Success

+1 for Success, +1 for accumulate Ally (10 AP)

End of day, (10 AP).

*************************************************************************************

Investigate Acquaintance, Builder

“So,” I said, as I tossed her a bag of chips.  “You make the arenas, eh?”

She gave an enthusiastic nod, already tearing them open.

“Yep!  Suzy tells me what they are gonna do, and I make sure they have a place to do it in.  The Deeps is mostly my work.”

“That’s very impressive,” I told her.  “Your gift allows you to create these arenas?  Like Adders, but permanent?”

It obviously wasn’t that.  She’d be much more involved with Her people if she was that powerful, but the easiest way to draw someone into describing something, I’ve found, is not to ask them about it, but to confidently state something wrong.  People correct with a lot more enthusiasm than they explain.

“Nuff, no way!” she said, stuffing the salty snacks in her face, “My gift changes things into other things.  That old tall building was already there, but I was the one who bent it into a cool battle arena.”

“I’m still not sure I see,” I said.  “You ‘bent’ it?”

“Omfhgu,” she said, continuing to chow down on my gift.

She held up a finger, as though to ask me to wait a sec, as she hastily scarfed down the rest of the bag.

I couldn’t exactly blame her.  Builder was basically anorexic, in terms of how she was built.  She looked like she’d need to lean back and use both hands when pulling a door open, like you’d lose track of her if she turned sideways.

“With my gift,” she said, when she’d finished licking the salty taste off the inside of the bag, “I can make forms bend and twist into other forms.  Not alive stuff, but anything else.”

“So,” I guessed, “You could make, for example, a car into a different kind of car?”

“Well, like, I could make spikes and stuff come out of it,” she allowed, “But the inside of a car is probably really complicated and fiddly, so it wouldn’t work if I changed it up at all.  If I wanted it to work I’d be making like a car jacket that the thing that was already there would wear.”

“Wouldn’t that kind of ruin it anyway,” I asked, “Since you’d need to take material from the existing form in order to make the jacket?”

She looked confused for a second, brow furrowing.

“Oh, no, not at all, I can just stretch the material out, see?”

She put her hands on two corners of the empty bag, and carelessly pulled it wider… and wider.

She stopped when it covered the table.

“How close do you have to be to do this?”

She shrugged.

“I’ve never had my gift not work before,” she said.  “I don’t think I have to be close or far away.  I just have to know where the thing is.”

“Ah,” I said.  “So if something wasn’t where you thought it was, your gift wouldn’t work?”

She gave an enthusiastic nod.

“Yep.  Once I see something I can change it around, make it bigger or smaller or in different shapes, but if there isn’t anything there for my gift to work on it won’t go off, you know?”

“Fantastic!” I gushed.  “What a gift!”

I meant it, honestly.  My mind was swimming, almost against my will, with all of the ways that her gift could have been used to help the world.

“Thanks,” she said.  “It isn’t anything really cool like Ultra toughness, but it is what I got, so I try to make the best of it.”

I nodded at that.

“But,” she said, giving me the puppy dog eyes, “I really think that if I stayed way back there are some things I could do to help you in your warlord job!  Like I could scout ahead and make the other team’s buildings fall on them or stuff!”

I couldn’t help noticing that she was apparently staying way back while scouting ahead, but it didn’t seem useful to mention.

“I’ll give it some thought,” I said.  “I may be in touch.”

She nodded.

“Before you leave…”

I sighed and fished out another bag of chips.

*************************************************************************************

Investigate Acquaintance, Grower

Visibly shaking but with head held high, Grower strode into the Lair.

She stopped after the first step.

Clap… clap… clap.

She turned around and looked over to the side, where I was leaning up against the wall.

“Warlord,” she said.  “I guess you were waiting for me.”

I was a bit miffed that I hadn’t gotten a bigger reaction.  The ‘already leaning against the wall of the door you walked through’ move was, in my opinion, about as cool a move as one could do, but I guess the younger generation probably had their own power poses.

“I happened to be in the area,” I said, with transparent falseness.  “I’m glad you made it.”

That was the simple truth of the matter.  It would have been a bit of a let down if the woman I’d spent a whole day scouting and given my blend to had failed to pass the Yard.

I’d been blissed out during her pivotal fights, but from what I’d heard the bullet blend had worked just as well with her item growing gift as I’d expected it to.  She’d attacked at range by throwing things and expanding them while they were in motion, then bulleted away anytime anyone managed to get close enough to counter.

“Me too,” she said.

“I expect you are going to be looking for a place to stay?” I asked.  “I remember that was a bit of a hassle on my first day.”

It hadn’t been, actually.  KEM had briefed me ahead of time, and it had simply been a matter of making the arrangements.

“I hadn’t thought that far ahead,” she said, which I wasn’t sure I believed, “With the way things work around here, I expect I have to fight someone for their room?”

I chuckled.

“Not a bad guess,” I said, “But things aren’t quite that bad yet.  You can probably just room with someone.”

“You offering?” she said.

I chuckled, although honestly I’d given the matter some thought.  Another roommate would let me get some actual sleep for once.

“Not just yet,” I demurred.  “But I do have a few recommendations.”

She listened avidly as I gave her the basic lay of the land in the Lair, mostly focusing on which Ultras had dominion over which areas.

“And Her?” she asked.  “Will I get to see Her, now that I’ve come this far?”

I was taken aback a bit.

“I guess you could,” I said.

She smiled, seemingly genuinely pleased.

“I’ve worked so long,” she said.  “But it’ll all be worth it.”

I was, to put it politely, perplexed.  Most everyone with a lick of sense avoided Her at all costs.  I guess that didn’t say much for my own judgment, but presumably Grower wasn’t about to try for Warlord.

“Oh?” I said, making a gesture, as though to encourage her to elaborate.

She looked like she was about to speak up, then seemed to think better of it.

“Thanks for all you’ve done,” she said.  “I won’t forget it.”

I grinned gamely back at her.

“See that you don’t,” I said.  “I might look you up soon.”

She raised a fist for a bump.

“You call, I’ll come,” she said.

*************************************************************************************

Day 10:

Days remaining: 21

AP available: (10 end of last day + 0 for half night’s sleep (already at max) = 10/10

Prestige: 3 (word of attack may reduce this if I don’t take public vengeance soon, 3 days left)

Timeslots available: 2 (morning, afternoon)

Posse: 0 out of 3 slots filled

Force size: 0

Condition: Healthy

 

(Ultra format: Role, Ultra Strength/Speed/Toughness, other gift description)

Ultra Allies:

Maker- Friend, and protégé of Snitcher, 0/0/1, can summon the spirit of things

Clawer – Ultra fighter 2/0/1, melee combatant, deadly hooks for hands

Stopper – partner of Clawer, 0/0/0, steals form’s velocity by looking at them

Sticker – Did dentistry for her brother, 0/0/2, Creates slime, can choose its stickiness

Builder —  0/0/0, a woman who can alter objects for miles around into other things

Grower –  0/*0/1, an outside Ultra I sponsored into the Lair, has a bullet blend from me, can rapidly increase the size and mass of objects

 

Ultra Enemies:

Masher- Enemy, and fellow protégé of Subtracter, 3*/0/3*, trades off strength and durability as she moves or stays still

Ultra Acquaintances:

Owner – housemate, 0/0/1 operates an imaginary firm, with real effects on the world,

Picker – First Fist protégé, 0/1/0, ‘selects the outcome of things’

Tracker – Running buddy, 1/0/1, Creates tracks, and can move things on them

Shower – Adder’s protégé, 1*/0/1*, gains strength and durability from witnesses

Echoer – Singer I am a fan of, 1/1/1, can duplicate any action that she sees

Bubbler – Operates Ultra clinic 0/0/?, traps things in bubbles that heal and move them

Sucker — Ultra entertainer, ?/?/?, pulls objects/people towards her at incredible rate

Gunner — 0/0/1, she shoots tracking Ultra Blasts at roughly Ultra Strength One

Chiller —  1/0/1, can freeze any object she touches, leaving them brittle and easily broken

Cutter —  1/1/1, she is a brutal front line combatant

Joker —  0/2/0, a woman who can change what other people/herself look like

Smasher —  3/0/1, a woman who is billed as the strongest Ultra fighter of all time

Swimmer —  1/0/1, she can ‘swim’ through solid surfaces

Burner —  0/0/1, she can summon Ultra fire from anywhere that she can see

Maxxer —  0/0/0, she can augment the gifts of other Ultras, pushing their gifts

Puncher —  1/0/1, her strength and speed both go up when she repeats her movements

Replayer —  1/2/0, she can ‘step back in time’ to undo damage that she takes

 

Faction Rankings:

Regime 7

KEM 8

Pantheon 2

Union 4

Resistance 9

Prevailer 3

Knights 3

 

Actions:

[ ] Confront Picker (Timeslot cost: 1; AP cost 2, returns variable on result)

-[ ] Write in (Should I ambush her, accuse her publicly, reach out privately? This is a complicated situation, so if you have any questions about what is appropriate, what Mia would expect to follow from a given course of action feel free to ask)

 

[ ] Investigate attack on me (Timeslot cost: 1; AP cost 2, refunds 1 on success)

-[ ] By asking bystanders

Motives: The fake Knights came from somewhere, perhaps I can find someone who saw them don their disguises

Concerns: None

 

[ ] Contact Knights (Timeslot cost: 1, AP cost 2, returns 1 on success)

Motive: My recent actions have opened up the possibility of collaboration with the Knights of Purity.  Their assistance could be valuable, insofar as they don’t count towards the Regime’s ridiculous rule against outnumbering our enemies, and I might be able to acquire some of their blessed equipment if I play my cards right.

Concerns: I don’t know if I really want to be associating with such a group.  KEM wouldn’t mind, but the Resistance would pull away from me, and I might end up coming into contact with Second Fist or their sponsored Ultras.  It is likely that anything they might want from me would be rather evil.

 

[ ] Seek Transportation

-[ ] Scavenge (Timeslot cost: 2; AP cost 4, refunds 3 on success)

Motive: My current transportation sufficed for me in my troubleshooter role, but I will likely require a larger vehicle, or several vehicles, in order to bring everyone to Ar Harbor. I can seek to find something in the suburbs and surrounding towns.

Concerns: Leaving Shington could be dangerous, and I am far from guaranteed to find a bus or truck suitable to my needs, as the area has already been heavily scavenged.

-[ ] Trade with existing owners (Timeslot cost: 1; AP cost 2, refunds 1 on success)

Motive: As above, but instead of fixing up ruined vehicles I’ll negotiate to get them from their current owners.

Concerns: Snitcher may disapprove of a warlord being civil

-[ ] Seize by force (Timeslot cost: 2; AP cost 4, refunds 3 on success)

Motive: As above, but instead of asking my contacts for vehicles I’ll just take what I want. My role as warlord and my Tally should minimize resistance

Concerns: People like their vehicles, and won’t like the one who takes them. I will make enemies.

-[ ] Seek Transportation [Adder + Company] (Timeslot cost: 1; AP cost 2, refunds 1 on success)

Motive: As above, but Adder can use his gift to make something for my purposes, and the Company can duplicate it and make it permanent.

Concerns: Adder and I are not close, he may decline to aid me, owing to his rivalry with my sponsor, Subtracter.

 

[ ] Seek Target Information

-[ ] Company (Timeslot cost: 1; AP cost 2, refunds 1 on success)

Motive: The Company logs every Ultra they create. Their Ar Harbor records would be useful information

Concerns: Ultras migrate and conceal their gifts, this information would be incomplete

-[ ] Subtracter (Timeslot cost: 1; AP cost 3, refunds 1 on success)

Motive: Subtracter is the military leader of the Regime, she will have information on this target

Concerns: Subtracter is stupid and violent, I don’t like to be around her

-[ ] Survivors (Timeslot cost:1; AP cost 2, refunds 1 on success)

Motive: There have been 2 other attempts at Ar Harbor. I can seek out and question survivors in the outer city.

Concerns: I may be unable to find any survivors, and I may be misled by liars.

 

[ ] Seek Posse Members

-[ ] wander & gossip, (Timeslot cost: 1; AP cost 1, refunds 1 on success)

Motive: There are dozens of powerful Ultras in the Lair. I know only the barest fraction of them. I can learn the basics on 1-6 of them in a few hours of socializing and gossiping, opening up in depth investigation options on them and adding them to my list of acquaintances.

Concerns: None

-[ ] At Ultra Fights, (Timeslot cost: 1; AP cost 1, refunds 1 on success)

Constraint: Only available in the afternoon or night on days divisible by 4 (day 4, 8, etc)

Motive: There are dozens of powerful Ultras in the Lair. I know only the barest fraction of them. I can learn the basics on 3-12 of them in a few hours of socializing and gossiping at this kind of event.

Concerns: Ultras associated with the Fights are more likely than most to be melee combatants.

 

[ ] Seek Warband Members

-[ ] At the Yard, (Timeslot cost: 1; AP cost 2, refunds 1 on success)

Motive: The Lair is surrounded by hundreds of Regime Ultras.  The strongest come to the Yard to show their power and appeal to those like me, who would give them purpose.  I should be able to gather between 5 and 20 Ultras of such caliber.

Concerns: I will need to provide housing and direction to these Ultras, or risk them wandering off.  I can expect to spend at least an action a day on them, and training them might well eat up more.  Ideally a Posse member will be tasked with this.

-[ ] [Gang name] From a Gang, (Timeslot cost: 2; AP cost 5, refunds 3 on success)

Motive: The Ultras that surround Shington are organized into Gangs dozens strong.  If I can recruit such a force I might have my whole Warband right there.

Concerns: These Ultras likely already have patrons in the Lair, who I would need to negotiate with.  Their leader would also likely want a place in my Posse, and she would be the primary locus of their loyalty until I’d had time to win them over.

 

[ ] Investigate Acquaintance:

-[ ] [Name], (Timeslot cost: 1; AP cost 2, refunds 1 on success, 2 if we become allies)

Motive: I can spend some serious one on one time with an Ultra I’ve chosen, evaluating the capability of their gift, the alignment of their values with mine, and their basic ccompetence. If all checks out, I might move them into my Ultra Allies column.

Concerns: None

 

[ ] Invite Ally into Posse:

-[ ] [Name], (Timeslot cost: 1; AP cost 3, refunds 3 on success)

Motive: If I want to bring an ally into my posse, get them to take actions on my behalf and rise or fall with me, this is the way to do it. I will only take this action on those I’ve already made allies, and once this has been taken it is difficult to undo.

Concerns: Posse members are most of the way into my circle of trust, and will operate on my behalf, representing me to stranger. A mistake here would be dangerous and damaging. I should be careful before taking this step, potentially investigating a prospect several times.

 

[ ] Seek Information on Snitcher’s patterns

-[ ] Passive listening (Timeslot cost: 1; AP cost 1, refunds 1 on success)

Motive: Snitcher can ride my senses at any moment, and bring Her along. If I am ever to contact my KEM allies, my resistance allies, or show any kindness or weakness whatsoever, I need to understand when this is likely to take place. Gossip can hint at this, particularly if I carefully steer conversations. This action would be mostly undetectable, even if he was riding me when I took it.

Concerns: None

-[ ] Active interrogation of Snitches (Timeslot cost: 1; AP cost 3, refunds 2 on success)

Motive: As above, but rather than listen for random gossip I will seek out other linked individuals and directly ask them how often he rides their senses, and what actions he has reacted to in the past.

Concerns: More likely Snitcher notices this, unknown consequences of that.

-[ ] Confront Snitcher Directly (Timeslot cost:1; AP cost 4, refunds 3 on success)

Motive: As above, but take the simplest possible route. Go to Snitcher and ask him for the deal.

Concerns: I am sponsored by Subtracter, not Snitcher, he may not wish to aid me. He may demand favors or other services in exchange for the information.

 

[ ] Seek Information on Regime military operations

-[ ] Ask Subtracter (Timeslot cost: 1; AP cost 3, refunds 1 on success)

Motive: My life depends on doing this right. I need to get a basic understanding of what She is expecting from my attack on Ar Harbor. Do I need to seize the Company Facility? Kill all the enemies? Are there any constraints on how I go about it? Subtracter is the leader of the Regime’s military, and my sponsor, she will know these answers.

Concerns: Subtracter is stupid and brutal, and she killed my neighbors, I hate spending time with her.

-[ ] Ask Around (Timeslot cost: 1; AP cost 2, refunds 1 on success)

Motive: As above, but ask survivors of previous missions instead of my evil boss.

Concerns: My predecessors may not have told them everything, their views of their missions may omit certain command level details that I need to worry about.

 

[ ] Relax and Recuperate

-[ ] By visiting Blisser (Timeslot cost: X (slots spent until AP reaches max), AP cost 0, returns 3 per time period.  DANGER, this action may cause addiction)

-[ ]By lounging around, (Timeslot cost: 1, AP cost 0, refunds 1 on success)

Motive: I could do with some rest.

Concerns: None

-[ ]By patronizing entertainment ares (Timeslot cost: 1, AP cost 1, refunds 3 on success)

Motive: I could do with some rest, and I might learn some things by socializing

Concerns: None

-[ ]By using my gift to repair the city (Timeslot cost: 1, AP cost 2, refunds 5 on success)

Motive: It needs to be done.

Concerns: This is not becoming behavior of a warlord, Snitcher may take notice, and people may talk

-[ ]By using my gift to heal people (Timeslot cost: 1, AP cost 1, refunds 5 on success)

Motive: This is why I have my gift.

Concerns: This is not becoming behavior of a warlord, Snitcher may take notice, and people may talk

 

[ ] Organize Armory [Timeslot cost: 1, AP cost 2, returns 2 on success)

Motive: I carry, in my backpack and on my person, various items to blend with if the need arises. I am overdue to look through my setup and take an inventory, once that is done I could seek out new objects if I am missing anything useful.

Concerns: None

 

[ ] Seek new residence [ Timeslot cost: 3, returns 1 if successful ]

Motive: I could get a lot more done if I got a full night’s sleep

Concerns: Owner and I have guarded one another’s rest for a long time. I wouldn’t necessarily be able to trust a new person to the same extent.

 

KEM Actions: (Sealed until I figure out how to deal with Snitcher’s surveillance, or resolve to defy him)

Resistance Actions: (Sealed until I figure out how to deal with Snitcher’s surveillance, or resolve to defy him)

 

[ ] Action: Other (Timeslot cost: x, returns x if successful)

Motive [Write in]

Concerns: [Write in]

 

Haunter 8:2

To say the least, there was no immediate outburst of support when I announced my plan.

“We can’t go up there,” said Dale, staring blankly at me as the dust settled around us.  “We just wiped out most of our own crew.  Fisher and Condemner might well be back in the Link.  We have no idea if we are at odds with the rest of Fifth Fist, or with Zilla and her buddies, to say nothing of any Union survivors.”

“Beyond that,” said Preventer, “We don’t know much about the larger situation.  If the Pantheon are on the march, and the Union is maneuvering to counter them, then we would run the risk of being caught in the middle.  Even for me, that might be hard to survive.”

I considered how to make them understand.  At least they were still remembering to talk as though the Link was intact.  Dale might be trigger happy, but at least he wasn’t entirely out of his mind.

I put my hands up as though to concede a point.

“Dale,” I said.  “What does your gift give you as far as people nearby?  There’s no reason for us to discuss a final decision before we know all of the facts.”

He nodded and put his hand back on the cracked wall of our makeshift cavern.

“Zilla,” said Preventer, “If you can hear us, I’d urge you not to do anything rash.  You know your trick won’t work on me, and if you make me wait until the Link brings my colleagues back I’ll be quite put out.  It would put a sizable damper on our planned partnership.”

I was probably eighty percent sure that she couldn’t hear us.  I was willing to take the Pantheon members word for it that what had happened to the other Fist was her doing, somehow, but I still didn’t buy the idea that she had some kind of clairvoyance gift.  Maybe her minions had triggered it, or maybe she had set some kind of time delayed effect on them, but I just kind of automatically resisted the idea that her gift let her watch everyone around her and kill them at will.  Even She hadn’t gotten that power, needing to rope in Snitcher to achieve the same basic effect.

“I don’t think she can hear you,” I told Preventer.  “The planning session on attacking the jail would have looked very different if she could hear what was going on up there from down here.”

“Her gift is changing shape, right?” said Dale.  “I don’t get how that let her take out Pitcher and the others.”

“Well, they bled from the mouths,” I said.  “It looked like their insides were being torn apart.  I’ve seen Mover kill like that, when she was trying to be subtle.”

“Zilla doesn’t have TK,” said Preventer.  “Or if she does she is a lot more disciplined than she lets on.  If she could move stuff with her mind she’d be goosing people nonstop.”

I grinned involuntarily at that, then paused a second.

Zilla was handsy as all get out, but what if that wasn’t just a personality thing, what if it was part of this mystery?

“Hold on a second,” I said, pushing the Jury onto this line of thought.  “Let me just spend a moment pondering our circumstances.”

“Ok,” said Dale.  “While you do that I can tell you a little about who is around.”

That wasn’t really in the spirit of giving me a second, but I wasn’t about to stop him from giving us information.

“Basically no one,” he said.  “The Union guys in the camp have all got up off of the ground somehow, probably with those flying things, like the one we used to take us out of the embassy.  The jail is up off the ground, so I can’t tell about that, and the other Pantheon guys are still buried down in the rocks.”

“They aren’t dead?” asked Preventer.

Dale shook his head.

“I was worried about Noon losing her cool, her power in this kind of situation wouldn’t have been pretty, but the rest of that crew I can just keep down below for a while.  No need to burn even more bridges, right?”

In my experience, with one or two exceptions, gifts tended to sort of match a theme.  Even if they had a variety of separate manifestations, they were all in the service of a kind of overarching goal.  Like a monstrous Ultra who was strong and tough, using Condemner’s framework I’d say that the Entity in question wanted to be a big fighting monster.  Or one who could blast and fly, well, once again, the gifts were clearly meant to work together.

Zilla, on that axis, was really odd.  She had a kind of a disguise gift, like an infiltrator would get, but also Ultra strength and toughness.  That pushed my mind towards an assassin, she could mimic friends of her target to get close enough, then suddenly take them out.

But how to square that with this extra part, the bit where she could instantly slaughter anyone?  That seemed, power level aside, to kind of render the disguise angle entirely moot. An Ultra with the power to kill other Ultras at long range, without line of sight, well, they wouldn’t really need any kind of disguise power, right?

Moreover, working again off the theory that the Grabbies were farming for memories, it would be kind of counterproductive.  Her creator was expecting to wake up with memories of fooling people with disguises, surely it could appreciate that she wouldn’t bother with that with this kind of cursing gift on tap.

“I appreciate that, Dale,” I told him, “But I wish you would have cleared things with the rest of us before you made your move.  Zilla had plainly had some kind of falling out with Predictor’s Fist, but no one was attacking us.”

“I think she might’ve,” said Preventer, “if he didn’t preempt it.”

If I went with the theory that Zilla was supposed to be an infiltrator, and I considered that she was always grabbing and touching people, then perhaps she had to touch her victims, and her gift was something like killing anyone that she’d touched before whenever she decided to.

“Look,” said Dale.  “I just don’t want to get chumped out again, all right?  I’m sick and tired of getting taken out.  It, uh, you lose hours of your day, you know?”

That still didn’t seem quite right.  If she was exercising a death touch at a distance I’d expect people just falling down dead, not internal trauma.  I felt like the fact that they were coughing up blood was significant somehow.

“I get it,” I said.  “Fisher has told me how boring the Link is.  I’m thankful that I haven’t had to experience it.”

I shelved the consideration of Zilla’s gift, delegating it to a subset of my reserve who lived for that kind of thing, and set my mind to what we ought to do next.

“Make sure the rest of Zilla’s goons are comfortable down there,” I advised Dale.  “She will understand that you had to defend yourself from Noon, but there’s no call for further violence, not if we can avoid it.”

Dale just grunted, acknowledging the point without overtly addressing it.  It wasn’t like he’d have killed them, left to his own devices.  Or at least I was pretty sure he wouldn’t have.  It said something that I’d felt the need to speak on the matter at all.

“I think Jane is right,” said Preventer.  “We should go up there.”

I looked quizzically at her.

“I’ve been thinking about it while we talked,” she said, “and it makes sense.  Our mission is up there.  We are only down here because we convinced ourselves that the advance team could secure Andy.  Between the Pantheon forces advancing and whatever happened between our allies, I think it is pretty clear that the plan is ruined.”

“That’s basically what I was thinking,” I agreed.  “But also, I kind of feel like the advance team, Zilla in particular, are the only way open for us to fix whatever is going wrong between our groups.  If we can explain ourselves to her satisfaction, then Dale can bring the others up, and she will keep them in line.”

Dale just grunted, but all of a sudden I could tell that we were going up.

“Be ready for…” I said, trailing off as our cave suddenly broke out onto the surface.

My gaze went immediately to where we’d last seen the prison, and it was still there, a series of linked cubes defying all reason by remaining airborne with no visible means of support.  It wasn’t flying away, wasn’t spouting flame and plummeting downwards.  It looked like a few worst case scenarios had been avoided.

Even as I was looking up a few members of my reserve had stepped out of me, and were peering all around.  None of them saw fit to disturb me, so there wasn’t anything of any immediate concern on the ground around me.  I spent a moment squinting up at the ship.

There were some signs of trouble, now that I was taking a second look.  It was palpably listing, for one thing.  For another, the part of it that was slightly more elevated seemed to be giving off what I would normally conclude was an engine plume, but what I presently surmised was probably just evidence of Condemner, hard at work.

“Boss,” murmured Joe, and I turned to look.

In the distance, hard to make out, the skiffs were still rising from what had to be the Union Intervention Force’s campsite.  I couldn’t see too much of it, they were nearly at the horizon from our present position, but there was definitely a disturbance of some kind, definitely rectangles rising up and scooting away to the northwest.

“What now?” asked Dale.

“We just…” I trailed off.

What we needed to do was, somehow, get up there and intercept Andy.  Or chase after him if he was gone.  Or,  I guessed, find his next iteration somewhere in the entire world if Zilla or Slasher had already killed him.

“Jenny,” I said into the walkie talkie.  “Where is Andy?  Are you on their cameras?  Can you talk?”

There was a long, terrifying moment of silence.

I let myself go, just a bit.  My eyes got a bit wider, I clenched my teeth.  I let myself imagine Jenny having no idea where Andy was.  Imagined that Zilla’s loss of control meant that the healers from her army were about to be thrown into battle with the Union.  Imagined my mission failing, my reserve denied the second chance they so richly deserved.

I imagined, in that instant, Death’s words as truths.  That I’d been an agent of pointless torment all this time, dragging the unquiet dead about with my false promises, forcing them to see their descendants degraded and their world despoiled.

By the time Jenny answered I was over it.  I’d have time enough to fall apart later on.

“Andy and his guards are boarding a skiff.  Jane, there’s, Zilla and Condemner killed our own people!  Everybody was just, it was like…”

“Is Fisher alright?” I asked.

Fisher was, if I looked at the matter in a completely callous, not to say evil, way, basically a canary in the coal mine of Condemner bothering to play along with me.  If he ever killed her the deception that we were still a Fist was finished, meaning that he wouldn’t be able to trust me not to destroy him by surprise, meaning I wouldn’t be able to…etc.

“I don’t know, she…”

Jenny trailed off, I could only imagine some scrolling, or whatever the Union equivalent was.  I’d been utterly unable to fathom their interface when I had access to the embassy’s systems, apparently the main verb was ‘tilt’.  Some of my more computer literate shades assured me it was a revolution in UI design.

“Did that thing just say Andy is getting away?” asked Preventer.

She’d been standing a little close to me, close enough to overhear at least part of our conversation.

“Yes,” I said.  “We’ll have to bring down the skiff, she’ll let us know which one to target.”

“Bring down the skiff?” asked Dale, dubiously.  “I can barely see up there, and wouldn’t Andy, like,  splat?”

“No, we’ll target the, uh, extruders.” I breezed, as a shade provided the appropriate terminology.  “Don’t judge my shade’s marksmanship by the standards of this era.  They can make the shot.”

I was aware that a bit of a manic tone was entering my voice.

“Jane,” said Joe, inwardly.  “There’s armor.  The distance is too great, and there’s no reason to assume it would come down slow.”

“They are getting ready to go now, boss,” said Jenny.  “I can’t find Fisher, or her body for that matter.  I guess she’s still ok.”

“Which cube?” I asked, or demanded really.  “Get ready!”

Soldiers rushed dutifully out of my body, pointing their firearms up at a nearly vertical angle.

“Maybe I could build, like, a really tall wall,” said Dale, hands spread wide in a placating gesture.

Shit.  I knew I’d fallen far when Dale was humoring me.

I couldn’t get away with closing my eyes, but I sort of squinted, delegating visual difficulties.

I counted, not quite aloud, not quite in my mind.  Subvocalizing.

“1, 2, 3…”

Had I forgotten the lesson of the collapse?  Righteous umbrage didn’t make you stronger.  You didn’t get to win just because you deserved to, just because you tried hard.  There was no law of the universe that I had to catch Andy.

“4, 5, 6…”

Fear wouldn’t help me save my reserve.  Anger wouldn’t.  Billions had fallen, and I was no angrier, no more scared than any of them.  Only reason could deliver victory.

“7, 8, 9…”

“They are heading out.”

Rifle shots rang out, but I had little doubt the range was too great, the angle too steep, the armor too thick, come to that.

“10,11,12…”

“They are too far up for my barriers,” said Preventer.

I breathed out, heavily, and opened my eyes fully again.

“Alright, that’s that,” I said, keeping my words as calm as possible.  “Our new objective is to figure out what’s going on with Fifth Fist and Zilla. Does anyone-“

“It’s turning!” said Dale, pointing a thick finger up at the escaping skiff.

I just stared.

He wasn’t wrong.  The skiff, which had previously been taking the same high straight trajectory as all of the other evacuees, was heading straight towards us.

“Did Andy take control somehow?” I asked the walkie talkie.  “I know the scanners on those things are exceptional, maybe they saw us waiting below, maybe…”

I trailed off.  Fruitless speculation.

The skiff moved swiftly, dropping down with the trademark abruptness of the lithnetic craft, then pulling to an absolute stop a few hundred feet above and in front of us.

I waved a hand, hesitantly.

Someone on board seemed to yell something, but I couldn’t make it out.

“Remember me?” supplied the Jury.

I stopped waving, just about the same time the skiff opened fire.

Regime Quest 11

Results from Previous round votes:

One Vote

Plan Neville, on SV forum

One Vote

Plan TalonOfAntares, on SV forum

One Vote:

Plan CCC (on my blog)

Randomized to Plan Neville

*************************************************************************************

Winning Plan:

[x] Give the Bullet Blend to: (Timeslot cost: 0, AP cost 0, refunds 0 on success, auto succeed)

-[x] Glower (Grower)

 

Not sure what to do with the rest of our time. I am inclined to pursue revenge with this:

[x] Investigate attack on me (Timeslot cost: 1; AP cost 2, refunds 1 on success)

-[x] By asking Blisser

 

 [x] Relax and Recuperate

-[x]By patronizing entertainment ares (Timeslot cost: 1, AP cost 1, refunds 3 on success)

************************************************************************************

Day 7  Log:

2 AP at start of day

+1 for 6 hour sleep (3 AP)

-2 for [Morning] Investigate Attack on me, by asking Blisser (1 AP)

Investigate roll 4, Success

+1 for Success (2 AP)

-1 for Relax and Recuperate by Patronizing Entertainment areas (1 AP)

Rest roll, 1, critical Failure, relax and recuperate subtype changed to [Blisser]

+3 for Blisser Recuperation (4 AP), will continue until AP maxed out

End of day, (4 AP).

Day 8 Log:

4 AP at start of day

+0 for uneven sleep

+3 for [Morning] Blisser Recuperattion (7 AP), will continue until AP maxed out

+3 for [Afternoon] Blisser Recuperation (10 AP), recuperation complete

End of day (10 AP)

*************************************************************************************

Give Bullet Blend to Grower

“What do you get out of this?” she asked me, voice cold with suspicion.

I let the question sit for a moment, looking instead out of the irregular hole in the wall which served as a window.

“I remember this,” I told her.

Her frown told me that she was irked that I didn’t answer her question directly, but she had the self control to let me speak.

“I remember living in a place much like this, struggling in a manner very like yours, desperate to reach the interior.  It was a hard, brutal existence.”

Her face softened a little, losing some of its confrontational edge, her glower relaxing a fraction.

“It might have been the best time of my life.”

Her eyes widened involuntarily.  She’d clearly been expecting another direction for this speech to go.

“All your enemies are obvious.  Everyone around you has the same goal, aside from the people who’ve given up.  You are all rivals, all foes.  You go out there and it is all so simple.  You kick ass.  You take names.  You look at the Lair and you hope.”

She was nodding along as I spoke, now.  It hadn’t been hard to guess that she’d be the kind of person who would thrive in this situation, but it was still gratifying to see that I’d been right.

“This is the easy part, you get that?”

“Yeah,” she said.

Grower even kind of looked like me.  Skin the same shade, same basic fashion sense.  Her gear was a little more threadbare, more scavenged, but that could be readily explained by the fact that she didn’t have access to the Lair’s resources yet.  The biggest difference was that I was a few inches taller, and that she didn’t have a healing gift to get rid of the scars.

“Once you are in the Lair, the purity is going to vanish,” I told her.  “Your enemies will hide behind patrons that you can’t confront.  Your superiors will make demands of you that you will struggle to fulfill.  You will want to fight, but half the time you won’t even know who the opponent is.”

“And…?” she asked, presumably trying to push me back to her original question.

“And I can’t wait to see how you’ll do,” I said.  “I don’t know if you’ll be the kind of Ultra that I want in my Posse.  I don’t know if that’s even something that you want, but I can recognize talent when I see it, and you are too good for the Yard.  With this blend you can short circuit a few months, insure yourself against bad luck, and start playing the game for real within a week.  I’m eager to see what that looks like.”

“I guess it doesn’t make sense that you’d be trying to take me down,” she said.  “If you wanted to get that done, you could snap your fingers and set a mob on me, offer them this kind of Ultra juice, or just places in your force.”

“Sure,” I allowed.

“So I guess I believe you,” she finished.  “For whatever reason, you really do want to power me up.”

I grinned at her, relieved that she’d bought it.  No one knew about my need to give Blends away, and I’d like to keep it that way.

“Let’s do this,” she said, and held out her hand.

*************************************************************************************

Investigate attack on me (Blisser)

Blisser’s Den was just like I remembered it.

The Lair was, by and large, not a place for ruins.  The buildings around here were generally at least mostly intact, if only due to energetic repair.  There was power in those places that needed it.  It was something of an island, amid the overall squalor of the Regime.

Blisser’s Den defied this trend, remaining a sorry pile of rubble.  It had been a government building, back before the old world fell, and Blisser’s clients only real contribution to its livability had been knocking down a bunch of walls, and spreading tarps over the holes that they developed.

I stepped inside, her clientele scattering away as I entered, repelled by the bright light filtering in from where I’d pushed the blanket aside.

Blisser herself was obvious enough, laying in a heap of bodies on the other side of the area, sprawled out on a pile of mattresses.

I spent a moment looking at her, carefully noting her posture and attitude.

Blisser’s gift manifested itself in a ‘wake’ of oily smoke that followed along behind her, filling the volume that she passed through.  The darkness of the Den made it hard to tell exactly where it was, but it looked safe enough.  Some woman was draped across her lower legs, which made me think that she hadn’t moved in a few hours.  I shouldn’t need to worry about accidentally touching any of her gift.

I made my way across the room, heading for the humans who managed her business dealings.

One of them met me halfway across he floor, Marcy, the same woman I’d dealt with the last times I’d come here.

She opened her mouth to say something, but I put a finger over it, took ahold of her and walked her along.

She didn’t protest, let me hustle her out of a door and into a ruined hallway, where the sound of our words wouldn’t carry.

“Mia,” she said.

“Blender,” I corrected her.  “Blisser gets away with that crap because her gift messes up her mind when she shares it with people.  Daggers like you don’t get extended the same courtesy.”

I couldn’t see too well in the dim hallway, but I thought I saw the fear on her face.

“I’m sorry,” she said.  “She doesn’t, you know what she’s like.  It’s easy to forget, I, we, there’s so much to-“

I cut her off.

“SO much to forget, eh?  I hope not.  Because I’m looking for some information about the past.  If you ‘forgot’ it, I might need to ‘remind’ you, yeah?  You could see how I got my name.”

“I’m sure I’ll remember it,” she gushed.  “Absolutely.  What do you want to know?”

Ordinarily I wouldn’t have come on so heavy, but I was always conscious of Snitcher.  I didn’t think he’d be watching me, but I couldn’t take the chance.  Being anything but commanding was dangerous for me now.

“A pair of Knights came here,” I said.  “Their scythes were lifted by two others.  I’m very curious about those others.  Do you remember anything about them?”

She paused for a long moment, long enough that I decided to speak again.

“In case you are curious,” I told her.  “The answer had better be ‘yes’.  Those two were traitors to the Regime.  One reason that you might not have tracked their movements would have been if you, yourself, shared their rebel sympathies.”

She shook her head, furiously.

“They, of course I know,” she said, speaking quickly, with short, staccato bursts.  “The ones who took their brother’s scythes?  They said that they were other Knights, just here to make sure that everything was fine.”

“Do people normally do that?” I asked her, a mocking note entering my voice, “Do people come in here and take other people’s stuff, ‘just to make sure everything was fine’?”

She shook her head, mutely.

“So you knew this was a robbery, yeah?” I asked.

Almost against her own will, it seemed, her head nodded, feebly.

“You just didn’t know that they were going to do anything bad with them, right?”

She grabbed for this feeble lifeline.

“Yes, of course, yes Blender!  That’s it.  I, they, we knew they were robbing the Knights, but we had no idea that they might be after someone as important as you!  You’ve got to believe me!”

“No I don’t,” I told her.  “But I don’t disbelieve you, either.  I nothing you.  You aren’t important enough to have feelings about.  I am focused on the two men who attacked me, the men I slaughtered.”

I emphasized the word ‘slaughtered’, watched her shudder.

“Had you ever seen them before?  I know you and your sisters run Blisser’s arrangements.  I know you don’t let humans in here without compensation.  The Knights, sure, they’d be on Second Fist’s dime, but why did these other two get in?”

If she was shaking before, then she was positively trembling now.

She shook her head, whispered something too low for me to hear.

“Marcy,” I told her, taking careful hold of her upper arm.

She flinched away from my touch, looking down at her feet and gritting her teeth.

“…cker,” she said.

“Louder,” I commanded her.

“Picker!” she said.

I let go, startled momentarily out of my role.  Picker?  The airhead, the child?  She’d been perhaps my least dangerous rival.”

Marcy sobbed, covering her mouth with a hand.

“They were with her,” she coughed out, in between jags of crying.  “We let them in because we’d seen them before, back when Picker helped Blisser out, back when…”

She collapsed down onto her knees, her weeping uncontrollable now.

I took a step back, never looking away, mind awhirl with this development.

Picker was a kid, a baby.  It was impossible to square this with my image of her, impossible to picture the girl who’d begged Subtracter on her knees not to make her show her gift with scythes flashing in broad daylight in the streets of the Lair.

I turned back, stepped through the door into the main room.

Behind Picker though, there might be, I needed to-

Arms and feet wrapped around me and a weight careened into me from the side.

I reacted instinctively, shifting my balance and dropping my center of gravity, trying to shift my assailant into a fireman’s carry, in preparation for a slam, reaching to my blends in case I needed to-

A tickling sensation at my neck stopped me for a beat, were they…nuzzling?

I lowered Blisser to the ground, tried to step away, even as she clung like a limpet, giggling loudly.

“Mee-ya!” she stage whispered.  “I’ve been so loooone-ley!’

A stupid grin forced its way onto my face.

“Blissy,” I said, “I-“

A part of my mind screamed at the rest of me.  I was touching her, had just taken a full wake of her gift.  I had to get back, had to take my agency back from-

The rest of my mind shut the spoilsport part up.

“-I missed you,” I finished.

And it was true, on some level.  I don’t think anyone who has spent time with Blisser is ever wholly the same again. 

I had spent one day here, back when I’d first earned entry to the Lair.  I’d pushed her memory aside, trampled it down beneath ambition and cold rage, but it had never really gone away.

“Of course you did!” she giggled, putting her hands up on my face, kneading at my temples.  “I missed you too!  I love you!”

I found myself reaching out, taking ahold of her arms and pushing her towards me, stopping her short so that the wake crashed over me.

“You love everyone,” I murmured, play pushing her back.

She just smiled, teeth white in the dimness and the smoke.

*************************************************************************************

Day 9:

Days remaining: 22

AP available: (10 end of last day + 0 for half night’s sleep (already max) = 10/10

Prestige: 3 (word of attack may reduce this if I don’t take public vengeance soon)

Timeslots available: 2 (morning, afternoon)

Posse: 0 out of 3 slots filled

Force size: 0

Condition: Healthy

 

(Ultra format: Role, Ultra Strength/Speed/Toughness, other gift description)

Ultra Allies:

Maker- Friend, and protégé of Snitcher, 0/0/1, can summon the spirit of things

Clawer – Ultra fighter 2/0/1, melee combatant, deadly hooks for hands

Stopper – partner of Clawer, 0/0/0, steals form’s velocity by looking at them

Sticker – Did dentistry for her brother, 0/0/2, Creates slime, can choose its stickiness

Ultra Enemies:

Masher- Enemy, and fellow protégé of Subtracter, 3*/0/3*, trades off strength and durability as she moves or stays still

Ultra Acquaintances:

Owner – housemate, 0/0/1 operates an imaginary firm, with real effects on the world,

Picker – First Fist protégé, 0/1/0, ‘selects the outcome of things’

Tracker – Running buddy, 1/0/1, Creates tracks, and can move things on them

Shower – Adder’s protégé, 1*/0/1*, gains strength and durability from witnesses

Echoer – Singer I am a fan of, 1/1/1, can duplicate any action that she sees

Bubbler – Operates Ultra clinic 0/0/?, traps things in bubbles that heal and move them

Sucker — Ultra entertainer, ?/?/?, pulls objects/people towards her at incredible rate

 Gunner — 0/0/1, she shoots tracking Ultra Blasts at roughly Ultra Strength One

Chiller —  1/0/1, can freeze any object she touches, leaving them brittle and easily broken

 Cutter —  1/1/1, she is a brutal front line combatant

Joker —  0/2/0, a woman who can change what other people/herself look like

Smasher —  3/0/1, a woman who is billed as the strongest Ultra fighter of all time

Swimmer —  1/0/1, she can ‘swim’ through solid surfaces

Burner —  0/0/1, she can summon Ultra fire from anywhere that she can see

Maxxer —  0/0/0, she can augment the gifts of other Ultras, pushing their gifts

Puncher —  1/0/1, her strength and speed both go up when she repeats her movements

Replayer —  1/2/0, she can ‘step back in time’ to undo damage that she takes

Builder —  0/0/0, a woman who can alter objects for miles around into other things

 

Faction Rankings:

Regime 7

KEM 8

Pantheon 2

Union 4

Resistance 9

Prevailer 3

Knights 3

 

Actions:  

 [ ] Confront Picker (Timeslot cost: 1; AP cost 2, returns variable on result)

-[ ] Write in (Should I ambush her, accuse her publicly, reach out privately? This is a complicated situation, so if you have any questions about what is appropriate, what Mia would expect to follow from a given course of action feel free to ask)

 

 

 [ ] Investigate attack on me (Timeslot cost: 1; AP cost 2, refunds 1 on success)

-[ ] By asking bystanders

Motives: The fake Knights came from somewhere, perhaps I can find someone who saw them don their disguises

Concerns: None

 

[ ] Contact Knights (Timeslot cost: 1, AP cost 2, returns 1 on success)

Motive: My recent actions have opened up the possibility of collaboration with the Knights of Purity.  Their assistance could be valuable, insofar as they don’t count towards the Regime’s ridiculous rule against outnumbering our enemies, and I might be able to acquire some of their blessed equipment if I play my cards right.

Concerns: I don’t know if I really want to be associating with such a group.  KEM wouldn’t mind, but the Resistance would pull away from me, and I might end up coming into contact with Second Fist or their sponsored Ultras.  It is likely that anything they might want from me would be rather evil.

 

[ ] Seek Transportation

-[ ] Scavenge (Timeslot cost: 2; AP cost 4, refunds 3 on success)

Motive: My current transportation sufficed for me in my troubleshooter role, but I will likely require a larger vehicle, or several vehicles, in order to bring everyone to Ar Harbor. I can seek to find something in the suburbs and surrounding towns.

Concerns: Leaving Shington could be dangerous, and I am far from guaranteed to find a bus or truck suitable to my needs, as the area has already been heavily scavenged.

-[ ] Trade with existing owners (Timeslot cost: 1; AP cost 2, refunds 1 on success)

Motive: As above, but instead of fixing up ruined vehicles I’ll negotiate to get them from their current owners.

Concerns: Snitcher may disapprove of a warlord being civil

-[ ] Seize by force (Timeslot cost: 2; AP cost 4, refunds 3 on success)

Motive: As above, but instead of asking my contacts for vehicles I’ll just take what I want. My role as warlord and my Tally should minimize resistance

Concerns: People like their vehicles, and won’t like the one who takes them. I will make enemies.

-[ ] Seek Transportation [Adder + Company] (Timeslot cost: 1; AP cost 2, refunds 1 on success)

Motive: As above, but Adder can use his gift to make something for my purposes, and the Company can duplicate it and make it permanent.

Concerns: Adder and I are not close, he may decline to aid me, owing to his rivalry with my sponsor, Subtracter.

 

[ ] Seek Target Information

-[ ] Company (Timeslot cost: 1; AP cost 2, refunds 1 on success)

Motive: The Company logs every Ultra they create. Their Ar Harbor records would be useful information

Concerns: Ultras migrate and conceal their gifts, this information would be incomplete

-[ ] Subtracter (Timeslot cost: 1; AP cost 3, refunds 1 on success)

Motive: Subtracter is the military leader of the Regime, she will have information on this target

Concerns: Subtracter is stupid and violent, I don’t like to be around her

-[ ] Survivors (Timeslot cost:1; AP cost 2, refunds 1 on success)

Motive: There have been 2 other attempts at Ar Harbor. I can seek out and question survivors in the outer city.

Concerns: I may be unable to find any survivors, and I may be misled by liars.

 

[ ] Seek Posse Members

-[ ] wander & gossip, (Timeslot cost: 1; AP cost 1, refunds 1 on success)

Motive: There are dozens of powerful Ultras in the Lair. I know only the barest fraction of them. I can learn the basics on 1-6 of them in a few hours of socializing and gossiping, opening up in depth investigation options on them and adding them to my list of acquaintances.

Concerns: None

-[ ] At Ultra Fights, (Timeslot cost: 1; AP cost 1, refunds 1 on success)

Constraint: Only available in the afternoon or night on days divisible by 4 (day 4, 8, etc)

Motive: There are dozens of powerful Ultras in the Lair. I know only the barest fraction of them. I can learn the basics on 3-12 of them in a few hours of socializing and gossiping at this kind of event.

Concerns: Ultras associated with the Fights are more likely than most to be melee combatants.

 

[ ] Seek Warband Members

-[ ] At the Yard, (Timeslot cost: 1; AP cost 2, refunds 1 on success)

Motive: The Lair is surrounded by hundreds of Regime Ultras.  The strongest come to the Yard to show their power and appeal to those like me, who would give them purpose.  I should be able to gather between 5 and 20 Ultras of such caliber.

Concerns: I will need to provide housing and direction to these Ultras, or risk them wandering off.  I can expect to spend at least an action a day on them, and training them might well eat up more.  Ideally a Posse member will be tasked with this.

-[ ] [Gang name] From a Gang, (Timeslot cost: 2; AP cost 5, refunds 3 on success)

Motive: The Ultras that surround Shington are organized into Gangs dozens strong.  If I can recruit such a force I might have my whole Warband right there.

Concerns: These Ultras likely already have patrons in the Lair, who I would need to negotiate with.  Their leader would also likely want a place in my Posse, and she would be the primary locus of their loyalty until I’d had time to win them over.

 

 

[ ] Investigate Acquaintance:

-[ ] [Name], (Timeslot cost: 1; AP cost 2, refunds 1 on success, 2 if we become allies)

Motive: I can spend some serious one on one time with an Ultra I’ve chosen, evaluating the capability of their gift, the alignment of their values with mine, and their basic ccompetence. If all checks out, I might move them into my Ultra Allies column.

Concerns: None

 

[ ] Invite Ally into Posse:

-[ ] [Name], (Timeslot cost: 1; AP cost 3, refunds 3 on success)

Motive: If I want to bring an ally into my posse, get them to take actions on my behalf and rise or fall with me, this is the way to do it. I will only take this action on those I’ve already made allies, and once this has been taken it is difficult to undo.

Concerns: Posse members are most of the way into my circle of trust, and will operate on my behalf, representing me to stranger. A mistake here would be dangerous and damaging. I should be careful before taking this step, potentially investigating a prospect several times.

 

[ ] Seek Information on Snitcher’s patterns

-[ ] Passive listening (Timeslot cost: 1; AP cost 1, refunds 1 on success)

Motive: Snitcher can ride my senses at any moment, and bring Her along. If I am ever to contact my KEM allies, my resistance allies, or show any kindness or weakness whatsoever, I need to understand when this is likely to take place. Gossip can hint at this, particularly if I carefully steer conversations. This action would be mostly undetectable, even if he was riding me when I took it.

Concerns: None

-[ ] Active interrogation of Snitches (Timeslot cost: 1; AP cost 3, refunds 2 on success)

Motive: As above, but rather than listen for random gossip I will seek out other linked individuals and directly ask them how often he rides their senses, and what actions he has reacted to in the past.

Concerns: More likely Snitcher notices this, unknown consequences of that.

-[ ] Confront Snitcher Directly (Timeslot cost:1; AP cost 4, refunds 3 on success)

Motive: As above, but take the simplest possible route. Go to Snitcher and ask him for the deal.

Concerns: I am sponsored by Subtracter, not Snitcher, he may not wish to aid me. He may demand favors or other services in exchange for the information.

 

[ ] Seek Information on Regime military operations

-[ ] Ask Subtracter (Timeslot cost: 1; AP cost 3, refunds 1 on success)

Motive: My life depends on doing this right. I need to get a basic understanding of what She is expecting from my attack on Ar Harbor. Do I need to seize the Company Facility? Kill all the enemies? Are there any constraints on how I go about it? Subtracter is the leader of the Regime’s military, and my sponsor, she will know these answers.

Concerns: Subtracter is stupid and brutal, and she killed my neighbors, I hate spending time with her.

-[ ] Ask Around (Timeslot cost: 1; AP cost 2, refunds 1 on success)

Motive: As above, but ask survivors of previous missions instead of my evil boss.

Concerns: My predecessors may not have told them everything, their views of their missions may omit certain command level details that I need to worry about.

 

[ ] Relax and Recuperate

-[ ] By visiting Blisser (Timeslot cost: X (slots spent until AP reaches max), AP cost 0, returns 3 per time period.  DANGER, this action may cause addiction)

-[ ]By lounging around, (Timeslot cost: 1, AP cost 0, refunds 1 on success)

Motive: I could do with some rest.

Concerns: None

-[ ]By patronizing entertainment ares (Timeslot cost: 1, AP cost 1, refunds 3 on success)

Motive: I could do with some rest, and I might learn some things by socializing

Concerns: None

-[ ]By using my gift to repair the city (Timeslot cost: 1, AP cost 2, refunds 5 on success)

Motive: It needs to be done.

Concerns: This is not becoming behavior of a warlord, Snitcher may take notice, and people may talk

-[ ]By using my gift to heal people (Timeslot cost: 1, AP cost 1, refunds 5 on success)

Motive: This is why I have my gift.

Concerns: This is not becoming behavior of a warlord, Snitcher may take notice, and people may talk

 

[ ] Organize Armory [Timeslot cost: 1, AP cost 2, returns 2 on success)

Motive: I carry, in my backpack and on my person, various items to blend with if the need arises. I am overdue to look through my setup and take an inventory, once that is done I could seek out new objects if I am missing anything useful.

Concerns: None

 

[ ] Seek new residence [ Timeslot cost: 3, returns 1 if successful ]

Motive: I could get a lot more done if I got a full night’s sleep

Concerns: Owner and I have guarded one another’s rest for a long time. I wouldn’t necessarily be able to trust a new person to the same extent.

 

KEM Actions: (Sealed until I figure out how to deal with Snitcher’s surveillance, or resolve to defy him)

Resistance Actions: (Sealed until I figure out how to deal with Snitcher’s surveillance, or resolve to defy him)

 

[ ] Action: Other (Timeslot cost: x, returns x if successful)

Motive [Write in]

Concerns: [Write in]

 

Regime Quest 10

Results from Previous round votes:

Two Votes:

Plan Neville, on SV forum

One Vote:

Plan CCC (on my blog)

*************************************************************************************

Winning Plan:

[x] Respond to Knight Offer [0 AP, 0 time slots, gain 1 AP if I get rid of the bullet blend for Day 5 night’s sleep]

-[x] Let them live. Not punishing someone will allow me to continue investigating, and potentially find the actual responsible party. My relations with the Knights, and potentially Second Fist will also improve, and KEM will hear that I had the chance to kill people and declined it, which may keep them from getting antsy about our continuing lack of communication. On the other hand, the longer I don’t take revenge for this attack the greater the odds that I lose prestige over it, and I’ll still have to figure out a way to get rid of my bullet blend.

 

[x] Get rid of my bullet blend (Timeslot cost: varies; AP cost 0, refunds 0 on success, unavailable if I already got rid of the bullet blend as part of resolving the Knight affair above)

-[x] Give it to a weak Ultra from the outside, hopefully thereby generating a stronger Ultra who is likely to be loyal, two timeslots ************************************************************************************

Day 6 Log:

2 AP at start of day

+0 for 6 hour sleep (no benefit due to blend maintenance) (2 AP)

+0 for daylong activity, find and give Blend to Ultra recipient

Safety roll 6

Investigate roll 9

End of day, (2 AP).

*************************************************************************************

Dealing with Knights (yesterday evening):

“I will not waste my vengeance on daggers,” I told the Knight Commander.  “Nor dilute the suffering that the thieves of their scythes will experience.”

“Mercy?” she asked, faint surprise in her voice.

“Precision,” I responded, firmly.  “My attackers stole from these men.  They are their enemies.  I would be doing their work for them if I killed their victims, and I have no interest in serving those who seek me dead.”

“An admirable clarity of thought,” she answered, and I could hear the smile in her voice.  “I can see why She trusts you so.  I had worried that you might feel enmity towards our humble order, as so many who remember the old world do.  It seems my fears were misplaced.”

“Fear is never misplaced,” I told her.  “So long as it is ultimately of Her.  I am Her Warlord, the blade in Her hands.  Those who struck against your servants, who struck against me, will discover just what that means when I get my hands on them.”

“I would not envy their lot,” said the Knight Commander.  “I look forward to hearing of their fate.”

“You shouldn’t,” I tell her.

*************************************************************************************

Venture outside the city:

The Yard is a little more active than it was the last time I was here, but I still judged it safe enough to cross.

The spectators and those contesting alike fell back as I passed, whispers and murmurs passing through their number.

I broke off my stride for a moment, taking an abrupt step towards someone who sounded like she’d mentioned my recent wound.

She shrunk away from my gaze, eyes dropping towards the ground and hands raising up with palms out.  If I’d kept after her she might have dropped into the full Posture.

I resumed my path, satisfied that the fear was still there.  That woman wouldn’t easily overcome this moment.  She’d bitched out in front of everyone, it would sabotage every ounce of respect she might possibly attain.

And she’d known that would happen.  And she’d still backed down from me.  My time in the Yard had not been forgotten.

I moved on, the crowds parting and drifting back away, their gaze returning to the gates of the Lair.  No doubt some would follow me, but none dared to do so openly, and that’s all that really mattered.

Before long I was wandering the ruined byways of the halo of shantytowns which made up most of Shington.  I walked the streets that I’d terrorized months ago, marveling at what a change the simple passage of time had wrought in me.

I’d been an animal back then, desperate.  I’d known that only by gaining the center of the city could I pull this off, and I’d comported myself accordingly.  My name had rung out on the streets, as much a reference to the ancient appliance, a device which ruined solids and left them a sodden mess, as it was a simple verb.

Now I was the Warlord.  Now none but the bravest might step to me, backed as I was by the Lair’s authority, shrouded in Her shadow.  Now I could tread freely where before I had to have KEM do careful scouting.  It was a heady feeling.

It wasn’t hard to find the old rats, those contacts I’d made back when I lived here.  Not everyone in the Shington periphery had designs on the Lair.  The humans who served, the weaker Ultras who everyone knew would never be strong enough for the Lair, they had little to do but gossip.

It wasn’t hard to get their takes.  I stopped at a Company Facility, spoke to an old beggar whose migraines I’d healed back in the day.  I dropped by a dice game that I’d robbed back when I was on my way in, the stories mounted up.

By mid afternoon I was confident that I knew enough to make my choice.  There weren’t that many to whom my gift could make a real difference, and I was further restricting my interest to those with Ultra toughness, those who could survive my gift.  I narrowed the list down to 5.

*************************************************************************************

Prospects for Bullet Blend:

Grower, an independent Ultra trying to make a name for herself

Gift: She has Ultra toughness one, and she can rapidly increase the size and mass of objects

Pluses: By all accounts she is not an idiot.  She’s also been able to maintain decent relations with four of the six main gangs (The Dolls, the Tuesday Crew, Marjane and The Mob), so she’s at least somewhat of a people person.

Minuses: She sounds like the sort of person who has her own ambitions.  She might want to put conditions on signing up for my band or Posse, even after I give her the Blend.

 

Breaker, a ruffian Ultra who scraps daily in the yard

Gift: Her form is fractal, splitting easily apart into more and more versions of herself

Pluses: She is enthusiastically violent, and quite good at it.  Also she might be immortal?  I dunno if there is a limit on how many/small she can be.

Minuses: Her pluses are also minuses, and she’s also an alcoholic

 

Moaner, a leader in the Fail Snails

Gift: She is Ultra tough one, and can generate a noise speeds up friendlies and slows enemies

Pluses: The fact that she’s been able to keep a place of power in an Ultra gang rules out a lot of the more common failure modes, and obviously recruiting her would make it a lot easier to sweep the gang into my warband.

Minuses: The other gangs would likely see me as an enemy after this, and she has a rather bad reputation for mistreating humans.

 

Chomper, a brutal Ultra who preys upon her own kind, and who doesn’t seem to be trying to gain entry into the Lair.

Gift: She is Ultra strong one, Ultra tough one, and can reduce her enemies Ultra toughness

Pluses: She has a Tally that approaches mine, and seems to share my feeling that our kind need to be wiped out.

Minuses: She also kills ordinary people.  Really, she seems to pretty much kill whoever pisses her off on any given day.

 

Chaser: One of the rare Knight Ultras

Gift: She is Ultra tough one, and she can match the speed of the fastest thing in her vicinity

Pluses: She is a Knight, working with her would help build my rapport with them

Minuses: Same as the pluses

*************************************************************************************

Day 7:

Days remaining: 24

AP available: (2 end of last day + 1 for half night’s sleep) = 3/10

Prestige: 3 (word of injury may reduce this if I don’t take public vengeance soon)

Timeslots available: 2 (morning, afternoon) + special action for choosing Bullet Blend recipient

Posse: 0 out of 3 slots filled

Force size: 0

Condition: Healthy

 

(Ultra format: Role, Ultra Strength/Speed/Toughness, other gift description)

Ultra Allies:

Maker- Friend, and protégé of Snitcher, 0/0/1, can summon the spirit of things

Clawer – Ultra fighter 2/0/1, melee combatant, deadly hooks for hands

Stopper – partner of Clawer, 0/0/0, steals form’s velocity by looking at them

Sticker – Did dentistry for her brother, 0/0/2, Creates slime, can choose its stickiness

Ultra Enemies:

Masher- Enemy, and fellow protégé of Subtracter, 3*/0/3*, trades off strength and durability as she moves or stays still

Ultra Acquaintances:

Owner – housemate, 0/0/1 operates an imaginary firm, with real effects on the world,

Picker – First Fist protégé, 0/1/0, ‘selects the outcome of things’

Tracker – Running buddy, 1/0/1, Creates tracks, and can move things on them

Shower – Adder’s protégé, 1*/0/1*, gains strength and durability from witnesses

Echoer – Singer I am a fan of, 1/1/1, can duplicate any action that she sees

Bubbler – Operates Ultra clinic 0/0/?, traps things in bubbles that heal and move them

Sucker — Ultra entertainer, ?/?/?, pulls objects/people towards her at incredible rate

 Gunner — 0/0/1, she shoots tracking Ultra Blasts at roughly Ultra Strength One

Chiller —  1/0/1, can freeze any object she touches, leaving them brittle and easily broken

 Cutter —  1/1/1, she is a brutal front line combatant

Joker —  0/2/0, a woman who can change what other people/herself look like

Smasher —  3/0/1, a woman who is billed as the strongest Ultra fighter of all time

Swimmer —  1/0/1, she can ‘swim’ through solid surfaces

Burner —  0/0/1, she can summon Ultra fire from anywhere that she can see

Maxxer —  0/0/0, she can augment the gifts of other Ultras, pushing their gifts

Puncher —  1/0/1, her strength and speed both go up when she repeats her movements

Replayer —  1/2/0, she can ‘step back in time’ to undo damage that she takes

Builder —  0/0/0, a woman who can alter objects for miles around into other things

 

Faction Rankings:

Regime 7

KEM 8

Pantheon 2

Union 4

Resistance 9

Prevailer 3

Knights 3

 

Actions:  

[ ] Give the Bullet Blend to: (Timeslot cost: 0, AP cost 0, refunds 0 on success, auto succeed)

-[ ] [Name, must be one of those discussed above]

 [ ] Investigate attack on me (Timeslot cost: 1; AP cost 2, refunds 1 on success)

-[ ] By asking bystanders

Motives: The fake Knights came from somewhere, perhaps I can find someone who saw them don their disguises

Concerns: None

-[ ] By asking Blisser

Motives: She might well have seen who took the Knight’s scythes

Concerns: None

-[ ] Other (indicate specifics)

 

[ ] Contact Knights (Timeslot cost: 1, AP cost 2, returns 1 on success)

Motive: My recent actions have opened up the possibility of collaboration with the Knights of Purity.  Their assistance could be valuable, insofar as they don’t count towards the Regime’s ridiculous rule against outnumbering our enemies, and I might be able to acquire some of their blessed equipment if I play my cards right.

Concerns: I don’t know if I really want to be associating with such a group.  KEM wouldn’t mind, but the Resistance would pull away from me, and I might end up coming into contact with Second Fist or their sponsored Ultras.  It is likely that anything they might want from me would be rather evil.

 

[ ] Seek Transportation

-[ ] Scavenge (Timeslot cost: 2; AP cost 4, refunds 3 on success)

Motive: My current transportation sufficed for me in my troubleshooter role, but I will likely require a larger vehicle, or several vehicles, in order to bring everyone to Ar Harbor. I can seek to find something in the suburbs and surrounding towns.

Concerns: Leaving Shington could be dangerous, and I am far from guaranteed to find a bus or truck suitable to my needs, as the area has already been heavily scavenged.

-[ ] Trade with existing owners (Timeslot cost: 1; AP cost 2, refunds 1 on success)

Motive: As above, but instead of fixing up ruined vehicles I’ll negotiate to get them from their current owners.

Concerns: Snitcher may disapprove of a warlord being civil

-[ ] Seize by force (Timeslot cost: 2; AP cost 4, refunds 3 on success)

Motive: As above, but instead of asking my contacts for vehicles I’ll just take what I want. My role as warlord and my Tally should minimize resistance

Concerns: People like their vehicles, and won’t like the one who takes them. I will make enemies.

-[ ] Seek Transportation [Adder + Company] (Timeslot cost: 1; AP cost 2, refunds 1 on success)

Motive: As above, but Adder can use his gift to make something for my purposes, and the Company can duplicate it and make it permanent.

Concerns: Adder and I are not close, he may decline to aid me, owing to his rivalry with my sponsor, Subtracter.

 

[ ] Seek Target Information

-[ ] Company (Timeslot cost: 1; AP cost 2, refunds 1 on success)

Motive: The Company logs every Ultra they create. Their Ar Harbor records would be useful information

Concerns: Ultras migrate and conceal their gifts, this information would be incomplete

-[ ] Subtracter (Timeslot cost: 1; AP cost 3, refunds 1 on success)

Motive: Subtracter is the military leader of the Regime, she will have information on this target

Concerns: Subtracter is stupid and violent, I don’t like to be around her

-[ ] Survivors (Timeslot cost:1; AP cost 2, refunds 1 on success)

Motive: There have been 2 other attempts at Ar Harbor. I can seek out and question survivors in the outer city.

Concerns: I may be unable to find any survivors, and I may be misled by liars.

 

[ ] Seek Posse Members

-[ ] wander & gossip, (Timeslot cost: 1; AP cost 1, refunds 1 on success)

Motive: There are dozens of powerful Ultras in the Lair. I know only the barest fraction of them. I can learn the basics on 1-6 of them in a few hours of socializing and gossiping, opening up in depth investigation options on them and adding them to my list of acquaintances.

Concerns: None

-[ ] At Ultra Fights, (Timeslot cost: 1; AP cost 1, refunds 1 on success)

Constraint: Only available in the afternoon or night on days divisible by 4 (day 4, 8, etc)

Motive: There are dozens of powerful Ultras in the Lair. I know only the barest fraction of them. I can learn the basics on 3-12 of them in a few hours of socializing and gossiping at this kind of event.

Concerns: Ultras associated with the Fights are more likely than most to be melee combatants.

 

[ ] Seek Warband Members

-[ ] At the Yard, (Timeslot cost: 1; AP cost 2, refunds 1 on success)

Motive: The Lair is surrounded by hundreds of Regime Ultras.  The strongest come to the Yard to show their power and appeal to those like me, who would give them purpose.  I should be able to gather between 5 and 20 Ultras of such caliber.

Concerns: I will need to provide housing and direction to these Ultras, or risk them wandering off.  I can expect to spend at least an action a day on them, and training them might well eat up more.  Ideally a Posse member will be tasked with this.

-[ ] [Gang name] From a Gang, (Timeslot cost: 2; AP cost 5, refunds 3 on success)

Motive: The Ultras that surround Shington are organized into Gangs dozens strong.  If I can recruit such a force I might have my whole Warband right there.

Concerns: These Ultras likely already have patrons in the Lair, who I would need to negotiate with.  Their leader would also likely want a place in my Posse, and she would be the primary locus of their loyalty until I’d had time to win them over.

 

 

[ ] Investigate Acquaintance:

-[ ] [Name], (Timeslot cost: 1; AP cost 2, refunds 1 on success, 2 if we become allies)

Motive: I can spend some serious one on one time with an Ultra I’ve chosen, evaluating the capability of their gift, the alignment of their values with mine, and their basic ccompetence. If all checks out, I might move them into my Ultra Allies column.

Concerns: None

 

[ ] Invite Ally into Posse:

-[ ] [Name], (Timeslot cost: 1; AP cost 3, refunds 3 on success)

Motive: If I want to bring an ally into my posse, get them to take actions on my behalf and rise or fall with me, this is the way to do it. I will only take this action on those I’ve already made allies, and once this has been taken it is difficult to undo.

Concerns: Posse members are most of the way into my circle of trust, and will operate on my behalf, representing me to stranger. A mistake here would be dangerous and damaging. I should be careful before taking this step, potentially investigating a prospect several times.

 

[ ] Seek Information on Snitcher’s patterns

-[ ] Passive listening (Timeslot cost: 1; AP cost 1, refunds 1 on success)

Motive: Snitcher can ride my senses at any moment, and bring Her along. If I am ever to contact my KEM allies, my resistance allies, or show any kindness or weakness whatsoever, I need to understand when this is likely to take place. Gossip can hint at this, particularly if I carefully steer conversations. This action would be mostly undetectable, even if he was riding me when I took it.

Concerns: None

-[ ] Active interrogation of Snitches (Timeslot cost: 1; AP cost 3, refunds 2 on success)

Motive: As above, but rather than listen for random gossip I will seek out other linked individuals and directly ask them how often he rides their senses, and what actions he has reacted to in the past.

Concerns: More likely Snitcher notices this, unknown consequences of that.

-[ ] Confront Snitcher Directly (Timeslot cost:1; AP cost 4, refunds 3 on success)

Motive: As above, but take the simplest possible route. Go to Snitcher and ask him for the deal.

Concerns: I am sponsored by Subtracter, not Snitcher, he may not wish to aid me. He may demand favors or other services in exchange for the information.

 

[ ] Seek Information on Regime military operations

-[ ] Ask Subtracter (Timeslot cost: 1; AP cost 3, refunds 1 on success)

Motive: My life depends on doing this right. I need to get a basic understanding of what She is expecting from my attack on Ar Harbor. Do I need to seize the Company Facility? Kill all the enemies? Are there any constraints on how I go about it? Subtracter is the leader of the Regime’s military, and my sponsor, she will know these answers.

Concerns: Subtracter is stupid and brutal, and she killed my neighbors, I hate spending time with her.

-[ ] Ask Around (Timeslot cost: 1; AP cost 2, refunds 1 on success)

Motive: As above, but ask survivors of previous missions instead of my evil boss.

Concerns: My predecessors may not have told them everything, their views of their missions may omit certain command level details that I need to worry about.

 

[ ] Relax and Recuperate

-[ ]By lounging around, (Timeslot cost: 1, AP cost 0, refunds 1 on success)

Motive: I could do with some rest.

Concerns: None

-[ ]By patronizing entertainment ares (Timeslot cost: 1, AP cost 1, refunds 3 on success)

Motive: I could do with some rest, and I might learn some things by socializing

Concerns: None

-[ ]By using my gift to repair the city (Timeslot cost: 1, AP cost 2, refunds 5 on success)

Motive: It needs to be done.

Concerns: This is not becoming behavior of a warlord, Snitcher may take notice, and people may talk

-[ ]By using my gift to heal people (Timeslot cost: 1, AP cost 1, refunds 5 on success)

Motive: This is why I have my gift.

Concerns: This is not becoming behavior of a warlord, Snitcher may take notice, and people may talk

 

[ ] Organize Armory [Timeslot cost: 1, AP cost 2, returns 2 on success)

Motive: I carry, in my backpack and on my person, various items to blend with if the need arises. I am overdue to look through my setup and take an inventory, once that is done I could seek out new objects if I am missing anything useful.

Concerns: None

 

[ ] Seek new residence [ Timeslot cost: 3, returns 1 if successful ]

Motive: I could get a lot more done if I got a full night’s sleep

Concerns: Owner and I have guarded one another’s rest for a long time. I wouldn’t necessarily be able to trust a new person to the same extent.

 

KEM Actions: (Sealed until I figure out how to deal with Snitcher’s surveillance, or resolve to defy him)

Resistance Actions: (Sealed until I figure out how to deal with Snitcher’s surveillance, or resolve to defy him)

 

[ ] Action: Other (Timeslot cost: x, returns x if successful)

Motive [Write in]

Concerns: [Write in]

 

Haunter 8:1

“Talk to me,” I whispered into the ghostly walkie talkie.

There was a long moment of static, so I used the time to look around.

We were, as we nearly always were, in one of Dale’s caves, the light provided by thin fissures in the roof and walls.  We’d gone back down under the surface as soon as Genie had taken the attack team up to go after the ship.  No point in leaving ourselves vulnerable if we didn’t have to, and all that.

Noon and Bull were both really tense, standing stock still, looking up at the place where the hole to the surface had disappeared.  Despite the fact that Zilla had seemed to be the proximate cause of their anxiety, her departure hadn’t helped them to relax at all.  They still acted like her hand was at their throats.

The pair of Furies who were still here didn’t seem quite so nervous.  The Jury’s read on that crew had them as the sort of young people who believed themselves invincible.  They would be mostly chafing at their having been left behind.  The fact that the mission above was exceptionally hazardous wouldn’t have even registered.

Tamer, Pitcher and Gardener, by contrast, acted like they didn’t have a care in the world.  Their leaders were out and about in the face of grave peril, and the overall vibe they were giving off was ‘bored’.  I suppose the Link and Predicter’s ability to foresee the future would have sapped most of their tension away, but I was still convinced that it was mostly a front.  They were too smart not to be at least a little worried.

We were just a few miles away from an Intervention Force’s camp, after all.

Dale and Preventer, at least, were both showing their nervousness in a slightly more obvious manner.  They were having a dumb argument about whether or not Dale should go ahead and drink down Lotus’ concoction, or whether he should save it for a more pressing need.

“We’re in,” said Jenny, her voice breaking through the static.

Predicter had told us that it would be safe to use the old walkie talkies once they’d gone inside.  I wasn’t sure whether that was because he was disabling whatever scanner would be listening for it, or just that it would be too late to do anything about it, but I wasn’t about to argue.  I was betting everything on this mission, and I’d take any insight into it that I could get.

I nodded, although of course she couldn’t see that.  It was for the benefit of everyone else around, who were covertly watching me.

“Keep me informed,” I told her.

“Are they in?” asked Dale, the sarcasm bubbling just beneath the surface of his voice.

“Of course they are,” said Noon.  “Our Master cannot fail.  Zilla will work her will upon the world without fail, just as she always has!”

I nodded noncommittally.  I actually put most of my faith in Predicter.  He might be planning something shady later, but it seemed extremely unlikely he’d go to all this effort if they were just going to be cut to ribbons up there.

“Zilla says Indulger should start his attack now,” said Jenny.

I frowned.  I’d been hoping that that would fall by the wayside, but there was no help for it.

I motioned to Dale, who put his hand carefully up against the wall.

There was a slight shuddering, but no more than that.  It was terrifying to think that only a few miles away people would be screaming in fear as the very ground turned against them.

Screaming, but not dying.  I knew Dale well enough to know that everyone would be being attacked by rumbling hills of rock and sand, slow and cumbersome, rather than simply skewered or dropped into the world’s core.  Dale wouldn’t, for the most part, kill if he wasn’t in danger.

The next few minutes passed in a tense and uncomfortable quiet.  It was hard to escape the impression that we were cowering down here, trembling beneath the earth while our fate was decided by those above.

The Jury waged a debate within my mind, trying to game out what the likely outcome of Dale’s attack on the camp was, and whether that would aid or hinder the current assault that Zilla was waging upon the flying jail.  Their consensus seemed to be heading towards it being a good idea, but I felt that they were probably just trying to make me feel a bit more secure in our present circumstances.

“There’s a problem,” said Jenny, her voice once again an abrupt break in the ghostly hissing.

“Problem?” I asked.

“Holy…it is happening!” she said, her voice rising.

“Report!” I insisted.  “What’s happening?”

“Jane, there’s…the Pantheon, the Grand Push is starting, the Union is responding.  It’s all going down!’

I just stood there for a moment, mind reeling.

The Pantheon attacking?  That didn’t make a whole lot of sense.  Their leader was here, with us, currently embarked on an enemy transport.  Had Zeus finally gotten tired of waiting, or maybe Legion had launched a coup as soon as we departed?

“The Pantheon is attacking?” asked Preventer.  “Why would they do that?  Why throw away a peace that only…”

She trailed off, perhaps realizing that no one here was going to be able to give her an authoritative answer, that all we could do would be to pile our own speculations atop hers.

“That must be why the Intervention force is bailing,” said Dale.

I whipped my gaze over to him.

“They aren’t staying?”

He shook his head.

“Nope, just abandoning the camp.  If I’m reading the vibrations right they are hopping up onto flying things, and I can’t tell where they go from there.  I thought they were probably hovering a little ways above the ground, but maybe if big things are happening they are just going off to wherever that is.

I gave a solemn nod.

“If the Pantheon is actually moving out, then tomorrow morning the Union will begin operations in earnest.  They’d be deeply disinterested in skirmishing with a Regime Fist in the meantime, not with their homeland at risk.”

“How would they know you are Regime?” asked Noon.  “Perhaps they believe that the rising stones are a sign of Divine Advent, the very stones singing of the Earth’s welcome for the Cloud Gatherer.”

At least when we did the thing where we pronounced capital letters we only did the one person’s pronouns.  These poor children’s minds had been thoroughly contaminated with signifiers of arbitrary significance.

“They have files,” I explained.  “As soon as we came on the scene their scouts were gathering up information about us.  They know our gifts, and that knowledge will have been disseminated to any and all officers of above a certain level.  Combine that with our recent…”

I trailed off.  There was no reason to tell them about the embassy catastrophe.

“They have files.” I said again.

“It matters not,” said Bull.

Despite her hulking battle form her voice had remained that of a small woman.

“We are strong, and they are weak.  Zilla is unstoppable, and she has set her mind to the capture of the one called Andy.  Whatever their knowledge, it cannot change this essential truth.  The mighty take, and those who lack power complain about it.”

I rolled my eyes.

“How does that belief square with the fact that you guys lose every time you face them?” I asked.  “Do they get mighty in time to beat you, then lose their power as soon as the fight is over, so you get brave enough to try again?”

They glared at me, the Furies audibly spluttering.

I wasn’t worried.  These were minions, through and through.  They’d try and kill me if and only if their boss told them to.  Whether I antagonized them or not wouldn’t make any difference at all.

“Maybe them winning proves that they are weak, somehow,” said Pitcher.  “If they were really strong, then they could handle defeat, or something like that?”

I scowled at her.  Openly taunting the Pantheon was, if nothing else, kind of tacky.  Their beliefs might seem ridiculous to us, but they could still kill just fine.

“What does this mean for the current operation?” asked Preventer.  “Is the jail pulling out too?  Or might they evacuate it instead of reinforcing it?”

I didn’t answer her directly, instead pointing a hand at Predictor’s Fist.

“Is this what your boss was counting on?” I asked.  “He was dropping hints about Zilla not wanting to be in her camp when something happened, I take it the Pantheon’s big attack is that something?”

They looked to one another for a moment.

“Yes,” said Gardener.  “This is the reason that this mission can succeed.  The Union will be too busy to concern themselves with a jailbreak when their enemy is on the rampage.”

“Zilla is the reason that this mission will succeed,” insisted Bull.  “We are the reason.  Our Divine Purpose will not be obstructed by the heathen’s pitiful efforts.”

The Fist members stood up at that, and suddenly the tension in the room seemed menacing in a way that it hadn’t a second ago.

“Zilla is a chump,” said Pitcher.  “She dies screaming, not too long from-“

Her eyes bulged from her face, and a great gout of blood shot out of her mouth.

I dropped instantly into a defensive crouch, a pair of shades moving smoothly out of me, as Pitcher toppled.

What was…

Before I could get my bearings another body joined the pile, as Gardener slumped down atop her, his bulky form seeming to swallow up hers as they writhed on the ground.

“What is happening?” asked Tamer, eyes frantic.

I looked to Dale, but he just shook his head.  Whatever was attacking, it wasn’t anything that his gift was telling him about, which meant it wasn’t putting any pressure on the walls or the ceiling.

“Judgement is happening,” said Noon.

“Praise Zilla, and fear her Wrath!” added Bull.

“This isn’t-“ said Tamer, before she hunched over, putting a hand to her chest, eyes wide with terror.

“Tamer?” I asked.

“Not like-“ she managed, before a spray of blood emerged from her mouth.  Her eyes flared wide for a moment, and then she slumped limply to the ground.

“Who’s a chump now?” asked Noon, striding forward and giving Gardener’s limp form a kick.  “Why didn’t your leader see this coming? Eh?”

So complete was my faith in Predicter that for a moment I thought there would be a response, but the forms of his fist just kind of lay there, still and unmoving.

Bull turned to us, leaning menacingly forward, as though she was about to spring.

“And then there were three,” she said.  “Will you also prove false before her judgement?”

A long beat, as we stood, waiting to fall prey to whatever it was that Zilla was doing.

“Looks like we pass,” said Preventer.  “Not that I was worried anyway.”

“Well, you have found favor in her eyes,” said one of the Furies.  “You will endure this, your future is assured.  You will stand beside her in the Council, and so long as you abide by her admonitions she will not smite you.”

“So we are all going to be fine,” said Dale.  “Since we can’t die if Preventer doesn’t, because of the Link.”

Bull kind of leaned back, following that line of reasoning.

Noon wasn’t so easily mollified.

“I would hear you say it, heathens!” she snarled.  “Give praise to Zilla, and to the Cloud Gatherer.  Make known your allegiance, or chance her displeasure.”

Dale spoke before any of the rest of us could answer.

“Force rules the world, has ruled it, shall rule it,” he said, giving the catechism of the Regime without hitch or pause.  “Maybe nowadays that force is Zilla, and maybe it is still Her…”

Noon’s eyes widened.

“You dare…”

But even as she spoke, even as she moved a hand, perhaps to invoke her allegedly omnidestructive gift, Dale’s gift was already in motion, spears of rock shooting out of the earth beneath her.

“But it sure isn’t you,” he finished.

She was pierced through in an instant, the stone blades from below impaling her legs and torso, and another from the roof dropping down and obliterating her head.

The Jury erupted in a tumult, even as I braced for more violence.  What the hell had gotten into Dale?”

Bull didn’t waste any words, simply charging straight at him, intent on vengeance.

Bullets thudded into her, my shades spraying them in a frantic hail, but they made no impact, and we didn’t have any time to do anything more before she would strike…

Preventer, who stepped smoothly into her path.

Bull had lowered her head like the animal that was her namesake, her battle form a veritable engine of fury and destruction, entirely focused on obliterating all in her path.  Everything that her gift could give, every ounce of her battle form’s enormous frame, all concentrated and channeled into Preventer’s face.

An unholy noise rang out as nearly unstoppable force met immovable object, and Bull bounced back as though she’d run right into the end of the world.

The Furies surged around her, lifting her back to her feat, one of their number facing off with us.

“Are you crazy?” she asked.  “Zilla will punish this defiance.”

Dale didn’t give them time to say anything more.  At a gesture the cavern collapsed, stone and rock raining down from the roof in an all-obliterating cascade.

I sprang to the side as a great boulder crushed the area where I’d been standing, but there was no way to avoid every stone.  I felt a shade leave me as a sharp rock slipped through my arm.

The noise was too great, there was no way to see, I shrunk down, frantic to minimize my profile, even as the dust and rocks buried us.

What followed felt like an eternity, but couldn’t possibly have been longer than a few seconds.  I could do nothing, battered here and there by the encroaching stones as I was swiftly crushed into immobility.

A dozen, two dozen shades slipped away, treasured companions lost to this madness, I clenched my teeth, relaxed everything else, desperately trying to prolong each moment of intangibility, hoping to stem the tide of losses, give Dale time to fix this somehow.

My wish was granted a moment later, the stones slid away, another cave forming around us.

I gasped and coughed, taking my first breath in what seemed like forever.  A man’s arm, unmistakably Dale’s, lifted me to my feet.

“What,” I gasped, coughing.  “What the fuck?”

“Easy,” he said.  “Easy.”

I shook off his supporting hand.

“What the FUCK?” I asked again.  “Dale, that…”

I shook my head, utterly at a loss for how to even end that sentence.

“Yeah,” he said.  “I’m sorry, I just…”

Light fell across us, Dale’s gift opening one of his mirror fissures to the surface.  I could finally see again.

Dale’s eyes were wide, his hands were trembling.

He dropped to his knees as I watched.

“Dale…” I said.

“I…I can’t…” he stammered.  “Without…”

And he looked at me, my mind finishing the sentence.

The Link.  If Noon had called upon her gift in here Dale would have perished.  If Zilla continued to kill from afar he would perish.  There would be no return for him.

But even still, that didn’t explain…

“I can’t,” he said again.  “I can’t put another above Her.  Not really.  Not in any big way.  She made sure of that, back when we were in Shington.”

Torturer’s work?  Or a symptom of Lotus’ gift that hadn’t been obvious before?  Or perhaps just the trauma of our insane life, catching up to him all at once?

“I understand,” I said.  “I get it.  You don’t have to say anymore.”

He breathed heavily, even as his gift extracted Preventer from one of the walls.

“What the FUCK was that about?” she asked, and then proceeded to have substantially the same conversation with Dale that I just had.

I left them to it, grateful for a moment to process the situation.  Fifth Fist’s reserves were dead.  Zilla’s reserves were dead. Dale was unreliable.  We might be struck down at any moment.  The Union was pulling out.

“Andy,” I said.

I had to focus on what mattered.

They both looked to me.

“We have to get up there.  Whatever Preventer’s plan was, it is all messed up now.  We can’t rely on them to get Andy for us.  We are going to have to do it ourselves.”