Regime Quest 33

I shook my head, doubts and idle thoughts banished.

Guinevere.  She was what was keeping their bargain Ultras and enhanced mortals fighting with my killers, keeping them in this fight at all.  She was what was prolonging this madness.  Even if King Arthur managed to make another wave, without her gift they’d be lambs to the slaughter.  My Posse could fend for itself, or die if it came to that.  My focus had to be on Guinevere.

I suited action to words, storming back into the melee, shoving aside a few of my own troops to get at the enemy.

The first thing to do was get rid of ‘living’.  The enhanced senses were nice, but I needed my death touch back.  Guin had Ultra Tough 2, which meant the only thing I had that might touch her was my blending.  I needed to get my hands on her, take something from her that she could not live without.

I had my chance immediately, as an enormous brute with pushed his way through a pair of combatants and smashed his fists down at me.

I took a step back in spite of myself, nearly tripping for the dozenth time today as his punch shot past.  There was no reason, in an Ultra fight, to assume that a big guy’s punch was any stronger than the smallest waif’s, and in fact it was often best to assume the opposite, but I’d dodged anyway.

I powered forward to compensate, stepping into his reach and launching an open handed slap.  If people were too stupid to cover their faces in an Ultra fight then I wouldn’t turn down the opportunity to use my touch based gift.

He turned his head to take the blow, raising a shoulder slightly, but I still made contact, and I let ‘living’ go the instant I could.

He staggered back, eyes wide and staring.  He didn’t collapse or anything, but he was plainly not in a good way.  I darted past him before he could get used to the doubled senses, hoping one of my followers would take him down.

Immediately behind him, naturally, were more of the Ar Harbour assholes, a trio of whom decided to tackle me all at once.  I couldn’t get my legs down in time to jump aside, and they caught me good, knocking me into the back of the big guy and sending us all down to the ground in a squirming heap.

I was extraordinarily sensitive to the peril I was in.  Close quarters with three foes, no idea about their gifts.  I didn’t have Ultra Strength, couldn’t just rise up and toss them off.

Instead I squirmed and writhed, hands reaching frantically about, searching for exposed skin.  I caught an ungloved hand, stole ‘moves’ from a form that suddenly stiffened, and used my suddenly greater celerity to contort that hand onto an unguarded face.

It was my foe’s turn to go into a frenzy then, as the new ‘moves’ clashed with whatever they’d previously had, it disrupted things enough that I could heave myself to my knees, then up to my feet, only an arm hooked around my knee impeding me.

My survival was most likely due to the nature of my enemy.  These weren’t Ultras, not really, just vessels for King Arthur’s gift.  They had a little strength, but not enough to hurt me.  They had no touch based gifts.  I hadn’t been in quite as much danger as I’d thought.

Wasting time with that thought earned me another trip to Ground City, as the arm around my knee wrapped my other and turned my attempt to leave the tangle into a headlong tumble.

I curled my stomach, bringing my arms back to wrestle with the person who’d grabbed onto me, when my head was rocked to the side by a thunderous kick from someone standing above us.  My ears rang and my vision flashed white for a second as I shot through the air, torn free of the hands that gripped me by the enormous impact.

My flight was interrupted by at least one other person, and I tumbled down once again to the ground atop them, then immediately caught fire.

Guin could see me again, which meant that I should be able to see her, which I could try to do as soon as I was not on fire.  I groped around, dragging the person I’d slammed into atop me, trying to use her to block my enemy’s line of sight.

That didn’t seem to help at all, as I found us both lifted into the air, her screams and thrashing a jarring, distracting cherry on top of the world of pain that was being burned.

I tried to use my gift on the fire itself, got nowhere, it didn’t give me any meta tags that I could distinguish, or maybe I was in too much pain to notice.  I writhed about, got a hand onto the side where the grip seemed slightly less strong, touched my hand to the bit of asbestos I’d tucked away for such opportunities.

I took ‘fireproof’ instantly, and could see for the first time in at least ten seconds as the halo of flames around me fell away.  By sheerest coincidence I was facing in the direction of Guinevere, and I marked her location among the throng even as I started falling.

She’d lifted me about ten feet up, and only my sudden drop saved me from an incoming Ultra gift of some kind, blue energy that shot by overhead with a crackling power that made me very grateful it hadn’t hit me.

I landed on my feet this time, finally, and immediately headed towards Guinevere, who had only seemed to be about twenty feet off.  I had pushed through a pair of my allies, and wonder of wonders they didn’t attack me.

I caught sight of her up ahead, she’d been tripped up by a brawl between one of theirs and one of mine, and she was using her flames to sort things out.  It had slowed her for a moment, and I got to within a few steps of her before being balked once again.

Flames surged around me, despite my gift’s defenses.  They did not burn, but jerked me back, shoving me away from Guinevere just when my hand was about to fall upon her.

It took me a second, and a strange difference in the way that I was being tugged, to realize what she was doing.  She’d set afire my clothing, rather than my unburnable flesh, and she was using it as handles on me, hauling me back by my pants and shirt. The bitch!

My first, immediate instinct was to strip down, but I’d be utterly vulnerable as I tried it, and I had no particular reason to believe that my strength was greater than her gift’s anyway, she might well be able to hold things on me until they were completely consumed.  Instead, I lashed out with a gift that I’d hitherto disregarded.

“Kill her!” I shrieked, pointing as well as I could with a hand blessedly flee of any confining clothing.  “NOW!”

There was a lot of shouting going on, enough that I’d given up on doing squad level stuff, but I’d put a lot of time into basic obedience drills, and those few who were close enough to hear my voice and recognize it obeyed instantly.  Blessedly, one of them had a blasting gift.

Guinevere stopped hauling on me for a moment as the beam closed in, setting herself afire instead, presumably trying to drag herself out of the way, but the timing didn’t work out.  It took her in the upper chest, spent her sprawling down into the ranks of her allies.

I shot towards the spot where she’d fallen, weaving around a furious enemy with a chainsaw, of all things.  If I could get her before she…

She was ash and char from the waste to shoulder, eyes wide and staring.  The flames which consumed her now were entirely natural.

I made a note to look back over our ranks, see who the fuck we had who could take out someone that Ultra Tough in one shot and make sure never to turn my back on them again.

Naturally, the instant I made this resolution I got shot in the back, but good.  A silver-red line ran through me and through the next girl ahead of me, coated instantly in a gusher of blood.

I tried to fall and twist away, but the line clung, searing and penetrating.  Only a desperate kick and thrash combination broke the line of effect, letting me away into a frantic roll.

I came to my feet with a shudder and a howl of pain, eyes already tracking my assailant.

It wasn’t hard to find her.  The overall scrum was ending, in my favor, but there was a knot of enemies still fighting hard, back around where Builder and Owner were supposed to have been.  Ar Harbour’s actual Ultras and some Union assholes were at the heart of it.  It was one of them who had tagged me, judging by the silver wires lashing out from her outstretched hand into the Ultras pressing in on her little group.

I took a step towards her, stopped as a shudder of agony ran up my side.  This was not a light or incidental wound.  I needed to take stock a second, figure out my next move.


Actions, choose one or write in.

  1. Go after the Union Leader who just impaled me. Will probably be one on one,  I’m confident I can take her despite my injury, I am VERY good at murder.
  2. Go intervene in the Lancelot/Smasher fight, if that’s still raging (HOW is that still raging??). Will probably result in a 2 on 2 as the Union leader follows.
  3. Go after King Arthur, leaving Smasher to fight 1 v 2 if the Union Leader doesn’t pursue me. May be in time to stop whatever she is up to, likely the creation of another fucking army.

Interlude, Battle of Istanbul:1

The differences between Pantheon and Union forces, coincidentally enough, were echoed by their commanders.

Vampire was in command of the Great Host for one reason, and one reason alone.  Her gift was the mightiest among their number.  Yes, Zeus had placed her in command, and yes, she had a certain bestial cunning that a number of the child soldiers who made up the Brides lacked, but ultimately neither of those would have sufficed to keep her in power if she hadn’t been able to back them up.

Her life up to this point had been a wrenching one.  She was born in Death’s camps, took the Process on schedule and been selected immediately as one bound for Olympus.  She’d been warped to the capital and placed among the Brides, and distinguished herself even among this elite by utter savagery and immense power.

Her plans were basically informed by her past.  The Host had moved steadily and without deviation for this point, and had met nothing but victory.  It would have defied reason for her to balk now, and she had no intent to.

The information that she had at hand was minimal.  Haunter had bent her ear, back when Fourth Fist had joined the Host, about the Union’s unlikeliness to defend the city.  Preventer, just last night, had griped about more of the same, presenting her with an alternate remedy in the case of an opponent who didn’t show.

She’d listened to them, but hadn’t been convinced.  Her life had been lived in preparation for this moment, for the conquest of the Union.  She felt in her bones that they would fight for their city, and she looked forward to meeting their feeble efforts in battle and breaking them.

The Union’s force, by contrast, was led by Marshal Hen.

For the usual Obscurocracy reasons it was impossible to say with any certainty who the greatest military leader in the Union was.  Such a person would have immediately become a target for their assassination happy enemies, and so the upper echelon of the Union’s leadership was a shifting fog of committees and sponsorships, with responsibilities overlapping and changing according to a bizarre and deliberately complicated schedule.

But this was a crisis, and the Union had built into its structure a simple way to respond to such things.  All possible candidates, all the ones among whom responsibility might devolve, were polled, and their accumulated wisdom was used to select the one who should lead the nation’s military in its last extremity.

Hen hadn’t merely won the election, votes for him had exceeded those for every other candidate.

This had come as something of a surprise to him, because he regarded himself as very much “yesterday’s man”.  He was the one who had issued the battle doctrine of the Intervention Groups, of the Union’s studious non-interference in the Pantheon’s political affairs.  He’d been General Greggs’ sponsor, and was as closely affiliated as it was possible to imagine with the way that things in the Union had always been done.

He’d seen the appearance of the Brides as a stunning rebuke to his views, a fatal sign that his guidance had tipped the country he loved into the direst possible peril.  In the immediate aftermath of the ruinous first battle against the Grand Host he’d sincerely considered suicide, abstaining only out of the possibility that his services might yet be required.

The officer corps had disagreed.  They saw him not as the architect of their peril, but rather as someone who had delivered them two generations of life, despite the opposition of every other polity on the planet.  His record, in their eyes, had only the one blemish, which was nothing like enough to offset the endless victories that the Intervention Groups had delivered.  There was no other choice.

He had prepared feverishly for this day, taking utter control of the Union’s military and intelligence assets in the region, and striving feverishly in meetings and briefings around the clock to put together an operation unlike anything they’d ever done before.  The close coordination that he achieved among the Union’s assets was a performance that few could properly appreciate, but if the Union was to endure it would have such efforts to credit as much as it did any battlefield heroism.

He had the satellite’s images, when they could be wrangled away from the assholes whose special ‘SOV War Project’ had stolen so much of SPARTACUS’ time.  He had the spook’s reports, most intriguingly those purporting to emanate from a captured General Greggs, and finally he was perched atop the report and response nodes of what he believed to be the finest military that the world had ever seen.

He was an ordinary human, like his protégé, and he was hundreds of miles away from the battlefield.

The Pantheon’s forces for this battle were substantially the same as those they’d had in the last battle, minus any casualties between.  They had the women of the Grand Host, the survivors of a hundred Pilgrimages, every one a bulletproof Ultra with at least some combat experience.  There were still thousands of them left, and they made up the main body of the Pantheon’s Host.

But the elites of the invading army utterly eclipsed them.  The Brides of Zeus were still here.  They’d taken some losses in the previous battle, and a few more carefully targeted losses on the march, but dozens of the strongest Ultras in the world still formed the core of the army.  They’d broken the Intervention Group’s Ultras, veterans with unbroken records of triumphs going back decades, in a single afternoon.  The world had never seen their like.

Atop even these was Vampire, and her tame Fist.  She was of the mightiest imaginable echelon of Ultras, another Prevailer or Zeus.  She had yet to show her gift in battle, but dark muttering among the Union held that she was stronger than all of her escorts joined together.  She had strength like that which had smashed the Defiances, and no Ultra of that caliber had ever been defeated.

The defenders of Istanbul, such as they were, had no such luminaries among them.  They moved in brigades, in squads.  Their edge came from their numbers.

Marshal Hen had, at his command, all of the strength of the world’s last civilized nation, and he could have had a hundred thousand soldiers for this battle.  He could have probably called upon twice that.

He’d refrained.  He believed that once you outnumbered your foe ten to one inflating the numbers beyond that served little purpose, other than to amplify the effects of a catastrophic defeat.

His troops numbered a little over forty thousand, a number that had staggered the Union’s deployment capabilities, but which, if lost in a sudden spasm of Ultra violence, wouldn’t automatically cause the nation’s collapse.

The hardest requisition that he’d filed had been to the nation’s Ultra Corps.  He had gutted them, striving desperately to match or exceed the Grant Host’s numbers in Union Ultras.

With the nation’s peril as a wind at his back, he had succeeded.  He outnumbered the enemy in Ultras, and had enough conventional troops, drones and specialized tech to pull off any exotic tactic that he might deem necessary.

From his point of view the problem was one of quality.  The Union’s most combative and experienced Ultras had perished with the Intervention Group.  The fighters he was fielding now had little experience, and many lacked the all important first degree of Ultra Toughness.  They could never be pitted directly against the Grand Host.

For elites he had the Gauntlet, a few dozen mighty Ultras, the sort of person who on the other side might have risen as high as Overseer.  They might defeat an even number of the enemies’ rank and file, or they might not.

Every imaginable onlooker would have agreed that the upcoming battle was a walkover, but there would have been a sharp disagreement over who would be doing the walking.

Istanbul itself bore little resemblance to the shattered ruins of the Regime, or the occasional town that the Grand Host had torn through on its way there.  This was a thriving Union city, a great megaplex of steel and glass.

The Grand Host gaped, their minds reeling, as the city rose before them in all of its undamaged splendor.  It seemed a vision, a mirage, that the dusty plains and monotonous farmland could give way to suddenly to this impossibility.

They marched into it in stubborn defiance, refusing to be daunted by these impossible edifices.

Olympus seemed a slum besides this, a broken down hovel.  Its storied towers little more than service buildings when weighed against these impossible structures.  The Union’s monstrous constructions made the invaders feel, as never before, the vast gulf between their two civilizations.

The Pantheon being what it was, it also made them want to see what it would look like when they fell down.

No order was given to Indulger or his followers.  Once again, the armies were utter opposites.  The decision to move the Host, at speed, directly among the great spires of the downtown wasn’t one that Vampire was even consulted upon.  Dale simply acted as his instincts bid, secure in the knowledge that every one else would do likewise.

The Union had debated the next steps endlessly, weighing the impact on enemy morale of giving battle vs. falling back, of atomics and poisons.  There had even been a faction arguing that the best thing to do was ‘cock block’ the enemy by levelling the city themselves, before they even caught sight of it.

Ultimately, however, they would defy Haunter’s expectations, convinced by the Marshal’s plan.  The spires of Istanbul were not uninhabited, and as soon as the Grand Host moved among them they gave spirited evidence of it.

In the early days of the Pantheon’s march the enemy had lurked ahead of them, permitting their shield to be carried past them and then launching surprise attacks.  Indulger’s appearance among their enemy had brought an end to that tactic, his ability to sense along the ground forcing them to switch things up.  But now, by a trick of the terrain, it was revived.

The Union launched their attack from above.

Union operatives had hidden in tall buildings, and on cloaked skiffs, and as their battle harnesses gave the ‘go’ chime they leaned over the edge and let their enemies have it, a torrent of folded space and Ultra powers suddenly unleashed from directly above.

Nor was this all that they’d brought to the table.  The Union had continued to declassify and deploy their tech after the last battle, and had convinced themselves that the dreaded nanoswarms, not seen since the Second Defiance, had been made safe for their use.

They boiled up out of empty basements and specially concealed cannisters at the same instant as the Union soldiers attacked from above, millions and millions of gnat shaped drones whisked through the air by cunning lithnetics and directed with pinpoint precision by lethal computer intelligences.

The Grand Host convulsed, Ultras desperately trying to keep their eyes and faces clear of the drones while also defending themselves against an attack from above.  It was long seconds before the merest counterattack could be mustered, seconds in which their enemy picked their marks and shot unhindered.

The author of the Pantheon’s great shield fell during this time, her elimination a priority of the enemy and her silhouette marked in red on their goggles.  Indulger toppled too, shot down the spine by a folded space weapon.  Ouroboros was also killed, her foreknowledge insufficient to keep her alive when the earth and sky moved against her.

But this was no mere Host, no clutch of limpid pilgrims.  Soon enough they began to rally, and then to strike back.

Some few had ranged gifts, and there was nothing to block their retaliation.  Others were mobile beyond reason, and they swarmed up the buildings in a frenzy, desperate to close with their ambushing foe and take out some payback upon their flesh.  But most did the obvious thing, and smashed the bases of the buildings, annihilating the supporting levels of a block or more of Union skyscrapers.

Not since the Toppling of the Old World had there been such a crash, as a half dozen corporate towers and living habs toppled artlessly across one another.  Avalanches of building material spilled sideways across the streets, support beams toppled like battering rams from heaven, as the Pantheon pulled the world down on itself.

There were comparatively few casualties on either side from this, certainly nothing like one could expect from such an earth shattering calamity.  On the Pantheon’s side this was due to simple Ultra durability.  Anyone who could fall to mere tons of earth had long since vanished from their ranks, or at least had been disintegrated when the nanobots attacked.  On the Union side the answer was mostly preparation.

The Marshal had considered mining the towers, setting off something like this.  But the analysts had been united in their assertion that the enemy would, given any provocation at all, pull them down on their own heads.  So it had been planned, and so it had proven.

Not that the Union didn’t lose people.  The sheer force, the chaotic madness of a world where the sky fell from every direction, and the still deadly blasts that the enemy through their way all took their toll.  Skiffs toppled from the sky, exploded or otherwise, and the survivors fled west towards the river.

It was long minutes before the Pantheon could pursue.  They spent the time digging themselves out, smashing the nanoswarms and generally putting themselves back in something resembling order.  Oaths were shouted, fists shaken, and a few impromptu shoving matches broke out, but ultimately Vampire’s will prevailed.

They tore after their enemy at a sprint, bashing blocks and rubble aside with brute Ultra power, and pressing heedlessly towards the river at the city’s heart without fear, despite the fact that their path took them beneath yet more of the Union’s enormous buildings.

Waiting for them at the river was the Union’s best chance to halt their invasion.

This was the coordination that was at the heart of Hen’s strategy, the ancient art of ‘let’s you and him fight’.

The Grand Host weren’t the only invaders in the country, nor were they necessarily the strongest.  The Regime, utterly unwilling to sit out the battle that might define an age, had sent an almighty force of its own.

For the last week and a half, the Union had been tracking Third Fist as they tore their way through the countryside, and now, by dint of carefully ‘leaked’ intelligence, the heroic sacrifice of a few willing ‘captives’, and a lot more luck than they would ever like to admit, their enemies drew near to one another.

The Union forces which had fled the Grand Host had been given the option to flee in other directions, but they understood the stakes.  They’d fled, one and all, directly into Third Fist, and been summarily slaughtered, their lives forfeit in order to make sure that the enemy units encountered one another.

The sacrifice was not in vain, as the Grand Host, eyes smarting from dust, blood hot from vengeance, made no distinction between its fleeing prey and an enemy that no sane person would have ever engaged.  They charged without a second thought into Third Fist.



Regime Quest 32

It was a simple plan.  It should have worked.

The failure came, like all failures, from a disconnect between my expectations and the reality which actually developed.

I was familiar, like virtually everyone else from my time, with the concept of ‘circling the wagons’.  I’d seen it in ancient movies that I’d streamed when I was small, heard references to it in other media, and generally marinated in the concept.  It was a simple one, once learned it would be hard to imagine forgetting it.

Once learned.

My followers, of course, were creatures of the new world.  They’d grown up in an entirely different context, with its own patterns and memes to get used to.  The one they were applying was something like “Obey your leader or you will be immediately murdered.”

So when I turned my truck in the beginning of a U-turn, they didn’t follow directly behind me, hen & chick style, they made the same turn that I did, blindly mimicking my movements.

When I got to the next part of my maneuver, where I was to turn back the other way and form up with them, I collided violently with the truck behind me, who was attempting to execute a ninety degree turn.

There was no time even to curse before a violent shudder signaled the truck’s collisions, and an inevitable followup shudder the rest of the ridiculous pileup.

I clenched my teeth, eyes bulging with rage for which I could find no outlet.  Should I disembark?  Get out and yell at people, get the drivers to back up and do the right thing?

Useless.  We’d be here ten minutes.

I passed a hand over the steering wheel, right where the press for the horn was.  I used my gift, diving into the metadata, questing for ‘Loud’, or something similar.  If I could just steal a communications attribute I might still salvage this idiocy.

“Big, Vehicle, Cargo” came back.  My gift was applying to the truck as a whole.

Just perfect.  I’d need to open the hood, get at the actual horn itself, tear it out in order to get my gift to scan it right.

“Boss, should we get out?” asked a warband member, nervously.

I looked back over my shoulder, pushed my features into a pleasant smile.

She blanched.

Ok, it might not have been that pleasant.

“Yes,” I said.  “Let’s all get out.”

We disembarked pretty rapidly after that, as did the rest of the squads.  The third truck had managed to jam one of its doors in the slow speed collision, but they just tore a whole in the side and stalked through.

For a moment chaos ruled, a mob of fifty Ultras milling around, squad members looking to their leaders, leaders looking around in the confusion.

“Get the fucking smoke machines on!” I roared, “And get on those lasers!  4th Squad, you need to be doing what you fucking trained for!  Other squads, get ready to fight!”

I might not have had any special blends for my voice, but I could still make myself heard when I wanted to.  They leaped to obey, swarming back onboard the mass of trucks and jumping to their positions.

“All right, now…” I yelled, then paused.

Ideally, I’d like for the enemy to come to us at this point, but they hadn’t shown any signs of that so far.  If I sent the infantry forward into the precious zone then it would get ruined, but if I didn’t do anything then She might get antsy.  I paused for a moment to consider what to do.

It was a fateful pause, as the enemy chose that moment to launch their attack.

From the ruins around us they poured out, dirty figures in rags and ill matching uniform segments, essentially identical to my own Posse members.  They surged into us from where they’d been lying in wait within the basements and crevices of the wrecked buildings.

They’d chosen the wrong crew to try this on, though.

Lesser Ultras might have been thrown into disarray or panic by a sudden onslaught, but these were the girls of the Yard.  Unpredictable Ultra fights were their bread and butter, the thread from which their lives were woven.  They fought back instantly and without hesitation or mercy.

In the first few seconds of the battles joining I saw a woman slap another one’s head off and launch it across the fight street, someone torn literally in half and another one exploded from the crotch upwards. I was pretty sure that my team had been on the good side of at least most of that.

The corpses, at least those that I thought were enemies, had weird streamers of energy coming out of them, drifting towards the intact target buildings.  Like souls leaving the body or something, visible tendrils of energy.

That was all the time I had to observe, as the fighting spread to engulf my own position.  The Ultra who’d been standing in front of me was born to the ground by a pair of foes, their desperate faces distended with bloodlust and fear, and another leaped for me.

I ducked her grabbing arms, stiff armed her across the face and called upon my gift.  I didn’t waste time reading her metadata at any great length, just stole ‘living’, and let her topple to the ground as a corpse, another trailer of weird glowy misty stuff pouring out.

I stepped smoothly aside from the falling body as stolen life poured through me, every sense alight with doubled furor.  The battle seemed to slow around me.

I took a step towards my pinned soldier, but the enemy had already rammed some kind of bladed implement through one of her eyes, so I just turned my stoop into a brutal knee across one of the killer’s faces, sending her reeling into her partner.

Someone punched me in the back, but it wasn’t hard enough to be a focused strike, probably just an ally bumping into me.  I didn’t lash out, stayed focused on the two before me, kicked again, nailing the inside of one of their thighs.

A gust of smoke washed across our crew, far stronger than the haze machines should have created, I dropped to the ground as I misplaced a foot in the sudden violence, but I turned my fall into a desperate grab at someone’s shin.

My gift beckoned, but I couldn’t take another concept so soon, and I wasn’t about to give ‘living’, to what might very well be an enemy.  I just wrenched at their knee, toppling them down upon me and the dead girl from a moment before.

She came down across me, coughing and gagging, kicking and squirming.  I recognized her as one of my own a heartbeat before I’d been about to grab her throat, so I rolled aside instead, passing from smoke into actual goddamn flame.

I screeched in animal fury as the fire engulfed me.  No wonder there had been so much goddamn smoke!  My enhanced senses relayed the searing heat from every bit of exposed skin, worst of all, for some reason, from my fuckling hands.

I rolled through onto the other side, kicking and bucking in a frenzied bid to put myself out.  It hadn’t been Ultra strong fire, or not very much so, as I was still alive, but I was blind and mewling around, and She wouldn’t tolerate that from her point of view on a battle for very long.

At that chilling thought I shot back to my feet, fire momentarily put aside, just in time for some asshole to closeline me back into the goddamn fire!  I roared in pain as the flames washed over me again, ashes filling my mouth.

But I was ‘Living’ for two right now, and Ultra tough to boot, so I shot up out of the fire again, bouncing back out like a cork from a raging sea, eyes straining to get some point of view, SOMETHING for Her to see.  My hands swiped mindlessly before me as I pushed my way free.

A scene of bedlam met my eyes, Ultras brawling and blasting all across the trucks, or at least their wreckage.  Dusty figures in tattered rags cursed punched one another amid the smoke and flame, while striving always to avoid the esoteric energies which crackled and blasted across the battlefield whenever anyone found time to focus a gift.  Toppling figures streamed those strange patterns, always heading towards the same building.

Flames and smoke rose and died without pattern or reason all across the battlefield, scorching one fighter and leaving the next intact.  It was a picture out of an ancient painting, like some bygone monk’s depiction of the deepest hell.

She’d love it.

I glared furiously around, swiping at my body to try and put the fires out, even as I sought their source.  This was more than a smoke machine, more than just the after effects of some blasting gift, this was one of my enemy’s trump cards.  It was Guinevere’s gift.

It should have been impossible to pick anyone out amid that insane battle, but I was doubly alive right now.  It let my senses do things I couldn’t reasonably explain, and I found my gaze instantly arrested by a slight figure crouched on the edge of one of the ruined buildings upper floors.  She wasn’t hurling flames or doing anything obvious, but within a few seconds I saw her head tilt, and then a flaming Ultra crash sideways into another one of my minions, which was enough for me to go on.

I shot forward like a cannonball, shoving and pushing my way through the mess, but almost instantly had to fall back as some asshole tried to take my head off with a giant sword.

My backstep bumped me into someone else, who toppled over, but I was able to jump over their body as the sword came around again, narrowly missing me.  The woman singing it was using both hands, screaming something I didn’t bother to understand.

As soon as my back foot hit the ground I reversed myself, throwing myself inside her arc before she could come around for a third strike, driving my shoulder into her neck and upper chest and sending her reeling, sword flying from her hand.  I staggered a few steps after her and someone shot me.

It was a hell of a blow, just a massive impact to the side of my head out of nowhere, probably a high caliber rifle or something similar.  It rocked me on my heels, and I slid/dove forward into a tackle on the woman that I’d just staggered, closing in to deny whoever was firing on me anymore shots.

Her arms draped pointlessly over my back, and she actually did some hammer punches onto me, as though that might do any good.  My estimation of the quality of King Arthur’s soldiers dipped even lower.

She’d needed a sword, which meant she wasn’t Ultra strong, which meant she could punch away on me all day.  She ought to be covering my face with a hand, or grabbing for a tool on her belt, or doing anything which might matter, but she squandered the last instants of her life on meaningless rage.

I pushed her a few steps, eyes wide and staring, looking for the densest clump of boots and legs, then launched her off of me and into it.

I threw myself to the ground immediately after, dropping into a sort of crawl or dive, keeping my forward momentum without rising up for any distant sharpshooters to target.

Was I being insanely overcautious?  It was hard to imagine that anyone could have picked me out of all that nonsense to shoot for my head, but the impact had been real.  Most likely it had been some gift, or a thrown stone from someone off to my side, but I couldn’t take the chance.

I pressed ahead, slipping around the tackle of someone I was like nine tenths sure worked for me, and arrived at a solid press of bodies.

These assholes were shoulder to shoulder, and the instant I got close to them a pair tackled down on me, pressing me down into the dirt.

One of them had Ultra strength, and she immediately started wrenching at my head like she was going to tear it off.  The other had hold of my arm and was doing something similar, and also seemed to be jamming a knife or something into me.

I grabbed frantically for the blade, choking from the strong one’s grip, and grabbed ‘Sharp’ away from it.  Their hands loosened instantly, blood gushing from severed fingers.

I didn’t give my blend time to stabilize, immediately forcing ‘sharp’ onto the strong one, hoping it would be an unstable result.  Taking two blends at once was horribly risky, something I’d very rarely done.

I didn’t have time to see the result in detail, but she toppled off to one side.  Hopefully it had replaced ‘breathing’ or ‘thinking’ or something similar.

I got a hand under me and tossed myself forward again, passing through the gap in the line where those two had been and into the shade of a ruin.

The smoke and dust was just about as bad here as it was out in the scrum, but at least I wasn’t on fire for the moment.  I looked furiously about and spotted a ladder leaning against a wall, its top vanishing into the room above.

I didn’t spend another second in there, racing to the ladder instead, hearing someone at my heels and trying desperately to convince myself it wasn’t another Ultra Strong foe.

Heck, maybe it was an ally, following me to glory.  It wasn’t impossible.

I shot up the ladder onto the second floor, kicking away the hands that scrabbled for my feet, then the ladder itself, and turned to face Guinevere.

She was still crouched at the edge of the window, still doing her thing, gazing out over the scrum and directing the flames.  She’d heard me come up, however, and she spun around to face me before I could reach her.

Of all the possible things she could do I never imagined she would try and talk.

But, impossibly to believe, she thought we had something to say to each other.  She opened her mouth and held out her hand, like a total fucking idiot.

I tackled her off of the edge, sent us hurtling back down into the chaos, before she could get a syllable out.

Sorry for the fucking interruption, you bitch.

I landed on top, jumped back up for what felt like the tenth time today.  The instant I was on my feet I was stomping, aiming at her face and mostly connecting, I lost myself in a transport of violence.

I snapped back to alertness a few seconds later when I lifted a boot up and saw the intact spit curl underneath.  Right.  Ultra tough, I wasn’t hurting her at all.

The realization, and the instant’s paralysis that accompanied it, cost me dearly, as she twitched a finger and covered me in flame.

Her fire didn’t seem to have any ‘force’ behind it, it didn’t damage me through my Ultra toughness, but it did let her get her telekinetic grip on me, and a second later I was hurtling sideways, slamming back through a wall into the building she’d originally been lurking in.

I forced myself back to the edge, the flames dissipating as soon as I was outside her sight.  I took a quick second to look the battle over.  My team was winning, but it was a lot closer than it ought to be.  I needed to get moving.


Actions (choose 1 or write in):

  1. Fight through the scrum in the direction the ‘streamers’ are headed. They are likely pointing to King Arthur, and if she empowers another army the size of the first it will be very bad.
  2. Fight through the scrum to get back to Guinevere, her fire is the only thing keeping their inferior troops from getting utterly owned by my Utlras.
  3. Fight through the scrum to Smasher, she looks to be losing to Lancelot, and that would be a big hit to morale.
  4. Go check on Builder/Owner. They might be in trouble, and Builder’s gift could be doing a lot more than it fucking is.