The next TFD update goes out tomorrow (Friday) night, thanks so much for all of your patience!
“So, you’re Ar-“ I began, taking a step and a half forward, reaching down to one of those kneeling in the Process.
I didn’t get any further than that because the speaker flung himself towards me, body blurring with Ultra speed. He crossed the distance between us in an eyeblink, a fist flying towards my face.
I was reaching for a person, and now I transformed that motion into a grab, spent my final free moments dragging an obstacle into his path, hoping desperately to delay the incoming strike.
It didn’t work, his feet hammered out a rapid rhythm on the ground as he orbited nimbly to my right, his first punch landed in the hollow of my armpit as I dragged the human into a direction of attack he’s already abandoned.
I reeled away from the strike, agony racing through me. Having two ‘living’ attributes meant that I was feeling everything so much more intensely, and that was a huge problem when you were being beaten to death.
I didn’t get far, a bare few inches at most, before another hook slammed into my upper side, Ultra Strength burrowing it inches into my torso. I felt bile or blood rising in my mouth, my hands clenched convulsively.
This was how Smasher had fallen. Well, not the end, obviously, but how things had gotten that bad. An opponent with superior Ultra Speed and the strength necessary to hurt you was a nightmare.
I grabbed at his hand as it withdrew from the second punch, trying desperately to get a moment of skin to skin contact, but I missed it by a foot or more, moving in slow motion next to him. He ducked around back to the other side, rammed his fist, muffled by a shirt or gloves or something, into the wound I’d taken earlier.
I collapsed entirely, knees buckling and eyes rolling in my head, the pain utterly beyond my ability to cope with it. The human I’d grabbed fell with me, two bodies sliding towards the ground, limp and unresisting.
I didn’t make it to the ground unscathed, of course, as my opponent somehow pulled off some kind of hook kick to the side of my head. But even with my doubled senses at this point it was just pain overkill, I barely registered my neck wrenching to the side, my ear slamming down into my shoulder as I hit the ground.
I’d landed on my back, so I could see his heel rising up above me, the stomp incoming, a straight shot to my forehead that would put an end to all the pain.
The Ultras were almost here, but they could never stop this. He’d already begun the descent, choosing to kill me rather than jump away from their rush. I might have done the same in his place.
The heel descended, boot filling my view. The pain numbed me, tyrannized and cored me apart, leaving me helpless to move or twitch as death approached.
It was hardly the first time, after all.
A voice from the past came back to me, hard and thuggish, Subtracter in the full confidence of her idiot youth.
“Anybody know who threw that?”
Another voice, Blisser’s this time.
“You’re so *bad*!”
And finally Hers, curiously slower than all the rest.
I regained my agency with the boot a centimeter from my face, no time to do anything physical. I called, at the last, upon my gift.
The person I’d grabbed, at the first, still hadn’t got my hand off of her face. She was ‘living’, and then she wasn’t.
The boot arrived, my skull cracked, buckled in. Tripled pain devoured the world as my head dug into the ground.
But I Did Not Die. I was living, living, living.
I’d never worn three of the same attribute before, rarely dared to pull two in to my being. Had I lost something? Was I no longer ‘mobile’, or ‘smart’? Would I know what I’d lost?
The enemy champion had jumped back after the deathblow, but the hands that were reaching for him wilted into subservience, my Ultras falling to their knees before him, taking the Posture.
Not before him, before Her.
Prevailer was here, all of a sudden, standing right behind my attacker. Her voice had been no flashback.
The enemy turned around instantly, blur quick, his side step placing him right between us and obscuring my view of Her.
Things fuzzed for me then, a spike of agony breaking past the numbness. I gasped aloud and arched my back, to the degree that I was capable of movement. My field of vision tilted as I did so, neck driving my head across the ground and leaving me staring off at the side wall while my attacker and my boss did their business.
I’d read somewhere that there were no nerves in the brain, but that turned out to be bullshit, because I was in a world of pain. Or maybe it was just all the other damage finally having its turn to be heard, the broken ribs and ruptured organs giving their threefold signals with all they were worth.
I lay there, frantically calling on my healing gift for all that I was worth, for a timeless infinity. It is a total cop out to say that something is indescribable, but that’s what I’m hiding behind. Ok, like, until you’ve been savagely beaten beyond the point where a body can sustain life, but hung onto it anyway by stealing other people’s life force through a gift, twice, you can’t know my pain.
It was bad, is what I’m getting at.
I think I got enough wind back to start screaming at some point, which would have been the end of me, except someone clamped a hand over my mouth the moment I started, leaving me making forceful and energetic vibrating/humming noises instead of the full throated screams I was trying for.
All that time ensuring my Posse and Warband were loyal was paying off in spades.
Even more helpfully than muzzling me, or, at least, equally helpfully, that same person began to pick the bone bits out of the mess of gore that was my forehead, pulling things up and out to where they ought to be, or at least a sort of simulacrum of that.
The question of who the fuck would possibly put their hands on their boss with the death touch in this state was the start of my return to being a thinking, acting creature. I wasn’t even surprised when I got my stuff working again and saw Owner, stooped above me, with a knee across my throat and her hands clamped over my mouth.
I tried to move my arm, and shockingly enough it did the thing I wanted it to, which was to thrash weakly against her leg.
She ignored it, continuing to grind my jaw closed with both hands, not even really looking down at me, her gaze locked on someone else, presumably Her.
I was about to push more forcefully, then tried something a bit more complicated, tapping my arm rapidly against her leg in the Ultra Fight ‘tap out’ gesture.
She looked down at me then, and I saw face ravaged by grief, now breaking into the smallest hint of relief. We locked eyes, and hers widened slightly.
I’d known Owner for a long time, so if anyone was going to do the ‘wordless communication’ thing, it should have been us, but actually all I got out of that was ‘my eyes are slightly wider’.
I gave a slight nod, because, you know, nonverbal communication is bullshit and I was in a lot of pain. She let up on the muzzle hold that she’d been sustaining for however long I’d been laid out, hands relaxing just the slightest bit.
I managed, through what I’d like to describe as a colossal feat of willpower, but was more likely just a general inability to do things at this time, to not scream as soon as it was possible.
I’m not saying that I was choosing to scream and it was not something I could pull off, to the extent that I was the driver of my brain ship I was all about being silent in case She was still around, but that extent wasn’t nearly as large as I would like, and the involuntary caucus was worryingly influential.
I tucked my chin, slightly, bringing my gaze back to where things had been going on last time I was able to watch. Things hadn’t got too much farther, which meant that either I hadn’t been brain locked for a terribly long time, or King Arthur was really good at verbal tap dancing, and had kept herself alive in front of Her for however long it had been. Or both.
She’d been unmasked, at least. King Arthur was a slight woman of middle years, she was currently standing in front of Prevailer, saying some stuff that I was a bit too far away to hear. Her champion was inconspicuously backing away towards one of the windows, and the other locals were down in the Posture, along with my guys.
I tried to rise to my feet, and was almost unable to recognize my situation when I actually did. Like, I was rising, my point of view was going up, how had that happened?
Owner, peerless saint that she was when she wasn’t kneeling on my goddamn neck, had recognized my straining and lent a shoulder to me, hoisting me up and supporting me. I decided to tell her not to, to let her know that She took a dim view of people aiding one another.
“Bluhhh…” I said.
Work in progress, clearly. I focused on my healing gift again, reasoning that if I wanted it to work faster it might.
Across from us, people were saying words.
“Why did you rebuild all this stuff?” asked Prevailer.
“We are bringing America back.” retorted King Arthur. “We are bringing civilization back!”
“Oh,” She said, sounding a little disappointed, “You are just dumb. I was hoping that there was a cool reason.”
“You can’t stop all of us,” said Arthur. “One day someone will put an end to your tyranny.”
She didn’t say anything to that, not directly, just kind of looking around a bit.
I flinched away from what I assumed would be some kind of extravagant vivisection, but nothing happened for a long beat.
“Look, Imbuer,” said Prevailer, after thinking a bit. “You did me a solid by fixing this place up. I’ve wanted to come here for a while, kind of regretted that Karen knocked it all down, so, like, what do you want?”
“My name is King Arthur!” snapped my adversary, who was apparently out of her fucking mind, “And I want nothing from you!”
This time I knew there wouldn’t be a beheading or whatever. She was playing with Her food now, a bully chasing the high.
“You know Arthur was a dude’s name, right?” She asked. “Well, whatever. I can tell what you want easy enough. You kept fighting after you’d already lost, tried your best to kill my Warlord over there.”
She waved a hand lazily at me, then did a double take when She actually saw me.
“Cover that shit up!” She snarled. “Gross!”
Owner, in a moment of dubious sainthood, instantly pulled my shirt up from my waist over my head, leaving my arms kind of hanging up in the air and an exceptionally irksome pressure on the still healing broken part of the skull in the front.
On the other hand, it was to prevent Her from ending me, so I couldn’t be all that mad.
“Yes,” admitted King Arthur, “I strove to destroy your fearsome champion.”
Prevailer took a long look at her ‘fearsome champion’, who was presently doing the what I’m hoping was an awesome power pose of ‘shirt over the top of my head, you don’t even know where I’m looking!’.
“It’s Your,” corrected Prevailer. “And that’s a fair trade.”
“What?” spluttered King Arthur.
Hidden behind my shirt, I winced. Here it came.
“Kill yourself,” said the ruler of the Regime, “And I’ll kill Blender.”
“You wouldn’t!” she snarled.
“Sure I will,” said Prevailer. “What do I care which one of you idiots does which job?”
Another long beat. I couldn’t exactly bring myself to feel sympathy for King Arthur, not after what she’d done to my friends, and the danger she’d placed her followers in with her conduct during this battle, but I was rooting for her right now.
“You’ll really kill her?” she asked, voice not so strident now.
Even though she was my enemy, I was hoping that she could hold onto her dignity right now. But I probably would have broken in her place. Everyone would.
“It’s ‘You’ll’“, She said.
“You will really kill her, if I kill myself?” asked Arthur, and God help me, she capitalized the pronoun.
“Sure,” She said.
“Goodbye you fucker!” snarled Arthur, and made some kind of quick motion.
With my view obstructed by the shirt I couldn’t really see well what was happening, but I heard the gunshot clearly enough, saw her vague form topple down to the ground.
Prevailer walked over.
“Get your people back to the Lair,” She said. “Subtracter will tell you the next place in a few weeks. Leave a Boss behind in this dump to take over.”
I stood helpless, head muffled in a shirt, but Owner kind of flexed me in a manner that She hopefully took as a nod.
“Oh,” She said, “Make sure you keep the people out of the fixed up buildings for a few hours. I’d like to be alone.”
I didn’t think that would be all that hard.
That completes the first arc of Regime Quest! Thank you all so much for voting and reading along. Very lucky to survive this last update, a clutch role saw you through!
Some choices for you to make in the aftermath of the battle. Keep in mind as you form a plan that Blender is essentially going to need 2 days of healing from her own gift to be back right. The first day makes her not an invalid, the second gets her back in fighting shape. She can’t do a lot during the first day, and can’t really fight until after the second, but her followers can still get up to things.
- How do you pick which of your surviving Ultras you will leave as the Boss of Ar Harbour? (Interviews, random, other? Let me know the methodology and how much time you feel like spending on it.) Do you want to leave them any of your other followers as supporters?
- How long are you going to spend in Ar Harbour before heading back? What will you/your minions do there during that time? This answer can be as ‘if/then’ as you like, I will do my best to follow the logic of particularly complicated plans.
- With the trucks wrecked and Builder dead, how are you planning on getting back? Walking will take weeks, driving the better part of a day.
- Blender’s forehead divot seems like it will be permanent. Is she going to pull her Sigil down to conceal it, or push it back up to make it very obvious?
- Who is Blender going to give her two extra ‘Living’ attributes to? Remember that while you can pull them from anything, you can only give them to people and certain animals.