Proxy Tribunal Channel Transcript

P1 joined ‘Secret Real Tribunal chat’

P1: Anyone here yet?

P1: That name is really asking for it, folks. We are agreed on the issues with the official process, but come on.

I1 joined ‘Secret Real Tribunal chat’

I1: Lol, love the name. Who’s here?

P1: Just me, have you done the reading?

I1: Doing it now, but a direct report gave me the rundown, they are just Nazis, right?

P1: It is more complicated than that, there are nuances here. Too complicated for public dissemination anyway.

P2 joined ‘Secret Real Tribunal chat’

P1: Intelligence has a rep here already.

P2: Great, everyone else should be getting on soon.

J1 joined ‘Secret Real Tribunal chat’

J1: This is a waste of time.

I1: Hello to you too.

P1: Any other Justice personnel joining us?

J1: Yes, momentarily, but we remain dubious on the overall merits of this whole subprocess.

J2, I2, M1 and M2 joined ‘Secret Real Tribunal Chat’

M1: Ha, love the name.

M2: Are we all here?

I1: Yes, this should be a quorum.

P1: Intelligence, would you give us all the elevator version?

I2: I can do so, if my superior assents.

I1: Go on.

M2: Let’s get this over with.

J2: Do you find your duties tiresome?

M2: We are all going to die in a few weeks, but let’s spend some of our last precious hours doing back channel stuff for Regime assholes.

M1: He’s fine, go on.

I2: He doesn’t *sound* fine.

M1: We just turned back the enemy’s greatest attack in the middle of our capital, and we are facing an even more devastating one imminently, cut him some slack.

I2: Fourth Fist is a Regime Fist, the newest and presumably last of such formations. It is comprised of Haunter, Indulger, Condemner, Fisher and Preventer. We hold three members of this Fist in custody. This panel, or rather the greater panel of which we are all members, is empowered to determine their fate.

I1: It isn’t as simple as throwing them in jail forever, though. From what I’m reading here things are a bit murky around this particular crew.

I2: They were the source of the tip off that helped out so much in the recent battle.

M1: The destination of their backup attack? That was critical. We trusted these totalitarian fucks for something so important?

I2: Not just them, they have, hmm, ‘transported’, might be the best word, or perhaps resurrected, a number of civilians from before the First Defiance.

I1: They also saved General Greggs, it was ultimately her testimony that swayed us as far as their credibility.

P2: Weighing against that, however…

I2: I was getting there.

P2: Their conduct has been unremittingly vile and problematic, they have committed exactly the excesses that we might expect from any other similar formation. They’ve waged war on our Union, destroyed a judicial installation and committed a brand new capital crime we are tentatively calling ‘mindrape’ on a number of our diplomats and officers.

M2: We lost a number of assets to Indulger’s attacks during the final battle. If they were actually cooperating you’d think he’d have surrendered.

I1: It looks like the other two did, and their testimony is that his judgement was affected by another Ultrahuman’s gift, causing him to take actions not representative of his overall character.

I2: That’s correct, sir, they worked against the Pantheon unit during its onslaught, taking out a number of its key personnel, and ultimately surrendered to our forces.

P1: If it was just that, however, well, we wouldn’t need to meet like this. Our policy on ‘useful idiots’ from the Regime has always been to take what they give and kill them as soon as possible. If you’d care to explain what makes Fourth Fist different? That is, why they aren’t just another Third Fist situation, where we were able to get some benefit against a mutual foe?

I2: Haunter’s testimony pertains to future events, and it is backed up by the majority of those that her gift has resurrected. She is talking about an apocalypse, with respect, about the end of the world. We can’t just thank her for her service and throw her in a box if doing so will kill us all!

I1: I…hadn’t read that far yet, um, I’ll stand behind my junior here, they have my complete trust. If they are taking this threat seriously, then you can bet there is good reason to.

M1: I appreciate that, but if we are talking about an apocalypse, we don’t exactly need to rely on the testimony of people from across the ocean to see it coming. The Brides have marched. The Pantheon falls into ruin. Zeus is practically here. Nobody is under any illusions that our future is guaranteed.

J1: Beyond which, we have always lived under the threat of annihilation. Our glorious Union is founded on, and lives to this day through, the goal of preserving our dignity in the face of naked threat. We will not compromise, we will not change who we are, just because the hour is late.

I1: Haha, politicians, you better scoop this guy up! He wants to write speeches for you. Seriously, how long did it take you to come up with that stuff?

I2: My senior is maybe a bit rude, but what he means is that there is no audience here, that’s why we opened this chat. We are here to work without oversight, free to come up with the best solution, not the one that reflects best on us. You don’t need to posture.

J1: I wasn’t posturing. I was speaking the simple truth.

M1: Can we move this along?

M2: Maybe just list out the pros, the cons, and let us vote? The whole point of this channel is to get things done without the dick measuring and posing for posterity. Let’s take advantage of it.

P2: I’ll take cons. These are the same maniacs who betrayed us overseas, killing Commander Martinez. They mindraped everyone they came into contact with at our embassy, they interfered with an intervention group, destroyed a prison and fought alongside the Grand Host, killing numerous civilians in the attacks on Istanbul and Berlin. If we do anything other than deal with them as strictly as possible we are inviting anyone who wants to to walk all over us, forever.

I1: The incident in the Regime was a lot more complicated than you are making it out to be. Your counterparts ignored the reports on Martinez’s increasingly erratic behavior, and there is a lot of reason to believe that he was at fault.

J2: Awesome, literal Regime apologism in our deliberations. How dare Fidel fight back against the monsters who destroyed the world? He clearly provoked them into destroying him. Let’s all lick Peggy’s boots like good little humans.

I2: If your stance is going to be that all our aggression is justified and those of our enemies is always the opposite then I don’t know what you bring to these deliberations, we could replace you with a query to SPARTACUS about what country’s uniform someone was wearing, get exactly the same value.

J1: Not productive, can we get back to the pros and cons?

M1: Yes, that. Zeus isn’t going to wait for us to wring our hands over this. I don’t want to spend a lot of time.

P2: I’m done with cons from the past. The remainder is just the obvious one, that letting a Fist go free probably means we’ll have to fight them at some point. Disregarding what they’ve done in the past, they will still obey Prevailer, and presumably at some point she’ll tell them to attack us.

I1: It would be out of character, usually She uses First Fist for that kind of thing.

J2: Did you really just do the capitalization thing? Do we have a genuine bootlicker in the channel?

I2: We are occasionally required to meet with covert assets. If we relax our vigilance when we are among friends we might slip up when the need is more dire.

P1: Pro’s? Intelligence seems to be the only ones leaning that way, so maybe you can take care of this?

I2: Gladly. Haunter has rescued a thousand plus people from the distant past, who have invaluable skills and knowledge. She can use her gift on our key personnel, allowing them to persist beyond death, as in the case of General Greggs. Their Fist is also willing and begging to execute an immediate strike on the Regime homeland, its target to be First Fist, which is debatably our greatest enemy.

P2: This strike is tied somehow to the threat of apocalypse?

I2: Yes, exactly, Haunter claims Remover is the lynchpin of mankind’s peril. She believes destroying her and her fist will either end the Process, kill all Ultras or remove all gifts. Her resurrected allies are generally believers in this theory as well, for whatever that is worth.

M2: What do you believe that is worth?

I2: The testimony of dozens, hundreds of witnesses? All of whom experienced the events in question first hand? Quite a lot.

J1: Unless, of course, they are brainwashed.

I2: Excuse me?

J1: It’s the natural suspicion, right? We know these monsters mind rape people, and then they show up with a bunch of people who suspiciously agree with their ridiculous lie? I wonder how that could have possibly happened.

I2: I’m…I…that’s literally a fully general counterargument. The only way for someone to prove they aren’t being mind controlled is to agree with you?

J2: Honestly it is a nicer hypothesis then the idea that you are literally willing collaborators.

P1: That’s quite enough of that.

I1: That’s way out of line!

J2: Capitalize another pronoun, why don’t you?

P1: Enough!

P2: No one is going to be convinced like this. Let’s enumerate the options, vote and get on to more important business.

M1: We have confirmed confinement of 3 members of a Fist, and we’ve maintained it for greater than twenty four hours. This proves that the other two members are alive and distant.

M2: So executing these 3 is obviously off the table. The remaining options are continued confinement, with execution being revisited when and if the other two appear alongside them, and Intelligence’s scheme of collaborating with them.

M1: The Military’s position remains that no possible gain can equal the risk of putting a Fist back into play. Istanbul was a reminder of the terrible power of these units. We speak for confinement.

I1: We speak for utilizing them. Our Union faces a terrible crisis, and we must use all means to avert it.

J2: Fuck Fascists, we are for confinement.

P2: Is your junior glanding something?

J1: I’m sorry for his behavior, there will be a full investigation, you have my word.

P2: And your standing?

J1: Oh he covered it.

I2: Come on!

P1: We speak last, and loudest, for the people are always the leaders in our Union. We take the counsel of our experts in this matter, and hereby accept the stand of confinement.

J2: You can’t see us, but M2 is playing a tiny violin for your fascist buds. This must be so harsh for you. I guess force doesn’t rule this part of the world, eh?

J2 has left the channel

P2: I’m sorry to boot a standing member, but we are pretty clearly done here.

M1: We’ll make it official through the actual official Tribunal channels over the next few weeks then?

P1: If we all survive that long.

J1, P1, P2 and M1 have left the channel

I1: Not leaving M2?

M2: I just wanted you to know that J2 wasn’t lying about me. Smallest violin.

M2 has left the channel

I2: What the hell is wrong with them?

I1: What did you expect? I noticed you didn’t pitch Haunter’s “you should surrender to Zeus” line to them.

I2: Reason? I expected reason? Something resembling it anyway? The actual consideration of our evidence?

I1: People in despair will lash out if you give them a target. You let them reduce a complicated exercise in figuring out what would maximize their population’s chance of thriving to ‘do you hate Nazis, yes/no’. You are surprised they did it?

I2: I wanted them to do their jobs. I wanted them to actually exercise the responsibilities they have been entrusted with.

I1: Was I ever that young?

I2: This is rank idiocy. We are going to turn around on Haunter, on Jane Trent, and say ‘thanks for saving all these people, now stay in a cell until Zeus shows up to kill you.’

I1: I don’t love it.

I2: What will we say when she asks ‘why?’

I1: She’ll understand. Of all people, this Haunter will understand the dynamics of what just happened.

I2: This is a mistake. We lose nothing by taking her up on her offer. We stand to gain everything. Our cohorts managed to screw up Pascal’s Wager!

I1: Mario, I know you were close to the catastrophe with Martinez, but don’t let your personal feelings control you. The Union can’t work alongside a Fist so soon after Istanbul and Berlin.

I2: You are really going to talk about prestige and reputation? I’m talking about existence. I’m talking about us continuing on for more than another month, another day!

I1: The military-

I2: They are full of it. You’ve read the reports. Zeus isn’t called the Light Speed Lord for nothing. He is lightning alive, a formless monster faster than sight or sound. He killed a Fist. He broke the old Pantheon Leadership Council and he shattered our offensive, and none of those victories took even ten seconds.

I1: I’m aware-

I2: He fears exactly one thing in all the world, and that’s Prevailer. She’s just the same, instant death at teleport speed, unavoidable and absolute. Fear of Her is the only reason he hasn’t attacked long ago. He doesn’t know if She would kill him.

I1: And so he sent his minions, his Brides, I KNOW this.

I2: And Prevailer didn’t show up! Forget that we don’t even know who killed Vampire. Forget that he has ten times as many Brides again as he lost, the only question that matters has been answered. She isn’t going to save us.

I1: We can’t be seen to collaborate with the Regime. You aren’t wrong, but I was hoping what we just went through would make you understand. The politicians can’t go for it, and the judicial crew will literally die first.

I2: You’ll let them snuff out our last chance then? Because that’s what this is. If Haunter isn’t right about this thing ending Ultra gifts, then Zeus will wipe us out. You are saying we should just wait here to die, just because some other people want us to?

I1: They’d be hauling you in for arrest if they heard that. You doubting the wisdom of our appointed leaders? You think decisions should instead be made by those with the power to enforce them? Pantheon thinking, there. Maybe the leader should be the strongest Ultrahuman?

I2: I believe in our system. I do. I’m not longing for some king to show up and cut through the decisions of the stakeholders. I understand the reason for it all.

I1: But?

I2: But this is wrong! This is a stupid decision, and we shouldn’t abide by it.

I1: I agree.

I2: But you just said…

I1: We can’t BE SEEN to collaborate with a Fist.

I2: Oh thank God.

I1: So make sure nobody spots you on the way out.

Regime Quest 41

Day 5: (Night)

 

Supplemental Action: Merlin. I’m not normally one for night activity, but some deeds are best done without witnesses, and with any luck at all Snitcher will have decided that I am generally only active during the day, and will not have been checking up on me.

I hadn’t heard back from the Union, which wasn’t terribly surprising, it wasn’t even clear my offer had made its way to their decision makers, but I went to deliver on my part of the proposed bargain anyway. They didn’t have a lot of reasons to believe in my goodwill, so it was time to start giving them a few.

I stole out from the dwelling I’d commandeered under cover of night, steering my way towards the building my Resistance contacts had indicated contained her comatose form.

I spared a thought for the possibility that it might be a trap of some sort, but dismissed it. My warband were sleeping within shouting range, and everyone in this town with the courage to oppose us had died in the battle with Arthur.

The possibility existed, of course, that the Union had snuck back in in order to setup a kill shot at me, but I dismissed that too. I couldn’t go through life assuming that assassins were waiting in every bathroom. I was a strong Ultra, I had no reason to fear, I resolved not to do so.

The door was unlocked, I snuck within. There were no lights, not many amenities. I could dimly make out a figure in a sort of an egg shaped pod thing. Like a clear plastic couch that also had a top, if I had to describe it. I walked over to it and groped around on it, looking for a catch or some other way to open it up.

I’d originally planned to deliver some hammy lines about ‘really make you suffer’ or something similar, but I’d been working off the idea that there’d be anyone to talk to here. I’d fall back on that if anyone showed up, but in the absence of anyone to talk to I felt like even Snitcher might realize that he was the target audience of a monolog delivered to an unconscious person.

I didn’t find a hook to unlock or anything, but there was a section of the top middle area where there was no plastic, like a kind of window. I stuck a hand down in there and felt around until I got it on her face.

I released the first of the two ‘Living’ attributes that I’d got during the battle, to my immense satisfaction.

I was immediately aware of two things. First, it was very fucking dark in here with my vision only doubled, and second, the figure under my hand immediately started to stir.

I wasted no time, retreating rapidly from the premises like I was on fire. I might not actually have any Ultra Speed, but I like to think that I can scamper with the best of them. I was back out on the street in less than ten seconds, walking away like I’d never actually entered.

Day 6:

Departure: I got rid of the other ‘Living’ while we were getting ready to go. The Resistance contact who’d pointed Merlin out to me had ultimately decided that she wanted it, so I slapped her five on my way to departing.

It’s hard to describe how much relief I felt as I finally got rid of the last extra attribute, went back to the spirit I’d been born with. I also have my death touch back in tip top shape, so that’s fun too.

Travel: We spent today heading back to Shington, taking the same route that we’d taken to go there.

I’d been considering relying on the bikes a bit, but between the truck, the sedan and Soarer we were able to get everyone motorized without squeezing people in too much.

I rode in the truck, and I also used that as, essentially, a kind of mobile court, where those in my good graces carried on with plenty of space, under my watchful gaze. The car was my purgatory, hot boxed and crammed with seven Ultras, filled with those with whom I was less thrilled.

Soarer took Peeler with her on the trip, they seemed to get along, and from what she tells me flying gifts are great fun. If I can spare the time, I might try going flying with Soarer sometime in the future. It might be revealing to see Shington from the air, and I know I’ll need relief from the pressures of my situation at some point.

We got back late at night, and I left the Warband back at their old Barracks, while Owner and I evicted the chumps who’d dared to move into the Packer House while I was gone.

###########################################################

Day 7 (Trying to simplify the format to make the quest less impenetrable to new readers) ? until next battle

 

Ultra rolodex: (#/#/# is Ultra strength/speed/toughness)

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Assets: (physical)

1 truck

1 sedan

Owner’s Shington Store

Packer House

Fog Machines

Lasers (diverse)

 

Posse: (4 slots, 1 filled)

Owner (trusted friend, housemate, gift hard to describe) 0/0/1

 

Warband:

16 Veteran Ultras

Hexxer, Peeler, Guager, Soarer are notably less evil than the rest.

 

Blender AP: 10/10

Actions cost 3, return 2 on success 0 on failure unless otherwise specified, Blender gains 1 AP every morning

 

Available Actions:

 

Posse Recruitment tree

Meet more Ultras (describe method, adds d6 to contacts)

Get to know specific Ultra better (describe method transitions Ultra to potential Posse member)

Invite Ultra to Posse (must have got to know target first, if accepted, Ultra joins Posse)

 

Warband tree

Get more Ultras (describe method, adds Ultras to warband of quality/quantity dependent on method)

Train warband (describe method, makes QM kinder to Blender in combat sections re: her troops actions and numbers)

Task warband (describe, needs Posse member or Blender to lead them, sets warband to a task)

 

VIP tree (Used for Regime Luminaries)

Visit VIP (explain, explain Blender’s motives and methods) (only returns 1 AP on success)

 

Contacts tree: (Blender currently believes morning is safer from Snitcher)

Get info from contacts (specify KEM or Resistance, method if different from usual dead drop)

Request mission from contacts (ask KEM or Resistance for action)

 

Relax tree: (Actions which, on balance, regain AP)

Lay still: Cost 0, auto succeed, returns 2

Relaxation activities, Cost 0, returns 3 on success, 1 on failure

Healing work, Cost 1, returns 6 on success, Snitcher hazard

Blisser session, auto succeed, returns 4 per timeslot, cannot be ended until Blender is back at 10

 

Miscellaneous action: (Anything not covered above, scavenging, info gathering in person, etc, describe what Blender is going for)

 

Player Input:

Blender Morning Action

Blender Afternoon Action

(Owner is busy today, mollifying angry Ultras about her absence)

Condemner 9:3

“-Fuck?” she yelled, finishing the sentence that I’d interrupted.

I fumed inwardly, but made no visible response. I kept myself in my true form, clinging to a toppled beam for sustenance. She’d already proven that she could escape my rush from much closer than she was now. Blitzing her would just wear me out.

“What the fuck do you think you are doing, you Regime shit?” she elaborated. “You want to go at me? At ME? I can see you don’t have a fucking brain in that form, but I thought you could still think.”

I ignored her words, thinking furiously. I could rush towards her again, or just throw flames at her, but all she’d have to do to avoid the attack was to put herself in shadow and teleport away. She could obviously do that extremely fast, but I just needed a way to get there with the slightest bit of my essence. Once she was aflame nothing could save her.

“Whatever,” she concluded. “Fuck you.”

There was no shadow to warn me, my own light driving it away, but I didn’t need one to see the enormous chunk of stone suddenly plummeting down at me. I shot across the ground in an instant, spreading myself rapidly to another toppled strut.

The clash the falling stone made was earth shaking, or at least it felt so to one tethered as I was. The pillar I was clinging to bounced and jostled, rolling end over end. I looked in every direction at once, trying to keep her in sight.

It wasn’t hard, as she hadn’t moved, but it also wasn’t what I needed to do. With my attention focused on not losing track of her I nearly missed her next onslaught, a huge cloud of sand and dust bursting into existence above me, raining down like a granite hailstorm.

This was a lot more serious for me. I could probably have just let myself be crushed by the boulder. I wasn’t solid, wasn’t anything that could be smashed. I’d have just shaped my form into the cracks of it, flowed up and around as though it hadn’t been there.

I’d dodged it instinctively, and also to conceal my lack of substance. But this time the dodge was in deadly earnest, and she’d started this payload a lot closer to me.

I spread across the ground again, forcing my essence to burn that which nature would not ignite. It took all of my Ultra speed, but I managed to outpace the cloud of grit and sand, blazing out of the edge of it and into the superstructure of one of the toppled buildings.

The dust load would have been ruinous for me, an environment with no paths, no air, and nothing flammable. I’d have been stuck burning through it, wasting life force on pebbles and sand of which she had an endless supply.

I’d landed, however, on considerably better terrain for me. The toppled building was at least somewhat intact, a vast and shattered cylinder crammed to bursting with combustibles. I grew through it with alacrity, snaring insulation, wooden furnishings, and a hundred other traces of man’s existence, all ripe with vital essence.

Her third attack was as I figured, a thick sludge of ground and stone, dropped inches from all of the parts of my form that were in the open. I couldn’t dodge at all, couldn’t move nearly fast enough, and she extinguished a swathe of me in an instant.

I coiled through the building, staying within walls and floors, along carpets and furnishings. I kept myself to places where the world around me was solid enough to resist her strikes, places already cluttered and obstructed, where she would have to place each pebble individually.

I was gambling, of course, that she couldn’t teleport forms into other forms, but it seemed a reasonable bet. An Ultra who could do that would be greater than Her, and there was presumably a reason that Vampire was out here scrapping with me instead of running the Pantheon.

There was no fourth strike, or at least not one on the tempo of the other three. My gambit had bought me a little time at least. I tried to put it to good use.

She’d had me cold at the opening, had me out in the street without any cover. She’d been angry and impetuous, probably still terrified from the fiasco in Istanbul, and she’d let me get away. That would be smarting. She’d be looking to simplify the situation, and with her gift I could think of a lot of ways to do that.

The most obvious way, simply hurling beyond the limits of the world, was closed off to her. That was probably the only reason I was still alive. I shed my own light, brought it up out of the core of me and gifted the world around me with it. She had mostly trained against people holding lights, or standing near them. She’d be good at putting things between people and their illumination sources, but that wasn’t going to work with me.

To kill me she needed to extinguish me. If she could get me into my human form then death was easy, in any of a hundred ways. But putting me out wasn’t the most impossible task. I spent energy with every second I burned. Keeping me away from souls or materials would do the trick, or she could use water or inert substances to stop my reaction if she was impatient.

Would she crack my refuge open? Just crush the entire building beneath a larger yet? I wasn’t sure that wouldn’t actually give me more nooks and crannies to hide in, but the thought birthed another a heartbeat later.

Could she? She hadn’t used water to smother me, hadn’t hit me with anything exotic or especially potent. There had to be water in shadow, somewhere, and her range was great enough to bring us here all the way from distant Istanbul. She might have limitations, checks on her gift that I couldn’t easily understand. It would do a lot to explain why the battle with Third Fist had gone on for so long.

“Condemner!” came her shout, filtering its way through the building’s wrecked corridors. “Why are you hiding? Aren’t you some kind of badass?”

I gritted imaginary teeth, wracking my mind. All of my thoughts were being bent to survival. I’d made nothing even resembling an attempt to strike her since my first failure. Was I that outmatched? That overwhelmed? Could the world let me fall without even giving me a chance?

She taunted me again, but I didn’t bother to listen, forcing myself to think of attack, of devouring the bitch, to ignore the fear and focus only on my truth, only on gathering experiences for my greater self.

Her fortress was distance, location. She attacked with control of it, defended herself by changing her location within it. Aside from this petty trick she was only human. All I had to do was cross the intervening area, bring my force to her flesh, and this would be over.

How did she know when to dodge? It couldn’t be just sight. She’d have died long ago, shot in the face by some Union scumbag. She had to have another sense, one that would warn her, some aspect of her gift that let her flee from the death due her, a cheater trick to keep her flesh uncooked.

Most Ultras didn’t have multiple Entities. Most who had multiple gifts were just misdiagnosing two separate aspects of the same gift. Say that was the case. Say this bitch was just a teleporter, just someone with control over forms that were unlit. How could that be twisted into a sense?

She probably sensed light, or dark. Something like that. I couldn’t get the details, but I felt confident that that was basically what was going on. When the fire had drawn near to her she’d registered the change of the light, of her body leaving her gift’s protection, far faster than her human self could act. She’d vanished away on instinct, on automatic.

What did that mean? The only way to kill her would be with something that didn’t change light and dark? I’d have to strike from within the dark, but to do so would be to submit to her power.

“You sure you don’t care about your colleagues?” came the taunting voice? “You don’t mind at all if this one perishes?”

I pushed myself through the ruins, pressing a tendril of my conflagration against a window, looking out over the street.

I couldn’t have planned a better twist. Would she kill Haunter to hurt me? Grant my fondest wish in the hopes that I’d suffer for it? Or that oaf Indulger, Dale’s altered cognition betraying him to the very faction he’d sought to join? Maybe waste her efforts on Preventer’s impervious smugness?

Fisher’s Lure dangled beneath Vampire’s perch, impaled on a jagged hunk of rebar, her blood flowing down the wall in a crimson river.

“Wait!” I shouted, back in my human form. “This is all a misunderstanding!”

What was I doing? I’d left unliving flame burning on the walls around me, but it was a pale and flickering barricade. One gravel attack and I’d be at her mercy.

“Oh yeah?” Vampire asked, voice rich with well-deserved skepticism.

Betty tried to shout something, but she was too gravely injured. Her eyes were glassy, her mouth opened and closed, but I could hear nothing of reason in the pain stricken moan that issued forth.

“Go ahead and kill her!” I shouted, clambering up onto the window sill to look at her directly, burning a flame in my hand at ruinous cost to keep myself safe from her gift. “She’ll just come back to life tomorrow!”

“Did a pussy like you really take out Zilla?” she asked, her voice softer now.

Vampire was hidden in shadow, lurking back on the edge of a ruined hunk of a toppled structure, while Fisher suffered beneath her.

I forced my hate away. What was it Haunter was always saying? Hate couldn’t deliver victory. Prevailer had taught the world that. I needed reason now, in this moment of crisis.

“Let her go,” I called. “You don’t get anything out of her death. I’m just as tough to take down after she’s gone.”

What was that? She’d smell bitch all over that little speech.

“You couldn’t have,” she said. “I heard about Zilla growing up, how she was this ultimate Ultra, how she ruled the Host like a Bride, how she’d have been one of us if the Master didn’t need her to keep the Union in check. Nothing like you could have taken her out.”

I gritted my teeth. The mistake she was making was obvious to me, an idea that a lot of Ultras were seduced into, the notion that people could only be killed by those of their own stature, but I’d gain nothing from pointing it out.

“You are the one who couldn’t have,” I countered. “Just like you couldn’t stop Third Fist. I bet you didn’t even get one, just ran away like you always do!”

Most people get unpleasant truths thrown in their face, from time to time. They get used to it, develop defenses or patterns for it. Not Vampire.

“You guys are nothing like them,” she answered, ignoring my statement “Not a challenge at all.”

“Wow, not even one?” I went on, like she hadn’t even spoken, ignoring her in turn. “They ran you off without even trying? You know the Union killed Leveler once without even a single Ultra?”

She stomped the edge of her platform, face coming out of the shadows. Her teeth were gritted and her eyes were wide and staring. A more perfect picture of fury I’d never seen.

“I killed one!” she shouted, then stopped instantly, a hand rising to her lips as though to catch the errant line.

“You admit it?” I gawked. “Just one? Oh wow I was just guessing. You ran off without even getting Killer? You know she’s not even 20 years old? You ran from a girl with all her teeth?”

Her mouth worked for a second, nothing coming out. She was literally speechless with anger.

And it was doing nothing for me. I wasn’t getting any advantages from my opponent being out of her mind with rage because how the fuck could I beat her? Vampire was invincible. I needed to get out of here before-

“I haven’t killed enough Fist members for your taste?” she yelled. “I guess I should kill one more?”

“No!” I shouted, even as her hand fell like a guillotine to point down at Betty’s drawn face.

“What’s wrong?” she asked, the strong’s elemental contempt for weakness in her voice. “You can’t stand to see your friend gone for even a day?”

I stood mute, flame guttering in my hand. What could I say? What would improve my odds?

What would Haunter do?

“If you don’t want to see…” she drawled, voice thick with an almost elemental cruelty, “Then put out the light.”

I looked back to Betty, looked long and hard.

She was anguished, face contorted in anger. Her human form, always the frailer of the two, was utterly-

Wait.

Where was her other form?

I looked again, striving for precision despite the distance. Where was her shadow?

Vampire’s hand turned on its end, one finger pointed towards Fisher, the thumb rising and turning the hand into the universal sign for ‘gun’.

“Ok!” I shouted, “Ok, I’ll-“

And I let the light fade. Stood before her as a human entire, helpless and weak.

She smirked at me for a moment, then leaned back into her shadows, hand rising again and moving into a finger snap.

I moved my hands up reflexively, as though there was something to dodge, something that I could do, but found myself instantly gagging for breath, an impossible pressure forcing my form to the shattering point.

I convulsed, uselessly. The airless void around me had nothing to kick off, nothing to burn. My lungs gagged for breath that would never arrive, my hands clawed at nothing.

Above me, or below me, the Earth rose vast and blue, a great glistening sky substitute that blotted out half of the darkness around me, cold and distant.

I flared my gift uselessly, burned a mote of power and lost a foot to a partial transformation, my flame form fading even faster than my human life.

A timeless infinity of pain, of shame and rage, seemed to pass before the crowning humiliation. Fisher appeared in front of me, superimposed over the gleaming world below, her forms both ravaged and damaged, convulsing and choking like me.

I strove to keep my life from fading, flailed uselessly as though I could swim to her. Vampire’d dropped us maybe ten feet away, maybe closer, but it might as well have been miles.

She caught my eye for a moment, her Hook catching sight of me in a moment of synchronicity, wordlessly saying something I wasn’t capable of understanding, but that the defective part of me that had brought me to this pass already knew.

A moment later she raised its hand, a gesture voluntary and deliberate, in stark contrast to the fevered writhing of her human self.

Her claw was bloody for the entire last foot, maybe further along. The blood was dissipating and fading out into the void around it, but I’d been fast enough, had seen it in time.

I dragged my hand up, pointed at my mouth. I was trying to make a ‘fangs’ kind of gesture, but I was fading fast, my vision going rapidly.

I hung on long enough to see her solemn nod, my last act to return her triumphant smile.

Regime Quest 40

Day 5:

Main Action: Social stuff. Lots of things got done today, bleagh. Ok, let me split my summary up into smaller stuff.

Outreach: I got a message to the Resistance to give to the Union, which feels like a safe channel to assume exists. I want to give Merlin one of these ‘Living’ attributes and in exchange get a truck or a bus from them, maybe some guns.

It’s a bit of a long shot that they are going want to work on the level with me after we just tried to kill each other, but I’m willing if they are. Having some covert understanding with the Union would be AMAZING, going forward, for my odds of survival and accomplishing my goals. Fingers crossed here, I really want this to work.

Recruitment: I asked Viber and Soarer to join my unit today, which went over about as well as you’d figure asking people to join the people who killed their friends/family would. Soarer is saying Yes, but I get the feeling that she is only doing so because she assumes the alternative is getting murdered.

She might not be entirely wrong. She is a timid/diffident woman, and the Warband are a pack of bullies. She would be in danger in their company, though I *think* they are well trained enough not to kill her. Or, at least, the ones who survived are. Nothing like lots of death to get rid of the undisciplined.

As far as Viber goes, hrrngh, she’s like Blisser, one of those weird Ultras that doesn’t really comprehend the world around them, sort of seeing everything through their gift. The dude I sent into her house to pitch the offer came out with a day or so’s growth of beard, which is rather alarming.

I was ultimately able to use her to get our truck repaired (more on that later), but moving her presents its own weird difficulties. If I go in a truck with her, and she gets sad, I could miss my next deadline and be killed by Her. I’m not willing to risk it, if we are going to move her (and she is ‘willing’ in the sense that she doesn’t understand anything about where or who she is) then I need to take some precautions, ideally be in a different vehicle.

It is a ridiculous chicken/bear/sack of grain style problem, but it is somehow relevant to my life. Infuriating. My understand of her gift is that it won’t protect her vehicle from a drone strike, but it isn’t like anyone has ever actually done that experiment.

Truck Repair: This went great. We got the best people together, got them to take a look at the trucks and sent the local Viber-whisperer to move her into position and get her happy. The rest of us moved away and hung out for a few hours, and when we got the call clear the workers had done a month or so of work on it, enough to get one truck back in working order, at the cost of cannibalizing all 4 of the wrecks. (Fortunately, I remembered to leave an appropriate amount of food and water in there.)

I’ll indulge in a moment of mourning for Builder here. I’ve mourned her as a person for a week now, but this moment is about her sheer goddamn utility! It feels heartless to say, but right now I’m sad that I’m going to spend the rest of my goddamn life struggling to do things that would have been trivial if she was alive. RIP Builder, you were so very convenient.

New Boss: All hail Adapter, Sad Queen of Sad Town. May her reign be long and just. I’ve detailed the Ultras that I thought did the least in the battle to stay behind as her guards, and I’m going to carefully not think about how long she’ll be able to keep this place above water. At the every least, she isn’t actively maniacal, and honestly, the Regime being how it is, I’m going to call that a win.

Owner stuff: Owner spent today selling things to the people of Ar Harbour. They really love the idea of trading useless plastic cards they find in the ruins for Old World stuff, and I think some of the things I saw her selling will be actual Quality Of Life improvements. Owner doesn’t know it, but I think she’s just guaranteed herself a place in future excursions, at least in the aftermath.

For her part, she is always happy to sell when/where she can, but best of all is a place she hasn’t been active before. Credit Cards are a couple thousand bucks each in her private world, and when she trades them for beers and candy it helps to build up her operating funds.

Warband stuff: They were mostly hopping about on my errands today, and what time I left them for their own devices was mostly about celebrating the new Boss and the stuff leading up to and following away from that. They are getting a bit restless, methinks, so it is a good thing I’m planning on leaving tomorrow. The DID do some practicing on those bikes. I’d say that they are adequate, at this point, did wonders for their morale, at least. I’d forgotten that bike riding is a lot of fun.

Very weird to observe the warband enjoying anything. For a group of merciless killers they sound a lot like a bunch of teenagers/twentysomethings when they let their fists down.

Frightening Trivia: The guy who attacked me at the end, who staved in my skull, was apparently Arthur’s lover, went by ‘Mordred’. Warband asked around about him, apparently he still had his buffs after Arthur died, ran out of town, and was heard, and I quote, ‘swearing vengeance’. Jesus. I expect I’ll see him again sometime, hopefully I won’t go into our next bout with a crippling chest injury. If I’m lucky he’ll be pissed at Her, not me.

I’m never lucky.

 

Tomorrow (that is, Day 6 of Mission 2, where I’m assuming She will have something for me to do on or around Day 30): We set off, first thing in the morning! Time to go back to Shington.

 

 

Player Votes:

  1. Pass on ‘Living’ to Merlin or no? Doesn’t look like the Union is going to get back to me before I set out on the road. If Yes, give a brief synopsis for Blender is setting this up for anyone Snitching on her.
  2. Let me know what you want to do about recruits. They will both come along if you push, Soarer seems like she might be a flight risk (ha ha), but doesn’t need any transport at all. Viber needs special transport (Can’t ride a bike, Blender won’t share a vehicle with her.)
  3. Give me the basic plan for getting back. You have a car, a truck and a bunch of bikes. Shington is a day’s driving, a week or so on bikes. Blender is the best navigator of the crew, but now that you’ve made the trip once it is much less likely that anyone gets lost.
  4. Getting rid of ‘Living’ tags. Blender must get rid of at least one of these. She can keep another extra, though she’d be more comfortable getting rid of both. Let me know who gets the tag she is definitely dropping, with choices ranging from a local (after your healing none are in poor healthy, but an extra life never hurt), your Resistance contact, a member of the Posse (builds loyalty?), Merlin, or anything you want to write in.
  5. Last minute actions? It is pretty set in stone that Blender and Co. are heading back on the morning of Day 6, but you still have the night before if you think of anything you want to get done.

 

Thanks for responding, as always!

Condemner 9:2

I climbed up onto a higher level of the toppled structure, flickering my form back and forth between human and flame in as needed. It was bare seconds before I got onto the vantage point and looked out across a toppled city.

I wasn’t ‘that’ high, really. Just twenty or thirty feet up, having scrambled onto a section where two walls had fallen against one another, improbably retaining their integrity.

It was enough, however, to get me up above the dust clouds, and give me the basic layout.

I was close to the middle of a great and expanding ring of ruin, a cancer of disorder within a metropolis of tangled and looping buildings. All the havoc we’d sown, all the destruction and chaos, was still confined to the city’s heart. This place was goddamn enormous.

The Union’s skiffs filled the sky, zipping about the edge of the ring letting people on and off of the few still intact buildings. Drones whirled and flitted between them, clearly acting according to some kind of complicated pattern that I couldn’t immediately follow. The overall impression was one of gathering menace.

I dropped back down into the ruin I’d climbed without a second thought, heart pumping a mile a minute.

I knew too much to believe that I hadn’t been seen. Their weird thinking machine had no doubt had a camera pointed below, and it would be tagging me and bringing me to their Ultra’s attention as soon as the matter could reasonably be seen to.

Shit!

I rolled into a sort of a crack between the learning wall I’d been climbing on and the ruined foundation that had risen up against it.

I forced myself back to a simulacrum of calm, forced myself to think. I was Condemner, damnit. I was not tinder, but fire! Not a victim, but the calamity which came upon them!

The Union were gathering their forces above the city. They would launch a descending strike as soon as they had enough, dropping down and taking us out.

The Pantheon troops were leaderless and already decimated. If a third had made it out of Istanbul I’d be shocked. They were doomed, their deaths already woven into destiny, to be actualized as soon as the enemy got sufficient force here.

My time, therefore, was brief. My only path to survival was to grow, to become a conflagration that nothing and no one could overcome, to burn up the Union’s forces and the Pantheon’s alike, render all and sundry down into the black ash.

I felt a twinge of something at the thought, but I couldn’t grasp it before it had fled. Some remnant of thought from the pattern that had once been my Nirav mask. I brushed it aside in annoyance.

If there were shelters to be found, if there were humans, souls, to be taken, then they would be underground. I wasn’t going to find them up here on this heap. But climbing had served a purpose, nonetheless.

The entrances to the shelters would have been beneath buildings, not out in the streets. People would have gone in by climbing down stairs or pushing buttons on elevators.

It wasn’t immediately obvious, down on the ground, where the buildings had previously touched down. Their writhing construction veered heedlessly here and there, and the rubbles and dust clouds further obfuscated the issue.

But from above it hadn’t been hard to see the pattern. In my brief peek out I hadn’t been entirely consumed with the sky. I’d memorized the location of the nearest foundation, just across the street, past a burning vehicle of some sort.

I rolled to my feet, already starting my sprint. I felt a tension across my shoulder blades, like at any moment a beam would descend from the sky, a one shot kill to my human form. The temptation to change, to get quickly back into my formless glory, tore at me.

But I couldn’t indulge it. Not yet. The human form conserved energy. My fire form expended it. If I wanted to last through the Union’s assault then I would need endless energy. I couldn’t be spending any here. Not so soon.

That nagging sensation again, but I pushed it aside as I made it across the street. I threw myself down in the dirt once again, pressed my flesh against the ground like I’d done when I was trying to get the water out.

This time, however, my attention was not on my form, but on the space in my mind where I liked to think my master’s voice lived. The space I leaned on when I saw the nature of other Ultras, or tried to speak to them. The area where my musings about the Entities had come from.

I didn’t get anything at first, but I persisted. The me that lived there, the greater me, the Entity, it was watching our universe from the outside. It was perceiving from a vantage that was beyond physics, an ultimate perch, utterly beyond detection and countermeasure.

It made sense that I, Condemner, couldn’t tell whether or not there were humans a few dozen feet below me. Physics inhibited my gaze, my hearing. There were obstructions.

But not such obstructions would exist to the being that should be controlling me, to the outer being, the greater one, the one for whom I was gathering these experiences. If I let it control me, let its impulses guide me, then I should be able to find my prey with ease.

I lay still for a long moment after having this thought, and the main thing I thought was that I was being ridiculous. I was wasting precious time just laying on the ground. I should be doing literally anything else.

As revelations went, it wasn’t the best, but I decided it meant that there were probably no targets here.

I sprang back to my feet, feinted towards the way that I’d come and then sprinted off in the other direction, looking to cross the street and hit up another foundation.

It was over in seconds, I hopped through a gap in a cracked wall and found myself in another ruined building, one that had kept maybe a floor or two intact from the ground.

I was just about to move on when I felt a sort of a twinge, the very thing that I’d just been begging for. I squinted into the dusty dimness of the wreckage.

Nothing moved. No sound. But I had a hunch that there was someone here.

“Hey,” I whispered. “Hey help! I’m bleeding and I need help!”

I tried to sound urgent, panicked but keeping it under control.

No response. They were either not here, not willing to expose themselves, or, it occurred to me a little too late, English was their enemy’s language.

I bit back a snarl and erupted into flame, spread myself rapidly into the depths of the structure.

I found what I was looking for almost instantly. A woman and her child were huddled behind a sort of a cracked pillar, their hands raw from scrabbling at an unyielding portal.

I was a lot more interested in the portal than I was in them. Their nourishment was paltry, barely justifying the transformation, but anywhere they were trying to get into was somewhere I wanted to be.

The doors were sealed tightly, it was true. Nothing solid could penetrate them. But they were still just doors, just solids. I pushed my glory onto them, pitted my boundless contempt against their idiot solidity, and saw them glow cherry red in weakness and surrender.

In a heartbeat I was within, clinging to upholstery and wiring, snaking my way down a buried staircase, tasting the fear and weakness on the wind.

A fancy grew in my mind that these people had called their own fate down on them. They had left the other outside, left her with a child, even! They invited disaster, their doom would be justice itself.

Another door stood at the end of the staircase, another futile insult to the reaper. Would I have done such a thing, hidden in such a way, if I had been blind to the truth of the world?

I took on human form again, unwilling to waste the energy on another door, not when there was an easier way to breach it.

“Hey!” I cried out. “Hey, help! I’m stuck out here!”

I heard motion behind the door, and my grin grew broader. The fools thought that charity in the present could wipe out the sin of their past, that what they’d done to the pair upstairs would pass without answer.

Gunshots were the next thing I heard, holes appearing in the door.

I staggered, my hands going automatically to a torso pierced and shattered. How had their, they, had I…they were guilty they…

I slumped, more gunshots ringing out, more bullets whistling by, my eyes arrested by the flood of red dripping down in to the dust.

Had I been wrong? Could I be wrong? The notion was absurd, but the world made its judgements in pain, and I had been hurt. My form had been pierced, shot down from ambush.

My form…the thoughts connected, and my gift flared once more, saw me reborn majestic and calamitous.

I’d assumed the door was armored as the one above, and put my form foolishly before it. The Entities had allowed me to be gunshot, remonstrating me for my error. I had only their mercy that no bullet had struck my brain.

More bullets followed, but they found only formless horror, only my searing rage. I swelled forward and pushed myself through the holes that they’d made, flaring with the urge to avenge and destroy.

The room beyond was nothing like the tomblike and cramped hallway leading up to it. It was lit and spacious, more like a large meeting room than the squalid shelter I’d been imagining. Nor was it filled with refugees.

Instead, a posse of soldiers were scrambling away from me, guns barking wildly as they blasted this or that segment of the flames, bullets hunting for anything they could hurt.

A pair of women stood back from the tumult, back where the other head of the big table would have been were this in fact a meeting room. One raised her hand and sent pain flaring through me as an almighty boom resounded through the hall.

I writhed and curled, dropping myself down to the carpet as the door exploded above me. I hadn’t had the slightest chance to dodge or avoid the strike, and it had taken a sizeable portion of my power.

Was this a lightning gift? Was that awful noise it’s thunderous herald? The dreadful power that She was rumored to fear? A gift that gave no time to dodge, no way to mitigate it?

She began to lower her hand, adjust the angle of her gift’s attack, and I reacted preemptively, instinctively. I split myself, pulled my being out of the flames that had entered the room, centered myself within those I’d left in the hallway.

Another bang, another blast, and the portion of me I’d left in the room beyond was eliminated, along with a huge section of the floor. I fled in gibbering terror, licking rapidly along ceiling and wall, cringing and clinging to keep my profile low, hoping that her gift had destroyed the area that she’d need to stand in if she wanted to pursue.

No one pursued, or at least no one who could match my Ultra Speed. I went hand over feet up the stairs, reverting to humanity in my panic, stubbing newly created fingers and toes in my heedless haste.

I passed into the ruins again, back into the dust and the smog, striding through the ashes of those unfortunates who’d been stuck here before, mind awhirl with revelation.

That hadn’t been a shelter, it had been a living space, or a working space, at least. The city wasn’t just on the surface.

I wasn’t sure why I’d jumped the conclusion that it would be, but it made perfect sense for it to be otherwise.

The Union had mastered technology, harnessed for themselves the arts of our world. They could put their dwellings anywhere they wanted, and they had enemies aplenty. Why wouldn’t their cities extend beneath the ground?

There was no reason to think I’d been unlucky in my choice. They probably had Ultras beneath every building, soldiers creeping about beneath us, their supercomputer coordinating so they could strike at the perfect time.

The soldiers above were only half of the trap. The other half would come from beneath, an envelopment in three dimensions, and a fatal end to the Brides of Zeus.

Another of those idiot thoughts flickered through me, of Dale, the brute who had sought to command me. But one more Ultra worth of power couldn’t save me in this predicament, and there were probably plenty of Brides with more than he had.

I took off running from the building, fleeing back into the streets, seeking desperately.

The clock wasn’t out just yet. There were still Ultras all around, still humans even. I turned my head frantically as I ran, seeking any motion, any sign of life.

The dust had fallen yet further while I’d been occupied, now I could see all around me. The streets were barren, for the most part, rubble choked and barren.

The Brides must be in the distance, pushing the perimeter of destruction still further into the city. The Union lurked, preparing to pounce, their forces mustering above and below. I was mostly alone here, the fire at the center of the spreading ruin.

I refused to accept it, refused to wait cowering for the Union to snuff me out. I sprinted through the streets, Ultra Speed letting me eat the distance up.

I tripped and fell a few times, rolling and jumping back to my feet without letting my momentum drop.

There had to be something, anything, in this wreckage. Had to be Ultras, humans. I couldn’t be done, not yet.

And then, there was.

Vampire popped into existence, her once pristine form chipped and battered, twenty feet up and dropping.

I sprinted straight for her, only pulling to a stop when she got back to her feet, ten fateful feet away.

“Condemner, right?” she asked, holding a hand to a bleeding cut across her forehead.

She was squinting in the dust, obviously woozy. Could I get her?

Prevailer had spent a lifetime proving the infallibility and superiority of teleportation, the ultimate power of existing only where you wanted to. It was an article of faith among Ultras that such a defense could not be beaten.

“Yes, Vampire,” I said, taking another step towards her. Eight feet now, or less. I could cross the divide in a fraction of a second.

Vampire’s teleportation had a weakness that Hers did not. She could only move that which was in shadow. Once I was on her there would be no escape, once the bitch was afire there would be thing she could do, she wouldn’t be able to move herself.

“What the-“

I hurled myself towards her while she was still speaking, bursting into unquenchable flame.

Stone appeared before me when I was inches away from her, rubble and wreckage that I burst through without effort.

Only to find her no longer there. She’d warped herself in the second when the obstruction had shaded her from my light.

It took me a second to locate her, she’d placed herself on a nearby section of rubble looking coldly down at me through the haze.

Looking down at ME! Looking down on the fire itself!

Death was too good for this one, but it was the best I could do.