Regime Quest 46

Day 10:

Morning: Healing people take 2

This was more like it.

I spent my morning knee deep in the refuse of the Regime, the people who had not so much slipped through the cracks as been forced face first through a wire mesh. Broken people, dying people…my people.

The promise of Ultra gifts was so clear on the rare occasions that I could sneak away and spend time like this. This was how it should always have been.

People came to me with problems that had haunted them for months or years. I took them away in hours. They came to me with diseases that would bring their life expectancy down to months. I sent them away with it raised back up to ‘the next time an Ultra gets pissy’.

And I had no training. No knowledge of the diseases or natural imbalances I was correcting. Just magic from the Process, blasting effortlessly through the obstacles to human thriving and increasing the world’s overall welfare.

It was addictive, invigorating, and utterly validating.

I didn’t have to tell each beneficiary that this had to be kept covert. The Resistance had seen to that. I’d been at this for months, and the matter had been honed to something of a science.

I lurked in a darkened booth in a random meetup joint. My ‘patients’ waited nearby, lookouts watching the doors. If a human who was being helped came out, then that meant to send the next one in. If I came out, then we were done for the day.

I tried not to look to much at those I healed, tried to keep my grip firm and impersonal. If Snitcher spent a second or so in my senses I wanted him to see nothing interesting, just a quiet moment in a darkened room.

But still, in those stolen moments, I could see my gift taking effect. I could see people sitting up straighter, chronic pain erased in mere minutes. I could see their gratitude and their joy.

It felt strange, after Ar Harbour, and that utter shitstorm, but this was me. This was what I wanted to be. A bringer of health and joy.

This being the Regime, of course, that meant I was on some level an outlaw and a traitor, not of our laws, for we had none, but of Her values. But so be it.

It wasn’t that I chose the risk, as much as that I couldn’t make myself choose the alternative. To have this gift and do nothing, just watch people waste away? My heart would have to be entirely dead for that.

And it wasn’t, just yet.

 

Afternoon: Training Warband in Obedience

“In an Ultra Fight,” I declared, “Anyone that hesitates is dead! Anyone that commits against an enemy that they cannot damage is dead! Anyone who is baited away and surrounded…dead!”

The veterans nodded sagely, from where they were seated around the edges of the Barracks common room. The newbies just sat there, eyes wide.

They weren’t seeing Blender, not really. They damn sure weren’t seen Mia. They were seeing the Warlord, the conqueror of Ar Harbour. Their commander.

They were eating it up, and why shouldn’t they? These were the scions of the New World. They’d taken Her orders all their lives. Someone had told them what to do, where to go. Someone had ordered them into the Process, and now here I was, the woman who would order them into battle.

Order them, in fact, to their deaths.

They would face it as the young always had, with bravado and aggression. With laughter and courage. Go back a hundred years, maybe swap stuff so that the majority were men instead of women, and these were GIs. Go back two hundred and they were doughboys. Back beyond that they’d be knights, legionaries, and so forth. Humanity had only one shape for violence, and it was a group of young faces, desperately trying to be hard and trying to hide how hard they were trying.

“You stick together!” I insisted, shades of every drill sergeant who’d ever lived giving these same instructions, “You work as a team! You learn the gifts of everyone else, you work the enemy together. You see someone you can’t hurt, but who can’t hurt you? You haul them over to someone on our side who can take them down. You see someone on their side put one of ours down? You let everyone know how hard you’ve seen them hit.”

I leaned towards them, scowling, catching the eyes of the smartest among them, the most aggressive.

“Ultra combat is all about the matchups. Our strengths pushed against their weaknesses. Our toughest holding down their strongest. When you are in it, inside the scrum, your instincts are going to be raging at you, screaming at you to go mindless, to strike until you are dead.”

I stood back up top.

“And if you give in to those instincts, that’s exactly what you will be. Reason delivers victory, ladies. The team that works together gets the prize. We WILL be that team.”

I gave it a long beat, letting the tension build.

“Or you will be dead, and I’ll do it all myself.”

Quiet chuckling at that, and I motioned the squad leaders in, moving myself back out towards the periphery.

Today had been about obedience. They’d heard the Ultra combat speeches before, numerous times. But it meant something else hearing them from me. I’d held the floor down for hours, going through every profound sounding sound bite I could think of, and I was pretty sure at this point that I was the very avatar of martial competence in these kid’s minds.

Even more important, they’d also seen the veterans and their squad leaders hopping to obey. They’d heard the awed whispers, seen the divot in my forehead. They knew who they followed.

And I was Her hand on earth.

 

Evening: Debrief Owner

“How was Bubbler?” I asked.

“Good!” said Owner, right away and without hesitation.

I was more encouraged by the way that she said it, than I actually was by the content. Owner was a bit of a people pleaser. Anyone vaguely alright was always going to get her approval, but the fact that she didn’t have to spend any time mentally justifying it meant something.

“Her clinic look alright?” I continued.

Owner nodded, a bit smugly.

“For something made out of stuff from today, sure. Doesn’t hold a candle to my place, of course, but she makes do.”

From my understanding of it, Bubbler’s gift wasn’t as powerful as my own healing, but it could actually affect Ultras. Consequently, her clinic catered to the Regime’s Ultras, healing us up so that we could fight again.

It had made her very popular, easy to get info on. I knew most everything about her gift from my first effort, way back at the beginning of my tenure.

Bubbler could put anything or anyone she touched into a ‘bubble’ made out of the usual Ultra nonsense. They were weightless while inside there, easily floated about.

Being inside a bubble gradually repaired forms, whether they were human, Ultra or inanimate. It didn’t raise the dead, and I’d heard rumors that it had some kind of inability to affect anyone who was sufficiently Ultra Tough, which would make sense.

“She calls it a clinic, but it is a lot more than that,” Owner went on. “People bring her things to bubble, old world tech and stuff, and she sends them on their way with it. One of the more popular Ultras to the unpowered people, anyway.”

“How does it rate compared to your place, or Blisser’s?” I asked.

“Nobody’s more popular than Blisser,” she said, “But I bet she gets more takers than I do. You have to dig up old world currency to get stuff from me, but Bubbler takes her payment in favors and gossip. Lower cost of entry, don’t ya know?”

“Did she seem interested?” I asked. “In joining us, that is?”

Owner shook her head, slowly.

“This was just an info gathering trip,” she hedged, “So I didn’t press her, but she didn’t even seem to know I was working for you up until I mentioned it. She kind of gives the impression that she’s ok with how she spends her time, you know? Doesn’t really seem hungry for glory.”

I grimaced.

“That makes sense,” I allowed, but still, an Ultra who was competent enough to run her own business, with a gift like that, and who shared my sentiments on humans…could I really leave her in the wild?

I went to bed still mulling on it, and as I was drifting off I heard the rattle of pebbles at my window.

A dead drop, then. From the Resistance. It could only be the Union’s answer.

 

Day 12

18 days 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, 13 Rookie (that is, haven’t worked with me before) Ultras

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

 

Blender AP: 8/10 (3-1 +6 -3 +2 +1)

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) (This can go in either direction, asking them to do something from you, or asking if they need you to do anything for them.)

 

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 will take either a morning or afternoon action at Blender’s direction.

If you want Blender to get the Union message and read it that is a free action, would not cost either of your daily actions. If you don’t get it today it will likely be destroyed however, for infosec reasons the Resistance doesn’t like to leave messages around too long.

 

Regime Quest 45

Day 10:

Morning: Healing people

There was an old joke, or maybe saying.

“What if they called a war and no one came?”

It was ridiculous, of course, but thinking about ‘why’ it was ridiculous helped you to understand some things about the world you lived in. I liked sayings like that. You had to kind of, like, digest them.

So it was less amusing that I was living the dumbest future timeline version. “What if you offered free magic healing, and no one came?”

I had never had this happen before. Literally never. Each and every single time I’d gotten the word out to my contacts I had been virtually BURIED under an avalanche of people in desperate need. I’d once had two healing days consecutively, and the rush hadn’t slowed down in the slightest.

But today there was nothing.

I slumped down, leaning against a pillar in the ruined church I used for this sort of thing, trying very hard not to fixate on the fact that I had, in all likelihood, about three weeks left alive, and I was JUST SITTING HERE.

I gave it another hour, and then went to try and figure out what had happened. It wasn’t terribly hard.

I described it, earlier, as ‘getting the word out to my contacts’, but what I technically did was leave a message in a certain place, where a Resistance member knew to look.

First Fist had been, by terribly coincidence, near that place, doing a human dogfighting thing. I didn’t get close enough to get the details, but if my contact had been there then there was an excellent chance I’d need a new contact.

Best case scenario, they’d cleared out in time, and I’d just wasted my morning waiting on healing that no one knew was available. Worst case didn’t bear thinking about.

This damn city. This damn world.

 

Afternoon: Abort to self care

I had planned to train the warband in the afternoon.

I got as far as the door, but couldn’t make myself actually open it.

I’d stumbled back home from the outskirts of First Fist’s hideous game in something like a fugue state, my consciousness locked in a sort of desperate attempt to think of something else.

My warband, the things we did, they weren’t that something else. We were more of the same, in the privacy of my own soul I could admit it. We were afraid to die, afraid of Her, and so we killed. Those we battled were just the same as us, separated only by accidents of fate and fortune.

What good would it do, for me to train them? I could make them better killers, but I was completely powerless to make them better people. If we stuck it out, if we prevailed in our next battle…there would only be another one behind that, and another after that, forever.

I slumped down in one of the more intact chairs in the Packer House, mind awhirl with dark thoughts.

Had I become what I fought against? I had always imagined myself, within the Regime, as sand in the gears. Was that just a delusion? Was I always a component?

The higher I’d risen, the stranger it had seemed that I never seemed to encounter genuine partisans of the Regime. Everyone, all the way up, was just currying favor and doing their best to stay alive.

The Knights were just sucking up to Refiner for his protection, their racism as rote and pro forma as the warband’s protestations of loyalty to the revolving door warlocks. The Troubleshooters hid behind Adder’s broad shadow, their service bent around keeping out of Her notice.

Even Snitcher, if Maker could be believed, was living for his diversions. Even a bastion of the Regime, one of Her inner circle, couldn’t draw any energy from this horrific mess. It was just Blenders, all the way up to Her. We were all engaged in oppressing one another so that She wouldn’t kill us.

But there was a difference, ultimately, between the rest of them and I.

I had actually acted, I reminded myself. I’d seen this atrocity and made up my mind to set myself against it. I’d fought for the Warlord job, killing Ultras who would otherwise have gone on to propagate this tragedy into the wider world. Once in the job I’d rounded up yet more of them, found a target and slammed them against it. Casualties in excess of 50% in the battle with Ar Harbour.

A twinge went through me at the thought of Builder, at the thought of the innocents of Ar Harbour who’d been caught up in things, but the fact was that scores of Regime Ultras were gone. If the harm that I did was indisputable, then so was the good. I was genuinely, actually, verifiably fighting back against Her in the only way that I could.

I rose refreshed, as the evening came upon me. I wasn’t a hundred percent my self again, but I’d seen my way through the worst of it. The Warband would keep. The future would keep. I could only do my best.

Evening: Debrief Owner

“How was Shower?” I asked her.

Owner had returned shortly after I’d returned to a more active state.

I was glad that she hadn’t been a bit earlier. I’d struggled with aphasia for a long time, and Owner knew that, but I still didn’t like for her to see me when one of my bleak moods was upon me.

“He was his usual self,” she answered. “Still jealous that you got the job, of course, but he wanted to congratulate you on dealing with Arthur. He’d been doing some info gathering of his own, figuring you were gonna lose, and he wasn’t looking forward to dealing with them.”

I didn’t bother to ask why he hadn’t shared any of this info. The Regime was all about survival of the fittest. He wasn’t in the Posse, so we were rivals. Forget collaboration, I was lucky he hadn’t actively tried to work against me.

“Did you sound him out about the future?” I asked her. “He could be exceptionally valuable in Phis. There are very likely to be some absolutely massive battles going down there, and that’s where he would thrive.”

Owner frowned a bit.

“I asked him some leading questions,” she said, “But I wasn’t sure whether or not we were letting people know about the target. I know last time it was a huge hassle that Arthur knew we were coming…should I be open about where the Warband is going to be headed? I could see arguments either way, you know?”

So could I, to be honest, I’d have to think about it.

“What was his take on working together, in general?” I asked. “With all the usual proxy speaking and dance steps taken out. What do you think he actually meant for us to hear?”

She frowned a little deeper.

“I got the sense that he’d come on board,” she said, “But only as your right hand man, undisputed second in command and taking charge if you get killed. He wouldn’t be content to be just one of the Posse.”

It was my turn to frown.

Warlords didn’t often choose a second in command. It was kind of painting a target on your back, given that they would then have an excellent motive to kill you, and full access to the Warband who would be your only protection.

I’d have to think on it. If every other asshole (Maker, Joker…the damn Union) was making me wait, then there was no reason I couldn’t return the favor.

Day 11

19 days 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, 13 Rookie (that is, haven’t worked with me before) Ultras

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

 

Blender AP: 3/10 (1-1 +0 -0 +2 +1)

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) (This can go in either direction, asking them to do something from you, or asking if they need you to do anything for them.)

 

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 will take either a morning or afternoon action at Blender’s direction.

Going forward, should Blender/Owner tell Posse candidates what your next target is? Hard to say exactly what impact that might have.

(Inviting Shower to Posse will be interpreted to entail offering him Second In Command, so make sure to clarify if you want to Invite him without doing that.)

 

Haunter 10:3

“What the fuck happened?” I asked, hunkering down at the edge of the knoll.

An unfamiliar observer wouldn’t necessarily have noticed anything wrong with Shington on first impression. The city had always been a comparatively tiny set of intact buildings within a great halo of ruined structures, and it still was. The power had always been intermittent, and even the fires weren’t terribly novel.

But I was no unfamiliar observer. This was all wrong, even if I couldn’t immediately tell what had taken place.

“You are familiar with Torturer?” asked Mario.

I scowled at him. I didn’t have a huge amount of patience for people who asked questions that they knew the answer to, particularly in situations where serious consequences loomed.

The Jury, meanwhile, had been debating on the vista that I’d just looked out over. Their take was that the city’s center of gravity, so to speak, had shifted. The most prestigious Ultras had moved along the river, seizing the homes and dwellings of their less powerful competitors, and then repairing or rebuilding them.

The previous edges of Shington, by contrast, had fallen into disrepair, as the hangers on and have nots of the Regime’s capital had followed after their masters. The difference that I’d noted was a result of this, of the city ‘stretching’, so to speak, into the ruins about it, displacing its hangers on and expanding its overall volume.

“We came up with a scheme, a while back, to use her against Her. This was after Prevailer had stopped warping around, you see, and everyone knows that Torturer’s gift is unstoppable in a radius arou-”

“You didn’t,” interrupted Preventer. “Tell me that you didn’t.”

We were squatting on the edge of the greater Shington area, looking out over the city. The plane trip had been uneventful, with no sign of any attempt by the Union to track their vanished prisoners. Dale had gotten airsick, and ultimately spent the flight squatting down on the aircraft floor, hands clenched tightly around a chair leg.

We’d taken a skiff from the landing zone, which had actually been a bit of a tense moment, but Mario’s credentials had apparently been sufficient to get us through, and apparently no one had compared our profiles to those of notorious Regime figures.

Mario assured me that that wasn’t quite right, the comparison HAD been made, but SPARTACUS wouldn’t have routed it to anyone local because of some directives that he’d entered earlier. Somewhere an empty feed was blowing up with updates, but since the person who was supposed to be watching it was here with us, we were ok.

“We did,” he said. “We got the go ahead to try and weaponize her, I believe it was called Operation Karma Bitch. The plan was to herd her into the heart of the city, take out Her at best, a whole bunch of fascists at worst.”

I gritted my teeth.

“You understand that the vast majority of the city’s population are unpowered, right?” I asked him. “And that in the case of any kind of indiscriminate attack the Ultras will move away, and leave the humans around them to suffer?”

“You got to understand by now Jane,” said Indulger, “The Union aren’t like you want them to be. They hate us and they want to kill us, because they think they are better or something.”

I looked back to Mario, who winced and made a ‘sorta’ gesture with one hand.

“So what went wrong?” asked Preventer. “The world is still here, so I know you didn’t actually manage to get Torturer’s field onto Her.”

“She balked,” explained Mario. “Stopped as soon as she realized that she was heading into a populated area. She retreated to the city’s edge, and has stayed there since, foraging for food and such.”

I shook my head, looking out into Shington’s outskirts, trying not to think about the atrocity that had been perpetrated upon them.

“And She let this stand?” asked Dale, dubiously. “Like, Prevailer is ok with Torturer squatting on the edge of town instead of down in the pit? That, uh, doesn’t sound right.”

Mario looked over at him, eyebrow raised, but didn’t say anything.

“I’m not…I, hmm, I mean, we’ve been across the ocean, so you know better than we do what’s going on, but, like, if somebody told me that story I would say that She was weirdly passive, you know? Like, Peggy doesn’t really ever let anyone get one over on Her.”

“Remember,” said Mario, “You guys and Sixth Fist were deployed on the Pantheon mission. Fifth and First are off doing whatever they were up to, and Third deployed just after you did. The only assets She still has in-city are Remover and Second Fist, as well as the more minor Ultras.”

“I doubt She knows who they are,” said Preventer. “I remember a time where She called the Warlord the wrong name for her whole tenure. She’d forgotten that the last one had died, just went right on using the same name.”

“What’d the warlord do?” I asked.

“Changed her name.” she answered, deadpan.

We shared a chuckle over that.

Tensions had gone down a bit, in our little makeshift unit, since the jailbreak’s immediate aftermath. Dale was rationing his crazy juice, so he was noticeably more like his old self. Mario had sort of receded, in that way that humans in the company of a bunch of mighty Ultras often did, and Preventer was making an effort to be amiable.

“Alright,” I said, “So we head into the city, skirting the Pain Zone, and then what?”

“Well,” said Preventer, “We are trying to find First Fist, right? I can check on the Gardens, see if they’ve harassed any of them lately. I don’t think they could resist doing something heinous to my people if they were in town.”

I saw Mario stifle a grimace at that. It was easy to forget just how much of a shit Preventer was when she was being all reasonable, but there really just wasn’t anything resembling a soul in there.

“They probably could,” I responded, “if this is really Remover’s endgame. She owns that crew, body and soul. She isn’t going to make any obvious mistakes if it puts her long term plans in jeopardy.”

“Okay, but, like, is she gonna make any mistakes?” asked Dale. “You went off a few times about how she isn’t just some green haired super cop, she is the devil or whatever. So, doesn’t that just kind of screw us?”

That was an uncomfortable point.

“I think we decided,” said Mario, “to proceed as though our mission was possible. We are going into Shington because that’s the only way that the Union isn’t already trying to find First Fist. So, since otherwise we are doomed or saved no matter by someone else’s efforts, there must be something in Shington to find.”

I tapped my fingers together, trying to figure out how to unpick that argument. It was at times like these that I missed the Colonel. I gave it to the Jury.

“We can’t…hmm, what I’m trying to say is that that doesn’t exactly track.” I said, after a moment.

Dale scratched his head, looking at me.

“Yeah, we are stipulating that this is possible, “ I said. “And that means walling off the possibility that it isn’t. Fine. But, then, we still need to choose among the various options facing us, and we can’t extend the ‘don’t care about the odds’ principle further than we need to if we want to be successful.”

There was no need to rehearse the ‘passion doesn’t bring success, only reason does’ speech with my Fist. They’d all heard it before, and Mario had apparently arrived independently at something similar.

“So let’s put ‘talking to the people at the Gardens and using them as bait’ as one option,” I continued, “And consider others.”

“I didn’t say to use them as bait!” objected Preventer, but I breezily talked past her.

“Answerer knows,” I said. “By definition. If we can get a hold of Answerer we can get ahold of anyone.”

“Unless something about Remover is unforeseeable,” objected Mario. “If she’s pulled this all off under Her nose, and She had Answerer the whole time, doesn’t she kind of have to have a precog countermeasure?”

I frowned, but Dale jumped in before I could answer.

“It might be, like, simpler than that? Like, Prevailer only cares about Herself and Her friends, so, you know, Remover can stomp on the rest of us just as much as she wants. The questions aren’t getting asked about us.”

“It’s the same trick Remover pulled on the Union,” I said, “Getting them to think about the Pantheon as enemies so they wouldn’t act to save them when her attack came. She did the same thing to the strongest Ultras, getting Prevailer and Answerer and the rest to hole up and jerk each other off while she laid waste to the rest of us.”

It wasn’t a perfect comparison, but I’d be damned if I passed up a chance to tell Mario that his civilization was being dumb and it was leading us to extinction.

Wow, that was petty. Ok, maybe I would pass up such chances in the future. It wasn’t like he made the call, and by freeing us he’d already done all that he could do about it.

“It is still likely,” I stressed, “that Answerer can tell us where they are. If she can’t then that’s new information, but I’m pretty sure she’s answered First Fist related questions before. They’ve been working together for decades now. If Answerer had a blind spot for First Fist then I think She would have known, and done something.”

“There’s also Second Fist,” said Preventer.

I looked at her curiously.

“Refiner and Remover were always close,” she said. “First Fist likes to use Knight support, and Refiner can tell where his gift is in use. Wherever they are holed up, I really doubt they’ve ditched their blessed clothes.”

I grimaced, thinking of the Knights of Purity that I used to take on my troubleshooting expeditions, before joining Fourth Fist. I’d had no idea that Deceiver had been able to track my whereabouts all along.

“Would Second Fist tell us?” I asked. “It isn’t like we were ever exactly close.”

“It’s just another prospect,” said Preventer. “I’m not saying Answerer isn’t our best bet, but she’s notoriously hard to get ahold of. If we strike out there, then Second Fist makes a good second plan.”

“What do we do about Fisher and Condemner?” asked Dale, carefully noncommittal as to why they might not be here.

“No chance they will show up in time?” asked Mario.

Dale shook his head.

“Fists show up all the time without one member,” said Preventer. “It looks a little weak, but it isn’t the end of the world. It’s going to be hard to explain why we only sending half our number though.”

I looked back to Mario, considering.

“What if we weren’t down by two members?” I asked.

“I don’t like where this is going,” he said.

“Look, we can’t very well explain that we are walking around with a Union spy,” I said, “And we can’t leave you lurking outside the city in the brush.”

“I thought I could act like a Regime human,” he said. “Act like a minion or whatever.”

Preventer scoffed.

“Um…I don’t think you could pull it off,” Dale said, trying his best to be kind, “Like, maybe if you had a week of lessons, or whatever, but right now…”

“There’s a deference there,” I explained, “It is hard to pull off unless you are genuinely concerned that you could be murdered at any moment. Regime citizens are brutalized and traumatized. You are just too, I don’t know, awake.”

“So instead of pretending to be a class of people I’m unfamiliar with, you want me to pretend to be one specific person I’m unfamiliar with?” he asked. “That feels like a much harder acting challenge. I never met this Nirav guy, and the footage I’ve seen of him isn’t terribly distinctive.”

“His form was malleable,” I explained, “He could shift it a bit when he came back from fire form. You are broadly similar, and he was never the most social of us.”

“All you got to do is stand in the back,” said Dale, “And just make shit up if anyone asks you stuff. Talk about, like, the ‘dignity of fire’, and the ‘formlessness of fury’, if you get stuck.”

Preventer stifled a chuckled.

“He never said ‘formlessness of fury’,” she objected.

“He’s going to give you some shit for saying that!” I chimed in, not so subtly reminding the other two that, for now at least, Fisher and Condemner were to be resolutely present tense.

It wasn’t that we didn’t trust Mario at this point. It was the simple fact that the easiest way to tell a lie was to believe it, so each fewer person who knew the Link was broken was one less person who could accidentally spill that info.

“What do we do about Her?” asked Dale, as the chuckling was dying down.

We all fell silent at that, save for Mario.

“What do you mean?” he asked. “We are avoiding Her, aren’t we?”

I nodded somberly.

“That might not be possible,” I said. “She was romantically interested in Dale, back in the day. She may have left instructions in the wake of his return.”

“Can we just avoid Her proxies?” he asked. “I wasn’t on the Shington beat, I don’t know exactly how She sends out Her orders, but could it be as simple as just not talking to them?”

“Sure,” said Dale, “Except our plan is to go and find them and talk to them.”

Mario deflated a little.

“Yeah,” I confirmed, “Her orders generally go out through Remover and the Fists now. Back in the day she had the Snitches and such, but ever since Snitcher got taken out the shit just rolls downhill.”

“That’s not so surprising,” said Dale. “I mean, the reason we want to talk to Answerer and Refiner is that they know stuff. It makes sense that they would also know what we don’t want them to know, you know?”

“No,” I joked, before chuckling again.

“Won’t they know Condemner?” asked Mario, circling back around to this part of the plan in what I felt was an admirable attempt to evade the inevitable, “Should we maybe-“

“Nobody knew Nirav,” said Preventer, “And there’s nothing we can do about Her. If we get called before Prevailer, then all we can do is what we’ve always done, we play it by ear.”

I didn’t exactly love that, but standing out here was scarcely any better, and it didn’t seem like there was anything we could do to prepare for such an encounter.

“We will go off context clues, read the room, all that kind of thing,” I cautioned the rest. “Let Dale and I take the lead on it. He knows Her, and I have a lot of help in my reserve. We are our best chance to get through any encounters.”

“Don’t have to tell me twice,” said Preventer. “I literally joined a Fist and tried to defect to the Pantheon in order to not talk to Her.”

“Then it’s settled,” I told them.

I looked around the knoll, got nods, grudging or not, from each of them.

“Then let’s do this,” I told them. “Together.”

We all nodded solemnly, and then we got up and started working our way forward, pushing rubble aside and using Dale’s gift to shift the occasional large obstacle.

Without ceremony or excitement we slipped back into Shington.

Regime Quest 44

Day 9:

Morning: Inviting Joker

“What do you mean you don’t know where she is?” I growled.

I was proud of myself. I didn’t fly off the handle, didn’t start swearing and cursing, just lowered my voice a bit and stared daggers at the person I was talking to.

She looked away, wincing, as though I’d raised a hand up to strike her. Everything about her body language screamed that she wanted to put her hands over her face, but she didn’t dare to.

“Joker does this sometimes,” she said. “I’ll let you her know you came by, the next time I see her.”

I reached out and took her by the scruff of the neck, jacked her up against the doorframe of Joker’s house.

“How about,” I asked, my voice level and calm once more, “you let me know, instead. And how about instead of the next time she comes by you let me know right now. Where. The. Fuck. Is. She?”

“I don’t know!” she sobbed. “This is just a thing she does. She’ll be back eventually, but she never knows how long it’ll take!”

“How long WHAT will take?”

I saw it then. The fear in her eyes was suddenly tainted by guilt.

She fell over herself to deny it, a word salad of helplessness and innocence, but it all rang false to me. She knew something.

I believed that she didn’t know where Joker was. She wasn’t the type to inspire loyalty, and I was here while she wasn’t, so I was pretty sure her minion would have already flipped on her if they knew what I wanted.

My old world instincts were screaming at me to back off, don’t be an asshole, let the woman get back to me. But the thing was that this was my life. I could easily literally die if I waited a week or more before finishing my posse.

I had no idea where the target was, or when I had to take it down. I couldn’t afford to be reasonable.

“You know why I’m called Blender?” I asked her, voice pitched menacingly. “Have you ever seen one? It is a machine that turns stuff into a slurry of liquid and waste?”

She whimpered, grimaced, and finally spilled it.

Joker, it turned out, had a hobby. Whenever a human annoyed her she would go undercover and catfish them, then string them along and break their hearts. During this process she was completely incognito from her supporters, who could do nothing but wait for their patron to return.

That was certainly one use you could put a flawless disguising gift to. The Regime always found a new way to disappoint me.

I left her helpers with instructions for her to get in touch with me the instant they heard from her, then headed back across town.

I counted them off in my head. I was currently waiting to hear from the Union about the Merlin thing, from Maker about the Posse, from Joker about the Posse and from Subtracter about my mission. I was utterly sick of waiting.

It put me in mind of a memory from my childhood, back when my grandmother had been dying in the hospital. A pair of orderlies had walked bye, and one of them had made a dumb joke to the other.

I never forgot how angry I was at their laughter. Didn’t they know that my Gram was dying? How could they not drop everything and do whatever they could to help, when it was life or death?

I felt that same helpless rage rising within me now. The battle in Ar Harbour had brought home to me just how dangerous this job was. My lifespan was measured in weeks, maybe in months, and people were asking me to wait for days?

I felt my lips curl back from my teeth in a snarl, and I stopped for a moment in the shade of a piece of rubble, trying to focus myself.

I kept going when I reached the Packer house, heading down the street towards Subtracter’s digs digs.

The time for waiting was over.

 

Afternoon: Questioning Subtracter

 

I stepped into the Oval Office.

The famous furniture had been haphazardly tossed about, piled up along the walls. Subtracter had placed a king sized mattress in the center of the room, and then another atop it. She looked up lazily as I stepped in.

The most famous room in the world, perhaps. The room from which, debatably, the Old World had been governed.

It reeked of weed.

“Hey Blender,” she said. “What are you doing here?”

Subtracter was mostly innumerate, but she was still in charge of the timeline for my attacks.

“I just wanted to know what my next target was.” I told her.

She blinked owlishly at me, seemingly confused.

I was about eighty percent sure Subtracter couldn’t get high. Her Ultra Toughness would screen out mind altering chemicals. But maybe that didn’t apply if you wanted it not to? I wasn’t sure.

“When am I attacking?” I tried.

“30 days!” she said, almost automatically.

“From the previous battle,” I supplied, “so 21 from now.”

“Sure,” she said.

I could have kicked myself. Why the hell had I said that? Had I just cost myself nine days of preparation with one sentence of idiocy?

“And you are gonna fight…”

She let the sentence trail off, looking over to the side where a map lay half unrolled in the ruins of a very famous desk.

I tried to force calm. It hadn’t been an actual opportunity. Prevailer could certainly count, and She would be looking for Her scheduled program. I was right to correct Subtracter.

“Hey,” she asked me, chuckling, “You think you can take down Phis?”

“Course not,” I said, chuckling right back.

She was on her feet without transition, skipping over the intervening steps like God had decided to cut back on rendering.

I’d killed myself.  Holy shit I was about to die.

“…is what I would say if I was a pussy!” I continued, calling on every gram of acting skill I’d ever possessed to make that transition look natural.

It had been the fucking chuckle. Subtracter had laughed in the exact same way at my brother’s sky burial, and every time I heard it I lost my damn cool.

She scowled suspiciously at me, fists opening and closing.

“Phis is the target,” she said. “Those Pantheon shits have been pissing me off. Kill em all.”

“Can do!” I said.

The rest of the meeting was a blur, me doing my level best to avoid annoying the idiotic maniac I worked for, even as I panicked inwardly.

Phis was a serious Pantheon stronghold, basically the center of their Eastern US operations. There were a couple scary names for it. So far as I could recall it had never been attacked by a Warlord, but I was pretty sure Second Fist had taken a swing at it, and been forced back.

I couldn’t, off the top of my head, remember the Ultra in charge. I think it had changed recently.

But I was looking at hundreds of Ultras, multiple leaders as powerful as me or Smasher. Phis was one of their attempts at a Shington equivalents, a gathering place for Ultras from which they went out to attack cities.

Subtracter, in all likelihood, had just fucking killed me. I might as well have died that day back in my village.

 

Evening: Debrief Owner

 

“Then we all got to telling stories about the battle with the Round Table” she gushed. “I think the new guys really respect me now.”

“It sounds like they just really like the fact that you brought beer,” I responded, deadpan.

Owner had spent the morning drilling the Warband, then thrown them a party in the afternoon. She’d gone flying with Soarer, thrown candy and alcohol around like they were going out of style, and basically had a blast.

I was utterly not here for it, my thoughts trapped in a town that had been knocked down years ago, listening to Subtracter kill at random.

“Where’s our next target?” she asked. “Were you able to get Joker on board?”

I told her how things had gone, watched the excitement leave her face.

I hoped it didn’t make me a bad person that that made me feel a bit better.

 

Day 10 20 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, 13 Rookie (that is, haven’t worked with me before) Ultras

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

 

Blender AP: 1/10 (6 -3 +0 -3 +0 +1)

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) (This can go in either direction, asking them to do something from you, or asking if they need you to do anything for them.)

 

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 will take either a morning or afternoon action at Blender’s direction.