Early Morning: Read Union’s Note
The note was easy to find, easy to read, hard to digest.
To my counterpart,
I undertake this correspondence as penance, and as a goad against future error. Perhaps chatting with a savage named after a kitchen appliance will help me to avoid the complacency which led to your recent successes.
I wasn’t able to understand the first part of your missive, perhaps the channel confused matters. I can fill in the gist, I suppose.
Our official policy is that we do not respond to hostage takers, but I can’t resist the temptation to let you know that the woman you abducted was named Soarer, Merlin was the one who got away. I expect that humans all look the same to you, but these two are Ultrahumans, I feel like you could have kept them straight.
But no. I was only able to bring myself to close the feeds of your last victim this morning, I can resist for a while yet the temptation to underestimate you. No doubt your latest devilry will become clear in time, to our great dismay.
I expect you no longer have a pressing need for trucks and such supplies, but perhaps you will in the future. You are correct in assuming that we are willing to make such arrangements. Our material goods are on the table, and more besides.
Here is what we will give you. I do Not-See any reason why this arrangement would ever be betrayed.
Insurance (for your own person, and those of your followers) against our attacks for a month, or until you provoke us. If you buy this we will allow you to molest the Pantheon and your fellow savages with impunity. (I expect you to buy this, but hope that you don’t.)
A large quantity of material goods. Guns, trucks, bombs, that manner of thing. Whatever your grubby little heart desires. Tell us what you want, we’ll tell you where we leave it. We have good practice in making our deliveries look like the sort of thing you’d find in the ruins you squat in.
An intelligence report on a Pantheon or Regime stronghold. You can expect a description of any fortifications, briefs on the ruling Ultrahumans, accounts of their forces and speculation as to their current and near future activities.
A strike on a Pantheon or Regime target of your choosing, carried out with expendable assets (drones, auxiliaries and such). Prior experience would suggest that you should expect significant attrition of a unit caught in the open by such a strike, much less so on one that is occupying fortifications.
We will make a good faith effort at killing a Pantheon or Regime individual of your choice, so long as said assassination does not take place in the Lair and is not directed at anyone who your leader knows personally. In the past these were mostly successful.
I hope you find these services enticing. I assure that they are very real. You are far from the first to occupy your role, and teaming up with us against the Pantheon is a strategy that many of your kind have successfully employed. We are enthusiastic collaborators, deeply committed to a coalition environment.
As far as your payment goes, we take it in Regime deaths, off of the following list.
- Analyzer, Begger, Blender. Caller (*). Composer. Dealer, Finisher, Grower, Hater, Hugger, Jinxer, Limiter, Lowerer, Lurker (the second one), Mincer, Murderer, Nailer, Omitter, Owner, Presser, Resister, Sender, Saver, Tester, Vower (*), Yowler
If you can arrange for the deaths of ten Ultrahumans not on the list, that counts for one. (We don’t count the ones in your warband, those will die without your cooperation). If you arrange for the deaths of five hundred unpowered Regime citizens, that is also one. (50 fascists ~ one Ultra, 10 Ultras usually means one we have a problem with).
A star by the name means it counts double, just one such kill would earn you a drone strike!
In order to make these purchases, send us the names of those you’ve killed, as well as what you want done for it. You can be as long winded or complicated as you would like, but I’m pretty sure our mutual friends/victims pass these orally between at least 3 different people before they make it from one of us to another, so simplicity is your friend here.
Morning: Invite Replayer:
Replayer was lounging in a makeshift hammock when I walked up, with a trio of humans on either side holding up the ends.
“Blender, shit!” she said, scrambling up to her feet in a flash. “I heard about the wicked battle! You really fucked em up!”
I grinned, broadly and evenly, thinking about scrambling around in the mud and fire, and the desperate mutual hunt with the Round Table. I let no hint of how disturbing it was that she could shift her position completely before I could react touch my face.
“Totally,” I said. “It was fucking glorious, you should have been there!”
“You picked Smasher, remember?” she said. “I hear she got totally punked out.”
I nodded solemnly.
“Died bravely,” I corrected, “But that’s battle for you. Glory isn’t easily plucked, you know? People watch your stuff at the Ultra Fights because the real thing is too terrible to watch.”
She gave an expression then that I wasn’t fast enough to see, just a sort of flicker across her face. It was a sobering reminder to be very careful here.
“We got a new strong girl,” she said, after a moment, “Another Mangler if you can believe it. I swear the Company gives that name to everyone.”
I gave a brief snort, sort of a suppressed chuckle noise.
“I probably brought her in,” I told Replayer. “We did some Processing before I went out on my last expedition.”
“Circle of life,” she said, “You fixed what you broke. Fights go on.”
We shared a companionable silence for a moment, looking out onto the Lair’s winding streets, just beginning to bustle as the lazier inhabitants got up and about.
“You were right,” I said, after that moment had had its time.
“Course I was,” she responded, instantly.
I let that sit in the air for a second, idly cracking my knuckles.
“When was I right?” she asked, the merest hint of a smile appearing on the edge of her mouth.
“When you said that you were the strongest, that Smasher wasn’t good enough.”
Her turn to be quiet for a sec.
“We nearly died,” I continued, “Worse, we nearly failed Her. When Smasher went down things got bad. I’m not inclined to let that happen again.”
“Going to correct the mistake?” she asked, “Take the right Ultra this time?”
I gave a solemn nod.
“You’re up,” I told her. “Full Posse membership. I need a wrecking ball, and you are the best around.”
“Wicked,” she said, and, of course, was.
Afternoon: Train Warband, focus on personalized capabilities
I spent the afternoon going through the warband’s capabilities with a metaphorical fine toothed comb. Phis was going to be a brutal fight, and there was no sense leaving any money on the side of the road, so to speak.
If I was already in command of anyone with a use I didn’t know about, now was the time to rectify that.
I didn’t have a lot of hopes for this, to be honest. I’d recruited all of my followers from the Yard, meaning that they were paramount Ultra combatants. That meant that they had, in large majority, Ultra Toughness One and Ultra Strength One or its equivalent.
It made them elite, and was probably the single largest contributing factor in my victory at Ar Harbour, but it also ate up the lion’s share of their gifts. It wasn’t reasonable to expect anyone with strength, toughness, and another capability besides to become a Warband member. Someone with such a flexible and mighty gift would probably be in the Posse, if not actively angling for my job.
If I wanted people with diverse capabilities to join up, I probably needed to recruit from the Lair proper, maybe scout them out personally, as I’d done with Soarer, and then figure out a way to keep people from shooting them.
An ordinary Warband would also need to somehow be kept from bullying the new less combative members, but I’d put a lot of time into training my crew, and hopefully the vets, at least, would have gotten the message that infighting wasn’t something I took kindly to.
Still, despite my reservations, I was able to find a trio of interesting prospects. They gave me a decent amount to think about over the course of the afternoon.
Infecter was the first one everyone looked to when I asked about ‘weird’ gifts. Her gift made a black oil seep from her hands, a slow flowing syrup-like fluid that stained anything she dripped it on.
The oil wasn’t harmful in the conventional sense, it didn’t dissolve or eat away at the forms it clung to, until Infecter decided it was time.
She could explode it whenever she wanted, violently detonating the substance at her whim, and doing so with enough force to damage enemies with Ultra Toughness of the first rank.
During the Ar Harbour battle, and as a general practice, she’d soaked a few throwing stones in her fluids before the battle, and she would fling them at the enemy as they closed, making them erupt as soon as they hit, like grenades. Once the enemy got up close she tried to land palm strikes on people, leaving her handprints wherever she could for later detonation.
I tried to get more details on her detonation criteria, and it seemed to be flexible and powerful. She could either pick out a cube in her mind, and blow up any of her fluid inside that cube, or pick a time in her memories, and activate the substance that she’d been creating at that particular point in time.
Fortifier was the second, an Ultra whose work I’d actually seen before. She was the blaster who had taken out Guinevere in the end, putting a stop to my fruitless pursuit back in that heated scrum.
She was a living turret, it seemed. She could sculpt and ‘throw’ her energy around. Its impact depended on how long she’d been stationary before she threw it. It started out as a subdual weapon, like the old rubber bullets that riot cops used to use. Once she’d been in the same place for thirty seconds it got to be lethal, and if she stood around for three or more minutes, seemingly a two hundred count, it topped out at Ultra Strength Two.
That was what had shattered Guin, one of her full strength blasts. She’d planted herself at the back of our formation and done brutal business with the enemy’s ranks as the fight had raged on.
The last was ‘Driver, a soft spoken Ultra with a terrifying gift. If she could put her hands on you she could take over your form, leaving her own piloted by her “robot mind”, as she called it.
Once she did this her own form acted as she’d instructed beforehand, while her will controlled her victim. This was resisted by the victim’s Ultra Toughness in much the same way as my own Blending was, that is, it didn’t work at all on someone who was Ultra Tough Two, it took a minute or so of contact on someone with basic Ultra Toughness, and it was instant on an unprotected target.
If the victim was killed while she was ‘driving’ them she snapped back to her own form. If her own form received a forceful blow during this time it was negated, and she snapped back.
I took careful notes on each of these three, adding their gifts to the list I kept of my force’s overall capabilities. I felt like I was finally getting clear of the shadow that had fallen over me since my run in with Subtracter, like I was becoming myself again.
It was a good feeling.
Evening: Debrief Owner
“How was Burner?” I asked.
Owner gave a sullen shrug, frowning off into space.
I sighed. No help for it.
“Something got you down?” I asked.
She fed a bit of lettuce to Napoleon, looking back over to me after a long beat.
“Burner’s fine,” she said. “She does the pyro work for the Ultra fights, you know how the audience gets surrounded by fire, but it doesn’t burn them? That’s her. She also does the fire diagrams when they can’t get sets built.”
“So she can make the flame go where she wants, and burn what she wants?” I asked, looking to clarify, and also to take Owner’s mind off whatever was bugging her.
“She has to see it to set it on fire,” said Owner, “And if she looks away or stop concentrating then it just becomes regular fire, burns everything its on. Her gift isn’t as strong as Guinevere’s.”
That was certainly true, but even a weaker version wasn’t to be scoffed at. Burner’s flames couldn’t hurt Ultra Tough foes, but they could devour fortifications, blind her enemies and be deployed in the middle of friendlies without doing any harm.
It was something of a truism, when one talked about Ultra gifts, that anything that couldn’t affect Ultra Toughness was useless, but I’d been giving the matter some thought recently, and that wasn’t exactly true.
If the enemy was fielding a force comparable to mine, then sure, it wouldn’t work on them. But not everyone had access to the Yard. Arthur’s Knights weren’t going to be on the next battlefield. The Pantheon was well known for a quantity over quality kind of approach. Burner might do a lot of work against them.
“What was she like?” I asked.
Owner’s frown deepened.
“Passionate,” she said, after a moment’s contemplation. “She went on and on about the Ultra Fights, about what she was trying to do with them. It was hard to pin her down and get the specifics you wanted, because she was just so keen to talk about her work.”
“Hah?” I asked, incredulously.
“I know, right?” she said. “Ultra Fight is just a stupid game to mess around with the audience, you know? They aren’t even real fights, but she is so fucking into it. I had to hold myself back from laughing at her.”
It was strange to hear about someone in the Regime who had a real entertainer’s passion, of course, but after I thought about it for a second I could accept it. From my vantage point, from Owner’s, there might not be anything to the shows, but Burner would have her own lived experience.
You were only your time, in the end, right? Just like the rest of the Ultras only dimly knew about the Warlord and their duties, just like the people in the Yard imagined the Lair as a promised land, everything only mattered to the degree that you let it, or made it.
For Owner, who spent so much time on her shops, but knew so little of their underpinnings, it must have been a shock to come up against someone who was genuinely passionate about their work.
She was probably asking herself some hard questions now. I doubted anything would come of it, but I’d keep an eye on her.
As far as hard questions went, ‘how do I make it through Phis’ was the one that I was stuck on.
17 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
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
Owner’s Shington Store
Posse: (4 slots, 1 filled)
Owner (trusted friend, housemate, gift hard to describe) 0/0/1
Replayer — 1/2/0, she can ‘step back in time’ to undo damage that she takes
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.
Driver, Defender and Infecter possess interesting capabilities.
Blender AP: 7/10 (8-3 +2 -3 +2 +1)
Actions cost 3, return 2 on success 0 on failure unless otherwise specified, Blender gains 1 AP every morning
Union Kill List tree, if you feel any indication to play along with their proposal (note that KEM/Resistance missions tie in well with these matters)
Get basic info on 4 Ultras (indicate names, this is a gossip based approach unless you specify otherwise)
Get detailed info on 1 Ultra (indicate name, this is a ‘track them down and speak with them’ based approach unless you specify otherwise)
Kill an Ultra from the list (indicate target name and your basic method, may cause rebellion or discontent in any Posse or Warband assets you use, may not, use your best judgement and be clever)
Send Union a Message (indicate text of message, this is actually a Resistance action, but I’ve placed it here for ease of use)
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)
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)
Blender Morning Action
Blender Afternoon Action
Owner will take either a morning or afternoon action at Blender’s direction.
Replayer 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.