This was a mistake.
There was nothing wrong with the stand up comic who was plying his trade, doing a credible Union accent and mocking our neighbors to the north. There was nothing wrong with the venue, a quiet hole in the wall that I’d patronized on numerous occasions. There was nothing wrong with my body or my blends.
The fault was all in my mind.
‘Trying to relax’ sounds like a good idea when you have it, but when it comes time to actually execute it is almost maddeningly difficult. I sat there and tried to lose myself in the crowd’s laughter, and the only thing I lost were valuable seconds, minutes of my life.
I was going to die in two weeks, and these assholes were sitting around laughing?
I didn’t get up and shout or make a big scene about it. I’d presumably laughed at some point while the last warlord ran around, desperately trying to gather up Ultras for her doomed efforts against Ar Harbour. It would be counterproductive to cause a scene about it.
But every moment I spent denying resentment and tamping down on my annoyance was a moment that I wasn’t resting, wasn’t enjoying myself. And that thought was even more counterproductive.
It didn’t help that the comic wasn’t great. He fell in the uncanny valley between licking Her boots and not daring to have any opinions about Ultras whatsoever. Probably his first time working the Lair, and his last, if my opinion was anything like typical for the audience. He’d be lucky to leave alive.
That thought, and those like it, kept me at least a little occupied for the remainder of the event, which was probably at least slightly healthier than mentally counting the precious seconds of my life as they slipped to the bottom bulb of the hourglass.
So yeah, not that restful.
The concept of ‘chain of command’ was a very old one. The Romans had it. At its core it wasn’t very complicated. I was pretty sure some species of wolves had managed something similar.
The basic idea was that you obeyed the person above you, but not just because they could beat you up. It was because we were all more successful when we worked that way, and you could prove this because teams with hierarchies always kicked the shit out of disorganized mobs.
Unfortunately, I wasn’t working with Romans, or even fucking wolves. I was working with Ultras, people who’d spent their lives from a very young age being told that Ultras were the best and most important, and they got to do whatever they want.
They’d cowered and scraped through the first part of their existences as humans, ordered around and randomly bullied by our kind. Then they’d risked their lives in the Process, and ultimately been vindicated. They were fortune’s favorites, the Chosen Ones.
It all shook out to them not wanting to take orders from a jumped up soda vendor who’d spent the last battle cowering in the wreckage of the vehicle.
It wasn’t like I didn’t emphasize, on some level. Owner really didn’t know her way around a battle. But what I explained to them, what I’d explained to them at least twice before, was that Owner’s orders ultimately came from me.
I had to do the tough gal thing. I held court in the center of the barracks, calling out anyone who didn’t look sufficiently cowed, asking whether they thought they could take me. I wrapped my ‘Warlord’ title around me and threatened them with Her wrath. I did everything I could think of to cow them into obedience.
By the time I left I was vaguely optimistic that maybe they’d take Owner’s orders, as long as they were for something they wanted to do anyway. Maybe this time it would finally sink in.
Evening: Debrief Owner/Replayer
“You were both scouting,” I told my Posse as we met later on, in the same watering hole as yesterday, “so tell me what you found.”
Replayer did her eye thing, so I turned to Owner first.
“Three prospects,” she said. “Two first rate, one I’m a bit dubious on.”
“Why?” asked Replayer.
“She has a problem with authority,” said Owner.
“Let’s hear ‘em,” I interrupted.
“Erupter is the first one. She’s Ultra Tough Two, and whenever anything hits her an explosive force slams it back, at the same level it hit at. So if you punched her at Ultra tough one, your hand gets punched back at the same strength. Bullets get hit in the front by bullets, and so on.”
I’d have gone with ‘Reflector’ or something similar for that gift, but the ways of the Company Men were not for the rest of us to understand.
“What’s she do?” I asked.
“Erupter has sort of appointed herself a patrolling defender of Shington,” she said, “She has a small gang of weaker Ultras and they wander around the city, hassling refugees on approach and watching for Union or Pantheon attacks.”
Replayer gave a quiet chuckle at the idea of anyone attacking the city where She laid Her head.
“Next up we have Stormer,” she said, “Who does weather control. She doesn’t normally have Ultra Toughness, but she gains it to some degree, the worse the weather is.”
“I bet she spends her time selling rainy or sunny days to Ultras willing to protect her,” I guessed, which Owner confirmed with a nod.
“She has limited control of the storm in a fight situation, she could maybe strike someone with lighting, it isn’t clear whether it has Ultra Strength or not, but she definitely doesn’t control each gust of wind.”
“That doesn’t sound like a combatant,” said Replayer, and Owner nodded sheepishly.
“I just didn’t want to skip over her,” she said, “I’d feel like a fool if it turned out that weather control was a big deal to Ultra warfare and I just hadn’t mentioned it.”
“And the last one?” I asked, “The one with a problem with authority?”
“Stomper,” she said. “Ultra strength 2, Ultra toughness 1, and some kind of mobility power where she jumps around. She can make explosions when she steps, and it hurls her about.”
I thought about it for a moment.
“I’m guessing the problems with authority are mostly people on her side not wanting to get blown up by her blasting off?”
“Pussies,” said Replayer.
I didn’t dignify that with an answer, and I managed not to roll my eyes either.
“Your prospects?” I asked her.
“I couldn’t find Limiter,” she said. “I hear she works with the Dolls in the outer city. She’s supposed to be able to make shields or something like that.”
“Shields?” I asked.
The Dolls were an Ultra gang, one of the stronger ones if matters hadn’t shifted too much since I was coming up.
“Or maybe rules? I dunno, like she can stop everyone from coming in a direction or stuff like that, or not let anybody do certain things.”
That sounds really interesting.
“Does it work on people who are Ultra tough?” I asked.
I also wanted to know what let her use the gift on someone, but it didn’t sound like Replayer had gotten enough info on her for that.
“Nah,” she said, “And also the more they try and do the thing the more it breaks the rule down. I dunno, the person I talked to through she promised a lot and didn’t follow through on it very well.”
“And Murderer?” I asked.
I’d known at least two other Murderer’s before. It was a pretty common name.
“Death touch,” she said, “And she’s Ultra Tough at one.”
“Sounds a lot like Smasher,” said Owner. “Do we know any limitations on her gift?”
“Nope,” said Replayer, “She says it has never failed her, but I bet she’d say that even if it had, you know?”
“Is she only Ultra Tough if she’s used the death touch recently?” I asked.
It was surprisingly common for Ultras with 2 gifts to have the second one ‘powered’ by the primary.
“Not sure,” she said. “We talked a bit, but she was cagey. She’s waiting on you failing, wants to be the Warlord after you.”
That wasn’t very surprising, but it was certainly something to keep in mind. Given the chance, she might take the opportunity to hurry her time along.
“Resister?” I asked.
“Ultra tough one,” she said, “And also she gets tougher against any single person the more they fight. I talked to her ex, and the way she tells it if someone doesn’t beat her right off the bat they aren’t going to.”
“Does she have any offensive capabilities?” I asked.
What I really wanted to know was what all these folks had in common, to get them on the Union’s list, but Replayer wasn’t really someone I could trust enough to let down the mask of the Warlord. I had to stay strictly within the confines of my role with her.
“Not at first,” said Replayer, “But the more she resists someone the stronger she gets vs them.”
“What is she up to?” I asked.
“She lives in the Lair itself,” Replayer said, “She’s been growing in popularity recently, she runs one of the human dog fighting rings.”
Had she been responsible for the delay in my message? I dismissed the thought.
“And was there one more?” I asked.
“Finisher,” said Replayer, “Seemed like a nobody. She lives like a human, just eats her protein paste and chills out every day. Nothing going on there.”
“What’s her gift?” I asked.
“She can kill wounded people by making their wounds get worse and worse. Just has to see them to do it. It takes more or less time depending on how bad the wound is.”
“Ultra tough also?” I asked.
Replayer shook her head.
“Not at all,” she said, “I don’t know who recommended her for the Posse, but they don’t know shit. This one’s useless.”
“She might have a use,” said Owner. “People take wounds in the fight and go on to win it, if we had someone watching up over the fight so that all the enemies who got wounded died right off it would be very helpful.”
Replayer scowled at Owner, and I waved a hand dismissively.
“Thanks for your reports,” I told them. “Let’s get some sleep. Tomorrow will come soon enough.”
15 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
Erupter – 0/0/2, a woman who retaliates against attacks on herself, patrols the outskirts of the city.
Stormer – 0/0/*, a woman who controls weather, does so for Regime big shots
Stomper – 2/0/1, can blast herself along with explosive stomps, problems with authority
Vower – 0/0/?, a woman who can enforce oathkeeping
Caller – 0/0/0, a woman who can grant and use telepathic communication
Nailer – ?/?/?, a woman who can merge objects and people into composites
Hater – X/0/X, a woman whose effectiveness depends on how much her enemy is hated, and by how many people
Resister – */0/1* Grows steadily more effective vs. each opponent
Finisher – 0/0/0 Can rapidly kill wounded foes in her line of sight
Limiter – ?/?/? Makes ‘rules’, or ‘shields’, that restrict her enemies
Murderer – 0/0/1, Death Touch
Owner’s Shington Store
Posse: (4 slots, 2 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: 5/10 (4 – 0 +1 -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.