I was going to have to find a new way to contact my contacts. That was the long and short of it. There had to be a way that was clandestine, secure, and most importantly didn’t fail to work half the time.
It was a petty thing to gripe about, all told. It wasn’t like I’d been found out by Snitcher, or caught up in one of the Regime’s frequent attempts to purge KEM sympathizers. It could be a lot worse.
But there was something about having a deadline, a literal deadline. In a little under two weeks, odds were I was going to die. It clarified things, parted the fog, so to speak.
It made me resent, violently, waiting for a contact in this dingy tavern and realizing that, once again, it wasn’t going to happen.
No doubt there was good reason. No doubt he was detained by an Ultra to carry rocks, or warm a bed. It almost certainly wasn’t my contact’s fault.
But it wasn’t going to happen again.
In fact, it wasn’t going to happen this time.
I fixed my gaze on the door where he would appear, cleared my mind, and WILLED him to come walking through.
I broke into a chuckle and took a sip from my drink. At least I’d tried. Now I could scratch ‘force people to keep appointments’ off of the list of minor gifts I might not know I had.
I hadn’t done my recruitment speech nearly as often as old world politicians had been forced to, but I was beginning to get the slightest hint of their pain.
Hype up the crowd, check. Invoke Her name. Check. Force rules the world, call and repeat, check and check. Glory and Honor (whatever those might actually mean for any individual Ultra), check and check. Subtly imply people who don’t join up are pussies, check. State it outright for those that subtle flies over the head of, sadly checked.
Something about the process almost forced a cynicism and contempt on me that I tried not to dwell on. I’d always striven to avoid looking down on the Ultras of the Regime. I hated them, sure, for their cruelty and their nihilism. I hated their actions, and the characters that allowed those actions to transpire.
But contempt was something else again. It bred the believe that I was something other, something better. It would, if I let it, cultivate a false sense of security.
And yet, it was so very hard to avoid it. My pitch, essentially, was ‘come fight strangers. Half of you will die, and the other half will get to do it again in another month’. Absolutely no one who was doing a cost/benefit analysis would jump at this chance, and yet every time I did the speech people did.
What did they think they were getting out of it?
Some, if you somehow forced them to answer the question honestly, would prattle of glory, which was nothing but a chimera, the old people pleasing impulse rising up to kill its host. Some would talk about rising in the ranks, but I’d risen as far as one could in this gig, and I could see nothing here worth wanting. The most honest would probably admit that their lives were empty and meaningless, that the same boredom that drove them to the process now led them to kill for the thrill of it.
My antidote to the growing feeling of superiority was simple. I reminded myself that I had slaved and killed to become Warlord. The fools I was mocking were only making smaller copies of the decision that I’d made myself. Who was I to say that there weren’t Regime antagonists among them, dreaming as I had of becoming Warlord and sabotaging our efforts?
I shook the dark musings aside as my speech came to its end and I went down to the Yard to shake hands and welcome my new cannon fodder. It was the least I could do, almost literally.
Eleven more Ultras joined up to strike as Phis. It was a start.
“Erupter, this is Replayer and Owner,” I told her. “Your new peers in my Posse, and the fellow architects of our glorious victory.”
“Honored to meet you all,” she said.
Replayer rolled her eyes, while Owner looked politely attentive.
“What we usually do in the evenings,” I continued, “Is talk about how our tasks of the previous day went. Then I give the orders for the next day, and we rinse and repeat.”
“Rinse?” she asked.
“Like…never mind,” I said, “We do the same thing every day.”
“I’ll start,” said Owner. “Training went just fine today. I’m starting to separate everyone out into squads, like we did last time.”
I thought ‘like we did last time’, was a not particularly subtle way of reminding the others that she was the only one here with any experience, but let it go. Owner was no doubt feeling the pressure of Replayer’s fairly obvious lack of respect for her. She’d be keen to make sure Erupter knew her as a valuable and competent Posse member.
“No trouble with disobedience?” I asked. “No problems with the newcomers?”
“Nope,” she said. “I think that message may have finally gotten through, although, of course, we’ll have to wait and see if the new people catch on as well.”
“Message?” asked Erupter.
“Some of the Ultras in the warband,” drawled Replayer, “Seem to feel like they don’t have to respect Owner, just because-“
“And they’ve been taught otherwise,” I interrupted, firmly. “I’m glad to hear that they are finally starting to internalize it.”
I looked over at Replayer.
“How’d your task go?” I asked. “Any good Ultra potentials for the Posse?”
I called it a task for roughly the same reason that Owner had emphasized her experience, just trying to impress on Erupter the relative status of everyone around the table.
“Nope,” she said.
I guess, technically, that was an answer, but it really wasn’t what I was looking for.
“No new potentials?” I pressed, “Nothing at all?”
“It seemed like I was going about it all wrong,” she said, “You know, rushing around chasing everyone, so I decided to be a bit smarter about it.”
This should be great.
“I told folks that people who thought they were Posse material ought to come to me, told them what show I’d be at, figured I’d let the trash take itself out, you know?”
“And nobody came?” I asked.
“Pussies,” she said.
I looked over to Erupter.
“How did your recruiting go?” I asked.
“I didn’t start that yet,” she said, forthrightly. “I was worried that I’d mess up something.”
Ultra toughness protected me from headaches, of course, but I felt like I might be getting one regardless.
“Messing up something?” I asked. “What would you mess up?”
“Like, am I allowed to tell them the target?” she asked. “And am I supposed to be looking for Posse members too?”
“It’s fine to tell them the target,” I said. “And if you see a Posse member potential, then I absolutely want to know about it.”
“Oh,” she said, “Thanks for clearing that up, Warlord”
And God help me, she saluted, fist to temple.
I massage my temples for a long moment, fighting the phantom headache.
“And Warlord?” she asked.
I looked over at her.
“What is the target?”
12 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
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
Sworder – 1/0/1, Replayer’s flunky
Singer – 0/0/0, Buffs listeners with 1 in Ultra strength/tough/speed
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, unlimited range, limited by being ‘used up’ by target’s attempts to take the banned action
Murderer – 0/0/1, Death Touch
Owner’s Shington Store
Posse: (4 slots, 3 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
Erupter – 0/0/2, a woman who retaliates against attacks on herself
16 Veteran Ultras, 27 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: 6/10 (9 – 3 +0 -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.
Erupter will take either an afternoon action at Blender’s direction.