Regime Quest 53

Day 18: Morning

Vower wasn’t terribly hard to track down, but she was a bitch to get to. I had to hike way outside of the Lair, out into the fringes of Gang territory.

It brought back memories, not entirely unpleasant, of my time before becoming Warlord. Of scrapping and scrounging, always desperate for a snatch of gossip or insight into a rival’s gift. The desperate attention to scheduling, to timing that was never a part of the dreams, but there had been few things more important.

Vower hadn’t been around back then, so she was a recent arrival. A few months at most. Given that fact, it was surprising how much name recognition she had. Nobody I stopped and asked just said ‘who?’, like they had with Erupter. Vower’s service was a known quantity, like my healing or Blisser’s clinic.

Her setup was on the fringes of the Dolls’ territory, right up where it bordered with whatever gang was clockwise of them in the setup. I thought it was the Nightmares, but that seemed to have changed in the time I’d been away. The new crew marked it’s turf with broken clocks. I amused myself trying to guess their name while I closed on Vower’s hangout.

Vower, like Owner, had found opportunity within that most prosaic of Old World buildings, a gas station. One of the big front windows was actually still intact, or had been recently replaced, hinting at the esteem in which the gang leadership held their pet.

I stalked up, exuding the energy I liked to think of a ‘Busy Warlord’, nodding to the two Dolls outside. They weren’t exactly a line, which saved me the trouble of cutting in front of them. I stomped between them and into the ruin without breaking stride.

Another Doll and an Ultra without an obvious gang insignia were waiting inside, along with a woman who was wearing a tee shirt that someone had written ‘I’m Vower, ask me how’ on it. They were talking as I entered, but broke up their conversation to stare the instant they noticed me.

“Who the-“ asked the one with no tags, only to be interrupted by the obvious Doll.

“Warlord!” she exclaimed, eyes widening with startlement or alarm.

“I’m here for Vower,” I told them.

The woman with the tee shirt smiled.

“I’m at the Warlord’s disposal, of course,” she said. “How may this humble servant best serve Her greater glory?”

Something about her manner put me on edge, she just seemed…slimy, somehow. Like an old world melodrama villain asking her sister to cosign a loan or something.

I extended a hand, actually a little glad about my reaction.

I’d worried, a little bit, that I might not be able to go through with another cold blooded killing, that I might hesitate. But something about Vower put my hair on end. I’d shed no tears for this woman.

She reached out, took hold of my hand, placing the tips on her fingers on my palms, in a light, effete kind of grip.

“What vow do you-ah!” she gasped, as I clamped down on her hand with a grip of steel.

“Vow?” I asked, letting my voice rise to just short of a yell. “Do you think that I’m here to vow?”

I cared nothing for what I was saying, and everything for the time it bought me. My gift was in her soul now, burrowing and clawing through her toughness and into her attributes.

She could feel it, I could tell, she opened her mouth to speak, but I clenched my hand around her fingers and twisted cruelly, cutting her attempt at a sentence off into a hiss of pain.

She had no ‘living’ on her list, but ‘sentient’ would do just as well. I tore it away and watched her collapse, forever mindless.

“No one makes me do anything I don’t want to!” I proclaimed, rounding on the others.

Strangely enough, they weren’t looking at me. Their gazes were all locked on Vower’s crumpled form.

“Her will-“ I started, when they lunged into simultaneous motion, at the very same time that the ones outside started shouting something.

The Doll swung a heavy fist at my head, an ugly telegraphed punch that I wasted little time in ducking under. The other threw her hands wide, as though to grab onto me, and I couldn’t really fend her off while I was ducking, so I dropped back, almost tripping over Vower’s mindless form.

“I’m the War-“ I began, but there was no sign that they were listening. Their faces were locked into frozen grimaces of rage, and they hadn’t paused for so much as an instant when their first attempt had failed.

Most likely they were Vowed to avenger her, I thought, the extra sentient attribute presumably driving my mind into overdrive.

I backed away form the Doll’s roundhouse punches, moved in to grapple with the other. Hopefully my deathtouch would outmatch hers.

Our hands locked for a second, and here was a ‘living’ to steal. I yanked it right out of her, trusting in my toughness to keep me intact through whatever gift she had. Accustomed to the doubled senses as I was, I stepped around to the side of her, keeping her between me and the punching girl for the split second it took for her to die.

I realized my error an instant later, as the Doll’s fist slammed through her comrade, through the space between us and deep into my chest. An incredible amount of pain seemed to overturn my world as my knees buckled and I toppled alongside the woman I’d just killed.

My mind, still in overdrive, was trying to figure out how deep her fist had gone, and exactly where. It had been off center, maybe halfway down the hand? 3-4 inches? Was that my heart? I’d definitely heard the shattering of ribs.

She loomed above me, hands moving without pause as she dropped to one knee, a hammer fist slamming down towards me.

I kicked convulsively, rolling myself closer towards her, sort of up onto the knee that she’d dropped down to, willing myself to have guessed right.

I had, she’d expected me to roll away, and her fist slammed into, and through, the floor where I would have been. I got a hand onto her bare midriff even as she pivoted to bring her other arm around to strike.

I couldn’t take another essence, so I gave instead, slamming the new ‘living’ into her.

She winced for a second, frozen features finally showing a crack of emotion as her face closed up like a fist, doubled senses disorienting her.

I grabbed for my gun in her moment of confusion, swinging it desperately up towards her as she got a hold of herself.

I was saved by her continued need, or maybe desire, to do those heavy, cumbersome punches. Any other Ultra Strength 2 Ultra would have just kicked me or slapped me with the hand that was already beside me, but the Doll reared back and set up for another one of those haymakers, giving me just enough time to shove the gun in her general direction, pulling the trigger over and over.

It kicked out of my hand somewhere, in there, my wounds apparently weakening my grip strength, but I still hit her a few times.

She went down, over backwards thankfully, grabbing at her injuries and shrieking at the doubled pain.

I came back to my feet in a flash, my stolen ‘sentience’ still pushing my mind every step of the way.

My first thought, way late, was that these weren’t others here for her services, these were guards Vowed to her purposes, and apparently that included avenging her.

My second thought was that the two outside had run off. I hadn’t heard exactly what they were shouting, but it was entirely possible that they’d gone to gather reinforcements, who might well be similarly Vowed.

My third, holy shit, had I just assassinated the shadow ruler of outer Shington? How big a deal WAS Vower, actually?

Further thoughts were derailed by the necessity of staunching the flow of red stuff out of my chest. A single look sufficed to tell me that it was bad, a fist sized (literally) wounded midway up my torso on the right side, and that only my Ultra Toughness was keeping me mobile and active in the face of it.

I clapped a hand over it, then stole a shirt from one of the bodies and held it to the wound.

I needed to act. I needed to:

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Crisis Update, only one choice this time. Please pick Blender’s action from the following list:

  • Run straight back to inner Shington and my Warband, through the Doll’s territory, trusting to speed to get me through before any more Avowed can mobilize
  • Run straight away from Shington, going to ground in the countryside. I can try and hide out for the rest of the day, sneak back in another time once they give up.
  • Go back to the Lair via a roundabout route, dipping into the broken clock gang’s territory instead of the Doll’s. Will take longer but maybe they won’t be looking over here.
  • Heal up before doing anything. I’ve got a serious injury and I need to get that seen to. I can probably heal this in a few hours. (If you choose this option, pick another for what Blender does once/if she finishes healing)
  • Vower isn’t dead, give her back her attribute and negotiate/take her hostage.

2 thoughts on “Regime Quest 53

  1. Well. We have a few options, and all of them are bad. But some are worse than others.

    Giving Vower back her attribute isn’t the way we go. We are the Warlord, we can’t let people know that we can be beaten into submission or we’ll be dead within a week. There’s only two things that make sense to do with Vower – putting a bullet through her brain or using her as a portable shield.

    …given how long it took us to rip the mind out of her, she’s got to have at least the first level of Ultra Toughness. A bullet in the brain is unlikely to help, even *if* we had any left (which I don’t think we do).

    Though… killing her might break her power’s hold on the Avowed. If there’s a quick way to finish the job, we should take it.

    And, in our current state, she’s too cumbersome to use as a personal shield.

    Healing up first won’t help. This place is about to be ground zero for a *flood* of Avowed. Staying here is a death sentence. So the only question in mind is, which way to go.

    And that depends – which way will the Avowed go?

    Think. The Avowed aren’t being *smart* about things. They’re following orders, and they’re doing so blindly. They’ll take the most direct route.

    Probably most of the Dolls are Avowed. (Here’s a thought – if there’s some ambiguity in what someone Vows, then how is it resolved? If it’s resolved the way the Vower meant it, then that’s one thing – but what if it’s resolved the way Vower understands it? If someone vows to ‘help Vower for an hour’, then could Vower use that to force them to Vow eternal servitude within that hour? If someone Vows to ‘join the Dolls’ then could Vower understand that to mean ‘in eternal servitude to Vower’?)

    If I run into an Avowed now, they’ll try to kill me. Cutting directly home through the Dolls’ territory is thus a Bad Idea.

    …Vower was here, at this border, for a *reason*. The Broken Clock Gang are either Avowed as well, making this a secure place for Vower, or they’re Vower’s next victims, making this some kind of forward attack base.

    A *chance* of running into Avowed is better than a *certainty* of running into Avowed. So cutting through the Broken Clocks gang is better than through the Dolls territory.

    Breaking away from Shington is probably the safest of all. The Dolls aren’t being smart. But let’s say they don’t find me. What will they do?

    They’ll destroy what I’m building. They’ll go after the Posse.

    Replayer, Erupter, they can take care of themselves. (And I’m not all that attached to their lives, in any case). But Owner is a weak point. And she’s unwarned. *Hopefully* she’s doing what she’s *supposed* to be doing and training the Warband. The Warband will protect her – or they’ll try to, at least.

    I don’t want my mistake to kill Owner. So, breaking away from Shington is the wrong move; Owner ends up (probably) dead. Heading directly towards Shington is the wrong move; I end up (probably) dead. Waiting around here is the wrong move; I end up (almost certainly) dead.

    There’s really only one option then.

    Pick up my gun. Point it at Vower’s head and pull the trigger. Maybe that’ll kill her and break her power. Maybe not. Either way, I don’t have time for more than that.

    I have to leave. Up and out, through the Broken Clocks gang territory.

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