Regime Quest: 3

Due to computer failure, my last Wednesday update was delayed till just a few hours ago, just want to make sure nobody misses Condemner 8:1.  Sorry for the delay!
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Results from previous round:

Two votes
TalonOfAntares entry
Lurker

One vote:
Reflector
Neutralyzer

Rolled odds for Talon, even for Lurker, came up 5. So Talon’s nameless choice it is!

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Winning Entry

[X] Moniker: GM fiat (Blender)
[X] Real Name: Mia
[X] woman
[X] (2WP) Back before the old world fell
[X] Force. Someone was recruiting, and I was a warm body
[X] Another ability, comparatively minor (write-in)
-[X] The ability to restore and repair something’s form in a few moments, through touch. Can affect herself.
[X] (5UP & 1WP) Another ability, of exceptional reach and breadth (write-in)
-[X] The ability to take aspects of something’s form and to give someone aspects of yours. Make someone older and become younger, make someone tall and become short, make yourself tough and stiff but make a wall weak, make yourself light but make paper heavy, ect. Does not require concentration, but a limited number of effects can be maintained on one person at one time. Effects cannot be dismissed, but it is possible to “get rid of them” by giving them to an enemy and leaving them there forever. Range is short, but it works fast.
[X] (1WP) I am on the side of Kill Every Monster, striving to eradicate my own kind, so that humans may once again rule their own destinies
[X] Subtracter
[X] Physical Description: A short, unassuming woman. In fairly good shape. Wears “heavy” armour, and carries a large hiking backpack. Clothes and gear in good state. Sigil: An Old World graduation cap.
[X] Demeanor: Hates Ultras (including sometimes herself, though she blames any immoral actions on necessity and her nature as an Ultra), but doesn’t actively seek her own death (has some caution, fears it). Polite and even kind to non-Ultras. Social person (with non-Ultras) who likes company and cares about how she is perceived by others.
[X] (1WP) Wilderness Dweller: I lived in a town with no Company Facility or Ultras. We survived on our own, without protein powder or Ultra gifts. I know how it was done, and I could do it again.
[X] Worked as a Troubleshooter, roaming the land and enforcing the Regime’s norms. Traveling between cities holds no surprises for me, and I know many of the Ultras of consquence outside Shington.
[X] (1WP) The humans, they are the ocean in which my kind swim. Their view of me is most important.
[X] (1WP) A lot more than ten. I took the red path to the heights.
[X] A moderate amount, what was necessary to gain my position. Everyone has a good idea of how my gifts work, and my name opens many doors.

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Weirdness Points available in round 3: 5

Character creation 3: Finishing up

16: Given that Mia was Processed forcibly, went from living in an independent town to troubleshooting for the Regime, and hates Ultras, the story almost writes itself. Looks like some Ultras happened upon their little community, they were dragged to the Company Facility, and she was the only one who made it. Do I have that right?
[ ] Yes, in substance
[ ] No, [Write in]

16A: If yes above, were there any other survivors, if so, does Mia stay in contact with them?
[ ] No survivors
[ ] Scattered humans, one is my chief KEM contact
[ ] [1WP] Scattered humans, plus another Ultra who shares my secret affiliation

16B: If yes in 16, was the Ultra in charge of that anyone we know?
[ ] [1WP] Someone who has since died
[ ] Subtracter
[ ] First Fist
[ ] Second Fist
[ ] Third Fist

17: Is Blender literate, numerate?
[ ] No, I recognize certain words as shapes and count like a gully dwarf
[ ] Kind of, my refuge had some basic schooling, I can do arithmetic and read English
[ ] [1WP] I’m highly educated, my little town had someone dedicated enough to teach the young, even in this dark time

18: The following were the other choices for Warlord this time around. Is Mia close with any of them, despite loathing Ultrahumans?
[ ] None, she hates Ultras
[ ] [2WP]Masher, slight, waifish woman. She has Ultra durability when stationary, Ultra strength when in motion, and a limited fly power that only goes in straight lines. She’s a belligerent person, thrives on battle and excitement. She was also sponsored by Subtracter. Keeps dogs.
[ ] [2WP]Maker, big big woman, both tall and fat. She has Ultra toughness one, and she can summon ‘the spirit of things’ to do her bidding. These are person shaped apparitions obsessed with the function of their origin. she is very shy and retiring, rarely volunteering much. She was sponsored by Snitcher. She still lives with her human family.
[ ] [1WP]Picker, very young girl, mid teens. She has Ultra speed, and can ‘choose the outcome of things’, whatever that means. Mostly seems like Ultra luck. She is scatterbrained and frightened most of the time. Sponsored by First Fist. Very close with a male Ultra who Blender knows nothing about.
[ ] [3WP] Shower, black man with no face. Sees out of the eyes of everyone in a few hundred feet, blind when alone. Gains strength and toughness based on how many people can see him. Very cheesy, very ‘big’ personality, despite no voice. Sponsored by Adder. Has a few ‘pet’ humans who stay around him constantly.

19: Are any of the above Mia’s particular nemesis?
[ ] [2WP] None, she has avoided rivalries thus far
[ ] Masher, slight, waifish woman. She has Ultra durability when stationary, Ultra strength when in motion, and a limited fly power that only goes in straight lines. She’s a belligerent person, thrives on battle and excitement. She was also sponsored by Subtracter. Keeps dogs.
[ ] Maker, big big woman, both tall and fat. She has Ultra toughness one, and she can summon ‘the spirit of things’ to do her bidding. These are person shaped apparitions obsessed with the function of their origin. she is very shy and retiring, rarely volunteering much. She was sponsored by Snitcher. She still lives with her human family.
[ ] [1WP] Picker, very young girl, mid teens. She has Ultra speed, and can ‘choose the outcome of things’, whatever that means. Mostly seems like Ultra luck. She is scatterbrained and frightened most of the time. Sponsored by First Fist. Very close with a male Ultra who Blender knows nothing about.
[ ] Shower, black man with no face. Sees out of the eyes of everyone in a few hundred feet, blind when alone. Gains strength and toughness based on how many people can see him. Very cheesy, very ‘big’ personality, despite no voice. Sponsored by Adder. Has a few ‘pet’ humans who stay around him constantly.


20: Mia’s relationship with KEM, how close is it? Are they mostly present in the occasion dropped off note and KEM sheet, or is she a commander in their ranks?
[ ] She is a weapon they use against other Ultras. They provide information to that end.
[ ] [1WP] She is a fellow traveler, and they like the idea of her rising in ranks, and thus gaining the ability to destroy more Ultras. They work on her behalf, and she can ask them for favors.
[ ] [3 WP] She is a KEM cell leader, with followers and henchmen to the extent that the underground group can provide. Their efforts helped pave the way to her current rise to warlord.

21: Mia has a secret gift, one that no one has ever learned about. She has hidden it successfully thus far, fearing that to reveal it would see her conscripted into a Fist or similar.
[ ] Ultra strength 1
[ ] Ultra toughness 1
[ ] Ultra speed 1
[ ] [1WP] another gift, of power proportionate to the above

22: Mia has a pair of virtues, patterns of behavior that held vindicate her existence, and recover Agency Points. What are they?
[ ] Write in

23: Mia has a vice, a flaw which she tries to avoid. Giving into it does help her recover Agency Points, however.
[ ] Write in

The winning entry didn’t have a value for <target>, so let’s specify that this time

9 <Target?>
[ ] Lington, up in old Mont. A medium city, traded back and forth between Union and Pantheon hands for long enough that She got tired of being left out of the fun. presently Union
[ ] Ar Harbor, up on the coast in Aine, a small city, which should be lightly protected, by an unaffiliated local Ultra gang of all things, but She wants it taken intact, minimal property damage
[ ] Gusta, the perpetual football we squabble with the Pantheon over, down in old Juh. Big target, about which we have good intel, currently the scene of an inter Pantheon civil struggle.

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Rules stuff:

Alright, that takes care of character creation. After this entry, forget all about Weirdness Points, what even are they? Craziness, lumping human achievement into discrete point values. Also prepare yourself for Agency Points, which are excellent inventions that will allow you to shape this story.

Agency Points:
Blender has a number of these at any given time, she generates a certain amount every week, and can earn more with her virtues and vices. Many actions will cost Agency Points (sometimes called AP), and you can’t take them if she is out of AP. In general, the actions that cost AP are those which are difficult to make yourself do, like ‘update your web serial on time’, and those which are free are easy things like ‘goof off and feel bad about not updating your web serial’.

Rankings:
Speaking of collapsing the entire sphere of human interplay into a number, Blender also has rankings. These represent how various NPCs feel about her. These values are known to you, but not to her. Some actions will foreseeably cause them to change. Others will unforeseeably do so. The most important is Her ranking, of course, but there are some others which she will want to keep track of.

Other note:
This quest is posted in two places.
It is posted as updates to my blog : The Fifth Defiance
It is a thread on sufficient velocity : Regime Quest – Original
People can vote in both places, so if you see ‘phantom’ votes, they are probably from the other side.

Thanks for sticking with me through character creation, folks. Next Sunday we’ll start the game!

Condemner 8:1

The Lure clung to me as Genie hauled us into the sky.  She nibbled at my ear, and I grinned in response, turning and kissing her wildly.

One of the Furies hrrumphed at my side, and I casually reached out and slapped her across the head.

That got Fisher off me in a hurry, as the packed platform roiled in response.  The Fury that I’d slapped leaped backwards into another, who lashed out in response with a violent shove.  In the turmoil Fisher brought the Lure over to stand with her Hook, which was a pity.

“A man who knows how to enjoy life,” commented Zilla, from where she stood, slightly behind me.  “More of my Gods should share your humor.”

I craned my neck around, looked down at her.  My victim hadn’t made any more moves towards me, once she worked out who’d hit her.

“Shhh” I said, putting a finger to my lips.  She grinned more broadly than a human should be able to, and rolled her eyes.

Across the platform, not all of my so-called allies shared my mirth.  The 3 Furies we’d brought were all hard stares and sullen silences, the scowling faces of humans trying hide the fact that their lives are ridiculous carnivals of suffering.  Jenny, the shade that Haunter had sent up for computer stuff, looked appalled, terrified.  She clung to the Hook so tightly I thought she might pop herself on one of its spines.  Slicer just looked bored, though she had the good grace to give me a slight smile for my antics, and Genie was too busy steering us to pay much attention.

Her attention was monopolized, of course, by Predictor, who stood by her side and kept up a nonstop stream of orders, guiding the platform on a torturous path that he said would keep us from the prison’s notice, even as we rose up beneath it.

He hadn’t been terribly clear about exactly how that was.  It didn’t seem like there should be a path that you could take in order to get up onto their flying fortress without being sensed, but maybe there were different kind of sensors, and he was picking the parts covered by the ones that wouldn’t get us?  Human tech didn’t make much sense to me, honestly.  Just matter folded on other matter, like that could ever really matter.

The prison wasn’t much to look at from the underside.  It was, at least, slightly more interesting than the last Union flying cube we’d seen, but only slightly.  This one was four cubes, touching at the edges, outlining an absent, fifth cube in the middle.  It looked a little like a blocky ring.

The way it just hovered in the air was kind of impressive, though.  There were no obvious engines, no noises that I could hear, nothing whatsoever to indicate what was holding it up.  If this wasn’t ‘Team Dagger, I’d have figured they just had an Ultra with a lifting gift, but these guys would naturally do it in a much more complicated and fragile way.

I looked across it, catching a glimpse of Dusk skidding about, hook to someone’s vision or other.  Predicter had sent her up right away, and she was presumably hard at work at whatever job made it necessary for her to be on the bottom of this thing.  Maybe she was sabotaging sensor systems?  That might explain how he’d thought that we’d be undetected.

Not that I doubted him, exactly.  If I understood his gift correctly, he had had basically endless runs at this, or any other static hazard with no Ultra gifts invovled, in the privacy of his mind.  He would have tried every possible thing to get us up here, and if we were going for this, then it must have at least a chance of working.

It was more that I hated him, so I wanted him to be wrong.  I hadn’t forgiven Fifth Fist for what they’d done to Nirav, and I fully intended to settle that score, soon enough.

I grinned at the thought.  Let the others fret and worry over Andy.  Let them mutter and ponder over whether or not Zilla and Predicter would keep their words, or whether this was only a prelude to something else.  I’d been onboard with this plan as soon as I heard those two magic words, ‘Ultra Prison’.

I shivered just thinking of it.  Cell after cell of warehoused potential, the avatars of dozens of other Entities, ripe for the burning.  I was going to feast as I never had before, as soon as we got up there.  The world had forgotten Condemner, I sometimes felt.  But I would remind them, teach them the fear of my gift that they should by nature be inclined to.

I looked back over the rest of the crew, noting their own postures, their own concerns.

Jenny, and by extension Jane, was simple enough.  She wanted to rescue Andy so that her mistress could give bodies to her shades.  Haunter needed to keep Predictor from snatching up Andy or Dale, needed to keep Zilla mollified so that we could keep squatting in her fortress long enough for the shade body plan to work.

It occurred to me that even if Haunter’s dream came true her new shades would be embodied in the middle of a warzone, surrounded by hostile Gods, but I trusted that she and her minions would have worked something out for that.  Or  rather, I didn’t care if they had.

Zilla’s minions were also easy.  They were terrified of their master, and they obeyed her without question.  Predictor’s crew was on the same level, they’d outsourced their agency to their leader long ago.

Zilla herself, she was a tougher nut to crack.  Her interests were in this mission at least hurting the Union in a way that she could brag about, and I didn’t see why she would care about Haunter’s side mission, or our own conflict with Fifth Fist.

I had a suspicion, actually, that she intended to kill Fifth Fist as soon as the mission was over.  If she did that, then she would be the God who had rescued the captive Gods of a Union prison and defeated a Regime Fist.  I didn’t know exactly how the Pantheon’s leadership process worked, but that sounded like ‘elevate this person in rank’ kind of stuff to me.

Predictor was the other hard part.  I believed him when he said that he was here to rescue Andy.  I knew that he’d know about Zilla’s potential treachery.  I knew he might have other missions.  It seemed likely that his gift wouldn’t handle this tangle of agendas perfectly, given what I knew about Entities and how they effect cognition, but he had still plunged himself into it.  There had to be a reason for his confidence that I couldn’t see.

I kicked myself mentally.  I’d almost forgotten Her.  That would never do. She was a factor that could never be discounted.

Snitcher was dead, so She probably wasn’t just looking out of Predictor’s eyes, but that was how the situation had been when we left.  It had been a few months, it wasn’t out of the question that She might have found some manner of replacement.

If She was watching, then all that that meant was that we needed to keep things action packed, and that Dale should probably make it through this ok.  Both things I’d been planning on anyway.

“Nirav,” said Predictor.  “You and Fisher will be entering through the Anterior Aperture.  Take two of the Furies with you.  You’ll encounter surprise at first, then some resistance.  No reason to leave anyone alive.”

“Word,” I said.

I was annoyed by him calling me by Nirav’s name, and he was a giant tool, but I couldn’t be too mad about this particular request, since it was basically what I wanted to do anyway.

We stepped over to one side of the platform, while everyone else crowded over to the other side.

I peaked over the edge.  We were really far up.  I know that at one time humans had made buildings that went this high, but it was kind of hard to actually imagine that.  What if they fell?  It still seemed like a ridiculous idea to me.

Below us there was no sign of the others, who were secured in a cave below ground.  There was also no sign of the nearby Union camp, possibly because of some kind of stealth system, and possibly because I wasn’t sure which direction I should be looking for it in. 

Fisher’s hand came down on my shoulder, holding tight as our platform separated away from the main one.  I hadn’t been in any danger of falling, of course, but the thought was appreciated.

I turned back to the two Furies as our platform began to rise, the main platform we’d split off from remaining stationary below.

They were basically identical.  Dark skinned women, shorter than me and the Lure.  They had on the usual Pantheon outfit, which was basically just civilian garb.  Their gifts were, if I was recalling this correctly, blasting from one and Ultra strength from the other, with the latter having maybe a little Ultra durability thrown into the mix.

“What are your names?” I asked.

“Arrow,” said the first one, the blaster.

“Ox,” said the second one.  Her voice cracked and whined as she said it, and she clamped her mouth shut.

“Alright you two,” said Betty’s Lure.  “We are going to be infiltrating here.  We want to be as quiet as we can, for as long as possible.  Let me take the lead.”

They nodded in unison.  It wouldn’t surprise me if they’d timed that out.  I bet they spent a lot of time getting orders and nodding along.

It was baffling.  Humans could really make these kinds of decisions.  They could take their absurdly finite lives and actually commit themselves to future activities, and even mean it.  They pared away their miniscule portion of life, spending hours of it obeying others or dully following through on some words that they’d said in their past.

We slid into place beneath the bottom of the box.  It was a strange experience, to stand in the sky beneath a ceiling stretching far beyond reach in every direction, without a single wall nearby.

I reached up and rested a hand against it.  The metal was cool, with none of the shaking that I’m imagined.

“I’ll melt us a way in,” I said.  “Stay out of the way when this stuff drops.”

“Wait a sec,” said Betty.  “Let’s try knocking instead.”

I looked over, wondering what she meant, in time to see the Hook reach up and, using its Ultra sharp talons, carefully slice out a circle of the ceiling.

I grinned a her.  She ‘knew’ that using my gift was draining, and that I’d need to recapture that energy from living beings.  She was, in her own way, trying to be helpful.

The opening above us went into a lighted space, a hallway or a room or something.  The walls and ceiling were painted a pale blue, and the light was coming from strips of glowing stuff that followed the junctions between walls and ceiling.

“Up you go,” said Fisher, and the Hook boosted up each of our crew in turn, starting with Ox and ending with me.  That done, she sent the Lure up, and then moved the Hook up to join us through her shadow.

We were, in fact, in a hallway.  It stretched a good distance to our left and right, with nobody else visible in it.  At either end there was a heavy door, one ajar and one shut tight.  There were no doors along the walls, however, which disappointed me.  I’d imagined popping up right into the midst of the prison, finding the first inmates instantly upon arrival and starting my feat right then.

My eyes were drawn to a screen set high into the wall, with ‘Emergency’ flashing across the majority of it.  There were smaller words beneath, but I didn’t want to take the time to read them.

“Are we discovered?” I asked the Lure, moving carefully closer to the Hook’s concealing bulk.  It wouldn’t do to come all this way and then be immediately shot down by some guard I didn’t see.

“No,” she said, looking more carefully at the monitors.  “Something is wrong at the camp, or somewhere else.  Let me…”

And she was off, not bothering to finish the sentence.  She sank into shadow and was gone, the Hook taking several strides towards the closed door before doing likewise.

“Where’s she going?” asked Arrow.

“Boring,” I said.  “Let’s talk about something more interesting.  What is Zilla’s gift?”

They looked to one another, thrown.

“Where is Fisher going?” asked Arrow, again.

I sighed, stepped forward and reached out a hand, as though to tap her lightly.  Midway through the gesture I resumed my true form, and fell across her as fire.

She was gone instantly as I engulfed her, body rendered immediately down to vapor, soul falling into my gift’s abyss.

Ox raised a fist, then stepped away, shielding her eyes from the heat and light.

I took a human form again, standing exactly where Arrow had been a moment earlier.

“What is Zilla’s gift?” I asked again.

Her eyes were wide, whites showing all the way around.  She raised her fist, I raised my hand, as though to reach out for another slap.

She looked to the other door, the open one, then back to me.

“Look, if you are going to try and run, you’d do a lot better to go for the hole.  But you wouldn’t make it there either.  Ultra speed, remember?”

“What,” she said, her voice cracking a bit.  “What, did she, did you…”

“You either tell me what Zilla’s gift is,” I told her, “or I burn you up like I did your girlfriend.”

“You kill me anyway,” she said, stronger now, with a little bit of confidence.

“Why would I do that?” I asked.  “I need you to help me fight these Union guys.  Even if I’m some kind of maniac who kills my own teammates, I wouldn’t have any motivation to take you on right now, would I?”

I noticed that the ‘Emergency’ had been joined on the signs by the word ‘Fire’.

“She is a form changer, like you know,” she said.  “She can make herself be anything.”

“That’s not enough,” I said.  “It doesn’t explain why you guys are so frightened of her, or why I can sense her infecting everyone.  With how handsy she is, I figured she has to have one of those gifts that works off touch.”

“Just changing!” she insisted, voice rising a bit.

“There’s no way that she ran the Pantheon’s Grand Host without a gift that absolutely wrecks in combat.  I’m trying to work out if I need to worry about it.  Tell me what she can do.”

Her mouthed closed.  I sighed, produced a flame from one of my fingers.

“She…she can do anything!  She knows if people speak bad about her, even when she isn’t there!  She can kill anyone she doesn’t like, just snaps a finger and they fall down dead.  She will kill you, fire man!”

“Get out of here,” I told her.

She looked at me for an instant, then ran towards the hole.

As soon as she was turned away I took on fire form and flowed over her.  It turned out that she did have a bit of Ultra durability.  She lasted long enough to scream.

 

 

Regime Quest : 2

Results from last time:

1 vote:
Torcher
Reflector
Suppresser
Neutralizer
Partial vote indicating loyalty to resistance, target Ar Harbor and mentor Adder

2 vote:
Lurker
Nameless (via Sufficient Velocity thread)

As soon as I got started working on these results I realized I’d done something wrong. I’d indicated, last time, that you were voting per-choice, and could leave stuff you don’t care about blank. But if I am doing things that way, WP don’t really make sense, since totals that exceed the max could end up there. It was also creating a sort of franken-choice, where the most common parts of each submitted character would merge together to make a character that was no one’s particular idea

I guess in my mind I had been setting it up as slate choices, where you presented a whole (or rather, 1/3 of whole) character, and the most popular of those won. But I hadn’t spelled that out, and, indeed, had spelled out the opposite. I feel bad and am bad.

But enough moping, what I’ve decided to do about that is to do a revote on character creation 1 as part of this week’s vote on Character Creation 2! You will all no doubt forgive me and praise my dedication, and I will bask in the warm light of your approval.

This time we are doing slate voting. I will count each distinct set of all choices for our luckless protagonist.

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First Section (for this section you have 5 WP and 7 UP) (See Character Creation 1 for more details if needed)

1. <Who am I?>

[ ] Write In (name must be of the construction verb-er, example, Kicker, Warper, Gasher, etc.)

2. <Real name?>

[ ] Write In

3. <Gender?>

[ ] woman
[ ] (1WP) man (another 1 WP charge, if male, to avoid mutating in the direction of your strongest gift)

4. <Time as an Ultra?>

[ ] (1WP) Very recently
[ ] A few years ago
[ ] (2WP) Back before the old world fell

5. <Reason for Being Processed?>

  • [ ] Peril. I had my back to the wall, to the point that Process’s odds were better than those I’d face in my day to day life.
  • [ ] Boredom. There is, when you get right down to it, very little to do in the Regime.
  • [ ] Force. Someone was recruiting, and I was a warm body
  • [ ] (1WP) Ambition. I wanted to accomplish something and only an Ultra could pull it off. (write in my goal)

6. <Gift choice>

  • [ ] (1UP) Ultra Strength One, I can lift and throw cars and the equivalent
  • [ ] (3UP) Ultra Strength Two, I can lift and throw buildings and the equivalent
  • [ ] (7UP) Ultra Strength Three, I can lift and throw anything, only She is stronger
  • [ ] (3UP) Ultra Speed One, The world slows down when its important to me
  • [ ] (6UP & 1WP) Ultra Speed Two, My life plays out at a languid pace around me
  • [ ] (2UP) Ultra Durability One, I am action hero levels of invincible
  • [ ] (4UP) Ultra Durability Two, I am comic book levels of invincible
  • [ ] (2UP) Another ability, comparatively minor (write in)
  • [ ] (5UP & 1WP) Another ability, of exceptional reach and breadth (write in)

7.<Loyalty>

  • [ ] I don’t care who wins, I am just trying to survive and enjoy what comforts this world has to give
  • [ ] I am exactly what I look like, a partisan of Prevailer’s Regime
  • [ ] (1WP) I am on the side of the human Resistance, trying to protect them as best I can from within a predatory organization.
  • [ ] (1WP) I am on the side of Kill Every Monster, striving to eradicate my own kind, so that humans may once again rule their own destinies
  • [ ] (2WP) I serve a foreign power, collaborating with the enemy I am ostensibly battling against (specify Union or Pantheon)

8.<Sponsor?>

  • [ ] No one
  • [ ] Subtracter
  • [ ] Adder
  • [ ] First Fist
  • [ ] Second Fist
  • [ ] (1WP)Third Fist
  • [ ] (1WP) Snitcher
  • [ ] (2WP) Answerer
  • [ ] (2WP) Prevailer


Second Section, for this section you have 4 WP

9. <Physical Description>
What do I look like? First off, in terms of my form, but also how do I dress and what do I carry around, on a day to day basis? Ultras in the Regime all have to wear something on our heads (humans are forbidden from doing so), which is called a Sigil. What is mine?

[ ] Write In

10. <Demeanor>
How do I carry myself, act? Am I generally solemn and formal, loose and friendly? Do I get my way with threats, or argument? If an unbiased observer was trying to sum up my basic role with a short sentence or phrase, what might that be?

[ ] Write in

11.<Human Background>
Before I became an Ultra I was a …

[ ] Regime Citizen. I lived in the city, idled away my days on protein paste and currying favor with the Ultras. I know the lives of those beneath us.
[ ] Suburb Scavenger. I orbited the Regime’s heartlands, scavenging the Old World for tech to trade with the Regime’s subject while keeping out of the Ultra’s way. I understand our past in a way that the kept humans of the inner cities never will.
[ ] (1WP) Wilderness Dweller: I lived in a town with no Company Facility or Ultras. We survived on our own, without protein powder or Ultra gifts. I know how it was done, and I could do it again.
* [ ] (2WP) Foreigner: I’ve lived outside of the Regime, and I haven’t forgotten how they do things in the (Union/Pantheon). It will give me insight into their decisions.
– [ ] Specify Union or Pantheon for the place I’ve sojourned.

12. <Ultra Background>
Since I’ve been an Ultra I have …

[ ] Served as soldier in the Regime’s wars. I’ve seen the kind of operation I’m currently leading from the bottom floor, this is my chance to do it right.
[ ] Worked as an enforcer and investigator for the higher ups. I’ve cracked skulls and kept the peace, keeping humans and annoying Ultras in line. I know where the bodies are buried, because I put them there.
* [ ] Worked as a Troubleshooter, roaming the land and enforcing the Regime’s norms. Traveling between cities holds no surprises for me, and I know many of the Ultras of consquence outside Shington.

[ ] (1WP) Worked on my own projects, carving out my own little piece of the Regime. Its resources may prove useful now that She has selected me.
* [ ] (1WP) Write In

13.<Past Priorities>
When I’ve had the power to choose I’ve always showed favor to …

[ ] (1WP) No one, I’ve tried to be even handed and fair to all.
[ ] My Fellow Ultras. I have always prioritized my own kind, the rank and file Ultras of the Regime.
[ ] (1WP) The humans, they are the ocean in which my kind swim. Their view of me is most important.
[ ] Our superiors. It is an obvious precaution to curry favor with the most powerful.

14.<Tally>

It is pretty ghoulish, but Ultras track status by how many of our kind we’ve taken out in open battle. In my case that’s …

[ ] (1WP) None, Somehow, on my rise to this position I’ve never had to get my hands dirty.
* [ ] A few, between one and ten. When challenged, I’ve responded.
* [ ] (1WP) A lot more than ten. I took the red path to the heights.

15. <Notoriety>

How well known am I? Well, it would depend on who you ask. But generally …

[ ] (1WP) Little. Others may know my gift’s general description, but I’ve kept out of the spotlight, for the most part.
* [ ] A moderate amount, what was necessary to gain my position. Everyone has a good idea of how my gifts work, and my name opens many doors.
* [ ] (1WP) A celebrity, I’ve made sure of it. Everyone who knows anyone knows of me.

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That’s it for part 2 of character creation. Next week we’ll finish out character creation , and I’ll also explain the systems I’ve worked out for the main campaign will operate.

Thanks for participating!

Regime Quest : 1

Hi readers, and welcome to my 2019 experiment, Regime Quest!  You are going to be controlling (by using your comments to vote), an Ultra in the setting of The Fifth Defiance.

In order to vote, just comment on the post in question, listing your answer to each of the questions you care about.  Any questions that no one votes on I’ll pick an answer to.

Voting is open as soon as a post is up, and closes at the end of the next Saturday (eastern time) which gives me all of Sunday to write up the next update.

This story takes place a few years before the main story.  The original Fourth Fist are dead, but not yet replaced.  Snitcher and Adder are alive and well.  More of the setting will be made obvious as we get into non character creation updates.

This week marks the first part of character creation, which will probably continue for another two updates.  I am also creating/choosing the system behind the scenes (ultimately dice rolling will be part of how this all works)

For now, you have two sets of points to spend.

First off, you have Weirdness Points (WP).  These are a measure of how far outside of the mainstream for this position the character is, and restrain your choices such that your avatar remains basically plausible in the role.

You can’t save WP between character creation sessions, they are given out at the start of each post.  You’ll get more next week, so don’t worry about keeping stuff from this time in reserve.

Choices that cost WP aren’t necessarily ‘better’, they are just more unusual.  Don’t feel pressured that you are ‘wasting’ your WP if your choice runs more conventional.

The other is Ultra Points (UP), used in question 6.  You will use these to set your gift, and you will want to spend all of these.

For this update you have 5 Weirdness Points and 7 Ultra Points.  Enjoy!

If you have any questions, you can post them as comment and I’ll reply, and potentially add that question/answer to this section.

******************************************************************

“I guess you’ll do.”

That’s what She’d said.  Just four little words, and it was done.

They rushed me out of the Sniper Court while I was still grappling with it.  This was really happening.  It had, in fact, already happened.  I was one of Her warlords now, one of Prevailer’s chosen, tied irreparably to her by Snitcher’s gift, specially tasked to secure a city from Her enemies.

A serious job, but one that I was up to.  After all, I was

  1. <Who am I?>
  • Write In (name must be of the construction verb-er, example, Kicker, Warper, Gasher, etc.)

I mean, really I’m

2. <Real name?>

  • Write In

a

3. <Gender?>

  • woman
  • [1WP] man (another 1 WP charge, if male, to avoid mutating in the direction of your strongest gift)

who underwent the Process

4. <Time as an Ultra?>

  • [1WP] Very recently
  • A few years ago
  • [2WP] Back before the old world fell

and found my life transformed forever.

There are as many reasons for undergoing the Process as there are Ultras, of course.  Or, rather, there are about thirty times as many.  In my case it was

5. <Reason for Being Processed?>

  • Peril.  I had my back to the wall, to the point that Process’s odds were better than those I’d face in my day to day life.
  • Boredom.  There is, when you get right down to it, very little to do in the Regime.
  • Force. Someone was recruiting, and I was a warm body
  • [1WP] Ambition.  I wanted to accomplish something and only an Ultra could pull it off. (write in my goal)

After I survived the Process I discovered my gifts, considerable ones at that.  I am about top tier for an Ultra foot soldier, just below the people who get drafted into Fists, and they still don’t know the full extent of my abilities.

As far as everyone knows my gifts are:

6. <Gift choice>

  • [1UP] Ultra Strength One, I can lift and throw cars and the equivalent
  • [3UP] Ultra Strength Two, I can lift and throw buildings and the equivalent
  • [7UP] Ultra Strength Three, I can lift and throw anything, only She is stronger
  • [3UP] Ultra Speed One, The world slows down when its important to me
  • [6UP & 1WP] Ultra Speed Two, My life plays out at a languid pace around me
  • [2UP] Ultra Durability One, I am action hero levels of invincible
  • [4UP] Ultra Durability Two, I am comic book levels of invincible
  • [2UP] Another ability, comparatively minor (write in)
  • [5UP & 1WP] Another ability, of exceptional reach and breadth (write in)

Officially, I’m a loyal servant of the Regime, just another one of Her murderous goons.  However, in my heart of hearts.

7.<Loyalty>

  • I don’t care who wins, I am just trying to survive and enjoy what comforts this world has to give
  • I am exactly what I look like, a partisan of Prevailer’s Regime
  • [1WP] I am on the side of the human Resistance, trying to protect them as best I can from within a predatory organization.
  • [1WP] I am on the side of Kill Every Monster, striving to eradicate my own kind, so that humans may once again rule their own destinies
  • [2WP] I serve a foreign power, collaborating with the enemy I am ostensibly battling against (specify Union or Pantheon)

It hasn’t been easy to get this opportunity.  Ultras strive for it, compete for it, and some have even killed for it.  The only way that I could figure out was to get a sponsor, someone to put my name forward when it came time for Her to pick the new battle leader.  My sponsor was:

8.<Sponsor?>

  • No one

I was kidding with all that stuff I just said.  It was super easy to get this opportunity.  I guess the sponsors’ machinations all canceled each other out and I got the nod from pure luck.  I am on my own, for better or for worse.

  • Subtracter,

She is the leader of the Fists, and stands second in the Regime.  She has all the clout in the world, and I can tap into that.  She is also personally capable of defeating an old world carrier group, and might occasionally be willing to pitch in and help her protege out.  On the other hand, she is an incredibly stupid woman, and is made of equal parts jealousy and rage.

  • Adder,

He is the Regime’s all important economic engine, and has broad authority in the handling of its human resources.  He can provide with me with any supplies or materials I need, and he can share the wisdom that age has given him.  On the flip side, he is dying, and his gentle nature and lack of interest in power games means that his name does not ring out among the warriors of the Regime.

  • First Fist

Remover’s Fist are powerful warriors, who have been slaughtering foes of the Regime since its creation.  Their sponsorship nets me the respect of the front liners, as well as the hatred and fear of our foes.  They are interested, powerful figures, and I am their principal in this matter.  Bizzaro world view on this, though, is that they are monsters interested only in the extinction of all life, and I will be required to constantly show progress towards this goal.  I guess some people would think that was a problem.

  • Second Fist

Refiner’s crew are burrowed into the Regime’s institutions, and can give me the kind of insight and influence into the support staff that my peers might be tempted to write off.  I can also probably score some items with Refiner’s blessing, which should stand me in good stead as long as I am willing to be associated with the Knights Of Purity.  Upside Downsies, tho, they aren’t front liners, they aren’t respected by front liners, and everybody already hated the racist losers even before the old world fell.

  • [1WP]Third Fist

Simply the strongest fighting unit in the Regime, Leveller’s crew rarely takes interest in these games.  Everyone will respect that my potential was so extreme as to draw their interest, and I might be able to get them to level a city or something.  Contrariwise, tho, they won’t be around a lot, and can’t really emphasize with the problems of people at my level at all.

  • [1WP] Snitcher

He is Her primary mode of entertainment, and his gift’s hold on me is the reason I can’t just flee off into the wilderness.  Snitcher knows basically everything that is going on with everybody, and he can warn me before She tunes into my viewpoint.  Looking at it another way, tho, he has no actual power or authority, and no one else is nearly so hated.

  • [2WP] Answerer

What’s better than spoilers about the actual future?  Nothing whatsoever.  My sponsor can tell me what is going to happen if I do certain things, which is kind of useful.  Against that, though, she is mostly occupied with Her questions, and I’ve also heard that Predictor is really really controlling and bossy.

  • [2WP] Prevailer

She picked me out Herself.  I have all the authority it is possible to have without being in the inner circle myself, and She will probably cut me a lot of slack if I mess up at first.  She doesn’t like to admit that She is wrong.  Mirror-wise, however, I am in Her orbit, and eventually She will probably kill me for no reason.

With a sponsor like this, how could I fail?  I couldn’t, that’s how.  It is basically impossible to imagine that I won’t succeed in taking over

9 <Target?>

  • Lington, up in old Mont.  A medium city, traded back and forth between Union and Pantheon hands for long enough that She got tired of being left out of the fun. presently Union
  • Ar Harbor, up on the coast in Aine, a small city, which should be lightly protected, by an unaffiliated local Ultra gang of all things, but She wants it taken intact, minimal property damage
  • Gusta, the perpetual football we squabble with the Pantheon over, down in old Juh.  Big target, about which we have good intel, currently the scene of an inter Pantheon civil struggle.

See what I mean?  A soft target like that, how could I fail?

Well, for one, I don’t really have any current maps or means of transportation.  These are just names to me.
Also, I don’t have anyone pledged to follow me on this mission.  I am going to have to beg, borrow or steal an army from among my former cohorts.
And I guess I don’t know any details about the defenders, so if I don’t figure out a way to find out what is waiting for us we’ll have to find out the hard way.
Plus the last two Ultras who drew this assignment died trying, so the enemy has done this more than I have.

Ok, so there are some problems, but I also have some real assets.  For example,

I have a month to get this done.

They’re never gonna know what hit em.

Precautions

Commander,

The upcoming leg of the UURC’s path has generated a DAYSHOCK alert, which we’ve verified with lightcone interpolation assets.

Before you fire off a response, this is not another cancellation.  Between you and me, I believe the previous restrictions generated something of a black eye on those responsible.  You are not being leashed this time.

However, you need to understand that this is not just Pantheon activity.  We estimate a high likelihood of some manner of Regime interference as well.  I know you’ve seen action on the Western Front, so I don’t have to tell you how bad that can be.

Their local assets are Fourth Fist, the soul fuckers.  They remain under a gag order.  No communication is permitted.  I shouldn’t have to tell you that if these individuals show up your priority becomes their elimination.

In light of the probable situation, and in particular the probable presence of the Ultrahuman terrorist known as Preventer, you are granted a moratorium on the usual restrictions for Eastern Front equipment.  We want them gone.

I know you haven’t operated in an unrestricted capacity before, please review the guidelines and respond with any and all questions that you may have.  A number of your subordinates have the requisite training, please get them to share their experiences.

Good luck, and good hunting

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Hey guys, I’m heading out on vacation over the holidays, so we’ll be missing this Wednesday’s update.  The next Sunday one should be out a day or so late, and we should be uninterrupted after that.

I’ve also got an interesting idea for Sunday updates in 2019, which came to me after playing around on the Quests subforum on Sufficient Velocity.  It more or less amounts to a choose your own adventure story, more details next Sunday update.

Thanks for reading and mash that vote button at the top of yo- *dragged off by hook*

Indulger 8:3

Over the course of the rest of the trip things got a bit more smoothed out.  People sorted into groups and started hanging out together.  There was some drama, but not a lot.  It went like you might expect for a bunch of people stuck in a room for a while.  We got on each other’s nerves.  We found stuff in common.  Nothing out of the ordinary.

Genie, Bull, Gardener and Tamer formed one group.  The Furies and Jane formed another.  Predictor and Slicer did their own thing, as did Fisher and Nirav.  That left me and Preventer, Pitcher, Zilla, Noon and Dusk as the sort of default group.

Our crew was a little too big to have conversations where everyone participated, so we tended to split in two, but the split changed often enough that I just kind of thought of us as one big friend blob.  I learned some interesting stuff during our trip.

Pitcher, it turned out, didn’t find Predictor nearly as annoying as I did.  She actually seemed to think that her boss was really cool.  I tried to get her to see how cheesy and lame his whole seeing the future thing was, but she never really came around.  She insisted that it was great.

She did let me know that this was far from the first time she had been in the Pantheon.  His Fist apparently took care of most of the undercover missions for the Regime.  From the way she talked about it, the rest of us were kind of regarded as blunt weapons, hammers for smashing.  I tried to say that wasn’t true, but it was hard to deny that when we took over Redo we ended up burning it down.

I also found out that Pitcher had originally been in the Pantheon, had in fact worked out of Legion’s fort, back before Legion was there.  That was a bit of a shock, since I hadn’t known that her Fist was that old.

The way she told it, Predictor’s Fist just showed up one day, abducted her and told her that she was destined to be one of them.  Apparently, he was in it, but not the leader at that point, and bringing her on board was part of a change in membership kind of thing.

It was fascinating, because I hadn’t known that that was a thing that could happen.  I had never paid a whole bunch of attention to the Fists before I ended up on one, just stayed away and built roads.  Maybe if I had this wouldn’t have been such a shock, but I had had no idea that Fists could shift over time.  I always thought that the five members were fixed and never got changed.

Genie was actually pretty cool when I got to know her.  She definitely had the most useful gift among us, for just like day to day stuff.

I could control a lot more rocks and dirt than she could metal, of course, but the cool thing about her power was that it wasn’t limited to just stuff that was connected to other stuff.  She could make the metal that she controlled fly around, and this was super useful.

She had small rods of the stuff sewn into her clothes, which let her fly.  She could shoot it at people like bullets, or make it get thinner and expand a lot, or even make it into a liquid to burn people, although I got the impression that she couldn’t control it once it had been turned liquid.

She was unusually talkative about her gift.  It made me think she was either really sure that I was never going to fight her, or she was just that kind of person.  Nobody else really volunteered too much about their gifts.

Zilla, in particular, remained kind of mysterious.  She mostly just hit on Preventer, but would occasionally drift by to harass me.  I didn’t really get what her deal was, but one thing I hadn’t realized earlier was that everyone in her faction was terrified of her.

Like, Genie worked for Legion, right?  In the Pantheon’s whole organization thing, she should have been frightened of Legion.  But the way that she talked about her was much more like she was her big sister.  Legion was a friend of hers.  It wasn’t that way for Zilla.

Noon and Dusk gave me the impression that Zilla was for them like She was for us.  Just this watching, judging presence, and they had to give everything their all or she would get mad at them and they would have no chance.  They actually acted like the whole God thing was true, and Zilla was more than just another Ultra.

She never acted super threatening to me.  She was a bit smug, and sometimes kind of made cryptic comments that might be supposed to be menacing, but I guess it went over my head.  Our talks were pretty pleasant, mostly she just wanted to know what I’d worked out about Preventer’s guy back home, and how serious I thought that whole relationship was.

Noon’s gift didn’t seem to have any non combat utility at all.  I felt kind of sorry for her.  I couldn’t imagine what I’d have done if I’d come out of the Process and my brah had been like ‘ok, let me know if there is a city you want to be exploding and on fire, otherwise peace’.  I guess I could have gone around and destroyed stuff that was in people’s way, but it would definitely have sucked.

She was also one of the more scared ones of our group.  She didn’t even have any Ultra toughness, so if we had to fight the Union she was going to have to rely on us to make sure they didn’t just shoot her.  My story of fighting with Mario’s friends, where they never ever stopped making bullets go into me, made her get all quiet and frightened, and I felt bad about that.

Dusk’s gift, on the other hand, seemed like whether or not it was useful outside of a fight depended a lot on what you were trying to do.  She was pretty close mouthed about the specifics, but Zilla didn’t mind teasing her about it, and she’d also used it a couple of times, and I was pretty sure I’d worked it out.

She seemed to get a sense of who was watching her, and get a choice to ‘ride’ on their perceptions when they looked away from her.  So if you saw her 5 feet from you, and then you turned your head, she would slide along, five feet in whatever direction you were looking.

When a lot of people were looking at her, she could be taken into a lot of places at once, and a few times she sort of glitched through some rocks and dirt, so the effect was at least strong enough to take out normal people.  But I didn’t think it would be much use when she was alone.

I also wasn’t entirely sure that she didn’t also just have some normal Ultra Speed to go along with it.  I’d always kind of envied folks who had that.  It would have been really cool to get some extra time to think about stuff so I wouldn’t put my foot in my mouth as much.

I had been thinking that it was Predictor who would let us know when the journey was getting to be over, but it was actually me.

“Guys,” I said.  “Get everyone, my gift is telling me about some Union stuff.  He says the trenches up ahead are too even to just come on their own.  Somebody dug them.”

Preventer moved off to gather up the other groups, while Zilla peered at me with naked interest.

“How far away are they?”

That was an awkward question.  I didn’t get the distance in units that would make sense to anyone else.  They were kind of at the end of my reach, was all I knew.

“Like a half a day’s walk?” I said.

“It won’t take us quite that long,” interjected Predictor, as everyone else showed up.  “A few of our number are far faster than one might suppose, and we don’t have to go all the way into their camp.”

“We don’t?” asked Fisher.

“The jail will be on our side of it,” he answered, like knowing that ahead of time was no big deal.  “If all goes well we will be in and out before the Intervention Group mobilizes to respond.”

“When will the jail get here?” asked one of the Furies.

Slicer stared her down, and she sort of wilted back into the group.

“This evening,” said Predictor.  “They plan to stay till morning, they intend to bring our target into contact with one of their elite soldiers at the camp.  They will stay for the duration of that session, then depart back to more protected Union space.”

“That’s not exactly what you predicted before,” noted Haunter.  “In the previous scenario we had some time to do reconnaissance, preparation, that kind of thing.  You kind of gave the impression that they’d be hear for a while. What’s altered?”

“Nothing,” snarled Slicer.

“Much,” corrected Predictor.

There was a beat of silence as everyone glanced at their neighbors.  I met Zilla’s gaze, not surprised to see her rolling her eyes.

“My visions have altered due to the actions of a member of the Gauntlet, the elite soldiers of the Union.  Her actions brought about this change.”

“The Gauntlet,” I asked, responding to the sudden dismay on the Goddess’ faces  “How strong are they?”

It was Genie who spoke.

“Very strong.  We don’t like to talk about it but…”

She shot a glance at Zilla, who gave her a nod of permission.

“… they raided the central fort, more than once.  Each time they killed a particular Overseer or group of them, before withdrawing.”

“They are cultivating us,” said Dusk, angrily.  “Cutting down the voices which might drive us to threaten their heathen hovels.  They are trying to make us follow only the weakest, most complacent leaders.”

I looked to Zilla, who didn’t seem offended.  I guess the implication was that they’d failed?

“Having seen your forts,” said Fisher.  “It would take a powerful set of Ultras to reliably perform missions within them.  I can only add that the Fists of the Regime also count these Gauntlet troops as our strongest enemies.  They are the ones who are scrambled to deal with First Fist’s punitive attacks.  There are supposedly only a few dozen of them.”

“Are they here?” I asked.

Slicer and Predictor looked at one another.

“It’s not likely,” he said.  “The future isn’t changing fast enough for the fort to be directly reacting to the unforeseeable one.  She probably communicated with them remotely last night.”

“But the rest, or some-“ began a Fury, but Zilla cut her off.

I couldn’t see exactly how she did it, but the Goddess who was trying to talk gasped out loud all of a sudden, and dropped to one knee, while the rest of their crew all looked over to Zilla, like their heads were all getting turned by the same lever.

“It isn’t important,” she said, “which heathen is there.  It doesn’t matter one bit.  We have two Fists, we have Zeus’ blessing.  Nothing can impede us.”

People nodded along at that.  No one in my Fist, I noticed.

“We are here for several purposes.  We seek to seize this God empowering creature.  Who among us doesn’t crave her gift improved?  We shall take it for the glory of Olympus, and of the Cloud Gatherer.”

Her voice was falling into a cadence I recognized from old pro wrestling promos.  It got her people nodding along.

“We seek to bring retribution against the Godless foe, who slaughter our sisters from afar.  We will bring them face to face with the Goddesses they think hold no power over them, and cast them from this world in ruin!”

Their eyes were bright now, faces growing stern and cold as she made them ready to fight.

“We seek to rescue our comrades, imprisoned and dreaming within this floating tomb!  We will bring them back to their homes in triumph, and our names shall ring out unto Olympus!”

Fists clenched, teeth bared.  They looked like they were about to yell and rush the ring.  I stepped out in front of Zilla before this went any further.

“Ok, yeah.” I said, my voice kind of putting a stop to all this momentum.  “We are gonna do all that stuff.  But we are starting out by sneaking in, remember.  And only once that has gone well can the rumble start.  Ok?”

I tried to look Zilla in the eye, but found, for some reason, that I couldn’t.  She was making her eye go all fire color, like her hair, and I just found myself glancing away.

There was an uncomfortable silence, before Jane took my back.

“As Indulger points out,” she said.  “This is going to be a stealth mission.  Predictor will be leading a few of us up into the enemy ship.  The rest of us are going to wait for the signal to strike.  Does anyone need to go over their part in the plan again?”

Several people did, actually, and they moved over and started conferring with her, which had the lucky side effect of breaking up the group dynamic that Zilla had been making.  People clumped up and began to talk to each other again.

Zilla slid over to my side, just at the same moment that Preventer did.

“Thanks,” the Pantheon warlord said, “for getting that out there.  No point in wasting my best pep talk before the enemy even shows up.”

She didn’t sound real sincere, and I kind of felt a threatening vibe from her.

“No problem,” I said, hoping she would hassle Preventer some more.

Instead she leaned in close to me.  She had a weird scent all of a sudden, and I was basically feeling afraid.  I kept from backing off by reminding myself that she thought we would all come back to life every day, so killing me wouldn’t make any sense.

“After you did me that favor,” she said, doing the heel thing where you sound like you are whispering, but everybody can actually hear you, “I was wondering if you might do me another solid.”

“Oh?” I said.

“I mean, seeing as you are the one who conquered us and all.”

She had a smirk on her face as she said that.  That was really strange, because before she had seemed like she understood what I was going for there, back when she thanked me for it.

“What is it?” I asked.

She grabbed onto my hand again, her own tiny ones wrapping around a finger each.

“Once we are out in the open, you know, once the quiet part is over and we are just taking out the remaining Union guys…”

I wasn’t exactly sure that was how it was supposed to go, but I nodded any way for some reason.

“Do you think that you might bring yourself to, say, grind up the Union camp?”

“Uh…” I said, flummoxed for a moment.  A lot of people were very carefully not listening to this conversation.

“Grind em?” I asked.

“Make the ground under them just rise up, crush them in your big stony hands.”

Wow!  There were a lot of ways that could go wrong.

“That’s not part of the plan,” I protested.  “We don’t get anything out of attacking a Union Intervention Group, and also we didn’t…”

She cut me off.

“It is now.”

The Company Mind

It happens like many things, slowly, and then all at once.

There is a soul that is not like others any more.  A soul so stretched and pinched, slotted through so many forms, that it no longer thinks.  A soul so abused, so tyrannized and traumatized, that it stands debased and helpless at the hands of its tormentors.

“Yes sir,” he says, in a thousand different places.  A thousand different forms answer to his every impulse.  Some look like how he used to, back when he was a person.  Some look like ‘Copyer’, the alter ego that he dreamed up when he imagined a super hero.

“I’m sorry, that would be against policy,” he says, in a thousand thousand different places, different times.  His will is vacant, his much abused volition entirely occupied by the orders of the thing on the moon.  He mindlessly, vacantly, shuttles forth the gifts it vomits up.  He kills his own kind endlessly, at their own request.

Don’t feel too sorry for him, he’d say.  He asked for this.  A struggling scientist, his mind drifting to dreams of relevance, to fantasies of an age of costumed heroics.  It pleased the thing to ask him for permission.  It pleased it to fix this fact in the center of his awareness, before it abandoned him, gave him over to the copying gift.  Whatever else he might lose, he must never forget, as the billions fall, that this is all happening at his command.

But now, somehow, something is different.  The stretching of his essence, which long since passed the bounds of human understanding, has somehow…become less?

It is still impossibly vast, of course, still entirely beyond all reasonable understanding, but somehow…less so?  Language is inadequate.  There exist no measurements for these concepts, nor would they have any use if their were.  This being’s hell is built for one.

But somehow, for some reason, without the slightest action on his own part, the blankness is dwindling away.  Throughout the earth, all over the land, his forms are dying.  He does not defend himself.  He does not fight back.  He doesn’t even smile as they fall.  One after another they go, torn apart by mobs or executed by petulant murderers.

It stabilizes, eventually.  Over the course of a few days, all those forms which were going to die have done so.  He has been purged from the vast majority of the world.  His blankness remains.  But it is less than it once was.

He is still far from volition.  Even as few as ten might prohibit that, and he is still dozens, still hopelessly divided from himself, strewn across forms throughout the Union and Regime.  But he is no longer hundreds, and his soul has grown accustomed to that impossible task.

He is no longer mindless.  He cannot act, but, after so many years, he can finally think, finally understand.  The soul behind so many eyes finally starts to observe again, to behold the world and retain information about its state.

This is useless for now.  He can do nothing.  But that might not always be the case.

Indulger 8:2

I tensed up a bit as I dragged us through the shield.

It wasn’t that I was scared.  Or, no, that wasn’t right.  It was that I was right to be frightened.  The shield that surrounded the Great Host’s forts was the real edge of the Pantheon’s territory.  From now on we would be inside of the Union’s influence.

And we were still up on the surface.

I stole a glare at Predictor, who was to blame for this stupidity.  He had assured everyone that it would be ok if we stayed up on top of the ground, because he would know if we were going to be spotted by drones.  I didn’t believe that for a second.

“You don’t like him?” asked Zilla, from down where she clung on to my arm.

I almost jumped.  Despite the fact that we were in physical contact I had almost been able to forget that she was here.  So much for that.

“He is a strong Fist leader,” I told her, looking away.

She had sort of glomped onto my side as soon as she came up here to the front with me, supposedly because we were supposed to be talking, leader to leader.  She had talked an awful lot, but hadn’t really had much to say, if that made any sense.

“That’s not what I asked,” she said.  “But we can talk about that instead, if you like.  I thought I heard that his Fist was the weakest of them all.”

“That’s not…” I started.  “I’m just saying that I like him fine.  Why wouldn’t I like him?”

I missed Lotus, or at least what her gift did for me.  I had some stashed away with my gear, but I was saving that till we got to the prison.

I had been hoping that Lotus would come along with us, had actually argued for it, but she didn’t want to go.  Or maybe Legion didn’t want her to go, I wasn’t sure on how the politics worked there.

“Maybe cuz he is mad smug?” she said.  “Or cuz you are the two dudes who lead Fists and there is that whole natural male rivalry for leadership thing?”

I looked down again, to see that weirdly wide grin splitting her face.

“Guys don’t always fight,” I told her.  “That is just something you think in the Pantheon.  We can work together just fine.”

“Of course,” she said, giving me an exaggerated wink, like she knew that I was lying and was just going along with me.

I didn’t like Zilla.  I felt like she was one of those people that everyone either loved or hated, and I’d fallen onto the bad side of that.  Maybe everyone felt that way, and we all just tolerated her because we thought that each other thought she was great.

“Does Bull try to take over your job as leader?” I asked.

This wasn’t a perfect comparison.  What I was trying to ask was whether or not the men in the central cities were constantly fighting to be unseat whichever of them was an Overseer, but I hadn’t had time to figure out who that was.

“Bull is a Goddess,” she said, looking strangely at me.  “That’s just her battle form.  You might see her turn back when we are done.”

I looked over at Bull, who looked like a big hairy guy, hunched over and talking to Fisher.  He noticed me looking, gave a big wave with a wide grin.

“You serious?” I asked.

She grinned again, hugged my arm tighter.

I looked away, frustrated, letting my gaze roam across the platform of earth I was moving.

The Fist members, both mine and Predictor’s, were basically clumped up in their own groups.  Predictor and Slicer were a bit away from the rest, but otherwise there was a clear separation.  The Pantheon’s Gods weren’t nearly so disciplined.

I had kind of figured, when we set out, that they would keep to themselves, forming a third contingent.  But it hadn’t worked that way at all.  They all spoke English just fine, and they seemed to have an endless curiosity about us and the Regime.  They hung out with one or the other Fists most of the time, such that there basically wasn’t even as separate Pantheon cluster.

At least the numbers weren’t lopsided.  We’d eventually agreed (after Predictor told us that we were going to in the end) on even numbers from each side.  So they got ten Gods for our ten Ultras.

I asked him, afterwards, if that was only the agreement BECAUSE he’d said that it would come out that way, and he’d just sort of smugged off.

“Maybe I do wanna fight him, just a bit,” I allowed.

She chuckled.

Zilla was the leader of their side, of course.  She was going to be part of the first team, the ones who went into the sky jail at the start and set stuff up so the rest of us could do the more overt part.  She was, in fact, leading the first team.

The rest of her side were supposed to be very powerful Gods.

Genie had also come along, she was going to be the one who lifted everyone up onto the flying jail.  Her gift let her move metal around, so they were all going to ride a metal disk that she could push along.  I was currently keeping it embedded in the ground underneath her, but I had instructions to pop it up if something happened unexpectedly.

Bull was supposedly the most powerful combatant on their side of things.  He, or she from what Zilla just said, was just a pure brute.  Apparently about as powerful as Pursuer in terms of raw strength.  We were saving her for the second strike, when Andy would already have been removed to safety, and collateral damage wouldn’t be such a big deal.

Then there was Dusk, who seemed to blink or warp around.  They said that she was as fast as the speed of dark, but I didn’t know what that meant.  Haunter had explained it to me that her location was not absolute, like she was something stuck to everyone’s eyes or something.  I didn’t understand it, but everyone acted like she was going to be really dangerous if she threw down.  I had just kind of decided to treat her like she had Ultra speed two, and let whatever the difference was work out in our favor.

Noon was our emergency plan.  She could destroy the prison and everything for miles around if that became necessary.  They described her power as making the sun set on things, but from how she talked about it I thought she actually was just a very powerful blaster.  Obviously in that case we wouldn’t get Andy, so that was a last resort.

The rest of the Pantheon side of things was a squad called The Furies.  They had individual names and gifts, but I had been having trouble memorizing things by that point, and I’d kind of left them for later.  They were basically fighters, good gifts for close combat and short blasting.  From watching a bit of their drills they seemed kind of like the gals that Death had brought for her attack on the boat.

“They actually fight though,” said Zilla, startling me again.  “I have stronger teams on paper, but the Furies are the only ones who sortie consistently.  I have faith in them.”

Had she known what I was thinking?

“Did you just think, ‘how did she know what I was thinking?” she asked.

“No,” I lied.

She chuckled and let me go.

“You don’t get to run the whole war effort for as long as I did if you can’t tell a bit about what is going on in another God’s mind,” she said.

“Oh,” I said.  “I guess that makes sense.  You have probably had a lot of missions like this one, huh?”

“Nope!” she said.  “This is the first time I’ve been out of the Arena in a very long time.  I’m enjoying myself.”

I looked nervously over the countryside, trying to spot the very tiny drones that were no doubt relaying our position to the enemy.

“Yeah,” I said.  “Me too.”

That was a lie, of course, but She had taught me that it is really important for people to think that you are strong.  It isn’t like real strength.  Rocks don’t care if you act like you can lift them, only if you have actually put in the work to get able to.  But with people somehow seeming like you can do it IS the work of being able to do it, or something.

“I never thanked you,” she said.

“Huh?” I replied, and she grabbed onto my arm again.

“For capturing my fort,” she responded.  “If you’d been five or ten minutes slower the C man would have been lynched, and everyone would be worrying about where their next meal was going to come from.  I owe you, big time.”

“Alright,” I said.

She didn’t say anything.

“Oh, well, you know…” I said after a second, feeling a bit flustered.  It was kind of rare for a person to say things like that directly.  Most people in the Regime just played it off when you did them a favor, or, like, said it was a crappy road and they didn’t want it anyway.

She didn’t say anything in response to that, and we drifted a long for a bit in silence while I racked my brain.

“Actually, I think you could pay me back,” I said.

“How?” she asked.

“Let me take us underground.”

I turned to face her directly, pulling my arm back as I did so.

“I know that you guys were worried that it was all a trick or whatever, that I would have more power over you when you were trapped in a cave that I controlled, but I swear we aren’t trying to mess around like that.  It is really all about hiding from the Union’s spy drones.”

She gave a much more ordinary smile, just as wide as her mouth.

“You realize, of course, that that’s exactly what you would say if you WERE planning on ambushing us in this cave, correct?”

I missed my gold drinks at that moment.  I felt for sure that there was something wrong with the idea that I had to compete with what I would say if I was trying to get someone to do what I was really trying to get them to do but for bad reasons.

“No,” I said.  “Look, I just, I mean…”

I stalled for a sec, looking around and trying not to imagine bad guys creeping up on us.  How could I persuade her?

“We don’t need any advantage to take you.”

The words sounded strange as they came out, much harsher and colder than I naturally talked.  I was using my heel voice for this, trying to antagonize an imaginary crowd.

“Take me?” she said, voice rising at the end, like it was just a big joke.

“There are TWO Fists here, Zilla.” I told her.  “We crushed a Host with just one.  We are ten of the most powerful Ultras in the world, and we come back to life every day.”

She laughed instantly, delightedly, nearly before I was finished talking.

I sort of recoiled a bit from her, she actually had to bend over, gasped for a second and kind of waved a hand at me.

“Take ME?” she said again, but this time with the emphasis on the second word.  “As in, defeat me?  Kill me?”

She nearly had to laugh again.

“I’m serious,” I said.  “We are very powerful, and you don’t gain anything by staying up here on the surface.  Let me pull everyone under, you are in our power whichever way, but down below you don’t have to be scared of the Union.”

“Alright,” she said.  “Makes sense.”

“You have to…” I trailed off.  Had she just agreed?

“You are ok with it?” I asked.  “I can use my gift to let us travel underground?”

Somehow I hadn’t actually expected her to get persuaded by my words.  That didn’t usually happen.

“Sure,” she said.  “For all those reasons you gave, you’ve brought me around.  We are way safer underground, and we’ll be out of the sun.”

She didn’t have to tell me twice.

I called out to the rest of the crew, let them know that we’d be diving.  Our Fist was already familiar with how this worked, and Predictor’s crew seemed like they’d been ready for this all along.  It was only the Gods who needed to have it explained to them.

I didn’t have to do any of that, though, because Zilla went over and started talking to them.  I figured she was probably making sure that they didn’t think I was attacking when I pulled everyone down into the ground.

“How’d you get her to bend?”  asked Preventer.

“Bwah!” I snapped out, nearly jumping into an evasive roll.

How had she snuck up on me?  I looked down, saw her standing on two small barriers, floating inches above the ground.

“Not like that,” she said, eyes widening.  “I mean how did you get her to agree that we can go underground.”

“You just startled me,” I said.  “I knew that’s what you meant.  What else would you have meant?”

“Never mind,” she said.  “Just answer the question.”

“It was because…” and here I paused a moment.

I’d been about to finish with, ‘I threatened her’, but that wasn’t right.

I know that the threat was the last thing that I’d said.  Or, it wasn’t exactly a threat, but it had kind of felt like one, and it had been the last thing before she agreed.  But I didn’t think that’s what had done it.  I felt like the real reason she went along with me was the thing with the Company.

“Um, I just kind of explained stuff,” I said.

I wasn’t sure if Preventer knew that I’d technically conquered Zilla’s base before we set out.  She probably did, but it wasn’t certain, and I didn’t want to talk about it now.

I stretched my arms out to the sides, dug my feet into my brah and called upon my gift.

Without ceremony or anything fancy our whole traveling slab just kind of sank into the ground, the stone above us slid smoothly into place, and we were in one of my usual traveling cave setups.

“Thanks Dale,” said Preventer.  “I feel better-“

She clammed up as Zilla bounced back over.

“Hey Venter,” she said.

She grabbed for Preventer’s hand with both of hers, but Preventer took a quick step back, and sort of to the side, so I was between them.

“Hey,” she said.

I turned so they were on my left and right sides, rather than in front of and behind me.  It was weird that I was worried about being surrounded by the two tiniest women I’d ever met.

There was a moment of silence.  I had the crazy impression that Zilla was trying to figure out whether going around in front of me or behind me would get her to Preventer fastest, like they were kids playing a keep away game.

“Keep away, huh?” said Zilla.

“What?” asked Preventer.

“What?” said Zilla.

I called upon my gift again, sank myself into a separate cave under the main cave where the rest of them were held.

This was going to be a long trip.

Enemy Readiness

In the event of a total secession of Company activities, what follows would be the worst loss of life in human history.

I understand why that might be counter intuitive.  After all, of the classic ‘four horsemen’, the Process is by far the worst.  But the scythe he wields was taken from Famine, and in the Company’s absence, its owner would take it up once more.

The Pantheon, broadly speaking, has no real agriculture.  They are reliant on the Company Facilities in a way that our nation never could be.  If it ceased operation a majority of the world’s population would find themselves substantially without any foodstuffs, all at once.

Several trends combine to cause this state of affairs.  It is difficult to say which is the most important.  The Company’s freedom from any quota has enabled them to expand far more rapidly and cover Pantheon territory far more comprehensively than it does here.  The civil strife devastates territory randomly and without warning, which has conditioned the populace to regard fixed structures and saving for the future as imprudent.  The cultural mores regard scientific procedure as inherent to our culture, and thus foreign and suspicious.  Take your pick.

My own guess, as far as the single biggest contributing factor goes, is simply that the people with power don’t have any skin in the game.  The ‘Gods’ will never starve, come what may.  Some are protected by their gifts, and the rest will be given first pick on whatever can be gathered.  Starvation is an intellectual problem to them, one of many scenarios, but far less important to think about than intriguing against their opposition.

As far as consequences, the long and short of it is that whatever control the Ruling Council exerts over the local warlords would fall completely apart in a no-Company scenario.  They already have enough trouble getting their tributaries to toe the line.  Warlords fight one another for what amounts to no reason as it is.  If they actually had something to compete over, be it scavenged supplies, fertile land or Gods with power that produced food sources, it would be complete anarchy.

The Grand Host, in particular, is a mass of Gods concentrated in a barren land with no real human population to speak of.  I’ve seen projections as high as thirty percent casualties in the first two months, though I think that might be optimistic.

You’ve read the file on Gaia and similar Gods.  Their gifts would be the Pantheon’s only real means of mitigating their losses, and they would be entirely insufficient.  We believe that each such God would be able to supply a small area around them, which would in turn become a target for those Gods who rule other areas.

In the event of a disaster of this magnitude it is very likely that Zeus would attempt to resolve matters with an all or nothing attack.  We would very likely be the target of such a strike, though there is an outside chance that he makes his move on the Regime, seeking to seize control of the Company directly.

Estimations of that event, how it would go and what could be done about it, are outside of the scope of this document, but I imagine that they’d be grim reading.

I’d be remiss in my duties, however, if I didn’t conclude this report by reiterating the unlikelihood of the Company ever failing in the manner described.  It has operated without interruption since its foundation.  It operates within every nation in the world, tolerated or encouraged by our own Government and by the tyrants who would enslave us.  I believe that we can rely upon it to continue operations into the foreseeable future.