Haunter 12:1

I’d imagined the Knight HQ collapsing in flames countless times over the years. It was a symbol of fear and pain, of an evil that had lingered long past its time. It felt right that I’d been the one to bring it down, one relic taking care of another.

Preventer had gotten it into her head that our bomb was a nuke, but that was vastly overstating its power. We’d done our best, but it was still a conventional explosive, akin to the sort of thing a missile would deliver, or an old school truck bomb.

We’d debated fiercely, but inconclusively, on what the outcome would be. Had Refiner blessed the entire building, or just the cloths draped along the outer walls? Was the building we’d seen even a close relative of the true structure, or had Deceiver been running some long game on everyone, all the time? Would it collapse in on itself, rupture outward, fall to one side, or simply stand proud and defiant?

Demolition, in the old world, had been settled science. Experts, of the kind still retained within the reserve, could make a building fall in just about any way you desired, given the proper preparation.

With an unknowable target structure, built to no plan and augmented in inexplicable ways, and factoring in an undependable and jury rigged device, the experts turned out to be just as divided in their estimates as the laymen.

The debate was only put to rest as the building tumbled in front of us. It had been a composite ruin, walls frozen in the act of falling against one another, and the blast shattered whatever equilibrium the Knights had been able to enforce. It crumbled in upon itself in the wake of the blast, belching a huge cloud of dust and grit out onto the street.

Mario and I were down the road a ways, peering around a corner.   We ducked back as the cloud engulfed us, holding improvised cloth masks across our faces and shielding our eyes.

I reached out to my gift, pulling the shade we’d left with the Pantheon back into the reserve, and starting our clock. If Subtracter believed our signal she’d be on her way. If she hadn’t lied about her flight speed, and she started right away, then we had on the order of five minutes to find Dale.

We’d argued about whether or not to leave the signal for a little later, or whether to give it before the bomb actually went off. A case could be made, had been made, for either, but ultimately we’d decided that simple was best. The plan was to scoop Dale out before Second Fist, or whatever was left of it, managed to get themselves out from under the rubble, then leave them to fight it out with Subtracter in a race we had no horse in.

I gave no visible signal, just clenched my teeth, and the reserve leaped into action. Dozens of shades rushed out of my form, careful practice and discipline ensuring none crashed into one another as they swarmed out and into the street.

I followed immediately in their wake, leaving Mario behind. He’d wanted to be in on this part, but the sad truth was that there wasn’t anything for him to do. He’d be one more body, one more form struggling through the dust and murk. It was better for him to lurk back in the dubious safety of the middle distance. If the worst occurred he could at least try and contact his former superiors and wrangle some kind of makeshift solution in what little time we had left.

‘Opportunity triage’, he’d termed it. A kind euphemism for pure desperation, for the kind of effort you put in when the world was literally about to end and you were stuck doing idiotic street fighting.

The shades fanned out as they swarmed ahead of me, each team heading towards its assigned objective. Spotters called out destinations for reserves, and yet more shades exited my form. The reserve were doing their best to construct a map of the fallen structure, trying to assign everyone to proper areas even as they were dispatched, but the murk and the gloom made it an uphill struggle.

In a perfect world, or at least a world where we’d been unreasonably lucky, the ground would start shifting under my feet almost instantly. If Dale had been blasted into a location in contact with the ground and not damaged beyond his ability to remain conscious, then that would happen any second now. He could tell my footprints apart from the others by the fact that I was the shade’s origin point, and he’d know to get in touch.

I covered thirty more feet, forty. Unsurprisingly, we weren’t living in a perfect world.

Dale was not conscious and touching the ground. Logically speaking, this meant he was either unconscious, still up off the ground, or, worst case, both. In the real worst case he was dead, perhaps vaporized by the bomb.

We’d done our best to insure that that wouldn’t be the case. The plan had called for Preventer to seek him out, which would hopefully ensure Deceiver took her far from him, but force Deceiver herself close to the epicenter to keep Preventer in her gift’s range. We’d been hoping that Dale would be far enough away to be, at worst, thrown about and concussed, but not killed.

I heard some gunfire from the edges of the blast zone, saw brief flashes through the omnipresent cloud of dust.

I ignored them. Almost none of the Knights had firearms, which meant that those were most likely shades shooting, driving back bystanders or finishing off injured Knights. Nothing for me to worry about.

The nearest corner of the fortress still stood, to some degree. The collapse had created a sort of triangular rampart, a series of flooring and support beams avalanched upon one another that spilled out into the surroundings.

I looked to the shades that had proceeded me, one of whom was indicating a particular section of rubble. I pulled a few dozen shades into my form and started heaving on it.

This was the reason that I needed to put myself into the situation at all, instead of just acting as a command and control node to the shades. I, or rather my Ultra gift’s ability to allow us to combine our efforts, was the only way we could exert greater than human force in hard to reach sections.

The stone section of roofing I was working with crumbled away in my hands, forcing me to dodge back a step as the rubble resettled itself. I couldn’t be bold, couldn’t press my luck. Almost nothing would be worth taking the chance of being struck with so many of my colleagues inhabiting my form.

I shifted another layer of the junk, heart leaping as I spied a crushed form beneath.

We’d never taken the time to pin down Dale’s gift’s interactions with loose piles of rubble. It had been on a to do list that the Jury’d come up with, long ago, but the timing had never been right. We’d been fighting over the first disaster with the Union, or something like that.

The consequence was that I wasn’t sure exactly what would constitute ‘the ground’, as far as his gift was concerned. A building’s floor wasn’t the ground, but if he was walking along and there happened to be a rock embedded in the dirt beneath his feet, it wasn’t a problem. Which of those situations was a collapsed pile of masonry more like, in the eyes of whatever Entity was making the adjudication?

The figure wasn’t Dale, too small and with hair too long. They also had a Knight’s uniform wrapped around them.

“Jane!” came a shout from further into the smog, from somewhere down in the main pit that the building had turned into.

I looked down and immediately saw what the shades were drawing my attention to. A section of the rubble was heaving and roiling, boulders rising up as other ones rolled in around the sides.

It wasn’t Dale, I realized almost instantly. His gift would make short work of this predicament, and in fact had done so on numerous occasions, as he sank us into or rose us out of his makeshift caves. This was just someone with Ultra Strength, heaving and thrashing against the stones they were surrounded by.

Most likely it was Destroyer, the most deadly member of Second Fist, and no one I had any shot against in a fight. Subtracter would see to her, ideally, but the timing on this was rather unfortunate.

I looked around carefully, maintaining my perch on the upraised section of rubble, unwilling to flee the whole area just yet. Destroyer only had Ultra Strength One, it should take her a bit to burrow her way out. I couldn’t just run away without locating either Dale or Preventer.

I saw broken stone, clouds of dust and smoke, and, beyond the immediate tumult, the night shrouded streets of Shington. There was no sign of the earth moving in accordance with Dale’s gift. No barriers making arrows to show where Preventer might be. Just ruin and debris, and the angry roiling where a foe was coming to the surface.

I willed his form to coalesce out of the night, for me to suddenly pick him out somewhere that all the shades had somehow missed, but there was nothing. Just more night and more dust.

I had the self control not to curse, as I dropped back down to the ground, but it was a near thing. There’d been nothing to fight, no dramatic turnaround. I’d just…failed. I hadn’t been prevented or thwarted, I’d just been unable to find Dale.

I felt bitterly frustrated, but I didn’t let that stop me from retracing my previous steps, putting distance between myself and the upcoming confrontation between whatever Regime forces could dig themselves out and Subtracter’s coup attempt. They were welcome to their fight.

A terrible howl split the night, cutting through the distant screams and the gunfire with an awful suddenness.

Everyone in the Regime, hell, probably just about everyone everywhere, knew what that sound meant. That long, wailing screaming, which bore only the faintest resemblance to a true wolf’s howl, had signified just one thing for decades now.

First Fist was on the hunt, and all who heard it were their prey. It was a challenge, a threat. It let the listener know that there was an excellent chance that they’d be dead within the hour, and that those who fell might be the lucky ones.

Movement drew my eye to a building across the way from me, where a trio of Knights had just broken cover in abject flight. A nightmare shape barreled after them, catching one by the ankle and hurling him upwards into the night sky.

Pursuer’s howl peeled out again, even as the beast, which bore only the faintest resemblance to an actual wolf, lurched towards another victim, teeth and eyes gleaming in the night despite all the yards between us.

He wasn’t actually howling. Alerter must be creating it, using her sound control to make it spring up from nowhere in particular.

I’d been intending to pull my shades back to me as I withdrew, but I left them to make their own escapes instead. My only protection from Pursuer right now was that I was just one more shape in the mist. Anything that drew him to me, anything that singled me out among their number, would be my end.

I ran headlong away from the ruin of the Knight’s headquarters, just like everyone else who could was doing. Dale would have to wait. If he was still alive, then maybe whatever horrific and seismic events were about to occur when Destroyer, Pursuer and Subtracter clashed would see him brought into contact with the ground.

As for Preventer, well, she should be safely buried. If not, I’d grown at least a little fond of the Regime’s most amoral midget, but the truth was that the world wouldn’t miss one more war criminal among the ashes of the Regime. I’d considered killing her before, I wasn’t about to throw the lives entrusted to me away to save her now.

I felt a shade destroyed, then another in rapid succession. Somewhere out there in the dust, my people were being hunted. It might have been Pursuer, or Knights, or just the side effects of some Ultra’s escape efforts, heck maybe the rest of First Fist was here. Nothing I could do.

I realized, of course, that if Remover was here then I was desperately fleeing from the woman I’d been trying to catch up to for days now, but there was nothing for it. The opportunity I was looking for was one where I confronted her in favorable circumstances, ideally one where I killed her. Fighting alone against First Fist wasn’t such an opportunity, it was just a longer, more complicated form of suicide.

Another shade perished as I got around a corner, another soul lost to this catastrophe. I didn’t deviate, kept my jaw clenched. Alerter could hear everything in a wide radius, the last thing I wanted was to let her recognize my voice.

I wasn’t headed back to Mario, just away from this clusterfuck. We’d both be safer if we didn’t meet back up anywhere near First Fist. He might not know about Alerter, might say my name before I could put him wise.

I didn’t lose any more shades as I took another corner, and I finally felt safe to pull all my outlying shades back into the reserve. If they were tracking me at this point then they were already on the right track, and there was nothing I could do about it.

I jogged on as the Jury took stock of the situation, tallying everyone’s accounts and trying to work out if anyone had seen anything of import. It was the kind of task that the reserve’s limited bandwidth hampered, where normally I’d release the shades to talk it out in the open air, but the possibility of Alerter dissuaded me.

I crouched against a wall as the debrief went on. A few of my people had seen a large form sort of embedded into a section of building across the way. Dale might have been blasted clear across the street, but before they’d been able to get closer and examine the situation in more detail Pursuer had come crashing out of that building very same building.

I clenched a fist, bit back a snarl. It stank of precognition, the whole attack did. First Fist arriving exactly when we threw Second Fist into disarray couldn’t be coincidence. They were either watching or else Remover was just doing what Answerer no longer could, pulling moves directly out of wherever gifts came from.

“Listen up!” snarled a voice out of the air, low and mean spirited.

I practically jumped out of my skin, looking frantically around, seeing nothing but the anonymous building I’d taken shelter in.

“We got Preventer, you bitches!” the voice continued. Alerter, obviously, and if she thought there were many of us then she didn’t know I was on my own right here. Most likely she was simply speaking to everyone in a wide radius, not knowing which of us were Fourth Fist members.

“She ain’t about to have the best of times,” Alerter continued, “But you can’t say we didn’t warn her about it. Told her all the way back what would happen to her one day, and today’s that day.”

First Fist was exactly petty enough to randomly tell people the sort of horrors they were about to inflict, but I sensed this was more. I was about to get an ‘unless’.

“Unless,” she said, “You want to settle our situation now? Come to the Garden where y’all met her and we’ll slaughter you cunts.”

I wasted no time in running again as the transmitted voice faded away, doing my very best impression of any random refugee who’d heard that ominous declaration, my mind whirling a million miles an hour.

I took refuge again shortly thereafter, ducking into a wrecked Company Facility and slamming the door behind me. I needed to take stock.

The part of the plan devoted to destroying Second Fist had gone off without a hitch. I’d seen no activity from them beyond a churning that suggested that something was digging out of their headquarters. Assuming Deceiver’s gift hadn’t been at work, they were done. Subtracter or First Fist would take care of whatever remnants of their organization were still active.

But everything else had been a failure. I hadn’t seen a single sign of Dale, had quite possibly blown him up. I hadn’t seen a sign of Preventer, who was either buried under rubble or snatched up by First Fist in the aftermath. I’d even lost Mario. The reserve and I had no independent allies left.

I kicked irritably at the door I’d slammed, frowned ferociously down at myself. I raked fingers through my hair, trying to force a calm I was far from feeling.

If I could believe Alerter, and, famously, it was unwise to do so, then Preventer and First Fist were back at the Garden. If I wanted Remover, that was where I needed to go.

But, and this wasn’t exactly rational, Fuck me if I was going to face down ANOTHER Fist for ANOTHER hostage, immediately after this goddamn disaster. There had to be another play here.

 

Preventer 12:1

It was dusk when I got back to Second Fist’s sanctuary. The moon was full and bright, the evening air cool and crisp. The city’s buzz seemed muted and washed out in the twilight, like the world was drawing in a breath before getting down to some serious screwing.

I’d created a pair of short, thin barriers, which were presently supporting a hefty plastic crate that was floating along behind me. We’d found it in an abandoned commercial structure a few miles into the city.

I was alone. Mario and Haunter were a few blocks away, waiting on my mission’s success or failure. Haunter’s part in this could be played from anywhere, all she had to do was withdraw the shade she’d left with Subtracter. Mario, of course, could do nothing. Aside from his part in initial planning, and certain other contributions, he’d been forced to partake of the passive helplessness that was every dagger’s lot.

I didn’t have a lot of sympathy. He’d had his whole life to get Processed, and he’d pussied out. So he could get comfy over there on the side lines.

“Hey!” shouted a Knight, as I walked up, “Stop there!”

A pair of them trotted out of the front door, just the ordinary ones with the scythes and robes. Low rankers, then. I could see a few more just like them were watching me out of various crevices and windows in the irregular structure.

“What?” I asked him, “Your bosses wanted us to come back and give them a report once we understood the situation over there.”

“What?” he asked back.

“She’s in Fourth Fist,” said the other one, a woman by the sound of it, “They are working with…”

Her voice dropped in the last half of the sentence, and I couldn’t make out the rest of what she said.

“A Fist?” said the first. He sounded dubious. “Where are the rest of you?”

He was a little too far away to do the sudden throat grabbing trick, so I just walked towards him, sneering nastily.

“What’re you…?” he asked, and then I grabbed him by the throat.

“I don’t know why daggers-“ I said, unmoved by his frantic efforts at escape.

“Stop it!” shouted the other Knight. “Let him go!”

“…Think they can ask me fucking questions…” I continued.

She tried to bring her scythe around, but I just stepped closer to her, inside her reach, standing right up against her as I throttled her partner.

That left some space between me and my victim, of course, and he managed to thunk his scythe against my arm.

His eyes, already wide with alarm, filled with panic when it glanced off harmlessly.

“Let him…” she said again, dropping her scythe and grabbing for my strangling arm with both hands, adding her strength to his in their desperate, doomed effort to move something more immutable than the sky itself.

I kept my eyes on the archway behind them as they struggled in vain against my gift. I wouldn’t necessarily see a more serious response incoming, with Deceiver in the mix, but it didn’t hurt to try.

I let their protestations wash over me. I had a strong fucking prejudice against listening to people who only talked after they’d already tried to kill me. Missed that fucking boat, yeah?

I let a half a minute go by before I let go. Not nearly enough to actually do any permanent damage, but roughly an eternity in fight time. Time enough, by a long shot, to show that it was my mercy, and not anything that they were saying and doing that was causing me to back down.

When I released my grip the guy I was choking had been in the middle of pushing his foot against my stomach and shoving with all his strength. The sudden absence of anything to fight against left him rocketing away from me, he’d tossed himself down onto the ground and into the edge of the doorframe.

The other Knight danced back, hands up in a conciliatory gesture. Her mask had gotten a bit twisted around in the scuffle, such that the mouth part wasn’t immediately aligned with her actual mouth, and what she was saying was a bit jumbled, but I got the gist.

I swept imperiously past the pair before they could get their bearings again, crate drifting serenely along in my wake.

There were a few more Knights in the first room, but they all took distance as I entered, backing up against walls and down hallways and such.

“Where are they?” I demanded, not bothering to specify that it was Second Fist and Answerer I’d come to meet. It wasn’t as though it was plausible that I was here to confer with some random Knights, particularly after I’d just choked some.

They indicated one of the doorways, and I moved on through without breaking stride. Pace was key, and I wasn’t about to relinquish it.

Somewhere else inside the fortress, Answerer and Deceiver would be getting briefed. They’d be hearing about my arrival, and the scuffle at the door. They’d be trying to figure out why I was here, what it meant about Subtracter’s situation.

I wanted them unbalanced, but not panicked. Rattled, but not threatened. It was a tough balance.

A quartet of the higher ranking Knights, the ones with the modern looking gear, met me in the next room. They looked, in most ways, like the ones that had been sent with us, the ones Haunter had killed.

“Preventer, what’s in the box?” asked the first one, her voice making her gender clear.

If I didn’t miss my guess, at least one of these Knights was really an Ultra, one of the incredibly rare members of our kind content to take orders and wear a uniform. Probably not someone who could hurt me, but it wasn’t impossible. Deceiver’s Fist had been at this a long time, long enough to accumulate all sorts of useful pawns.

“We asked the Pantheon where Subtracter was, just like Refiner wanted us to,” I told them. “They were evasive, then dramatic, ultimately violent. But we’re a Fist, so we got what we wanted in the end.”

“What’s in the box?” she asked again.

“It wasn’t one Ultra who got Subtracter,” I said. “Not the way they described it going down. They had one who paralyzes people she looks at, another one to shield her while her gift was taking effect, and so on. Team effort.”

They stepped out of one another’s way, aimed their guns.

“The box!” she demanded.

I flipped the lid open, wincing as the stench of dirt and shit wafted out of it. Ultra Toughness, or my variant of it anyway, didn’t care about my preferences nearly as much as it did my safety and agency.

Their eyes were riveted, as we’d planned, on the gleaming skull embedded in the soil, the visage of death come suddenly among them.

“Here’s Subtracter,” I lied, “We cleaned the flesh off so she got a good view of all the negotiations. Refiner can debrief her at leisure.”

If the other side was so desperate to fool everyone about being able to see out of skulls, then why not make that deception our own? Why not pretend to be fooled?

It had been Mario’s idea, actually. He’d done some infiltration stuff before, and one thing he’d pointed out was that the way to survive in the Regime was to make sure you were always cooperative, always doing what they wanted you to.

If they gave an open ended order, or a lie big enough, then you could hide your whole plan right inside it, and their own goddamn arrogance would keep you hidden.

They looked to one another, plainly unsure. The speaker stepped back into their lineup, tapped a hand to her ear like she was turning on a microphone of some sort.

“Box has a skull in it,” she said, “She brought it for Watcher to link with, says that’s how the info is stored.”

I’d have given a lot to be on the other side of the line, just a fly on the wall hearing them argue.

Should they front like Watcher can only see stuff after she’s already linked to the skull? Should they act like they didn’t have access to her? But wouldn’t that be admitting weakness? Did we already know that Answerer was all the Watcher that there was, or was there something to be gained in running out the scam?

I’d been part of a Fist for a year now, I knew how questions like these, with a thousand possible points you could grab them by, would tear up a team’s dynamics. Everyone would have their own viewpoint, everyone would be thinking not just about how to get what they wanted out of it, but what them winning or losing the debate would do to the team’s dymamics, to their relationship with the only people they would share eternity with.

When we’d been considering the prison job, or when we’d been thinking about the embassy situation, we’d had discussions like this. Soul destroying arguments, waged with utmost sincerity. They were engaging, brutal things.

Most of all, they were distracting.

I took the skull (which actually belonged to the late, unlamented Sir Seth), and tossed it casually to the Knight who’d originally spoken, the one who was now talking over their communications thingy.

“Hey!” she said, catching it, bobbling it, nearly dropping it. The jawbone came away in her hands.

“I’ll see Dale now,” I told her, “We did some more negotiating after we packed Subtracter’s bits up, stuff only our Fist needs to know about.”

They looked quizzically at me.

“Indulger, I mean,” I corrected myself.

More fuel for the fire. More things to think about. What were our secret agreements with the Pantheon? Should they let me speak with Dale? Did it change depending on what they decided to go with for Watcher?

More irrelevancies, quicksand for a mind utterly out of shape for this kind of thing.

It was Answerer we were really targeting. She was the one who made them a perfect target for this kind of thing. A Fist would have a particular rhythm, a primacy hierarchy. Five wasn’t too many people to get organized, or four in Second Fist’s case.

But they were working with Answerer now, and that would throw sand in everything. She was used to complete certainty, to guarantees. She’d be shooting holes in everything anyone brought up, demanding degrees of confirmation that the world simply didn’t provide.

“One second,” said the lead Knight, continuing to listen to her ear thing. She handed Seth’s skull off to one of the others.

I put a friendly arm on her shoulder.

“One,” I said, loud enough for it to be heard by whoever she was talking to.

“This way,” she said, after a bare second’s hesitation.

“Lead the way,” I said, and she suited action to words, walking back into the archway they’d come out of.

I followed immediately after, crate floating along behind me. One of the other Knights followed along in my wake, her Blessed gun carefully not trained exactly on me.

The other two, including the one with the skull, left by a different path.

I was pretty confident I knew what had happened. They hadn’t had time to come up with a decision, and they’d bit on the apparently low cost, high value option. Let me talk with Dale, learn our supposed secrets, figure out what to do about the whole Watcher dilemma in the meantime.

We took a turn in the next room, then entered a staircase leading down into a basement.

The crate was my assurance that this was genuine. Deceiver could counterfeit our senses completely, but she couldn’t make our gifts lie. She couldn’t fool me about my own barriers, their relative position was something that I just knew, in a way that wasn’t really part of any of a human’s senses.

They were really putting me down in the basement, just as we expected. It was the obvious move.

If you had to hold Indulger, you put him on the top floor, as far away from ground as you could get. It was obvious. If he ever got to dirt you were fucked. So they were sending me to a different part of the building entirely.

The low risk option, once again. They were going to have Deceiver fake Dale to me, and fake me to Dale. That way they’d learn whatever we said, and they could cut off anything that they didn’t want to get through, on a word for word basis.

It also guaranteed, in their minds, that I couldn’t rescue Dale. He wasn’t even going to be in the room with me.

They would be continuing with the Watcher debate all during this, the vital seconds that they could have saved themselves in squandered on pointless squabbling over a future they would never see.

We moved through a dimly lit basement room, then through another room that wasn’t real at all, just some kind of illusion. We really walked around in a circle, but if I didn’t have my barriers I’d have sworn I was walking straight.

They’d put Dale’s imaginary cell at the end of this fake room, a sort of cubby dug into a wall with bars across the front, carefully several feet up off of the ground.

“Hey man,” I told him.

Dale himself looked beat up, maybe not physically pummeled, but certainly put through the ringer. There was a weariness to him, a listlessness to his posture. He looked despairing, defeated, like someone had told him that they’d destroyed all his old fake wrestling props.

He sat there sullenly for a second before answering back, which I’d also seen coming. Deceiver was most likely repeating what I said after I said it, then listening to his answers, then repeating them back to me. The conversation would be a bit stilted, and the easiest way to hide that was to make Dale seem to be a bit out of it, a bit confused.

“Preventer,” he said. “What happened with Subtracter?”

“Same old story,” I told him. “Same thing that happened when we fought with Death on the Strongboat.”

I was gambling a bit here. They probably knew something about our mission’s outcome, but I was hoping that they didn’t understand the significance of me moving the confrontation’s location, or didn’t even realize that I’d done so.

The message was twofold. The first part was to remind Dale of the battle with Death, how he’d been killed and only revived when his body hit the ground.

“How exactly was it the same?” he asked.

I was fairly uncertain whether it was actually him asking, to be honest. Felt like Deceiver might have stopped echoing and just put her own words in his mouth.

The second part of the message, of course, was that we were about to get fucking nuked again. Hopefully along with the first he understood that he needed to get himself into whatever the best position was to maximize his odds at survival.

I removed the third barrier that I’d been maintaining, the one inside the dirt and shit packed in the crate, which had been keeping certain components apart, components that Haunter’s old world specialists and Mario’s advanced training had allowed us to gather or conjure over the course of a frantic afternoon.

“We won,” I told him, or maybe her, my words barely getting out before the world was torn away from me by our bomb’s deafening roar.

Delayed again

I actually got the update done this week, but reading back over it I’m doing the author thing where we sometimes just have to rewrite everything.  Sorry about this!  It’ll be done (better) next week.

Regime Quest 56

Day 20:

Morning: Heal people

There was no way to know, of course, whether the people that I’d helped with my healing gift bore any relation to those who’d saved my life the day before yesterday.

I couldn’t ask about it without risking Snitcher getting wise, and no one was going to thank me for much the same reason.

It kind of felt like it had been cause/effect, however. It reeked of ‘just universe’ kind of thinking, but I had a strong urge to believe that I’d been saved by the goodwill that I’d accumulated in my time of service, that the people who’d risked punishment by leading my pursuers away had been paying me back for risking punishment to heal them.

That line of thinking made me feel immediately guilty, as though I was now only doing to this to ‘buy’ more considerations from the populace, like an unspoken version of the Union’s fucking favors list or some shit.

I knew that this wasn’t true. I had no inkling, no idea whatsoever that the people in the gang territories were preparing to do that, and I would have had no complaints if they’d just kept their heads down.

It was true grace, a favor unlooked for in the darkest moments. But guilt is a funny thing.

It was a relief, then, to turn immediately back around and repay the favor. The decrepit and destitute of the Regime seemed like a personal affront today, and the work of my healing gift somehow holy, a returning of the world to its proper estate.

I’d long since resigned myself to the possibility of Snitcher discovering my morning activities, but for some reason the possibility hung particularly heavily over me this morning. It was a relief to reach the end of my queue without incident.

If I died on the Phis mission, or if She snuffed me out for some random breach of the Regime’s fetish for Strong Man Makes Strong Choices, then at least I’d done this much good.

Afternoon: Find Replayer with Erupter’s assistance

“Why would they lie to you?” Erupter asked, seemingly sincerely, “You’re the Warlord!”

I kept my grin pasted on my face, before patiently reassuring my eager young assistant that it had been known to happen.

Each of my Posse members would have posed their own challenges as a bodyguard/henchman. Owner was a hothouse flower, unable to survive outside the Lair. She’d have added no extra intimidation factor, and in fact I’d have had to curtail my efforts in order to see to her protection. Replayer was a vicious hound, prone to resorting to violence at the slightest obstruction, and excessively skilled at surviving the problems she created thereby. I’d pictured Erupter as a happy medium of the two, and by and large she was.

But one thing I hadn’t considered, going in, was to what degree she was a cloud cuckoo lander. Like, it was a strange thing to say about a ruthless totalitarian, but she was actively in denial about the world we inhabited.

“Ah,” she said, tapping her nose on the side, “Spies from our enemies! You are so wise, Warlord, to anticipate their vile antics.”

“Yes,” I said, “That’s it exactly.”

We’d visited Replayer’s home first off, and found, by questioning her consorts and body servants, that she’d left home that day the same as any other, taking clothes that made it clear she was heading out into the outskirts of the city.

From that point on we’d played a frustrating game of ‘have you seen this woman’ with an endless succession of bystanders, who largely lied to us for what I knew to be basic self interest and what Erupter would imagine to be nefarious foreign subversion.

Ultimately, thanks most likely to the goodwill the unpowered humans of Shington had towards one of their vanishingly few Ultra healers, I’d been pointed towards a sort of salvage yard at the edge of town. With Erupter in tow I’d headed out.

“Remember,” I cautioned her, “Let me do all the talking. You just keep a watch out for the Union’s agents in the gangs. If you see anyone in Dolls or Timekillerz colors, you let me know.”

She nodded, and I headed in.

The scrapyard hadn’t always been one. It looked like, at its core, we were looking at the remnants of a highway onramp, long collapsed. It had found a brief second life as a Knight outpost for a while, but been abandoned again at some point, their trappings left to decay slowly into ruins.

Nowadays it served as a kind of collection point, where salvagers would bring together the pickings of the old city and scrabble through them for the valuables.

Every eye was on our Sigils as we strutted inside, hands reaching to guns, people falling into the Posture. Everyone watched to see if more of my people would follow us through, to see if my war on the Gangs had somehow come to this little patch of nowhere.

I forced back the shame I felt when I saw fear on human faces. They didn’t know, and they weren’t acting any differently from how I’d act in their shoes.

We made a beeline for the Ultra in charge, a short woman with a fair complexion and an old paper crown for a sigil.

“Warlord!” she said, jumping up off a chair made out of stacked tires, “What you want?”

She had a bit of an accident I couldn’t place, it was more like ‘Wheh-schu-went’.

“I’m looking for someone,” I told her.

“Yeah!” said Erupter.

“We find things here, not people,” she said, eyes down and carefully not threatening.

“I know you do scavenging, I’m asking if someone came by here, should have been yesterday?”

“Yeah! Tell her!” said Erupter.

“Lots of people been here yesterday,” she said, words coming fast and difficult to parse, “I dunno which was your someone.”

“Replayer,”I told her.

“The bitch who killed Brody and Mari?”

“There was a fight?” I asked.

“Yeah!” hyped Erupter, “Fucking fight!”

The Ultra said something so fast I couldn’t make it out. That accent was killing me.

“What?” I asked.

“Yes. She. Was. Here. She. Killed. People. She. Took. Things.”

My first inclination was to go down the ‘why did the fight start’ rabbit hole, but I suspected the answer was just Replayer’s basic temperament.

“What did she take?”

“You better tell us what she took!” chimed in Erupter.

I shot her an angry glare, gestured to our surroundings. She gave a cheerful nod and turned her attention away, watching for Avowed or subversives within the cringing pack of humans that surrounded us.

“Maps,” said the Ultra, “And a few daggers. She…”

Her speech got fast again and I lost the thread.

“What?” I asked her.

“Maps. And. A. Few. Daggers. She. Wanted. People. Who. Had. Been. Outside. The. City. A. Lot.”

Shit, I suddenly had an idea about where Replayer might be.

“Did she walk by?” I asked, “Or was she driving in a vehicle?”

We were out on the edge of the city. If she’d taken a vehicle from another cache she could have swung by here to handle her navigation issues.

“Car,” said the Ultra.

That clinched it.

“Alright, thanks for your help.” I told her.

“Yeah!”

 

Evening: Debrief

“So did you find her?” asked Owner.

I gestured around, as though to point out that Replayer still wasn’t here, and remained sullenly silent. I was still fuming about this stupidity.

“We did!” said Erupter, “We found out where she got directions and we know where she left from.”

“Left?” asked Owner.

“Replayer is on a scouting mission,” I told her. “She’s gathering info on Phis.”

“I thought you meant-“

“I know,” I said, gritting my teeth.

“Do you know when she’s-“

“Nope!” I said, with a false brightness.

“Or that she isn’t already…”

“Nope!” I repeated, a bit of a manic edge in my voice.

“Well,” she said, “If she isn’t familiar with the area, she might have only got there some time today. If she just hangs around on the outskirts and starts back later on…maybe she gets back tomorrow?”

“Or the day after,” said Erupter, “If she infiltrates and does awesome spy stuff.”

“Or never,” I pointed out, “If they catch her and kill her.”

I massaged my temples, trying to force myself back into composure. If being angry about something changed it then She would never have taken over.

“How’d the training go?” I asked.

“Alright,” said Owner, looking away and then back again, “But we really need to address these gang war rumors.”

“Is it that big of a deal?” I asked. “I haven’t decided what we’ll say yet.”

“Yeah,” she said, “The gossip in class was that the two gangs we fought last time are merging, and maybe joining up with another in a sort of protective alliance. People seem to think we are gunning for all the gangs.”

“They are the ones who attacked us, though,” I protested, thought not too forcefully. I was well aware of how easily a story could drift and lose meaning when it had to pass from person to person across Shington.

“Nobody knows that,” she said, “nobody seems to know ANYTHING. If we don’t put a narrative in place soon, there’s no telling what they’ll come to believe.

I gave up on the temple massage, this headache was here to stay. At least it couldn’t last longer than ten more days.

 

Day 21

9 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

Battler – 2/0/1, Straightforward Combatant

Sniper – 0/0/0, X ray vision and eye beams

 

Union List

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

 

Assets: (physical)

1 truck

1 sedan

Owner’s Shington Store

Packer House

Fog Machines

Lasers (diverse)

 

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

 

Warband:

11 Veteran Ultras, 23 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: 9/10 (4 – 1 +6 -3 +2 +1)

Actions cost 3, return 2 on success 0 on failure unless otherwise specified, Blender gains 1 AP every morning

 

Available Actions:

 

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)

 

Warband tree

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)

 

Player Input:

Blender Morning Action

Blender Afternoon Action

Owner will take either a morning or afternoon action at Blender’s direction.

Replayer is missing, no need to specify an action for her.

Erupter will take an afternoon action at Blender’s direction.

 

Haunter 11:3

“We need to think carefully,” I said, as I pulled the truck over on the side of the road.

Nobody disagreed.

We sat in silence for a few minutes, each marshalling our thoughts in the privacy of our own minds. I felt like the other two understood the seriousness of this situation, that this was, in all probability, the last time we would have the leisure to carefully choose where and how to commit our efforts.

“That was a clusterfuck,” said Preventer, after a long moment. “This whole thing is a complete shitshow. I’ve lost track of how many assholes we are fucking working for to do things that have nothing to do with what we are trying to accomplish.”

I nodded along as she spoke. That was impressively close to the reserve’s summation of the last few hours.

“At least 3,” I said, ruefully. “And ‘mutually exclusive’ doesn’t even begin to describe how disparate the goals in question are.”

“Let’s…” Mario said, then paused as we both looked over to him.

“Let’s air it all out,” he said. “I used to do this sort of thing at my day job. Calculating agendas and working out how to utilize insufficient force as leverage among competing powers was our whole deal. Let’s talk through all the stakeholders, what they want, our assets and objectives, just do a total summary of the whole deal.”

“Are you sure we have time for that?” asked Preventer.

“We do,” I told her. “We’ve got a day, this will take minutes. I think it’s a good idea.”

“Alright,“ she said, “Let’s do it quickly then. It would probably take more time to argue against doing it than it would take to get it done.”

“Ok,” I said. “Mario, take it away.”

The Jury had been doing something similar, so I was ready to step in and assist if he seemed to omit anything.

“Alright,” he said, “So our theater of operations is the environs of Shington, our actors are essentially everyone inside and everyone who can get here this afternoon, including most particularly Krishna’s composite Host.”

I gave him an approving nod.

“The time we are concerned with is the rest of today, tonight and tomorrow, with a hard bias towards accomplishing tasks as quickly as possible within this time.”

More nods, he kept going.

“There are five main factions that we are concerned with here, with several of them having sub factions. Broadly speaking these are Prevailer, First Fist, Second Fist, the Pantheon Host and us.”

“Should we consider the unaffiliated Ultras of Shington?” I asked, “The Troubleshooters, gang members, inner circle wannabes and just generic Ultras? As a mob they outnumber and possibly overpower everyone else.”

Mario frowned.

“I’d been modeling them as a passive force, which any faction can harness to a limited degree, but they don’t really seem to be demonstrating agency at this time, so I think we can mostly leave them out. If you know a way we can drive them to take action to their own detriment I’ll agree to put them back in, but as of now they seem content to let the rest of us duke it out.”

“We can come back to them,” said Preventer, “If someone brings up a clever idea related to them. For now let’s focus on the stuff that is already active.”

“Alright,” said Mario, “so, first off, let’s talk about Second Fist and Answerer, who seem to be the closest thing to ‘in charge’ of anyone.”

“Their assets,” I picked it up, “They are, themselves, 5 powerful Ultras. Deceiver’s gift, in particular, should allow them to defeat any small group that they know are hostile without losses. Destroyer is also worth mentioning, she’s right behind Subtracter in terms of being a personally vicious and destructive Ultra.”

“They are served by the Knights,” continued Mario, “A militia of about a hundred or so humans, each protected and empowered by Refiner’s gift to the point of about Ultra strength or toughness of one. About a third of them have access to higher rated gear which lets them operate at Ultra strength and toughness two, and this includes firearms.”

“The gun troops are rarer than one in three,” interjected Preventer, “I’ve seen a lot of Knights, they are more like one in ten.”

“It’s the same guys,” I put in, “They just switch up what they give them. Seth used to be one of my escorts, just a scythe carrier like the rest, but earlier today we ran into him in the elite reglia. There’s an inner core of more trusted Knights who have access to the good stuff, they just don’t always give it to them.”

“That’s what our reports indicate,” said Mario, “They are paranoid about the guns getting into circulation. Ultras that they are particularly fond of sometimes get one, and they have a few equipped defenders at the Castle with them, but that’s about it.”

“We should also assume,” said Mario, “That Refiner saved the best things for himself and his Fist. Best case, he is the only one with Ultra toughness and strength three gear. Worst case, all five of them have it.”

“If only one has it it’ll be Deceiver,” I said, “But I agree that it’ll probably be all five. Even if it isn’t, the other four will certainly have the elite Knight gear.”

“And then there is Answerer,” said Preventer, “Who seems to be their ally or leader. Her foretelling is supposed to be on the fritz to some degree, but it’s still an element to be aware of.”

“I think she’s their only weakness,” I told them.

Mario gave a solemn nod.

“She will be used to relying on her gift,” he said, “And I think they’ll be almost entirely passive until she trusts it again. Precogs are, in the Union’s experience, almost addicted to certainty. They don’t cope well, at all, to being put down on the level of the rest of us. I’d expect them to sit in their fortress and risk nothing, do nothing, as long as possible.”

“Exactly,” I said. “Second Fist alone, as an active presence, would make this situation hopeless, they’d have given us a Fist member as a ride along instead of Knights, or something similar. But with Answerer inside their decision making circles they are hesitant, careful. They are chasing the dragon of her perfect certainty, instead of going with good enough.”

Preventer seemed to be convinced, or at least she didn’t raise any further objection.

“So that’s their assets,” I went on after a moment. “Knights, Answerer’s beneficial component, and their own not inconsiderable combat power. What are their objectives?”

No one spoke for a moment, so I answered my own question.

“They engaged us to deal with Krishna’s Host, so they want that dealt with. I think a better way to phrase that, though, is to say that they are trying to run out the clock. They want to survive intact until Answerer’s gift clears up again, at which point they expect to be able to commence or resume their precognitively cleared path.”

“We didn’t mention Dale under assets,” said Preventer, “But he kind of is one. I’m not saying they’ll try and use him as a hostage against us, but certainly it is good for them that we don’t have him.”

“He’s also a weakness,” I pointed out, “In that if we get him free and clear we can hit them from outside of their fighting range. Dale is a really hard problem for them to solve the moment he’s in our camp again.”

“They might have already solved him,” said Mario.

I looked over, he drew a thumb across his throat.

“I doubt they’d do something like that,” said Preventer. “It’s what you guys said about Answerer again. We are modeling them as timid and uncertain. They know our Link is gone, so if they kill Dale they can never use him. I think they’ll keep him intact unless we force the issue. They’ll figure that once Answerer’s foresight is back there may be valuable routes for them that require his gift.”

“Makes sense,” I allowed. “But I think we are good on the subject of their agenda, right? We all agree they just want to survive until tomorrow?”

Nods all around. It was good to be on the same page.

“What about weaknesses?” I asked. “Their strengths are pretty intimidating, but do they have any weaknesses that we know of?”

“Consequence of their goals,” said Mario. “They are reactive and dependent on Answerer’s gift. It’s made them ignorant. They don’t know Subtracter is alive, nor do they know that she thinks Prevailer is dead. The ground has shifted under their feet, and they are entirely clueless.”

“They also think that we are their agents exclusively,” I said. “We might, with the right story, get quite a ways into an operation against them before they catch on.”

“Depending on what happened with the shades you sent out earlier,” pointed out Preventer. “If they’ve been caught and dealt with then they will be onto our enmity, at the very least.”

I shook my head.

“The shades haven’t been destroyed,” I told them. “They might have been captured, of course, but I don’t want to return them to the reserve to test that theory, not at the risk of destroying their cover, or losing the captured gear.”

“The shades are looking for First Fist, right?” asked Mario. “So they shouldn’t have met up with any other Knights yet, just be roaming the city. Second Fist may know their Knights aren’t back yet, but they may well think that they are still with us, negotiating. It feels to me like the odds are decent that the substitution hasn’t been discovered yet.”

That was a critical point. If the Knights didn’t have any real protection against infiltration then the shades could just walk in there and take action. They might be able to free Dale, or assassinate Deceiver.

“So if their strength is just their actual strength, and ignorance is their weakness…” I said, trailing off to allow someone else to speak.

“We should also consider our relation to them,” said Preventer, “Do we have any objections to them achieving their goal? I mean, is this a fight we need?”

Mario was shaking his head ‘no’, but I held up a hand to interrupt.

“I think we do,” I told them. “I think I’ve figured out where Remover is, and we need Dale to get at them. If so, then whatever else we do with Second Fist, we at least need to free Dale long enough to use his gift.”

“What?” said Preventer, eyes widening in surprise. “Where is Remover?”

“I think she is in the center of Torturer’s zone,” I told them, “If she’s protected by her nature from Torturer’s gift, or if she’s just bending it like Answerer’s, then it’s a perfectly private refuge for her, and it is also the most likely place for any gear she might need to do whatever the Union is observing with their satellite.”

“We don’t think that’s tech related,” answered Mario. “We think someone is using an Ultra to communicate with the SOV entities, but the rest makes sense. You want to use Dale to shove Torturer out into the wilderness?”

“Or back underground,” I told him. “Also to move any bystanders out of the way during the process.”

None of us brought up the possibility of using Torturer against our enemies. I liked to think I was as consequentialist as the next revolutionary, but some acts were beyond even my ability to stomach.

“Alright,” said Preventer. “I think that’s probably our best guess so far, so I don’t mind going forward with it. But I’d like to reunite with your shades before we move on this, if we can. Imagine if they found First Fist and we attacked Second Fist for no reason.”

“I think rescuing Dale isn’t ‘no reason’, regardless of whatever else is going on,” I said, “But I’m with you on this. If nothing else, whatever plan we go with to take on Second Fist will very likely involve my shades, or at least the gear they have on.”

“Alright,” said Mario, “What about our other new bosses, Subtracter and her Host?”

“It’s Krishna’s Host,” I put in, instantly. “Subtracter doesn’t even have Prevailer’s charisma. She’s never inspired a drop of loyalty in anyone I’ve ever seen. The Host is only following her because Krihsna told it to.”

“Are you sure they are loyal to anyone?” he answered. “Maybe Subtracter is just the strongest Ultra, so they will suck up to her.”

I shook my head.

“We had a confrontation earlier with this crew,” said Preventer. “None of them squealed on Krishna when she as functioning as Prevailer’s seat. They are loyal, or as loyal as the Pantheon comes.”

“So assets,” I said. “Simple enough, Subtracter has a flying gift, Ultra strength, toughness and speed, all at 2. She’s a one woman army, can defeat anyone other than Her. Absent Deceiver’s gift I think she’d have just done this all on her own.”

I drummed my fingers on the steering wheel, feeling the usual tang of bitterness at the random way gifts were handed out.

“Backing her up, we have Krishna’s Host, maybe a hundred of the Pantheon’s tougher Ultras. Not Bride level, but motivated veterans. Again, absent Deceiver, I think they could take the Knights, though maybe not with the rest of Second Fist backing them up.”

“But if they come into the city,” objected Preventer, “They’d arouse the populace against them. They couldn’t win that. Anybody who is obviously not Regime who comes into Shington is starting a war they can’t win. There must be a few thousand Ultras here, and a lot of them are on the stronger side.”

“Subtracter would need to lead them,” I said, “And be seen to do so. Walk at the front and make it clear that she’d drafted them into the Regime.”

I paused, struck by a thought.

“I’m not sure how well the whole ‘I’m the new Her’ is going to work out for Subtracter, actually.”

Preventer grinned.

“I was just thinking that,” she said. “Fear of Her is bone deep around here. If she goes public with her rebellion, I think people might just start fighting her. Not necessarily because they think they can beat Subtracter, but because they think it is a loyalty test of some kind.”

“So,” said Mario, “Strengths are combat power, agenda is just taking out Second Fist. Do we have any need to oppose them?”

I shook my head.

“More power to her, as far as I’m concerned. I expect she’ll double cross us and try to take us out if she sees the chance, of course, but as far as I’m concerned if she gets away with everything she’s going for that’s fine by me. I expect Prevailer will see to Subtracter if She ever gets active again.”

“Weaknesses?” asked Preventer.

“Subtracter is genuinely, terrifyingly, dumb, and violent on top of it. Nobody would voluntarily endure her presence a second longer than they had to. Krishna will have figured that out by now. I think if she’s given a chance, the Host may well double cross their new boss. It’s impossible to work with Subtracter for an hour without realizing that she’d kill you to make a point.”

“So there’s some instability there,” said Mario, “And of course an idiot being in charge is its own disadvantage.”

“What about the other parties?” asked Preventer. “First Fist and Her.”

“I’m at a bit of a loss with Prevailer,” I said. “We can probably skip strengths, and weaknesses with Her, but the thing that troubles me is Her agenda.”

Mario frowned.

“I can’t imagine Her enduring the fringes of Torturer’s zone for months, or letting the Pantheon and the Union have their big battles without Her involvement. I’m not saying Subtracter is correct about Her being dead, of course, but I think She is somehow incommunicado.”

“Maybe Subtracter was only ever told a decoy location,” said Preventer. “It got swallowed up by Torturer’s gift and she jumped to the conclusion that Prevailer was dead.”

“In any case,” I said, “Her agenda currently seems to be nothing, and we don’t have any need to oppose that. Let’s let Her lie. If we run into Her, we do the usual groveling and obedience. If we don’t, we don’t go looking.”

I ignored the obvious possibility that Remover had Her with her in whatever hideout she’d holed up in. No point to worrying about what we couldn’t do anything about, and all that.

“As far as First Fist goes,” said Mario. “We are completely in the dark. We don’t know where they are, what their true capabilities are, or whether they even have any weaknesses.”

“They are sadists,” said Preventer, “They are maniacs and egomaniacs. Those are weaknesses, and they don’t see them that way. If we give them a target, we can be certain that they’ll strike at it.”

“Sure,” I said, “But their list of advantages goes on and on. Fierce combatants. Massive intimidation factor that will allow them to recruit almost anyone from the Regime’s storage. Good relationship with Her. Possibly able to control Answerer’s gift, or any other gift. The list goes on.”

“Alright,” said Preventer, deadpan “You’ve convinced me, let’s beg them for mercy.”

“That just leaves us,” I said. “Three Ultras, if we can get Dale back, and a motivated human. Fierce combatants, probably currently more knowledge than anyone else about all these parties, and a ticking clock.”

“I wouldn’t bet on us,” said Mario.

“I might,” said Preventer, “But I’m a notoriously poor gambler.”

“It’s a puzzle,” I allowed, “But it seems like there’s some leverage. I don’t think this is impossible.”

“Well,” said Preventer, “Let’s hope you are right.”

Regime Quest 55

Day 19:

Morning: Message to Union

Negotiation was a funny thing. There was an old saying that if a bank loaned you a lot of money (by your standards), they owned you. But if they loaned you a lot of money (by their standards), you owned them. It got at the core of the matter, which was how much each party had at stake.

The Union had invested in me, at this point. They’d communicated with me, and I’d delivered. If I survived, they had every reason to believe that I’d keep on crossing names off their list. They had no guarantee that my replacement would be similarly cooperative.

Which was all the long way round to say that I was pretty confident that they’d work with me a bit.

The time for my assault on Phis was growing ever closer. Factoring in the time delay in our communication, and it basically had to be now. I just didn’t have the time to mess around with it anymore.

I had demands, and I wasn’t sure it precisely followed their system, but whatever. They’d accommodate me, or they’d have to deal with my replacement.

What I wanted was, one, them not to target me or my posse for a month. Beyond that, I was looking for a briefing on Phis, and I’d also slipped in a request for a bunch of old credit cards with lots of money on them.

The handoff was old hat at this point. I went into the usual dirty dive, left the ‘briefing’ in the trash once I was done making my coded notes on it. At least this time I saw my contact in the crowd, so it wasn’t another missed opportunity.

Afternoon: Visit Battler

Finding Battler was as simple as letting people know I was looking to get in touch with her. The word came back within a few hours, and we’d set up a meet in Owner’s shop.

She had an arrogant, strutting energy. Short hair, freckles, and a leather jacket without any holes in it. She wore a golf visor for a Sigil, tilted at an angle. She was like a prototypical version of a Regime Ultra, like a mold they’d used to make the rest of us.

“Warlord,” she said, taking up a position against a soda machine.

“Battler,” I answered.

“I hear you want something from me?” she said.

“You gave my predecessor your advice,” I said. “You didn’t think she had Ar Harbour handled?”

She looked to one side and spat, then frowned for a second.

“Obviously not,” she said, “And I’d been kind of worried that the problem might be bigger than just one Warlord.”

“Problem?”

More frowning, she cracked her knuckles for a moment.

“I thought that maybe the stuff you have to do to get to be the Warlord, like, it isn’t the sort of stuff you do once you have the gig, you know? So we were only ever gonna get shitty Warlords, or if we got a good one it’d just be good luck.”

I set my estimation of her intelligence up a notch for her independently coming up with the idea of a structural problem.

“Yeah,” I said, “I get you.”

“But you took care of Ar Harbour,” she said. “You got it done. And you didn’t just get lucky.”

“What do you think I did differently?” I asked.

“You got trucks,” she said, “You got smoke machines. You got guns and trained your Ultras. You didn’t just show up and expect everything to go your way. Some of the people I talked to said you knew the Ultras you’d be going up against, like what their gifts were and such.”

“Scouting,” I said. “It’s a necessity, in my opinion.”

“That’s what I’m talking about,” she said. “Most Warlords don’t do much more than gather up their friends, live it up for a month, and then just hope that they have better gifts than whoever is out there.”

“And you disapprove?”

“I want to see Her enemies crushed,” she said. “I want us to win. Month after month. Year after year, come to that. I want to see a Warlord last in the job, genuinely put some fear into those cretins.”

I let her wind up, just sat back and said nothing.

“You know we used to own everything?” she asked. “People act like it’s normal that we fight and fight against these assholes, but it’s fucking not. We used to have it all, and we are gonna have it all again.”

And a notch down for my estimation of her knowledge of history.

“I like how you think,” I told her, “And I think they were fools to ignore you.”

“Were is the important word there,” she said. “If I’d been working with them, I like to think they’d still be uh…”

She was looking for the concept for ‘present tense’, I thought.

“They’d still be around,” she finished, a bit lamely.

“Well,” I said, “If it isn’t too selfish, I suppose I’m glad they fucked up.”

“Planning on repeating their mistake?” she asked.

“We’ll see,” I told her.

We ended the interview on that note, and I stuck around for a bit, thinking about Battler.

Fairly smart, highly motivated, decent combatant. No real insight into exactly how evil she was, but Regime partisanship wasn’t a great sign. Of course, I could hardly ignore my own situation for evidence that not everyone who loyal actually was.

A definite possibility.

 

Evening: Debrief Posse

“Erupter,” I groaned, massaging my temples, “I thought we went over this.”

“I know, I know,” she said, hands out in front of her in a placating gesture. “I think I’d have been able to get people to sign up this time if it wasn’t for all that shit that went down yesterday.”

“We only have ten days!” I said, voice firm, “We don’t have TIME for these excuses!”

“It’s uncertainty boss! It’s the uncertainty! They need to know if we are going after the Dolls or the Timekillerz, or maybe all the gangs?. People have friends and enemies in the gangs. Signing up to fight strangers is one thing, but the people who want to come on the warband after almost always the Ultras who DON’T want to do gang fights.”

“Erupter,” I told her, “I need Ultras in my warband. It’s not a hard job. Go out there. Tell them to join up. Lead them to the base. Get it done.”

“I’m sure the uncertainty will clear up soon enough,” she said, “But I’ll switch jobs with Owner if you want?”

“No switching jobs!” I yelled. I rarely raised my voice, but this was serious. “You just need to do what I tell you. Stop Fucking Up!”

She subsided into her chair, hurt and sulking.

I looked over to Owner, eyes maybe a little wider and more frenzied than they needed to be.

“Training went great boss!” she said. “After yesterday everyone was extremely attentive, borderline obsessed. That bit of business yesterday put the fear of Her into them.”

“Anyone ask you about that?” I asked.

“Some people tried to kind of get at it indirectly,” she said, “But nobody was brave enough to just come out and ask. You made a bit of an impression, I think, showing up all bloodied and stuff and saving us from a sneak attack.”

I’d probably eventually have to come up with some kind of story for what that had all been about. Anything I heard from two posse members without a common mission was probably pretty important.

Finally, I looked at the last, empty chair at our usual table.

“Anyone know where Replayer is?” I asked.

Headshakes all around.

My first thought was that some Avowed had seized her, my second that maybe she was Avowed. But there were lots of other possibilities.

I grimaced, motioning for them to close in, then gave my orders for tomorrow’s business.

 

Day 20

10 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

Battler – 2/0/1, Straightforward Combatant

Sniper – 0/0/0, X ray vision and eye beams

 

Union List

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

 

Assets: (physical)

1 truck

1 sedan

Owner’s Shington Store

Packer House

Fog Machines

Lasers (diverse)

 

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

 

Warband:

11 Veteran Ultras, 23 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: 4/10 (5 – 3 +2 -3 +2 +1)

Actions cost 3, return 2 on success 0 on failure unless otherwise specified, Blender gains 1 AP every morning

 

Available Actions:

 

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)

 

Warband tree

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)

 

Player Input:

Blender Morning Action

Blender Afternoon Action

Owner will take either a morning or afternoon action at Blender’s direction.

Replayer is missing, no need to specify an action for her.

Erupter will take an afternoon action at Blender’s direction.

 

Haunter 11:2

Subtracter towered over me, glowering down at me with a stern expression. She wouldn’t ordinarily be tall enough for that, but she floated about six inches off the ground, and I’d been forced down into a seated posture.

Each of us, in Fourth Fist, had our own particular bugbears, our own idea about who bore the lion’s share of the responsibility for the nightmare that was the Regime. Mine was Remover, of course, but Dale’s case for Subtracter had been genuinely persuasive.

With Prevailer, you knew that She was smarter than She let on. There was an intelligence there that you could reach out to, sullen and cruel though it might be. Plus she seemed to be genuinely fond of Dale, and I wasn’t a hundred percent sure he didn’t reciprocate, to some degree. But Subtracter was exactly the almighty dolt that she appeared to be, that strange combination of savage cruelty and supreme power that the Process had cursed the world with.

“You’re alive!” I blurted out.

I wouldn’t normally state the obvious like that, but it seemed like it’s what she was looking for, with the childish game of sneaking up behind us and then talking. It was always best to go along with Subtracter as far as you possibly could. This was the woman, along with Prevailer of course, who invented the sky burial.

“No shit!” she said, then slapped me viciously across the face.

I bit back a scream as one of my shades, a hero who’d opted out of a life in the Union in order to accompany me on a mission to save the world, died in an instant to an idiot’s spite. I forced myself not to give her any visible reaction.

The great peril of Subtracter was that defying her whims was suicidal, but going along with them wasn’t necessarily safe. The woman was a fucking plague.

“They- they think you aren’t, back in Shington,” I said. “Second Fist asked us to come here to see how you got taken down.”

“I wanted them to think that,” she explained, thankfully not striking me again, “I got those assholes right where I want them.”

In an ordinary conversation I might venture something of a wisecrack here, but with Subtracter that would only cost me my comrades. I remained silent and waited for her to expound on what she meant by that.

“Who’s this asshole?” she said, abruptly, jerking a finger over her shoulder at Mario.

“We’re using a body double,” I said, instantly, before he could get himself into any trouble. “Didn’t want to put 3 of us into a situation where we were told there was someone who took you on.”

I wasn’t entirely sure she’d go for this, and getting caught lying to her would be incredibly bad, but I’d made the split second decision that this was better odds for us than trying to sell the idea that Mario was Nirav somehow shapeshifted.

She didn’t say anything for a long moment, looking form one of us to another, then over to Krishna.

I started to second guess myself. Maybe we should have stuck with the idea that Condemner was experimenting with his form shifting power, or come up with some other explanation that wouldn’t leave Mario so damn expendable. He’d saved us, and he deserved a lot better than getting splattered because Subtracter wanted to put an exclamation point in one of her sentences.

“Where’d you get him?” she finally asked.

“Just found him around,” said Preventer.

I winced inwardly. She’d been too fast, too nervous. It should have come slower, like we had to think back a bit. Subtracter might be dumb, but she was a bully with a bully’s instincts. She could scent weakness like few others.

She looked back over to Mario, and I could feel his end teetering on a knife’s edge. Was I really going to stand here and do nothing while she took another life, just to prove some inane point?

I spent a fruitless moment cursing my decision to leave the Knights’ weaponry with the infiltrators back in the city. One Blessed Gun right here might let me defy her, or at least try something. Subtracter was incredibly fast, of course, but I didn’t think she was actually bullet fast.

“Whatever,” she said, then looked back to me.

I foundered for a second, trying to figure out what she wanted from me, then defaulted to the usual approach I took with her.

“What do you want me to do?” I asked.

“You gonna go back into Shington, then you kill Deceiver. I’ll take the rest of their crew out once I can trust my own eyes.”

I ground my teeth, seething inwardly.

Back before the end of the world, of the old world, I mean, I used to play video games a little. One conceit of the old games was that when you were messing around on side quests the game would never just end because you ignored the main thing.

Reality, of course, suffered no such constraint. Second Fist wanted us to do their bidding here, now Subtracter wanted us to go back there, and all the time Remover’s endgame was presumably rolling onward.

“Won’t She be displeased about that?” Preventer asked. “The Fists aren’t supposed to fight one other, and whoever wins we’ll be depriving Her of our strength.”

Blink-quick Subtracter was across the room looming over Preventer, hands curled into fists of her own.

“She’s dead!” Subtracter snarled. “I’m in charge now.”

It said a lot about how indoctrinated I was, how beaten down I’d been by Her reign that I’d never really considered this. Even now my first thought wasn’t ‘how’d She die’, but rather ‘how did Subtracter convince herself that Prevailer was dead’.

“She’s dead?” I asked. “How did that happen?”

There were two reasons I was daring to question her now. The first was that she was over by Preventer right now, which meant that if she got heated she might just fly back over and loom again instead of striking. The other was that I was asking for a clarification, letting her be the center of attention by enlightening us, rather than asking her to change her mind.

“Torturer,” she said, “I dunno why she didn’t just warp out, but the zone swallowed up her sanctuary when it moved.”

I nodded solemnly, mind racing.

Prevailer only had Ultra Toughness One. She could live on the edges of Torturer’s halo, but only the very fringes. If She’d been unwilling to teleport away then She could certainly have fallen to Her own servant, but it made no sense on just about every level. Even if She wouldn’t use her gift, why not just walk away?

In any case, if She was dead or just not communicating…the implications were limitless. Subtracter was moving against Second Fist in full confidence of Her absence, and whoever won that fight the Regime would be down a major asset.

It dawned on me, after a second’s contemplation, that there was no Regime, not really. The Third Defiance had proven that it was bound up in Her person, that She could reconstruct it from scratch if need be. The opposite would also stand to reason.

“Yeah,” I said, mind only half on my words, absorbed with the implications of Subtracter’s message, “Nobody can survive Torturer’s gift.”

And all of a sudden I had it. The pieces fit together.

We were here looking for Remover. We expected that she’d be in Shington because that was where she needed to be to taunt Preventer with Thui, and because that’s where the old world communications tech was that she might be repurposing to make her broadcasts to the Union’s satellite.

Say that was all true, and that she was in Shington. Why had no one seen her? Change the question up. Why had the Union moved Torturer? It seemed a clumsy piece of tradecraft virtually guaranteed to provoke awe inspiring retaliation.

But they’d done it, and Mario had just reminded me that the Union was likely acting on precog orders, at some level. And Remover was hacking the precogs. So assume that Remover had been behind the relocation of Torturer, in a more direct way than my usual habit of assuming that she was behind everything.

‘Nobody can survive Torturer’s gift’, I’d said. But my working assumption was that Remover was like Condemner, not really a person so much as a person shaped glove. What if a being like that didn’t really feel pain? No soul to torment? Or maybe it could warp Torturer’s gift like it did the precogs.

I didn’t need the details. I had the gist of the thing. Remover was sheltering inside of the no go zone created by Torturer. All I had to do was figure out how to survive in there and I could finally confront the author of all this horror.

“You link back up with Indulger,” said Subtracter. “You hit Second Fist, get Deceiver. I’ll finish them off.”

I wrenched my attention back to the present with alacrity. Revelations would have to wait until I was away from this maniac.

“We’ll take care of it,” I said, “But the Knights will be a really hard problem. Can your Pantheon friends here help out?”

My off the cuff calculation here was that getting to show off by bossing around the Pantheon would be pleasing to her to a greater degree than us asking for help would be annoying, and that therefore this request would generally make her more favorable towards us.

“Huh?” she asked.

Or not.

“We can take them, Fist to Fist,” said Preventer. “But they’ve got all those fucking daggers around. It won’t be a fair fight if they swarm us. We’ve got to up the numbers on our side.”

I didn’t think this was as much an attempt to appeal to Subtracter’s reason as it was a simple distracting of her attention onto someone she couldn’t hurt. Nevertheless, I felt a brief surge of gratitude.

“You are going to be my Fist,” snarled Subtracter, “When I tell you do something I don’t want you to turn around and tell me to give you things. I want you to do the thing!”

“And we will,” said Preventer, “We are your fist. No debate there. But when you pick something up you sometimes use both hands, right? You’ll get a better outcome if you use all the tools at your disposal.”

Krishna shot her a killing glance at being called a ‘tool’ in a fashion that she wasn’t able to reply to, and I could feel where she was coming from. You had to be invincible to be so petty at such a perilous time.

“What can our Host members do about the Knights?” asked Krishna, “Don’t you know that these are the serious ones? The ones with blessed guns? It won’t help for us to walk into bullets for this.”

Subtracter held up a hand.

Silence fell as we waited on her pleasure. I could see her lips moving a bit, her face doing the blur twitches that meant that she was using her enhanced speed to give herself time to think.

This was, honestly, one of the abilities of Ultra Speed that I most envied. I felt like sometimes the reserve sort of pushed past my ability to follow them. It would have been nice to be able to have the time to devote myself to each one of their arguments.

“A fight between you and Second Fist,” she said at last, “Should be all about Indulger burying them from outside of their ability to fight back. His gift goes for miles, right? So just crush them from far away, grind up the land like a grinder until they are gone. Once Deceiver goes then I’ll take care of the Knights, and we are all good.”

I blanked for a second, as my mind put together the missing piece of my plan. Dale’s gift outranged Torturer’s. He could shuffle her off somewhere out into the wilderness, or down into the ground if there were people all around her. With his help I could search her zone, find Remover and maybe stop her.

“You are going to kill the Knights?” asked Preventer.

“I’ve always hated those bitches,” said Subtracter, “Daggers that front like they matter. I’ll take them apart as soon as they don’t have Deceiver to hide where they are aiming from me.”

I wasn’t about to waste any tears on the Knights, a racist organization at least two centuries passed its time, but I did think Subtracter might be underestimating the degree of danger they posed. She dodged bullets, as far as I knew, by dodging where people were aiming, not by actually side stepping while they were in flight. If she thought that Deceiver was the only reason it would be hard to take on the Knights then she was kidding herself.

Her new Pantheon buddies could have told her something about the effectiveness of firearms, if she’d bothered to listen to them. They’d been getting slaughtered by combined human/Ultra forces for a generation.

“I understand,” I told her. “I’m sorry, I was confused before. We’ll cut through Second Fist and take out Deceiver, then signal you, and then you mop up whatever remains. I get the plan now.”

“You won’t need my followers?” asked Krishna

“MY followers,” reminded Subtracter.

“Of course.”

“No,” said Preventer, “We’ve got this. It’s time those idiots learned who the real power around here was.”

The real power in the Regime, not counting Her of course, should be Third Fist. When they got back this whole power struggle would have to happen again, if Remover hadn’t turned the board entirely upside down by then.

“How long do you think that’ll take you?” asked Subtracter, at almost exactly the same time I asked “How should we signal you when it’s done?”

We paused for a moment, I could see Mario tensing up, petrified that she’d take that as insolence and execute him to dunk on us.

“Leave a ghost here,” she said, after a long moment, “And zap it back into yourself when Deceiver hits the floor. She can’t fake that, since you are the only one who can make the ghosts return.”

Subtracter knew the details of our gifts, naturally, and this was a typically gift centric way of overcomplicating a signal. It would serve well enough, however.

“We should have it done by evening,” I said, “Might be sooner, depending on how on the ball they are, but it won’t be later.”

I indulged in a brief moment of regret. If I’d only come up with my theory about Remover being in Torturer’s zone before we went to see Second Fist all this stupidity could have been avoided, but now we were entangled in this nonsense.

“We won’t fail you,” said Preventer.

I ran through the complexity of the situation ahead of us in my mind.

Second Fist, with Answerer in charge, was waiting on us to deal with the Pantheon, in particular to get rid of whoever got rid of Subtracter. They had Indulger, who we needed to get to Remover. They wouldn’t give him up unless we convinced them we’d done their bidding. Subtracter, by contrast, was willing to take on Second Fist, so long as we did the hard part up front. Both parties knew very little about the other, and they both had backup, from the Knights/Pantheon respectively.

Floating around this clusterfuck was the possibility of First Fist taking action against us, which might be an opportunity or a game over, depending on the action and our state when it hit, and Third Fist returning from their previous mission. The perverse part of me suspected that they’d immediately grab us and give us yet another set of orders.

“That’s You” said Subtracter.

I carefully didn’t roll my eyes.

“We won’t fail You” I promised.

Regime Quest 54

Day 18 continued

 

Morning: Crisis

First things first. I shot Vower in the head a few times, the impact knocking it back and forth on her shoulders.

Probably hadn’t killed her, no time to check. I’d been heading towards the door while I shot, and I paused for only a second to check for more guards.

None were in evidence, so I pushed out into the street, left hand clamped on my wound, right holding my gun. I dashed immediately down the way, hearing the shouts of the two guards in the distance.

I didn’t retrace the path that I’d taken to get here, nor cut directly towards the warband’s barracks. There was no way for a wounded person to outrun a pair of people who left a minute before her, so I had to assume that the Dolls would get the message before or right as I got to their headquarters.

If there was no downside for Vower to setting up these conditions, then I could be walking into a meat grinder in any confrontation with the bulk of a gang. There could be literally dozens of Ultras irresistibly compelled to avenge their master. There were some Ultras who could take on a mob of their lesser brethren, but I had never been one. Getting caught by a pack of the Avowed (the name I’d picked out for Vower’s forces), would see me killed in short order.

I took a corner at a run, pushing through a shattered fence and over a pile of miscellaneous rubble. No one else was on the street, which would have been ominous if I hadn’t already known the drill.

The gangs owned their areas, just about absolutely. When their hue and cry went up, anyone they saw was prey. This street might have been bustling a few seconds ago, but the instant the shouts had started the humans had fled.

I pushed onward, forcing myself to ignore the pain from my chest and the ever increasing wetness sliding down towards my waist. I pushed myself into a veritable sprint, legs pounding the turf with mad enthusiasm, vision narrowing to the next archway, the next crumbled barrier.

Despite my mad dash, my mind was completely clear, even distractingly so. The extra ‘sentient’ kept my thoughts flying at an incredible pace, making it hard to keep myself moving, hard to ignore the temptation to plop on down and think everything through.

I’d chosen the path through the Broken Clock’s territory, or the ‘Timekillerz’ as their actual name turned out to be, for two simple reasons.

First off, Vower might not have her hooks in them. I didn’t think it terribly likely, if I had her gift I would make it a point to spread my influence far and wide, but the possibility was there. Never underestimate Regime stupidity, and all that.

The other factor was that I doubted that EVERYONE would be controlled. If I was pursued by Dolls Avowed, as seemed entirely probable when I made the plan, then some of the Clocks would presumably see them charging into their territory, and they might well make enough of a commotion that I could slip away in the confusion.

Best I could do, anyway.

I didn’t start as I heard the first signals going up all around me. I’d been prepared for this. Humans who lived in a gang’s territory would have no choice at all, not if they wanted to live. Anyone running on the street now was an enemy, and the faster I was tracked down and taken care of the less angry the gang would be.

Every gang’s calls were different. I didn’t know why they bothered, however. They were basically calling out the name of the street that I was on. The only information that they needed to convey was where I was, and where I was headed. In a pinch ‘over here’ would have accomplished much the same thing.

The Dolls went with bird calls, for whatever reason, and so a great hooting and whistling rose up around me. I didn’t pay it any heed, just raced on anyway. I’d heard that some people had tried, from time to time, to scare everyone into shutting up, but I didn’t think there was any way to outfrighten a gang of Ultras in the minds of the people they tyrannized. Even if you were scarier than they were, they would always be closer.

I heard the first sound of pursuit as I hit the edge of the Clock’s territory. Not footsteps, but collapsing buildings and tumbling walls. A glance over my shoulder gave me a glimpse of at least four Ultras, one of whom had just run straight through a building. They were maybe a couple hundred yards back, but I doubted I could keep that far ahead for long.

Terror gave me wings as I spilled through the archway and into the Clocks’ territory. I turned immediately, then again the opposite way, heading deeper in by an indirect path.

Vower’s gift bound the Dolls to kill me, sure, but I doubted it gave them any extra sense of where I was. If I could lose them for a few moments in an area where they didn’t know the local calls, they might well bump into their rivals and lose track of me entirely.

Worth a shot, anyway.

The Clocks’ territory apparently hadn’t gotten the message that they needed to be off the streets yet, as I saw a trio of people without Sigils going briskly about their business. Perhaps they thought the ruckus from the Dolls side of the border was going to stay there.

I didn’t bother to puzzle over it, well aware that my running energy was pretty close to giving out. Instead I kept running along this street, my attention wholly engaged with the alcoves and openings in the buildings along the way.

After a few more strides I saw one that looked promising, and I ducked quickly inside. It was a low crevice, leading into a room formed by walls collapsed upon one another, a dim triangular refuge.

I stepped immediately out of the door’s view and collapsed against a wall, hyperventilating and clutching my wound. This was it. I needed a few minutes to breathe and rest before I went any further, far longer than it would take them to catch up.

If they didn’t miss me in here, then I would have to fight them. As wounded as I was, it would be brief.

I prayed quietly that the humans hadn’t seen me, or didn’t understand the situation, or just hated the Dolls. I prayed that the Clocks had intercepted the enemy in force. I prayed for anything and everything to salvage the situation, my accelerated mind unable to do anything but continuously leap from one hypothetical to another.

All too soon I heard what I’d dreaded, the humans in the area calling out code.

No code phrases this time, simple “She went this way!” kind of calls, presumably because the pursuing Ultras weren’t a part of their particular gang.

I dragged myself erect, leaning heavily against the wall. I didn’t have any particular confidence in my ability to win this fight, but I wasn’t going out on my knees. I’d try and pull an attribute from whoever touched me first, hope for something that was a game changer.

A few seconds passed before I realized that the calls were coming from another street, and then spreading yet further away.

I felt a warmth within me that my wound couldn’t banish. The people of the Regime were shielding their healer. Every Monster, apparently, didn’t include me just yet.

I sank back down onto the ground, listening to my pursuers’ clamor as they passed by, a good dozen or more by this point. They followed the shouts down the street and through an opening, then presumably continued on after it.

It was tempting to stay here. To just sit down and rest for a few hours, let the gangs chase one another’s tails through the streets. But I couldn’t.

Every minute I hid from my enemy was another that Snitcher might decide to check in on me. The Warlord couldn’t hide from her enemies in a hole.

I slipped back out onto the street a few minutes later, as recovered as I was going to be without spending some serious quality time with my healing gift.

This time I didn’t run. I paced myself, putting foot in front of foot, stride after stride. I put my trust entirely in the people, forcing myself to believe that they wouldn’t change their minds and pinpoint me for my pursuers.

It worked.

Step by step, the outer barrens of Shington faded away, becoming the more familiar inner wards. Step by step those inner wards grew ever more familiar, until I was approaching the Warband’s barracks, where Owner would be training my followers.

I had the horrific thought that they might have gone out of the city to train maneuvers or something, but it was quickly banished. No profit in worrying about things I could do nothing about.

I forged ahead, continuing at my slow and steady pace, glancing nervously over my shoulder from time to time, listening for any sounds of pursuit.

None came. They were still off on their wild goose chase, or the gangs had crossed paths and were now trying to sort things out.

I couldn’t know, and didn’t care. All that mattered was that they’d missed their chance at me. I stepped across the threshold into the barracks, bursting through the main door that led to the lecture hall.

At least half the warband was here. I felt an overwhelming feeling of relief. I’d made it. Absent yet more complications I wasn’t going to die today.

“Lecture over!” I shouted. “Get your asses outside and kill anyone who attacks!”

There was a tumult of curious questions that I ignored, stepping off to the side of the door and leaning back against it as though I was too cool to be bothered with the whole thing.

Leaning was better than standing, and miles better than walking. I made a mental note that I should do more leaning, and to investigate the nearly holy possibility of sitting as soon as the situation allowed.

Soarer was the first to stop in front of me, as the rest moved on by, it looked like she was about to ask me something.

There’s a way of looking at someone that I consider to be ‘the Regime stare’, where you convey exactly how little you care for their existence and how readily you would slaughter them. I used it now.

She didn’t finish her question, and instead, wisely, joined the rest in their scurry out the doors.

I took a beat inside, alone.

I hadn’t intended for Owner to join the rest, but here we were. I hoped she’d be ok out there.

I pulled on my healing gift, just a bit, doing what I could for my wound. In just a minute I’d have to go out there and lead my forces to victory, but I could pause for as long as I could make Snitcher, and maybe Her by this point, think that I wasn’t hiding.

To that end I dragged myself down to the lectern, where Owner had been going over the fundamentals of Ultra combat, and looked through her rather sparse materials. I thumbed a page or two aside, nodded approvingly and kind of grunted a bit, and all the while I kept my healing gift flowing.

This was going to suck. My forces should be superior to the gang members on a one for one basis, in that my gals were the people who’d left the gangs to enter the Yard, and those tended to be the strongest among their number.

But, on the other hand, the Dolls and Timekillerz each outnumbered my warband alone. Taken together they could probably mob us under, though at horrific casualties.

I wasn’t terrified, because I just didn’t find it to be plausible. I hadn’t heard Vower’s name a few months back when I was going up. There was no way that she’d had time, in the brief spring of her ascendance, to Vow every member of both gangs. She would have taken the leadership, sure, but they’d only have the backup who were down for both teaming up with their hated rivals and attacking the Warlord’s forces, all with no warning or prep time.

Gang morale also wasn’t the greatest. Even if they did show up in their full numbers, they’d probably break and run once the casualties got heavy, especially if the Avowed, the only ones who were enthusiastic about the whole fight, couldn’t stop themselves from leading the way.

A clamor from outside, shouting and explosions, broke my concentration.

I turned away from the lectern and stalked back out towards what sounded like an ongoing battle, still clutching my wound and pouring on my healing gift.

When I got to the door I flung it open, but didn’t step through immediately, instead peering out into the plaza and taking cover in the archway.

Ultras were slamming one another all over the opening, letting loose with the full fury of their gifts. I flinched back behind the doorframe as some kind of sonic thing went off, one of the Ultras who’d had her arm ripped off screaming like a banshee.

It seemed like we were winning, as far as I could tell, but of course we didn’t exactly have a uniform, and the gang colors weren’t incredibly clear in all the dust and the tumult.

“Get the traitors!” I shouted into the confusion, hoping Owner had found herself a pocket of safety. “Kill them all!”

I glimpsed a pocket of the enemy pushing forward, their way fronted by a Doll with striking read hair, and I threw myself out into the scrum.

I couldn’t just stand back and command. If Snitcher was watching, then I had to be more than triumphant, I had to be dominant.

I charged forward, pushing through a pair of my own who were hanging back and lobbing their gifts at the enemy, then into the midst of the fight.

A pair of my Ultras were grabbing at the red haired Doll, but she’d avoided their arms and flung her hands around one of their heads, which was rapidly aging in her clutches.

I took advantage of the moment, stepping off to her side and slapping a hand onto the back of one of her hands, activating my primary gift in the second of contact.

She had no Ultra toughness to work through, and it was the matter of a bare moment to slam Vower’s ‘sentient’ into her, afflicting her with the same runaway thoughts I’d been battling.

She pulled her hand away before I could steal another attribute off of her, but she seemed groggy, hesitant, in the half second I could observe before the other friendly Ultra caught up with her and bludgeoned her down into the ground.

I took a step back, eyes darting from left to right, trying to make sure no one else was rushing me. It looked like I had a moment.

There was still a knot of fighting behind where the red head had been charging, and another off to the other side. I drifted between the two, furiously pointing towards one and then the other, shouting inaudible commands.

The nearby knot of the enemy collapsed a minute or so later, our numerical advantage proving to be too much. My Ultras didn’t waste any time celebrating the victory, instead running over to join the fight on the other side.

Maybe Owner’s days of training was worth something after all.

The end came not long after that, as the numbers were simply too great for the remaining gang members. We took full command of the plaza within a few more minutes, the last of the enemy fleeing, broken and in full retreat.

“Listen up!” I shouted, taking immediate charge, before anyone else could take the chance.

Heads turned in my direction, a half ring quickly coming into being as my forces rallied to their leaders call.

“Everyone see to the wounded!” I continued. “Anyone who is dead, we need to know who that is. Anyone who is fucked up, we need to know how long till they get better. Watch for more enemies! I want people up on those buildings!”

I pointed at a few nearby structures.

“If I hadn’t warned you we’d have been caught completely flat footed!” I went on, letting the momentum carry me along, “You need to understand that you are the Warband now! We are ALWAYS on war footing! Always ready! I never want to see us caught unprepared again!”

Heads were nodding, and people were scrambling to obey.

“Owner,” I called, heart in my throat.

She moved out from behind a line of Ultras, the gun Builder’d made for her in her hands. She seemed unharmed.

“Yes Warlord?” she asked.

“Take care of the rest of this. I’m going to go brief Her.”

People looked down at the dreaded pronoun, and no one questioned any further as I slunk off to dubious safety of the Lair.

 

Afternoon: Healing my wounds:

I’d blocked off this time to expand the Warband, and after the casualties that we’d taken this morning I needed to do so badly, but that would have to wait.

There was simply no way I could function as the Warlord in my current condition. My enemies would smell blood, and my allies would be disheartened by my damaged state. It would be suicidal to carry on with my previous plans.

Instead, I holed up in the Packer House and worked on healing my form.

I’d been hoping that the Avowed would act a lot more zombie like than they had. I’d even dared to imagine them being cut down without resistance by my allies, if their single minded focus on obeying their imperatives had not permitted them to pay attention to their attackers. That hadn’t happened, which left a disturbing possibility.

There might be more of them out there, ones with more sophisticated Vows, or maybe just more room to interpret them. Her outside guards had ran off to raise the alarm while her inner ones had immediately tried to kill me, after all, so there was precedent for their obedience to take different forms.

I’d have to be careful, from here on out, for their efforts. My current thought was that they’d thought Vower was dead, and some kind of ‘avenge her’ vows had triggered, driving them to do something as suicidal as attacking a Warlord. All of that crew should have been cleared out, but the odds were pretty good that she wasn’t actually dead.

I’d left her mindless and battered, splayed on the floor of her own office, but eventually someone would probably get around to checking on her. If she had another set of contingency people set aside for the possibility of her becoming incapacitated, then this might not be quite done.

They’d need my cooperation to restore her, which I wouldn’t willingly give, but if their Vows didn’t permit them to give up…

I sighed, pondering hostages taken and the like, as well as the Union’s reaction. More stuff I’d have to keep an eye out for.

Somewhat surprisingly, the afternoon passed quietly, with no one coming by to demand an explanation or drag me off to Her. I finished healing my wound and got ready to head to the evening’s meeting.

It was incredibly tempting to skip it, or postpone it by a day or something, but Her timetable wasn’t going to waver. I still had to hit Phis, and that meant keeping my Posse working each and every day.

 

Evening: Debrief Posse:

“Training go alright?” I asked Owner, wryly.

She grinned a bit, looked away to hide a chuckle.

“I think they learned some things,” she told me. “Definitely not a boring day.”

“Did you two work together today?” asked Replayer. “I’ve had that thought a couple of times, that maybe the Warband needs to see us all as a unit. I dunno if the extra benefit would be worth losing out on us each doing things separately though.”

“I could teach the Warband?” asked Erupter, surprise obvious in her voice, “But I haven’t yet smote Her enemies myself.”

“What’s the damage?” I asked Owner.

“We lost 13,” she told me. “Most of those are killed, a few crippled too bad to fight. It was a real shitshow.”

“You don’t have to tell me,” I reminded her. “I was in the middle of it.”

“What went down?” asked Erupter, frowning dubiously at us, clearly trying to imagine a training session that killed a dozen people.

“Gangs came at us,” I told her shortly, “We slaughtered them.”

“The gangs attacked the warband?” asked Replayer. “I’ve never heard of that happening before. Do we know why?”

“Vower sent them at me,” I simplified, “I took her out for it. Hell of a fucking morning.”

Erupter gave a lot whistle.

“Damn boss!” she said, “Your eagerness to take out Her enemies puts me to shame. I’ll have to work harder at that shit! I didn’t know we could use the Warband before the attack.”

“I can,” I cautioned her, “Your role is just to do what I tell you. How’d that go today, anyway?”

“Four recruits!” she said, proudly, “And I can vouch for every one of their smartness and honesty. They are great.”

I sat in silence for a second.

“Are they,” I asked, “Are they perhaps the women who previously formed your patrol?”

She nodded rapidly.

“I see,” I said.

I didn’t have the energy to fight about it, I turned to Replayer instead.

“Got any Posse prospects for me?” I asked.

“I did,” she said, “But I’m kind of concerned you keep fucking killing them. If you just want me to find targets I wish you’d tell me, it’d be a lot less work.”

“Ha ha,” I said, drily.

“We have Battler, first up,” she said. “Bitch tried to join up with the last Warlord for the Ar Harbour strike, didn’t make the cut because she doesn’t play well with others. Strong as shit though, and hardcore dedicated. She tried to chase the Warband out into the countryside, only came back when she got lost.”

“What’s her gift do?” I asked, warily.

“Ultra strength two, Ultra toughness one,” she said. “Just basic fighting stuff, but you pare that with somebody who is absolutely ready for this shit, someone who lives and breathes to take down Her enemies.”

“She sounds fantastic!” agreed Erupter, enthusiastically.

I thought she sounded a lot like another Smasher, but there was possibility there.

“Who else?” I asked.

“There’s also Sniper,” she said. “She can look through stuff with her gift, and has some kind of shooting attack that goes along with that.”

“How do you mean?” I asked.

She made a circle with her finger and thumb, held it in front of her eye.

“When she does this she can see through things,” she said, “Like she has another eye out in front her that is flying forward. I think she turns her hand to move it forward or backward.”

“Is it just for aiming?” I asked, “Or can she use it for whatever she wants?”

It would be just like the Regime to have someone with an amazing spying gift and fixate on using it to shoot people.

“I don’t know,” she said, “But she has an eye beam gift, and she’s mostly known for using it to target that at her enemies. She made it to the Lair without Ultra toughness, so she must be pretty smart.”

“How?” I asked.

“Worked with the Knights, I think”, she said, “Though my informants weren’t clear on whether that was a thing that was still happening, or a one time deal in the past.”

I reflected, not for the first time, that Replayer’s people skills left a bit to be desired.

“All right,” I said, “Any more?”

She shook her head.

Two prospects was a bit on the light side, but at least she didn’t completely strike out this time. Really it was hard to care too much about it when I’d only narrowly escaped with my life.

But that had only been a stay of execution. I still had the looming deadline of the attack on Phis to prepare for. I forced myself to focus.

“Alright,” I said, “Here’s what we’re going to do tomorrow…”

 

Day 19

11 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

Battler – 2/0/1, straightforward combatant

Sniper – 0/0/0, X ray vision and eye beams

 

Union List

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

 

Assets: (physical)

1 truck

1 sedan

Owner’s Shington Store

Packer House

Fog Machines

Lasers (diverse)

 

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

 

Warband:

11 Veteran Ultras, 23 Rookie (that is, haven’t worked with me before) Ultras

Hexxer, Peeler, Guager, Soarer are notably less evil than the rest.

Driver, Defender and Infecter possess interesting capabilities.

 

Blender AP: 5/10 (Trauma Reset to 4+1)

 

Actions cost 3, return 2 on success 0 on failure unless otherwise specified, Blender gains 1 AP every morning

 

Available Actions:

 

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)

 

Warband tree

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)

 

Player Input:

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.

 

Scheduling update

Hi all.

Things really got away from me this week (by things I mean furious posting on the internet and the usual kind of stuff, not anything serious), I’m my usual brand of very sorry about that, which is apparently sorry enough to express, but not actually enough to fix.  I’m meta-sorry that that isn’t terribly useful.

The Regime Quest update is about 80% finished, it’ll go up this Sunday, and the next week’s The Fifth Defiance update is about 30% done, barring more slack on my end it should go up on Wednesday.

Thanks for your forbearance, and, as always, for reading.