Regime Quest: 4

Results from previous round:
Three votes

TalonOfAntares Entry (SV Forum)

One vote:

Skiverus Entry (TFD Blog)

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16: Given that Mia was Processed forcibly, went from living in an independent town to troubleshooting for the Regime, and hates Ultras, the story almost writes itself. Looks like some Ultras happened upon their little community, they were dragged to the Company Facility, and she was the only one who made it. Do I have that right?

[X] Yes, in substance. She didn’t dare attempt the Process as the Old World fell (high mortality rate).

16A: If yes above, were there any other survivors, if so, does Mia stay in contact with them?

[X] Scattered humans, one is my chief KEM contact

16B: If yes in 16, was the Ultra in charge of that anyone we know?

[X] Subtracter.

17: Yes (QM note: I missed that she was alive in the old world, and hence educated

18: The following were the other choices for Warlord this time around. Is Mia close with any of them, despite loathing Ultrahumans?

[X] Maker

19: Are any of the above Mia’s particular nemesis?

[X] Masher

20: Mia’s relationship with KEM, how close is it? Are they mostly present in the occasion dropped off note and KEM sheet, or is she a commander in their ranks?

[X] [1WP] She is a fellow traveler, and they like the idea of her rising in ranks, and thus gaining the ability to destroy more Ultras. They work on her behalf, and she can ask them for favors.

21: Mia has a secret gift, one that no one has ever learned about. She has hidden it successfully thus far, fearing that to reveal it would see her conscripted into a Fist or similar.

[X] Ultra toughness 1
22: Mia has a pair of virtues, patterns of behavior that held vindicate her existence, and recover Agency Points. What are they?

[x] Restoring aspects of the old world (QM note: paraphrase to split into two)

[x] Improving people’s lives and helping them

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

[x] She has a tendency to react out of proportion to events that remind her of the destruction of the Old World. Viewing Ultras as childish tyrants, she will actively place offensive Ultras in harms way, sometimes even going so far as to overtly attack them herself. Occasionally, Mia will bite of more than she can chew, yet like a dog fixated on a bone, Mia won’t back down.

9 <Target?>

[X] Ar Harbor, up on the coast in Aine, a small city, which should be lightly protected, by an unaffiliated local Ultra gang of all things, but She wants it taken intact, minimal property damage

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I sighed and swept the paper off the desk, crumpling it up and dumping it neatly in the wastebasket.

I was overcomplicating this. Overanalyzing it. This couldn’t actually be as complicated as I was making.

Start fresh, Mia. Get this right.

I am Her Warlord. I have to conquer Ar Harbor in 30 days, with minimal damage to the town. So let’s break that down.

If I imagine myself in the future where that has already happened, what do I remember doing during this time? What part of that sentence is just vagueness, and what parts can I concretely see?

I tapped my knuckle on the old desk, valiantly resisting gnawing on it. I took out another piece of paper.

Well, going from the start of the sentence onward, the first oddness that I encountered was the title of Warlord. What did that actually mean? What could I do with it, that I couldn’t do without it? What did it entail?

I swiveled my chair, looked guiltily over to where Owner was sleeping. Officially, we watched over one another while we slept. She got the first half of the night, I got the second half. In practice I mostly settled on being in the same room as her, figured any Ultra assassins were more likely after me than her anyway.

She had, I noticed, sort of sprawled across the bed, a bunch of the bags of chips and crappy drinks her imaginary gas stands produced tossed on the floor by the bed side, lying near her outstretched hand.

Owner, lazy and sloppy as she was, was an elite Ultra, able to sustain a life inside of the Lair. A lot of that had to do with her partnership with me, but still, this was the level of power that I would be dealing with.

Lair Ultras would form the core of my army. Previous warlords had each assembled a Posse of other powerful Ultras, who accompany them from mission to mission. I would have to do likewise.

I looked back to the paper.

“Get Posse” I wrote on it. A few Ultras I could ‘trust’, people who were my peers. That would go along way. But a Posse was not an army.

“Get Army” I followed it up with. Couldn’t be a proper warlord without some kind of horde to follow me around and do horde things. Pillage, I guessed. I’d need a lot of Ultra bodies to match up with the enemies’ similar forces, make sure me and the Posse didn’t get swarmed under.

That wouldn’t be too hard. The outskirts of Shington, the city around the Lair, were a magnet for the Ultras of the Regime. There were hundreds of them, and it seemed like more arrived every day. They were hungry for distinction, hungry to slaughter the innocent if it got them one more sliver of Her attention.

I scowled. KEM had the right idea. We were abominations, apt only for the fire. I would help these ambitious fools find their glory, and the fire would follow after.

A quiet knock stirred me from these dark thoughts, and I hurried over to the door before they could knock again, and chance waking up Owner. When you only got 6 hours of sleep it was vital that they not be interrupted.

I put a hand to a vial at my belt as I opened the door, ready to blend if the need arrived, but it was only Harry.

He grinned apologetically, ducked his head down deferentially, and thrust a cupcake towards me.

I slipped into the hall.

“You know you aren’t supposed to disturb me,” I whispered.

“I know, I know,” he said. “But it was your big day, and we all saved up and scrounged until we could get you…”

He trailed off, once again indicating the cupcake.

I softened at that, my sternness collapsing. The Packers were pretty typical of the sorts of humans who managed to stay in the Lair. They operated this house, serving the Ultras who chose to inhabit it. They’d lucked out with Owner and I, and they knew it.

No, pretty typical wasn’t fair. Most people wouldn’t go out and find a cupcake for their oppressors. The Packers demonstrated a forbearance and lack of resentment that had to come from their matriarch. I could reciprocate.

I reached out, took the muffin. It looked stale and forlorn, but I’ve always believed that a sincere gift would taste better than any other kind of food.

I looked a little closer, noticed that Harry had tear streaks on his face, a nose more red than normal.

“Ah come on Harry, you aren’t chasing after Yasmine again?”

He looked away, guiltily.

I was already regretting asking. The last thing I wanted was to hear about his girl drama. I’d told him on a few occasions that if she was dumb enough to wait around for Shower to get exclusive with her then Harry could do a lot better.

“No,” he said, unconvincingly.

“Good,” I said, pretending to be convinced. I was about to go back into our room when I noticed the shadow behind him.

Billy Packer, the youngest and smallest, all big eyes and teeth in the darkness. He had his hands hidden behind his back, face pulled down in the coy little boy smile that the human race had no doubt perfected some time before we found fire.

“What’s this then?” I asked.

He put his chin down, shook his head from side to side.

“Is iiiiiit…” I drew out the word, “a slice of apple for Napoleon?”

His head shaking became faster, more emphatic.

“I told you that he’s getting fat,” I said. “I told you over and over.”

“Not a bit of apple,” he said.

Harry retreated past us, heading back down to the rest of the house.

“I believe you,” I said. “I’ll just – ha!”

I moved swiftly, reaching down behind him and bringing his hand up into the light.

A slice of apple glistened on it.

“What did I tell-“

I fell silent as he brought up his other hand, opening it up to reveal a second slice of apple.

We stood for a second in a frozen tableau, and then I released him, defeated.

I turned back to the door, chuckling, and let him set out the apples where he knew Napoleon would find it.

He, at least, had the good grace to sit quiet and tight in his nook.

Officially, he’d be asleep, but I knew the instant I turned away he’d be stumping his way over to this feast. Damn thing. One day he’d split his shell.

I looked over to Owner, making sure nothing untoward had happened with her, then returned to my work.

So, gather a posse, gather an army, easy enough. Then what?

Well, I knew that the Regime’s armies operated under weird rules. She would be watching, after all, through my eyes. I needed to know what she expected to see, make sure that I didn’t get in trouble with Her. I wouldn’t do the Cause any good as one more stain on Her fists.

That thought led to another.

“Watching through my eyes,” I murmured. Snitcher.

I’d have to reckon with him, figure out when he’d be monitoring me himself, and when he’d be letting Her see. I couldn’t chance contact with KEM, with the Resistance, until I knew more about him. I couldn’t even be sure it was safe to use my gifts on the people of the city. I had to deal with him.

And then there was transportation, securing a route, scouting the enemies… all of the considerations piled up. So much to do.

And to think, I’d wanted this. Had planned for it, schemed for it, killed for it. This nebulous opportunity had been the focus of my life for a solid half decade now.

“Time to get started,” I whispered, and set back to work.

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Days remaining: 30

AP available: (4 end of last day + 1 for half night’s sleep) = 5/10

Prestige: 3

Timeslots available: 2 (morning, afternoon)

Posse: 0 out of 3 slots filled

Force size: 0

Condition: Uninjured

(Ultra format: Role, Ultra Strength/Speed/Toughness, other gift description)

Ultra Allies:

Maker- Friend, and protégé of Snitcher, 0/0/1, can summon the spirit of things

Ultra Enemies:

Masher- Enemy, and fellow protégé of Subtracter, 3*/0/3*, trades off strength and durability as she moves or stays still

Ultra Acquaintances:

Owner – housemate, 0/0/1 operates an imaginary firm, with real effects on the world,

Picker – First Fist protégé, 0/1/0, ‘selects the outcome of things’

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

Sticker – Did dentistry for her brother, 0/0/2, Creates slime, can choose its stickiness

Echoer – Singer I am a fan of, 1/1/1, can duplicate any action that she sees​​

Faction Rankings:

Regime 7

KEM 8

Pantheon 2

Union 4

Resistance 9

Prevailer 3

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Personal Actions:

Action: Seek Target Information [Company] :

Motive: The Company logs every Ultra they create. Their Ar Harbor records would be useful information

Concerns: Ultras migrate and conceal their gifts, this information would be incomplete

Timeslot cost: 1

AP Cost 2 to initiate, returns 1 on successful completion
Action: Seek Target Information [Subtracter] :

Motive: Subtracter is the military leader of the Regime. She will have information on this target.

Concerns: Subtracter is stupid and violent, I don’t like to be around her.

Timeslot cost: 1

AP Cost: 3 to initiate, returns 1 on successful completion
Action: Seek Target Information [Survivors] :

Motive: There have been 2 other attempts at Ar Harbor. I can seek out and question survivors in the outer city.

Concerns: I may be unable to find any survivors, and I may be mislead by liars.

Timeslot cost: 1

AP Cost: 2 to initiate, returns 1 on successful completion
Action: Seek Transportation [Scavenge]

Motive: My current transportation sufficed for me in my troubleshooter role, but I will likely require a larger vehicle, or several vehicles, in order to bring everyone to Ar Harbor. I can seek to find something in the suburbs and surrounding towns.

Concerns: Leaving Shington could be dangerous, and I am far from guaranteed to find a bus or truck suitable to my needs, as the area has already been heavily scavenged.

Timeslot cost: 2

AP Cost:4, returns 3 on successful completion
Action: Seek Transportation [Trade with existing owners]

Motive: As above, but instead of fixing up ruined vehicles I’ll negotiate to get them from their current owners.

Concerns: Snitcher may disapprove of a warlord being civil

Timeslot cost: 1

AP Cost: 2 to initiate, returns one on successful completion
Action: Seek Transportation [Seize by force]

Motive: As above, but instead of asking my contacts for vehicles I’ll just take what I want. My role as warlord and my Tally should minimize resistance

Concerns: People like their vehicles, and won’t like the one who takes them. I will make enemies.

Timeslot cost: 2

AP Cost: 4 to initiate, returns 3 on successful completion
Action: Seek Transportation [Adder + Company]

Motive: As above, but Adder can use his gift to make something for my purposes, and the Company can duplicate it and make it permanent.

Timeslot cost: 1

Concerns: Adder and I are not close, he may decline to aid me, owing to his rivalry with my sponsor, Subtracter.

AP Cost: 2, returns 1 on successful completion
Action: Seek Posse members

Motive: There are dozen of powerful Ultras in the Lair. I know only the barest fraction of them. I can learn the basics on 1-6 of them in a few hours of socializing and gossiping, opening up in depth investigation options on them and adding them to my list of acquaintances.

Concerns: None

Timeslot cost: 1

AP Cost: 1, returns 1 on successful completion
Action: Investigate Acquaintance:

Motive: I can spend some serious one on one time with an Ultra I’ve chosen, evaluating the capability of their gift, the alignment of their values with mine, and their basic competence. If all checks out, I might move them into my Ultra Allies column.

Concerns: None

Timeslot cost: 1

AP Cost: 2, returns 1 on completion, 2 (total, not 2 +1) if we match and become allies
Action: Invite Ally into Posse:

Motive: If I want to bring an Ultra into my posse, get them to take actions on my behalf and rise or fall with me, this is the way to do it. I will only take this action on those I’ve already made allies, and once this has been taken it is difficult to undo.

Concerns: Posse members are most of the way into my circle of trust, and will operate on my behalf, representing me to strangers. A mistake here would be dangerous and damaging. I should be careful before taking this step, potentially investigating a prospect several times.

Timeslot cost: 1

Ap Cost 3, returns 3 if they accept
Action: Seek information on Snitcher’s patterns [passive listening]

Motive: Snitcher can ride my senses at any moment, and bring Her along. If I am ever to contact my KEM allies, my resistance allies, or show any kindness or weakness whatsoever, I need to understand when this is likely to take place. Gossip can hint at this, particularly if I carefully steer conversations. This action would be mostly undetectable, even if he was riding me when I took it.

Concerns: None

Timeslot cost: 1

AP Cost: 1 returns 1 if successful
Action: Seek information on Snitcher’s patterns [Active interrogation of snitches]

Motive: As above, but rather than listen for random gossip I will seek out other linked individuals and directly ask them how often he rides their senses, and what actions he has reacted to in the past.

Concerns: More likely Snitcher notices this, unknown consequences of that.

Timeslot cost: 1

AP Cost: 3 returns 2 if successful
Action: Seek information on Snitcher’s patterns [Confront Snitcher directly]

Motive: As above, but take the simplest possible route. Go to Snitcher and ask him for the deal.

Concerns: I am sponsored by Subtracter, not Snitcher, he may not wish to aid me. He may demand favors or other services in exchange for the information.

Timeslot cost: 1

AP Cost:4, returns 3 if successful
Action: Seek information on Regime military operations [ Query Subtracter]

Motive: My life depends on doing this right. I need to get a basic understanding of what She is expecting from my attack on Ar Harbor. Do I need to seize the Company Facility? Kill all the enemies? Are there any constraints on how I go about it? Subtracter is the leader of the Regime’s military, and my sponsor, she will know these answers.

Concerns: Subtracter is stupid and brutal, and she killed my neighbors. I hate spending time with her

Timeslot cost: 1

AP Cost: 3, returns 1 if successful
Action: Seek information on Regime military operations [Ask around]

Motive: As above, but ask survivors of previous missions instead of my evil boss.

Concerns: My predecessors may not have told them everything, their views of their missions may omit certain command level details that I need to worry about.

Timeslot cost: 1

AP Cost: 2, returns 1 if successful
Action: Lounge around in the house/room, doing nothing and risking nothing

Motive: I could do with some relaxation and rest

Concerns: None

Timeslot cost: 1

AP Cost: 0, returns 1 if successful
Action: Seek entertainment in the city, patronize establishments that provide such services

Motive: I could do with a recharge, and I might extend my circle of acquaintances in the process

Concerns: None

Timeslot cost: 1

AP Cost: 1, returns 3 if successful
Action: Use my gift to help the populace by blending attributes to allow reconstruction of the works of their fallen fathers.

Motive: I feel most myself when I take a some to work on rebuilding the old world.

Concerns: This is not becoming behavior for a warlord, Snitcher may take notice, and people may talk

Timeslot cost: 1

AP Cost: 2, returns 5 if successful
Action: Use my gift to help the human subjects of the Regime by restoring their forms, returning them to health.

Motive: I like to heal the sick and the injured, it is, on some level, what I am for.

Concerns: This is not becoming behavior ofr a warlord, Snitcher may take notice, and people may talk

Timeslot cost: 1

AP Cost: 1, returns 5 if successful
Action: Seek new residence

Motive: I could get more done if I got a full night’s sleep

Concerns: Owner and I have guarded one another’s rest for a long time. I wouldn’t necessarily be able to trust a new person to the same extent.

Timeslot cost: 1

AP Cost: 3, returns 1 if successful
Action: Organize armory

Motive: I carry, in my backpack and on my person, various items to blend with if the need arises. I am overdue to look through my setup and take an inventory, once that is done I could seek out new objects if I am missing anything useful.

Concerns: None

Timeslot cost: 1

AP Cost: 2, returns 2 if successful
KEM Actions: (Sealed until I figure out how to deal with Snitcher’s surveillance, or resolve to defy him)

Resistance Actions: (Sealed until I figure out how to deal with Snitcher’s surveillance, or resolve to defy him)
Action: Other

Motive: [Write In]

Concerns: [Write In]

Timeslot cost: [Write In]

AP Cost: You propose, QM will try and get AP cost/rewards back to you before voting closes
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Vote input format

Please specify what actions you want to perform, and what slot you want to put them in. You can make the plans more complicated if you like, changing your second action depending on the results of the first. Please don’t hesitate to ask me questions, in the SV thread or on my blog. I’ll try and get back either way. Voting closes Saturday night, next update will be next Sunday night. Remember this is slate voting, not by time slot.

Thanks for reading/playing!

Condemner 8:2

I regarded the closed door, musing over how each of my comrades would have handled it.

Haunter, no doubt, would have availed herself of the services of one of her passengers.  Surely she had someone in there who had built doors, or walls, or whatever.  Maybe a thief, or a construction expert.  That person would take care of the matter in short order.

Preventer would presumably just wait around until someone else opened the door, or it aged off its hinges, or what have you.  Her problem solving method seemed to be a mix of bullying and whining, neither of which worked particularly well on inanimate obstacles.

Dale would kick the door down.  Even though it was a prison door on a prison ship, made to be totally unable to be kicked down, I had faith he would do it.  The only real question was whether he’d try and open it normally first.

And lastly, my beloved Fisher.  She would proceed as she already had, sending her shadow beneath the door, then surfacing on the other side.  Out of all of us she likely had the best gift for doors.

I flattered myself that I was the only one who would do the obvious thing, and turn away from the locked door altogether.  Let it keep its secrets.  There was another door on the far side, and it was already open.

I could have melted down the door, to be sure.  I had burned two Ultras, I had power to spare.  But going that way might lead to a reunion with Fisher, and a return to playacting.  I’d much rather have a bit of fun first.

The opposite door opened into another hallway, this one at right angles to the first.  There were two doors along its right wall, one open and the other closed, and another door at the far end, also closed.

I was nearly to the open door when someone stepped out of it.  She was young, fair skinned and uniformed.

“Hi!” I said.

She glanced over, surprise stark on her face.  A second later she had a boxy weapon in her hand and pointed at me.

“Easy there,” I said.  “Easy.”

I could see the weapon shake, see her hand where it gripped it.  I poured every ounce of my Ultra speed’s heightened perception into watching that hand, willing myself to see the twitch of the finger before it fired.  A headshot could end my game right here and right now.

“Who are you?” she asked, a heavy accent marring her voice.

“I’m a friend,” I lied.  “I’m with Gauntlet.  I’m here to help with the emergency.”

I was just straight up guessing at this point.  The screens made it seem like there was a problem, and I’d heard talk about Gauntlet being here, but I didn’t know whether the story I was giving was actually plausible or not.

There was a ‘whick-whick’ noise as she shot me, put two right my center of mass.

I roared into flame in an instant, surged towards her, and made an unhappy discovery.

The floors of this place were entirely inflammable.  Some kind of plastic or other.  That meant that I’d be burning power when I moved from person to person.

She didn’t shriek or cower, just fired a few  more useless bursts into the fire, then tried to shield her eyes and face as she was engulfed.

The person inside the room did scream, however, and I got my first glimpse of its contents as I poured across the floor towards its inhabitants.

There were three in all, an older fellow with a clipboard and full beard who was staring at a monitor, another woman much like the one I’d just killed, who was putting down a can of some kind of drink, and a guy who had been on the girl’s heels, who was scrambling back away from me as he let out that piercing shriek.

 “Holy Shi-Aiiii!” he screamed, as I caught on his legs and began to feast.  Even as he went up the woman was taking action.

She pointed at us, eyes squinted in concentration, and all of a sudden we were rocketing out into the corridor.

A Union Ultra.  This should be fun.

I hit the far wall still clinging to the screamer, not killing him for now, caught mostly on his clothes and skin.  I was trying to figure out what had thrown us.

Was it a telekinetic gift?  There’d been no sense of that, no feel like I sometimes got when an Entity was acting on the world.  I felt like maybe I wasn’t the target, like it acted upon a broader area that I just happened to be in.

Then I noticed the ashes of the girl who’d shot me.  They had fallen onto the wall too.  There was no tactical reason for the Ultra to throw them over here, it was just part of her gift.  She was changing gravity, or what direction ‘up’ was, or something similar.  I was basically at the bottom of a well here on the wall, ‘falling’ sideways into it.

I slipped back into human form, collapsing myself onto the screamer, locking him in a headlock and using him to shield me from their guns.

Screen guy was up as well now, pointing a gun at me with wavering hands.

“I surrender!” I tried.

The Ultra had a look of intense concentration on her face.  If I had my guess she was trying to figure out if she could kick up the pressure on us both and knock us out without killing my hostage.

The older guy yelled something back, gestured ‘down’ with his guns, like I was to drop the guy between us.  That didn’t seem wise, so I ignored him.  Well, mostly ignored him.

I desperately needed my burden here to be quiet so that me and the two enemies could hear one another, but killing him was a nonstarter.  I slid one of my hands down into his mouth, pressing his tongue down and noting with distaste the way part of his face slid along with it.

Humans, even a little heat and they started going to pieces.

“… Surrender!” I could make out now, as my hostage fell silent for a moment.

“I accept,” I said, delighted.  It was a dumb move, but hey, it would make my next meal a lot easier.

“YOU surrender!” said the Ultra, and we both creaked against the wall, made ‘heavier’ by an exertion of her gift.

Oh, yeah, I guess that made more sense as a demand.  I must have missed the first part of his yelling.

“What will you do if I surrender?” I asked.  “Will you throw me in with the other prisoners?  Cuz I’d be totally ok with that!”

I saw them look to one another with confusion at that line, it would have been an opportunity to move if I’d been craving that, but I wanted a bit more information.

“Who sent you!” asked the guy.  “Are you part of the Grand Push?  Are you one of Zeus’ Valkyries?”

“Help!” yelled the woman, shouting out into the corridor.  “We have an intruder!”

On the one hand, that was probably the smarter thing to do.  On the other, who did she think would come who hadn’t already started heading over when the burned guy got started?

“Sure,” I said.  “I’m a Grand Push Valkyrie.  And I’m going to kill you if you don’t tell me where the prisoners are stashed.  I’m not even after Andy.  I just want to know where you keep your unconscious Ultras, and I’ll be out of your hair.”

“Shooth me!” screamed my hostage, who had somehow wormed his tongue out of my grip when I stopped paying so much attention to him.

That seemed to decide the older fellow, because he did exactly that, shooting right through the guy in order to plug me twice in the chest.

Second time with that shot pattern, they must have been trained for it.

Even as I thought that I assumed my true form once again, flattening along the plastic wall and searing my way into it.

Her gift had definitely intensified.  It wasn’t just like I was at the bottom of a hole, it was like I was at the bottom of a hole and somehow I was ‘heavy’ fire.  The body of the guy he’d just shot was sort of digging into the plastic, so there was definitely a lot of pressure here.

I flung a hand up, grimacing at the power it required, and detached a bolt of fire.  She didn’t even bother to dodge, and its arc wilted long before it could reach her, falling back ‘down’ to where I smoldered on the wall.

I wracked my mind, trying to find an answer to this.  I could go left or right, along the wall, but that would let her out into the corridor, and I was loathe to do that.  The blind spot in the archway was my best shot at lighting her up.  I needed to get at her from a vector she wasn’t looking, or she’d just make me ‘fall’ away.

“Yes!” yelled the man.  “Hold him there.  I’ll get help!”

He rushed back to his computer.

I wasn’t terribly frightened about him calling for backup.  First off, that would be bringing the fuel to me, and would actually be kind of convenient.  Next, there were a lot more Ultras than just myself intruding into this facility, so backup was probably really busy.  Lastly, fright didn’t seem to really be an emotion that my Entity had seen fit to grace me with.

Could I go left or right and get across the hall fast enough to catch her as she came through the door after me?  I didn’t think so.  It was the obvious play, and it seemed like she’d be careful enough to avoid something like that.  What could I…

Ah ha.

I flung another firebolt, but this time I put a lot of effort into it, spent freely of my reserves.  This one wasn’t aimed at her.  Condemner had made something similar once, when we were fighting with Fifth Fist.  The great demon form.

I crafted it and flung it along the wall to my right, a great fire beast racing away.  I flared the light of my being as I did so, hopefully causing her to avert her gaze by the smallest amount.

As I did this I withdrew myself from the wall’s surface, smothering down to merest embers, burning in the remnants of the crushed, shot body of their colleague.

I could tell from the way her head snapped to the side that she’d fallen for it.  Seeing one big fire race off and smoldering remnants stay in place, she naturally assumed that I was ‘in’ the larger, active one.  She stepped closer to the door, and the body I was burning toppled down to the ground.

I was right about her caution.  I’d never have caught her with a simple pounce form the doorframe.  She swept it with her gravity before stepping out into the hall, her eyes wary and attentive, not entirely fixed on the place where my demon fireball was rapidly going out.

Still, though, she was just a human mind, in the end, and she didn’t have Ultra speed.  For all her caution there was an opening, and I struck.  I roared up out of the dead body and onto her in the instant her gaze went back to the fireball.

No screamer this one, instead her gravity rose against me, but it was too late.  She had to pick a direction for it to push, and I was all around her now.  In a scant few seconds her resistance was at an end, and she wilted away to ash.

I stepped forth in human form once again, as the man cringed in front of me, sort of hiding behind his chair, his mouth working frantically at a sort of call thing.

He raised his gun, I dove aside, hurling another firebolt as I did so.

His shots whizzed through the air behind me, even as the bolt caught on his gun hand.  He  waved it frantically in the air, trying to put it out.

Even as he did that I was rising up, and I neatly kicked him in the head, knocking him to the ground.

“P-please!” he said, sweat and tears streaming down his face, grinding the mangled hand against the plastic in an attempt to smother the fire.

I let it go out, reached down and dragged him up.

He let out a pained shout as I did that, but bit it off as my glare made my annoyance clear.

I slapped him back down into his chair, pushing the ‘off’ button on the communicator.

“What was that about a Grand Push?” I asked.

“Your unit,” he said, not seeming to fully understand.  “That’s what we’re calling it.  It isn’t an insult.  I’m not trying to deny your divinity-“

I cut off the flow of pleading.

“My unit?”

“The hoard?” he asked.  “The Grand Host?”

“I’m from the Regime,” I told him, distaste in my voice.

I don’t have anything in particular against the Pantheon, of course, but it has always seemed obvious to me that the Regime is a cut above.

“That doesn’t make any-“ he clamped down again, eyes widening in fear.

“Why did you think we are in the Grand Host?” I asked.  I put the pieces together.

“Wait, is the Grand Host on the move?  Is that what your Grand Push is?”

He nodded furiously, pointing to the screen.

I looked at it.  It was a map of the local area, and there was certainly a red arrow coming from Zilla’s fort, heading out into the badlands.  It looked it had already reached the edge of the Pantheon’s shield.

That must be the emergency.  That was why no one had spotted us on the way in.  The Pantheon’s great attack had finally begun, and the Union was thrashing about to prepare a response.

Wait, this was a prison, what would it have to do with that?

“Why are you guys here?” I asked.  “Are you just using Andy to help the Intervention Group, or is there another mission going on.”

“I don’t know!” he said.  “I’m just a technician.”

“No,” I said.  “You are just ashes.”

I burned him up, took his soul, all that stuff.  It didn’t taste as good as usual, the experience soured by my lack of understanding of what was going on.

“Wait a sec,” I said out loud.  “Wait a damn sec.  The Grand Push can’t be happening.  It doesn’t make any sense.”

I glared at the machine, but it just kept shining its idiot screen at me, entirely unintimidated by my gift.

How could this be?

Start at the beginning.  Predictor had to have known about this.  It must be why he’d launched our operation in the first place.  The Union weren’t about to track a jailbreak in the middle of their long awaited final battle.  That made sense.

And our objectives weren’t any different.  They made sense too.

But the Pantheon’s, what on earth was going on there?  How could Zilla’s army be on the march, when she was the only one who could give that order, and she was on a heist with us?

Wait, that wasn’t right.

Zilla wasn’t the only one who could give an order to the Grand Host.  Death could have done it.  Or Preventer, if they were serious about making her a leader.

I looked back at the arrow on the screen, grinning in appreciation of what was about to jump off.

“Welcome to the war front, Mr. Ruling Council Member.”

Regime Quest: 3

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

Two votes
TalonOfAntares entry
Lurker

One vote:
Reflector
Neutralyzer

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

*************************************************************************************************
Winning Entry

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

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

Weirdness Points available in round 3: 5

Character creation 3: Finishing up

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rules stuff:

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

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

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

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

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

Condemner 8:1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Word,” I said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What are your names?” I asked.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Where’s she going?” asked Arrow.

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

They looked to one another, thrown.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Get out of here,” I told her.

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

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

 

 

Regime Quest : 2

Results from last time:

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

2 vote:
Lurker
Nameless (via Sufficient Velocity thread)

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

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

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

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

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

1. <Who am I?>

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

2. <Real name?>

[ ] Write In

3. <Gender?>

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

4. <Time as an Ultra?>

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

5. <Reason for Being Processed?>

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

6. <Gift choice>

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

7.<Loyalty>

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

8.<Sponsor?>

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


Second Section, for this section you have 4 WP

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

[ ] Write In

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

[ ] Write in

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

14.<Tally>

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

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

15. <Notoriety>

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

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

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

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

Thanks for participating!

Regime Quest : 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I guess you’ll do.”

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

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

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

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

I mean, really I’m

2. <Real name?>

  • Write In

a

3. <Gender?>

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

who underwent the Process

4. <Time as an Ultra?>

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

and found my life transformed forever.

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

5. <Reason for Being Processed?>

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

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

As far as everyone knows my gifts are:

6. <Gift choice>

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

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

7.<Loyalty>

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

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

8.<Sponsor?>

  • No one

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

  • Subtracter,

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

  • Adder,

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

  • First Fist

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

  • Second Fist

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

  • [1WP]Third Fist

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

  • [1WP] Snitcher

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

  • [2WP] Answerer

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

  • [2WP] Prevailer

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

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

9 <Target?>

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

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

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

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

I have a month to get this done.

They’re never gonna know what hit em.

Precautions

Commander,

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

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

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

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

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

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

Good luck, and good hunting

################################################################

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

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

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

Indulger 8:3

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“How far away are they?”

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

“Like a half a day’s walk?” I said.

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

“We don’t?” asked Fisher.

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

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

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

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

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

“Nothing,” snarled Slicer.

“Much,” corrected Predictor.

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

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

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

It was Genie who spoke.

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Are they here?” I asked.

Slicer and Predictor looked at one another.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Oh?” I said.

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

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

“What is it?” I asked.

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

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

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

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

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

“Grind em?” I asked.

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

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

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

She cut me off.

“It is now.”

The Company Mind

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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