Regime Quest 40

Day 5:

Main Action: Social stuff. Lots of things got done today, bleagh. Ok, let me split my summary up into smaller stuff.

Outreach: I got a message to the Resistance to give to the Union, which feels like a safe channel to assume exists. I want to give Merlin one of these ‘Living’ attributes and in exchange get a truck or a bus from them, maybe some guns.

It’s a bit of a long shot that they are going want to work on the level with me after we just tried to kill each other, but I’m willing if they are. Having some covert understanding with the Union would be AMAZING, going forward, for my odds of survival and accomplishing my goals. Fingers crossed here, I really want this to work.

Recruitment: I asked Viber and Soarer to join my unit today, which went over about as well as you’d figure asking people to join the people who killed their friends/family would. Soarer is saying Yes, but I get the feeling that she is only doing so because she assumes the alternative is getting murdered.

She might not be entirely wrong. She is a timid/diffident woman, and the Warband are a pack of bullies. She would be in danger in their company, though I *think* they are well trained enough not to kill her. Or, at least, the ones who survived are. Nothing like lots of death to get rid of the undisciplined.

As far as Viber goes, hrrngh, she’s like Blisser, one of those weird Ultras that doesn’t really comprehend the world around them, sort of seeing everything through their gift. The dude I sent into her house to pitch the offer came out with a day or so’s growth of beard, which is rather alarming.

I was ultimately able to use her to get our truck repaired (more on that later), but moving her presents its own weird difficulties. If I go in a truck with her, and she gets sad, I could miss my next deadline and be killed by Her. I’m not willing to risk it, if we are going to move her (and she is ‘willing’ in the sense that she doesn’t understand anything about where or who she is) then I need to take some precautions, ideally be in a different vehicle.

It is a ridiculous chicken/bear/sack of grain style problem, but it is somehow relevant to my life. Infuriating. My understand of her gift is that it won’t protect her vehicle from a drone strike, but it isn’t like anyone has ever actually done that experiment.

Truck Repair: This went great. We got the best people together, got them to take a look at the trucks and sent the local Viber-whisperer to move her into position and get her happy. The rest of us moved away and hung out for a few hours, and when we got the call clear the workers had done a month or so of work on it, enough to get one truck back in working order, at the cost of cannibalizing all 4 of the wrecks. (Fortunately, I remembered to leave an appropriate amount of food and water in there.)

I’ll indulge in a moment of mourning for Builder here. I’ve mourned her as a person for a week now, but this moment is about her sheer goddamn utility! It feels heartless to say, but right now I’m sad that I’m going to spend the rest of my goddamn life struggling to do things that would have been trivial if she was alive. RIP Builder, you were so very convenient.

New Boss: All hail Adapter, Sad Queen of Sad Town. May her reign be long and just. I’ve detailed the Ultras that I thought did the least in the battle to stay behind as her guards, and I’m going to carefully not think about how long she’ll be able to keep this place above water. At the every least, she isn’t actively maniacal, and honestly, the Regime being how it is, I’m going to call that a win.

Owner stuff: Owner spent today selling things to the people of Ar Harbour. They really love the idea of trading useless plastic cards they find in the ruins for Old World stuff, and I think some of the things I saw her selling will be actual Quality Of Life improvements. Owner doesn’t know it, but I think she’s just guaranteed herself a place in future excursions, at least in the aftermath.

For her part, she is always happy to sell when/where she can, but best of all is a place she hasn’t been active before. Credit Cards are a couple thousand bucks each in her private world, and when she trades them for beers and candy it helps to build up her operating funds.

Warband stuff: They were mostly hopping about on my errands today, and what time I left them for their own devices was mostly about celebrating the new Boss and the stuff leading up to and following away from that. They are getting a bit restless, methinks, so it is a good thing I’m planning on leaving tomorrow. The DID do some practicing on those bikes. I’d say that they are adequate, at this point, did wonders for their morale, at least. I’d forgotten that bike riding is a lot of fun.

Very weird to observe the warband enjoying anything. For a group of merciless killers they sound a lot like a bunch of teenagers/twentysomethings when they let their fists down.

Frightening Trivia: The guy who attacked me at the end, who staved in my skull, was apparently Arthur’s lover, went by ‘Mordred’. Warband asked around about him, apparently he still had his buffs after Arthur died, ran out of town, and was heard, and I quote, ‘swearing vengeance’. Jesus. I expect I’ll see him again sometime, hopefully I won’t go into our next bout with a crippling chest injury. If I’m lucky he’ll be pissed at Her, not me.

I’m never lucky.

 

Tomorrow (that is, Day 6 of Mission 2, where I’m assuming She will have something for me to do on or around Day 30): We set off, first thing in the morning! Time to go back to Shington.

 

 

Player Votes:

  1. Pass on ‘Living’ to Merlin or no? Doesn’t look like the Union is going to get back to me before I set out on the road. If Yes, give a brief synopsis for Blender is setting this up for anyone Snitching on her.
  2. Let me know what you want to do about recruits. They will both come along if you push, Soarer seems like she might be a flight risk (ha ha), but doesn’t need any transport at all. Viber needs special transport (Can’t ride a bike, Blender won’t share a vehicle with her.)
  3. Give me the basic plan for getting back. You have a car, a truck and a bunch of bikes. Shington is a day’s driving, a week or so on bikes. Blender is the best navigator of the crew, but now that you’ve made the trip once it is much less likely that anyone gets lost.
  4. Getting rid of ‘Living’ tags. Blender must get rid of at least one of these. She can keep another extra, though she’d be more comfortable getting rid of both. Let me know who gets the tag she is definitely dropping, with choices ranging from a local (after your healing none are in poor healthy, but an extra life never hurt), your Resistance contact, a member of the Posse (builds loyalty?), Merlin, or anything you want to write in.
  5. Last minute actions? It is pretty set in stone that Blender and Co. are heading back on the morning of Day 6, but you still have the night before if you think of anything you want to get done.

 

Thanks for responding, as always!

Condemner 9:2

I climbed up onto a higher level of the toppled structure, flickering my form back and forth between human and flame in as needed. It was bare seconds before I got onto the vantage point and looked out across a toppled city.

I wasn’t ‘that’ high, really. Just twenty or thirty feet up, having scrambled onto a section where two walls had fallen against one another, improbably retaining their integrity.

It was enough, however, to get me up above the dust clouds, and give me the basic layout.

I was close to the middle of a great and expanding ring of ruin, a cancer of disorder within a metropolis of tangled and looping buildings. All the havoc we’d sown, all the destruction and chaos, was still confined to the city’s heart. This place was goddamn enormous.

The Union’s skiffs filled the sky, zipping about the edge of the ring letting people on and off of the few still intact buildings. Drones whirled and flitted between them, clearly acting according to some kind of complicated pattern that I couldn’t immediately follow. The overall impression was one of gathering menace.

I dropped back down into the ruin I’d climbed without a second thought, heart pumping a mile a minute.

I knew too much to believe that I hadn’t been seen. Their weird thinking machine had no doubt had a camera pointed below, and it would be tagging me and bringing me to their Ultra’s attention as soon as the matter could reasonably be seen to.

Shit!

I rolled into a sort of a crack between the learning wall I’d been climbing on and the ruined foundation that had risen up against it.

I forced myself back to a simulacrum of calm, forced myself to think. I was Condemner, damnit. I was not tinder, but fire! Not a victim, but the calamity which came upon them!

The Union were gathering their forces above the city. They would launch a descending strike as soon as they had enough, dropping down and taking us out.

The Pantheon troops were leaderless and already decimated. If a third had made it out of Istanbul I’d be shocked. They were doomed, their deaths already woven into destiny, to be actualized as soon as the enemy got sufficient force here.

My time, therefore, was brief. My only path to survival was to grow, to become a conflagration that nothing and no one could overcome, to burn up the Union’s forces and the Pantheon’s alike, render all and sundry down into the black ash.

I felt a twinge of something at the thought, but I couldn’t grasp it before it had fled. Some remnant of thought from the pattern that had once been my Nirav mask. I brushed it aside in annoyance.

If there were shelters to be found, if there were humans, souls, to be taken, then they would be underground. I wasn’t going to find them up here on this heap. But climbing had served a purpose, nonetheless.

The entrances to the shelters would have been beneath buildings, not out in the streets. People would have gone in by climbing down stairs or pushing buttons on elevators.

It wasn’t immediately obvious, down on the ground, where the buildings had previously touched down. Their writhing construction veered heedlessly here and there, and the rubbles and dust clouds further obfuscated the issue.

But from above it hadn’t been hard to see the pattern. In my brief peek out I hadn’t been entirely consumed with the sky. I’d memorized the location of the nearest foundation, just across the street, past a burning vehicle of some sort.

I rolled to my feet, already starting my sprint. I felt a tension across my shoulder blades, like at any moment a beam would descend from the sky, a one shot kill to my human form. The temptation to change, to get quickly back into my formless glory, tore at me.

But I couldn’t indulge it. Not yet. The human form conserved energy. My fire form expended it. If I wanted to last through the Union’s assault then I would need endless energy. I couldn’t be spending any here. Not so soon.

That nagging sensation again, but I pushed it aside as I made it across the street. I threw myself down in the dirt once again, pressed my flesh against the ground like I’d done when I was trying to get the water out.

This time, however, my attention was not on my form, but on the space in my mind where I liked to think my master’s voice lived. The space I leaned on when I saw the nature of other Ultras, or tried to speak to them. The area where my musings about the Entities had come from.

I didn’t get anything at first, but I persisted. The me that lived there, the greater me, the Entity, it was watching our universe from the outside. It was perceiving from a vantage that was beyond physics, an ultimate perch, utterly beyond detection and countermeasure.

It made sense that I, Condemner, couldn’t tell whether or not there were humans a few dozen feet below me. Physics inhibited my gaze, my hearing. There were obstructions.

But not such obstructions would exist to the being that should be controlling me, to the outer being, the greater one, the one for whom I was gathering these experiences. If I let it control me, let its impulses guide me, then I should be able to find my prey with ease.

I lay still for a long moment after having this thought, and the main thing I thought was that I was being ridiculous. I was wasting precious time just laying on the ground. I should be doing literally anything else.

As revelations went, it wasn’t the best, but I decided it meant that there were probably no targets here.

I sprang back to my feet, feinted towards the way that I’d come and then sprinted off in the other direction, looking to cross the street and hit up another foundation.

It was over in seconds, I hopped through a gap in a cracked wall and found myself in another ruined building, one that had kept maybe a floor or two intact from the ground.

I was just about to move on when I felt a sort of a twinge, the very thing that I’d just been begging for. I squinted into the dusty dimness of the wreckage.

Nothing moved. No sound. But I had a hunch that there was someone here.

“Hey,” I whispered. “Hey help! I’m bleeding and I need help!”

I tried to sound urgent, panicked but keeping it under control.

No response. They were either not here, not willing to expose themselves, or, it occurred to me a little too late, English was their enemy’s language.

I bit back a snarl and erupted into flame, spread myself rapidly into the depths of the structure.

I found what I was looking for almost instantly. A woman and her child were huddled behind a sort of a cracked pillar, their hands raw from scrabbling at an unyielding portal.

I was a lot more interested in the portal than I was in them. Their nourishment was paltry, barely justifying the transformation, but anywhere they were trying to get into was somewhere I wanted to be.

The doors were sealed tightly, it was true. Nothing solid could penetrate them. But they were still just doors, just solids. I pushed my glory onto them, pitted my boundless contempt against their idiot solidity, and saw them glow cherry red in weakness and surrender.

In a heartbeat I was within, clinging to upholstery and wiring, snaking my way down a buried staircase, tasting the fear and weakness on the wind.

A fancy grew in my mind that these people had called their own fate down on them. They had left the other outside, left her with a child, even! They invited disaster, their doom would be justice itself.

Another door stood at the end of the staircase, another futile insult to the reaper. Would I have done such a thing, hidden in such a way, if I had been blind to the truth of the world?

I took on human form again, unwilling to waste the energy on another door, not when there was an easier way to breach it.

“Hey!” I cried out. “Hey, help! I’m stuck out here!”

I heard motion behind the door, and my grin grew broader. The fools thought that charity in the present could wipe out the sin of their past, that what they’d done to the pair upstairs would pass without answer.

Gunshots were the next thing I heard, holes appearing in the door.

I staggered, my hands going automatically to a torso pierced and shattered. How had their, they, had I…they were guilty they…

I slumped, more gunshots ringing out, more bullets whistling by, my eyes arrested by the flood of red dripping down in to the dust.

Had I been wrong? Could I be wrong? The notion was absurd, but the world made its judgements in pain, and I had been hurt. My form had been pierced, shot down from ambush.

My form…the thoughts connected, and my gift flared once more, saw me reborn majestic and calamitous.

I’d assumed the door was armored as the one above, and put my form foolishly before it. The Entities had allowed me to be gunshot, remonstrating me for my error. I had only their mercy that no bullet had struck my brain.

More bullets followed, but they found only formless horror, only my searing rage. I swelled forward and pushed myself through the holes that they’d made, flaring with the urge to avenge and destroy.

The room beyond was nothing like the tomblike and cramped hallway leading up to it. It was lit and spacious, more like a large meeting room than the squalid shelter I’d been imagining. Nor was it filled with refugees.

Instead, a posse of soldiers were scrambling away from me, guns barking wildly as they blasted this or that segment of the flames, bullets hunting for anything they could hurt.

A pair of women stood back from the tumult, back where the other head of the big table would have been were this in fact a meeting room. One raised her hand and sent pain flaring through me as an almighty boom resounded through the hall.

I writhed and curled, dropping myself down to the carpet as the door exploded above me. I hadn’t had the slightest chance to dodge or avoid the strike, and it had taken a sizeable portion of my power.

Was this a lightning gift? Was that awful noise it’s thunderous herald? The dreadful power that She was rumored to fear? A gift that gave no time to dodge, no way to mitigate it?

She began to lower her hand, adjust the angle of her gift’s attack, and I reacted preemptively, instinctively. I split myself, pulled my being out of the flames that had entered the room, centered myself within those I’d left in the hallway.

Another bang, another blast, and the portion of me I’d left in the room beyond was eliminated, along with a huge section of the floor. I fled in gibbering terror, licking rapidly along ceiling and wall, cringing and clinging to keep my profile low, hoping that her gift had destroyed the area that she’d need to stand in if she wanted to pursue.

No one pursued, or at least no one who could match my Ultra Speed. I went hand over feet up the stairs, reverting to humanity in my panic, stubbing newly created fingers and toes in my heedless haste.

I passed into the ruins again, back into the dust and the smog, striding through the ashes of those unfortunates who’d been stuck here before, mind awhirl with revelation.

That hadn’t been a shelter, it had been a living space, or a working space, at least. The city wasn’t just on the surface.

I wasn’t sure why I’d jumped the conclusion that it would be, but it made perfect sense for it to be otherwise.

The Union had mastered technology, harnessed for themselves the arts of our world. They could put their dwellings anywhere they wanted, and they had enemies aplenty. Why wouldn’t their cities extend beneath the ground?

There was no reason to think I’d been unlucky in my choice. They probably had Ultras beneath every building, soldiers creeping about beneath us, their supercomputer coordinating so they could strike at the perfect time.

The soldiers above were only half of the trap. The other half would come from beneath, an envelopment in three dimensions, and a fatal end to the Brides of Zeus.

Another of those idiot thoughts flickered through me, of Dale, the brute who had sought to command me. But one more Ultra worth of power couldn’t save me in this predicament, and there were probably plenty of Brides with more than he had.

I took off running from the building, fleeing back into the streets, seeking desperately.

The clock wasn’t out just yet. There were still Ultras all around, still humans even. I turned my head frantically as I ran, seeking any motion, any sign of life.

The dust had fallen yet further while I’d been occupied, now I could see all around me. The streets were barren, for the most part, rubble choked and barren.

The Brides must be in the distance, pushing the perimeter of destruction still further into the city. The Union lurked, preparing to pounce, their forces mustering above and below. I was mostly alone here, the fire at the center of the spreading ruin.

I refused to accept it, refused to wait cowering for the Union to snuff me out. I sprinted through the streets, Ultra Speed letting me eat the distance up.

I tripped and fell a few times, rolling and jumping back to my feet without letting my momentum drop.

There had to be something, anything, in this wreckage. Had to be Ultras, humans. I couldn’t be done, not yet.

And then, there was.

Vampire popped into existence, her once pristine form chipped and battered, twenty feet up and dropping.

I sprinted straight for her, only pulling to a stop when she got back to her feet, ten fateful feet away.

“Condemner, right?” she asked, holding a hand to a bleeding cut across her forehead.

She was squinting in the dust, obviously woozy. Could I get her?

Prevailer had spent a lifetime proving the infallibility and superiority of teleportation, the ultimate power of existing only where you wanted to. It was an article of faith among Ultras that such a defense could not be beaten.

“Yes, Vampire,” I said, taking another step towards her. Eight feet now, or less. I could cross the divide in a fraction of a second.

Vampire’s teleportation had a weakness that Hers did not. She could only move that which was in shadow. Once I was on her there would be no escape, once the bitch was afire there would be thing she could do, she wouldn’t be able to move herself.

“What the-“

I hurled myself towards her while she was still speaking, bursting into unquenchable flame.

Stone appeared before me when I was inches away from her, rubble and wreckage that I burst through without effort.

Only to find her no longer there. She’d warped herself in the second when the obstruction had shaded her from my light.

It took me a second to locate her, she’d placed herself on a nearby section of rubble looking coldly down at me through the haze.

Looking down at ME! Looking down on the fire itself!

Death was too good for this one, but it was the best I could do.

Regime Quest 39

Day 0:

Main action: I rest, using my gift to heal myself.  All day.  All goddamn day.  I’m stir crazy by the end of it, but there isn’t any way to make my gift work faster.  I endure tripled sensations all day long as I force life force into my shell of a body, repairing damage I never should have survived.

Owner: Owner is mostly sad today.  I told her to get started on working out a way to get back, but I don’t think she’s doing much more than crying about Builder.  She tells me Builder threw herself across her when the Union busted into their truck.  She tells me Builder took out that enemy tank right at the start of the fight.

I never even saw it.  It must have been during one of the times I was getting tackled.  I’m honestly a bit broken up about Builder too.  I liked her.  KEM or whatever, but I wish she hadn’t died.

Warband: They mostly settle in, bossing people around and stealing stuff.  I try to distract them with a party, and that kind of works.  I don’t think anybody has died since the end of the battle, but honestly I don’t have any real control right now.  They follow strength, and I can’t even fake that.

 

Day 1:

Main Action: I continue to heal myself!  Today I am much better, hat tip to being magic, it is great.  I go out with the Warband this time, getting them in line and planting the idea about their needing to be a Boss for the city.  It will be nice to have a carrot to use on them.

Side note, my forehead has healed and it is horrific.  It looks like a divot in a golf green.  Like a piece of my skull a little bigger than a silver dollar spun on its side, so I have a kind of protruding horn with two dips on either side, all skinned over.  I’ve pulled my Sigil across it, after some vague modifications.

Side Side Note: I tried to give ‘Living’ to a body, no dice.  I can only give attributes to people (and my fucking turtle).  This tripled senses thing isn’t getting any easier.  I fucking hate this.  I will find someone who wants this.

Owner: Owner is very sad about Builder.  She has been commiserating with some of the Warband, who share her feelings, and they made a kind of a little shrine for our dead.  Flowers and the like, much more tasteful than I’d have guessed.  No big progress on getting home.  She did pull herself together enough to say that renting things in her imaginary world doesn’t let her pull them through.  She has to own them.

She’s started ‘hiring’ some Ar Harborers, not sure how I feel about that.  If she can open up a location here, however, she can pop out some Old World goodies, which will help morale a lot.  I kind of missed my chance to stop her while I was healing though, so I’ll just have to trust that the funds will work out.  I *think* each new location is a net plus, like, gas stations are profitable in her imaginary world.  We’ll see.

Owner Side Note: Someone told her that the old department store was once a business and it may have given her ideas.  She was talking to someone about ‘how much that would cost if it was new’.  My hazy recollections of the time before the collapse kind of say that big box stores and little stores are in different economic worlds, but who know how her bullshit gift works?  At least she seems to be doing something other than crying.

Warband: I’ve got the warband trying to do the ‘hearts and minds’ thing with the locals.  Framed it as a favor to the new Boss (which they each think will be them).  Get the locals in an easier mood to handle.  The truth, of course, is the opposite, I’m trying to work on my Ultras, get them in a better mood.  If they are proud of getting the Ar Harborers to respect/like them they will be less likely to start a pogrom as soon as I’m gone.

I don’t know how likely this is to work, basically everyone involved has lost loved ones at this point, but I don’t lose a lot by trying.  Let the flowers of community blossom, fertilized by the manure of ‘or we kill you’.

Warband Side Note: Some casualties weren’t fatalities, looks like we have 19 survivors, plus me and Owner.  If I leave 2 or 3 behind to run Ar Harbor I will have a veteran squad to be the core of my new warband.

 

Day 2:

Main Action: I am healthy  again!  I can move around, jump up and down, whatever.  It is very freeing.  I’m naturally celebrating by not moving or jumping, but instead doing a bunch of boring interviews as I try to find out who the Boss should be for Ar Harbor.

I’m DQing sadists, idiots and blatant Ultra supremacists, which leaves me with the following 4 candidates.

Candidate One: Hexxer.  She seems essentially untroubled or phased by what has happened.  Acts no differently than she did back in Shington, never really shows emotion.  Asked what her responsibilities would be, other practical questions.

Candidate Two: Adapter. Owner’s partner in sorrow, Adapter was the one who reached out to Smasher when she was in a bad way.  She’s deep in a funk right now, but from what I remember of her back in Shington she’s normally a fairly kind and upbeat person.

Candidate Three: Peeler. Peeler is a ragingly ambitious Ultra, the sort of woman who might want to be Warlord some day.  She has twice the energy of any of the other candidates, would definitely take actions, just no way to tell if they would be good or bad for the people of Ar Harbor.

Candidate Four: Guager.  A dude, strangely enough.  He doesn’t communicate, but he can sense what people intend when he looks at them with his giant eye.  He is a people pleaser, driven to satiate the desires of those he sees.

I’ll have to pick one of them to leave behind when we leave, and probably one or two of the Ultras to stay and be their guards.  Most any of them should be strong enough to hold the place from bandits and stray Ultras.  The only trouble would be if the Union came back.

Owner Action: Owner got her Ar Harbor gas station up and running.  I can only imagine that in her imaginary world there was already one in operation and she just walked in and bought it from its owner, because there was no way you could set up a business that fast in the old world I remembered.

Today, for her, seemed to be mostly about getting it set up properly.  Making sure she had enough hires from the town, making sure everyone knew to bring credit cards and cash, that kind of thing.  Once that was done she brought some old world panache to our party, let us have a proper (that is, lubricated) celebration of our victory.

Warband: Today they mostly were waiting to meet with me, but I did start to notice that my efforts to paint our time here as an uncomplicated victory was meeting with some success.  I started seeing people walking with a little pride, people bragging about how awesome they’d been during the battle.

It was a point I’d been pushing ever since the end of the battle.  This was a win.  We were winners.  I was awesome.  Best Warlord ever.  That kind of thing.  Flattery applied with a fucking shovel.  They seemed to be buying into it.  Hopefully by the time we got back they’d have echoed it enough times to really believe it.

 

Day 3.

Main Action: I spent today with the vanquished, doling out healing to the people of Ar Harbor and giving them an idea about what to expect from being part of the Regime.  This was important work, but the actual goal I had was a lot simpler.

That was to understand what the fuck I’d just walked into.  King Arthur and their whole deal had never made a lot of sense to me, and I didn’t like not understanding things.

What I got back was hard for me to understand.  I am, down at the core of me, something of a consequentialist.  So I judge actions by what happens when you do the actions.  There are knock on effects and incentives to consider and all, but at my core I’m the kind of person where to convince me to do something you should tell me what it will accomplish.

That’s…not what happened here.

There’s a kind of person who, back in the day, would have sold essential oils or tried to get everybody ready to board their ark.  They have the ability to, I dunno, sort of change everyone else’s calculations.  King Arthur was that kind of person.

She didn’t get everyone to think that rebuilding some buildings was going to lead to anything good.  They weren’t thinking about where things were leading.  They weren’t, I’d say, thinking at all.  They were Restoring America.  They were Fighting Back.  It was about Dignity, about Freedom.  Lots of capital letters flying around.

She tapped into a vibe I see a lot in KEM, a lot in my resistance colleagues.  The idea that there just has to be something you can do, you know, just world kind of thing.  “Are you just gonna sit there and lick nazi boots?” is a powerful argument to some people.  The counterspell is to ask how their course of action will actually work, but it doesn’t seem like anyone around here had the necessary combination of being practical enough to go there and powerful enough to fight the zeitgeist.

The Union came along at some point, metaphorically sitting down next to her and sliding their tongue in her ear.  They were trying to recruit her and Merlin, take them off to fight the Pantheon across the ocean.  It would have prolonged and improved their lives, would have let them do far more actual good, and might well have kept Ar Harbour from being sacked.  Naturally they turned the Union down flat, came up with excuses and reasons to stay here.

Apparently the Union had been getting steadily more strident about them needing to evacuate for all three months of Regime attacks.  People were quietly confident that if the Round Table crew had won this time the Union was going to just try and abduct them.  Funny to think about.

Still not answered is HOW they rebuilt all these fucking buildings.  The negative space in these stories is basically Ultra shaped, if you take my point.  I expect that somewhere in the vicinity of Ar Harbour, or maybe in the town itself, there is a woman who has a powerful gift indeed.

Also not answered is where I’m going to put these fucking ‘Living’ attributes.  I nearly slapped one on an informant as a ‘reward’ today, only barely came to my senses.  This isn’t getting easier.

Owner: Owner was on bike shop duty today.  My reasoning is that her alter self, the gas station owner, can go around town and by bikes for cheap, then turn around and sell them back for even cheaper.  The selling is whatever, just try and get a little profit, but the important thing is that while she owns them they will spawn copies in the real world, copies that we can ride back.

No progress yet, but she assures me that she understands the plan and is working on it.  I suspect that she’s mostly still grieving Builder, but I think her gift is primarily unconscious on her part, so that shouldn’t stop much.

Maybe she’d get over her grief faster if she was ‘living’?  She pointed out that I’ve always said giving an attribute is dangerous to the recipient and declined.

Warband: More partying, more celebration.  More interactions with the people of Ar Harbour for me to observe!  Peeler and Guager are the ones who seem to be getting on best with their prospective subjects.

The gals also found us a car!  It is just a sedan, and the engine makes a troubling noise, but it technically drives.  It belonged to an Ar Harborer, but they’d already donated it to Lancelot, so our thinking is that it kind of belongs to us in some weird, primitive way.  More honestly, they would probably be glad to lose a car if it also took a carful of us far away.

The band also tried to round up some people who knew how to repair trucks, but that went less well.  They found a few people, but there aren’t really any tools here for the job, and the trucks aren’t of a make/model that they might recognize, since Builder just spun them out of whole cloth.  They might ultimately get a truck fixed, just because with 4 to draw on their might be undamaged versions of every part, but doing everything by hand it will probably take too long.

 

Day 4:

Main Action: Today is about getting into contact with KEM/Resistance assets who are local, seeing if they have anything for me.  Snitcher is almost certainly not watching my current doings, so it should be safe.

Not that I’m abandoning protocols.  We’ll do the usual dead drop, etc, but I just can’t see him watching what I’ve been watching for the past few days.  No one who had the option to not have the tripled senses would fail to exercise it.

Resistance doesn’t have a lot for me.  Some stuff on local Ultras that I’m putting later on with the Warband’s queries.  Makes sense that most Resistance would be in the Regime, since that is what they are ‘resisting’.  There are some in Ar Harbour, of course, there are some anywhere that there are humans, but most of their info was about the Round Table gang.

KEM comes through with a doozy, though.  Merlin is apparently still alive, in some sort of Union medical pod on the outskirts of town.  She’s in a coma or something.  (My first thought is that here is someone who needs to be ‘Living’).  Interesting possibilities there.

Owner: Owner came through with the bikes.  Lots and lots of bikes.  I suspect she got more than we needed deliberately, with the idea that the Ar Harborers can use the ones we don’t take.

The pattern of being a reseller is a really good one to remember.  It should cut way down on our expenditures of her other selfs capital.  She needs to move into some kind of middleman business.

A snag, though.  Of the 21 of us, only 5 know how to ride bikes.  I’m one of them, of course, it turns out riding a bike is a lot like riding a bike.  You never forget it.

It’s also a lot like itself because tautology, but that’s less surprising.

The rest of the Ultras never had bikes, so they are going to have to learn how to ride if I want them to use these.  It could be a bit tricky.  Ultras don’t take humiliation well at all, and learning to ride a bike involves a lot of falling off bikes.  We’ll see.

Warband: The Warband had the assignment of finding out who the local Ultras are.  Not the ones we killed, obviously, but any others. There were a few lurking about.

Soarer is an Ultra who lives in the town, who can fly.  Like, super hero flight, like Subtracter has.  Just go any direction at any time.  She can also grant this to someone else while she is in skin to skin contact with them.  No Ultra strength/toughness/speed (what we call combat attributes), so she didn’t become part of the Round Table.  We were able to find her easily enough.

Sprouter makes plants grow really fast.  Not, like, ‘vines rise up and throttle her enemies’ level of fast.  But fast enough to get multiple harvests per season out of a patch or two of veggies.  If the Company didn’t exist Ultras like this would be really valuable.  She has low level Ultra Strength, scaling up as the number of plants under her influence increases.  We haven’t found her yet, but she lives pretty close to town, we could probably round her up.

Viber um…controls time.  I dunno, yeah.  This is the answer as to how the buildings got repaired.  Her gift makes time around her go at the speed of her general energy.  If she is happy it goes fast.  So happy her spends long time, but only short time goes by in the outside world .  If she is sad it goes slow, so she spends a brief time sad and a long time goes by in the outside world.  The resistance was nonspecific about how bad the dilation can get, but the impression I got was like 10x either way.

We haven’t gone in and got her yet, but the area she is in is known.  The Ar Harborers avoid it, but I could send someone in or go myself.  The Warband doesn’t know about her yet, I only found out because of being tipped off.

Gorger is an Ultra who can eat anything.  Stuff they eat just vanishes away into an extradimensional space instead of actually reaching their stomach.  They keep the traits of whatever they much on for a while.  I feel a bit of a kinship with her, our gifts have some stuff in common.  We found her easily, not hiding, just one more citizen.

 

Time for player vote as to how to proceed at this point!  The following things must be addressed.

  1. How to get back to Shington. We have plenty of bikes, but only 4 people proficient with them.  We also have a car, and Soarer could probably be persuaded to lend a hand.  Blender is a pro at travelling, and won’t do anything terribly stupid, but the Union might be watching for you.  You have 19 in the Warband, plus any locals you are recruiting, minus any you are leaving behind, plus you and Owner (you can ride a bike, Owner can’t).
  2. Who will be the boss of Ar Harbor? How many minions are you going to leave with them?
  3. What will Blender do with these ‘living’ tags? If your answer has her still holding onto them you need to get at least 2 votes behind it, to represent the strain.

You can also address other things beyond those 3.  Lots of possibilities, just make sure you hit those 3 at the minimum.

Thanks as always for participating!

Condemner 9:1

In a blink, a flash, I went from cowering in one city to cowering in another, entirely different one.

The new city was far larger, for more elaborate.  If Istanbul had cowed and intimidated the Pantheon’s Gods, then this would practically traumatize them.  The Union city we found ourselves in now looked like something from another world entirely.

It wasn’t just that the buildings were tall.  It wasn’t just that everything was immaculate.  It was that it was built, architected, like nothing I’d seen anywhere else.

Buildings rose into the sky, of course, but they didn’t do so in straight lines.  They meandered and twisted around one another, crossed whimsically and without any particular rhyme and rhythm all over the place.  It was creation without constraint, a godlike design scheme that acknowledged no restrictions whatsoever.

I looked around almost instantly, tearing my gaze away from the bizarre architecture to look for other people.

The first one I saw was a Bride, a tall, gangly woman that I didn’t know.

The second one was another Bride, a short woman who did some kind of spatial distortion thing.

Those were the only people visible along this street.  The metropolis was otherwise deserted.

“What the fuck is going on?” I shouted to them, jogging quickly in their direction.

Their body language was cowed, hunched.  They didn’t look like they had any more idea than I did about what was going on.  One minute we’d been struggling to survive Leveller’s tempest in the ruins of Istanbul, the next we were here.

“Where are we?” asked the taller one.

I was soaking wet, so a surprise attack was right out, but this fucker had the goddamn gall to look away from me, obviously not even considering that I might be able to threaten her.

I controlled my irritation.

“Somewhere in the fucking Union,” said the short one, who had a squeaky voice.

“What should we do?” asked the tall one, gawking at a set of skyscrapers that had been built to look like they were sort of ‘swallowing’ another, like enormous concrete and glass serpents.

“Break everything,” I said.  “Kill everyone.”

They looked at me for a second, then nodded.

A third Bride appeared out of nowhere, sort of off to one side.  I didn’t know her either.  I was starting to think I should have maybe paid more attention to these fuckers.

Off in the distance there was an explosion, but it was a bit too far away for us to see what had blown up.  Still, after the insanity we’d just escaped from, we all jumped a bit.

The short one reached out, stretching out her hands like she was grabbing ahold of something, then made a jerking motion.

One of the overhanging skyscraper/snake things sort of glitched across the sky, exploding through another building and bursting into a shower of rubble.

I took two quick steps to the side, my Ultra Speed working over time to track all of the pieces flying towards us.  A slab of something hit the tall Ultra, but just cracked in half on her upraised fist.  The other two were unscathed.

“Nice one Ymir!” said the new arrival, or something like that.  It wasn’t easy to hear over the cacophony, but I was alright at reading lips, and I liked to think my overself, the Entity that had made me, was helping a little.

The tall one seized a big chunk of rubble and heaved it like a shot put towards another building, even as Ymir reached out to do her spatial thing again.

I moved back towards the pair.

“Where are all the people?” I asked, but nobody seemed to have heard me.

The third Bride pointed in a direction neither of the other two had lashed out in yet, and a rushing column of oily brown smoke shot forth, writhing like a serpent as it rapidly expanded.

I decided to call them Ymir, Strong, and SludgeDragon in my mind.

“Ymir!” I shouted, trying to get her attention as she reached out for another pair of towers.

She shot me a questioning look.

“What?”

Once again I didn’t so much hear her as lip read.  Even that was starting to get harder.  Dust clouds were sort of rolling out from all the buildings we were damaging.

“I need to dry off!” I insisted.  “Can your gift help with that?”

She looked away from me, clapped her hands together and caused the buildings she’d been looking at to lurch towards one another.  Their fall started another cataclysmic propagation of rubble and smoke.

Guess that was a no.

“The Union!” I tried, this time yelling at Strong.  If I couldn’t get them to dry me off here, then maybe I could get them to escort me to somewhere that I could get it done.

I pointed frantically when she looked at me, trying to imply that the Union was over there, in the rubble and the billowing dust clouds.

As opposed, of course, to over the other way, in what was rapidly becoming rubble and billowing dust clouds.

She looked back to me, nodded furiously, then started running in the direction that I’d pointed, hands held up before her like she was boxing.  She nearly collided with another Bride who suddenly popped into existence.

I ran quickly over to the new bride, who had dreadlocks, before she could get to the other two.  I opened my mouth to ask her a question, but before I could get anything out she threw herself at me.

Only my gift let me react in time.  I twisted the foot I was stepping with and kicked my planted foot out from under myself, while simultaneously ducking/hunching over as much as I could.

It was just barely enough.  Her reaching arms missed me with inches to spare, and I rolled past before she could pivot and track me.

I didn’t think this was a deliberate move against our Fist, or anything like that.  I figured this was just an Ultra surrounded by chaos and debris lashing out at anyone she could see who wasn’t wearing the Brides’ characteristic outfits.

I kept on moving after my initial dodge, quickly losing myself in the dust and tumult. I wasn’t going to be able to usefully engage with them anyway, just a lot of mouthing stuff at each other while waves of grit and rubble swept over us.  Better to be on my own.

That had been an easy decision to make before I actually tried it.  I quickly found that my world diminished to a tiny sphere of haze and smoke.  I tasted dirt behind my teeth, and my eyes were constantly threatening to squint closed underneath the endless waves of irritating grit.

Being human, having a human form, it was the worst.  I longed for the purity of flame.  But there was no point in looking for towels or a heat source here.  I could hardly tell whether I was on a street, clambering over a toppled building, or pushing through the rubble where a building had once stood.  I wasn’t sure that there was a meaningful difference, at this point.

I reached up to rub some dirt off of my face, trying to force myself to think.

We had appeared in a city, obviously one of Union construction.

There were no people in evidence, and there had been no time to evacuate.

Put those two together and it made me think that Vampire’s move had been anticipated.  Wherever she’d sent us, if they knew enough to evacuate, they probably also knew enough to have a welcoming committee incoming.

The Union would be attacking soon, if they weren’t already.

All of a sudden my smothered surroundings took on a sinister cast.  I crouched, hunched down as though I could feel the snipers lining up their shots.

Did the Union have lenses that would let them see through this foul cloud?  Did they have computers to do that?  It felt like a thing that they would have.  The images we’d seen of their attack on that one Host hadn’t seemed to have a lot of dust in the way.

I moved quickly, set my back to the next piece of rubble that I could find.  I had to force myself to think.

I’d survived the maelstrom of the original attack through blind luck and staying near the back.  That wasn’t an option now.  Vampire’s teleport, presuming that was who had warped me, hadn’t dropped us in anything like a formation.

I was in the middle of a city busily being demolished by the Brides of Zeus, presumably surrounded by Union forces.  Which meant I was in the middle of an utterly disorganized set of Ultras who were about to be besieged by their enemies, who would deliver continuous attacks until they fell.

Our march before had been enabled by the shield, and, I guess, the sheer numbers of the Grand Host and the Brides.  But after what I saw of the battle with Third Fist, those probably weren’t going to be a factor anymore.  Which meant that we would be open to constant and unremitting enemy assault.

Which meant, basically, that I was on borrowed time.

I was probably safe for now, for whatever value of ‘safe’ I was assigning my current status of being almost blind in a collapsing city where the world’s most powerful Ultras were rampaging.

But give it an hour, maybe two, the dust would have settled enough for military operations, the Union’s scouts and spies would have taken our number and measure, and they could start a surgical dismantling of our forces.

I was pretty sure I would be one of the first targets in such a campaign.  If I were the enemy I would pencil in a bullet to my own head pretty much instantly.  Even if they only thought it would keep me gone until the end of the day that would still be plenty of reason to bother with it.

I spared a thought for the idea that Haunter’s vague schemes with the scouts might have brought us some kind of truce or friendliness with the Union, but I couldn’t make myself believe it.  We’d mindfucked their ambassadors.  They’d tried to slaughter us back in the Regime.  We were enemies.

Besides, did I even want to be friends with them?

I squinted, kneeling there in the grit.

How had I gotten so twisted around, so thoroughly ‘human’ about all this?  I was Condemner!  I was the devouring flame!

And right here, right now, I was surrounded by some of the world’s strongest Ultras, with their enemies in yet another ring around that, and I was mewling and whining about the possibility that I might not win this glorious battle?

And these idiots thought I was their fucking friend!  Their ally!  They thought the raging inferno could be reasoned with!

This was what I wanted my greater self to remember?  Crouching helpless in the rubble and bewailing my fate?

No.

I rubbed my wrists across my eyes, looking to dramatically wipe the tears away.  There weren’t any.  The dust had already taken them.

The dust.

I flopped myself down in the muck and the rubble, rolled frantically about like I’d lost all control of my limbs, like I was trying to put out a fire.

The truth, of course, was just the opposite.

I didn’t need a towel to dry off, didn’t need heat.  This gunk that was all about me would do the trick.  I writhed vigorously against the stone, pushed my form across the ground as though I was a snake myself.

In due course my efforts were rewarded.  I could feel the change, the potential suddenly there.  I was myself again.

I did not, of course, turn instantly into my true form.  There was little to burn in this particular ruin.  It would be a waste of my gift.

What I needed was the fallen buildings themselves, they would no doubt have had wooden furnishings, plasters and fibers.  All sorts of flammable things.

What I needed was people.  Souls to fuel my rage.

The flying jail had been an appetizer.  The battle at Redo had been a cheat, my meal thwarted by Haunter’s gift.

Haunter.  That fucking bitch.

Behind a veil of murk and smog I let my face twist into a veritable rictus, a grin so wide it was fucking painful.

Haunter.  Indulger.  Preventer.  Those fucking bitches.  It was time to settle things with them.

I wasn’t terribly introspective.  I didn’t bother to ask myself why I’d suddenly decided to finish those fools off.  That wasn’t interesting.

What would be interesting was cooking them.  Baking them.  Raising the temperature just enough to hear them scream, but not enough to vaporize them.

I was going to fucking SEAR the rest of my fist.  Cook them for long minutes.  They had kept me restrained, kept me docile, for far too long.  The world believed that Torturer was the Ultra who could inflict the greatest pain, but I would throw my Sigil in the goddamn ring.

I stood up from the ground, hunched over and loped back into the streets of this collapsing metropolis.  I moved with all the speed my gift could grant me, changing direction constantly in an attempt to baffle hypothetical shooters.

Where were they?  Where was anyone?

A Bride loomed out of the smoke ahead of me, one that I recognized.  She was named after some mountain or other, she could changed the directionality of things, make any direction ‘up’ or ‘down’ to friend and foe alike.  I think she also had a little Ultras strength.

She saw me coming, raised a hand, then lowered it as she recognized me.

I pointed behind her, let her turn, then set myself alight and descended upon her.

She didn’t even have time to scream.  I couldn’t chance her flinging me off, surviving and warning others.  I pushed my flame to the max and burned her flesh away before she could so much as gasp.

I was human again before a moment had passed, my motion carrying me into a roll and back into my hunt.

Had I passed through her gift anyway?  I dimly recalled that she’d been surrounded by the effect at a low level, enough to push bullets and weak foes away at least.  Once again I gave thanks for my formlessness, for fire’s divine lack of structure.

Lack of structure…something about that phrase caught at my mind.  Something about the city.

I found a mound of wreckage, alighted once again and began to rage through it, behaving as any flame might.  There was a considerable amount of flammable material within the fallen skyscraper, and none of the anti-fire devices humans loved to put in things would do any good when the whole place was a jumbled wreck.

Lack of structure…lack of structure… I mulled the notion over.

Earlier, I’d concluded that they had evacuated this city.  That certainly seemed to be the case, but this place was massive.  Could they have possibly gotten everyone out?

I gorged myself on a particularly fancy pile of cloth and wood, probably used to be a king sized bed.  I devoured a dog’s body and a potted plant that had somehow come down intact as the building collapsed.

It didn’t seem plausible.  How much warning could they have possibly had?  Someone had left a fucking dog!  How efficient could their moving systems possibly be?  The people couldn’t all be gone.

So where were they?  Something I’d been thinking earlier…

I returned to my human form, materializing within a section of the fallen structure.

The battle at Redo.  The people, their souls vouchsafed in Hunter’s bullshit gift.  Their bodies, crammed tight inside of a shelter.

Shelters.

I laughed derisively.

There would be no shelter from me.

Regime Quest 38

The next TFD update goes out tomorrow (Friday) night, thanks so much for all of your patience!

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“So, you’re Ar-“ I began, taking a step and a half forward, reaching down to one of those kneeling in the Process.

I didn’t get any further than that because the speaker flung himself towards me, body blurring with Ultra speed. He crossed the distance between us in an eyeblink, a fist flying towards my face.

I was reaching for a person, and now I transformed that motion into a grab, spent my final free moments dragging an obstacle into his path, hoping desperately to delay the incoming strike.

It didn’t work, his feet hammered out a rapid rhythm on the ground as he orbited nimbly to my right, his first punch landed in the hollow of my armpit as I dragged the human into a direction of attack he’s already abandoned.

I reeled away from the strike, agony racing through me. Having two ‘living’ attributes meant that I was feeling everything so much more intensely, and that was a huge problem when you were being beaten to death.

I didn’t get far, a bare few inches at most, before another hook slammed into my upper side, Ultra Strength burrowing it inches into my torso. I felt bile or blood rising in my mouth, my hands clenched convulsively.

This was how Smasher had fallen. Well, not the end, obviously, but how things had gotten that bad. An opponent with superior Ultra Speed and the strength necessary to hurt you was a nightmare.

I grabbed at his hand as it withdrew from the second punch, trying desperately to get a moment of skin to skin contact, but I missed it by a foot or more, moving in slow motion next to him. He ducked around back to the other side, rammed his fist, muffled by a shirt or gloves or something, into the wound I’d taken earlier.

I collapsed entirely, knees buckling and eyes rolling in my head, the pain utterly beyond my ability to cope with it. The human I’d grabbed fell with me, two bodies sliding towards the ground, limp and unresisting.

I didn’t make it to the ground unscathed, of course, as my opponent somehow pulled off some kind of hook kick to the side of my head. But even with my doubled senses at this point it was just pain overkill, I barely registered my neck wrenching to the side, my ear slamming down into my shoulder as I hit the ground.

I’d landed on my back, so I could see his heel rising up above me, the stomp incoming, a straight shot to my forehead that would put an end to all the pain.

The Ultras were almost here, but they could never stop this. He’d already begun the descent, choosing to kill me rather than jump away from their rush. I might have done the same in his place.

The heel descended, boot filling my view. The pain numbed me, tyrannized and cored me apart, leaving me helpless to move or twitch as death approached.

It was hardly the first time, after all.

A voice from the past came back to me, hard and thuggish, Subtracter in the full confidence of her idiot youth.

“Anybody know who threw that?”

Another voice, Blisser’s this time.

“You’re so *bad*!”

And finally Hers, curiously slower than all the rest.

“Heeeeeyy Aaaasssssshhhooo….!”

I regained my agency with the boot a centimeter from my face, no time to do anything physical. I called, at the last, upon my gift.

The person I’d grabbed, at the first, still hadn’t got my hand off of her face. She was ‘living’, and then she wasn’t.

The boot arrived, my skull cracked, buckled in. Tripled pain devoured the world as my head dug into the ground.

But I Did Not Die. I was living, living, living.

I’d never worn three of the same attribute before, rarely dared to pull two in to my being. Had I lost something? Was I no longer ‘mobile’, or ‘smart’? Would I know what I’d lost?

The enemy champion had jumped back after the deathblow, but the hands that were reaching for him wilted into subservience, my Ultras falling to their knees before him, taking the Posture.

Not before him, before Her.

Prevailer was here, all of a sudden, standing right behind my attacker. Her voice had been no flashback.

The enemy turned around instantly, blur quick, his side step placing him right between us and obscuring my view of Her.

Things fuzzed for me then, a spike of agony breaking past the numbness. I gasped aloud and arched my back, to the degree that I was capable of movement. My field of vision tilted as I did so, neck driving my head across the ground and leaving me staring off at the side wall while my attacker and my boss did their business.

I’d read somewhere that there were no nerves in the brain, but that turned out to be bullshit, because I was in a world of pain. Or maybe it was just all the other damage finally having its turn to be heard, the broken ribs and ruptured organs giving their threefold signals with all they were worth.

I lay there, frantically calling on my healing gift for all that I was worth, for a timeless infinity. It is a total cop out to say that something is indescribable, but that’s what I’m hiding behind. Ok, like, until you’ve been savagely beaten beyond the point where a body can sustain life, but hung onto it anyway by stealing other people’s life force through a gift, twice, you can’t know my pain.

It was bad, is what I’m getting at.

I think I got enough wind back to start screaming at some point, which would have been the end of me, except someone clamped a hand over my mouth the moment I started, leaving me making forceful and energetic vibrating/humming noises instead of the full throated screams I was trying for.

All that time ensuring my Posse and Warband were loyal was paying off in spades.

Even more helpfully than muzzling me, or, at least, equally helpfully, that same person began to pick the bone bits out of the mess of gore that was my forehead, pulling things up and out to where they ought to be, or at least a sort of simulacrum of that.

The question of who the fuck would possibly put their hands on their boss with the death touch in this state was the start of my return to being a thinking, acting creature. I wasn’t even surprised when I got my stuff working again and saw Owner, stooped above me, with a knee across my throat and her hands clamped over my mouth.

I tried to move my arm, and shockingly enough it did the thing I wanted it to, which was to thrash weakly against her leg.

She ignored it, continuing to grind my jaw closed with both hands, not even really looking down at me, her gaze locked on someone else, presumably Her.

I was about to push more forcefully, then tried something a bit more complicated, tapping my arm rapidly against her leg in the Ultra Fight ‘tap out’ gesture.

She looked down at me then, and I saw face ravaged by grief, now breaking into the smallest hint of relief. We locked eyes, and hers widened slightly.

I’d known Owner for a long time, so if anyone was going to do the ‘wordless communication’ thing, it should have been us, but actually all I got out of that was ‘my eyes are slightly wider’.

I gave a slight nod, because, you know, nonverbal communication is bullshit and I was in a lot of pain. She let up on the muzzle hold that she’d been sustaining for however long I’d been laid out, hands relaxing just the slightest bit.

I managed, through what I’d like to describe as a colossal feat of willpower, but was more likely just a general inability to do things at this time, to not scream as soon as it was possible.

I’m not saying that I was choosing to scream and it was not something I could pull off, to the extent that I was the driver of my brain ship I was all about being silent in case She was still around, but that extent wasn’t nearly as large as I would like, and the involuntary caucus was worryingly influential.

I tucked my chin, slightly, bringing my gaze back to where things had been going on last time I was able to watch. Things hadn’t got too much farther, which meant that either I hadn’t been brain locked for a terribly long time, or King Arthur was really good at verbal tap dancing, and had kept herself alive in front of Her for however long it had been. Or both.

She’d been unmasked, at least. King Arthur was a slight woman of middle years, she was currently standing in front of Prevailer, saying some stuff that I was a bit too far away to hear. Her champion was inconspicuously backing away towards one of the windows, and the other locals were down in the Posture, along with my guys.

I tried to rise to my feet, and was almost unable to recognize my situation when I actually did. Like, I was rising, my point of view was going up, how had that happened?

Owner, peerless saint that she was when she wasn’t kneeling on my goddamn neck, had recognized my straining and lent a shoulder to me, hoisting me up and supporting me. I decided to tell her not to, to let her know that She took a dim view of people aiding one another.

“Bluhhh…” I said.

Work in progress, clearly. I focused on my healing gift again, reasoning that if I wanted it to work faster it might.

Across from us, people were saying words.

“Why did you rebuild all this stuff?” asked Prevailer.

“We are bringing America back.” retorted King Arthur. “We are bringing civilization back!”

“Oh,” She said, sounding a little disappointed, “You are just dumb. I was hoping that there was a cool reason.”

“You can’t stop all of us,” said Arthur. “One day someone will put an end to your tyranny.”

She didn’t say anything to that, not directly, just kind of looking around a bit.

I flinched away from what I assumed would be some kind of extravagant vivisection, but nothing happened for a long beat.

“Look, Imbuer,” said Prevailer, after thinking a bit. “You did me a solid by fixing this place up. I’ve wanted to come here for a while, kind of regretted that Karen knocked it all down, so, like, what do you want?”

“My name is King Arthur!” snapped my adversary, who was apparently out of her fucking mind, “And I want nothing from you!”

This time I knew there wouldn’t be a beheading or whatever. She was playing with Her food now, a bully chasing the high.

“You know Arthur was a dude’s name, right?” She asked. “Well, whatever. I can tell what you want easy enough. You kept fighting after you’d already lost, tried your best to kill my Warlord over there.”

She waved a hand lazily at me, then did a double take when She actually saw me.

“Cover that shit up!” She snarled. “Gross!”

Owner, in a moment of dubious sainthood, instantly pulled my shirt up from my waist over my head, leaving my arms kind of hanging up in the air and an exceptionally irksome pressure on the still healing broken part of the skull in the front.

On the other hand, it was to prevent Her from ending me, so I couldn’t be all that mad.

“Yes,” admitted King Arthur, “I strove to destroy your fearsome champion.”

Prevailer took a long look at her ‘fearsome champion’, who was presently doing the what I’m hoping was an awesome power pose of ‘shirt over the top of my head, you don’t even know where I’m looking!’.

“It’s Your,” corrected Prevailer. “And that’s a fair trade.”

“What?” spluttered King Arthur.

Hidden behind my shirt, I winced. Here it came.

“Kill yourself,” said the ruler of the Regime, “And I’ll kill Blender.”

“You wouldn’t!” she snarled.

“Sure I will,” said Prevailer. “What do I care which one of you idiots does which job?”

Another long beat. I couldn’t exactly bring myself to feel sympathy for King Arthur, not after what she’d done to my friends, and the danger she’d placed her followers in with her conduct during this battle, but I was rooting for her right now.

“You’ll really kill her?” she asked, voice not so strident now.

Even though she was my enemy, I was hoping that she could hold onto her dignity right now. But I probably would have broken in her place. Everyone would.

“It’s ‘You’ll’“, She said.

“You will really kill her, if I kill myself?” asked Arthur, and God help me, she capitalized the pronoun.

“Sure,” She said.

“Goodbye you fucker!” snarled Arthur, and made some kind of quick motion.

With my view obstructed by the shirt I couldn’t really see well what was happening, but I heard the gunshot clearly enough, saw her vague form topple down to the ground.

Prevailer walked over.

“Get your people back to the Lair,” She said. “Subtracter will tell you the next place in a few weeks. Leave a Boss behind in this dump to take over.”

I stood helpless, head muffled in a shirt, but Owner kind of flexed me in a manner that She hopefully took as a nod.

“Oh,” She said, “Make sure you keep the people out of the fixed up buildings for a few hours. I’d like to be alone.”

I didn’t think that would be all that hard.

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

 

That completes the first arc of Regime Quest! Thank you all so much for voting and reading along. Very lucky to survive this last update, a clutch role saw you through!

Some choices for you to make in the aftermath of the battle. Keep in mind as you form a plan that Blender is essentially going to need 2 days of healing from her own gift to be back right. The first day makes her not an invalid, the second gets her back in fighting shape. She can’t do a lot during the first day, and can’t really fight until after the second, but her followers can still get up to things.

 

  1. How do you pick which of your surviving Ultras you will leave as the Boss of Ar Harbour? (Interviews, random, other? Let me know the methodology and how much time you feel like spending on it.) Do you want to leave them any of your other followers as supporters?
  2. How long are you going to spend in Ar Harbour before heading back? What will you/your minions do there during that time? This answer can be as ‘if/then’ as you like, I will do my best to follow the logic of particularly complicated plans.
  3. With the trucks wrecked and Builder dead, how are you planning on getting back? Walking will take weeks, driving the better part of a day.
  4. Blender’s forehead divot seems like it will be permanent. Is she going to pull her Sigil down to conceal it, or push it back up to make it very obvious?
  5. Who is Blender going to give her two extra ‘Living’ attributes to? Remember that while you can pull them from anything, you can only give them to people and certain animals.

Regime Quest 37

Walter Note: Sorry for a short quest update after all this time.  Things have been, to overuse a worn out excuse, very crazy.  I’m about 3/4 through the next main story update, so it should drop fairly soon.  Thank you so much for your patience.

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

 

“This is REGIME territory now!” I shouted.

No one moved, no one looked me in the eye, no one flinched.

Blessedly, the big mouth up the stairs didn’t answer either, he just let the shout echo.

“You belong to Her!” I continued.  “You always did.  Your children will.  Everyone will.  The world does.”

I took a step forward as I said this, walking between the first pair of kneeling humans, my doubled senses alert for the slightest hint of movement.

Nothing.  They knelt and stared straight ahead.

“The Ultras who lead you belong to Her as well!” I told them, as I continued.  “They exist to entertain Her, their defiance is permitted only so long as it amuses Her.  The story that they told you, that they were somehow an independent power?  It was all a lie!”

I made my voice deliberately harsh, sneering and condemning.  I was really speaking over their heads, making my case to my boss back in Shington, trying to get Her to let me keep this going.

Flattery rarely hurt with insecure tyrants, in my opinion.  She should eat this kind of thing up.

I was approaching the bottom of the stairs now, presumably surrounded by a number of enhanced foes, hiding among their kin.  My Ultras were following at a discrete distance, maybe twenty feet behind me.

A few, visible in my peripherals, were shoving humans that they passed, roughly pushing them onto the ground.  None of them seemed to be killing yet, though, which was probably all I could ask for.

“A lie propped up by the Union, by a bunch of losers!” I shouted.  “A lie built on the backs of the Company that She controls!  Every one of these rebels, every last one of them, they all got the Process from Her.  Do you think She gave them a gift that could win against Her?”

The idea that the Company stacked the deck was a popular rumor, but I had no idea whether it had any validity to it at all.  All that mattered now was that it was plausible.  If it kept even one of her augmented warriors from jumping up and getting killed when all the rest made their move then it was worth the breath I was spending.

I took my first step on the stairs, bracing myself, ready for anything.

“King Arthur!” I yelled.  “Are you going to come down here and face your execution with pride?  Or are you going to hide up there, like the sniveling coward you are, throwing waves of daggers to their deaths because you are too much of a coward to come out and face me yourself?”

Up I went, step by step.  My crew were hanging back a bit, just now getting to the bottom of the stairs.  I was really hoping they remembered the whole ‘no more fucking dueling’ hint I’d dropped earlier.

I got to where I could see the second floor.

A similarly cavernous space.  Some old shelving, some old display stands, presumably replaced when they fixed this place up.  Some lights in the middle distance, and a small crowd of figures clustered around the top of the stairs.

In the Posture.

I couldn’t just stop and count, but there were about a dozen or so, perhaps a bit more nicely dressed than the folks downstairs.  More ladies then dudes.  I didn’t have time to really take them in because of the one guy who was standing up.

He was at the back of the group, maybe ten feet off the stairs, standing in front of one woman who was just kneeling, not actually in the full Posture.

He was a mean looking guy, not really built, but with the kind of look where you knew that if his beat ever produced brutality complaints they wouldn’t be about him, but they would be about him.

“Hey bitch,” he said.

He didn’t shout, wasn’t going for volume here.  Just a conversational tone, like we were buds.  But it was enough for me to verify that he was definitely the owner of the voice that had been taunting me before.

My mind went into overdrive, thoughts racing through at an impossible pace, faster than they’d ever gone in my life.

First, this guy was almost certainly the other half of her second set, all the power crammed into one champion.

Second, holy shit that makes him Subtracter, minus the flight.

Third, no, if she could do that she wouldn’t have fucked around with the army in the first place.  He is probably more like another Lancelot.

Fourth, my death touch ‘should’ work on him, but it might well take a more sustained contact, which will be very hard with the Ultra Speed deficit I’m staring down.

Fifth, my gals are coming up behind me, they will be here in an incredibly long ten to fifteen seconds.  They can definitely handle this guy.

Sixth, if She will let them.  This is a trap baited with the knowledge of what She likes.  Backing down will make me look like a bitch, which is extremely dangerous.

Seventh, the implication of the setup up here is that King Arthur is the woman behind the champ, but I don’t necessarily believe that.  There is another woman on his left and a dude on his right who would have both been in touch range before I got into view.

Eighth, time to act.

Regime Quest 36

“Finish them!” I roared, and my crew suited action to words.

It wasn’t very difficult.  These people were less numerous and less powerful than those we’d faced before, and while our own survivors had dwindled there was a weird characteristic of Ultra forces that made that less of a concern than it might have been.

Imagine that you faced a hundred enemies, and you had a bunch of friends with guns.  Say that half of them were bulletproof.  You start shooting, and you kill five, then ten in the next salvo, then you do some amazing shooting and you get 25 in the next volley!  You are feeling incredible, top of the world, but we all know that you can’t get more than ten more, just because that’s the total limits of those it is possible for you to kill.

This happens with Ultras.  For a given attack, you can affect a certain variety of our kind.  Once those susceptible to it are dead, you are just making us mad, you need to switch things up if you want to do any more damage.

What King Arthur was doing here flew in the face of modern military doctrine.  He’d started with his heavies, then followed it up with less augmented troops.  Anyone that was vulnerable to them would have already died in the first wave.

I pushed forward, thrusting my way gingerly into the back of the melee, trying to find an opponent who wasn’t quite dead.  I couldn’t be gimping my way along here any further, couldn’t risk angering Her with my passivity.

I found someone bleeding out on the ground, put a hand to their head, but they didn’t have ‘Living’, as one of their tags, so I pushed on.

Or, at least, I lurched on.  Bending over to touch a person laying on the ground had been easy.  Straightening up was apparently something my body and I were going to fucking negotiate about, so I sort of zombie staggered forward, grabbing one of my Ultras from behind.

She did a spinning backfist kind of move, but fortune was with me, and she didn’t have any Ultra strength, so it just sort of glanced off of my head.  I hadn’t stopped my forward momentum, so we both started to topple, ramming into the minion she’d been fighting and sliding down to the ground in yet another undignified heap.

Even as my hands scrambled around, looking for exposed skin on the Ar Harbour gal, I was ruminating on how many times I’d fallen over today.  It had to be some kind of tragic record.

I got my hand on her wrist as she planted it on the ground, trying to scramble back up, and I killed her with my gift.

Immediately I felt both better and worse.  Better in that I was ‘living’ for two once again.  Everything was clearer, crisper, and, critically, the pain in my chest felt half as bad.  I stood without difficulty.

Worse in that I wasn’t able to push my thoughts down random tangents any more, and I was looking at a giant red mess that had once been a few dozen people.

“Listen up!” I shouted, and then I repeated myself as people started going quiet.

There weren’t that many of us anymore, and no one on the other team was saying anything, so I could finally do some commanding.

“Force rules the world!” shouted one particularly enthusiastic warband member, so we did a round of the call and response, but I cut it off after one.

I looked around at the group, acutely sensitive to how badly this could all go.

My life had ended, in most of the ways that mattered, when Subtracter and some goons had showed up at our village and done basically what I was doing here.  They killed everyone who resisted and then terrorized and bullied the rest of us.  My brother had been a ‘sky burial’ which is what Ultras call it when we throw a dagger into space.  Another Ultra who’d seen it had started an argument about whether or not Subtracter hit the moon, and another dozen people were dead by the end of it, none of them Ultras.

I’d always told myself that I would rather die than become Subtracter.  We had killed, yes.  In the Regime’s service, yes.  But thus far the only ones who had died were those who had attacked us.  They’d chosen their fates, no different than if they had walked off a bridge.

But it wouldn’t stay that way.  Not unless I was very careful.  My crew’s blood was up now, they’d all lost friends.  I had to do this very carefully.

“Everyone!” I shouted again.  “We are going in after the enemy leader now.”

Another cheer interrupted me, but I gave them a throat cut gesture and they fell silent.

“We are going after the enemy leader,” I repeated, this time in a non shouting tone.  “This King Arthur.  She is probably up on the second floor, if any of you have been noticing those trails that come out of the enemy when they fall.”

No one spoke up, but I couldn’t believe that I was the only one who’d seen them.

“When we go in there,” I continued, “We are going to be facing whatever daggers she’s gifted, plus a lot of other daggers waiting their turns to be buffed, ok?”

Lots of nods, they followed.

Regime people, people of the new world in general, they weren’t actually any dumber.  It was just easy to make myself think that, because everyone was so fucking ignorant.  But it wasn’t stupidity.  There wasn’t something in the water.  They could reason just fine.

“We don’t have to kill the daggers,” I said.  “No glory there.  We are taking out King Arthur and anyone her gift has augmented, ok?”

People nodded and there were a few muttered answers, but I could sense the lack of enthusiasm.  It wasn’t enough.

“Look,” I said.  “You all saw how Smasher died, right?”

Now I had their attention.  They had revered their captain.

“She stopped THINKING!” I emphasized.  “She went with her gut, and they capitalized.  We can’t do the same thing.  Reason is what brings victory, reason is what we need!”

I was half dreading another round of the Regime’s mantra, but they didn’t interrupt, faces tight and intent on my next words.

“Time spent swatting daggers is time wasted!  It lets Arthur make another Knight, or two more!  We won’t give her that chance!”

Jumper spoke up.

“But if the humans are in the way…”

“They won’t be!” I insisted.  “We will yell for them to take up the Posture.  They’ll do it. They don’t want to die.  The helpless ones don’t have anything to gain from annoying us.  They will take the Posture, and let us focus on the ones who think they can win.”

I could see that there were still some doubts, but it wasn’t like I could talk forever after pointing out that waiting made the enemy stronger.

“Inside!” I directed, “And yell as you go, tell them all to take the Posture, or die!”

I wasn’t the first through the door, but I wasn’t the last either.  I passed into the interior of the building in the same rush as everyone else, and stopped alongside them to boggle at what awaited us.

The building had started its life as some sort of chain store, and it was still somewhat recognizable as such, even with all the furnishings gone.

I’d never really thought about just how large one of those stores would be, if you took all the shelve and merch and stuff out of it, but the answer turned out to be huge.  Just vast.  The entire block was this one store, and the entire store was this one room.

This one room and all the people inside it.

We had come through, the little knot of us, shouting for everyone to ‘get down’, ‘get in the Posture’, and similar.

Everyone was already in the Posture.  And I did mean Everyone.

There had to be two or three hundred people in this room.  Women and men, a few kids.  Old people.  Young people.  No fucking infants or toddlers, thank God for small mercies.  Everyone sitting silently in the Posture.

They were randomly spread around the room, seemingly, clumped up in what looked like family situations.  They were thickest around the spire.

The spire, or really, the staircase, was the only feature of this enormous room.  It was a huge spiral staircase that rose up around an elevator.  It would take us to the second floor, where Arthur would be waiting.

An Ultra pointed a hand, and I slapped it down.  That wouldn’t actually stop her from manifesting a gift, of course, but the gesture seemed to break whatever impulse she’d been operating on.

I had to be very careful here.

The second wave of Knights had been half the size of the first, and much weaker.  Earlier, I’d thought that there had been no point to that attack, but maybe it had been about buying time to set this up.

I took a step forward, moved up to the edge of my little knot of guys.

It wasn’t just the doubled senses.  The tension in this room was real and genuine.  I locked eyes with one of the kneelers, saw an intensity that was either frenzied panic, utter hatred, or most likely some potent combination of both.

My first impulse was to order everyone up and out.  But what the fuck would I do if they just sat there?  She would expect me to start a slaughter.

My next was for us to just start walking through them, just disregard them.  But I’d already been ambushed from all sides once today, and I wasn’t looking for a repeat performance.

Arthur was playing for time, before and still.  I had the sickening feeling that she was concentrating her gift on one person, trying to rig up a champion that we couldn’t affect, or something equally horrible.  She needed to be stopped, and fast.

Once Arthur was gone none of this would be a problem.  My Ultras wouldn’t necessarily snap on the civilians if they didn’t have the lurking fear that any of them might be able to kill us.  I could take control with the usual light bullying, without worrying overmuch over it turning into an atrocity.

Someone shifted on the other side, and I snapped my gaze over.  They were just repositioning slightly, adjusting their Posture.  But it made me realize how tense I was, that we’d been just standing here gaping for like a half a minute.

“Imbuer!” I yelled.  “King Arthur, whatever you call yourself, you need to-“

I was interrupted by a wild yell from up on the second floor, a man’s voice, so presumably not my adversary herself.

“Nazi says what?”

I clenched a fist.  Just standing here and getting taunted would piss Her off.  I had to do something, but a lot of roads here led to these people getting slaughtered, my death, or, somehow, both.

 

Note from QM: Another write in plan.  I’m out of the country for the next week, so I’ll start work on the response to this on the 15th.  I’m sorry for the delays, things are crazy around here!

Regime Quest 35

“Fucking Stop!” I shouted, and this time I was heard.

The survivors looked over at me, battle scarred and furious.  Their blood was well and truly up now, the beasts of the Regime in the full flush of their fury.  I could give them any order and be obeyed, as long as that order was some variation on ‘Kill’.

“Check everyone who is down!” I shouted.  “If they are an enemy, make sure that they stay that way.  If they are one of ours, see if you can get em up!  We aren’t done yet, maybe more incoming.  Take advantage of this opportunity!”

It was a staccato series of instructions, more about getting them calm and human again, back into a state where they could understand my words, understand any words.  They’d just fought for their lives and won, they wouldn’t be anywhere within a stone’s throw of calm, but if I wanted to live through this I needed them to do my fighting, and thinking soldiers were far better than brutes.

I suited action to words, climbing up onto the mound of machinery that had once been the back two trucks.  They’d both been wrecked by Ultra powers, the one in the back by the same string attack that had gutted me, and the one in the front by some kind of explosive gift, probably one of ours.

A nearby Ultra moved to assist me as I let out an involuntary groan.  I’d tried to hold my torso perfectly level as I’d climbed, but obviously that hadn’t gone to plan.  I set myself against the truck and waved them off.

Bad enough to bore Her with a moment of stillness, but getting assistance while She was riding my senses would be actively dangerous.

I shouted again, as much to buy time to feel a bit better as for any useful reason.

“Check on Smasher!” I directed, as though I hadn’t watched her all but bisect herself.  “Check on those Union fucks!  See if they left us any useful toys!”

I doubted any Union gear would work, but it sounded smart and it bought me a few more moments.  Moments that my ribs would hopefully use to stop being on fire.

I took a step over to what had once been the backdoors of the back truck, looked within.

“Builder?” I called.  “Owner?”

No movements.  What little I could see of the inside, with the coming night stealing away most of our ambient lighting and the fucking smoke machines actively interfering even more, just looked like debris.  I didn’t see any blood or bodies.

“I don’t have time for this!” I insisted, not in a shout, but in an urgent mutter.  “I need my Posse.  Get your asses out here.”

I heard movement inside, someone shifting position, something that sounded dangerously like a stifled sob.

Shit.  If a member of my Posse was crying and She saw it I’d lose points, or at least I would unless I got a lot meaner than I was comfortable getting with them.  Had She heard that?  It had been slight.

“Whichever of you two that is!” I said, talking in a rush to cover any more incriminating sobs, “I want you out here and coming after us as soon as you get your wounds bound up!  We’re pushing on the core of the enemy’s strength, you catch them in a pincer!”

This was nonsense, of course.  They were both borderline noncombat, and wouldn’t be pincering anyone, and I had no idea if they were wounded, but the point was it gave me an excuse to turn confidently away from the door and head back to my Ultras.

The natural move here would have been to drop down off of the truck, but the way I was feeling I probably would crumple to the ground and spend a few more minutes healing.  Instead I sort of walked along its edge, stepping around the top of the cab and down off the hood onto a mound made out of a piece of the back of the next Truck, then onto the ground.

Looking back, it had been a borderline graceful series of steps.  No one else was watching, but I gave myself some imaginary full marks.  It would have been easy to flub that and fall off.

The Ultras had regrouped by now, dividing back into their original squads.  I gave them a ‘move out’ gesture, and we all started stomping into the repaired zone.

I’d originally been planning on a bit of a speech there, mostly to buy time for my torso to sort out whatever fresh hell it was planning, but I’d axed it in favor of getting us moving.  I didn’t know exactly how fast King Arthur’s gift worked, but with enemy soldiers literally increasing in number the longer we waited it didn’t feel like a good idea to do too much talking.

I had to turn us a bit as we started into the enemy’s repaired area.  The mob had originally been just kind of mindlessly going forward, but I pointed us towards the building that the wisps I’d seen from the enemy had been headed towards.

I didn’t like the idea of my Ultras storming a defended building, of course.  There’d be nothing left of the structure, but I liked the idea of us missing the enemy and wandering around for an hour or so a whole lot less.

I wasn’t incredibly worried about it.  King Arthur could certainly hide herself away easily enough.  Thirty people were nothing like enough to search a ruined city, especially as we didn’t intend on splitting up, but the thing of her gift was that she didn’t get to just be alone.

If she was making fighters, then she needed to be near a bunch of civilians who hadn’t been turned yet, and all the fighters that she hadn’t sent out yet.  That was a much more reasonable sized group to expect to find.

As it turned out, they found us.

This time there was no surprise.  A surly mob of people slipped out of the building as soon as we drew near.  They were hard bitten settler types, brandishing guns and clubs.

There were, thankfully, only about twenty of them, but even so, as I saw them, I felt a coldness in my chest that hadn’t actually been there before.

King Arthur, in my models, was trying to protect people.  Like, she had chosen the other half of the collaborate/resist fork from me, but I’d still felt a basic kinship there.  But looking at the people she sent out to fight I found within myself a growing hatred.

Maybe it was Smasher’s death.  KEM could have all the slogans that it wanted, but we simply weren’t wired to secretly hate people that we hung out with.  It was hard to think of them as monsters, not when we worked and fought together.

But I chose to believe it wasn’t that.  I chose to believe it was rage at the fact that she was shoveling her citizens, dozens of them, the people who’d believed in her promises, into the furnace of my Ultras, just to buy a few more seconds of life.

Because it was immediately obvious that they didn’t have a chance.

The first crew had started out encircling us, they’d had surprise on their side, or at least we’d been startled.  They’d been the enemy’s best trained troops, and she’d had time to buff them as much as her gift was able.

They’d been supported by Guinevere, bolstered by real Ultras among their crew.  These guys had none of that, and instead of like sixty of them there were about half that many.

The Ultras waded into them like men into kids, dashing them to the ground and slaughtering them, hardly breaking stride.  In the first seconds of the fight I saw a half dozen of the enemy fall, for maybe one on my side.  In the next few seconds it got worse.

By the time I limped my way up to the line of battle it had moved forward, pushing the enemy back and trampling upon their wounded.  Half of them were already dead, streamers of mist exiting their forms and heading up into the building.

Fuck, this could get really messy.  I needed a plan.

 

Situation was as follows.

Minimal losses since the first battle, I have a little more than 15 Ultras with about that many of the ‘Squires’, as I’m calling the second batch of King Arthur’s people, fighting them.  We should win through momentarily.

King Arthur is very likely inside this building right ahead of us (an old shopping center on the edge of an old mall), judging by the streamers.  It is one of the buildings I am to preserve intact for Her use.

She may or may not have more gifted soldiers in there.  Either ‘Knights’ or ‘Squires’, to use earlier designations.  She almost certainly has a lot of unpowered citizens in there waiting for their turn to be powered up.

Lancelot and Guinevere are dead, Merlin has not been seen or heard from since the start of this battle, neither has the Union tank.  The enemy seems to have lost all of their Ultras and Union allies as well.

Some of my Ultras have ranged gifts, others have close combat gifts.  They are brutal combatants, but I have very little confidence in their restraint.  I believe if I send them inside they will kill everyone in there, and likely wreck the place.

We have a few smoke cannisters, and someone is lugging a laser, but I don’t think it has its power source.  A few of us also have guns.

Either Builder, Owner, or one of their guards survived and is presumably coming up behind us, but I’m trying not to see them while they might be in a state of weakness.

I myself am basically not combat fit.  I still need a lot more time to heal, but I do have Ultra toughness one, and the Squires didn’t seem capable of damaging that.  I might be able to engage certain enemies with my death touch without exposing to Her how damaged I am.

She is likely growing impatient.  I should wrap this up quick, or at least make sure the action continues, if I want to live.

 

Notes from QM:

This is a write in plan, Blender doesn’t have any particular suggestion to form the core of it.  She needs your help!

Interlude, Battle of Istanbul:2

There were very few survivors of fights with Third Fist, but one of those few had notoriously described the initial moments of Leveller’s onslaught as ‘like being in a hurricane that hates you.’

Her experience had taken place in a desert, while the current setup could charitably be described as ‘right between two seas, along a river’.

The first the Grand Host knew of their peril was a sluicing river of water, a 20 foot tsunami, closing in from all sides.  They shouted, used their gifts, and performed what evasions were possible, but very few had the agility to get up above the water’s reach.  Very few even realized that they needed to.

The Host hadn’t exactly conducted any briefings, done any particular preparation for this.  Those few who had the presence of mind to wonder where the water was coming from came up with explanations like a destroyed dam, or some new Union weapon.  None of them thought it might be an Ultra.  There was far too much water for that.

They realized the truth an instant later, however, because what had looked at first like an enormous current of water was nothing so simple.

Leveller’s attack was intricate and ever evolving, aimed at everyone in the enemy’s vanguard simultaneously.

Beams of water leapt from the general flood, incredibly thin and capable of carving solid forms like giant swords.  Ice mallets appeared and slammed into those who seemed capable of being moved, hurling them into one another when possible.  More than one Ultra with spiky parts found themselves used as a living weapon, their points mashed and ground into their own comrades.  Ultras who didn’t have enough Ultra toughness found their own moisture fleeing their forms, transforming them in instants into dried rags, withering in the midst of more moisture than you’d find anywhere but at the bottom of the ocean.

All of this within seconds, tens of seconds.  The Ultras who had been Overseers, champions, who had defeated the Intervention Groups in an afternoon, were only dolls to be broken before Leveller, their meager forms lashed in a tidal wave of annihilation.  The Grand Host suffered ruinous casualties right from the first moments of Third Fist’s onslaught.

But they hadn’t come alone.  The Brides were among them, and they were not so easily dealt with.

None of the Brides of Zeus could be taken down by Leveller’s easiest techniques, they couldn’t just be dried out or split by hydro beams.  Their forms, one and all, had at least enough Ultra toughness to demand her focused attention, and she could only give that to one of them at once.

They raced forward as soon as the water smashed down around them, as it was their natural response to any kind of enemy challenge.  They hungered to get to grips with their victims, to draw them into the sort of brutal Ultra fighting that they’d trained for, and that’s exactly what they endeavored to do.

Leveller’s preposterous range kept them out of this for a brief instant.  Third Fist, knowing their target’s legend, had at least respected their enemies enough not to get up in their faces and loom over them.  Mover was being used defensively, after all, and they were all five of them on this battlefield.  Even the Striking Fist, as they were known, had taken some precautions.

They weren’t out of range for long, however.  Their enemies split up too far, too fast, bullying their way through the water and ice or just using transport gifts.  The expanding formation of Brides couldn’t help catching sight of a five man group that wasn’t being terrifically stealthy, and pretty soon that’s exactly what happened.

The Brides who spied their enemy launched immediate attacks, and in the process of doing so drew attention to everyone who could see them, who followed up, and so on.  It didn’t take long for every Ultra still mobile to be headed in what was basically the correct direction, or at least, towards Third Fist.

This was not, as it turned out, the correct direction to charge, for most definitions of the phrase.

Blaster was waiting for them, her namesake gift flaring white hot as she opened fire on everyone that she could see, and quite a few that she couldn’t.

Goddesses who were struck by the glowing white beams collapsed or flew backwards, often in several pieces.  The gift that the Company hailed as the strongest of its kind was in fine form, and the target environment was as close to perfect as it was likely to get.

Blaster’s gift wasn’t optimal for masses of infantry, wasn’t necessarily ideal for an army situation, but she had decades of experience wielding it against the champions who could survive Leveller’s onslaught, and that was exactly what presented themselves before her.

Blaster’s beams slashed directly through or around every shield that could be raised against them, sought out every Ultra who thought themselves cloaked.  Leveller was the culprit, of course, using her gift’s affinity with moisture to locate targets, and plotting out their location with ice formations that formed arrows from Third Fist’s vantage point.  She picked Blaster’s shots, and her teammate had only to follow her directions.

Those who sought to avoid the blasts found themselves balked as well.  The ice and water which surrounded them didn’t obstruct all of them uniformly, it seized up and solidified about anyone who was targeted, trapping them as well as it could at the instant that they most needed their mobility.  Even an Ultra who had the strength and durability necessary to forge ahead through Leveller’s tempest didn’t necessarily have enough of these qualities to dodge beams in it, particularly not given Blaster’s ability to swerve and guide her gift.

Ultras who fired back were also pitting themselves directly against Third Fist’s gifts, albeit in a minor way.  Ultra after Ultra found that what they’d targeted was only an ice mirror, or a bit of rubble raised and camouflaged into what looked, through the lashing spray and flashing lights, like their enemy’s silhouette.  More than one Bride whose gifts let them see through such things drew a bead and fired, only for their targets to jerk or slide out of the way as Mover played her part.

But even with all of this mayhem, all of the brutal slaughter that five had somehow brought  to thousands, there were still so many of their enemies.  Some few of their number, luckier or more brutal than the rest, closed in upon Third Fist, desperate to take the battle to their enemies.

Killer was waiting for them.

Those who speak of Third Fist tended to gloss over Killer.  Any half decent plan for the Fist’s annihilation was a surgical one, an attempt at a fivefold assassination.  Killer was the reason why.

Her gift strengthened her, in the midst of atrocity.  The deaths of humans empowered her.  The deaths of Ultras turbocharged her.

The deaths of the Grand Host, of dozens or hundreds of the world’s mightiest Ultras, was on another level entirely.

Those luckless few who drew near to the core of Third Fist could have been forgiven for believing that Subtracter was waiting for them, or even Her.  A form blurred almost beyond perception tore into them with brutal Ultra Strength, and what retaliations appeared to land on it did nothing whatsoever to slow it down.

She slaughtered champions lauded by Zeus himself in instants, tore mighty Brides, the victors of dozens of Ultra combats, limb from limb, giving her victims precious little time to move.  She grew faster and stronger with each victim, and soon enough she was ranging out into the tsunami, seeking those who had yet to make it through Blaster’s range, eager to test the limits of what her gift could give her.

Slasher, the name given to the Ultra who had singlehandedly carried out the Third Defiance, had been the go to response for the mightiest Ultra who had ever lived, aside from Her.  Pantheon loyalists would loyally name Zeus, but most everyone else agreed that the pinnacle of Ultra Speed was the only thing that might rival the pinnacle of Ultra Strength.

Killer, in this moment, sought to combine the two.  Her ability to conjure weaponry, her immunity to the same, was set aside for the moment.  She focused instead on pure power, shredding everyone she could get to, as fast as she could get to them, desperately chasing the pinnacle of her gift, killing to get the power to kill more, a snowballing process that would end only when the enemy did.

Vampire intervened.

The only reason that she hadn’t done so earlier was disbelief, shock.  The Grand Host, the Brides of Zeus, these names had the solidity of granite in her world, weighty existences that loomed large in her future.  When the tumult had first come upon them, her presumption had been that they were the ones doing the slaughtering, that this was some weak Union trick which would be undone by superior Ultra force.

It took long seconds for the truth to set in, carried back to her on her gift’s sensory side, her ability to detect everything that lay in shadow.  She witnessed the fall of Ultra after Ultra, Bride after Bride, without glimpsing the foe.  This was a massacre, a colossal failure, and she had led them right into it.

The thought of what Zeus would do to her for this was what finally galvanized her action.  A thought and the Bride that Killer was drawing nearer to vanished, then the one that Blaster was targeting, and so on.  She put forth her gift and absorbed all of her fellows into shadow, dragging them away from these enemies and sending them off to fight others on an entirely different battleground.

She had her doubts about the ‘skip directly to Berlin’ plan, but it had to be a better use of her fellows than feeding them to Third Fist.  Whatever damage they would do the Union would have to content Zeus, alongside the destruction of Her strongest minions.

She strove, in the next moment, to make that plan into a reality.  She stretched out her gift to seize the Fist, but could only get a grip on Killer.  The rest of them, somehow, despite all the dust and debris that the city’s collapse had kicked up, despite the tempest and deluge of Leveller’s fury, must still be in light.

Killer would do.  She focused in on her prey, pushing on her gift in a manner that she rarely had to, feverishly attempting to banish the Regime warrior before she could withdraw back into the light.

Killer, for her part, was casting furiously about for more victims.  She’d been so close, she felt as though there had been a threshold before her, a plateau from which she could’ve seen infinities unglimpsed, but to rise higher would take more.  She made no effort to get back to the Fist and their protective lights, took no actions to evade.  She was heedless in her hunger, berserk for more kills.

Leveller, with no other targets to focus on, found Vampire’s location quickly enough.  The moisture in her form betrayed her, and soon enough the tempest began to batter away at the collapsed tower top she’d perched on.  Vampire found her efforts split between attempting to warp Killer away and keeping herself in motion, chased from place to place by Leveller’s endless storm.

She was the equal to this pressure, however.  It wasn’t for nothing that Zeus had selected her, out of all of the Brides, to lead this force.  She went after the same weakness in Third Fist’s defenses that She did, the inability to focus on a rapid teleporter before they were gone again.  It took her some effort, to be sure, but every time she vanished and reappeared there was a long second or two where Leveller had to find her, then another for her to bring a concentration of moisture against her location.  During all this time Vampire was free to work her gift against Killer, and finally she succeeded.

Killer was tearing her way down into a subbasement, having convinced herself that her enemies must have fled beneath the ground somehow, when Vampire’s gift finally took hold.  She found herself without transition in deep space, spinning wildly about within an infinite vacuum, cold stars burning impossibly far away.

Their foremost attacker annihilated, Vampire turned her attention to the rest of the group.

Here she was on much shakier ground.  The remainder of Third Fist had stuck to their plan, and they huddled together in an impossibly well lit bunch, each of them surrounded by lights, torches, and anything else they could imagine.

The Union had played a favorite in this fight.  They’d long since accustomed themselves to the raids of the Fists, grown expert at giving up only what had to be given up and gained hard earned practice in threatening them into retreat.  The Fists were a gnawing pain in the side, an anguish long suppressed, but the Host was an existential threat, a cutting of the throat.

Third Fist had been wandering blind before they’d happened upon a group of Union soldiers who’d been carrying full briefings on the Grand Host, focusing in particular upon Vampire.  That information was what had led them to this battle, let them know when and where to catch up to their enemy.  They’d known, coming on, about what her gift could do, and they’d taken what precautions they could.

It had, of course, been forged.  The Union hadn’t used paper briefings in its entire history, these had been custom forged by enthusiastic spies with an eye towards tricking Third Fist.  They weren’t, in their opinion, exactly dealing with a brain trust here.  Their biggest worry was that their enemies might be illiterate, and there was an entire ‘pictures only’ version sitting in an office somewhere that had been rejected as too much.

Mover’s absence during the majority of the battle was simple to explain.  She was their insurance policy against Vampire.  Her incredible telekinesis had been leashed back and constrained, focused entirely on holding their group in place, in case that was an adequate countermeasure against Vampire’s banishing ability, and on holding a host of light sources around them.

Vampire, in her youth, had thought about what countermeasures to her gift might look like, and she’d persuaded a some of the other Brides-To-Be to do some drilling with her, so she had some idea of what she needed to do.

She just had to warp something into their presence which would destroy the lights, thus granting her gift purchase upon them.  It had always been simple enough in practice.

She fled from questing ice tendrils, putting herself in the driest shadow she could sense, then warped a bunch of rocks onto her enemies.  There were stones aplenty in the ruins of the toppled buildings, most of them in shadow.  She smashed them into the general area of Third Fist, hoping to shadow them or crush their lights.

There was no obvious response, no way to know how well she’d done.  Leveller’s pursuit continued unabated, and once again Vampire was forged to warp herself, finding shelter in a nearby subbasement that had somehow avoided collapse.

This wasn’t how she liked to operate.  She liked to stand before her enemies, warping anything that they shot at her away, and so some talking before banishing them.  She liked to summon things onto her foes, squash them and burn them like a child toying with bugs before going in for the kill.

But Third Fist were just too dangerous.  She couldn’t warp Blaster’s formless attacks, couldn’t possibly stop all of Leveller’s endless storm.  She had to resort to this measly hitting and running, this unsatisfying picking away at them.

She sent another wave of boulders, to no obvious effect.

Vampire had to think.  The one who could move stuff was probably just catching it when she shot things at them.  She could drop water, but they had someone who seemed to control all of that, so that wouldn’t extinguish anything.

Water was creeping up on her, she changed locations again, appearing in a hollow that had formed when two buildings collapsed against one another.

This would all be so much easier if she could tell what was going on in their area!  She would be able to precisely place her attacks, smash or extinguish each light source.

She went the other way with it, warping sand all over the place, just indiscriminately placing a smothering blanket all over their location.  It shot away nearly instantly, but she got a brief glimpse of what she was up against.

Four figures, fortyish light sources.

Vampire grinned for the first time in the battle, leaned forward and sent the sand back in.

This time they were ready, Mover hurling the sand away the second it manifested, but so was she.  During the brief second when it was shadowed she took a flashlight, dropping it somewhere over the ocean.

She changed position again.  She could do this!

It was very nearly her last thought.  The second she arrived one of Blaster’s volleys carved through the low trench she’d warped into, carving straight through the place her body occupied.

Only fantastic reflexes saved her.  The beam had been one of the glowing ones, and she’d sensed the shadows vanishing as it tore through a wall, activated her gift just an the merest split second before its glow would have reached her.

This time she’d taken no chances, appearing well away from the battle, back on the outskirts of the city.

She stopped for a moment, breathing heavily.

She’d nearly died.  The tiniest bit of hesitation and they’d have got her.  She’d be just one more corpse in the wreckage of a Union city.  She wouldn’t go on to rule the world at Zeus’s side.  She wouldn’t grind it into the noses of her rivals in the Brides.  She would just decay, her story ended.

Fuck that.

She raised her middle fingers towards the distant foe and then vanished again, following her minions to Berlin.

 

Regime Quest 34

Before I could take down anyone else, I’d have to deal with this Union bitch.  If I tried to make my way over to where Lancelot and Smasher were, she’d shoot me again.  If I tried to go after King Arthur, ditto.

We were in this now.  I couldn’t live unless she died.

I suited action to these bitter thoughts, deliberately throwing myself back down to the ground where I’d spent so much of this fucking fight.

I stifled a scream as my bleeding side protested.  Something felt like it had become unseated within me, a curious wrenching sensation that promised agonies to come.

As soon as I got down I started to scuttle, one arm pressed to the bleeding wound, focusing my healing gift with everything I had.  I scurried around a pair of my soldiers who were rushing towards the rear, then drifted back into their wake, using them as cover against the Union bastard’s perch.

Out of sight, out of danger, I was hoping.

Ahead of me I could see the forest of legs and knees pressing in on the ruined trucks, one form after another vanishing as they climbed up.  Everyone seemed to be pushing in the same direction, so they’d been pressed back entirely off the ground, or I was missing something.

I paused as a wave of pain shot through me, unable to keep a keening shriek from escaping my lips.  Holy SHIT being impaled hurt!  I’d never suffered this badly in my entire life, my world was a scintillating curtain of pain.

I abandoned any further attempts to get closer to her, focused every ounce of energy on keeping my head up off the ground and turning slightly from side to side, keeping the illusion that I was still combat effective intact.

She might tolerate a point of view that took a second to recuperate, but if I passed out, if I box blocked Her before the end of the fight could take place, then I was done for.  I had to seem badass, however I could pull that off.

If I thought I’d used all my energy before, it was nothing compared to what it took to stand up.  I dragged my leg in, put it underneath me and pushed, forcing myself as much by fiat as by any actual sensation to get back up, desperation pushing me on.

I knew, intellectually, that my healing gift was at work.  If I hadn’t died in the initial hit, then it had to be getting better now, didn’t it?  I’d been standing up just a second ago, surely I should be able to stand up now!

My body refuted these cogent arguments with pain and nothing more, which didn’t seem super fair, but was actually really convincing.  I made it about half way up, back to a stoop, and then I had to reach out and grab someone, one of my gals who was passing by.

She recoiled instinctively, raising a fist, then lowering it as she recognized me.

I didn’t react or acknowledge the moment, I couldn’t.  It took all my effort to drag myself up her arm, look out over the crowds once again.

In the back of the battle, or at least where the back had started out, I saw the Union making their last stand atop the crashed trucks.  The bitch who’d shot me struggled with a pair of my Ultras, and so did all of the other enemies that I could see back there.  None of them seemed like they would be winning.

I looked over to my right, over to where Smasher should have been finishing off Lancelot and her Knights.  She was showboating, as I expected.

That was the reason this had all gone to shit, or at least one of them.  Fucking Smasher.  Fucking drunk.  If she’d just done like her name suggested I wouldn’t have gotten fucking shot.

As I watched she thrust out an arm, sending Lancelot dancing away.  Or, not dancing, moving with Ultra speed.  I dunno, it always seemed like dancing to me, legs hitting the ground far faster than they would for anyone moving naturally.

Both of the two were wounded, and they fought alone, surrounded by a clear space at least ten feet around.

“How the fuck had she managed that?” I said, half under my breath.  I couldn’t get a goddamn second to myself but she managed to arrange an out of bounds space on her private duel, and everyone was apparently buying it?  It wasn’t fucking fair.

Lancelot feinted towards her, jumped aside as Smasher’s fist whipped through the air before her.

Close.  A bit closer and she’d have had her, and the least little contact would be enough.  Nothing Smasher hit full on would stay on the planet, much less in one piece.

“Fucking finish her!” I snarled, pressing my hands violently into the Ultra I was clinging to.  I was pretty sure I could stand on my own at this point, but pretty sure was nothing to bet on.

Smasher’s fruitless pursuit continued, she hurled out a windmill of punches and kicks, every one of them narrowly missing as Lancelot continued to dodge back, orbiting and chasing around the cleared out space.

The last of the Knights had fallen over there.  Lancelot was alone in a knot of my people, but none of them moved to help Smasher.  She apparently wanted to do this alone.

Fuck that.

“Kill her!” I screamed, or tried to scream.  It turned out that some part of my injury had something to do with my lungs, because taking that deep breath had not been the greatest idea.  I clung to my supporter and shuddered for a moment, focusing on not passing out.

Meanwhile the stupidity continued.

Smasher tried to get tricky, instead of going for another punch or kick she threw her whole body at Lancelot, trying to maximize the sheer volume of space she could threaten.  Lance leaped right over her, kicking down as she passed, a bruising Ultra shot to the ribs.

It was a savvy move.  Any attack from a direction Smasher was going would see you obliterated, but her gift didn’t protect her from attacks that she wasn’t moving into.  That must have been how she scored the initial hit.

I looked back the other way.  The Union were all down now, my Ultras were tearing bodies apart, breaking the Trucks and in other ways celebrating their victory.  A number of them were heading over to where Smasher fought, since it was the last battle that was going on.

“Kill her!” I shouted again, successfully this time.  The Ultra I was leaning against, at least, heard it and picked up the cry.

Those who heard me echoed me.  They’d taken it as encouragement for Smasher.  It started to become a chant.

“No YOU-“ I was shouted down, the ‘Kill Her chant drowning out what little other talking was being done.

I clawed at my Ultra, then shoved her aside and started staggering towards the fight.

Or, walking, rather.  I was well enough to walk, albeit a sort of stilted walk that didn’t bend my torso in any way.

Ahead of me Smasher finally did the obvious, stepping back from her pursuit and striking at herself, moving to ‘smash’ her own wounds away.

My eyes widened and my hands raised as I saw what was about to happen, but no one could hear my warning, and I wasn’t nearly close enough to do anything about it.

Lancelot dived in the instant the move began, punched furiously.  She moved a little faster than she had previously, she’d been lulling her victim, hiding her true capabilities.

Her punch landed, but not on Smasher’s torso or head, she hit the back of Smasher’s arm, added her own force to the self directed strike, before it landed.

Smasher slapped her arm right through her own torso, cut herself nearly in half.

I felt like my rage was going to dig a hole in the world, like sheer frustration and anger should rip out and stop this stupidity from happening, but it didn’t.  Nothing did.  Smasher coughed up blood and toppled over, torn nearly in fucking half by her own fucking gift!

Cold comfort that the Ultras around Lancelot promptly mobbed her, tore her apart.  Cold comfort that there wasn’t a living enemy left to be seen.

Warm comfort, actually, that I could walk and talk again.  I resolutely didn’t look down at the wound.  I couldn’t take the chance of Her seeing any more goddamn setbacks or wins for the other side.  I wouldn’t be doing any more fighting, but I could at least lead.

Fucking killed herself!  By PUNCHING!!

I pushed it aside, with immense effort, as I plotted out my next move.  Looked like I had 18 Ultras left in my warband, and no one from my Posse that I could see, though I still held out hope that Builder or Owner were alive somehow, hiding.

I had to act.

Actions, choose one or write in:

  1. Push army immediately into the restored zone, find Arthur before she has a chance to generate a new force or get away.
  2. Consolidate, check over those downed, look to see if Builder or Owner are alive, grab any supplies we didn’t time for. This will also give me time to heal, hopefully enough to fight in any future conflicts.
  3. Declare victory, start speechifying, act like King Arthur isn’t even a thing. Hopefully She will show up, at which point the battles are over and the target zone is secured.
  4. Other? (write in?)