Regime Quest 30

Results from Previous round votes:

2 Votes plan CCC

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Winning Plan:

[Morning] Train the warband in combat with Mist around their feet

 

[Afternoon] Practice with Builder (see below)

 

[Owner] Purchase street maps of Ar Harbour, and the area between here and there. Her street maps won’t be perfectly accurate in this world, due to not showing roads that are no longer in repair, but they should still prevent us from getting totally lost en route.

 

[Builder] Practice the combat uses of her skill. I get hold of a bunch of balls (the polystyrene “particles” used in that museum should do) and throw them at her; while her job is to use her Gift to stop them after I let go but before they hit, largely by making them grow ‘sails’ or other bits in mid-air.

 

The aim here is for her to practice using her Gift on small, moving targets while under time constraints. This will be a useful skill under both a union ambush or an attack by the Tank.

 

[Smasher] Afternoon: Train the warband in combat.

Day 27 Log :

7 AP at start of day (6 at end of last day +1 for half night’s sleep)

-2 Train warband with smoke machine (5 AP)

Roll 9, +1 for success (6 AP)

-2 Practice with Builder (4 AP)

Roll 3, +1 for success (due to Builder’s roll), (5 AP)

Builder Train for combat use of her skill

Roll 10, success

Owner: Purchase Street Maps

Roll 9, success

Smasher: Train the Warband in combat

Roll 6, success

End of day, 5 AP

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Train the warband in smoke impaired circumstances:

A single month’s training, or not even that, would never have been considered enough in the old world.  Expertise took ten thousand hours, or something similar, and even a simulacrum thereof wouldn’t come quickly.

I knew this, I did.

But it was still easy to look over the warband and think about how far we’d come.  Their ability to follow directions, their fighting spirit, and even their ability to integrate the exotic tactics and stratagems we’d planned felt like it had come leagues and bounds.

I had to remind myself that the proof was in the pudding.  I’d never seen them kill en masse before, and this new training had never been truly put to the test.  I’d given them a few weeks of discipline and instruction.  I probably hadn’t truly changed them.

But damn it felt like we had.  They had no trouble with the smoke machines, running through all of their drills while the ‘haze’ settings output pooled around their feat.  They dodged imaginary gunfire, kept track of sight lines, engaged imaginary enemies and performed as well as I could’ve imagined.

Thinking that, however, put another chill up my spine.

As well as I could’ve imagined.

If they had little to no experience in group fighting, how much less did I have in orchestrating it?  I’d never led a group of 50 Ultras into battle against an equivalent force on prepared ground.  I’d barely even spoken to someone who had.

Should I have spent more time with Subtracter?  The woman was a vicious brute, she’d stolen my life away, but if I put all that to the side could I have gotten more out of her experience?  She was one of the few living who’d done what I was about to do.

Long practice kicked in and I stopped second guessing myself, pushed instead of second guess the second guessing.  I had asked her things, had gotten minimally useful replies, and a loathsome task.  Her experience would have hinged on her gifts, which I lacked entirely.  Advice from her would have taken the form ‘fly rapidly around kicking everyone’s heads off until She appears, then lick her boots.’

Nonetheless, it was easy to fall into such patterns.  I’d had a month.  Looking at my warband, I thought I’d done pretty well, but had I done well enough?  Was there ways I could have done better?  Would it be sufficient?

Tomorrow, King Arthur would tell me the answer.

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Work with Builder on training her gift in combat:

“This isn’t working,” I told her.

Builder didn’t say anything, but the brand new black eye made her agreement more than obvious.

“What’s going wrong?” I asked.  “Balls only fly because they are shaped for flying.  If you can just make them have protrusions that are a different shape they should miss.”

“You are throwing the balls too fast,” she complained, in a monotone voice, “Like I told you at the start, and again after the first hour!”

“No one is going to gently toss weapons at you,” I retorted, heatedly, “They are actually going to try and kill you.  We are talking about arrows, bullets, or at the very least slings and thrown rocks.  I’m not exactly a trained pitcher, here.  If these are too fast for you then you aren’t going to stop anyone who is trying seriously!”

She held up both hands in a congratulatory gesture.

“Ex-act-ly!”  she said,  “I’m not a combat Ultra.  I made that clear to you when I joined up!  My conjuration isn’t like Adder’s, it takes time for things to manifest.  Even a brisk walk makes it hard for me to put something on someone.  Something at any kind of pace? Forget it!”

I scowled at her, trying to figure out how to motivate her.

“And shouldn’t your gift be protecting me?” she complained.  “That hurt a lot, and I know Ultra strength doesn’t go along with projectiles.”

“I made you bulletproof,” I told her.  “That has nothing to do with thrown objects.”

She pulled a face.

“That’s dumb.”

I shrugged.

“It’s how my gift…”

Ok, yeah, I got the irony.

“Look,” I said, “I’m not pressing you because I enjoy it.  Or because I’m trying to emphasize how you much you depend on us or anything.  You know me well enough to know I’m not about that.  I’m trying to save your life.  We are going into battle.  Tomorrow you will live, or you will die.”

She looked up at me.

“Throw again,” she said.

I grabbed the museum prop, took aim.

Life wasn’t a movie.  You didn’t suddenly get better at something just because you needed to.  I drew my hand back to throw, already sick with the certainty that the ball would fly unhindered, would slam once again into my friend’s form.

I threw it.

Or, at least, I tried to.

But something had joined my hand to my waste, and something else had grown rapidly across my eyes, a sort of stone visor.

“Shit!” I snarled, moving a hand up to push the visor aside.

Builder had moved, while I’d been distracted, and was now hunkered comfortably down behind the couch.

“That wasn’t the drill!” I objected.

“You said to stop the objects, well, they move too fucking fast.  So I stopped the stationary target.  Best I could do.”

I chuckled, dropping the prop down to the ground alongside the powdery stone she’d built up on me.

Life wasn’t a movie.  But movies were made by people, people drawing on their life experiences.  Desperation wasn’t magical, didn’t give you new capabilities that you’d never had before.  But it was certainly inspirational, and, on the right day, if you were lucky, it might let you make better use of the abilities you already had.

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Debrief Posse:

“You already know how my part went!” said Builder, cheerfully.

Owner shot me a dark look from where she knelt at her side, a cold cloth pressed to the bruise around her face.

It was possible, I’d allow, that I’d thrown the props a bit too hard.

“And yours, Owner?” I asked.

“I didn’t beat up any of our friends, if that’s what you are asking!” she fired back.

I looked over to Smasher, finally invited to a briefing, letting Builder settle Owner down a bit.

“Training’s going well,” said Smasher.  “They were all talking about your morning thing, so I put them through their paces, tired them out.  Stuff went pretty good.”

I grinned.  I could tell that things had gone well because Smasher had arrived without her characteristic haze of alcohol.  I had no idea how long her straight edge my last, but we’d been lucky enough that it got her to the edge of the battle.  If it went one more day she’d actually fight alongside us.

“I got your maps!” interrupted Owner.  “They are great.  And I didn’t just get the ones of the Old world either?”

I looked over dubiously.

“I also bought maps based on what the situation might be if, say, there’d been a few decades of decay and urban war.  It didn’t cost me anything to try, and my gift came through!”

I still figured the maps of the old world, or at least of Owner’s version of it, would be more useful, but there might be something of worth in these.  Worth a look, anyway.

“I’ll check them over,” I said, “Now get some rest.  Tomorrow is a big day.”

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Walter Note: The battle will be more than one update long.  You are deciding on your initial approach in this week’s response.

 

The Plan:

– We attack on the 28th. The only person who finds out about this early is Prevailer, who gets to discover this on the 25th. On the 26th, those members of our Posse that we can trust not to blab find out.

-On the 28th, Smasher and the warband find out. Preferably while being herded into the trucks.

– Merlin’s invisible troops are, of course, invisible. They are also carrying Knight equipment. Picker’s assassins carried Knight equipment. Hmmm. But what the Knights are asking for in exchange for the use of their equipment is morally completely reprehensible. I can’t countenance that, and would lose my Resistance contact if I did. (I would deserve to lose my Resistance contact if I did that. I would be truly a monster.)

– I need to bear in mind that Merlin and Arthur might have empowered the same people. That is to say, some of Merlin’s invisible assassins might have Ultra Strength, or Speed, or Toughness. They’re already hitting above their weight – on top of that, they may actually have some weight to hit on top of.

– Another option for dealing with Merlin is to take advantage of KEM. I know where she lives, what she can do and who she cares for; leaving that report on Merlin in the right place should be enough to get her killed outright. However, I shouldn’t use KEM on more than one person. Merlin is a greater threat than Guinevere.

– Third option – use Owner to demolish Merlin’s house in the middle of the night (buying and demolishing the property).

– Fourth option – take advantage of Builder’s stuff-stretching ability to ensure that our confrontation happens in an ankle-deep flood. Even invisible people can be seen walking through ankle-deep water – if nothing else, by the foot-shaped hollows in the water.

– We hope the KEM managed to take out Merlin, and we further hope that doing so reversed her Power’s effects. However, if not, we have a multipronged strategy against those invisible troops. Firstly, Merlin herself is killed quickly – sniper bullet, if necessary (no showboating here). Second, a smoke machine may make invisible people visible, and a laser can blind their spotters, effectively making them ineffective on the field.

– Guinevere is easily handled. I need merely imbue my Posse with fireproof; after that, Smasher can take her out easily. (Ankle-deep water should mess with her, too, by extinguishing a lot of fires).

– Lancelot and Arthur are unlikely to be trouble in the final confrontation.

– That giant Union tank, on the other hand, is a problem (and not a small one). But Builder should be able to deal with it; her power works at any range. She can close off any gun barrels by extending the barrel material _inwards_, she can mess up the engine by making the internals just grow crazy spikes everywhere, and so on. Once she can see it, she can ruin it utterly – and probably without even leaving any external sign of her sabotage, so it can all be blamed on the Union being idiots.

– Builder is our go-to person for ranged anti-Union-tech operations. No machine can long survive her vengeful gaze, once she’s decided to smash it. And if the Union gets wise to the point of limiting our visibility (say, with smoke), the Smasher can just smash the smoke…

– If the Ar Harbour team don’t want to come out and fight, we can draw them out by taking hostages. from the people they care for. This strategy is unpleasant and distasteful, but it will work, and will draw them away from buildings. Moreover, I don’t actually need to permanently harm the hostages, not if I’m threatening enough.

-Talking of Smasher, if she can smash *fire*, then Guinevere doesn’t stand a hope.

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Day 28:

Days remaining: 0- Go time!

AP available: Not tracked in crisis situation

Prestige: 3

Timeslots available: Not tracked due to crisis, you will be assumed following the plan unless votes contradict

Posse: 3 or 3 out of 3 slots filled

Force size: 45

Condition: Healthy

[spoiler=Ultras]

 

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

Posse:

Builder — 0/0/0, a woman who can alter objects for miles around into other things, blessed with a ‘Bulletproof’ blend

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

Smasher — 3/0/1, a woman who is billed as the strongest Ultra fighter of all time

Ultra Allies:

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

Clawer – Ultra fighter 2/0/1, melee combatant, deadly hooks for hands

Stopper – partner of Clawer, 0/0/0, steals form’s velocity by looking at them

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

Grower – 0/*0/1, an outside Ultra I sponsored into the Lair, has a bullet blend from me, can rapidly increase the size and mass of objects

Joker — 0/2/0, a woman who can change what other people/herself look like

Replayer — 1/2/0, she can ‘step back in time’ to undo damage that she takes

Ultra Enemies:

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

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

Ultra Acquaintances:

Tracker – Running buddy, 1/0/1, Creates tracks, and can move things on them

Shower – Adder’s protégé, 1*/0/1*, gains strength and durability from witnesses

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

Bubbler – Operates Ultra clinic 0/0/?, traps things in bubbles that heal and move them

Sucker — Ultra entertainer, ?/?/?, pulls objects/people towards her at incredible rate

Gunner — 0/0/1, she shoots tracking Ultra Blasts at roughly Ultra Strength One

Chiller — 1/0/1, can freeze any object she touches, leaving them brittle and easily broken

Cutter — 1/1/1, she is a brutal front line combatant

Swimmer — 1/0/1, she can ‘swim’ through solid surfaces

Burner — 0/0/1, she can summon Ultra fire from anywhere that she can see

Maxxer — 0/0/0, she can augment the gifts of other Ultras, pushing their gifts

Puncher — 1/0/1, her strength and speed both go up when she repeats her movements

[/spoiler]

 

[spoiler=Crisis]

Travel Arrangements:  We are traveling to Ar Harbour by truck/buses.  How many trucks has Builder crafted for us?  The minimum is 2, in order to fit the whole Warband.  The maximum is 6, just based on how many people we have who can drive.  Please indicate in your Travel Arrangements vote how many trucks you want to take, the order they will travel in, and where each member of the Posse (including Blender) will be riding, as well as where the 4 squads of your warband are going.  Owner and Blender are 2 of the six drivers, along with 4 Warband members.

Travel Route:

Blender has worked out 3 routes to get to Ar Harbour.  The Direct route is the fastest, and will see you reach the area at the very end of afternoon.  She used it when she was a troubleshooter, and isn’t a hundred percent sure it will easily accommodate the buses, and it is also what anyone who works out that you are driving here on this day will take.  The Indirect Route is the safest, sticking to main roads that will definitely take the trucks, but it will take a little longer, seeing you arrive at dusk, which assumes a degree of patience that She might not show.  The Circuitous Route is better for the vehicles than the Direct Route, but not so good as the indirect, and you’ll arrive solidly in the night.  Its saving grace is that it sticks to back roads, and renders it incredibly unlikely that the Union will be able to launch a strike on you before you arrive in Ar Harbour.

For ‘Travel Route’, vote for one of those 3 choices, please.  Your secrecy screens you off from leaving earlier, since the Warband won’t assemble until dawn.

Attack Distance:

You’ve worked out a few possible places to start the attack.  Outside Town sees you stop the buses from beyond where you hope the people of Ar Harbour will see them, then launch an attack on foot, charging into the city and taking out the enemy as they come.  Inside Town sees you drive the buses into Ar Harbour and pull them to a stop immediately outside of the downtown storefront area you are supposed to preserve, whereupon you will launch the aforementioned infantry attack.  DownTown will see you drive the buses right into the center of town before you disembark, delivering your Ultras to the center of Ar Harbour’s population.

If you’d like to propose an option other than those 3, please comment on this post or in the SV thread, and I’ll give it a yay or nay as a vote choice.

Ultra Equipment:

Specify how many (if any) warband members you would like do anything other than fight using their Ultra gifts (remember the patterns that you’ve had Builder memorize during the quest .  Note that if you set them to use the truck’s smoke machines, lasers, or large guns they will have to stay with the trucks for as long as they do so.

Warband/Posse Tactics:

Your warband is split into 4 squads, and can’t be commanded at any smaller levels than that.  Broadly speaking, its basic behavior is to engage and defeat any enemy forces it can.  But the details can be quite important.

First squad is the largest, and has the best close range fighters.  Second squad is another close range squad, just less good than first.  Third squad is about as good at fighting as second squad, but did the best on all of the ‘oddball’ drills, the smoke stuff, laser stuff, etc.  They are also a close range unit, but Smasher thinks they would be best for anything strange that comes up.  Fourth Squad are the Ultras with ranged gifts.

You believe, at this point, that Arthur has Ultras, Knights (that is, beneficiaries of her gift), humans with guns, and Ghosts (that is, beneficiaries of Merlin’s gift), their Union tank and the Round Table members themselves.  You can assign any squad or Posse member any particular target priority you’d like.  This can’t be incredibly detailed for a squad, but Posse members/Blender can manage strategies of arbitrary complexity.

Note that due to setting KEM to action and not getting their report you aren’t sure that Merlin/Ghosts are still going to be factors in this battle.  It is also possible that there will be other forces you didn’t manage to discover.  Future votes will allow you to react to developments on the field, but anticipating them now will be more effective.

Another note to keep in mind is that your command and control technology is yelling.  If you send a squad away from Blender it will follow orders/its own judgement until and unless you link back up with it.

As a last note, and the most important, consider that She will be watching through Blender’s eyes.

Please give a response for each category, votes will be tallied as a whole.  (Given our quest’s particular participation pattern, it is likely that any vote slate which is seconded will carry the day.  I encourage you to question one another before you place your support, work together to come up with something you believe in.  You’ve put months of effort into this, don’t falter at the finish.)

[/spoiler]

 

 

Preventer 10:1

Haunter, Indulger and I finally got together on the last day before we were to reach Istanbul.

I was actually surprised.  At first I’d been expecting Jane to call me up on the carpet basically the minute we started working with the Pantheon in earnest.  When she let it slide I figured that whatever was going down with the healers was her endgame, and she’d let us do as we liked forever.

Split the difference, as it turned out.

“Should we invite the other two?” asked Dale, looking nervously around.

I shrugged, shot a quick look to Jane.

She shook her head.

“They don’t care,” I told Dale.  “Fisher is ok with whatever as long as she gets to moon around Nirav, and he’s so weird nowadays I have no idea what his take on things will be.  Easier to hash things out ourselves, then put it to them as a thing we all three agree on.”

“If we can reach agreement,” temporized Haunter.

“Sure,” said Dale, and he gave an unnecessary ‘scooping’ motion.

His gift kicked in a moment later, and it was as unsettling as always.  No matter how many times the world had collapsed away beneath me, I’d never be quite used to it.  We were hardwired to fear the darkness and the deeps.  It made me think of graves.

It made us all think of graves, I suspect.

But morbid thoughts couldn’t cancel out the obvious privacy advantage of conducting our meetings inside of Dale’s gifts.  We’d simply have to put up with it.

“How have things been going with your plan?” I asked, seizing the opportunity to speak first as the cave subsided.

I didn’t really think that it was possible to put Jane in a better or worse mood, she listened mostly to her inner voices, but if we were going to have to have a fight it would be best to have it after we got all the useful information out.

“Excellent,” she said.  “The gifts work together like Andy suspected they would.  I’ve embodied several hundred scouts for our hosts, with more to come.”

“Monster bodies?” I asked.

“Some,” she allowed.  “Monsters based on animals and old stories on the outside, with their inner parts made up to be as human as possible.  They don’t know anything about biology, fortunately, so they have to make every form human on the inside, it’s the only way their creations stay alive.”

“Some?” asked Dale.  “What are the rest?”

Even through the darkness I could sense Haunter’s smile.

“Dogs,” she said, “And people.  Things that can blend in and bring back useful information from the Union refugees.”

Zero points for guessing whether any of them had done so, or would be doing so.  Jane’s passengers had worked hard to bring this about, and I didn’t begrudge as many of them as wanted to take it their precious escape hatch.  Her capacities didn’t really change if she had a dozen shades or a few thousand, it wasn’t like anyone under us was going to be counting them.

“Congratulations, “ I said.  “I know you’ve been working for this for a long time.  There must have been days where it seemed like it would never happen.”

“That describes your own ambitions as well,” she responded.  “Have you enjoyed your time atop the Pantheon?  I know you wanted to be a part of their peacetime leadership, but I hope that the present situation is an adequate substitute.”

“It is amazing!” I told her, deliberately acting as enthusiastic as I could, “The Goddesses here have gifts I never could have imagined, back in Shington.  This is the center of the world, here with the Brides.  We are at the fulcrum, the core of it all.  The decisions that we make here will shape everything.”

“Except Her,” said Dale, his dour tone an instant antidote to my own energy.

“Even Her,” I insisted.  “She’ll react to what we are doing here.  We are creating reality, Zeus and Prevailer will own what comes next, but our choices right now set the stage that they’ll act on.  Will they come forth to a Union dominated by Ultrahumans, by Zeus’ Brides, or to yet another Union victory?”

“I know which one you’d prefer,” said Jane.  “I’ve heard things, even closeted with the healers.  You’ve been giving genuine advice to their warriors, helping them out as much as you could.”

She didn’t make it sound like an accusation, but of course it was.

“Yeah,” said Dale.  “I have.”

The darkness hid my shock.  I’d been prepared to answer that directly, been expecting a two on one situation.  I’d never seriously considered that Dale might take my side.

“May I ask why?” asked Haunter, her voice cold and formal.

“Well,” said Dale, “I got to know the Pantheon people.  They are just people, you know?  Like, all the talk about Gods or whatever is just talk, these are people.  I like them, so I’m helping them.”

“These ‘people’,” said Haunter, “intend to bring ruin and war to a civilization, Dale.  They will kill the Union citizens wholesale, conjure rape and ruin in the midst of the last bastions of human culture left in the world.”

“I get that they are fighting some other people,” said Dale.  “And I get that you want to be on the other people’s side, but I guess I don’t really get why you want that.  Like, the time we were with the Union we just had Fisher do her mind control stuff on them.  Why do you like the people from back when we were in the embassy and not the people who are marching with us?”

I felt my lips curl up in a smile.  I could never, in my wildest dreams, have imagined such a reversal.  Watching Haunter defend her nonsense against Dale’s questioning was something I’d have cashed in serious favors to experience.

“It isn’t about ‘liking’, Dale,” said Haunter, exasperated, “Its about choosing between barbarism and reason, between a culture which reveres a God King and a pluralistic democracy.”

“Ok,” said Dale, “So why do you like one of those better than the other?  Like, what’s so great about democracy?”

“It’s fair, Dale,” she responded, “It lets us avoid corrupt maniacs abusing their power, and the people are governed by the policies that their chosen representatives enact.  Quality of life improves under it, no one is forced to worship a false God.  There are less rapes and murders!”

I controlled a chuckle.  Haunter could be far more articulate, of course, but it looked as though she’d been taken as off guard by this as I was, and she’d defaulted to a sort of ‘open mic’ state, where her shades just kind of rattled off facts without organizing them into a centralized argument.  It was rare, but we’d seen it a few times.

“Ok,” said Dale, “But wasn’t Fidel a maniac who abused his power?  And, like, I feel like the Brides are under the policies that they choose to be under, because they are so powerful that no one could tell them what to do.”

“Fidel was…”

She trailed off.

“Fidel was not representative,” I allowed.  “Guys like him are going to happen in any system, I don’t think he is a good place to look for the overall character of Union leadership.”

“Thank you, Preventer,” said Haunter, obviously distrusting me but unable to rebut a generous concession without looking like an utter asshole.  “The point is that he was an outlier.  Vampire is not.  She is the point of their system, a powerful Goddess who thinks the world belongs to her.”

“Doesn’t it though?” asked Dale.

“What?”

“Well, like, what’s going to be better about pretending that she isn’t in charge?  There are two people in the world who are more powerful than her.  You want to give her one vote among millions and see if that makes things better?  How is a lie going to make things better?”

“The idea of ‘powerful’ being defined by Ultra powers is inherently toxic,” snapped Jane.  “In the old world we didn’t have weight lifting competitions to pick who decided public policy.  It is just as easy for assholes to get strong, or, in this case, fortunate in the Process, as it is for virtuous people.  The point of reasoned debate is that the only ones who can win it are the ones who are correct.  Logic is a blade that only the righteous can wield.  Both sides can agree on letting the one who turns out to be correct win, and you can decide major social issues without enormous bloodbaths.”

“So you should be fine with this,” I interrupted.  “We are picking what to do by talking about it, no fighting or anything like that.  Just like you like, right?  And at the end of this, if Dale and I say ‘Pantheon’, and you say ‘Union’ you’ll let yourself be bound by majority rule?”

I kept the sneer out of my voice with effort.

“That’s not..” said Jane, before stopping her sentence to compose herself, “You aren’t debating in good faith.  Your positions were determined before you began, and no matter how good my points are you aren’t about to shift them.”

Was this actually the real persona of Haunter at last?  I couldn’t imagine that that line had come from her mass mind, it was a gross mistake on at least two levels.  The only thing I could think was that I’d offended her so much that her people were giving her the reins, letting her run wild for a bit so that they wouldn’t snap off entirely.

“Jane,” said Dale, hurt obvious in his voice, “That doesn’t make sense.  I used to agree with you and now I’m on the other side.  How can you say that I don’t change my mind?  I think you are the one who can’t change their mind.”

My hands flapped gleefully before me, and I did nothing to quiet them.  How long had I waited for someone else to have to answer this sort of nonsense?  How sweet was it to be in the clique that got to win in our little Fist?  After so many times where Haunter had gotten her way?

“Dale,” she said, desperation coloring her voice, “I answered hastily, accepted false pretenses, the majority would have to be calculated with all of my passengers, in order for this to be truly democratic, and I was referring to Preventer as the one whose interests were fixed.  I know that you’ve swung recently, and I was hoping to talk to you about why that might be.”

“What do you mean?” I asked, disregarding the nonsense about her gift giving her the final say in our conversation.  “About Dale I mean.”

“Yeah,” he echoed.  “What did you want to ask about?  We could use some talk that isn’t fighting, let us all cool down a bit.”

“Ok,” said Haunter.  “How many of Lotus’ potions have you used today, so far?  My shades have reported you drinking a lot more of them than-“

“You are spying on me?” he asked, the hurt returning to his tone.

“I’m concerned about you,” she said, which I thought was a solid dodge, “I know that your gift heals you up when you touch the ground, but I don’t think it affects these potions.  I’m worried that you might be changing, becoming more like Lotus and less like the rest of us.”

“You don’t like me smarter?” he asked.  “I guess maybe I would have been okay with that before, but it kind of feels insulting.”

“Its-“

Dale cut her off.

“No, sorry, let me work through this.  It isn’t that you don’t like when I’m smart, being smart lets me understand that.  What you have a problem with is that I’m choosing my own things now, not just doing what you say.  That’s really…I hate that.”

“Dale, you don’t-“ said Haunter.

This time he didn’t cut her off by speaking, but with his gift.  The cave rose up beneath him, bearing him back out into the camp.

I stood in the darkness for a few seconds, not trusting myself to say anything, for fear of laughter unbalancing my tone.

“This,” she said after a moment, “This is bad for both of us.  You understand that, right?  Dale’s subversion can’t possibly be any use in either of our endgames.”

“I don’t think he’s subverted,” I said, “I think he’s become a different person, but I think he is still the boss of him.”

“It’s the same thing,” she insisted.  “Like someone with a drinking habit or an addiction to a dangerous drug.  The new person he’s becoming is one midwifed by Lotus.  Her gift is carving new grooves into his soul.  She doesn’t need to control him explicitly in order to wield tremendous influence over him.”

“Like Blisser,” I said.

“Who?” she asked.

“Back in Shington there’s an Ultra who just makes people super happy.  It doesn’t do mind control or anything, she just makes you happy.  But people get addicted to her, hang around, do favors and stuff.”

“Then yes,” she answered, “Just like that.  Dale is clinging to Lotus’ gift, he likes what it brings him, and it is making him do things he wouldn’t otherwise.”

“Alright,” I said, “But what if I like the new Indulger better than the old one?”

“Excuse me?”

“Nobody forced him, right?” I asked.  “He chose to get smarter, and now he agrees with me that the Pantheon is the way forward.  Why should I want him to go back?  What’s so great about dumb Dale’s old decision?  Isn’t it ok to change your mind?”

“Think about what you are saying!” she snapped.  “He isn’t ‘changing his mind’ in the sense of making a different decision, he is literally ‘changing his mind’.  He is embracing a despotic and cruel culture despite the kindness of his nature, entirely because he couldn’t stand to lose his augmentations!”

“What’s your evidence of that?” I asked.

I didn’t particularly care, mind.  I wasn’t infected by Jane’s particular mania for everything following some unwritten set of rules.  But I was interested, and as long as we were down in a hole I figured we might as well get some talking in.

“What else could it be?” she asked.

I shrugged, which was a wasted gesture in the darkness.

“Dale’s gotten some experience now with Pantheon culture, at the fort and now with the Host.  What if he finds it to his liking, entirely aside from whatever the drinks are doing to him?”

She scoffed.

“Constant jockeying for leadership?  A perpetual war?  Life and death struggles every week?  What could anyone find appealing about this?”

“Comradery?” I suggested, “Other people looking up to him, a context for where his gift makes him a figure of power and influence, rather than a humble builder of roads?  Remember that he was an Ultra Fight-er before.”

“That’s not Dale,” she said, certainty rock solid in her voice, “He chose to build roads instead of working for Her for most of his life.  He chooses to leave his opponents alive, when possible.  He is the furthest thing from these people.”

“Was,” I corrected her.

She was quiet for a long moment after that.

“Jane,” I said, “What would it hurt, for us to back the Pantheon?  You are intelligent.  You have to understand that whatever happens with this attack, the Union is doomed.  Zeus is coming, along with the rest of the Brides.  The Union will follow the old world into ruin, and from it will rise a renewed Pantheon.  We have a chance to be part of that.”

She was silent again, and I was about to keep talking when she spoke up.

“I’ll have to share something with you,” she said.  “Something I hadn’t planned to.  I’d always nursed the fantasy of letting you get your happy ending, letting reality do the rug pulling there.  In a perfect world you get torn apart by the women you had raped in your Gardens.  But I shouldn’t let poetic justice obstruct the real thing.”

“What are you talking about?” I asked.  “You shouldn’t be stupid enough to think a threat from you matters to someone who is invincible.”

“Reality,” she said.  “I’m going to have to give you a broader picture, bring you inside a secret that almost no one else knows about.”

“As tricks go, this is a pretty shitty one.” I told her.

I could sense her shaking her head.

“Your argument for the Pantheon, for Ultra dominance, it is entirely based on the rule by the strongest, right?  We shouldn’t fight fate, it wouldn’t work.  Since Zeus will win we should be on his side, regardless of which side would be better for the future.”

“Force rules the world,” I agreed, not sure where she was going with this.

“Well,” she said.  “Condemner let me in on some truths about Force, and about the World, and you aren’t backing a winner.  The Pantheon is doomed, and so is the Regime.  The only thing that’s left is trying to make sure Humanity doesn’t go down with them.”

“Come again?” I asked.

“Condemner, all gifts really, are extradimensional entities, they provide their benefits in exchange for our experiences.  It’s a game for them, and the most important thing is that that game is about to be over.”

“What?”

“Let me explain in more detail…”

Regime Quest 29

Results from Previous round votes:

1 Vote plan CCC (More than one voter is a luxury!  The best quests are…uh…really small and unpopular?  I’m not very good at this…)

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

Winning Plan:

Plan:

[Morning] Mess around with the smoke machine settings. Try to find something that makes a light mist – easy enough to fight in, nothing that’ll block anyone’s view – especially nothing that’ll block my view, and by extension Prevailer’s view through my eyes – but enough to outline invisible, tangible people.

 

(If I run out of smoke canisters, Builder should have no trouble refilling them from the drops left at the end).

 

[Afternoon] Ask around, finding survivors of previous Ar Harbour expeditions. I want to know where they met their Union ambush on the way; so that I’m ready if the Union is lazy enough to repeat their ambush at the same approximate location.

 

Posse:

 

[Owner]: Get hold of some fire extinguishers. We might not need them but, you know, better safe than sorry. And we will have at least one pyromaniac Ultra to deal with, so…

 

[Builder]: Memorise pattern: Fire extinguisher. It’s basically a cylinder of pressurised gas; we might well appreciate having some *big* fire extinguishers handy on the day.

 

[Smasher, afternoon]: Train the warband in anti firearm maneuvers, while using the smoke machine. This keeps her sober, reinforces the bond she is forming with the warband, and ensures that they are used to working in smoke.

Day 26 Log :

6 AP at start of day (5 at end of last day +1 for half night’s sleep)

-2 Experiment with smoke machine (4 AP)

Roll 10, +1 for success, +1 for Crit (6 AP)

-2 Seek Target Information (survivors) (4 AP)

Roll 10, +1 for success, +1 for Crit (6 AP)

Builder Memorize pattern, Fire Extinguisher

Roll 6, success

Owner: Get Fire Extinguishers

Roll 6, success

Smasher: Train the Warband

Roll 5, success

End of day, 6 AP

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

Work with Smoke Machine:

There were a few settings on the smoke machine, helpfully labeled ‘smoke’, ‘mist’ and ‘haze’.  I messed around with all of them.

The smoke setting was the first thing I tried.  It was thick, heavy stuff, caused some minor coughing in the less durable Ultras and reduced the visible range.  It billowed out pretty fast, at least, and people moving around in its produced visible eddies and whirls in it.

Obviously I didn’t have any invisible people to test on, so I was making due by testing with the Parkers and trying to pretend that I couldn’t see their actual forms.  I couldn’t be sure that I wasn’t fooling myself, but I was on guard for the possibility at least.

The ‘mist’ setting produced smoke that clung low to the ground, down around feet/ankle level.  It was much less thick and then the first level I tested, pooling mostly around corners and obstacles.

It didn’t hinder vision at all, and I could still see the effects of people walking around in it well enough.  On the other hand it was much less obvious, much easier to miss people’s ‘wakes’, in it, and it came out quite slowly.  If I used this I’d need to figure out a way to deploy it well before my troops moved in.

The last setting, ‘haze’, was also interesting.  It was much more subtle than the other two, just kind of adding a bit of a twinge to the air.  It didn’t cling to the ground, and we could see through it just fine.  It deployed rapidly and spread wildly.

The problem was that I couldn’t really see any wakes in it.  I tried to tell myself that they were there, but the truth was that if I couldn’t see a person the haze wasn’t really distinct enough to make out where they were, particularly if they weren’t moving all that fast.

I also messed around with the lasers in conjunction with the mist, remembering concert experiences from a world long gone by.

The haze was definitely the winner there.  That was, in fact, its principle purpose.  The lasers were visible in their entirety within the haze, flickering lines cast from their generators to their targets.  The mist worked well with the lasers too, except of course for the fact that it was a much lower bank to begin with.  The smoke didn’t really play well with them at all, blocking and diffusing them like it did the rest of the visible spectrum.

I think there are two viable alternatives.

The first is to do a smoke assault, accept the limited sightlines in exchange for seeing invisible antagonists and just rush them under the gas’s cover.  This will outline their invisible troops, hinder their ranged attackers and can easily be achieved by just giving people smoke grenades to hurl as we go.  I thought it was likely that She would tolerate my limited vision as long as I was up front and in the thick of things, but this might well annoy her.

The second is the haze/laser assault, where we’d go in with the light mist and a grid of lasers effects.  This wouldn’t hinder their ranged attackers, unless we blinded them with the lasers, but it would outline their invisible warriors and we wouldn’t have any coordination problems.  It would confine our battle to the zone around the trucks, however, as the lasers/haze machines weren’t portable.

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

Seek Target Information (Ambush Location):

“You were with Burier?” I asked.

Massacrer nodded.

“Yeah, that whole fucking trip.  I stayed the whole time.  Not like that Defamer bitch, I know she talks some shit about how she was with the Warlord, but take it from me, its just talk.”

“I know,” I told her.  “That’s why I’m talking to you.”

I didn’t bother to tell her that I’d already spoken to Defamer, and that I was checking both their stories against one another.

So far as I could tell, the actual situation had been that Burier was with both of them, but neither knew about the other.  They’d both gone on the attack, and both bailed out at some point.  Defamer first, when she found out about her rival, and Massacrer second, after the ambush.

“We got ambushed,” she said, warming to an old gripe.

I nodded sympathetically, sliding another one of Owner’s beers across the table.

“We’d just bedded down, shit, day like any other, you know?  No one was watching out or anything.  We had our minds on getting some sack time, get an early start the next day.  Burier was starting to worry that we might not make it by when She said we should be there.”

“Where had you actually got to?” I asked, casually, not letting on that this was the whole point of our interview.

“We were, shit, we’d just crossed over a river, we were by the coast…”

I drummed my fingers, impatiently.

I’d brought her into the Lair for the interrogation, figuring it would help her understand that disappointing me was a bad idea.  We’d met up my usual Company Facility, taken a booth.

“We’d just stopped following 295, started going along the coast.  We’d had to go back a day, make sure that we didn’t miss it.”

So they’d been lost.  That made a lot of sense.  The old maps were probably pretty inaccurate nowadays.

“Maybe Swick?” she guessed.

I shook my head.

“That’s Union territory.  You wouldn’t have entered there without a fight.”

“Oh, right,” she said.  “Now I remember, we had to go around Swick, we were up past it, a way inland.”

“Can you remember any markings?” I asked.  “Any signs or anything like that?  Did any of the locals that you hit up for supplies say anything about it?”

“On the last day?” she asked.

I nodded, impatiently.

“I remember a lot about the battle,” she said.  “We were-“

I waved a hand, cut her off.

“They came out of nowhere, you never saw it coming, you wouldn’t have fled except you knew we needed to be warned…that about it?”

She subsided a bit.

I pushed subtlety to the side for a second.

“I’ve heard about the ambush.  I know how it happened.  I know you ran.  I don’t care about that, not at all.  The only thing I want to hear from you is where it happened.  Exactly where.”

She was quiet for a very long moment.

I reached out towards her, a friendly gesture, like I was going to put a reassuring hand on her shoulders.

She shrank away from my hand, gazing at it like her life hung from it.

Which, of course, it did.

“Gusta!” she finally blurted out.

“What?” I asked, thinking of the famous city down south.

“We’d just crossed the river at Gusta, we were going almost straight towards dawn, we’d stopped for the night in, like, a big building.  I think it was an old store or something.”

I pulled my hand back.

Close to Ar Harbor, near Gusta, almost due west, a ruined building.  That should be enough for my purposes.  I wasn’t planning on camping anywhere near Ar Harbor, but if I had to, for whatever reason, I’d make sure that I wasn’t in the last place the Union had struck.

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

Debrief Posse:

“You guys get the fire extinguishers?” I asked.

Owner and Builder nodded, wordlessly.

“And you can make more?” I asked again.

They nodded again.

It was nice that sometimes things weren’t huge, dramatic productions.  Their gifts should let them do this, and, hey look, they did.

“How’d things go for Smasher?” I asked.  “With the training?”

Owner chuckled.

“She tried to teach them how to smash bullets,” Builder explained.  “And it kind of came about that, you know, being Ultra tough she hadn’t really got any idea how to avoid getting shot.”

“She just, I guess, gets shot?” I asked.  “Like, doesn’t really try to dodge?”

It kind of made sense.  Smasher didn’t really value her own life.  I couldn’t see her really putting any thought into it.

“Worse yet,” said Builder.  “No one has ever tried shooting at her.  Apparently her gift got well known pretty quick, and from then on all her fighting was with Ultras.”

I rolled my eyes.

“It wasn’t a total loss, though,” Builder continued.  “Some of the other Ultras had good advice on the topic, they shared it around the Warband.  I don’t really know much about how to stay out of rifle sights myself, but it seemed like Smasher was confident that they’d gotten better at it.”

Hierarchy continued to be the worst, news at eleven.  It was a good thing I’d encouraged my followers to share their experiences with each other, apparently that was still paying off.

“They should be ready, I think,” said Owner, “For the attack at the end of the week.”

I looked down for a moment.

There’d been no going back ever since I confirmed it with Her, of course, but it was still somehow sobering to say it out loud.

“About that,” I cautioned.

They both looked over, concern and surprise on their faces.

“We go the 28th,” I said.  “We’ll set out in the morning, before the dawn, and hit them just as the sun is going down.”

“What the-“ said Owner, before Builder interrupted her.

“That’s the day after tomorrow!”

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

The Plan:

– We attack on the 28th. The only person who finds out about this early is Prevailer, who gets to discover this on the 25th. On the 26th, those members of our Posse that we can trust not to blab find out.

-On the 28th, Smasher and the warband find out. Preferably while being herded into the trucks.

– Merlin’s invisible troops are, of course, invisible. They are also carrying Knight equipment. Picker’s assassins carried Knight equipment. Hmmm. But what the Knights are asking for in exchange for the use of their equipment is morally completely reprehensible. I can’t countenance that, and would lose my Resistance contact if I did. (I would deserve to lose my Resistance contact if I did that. I would be truly a monster.)

– I need to bear in mind that Merlin and Arthur might have empowered the same people. That is to say, some of Merlin’s invisible assassins might have Ultra Strength, or Speed, or Toughness. They’re already hitting above their weight – on top of that, they may actually have some weight to hit on top of.

– Another option for dealing with Merlin is to take advantage of KEM. I know where she lives, what she can do and who she cares for; leaving that report on Merlin in the right place should be enough to get her killed outright. However, I shouldn’t use KEM on more than one person. Merlin is a greater threat than Guinevere.

– Third option – use Owner to demolish Merlin’s house in the middle of the night (buying and demolishing the property).

– Fourth option – take advantage of Builder’s stuff-stretching ability to ensure that our confrontation happens in an ankle-deep flood. Even invisible people can be seen walking through ankle-deep water – if nothing else, by the foot-shaped hollows in the water.

– We hope the KEM managed to take out Merlin, and we further hope that doing so reversed her Power’s effects. However, if not, we have a multipronged strategy against those invisible troops. Firstly, Merlin herself is killed quickly – sniper bullet, if necessary (no showboating here). Second, a smoke machine may make invisible people visible, and a laser can blind their spotters, effectively making them ineffective on the field.

– Guinevere is easily handled. I need merely imbue my Posse with fireproof; after that, Smasher can take her out easily. (Ankle-deep water should mess with her, too, by extinguishing a lot of fires).

– Lancelot and Arthur are unlikely to be trouble in the final confrontation.

– That giant Union tank, on the other hand, is a problem (and not a small one). But Builder should be able to deal with it; her power works at any range. She can close off any gun barrels by extending the barrel material _inwards_, she can mess up the engine by making the internals just grow crazy spikes everywhere, and so on. Once she can see it, she can ruin it utterly – and probably without even leaving any external sign of her sabotage, so it can all be blamed on the Union being idiots.

– Builder is our go-to person for ranged anti-Union-tech operations. No machine can long survive her vengeful gaze, once she’s decided to smash it. And if the Union gets wise to the point of limiting our visibility (say, with smoke), the Smasher can just smash the smoke…

– If the Ar Harbour team don’t want to come out and fight, we can draw them out by taking hostages. from the people they care for. This strategy is unpleasant and distasteful, but it will work, and will draw them away from buildings. Moreover, I don’t actually need to permanently harm the hostages, not if I’m threatening enough.

-Talking of Smasher, if she can smash *fire*, then Guinevere doesn’t stand a hope.

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

 

Day 27:

Days remaining: 2!!

AP available: (6 at end of day + 1 for 6 hours sleep) = 7/10

Non AP Action: Swap in a new plan.  You write in a new plan, I’ll give you Mia’s assessment of it.  If you don’t do this then the existing one will be executed.  The plan that is in force when its execution date arrives will be used for the actual battle, though there may be mid battle votes that could alter it in process.

Non AP Action: Make clear whether Smoke Grenade Attack or Haze/Laser Trucks is your plan.  If you don’t specify either we’ll proceed with Haze/Laser Trucks

Prestige: 3

Timeslots available: 2, morning and afternoon

Builder Timeslot Available: 2, morning and afternoon

Owner Timeslot Available: 2, morning and afternoon

Smasher : Timeslot Available: morning or afternoon, but not both

Posse: 3 or 3 out of 3 slots filled

Force size: 45

Condition: Healthy

[spoiler=Ultras]

 

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

Posse:

Builder — 0/0/0, a woman who can alter objects for miles around into other things, blessed with a ‘Bulletproof’ blend

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

Smasher — 3/0/1, a woman who is billed as the strongest Ultra fighter of all time

Ultra Allies:

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

Clawer – Ultra fighter 2/0/1, melee combatant, deadly hooks for hands

Stopper – partner of Clawer, 0/0/0, steals form’s velocity by looking at them

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

Grower – 0/*0/1, an outside Ultra I sponsored into the Lair, has a bullet blend from me, can rapidly increase the size and mass of objects

Joker — 0/2/0, a woman who can change what other people/herself look like

Replayer — 1/2/0, she can ‘step back in time’ to undo damage that she takes

Ultra Enemies:

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

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

Ultra Acquaintances:

Tracker – Running buddy, 1/0/1, Creates tracks, and can move things on them

Shower – Adder’s protégé, 1*/0/1*, gains strength and durability from witnesses

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

Bubbler – Operates Ultra clinic 0/0/?, traps things in bubbles that heal and move them

Sucker — Ultra entertainer, ?/?/?, pulls objects/people towards her at incredible rate

Gunner — 0/0/1, she shoots tracking Ultra Blasts at roughly Ultra Strength One

Chiller — 1/0/1, can freeze any object she touches, leaving them brittle and easily broken

Cutter — 1/1/1, she is a brutal front line combatant

Swimmer — 1/0/1, she can ‘swim’ through solid surfaces

Burner — 0/0/1, she can summon Ultra fire from anywhere that she can see

Maxxer — 0/0/0, she can augment the gifts of other Ultras, pushing their gifts

Puncher — 1/0/1, her strength and speed both go up when she repeats her movements

[/spoiler]

 

[spoiler=Actions]

Actions:

[ ] Seek Transportation

-[ ] Scavenge (Timeslot cost: 2; AP cost 4, refunds 3 on success)

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

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

-[ ] Trade with existing owners (Timeslot cost: 1; AP cost 2, refunds 1 on success)

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

Concerns: Snitcher may disapprove of a warlord being civil

-[ ] Seize by force (Timeslot cost: 2; AP cost 4, refunds 3 on success)

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

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

-[ ] Seek Transportation [Adder + Company] (Timeslot cost: 1; AP cost 2, refunds 1 on success)

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

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

 

[ ] Seek Target Information

-[ ] Company (Timeslot cost: 1; AP cost 2, refunds 1 on success)

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

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

-[ ] Subtracter (Timeslot cost: 1; AP cost 3, refunds 1 on success)

Motive: Subtracter is the military leader of the Regime, she will have information on this target

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

-[ ] Survivors (Timeslot cost:1; AP cost 2, refunds 1 on success)

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

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

 

[ ] Seek Posse Members

-[ ] wander & gossip, (Timeslot cost: 1; AP cost 1, refunds 1 on success)

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

Concerns: None

-[ ] At Ultra Fights, (Timeslot cost: 1; AP cost 1, refunds 1 on success)

Constraint: Only available in the afternoon or night on days divisible by 4 (day 4, 8, etc)

Motive: There are dozens of powerful Ultras in the Lair. I know only the barest fraction of them. I can learn the basics on 3-12 of them in a few hours of socializing and gossiping at this kind of event.

Concerns: Ultras associated with the Fights are more likely than most to be melee combatants.

 

[ ] Seek Warband Members

-[ ] At the Yard, (Timeslot cost: 1; AP cost 2, refunds 1 on success)

Motive: The Lair is surrounded by hundreds of Regime Ultras. The strongest come to the Yard to show their power and appeal to those like me, who would give them purpose. I should be able to gather between 5 and 20 Ultras of such caliber.

Concerns: I will need to provide housing and direction to these Ultras, or risk them wandering off. I can expect to spend at least an action a day on them, and training them might well eat up more. Ideally a Posse member will be tasked with this.

-[ ] [Gang name] From a Gang, (Timeslot cost: 2; AP cost 5, refunds 3 on success)

Motive: The Ultras that surround Shington are organized into Gangs dozens strong. If I can recruit such a force I might have my whole Warband right there.

Concerns: These Ultras likely already have patrons in the Lair, who I would need to negotiate with. Their leader would also likely want a place in my Posse, and she would be the primary locus of their loyalty until I’d had time to win them over.

 

[ ] Investigate Acquaintance:

-[ ] [Name], (Timeslot cost: 1; AP cost 2, refunds 1 on success, 2 if we become allies)

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

Concerns: None

 

[ ] Invite Ally into Posse:

-[ ] [Name], (Timeslot cost: 1; AP cost 3, refunds 3 on success)

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

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

 

[ ] Seek Information on Snitcher’s patterns

-[ ] Passive listening (Timeslot cost: 1; AP cost 1, refunds 1 on success)

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

Concerns: None

-[ ] Active interrogation of Snitches (Timeslot cost: 1; AP cost 3, refunds 2 on success)

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

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

-[ ] Confront Snitcher Directly (Timeslot cost:1; AP cost 4, refunds 3 on success)

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

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

 

[ ] Seek Information on Regime military operations

-[ ] Ask Subtracter (Timeslot cost: 1; AP cost 3, refunds 1 on success)

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

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

-[ ] Ask Around (Timeslot cost: 1; AP cost 2, refunds 1 on success)

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

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

 

[ ] Relax and Recuperate

-[ ] By visiting Blisser (Timeslot cost: X (slots spent until AP reaches max), AP cost 0, returns 3 per time period. DANGER, this action may cause addiction)

-[ ]By lounging around, (Timeslot cost: 1, AP cost 0, refunds 1 on success)

Motive: I could do with some rest.

Concerns: None

-[ ]By patronizing entertainment areas (Timeslot cost: 1, AP cost 1, refunds 3 on success)

Motive: I could do with some rest, and I might learn some things by socializing

Concerns: None

-[ ]By using my gift to repair the city (Timeslot cost: 1, AP cost 2, refunds 5 on success)

Motive: It needs to be done.

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

-[ ]By using my gift to heal people (Timeslot cost: 1, AP cost 1, refunds 5 on success)

Motive: This is why I have my gift.

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

 

[ ] Organize Armory [Timeslot cost: 1, AP cost 2, returns 2 on success)

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

 

Concerns: None

 

[ ] Action: Direct the Warband (Timeslot cost 0, AP cost 1, returns 1 if successful)

Motive: If I need to set my warband in motion, give them a project or whatever, it is as simple as telling them to jump.  My will is their command.

-[ ] Let [Posse Member] Supervise, takes up the Posse Member’s action, modifies success chance based on which Posse member it is, and which action

 

[ ] Action: Train the Warband (Timeslot cost 0, AP cost 1, returns 1 if successful) [Requires a timeslot from the teacher, who should probably be an Ultra combatant]

Motive: Yard Ultras are fierce, but undisciplined.  They are warriors, not soldiers.  I can get better outcomes if I teach them some basics.

-[ ] In Ultra Combat (Gives bonuses on their battle rolls)

-[ ] In anti firearm maneuvers (Makes them suffer less casualties under fire)

-[ ] In obedience (makes them more likely to obey my orders)

 

[ ] Action: Other (Timeslot cost: x, returns x if successful)

 

KEM Actions:

[ ] Assign Assassination mission [Timeslot cost 1, AP cost 3, returns 1 on success, can only be done in the morning, uncertain Snitcher risk]

 

Description: KEM are the only humans who fight back on a consistent, day to day basis.  We’ve come up together, they and I, and pointing them at my foes is only common sense.  If I give them a target, then I trust them to make a good faith effort to put that Ultra down.  Their odds of success, of course, vary wildly depending on how much info I can provide, and the gifts of the Ultra in question.

 

Resistance Actions:

[ ] Assign Information Gathering Mission [Timeslot cost 1, AP cost 2, returns 1 on success, can only be done in the morning, uncertain Snitcher risk]

Description: The humans are the ocean in which the Ultras swim, the saying goes.  The Resistance’s capacity to gather information about Ultras is unsurpassed.  If I give them a target, then they will give me every bit of public information on the target, and often times a little bit more.  Ultras are people, after all.  I believe this with all my heart.  And people trust other people, even those that they ultimately shouldn’t.  I can assign as many targets as I wish, but the more I assign the less details I will probably get, and the longer it might take.

 

[ ] Debrief Information Gathering Mission [Timeslot cost 1, AP cost 0, returns 1 on success, can only be done in the morning, uncertain Snitcher risk]

Description: The information that the Resistance gathers is worthless if I never regain it.  Using protocols I’ve worked out ahead of time, and my recent discovery of Snitcher’s habits, it should be possible for me to take the Resistance’s reports with minimal risk.  I expect I should give them a day or two for local targets, and possibly as much as four for targets in Ar Harbor or further afield.

Smasher Actions:

[ ] Recuperate [Timeslot cost All]

Description: Smasher hangs on the edge of death.  Her body and gift will try to knit her back together each day.

 

Owner Actions:

[ ] Acquire Funds [Timeslot cost 1]

Description: Owner takes action to get more and more valuable assets within our world, increasing her overall funding, hopefully permitting her gift’s actions to be swifter and larger in impact. (Requires Write In clarification on how to do this)

[ ] Change Company [ Timeslot cost 1]

Description: Owner presently runs a package store, located in downtown Washington.  She has, as near as I can estimate, a low six figures saved up.  With this action I can direct her to acquire licenses, expand locations, purchase other businesses, or perform similar deeds, all based around changing the operation and activities of her imaginary franchise. (Requires Write In clarification on how to do this)

[ ] Company Action [ Timeslot cost 2]

Description: This is a catchall action for anything I might think of that could let Owner impact the main battle in Ar Harbor.  Buying up local real estate and demolishing it on a certain date seems like the obvious course of action, but there are a lot of other fringe ideas that I’ve been entertaining. [Requires Write In clarification on how to do this.  The first Action spent on this is about Owner doing tests to make sure this effort will work, the second actually kicks off whatever changes I want in the imaginary world.]

Builder Actions:

[ ] Repair Structure [Timeslot cost 1]

Description: Builder can repair most any structure any structure in just a few hours, spreading broken portions back into place and generating new matter as needed.

 

[ ] Construct Known Structure [ Timeslot cost 1]

 

Description: Builder can construct any easily described structure with the same ease that she repairs them.  Her present education limits this to extremely primitive structures, but that might well be changeable.

 

[ ] Construct Known Items [Timeslot cost 1]

 

Description: Builder’s gits aren’t limited to buildings.  If she can get a perfect understanding of an objects, and samples for every component, then she can form any items that I might desire.  The easiest way to accomplish this, of course, would be to provide her with a sample.

 

[ ] Memorize Patterns [ Timeslot cost 1]

 

Description: Builder’s gifts are heavily limited by her imperfect education.  The more patterns I can get her to learn, the more she can construct from any given material.  If I provide her with patterns or specimens I’m pretty sure she can memorize them and add them to her arsenal.

[/spoiler]

 

 

Indulger 9:2

“You got this, man,” said Ragnarok.

I nodded at him, then at Lotus, and stepped out from between them, walking out onto the platform like it was nothing at all.

The Brides had been watching us approach, of course, but they would never admit that, so it was only now that they ‘noticed me’.  Ouroboros and Vampire were chief among them, but I’d learned enough about their pecking order over the past three days to know that the others around here were pretty high up there.

This was the Grand Host’s leadership, or almost all of it.

“Regimer,” said Vampire.  “What do you want?  We are pretty fucking busy.”

I rolled my head around on my neck, apparently just cracking it.  Really it was a move that was about bringing to their attention how swole I was, how deep my head was set between my shoulders.  This was a real dangerous talk, so I needed to take every little bit of good stuff I could get out of my look and vibe.

“I know,” I said.  “That’s why I didn’t come before.  But I figured maybe you could make time for me now, and maybe I could help you out a bit.”

The night before, as we sheltered down in our cave, I’d felt the camp erupt in turmoil.  Gifts had scoured and shattered the ground, bodies had fallen upon it, and there had basically been a big uproar.  Everyone had run every which way without anything like a plan.

It had been a lot like the shield was a big bowl and the Gods were ants trapped under it. They’d been fighting and struggling for what seemed like the whole of the world, while their enemy watched from outside and above.

I made a mental note to maybe tone down the Green a little in my daily.  That last thought had been kind of like someone else thinking.

“Help us,” said Oro, frowning at me like she didn’t believe me.  “I feel like we heard about that before, from another finger of your little Fist.  She was going to help us with scouting, so that we didn’t get ambushed.  How’s that going?”

I gave a big shrug, trying to get across that I could make them wait for my answers without actually making them wait for my answers.

“I think fine?” I said, making it a question.  “I haven’t been hanging with Haunter too much lately, but I know she’s been working with Goddesses, so I imagine y’all are in charge of whatever is going on there.”

That was actually true.  She’d been distant with the rest of us ever since we got to the Grand Host, staying closeted up with the healers.  I could get it, to be honest, she’d been trying to do the whole ‘give her shades bodies’ thing for a long time, and conveniently Lotus could do the same ‘wise advice giver’ thing  that Jane did.

“He thinks fine,” said Vampire.

“Fine,” echoed Ouroboros.

I let that sit there a bit.  The pressure was on me to answer them, and ordinarily I would’ve, but something about how stuff was going made not saying anything seem like a power move, but one that I couldn’t get blamed for.  Like I was just believing them, so if anything was going to happen it was going to have to start with them saying that they’d been wrong.

“If things are so fine,” said Vampire, breaking the silence after a half minute or so, “why didn’t we get any warning about last night’s attacks?  She’s supposed to be all over this scouting thing, right?  So what’s the point if it doesn’t actually warn anyone!”

I pulled a mug look at her for a bit, eyes bulging and mouth agape.  Ultra Fight hadn’t taught me to do acting at all, like, drama was mostly not a thing in the old wrestling gradition.  But it had taught me overacting just fine, so I’d serve up some melodrama.

“Your girl Manus tried to kill us!” I protested.  “We’ve been super busy killing chumps.  How are we going to have time to help with your other stuff if we are busy helping with the discipline part?”

It would have been lame to openly boast about killing a Bride, but working it in while I talked about something else should be fine.

“It isn’t my job to protect your life,” said Vampire.

“Your value to us is dependent on what you bring along for the ride,” continued Oro, “And so far it is the ability to kill our own.  You can see why we might not put too high a value on that, after last night!”

We’d surmised that the Union hitters hadn’t done the majority of the bloody work last night.  It had been the confusion, the chaos, Pantheon Goddesses killing one another in the dark, paranoid at the shapes around them.

“Scouting wasn’t going to solve that one,” I pointed out.  “You get that they are all around us, right?”

“What do you mean?” asked one of the audience members, an older Bride with a shrewd cast to her face.

“Go more than a few miles in any direction, you run into a Union patrol or two, stealthy and fast, keeping an eye on what goes out.  They move way faster than a walking pace, with their skiffs and such, so they just keep a loose cordon around us.  How you going to scout in that situation?”

“I don’t know,” grated Oro, “maybe fight them?”

“That would kind of break the point of the whole ‘send out powerless scouts’ thing, right?” I said, “Like if they could beat Union troops we’d make them part of our army instead.  They are in stealth forms for blending in, but anyone we send out of the shield gets marked.”

“What’s Haunter’s plan to deal with this?” demanded Vampire.

I made a note in the ‘Vampire is smarter than she usually acts’ column in my mind.  It might be an obvious play, to turn the dilemma around on the one posing it, but it still would have been easy to miss, to sit there like an asshole just guessing how it might be done, letting me tell them they were wrong over and over.

“Me,” I told them, pointing a thumb at my own chest.

“What can you do?” asked Oro.  “The thing where you move the ground and speed us up is helpful, sure, but how are you gonna get the scouts out among the Union squads surrounding us without them seeing them go through the shield?”

I turned the thumb down, pointing to the soil beneath us.

“We go under it,” I told her.  “I’ve been pulsing the ground all around us ever since we joined this column, pushing waves out at the same times every day, different directions, different distances.  Playing havoc with their equipment.”

“Just false alarms,” said Oro, getting it, “But you are going to turn them real in a bit?”

I nodded curtly.

“Haunter is almost done with enough scouts for the first run.  Her ghosts stuck in animal bodies or Union looking bodies.  I’ll push them out through the ground tonight, pop them up out around where the Union probably is.  They can try and get rescued or whatever, and we’ll know where the surrounders are exactly by how fast each one gets picked up.”

If they asked how I’d track where each one got picked up I was prepared to lie about Haunter always knowing where her shades were, but it would be better not to.  The real play was that they had codes from the general, and would hopefully be able to establish communication with the Union, who could feed us some ‘scouting successes’.

“And maybe scouts isn’t all you can send out,” said Vampire.  “Maybe some Brides go along on one of these rides, jump these surrounding units, get a little payback!”

She was a vicious one.

“I don’t see why not,” I allowed.  “I love being helpful.”

“Do you?” asked Oro, dubiously.

“Sure,” I said.  “I’m a helper!  Ask anyone.”

They looked to one another, then to the others who’d come along with me.

This was actually a part of the reason I hadn’t brought any of the Fist along.  I was trying, very hard, to kind of nail into everyone’s mind that we had gone native, that we were basically Gods and Brides like the rest of them.  Rags and Lotus were the two Pantheon people I felt closest two, for opposite reasons, so they were the ones who’d come with.

“He helpful?” asked Oro, pointedly looking to Lotus.

“Sure,” she said, echoing my phrasing.  “Sometimes you wanted a man around, you know?”

She made an obscene gesture as she did so, drawing a small wave of chuckles from the crowd.

“Alright,” said Vampire, once that had died down, “Well if you are so helpful, do you think you could maybe lend us a bit of that help with the problem we are currently facing?”

I gave an amiable shrug, like they’d asked me to paint a fence.

“What’s up?” I asked.

“How did they get through the fence!” she responded, her tone making it more of an answer than an actual question that she was asking me.

“The shield Goddess says they didn’t come through?” I asked, figuring that there wasn’t much harm in restating the obvious.

“She does,” said Vampire, “And we’ve assured herself that she is telling the truth.”

There was a dark undertone to that sentence, which made me think that I didn’t exactly want to know how the Brides satisfied themselves that someone was being honest with them.  No normal army would torture one of their most crucial guys, of course, but I wouldn’t put much past this gang.

“So it was just the ones that hid in front of us then?” I asked, artlessly, without guile, keeping it all on the surface.

“What?!” asked nearly everyone at once.

I kept up the dumb show, only letting my face wrinkle just a bit, like I didn’t understand what they were so surprised at.

“What do you mean ‘hid in front of us’?” demanded Oro.  “Nobody came through the shield from the front either!  She can tell no matter what side they move through.”

“Sure,” I said, nodding along like I didn’t see what she was getting at, “If they move through.  But she probably isn’t all the time getting told by her gift that, like, another step of air has come through right?  Or that she walked another tree into it?”

I saw the moment, the spark as they got it, first one than the next, faces going from open and angry to closed and full of murder.

“So they just sat in front of us,” I rambled on, “Let the shield get carried past them, then got up and walked on in with none the wiser.  Simple, right?”

“Bullshit!” said Oro, instantly.  “We’d have seen them come in!”

Vampire had actually gotten it faster than her supposed minder, I’d noticed.  It seemed to me more and more like Oro was here for some weird trick of her gift, and that Vampire might be both the smart one and the strong one.

“I felt them,” I told her plainly.  “They just sat there like I said, then when we were close they just mixed on in.  You didn’t see them.”

The faces went back to angry on the drop of a dime.

Tough crowd.

“You felt them!” snarled Vampire.  “Your fucking dirt mover gift warned you?  And you didn’t think to tell anyone else about it?  Or do anything yourself?  Just sat on your fat-“

“It isn’t my job to protect your life.” I told her.

No expression on my face, not a hint of smugness.  I just let her own words ring out, stood tall and calm in the silence that followed.

This was the drinks, of course.  No way original flavor Dale could have baited out those words then set them back in her face.  But with Lotus’ upgrades it hadn’t even been hard.

There was a an instant of silence.  I could see the emotions playing out over the crowd, the instant desire to retaliate and shut me up, strangled by the knowledge that to do so would be to criticize Vampire’s stance.

“That’s…” said the one Bride from the crowd who’d spoken up before, but she fell silent as no one else joined in, wilting from the attention in a way that she hadn’t when she’d last drawn it.

At last, after what seemed like entire minutes but must have been really much shorter, Vampire gave a forced chuckle.

It wasn’t convincing at all, sounded nothing like genuine humor, but it didn’t really have to.  Everyone seized upon it, joined in with their own strained mirth, and the tension just kind of leaked away.

“Maybe it should be,” she said, when the fake chuckling had run its course.  “Maybe it fucking should be.”

I gave a shit eating grin, just totally honored to take her orders like the dumb male that I was.

“I’m so busy though,” I mock protested, “I don’t know when someone is going to need fighting, I might not do a good job…”

I trailed off at the end, making it clear that my refusal was sarcastic, the kind of cloying whining that only someone who wasn’t as cool as those of us who were here would bother to do.

“That’s done,” she said, now sounding like Her, the voice of someone who accustomed to stating orders as facts, “No one else will fuck with you.”

She looked over to the rest of them, brow just the slightest bit furrowed.

“Right?” she asked.

A general noise of approval and agreement came from the crowd, Brides all but falling over each other to agree with Vampire.

I let my tension lapse a bit.  I’d been prepared to go on a bit further, to point out that the way that the Union troops had infiltrated into the column after they got through the shield had probably been the same disguise stuff that Rags told me they’d used in the last fight, to offer Condemner’s aid alongside mine and other stuff like that.

It was nice that it hadn’t been necessary.  I could leave those points for future fights, trot them out if I needed anything else from Vampire.

We weren’t supposed to be with them long, after all.  We were three days into a 2 week trip, and any day could see the Union make a big play.  As soon as Haunter got her stuff taken care of we’d be out of here.

“Indulger,” said Vampire, pushing me out of my reverie.

I’d have to watch that.  The yellow and green seemed to encourage racing thoughts, where as soon as you relaxed you kind of fell into your own mind.

“Yeah?” I asked.

“From now on, you are with me.  We’ll burn the Union down together.”

To my surprise the smile that came to my lips was genuine.  It was nice to be wanted, after all.

“Sounds fun.”

Regime Quest 28

Results from Previous round votes:

1 Vote plan CCC

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

Winning Plan:

Plan:

[Morning] Train the Warband, in Ultra Combat

[Afternoon] Inform Prevailer about the proposed change in the date of the attack, on the grounds that “they already know we’re gonna hit them, so I kinda wanna mess with them before they’re ready for us”.

[Owner] Get hold of, if possible, a smoke machine and a high-power laser. She can claim that they’re for ‘a rave’, but really they’re mostly in case Merlin’s gift didn’t end with her death. (Smoke machine can outline invisible troops, and a laser can blind the otherwise untouchable spotters – though it’s possible that Smasher can smash them anyhow).

(On the side, she can have the rave in the imaginary world, as well; hire a DJ, start selling tickets, and raise some funds – perhaps in aid of an anti-kidnapping charity)

[Builder] Create a few trucks, and experiment with making them in different ways. Also have a few words with her on the subject of large, vehicle-mounted guns… and then just see what comes out of it.

[Smasher] [Afternoon] Train the warband, in Ultra Combat. They’re looking after her, let’s give her the chance to look after them.Day 24 Log :

7 AP at start of day (6 at end of last day +1 for half night’s sleep)

-2 Train the Warband (5 AP)

Roll 10, +1 for Crit Success success (6 AP)

-3 Inform Prevailer (entertainment) (3 AP)

Roll 8, +2 for success (5 AP)

Builder Experiment with truck guns

Roll 7, success(ish)

Owner: Buy rave stuff

Roll 10, Crit Success

Smasher: Train the Warband

Roll 8, success

End of day, 5 AP

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

Train the Warband:

The real breakthrough came when I had them do the teaching.

It was probably the thing with Smasher that gave me the idea.  How they’d ended up helping her out, at least in the short term, rather than the other way around.  It got my mind into a different place, got me thinking of them as people, rather than an amorphous mob.

It might also have been about dispelling elitism, a bit.  I mean, I basically was one of them, only I’d made it to the top of the ladder.  That had left me with a bit of a chip on my shoulder, I now saw, thinking that because I’d been more successful than them it meant that I was better.

That was rubbish thinking, Regime thinking.  Even if I was better, it didn’t mean that I would be better at everything.  It didn’t mean that there was nothing I could learn from them.  I’d been walking past a gold mine, proud of how clean my hands were.

Looking at it with a cold, clear eye, being maximally dispassionate about it and all, who really gained from a lesson?  The teacher or the students?  Sure, teaching something let you really learn it, there was a lot to be said for that.  You knew you genuinely understood something when you could teach it to someone else, but put that aside for a sec.

At the start, the teacher knew a thing, the student didn’t.  At the end, they both knew the thing.  Obviously the students were the ones benefiting.  So why was I so proud about this relationship?  I was helping Regime warriors get more deadly, puffing myself up about how strong my warband was.  I ought to have been using them to make ME more powerful all along.

The only complication was that I couldn’t make it obvious that they were the ones providing value.  Regime posturing and all that.  I solved that by making it a contest.

I took the squad leaders Smasher had chosen, Jumper and the others, got them up in front of the crew and had them each give their best lesson, earning the right to be ‘first squad’ for the one who gave the tips I considered to have helped the rest out the most.

They might not have been, one on one, better combatants than I was, but everyone had figured out a little trick or two that I hadn’t necessarily set down.  Stuff about how important sight lines were, the times to use Ultra strength to swing or throw an object versus when you needed to get in there and hit directly, how a deathtouch opponent could be handled, the rough categories that projectile gifts fell into and how to tell them apart.

It was considerably more productive, I judged, than my own lecture would have been, and to top matters off I learned some things myself.  An excellent morning indeed.

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

Inform Prevailer:

“She’ll see you now,” said Answerer, sliding out of the way so that I could get to the door.

I didn’t pay Her mascot much mind, letting her creep on past without moving forward.

We were in the old Treasury building, down on some sublevel.  I’d tried to keep the inner Lair geography straight in my head, but it was hard to think about anything else when you got this close to Her.

I gritted my teeth and walked up, pushed the door open.

The room beyond was a meeting room of some kind, nondescript and functional, black office chairs around a faded brown table.  There were probably a thousand like it within a few blocks.  The strangest thing about it, honestly, was that it wasn’t even a little crumbling.  It wouldn’t have been out of place, aside from some dust and mold, back when the building was still in use.

She was standing at the head of the table, looking over at me.

I forced myself to keep walking, not to break stride.  Everyone knew that She hated when people wasted Her time, that She hated suck ups almost as much as those who didn’t suck up enough.

She hated lots of things.

“Blender, right?” She asked.

“Yes,” I said.

I was right in front of Her now.  Right in front of the woman who’d ended the world.  I could reach out, if so inclined, just brush my fingers against Her and She’d be done.  Take away ‘living’, or ‘smart’, or some other crucial metadata.

Instead I dropped into the Posture, going down on my knees and crossing my wrists behind my head.  A lot of people had tried stuff just like that, and She was still here.  I wasn’t about to end Her story.

“You are going to take out those Ar Harbor punks, right?” She said.

I gave a wordless nod.

I was struggling to keep my mind away from how every second could be my last.  This was, undeniably, a more dangerous moment than anything King Arthur could throw at me.  The lunatic across from me had the blood of billions on Her hands.

“So?” she asked.

“So I wanted to tell you that I’m moving up the time table-“

I’d meant to end the sentence there, but I saw one of Her hands tense slightly where it rested against Her pants legs.

“-if that’s ok with You,” I finished.  “I’d like to go on the 28th, instead of the 31st.”

She dropped down to one knee, eyefucked me.

“When’s that?” She asked.  “What do you mean?”

Shit, why would She not know dates…uh, ok, maybe She just meant She didn’t bother with them.

“Get with Snitcher,” I suggested, “3 days from now.  I mean not today, not tomorrow, or the day after.  The 28th is the one after the day after tomorrow.”

“The day after the day after tomorrow,” she echoed, slowly.  “Morning or evening?”

“Whichever You want!” I said, eagerly, while simultaneously hoping that She would pick the evening.  I was planning to drive out early on the 28th, if She wanted a morning fight we’d need to leave the day before, do a night drive or spend the night out in the wilderness.

“Night works,” She said, standing back up.

I carefully died not breathe out a sigh of relief, remaining stationary for a few moments longer as She turned away.

I was nearly to the door when She spoke again.

“Keep the place looking nice,” She directed.  “I’m going to walk around for a bit after you finish up.  See all the shops and such.”

I gave a wordless nod.

I desperately wanted to ask Her if damage and repair would be ok, but all of my instincts were warning me that quibbling would only be bad for me.  I needed to be a glove, an instrument.  I would be spared if I was transparent, absent, nothing to think about or remark on.

She looked away again and I took the opportunity to leave.

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

Debrief Posse:

“You didn’t want Smasher at the debrief?” asked Owner.

It was a fair question.  Only days ago I would have given quite a bit to get her to show up.

“No, this is just for the three of us.” I  told them.  “She told you how things worked out, right?”

“She said stuff was going great,” said Builder.  “They were all learning and working together, but she was ready to attend if you wanted her to.”

I smiled, gave a small nod.

“I didn’t want to take the risk,” I told them.

“Risk?” asked Owner.

“People don’t change,” I told her, a bit bluntly.  “Hardly ever.  They backslide, they relapse.  Call it what you want.  We all go back to what’s old and familiar.  Tonight is a very dangerous time for Smasher.”

Builder got it immediately, face lighting up.

“You think if she’s with the warband she’s less likely to get tore up!” she guessed.  “Cuz they were the ones who got her to fly straight in the first place.”

I gave a small nod.

Of course, what I’d just said applied to me as well.  An outside observer might have said that I was doing the same thing, putting the briefing back on its most familiar ground as I faced great risk.  I wouldn’t have denied it.

“How’d things go for you?” I asked Owner.

She grinned lazily.

“Nothing to it.  Buying stuff like that is probably pretty easy over there, I guess imaginary me just took a bunch of these cards down to the smoke store shop and carried it on back.”

More likely it had been an online order with expedited shipping, but I’d long ago stopped fighting with Owner’s interpretation of the world gone by.  I suspected that more than half of her mistakes were just ways to get under my skin, anyway.

“You got the smoke machine?” I asked.

“Yep,” she said, “And a bunch of these laser things too.  We might have got cheated though, I tried a few out and they didn’t even cut through a wall.”

That drew a chuckle from me.

“These aren’t Ultra lasers,” I told her.  “Not gifts or anything, they have to follow the real rules.  A laser that could cut through a wall wasn’t something you could actually make, not without a whole lot more power than the battery packs we ordered.”

She looked disgruntled.

“Laaaame!”, said Builder.

I looked over at her, rolling my eyes a bit.

“Where’d you put the trucks?” I asked her.

“Down the street a ways,” she said, vaguely.

That was probably good thinking.  If we left trucks lying around outside the Lair they’d have been stolen or scavenged immediately, but nobody in here was likely to bother.

It wasn’t that I trusted the people in here, mind, it was that they were already where they wanted to be, close to the seat of power.  Transportation wasn’t a priority for anyone except chumps who took the Warlord job.

“You get the guns on em?” I asked.

She pulled a face, grimacing a bit.

“I guess?” she said.  “I just made bigger regular guns, like, each part bigger.  I hope they won’t explode or whatever when we shoot them.  I’m not sure if that’s exactly what you meant.”

It hadn’t been, of course, but in retrospect she didn’t really know anything about tank turrets or vehicle mounted machine guns or anything.  ‘Giant Rifles’ was probably as good as this could have gone.

Honestly I didn’t know a huge deal about guns either.  Maybe a rifle that was twice as big actually shot twice as hard?  It probably couldn’t be that simple, but if nothing else they’d make the trucks look fiercer, more obviously Warlord gear.

Image was everything, after all.  A few post apoc looking war trucks in the background of the fight scene couldn’t hurt.

“Alright,” I said.  “Get some sleep, tomorrow is-“

“What’d you do?” asked Owner, poking a finger at me.

“Huh?”

“This afternoon.  What did you do?  I know you never waste time, and you’ve taken a good bit off lately.”

Despite myself I felt a bit of warmth in my chest, to know that she was checking up on me.

“I’ll tell you tomorrow,” I told them.

 

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

The Plan:

– We should attack on the 28th. We shouldn’t tell anyone about this until about the 25th. This will throw a spanner in the works of any trap they’re planning that requires that they have an idea of when we’re coming.

– If we head over on the 30th, we can expect to ‘coincidentally’ meet a Union patrol partway there who will inflict some damage on us. We should prepare for this possibility, even at our earlier date.

– We attack on the 28th. The only person who finds out about this early is Prevailer, who gets to discover this on the 25th. On the 26th, those members of our Posse that we can trust not to blab find out.

-On the 28th, Smasher and the warband find out. Preferably while being herded into the trucks.

“This will minimize the opportunity for betrayal, and we might very well catch them with their pants down, planning some kind of preemptive strike on the 29th.”

– Merlin’s invisible troops are, of course, invisible. They are also carrying Knight equipment. Picker’s assassins carried Knight equipment. Hmmm. But what the Knights are asking for in exchange for the use of their equipment is morally completely reprehensible. I can’t countenance that, and would lose my Resistance contact if I did. (I would deserve to lose my Resistance contact if I did that. I would be truly a monster.)

– I need to bear in mind that Merlin and Arthur might have empowered the same people. That is to say, some of Merlin’s invisible assassins might have Ultra Strength, or Speed, or Toughness. They’re already hitting above their weight – on top of that, they may actually have some weight to hit on top of.

– Another option for dealing with Merlin is to take advantage of KEM. I know where she lives, what she can do and who she cares for; leaving that report on Merlin in the right place should be enough to get her killed outright. However, I shouldn’t use KEM on more than one person. Merlin is a greater threat than Guinevere.

– Third option – use Owner to demolish Merlin’s house in the middle of the night (buying and demolishing the property).

– Fourth option – take advantage of Builder’s stuff-stretching ability to ensure that our confrontation happens in an ankle-deep flood. Even invisible people can be seen walking through ankle-deep water – if nothing else, by the foot-shaped hollows in the water.

– We hope the KEM managed to take out Merlin, and we further hope that doing so reversed her Power’s effects. However, if not, we have a multipronged strategy against those invisible troops. Firstly, Merlin herself is killed quickly – sniper bullet, if necessary (no showboating here). Second, a smoke machine may make invisible people visible, and a laser can blind their spotters, effectively making them ineffective on the field.

“Re: Sniping, Merlin will probably be hidden in a basement somewhere, if she’s alive when we strike.  I could try sending in a sniper ahead of time, hope to catch her just out and about living her life, but in a pitched battle she isn’t going to be standing around where we can shoot her.  I also, um, don’t have a sniper?  The Ultras will have rifles, and they’ve trained in anti firearm techniques (ducking behind stuff), but I haven’t really sought out and trained marksman to the point that I’d call any of my warband ‘snipers’, per se.”

“Re: Smoke machine, potential here, but I’d need to do a lot of testing to fine tune this.  Like, a thick smoke will blind and choke everyone.  I need sort of a mist deal.  Hopefully what Owner bought is what I need.  Might be worth spending some time messing around with.”

“Re: Lasers.  I don’t think trying to hit people in the eyes with lasers in a big fight is going to work.  The lasers might turn out to ‘hit’ the invisible people though, so they might be some use, but everyone carrying a laser is someone who isn’t fighting…I dunno, I don’t really like this idea.”

– Guinevere is easily handled. I need merely imbue my Posse with fireproof; after that, Smasher can take her out easily. (Ankle-deep water should mess with her, too, by extinguishing a lot of fires).

– Lancelot and Arthur are unlikely to be trouble in the final confrontation.

– That giant Union tank, on the other hand, is a problem (and not a small one). But Builder should be able to deal with it; her power works at any range. She can close off any gun barrels by extending the barrel material _inwards_, she can mess up the engine by making the internals just grow crazy spikes everywhere, and so on. Once she can see it, she can ruin it utterly – and probably without even leaving any external sign of her sabotage, so it can all be blamed on the Union being idiots.

– Builder is our go-to person for ranged anti-Union-tech operations. No machine can long survive her vengeful gaze, once she’s decided to smash it. And if the Union gets wise to the point of limiting our visibility (say, with smoke), the Smasher can just smash the smoke…

“I like this idea a lot.  Builder can rapidly ruin any tank she can see, although she can’t add stuff to the internals.  Nothing is going to keep running well once an enemy starts creatively adding stuff to it.”

– If the Ar Harbour team don’t want to come out and fight, we can draw them out by taking hostages. from the people they care for. This strategy is unpleasant and distasteful, but it will work, and will draw them away from buildings. Moreover, I don’t actually need to permanently harm the hostages, not if I’m threatening enough.

-Talking of Smasher, if she can smash *fire*, then Guinevere doesn’t stand a hope.

“I asked her about this, she can smash both fire and smoke, but apparently each fairly small part is separate, so she’d smash a 5 footish area of it each time, rather than the whole cloud/fire.”

 

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

 

Day 26:

Days remaining: 3!

AP available: (5 at end of day + 1 for 6 hours sleep) = 6/10

Non AP Action: Swap in a new plan.  You write in a new plan, I’ll give you Mia’s assessment of it.  If you don’t do this then the existing one will be executed.  The plan that is in force when its execution date arrives will be used for the actual battle, though there may be mid battle votes that could alter it in process.

Prestige: 3

Timeslots available: 2, morning and afternoon

Builder Timeslot Available: afternoon

Owner Timeslot Available: afternoon

Smasher : Timeslot Available: morning or afternoon, but not both

Posse: 3 or 3 out of 3 slots filled

Force size: 45

Condition: Healthy

[spoiler=Ultras]

 

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

Posse:

Builder — 0/0/0, a woman who can alter objects for miles around into other things, blessed with a ‘Bulletproof’ blend

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

Smasher — 3/0/1, a woman who is billed as the strongest Ultra fighter of all time

Ultra Allies:

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

Clawer – Ultra fighter 2/0/1, melee combatant, deadly hooks for hands

Stopper – partner of Clawer, 0/0/0, steals form’s velocity by looking at them

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

Grower – 0/*0/1, an outside Ultra I sponsored into the Lair, has a bullet blend from me, can rapidly increase the size and mass of objects

Joker — 0/2/0, a woman who can change what other people/herself look like

Replayer — 1/2/0, she can ‘step back in time’ to undo damage that she takes

Ultra Enemies:

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

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

Ultra Acquaintances:

Tracker – Running buddy, 1/0/1, Creates tracks, and can move things on them

Shower – Adder’s protégé, 1*/0/1*, gains strength and durability from witnesses

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

Bubbler – Operates Ultra clinic 0/0/?, traps things in bubbles that heal and move them

Sucker — Ultra entertainer, ?/?/?, pulls objects/people towards her at incredible rate

Gunner — 0/0/1, she shoots tracking Ultra Blasts at roughly Ultra Strength One

Chiller — 1/0/1, can freeze any object she touches, leaving them brittle and easily broken

Cutter — 1/1/1, she is a brutal front line combatant

Swimmer — 1/0/1, she can ‘swim’ through solid surfaces

Burner — 0/0/1, she can summon Ultra fire from anywhere that she can see

Maxxer — 0/0/0, she can augment the gifts of other Ultras, pushing their gifts

Puncher — 1/0/1, her strength and speed both go up when she repeats her movements

[/spoiler]

 

[spoiler=Actions]

Actions:

[ ] Accept Refiner’s Bargain (Timeslot cost: 0, AP cost 4, auto succeed)

Motive: His blessed weapons and armor would be a massive force multiplier for our group.  He might also send along Knight backup.  He would be a powerful additional patron.

Concerns: I would be responsible for a massacre in the immediate aftermath, or be killed by Second Fist if I backed out.  Subtracter would also likely perceive this alliance as an attempt at weaseling out from under her command, so I’d have to tread very carefully to avoid offending her.

 

[ ] Seek Transportation

-[ ] Scavenge (Timeslot cost: 2; AP cost 4, refunds 3 on success)

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

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

-[ ] Trade with existing owners (Timeslot cost: 1; AP cost 2, refunds 1 on success)

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

Concerns: Snitcher may disapprove of a warlord being civil

-[ ] Seize by force (Timeslot cost: 2; AP cost 4, refunds 3 on success)

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

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

-[ ] Seek Transportation [Adder + Company] (Timeslot cost: 1; AP cost 2, refunds 1 on success)

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

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

 

[ ] Seek Target Information

-[ ] Company (Timeslot cost: 1; AP cost 2, refunds 1 on success)

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

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

-[ ] Subtracter (Timeslot cost: 1; AP cost 3, refunds 1 on success)

Motive: Subtracter is the military leader of the Regime, she will have information on this target

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

-[ ] Survivors (Timeslot cost:1; AP cost 2, refunds 1 on success)

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

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

 

[ ] Seek Posse Members

-[ ] wander & gossip, (Timeslot cost: 1; AP cost 1, refunds 1 on success)

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

Concerns: None

-[ ] At Ultra Fights, (Timeslot cost: 1; AP cost 1, refunds 1 on success)

Constraint: Only available in the afternoon or night on days divisible by 4 (day 4, 8, etc)

Motive: There are dozens of powerful Ultras in the Lair. I know only the barest fraction of them. I can learn the basics on 3-12 of them in a few hours of socializing and gossiping at this kind of event.

Concerns: Ultras associated with the Fights are more likely than most to be melee combatants.

 

[ ] Seek Warband Members

-[ ] At the Yard, (Timeslot cost: 1; AP cost 2, refunds 1 on success)

Motive: The Lair is surrounded by hundreds of Regime Ultras. The strongest come to the Yard to show their power and appeal to those like me, who would give them purpose. I should be able to gather between 5 and 20 Ultras of such caliber.

Concerns: I will need to provide housing and direction to these Ultras, or risk them wandering off. I can expect to spend at least an action a day on them, and training them might well eat up more. Ideally a Posse member will be tasked with this.

-[ ] [Gang name] From a Gang, (Timeslot cost: 2; AP cost 5, refunds 3 on success)

Motive: The Ultras that surround Shington are organized into Gangs dozens strong. If I can recruit such a force I might have my whole Warband right there.

Concerns: These Ultras likely already have patrons in the Lair, who I would need to negotiate with. Their leader would also likely want a place in my Posse, and she would be the primary locus of their loyalty until I’d had time to win them over.

 

[ ] Investigate Acquaintance:

-[ ] [Name], (Timeslot cost: 1; AP cost 2, refunds 1 on success, 2 if we become allies)

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

Concerns: None

 

[ ] Invite Ally into Posse:

-[ ] [Name], (Timeslot cost: 1; AP cost 3, refunds 3 on success)

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

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

 

[ ] Seek Information on Snitcher’s patterns

-[ ] Passive listening (Timeslot cost: 1; AP cost 1, refunds 1 on success)

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

Concerns: None

-[ ] Active interrogation of Snitches (Timeslot cost: 1; AP cost 3, refunds 2 on success)

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

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

-[ ] Confront Snitcher Directly (Timeslot cost:1; AP cost 4, refunds 3 on success)

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

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

 

[ ] Seek Information on Regime military operations

-[ ] Ask Subtracter (Timeslot cost: 1; AP cost 3, refunds 1 on success)

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

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

-[ ] Ask Around (Timeslot cost: 1; AP cost 2, refunds 1 on success)

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

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

 

[ ] Relax and Recuperate

-[ ] By visiting Blisser (Timeslot cost: X (slots spent until AP reaches max), AP cost 0, returns 3 per time period. DANGER, this action may cause addiction)

-[ ]By lounging around, (Timeslot cost: 1, AP cost 0, refunds 1 on success)

Motive: I could do with some rest.

Concerns: None

-[ ]By patronizing entertainment areas (Timeslot cost: 1, AP cost 1, refunds 3 on success)

Motive: I could do with some rest, and I might learn some things by socializing

Concerns: None

-[ ]By using my gift to repair the city (Timeslot cost: 1, AP cost 2, refunds 5 on success)

Motive: It needs to be done.

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

-[ ]By using my gift to heal people (Timeslot cost: 1, AP cost 1, refunds 5 on success)

Motive: This is why I have my gift.

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

 

[ ] Organize Armory [Timeslot cost: 1, AP cost 2, returns 2 on success)

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

 

Concerns: None

 

[ ] Action: Direct the Warband (Timeslot cost 0, AP cost 1, returns 1 if successful)

Motive: If I need to set my warband in motion, give them a project or whatever, it is as simple as telling them to jump.  My will is their command.

-[ ] Let [Posse Member] Supervise, takes up the Posse Member’s action, modifies success chance based on which Posse member it is, and which action

 

[ ] Action: Train the Warband (Timeslot cost 0, AP cost 1, returns 1 if successful) [Requires a timeslot from the teacher, who should probably be an Ultra combatant]

Motive: Yard Ultras are fierce, but undisciplined.  They are warriors, not soldiers.  I can get better outcomes if I teach them some basics.

-[ ] In Ultra Combat (Gives bonuses on their battle rolls)

-[ ] In anti firearm maneuvers (Makes them suffer less casualties under fire)

-[ ] In obedience (makes them more likely to obey my orders)

 

[ ] Action: Other (Timeslot cost: x, returns x if successful)

 

KEM Actions:

[ ] Assign Assassination mission [Timeslot cost 1, AP cost 3, returns 1 on success, can only be done in the morning, uncertain Snitcher risk]

 

Description: KEM are the only humans who fight back on a consistent, day to day basis.  We’ve come up together, they and I, and pointing them at my foes is only common sense.  If I give them a target, then I trust them to make a good faith effort to put that Ultra down.  Their odds of success, of course, vary wildly depending on how much info I can provide, and the gifts of the Ultra in question.

 

Resistance Actions:

[ ] Assign Information Gathering Mission [Timeslot cost 1, AP cost 2, returns 1 on success, can only be done in the morning, uncertain Snitcher risk]

Description: The humans are the ocean in which the Ultras swim, the saying goes.  The Resistance’s capacity to gather information about Ultras is unsurpassed.  If I give them a target, then they will give me every bit of public information on the target, and often times a little bit more.  Ultras are people, after all.  I believe this with all my heart.  And people trust other people, even those that they ultimately shouldn’t.  I can assign as many targets as I wish, but the more I assign the less details I will probably get, and the longer it might take.

 

[ ] Debrief Information Gathering Mission [Timeslot cost 1, AP cost 0, returns 1 on success, can only be done in the morning, uncertain Snitcher risk]

Description: The information that the Resistance gathers is worthless if I never regain it.  Using protocols I’ve worked out ahead of time, and my recent discovery of Snitcher’s habits, it should be possible for me to take the Resistance’s reports with minimal risk.  I expect I should give them a day or two for local targets, and possibly as much as four for targets in Ar Harbor or further afield.

Smasher Actions:

[ ] Recuperate [Timeslot cost All]

Description: Smasher hangs on the edge of death.  Her body and gift will try to knit her back together each day.

 

Owner Actions:

[ ] Acquire Funds [Timeslot cost 1]

Description: Owner takes action to get more and more valuable assets within our world, increasing her overall funding, hopefully permitting her gift’s actions to be swifter and larger in impact. (Requires Write In clarification on how to do this)

[ ] Change Company [ Timeslot cost 1]

Description: Owner presently runs a package store, located in downtown Washington.  She has, as near as I can estimate, a low six figures saved up.  With this action I can direct her to acquire licenses, expand locations, purchase other businesses, or perform similar deeds, all based around changing the operation and activities of her imaginary franchise. (Requires Write In clarification on how to do this)

[ ] Company Action [ Timeslot cost 2]

Description: This is a catchall action for anything I might think of that could let Owner impact the main battle in Ar Harbor.  Buying up local real estate and demolishing it on a certain date seems like the obvious course of action, but there are a lot of other fringe ideas that I’ve been entertaining. [Requires Write In clarification on how to do this.  The first Action spent on this is about Owner doing tests to make sure this effort will work, the second actually kicks off whatever changes I want in the imaginary world.]

Builder Actions:

[ ] Repair Structure [Timeslot cost 1]

Description: Builder can repair most any structure any structure in just a few hours, spreading broken portions back into place and generating new matter as needed.

 

[ ] Construct Known Structure [ Timeslot cost 1]

 

Description: Builder can construct any easily described structure with the same ease that she repairs them.  Her present education limits this to extremely primitive structures, but that might well be changeable.

 

[ ] Construct Known Items [Timeslot cost 1]

 

Description: Builder’s gits aren’t limited to buildings.  If she can get a perfect understanding of an objects, and samples for every component, then she can form any items that I might desire.  The easiest way to accomplish this, of course, would be to provide her with a sample.

 

[ ] Memorize Patterns [ Timeslot cost 1]

 

Description: Builder’s gifts are heavily limited by her imperfect education.  The more patterns I can get her to learn, the more she can construct from any given material.  If I provide her with patterns or specimens I’m pretty sure she can memorize them and add them to her arsenal.

[/spoiler]

 

 

Indulger 9:1

This wasn’t going to be an Ultra Fight, I reminded myself.

I didn’t really need to.  Lotus’ juice was pounding away inside me, sharpening my mind like a grindstone, giving me the extra little bit that I need to be fully alive, fully aware of the moment.  But it was a good thing to remind myself of anyway.

I’d pulled my punches, back with the Pantheon at their fort.  I’d left my enemies alive, tried to turn them into friends.  I’d made limited progress, but I’d been doing my damnedest.

But that wasn’t going to be the case with the Brides.

I’d been ducking this fight for a day, and that was about as far as I could stretch it.  Manus and Nimbus had been shitting on our names, straight up heeling it up against us, making their own rep bigger by telling everyone how weak they found us.

Nothing that we did, not my own movement of the ground, which doubled the distance the column moved in a day, not Haunter’s work with their healers and scouts, none of it could make up for the fact that we weren’t Brides, and so couldn’t be respected.

The old Dale, or maybe I should say the unaltered one, would have just sat here and let it happen.  I’d have wallowed along, secure in my ways, and one day we’d have just been surrounded and lynched by bored kids.  It wasn’t naturally my way to be proactive.

But I was working with Lotus now, was pumped to the gills with her yellow juice, and experimenting with just a taste of the red and green drinks.  It was definitely changing how I thought, I could tell that.

I’d imagined, back before I met Lotus, that using stuff that changed who you were would be scary, that like the old you would still be back there behind your eyes, just getting madder and madder at what you were choosing, but it wasn’t like that at all.  I was still me, or at least I felt like it, but I was just much more awake and more of a heel now.

It had given me the self confidence to step up to the Brides before their bullying could get us killed.

“Say that again?” I dared Manus, looming up over her as well as I could without getting inside of touching range.

This wasn’t as hard as it might seem, since she was all of four feet tall, or maybe a bit shorter.  It was still weird how the Brides had members that were so young, who could straight up slaughter when they wanted to.

Preventer had told me that her name meant ‘hands’, so I wasn’t about to let her put them on me.  My working assumption was a death touch of some sort.

“Boy Brides weak,” she said, Pantheon accent strong in her speech, “You… more weak.  Lick boot.”

She was giving me a chance to back down, in a way.  She was in her rights to start fighting already, just from the fact that I’d stood up to her.  I could tell, somehow, that she didn’t want this, that she was under pressure of her own, was using us to deflect attention from her own position.

The people around us chuckled along with her line, sneering in at me in a way that felt distinctly dangerous.

This was the most dangerous time.  Nobody fought during the day, or not many people.  You’d fall behind the column, maybe get hit by Union forces.  It wasn’t worth it.  Almost nobody fought at night.  No audience.  But marching ended pretty early in the afternoon, and that left this little window, a few hours where there were a lot of bored Goddesses lurking around.

Nimbus, honestly, was the one that I ought to be fighting, from the talking perspective.  She’d been the main one who started all this shit with us.  But the problem was that there was no way I could beat her.  Her gift would take me out in a second.

“You not chosen,” I told Manus, the girl I could maybe take,  “Never chosen.  Never will be chosen.  Bride in name only.  Sleep alone.”

I’d been watching, taking notes.  So had everyone else.  Every culture had their own version of smack talk, and among the Brides these were apparently sick insults.

The flaring of her nostils, the widening of her eyes, they were all the warnings I got.  She swung a fist at me but I was already hurling myself aside as her gift manifested itself.

It was a good thing I’d used my gift, had it drag the ground under me, because I wouldn’t have dodged if I didn’t.  Her gift was swift, and given that she was a Bride, I had no doubt it would take me out if it hit.

The ‘hands’ in her name turned out to refer to the shape of her gifts, not to her actual hands.  She’d crafted a pair of energy fields, each shaped like a ten foot version of one of her hands.  They mirrored her actual hands movement, whirring through the world around her with the same swiftness that a person could do basic hand movements.

For now, they were cupped around her.  She had clasped them in front of her like she was holding an egg, and the gift hands clasped around her in the same way.  It lifted her up off the ground a little, which was worrisome.

“Kill You!” she yelled, and her cry was taken up by the crowd around us as a cheer and a taunt.  I’d seen variations of it a thousand times back in the Ultra Fight rings, but they were in deadly earnest here.

“Kill what?” I asked, putting my hands together before me in a mockery of hers.  “Kill time maybe?  I am still here!”

I was dimly aware that I should have been absolutely terrified.  There was death here.  I had no Link to bring me back, and they’d had the same time to find out stuff about us that we had about them.  She might easily know to keep my body off the ground if she got a shot in.  I might be living my last seconds.

Lotus’ drug didn’t let me care, though.  If I was living my last, then the emphasis was on living.  I had never felt so focused in my life.

She snarled and swung a fist, making sure it was the one that had previously been on top of her gesture.  The energy projection shot towards me, even as she stood safely on the top of the other one, standing on its palm as she mimed the punch.

This time there was no way to skid to the side.  She was watching, would simply adjust the angle of the swing.  I dropped instead, my gift opening a gap beneath me and sending me plummeting into the earth.  I heard the whirr of the wind as her ‘punch’ raced above me, and then I was cradled in the soil, stone and sand rasping about me as my gift carried sideways at an angle.

My thoughts raced along as I shot through the ground.

Not coming up would make me weak in the eyes of the crowd.  It would be a death sentence whenever I did come back up, a punch from behind from some cocky Bride and it would all be over for me.

If I came back to the surface, however, she would just swing again, and I’d be right back down here.  If I was lucky.

The ground surged around me, my gift making me aware of a great fissure being ripped through it.  She had even less patience than I’d expected.  I was launching myself back up before I could finish the thought.

If delay would be fatal, then obviously hiding would be twice as much so.  I couldn’t let peoples takeaway from this fight be that I was afraid of her, or that I couldn’t stand up to her.  Jane had told us over and over that in a group like this the appearance of strength was strength.  I couldn’t let her set the pace at all.

I burst out of the surface off to her right, already facing her.  I’d been able to tell from the way the furrow had been being dug what angle her ‘hand’ was at, which let me know about where she would be for that to be true.  I probably couldn’t have naturally done that kind of problem, but with the Yellow in my body it just happened automatically.

I hadn’t come up empty handed.  Even as she was spinning around to face me I whipped a rock at her head, throwing it overhand like a pitching player from a ball game.

I thought it would hit her, but at the last instant the hand she was riding on dropped down a few feet, let it shoot past her head.  She brought the other hand, the one that she’d been groping around by her feet with, back up in an uppercut gesture, and once again I had to fling myself to one side.

This time she’d been mad, had moved quickly, didn’t take the time to adjust for my dodge.  I got away much cleaner, skidding across the ground on one knee as her attacking fist rose into the sky.

I had a second, before the fist came back down.  A few seconds if it was a predictable smashing attack.  I tried to work out how I could survive this.

If I kept frustrating her she’d use 2 hands.  I knew this, bone deep.  She was someone who’d gotten everything she wanted all her recent life, who’d been set off to fight with a simple sentence.  She wouldn’t be used to frustration, to long fights.  She’d move to end things.

When she did that she’d drop to the ground.  I could shoot spikes into her, grind her with stones, but she was a Bride. No way she wasn’t at least Ultra tough one.  They would just bounce off, and she’d snatch herself up again, get back on the hand.

I needed to hit her.  Needed to be touching the ground when I did it.  Only my Ultra strength could harm her.  But moving towards her would see me splattered by her fists.  I had only dodged the previous two by the narrowest margins.  The one under her would come too fast from that close.

Things moved before I could think anymore.  Her hand stopped going up and started coming down, a fly swatting gesture.  I knew that if I had my gift shoot me sideways it wouldn’t work again.

I lifted my own fist up, then, and the ground mirrored the motion, rising up in pillars around me, like I was trying to hold the field up.  Most importantly, they blocked her view of me.

The drugs had saved me again, giving me the answer in a split second.  She’d instinctively tensed up her swing, pushing into the ‘down’ of it as I apparently raised a challenge, losing the flexibility to adjust to my slides.  This time I’d slid straight away, my motion initially hidden by the collapsing pillars, and by the time she saw me I’d already created a bit of distance.

I showboated a bit, hands folded behind my head, giving a big old wide yawn, like this was just so easy and I couldn’t be bothered.

Nothing could have been further form the truth, but I had to get her mad, get her careless, because I wasn’t going to survive much longer.  Whatever I was going to do, however I was going to get my hands on her, it needed to be now.

She pushed the ‘swatting’ hand at me with an actual growl, and my gift took me straight towards it, sliding to it as though I was going to try and meet her punch with my own form.

I wasn’t, of course.  The way the fists tore through the ground they were at least Ultra strong 2, and quite possibly a three. They would go through me like I was made of cloud, leave nothing left at all.

She did it again, tensing up into the push when it seemed like it was going to meet resistance, and I swerved at the last second, my gift dropping me down into the ground under the onrushing hand, not losing any velocity in the process, still shooting me towards her.

It took her the critical second to catch what was going on, to realize that I’d ducked under again, that she hadn’t splattered me.  She didn’t have the drugs, didn’t have the experience of a hundred Ultra fights.  Hadn’t fought real battles against strong opponents like I had.

I’d been lulling her, a bit.  Giving her separate opportunities to strike me, setting her up to reset after each strike, to see what I’d try next.  Tricking her into the Ultra Fight cadence, not the raw every-second-counts of a real life and death struggle.

It all combined to steal a second, leave her processing that her push had missed without alarm or worry, getting me away from the first strike as she automatically pulled it back, shooting towards her as that alarm finally triggered in her mind, as the primordial sight of a bodybuilder who towered above her charging in upon her pushed her into an instant panic.

It came then, the thrust I hadn’t figured out how to avoid, the shielding hand rising up in an instinctive, undodgeable shove, powered by all the ‘nope nope nope’ in her tiny body, arising from every person’s automatic answer to death closing in.

My body did it for me, solved the puzzle that I couldn’t figure out myself.

I’d palmed a stone when I put my hands behind my head, had carried it through the charge.  Even as her hand started the ruinous thrust I was hurling it, every ounce of my momentum and strength behind it.

If it missed I was dead, but I’d never been more alive.  It struck home exactly where I aimed, striking her hand just as she started to push it forwards.

The flinch was automatic, a reflex just like the shove had been.  I hadn’t given her time to think since she finished the original swat.  Ultra toughness wasn’t natural, and with her shields hers wouldn’t have been tested a lot.  When her hand took an impact she froze for a moment, bracing for a pain that wouldn’t come, and her gift froze with it, slave to the actual motions of her physical flesh.

I reached her, lashed out instantly, fist moving even as the chasing hand closed from behind me and the one that had frozen lurched into motion again.

I punched her in the head.

In the Ultra fights when you hit someone in the head there was always a sagging, a sort of hammy staggering, like they were fighting for consciousness, or waging some kind of inner war.  Or they just went limp, toppled like someone had switched off a light.

None of them were kids though.  And I’d never hit any of them nearly this hard.

My fist went ‘into’ the hit, in a way that I’d never felt before, Manus’s skull giving beneath my hand and her body catapulting sideways.

It saved my life, as her fists moved in faithful obedience to the hands that bound them, flying off to the side for the instant it took her gift to realize she was dead.

The red sang in my veins, filled me with energy as I stared wildly around at the onlookers, fist stained with a fluid I was trying very hard to force myself not to identify.

Most of me knew that I’d die if they stepped up, but another part of me, much larger than I’d realized, would relish the struggle.

Their cheers had been cut off, stilled like someone’d put a rope around their throats.  They regarded me with a dangerous light, a sea of sullen, angry stares.

“Way to go Indulger!” shouted a voice, off to my left, then another echoed it, offering similar sentiments.

I looked out of the corner of my eye.  Ragnarok and some of the others from the fort, swept up somehow to this time and place, their cheers legitimizing my win, making it acceptable that a Bride could fall.

One of the Brides moved up, and I tensed myself, but then she lurched sideways in an exaggerated manner, threw her hands out and screwed up her face in an exaggerated style.

Her colleagues joined in with her mirth, laughing at Manus’ death, taking childish glee in the fall of someone they’d always looked down upon.  I heard variations of ‘sleep alone’ and such amid their mirth, and the dangerous feeling ebbed away.

I looked around, the drugs roiling through me, singing their songs of life to me.  I could feel everything, could hear every voice, somehow see every face.  This was glory.  This was what it was to be alive.  I was at one with myself, a part of the sky and the ground, wholly a part of this moment in time.

I looked down at my hand, and I wiped the stain away.

“Did it help?” asked Lotus, somehow at my side already.  She must have been watching the whole thing.

“Needs more red,” I told her.

Regime Quest 27

Results from Previous round votes:

1 Vote plan TalonOfAnathrax (wins tiebreaker roll….again)

1 Vote plan CCC

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

Winning Plan:

Plan:

[X] Compromise plan

– [X] Seek Information on Snitcher’s Patterns : Active interrogation of Snitches (Timeslot cost: 1; AP cost 3, refunds 2 on success)

– [X] Relax and Recuperate by visiting entertainment areas (with Owner)

– [X] Smasher : Train the warband in obedience

– [X] Owner : R&R

– [X] Builder : Experiment with turning a (reasonably unconfined) puddle of liquid into a veritable flood. Then having parts of the flood burst up in splashes.

Day 24 Log :

7 AP at start of day (6 at end of last day +1 for half night’s sleep)

-3 Seek info on Snitcher’s patterns (4 AP)

Roll 7, +0 for failure (4 AP)

-1 Relax and Recuperate (entertainment) (3 AP)

Roll 5, +3 for success (6 AP)

Builder Experiment with water

Roll 5, failure

Smasher: Train the Warband

Roll 10, Crit success

End of day, 6 AP

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

Seek info from Snitches:

I hadn’t thought this through all that well.

In my mind, this had been a simple plan.  Snitcher had a number of known snitches, gorgeous girls whose morning endeavors were what I was relying on to keep him distracted.  They should know, if anyone did, some stuff about how he generally operated.

The problem came in getting them to talk about it.  I’d originally been planning to go the eavesdrop route, just kind of idle nearby while they talked to one another and hope that the conversation would get around to their ever present voyeur.

But I had underestimated their celebrity, and what it would do to their behavior.  Girls chosen for their beauty, powerless but shielded by a mighty patron, of course they would be people of interest, fascination even.  I was far from the only Ultra who’d decided to stalk them today.

Their booth formed the center of an invisible ring, the tables immediately around conspicuously more occupied than the remainder of the Company Facility.  I’d taken my place in the ring, sent for food and settled in to eavesdrop.

The problem was simple.  They knew they were being overheard.  They were performing, self consciously selecting every word that passed their lips, every gesture that they made.

I didn’t envy them.  They would have no notion of privacy, no second that was wholly their own.  Leered at by those around them, their own senses spied upon, it must have been a miserable existence.

But one thing it did breed was discretion.

I listened for a few hours, enduring triviality after triviality.  They spoke of nothing of import, nothing whatsoever that might matter.  Their talk was entirely banal, an endless procession of nothings, seemingly calculated to encourage the appetites of their observers.

Eventually a cringing pimp made their way over to me, asking on Snitcher’s behalf if I’d come to engage the services of his girls.  I told him I’d mull it over and departed, still annoyed about the wasted time.

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

Relax and Recuperate (with Owner):

“This is stupid,” I told her.

Owner just gave me a smug grin in response, gesturing back to the impromptu racetrack.

A trio of Ultras were waiting for us.  Grower, Maker and Clawer.  They’d scratched out a flat circle in front of our house, casually blocking traffic in order to mark out a disk approximately ten feet across.

“Did you encourage her?” I asked, suspiciously.

“Nope,” said Grower.  “This was all Owner’s doing.  She’s talked up your boy something big.”

I grimaced, looking down at the things they held in their hands.

Maker and Grower had both brought puppies, or really small dogs.  They hung docilely in their hands, looking without great interest at the world around them.

Clawer had a fox, which was struggling wildly in the hands of his human attendant, scratching him unmercifully.

“You think he’ll stick to the track?” I asked him.

He gave a me a shit eating grin, before tapping one of his claws against the other.

I could probably count that out.  It would be miracle if it was even visible to us a second after he let it go.

“We got this,” whispered Owner.

I looked back to her, frowning.  I had to admit, the competition didn’t exactly look stellar.  But there was one thing holding us back.

“You remember,” I told her carefully, “That Napoleon is a turtle?”

She frowned in response, putting a finger to either side of his head.

“Don’t listen to Blender,” she cautioned the tiny shell creature, “She’s not YOUR Warlord.”

I glared helplessly, though the others seemed to find that hilarious.

“Alright,” said Owner, ignoring my vast dissatisfaction, “Terms are simple.  If you win, I’ll forgive your tabs at my place.  When we win, you owe us a favor.  Everyone ok with that?”

Nods all around, though I didn’t bother, throwing up my hands instead.

They set up their racers, holding each one in place at what they’d just decided was the track’s ‘start’, and Owner started counting down.

“Hold on, hold on,”  I said.

They looked over.

“You don’t even have a finish line marked out!” I pointed out.  “How are you going to know which one wins?”

“I thought you weren’t interested?” asked Owner artlessly, “that you didn’t have any faith in our little guy here?”

“I’m, I mean…” I temporized, trying to figure out just the right way to make her understand.

“You really think it’ll be close enough to need a finish line?” asked Grower, dubiously.

I didn’t, not really, but it was the principle of the thing.  They should be prepared for the eventuality, just in case.  Not even setting one up ahead of time was just asking for a dispute after the fact.

“I’m just saying…” I said, and it was clear that I’d lost all control of this situation.

When all was said and done, Owner’d forgiven all of their tabs, Grower owed her a favor, I somehow owed her a favor, and I’d laughed more than I had since I took the Process.

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

Debrief Posse:

I looked around the room carefully, one more time, reluctant to credit the evidence of my eyes.

Owner was there, conspiratorially feeding Napoleon some kind of race fixing celebratory leaf.

Builder was there, lounging alongside her on their bed, wistfully eyeing a beer can as though doing so would fill it back up.

And Smasher was indisputably there, sitting at my desk and looking out over the room with a serene expression on her face.

“Alright, so I know how Owner spent her day,” I began, “But I guess I still need to know how things went for you all.”

I carefully avoided the phrase ‘report’, and would continue to do so until I figured out Smasher’s mood.  Something was definitely going on there, and it wouldn’t do to set her off somehow.

“I couldn’t really think of anything new to try,” confessed Builder.  “I did mostly the same tests, got mostly the same results.  I add water like I add anything else, about a body’s worth of person at a time, expanding at a slow walking pace.”

“Like she leaves water behind her,” clarified Smasher, “Except it is not behind her and it doesn’t have to be water.”

Well, ‘clarified’ might have been a stretch.

“You couldn’t create great torrents?” I pressed.

She leaned her head to one side, widened her lips a bit in an ‘eh’ gesture.

“Not really,” she said.  “It makes a bit of a puddle, right enough, and I can put more of it in any given place that I can see, but that’s about it.  If there’s something transparent I can pop it, like those bottles and stuff.”

I gave a gruff nod.  I’d been worried about that, but it wasn’t entirely useless.

Nothing about her gift prevented her from making a lot of water, it was just that it would take a lot of time, maybe more than was practical during a fight.  Perhaps if I set it up ahead of time…

Smasher interrupted my musings.

“My stuff went great,” she said, unprompted.

“Oh?” I asked.  “You got the warband trained in obedience?”

She looked confused for a bit.

“Oh, yeah, that,” she said, which wasn’t super encouraging.

“Yeah, I’ve had that for a while now.  The big breakthrough today was that they all got together and talked to me, really let me know how concerned they were for me.”

What?

There were actually tears in the corner of her eyes as she proceeded.

“They’ve come to care about me, they said, and they’d hate for my habits to get the better of me.  They are going to work with me, help me stay sober!  I’m taking back my life.”

I gave a weak grin.

“That’s wonderful,” I said.

“It must have been hard for you,” she went on, “Having to watch me take all those pills, all those drinks.  But no more!”

I kept my grin in place by sheer force of will.

“I’m ready to be the best Ultra I can be.  The Regime, and our girls, deserve no less!”

Fantastic.

 

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

The Plan:

– We should attack on the 28th. We shouldn’t tell anyone about this until about the 25th. This will throw a spanner in the works of any trap they’re planning that requires that they have an idea of when we’re coming.

– If we head over on the 30th, we can expect to ‘coincidentally’ meet a Union patrol partway there who will inflict some damage on us. We should prepare for this possibility, even at our earlier date.

“I like the idea of attacking at a different date from when I tell the troops that we will.  I’m concerned that they may be able to get a signal to King Arthur and his Union buds after we tell them on the 25th.  Maybe I should tell them the night before, or just the day of?”

– Merlin’s invisible troops are, of course, invisible. They are also carrying Knight equipment. Picker’s assassins carried Knight equipment. Hmmm. But what the Knights are asking for in exchange for the use of their equipment is morally completely reprehensible. I can’t countenance that, and would lose my Resistance contact if I did. (I would deserve to lose my Resistance contact if I did that. I would be truly a monster.)

“Yes, very true.  I don’t want to work with Refiner and his pets any more than I have to.”

– I need to bear in mind that Merlin and Arthur might have empowered the same people. That is to say, some of Merlin’s invisible assassins might have Ultra Strength, or Speed, or Toughness. They’re already hitting above their weight – on top of that, they may actually have some weight to hit on top of.

“Very worrying possibility.”

– Another option for dealing with Merlin is to take advantage of KEM. I know where she lives, what she can do and who she cares for; leaving that report on Merlin in the right place should be enough to get her killed outright. However, I shouldn’t use KEM on more than one person. Merlin is a greater threat than Guinevere.

“This is a good idea.  I tried to have KEM kill Merlin once already, hopefully there will be enough time to try again.  I really don’t think I can win the fight if they have invisible warriors.”

– Third option – use Owner to demolish Merlin’s house in the middle of the night (buying and demolishing the property).

“I’d rather use KEM, but this might be a ‘why not both’? situation.”

– Fourth option – take advantage of Builder’s stuff-stretching ability to ensure that our confrontation happens in an ankle-deep flood. Even invisible people can be seen walking through ankle-deep water – if nothing else, by the foot-shaped hollows in the water.

“I guess it couldn’t hurt, but when I remember my past fights and try and imagine looking at the ground constantly to see if footprints are getting closer my immediate reaction is that the person I’m fighting would take that opportunity to hit me.  We’ll try this in the worst case scenario, but I’m dubious.”

– Guinevere is easily handled. I need merely imbue my Posse with fireproof; after that, Smasher can take her out easily. (Ankle-deep water should mess with her, too, by extinguishing a lot of fires).

“My ability doesn’t really work that way, but I can see how I forgot that for a sec.  (out of character, this is a CCC plan, and the clarifications were on the board, not the blog).  My gift adjusts people’s ‘metadata’, a set of 3-4 keywords that define them.  Adding one in, like ‘fireproof’ risks the possibility that the one that falls off will be something like ‘sane’, or ‘mobile’.  I got lucky with Grower and Builder.  If I tried the same thing on 50 people I wouldn’t have fifty fireproof people when I was done, or 50 living people.”

– Lancelot and Arthur are unlikely to be trouble in the final confrontation.

– That giant Union tank, on the other hand, is a problem (and not a small one). But Builder should be able to deal with it; her power works at any range. She can close off any gun barrels by extending the barrel material _inwards_, she can mess up the engine by making the internals just grow crazy spikes everywhere, and so on. Once she can see it, she can ruin it utterly – and probably without even leaving any external sign of her sabotage, so it can all be blamed on the Union being idiots.

“Builder can wreck it very fast as soon as she can see it, though she can’t grow stuff on the internals unless she can see into it.  But adding stuff to the outside where she can see it will rapidly render the tank unusable.  I like this idea.”

– If the Ar Harbour team don’t want to come out and fight, we can draw them out by taking hostages. from the people they care for. This strategy is unpleasant and distasteful, but it will work, and will draw them away from buildings. Moreover, I don’t actually need to permanently harm the hostages, not if I’m threatening enough.

“It sounds like I am allowed to wreck the place as long as we fix it, and I’m also really not loving the idea of taking hostages.”

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

 

Day 25:

Days remaining: 6

AP available: (6 at end of day + 1 for 6 hours sleep) = 7/10

Non AP Action: Swap in a new plan.  You write in a new plan, I’ll give you Mia’s assessment of it.  If you don’t do this then the existing one will be executed.  The plan that is in force when its execution date arrives will be used for the actual battle, though there may be mid battle votes that could alter it in process.

Walter Note: I’m leaving up Mia’s assessment from last round since the plan was not changed this round

Walter extra Note: If you do not change the plan this round you will tell your Posse today (the 25th) about moving the attack to the 28th.

Prestige: 3

Timeslots available: 2, morning and afternoon

Builder Timeslot Available: afternoon

Owner Timeslot Available: afternoon

Smasher : Timeslot Available: morning or afternoon, but not both

Posse: 3 or 3 out of 3 slots filled

Force size: 45

Condition: Healthy

[spoiler=Ultras]

 

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

Posse:

Builder — 0/0/0, a woman who can alter objects for miles around into other things, blessed with a ‘Bulletproof’ blend

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

Smasher — 3/0/1, a woman who is billed as the strongest Ultra fighter of all time

Ultra Allies:

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

Clawer – Ultra fighter 2/0/1, melee combatant, deadly hooks for hands

Stopper – partner of Clawer, 0/0/0, steals form’s velocity by looking at them

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

Grower – 0/*0/1, an outside Ultra I sponsored into the Lair, has a bullet blend from me, can rapidly increase the size and mass of objects

Joker — 0/2/0, a woman who can change what other people/herself look like

Replayer — 1/2/0, she can ‘step back in time’ to undo damage that she takes

Ultra Enemies:

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

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

Ultra Acquaintances:

Tracker – Running buddy, 1/0/1, Creates tracks, and can move things on them

Shower – Adder’s protégé, 1*/0/1*, gains strength and durability from witnesses

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

Bubbler – Operates Ultra clinic 0/0/?, traps things in bubbles that heal and move them

Sucker — Ultra entertainer, ?/?/?, pulls objects/people towards her at incredible rate

Gunner — 0/0/1, she shoots tracking Ultra Blasts at roughly Ultra Strength One

Chiller — 1/0/1, can freeze any object she touches, leaving them brittle and easily broken

Cutter — 1/1/1, she is a brutal front line combatant

Swimmer — 1/0/1, she can ‘swim’ through solid surfaces

Burner — 0/0/1, she can summon Ultra fire from anywhere that she can see

Maxxer — 0/0/0, she can augment the gifts of other Ultras, pushing their gifts

Puncher — 1/0/1, her strength and speed both go up when she repeats her movements

[/spoiler]

 

[spoiler=Actions]

Actions:

[ ] Accept Refiner’s Bargain (Timeslot cost: 0, AP cost 4, auto succeed)

Motive: His blessed weapons and armor would be a massive force multiplier for our group.  He might also send along Knight backup.  He would be a powerful additional patron.

Concerns: I would be responsible for a massacre in the immediate aftermath, or be killed by Second Fist if I backed out.  Subtracter would also likely perceive this alliance as an attempt at weaseling out from under her command, so I’d have to tread very carefully to avoid offending her.

 

[ ] Seek Transportation

-[ ] Scavenge (Timeslot cost: 2; AP cost 4, refunds 3 on success)

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

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

-[ ] Trade with existing owners (Timeslot cost: 1; AP cost 2, refunds 1 on success)

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

Concerns: Snitcher may disapprove of a warlord being civil

-[ ] Seize by force (Timeslot cost: 2; AP cost 4, refunds 3 on success)

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

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

-[ ] Seek Transportation [Adder + Company] (Timeslot cost: 1; AP cost 2, refunds 1 on success)

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

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

 

[ ] Seek Target Information

-[ ] Company (Timeslot cost: 1; AP cost 2, refunds 1 on success)

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

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

-[ ] Subtracter (Timeslot cost: 1; AP cost 3, refunds 1 on success)

Motive: Subtracter is the military leader of the Regime, she will have information on this target

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

-[ ] Survivors (Timeslot cost:1; AP cost 2, refunds 1 on success)

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

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

 

[ ] Seek Posse Members

-[ ] wander & gossip, (Timeslot cost: 1; AP cost 1, refunds 1 on success)

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

Concerns: None

-[ ] At Ultra Fights, (Timeslot cost: 1; AP cost 1, refunds 1 on success)

Constraint: Only available in the afternoon or night on days divisible by 4 (day 4, 8, etc)

Motive: There are dozens of powerful Ultras in the Lair. I know only the barest fraction of them. I can learn the basics on 3-12 of them in a few hours of socializing and gossiping at this kind of event.

Concerns: Ultras associated with the Fights are more likely than most to be melee combatants.

 

[ ] Seek Warband Members

-[ ] At the Yard, (Timeslot cost: 1; AP cost 2, refunds 1 on success)

Motive: The Lair is surrounded by hundreds of Regime Ultras. The strongest come to the Yard to show their power and appeal to those like me, who would give them purpose. I should be able to gather between 5 and 20 Ultras of such caliber.

Concerns: I will need to provide housing and direction to these Ultras, or risk them wandering off. I can expect to spend at least an action a day on them, and training them might well eat up more. Ideally a Posse member will be tasked with this.

-[ ] [Gang name] From a Gang, (Timeslot cost: 2; AP cost 5, refunds 3 on success)

Motive: The Ultras that surround Shington are organized into Gangs dozens strong. If I can recruit such a force I might have my whole Warband right there.

Concerns: These Ultras likely already have patrons in the Lair, who I would need to negotiate with. Their leader would also likely want a place in my Posse, and she would be the primary locus of their loyalty until I’d had time to win them over.

 

[ ] Investigate Acquaintance:

-[ ] [Name], (Timeslot cost: 1; AP cost 2, refunds 1 on success, 2 if we become allies)

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

Concerns: None

 

[ ] Invite Ally into Posse:

-[ ] [Name], (Timeslot cost: 1; AP cost 3, refunds 3 on success)

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

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

 

[ ] Seek Information on Snitcher’s patterns

-[ ] Passive listening (Timeslot cost: 1; AP cost 1, refunds 1 on success)

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

Concerns: None

-[ ] Active interrogation of Snitches (Timeslot cost: 1; AP cost 3, refunds 2 on success)

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

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

-[ ] Confront Snitcher Directly (Timeslot cost:1; AP cost 4, refunds 3 on success)

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

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

 

[ ] Seek Information on Regime military operations

-[ ] Ask Subtracter (Timeslot cost: 1; AP cost 3, refunds 1 on success)

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

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

-[ ] Ask Around (Timeslot cost: 1; AP cost 2, refunds 1 on success)

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

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

 

[ ] Relax and Recuperate

-[ ] By visiting Blisser (Timeslot cost: X (slots spent until AP reaches max), AP cost 0, returns 3 per time period. DANGER, this action may cause addiction)

-[ ]By lounging around, (Timeslot cost: 1, AP cost 0, refunds 1 on success)

Motive: I could do with some rest.

Concerns: None

-[ ]By patronizing entertainment areas (Timeslot cost: 1, AP cost 1, refunds 3 on success)

Motive: I could do with some rest, and I might learn some things by socializing

Concerns: None

-[ ]By using my gift to repair the city (Timeslot cost: 1, AP cost 2, refunds 5 on success)

Motive: It needs to be done.

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

-[ ]By using my gift to heal people (Timeslot cost: 1, AP cost 1, refunds 5 on success)

Motive: This is why I have my gift.

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

 

[ ] Organize Armory [Timeslot cost: 1, AP cost 2, returns 2 on success)

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

 

Concerns: None

 

[ ] Action: Direct the Warband (Timeslot cost 0, AP cost 1, returns 1 if successful)

Motive: If I need to set my warband in motion, give them a project or whatever, it is as simple as telling them to jump.  My will is their command.

-[ ] Let [Posse Member] Supervise, takes up the Posse Member’s action, modifies success chance based on which Posse member it is, and which action

 

[ ] Action: Train the Warband (Timeslot cost 0, AP cost 1, returns 1 if successful) [Requires a timeslot from the teacher, who should probably be an Ultra combatant]

Motive: Yard Ultras are fierce, but undisciplined.  They are warriors, not soldiers.  I can get better outcomes if I teach them some basics.

-[ ] In Ultra Combat (Gives bonuses on their battle rolls)

-[ ] In anti firearm maneuvers (Makes them suffer less casualties under fire)

-[ ] In obedience (makes them more likely to obey my orders)

 

[ ] Action: Other (Timeslot cost: x, returns x if successful)

 

KEM Actions:

[ ] Assign Assassination mission [Timeslot cost 1, AP cost 3, returns 1 on success, can only be done in the morning, uncertain Snitcher risk]

 

Description: KEM are the only humans who fight back on a consistent, day to day basis.  We’ve come up together, they and I, and pointing them at my foes is only common sense.  If I give them a target, then I trust them to make a good faith effort to put that Ultra down.  Their odds of success, of course, vary wildly depending on how much info I can provide, and the gifts of the Ultra in question.

 

Resistance Actions:

[ ] Assign Information Gathering Mission [Timeslot cost 1, AP cost 2, returns 1 on success, can only be done in the morning, uncertain Snitcher risk]

Description: The humans are the ocean in which the Ultras swim, the saying goes.  The Resistance’s capacity to gather information about Ultras is unsurpassed.  If I give them a target, then they will give me every bit of public information on the target, and often times a little bit more.  Ultras are people, after all.  I believe this with all my heart.  And people trust other people, even those that they ultimately shouldn’t.  I can assign as many targets as I wish, but the more I assign the less details I will probably get, and the longer it might take.

 

[ ] Debrief Information Gathering Mission [Timeslot cost 1, AP cost 0, returns 1 on success, can only be done in the morning, uncertain Snitcher risk]

Description: The information that the Resistance gathers is worthless if I never regain it.  Using protocols I’ve worked out ahead of time, and my recent discovery of Snitcher’s habits, it should be possible for me to take the Resistance’s reports with minimal risk.  I expect I should give them a day or two for local targets, and possibly as much as four for targets in Ar Harbor or further afield.

Smasher Actions:

[ ] Recuperate [Timeslot cost All]

Description: Smasher hangs on the edge of death.  Her body and gift will try to knit her back together each day.

 

Owner Actions:

[ ] Acquire Funds [Timeslot cost 1]

Description: Owner takes action to get more and more valuable assets within our world, increasing her overall funding, hopefully permitting her gift’s actions to be swifter and larger in impact. (Requires Write In clarification on how to do this)

[ ] Change Company [ Timeslot cost 1]

Description: Owner presently runs a package store, located in downtown Washington.  She has, as near as I can estimate, a low six figures saved up.  With this action I can direct her to acquire licenses, expand locations, purchase other businesses, or perform similar deeds, all based around changing the operation and activities of her imaginary franchise. (Requires Write In clarification on how to do this)

[ ] Company Action [ Timeslot cost 2]

Description: This is a catchall action for anything I might think of that could let Owner impact the main battle in Ar Harbor.  Buying up local real estate and demolishing it on a certain date seems like the obvious course of action, but there are a lot of other fringe ideas that I’ve been entertaining. [Requires Write In clarification on how to do this.  The first Action spent on this is about Owner doing tests to make sure this effort will work, the second actually kicks off whatever changes I want in the imaginary world.]

Builder Actions:

[ ] Repair Structure [Timeslot cost 1]

Description: Builder can repair most any structure any structure in just a few hours, spreading broken portions back into place and generating new matter as needed.

 

[ ] Construct Known Structure [ Timeslot cost 1]

 

Description: Builder can construct any easily described structure with the same ease that she repairs them.  Her present education limits this to extremely primitive structures, but that might well be changeable.

 

[ ] Construct Known Items [Timeslot cost 1]

 

Description: Builder’s gits aren’t limited to buildings.  If she can get a perfect understanding of an objects, and samples for every component, then she can form any items that I might desire.  The easiest way to accomplish this, of course, would be to provide her with a sample.

 

[ ] Memorize Patterns [ Timeslot cost 1]

 

Description: Builder’s gifts are heavily limited by her imperfect education.  The more patterns I can get her to learn, the more she can construct from any given material.  If I provide her with patterns or specimens I’m pretty sure she can memorize them and add them to her arsenal.

[/spoiler]

 

 

Haunter 9:2

“You want me to believe,” she said,  “that you are trying to aid the Union?”

I looked over to Aesop and Patra, nodded politely in response to another of their conversational sallies.

“Obviously,” I responded.

“Then why didn’t you defect?” she charged.  “Why are you in the Regime, working for Prevailer?  Are you going to pretend that there has never been a moment, not in all your long life, where you could slip away and join us?”

I thought about a few answers to this.  About how every time we ran into the Union we had encountered hostility, or about how their presence in the Regime’s lands was limited to drone strikes and special forces.

“Because I could do more good from the inside than I could as one more soldier in the Union, of course,” was what I ended up going with.

“Really?  And what good have you actually done?” she came back with.

This was essentially what I’d been expecting, but that didn’t mean that she was predictable or dumb.  The world’s greatest mathematician would tell you that 2+2 was four, after all.

“I helped Kill Every Monster get rid of Linker and Snitcher,” I told her.  “Which is the only reason a Fist can get as far off the reservation as we presently are.  It also means that other traitors have a free hand, and that She can’t remake the Fists if any should fall.”

I wasn’t going to tell her that our Link had already been broken, not yet, but basically everything else was going to be on the table.  I needed General Greggs on my side for any of this to work.

“I know that Snitcher died…” she said, slowly.  “I’ve seen no evidence that the Links are gone, however.”

I gave a wry smile, knowing that she’d feel my face forming it as though it were her own, which would have much the same influence as seeing it.

“His works outlived him, we’ve discovered.  Much to my chagrin, and much to my benefit.”

“You’d have me believe that you intended to lose your Link?” she charged.  “That you’d throw aside immortality?”

I nodded to myself.

Repeating ‘Obviously’ would have been lazy, and it would have reinforced the notion of her versus me.  I needed us on the same side, which meant the less calling attention to correcting her I had to do the better.

“Tell me about the shells,” I asked Aesop, taking a break from my internal conversation to let the General regroup for another round.

She brightened immediately, happy to talk about her specialty.

“I make em,” she said, proudly, “Just wave my hand and conjure them.  They are simple life forms, just sit there and eat the stuff that touches them.  My name came from the fact that there was an old time God that did something like that.”

I couldn’t even begin to imagine how that interepretation had come about, but it wasn’t something I immediately needed to pursue.

Instead, I looked over to Patra.

“And your gift…” I prompted her.

“I can change minds and bodies,” she told me.  “So I warp the shells into fighting forms, give them the instincts that they need to battle.  I base most of them on animals, like dogs or stuff.  Four legs, sharp front part, bit reflex.  Most of the work is done.”

“Delightful!” I responded.  “I can see why you two are held in such high esteem.  Zilla’s praise is well deserved, I dare say.”

They both preened a bit under my flattery, but mostly I was just putting the ‘I talk with Zilla’ seed down.  I wasn’t sure who knew that she was dead, and the longer I could borrow her authority the better.

“And what is your gift, dear?” asked Aesop.  “What impressed Vampire enough that she sent you to work with us?”

I bowed my head modestly.

“I can capture minds from humans, put them to work on my behalf.  It’s a trite trick, I know, but it should keep you from having to do most of the mind work, Patra.”

They fell over themselves to reassure me that my gift was no mere trick, that it sounded like a great thing indeed to them, and that it would be a welcome respite from their labors.

Their dynamic wasn’t hard to suss out.  They bragged backwards was all, performative humility in order to avoid the status games of the more combative Goddesses.  It probably helped them avoid some degree of harm in an environment where the Brides were utterly overturning the status quo.

“Have you ever tried actual dogs?” I asked.  “Human sized brains or what have you, but things that look basically like dogs?”

They looked puzzled.

“Would that be very scary?” asked Patra.  “I usually make like bone wolves or things that look kind of like crocodiles but are always on fire.  Even those mostly just get blown up.  I don’t think basic dogs will be frightening at all to the Union.”

I put a finger to my lip in a conspiratorial manner.

“Exactly!” I said, “I knew you two would see the possibilities.  I’m impressed you got it so fast.”

They both laughed softly, awkwardly.

Letting them let me think they knew what I meant was an element of conspiracy between us, one that would build trust.  It would make them less suspicious of me, since they’d ‘fooled’ me once already.

“As you’ve pointed out,” I continued.  “They won’t fear these creatures.  We can use these false dogs to scout around and spy on them.  Everyone loves dogs, and I’ve seen enough of them running around to know that they are one of the more common forms of wildlife.  It will be a great trick to play on the Union, they’ll never suspect something that doesn’t look strong to be a part of the Pantheon!”

They nodded along, with Aesop emitting another chuckle.

“You are going to put me in a dog?” asked the General, her tone somewhere between horrified and intrigued.

“Would you prefer a crocodile man?” I answered, “But ultimately, no.  I’m hoping that by the time we send you out I’ve worked them around to ‘human body’, with the idea that these people shaped shells will be the best for infiltration.”

It might have been my imagination, but it felt like the silence this time had a more measured texture to it.  Like she pondering instead of fuming.

“Earlier,” she eventually said, “You talked about an apocalypse, about the end times.  Could you give me some more details on why you’ve come to believe that?”

I gave a broad grin.

“A consequentialist decision,” I responded, “It is valuable to you to know why I am taking the actions that I am, regardless of whether or not you ultimately decide to believe me.  I praise both your choice, and the spirit in which it was made.”

She didn’t say anything in response to this, so I gathered myself up and went on with the pitch.

“Condemner, one of the members of my Fist, has become sensitive to matters beyond our world.  All Ultras are in contact with beings of a higher, or lower, or whatever reality.  That’s where our gifts come from, these ‘more real’ beings.  Most of them are unconscious within us, supplying us gifts in exchange for memories, but his was jogged to wakefulness by the repeated deaths and resurrections that are entailed in Fist work.”

I paused again, chuckling along to one of Aesop’s interminable jokes as I considered how to phrase the next part.

“I get that that sounds crazy, the idea that my Fist would be the first to discover this, but it is less unreasonable if you consider that the number of Ultras susceptible to being woken like this is a terribly low fraction of the total, and that their number are disproportionately male.  If their numbers are one or two percent, then it is easy to think that the six Fists before us might not have had one, or might have covered it up.”

“I believe you,” she said.  “Or at least, I believe that you believe this.  Go one.”

“If you’ve accepted this much, then the rest is easy.  These angels or outsiders or whatever you want to call them, they aren’t going to continue forever.  Remover, of First Fist, is trying to make them all end their game by killing all the human hosts.  If she fails to do that then she’ll take action in their reality, probably, and that will be the end of the Ultras.”

”What do you mean?” she asked, immediately.  “Can you clarify at all?”

I shook my head slowly, working it into the ongoing conversation I was having in the real world.

“I believe that there will be no grand changes to the status quo until after Remover succeeds or fails with her plan.  I believe that what we are living through right now is that plan.  I intend to thwart it.  But as to what comes next…”

I shrugged.

”It might be that the Ultrahumans simply lose our gifts, as the beings that granted them are woken up and pulled away from their game.  It might be that we will die, as we are damaged or destroyed by whatever process is used to remove the entity granting our gifts.  It might even be that nothing like that happens, and they simply stop powering the Process and let the existing Ultras finish up naturally, however many years that takes.  The only thing I’ve grasped is that from their side things will end.  It isn’t clear exactly how that plays out for us, in the scenario where there are still any of us around.”

She was silent for a long while.  I busied myself with small talk and chit chat, working to ingratiate myself into Aesop and Patra’s dynamic.

“So you think Remover’s plan is the war,” she said, eventually, “And the ensuing devastation.  You are working to help the Union win the war, and expect that after we do so the Ultra problem will just solve itself?”

I couldn’t help myself, an actual chuckle burst out of my lips.

Tribalism was almighty.  Even to someone like the general, even after what I’d just said, it was so hard to put those lenses aside.

“The Union can’t win the war,” I told her plainly.  “It is manifestly impossible.  I’m hoping to make the devastation a little less intense, then head back to the Regime and defeat First Fist.”

“The hell we can’t!” she snarled back, instantly. “Just because my force lost doesn’t mean that the next battle will go the same way.  The Intervention Groups were just a small portion of our Union’s total strength.”

I had the momentary thought that we’d come a long way from name, rank and serial number if she was willing to brag about Union strengths, but it didn’t seem useful to vocalize.

“You might beat Vampire,” I allowed.  “As you said, there will be a lot more Union troops in the next battle, and you’ve gathered a lot of data on them besides.  But Zeus is coming along after them.  Zeus, and nine hundred more Brides.”

It had been one of the first things we’d picked up on our way through the camps.  The true number of the Brides was an overwhelming thousand.

She fell silent yet again.  I suspect that she’d known, on some level, about the Brides.  Scout reports or whatever, they’d be available to a commander of her rank.  But she likely hadn’t thought about it since she’d actually seen them on the field, actually witnessed them shredding their enemies without any difficulty.

“So why are you helping us at all?” she asked.  “Why bother with this current effort, if you think the only thing that matters is taking out First Fist?”

It was a fair point.

“I’m hedging my bets,” I said.  “I’m going to try my very best to get those people in my reserve, you among them, who can make a difference after the end of the Ultras off here.  Get you hidden in the countryside, a little egg of civilization.  Then I’m going overseas to take her on.”

She kept at me.

“But if you expect to beat her, then why-“

I cut her off.

“I don’t.  At all.  The odds are miniscule.”

Once again I’d stunned her into silence.  It wasn’t easy to change your perceptions of people, most people couldn’t do it at all, but I was hoping that’s what she was doing right now.  I was certainly doing the best I could to prompt it.

“Why couldn’t you win?” she asked.  “You are both Fists, right?”

I grinned ruefully.

“The world has danced to her tune for most of my life.  When she started she was a tiny figure among billions, now we die in droves while she and her crew slack off.  She’s got something.  Maybe precognition from being an awoken outsider.  Maybe some hidden gift that no one knows about, but she is just too successful for there not to be an X factor.  I expect we’ll be stopped somehow.”

“Then why…”

She floundered a bit.

“Like I said at the start,” I responded, “I’m a consequentialist.  I’m doing the best I can to bring about a future where there are living human beings.  If I’m right, and Remover is unstoppable, then it doesn’t matter what I do, so I might as well proceed on the assumption that I’m not right about that. This ‘lifeboat’ scheme of mine, passing humans from the past into the present in the hopes that they’ll restart civilization after the Ultras are gone, it is one try.  Attacking First Fist is another try.  I’m going for both . I don’t think that either is likely to work, but I think the union of these efforts give me better odds than either one alone, or of anything else I’ve thought of so far.”

She digested that for a moment, I heard her start and stop a few sentences before they could get to the comprehensible level, a process just this side of stuttering.

“Ok,” she said, “So as far as I am concerned, what you want from me is to try and get your passengers, myself among them, safely into the Union’s embrace and keep us alive through what comes next?”

I tapped my fingers against one another, a gesture that was supposed to mime applause but ended up actually resembling a villainous finger steeple.

“Exactly,” I responded, “Keep them and yourself away from anything military if you must, that’s fine.  Nothing I’m asking from you could possibly hurt the Union.  I’m just hoping you can think of a way to get my shades past drones and snipers and out of the battle.  You keep them alive and I’ll do my best to slow down or stop Vampire.  That’s the best that you can do for your country right now.”

“And after?” she asked.  “You are going to want transportation back to the Regime?  You are counting on me to arrange that?”

“It would be nice,” I allowed, “But if you can’t swing it that isn’t a deal breaker.  There isn’t really a ‘deal’ at all.  I’m going to do what I think is right regardless, but I’m strongly hoping that you will take a new body as a ‘sorry I killed you’ gesture, and not hold any resentment you might have towards me against the others you’ll be trying to save.  All I need from you is your best effort to protect the shades in my keeping that I embody with you, and for you to do your best to keep them and yourself alive through whatever comes next.”

A final silence, perhaps the longest of the conversation.  I had time to go back and forth with Patra a few times, they were getting ready to start another monster up.

“I think,” she finally said, “That I can do a little better than that.”

 

Regime Quest 26

Results from Previous round votes:

2 Vote plan Fireproof

1 Vote plan CCC

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

Winning Plan:

Plan:

[X] Plan Fireproof

-[X] Assign Assassination mission : Merlin [Timeslot cost 1, AP cost 3, returns 1 on success, can only be done in the morning, uncertain Snitcher risk]. If possible, tell them to kill her on the 27th or 28th, a few days before “we attack”.

-[X] Relac and Recuperate : By patronizing entertainment areas (Timeslot cost: 1, AP cost 1, refunds 3 on success)

-[X] Owner: Buy fireproof fabric (AFAIK it’s usually asbestos-derivative). It’s usually readily available to fight fires, and you can buy a “fire blanket” quite easily in any decent-sized city.

-[X] Builder: Make our vehicles fireproof using the stuff Owner just got. If possible, make clothes out of it, or make the existing bulletproof ponchos fireproof.

-[X] Smasher: Train the Warband: In obedience (makes them more likely to obey my orders)

Day 23 Log :

4 AP at start of day (3 at end of last day +1 for half night’s sleep)

-3 Assign Assassination mission : Merlin (1 AP)

Roll 7, +1 for success (2 AP)

-1 Relax and Recuperate (entertainment) (1 AP)

Roll 10, +5 for critical success (6 AP)

Builder Discover fireproof pattern

Roll 7, success

Owner: Buy fireproof fabric

Roll 3, indeterminate

Smasher: Train the Warband

Roll 4, success

End of day, 6 AP

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

Assign Assassination Mission:

I sat nervously in the corner booth, ‘studying’ the target information for Merlin.

I’d long since memorized it, of course, or at least all of the important information.  When your life was on the line, you put that kind of basic effort in.

Or at least, I did.  But the Ultras of the Regime had a different culture, and for one of them it would be entirely plausible to still be reading up on this type of target details.  Heck, it would probably be entirely plausible for a typical Ultra to be moving their lips while they tried to read it.

My red pen was hard at work.  I made meaningless notations, circled unimportant words, etc.  It was a gift from Owner, and it lent a little verisimilitude to my performance.  It also gave me something to do, kept me from feeling like I was just sitting there.

The failure of my last handoff had unnerved me a little.  I’d taken it for granted that KEM would be there when I called, that if I could just manage the issue of Snitcher I would be able to borrow their power.

But the world wasn’t so convenient.  Things that might once have been routine, simple handoffs, communications, were nowadays fraught with tension and danger.  The courier might have died, his cell been rolled up.  I might have been disavowed, my service to the Regime rendering me no longer a fellow traveler to KEM.  All sorts of terrible possibilities.

But there were also a lot of simple ones.  Miscommunications, inconveniences…these were also rife in the present day.  There was no call to jump to a despairing conclusion.

Too many people gave up after one failure.  They took plans that had nearly worked and scrapped them entirely.  It was a sickness, a weakness, and it was one that I didn’t share.

I’d given the signal, and I’d received the countersignal.  Only the handoff remained.

I took a last long look around the room, letting my eyes range over the other patrons.  I’d been hoping that KEM would send someone I’d recognized, but I couldn’t place any of the humans.  If I’d ever seen them before, it certainly hadn’t been during any cooperation with KEM.

I got up, dropping my pen down across the papers that I’d spread across the table.  It was a nonchalant movement, utterly casual.  I stalked off to the restroom with the natural assurance of an Ultra, entirely convinced that no one would mess with my property while I was gone.

The trick of it was, no one would. While I was doing my business my contact wasn’t going to steal the papers, or do anything similarly blatant.  They would use a mystical relic of a bygone age.

To wit, a simple cell phone, and its associated camera.

While I was gone someone would walk on by, holding a small black rectangle under the bottom of a book or a plate, recording the contents of the target dossier, and also all of the marks that I’d made.

They’d looked meaningless, of course, but their number and placement should convey my message.  It was, roughly, ‘kill this person, on the 27th  or as soon after as you can.”

There was no sign of a disturbance when I returned to my booth.  No sign that anything had transpired.  Nothing for Snitcher to become suspicious of, but if all had gone as planned I’d just killed Merlin and insured my ultimate victory.

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

Relax and Recuperate:

It was an odd coincidence that had saved the Shington museum from the fate of so many other buildings.

It had been closed for renovations during the takeover proper, and quickly occupied by transition authorities immediately after the surrender.  Fear of the Regime had kept it from looting and desecration, but it had remained outside of the Layer’s inner workings, never meaningfully occupied by anyone in Her Inner Circle.

There had been minor damage, of course.  The sort of thing that happened to buildings left to seed in a fallen age, but nothing calamitous.  The most famous paintings had been stolen, the exhibits that glorified the old world had been smashed, but the majority of the Museum had simply been left to rot.

Its first real use in the modern age was as a meeting place and illicit shelter, a convenient harbor for humans who lacked the powerful patrons necessary to live in the city and also the ruthlessness and cunning needful to survive outside.

That hadn’t lasted, of course, but the Ultras who’d removed them had been gentle, had appreciated, on some level, the unspoiled nature of the place.  They’d told their friends, and it had become a bit of a hangout spot for the city’s Ultras.

It had always appealed to me.  Relics of the old world always did, but this one was special.  The works of artists, the discoveries of scientists…it was like a celebration of all that had once been, all that we could no longer accomplish.

I walked within it, letting my eyes drift from object to object, from wall to wall.  I had no real objective, no greater purpose here.  I had come simply to remind myself of what I am, of who I am.

I stop before one particular exhibit.  A simple plaque remains, describing a particular particle collider.  We’d spun it up in order to get insight into the true nature of reality, in order to see deeper into the fabric of what was.

The plaque was just as it always was, but the stuff behind it had been wrecked.  The colored balls that had been used to teach children about the fundamentals of their world had been rearranged into a facsimile of genitalia.  The different color glass panes that visitors had peered through had been broken and shattered.  The plaque stood before pointless ruin and devastation.

This was a special place to me.  Snitcher would never get it.  He’d see only a Warlord staring at one of the Regime’s conquests.  But that wasn’t what I saw.  The Regime’s power, its destruction and ravaging, was only skin deep.

They’d broken the exhibit, they’d trashed a child’s lesson.  But the truth remained.  The particles that were described hadn’t been touched.  The Ultras, Her, this whole nightmare, we were a passing affliction.  When the last monster had been killed there would still be particles, still be children to learn about them.

I left revitalized, my inner fires banked and my strength restored.

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

Debrief Posse:

“Everything worked out today?” I asked, not with any real expectation of contradiction.

Owner’s gift could be finnicky, certainly, but this seemed like it was right up her alley, and Builder’s task wasn’t exactly brain surgery either.

Instead they looked uneasily to one another for a moment.

I looked back and forth between them, letting the silence linger.

Finally Owner broke up.

“Yeah…probably,” she said.

“Probably?” I asked.

“I also said ‘yeah’,” she pointed out.  “Why do you always get hung up on the small stuff?”

I clenched my lips and stared holes in her.

“We are about to put our lives on the line,” I told her, underlining each word.  “We could die in a week.  Do you understand that?  The whole story of your life, it might just up and end if we don’t do our very best.  And you are giving me ‘probably’?”

“I think I bought it!” she insisted.  “I’m pretty sure it is in my inventory, but I forgot to get it delivered anywhere, so it hasn’t showed up in our world yet.  Its an easy fix, I can get it delivered tomorrow!”

I didn’t bother to tell her that I’d had other plans for her tomorrow.  Instead I looked over at Builder.

“I suppose that with no material to hand you pretty much wasted the day?” I asked, my tone defeated.

“Huh?” she said, “No, I just found some fireproof stuff at the old fire station and used that.  Nobody ever bothered to scavenge up everything in there, just the intact stuff.  I didn’t have any trouble finding material to use when the time came to learn the pattern.”

I grinned.  It was nice to remember that surprises could be pleasant just as easily as they could be dangerous.

“How’d Smasher do?” I asked Owner, trying to take back some of my earlier harshness by putting the conversation back on a casual level.

She brightened immediately.

“She did great,” she said.  “Or at least that’s what she claimed.  Said the survivors would think twice before they disobeyed us.”

I winced.

“How many-“

“Only one!” broke in Builder.  “I get that that’s one too many, but she said it was the only way to make them understand.  She killed the one that she thought was most responsible for what happened earlier.”

I ground my teeth together, but said nothing.

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

The Plan:

– We should attack on the 28th. We shouldn’t tell anyone about this until about the 25th. This will throw a spanner in the works of any trap they’re planning that requires that they have an idea of when we’re coming.

– If we head over on the 30th, we can expect to ‘coincidentally’ meet a Union patrol partway there who will inflict some damage on us. We should prepare for this possibility, even at our earlier date.

“I like the idea of attacking at a different date from when I tell the troops that we will.  I’m concerned that they may be able to get a signal to King Arthur and his Union buds after we tell them on the 25th.  Maybe I should tell them the night before, or just the day of?”

– Merlin’s invisible troops are, of course, invisible. They are also carrying Knight equipment. Picker’s assassins carried Knight equipment. Hmmm. But what the Knights are asking for in exchange for the use of their equipment is morally completely reprehensible. I can’t countenance that, and would lose my Resistance contact if I did. (I would deserve to lose my Resistance contact if I did that. I would be truly a monster.)

“Yes, very true.  I don’t want to work with Refiner and his pets any more than I have to.”

– I need to bear in mind that Merlin and Arthur might have empowered the same people. That is to say, some of Merlin’s invisible assassins might have Ultra Strength, or Speed, or Toughness. They’re already hitting above their weight – on top of that, they may actually have some weight to hit on top of.

“Very worrying possibility.”

– Another option for dealing with Merlin is to take advantage of KEM. I know where she lives, what she can do and who she cares for; leaving that report on Merlin in the right place should be enough to get her killed outright. However, I shouldn’t use KEM on more than one person. Merlin is a greater threat than Guinevere.

“This is a good idea.  I tried to have KEM kill Merlin once already, hopefully there will be enough time to try again.  I really don’t think I can win the fight if they have invisible warriors.”

– Third option – use Owner to demolish Merlin’s house in the middle of the night (buying and demolishing the property).

“I’d rather use KEM, but this might be a ‘why not both’? situation.”

– Fourth option – take advantage of Builder’s stuff-stretching ability to ensure that our confrontation happens in an ankle-deep flood. Even invisible people can be seen walking through ankle-deep water – if nothing else, by the foot-shaped hollows in the water.

“I guess it couldn’t hurt, but when I remember my past fights and try and imagine looking at the ground constantly to see if footprints are getting closer my immediate reaction is that the person I’m fighting would take that opportunity to hit me.  We’ll try this in the worst case scenario, but I’m dubious.”

– Guinevere is easily handled. I need merely imbue my Posse with fireproof; after that, Smasher can take her out easily. (Ankle-deep water should mess with her, too, by extinguishing a lot of fires).

“My ability doesn’t really work that way, but I can see how I forgot that for a sec.  (out of character, this is a CCC plan, and the clarifications were on the board, not the blog).  My gift adjusts people’s ‘metadata’, a set of 3-4 keywords that define them.  Adding one in, like ‘fireproof’ risks the possibility that the one that falls off will be something like ‘sane’, or ‘mobile’.  I got lucky with Grower and Builder.  If I tried the same thing on 50 people I wouldn’t have fifty fireproof people when I was done, or 50 living people.”

– Lancelot and Arthur are unlikely to be trouble in the final confrontation.

– That giant Union tank, on the other hand, is a problem (and not a small one). But Builder should be able to deal with it; her power works at any range. She can close off any gun barrels by extending the barrel material _inwards_, she can mess up the engine by making the internals just grow crazy spikes everywhere, and so on. Once she can see it, she can ruin it utterly – and probably without even leaving any external sign of her sabotage, so it can all be blamed on the Union being idiots.

“Builder can wreck it very fast as soon as she can see it, though she can’t grow stuff on the internals unless she can see into it.  But adding stuff to the outside where she can see it will rapidly render the tank unusable.  I like this idea.”

– If the Ar Harbour team don’t want to come out and fight, we can draw them out by taking hostages. from the people they care for. This strategy is unpleasant and distasteful, but it will work, and will draw them away from buildings. Moreover, I don’t actually need to permanently harm the hostages, not if I’m threatening enough.

“It sounds like I am allowed to wreck the place as long as we fix it, and I’m also really not loving the idea of taking hostages.”

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

 

Day 24:

Days remaining: 7

AP available: (6 at end of day + 1 for 6 hours sleep) = 7/10

Non AP Action: Swap in a new plan.  You write in a new plan, I’ll give you Mia’s assessment of it.  If you don’t do this then the existing one will be executed.  The plan that is in force when its execution date arrives will be used for the actual battle, though there may be mid battle votes that could alter it in process.

Prestige: 3

Timeslots available: 2, morning and afternoon

Builder Timeslot Available: afternoon

Owner Timeslot Available: afternoon

Smasher : Timeslot Available: morning

Posse: 3 or 3 out of 3 slots filled

Force size: 45

Condition: Healthy

[spoiler=Ultras]

 

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

Posse:

Builder — 0/0/0, a woman who can alter objects for miles around into other things, blessed with a ‘Bulletproof’ blend

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

Smasher — 3/0/1, a woman who is billed as the strongest Ultra fighter of all time

Ultra Allies:

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

Clawer – Ultra fighter 2/0/1, melee combatant, deadly hooks for hands

Stopper – partner of Clawer, 0/0/0, steals form’s velocity by looking at them

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

Grower – 0/*0/1, an outside Ultra I sponsored into the Lair, has a bullet blend from me, can rapidly increase the size and mass of objects

Joker — 0/2/0, a woman who can change what other people/herself look like

Replayer — 1/2/0, she can ‘step back in time’ to undo damage that she takes

Ultra Enemies:

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

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

Ultra Acquaintances:

Tracker – Running buddy, 1/0/1, Creates tracks, and can move things on them

Shower – Adder’s protégé, 1*/0/1*, gains strength and durability from witnesses

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

Bubbler – Operates Ultra clinic 0/0/?, traps things in bubbles that heal and move them

Sucker — Ultra entertainer, ?/?/?, pulls objects/people towards her at incredible rate

Gunner — 0/0/1, she shoots tracking Ultra Blasts at roughly Ultra Strength One

Chiller — 1/0/1, can freeze any object she touches, leaving them brittle and easily broken

Cutter — 1/1/1, she is a brutal front line combatant

Swimmer — 1/0/1, she can ‘swim’ through solid surfaces

Burner — 0/0/1, she can summon Ultra fire from anywhere that she can see

Maxxer — 0/0/0, she can augment the gifts of other Ultras, pushing their gifts

Puncher — 1/0/1, her strength and speed both go up when she repeats her movements

[/spoiler]

 

[spoiler=Actions]

Actions:

[ ] Accept Refiner’s Bargain (Timeslot cost: 0, AP cost 4, auto succeed)

Motive: His blessed weapons and armor would be a massive force multiplier for our group.  He might also send along Knight backup.  He would be a powerful additional patron.

Concerns: I would be responsible for a massacre in the immediate aftermath, or be killed by Second Fist if I backed out.  Subtracter would also likely perceive this alliance as an attempt at weaseling out from under her command, so I’d have to tread very carefully to avoid offending her.

 

[ ] Seek Transportation

-[ ] Scavenge (Timeslot cost: 2; AP cost 4, refunds 3 on success)

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

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

-[ ] Trade with existing owners (Timeslot cost: 1; AP cost 2, refunds 1 on success)

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

Concerns: Snitcher may disapprove of a warlord being civil

-[ ] Seize by force (Timeslot cost: 2; AP cost 4, refunds 3 on success)

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

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

-[ ] Seek Transportation [Adder + Company] (Timeslot cost: 1; AP cost 2, refunds 1 on success)

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

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

 

[ ] Seek Target Information

-[ ] Company (Timeslot cost: 1; AP cost 2, refunds 1 on success)

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

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

-[ ] Subtracter (Timeslot cost: 1; AP cost 3, refunds 1 on success)

Motive: Subtracter is the military leader of the Regime, she will have information on this target

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

-[ ] Survivors (Timeslot cost:1; AP cost 2, refunds 1 on success)

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

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

 

[ ] Seek Posse Members

-[ ] wander & gossip, (Timeslot cost: 1; AP cost 1, refunds 1 on success)

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

Concerns: None

-[ ] At Ultra Fights, (Timeslot cost: 1; AP cost 1, refunds 1 on success)

Constraint: Only available in the afternoon or night on days divisible by 4 (day 4, 8, etc)

Motive: There are dozens of powerful Ultras in the Lair. I know only the barest fraction of them. I can learn the basics on 3-12 of them in a few hours of socializing and gossiping at this kind of event.

Concerns: Ultras associated with the Fights are more likely than most to be melee combatants.

 

[ ] Seek Warband Members

-[ ] At the Yard, (Timeslot cost: 1; AP cost 2, refunds 1 on success)

Motive: The Lair is surrounded by hundreds of Regime Ultras. The strongest come to the Yard to show their power and appeal to those like me, who would give them purpose. I should be able to gather between 5 and 20 Ultras of such caliber.

Concerns: I will need to provide housing and direction to these Ultras, or risk them wandering off. I can expect to spend at least an action a day on them, and training them might well eat up more. Ideally a Posse member will be tasked with this.

-[ ] [Gang name] From a Gang, (Timeslot cost: 2; AP cost 5, refunds 3 on success)

Motive: The Ultras that surround Shington are organized into Gangs dozens strong. If I can recruit such a force I might have my whole Warband right there.

Concerns: These Ultras likely already have patrons in the Lair, who I would need to negotiate with. Their leader would also likely want a place in my Posse, and she would be the primary locus of their loyalty until I’d had time to win them over.

 

[ ] Investigate Acquaintance:

-[ ] [Name], (Timeslot cost: 1; AP cost 2, refunds 1 on success, 2 if we become allies)

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

Concerns: None

 

[ ] Invite Ally into Posse:

-[ ] [Name], (Timeslot cost: 1; AP cost 3, refunds 3 on success)

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

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

 

[ ] Seek Information on Snitcher’s patterns

-[ ] Passive listening (Timeslot cost: 1; AP cost 1, refunds 1 on success)

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

Concerns: None

-[ ] Active interrogation of Snitches (Timeslot cost: 1; AP cost 3, refunds 2 on success)

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

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

-[ ] Confront Snitcher Directly (Timeslot cost:1; AP cost 4, refunds 3 on success)

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

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

 

[ ] Seek Information on Regime military operations

-[ ] Ask Subtracter (Timeslot cost: 1; AP cost 3, refunds 1 on success)

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

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

-[ ] Ask Around (Timeslot cost: 1; AP cost 2, refunds 1 on success)

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

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

 

[ ] Relax and Recuperate

-[ ] By visiting Blisser (Timeslot cost: X (slots spent until AP reaches max), AP cost 0, returns 3 per time period. DANGER, this action may cause addiction)

-[ ]By lounging around, (Timeslot cost: 1, AP cost 0, refunds 1 on success)

Motive: I could do with some rest.

Concerns: None

-[ ]By patronizing entertainment areas (Timeslot cost: 1, AP cost 1, refunds 3 on success)

Motive: I could do with some rest, and I might learn some things by socializing

Concerns: None

-[ ]By using my gift to repair the city (Timeslot cost: 1, AP cost 2, refunds 5 on success)

Motive: It needs to be done.

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

-[ ]By using my gift to heal people (Timeslot cost: 1, AP cost 1, refunds 5 on success)

Motive: This is why I have my gift.

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

 

[ ] Organize Armory [Timeslot cost: 1, AP cost 2, returns 2 on success)

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

 

Concerns: None

 

[ ] Action: Direct the Warband (Timeslot cost 0, AP cost 1, returns 1 if successful)

Motive: If I need to set my warband in motion, give them a project or whatever, it is as simple as telling them to jump.  My will is their command.

-[ ] Let [Posse Member] Supervise, takes up the Posse Member’s action, modifies success chance based on which Posse member it is, and which action

 

[ ] Action: Train the Warband (Timeslot cost 0, AP cost 1, returns 1 if successful) [Requires a timeslot from the teacher, who should probably be an Ultra combatant]

Motive: Yard Ultras are fierce, but undisciplined.  They are warriors, not soldiers.  I can get better outcomes if I teach them some basics.

-[ ] In Ultra Combat (Gives bonuses on their battle rolls)

-[ ] In anti firearm maneuvers (Makes them suffer less casualties under fire)

-[ ] In obedience (makes them more likely to obey my orders)

 

[ ] Action: Other (Timeslot cost: x, returns x if successful)

 

KEM Actions:

[ ] Assign Assassination mission [Timeslot cost 1, AP cost 3, returns 1 on success, can only be done in the morning, uncertain Snitcher risk]

 

Description: KEM are the only humans who fight back on a consistent, day to day basis.  We’ve come up together, they and I, and pointing them at my foes is only common sense.  If I give them a target, then I trust them to make a good faith effort to put that Ultra down.  Their odds of success, of course, vary wildly depending on how much info I can provide, and the gifts of the Ultra in question.

 

Resistance Actions:

[ ] Assign Information Gathering Mission [Timeslot cost 1, AP cost 2, returns 1 on success, can only be done in the morning, uncertain Snitcher risk]

Description: The humans are the ocean in which the Ultras swim, the saying goes.  The Resistance’s capacity to gather information about Ultras is unsurpassed.  If I give them a target, then they will give me every bit of public information on the target, and often times a little bit more.  Ultras are people, after all.  I believe this with all my heart.  And people trust other people, even those that they ultimately shouldn’t.  I can assign as many targets as I wish, but the more I assign the less details I will probably get, and the longer it might take.

 

[ ] Debrief Information Gathering Mission [Timeslot cost 1, AP cost 0, returns 1 on success, can only be done in the morning, uncertain Snitcher risk]

Description: The information that the Resistance gathers is worthless if I never regain it.  Using protocols I’ve worked out ahead of time, and my recent discovery of Snitcher’s habits, it should be possible for me to take the Resistance’s reports with minimal risk.  I expect I should give them a day or two for local targets, and possibly as much as four for targets in Ar Harbor or further afield.

Smasher Actions:

[ ] Recuperate [Timeslot cost All]

Description: Smasher hangs on the edge of death.  Her body and gift will try to knit her back together each day.

 

Owner Actions:

[ ] Acquire Funds [Timeslot cost 1]

Description: Owner takes action to get more and more valuable assets within our world, increasing her overall funding, hopefully permitting her gift’s actions to be swifter and larger in impact. (Requires Write In clarification on how to do this)

[ ] Change Company [ Timeslot cost 1]

Description: Owner presently runs a package store, located in downtown Washington.  She has, as near as I can estimate, a low six figures saved up.  With this action I can direct her to acquire licenses, expand locations, purchase other businesses, or perform similar deeds, all based around changing the operation and activities of her imaginary franchise. (Requires Write In clarification on how to do this)

[ ] Company Action [ Timeslot cost 2]

Description: This is a catchall action for anything I might think of that could let Owner impact the main battle in Ar Harbor.  Buying up local real estate and demolishing it on a certain date seems like the obvious course of action, but there are a lot of other fringe ideas that I’ve been entertaining. [Requires Write In clarification on how to do this.  The first Action spent on this is about Owner doing tests to make sure this effort will work, the second actually kicks off whatever changes I want in the imaginary world.]

Builder Actions:

[ ] Repair Structure [Timeslot cost 1]

Description: Builder can repair most any structure any structure in just a few hours, spreading broken portions back into place and generating new matter as needed.

 

[ ] Construct Known Structure [ Timeslot cost 1]

 

Description: Builder can construct any easily described structure with the same ease that she repairs them.  Her present education limits this to extremely primitive structures, but that might well be changeable.

 

[ ] Construct Known Items [Timeslot cost 1]

 

Description: Builder’s gits aren’t limited to buildings.  If she can get a perfect understanding of an objects, and samples for every component, then she can form any items that I might desire.  The easiest way to accomplish this, of course, would be to provide her with a sample.

 

[ ] Memorize Patterns [ Timeslot cost 1]

 

Description: Builder’s gifts are heavily limited by her imperfect education.  The more patterns I can get her to learn, the more she can construct from any given material.  If I provide her with patterns or specimens I’m pretty sure she can memorize them and add them to her arsenal.

[/spoiler]

 

 

Haunter 9:1

The Grand Host’s ‘healers’, the subject of my own particular mania for a while now, were nothing much to look at.

They weren’t Brides, they weren’t obviously mutated or exalted by their gifts.  The objects of my quest looked pretty exactly like the random savages that they were.

Aesop was a younger woman, stick thin, whose eyes didn’t exactly point the same way.  She had a nervous, rat like way about her, and her hand never strayed too far away from the gun tucked into her rope belt.

Patra was older, and she had the perfect human body that one might expect of a preternaturally gifted Ultra healer.  Not an ounce of fat, a sculpted form akin to what I had once seen in the Olympics.

“Don’t get up,” I told them as I settled down beside them on their platform.

The Jury let me know that they hadn’t exactly been about to, but it was about controlling expectations, setting the right tone, etc.

“You are that Regime person?” asked Aesop.  “The one who will be programming our shells?”

“Yes,” I responded, not trying to figure out how they got ‘programming’ despite their society having no computers.

“I can’t wait to see this,” said Patra.  “It’ll be a huge time saver to have a third member of our little crew.  We waste a lot of time building in the ‘go attack outsiders’ drive over and over again.  If you can handle that then our output will go through the roof.”

“That’s just when we are making monsters,” said Aesop, jumping in before I got a chance.  “We obviously don’t need you to give us minds when we are healing our fellows, or the Brides, haha.”

The laugh at the end was more spoken than real.

“I understand,” I responded.  “I’ll only impose upon you when your other duties permit.”

“Nice,” said Patra.

We sat in companionable silence for a moment.

“These are your comrades now?” asked General Greggs, in the privacy of the reserve.  “You have the liberty of this vile assembly, and you seek out their support staff?”

I’d given her essentially free reign, she could speak whenever she liked, as long as I wasn’t speaking.  I’d need her cooperation, ultimately, and I needed her to engage if I was to get that.

“They are people,” I said, simply, “and I believe that speaking to them is the best thing that I can do right now.”

“They are people,” she repeated, with derision clear in her voice, “Say that out loud, I dare you.  These ‘Gods’ have long since forfeited all rights to the title.  They are animals, and very soon they will be killed like it.  I hope you are too.”

I remained silent in the fact of that, concentrating on nodding agreeably as Aesop and Patra slipped back into what were clearly the well worn grooves of a long friendship.

“Did that surprise you, Regimer?” she asked, after a moment or two of me not answering.  “Did you think that as soon as I was trapped in your gift I’d switch sides, betray my people just because I’ll die alongside you?”

I considered that, even as I spared a thought for the hundreds who’d been silenced so that Greggs and I could have this conversation.  It would be easy to blame her for them, but unfair.  I’d made that decision.  I was the reason that they weren’t shouting her down right now.

What I wanted from the general couldn’t be accomplished by bullying or bluster. I wanted a meeting of the minds, a convergence of ethics, ultimately giving rise to real cooperation.  I wanted her to join me on my quest, and that wasn’t something that could be forced upon the unwilling.

“You think I’ll break if you just ignore me?” she asked, scornfully.  “You don’t think we had a bit of counter interrogation training in the world’s foremost military?  That we never heard of the silent treatment?”

“I don’t want to break you,” I told her.  “That would take a long time, and then you’d be broken.  I need you whole, and I’ll go to any pains I have to in order to keep you that way.”

“What the fuck?” she asked.  “You shot me in the head!”

I gave a tired sigh, which brought some insincere commiseration from the healers.  I assured them that it wasn’t anything serious.

“I’m a consequentialist,” I said.  “To my core, bone deep.  It has been beaten into me over decades.  I’m afraid I just don’t respect deontological imperatives at all anymore, taboos don’t hold for me.  I judge my actions based on the outcomes that they bring about, and I never act lightly.  If you want me to feel guilty for something, then you need to show me the undesirable outcome that it produced, and convince me that I missed another action that would have led to a better one.”

She’d tried to interrupt in there, but I’d muted her while I talked.  It was a gentle use of my gift, but I felt in some obscure way that I’d lost by doing it.

Still, I had to.  We’d never get anywhere if we tripped over one another’s sentences.  It was too easy for arguments like that to rage on for hours, no one ever getting a cogent point across.

“What the fuck is that supposed to mean?  I mean, in real terms?  Like, ok, I guess to put it in your terms the consequences that I want you to be sorry for are that a hole appeared in my head and my brains and blood leaked out.  Thanks so much for making me put it like that.  That’s way clearer than saying that you shot me.”

I let her sarcasm wash over me, chuckling lightly in response to one of Aesop’s anecdotes.

“The consequences were as you say, I admit, but I’d like to point out that another one is that you are here with me.  We are together, side by side, having this conversation within my skull.  If I had left you there, then you would still be dead.  There would still be a hole in your head, or in your heart.  Some Goddess would have wrung the blood from you like a rag, in a desperate attempt to gain Vampire’s favor, and you would be gone.”

It was her turn to let me think on it for a bit.  She stayed silent for a solid minute or so after that one.

I wasn’t dumb enough to think that my words might have had any impact already.  I was still the enemy, she was still trying to ‘win’ the conversation.  If she was staying quiet then it was only because she was setting something up.

“And did it occur to you,” she asked, her voice lower now, solemn “that I might have preferred that?  Did you ever stop to think that maybe the reason I didn’t beg you for this salvation is that I had no desire for it?”

Unless she’d kept up on her briefings with maniacal ferocity I doubted she’d even realized who I was during our brief interaction.

I let the point stand, however.  Disputing it would have gained me nothing.

“I understand that,” I said.  “But I’m a consequentialist, remember?  I believe that you alive and angry about it is better for the future than you being dead, and unfortunately for you, I was the one who got to make the choice.”

She gave an incoherent shout of anger at that, then immediately snarled at me.

“Oh wow another Ultrahuman who believes that their gift makes their choices the only ones that matter, the only ones which hold any weight.  Have you ever thought, for the smallest fraction of a second, that maybe the reason that the Union is so much better than the hellholes you crawl out of is exactly that belief?  That our miraculous ability to not be shitheads to one another might stem from the fact that we managed to leave ‘might makes right’ in the ashes of history where it belongs?”

My lips tensed in a small smile, almost without me even realizing it.  Had I ever been so young, so passionate?  I must have been.  We all must have been.

“Force doesn’t rule the world?” I asked, in a playful tone, making utter mock of her fury, “You didn’t just lose a battle to a girl too dumb to read?  You aren’t locked in my head right now?  I’m relieved to hear it.  Do you know what I might do in order to wake myself up from this terrible dream I seem to be having?”

The key word there was terrible.  I needed to sneak myself onto her side at the same time as I worked her through this stuff.  ‘Us against the barbarian world’ was the basic frame I was looking for, but it wasn’t going to be easy.

“Fuck you!” she snarled.

I let that sit there for a bit, tuned back into the healer’s discussion.

“So, if my part doesn’t take any time at all, about how many monsters do you think you can make in a day?” I asked.

“Dozens,” said Patra, “Maybe many dozens.”

“I’ll just keep popping out shells,” said Aesop, “She’s got the hard part, changing them all into strong fighters.”

I gave a careful nod, pretending to consider her words for a while.

“So your gift makes a living thing of some kind, a ‘shell’,” and I indicated Aesop as I said it, “And then you modify the shell into something that is a strong fighter?”

Patra nodded.

“I have the hard part,” she admitted.  “I have to do the body and the mind, give them beast arms and also the way of knowing that they need to eat every day or whatever.”

I gave the ‘ah ha’ look, as though I got it.

“But now you won’t have to do the mind part anymore!” I said.

“You are really going to help these scum?” asked the general.  “You know that they are going to plunder and burn down our civilization, and you are still aiding them?”

She didn’t sound surprised or angry about it, more like she was going through the motions.

“Nah,” I said.

“What?” she asked, instantly.

“I’m not helping them one bit.  I’m using them.  They are going to give you and the rest of my passengers bodies, and at the first sign of trouble you are going to run away.”

She was about to ask me why, I figured.

“Fucking why?” she asked.

Close enough.

“Because I’m a consequentialist,” I reminded her.  “I act in order to bring about what I think is the best future.  There is a storm coming, and very few will survive it.  I need to get you all to shelter before it arrives.”

“What storm?” she demanded.  “What shelter?  Who is ‘you all’?”

I grinned again.  At least she was, I don’t know, ‘awake’, for lack of a better term.  Asking questions meant that she wanted information.  What I’d been dreading was an endless repetition of her name rank and serial number.

An interrogation, one where I played the victim, had a lot more interesting possibilities.

“Annihilation is the storm,” I told her, mental voice utterly flat, “Extinction, Omnicide, whatever you want to call it.  Remover’s long dream, realized at last.  The end of human life on the planet.”

“Ridiculous!” she responded, instantly “Even if we lose this war, there won’t be an extinction level event.  Life under the Pantheon isn’t literal death.”

I ruminated for a moment on the fact that I’d maneuvered her into defending the Pantheon, but didn’t bother to call attention to it.

“Reality can’t be ridiculous,” I told her.  “Something that is happening can’t be impossible.  You should have read the reports already, right?  Extinction is already underway!”

“What reports?” she spluttered.

I let her think about it for a moment.  This was a key point, I couldn’t rush her through it.

“You mean the Company ceasing food production?” she asked, after a long moment.

I didn’t blame her for it.  She had a lifetime of hating the Pantheon, it wouldn’t have been easy for her to associate their misfortune with humanity’s.

“The Pantheon is humanity’s present,” I told her.  “The Regime is the past, the Union is the future, but right now five sixths of the human race are controlled by the Pantheon.  And for two generations they’ve gotten their food from magic boxes.  They’ve been ruled by thugs and brutes, despoiled and drone struck by your own nation, ransacked by the Fists of mine.  How many farmers do you think are still alive?  How many will be alive in two months, when the famine is really under way?”

“It’s…that’s…” she spluttered, pushed off balance by the fact that ‘winning’ this argument required her to argue in favor of the Pantheon’s capabilities, something she’d probably never done in her life.

“Think of the early explorers, starving to death in a paradise, dying of starvation as the people native to the region survived easily.  That’s going to be us, that’s the end of our billions, Remover’s masterstroke.”

Just thinking of it made me angry, but there were no useful consequences to anger, so I strove for equanimity.  I couldn’t change the past.

“They’ll get food,” she said.  “Ultra gifts or old stockpiles.”

I shook my head, sadly, though to the healers it seemed like I was doing so to one of their own jokes.

“The unthinkable is not the impossible,” I told her.  “If you take nothing else from my life, take that bleak truth.  We all told ourselves that Peggy Martin couldn’t really destroy the United States, that it wasn’t allowed to happen.  Then we told ourselves that normality would return.  And then we died.  The people who thought that kind of thing, the ones who put their hands in their ears and blustered about how unreasonable it was?  They changed nothing.  They died helpless, effectless.”

“This is just a conspiracy theory!” she charged.  “There isn’t anyone… I mean…”

I could sympathize.  I’d just burned down the ‘it can’t really happen’ argument, but that was still the feeling that ruled her heart.

After a beat she continued

“What would her motive be?  You are saying that the leader of First Fist is killing the world?  That this is all a decades long plot?  I think you are grasping at straws here.  Things happen, and sometimes those things are bad, but you don’t need to make up a devil to explain hell on earth.  People are bad enough.”

I chuckled.

“God, its tempting,” I allowed.  ”But the thing about not admitting that we are in a game is, it doesn’t actually stop us from losing.  I get that it seems ridiculous, incredibly unlikely, but take a sec to really consider your situation.”

I cracked my knuckles.

“All of the world’s know how is locked into one country, which is at constant war with the part of the world that actually has people.  I’m going to go way out on a limb and guess that any time anyone in the Union makes any noise about maybe they should give some tech to the Pantheon they are called traitors?”

She didn’t make any immediate response, so I continued on.

“And of course any time any genuine attempts at peace are made First Fist swings through to rape all the dogs or whatever, get everyone good and fired up against the Ultrahumans.  Have you ever thought about how artificial that seems?  If you just step back and think about it?”

She still didn’t say anything.

“The Ultra Crime wave was deliberate, careful.  She controlled the fall of civilization, drove all the educated people, the wealthy and the middle class, sent them all fleeing into the Union, then she set the Company’s quota over your country and not anywhere else, so you’d always be artificially weak.”

“Everyone knows that the Company Quota is just a trick to weaken us!” snapped Greggs.  “This isn’t exactly a revelation.”

”if she wanted to weaken you then the Company just wouldn’t have given you any Ultras at all!” I responded.  “You got the Ultras you needed to play defense, ensuring that you’d lean on your technical advantage, strive as hard as you could to keep our species in barbarism.  I’m guessing that any time the Pantheon started to build up any kind of industrial footprint at all you bombed it?”

“We had to!” she responded.

“Of course you did.  The only way to save the village is to destroy it, after all!”

“Stop doing that!” she snarled.  “Stop equating the Pantheon to humanity!”

I let that sit for a moment.

“Are there even a billion people in the Union?” I asked.  “Just one billion?”

She didn’t have an answer to that.

“Would you feel better if I said five sixths of humanity?  Maybe seven eighths?”

Still nothing, but the texture of her silence made me think that maybe I’d reached something, maybe she might be thinking a bit.

“The point of the whole Pantheon/Union setup is to ruin our species.  Even as we speak, this plan is coming to fruition.  The Pantheon is devouring itself, and the Union, far from preparing humanitarian missions, is frantically preparing to fight a war against an army whose home nation is dying behind it.”

She started to speak, but didn’t actually say anything, so I went on again.

“If you doubt that there is someone behind this, that the things I’m going to tell you about the origin of the Ultra gifts are really true, just remember that the Pantheon lasted exactly as long as it took to generate the Brides, and its ruin began the second it sent them forth.”

“That’s not proof,” she protested, but weakly now.

“Of course it isn’t,” I snapped.  “Just post hoc ergo proptor hoc.  Tell yourself that, if it makes you feel better.  Tell yourself that the Company ceased operation exactly as soon as the Brides launched their attack for no reason at all.  Just a totally random happenstance.”

“Don’t give me that!” she snapped.  “There’s a massive range between ‘these variables are unconnected’, and ‘the devil set it all up as part of his master plan’.”

“I don’t need you to believe me about the Pantheon,” I told her.  “Although you fucking should.  What concerns us is the Union.”

“What about the Union?” she asked.

“They are the only ones who can restarted civilization.  After humanity, whoops, after ALMOST ALL of humanity starves, you are the only ones who might restart things.”

“Go on…” she said.

“Except that the you are about to be conquered and sacked, your fire stomped out of the world.  The Lightning Lord will fry your computers, his Brides will sack your cities.  Sorry Noah, the ark will be sunk this time, the future aborted.”

“Not if I have anything to say about it!” she snarled.

I let that sit for just a second.

“You mean,” I ventured, “not if WE have anything to say about it?”