Haunter 8:4

Bull gave a triumphant bellow, throwing back her head and roaring her triumph to the entirety of the world.

Nobody really payed her much attention.

“Holy shit,” said Dale.  “We…I…I’m sorry that took so-“

“Fuck you ground guy!” shouted Bull, “I’ll kill you for-“

She cut off as the ground under her rumbled, maybe loosened a bit.

“Noon was out of line,” I told her, wrenching my eyes and mind away from the welcome specter of Andy’s survival.  “We were defending ourselves.”

She didn’t say anything in response to that, settling for giving us some prime hate filled glare action.

It was easy enough to understand her rationale.  Charging a group of three Fist members would be idiotic, but backing down wasn’t really in her wheelhouse.  She’d bide her time and wait to tattle on us to Zilla.

Zilla…just the thought of the miniature form changer brought my thoughts crashing back down to earth.  The night’s work was far from over.

“What now?” asked Preventer.

“We wait,” I say.  “We need to see who survived from the raiding party.  They will see the skimmer and head over here.”

I didn’t need to mention how much depended on whether it was Predicter and Slicer, or Zilla and her crew, or both of them.  The possibilities branched rapidly depending on who showed up, and in what order.

“Alright, that makes sense,” said Dale.

“Can you at least let the Furies up?” asked Bull, a bit of a plaintive tone creeping into her voice.

I put them out of my mind for the moment, let my team handle the present.  The coming encounters would demand a lot of exactitude, and my reserve and I could use this chance to plan them.

So many questions.  Should I simply climb aboard the skiff and start my modifications?  What actions would cause Zilla to attempt to remote kill me, as she’d done to the rest of Fifth Fist?  Was Condemner still alive, and was Fisher?  Had she seen through his mask at last?  Were they aware of Zilla’s more exotic capabilities?  What were those capabilities, or rather, what gift permitted them?

I let a shade drive my form, slid down into deep communion with the reserve.  We batted the questions around, focus groups and prediction market equivalents martialed and disbanded in a blur of immensely focused cognition.

I didn’t have Ultra wisdom, I didn’t think anyone did, but back in my day the internet had always guessed the fair twists on tv shows.  That wasn’t possible because they were smarter than the mystery writers, it was simply that in a group of basically endless size someone would see the important clues, and someone else would listen.  The truth would be confirmed, the false pushed aside.

Science, if I could stretch the terms a bit.  Not with beakers and masks, or lab coats and microscopes, but refined down to its elemental form.  Predictions and counter predictions, tests giving rise to a new generation based on their results.

The minutes slipped by, resolutions mounting, theories building on theories, models collapsing into simpler models.  Questions were answered, others were raised.

Dale brought the Furies up, and Bull as well, before sinking them all down into a cavern, not too far below the surface.  They didn’t try to fight, sharing our universal conviction that as awful as being buried alive in a large cavern was, it was absolutely preferable to the version where you were just encased in dirt, left to rot in the depths  of the world.

In the near distance, a flame fell to earth from the jail.  It was hard to make out in the evening dimness.

Had that been Zilla’s hair?  Or had it been Condemner, slamming down to the earth as calamity? Could it have been both, that is, would I have seen Zilla’s hair if it was close to Condemner’s own light?

“Hey, you got him!” yelled a figure advancing towards us.

Zilla.

Showtime.

“There will be a fight,” I murmured to the other three.  “Stay ready, no matter what is said.  Make absolutely certain that Andy doesn’t come down, and whatever you do stay away from Zilla.”

“I mean, I guess that’s him up there in the little flying box, right?” she cried, gaily, as she walked up on us.

I didn’t see Condemner or Fisher around her, but that didn’t mean that they weren’t nearby.  Both could be stealthy when they needed to, and the gloom of early evening had shrouded more conspicuous people in its time.

“Stop!” I called out.

She paused midstep, comically halting with one foot above the ground.

“Jane?” she responded.

I’d stopped her about thirty feet away from us.  Near enough that we would still be raising our voices, far enough that we could hopefully avoid reinfection.  I didn’t think it would matter, exactly, but if I was right about her abilities I had to take every precaution.

“Zilla,” I answered.  “There’s been some misunderstandings, I think.  I’d like to clear that up before we all get back together.”

“And who could object to that?” she said, almost before I had finished speaking.  “I’m sure my friends are nearby, safe and sound, and the fact that I only see the three of you is just one of those misunderstandings, hmm?”

I shook my head, slowly, back and forth.

“That’s not one of them?” she asked.  “I’m disappointed.”

She still hadn’t put her foot down, and now she kind of waved it around while she shrugged.

“Let’s…”

I paused a second.

“We all came here for a reason, right?” I said.  “There’s been some turmoil, neither of us knows the full story, but whatever’s happened, it has to turn on why we are here, right?”

She gave a tolerant nod, flashing that too wide grin.

The reserve had dubbed this part of the plan the ‘drawing room scene’.  The basic idea was that I was going to stall for long enough for our allies to get here, while also getting everyone on the same page.

The fact that I was going to look like a genius was entirely besides the point.

“Preventer first,” I said.  “Why are you here?”

Preventer looked a little surprised to be asked.

“You both know that.  I’m working for the good of the Pantheon, mostly to convince any doubters that I really do belong on the Leadership Council.”

“Right,” I said, then, to Zilla, “And you are supporting her in this, right?”

“Sure,” she said.  “Anyone who kills Union stooges is all right in our book.”

“No you aren’t,” I answered, “But let’s table that for now.  So Preventer wants to destroy the jail, bring Andy back.  Let’s go to me.”

Now Zilla looked a little interested.

“The story is too boring to go into,” I said, “but I need my gift adjusted, so I needed to get ahold of Andy.  I’m also supporting Preventer’s ambitions.”

Zilla raised a finger, almost quizzically.

“Yes,” I said, anticipating her question, “The change will last even though we are linked.  It is our forms that are restored, not our souls.  That’s why memories stick around, and so forth.”

She put the finger down, I wasn’t sure if I’d actually guessed her question, or if she was just letting me have this.

“So that takes care of us.  Now let’s talk about you.”

“Ooh, ooh,” she said, sounding like a little kid, “that’s my favorite thing!”

She’d actually sounded younger there, not just in intonation but in the voice itself as well.  Just one more reminder of her constantly shifting form.

“You are here to strike a blow against the Union, sure, and taking Andy for your followers is icing on the cake.”

“Got it in one,” she said. “Whatever these misunderstandings are, they are taking quite a while to show up.”

She took a step towards us, and I stepped instantly backwards, keeping the space the same.  Dale and Preventer followed suit.

“So why is Predicter here?” I asked, looking around in case he chose this moment to show up.

It wasn’t terribly likely, of course, but with someone who could actually see the future it was worth the shot.

“Was,” corrected Zilla.

“You killed him?” I asked.

She shook her hand side to side, in the ‘eh’ sort of way, mirroring the gesture with the foot that she still hadn’t set down.

“He died,” she said.  “We’ll decide it if was me or some Union mooks based on how the rest of this goes, ok?”

I scoffed.

She finally put her foot down, glared at me.  It was hard to make out, in the dimness, but it seemed like I’d actually made her mad.

Had it been doubting her?  No, she wasn’t quite so arrogant.  It was more likely the open derision.  She’d ruled for a long time, and her minions were utterly servile.  She couldn’t be all that used to confrontation.

“I’m sorry,” I said.  “It’s just…well, First Fist tried to kill Fifth Fist.  They did so twice.  These are the people who killed, essentially, the Earth.  Their leader is quite literally the devil.  Predicter and his crew are still around.”

The reserve registered a protest at that, but I didn’t think anyone was about to derive the truth of our gift’s origin from one offhanded reference.

“No,” she said.  “They are not.”

I paused, trying to find the right words to say, and also because every extra second was more time for Condemner and Fisher to get back.

It might, of course, be more time for anyone from her crew who’d gone up and survived to come back, but in a battle with Dale on the field I didn’t figure that was as much of a danger.

“I killed them,” she continued.  “I have another gift, which I don’t talk about as much, and I used it to deprive your comrades of their lives.”

She was positively glaring now.

“It is something that I do, from time to time, to groups of people that offend me.”

I held up my hands in mock surrender, then dropped one down, leaving me with one hand up in the classic ‘well, actually’ position.

“Do you have another gift?”  I asked.  “Really?”

“I’d have thought you’d have seen it in action,” she replied, “if you were with Fifth Fist when they died.”

I forced out a chuckle.

There’s something of an art to faking laughter believably, but fortunately, as with nearly everything, there were a few people in the reserve who were experts at it.

“That was your shapeshifting, though.” I said.  “I wouldn’t count that as ‘another’ gift.”

I didn’t make air quotes for ‘another’, but I was absolutely imagining them.

“What?” asked Dale and Preventer almost simultaneously.

“She’s…” I looked back to Zilla, “Do you mind if I explain?”

She’d frozen, mouth slightly open.

I could almost feel for her, what would one even say in that situation?  To say no would be to give the game away, but obviously letting me ramble on would do the same.

“I’d appreciate it more if-“

I cut her off.

“Thanks,” I said.  “There’s this thing people like to do, right?  Anybody gets a chance, they’ll pull this number, just about everyone, just about every time.”

Dale looked back and forth between us, but Zilla had fallen silent, didn’t seem to be moving or anything.

“Lying with the truth,” I pronounced.  “It is almost irresistible.  When you can tell the truth, and have your enemies believe that you are lying, it’s just the best, right?”

I pitched the question at Zilla, not really caring if she was going to respond.  I’d thrown myself into it now, letting the rhythm of my words carry the scene.

“Zilla tells everyone that she’s a shapeshifter, that she has Ultra strength and toughness.  Then she lets them beat themselves up looking for her last mystery gift, even though she’s already told them everything that she can do.”

“Jane,” said Preventer, in a warning tone, “I think you are upsetting our guest.  Let’s not forget what happened to the last people who upset her.”

I scoffed again.

“Preventer, if she was going to take us on she would have,” I said.  “But we are basically the only group in the world that she no interest in fighting.  That’s almost certainly the reason Fifth Fist pushed us together.  They are looking for us to complete their mission for them.”

“Wait,” said Dale.  “Zilla just said that they are dead.”

“Cold dead,” she affirmed.

“Yes,” I said. “I believe that the five people who showed up at the fort, who came along with us, are currently dead.  But how sure are you that those five people are all the real members of Fifth Fist?”

There was a silent beat.

“Come on,” I said.  “I’m Predicter, I see the future.  I take my whole team, which everyone knows has no anchor, into the middle of the Grand Host?  Or do I take four members and a lookalike?”

“How would-“ asked Preventer, before I cut her off.

“It doesn’t really matter,” I said.  “Maybe they have a tame disguise Ultra.  Maybe Gardener can just make a tree act just like him from miles and miles away.  I don’t know how they did it, but are any of you willing to bet that Predicter won’t show up later on with more of his obnoxious notes?”

Nobody responded for a moment, and I went on before they could find something to say.

“When you killed him,” I asked.  “Did you find a cryptic note on his person?  Something snide?  He has a hard time not doing that.  Or did he maybe put it in one of your pockets?”

Zilla practically snarled.

“That proves nothing,” she said.  “Nothing except that his ego was as big as his dick was small.  He probably carried that note around for years!”

“Alright,” I said.  “It doesn’t really matter, let’s accept for the moment that they are dead.  Where was I?”

I hadn’t actually forgotten, of course, but time was time.

“You were talking about my gifts,” said Zilla.  “Which apparently are just the obvious, and which allowed me to kill Fifth Fist at my leisure.”

She pointed a hand at me, miming a gun.

“Which allow me to kill ANYONE, at my leisure.”

I faked another chuckle, hoping that she didn’t decide to rend a spirit out of me to prove the point.  I’d lost so many souls in that idiotic fight with Dragon, and I was so close to completing my mission, it would be hard to take any more losses.

“Anyone that you’ve infected, right?” I asked.  “Anyone whose guts you are riding around in?”

I’d rarely seen an expression as pure as the shock that crossed Zilla’s face.

“It was easy once I decide to believe you.  Given that you are a shapeshifter with Ultra strength and toughness, how could you possibly have maintained control of the Grand Host for all these years?  It didn’t make a whole lot of sense.”

Everyone seemed content to let me ramble, so I went on.

“You can change your form, sure, and you have some Ultra Toughness, but still, never, in all that time, did anyone with Ultra Strength 3 decide to just walk up and tear your head off?  Everyone was fooled by the decoy giant?  It just didn’t make any sense.”

I tapped my forehead.

“Until I considered that you weren’t necessarily limited to one form at once.”

She’d fallen absolutely still, or at least the part of her that we could observe.

“But if you can have many bodies, then its trivial, right?” I pressed.  “It explains so much.  You spread yourself around, cover your subordinates with tiny critters that are also you, tiny worms, lice, maybe even germs.  And these little guys still have your Ultra strength and toughness.”

“Holy shit,” said Preventer.

“That’s why she’s so small, why she’s so handsy” I told her.  “She’s been rubbing tiny pieces of herself on everyone around her for years now.”

“And here I thought you really loved me,” she said to Zilla, sardonically.

“Anyone who wants to take you out has to ask around to find out who the real boss is.  While they are doing that you approach them in some innocuous form and spread your gunk.  Then, if the fight goes against you, you just tear their hearts out of their bodies, or something similar.”

Dale shuddered visibly, a full body motion, as he came to the obvious realization that she was almost certainly all over him.

“No one can plot against you, because you are all seeing, all hearing.  No one can fight you, because you’ve infiltrated their very forms before the battle even starts.  A nearly perfect power.”

“Nearly?” asked Zilla, her voice grown suddenly cold.

“Nearly,” I replied.  “It would be perfect with just a little change or two.  That’s why you are really here, right?”

I pointed up at the skiff where Andy was lurking, no doubt using its sensors to listen in on all of this.

“You didn’t come out here just to count coup, you bit at the only bait that could possibly make you leave your center of power.  You came to get Andy, to take away whatever weaknesses in your gift have kept you from killing Zeus, or Her.”

Dale threw up, just up and tossed his cookies all over his feet.

There was a long beat of silence after that.

“You have to admit,” said Zilla, finally, “It was a hell of a plan.”

Regime Quest 15

Results from Previous round votes:

 

One Vote

 

Plan CCC on my blog

 

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

 

Winning Plan:

 

[X] Investigate Ally [Owner] (Converting to Investigate Acquaintance, since Owner isn’t an Ally yet)

 

[X] Seek Information on Snitcher’s patterns

-[ ] By Passive Listening

 

[X] Builder: Investigate Acquaintance [Joker]

 

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

 

Day 12 Log:

 

8 AP at start of day

 

-2 for [Morning] Investigate Acquaintance [Owner] (6 AP)

 

Roll 10, Critical Success

 

+2 for Success and Alliance (8 AP)

 

-2 for [Evening] Investigate Snitcher’s patterns (6 AP)

 

Roll 4 Weak Success

 

+1 for Success (7 AP)

 

End of day, (7 AP).

 

Builder investigates Joker

 

Roll 4, Weak Success

 

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

 

Investigate Acquaintance: Owner

 

“Explain it to me again,” Owner asked.

“You have beer now,” I said.  “People like that.  You’ll get more credit cards, you can use that to make more stores, or bigger ones, or whatever you want.  It isn’t that complicated.”

“I get that much,” she said, “But why is it a ‘package’ store now?  Shouldn’t it be, like, a beer and candy store?”

“That’s just what it was called,” I said.  “Package stores sell liquor and other stuff.  Adding one in to your gas station is a win.”

She shrugged, not ultimately all that curious.  Owner’s gift, I’d often thought, should have made her a lot more interested in the old world than she had turned out to be.

“So, about how long till I can do that thing you were talking about before?  With, like, franchises and stuff?”

I grimaced, trying to decide what level to answer that on.

“It shouldn’t be long, “ I said.  “You are getting credit cards in our world for each can, which are loaded with thousands and thousands of dollars.  I don’t know how your gift is simulating the world you are working with, but, my guess would be, I dunno, maybe a week before you can open up a second place?”

 She nodded, looking across the room to where Napoleon was innocently drawing nearer to packet of peanuts we’d left out.

“Would that…” she trailed off.

I looked back to her, raising an eyebrow but not saying anything.

Instead of responding directly she got up and took a few quick steps, using her foot to hacky sack the peanuts up to her hand.

Napoleon’s head rose, eyes following the packet every inch of the way.

“Would it help you?” she asked.  “Do you and Anna need another package store somewhere, to help with your warlord stuff?”

I raised an eyebrow.

“Builder, I mean,” she said.  “We were talking last night about how dangerous it was gonna before you.  I didn’t really realize it before.”

I looked over at her, not really having anything to say about that.

“Like, is it true that the last couple Warlords got killed by these clowns?” she asked.

Napoleon, fooling no one, turned innocently away from Owner, walking away towards the other end of the room.

“Sure,” I said.  “But from what I’ve learned there were extenuating circumstances.  I’m way safer than the others.”

“Why?” she asked.

That was a bit of a poser.  I knew the answer, but it was hard to figure out exactly how to phrase it to her.  I pondered it for a few seconds.

As I did that Napoleon’s latest strategy became clear, as he trundled back into view, bearing Owner’s shoe firmly clasped in his mouth.

“I’m taking it more seriously,” I finally settled for.

“Huh?” she asked.  “And the others didn’t?”

“Yeah,” I nodded.  “They just…they just sort of sleepwalked through the roles of what they thought they were supposed to do, from how I can figure.  They didn’t think about how to win, just about doing what they were supposed do, not doing anything they would get punished for.  It is, well, it’s a mindset problem.”

Owner looked at me, skeptically, then turned her eyes back to her epic stare down with my pet.

“But you didn’t even know them?” she asked.

“Not their mindset in particular,” I said.  “It is the prevailing mindset of the times.  Ultras nowadays are…” I searched for the word.

Owner relented to the inevitable, dropping the peanuts down onto the ground.

“Careless,” I finally decided on.  “They act like everything is already decided, already measured out.  I heard that Picker, of all people, died off last night without even fighting back.”

“Heard?” she asked, as Napoleon released his hostage and moved to take his prize.

“Well, saw,” I admitted.  “Sorry, force of habit.”

She chuckled.

“Well,” she said.  “If there’s anything that I can do to help, will you let me know?”

“Sure,” I said.  “I’ll be sure to ask Anna.”

 

***********************************************************”**************************

 

Investigate Snitcher’s Patterns

I adjusted my position on the edge of the Company Facilities cafeteria, staring fixedly into a book that I was paying absolutely no attention to.

When I’d first gotten here there’d been a zone of intimidation, a wide cordon of unoccupied seats around me, the grace that the common Ultras granted to the Warlord.

I’d done nothing to dissuade them, just sat down and carefully, inoffensively, turned the pages of a random old world novel.  I let time do the work for me, making a mark or two in the book as I overheard what I was looking for.

As the hours crept by, and I did nothing whatsoever, ebb and flow of the patrons gradually erased that zone.  One after another the seats filled up, until I was just another face in the crowd, unremarked and unremarkable.

It made it easy to listen in.

I hadn’t chosen this Facility at random.  Snitcher was mostly known for the leash that his gift kept on the upper echelons of the Regime, of course, but it had another role, and that was the one that I’d be targeting this afternoon.

Humans who wanted to climb the ladder, or weak Ultras with nothing better to do, could visit him, could voluntarily link their senses to him.  They gained nothing out of it, officially, but everyone knew that his favor was upon them, and to mess with the Snitches might draw Her ire.

I’d asked around, nothing obvious, just a random aside here and there in the midst of other conversations, and an obvious pattern had emerged.  Most of Snitcher’s clients simply continued living their lives as per normal, but a certain select few changed their behavior immediately after joining his crew.

Pretty young woman, dark and slender, invariably relocated to a certain building, near this area, and were generally observed to prosper thereafter.

This was the nearest Company Facility to that building, to Snitcher’s weird second hand harem, and its occupants were a frequent topic of conversation.

Over the course of four hours where I’d been able to listen in on 6 tables I’d heard a dozen mentions of the pretty Snitches.  Common wisdom had it, or at least the common wisdom of this particular cafeteria, that they were never to be seen before noon, and that when they dragged themselves in, early in the afternoon, two or more of them were usually disheveled in a particularly suggestive way.

That was about what I would have guessed, if I’d been put to it.

Snitcher’s schedule, after all, was twinned to Hers.  Prevailer, of course, had no constraints  whatsoever on the timing of her activities, and she’d always struck me as basically lazy.

Put that together, and I figured that She was generally active in the afternoons and evenings, meaning that Snitcher would be at Her disposal during that time.  If he was going to arrange any private amusement it would most likely be during a time that She was least likely to interfere with his fun.

In turn, that meant that I was unlikely to have my senses ridden during the morning.  It wasn’t for certain, of course, wasn’t something to bet my life on, but it was enough.  I had certain protocols that I’d long established, with KEM and the Resistance, certain ways of making contact that would minimize my chances of being caught.

There was no way, of course, to hide yourself fully from someone who could steal your senses.  But given a time when he’d be mostly distracted, when the most I should have to fear was the occasional flicker of his presence, there were things I could do.  Writing a note without looking at it, one letter at a time.  Speaking code phrases to several contacts, each time delivering only an innocent partial message.  It could be done.

It would be done.  I’d worked alone for too long on this.  If I wanted to make the boast that I’d given to Owner earlier true, if I wanted to ‘take this more seriously’ than my predecessors, then I would need to gather the support of the human allies who’d taken me this far.

 

***********************************************************”**************************

 

Debrief Builder [Investigate Joker]

 

“So,” I told Builder.  “Tell me about Joker.  How did your interview go?”

I’d cleared out the house so that she wouldn’t be eating constantly this time and thus she answered me straight off.

“I mean, it wasn’t exactly, like a formal deal or anything.  We’ve both worked in the Ultra Fights for a long time.  I just had her over and let her know my new situation.”

“What’d she think?” I asked.

“She thought it was pretty daring of me.  I didn’t tell her about how I’m bulletproof now, so she probably just thinks I’m gonna get shot.  She tried to pressure me to finish up some stuff for the league before we set out.”

I chuckled.

“Not so sentimental then?”

She chuckled.

“Joker made her brothers take the Process at the same time she did, at gunpoint.  She’ll do anything.”

“Did you get any more details about her gift?” I asked.

“Yeah, yeah,” she said.  “Though that’s mostly from knowing her so long.  She might have been, like, hiding her best stuff all that time or whatever.”

“Sure,” I rejoined.  “Just give me the highlights.”

Billy came in, brought her a packet of chips.  The little traitor.

“Ok, so, it is really easy to get hung up on her special gift, right?  Like, to think of her as the girl who does disguises.  That’s what the audience mostly does.”

She fondly ruffled Billy’s hair, let him run on back out.

I nodded.

“But, like, remember she has Ultra Speed two, ok?  That’s ridiculous.  You don’t get just how fast that is. I don’t get how fast that is.  It is ridiculous.  She is, like, so fast.”

“Ok,” I said.  “I’ll try not to forget that.  Do you have any more qualified descriptions?  Like, so many miles per hours or something?”

“Yeah,” she said.

I waited for her to elaborate on that, only to hear crunching noises instead.

I drummed my fingers while she finished up the bag, looking away as she licked the salt off of the inside.

“Yeah?” I asked.

“SO FAST!” she said, spreading out her hands for emphasis.

That was just great.

She could tell from my impression that I wasn’t super impressed by this information, so she moved on to the next point.

“As far as her disguising power goes, I know a lot more stuff about that.”

“Let me guess,” I returned, somewhat drily, “Is it SO GOOD?”

She chuckled.

“Yep!” she answered.  “She has to touch someone, skin to skin, before she can change the way that they look, but it only ever has to happen once.”

I nodded, not terribly surprised.

“So she could change you?” she said.

“Yeah,” she answered, “Sometimes they had me be other people.  She put her gift on me a bunch of times.”

“How long does it take to switch?” I asked.

“It is instant,” she said.  “She can do as many people as she wants, change them whenever she wants.  As long as she’s touched them.”

“Where do the disguises come from?” I asked.  “Can she only make people look like someone that she’s already seen, or maybe touched?”

She shook her head.

“It can be whatever she wants.  We had her make people look mad wounded a lot.  Or she can just like change hair color and stuff.”

“Impressive,” I responded.  “Does it have any weaknesses?”

“Oh, yeah, no doubt.  It isn’t real.  The disguise is only visible, it isn’t like, gonna be there if you feel for it.  It doesn’t do sound or smell either.  And it goes away if she goes to sleep.”

That was a significant weakness, meaning that long term infiltration for someone hidden by her gift would be extremely inconvenient.

“Is that it?” I asked.

“Yeah, that’s about all I can think of about her gift,” she answered.

“Did you sound her out about joining up?” I asked.  “Like we talked about?”

“Sure,” she said.  “She kind of treated it like a joke when I asked about it, made gun shooting motions at me.  I think she has the same worry that I did, you know?  That she might get shot.”

“Do you think that she’d join up without that worry?” I asked.

“Probably,” she said.  “Everyone in the league was basically on board for your team, right?”

“That they were,” I said.

“I dunno,” she said.  “She might have more conditions or whatever, if you talk to her yourself.  I wasn’t sure she was taking me totally seriously, you know?”

“I’ll consider it,” I answered.

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

 

 

Day 13:

 

Days remaining: 18

 

AP available: (7 end of last day + 1 for 6 hours sleep) = 8/10

 

Prestige: 3

 

Timeslots available: 2 (morning, afternoon) + special action available with Owner

 

Builder Timeslot Available: 1 (afternoon)

 

Posse: 1 out of 3 slots filled

 

Force size: 0

 

Condition: Healthy

 

(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

 

Ultra Allies:

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

Faction Rankings:

 

Regime 7

 

KEM 8

 

Pantheon 2

 

Union 4

 

Resistance 9

 

Prevailer 3

 

Knights 3

 

 

Actions:

[ ] Invite Owner into Posse (Timeslot cost: 0, AP Cost 0, auto success)

 

Motive: Owner has more or less volunteered to join me, no more work is needed to get her onboard.  I already trust her to watch me while I sleep, and her gift and Builders have some intriguing synergies.  She can feed Builder, she can probably get a company car or even helicopter to fix my transport problems.  There’s a lot to like about the idea.

 

Concerns: She would be a second member of my posse with no particular combat gifts.  Ultra toughness one doesn’t particularly terrify the world.  She will also probably do me any particular favor I need without having to be part of my Posse, I might want to save my slots for people who aren’t already well disposed to me.

 

[ ] Contact Knights (Timeslot cost: 1, AP cost 2, returns 1 on success)

 

Motive: My recent actions have opened up the possibility of collaboration with the Knights of Purity. Their assistance could be valuable, insofar as they don’t count towards the Regime’s ridiculous rule against outnumbering our enemies, and I might be able to acquire some of their blessed equipment if I play my cards right.

 

Concerns: I don’t know if I really want to be associating with such a group. KEM wouldn’t mind, but the Resistance would pull away from me, and I might end up coming into contact with Second Fist or their sponsored Ultras. It is likely that anything they might want from me would be rather evil.

 

 

[ ] 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 ccompetence. 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

 

 

[ ] Seek new residence [ Timeslot cost: 3, returns 1 if successful ]

 

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

 

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

 

[ ] 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.

 

 

 

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.

Very Very Sorry

This was going to be the week that I got back to weekly story updates, instead of the biweekly stuff we’ve been having for a while.  I had everything ready.

Then I got a kidney stone.

Next week, however, I will move earth and heaven to get the story update out, and from then on out we are going back to every Wednesday updates.

I want to thank everyone who stuck with me through this content drought.  I’ve been going through a lot, but I really appreciate my readers.  Your feedback is what keeps me writing.  Thanks so much!

Regime Quest 14

Results from Previous round votes:

Three Votes

Plan TalonofAnathrax, on SV forum

One Vote

Plan CCC on my blog

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

Winning Plan:

[X] Assuage Builder’s fear of firearms (Timeslot cost: varies by attempt; AP cost 1, refunds 3 on success, adds Builder to Posse)

-[X] Use a Blend (we have Bulletproofness,Q).

[X] Confront Picker (Timeslot cost: 1; AP cost 2, returns variable on result)

-[X] During the night, warp the building she’s in to make it difficult to enter/leave and navigate. Then toss in a few burning torches/molotov cocktails. Turn the building into a (nonfunctional) blender, if possible -> gotta sign it if we want the rep !

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

Day 11  Log:

5 AP at start of day

+1 for 6 hour sleep, (6 AP)

-1 for [Morning] Assuage Builder’s worries (5 AP)

Auto Succeed due to Blend use

+3 for Success (8 AP)

-2 for [Evening] Burn down Picker’s House (6 AP)

Initial Roll 7 Success

Secondary roll 9 Success

+2 for Success (8 AP)

End of day, (8 AP).

Note, due to night activity Blender will not regain an AP tonight

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

Give Bulletproof Blend to Builder

“Just shake your hand?” she asked.

“Yep,” I told her.

Builder looked skeptical.

“I know I’m not the brightest,” she said.  “But I think that if handshakes made bullets not work someone would have told me about it.”

I chuckled a bit at that.

“It’ll work,” I told her.

She looked dubious, but stretched out her hand to me.

I took it in both of mine, simultaneously reaching out to the scrap of law enforcement material that I kept always against my skin.  I took its ‘Bulletproof’ quality.

It was a strange feeling, very different from my ordinary Ultra Toughness.  That doesn’t really feel like anything specific, it just kind of mutes the world’s impact.  Being ‘bulletproof’, on the other hand, had a very distinct sensation.

In particular, it made me feel sort of stiff all over.  Or not stiff, exactly, maybe ‘coiled’ would be a better word?  Whatever it was that you felt right before you stretched a limb would probably be the best way to characterize it.

I didn’t have long to experience it.  As soon as I had the quality held in my gift I was already reaching out to Builder’s traits.

She was ‘cheerful’ and ‘living’.  I’d have honestly expected ‘hungry’ to be in there.

I pushed ‘bulletproof’ down the channel, easily blending it with her existing attributes.  With no Ultra Toughness to overcome it was over in an instant.

She pulled her hand out of mine with a yelp, then put her hand in front of her face with a strange expression.

“Woah,” she said, opening it and closing it again.

“You don’t have to worry about bullets anymore,” I told her.

She turned her wrist around, looking now at her palm.

“Woah,” she said again.  “What’s the, what did, hmm…”

She trailed off.

“Nothing much,” I told her.  “And I’d appreciate it if you kept this private.  I’ve shielded you from bullets, and I’ll keep doing so as long as you work for me.”

There was no reason to tell Builder that this was permanent.  I didn’t want people to know about this application of my gift at all, but if it had to slip out I’d like the info to be as incorrect as possible.

“Are you for real?” she asked.  “You can do that?”

“Why do you think they made me warlord?” I countered.  “She trusts me for a reason.”

She smiled, then reached up with a gasp to touch her cheeks.

“A bit stiff?” I asked.

“Yeah,” she said, “It’s everywhere.  Am I Ultra Tough now?”

I shook my head.

“Just bulletproof,” I told her.  “I don’t think it would protect you against anything else at all.”

“Well you won’t catch me complaining,” she said.

“Then welcome to my Posse,” I told her.  “Together we will do great and terrible things.”

***********************************************************”**************************

Confront Picker

Builder was already proving useful.  She’d agreed to watch over Owner on my behalf, and Owner had been delighted to meet the woman who’d consumed so many of her products.

I’d figured out what was up with that, to my own relief.  Builder had an allergy to the protein paste that the rest of us subsisted on.  She relied almost entirely on scavenged food from the old world, trading on her gift to acquire it.

I hadn’t been terribly surprised that she’d hit it off with Owner, and I’d left them in the Packer house to chat the night away.

It had been a while since I’d been out this late at night.  The streets of the Lair were dark and comparatively empty, aside from the occasional Knight patrol I saw no one else as I slipped carefully from street to street.

All of my old reflexes came back to me as I progressed.  I found myself moving as I had when I was hungry, when I was on the outside, and a hundred night raids like this had kept me alive.

I took my time.  I crept from doorway to doorway, from rubble to rubble, scanning carefully in all directions before making each move.

That was one thing that stuck with you, if you’d ever done anything like this before.  The night is LONG.  There is always time to be careful.  Better to tarry for an hour on the trip than to alert your target.

Picker was staying in a refurbished house, roughly the same kind of dwelling as the Packer house.  I hadn’t been able to find records of any other Ultras living with her, nor of any human servants.  As far as anyone else knew, she lived alone.

She didn’t have any security out.  No dogs or watchmen.  Nothing to warn her or defend her.  It was like she wanted to be assassinated.

The thought sent me into a quick paranoid spiral, and I spent what must have been a half hour carefully looking around, but there didn’t seem to be any ambushers lying in wait.

That made sense, to be honest.  If her plan had been to provoke me into walking into an ambush then she’d probably already given up on it.  I had let this slip for long enough that almost anyone would have assumed that I wasn’t going to take action.

The more fool them, if they’d thought so.

I reached a hand out to the building as I came up upon it.  It was simple, solid.  Old world construction without too many modern patches.

Its attributes were simple as well.  It was ‘stable’, ‘livable’, and ‘austere’.

I took the ‘stable’ away, waited a moment.

Being ‘stable’ was a strange experience.  It lent me a sort of ‘weight’, or solidity, like no matter what position I was in I was sunk deep into a comfortable chair.  I felt like I could stand on my fingers for days.

I reached out a finger and poked the building, and it fell over onto its side.

The noise was incredible, the dust cloud and the force that followed slammed into me, windows shattered for blocks around.

The building had gone over like a block, like a toy tipped on one side.  It had torn up out of its basement and slammed down in the road, with an impact like the landing of a bomb.  My ears were ringing even through my Ultra toughness.  If I hadn’t been ‘stable’, I would have been sent flying.

I coughed nearly choking, waving my hands around in front of my face as I waited for the cloud of dust and dirt to subside.

I was utterly covered, filthy with dirt and grime.  I glared into the darkness, blinking watering eyes again and again.

For an impossible instant the house was laying perfectly on its side, tipped 90 degrees and sent crashing down.

Houses, to understate the case, were not built to support themselves like that.

I had the presence of mind to turn my face away, as reality caught up to Picker’s dwelling and it collapsed down into a more general state of ruin.

The walls, now turned floor and ceiling, fell in upon one another.  The floors, now pitched vertically towards the sky, toppled and twisted against one another.  The whole thing went from ‘building on its side’, to ‘indistinguishable lump of ruin in the middle of the road’.

I crouched down, ‘stable’ and waiting for things to settle down.

I hadn’t been quite far enough away.  A few stones battered against my shin and shoulder, thrown aside by the violence of the building’s collapse.

Picker didn’t have Ultra Toughness.

I got up after a minute or so, started to make my way over to the rubble that had once been a house, listening for screams, alert for a possible counterattack.

I had little worry that anyone else would come.  The Regime’s capital wasn’t the sort of place where anyone would rush towards what they must think was a bomb blast.

I picked my way through the rubble, coughing now and then from the ever present haze.  My eyes were stinging a bit, and I kept them lidded.

There is a kind of stench that bodies have, once they are opened up.  Soldiers knew it, back in the old world.  Nowadays most of the people who would recognize it were Ultras.

I smelled it now, and hastened towards the source, a faint moaning helping me to close in.

I found Picker crushed in the ruins of what must have been a kitchen.

She was a huddled shape in the dark, only half of her face had fallen into a shaft of moonlight.

I said nothing as I moved closer.

She coughed weakly, raising a blood covered hand up into the moonlight to shade her vision, squinting through the dust and the poor lighting to try and make me out.

I was struck once again by how young she was.  Her gift let her ‘pick outcomes’, right?  It seemed as though she hadn’t use it tonight.

My own hand snaked out, caught ahold of hers.  I knew Picker’s gifts.  She had nothing that could threaten with bodily contact, and I was not about to spend another few days trying to get rid of a Blend.

I forced ‘stable’ down into her being, glorying in my return to full mobility.

“Wha-“ she said, her voice breaking and cracking, the one eye that I could see filled with tears.

“Every Monster,” I whispered, rising up and releasing her hand.

She got her arm in the way of the first stomp.  But not of those which followed.

 

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

Day 12:

Days remaining: 19

AP available: (8 end of last day + 0 for very little sleep) = 8/10

Prestige: 3

Timeslots available: 2 (morning, afternoon)

Builder Timeslot Available: 1 (afternoon) (Note, Builder can take any of Blender’s actions that you are comfortable with trusting to her, and will also have a few of her own, which will become available as Blender gets comfortable with her understanding of Builder’s gift)

Posse: 1 out of 3 slots filled

Force size: 0

Condition: Healthy

Posse:

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

 

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

Ultra Allies:

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

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

 

Ultra Enemies:

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

Ultra Acquaintances:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Faction Rankings:

Regime 7

KEM 8

Pantheon 2

Union 4

Resistance 9

Prevailer 3

Knights 3

 

Actions:   

[ ] Contact Knights (Timeslot cost: 1, AP cost 2, returns 1 on success)

Motive: My recent actions have opened up the possibility of collaboration with the Knights of Purity.  Their assistance could be valuable, insofar as they don’t count towards the Regime’s ridiculous rule against outnumbering our enemies, and I might be able to acquire some of their blessed equipment if I play my cards right.

Concerns: I don’t know if I really want to be associating with such a group.  KEM wouldn’t mind, but the Resistance would pull away from me, and I might end up coming into contact with Second Fist or their sponsored Ultras.  It is likely that anything they might want from me would be rather evil.

 

[ ] 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 ccompetence. 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 ares (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

 

[ ] Seek new residence [ Timeslot cost: 3, returns 1 if successful ]

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

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

 

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

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

Builder Actions: Sealed until Tomorrow

 

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

Motive [Write in]

Concerns: [Write in]

 

Haunter 8:3

I’d had time to read up on the guns that the skiffs carried on the front, back when we were squatting in the Union embassy.  It wasn’t classified or anything, the Union was generally pretty blasé about computer security, reasoning (mostly correctly), that their enemies didn’t really have any interest in such things.

It was clearly a descendant of the rapid firing guns carried by certain helicopters or VTOL craft back in my day. I couldn’t make it the particulars, it seemed like the barrels were traded off mid fire between various spinning cylinders, but the scientists in my reserve had assured me that it would be brutally lethal.

They were not wrong.

“Brrrt!” went the gun, and my world exploded around me.

I have, in my travels, lost a lot of shades.  Sometimes I lost one or two.  A few times I’d lost dozens at once, to attacks like Death’s plasma beams.  But I’d never taken losses like this.

The guns only fired for a few seconds, and I lost a fourth of my reserve.

Dale toppled to the ground, one leg falling in the opposite direction.  Stone dust and shrapnel rose up around us, a choking fog conjured instantly by the partial demolition of the solid earth we were standing on.

Only Preventer stood unscathed, not so much as moved by the fusillade.

I gasped, spat, reeled.  The Jury was in a tumult, its membership suddenly reduced, and the reserve’s discipline had broken down.  My mind was assailed by the cries of dozens, of hundreds of my passengers, wailing for lost loved ones and screaming in mindless fear.

I couldn’t do anything, I simply stood, muting passenger after passenger as I strove for control.

I knew that the guns could ring out again at any second.  I knew I should be releasing shades, fighting back, but I just couldn’t act, I was frozen in the moment, unable to confront the calamity that had just taken place.

I’d been so close.  Andy was RIGHT THERE.  Thousands who had trusted me.  Thousands I’d carried across the world, across the decades, and they were gone in less time that it took me to snap my fingers.

I couldn’t process it.  Couldn’t take it.

“Remember me?” yelled the voice again.

I managed to move my head, wide eyes seeing a figure standing up out of the skiff’s front disembarking port.

“No!” yelled Preventer, walking towards the perpetrator of this atrocity.

Some part of me realized that she was trying to draw their fire, to put herself foremost in the enemy’s eyes and mind, to save Dale and I from further assaults.

Part of me wanted to let her know that it was useless.  That I’d already been ruined, that there was nothing to protect anymore.

“Brrrt!”

This time we weren’t touched.  The enemy must have selected Preventer as the primary target, the skiff’s AI ensuring that she would take every shot, for all the good that would do.

So, whoever this was, they were stupid.

It was the beginning of my return to agency, a single thought that wasn’t tinged with despair.  I fought back against the fatalistic part of me, pushing the despair away with the needs of the moment.

“You ought to!” yelled the other party.  “I’m the one you left alive, you sick freaks!  I’m the one that got away!  I’m here to see you pricks pay!”

The one we left alive?

My mind flashed back, not to the most recent embassy calamity, but to the one before that.  To the first time we’d been ambushed by the Union, the time that I’d realized that just because someone shared my belief in a democratic system it wasn’t any guarantee that they stood apart from the world’s descent into savagery.

“Got away?” yelled Preventer, still walking towards the ground beneath the skiff.  “I seem to recall you froze yourself in your own gift.”

Froze herself, wait, that was right.  The woman who’d defended Fidel’s soldiers, the one who didn’t let us shoot back.  She’d been a match for Condemner, before he fed on my reserve.

“That’s right, bitches!” shouted the figure silhouetted against the skiff’s interior lights.  “You can’t keep the Dragon down!”

I was in motion almost before she finished the last words, walking forward as well.

Some part of me knew that she could finish me off with one more salvo, but that part wasn’t in charge.

I’d been certain that the Union would catch up with us sometime.  The thing we did to Meghan and her associates had been an abomination, and on some level I knew I’d have to pay for it.  When she’d fired on us a part of me had understood that we deserved it.

But this woman, this Dragon, she was the one who had ambushed us in the first place!  She was the reason that all of this had been necessary.  Her idiot savagery had spoiled our first contact with the Union, had driven us to these extremes.

“Is that your name?” asked Preventer, shooting me a worried glance.

She didn’t actually nod her head at me, but I knew what she was thinking.  She wanted me to let her handle this, to stay by Dale and hope he recovered in time.

“Is that my name?” asked the Dragon.  “Yeah, I guess it is.”

She gave a hollow laugh, waving a hand expansively.

“Doesn’t that make me sound like one of those God bothering sluts?” she asked.  “Like I’m about to try and make people give me the capital letters like your master?”

More laughter, edged in a way that made it clear that this was about contempt, not amusement.

“Listen,” said Preventer, after she had gotten close enough that it wasn’t necessary to shout any more.

“Listen, you don’t want another ass kicking from us.  The Grand Host is marching.  You should join them.  Picking a fight with an invincible Fist will just cost your Union an asset.”

She said this all calmly, almost diffidently, like it was no great shakes to her which way the woman decided to go.

“Oooh, the GRAND HOST!” the Dragon snarked, making air quotes with her fingers.  “I’m so scared!  How ever will we beat so many assholes at once?”

“These aren’t just the usual Pilgrims,” I said, finally having recovered enough composure to trust myself to speak.  “These are survivors of your previous attacks, bulletproof, one and all.  You are going to need every asset to take them on.”

She was silent for a long moment, and I braced myself to jump aside if she fired, knowing it would be useless, that I couldn’t actually avoid bullets.

“We are going to need assets?” she said.  “You think stacking up these fucking savages is going to mean a damn thing?  That they have anything like a chance against our science, against our industry?”

She jumped down out of the skiff, her fall slowing just before she landed.

“Against me?”

Yep, an idiot.

“Maybe they do, maybe they don’t,” said Preventer, “But your sides have better odds with you alive on it, right?  Why risk that against us?  You can’t kill me, so you can’t kill any of us?”

Dragon just waved her hand, and Preventer froze in place.

“I don’t need to kill you,” she said.  “That was never the plan.”

I spawned a pair of Veterans,  charged towards her as they split away from me.

Pointless, I bounced off a wall of frozen air, which also stopped their fire.  Dragon didn’t even look at us.

“Your gift is a good one,” allowed Dragon, still talking to Preventer.  “It must be nice to be invincible, and you are right that I can’t kill you, which would normally make this pointless.”

I didn’t like where this was going.  I stepped back away from the barrier, only to bump into another one that had sprung up behind me.

“Normally,” she said, and turned around to face me, giving me a grin that I could only think of as ‘evil’.

“Listen, um Dragon,” I said, realizing too late that I’d silenced the Jury in my frantic muting in the aftermath of the skiff’s attack.

“You don’t want to do this,” I managed, distracted by inward efforts.

She raised a gun, almost lazily, and shot me in the gut, popping a shade out my back.

It was an eerie mirror of Fidel’s crime, to the point that it had to be deliberate.

“They don’t come back, do they?” she asked.

I didn’t answer directly, simply spawning a line of troops to fire on her, uselessly stitching impacts against the barrier that surrounded me.

She shot me again, her bullets the only things that could pass through her gift’s frozen zones.

“Dragon, there’s no…” I trailed off, trying to find a line of argument that might persuade her.

She gave another hollow laugh.

“Your bitch Link ain’t shit,” she said.  “I’m gonna pop all your guys, you’ll just be a human again!”

“These are people!” I shouted back.

She shot me again, and then a fourth time.

“STOP!” I shouted.

She responded by shooting me again, despite my efforts to jump aside.  She simply waited until my jump finished then shot me at the end of it.

I gave an inarticulate scream as I bumped up against the edge of the frozen air.

She screamed back, the mockery clear in her voice.

“That’s what YOU sound like!” she said, raising the gun again.

I flinched back, trying desperately to think of something I could do.  None of my passenger’s abilities could get through the barrier.  But maybe…

I threw myself towards her just as she fired, trying to time the shot such that I passed through her gift in the instant of intangibility, as her victim slipped out of my body.

No luck, I just bounced off.  I must have fucked up the timing.

“Yeah,” she said.  “I thought you might try that.  There’s 2 zones, dumbshit, even if you clipped through one you’d still be stuck, and then I’d just make a third zone.”

I gathered myself to try again, not having anything better to do.

“Anything? I asked the Jury.

“This is optimal for now,” they responded.  “Keep her talking, keep her taking one at a time.  If she gets back into the skiff its all over.  Keep her on the ground, wait for Dale.”

I risked a glance at Preventer, hoping to see her making another one of her super barriers, but she didn’t seem to be.

I couldn’t blame her.  Preventer was many things, but courageous wasn’t one of them.  The skiff could fire at any time, she wouldn’t drop her invulnerability in this kind of situation.

“You fucker!” I shouted.  “You and that asshole Fidel fucked everything up!  You could have had Her helping you against the Grand Host!”

“We don’t need Her help!” she shouted back, firing a wild spray of bullets that mostly didn’t hit.  “We don’t need your help!  It was a trick!  It will always be a trick!”

I dropped back, sensing an opportunity to stall.

“It was NOT a trick,” I told her.  “You screwed your government out of its best chance.”

She looked straight at me for a long moment.

“Do you really believe that?” she asked.

I waited as long as I dared before answering, every heartbeat another chance for Dale to take action.

“I know it,” I told her.  “She gave us her favor, the new Fist favor.  We used it to ask her to make peace with you.”

She sneered dismissively.

“It’s true!” I shouted.  “That’s why we keep trying to make peace with you guys!  We are trying to HELP you!”

She was about to say something else, when, to my immense relief, the ground underneath us started to rumble.

I flipped her off as I started to sink.

The sinking stopped before it got past my ankles, and she returned my salute, and shot me again.

“Absolute zero, bitch!” she shouted.  “Nothing can move it, that’s just basic science!”

I looked around in desperation, ignoring Dragon’s misperception.

Dale was heading towards us, but rather than his usual brainless charge he had sunk himself about halfway into the ground and was using his gift to drag himself along.

How many of these frozen zones could she make anyway?  She was imprisoning Preventer, and apparently wrapping me in two separate zones, as well as using the her gift on the ground under both of us to stop Dale from striking at her.

“You are that Union girl!” yelled Dale.  “The one we left alive!”

She gave him a sickly, poisonous smile.

“You ‘left me alive’?” she asked.  “You mean you couldn’t penetrate the frozen zone I encased myself in.  I saved MYSELF from your treacherous attack.”

Dale looked confused.

“Did you forget or something?  Condemner is way stronger than you.  He busted down your stupid frozen zones.  You are only alive because we decided not to burn you up.”

It had actually been that we were desperate and reeling, frantic to get Condemner back under control, and that burning through her zones had taken the sacrifice of the lives of my reserve.

“NO!” she shouted.  “I survived due to my own strength.  You can’t break my gift!  No one can!”

There was something not entirely sane in her voice, something that had a lot more in common with Death and her minions than it did with the culture that that Meghan and the rest of the delegation had come from.

“Did you lose your memories or something?” asked Dale, confusion obvious in his tone.  “I’ve heard that that can happen when proud people lose so badly.”

“I DIDN’T LOSE!” shouted the Dragon, all fury now.

She gestured, and Dale shuddered to a halt.

He tried to raise a hand, but bumped into yet another of her frozen zones.

I tried to dash forward, only to slam into the barrier around me, which was still present.

“I CAN’T lose!” she said.  “I’m the Dragon!  I’m unstoppable!  My gift is unbeaten, unbeatable!”

Dale glared daggers at her, and the ground beneath her rumble and roiled, but not spikes rose up into her, it didn’t fall away into a pit or anything like that.

She smirked at him, her composure seemingly returning a bit.

“Try all you like,” she said.  “I actually prefer it like this.  Why don’t you watch as I shoot this old bitch’s gift away?”

She suited action to words, turning away from him and raising the gun towards me again, then suddenly stopping.

I couldn’t stop myself from flinching, though that was more about trying to provoke another round of gloating than it was anything else.

“You know what?” she said.  “I don’t need the gun.”

She reached out towards me, and I felt the frozen air in front of me start pushing me back.

“You don’t-“ I said, before the pressure suddenly appeared on my back as well.  She was ringing me tightly, setting up for a squeeze.

“I guess the hard part is making sure you don’t pop out, right?” she said.  “I guess we’ll just have to experi-“

She cut off all of a sudden, as explosions of dust and rock rose up from beneath her.

How had he pushed through, and then I realized that it wasn’t Dale’s gift, or wasn’t only Dale’s gift.

It was Bull who rose up beneath her.  Bull whose battle form grabbed ahold of Dragon, wrenching her down with an undignified squawk.

Bull had Ultra Strength, and apparently it was enough to bust through Dragon’s freezing gift.  Dale had moved her through the ground during all this, and now he’d raised her up.

Dragon tried to say something, seemed to be doing something else with her gift, but Bull already had her in her grip, was already grabbing ahold of her head and ripping.

The corpse toppled to the ground, and Bull glared wildly around.

I only had eyes for the skiff, and for Andy, who was looking warily out of the opening in the front.

Regime Quest 13

Results from Previous round votes:

One Vote

Plan TalonofAnathrax, on SV forum

One Vote

Plan CCC on my blog

Randomizer -> TalonofAnathrax (I feel for ya CCC!  One day…)

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

Winning Plan:

[X] Investigate Acquaintance:

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

[X] Invite Ally into Posse:

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

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

Day 10  Log:

10 AP at start of day

+0 for 6 hour sleep, due to already full AP (10 AP)

-2 for [Morning] Investigate Acquaintance, Smasher (8 AP)

Investigate roll 3, Failure

+0 for Failure (8 AP)

-3 for [Afternoon] Invite Builder into Posse (5 AP)

Invitation roll 3, Initial Failure

+0 for Failure (5 AP)

End of day, (5 AP).

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

Investigate Acquaintance, Smasher

“She won’t be meeting me?” I asked, incredulously.

The girl who’d answered Smasher’s door was basically a mini version of her, almost certainly a younger sister, cousin, or the like.

“I’m so sorry,” she repeated.  “Something came up at the last second and there was just nothing that could be done.”

I reached up and took a hold of the doorframe, buying time to think.

This girl might be too young, or too dumb to realize it, but she was taking her life into her hands here.  I had enough of a reputation problem with the whole assassination attempt thing.  I couldn’t have this kind of thing happen in a public place.

“The last second,” I repeated back to her.  “Exactly what came up?”

I punctuated the question by reaching out and taking hold of her jaw, pulling it down a few inches to make her stoop uncomfortably.

Her eyes widened, as the actual stakes of this interaction seemed to finally hit her.

“She had to…”

Her voice trailed off, eyes darting from side to side as her mind worked overtime to come up with something.

I simply stepped forward, walking her back into the dwelling by my grip on her neck.  I kicked the door closed behind me.

She made a sort of strangled squealing noise, but I was already letting my hand drop and stepping back from her, I’d started the instant we were out of view of the public.

“She…” she tried again, trailed off again.

I took a look around, noting that her tension seemed to increase as I could closer to a certain door.  I ignored her protestations and thrust it open.

I was unsurprised to see Smasher’s figure, collapsed in a heap on the floor, vomit and piss pooling around her.

“She’s just, she needs some time to get it together,” said the girl out in the hall, finally managing to string a sentence together.

I’d sent them the message last night.

“She knew I was coming?” I asked.  “And she still couldn’t get herself in any condition to meet me?”

I looked back to her henchgirl, but she wouldn’t meet my gaze.

“She didn’t, know I was coming,” I said, as I realized the situation.  “She was already out last night.  She hasn’t been up since.”

She nodded mutely.

“What the hell is she on?” I asked, but I barely cared for the answer.

Blisser’s wake could be bottled.  Drugger had some effusions that could affect someone who was Ultra Tough, or maybe she’d just taken a truly heroic amount of human intoxicants.  Regardless of the means, the result was clear enough.  Someone who couldn’t be trusted to answer a social call couldn’t be trusted to have my back in a fight.

I’d been wondering why someone with Ultra Strength Three was wasting their time working in the Ultra Fights, instead of striving for my position, or one of similar provenance, and here was my answer.

“She’s been getting better,” lied her ward.  “I think she’s getting it under control.”

“Sure,” I said.

I turned towards the door.

“Should I tell her you were here?” she asked.

I left without giving her any answer.

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

Invite Builder into Posse

Builder smiled as I handed her the roll of cookies.

“You remembered!” she said.  “I love the ones with black outsides and white middles!”

“They are some of the best,” I said.  “But they leave your mouth all gunkie afterwards.”

She smiled, the cookie dust already coating her teeth.  During my response she’d tossed a few double stuffs in her mouth and bit down on them.

“Do you remember what we talked about, the last time we were together?” I asked, taking advantage of her mouth being full to push the conversation  the way that I wanted it to go.

She smiled enthusiastically and nodded.  Her mouth opened a bit and I thought she was going try and say something, but she just stuffed another cookie in.

I chuckled as I looked away, out across the street.

People were hurrying along, their Ultras no doubt having sent them out on various errands.  I didn’t see any Ultras to mar the scene, no Knights stomping about.  It could have been one form my childhood, if I’d grown up in some sort of post apoc wasteland.

“You said you could work with me,” I said, when it became clear that she wasn’t going to be using her mouth for talking until all of the food was gone, “that you’d stay back and support us with your gift.”

She nodded again, rapidly.

“How about it?” I asked.  “I think there’s a place for you in my Posse!”

Her smile about swallowed her face, and she swallowed the last of my cookies.  I honestly thought she’d agree instantly, but then her face fell.

“Well,” she temporized, “I know I said that, but, um…”

“But?” I asked, a bit bummed that she was having second thoughts now.

She made a gun out of her fingers, and mimed shooting herself in the head, sticking her tongue out and crossing her eyes when it ‘shot’.

“Getting shot?” I asked.

“Yeah,” she said.  “I hear that there are lots of guns out there.  That would be dangerous for me, right?”

“Sure,” I said.

I could already tell that the usual tack I’d take with a Regime Ultra in this sort of situation, implicitly threatening her with a reputation for cowardice, wasn’t going to get me anywhere.  Builder didn’t seem to think that far ahead.

“Did someone warn you?” I asked.  “About the guns I mean?”

“Suzy said it would be very dangerous.  She says real wars aren’t like the Ultra fights that happen in my arenas.  She says everyone is always getting shot all the time forever!”

“Hmm,” I said.

It was on the tip of my tongue to offer her a protective Blend, but I didn’t want to rush into that.  The idea of beginning my purge of Regime Ultras by augmenting a second one, this time deliberately, didn’t really appeal, even before I thought about what KEM would think if the news got out.

And it would get out.  Blender didn’t seem like the type who could keep a secret.  Grower had been one thing, but if I augmented Blender and she told someone, in the same careless way she’d given Suzy up to me as the source of her misgivings, it might get around that I could augment Ultras in a more lasting way.  That road might very well end with me in Snitcher’s situation, locked down and used to augment the Regime’s soldiers instead of allowed independent action.

I’d rather die.

“I’ll look into some solutions for that,” I said.  “But that’s the only problem, right?  If I could find a way to shield you from bullets, you will join me!”

She gave a broad smile.

“As long as there’s food!”

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

Day 11:

Days remaining: 20

AP available: (5 end of last day + 1 for half night’s sleep = 6/10

Prestige: 3 (word of attack may reduce this if I don’t take public vengeance soon,2 days left)

Timeslots available: 2 (morning, afternoon)

Posse: 0 out of 3 slots filled

Force size: 0

Condition: Healthy

 

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

Ultra Allies:

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

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

Builder —  0/0/0, a woman who can alter objects for miles around into other things

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

 

Ultra Enemies:

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

Ultra Acquaintances:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Faction Rankings:

Regime 7

KEM 8

Pantheon 2

Union 4

Resistance 9

Prevailer 3

Knights 3

 

Actions:

[ ] Assuage Builder’s fear of firearms (Timeslot cost: varies by attempt; AP cost 1, refunds 3 on success, adds Builder to Posse)

-[ ] Write In (use a Blend, figure out a way to get Knight equipment for her, get her conventional bullet proof equipment, find Suzy and ‘convince’ her to stop worrying Builder, etc)

 

[ ] Confront Picker (Timeslot cost: 1; AP cost 2, returns variable on result)

-[ ] Write in (Should I ambush her, accuse her publicly, reach out privately? This is a complicated situation, so if you have any questions about what is appropriate, what Mia would expect to follow from a given course of action feel free to ask)

  

[ ] Contact Knights (Timeslot cost: 1, AP cost 2, returns 1 on success)

Motive: My recent actions have opened up the possibility of collaboration with the Knights of Purity.  Their assistance could be valuable, insofar as they don’t count towards the Regime’s ridiculous rule against outnumbering our enemies, and I might be able to acquire some of their blessed equipment if I play my cards right.

Concerns: I don’t know if I really want to be associating with such a group.  KEM wouldn’t mind, but the Resistance would pull away from me, and I might end up coming into contact with Second Fist or their sponsored Ultras.  It is likely that anything they might want from me would be rather evil.

 

[ ] 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 ccompetence. 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 ares (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

 

[ ] Seek new residence [ Timeslot cost: 3, returns 1 if successful ]

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

Motive [Write in]

Concerns: [Write in]

 

Regime Quest 12

Results from Previous round votes:

Three Votes

Plan TalonofAnathrax, on SV forum

One Vote

Plan CCC on my blog

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

Winning Plan:

[X] Investigate Acquaintance:

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

[X] Investigate Acquaintance:

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

 

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

Day 9  Log:

10 AP at start of day

+0 for 6 hour sleep, due to already full AP (10 AP)

-2 for [Morning] Investigate Acquaintance, Builder (8 AP)

Investigate roll 8, Success

+1 for Success, +1 for accumulate Ally (10 AP)

-2 for [Afternoon] Investigate Acquaintance, Grower (8 AP)

Investigate roll 5, Success

+1 for Success, +1 for accumulate Ally (10 AP)

End of day, (10 AP).

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

Investigate Acquaintance, Builder

“So,” I said, as I tossed her a bag of chips.  “You make the arenas, eh?”

She gave an enthusiastic nod, already tearing them open.

“Yep!  Suzy tells me what they are gonna do, and I make sure they have a place to do it in.  The Deeps is mostly my work.”

“That’s very impressive,” I told her.  “Your gift allows you to create these arenas?  Like Adders, but permanent?”

It obviously wasn’t that.  She’d be much more involved with Her people if she was that powerful, but the easiest way to draw someone into describing something, I’ve found, is not to ask them about it, but to confidently state something wrong.  People correct with a lot more enthusiasm than they explain.

“Nuff, no way!” she said, stuffing the salty snacks in her face, “My gift changes things into other things.  That old tall building was already there, but I was the one who bent it into a cool battle arena.”

“I’m still not sure I see,” I said.  “You ‘bent’ it?”

“Omfhgu,” she said, continuing to chow down on my gift.

She held up a finger, as though to ask me to wait a sec, as she hastily scarfed down the rest of the bag.

I couldn’t exactly blame her.  Builder was basically anorexic, in terms of how she was built.  She looked like she’d need to lean back and use both hands when pulling a door open, like you’d lose track of her if she turned sideways.

“With my gift,” she said, when she’d finished licking the salty taste off the inside of the bag, “I can make forms bend and twist into other forms.  Not alive stuff, but anything else.”

“So,” I guessed, “You could make, for example, a car into a different kind of car?”

“Well, like, I could make spikes and stuff come out of it,” she allowed, “But the inside of a car is probably really complicated and fiddly, so it wouldn’t work if I changed it up at all.  If I wanted it to work I’d be making like a car jacket that the thing that was already there would wear.”

“Wouldn’t that kind of ruin it anyway,” I asked, “Since you’d need to take material from the existing form in order to make the jacket?”

She looked confused for a second, brow furrowing.

“Oh, no, not at all, I can just stretch the material out, see?”

She put her hands on two corners of the empty bag, and carelessly pulled it wider… and wider.

She stopped when it covered the table.

“How close do you have to be to do this?”

She shrugged.

“I’ve never had my gift not work before,” she said.  “I don’t think I have to be close or far away.  I just have to know where the thing is.”

“Ah,” I said.  “So if something wasn’t where you thought it was, your gift wouldn’t work?”

She gave an enthusiastic nod.

“Yep.  Once I see something I can change it around, make it bigger or smaller or in different shapes, but if there isn’t anything there for my gift to work on it won’t go off, you know?”

“Fantastic!” I gushed.  “What a gift!”

I meant it, honestly.  My mind was swimming, almost against my will, with all of the ways that her gift could have been used to help the world.

“Thanks,” she said.  “It isn’t anything really cool like Ultra toughness, but it is what I got, so I try to make the best of it.”

I nodded at that.

“But,” she said, giving me the puppy dog eyes, “I really think that if I stayed way back there are some things I could do to help you in your warlord job!  Like I could scout ahead and make the other team’s buildings fall on them or stuff!”

I couldn’t help noticing that she was apparently staying way back while scouting ahead, but it didn’t seem useful to mention.

“I’ll give it some thought,” I said.  “I may be in touch.”

She nodded.

“Before you leave…”

I sighed and fished out another bag of chips.

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

Investigate Acquaintance, Grower

Visibly shaking but with head held high, Grower strode into the Lair.

She stopped after the first step.

Clap… clap… clap.

She turned around and looked over to the side, where I was leaning up against the wall.

“Warlord,” she said.  “I guess you were waiting for me.”

I was a bit miffed that I hadn’t gotten a bigger reaction.  The ‘already leaning against the wall of the door you walked through’ move was, in my opinion, about as cool a move as one could do, but I guess the younger generation probably had their own power poses.

“I happened to be in the area,” I said, with transparent falseness.  “I’m glad you made it.”

That was the simple truth of the matter.  It would have been a bit of a let down if the woman I’d spent a whole day scouting and given my blend to had failed to pass the Yard.

I’d been blissed out during her pivotal fights, but from what I’d heard the bullet blend had worked just as well with her item growing gift as I’d expected it to.  She’d attacked at range by throwing things and expanding them while they were in motion, then bulleted away anytime anyone managed to get close enough to counter.

“Me too,” she said.

“I expect you are going to be looking for a place to stay?” I asked.  “I remember that was a bit of a hassle on my first day.”

It hadn’t been, actually.  KEM had briefed me ahead of time, and it had simply been a matter of making the arrangements.

“I hadn’t thought that far ahead,” she said, which I wasn’t sure I believed, “With the way things work around here, I expect I have to fight someone for their room?”

I chuckled.

“Not a bad guess,” I said, “But things aren’t quite that bad yet.  You can probably just room with someone.”

“You offering?” she said.

I chuckled, although honestly I’d given the matter some thought.  Another roommate would let me get some actual sleep for once.

“Not just yet,” I demurred.  “But I do have a few recommendations.”

She listened avidly as I gave her the basic lay of the land in the Lair, mostly focusing on which Ultras had dominion over which areas.

“And Her?” she asked.  “Will I get to see Her, now that I’ve come this far?”

I was taken aback a bit.

“I guess you could,” I said.

She smiled, seemingly genuinely pleased.

“I’ve worked so long,” she said.  “But it’ll all be worth it.”

I was, to put it politely, perplexed.  Most everyone with a lick of sense avoided Her at all costs.  I guess that didn’t say much for my own judgment, but presumably Grower wasn’t about to try for Warlord.

“Oh?” I said, making a gesture, as though to encourage her to elaborate.

She looked like she was about to speak up, then seemed to think better of it.

“Thanks for all you’ve done,” she said.  “I won’t forget it.”

I grinned gamely back at her.

“See that you don’t,” I said.  “I might look you up soon.”

She raised a fist for a bump.

“You call, I’ll come,” she said.

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

Day 10:

Days remaining: 21

AP available: (10 end of last day + 0 for half night’s sleep (already at max) = 10/10

Prestige: 3 (word of attack may reduce this if I don’t take public vengeance soon, 3 days left)

Timeslots available: 2 (morning, afternoon)

Posse: 0 out of 3 slots filled

Force size: 0

Condition: Healthy

 

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

Ultra Allies:

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

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

Builder —  0/0/0, a woman who can alter objects for miles around into other things

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

 

Ultra Enemies:

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

Ultra Acquaintances:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Faction Rankings:

Regime 7

KEM 8

Pantheon 2

Union 4

Resistance 9

Prevailer 3

Knights 3

 

Actions:

[ ] Confront Picker (Timeslot cost: 1; AP cost 2, returns variable on result)

-[ ] Write in (Should I ambush her, accuse her publicly, reach out privately? This is a complicated situation, so if you have any questions about what is appropriate, what Mia would expect to follow from a given course of action feel free to ask)

 

[ ] Investigate attack on me (Timeslot cost: 1; AP cost 2, refunds 1 on success)

-[ ] By asking bystanders

Motives: The fake Knights came from somewhere, perhaps I can find someone who saw them don their disguises

Concerns: None

 

[ ] Contact Knights (Timeslot cost: 1, AP cost 2, returns 1 on success)

Motive: My recent actions have opened up the possibility of collaboration with the Knights of Purity.  Their assistance could be valuable, insofar as they don’t count towards the Regime’s ridiculous rule against outnumbering our enemies, and I might be able to acquire some of their blessed equipment if I play my cards right.

Concerns: I don’t know if I really want to be associating with such a group.  KEM wouldn’t mind, but the Resistance would pull away from me, and I might end up coming into contact with Second Fist or their sponsored Ultras.  It is likely that anything they might want from me would be rather evil.

 

[ ] 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 ccompetence. 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 ares (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

 

[ ] Seek new residence [ Timeslot cost: 3, returns 1 if successful ]

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

Motive [Write in]

Concerns: [Write in]

 

Haunter 8:2

To say the least, there was no immediate outburst of support when I announced my plan.

“We can’t go up there,” said Dale, staring blankly at me as the dust settled around us.  “We just wiped out most of our own crew.  Fisher and Condemner might well be back in the Link.  We have no idea if we are at odds with the rest of Fifth Fist, or with Zilla and her buddies, to say nothing of any Union survivors.”

“Beyond that,” said Preventer, “We don’t know much about the larger situation.  If the Pantheon are on the march, and the Union is maneuvering to counter them, then we would run the risk of being caught in the middle.  Even for me, that might be hard to survive.”

I considered how to make them understand.  At least they were still remembering to talk as though the Link was intact.  Dale might be trigger happy, but at least he wasn’t entirely out of his mind.

I put my hands up as though to concede a point.

“Dale,” I said.  “What does your gift give you as far as people nearby?  There’s no reason for us to discuss a final decision before we know all of the facts.”

He nodded and put his hand back on the cracked wall of our makeshift cavern.

“Zilla,” said Preventer, “If you can hear us, I’d urge you not to do anything rash.  You know your trick won’t work on me, and if you make me wait until the Link brings my colleagues back I’ll be quite put out.  It would put a sizable damper on our planned partnership.”

I was probably eighty percent sure that she couldn’t hear us.  I was willing to take the Pantheon members word for it that what had happened to the other Fist was her doing, somehow, but I still didn’t buy the idea that she had some kind of clairvoyance gift.  Maybe her minions had triggered it, or maybe she had set some kind of time delayed effect on them, but I just kind of automatically resisted the idea that her gift let her watch everyone around her and kill them at will.  Even She hadn’t gotten that power, needing to rope in Snitcher to achieve the same basic effect.

“I don’t think she can hear you,” I told Preventer.  “The planning session on attacking the jail would have looked very different if she could hear what was going on up there from down here.”

“Her gift is changing shape, right?” said Dale.  “I don’t get how that let her take out Pitcher and the others.”

“Well, they bled from the mouths,” I said.  “It looked like their insides were being torn apart.  I’ve seen Mover kill like that, when she was trying to be subtle.”

“Zilla doesn’t have TK,” said Preventer.  “Or if she does she is a lot more disciplined than she lets on.  If she could move stuff with her mind she’d be goosing people nonstop.”

I grinned involuntarily at that, then paused a second.

Zilla was handsy as all get out, but what if that wasn’t just a personality thing, what if it was part of this mystery?

“Hold on a second,” I said, pushing the Jury onto this line of thought.  “Let me just spend a moment pondering our circumstances.”

“Ok,” said Dale.  “While you do that I can tell you a little about who is around.”

That wasn’t really in the spirit of giving me a second, but I wasn’t about to stop him from giving us information.

“Basically no one,” he said.  “The Union guys in the camp have all got up off of the ground somehow, probably with those flying things, like the one we used to take us out of the embassy.  The jail is up off the ground, so I can’t tell about that, and the other Pantheon guys are still buried down in the rocks.”

“They aren’t dead?” asked Preventer.

Dale shook his head.

“I was worried about Noon losing her cool, her power in this kind of situation wouldn’t have been pretty, but the rest of that crew I can just keep down below for a while.  No need to burn even more bridges, right?”

In my experience, with one or two exceptions, gifts tended to sort of match a theme.  Even if they had a variety of separate manifestations, they were all in the service of a kind of overarching goal.  Like a monstrous Ultra who was strong and tough, using Condemner’s framework I’d say that the Entity in question wanted to be a big fighting monster.  Or one who could blast and fly, well, once again, the gifts were clearly meant to work together.

Zilla, on that axis, was really odd.  She had a kind of a disguise gift, like an infiltrator would get, but also Ultra strength and toughness.  That pushed my mind towards an assassin, she could mimic friends of her target to get close enough, then suddenly take them out.

But how to square that with this extra part, the bit where she could instantly slaughter anyone?  That seemed, power level aside, to kind of render the disguise angle entirely moot. An Ultra with the power to kill other Ultras at long range, without line of sight, well, they wouldn’t really need any kind of disguise power, right?

Moreover, working again off the theory that the Grabbies were farming for memories, it would be kind of counterproductive.  Her creator was expecting to wake up with memories of fooling people with disguises, surely it could appreciate that she wouldn’t bother with that with this kind of cursing gift on tap.

“I appreciate that, Dale,” I told him, “But I wish you would have cleared things with the rest of us before you made your move.  Zilla had plainly had some kind of falling out with Predictor’s Fist, but no one was attacking us.”

“I think she might’ve,” said Preventer, “if he didn’t preempt it.”

If I went with the theory that Zilla was supposed to be an infiltrator, and I considered that she was always grabbing and touching people, then perhaps she had to touch her victims, and her gift was something like killing anyone that she’d touched before whenever she decided to.

“Look,” said Dale.  “I just don’t want to get chumped out again, all right?  I’m sick and tired of getting taken out.  It, uh, you lose hours of your day, you know?”

That still didn’t seem quite right.  If she was exercising a death touch at a distance I’d expect people just falling down dead, not internal trauma.  I felt like the fact that they were coughing up blood was significant somehow.

“I get it,” I said.  “Fisher has told me how boring the Link is.  I’m thankful that I haven’t had to experience it.”

I shelved the consideration of Zilla’s gift, delegating it to a subset of my reserve who lived for that kind of thing, and set my mind to what we ought to do next.

“Make sure the rest of Zilla’s goons are comfortable down there,” I advised Dale.  “She will understand that you had to defend yourself from Noon, but there’s no call for further violence, not if we can avoid it.”

Dale just grunted, acknowledging the point without overtly addressing it.  It wasn’t like he’d have killed them, left to his own devices.  Or at least I was pretty sure he wouldn’t have.  It said something that I’d felt the need to speak on the matter at all.

“I think Jane is right,” said Preventer.  “We should go up there.”

I looked quizzically at her.

“I’ve been thinking about it while we talked,” she said, “and it makes sense.  Our mission is up there.  We are only down here because we convinced ourselves that the advance team could secure Andy.  Between the Pantheon forces advancing and whatever happened between our allies, I think it is pretty clear that the plan is ruined.”

“That’s basically what I was thinking,” I agreed.  “But also, I kind of feel like the advance team, Zilla in particular, are the only way open for us to fix whatever is going wrong between our groups.  If we can explain ourselves to her satisfaction, then Dale can bring the others up, and she will keep them in line.”

Dale just grunted, but all of a sudden I could tell that we were going up.

“Be ready for…” I said, trailing off as our cave suddenly broke out onto the surface.

My gaze went immediately to where we’d last seen the prison, and it was still there, a series of linked cubes defying all reason by remaining airborne with no visible means of support.  It wasn’t flying away, wasn’t spouting flame and plummeting downwards.  It looked like a few worst case scenarios had been avoided.

Even as I was looking up a few members of my reserve had stepped out of me, and were peering all around.  None of them saw fit to disturb me, so there wasn’t anything of any immediate concern on the ground around me.  I spent a moment squinting up at the ship.

There were some signs of trouble, now that I was taking a second look.  It was palpably listing, for one thing.  For another, the part of it that was slightly more elevated seemed to be giving off what I would normally conclude was an engine plume, but what I presently surmised was probably just evidence of Condemner, hard at work.

“Boss,” murmured Joe, and I turned to look.

In the distance, hard to make out, the skiffs were still rising from what had to be the Union Intervention Force’s campsite.  I couldn’t see too much of it, they were nearly at the horizon from our present position, but there was definitely a disturbance of some kind, definitely rectangles rising up and scooting away to the northwest.

“What now?” asked Dale.

“We just…” I trailed off.

What we needed to do was, somehow, get up there and intercept Andy.  Or chase after him if he was gone.  Or,  I guessed, find his next iteration somewhere in the entire world if Zilla or Slasher had already killed him.

“Jenny,” I said into the walkie talkie.  “Where is Andy?  Are you on their cameras?  Can you talk?”

There was a long, terrifying moment of silence.

I let myself go, just a bit.  My eyes got a bit wider, I clenched my teeth.  I let myself imagine Jenny having no idea where Andy was.  Imagined that Zilla’s loss of control meant that the healers from her army were about to be thrown into battle with the Union.  Imagined my mission failing, my reserve denied the second chance they so richly deserved.

I imagined, in that instant, Death’s words as truths.  That I’d been an agent of pointless torment all this time, dragging the unquiet dead about with my false promises, forcing them to see their descendants degraded and their world despoiled.

By the time Jenny answered I was over it.  I’d have time enough to fall apart later on.

“Andy and his guards are boarding a skiff.  Jane, there’s, Zilla and Condemner killed our own people!  Everybody was just, it was like…”

“Is Fisher alright?” I asked.

Fisher was, if I looked at the matter in a completely callous, not to say evil, way, basically a canary in the coal mine of Condemner bothering to play along with me.  If he ever killed her the deception that we were still a Fist was finished, meaning that he wouldn’t be able to trust me not to destroy him by surprise, meaning I wouldn’t be able to…etc.

“I don’t know, she…”

Jenny trailed off, I could only imagine some scrolling, or whatever the Union equivalent was.  I’d been utterly unable to fathom their interface when I had access to the embassy’s systems, apparently the main verb was ‘tilt’.  Some of my more computer literate shades assured me it was a revolution in UI design.

“Did that thing just say Andy is getting away?” asked Preventer.

She’d been standing a little close to me, close enough to overhear at least part of our conversation.

“Yes,” I said.  “We’ll have to bring down the skiff, she’ll let us know which one to target.”

“Bring down the skiff?” asked Dale, dubiously.  “I can barely see up there, and wouldn’t Andy, like,  splat?”

“No, we’ll target the, uh, extruders.” I breezed, as a shade provided the appropriate terminology.  “Don’t judge my shade’s marksmanship by the standards of this era.  They can make the shot.”

I was aware that a bit of a manic tone was entering my voice.

“Jane,” said Joe, inwardly.  “There’s armor.  The distance is too great, and there’s no reason to assume it would come down slow.”

“They are getting ready to go now, boss,” said Jenny.  “I can’t find Fisher, or her body for that matter.  I guess she’s still ok.”

“Which cube?” I asked, or demanded really.  “Get ready!”

Soldiers rushed dutifully out of my body, pointing their firearms up at a nearly vertical angle.

“Maybe I could build, like, a really tall wall,” said Dale, hands spread wide in a placating gesture.

Shit.  I knew I’d fallen far when Dale was humoring me.

I couldn’t get away with closing my eyes, but I sort of squinted, delegating visual difficulties.

I counted, not quite aloud, not quite in my mind.  Subvocalizing.

“1, 2, 3…”

Had I forgotten the lesson of the collapse?  Righteous umbrage didn’t make you stronger.  You didn’t get to win just because you deserved to, just because you tried hard.  There was no law of the universe that I had to catch Andy.

“4, 5, 6…”

Fear wouldn’t help me save my reserve.  Anger wouldn’t.  Billions had fallen, and I was no angrier, no more scared than any of them.  Only reason could deliver victory.

“7, 8, 9…”

“They are heading out.”

Rifle shots rang out, but I had little doubt the range was too great, the angle too steep, the armor too thick, come to that.

“10,11,12…”

“They are too far up for my barriers,” said Preventer.

I breathed out, heavily, and opened my eyes fully again.

“Alright, that’s that,” I said, keeping my words as calm as possible.  “Our new objective is to figure out what’s going on with Fifth Fist and Zilla. Does anyone-“

“It’s turning!” said Dale, pointing a thick finger up at the escaping skiff.

I just stared.

He wasn’t wrong.  The skiff, which had previously been taking the same high straight trajectory as all of the other evacuees, was heading straight towards us.

“Did Andy take control somehow?” I asked the walkie talkie.  “I know the scanners on those things are exceptional, maybe they saw us waiting below, maybe…”

I trailed off.  Fruitless speculation.

The skiff moved swiftly, dropping down with the trademark abruptness of the lithnetic craft, then pulling to an absolute stop a few hundred feet above and in front of us.

I waved a hand, hesitantly.

Someone on board seemed to yell something, but I couldn’t make it out.

“Remember me?” supplied the Jury.

I stopped waving, just about the same time the skiff opened fire.

Regime Quest 11

Results from Previous round votes:

One Vote

Plan Neville, on SV forum

One Vote

Plan TalonOfAntares, on SV forum

One Vote:

Plan CCC (on my blog)

Randomized to Plan Neville

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

Winning Plan:

[x] Give the Bullet Blend to: (Timeslot cost: 0, AP cost 0, refunds 0 on success, auto succeed)

-[x] Glower (Grower)

 

Not sure what to do with the rest of our time. I am inclined to pursue revenge with this:

[x] Investigate attack on me (Timeslot cost: 1; AP cost 2, refunds 1 on success)

-[x] By asking Blisser

 

 [x] Relax and Recuperate

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

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

Day 7  Log:

2 AP at start of day

+1 for 6 hour sleep (3 AP)

-2 for [Morning] Investigate Attack on me, by asking Blisser (1 AP)

Investigate roll 4, Success

+1 for Success (2 AP)

-1 for Relax and Recuperate by Patronizing Entertainment areas (1 AP)

Rest roll, 1, critical Failure, relax and recuperate subtype changed to [Blisser]

+3 for Blisser Recuperation (4 AP), will continue until AP maxed out

End of day, (4 AP).

Day 8 Log:

4 AP at start of day

+0 for uneven sleep

+3 for [Morning] Blisser Recuperattion (7 AP), will continue until AP maxed out

+3 for [Afternoon] Blisser Recuperation (10 AP), recuperation complete

End of day (10 AP)

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

Give Bullet Blend to Grower

“What do you get out of this?” she asked me, voice cold with suspicion.

I let the question sit for a moment, looking instead out of the irregular hole in the wall which served as a window.

“I remember this,” I told her.

Her frown told me that she was irked that I didn’t answer her question directly, but she had the self control to let me speak.

“I remember living in a place much like this, struggling in a manner very like yours, desperate to reach the interior.  It was a hard, brutal existence.”

Her face softened a little, losing some of its confrontational edge, her glower relaxing a fraction.

“It might have been the best time of my life.”

Her eyes widened involuntarily.  She’d clearly been expecting another direction for this speech to go.

“All your enemies are obvious.  Everyone around you has the same goal, aside from the people who’ve given up.  You are all rivals, all foes.  You go out there and it is all so simple.  You kick ass.  You take names.  You look at the Lair and you hope.”

She was nodding along as I spoke, now.  It hadn’t been hard to guess that she’d be the kind of person who would thrive in this situation, but it was still gratifying to see that I’d been right.

“This is the easy part, you get that?”

“Yeah,” she said.

Grower even kind of looked like me.  Skin the same shade, same basic fashion sense.  Her gear was a little more threadbare, more scavenged, but that could be readily explained by the fact that she didn’t have access to the Lair’s resources yet.  The biggest difference was that I was a few inches taller, and that she didn’t have a healing gift to get rid of the scars.

“Once you are in the Lair, the purity is going to vanish,” I told her.  “Your enemies will hide behind patrons that you can’t confront.  Your superiors will make demands of you that you will struggle to fulfill.  You will want to fight, but half the time you won’t even know who the opponent is.”

“And…?” she asked, presumably trying to push me back to her original question.

“And I can’t wait to see how you’ll do,” I said.  “I don’t know if you’ll be the kind of Ultra that I want in my Posse.  I don’t know if that’s even something that you want, but I can recognize talent when I see it, and you are too good for the Yard.  With this blend you can short circuit a few months, insure yourself against bad luck, and start playing the game for real within a week.  I’m eager to see what that looks like.”

“I guess it doesn’t make sense that you’d be trying to take me down,” she said.  “If you wanted to get that done, you could snap your fingers and set a mob on me, offer them this kind of Ultra juice, or just places in your force.”

“Sure,” I allowed.

“So I guess I believe you,” she finished.  “For whatever reason, you really do want to power me up.”

I grinned at her, relieved that she’d bought it.  No one knew about my need to give Blends away, and I’d like to keep it that way.

“Let’s do this,” she said, and held out her hand.

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

Investigate attack on me (Blisser)

Blisser’s Den was just like I remembered it.

The Lair was, by and large, not a place for ruins.  The buildings around here were generally at least mostly intact, if only due to energetic repair.  There was power in those places that needed it.  It was something of an island, amid the overall squalor of the Regime.

Blisser’s Den defied this trend, remaining a sorry pile of rubble.  It had been a government building, back before the old world fell, and Blisser’s clients only real contribution to its livability had been knocking down a bunch of walls, and spreading tarps over the holes that they developed.

I stepped inside, her clientele scattering away as I entered, repelled by the bright light filtering in from where I’d pushed the blanket aside.

Blisser herself was obvious enough, laying in a heap of bodies on the other side of the area, sprawled out on a pile of mattresses.

I spent a moment looking at her, carefully noting her posture and attitude.

Blisser’s gift manifested itself in a ‘wake’ of oily smoke that followed along behind her, filling the volume that she passed through.  The darkness of the Den made it hard to tell exactly where it was, but it looked safe enough.  Some woman was draped across her lower legs, which made me think that she hadn’t moved in a few hours.  I shouldn’t need to worry about accidentally touching any of her gift.

I made my way across the room, heading for the humans who managed her business dealings.

One of them met me halfway across he floor, Marcy, the same woman I’d dealt with the last times I’d come here.

She opened her mouth to say something, but I put a finger over it, took ahold of her and walked her along.

She didn’t protest, let me hustle her out of a door and into a ruined hallway, where the sound of our words wouldn’t carry.

“Mia,” she said.

“Blender,” I corrected her.  “Blisser gets away with that crap because her gift messes up her mind when she shares it with people.  Daggers like you don’t get extended the same courtesy.”

I couldn’t see too well in the dim hallway, but I thought I saw the fear on her face.

“I’m sorry,” she said.  “She doesn’t, you know what she’s like.  It’s easy to forget, I, we, there’s so much to-“

I cut her off.

“SO much to forget, eh?  I hope not.  Because I’m looking for some information about the past.  If you ‘forgot’ it, I might need to ‘remind’ you, yeah?  You could see how I got my name.”

“I’m sure I’ll remember it,” she gushed.  “Absolutely.  What do you want to know?”

Ordinarily I wouldn’t have come on so heavy, but I was always conscious of Snitcher.  I didn’t think he’d be watching me, but I couldn’t take the chance.  Being anything but commanding was dangerous for me now.

“A pair of Knights came here,” I said.  “Their scythes were lifted by two others.  I’m very curious about those others.  Do you remember anything about them?”

She paused for a long moment, long enough that I decided to speak again.

“In case you are curious,” I told her.  “The answer had better be ‘yes’.  Those two were traitors to the Regime.  One reason that you might not have tracked their movements would have been if you, yourself, shared their rebel sympathies.”

She shook her head, furiously.

“They, of course I know,” she said, speaking quickly, with short, staccato bursts.  “The ones who took their brother’s scythes?  They said that they were other Knights, just here to make sure that everything was fine.”

“Do people normally do that?” I asked her, a mocking note entering my voice, “Do people come in here and take other people’s stuff, ‘just to make sure everything was fine’?”

She shook her head, mutely.

“So you knew this was a robbery, yeah?” I asked.

Almost against her own will, it seemed, her head nodded, feebly.

“You just didn’t know that they were going to do anything bad with them, right?”

She grabbed for this feeble lifeline.

“Yes, of course, yes Blender!  That’s it.  I, they, we knew they were robbing the Knights, but we had no idea that they might be after someone as important as you!  You’ve got to believe me!”

“No I don’t,” I told her.  “But I don’t disbelieve you, either.  I nothing you.  You aren’t important enough to have feelings about.  I am focused on the two men who attacked me, the men I slaughtered.”

I emphasized the word ‘slaughtered’, watched her shudder.

“Had you ever seen them before?  I know you and your sisters run Blisser’s arrangements.  I know you don’t let humans in here without compensation.  The Knights, sure, they’d be on Second Fist’s dime, but why did these other two get in?”

If she was shaking before, then she was positively trembling now.

She shook her head, whispered something too low for me to hear.

“Marcy,” I told her, taking careful hold of her upper arm.

She flinched away from my touch, looking down at her feet and gritting her teeth.

“…cker,” she said.

“Louder,” I commanded her.

“Picker!” she said.

I let go, startled momentarily out of my role.  Picker?  The airhead, the child?  She’d been perhaps my least dangerous rival.”

Marcy sobbed, covering her mouth with a hand.

“They were with her,” she coughed out, in between jags of crying.  “We let them in because we’d seen them before, back when Picker helped Blisser out, back when…”

She collapsed down onto her knees, her weeping uncontrollable now.

I took a step back, never looking away, mind awhirl with this development.

Picker was a kid, a baby.  It was impossible to square this with my image of her, impossible to picture the girl who’d begged Subtracter on her knees not to make her show her gift with scythes flashing in broad daylight in the streets of the Lair.

I turned back, stepped through the door into the main room.

Behind Picker though, there might be, I needed to-

Arms and feet wrapped around me and a weight careened into me from the side.

I reacted instinctively, shifting my balance and dropping my center of gravity, trying to shift my assailant into a fireman’s carry, in preparation for a slam, reaching to my blends in case I needed to-

A tickling sensation at my neck stopped me for a beat, were they…nuzzling?

I lowered Blisser to the ground, tried to step away, even as she clung like a limpet, giggling loudly.

“Mee-ya!” she stage whispered.  “I’ve been so loooone-ley!’

A stupid grin forced its way onto my face.

“Blissy,” I said, “I-“

A part of my mind screamed at the rest of me.  I was touching her, had just taken a full wake of her gift.  I had to get back, had to take my agency back from-

The rest of my mind shut the spoilsport part up.

“-I missed you,” I finished.

And it was true, on some level.  I don’t think anyone who has spent time with Blisser is ever wholly the same again. 

I had spent one day here, back when I’d first earned entry to the Lair.  I’d pushed her memory aside, trampled it down beneath ambition and cold rage, but it had never really gone away.

“Of course you did!” she giggled, putting her hands up on my face, kneading at my temples.  “I missed you too!  I love you!”

I found myself reaching out, taking ahold of her arms and pushing her towards me, stopping her short so that the wake crashed over me.

“You love everyone,” I murmured, play pushing her back.

She just smiled, teeth white in the dimness and the smoke.

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

Day 9:

Days remaining: 22

AP available: (10 end of last day + 0 for half night’s sleep (already max) = 10/10

Prestige: 3 (word of attack may reduce this if I don’t take public vengeance soon)

Timeslots available: 2 (morning, afternoon)

Posse: 0 out of 3 slots filled

Force size: 0

Condition: Healthy

 

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

Ultra Allies:

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

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

Ultra Enemies:

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

Ultra Acquaintances:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Builder —  0/0/0, a woman who can alter objects for miles around into other things

 

Faction Rankings:

Regime 7

KEM 8

Pantheon 2

Union 4

Resistance 9

Prevailer 3

Knights 3

 

Actions:  

 [ ] Confront Picker (Timeslot cost: 1; AP cost 2, returns variable on result)

-[ ] Write in (Should I ambush her, accuse her publicly, reach out privately? This is a complicated situation, so if you have any questions about what is appropriate, what Mia would expect to follow from a given course of action feel free to ask)

 

 

 [ ] Investigate attack on me (Timeslot cost: 1; AP cost 2, refunds 1 on success)

-[ ] By asking bystanders

Motives: The fake Knights came from somewhere, perhaps I can find someone who saw them don their disguises

Concerns: None

 

[ ] Contact Knights (Timeslot cost: 1, AP cost 2, returns 1 on success)

Motive: My recent actions have opened up the possibility of collaboration with the Knights of Purity.  Their assistance could be valuable, insofar as they don’t count towards the Regime’s ridiculous rule against outnumbering our enemies, and I might be able to acquire some of their blessed equipment if I play my cards right.

Concerns: I don’t know if I really want to be associating with such a group.  KEM wouldn’t mind, but the Resistance would pull away from me, and I might end up coming into contact with Second Fist or their sponsored Ultras.  It is likely that anything they might want from me would be rather evil.

 

[ ] 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 ccompetence. 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 ares (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

 

[ ] Seek new residence [ Timeslot cost: 3, returns 1 if successful ]

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

Motive [Write in]

Concerns: [Write in]

 

Regime Quest 10

Results from Previous round votes:

Two Votes:

Plan Neville, on SV forum

One Vote:

Plan CCC (on my blog)

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

Winning Plan:

[x] Respond to Knight Offer [0 AP, 0 time slots, gain 1 AP if I get rid of the bullet blend for Day 5 night’s sleep]

-[x] Let them live. Not punishing someone will allow me to continue investigating, and potentially find the actual responsible party. My relations with the Knights, and potentially Second Fist will also improve, and KEM will hear that I had the chance to kill people and declined it, which may keep them from getting antsy about our continuing lack of communication. On the other hand, the longer I don’t take revenge for this attack the greater the odds that I lose prestige over it, and I’ll still have to figure out a way to get rid of my bullet blend.

 

[x] Get rid of my bullet blend (Timeslot cost: varies; AP cost 0, refunds 0 on success, unavailable if I already got rid of the bullet blend as part of resolving the Knight affair above)

-[x] Give it to a weak Ultra from the outside, hopefully thereby generating a stronger Ultra who is likely to be loyal, two timeslots ************************************************************************************

Day 6 Log:

2 AP at start of day

+0 for 6 hour sleep (no benefit due to blend maintenance) (2 AP)

+0 for daylong activity, find and give Blend to Ultra recipient

Safety roll 6

Investigate roll 9

End of day, (2 AP).

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

Dealing with Knights (yesterday evening):

“I will not waste my vengeance on daggers,” I told the Knight Commander.  “Nor dilute the suffering that the thieves of their scythes will experience.”

“Mercy?” she asked, faint surprise in her voice.

“Precision,” I responded, firmly.  “My attackers stole from these men.  They are their enemies.  I would be doing their work for them if I killed their victims, and I have no interest in serving those who seek me dead.”

“An admirable clarity of thought,” she answered, and I could hear the smile in her voice.  “I can see why She trusts you so.  I had worried that you might feel enmity towards our humble order, as so many who remember the old world do.  It seems my fears were misplaced.”

“Fear is never misplaced,” I told her.  “So long as it is ultimately of Her.  I am Her Warlord, the blade in Her hands.  Those who struck against your servants, who struck against me, will discover just what that means when I get my hands on them.”

“I would not envy their lot,” said the Knight Commander.  “I look forward to hearing of their fate.”

“You shouldn’t,” I tell her.

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

Venture outside the city:

The Yard is a little more active than it was the last time I was here, but I still judged it safe enough to cross.

The spectators and those contesting alike fell back as I passed, whispers and murmurs passing through their number.

I broke off my stride for a moment, taking an abrupt step towards someone who sounded like she’d mentioned my recent wound.

She shrunk away from my gaze, eyes dropping towards the ground and hands raising up with palms out.  If I’d kept after her she might have dropped into the full Posture.

I resumed my path, satisfied that the fear was still there.  That woman wouldn’t easily overcome this moment.  She’d bitched out in front of everyone, it would sabotage every ounce of respect she might possibly attain.

And she’d known that would happen.  And she’d still backed down from me.  My time in the Yard had not been forgotten.

I moved on, the crowds parting and drifting back away, their gaze returning to the gates of the Lair.  No doubt some would follow me, but none dared to do so openly, and that’s all that really mattered.

Before long I was wandering the ruined byways of the halo of shantytowns which made up most of Shington.  I walked the streets that I’d terrorized months ago, marveling at what a change the simple passage of time had wrought in me.

I’d been an animal back then, desperate.  I’d known that only by gaining the center of the city could I pull this off, and I’d comported myself accordingly.  My name had rung out on the streets, as much a reference to the ancient appliance, a device which ruined solids and left them a sodden mess, as it was a simple verb.

Now I was the Warlord.  Now none but the bravest might step to me, backed as I was by the Lair’s authority, shrouded in Her shadow.  Now I could tread freely where before I had to have KEM do careful scouting.  It was a heady feeling.

It wasn’t hard to find the old rats, those contacts I’d made back when I lived here.  Not everyone in the Shington periphery had designs on the Lair.  The humans who served, the weaker Ultras who everyone knew would never be strong enough for the Lair, they had little to do but gossip.

It wasn’t hard to get their takes.  I stopped at a Company Facility, spoke to an old beggar whose migraines I’d healed back in the day.  I dropped by a dice game that I’d robbed back when I was on my way in, the stories mounted up.

By mid afternoon I was confident that I knew enough to make my choice.  There weren’t that many to whom my gift could make a real difference, and I was further restricting my interest to those with Ultra toughness, those who could survive my gift.  I narrowed the list down to 5.

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

Prospects for Bullet Blend:

Grower, an independent Ultra trying to make a name for herself

Gift: She has Ultra toughness one, and she can rapidly increase the size and mass of objects

Pluses: By all accounts she is not an idiot.  She’s also been able to maintain decent relations with four of the six main gangs (The Dolls, the Tuesday Crew, Marjane and The Mob), so she’s at least somewhat of a people person.

Minuses: She sounds like the sort of person who has her own ambitions.  She might want to put conditions on signing up for my band or Posse, even after I give her the Blend.

 

Breaker, a ruffian Ultra who scraps daily in the yard

Gift: Her form is fractal, splitting easily apart into more and more versions of herself

Pluses: She is enthusiastically violent, and quite good at it.  Also she might be immortal?  I dunno if there is a limit on how many/small she can be.

Minuses: Her pluses are also minuses, and she’s also an alcoholic

 

Moaner, a leader in the Fail Snails

Gift: She is Ultra tough one, and can generate a noise speeds up friendlies and slows enemies

Pluses: The fact that she’s been able to keep a place of power in an Ultra gang rules out a lot of the more common failure modes, and obviously recruiting her would make it a lot easier to sweep the gang into my warband.

Minuses: The other gangs would likely see me as an enemy after this, and she has a rather bad reputation for mistreating humans.

 

Chomper, a brutal Ultra who preys upon her own kind, and who doesn’t seem to be trying to gain entry into the Lair.

Gift: She is Ultra strong one, Ultra tough one, and can reduce her enemies Ultra toughness

Pluses: She has a Tally that approaches mine, and seems to share my feeling that our kind need to be wiped out.

Minuses: She also kills ordinary people.  Really, she seems to pretty much kill whoever pisses her off on any given day.

 

Chaser: One of the rare Knight Ultras

Gift: She is Ultra tough one, and she can match the speed of the fastest thing in her vicinity

Pluses: She is a Knight, working with her would help build my rapport with them

Minuses: Same as the pluses

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

Day 7:

Days remaining: 24

AP available: (2 end of last day + 1 for half night’s sleep) = 3/10

Prestige: 3 (word of injury may reduce this if I don’t take public vengeance soon)

Timeslots available: 2 (morning, afternoon) + special action for choosing Bullet Blend recipient

Posse: 0 out of 3 slots filled

Force size: 0

Condition: Healthy

 

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

Ultra Allies:

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

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

Ultra Enemies:

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

Ultra Acquaintances:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Builder —  0/0/0, a woman who can alter objects for miles around into other things

 

Faction Rankings:

Regime 7

KEM 8

Pantheon 2

Union 4

Resistance 9

Prevailer 3

Knights 3

 

Actions:  

[ ] Give the Bullet Blend to: (Timeslot cost: 0, AP cost 0, refunds 0 on success, auto succeed)

-[ ] [Name, must be one of those discussed above]

 [ ] Investigate attack on me (Timeslot cost: 1; AP cost 2, refunds 1 on success)

-[ ] By asking bystanders

Motives: The fake Knights came from somewhere, perhaps I can find someone who saw them don their disguises

Concerns: None

-[ ] By asking Blisser

Motives: She might well have seen who took the Knight’s scythes

Concerns: None

-[ ] Other (indicate specifics)

 

[ ] Contact Knights (Timeslot cost: 1, AP cost 2, returns 1 on success)

Motive: My recent actions have opened up the possibility of collaboration with the Knights of Purity.  Their assistance could be valuable, insofar as they don’t count towards the Regime’s ridiculous rule against outnumbering our enemies, and I might be able to acquire some of their blessed equipment if I play my cards right.

Concerns: I don’t know if I really want to be associating with such a group.  KEM wouldn’t mind, but the Resistance would pull away from me, and I might end up coming into contact with Second Fist or their sponsored Ultras.  It is likely that anything they might want from me would be rather evil.

 

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

Motive: I could do with some rest.

Concerns: None

-[ ]By patronizing entertainment ares (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

 

[ ] Seek new residence [ Timeslot cost: 3, returns 1 if successful ]

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

Motive [Write in]

Concerns: [Write in]