Regime Quest 6

Results from Previous round votes:

Two Votes:

Plan Nevile (on SV forum)

One Vote:

Plan CCC (on my blog)

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Winning Plan:

[x] [Morning] Seek Target Information

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

[x] [Afternoon] Investigate Acquaintance:

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

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Day 2 Log:

3 AP at start of day

+1 for 6 hour sleep (4 AP)

-2 for [Morning] Seek Target Information from Survivors (2 AP)

Seek Target Information roll 8 (Superior Success, more detailed information gathered)

+ 1 for Success, Seek Target Information from Survivors (3 AP)

-2 for [Afternoon] Investigate Acquaintance [ Clawer] (1 AP)

Investigate Posse Members roll: 6 (Success)

+1 for Success, +11 for add Clawer as Ally Investigate Acquaintance (3 AP)

End of day, (3 AP).

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Seek Target Information from Survivors:

I resolved to hit the Yard early on in the day, looking to get some conversations in before the action could heat up too much.

It seemed to work out, as I got there during one of the rare quiet periods.  There were a bunch of Ultras clumped in their little gangs around the edges, but no one was actively staking a claim.

The Yard, of course, is the mechanism that we use to sort out what Ultras get to stay in the Lair and who doesn’t.  If you can press a claim against everyone else there for a few days then you can come in, otherwise you stay out.

I was surprised at the intensity of my feelings, looking at this place again.  I’d held court here for a goddamn week, piled up my rivals and strutted my way in.  It had been the start of my rise to power.

It had also been a carefully calculated performance, an illusion of effortless power and carelessness masking weeks of meticulous scouting and KEM’s covert assistance.  It felt like I’d been inwardly screaming the entire time.

But it had payed off.  I’d achieved what I set out to.  Hopefully that would be the precedent for what I was currently working on.  Lots of work for a glorious success.

“Shit, Blender?” asked someone as I walked up.

I didn’t recognize her.  Short, with mangy hair and a cloud of pot smoke around her.

“Looking for someone,” I said.

A few others jogged over, eyes narrowing.  An Ultra from inside was an uncommon sight out here.  They probably thought I was already starting to build up my band.

“Who?” asked the first person, scratching away at her head.

“Anyone who was in Menacer or Burier’s attacks.”

Almost involuntarily she looked to one side, and so did a few others.  They were all glancing at a tall blonde, her face disfigured by a big old scar on one cheek.

That was a stroke of luck.  I’d been trying to figure out how to make sure that whoever I sent out to look for survivors would come back, but it looked like I wouldn’t have to bother with that.

I whistled, and when she looked over I beckoned.

Scarface jogged up, her angry bearing crumbling into a servile humility as she realized who I was.

“You went to Ar Harbor?” I asked.

She flinched at the name.

“Yes,” she said.  The scar went up through the edge of her mouth, and it gave her a sort of whistling accent, so it sounded more like ‘Yesh’.

“Last time?” I pressed.

This time she just nodded.

“So you were part of Burier’s team?” I asked.  “Posse or band?”

She sort of gestured to the Yard, which I took to mean she’d been in the band.  If she was Posse quality, why would she be out here?

“Tell me how the fight went,” I said.

I was getting the idea that she didn’t like to talk much, probably took a lot of shit for that lisp.  I sympathized, but I was mostly just impatient.

“We got hit by the Union, the night before.  They sent flying things to blast our camp, Burier didn’t see it coming, didn’t have anyone watching.  She was fucking when they hit us.”

That wasn’t terribly surprising.  It was a bit of a bit of a warzone up there.  I’d need to establish whether Burier had crossed into Union territory, or whether they were actually working to protect the Ar Harbor gang.  My tentative bet was on Burier’s band getting lost.  She’d been a city Ultra, wouldn’t have known shit about navigating.

“Did she die in the Union hit?” I pressed, “Or did you make it to the target?”

I left out the possibility that they’d survived but turned back.  Burier would have been joined to Snitcher, and, like me, she wouldn’t have had any choice about continuing on.

“We made it,” she said.  “But we’d lost most of our people.  The locals knew we were coming, mobbed us.”

Hard to say whether that was just Ultra braggadocio or whether she’d actually been outnumbered.  She had ever incentive to build up the people who’d beaten her.

“How many Ultras do they have?” I asked.  “Who are their leaders?”

“Maybe forty?” she said.  “Couple dozen anyway.  There were four main ones.  Called themselves by some pussy old world names, they talked a lot, had flags and shit.”

Flags?

“Oh,” she continued.  “There was a tank or something, some kind of big floating machine.  It didn’t do shit that I saw, but I bet it would’ve if they’d started losing.”

“Go back,” I said.  “They had flags?”

“Like stuck to their backs, or to sticks they carried,” she said.  “Boss was called King Arthur, Burier said she could loan Ultra gifts to daggers, make them fight for her.”

I blinked.

“Were the other leaders named stuff like Merlin, Lancelot, stuff like that?”

She nodded enthusiastically.

“Yeah, that’s right.  Merlin’s gift let her make stuff go through other stuff.  Gwen’s gift let’s her set stuff on fire and Lance was like a fighting Ultra.  There was something weird about her though.”

I had a lot more questions to ask, but a stirring in the Yard cut me off.  I’d never lost my familiarity with the place’s overall vibe, and this meant that a fight was getting ready to jump off.

“Gang coming?” I asked.

“Dolls,” said the mangy Ultra I’d talked to first.  “Some of their crew are pressing claims, Second Fist is supposed to be coming up to watch.”

I walked off without any more interaction.  I didn’t need to encounter Refiner’s crew today.  It was a start, at least.

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Investigate Acquaintance: [ Clawer]

Clawer wasn’t terribly hard to find.  I caught up with him just as he left a Company Facility, carefully cradling a bowl of protein powder in his hooks.

“Trade ya?” I offered, holding up my secret weapon.

I’d stopped by Owner’s gas station on the way here, filled up a bag with candies, chips and various other junk food.

He grinned.  Nobody liked the powder.

I reached out towards him like it was no big thing, draped the plastic over his hand.

I figured a lot of people probably shrunk away at the sight of his hooks, or stared at them.  I’d resolved to act like it just wasn’t an issue at all.  Hopefully that’d get us off on the right foot.

“What’s this about?” he asked.

I tried to look innocent.

“I’m curious about the Ultra Fight thing,” I tried.  “I’ve heard its fixed, but I know there’ve been deaths. What’s your perspective, as an actual fighter?”

He grinned again.  Most people liked a chance to explain something to someone who didn’t know it.

“It’s not all real, of course.  You don’t see the same people fighting for or five times if they are trying to kill each other.  We set it up ahead of time, work stuff out like the old world pro wrestling.”

“Sure,” I said.  “But the deaths?”

“Well, there are real matches too.  Sometimes people don’t like each other, or She shows up or whatever.  Same rings, same stuff, but actual fighting.  It makes the fake stuff go down better.”

“You aren’t worried?” I asked.  “Someone sets up a fake fight, then sneak attacks you in the middle?”

He looked somber for a second.

“It’s a concern,” he said.  “But I only work with people I trust, and a reputation for doing that sort of thing is a really bad thing to get.  People don’t want that, so if they have a problem with me they’ll be better off if they work it out in other ways.  Nobody wins if that kind of thing gets started.”

Most Ultras wouldn’t know about the prisoner’s dilemma, but it was apparently a universal concept.  It spoke for his intelligence that he’d realized the dynamic, and could put it in words.

“Clawer?”

We looked up as someone called his name.

A short Ultra with a sporty beret for a sigil came trotting up.  She casually reached out and scooped the bag of junk food off his arm, dumped it into a sigil.

“This is Stopper,” he explained.  “We work together a lot.”

That was interesting.  I hadn’t heard anything about her when I’d asked around about him.

“Haha, yeah,” she said.  She had a way of speak-laughing that immediately got on my nerves.  “We’re a unit, right babe?  I’m the hands, he’s the hooks.”

“Sure,” I said.

It made sense that he’d have a partner of some sort.  Even I had Owner to watch my rest, and I had thumbs.

We talked some more, and I got a better feel for their basic situation.

Clawer was the main one to consider, of the two.  He had the fighting power to live in the Lair, she coasted along in his wake, her own gift was the ability to steal momentum from forms by looking at them.

They seemed to have a genuine affection for one another, or at least they didn’t bicker in my presence.  It wasn’t the worst afternoon I’d ever spent.

“It was nice hanging with you today,” he said, as I was getting ready to go.

“Sure,” I responded.

“Listen,” said Stopper.  “You are recruiting people for your Posse, right?”

“Not just yet,” I said.  “I’m still in the early phases of-“

“When you do,” she said, speaking over me, “We’d be very interested.  We’d be a huge asset!”

I said something noncommittal, made my goodbyes and let them there.

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Day 2 results:

Incomplete information gathered on Ar Harbor defenders.  I need to know more, but this is a good start.  I could get more information from another questioning of the survivors, but what I’d really like is to get the Resistance’s take on the Round Table gang.

Clawer added to Ultra Allies after a day hanging out.  He seems to be on the level.  If I decide to bring him into the Posse, however, I will need to decide what to do with Stopper.  Should I bring her into the Posse as well, or just the band, or leave her behind?

The actions I started formulating yesterday should be done by tomorrow.

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Day 3:

Days remaining: 28

AP available: (3 end of last day + 1 for half night’s sleep) = 4/10

Prestige: 3

Timeslots available: 2 (morning, afternoon)

Posse: 0 out of 3 slots filled

Force size: 0

Condition: Uninjured

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

 

Ultra Allies:

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

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

 

Ultra Enemies:

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

 

Ultra Acquaintances:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Faction Rankings:

Regime 7

KEM 8

Pantheon 2

Union 4

Resistance 9

Prevailer 3

 

Actions:

[ ] Seek Transportation

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

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

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

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

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

Concerns: Snitcher may disapprove of a warlord being civil

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

[ ] Seek Target Information

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

[ ] Seek Posse Members

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

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

Concerns: None

 

[ ] 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]

Interlude: Battle: 1

The Faithful advanced.  The Grand Host, bestirred at last, come to put an end to the last remnant of the world of reason.

They wouldn’t have looked so impressive, from a distance.  Ten thousand or so people, trudging steadily westward.  The old world had single structures, stadiums and such, which could accommodate so many.  It’s military forces had been ten times as large.

They had few weapons.  Few vehicles.  No uniforms, no obvious supplies.  Their appearance, to be frank, resembled a refugee column far more than it did an invading host.  They seemed an insubstantial threat, dusty figures toiling forward, chatting, laughing and singing with one another as they came.

A few things gave the lie to their harmless appearance.  The great shield which had once defended their fortresses was the most obvious.  It stretched a few hundred meters over the heads of the Host, descending to earth a similar distance around them.  It was fashioned of translucent blue light, but those who watched knew it had turned aside every weapon ever pitted against it.

The colossus was another.  The woman who went by ‘Zilla’, who had feigned leadership of the Grand Host, strode within it.  She stood as tall as a skyscraper, the dome a mere blur about her lower legs.  She took a step every minute or so, and still kept easy pace with the remainder of the column.

And there were, of course, countless other smaller incongruities.  Here a woman absently juggled fire.  There another spat forth an endless procession of reflected images, her quantum selves surrounding and shielding those near her.  Miracles, of course, but such were only to be expected when Gods went to war.

Their adversaries were not impressed.

The men and women of the Intervention Groups had always known this day would come.  It would not find them unprepared.  They moved smoothly into position, followed paths long planned and drilled into their collective psyche.  There was no panic, no terror.

Their foes might be Gods, but that was nothing new to the defends of the Union.  They had faced Gods.  Their gifts might prompt respect, but it was that of a skilled hunter towards noble game.  Gods were nothing to fear, to these men.  They were the operators of a deicide machine, grown unsurpassably efficient over the course of decades.

In truth, they didn’t even think of themselves as warriors.  These were soldiers of the old world.  They sought no glory, lusted for no plunder.  They were technicians, employees, professionals.  They would follow the procedures that time and experimentation had proven sufficient to all previous tasks, and hope that they would do so once again.

And so as the Pantheon marched forth, the Union shrank away.  The Intervention Groups didn’t give battle during the long hot morning of their enemies advance.  They were barely even sighted, their lithnetic skiffs bearing them back and away at appalling speed as their foe came forward.

They had to be careful, had to triumph.  The Fourth Army was the official defenders of the Union, and it had a force strength that was greater than theirs, but no one in the Intervention Groups believed that.  They were the veterans.  They were the ones who had known war for all their lives.  They saw the Fourth Army as a paper force, untested and untrusted, and they knew that only they could safeguard their homeland.

Let the enemy waste their breath on hymns, let them shriek at the cowardice of their foes.  The soldiers of the Union would let their weapons speak for them, when the command came down.

But it didn’t come.  All morning long the strange stillness held, with the Great Host marching forward at a languid pace, while the Union forces moved around them, taking and abandoning a succession of strongpoints as their orders moved them about.

General Greggs, the Union’s theatre CO, was in no hurry.  The longer she delayed, the better SPARTACUS’ estimations would be.  The Goddesses betrayed their capabilities with every stride they took, as profiles were matched to escapees from previous Hosts and intelligence reports. Delay could only help her.

Vampire, by contrast, was a fuming ball of rage.  She’d been expecting an awesome battle as soon as they marched out, and this cockblocking was getting to her.  Oroboros stopped her on two occasions from ordering mobs of Goddesses out from under the shield, pointing out that Zeus would not be forgiving of a woman who got his armies killed piecemeal.

Left to her own devices, Greggs would probably have let her enemy be for the entire day, maybe for several.  She had little to lose by falling back, and there was always the opportunity for her opponent to err preposterously.  That had always been the plan.  The Great Host was to be chipped away at, to be gnawed from the edges as it floundered around in the barren landscape at the edge of the Union.

But this year everything had changed.  Greggs was highly placed in the Obscurocracy’s hierarchy.  She knew of the Army of Sunset, knew that the Host before her,  vast as it was, did not partake of the Pantheon’s true power.  She saw the hundred figures at the heart of it, clad all in white, and knew that she must strike before their master could join them.

A little after noon she gave the go order, and the battle was on.

The first the Pantheon’s warriors knew of it was the blooms of fire and metal erupting all along their shield.  Distant drones had slipped over the horizon, unleashed their payloads and danced away.  The hymns of the Pantheon were drowned out as a rolling blast rocked the Shield, a pounding, driving sound that swallowed up their words and gnawed at their spirits.

It went on and on.  The drones were everywhere, released from the strange skiffs that could occasionally be seen, when a gap opened in the rain of death.  Goddesses clutched one another’s arms, shouted with no effect into the endless roar, or lashed blindly out with their gifts.

Nothing got through.  Bullets impacted on the shield, energy weapons reflected from it and explosive force was turned aside.  It threw back the Union’s onslaught with obdurate indifference, a miraculous barrier utterly indifferent to the works of mortal hands.

Few within the Great Host were looking behind them.  Their eyes were on the dome, wincing at each bright flash, screaming imprecations.  They knew that this could not last forever, and strained their senses to pick up the first hint of its end.

But the end that came was of a different kind.

SPARTACUS could enable tactics that would otherwise be insane.  The skiffs and blocks of the Union gave them a mobility that no one else could manage.  Greggs’ plan took advantage of both factors.

The Shield of the Faithful was a known quantity.  It had protected their forts for years.  Greggs knew full well that the drones’ munitions would do nothing to it.  Honestly, considering that these Ultras were survivors of previous battles, they would likely do little even if they pierced it.  She was, instead, using these explosions as a matador uses a cape.

The relentless barrage drew the eye, smothered sound.  It was overwhelming, awe inspiring.  It was an excellent distraction.

Skiffs swooped in, invisible behind a curtain of explosions, and the Ultras of the Unions dropped down behind the enemy column and moved quickly out of the way of the next group to disembark.  It was a display of awe inspiring precision.

Each skiff slammed into place, moving with utter disdain for the ordinary path of objects through the air, stopping just long enough for their precious cargo to leap onto the ground before zipping away.  The troops in question were moving almost before they hit the ground.

In an appallingly short time, less than a minute, the Union had landed several thousand Ultras within a hundred feet of the back of the enemy shield.  They wasted little time in making their presence felt.

The Shield, so sturdy against enemy fire, was useless against an infantry rush.  Its creator spun around as she felt the enemy stride through it, shouted uselessly into the crash of noise and grabbed furiously at the Ultras around her, trying to make them understand their peril.

It was too late.  Here and there a Goddess turned.  Some lucky few had already been facing the attack, and others were wrenched about by more alert neighbors, but the by and large the Union achieved total surprise.

Union Ultras struck home, blasting their gifts into their enemies backs, leaping forward and snapping spines, tearing off heads.  These Ultras had years of experience in the Intervention Groups, had faced down Host after Host and mastered their gifts through a hundred battles.  Their impact was devastating.

Similarly vicious was the onslaught of their allies, as the Union’s human forces played their part.  They had made do with guns and bombs for years, even as their tech had raced ahead.  They’d fought and died without showing what their science could really do, all to prepare for days like today.  Now the Pantheon learned at last what their foe had been hiding.

Strange fissures ripped into the Pantheon throng, folded lines of space tore through even hardened Ultra flesh, denying their enemies form any space to exist in.  Burning lines of strange green foam flew forth, enveloping Ultras in its grasp and freezing instantly fast, depriving those captured of air and sight, locking their limbs in a grip like hardened stone.

It was a shattering impact, Gods toppled like wheat, divine Forms exploding, hymns turned to screaming agony.  The Pantheon forces, caught unaware by this strike, cried out and fell, dying like rats as their foe wrought a fearful slaughter among them.

For long seconds the Grand Host could muster no meaningful counterattack.  A sizable proportion of the Ultras still hadn’t noticed what was going on, the screams and blasts around them masked by the all encompassing fury of the Union’s continuous strike on the dome.  Those who did turn about, often glimpsing an attack in their peripheral vision, were confronted by the next layer of Greggs’ strategy.

The Union’s attackers were wearing exactly the same kind of outfit that the Gods themselves had donned.  Or at least so they appeared.  A simple visual masking, crafted from the data collected during the mornings’ retreat, left the Pantheon’s forces gaping as they fell under attack from what appeared to be their own ranks.

As each Goddess turned they were confronted with a furious melee, as identical dusty figures tore into one another with Ultra powers.  Some hesitated, screaming for explanations they couldn’t have heard even if they were known.  Others lashed out, striking indiscriminately at friend and foe, desperate to secure their own lives, even if it meant destroying their allies.  Still others turned and ran, fleeing away from the confusing scrum, desperately hoping someone, somehow, could reestablish their command structure.

The Union forces suffered no such confusion.  Lenses in their eyes outlined their allies in green, their foes in red.  They struck only at the Faithful, and they taught their ancestral enemies the old lesson.  That those who came west would never return.

Any other Host would have broken then and there.  Dozens, hundreds of casualties in seconds, Ultras falling to weapons never seen before, confused and shellshocked, SPARTACUS had calculated that the Host would flee.

But this wasn’t any other Host.  This was the Grand Host.

The Goddesses who made it up might be confused, might be suffering, but still they were mighty.  The Union’s Ultras were veterans, true, but their experience was in gunning down their foes at a distance, then mobbing those too hardy to shoot.  Now they were toe to toe with Zilla’s finest, and they found for themselves the caliber of their opposition.

Overseers shouted and gestured, Ultras turned and stood.  The Pantheon forces, bloodied and battered from the ambush though they were, didn’t rout.  They spun about, sought out their foes and closed with them, striving to bring their gifts to bear against an enemy they still outnumbered, still overpowered.

SPARTACUS didn’t understand the enemy, not really.  Its data had been compiled over the long years of attrition.  It didn’t know Vampire, hadn’t considered that the enemy might fear their own commander far more than their foe.

Now the casualties began to mount on both sides.  Union forces and Pantheon in a grinding Ultra scrum, as figures wrenched and tore at one another.

Greggs, however, had been expecting this.  She understood something of what was coming.  She knew that one strike, however well executed, could never break a throng of such size.  She knew the deadly density of the Ultras in the center, knew a meat grinder when she built one.  All was still as she planned.

It would have been nice if the enemy had shattered.  She certainly wouldn’t have complained.  But she wasn’t counting on it.  She gave the order, and the second wave of skiffs raced forward.

The Pantheon, reeling and battered, had finally pulled itself into something resembling a line of battle.  They were all facing their enemies, all moving and acting in something like unison, gestures and shoves functioning as a kind of rudimentary command network.

Their mob roiled and clashed with the Union’s lines, those most suited for close combat bullying their way back through their comrades to get at the enemy.  They had been caught by surprise, but that was all over now.  Now it was just the mob and press, just two blobs of Ultras lashing out at one another, and they had the numbers, still.

Then the Union’s second strike him them, exactly like the first.

This one came from the front.  Greggs’ second wave disembarked and penetrated the shield in the same manner as the other crew, and once again they caught Vampires’ forces with their backs turned.  Once again the din of the bombardment and the general chaos of the Ultra brawl made the Grand Host slow to react.  Once again the Union forces had the pick of their targets, and took full advantage.

Now the battle was joined in earnest.  Union forces were all around their enemies, blasting away with exotic weapons and Ultra powers.  The Pantheon forces reeled and struck, lashed out with their gifts.  They backed away from their enemies, shrinking into the press of their colleagues as foam sprayed and space folded.

The Unions disguises were still active, and now they were even more effective.  The Goddesses couldn’t just strike in one direction anymore, they were all but surrounded, and so the direction that someone who looked like a comrade was firing didn’t mean anything anymore.

If another Goddess hurled fire at you, was she an enemy?  Or did she just think you were one?  Or was she trying to hit some Union foe who was behind you?  Internecine slaughter broke out, as Pantheon warriors entered instant cycles of retribution, striking down those who they’d seen take down friends, and so perpetuating mistaken identity into wholesale massacre.

I the midst of all of this chaos the Union achieved its real objective.

A sniper in the original band, carefully protected by a squad tasked to that purpose, finally got the shot that he’d been craving.  He drew a bead on the woman who was at the center of the shield, turned a nob on the top of her projector, and blasted a beam of folded space right through the core of the Goddess.

The target tottered and fell, and the shield vanished away.

Instantly the Grand Host erupted.  Explosions stitched across it, hurling Goddesses hither and thither, blinding and deafening those who could not be moved.  Clouds of smoke and debris rose up, and the world itself seemed to come to pieces around them.

Once again, the hand of SPARTACUS was at work.  The computer knew where every Union asset was, where every drone was firing.  It calculated every shot, saturated the Great Host while entirely avoiding friendly fire, and the Union forces backed rapidly away, freed up from the brutal grappling by this sudden change in circumstance.

This was the plan of General Greggs in its entirety.  This had been her aim all along.  With the shield gone her drones could strike at will, and not just the ordinary drones, armed with conventional weapons.

Other drones had hung among them, waiting for their chance.  These were armed with the same kinds of exotic weapons that the human forces had brought, and now they sited in and took their shots.

The general clenched a fist as she saw it all going to plan, as the projected casualties of the Grand Host rose above fifty percent.

The Grand Host, ha!

It had been growing for decades, had shaped the nightmares of a great nation, and now it would fall in the space of a single day of battle.  A smile crossed her face, for the first time since the border alarms had first rung out.

It vanished a second later, as Vampire finally let the Brides take action.

Regime Quest: 5

Results from Previous round votes:
Two Votes:
Plan Nevile (on SV forum)

One Vote:
Plan Skivverus (On my blog, Skiv you might want to make an account and post on the SV thread, so that you can interact with the other posters, it doesn’t seem like people on the blog see other people’s comments)

*************************************************************************************
Winning Plan:

[x] [Morning] Seek information on Regime military operations [ Query Subtracter] (Timeslot cost: 1; AP Cost: 3, returns 1 if successful)
[x] [Afternoon] Seek Posse members (Timeslot cost: 1; AP Cost: 1, returns 1 on successful completion)

*************************************************************************************
Day 1 Log:

5 AP at start of day
+1 for 6 hour sleep (6 AP)
-3 for [Morning] Talk with Subtracter (3 AP)
Talk With Subtracter roll: 2 (failure, complication added)
+ 0 for Failure, Talk with Subtracter (3 AP)
-1 for [Afternoon] Investigate Posse Members (2 AP)
Investigate Posse Members roll: 8 (Superior Success, detailed information gathered)
+1 for Success, Investigate Posse Members (3 AP)
End of day, (3 AP).

*************************************************************************************
Talk with Subtracter:

I tried to ignore the din around us and focus carefully on what she was saying. It wasn’t easy.

Subtracter didn’t share Her penchant for squatting in the ruined buildings of the old government, no, her office was presently square in the middle of an old furniture store. She’d built a sort of nest out of sofas and beds, and sprawled languidly across it while I addressed her.

“Thanks,” I said, accepting her congratulations. “I’m sure it is all due to having such a prestigious sponsor.”

She spared me a look at that, glancing up from the Rubiks cube she was struggling with. She said something, but it was drowned out by the ambient noise.

Subtracter didn’t really do privacy. Her Posse filled the furniture store, a band of young hooligans cast more or less directly in her mold. To a woman they were powerful Ultras, utterly unencumbered by anything resembling scrupals. They were also uniformly loud, and it made it kind of hard to pay Subtracter as much attention as I needed to.

I leaned closer.

“-tigious?” I caught.

“It means good,” I clarified, cursing myself internally. Making Subtracter feel stupid was dangerous.

“What do you want?” she asked.

She tossed a coin or something over at the couple who were messing around on the next bed, and they subsided a bit, leaving us with some breathing room.

“I’d like to talk about my job,” I said. “You have been the boss of all the warlords. Is there like a speech that you give or something? I don’t want to piss you off by doing the wrong thing.”

She looked up at me, eyebrows rising as somewhere within the dim expanse of her mind a pair of neurons bumped into one another.

“Oh, yeah!” she said. “I forgot, I told the last girl, not you. You haven’t heard yet. That was a smart catch.”

I contented myself with nodding, trying to keep the bile from my throat.

Subtracter probably wasn’t any more dim, any more brutal, than the rest of the Ultras of the Regime, but she was the one who’d ended my old life. I couldn’t look at her without remembering my old neighbor vanishing in a spray of blood, the nice old man who taught the kids in the afternoons being tossed helplessly into the clouds.

“Ok, so it’s like this. You have to make sure that a few things happen. The first is that you and your crew go and kill all the enemy Ultras, take their daggers for ours. Mess em up.”

I nodded, trying to push the past aside, focus on this moment.

She snarled at the cube in her hands, and it blurred as she used her speed on it. When she finished the frenzy of turning it was more jumbled than when she started.

She frowned, looking up at me again.

“But even more big deal than that, you need to make sure She is watching, dig? So work stuff out with Snitcher to make sure that She is watching when you take em on.”

I’d been intending to do that, of course, but it was worth the reminder.

“Do you have any more specific advice?” I pressed. “Like, how many Ultras I should take, any tricks you’ve picked up over the years?”

“Sure,” she said. “You don’t want to outnumber them.”

What? I leaned closer to make sure I was hearing correctly.

“That’d be boring for Her. You want to have just a few less gals than you are up against. And don’t fight sneaky. She has killed a few bitches who didn’t give her a fun fight, like they attacked while people were sleeping or whatever.”

I winced. It was hard to imagine a more pointless waste of resources. I’d known that Prevailer killed Her own minions, of course, but hearing it stated so starkly was sobering.

“So yeah, just take your people, ride into the place, win the fight, and then do it again.”

I hesitated. Could I get anything more from her? Anything a little more useful?

“When you say…win the fight,” I said, “Is there any particular way that I should do that? Like, if I need to uh, explain it to a dumb person, like Adder or someone.”

She chuckled, dissing Adder always got that response.

“Sure, yeah, I forget that you’ve been doing one on one stuff up till now. Ok, lots of Ultras fighting is like this.”

She put the cube aside and gave me her full attention.

“People matter in the fight on how much toughness they have. Bring a gal or two who, like, kill everyone that they look at or whatever. Some gift that is real hard to dodge and takes out chumps with no Ultra toughness. That’ll get rid of all the daggers and the Ultras who don’t belong in a fight.”

I’d noticed that before. Gifts had a certain degree of strength, and the ones that didn’t beat Ultra toughness tended to be much easier to apply.

“While you are doing that, you better figure that they’ll be doing the same thing. In a pinch, if you can’t find an Ultra with this kind of gift, you can just, like, have everyone carry guns or whatever. Its pussy shit, but losing would be worse. Anyway, sweep up the nobodies real quick, they’ll do the same to you.”

I noted that she didn’t mention taking any precautions to protect her own team’s human gunners or vulnerable Ultras. I didn’t think that was as much a tactical choice as it was just something that she literally never thought of.

“After that,” she said. “It is just your tough Ultras and theirs. Do the Cutter thing.”

The Cutter thing? I’d never heard of any Cutter. Must have been before my time. Some sort of algorithm, not that she’d know the word.

“The Cutter thing,” I said. “Of course, but-“

She cut me off.

“Actually, talking is a dumb way to do this. What you need is some practice.”

Oh, shit.

“We are a bit low on fodder lately. I’m supposed to go to Delphia and grab some people for Processing. Usually some locals step up when that happens. Why don’t you take a few weeks, then do that for me? You can test your Posse out, pop your cherry, bring a couple hundred people back and help us make up for the losses we took the last few times out.

It wasn’t really a question. I nodded, inwardly fuming.

This was everything I got into the Regime NOT to do. The Ultras I’d be killing would be those who were willing to fight to protect people from the Process. I’d get a negligible amount of new Ultras, at a ruinous cost to the people of Delphia.

The conversation kept going for a little while longer, but I didn’t get anything useful out of it. There was still more that I needed to know, but if I didn’t get out of there quickly I knew I’d snap. I made my escape a few minutes later, narrowly keeping my composure, the screams of my hometown echoing in my ears.

*************************************************************************************
I spent the afternoon wandering around, gossiping and prying with the Ultras who always lurked around in the Lair. It helped settle me a little, but I didn’t really get anything useful until I found a bunch of people making a disturbance, cheering and shouting around a bouncy castle.

I’d always kept myself aloof from the Ultras of the capital, focusing more on my intrigues against my rivals and my connections with KEM. It had gotten me my position, but it left me a little ignorant of the sort of things that the rank and file Ultras did for fun.

Which apparently included a bouncy castle.

I circulated among the spectators, and hear the gossip flowed much more freely. People were relaxed, loose, eager to brag on their allies and dunk on their enemies. I listened to everyone, and I heard about a number of prospects.

The first was Bubbler. Out of my three criteria, those being strength of their gift, basic competence and values at least nominally similar to mine, she had the second two in spades. She operated a sort of Ultra clinic, using her gift to heal Ultras and move stuff around, but what interested me about that was that she’d been doing the same thing for three years without incident, and that she didn’t discriminated against the humans of Shington.

Her gift wasn’t the worst thing, either. She could form a bubble around anything that she could touch, which stole away its weight and gradually repaired it. She could move the bubbles around at her will, and they were apparently pretty hard to break from the inside. I wouldn’t call it a first degree combat gift, but it wasn’t the worst I could imagine, certainly not if it came attached to a mind I could actually respect.

Clawer was another impressive Ultra, he was actually present at the pit. His form had been mutated by his gift, leaving him thumbless, with a pair of hooked blades where his hands ought to be. He was an Ultra fighter by trade, spending his time scrapping and sparring with other Ultras in nonlethal matches for the entertainment of the city.

From what I could tell, he had Ultra strength two and Ultra toughness one. First rate fighting gifts, and anyone who managed to survive in an environment as cutthroat as Shington’s pit fighting circuit must have at least a basic competence.

My last prospect actually sought me out. She was the woman who’d set up this entertainment, a scavenger and entertainer who went by the unfortunate name of Sucker. She’d apparently made an enemy of one of the Ultra gangs which battled over the outskirts of the city, and figured she’d hide herself in my shadow.

I didn’t get the details of her gift, but, I dunno, we sort of clicked? I got a good vibe off of her, and she couldn’t be that weak if she was in the Lair. I tried to work out a deal to take the castle off her hands later on (odd objects often have useful properties for Blending), and she wanted me to help out her sister with some dentistry in exchange. I’ll decide about that later on.

*************************************************************************************
Day 1 results:

Incomplete information gathered on Regime military procedures, new Complication gained [mission to Delphia]. I will develop actions relating to subverting this operation in coming days.
Information gained on Bubbler, Clawer, Sucker.
Opportunities discovered, Ultra Fighting, in coming days I will develop actions related to attending these events to discover more exceptional Ultra combatants.
Opportunities discovered, lesser Ultra gangs. When I begin to gather my main force, I may take advantage of the existing Ultra gangs of the outer city. I will develop actions relating to investigating this possibility once I’ve got enough of a Posse to begin to assemble my main force.

*************************************************************************************
Day 2:

Days remaining: 29
AP available: (3 end of last day + 1 for half night’s sleep) = 4/10
Prestige: 3
Timeslots available: 2 (morning, afternoon)
Posse: 0 out of 3 slots filled
Force size: 0
Condition: Uninjured
(Ultra format: Role, Ultra Strength/Speed/Toughness, other gift description)

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

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

Ultra Acquaintances:

Owner – housemate, 0/0/1 operates an imaginary firm, with real effects on the world,
Picker – First Fist protégé, 0/1/0, ‘selects the outcome of things’
Tracker – Running buddy, 1/0/1, Creates tracks, and can move things on them
Shower – Adder’s protégé, 1*/0/1*, gains strength and durability from witnesses
Sticker – Did dentistry for her brother, 0/0/2, Creates slime, can choose its stickiness
Echoer – Singer I am a fan of, 1/1/1, can duplicate any action that she sees
Bubbler – Operates Ultra clinic 0/0/?, traps things in bubbles that heal and move them
Clawer – Ultra fighter 2/0/1, melee combatant, deadly hooks for hands
Sucker — Ultra entertainer, ?/?/?, pulls objects/people towards her at incredible rate

Faction Rankings:

Regime 7
KEM 8
Pantheon 2
Union 4
Resistance 9
Prevailer 3

Actions:

[ ] Seek Transportation
-[ ] Scavenge (Timeslot cost: 2; AP cost 4, refunds 3 on success)
Motive: My current transportation sufficed for me in my troubleshooter role, but I will likely require a larger vehicle, or several vehicles, in order to bring everyone to Ar Harbor. I can seek to find something in the suburbs and surrounding towns.
Concerns: Leaving Shington could be dangerous, and I am far from guaranteed to find a bus or truck suitable to my needs, as the area has already been heavily scavenged.
-[ ] Trade with existing owners (Timeslot cost: 1; AP cost 2, refunds 1 on success)
Motive: As above, but instead of fixing up ruined vehicles I’ll negotiate to get them from their current owners.
Concerns: Snitcher may disapprove of a warlord being civil
-[ ] Seize by force (Timeslot cost: 2; AP cost 4, refunds 3 on success)
Motive: As above, but instead of asking my contacts for vehicles I’ll just take what I want. My role as warlord and my Tally should minimize resistance
Concerns: People like their vehicles, and won’t like the one who takes them. I will make enemies.
-[ ] Seek Transportation [Adder + Company] (Timeslot cost: 1; AP cost 2, refunds 1 on success)
Motive: As above, but Adder can use his gift to make something for my purposes, and the Company can duplicate it and make it permanent.
Concerns: Adder and I are not close, he may decline to aid me, owing to his rivalry with my sponsor, Subtracter.
[ ] Seek Target Information
-[ ] Company (Timeslot cost: 1; AP cost 2, refunds 1 on success)
Motive: The Company logs every Ultra they create. Their Ar Harbor records would be useful information
Concerns: Ultras migrate and conceal their gifts, this information would be incomplete
-[ ] Subtracter (Timeslot cost: 1; AP cost 3, refunds 1 on success)
Motive: Subtracter is the military leader of the Regime, she will have information on this target
Concerns: Subtracter is stupid and violent, I don’t like to be around her
-[ ] Survivors (Timeslot cost:1; AP cost 2, refunds 1 on success)
Motive: There have been 2 other attempts at Ar Harbor. I can seek out and question survivors in the outer city.
Concerns: I may be unable to find any survivors, and I may be misled by liars.
[ ] Seek Posse Members
-[ ] wander & gossip, (Timeslot cost: 1; AP cost 1, refunds 1 on success)
Motive: There are dozens of powerful Ultras in the Lair. I know only the barest fraction of them. I can learn the basics on 1-6 of them in a few hours of socializing and gossiping, opening up in depth investigation options on them and adding them to my list of acquaintances.
Concerns: None
[ ] 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]

Condemner 8:3

I wasn’t Nirav, but I still had his memories. When he was among the Righteous they’d shared a saying that I thought was very important.
“You can’t make up for failing to prepare by trying very hard.”
It was tempting to think that the fate of the world was about to be decided. The Grand Host against the Intervention Groups. A grand clash to take everything. ‘Winner Take All’, as Dale’s old stories would have it. But that was nonsense.
The Union had fallen, or withstood the attack, long ago. Either one side had the victory, or the other did. The answer would have come out of the Process a few years back, or out of the fertile minds of the Union inventors just yesterday. Some gift, some gun, some factor that no one could forsee. It was on its way, even now.
One side or the other had more men, or better ones. They had prepared for this, had gathered sufficient force. The other team, the ones who would lose, had not. They might have thought that they were ready, but they were about to be disabused.
The battle had already been decided, in the preparation and gathering of forces. All that remained was for events to take the only course that they could. The present was like a river, but the past was like a channel cut deep in the ground, forever directing and controlling it.
The future, of course, was a fire.
I grinned at the thought, pulled myself out of my reverie. I poked at the screen, pushing on words and trying to make it show me different things. I wasn’t Jenny or any of her ilk, didn’t have any knowledge of the old world’s technology, but while we’d been shacking up in the Union embassy I’d picked up some of the basics. You pressed your finger into stuff you were curious about.
I pushed on some things up at the top, and lists of more words came down. I pressed those, and the view changed. They were viewer names, and the screen was now showing me the views from them. I pressed them rapidly, sending my viewpoint skidding all around the cubes of the building, trying to figure out where the others were.
I found Andy first. He was crouched down in a little bubble, huddling in a corner as people around him handed out weapons. I could see the telltale sign of Ultras among them. The Union might swear that their assets were equals, but in a pinch you could always tell the wolves from the sheep.
My smile grew strained as I noted the patches on the jackets of the two ladies standing over him. It was hard to tell at first, but after I made an unpinching motion on the screen I could see that they had been decorated with what looked like silver fists. Gauntlet members.
I flipped the view again. Bingo, a captive slumbered in the middle of a tank in a cell, lines feeding into her veins and connecting her with various machines.
I flipped again. Empty cell.
Another flip, another empty.
I started to move more rapidly, my hand moving faster than reality would normally allow. Shot after shot flipped by, my map of the structure filling in.
I felt my mood darken. The facility was almost empty. There were only like twenty captives in here. There were more guards than that!
I’d been cheated, duped. Predictor. He must have known about this, must have led me on for some reason. If I burned him, would I be playing into his hand somehow?
I felt again the ache of Nirav’s form as Fifth Fist fell upon him, felt his despair and powerlessness as they’d bundled him up and dragged him away.
All of a sudden I didn’t care about Predictor’s plans. I didn’t care about whether doing so would somehow help him, or get me in trouble. I decided to burn him up, next chance I got.
And that chance would come soon.
I spun the view again, whipping through room after room. Where were they?
I got to the bottom of the room list without seeing them. I hadn’t even seen any evidence of them. Not just no Ultras, I didn’t see any rubble or corpses. How was that possible?
I took a step back, away from the viewer. It had betrayed me, somehow.
It made sense, when I thought about it. I’d only had to battle one Ultra, a few daggers. Nothing like the force that should have descended upon me. If everyone could make their screens show stuff from other places in the building, then that didn’t make any sense. The screens were being blocked.
This must be that hacking that they’d talked about. They’d gotten Haunter’s technician shade to use one of the machines, and her computer powers were too strong for the Union gear. The screen was showing lies.
I kicked myself for falling for it, even for a moment. Putting my faith in human technology was idiotic, like worshipping rocks or wind. It was just matter, just stuff. How could I rely on something that I couldn’t punish?
I turned back to the hall, then stopped.
I knew the basic route of things now. I could go back out there, follow on Betty’s trail and get to the occupied portions of the jail quick enough. I’d no doubt cause a ruckus and get in a few fights, just like Predictor wanted me to.
Screw that.
I called upon my gift, instead. Heat rose from my shoulders, warping the air above me. Flame devoured this facsimile of a form, tearing away Nirav’s likeness and revealing my glory once again. The sullied world shrunk back away as I towered forth as an inferno.
Despite my grandeur, the hall remained inflammable. The pickings were slim. The all consuming blaze that I imagined was not to be.
But I wasn’t limited to the halls.
If focused my wrath, instead, on the viewer machine. I poured over it, flamers licking into its casing and burning up the strange crystals inside. It sparked and flared as it faded, but I payed it no mind. I had other, deeper concerns.
In the back of it I found what I sought. A black cord linked it to the wall. I shrank myself down, greatly reducing my power expenditure, and seared along it, blazing my way through some kind of plastic guard and into the recesses of the area between walls.
Now this was more like it.
I blazed along the filaments, leaping from one to the next and leaving them in ruins beyond me. There were no guards here. No one to stop me or impede me, and with every strand I sundered the jail grew weaker around me.
I wondered, idly, if it might fall out of the sky at some point.
The thought was arousing. It would be a shattering explosion, an instant inferno. Those Ultras whose gifts did not defend them would not survive it, and for the humans there would be no chance.
I couldn’t exactly smile in my true form, but I tried my very best.
I began to spread myself. Rather than traveling in a line, I expanded, burning every filament down to melted lumps, leaving the jail’s inner workings in ruins.
I was still seeking, of course. I still peered out of every plug I reached, but now I didn’t exactly care if I failed. What did it matter, if I couldn’t find Predictor? I’d get him anyway, or at least the crash would.
As soon as I had that thought, of course, I found him.
I saw them in an instant, already sweeping on towards the next plug. I doubled back in a flash.
There they were. Zilla, Predictor and Slicer, striding across an empty room. A line of corpses stretched behind them, and the rooms ahead were full of desperate guards.
I didn’t care about any of that. I poured out of the wall, exploding out in front of them in a sudden flash.
“YOU!” I thundered, my voice created by the crackle and char of the objects I was consuming.
“Shit!” yelled Slicer, pushing him back behind her.
Zilla just cocked her head to one side, utterly unafraid.
I stopped myself, simmered for a moment, and took my human form once again.
Predictor tried to poke his head out from behind Slicer, but she stayed between us, backing him into a corner. Zilla stood stock still.
I didn’t say anything for a moment, content to regard the room. We were in a sort of a narrow antechamber. The door behind me had some Union guards behind it, but it was closed and barred. The archway behind them opened wide, the door that sealed it already having been slashed down by Slicer.
There was a desk against one of the walls, blazing softly at the edges from where I’d burned through it, the device that had been displaying on it lying in ruins. There was also a chair, overturned and spilled out on the ground between us.
“Surprised to see me?” I asked.
His chuckle was utterly predictable, and it got Slicer to let him stick his head out. He glared at me from around her shoulder, eyes alive with mirth.
“Of course,” he said. “How could I possibly have predicted that you would come here? You are so unique, so impossible to forecast. Why, I guess that you, among all beings, have got some of that free will the ancients were so proud of.”
I disregarded his mockery. Even beaten he would act so. Whether there was a trap or not, his manner would always hint at one. It was the obvious play for him.
“All men can fail,” I told him. “It is at the core of what you are. You only get one chance at every moment, and no matter how much your gift lets you rehearse it, you can never take it back.”
“The fuck?” asked Slicer, who hadn’t relaxed from her battle stance one bit.
“Oh Nirav,” said Predictor. “I’ve missed you. We haven’t really spoken, not since we kicked the shit out of you back in Nectady. Tell me, did you ever tell the rest of your Fist about why we did that?”
I clenched my fists, shuddered with anger.
“You know, that we figured you were so useless, so stupid and angry, that you would sabotage any new competitor we saddled with you? I’m sure you’ll be happy to know you’ve lived up to our expectations!”
“Enough!” I said. “Enough talking, you preening jackass. I know you didn’t predict my coming, and even if you did I’ll-“
He cut me off.
“And even if…” he mimicked my voice, but made it high, like a girl’s somehow.
“You really think I didn’t see this coming?” he asked. “You think that just changing your mind ten times in a second means you are somehow hard to foresee? It doesn’t. Your whole gimmick of rapidly changing objectives just makes you a fool who will always fail.”
“I’m not going to fail!” I grated out, moving my hand up.
I was trying to see what they would do, what they could do. The best thing for them was to hit me with water, or steal away the air, to seal away my true form. But I could change far faster than they could act. Aside from that, it was a simple matter of avoiding Slicer’s blades. There was no way for them to win, I assured myself.
“What would it even mean for you to succeed?” he asked, sounding sincere for once. “What would that be, for you, as fast as you swap out objectives? Would you killing us be your success, or is it bringing back Andy? Or are you trying to-“
He stopped talking, all of a sudden, and then he and Slicer toppled over to the ground, blood bursting from their mouths.
I stared for a second, wary of a trick.
“Wow,” said Zilla. “And they say I talk a lot.”
I looked to her again. She hadn’t moved from where she’d been. Hadn’t so much as twitched. Whatever she’d done, it hadn’t needed anything from her form.
“You,” I said. “You just…”
She walked right up to me, reached out a hand.
I shrunk back. What was this? How had she…
“Oh, right?” she said. “You and Fisher. I can respect that. The monogamy thing. Not a lot of people go for it, nowadays, but if that’s what gets you off, then I say more power to ya! Plow that same field till you hit magma!’
“You could have done that at any time?” I asked.
For some reason I couldn’t look away from her hair. The slight changes to her form continued apace, the ‘fire’ on her head burning its endless sequence, as the reds and whites mixed and mingled across every strand.
“Sure,” she said. “But I thought he was bringing something to the party. Plus Slicer was pretty good in bed. I dunno, they weren’t the worst.”
I didn’t take my eyes off her, didn’t let her touch me, just shrank back.
“But I listened to him yammering on at you, and I just couldn’t shake the idea that dropping him mid rant would be hilarious. So I did it.”
“He would have seen that coming,” I said. “He’s going to be really angry at you, when he comes back.”
“Come back?” she said. “I thought if I killed all five they stayed gone. Isn’t that the way with you guys? I was pretty sure that was it.”
“Well, wait, are you saying…”
“Sure,” she said. “I figured I’d just take all five of em, no reason to waste time tomorrow if we are thorough today, yeah?”
“Good point,” I said. It was, honestly.
“Now,” she said. “Let’s be about-“
“Why are your forces attacking?” I asked.
I don’t know why I asked that. It was one of the times my body just does things. I like to think they are my entity, taking direct control, but it might as well have been anything. I feel like I should be more concerned about it than I am, but maybe it is also making me not care.
“We are looking for Andy,” she said, slowly.
“No, not that,” I said. “Please don’t use your gift on me or whatever, but I mean, why did you order the Grand Host to attack?”
“The Grand Host is attacking?” she asked. “Without me? That’s…”
I waited a sec after she trailed off.
“That’s not good,” she finished. “It might mean…”
She trailed off again. People do that around me, I’ve noticed. I think they start talking because someone is there, but stop when they remember who I am.
I looked down at Predictor, at Slicer, feeling a vague sense of anticlimax. I’d really wanted to kill them.
I used a toe to flip him over, and was somehow not surprised to see a note in his hands.
“What’s that?” asked Zilla.
Her shoulders slumped a bit as she saw it.
On the paper was written, in pale wet ink.
“Of course I can tell you why the attack is happening it. It is because”
The rest was washed out by his and Slicer’s bloodstains.

Regime Quest: 4

Results from previous round:
Three votes

TalonOfAntares Entry (SV Forum)

One vote:

Skiverus Entry (TFD Blog)

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

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

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

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

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

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

[X] Subtracter.

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

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

[X] Maker

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

[X] Masher

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

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

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

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

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

[x] Improving people’s lives and helping them

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

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

9 <Target?>

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

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

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

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

Start fresh, Mia. Get this right.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I looked back to the paper.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I slipped into the hall.

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

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

He trailed off, once again indicating the cupcake.

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

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

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

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

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

He looked away, guiltily.

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

“No,” he said, unconvincingly.

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

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

“What’s this then?” I asked.

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

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

His head shaking became faster, more emphatic.

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

“Not a bit of apple,” he said.

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

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

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

A slice of apple glistened on it.

“What did I tell-“

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That thought led to another.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Days remaining: 30

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

Prestige: 3

Timeslots available: 2 (morning, afternoon)

Posse: 0 out of 3 slots filled

Force size: 0

Condition: Uninjured

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

Ultra Allies:

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

Ultra Enemies:

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

Ultra Acquaintances:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Faction Rankings:

Regime 7

KEM 8

Pantheon 2

Union 4

Resistance 9

Prevailer 3

*************************************************************************************
Personal Actions:

Action: Seek Target Information [Company] :

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

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

Timeslot cost: 1

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

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

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

Timeslot cost: 1

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

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

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

Timeslot cost: 1

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

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

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

Timeslot cost: 2

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

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

Concerns: Snitcher may disapprove of a warlord being civil

Timeslot cost: 1

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

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

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

Timeslot cost: 2

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

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

Timeslot cost: 1

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

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

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

Concerns: None

Timeslot cost: 1

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

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

Concerns: None

Timeslot cost: 1

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

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

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

Timeslot cost: 1

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

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

Concerns: None

Timeslot cost: 1

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

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

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

Timeslot cost: 1

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

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

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

Timeslot cost: 1

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

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

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

Timeslot cost: 1

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

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

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

Timeslot cost: 1

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

Motive: I could do with some relaxation and rest

Concerns: None

Timeslot cost: 1

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

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

Concerns: None

Timeslot cost: 1

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

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

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

Timeslot cost: 1

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

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

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

Timeslot cost: 1

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

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

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

Timeslot cost: 1

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

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

Concerns: None

Timeslot cost: 1

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

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

Motive: [Write In]

Concerns: [Write In]

Timeslot cost: [Write In]

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

Vote input format

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

Thanks for reading/playing!

Condemner 8:2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Hi!” I said.

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

“Easy there,” I said.  “Easy.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Union Ultra.  This should be fun.

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

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

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

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

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

“I surrender!” I tried.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He rushed back to his computer.

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

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

Ah ha.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I cut off the flow of pleading.

“My unit?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

He nodded furiously, pointing to the screen.

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

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

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

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

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

“No,” I said.  “You are just ashes.”

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

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

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

How could this be?

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

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

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

Wait, that wasn’t right.

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

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

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

Regime Quest: 3

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

Two votes
TalonOfAntares entry
Lurker

One vote:
Reflector
Neutralyzer

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

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Winning Entry

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

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Weirdness Points available in round 3: 5

Character creation 3: Finishing up

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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Rules stuff:

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

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

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

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

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

Condemner 8:1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Word,” I said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What are your names?” I asked.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Where’s she going?” asked Arrow.

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

They looked to one another, thrown.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Get out of here,” I told her.

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

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

 

 

Regime Quest : 2

Results from last time:

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

2 vote:
Lurker
Nameless (via Sufficient Velocity thread)

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

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

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

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

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

1. <Who am I?>

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

2. <Real name?>

[ ] Write In

3. <Gender?>

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

4. <Time as an Ultra?>

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

5. <Reason for Being Processed?>

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

6. <Gift choice>

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

7.<Loyalty>

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

8.<Sponsor?>

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


Second Section, for this section you have 4 WP

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

[ ] Write In

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

[ ] Write in

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

14.<Tally>

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

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

15. <Notoriety>

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

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

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

Thanks for participating!