Contracts

Well, my human friend, it looks like you've managed to survive long enough to find another mirror. I'm glad to hear it, since I still expect to collect on what you owe me, eventually.
Since you are here, let's talk about alternative ways for you to keep yourself alive, in the event you find you just can't keep yourself away from the Mad City, and you aren't willing to become a Denizen or a Nightmare like Yours Truly.


Here in Nezzanika, we have a certain fondness for transactions, deals, bargains, gambles, and contracts of all varieties. A ten-minute visit to the Bizarre Bazaar will make this readily apparent to you, at the level of basic goods (such as Dream Honey and Wax Repellent) and services (like memory purging, accounting, spirits distillery, and cartography). You have also no doubt discovered that any Nightmare who abstains from killing, eating, mutilating, or otherwise inconveniencing you will demand later payment for the courtesy. However, being a newbie to our world, you may not yet have run afoul of those who would offer you transactions of another variety.


The generic term for such individuals is 'Dealers,' and if you need it, they've got it: drugs, sex, money, a way out, protection, and most importantly, power - a way to stay in the Mad City, without going mad quite as quickly as you might, with only your Awake powers at your disposal. If you've got a wish, there is a Dealer out there who can grant it.



Every possible Deal, every Contract, has its own specific set of rules involved. This particular discussion will focus on Dealers who offer wishes, powers, talents, and abilities to any person- Awake, Lost, Sleeper, or Taken- who is willing to sign the Contract and pay the toll at the conclusion of that relationship. It is worth remembering two things up-front, when engaging in such transactions: First, whatever power is gained will probably never be as virtually omnipotent or omniscient as your Madness Talent. The tradeoff for this, of course, is that it will probably also be much more reliable than your Madness Talent, and it won't force you to become a Nightmare over time. It will also probably be much stronger than your Exhaustion Talent, so there is certainly a balance to be had. Second, none of these Contracts is an 'easy way out.' All of them come with sacrifices to be made. If your Dealer's offering saves you from going mad and becoming a Nightmare, or saves you from crashing and dying, it isn't because the Dealer has any particular fondness for you... he just doesn't want to see his investment wasted on somebody who won't pay him back later.


Now let's talk about the types of Dealer and Contractor (the one on the 'receiving end' of the deal).


First up, there are the Faustian Dealers[1]: devils, demons, evil spirits, and the like. A Faustian Contractor literally offers up his soul in exchange for the demon's service and protection, or for a powerful Talented Artifact, or for some other wish. The most common Faustian Contract is one in which the demon serves the Contractor as a butler and bodyguard. The Contractor carries the demon's sigil somewhere on their body, and the more visible the sigil, the more powerful and extensive the contract. Of all the deals available to you, this is generally the fairest shake you will be offered, as long as you negotiate it intelligently. A demon can go toe-to-toe with a Nightmare and win handily, most of the time, with a few exceptions. Beyond protecting you, the demon's utmost goal at all times is to respond adequately and immediately to your every request and whim. The loss of your soul is fairly small change, when you consider the fact that most things in Nezzanika are perfectly capable of stealing it from you, without asking first. If you decide to take on a Faustian Contract, be careful not to run into any Angels: they might just make it their business to 'purify' you, and that doesn't tend to be survivable.



Second, there are the Djinni: wish-granting desert spirits who tend to hole up in bottles, teapots, lanterns, and other small vessels. Not all djinn are total jerkasses, but most of them are, and they will respond to your wishes in the most 'creative' way possible, based on how you phrase it. As a rule, avoid this type of Contract, and for the love of gods, don't wish those ************* free.



Third, if you happen to be a human female between ages eight and twenty-or-so, you can try to find yourself an Incubator[2], one of the self-styled "Messengers of Magic." Actually... you don't have to worry about finding them. They will find you, if they are interested and look promising. It's a pretty basic deal, by Nezzanika standards: they give you a wish in exchange for your soul, your combat expertise, and all your most painful emotions. You gain magic super fighting powers, a cool costume, and awesome weapons. You probably also gain a team of other Magical Girls to fight alongside you, and you will probably be directed to fight against what the Incubator calls Witches. Don't worry, you'll be powerful enough to fight them, just like the Awake in a group are powerful enough to take down Nightmares. Just keep something in mind, if you decide to take on an Incubator's Contract: it isn't much different from jumping out of the frying pan and into the fire, and like any member of the Awake, you remain perpetually at high risk of becoming the very thing you are fighting against.



Fourth are the Fighter Units[3], and this category is probably both the most unevenly weighted in the Dealer's favour, and also the least potentially permanently damaging. You get paired up with one other person, as a team, a Unit, and one of you is the Fighter, while the other is the Sacrifice. Here's the gist of it: the Fighter can use words as weapons, literally. Say 'explosion,' and something explodes. Say 'shield,' and it defends you from stuff. You can't recycle words you've already used, so you have to stay on your toes for creativity. The Sacrifice gets the ****** end of the deal: all injury which would harm the Fighter is inflicted on the Sacrifice instead, and it's totally up to the Fighter to keep himself and the Sacrifice safe using the funky word-powers. The upside of the deal is that willing Sacrifices are hard to come by, so it's a buyer's market: you can shop around and find the strongest unpartnered Fighter available. He'll be eager to keep you happy, since your partnership basically means he's functionally invulnerable to harm.



Fifth is Alchemy[4], which is a different flavour of Contract from the rest listed here. You find a Senior Alchemist and apprentice yourself to her, instead of finding or being found by a Dealer. You study your ass off while you try to stay alive; you learn how to perform fancy tricks and pyrotechnics. You obey the principle of Equivalent Exchange, because the City will enforce it with a vengeance if you try to trespass on that ultimate law. The 'payment' for this power, beyond whatever price your Senior names, will be that your services will be in demand by some, and hunted down by others. In general, you can fully expect to never be left alone, but in a City of this size, it would be unreasonable for anybody to expect otherwise. Oh, and expect to be especially pursued by the District: they like to conscript alchemists into service, and you seriously don't want Tock to consider you one of his subordinates. Who do you think does the grisly work of making Clockwork Deputies and Pinheads look the way they do? Yep. Alchemists. There's a rumour I've heard whispered, that the City Herself runs on the blood of alchemists, and that the physical transformation of Awake into Nightmare is enabled by semi-random transmutational energy leftover from too-ambitious alchemical projects which went awry. While this Contract gives you a lot of personal autonomy and doesn't demand you sell your soul or other intangibles, it's still risky as hell, and it doesn't necessarily make your Madness go away... it just gives you a way to convert your Madness into other things, if you're clever enough. I list Alchemy here among Dealers and Contracts because, like all the others, it's very difficult if not impossible to depart from this path once you start down it: the City itself will work against your attempts to escape or change your mind.


Next are Geass Dealers[5]: in the middle of a life-or-death situation, one of these bastards shows up, freezes time, and says, "Bro, wanna' survive this situation? I can make that happen. Just make a wish and sign the contract." He doesn't tell you up-front what you're expected to do as later payment, but it doesn't really matter so much, since right now, this guy is the only thing keeping you alive. You sign the contract, duh, and suddenly you have a pretty ******' sweet psychic power of some kind- and it IS only psychic and mental type powers, mind-warpy ****, nothing which directly impacts physics or anything- and you use that power to survive the situation. You keep the power, and the Dealer, called a Coder, sticks around and helps you out, like a sidekick. Got some huge ambitions? They'll help you achieve them.
So what's the catch, you ask? Well, your sidekick is an ageless immortal with the ability to survive every possible injury, even being blown up or chopped into tiny bits, and he doesn't much wanna' be immortal any longer. The Mad City has lots and lots of ways to make it not too fun to live forever. The deal is basically that as your Geass power grows over time, eventually it will start acting without you even meaning to use it, totally out of control, and your Coder will say, "I can make the power go away, save your life and your sanity. All you have to do is take my Code-" and by this he means, take the thing that makes him immortal. So you take it, and you lose your Geass power, and your buddy dies on the spot. Now you're immortal in the Mad City, and the only way to truly end it is to find some other poor schlub and pass the power onto him. Get it now? Pretty ******* sick, if you ask me, but I can see its usefulness.


Then there are the Abyssal Dealers, also called Chains[6]. These are sorta' like demons, but they come from someplace even worse than Hell, by all standards, called the Abyss. The Chain approaches you much like the Coder does: right when you're about to die, or the situation is looking really ugly. They offer you access to their nearly-cosmic-but-not-quite powers. Your side of the deal is that you have to smuggle them out of the Mad City. This is a lot harder than it sounds, and frankly, I don't advise it. We don't need these scary sons-of-******* getting out into the Slumber.
Oh, and there's a time limit on getting them out, and if you don't do it fast enough, the Chain will eat you.



Finally, but not nearly the least significant of the lot, there are the Gatewalkers. These Contractors are the most similar to you Awake types; they've spent enough time going in and out of the Mad City that they've managed to figure out ways to dodge the Madness. The thing with this particular Contract is, you aren't actually making it with a specific person or entity. You basically just enter or exit Nezzanika one night, after spending some of your emotions or a part of your soul or conscience at the Bazaar, and you realize that your powers have changed in a significant way. What really happened? Well, you basically got rid of enough of your intrinsic humanity that you stopped feeding your parasitic Madness Talent, and it forced the Talent to look for food through other methods- namely, getting you to kill other things, so that it can feed on them instead of on your eroding psyche. You turned your parasite into a symbiote, and now it's more interested in keeping you awake and alive than killing you and hatching from your fallen body. You still pay for the privilege, always, but your new existence is vastly more sustainable.
The purest form of Gatewalker is the Doll[7]: this person has surrendered the last drop of emotion they've got in them, and probably a huge chunk of their soul, and now they've become a kind of passive medium and developed some seriously excellent powers of surveillance and reconnaissance. A Doll's body is helpless while her spirits are out roaming the world, so Dolls tend to partner up with other Gatewalkers for protection.
The next-purest form is the Contractor[8]. This person gave up their conscience and moral attitudes, and most if not all their emotions. They've got a very pragmatic and survivalist mindset, but they are now completely immune to true Madness, and their Madness Talent changes to become something less quasi-omnipotent, but also more accessible, dependable, and easy to control. Where a Doll pays for their powers by being helpless while using them, a Contractor pays for his powers a different way: whatever his power is, he now has a specific obsessive compulsion he has to follow, an obeisance or price he pays every single time he uses the power. Usually it's something uncomfortable, annoying, painful, or humiliating, and there doesn't seem to be any rational connection between the power and its payment, most of the time.
Oh, and Contractors have to kill to stay alive. It doesn't seem to matter too much what species the target actually is, but each Contractor seems to prefer a specific victim- other Contractors, Awake, Nightmares, but most often Sleepers back in the Slumber. There are few assassins as effective as Contractors, and they get hired very frequently to take out people in the Slumber, who create problems for citizens of Nezzanika. They also get hired by government agencies in the Slumber, to silence any Nezzanika escapees who get a little too vocal about their misadventures.
The next category of Gatewalker is the Moratorium[9]. A Moratorium is what happens when a Gatewalker's transformation doesn't resolve tidily into Doll or Contractor: they end up with a massive offensive power, even huger than most Contractor powers, but they don't have to pay any obeisance for using it. The power is activated during a panic-mode trance state and is basically totally uncontrollable. The Moratorium still has a normal human conscience and emotions, except during this trance state. This is basically what happens when a person starts transforming away from Madness, but doesn't finish the job fast enough to avoid the parasitic Madness Talent noticing and fighting back against it. Moratoria don't tend to live very long, since their lack of control over their own powers can cause buildings to burn down or collapse while the individual is still inside.
The last kind of Gatewalker is the Regressor[10]. This is an Awake person who snapped into Madness or crashed with Exhaustion, but managed to survive and recover from it, and got out of the City and back to the Slumber. They gave up all their powers, beyond the ability to see entrances to the City, and to recognize the presence of Nightmares. A Regressor goes back to being a 'normal person,' for all intents and purposes- a true Sleeper. But she isn't a true Sleeper, not really, and what makes her a Regressor is that she manages to regain her powers, but is now in control of them and immune to the Madness, and vastly more powerful than any basic Contractor. This is the kind of person that even Boss Nightmares try to avoid- somebody who went over the edge of Madness and came back from it, with all their powers intact and totally in their control.



All of these varieties of Dealer and Contract are proportionally very rare compared to Nightmares and Awake people in Nezzanika, but they are out there, and now you know what some of your backup options might be. Just remember not to depend on any of these, if you're actually in a tight spot: every last one of them can complicate your life, as much and more than they can save it. Given the option between these paths and being a Nightmare, a lot of them make Nightmare life seem pretty damn posh.


And... I mean... you already know what I chose.


See you on the flipside, mate. Don't forget about that favour you owe me.
-The Looking Glass





Sources:
[1] Faustian Contract, Black Butler wiki. Black Butler, Yana Tobosco. 2006.
[2] Kyubey, Puella Magi wiki. Puella Magi Madoka Magica, Akiyuki Shinbo. 2011.
[3] Sacrifice, Loveless Wiki. Loveless, Yun Koga. 2005.
[4] Fullmetal Alchemist, Hiromu Arakawa. 2001.
[5] Geass, Code Geass wiki. Code Geass, Ichiro Okouchi. 2006.
[6] Chains, Pandora Hearts wiki. Pandora Hearts, Jun Mochizuki. 2006.
[7] Doll, Darker Than Black wiki. Darker Than Black, Tensai Okamura. 2007.
[8] Contractor, Darker Than Black wiki. Darker Than Black, Tensai Okamura. 2007.
[9] Moratorium, Darker Than Black wiki. Darker Than Black, Tensai Okamura. 2007.
[10] Regressor, Darker Than Black wiki. Darker Than Black, Tensai Okamura. 2007.

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