It was rather difficult to test things on a group without a group, so in addition to Midnight and I, we got Sir Kalman, Calculator, Current, and Lustre to volunteer. It would have been easier to just get Squad Ten if we wanted a group, but he was also just one person so for this particular scenario that wasn’t actually helpful. Ultimately, we got the people with nothing to do… and Calculator who wanted to be there for experiments.
“We’ll be starting off with something simple,” I explained. “Force Armor doesn’t use a lot of mana and doesn’t have a lot of risk if something goes weird. So we’ll be attempting that.”
“What’s the purpose here again?” Lustre asked. If others had been free it would have been better to not have him, because his power literally involved distraction. But as long as he wasn’t trying, the effect wasn’t too bad.
“I want to cast a spell on multiple people.”
“Can’t you do that already?” he asked.
I shook my head. “Only one at a time. In a combat scenario, that means both the time to shape sufficient mana as well as the required downtime between casts.”
“It might also use less mana total,” Calculator said. “Given the potential that such a thing acts like a higher level spell. Though that’s an extrapolation from… unreliable literature.”
“He means fantasy wikis,” I said. “Anyway, I don’t know if crossdimensional inspiration will be right about this particular thing, but it could be. And I had a feeling that it might be possible. So, let’s get started. Everyone gather round, please.”
Force Armor and many other spells were best cast from close up. Often touching, but it wasn’t actually required. I gathered mana for Force Armor, reached out and… a flash of light sent me staggering back. Well, that was better than when Midnight and I first attempted Shocking Grasp together. Which is why I had been trying Force Armor. But it didn’t stick to anyone and kind of fizzled away.
I frowned. “Okay, clearly I need to be more specific with my aiming.” I had been thinking of everyone at once, maybe I needed a primary target that it would sprout from? Like Chain Lightning. But without the lightning part. Just Force Armor.
I concentrated. Gathered a small bit of mana. Even before I cast, I knew it wasn’t correct. Well, it technically worked, but only as a normal casting. Sir Kalman had the spell on him, but nobody else.
“You need more mana,” Midnight advised.
“Well, yeah. It’s obvious when you say it, of course,” I shrugged. “Hmm, I suppose we have to remove that now.”
Sir Kalman nodded. He swung his gauntleted fist into his own chest. The first swing cracked the Force Armor, revealing its form as mana trickled out of cracks in nothing. The second one shattered it, and it was gone. It was kind of terrifying that Kalman could do so much damage with such a bad angle. That was basically as much as cracking a skull right in front of your own chest. Then again, we knew he was strong.
“Next attempt,” I said. I didn’t want to jump too much at once, so I went for double the base cost of the spell, trying to target Kalman and if I got a secondary target from there Lustre. Once more, the spell affected Sir Kalman- but the extra mana intended for Lustre simply fizzled away. “Double wasn’t enough,” I frowned.
“I’d expect triple or quadruple,” Calculator said. “Though in your case it might also increase to an odd number from where it is, given the wider range of spell levels.”
I nodded, “It would cost a lot more to try every point of mana, but I felt like I was getting closer.”
Midnight nodded, “There was something.”
I pondered. Triple the cost was next. Triple the cost for two castings was less mana efficient, so unless I had vast quantities of mana and extremely little time, it would be inefficient. But maybe that was how things were going to be. Or maybe I was tricking myself, and this wasn’t actually possible.
Triple. 6 mana, since I didn’t want to assume the cost reductions from upgrades would apply in this situation. Sir Kalman and Lustre. I felt the spell take hold on the two of them, but between the three of us erupted a quantity of leftover magic that immediately shattered the Force Armor just formed- both theirs and mine.
“Ugh, what?” I held my head. “Double isn’t enough, but triple is… far too much?”
“It worked though, right?” Midnight asked. “I felt it form on the two of them. Before it broke.”
Calculator poked his head closer. “Indeed, I saw the visual effects. Mage, how many targets were you envisioning?”
“Well it hadn’t gotten to two yet, so it was just them,” I said.
“And what proportion of the mana would it have taken to cause such an explosion in the middle there?” he asked.
“I’m not really sure,” I said. “Honestly, uncontrolled like that it shouldn’t have been able to break the armor. Because magic should be less powerful when unintentional. I think. To be honest, a year ago I wouldn’t have thought it could be… inexact.”
“Regardless,” Calculator said. “It should require at least one more target. And it may do you well to consider a fourth. I must ask, did you get an ability for this?”
Looking at my status window, I shook my head. “Nope, nothing. I probably have to do it right, first.”
Fourth attempt. This time, it would be 6 mana again. Three targets? No, four was best. And one of them being myself or Midnight would be… a bad idea at the moment. So that meant everyone.
“Okay, everyone get ready. I won’t be using more mana so the worst that can happen is… that again. But I’m including you two now also,” I pointed to Calculator and Current. The two of them nodded.
6 mana. It should at least affect Calculator as well. Current was in my mind as the final target if there was enough mana. And if it split a weaker version between everyone, we’d still learn something. I held onto the mana for a brief moment before releasing it with my mental command. I was worried about another backfire or… something. But instead the magic settled in place without a fuss.
A quick tap on everyone with something sharp confirmed the presence of Force Armor, though I could sense the active spell regardless.
“I guess it worked,” I said.
Time to check this window.
|Turlough (No surname)|
|Storage +5 (4|1)
Firebolt +4 (3|1)
Shocking Grasp +5 (3|2)
Grease +3 (2|1)
Force Armor +7 (6|1)
Mage’s Reach +4 (2|2)
Translation +2 (1|1)
Alter Time Flow +5 (4|1)
Familiar Bond +7 (4|3)
Energy Ward +3 (2|1)
Sonic Lance +4 (3|1)
Scrying +3 (1|2)
Stoneskin +3 (2|1)
Mana Crystal Deposition +4 (1|3)
Variable Freedom +2
Basic Light Magic +2 (1|1)
Locate Object +2
Alter Portal +1 (0|1)
Gate +3 (2|1)
Arcane Sight +1 (0|1)
Sending +2 (0|2)
Chain Lightning +2 (1|1)
Clean +1 (0|1)
Shelter +1 (0|1)
Assistive Familiar Casting +2 (0|2)
Remaining Points: 17
Quite a bit of progress there. Familiar Bond had improved once naturally. I’d spent a good amount of points to get Gate two upgrades, but all my use since returning to Graotan and then Earth had ended up with a natural improvement as well. That also ended up improving Assistive Familiar Casting. Locate Creature hadn’t combined with Locate Object… though I assumed it had to get an improvement for that. Mostly we had been using Scrying, but there was also the odd factor that they were different levels unlike my other combined spells.
And then there it was. Multicasting. With only one successful use it was difficult to say precisely how it worked, but for precisely Force Armor with a base cost of 2 mana, it cost 6 for four targets. Which was both more time and mana efficient. But there were quite a few experiments yet required.
“Alright,” I said. “Next we should have Midnight attempt this. I don’t expect it to be any different but…” I shrugged. I explained to him what it felt like. 6 mana, four targets. It wasn’t that crazy or anything.
Before Midnight could test it, of course, people had to remove the Force Armor in whatever way they were comfortable. Lustre just let Sir Kalman punch him, which ended up with him having a broken nose dripping blood for approximately five seconds. Calculator also asked for Sir Kalman’s assistance, but angled himself so that Force Armor exactly broke and Sir Kalman’s fist slipped past him. Current… well, I just used some of the stored mana in my staff to dispel the effect.
“Thanks,” she said. “I’m not really meant for… combat roles.”
I didn’t really understand that myself, but that was her choice. And her powers really weren’t geared towards it. She was only here because it was something to do that would still let her rest for whatever we were up to next. Shutting down a whole factory took some effort.
With the ability officially notated, it wasn’t a surprise that Midnight succeeded the first time. He knew what to do, and our bond helped smooth over any issues. It was probably still something that should have been difficult, but we hadn’t trained together to end up not better at things.
“Alright, now we need to test for some sort of… level limit?” I tilted my head. “So I plan to jump to the next spell that would be most useful for this with the least complications. Which is to say Haste. It’s a good bit more expensive but… it should be manageable.” The only things intermediate in cost were Disguise and Energy Ward, and the former had weird choices that I didn’t want to mess around with for purposes of Multicasting. Energy Ward would probably be fine, but I just wanted to know if this spell would work.
15 mana. This would also serve as a test of whether or not upgrades and ‘overcasting’ to improve power applied in this scenario. Specifically, Calculator would be determining whether things were closer to three or four times in terms of relative time. Though a simple timer would tell us the duration, which was also one of the factors.
I was worried the spell might not split in four. Or that there might be some other factor at play. We were only assuming a triple cost. It could have scaled higher or it might be less for a different spell. But I let my intentions guide my mana, and it felt natural up until the fifteen mark. I could have tried to push past, but I didn’t know to what purpose. Much further and I would reach my fatigue point and risk other issues.
The magic split out from me and… the small movements people made while standing still were instantly amplified. I heard the sounds of accelerated conversation. Though it was our job to make sure they could see examples of ‘normal’ movement for Calculator’s sake.
“Looks like it worked from here,” I said to Midnight. “It’s not that different from before, of course. But if we can save a quarter of our mana costs, I feel like we can accomplish a lot.”
“I suppose this would make me mainly responsible for augmenting the two of us?” Midnight asked.
“Yeah, I don’t think you can actually cast it like this,” I admitted. “Fatigue points and all that. It would be a few levels.”
Soon enough the experiment was done. Or rather, it was one minute from my perspective. Pretty much exactly, which meant…
“No upgrades,” Calculator said. “Though I assumed as much. The flimsiness of that Force Armor…” he shook his head.
“That’s too bad,” I said. “And if that’s the case… it might actually be better to manually Haste people. It would be 1 more mana for both a greater effect and longer duration on four people. But,” I held up a finger. “I suspect it follows the same rules as Assistive Familiar Casting. Which is to say, its own upgrades limit the base spell. I… assume.” I shrugged, “We won’t know until we can get at least one upgrade. Which would cost…” How much would it cost? Mentally half-spending the points, I estimated 10. Which I could spend, but I kind of wanted to go for natural upgrades which still seemed easier to get first. And with no guarantee how that upgrade would help, I decided to save the points.
Calculator’s phone got his attention. Then he sighed.
“What is it?” I asked.
“Just realizing that a city-wide portal event in New Bay is no longer enough to merit a high priority message to me.”
“Why’d it beep then?” I asked.
He looked around at us. “A good question, isn’t it? We’ll be going to Lady Recollection to meet with her on this topic. But it appears that someone failed to follow supervillain separation protocol and an incident has occurred.”
“… What does that mean?” Current asked, looking down as her own phone got a message as well. “Oh. They just all escaped together?”
“All of who?” Sir Kalman asked as we strode towards the hall.
“Every super we secured in the last week,” Calculator replied.
“So we did all that for nothing?” Lustre complained.
Calculator shook his head. “We still rescued quite a few people, and there are a good number of individuals still in containment. Just not the supers.”
That was a shame. Someone really screwed up. But it wasn’t us and ultimately this meant the Power Brigade was doubtless going to get paid again so things weren’t that bad. Kind of a shame, though. A proper break would have been nice.