We were just about ready to storm a particular factory, but checking the current conditions was a decent priority. Especially since we wanted to keep track of the captives there. Using a plain old mirror- though at least a large one- an image slowly came into focus as I wrestled against the modestly effective scrying anchors they had in place.
Into focus drifted some dwarves carrying tools and working with unfamiliar machinery. Their language was… still unfamiliar to me. Fortunately, Sir Kalman translated the few lines before my magic began to catch up.
“So we’ve got these bolts,” said one dwarf.
“Right,” another nodded.
“And some screws.”
“Plus some big wrenches,” the first dwarf frowned. “I’m going to be honest, I don’t fully remember the introduction we got. These seem like some sort of forges?”
“Could be.” Some of the others shrugged.
“And we’re supposed to maintain or upgrade or… watch them work?” the lead dwarf gestured to a lever, and then pulled it. “Because it seems to mostly do what it’s supposed to with just this doohickey here.”
At this point, Translation was properly picking up, but I wasn’t quite done with needing Sir Kalman’s help. Calculator and the others would want the translations anyway.
“Gerard. You’re an artificer, right? Understand any of this crap?”
“I’m barely an artificer, Scrag,” he frowned. “Haven’t gotten the practice. You know our town. And then we came out here because… because…”
The dwarves began to look around confused, but a woman came into the picture, just barely hovering at the edge of the visible area. It was difficult to tell through Scrying, but I had the feeling there was a wave of power of some sort.
“Oh, it’s the boss,” the one known as Scrag said. “We’d better get to work.”
“Yep,” said Gerard, in agreement with the others hanging around. “We came to this… city… to perform our jobs… after all?”
“Yeah…” Scrag said, his frown briefly returning.
The woman called ‘the boss’ spoke up… in pretty clipped dwarven. “These things,” she gestured to the machines. “You imbue it with dwarf magic.”
“Yeah. Dwarf magic,” Gerard nodded. I saw the wrench he was holding glow, then tap on the side of a conveyor belt. It… probably did something.
The woman continued to speak, but before we could really hear more the Scrying faded.
Everyone present looked at each other. “Well, that’s concerning,” Calculator said. “Some sort of mind control, surpassing language barriers?” He looked to Lady Recollection. “I didn’t read of any registered supers with any powers like that. Was I missing something or…?”
“I don’t believe that such powers are registered,” the older woman said. “If you understand my point.”
“Straight to villainy then,” Calculator shook his head. “We’ll have to be careful about this one.”
“I prefer my mind uncontrolled,” I said. “Or… only by me?” I tilted my head.
“Best to face such things with an iron will,” Sir Kalman said.
“I have Mental Freedom,” I said. “So that’s what I have to use.”
“We’ll need to plan battle strategies,” Calculator said. “We can’t know how fast the mind control would take effect. And it seems to be usable on groups.”
“Even if it can’t,” Squad Ten interjected. “It would be problematic if it was used on me. I have mental resistance training, but I can’t guarantee to resist such things.”
“How many people can you affect with Mental Freedom?” Calculator asked me.
“Between Midnight and I, 8. Or 9, if two of them are us. But then we’re basically down for the count. No mana left for other stuff.”
“Then it should be yourselves, Dart, Squad Ten, and Sir Kalman. Assuming bringing her down negates or at least loosens the control.”
Lustre cleared his throat. Everyone locked eyes on him. “I know I’m not the greatest offensive threat but I don’t think you should underestimate what happens if I’m compromised.”
“And that’s why,” Calculator said. “I’ll be recommending you sit out this particular one. We’re not expecting a great many guards here. And I would expect a mental manipulator to be more resistant to your particular abilities to begin with. You’re welcome to convince me otherwise, and I’m not the final say but…” he shrugged.
“No, that’s fair,” Lustre admitted, “I can remain on standby.”
“What about me?” Agent Smoke asked.
Lady Recollection answered that. “You’re not supposed to end up in direct combat anyway. We were planning to just have you flood the factory floor, but… the Building and Safety Division was quite against it. Leaving machinery unsupervised and more relevantly potentially having innocent workers fall unconscious…” she shook her head. “It would be better if you simply helped secure the perimeter instead of going in.”
“And me?” Current brought the attention to herself. “I can turn off any troublesome machinery, but I’d likely have to go inside.”
I was able to answer that, “That would leave me with a tolerable amount of mana left, as long as we don’t have to fight many other supers…” Something around two chain lightnings. A little less, since I was keeping up Translation on Sir Kalman, but I could instead throw out four or five Sonic Lances. Or maybe just stick to support… nah, that sounded like garbage experience. I needed to fight.
The ability to be prepared for certain contingencies was very useful, and the good new was even if we were wrong about the particulars of this woman’s powers Mental Freedom would still be helpful. Unless everything was a massive ruse and she was controlling every physical action of the dwarves including having them chatter in a language she barely seemed to speak. Though her speaking it at all was… weird. She definitely seemed like a local super, not someone from my world. Then again, mind powers.
“Man,” I said to Midnight as we wrapped up casting Mental Freedom five times. “It really is a pain to buff a bunch of people, isn’t it?”
“It would be nice if we could cover everyone at once,” Midnight admitted. “But everything affects just one person. Except us, I suppose.”
“And Squad Ten,” I said. He’d been a little bit reluctant to do tests- probably being secretive about his powers- but ultimately we determined that I could apply stuff to all of him if he allowed it. It didn’t necessarily work if he wasn’t trying to make it possible, though that could have been subconscious resistance. Either way, Squad Ten was more a single person than Midnight and I. We just had a bond as mage and familiar plus a Celmothian mental bond sort of haphazardly included.
We were looking at a warehouse that should ultimately just be one large factory floor. Nominally it was producing some sort of cybernetic parts, but it was unclear if that was actually the case at the current time. Or what the dwarves were there for, as it seemed to have taken a while to actually get them working, and they still might not be doing whatever was wanted of them.
Maybe they had strong willpower, or the mind controller’s power was limited somehow. It would be nice if she was weak and everything went smoothly, but I wasn’t going to count on it. Then again, if I said it was going to be easy I might jinx it. Then we could have a big fight and I would get a lot of experience.
Nah. Not worth the complaints.
It was unfortunate we couldn’t just smash open the doors, but we were here to rescue people. Including potentially mind controlled ones. We had a couple people rigged up with megaphones, for official announcements in english and dwarven. Funnily enough, heroes might have had more leeway to smash through a high window or something like that. But we definitely couldn’t do that working with Crown Forces. Nor did we have anyone who could fly or that was particularly good at climbing, so it was a moot point anyway.
“Petalton Mechatronics!” Squad Ten made the announcement from literally all over, as the official representative of Crown Forces along with Current. “All operating staff are under arrest for supervillainy and other crimes to be enumerated later! Come out with your hands up!”
We didn’t wait around to see if anyone would. Because they never did. Instead, Sir Kalman raised his sword up high, where it sparkled in the sun, ready to bring it down and smash through the door.
Until Current just grabbed the door handle and yanked it open. “Electronic lock. Literally less secure than a doorstop.”
Sir Kalman kept his sword ready as he held up his shield and the megaphone in his other hand. “How does this…?” he pressed the button and could hear it working. “Fellow dwarves, I know you might be confused as to your current circumstances, but we are here to help! Please gather around in an orderly fashion.”
We all moved in, with Midnight running beneath tables and conveyor belts and squeezing into areas we couldn’t to scout things out. Sir Kalman was in front, with Dart just a bit behind him. Current stopped a little bit inside, ducking down and placing her hands on part of the assembly line. I was behind Dart, with Squad Ten bringing up the rear.
I couldn’t see much with all the machinery in the way, just some vague shapes of people moving about, but nobody immediately opened fire or anything as we stepped in.
After we turned down the first row of machines we met a middle aged man determined to prove me wrong. His hands were in the air, and he called out as he heard us turning the corner. “I surrender!”
The man was dressed in clothing not too out of place for a factory environment, including thick work gloves. Sir Kalman stepped forward, his sword pointed vaguely towards the man. “Don’t give us any trouble and things will go much better for you.”
Something was weird. I recognized the feeling. Sir Kalman’s sword pointed near the man’s wrist but as soon as I began to say, “Watch out for-” it was already too late. Two of the man’s fingers grabbed the tip of Sir Kalman’s sword and flicked it out of his grip… which was a sight to see, because the dwarf was yanked a full step forward in the process. It took a lot to make him move.
That was the man’s left hand. His right came down, and he… flicked Sir Kalman on the forehead. Dart and I ducked as Sir Kalman turned into a projectile. One of Squad Ten got taken down, being packed in somewhat tighter.
“It’s only his hands!” I called out.
“Digits,” Dart said sternly.
“I’m pretty sure it’s the whole-”
“Dart.” Oh she wasn’t correcting me. Seemed like they knew each other. Or at least knew of each other.
Dart’s tongue shot out. The man’s arms moved strangely, and his fingers curled around her tongue. He didn’t yank his arm, but instead with just his wrists and fingers he caught her tongue in his gloved hands. A quick movement tossed her much further than it made sense for her to move given the physics involved. He didn’t even bend his elbow or shoulder, so she should at most have jerked forward half a foot. But instead she went flying into the wall.
Ugh. I stuck out my hand, casting Sonic Lance. The man Dart identified as Digits literally backhanded my spell with a flick of his wrist, and the machine next to him exploded. Well, his power might all be in his hands but he had pretty good senses, given my spells was basically invisible.
He began to walk calmly towards me, and I calmly backed away to the side… providing ample room for Squad Ten to bring the man down. A hail of gunfire rained down on the man- theoretically rubber bullets, but in such numbers they would probably kill most people. But there was only a very short burst of fire before Squad Ten stopped shooting to get cover of his own… because dozens of bullets ricocheted in all directions.
Wow, this guy was annoying. I began to gather mana for a Chain Lightning, one which would involve a little trick. But I stopped before I got there, sensing something.
Digits noticed as well, spinning his body and swinging his arms down. But they couldn’t reach Midnight, who charged in and clawed the man’s shin. With Shocking Grasp, of course. The man stepped, trying to stomp on Midnight… and in some brilliant maneuvering Midnight brushed against his other leg with a second quick cast of Shocking Grasp. Jolts of electricity went up both of the man’s legs as Midnight dashed underneath, causing him to entangle his legs with each other as his arms still tried desperately to get close to Midnight.
Supers were more resilient than others, but it seemed most of Digits everything was in his hands. He toppled forward, catching himself in something like a pushup position. Two bursts rang out. The man’s shoulders crumpled, and with that the rest of him.
Squad Ten stomped forward- just one of him. “Restraining this guy’s gonna be a real pain,” he muttered as he walked past. Then he raised his voice. “Just so you know, if you resist again I’m just shooting you in the head.”
The man groaned in pain as Squad Ten grabbed the man’s upper arms and yanked them behind his back, fitting a multi-size restraint around his biceps sequentially. That must have hurt like hell with his shoulder shot out, but I wasn’t going to pity him too much. He was the one who faked a surrender. Fighting straightforwardly I could respect. Surrendering I could respect. This? Not so much.
Digits struggled to reach his restraints, but it was a very tough position for his hands to reach. It might be possible with his shoulders as they were, but that was also the other thing keeping him from pushing that far. After a few grunts of pain he gave up. Squad Ten stomped down to shackle the man’s legs while at the same time reporting on the radio with another of him.
Dart was just climbing to her feet, and Sir Kalman was staggering back in through the hole in the warehouse wall.
“That was a good one, Midnight,” I said.
“Good thing the guy didn’t know how to use his toes, huh?”
I focused on the man’s feet, frowning. Nope, no power there. Boots would have been in the way anyway. “Yeah.” What a weird power. That said, we could have probably just kneecapped him if we’d been expecting him.