(Patreon) Mage Among Superheroes 109

-–Chapter Index–-

“Are you alright?” Captain Senan asked as I stood back up following the abrupt closure of the portal to hell.

“I should be,” I nodded. I hoped that counted as combat, but portals weren’t alive, or undead, or constructs. Were they constructs? Did I get experience for killing a portal? Unfortunately looking at my numbers it was hard to say. I kept a general track of my experience, but I didn’t obsessively check. Which meant I didn’t get much more than ten or twenty- though neither was exactly a negligible amount. “Familiar, did you feel that?” It felt weird calling Midnight his ‘official’ moniker, but we were on the job right now.

“I think so, Mage,” Midnight scurried over to me and hopped up my outstretched arm to climb onto my shoulder. “A large fluctuation of mana from the portal before it closed.”

“Yeah, but it basically took everything I had,” I said, “I would be surprised if I had more than a few points… of mana…” My speech slowed as I took stock of myself. I certainly wasn’t at full capacity, but I was over half. Considering I had almost passed out from mana exhaustion, it didn’t make sense. Neither overusing too much mana at once or running out altogether made sense with those results.

“It’s unfortunate to have you low on mana,” Ice Guy said, “But at least this portal is dealt with.”

“Yeah I suppose…” I frowned. “It was different from the others though.”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, I could fully see through it. Did the rest of you not see uh… hell?”

“I saw it,” Midnight confirmed, though that wasn’t the most helpful.

“Now that you mention it,” Shockfire said, “The other portals were either invisible or swirling barriers. We couldn’t see through them.”

“We’ll report this,” Ice Guy said. “But we need to get moving. This isn’t the only incident. Seems like another one of Doctor Doomsday’s… sprees.”

After a few moments of confirming that the civilians on the roof were stable- as I predicted, the imp’s poison acted much like a muscle relaxant- Captain Senan had resisted to some extend, but he was still unsteady on his feet. He and the civilians had small puncture wounds, but they were easily bandaged up.

“Could really use a cleric or a druid,” I said. “Or even a paladin.”

“We have healers back at HQ,” Captain Senan said as we made our way back into the elevator after checking the top floor’s hallways.

“Yeah, but they’re not exactly… field guys. Could use someone to fix you right up out here.”

He didn’t look as if he specifically disagreed, but he said nothing else as we walked out into the lobby. He only stopped to briefly inform the hotel staff to not let people back into the area until a proper sweep was performed- after the larger incident was resolved, of course.

When I stepped outside, I was hit in the chest, and then I heard a gunshot- in that order. I staggered back, but held my feet somehow. The second shot I was actually more prepared for, and by the third one my brain had done something besides just stand there and instead moved to dodge, which meant I got hit in the shoulder instead of the chest.

“Sniper!” Captain Senan called out even as he raised a wall of ice in front of us. Only after there was a good half foot of ice between us and subsequent shots did he turn to me. “Mage?”

“Francois is a freaking genius,” I said, taking note of one flattened bullet that had pierced my jacket but not the shirt beneath it. The other two had, but instead of blood there was just gray skin. “I’m alright. This is why I cast Stoneskin.” I was fairly certain the first shot had shattered my Force Armor, which meant that the entirety of that plus the two layers of defensive outfit were barely enough. 

“… how much better did you say Stoneskin was compared to your Force Armor?”

“Twenty. Well, fourteen because I have more upgrades in Force Armor. But at a base, twenty.” Speaking of which, I reapplied the Force Armor spell. One and a half mana to save me obtaining new holes was definitely worth it. As I did so, my eyes looked into the night, down the street. Shots had stopped after the three that hit me and then a few extra hitting Ice Guy’s wall, the damage to which was being actively repaired. “This would be a great time to call in Shockwave’s favor if we weren’t in a whole emergency thing.”

“Do you think it’s Deimos?”

“Handface? Probably. Can’t quite make him out.” The ice wall and the distance were both not helping. I had some vague sense of something a few blocks away, which was still too far for any of my magic. But I was tired of getting attacked by the guy, and I wanted to be able to track him. Or at least determine if I had even spotted him. “One sec,” I said, casting Shield as I lifted my front up onto the ice wall. 

A flash and an impact that shattered through my Shield, Force Armor, and left tusk before striking my upper lip and deflecting off of my face told me that my target was still there- and with a bit of anger and a bit of intention I shoved mana at the origin. Nothing I had could go far enough to reach him, but I did it anyway. I was rewarded by a very faint curse and a flicker of light in a window down the street. 

“Damn that hurt!” I said, “I think I tagged him though!” 

Ice Guy yanked me down. “Are you crazy?”

“Crazy would be letting him continue to shoot me on his terms!” I said. I took a deep breath. “I can feel him moving now. Come on, we can catch him!” As I began to step around the ice wall, I felt my feet suddenly attached to the floor, and of course quite cold. “Come on, don’t make me spend mana to get out of this.”

“As captain of the team it is my duty to keep my squad members safe,” he said. He looked between me and the rest of the squad. “Haste yourself and Familiar, and have Familiar do the same for me. If he’s truly on the move, we’ll need speed to catch up and stop him. I’ll create barriers along the way for the rest to follow.”

“I’m not worried about getting shot either,” Acid Man said. “I could use one as well.”

“I’ll do it,” Midnight said. “Mage needs to save the rest of what he has.”

“Thanks,” I said. “Let’s get moving.” As soon as Midnight cast Haste on our captain the ice by my feet faded away, and at the same time I was empowering myself and Midnight. I didn’t wait the extra couple seconds for Acid Man to get the same treatment, instead I began moving. 

Anticipating shots coming my way, I moved in what I hoped to be an unpredictable pattern, making use of what small cover the street provided- and staying out of the light as much as possible. I couldn’t be sure if Handface had equipment to see me, if he was changing positions, if my tossing a tiny bit of hopefully sticky light had actually affected him or something else moving- but I had to move. And move I did, running with all my might towards what I felt. It felt like an eternity but was probably no more than a few actual seconds before Midnight was moving with me- taking a straight line instead of dodging and weaving. He was a smaller target, probably faster, and to top it all off he still had a fully intact Stoneskin.

I assumed the others were on the way too, from the vague feel of Ice Guy’s power popping up behind me, but I wasn’t focused on that or what was probably blood dripping down into my mouth from my tusk or cheek or both. 

Running a few hundred feet should have taken me somewhere between ten and fifteen seconds, but it felt like much longer and shorter at the same time. Regardless of the actual time, I saw the lit up, bald head of Handface sprinting out of a hotel and around a corner by the time I was actually halfway, which meant he’d probably started moving the instant my light spell touched him. Smart guy.

What wasn’t smart was that when he rounded the corner he ran right through a bunch of tiny green dragons. They would totally bite his ankles off and- it appeared his mad sprint was actually good enough to avoid them, leaping over claws, tails, and gouts of acid. 

Maybe he knew they were there. He glanced over his shoulder with a smirk, watching the angry little buggers turn towards the next target, me. It was my job to deal with them.

As agile as Handface had been, however, I was cheating. Moving at somewhere around three and a half times normal speed, including reaction time, meant it was much simpler for me to run through the mess of angry magic lizards and finish catching up to him, right next to the portal. 

Handface had good reactions of his own, twisting around to level his rifle towards my chest. Pulling a trigger took basically no time at all… but from my perspective, it felt like I had an entire second. If I had to randomly react to that I wasn’t sure what I would do, but I was trained for this. Supers were still people who could bleed and die, and they really reminded us of that in terms of firearms, and our particular squad got extra training because of this guy in particular.

In short, I didn’t think about it when I grabbed the barrel of his gun and twisted it out of his hand while at the same time kicking him squarely in his abdomen. I certainly didn’t think about the fact that at our specific angles he would end up on the other side of the portal. But it happened, the man landing on his ass in some sort of forest.

And when I did, the first thing I could think to do was yank the portal closed. Having just succeeded a few minutes earlier I didn’t think much about my current mana levels and just yanked. It was like pulling the drawstring on a bag, and the edges of the portal slipped closed, narrowing into a fine point just like my vision. I passed out, of course.

—–

When I woke up, I had a dome of ice covering me. I could see some vicious scratches on it, and feel a couple rather similar things in myself. I didn’t have enough room to sit up, only turn my head- but I saw the rest of the squad fighting the green-scaled dragons through the ice. Despite looking very unsteady on his feet now, Captain Senan was still lobbing ice every which way. Shockfire was just rounding the corner with Rocker, but Midnight was on the back of a twitching dragon around the size of a medium dog. 

Acid Man was… wrestling with a pair of dragons. “They’re immune to acid,” I said unhelpfully from my little cocoon. He no doubt had already determined that and couldn’t hear me. I knocked on the ice, but I didn’t see anyone pay attention to me. 

Well, that was fine. I would just lie here on the ground and try to recover mana. I’d already consumed a few crystals so I didn’t want to risk more at the moment… but I’d had pretty extreme mana regeneration around some of those portals in the past. The portal which was… actually, not quite closed. I could see something like a hand sized opening, and feel some mana seeping through my little shell. Not that I expected to recover to any significant amount in under an hour.

A dragon scrabbled atop my little shell, still trying to get to me. Midnight leapt at him, and from the way he bit and clawed instead of doing anything magical I presumed he was out of mana. A spray of green, acidic gas went over his shoulder as he wrestled the dragon, claws and teeth not finding purchase in his stony fur… but I knew that wouldn’t last forever. I took stock for a moment to determine that I likely had enough mana for a Shocking Graspy, less than a total cost of two points, and I channeled that through my cat buddy. It was enough to knock out the wyrmling, at least.

Midnight turned to look at me. I could feel his fear, concern, anger… but I did my best to smile and project a feeling of comfort back towards him, giving him a thumb’s up.

The rest of the battle was loud as Rocker properly began to participate, blasting small dragons with pure sound. Shockfire seemed hesitant to use his fire at first, but eventually he either decided he had to test it or was low enough on his other element that he shot a cone of flame over a couple trying to flank the group. They reacted as the vast majority of dragons would to flame- in pain. Just like anything should.

As the last of the dragons fell, Ice Guy removed the dome over me. He helped me to my feet and we staggered towards the side of the road- though I was doing a better job of supporting him than the other way around. Neither of us said anything for a moment, until he finally caught his breath. “… Did you kick Deimos through that portal?”

“Yes,” I nodded happily. “Yes I did.”

-–Chapter Index–-