It was entirely possible that there were exactly zero land mines, or indeed traps of other sorts, outside of this particular lair. However, there was a large difference between assuming that was true when it was not, and assuming that there would be dangers and merely taking a bit longer to approach.
Some guy named ‘Gumshoe’ was leading the way, though he didn’t seem to have any gum at all on his shoes. I guess that would be related to him activating his power…? Well, we should have probably seen that already considering he was the tracker leading us to them.
We trudged along on pumice and obsidian and other volcanic rock that probably normally wouldn’t be piled all on top of each other… but normally there wasn’t a chain of volcanoes that sprang up all in one place all at the same time. So it was hard to say what the ‘natural’ look for this place might even be.
As we approached, Midnight and I provided Mental Freedom for people while consuming mana crystals to replenish our mana. He was more conservative, while I used enough to stop close to my safe limit. This wasn’t a group I had a long history with or anything, but it was personal. They snatched up my people, and I wasn’t going to accept that even if I wasn’t really part of that world anymore. Sir Kalman doubtless felt even more strongly.
We came to a dead end, where the tracks suddenly stopped. Even I could see that, as tire tracks were pretty obvious wherever there was a bit of dirt.
“Looks like they went into a secret door,” Gumshoe gestured at some boulders and the like. He fiddled with a smoking pipe in his mouth- but the thing wasn’t lit. “Best to avoid it for the moment.”
“It’s got security,” Current commented helpfully. “I could take it over.”
“If that’s the only entrance, it’s probably the best bet,” Squad Ten said. “But I imagine their own tech super is watching carefully. Just having a struggle would be enough to give us away.”
“What are we looking for?” Midnight asked as we moved further towards the coast.
“A vent for airflow… secret escape passages… underwater docks. That sort of thing,” Gumshoe commented.
If we found one of those underwater docks, it would be a great time to use Water Breathing. Though that would pretty much wipe out the rest of my mana. How inconvenient. If only I could cast everything all the time… though according to general rules, that would make everything weaker. Which I could technically do. I suppose I didn’t need it to last that long.
We didn’t find anything that looked like an airflow vent- if we did, we would have regretted not having Agent Smoke with us. But there was a limit to how many people we could cover with Mental Freedom. A slightly higher limit now, but still a limit.
“There,” Detective Gumshoe pointed with his pipe.
“I don’t sense anything,” Current admitted.
“That would be the point, I think. This appears to be an entirely mundane opening. No electronic security.” He put his face real close to the ground. “Manual opening from the inside only, looks like.”
“So, how does that help…?” I asked.
“Dunno. It’s not my job to open things. Unless they’re locked.”
“This thing?” Dart pointed.
“That’s right,” Gumshoe nodded. “It’s a hatch.”
Dart’s frog-like tongue shot out, sticking to the attached pumice. I could see some strain, but… “Bleh.” She snatched her tongue back. “It’s pretty well secured.”
“Well don’t look at me,” Lustre said. Obviously, we all did. “Seriously, don’t. I got nothing.”
“Hold on,” Squad Ten said. “We’ve got one more joining us.”
“I don’t know if I have the juice for more Mental Freedom…” I said.
“That won’t be necessary,” said a voice that appeared from nowhere. I turned, seeing a man who hadn’t sounded the crunch of rocks beneath his work boots, nor could I sense a hint of power from him. “I won’t be approaching any supervillains.”
“With stealth skills like that, you definitely could,” Lustre said. “You must be confident to sneak around with a reflector vest.”
“Not my job,” the man shook his head. “Neither sneaking nor confronting supers.
“Hey,” Midnight said. “You’re that guy. From the Building and Safety Division.”
“Pleasure to see you again, sir,” the man in the hardhat smiled. “You all may call me Robert, if you need a name. Robert Smith. No fancy code names here,” he shrugged. “Now then, there’s some sort of door here?” He bent down and shook his head. “No way they could get a permit for that. What did they glue rocks onto this thing?” He reached down to a tool belt and pulled out a hammer and chisel. “I’ll pop this thing open for you. By the way, anyone see an air vent anywhere around here?”
“Nope,” I shook my head.
“Should be at least two, if they can fit a vehicle in this place,” he said. “Actually, they’d probably need more if they have emissions inside.” He wedged the chisel into a small crack I hadn’t seen, tapping it in with the hammer. Then he gestured to Sir Kalman. “Hold that there, would you?” Sir Kalman acquiesced, holding it in place as Robert took out another chisel and once again seemed to be pounding it through rocks- until another small edge revealed itself. Then… “Yank opposite me, would ya?” Robert gestured. It seemed to take a bit of straining, but the chisels got in beneath. “Could use everyone’s fingers.”
Sir Kalman and I were the first to get in there with Robert, and there really wasn’t much more room as we strained and pulled against whatever primitive mechanisms were inside. But while it took effort, clearly this wasn’t meant as a security door- it was just supposed to be hidden.
“Well, that’s me,” Gumshoe waved as we opened up the hatch. “You don’t want me getting in your way if it comes to a scrap or whatnot.”
Robert pulled out a tablet as he looked down the hole. “I’ll be here documenting violations. That ladder is hardly regulation.”
We began to infiltrate one by one. Sir Kalman went down the ladder first, followed by a couple of Squad Ten. He had walked over as a single individual, but now he was splitting- a fascinating process that mostly just looked like another one of him stepping out of wherever he was with a shimmer.
Current went down second, then me with Midnight on my shoulder. Ladders weren’t meant for catlike creatures anyway. Then more of Squad Ten, and then Lustre and Dart.
When we got to the bottom Sir Kalman was just pushing out into a cramped corridor not even two people wide. I felt Current doing something, so clearly there was electronic security around. She’d tell us if she felt resistance, but at this point we kind of had to assume they would be attacking at any moment. Squad Ten was also remaining outside and watching the front entrance we knew about, which was fine because we already had enough of him down here.
We came to our first split pretty quick. I couldn’t sense anyone in either direction, but presumably there were many tons of dirt, concrete, and doors between us which made that more difficult.
“Computer lab down the right branch,” Current commented. “We can look through some cameras from there, but I’d hope this facility isn’t that large…”
“We need to go that way,” Midnight pointed.
“What’s that way?” I asked.
“I sense… something…” Midnight’s tail twitched. He was agitated, for certain, but I didn’t feel something controlling him. Mental Freedom was still quite solid on both of us.
“I’ll hold this side,” Squad Ten said. “Go.”
Though he said that, it was really a four-two split for him. There wasn’t a whole ton of room for firearms here, but it was still nice to have him watching our backs if nothing else.
I could feel Midnight agitation increase as we moved only a short distance towards our destination… and I could almost feel something. Though as we came to a door, that feeling was trumped by that of several supers.
The door didn’t open as Sir Kalman reached out for it, but before I could tell him to try pulling… his shoulder went through. That was both good and bad for our surprise. The first and most obvious individual there was Iron Bloke. The large fellow was already spinning towards us as the door tore off its hinges the wrong way. There was that confuse ray lady- Headspin- and the currently unnamed mental manipulator. But behind them was the most obvious feature of the room, a dozen cages of various sizes. Some held people- elves, dwarves, and humans- while the others held cats. No… those weren’t cats, were they.
“Prepare to account for your crimes!” Sir Kalman yelled as he charged headlong into the nearly invulnerable bruiser. Dart’s tongue slipped past him towards Iron Bloke, but the guy was fully covered head to toe with gloves and a mask and the like, so her poisonous touch couldn’t get him.
Second into the room was Lustre, and though he was trying very hard to not hinder our side, I couldn’t help but watch as he danced past Iron Bloke- only to get a ham sized fist to the back of the head. But he sailed through the air in a majestic manner, spreading arms and legs wide and forcing the two others to duck as Headspin shot her beam at him- almost striking Iron Bloke by mistake.
The unknown mental manipulator was yelling into some sort of radio, presumably. At least, it didn’t make much sense to be yelling ‘they’re here’ to her two compatriots in the room or the rest of us.
Midnight was off my shoulder and halfway across the room before I could react, but I didn’t have any intent to stop him anyway. My job right now was to get into this room and out of the way so Squad Ten could open fire… except…
“Watch the cages!” I said.
“I clocked them,” he replied quickly.
As I angled myself into the room, considering what spell to prepare, I saw Sir Kalman’s sword come down on Iron Bloke’s head. The sword trembled… but he left a small line of blood.
The unknown super was fully focused on Lustre, her hands clutched on either side of his head. He smiled, his head wound already recovering as his skull snapped back into its proper positioning. He grabbed a pair of her fingers in each fist and twisted.
She might have been incapacitated there, but I didn’t know he would accomplish that and I was already releasing my spell. Simple and straightforward, I had angled around the man-shaped wall in the middle of the room and cast Sonic Lance. The force with which it knocked the unnamed super away was almost sufficient to tug Lustre off his feet just by his grip on her..
Her crumpled body hit the wall, and I realized it was probably only in one piece because of the inherent durability of any super and whatever gear she was wearing. Though her ribs and internal organs might disagree about her wholeness. I wasn’t used to hitting people with minimal defenses… but I didn’t really regret it either. It was one thing to avoid killing supervillains who were robbing places and hadn’t just escaped from jail, and another when facing supers. And she might not be dead.
Gunfire sounded from down the hall immediately before it came from right next to me. Squad Ten was presumably dealing with the others coming towards us, as well as peppering Iron Bloke with bullets. They didn’t seem to be doing much, but they might have made him wince slightly? Anything to give an advantage to Kalman would be fine. We had to be ready for the other three incoming- and we couldn’t discount Headspin. Mental Freedom wasn’t unlimited, after all.
This was going to be a brawl, and I couldn’t pretend I wasn’t excited.