I stomped my way into the scrying chamber, quickly activating the recording devices for later review. There was only so much I could see at once. I checked my points, having not quite enough for two upgrades to Scrying, so I went with one. Doctor Doomsday had been a pain before, with his scrying decoys. Once again I wasn’t looking for him directly, but he was involved.
The clump of hair was snatched out of Shockwave’s hands, leaving them with a confused cat and dog. What we did with them would have to wait, though I didn’t intend any solution to have to be long term. I was going to rescue Ceira and kill Doctor Doomsday. Him bothering to threaten me at all indicated I was a problem, and I wasn’t going to stop.
Mana coursed through me as I pushed Scrying to its limits to look for my friend. With three upgrades, using it at full power made it somewhere around fifty percent stronger. I also had some experience getting around the scrying anchors. The diamond cube Vilhelmiina made was also critical to the attempt.
I clutched onto the connection in my hand as the mists swirled and tried to form into something solid. Were we close? I didn’t really know. However, Ceira was one of my limited friends in this world. She just wanted to talk to plants and animals. I wasn’t going to let Doctor Doomsday kill her. Or keep her captive, I presumed was the intent. Otherwise she would have already been dead.
Up until that point, I had known he was a great danger. But the fact that he could immediately respond in such a manner for something minor like telling people about our encounter… having him around was unacceptable.
As I pushed my way through the swirling mists, I knew that my chances weren’t actually that great. But I couldn’t just let this happen. I was furious. Doctor Patenaude might be proud of me for recognizing my emotions, but personally I wasn’t enjoying it.
I was vaguely aware of people entering the room, but I didn’t let them throw off my concentration. A boring stone came into view, but I pulled myself away from the scrying anchor. Ceira’s face came into view, along with metal chains and some sort of platform. Floating, it seemed as I changed my view. Costly. I walked around the scene, taking in pieces of a laboratory- I assumed. Ceira was currently unconscious, but focusing close on her indicated she was breathing. At maximum distance, I could see fifteen feet in each direction beyond her. I needed a clue. Nothing. A location. Impossible to glean. Anything…? A gnarled bit of wood.
The scene faded. Had it been that long? Was it shortened from resistance? I honestly didn’t know.
I saw Calculator. “Location,” I demanded.
“I’m not quite-”
“A neighborhood,” I said. “Or something. You have to have assumptions for where his bases can be.”
“The real ones are well hidden,” Calculator said. “Many are strewn about the city. However, it is most likely that this location is near your friend’s apartment.” A pause, “The logical thing is not to go.”
What a waste of words. “Where?”
“I’ll give you a starting point,” Calculator said. “You’ll have to find it yourself.”
“My staff is there,” I said by way of explanation. The rest of my points went into Locate Object, just two ranks. I’d thought it was nearly useless, but now it might be my most important option. I couldn’t pick up something useful for combat with that anyway. I already had that.
I took out a mana crystal- they were nearly 5 mana, now. I crushed it. I couldn’t afford to wait for normal recovery. I’d already spent 11 points of mana for the Scrying, plus 5 for Haste. I passed Shockwave on the way out.
“Sorry,” they said. “I can’t help with Doomsday himself.”
“I get it,” I nodded.
I headed to the lower levels, where a vehicle should be waiting for me with a driver. Midnight was there already, worried. Once we came face to face I shook my head. “It’s dangerous. You shouldn’t come.”
“That’s exactly why I should. You need help.”
How could I argue? I didn’t have time for that. I just wished the help I needed was coming from people I didn’t care about. A sudden fluctuation made my spin my head, and two people appeared. One I recognized. Movebrain. The other… seemed to be one of the remaining executives. Her name, at least, was available. Swiss Arms. Anything beyond that such as her powers were above my clearance when I’d checked, though. Her arms looked… pretty… normal… Except for the super tech.
“Don’t just stand there,” she said. “If you’re going, let’s go. Fair warning, he does have a death ray.”
“Doesn’t matter,” I said. “I can’t learn Death Ward anyway.” If I couldn’t prepare for him, I’d just have to be quick about fighting my way to Ceira. I cracked another crystal. I could do one more without issues.
We hadn’t yet made it out when, arriving by more traditional methods, Ice Guy appeared from the elevator and approached the car. “The rest of the squad isn’t here right now,” he said. “Or I’m certain they’d join.” He sat next to me. “If you wait a short time, many people are mobilizing in case you actually find one of his bases.”
“Can’t wait,” I said. “They’ll have to catch up.” As we drove along, I really didn’t have anything to do… so I looked over to Swiss Arms. “Why are you coming?”
“You don’t want help?” she raised an eyebrow.
“You’re just… not known for doing things.”
“Correct,” she said. “You’re lucky I’m in the right mood.”
I tried to make plans, but I couldn’t. My head was filled with fog, and all I could think about was turning Doctor Doomsday into a smoking pile of garbage. Though obviously he’d have an AEGIS, so it wouldn’t be that easy. I imagined it would be better than what he gave the orcs, too.
Then again, he didn’t necessarily do things himself. It could just be minions at this base. On that note, I would need my weapon for efficiency. Especially with how I was using mana.
We approached the vague area- just a neighborhood where statistically there was a higher rate of Doctor Doomsday incidents. I cast Locate Object, trying to get pointed towards my staff. It didn’t work. But it didn’t not work. The four points of mana gave me only a vague feeling. A sort of direction, but it could be anywhere towards the edges of the area I felt or in the middle. So we weren’t too far. But due to various factors, likely partially distance and partially the scrying anchors, it didn’t provide a continuous pull towards the object but quickly faded after a few pulses of information.
I took careful note of the location and direction, then had us continue moving. Even if I couldn’t get a clear read on what I was looking for, I could make use of a special technique Calculator had taught me. The guy would be a good mage, if he didn’t already have another power.
A second use. A third. None of them told me what I needed to know, precisely. But, together, I found the right direction. Yes, this was the power of Triangulation. “I’ll need to do it once more,” I said as we approached, cracking my third crystal. Much more, and the total quantity I could absorb in a day would be surpassed. I wasn’t certain if it was actually correlated with my fatigue threshold, but it was similar to half my normal mana pool. I hadn’t tested since overcharging my mana pool. Perhaps this expanded as well, since my body would be more used to mana crystals. That would still make at most one more safe. I would certainly have to use it in a couple minutes.
Putting together the information from the other points, I was now close enough to be confident that my spell would work properly. But just as I was about to gather the mana, I realized I didn’t need it. Unless there was something else that would produce a continuous flow of mana?
I grimaced. I didn’t have time to ponder. One more cast, four more mana. I could feel a generally downward pull, which told me we were in the right place. Unfortunately, it was basically a waste as it didn’t tell me how to get there.
But I didn’t tell anyone else that, instead walking towards the source I felt. That wasn’t a direction, but a flow. It would be coming by the route that was least restrictive, which means it would probably lead to a door.
It did. Kind of. Technically, it was a manhole cover tucked into an alleyway. “Great,” I said. “The sewers.”
I was only half right. As it turned out, sewers in a city such as this were mostly smaller pipes, not massive open flows. Once we managed to lift up the cover- clearly not meant to be done by hand, but with a specific tool- I could only see a small chamber. There were some pipes running beneath, but it was just a single intersection.
I climbed down the built in ladder. “There must be a door or something.”
“Uh, if you wait a second…” Midnight said. “Someone might help?”
“Huh?” I heard the sound of running feet. Tiny feet. I poked my head over the edge to see Izzy. “What are you doing here?”
“Wow, way to be…” she stopped for a couple breaths, “Appreciative of my… help…” she panted.
“I didn’t expect you.” Great. One more person I knew at risk. I’d have to get them all out somehow. Potentially at the cost of myself. A fourth crystal would be fine, if I didn’t use any for a week or so. I couldn’t reject the help though. “There should be a door or something somewhere here…”
Swiss Arms spoke up, “Are you a civilian?”
“I have powers,” Izzy explained as she dropped down into the hole behind me. “I’m just not employed by heroes or mercs.” I did notice she had her swords- which were basically daggers for normal sized people. She wrinkled her nose, “Honestly isn’t as bad as I’d thought these would be.” She traced her fingers across the wall. “Yeah, I can definitely see the seam there. Not sure how it opens though.”
“Let me handle it,” Ice Guy said. “If you could step out, Turlough?”
There really wasn’t room for one and a half people let alone two and a half, so I climbed out. Izzy pointed him to the spots on the wall and… he used just a tiny bit of power. Then I could see the outline of the doorway as ice poked through. Useful, I suppose, but it didn’t reveal a handle or anything.
“Get ready,” he said. “You should step out, by the way,” he said to Izzy.
I saw Swiss Arms wave away the driver, then her right hand folded back. Her wrist had a cylinder inside it. A gun? It was certainly like a gun, but the thing that shot out was less… violent. “A tracker,” she said as I looked at her curiously. “To mark our location.”
Ice Guy’s power flared, and there was the sound of cracking stone. Then wrenching metal. Then a loud boom. Fire flared up from the manhole, spewing into the sky like a geyser.
I bit my lip. The captain…? Was fine, of course. He was covered in a shell of ice. And I could feel the pulse of mana more clearly, one obstacle removed.
The uncovered tunnel was small, such that I had to crouch down. I wasn’t the first one in, though. That was Izzy, with Swiss Arms right behind her. At some point she’d put on some sort of headset. Or had it come out of her head? I certainly hadn’t seen her pull anything out.
When we came to an intersection, I confidently declared we go left.
“Why?” Izzy asked, looking back and forth.
“I’m following the mana,” I said truthfully. “There’s got a big source. Maybe a portal.” If this was something unrelated… I didn’t want to think about that. So I didn’t. The tunnels continued deeper… and got smaller, winding in odd ways as they had to circumvent official utilities. They seemed to be made of brick at first, but were cement as we got deeper. They didn’t smell bad, just a bit stale. Certainly not actual sewers. Though I wasn’t certain why there was more than one tunnel, if this was an entrance. Were the others trapped? Was the fastest route trapped?
Neither Izzy nor Swiss Arms had picked one out yet, and I didn’t sense any magical ones. Should I use Arcane Sight? Could I afford the mana? Could I afford to not spend the mana?
My tusks rubbed unpleasantly against my lips, and the only thing stopping me from biting into my lip was Midnight casting Stoneskin on us as we approached.
This had to be the right way. It simply had to.