The warehouse I was working in had two main sections. First was a part operated mostly by machines and people driving forklifts. Most of the larger boxes and things on pallets were kept in that area. The other sections involved smaller things that could be lifted by hand- though the definition there varied widely. Some of that was related to the people who could lift things.
There were three other people I worked with most of the time the first few days, with a few other people popping their heads in briefly. One of them I believe would have been called an ‘alien’, but aside from teal skin Asa didn’t have any other strong distinctions from a human. Perhaps slightly different proportions, but as an orc I had both darkish green skin and tusks that made me more visually different.
My next companion was just a human woman, as far as I could tell. Meri had pale skin and a medium sort of build. She was strong enough to lift anything we had to take care of, so anything beyond that didn’t matter.
Then there was Sameera. It seemed she was a ‘super’, but she was working a regular job instead of being a hero or villain. I understood that ‘supers’ were anybody with an unusual ability. Mostly humans, but then again even around Extra the majority of people were still humans. As for her ability… she was strong. She could carry around the boxes that were closer to belonging in the section with machines, while looking about the same size as any average human woman.
“Why are you not working as a hero?” I asked. It was my understanding that hero work could pay much better than this job.
“Too dangerous,” Sameera explained. “I don’t have super durability or anything.”
“Is that true?” I questioned. “You look pretty durable to me. I feel like I would break my fingers picking up those boxes.”
“It’s not much. Certainly not enough to stop a bullet, which kind of makes it… risky. Villains and criminals aren’t always willing to play nice.”
That brought up more questions. “What’s a bullet?” It was probably some sort of technology, but it hadn’t been mentioned in the overview.
“Do they only have laser weapons where you’re from?” Asa asked. He had a fairly strong accent, but of course I didn’t recognize any of the origins of them since they were all new languages. Translation helped me understand him almost as clearly as everyone else, though. “Bullets are from slugthrower projectiles.”
A slimy bug-like thing being hurled at someone… wouldn’t go through even regular durability. Translation didn’t help when a world meant multiple things. A sort of piece of metal? That could be dangerous if thrown at someone quickly. Like a sling. Was that what the ‘gun’ thing the police had was? “Ah, I understand.” Probably.
The warehouse was quite tall, and sometimes the boxes we wanted to reach were on the top shelves, fifteen or twenty feet up. To reach those we were supposed to wait for someone operating some sort of lift thing, but it was slow. Way too slow. I eventually got tired of waiting for it and resorted to using Mage’s Reach. Twice, so I could make use of each hand. Normally that would have been nearly six mana, a whole hour’s worth, and that would put me in the negatives when adding on Translation. However, while I didn’t have the ability to boost the output of spells I could limit it. In this case, making the hands more temporary, lasting about a minute, only took around a tenth of a point of mana.
Then it was just a matter of lifting the box. Mage’s Reach was sometimes disfavoured by other mages because of its reliance on the muscle power of the caster. Quite a few mages didn’t get much exercise, but I got plenty. Plus I was an orc, which made me a bit bigger and naturally stronger than a human. The box came up, and then down. At a normal speed, of course. I didn’t want to drop it. It was basically the same difficulty as just holding it in my arms for a few seconds, and then I was actually just holding it. I turned to bring it to where it needed to go when I saw Sameera watching.
She held a box under each arm and sort of casually leaned against one of the shelves nearby. “You’re a super too, huh? Then let me ask… why aren’t you a hero? If you’re so keen on the idea.”
“That’s simple. I just got here a few days ago.” They didn’t just let people go straight into heroing. They had to have background checks… which kind of required having a background. Since mine was currently appearing through a portal and getting into a fight, it wasn’t much to look at.
“… oh. You’re not afraid of getting hurt?”
I shrugged, “That depends. Can normal humans survive getting ‘shot’?”
“Then I should be fine.” Force Armor was able to resist a certain amount of energy, and it really didn’t concern itself with how it was distributed. And I wasn’t just going to suddenly level up if I didn’t get into fights. The more real the combat, the better.
“… can those hands stop bullets?”
“No. I have a different spell for that.”
“Spell… like magic? Is that what your power is based on?”
“It’s just magic,” I said. Though I wasn’t sure if there was much point in distinguishing between magic and a power.
“It would be more useful if I were stronger.” Since apparently people didn’t know about levels here, just talking about ‘strength’ seemed most appropriate.
I had to admit that my first day in New Bay had significantly biased me on the amount of violence in the city. After a week I hadn’t seen anything swarm out of portals or had anyone hit me on the back of the head. To be fair, the second one had been a bit more disconcerting. I hadn’t seen it coming at all, and I was just lucky that I always kept Force Armor active. It basically lasted all day for a small amount of investment- with the caveat that it would still break down under sudden force. Most of the time it just wasn’t doing anything.
On the weekend I got offered overtime. Apparently it was a busy season, and since they offered extra pay- and I really had very little else to do- I accepted. I’d already read through the piles of papers I had been given, and I wasn’t willing to spend my money on entertainment just yet. I was still scoping out the prices to make efficient use of my money. I did buy a box of doughnuts once though. Totally worth it.
Overtime work was exactly the same as normal work, but with fewer people around. Sameera was still around though. “They lured you in too, huh?” she asked.
I shrugged. “Don’t really have a lot of money.”
“I hear ya. I get paid extra for my capabilities, but being a super takes a lot of upkeep. Unless you’re the lucky sort who gets powers that draw from some source other than calories.”
Calories were food. And my magic at least partly required that. “I’ve been eating a lot,” I concurred. “Translation magic is harder than you think.”
“You have translation magic?”
I nodded. “I don’t actually speak English.”
“… somehow that’s cooler than just having a translator device.” She shifted and switched the way she spoke. “Does it work with Arabic?”
It took my brain a second to process the unexpected change in languages. “Apparently it does,” I answered in what I thought was Arabic.
We continued to work until evening. It was tiring work, but we got regular breaks so it wasn’t all that bad. Just around the time we were about to wrap up and go home, there was a bang. It was quite startling. It wasn’t the same as if someone dropped something. Sameera looked towards the sound. Then it happened again.
“Oh crap. I think that was a gunshot!” she pressed up against some of the shelves.
“Really? Let’s go look.”
“Are you crazy?” she half-whispered.
“Right, sorry.” I reached out to place a hand on her shoulder and gave her Force Armor. I also made sure to replace mine. A brief outline shimmered around each of us as I cast the spell. “We have Force Armor. Now let’s go look.” I started walking, and Sameera followed after me. I heard the sound of shouting and people walking. As we approached the front of the warehouse, it was possible to see some people through some empty gaps in the shelves. I saw a couple men holding guns, and Florina. The manager and her various heads were lying on the floor, and I saw a red pool of blood forming. Was she already dead? I hoped not.
“Alright guys,” said one of the men. “You know what to do. We head for the target and silence anyone along the way.” Five other people stepped into view behind the man as they started moving.
“That doesn’t sound good!” Sameera whispered. “We should hide!”
“What about Florina? And they’re heading towards some of the others, I think.” I kept my voice down but started moving along the shelves to try to keep pace with the men with guns. I summoned Mage’s Reach, with full power so I wouldn’t have to worry about it randomly fading away. I’d just recently re-cast Translation so… 1.67 *2 + 2.86 + 3= 9.2 which left me with three… almost four uses of Shocking Grasp. A firebolt inside this warehouse with cardboard boxes- a brown, papery sort of material- was a recipe for disaster. And Shocking Grasp was better anyway.
I sent my reach through the shelves, a floating, cloudy hand reaching out towards one of the people. They weren’t moving particularly fast, so it wasn’t too hard to grab someone on the arm. Of course, I wasn’t trying to stop them from moving. But Shocking Grasp did best with a sustained connection, so grabbing onto someone was best. Upon being suddenly grabbed the person- a woman, apparently- jerked her arm forward. I just let her pull the hand along, because I didn’t care where it was. A few moments later she was on the floor, still twitching slightly. I sure hoped she wasn’t dead, because Extra was still vetting my safety. I did hold back just slightly, unlike with the big guy who knocked me on the back of the head.
“Man down!” one of the others around her shouted. The five remaining people spun around looking for a target. I managed to grab another one and shock them before they noticed me peeking through the boxes. Then there were a lot of bangs.
The good news was that the shelves and boxes blocked most of the bullets. The better news was that my Force Armor blocked most of the rest. The bad news… was that the one that shattered the armor pierced into my leg. I was trying to throw myself to the ground anyway, but that made it more of a flop. The only thing I could think to do was cast Force Armor again. That left me with a single Shocking Grasp and basically nothing else to take out four people. A few more shots fired at where I had been, but I lay still on the ground.
Then I heard some yelling and more shots. Most of the voices were the intruders, but one of them was clearly Sameera. It would have been nice if she shouted something poetic like ‘how dare you hurt my friend’ but it was just noise. I pushed myself up off the ground in time to see her punch someone in the chest. They had some sort of armor, at least that was what their bulkiness implied to me, but it wasn’t able to just negate the impact. They were sent flying.
There were more gunshots and Sameera staggered back. I saw the Force Armor break as she did so. That snapped my mind into focus for long enough to Shocking Grasp the leader, who seemed to be fumbling with his gun, dropping something out of it. I wasn’t sure what he was doing, but I saw a clear intention to shoot more. He spasmed and toppled over as I pressed Mage’s Reach to his face and leaving it horribly blackened. Whoops, forgot to hold back on that one.
There was a brief moment as Sameera swayed on her feet and the remaining two intruders held out their guns. Then she stepped forward. I heard clicking sound, but no more gunshots. She grabbed the two of them by the head and bashed them against each other. They were both wearing helmets, but I heard a very loud thud as they impacted… and something cracked. Then Sameera fell to the ground.
I inhaled sharply as I started to move. I hoped I hadn’t given her false confidence with my Force Armor, making her risk herself. I was right about it stopping a bullet, I just hadn’t realized how many they could shoot. I had to call for help. Call… that was what a cell phone did, right? A few moments after I punched in his number Basant picked up. “Turlough. How are you?”
“People with guns showed up at the warehouse and shot Sameera and Florina!” And me, but whatever. “I need help!”
“I understand,” Basant said. “I’ll make the call. Next time- I’ll talk to you about that later. Stay safe! Help should arrive soon!” Then the sound went away, and it said the call had ended.
I was pretty sure I was safe. I didn’t have any mana left- and would you believe it I hadn’t even levelled up- but Sameera and Florina needed my help. I couldn’t learn healing magic, but I could at least… I don’t know, bandage them or something. And make sure that none of those people were going to get up.