From the point I got it, I made sure to set aside enough mana per day to contact Master Uvithar with a Sending. Depending on various factors, that would be somewhere around an hour or more’s worth of mana regeneration. All of that for a short response.
Things I asked included ways to improve mana regeneration- get a tower- and if there were ways to improve maximum mana- nothing reasonable. I was already aware that certain places had higher ambient mana, and I was willing to trust his word on the reasonableness aspect of the latter. A shame, but that was how things were.
Then I experienced my first failure for my Sending to arrive. I felt something was off quickly, the energy not flowing quite right. When I never received a response, I was fairly certain, enough to expend another ten points of mana to make certain. That one arrived, and I got my response- which was just confirming the previous Sending didn’t work.
I had no way to tell yet if it was the normal failure rate, but they had been overall pretty accurate in arrival, for which I was grateful. I just wished I could have a single normal conversation instead of exchanging twenty-fiveish words at once. I was getting a handful of seconds of interaction over the course of a day. Not pleasant. But at least Master Uvithar always responded to the best of his ability.
During my time not working, New Bay continued to exist, but with more trouble from Doctor Doomsday. Specifically, minions working for him. He was never shy about marking them, and now there were suddenly many more running about the city. Orcs and werewolves and some fiends and maybe some shadow elves- though the latter were good enough at concealing themselves there wasn’t much information.
One of those was a bigger problem than the others. That was, of course, the werewolves. Jerome and Tylissa were pleasant individuals living civilian lives who didn’t need to be associated with criminals. It wasn’t clear how much the actual werewolf population changed, but the criminal element of it exploded in size. When the next full moon came it would be more difficult for them to hide their status. Come to think of it, that would be a problem for Great Girl as well.
The Power Brigade was fully briefed on her condition, so they weren’t going to suddenly think she was working for Doctor Doomsday… but would others? What a pain, going to save some of my friends only to get another into trouble. But we’d already gone over that. Risks were taken and consequences happened. That didn’t mean I had to like it.
“… and now I feel bad for picking Sending because I could have gotten Break Enchantment or something,” I explained to Doctor Patenaude.
“Did you promise anyone your assistance in the matter?” he asked.
“Well… no,” I shook my head. “Not really. But I did mention there being a possibility.”
“Did any of them ask for help with their lycanthropy in particular?”
“They shouldn’t have to ask for help if I see a problem I can solve as a friend.”
“Perhaps,” Doctor Patenaude admitted. “But it is not your job to solve all of the world’s or even all of your friends’ problems.”
“I’m not trying to solve all their problems,” I countered.
“Only those you think you might be able to.”
“Because who else can?” I threw up my arms. “Most people don’t have access to magic.”
“Correct,” he agreed. “And even with healing supers, many people have to live with worse.”
“Lycanthropy is pretty bad,” I said. “And I can’t heal anything… normal. If they were just sick or something I couldn’t do anything.”
“Perhaps you should be the one to assist them, then,” he said. “Ask them about it. And… I do believe that lycanthropy, while inconvenient, is not fully negative.”
“Huh? What do you mean? Nobody wants to turn into a crazy animal.”
“That is likely incorrect, but I have better counters,” Doctor Patenaude replied. “Your friends were able to control themselves to some extent even upon their first transformation, correct? I will admit it is very unpleasant to be subject to extreme emotional and mental factors pushing you about, but they still exist. Learning to adapt is an important part of living as a person.”
“So you’re saying it’s better to just deal with lycanthropy?”
“I don’t believe I said that, no. But a straightforward struggle of will might be more acceptable to them than other issues. And being aware of their condition, it is possible for them to act in a safe manner. Besides, I have not gotten to the positives yet. I am led to believe that most forms of lycanthropy come with increased physical ability. Is that not correct for this particular strain?”
“Well… it does improve people’s physical abilities, yeah. If they transform.”
“And it can be controlled. It is another form of power that some might covet. Perhaps not your friends, but you’re assuming they wish it to be gone.”
“I mean, they were pretty upset after the whole thing.”
“As are most undergoing sudden changes. Even receiving ‘normal’ powers is quite a change for most.” Doctor Patenaude scribbled notes. “Regardless, until you actually have the magic to fix anything, they will have to live with it. You can consult their opinions before you have the opportunity to acquire such abilities.”
“Oh. Yeah, that’s an option, huh?” Great Girl frowned. “Well, I kinda already told my friends I was a werewolf so…”
“Already?” I raised an eyebrow. “It hasn’t even been… well, it’s been less than a month.”
“Yeah well we had to schedule… game times. And it’s a good excuse for randomly running off doing mercenary stuff!”
“Is it?” I asked. “Better than… being a mercenary? People know about werewolves, right?”
“Well, yeah. Obviously.”
“And how they only really are impacted around the full moon.”
“Which, even if you count the days surrounding the full moon, is less than ten percent of the time. And your friends will be paying attention.”
“A fair point,” Great Girl said. “But I wasn’t going to just hide it from them.”
“Like your powers?” I asked.
“That’s, uh…” her eyes darted around. “I’ve gotta keep a secret identity.”
“I suppose that is useful for you,” I admitted. “I am not familiar with anyone not already entangled in this whole supernatural thing.”
“Wow that’s… sad.”
“Is it?” I asked. “I have many friends now where I used to have none. And powers only make them more capable.”
“I suppose that’s true. And since your family isn’t here…”
“I didn’t know them to begin with,” I said. “So I am not missing out.”
Great Girl sighed. “Right. Well. I think I’m planning to work with the lycanthropy for now. The doctor says I’m probably not contagious most of the time.”
“As an afflicted, you should only be able to pass it on during the full moon, if at all,” I agreed. “But also, perhaps you should avoid biting people.”
“That’s the plan,” she said. “But I can bite like… some people right?”
I frowned. “I suppose, but if you just want to increase your lethality you can wield a weapon. I don’t see how it would be useful for you to specifically bite them.” Then it came to me. “I don’t believe you want to risk Stargirl contracting lycanthropy. Especially if you know it can happen.”
“It could have been someone besides Shooting Star!” Great Girl flailed her arms angrily. “Like, uh, Gloom!”
“You should absolutely not get your head anywhere closer to Gloom,” I pointed out. “That seems like an awful idea.”
“… Yeah,” she nodded, though I can tell she hadn’t really considered it to begin with.
“It certainly will be disruptive to our schedules,” Tylissa admitted. “Having to go somewhere special on the nights of the full moon, if nothing else. But… I’m not worried about hurting Jerome, at least. In fact, I sort of feel closer to him. Is that weird?”
Jerome shrugged, “It is kinda weird. But also, I can say I do like being stronger sometimes. Like I can…” he shook his head. “I would show you, but I can’t always change back.”
“It is a good thing you are already out of school,” I said. “But it might make things difficult with your friends.”
“I guess,” Jerome said. “I kind of want to see what happens on the next full moon, if I can control it. If it’s not a problem… maybe I’d like to keep it?” he shook his head. “I might be greedy though. I always wanted powers. Everyone does in New Bay, whether they admit it or not. Now that I already have some, having more is still interesting. But it kinda depends on how inconvenient it is. I don’t really need to be stronger.”
“If you do,” I said, “There’s magic for that.”
“Sure, but I could have both, right?”
“… You could.” I furrowed my brow, thinking about something completely unnecessary involving multiple spells. I’d already cast Enlarge on Great Girl. Was there any practical benefit to making her stronger? At least Shockwave had fun just going fast.
Regardless, with that discussion I was not in any terrible hurry to level up and learn Break Enchantment. I doubted it was something I could learn spontaneously, and I wouldn’t want to try until they were sure. Perhaps at the end of the month everyone would realize it was a bad idea and I would have to focus on that path, but that was plenty long to get another level. Especially since I would be going back to active duty soon.
“I can’t believe how much I missed being here with you guys,” I said to the squad. “Midnight kept me informed, of course, but still. Things have been more active, right?”
“More active, while simultaneously sometimes less,” Captain Ice Guy explained. “More trouble from Doctor Doomsday for heroes and mercs to deal with… but the other villains aren’t exactly happy with him pushing in on their turf. Some try to take advantage of the situation, some get in conflict with his new goons. And his old ones, but they’re just humans with whatever super tech he gives them. It’s hard ot believe he gathered so many new people all at once.”
“Or he did it over the last few waves of portal incidents,” I shrugged. “And kept everyone in a secret underground lair.”
“True,” Ice Guy admitted. “Anyway, in this current district we’re dealing with Rodentia and the Mod Squad are also quite active.”
“We had to deal with the cheese ray again,” Shockfire commented. “Good news, it melts. Bad news, it’s very goopy when melted.”
“I’m glad I don’t have to deal with that much,” Acid Man said. “Not that we’ve had many run ins with Rodentia. Though I suppose two directly with the same villain is already significant.”
“They keep us around familiar villains for a reason,” Ice Guy said. “As long as its shown we can handle them to some extent. With the unpredictability of tech supers, we’ve been doing fine.”
“I don’t think any of it’s that bad,” Rocker commented.
“That’s because you have a strong power,” Ice Guy sighed.
“It’s pretty strong, yeah,” Rocker admitted. “But it’s also not developing fast. Pretty sure half of you could take me down in a one-on-one now. Plus Midnight.”
“Energy Ward is very helpful,” my not-cat buddy commented. “Though you have gotten better at dealing with Grease.”
“Enough to stagger my way out of the area, yeah,” Rocker shrugged.
Now that things had settled down and I was back on the job for real, I also needed to work with Midnight to determine if he could improve any of our spells. I was leaning towards no, but then again I did get some portion of the experience that he earned. Only for battle though, because I still had that restriction. Picking some spells for only him to use would be our test for that, though in times of crisis we’d use whatever we had to.
“Well then, squad C-4 head out!” Ice Guy gestured grandly, though we were already moving. I wondered what trouble we would encounter next. Hopefully not reporters, they were as bad as orcs.