I had begun to develop something of a schedule in my new life. The first thing I would do after I woke up would be to turn on the news. There was always something about some hero or villain, even if it wasn’t local to New Bay. There was never an in-depth explanation of powers or anything like that, but I still learned about the world. I knew that in theory, the internet had all of the information I wanted, but I didn’t have an easy way to access that consistently. Not without paying for it, and I wasn’t sure if I wanted to spend too much money on a regular basis.
My finances were fine. Good, even. Though soon enough I would have to find another place to stay, and looking at prices… I wasn’t fully confident about my pay supporting me. Of course, working for the Power Brigade would be enough once I actually started going on missions, but the downtime pay for new recruits wasn’t nearly as impressive. Not that it was unfair, since I hadn’t really provided any value for them yet. And that was ignoring the incident with Shockwave.
After watching some news, I would head down for breakfast. Despite seeing many of the same people every day, I didn’t know many of those who were staying in Extra’s apartments. I sat next to the one person I recognized, a neighbor from the same floor as me. “Good morning, Khithae,” I said to a woman who looked something like a lizardfolk… but was neither from my world nor an actually equivalent species.
“Good morning, Turlough,” she responded. I understood that our conversation wouldn’t sound like much to other folk, and it certainly wasn’t what I would have expected. The language was more like… chirping. Yes, it sounded strangely birdlike. And also like crickets. But Translation took care of all of the hard stuff.
Khithae had very wide fingers and no claws. From what I’d learned, she was closer to a gecko than an iguana or what I sort of assumed lizards to be. She was using an oversized spoon to scoop food into her mouth. Without lips it was difficult to actually use most silverware properly, but she upended the spoon in her mouth and everything worked out from there.
“How are you adjusting?” I asked.
“It is quite strange here,” she admitted, “But I much prefer it to where I came from.”
Given her looks, it would have been assumed that she was an alien. Maybe she was, by certain definitions, but the ones important to Extra put her in the same category as me. Extradimensional. The difference was she came to Earth as part of some sort of technological accident in her home dimension. She’d actually arrived on the east coast, but New Bay was best set up for dealing with strange persons randomly appearing so she ended up here.
“How about you, Turlough? Anything interesting happen in training?”
“Not yet,” I admitted, “Though we should be allowed to use our power in spars soon. How’s your work?” I knew she’d been set up with a position as a janitor. Not glamorous, but given that she didn’t speak the same language as anyone it was difficult to do much else. There were other people with translation abilities, but they couldn’t just be with her all the time.
“Work is much the same, though they chastise me for climbing up the walls to reach the corners of the room.” She shook her head, “I of course clean the walls afterwards, but they would prefer I use ladders. They seem rather unsafe to me, though.”
“Yeah, sometimes people have difficulty understanding what people can do. They understand ladders, even if they aren’t that good.”
There was rarely ever anything of importance to speak about during breakfast, but talking to someone was good for both of us. I had acquaintances at work as well, but I did want to have actual friends in this world. Now that I’d solved my primary problem of leveling up, I could think about other things.
After taking a car to work, one of the actual regular expenses I had to deal with, my routine was also very much the same from day to day. It always started out with physical conditioning. Running and pushups and other exercises that were intended to strengthen many different parts of the body. There were different activities for those with divergent bodies and extraneous limbs, but I didn’t currently have any of those things. I wasn’t sure if it would make a difference to exercise them even if I did.
Then there was sparring with Rasmus, Maks, and Meztli. It wasn’t always just us, but everyone else was much better than us new recruits. Meztli was just there to guide us and help us recover when we got hurt. I appreciated being able to recover from bruises so quickly, but that didn’t mean I liked getting them. I did like getting experience though. Sadly the fights weren’t even close to serious enough to get tons of experience. Over the course of a week, I was still short of reaching level 13. But I didn’t need to rush things. I had years of missing experience to make up for, and I couldn’t be expected to get into real battles or intense spars with powers every day. At least not yet, apparently, which was too bad.
After sparring, it was time to train our powers. Just using magic more didn’t help me gain experience with Aspect of the Barbarian, but Meztli pointed out that even if my level wouldn’t grow I could still improve my accuracy with firebolts, and my movements for Shocking Grasp and the like. Just practicing not making it obvious which spell I was going to use was relevant as well. Just like my spar with Great Girl where I had used grease when she didn’t expect it, the element of surprise was important.
My routine was slightly interrupted by an announcement after we finished training. Meztli looked over the few of us rookies as she spoke. “Normally we like to ease people into training, but sometimes the world doesn’t make that easy. We have a job lined up at the end of the month- one week from tomorrow- which means we’ll be accelerating you a little bit. Tomorrow we’ll have the three of you spar with powers, and assuming we deem you have sufficient control the day after that you’ll be working with some of the more experienced recruits.”
“Can I ask what the job is?” Rasmus said.
“Sure thing,” Meztli said. “We’re not sending rookies on top secret missions. You’ll be providing security for a formal event. On that note, we’ll have to get you all some proper clothing.”
“Like suits?” Rasmus asked.
“Like super suits. They want the deterrent force of obvious security rather than subtlety.” Meztli smiled, “Don’t worry, equipment like that is all included with the package. As long as you aren’t destroying it on purpose. After all of you clean up, you’ll be coming with me to see Francois.”
So far, I hadn’t taken the elevator to any of the above-ground floors of the Power Brigade. This time, however, we went up to floor 6. Meztli took the three of us down a couple hallways until we were brought into a room stuffed to the brim with bolts of cloth and racks of hanging clothes. Specific sorts of clothes, the spandex of super suits. Or at least, brightly colored clothing that generally fit that same vibe.
At the sound of us coming through the door, someone came out of the back. It was a man clad from the neck down in a tight fitting garment, but instead of just being one color it was all of them. He was a veritable rainbow of sometimes sparkling colors. Even as I watched, the patterns were gradually shifting in an almost hypnotic pattern.
“Good afternoon gentlemen. Good afternoon indeed,” the man smiled. “A fine crop you’ve brought me today, Meztli.”
She nodded, “Good to see you again Francois. I’m sure you already got the message.”
“New suits for new men,” he almost wriggled with joy as he said that, his smile widening. “The first super suit for everyone is a special experience. People change and grow, and they might want something new, but they’ll always remember it. Now who’s first. You- the skinny one,” he pointed to Maks as he reached into the sleeve and flicked his wrist.
A long strip of something appeared which he started to wrap around Maks in different places, starting from the top down. That included a brief measure of his nose, a quick wrap around his neck then a few measurements around his arms, and more.
“Alright, alright,” Francois nodded to himself. “What’s your power?”
“Energy control,” Maks said. “And conversion.”
“Tell me more,” Francois said. “I don’t need all the details, but fire? Electricity? It wouldn’t do for your suit to fall apart during normal use.”
“I can do both,” Maks said. “We also tested with radiation.”
Francois waved his hand, “That last one is hardly something to design around. I’ll just make sure it’s generally durable. Maybe some lightning patterns on the sleeves, and fire on the mask. You have a name?”
“Maks,” he said.
“I’ll take that as a no,” Francois said. “Well, not all super names need to be initialed on. I’ll get the info and take it into account. Next, you!” he gestured to me. Before I could react something wrapped around my neck… though it only just barely tightened as he moved on to measure other points a moment later. I just did my best to hold still, though I wasn’t sure if he cared. “Power?”
“I’m a mage,” I said.
“What does that entail?” he said as he continued to work on my measurements.
“Lots of different things,” I began to explain what I could currently do. It hadn’t changed any since the last time, obviously, since I hadn’t leveled up again. I did have a few points left though.
“So it’s not parlor tricks then,” Francois nodded. “We’ll stay away from the stage magician look. The hard part is colors matching your skin.”
“Uh…” I said.
“Don’t worry, don’t worry, I deal with different colors all the time. I have just the thing. Now then, last one,” he gestured to Rasmus.
I was a bit later on my walk home than normal, but New Bay was awake all evening and well into the night. The streets were well lit, and it was still easy enough to pick up a hot dog or two on my way. As I walked by a particular alley I almost didn’t bother stopping. I didn’t see anything at first, but a small black form tucked in behind the dumpster caught my eye.
I crouched down next to the figure. “Cat buddy, it’s pretty filthy down there. You should probably stay up on the fire escape.”
When there was no response of any sort, I grew rather concerned. I had expected him to dash away or something instead of just laying there. I waved my hand, and I could see his eyes slowly track my movement, but he didn’t look so good. His breathing was ragged and labored, his eyes sunken. I tore off a little bit of hot dog, but after licking it he just let it fall to the ground.
I wasn’t any sort of a healer, let alone a cat healer, but my cat buddy didn’t look good. If he wasn’t able to eat, I wasn’t sure what I could do. Hunger might not even be the main problem. I scooped him up under my arm and carried him with me. I could tell he wasn’t doing great by the lack of protestations. I supposed a little food each day hadn’t been enough, or maybe it was the wrong kind and I was responsible for him being sick.
I didn’t know what to do, so I brought him to my place with me. Instead of immediately going inside, I stopped at a nearby door and knocked, holding up cat buddy. “Hi Khithae. Do you know how to take care of a cat?”
The expression of someone with a differently humanoid face was sometimes hard to read, but I could at least feel the concern in her voice. “Oh no, is it sick?”
“I’m not sure how to tell,” I said. “And this fellow doesn’t talk.”
She leaned in close, waving her tongue close to him as she studied him. “Did you try feeding it?”
“What about water?”
“… not yet,” I admitted.
“You go give him water. I have some things it should be able to eat,” Khithae said.
I nodded. “Okay. I have a bowl back in my room.”
“I’ll meet you there,” she said.
I scurried back to my room, holding cat buddy under one arm as I used my key to open the door. Cat buddy just hung there limply, though I did hear a weak meow. I wasn’t sure if that meant things were worse or not. I set him down in the little kitchen I had- one I hadn’t used at all- and filled a bowl with tap water from the sink. Fortunately, as I placed the bowl in front of him, he began lapping it up. That was a good sign, but he still didn’t look good- and he still didn’t eat a little bit of hot dog. It just fell out of his mouth. I hoped I could get him to eat something soon.