Awkward silence radiated between Midnight and myself, as his emotions echoed and amplified. We were on our way back to Extra the same evening. “I don’t really think this is a good idea,” Midnight said.
“And why not? If you don’t trust them, we don’t have to bring it up of course.” I knew the actual reason, but I wanted him to say it.
“I don’t want to leave,” Midnight admitted.
I scratched the back of his head. “Don’t worry buddy, you don’t ever have to leave. Look, we went through Mossley and I’m still here, aren’t I? But I think you might want to have a way to visit home eventually.”
“But what if… I bet my room’s all changed around now! I bet it wouldn’t even work anyway.”
“We could ask,” I pointed out. “Look, you’ll have to be the primary for that Gate, and if you don’t want to we won’t even try. But I think you should have the option. To know if you can.”
“Okay,” Midnight said. “But I can’t… manage two-thirds yet, can I?”
“We can still do half and half,” I pointed out. “The reason we do two thirds with me is because I have more mana capacity and a higher level.” And that would always be true, unless something seriously odd happened. Because his combat experience made me improve, and even with the ability to learn through study it would be a decade of intense work to catch up to me if I did nothing at all.
“… What if it’s not enough?”
I shrugged. “You know what I’m going to say. We’d just need more levels. To improve our ability and all that. And maybe, in the worst case scenario we work with Celmoth to construct an interplanetary teleporter a few sentences at a time.”
“Can we do that?” Midnight asked.
“We? No. But maybe a tech super or Martians can.” I didn’t really understand the restriction on bringing Mars’ higher level tech to Earth when we already had super tech mad scientists around, but there were probably reasons.
Soon enough we found ourselves in the teleportation… hallway. Surprisingly we actually saw a couple people going in and out this time, but I wasn’t close enough to sense what sort of effects there were for those coming out, and Zorphax and Malaliel pulled us aside and distracted us from the other individual going in.
“Alright,” Zorphax said. “We have a couple attempts planned. And I believe you had one idea of your own…?”
I felt Midnight’s head turn towards me. “Well, we should see if we can connect to Celmoth.”
“Just in case it works… is it possible to contact them to warn them?” he asked. “Since there is some theoretical danger.”
“Yeah, we can do that,” I said. I should have just enough mana for Sending and the particular portion of Gate I was going to cast. “If we do three total, at least.” If we got a reply from Sending, it would be at least half an hour.
After a quick discussion, Midnight and I settled on a message- it would have been better for him to send it but he needed to conserve his mana. He was the one with the necessary connection to Celmoth, after all.
The message was simple enough, to Midnight’s mother Jet. ‘Is Midnight’s room the same as it was? Testing magic. Please keep anyone out of the room for the next several hours.’ If we got no response, we would just have to assume it was unsafe to attempt. It seemed that Sending could get lost in either direction, so it wasn’t guaranteed to make it to her or back.
After we were ready, Malaliel prepared us, handing over a feather from her wings. “The first place you will attempt to create a portal is to Celestia.”
“It is not the one you would have heard about,” Malaliel said. “But rather the Earth name for the dimension I came from. Unfortunately, we don’t have any pictures for you so the feather will have to suffice.”
I nodded. “It can work in theory, but I suppose I could end up somewhere similar. But I guess we just have to try. Midnight, standard split.”
We were just a bit short of being able to use all of Gate’s potential compared to the upgrades I had. All of out practice and actual use had actually resulted in a natural improvement after I spent points… and even though Assistive Familiar Casting had improved a second time, that was still one short. Of course, there was further mastery to be obtained in the future, as three upgrades wasn’t the limit. There might be an actual limit, but nobody had truly encountered it as far as I’d heard it.
I focused on the mana flow and the feather. I wanted a Gate to Malaliel’s home plane. Power surged, flickered, and then faded away. I shook my head. “It’s just like trying to go somewhere else on Earth.”
Malaliel and Zorphax shared a look. Then she spoke, “I was afraid as much. My connection has been severed. But it was possible that your power would circumvent that.”
“Apparently not,” I said.
“Alright, one more,” Malaliel said, producing a golden orb a bit smaller than her palm. “This should have a connection to another dimension. The reason we don’t have pictures is different, but it should be safe. It is still better for you to not go through the portal should it open.”
“Understood,” I said. Not that I needed warnings. I wasn’t the type to unnecessarily step through portals to unknown places without cause. The first time had totally been justified by the lack of things to fight.
This time I could feel it was different. The orb began to hum as Midnight and I wove our mana into the spell. It began to form into a portal, shimmering as it grew to the size of a person. A smaller Gate, compared to what it could be, but it still resolved itself into an image of the other side.
Probably. I was not entirely sure what I was looking at, to be honest. It was a room with strange angles and odd sources of light, perhaps best compared to the inside of an irregular prism. But I didn’t get a very good look, as the portal didn’t last more than a few seconds. But in that time, a wave of mana poured over me. It wasn’t the familiar mana of home, but a very clear magical font nonetheless.
“Well, I guess it works to whatever that place is.”
Zorphax actually looked relieved. “At least you probably won’t be making portals to all sorts of weird dimensions, if that’s the result.”
“I have the feeling it was… far away?” I tilted my head.
Malaliel nodded. “As dimensions can be considered adjacent or not, that one was somewhat removed. Not the limit of what has arrived here, but not the closest. Of course, it is impossible to say if any dimensions could be entirely disassociated with our own.”
“Because we’d never interact with them to prove they exist,” Zorphax grinned. “We can’t prove the negative, only the limit on the number of dimensions to which we theoretically have access.”
“Which is…” I asked.
“Classified,” Zorphax said. “… But I can tell you that we publicly admit to having encounters with over a hundred dimensions just here in New Bay.”
It almost seemed like the Sending would be lost when I finally got a reply from Jet. ‘His room should be almost exactly as remembered. We will keep it clear. Please stay in touch.’
Oh. Right. We’d not been able to contact her as much from a different world. Though it didn’t seem that the loss rate was any higher from where we were to Earth and Celmoth. Midnight had extra mana because of the high density on that plane, but he’d eventually stopped because of how many times nothing got through.
I passed the message on to Midnight- and indirectly Zorphax and Malaliel, who were busy fiddling around on tablets, likely doing ‘paperwork’. Without paper, of course.
“So if we’re going to do it, you should be in control,” I said. “Though I believe the easiest split would be half and half.” His capacity wasn’t a problem here, he just couldn’t quite handle thirteen-and-a-third mana all at once at his level. It would require a couple more levels. “Are you ready?” I didn’t really intend to give him a chance to reject making the attempt. Because we needed to know, one way or another, if it was really possible. And I knew he would regret not trying.
“Give me a moment,” Midnight said, closing his eyes in concentration. I could feel his emotions fluctuating, and did my best to support him with calm of my own. “I suppose I’m about as ready as I can be.” He looked at me for a moment, and I looked back at him. “Oh right. Uh, Turlough. Even split.”
The moment after he spoke, the two of us began to channel mana. I didn’t often give over control of the spells to Midnight in our practice, but we’d still done it before. Our overall practice significantly helped the process. I felt Midnight molding the mana, saw it beginning to take form, and then… the flat disc in front of us stopped growing, and failed to resolve into a portal.
I felt a wave of shame from Midnight, among other things. “I… I can’t do it,” he hung his head.
I reached up to pat him. “You mean you can’t do it yet. Remember when we were trying to get back to my home plane? It was just like that. It’s never done that except for portals that can be made. It will just take a little bit longer, right?” I asked Midnight.
He raised his head. “Right. And I… I already resolved to stay here. I just wanted to… see it.”
“And I’m telling you, when we can do it you can just pop back and forth whenever you want. You’ll want to visit, of course.”
The sound of someone clearing their throat brought my attention back to the short form of Zorphax. “Please don’t treat interplanetary or interdimensional travel so lightly.”
“Why not?” I asked. “When we do it, it will be safe. And we won’t if it’s not.”
He grumbled to himself, but didn’t really have an argument. “Well. This is about the limit of the testing we have for you. Some things seem impossible, or so far off as to be similar,” Zorphax shrugged. “I must always remind you to use your powers responsibly, and in accordance with the supernatural based laws of the world and New Bay in particular.”
I tried to remember what they were. I had read a lot of laws when I came here but it turned out they were nearly limitless. The supernatural ones were actually rather concise, however. Use of superpowers in the commission of a crime elevated the level of offense. Otherwise, as long as they were used safely they were fine. Which was why they had this teleporty place here.
“Well, I think that about wraps us up,” Zorphax said. “I hope you can start on that diplomacy thing soon.”
Ugh. Did I have to?
I guess I couldn’t just ditch Mossley, or assume it would be able to avoid all future problems. And it would be my best bet to find Master Uvithar.
In the morning, without other duties to attend to, Midnight and I made our way to the Power Brigade. It was weird, to get back to some sort of routine. While we could technically take some vacation or post-disaster rest days or whatever, it was honestly better for us to just go in. It would make us feel more normal again, now that we weren’t stuck in a strange world.
Just after we clocked in, we got messages from Francois asking him to come see him.
So we took the elevator up to his spot. “There you are!” he said. His clothes were as vibrant as always, somehow managing to be a vast mix of colors but just barely short of overpoweringly garish. Of course, Francois would never be caught dead in exactly the same clothes two days in a row. Or… on any two days, as far as I could tell. “When Ice Guy came by and I saw the damage to his outfit, I almost fainted. It was ruined I tell, you. Ruined!”
“Couldn’t you patch it?” I asked.
Francois’ eyebrow twitched. “My boy, one does not patch, works of art! I could have repaired it perfectly, of course, but that was not how things were meant to be. No, it was completely tossed out as I came down with inspiration!” The man spun around, grabbing the hem of my jacket as he approached. “I see yours is no better. What happened to it?”
“Well, there was the dragon. And Doctor Doomsday’s killer gunbots. And some magical creatures. And training.”
“Were you training in mud pits?” Francois demanded.
“Just outside,” I shrugged. “It involved some wrestling.”
He sighed. “Clearly my stain resistant clothing was imperfect. No matter. I have an entirely new outfit for you.”
“I really like my current one, actually,” I said.
“I am aware of your stagnant tastes,” Francois waved his hand. “Do not worry, it is of a similar enough style. After all, you must remain recognizable as Mage and Familiar. But here, let me show you.” He handed over a new jacket, much the same blue as I had before. “Try it on.”
I took off the old one, which Francois instantly cut into ribbons in front of me with scissors that seemed to materialize in his hands. That was… actually quite frightening considering how durable that stuff was. I put the jacket on and… “It’s good,” I said. “Just like everything you’ve made.”
“Not just like it. Twist the top button. With intention,” he emphasized.
Intention to… what? I wondered that, but apparently intention to activate something was good enough. As my jacket suddenly disappeared. “Uh, that’s neat,” I said. “But I don’t know if disappearing clothing is practical?”
“It’s not gone,” he said. “Simply camouflaged.”
“With what?” I asked.
“The material underneath, of course,” he gestured to my shirt. “The point is to wear your civilian clothing underneath. Otherwise it would ultimately show your underclothes. Speaking of which,” Francois pulled out a pair of boxers. “Extra durability, but and in the style of my personal brand. Just in case.”
In case of what, I wondered.
Ultimately, my entire outfit was replaced. “Won’t wearing normal clothes under this be uncomfortable?” I asked.
Francois frowned. “You doubt me?” he asked. “No, don’t answer. The answer is simple. It will be no more uncomfortable than the clothes underneath. It’s a true breakthrough in clothing engineering, I must say. Oh, and before I forget. Your new mask. It can fold down into the breast pocket and…” he slipped it in to demonstrate, “Disappear. Along with anything else in there, though I wouldn’t recommend anything bulky. Now try it on.”
I pulled it out, finding it naturally flipped open and fit on my face. But at that same time, I felt something wrapping around my head. I grabbed it, but could barely see anything between my fingers.
“A compromise,” he said. “Wearing a helmet is not only unpleasant but sight restrictive and unfashionable. But complete transparency in material at that thickness would ultimately compromise the integrity. In short, it covers your head, replacing the earlier options. Thought I might still suggest…”
“Not getting bludgeoned on the head?” I grinned.
“Avoiding all sorts of head trauma,” Francois smiled in return. “Don’t think I forgot you, Midnight,” he turned to the Celmothian. “You get the same features, and you won’t even feel it on your fur at all. It’s even a step better than the previous version. Additionally,” he pulled out four small objects. “Footwear. Able to transmit the feeling of the ground without worrying about cutting up your cute little paws, and additionally to suit your fighting style… well, why don’t you try them on.”
Midnight looked skeptical at first. Not that he doubted Francois, but putting on shoes wasn’t really a cat-body thing. Until his paws naturally slipped inside the shoes. He held up his paw and flexed it, when suddenly long claws sprang out. “… Extendable claws?”
“Exactly!” Francois grinned. “Much more durable than your natural ones, I’m sure you’ll find. And I do believe your shared pool of power should channel through all of these materials without incident,” Francois looked between us. “Though do let me know if there are any issues.” He took a step back, then yawned widely. I suddenly saw the bags underneath his eyes. “Now that I’m done with all that, I can finally get some sleep,” he said. “Ta ta~” He waved.