A few days of training were enough to get us familiar with the general layout of the manor and the perils involved with people. It also helped us learn why they were still happy having a rookie group like us.
Rasmus had great control of what he damaged with his acid powers and what he didn’t. That didn’t stop it from being extremely unpleasant to step in a pile of goop or have it pour over you, but he was quite capable of avoiding collateral damage. Maks was different. Spraying fire or lightning everywhere was quite dangerous in a crowd of people we didn’t want injured, but his other abilities were what was prized- his ability to stop such things from going everywhere. In battle he had always immediately counterattacked with what I shot at him, but he could hold onto it for a while.
As for myself, the Power Brigade was quite aware of my limited ability to cast Force Armor on other people, but I’d shown myself to be capable of carefully selecting targets and came in at the same time as the others, so they didn’t mind having another person handy. Plus, I could haste someone if it became necessary. Who? I had no idea. ‘Ice Guy’ was the captain for the mission, and while we were training I thought of something important. Haste could make people and things faster, but there were limits.
Obviously not limits on actual speed. At least not any practical ones, given the Shockwave incident. I could multiply the speed of anyone. The important limits were what could be done with haste. Faster movement and faster mental processing allowed for many things, but there was a limit on myself that was a problem. How quickly I could make use of mana. While hasted, I would likely still be able to shoot firebolts more quickly than normal- there was always a moment of hesitation between shots, of aiming, repositioning, and the like.
With Haste I could constantly be making use of my mana… which would of course mean that I would burn through my whole reserves in less than a minute- not counting the fact that about a third would be required to activate Haste. But the important part was it technically didn’t let me cast spells faster than I could without. I figured the same might apply to powers, and found that I was correct.
Maximum power output remained the same, but just like myself not everyone could make practical use of their power at maximum output. So it was still a benefit, but it was much better for those whose powers didn’t involve energy manipulation. For example, Rasmus would turn into a very fast pool of acid, but the rate at which he melted things stayed the same. Useful, but not as overwhelming in its effectiveness as on others. Thus, it was most effective for one of the other supers working with us- ‘Knives’.
Her power, of course, was to form knives out of energy. What kind of energy? I had no idea. It was just energy. Red energy, though a sort of calm one rather than a bloody one. Until she stabbed someone. Regardless, though she could form them and throw them as projectiles- which would still be limited by her speed of drawing on that energy- if she were to use them as melee weapons where they remained solid once formed she could be very effective. So if things came to a battle, my second priority after avoiding immediate harm to myself and surrounding party guests was to find and boost her.
The final member of our group would be Magnet Man. He had the ability to control metal. And he was very vocal about the fact that it had nothing to do with magnetism. But hey, we didn’t get to pick our names. His job was to mess with any guns or most other weapons people decided to bring against us.
That is… if anything actually happened. Because while this was a fancy party with rich people who were hiring mercenary supers for security, they weren’t expecting anything. Ice Guy assured me that it was unlikely there would be any incidents beyond overly drunk people. That was how I knew there would be trouble. But this time I wasn’t going to start it, unless I had a good reason.
After an hour, I learned that parties were boring. During the training simulations, it had never taken an hour for some incident or other to happen. It was usually in the first ten minutes, though we were never sure exactly when something would be happening. We had to stay vigilant.
And I was. But boy, was it boring to stand in a guard position for over an hour, and I could barely even see the dance floor from where I was. I was on the second floor, over towards one of the wings with a hallway off to my right. A few people occasionally came up and walked either way to one of the balconies, but they mostly remained down with the main party. Where all of the food was.
My stomach growled slightly. Standing guard made me hungry. Or boredom. Or whatever. I idly listened to whatever conversations passed me by. There wasn’t really anything interesting, and I only heard like half of it as Translation was constantly adapting to new languages. There was a lot about stocks, though I doubted all of these people owned warehouses. Though I wouldn’t doubt many of them were merchants of some sort, with all the fancy clothes they wore.
Most people ignored me. A few people stopped to look over my setup, my deep blue jacket and practical pants. It wasn’t the most standout super costume in the world, but I also imagined they were looking at my green skin and tusks. Some of them commented on it, though in this place I wasn’t that crazy of an anomaly. While most of the people at this particular party were human or humanish, there were a few who stood out much more than me. Extra arms were seen on a few people, and one guest seemed to be mostly tentacles bundled up into a fancy suit, a few tentacles each forming something akin to arms and legs.
Since arriving in New Bay, I’d felt many different sorts of energy from various supers and things. Everything felt different, but they all tingled my senses. It wasn’t the same as sensing magic, and because of that I was immediately thrown off guard when I felt magic that wasn’t my own appear in front of me. Yet there was nothing there.
For a second I thought I was being oversensitive, because while I certainly felt it the feeling was faint. The kind of thing I could have completely ignored back in Granbold. But as my eyes locked onto it, I was certain. It was magic. Much too small to be someone invisible- though perhaps that was simply because most of the magic would be hidden. Without active effort on my own part- probably including magic- I shouldn’t be able to sense any spell people would bother making invisible.
As I was considering learning the very magic in question to get a better bead on things, I heard someone talking from the hallway behind me. At first I didn’t register anything, until the word ‘guards’ caught hold of my brain.
“Yeah boss. They won’t be a problem.” I was very aware that the person was not speaking English, the majority language in New Bay. That would explain why he would speak this close to me, so freely. “Yeah, six of them. We have eyes on them and their comm channel in our ears. They don’t suspect anything, and they’ll never know we were here.” There was a short pause. “Yeah, I know, I got it. Red dress, fancy handbag. We’ll get the stuff.”
What a conundrum. They were listening to our comms? I could still communicate some basic ideas with codewords, but if they were smart they might guess we figured them out. And if I was being watched, maybe by magic, I couldn’t just sneak off to give someone a signal manually.
I considered the circumstances, and my priorities. For all I knew, this could just be some handoff of illegal crap. Drugs, weapons, whatever. If that was what this was, disrupting the party for it might be a problem. But the fact that they were listening in on comms indicated it was something they thought we’d care about. Since I couldn’t just disappear, I had to make an excuse.
I started shifting in my position, wandering back and forth. I nearly bumped into the man who had been talking as he walked out of the hallway to my side, but he moved past without a word. Mid-tone skin and short dark hair with a plain domino meant he had basically no discerning features, and that would make him hard to track down. But I couldn’t just follow after him either. I paced back and forth a few times before speaking into my comm unit. “This is Mage. Requesting temporary replacement at position five for a bio break.”
Technically, as long as I told them I was going to use the restroom, it wouldn’t be a problem. Nobody wanted distracted guards, and I wasn’t anywhere super important. But with our comms theoretically overheard, it seemed like a request I could get past. “Copy that Mage,” our captain responded. “Shockfire, relieve Mage at position five.” I avoided breathing a sigh of relief. If he’d simply said a replacement was unnecessary, pushing for it would have been suspicious. There was still the matter of being watched though. Could they only see me, or could they hear me too?
I could no longer sense the magical effect. I hadn’t noticed it fade away, but now I was concerned I’d lost my best invisible lead. And the man who had been in the hallway was already moving down the stairs to disappear into the crowd.
Not long after I saw Shockfire making his way over, and I decided I had to do something. I broke away from my post as he approached and smiled, holding my hand out real quick. He instinctively held out his own hand, and I grabbed it. “Hey thanks man,” I said loudly. “Appreciate it.” I made to move around him without letting go right away, performing an extremely awkward maneuver that left me near his ear for a moment. “Comms are compromised,” I whispered. I knew the proper code for that and said it just to confirm, but I wasn’t sure if Shockfire had memorized it yet. It wasn’t a priority in our training.
Then I headed past him, towards the bathroom. The good thing about big fancy parties with free alcohol was people were always heading towards the bathroom. I stood out like a sore thumb, of course. Just because people had crazy masks on didn’t mean that my primary color look fit in smoothly with them. As I walked along I picked out my next spell. I was thinking it would be good to have anyway, and I had the free points and the need for it now.
I stepped into the bathroom just behind one of the party goers, and was fortunate to find it empty except for him. What I was about to do might cause some suspicion, but I took stock of the man’s height and build, as well as of course what he was wearing. I only had a moment before he stepped into a stall, and I fixed that image into my mind. I walked up to the sink and began to wash my hands, not that I needed to but to get a realistic time frame. Then I cast Disguise. In the mirror was a perfect replica of the man.
At least, as far as I could remember. That was the weakness of such a spell, but it would provide the minimum amount of suspicion at first. I hadn’t sensed anyone following me, so it was quite possible I wasn’t being watched at all right now. If I was, someone might find it odd that two people who looked very much the same walked out of the bathroom, but that was just how things would have to be.
I dried my hands and stepped back out the door, walking into the crowd. I was looking for the captain, Ice Guy, though Knives or Magnet Man would have been fine too. I could go up to any of them and give a code phrase. They might find it odd, but my voice would sound the same. And the message that comms were compromised and something was afoot would ring true whether or not they believed it was me- because if I was a fake, then it was simply proof. However, before I saw any of them or even Acid Man, I saw a very fancy red dress and ostentatious bag on the other side of the room.
I quickly began to make my way across the dance floor as I scanned for the man I’d seen earlier and more of my allies. I really hoped this wasn’t a big deal, but treating it like nothing when it might be would have been a silly mistake. And I was never content to just stand around doing nothing anyway. This was fun. And if I kept the trouble to a minimum, things would be fine.