The process of Scrying began, and I soon felt the resistance of a scrying anchor trying to yank me away from my goal. They must have scavenged one from one of their bases- or this was placed in another one we hadn’t found yet. However, it was once again merely the old versions that Doctor Doomsday had first used, and I was able to wrestle my way past it to reveal a grumpy face.
Calculator was present, of course, and clearly just as disappointed as myself that we were using a regular mirror and a camera filming from a single angle. All I saw was a bare hallway, concrete walls, some pipes. Nothing that stood out to me. I naturally rotated the view to try to find something. Focusing up and down provided little more.
I crossed my arms. Perhaps Scrying first really would have been the right choice. We could have probably caught them moving. Surely there must have been something to see. Maybe he would walk somewhere interesting or- no, he was just leaning against the wall now. I would have ended the spell early, but the mana was already expended so we might as well make use of it. And unlike a few other people I’d scried upon, this ‘Iron Bloke’ didn’t seem to have any idea he was being watched.
Soon enough he got tired of leaning on the wall, after which he punched it. Turned out the guy wasn’t all defenses, as he broke off a good chunk of concrete from the wall. Sir Kalman had been fighting this guy for a while at a standstill, which said something. It also made a clear comparison to Digits, who knocked Kalman flying. Though some of that was most likely the unexpected nature of his abilities.
“There,” Calculator said. “Focus on that.”
“The wall?” I asked. I rotated the view as much as I could to not get Iron Bloke in the path, but I couldn’t exactly zoom in. It didn’t help that he was suddenly stomping away. “Looks like more stone behind it…?” I said vaguely as the wall faded into the mists, soon followed by everything else as the spell began to reach its end.
Calculator shook his head. “That’s not just any stone. That’s volcanic rock.”
“So that would mean…?” It had to mean something. Did they fly out to an island nation? Oh right. “To the west?”
“It could be one of Volcanus’ former lairs. Or just anything out that way that someone co-opted,” Calculator shrugged.
“Isn’t there like… a big freeway there?” I asked.
“And nothing else,” Calculator pointed out. “Nobody will much take note of some people pulling off to the side in the middle of the night. If we go by those assumptions, we can greatly narrow down our search area. After all, there is only so far they can travel in a certain time frame unless they have another super we don’t know about that would allow them to achieve greater speed without looking like much. Either way, it narrows it down significantly. A fifty mile line instead of hundreds of square miles to search.” Calculator glanced over at the various Yew-Kay locals, “That’s about eighty kilometers, not that the precise numbers actually matter for this.”
Squad Ten nodded. “I’ll get this information to Lady Recollection. She was attempting to discover what sort of getaway vehicle they might have so we can spot it elsewhere.”
Calculator gave his sign of approval. “I can give her a narrower timeframe for when they would have had to hit the freeway. Now then, I don’t believe Mage has much mana left… but perhaps we could get Familiar to Scry Digits?”
“Absolutely,” Midnight agreed. “I have enough for that.”
The mirror filled with mists as the image slowly resolved- Midnight would also have to deal with the scrying anchor, but we did share upgrades. Personal practice still made some difference beyond the level of points, but he had done almost as much as myself.
Digits shoulders were clearly no longer busted like they had been at the end of our battle. While Crown Forces would have monitored him to make sure no permanent harm would come to him, results like that could only be the work of a super which should only have come into play if necessary. “Did that containment facility have a healing super?”
Calculator nodded, “There was one on staff. We can review the records, but most likely it was the orders of Director Abrahams. And very few healing supers would question something like that.”
I agreed. “On its own, it wouldn’t have been enough for him to break out.”
“Next time I’m cutting his hands off,” Sir Kalman said. “What?” he asked when we all looked at him. “Not while he’s incapacitated or anything.”
Personally, it seemed like a pretty good idea to me. And it was one thing to deal with supervillians who committed reasonable crimes like grand theft dairy, and another to deal with slavers.
The location Digits was in was only slightly more interesting than a hallway. He was sitting at a table alone, drumming his fingers. Shortly after he came into focus he looked around, frowning. Then he flicked his fingers through the air, slightly shaking a glass on the table even when it was close.
“He’s resisting,” Midnight commented.
“Let it go,” Calculator said. “Better to let him think it was just an idle feeling than hold it for too long. If he mentions he thought he was being watched, it will make our jobs more difficult.”
The swirling mists slowly faded away as Midnight let the spell lapse. “Sorry we didn’t get anything.”
“It’s not your fault,” I said. “He just had better senses. So, what do we do now?” Midnight and I were pretty tapped out on mana, considering our use of Mental Freedom on everyone. And that was wearing off now, so the only thing I had was my staff, half charged with dispelling juice. I could probably get Sir Kalman to fill that, since he had more mana left.
“Most of you need to get rest. I’ll work with Lady Recollection to finish the investigations, and we’ll see from there. But most likely you should expect an assault.”
Sleeping in random places sucked. A technically comfortable bed that wasn’t my own wasn’t that great. I might have even preferred my Shelter spell, except that cost mana and people didn’t like buildings popping up in their cities even temporarily.
Midnight was better at falling asleep than me, and that helped because once he was out it soothed my mind indirectly. That meant I only spent an hour or two trying to get to sleep instead of four or six.
How would we fight? How much mana would I have to spend? We’d have to deal with that mind control lady again, so it was going to be a lot for Mental Freedom. 45 mana, which would literally drain me dry by myself. And even splitting with Midnight, we wouldn’t have a whole ton left. That meant mana crystals. How many could I use safely?
Who would be going with us? Could we handle Digits and the group from the club at the same time as an unknown mental villain? There was the one who confused people. Headspin or something like that. Would her powers burn through Mental Freedom and make us vulnerable to manipulation? Then there was the air control lady. Gust. And Iron Bloke and the cyborg and Digits and… we still hadn’t sent the dwarves back.
Eventually, I managed to sleep.
“Are you alright?” Midnight asked me as we got in one of the armored transport cars.
“I’m fine,” I said.
“What are you worrying about?”
I could have said nothing, but it was probably obvious even to people who couldn’t feel my emotions. “How we fight them. If we’ll have enough mana. Just loading us up with Mental Freedom will leave the two of us low unless we use Mana Crystals.”
“… How much is safe?” Midnight asked.
“For you? I think two.” He could also absorb a mid sized one, but the largest ones I could make were approximately five mana. I didn’t want to push him too far, especially considering his reluctance. And I was uncertain how his smaller size might affect things.
“I’ll do it,” Midnight said. “If you have them.”
“I have just enough for both of us,” I said. It was something I did with spare mana, especially while we were in that high mana ancient plane. I kind of regretted not making more, not that I could use more at once anyway. Three was the safe limit for me in a day. Or an equivalent amount of smaller crystals, which took proportionately longer to absorb, though potentially much less mana to create. Crystals around 3 mana in size might be good, taking about twice as long and being barely more than a third of the cost. But that was only relevant for building up my stocks in the future.
Calculator and Lady Recollection had stayed up late- or rather, into the morning- verifying the getaway car and its route to the west. It had taken some time to follow the ‘trail’, but they found where they turned off the road. They hadn’t approached from there, but we would have a tracker with us just in case it was necessary. It shouldn’t be terribly far, though- the chain of volcanoes had only been so wide when they burst up from the seafloor and exploded.
The volcanic causeway had nothing along it except for a few gas stations and mechanics. On the flight over, Calculator had explained that there had been attempts at tourism stops, but among other things difficult terrain and fighting over what jurisdiction they would be in had meant efforts went nowhere.
So here we were driving across a land bridge that had pretty well ruined a few ports, with nothing to look at besides some rocks and the road and some ocean stretching to the horizon. It might not have been bad, if there had been more life. And if I hadn’t been tired and grumpy.
“There will be aquatic heroes watching for any escape attempts,” Squad Ten explained to us- he was riding in every vehicle for the sake of convenience. He was also the official member of Crown Forces, so he was in charge of things. “We’re going to verify an entrance as we approach, but we’ve been keeping our operations as subtle as possible to prevent forewarnings. We can expect traps and battle, but we don’t know if they have other supers there. If I say to retreat, we need to do so.”
“Who’s going against who?” I asked.
“Sir Kalman should be able to cause some damage to Iron Bloke, correct?”
The dwarf nodded inside his armor. “Indeed. I… learned a new ability.”
“As long as you can withstand his attacks, any amount of damage is sufficient. We’re not certain about the mental manipulator, but our best bet is for me to take her down with us shielded. If she has deflection abilities, we will adapt. Most likely Gust will be covering for her, however. Dart will target either Iron Bloke or Gust. We will hope that Headspin is minimally effective, but my weaponry should potentially be effective against her or Switch as well. In short, the main objective is to take out Iron Bloke and Digits first.”
“I have a plan for that,” Midnight said. “I can just go for his ankles again.”
Squad Ten frowned, “I wouldn’t count on that working twice. Though I will try to shoot out his kneecaps.” He tapped one of the guns at his side, “And given that these are escapees and we don’t expect a civilian presence, I’m using standard ammunition.”
“I also have a plan,” I said. “He’ll probably block any spells I throw at him, but I think I can slip past. Or alternatively, try to distract him with untouchable light spells. Or trip him up. Or… all of those? Perhaps in a different order.”
“Got it,” Squad Ten said. “There are their tracks,” he gestured off the road as we passed by.
I tilted my head. “… Aren’t we supposed to turn off, then? It’s going to take half an hour to get to a proper turnaround, isn’t it?”
“Well obviously we’re not going to go directly next to them. That’s where they’d put all the land mines.”
Good point. I’d lead this job to the professionals. Which included some tracker I hadn’t met in the other vehicle.