Before we actually got around to casting Gate, I did my best to limit the nervous resonance between myself and Midnight. This wasn’t as important to me as it was to him except by virtue of me caring about what he cared about. I wasn’t sure how perfect it was, but I managed to inject some calm into the situation.
“Alright…” Midnight said. “Everyone in your place. We’re going to start in a few moments. You know the split, Turlough.”
The two of us gathered mana simultaneously, with Midnight providing the greater quantity and the necessary control. I just had to keep my part stable and not mess anything up.
Our experience didn’t let us down, and the Gate formed as expected. The same room from earlier appeared, theoretically the teleporter room.
“Go!” Midnight urged. They had thirty seconds or so, but we didn’t want them just standing around. It only took about ten for all of them to get through, since they could go through a handful at a time.
We could see how excited they were to return somewhere familiar. “Thank you!” they began to call back towards him.
Then a black cat stepped into our line of sight. There was a moment of recognition and then… the Gate snapped shut. Not due to instability, but intentionally closed.
I sat down next to Midnight and scritched behind his ears, gently rubbing his fur. “How you doing, buddy? Was that…?”
“Jet. My mother,” Midnight replied. “I didn’t… want either of us to do something stupid.”
“… Want me to Send her a message? I have enough spare mana, since we have to wait for yours to recharge before heading back to Earth.”
Midnight hung his head. “I want to make sure I can come back here before returning. I can’t just leave behind my friends, and you need me to manage this.”
“I understand,” I said as I pat him on the head. “I’ll tell her you want to bring her through so you can talk here sometime.” Before Midnight could finish processing what I said, I was already gathering the necessary 10 mana. Or 9.09 and such, but using the full cost made it more reliable over extreme distances and interdimensional.
“W-wait!” Midnight said.
“Already sent it,” I half lied. “Just waiting for her response now.” It would take twenty minutes to half an hour, but we needed to rest for approximately an hour regardless. I browsed the book some more but didn’t find anything particularly revelatory in the early notes. Then I got the reply. “She said it better be soon because two sentences a day isn’t enough.”
Midnight put his face in his paws. “… Maybe it wasn’t an accident,” Midnight said.
“What do you mean?” I asked. “What wasn’t?”
“I mean… the teleporter accident. I wanted to run somewhere far away.”
“Did you tamper with the teleporter?”
“Do you have other powers I don’t know about?”
“I don’t think that’s possible,” he admitted.
“Then it was a coincidence,” I shrugged. “I assume you had a reason to feel the way you did. I suggest talking to a therapist.”
“Uuugh,” Midnight said. “I can’t believe you told me that.”
“Hey, it’s working for me. I presume.”
“It’s just that it had to be you.”
I shrugged. “Who else knows the feelings you let slip out? You can also just talk to me about stuff. But we’re wasting all this Power Brigade mental health insurance if we don’t use it.”
“I think the point is not to need it…” Midnight said.
“Then… get to a point you don’t need it,” I shrugged.
After some more waiting, we were charged enough on mana. “Alright, Mister Beridze. We’re ready to go back.” I pondered. “We could just go directly to New Bay.”
“I-” the man frowned for a moment. “As a representative of Extra, I must discourage that behavior. Also, I do believe you will be needed for transfer of prisoners for extradimensional sentencing.”
“Oh, a good point,” I nodded.
“And customs would be really upset if we country hopped through another world.”
“Fine,” I said. “We’ll go back to Yew-Kay.” I looked at my phone where I had a picture of the place we left. Specifically, the writing on the otherwise similar wall. Something about the place would guide travelers into their own safe alcove, in one of many extremely similar locations.
The Gate to Earth was easier than Celmoth. Was it because we practiced that in particular, or was it really ‘closer’? Then again, it seemed Celmoth wasn’t a hotbed of supernatural occurrences, at least not on the receiving end, which would make the connection more difficult. But clearly not impossible.
I spent the rest of the day training with Squad Ten, who was basically as good as anyone ‘without powers’ could be. He’d honed his body and trained his use of various weapons- over more hours than normal people could actually accomplish in a lifetime. I don’t know if there was any benefit to him for me joining, but we were combat buddies now so he was quite happy to help. Obviously one more day wasn’t going to result in a miraculous transformation, but it was nice to add some physical tiredness so I could sleep.
“So how do they choose who gets sent to Granbold?” I asked.
“Anyone who actually went extradimensional is an option,” Zakaria explained. “By doing that, they subjected themselves to those laws, whatever they are. That includes things like executions which we perform much less frequently. Some people aren’t happy about it, but as a matter of interdimensional diplomacy we have to keep up the practice.”
“What about… if there were things that were illegal in just one place?”
“Then things quickly become a headache,” Zakaria said. “Though we don’t have to worry about such things in this case. Military coups, kidnapping, and slavery are pretty universally reviled. Even those places that allow slavery don’t tend to accept taking random civilians from within their own populace. If it was a murkier thing, like magic being illegal somewhere, we might allow people here as political refugees.” I just stared at him. “What? You’re looking at me like I said the worst thing possible.”
“… There are places where magic is illegal?”
“Sure, why not? There are all kinds of ways people try to restrict the power of others.”
“… Remind me to never go somewhere like that.”
“You know, magic and supernatural abilities are also restricted on Earth,” Zakaria pointed out.
“But mostly in regards to breaking other laws, right?” I replied.
“Fair enough,” he admitted.
The discussion came up after I transported a number of individuals into the care of Sir Kelman and the Order of the Lion, from which they would be taken to the capital. I hadn’t been to or properly seen the capital, or I could have sent them directly there… though there were several reasons not to do that even if it had been possible.
Zakaria’s job had involved confirming they had gone to these places extradimensional.
“So what about those politicians and stuff?” I asked. “They’re going to stay here and just get locked up for a while even though they were responsible for funding this stuff?”
“It’s more than that,” Zakaria said. “Especially since the Crowns seem interested in making an example of them. Their sentences will be long, and they’re getting hit hardest where they hurt the most. Their pocketbooks. Pretty much everything they have will be seized as the proceeds of crimes, or through fines. I hear the Building and Safety Division doesn’t mess around with regards to secret tunnels- and there was clear evidence they were aware of their presence. Also, that’s just what’s happening locally. Extra has additional avenues for punishment even if they didn’t go extradimensional themselves. So while they might not get executed… it’s pretty clear most of their lives will be over. A few of those who were least involved might get plea deals to help secure the rest.”
I nodded. “It would be nice if everything was resolved with that. But they still ended up with Doctor Doomsday’s tech…”
“It’s not like he’s picky with who he sells ‘old tech’ to,” Zakaria shrugged. “But we’ve got a bunch of brainiacs looking into possible connections there. Best to not worry about it, as much as that’s possible with Doctor Doomsday… existing at all.”
“Maybe we could fix that.”
“Hah. Good luck. And by that I mean… best not to get entangled. You’d have infinite thanks if you succeeded, but too many good heroes are lost trying to make a name like that.” He looked at my expression. “And good mercenaries.”
My second time on an airplane was much like the first, which was to say rather boring. I spent most of it trying to make my book show the secret notes- which was apparently possible according to the ending message, but not automatic except when in my previous world.
In a way, it felt like I had been on one extremely long trip ever since running off through a portal during Ceira’s rescue operation. Now, the plan was to be back in New Bay for the foreseeable future. I would be keeping in contact with Sir Kalman, but actually going somewhere extraplanar should be more rare.
Midnight and I were eager to get back to a normal schedule of showing up to the Brigade for daily training, and who should we see first except one of our best friends. Specifically, Great Girl- at least at work.
She was outside talking to someone in some sort of official looking uniform. Well, ‘talking’. “For the last time, I’m not interested!” She appeared slightly taller than average, though I couldn’t see her actively shifting size.
“You go back and tell your bosses that they made their decision years ago, and if they don’t stop pestering me I’m going to make a very public mess for them regarding the very details of that situation.”
“… I understand,” said the man, who slunk away.
I should recognize that uniform, probably. I’d been a bit far to read the badge, though. “Who was that?” I asked.
“Mage! You’re finally back from that foreign world!”
“We already talked since I came back,” I pointed out.
“I meant Yew-Kay,” Great Girl said. “How are you doing, Familiar?”
“Unprepared for the weight of responsibility on my shoulders,” Midnight said bluntly.
“Yeah, I feel you there,” Great Girl nodded. “Come, let’s get off the streets.” It was true we were just standing in front of Power Brigade HQ. “That was the hero association. The whole thing with Dark Star means they’re now lacking the right sort of young female super to fit headlines. So they’ve been trying to poach me.”
“Wasn’t it your dream to be a hero…?” Midnight asked as we passed through security.
“Sure, it was,” Great Girl shrugged. “Until they kicked me out and promoted her. And then maybe for a while after that. But I’m not really a fan of how they run things on a greater level, and being in the limelight probably isn’t for me.”
I shrugged, “You could probably get a different super name, though.”
Great Girl staggered back. “Whoa. You gotta warn people before you drop bombs like that. Are you trying to get me to leave?”
“No,” I said.
“Alright, well… that wouldn’t be enough anyway. The only time I want to step foot on the hero association’s doorstep in the future is with Kourtney’s head on a pike.”
“Who?” I asked. “And where would you even get a pike?”
“That’s Dark Star’s real name. And I’m sure not going to protect her secret identity now,” Great Girl shrugged.
“Oh. Kourtney is Stargirl. Darkstargirl now.”
“She sure is,” Great Girl grinned widely for some reason. “So, have you been keeping up with your training while you’ve been gone?”
“Only one way to find out,” I said. “Though unless you’re planning to go to another world, there’s not much new.” Not besides Shelter, Assistive Familiar Casting, and Multicasting. The latter two of which were of great interest to me personally, but not particularly flashy.