Anticipating the training later in the day, I picked out my new tool. Energy Ward was a specialized defensive ability that would be useful against many different types of powers. At least, some of the most worrying ones. I’d still have to deal with a hole being punched in my torso by the wrong people, but I didn’t have enough points, mana, or diamonds to learn Stoneskin. Well, I could technically use mana on it but I didn’t have the other two things, and I was trying to stay away from only taking higher cost spells. I really wanted to have some access to my offense, after all.
Energy Ward was fourth level and cost twice as much mana as Force Armor, but they could both be active simultaneously and Energy Ward was much more efficient. Four times as much at base but only about three times as much with the upgrades I had to Force Armor. It didn’t last as long and had a narrower focus, but when the circumstances arose I would be quite happy to have my life saved effectively four times instead of just once.
Those effects would show themselves versus Acid Man, Shockfire, or even Ice Guy… but various circumstances led to them being busy and unable to come to scheduled training. So I spent some time just sort of sitting around before I learned of everything being canceled. My regular sparring partners were gone. Great Girl and Shockwave were called off to missions, not that I would have been worth their time anyway. Midnight was still around, but his mana pool was still small which left very few options for sparring. Meztli couldn’t spend all her time watching over me, and Midnight could get actually injured if things went too far. I was able to be treated by the medical supers on staff, and while they likely wouldn’t refuse to help Midnight it was better to avoid that to begin with.
I was aware that there was more to the Power Brigade facilities than the gym and sparring rooms, and while I didn’t have access to some of it there were a few places I hadn’t been. Midnight and I got into the elevator and went up to level 8. The library.
When we arrived I thought maybe we’d gone to the wrong floor. I didn’t immediately see any books, but instead rows of computers in little booths. A handful of them were closed up, but I could peer into the others. The only things that convinced me I had indeed come to the right place were a slight glance of what might have been bookshelves in the back of the area, and of course the labels on the walls that said ‘Floor 8- Library”.
As I stepped out into the area I heard a deep, scratchy voice call out to me. “What knowledge do you seek?”
I turned my head to see a mass of hair behind a wide desk. I was pretty sure there was a person under all of it, but the layers of head and beard hair made it hard to determine that. I could just make out some points that might have been eyes and some protrusions that might have been covered arms. “I’m not really sure,” I admitted. “I just had some downtime and thought I might try to read some of the things here.” I looked down at Midnight. “Can my companion be here too?”
“I require,” the voice emanated from inside the mass of hair, “Identification!”
Presumably they meant my Power Brigade ID, given our location. I placed it on the wide desk, and briefly glimpsed an arm poking out of the tangle and lifting up my ID towards where the face had to be. “I regret to inform you,” the scratchy, deep voice made me wonder if this person had anything to drink recently, “Your clearance level does not allow you to access the full range of information, nor does it allow for the presence of your companion Midnight.”
I wasn’t sure how he’d learned Midnight’s name, but it could have been a power. There was definitely a thing about this guy, some sort of feeling that definitely wasn’t magic. “Sorry, buddy,” I shrugged at Midnight. “Guess you can’t stay here. You can go wait somewhere else, I suppose.”
“I would prefer to explore the city,” Midnight responded. “Now that I am more familiar with how things work, I am confident in my ability to find my way back to the apartment, at least.”
“Sure,” I said. “Don’t stay out too long, or I’ll get worried.” While he had a pretty poor track record of taking care of himself, he wasn’t exactly going to learn if I was always with him. And he wasn’t going to be wandering around for days without proper food or water. I could find him as long as he didn’t choose to dissolve the bond, if it really came down to it.
“Then I shall be returning to the ground floor and then outside,” Midnight swiveled around.
“Make sure to conserve some mana for recasting Translation,” I reminded him. When we were together I could use it on both of us at the same cost, but every couple hours it needed to be refreshed. Since it would take half of his current mana pool, he needed to be careful with it. “It’s really not fun to have a half-effective Translation spell or pass out,” I finished. I was more used to how magic worked, so the advice might not be common sense to him.
“Yes, I shall remember,” Midnight nodded. “I also have my identification in Storage. I will keep four points of mana for those.”
We really needed to get him a way to just carry stuff. He was capable of manipulating stuff quite dexterously for a time, but for a four-legged creature giving up use of one or more limbs was a bit inconvenient. The same was true with carrying things in your mouth. I knew actual cats had collars with information on them, but he wasn’t really a pet. Nor was he a slave. I didn’t want to suggest something like that if I could help it. But they didn’t exactly make clothes with pockets for cats. Surprisingly enough they did make clothes, but they were mostly meant to be costumes for some sort of festival that was coming up. All Hallow’s Eve, I believe the official name was, though everything said ‘Halloween’.
Even if the clothes had pockets they might be too warm. Maybe a little backpack? Midnight could probably manage something like that. We’d have to talk about it more later.
I watched Midnight trot back to the elevator and expertly hop up and slap the down arrow with a paw. The same elevator we came up in hadn’t been called anywhere else yet, so the doors immediately opened. Midnight once more hopped up to slap the button I presumed was for the ground floor and the doors closed on him before I felt him start descending.
“Turlooough.” The voice managed to draw out my name in a rather spooky way as the librarian once more got my attention. “I do not believe you have a… log-in. I will help you to form that from the void so that you might access the systems of the library.”
“Can I just go look at the books?” I asked.
“You may, but the organizational system is special. You will find it difficult to parse without the system. And of course, there are also Forbidden Tomes that should not be viewed by the likes of mortals, words which cannot be inscribed upon anything so base as a hard drive. Those are inaccessible… until you achieve higher clearance.”
Why even mention them then? I kind of wanted to read those books now. “Well, alright… umm, what’s your name?”
“I am Saveliy. Head librarian.” Somehow the words seemed to echo throughout the area, despite the obvious attempts at reducing reflections. “Now come with me to one of these computers so I can set you up.”
A few short minutes later I was logged in to the computer, which would automatically determine my access level to things. I was familiar enough with the operation of computers by now, so I was at first disappointed that the library was not much different from my ability to access the internet. But that wasn’t quite true. There was a database on members of the Power Brigade- and while my clearance only allowed me to see public figures and public information about powers, it was more conveniently arranged than most I had seen.
Among the higher ranking active members of the Power Brigade were a few figures I recognized, like Great Girl and Shockwave, along with many I didn’t- like Mace. She was closer to the middling section like Ice Guy, but what stood out was the weird information. She wielded a spiky metal club that could certainly be called a mace, but her power also just said ‘mace’. Did she summon it or something?
That led me on an interesting search for what sort of abilities people could have. Summoning weapons was one of them. So was super intelligence, which included people like Masha- the woman at the party with that fancy device. Tech supers.
I followed many links to various types of things when I found where the most abundant information was available. At least, available to me. It seemed the Power Brigade had quite a large database of information just on the powers and tactics of various villains, and that information was for the most part unrestricted.
It made sense, really. Information about Power Brigade members and heroes was restricted to protect them. Villains, however, at least those with official recognition of that status, were not given the same protections. If we were to fight against them, knowing their strengths and weaknesses would be quite useful.
The information available was… extensive. It would take a very long time to absorb all of it, and I had no idea where to focus. New Bay was a large area with tens of millions of inhabitants, and there were thousands of known villains with powers. Doctor Doomsday was somewhere in the top pack, though he wasn’t given the highest threat rating by the Power Brigade. I wasn’t sure what rated as more dangerous than someone who had created dozens of portals to random places just because he could.
I read through the entry placed as the highest threat. Heartstopper, a woman so beautiful anyone catching a glimpse of her immediately froze their muscles, including their heart and lungs. That inevitably lead to death a short time later.
I called bull crap on that placement. For one thing, there was a picture of her right next to the information. For another thing, beauty was subjective. Sure, I would admit that the figure of the woman was fairly attractive in that pink spandex, but I was a humanoid. Midnight and Jim would have entirely different senses of what was the height of beauty.
I almost stomped away in disgust, disappointed by the quality of the database. But then I finished reading the entry, and found it agreed with me.
“The mechanism of Heartstopper’s power is unknown, but the popularly known aspects are accurate to a certain degree. Direct visual contact is required for the power to work, and the effects are basically accurate. Those few who survived, mostly supers with some sort of bodily durability, indicated that they were mentally overwhelmed when looking at her- but couldn’t really explain how. Some did indeed become infatuated with her afterwards, but it could have been some lingering damage to their psyche as all such individuals were unstable.”
I bit my lip. Regardless of the method, someone who could kill you just by looking at them- and that seemed to be the end of what was required- was extremely dangerous. There was some magic I was pretty sure would protect against that, but I wouldn’t be able to cast it even if I knew it. At least, it would take the entirety of my mana which would send me into some form of shock even without interacting with someone.
Closing your eyes… could apparently work. Though it seemed there were still lesser effects based on proximity.
While Heartstopper was probably not the biggest threat to New Bay, as she wasn’t toppling skyscrapers, to the Power Brigade she was a big problem. After all, if she showed up and caught people off guard all of their best members could die- or at least be incapacitated.
I was quite contently reading through the whole list, focusing on those villains that seemed interesting without any knowledge of who I might encounter, if any. Several hours passed that way before I felt a sense of worry- no, fear– from Midnight. It was faint due to his distance, but quite distinctive. As it increased in intensity, I knew it wasn’t a momentary fright but instead some sort of real danger.
I quickly stood up from my seat, heading for the elevator. I needed to find someone who could bring me to Midnight. It would be too slow to call a car, but the Power Brigade should have some available and someone who could drive. I would just have to find someone quickly. It was too far to run, but I pondered my options as the elevator went down. Past the ground floor, which I had programmed it for, but instead stopping on B1.
A recorded voice played for me as the door opened. “Power Brigade associate member. You have been diverted to join a team headed to the Alvarado district. Please standby for further instructions.”
How inconvenient. I would usually be happy to go deal with some emergency as it would likely involve fighting, but I had something important. Hopefully I could explain that to whoever was in charge.