Mage Among Superheroes 48

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“So,” Izzy jumped up on a chair to be close to eye level with Zentra. “How long is it going to take to open the stupid portal?”

Zentha shook her head. “Under normal circumstances, given the help of talented individuals assisting… it would take perhaps a decade.”

“But I got you a phase core!”

“There are no spells for transitioning to other dimensions. Planes are one thing, but this requires more. And the process would take many, many phase cores.” Zentha held up her hand to stop Izzy’s incoming complaint. “But I promised you quicker results, and that is what you will get. Because we aren’t going to create it. Just find it and use it. Divinations have revealed a chance within the month, which will become more precise as the date approaches.”

“… I suppose another month or two isn’t that bad,” Izzy admitted. 

“It also indicates that these portals aren’t just random chance. It is impossible to know how many other worlds there might be, but for one to repeatedly link to ours despite the difficulty…” Zentha shook her head. “There must be some circumstances on the other side to make that possible. And even so, we need to encourage connections here. It will be brief, but we are developing a method to stay in communication with you.”

“So we can come back?”

“As I have said previously, I don’t know if you will be able to return. And you don’t know if your friend would wish to. But I am not putting in this effort merely for your sake.”

“Right. Information for your assistance.”

“Exactly,” Zentha nodded. “As a scout, you’re quite well suited to it. Hopefully we will be able to learn something useful.”

—–

Every morning Midnight and I got ready to go to the Power Brigade, which involved very little beyond eating on most of our parts. I had to get dressed, but Midnight was fine as he was. I didn’t carry a whole ton of gizmos and gadgets with me, though I was still working on getting a gun. My training was almost sufficient, but the process took a while if it wasn’t necessary. I could fight without one, so I had to go through the normal paperwork. There was a surprisingly large amount compared to registering a power. 

The only things I really kept on me were a wallet, keys, and phone. I could carry more or have stuff in Storage, but there really wasn’t much else to have. My full outfit was stored at the Power Brigade, with just the mask on me. I still had that bulletproof vest but the Power Brigade gear was better and more comfortable. Other than that, I didn’t have many possessions and even fewer I was inclined to carry with me.

Every day Midnight and I went through the scanners at the HQ, and every day nothing happened. Which made today special, I supposed. But special wasn’t always good. One of the machines beeped, and then I had guards standing in front of me.

“Did you bring any unregistered devices with you today?” one of the guards asked while the other waved a ‘wand’ towards me. This wasn’t a magical implement, but some kind of technological thing that detected stuff. 

I tilted my head. “No? Nothing new.”

The guards nodded but continued their work, asking questions and scanning me. It wasn’t that there was very much I was forbidden to bring. Something about high explosives or whatever, but that seemed unnecessarily dangerous when I could just do the same with magic. My phone was always scanned separately to detect ‘bugs’ and other than that I had no technology on me to detect. 

One of the wands beeped, and I heard a little ‘pop’ down by my leg. Something fell out of my pant leg, and the guard picked it up, nodding. “Another one of these. They keep trying to slip through.”

The guard held up what appeared to be a tiny robotic rat. The whole thing was smaller than a finger, especially since what seems to have been the creature’s head had exploded. I looked down at my pants that now had a burn hole in them. “Tsk.”

“Yeah sorry about that,” the guard said. “These things seem to self-destruct when they think they’re compromised. At least your leg looks okay?”

I nodded. Benefits of having Force Armor on at all times, at least. It was really only a tiny little explosion, but I could have had some bits of metal in my lower leg or some burns. The pants unfortunately didn’t receive the protection since the attack was from inside them.

“I saw those before,” Midnight commented from my shoulder. “Bigger ones.”

“We’ve had to deal with some of those too,” nodded the guards. “If you could walk back through the scanner?”

This time I came out clean, which was good because one hole in the legs of my pants was more than enough. “Is anyone doing something about them?”

“We’re just here to keep them out,” the security guards said. “You’ll have to ask someone else about counteroffensives or whatever.”

So I did. I got the information that the rats were probably the product of a villainess named Rodentia, and that so far they hadn’t been able to track the creatures back to her- or anyone. Without a location, they would just be sweeping the streets randomly, which wasn’t a good use of time, especially since nothing had happened yet. Attempts at spying were very common, apparently.

If I had an entire level’s worth of points, I might have been able to do something. But I didn’t, and the connection of a device someone used to them was pretty thin as magical connections went. Plus I needed a huge, high quality mirror and I- actually, I might have one that qualified. The mirror in my bathroom was pretty amazing. 

But I didn’t have the points, and the situation didn’t seem important enough yet. 

—–

“Alright team,”Captain Senan stood in front of us, about a week later. “First of all, I want to say I’m proud of you rookies for how hard you’ve been working with your training. Some of you even put in extra…” his eyes didn’t settle on anyone in particular, but I thought he might be talking about me. Senan, also known as Ice Guy, nodded to Acid Man, Shockfire, and me in turn. “The Power Brigade has decided that you’re ready to move on from being trainees. For a month and a half, that’s excellent. I’ve seen groups take three months, six… a year. But you all have proven yourselves out on the field as well.” He smiled, “And since the lot of you get along so well, you’ve been assigned to a permanent squad under myself. Welcome to squad C-4, the Elemental Magic Squad.”

“I’ve heard worse names,” Rasmus shrugged.

“Yeah, we got lucky,” Maks admitted.

C-4. That meant we were the fourth squad in the Power Brigade’s C-rank- though there were probably more than four squads. C-rank was a wide classification that didn’t necessarily match between different groups, but for the Power Brigade it was just the step up from trainees. B-rank were those with significant experience, and A-rank was the top, those most trusted to succeed at whatever task they were given. 

“In case it wasn’t clear, I’ll be continuing as your captain,” Ice Guy returned to his explanation. “We might get more squad members at a later time to fill in some gaps in our powerset. Personally, I’d hope for a bruiser of some sort.”

“What about me?” Midnight commented. “I mean, not about the bruiser thing. But am I part of the squad?”

“That’s right,” Ice Guy nodded. “Though in your case, you’re a junior squad member.”

“Like a sidekick?” Acid Man asked.

“Though we don’t use that terminology, more or less. Midnight’s combat capabilities are a bit lower in some categories at the moment, though we understand that might change. Either way, for dangerous missions you might be told to keep out of the fighting if possible. I understand your defensive abilities are basically on par with Turlough, but your combat training is less advanced so far.”

“I understand,” Midnight said. “I think I might prefer to support with other abilities anyway.”

Ice Guy nodded. “That brings up another area I would like to consider. Information gathering. To my understanding, some of your and Turlough’s shared abilities are highly dependent on knowing the nature of the enemy. If you have the espionage abilities, we could use you in that role. We have stealth training specialists for those who don’t have relevant powers also.”

Midnight nodded, “I’m not actually trained. Just small and quiet. But I might be interested.”

I would later discuss with Midnight some possible options to help him with that, since certain spells would be extremely useful. And I wouldn’t mind having them for the sake of protecting myself if necessary. For example, Invisibility. Very useful if a tactical retreat was required.

“Alright then squad,” Captain Senan nodded. “In addition to keeping up with training, our duties will now include patrols. Though it’s called that, it mostly involves being stationed in a certain section of the city to deal with any incidents that occur. Though as a newly formed squad, it might also involve more legwork.”

I didn’t mind the idea of going on patrol and potentially encountering danger. If I did, I wouldn’t have signed up for the Power Brigade to begin with. The only issue I had was that it relied on something happening to get into combat. Even so, a small amount of real combat was worth more than most daily training. Especially with the same partners.

—–

As the newest squad, we were of course given one of the ‘worst’ assignments. Our station was in northern New Bay, close to the docks. An industrial district that bordered on poor residential districts. Our shift was at night. It had taken all of five minutes for me to run into a mugging. I stepped away from our post for a second to try to familiarize myself with the local area, and then I heard yelling.

“Hey you! With the dyed hair! Hand over all y’ got!” 

That sounded like something I would be here to stop, so I turned towards the sound to see a man pointing a gun at me. As I turned, he saw my mask. While I had to admit my long blue coat didn’t exactly indicate I was a super, it wasn’t exactly subtle.

It took me a half second to process that he was actually referring to me though. I didn’t have dyed hair, I just assumed someone nearby did. I held up one hand, but not in a gesture of surrender. “If you surrender peacefully you will not be harmed and your sentence will doubtless be lighter.” Electricity crackled between my fingers. Then the man shot me in the shoulder, his arm wavering before he pulled the trigger.

A single bullet was never going to be enough. My Force Armor was sufficient to stop a pistol like that, and even if it hadn’t my outfit was bullet resistant. I had some practice being shot, so I was able to react appropriately- reaching out to grab his forearm and twisting the gun while at the same time zapping him. Then I had my first arrest.

I wasn’t sure how long the guy would be locked up for. That would depend on whether or not the gun was legal. If it was, he would no longer have it or a license. If it wasn’t, that was another charge. He also happened to be quite drunk. But the details of what happened to him weren’t my business, or that of the Power Brigade. I simply reported the facts and left all of that to those with the proper training. 

Captain Senan came over after I called in the incident, and he shook his head after I was finished. “You’re like a trouble magnet.”

“Is that bad?” I asked. Truthfully, getting shot by a random guy wasn’t worth all that much experience even with the serious intent. A few points of experience, but the danger wasn’t that high. Of course, that was if I only got shot once. It was better to keep things spread out.

“For you? Probably. For everyone else, it’s probably for the best. That guy was probably going to mug someone, and I can see why you would be targeted.”

“The hair?” I asked.

“He did mention that, didn’t he. You also have dark skin,” Captain Senan pointed out. “He probably didn’t notice it was green because of the limited light or the booze, or he might have made different choices.”

“… I guess even when people don’t recognize orcs, they still don’t like them.”

“Well,” Captain Senan grimaced, “That’s racism for ya. With this many people there will always be some. For the most part New Bay’s pretty good, but people are people. It’s not just us humans at fault. Though there are more of us, so… more of us end up responsible. Sorry about that.”

“As a person, you are no more responsible than I am for ancient orc raids. But I appreciate the sentiment.”

“I have to admit,” Ice Guy shook his head. “Most people get shook up more upon being shot at. But I suppose you have experience there.”

“My first week here I was attacked with guns,” I nodded. “But I’m confident in my defenses and I get experience for it.” With that said, I was still thinking about Stoneskin. If someone was smart about trying to kill me they could get more than one or two shots off. And they probably wouldn’t be drunk.

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