Mage Among Superheroes 50

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At some point in all of the conflict the dock workers had tracked down lengths of pipe, crowbars, and other bludgeoning implements that they were now using to pummel the large rats with. Pieces of metal flew everywhere- not from the tools breaking down but from the delicate mechanical parts that made up the rodents’ appendages. That part worried me, since this was quite far from where the other robotic rats had been. Were there multiple people who used them, or was Rodentia’s spread so far?

That question could be answered later. While many of the dock workers happened to be larger sorts, others were just normal humans or the sort that mostly saw in the dark for the sake of the night shift. After all, most of the work was done by machines, even on a smaller dock like this one that took things smaller than shipping containers. Acid Man was having great success wherever they clumped up, but there were enough of them he couldn’t handle them all immediately. Ice Guy was freezing as many as he could but if he spread his abilities too far he would merely make it hard for us to move around. Shockfire mainly targeted the largest individuals but he seemed to be running low. 

I was going to help them with all that cleanup, but first I ran over towards the alley where the ‘siren’ and the man that appeared to be mostly copies had run. There were still some of the man holding the line, shooting at Captain Mental, the hero on the scene. She looked like she would be able to overcome them all eventually, but I thought I’d speed things up. “Your hand!” I called out from behind the corner of the warehouse where I still had cover. I would have liked to use Mage’s Reach, but that fell apart when I zapped the woman who was now fleeing. Captain Mental wasn’t far- standing out in the open, attacks didn’t seem to be able to hit her. With a handful of people shooting pistols, I knew it had to be a power. 

She looked over at me, hesitating for a moment- though still expertly dodging attacks. She rushed over towards me, swinging her arm to the side just before she got close. There was a shockwave of some sort that went towards the enemies. That made sense- if she had to go to a particular spot, it was harder to dodge. In the moment they staggered our hands touched.

“Whatwasthat?” she stared intently.

“You’re fast now,” I said. Then I stepped back. Before I could explain further, she was already moving. Though up to that point I had mainly seen her lobbing heavy objects with telekinesis, she seemed to quickly get used to the movement. Or rather, Haste worked in a way that people didn’t have to get used to the movement. It was more like everything else was suddenly slower.

A moment later she was planting a knee in the sternum of one of the copies. As he poofed, she spun her heel into the head of the next one. She continued down the line, slipping by the bullets shot at her. I only got to watch for a moment though as some landed quite close to me and I didn’t relish taking direct hits, even with Force Armor. “Thanksbye!” I heard her call out and the sound of dashing feet echoed down the alley.

“It only lasts one minute!” I shouted after her. It would be bad if she thought it would continue forever, but one minute was plenty. Well, a little bit more than a minute and the fleeing duo didn’t have much of a head start.

Since the smaller rats were quite easily melted by Acid Man, I focused on the larger ones like everyone else. Midnight leapt onto their backs and zapped them with Shocking Grasp, though I knew he could only do a couple more. They were a bit skittery so Firebolt seemed liable to miss. Solid stomps, more Shocking Grasps, and a spare crowbar someone handed me all seemed to do the trick well enough.

Then we were all standing in patches of icy ground with random gears and metal bits everywhere. Sirens rang out in the distance, hopefully ambulances coming to help some of the injured dockworkers. Some were in critical condition due to large gashes from teeth and claws while others had bullet wounds. Fortunately Captain Senan had a first aid kit with him, and I made mental notes to be more prepared for such things. I had little on me but a wallet and phone, plus a couple books in Storage. I could potentially have some more cumbersome gear, though Storage’s weight limit was something like ten pounds at the moment. It just needed to be worth the mana. Anything I planned to use in a fight was probably just harder to get to… but capacity and mana efficiency would improve together if I spent some points on it.

I still had a few left over from my last level, and after that lucrative battle I was now at 843 experience, just 12 points short of reaching level 18. There was no point in buying those upgrades immediately since it wouldn’t just fill with stuff, but I could have more equipment later. 

“Hey, you…” a voice like someone speaking through a windstorm called to me out of the shadows. No, that wasn’t quite right. It was the shadows. A shadow… person? It was far darker and more solid than everything else around. “You spoke to that giant bat, right? The one that abducted some of my workers?”

“That’s Rositsa. Does she not work here?” I looked around, and saw her circling the area in the sky. She wasn’t chasing after anyone though.

“The new girl?” the shadow asked. “That doesn’t look good…”

“She carried people out of the rat swarms and that distracting sound,” I pointed out. “Pretty sure she was helping,” I gestured towards her in the sky.

“Look, I don’t want to jump to conclusions.” The mass of shadows paused, “I mean, I really don’t. Us Extras have to stick together. But it kind of looks bad.”

“I’m sure those guys on the roof can clear things up. Hey Rositsa!” I was pretty sure bats had good hearing, but I raised my voice anyway. Her name should get her attention. “Could you get those guys down?”

“How do you speak her language anyway?” the shadow asked. “You don’t… look like the same type as her. You from the same place?”

“Unlikely,” I replied. “I just use magic. By the way, what’s your name?”

“Oh, I’m sorry. It’s Lei.” The form of a hand stuck out towards me, likely for a handshake. “I’m the forewoman here. Thanks for coming to help. That one hero could barely hold her own, but the four of you really pulled things together.”

“Thanks,” I grinned. “I’m Turlough,” I said as I shook her hand. “We’re from the Power Brigade.” It was important to remember to say that. Though the first part. “Sorry, I meant I’m ‘Mage’. Code names and such.” I remembered for other people, but I was still getting used to the idea that I should keep it a secret.

“Got it,” Lei nodded. “Mercs, huh… well, you sure were efficient about saving the night. So I’m not gonna complain.” A loud flapping of wings had us look towards two men who landed a bit heavily as Rositsa carried them down. She was already heading back up when Lei called out. “Wait! Ah, she doesn’t really speak English yet…” Lei shook her head. “Can you talk to her for me?”

I took stock of my mana. Yeah, I had enough for Translation. “You can do it yourself, in a second.” I waited for Rositsa to land with the last guy. “Translation magic for you. Have fun.”

Rositsa turned back into her humanoid form. “Thank you. I have not yet achieved full proficiency in the language.”

“It’s been like a week,” I pointed out. “Of course you haven’t.”

While she talked with her group- which seemed to be going well as the formerly on the roof people breathed sighs of relief, I went to catch up with the rest of the Brigade. “Hey. Any idea what those villains were here for?”

Captain Senan shook his head. “Everything’s pretty trashed up, from the bullets and the telekinetic…”

“The forewoman is that shadow over there,” I pointed. “You can talk about it with her in a second. But I’m going to guess… cheese.” Looking around, though, it didn’t seem correct. “But maybe Rodentia is branching out.”

“Rodentia?” Shockfire asked.

“She makes these mechanical rats,” I nodded. “Probably.”

“It is her,” Midnight said as he hopped up to my shoulder. “The design is the same as the others we saw. They seem to be everywhere now…” he shook his head. “And they don’t even taste good. It’s terrible.”

Acid Man pulled himself out of a puddle on the ground. Rasmus looked pretty wiped out. It seemed that dissolving stuff continuously was pretty difficult. Or possibly just using his power in general. At least he wasn’t injured though- normal things couldn’t hurt him in acid form, but it was impossible to say that everything would be normal where mechanical rats were involved. “It’s a good thing this tech genius chose a terrible form. Rats aren’t exactly… efficient.”

“All of them are like that,” Captain Senan explained. “More or less, anyway. They all have certain fixations that give them focus and genius, but in somewhat limited areas. The more efficient that fixation, the more powerful they generally are. And the more useful for general technological advancement, so that people can reverse engineer some of their stuff to actually… make sense.” He pressed a hand against his forehead. “Then there are technomancers, who don’t have anything to do with actual, functional mechanisms. It’s closer to just having the ability to control metal, with restrictions on form.” He shook his head. “Things get pretty crazy. But going back to the rats… I seriously doubt two people have the same fixation. With these things trying to intrude into Power Brigade HQ, I feel like some serious work is going to happen to deal with Rodentia.”

I continued to think about whether I should try scrying. It would take basically all of my next level for it to work… and might not provide useful information. “Does the Power Brigade have people who can track her down?”

“Maybe not directly,” Ice Guy shrugged, “But we can borrow people who have the right abilities. Or maybe others will do the work for us. I can’t imagine that the Power Brigade is the only one who’s noticed these rats.”

In the end, all we learned was that technological parts were missing. It wasn’t that Lei wasn’t willing to share, but rather she didn’t know. Perhaps the Power Brigade could contact the company to learn more, but that was all we got on the scene. 

—–

Elsewhere, in a secret base in the sewers. “Good, now I can do more work on that silly device. Are you happy? I lost a good swarm there, and you barely provided good enough distraction for them to slip out a couple crates.” A woman in a long labcoat grumbled beneath her rat head shaped headgear.

“There wasn’t even supposed to be a hero there. We could have handled one or two, but what are we supposed to do about five?” A man who was holding a ratlike helmet under his arm retorted. “Sirine got captured too. I only got away because the hero picked the wrong one of me.”

“What does that have to do with me losing rats, hmm?” Rodentia said. “They’re more important than you guys.”

“Fine, whatever. It’s not like I care. But now what we did this, your guy will get me info on her?”

“Deimos is not ‘my guy’,” Rodentia commented as she fiddled with a device on the table in front of her. “But yes, he should be able to gather more detailed information with this upgrade.” 

“Maybe I should just take it…” the man said. “He doesn’t even have powers, right?”

“No… but he does have the main piece of the device. And you’ll never get far in the world if you backstab your only companions, temporary as they might be,” Rodentia pointed out. “Tell me, how did you enjoy being Rat Swarm?”

“It’s just like being anyone else,” he said. “Except harder to see. And stuffy.”

“Really? You must have been wearing it wrong. They’re quite comfortable.”

“I think we’ll have to disagree on that. But at least my face won’t be all over.”

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