Mage Among Superheroes 53

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After being released from the hospital I was sent back to Power Brigade HQ to see Doctor Mishra. The healer at the hospital had to deal with emergencies coming through so they had to conserve their energy. That meant taking people out of critical states to where they would make a full recovery on their own, but not all the way. I was injured on the job, so there was no question about getting Doctor Mishra to finish fixing me up.

Then I went to see Francois. He dealt with outfits, after all. “I was told to come to you,” I said. “My outfit has blood on it. Also a hole.” I handed him the shirt portion, since the rest was fine.

He dangled it down in front of himself. “Oh my.” His eyes flickered over to my chest. “Right in the heart? Glad to see you made it out. Don’t worry about this. We’ve got ways to take that blood right out. And the hole.”

“You can sew it up?”

“Oh no. That builds wear and tear. We’ll just get rid of the hole and it will be good as new.”

“Oh. I should… probably be able to do that.” There was a slight gap in my known spells given that I had been eager to start flinging firebolts at things so I could actually get experience. Specifically, I only knew a single cantrip- first level spells that were generally minor in power. Mending was one like that.

He mockingly put a hand over his heart. “How awful. You’d drive me out of business.”

“Your real job is the design. Speaking of which, is it possible to make it more… bulletproof?”

“… I suppose that might be necessary. Let me take a look at the jacket.” I showed it to him and he shook his head. “No damage. I suppose you were wearing it open?”

“It wasn’t really cold so…” I shrugged.

“It’s another layer of defense,” Francois pointed out. “I’d suggest keeping it closed. It’s breathable enough to not be uncomfortable most of the time, and a bit of discomfort is small when weighed against your life.”

“I just didn’t think about it. I wasn’t exactly expecting something to shoot through my Force Armor and the shirt. I’d only been shot by pistols.”

He clicked his tongue. “Never underestimate technology as a super. Even if it’s not thrown together by someone with a power, you’re still able to be hurt. It takes connections to get something like that, of course, but we tend to make enemies.” Francois shrugged, “That said, closing the jacket might not have helped. The cut doesn’t cover all of the sternum.” He shook his head. “I’ll have to keep that in mind. Regardless, I can get you something a bit tougher… but that won’t solve your problems. You need to either get rid of this individual who shot you before it happens again or find a method to react. Though I don’t believe your squad is well equipped for the latter. Speaking of which, get the other two recruits in here for an update in style. These were meant to be the first draft, after all.”

I felt discomfort from nearby. Specifically Midnight. The bond between us wasn’t perfect, but I got the general idea. “Midnight is also part of the team,” I gestured. “Though I don’t know if you’ve made anything for someone of his… proportions.”

Francois looked almost offended. “I made an outfit for Jim,” he said. “I can certainly make something for…?”

“Midnight,” my friend offered. 

“Yes, right. You were the late addition to the squad. Slipped through the cracks. I assume you experience discomfort wearing things over your fur? I’ve got some special materials we can try out.” He kneeled down next to Midnight, whipping out a measuring tape and wrapping it around various places. “I suppose we can try a few runs since you won’t use a much material, find what works best.”

“I’m not sure I want to wear anything but…”

“But you want to be safe. I understand,” Francois said. “We can try transparent options, or something that matches your fur so you look almost the same. Any concerns about your head? We could go for a mask or helmet…” Francois looked to me. “Same with you.”

“Seems a bit awkward to carry around…” I was thinking about the extra mana cost for using Storage and if it would be worth it.

“There are foldable versions that can fit in a pocket,” he said. “Or hats…”

“Maybe a hood?” 

“Yes, that’s good coverage,” Francois nodded. “Just make sure that you keep it up for protection, and not because you want to act mysterious.”

“Duly noted,” I replied.

—–

Our next stop was a meeting with Captain Senan, and the rest of the Elemental Magic Squad. “So. Good news. I recently leveled up again. I’d like to ask your input on what I should learn next. I have two options competing for each other. The first is Stoneskin. It’s a powerful defensive spell that lasts a few hours, and I’m confident it would prevent something like that. Unfortunately… the cost is high enough I could only easily use it on myself. Midnight gets a free ride from the familiar bond, but it’s… almost half my mana to cast it. In an emergency I could use it on one other person, or skip myself and do it on two, but that would nearly wipe me out.” I shook my head. “If I knew Handface would come just for me, it wouldn’t be a problem.”

“It’s Deimos,” Captain Senan pointed out.

“Not if I have anything to do with it,” I countered.

“Fair enough,” he shrugged. “What’s the other option?”

“Well, trying to hunt him down and get rid of him so it doesn’t happen again. I have the feeling he won’t be content with just shooting at me once. So… I could pick up Scrying. It might give us his location or it might… show us a small section of a boring warehouse. Or nothing. I can only try it once per day and it can fail if the connection isn’t good.”

“Like… if he’s in a Faraday cage?” Shockfire asked.

“That’s…” I took out my phone to look up what a Faraday cage was. “An interesting question. Probably not, though. It’s not blocked by stuff in general. It’s like a metaphysical connection. If we had a scrap of his hair or nails or blood or something it would be almost guaranteed to work. Anything owned by him helps, and a picture is slightly beneficial.”

“We definitely have pictures,” Captain Senan nodded. “What about video? Is that better?”

“Umm… It might be?” I shook my head. “It shouldn’t be worse, at least. The final issue is I would need a big mirror… and it might have to be made of silver. That was the standard in my world, but I’m not sure if it was a quality metric or what. It’s not a consumed material component, so…” I shrugged.

“What’s the harm if you try with a regular mirror?” Captain Senan asked.

“It doesn’t work, and I waste a tenth of my total points so far.”

“… How big of a silver mirror do you need?”

“Standard is four foot by two foot, and no I don’t know if it really needs to be that big.” I shook my head, “Mages were generally interested in finding what worked and not… looking for unnecessary alternatives. And obviously we have options here that weren’t possible there.”

“… I’m not concerned about getting shot,” Acid Man stated. “My power is reflexive so…” he shrugged. “But if you’re worried about your own safety, you need to protect yourself.”

“I like the idea of Stoneskin,” Shockfire said, “But if it’s too high of a mana cost now, it’s probably better for later. And catching this guy seems prudent.”

“I’d vote for Scrying,” Captain Senan said. “That’s a very useful ability to have. But of course, the choice is yours.”

“Obviously,” I said. “But I came to you for advice for a reason.” I pursed my lips for a second. “Do we have anything that belonged to Handface?”

“I think we could get the bullet?” Ice Guy frowned. “But we don’t have anything with his DNA to get that big boost you talked about.”

“… I supposed that is what that is, huh?” I’d read about DNA and just hadn’t considered it. Scrying was one of the few spells that relied on that sort of thing.

“What level is it?” Midnight asked. “Also, you can only try once per day, but can I try?”

“Eleventh level,” I replied. “But we’re effectively the same caster for that purpose, so we couldn’t try the same person again.”

“Aww…” Midnight swished his tail sadly. “I thought I figured out something good.”

“It was a good question,” I said. “And… I suppose we could try it anyway. So, who wants to go get a bullet and then find ourselves a big mirror?”

—–

I had a picture of Handface pulled up on my phone. It was him in the warehouse, the best shot we had. The phone rested on the bathroom counter in front of me, beneath the mirror. “This can take a while. Specialists are faster, but this is literally my first time.”

“How do people become specialists?” Midnight asked.

“Years of study or being born with a good Aspect. Or both.”

I began to draw out mana, very slowly. It was like the tiniest trickling stream as white mists began to form on the mirror in front of me. I was pretty sure this was how it was supposed to work, but I wouldn’t know for sure. I tried to call upon the connection with the image, the memory of interacting with him, and the bullet. I felt something, but creating an image was difficult.

“Excuse me,” Jim said. “Could I get to the sink?”

“No problem,” Shockfire moved aside. “Sorry about that.”

The water was on for a short while as Jim cleaned up, the smell of soap entering my nostrils. Waiting for this magic to go through was… really boring.

The mists finally covered the whole mirror, and then began to swirl. But I felt a resistance. I gripped the edge of the sink as I wrestled with the stubborn subconscious of Handface, the innate resistance to magic that people possessed. Then he severed the connection. The mists faded all at once, showing just five guys standing in front of the mirror in a bathroom. “He resisted it,” I shook my head. “His subconscious defenses will be strong for about a day, then they’ll generally relax.”

“Are you sure that’s why it failed?” Ice Guy asked. “If not…”

“Don’t worry, I’m sure. In fact… I can show you this works. Midnight, if you would go hide somewhere? Or just… be anywhere outside the room without me knowing where.”

“I’ll go with him to help with doors,” Shockfire said.

“Don’t want to stand around in the bathroom more?”

He grinned and shrugged. 

I waited a couple minutes. I felt that Midnight was probably done ‘hiding’, so I started the magic again. “My connection with him is way better so this can’t fail if the mirror qualifies,” I explained. The mists began to swirl on the mirror, “It still takes a bit but…” even as I was saying that it began to clear up, and then it showed a table in the cafeteria. Midnight was sitting across from Shockfire. Around ten feet from them the surroundings began to become vague and misty. “See? It works.” Just about when I was about to finish, Midnight turned his head to face the scrying sensor and waved. “I could hold this for about ten minutes, but there’s not much point here in particular.”

“Hmm,” Ice Guy said as I let the image fade. “People can sense it?”

“Sometimes, yeah,” I admitted. “It depends on their sensitivity to magic. Midnight would obviously feel me doing it, so he had a clearer sense of where we were looking from.” My stomach grumbled. “Let’s go meet up with them.” The Power Brigade’s cafeteria was pretty good. Real cooks would make what you want, or you could have something ready-made that was still better than what I had been eating for most of my life.

“Agreed,” Acid Man said. “And tomorrow we can try to find another place with a good sized mirror.”

I clutched my head as we walked out. Using all but one point of my mana over two spells was really not good for me, even if I recovered a single point in that time. I was glad the expenditure was over a longer time period rather than all in an instant, or I might have knocked myself out. Stoneskin would probably have to wait a few levels, even if it was slightly cheaper.

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