Mage Among Superheroes 6

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In the morning I was briefly confused to wake up in a bed that wasn’t mine, with quite unfamiliar surroundings. Then I remembered, I had come to another plane. Planet? World? Dimension was the word they had used. It didn’t really matter what it was called though. It was a new place that wasn’t terribly easy to get back from, in which I had gotten into two separate combats- one of them much shorter than the other. Not bad for a single day.

Turlough (No surname)
Level: 11

Experience: 335

Storage +1

Firebolt +1

Shocking Grasp +3

Grease +2

Force Armor +4

Mage’s Reach +1

Translation

Remaining Points: 7

 

When I’d woken up in the morning, I was level 10 and had 270 experience. I leveled up when fighting the dire bats, or whatever the large batlike creatures were. That meant the guy who’d hit me in the back of the head was worth less than 5 experience to take down. I wondered how an adult man ended up at somewhere around level 5 or 6, but then I remembered. People here didn’t have levels. Unless Zorphax was lying for some absurd reason. I couldn’t even be sure I got experience from fighting him, since the bats could have also been enough. I was fairly certain the bats actually died, so I should have gotten full experience for them. But unless they were from my dimension, the dire bats shouldn’t have had levels either.

My stomach rumbled. I supposed it was time to make my way down and try to find where the food was. I’d already consumed all of the doughnuts from yesterday, since spellcasting made me hungry. Or perhaps it was recovering the mana that did it… but those were basically the same thing, since they went hand in hand. There weren’t many ways to recover mana besides just letting it happen, and those that did exist were expensive, so I didn’t really have a chance to learn about it. Nothing I’d read explained, either. A mage just regenerated a single point of mana per ten minutes, more or less. Enough to cast a first level spell without any upgrades improving the efficiency.

I remembered Basant’s words and made sure I had my key on me as I left the room, though I had everything on me, except for leaving the empty doughnut box in the room. Of course, everything was mostly my clothes- a practical shirt and pants, since robes weren’t much good for running or other physical activity. They mostly gained benefits when enchanted. I also had a pile of papers in storage and a few coins that weren’t usable as money here in my pouch and that was about it. I’d just been going to town for a delivery, after all. Not that I owned much else, since most of the books I studied had belonged to Master Uvithar.

The operation of the elevator was simple enough. They hadn’t covered them specifically in the technology overview, but buttons were easy enough to understand, and the arrows. The numbers inside… reminded me that I still didn’t speak or read the local language. Instead of immediately casting Translation, I tried to puzzle out the numerals in front of me. If I recalled correctly, the single line was the first numeral. It seemed to be base 10 as well, which meant operations should be familiar once I knew the numerals. I pressed ‘1’, hoping that would take me down to the first floor and not down one level. I was right. As I entered the lobby I saw Basant with something in his hand. Was that a ‘tablet’? No, at that size it would be a ‘cell phone’. As he looked up and greeted me I cast Translation again, expending three points of mana. Exactly three, without upgrades.

“I just realized we didn’t leave any way to contact you,” he said. 

“You knew where I was, though,” I pointed out. “You could just speak to me.”

“Unless you wandered off into the city, yes.”

I took a look at my points. Enough to learn the Sending spell, but it was highly inefficient. Of course, having unlimited range made it quite valuable, though I understood cell phones were almost the same, minus cross-planar functionality. I wondered if it worked across dimensions, too. It had been so long since I got more points I didn’t have the luxury of thinking about things like that. But who would I contact? I supposed Master Uvithar might be concerned about my absence, but I might need those points for something else. And… if Sending worked, he could just use it to contact me. It might be a bit rude to force him to be the one to spend mana, but he had more of it and a much higher total number of points. It would be one eleventh of my total to learn it while six points out of a thousand wasn’t much for him- but I also knew he already had the spell.

“We should get you a phone,” Basant said right before my stomach grumbled again. “After showing you to the cafeteria. It’s nothing impressive, but it’ll fill you up.” 

I followed along after him to another nearby building. It seemed that Extra owned or at least worked with many buildings around the area. The cafeteria seemed to be just one level of one of the tall towers in the area, but it was on the first floor so it was convenient to reach. 

“You have your ID?” he asked as we approached the front. There was a person with one of the devices that were used for paying money.

“Yes,” I said. The ID was light, so taking it in and out of Storage was cheap. There was a little bit of inefficiency there since I didn’t know exactly how much it weighed, so I probably overspent mana a bit- but a tenth of a point wasn’t anything crazy. It appeared in my hand and I held it out to the person behind the counter. A human, but with green hair. I wondered what sort of magic caused that change- but of course, the answer was none at all. Maybe humans just had green hair here. Or they could have not been human, and just quite similar. 

The woman took my ID and scanned it in a card reader. I wasn’t sure why it was necessary because she could have just read my name on it. Unless she didn’t speak Common? Or English, I think it might have been called. “Here you go,” she said as she handed it back. So maybe she just didn’t read. Maybe that was common, otherwise they wouldn’t have mentioned the card readers as something common. I saw that $0.00 popped up on the payment thing, so I didn’t have to worry about that. “Phew,” I commented to Basant. “I don’t actually have any dollars.”

“Meals are included,” he commented. “At least in situations such as yours. As for money, we should be taking care of that today. You mentioned you were able to work…”

I nodded, “That’s how people get money, since dragon hoards are pretty rare nowadays.” He seemed a bit confused at the comment, but I supposed that with a world like this dragons had probably been rare for a long time. I certainly didn’t think they would just pop up in a big city like New Bay. 

“Take a tray,” he gestured. I did so, and a plate and some silverware too. I couldn’t believe they had so much silver just lying around… then I realized it wasn’t actually silver but more like iron. It wasn’t rusty though. That seemed like a lot of work to maintain, but they were mostly in good condition except some bent tines on the forks. It seemed the cafeteria was set up so that people could just go around and… take food. As much as they wanted. “You eat the same things as humans, right?”

“Of course. I had doughnuts yesterday. That’s a human food, right?”

“Right,” Basant nodded. “Then stay in the area with these markings,” he pointed to a little symbol. “The other stuff probably won’t sit well.”

I glanced over at the food in the other areas. It didn’t look that bad for the most part, but when I walked past it smelled kind of weird. Some of it was goopy, too. But everything in the human area looked good. I took eggs and bacon and sausage and bread. I was going to be using at least half of my mana during the day, so I would need the energy. And if they didn’t mind me taking as much as I wanted to eat, I could eat a lot. Basant took a more modest amount, but he didn’t look so much like the physical labor sort. I had a few inches of height and probably fifty pounds on him, since he was just a dark-skinned human and not an orc.

“Did you manage to read through some of the papers?” Basant asked as we ate.

“I read most of them,” I said. “The technology was… a lot. But light switches are amazing.”

After breakfast finished, Basant brought me to the parking garage, and we got in a car. They weren’t magic, but technology… and they ran through the power of fire. It seemed interesting, but they were a bit complicated to fully understand after one day. They worked, though, so that was all that mattered. I tried to keep track of how we moved about, but the streets all seemed so similar. The only thing I could do was try to pick out some more recognizable buildings and remember their relative locations. There were street signs too, but we passed so many I couldn’t keep track.

“We’ll be stopping here for a moment,” he said as he parked in an above-ground parking garage. There weren’t many of those that I had seen, but it had the lines for cars. We were in front of a collection of small buildings with different names. We walked into one called New Bay Cell. It stood for cell phones, obviously, and not containment facilities. After a short conversation and Basant handing over some cards that didn’t look like my ID, I ended up with something in my hand.

“What is this?” I asked.

“A cell phone,” he said.

“It’s not flat.”

“Only smartphones are like this,” Basant clarified.

“An intelligent object?” I asked. “They had a lot of them on the walls.” It was strange to think that all of those might be able to think to some extent. And why would they be flat?

“Uh,” Basant shook his head. “I don’t know that they’re actually all that smart. They just have more features. Yours can still call people though. Speaking of which, here’s my work number.”

The phone in my hand made a noise and text popped up on the small screen. “So I type this number to contact you?” I asked.

“Well, you can just hit reply.” It took him a few minutes to explain how to operate the phone to me, but I thought I learned fairly quickly. I wasn’t stupid. Just new to technology. I learned about replies and texts and saving numbers. I hadn’t even considered that sending letters might be more efficient than sending spoken word. I wondered if that worked with magic or not. Spells had pretty fixed things they did, and usually you could only remove features to make them cheaper in terms of mana. I almost wanted to test it, but once again it would have been all of my points and a full hour’s worth of mana to try it.

Basant was quite efficient, taking me to another building after that. “Normally you’d take a shuttle from the apartments,” he commented. “But since it’s your first day and I had to get you a phone, it was easier to drive you.”

“Thank you for paying for that, by the way,” I said.

“Extra’s paying for it,” he pointed out. “And it’s cheap junk.”

“It looks more durable than yours,” I commented.

“Durable can be cheap. Here we are.” We passed by a person taking cards to get into another parking garage, and then we took a single flight of stairs to the surface. “It’s not an exciting job, but it’s the sort of thing that we can set you up on short notice without knowing other skills. Welcome to warehouse 7-B.”

“Is there something special about 7-B?” I asked.

“Nope. Just a number.” He stopped before he got to the door. “Oh, I should warn you. Some people here will look… unexpected, if you’re not used to people like them. Do try to be polite.” As we stepped inside, I could see why he gave the warning. I was used to seeing humans and halflings and dwarves and various humanoids with strange shapes, but just like in Extra’s HQ, some people were… less normal. “Good morning, Florina,” Basant said. “Brought that new temp.”

Florina- it had to be Florina because there was nobody else in the room- had three heads. One of them was a bird’s head, one a dog’s, and one a rodent’s. At least, that was what they looked like to me. She had six arms, all of which were doing something and two of which were wiggly and bent strangely in all directions, and didn’t really have fingers on the end either but just coiled around things. “Glad to see you,” her voice came from the middle head, the dog. It sounded a bit rumbly, but understandable. Translation helped cut through an accent. “We can always use another. Busy here.” Two sets of eyes turned towards me. “You’re the new worker?” I supposed she might have looked at a document but I couldn’t tell since I was trying to focus on the doglike face which seemed to be the most straightforward. “Turlough, right? You look strong enough. No experience operating a forklift, right?”

I knew how to eat with a fork. Was that operating a forklift? It didn’t sound quite right. “Is that… technology?”

“Ah, right,” she nodded with one head. “Little experience there. Well, don’t worry about it. There’s not that much you have to handle, and I’m sure you’ll pick it up quick. Mostly it’s just moving stuff around by hand.”

Thus began my first day working at a warehouse. I would have liked to say I was attacked by mutant rats or something, but there weren’t even any regular sized rats that I saw that day. Instead, I just carried around boxes, sometimes placing them in a ‘truck’ which was just a big car. At the end of the day, I got paid some dollars. A hundred of them, in fact. That… seemed like a lot? At least, it covered significantly more than a day’s worth of food. On the other hand, I didn’t know how much it took to stay in my apartment or anything else of the sort.

It wasn’t a terrible experience, but throughout the day I wondered if I should increase my levels in Storage so I could carry some of the small or medium sized boxes without making my arms tired. And I didn’t get into combat all day, so I earned not even a single point of experience. Still, I fell into my bed satisfyingly exhausted at the end of the day and tried to digest all of the new things I was learning.

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