Mornings were normally pretty decent, starting off with a shower followed by breakfast- some quick eggs or something else easy to cook, or maybe I would swing by a fast food place. The latter wasn’t the healthiest, but most of the issues were ignored by just fighting more. There was something about nutrition, but my regular health checkups said I was fine.
Normally mornings were easy. I wasn’t a morning person, but I wasn’t so much not a morning person that I hated it. That was why when there was a loud thud and then a million things falling over, followed by pain in my forehead, that I was surprised.
Somehow, the curtain rod had run into my head. That had never been a problem before, so it must have been lower somehow. Now there was a tangle of shower curtain and a rod along with the whole thing holding soap and shampoo having fallen into the tub below.
I held the curtain rod up with one hand to minimize splashing, using Mage’s Reach to help scrub. I didn’t care about the modesty it provided- only Midnight was around, and he didn’t randomly wander into the bathroom anyway.
Things might have been fine if I had eggs or cereal or anything but I was out. I forgot to go to the grocery the evening before. I wasn’t interested in tuna for breakfast, so I planned to grab something at the local corner store.
One block outside the apartment I felt someone gathering mana. No, more than one person. I turned to see a shining bat swinging towards my face. My arms went out, one grabbing it at the base to stop its momentum and the other grabbing the assaulting man’s head. That got slammed into a nearby dumpster, but I held onto him to use as a shield against the others. I blocked one bat with his arm, but a lead pipe hit me in the side.
The jostling knocked Midnight to the ground. “Turlough!”
“Get the ones coming up behind!”
The punks were disconcertedly shouting about someone being in for it and garbage like that, but their messages overlapped and lost some luster.
It was a good thing Force Armor lasted all day, or that swing would have really messed me up. As it was, it half destroyed my defenses before the spell came in. My human shield didn’t help as the Force Missiles curved around it. My armor stopped one, and the second shattered it with little additional effect. The third slammed into my shoulder with a solid weight behind it. My jacket did little to defend against the magical force, as it didn’t need to pierce through.
I glared down the alleyway at the discount mage who cast the spell. Stoneskin would be nice, but I could tell she was already gearing up for more of the same. I summoned my magic to form a Shield spell, the transparent circle of force blocking further down the alley as I calmly kicked out the knee of one of the punks surrounding me. Midnight had started in with Shocking Grasps as he clipped the ankles of the handful who were coming up from behind.
Two more replaced the fallen around me, but they didn’t have room for more than a few with the wide, inefficient swings they preferred. I had to admit their attacks would be a threat if they hit, the magical enhancements taking things slightly further… though they were still novices.
I delicately snapped a wrist to acquire one of the metal bats for myself, the magic fading from around it as it left its owner’s grasp- but that was of no concern to me. It still served just fine for parrying the other two with a single stroke. Then the bat came around and up, peacefully shattering the jaw of one of the thugs.
Force Missiles splattered against the shield. They didn’t know they needed to go around, so they failed to avoid it. It was part of my magical signature, after all, so it was the same as hitting me.
One arm calculatedly swung the bat at the last convenient head, knocking a figure out of the way as I pointed my other down the alley. Firebolt would be a good test before we started ramping things up. The mage managed to fire another round of Force Missiles before my spell hit her in the chest, setting her on fire.
Pain. Not from me, but from Midnight as a large man punted him down the alleyway, shattering his Force Armor. So I responded in the most logical fashion. He seemed to think that because he was a foot taller than everyone else and as big as the rest of them put together that he didn’t need weapons like the other punks. And perhaps he was right. Certainly, it didn’t make any difference.
He charged towards me, but I took a step back to buy time to gather enough mana. While the fist was still a good few inches away, a perfectly reasonable Sonic Lance shoved the man backwards through a parked car and into the corner store I had been aiming for.
“Oh, that’s right,” I nodded. “Breakfast.” I looked over at Midnight. “Hey, are you alright?”
“It takes more than that to stop me,” Midnight said. “I kind of expected that guy to go down from a Shocking Grasp, though.”
“Full power?” I asked.
“Yeah!” Midnight said.
“Probably a barbarian or some crap like that,” I shrugged. I scooped Midnight onto my shoulder as I walked further into the alley. I began to stomp out the fire on the passed out woman. “What kind of mage doesn’t get any defenses, huh?” That reminded me to reapply Force Armor.
Midnight had taken out four people before the big guy surprised him with his durability, which meant the whole two handfuls of punks were down now. Only a couple were openly wearing Stargirl paraphernalia, but it was pretty obvious who they were. I even recognized a couple faces. Bandannas covering the lower half didn’t really do much for that when everything else was visible.
Well, this mess was going to take a while to sort out. I had to call this in, but while I waited I might as well get breakfast. I walked in through the door, since there was less shattered glass around there. “Got any of those breakfast burritos left?” I asked the kid standing behind the counter.
“Huh?” he was staring at the slumped form of the big guy. Now that I thought about it, it was a bit weird how intact he was. That shard of glass sticking through his shoulder looked pretty rough though.
“Don’t worry about it,” I said. “This place has gotta have super insurance, right?”
“Oh, yeah. I… think so.” The teen looked up at me. “What did you say you wanted?”
“That bitch!” Great Girl stomped angrily in my general direction as we passed each other in the halls. “Mage! Did you see what she re-posted?” She vaguely held a phone towards me, but it was mostly covered by her fingers.
“Who and what now?” I asked.
“Kourt-” Great Girl cleared her throat. “I mean, of course it was Shooting Star! She’s the only one who’s got it out for you like that. She said you’re a violent psychopath who attacked innocent civilians!”
“I’m not, though.”
“I know! But people don’t always know that.” Great Girl sighed, “First she gets a dog, and now this!” she looked right into my eyes… then grew something like an inch taller.
“What was that?” I asked.
“Nothing, I guess I just miscalculated. I mean, nothing. At all.”
This was the point that I would have pointed out that she grew taller, but maybe she didn’t know she was activating her power. But clearly she didn’t want to talk about it so it didn’t matter.
“What’s this about a dog?” Midnight asked.
“It doesn’t matter. It’s just a stupid promotional thing. Probably lives with her in her stupid penthouse and eats out of a golden bowl though.”
“I would like to see it,” Midnight said.
“Ugh, fine. Here. Or if you followed her you’d see like a hundred pictures a day.”
“Hmm…” Midnight said. “It’s different.” Then he shrugged. “I am no longer interested.”
“Okay…” Great Girl said. Then she turned back to me. “So, what are you going to do about it?”
“I don’t know why I should do anything,” I replied. “Isn’t this the same as normal?”
“Being garbage? Sure. I suppose. It’s just frustrating.”
A loud boom made her snap her head down, and I looked as well. A video was playing on Midnight’s phone, showing people being carried off on stretchers. “This is taken quite out of context,” he said. He looked up towards me, “It appears our altercation earlier was recorded.”
“Wait,” Great Girl said, “So there was a fight?”
I shrugged, “Sure, but it was with portal power fans of Stargirl who attacked me. They’re not innocent civilians.”
“They were her fans? That’s all kinds of illegal!”
“I doubt anything could be traced to her, if she was involved,” I pointed out. “Her fans seem pretty… active. And she’s not actually stupid. Probably.” I frowned, “I still don’t understand why she doesn’t like me.”
“Because you called her out on glory hogging.”
“It was true though.”
Great Girl shook her head, “Truth just makes it worse for some people.” She cracked her knuckles, “I’m going to get back to training.”
“Good luck!” I waved. It was odd, because we were already on the training level but headed towards the elevator. Maybe she wanted to hit up the gym?
“Ahem,” I turned to see Calculator standing a polite distance away, formally dressed as always. “Now that your conversation is over, I wish to speak with you. I hope the worst habits of one of our elite isn’t rubbing off on you.”
“I don’t think so…” I said. I certainly couldn’t think of any bad habits I’d picked up lately.
“Is that so?” he said. “What is this?” he showed me a picture.
“… A car?”
He shook his head, “No. That’s not a car, that’s a pile of junk.”
“It is broken, yes.”
“Does it look familiar? Maybe from this angle?” he flipped to another picture.
“Oh, that’s the one I blasted that guy through,” I nodded. “It was in my report.”
“I know,” Calculator sighed, “Listen, maybe I shouldn’t have to say this… but just because civilian safety is top priority doesn’t mean that things not directly impacting civilians are automatically fine.” He shrugged, “We can easily absorb the cost of a car or two, but I just want to make sure this doesn’t become a frequent thing.”
“How often will I get attacked on the streets?” I asked.
“Weekly,” Calculator answered.
That… was actually not too far off. Some weeks had no trouble at all, but some had multiple cases. “Then it shouldn’t be more often than that.”
“I don’t feel particularly reassured. Oh, and I would appreciate if your altercations could be more publicity friendly. Your version of the story checks out, but brutality doesn’t look good even when justified.”
“It wasn’t that bad, was it?” I asked.
“There were enough distinct sounds of cracking bones that someone remixed it already,” Calculator said flatly. He tapped a button and his phone played a short musical number.
“… some of those were Force Armor shattering.”
“You might be too familiar with certain noises,” he said. “Anyway, I should go find Great Girl. I have something to talk to her about.” His phone beeped, and he mechanically tilted it towards him, swiping with his thumb. “… Dammit.”
“What?” I leaned forward, trying to see. I only glimpsed the edges of a crater.
“Just more work,” he sighed. “At least this one doesn’t have video.” With that, he was off.
I looked down at Midnight. “It’s weird how things seem to happen all at once, huh?”
Midnight nodded. “It is. Feel better?”
“Yeah, I feel great. The sausage in that burrito was spiced just right. I’m looking forward to the extras I bought for lunch.”