The edited video did a fairly good job of portraying brutal violence and deception from one side of the battle, but it would have been more believable if there weren’t far more combatants on the side of the actual aggressors. Zack did have to admit that they did a pretty good job with the revelation that Mage was involved, but before that point it was a dozen individuals attacking a moderately sized man and a woman only as tall as a child. The editing did a good job focusing on how she stabbed her knives into people, and the blood… and leaving out the part where the thugs had a mage of their own that knocked themselves out after blasting a big spell while only shoving Mage around.
It was quite obvious to Zack that they had hesitated about including the final scene where an exceptionally large man rushed the now visibly orcish man and tiny halfling, so they kind of skipped the whole introduction and got straight to the part where he was lying on the ground getting stabbed and then the part where his ankles snapped.
The whole package might have been a little bit convincing if the video wasn’t in ultra high definition and professionally stabilized and edited while still saying that it was a random person catching ‘something crazy’ on their phone. It didn’t help that the thugs were all glowing with obvious portal powers when the woman didn’t look like she had powers at all. That was not a good look, but the editing was fast and about the best they could do.
But Zack couldn’t help but grin maniacally as the two unedited parallel videos they had recorded were uploaded. He and the rest of the team started commenting with links to it everywhere the original uploaders didn’t have control over the comments, and then everywhere they did with screenshots just for fun.
And he also got in contact with the Power Brigade because while Channel 72 News needed a boost in popularity it also needed… money. He wasn’t going to ask for anything extortionate- both because that was not good for business and also not good for his kneecaps- but working with them for an exclusive interview was great.
“Wait does uploading this video unedited mean I’m not getting paid?” asked the blue-skinned woman at the computer next to him.
“Everyone’s getting paid, Molly,” Zack said. “Even if you weren’t going to do any work. But also I need you to make an edit that’s basically the opposite of that one asap.”
“I’m not a tech super,” Molly said, “But I’ll get it ready by… tomorrow morning?”
“That’ll have to do,” Zack said. “We can’t just broadcast the whole thing on TV, because there really is a lot of blood. Which is why most heroes don’t use knives. We… confirmed nobody died, right?”
“That right,” Molly nodded. “Which is about the limit of what can be said for their health. Except for the mages, I guess. They were… fine?”
“Because they passed out instead of having to be knocked down,” Zack nodded.
“You do realize putting your face on this will make you a target of thugs like this?”
“I’ll make sure I get video of it when I die.” The thing about the Power Brigade and his kneecaps was he wouldn’t get a story out of it.
“Good to know. Make sure it streams to our servers.”
Jody was also present, since everyone was involved with posting the video to various sites. “It’s too bad that woman recording got away, but we couldn’t exactly stop her.”
“Got away?” Zack raised an eyebrow. “You got extremely good shots of her face the whole time. Though it’s not my business if anyone wants to try to book her for criminal conspiracy or if we just get to raise a ruckus. We got exactly what we needed.”
Swirling silver mists parted to reveal… a fairly plain looking woman. Just sort of lounging around her apartment. It felt like some kind of invasion of privacy, but apparently we had a search warrant. Which was also apparently something required? I didn’t really remember anything about that back in my world, but maybe it was because it was hard to catch anyone. All magic had different ways it could be used, but magic like Scrying could only be used for various forms of spying on people, with various levels of legitimacy.
“It’s a shame it only shows a small area around the target,” Calculator said. “Is there any way to improve that? With… points?”
“It is very expensive,” I said truthfully. And also I was reluctant to spend said points on a definitely non-combat spell. Unless… no, I couldn’t cast anything relevant through a scrying sensor. I also didn’t have anything long enough range to have it matter in regards to targeting. There were a few very long range spells, but those also just had to hit the right city block, more or less. But I wasn’t going to learn Meteor Swarm any time soon, because even if I had the points to learn it or the mana to cast it, I really didn’t think the Power Brigade would accept the amount of collateral damage it would cause. If I was very lucky I could focus it in the middle of the street and only damage that much. As long as the streets weren’t too narrow.
But it would also take a level and a half worth of points all on its own and cost twenty mana, which meant I’d really need to be level 35 to not totally knock myself out when casting it. And while I was almost level 24, that really wasn’t enough. Gate was the same, but I was hoping I could properly form it and hold it open long enough for Izzy to get through. Then she’d be back home and I wouldn’t feel bad. It was still a ways off before I could even try that though.
I was sort of randomly turning the focus of the scrying. I’d gotten used to looking for clues- or letting Calculator do it. “Wait- stop there,” he said. “Can you… get closer?” I zoomed the image in. “Back up about a half step. Yes, that’s it. I’m glad everything is in focus.”
“Why would it not be in focus? It’s not a camera. Or an eye.”
“Many powers work like them,” Calculator said, while writing down something. We had a proper setup for recording the scrying itself, with a few cameras around to cover everything. That meant he no longer had to hold up his tablet to do it, which we had probably done for… too long. Though he did seem to prefer having information directly accessible. “Just in case that package was for someone else, let’s continue until the spell runs out.”
Even as he said that, he was fiddling around with his tablet. “What are you up to?” I asked. It wasn’t particularly hard to hold onto this image. This particular woman’s mental defenses against scrying were… nonexistent? Granted, someone had scryed on me and I really couldn’t do much about it, but at least I noticed it was happening. And pushing it away would have let them know I knew, so I didn’t really try.
“You want to know?” Calculator said. “Relaying orders and monitoring social media.”
“Is that your job? The second part.”
“It’s not not my job,” Calculator said. “Especially in circumstances like this.”
“Like what?” I asked.
“Have you… really not learned about it?”
“I told you, I don’t really deal with that stuff.”
“I know,” Midnight said. I was reminded of his presence- not that it mattered. Or rather, having him around mattered… but I wasn’t going to change anything I said or did based on his presence. Midnight was my Cat Buddy and my Familiar and he was almost capable of casting Scrying on his own. Maybe I should upgrade it? That would cut off like, half a mana. But it was also twelve points, so I couldn’t really think about that for a while. “Turlough’s incident is once again related to Shooting Star, is it not?”
“I figured,” I shrugged, “What with the discount paladins and mages and that giant guy who really shouldn’t have been around.”
“The circumstances of Titas’ presence are still under investigation,” Calculator said. “But he will not be getting off lightly. Beyond just you crippling his ability to walk.”
“Hey, he did… some of that himself.”
“I am not here to judge your combat tactics,” Calculator said. “They were adequate. Though the whole disguise thing is making this harder.”
“Sorry, I didn’t think it could get punched out of me like that. So, Midnight, anything I’d want to hear?”
“Shooting Star’s remarks about you were, as always, negative.”
“I don’t know why she’d got it out for me,” I said. “All I said was the truth about how she’s not a very good hero.”
“People don’t like to hear that, Turlough,” Midnight said with internal amusement. “Even if it’s true.”
“Tough luck,” I said. After a few moments, I frowned. “I hope Izzy’s fine. She said she would be, but there could be more people around…”
It was Calculator who answered that. “The number of Portal Powers is not actually that great. By my understanding, one of Shooting Star’s fanclub meetings just happened to be right next to one of the portals so they simply had more. But it shouldn’t be unlimited.”
“All of her fans got portal powers?” I asked.
“Certainly not all of them,” Calculator said. “There were probably a thousand of them around. But a couple dozen out of that is already significant.”
“… They should run out soon, then,” I said. “If they stay in jail.”
“We can hope so,” Calculator agreed. While we were talking, my Scrying faded away and we found no more useful details. “Well, I believe we obtained sufficient information here. I appreciate your assistance. Feel free to return to your regular duties. Oh, and I shouldn’t have to say this, but don’t talk to Great Girl about this.”
“…. I’m glad I said this,” Calculator sighed. “To put it straightforwardly, because she’ll abandon her current guard duties and go attempt to smash a potentially more prepared Shooting Star into the ground, and whichever way that confrontation goes will be bad for us.”
“So she doesn’t know about this. Is that why her phone isn’t working?”
“You could be quite adept at investigatory practices if you put your mind to it,” Calculator nodded. “Good day.”
I looked at Midnight, “He didn’t say yes or no.”
“I think you found the right answer,” Midnight said. “Anyway, you are aware there’s video of your recent fight, aren’t you?”
“Really? Again?” I frowned. “Does it make me look bad again?”
“Intentionally. And it is Shooting Star approved.” I began to ponder how many uses of Sonic Lance it would take to bring down Stargirl. I could technically buy two upgrades which would improve its damage potential by one-sixth. Before I did anything more, however, Midnight continued. “But more than one person got footage. That Zack Brannigan released a full version which people are scrambling over. See?”
Two videos played in parallel. “Oh, that’s why we were looking for that woman.”
“… So you didn’t know.”
“Calculator said it was for a criminal investigation relevant to myself. And it was, apparently.” I frowned, “Is filming things illegal?”
“I don’t know,” Midnight admitted. “But I’d assume that woman is part of Shooting Star’s fanclub and thus a co-conspirator with those who attacked you.”
I scrunched my face, feeling my tusks drag against my skin. “How annoying. I don’t mind getting attacked, but this time they went after… someone who used to be my friend a while ago. We can’t just let them get away with this!”
“Most of them are locked up,” Midnight pointed out. “Though the real problem is Shooting Star herself, prancing around openly with a Bunvorixian.”
“I’m still pretty sure that’s just a dog,” I said.
“… Perhaps,” Midnight said. “Ceira and I have plans to attempt to find and speak to it.”
“Did she finally figure out how to talk to animals?”
“She’s does a quite convincing impression, if not,” Midnight shrugged, “But I’m not an animal so I don’t know.”
“Yeah, I know buddy. I guess together you guys should be able to talk to anything though. Need me to go with you?”
“… Perhaps. Obviously I will be in disguise, so you could be as well. Though we have no intentions of approaching Shooting Star herself.”
“Alright,” I nodded. “Just let me know when and where.”