Calculator addressed all of us as we continued on. “It is not my preferred position to be active in the field. However, given that I am already present it is most effective for me to continue to participate until the matter is settled. The probability of my presence being a liability instead of a boon is negligible.”
I nodded. Despite being a thinking guy, he could also take care of himself. As clearly evidenced by his lack of bullet holes right now.
He continued, “Given our current knowledge of the situation, we must assume there are supers stationed here. At least one or two, perhaps more. Though greater numbers would be difficult for the Grey Gunners to conceal back on Earth, it is likely the portal mentioned has access to more of them. Thus, we must take care of them as swiftly as possible. This includes their gunmen. Izzy, Shockwave- you’re responsible for watching our flanks for those gunmen. If possible we want to go directly to the portal and have Mage and Familiar shut it down. Acid Man and Great Girl will cover the front.”
A voice came over the radio. “I’m in position. Can’t get eyes on the portal.”
“Thank you Mono,” Calculator responded. “That will suffice.” He looked to the rest of us. “Let’s move.”
Mossley wasn’t a large city, but there was still some chance that our actions at the gate hadn’t been noticed. However, eight powered individuals approaching the core of the city where we knew they had set up shop could hardly go unnoticed unless they were incompetent. Mono didn’t count among that number because he would be no closer than a half mile away, but he should theoretically have a clear shot down the main street.
Someone showed themself down the street. The woman pretty obviously stood out from the local populace, because even if it was dull gray the uniform was too modern. And the mask gave it away too, until the mask exploded as the woman’s head snapped back. I didn’t hear the shot, but that was the whole point. Mono’s actual powers had nothing to do with sniping, but instead it was sound control- allowing his bullets to reach supersonic speeds while avoiding pesky side effects like noise that would alert enemies.
I rubbed my face, knowing that even with Stoneskin at full I would have probably had a hole in my skull after that. But the woman straightened herself up with no obvious injury. Her mask did fall apart.
“Mighty Diamond,” Calculator said calmly. “Great Girl, she’s yours. Super strength, but her durability is focused on her skin.”
Great Girl nodded, sprinting forward. Each stride propelled her a great distance, but she angled herself so the power of her legs wouldn’t launch her into the air. At the same time, she grew to somewhere around ten feet tall, a comfortable combat size for her.
“To the left!” I warned as a surge of power came from an alley. My warning was a bit slow for Great Girl, but fortunately Ice Guy was ready with a response of his own. As a gaseous whip reached for Great Girl, a wall of ice sprang up at the mouth of the alleyway, cutting off the attack.
“Smog,” Calculator said. “She can make solid barriers, and her gas will knock you out almost instantly if it gets in your lungs. Keep your distance.”
Gunfire rang out a moment later, mainly targeting Great Girl and Acid Man running not too far behind her. Great Girl wasn’t invincible, but it would take more than a few bullets to cause her more than bruising. Acid Man, meanwhile, was fully unaffected- and he conveniently slowed the bullets passing through him and lowered their danger. I felt the silent trail of power from one of Mono’s shots, tracking it to a couple soldiers further down the street. They were out of convenient range, so Midnight, Calculator, and I took cover down a side street.
Shockwave was definitely somewhere, as I could hear noise from our right, and Izzy should have snuck off somewhere to our left side to look for incoming soldiers. I kept my eyes on the situation as I looked for a good target. Not having an abundance of mana at the moment, I couldn’t just start throwing Chain Lightnings. But I had my pistol in hand, ready for someone closer than those soldiers.
It only took a moment to find someone. Great Girl was almost upon the one called Mighty Diamond when she suddenly punched a hole right through Acid Man. Though it was mostly an annoyance for him.
“That has to be Mindmirror,” Calculator grimaced. “Careful, he can control your actions!”
That was a problem. I had only felt a vague impression of power, and I couldn’t trace it to the source. Great Girl continued to take a few swings at Acid Man, delaying him while Mighty Diamond launched herself into Great Girl’s ribcage with a flying kick.
I was just about to climb up onto the rooftops to try to pick out Mindmirror when I found him. His location became abundantly clear when I felt a tendril of his energy enter my head. I shifted slightly, my gun pointing at the back of Calculator’s head. My finger squeezed the trigger.
Weird, wasn’t it supposed to shoot when I did that? Not that I wanted to. I literally didn’t have control of my movements there. Ah, I hadn’t even noticed him reach up and grab my gun. Impressive, he grabbed the slide and toggled the safety all without even turning his head.
My body kept trying to shoot until he twisted around, removing it from my grasp with a twist. Impressive, though if I had been in control I was fairly confident I would have a chance to hold onto it.
Then I felt a soothing wave of energy wash over me. I looked at Calculator, who looked back at me with the gun pointed at my face.
“He’s safe now,” Midnight said. “Mental Freedom.”
“Thanks for that,” I said. “How does this guy work?” I asked Calculator.
His face twitched. His finger pulled. And then… nothing. Oh right, safety was still on. I lowered into a stance, but Calculator shook his head. “That won’t be necessary,” he said, his face returning to a passive state. He flipped the weapon around and held it out for me. “He won’t be able to remain in my head any longer. However, I will be of little use until you shut him down.”
“I could cast Mental Freedom on you,” I said.
“Save it for taking out Mindmirror. That’s your task now.”
I nodded. “Got it. We’re heading to the roof.”
“Oh, I’m not sure if it will still affect you now but… he distorts intent to attack him. There’s a good chance you’ll miss when you think you should have hit.”
“Thanks,” I said as I climbed up some crates. “Good to know.”
Down below, I could feel the battle raging. Ice Guy was facing off against someone- presumably Smog- out of view in another side street. Great Girl was no longer being influenced by Mindmirror- was he limited to one at a time? Either way, she had shrunk to her ‘normal’ height and had Mighty Diamond in a headlock, using her as a shield from the incoming gunfire. Speaking of gunfire, there was a lot of that from either side as soldiers seemed to be moving in from their posts at the gates.
On the roof, I looked for Mindmirror. He wasn’t far from where I’d sensed him, though he hadn’t remained precisely still. He was clearly keeping cover from Mono behind another roof, keeping as much of it as possible between himself and the sniper while staying off of the battlefield below. His eyes caught mine as I aimed my gun and pulled the trigger. One shot hit him in the shoulder. That wouldn’t be enough, as even if they didn’t have a full Francois he had to have some level of bulletproof defenses.
Something crashed down on my mind. It told me to hold my gun up to my chin and pull the trigger. All it managed was to slightly raise my aim, my shots going over Mindmirror’s head as I emptied my clip. I felt a burst of mana from next to me as Midnight cast Sonic Lance. I felt a shift in power from him as he must have noticed Midnight’s efforts. The rooftop exploded into splinters and I saw Mindmirror spin around as his side was clipped. But I still felt the pressure keeping me from properly hitting him, and the same on Midnight. Mental Freedom wasn’t perfect, it seemed- but I was fairly certain this was going poorly for the psychic.
If I understood correctly, he was supposed to be able to fully control people’s bodies with active effort and passively redirect attacks. Now he was focusing all his efforts to maintain the second condition for the two of us. Midnight applied Mental Freedom to himself as well, obviously.
“Midnight,” I whispered. “Chain Lightning, standard split.”
We gathered power. I held out my staff, the tip refusing to accurately point at Mindmirror. I was going to have to apologize to whoever owned that house, but I aimed Chain Lightning without targeting anything but a vague area. Lightning appeared, not from the tip of my staff or even going in that direction, but between Midnight and I. It arced towards him and… disappeared into nothing.
The pressure on my mind disappeared as well, but I was astounded how my magic just… disappeared. “What happened?” I looked around. I didn’t feel a source of power resisting my attack.
“It’s Deadzone!” Calculator shouted from below. “She negates all powers in an area. Be careful, you’ll be defenseless!”
Well that sounded unfair. I looked around cautiously as I watched the battle below. There were far fewer gunshots now, and it seemed that Ice Guy and Acid Man were teaming up against Smog or whatever.
I also saw Great Girl wrestling Mighty Diamond. The two seemed closely matched, with Great Girl not quite able to overcome her. She was clearly going for an armbar but couldn’t pull the other woman’s arm out of position.
Then, suddenly, Great Girl shrank to five feet tall. Mighty Diamond was looking over her shoulder and grinned as it happened. “Not so big without your power, huh?”
Immediately following that was a popping sound as I was fairly certain Mighty Diamond’s shoulder popped directly out of its socket. Or maybe her elbow snapped. “Wow, you’re weak without your power,” Great Girl said as Mighty Diamond screamed. “… Do you not work out?” That question was rhetorical, of course. She couldn’t possibly expect her opponent to answer while she continued to twist her limbs around. I felt Midnight’s thoughts mirror mine as we looked at each other. That girl was gonna need a super healer after this.
With Deadzone focused elsewhere, I tried to focus on Mindmirror, but I’d lost him. “Dammit,” I muttered. We’d have to wait for him to act again. And I wasn’t quite sure how we’d take him out as that Chain Lightning used most of the rest of my mana.
I reloaded my pistol, intending to join in on dealing with Smog. But she was clearly outmatched. She seemed to know that as she turned into dense cloud of smoke and- “Ahh, what even is this?” I heard the sound of someone not understanding how Acid Man could cling to them. The smoke cleared and… she was clearly not transformed into it. Instead she was mostly encompassed by Acid Man.
“How much do you like having skin?” Ice Guy asked, a charged sphere of ice held in his hand.
“I like it a lot!” Smog shouted. “I surrender! Please don’t melt off my skin!”
“No more of it, at least,” Ice Guy shrugged.
I heard a slight scratching sound. Something wrapped under my armpit and cold metal pressed against my neck as my defenses melted. “Surrender,” came the cold voice.
My fingers coiled around the blade as I headbutted backwards. I twisted around, swinging my staff for the ribcage of my attacker. Then her hand, as she was still holding onto the knife. My foot stomped down on her belly and I raised my staff to counter whatever her response was.
“…. wow you’re weak,” I said to the person who was presumably Deadzone.
“Aren’t you…” she coughed. “Aren’t you an energy projector? Why are you…?”
I continued to hold my staff at the ready with one hand while pointing my pistol at her with the other. “I’m an orc, lady. And a trained mercenary. You’re the one who should be better without powers, given that it’s your whole thing.” I could feel it now. And by it, I meant the complete lack of any and all powers around this woman. Including natural mana.
“Mindmirror, now!” she yelled. I felt power flow back into existence around us. That included my defenses like Force Armor and Mental Freedom, though they seemed a bit sluggish. I braced for an incoming mental attack and…
I heard a groan. Not a voice I recognized, which meant it was probably the heretofore silent Mindmirror.
“Yeah, that won’t be happening,” Calculator called from across the road. “Mage, restrain Deadzone and hand her over to Great Girl.”
… Wait, I thought he assigned taking out Mindmirror to me? He said he couldn’t do anything. Which was pretty dumb on my part to believe him, and the same for the enemy.