Over the next few days of training, I continued to teach Multicasting and utility things like Clean, while Jerome assisted me with Enhance Mind followed by Enhance Body. Since he knew both, I learned both. Simple as that. Both had a duration of about ten minutes, which was a significant amount of time but not enough to recoup their costs during the duration. As nice as it might be to constantly think faster, it was impossible. And by impossible, I really meant that it would take eighty upgrades and hundreds of points which would be a bit much to ask until my level was in the fifties or sixties. Though even at seventy it would be about a tenth of my total.
While going all in on a particular ability sounded like a certain path to power, it wasn’t really feasible. However, I did happen to have more than a level’s worth of points I was looking to spend. Perhaps focusing on a few spells might be useful. Then again, if I could avoid using them, I could save them for something important. As long as I was getting upgrades through training and didn’t let anything fall behind, it should be fine. But just remaining at my current strength would be a bit… risky. Supers were expected to grow over time, with those who had reached their limits generally relegated off to the side dealing with boring stuff. Or eventually going beyond their limits and finding an early retirement.
“You sure go all over the place, huh?” I said. I’d been trying to track down Calculator for like an hour, always remaining a step behind him.
“I do have a position that requires more than sitting behind a desk,” Calculator pointed out.
“I dunno, I bet you could do more stuff from behind a desk,” I shrugged. “Though I guess there are many things here not connected to each other.” It was for security and stuff. Wouldn’t do to get a computer hacked and compromise all of HQ.
“Right,” Calculator said. “So why are you looking for me?”
“At the risk of acquiring more utility roles, I need to test a spell on you.”
“And what does this spell do?” Calculator asked.
I was going to say it would be faster for him to experience it… but summarizing it wasn’t difficult either. “It makes you think fast.”
His expression was unreadable as he looked at me. “Fine. Go ahead.”
I gathered 5 points of mana, then cast it on him. “Well, that’s basically it,” I said. “I guess it’s not necessarily easy to tell how much it’s doing, though?”
“It’s relatively low level, isn’t it?” Calculator asked. “Sixth rank?”
“Fifth,” I replied. “How did you know?”
“From how long it takes you to cast the spell. I think you’re getting a bit faster, though. As for this…” Calculator held up a finger and looked down at his watch. I waited. And waited. Then a full minute passed, more or less. “I’d say about a fifty percent increase in cognitive speed.”
“Is that… good?” At that rate, Haste was better. Except for being ten times less mana efficient, of course. Or was it closer to four after factoring in the relative increases?
Calculator shrugged. “It’s useful. It also seems to last longer than Haste.”
“About ten minutes,” I said. “Though obviously with less… movement ability.”
“It’s useful,” he said. “The amount I calculated is just one factor. It provides a certain clarity of thought that would be difficult to quantify. It would be useful to see how it interacts with other powers.”
“Like what kind?” I asked.
“Oh my,” Francois’ eyes lit up. “I have some truly marvelous ideas. Ten minutes, you said?” He pulled out a tablet and began drawing rapidly, while also scribbling notes. About halfway through he furrowed his brow, and focused more on the notes. At the end, he sighed. “Unfortunate. It’s less than a moment of inspiration, but look at these notes!”
He turned the tablet towards me, but I honestly couldn’t read any of the handwriting. “It’s a mess.”
“A mess indeed!” Francois said. “I can understand some of this, but honestly… most of it was too far reaching even if I were to remain in that state constantly. But if I could call upon you occasionally to help puzzle through some stumbling blocks, it might save me a good bit of time.”
“We’ll have to see,” I said. “Since it doesn’t involve, you know, combat.” I didn’t want to be stuck doing this stuff. But I didn’t want to just hide new abilities from the Brigade if they could be useful.
The next person on my list was Great Girl. Not to cast Enhance Mind, because she had her job pretty well figured out. Well, it wouldn’t hurt to think faster in combat, but Haste was probably better for that. But instead, the point was to enhance her current powers to see if it was relevant or not.
“It’s weird,” Great Girl said.
I tilted my head. “What about it? It’s just supernatural strength.”
“Yeah, but… I’m not any bigger. They’ve always gone together. Even with your Enlarge spell. Now I’m just my totally normal size and… stronger.”
I looked at her. Was she six two or six three now? Taller than when we’d first met… in short, more or less exactly my height. “You did the thing again,” I said. “Do you not have an internal impression of your height…?”
Great Girl grumbled. “It gets easier to maintain a larger size, so it’s difficult to judge…” she folded her arms. “Besides, nothing wrong with being a little taller.”
I shrugged. “I suppose it wouldn’t be too weird for the public to see your natural height increase. If they even notice.”
“They probably will…” Great Girl sighed. “People like collecting stats on supers. Even if they’re guesses. Still, this magic is neat. It’s nice to have more strength without the inconveniences of being overly large or… other inconveniences.”
“Other ones?” I tilted my head.
“I don’t want to be called Wolf Girl,” she explained. “Well, none of this is strictly necessary though. I don’t really need most of your enhancements unless New Bay is attacked by a kaiju.”
“A what now?”
“… A big friggin monster,” she said. “Though uh… I’d rather not fight one anyway.”
“Because they’d be bigger than you?”
She shook her head. “Because I can’t afford that.”
“Okay,” I said. What else was I supposed to say?
Khithae frowned as my spell affected her. “I think I could do this one?” she tilted her head.
“Yeah, maybe,” I said. “There’s some overlap between our spells, it seems. I can teach you sometime.” Plus, that would take the pressure off of me if people needed it. And make her more valuable to the Brigade, though I really doubted they could find a replacement for her anyway. A tech savvy individual capable of repairing things that were beyond broken and also able to reach every point of the training rooms without issue. But more utility shouldn’t hurt. “So how have things been?” I asked.
“Well, you know I mostly stay inside. No danger. Good income. And enough friends,” she said, her lizard-like jaws opening in something like a smile.
“So.” I didn’t really know how to broach the next topic. “You like it here?”
“I do,” Khithae said. “Working for the Power Brigade I feel useful.”
“I meant… here in general. This Earth. I know you said you preferred it to your dimension,” I vaguely remembered that from when we first met, at least. “But you haven’t really had the option so…”
“It is better here, I think,” she said. “But what is this about options?”
“Well, I can use Gate to travel between places. So… I wouldn’t want you to be stuck here without offering the choice.”
“Isn’t that… very difficult?” she asked.
“Well, I think the connection would be the hard part. But it should be possible. In terms of actual effort, we could be certain with something equivalent to an afternoon’s work. Maybe a bit more.”
“… Is it allowed?”
“Well… Extra does have some ideas about such things. But you returning to your home dimension would certainly be alright.”
“Except I wouldn’t stay,” Khithae said. “At most, I would look… and gather some pieces of technology. Though I doubt they would like the latter.”
“Yeah, they’re pretty picky about that stuff. Anyway, I’m glad you like it here. I just didn’t want you to have to tell yourself that because there wasn’t another option.” I might be able to offer help to Extra, returning people to their home dimensions… but it could easily take up all of my time. Or mana, which was basically the same. It seemed kind of selfish to ignore people who were stuck away from home, but I also couldn’t guarantee actually making a connection with just a person from somewhere. Maybe when I was stronger. And if I could find some way to have more mana.
Shockwave looked at me with eager eyes. “Well? How is it?”
“Things have been going well with me,” I said.
“Good to hear,” Shockwave said. “But I also wanted to know about… you know.”
“Oh.” I shook my head. “Sorry, Haste is still the same power as it was before.”
“But I thought you said you’d been training!” They complained. “What did you even do if you weren’t improving that?”
I began to list things off. “Going to other dimensions with Gate. Making Shelter so we didn’t get eaten at night in the jungle. Casting things on more people at once.”
Shockwave rolled their eyes. “Yeah whatever those all sound fine I guess. You didn’t use Haste in battle?”
“I did, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that it would improve. Sometimes it does, sometimes it takes a specific mindset,” I shrugged. “It might take specific training.”
“Great!” Shockwave said. “So, uh, given that you’ve been away for a while you’re still not attached to a team. So we should work together for a few days. It would be training for you, and practical work for me.”
“Tell me about this idea,” I said. Obviously, it was going to involve Haste.
“It’s simple. There are some neighborhoods with increasing supervillain incident rates. Alarmingly high, in fact. So we just go to one of the stations there, and I answer the call.”
“I assume my job would be to cast Haste on you? Aren’t you worried about… windows?”
“I have much greater control over my own shockwaves now,” they said.
“Hmm,” I frowned. “It’s a good way to use a lot of mana quickly, though that’s not really difficult. I guess I could get practical feedback, though. You could also help me train a few other spells. I wouldn’t want to do that long-term, though.”
“I know,” Shockwave said. “But it would really help me out. There’s a ton of stuff happening and some of the incidents are over very quickly. I can’t always even arrive on the scene. You allow me to go faster with or without breaking anything.”
“You know…” I said. “I do have one thing that might actually let you go faster.” Running involved the body, didn’t it? Speedsters were often limited by potentially hurting themselves, and Enhance Body improved things in all areas.
Ten minutes. That was all it took. I sent Shockwave out with Haste, Enhance Body, and Physical Freedom. The district apparently had a lot of low level thugs and criminal gangs, generally not a problem for the city as a whole but a huge deal for the people who lived in the area.
It would obviously take more than ten minutes to clean the place up, even with a speedster. Instead, that was how long it took to exhaust my mana. “I can’t believe there was continuous trouble…” I said.
“Well, I’d been scouting out a bunch of these places. This was just a good opportunity to clean them up. It might not seem like it, but at my normal speed people can get in a lucky shot or whatever. If I get a cracked rib or bruised thigh, I’m out of commission for a while. Obviously I still finish dealing with whatever problems, but…” Shockwave shrugged. “With Haste, I am able to push past minimum human reaction times. Plus I’m limited in speed due to the whole shattering window thing normally. All that together, and I can get quite a lot done. Just have to wait for the clean up crews to come along and take these fellows in.”
I nodded. “Next time we shouldn’t push so hard, though.”
“Why not? You’re here to train Haste, right?”
“We just don’t want people to figure out these limits,” I pointed out. “Makes things harder in the future.”
“That’s what the training is for,” Shockwave grinned. “Just improve and become more efficient.”
I rolled my eyes. “If only it was that simple.”
“I do agree about the predictability though,” Shockwave said more seriously. “We shouldn’t tend to focus on the same areas. New Bay is plenty big for us to just pick out a spot for an afternoon. But beyond that… want to go get lunch? I’m wiped out too. After all, I just spent half an hour sprinting in relative time.”