With Digits basically upon us, quite angry, and not as incapacitated as I would have liked Squad Ten and I continued our fighting retreat down the hallway towards Sir Kalman and the others. And by ‘fighting retreat’ I meant flinging Grease across the hallways as we ran, then once more at the actual doorway.
We entered just in time to see Lustre catch the attention of Iron Bloke, tapping on his shoulder. “About time we finish this battle… you big idiot.” His eloquence might have been limited by the fact that his jaw looked to have been broken mere moments before, plus potentially a few knocks to the head. But he was still a great distraction.
He got what I sure hoped was his intended response. The heavy wheeled around and slammed his meaty fist directly into Lustre’s chest with the sound of cracking bones, sending him flying into one of the cages lined up on the back wall, making the horrific sound of mental bending as he hit and crumpled to the floor. I really hoped his power could keep up with more wounds, but there wasn’t really time to check.
As soon as he turned his back, Sir Kalman was swinging his weapon, charged with glowing light. There was definitely some sort of honor possessed by paladins, but the battle had already begun. Iron Bloke getting distracted was his own problem. Instead of aiming for his neck, however, the dwarf’s sword came down at the top of his thigh, at an angle where it merely deflected off of his leg. All that mana, and the strike was a flub. He barely even managed a scratch down that thigh, even with Guard Breaker. The guy was seriously tough.
But I was thinking too naively about the wound. It might not be enough for a pivotal attack, but Sir Kalman was thinking more clearly than me. Because along with a small bit of skin, he had cut quite a lot of protective gear. And Dart clearly saw the opening. With Iron Bloke swiveling back towards Kalman, whose armor had more than a handful of worryingly deep dents, Dart’s tongue lashed out at the large man’s leg. It didn’t stick, instead yanking back even before the man’s hand slapped down towards his thigh.
“Ugh, gross!” Dart said as she let her tongue dangle out of her mouth, trying to wipe off some of the blood on it.
“We’ve got incoming,” I called to her as Squad Ten and I came into the room. I looked around, finding that unfortunately we were missing the two that had been back here. Most likely ran afoul of the bruiser. Obviously the rest of him had to know that, but there hadn’t exactly been a lot of time to communicate that.
I was nearly out of mana, so there weren’t going to be any big spells from me. The bruiser returned to beating on Sir Kalman, and while the dwarf might have the willpower to stand forever, his armor wasn’t going to last. And while it was certainly absorbing some of the force of the blows, the lasting dents would certainly be making it more difficult for him. I thought about using Grease, even as Digits was sliding through the doorway, but it could disrupt Kalman as much as it did Iron Bloke.
So I went for another old staple instead. Mage’s Reach was convenient for many things, and while I doubted my ability to wrestle with a bruiser I could at least disrupt his movement at inopportune times. Except upon spotting some buckles on his boots, I had an even better idea as my ghostly hand floated along the ground.
My other eye was on the door- I hadn’t suddenly forgotten about Digits. The sounds of Squad Ten shooting at him couldn’t make me forget either. He split off to either side, only two of him left now. Hopefully that would make things more difficult for Digits. He was practically-
My thought was cut off by a sound even louder than gunfire, with Digits staggering forward from the impact. In all the excitement I hadn’t been paying attention to the buildup of mana behind him- not that it was a particularly large spell. Well, Sonic Lance wasn’t a small spell either. It wasn’t the sort of thing you could just use on a regular person and expect to not kill them. Given that his body seemed more or less intact when his face hit the floor, I was impressed by his durability and that of his outfit. Francois’ stuff was great, but maybe he could take a peek at this and see if there were any special tricks. If we could get it exported from here, obviously. Yew-Kay and Crown Forces specifically had first dibs on that kind of stuff.
There was a momentary pause in sound. Then some clicking sounds. Squad Ten’s voice cut through the silence. “This is your final reminder that you are allowed to surrender at any time. That includes you, Iron Bloke.”
“Screw… you…” Digits said, raising his hands up to either side with his elbows resting on the floor. A moment later, Midnight leapt onto his back with Shocking Grasp going at full power. Compared to Chain Lightning and Sonic Lance- even if most of the first spell was wasted- Shocking Grasp wasn’t much. But the middle of his back was pretty thinly protected now, and the man was half an inch from collapsing on his own.
“That was okay ri-” Midnight was saying as Sir Kalman suddenly flew over his head, causing him to duck.
“I can still take out… all of you,” Iron Bloke said. I might have believed him, if his eye didn’t twitch, or if they were able to focus on anything. He took one step forward. Two… then fell almost directly next to Digits.
There was a loud sigh. “Finally,” Dart said. “Ugh, he built up way too much resistance to that for being affected just one time. Freaking bruisers.”
“We need to secure them,” Squad Ten said. “I’ll watch over these two while you guys secure the others.”
“What about the mundanes?” I asked. “There could be more further in…”
“Taken care of,” Squad Ten said. “But if not, we’ll have warning.”
Ignoring the two I really didn’t want to approach, I started with Headspin. She was not far from Lustre, and had a few clear marks on her face. A dwarf in one of the cages had his meaty arm through the bars and was holding her up against the cages by her neck.
“Is she dead?” I asked in common.
“She can be,” the dwarf narrowed his eyes at me. I almost believed him, but if he was going to do it he probably already would have.
“That paladin over there probably wants to arrest them,” I gestured to Sir Kalman. “Better to have their fate public somewhere. Also, I’d imagine you’re more upset at her,” I gestured to the woman on the floor. “Uh… whatever her name is.”
“Reprog.” I raised an eyebrow at Squad Ten. He tapped his helmet. “Current has been doing her thing. Including isolating the rest of the goons with the few security doors they have. She just found her moniker, not that that tells us much.”
I pulled out some cuffs and began locking people up. The caged dwarf let the unconscious woman drop. Well, it was a good idea if things didn’t go our way at least. I spun around. How was everyone else? Lustre was cussing now, which meant his lungs were working. Dart seemed alright, having avoided stupid things like taking direct hits. Squad Ten still only had two of him, so I could presume it took some time or energy or whatever to refresh. Or maybe the main him was outside…? Assuming he had a ‘main body’, I mean. I would do that, if it was a choice.
Sir Kalman was… climbing to his feet. Current was apparently fine down the hallway. Midnight was coming up to me.
“Turlough,” he said clearly, catching my eye. “Sit down.”
Was the room supposed to be spinning? Maybe he had a good idea. I managed to fall onto my butt instead of my face, and I coughed up a little bit of blood.
“… I thought you said you knew your limits and only pushed yourself close to them.”
Technically, I was close to my limits with the mana crystals. Not far past the limits was still close. “You’re gonna have to talk to all of these guys,” I gestured to the people in the cages. Including Celmothians, it seemed. “I think I need a nap.”
“Try to stay conscious until the cleanup team gets here,” Squad Ten called out to me.
Sure. I was totally going to do that. Conscious. I was definitely conscious of what was happening. There was talking. People moving around. I thought about the supers we’d taken out.
Some people didn’t deserve to have powers. Maybe there was a way I could take that away from them…?
I vomited up some black blood. I deserved that, really. There were some ideas you shouldn’t entertain to begin with. Taking away powers, making people mundane? That was horrible. We could just kill them. They’d done more than enough to get executed in Granbold ten times over. And even if this world was a bit more hesitant with such things, their security would be significantly heightened for this group.
Oh, hey, it was the hardhat guy. He had some big tools as he approached the cages. Was he going to cut them open? He set down some heavy things and… pulled out a little pouch. Then doors started opening one after another. Whatever worked, I guess.
Someone was shining lights in my eyes. “I don’t understand the symptoms,” they said.
I was going to reply that my eyes hurt because of the light and it was obvious, but my voice didn’t work. Someone else said something though. A small voice.
Why did everything hurt? Oh right, mana… something. There wasn’t a good name for it. Not that I had been told about, anyway. Nobody wanted to talk about how magic worked so I just had to figure crap out. So since I had put too much mana in me it would be called… mana poisoning. Yeah, that was a great name. Something stuck into my arm, and then I was unconscious again.
Even as my eyes were fluttering open, I heard Calculator’s voice. “I thought we agreed you weren’t going to use large quantities of mana crystals again.”
“Uuugh,” I groaned. “And people also say they’ll never drink again, then drink themselves under the table the next weekend.”
“Are you comparing this to alcohol? Does it impair your judgment? Does it feel good?”
I grimaced. It was too bright in this room. “Doing things feels good. And I wasn’t going to let my people be slaves.”
“… Curious. I was under the impression that you didn’t have much of a national identity or a lingering fondness for your previous world. That’s always how you talk, at least.”
“Mmmn…” I grumbled. “Why do we have to do hard thoughts now?”
“Because you’re awake,” Calculator said. “And off-guard.”
“… Honesty hurts as much as the light.”
“Have you tried making yourself better?” he asked.
“I’m constantly wishing I didn’t have to feel this,” I said.
“What I meant was… you seem able to spontaneously generate new abilities.”
“If I use mana I might explode.” That was an exaggeration, of course. At most, I’d have an aneurysm or stroke or something.
“To my understanding, the whole problem is because of crystallized mana in your system. So perhaps intentionally dealing with that would be helpful?”
I grimaced. I tried to focus on something happening, but my head wouldn’t work. Maybe later, though. “… How is everyone? Kalman looked pretty bad.”
“He’s already up and walking about,” Calculator said.
I coughed, which had almost been a laugh. “That doesn’t mean anything.”
“His injuries were purely physical. His armor is slowly moving away from its rather concave nature, and his healing has been boosted. It is anticipated he will recover fully. Lustre’s physical restoration is already complete, but he said something about hibernating for the next month.”
“Do you think he actually does that?”
“Given the chance? Probably. I’d guess he’ll be dragged out of bed by next week, however. There are never enough supers on the right side of the law.”
“… I would have expected a lot more reinforcements for a supervillain breakout,” I admitted. I could kind of see now. Some sort of hospital room, obviously.
“London and Dublin are the centers of much of the supernatural activity. And they seem quite occupied with their current load.” Calculator stood up, “Anyway, they need my assistance with the investigation. There’s a lot of stuff to pore through. There’s at least a few more corrupt officials to bust somewhere along the chain, but we’ll be doing it more with paper than steel.”
“… You use paper?” I asked.
“You got me. It’s all digital. Either way, it shouldn’t require combat. Just rest up and get yourself back into peak form. There are some people waiting for you… but don’t rush.”
… Waiting for me? Oh right, the dwarves. And all of this new batch of people from my old world. And Celmothians. We couldn’t Gate to Celmoth. Also, how did they get so many? More than one or two was already weird.
Ugh. So many things I couldn’t get answered yet. Better do that recovery thing. Maybe I could make this stuff go away faster. I just had to be delicate about it. No active magic if I could help it.