(Patreon) Mage Among Superheroes 91

-–Chapter Index–-

At nearly the same instant, Shockfire and I launched respective attacks at the cyborg. Imagining that Sonic Lance would be overkill in a most literal way- and use more mana than I could afford to expend on one out of approximately seven people- I went with Firebolt. I was glad when Shockfire chose to utilize the first half of his namesake. I didn’t have the ability to throw electricity at people, but he could store and shape some of the two energies instead of just immediately reflecting them. 

Our opponent wasn’t so sluggish as to let us both hit him, and he chose to dodge towards Shockfire’s side, leaving my Firebolt to splash on the asphalt behind him. I was quite pleased at Shockfire’s attack hitting, because I wanted to see if electricity was as bad for cyborgs as expected. The results were mixed. Clearly the man did not find the electricity spreading from his chest through his body pleasant, his face grimacing, but it also didn’t stop him from pointing his robot arm at us once again. This time it was a wide sweep, grazing me as I ducked under it. 

I could sustain maybe another graze or two before my Force Armor fell apart, though a direct hit would be concerning. I wasn’t sure what sort of energy the beam was. Fire? Light? It clearly wasn’t a laser, but I was rather uncertain about being able to defend against whatever it was.

It wasn’t possible to just use Energy Ward against “Whatever the Hell That Was” but it was cheap enough that I supposed I should try anyway. Unfortunately I couldn’t also apply it to Midnight at this distance- he was still a few blocks over- but I would be able to test it. 

Shockfire and I split for opposite sides of the street. Hiding behind cars was easier, but buildings were sturdier. They had to be, in this city. Cars that chose to park on the street instead of a parking building were just unlucky sometimes. 

I made the choice for Energy Ward against fire. There should be at least some heat component to that beam, though the magic was rather picky. Technically electricity caused damage through burning as well, but it didn’t overlap with defenses against fire. Such was life.

The cyborg guy called for backup and three of his compatriots stepped out on the streets, taking cover behind light posts and cars. As I was running for shelter myself and casting a spell already, there wasn’t much I could do. This was a good time to consider using my gun- not an elegant approach, to be certain, but possibly the best idea.

Before I could do anything specific, Shockfire chucked an orb of fire out into the middle of the street- past the hunkered down enemies. Instead of a big explosion like I expected from a proper fireball, it just rapidly expanded, fire scattering in a wide area. It only lasted for a brief moment, and without concussive power or lasting duration I wasn’t really sure what that could do.

Then three of the four cyborgs began screaming and rolling around. It was difficult to hear any individual words, but the picture was pretty obvious as they happened to be on fire. That was why our uniforms were basically fireproof. The clothes these individuals wore, however, were standard fare except for the helmets. 

I took the opportunity to get closer, the one individual who was not on fire briefly distracted by his allies- though he still noticed me move and took a shot. The beam scraped along my gut and I determined that it was at least partly registering as fire, since Energy Ward helped. I had to duck behind a short wall instead of getting to where I could restrain one of them, but I pulled out my weapon and cast Mage’s Reach. “This is your official reminder that if you surrender we won’t hurt you!” I called out. I considered firing the gun for effect. The only issue was that it might provoke more violence instead of less. 

 The ones who had caught on fire quickly resolved that issue, but they’d placed themselves in vulnerable positions. The only one who was fully ready pulled out something and tossed it into the middle of the street. My eyes followed it, but fortunately some of my prior training triggered. I reached out and caught it- not with my actual hand, that would be insane. Mage’s Reach was ready, though, and I tossed the object back towards the individuals. If it killed them, that was their own problem.

The good news was that these cyborgs were not completely insane- they had some idea of the general ideas about self-preservation, at least. The bad news was that I was watching the grenade when it exploded. I couldn’t help it, I was trying to see where it went. I was going to duck down to avoid shrapnel, but what hit me was pure light.

As it turned out, flashbangs were very unpleasant when my eyes were adapted to dark streets. Probably more than for a normal human, though I couldn’t be certain. What was certain was the ringing in my ears and the complete inability to see.

I huddled down by my wall and tried to throw up a Shield. I wasn’t even sure if I got it in the right direction and gathering the mana took probably twice as long as it should have, which would have been critical had anyone been ready to attack. Fortunately, it seemed that the cyborgs had been intending something else. When I was able to see again they were all clambering into a nearby van- somehow navigating during the effects of the flashbang.

Several bags full of something were brought in with them, and they were screeching off a moment later. I had one shot to do something. I could try to blast the van apart with Sonic Lance, but I could already feel Shockfire charging up for something. Instead, I aimed for a section of road ahead of the van and cast Grease. I could feel Midnight and thus presumably Acid Man in that direction, and hoped to slow down their retreat as much as possible.

Shockfire’s blast of electricity was impressive- I could feel it make my hair stand on end from all the way on the other side of the street as it nearly blinded me again… but it didn’t do anything to the van. Sonic Lance might have done something, but I couldn’t be sure. Bullets would almost certainly ricochet in an unpleasant manner, and I didn’t have the training to be confident in shooting the tires.

The van continued to accelerate into the Grease patch, and though it went wobbly it continued careening down the road after. I chucked a Firebolt at the back of it just because it had the most range and because I could, leaving a small scorch mark and little else. Before the van fully got away, however, someone stepped out onto the road in front of it… and was run over. They didn’t even try to avoid him, which was perhaps Acid Man’s plan. 

Unfortunately, instead of being able to pool up on top of the van he ended up under it, and the tires splashed through him. A rather unpleasant image, but it wasn’t long before he was pulling himself back together.

Before that happened, I got in contact with the captain. “They had a getaway van. Should I give chase? Haste will allow me to sprint at near car speeds…”

“Negative,” Ice Guy replied. “A chase will likely lead to collateral damage and risk of civilian casualties.”

So I didn’t, an instead took a look at the store. “Cell phones?” I frowned, looking over at Shockfire. “Are they really worth that much?”

He shrugged, “Not sure. They’re not cheap, of course, but there’s usually nothing special about them either.”

From what I could see they had looted all the displays but weren’t able to get into a back room that presumably stored more. It was our job to do a quick sweep before police arrived, specifically looking for danger- but the door appeared intact enough and nothing was around the back side.

The battle hadn’t turned into a serious brawl, but I still gained a noticeable amount of experience. So technology counted, which was good to be certain of. 

—–

Proper investigations revealed the attack had been perpetrated by the “Mod Squad”. A cyborg gang, but not just random augmented people that got together. Instead, they specifically chose to replace otherwise perfectly functional body parts with robotic upgrades, courtesy of their leader Iron Shell. She was some sort of tech super, though the exact details were unknown. She seemed to have abilities beyond being able to create the augmentations.

One thing that was known was the ability for the various members to coordinate and share information quickly. It wasn’t quite clear how it worked, but it must have helped them run to the van during the flashbang. And the van itself being extra sturdy was expected, when a tech super was involved. The same for proofing against reasonable amounts of electrical shock- it would hardly be advantageous to become a cyborg if one was easily taken out by a common type of power. Electricity was everywhere these days- apparently. I supposed I did know of a few in the Power Brigade, plus myself.

There was a fairly reasonable chance that the Mod Squad wouldn’t try to pull off another heist shortly after their first one, but even so our patrols in the area were organized into the trios. I had to admit, if we’d had Acid Man with us from the beginning we might have been able to stop them. It wasn’t as if we lost a battle, but then again there was nothing for them to gain by staying to fight. At least we spooked them enough to stop them from getting into the store room. The shop itself would have to replace all the display models, but they had insurance for that stuff.

“So,” I asked, “You think they dodged the fire because it was a problem, or out of instinct?”

“They certainly didn’t like being on fire,” Maks shrugged, “But I can’t say it did any major damage to them either. It was likely instinct. And electricity worked fine against them, it just didn’t take them down in one shot.” He looked over at Rasmus, “I imagine your abilities would give them greater pause.”

“Everyone’s afraid of acid crawling up their legs.”

That was true. I really didn’t like the thought of it, which was why it was good that Energy Ward was effective against him.

“What about the driver?” I asked, “Did we miss him? The van wasn’t running when we came up, I don’t think.”

“I can’t be sure,” Shockfire said, “But I don’t think the driver was one of the cyborgs. He might have been someone for hire or a new initiate. Or the van itself shielded him from me…” Shockfire shook his head. “It certainly didn’t give off any indications it was special.”

—–

Turlough’s group didn’t find any signs of the Mod Squad or any other trouble for the next couple of nights. The same was true of the others- Ice Guy, Midnight, and Rocker.

At least, there was no immediate trouble. Midnight noticed some concerning things. One was a smell that he’d only rarely run into on Earth, but occasionally was far too much. Though a cat’s sense of smell was not as good as a dog’s, it was still good. Celmothians were not cats, and in truth their sense of smell was somewhat worse than an actual animal’s, but he was still better than a human. Dogs and Bunvorixians smelled pretty similar, but having gotten used to the former he was now able to distinguish them. He’d also run into one in the street. He would have liked to take it out, but his first run in with Ceira had sent it fleeing. He smelled at least one around the area, but unfortunately that wasn’t good enough to do anything with. They might not even be all bad. Though the one he’d met certainly wasn’t trying to buck the stereotypes.

Midnight had caught something else in his teeth. He couldn’t cause any serious damage that way, but with a little bit of Shocking Grasp it was easily incapacitated. It appeared that rat-bots were made to be more disposable than cyborgs, which made perfect sense. Unfortunately, finding one didn’t really give any indication of where Rodentia was- only that she was still active. And why wouldn’t she be? She hadn’t been caught, and just because she hadn’t been up to anything big and obvious lately didn’t mean there was nothing to come from her.

So there was no trouble for the moment… but in a place like New Bay, that just meant it was happening elsewhere or would happen later. That could be counted on.

-–Chapter Index–-