I still hadn’t gotten cat buddy to swallow anything when Khithae knocked on my door. I knew it had to be her since nobody else even really knew where I lived. I opened up the door to see her with a few cans in her arms. “Come on in,” I said to the scaled woman.
She inclined her head and stepped inside, setting the bundle of cans on the kitchen counter. Not that there was much in the kitchen besides the counter. It seemed the room came with a refrigerator and a microwave, but I didn’t really use either. “I have some canned tuna. It might not be as good as cat food, but it should be easy enough to swallow.”
I was under the impression that cans required special tools to open, but these cans had little tabs to pull. Now it seemed strange that any can would be made without one of those, but people did weird things all the time. After she opened the can, I took a pinch of mushy fish between my fingers and placed it in cat buddy’s mouth. Instead of just letting it fall out, he swallowed.
I made sure to keep the portions small, little pinches at a time as I continuously placed them in his mouth. “There you go, cat buddy. Eat up. You need it.”
Khithae laughed, “I’m sure he appreciates the encouraging words.”
There weren’t many words passed around. I didn’t really know what to say. I didn’t talk to people much, even the other apprentices at the tower. When we did talk, it was usually about magic and interesting combinations of spells, most of which I didn’t have yet. Khithae didn’t really have context for that, and I couldn’t possibly know anything about where she grew up. So we talked about cat buddy. “What are you supposed to do with a cat?” I asked.
“You just… keep them as pets?” she said.
“Do they do anything?”
She shrugged, “They look cute.”
“Seems impractical,” I said. Cute wasn’t bad, but it would be better to have something cute that could do stuff. Like a familiar. I still scratched cat buddy behind the ears. He’d stopped eating, but he had half a can, which seemed like it should at least send him in the right direction. He looked more relaxed now than starving. And apparently. “I thought cats were supposed to know where to find water, hmm?”
Khithae laughed again, not quite the same as produced by more human vocal chords but still clear enough. “You say that, but it seems you’re pretty good with cats.”
“I don’t know about that,” I said. “I couldn’t get this guy to not run away until he was basically passed out.”
“Hmm. Did you have cats where you were from?”
I nodded. Not a lot of them, since most people had more practical animals- and there were other good choices for familiars among the apprentices. Or they could simply do without. “Yeah, but I didn’t have any pets.”
Khithae returned to her own apartment shortly after that, and I was tired enough from everything to go to bed shortly. I did make sure the water bowl was full and I dumped some more tuna into another bowl, in case cat buddy needed it. Hopefully he would be regaining some strength.
In the morning, the food was gone, so it seemed to have been the right choice. I dumped the last two short cans into the bowl and cat buddy ran out from behind a table leg to eat it up. I reached out to pet him but he pulled away. “You’re not gonna make a lot of friends that way, cat buddy.”
When I opened the door to go down for breakfast, he streaked past my legs and out. At least he seemed to be in better shape. Well, he wasn’t actually my pet so he should be allowed to make his own choices. Even if he didn’t seem to be able to support himself.
Still, I thought I should at least help him get out of the building. I followed him towards the stairs that I saw him dash down, heading all the way to the bottom. All the running lately had made the stairs easy, though I was already somewhat used to it from living in a tower.
I caught sight of cat buddy circling the stairs below, but when I got to the bottom floor he was gone, despite there being a door sealing the stairway. Well, I heard it open so someone had probably gone out and he’d followed them.
When I arrived at the Power Brigade, I was directed to see Francois. I was surprised to find he already had something for me. Several things, in fact.
“I apologize for the lack of flair,” he said, “But I wouldn’t expect to wear this for too long. We’ll find what’s best suited for you soon enough.”
What he did have for me was a nice deep blue jacket with a white undershirt that nobody would see, one that was a bit long at the waist but sort of mimicked the flowing nature of robes. The pants matched quite well. The strange thing was they more or less fit the familiar style of my home dimension, but Francois hadn’t even seen my normal clothes… or anything like these.
“I thought about adding stars and moons, but that seemed a bit much for the moment.” I wasn’t sure why he thought that would be a bit much considering the shifting rainbow that was his own clothing, but I did appreciate the restraint. “The color should match your skin quite well. Oh, before I forget,” he flicked his wrist and pulled something out. “Your mask.”
I looked at it. It was red, and looked like it wouldn’t disguise me at all. Putting it on, at least it conformed easily to my face and didn’t interfere with my vision. “It feels nice, at least,” I said.
“Come, come,” he said, gently pushing me over to the side where there were changing rooms. “Put it all on.”
I had no idea what sort of material it was made out of, but it was soft and light. It didn’t seem stretchy like spandex, but I imagined it should be pretty durable. I looked at myself in the full length mirror, and decided that the small mask that just went around my eyes didn’t hide my identity. There weren’t that many people with green skin and tusks. Not that I really understood that part. Nobody in my world hid who they were. At least, not the ones involved in legitimate business. But this was how things were. Both the blue and red matched well with my skin, though.
When I stepped back out, Francois was giving bundles to Maks and Rasmus, who were likewise shuffled off to changing rooms. “Marvelous,” he said as he looked at me. “One moment, I forgot something else.” He strode over to some nearby shelves and plucked a few more things. Gloves, socks, and shoes. “Now, I’m not sure if gloves will interfere with your abilities. If they do, we can make adjustments.”
“They should work,” I commented. Contact spells worked through clothing and armor, though there were always limitations. A bit of cloth on my own hands should be fine… and presumably they would help protect them. And if they were just for looks, I liked them well enough.
Outside of the dressing rooms were even more mirrors, and I got a good look at myself from several angles. With the powerful primary colors, I certainly looked like a super of some sort.
“I do hair as well,” Francois commented.
My hair… looked alright. It was a blue-white with yellow tips that hung around my head however it pleased. My beard was still awful though. The patches of color were quite irregular. Still, since he seemed like the sort to know what he was doing, I agreed.
In about as long as it took me to say, “Sure” I was sat down in a chair and a flurry of scissors and razors assaulted my head. Then I was looking at myself with much more neatly trimmed hair, and no hair on my cheeks. I still had my mustache and the circle around my mouth and chin. I had to admit it looked much better, since the colors there were more even than the rest. At least it had a smooth transition down to the point of my chin, ending with the same yellowish color as the tips of the hair on my head.
“Fascinating hair,” he commented. “It tends to keep the same color arrangement even when trimmed.”
I shrugged, “It’s from practicing magic.”
“Powers do so love to leave their little touches.”
It had only taken a few moments to get all of that done, but it also didn’t take long for Maks and Rasmus to change into their suits.
As promised, Maks had patterns of lightning and fire on his clothing. While advertising powers could be seen as a weakness, it was useful for the sake of allowing civilians to react appropriately. It didn’t really show what he could do with those things either, and I was also unaware at that time, despite hearing about it in vague details. Maks had more traditional spandex, more tight fitting than mine.
Rasmus had a pretty similar setup, with more of a green coloration. If I recalled correctly, he did something with acid? That made sense. At least, until I learned more about acids. It wasn’t my fault that the acid spells I’d seen were green tinged.
“For the sake of this exercise, Turlough has volunteered his defensive ability to help even the playing field,” Meztli explained to the others. “This will allow you to attack with less fear of injuring the other party, as it should only be shattered at the point you would have otherwise received serious injury. We do have a healer on standby in case anything goes wrong, but you should stop when the barrier breaks. In a way, that’s also part of this training.” Meztli looked at all of us. “Knowing when to stop is very important. There may be times when you have no choice but to kill your opponent, but the general preference is to incapacitate and capture opponents with minimal long-lasting effects.”
“Why is that?” Maks asked, saving the other two of us from asking the same. “Don’t villains often escape? Wouldn’t it be better to just keep them off the streets?”
Meztli nodded. “A good question. Since we’re working for the government, they don’t want to be seen as hiring killers. Again, there are circumstances that call for it, but as long as your opponents avoid lethal force, you should as well. It’s professional courtesy. An unspoken agreement between heroes and villains and of course us as well to not use excessive force, in all directions. For the heroes, they are concerned about properly administering justice. We just want our people not to get killed. So we keep things appropriate.”
She continued her explanation, “That includes an awareness of your surroundings for other reasons. Always consider the dangers associated. Never attack into a crowd. Try to avoid hitting buildings with anything. And cars. The street is the cheapest. But we’ll cover all that more in detail later. Now we have matches to get to. We’ll bring in some others later, but first you three will face each other.”
I was set against Maks first. I had to say… giving him Force Armor was completely excessive. I didn’t even scratch him.
The first thing I did when starting the battle was a Firebolt. It was my longest ranged option, and not terribly expensive as mana went.
I knew his abilities, but I didn’t really have that many options. I hadn’t expected him to just catch my Firebolt and throw it back at me. At least his aim with it was bad and I managed to dodge out of the way.
Considering my spell list, I had few good options against him. Grease might slow him down, but I wasn’t certain he couldn’t do the same thing again even if I knocked him off his feet. Since I had another match afterwards, I decided to use just one more spell. Ironically enough, that would put me at about half.
I suddenly turned into a blur with Haste, slamming my fist into his stomach- of course it wasn’t enough to shatter Force Armor in just a single hit. With my quick movements I followed up with a grab on his arm, preparing to transition into a throw that we’d learned previously.
Then I was surrounded by fire. I had to admit I panicked slightly. I should have followed through on my attack instead of dashing away, but by that point it was too late. I stopped for a moment to catch my bearings and Maks shot a bolt of lighting straight at me. Only a small part of it actually hit me after it shattered my Force Armor, but a small amount of electricity was still enough to bring me down. And that was the match anyway. The one thing I could be happy about was that sparring with powers was worth much more experience than just hitting each other with our fists.