The limousine took us away from the airport towards… well, not much. I hadn’t seen so few buildings since I went with Shockwave to train with Hammerfist.
“Seems pretty rural,” I commented.
“Ha! I suppose you might say that, coming from New Bay,” Lady Recollection replied. “I know you’re from somewhere even more rural than this, surely you didn’t think everywhere on Earth was the same?”
“I didn’t really think about it,” I admitted.
Midnight also contributed his thoughts, “New Bay seemed about normal for me. Except built for humanoids.”
“I personally have no expectations,” Sir Kalman said. “Having only been whisked back and forth throughout this world.”
“Regardless,” the wrinkled Lady Recollection said. “It’s not exactly a small town, though the lack of people out on the streets at this time might make it appear so. Petalton happens to be located somewhat centrally to the areas in question. And it is near the location of the Grey Gunner’s base that possessed the portal. The base in question has already been raided. They left no obvious trail to connect them to others, but that’s where your abilities came in. Scrying, I believe it was called?”
“Yeah, it’s just normal magic,” I said.
Zakaria shook his head, his response reminding me that the man from Extra was still present. “Portal powers aren’t exactly considered normal here. Excuse me, do you mind that terminology? What would you normally call it?”
“Just… normal.” I shook my head. “I guess class abilities as a whole. But portal powers is a fine name, even though the origin of the powers was kind of the opposite for me.”
The man nodded, making a mental note. “Some people don’t like the name.”
“Anyway,” Lady Recollection brought us back on track. “Petalton is the closest place where the Crown Forces have any facilities, and Roscolm Subdual is the closest group with a good reputation that wouldn’t arouse further suspicion. We can gather here and make our plans, hopefully without tipping anyone off to our knowledge.”
We arrived at a building equipped vaguely like a police station, or at least it reminded me of the ones in New Bay. There, we were gradually introduced to the main individuals involved.
Along with Squad Ten, who had remained silent during our ride, there were two more from the Crown Forces.
First was Current, a woman with a weird eye. I couldn’t help but notice it since its iris had a clear hexagonal pattern. They had already been briefed on the few of us, so she explained her role. “I’m supposed to deal with security systems and the like. I can even knock out the power if we need to, leaving people in the dark.”
“Oh, that one sounds good,” I said. “We should do that.”
She looked at me. “Are those nightvision goggles?”
I looked down at the pocket she was indicating. “Oh, no. These are mass detection goggles. Some tech super thought they would be more practical than they are. It’s usually just extraneous information.” I paused for a moment. “I can just see in the dark.”
“Me too,” Midnight said.
“I must say I unfortunately have the eyes of a standard human,” Sir Kalman added.
Current shrugged. “Well, we can probably find you some night vision equivalent that would fit under or perhaps over your helmet. Not quite perfectly, but it’s a good option to have.”
The other member of the Crown Forces we had all been struggling to ignore. But when he spoke it drew our attention, and his nearly glistening skin kept it. “I’m Lustre,” he said, extending his hand. I shook it, and found his skin was weirdly smooth. Almost uncomfortably so. I didn’t care much about the smooth skin or perfect hair, but it was difficult not to be envious of his jawline. “And yes, that is my power. Except the hair,” he smiled, his teeth glinting.
“Are you involved in negotiations or…?” I tilted my head.
“Oh, I’m actually part of the combat corps. I know, it doesn’t even look like I’ve gotten scratched or had my nose broken. Seems suspect, right?” He continued to grin. “But that’s what the Lustre is for. I draw attention… and survive. And then I heal up to look like this.”
“Regeneration?” Sir Kalman asked. “An impressive ability.”
Lustre nodded, “That’s right. You’ll excuse me if I don’t demonstrate, because I still feel pain and I just changed my coat.”
“He’ll be joining yourselves and Squad Ten on the battlefield,” Lady Recollection clarified. “Along with two members of Roscolm Subdual.” She gestured to the last two individuals.
A man with craggy skin nodded, then blew a puff of wispy gray smoke into his hand. “Agent Smoke. I can fill a room with an incapacitating cloud that has minimal side effects. Better than innocents being caught in a crossfire, at least.”
The other was a woman with orange hair- except the tips which were speckled black and blue. I had the feeling it was impossible to dye her hair in that particular manner, and her skin had a little bit of the same coloration so it must be an aspect of her power, much like my own blue and yellow-tipped hair. “Yo. I’m Dart,” she said. She flicked her tongue out. And then it was right in front of my face, before it pulled back into her mouth. She held up her gloved hands. “Best not to touch me, because while you’ll probably survive it will be a lot more painful than Agent Smoke here. I apply precision incapacitation to high priority targets.”
Lady Recollection brought things back to herself. “And I will be involved in the process of determining if we have the right locations. I am able to put together a decent picture of the movement of people and the changes in a scene… if I know a relevant location to look. I can’t just go to any street corner and expect to gather meaningful information even if it is a high traffic area. As for the areas we have already identified… I have verified some of them from the outside. As one would expect, all locations are private property.”
“I know it’s an awkward time for all of you,” Calculator chimed in. “But when can we be expected to begin? My associates and I got at least some rest on the way over.”
“Actually, we were thinking of adjusting to a nocturnal schedule for this operation,” Lady Recollection said. “And given the timing of your flight, I think that matter is settled. So it might as well be now. Or rather, that is up to Mage, who will be required for narrowing down locations of individuals. And Familiar, if you are able to replicate that power?”
“We share all of the same spells,” I said. “He’s just lower level with a smaller mana pool.”
“Then we shall make use of the two of you to ascertain the locations of our most uncertain targets,” Lady Recollection said.
“I’m ready,” I said. Midnight concurred.
We split up, obviously. There wasn’t much point with both Midnight and I going to the same place. More specifically, what drew us apart was the initial draw from Locate Creature, which I had already spent the points for.
Neither of our targets were within range, obviously. So we got more of a wide zone rather than a proper line to our targets. Calculator was able to work with that, however. He explained the methods for triangulation, and what sort of notes I should take so that he could put together the information later. I couldn’t believe I was using an actual compass.
We made our initial marks before splitting up, and I had something like a thirty degree cone to work with. I looked down at my compass and thought it would be easier if the compass just pointed to the target and I didn’t have to measure against north. The compass twitched… and I decided that experimentation would have to happen later. Especially since I couldn’t be certain if that would be more accurate than the general area I was sensing.
After our initial measurements, we sped off in cars at the maximum non-suspicious speeds possible. We only had ten minutes per casting, after all, and it was eight whole mana per cast. Basically an hour’s worth of recovery or a little more. I could manage six, maybe seven without a longer period of rest if the ambient mana levels here were high enough.
I sat in the back with Lady Recollection and Sir Kalman- who didn’t want to be separated from someone familiar but promised to stay in the vehicle. “It’s not getting much more precise. I think it’s going to lead us to a nearby town.”
The first casting ran out before we could get much more useful information, but we picked out a section in the seedier part of town and tried again. We were closer, and my direction became more exact. The actual location had been off center of the perceived area, but that was usually going to be the case. If the exact line was always right down the middle of the extremes, it would only take a little calculation to get perfect results.
The cone was closer to ten or fifteen degrees, and within five minutes we were close enough for me to just hold out my arm with a near exact direction. Distance was a bit less clear, but by measuring at a few points we could take where the lines crossed on a map. Then it was Lady Recollection’s turn, looking for the most part like a typical old lady strolling down the street. She stopped at a nearby bench, and I felt her powers activating.
“I confirmed suspicious movements. An uptick in activity in the last few weeks. Useless on its own, but enough for us to get a warrant with your information. Especially since you have no pre-existing biases about any of these establishments.”
I checked the remaining descriptions and pictures (obtained via Scrying, ironically) and associated objects. We wouldn’t get to all of these people tonight, even with Midnight and I splitting up to cover more. Not unless we were particularly lucky, anyway.
The first should have been an elven woman, then a half-orc man, a dwarf, and then weirdly a couple humans. By the end of the night I’d gotten lucky enough and found four targets, which could have been much worse taking three or four castings of Locate Creature instead of just a little over two. Cars were helpful, as it allowed us to cover much more distance. And we only had to get a couple good angles to rapidly narrow down the possible areas.
I saw Sir Kalman waiting impatiently, as if he wanted to crash down the doors immediately. But he did wait. Because like the rest of us, he wanted to save as many people as possible.
Two nights of that, and along the way Midnight and I sensed a few supers at or around the locations in question. That wasn’t immediately a red flag since Yew-Kay was also a supernatural hotspot, but being inside a specific building already in question was something else.
Not that we were surprised, as many members of the Grey Gunners had split and run. It would make sense if they were taking shelter with criminal associates- or perhaps those associates also had other connections to supers.
Either way, the third night everyone was rested and ready to act. A few people had been so far outside of the radius of Locate Creature that they simply couldn’t be found, but we couldn’t just spend months roaming the countryside hoping to catch signs of them. After we did what we could, more Scrying would be involved later.
There were more people involved than just those that would be part of our squad, but Midnight and I, Sir Kalman, and the others we had been introduced to would all be targeting one particular place. This one was known to have super individuals providing security. That was legal, of course, but if there were crimes going on behind the scenes then charges would be escalated to supervillainy.
Lady Recollection did her best to explain the situation to us. “The Uptown does its best to maintain a good reputation. Some prominent figures spend their time here regularly… which is to say, we can’t afford to screw this up. We need to gather every scrap of evidence here, and capture every individual present. For the sake of Granbold’s citizens, as well as for the local populace.”
“Corruption finds its way to the upper ranks too easily,” Sir Kalman grimaced. “Worry not. We shall capture and bring to justice all involved.”
I had the feeling he was of a similar opinion to me. That is to say, who cared if anyone had fancy titles. They were still getting fried and/or stabbed. No wait, it was our job to take out supers and other security. Capture was for Agent Smoke and Dart. Unless one of the supers happened to be the mayor or something. Then anything that happened would be their own fault if they didn’t surrender. Which unfortunately we had to offer, because of rules and stuff. But not in a stupid manner.
The place was surrounded by Squad Ten, as well as a number of mundane individuals. Nobody was getting out easily. And if we were lucky, Agent Smoke would be able to fill the whole place and we’d experience no trouble. But most likely, at least the supers would remain conscious in such a situation. And I doubted he could fill such a large volume rapidly, or they wouldn’t have bothered to have the rest of us.