There was no need for me to go public. At least, not just yet. I had read up on cape and more specifically Thinker statistics.
Being a cape was risky business. One in ten PRT capes died every two years. Two in ten villains. Three in ten independent capes, though there weren't very many of those. And that was ignoring Endbringer attacks.
It made sense with all the fighting and absurd violence that went on around the world, but you'd think Tinkers and Thinkers would have a better time of it. And they did… sort of.
Tinkers could join Toybox, and Thinkers were often kept well-protected. Large cape groups like the PRT typically boasted better survivability outside of Endbringer attacks.
But there were always stories of Tinkers and Thinkers being captured and forced to work for the odd villain team with a bit of power. Over the years organizations had become better at protecting them, but villains kept stealing them all the same.
Going public would mean inviting all these risks and potentially allowing myself to be swept up into incredibly risky situations.
I spent some time approaching all available known Thinkers and even a few Tinkers will the help of the Number Man. Many seemed open and sometimes even inviting to a partnership, but I wasn't taking any risks just yet. I took a few notes, closed the timeline, and repeated the process. I asked for ways they could help me, and things they could use me as a precognitive who could estimate the result of trying something for a day. Predict and Synapse actually figured out what I was doing and sounded very insulted. I tried again with a different power explanation and they gave more amiable responses.
I got a sense of who would be willing to form partnerships and who was busy and tried again. I didn't need the Number Man anymore since I wrote down all their numbers. This time I told them my real powers.
Many more of them seemed insulted and a few hung up immediately. However, I was being completely honest in this set of calls, and a few got over their initial surprise to talk business. This time Synapse actually tried to trick me into using my power while I was talking to him, that sneaky motherfucker! I wasn't doing business with him.
Accord could solve my safety worries and could use me as an essential component with many of his plans. He was quite put off with my tone until I started pretending we were both bosses of companies.
More than a few Thinkers could use my power to approach things in different ways, or to use me as an assistant to work on two things in parallel. This was interesting, as I could do that with multiple Thinkers at once, adding to their effectiveness by copying particularly valuable notes they came up with in the alternate timeline.
Dragon could also help me out, and wanted my help with things she wasn't interested in sharing with me even if I helped her. I was confused about how I could help her and asked her as much. She explained that my power could help others as long as they knew how it worked and I carried messages for them, regardless of whether I knew what they were doing.
I took a few minutes to myself to consider the ramifications of that. I thought back to my college years. If I imagined a person A who knew about my power and wanted to try something out: Person A tells me they're about to try something. I split timelines. I tell Person A in one timeline to try the thing, and to not try it in the other. Person A tries the thing and it succeeds or fails. They tell me it succeeded or failed and I close the timeline and tell them that in the timeline when they didn't try anything. Or I just close the timeline where they didn't try anything if it worked. At no point during this do I actually have to know what they're doing.
I could give my services to others without ever meeting them, and without ever knowing anything about them. Multiple people could try their own individual things out and tell me what to relay to themselves. They'd get answers to complicated or risky attempts without even trying them.
I made a call to the Number Man explaining my situation and asking for advice. He told me that Cauldron was responsible for my powers and that I was already working for them. If I really wanted protection, I could just stay with them. He also mentioned that he did the whole independent Thinker thing himself and that was the solution he came up with. He even explained a bit about his setup and client structure when asked.
Fuck it. I needed to take the next step and Cauldron already knew about my powers. If they were going to screw with me they already had the chance. I was a little worried about being cooped up in such a boring place all the time, but I could probably get them to allow a little redecoration wherever I'd be working from.
I made my call to the Number Man the main timeline and told him my plans.
A few days later I'd moved my personal belongings into storage, packed my things, and moved to Cauldron.
"Here's the room you'll be staying," said Contessa, having lead me to a very colorful room with strange windows into what looked like other worlds. I'd suspected, of course, with the doors that gave way to white hallways that wrapped around past the street I just walked through, but had never seen anything so explicitly otherworldly in my visits to Cauldron.
My schedule with Cauldron expanded to two hours a day as compensation, with the possibility of individual tests outside that window. Tests would be stretched to ten minutes to allow for a bit of superpower testing.
"We're going to stop using the balance formula in our mixtures," explained the Doctor. "We haven't gotten nearly as many useful powers like Doormaker's since we started using it. We'll see about five times as many monster transformations, though they should be clustered around certain individuals. There may also be some outright deaths or explosions. With your power, we're hoping to avoid all accidents. You'll be working remotely to minimize risks."
I nodded, a little disturbed by the idea of how many monsters Cauldron must have been generating before they started using the balance formula. I was slowly learning more about what they did as time went on. Most of my attempts with my power to expand on what little information I had were rebuffed and usually were outright detrimental to my standing with them. Given Contessa's reactions, they were giving me a trial run and keeping me on a short leash.
I quickly settled into my new lifestyle, taking some time to gather information. After learning more about Doormaker, I realized I was living on a different Earth than I grew up on. I could still talk with all my friends and even visit them if I asked, but I was actually living in a totally different world. I thought I was in a different part of the city or part of the world or something, but it turns out I'm actually not on Earth Bet anymore. The whole facility seems to be split up in a bunch of different uninhabited worlds and linked together by portals. I haven't actually met Doormaker yet, so I guess they still don't trust me.
I still have access to the internet and have been using it all this time to keep up to date on news and research capes I could work with. Surprisingly, I also have access to the Earth Aleph internet, though I have to use a different computer to connect to it.
I took one last day to think about what I wanted. What I could use my power for. What I would've done without my superpowers and whether I was alright with where I thought I was going to be in a year.
A couple years ago I was just trying to get out of the mess I'd been in. I survived Nilbog only to spend the next three years in jail. It changed me, and when I'd gotten out I was not just a little bitter about my treatment. Many of the friends I had left me in disgust. Most of that was behind me now, though. Two years is a long time. The world was changing very, very quickly.
I set up a website through the Number Man and posted a thread on Parahumans Online detailing my powers and my name. No use in being secretive anymore. I was safe, and I needed others to know of me to use my power to its greatest effect.
A.N: Review with some powers you think Cauldron should bestow now without the balance formula, or some changes to known Cauldron capes that might've become capes within a couple years before Taylor's trigger!