Winds of Change
I never would have thought that my love of helping crafting interesting stories would get me into trouble. Then again, I didn't really think that ROB's were a thing. Now I'm stuck in a world that could best be described as on life support with powers I have no idea how to use. Oh well, at least I'm not alone.
I've had this mostly done for a while, so I decided to get it done and posted. Enjoy!
By the time Riley finished crying herself out, the occupants of the town had emerged from hiding and were milling around checking the damage and treating the wounds that had been caused by Shatterbirds scream. Thankfully, it looked like she had not been too interested in a bodycount this time, so the injuries were fairly minor and there hadn't been any deaths from what I could see.
I gently freed my shirt from Rileys grip and conjured a literal air mattress for the exhausted Tinker, before getting to my feet and turning to the man in the Sheriff's uniform who was standing a respectful distance away.
"Do you need something?" I asked.
The man frowned slightly as he looked me up and down, then glanced at the Grimoire still floating beside me.
"Don't you Capes normally wear masks?" he asked.
I smirked slightly.
"I felt that stopping one of the Nine from going on the rampage was more important than my mask," I said, "Besides, I'm new."
"Hnn," said the man, relaxing slightly, "So, what should we do now? Where theres one, the rest of them will be close behind."
"Actually, I don't think they will be," I said, "From the sound of things, something happened and the Nine split up."
I closed my eyes and reached out with my Mana. It was a clumsy attempt, but considering that Riley shone like a beacon to my Mana senses, locating Capes would be a breeze. Other than Riley, I could only sense one other Parahuman within my area of influence and the signal was flickering and faint.
"I can't sense any Parahumans anywhere near the town," I said as I opened my eyes again, "I don't think we need to worry about the rest of the Nine dropping by."
"I do want to go and see where the Nine were shacked up though," I said, "There might be something useful, or dangerous, there."
The sheriff went a little green at the thought and nodded.
"Good idea," he said, "Alright, while you do that, I'll call the PRT. They'll need to know about this."
I twitched slightly. I didn't really want to get onto the PRT's radar quite this early, but this might be for the best. After all, the bounties on the S9 would likely be insane and I was in need of some startup capital. I'd just have to hope that I could keep eyes off Riley until I dyed her hair or something.
I turned to the Tinker as the Sheriff went off to do his duty.
"As much as I hate to ask, can you guide me back to where you were based?" I asked softly.
Riley sniffed and scrubbed at her face, then nodded. I smiled and patted her on the head.
"Thanks kid," I said, "Now lets get going."
My Grimoire opened and the wind began to pick up again.
"Wind Creation Magic: Heavenly Wind Arc."
In the blink of an eye we were stood on a mass of swirling wind that quickly lifted up and away.
"Alright, so which way are we going?" I asked.
"That way," said Riley, pointing off in the direction I'd approached the town from, "We were staying in an old barn."
I paused and looked down at her incredulously for a moment, then shook my head and directed my construct in that direction. There was no way it could be the same place I'd accidentally destroyed.
"Oh, you have got to be shitting me," I said as I stared down at the barn that I'd accidentally destroyed with my minor power incontinence when I'd first arrived, "Theres no way thats a coincidence."
"Is...something wrong?" asked Riley.
I sighed and shook my head.
"No, just realizing that the Universe apparently has a sick sense of humour," I said as I brought us down to land.
The barn was old and clearly not in regular use, but it was sturdy enough that it wouldn't fall over without warning. Mostly. There was a large hole in the side, probably where Crawler had left and the ceiling had caved in where my wind blade had struck, but it still didn't look like it would fall down. Despite that, I decided that if I had to fight for whatever reason, I'd take it outside.
Inside the barn was pretty normal, other than the pile of broken boards with a single hand sticking out from under it showing where Jack had brought the big one, a battered looking bus with a modified back that looked like it could open on a hinge and a large hunk of metal sticking out the bonnet and a young woman chained to one wall.
She was fairly attractive, with roughly chopped blonde hair and a toned physique, with a rather nasty looking burn scar on her left cheek that twisted her mouth into a permanent scowl. The scar looked old, but her body was covered in fresh wounds, including a few of her fingers that looked like they'd been bitten off.
"Do I want to know what happened to her?" I asked.
"She was part of Jacks most recent game," she mumbled, "Bait to draw in Mouse Protector. Shes been working hard to improve things by promoting a lot of charities, so he decided to have me turn her into a...a monster and let her loose in one of the events she helped organize. Ravager was a handy puppet and source of resources for me."
"Ah, well at least thats something," I said, "Now, how much was she involved?"
"I don't actually know," she said, "I think Jack did something to convince her that we were mercenaries she hired to help with something she was planning."
"Well, thats something of a relief," I muttered as I stepped up, cut through the chains and caught Ravager as she fell forwards.
I laid her down on the floor and quickly checked her over. I wasn't exactly trained, but none of her injuries looked immediately life threatening. It was probably still a good idea to get her to a hospital though.
"She should be OK," said Riley, "Jack didn't want her to die before Mouse Protector got here…"
"I AM HERE!"
I nearly jumped out of my skin at the sudden shout as a woman with a sword and shield appeared out of thin air on top of the pile of rubble that Jack was buried under.
Mouse Protector (cus no one else would ever wear ears like that) was a rather short woman and wore costume that appeared to be a cross between knight and roman armour covered by a red cape and carried a round shield with a symbol that I'm pretty sure broke some copyright painted on it and a sword with a pommel shaped like said copyright infringing symbol. Her helmet had a visor that hid her eyes, but left her wide, expressive mouth visible, just to make sure that her famous grin was visible at all times, and topped with a pair of mouse ears.
"Speak of the devil," I said.
"Alright Ravie, what do you have for me this…" she trailed off as she spotted the unconscious Villain on the floor and her visible grin vanished.
The next thing I knew, a chunk of wood shot past my head, my feet were swept out from under me and I was looking up at a decidedly unhappy looking Mouse Protector past the point of her sword.
"What. Happened?" she snarled.
"Hey now, lets not do anything rash!" I yelped, "We just got here! I unchained Ravager and was making sure she was alright!"
Mouse Protector glared at me for a moment, then let go and pulled her sword away, although she pointedly didn't sheath it as she bent down to check on the villain. I let out a soft sigh of relief. For all her reputation, Mouse could apparently be quite scary.
I shook myself off, got to my feet and turned to the pile of rubble Jack was buried under. I hummed thoughtfully, then opened my Grimoire and gathered my power.
"What are you doing?" asked Riley.
"Considering Jacks reputation, I doubt the PRT will accept hes dead until they get a body and test it ten ways to Sunday," I said, "With that in mind… Wind Magic: Towering Tornado!"
The pile of rubble exploded as a tornado manifested under it and sucked the shattered wood up and out of the hole in the ceiling to be deposited outside, leaving Jacks mangled body behind.
There was absolutely no way he could be alive. Not only was his skull crushed, but so was his ribcage and he had large chunks of wood sticking out of vital spots all over his body.
In short, he was very dead indeed.
"Well, thats a relief," I said, "Guess not even his bullshit can survive pure dumb bad luck."
I glanced down at Riley as the short blonde walked up beside me and looked down at Jack with an unreadable look on her face. After a moment, she picked up a broken metal bar and jammed it into Jacks chest. Then she pulled it out and started systematically stabbing every vital organ he had.
"Um, should we...stop her?" asked Mouse.
I glanced back at the Hero and shook my head.
"I think she needs to make sure hes good and dead," I said, "Six years of abuse and being used as an attack dog will do that to anyone."
Mouse frowned as she watched Riley ram the pole back through Jacks chest with a scream.
"Shes Bonesaw, isn't she?" she asked.
"Shes Riley, nothing more than that," I said, "And shes just as much of a victim as anyone else Jack decided to mess with."
"Are you sure?" she asked, "Thats a big risk to take if you're wrong."
I glanced at her, then looked back at Riley as she slumped down beside Jacks ruined body and started to sob. It was the sort of crying that only someone in genuine pain could produce, so full of grief and agony that I doubt even someone like Heartbreaker could replicate it in a person.
"I think I can take that risk," I said.
Suddenly, Riley jolted up right and, after scrubbing her face, ran over to the battered bus and jumped inside. A moment later, she returned with a bag that had a number of random tools sticking out of it.
"What are you doing?" I asked.
"I need to get them out," said the Tinker without looking at me as she opened her toolbag and pulled out a scalpel.
Before I could react, she tore open her dress and cut her torso open without so much as flinching. The next few minutes was the most insane thing I'd ever seen as the 12 year old calmly and quickly removed a frankly insane number of twisted looking bits of technology from her body, ranging from a mesh that gave me a headache when I looked at it, to a few capsules that Riley was very careful with and disposed of in a tub of bubbling purple foam she whipped up out of bleach, hot sauce and ice cream. Finally, once the last thing was removed, she stitched herself up with dental floss, leaving nothing but a thin red line on her torso.
Suddenly I had a much greater understanding of just how bullshit Tinkers are.
"Well that was...a thing," I said, "Why did you do that though? Wouldn't the upgrades be useful?"
Riley shivered and pulled her knees up to her chest.
"Maybe, but I don't want anything to do with...HIM inside me," she said.
I shot a look at Mouse as I knelt down and rubbed the young Tinkers back as she started crying again. The Hero sighed and shook her head.
"Alright fine, I get it," she said, "But you do know that convincing everyone else will be almost impossible, right? No one will ever be able to trust her, assuming the PRT doesn't just kill her outright."
"Thats...actually a good point," I said, "Riley?"
The little Tinker uncurled a little and rubbed her eyes.
"I...I can make something that will help," she said, "But...maybe it would be better if…"
I cut her off by putting a hand on her head.
"Don't finish that thought Riley," I said, "You don't deserve to die for what Jack did. Besides, the best way to get revenge on the rat bastard would be to become the exact opposite of what he wanted, right?"
I grinned at her as she looked up at me with wide eyes. After a moment, she nodded and reached for her bag.
"I need some of your blood," she said, pulling out a rather large needle.
I stuck my arm out without hesitation, which seemed to surprise Riley for a moment, before she grabbed my wrist and drew out some blood, before turning to her supplies and started doing...something. I ignored the look Mouse sent my way and instead decided to ask the question that had been bothering me for a while.
"By the way, I'm a little curious about something," I said, "I was under the impression that you and Ravager were rivals, right? So why do you seem so protective of her?"
Mouse sighed and looked down at the still unconscious woman in her arms.
"Its...complicated," she said, "Cluster Triggers are...well, their complicated. Its almost impossible to explain how it feels to someone outside the Cluster, even other Grab Bags. The two of us...well, we're the only ones left of our Cluster and, despite our rivalry, neither of us really wants to lose the other. The problem is, Ravagers powers aren't exactly heroically inclined and she can do horrific damage without meaning to. That means that the Proctorate would be unlikely to take her and if she went Villain, she would almost certainly end up in the Cage. To keep that from happening, we...well, I suppose you could call it a performance. The two of us act as Hero and Villain towards each other to allow us to go all out with our powers."
"A performance?" I asked, "Thats...actually quite brilliant."
Mouse smiled a little wanly.
"We use it to help raise awareness for various things," she said, "A Villain attack, even a failed one, on a charity event draws a lot of attention and always results in the charity getting a jump in donations. Plus, we can use them to get criminal groups off the streets by having Ravager 'hire' the group for the attack and arresting them. Helps get around some of the more annoying laws related to Capes helping charities as well."
I stared at her for a moment, then burst out laughing.
"Oh, thats even more brilliant!" I chortled, "I take my hat off to the two of you!"
This time, Mouse's smile was a little stronger.
We both turned to Riley as she stood up with a syringe full of a faintly glowing purple liquid.
"Um, whats that for?" I asked.
"Well, since I'm too easy to recognise, I thought the best way to deal with that would be to change my looks permanently," said Riley, "This will do that and even make it so my DNA and fingerprints are different!"
I raised an eyebrow.
"And you needed my blood because...?"
Rileys cheeks pinked and she shifted slightly.
"W-well, I needed a base for the new DNA," she said, "T-this will make it so we'll appear related on any test that might be done, specifically as brother and sister…"
She trailed off awkwardly.
"Really? Huh…" I said, "Well, I did always want a cute little sister."
Riley looked surprised, then blushed and grinned and hugged me.
"Thank you," she mumbled.
I smiled and hugged her back. After a moment, she pulled back and looked down at the glowing syringe.
"This...is going to hurt," she muttered and then stabbed the needle into her arm.
The fluid inside quickly flowed into her body, briefly making her veins visible, before she went rigid and doubled over with a hiss of pain as her hair went from curly blonde to wavy brown, her eyes darkened slightly and the bone structure in her face visibly changed. Within seconds, she was completely unrecognizable, but quite clearly related to me.
"...Tinkers are bullshit," said Mouse Protector.
"I agree," I said.
Riley let out a gasp as she slowly straightened and stretched, wincing as her joints cracked.
"That hurt," she said, "It worked though…"
She wobbled slightly and frowned as she rubbed her forehead. I frowned slightly as I felt the Mana in the air around me spike.
"Are...you alright?" I asked.
Riley looked up at me and gave a pained smile.
"Yeah, its just a headache," she said.
I frowned deeper as a trickle of blood emerged from her nose.
"Are you sure?" I asked, "Cus your nose is bleeding. Are you sure that stuff was safe?"
"NO IT WAS NOT!" shouted Sylph as she suddenly popped up, "You stupid girl! Do you have any idea what you just did?!"
Riley took a shaky step back, now looking visibly ill as more blood began to leak out of her nose and her skin paled, although whether that was due to whatever was affecting her or the sudden appearance of the Fairy was anyones guess.
"I…I don't..." she stuttered.
"Sylph, whats going on?" I asked urgently, "Is she OK?"
"No, she isn't," said Sylph, "Your body, like all Mages, is completely infused with Mana, right down to your DNA. Due to the fact that your power comes directly from immersion into the Flow of Mana, your body is even more saturated with Mana than an average Mage and your affinity with one of the Four Primary Elements means that your Mana is also among the closest to natural Mana. In other words, she just injected what amounts to a shot of pure, unfiltered Mana directly into her bloodstream."
"Ah...so not good then?" I asked, now getting very worried indeed.
Sylph let out a huff.
"Normally it'd be fine," she said, "But shes a Parahuman whos already been exposed to a large amount of Mana due to being at ground zero where the Gate opened and her young age makes her body better at absorbing and adapting to Magic. The result of this mess is going to be loud."
I was about to ask what the hell she was talking about, but I was cut off by an enormous blast of Mana and a scream. I whipped around, just in time to see Riley be engulfed in an enormous pillar of pale blue Magic, the sheer force of which was enough to start throwing out waves of pressure.
"WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON!?" shouted Mouse Protector over the screams and roaring winds.
"What should have happened over a much longer time period," said Sylph, apparently completely unaffected by the winds.
"You could have warned us!" I shouted.
"I wasn't expecting you to just give your blood to her!" said Sylph, "Don't worry though, as dramatic and painful for her that this is, its unlikely to do any permanent damage to her body. Its her Magic after all."
My attention was drawn back to Riley as the Mana pillar slowly began to draw back into her body and compress, shrinking down into a ball of pale blue light that thrumbed with power. The orb pulsed a few times, then seemed to shatter, leaving behind a blue Grimoire with a rod of Asclepius on the cover with the rod part replaced with a scalpel as the last of the wild Mana faded and Riley collapsed. A moment later, the sounds of vans pulling up outside, followed by a lot of shouting, slamming of doors and running feet came from outside as a number of fully armed and armoured PRT troopers came bursting into the barn, followed by Legend with the glow of his powers at full. I groaned and let my face drop into my hands. Well, this was going to be fun.
And done. I'm not entirely pleased with that ending, but it works fine. I might rewrite it if I decide to continue it after I've finished the first part of TWS:S, but thats for the future.
So yeah, Leo accidentally Jack. The perfect way to take out that moron in my opinion. Not dramatics, no mind fucking, just pure luck and coincidence with nary a final word from the monster. As an added bonus, no Murder Rat!
Yeah, Riley has a lot of issues to work out. I think a few sessions with Dr Yamada will be in her future.
Since we have so little on Mouse and Ravager, I decided to make something up. I suspect their little scheme might be breaking some laws, but it keeps a lot of people happy and its not even close to what some 'Heroes' get up to. Fortunately, they'll be able to stop it soon enough.
Most people gaining their Magic won't be anywhere close to being that flashy unless they do something stupid like getting a Magic Stone shoved into their body or something. Riley just got unlucky that she was exposed to so much Magic so quickly that it overwhelmed what little resistance her Shard had to Mana and forced the issue. As it was, if she hasn't used her little trick to literally change her DNA into Leos, which is naturally attuned to Mana, she probably would have lasted about a week before the change from Parahuman to Mage, mainly due to the initial exposure to the new proto Grand Magic Zone caused by the new hole in reality and being constantly exposed to more Mana by being around a Mage all the time, along with her young age all combining together into a perfect storm.
For those worried that Parahumans turning into Mages will make things to easy, don't. Although the switch does get rid of the Shards influence on their host for obvious reasons, no ones personality will actually change that much. Some people who are heavily affected by their Shards like Burnscar and Labyrinth will change, but thats due to the removal of the Shards influence. Bad people will still be bad people, they'll just have Magic now instead of Parahuman powers. Plus, it will take some time for most adult Parahumans to make the switch, unless they are around a large source of Mana for an extended period of time.
Speaking of which, I need some suggestions as to what Magic characters should get. They don't necessarily have to be tied to their Parahuman powers either. In fact, it'd be better if they weren't and were instead more closely tied to their nature. I do already have some ideas, but it'd be interesting to see what you lot think.
And with that, I'm done. Don't forget to leave a review on the way out!