January 14, 2011
Battery glanced through the glass panel in the middle of the door into one of the PRT Headquarters’ small interview rooms. Inside was a young woman in her early twenties, sitting calmly at the table across from one of the many PRT bureaucrats. She was going by Auspice, according to the message they’d gotten from the PRT. She wore normal clothes, jeans and a T-shirt, and one of the domino masks the PRT kept a stock of, which meant she’d come unmasked.
Velocity leaned in to look over Battery’s shoulder.
“Think that’s her?” he said.
“It must be,” Battery said.
She had been surprised, to say the least, when the PRT requested one of the Protectorate heroes’ assistance with power testing and verification. Apparently, they had somebody claiming to be a parahuman who could copy others’ powers upon touching them, but who didn’t actually have any copied powers yet. As such, they wanted a hero to prove or disprove the person’s claims.
It was probably a false alarm. Even in a world with parahumans, a power like that seemed far fetched, and it wasn’t that uncommon for people to claim to be parahumans, only to be proven perfectly normal humans. The Protectorate paid well, so there were a lot of scammers. However, if it was true, then they couldn’t afford to miss it. And it was simple enough to prove, with parahuman assistance.
And Battery and Velocity were the only two heroes around who weren’t on patrol, so they got the honor of catching a fake. Such a joy. Even if it turned out to be true, Battery wasn’t sure how she felt about potentially letting somebody copy her power, especially given the, well, origin, of her power. Fortunately, Velocity seemed pretty enthused about it.
“Come on, let’s go in,” Velocity said, brushing past Battery to get to the door.
As Velocity entered, Battery following behind him, the PRT official glanced back over his shoulder, then stood. Auspice, after a beat, did the same. Battery closed the door behind them, while Velocity made his way over to their visitor.
“Hello. I’m Velocity,” he said. “Auspice, right?”
“Yes, that’s what I’m going by, at least for now. Not sure if I want to keep it yet,” Auspice said with a nod. “Hi.”
“Hey. I’m Battery,” she said.
Auspice nodded again.
“All right, no point beating around the bush. You say you can copy parahuman powers?” Velocity said.
Auspice nodded yet again. “Yes. When I touch somebody, I get a perfect copy of their power. It doesn’t affect the person in question at all when I copy powers,” she said. “I think I can also alter powers I’ve copied, to an extent. Not sure to what extent yet.”
“There’s no time limit on the powers? No limitations? Like, you can only do three at a time, or something?” Battery said.
“No. No limitations. Anything the person I copy the power from can do, I can do. And I don’t think there’s a limit on how many I can copy or use at a time.”
Battery raised her eyebrows, knowing they were hidden under her visor. She had to take a moment to consider the implications, if that was true. It probably wasn’t true; they had no proof of such ridiculous powers, and even the only precedents for such a thing being possible (maybe Eidolon, maybe the Fairy Queen) had limitations.
“But you haven’t actually copied any powers yet,” Battery said.
“Well, no,” Auspice said with a shrug. “Not that easy to go around poking capes, you know? But I know how my power works.”
“Either way, if it’s true, that is an incredibly powerful ability,” Velocity said.
Auspice smiled. “I know,” she said simply.
“All right, well, time to put your money where your mouth is, so to speak,” Velocity said. He held out one hand to her. “Prove it. Copy my power.”
Auspice hesitated briefly. Battery narrowed her eyes. She was just beginning to suspect that Auspice was lying and had just realized she was about to be caught when Auspice reached out. She tapped her hand against Velocity’s.
“That’s awesome,” she murmured as though to herself.
Then she was in the corner of the room. Battery had been in the Protectorate with Velocity too long to jump, but she did blink sharply.
“Well,” Battery said. “Either you did copy Velocity’s power, or you’ve got some kind of teleportation.”
Auspice smiled again.
“Nah, I could track her; it definitely looked like my power,” Velocity said. He was starting to sound really excited, now.
Battery could definitely understand. It was kind of worrying, but to have such a powerful cape -- somebody who could copy every other power they encountered -- on their side… That could be huge.
Now, to prove she didn’t just have a power like Velocity’s.
“Copy my power, too,” Battery said, holding her own hand out.
Her power and Velocity’s were also pretty similar -- they were both considered speedsters -- but there were enough differences, too. Battery’s charge gave her enhanced strength, which would be even more obvious when compared to Velocity’s power dampening his effect on his surroundings.
Auspice nodded. “Sure, but I’m not sure how to prove I’ve copied your power?”
Battery paused. Right. Her power’s speed enhancement could probably be faked with Velocity’s power -- or a similar Mover power -- and the other aspects were a little destructive.
“There are facilities for power testing in the building. We’ll take you there,” Battery said.
“Okay, cool,” Auspice said. She gestured. “Lead the way.”
Ten minutes later, they were safely ensconced in a Brute-rated power testing room. Battery wasn’t a Brute, but she could do some pretty good damage while she was charged up. ‘Brute-rated’, in this context, actually meant, ‘lots of things of varying sturdiness to smash’. There, Battery let Auspice tap her on the hand, same as she’d done to Velocity.
Auspice paused for a moment, then nodded. “Okay, so I’ll just… break some stuff,” she said.
“Go for it,” Battery said, building up her own charge to make sure she could track Auspice.
“Let’s see, not using Velocity’s power, since that would mess things up...” Auspice muttered to herself.
Then she shot forward in a move eerily similar to what Battery had seen herself do in videos, at a speed only a few people in Brockton Bay could match. Taking full advantage of the enhanced durability of the Breaker state, Auspice smashed right through the nearest block of cement with a spray of cement fragments, and then through two more and a sheet of metal before she ran out of charge and came to a stop.
Auspice laughed out loud, clapping once in obvious delight. “That was awesome,” she said, then turned around to face Battery and Velocity. “So, how about it? Have I proven myself sufficiently?”
Battery exchanged a glance with Velocity. It was very unlikely for two powers to be that similar, and Battery found it hard to believe that there was any one power that could imitate both hers and Velocity’s. Especially given the origin of Battery’s power.
“Do my power again,” Velocity said. “Hit something while using it. Wait, no, actually--” He stooped to pick up one of the larger pieces of rubble, which was about the size of a baseball, and set it on a table. “--try and pick this up.”
“Sure thing,” Auspice said agreeably.
To Battery, it seemed as though Auspice then teleported over to the table, moving so quickly that Battery couldn’t track her at all until she came to a stop. She trusted that Velocity could track her. For probably thirty seconds, Auspice tried hard to pick up the rubble, only succeeding in making it roll around the table.
Then she deactivated the power with a huff. “Well, that’s frustrating,” she said, but her tone was much calmer than Battery would have expected from the words. She looked from Battery to Velocity and back. “So, anything else?”
Battery thought about it. She realized that she was actually convinced; there was nothing else Auspice could do to make her believe her more than she already did, at least not without copying more powers. If she could also do some of the powers that were less like Battery’s and Velocity’s, like Miss Militia’s, it would make it more believable.
“Well, no, I think I’m good, actually. I believe you,” Velocity said, sounding a bit faint now. “I… think I should go talk to Armsmaster. Battery?”
“I think that’s a good idea,” Battery said.
Once they told Armsmaster, that made it -- Auspice -- officially Not Their Problem. Battery did not want to be the one in charge of making decisions regarding a person who could, presumably, copy any other parahuman’s power. Telling Armsmaster was definitely a good idea.
Oblivious to Battery’s thoughts, Auspice smiled brilliantly. “Great!”
January 14, 2011
Emily sighed heavily and rubbed at her temples with her fingers. The girl sitting innocently in the chair in front of Emily’s desk continued sitting innocently, in the process continuing to force her existence on Emily. Armsmaster stood beside the girl, considerably less innocently.
‘Auspice’. A twenty-two year old girl who now possessed the powers of just about every Protectorate cape in Emily’s branch. The only one she was missing was Triumph. But she wanted to join the Protectorate. That was good, Emily reminded herself. That meant she wanted to be a hero, and that she was also willing to put herself under Emily’s authority, and under the authority of those above Emily.
Emily tried to be comforted by that fact. It was difficult, when faced with yet another potentially disastrous parahuman.
In any case, that wasn’t even Emily’s problem right now. No, she had more problems.
“You’re… from another dimension,” Emily said, dully.
She was repeating Auspice’s explanation of why she apparently didn’t exist and had absolutely no records at all.
“Yes, Ma’am,” Auspice said.
“Like Earth Aleph, we think,” Armsmaster said. He was very firmly on the girl’s side, and pushing even harder than she was to get her into the Protectorate.
“Yeah, something like that,” Auspice said agreeably. “I’m not sure exactly what to call it.”
Emily sighed again. Sometimes, she truly questioned whether or not her job was worth the headaches.
The most likely explanation, she felt, was that Auspice simply didn’t want to tell them her identity, and was therefore lying about it. But was that a big enough concern to not bring her into the Protectorate, when she already wanted to?
No. Given her power, it definitely wasn’t, Emily decided. Still, she could ask a few more questions.
“What’s your civilian name?”
“You won’t be able to find me if you look it up,” Auspice said, frowning slightly. She’d already unmasked upon request. Emily wondered why this was different. “Well, you might find other people with the same name.”
“Tell me anyway,” Emily said.
Auspice shrugged. “All right, sure. My name is Jennifer Williams.”
“Truth,” Armsmaster put in, because he was a traitorous, side-picking --
Emily was fine. Everything was fine.
She was going to have to figure that out. Determine whether or not there were records of a Jennifer Williams that matched Auspice. If not, figure out how to hire somebody with no legal identity. Emily didn’t really have much choice in the matter; she had to.
“Okay. Auspice, explain your power again. List the powers you’ve collected --” Emily glared at Armsmaster, who looked unapologetic. “-- so far. Armsmaster, I’m going to need a report from you and the rest of the Protectorate members who have had contact with Auspice.”
Emily wanted to make sure this was well-documented before she sent it upward.
“Yes, Director,” Armsmaster said, nodding.
“Good. Now, Auspice, if you will?” Emily said. She turned on a recording device, which she had foolishly neglected the previous time Auspice had explained her power.
Armsmaster was almost certainly recording as well, and Emily was reasonably certain that at least one of his recordings of Auspice’s explanation would end up in his report, but she wanted to have her own, as well.
If Auspice was annoyed at having to explain again for what was probably the fifth or sixth time, it didn’t show. “Sure. My power lets me copy other people’s powers upon touching them,” she started, voice almost monotone, like she was reading off a list. “The other person isn’t affected at all by me copying their power. I get a perfect copy of their power which does not have any limitations or a time limit. I can also alter my own copy of other powers to an extent. I currently have the powers of Battery, Velocity, Armsmaster, Miss Militia, Assault, and Dauntless.” She paused briefly, then added, “Oh, and I altered my copy of Battery’s power.”
Emily tried not to react. Auspice hadn’t mentioned that before. “Explain what you mean by that.”
“Okay, well, Battery’s power lets her build up a ‘charge’, right, which she can then expend to enhance herself. For her power, the proper version, she has to concentrate on ‘recharging’ and it takes like twelve seconds or so for her to max out her charge. I didn’t really like that, so I changed it so that the charge builds up automatically, constantly, without needing any concentration on it. It does it slower now, though. It takes probably a minute to max out,” Auspice explained. “I can’t really improve powers; if I make it better in one way, I have to make it worse in another.”
She sounded a bit crestfallen, as though having multiple powers wasn’t already good enough. Emily restrained herself from rolling her eyes or otherwise expressing her exasperation at potentially the most powerful parahuman she’d ever met. She shuddered to think what this girl could do once she’d collected more powers. And she was upset about her limitations. The very few she even had.
“Is that all? The full explanation of your current capabilities?” Emily asked, once she could trust herself to speak.
Auspice nodded. “Yeah, I think so.”
“Okay. Thank you for your cooperation,” Emily said. She turned off her recorder. “You’re both dismissed.”
Auspice blinked and raised her eyebrows, but fortunately Armsmaster took that as the ‘get the hell out of my office’ that it was meant to be.
“Yes, Director,” he said, and turned to leave, boots clunking heavily against the floor.
Auspice still looked a bit surprised, but she parroted, playfully, “Yes, Director,” and followed Armsmaster out.
Emily rested her face in her hands and resisted the urge to go for her secret stash of alcohol that her doctors would be furious at her for having. She allowed herself one minute to wallow in despair and frustration, and then she got back to work.
She had employees to order to figure out how to hire a person who didn’t exist, a report to write up for the higher-ups, and security issues to figure out.