21) 50% less Shameful

Saturday, September 19th, 2015

I woke a bit after noon with the dog sleeping on top of the pillow beside my head. Trying to avoid waking her I started planning what to do before and after work. I’d had a few thoughts last night on the long tour of the city but I needed to gel them into a plan.

One thing was clear, I didn’t really see most of these people with powers as anything but clowns. It wasn’t that I was smarter or stronger than them exactly. It’s that they didn’t seem to know what to do with themselves now that they had a power.

The two new guys last night showed up outside a prison, low security though it may be, without an attempt to hide. Getting a power didn’t make you some superhero or supervillain. Even if you had a power that could kill anyone you can see, it wouldn’t stop a sniper, a guided missile strike, or even a simple booby trap on your car.

Keeping low profile was the most basic of ideas and none of the one’s I’d met, even Crystal, seemed to get that. She mostly was low profile because she didn’t realize she had a power until the day I told her. I expected her to be on some TV show with trained animals as soon as the idea occurred to her.

I was also pretty sure the lightening guy aka WannabeThor and his friend, who I’d already nicknamed Shockandrun, were trying to kill Arsonboy last night. It’s possible that WannabeThor was charging to electrify the fence after Arsonboy escaped but I doubted it. Unless he continually applied a current, or had some similar skill, it would just dissipate into the ground.

But at the same time Arsonboy was clearly expecting them and escaping towards them. So he must have thought it was safe.

I’d spent hours going in mental circles after the jailbreak attempt trying to figure out possibilities and still had no answers. Maybe the police had some answers by now but I doubt they were handing them out. I’d check the news later but I expected a brief section with no mention of motives. WannabeThor likely had a broken jaw and wasn’t going to be explaining things too soon.

In the end the facts were simple. There were several hostile people with powers who might escape and attack. They might have more friends. Even if we were hours north of the 95% population band there was still a few hundred thousand people within a 2 hour drive, meaning 20-30 powers. Within a 4 hours drive there was over 2 million people which meant 200+ people with powers.

Presumably most of them didn’t want to fight anyone. But I couldn’t rule out that whoever or whatever is behind these powers is subtly encouraging it with higher aggression levels. There’s already rewards of greater strength in your power if you fight others. And last week they added the map so you could see how many others had powers in various ranges. Checking the map took a bit of concentration but last night after I was clear I found 6 people with powers including myself.

I guess the next step was double checking that.

I closed my eyes and tried to visualize the map. It made my spine tingle in a way my own power didn’t. Trying to control the map wasn’t hard but it felt cold and foreign in a way I couldn’t describe.

Nine. There were nine people with powers in a 50 mile radius now.

Fuck the dog sleeping, I reached out and texted Crystal a warning about the situation and got an acknowledgement back. The dog was awake and unusually she seemed to be paying attention to what I was typing on my phone. I doubted she was anywhere near close to being able to read but it was definitely a sign she was getting smarter.

I had memorized all 1427 powers in the province and their locations. Many of the minor towns weren’t familiar but sorting through the ones I knew were near I had a rough list of powers nearby at the time the list was made. If someone was in Toronto or on a trip somewhere while the list was made they wouldn’t show I assume so I couldn’t fully trust the list.

The list I made, excluding the original 4 of us was: Lightning God, Atmospheric Pulse, Poison Fiend, Ice Hand, Shelter, Dominator, Variable Invisibility, High Speed, Time’s Timer, Healing Wind, Light Mind, Distant Viewer, Firebringer, Shadow Forger, Laser, True Light, Air’s Birth, Pathmaster, Punishing Fist, Meteor, Heart of Glass, Garden.

The chances that the Lightning God power belonged to WannabeThor seemed high. And Atmospheric Pulse was likely Shockandrun. Many of the other powers weren’t very clear at all.

For example Poison Fiend could mean anything from being able to create poisons, to breathing it out or even having blood that’s poisonous to others.

After last night I understood that even if I thought of WannabeThor and Arsonboy as clowns their powers were still serious ones. So the obvious step seemed to be to reduce the usefulness of their powers before I saw them next. If they were determined to escape I doubted the prisons could hold them long. That was especially true if they got outside help.

“Resistances Window”

Mental
Fear N/A
Forced Mental States N/A
Insanity N/A
Sleep N/A
Physical
Cold N/A
Electrical N/A
Heat 13%
Light N/A
Pain 33%
Special
KI N/A
Magic N/A
Psi 2%

I should have started on Heat resistance grinding as soon as I found out the arsonist actually had a fire based power but minutes later he was caught by police so I’d shelved it.

The first three resistances, Fear, Forced Mental States and Insanity I had no clue how to train. I doubted scary movies or books on Cthulhu would work. Sleep resistance I could likely train by not sleeping until I got it, then staying up to grind it longer. It seemed useful in the long run but in the short run the tiredness and mental fatigue would mess with everything else.

Cold, Electrical, Heat, Pain were clear enough. Light not so much. Would staying outside at the beach give it to me before I got skin cancer?

KI and Magic I still had no clue with. But Psi had gone up to 2% from 1% at one point. Maybe from Nilla pestering me in my sleep? Too vague to make a serious guess at really.

One that didn’t show up was Poison. With someone like Poison Fiend on the nearby list that seemed important.

I went downstairs, took the dog out, made some toast and started researching poison resistance along with looking up easy sources of electricity, heat and cold to grind with. I needed something cheap, immediately available in town and could work for hours.

The research led to Mithridatism, along with the fact that it’s mostly fake. Ingesting most poisons slowly over time just meant a fatal dose built up in your body. There seemed to be a few exceptions like possible resistance to snake venoms but it’s not like I had rattlesnake poison easily available. Drinking some poisonous material under the sink didn’t seem the best way to start. I needed something mild that wouldn’t send me to the hospital…and I really wanted to avoid puking up my lungs too.

Searching through links took a while but eventually sent me into a detour. There were therapies designed to build immunity to allergies by slow exposure. A chance link in there lead to something that actually seemed useful.

Apparently some hikers would chew parts of Poison Ivy to build an immunity to it. It was an allergic reaction but my power seemed at least somewhat amenable to how I think of things. Evolving {Increase Mental Sensing} to be a passive skill instead of active showed that.

After I’d decided on getting some Poison Ivy things went fast. I memorized the look of various Poison Ivy types using {Memorization}. With that I could use {Identification} to find it in the nearby woods if it existed there.

Heat, I could use my space heater. For Cold I had an ice pack for injuries over the years, all I had to do was pick up a few more so that I could rotate them through.

Electricity was a bit harder, sticking a fork into a socket was a good way to wreck the socket and was a bit of an overkill. Same with a tazer stun gun if I could even find one in town. The only practical example of electrical shocks I could think of was those buy zapper lanterns you can buy. Researching them though gave an even better solution, the tennis racket type electrical bug zappers. One of the chain hardware stores sold them.

So my shopping list was: 3 Ice packs, a tennis racket bug zapper, and lots of rechargeable batteries for it. If I brought some gloves and a plastic bag with me I could try to find Poison Ivy on the way back by detouring to the woods.

A quick shower and I was on my way around 1:30pm. I told Nilla I would be gone for several hours which was a regular ritual, but for the first time I felt like she partially understood.

I had until 8pm before I had to be at work so I had a few hours of grinding available after shopping if the Poison Ivy didn’t take long.

While walking I pulled up my Character Window.

Class Explorer Level 2
EXP 2020 Next Level EXP 3000
HP 230/230 MP 325/325
Physical Energy 280/280 Mental Energy 790/790
Psi 394/400 KI 240/240
HP Regen 3.68/min MP Regen 0.33/min
PE Regen 0.28/min ME Regen 0.79/min
Psi Regen 0.4/min KI Regen 0.24/min
Title: Polyglot I
Agility 19/19 Hand-Eye 17/17
Intelligence 40/40 Luck 9/9
Mental Stamina 79/79 Physical Stamina 28/28
Strength 24/24 Vitality 23/23
Wisdom 32.5/32.5 Willpower 23/23
Titles available:
Slightly Masochistic, Not So Slightly Masochistic, Moderately Masochistic, Seriously Masochistic, Polyglot I

Walking along I started testing my hypothesis from the previous night.

“Help Level”

Level is an indicator of your relative strength.

“Help Quest”

A task with a reward in power strength.

I’d looked briefly at the text both them before but I hadn’t paid any real attention since they seemed reasonable. But now the help on them stood out a bit.

The normal definition of ‘Quest’ is the search or pursuit of a goal. Like the quest for the Holy Grail, or a quest to find a killer. There might be items at the end or knowledge but they weren’t given as rewards, they were found or truths realized.

The ‘Help Quest’ text though mentions ‘task’ and ‘reward’. Meaning it’s given by someone and rewarded by someone, or maybe a system. But that meaning of Quest is similar to modern games definition of quests.

The ‘Help Level’ text says it is an indicator of ‘relative’ strength. Similar to how a thermometer is an indicator of temperature.

If my power reaches a certain level to unlock something, that had nothing to do with formal ‘Levels’. It explains why I didn’t gain stat points or HP’s or anything in particular when I level unless something else happened like when Escape Capture completed and I gained a bunch of power.

The scary part though was the danger the Quest system implied. One, that something was handing out quests to fight. Two, that it could possibly read our minds depending on how it knew when the construction worker had decided to capture me. And three, that others were likely getting something like Quests. Since I didn’t see a message on the site’s FAQ about Quest windows, or voices telling them things, it was likely unconscious hints.

The last part was what I’d wracked my head over and extended my walk the night before. I doubted I was being given information that no other person with a power was. I think my power was just displaying it to me unlike most others. There were bound to be others with powers that let them clearly see the information.

I tried to think through all the implications of that as I walked to the store and shopped.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I picked up what I needed with less than $70 for the one bag worth of stuff. It felt expensive but being able to resist various power attacks was easily worth the price. I was fairly confident it would work since Heat and Pain resistances weren’t too hard to get weeks ago.

Heading to the woods I decided to browse local news. That late in the afternoon I figured they should have something about the prison jailbreak attempt by now. It was a bit awkward finding the local news on my phone since I had to browse through a few pages with one hand.

The top news wasn’t the jailbreak attempt.

The top news was the death of Jason Gagnon in the hospital where he was recovering from a second surgery for complications from the gunshot wounds the other day. He and one of the two Constables, Steven Couchie, were electrocuted at roughly 2:30am by assailants. One of who was believed to be in custody from the failed jailbreak attempt.

The first death, and of someone who directly attacked me. I was also the one who basically swatted him. If he wasn’t shot he might have been able to fight or at least run, or even been behind bars where he was safer. It’s not like I forced him to fight the cops and get shot, but still it was hard to know what to feel.

There weren’t many details beyond that since the police were keeping a lid on details. But they were asking for the public’s help in finding a person they had a security camera picture of. It was definitely the Shockandrun guy.

They were also warning that people who had a power see the police for protection before more fighting broke out.

I immediately texted Crystal the link then hurried towards the woods. Using {Running} I was at the woods in minutes.

I started running through every small trail of the woods, jumping up on any outcroppings and scanning the area. It took an hour and a half before I found enough Poison Ivy to fill the extra bag I’d brought. There were two types spread over a small area. It was a bit tricky not to get any on my arms while pulling them up with the gloves I’d bought the other day but was going smoothly when a blue window from Nilla popped up.

I didn’t even know she could do that. There were still way too many unknowns.

Explorer’s Pet ‘Nilla’ wishes to add map information.
Yes or No?

“Yes”

The city map that I’d used {Memorization} on popped up inside a window. Near my house were two blinking dots. They were both moving southwards at either a run or a slow car’s driving speeds. One was an end of a block to the west, the other 2 ends to the east.

It was obviously a grid search for Resonance. Nilla had the {Sense Bloodlust} ability but it wasn’t leveled so the only thing she might sense a few hundred feet away would be Resonance. I didn’t know she could even sense it before now but it was the only thing that made sense. I’d never felt Resonance from her so she was safe.

At least I now had a clue why the Explorer Class required a pet. A question for later was what else Nilla could do.

Something else occurred to me. If Jason Gagnon was dead then of the 9 powers this afternoon at least 4 were new and 2 were the ones I ran into last night likely. 5 of them were free to search for Crystal and me.

I watched the map as they passed by my place and continued south while my hands kept squishing as much Poison Ivy as I could into the bag. After a bit the markers disappeared off the map and I was finished harvesting.

I was about a mile southeast of my home in the woods but I headed to the nearest edge instead of directly home.

I texted Crystal to close her store and head to the OPP station along the bypass. The Ontario Provincial Police had a station in town about a half mile west of the jail. It served the roads and some of the towns too small to have police stations around us. They had a lot more resources than local cops and could help her get to other cities if need me.

She was reluctant since her mall would fine the company for closing early but not being dead was yet again more important than money. When texting didn’t work I switched to calling her. After a few minutes she agreed, and agreed not to mention me to the provincial police. I headed home at a fast walk after that.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I got home a bit after 5pm. First up was taking the dog out and eating as quick as possible. I quickly threw in a microwave dinner and let Nilla pee. The cold packs went into the freezer beside the one I already owned.

Ordering Nilla up onto my chair I set up on the ground in my office. First would be Electricity. I unwrapped the tennis racket shaped bug zapper and put some batteries in.

I turned it on and slowly reached out to touch it briefly with my other hand.

ZAP! And it hurt just like I expected it to. It was worse than the static shock you get when you touch a doorknob but it didn’t seem that much more. That might have been {Pain Tolerance} and Pain Resistance though.

Gritting my teeth I kept at it. Repeatedly shocking myself again and again. It wasn’t the first time but I wished my power was a bit less painful overall.

After roughly 20 minutes and a few hundred shocks I got the window as my skin crawled and muscles spasmed.

Due to your actions you have gained a Resistance.
Static Resistance has reached 1%.
You have gained 1 Physical Stamina.
You have gained 50 EXP.

I checked my Physical Stamina immediately. It was down 10 while the cap went up, 18/29. So the cost was similar to learning new skills. Likely the fact that I didn’t have much Physical Stamina was what put me down when I gained the 2nd Resistance that night 2 weeks earlier. It also meant I couldn’t gain more than 1 more Resistance without resting or I’d pass out.

One other problem was the window said Static Resistance not Electrical. I pulled up the Resistances window.

“Resistances Window”

Mental
Fear N/A
Forced Mental States N/A
Insanity N/A
Sleep N/A
Physical
Cold N/A
Static 1%
Heat 13%
Light N/A
Pain 36%
Special
KI N/A
Magic N/A
Psi 2%

Electrical Resistance was definitely replaced by Static. Which was more than a bit confusing but maybe my power was adapting to my thoughts again?

I left it alone since an answer didn’t seem forthcoming and switched to my bag of Poison Ivy. I really, really hadn’t been looking forward to it. But an Itchy tongue and sore throat would be alleviated a lot by my pain abilities and unlocking it now would give me a chance at resisting any poisons in the future.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

And I don’t think I’ll ever describe in detail that small slice of hell other than to say itchiness is apparently different than Pain so my skill and resistance didn’t help much.

Due to your actions you have gained a Resistance.
Allergy Resistance has reached 1%.
You have gained 1 Physical Stamina.
You have gained 50 EXP.

Again a Resistance I didn’t expect though this one made more sense since it was an allergic reaction. Kind of disappointing but it would help with my minor allergies. I still had almost 3/4 of a bag of Poison Ivy left too.

The problem was it was 2 hours until work and I was down to 8/30 Physical Stamina. I couldn’t gain Cold Resistance without a nap. Or I could gain it along with a forced nap after it knocked me out.

So my choices were grinding Heat, Static or Allergy. Or a nap before work.

I choose the nap. I might have a run in tonight with someone so being refreshed wouldn’t hurt. I could grind after work. I set my alarm and laid down to sleep with Nilla after hiding the Poison Ivy away. Just because she’s smarter didn’t mean she’s smart yet.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Woke up from the nap with a text from Crystal waiting for me. The OPP were going to help her and in return she would be a trainer for their K9 units. They might ask her to use Resonance to track criminal power users too. That didn’t sound entirely safe but I assumed they would assign bodyguards if she was helping track as a civilian.

I sent a text telling her to keep contact between us a secret and left for work. My Physical Stamina had recovered to 17/30.

I had a 4 hour shift which went fairly smoothly. There was only one disruption when a few Resonances passed by a street over around 11pm. I guessed they were heading somewhere in the north since they weren’t spread out or going slowly. I couldn’t guess how many there were but one felt a bit familiar. If I had to put money on it I’d say that was Shockandrun.

About a minute or two later Nilla updated my map with 7 Resonances marked in three clusters in line passing briefly through the far west side of her awareness.

If Nilla’s 7 was right then they had been reinforced again. I found a quiet spot and tried to summon the what the web site called the World Power Map for a second time today. It showed 11 powers in the 50 mile area.

Things were definitely heating up.

The rest of the shift finished smoothly. It felt dangerous to go home but not too much. With {Decrease Mental Presence} they could drive by on either side of my block and I’d still be outside their range. Only if they drove down my side street would they feel me. If I could just level it up once more then I doubted they would feel me more than 20 feet away.

I got home, took Nilla out. I wanted to make a quick snack but since it might end up in the toilet during Allergy Resistance training it didn’t make sense to eat first.

First up though was gaining Cold Resistance. I went all in, grabbed 2 cold packs and stuffed them in my underwear.

15 minutes and possible frostbite later I had it.

Due to your actions you have gained a Resistance.
Cold Resistance has reached 1%.
You have gained 1 Physical Stamina.
You have gained 50 EXP.

Physical Stamina was down to 7/31 while Physical Energy was at 200/310. Unlike Stamina the Energy regenerated at a point every 3 minutes that if I was sitting or resting.

Now was the time to go absolutely nuts. I had roughly 5 hours to grind before I’d need sleep. Trying to add Sleep Resistance training in now would only leave me crippled tomorrow but was definitely another goal.

So, I grabbed a fresh cold pack while returning the current 2 to the freezer.

I turned on the space heat and putting my left foot almost touching the ceramic mesh. Stuck a cold pack in a place that didn’t want it. Put my right heel on the mesh of the bug zapper and used the weight of my calf to push it’s button down. That left one hand to hold the Poison Ivy bag and the other to feed it to me with a glove.

I was a pain machine for 4 hours with only breaks to change ice packs or bug zapper batteries.

There were two important updates though in that timeless misery.

Heat Resistance, which had a head start on all but Pain Resistance, was the first to reach 99% near the end of the training time.

Due to your actions you have evolved a Resistance.
Heat Resistance has become Fire Resistance.
You have gained 1 Physical Stamina.
You have gained 1 Vitality.
You have gained 50 EXP.

The cost for that was 5 Physical Stamina, leaving me with 2/32. Not enough to upgrade another Resistance but I kept working at it for a while longer since none of the others seemed to be too close to 99%. They were all rising much slower.

The second update was split into two windows and was far more gratifying.

Due to your actions you have evolved a Title.
Slightly Masochistic has evolved to Obstinacy I.
You have gained 10 EXP.
Due to your actions you have evolved a Title.
Not So Slightly Masochistic has evolved to Obstinacy II.

Help Obstinacy II told me that it allowed me to ignore 10% of pain, discomfort or distraction while focused on any task.

Losing those two titles and the prospect of losing the others in the future was definitely worth it.

I safely packed up everything, cleaned up the splatters around the toilet, and took Nilla out one last time before bed.

Lying down I checked my Resistances one last time.

“Help Resistances”

Mental
Fear N/A
Forced Mental States N/A
Insanity N/A
Sleep N/A
Physical
Allergy 92%
Cold 67%
Static 79%
Fire 0%
Light N/A
Pain 46%
Special
KI N/A
Magic N/A
Psi 2%
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