54 Overtime

"Seriously? This is like the third time you've pulled this on me."

"Aisha, it's not like we schedule matches for when you're out of the workshop, or even schedule them at all." I sighed before continuing the call. "Really, I just needed to blow off some steam and the duplicates helped me out with that."

"Yeah, I saw how you 'blew off steam' when you vaporized that freaking tidal wave. Is that stuff even really training, or are you just showing off? I mean, either way, I'm good." She quipped with a grin.

I smiled at that. "Yes, it's training. Some of it probably counts as weapons testing, but that's mostly done by the duplicates. Anything with actual long-term benefits tends to get left to me."

"Uh huh. That's why you were using all the fire back there? Also, Jesus Christ, I didn't know rock could boil like that." She said, keying the interface of her watch to pull up a clip of the event in question.

"At that speed it probably counts as sublimating." I said, watching the way transmuted stone had boiled in the face of a hearthfire imbued weapon.

The sparring match had been both a method of working through the frustration of that call and an opportunity to test out some of the assorted weapons and abilities that I'd been capable of, but had never actually deployed. Projection magic had made the production of most types of weaponry trivial, but also meant I could try out experimental ideas without ending up drowning in prototypes and obsolete equipment.

It wasn't just the idea of producing less than my best work that got to me, though that was still an issue I was dealing with. No, the real issue I had with churning out excessive numbers of enchanted 'practice' weapons was the fact that there would be excessive numbers of enchanted weapons lying around.

The rate at which I could build stuff was completely at odds with the responsibility I felt for anything I created. When I took my commission from the Undersiders I had made sure to drive home the significance of my work and what could be done with it. I had then immediately seen the results of putting my creations in the hands of someone else. I was capable of mass production on a scale other tinkers could only dream of, but I felt responsible for my technology and any impact it had on the world.

Maybe that situation would change once I was able to operate freely without concerns about the Simurgh. Really, it would have to change. If I was going to do any large scale good then the idea that I was personally responsible for everything done with every piece of equipment I produced was simply unfeasible. But for the moment, at least, I was more comfortable with temporary projections than an overflowing armory full of every type of weapon I could produce.

Even without being able to benefit from all of my crafting powers, projected weapons were still terrifyingly powerful. It wasn't possible to project divine constructs and they would never benefit from the enhancements of my volcano or Skyforge, but most of my other powers were fully in play. I had entire databases of technology in my head and could project blueprints perfectly. Power sources and inherent enchantments were still costly in terms of magical energy, but I could freely apply Elven Enchanting and elemental runes at no additional cost.

Weapon runes were actually something of a cheat. Normally projecting an enchanted weapon would be extremely costly, but the runes I could create were self-powered. A rune inscribed weapon was no more difficult to project than one with some fancy engraving. What's more, that could be further exploited by projecting a plain weapon and inscribing the runes by hand. Weapon modifications were already incredibly easy and something as simple as scratching a set of runes could be done in a flash. My Tailor Made power even ensured I could complete the highest level of quality for my work without any more time than would be needed to scratch in the quickest and sloppiest engraving.

"Right. I missed the lava surfing, I missed mecha b-ball, I missed quidditch, and now I missed the elemental kung fu showdown." Aisha scoffed. "At least Survey's getting better at video editing."

"Yeah." I said unsteadily. "Music choices though…"

"Oh, come on. It was great. Like a sports compilation mixed with a CMV." I glowered and Aisha suppressed a fit of giggles upon seeing my expression. "Okay, okay." She took a breath. "It was crazy stuff. I saw Survey's notes. That's a mad amount of abilities to be throwing around."

I shrugged. "I was only focusing on a few applications. The powers reinforce each other, so the end product can be the result of a half dozen major powers working together, and twice as many supporting abilities."

Aisha shook her head. "It's crazy. How many capes need to spend this much time working through new abilities?"

I grinned. "Well, Eidolon."

Aisha snorted. "Right. The only person who can empathize is the most powerful trump on the planet. Only he doesn't hold on to his powers like you, so…"

"Yeah, I know." I admitted. "Unique power problems, and I'm sure anyone else would be happy to have them."

"You mean the 'Oh no, I'm getting new powers so fast I can barely keep track of them' thing? Yeah, I think most capes would be okay with that kind of issue."

Something occurred to me. "You know, we should probably get you in on some of that training. Fleet can support a lot of the suit's features, but it doesn't really compare to firsthand experience."

"Uh…" She gave me an awkward look. "If you mean like an obstacle course or sparring match then maybe but even with the armor I'm not sure I'm ready to jump into… that."

"The armor can take it." I assured her.

"Seriously? That was boiling rock. And the lightning wire thing. And whatever that duplicate was doing with the mini-mountain attacks."

"Alchemical transmutation. He had an array in his hammer." And that had certainly been a challenge. The swords I was using and my first duplicate's wire attacks were within the bounds of weapon training covered in my Ninjutsu skills. I had thought that would give an advantage over the rocket hammer the second duplicate had projected and covered in earth runes. That was something of a misconception.

The combat instincts from my demigod nature weren't the most structured form of martial art, but they were potent. Unfortunately, they were also specialized. Demigod of Hephaestus meant weapon options were hammers and hammer-like objects. Of course, when you actually saw a master crafted enchanted rocket assisted hammer in action it became clear that limitation was much less limiting.

Given that we were all running the same set of physical abilities there should have been something of a balance between us. It really should not have been possible to parry ninja weaponry or supersonic arrows with a two-handed hammer. Through the fight it became clear that there were aspects of divine combat that hadn't been fully explored, at least not since Fate Finds You Interesting had upgraded my demigod powers.

"I appreciate the offer, but I'm not really interested in getting bounced around between super attacks while you do ninja stuff I can't keep up with."

An idea hit me like a flash. "Would you like to learn how to do that?"

"What ninja stuff?" I nodded. "Uh, sure? But I thought you were going easy on the Aura unlocking until you figured out how to do it properly and spoke with Chen."

The way my duplicate had activated Chen's Aura was incredible, but also, from everything I could tell, incredibly unstable and risky. Okay, the risk was probably acceptable in that case, but there was a decent chance that Chen would barely have been able to use the power without months of training at a minimum.

The exact mechanics of the effect were complicated in the extreme and I didn't exactly have a roadmap for how to approach it, but it did seem like there was a better, or at least more stable way. Gradual training should be able to draw out someone's aura without the rush and trauma of that ritual. The ritual might be better in a pinch, but as concerned as I was for Aisha's safety I didn't need to rush things. She might get the defensive benefits, but the lag on other aspects of Aura use wouldn't be worth it.

"You don't need Aura for that ninja stuff." Aisha gave me a skeptical look. "Seriously. Some of that was based on magic or physical enhancement, but most of it is just advanced martial arts. I can teach you if you want."

On the holographic display the girl shook her head. "I appreciate the offer, and being a cape ninja sounds awesome and all, but I don't have the best track record with 'learning' stuff, and not just at school. I appreciate it, but-"

"No Aisha, seriously. I can teach you." She picked up something from my tone and gave me a questioning look. "Power came with the same one that gave the glove and the name."

"Okay, I get why you didn't mention it until now." She said slyly. "So, what's it do?"

"It's called Fool Proof." She raised an eyebrow. "It lets me teach anything to… well, just about anyone."

"Seriously?" She asked, leaning forward.

I nodded. "Some of my abilities only work because of powers that support them, but a lot of it is just knowledge and information. Really complicated information, but with this power I can break it down for anyone to understand."

"And that includes crazy ninja skills?" She asked.

"Well, at least the principles behind them. You'll still have to train and practice. The same with most of this. I can cover understanding, not application."

"Uh huh. So, what else can you cover?" Her eyes gleamed as she asked the question.

I considered what I could actually teach. "Well, most of my technical knowledge is actual science, not tinker skills. Some of it is backed by other powers, but I could teach advanced science, technology, engineering, and programming skills. Just the mundane stuff, not anything based on magitech or other powers."

"Right, so 'just' tech that's a thousand years more advanced, not anything special." She flashed a grin. "Such a tragedy, you can barely give away superpowers." Her smile faded as she saw my face. "What?"

"Just a thought. You know that transmutation my duplicate was doing with the hammer?"

"Well, it had almost slipped my mind, but I vaguely remember you having to melt your way through a couple dozen mini-mountains during that fight." She quipped. "What, something wrong with that superpower?"

"It's not a superpower." I explained.

"What?"

"Alchemical transmutation is a science. There are principles behind it. Anyone could do it, really. I probably could have taught it before I got my last ability, but there's a lot of chemistry and material science involved. With Fool Proof that's not a problem anymore."

Aisha seemed to be wrestling with the concept. "You're saying anyone can take a couple of classes and just start launching mountains at people?"

"Uh, no. Not quite, anyway." I corrected her. "I pretty much have that kind of thing mastered. Even with that power helping me teach someone it'll take a lot of work to get even close to that level. I also have powers that help it work better. Normally you only get out what you put into a transmutation, but some of my abilities reduce material requirements, increase output, or speed up creation. Even a master wouldn't be able to transmute that much that quickly."

"But they could do something right?" She asked. "Like, that rock stuff, but on a smaller scale?"

"It doesn't have to be rock stuff." Aisha looked up with an attentive expression. "Transmutation is about taking a material, breaking it down to its components, and reassembling it in a new form. Simple shapes made from stuff in the environment are good for combat alchemy, but really it's all about creating stuff. Most of the basic uses don't have anything to do with fighting. It's just an easy way to create something without needing to physically craft it."

"If it's so great why don't you or the clones ever use it to make stuff?" She asked.

"Limits of other powers." I explained. "Need to use things like the volcano and Skyforge to get enhanced materials. Also, some effects need me to be hands on. I can't use fairy crafting unless I make things by hand."

Aisha leaned back in her chair. "Right. Kidnapped by fairies." She took a breath. "You know, if you didn't immediately get in a fight with half the city, blow up Lung, and end up nearly being killed by an alien I would have had questions about that thing a lot sooner."

I shrugged. "I assure you, it's not any easier for me to deal with this crap."

"Yeah, I get that." A glimmer of excitement entered her eyes. "The fairy craft thing is what puts those letters on stuff, like my armor, Chen's suit, and all the other super items, right?"

"That's right." I could see where this was going and didn't like it.

"So, did Survey show you the sword?" She asked with an expression that suggested she was enjoying the implications immensely, an expression which only grew when she saw my response.

"Yes." I huffed. "I saw the sword. And it's bullshit."

"Are you sure?" She needled. "Because it's-"

"It's complete crap." I spat. "Nothing but gibberish. Those aren't fairy letters. They're barely the same font. I can't tell you what the hell they're trying to say, but it is not an account of the divine creation. It's chicken scratch trying to ape at significance."

"Okay." Aisha raised her hands in a placating gesture. "Sorry. I didn't realize it was that big of a deal."

I let out a long breath and sank back into my seat. "That power? It was one of the big ones. It did something real, something that actually happened to me, and I still don't fully understand how it worked. A lot of the other stuff, where it's just memories or skills or something showing up in the workshop, I can deal with that, but that one was something different." I shook my head. "I mean, it might be connected to the cartoon. It makes sense and I can see how it looks the same, but I don't know."

"I get it." She replied. "And it makes sense. No reason to use the transformations if you can make Excalibur level stuff without it."

I snorted at that, remembering the side-by-side comparison Survey had shown me of the fairy script that marked the divine objects I could create with Master Craftsman and the blobby, simplified nonsense that covered Web of Magic's depiction of Excalibur. The implications of what it could mean were almost as upsetting as the bastardization of lettering the cartoon had depicted.

Really, it had been a reminder of how unnerving the possible origin of my powers actually was. I had basically kicked that problem down the road with an explanation that barely held together. Being confronted with it on something as significant as Master Craftsman was jarring in the extreme and not something I could easily brush off. Not easily, but I could try.

"Right." I said as cheerfully as I could. "So, want to learn transmutation?"

Aisha gave me a wide smile. "You know, it should be a bigger deal to offer somebody superpowers."

"I told you, it's not a superpower. It's a scientific principle. It's obscure, but it would work for anyone who understands the theory behind it, same as with ninja arts or advanced technology. The only difference is I can teach it to someone without needing them to have a PhD or twenty years of experience."

"Fine, not superpowers, just a chance to become a kung-fu science wizard, right?"

"No part of that description was accurate." I snarked, but in good humor.

"Fine, I graciously accept your offer to teach me super science, ninja magic, and how to control matter. For that even I should be able to put up with school outside of school."

I nodded. "We can do a trial run when you come over for movie night." I explained. "Actually, most of the principles could be covered in the virtual space, so we could work under acceleration to get you started."

Aisha was starting to look a bit out of her depth. "Right. Uh, how much faster are things inside the computer anyway?"

"The balance is stable at a hundred-fold increase. It might be able to be pushed further, but that's still in testing." I considered the abilities at my disposal. "Honestly, given a couple of hours real time I could probably cover the basics and get you started."

"Wait, so this is like, being able to do super alchemy later tonight, not as some kind of long-term project with months of training or whatever?" I gave her a questioning look and she sighed and dropped her head. "Jozeph, do you realize how easy it is to forget the crazy timescale you work on?"

I shrugged helplessly. "When you're in the thick of it trying to manage everything it's more about keeping your head above water than worrying about how it looks from the outside. We can scale back the training if it bothers you."

Aisha sharply shook her head. "Hell no. This may be nuts, but I'm not putting off magic mountain shaping powers any longer than I have to."

"Just a heads-up, even with my help you'll probably be a long way from any kind of geological work. Entry level is basically sculpting without touching the material, and working up from there."

"Fine, magic sculpting power. The magic is the important part, EVEN if it doesn't technically count as magic." Aisha raised her voice for the later part of that statement and I registered the correction that Survey had helpfully sent to her display screen, triggering the response. "So, you set for the rest of the day?"

I nodded and looked down at my work. "Finishing up the new armor for Khepri. Garment and the Matrix are working on the rest of the Undersiders' costumes. I'll be dropping them off tonight before I run an errand. We can have movie night when I get back."

Aisha nodded and thankfully didn't ask any questions about the 'errand' that was cover for my next therapy session. It was something that was both overdue and had come too quickly. The last one was only a week ago, but considering what had happened during that week I probably had enough material for six months of therapy, and that wasn't even getting into the old issues that Alena's calls had dredged up.

I had been winding myself up with nerves over the upcoming session, mostly trying to focus on other projects to avoid dwelling on it. As good as the last session had turned out, particularly considering how I was anticipating a discussion of my trigger to go, the ending had kind of overshadowed things. My 'reveal' might be technically deniable, but it was clear Dr. Campbell knew what was going on. The specific check-ins following major actions by Apeiron, specifically my injury, showed that my identity was effectively out.

That was something I didn't really know how to handle. The fact that I hadn't been swarmed by PRT strike teams or a very angry Dragon suit meant that my identity had been protected either through professionalism or personal choice. I really didn't know what the rules were for a situation like this. There were precedents for capes getting therapy and for therapists dealing with admissions of crimes, but the scale of what I had been involved with put all of those concerns in a completely different context.

For the first time I would actually have to answer for my actions as Apeiron. Well, not answer, at least hopefully not in that context. Dr. Campbell didn't handle things like that. Or at least he hadn't back when all I was doing was working through family, relationship, and self-worth issues. I didn't know how he would handle the cape situation.

Thus, the distractions. A sparring match, an afternoon of work, and a call with Aisha to set up future plans.

"That works." Aisha said, confirming the schedule. "For the Undersiders, you doing full Chen level suits?"

"God no." I countered hard. "That's not the kind of thing you hand out casually. I get why my duplicate did it, but the suit Chen's using would be insane even without simulated life fibers or Heretical Adaptation, and that's not even counting his scarf. No, the Undersiders are getting standard stuff. Garment's working with hyper-fibers from the upgraded workshop, so they'll have a level of protection if their force fields get overwhelmed, but I'm not putting the entire team in power armor equivalents."

"Right. Just Khepri." Aisha said with a grin.

I sighed and looked down at my work. The collection of replacement and supplemental plates for Taylor's costume were spread out on the workbench. The material was Skyforged, volcano infused, Dust enhanced lathe metal that had been formed in microgravity. The plating was of absolutely ridiculous quality even before the enchantments were considered, but the real meat of the project was binding the reinforcement spell work to the mystic code.

That would have been a significant challenge without my second Thaumaturgical Focus ability. With the expanded understanding of alchemic magecraft tying in the spell work was child's play. Manipulating energy in materials was as easy as breathing, which had been proven when one of my duplicates had decided to enter the spar with nothing but mana infused mithril wire.

A person with ninja training, enhanced physical abilities, and animated wire would have been a difficult enough opponent even if he hadn't decided to use the entire fight to make a point about the versatility of his chosen weapon. The wire's ability to shift directly under his control was hellish when combined with Aura reinforcement and super strength of the person wielding it, but he had also been able to emulate other constructs through manipulation of energy patterns. Trying to fight someone who could shift their weapon from snares to swords, polearms, or even emulated creatures with a thought had proven trying when I was using every fire ability at my disposal.

It didn't get truly unfair until he switched to archery. I'm sure it was a natural expression since he was the only one using a flexible weapon, but supersonic arrows were not easy to deal with. And that was when they were actually arrows, not compressed spindles of wire that unfolded into temporary magical constructs. Yes, shooting arrows that transform into dragons is awesome, but it becomes moderately less awesome when you're the one beating them back while also trying to hold off an assault by half a damn mountain side.

Really, overwhelming me had been part of the training. Pyrokinesis, or at least the form of it that had been granted from my demigod abilities, grew in both strength and control when it was stressed. Previous duplicates had verified the principle, but any gains they made weren't maintained past their own duration. As such the natural solution was to load me up with every fire-type weapon, item, and ability and have me dive into a two on one sparring match. That level of power use had been draining, but I couldn't deny the results.

Looking back at the armor I reviewed the nature of the mystic code. A single plate would have been enough to reinforce Taylor's costume and provide defensive reinforcement to her body. The dozen that I had made to replace or add to her costume's armor provided redundancy and a distribution of load that would hold the effect in the face of anything but an absolute attack or a complete form of power negation.

Most of the work had been finished before the call with the remaining tasks being limited to testing and verification of the work. Of course, Aisha had quickly discerned the purpose of the collection of armor but remained silent on it until now.

"Khepri is the only one who didn't need a full costume replacement." Though that fact did nothing to stifle Garment's enthusiasm for compiling new possible designs. The fact that they would probably never see the light of day was no deterrent to her creativity as sketch books continued to fill with variations of insect or Egyptian themed costumes. "I'm making a new set of armor panels to replace the ones she's currently using."

Aisha leaned forward. "Oh, those go in her old costume. Yeah, that makes a lot more sense." There was a wicked sense of amusement in her voice.

I blinked and looked down at the collection of armored plates that were arranged on the table in roughly the alignment they would sit on Taylor's costume. "What, did you think she was getting a new costume as well?" I asked, failing to see what Aisha was finding so funny about the situation.

"Well, not a new costume." She said as I gave her a confused look until she continued. "Hey, the way you have things laid out, it could have been the entire outfit."

I gave her a questioning look, then glanced back at the armor. The various components were linked together by straps that would fit the same arrangement and fasteners that Taylor currently used. The collection of plates was arranged for protection on vital areas as well as extended protection that wouldn't impact mobility. Taken on its own the coverage…

Coverage.

"What the fuck?" I exclaimed and shot Aisha an offended look.

"Hey, I just called it like I saw it." I could tell from her expression she wasn't serious, but the suggestion still rocked me.

"I'm not putting Khepri in nothing but a bunch of disconnected armor plates!" I barked. Taken on its own it wouldn't quite be bikini armor, but it certainly had more of a fantasy novel feel than I could ever be comfortable with. More like the kind of outfit you saw in the lower class of fighting games. And now I couldn't unsee it. Thanks Aisha.

"Hey, if you're going with the Egyptian theme it's kind of on brand." She chided.

I frowned. "The color is optional. It has a less flashy setting, see?" I activated the color shift, the same technology built into the Undersiders' watches, and the armor lost its sheen and darkened.

"Okay, you know making it black doesn't actually make it any better, right?" She asked. "Actually, probably worse in a lot of areas."

"Aisha, this isn't funny. Not with Khepri." I huffed.

"Alright, alright. But you said it did magic to reinforce her body, so it would work on its own, right?" I gave her a look to let her know her teasing wasn't appreciated and she backed down. God, if Garment ever found out about this suggestion there would be hell to pay. I had managed to moderate her more excessive ideas for the Undersiders costumes, but I had no doubt she'd be happy to make suggestions for expansion of the Barbarian Chic line if given the opportunity.

"Setting aside that image." Hopefully permanently. "Yes, it's a mystic code that applies reinforcement principles to Khepri's body and COSTUME." I growled the final word and Aisha nodded in understanding.

"It's still crazy that you can just make stuff from Web of Magic." She said, shaking her head. "I mean, it's incredible, but crazy. I think I get why it bothers you so much."

I let out a breath. "Yeah, well I don't have much of a choice. Just have to deal with it as it comes." I admitted. "If cartoon magic is the best tool for the job then it's what I'm going to have to use."

"As powers go, uncertainty about where the stuff comes from is better than what a lot of capes get stuck with." I nodded along with her statement. We both could understand that.

"I've got to get ready to drop these off. See you tonight."

"Wouldn't miss it. Not even if Survey gets to pick the movie."

I smiled at that as the call disconnected and Survey provided an extensive explanation for the artistic, cultural, and technical merits of her planned choice of movie along with supporting analytics and projections of positive impacts that could be derived from familiarity with major cultural touchstones of cinema. I acknowledged her point, then shifted my attention to the connection being made by the Forge.

There had been two failed connection attempts during the sparring match. One from the Magic constellation and one from Vehicles. This connection finally landed, securing a familiar mid-sized mote from the Resources and Durability constellation.

A very familiar mote. It was familiar because I had already received the same power from the Time constellation. Manufacturing Line had doubled my production speed and halved my material requirements. Now I had the exact same power, in the exact same form and with the exact same alignment, one shared with my Hidden Hideaway, Ragnite Container, Valkyrian Science, and of course the first iteration of Manufacturing Line.

I didn't know what this meant or why it was possible. I had received the same power multiple times, but usually with a variation in expression. Both versions of Manufacturing Line did the exact same thing, made production twice as fast with half the material requirements, only with both of them it was four times as fast with one quarter the materials.

Maybe that was why it had repeated. A flat bonus that stacked with itself. That actually stacked with a lot more than just itself. With the production speed bonus my mechanical production rate was over a hundred thousand times faster than normal. I could do nearly thirty-six hours of work in a single second. Even mundane crafting with none of the advantages of my machine powers was operating at twenty-four times normal speed.

And then there was the reduction in material requirements. Manufacturing Line stacked with itself as well as More With Less, and Waste Not for weapons and armor. Lack of Materials was an option if I wanted resource efficiency over the quality boost, but I typically went with the later option. The thing was, with the combined powers I hit a critical threshold for a power I had barely considered up to this point.

Bandit Gunsmith. It was a power that expanded my technical insight but, more importantly, allowed me to use weapons or defensive equipment as materials for the construction of new projects. Five pieces of damaged equipment could be used to construct a working version of the same while fifteen functional items could be combined to produce a more advanced item, like turning a pile of repeater pistols into a shotgun.

The thing was the items counted as materials for use in crafting. By the definitions of my power, using five broken items to make a functional one wasn't an act of repair, it was creation using broken equipment as the base material.

Most resource conservation powers worked by fractions, but Waste Not had the unique effect of rounding its reduction down when dealing with items that could be treated as discrete units rather than total quantity. Applied to Bandit Gunsmith it reduced the requirement to build an improved version of the base item from 15 to 8. More with less reduced that to 4, then the two copies of Manufacturing line dropped that to one. With the full combination I could use a single functional item as the total materials required to build an advanced version. Or five, considering Workaholic was still in play.

It was even more insane when you consider damaged items. Shipping the Product would let me triple the material requirements to increase output by a factor of five. That took the requirements for broken items from five to fifteen, which my conservation powers then reduced to one. With Workaholic and Shipping the Product I could turn a single broken item into twenty-five functional versions of the same, only with the full benefit of all of my quality and creation enhancement powers.

What was truly insane was the fact that I could do the entire process again using the new item. Iterative upgrades leading from one piece of technology to another, all assembled at the speed facilitated by my powers. While normally this wasn't an issue for me, there were situations where I wouldn't have the full resources of my workshop. Situations where I would need to rely on what I could make in the field. Situations where I might be limited in the resources I could call upon.

An idea struck me and I felt the need to try it out. The image formed in my mind and with a strike of the anvil I pictured in my mind I flooded mana through my magic circuits, drawing forth and forming the projection of the weapon I envisioned.

A ring fell into my hand. Its simple design and tasteful gemstone concealed the integrated las weaponry that made digital weapons so dangerous. I considered the mana cost of the projection. The ring was fully modeled, not a hollow copy. It was a necessity with the complexity of the circuitry involved. Despite that insane level of detail, the projection wasn't that draining, not with the benefit of my Thaumaturgical Focus and Unnatural Skill.

The design might not have been costly, but the power source was another matter. Even with Workaholic increasing the size of the end result I still needed to supply all the energy that the tiny power cell contained. The deceptively powerful weapon actually contained a substantial amount of energy in its reserves, making the tiny ring a more costly projection than some of the larger melee weapons I could create.

I held the ring and considered my next step. I doubted this would be possible with a conventional projection, but I had been working to a higher level of quality and detail from the start. My projections weren't created with an approximation of what the materials were like, they were drawn from a deep and comprehensive understanding of every principle of their structure and composition. They included details down to crystal alignments within the structure of the metals. For that purpose, until the point where they faded, they were as real as anything else on the planet.

And that meant I could work with them.

Drawing on the borderline impossible skills of Bandit Gunsmith the digital weapon was rendered down and rebuilt. What would have been a long, complicated process was blazed through with the benefit of acceleration powers that reduced the entire construction process to a flash. It was over before it seemed to have started.

On its own Bandit Gunsmith might have been able to take fifteen digital weapons and cobble them together into a hellpistol that could melt through power armor. With my resource powers I only needed one. With Workaholic the end result was three times the size, taking it from a sidearm to a frighteningly powerful laser rifle.

I looked down at the meticulously crafted weapon. The crafting of Bandit Gunsmith was a sloppy art that produced items that were visually one level above junk, but my aesthetic powers had trumped that feature to the usual degree, giving me a weapon that was as beautiful as it was deadly. And it was plenty deadly, essentially being a man portable antiarmor weapon. But it wasn't the damage output that impressed me. It was the power reserves.

The rebuilt power supply contained nearly a thousand times the energy that the digital weapon had held. Just like that, one of the major limitations of projection, the inability to produce energy weapons, was completely negated.

But the power could be taken further.

I considered the rifle for a moment, then applied the same principles. What Bandit Gunsmith could have created through the combination of fifteen of these would be nothing short of a siege weapon. What I could manage with my additional powers and a single rifle was much more than that.

Once again the weapon flew apart in my hands and reassembled into its new form, one at the very limit of what had been included in my Weaponsmith mental database. It thudded into place just as my duplicates made their way into my corner of the workshop.

The first let out a long whistle as he looked over the emplacement. "Quad-barrel Icarus-pattern Lascannon. Very nice."

"Power core is nicer." The second commented, looking over the weapon. "I don't even want to imagine what it would take to project a reactor like that directly. Not without both a striker and familiar support."

"That is a LOT of mana." The first exclaimed. "Like, serious concentration of magic. I don't think we've ever projected something with this kind of energy density."

"Well, it's a reactor that could run the weapon through an extended siege." I explained. "By today's standards that's what? Decent sized city for several years?"

"Sounds about right, provided we're talking Brockton rather than New York." The second replied. "I mean this is crazy. We're basically manufacturing mana."

"We were doing that before. Amplification effect on every projection. We were getting a hundred times what we put in. Two hundred if Waste Not applied." I said.

"Twice that now. But that was still tied to internal reserves. It was capped. This can expand infinitely." The duplicate paused. "Actually, we probably could have done this earlier. Multiplied any mana-based material."

"Earlier there was no point." The first duplicate said. "Ambient mana is a bitch to work with. Without Thaumaturgical Focus Alchemy we couldn't have done anything useful with it. Now this, this is a resource we can work with."

I nodded. "Yeah. Probably opens up mana reactors, storage crystals, and application focuses. One more project to add to the list, I guess." I checked the Workshop network. "Looks like Garment's done with the costumes. I should probably take care of the deliveries, get everything buttoned down before my appointment. Are you two alright?"

"No problem." The first said. "We'll be heading into twenty percent time anyway. We'll get everything documented and you'll have time for the next set before you have to head out." As usual their casual disregard for finite existence was a little jarring, but I could manage. And besides, it was better than the alternative.

I left them to their work and checked in on Garment. She was packing away the last of the costumes, with the fact that they could be packed away being evidence of how much she had compromised from her most ambitious designs. Some of her ideas wouldn't fit on a clothes rack, much less folded into a package. Fortunately, utility was an element of fashion, even if it was something Garment usually didn't concern herself overly with.

It was clear that unless the costumes were convenient and in line with each of the Undersiders' tastes they were likely to go unused. For Garment that was a worse fate than any level of artistic compromise and as such the assembled outfits were stylish without being ostentatious or awkward to wear.

They also lacked all the enhancements to clothing or crafts in general that accompanied everything I made. That was completely intentional. Tattletale would be getting well made costumes assembled with skill out of advanced fabrics, but containing nothing that would give away higher level aspects of my own abilities. It was a compromise I was very happy with.

After making doubly sure the costumes were packed safely and triply sure that the process wouldn't damage them in any way I transferred the packages to my subspace pocket. Then, after putting the final touches on Taylor's armor plates and packing them up properly I headed out on delivery duty.

That meant leaving the workshop and heading back into the city. It was a relief to see that the impact of my title hadn't caused a riot or other outbreak of violence. I had been monitoring the situation, but seeing it with my own eyes provided a sense of relief I hadn't realized I needed. Of course, leaping over the streets headed for an arranged meeting point while hidden by a divine elven concealment cloak didn't exactly give me a sense of the people on the ground. Still, that lack of any visible panic was enough for me.

Heading towards the Undersiders' base took me closer to the center of the Dust trails. Back towards where I had been ambushed by March. It wasn't a fun recollection and I had to wonder if it was something I needed to talk about. Also, if it was something I actually could talk about. The structure of the coming session and what kind of deniability could be in place was still a mystery.

At my speed it didn't take long to arrive at the drop off point. Coordinating the delivery wasn't difficult given that I had a legitimately supernatural ability to get supplies where they were needed without interception. I barely knew anything about the area around the Undersiders' base but I was still able to pick the perfect location for a discrete transfer of the costumes.

I was just a little surprised by who came out to collect them. After a quick scan of the surrounding area just to be sure of things I dropped down into a concealed corner of the empty courtyard and stowed my cloak. As the Resources and Durability constellation missed a connection I moved out into the open to meet Alec.

The boy's head had perked up the moment I dropped my concealment effect and he was already turning my way and waving before I had even stepped out of concealment.

"Joe! Good to see you're in one piece." There was a sarcastic edge to the greeting, but not a harsh one. Through the Dragon's Pulse I was picking up a level of unsteadiness from Alec. It was a literal sense that matched the impression I had been getting from him since the fight at the storage yard. For some reason I suspected this was going to be about more than just picking up a delivery.

"Hey Alec." I greeted him as I closed the distance. "Surprised you're the one to pick this up."

He shrugged. "What can I say? After the last set of presents I guess I'm itching to see what you've brought this time." He gave me a confused look. "You got them stashed somewhere, or are we talking string bikinis across the board?"

I put aside any reaction to his joke and the similar point to what Aisha highlighted about Taylor's upgrades. Instead, I lifted a hand and sent a pulse of energy from my wristband to my subspace pocket. Magitech converters drew from my pool of magicka and transferred a case containing four slim boxes out of transwarp space. They formed a set of glowing white outlines highlighting the edges of the package, then filled in, quickly becoming a set of completely mundane pieces of luggage, easily managed even by someone Alec's size.

"Huh." He said, taking the offered item. "That new? Something to keep from losing your gear again?"

I didn't think Alec was the most likely source of a leak, either to their boss or an outside source, but I was still inclined to limit information. The exact details of how everything in my storage pocket had been trashed by March's attack was something I'd be keeping to myself.

"Something like that." I said as Alec's watch beeped an alert. It was a simple enough sound that the forcefield wasn't even needed to conceal it. He glanced down at the watch and smiled. "Something come up?"

"No, just another notification from Bitch." He said, shifting his grip on the case's handle to his right hand to look at his watch. A glance around reminded him that we were too public to draw up the screen, so he shrugged and shifted the box back.

"Do you need to get that? Is something wrong?" I asked. He just shook his head in response.

"Guess you seriously don't eavesdrop on these things, huh? No, probably just another tweet."

I blinked. "Rachel is on Twitter?"

Alec gave me a very amused grin. "Like mad. Uh, watch? Can you transfer Rachel's twitter handle to Joe?"

An electronic voice came from the watch, hidden by the forcefield but detectable to my senses. "Acknowledged. Message sent."

Through my own link I received the address of a twitter account. The profile picture was Angelica with one eye closed and the entirety of the feed was retweets of dog pictures or videos.

"She's on it whenever she's not doing something else. Well, that or YouTube or some other site." Alec explained.

I nodded. "Glad she's enjoying the watch."

The boy let out a breath and squared himself towards me. "It's more than that. You get that right?" I made a noncommittal gesture and Alec turned serious. "No, like a lot more." He took a breath before continuing. "Rachel has the watch read for her. She doesn't like people seeing it, but she uses it for nearly everything. Not just websites, stuff in the real world. She brought magazines into the hideout for the first time thanks to that thing. I mean, it's all Dog Fancy or Modern Dog and that kind of thing, but you get what it means, right?"

I nodded, catching his tone. I suspected Rachel might be behind in formal education and that she could have been affected by her power. I doubted she was completely illiterate, but if reading was a trial, she struck me as the kind of person who wouldn't bother most of the time. Add in the fact that she was too proud to ask for help and she'd be effectively isolated on the issue.

Unless someone happened to hand over a completely non-judgmental digital assistant that she could use without fear of embarrassment. Something that also facilitated closer connections to her team and access to a digital environment she probably couldn't even conceive of before.

"I get it. It's a big deal." I said seriously.

"Yeah, big deal. You kind of throw those out like candy." He fell silent and I noticed he was tensing and relaxing his arm. The same arm that had been burned down to a charred stub when I found him in that locker. Whatever he was building up to here, it was significant and not an easy subject for him.

After a few moments of silence where I was left with nothing to do but use the Dragon's Pulse to observe the inner turmoil roiling inside him I decided to broach the subject.

"You want to ask something? Something about what I've done, or can do?" I wagered, and got a sarcastic snort in response.

"Joe, the entire world wants to ask about what you've 'done or can do', probably starting with something like 'why are you a werewolf now?' or 'seriously, the fuck's up with that name thing?'." I gave him a flat look and he let out a breath.

"Okay, consider this a heads-up because nobody else is going to want to talk about it." I nodded and he continued. "Everybody on this team, and that's me included, was seriously fucked up by last Saturday night. You were right about the healing. Everyone was basically high off their asses and the crash wasn't pretty. I mean 'drop out of the game' levels of not pretty. Without the boss and the fact that we basically owe you the gross of a Hollywood blockbuster at the very least Bitch would have bailed. Maybe Taylor as well."

"It was that bad?" I asked, keeping any reaction regarding the probable reason for Taylor staying to myself.

He nodded. "Lisa and Brian will never admit it, but they were shaken up bad. I don't think they're over it, but they're pushing forward and taking everyone with them."

"This is about Somer's Rock." I guessed. "I thought that was a unanimous vote."

He waved me off. "Hey, I might not be completely on the team's shit list anymore, but I know when to keep my head down. Brian and Lisa came loaded for bear at that meeting. This was going to happen. The fact that we aren't ready for it isn't going to change that."

"You're worried about something happening?" I asked.

He shook his head. "Not at the meeting. Everyone likes their rules and they'll be playing extra nice with you there. But those two wouldn't have been so gung-ho if they weren't pushing for something after the meeting." He gave me a hard look. "They're trying to step up and I need to tell you, the team cannot handle it. They might be staying ahead of things so far, but it's going to catch up with them sooner or later."

I nodded. "I'm not going to be pushing for anything else from the Undersiders, and definitely not at the summit. I appreciate the warning, but I kind of figured something like this was in the works." Alec looked relieved, but even without the Dragon's Pulse I could tell that wasn't all of it. I took a guess and pushed forward. "You said all the Undersiders have been struggling since last Saturday. How have you been holding up?"

"What, since my private barbeque?" He quipped. When he saw my face his expression turned grim. "Fuck. Okay, that healing? Or overhealing or whatever? Does it have any side effects, like long term stuff?"

"No." I said flatly. "Not that kind of healing, not for those kinds of injuries. Anything that's different, it's because something was broken in the first place."

"Broken." He let out a dry laugh. "Yeah, that's about right."

"Alec, what's going on?" I asked seriously. Despite my passenger's affection for Alec and the rest of the Undersiders I didn't have much of a connection with them. The obligations I'd inherited had overshadowed any camaraderie I might have had with them in the early days. Even so, they weren't bad people, particularly by the standards of villains. I didn't want anything bad to happen to them, as difficult a prospect as that seemed at times.

Alec let out a long breath before turning to me. "Okay, that super thinker thing you do? The one that freaked Lisa out on the first night and has whatever focus on Taylor. You get anything from it about me?"

The question sounded less of a concern and more like a desire not to have to explain things himself. I nodded slowly before speaking.

"I don't have much, and it's not that accurate, generally speaking. I know you were in a bad place and are trying to get out of it. I know there's bad stuff in your past and you're worried about it, but that's about it. Like I said, no details."

He sagged slightly before replying. "Yeah. 'Bad stuff' is right on the money." He shook his head before continuing. "There was a lot of bad. It didn't used to bother me. I mean, it did, but I could handle it. I had ways of dealing with it." He looked up with more emotion in his eyes than I had ever seen before. "That's not working anymore. Not for the current stuff and not with the old stuff."

"Have you talked with anyone about this?" I asked, somewhat lamely.

"Lisa knows. She would have known even if I didn't tell her. I told her I can hold it together, and I probably can. At least as well as the rest of them." He looked at me with what seemed to be a mixture of anger and fear. "Seriously, what the fuck did that do to me?"

I sighed. "Best guess?"

He snorted. "Sure, just what you want to hear from your doctor. But yeah, best guess."

"The healing was comprehensive. It covers everything. Chemical, physical, or neurological. You have any kind of dysfunction there, even something that was helping you cope, it's going to fix it."

"So that's it? Taking me to normal? That's what this is?"

"I don't know." I admitted. "Brains are complicated. I don't have a scan of yours and I don't have anything to compare it to. But if something changed it's because the healing was trying to put it right."

"Put right, huh?" He looked down at his hand contemplatively. "I guess that's the price for a new arm and skin grafts. Oh, and a lifetime of indentured servitude." He gave me a wry grin. "Still, probably a good deal, all things considered."

I let out a breath as the Time constellation passed by. "Look, are you going to be alright?"

"No idea." He answered honestly. "Probably? Maybe?" He shook his head. "Honestly, I kind of figured it was something like this. It's just, if you were going to flick a switch like that I wish you picked a better time than the improvised teppanyaki aftermath." He forced a grin and picked up the case. "I should get these back to the hideout. Lisa's probably going to spend half the night picking over hers. Blind, unknown costume delivery with no input from the thinker. It's like you were trying to drive her insane."

"Not my intent." I offered.

"Yeah. Probably never is." He hefted the case. "Thanks for the work, and for the free medical consultation. If nothing else, it's good to know I don't have a surprise aneurysm waiting for me."

"Not that I know of."

"Right. Well, see you tomorrow when whatever stupid and overambitious plan Lisa's cooked up for this summit boils over."

I waved him off, letting him clear the courtyard before I slipped off and concealed myself again. Regent was in much worse of a state than I anticipated. Whatever hints I'd been getting from our brief encounters were just the tip of the iceberg, and if what he was saying was true the rest of the team was in similar straits. It wasn't an encouraging situation, not with Somer's Rock looming in the future.

It was also something I had limited ability to fix. The Undersiders were their own team with their own responsibilities. I may be able to patch them up and give them some security, but I couldn't cover every front, and frankly I shouldn't have to. Really, it was just an example of how messed up the cape scene could be. No wonder Dr. Campbell had insisted I make a standing appointment.

I bounded across rooftops on my way back to my neighborhood. After her father had finished work in the city Taylor was spending the rest of the afternoon with him, meaning no convenient way to get her to the hideout to pick up her armor. Fortunately, I had superpowered logistics abilities that were honestly a bit much for a simple drop off. Still, all the reassurances in the world wouldn't put Taylor's mind at ease.

"You're sure this is safe?" She asked through the call on her watch as I turned my pinto onto her street.

"Taylor, this is a basic drop off. It's not exactly a high-risk situation." I explained.

"But what if my dad notices something?" She asked in what was probably her twentieth variation of the same question.

"I've taken care of it." I said, pulling up outside her house. "It'll be fine, and I'm already here."

"I know. Hold on." She started mobbing down the stairs with what was clearly forced casualness that just happened to take her next to the front door as I approached. After a single knock the door swung open with a greeting that wasn't totally artificial.

"Joe, what a surprise to see you. Oh, what is that?" She said quickly, then made a desperate grab for the bag in my hand.

"Joe?" Mr. Hebert called from the kitchen. The tall man moved into the hallway and it looked like Taylor might explode from panic.

"Hi Mr. Hebert." I called back. "I was just dropping off something for Lisa." I held up the canvas shopping bag for Taylor's father to see while Taylor tracked it like an active bomb. "One of Taylor's bags got mixed up with Lisa's last week. She just sorted it out and asked me to stop by and return it."

"That's very nice of her. And you. Thank you." He looked at the bag and sighed. It was one of the standard ones you found at the Market, cheap but rugged. People generally would either buy a canvas bag or bring their own since most of the sellers didn't have much in the way of amenities for customers. The bag I was holding was bog standard for that type of application.

Taylor did everything she could to block his view without seeming like she was blocking his view. "It's been ages since I've been to the market." He turned to his daughter, who was still trying to subtly edge herself between us. "We should do a trip sometime after things calm down."

"That sounds great, Dad." She reached behind her back for the bag, only to miss her father peaking over her shoulder.

"What did you find there?" He asked, and Taylor's face drained of color and I handed over the bag. She stood frozen as he glanced inside before nodding and handing it off to her. "That's nice. They way you've been growing you needed some new clothes. I'm glad you were able to go with Lisa."

Taylor stood there blankly, stunned at his reaction and the lack of weight to the bag. She looked inside, froze, then looked back at us.

Her father seemed amused by the reaction. "Whoops. Was that a parenting faux pas? Nosing into fashion choices?"

Taylor quickly rallied and made a calming gesture. "No, no, it's fine." She looked at the bag then at me, clearly restraining herself from further questions. "Uh, I should get these put away. Thank you for dropping them off?"

I nodded. "No problem, but I have to run." I turned to her father. "It was nice seeing you again. Good to know you made it through safely."

"You too." He replied. "I've heard about the work your gym is doing. You should be proud. It's really making a difference."

"Thanks. I'll let Doug know." I said as I made my way back to the car and Taylor fled up the stairs. I had barely closed the door when her call came through.

"What the hell was that?" She asked in a strained voice.

"I told you it would be fine. He didn't notice anything." I said, pulling out onto the street.

"Because there's nothing to notice. You said you were bringing armor." There was the sound of fabric rustling. "Not clothes."

"The armor is under the clothes." I explained, continuing down the street.

"There's nothing under the clothes. It's a full bag, and it doesn't weigh…" She trailed off and I heard a mutter "What the hell."

"There you go." I said with a smile on my face.

"How deep is this bag?" There was the sound of metal clinking against metal and I heard a gasp. "Woah."

"Deep enough to hold the full set of your new armor plates." I explained. "What do you think?"

"Uh, they're very gold." She murmured.

"You can change the color with your watch. Just use the voice interface." I replied.

"Right. Watch? Not gold armor please." There was a pause before she continued. "Um, that's something else."

God damn it, now I was getting flashbacks to what Aisha pointed out. "The instructions for installing it on your costume are on your watch, and I tried to make it as easy as possible."

"Oh, yeah. The costume." There was a shuffling sound. "I'm probably going to have to do this later tonight, after my dad's asleep."

"No problem. I keep pretty late hours," And had duplicates active for most of the time I was asleep. "So if there's any problems with the installation or effect let me know."

"Right. Oh, Joe? This bag? Was it like a one-time thing or is it stable? Like can I reuse it?"

"It's stable." I explained. "There's expanded space inside, and it conceals any weight that's not in the upper portion." The item had been trivially easy to make, barely needing more than my demigod skill. "You can use it, just try not to draw attention to it."

"Thanks Joe. I'll be careful." She answered in an enthusiastic voice before ending the call. She actually sounded more excited about the bag than she did about the armor, but why would she…

Of course. She was going to fill the damn thing with four cubic meters of spiders. Setting aside that happy image I just hoped she didn't try to make it part of her cape gear. The image of Taylor in immaculately forged golden armor perfectly aligned to the theme of her cape identity with a canvas tote bag over her shoulder like a Sunday Market shopper was the kind of thing that would drive Garment to hysterics.

I decided not to mention the possibility to her. She had been the one to provide the 'decoy clothing' for the bag, keeping it in the range of what would have been available at the market while still being Taylor appropriate. From the sound of things Taylor had basically dug through it on her way to the armor. Garment would be disappointed if it went ignored, but I wasn't really bothered. It had been an excessive step in the logistics chain done mostly as a concession for Garment not being able to redesign Taylor's costume.

I left my car at the gym, noting the serious drop in activity compared to the afternoon. There was still a flow of goods through the place, but it seemed the organization I'd worked to put in place earlier was holding well enough. I thought about dropping in, but I needed to get back, set things up for the evening, then head back out for my appointment. I didn't have time to get caught up at the gym.

My route to Garment's store involved the usual slipping off, concealment, and doubling back. Upon stepping in I was greeted by Garment who quickly made an inquisitive gesture.

"I'm not sure." I admitted. "I was out of the house when she unpacked them and she was more focused on the armor," and the bag, "So I don't know what she thought of them." I saw Garment droop in disappointment and quickly continued. "Her father seemed to like them, at least what he saw."

That was enough to partially rally her spirits and she insisted I get her any feedback from the Undersiders on their new costumes as soon as I had it. I agreed and moved down to the computer core. Both duplicates were on 20% time, but I had hours of experiments and project results to review before the next set. As it stood I would have just enough time to get another set of duplicates out and set before I had to leave for my appointment.

There was a set of instructions for that. My less than perfect mindset during the last time I downed the duplication potion had caused me to overlook the array of items that they had wanted copied. As it stood I would be loaded to the gills with everything from my Bright Spear to the Alchemy Machine to the Kinsect and Insect Glaive. Luckily I had Survey's help organizing things and everything was ready the moment I exited the virtual environment and downed the potion.

"Have everything?" I asked sarcastically. My duplicates grinned and helped me unload the arsenal of weapons and equipment I had been burdened with.

"Yeah, we should be good. You set to head out?" The first asked. I nodded in response.

"I'm…" I cut out as I felt another familiar connection form in the Celestial Forge. Familiar because I had seen these motes five times before. I stood there with my duplicates, dumbfounded as I wrestled with the implication of the new powers.

"Well," the second duplicate quipped. "At least our stepmom seems to like us."

I let out a groan. "That's not funny."

"No, that was hilarious. It's the situation that isn't funny." The first insisted.

"I'm serious. Even with the disguise spell I can see the blessing leaking through." The features shifted by the fox talisman hadn't changed noticeably, but there were subtle shifts. Smoothing, or alterations in the way the light struck. Just enough to make a difference without making me look like a different person. "I don't even want to think about what we'd look like without it."

"Probably like this." The second duplicate stated as he dropped his disguise. Instantly all the extraordinary features that I had concealed with illusion magic were fully visible, only this time with the full, unfiltered benefit of my latest power, or my latest blessing, to be precise.

The Minor Blessing of Aphrodite, the blessing of Beauty. Primarily it was focused on beauty in crafts. If you wanted to carve a sculpture that someone would fall in love with, it was the blessing for you. But for some reason it didn't stop there. Or it did, but its application extended further. Guaranteed beauty of what you worked on extended to whatever portion of your own appearance was due to your own actions, and the blessing granted supermodel level looks, possibly for no other reason than the goddess of beauty tolerating nothing less.

The change wasn't that extreme, but it was noticeable, and in a very positive way. It was actually a bit unsettling. I'm not used to having a positive impression of my appearance. At best I usually feel neutral about it, but this was the work of a goddess. There was no denying this with anything short of blasphemy. I looked better than I ever had in my life. I'm pretty sure I couldn't avoid looking good anymore. The application of this blessing to my work was optional, but it seemed Aphrodite didn't extend that choice to me.

"Guess we have another shrine to build." The first duplicate said with a sigh. "And we'll have to tackle the second mote as well."

I nodded along. The connection to the Quality constellation had come with another copy of Unnatural Skill, this time devoted to runes. That turned out to be a deeper well than I ever would have imagined, and the reason was entirely because of the well.

The damn Well of Urd. Specifically, it was the source of magic runes, and the key to unlocking them. Suffering gave access to the magic of runecraft, at least from the divine side of things. The more you suffered the easier you could access the art.

But the power wasn't driving me to self-flagellate for the sake of magical abilities. My own suffering was being directed towards unlocking the art. Major events like the nightmare I'd endured at the hands of March's ambush and its horrible aftermath stuck out, but that wasn't the only source. A thousand tiny drops of unpleasant memories, or discomfort, or self-hatred flowed into the power, drawing from years in the past to my most recent call with my family.

It was both embarrassing and vindicating. My miserable family situation was being divinely acknowledged and channeled towards a source of power. It was the last thing I had expected, and I didn't know how to really deal with it. From a glance at my duplicates, they were clearly in the same boat.

"Well, good thing you're going to therapy."

Jumpchain abilities this chapter:

Manufacturing Line (Valkyria Chronicles) 400:

You've always been of the opinion that technology advanced too slowly before you arrived, but now you can apply that to the physical world as well! Any building process you oversee, whether it be the forging of a sword or an entire tank factory, will now produce results twice as fast and with half the required materials used.

Minor Blessing Aphrodite - Beauty (Percy Jackson) 100:

For one reason or another you've got a god who cares slightly about you and has seen fit to grant you some minor boon within their domains. Choose one god from any pantheon and gain a minor boon from them. The god will care slightly about you but unless you go on to further distinguish yourself it will be more of a minor interest in your affairs than someone they feel the need to help (Effectively think a diminished version of one ability a demigod might have, think minor ones are stuff along the lines of breathing water, lucid dreaming, or appropriate vague extra senses, useful but nothing especially major). This can be taken multiple times.

Unnatural Skill: Runes (Percy Jackson) 200:

Whether from your heritage or just being that good you've got one particular mundane skill that your feats with border on supernatural. Whether you're a smith on the level of the Cyclopses, a near prescient tactician or a swordsman who is ny unstoppable with a blade your feats will be legendary. You are on a level within your skill such that only other beings of legend can hope to match you. This may be taken multiple times. You may not choose magic but you may choose a particular application of magic if you have it already (so curses, enchanting might work, more specific gets a bigger boost).