Costume shops focused the most power. Uniform outlets did a better job with focus, but the power associated with them was tame
compared to what most costume shops had to offer.
I already knew which one I was headed for. It would have been a strange habit for anybody else
, always checking out where the costume and uniform suppliers were in every city I went to. That had to be my first priority if I wanted to make sure I could protect myself.
Two blocks north, one block west. I tried to jog at a speed that did not appear rushed or panicked. I didn't need further attention
It was daytime. The shop was open. That made things easier. I ducked in. I knew the layout already. I made it a point to memorize where everything was in each of these stores as early as possible. It saved me more than once
It wasn't Halloween, but I went for the wizard outfit. Black robes, black hat, and a somewhat impressive wooden staff. Actually it was plastic made to look like wood, but it wasn't so bad. I would've liked it if it was my height
though. That would have improved focus.
All of that went with me into the dressing room. Everything on in an instant. I'd learned over time to dress very quickly. Holding the plastic-wooden staff over my head, I stared at it in the mirror. My own reflection helped focus my thoughts
White and blue sparks collected over my head, and in a flash, my body was transformed into a blackbird. I made sure I didn't leave anything behind in the dressing room, then flew out into the store. I closed my eyes and imagined
the roof fading away. Then I was out.I didn't want to look back
. If they were still chasing me, that would have been time I didn't want to waste.
As the minutes ticked by, I could feel myself becoming unglued again. I needed the costume back. Approaching a small green hilltop, I landed as a black-robed wizard once more. Yes, I'm definitely a wizard. As long as I looked the part, I was able to convince myself, remind myself, of what I was capable of
. If it had been an actual uniform, the reminders would have been much more tangible. But there was no such thing as official wizard uniforms, so I had to settle for pretend ones.
I had to return it the next day. Protect my supplier and their supply. Next course of action needed some data infiltration. Who was on my tail? Was I being paranoid. If I could find a convincing enough uniform, it would grant me actual knowledge and training to access the data I believed it would let me access. Unfortunately such knowledge could only last while I wore the uniform. Put on a wizard costume and my mind would be flooded with spells, put on a knight costume and my mind would be filled with medieval combat tactics. Everything else just got pushed to the corner
I just wished my wizard form was more solid. In theory, magic could allow me to do just about anything the other costumes could, but it was too vague. That vagueness would make me lose track of what I was doing, the magic would dissipate, like forgetting the phone number to my childhood home
I made a pretty good living in that town, as long as I had access to the right uniforms. Almost any skill was within my reach
, and I could hop jobs within the space of an afternoon. Maybe someone was onto me. I had been trying to cover my tracks but maybe I wasn't as successful as I hoped.
I did not need to be captured by some criminal organization or unscrupulous government agency. I wanted to continue to live life on my own terms
. I had to know who or what may have been on my tail. The wizard costume was a great aid for sneaking into uniform outlets at night, and so there I was, in the manager's office in one of those buildings, trying to exploit various weaknesses in the security of other organizations.
Then someone pushed open the door and walked in. I jumped up and dove for my wizard outfit. I needed a better defense than what a network security expert could offer
"Don't bother," the figure said, raising what looked like a toy laser gun. My wizard costume dissolved into ash.
"Don't worry, I'm not here to hurt you
either. I'm here with an invitation."
"An invitation? And you need to destroy my robe for that?"
"I apologize. The last time I didn't
, you turned into a bird and flew off before we could talk."
"Well alright then." I calmed a bit. "Let's talk."
"You may not recognize me
anymore," the figure said, "but I'm a version of you. You have done so many things to this reality, and I am, we are, one of the natural results of your actions."
"Who do you mean by we?" I asked.
"We currently number in the hundreds, maybe thousands. We are all different aspects of you. And we want you to help us, to keep this place from falling apart."