Rivalry: Part 3

I ran the ball up and down the room a couple times before I felt comfortable with the controls. We’d had to charge the batteries. Even though they charged relatively quickly, they only made it halfway before we gave up on waiting.

Chris clicked a button, opening a tunnel that led to the surface. Just like the Heroes League’s tunnels, it had concrete walls. Chris ran out first, the machines that powered his legs giving him a massive stride. The clipped sound of his footfalls echoed in the tunnel.

I followed, listening to the hum of the ball’s engine, rolling straight up the tunnel after him.

The ball’s controls weren’t much different from a car’s. It had a steering wheel, accelerator pedal and brakes. The dashboard looked a little different from most cars. The readouts were LED’s, glowing red, probably with the intention of saving the driver’s night vision.

I’d been wrong to believe it didn’t have weapons. It had a laser and the paralysis weapons that the Executioner and Syndicate L’s people had when I fought them in Los Angeles.

The crosshairs of the targeting system glowed slightly on the windshield. I couldn’t find the button to turn it off, though I could find the joystick that moved it.

We came out of the tunnel in the middle of a forest. I didn’t get a good look at the building we came out of, but I got the impression of a barn.

I heard rather than saw the door shut behind us.

Following Chris, I went down a dirt road for little while. Then we turned on to a country road.

While we could have gone toward Chris’ grandmother’s house in the suburbs, we didn’t. We traveled in the other direction — away from Grand Lake. Two story houses on big lots shared the landscape with forest, corn fields, and rows of blueberry bushes.

Chris made good time. The ball’s speedometer showed 90 mph. I noted that the speedometer had space for four digits, and wondered if the first one was just for decoration.

It didn’t take Chris long to find the entrance to the freeway. I followed him up the entrance ramp and onto the road.

When we’d talked about it beforehand, I’d been against using the freeway, remembering what happened when Cassie and I took Night Wolf’s car out for the first time, but he pointed out that the country roads nearby weren’t built for speed.

The ball didn’t have any problem keeping up with him.

This far out of Grand Lake, the traffic had thinned out, and Chris had no trouble finding space on the road. He ran off to the side once when cars blocked both lanes.

I followed, nearly losing control as the ball rolled off the edge into the grass.

Managing somehow to avoid bouncing off into a field, I rolled back into a lane.

Soon after that we both hit 150 mph and kept on accelerating.

About the time we hit 190 mph, we passed a highway patrol car like it was standing still.

The lights and siren went on, but the car couldn’t move quickly enough to catch us.

I pressed down on the gas pedal (electric pedal?) and widened the distance. Then I came up even with Chris. I managed to get the PA system going and said, “Maybe we ought to turn around.”

Through the sound of the wind, Chris said, “There?” He pointed ahead.

We were coming up on one of those dirt connections between the lanes on freeways, the ones with “Authorized Vehicles Only” signs.

We decided we were authorized, and turned.

As we accelerated onto the northbound lane, I wondered if we should have stopped. Most police were understanding when supers did things like this. If we explained ourselves…

Chris got ahead of me, moving in front of a semi and a couple cars. I decided I’d better catch up when my key chain beeped. I dug in my pocket and pulled my keys out. When we’d chosen League alert/homing devices, I’d chosen a 1950’s stylized rocket ship that attached to a key chain. The cockpit blinked yellow.

It didn’t take much to guess what had happened. We’d passed the cop so quickly that couldn’t ever catch up. He’d called it in. The police called League HQ and someone was actually there.

I wondered who, and if I should call to tell them not to worry.

Calling someone while driving wasn’t ever a great idea, and calling while driving at three times the speed limit seemed even worse.

I stuffed my keys back into my pocket, noticing suddenly that I’d missed the exit near Chris’ grandmother’s house. In fact, I’d missed three after that. If I stayed on the highway much longer without turning around, I’d end up downtown.

Annoyingly, the freeway had gotten more crowded the nearer to downtown I’d gotten. It was 6:16. People were still leaving work, or going out to eat.

I decided to look for a way to get off the freeway.

The cars didn’t make it easier, but the ball was ridiculously agile. With the ball’s speed and acceleration, I could make it into any gap I saw.

I rolled off to the right side of the road, passed three cars, and rolled back into the right lane. Then I rolled left, passing into the left lane, and out to the other side of the road. I passed several cars on that side of the road before getting back into the left lane.

A space opened up on my right. I moved the ball into it, getting off at an exit near downtown. Then I followed the road left, crossing under the freeway and getting on via the entrance ramp for the southbound lane.

Surprisingly, the southbound lane didn’t have quite as many cars as the northbound, and I merged with traffic.

Not long after that, Jaclyn, her legs a blur of purple, knocked on the window.

The ball wobbled.

“You in there, stop before I stop you.”

Forgetting that she couldn’t see inside, I waved at her. Then I turned on the PA.

“Accelerando. It’s the Rocket.”

She stared at the ball.

“Prove it.”

I pulled my keys out of my pocket, placed them on my lap, and sent everybody a green.

The League communication unit on Jaclyn’s utility belt changed from blinking yellow to green.

“Rocket, you need to get this thing off the streets. You have no idea how much trouble you’re in.”

“Trouble?”

“Can you follow me back to HQ, or do I need to carry it?”

“It’s not mine. I can’t steal it.”

“We don’t have time to talk. Follow me back.”

I followed her. It was easier than normal. She stayed under 200 mph most of the time, and the ball didn’t have any trouble keeping up.

We entered HQ through the hidden entrance in Veterans Memorial Park — not the one in the forest, the hidden vehicle entrance that Larry uses when he brings the Rhinomobile. We followed the rangers access trail through the park until we got up to a hill. The side of the hill next to the trail was nothing but big slab of rock.

Jaclyn said the password, and the slab opened into the elevator that led into HQ’s hangar where we kept all our vehicles — Cassie’s motorcycle, the jet, a rack of small rocketpacks, and some of the larger versions of the Rocket suit…

When the elevator door opened, I drove in, dodging the racks of gear, tools for maintenance, and spare parts, parking it next to Night Wolf’s car, and clicking on the button that caused the parking gear to slide out. Then I opened the top.

“So,” I said, “what’s up with this thing?”

Jaclyn threw her hands up in the air. “I don’t know. All I got from the cops was a team of villains called the Maniacs used it in a summer crime spree about fifteen years ago. The rest of them got caught. They never found this. Where did you get it?”

“Uh… Man-machine’s stuff. I was going through it with Chris Cannon.”

“He was the other guy? Van Kley wasn’t sure if you were with him or trying to kill him.”

She stared at me. “Wait a second, where did he get that stuff? The FBI didn’t give it back to him, did they?”

“No. His grandpa had a secret compartment.”

“Great. So now he’s armed too. Is he with Sean’s people? Wait… Does he know who you are?”

“No and no. I think he’ll be okay. He just wants to play with the technology.”

“Oh, and there’s no way that could go horribly wrong. Don’t take this badly, Nick, but for all the talk about power juice, I think you inventor types are the scary people around here.”

13 thoughts on “Rivalry: Part 3”

  1. So Man-Machine also had access to those fancy paralysis rays, or at least someone who’d store their stuff at Man-Machine’s lair. Quite an interesting turn, can’t wait to see where it leads.

    It’s also interesting to see what Nick winds up telling Chris. If he doesn’t come clean, which I’m starting to find likely, he could always say the League confiscated the ball to avoid having to return it and that way create some antipathy with Chris towards the League and and…
    Ok extrapolating way too much again. Sorry.

  2. Yep Jaclyn has it right on the first take. The braniacs are the scary one. There working with the ultimate tool, the brain, and bring imagination to life.

  3. Gas/electric pedals could also be called accelerators, but Nick’s a little busy to realize that.

    I tend to agree and disagree with Accelerando. The big brains came up with stuff like the power juice and ray guns, so clearly they’re dangerous. But, stupid people using power juice is a bit scarier than a smart person like Nick or Chris finding technology — sometimes they’re smart enough not to use it to hurt people.

  4. Mazzon: We’ll be picking away at the origins of a few of the more interesting devices that have shown up in the hands of villains for a little while, but we’ll learn something by the end of this storyline.

    On the worth of brains vs. powers: This is one of those things that’s coming up in one form or another during the entire series of arcs in the “Book 2” section. It’s kind of fun to meditate on.

  5. At least it was Jaclyn that caught up to him, now I hope the others don’t tackle Chris and make him fight. No telling what kinds of weapons he has fitted to it.

    I don’t know about the most deadly, but being able to build stuff can put them high up there.

  6. Me? I’m just looking forward to Nick putting a paralysis ray in his armour (and better yet, in his guitar). He’s always worrying (and rightly so) about how to take people down without hurting them. Now he’s got it. As soon as I read the line, “It had… paralysis weapons…”, I thought, “BONANZA!”

    See, the awesomest thing about being a smart guy in a powered world is that it’s so easy to add new powers, especially when you find someone else’s technology.

    I mean, aside from Batman’s preternatural capacity for planning things out ahead of time, his ability to adjust his “power set” via the technology available to him (and worn on his utility belt) is what really keeps him able to stay in the same league as Superman. Given enough time and planning, Batman can have literally ANY “power” he needs. (Of course, being really good at getting by with the lowest levels of these powers is a definitely asset too. Throw Batman onto a desert island with a loincloth and a stick, and he’d still figure out a way to take out Bizzaro. Which reminds me of the time he stopped Gorilla-Superman by standing in front of him and saying “No.” in the most confident, alpha-male way he could possibly muster. Big use of the Bat-Cojones there.)

    Hg

  7. Daymon: It’ll be fun (for me, at least) when Chris suit actually gets used. It’s all been mentioned, but not in detail.

    Hg: Gorilla-Superman? I missed that entirely.

    Luke: They probably are (well, metaphorically). Also, welcome.

  8. What? You missed the whole Gorilla thing? Huh. It was kinda funny, and kinda cool. Basically, the intelligent gorillas in the gorilla city in Africa figure out a way to zap people and change their DNA so that they become gorilla people, which affects not only how they look, but also how they think. It even works on aliens, with varying effects. (Supes and Wonder Woman go full gorilla, like everyone else. Martian Manhunter is morphically changed to look like a green martian gorilla, but his mind is unaffected.) Most of the JLA gets hit with it (Superman, WW, MM and Flash), but some don’t (Bats, GL). Once people are changed into gorillas, their loyalty is to the gorillas, not humans. Thus, the conflict. It was actually pretty cool, with Batman “reverse engineering” (actual phrase used) one of the gorilla bombs that causes the change, as well as the stand-up-to-Superman-with-a-single-word thing, plus “Chimpulse” (heheheh, I love that name — did I mention that they gave all the heroes gorilla names like “Flashorilla” and “Supergorilla”?) overcoming the brainwashing by being too casual to care about the Gorilla cause, and MM consulting with Animal Man by setting up a “temporary” short circuit around his psychosis (the one that Grant Morrison gave him) to get him to think rationally about the problem at hand.

    Hg

  9. So Chris now will think that Nick stole his grandfather’s technology. This can’t end badly at all. Jaclyn is not super-perceptive either, nor did they go too fast for Chris to follow if he wanted to. I wonder if Chris followed them back to the legion base?

    Hmm, maybe I’ll find out before today’s binge reading is done šŸ™‚

  10. Really enjoying this just started reading a couple days ago.

    Though I’m hoping we get to see more of what the suits capable of plus hear about possible improvements Nick is thinking of. A big part of what I enjoy about super human fics is the exploration of their power or in this case ‘genius inventor capabilities’. This fic is definitely lacking in that area imo. Though it makes up for it with great charicterisation, world building and an engrossing plot.

    Looking forward to reading the rest, thanks for sharing it with us šŸ˜€

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