Targets: Part 19

I did something stupid. I looked back.

The big, bald guy handled the door differently than  I had. He leaned in and hit the metal edge of the door with his shoulder, smashing it out of the frame, and the frame partly out of the building.

Turning my head forward, I ran across the lawn toward the car.

Something in the car hummed, and the missile launcher popped upwards from the trunk and clicked into place.

I jumped toward the car, using the stealth suit’s artificial muscles to give me a boost, and landed right next to the passenger side door. My momentum didn’t let me stop there.

I fell forward, hitting the car.

It hurt, but it would have hurt worse if I hadn’t been wearing the suit.

As I fumbled for the door handle, the missile fired, roaring away from the car toward the Cabal trooper, and exploding as it hit… something.

The fireball was too bright to see exactly what.

A wave of heat that didn’t come from the afternoon sun washed over me.

Blinking away the afterimages, I found the door handle, and began to open the door when the door opened on its own.

Kind of.

Actually Rachel pushed it open, and yanked me face first inside.

She shut the door while I was still turning around in the front seat, and Haley hit the gas, sending the car forward with the engine roaring, and tires squealing.

I pulled on the seat belt.

“I hope I didn’t hurt anyone,” Haley said. “Not that I want him to catch us, but I don’t want to kill anybody.”

From the back seat, Rachel said, “I… Right now I’m hoping we all get to live to regret killing people. ”

I barely listened to them. I’d popped out the keyboard in the passenger seat, and turned on the 360 degree radar/camera view around the car.

It appeared on the screen in the dashboard, the one above the radio. I’d swapped out the 8-track player for a CD player with an Ipod connection sometime in the spring.

Clicking through the available views, I ran across the rear view just as Haley glanced up toward the mirror.

One indrawn breath later, the car accelerated even more quickly than it had been.

I was all for that because the screen’s rear view showed my driver. Instead of a shirt, he wore blackened rags, and his pants were on fire.

At first I wasn’t all that bothered that he was following us. I doubted he could catch up to a car moving at seventy mph down a country road.

Then he jumped, closing half the distance between us.

I didn’t want to find out what he could do with another jump or two.

Haley said, “Nick, here!”

The joystick that controlled the missile launcher extended out of the dashboard on a flexible arm. She pushed toward me, and I changed the screen to target mode.

Using the joystick to aim the crosshairs, I was about to fire when the man jumped, landing only thirty feet behind us.

With one more jump he’d be on, or directly in front of, the car. That was the bad news. The good news?

I had a great shot.

The car shook as the missile fired, roaring toward the man, hitting him in the shoulder, and exploding.

Not that I saw that. It happened too quickly, but the screen had instant replay. Surveillance was one of it’s main functions after all.

Unfortunately, it didn’t take him down any more than it took him down earlier.

Moments later, he’d jumped again. Not that he was close, but he was coming.

Zooming in showed that his shoulder was reddish, and that his left eyebrow had been burned off.

While that could have been a positive sign from one angle (“Look, he can be hurt!”), I found it easier to look at it from a more realistic angle (“Two missiles later, all we’ve done is singe his hair.“).

Rachel turned away from the window to look at me.

“Rachel, could you hand me my helmet and guitar? And Haley, could you open the roof?”

Rachel did, and I pulled the helmet over my head, and attached the guitar hero controller to the cable.

“Are you sure?” Haley glanced over at me, and I said, “Can you think of anything else?”

Rachel said, “Yes–”

The roof opened, and, I stood in my seat.

The last time I’d had to shoot an actual person with the guitar was back in Los Angeles, and I hadn’t gone far enough then.

I pointed the guitar at the man’s leg, and fired.

A blue beam crossed the distance between us, hitting his leg. The pants burned where the beam hit. He stared down, beginning to scream something.

He fell.

29 thoughts on “Targets: Part 19”

  1. “The last time I’d had to shoot an actual person… … I hadn’t gone far enough”

    It would seem that Nick is growing harder after the past few weeks. That is a good thing; while killing might be a bad thing, being willing to use your capabilities to their fullest is the difference beween life and death in many situations – and not just your own death but for those you’re trying to save, too.

    Speaking of capabilities, building three armors for himself, Kayla and Chris is a step in a direction that would increase the team’s abilities considerably. Nick might not have realized the implications yet but most of the other people in the group are much stronger, much faster and supernaturally agile. He could probably take the full stealth suit, remove all artificial muscles and internal systems and replace them with more armor and insulation, and then give the results for the others to wear and for them, they would not be too heavy at all. Full protection against bullets and some against heat/electricity/lasers for people like Haley and Travis would be good.

    Also, Cassie, Haley and especially Jacklyn would be far more accurate with energy weapons than he is in combat due to their speed and reflexes. The full guitar isn’t needed – just a backup energy weapon to better fight mechas and invulnerable enemies. A knife of the same material as Cassie’s sword would not be bad, either.

    Eventually, he’d have to upgrade the vehicles as well. They might have been state of the art and beyond 40 years ago but now there are vehicles (and people) that are faster. Plus, the missiles he’s using must still be old shaped charges which, as proven, are not effective against really tough people. He better equip them with carbon subnitride warheads that explode at 9010 °F (about as hot as the surface of the sun). Yeah, I know, plasma bombs have less penetration than lasers but the heat would burn even highly resistant targets over a wide area, causing lots of damage and horribly painful wounds.
    And by “burn resistant targets” I mean “vaporize all knows substances on earth except tantalum, rhenium and tungsten.” Should be interesting to see what happens if he also puts it to high-caliber revolver rounds for his sister so she can shoot the inside of targets with it.

    PS: carbon subnitride only needs carbon, nitrogen and lots of energy to produce. It is also known as Dicyanoacetyline, the hottest-burning known chemical.

  2. Belial I like all your ideas. You would have to get some pretty advanced camouflage for Rachel’s suit though. Also, Chris needs a name and should go crime fighting with the League. I don’t care about Kayla but Chris and Nick tagteaming would be a great thing.

  3. I love this chapter
    “(“Look, he can be hurt!”), I found it easier to look at it from a more realistic angle (“Two missiles later, all we’ve done is singe his hair.“).”

    My Interpretation
    Overkill is underrated.— Colonel John “Hannibal” Smith, The A Team

  4. Well, the one thing I’m surprised Nick missed in all of this is how effective an explosion would be in redirecting a jumper in mid-air. With no ground to stand on, the only thing holding the guy on course is his own inertia (based on mass, which I don’t believe to be excessive, and initial thrust from the jump). It doesn’t even have to stop him completely, just divert the forward-thrust vector from the jumping action. That way, he ends up off course, and spending his time redirecting himself and possibly untangling/extracting himself from whatever he landed on/in.

    Hg

  5. Whether you can redirect a super by shooting them in mid-air depends on how their invulnerability works;

    A) It works by making them resistant to physical damage. In this case, momentum would not be affected by their invulnerability and an explosion would slam them aside easily. Hell, a blow from a normal human might shove them aside easily enough as their mass does not increase. In addition, they’d feel the heat, cold, even pain of every blow undiminished as those are not physical damage but rather how your nerves and brain interpret applied force. Ditto for paralysis rays, blinding light and anything that isn’t damage.

    B) It works by reducing harmful effects. I.e. whatever causes the effect works fully but their bodies are resistant to changes, as long as they’re harmful. As above, momentum would apply normally if it is not harmful – and they’d still feel things like cold, heat and pain but up to non-harmful levels.

    C) It works by making their body react as if it were from another substance. I.e. a body that reacts like rubber, like stone or like iron – as if it were made by said material even if it is actually made by flesh (or something that still functions like flesh). Wether momentum applies in this case and how much depends on the material – if they react like they’re made of steel, momentum would affect them at 1/7 the rate due to higher effective mass. This also changes how their bodies react to other types of effects and is the most frequent type of invulnerability in fantasy; elementals, undead, demons, golems and the like either have bodies that function more tough/dense or are made of material more dense/tough but still functions like a living body.

    D) It diminishes all forces applied to the subject – not the effects on the body, but the causes of those effects themselves. This type of invulnerability is common to gods, cosmics and people like Superman. Not only are they resistant to damage of all types by an equal (usually extreme) measure but if they collide with a car, they won’t move. If they get hit by a non-damaging paralysis ray they won’t be paralysed because, for them, the effect would be as if the paralysis ray was many times weaker. This also explains why someone punching Superman will break their hands even if Superman’s body is as flexible as human flesh; because force is diminished, superman’s body does not flex on a hit nearly as much as it should – and functions on the poor attacker like punching a rigid, unbreakable wall. It also explains why Superman does not need to worry about balance when lifting several times his own mass.

    The last seems to violate the laws of the universe more than the others but that isn’t actually true. It only violates the “an action has an equal and opposite reaction” whereas the others need to violate several different principles to make, say, bodies made of iron actually be alive.

  6. And now I wonder if that guy has felt pain recently, or he just might go down and cry for getting hurt. Not feeling pain for a long time could cause a person to forget how to deal with it. And getting a hole burned thru your leg is really going to hurt.

  7. If someone kidnaps your loved ones, kill them horribly and put the head on a pike in the town’s main square. Then threaten their surviving allies that reprisals against your loved ones will get them killed the same way.

    If they give your loved ones back, remove their hands and put them in the town’s main square, declaring that that’s what happens to those who mess with your family.
    If they don’t give your loved ones back and instead harm them, put their hands, feet and eyes in the town’s main square. And then post videos of them being locked up in automated devices that immobilise, sustain them and torture them in some underground facility.

  8. Belial –

    No.

    Taking an uncompromising, hardline approach invites Hatfields to war on your Mccoys for the next 3-4 generations, to the misery of all concerned. Being too hard is as bad, and in some few cases much worse, than laying down too quickly. Your enemies have no choice but to be even harder; they won’t negotiate without extreme leverage. And they’ll do anything to get it, because they know there’s just no talking to you – you’ve got video evidence of your vengeful tendencies, after all…

    Violence solves plenty… but not everything. That kind, what you just described? That’s what inspired the whole ‘violence doesn’t solve anything’ kids still get taught in school. Because history has shown us that kind of counter-bullying tends to make things much worse.

    And BRAGGING about it? Videotaping it and posting it for the town to see? Seriously, do you WANT to live in a third world african dictatorship…? There’s plenty of examples floating around right now in Somalia, Liberia et. al. that show how hard the strategy you laid out fails.

  9. I was thinking that a well-timed involuntary rocket jump would also through off the guy who was chasing them. Aim for the ground under him and when he jumps, if he has the type of invulnerability that allows outside forces to act on him at all, he’ll go flying up further than he meant to.

    In Quake 3 Arena, it’s the same thing that sent little eyeball men who walk on arms off into space to die.

    Or shoot him in the ear with a rocket. Hopefully you’ll pop an eardrum, which must not have happened from the nearby shoulder hit point blank with an expanding fireball. If it doesn’t the force should hopefully press in on the guy’s head a little bit, maybe cause some brain trauma or play havoc with the bones.

    If not for the fact that he’s super strong, I’d say my old exploding suppository idea would be useful too.

  10. From the story, it would seem to me that Nick’s not really an expert shot with the car’s gun, so I’m rather sceptic about these suggested mid-leap shots or shooting the guy in the ear.
    Plus, when you decide to foul up the supervillain’s jump, you’re going to feel pretty guilty when he falls on the car transporting a family of five, causing it to crash and killing them. Collateral damage is what separates loved heroes from hated vigilantes.

  11. On “invulnerability” in its many forms — there’s the fast healing factor of Wolverine and the faster one of the Hulk, and the immortality of gods and then the seemingly physics-defying version Superman employs — Lee here in the legion seems closer to Wolvie and Dr. Banner.

    But as for Superman — I’ve long thought that he in fact is an extremely powerful energy-manipulator, along the lines of a telekinetic like Phoenix. Being born under a red sun wouldn’t really do much, it’s just a different colour on the spectrum of light and our own sun will one day be red. Being born on a planet with higher gravity would create bigger muscles and greater density so someone would be stronger on a light gravity planet — but physiologically that person would be huge and heavy compared to ordinary humans.

    If you’ve noticed, Superman’s clothes don’t rip when he gets shot by bullets, which implies that he’s emitting a forcefield of some kind. And the gravity/red sun argument doesn’t explain the heat vision or super cooling breath, nor really the flying. Telekinesis would. Historically Superman has had problems dealing with magical enemies and objects because he’s rational and doesn’t really believe in magic — so it confounds his abilities to some extent. Well in the story “Kingdom Come” he begins to wrap his mind around that problem and starts to be able to grasp magical objects — implying his powers are instinctively controlled and become more powerful when he makes them conscious.

    That’s why he can catch a helicopter and not rip the part he’s grabbing right off the rest of the frame, or catch Lois when she’s falling off a building without his steel dense arms ripping through her body at terminal velocity. He counterbalances with his telekinesis like a reflex.

    Someone like that on the Legion would make killing totally unnecessary — but that’s part of why it’s so hard to write a good Superman story — he can solve almost anything. I often wonder why there are wars, crime, dictatorships and starvation at all in DC’s reality, it kind of implies Superman is holding back — and the Elseworld story “Red Son” shows he can conquer the world if he wants to, with benevolent intentions that make human beings feel like ants. So, basically, he might be holding back so we retain our sense of self and autonomy — the Lois and Clark show implied he was trying to be a symbol to inspire us instead of making us feel inferior.

  12. G.S.W: Actually DC’s official explanation for Superman’s invulnerability is a protective force field surrounding him, which is why is skin-tight clothing gets protected, too.
    Though, Superman’s biggest power has always been editorial immunity to failure, which allows him to pull new powers out of his ass whenever needed, and just forget about them in the next issue if they weren’t cool enough to keep.

  13. There’s a difference between invulnerability (I don’t get harmed) and regeneration (I recover from harm real fast)

    As for Superman, I don’t see him as a full telekinetic or energy manipulator because he does not create any forces or energy. He can merely increase or diminish energy on what he is directly touching and is mostly limited to things that are instinctual. He has a fairly high upper limit on how much energy he can manipulate but nowhere near infinite. That’s how I see his powers working;

    He’s invulnerable along with his clothes because he absorbs the energy of the change, keeping his and their kinetic and mechanic energy stable.
    He’s “superstrong” because he can apply kinetic energy to himself and others on touch.
    He can fly because he can manipulate his own kinetic energy and momentum.
    He has “arctic breath” because he increases the kinetic energy of what he exhales while reducing the thermal energy.
    He has “heat vision” because he magnifies the thermal energy emitted/reflected from his eyes.
    He has “X-Ray” vision because he can magnify the energy of cosmic radiation passing through all things and then shifts it to the visible spectrum to be perceivable.
    He has super-hearing because he can selectively magnify the mechanical energy of sound waves reaching his ears so they are perceivable.

    For his limits, I see his powers as a sort of intangible energy construct around him. Some types of radiation act as a catalyst for the construct to function (hence him being empowered by yellow sunlight) while other types act as a disruptor on the construct’s function (hence the effects of Kryptonite and red sunlight).
    His powers do not protect him from magic and are far less effective against magic because magic does not create energy that then has an effect like all natural phenomena – it alters reality to have said effect. Ditto for psionics who have nothing to do with energy and affect the mind directly.
    As for his limits, nukes can harm him at point-blank range so his limits in energy manipulation must be close to the output of a nuke in short bursts and quite a bit lower for sustained periods.
    Superstrength-wise, that translates to lifting an eight of a cubic mile of rock for short periods, or about a billion tons. Sustained lifting would be at comparatively lower levels while for much shorter periods or exceptional circumstances it might be higher.
    Invulnerability-wise, a massive laser weapon whose energy output is significantly higher than that of a nuke for a very short time could kill him. So would a much larger than average nuclear weapon – such as a 100-megaton nuke instead of the usual 1-megaton ones.

  14. Hg: Knocking people around with force is actually a big part of Lee’s strategy and tactics for dealing with what’s left of the Cabal’s army (as we’ll see in the next section). Nick didn’t quite think of it in large part because he was in fear of his life and didn’t have time for a lot of reflection. That, and he’s a better shot with the guitar…

    G.S.: With regards to having someone like Superman in the League… Both Jaclyn and Daniel are characters in the League who could really take over the story, or at least make it hard to tell one without some limitations on their powers. I’ve always seen Jaclyn as more like the Golden Age Superman (minus supersenses) than as a speedster.

    Between speed, invulnerability, and more strength than there’s been reason to show so far, she can overbalance most fights if she really cuts loose.

    Plus with Daniel, most problems can be solved if you can get into someone’s head so he can overbalance things too.

    Thus, I’ve come up with some limitations for both of them. Jaclyn’s not anywhere near Superman’s level in any of the powers she shares, and Daniel tires out after a while. That being said, the observant might note that Daniel’s powers are slowly growing.

  15. Argh, why’d I decide to catch up now, at such an exciting unfinished arc?

    I’m glad Rachel and Nick too are getting more disposed to do some major damage to their enemies. Normally I’m a pacifist, but they can’t afford to let their enemies keep coming back in a fight like this.

    1. Well, at least you don’t have long to wait till tomorrow’s update…

      Sometimes I think I ought to set up a notification list allowing people to be notified by email that an arc has been finished. Or maybe an RSS feed?

      That’s on my feature list for “Jim’s Ultimate Redesign” — which I will hopefully someday have the energy to do.

  16. Well, to move at the speed of sound without temporal alteration crap, you are effectively moving at 36 times the speed of the fastest human alive.
    If E=1/2mVV applies, then you need roughly 1296 times more energy and, by extention, more force. Thus Jacklyn’s muscles should be ~1300 times stronger than a human’s of her size and build. So assuming she could lift 100 pounds as an unpowered human, she could lift 65 tons. Nowhere near superman level but she should be capable of lifting or punching in tanks and locomotives… roughly 36 times for every time a human can punch.
    (that is without factoring in friction and other energy loss which is greater the higher the speed – she might be a bit stronger than what I calculated)

    Toughness-wise, she must be tougher by the same proportion so her muscles and organs do not get damaged by her own strength. So, she’s 1300 times tougher or so. That means a single hair from her could lift 650 pounds without breaking, her skin could easily deflect most projectiles, and her bones would have a strength of ~40.000 MPa, or 400 tons per square centimeter. That’s a bit beyond all known materials except carbon nanotubes.

  17. I don’t see how anybody else’s definition of Superman’s powers contradicts what I said — neither gravity nor light variances in the spectrum would explain a forcefield around Superman, (let alone heat vision, icy breath or x-ray vision) whereas instinctive atomic control of particles would explain all of his powers — ie. a Phoenix level telekinetic that doesn’t know he’s telekinetic.

    It would explain why he can come up with new powers and then forget about them, as well as why they grow over time and why he eventually starts managing to deal with magic and become more immune to kryptonite — all of which are in future stories and Kingdome Come.

    That being said, Jaclyn is kind of like Golden Age Superman, he had more limits — leaping over buildings instead of flying. She could be the balance breaker in a lot of fights for sure – she needs a challenge.

  18. Naah, Jacklyn is not really unbalanced. Jacklyn wielding Cassie’s sword with a strong telepathy/teleportation blocker, with a device that blocks sonic-dependent attacks like the paralysis ray, hyperspectral vision goggles and carrying an improved/more powerful version of the laser guitar might be somewhat of a problem.

  19. Re superman and the red sun.
    I can’t remember where I read it, but there were 2 points.
    1, originally superman was “the last man on earth” sent back in time.
    hence probably extensively evolved/engineered
    2, the point of the red sun was supposed to be that he then collected and stored solar energy from higher energy stars (i.e. was a solar battery), which is why he was an adult before even coming close to his full powers, and how in one story he lost all his powers and had a tough time before gaining access to some form of “recharge” facility in his secret base.

  20. Problem with this handwaving explanation is that the sun applies about 1 Kw per square metre. Superman would use up weeks’ worth of stored energy for a minute of super-combat.

  21. Superman doesn’t have nearly as many powers as he had accumulated over the years thanks to so many various writers. John Byrne joined up with DC to rewrite him from scratch in a manner that helped smooth out the ruffled feathers of physics buffs. Superman is indeed a psionic type character. He does not lift buildings or airplanes with his bare hands. This would cause structural failure in any such case. Instead, Byrne decided that he utilizes his flight ability on the object, causing it to fly under his control while in direct contact with him. HIs invulnerability is indeed a force field of immense power but only a very small fraction of an inch out from his skin. This explains why he wears tights. Notice that nowadays his cape is not indestructible. He does in fact generate heat from his eyes, utilizing the solar radiation he has stored in his body. He no longer has super cold breath (although he can hold his breath for an hour or so before having to take another one), super ventriliquism, or a super sensitive sense of touch. In fact, because of his tremendous strength he has trouble judging small amounts of weight which he revealed in a silent monologue after Lois Lane mentioned the weights in Clark’s apartment seemed more for someone her size than for one of his physique. When he came back from his near death experience with Doomsday his energy was severely depleted to the point that he could not fly and could be injured almost as easily as a normal earth human, although still considerably stronger than said human. This indicates that the energy required to fly is significantly greater than that needed to bend a steel bar. Note that at the same time he was unable to lift obnoxiously large objects (see above comments about lifting objects with flight ability). Regarding the comment about the power output of the sun vs. how much energy he expends I agree. I cop out for more pseudo-science, stating that he apparently has the ability to cause an energy feedback, amplifying the energy absorbed through some means unknown to mortal science.

    Sorry about being long winded, I’m an out of the closet comic geek 🙂

  22. “I had great shot.”

    I can only assume that the Superman discussion that took over the comments made off with the missing article, too.

  23. Villain1: “Look out! He’s got a cheap plastic toy guitar!”

    Villain2: “Huh? What are you talking about?”

    Villain1: “He’s a genius teenage techno-geek! Who knows what he could have in that thing!”

    Villain2: “Oh Sh**!”

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