Turning Eighteen: Part 7

I had to admit he made sense, but I couldn’t say I liked it.

When push came to shove, I didn’t want Sean to go to jail for killing Ray. You could argue that Ray’s standard operating procedure was driving people past what they could emotionally handle, and then killing them while they were too tortured to think straight.

It didn’t take much to see that if your strategy was based on giving people an irrational need to kill you, it could come back to bite you someday. Sean just happened to be the biter.

And anyway, if Sean kept on trying to be a hero, he needed more help than I wanted to give him. Plus, even if I wasn’t wild about him getting into the Stapledon program, it could have been worse. Mr. Cohen might have wanted us to bring him into the League.

“OK,” I said. “That’s all I wanted to talk about. I guess having him in the program would be better than just leaving him to figure things out for himself.”

“Much better.”

“On the other hand, if he goes bad after going through the program, he might actually become competent.”

Mr. Cohen gave me a brief, and slightly uncomfortable smile. “I know. We’ll be watching.”

He stood up, and so did I. He held out his hand. I shook it.

“Think about joining Stapledon, Nick. It’s less Army Reserves than it’s ROTC. You’ll be taught what you need to know about being a superhero, make connections within the community, and you’ll have the chance to study things you’ll never see at a university.”

“Like what?”

“Alien technology. The history that hasn’t made it into the textbooks because it’s still too secret. That kind of thing. And you’ll probably see some action too. Not all of it on Earth.”

I thought about that.

Isaac Lim had hinted I might get to find out more about what they were doing in space if I signed up.

“Who’s behind it? I’m assuming the government, but who?”

“Various agencies. They’ve all found useful people through it, but not just the government. Some supers and their teams have money. We provide about half the budget.”

“What’s the catch? You’re providing free tuition, but even in ROTC don’t you have to sign up after that?”

“You’ll have to be on call throughout college, and for four years after that. Count on being kept busy, but don’t worry about the effect on the rest of your life. We’ll handle it.”

I decided not to ask how. “OK,” I said. “I’ll think about it.”

I left.

Daniel’s brother and sister were still watching TV, but Daniel stood behind the couch, turning his head toward me as I walked out of his dad’s office.

I walked over toward him. “I didn’t know you were going into the Stapledon program.”

“I couldn’t do anything else. It seems like my dad’s their main recruiter.”


Daniel shook his head. “Not really, but since joining the Midwest Defenders he’s been involved. I think he’s talked to everyone in Justice Fist by now. They’re not all going into the main program. I think some of them are going into the affiliated programs for people who don’t intend to be vigilantes. The main program’s for people who have gone out and actively fought people.”

“Huh. I don’t think of myself as a vigilante. I’ve been training because it seems like everyone and his dog has been going out of their way to come here, and beat up on us.”

“And along the way you’ve been in more fights than some people get into in years.”


We looked at each other. Then Daniel said, “Let’s go upstairs and call Cassie. We should do something fun this summer.”

“Assuming we can fit it in between fighting random psychos…”

We walked up the stairs, coming out in the hallway near the kitchen.

Daniel’s grandfather stood in the kitchen. He wore a blue suit which seemed a bit formal for being at home in early July. On the other hand, given his dementia, they were probably grateful that he wore clothes at all.

Dishes covered the counter. They weren’t broken. They’d been carefully stacked. Even as we stepped closer, another stack of bowls floated out of a cupboard door, landing softly next to the large plates.

“Hello Nick,” he said. “Hello Daniel.”

He knew my name for a change.

“Grandpa,” Daniel said, “what are you doing with the dishes?”

“Practicing. If you want to improve your fine manipulation skills, you need to practice.”

A plate floated back toward the cupboard, and the door swung open. The plate floated inside, and the door shut behind it.

“Grandpa, maybe I should put them back. I need practice too, don’t I?” Daniel’s voice remained level.

In my head, he said, I just called my dad.

“I’ll try this time,” he said aloud.

The cupboard door opened again, and a stack of platies floated back where it belonged.

Ignoring the plates, Daniel’s grandfather stepped toward me, and held out his hand.

It felt warm, if wrinkled.

“The power device. It’s dangerous. Destroy it,” he told me.

As he let go of my hand, i asked, “Do you mean the Power Impregnator?”

He didn’t say anything, and opened a drawer. It was filled with boxes of sheeting–aluminum foil, plastic wrap, wax paper..

That was going to be a mess, I thought, but then the basement door opened.

Daniel’s father stepped out.  Speaking to Daniel’s grandfather, he said, “Dad, why don’t we go into the living room and talk.”

In my mind, he said, Nick, Daniel, why don’t you go outside. This will be easier without distractions.

17 thoughts on “Turning Eighteen: Part 7”

  1. I wish I could say I planned this, but in some ways the endings for the original Heroes League are kind of ironic.

    The Mentalist (telepath) has dementia.
    C (most famous as a speedster) went blind in his old age.
    Captain Commando (who regenerated) got shot in the head in such a way that you could regenerate his head in time, but there’d be “blank” brains there.
    The Rocket (no powers at all) lived to a ripe old age.

    Of course some deaths were just sad and not ironic at all.
    Ghostwoman: got lung cancer.
    Night Wolf: had a heart attack.

  2. The power impregnator is still a really REALLY bad name….

    Can Dan’s grandpa come round here and sort my dishes into the cupboards for me? There’s getting to be quite a few piling up in the kitchen.

  3. Re: Silas: I agree and for even finer tuning, he could work on taking the food off the dirty dishes for me!

  4. Hg: I should check how I phrased it. The key point with him was that if they could somehow get him to regenerate, there wouldn’t be anything left of the person. You’d have an adult body, and no memory.

    Silas: It’s a horrible name. I tried to emulate the way that some Golden Age names sound just plain wrong to modern ears.

    Silas/Notto: I could use that myself.

    Mazzon: We’ll see.

  5. Ok, crazy old man just uttered a cryptic sentence before the hero was ushered from the old man’s presence. That’s classic foreshadowing for an eventual, “You were warned, you didn’t take it seriously enough, this is now all your fault.” 😉

  6. Sure, Bart. Or maybe it’s just something inconsequential that Nick’s going to worry about for no reason, leading to a misunderstanding down the road (and probably at a crucial time). Once you step away from the clichés in your writing, anything is possible.


  7. But then cliches are cliches for a reason. (No, I can’t do the funny e thing…).

    I’d find it more brilliant if the misunderstanding in the cryptic message was the proportion of importance. If that makes sense. Like, Nick worries about some massive superhero save the world thing proportion, whereas its really just his new powerpack for his roaches mean they frizzle out when they come in contact with water and accidentally electricute people. 🙂 Or some silly little thing that doesn’t really matter on the grand scale of things.

    I’m reading that back to myself and it doesn’t really make sense, but can’t think how to word it better so I hope you guys understand what I’m trying to say 😀

  8. Or in the last war, the superheroes and U.S. government captured an incredibly powerful generator of alien design that they are trying to make use of. Daniel’s dad, The Public Defender!, did mention alien technology that he’d get to study. Maybe grandpa picked knowledge of it out of his mind and tried to warn the most real, most technical-minded person he sometimes knows, Nick.

    Or it’s just something to do with the great Broken Power Condom. The Super Knocker-Up. The Artificial Inseminator.

  9. Yeah, that’s more-or-less what Cassie said.

    Of course, nobody really knows what would’ve happened, since Cassie’s mom was horrified at the idea of a newborn wearing her husband’s shell.

    Or possibly they do, but we haven’t gotten any stories about Captain Commando losing parts of his mind thanks to crude brain surgery applied via bullet or blade.

      1. DNA is pretty much a stored copy of yourself in perfect condition, though it is more nuanced than that. Still, if Cassie’s power offloads the processing required to extrapolate a person’s body at age n into another dimension, and works inwards from the edges of a wound, with a bit of heuristics to account for environmental factors, then the “program” determining regeneration can probably manage alright. Though I’m wondering how Cassie would heal if she got a wrist tattoo, then got her arm cut off. Would the tattoo come back?

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