Haley: Part 3

Changing into costume on the roof of a pizzeria isn’t a good idea, but it’s better than changing in the parking lot.

After everything that happened during the end of my junior year, maybe I should have been wearing my costume under my clothes all the time, but I didn’t. Summers are hot, and we were already into the middle of July.

I stayed low, pulled my costume out of my backpack, and stuffed my clothes inside, hoping that no one was working late in one of the old, brick buildings across the street.

I pulled my costume’s pants most of the way on before the Change hit.

I’ve asked Nick what I look like when I change, and he didn’t know. He said that one second I look like me, and the next I look like me with claws, and fangs—and he doesn’t always notice the fangs. I don’t know if he’s right, or if he’s not very observant. But honestly, given how much he misses normally, I’d be surprised if he were right.

Even if he were, it feels different from the inside.

I felt my hands and feet grow wider and more claw-like while muscles and bones throughout my body changed shape and grew. My shoulders broadened, and I grew a little.

Very little—five feet tall to five foot two. I’m probably the only person who noticed.

It hurt, and felt good at the same time. It’s always reminded me of the way I felt after a hard gymnastics practice, but a hundred times more intense.

Pushing my feet the rest of the way down the pantlegs was a little harder after the Change, but it was better than if I’d still been in my street clothes and shoes.

I’ve lost more pairs of shoes that way than I like to think. Not to mention shirts.

But the physical change isn’t everything. It’s the smallest part of it. My senses felt like the world had exploded around me. I could smell and hear everything for blocks, and the darkness around me turned into twilight.

I could hear the robber’s fans whirr as he ran. He smelled of excitement, a little fear mixed with triumph, and some sweat.

To a small, but now stronger part of me, the fear smelled good.

I pulled the backpack on my back—no sense in leaving my clothes and purse on the roof—and ran a few steps, jumping across all four lanes of the road, and grabbing the corner of the old brick building on the other side.

Then I pushed off, landing on one foot, balancing on the windowsill a few feet below where I’d first caught hold. I crossed that side of the building by leaping from one windowsill to the next, never touching a sill with more than one foot.

When I reached the far end of the building, I jumped to the next, hanging onto the wall, and listening.

I recognized the sound of his footsteps. He’d run out of the alley and into the parking lot in back. His heartbeat stayed slow and steady.

I pulled one of the grappling guns off my belt, and fired it down the alley, hitting near the top of the building. Then I swung out, clicking the release and retract button when I passed the building’s end.

I put the gun in my belt while falling, choosing to dive into a roll, and somersaulted until I stopped behind a old car. There couldn’t have been more than ten in the parking lot, and I hid behind the rustiest Buick Regal I’d ever seen.

I didn’t need to see him to know what Laser Guy was doing.

He’d stopped moving when I hit the ground, but the lasers’ fans became louder. He’d taken them off standby, or upped their power. The direction of his breath changed slightly. He had to be moving his head to look for me.

His heart beat a little faster, and the smell of his fear became stronger.

“Who is it out there? Are you from the Heroes League?”

I didn’t say anything.

“Because if you are, good job. You’re on top of things. The syndicate said it’d take weeks to get your attention, given what I was planning to do. So which one of you is it? Night Wolf? Night Cat? Captain Commando?”

While he talked, I noticed that the fans were getting louder yet, and that his voice’s direction stopped changing. He was aiming his voice directly toward me.

I jumped away as the fan noise spiked. Then the air crackled with heat, and the Buick’s metal body boiled.

Glancing toward Laser Guy as I flew through the air, I saw that the lenses of his sunglasses glowed. Nick would have already been guessing how they worked.

I landed behind a dumpster.

It smelled of rotting meat, vegetables and mold. My stomach turned.

So, I threw the dumpster at him.

If I had to choose one word to describe his face, I’d choose surprised.

25 thoughts on “Haley: Part 3”

  1. I am really enjoying the story thus far. However, the one critique that I would have is that I feel as if Nick is still telling the story. When Haley is speaking, she should have a slightly different cadence that what Nick uses.

  2. So, what I’m getting from this is that when Haley “Hulks out”, her shoes and shirt tear apart, but her pants stay intact…? Hulk out, indeed. Does she favour purple in her choice of legwear?

    🙂

    Hg

  3. Ooops, mistake Haley… Now they’ll know that Haley and Nightcat carry the same backpack.

  4. “…choosing to dive into a roll, and somersault until I rolled behind a old car.”

    And Gavin said she didn’t roll…

  5. Hg: I suppose most people wouldn’t have to shapeshift all that many times before picking up the habit of only wearing trousers that can accommodate the change. Just because not everybody needs to see the anatomical correctness.
    So I’d suppose the glasses are glowing because an overlay from an infrared camera is being projected unto them. Guess his sugar daddy wouldn’t pony up for embedded optics on top of the laser system.

  6. @ Boobah — I stand or roll corrected. 🙂

    Haley’s narrative voice starts sounding distinct when she talks about normal teenager things — being awkward around her boyfriend’s mom, thinking about how Nick is absent-minded, or when she uses slang. Nick is less socially aware and more technical. However, the depiction of action is fairly similar, and perhaps should have a more visceral edge given the Change’s animalistic instincts?

  7. Gavin: That’s an idea. Thanks. I’m sure I’ll be experimenting with it soon.

    Mazzon/Hg: Honestly, all I was thinking is that 1) no shoes she’d be likely to wear could hope to fit her post-Change feet and 2) she’d been lucky so far about pants.

    Notto Mention: Actually, that’s taken care of, but I couldn’t fit it in.

    Boobah: Upon rereading the sentence you quoted, I think I may have used roll too often in it. Once might be enough.

    1. Um: Oddly enough, this relates to Notto Mention’s comment earlier. Here’s the deal with Haley’s backpack: The original League had small rocketpacks hidden in their stuff that allowed them to get back to HQ quickly (or to in town emergencies as a group). They were hidden in different things including backpacks. The backpack would squish down into a predetermined shape, and act as padding for the rocketpack.

      Haley’s got a backpack, but she doesn’t keep a jetpack in it. Explaining all that didn’t fit well in the context of the story, so I skipped it. It’s probably something to add in revision though, even if it’s not in detail.

  8. Good job, Haleybot. The evil Decepticon Rosey Palms won’t know what hit him, thanks to the decomposition. In fact, it’s probably better if we don’t know what that is either.

    By the way, does the League have an insurance card to leave on the Buick for the owner’s convenience?

    “Thank you mysterious heroes. The value of the Gemerald you saved is slightly greater than the cost of the damage you caused to this museum. A net gain for our great city!” -The Mayor of New New York, Futurama

  9. It’s a great story. I came on sometime around the showdown at the Mayor’s mansion. The voice issue is a minor one. Maybe you could alter the sentence structure. Nick, being more technical, would probably think in a more logical structure. This would likely imply more black and white views and shorter sentences. Then again, his rambling thoughts might prove otherwise…. ADD anyone?

    1. Evil Twin: You’ve been reading for a while. That’s cool.

      I’ve got some ideas for making Haley’s voice clearer, some are similar to what you’ve just mentioned. Thanks for saying something. That’s one of the ways I was hoping to challenge myself by writing this in the first place.

      As for ADD… I sometimes imagine Nick might have ADD or Asperger’s or possibly something weird and related to his competence with designing devices that’s only possible in a comic book universe. Possibly some kind of analytically focused Savant Syndrome? Because Nick’s got more going for him than a deep but narrow memory. Anyway, that’s not set in stone.

      PG: Nope. Trashed cars seem like the kind of thing you prefer not to take credit for. Besides it’s “Laser Guy’s” fault, right?

  10. It occurs to me that Laser Guy is ominous in a few ways. He may be a harbinger of another syndicate that wants to take advantage of the reverses the League has dealt Syndicate L (after all, why the “L” if there aren’t any others?) And he seems to indicate some criminal group has the capability and know-how to make battle cyborgs (this doesn’t strike me as the sort of thing Man-Machine’s still-unnamed apprentice could create; and we know Syndicate L is in the market for additional gadgeteer genius types, since they attempted to ‘recruit’ Nick.)

    On the rolling: Initially, I assumed the sentence jumped out at me because it resonated with Gavin’s comment on the previous segment (and it demonstrated the exact counterpoint I’d thought of without posting), but looking at it again it is a little awkward.

  11. Oh, and of course Laser Guy is ominous because the group he represents is confident enough to come gunning for the Heroes’ League. That stands out, too.

  12. The “Savant” thing with Nick kind of works for me. He focuses on the things he understands to an amazing degree — there have been a couple times in the story where he starts discussing something technical or building a device and time kind of stops for him until he’s finished or interrupted.

    I don’t know if you could make a case for Asperger’s Syndrome — there are specific criteria on the DSM-V for diagnosis and I don’t think Nick shows enough of them. But he COULD be on the spectrum to some extent, like risk factors he could pass on to potential children. I think he understands social nuances a little too well — I haven’t noted a problem with his understanding of conventions, body language or what to do in novel situations. But he does put his fixations above ordinary social concerns, and is a little absent-minded about social cues. I think it took him awhile to realize Haley liked him, no?

    So yeah, risk factors without full-blown diagnosis — but definitely makes a case for Savant talents and future kids might have more symptoms. The current theory is that multiple family members will show traits and then all of them kind of collect in one offspring to give a full-blown diagnosis. I’m actually attending a conference in October where one of the keynote speakers is discussing mitochondrial DNA which would indicate only mothers pass it on genetically — so I need to look into that, because I’ve never heard that before.

    Probably way too much information, but hey, I actually have Aspergers, so there you go. 🙂

  13. Errm… G. S: DSM-V won’t be out until 2013, and I actually saw an article saying they’re discussing of actually removing Asperger’s as a separate diagnosis in favor of including such cases in the autism spectrum disorders. I really think you meang DSM-IV.

  14. Jim,
    I have to say, thank you. thank you for giving me hope that my own aspirations of writing a Superhero themed/based novel/lla is without hope. I know this isn’t earning you any money, but the length of time that you’ve been going with this ‘web-serial’ and the fans and readers that you’ve garnered give me hope.

    I hope at some point to have as loyal a fan base as you have. I found this story/site by accident, went back and read the archives and was instantly hooked. I look forward to each and every update with a sense of joyful abandon.

    Thank you.

  15. Gavin: I wondered if you’d comment about Asperger’s. I’d agree with your diagnosis (to the degree that one can diagnose a literary character based on writing about them on the internet…). I like the idea of a weird version of Savant Syndrome.

    Darren: Thanks. The key things (that you can control) are these:
    1. Creating a story you can happily spend time on (otherwise you won’t).
    2. Persistence. It takes time to find an audience, and time to write and edit a story.

    As for earning money… It actually has earned me some. I’m currently in the process of creating an ebook out of it.With luck, that might earn me more.

    As things currently stand, you largely lose the ability to publish a story traditionally if you put it on the internet. On the bright side, this means you can try any experimental type of publishing you can imagine.

  16. @ Mazzon — ooops thanks yes I mean the DSM-IV but for some reason whenever I talk about it out loud I call it the DSMV because it kind of sounds better? I think it’s because of the DMV — the sound similarity resonates. Weird quirk.

    I would agree, actually, with people who call Asperger’s high-functioning Autism instead of its own name — I have worked with autistics since high school (I wasn’t diagnosed with Asperger’s until I was 26 because I’m high functioning) and I think I always knew instinctively that there was something similar.

    Having watched Temple Grandin on television and the movie about her life, where a seemingly low-functioning autistic proved she could talk and become high-functioning, I think it’s a matter of intervention and environment as to whether someone is high or low functioning — so I don’t see the need for two titles. I usually just say “yeah I’m high functioning autistic” when it (rarely) comes up — people have heard of Rainman more than Asperger’s.

    @Jim — as to diagnosing fictional characters — yeah, you have to look broadly and pay attention to fine details. I realized 80% of the way through No Man an Island that Ethan was autistic (because I was) and I needed very little emphasis to make it more open — but it’s subtle throughout the book because high-functioning individuals mostly blend in and come across as “quirky” if anyone notices anything at all.

    On television it’s easier to make a cursory diagnosis — I would suggest that Bones has Asperger’s because of her flat effect and lack of intonation, and the way she analyzes human behaviour through anthropological models without actually applying what she knows to a situation — whereas Booth, her partner, understands social behaviour but doesn’t have the sophisticated language she does and has to explain it to her in normal terms. He’s a regular guy.

    Sheldon Cooper on Big Bang Theory is very Aspergian to me, and a lot of the things he does remind me of myself. I just started occasionally watching Criminal Minds and they have a young agent who seems to be a Bones/Sheldon hybrid because he talks like an encyclopedia in his own little world.

  17. I put the gun in my belt while falling, choosing to dive into a roll, and somersaulted until I stopped behind a old car.

    “an” old car.

  18. Jim, I bet Haley could wear some models of Birkenstocks during transformation, though she’d probably ditch them immediately after. It could lead to a couple interesting conversations when people start seeing her wearing them. She’d probably be a bit embarrassed about them like she is about her claws and teeth, but grow to like them.

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