TBD: Part 4

“Now,” he said, “the first two years will be mostly classes, but in the third year your classes will include internships with nearby superheroes or superhero teams. The summers starting in your second year will all be intense physical training, and—”

The sound of someone clearing her throat sounded, audible everywhere in the conference room, but not unbearably loud. Just as obviously, it hadn’t come from the speakers near the front of the room.

Turning my head back, I saw a woman standing in the middle of the room. She held her hand up. “Excuse me?”

“I’d planned to take questions later, but go ahead.”

“Oh…” She paused, looked down for a second. “I’m sorry, but I’m not comfortable with this.”

Bullet frowned at her. “With what? And please identify yourself.”

She wasn’t holding her hand up any longer, but she was still standing. I got a better look at her, and realized I knew her. Even half a room away, I could tell that she was over six feet tall with light brown skin, and waist length, black hair. A long sleeved blouse hid her muscles.

The last time I’d seen her, she’d been part of a team of the grandchildren of supervillains who’d faced the original League. Her grandfather (or father?) had been Dixie Superman, a white supremacist from an alternate universe where post-Civil War Reconstruction had turned into a more than hundred year long occupation.

A few seats down the row, Jaclyn glanced at me. She remembered her too.

“I’m Izzy… uh… Isabel Ivarra. I don’t have a costumed identity yet.”

“Go on.” Bullet didn’t sound patient.

“I’m not comfortable with the way this sounds. The way you’re talking it’s as if we’re going to be hunting people down whether they’ve done anything wrong or not. What happens to them after we find them? Do we kill them, send them home, or keep them in a big concentration camp?

“If all we’re going to be are super-powered enforcers, I’m not staying. You can keep your scholarship. I’m going home.”

I didn’t catch the words, but people began to talk when she said that. Bullet held up his hand to stop the noise.

“Wait. It’s more complicated than that. Where did you get that idea?”

You. Your tone. You’re basically saying ‘Kill them all. The only good alien is a dead alien.’”

She’d sounded nervous when she started, but she’d worked up a good head of steam as she talked. I knew I wouldn’t have said it quite that way.

Bullet shook his head. “That’s not how I meant it.” He looked down at his notes. “I was going to talk about this later, but since you’ve asked, we need to get this on the table now.

“We can’t kill them all. We aren’t even going to try. So far as we can tell, the first appearance of the genetic structures that give us powers comes after the Abominators appeared on Earth. Even though they tried to keep our genetic pool uncontaminated by the finished versions of the humans they modified, it didn’t work. Their work has been coming back here for years, and leaving descendants. Plus when the Abominators tried to hide from the Xiniti here, they released even more genes into our gene pool.

“If you have powers, and they’re not magical, you’re probably a product of the Abominators’ work. They never intended for you to exist. They never imagined their work combining in this way, but here we all are.

“Now, if you’re wondering why we’re so focused on the aliens around us in this program, it’s because their influence is so pervasive. The Cabal—the group that a lot of heroes fought last year—shows evidence of coordinating with aliens. The Nine have been collecting Abominator artifacts for years, and we think their organization may have been infiltrated. I’m not going to go into detail about why we think that, but we’ve got good reason.”

Bullet stopped, and nodded at all of us. “I hope I’ve answered your concerns, Isabel, and I hope that all of you understand why we haven’t let this out to the press, and why we had telepaths put security blocks into your heads before you even filled out the paperwork to attend.”

Telepaths. That had been a pain. The man assigned to put in my block freaked out, and by the end, we’d had to bring in Daniel and his dad to get anything done. As I understood it, they’d had to do that for all the League and former Justice Fist members—something else for Sean to hold against me if he wanted to, I supposed.

The rest of the time, Bullet talked about all the stuff you’d have expected—program requirements, details about how many classes you’d have to take to finish—that kind of thing.

I barely listened. I wondered if anyone was. From what we’d just heard, the Abominators were responsible for everything related to powers. You could see why they didn’t want it to get out. Of course, with the security block, it wasn’t as if we’d be able to tell anybody.

When the talk ended, I got up in a daze, still thinking about all of it. Following everyone out, we walked into the hall. A few groups of people stood talking, but most of us started walking back to the lobby. We still had to get our room keys.

I found myself next to Daniel, Cassie, and Vaughn.

“Talk about crazy,” Vaughn said. And then he opened his mouth, but said nothing.

“Whoa,” he said, “that’s quite a block.”

I agreed, but I didn’t say anything. I’d noticed Isabel walking a few feet ahead of us.

21 thoughts on “TBD: Part 4”

  1. Whew, now I finally don’t have to suffer through another wall of text written by myself.

    *sets up a folding chair and starts sipping a White Russian*

    I think it’s nice that the granddaughter or daughter of Dixie Superman was the first to stand up against something that sounded so prejudiced and genocidal as hunting down all aliens.

    Oh, and considering how the alien genes got into the population, and the generally increased portrayals of white supers, I guess it’s fair to quote a great movie on race relations, Blazing Saddles: “Where da white women at?”

  2. Think this needs correcting: ” I knew I wouldn’t said it quite that way.”

    @PG, thanks for the “Blazing Saddles” quote. I have an image of the Abominators sitting round a camp fire now…”Anyone want more beans?” Maybe that’s how they started destroying worlds…

  3. My mouth was hanging open for most of this episode.

    What. The. Hell. So that’s why powers started popping up more regularly amongst humans during WW2, and not that much before. I’d always found it suspicious that the Heroes League started up in WW2, and that they were the first.

  4. THANK you Izzy! And notice Bullet didn’t actually answer the question- he just sort of skirted around it? Yeah, there’s gonna be some trouble from that.

  5. Can anyone remind me what Daniel and his dad had originally done to Nick, etc’s brains that caused the Government Telepath to freak? I recall something about blocks, but the GT must be used to those.

    And yes, this has definitely not been a boring lecture.

    But so many more questions just begging for answers:
    What about the magical powers?
    How secure was the security block? Does it block them from thinking about it – clearly no. Does it block Daniel from reading their thoughts about it? Would the security block recognize a discussion about the genetic mutation of cattle?
    Why do the powers that be seem more worried about Cassie than the rest?

  6. So a telepathic block that prevents you from talking about something.

    Can one write it down? Drop a note off somewhere, not for anyone intentional mind you but just drop it?

  7. Notto Mention: So far Nick’s personal block has been known to shut off huge sections of memory from conscious access (unconscious works), and Daniel included spots that recreate his impression of what it’s like to be a telepath standing near Lee. So far they’ve caused unconsciousness in one telepath that attempted to read Nick’s mind, and of course, there was the incident where he punched Grand Lake’s mayor.

    Daniel/Notto Mention: Other details about the security block will come up as the story goes.

    IC: Thanks. I’ve been waiting for a while to open things up like this. The short stories in between the last big arc and the current one served as a nice way to bridge the gap.

    Belial666: Yeah. I was amused at that suggestion. The unintended consequences of a virus would outstrip the intended by a little bit there.

    Hg/Silas/Lingy: Clearly Legion does not include enough fart jokes.

    Lingy: Thanks for noticing the typo.

    PG: I got a kick out of Izzy being the one who spoke up too. That said, it’s going to be obvious in the long term that it’s very much in character for her.

    DWwolf: He did talk. More details may show up with regards to that.

    Eli: Yeah. I’ve been sitting on a lot of this stuff for a long time. It’s funny, there are some things that I foreshadow and deliberately draw people’s attention to the fact that I’m foreshadowing it. This isn’t one that I deliberately drew people’s attention to, but there are small hints here and there.

  8. Jim, I have to be honest, I wasn’t quite a fan of the frog-fight chapters. But this….

    Is brilliant. And TBD totally fits the theme of the unknown and unchartered that has so far been the Stapledon program.

    Also, after the last installment, I was seriously thinking the Abominators ARE the reason for superpowers on Earth.

    Of course, this really makes me worry about the alternate-universe scenario which saw the entire (?) world destroyed.

  9. Bill: I’m glad you’ve been enjoying this part.

    I’ve been wondering if people would figure out where powers came from based on the last episode, but I’ve been wondering for a while.

    I’ve been living with the knowledge for so long it’s not obvious how obvious things are.

  10. I think one of the bigest hints to where the DNA based powers came from is in King of Storms when one of the spirits in the cloak said “You expect me to talk to those unnatural things?”

  11. I think one time the comments hit briefly on the idea that Lee had been “injecting” some powers into the genepool during his stay on earth, but that wasn’t taken the most seriously at the time.

    I also wonder if the same is true of all alternate Earths that the series has touched on so far. Maybe Dixie Superman’s Earth got powers another way. Izzy may not have alien in her. On the other hand, whitebread Dixie Superman wasn’t even all white anyway, possibly even within the bounds of the 1/32nd rule.

  12. Luke: Technically, given that the Abominators come from a completely different evolutionary tree, they don’t react to the same visual cues as humans, so probably not. Actually, on another note (one that’s not unnecessarily technical and humor killing), if I ever commission some artwork for the story, I’m hoping to use a wider variety of body types than your average comic.

    Gavin: Thanks. I think you may have been the first person to comment that the origin of superpowers had never been explained. As you did, was thinking, “Um… Nope,” and quietly hoping people wouldn’t pay too much attention to the question for a bit.

    Mad Ninja: For me, it felt like I was giving huge hints in what Nick said about aliens back in the “Space Date” storyline. That and the moment when Lee suggested Red Lightning might want to look into developing the power impregnator in “1943.” The question one could ask after reading that was, “Hey, why would the Abominators have a power impregnator given that it makes humans’ powers permanent?”

    PG/Bill: The whole time Lee’s been on Earth, he’s had a form that is in all ways human. Any of his children would be fully human too. Of course it’s possible they might end up with something a little odd their makeup as a result. That remains to be seen.

  13. Jim: Considering the ages and (non-super) lifestyles of our heroes, I know I never pegged any of them into those ‘classic’ comic book molds.

    If anything, the depth and character developement, and respect for ‘reality’ (even when you disregard the rules, Nick is usually wondering ‘How does that work?’) pushes it out of the ‘animation’ and into the ‘live action’ visualization category. But that’s just me.

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