Orientation: Part 3

Haley colored. “Sorry. I wasn’t going to take it or anything. I just wanted to look at it. My mom has the same book.”

Jeremy turned out to be a slightly chunky guy in shorts and t-shirt. The t-shirt said “Gevil” (except the “e” was a sigma) in Google’s multi-colored letters. Jeremy himself had a small mustache and five o’clock shadow.

“Does she actually believe it?”

“What? No. I don’t think so. I think she bought it at a garage sale. It was really popular once, and she was curious, so…”

After a pause, she said, “I’m Haley, Nick’s girlfriend.”

“I’m Nick,” I said, and even though it was obvious, followed it up with, “I just moved in.”

“I guessed,” Jeremy said. “I don’t believe in any of that stuff either, but it’s connected to some deep, deep secrets.”

“Yeah?”

“Oh yeah. Mind blowing stuff. You ever heard of the Immortal?”

“A little,” I said.

Haley’s upper lip twitched, but she managed to smooth it into a smile, and appear politely interested.

“He’s big. Really big. Records of him go back to Sumerian times, and some people think they’ve seen records of him in cave paintings. The guy’s totally mysterious. He appears all over the world. He changes his looks and name, but some things never change—his attitude, the way he takes outrageous damage, and how he manages to make weapons appear out of nowhere.”

“His attitude?”

“Oh yeah, he’s totally devil-may-care. Nothing fazes him. Plus, he’s a total sociopath. He’ll kill anybody. Former allies, friends, whatever. He doesn’t mess with his employers—he’s a mercenary—but, after the job’s done they’re fair game too.”

I’d seen web sites devoted to Lee, and his actions as the Immortal. This was going to suck. I did not need to watch my every word—especially since I’d be heading to Lee’s studio to train with him every Wednesday.

How easy was it to change roommates?

“Um,” Haley caught my eye briefly, “what does that have to do with Teachings of the Eldest?”

“He wrote it.” Jeremy practically shouted. Then he stopped.

“Sorry, this is the biggest new development in years. He co-wrote the book with another guy, and now the guy is suing him. Well, not as the Immortal, but as ‘the Eldest’ who has a P.O. Box in Chicago ‘in care of’ Don Juan Matus. And that’s also where he gets his royalty checks.”

“Don Juan?” I thought about that. “That sounds…”

“Fake?” Haley supplied.

“Yeah. Very.”

“It is fake,” Jeremy said. “Don Juan was this old Indian shaman or something in a totally different series of spiritual books. He was fake too.”

I could totally see Lee finding that funny.

“How did you find this out?”

“There’s this Internet group that studies him, and one of our guys stumbled on it. You know what? That’s not the best part. He’s associated with the Heroes League, and he showed up here in his Gunther identity just last spring. I might see the guy. Wouldn’t that be cool?”

“I guess,” I said, “but if he’s a totally remorseless killer, are you sure you want to?”

“I wouldn’t get close,” he said. “I’m not crazy.”

* * *

Haley and I took a walk around campus before she left. It seemed like the only way to get away, and by then it was nearly supper time. Time to use my brand new ID card in the dining hall for the very first time ever. I planned to join Vaughn and Cassie, and maybe Jeremy, but I hoped not.

Figuring out what to do about him would be harder if he were around.

Giles Hardwick Hall had been built only five years ago. I didn’t know what to call the style. Pseudo old building? Though mostly red brick, the arched doors, inset windows, and concrete corners shaped like stone blocks gave the impression of age. At any rate, it looked better than my dorm.

The line extended out of the dining hall and onto the sidewalk outside. The other dining hall wouldn’t open until the rest of the student body arrived. For the weekend, it was Freshmen only.

The practical result? I got to examine the trees and grass behind the dining hall while waiting.

I stood in line behind a group of girls I didn’t know at all. They were talking and laughing together. I tried to think if there were anything I’d done that would give Jeremy clues that I was more than your average student.

Deeply into my own thoughts, I barely noticed when one of them said, “Nick?”

Then I did recognize her—Courtney—as in Courtney and Keith, the biggest fans of Guardian I’d ever met. They’d dated all the way through high school. Last I’d heard, they’d been planning to go to the same college, but not Grand Lake University.

What’s more, Keith’s uncle had been one of the first people to brew power juice in Grand Lake. Courtney could use it to change her appearance.

She looked great. Better than I’d ever seen her in fact. She’d lost a lot of weight last year, but she’d changed more than that. She’d had two large moles on her cheek, but now her skin was perfect. Something about the shape of her face seemed different too, but I couldn’t think what.

Come to think of it, she also seemed taller than she used to.

“Hey, Courtney. I didn’t recognize you. I didn’t expect to see you here at all.”

She walked around her friends to stand next to me. “Keith and I broke up this summer, and I didn’t want to go to the same school.”

“Sorry. I should have guessed.”

“Don’t worry about it. I’m happy it’s over. Believe me, it was a miserable summer. How are you and Haley?”

We caught up on the way in, and she introduced me to her friends. I stayed with them until we got inside the cafeteria. Once I got my food, I sighted Vaughn and Cassie.

Walking over to join them, I reflected that if Courtney wanted to keep all those changes, she’d need to use power juice all the time.

26 thoughts on “Orientation: Part 3”

  1. Man, using power juice everyday to alter your appearance? can’t see how that could possibly go wrong. That was a big ol’ cinder block of foreshadowing to the face right there. Although maybe she developed permanent/long-lasting powers like that guy who got his leg cut off.

  2. Or use a power impregnator and somehow wind up in the Stapledon program.

    Believe it or not, thanks to something said about a somewhat similar SCP, SCP-076-2, Lee could have a whole different secret…

    SCP-076-2, aka “Able” doesn’t change appearance and isn’t quite immortal. He resurrects inside of 076. He is also known as a sociopath who can take massive amounts of punishment, make weapons appear out of nowhere, is willing (and able) to kill anyone he runs into, and gets bored easily, has existed on Earth for a long time, and upon a fight with an exceptionally difficult foe that specializes in not being killed strange readings suggested that he and the other being were something completely alien to our dimension that merely projected into it in a certain way.

    It’s been suggested that he’s what you’d get if an action videogame character was real. Think Skyrim.

    And you have Lee, who changes names and physical appearances, travels the world, is something from another world/dimension that came to ours, has a longer lifespan (contrast videogame time with RL time), and any other similarities you wish to draw to Able that also make Lee seem that way.

    Don’t worry, I know it’s crazy, it’s just fun to think about, considering I was playing a second character on Skyrim.

  3. Jim, I think I found a mistake;
    “I think she bought it in at a garage sale.” – should either have the “in” or the “at” deleted.

    Otherwise another great read 🙂 Why can this not be daily? 🙁 and ever going to get them published? This series totally belongs on my bookshelf…

  4. Brick of foreshadowing to the face indeed. She can change her appearance, but what else can she do, and how much can she change it? If she’s still on the juice, where’s she getting her supply? Something tells me she’s not cooking it herself.

  5. Saru: Is this your first comment? All I know is I had to approve it, and I always have to approve the first one. Anyway… Good thought. I’ve occasionally wondered if people remembered the lingering effects of power juice for some people/powers.

    PG: I’m still amused at the similarities between Lee and SCP-076-2. I hadn’t even known about that SCP before you mentioned it. I’d looked at a couple pages on the site, but I’d never run across that one. Weird.

    SilasCova: Thanks for the typo report, and as for creating a physical/ebook copy. That’s in process.

    By in process I mean that I’m working with 1889.ca on that right now. I’ve turned in Book 1 for editing, and hopefully this summer there will be copies available in all formats. Thanks to Anna and MCM at 1889.ca, they will be professionally edited, designed, and layed out.

    The other books will follow as their schedule permits (3 so far).

    As for daily updates (and I know you’re not really expecting that): I wish. I don’t write that quickly unfortunately.

    Luke/Saru: It’s not a very subtle hint that this will be important later, is it?

  6. There was a time when I could catch the first comment. It seems with all these fans, that’s becoming more and more difficult.

    Jim, is it your writing, or my reading, that every time some new female encounters Nick I start wondering if they’re a possible romantic rival with Haley?

  7. Just Nick’s luck to get stuck with a superhero fan.

    I’m going to take a guess and say that the next actiony arc is going to be about power juice again. Since Courtney and Keith broke up, Keith’s uncle is probably not the one supplying her with power juice. If I remember correctly, it was fairly difficult to make power juice.

    Maybe a new villain is in town supplying the kids?

    Or power juice could just be far more easily available now, it has been a few months since it was first released after all.

  8. welcome to the legionnaires saru. also i think it is your thinking of seeing every female as nick’s new love interest. However Courtney without Keith is like peanut butter without bananas (hah you thought i would say jelly) but they were the less popular couple in L.O.n. so i picked the second most popular peanut butter sandwich i have logic occasionally.

  9. Twirls his cape out behind him as he spins, wearing a shiny, gold-embroidered jumpsuit. He lowers his shades. “That’s just crazy. How are you gonna have a fried peanut butter and banana sandwich without the bananas?”

  10. PG: I’ve looked at it now. scp-076-02 isn’t something you want to be bored.

    Bill: Dunno. Part of it is probably the age of the characters. They’re all at the age where relationships could end at any time and for (sometimes) silly reasons. Part of it is that on some level everyone knows that when someone appears in a story it’s for a reason. Plus in Courtney’s case, it’s interesting that she’s broken up with Keith.

    It remains to be seen why she’s appearing.

    Ace: It has been about six months. It’s easy for a chemist to make power juice. It’s within the abilities of someone with high school chemistry behind them if they’re willing to do some reading and take some risks. The materials aren’t common, but they aren’t restricted either.

    Captain Mystic: You know, I don’t think I’ve ever had peanut butter and banana sandwiches. I was amused to read once that Elvis Presley apparently liked deep-fried peanut butter, banana, and bacon sandwiches.

    I can see where that might theoretically be good, but not for your body.

  11. Jim and Ace: Like thermite! The materials are relatively easy to find and the whole mixing thing apparently isn’t too hard, and voila, you get something used to weld through train tracks. Perfectly legal to make and own.

    Or even that cheapo stuff this one cookbook calls “napalm” consisting of gasoline and styrofoam. I think it basicaly just amounts to a more malleable burn that keeps going for a little while.

    As for Courtney and Keith’s breakup, I can seriously see them having a fight over her juicing all the time. Those are the types to cite comic books as evidence during a trial on power and responsibility. People after my own heart.

    That, or she’s thinking that now that she looks better, she can get better friends and move up the social ladder away from her nerdy boyfriend and get one of your stereotypicial prep or jock types. Hi Sean!

  12. Say, wasn’t Syndicate L distributing Power Juice laced with habit-forming substances in Chicago or thereabouts? Finding a dealer over the summer probably wouldn’t be much of a challenge, since it’s not yet a controlled substance.

    Best case scenario, she’s been brewing it herself, and has only a psychological addiction. Then the law passes and she’s suddenly unable to procure the ingredients. That spells a collision course with our heroes either way. Although it would be a tragic kind of funny if she became a major villain…

  13. Courtney and ……..Sean (gasp)…..

    Dear God, my brain is straining to grasp a disaster of that magnitude.

  14. It might not be a disaster. I mean, I know I personally would be doing all kinds of sinning if I had a shapeshifting girlfriend.

    Think of all those girls you ever wanted, ESPECIALLY the ones who turned you down or acted too good for you, plus the playboy models, porn actresses, famous hotties from years and years ago who are now too ripe, hot celebrities (Mmmmm, David Bowie), and fantasy things like various elves, catpeople, centaurs, Na’vi, sirens, nagas, demons, angels, and Goblin Kings named Jareth(Mmmmm, David Bowie).

    So anyway, back to the track I was on. What if Sean starts actively trying to be less of a dick. Like maybe Courtney is exactly the girl he used to would have been terrible towards, and instead of this being something shallow, he decides to try harder and do better and it sticks? Speaking of sticks, dryads.

  15. yes this was my first comment. Im afraid i’m a long time reader with one of those crippling senses of poor writing skills. Still, this series has brought a lot of enjoyment to me so I couldn’t hold back anymore. So thank you all for the warm welcome, I really appreciate it.

    As to Courtney X Sean… *shudder* In a world in which there are plenty of real threats and problems… This is the one scares the heck out of me

  16. Welcome to the party, Saru. I bellow air-greetings in your general direction.

    Geez, somehow the idea of Courtney being some morality pet to Sean is the thing that scares everyone? I mean, isn’t he going to the same college too? Might be mistaken about that. She’s one of the few people that would know him as a big deal. Course, it could twist around since she’s already got some friends of her own and has taken a level in hotness, so she might even try to wrap him around her finger at first.

    Besides the sexual stuff with shapeshifting powers, the ability can be used all kinds of ways. If you know someone important is going away on some retreat where they’ll go for the full disconnect from reality, with no phone, computer, PDA, or anything, have your resident shapeshifter turn into them to either manipulate whatever they’re big in, like a company’s stock or government influence, withdraw lots of money in their name, or even frame them for a crime. Alternatively, you could send in a video claiming you’ve kidnapped the person and asking for a ransom, but it has to work within a relatively short timetable.

    How about some insider trading? Bam, turn into a member of congress, walk in, get some info about legislation, and go to town on the stock market.

    Then there’s all the lovely blackmailing you can do. All it takes is a shapeshifter, the image of someone very important, a midget, two goats, one cup, and a pineapple. That’s a scenario the CIA has attempted before, in fact, by utilizing lookalikes to try and blackmail people. In one case, they created a sex tape with a lookalike for this one leader over in Asia and a woman who was supposed to be a Soviet spy. It didn’t work. They’ve tried the same tactic with other people as well, like Saddam Hussein.

    Or you could use the shapeshifter to stage a coup, either by taking the place of a leader, or taking the shape of a well-known military leader and doing some conquering. It could also be useful for a false flag operation where you pretend to be someone in this other country attacking a different country for some reason. Might just do it to steal and sell off military equipment like tanks, planes, and missiles.

    Just think about the kind of money a shapeshifter could get right now if they put their services on the table for putting in a key vote in Congress or even the Supreme Court.

  17. @PG

    Whilst the Petrol & polystyrene mix sounds like fun, we cunning brits came up with something far messier……..and far more amusing:

    A)Take one (1) glass milk bottle.
    B)fill with Petrol (That’s “gas” to you yanks…)
    C)add white phosphorus to the mix, making sure it is submerged under the petrol to exclude oxygen.
    D)Add a stick of primitive rubber (hard- but unprocessed- natural latex)
    E)Allow to sit for a few days so the rubber can dissolve.
    F) use as you would a molotov, but with more….explosive….results.

    Please note, this was created for the “home guard” as an improvised anti tank/anti vehicle weapon back in the ’40s. Needless to say, don’t try this one at home…..its messy.

  18. I’m told you get much better results making napalm using Tide brand laundry detergent than Styrofoam.

    You know, the effects of shape changing don’t necessarily have to be temporary. Depending on how the manipulation of body mass is done you could theoretically hold a desired shape until the power juice wore off and you’d be “locked” into that configuration until you took more juice.

  19. @Bill

    Thats nothing.

    Next week i start my part-by-part series on how to make high explosives, by using 1 kilo of beeswax, half a jar of marmite, a tin of heinz baked beans and a comedy rubber chicken…..

  20. All I can say is that I’m glad we’re far enough from 9/11 that the Department of Homeland Security doesn’t have much of a chance of freaking out about a discussion like this…

  21. @Jim

    Happily I live in the UK. Here, unlike the “land of the paranoid” (The country formerly claiming to be the land of the free), we weren’t daft enough to create a department of homeland insecurity.
    Probably down to the fact that we spent the latter half of the 20th Century experiencing a prolonged bombing campaign by the IRA, thus didn’t feel untouchable (Unlike the USA….). As such we aren’t quite so prone to such huge political kneejerk reactions when somebody proves otherwise…..

    M

  22. The mighty English Stiff UPper Lip, hm?

    All kidding aside, I’m an American living in NYC and even I wish we could loosen up a bit. Not a lot, just a bit.

Leave a Reply