Settling In: Part 1

Even three nights later, I still found myself thinking about the conversation. I’d talked about it with Haley, (and for that matter Daniel, Cassie, and Vaughn) and we all agreed it wasn’t likely that Courtney would be able to recreate the power impregnator on her own.

Despite what you might see in the movies, being a chemistry major doesn’t automatically qualify you to construct a device that activates powers hidden in a person’s DNA.

I mean, honestly, it would have been a lot of work for me to construct one, and I had Grandpa’s documentation.

I knew that, and yet on Thursday night I lay in my bunk, staring at the ceiling, and wondering what she planned to do with her powers anyway.

She could already pass for a model. What else did she want?

I turned my head. On my desk, the numbers of my alarm clock glowed red, showing the time—1:34 am. I had three classes on Friday. I didn’t have anything due, but I still wanted to be awake.

I settled in, closing my eyes, and trying to think of something that would put me to sleep.

On the bunk below, Jeremy breathed steadily, probably sleeping. Over the last few days, he’d seemed okay, and I’d decided I could deal with him for a year.

I just hoped I could keep my identity as the Rocket secret.

Naturally, it was as I thought about that that my League phone began to vibrate. I’d put it in a pocket in my pajamas, hoping it would wake me up.

I clicked on it, and the screen glowed.

Marcus had sent a yellow. I checked the map. He was downtown, and moving.

Was he alone? If he’d gone on patrol, he was supposed to take someone else along.

I dropped to the floor as quietly as I could, pulled on the stealth suit—the innermost layer could pass as long underwear or exercise clothes, and pulled jeans and t-shirt over it.

Cassie, Vaughn, and I had worked out a plan for situations like this, and tonight we’d get to put it into practice. I couldn’t realistically keep the Rocket suit in my room, and I couldn’t realistically head back to Grandpa’s house to get it on short notice.

Once I got my shoes on, I stepped out of the room, closed the door quietly, and walked as quickly as I could down the hall. After I stepped out of the dormitory, I ran for the school parking garage.

I’d parked the van on the second floor, so by the time made it up the stairs, I found I wasn’t the first person there. I opened the door and stepped inside to find Cassie was already in the back of the van, grabbing things.

“There you are. Now all we’re missing is—”

Vaughn opened the passenger side door, and stepped in.

I turned on the van, and drove out. Even at this time of night there were still a few people using the parking garage, but I’d taken the precaution of tinting the windows so they couldn’t easily see inside.

I’d also added a few other details that made our lives a little easier, but the main point of the van was more to be a mobile closet than a recognizable League fighting vehicle.

“Does anyone know what’s going on?” I tapped a few buttons on the dashboard, and a screen showed Marcus’ location downtown.

“No,” Vaughn said.

From the back, Cassie said, “Marcus caught somebody breaking into First of Michigan Bank downtown, and now he’s chasing the guy.”

“I didn’t think we were doing patrols because of school starting,” I said.

“We’re not,” Cassie said. “Marcus went out for the fun of it after work.”

“Anyway, Marcus is still in high school so he doesn’t start for another week,” Vaughn said. Except for the mask, he’d changed into his costume.

“I know,” I said, “but we were using the buddy system for patrols to avoid this kind of stuff.”

I pulled the van to the side of the road. We were downtown. If Marcus and whoever he was chasing kept on moving in the same direction, they’d go past us soon.

Getting up and walking into the back, I threw off my t-shirt and jeans, and pulled on the stealth suit’s upper layers—pants, jacket, and helmet. Then I grabbed my utility belt, rocketpack, and the guitar.

Meanwhile, Vaughn and Cassie had stepped out of the van.

I followed them out, hearing the sound of gunshots, and brief roaring noises that reminded me of jet engines.

I’d parked in an alley. We were near the city’s arena next to a street of old, brick buildings that had once been factories, but were now restaurants and shops.

The roaring noises grew louder, and I looked up in time to see seven people jump the distance between the two buildings on either side of the alley. Glowing lines of fire shot out of the bottoms of their boots.

Rocket boots?

19 thoughts on “Settling In: Part 1”

  1. Uh oh…they’re in some major trouble now. Rocket boots. Nick shall be forced to call upon a far darker power even than Lee to deal with these philistines. He shall have to enlist a force that has destroyed civilizations, eats kitten souls for breakfast, and who says really bad things about people’s mothers.

    *cuts his palm with a ceremonial dagger, chanting in gratuitous Latin all the while, letting the blood drip into pattern in the floor that is etched deeper the further out in the room it gets until the entire profane symbol is filled with blood and the ketchup he had been using to fake it because he doesn’t care to bleed to death for this joke. As he finishes, the candles go out at once. A door open and in steps a group of men in suits. “You called, and we’re here,” the one in charge says. Gecko looks up at them and smiles, “Glad to be back in the old frat house, esquires?” The camera pans way, way out to show the whole thing happening in a frathouse at Harvard Law School.*

  2. You’ve gone too far Gecko! You’ve unleashed lawyers on the story…and copyright lawyers at that. The Rocket Industry Association of Associates will start suing people that use rockets (NASA’s screwed), jet engines and noisy hairdryers!

    In the name of all that’s good & holy, tell them the work’s “pro bono”. That’ll banish them back to where they came from.

  3. You see I know I’m a nerd ‘cos the first thing I thought of was “Thats not the rockets style or tech it resembles what jack maniac had, And I wonder if The Rocket is going to have trouble matching up to thier manuverability and such.”

  4. I had a similar nerdy thought, which was, “How are they stabilizing themselves as they make rocket-jumps?”

  5. Wait. Timeout. People are having trouble suspending disbelief to cover these rocket boots? Our hero wears a rocketpack, and uses it to hover. Think about the physics of that for a bit. And he’s never once set his pants on fire with it, either.

  6. @ Luke.
    To be fair I have been wondering about whether or not the rocket pack has been lighting stuff on fire. You can chalk it not burning nicks legs off due to clever design. Same goes for the hovering issue. Balancing may be hard but I figure the suit has some kind of on-board computer which precisely controls thrust and what not.

  7. It was difficult making it through four years of college and my only major interruptions were usually hangovers and occasionally waking up to someone I wasn’t aware had ever entered by bed in the first place.

    Trying to graduate while handling rocket-propelled bank robbers is going to be a tall order.

  8. @Luke n’ Fishface

    But……
    At no point has it actually been stated that the rocket’s pack in fact uses fire breathing rockets. Let’s face it, there’s no reason why it can’t use compressed gas as it’s reaction mass….Just because it’s called a rocket pack, doesn’t make it a rocket. Watch the contemporary (1930’s/1940’s) “Commando Cody” episodes for example; the rocket pack featured in “Radar men from the moon” appears to either use compressed co2 or steam for thrust….

    And as for computer control; to quote Bronski Beat, “it ain’t necessarily so”. Remember, the suits were originally designed pre-microchip. Therefore it would make more sense to have been mechanically controlled – at least on the first suits. That would mean less to go wrong, and be more in keeping with the then primitive state of the electronics availible.
    Despite this apparent handicap, It would have been fairly easy for gramps, based on his affinity for sonics, to rig up a form of sonar altimeter system on the suit. When connected to a cam-based mechanical control system, this would produce the same effect as your proposed computer….and be less easily affected by ligtning/stun weapons/electrical system failure.
    I’d also bet on it being a hell of a lot more reliable in a fight too; any damage would make it operate incorrectly rather than fail completely…

    Just my 2p’s worth.
    M.

  9. Actually, hovering is the easy part. As is keeping it from setting you on fire. There’s enough sources of creating major thrust and fire(and heat)-proofing materials even without going into Superhero Physics. The thing that’s super-tech is the duration and speed the Rocket suit can go.

  10. For the love of God, can you engineering geniuses go somewhere else and leave us below-180 IQ Legion fans alone??

    (Bill looks around and sees he’s now the ONLY fan in the comments section)

    @##t !

  11. I’m not an engineering genius. I’m just an amateur chemical weapons enthusiast. I’m telling you, they’re the red-headed stepchild of warfare. I’m also a four-star armchair general and a comic book nerd.

    Of course, the main problem with compressed gas is, just like with a fiery rocket, fuel. Most working jetpacks irl just don’t have the fuel capacity. It’s possible gramps has access to some stuff we don’t, like unobtanium, adamantium, vibranium, or just some possibly-alien method of more efficient energy gain from fuel. If that thing I saw on TV is correct, our nukes only use like 1% of the energy in those blasts, as opposed to the 100% they think they can manage by knocking matter and anti-matter together.

    Did he have the rocket in the suit by the time he found Lee? That might explain things. Otherwise, he may have gained some of that so-called Nazi superscience, since they got the whole rocket thing started in the first place. Don’t matter where they come down, Werner von Braun.

  12. @dwwolf:
    Iron Man’s “easy-on” tech is a symptom of the fact the guys at Marvel decided his tech was officially ‘sufficiently advanced’ so there’s no reason to not just make it fully magic. Whereas at least up to this point, the Rocket-tech still bears a definite semblance to machinery in that it breaks, needs maintenance and doesn’t do stuff that needs words like “subspace-“, “N-dimensional” or “tachyon”.

  13. Don’t forget unstable particles to explain why Fantastic Four supersuits can do what their wearers can. For awhile, Stark also wound up with a beneficial version of the Extremis virus which integrates him with his technology. So he basically gets technopathy without limits, to the extent that he hacks a Shi’ar satellite during World War Hulk while fighting in an arena. And he somehow also hides the armor of his costume in whatever hollows he has in his bones or something.

    So yeah, he got a bit out of control there, powerwise. I wholeheartedly supported Hulk and Thor’s times taking him down a peg. Not so big on the time Ultron somehow infected Stark via all the computer doodahs and used it to transform Stark into a naked version of the Wasp with metal covering all the naughty bits. Darn robosexual genderbending cockteasing comicbook writers. Someone trademark that last sentence for me.

    Hulk had an excuse for being at his strongest, as well, so he’s ok. Thor at least is considerably more responsible and limited than Stark by the things he has to do.

  14. i may have an above 180 iq but i do not use it for science. i am a literature lover and psychologist at heart so I just chill here for the awesome story and the way in which stories get written in the post paper era. (in point of fact I do not think we are post paper entirely it just sounded cool to say we were)

  15. Captain Mystic: I’ve read (and I don’t know if this is still true), but despite computers (or because of?) we’re actually using more paper than ever.

    Bill: It may be that I’ve spent too much time reading science fiction (the kind that spends time explaining how things work all the time), but I always enjoy it when these discussions come up.

    That said, I deliberately try to avoid going into it during the story. If I could come up with a way to make this stuff really work, I’d design it and then license it.

    Also, I don’t want to bore people with designs for fictional devices.

    As much as I like “hard” science fiction, I’ve got to admit that I get impatient when an author takes time out from the story to explain the equations used to determine how quickly a spaceship got from point A to point B.

    I’d rather just know it happened and move on to the important stuff (why they went, and what happened when they got there).

    Rocket Boots/Tech: As I wrote about the rocket-propelled boots, I have to admit I hesitated for exactly the reason Catastronaut brought up. It would be really hard to control those things.

    Thus, it’s not just boots. Boots are just the first thing Nick noticed.

    Related to that, I’ve always imagined that one of the original Rocket’s strengths was an understanding of chemistry that allowed him to synthesize new materials.

    Thus:
    * A fuel for the rocketpack that packs a lot of energy into a small space but isn’t particularly prone to explosions
    * The “artificial muscles” that release energy in response to movements by the suit’s wearer
    * The materials in the various (mostly bulletproof) costumes the League wears
    * The substance used in the “grappling guns” the League uses where there’s no grapple but actually an adhesive.
    * Very little in a modern Rocket suit is actually metal as the metal’s been replaced with ceramics.

    With regards to hovering in the Rocket suit, I’ve always assumed that it’s complicated enough that there’s a command for it built into the suit. Bearing in mind that the original suit was built in the 40’s, I assume it’s mechanical somehow. Later suits probably use a computer, but the original version’s still there because redundancy is a good thing in powered armor.

    My assumption about the rocketpack is that a hot gas comes out, but not necessarily fire. Thus, an effective way for the rocket suit (and stealth suit) to handle excessive heat is necessary for the design.

    This stuff is hinted at during the story, but I never come out and say it because I don’t want to bore people.

    Thus, I bore people in the comments instead…

  16. Yeah. Instead of explaining it and having to come up with some comic book science or a wave of the hand, you just find reasons to not go into it. So it’s there, and there IS an explanation. It’s just never in the story. Just like “shush crazy people, it’s back there. Back in the shed…across town…in the basement…behind lots of boxes…but it’s there somewhere.”

    If sci fi becomes too much of the story, it has to be explained, but you got lots of superheroes and characters and such, so we don’t expect you to get too technical. Kinda like how over on Worm, got really boring once you had guys discussing ways to use rail guns on a creature in a city or controlled nukes.

    Bah, besides, they overlooked the clear benefits of using a properly water soluble blood agent to prevent the oxygen in the blood from being used by the monster…

  17. When I mentioned easy on tech I ment like in the movies where he has various devices that help him put on the suit quickly. I also thought Nick would take something like materials science science and chemistry instead of straight chemistry.

  18. @most of the above

    His name is the rocket but he continually refers to his flying gear as a “jetpack.” That implies an air turbine to me, but the physics portion of your comments is true. To which I reply, in the immortal words of Wilson Bob Tucker, “Never let the facts get in the way of a good story.”

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