Settling In: Part 3

I tried to dive to the right, but I’d already lost control of my legs.

I crumpled, and fell to the roof of the building. I fell sideways, and then rolled halfway on to my back—”halfway” because I was mostly on my arm and right side of my back, and partly on my rocketpack. It wouldn’t let me roll all the way there.

The other guy—the only guy with an exoskeleton still standing—had pulled out a paralysis gun too.

I could tell because the helmet’s sonar gave me better peripheral vision. That let me see a flying person fall (Vaughn), and simultaneously see Cassie jump, drop to the roof, and let go of her staff.

I couldn’t see if it fell to the ground.

Not that it mattered. We couldn’t do anything anyway.

I didn’t see them get Marcus, but since they’d stopped fighting he had to be down too.

The man without the exoskeleton (the leader?) looked over the group. He turned to the other guy, “Check how badly our people are hurt. I’m calling it in. We’ve got the girl.”

Something about his voice sounded familiar.

The other guy said, “Think that means we’ll get a bonus? They were going to give one to Ridgeback.”

“Doubt it, but we deserve one.”

“No shit. After D.C.? We’re lucky we’re not dead.”

“Nah. They don’t kill people.”

“Yeah? I heard guys died.”

“Me too, but I think that was the frog-men.”

“Bastards.”

“Yeah. Check those guys, okay?”

“Got it.”

The leader pulled a phone from his belt, and held it in front of his mouth. “Tell Sixer, we’ve got her plus some teammates.”

I couldn’t hear the response.

“Who? The guitar guy—we’re pretty sure he’s the Rocket—plus Storm King, and the shapeshifter.”

The leader went quiet for a while, listening to the person on the other end, or maybe waiting for a response.

Meanwhile I heard the heavy steps, and occasional hum of the man with an exoskeleton moving around, helping the guy who’d fallen over up, shaking the other guys back to consciousness.

A breeze blew across the roof. It sounded like it might be gaining strength.

That would be great. What’s worse than lying on roof paralyzed and unable to defend yourself? All of the above, but with darkness and rain.

If I were lucky, it wouldn’t just be rain, but I couldn’t count on that.

I tried to think of a way out of it, but no obvious plan came to mind. Unlike Daniel, all my plans required the ability to move.

My mind jumped around. I don’t like to think I was panicking, but if I was, I had an excuse. Doing my best to keep my mind on something possible, I tried to move my toe.

Strangely, I could. I could move all my toes—not my legs, hands or arms, but toes? Yes.

Not that it mattered. What was I going to do with my toes when I couldn’t move the rest of my legs?

Then I thought, why didn’t my anti-paralysis device work?

I thought about my toes, and I knew why.

My device worked against the kind of paralysis created by one of Man-Machine’s inventions, a paralysis gun that used sound to trigger paralysis throughout the body. It worked because we needed to be paralyzed to sleep.

The gun they had used some form of radiation to specifically block individual limbs from moving. I wasn’t sure how you’d manage to avoid paralyzing the heart, but since I wasn’t dead, it was obviously possible.

“Dead? Both of them?” The leader sounded matter of fact about it.

He pulled a gun out of its holster—an automatic pistol, not the paralysis gun.

“What’s your ETA?”

He hung the phone back on his belt. “Men,” he said, “they’ll be picking us up by helicopter in ten minutes. There will be a medic on the flight. Before then, we’ll need to get a couple things done. They want the Rocket and Captain Commando, but Storm King and the Shift are useless. They don’t want us to leave them alive.”

I felt sick.

I tried to wiggle my fingers. Even if couldn’t move my arms, I could do a lot if my fingers were free.

They wouldn’t move, and the leader’s voice still seemed strangely familiar to me.

The leader stepped forward as the wind kicked up a notch. “I’ll take Storm King and—”

Then lightning hit him, engulfing his entire body. He fell over.

I’d have closed my eyes if I could. Bright, white light filled my vision, followed by a thunderclap, both filtered to a bearable level by my helmet.

Vaughn didn’t need to move to act.

Around me, electricity hit the men in exoskeletons—the ones who’d gotten up anyway.

I’d have felt a lot better then, if it weren’t for the leader.

Even with his burned and smoking clothes, he’d begun to stand up.

27 thoughts on “Settling In: Part 3”

  1. Looks like Lee needs to give them a refresher course on always planning ahead and expecting the worse. Apparently, all those successes have bred a wee bit of overconfidence.

    I get the feeling by the time Nick finishes coming up with new defenses for the suit he’ll be able to change his name to Dreadnaught. I’d suggest Juggernaut but a Marvelously large team of lawyers would probably descend on you like a ton of law books. Oh, and I totally loved Marcus imitating a certain rocky skinned comic book character! I must now go create an NPC for our Champions PnP game that only mimics the powers/appearance of comic book heroes.

    One question about Marcus. Does he alter his mass and/or volume or just move the mass around? Also, I was wondering if, since he turns completely gray when shifted, do his cells all become homogenized and then assume whatever function is needed? That’s actually two, maybe three questions, but inquiring minds want to know.

  2. Okay that’s the second instant-win non-lethal paralysis gun type seen on villains so far. Still waiting for the good guys to employ one.

    Why does every filler villain have better stuff than the heroes, has nobody ever heard of reverse engineering and reproduction?

  3. Mazzon: Actually, way back in the “Three” arc, Alex, Jenny, and Brooke used “Stun guns” with much the same concept (which they “borrowed” from the SoCal Defenders). As for reverse engineering paralysis guns… Nick’s already started on the sound based ones. it hasn’t been shown. It’s likely to show up in the near future.

    DWwolf: You’re correct. Dreadnought’s taken, and she’s not someone whose name you want to take.

    Andrul: He could go with War, but that might be a bit ominous.

    With regards to Marcus, he can’t change his mass, but he can change his density. His skin, bones and muscles are the first things that turn to gray stuff, but his organs can be altered in size and shape. For the most part though, his brain and internal organs just get shifted around.

  4. Heh, props to the leader guy. He sounds hard to take down, but he still insists on outfitting his team members as well as he can. Unlike a lot of other leaders, who are willing to build projects worth millions of dollars but can’t spare money for their henchmen.

    A couple of typo’s: “pulled out out” has gone too far out, “person fall—Vaughn, ” I think should have em dashes (or commas) on both sides of Vaughn. You did this twice: “The guitar guy—we’re pretty sure he’s the Rocket,”. “Burned, and smoking” doesn’t need the comma.

    I feel a little bad at nitpicking like this for such a good story–is it really helpful?

  5. Hmmm… can he put his brain in … say… his baby toe? So if they hit him over the head he feels like someone stepped on his toe. And if they’re paralyzing certain muscles could the other muscles still shapeshift to compensate? And where do you shoot someone, when you don’t know where any of their organs are at any given time? I know, I know, all rhetorical questions. But your last statement just created a lot of interesting thoughts.

  6. Radiation blast? You would think that the original Rocket might have encountered atomic enemies/weapons and adjusted accordingly. Seems like that might have been something you would have found in WWII era heroing. Anyway, love the paralyzed lightning storm, as a meteorology buff I appreciate his powers. Also, this has probably come up before but have you ever considered working with a cartoonist to create even a short comic book or something?

  7. Maybe if Whatsisface (dang, forgot the main character’s name) was wearing the full Rocket suit, but the Stealth suit has drastically limited capabilities.

  8. Um: Thanks. Pointing out typos is worth it. I’ll have to remove them later anyway.

    Notto Mention: Yeah. It opens up a lot of questions. I assume that the nervous system is still basically human. That said paralysis guns might work somewhat oddly on him depending on his shape.

    Fishface: It won’t be long before that question is answered.

    Saru/Anvildude: The stealth suit won’t handle radiation. The Rocket suit has a good chance of dealing with it better.

    Saru: I’ve often thought of doing a short comic book version, or maybe even a short webcomic.

  9. I’m going to take a shot in the dark and say the leader is burning hands guy.

    So the Nine planned the robbery to attract attention so they could kidnap Cassie and got Nick as a bonus? Huh, I feel like this isn’t the first time a villain has pulled this trick with our heroes.

    Although, the team really should have expected the Nine would come after Cassie sooner or later.

  10. First off, I don’t know how you crammed that much tension into a few paragraphs Jim. Things were quite what with Stapledon and college, I forgot how well you do these.

    Second, I’m officially a Vaughn fan.

    Third, I’m gonna flip out if Leader is a resurrected Ray.

  11. Well, if you still want typos… I suggest adding the word ‘me’ to the last sentence of the second paragraph as in “It wouldn’t let me roll all the way there.”

  12. Oh man it could totally be Ray. All you’d haveto do is touch his power copying corpse to someone capable of coming back from the dead. It could also be one of Rays partners. I don’t think they ALL died.

  13. Notto Mention: The shapeshifting Skrulls of Marvel often shifted their organs around when fighting. I believe they had a few standard areas in the torso where they would put them, probably because the torso couldn’t be cut off like the limbs and because all the extra meat and flesh could help protect things.

    Namor got taunted by one after he twisted its neck around 180 degrees, but he got the last laugh because he was angling it to fall and get impaled through the chest by a spike.

    It’s a shame too, because your head is a really protected area. All that bone. Bad idea to punch a guy in the head without padding for your hands, which is also why brain injuries in boxing only became popular when boxing gloves came about. And if you punch a guy and catch their teeth on your fist? Get that looked at by a doctor and get some antibiotics ASAP.

    Weaknesses to the head include: the ability to cut it off via the neck and the ability to break the neck, thus causing brain death. Hence, the torso got picked by the Skrulls.

    On a different note, I almost felt like criticizing the idea that radiation used a certain way would paralyze someone, but then I remembered that I’m comparing it to the idea that sonics could paralyze someone too. The whole “we needed to be paralyzed to sleep” thing doesn’t quite hold up. I mean, people roll and kick and move in their sleep. In fact, my first roommate at college was a sleepwalker. And peed in the sink. The only thing that paralyzed him while he slept was when he went out and got drunk. Even then, that still left him peeing in his bed.

    Also, Fishface, not sure Ray can come back like that. While there’s a vague potential because you’ve got some electrical activity still going on for some time after death, the rest of his body is dead without signals going. They’d pretty much have to press the person up to his brain and hope that his body regenerates to living instead of regenerating to its current status quo. Then, since he’s been dead so long, lack of oxygen and all that, his brain would be damaged. At best, he’d have memory loss. At worst, he’d be like whatever happened with Captain Commando I.

    Which ignores the fact that the feds might have confiscated Ray’s body and took precautions against just this sort of thing, or even keep his brain in a jar somewhere, maybe next to the fish tank containing Hitler’s brain implanted into a great white shark’s body.

  14. Ace: I hope this is the first time it’s been tried. I try not to repeat plots. That said, if you’re trying to get a hero’s attention without them realizing it, you’ve got to do something like that–at least if they’ve got a secret identity.

    Bill: Vaughn can do fun things. I’ve always liked weather powers. As for the tension, I was a little worried that I was telegraphing what was coming up when I mentioned the rising wind a couple times, but I felt like I had to.

    Notto Mention: Thanks. That’s an annoying mess up when you consider how early it is in the post.

    Fishface/PG/Bill/Ace: There’s a sense in which Ray is too cool a character to permanently kill off, but at the same time, I prefer to make death stick. We’ll see.

    PG: Just for what it’s worth, here’s my justifications for the various sorts of paralysis.

    “Radiation” based: Nerves send signals electrochemically, so it’s not impossible that someone might find a way to interact with them remotely. Could you, (in real life) interact with them in a way as sophisticated as disabling limbs? I have my doubts.

    That said, scientists are working on affecting neurons remotely. They’ve actually selectively activated neurons in worms (with a laser).
    http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=single-worm-neurons

    Sonic based: Scientists have actually tried to do this too (and failed, last I heard). The body does have a way of preventing people from moving while they sleep. It fails in a couple different ways. There’s the well known failure for those people who sleepwalk. There’s actually a comedian I once heard talk about how he jumped out a second story window while sleepwalking (sleep running?).

    The other way it fails is that sometimes people wake up while still paralyzed. There are legends all over the world about this as people tend to feel like there’s something else in the room with them.

    While I don’t try to completely justify the science, I generally do a little research to make sure it isn’t totally out there.

  15. I know about sleep paralysis. I don’t feel like repeating what we had over on Worm about it. My mechanism must be broken, though, given how much I shift around while sleeping. Making it worse, I’ve been told I kick or run. The upside is, I could literally kick your ass in my sleep.

  16. No problem. I just thought I’d let people know where I was coming from on that in case anyone cared.

    Oh, and I strongly encourage anyone to follow the link about sleepwalking through a second story window. I think it’s hilarious.

  17. I’ve always found sleep paralysis to be a really interesting phenomenon. I’ve experienced it a few times, once deliberately, and didn’t think it was too bad, although a friend of mine gets it more regularly and hates it. If you ever want to feel it for yourself, get some melatonin tablets from a pharmacy, take a heavy dose, and lay down. Contrary to what you may have heard, it’s actually really easy to break sleep paralysis. All you have to do is hold your breath and your body will automatically “wake up”. The same way you get paralyzed because your body thinks you’re asleep, you regain control because it thinks you need to wake up and deal something keeping you from breathing.

  18. Guys seriously? We’re quibbling over the veracity of paralysis via radiation?

    We’ve had zombie lynch mobs, flaming swords of truth, and disembodied evil hippies.

    Paralysis by radiation is some of the easier stuff to swallow in this story.

  19. You may have noticed, the reason I didn’t care so much about paralysis via radiation was precisely because we’re all ok with all the other stuff and paralysis via sound.

    Hell, radiation does everything else anyway. Created Godzilla out of a helpless dinosaur. Makes bugs grow either 50 ft tall or just big enough to attack people who just get out of the fallout vaults. Creates zombies of various types, and superheroes, but not necessarily zombie superheroes. It’s also useful for cooking food and ending World War 2.

    Depending on if North Korea actually tests a nuke so soon after their rocket flub, it also might be responsible for ending a dictatorship in the Korean peninsula. That, or it’ll inundate us with millions of Korean zombie superheroes riding 50 ft bugs that’ll have to be fought off with Godzilla.

  20. Was it Marvel comics that explained Godzilla as a sleeping dinosaur that was woken up by nuclear explosion and the radiation was what gave him his breath weapon?

  21. Hrm. Familiar voice, and he took a lightning bolt, then got up while he was still smoking.

    Nick’s over 18. Has Lee taken a contract to collect Cassie, and added Nick to the pot?

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