Being Watched: Part 3

“Yeah?” Vaughn looked mildly annoyed. “Cassie’s right. That is messed up. Remember that lecture of Mr. Beacham’s? The one where he compared supers to some kind of medieval warrior class?”

Everybody in our high school knew about that lecture. I’d felt that it had been over-hyped at the time.

It seemed more insightful now.

It made sense, actually. When people with powers came into the picture, democracy could only last as long as they believed in it, and even if they did, it would be tempting for any government to bend things to keep them happy.

I said, “I remember it. That was the class that convinced Sean that Justice Fist ought to be open with identities.”

Cassie gave a short laugh. “That worked great for them.”

I supposed that he couldn’t be insightful for the entire lecture.

* * *

On Friday night, around 7 pm, we landed on an airstrip in the middle of a grassy field. In the twilight, I couldn’t see any farms or houses nearby. Given that it was dark, I couldn’t reasonably expect to, but even when we’d been in the air, I’d barely seen any lights around where we’d landed.

The airstrip’s lights had flickered off as the plane rolled into the hangar, one of three identical buildings made of gray, corrugated metal.

We’d flown in a nearly windowless MD-11 (the successor to the DC-10) that had been painted to look like a Fedex plane.

Inside the stripped down interior of the cargo plane, it was harder to take seriously the idea that we were some kind  of privileged group.

Even though the plane had seats, there was no carpet, just yellow lines in the aisles. Pipes, wires, fire extinguishers, and insulation hung from the top and sides.

Rachel had boarded earlier and noticed me eying all the exposed components as I walked in. She kicked my foot as I passed, and said, “Don’t touch anything.”

Given the surroundings, I shouldn’t need to say it, but we didn’t have any kind of in-flight entertainment.

We disembarked inside the hangar, taking elevators down with our luggage.

The doors opened into a hallway of gray concrete, lit by florescent lights. Blue arrows on the floor gave the hall its only hint of color.

Once we were out of the hallway, any illusions I might have had were blown away.

The metal doors opened into a big room. On the one hand, it was obviously an underground, concrete bunker. On the other hand, it was probably the nicest bunker in the world. The open area between the rows of rooms had couches, big screen TV’s, and chairs. Carpet covered the floor except for the sections with dark stained hardwood.

Clusters of green plants made the room feel less industrial, and the smell of food reminded me that I hadn’t eaten since lunch.

I placed my luggage in Daniel’s and my room, and followed everyone else to the dining area.

* * *

After dinner, I went back to the room. It was twice, possibly three times as large as my dorm room.

I considered turning on the television, but didn’t really feel like watching TV. I had a couple books in my backpack, and almost decided to read one when Daniel came in with Isabel and Jaclyn.

It still seemed weird to see Izzy here with us—and not just weird for me.

She glanced back as she shut the door behind her, and when she turned back to us, she smiled nervously.

To Daniel, she said, “What did you want to talk about?”

“Nothing in particular,” he said. “I thought we’d just hang out.”

Untouched by anybody, the television turned on.

As the channels flipped over to a movie channel, I felt his presence in my mind, and not just his—Jaclyn’s and Izzy’s too.

Sorry everybody, I feel like I have to keep this quiet in case someone’s hearing is good enough to hear us talk. Let’s all sit down and pretend we’re watching the movie.

Izzy sat in one of the chairs near the TV. It looked a little small when she sat in it.

Jaclyn sat on the couch.

I thought at Daniel, Private message… Not that I don’t trust her, but why are you bringing Izzy into this?

She’s got an outside perspective. We’ve all grown up with this in one way or another.

Then I felt everybody’s minds again.

Now, for real, Jaclyn thought at us. What’s going on?

I’d told Daniel about Courtney during supper. We’d agreed that if I were going to run her through the power impregnator that we all ought to talk about it because we were all going to get in trouble if it went wrong.

I explained about Courtney, the power impregnator, and what Isaac said about the “deal” the government had made.

So, I told them, I’m thinking through whether I should let Courtney use our power impregnator, and maybe other people too.

15 thoughts on “Being Watched: Part 3”

  1. The government certainly wouldn’t be happy about superpowered people being grateful to the League instead of them.

  2. 1) first comment i ardly ever get it. 2) i would be distracted if i had the tv on and was doing telepathy but maybe Nick has done this before. 3) I would appreciate if you would post the link to their conversation in Beacham’s class, because I want to reread that. Finally: no gang don’t do it. It will cause doom, probably.

  3. Notto: It definitely should. I’m deeply attached to that typo… Actually… Thanks. It has now been removed.

    Captain Mystic: Here the link to the lecture in question. It was in Chemistry: Part 4.

    Kazorh: We shall see…

  4. “Yeah?” Vaughn’s looked mildly annoyed.

    Typo.

    Great reading. I appreciate that you update so regularly and for such a long time. That can’t be easy. Thank you!

  5. Been reading this for a long time but this is my first comment. I really love your story, but I do have a question about the power impregnator.

    Isn’t the whole issue of the trap getting glossed over? Early on there was tension over Vaugnh’s use of the power impregnator and his possible impending insanity but it faded away without really ever being addressed directly. But the trap was in the League’s Power impregnator since Red Lightning went insane, and Nick has made no reference to either himself or his grandfather modifying the thing to make it safe, either before or after Vaughn used it. So unless Vaughn is so laid back he is immune to manipulation, he is compromised and so is anyone else who goes through the power impregnator.

    The more recent models made by the government are actually safer in that the trap issue might have been fixed. It seems weird to me that Nick, as an obsessive engineer, wouldn’t have taken a look at the hardware and tried to remove the trap before floating an idea like this.

    So I guess my question is, did I miss the trap being removed at some point, or is Nick just planning to only put people with strong willpower through the impregnator and hoping they don’t go to the dark side?

  6. It wasn’t a trap, per se. It was either an inherent flaw of the power-integration process that drove folks homocidally insane, or else it was simply that Red Lightning already had some of those tendancies, and the access to “Unlimited Power” brought out the worst of him. Since Vaughn and the rest of the ‘impregnated’ supers (I don’t think the Gov’s actually managed to do more than directly copy the device) haven’t gone mad in a reasonable timeframe, it increases the chances that the ‘flaw’ of the original was not the machine, but the man who used it.

  7. It was mentioned by Vaughn that RL was already going bonkers a few years b4 going into the impregnator. Vaughn had access to his diaries.

  8. About the Impregnator – I thought the side effects where due to using power juice when using it.

  9. GenericIntent/Roger: Thanks for noticing the typos. They’re now gone…

    Phizle/Anvildude/Dwwolf/Lanky: There have been multiple explanations offered for Red Lightning changing from decent person to what he became… All or none of them may ultimately turn out to be true–though it’s definitely true that people started noticing that something was wrong with Red Lightning even before he went through the machine.

    It’s also definitely true that the Abominators (and indirectly Lee’s people) have some connection to the device.

    As it happens though, we’ll see more on it in the not too distant future. The potential problems are something Nick has to consider before he starts using it on people (or doesn’t).

  10. Since Lee is still under agreement to help/protect/teach Nick and Rachel would at least giving hints on how to fix the “go crazy issue” the impregnator has fall under that?

    or do you think he’ll pull the “as your teacher it’s not my place to answer all your questions but let you figure them out” card.

    Also Jim is this a foreshadowing to the big world ending problem that alternate Nick was talking about in the cross over, or was that story out of continuity and just for fun? Because if the go crazy has not been fixed then yeah i can see this turning into a world ending war … great now I’m nervous, seriously great writing Jim Thanks.

  11. Piccolo: Robert’s story is in continuity and not just for fun. What I’m planning to do is devote a story line in the future to its aftermath. I’m hoping to make it a crossover with one or more superhero serials. We’ll see if it works out. Otherwise, I’ll just write it without crossovers.

    I actually considered tying it to something that would happen within the next book or two’s worth of serial as there are things with world ending potential coming up, but I’d rather have it be self-contained.

    Beyond the story related issues, there are practical ones as well. Bearing in mind that this is going to eventually go into ebooks, it’ll be better to write that story line in a way that will allow Robert to get an appropriate percentage than it would be to sink things he came up with into my regular story.

    Honestly, I suspect that Robert would be okay with me having his stuff mixed in, but I feel like if I’m making money off of ideas that result from his story, he should too.

  12. I placed my luggage in Daniel’s and my room, and followed everyone else to the dining area.

    I’m not clear on what this means. Did this mean that Nick placed his luggage in Daniel’s and his shared room, or he put his luggage and daniel’s luggage in his own room? Would need to reword a bit I think.

    But anyway, still trying to catch up, and dreading to catch up because of the possible wait. 🙂 Great story.

  13. @Jim

    Having caught up to this point in less than a week, my memory is probably a little fresher than the other readers. I remember Lee explanation on Nick’s 18th birthday including the fact that his “people” created the original technology that the Abominators used, with the intention of genocide. He also explained that the devices they left were “designed to make the users insane but that someone could work around that if they tried” or words to that effect. I don’t know if Nick will get an answer but he should ask Lee about that. It’s a shame I’m still so far behind the current storyline as you’ve probably already dealt with this.

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