Being Watched: Part 5

He’d never told anyone exactly what he was, but when Lee took a form, it became near impossible to think of him by any name but the one he’d chosen.

Gunther smiled at us, a wide grin full of white teeth.

Picking up a long spear from the pile of weapons in front of him, he said, “Today we’re going to talk about the Greek phalanx—not because I expect you to fight with spears, but because of what it represents.

“The Greeks, and most armies that were any good, fought as a group, not as a bunch of heroes who happened to be on the same side. They had shields that covered themselves and the man next to them.

“Sometimes you’ll be in that situation. Sometimes you’ll be fighting enemies alone. What I intend to teach you is when to fight in formation, when not to, and when to avoid fighting at all. I’m told that other people will talk about loyalty, duty, courage and other values you’ll need to live up to, but let’s be honest, that’s not my field.”

Gunther grinned briefly, and started class moving. We spent most of the time doing a series of games and exercises that used simple formations without any real fighting or power use.

I stuck around after class, stuck around until the last person left. The last person being Dayton, one of Sean’s friends.

Dayton could see any technique and mimic it. He was going to get a lot out of training with Gunther.

Anyway, the metal door shut behind him, closing with an audible click as the bolt slid into place.

Gunther in turn shifted form, changing into an Asian man with shoulder length, black hair, wearing a shimmery blue, button down shirt and black jeans. He was a little shorter than six feet now—around my height.

It was the form I was more used to seeing him in. He tended to fulfill people’s expectations. His “Gunther” identity had been what the Nazis got when they attempted to call up an immortal warrior. Grandpa had met him in that form, and he’d ended up associated with the Heroes League.

“Lee” had been the form he’d used when starting up a martial arts studio in the 1950’s.

“Seeing you here was bit of a shock,” I said. “The government’s got you on the National Security Threat List.”

Lee picked up a spear, and twirled it around like a baton. “So I’ve heard, but this isn’t a government installation.”

“No?”

Lee stopped twirling the spear, and threw it toward the concrete wall. The point sunk in, disappearing while the shaft quivered.

“You’re in a joint program. The Defenders have money too—in the form of a foundation, and some deep pocketed donors. This is their training facility. Whenever you’re here, I’ll be teaching. When you’re on a government base, you’ll have different people, but I still might show up if I’m in the mood.”

“Huh,” I said, wondering what would happen if he did show up unexpectedly. “Well, that wasn’t the main reason I stayed—”

“Yep,” Lee said. He didn’t seem surprised. Immortality had easily given him time to develop enough social awareness to detect geeks with ulterior motives.

“—I was really hoping to ask you some questions.”

Lee looked up toward the corner of the room. A camera hung there. It wasn’t the only one. Cameras hung in each corner of the room, and from the ceiling.

“Private questions?” He asked.

I thought about that. “They don’t have to be.” I said. Then I tried to think of how best to phrase them so I didn’t give away too much.

“I know the power impregnator was an Abominator thing. Was power juice? No one ever said it was, but it seems logical.”

Lee nodded.

I thought some more. “You said that lots of Abominator stuff contained traps. How well did Grandpa do with the power impregnator? I know what happened to Red Lightning, but was it the machine, the juice, what?”

Lee picked up a sword, gave a practice swing. “They did a good job with the power impregnator. I’m not a techie, but I doubt that was the problem. He was a little off before they ran him through the machine.”

Lee lay the sword back on the floor. “That it?”

“No. What about the combination of the two?”

“That couldn’t help.”

“Have you seen any modern versions of the power impregnator or power juice? What did you think?”

Lee smiled at me. “Haven’t seen a new power impregnator, but if they’re based on your grandfather’s design, things should be okay. As for the juice, well… I’d say the government’s new version is safer than the original, but I don’t know how much.”

So in Lee’s opinion, even the new power juice might be risky. In that light, the government’s ban might be a good thing. On the other hand, Lee couldn’t know for sure.

“OK,” I said. “Thanks.”

Lee put his hands in his pockets. “You’re missing something.”

“What?”

“The traps are a sham. Sure, they’re real. Sure, people can go nuts, but that’s not it. People are supposed to notice the traps and remove them. The real trap is something people won’t ever remove.”

Lee eyed the door, and took a step toward it.

“What?”

“The powers themselves. That’s the beauty of it all. In the lifecycle of a normal species, powers show up around the time the species figures out how to do most of the same stuff with technology. They’ve had years to adjust their culture, and set up rules about what’s appropriate, and what’s not. With you guys, and all the other species the Abominators modified, you’re getting these abilities long before you can actually handle them—at least in theory.

“I mean, think about it, if some guy can crack the planet with his mind, how are you going to stop him? And if you do, what if he’s got kids? Or cousins? No, the next hundred years or so are going to be interesting.

“Chances are, the power levels are going to rise.”

18 thoughts on “Being Watched: Part 5”

  1. Clever, very clever. something like that has been nagging at the back of my head It’s also the reason dragonball Z seems a bit silly now.

  2. Found a typo: “In a the lifecycle of ”

    Dragonball Z seemed silly for a long time. A really long time. Like 5 hours of half-hour episodes solely about waiting for a large super spirit bomb to charge while the villain just waits for it. Also, I didn’t like when they changed Krillin’s voice actor.

    Also, this is interesting that species apparently develop superpowers on their own. Not everyone’s is related to abominator tech, potentially. He’s right, though, the biggest trap is what people with powers do. Like this one old sci fi story I read where a guy publicizes an easy-to-build handheld laser capable of cutting through the planet, the idea being that no sane person would do so and that everyone else could try to stop him since they are just as capable of having the weapons. It was a heavily libertarian viewpoint, but at a certain time I was like “You know those people crazy enough to kill themselves just to take a few soldiers with them? Yeah, like anyone should ever give those guys the ability to destroy the planet.”

    You have to watch out. Some people out there are nuts.

    After all, sane people wouldn’t worry about sane people destroying the planet. It’s the crazies that don’t care or regular people who are too upset who would be most likely to end it all if superpowers were just handed out like Dr. Tran down at your local record store this thursday from 4 to 9.

    It seems Lee has another skill of his own: “Immortality had easily given him time to develop enough social awareness to detect geeks with ulterior motives”

    He has found a way to circumvent my security measures and steal a copy of my invention: The Nerdar! It’s function is solely detecting why a geek is talking to you. It’s as easy as flipping a switch! *flips a switch, a little voice speaking out, “I want people to like me and the crazy crap I say.” Flips the switch again quickly* Obviously, Lee took the only working copy. This one needs readjustment. Probably a good hammering *voices comes back on “Your momma needs a good hammer.”* No, it has become self aware! It must die! *straps the Nerdar to a table and injects it with saltwater. The voice stops after a little while*

    Sometimes science has its little setbacks. Still, I need a product to sell… *grabs a cardboard box, writes “Nerdar” on it. On the part facing the user, it has written on it, “He wants to make sex to you.”* There, we’ll sell that one as a women-only version for now. The gay guys are going to be mad, but what can they do?

    *is promptly tackled offscreen by a gaggle of gay geeks. Some time later, he’s seen hopping along, tied naked to a chair with pink, glittery ribbons.* You’ve all got to run! Run for your lives! They got into the armory! Eventually, they’re going to figure out how to activate the Slightly Larger Hadron Collider that I built and attempt to cause a black hole. It will really suck!

  3. So the mad people you were saying would cut the planet in two…that would be you’re brother? Psycho Komodo?

    Nice to know the Defenders are taking an active role in training new supers…makes sense really

  4. I suppose it’s just as well they didn’t get a hold of the marginally upgraded hurricane simulator because that….

  5. Give people enough rope, and most of them will try to hang themselves on it.
    Though I kind of expected also a mention of the funny thing where people are much more likely to do bad things if they think it isn’t their fault, like a drug or evil alien tech made them do it, even if there actually isn’t any such thing affecting them..

  6. I find it interesting that Lee focuses so much on teamwork yet he broke ranks with the rest of his race and now largely operates alone.

  7. He was bored with what his race was doing after all. Or he liked the challenge of fighting against his own race. Or both. His long term plans probably include building up a civilisation that could withstand an attack by his own people. Supers working together could fit into that plan. How his no-morals merc work fits into that…no idea. Unless he is more selective in his clients than what is generally apparant.
    Keep in mind he has to help/teach Nick and friends as per his contract with Nicks grandpa, teaching other supers that will be fighting alongside Nick(vs the abominators freed slaves) will be beneficial to that contract as well, as well as some extra moolah, win-win.

  8. Lingy, I happen to be a fan of the final fight scene in Warriors of Virtue. And I actually enjoy the villain, Komodo.

    Who knows, Phizle, maybe Lee’s race aren’t a very good team. Maybe they killsteal and teamkill and laugh at noobs for not knowing enough when they won’t bother to teach them anything or even let them download the map.

    Mazzon has a point. After all, some people can get “drunk” on non-alcoholic beer just because of the mental affects. They’ll have to do a study on the placebo effect as it pertains to power juice…

    Ah well, at least I have my lab back after they tried to activate the “Death Jam” my giant sonic tank that converts rap music into deadly bursts of audio! Different sized guns on it, too. Some Biggies, some Smalls. A Vanilla Icemaker inside for refreshmant, with an Ice-T dispenser and a Flava Flavoring station to toss in cherry, vanilla, or lime, and a steady supply of M&Ms. The fridge doesn’t just hold one pack of beer, it holds Tupack! The current cost to rent this rap-tastic doomsday weapon is $0.50 a second. Also, the ashtray comes in extra-large with a lie detector attachment if you like smoking big butts and you cannot lie.

  9. Given that the Rocket suit uses technology to replicate some basic superpowers, the technology isn’t too far behind. Add up a few other advanced technologies we’ve seen and Earth isn’t as far behind the curve as Lee implies.

  10. stuck around after class, stuck around until the last person left
    2*stuck around
    –>stuck around after class, until the last person left
    –>stuck around after class
    –>stuck around until the last person left

  11. When I first read this very chapter, some of what Gunther/Lee is saying stuck with me. Years later, I’m idly writing something, and find it working its way into my writing as a minor theme.

    The basic idea is, “What do powers do to the person holding them?” I mean, imagine going through life knowing that if you think wrong for a couple seconds, the walls are going to be painted with some guy’s insides. What would that do to a person?

    Some general ideas: People with precognitive abilities tend to end up clinically depressed, or suffering from anxiety disorders. People with super strength and ‘invulnerability’ tend to become mentally lazy, due to normally brute-forcing their way through problems.

    The main character I had in mind had a very versatile power (D&D wizard). The knowledge that he has enemies with a similar powerset causes him to descend into paranoia, due to the absurd number of ways they can strike at him.

    1. I think that’s an interesting question to ask and has the potential to create ideas you can use in a story. Your experience of the world affects how you view the world and powers certainly would affect your experience.

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