Breaking & Entering: Part 4

They weren’t normal footsteps either. They reminded me of Jaclyn’s when she was running slowly enough that they still sounded like footsteps, but close to the point where her footfalls blended together into a hum.

So, a speedster was behind me, and a huge suit of powered armor stood in front of me. Normally I’d have tried to move myself so that they could only come at me one at a time, but with a speedster that would be nearly impossible.

I didn’t even have time to come up with a plan before he hit me.

Basically there are two kinds of speedsters, the kind that mess with physics to seem to move quickly, and the kind whose bodies have the strength, toughness and reflexes to handle moving at obscene speeds.

Judging from the way he punched me through the nearest wall, I guessed that I was facing the latter.

I hit a tall structure on the way through, causing it fall over with a crash, but I couldn’t tell what it was. Before I could look, a red and white blur came through the hole, and began pounding on the Rocket suit.

The good news? I wasn’t getting a string of error messages. The bad? Given time, he’d break something, and when he did, the Rocket suit wouldn’t do much good against nerve gas.

And that could mean death.

I had no chance of hitting him, and I didn’t try. He’d see anything I did and dodge it.

I didn’t panic. Hours of training with Jaclyn during the spring and summer meant that I’d had to come up with tactics that would work.

Touching the buttons on the palms of each glove, I triggered the sonics at high volume—well past the threshold of pain.

He stepped back, covering his ears.

Knowing I didn’t have much time, I fired off a few of one of my newer roachbot types. On the inside of my helmet, they showed up as three blue dots flying toward him, but then they exploded into fine strings of white goo. Spreading out, they stuck to his skin, his costume, and the wall.

Better yet, using multiple goobots had worked as intended. Instead of just sticking to his front, lines of goo covered his sides and met in the back.

For most people it would have been overkill to use three bots, but with his strength, three was the minimum.

He tried to get out, shaking, and trying to pull his arms away from his head, but he couldn’t. The goo had bonded with his hands and skin. He had to feel skin pulling away from his muscles every time he moved.

Disgustingly, the usefulness of the goo totally banked on the assumption that people wouldn’t be willing to rip their own skin off to continue to fight.

That, and the assumption that if it had only touched clothes, they wouldn’t be willing to fight naked.

After a few seconds of frantic movement, he relaxed, hanging within a web of goo strands.

Only then did I get a good look at the guy.

I recognized him. I’d seen him in newspapers and online. Some supers became internationally famous and people all over the world knew their names. He was almost one of those people.

Just a little shorter than I was while in the Rocket suit, he had brown hair, tanned skin, a mustache and solid, square face—where it wasn’t covered by his mask. The red and white costume included a small eagle on the left side of his chest.

He was the speedster of an EU hero team, and he was almost famous because he’d stuck with the Polish version of his name instead of publicizing an English version. He called himself “Prentkos” or something like that.

That left the question of what he was doing here, why he was helping Rook, and whether he was doing it willingly.

Unfortunately, I didn’t have time to think about it because I still had a a guy in big set of powered armor waiting outside for me.

I pulled myself up out of the wreckage. The metal structure I’d knocked over turned out to be a bunk bed. The bunk had smashed a TV set, a rack of CD’s, and what looked to be an athletic trophy.

Still, it was interesting how some people here got nicer accommodations than others—private rooms instead of open bunking areas.

Outside the sound of heavy footsteps gave me more than a little motivation to leave, and a bad feeling that even if I took the powered armor guy out, it might not be the only set I’d have to face. Plus, I’d either have to make myself constantly visible to find Cassie, or continually ask the gun questions if I wanted to find her while sneaking around.

Crap.

I couldn’t wait and think about it.

Fighting down a rising sense of panic, I bashed the door open, placing myself in a hallway near a corner.

The helmet’s sonar showed me that the huge set of powered armor wasn’t more than ten feet from me. The cool thing though was that I could target the armor indirectly.

I fired off two EMPbots, and they turned the corner, exploding directly in front of the armor, and creating a very respectable pulse.

The armor didn’t slow down at all.

30 thoughts on “Breaking & Entering: Part 4”

  1. I’d suggest a fluorine thrower for Nick. Fluorine oxidizes everything except Neon and Helium – there’s nothing you can make an armor of that can resist being rusted away at best. On average – such as when applied to common metals, organics, ice and the like – the reaction is very rapid combustion.
    For increased effectiveness, ionize the fluorine and keep it trapped in a magnetic bottle. Then, when you need to spray someone not only you are spraying him with the most corrosive element in the universe, not only is that corrosiveness greatly enhanced because the fluorine is missing even more electrons but you are also hitting your target with a torrent of ions heated to about the surface of the sun.
    For extra fun, build small magnetic bottles, fill them with ionized fluorine and use them as grenades. Plasma grenades that are also ridiculously corrosive? Yes, please!

  2. “Basically there are two kinds of speedsters, the kind that mess with physics to seem to move quickly, and the kind whose bodies have the strength, toughness and reflexes to handle moving at obscene speeds.”

    Kind that mess with physics: Professor Zoom, Zoom, Quicksilver(Post M-Day until he magically gets his speed back)

    Kind that can handle obscene speeds: Flash (Jay Garrick), Flash (Barry Allen), Flash (Wally West), Flash (Bart Allen), Johnny Quick, Max Mercury, Quicksilver (Pre M-Day, and Post M-Day after he magically gets his speed back)

    They tend to favor one version of speedsters, it seems, because that Obscene Speeds list could have been a lot longer if I hadn’t gone off the top of my head.

  3. The Flash in his various incarnations does mess with physics. A lot. Consider for a moment that the fastest long-distance runners can maybe do 15 mph. For the same human to do 750 mph (about the speed of sound) , that is going 50 times faster, they’d need to be physically more powerful by a factor of 2500. That’s the same kind of physical power needed to juggle cars and lift main battle tanks or locomotives – and the majority of speedsters plain can’t do that.

    And if you’re not messing with physics, you also need a nervous system that can work significantly faster than normal just to tell your muscles to move that fast and you also need a metabolism that provides energy at an increased rate; if you run a mile at the speed of sound you are going to expend as much energy as a marathon runner will in fifty marathons – because no matter what you do, physics say work is distance multiplied by the force that moves you that distance.

  4. Do note that if you have any sort of superstrength, whether it violates natural laws or not, you should automatically get a measure of speed as well.

    Why? Because there’s little time-related difference between giving your eyelids the order to blink or your fingers to fast-type than giving your arm the command to punch or your legs the command to jump, kick and whatnot. It takes longer for many people to give a punch – much longer in most cases – because their strength can only move their body so fast.
    Now, imagine being able to punch just as fast as you can fast-type or blink – if you are strong enough to move your own body as easily as you normally could a finger or an eyelid, there’s no reason you could not. And just as well-trained people could type upwards of 300 letters per minute, a trained superstrong guy could punch you five times per second, easy.

  5. Let’s see what happens when you enter prentkos in Google translation… ah, there it is. Predkosc = Speed. Hmm. Maybe he stuck with the Polish version because that was the only way for his codename to be somewhat original.

  6. Now that I read my previous comment again, it sounds a lot harsher than I wanted. Really, I intended it as a joke, not a criticism.

  7. Well….. maybe his brain really doesn’t operate so fast and he hasn’t been able to come up with an alternative…. and maybe he’s part of the rescue team (can’t imagine that Guardian would have bothered to tell Nick & crew) and just wasn’t able to think fast enough to recognize that Nick’s armor wasn’t rook armor.

    Or maybe Rook is catching heros and brainwashing them…

  8. Small mistake on Professor Zoom there. He may or may not qualify like that as far as tricking physics. He doesn’t have superspeed, his costume does. Only by wearing it can he move that fast and be able to handle it.

    But yeah, lots of problems with superspeed and things like breathing, reaction times, durability, strength, stamina, and friction. Professor Zoom’s costume has some connection to the Speed Force. Like the Flash and most other DC speedsters, that connection protects him from the pesky reality of superspeed. Zoom’s thing is messing with time around him, so he doesn’t have that problem. Quicksilver’s stuff is just handwaved to say that his mutation includes the ability to handle that speed.

    I’d add Superman to the list, but it’s just about a given that he has that power and that he breaks the laws of physics. Why? Because he’s Superman.

    Might as well have some fine print with any list of superpowers that reads “Superman may or may not have any of these at any given time, so don’t assume only the people listed next to them have that ability.”

    Heck, he once had the ability to make a mini-Superman that was so helpful people began to like him more than Superman. It made him super jealous too.

  9. Superman -the more logical versions of him- doesn’t actually have to violate physics. Consider that we already have very crude nanites, nanocomposites and barely infantile genetic engineering. Imagine what a culture with the technology of Krypton and a healthy dose of meritocracy, scientific idealism and self-improvement could evolve its citizens into.

    Bones are hypertensile solids based on carbon and boron. They’re several hundred times as tough as steel and theoretically within the capability of organics to create if someone put the right programming into their DNA.
    General toughness comes from all his cells being made of organic nanocomposites rather than proteins. They won’t melt in less than stellar temperatures and they should be able to take a few gigapascals per square inch.
    Superstrong muscles could work with something as crude as nanocomposite imitations of normal protein muscles. They could just as easily work via piezoelectricity, magnetics or even gravitics if gravity manipulation is technologically feasible for that culture.
    The nervous system would be made of organic electronics. I.e. circuitry that is biological in nature but also highly conductive (mostly superconductive nanotubes) and capable of transmitting signals at the normal speed of electricity rather than a few meters/second as is usual for protein-based nerves with sodium/potassium pumps. That would allow his system to function tens of thousands of times faster than a human’s and potentially be more complex too.
    Energy requirements can be resolved. By the the time one can design cells that incorporate superconductive organelles, they should be able to produce microfusion and nanofusion reactors. Incorporate those two techs and thus add nanofusion reactors as organelles to every cell. He only needs to ingest fusable matter, which the hydrogen in water is, and even then a gallon of water could power a supercarrier (or superman) for months via controlled fusion.
    Flight is easy, especially planetary flight. High-energy supply plus superconductors make for easy maglev effects. If Kryptonian scientists didn’t want to engineer specific organelles into every cell for planetary flight, they could still program their subconscious to use their nervous system in the same way. Space flight is more problematic until you consider photon drives. Built-in photon drives that use nonvisible wavelengths could propel him at significant speeds without him visibly doing anything.
    Supersenses is really easy even with the limitations of normal animals – some can see for miles, others can hear ultrasounds, others can see in the infrared or magnetic lines and many can hear hundreds of times better than humans. Designing better sensory organs from the ground up would considerably increase those abilities.
    Heat vision and arctic breath are the most complicated, if only if the eyes and lungs have to be used for other things too. An eye could potentially be designed to incorporate both a lasing array and a broad-spectrum receiver but arctic breath I got no idea about.

    Basically, by the time your technology can miniaturize machines down to the size of cells and your biology is advanced enough to program whatever abilities and features you want into a living organism, there is no reason you could not design a functioning Superman’s body for your entire race.

  10. Well, it’s a good thing Superman wasn’t sent away from the planet as only a mere baby so he’d be too small to incorporate all that stuff, seeing as he’d grow and the machines wouldn’t.

    I think you’re one of those who has a little too much confidence in the wonders of nanotechnology, like back when people thought radiation was some sort of magic that could do anything like create a fantastic family or some hulking thing. Or like when movies start hacking into things that can’t actually be hacked into.

  11. Sorry, PG, but that little argument there is, um, seriously lame. Really, we already have trillions of examples of self-replicating machines, cooperating to produce even more complex systems that change and grow over time in both reactive and self-directed manners, with their process instructions coded into their own structure. Surely any reasonably advanced culture should be able to make a functional approximation.

    Hg

  12. Also, for mag levs, I believe you have to have something to move along. that’s why those things are still on tracks and not the newest, fastest car or airplane. With photon drives, that’s actually pretty slow as far as space flight is concerned, it’s just sustainable and has less risk of breaking down. Superman, though, can move nearly as fast as the Flash even when flying.

    Remember that in terms of spaceflight, significant speeds still means it will take you years to get anywhere outside the solar system. Superman couldn’t even fly to the sun in 8 minutes, since that requires moving at the speed of light. That’s right, trick Superman into visiting the sun and you get 16 minutes of peace. What’s next, built in air tanks and recycler systems so he can hold his breathe for that long?

    Oh yeah, that’s right, various problems with surviving in space with no protection. First off, no holding your breath. You die quicker that way due to the pressure. You know the bends, which can result in paralysis or death? Of course, you better be moving in space, because if you don’t hold your breathe, you don’t have too long before passing out. You only have 30 seconds in space unprotected before you run into trouble. Before that, at 10 seconds, you’ll get a sunburned due to having no protection from ultraviolet light out there. You may still get the bends, and some tissues in your body will swell a little. Before too long, you lose conciousness. 2 minutes after entering space unprotected, you’re dying. It may be off slightly for someone with a modified body, but as I pointed out with the Endbringer Leviathan (See Worm), things still need to breathe. The lack of oxygen will still mean passing out and then dying. In fact, with your Superman being bound by physics, a good blood agent that prevents the oxygen from bonding inside the body would be sufficient to kill him.

    I have no idea how you think nanofusion reactors are going to work out for you. I don’t know how you think a lot of it works, but it tends to require massive amounts of heat just to pull that off. Like that in star, since that’s what they do all the time. And most of our reactors basically amount to heating water and having the steam turn a turbine. Even nuclear reactors, which often generate enough extra heat that they have to be near water to be cooled. So you’d also need little powerlines from every cell in your body to carry the energy produced by a reactor that is probably not all that efficient due to having to heat it up that much, and the possibility of meltdown inside a human body in the huge number of cells. Or you could say cold fusion and go back to saying “The Speed Force did it” or the equivalent.

    As for supersenses, you’d still have the problem of constantly hearing a lot more of the normal sounds the rest of us can put on headphones or go into a room to avoid. Like clouds scraping together.

    And there’s the problem of how his strength works. He can pick up a car and parts won’t break off or his hand won’t go through one section. That’s not how it works. Concentrating all that pressure on just a few smaller points like that doesn’t work too well. Compare laying on a single nail versus laying on a bed of nails. Add lifting buildings to it or pushing a planet? Not sure how you expect an entire building to stay together if you’re just somehow manipulating magnetics. I don’t know what you mean by gravity, as negating its gravitation force would cause the wind to blow it far, far away, and any lifting action without a good grip on it would start sending it into space. It would also mess with the effects of time on the building and anything in it, as gravitational pull causes time to flow differently for different things. Put an atomic clock on a mountain and another at the bottom of a well and they’ll run slightly off from one another.

    As for piezoelectricity, I don’t know very much. Current applications involve diesel fuel injectors, amps, shooting ink out in inkjet printers, noise reduction, fertility treatment, and some motors that don’t seem very compatible with human muscles in form or function.

    Finally, none of Superman’s powers were known on Krypton. They didn’t have those abilities. It was only when Superman arrived on earth, with it’s yellow sun, that his Kryptonian physiology became super-powered.

  13. HG, there are a lot of biological things like that, true.

    Now build something mechanically, but really, really, really, really tiny, using a microscope and little machines that mimics those functions.

    Like if we built a perfect robotic copy of a human body, capable of moving, gesturing, and making the same facial expressions as the rest of us, so well put together you couldn’t detect any difference from a real human, not even in its AI. Then, let’s give it the ability to build more of itself. Also, we got to hope that the AI doesn’t mess up in the copying or transmitting or just due to an unforeseen problem, because it would such if they started tearing apart cars and buildings to make more of themselves.

    Or maybe a robotic bird capable of flying in the exact same manner as a biological one. Or a robotic octopus that can survive down there just as well, moving just as fluidly and squeezing its body into all those odd little crevices.

    So, how’s a body going to get rid of nonfunctioning nanites? Even with repairs being capable, if you’re somehow getting the metal to your cells, some will be destroyed. Just an accumulation of tiny metal nanites building up in your body over the years. Even with recycling to repair others, they all steadily decrease, with some being irreperable due to not always having the right part from the broken ones.

    Your natural process of shifting dead cells to your waste or having microphages break them down isn’t likely to work, so you’d need whole other nanites, subject to the same problems, that would need to be patrolling just to hunt down and break down dead nanites to eliminate.

    Upon learning a bit more about how complicated the whole mess would be, I decided to go a little bit harder of science with mine in my stories. Now, back to you building me mechanical creature that can perfectly emulate a biological one.

    I’m waiting.

  14. And yes, perfectly emulate is a reasonable expectation if you’re claiming to build a machine that can do all the same things as a living creature, since those living creatures are capable of performing those actions.

  15. Well, no, I wasn’t really talking about all that other stuff. I’m pretty sceptical of Belial’s assessment here too. I much prefer the hand-waving field-effect explanations for Supes and his ilk to the kind of fanciful pseudo-science that Belial put fort. In fact, I was a little surprised, given that the big B frequently has a finger on the stronger pulses of science and technology.

    I just took umbrage with your over-simplistic dismissal of his ideas. You did much better the second time around. But I’m 100% certain about my assessment of the data and instructional encoding requirements. DNA is incredible, but not especially complicated in and of itself. And, just like the electrochemical nerve signal transmission pathways that multi-celled biological entities use are relatively slow, there are more efficient and effective ways to store and read such information. DNA has its advantages in that its encoding is built into the chemical processes that define life.

    Also, I’m 99% certain that if I had as much time as evolution has had to build a life-like ecosystem, I could build something far more efficient and amazing. Because, really, evolution is just the practical application of the million monkeys idea within a constrained system. Directed design, even by scientific trial and error, is pretty much guaranteed to achieve more in the same time span.

    (And I just realized I have come up with yet another excellent argument against the “theory” of Intelligent Design as an alternative to the Theory of Evolution. Thanks. I’m glad we had this talk.)

    Hg

  16. Sometimes the handwaving works best, and the whole red sun, yellow sun thing pretty much invalidates the idea that Superman was bound by physics. That and the fact that he didn’t grow old and die on his way to Earth given the vast distances that had to be involved.

    Yeah, animals are pretty cool, but they do have their problems. Pandas are noted to have something they use as a thumb…but people forget to mention that an actual thumb would be more useful, for instance. Diseases, limitations of diet, vestigial organs (whale having hipbones) or what have you.

    There’s all kinds of cool things in nature, provided they don’t bite you or spray cyanide on you.

    It’s just a lot harder to reproduce biological organisms mechanically, along with various problems with nanotech.

    Really, what we’re better suited for right now is the production of organic material that serves those functions. In fact, as long as you genetically engineer an unnatural lifeform, you can patent it. So if you wanted to mess with genetics and engineer some little bacteria that swarms at your wounds to help heal you, or some small organ made using your DNA that creates steroids that you implant near your major muscle groups, or even a group of worms that can live in you, enhancing your mental connections and jazzercising your muscles until you’re stronger and more flexible than Gumbie and Hercules combined, you can try it. (Gumbercules? I love that guy!)

    Heck, we even have a process that’s still experimental and in development where we use a section of a person’s organ to clone a whole new organ, printing it out layer by layer using a modified printer, get it acclimated to the climate of a body in an incubator, and connect it to some things to get it functional and practiced in its function before we drop it in. Broken heart? Just get a replacement.

    And as you may have noted, I find Belial’s solutions to be a little too much collateral damage for my taste. Take the corrosive plasma grenades with magnets on them. Horrible idea for a weapon if the guy using it is in a magnetic suit of power armor that he has to rely on. If they are on a belt, someone else can take them and use them against you. If they’re stored internally to the armor, then you’re keeping those things inside where a stray bit of blunt force can damage them and spill them on the inside of your armor and possibly that fleshy stuff that your brain uses for a life support system and the occasional passing on of genes.

    Rook’s idea is much better. A little overkill to go with nerve gas, it being rather dangerous to import or put together, but then he is facing Dixie Supergirl and Accelerando. This is a good time to build a small methanol flamethrower into your doorways, preferably if they slide open. Have your minions be implanted with an IFF chip that is detected as they approach the door. If someone opens the door who does not have an IFF chip, methanol flamethrower activates, firing upward. Methanol’s invisible flame causes some nasty surprises even for the survivors who don’t know what’s happening. If they’ve got an inside man, they can still get around, but that’s why you don’t tell the minions about it. Make it so that it can shut down and degrade upon receiving a signal, and stick it in them when you give them some vaccinations or medical checkup or something.

    Now then, I hope to not need to respond to anything else around here because I suspect anyone who’s got this far is tired of me.

  17. First of all, nanotechnology and biotechnology are still in their infancy. We’ve had internal combustion for near two hundred years and electricity for three hundred – we only got nanotech and biotech for two decades and a combination of the two in nanocybernetics still only in the experimental and theoretical stage. Consider the advances of someone having such technology for a couple of millennia.

    Secondly, a human cell is complex. About as complex as a major, fully-computerized factory, minimum. For example, it has no less than five different fully automated systems that we’re aware of merely to check that information within the cell is copied correctly and its programming isn’t corrupted. It also has a couple hundred thousand independent protein production lines so it can make whatever it wants in milliseconds and perform even large-scale operations (such as the flexing of muscle cells) in a few hundredths of a second in mammals or up to less than a thousandth of a second in insects. It has over a dozen self-contained powerplants more complex than the average power station fueling our cities and chemical plants capable of producing almost any organic or organic-related substance depending on the cell’s needs, from the adamantine in your teeth for human cells, to the stronger-than-steel spidersilk for some arachnids, to botulinum toxin in bacteria, a toxin capable of killing the entire mammal population of Earth if ten pounds of the stuff was dispersed evenly. Cells also have significant adaptability – change their programming and they will change their form and internal structure in a matter of minutes or hours, rebuilding themselves to be able to execute that programming. That’s what happens when stem cells take on new forms or you get cancer.
    And that’s ONE cell – the human body has one hundred trillion.

    I’m giving this info on the complexity of cells so you can see that the most complex machines we got now are like stone-age tools when compared to them and one full human body is an order of magnitude more complex than everything ever built by human civilization combined.
    There’s nothing wrong with how well living beings now are built – except for the materials. Proteins are pathetically soft and weak compared to just about anything else. So simply replicating a human body’s functions only with tougher materials will get you a that much tougher living being. And using materials some one hundred thousand times tougher on average will get you Superman or close enough. You just have to design the new systems – which, given their complexity, might take humanity a couple of millennia.

    Regarding a nanofusion reactor, imagine a ring of superconductors in the nano scale. Given power, they form a tiny but very strong field that accelerates two hydrogen nuclei strongly enough that they fuse upon impact. That releases a few gamma photons and neutrinos. The neutrinos are largely irrelevant. The gamma photons fall upon a layer of hyperdense, hypertensile solids that cause absorption of the radiation in the form of pair production instead of heat or ionization. Secondary magnetic fields, again in the nano scale, separate the produced particle and anti-particle and store them in containment fields for later use. The residual heat passes through successive layers of thermoelectric materials that absorbs it and turns it to electricity.
    Depending on how well you build the system, you can get very high efficiency ratings.

    A human body has an efficiency rate of some 8%. If it were a high-quality electric motor system with the tech we got today (i.e. a robot), it could have efficiency of 98% (best achieved so far) and for the same waste heat as a human have about 40-50 times the power. Add to that the fact that metal machines can tolerate far higher temperatures than a human and you get 200 times the power. That’s why a 100-pound electric car engine can give as much as 850 hp while the strongest humans are 2 hp.
    Now, build a machine with 99.9% efficiency rate that can tolerate temperatures of a few thousand degrees rather than a couple hundred. It could be 200 times more powerful than a similar-mass electric motor, 40.000 times more powerful than a human. That’s superman-level strength already.

    Yes, the “mess” will be ridiculously complicated. That’s why we don’t have nanomachines (or any machines) with anywhere near the complexity of human cells so far. That doesn’t mean it is undoable – in fact it is very doable in theory and in some 50 years we will probably have the technology to do it. It would just take a couple millennia for all the scientists of Earth to actually design the system given its complexity.
    THAT is why this speculation is for a highly advanced future culture and not reality – not because it is theoretically impossible.

  18. “…to botulinum toxin in bacteria, a toxin capable of killing the entire mammal population of Earth if ten pounds of the stuff was dispersed evenly.”

    Yes, but think of how smooth and youthful-looking their faces will be!

    “Sure, I’m dying, but you wouldn’t know it — no worry lines!”

    Hg

  19. Wow. I’m always amused when I find that the comments ultimately contain several times as many words as the update…

    Incidentally, when I wrote the comment about speedsters, I was thinking of Superman as the key example of the ones that were just hugely fast due to their physical abilities whereas I was thinking about the Flash as a good example of the physics ignoring sort of speedster. Using the “speed force” is cheating (kind of) after all.

    Not that I’ve got any great urge to argue about it, but just for what that’s worth.

  20. @Belial666 Flourine doesn’t oxidise everything, it can only oxidise a raw element, not a compound (you can’t oxidise something that is already oxidized), and only metals mostly, finally the activation energy would have to be low enough or in the presence of the right catalysts. Finally some chemicals can have the opposite effect to a catalyst (carbon in stainless steel prevents oxidization by significantly raising the required activation energy). Now in the case of a compound a reaction with fluorine will only take place (it’s not quite this simple but you’ll get the picture) if it is going to end up following the principle of minimum energy that is the resultant compound will end up in the lowest energy state with the reaction being exothermic unless very specifically forced by the addition of lots of energy (endothermic reactions at room temperature are rare as there is a very large activation energy compared to the opposite direction, this is why fluorine doesn’t react with glass or sand. Finally armour that already is oxidised with fluorine or something similar (Polyvinyl chloride (PVC)/Polyvinyl fluoride) isn’t going to react at all.

  21. You can oxidize something already oxidized just fine if whatever you use is more oxidizing than the original substance. For example, Fluorine can burn water or even ice. The hydrogen in the water has already been oxidized by oxygen but that doesn’t matter ’cause fluorine is far more oxidizing than oxygen itself -or anything else for that matter- so it supplants the original oxidant.
    Fluorine can even oxidize the so-called noble gases that aren’t supposed to form compounds under normal conditions.
    That said, it is true that something already fully oxidized by fluorine can’t be oxidized further under normal conditions. However, most of those substances are too weak for armor and also, that’s why you are using Fluorine plasma grenades and fluorine plasma throwers. If the oxidant doesn’t get them, then the hotter-than-the-surface-of-a-star torrent almost certainly will.
    Very few substances could stand up to that kind of attack – palladium/iridium alloy over a graphene matrix and coated with iridium oxides might, for a time, but that’s about the only thing that will, from normal substances.

  22. @Bellial666 I thought I mentioned energy, if you are putting that much energy in then yes, but then you might as well just melt/burn through it. A plasma grenade of any kind is going to have a lot of energy behind it, it’s a question of enthalpy. Also pressure is often helpful in some circumstances.

  23. Actually, thanks to John Byrne rewriting Superman with Larry Niven’s “Man of Steel, Woman of Kleenex” article in mind, Superman’s powers are almost all psionic in nature and appeared slowly as he continued to store high levels of solar radiation. His ability to lift a semi-truck without his hands sinking through the metal? He’s actually using his flying power on it. Invulnerability? Yeah, his body structure is denser than a normal human but mostly it’s that really cool personal force field. X-Ray vision? Passive now, no risk of giving the young ladies cancer while looking through their clothes.

    And Flash is… well… he’s the Flash! I haven’t kept up with the current books (New 52 totally left me cold) but you’ll recall that Barry Allen and Wally West were no stronger than a normal man and were able to withstand the stress of high speed thanks to being inside a field of Speed Force which could also protect those in physical contact with him.

  24. Interestingly enough, the Arctic Breath is actually something that could be a ‘happy accident’ of all the other powers. Consider Boyle’s Law, and what happens when you release a compressed gas into a less-compressed atmosphere- you have the gas absorbing heat energy and causing condensation, drops in temperature, and frost.

    Assuming Superman has complete superstrength including the diaphragm, all he’d need is a single additional valve or even just phenomenal larynx control to be able to, essentially, ‘gulp’ in huge quantities of air to his lungs, compressing that air within the natural pressure vessel those lungs are, and releasing it through the nozzle of pursed lips.

    Really, it’s the non-cold superbreath that’s more impressive, as that suggests he has some way of pre-heating the air before or as it comes out, which would also increase the pressure of it. Sort of a reverse Jet Engine effect, really.

  25. Anvildude, no extra valves needed. You can simply use your mouth and tongue to compress air into your lungs, almost like swallowing into your stomach.

    In all other things, I agree with you 🙂

  26. Missing the word “to”. Is:
    I hit a tall structure on the way through, causing it fall over with a crash

    Should be:
    I hit a tall structure on the way through, causing it to fall over with a crash

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