Picking Up Pieces: Part 6

I felt a flash of uncertainty that turned into an uncomfortable feeling.

Daniel’s words floated into my head. I don’t like our options. We can either trust her, or I can blur her memories a little.

I think you’d have to do more than blur her memories a little. She was in the van when Rook attacked, and she changed into a spare League suit. Plus she went with Vaughn and Travis to Haley’s cousin. You remember the doctor? You’d have to edit her whole night.

My memories of the night—starting with when Courtney and I went to the house—flashed through my head. I knew I wasn’t doing it.

That’s worse than I thought. His frustration washed over me. I’d have to wipe the whole night after you started walking away from the house.

I thought about that. Would she notice the blank spot?

Maybe. She might fill it up even without me doing anything. You’d be surprised how many false memories people create normally. You’re right though, if I wanted her to have a memory that didn’t make her suspicious, it would take some work. I won’t know how much work without examining her first.

I’m not looking forward to that, I thought at him.

Me neither, and I can’t see any way around doing more to her brain than I want to if she says no.

I might have complained about that. Protecting our normal lives, our real families, and the friends we had who weren’t capable of protecting themselves wasn’t something we could skip.

On the other hand, a telepath who won’t mess with your head for his personal convenience is the only kind I’d want to have around.

We happened to finish showering at about the same time, and got into our street clothes (except I wore an undamaged stealth suit under mine). We all kept clothes at HQ in case of emergencies. Then we walked out to the main table.

Haley sat in front of one of the computers. Cassie sat next to her monitor. Izzy stood next to Cassie, looking even taller because she was the only one standing. They were talking and laughing together.

It felt a little strange to see it. I wasn’t sure why.

Daniel and I explained about Courtney, and that we’d have to take care of it now. It turned out that everybody was coming.

“Really?” I’m pretty sure my mouth hung open, probably in disbelief. “We don’t need everybody. It’s overkill, you know?”

Cassie shrugged. “I”m going back to the dorm anyway.”

Izzy looked from Daniel to me nervously, “I’d stay here if only the two of you were going…”

Haley looked up at me. “I want to find out what happens. She knows who we are.”

Did you ever notice that the small stuff turns out to be the biggest pain? Once we did decide to go, we realized that no one had a car here. The van still ran, but with the door off, and all the other damage, we weren’t going to drive around town in that. Daniel’s car was still in Chicago, so it wasn’t an option. Cassie had ridden her regular motorcycle back to HQ to pick up the Commandocycle, and obviously we weren’t all going to fit on that.

Equally obviously, Daniel wasn’t going to float us over to campus—not in street clothes.

In the end, we walked to my parents’ house, and borrowed my mom’s car. I reasoned that she wasn’t likely to need it at four thirty in the morning, and anyway, she worked at home.

Plus, I did leave a note, mostly at Daniel’s insistence.

“Think about it, Nick. What if she wakes up to go to the bathroom, and notices her car is gone?”

“I don’t see why she would, though. It’s not like she goes to the bathroom in the garage.”

Lack of sleep may have been making me a little cranky.

I left the note anyway, taping it inside the side door where she’d see it if she did decide to visit the garage.

Fifteen minutes later we’d parked the car on the street next to DePuit Hall.

Dark except for the entrances, the dorm didn’t look overly welcoming. On the other hand, my bed was inside. I wished I could go to sleep.

We walked up to the front door. I pulled out my key card, held it in front of the pad, typed in my passcode, opened the door.

All five of us walked in.

You know what was crazy? People were up. The dorm’s TV room lay directly in front of the lobby, just past the halls leading to the rest of the dorm.

We could see the big screen TV as we walked in. It wasn’t as large as the one in HQ, but it was big. I guessed that twenty people were watching—not a huge crowd, but huge for 4:45 in the morning.

They were watching SuperTV.

Worse, SuperTV was covering us. Not us as we were at that moment, but everything we’d done that night.

Images of Rook in air above the marine supply store, the cell phone store, and the fight at the gas station flipped between the burning remains of Rook’s base near Hudson Bay.

Weren’t they afraid of radiation?

The journalist said, “We’re going now to the Midwest Defenders’ base in downtown Chicago. Flick, the team’s second in command, has agreed to a short interview.”

I couldn’t tell where they were in the base. Flick and the reporter stood in front of beige wall with the Defenders’ logo—a “D” in the shape of a shield.

“And believe me,” she said, “it will be a short interview. I haven’t slept all night, so you’ve got five minutes starting now—”

I didn’t hear the rest. One of the guys on the long couch turned around, and I recognized Jeremy, my roommate.

“Hey Nick, where have you been all night?”

11 thoughts on “Picking Up Pieces: Part 6”

  1. “That’s a convenient question, Jeremy. Even though I’m walking in here with a group of people the same number and rough physical descriptions as those heroes you’re watching on tv, I can assure you that I am not, repeat NOT a superhero who did that stuff you’re watching.”

    “What were you doing then?”

    “…orgy. Huge orgy. One of my friends got carried away by this guy in a costume, but we all dived in after him. I had to bring this one device that works best for her too. You should have seen Izzy and Jaclyn go at it, like a blur. There was this one woman and her friend who were double teaming me from both sides, I got them all sticky and they had to get cleaned up. Then I found the guy, but I got a bit carried away with what I did to one of his hands, but he’s the one who blew too soon. Then we got these two Canadians involved. They were polite, but we were just ready for it to all be over. There were feathers everywhere, and I just feel dirty right now.”

    “Okay, well next time at least let me know, ok?”

    “Sure.”

    Ah, and now Nick gets to learn another important thing about college: People will be awake at all hours. Personally, I have found that a lot of Dr. Pepper and a lot of Sweet Tarts will keep you up and have you shaking at 4 am. While people being awake can be a problem if they’re watching Scarface with the volume up right against the wall your bed is next to, it’s a boon for the many times you’ll need to stay up for a paper. Just always proofread to make sure you haven’t blacked out due to sleep and either typed something you don’t remember, or left your finger holding a button for awhile. I was able to keep a couple of those sentences though, they weren’t terrible…

  2. surprised at how surprised Nick was about people being awake at 4:30. Life in a dorm man. Not surprised by jeremy’s question would not answer the way Psycho Gecko did because thats just wraunchy but I would be causual and say something like “I was at a concert for that new indi folk band” or “I was getting coffee at the diner down the street” or
    “i went to a book signing for this obscure physics textbook i’ve had my eye on” something equally inane that no one woudl care about.

  3. Yeah, if Nick weren’t so hypersensitive, he’d just say, “Oh just running around hanging out with friends and grabbing stuff from home.”

  4. Ok. I want to start by saying I love this story, am a big fan of your writing, and commented like mad during your blog tour. If I wasn’t a college student living on the edge of homelessness, I’d be buying your book right now.

    My only gripe is that I wish these entries had a bit more to them. They’re a bit… abrupt – I’ve taken to skipping until two or three posts are up before coming back for a look, sometimes.

    I know you’ve got good reasons for keeping the word count down; a regular posting schedule is hugely important for keeping a fan base going, and it can be hard to maintain a writing throughput when you’ve got a life and a job on top of everything else. And, of course, you’re not obligated to write anything *at all*; the fact that you do is a gift. But I hope you’ll consider adding just a bit more into your posts; I may be alone in this, but the level of content and the pacing has been a tiny bit discouraging to me as a regular reader.

    1. Para: This is one of those points where pacing things well and writing a serial sometimes work against each other.

      This particular post is ironically longer than most–982 words as opposed to my more typical 800. This leads me to suspect that slightly longer posts alone won’t do much. In fact, I suspect no one would notice.

      What might help is more revision before posting. In re-reading, I can find spots that I’d consider cutting and might make things move faster. Ironically, if I’d done that, I probably wouldn’t have posted at all as I’d have cut/rewritten half the post.

      Unfortunately, sometimes I have to write things before I see what needs to go away, and by the time I’ve done it, it’s too late. It’s time to post.

      And anyway, my general experience is that it’s better to make massive revisions like that when I have an entire book or completed section in front of me and really know what’s important.

  5. Well of course we all want Jim to devote his every hour to fulfilling our insatiable appetite for the League! But being the addicts that we are we’ll take whatever he throws out to us, which is never enough to completely ease the withdrawal pains.

  6. Hmm. It might not be the content or length – it might be the cliffhanger endings, come to think of it. I like them, but not necessarily every post; I think mixing things up, having a feeling of resolution and satisfaction more often might help.

    “Weren’t they afraid of radiation?” – I’m wondering how I’d feel if you’d stopped there, instead of at “where have you been all night?” I’m not sure, to be honest.

    While I’m making requests, I’d like more hardware nerding. A montage of Nick building up his arsenal, working out the bugs in his suit – for the longest time there the story was suggesting that Nick was in a bad way suit-wise, and needed to fix things; and lately, he has a working suit with the usual suspects – roachbots, sonics, defenses – all working fine. I caught the points where you had him rig out, and get things more up to speed, but it was brief; more telling us he did it than showing how he did it. I’d’ve been gleeful over a full-length post (or four or five of them) that were mostly just Nick in his shop testing stuff.

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