I also didn’t feel quite comfortable with the idea. Taking advantage of the fact that my parents had the block was one thing. Installing it on Kayla (assuming that Daniel would) felt like it would cross some kind of ethical boundary.
I just wasn’t sure which one.
It seemed like there had to be something wrong with modifying a friend’s perception of reality for your personal convenience. On the other hand, one could argue that it would be for everyone’s protection — including hers.
“Nick?” Cassie said. “Anybody home?”
“Sorry. Just thinking. We should probably talk about this again when she’s not here.”
“Or we could just skip it,” she said, and started walking toward the front of the room.
I walked with her.
When we got to the front, Cassie gave Kayla the full tour, pointing out the hangar for the jet and the vehicles, the lab, the storage units, the tunnels, and the main console.
Noticing my playstation, the assorted controllers (including guitars), and games lying next to the front of the main table, Kayla said, “Top secret superhero devices?”
“It would be funny,” I said. “You know, if I had a real guitar and if I could actually play it, I probably could figure out a way to plug it into the Rocket suit and blow things up by jamming.”
“Don’t give him ideas,” Cassie said.
“I wonder if there are any guitar based supers?” I walked over to a command console and logged in. “The FBI gives us access to their database. I’m just going to search it with the keyword ‘guitar’ — which ought to give us guitar based weapons, superheroes with guitars as part of their costume… Whatever, you know?”
I did. I found nothing worth mentioning. It turned out that several superheroes played guitar, but none of them as part of their crime fighting persona. I even recognized the real name of the guitarist in a band I liked.
“Nothing,” I said. “That’s totally open.”
I thought back to the guitar playstation controller. They had the right idea. I didn’t have to go get a real guitar. All I only needed to design something with the complexity of a controller — buttons on the neck instead of strings, a plastic lever, and possibly a whammy bar.
It could be done.
What kind of powers would it have? Sound, I decided, but also light. Rock musicians had light shows. The guitar interface opened up a lot of possibilities. With enough buttons, a person could just slide their fingers down the neck, launching attack after attack.
I logged off from the terminal and started walking toward the lab.
I didn’t intend to use it. I didn’t even intend to build it. It would be an interesting design exercise though. I would just set it up in a CAD program and see how far I could take it.
Then maybe I’d build a prototype. That might be fun.
As I walked away, I heard Kayla say, “What’s going on? Is he still angry?”
“No. He’s thinking. Just let him get it out of his system. He’ll be okay in a day or two. The worst that can happen is that he comes back with a nuclear guitar.”
Now there was an idea.
Still thinking through possible designs, I heard them talking, but the meaning of their words somehow didn’t register.
The phone rang, but not the real phone. The fake sounding ring that meant the call came through our government provided sound and video connection.
I stood halfway across the room from a command console, however. Cassie leaned over, typed at the keyboard, and a outline of a muscular man in front of an outline of the state of Michigan covered the screen. The words “Michigan Heroes Alliance” appeared out of it.
It dissolved into “The Marvelous X,” the organization’s president. Obviously in his eighties, the man wore a silver tuxedo and a silver mask that covered little more than glasses would have. Not a single hair seemed out of place.
I started running back to the front of the room.
Just so that there’s no confusion, I should mention that the Michigan Heroes Alliance wasn’t a team. It was more of a union. It provided health and retirement benefits to members, lobbied the government on issues important to super powered individuals, and while it did organize heroes to fight villains, the ability to do that wasn’t the organization’s main point.
“Greetings Heroes League,” the Mavelous X said. “I’m happy that you consented to speak to me, but I’m unsure as to whom I’m speaking to.”
“Sorry,” Cassie said. “This is Captain Commando. I left the video off because only the Rocket and I are here and we’re both out of costume.”
She stopped talking, frowned.
“Wait,” Cassie said, “I don’t mean that the way it sounds. We’re in street clothes. We’re not… Oh god, never mind.”
From her expression, Kayla appeared to be torn between mortification and breaking into laughter.
The Marvelous X did laugh.
“I didn’t think you were, but the thought takes me back. Your predecessor never seemed to stay with a woman for more than a fortnight. Sometimes, it seemed harder to find a woman in costume who hadn’t had a relationship with him, however brief, than one who had.”
“Hi,” I said when I felt like I could do it without sounding out of breath.
“The Rocket,” he said. “You sound like the original. Did you know he helped found the Alliance?”
“He mentioned it,” I said.
“Good. I’d like to apologize on behalf of the Alliance for the actions of Future Knight, Red Bolt, and Tomahawk. Even before they were mind controlled, they rushed to judgment. They should have been helping you, but instead they assumed you had to be in the wrong. In view of your team’s historic involvement with the Alliance, you are now all members in good standing.”
“Thanks,” I said.
Cassie shrugged, but said, “thanks,” without sounding anything but grateful.
“You’re welcome,” he said. “In the spirit of our new found amity, I’d like to suggest you come down to our offices in Lansing. I can give you the tour and we can talk about what we can do for each other.”