Stardock: Part 1

My grandfather told me once that war was long periods of boredom broken up by moments of terror. From the stories that the original League told about World War 2 and their experiences afterward, it sounded right.

Knowing that, it’s not so much of a surprise to learn that after the Hrnnna’s disappearance, the Xiniti’s trip through the gate they normally guarded, the annual inspection of the Jay and Kay, and my own frantic call to Agent Lim saying that I had Figured It All Out nothing happened at all.

I went through the week wondering if we’d be invaded, or worse, bombed from space.

Neither occured, and we ended the week with a normal Stapledon weekend.

Well, normal for the fairly loose definition of normal I’d been living under during the last few years–the kind of normal that puts you in a position to fight evil alien space horses.

This week’s Stapledon weekend fell into exactly that definition of normal.

What kind of normal was that exactly? Well, we were near New York City, home of the Yankees, the Metropolitan Opera, many of the world’s great museums, Broadway, clubs where cutting edge bands played, and we weren’t looking at any of it. As per standard operating procedure, Stapledon had flown us in on a cargo plane that secretly carried passengers, and put us up in an old factory they’d converted into apartments

Friday evening found us walking into a truly massive old factory. It was surrounded by our dormitory and six other old buildings, tall chain link fences topped with barbed wire, cameras, and signs that said, “Property of the U.S. government. Trespassers will be prosecuted.”

None of the buildings appeared to be much more than old, brick factories, and unused ones at that. I’d never have looked twice at them before now. The street lamps shone bright, illuminating the empty yards around the buildings. As a group, the entire Stapledon program walked toward the middle building, all of us following Isaac Lim. Walking through the big double doors and into a big room that could have easily fit the first floor of my parents’ house.

Old rusted machinery sat next to worn wooden tables on a floor made old boards that groaned under our feet. It looked as though the room hadn’t been used since the 1930’s.

On the far end of the room two rusty, iron doors stood, chained together. The chain gleamed grey as did the padlock.

Agent Lim stopped in front of the doors, waiting while we all gathered, the floor creaking under our boots. I stood next to Daniel, both of us in winter coats even though it was warming up–relatively speaking. For March, forty degrees wasn’t bad.

Izzy stood next to Cassie and Jaclyn. From the lack of interaction, I’d begun to guess that whatever talk Daniel and Izzy had after we’d fought the robots hadn’t gone well.

Not now, Daniel thought at me.

I might have followed up on it, but Isaac Lim started talking. He raised his hands for silence, and then lowered them as we became quiet. In his suit and tan overcoat, he looked every inch the stereotypical FBI agent.

“Everyone, thank you for your attention.” He stopped and gave a quick grin. “We’d always intended that this be part of your education at Stapledon, but in light of recent events, it’s become even more important.

“All of you know about NASA’s attempts to build a jumpgate safe spaceship out of purely human technology that satisfies the Reclamation Alliance’s standards for new members. You’re probably aware that we’ve failed every single inspection so far. All of those spaceships were constructed in Florida at Cape Kennedy. I’ve nothing against NASA, but you and I both know that those ships won’t be worth much in a fight.”

I shared his evaluation. I’d seen pictures of the ships sent to inspection the last few years. They looked like the standard NASA spaceship–all white except for the identification, and the U.S. flag. No weapons. No armor. Bearing in mind our history, that wasn’t something that would help us pass inspection.

Isaac waited, giving us a moment of silence before moving on.

“You’ve likely seen the news or watched SuperTV and know that we have better spaceships than that, ships we can’t pass off as our own work–the Heroes League’s jet, for example.”

People nearby glanced in our direction.

I thought I heard Sean’s voice then. I didn’t catch his exact words, but he sounded annoyed.

Isaac put his hands in his overcoat’s pockets. I’d already done the same. It wasn’t a warm room.

“We need to make those spaceships somewhere, and as some of you have already guessed, this is it.” He pulled his right hand out of his pocket and gestured toward a long section of wall.

It sunk into the floor, disappearing except for a few metal beams.The section hadn’t just been long, but more than two stories tall. The effect was electrifying.

We’d been standing in dim light, but it was like day on the other side of the wall. Light flooded the room as the sound of people talking and even shouting carried over. Forklifts hauled pallets of material–boxes, sheets of metal, barrels of liquid.

Skeletons of partially completed spaceships were scattered around the room–several of the Defenders podjets, and a podcarrier.

I wondered what sort of equipment they had, and how much they knew about the machine races.

Isaac stepped toward the opening and waved everyone to follow. “Everyone follow me, stay close, and no matter how interesting it looks, don’t touch anything.”

He caught my eye as he finished the last part. Then he led us inside.

It was everything I might have guessed. More than anything else, I was surprised how much I recognized. I smelled a few chemicals that I’d had to follow Grandpa’s directions to recreate. I wondered where they got them, and if, somewhere out there, there were factories devoted to making the stuff.

Isaac led us to the middle of the room which seemed strangely empty until we arrived, and noticed the railing. The railing went around a rectangular hole half as wide and almost as long as the building. Three metal bridges crossed it, but I noticed how accessible the bolts connecting the individual sections were. They’d been designed for easy assembly/disassembly.

The moment I reached the edge, I understood why. I also understood why they were only assembling small spaceships here. Three more levels, each at least as large as this one, lay beneath the surface. On the lowest level, a partially built spaceship filled much of the space. I looked to my left. The door on that end of the building was large enough that the ship could fly out. I wondered if any already had.

Wow.

“Amazing, isn’t it?” Isaac asked.

A few people cheered.

His gave a satisfied smile. “Right here we’ve got the potential to protect our world. Recent events have shown we can’t count on anyone else. Now, some of you might be wondering why we’d put a high profile target like this in the middle of one of our most populated cities, and why I’m showing it to you now.

“Well, the first decision was above my pay grade so no matter what I might think of it, there’s no use complaining. The second question is more interesting. In a war, we’ll need to protect this spot, and so we’ve brought you here to run some drills.”

23 thoughts on “Stardock: Part 1”

  1. Well, we back off from the tension of a last episode just a little bit, but you can be sure that nothing’s really changed there. It’s just a question of when everything starts to move.

    Though it’s not all that important, it amuses me that this is the closest I’ve gotten to having NYC appear in this series. Bearing in mind how often New York City appears in Marvel’s comics, you’d think it was essential, but apparently it isn’t.

    Oh, and if you want, you can review LoN at Web Fiction Guide and/or vote for it on Top Web Fiction (see top of page).

  2. Why do they need spaceships though? Guardian can open portals and stuff, and there are a couple bazillion (about two hundred thousand, actually) nuclear warheads on Earth. Simply have Guardian or similar teleporters tele-frag alien invaders; if they don’t have anti-teleportation stuff, move the bombs directly inside their ships. If they do have anti-teleportation stuff, move the nukes at the edge of their shields. Multimegaton nukes at point-blank range are fairly powerful weapons.

    Question: why aren’t governments producing technology other than the power impregnator? Like force-shields, antigravity drives, big energy weapons and stuff? Planets can always afford to have bigger, more powerful installations than spaceships; just equip every city bigger than a couple million people with a thousand power generators equivalent to the League Jet (dispersed for redundancy), ten antiorbital energy cannons a hundred times more powerful than the League Jet’s lasers each, and a big-a$$ shield.

    1. The major problem with a defense that’s completely based on Guardian is that it’s a short term fix. It assumes that he won’t be otherwise occupied or dead when you need him. It also assumes that he won’t get tired.

      As for why aren’t Earth’s governments mass producing alien tech… They don’t understand it well enough to be creative with it. Basically, they can copy exactly and hope it doesn’t go wrong. Also, it’s very expensive to create due to using materials that aren’t common.

      Even Nick doesn’t fully understand how all of it works.

  3. Oh, Belial. Assuming we’re capable of mass producing such tech, would you trust China with lasers powerful enough to burn through the crust of the planet? Do you think they’d trust the US with them? Do you think the Xinti would trust ANY earthling with enough firepower to assault the jumpgate? Politics trumps pragmatism every time. See the US healthcare debacle for further details.

  4. The major advantage with a defense entirely based on Guardian is that you could probably clone Guardian more easily and cheaply than you could build a spaceship, right? I mean, in any world where cloning people with powers is a thing, what prevents someone from taking the strongest parahumans around and cloning them? Not actual clones either – just people like Cassie who are effectively “descendants” of the original. Cloning Cassie is not really a big deal results-wise; you only get about a platoon’s combat effectiveness for your efforts. But cloning someone like Guardian or Izzy…

    As for trusting others with weapon X, that’s why I largely dislike what the global community has become. I think that in a world where such major opportunities existed, many nations may simply say “**** the UN, we’re building this. If they want to stop us they can try a war – economic isolation won’t work if we’re effectively 20% of the world’s economy”

  5. I am not sure how are you guys feel about this but I think Nick should be taking point or should be included on the team response for making the decisions that will organize and protect the earth. The reason been that it is only because of him that the earth has a figthing chance. They now have the information and the time they desperately need to prepare and save the world. If that it not a good enough reason this is the second time he has save the world and so far isaac has not even mentioned or thank him for that i feel that the government should be giving him resources to get ready for the invasion or some alien tech has a reward

  6. So is the name of the place actually “Stardock”? That’s the arc title, but Lim never introduced the location by name. He just calls it ‘this place’.

    Sometimes I get the feeling the Stapledon program is making it up as they go along. I know they’ve had classes before Nick’s class, but they always seem to be winging it. The subject matter tends to be whatever someone is available to teach that weekend.

  7. On guardian – It’s said somewhere that he got a serious upgrade from some aliens. It’s worth noting that Brooke, who has inherited the exact same power, is nowhere near as powerful. (we don’t know whether Guardian got his upgrade pre or post his daughter’s conception, though.) So there is no guarantee that you could get a clone with the amped-up power levels guardian has from straight genetics, and it’s really unlikely his clones are upgradable with earth tech at this time – they’ve barely (re)discovered power juice and PIDs.

    I rather doubt that aliens lack anti-teleport tech. Human versions are likely developed from their stuff, although that’s background we don’t have.

  8. “dim light, but the it was like day on the other side of the wall.”
    I think the word the may be extra

    “His gave a satisfied smile.”
    Wouldn’t. “He” or “Isaac” be better than “his” ?

    Keep the great writing coming.

  9. Jim must be really excited about what’s coming next(based on the number of typos). And considering how slow I was to get on and read, I can’t believe the rest of you left one for me.

    “on a floor made old boards” probably needs “of” after made.

    Loved this episode…. in the eye of the storm… 3 or 4 storms actually. Hrrrna/aliens vs humans; Daniel & Izzy; Nick and Sean; and absolutely no real information!

  10. Clone Guardian? Belial, I think you’re missing an important part of why Earth has been quarantined. You are proposing that they start creating armies of supers when most of the aliens they know of dislike them because another race used armies of Earth supers to attack them in the past.

    That’s a good way to frighten a bunch of aliens that are already paranoid.

    In the interest of mad science, let me propose a two-pronged defensive strategy.

    Part 1: a way to freeze the jumpgates open so that energy from the Sol System gate is capable of passing through to every other jumpgated system out there.

    Part 2: A doomsday weapon capable of forcing the sun to expand and explode set to a deadman’s switch.

    Granted, it’ll only allow a limited amount of the explosion to move throughout the gates before the Sol gate is destroyed, but at the very minimum we’re talking galactic destruction of the jumpgate network and anything really close to them.

      1. Its been proposed b4. It was a theme of Farscape, and it was the reason all the aliens were after the protagonist, specifically that knowledge to open wormholes and use them as a weapon.

  11. Oh Gecko… You tell us not to scare them, then you suggest a way to destroy them all.
    I suggest flying up in a stolen alien spaceship, then using an Apple computer to upload a computer virus and their spaceship.
    Or recruiting a team of B-Movie monsters to fight the aliens.

  12. Jerden, or a team of young men and women in bright spandex: youtu.be/ZSOrR76FU_4?t=1m16s

    Besides, my way they have nothing to be scared about unless earth is destroyed. In which case, they’d better make sure nobody attacks earth.

    Besides, I like to keep a doomsday weapon or two on hand, and it’s my right to do so thanks to the Second Amendment and the National Doomsday Weapon Association.

  13. [Quote]On the far end of the room two rusty, iron doors stood, chained together.[/Quote]

    You probably want to remove the first comma since it the doors and not the two or rusty that are chained together it you want the pause before chained together. You could almost get away from putting any in.

    On the far end of the room two rusty iron doors stood chained together.

  14. [Quote]Agent Lim stopped in front of the doors, waiting while we all gathered, the floor creaking under our boots.[/Quote]

    I should have waited.
    This is minor- the floor creaking under our boots- seems to be separate and could stand alone. If you want to keep it together maybe put in semicolon ;the floor creaking under our boots.

  15. Typo alert.

    *Old rusted machinery sat next to worn wooden tables on a floor made old boards that groaned under our feet.”
    Should be: *on a floor made OF old boards*

  16. Five years late to this debate. But cloning an army.
    So making a generation of slaves to fight and die for us? Noble. And risky as you assume the clones will want to do as they are told and not rebel.
    You have aliens working to incinerate humanity with neutron weaponry. And they have ships capable of jump without a gate. Why would they care that you damaged a gate or your deadman’s switch. To them it is a terrorist holding a live grenade in a room full of other terrorists. Shoot him and you get a bunch of others as well.
    No a good doomsday weapon is a robotic fleet in the middle of no where space. It gets activated if humanity dies. It’s targets. All the other alien worlds with neutron weapons like they planned for earth.
    We have the copied ships and the designs for the bombs. So earth could have those things if it really wanted them.

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