Stardock: Part 7

Brain Gang, a short man with dark skin and short, black hair, stood in front of the group of us. He wore a green suit (with matching mask and hat) that to my eye appeared to include material similar to that in my stealth suit. The material on the outside seemed normal, but the suit appeared to be stiffer and just a little thicker than normal material.

I recognized Brain Gang’s name. I’d heard it from Grandpa. Either this was a descendant of the original Brain Gang, or the original was still around. Given that this guy appeared to be in his thirties, I leaned toward descendant.

The parking lot held no cars, and for good reason. If you were going to be training a bunch of college students, many of whom were still learning to use their abilities, would you want to have your car where a stray blast of energy could destroy it?

Brain Gang stood in front of the shipyard building on a stool. When the wind came up, he held on to his hat.

“You’ve all seen the plans by now,” he shouted. “They were made with two goals in mind. First to defend Stardock from alien attackers. Second, to evacuate the base so that we can blow it up if defense becomes impossible. We’ll first practice defending the base, and after that we’ll practice delaying tactics that will allow the civilians to evacuate and escape.”

So that was the morning. I was assigned to a group of armored flyers that included Izzy. I used “armored” in the loose sense. In the strict sense, I was the only armored flyer there. Everyone else came naturally armored. “Everyone else” included Brittany and Brianna (identical twins who turned into glowing energy forms, calling themselves the Aurora Bees), Solar Flare’s younger brother Theo (who hadn’t had powers last I heard, but must have been run through a power impregnator), and our unit’s leader, Patriot Jr.

Patriot Jr. struck me as the kind of guy who could make it big in modeling or Hollywood. He had the looks–square jaw, a body that was muscular, but not freakishly so. Unsurprisingly his costume had a red, white, and blue patriotic theme. This was even less of a surprise when you considered that his father’s had too. His father led the Washington D.C. Liberators, the city’s premiere superhero team.

He spent the time between exercises chatting up Brittany and Brianna, leaving Izzy, Theo and I to stand together on the roof of the shipyard building.

“Again?” Izzy shook her head as Patriot Jr. took some excuse to put his arm around Brianna for a moment and made a joke. “Tell me they know what he’s doing.”

“Oh, they know,” Theo said, his plasma sheath disappearing, leaving only his red and yellow costume. “I’ve known them for years. They make a lot of jokes about guys who hit on them because of the twin thing.”

Izzy shook her head. “They can add one more joke to the list. We’re supposed to be talking about how we did on the last exercise, and he’s supposed to be leading it.”

Theo gave a relaxed grin, “You could lead it.”

Izzy smiled and glanced over to where they were talking. “He’s the one who most needs to hear it.”

She was right. During the last exercise we’d started our attack late, and it was all because Patriot Jr. had been paying more attention to whoever he’d been texting than the position of the drones we were supposed to be fighting.

All the same, it hadn’t been a bad morning. Even if we’d spent most of it ragging on our fearless leader, you could consider that bonding. Plus, whatever tension had been going on between Daniel and Izzy appeared to have vanished. I’d seen them holding hands on the way out of breakfast.

Theo pointed toward the parking lot. “It looks like it’s not going to make much of a difference. I think we’re switching to evacuation plans. The glass cannons are back.”

I wasn’t sure where he’d gotten the name from, but it fit. The unit included Vaughn, Sean, Daniel, and other flyers who could dish out damage, but weren’t great at taking it. We’d trained together earlier in the morning. There were maneuvers where we basically acted as their bodyguards, and others where they covered us as we attacked. When you forgot the purpose of the exercises, they’d even been fun.

They landed near us on the roof, and Daniel waved at us. Both Izzy and I waved back, making me wonder who he’d actually been waving at.

Both of you, Daniel thought back at me.

Along with a couple other capes I didn’t recognize, Brain Gang floated up to the roof on a rectangular platform that appeared to be held in the air by multiple jet engines–small ones. I thought about it. Getting people up in the air on that thing without throwing them off would be a challenging project.

The platform rose above the roof and floated across it. When it landed, Brain Gang addressed all of us.

“You, all of you here, are one of the most important pieces of Stardock’s defense. We’ve got people with great hand to hand combat abilities. We’ve got people with great powers. You’re the only ones we have with mobility, and our best chance to prevent a threat from getting close enough to attack.

“Frankly,” he said, “I haven’t been impressed with what I’ve seen so far. You need to step up, because if you don’t the people inside this building will all die when we blow the place. So, here’s where we’re going to start. We’re going send down more drones. There will be too many, but it will be your job to take down as many as you can before they can come in range. Some will be troop transports. You’ll need to stop them before they can land. Ready?”

A few people shouted yes. The rest of us looked at each other. Sean and I briefly caught each others’ eye, and turned away.

This was going to suck.

33 thoughts on “Stardock: Part 7”

  1. Happy new year to all. It’s a little belated but not much.

    For what it’s worth, last year was my best year in terms of numbers so far. LoN had roughly 414,000 pageviews over the course of the year. Previously, the best it had done was 288,000. So that’s progress. Hopefully this year will be at least as good, or better.

    Don’t forget to promote LoN whereever it works for you, and thanks for any promotion you’ve done–not to mention thanks for simply reading.

  2. One the is all that needs to be here.

    Second, to evacuate the the base so that we can blow it up if defense becomes impossible.

    Also Long Live The Legion. And yes I know it a Dc quote.

  3. Well, happy new year.
    The heroes have a serious problem of too much ego. A problem that should be expected in people that “are above and beyond” the normal humans.
    Yeah, it looks like the university with the same predictable results if they try to fight together.

  4. “You need to step up, because if you don’t they people inside this building will all die when we blow the place.”
    Pretty sure that they should be a the.
    First fix of the new year

  5. First, echoing what Lingy said, A BIG THANK YOU for all the writing and work you put into this. I always look forward to reading it.

    Second, in addition to the “the the” that Jeff mentioned, there’s one more “the” issue. In

    “because if you don’t they people inside this building will all die when we blow the place”

    there is a “they” which should be a “the”.

  6. [[Sean and I briefly caught each others’ eye, and turned away.]]

    Doesn’t the Rocket suit come with a helmet that fully covers Nick’s face and eyes? More like Nick looks at Sean, and Sean sees an inscrutable faceplate that might or might not be observing him.

    I know you’re pretty invested in ‘Legion of Nothing’ as a title at this point, but I have to say it seems more inappropriate as the story goes on. I read “Legion of Nothing” and it seems like it should preresent a more cynical take on superheroes. (They stand for ‘nothing’.) ‘League of Heroes’ would make a lot more sense as the overall title.

    1. I can see how you’d get a superhero deconstruction out of the title, but that’s not what I was thinking about. With the whole “coming of age” aspect of the story, I was thinking of what kids often say when they don’t want to go into detail about what they’ve been doing.

      “What did you do at school today?”

      “Nothing.”

      I’ve heard this used even by high schoolers.

      Also, I don’t know what your experience of your teens and young adulthood was like, but it wasn’t obvious where I was going or what I was going to do next. The title reflects that feeling too.

      Plus I also wanted the title to reflect that the characters may be trying to do the right thing, but they don’t see themselves as heroes. Thus, I wanted something less confident than titles like “Legion of Superheroes,” “Teen Titans,” “Young Justice,” or “Young Avengers.”

      At the same time I wanted a little bit of the sound of some of those classic names. Thus Legion of Nothing.

      1. Jim, first Bravo! Your work is excellent, and the quantity is amazing. I first came to the series via the ebook version shortly after it came out, but only recently discovered the serial. I’ve been slowly working my way through the archives and comments for the last month or so, and just got to this installment. I’m really enjoying, and have to say the series is even better than the original arc/novel. The comments and hearing the author talk about the ongoing work add a whole new dimension that isn’t an option for the one and fone novel format.

        I tell you the following only because I really appreciate all your sharing with us, and really want you to succeed… I have to agree with Mathew about the title. It was part of the reason I passed on the ebook the fist couple times it came up on my suggestion list, and while it makes sense as you have described it for the first arc, I think it is becoming less appropriate as the series goes on and the heroes begin to find their own identities and move out of the shadows of grandparents, and high-school angst. Its also just hard to “sell” the series to other potential fans – it just doesn’t lend itself to excitement… it sounds like anticlimax humor, and just doesn’t capture the delightful pulp/golden age meets modern post 00t’s disillusionment, cautiously optimistic “heroic realism”
        that the series offers. Perhaps for the next novels go for a different series title, and let LoN be just the title of the opening book? I’m probably totally unqualified to even make these suggestions – you have probably talked it over with the marketing team at your publisher… but if not I jist suggest you ask them for an honest opinion regarding the name and potential sales impact.

        Again please forgive my presumption, or if the whole post is pointless since I’m still years behind, my only motivation is good will and self interest that you are so successful that I get an unending stream of LoN books to buy 😉

        Love the series, Nick is a unique voice in the genre, and I love that the pacing allows such subtle examination of both the standard superhero tropes, and the potential implications / results! Definitely the thinking beings superhero prose!

        Thank you for doing this, good luck on the next book, and please put up a donate button somewhere so we can show more than written appreciation in the meantime!

        All the Best, dreading eventually catch up…

        1. I’m glad you’re reading and that you enjoy it. I hope you’ll enjoy following the serial once you get to the present update.

          I’d be interested in finding out if the name “The Legion of Nothing” actually turns away those most likely to enjoy the series. I’d probably rename it if I was aware it was actually causing problems.

          That said, I’ve had as many compliments about the name as I have criticisms–that is to say, barely any either way. My observation is that most people don’t think much about it at all.

          As such I’m probably not going to change it. There are good things about that. For one, it’s been around on the internet since 2007, and there are plenty of people who enjoyed reading the archives, but didn’t stay to follow the serial. These people are great candidates for buying the books. They’ve got a much better chance of buying the books if they recognize the name.

          As for the appropriateness of the name… Well, you and Matthew have a good point. Ideally the title would be appropriate for the entire series.

          I’d argue that essentially Legion of Nothing is a coming-of-age story. Bearing that in mind, a series title that continually reminds you of how far the characters have come isn’t all a bad thing, especially given that I’m not changing the characters at a breakneck pace.

          If you can’t accept that, that’s fine. I count the series as being in good company as other series whose names don’t quite represent them anymore:

          The Dresden Files: Harry Dresden’s continued to solve mysteries, but hasn’t been a private detective for a few books now.

          The Lost Fleet: The fleet hasn’t been lost for the entire second series, and the last part of the first one.

          You may be able to supply a few examples of your own.

  7. Happy new year back, and thanks for the story. It’s fun to read.

    I find myself wondering how Sean perceives Nick at this point. He could easily just be resentful, but I get the impression that he may have started to get the point, and I can even imagine him cleaning up his act, though I figure it would be a long-term process.

    As far as the current situation, training against excessive numbers definitely seems like a good idea. It might also be smart to split into groups, have half defend the facility while the other half “attack” it or something like that. I don’t know if any of the hostiles they’re expecting have powers, but it’s certainly a possibility, and even if not they’ll likely have similarly potent technologies.

    On a side note, it might be funny if Patriot Jr. got “killed” while trying to show off. Given that he’s actively interfering with other peoples’ ability to train, and that some of them need this training badly, I’m not feeling too sympathetic to him, especially since I seem to recall he was less than impressive during a brief appearance earlier – in Cassie’s segment, I think?

    I’m not assuming he’s a bad guy or even a major jerk, but it reminds me of Nick’s earlier observations about Alex, and how supers with public IDs can have strange lives.

    Oh, and re: the title, I think Matthew has a point, but I’m hesitant to judge without knowing everything about the story and where it’s going. Some titles make more sense in retrospect, and this could easily be one such.

    CG

  8. The plans for the Stardock defense seem tactically off. Even human missiles fired from orbit and prepped for re-entry will achieve Mach 30. None of the fliers (except perhaps Izzy) would see the attack coming before a piece of metal larger than themselves struck them traveling at over 6 miles/second and spread their molecules half across the state.

    Were I an alien commander, I would have also pinpointed neutrino sources in/around the base and sent a 30-foot-long, inch-wide tungsten KEW at each of them from halfway to the moon. Because slagging any atomic or fusion bombs or reactors, even those buried behind 300 feet of reinforced concrete or 75 feet of steel armor, before they can explode and wipe the base (and my evidence) or power up any ships to fight me would be a good idea.

    If you are in orbit and your target isn’t, Sir Isaak Newton can handle the opposition for you with a handful of rocks and spears.
    If you’re prepared you also got Mr. Edward Teller, Mr. Stanislaw Ulam, and John von Neumann on your side – at which point any planet-confined civilization is doomed.

    1. Belial: That assumes that the alien commander won’t get charged for war crimes or chased down by the Xiniti (once they’re back on duty) as a result of attacking Earth. Even though Alliance isn’t perfect, laws are enforced and Earth is a protected civilization. Get caught and said commander, his ship, and possibly his species die.

      The Xiniti are good at killing and have reputation for genocide. They took the Abominators out largely on their own.

      By contrast, if the hypothetical alien commander captures the base and proves Earth’s using alien tech, the Xiniti have to destroy humanity.

      You get the same result, but don’t die. It’s a much better deal.

  9. I wonder if the aliens would use a non-offensive way of taking out humanity though. A retrovirus that looks like the common cold but is actually performing gene “therapy” on the population to make everyone have an IQ of 50 or develop dangerous mental problems would be less risky than open attack.

    After all, you could cook one of those with human tech and maybe a few decades more knowledge of biology than we got in real life right now. Totally untraceable and an entire species could be disabled before they realized it.

    1. That might not be a bad way to go–though if they traced the retrovirus back to the source, there would be problems for the offending individual and/or species.

      One can imagine that’s untraceable, but it might not be.

  10. [[“What did you do at school today?”

    “Nothing.”

    I’ve heard this used even by high schoolers.

    Also, I don’t know what your experience of your teens and young adulthood was like, but it wasn’t obvious where I was going or what I was going to do next. The title reflects that feeling too.]]

    Jim, don’t want to argue with you too much in the comments and it’s not a big deal, but that’s why I said it was “more inappropriate as the story goes on”.

    It worked when the group was mostly about pizza night and Nick wasn’t so sure he even wanted to do this crazy hero thing, but by this point in the story he’s pretty firmly committed to carrying on being the new Rocket. Far from being uncertain, his future seems basically fixed and more and more he and his friends do see themselves as heroes. (Even Izzy seems to be coming around!)

    I guess he’s maybe outgrown the Legion of Nothing.

    1. I can see where you’re coming from. I even agree that it’s more appropriate as a title for the beginning of the story than the middle or end. I don’t see it as a problem though in that the beginning is the base point that defines what the story is about, and there are some fairly important decisions still to come, all of which flow in some form from the beginning.

      That, and I like the name. That’s in there somewhere.

  11. The best way to try and annihilate humanity, Belial, is to use humanity. They’ve already tried it. Get over-powered weapons into the hands of irresponsible people and let them do what they failed to in the Cold War. That very nearly happened already, too, with those bombs they had to destroy.

    Their hands would be completely clean, because it could easily be pinned on humans doing whatever they could to get alien technology that was forbidden to them. And as long as bases like this one survived the blasts, they had “proof” of that story.

    Who knows, maybe this whole thing with the Jay and Kay and the Xinity is just another attempt to unleash the monsters from Maple Street on people again.

    1. I always do, i wouldn’t bet on it against a nuke or volcano the way cracked does but the video makes it pretty clear the non super hero universe version is impressive enough soooooooooo yeah

  12. I’ve run into mentions of this stuff before. If it’s a hoax, it’s a persistent one. Not that it means this miracle plastic isn’t, just that it’s gotten or started beyond cracked.

    But yeah, if something like that was real, either the government scooped it up on the spot or some corporation arranged for him to spill the secret. I really doubt he would have been allowed to keep it.

  13. My guess on what’s going to happen next – the test turns real. Heavy attack units from the spin-ward searchers instead of target drones.

    Oops

  14. “Again?” Izzy shook her head as Patriot Jr. took some excuse to put his arm around Brianna for a moment and made a joke. “Tell me they know what he’s doing.”

    “Oh, they know,” Theo said, his plasma sheath disappearing, leaving only his red and yellow costume. “I’ve known them for years. They make a lot of jokes about guys who hit on them because of the twin thing.”

    If Brittany and Brianna joked about that to Theo, are they trying to drop hints to get him to do that to them or is it because he’s totally in the ‘friend zone’?

  15. Ah… Poor Theo, here I was hoping he was going to get a Childhood Friend Romance & a Twin Threesome reality at the same time.

    1. My experience is that women who find they fit into some kind of common sexual fantasy are less than enthusiastic about it–mostly because they find it wearing after a while. Some of my sister’s friends were Japanese exchange students, and they got kind of sick of guys with Asian fetishes.

      I’ve heard similar things from other women in my life.

  16. Heh, again, apologies to your inbox. It’s almost as fun commenting as it is reading sometimes. After I finish the editing of a chapter today, I’m going to have to find another web serial to catch up on. I’m leaning towards Stoneburners right now, but that might change.

    1. No problem. It’s been entertaining reading your comments. It’s always helpful when people notice typos and grammatical mistakes, and the comments about how the story is working for you are definitely something for me to reflect on as I work on the ebook version.

  17. “Solar Flare’s younger brother Theo” … wait. What? Solar Flare had been targeted by The Executioner! They took out at minimum Flare’s girlfriend, and his grandfather-figure-friend. But wasn’t the usual M.O. to take out relatives, then friends? (It certainly was with Sean, at any rate.) So how is this younger brother even ALIVE? Also, who ran him through an impregnator, given what happened to Flare, and given how there would need to be even more living relatives? Also, how is Theo seeming so relaxed for a guy who’s now facing Nick, who was trying to save Solar Flare from himself? Does he not know the history? Because he seems to have grown up around supers, he knows the twins!

    This has raised a LOT of questions for me! Was this merely an attempt to reuse an old hero? Because I’m not sure Flare’s your guy, or if he is, there might need to be more context.

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