Stardock: Part 25

I spoke over the comm to Bloodmaiden. “Lim’s going to send Paladin here. That or he’s going to bring you to Paladin. Either way, you’re getting help soon.”

“Thanks.” It was a little hard to make out the word.

Switching away to our general channel, I addressed everyone. “Could someone make sure Bloodmaiden’s comfortable?”

“I’m better off than you think,” she said.

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw her push herself up into a sitting position on the brown grass. She gave a little gasp as she became fully upright.

Jaclyn turned her head away from the prisoners on the ground to look at her. “Don’t do that. You’re only making things worse.”

Bloodmaiden shook her head. “I’m not. I can still fight. I’ve got lots of power to work with right now. I can’t heal myself, but I can preserve myself… long enough.”

Then she pulled herself to her feet.

Jaclyn stared at her. “You’re crazy.”

Bloodmaiden shrugged, and said in a low voice, “You’re hurt too.”

Glancing over at the door to the building, Jaclyn said, “Not as badly as you.”

She’d noticed the same thing that I had–everyone was coming out of the building now.

It would have felt a little strange walking past Bloodmaiden as she lay on the ground, and making conversation with these people, but since she wasn’t… I walked across the grass toward Dr. Griffin.

She blinked as she noticed something behind me. Using my HUD’s extended peripheral vision, I noticed Cassie walking toward where Jaclyn and Izzy guarded the prisoners. Cassie had her hand on the gun.

Dr. Griffin watched the gun, and then asked me, “Is that what I think it is?”

Lacking a better response, I said, “I don’t know.”

She noticed the Xiniti’s body, and the silvery armor lying on the grass. She didn’t say anything about that. In her place, I would have been hoping that we’d neglect to collect it before we left.

“So,” I asked, “what did the aliens want with your lab?”

She turned away from the dead Xiniti, and said to me, “We research alien artifacts. I’m surprised you didn’t know that. We don’t advertise it, but we’re not trying to keep it secret either.”

“I saw the shield,” I said.

She deflated. “It was a desperation move. We knew it was a shield, but we didn’t know what it did. I don’t know exactly where it came from. One of our donors had access to it and said we should take a look at it. It was so close to working that we barely had to do anything. We figured out how to turn it on last month. We’d been hoping to start reverse engineering it soon.”

She looked at her building, and at the gap in the wall that one of the ships’ beams had burned from the top of the second floor to the ground.

“We won’t get the chance now. They destroyed something inside it when they were shooting at us.”

She stopped, looking back toward her husband. He was holding the two children’s hands, and talking to them.

One of them, a girl, waved at us. The boy nodded at something his father said.

Dr. Griffin turned back to me. “I can’t believe we all almost died. I got a call from one of our supporters in the National Science Foundation, and he said that we should hide, and if we had any way to hide the artifacts, we should hide them too.”

I nodded. “And thus the shield.”

She took it as permission to continue talking. “We were so lucky. If he’d never called, they would have been able to take everything before you even arrived.”

I thought about that. How lucky was it? Could it simply be chance, or had the Nine supplied them with an Abominator shield knowing that they’d likely be able to fix it, and use it against a threat? Plus, how likely was it that they’d be called with a “just in time” warning?”

Not very likely, I decided. Even if someone in the NSF did know someone in the FBI, there wasn’t much of a chance that they’d be told about an attack by aliens soon enough to do anything about it.

No, most likely her contact had something to do with the Nine. Ditto the donor with the entropy shield generator.

Did she know it? I doubted it. She’d have done more to hide the connections at the very least. Of course, it could be that she had hidden them, and told me complete lies.

Still, from what I’d seen of her, that seemed less likely.

I decided not to worry about it, but realized that if she wasn’t knowingly involved with the Nine, someone had better tell her who her research was ultimately serving.

Well, maybe. Come to think of it, the Nine were probably keeping tabs on her 24/7. Any member of her staff could be one of their operatives.

Of course, now that she’d come to the attention of the Hrrnna, and the Feds, who knew what would happen next?

I could guess. The Feds would want to impound everything, and the Nine’s operative would want to sneak the best stuff out.

Crap. How had this gone from battle to intrigue?

Dr. Griffin cleared her throat. I must have spaced out noticeably.

Before I could say anything, Vaughn walked up, and waved at the kids. The kids waved back.

Giving both Dr. Griffin and I a grin, he said, “Sorry about how useless I was after I moved the ships. I had to catch my breath, and the next thing I knew the Xiniti was running everywhere. I’d have helped but you were all too close together for a lightning strike.”

“Storm King?” Dr. Griffin held out her hand and Vaughn shook it. “I can’t say I expected to see the Grand Lake Heroes League here.”

Vaughn smiled again. “It comes with the job. We didn’t expect to be here either, but people needed help, so we’re helping.”

Dr. Griffin pointed at Izzy, and Bloodmaiden. “Are they new members?”

“No,” I said, “just friends of ours.”

The Stapledon Program was supposed to be secret too, but how secret could it be after all this?

18 thoughts on “Stardock: Part 25”

  1. Anyone find it odd that Dr. Griffin commented on Storm King being from the Grand Lake Heroes but not Rocket or Cassie. How about Storm King’s overly long explanation about the lightening strike? He could have used hail, wind, etc to slow down a quickly running alien without harming his friends. Hmmm……

  2. I had already been considering Izzy a full League member, myself, much like Chris and Kayla and the Justice Fist members patrolling Grand Lake this year alongside Night Cat and the Shift. Maybe this should be discussed by the founding members as soon as the world is no longer ending…

  3. Nick really should try to get out of that habit of answering questions just because someone asks. Learning phrases like ‘no comment’, ‘classified information’, or ‘I am not at liberty to provide the requested information at this time’ can help while working up to advanced secret-keeping techniques like ignoring questions, vague non-answers, and lying.

  4. @Mazzon: Or blame it on the tech…

    I tapped the side of my helmet where it protruded slightly to give the suggestion of an ear.

    “I’m sorry, took a direct hit, and it’s messed up the audio. Can’t hear anything properly right now, but it comes and goes — oh hey, is that Elvis?!”

    Hg

  5. One Grand Lake Hero is ‘solo action’, two is co-incidence, three, three means the team is present. [grin]

    I think Rocket got away with that – supers are allowed to have other supers as friends, without it implying anything about them being friends in secret id. In fact, ‘friends’ might be better than (potential) ‘team mates’. I don’t think he could have got away with claiming they were ‘enemies’. [grin]

  6. Heroes have friends. Could just be someone they know. If he really wants to put some spin in on it, he could get all exasperated and be like “…exes.”

    Who knows? After the porn video, they might believe he could handle Super Fine and Bloodlust over there. “Heh heh, well let’s just say there’s a reason they don’t call her ‘Blood Virgin’ anymore, am I right?” *throws up a hand for Vaughn to high five.*

  7. If he did that Gecko, I think the question would be: who should Nick be more afraid of, Haley or Bloodmaiden?

    I suspect Izzy probably wouldn’t crush him, even if she were tempted, but I could be wrong. Or maybe the’d just team up and pull him apart like a wishbone. Of course, given that it would be such a not-Nick thing to say, the more productive option would be to check him for a recently-shaved goatee and determine which alternate universe the evil (or at least obnoxious) version of Nick came from.
    “Rocket, you failed to compensate for the ion storm. Your agonizer, please.”

    As long as good Nick isn’t trapped in the shrimp world, I bet he could last until rescue arrived.

    On a more serious note, I think the reason Dr. G commented on the team being present when Storm King walked up was simply because he broke the previous thread of conversation.

    Fun to see that, once again, Nick is already thinking about the implications of the day’s events. As long as he has someone on hand to keep him from going on tangents or spacing out, this is what makes him a good candidate for leadership. I see Cassie, at least, as more of a sergeant-type; fine with the tactics and capable of independent action, but not an ideal unit leader. I think Vaughn is kind of in a similar position.

    Daniel I’m less sure about. He seems to shy away from being in charge, but it’s hard to say why.

  8. Curious George,

    I’d say Daniel avoids leadership because if you are a mentalist, and a leader, the people who you lead begin to concern themselves with things like “Is he fooling with our minds to stay the leader?”

    Classic mentalist issue. Unless you are leading a bunch of other mentalists, or people much less powerful than you, people will begin to be suspicious.

    If people are completely happy with the leadership of the mentalist, and realize they are completely happy with it, then they will get suspicious.

    It’s a catch-22. The better a leader you are as a mentalist, the more likely it is that people will begin to think you are using your power inappropriately.

  9. Gotta say, if I were a mentalist, I’d pretty much be using my power inappropriately all the time. I’d just walk down the street and be all…
    Eating disorder…Fixed.
    Panic attacks…Fixed.
    PTSD…Fixed.
    Depression…Fixed.
    Anger issues…Fixed.
    Never gets around to going to the gym…Fixed.
    Doesn’t understand personal hygiene…Fixed.
    Believe’s vaccines cause autism…Fixed.

    Of course, that makes me a villain, tampering with free will and all. I just doubt I could stop myself from trying to fix things, had I the power. Too much engineer in me.

  10. I doubt it’d be that simple a thing to pull off, Luke. Some of that stuff is related to chemicals and such.

    And while I agree with you on that last one, there’s the possibility that another mentalist might be going around working against you on that one because he or she thinks differently.

    Heck, a few decades ago, you’d have had a mentalist going around trying to fix homosexuality, which used to be classified as a mental disorder. Some people still see transgendered people as mentally ill. Think about a sufficiently powerful mentalist in the KKK? Or who is a Neo-Nazi?

    Then again, if they wanted to go all “Cut Lex Luthor A Check” they might just have a job as a televangelist or faith healer instead.

  11. I am intimately familiar with the chemical aspects of depression, PG, trust me. As for whether a mentalist could alter the chemical balance of the brain permanently? Depends on the author’s view of the limitations of the powers (or the actual limitations, in a hypothetical non-fictional situation).

    If they could dive deep enough, they might actually be able to ‘fix’ homosexuality, as attraction is a combination of biochemical hardware and software.

    But only a bad guy would do bad things like that. Not only am I the hero, I’m also unquestionably Right. And we all know it’s okay to override other people’s free will if it’s for their own good… =P

  12. I’m going to plug Adam Warren’s latest Empowered comic here – Mindf***’s description of her and her brother’s habit of rewiring themselves towards their ideals is frighting. Not least is that the brother (Accidentally?) rewired himself into a sociopath that forced his sister to mutilate herself.

  13. Ah, the classic mentalist problems of where to draw the line and whether people can trust you.

    Of course, there’s never a way to be sure, really. For all I know, I’m currently living in a world where the telepath next door prevents me from ever realizing the truth about his powers; that’s indistinguishable from a reality in which they don’t exist. Certainly, if you know somebody is one, then it’s an open question whether or not they can ever really be trusted.

    Of course, there’s a spectrum of telepathic power. If all someone can do is make conversation mind-to-mind, that’s a lot less dangerous than the kind of multifaceted stuff Daniel can do. In this case, though (given the nature of the story/characters), I think it’s more Daniel’s personality that stops him from leading than his power.

    Definitely a real issue, however. And the idea of two or more telepaths going around making opposing “fixes” to everyone’s brains is a terrifying one. Imagine adding that to the Cold War; there’s a troubling scenario.

    CG

  14. Nooooo, I’ve caught up
    I gotta say, after reading Harry Potter & The Methods of Rationality, Worm, Psycho Gecko, A Grey World, & now Legion of Nothing, I’m amazed, not just by how many talented authors exist, but also the quality of you folks work is outrageous=)

    This really says something about the pre-internet model for publishings constraints on talent. Just going by the rate new authors broke into the biz in the old days, I bet that even though all of you are talented enough to be published, only one of you would get the lucky break, depriving us of the others work

    Just another reason to be glad I get to live inside a SF story=)

    1. Murph: I’m often amused to realize that we are living in a period that would have been science fiction not too long ago. Most recently I thought that while walking from one room to another in my house while watching a movie on my iPad.

      As for the praise, thanks. I’m personally all too aware of the mistakes I make, but I agree that there’s a surprising amount of very good stories being published online–many more than you’d expect anyway.

  15. Me? Included in a list about talented authors, quality work, and talent enough to be published?

    You know, I’d heard cocaine was a hell of a drug. Ah well, fans of all kinds are welcome too. Woohoo, super sex and drug party! Watch out, Izzy want snoo snoo!

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