I stood over the chair. Silver with a padded seat, and black, leather straps for the arms and head, it looked like a futuristic electric chair out of a 1950’s science fiction novel.
Amid the tools, tables, computers, 3-d printers, fabrication machines, and half finished inventions, it stood out because the guts weren’t visible. It didn’t have wires hanging out, and it didn’t currently have any burn marks.
To the degree that anything that looked like an electric chair could look elegant, it did look elegant.
Of course, it wasn’t actually an electric chair. My grandfather had used it to give his friend, Giles Hardwick (alias Red Lightning), permanent superpowers, saving him from having to lug along flasks of power juice.
After he’d been zapped by the chair, Giles Hardwick went full on supervillain, targeting his friends in the Heroes League, and creating an army of supers with temporary powers like he used to have–except theirs were laced with addictive drugs.
Last year it was stolen, modified, and used to empower others before we’d gotten it back, damaging it in the process.
I’d repaired it with the idea that I’d use it on Courtney, a friend of mine from college and high school, giving her permanent powers, and allowing her to join the Stapledon program, a program for training supers.
Hopefully, it would work out better this time. It had for Vaughn, Giles’ grandson. He didn’t show any signs of attempting to kill us all–so far.
I reminded myself of that while I stared at the chair, hoping that I wasn’t about to do anything stupid.
Kayla entered the lab as I stood. Around my height, she looked tan, and had brown, shoulder length hair. Even though it was summer, she wore a button down shirt and slacks. It seemed overly formal to me, but as the only paid staff the Heroes League had, she was officially at work.
It made sense.
Of course, I was arguably at work myself, and I was wearing jeans along with a t-shirt that said “teh.”
“I’ve been thinking,” she said. “The League trains with your martial arts teacher every Wednesday. Do you suppose I could come along, and train with you? Even if I only helped direct people, like I do in the field, it would still help me.”
For the record, having people ask my permission to do things was very strange. I still wasn’t sure what I thought of that.
On the other hand, bringing her in for Lee’s classes was more a question for me than anyone but Lee himself.
“I guess,” I said. “It’d probably help all of us. Come to think of it, we probably should have been doing that all along.”
“I know,” Kayla said. “We practiced a few times, but I’ve mostly done it during real fights, and that’s a terrible time to make a mistake.”
I thought about it. How had we managed to miss that? Well, we’d been in the middle of a life and death struggle at the time she’d joined, and we hadn’t had a lot of downtime since then between school, the Stapledon program, and random problems.
“I’ll talk to Lee. He won’t mind. I warn you though, he probably won’t let you stay in armor all the time, and he’s likely to teach you how to fight–not just coordinate.”
She met my eyes. “After the alien invasion last month, that’s good news. I still can’t believe I survived without it.”
As she walked out of the lab, I couldn’t help but think that that was a change, and probably a good one.
I’d noticed that she’d seemed unhappy this year. I’d assumed it was because she missed Cassie–her best friend and the person who pulled her into coordinating the League in the first place.
When we were talking about it, Haley said she thought it was more complicated than that, but I never got around to asking her how.
Whatever was going on, putting Kayla into a short life and death fight had done more for her than months of me quietly hoping she’d get over it.
Haley had also said it was more complicated than that. She was probably right.
Deciding to concentrate on the task at hand, I gave the chair a final round of tests.
I’d spent enough time reading my grandfather’s notes that I understood what triggered powers in the few people who could get them. That was good because I’d had to replace a number of broken parts, and it helped to understand the why behind the tests Grandpa had created for the machine.
If I hadn’t understood the reasons behind the tests, it probably would have worried me more that the current version of the machine was getting better marks than the original.
As it was, I was only a little worried. The tests indicated that the machine would most likely stimulate the changes necessary in the body and mind with less work and possibly with a greater effect.
That wasn’t a bad thing, right? Whatever process activated Cassie’s powers had a greater effectiveness (for her powers) than the previous version of Grandpa’s machine.
The results of the final tests came back the same as the others.
I took a breath, and began detaching the cords from the machine, and then from the testing device. A long, rectangular, black box, the testing device could have doubled for part of a band’s sound equipment.
It grew warm as I turned on its “purge” setting. That would destroy the samples as well as the Petri dishes they grew in.
Checking my watch, I realized I had an hour to kill before Courtney appeared.
I could go into the main room and hang out with Kayla, but I didn’t feel like it. The whole line of thought had reminded me of a story my grandfather had told me. I walked over to the file cabinets to see how his story matched up with the after action report.
I found it in a few minutes, and pulled out the folder, opening it, and beginning to read the first sheet of yellowed paper.
It was the 1970’s. The Heroes League had fought the last Abominators to a standstill, and destroyed them, unwittingly committing xenocide, and winning the friendship of the Xiniti at the same time…