When It’s Over: Part 1

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…

21 thoughts on “When It’s Over: Part 1”

  1. As you’re guessing I went with story option number two. I think I can avoid dumping too many spoilers inside it. Why? It appealed to my sense of aesthetics. There were too many similarities to the last couple stories for me to leave the idea of exploring the parallels alone.

    Oh… And for those of you who visited the last update soon after it was posted, and didn’t return later, I should mention that I added a few lines. Feel free to read them if you want.

    And on another note, feel free to vote Legion up on Top Web Fiction…

    One more thing, I’m trying to update by midnight Eastern time now. Don’t set your clock by it though.

  2. Nice intro to a new story section. History time?

    You can argue that powered armour jockeys, and engineers in super teams, are the most interesting heroes, because they bridge the gap between people without, and those with, super powers.

    Typo:

    “I’d assumed it because she missed Cassie”, missing ‘was’?

  3. Typo:

    That wasn’t a bad thing, right? Whatever process activated Cassie’s powers had a greater effectiveness (for her powers) than the previous version Grandpa’s machine. missing of Grandpa’s machine

  4. Yay, I was hoping for the backstory on the Abominators fight! I did like the lines for Kayla you added to the end of the previous arc, but it’s nice to see it expanded a little in Nick and Kayla’s interaction here.

    Also, I like the framing device of Nick tinkering in the lab, but his tests on the power impregnator do bring up a minor continuity nitpick: didn’t Nick say [chancy connections, part 5 — I swear, I was just archive bingeing for fun] “I’ve pretty much got it working again. I’ve done all the tests I can do without running it on a person.”?

    1. I don’t see that as continuity problem as much as Nick being worried before doing this. Yes, there’s no reason the results should be different, but that doesn’t mean he won’t run them again just in case.

  5. Fair enough. When Nick puts together things in a couple nights that by rights would take a team of specialists years to complete (if ever, of course), I tend to suspend my beliefs on ‘normal standards’ for testing. Good on him for double-checking.

  6. 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.
    Two paragraphs later you wrote: Haley had also said it was more complicated than that. She was probably right.

    I don’t know if you wanted to essentially repeat yourself.

  7. Richard,

    I think Haley is trying to bump Nick slowly into realizing that Kayla might be attracted to Cassie as more than a friend, perhaps. It might also explain Kayla’s comments to Cassie last chapter, even if it wasn’t said out loud.

    Of course I might be seeing something that’s just not there. I imagine Jim is fully capable of shooting my down in flames if I’ve read more into it than is really there 😛

  8. I had read the repetition of “it’s more complicated” as a deliberate writing device; Nick even emphasizes the “that” when he repeats it, which doesn’t seem like an accident. Haley is having to repeat herself, pointing out each time that Nick is oversimplifying Kayla’s reasoning; first, that he’s ascribing Kayla’s problems to Cassie leaving (I saw them as more a mix of being bored/confused, overwhelmed, and neglected in what she’d thought would be an amazing job, not necessarily as any sort of pining love), then the second time, that he thinks what solved it was simply being in a fight, rather than rethinking what her priorities and role in the group really are.

    That’s my take, anyway

  9. thank you and congratulations you are one of the few writers that can keep me up till my eyes go funny (around 2 am) and be late for everything because i am reading your story every chance i could. thank you again and now i am going to the start to read it all again.

    1. Thome523: Thanks. I’m glad you enjoy the story enough to neglect actual real life stuff. It’s good to know that my story can do this to others much as others’ stories have done it to me.

      Next step: World Domination.

  10. Kayla’s role could be ascribed to the ‘token MORTAL among the gods’. Nick’s a brilliant technologist who comes up with stuff that routinely violates conservation of matter/energy, so he’s not the mortal.

    Kayla IS, her position’s like a High Priestess to an active pantheon of gods. (extending the example a bit), working as a go-between, coordinator, and caretaker of their secrets. Up to the invasion, she didn’t have a lot to do or much reason to feel confident she could actually DO it…after?

    Well, she took on the ‘demons’ by herself, effectively-she’s finally confident in her place and her role.

    i.e. there’s literally no reason to fall back on the “She wants to get sticky with Cassie” trope. Not every superteam needs a ‘token’ member of whatever minority happens to be in vogue this year, nor do they need to have some squick added to appease the fanbois.

  11. While I wouldn’t call it squick or a matter of a token minority, there’s not necessarily any evidence for the idea that Kayla wants in Cassie’s Commando pants. Ironically, some depictions of high priestesses feature them married to the gods. In fact, in ancient Egypt, the “God’s Wife of Amun” was the highest-ranking priestess.

    It’s natural that a certain amount of resentment occurs between regular people and superheroes they are in close proximity with and whose identities they know. The regular person has to deal with all the mundane stuff without some big reward like the thanks of a nation or global recognition. That also means a certain amount of worry over dealing with some of the heroes’ enemies.

  12. Just the thought of a Legion of Nothing crossover with World Domination in Retrospect makes me laugh. I can imagine maybe using Infinity City as a bridge to allow the two of them to meet.

    It would have to be something extremely bad happening to get them to work together, I’d say. Afterward, Nick and his team would have to spend lots of quality time with Daniel’s dad to scrub out all the mental corruption, I think.

    I can only imagine PG’s reaction to Izzy’s lack of a cape name.

    1. It would be funny. I’m not against doing it at some point. Actually, a Psycho Gecko’s Adventures in Infinity City story would be funny by itself–even if the real Rocket never showed up and he met weird, alternate versions of the League.

Leave a Reply