When It’s Over: Part 6

With the press of a button on his gauntlet’s palm, Joe shot into the air. The giant followed him, not directly on his tail, but not in any danger of losing him.

Was the Nexus playing with him?

The creature could have opened up on him, but hadn’t yet. Of course, they hadn’t been in the air for long. They were only about as high as the highway. It seemed strangely empty, all gray concrete that ended abruptly in the air only a few hundred feet away.

In Nexus’ situation, Joe would already have fired. Whatever that bracer did, it seemed to have an area effect. That would take care of whatever problems it might have with moving while aiming.

Joe didn’t expect it to have many. If it was an Abominator AI, it was probably as accurate as it was on the ground.

He aimed left, flying over the bridge, continuing to curve until he’d flipped over and was flying toward and then underneath the bridge.

By the time he’d flown back across the empty lot and then over another, the creature still hadn’t fired on him.

That bothered him. He didn’t know why. It was as if the creature wasn’t making a real effort to kill him.

He dove, flying only twenty feet above the road, twisting as he adjusted his course to whip around one of the buildings.

He didn’t lose it. It came around the corner, passing the dark, brownish-red brick.

Even while he made another corner, this one past the old lumberyard, he found himself thinking furiously. If he had a weapon that could swap out an El Camino and the road under it with an El Camino from a completely different universe, and he wanted to kill somebody, he wouldn’t have done that way.

He’d have designed a weapon that unsuccessfully swapped things, and he wouldn’t have excluded living things either. Swap someone’s body parts with infinite different versions of themselves and they’d fall apart.

If he had no choice but exclude living things, he’d do the same thing to their equipment. Swapping out armor with parts from different universes and turning it into a mixture of different alloys, ceramics, and incompatibly placed cables would make the armor structurally unsound even if it somehow stayed together.

The only point of swapping out a person’s equipment as whole, and leaving them untouched would be to warn people what you could do without hurting anybody.

Before they’d demolished the old factory, they’d brought out the wooden shells of unfinished speed boats, leaving them next to the empty paper mill.

Joe dipped and nearly hit one as he understood. He should have seen it the moment he’d seen the giant’s expression. He’d realized that they’d used Mark to create this thing, but he hadn’t realized that Mark had enough control to affect the giant’s actions.

His consciousness was in there. Who knew how? The Abominators could grow a body based on his DNA (and mixed with who knew what), and transfer over his mind. They might have inserted Mark inside, and modified him directly.

He’d seen their gene modification devices—long platforms made out of grayish-green metal with a dozen or more tubes. He’d seen one with hundreds of tubes on one of their ships.

It had made it easy to mass produce soldiers.

Even on that ship, he’d seen tubes made for creatures larger than human, or shaped differently. Disturbingly, they’d had power impregnators built into all the platforms, human and monster sized. It had struck him as strange because they could have simply put in genes that would activate their powers from the beginning.

He didn’t doubt that the Abominators had their reasons just like he had his theories.

Unasked for, he remembered Giles’ death. He’d designed the machine that killed him. Giles had forced him to design it by capturing the rest of the team.

Giles and he had seen the possibility of designing a new version of the power impregnator that would bring supers to a higher level of power back when they built the first one.

By the time Giles forced him to turn their theory into reality, Joe knew he had to kill him. Giles wasn’t going to turn into the man he once was—not with any technology they’d ever heard of. Later he wondered whether the Xiniti or even the Abominators might have been able to do it.

The Abominators gene modification platforms might have worked, but Joe knew they’d have done worse to him in the process of fixing him.

It might have been for the best that he hadn’t known of the possibility.

He could tell himself that, but it was hard to reconcile it with the fear on Giles’ face as he realized that he had more power than he’d ever had in his life and he couldn’t control it at all.

Joe had only survived because he’d known what was coming, and made an excuse to stand just outside the dome at the final moment. Everyone left inside had burned to death as Giles ripped through the dome, flying into the cathedral sized cavern above it.

In superhero comics, Joe imagined, Giles would have come back as a pure energy being, determined to kill them all.

In reality, Giles burned to death in the air even as he tried to shed as much energy as he could, starting fires all over the cavern with his lightning strikes.

Joe never saw him fall. He’d started running to the cells to release the others when Giles took the air.

Joe found himself flying across the empty lot where the fight had started again, still hearing Giles screaming in his memory.

For a second, he considered calling League HQ and telling Larry and Freddie not to come. If they did come, he knew he should tell them to bring the jet. In terms of sheer power, none of them had the ability to beat the giant, but the jet did.

All the same, he didn’t feel right about it. If Mark was in there, he didn’t deserve to die. He’d done nothing wrong. He’d given the League the clues that they’d needed to find the Abominators, and even now he was stopping it from doing real damage.

Joe checked behind him. The giant was still on his tail, and firing away. Multi-colored light gathered around the bracer and extended ahead, changing the dirt and bits of broken building into subtly different soil and bits of ruin.

Still, it never hit him, and he felt sure it wasn’t because of his evasive manuevers.

He knew how he’d handle it now. If Mark and the Abominator AI programming were fighting for control, he’d have to work out a way for Mark to get the upper hand.

Making a quick turn that made his insides sink, Joe aimed for the giant, ignoring the nagging feeling that he might be allowing guilt about Giles to make his decisions for him.

23 thoughts on “When It’s Over: Part 6”

  1. Ok, I see now that half of my problem was that I was reading at 3:30 in the morning, and my mind wasn’t all there. The other half of my problem is that I can’t figure out who Mark is. Has a guy named Mark even been mentioned before? I really can’t recall.

    1. He was mentioned in a flashback two posts back. A week ago. It would be easy to forget. He was apparently the guy who initially discovered the Abominators were on Earth.

      As for 3:30am… I get that. I love doing stuff with alternate universes because I like history, and I enjoy warping it. That’s not something everyone enjoys at 3 am.

    1. Not only that, but I have actual scientifically justified reasons for this.

      From what I’ve read, one of the things that’s a mark of intelligence is that you have a very good short term memory. I imagine a good long term memory helps too, but I haven’t read anything specific saying it does.

      In any case, what’s also true is that often less intelligent people are better at physical activities like sports, for example. Why? Supposedly because being more intelligent means that you can handle more than one stream of thought at a time–playing basketball while also worrying how well you did on a test, for example. Less intelligent people are then more likely to only be able to keep the one stream of thought in their head, but it’s the stream of thought related to what they’re actually doing at the moment…

      There’s something to be said for that.

  2. Nope. Short-term and long-term memories are different systems entirely in the brain, and it’s an inherent physiological difference, not a mental or otherwise acquired one. While you can improve such systems with repeated use (as with pretty much everything in your body), there are built-in design specs you can’t change or exceed.

  3. BTW, I’ve just read the full archives again and I like how the whole League is slowly getting more competent, organized and powerful in an organic, natural way. What they need to do now IMHO is sit down and really think how they could improve themselves further. There have been some really close calls and they could do with some more firepower and utility, especially if it’s easily available.

    1) Manufacturing could be improved. For now, it is just the Rocket and Man-Machine Junior doing it. Even with fabricators to make the individual parts, assembly and testing is slow.
    But what if they mind-linked Jackline, David and our two resident geniuses? The tinkers think it, the telepath carries the info and the superstrong, superfast girl does the manual work. If she’s thirty to sixty times faster than them and strong enough not to need power tools to lift/carry/assemble the heavier stuff, much more could be done in the same time. Since telepathy is much faster than physical conversation too, the geniuses could exchange ideas and cooperate on the design much better too.
    Even if the speed-up is only by a factor of ten or so, a half-hour meeting every day (which all of them could manage) would equal five hours of construction by the techies on their own. If it’s by a factor of sixty, that would equal thirty hours straight of building, every day. It doesn’t have to be new concepts; higher production of existing ones would be very good.

    2) Nick once comments that only the invulnerable heroes go without armor. Yet the League has yet to adopt such for all its members. Take Jacklin for example. She doesn’t need conventional armor but a suit with a near-frictionless coating everywhere, except for the bootsoles where it will be extreme-friction coating would increase her speed. Extreme-refractive layers could protect her against lasers/plasma, some of the few weapons that are fast enough to hit her. There are RL materials that could resist 4000 degrees celsius for example and Nick could probably do better with alien/advanced tech. Plus, a helmet that filters sounds, chemicals and lights plus offers enhanced vision would help protect her. Last but not least, full-body armor adds some mass, meaning harder hits, resisting knockback, and protects from contact powers.
    The other League members could benefit from similarly personalized suits even more.

    2) Everyone could benefit from weapons. Kayla, a human girl, was taking out alien soldiers in armor because she had the right gun. Two weapons per team member is a good standard; typical goo gun or paralysis ray for nonlethal stuff, guitar laser or a rifle firing the penetrating roachbots for lethal force.

    3) It’d be awesome if the group built a mecha for fighting powerful targets. Nick managed a battleship-piercing laser in less than 20 pounds, much of it being the explosive instead of the gun or battery. So call it twelve pounds for piercing through tank armor (equivalent to 2-3 feet of steel in modern tanks). Tank turrets can be up to 50.000 pounds, so a laser that big would be over three orders of magnitude more powerful than the guitar. Piercing a quarter mile of steel sounds fun.
    Put a copy of the jet’s fusion plant and shield generator on it and enough propulsion for a few times the speed of sound. Unlike the jet, the Mecha would need neither internal room or environmental plant for 12 people in long missions, nor that much propulsion. So if it is the same size, there would be far more room for the larger main gun and lots of capacitors for the shield.
    The frame of the mecha should be comparatively more massive than the Rocket if only due to the square/cube law. Since it needs not house a human’s limbs, its own limbs would be filled and could be built thicker than normal to increase cross-section. For a mecha 5 times as tall as the Rocket suit with 50% thicker filled limbs comparatively you’d get 75 times the cross-section and thus the strength, assuming same tech. If Nick could use more efficient tech due to size, that would go up significantly. Similarly armor would go up, for whatever could go through the shield or hit before the shield were up.
    Give it teleportation and psionics inhibitors and a couple dozen autotargeting mini-turrets with normal-sized guitar lasers to intercept fast-moving targets. You don’t want people being able to totally avoid fire by hiding between its legs or behind its back and you might need to intercept missiles before they hit; point-blank nukes could hurt even with the shield. Electrifying its surface to fry incoming mini-bots and nanites is good too.

  4. What Ereshkigala said. There are some interesting things out there as far as improving your memory, though. One common idea is to create a sort of mental place where you keep memories as objects. It actually seems to work. It’s called a Memory Palace, or method of loci.

    And Jim’s correct that lack of mental concentration can mess up your performance doing something. I don’t think it was ever put in quite a dumb jock sort of way, but humans can’t multi-task. Plus, thinking can screw up your muscle memory. Whether it’s a football play or inputting a cheat code, thinking about how you do something will make it difficult for you suddenly. A more general example is how swallowing can be difficult when you’re thinking about how to swallow.

    Another thing that can be linked somewhat to memory is that scientists believe that the ability to delay gratification is a trait that leads people to be more successful than others. Like putting together a complex set of armor or a complicated plan to defeat a strong enemy.

  5. I just caught with latest post after discovering this website on TV Tropes a couple of days ago. I been really enjoying the story, it’s characters and the natural progress. It’s easily the best superhero literature I read and looking forward to reading more.

  6. Wow, there’s been a whole slew of people catching up here lately. A slew I tell you! Perhaps it’s not such a good a sign that there’s a plural word that can double for the past tense of slay.

    Either way, I too found LoN on TV Tropes so long ago. It was just the start of quite the journey into superhero literature. There is a lot more out there. Some say there are even stories of supervillains.

    Dun dun DUN!

  7. Oshha: Thanks. There have been a few other people making their first posts over the last few updates. That’s a good thing, and I’m glad you enjoyed this.

    The next update comes tonight.

    There are a number of superhero serials out there at this point, so this doesn’t have to be the only thing you’re reading online.

  8. “I love doing stuff with alternate universes because I like history, and I enjoy warping it. That’s not something everyone enjoys at 3 am.”

    Thanks Jim, you’re now my sig with credits on Gambit 🙂

  9. Oh, I agree that Guardians was definitely a good movie. I wish they hadn’t portrayed Yondu like they did though. But that’s just the comic nerd in me coming out.

  10. Nice chapter. Minor error: “By the time, Giles forced him turn their theory into reality, ”
    I think the first comma is extraneous? Also, you accidentally a word between him and turn.

    In the couple of weeks since I read the last update I’ve read a bunch of ebooks in the superhero genre, including The Good Fight, and while some of them have been good its made me appreciate the quality of your writing even more. I also spotted a couple of minor typos in Thawed; not sure of there’s anything you can do about them now but I noted them on my kindle, can easily find the details if you want them.

    1. Thanks. Fixed now. With regards to the typos in The Good Fight, I found them too–the day after it was published. With regards to what you’ve been reading… I’m glad you feel Legion stands out. I’m trying to get as much of it ready of publication as I can, so with luck that’ll be a general feeling.

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