When It’s Over: Part 10

Then I rechecked the time, and understood where Courtney was—not here yet.

Only twenty minutes had passed since I started looking for the file, read it, and remembered the longer version of the story Grandpa Vander Sloot told me.

I still had forty minutes to kill.

Not having anything better to do, I walked over to one of the stools by the wall, and logged into one of the computers. I checked my email, surfed for a while, checking out out Double V’s forums. They had an entire section devoted to discussing the Heroes League.

Since we’d stopped St. Louis from being destroyed, and appeared prominently in the defense of the New York City and the surrounding area, the forum had only become more busy.

It was funny, and occasionally frustrating, at how little they knew about what was going on behind the scenes.

The classic example would be destroying the alien spaceship in New York. One thread was an argument about whether or not we should have taken out the spaceship when it first appeared. The argument being that if we’d done that we would have stopped the smaller ships from attacking spots all across the country.

Then it devolved into an argument about whether they were actually going after Abominator relics or if the alien making that statement had been lying.

I sometimes wished I could tell them the truth. It was Abominator relics. Also, if we’d gone after the alien mothership before the battle, we’d probably have failed.

It wasn’t as if we were some kind of organized force like some of them were saying. It was sheer luck that the Stapledon program been training there that weekend.

Well, maybe.

I was pretty sure the aliens’ attack on New York was an indirect result of us preventing them from destroying St. Louis. Bearing in mind all the attacks that happened after we found the Hrrnna, it almost had to be another result of our search.

I shuddered at that. We’d put the whole planet in danger without even knowing it.

All the same, Lim knew we’d been working on something to do with aliens. We’d been publicly attacked by alien robots after all. I wouldn’t put it past him, or maybe past someone above him to use us to reinforce Stardock, Earth’s only spaceship building facility just in case.

I wondered if he’d admit it if I asked him directly.

I doubted it. I wondered if he’d tell me what happened with the Abominator devices that scientific facility had. They’d had one of the genetic modification chambers Grandpa told me about when I asked him how the Abominators would have changed Simmons. I hadn’t quite realized it then.

Now? I stared at the screen, and opened a new tab, searching Google for clues there. I didn’t find any quickly, and decided to try again later.

I found news reports that at a lab near Medford had been damaged in the attacks, but they didn’t say where it had gone.

We had access to government databases, but I didn’t want to use them yet. They probably logged what supers searched for.

In their position, I would.

Anyway, the government probably had the device now. Cassie told me that FBI agents and the National Guard had showed up to handle the aftermath. She’d also mentioned that supers from MetaMax (a mercenary group) appeared about that time too.

A message appeared on my screen. It was from Kayla, and said “Courtney just walked in through the forest entrance.”

I took a breath, and typed back, “Thanks.”

Courtney was twenty minutes early. Part of me wondered if she’d come by to cancel it, or if, like me, she wanted to get it over with.

It wasn’t long before she walked into the lab—kind of. She stopped in the doorway, and stared back into the main room of the complex. I could understand why she might find it impressive. Filled with the League’s trophies, and the size of a basketball court, a TV screen took up most of the far wall.

I tried to remember if Courtney had ever been in League HQ before, and couldn’t think of any visits.

She looked closer to normal than I’d seen her in a while. Before she’d started taking power juice, she’d been overweight, but basically she’d looked normal. After she’d started using power juice, she’d either burned away or redistributed the fat, and even though I couldn’t point to exactly what she’d changed, her face had become attractive rather than normal.

Put bluntly, she looked like a model after Photoshop had been used. Even models don’t look like that in reality.

When she came in the door, she wore a sweatshirt with Ms. Marvel’s symbol and yoga pants. She looked like she might have if the pre-juice version of herself had lost some weight, but not at a post-production level of perfection.

She still looked better than she used to, but I couldn’t be sure why.

“Hey,” she said. “I’m early, but if you’re ready, let’s get this over with.”

I gave a quick smile, and got off the stool. “I was ready early too.”

She eyed the chair, its silver body and black straps, hesitated for a second, walked over, and sat down.

I followed her to the chair. As she started buckling the straps around her legs, I asked her, “You haven’t had any power juice in the last month, right?”

She shook her head. “No. You told me not to.”

“Great. You look a little different than the last time I saw you.”

“I know.” She pushed dark blond hair back so that I could fit the helmet to her head. “We barely saw each other this semester. After everything that happened last fall, I realized I’d gone a little too far. I adjusted myself to look more normal.”

“Okay,” I said. She was completely strapped in, arms, legs, head… “Are you ready?”

She closed her eyes. “Throw the switch.”

Trying not to think about Giles Hardwick, I did.

16 thoughts on “When It’s Over: Part 10”

  1. Does this story, sort of, count as a “Red Lightning” flashback? [grin]

    If I’d been Nick, I’d have wanted to do a few (non-invasive) medical tests on Courtney, so as to create a ‘before’ and ‘after’ set of checks. Though, if he’s been really smart, part of the ‘start up’ and ‘cool down’ logic of using the Power Impregnator might (now) include tests like that…

    This is the first time Nick’s actually run the gadget on a subject, isn’t it?

    Typo(s):

    “One thread was an argument about whether or not was should” ‘was’ should be ‘we’?

  2. I am pretty sure that Nick worked on and improved the machine, but even so I’m not sure I would ever use that thing, given Red Lightning’s legacy.

    I feel like there would be a “dun dun DUNnnnnn” music cue as he turned it on. Or, as a Star Wars character would say, “I have a bad feeling about this.”

  3. It has nothing to do with this chapter, but I was just thinking I’d like to see some more of Marcus. Whenever we’ve seen him so far he always seemed nice and funny to me and his power is interesting too. Yet I think we’ve seen less of him than of any other current League member. And when we do see him it’s mostly in very short blurbs.

    Not trying to tell you how to write the story, of course. God knows I couldn’t write anything nearly as good as LoN. Just an observation is all.

  4. Forget spy. With the upgrade she’ll likely get, she’ll be wolverine, with only slightly more delicate bones.

    Yeah, I think she’ll be able to grow claws if she wants. Not Night-cat/wolf superclaws, but claws. She’s already demonstrated boosted senses. And high level shapeshifting might be able to mimic the healing. Re-arranging muscle attachments and some other stuff could drastically boost her strength.

    If Cassie needs to retire, Courtney could be the replacement with some (OK, a lot of) training.

  5. You’re right… that is a very cliffhanger ending.

    Other than that, a missing word:

    “Now? I stared at -the- screen,”

  6. You know, just to be safe, Nick should have had Courtney looked over by Alex before he pulls the switch? When seeking to prevent Red Lightning 2.0, its best to be paranoid about Power Juice leftovers & side effects.

  7. Dreamer: You could argue it does count as a Red Lightning flashback. Certainly Red Lightning’s actions played a big role in the story thematically. You’ve got Red Lightning letting himself be carried away by whatever changes he’d experienced whereas you’ve also got Mark Simmons using his abilities to avoid becoming simply the Nexus.

    Archidel: You have no idea how close you came to having a Marcus or Daniel short story instead of “The Battle of Grand Lake.” Actually, a Vaughn story was also up there as a possibility. I fully intend to do more with Marcus, as he feels underused to me too.

    With regards to what happens to Courtney… That’ll be coming up in the not too distant future.

  8. Oh… And one other thing. Feel free to drop by Pen and Cape Society. There should be another update in the “Choose Your Own Adventure” story tomorrow.

    It’ll appear Monday, Wednesday and Friday all through August and the beginning of September–longer maybe, depending on the response.

  9. I’ve just read books one through five over the course of the last few days, and enjoyed them thoroughly; it’s the kind of story it’s hard to take a break from. I’m going to try to take a long break now, before reading what you’ve written so far of book six; we’ll see how long I can hold out.

    This is one of the better prose superhero stories I’ve read, not quite on a level with “Worm” or Seanan McGuire’s Velveteen series, but as good as or better than most of the others. Nick’s voice and personality really grow on you; I liked the way he went from being the most reluctant of the founding members to the linchpin of the team, the de facto strategic leader even when others are being field commander. His relationship with Haley is another high point; it develops with a charming and plausible fumblesomeness. And the action scenes are generally pretty clear, as well as exciting.

    A few typos I’ve noticed in what I’ve read so far:

    2.4.5

    > Russ made grab for it as she stepped back, but stopped when she pointed
    > the blade at him.

    “made a grab”

    2.4.7

    > The Grand Lake School District’s perspective was that it cost less to
    > make sure that someone was there for the appointment than the same person.

    Not sure what you meant to say there, but it goes a bit incoherent
    after the word “appointment”.

    2.5.3

    > Guardian being the guy who’d chewed Daniel, Cassie and I out after
    > we’d fought the Grey Giant.

    “and me”

    2.5.9

    > It looks like simple get in, get out sort of mission to me.

    “like a simple”

    3.4.22

    > By the end of the day on Monday, I hadn’t gotten assigned any either,
    > and it seemed obvious that we weren’t going to much of anything before
    > graduation on Thursday night.

    “going to do much”

    3.5.16

    > What surprised me more than anything else was people don’t know.

    “was what people don’t know” ?

    3.8.7

    > As he let go of my hand, i asked, “Do you mean the Power Impregnator?”

    “I asked”

    4.2.25

    > His face had turned bright red, and I could see the veins in neck.

    “in his neck”

    4.3.10

    > Every superpowered nutcase in the world gets it his head to kidnap the
    > president, or take over the country’s nukes at least once.

    “gets it in his head”

    4.3.17

    > I figured our best chance would be send Rod down the hall first with
    > all of us following.

    “would be to send”

    4.3.22

    > I had to take dumps in bucket for a week.

    “in a bucket”

    5.3.6

    > Rook turned his head and screamed at a someone in one of the lighter
    > suits of armor.

    “at someone”

    5.3.9

    > I couldn’t quit make out what he’d said either.

    “quite”

    5.3.11

    > All of them in made of the yellowish light I associated with the moon.

    Not sure what you meant to say.

    6.0.1

    > “Normal” is relative term when Saturday morning of the week before
    > included saving the world, officially taking over a superhero team,
    > and having your mom explain that she’d voluntarily had her memory
    > blocked for longer than you’d been alive.

    “is a relative term”

    6.2.12

    > Her eyes, slitted like cat’s.

    “like a cat’s”

    6.3.2

    > It was one among many–a grey metal structure with several shelves held
    > tools and equipment for the jet, much of it completely unrecognizable.

    “shelves that held”

    6.4.30

    > “What else?” She asked.

    Lowercase “she”. (This is a pretty rare mistake in your writing. I see
    it all the time in some webfiction.)

    6.6.5

    > Additionally, many possess weapons with enough intelligence to aim at
    > targets that surpass biological beings typical limits.

    “biological beings’ typical limits”

    6.7.10

    > It was funny, and occasionally frustrating, at how little they knew
    > about what was going on behind the scenes.

    Delete “at”.

    1. Thanks for the corrections. I can fully understand not wanting to start the next big section. A lot of people save it up and then read big chunks.

      I’ve actually got a project in mind that would allow people to sign up to get a notification when specific chunks get finished–chapters, novels, or whatever.

  10. Both of these sentences have extraneous “at”s in them:

    “It was funny, and occasionally frustrating, at how little they knew about what was going on behind the scenes.”

    “I found news reports that at a lab near Medford had been damaged in the attacks, but they didn’t say where it had gone.”

    It also took me a bit to figure out what the latter sentence was talking about. I think the antecedent for “it” is supposed to be the genetic modification chamber, but that was last mentioned five sentences earlier.

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