Fresh Meat: Part 2

Isaac switched to another card, frowning for a moment as he paused.

“With that said, it’s time to talk about this year. In the past we’ve done extended training in the summer, but only for students who are already enrolled. From now on, this will be new students’ introductions to the program.

“Additionally, in the past, the Stapledon program would pay for any college or university in the United States, we are now limiting that to specific universities or colleges within a certain distance of those universities. That still represents a wide selection of educational institutions.

“The reason for this is that we’ll be instituting daily training, and don’t want anyone to have to travel too far.

“We’ve made arrangements to teleport those of you operating under the previous agreement to your nearest training sessions, but if you are interested in transferring to a more conveniently located school, we’ll facilitate that.”

Isaac stopped and took a breath, looking out at all of us, and then back to the card in his hand.

“Well, I have only a few more things to say and then we’ll be able to eat. First, this is the most diverse group of Stapledon students we’ve ever had. We have, of course, the program’s core group, supers of various origins who have begun to fight crime on their own. We also have the descendants of known heroes who want additional training outside their families. Beyond those two groups we now have all of you who would not have had powers, but for the power impregnator. Some of you come out of the military’s program, others are descendants of heroes, still others didn’t know what you could do till you tried power juice, and the final group of you were unknowingly products of the Cabal’s breeding program.”

I’d almost stopped paying attention when he started listing all the ways we were different from each other, but when he mentioned the Cabal he had my complete attention.

I wasn’t the only one. Students started muttering to each other. A few turned around to stare at the crowd as if they could identify Cabal descendants by sight.

For all I knew, that wasn’t impossible, but it wasn’t likely.

Isaac cleared his throat. “However you qualified to be part of the Stapledon program, we’re happy to have you here. We will not put up with any kind of mistreatment of fellow students. At best, you’ll be on probation if you do. At worst, you’ll be kicked out of the program. We have had incidents before, but so far no one has been kicked out. Don’t be the first.”

I didn’t know what Sean was thinking at the moment (and I didn’t ask Daniel), but I remembered when we’d been one of those incidents. I still occasionally wondered whether I could have won that fight. I had better martial arts training on my side, but he’d had magnetic powers and a vending machine.

It hadn’t mattered. Half the floor had shown up to defend me, and anyway near the end of the year we’d come to a slightly better place. His sister had gotten hurt fighting aliens in Grand Lake, and I’d arranged that a healer got sent to help her.

I hadn’t seen him much since then, but even if he hadn’t been friendly, he hadn’t been actively unfriendly.

Isaac grinned at everyone, putting the notecards into his jacket pocket.

“I don’t have anything left to say about that issue. I can’t think that it’s much different from any other school you’ve ever attended. Now then, stay focused, and let’s make this a good year.”

He began to step back from the podium, but then stopped, and said, “And also, let’s eat. People will dismiss you to go through the buffet by table.”

At that point, after all the talk about the Cabal, their breeding program, bullying, and superpowers, we were in the more typical position of being part of a large group of people moving through a buffet line.

With four tables of food to line up at, it wasn’t terribly slow, but it wasn’t quick even though we were close to the front.

Haley and I found ourselves standing next to Jaclyn.

“Remember fighting the Cabal?” She shook her head slowly. “Most of them weren’t much more powerful than your average hero, but remember their reserves? They were out of our league and their powers hadn’t been fully activated. They were still using power juice.”

I nodded. “Yeah, and it wasn’t even the new formulation. I think they may have been using the old, less effective version. I could be wrong about that. Anyway, their descendants have to have been run through the power impregnator if they’re here.”

Jaclyn shivered. “You know how hard we worked to stop the Cabal’s soldiers from doing that. This is going to be interesting.”

“Yeah,” I said, glancing out into the crowd of people lining up at the buffet tables. A number of them were big enough that I could imagine they were descended from the Cabal.

“I can see why it might seem like a good idea. If they haven’t been indoctrinated already, you could pull them into Stapledon, pretty much destroy the Cabal breeding program by taking them out of their hometowns, and get a bunch of heavy hitters all at once.”

Jaclyn nodded. “That’s what I was thinking. Here’s something to consider. Where do they go after Stapledon? My bet would be government service or maybe one of the Defender units. Now think about the fact that toughest of them were practically immortal. Whatever they decide to do, they’ll be doing it for a long time.”

Haley looked out at the crowd and bit her lip before talking. “Isaac did say they didn’t know they were part of the breeding program. Maybe they’ll be normal people—just for a really long time.”

16 thoughts on “Fresh Meat: Part 2”

  1. One of the fun things about all this for me is that I get to pull at dangling threads from earlier stories. It’s been a while since we thought about the Cabal.

    Now we’ll get to do it again for a bit.

  2. For me at least, these last few chapters have started getting pretty interesting. I always love a unique “school” setting like this or HP. I so wish you had time to write longer chapters like Wildbow, it’s so weird going back and forth from Pact and this. You’re still just as good though Jim. Keep me updated on the Kickstarter too, I’m just itching to back you.

  3. Well, this world of supers is really, really starting to become a oligarchy.
    Although I am starting to think that an oligarchy, military, military/religious or economic/political is the most stable form of government.
    At least with our present technological level.

    And … Machiavel was right.

  4. This is a good opportunity to meet people from all over the country and perhaps do a little recruiting.

    So far the Heroes League seems to have absorbed the better parts of Justice Fist, Izzy, Chris and Kayla. They never made it official though.
    It was mentioned that they still lack a magical expert. Bloodmaiden and Red Hex would be perfect. Red Hex would probably bring her troll friend with her.

    Someone said that Haley might not appreciate Bloodmaiden being close by because of jealousy. I don’t think that’s quite true. She grew up with supersenses, so by now she is used to sensing who desires whom. I mean, she’s an attractive girl and she can hear and smell when people around her lust after her. Plus, I believe she trusts Nick to be loyal. If she were the jealous type, then their relationship would be in trouble already. Nick is friends with several girls (Jenny for example) and has gone to great lengths for others (Courtney for example).

    Anyway, I think the new Heroes League needs to recruit more people so they have a spare for every role. They are all busy with studying and training, not to mention their relationships. They don’t have as much time to spare as their grandparents (yet). Jaclyn wants to be a doctor, so she’ll be very busy for the coming ~8 years. Having Izzy around as heavy hitter would help a lot. Even Kayla can’t cover all shifts on her own, she needs someone else to help her out once things really start going.

    This would also mean that Nick has to upgrade the HQ. Do a complete inventory, unpack all the cardboard boxes or put them into storage, lay new carpet, install a second set of showers, make room for a medical station (for Jaclyn later) and probably upgrade the computers. Perhaps use his new material from the van to make furniture that adapts to the person using it. I’m thinking of something that can be used while wearing a suit or for different body types. Add beds. Maybe a guest room. Honestly, there a lot of possibilities.

    Just as important would be to look into getting everyone better gear. Night Wolf and Night Cat can’t take much damage, perhaps some light-weight armor would be beneficial to them? Nick surely doesn’t want to see his girlfriend getting shot. Same for all the other squishies like The Mystic.

    And if this really shapes up to be an army and Nick participates, then colloborating with Chris to make mech suits might be a good idea, too.

    I wish there was a forum for discussing this. 🙂

  5. Do they offer exemptions for those with movement powers potent enough to extend their convenient commuting distance? Or access to the equivalent tech? Because either decision is going to make some amount of people irritated – either you’re denied your dream university because you didn’t roll the right number on your superpower lottery/aren’t influential enough to access advanced tech, or you’re denied your dream university despite the fact that you can get to and from it easily.

  6. Might want to be careful there, Eduardo. It’s thought that Machiavelli’s “The Prince” was satire. Part of it has to do with it being completely counter to all the rest of his writings. Another part is where he says a prince should live in the city among his people…and gives this advice to a prince who is despised by the people.

  7. Perhaps, but good humor has a seed of truth.
    I remember some parts of the book only and don`t have a copy here, but …

    I prefer to be ruled by one man than by many. If it is only one man I will have to bow only once, when he passes, and not many times a day ….

    And United States is close to become an Oligarchy, Brasil is almost there, … warlordism tends to lead to Oligarchies same for religious governments …

    And, of course, super heroes lead to an Oligarchy where those with superpower also have economical and social power. And, logically, it is hereditary either the son/ daughter gets the superpower or not.
    Soon you see yourself ruled by a military caste.

  8. Missing a word in:
    don’t want anyone to have travel too far.

    And I disagree with changing that to “a healer got sent” . You already have the appropriate past tense with “arranged”. “got” sounds really awkward which usually means it’s wrong. Maybe reword a bit more.

  9. Return of the Cabal! I remember wondering if the League was going to make the cliche mistake of forgetting them until they came back for Revenge (they only promised to back off for a year, right? And that year is up). This is better, though — are the Cabal people in Stapledon a new Cabal faction? A rebellion from the new Prime? Or spies/sleeper agents? With all the telepaths and mental block stuff Stapledon has, I assume they aren’t just waltzing in thinking they’ll take their revenge on the League, but it leaves a lot of possibilities open.

  10. “pretty much destroy the Cabal reeding program” -> breeding

    As always, love the story. Thank you so very much.

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