Fresh Meat: Part 5

“No way,” I said, wondering how he’d gotten his powers activated. It wasn’t exactly a casual thing. The League had the first known working device to do it. It hadn’t been hard for me to make it work, but I’d had the benefit of my grandfather’s documentation.

I knew that the government had their own devices. From the news and personal experience, I knew that criminal organizations also had them. I wasn’t aware of anyone outside of those two groups owning any, but almost everything they needed was available on the internet now.

Corporate devices couldn’t be far away if they weren’t already out there.

Jaclyn’s mind obviously went along the same track mine did. She put down her hamburger, and said, “He can’t still be using power juice his uncle brewed. It’s illegal, and they wouldn’t allow him into the program, would they?”

“He’s not,” Courtney said. “I asked him.”

Shaking her head, and taking a deep breath, she continued. “I think I had the worst flight of all time. I got on the plane, and I couldn’t find a seat because my mom drove me to the airport and she was late as usual, and so there were maybe two or three seats left on the plane. I went to the first seat that was open. It was next to a girl who was saving one seat for her boyfriend, but the other was free, so I sat there.”

Courtney stopped, and took another breath. All conversation near us had stopped. We were all listening.

“Just after I sat down, they told everyone to get into their seats because the plane was about to start moving toward the runway. She’d given me the window seat because she didn’t know when her boyfriend would be back from the bathroom. So when her boyfriend sat down, and leaned over to kiss her our eyes met. And guess who it was? Keith.”

Haley said, “No…” Jaclyn shook her head.

“I was stuck with them for three hours.”

Vaughn and Cassie laughed out loud. Izzy did too, but not until after Courtney smiled.

Daniel’s face held a hint of amusement, but no surprise. That was the hazard of overhearing the punchline before it happened.

I laughed too, but flashed back to the original question, “So how did Keith’s powers get activated?”

As nice as it was that he had powers, strength and toughness weren’t exactly uncommon among supers. Maybe after being triggered, they’d be more impressive than I remembered, but I doubted that the program would run him through the power impregnator just to recruit him.

“I’m getting to that,” Courtney said.

Leaning forward and lowering her voice, she said, “His girlfriend, Zoey, is a compound kid. She didn’t have any powers, but last year as you remember, the government made an arrangement to run supers’ kids through their power impregnators. Keith was dating her by then, and she convinced them to run him through too.”

Vaughn shook his head. “You know what’s funny? People complain about rich people getting favors from government. They’re not all wrong, but it’s not like the government hands us weapons. Worst case scenario, we get more money and more influence, right?”

Jaclyn looked at him. “You’re not making me feel sorry for you.”

In a more serious voice than normal, Vaughn said, “You know what I mean. I’m saying the government doesn’t pay us off to get us to be quiet like they paid supers off to keep them from opposing the way the government’s handing out powers.”

Daniel nodded. “It’s a good point.”

None of us said anything. Then we remembered the food we weren’t eating.

Haley speared a piece of avocado with her fork. “He didn’t know about us, did he?”

“No,” Vaughn said, “and that guy is going to freak out when he finds out. He was some kind of fanatical cape watcher, right? Didn’t he drive to another state once to pick up debris from one of Guardian’s fights? That should be a warning sign that you’re getting way too into it. I mean seriously, it’s trash.”

Courtney looked up from her plate. She said, “I was with him that time.”

Vaughn blinked. “There was more than one time?”

Courtney said, “Look, I don’t make fun of your hobbies.” Then she paused, looking around the room, and continued, “But it does seem a little silly now.”

Izzy straightened up in her chair. “It’s not silly. It’s something we shouldn’t forget. We may have gotten used to doing the impossible, but we can’t forget what it was like before we could. When we do, we take a step toward believing we’re better than normal people, and we know where that goes.”

Everyone did. Supers took over countries, and it never went well. It always seemed to begin in dictatorship and end in war. In stable countries, supers stayed out of politics, or at least it seemed that way.

Vaughn looked across the table at her. “I wasn’t saying that, Izzy. And Courtney? I wasn’t trying to make fun of you—just him. I’m sorry, okay?”

Courtney waved it away with her hand. “Don’t worry about it. It’s nothing I haven’t thought myself. For the future, I’m going to be a fan of fictional superheroes only. I’m less likely to ruin it by meeting them.”

We laughed.

“Hey,” I said, “didn’t Keith have a huge—“

“Hard on?” Vaughn suggested.

“I was going to say ‘crush’,” I said.

“Close.” Vaughn shrugged.

“Crush,” I continued, emphasizing the word, “on Portal?”

Courtney said, “Yes? It was kind of cute. It might have bothered me if he had any chance of meeting her.”

“Well, she’s right over there.” I pointed toward the table behind us.

Brooke, and her boyfriend Alex sat next to each other. With sun-bleached, blond hair, and tan skin, Alex looked like the California surfer stereotype. Brooke’s curly, dark hair reached past her shoulders. If female surfers had a stereotypical look, I wasn’t aware of it, but I’d feel okay saying she fit. She was tanned and in good shape. Both of them practically glowed with health.

Brooke noticed me pointing, and waved back.

Courtney gave me an evil grin. “That’s her? I want to be a fly on the wall when he realizes it.”

15 thoughts on “Fresh Meat: Part 5”

  1. As usual Nick understates his abilities, abilities which arguably make him one of the most dangerous supers around, as he can build himself, or others, new ‘powers’.

    I like the discussion about the social implications of super powers, how they can mess-up people’s self-image, and how well they (don’t) mix with politics.

    Typo:

    “You what’s funny?”, missing ‘know’?

  2. Lot’s of intersting stuff happening. Looking good, Jim! I am now wondering if Keith and Courtney might join the Heroes League. They may not end up being frontline members that are in the middle of every fight (Courtney especially), but with training they might be great auxiliary members. Keith in a personalized armor suit designed to emphasize the abilities he already has would be quite formidable. There would be a lot more room for advanced features in the suit as well because much less would need to be dedicated to strength enhancement, and if I recall correctly, Keith is larger with his power, which means more suit to work with. Where The Rocket is like an Appachee Helicopter, Keith could be an almost litteral tank. Courtney and Haley would also make a great covert opperations team, especially with cool spy gadgets supplied by Nick.

  3. @Chance: Courtney is limited to human shapes, so she can change herself into a stranger and overhear Keith’s encounter with Brooke (if it even happens) but she won’t be able to change into an insect. It’s not human and where would she put the extra mass?

    @Dreamer: If you gave an evil Nick a week to plan, prepare and work without interruption, then he would have a good chance to destroy the world without anyone being able to stop him. He might also be able to defeat most supers long enough to conquer the world.

    Nick without restrictions or morals could create a nanotech plague, he could take control of large parts of the internet, he could anticipate and counter most supers (Batman style) and if that’s too much trouble, then he could take the jet and reveal to the wrong sort of alien that the Earth is using Abominator technology. Or simply drop shielded asteroids on the planet after making sure Guardian is incapacitated.

    His silly guitar turned out to be dangerous to pretty much all supers. If he was ever going to be serious about heavy weapons, then there would be no stopping him.

    It’s not a line of thought I enjoy but I could come up with half a dozen plans for Nick to defeat the super hero community in this story.

    I wonder if anyone ever considered those possibilities and made contigency plans? Or do they simply trust him because he’s a good kid? Doesn’t sound like any government I know. 😉

    @Cultist: That sounds more like a ManMachine suit than a Rocket suit. They have Chris on board, so it’s a possibility. Recruiting Keith might be a good idea but only if he’s actually any good. Being big and strong doesn’t mean you’re worth anything in a fight. Or perhaps he’d disrupt the team like Sean does.

  4. Is Chris old enough to be part of the program?
    Because we should probably have already seen him if he was.
    But I’m hoping that he appears in this arc.

  5. @Sabbisun
    From the Past: Part 5 introduces Chris as being a sophomore; since back then Nick was a senior, we can conclude Chris is two years younger than Nick, and thus as of this arc he’s a high school senior. I’m sure he’s got a spot with his name on it for next year, though.

  6. Daemion,

    I would be highly surprised if Daniel or Daniel’s father hadn’t put some sort of compulsion in Nick to communicate with them by email, phone, or in person and use certain keywords in discussion if he was thinking about going to the dark side. I don’t think they would be foolish enough to try to put up huge, towering blocks that Nick himself might notice.

    If we can see the danger Nick potentially represents, I strongly doubt Daniel and his father would miss it. For that matter, after more supers see what he’s done with his suit technology and killer roachbots, I suspect he’s going to have a lot of people watching him closely.

  7. @Farmerbob1: Yes, I didn’t forget about the telepaths. Which is why I said he’d need at least one week without interruptions on his own. I never considered that there could be a compulsion in place already though, that’s a really good idea.
    It’s highly unlikely that Nick will ever become evil after meeting War, the story isn’t dark enough for that.

  8. I honestly can’t think of any reason for Nick to go evil. He’s just too nice, so, good for him, I guess. Good for the world as well. His power is probably the most dangerous.

  9. I can’t figure out if this is continuity or not, so I’ll mention it. Here we have “Brooke’s curly, dark hair reached past her shoulders.” whereas when we first met her (in ‘Three Part 2’) she had “long, curly blond hair.” The reason I’m not sure if this is continuity is (1) I seem to recall something about her dying her hair? But maybe not? and, (2) Even if she did dye, wouldn’t Keith and Courtney remember Portal as having blonde hair?

    Kind of fascinating the way you can pull in random strands like this – I would not have expected Keith to turn up again. Also, Izzy made a really good point about not forgetting how things were.

    1. Brooke used to dye her hair, but after spending as much time as she does around Alex (her boyfriend), she decided to stop. Why? Because being around him means that her hair grows faster–not visibly, but fast enough that she would end up dyeing it a lot because her roots would constantly be showing.

      Courtney and Keith wouldn’t remember her having blonde hair for the same reason they don’t recognize her instantly. She wears a Xiniti made armor that covers her entire body, including her hair.

  10. Okay I DID remember that from somewhere then. I also recalled the Xiniti connection (I think it’s the first time we heard about them) but I did NOT recall that Portal’s hair was covered. Thanks for clearing that up!

    Hm, maybe Nick should be trading information with Brooke, I imagine she’s as ready for a shower after spending time in full armour as he is.

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