Fame: Part 1

After dinner, people had options. The schedule showed a dance in the room where we’d eaten, and that there’d be movies in the auditorium. We also had the option of going down to the shopping area on the second level, or even wandering around the ground level where people lived.

That last option came with a warning to be respectful, remember that we were guests in the compound and to stay off people’s property.

It didn’t say that we’d get in trouble, but reading between the lines, it seemed likely.

Probably the only way to avoid annoying people would be staying on the sidewalks, and never venturing off public paths.

Left to myself, I probably would have gone to the movies, but Haley didn’t see one she wanted to watch.

Not wanting to separate, we went to the dance for a little while, maybe an hour. Vaughn, Jaclyn, Courtney, and Cassie were still there when we left. Daniel and Izzy had left already, and I was pretty sure that they were going to Daniel’s room.

Bearing in mind that Daniel and I were rooming together, that meant that our room was off limits. Daniel and Izzy might not be making out, but remembering what I’d felt when Daniel and Izzy touched… Well, I didn’t feel a deep need to go check on them.

Haley and I walked to the shopping center on the second level. It was after nine by then, and the only shop open was a convenience store called “24/7.”

We bought bottles of pop, and walked around.

I’d gotten a look when we’d driven in but not a great look. The area between the shops and the ledge had been turned into a park. On the far end, a few kids played at the playground–which could have been anywhere. Almost empty at this time of night, lights kept it illuminated.

I considered asking Haley if she wanted to go over there. The swings might be fun anyway.

While I thought about it, a twenty-something woman flew up and over the ledge. A small child flew with her. They landed and went to the swing set.

At that point there were still a lot of swings, but it wouldn’t have been private.

Instead, I said, “You want to go over to the ledge?”

“Sure,” Haley said, and we did, walking over the recently mowed grass to the edge of the second level.

Even though it looked like you might be able to walk over the ledge, that wasn’t true. Some kind of clear barrier blocked people from that particular mistake. I guessed it might be glass or plastic, but if they’d used a more interesting material I’d need a sample to find out more.

“Nick,” Haley asked, “what are you doing?”

I’d been tapping on the barrier.

“Sorry. Just thinking.”

Leaning forward, she rested her arms on the barrier, and looked out at the streets and houses below. It could have been anywhere in the United States. Well, almost.

“Thinking about what?”

“A bunch of things. First, whatever material this is. There’s a clear barrier above us, and this might be the same stuff…”

Haley sighed.

“But also,” I continued, “about the compound. Did you know Denver regulates which days you get to water your lawn?”

Haley turned away from the ledge to look at me. “No.”

“I think that that’s a thing all over the west. I think I even read somewhere that one city didn’t allow people to water their lawns at all during a drought. I don’t know if it was Denver, but it might have been. Anyway, the compound’s got a big park, and its all green, and the lawns down below are all green. Do you think they ration water at all?”

Haley peered down at the lawns. “I’m the last person to ask.”

“I didn’t really expect you to know, but anyway that’s not the only thing I’m thinking about. The Stapledon program borrows a bunker. I’m not sure where it is, but just like this place, it’s more like a hotel or an expensive retreat center or I don’t know. It feels like there’s a lot of money involved. They could have made it less comfortable, and it still would have been comfortable.”

Brushing her hair away from her face, Haley said, “Isn’t that the way it works though? Everyone in the League got richer except maybe Giles Hardwick. Your Grandpa worked on other supers’ devices. Giles gave my family some cheap loans for their restaurants. Jaclyn’s grandfather got hired in with the city of Grand Lake thanks to connections with Giles. I don’t know about the rest, but it seems like a lot of supers get richer because of what they do.”

I nodded. “Giles got richer too. My grandpa did some anonymous work for the Hardwick’s medical imaging company. It put them significantly ahead of their competition.”

Haley froze for a second. “There’s Rocket technology in X-ray machines?”

“More likely ultrasounds. And I think you’re right that’s how it happens. I’m not sure if it’s a good thing. Wealth seems like it divides us from normal people on its own, but normal people aren’t even allowed into a compound.”

Haley nodded slowly. “I get that. I wonder how often people here go out into the normal world?”

I nodded. “That’s what I wonder too. There’s no reason to. The store’s open all night, and there’s a grocery store that’s open all day.”

She didn’t say anything for a little while. When she did, she said, “I’ve been thinking that it’s nice to be here. It’s nice not to have to worry about secret identities or hide anything.

“I’ve spent my whole life worrying about what would happen if I change in the wrong place, but here no one would care.”

20 thoughts on “Fame: Part 1”

  1. I’m personally looking forward to the current arc because then I get to start putting things into play that I’ve been foreshadowing in a few different ways.

    Also, vote Legion up at Top Web Fiction if you get the urge…

    And finally, I’m further on the Kickstarter video than I was last week. Even better, I’m not feeling like I’ll have to completely redo it like I did the last three (four?) times I got this far. Basically, the sound’s decent, and I’m talking coherently. I think I might hear a car roar past a couple times, but I think I’m going to ignore that. In any case, it’s better than the version where my daughter audibly flushed the toilet midway through.

  2. Nom.
    Ah, class struggles.
    And here I am reading Seymour Lipset on the evolution of American culture.

    Wonder what parallels I’ll see.

  3. Nicely done bit about Nick and Haley thinking and talking about their situation. ‘Us’ and ‘Them’ is pretty firmly embedded in human thinking, and getting defined as ‘them’ is the start of an awful lot of unpleasant things. Past a certain point, a group of ‘them’ living in an isolated compound starts to cease to be thought ‘human’… Once something like that starts fixing it can be very hard work.

    Insight into Nick thinking about several things at once is good.

    Wealth is funny stuff, because there’s a big element of trust tied up in it. Relying on greed, or secrecy, to smooth over the rough spots is rather risky. Does this mean (most) supers are inherited rich?

    Typo(s):

    “but Haley didn’t see one she wanted”, missing word ‘listed’? Or, maybe ‘any’, or ‘the’?

  4. I wonder, on what side of the equation is the disconnect going to hit hardest: The human, or the superhuman? I can imagine a scenario, a few years down the line: A single journalist sneaks onto the compound, hoping for some pictures – and a super or three decide to rough him up to teach him a lesson. After all, that’s how you deal with criminals, right? The journalist gets out, spreads the word, and suddenly, you’ve got anti-super media coverage everywhere.

  5. Jim. I’m going to suggest something here that might be too simple…

    If you are using a laptop or smartphone to record the audio, or anything else that’s moderately mobile, you should grab your script and go to the library one day and record the audio in one of the quiet rooms. Almost every library has them.

    That being said, if what you have now is good enough, then it’s good enough 🙂

  6. We the rich tend to become we the supers. Some rich families will even marry their sons/daughters with supers so that some grandkids will inherit the genetic ability to have power.
    This tends towards feudalism, a rich and powerful military caste ruling over the lesser humans.

    But I should stop repeating myself … old teaching habit.

  7. Annnd, now commenting on the chapter, rather than the kickstarter video.

    Super communities – much like gated communities for the very wealthy in the real world. It seems to be a natural outgrowth.

    It wouldn’t be hard for supers to collect wealth to be able to establish such places. The whole idea of Peter Parker being a poor photographer was always hilarious to me. He should have started a courier service. Secure transport of small packages far faster than any car or bike can manage in the city. I work in field service. When there’s been a whoopsie and a part is not where it needs to be when it needs to be there, absurd amounts of money are sometimes thrown at couriers to get it there ASAP. I’ve seen packages of less than a pound, worth less than a hundred dollars cost over a thousand dollars to ship a couple hundred miles, because it needs to leave Right Now and get there Yesterday. Think about how good Jaclyn would be at that.

    Cassie could be a live crash test dummy. Literally. As in get in the car and crash it against the wall. She would want to wear a helmet, but other than that, a sensor suit would show exactly how a real human body was affected. Those dummies and whatnot are expensive!

    Whatever your key powers are, you can probably leverage them in some way for a legitimate paycheck.

    Nick could be wealthy quickly, and most other supers could as well. It would take a singularly unmotivated individual to not be able to turn a super power into profits, without crime. Most super powers anyway.

  8. And just think Vaughn could promise good weather for all events…. Or if you’re corporate enemy was doing a big outdoor promotional blitz, you could hire Vaughn to rain on their parade.

  9. Heh. @Notto, that reminds me of a Larry Niven story where magic is real in the modern world, and during a war, the different sides employed weather witches & wizards to control the weather — to a stalemate. Each side’s magic cancelled out the other, and each side had to keep the magic up, or they’d be hit with crappy weather in their own camps. This being a single point of failure, the weather manipulator for any given regiment/corps/army/battalion/whatever (I’m not clear on what these all mean relative to each other, and don’t care enough to look them up) was always a target for artillery strikes and the like.

    Thus, Vaughn and another weather manipulator could both make a whole bunch of money by being hired by opposing corporations to sit around and do nothing. 🙂

    Hg

  10. And then Nick walks in with a lightning rod that cycles a stream of ionized air broadly enough to ground every electrostatic charge in miles.

  11. I loved the chapter like always. I have been wanting to start writing for a while now but I’m not sure exactly how I should start… Any advice?

  12. Yes and no. Personally, I’ve always found that actually writing tends to make writing happen. Thinking about writing doesn’t get me anywhere. That and deadlines–whether they’re a web serial, a class or whatever, it helps to know someone’s expecting you to appear with a story in hand.

  13. I love the interaction between Nick and Haley here, and I love the way they have different perspectives on being in a compound. I’d be interested to hear them have a conversation about it with someone who has lived in one, at some point, but I suspect Nick isn’t the sort who would bring it up, or Haley for that matter. They’re both quiet in a non-confrontational way, socially.

    As much as I love the action, the alien stuff, and all of the other parts of this story, I think my favorite thing is the fact that you don’t dodge the changes having so many people with powers have caused in society. Even pretty early on, we had Nick reflecting on the power of the League’s popularity, and the fact that he could basically just bug someone’s house without a warrant without getting on the bad side of law enforcement. Seeing the world through Nick’s eyes is interesting, and makes him the perfect protagonist for this story, I think, since he doesn’t have “powers”, per se, but is still separated from normal people by the combination of know-how and association.

    CG

    1. Curious George: As guy with a masters in sociology and a strong interest in archaeology, the changes in society that result from superpowers are the kind of thing that I think about whether I intend to or not…

  14. Well, Roger Willcocks, one of the most important aspects of the evolution of American culture as a whole, even and especially including the class issue, is race. You’d be surprised how many problems faced today come from that in the U.S.

    But as for the significance of these compounds? That’s where you need a fly in the ointment to keep everyone humble. A big fly. A fly in a costume. A super fly. Someone to buzz in there, blow up key sections, taint the food supply, contaminate the water supply, and fill the air with Air Supply. If things were more balanced in the hero to villain ratio, I don’t think this sort of separation would occur.

  15. @Psycho Most of the stuff I’m reading hasn’t even got to that point. The one I’m reading at the moment is an analysis of the USA as the “first post colonial nation” compared with the (then current) crop in Africa and Asia.

    His primary argument for how the democratic and 2 party system in the USA developed and survived seems to stem from 2 major near random circumstances.

    One being that Washington served 2 terms (re-election) and voluntarily surrendered the presidency to the opposing party upon losing the election.

    The second being that both Jefferson and Hamilton were close friends and inner circle members while he was president, which kept their philosophical disagreements from destabilising the emergent culture before the pattern could be set by delaying the establishment of the Federalist and Republican parties.

    Also some interesting reading on the suppression of dissent, international neutrality / isolationism in the first 3-4 decades, an the dichotomous effects of equality and achievement on the American psyche,

    I was kind of thinking about the latter when reading this chapter. The advent of powers to a large degree disrupts that, and I have to wonder about US government attempts to suppress or deny the existence of powers in response to public resistance to the concept.

  16. Roger, a big part of the divide that led to the two different parties was the idea of how much power the government should have. The Articles of Confederation were an example of an early government with too little to be effective. It nearly lost them the revolution and they couldn’t even afford to pay for a militia to fight Shays’ Rebellion. The state had to take up donations from wealthy merchants to fund it. It also made it difficult to handle the Barbary pirates.

    The two major parties from this were the Federalists and the Antifederalists. The Antifederalists were the ones pushing for more emphasis on states’ rights. A state’s right to do what? That’s the important question. It’s a common euphemism for slavery and, after the Civil War, discriminatory or segregationist policies. All throughout the early Union, you see clashes between Free and Slave factions.

    The 3/5ths rule, the makeup of the bicameral legislature, the practice of admitting two states at a time, the nature of the electoral college, all of that came because slave states and free states didn’t want to be politically outnumbered by the other side.

    While there were many clashes, it finally happened that a president was elected who didn’t win a single slave state (wasn’t even on 10 of the 15 Southern ballots): Abraham Lincoln. States that had been threatening secession over issues of states rights and nullification of Federal laws (sound familiar?) went ahead and started rebelling.

    I’m not going to cover everything in U.S. history this quickly, so I’ll skip forward.

    The Solid South remains its own voting bloc still today, with politicians emphasizing ideas like states’ rights, less involvement of the Federal government, policies which disproportionately negatively affect people of a certain skin color, and obstruction of certain Federal laws they don’t like. They even called their use of such phrases and issues as codes the “Southern Strategy”. Feel free to look it up and marvel at how it hasn’t really gone away.

    Admittedly, the party they vote for is the reverse from the mid 1800s, but that’s because of the big switch in the 1950s when the Democrats supported Civil Rights and the Republicans took up the States’ Rights cause.

  17. Really like this aspect of things as well.

    And while I can understand Nicks point of view in regards to the community I bet it would be a different story when he has kids of his own.

  18. Slight edit:
    More likely ultrasounds. And I think you’re right that that’s how it happens,

    Should be (“that” is in there twice):
    More likely ultrasounds. And I think you’re right that’s how it happens,

Leave a Reply