Burning: Part 1

People were talking about Turkmenistan the next day. Around noon, Haley and I were sitting in the compound’s cafeteria with Camille, one of Haley’s friends and a Heroes League recruit. We’d taken the van to Castle Rock’s Catholic church—St. Francis of Assisi.

I still wasn’t sure if that had been a good idea.

We’d gone as ourselves, and not in costume. All it would have taken to blow our identities was pictures placing us near the very well publicized Stapledon summer program while the Rocket wasn’t appearing much in Grand Lake.

Still, the Castle Rock church was on the list of churches that the program said were safe, so we went.

Don’t ask me what made them safe. Given the program’s reliance on mental blocks for it’s students, I probably wouldn’t be happy to know.

Camille put down her fork. “So what’s going on in Turkmenistan? I overheard people talking about it, and haven’t had a chance to ask anybody because nobody was up when I got up. Back home we go to the eleven o’clock mass. I can’t believe you dragged me to the nine-thirty.”

Dark haired with light brown skin, Camille still wore the blue dress she’d worn to church. She didn’t look particularly angry. Smiling brightly for a moment, she said, “So, Turkmenistan?”

I didn’t know. I’d seen the news, but the brief touch I’d had with Daniel’s mind last night told me I didn’t know half of what I needed to.

“Well,” I said, “all I know is that since after their last president some kind of supergroup took over. Only now there’s some kind of resistance to their rule, and last night their fire guy burned down a few city blocks trying to take out the opposition. It got attention because it was all residential, so he killed hundreds of people.”

She shook her head. “That’s awful. Is the government doing anything about it?”

“I don’t think so. Not yet, anyway.” I looked down at my plate. Today’s lunch turned out to be some kind of curry with beef in a reddish sauce over rice. It wasn’t something I’d order, but even if it was a little spicy, it was good—whatever it was.

Haley shook her head. “No. They’re not doing anything. It doesn’t seem like they ever do anything with that.”

Camille glanced to the right and left of us. None of the people at the other tables appeared to be watching us. Lowering her voice, she asked, “What about people here? Are they going to do something?”

I opened my mouth to explain, but didn’t get the chance. Haley said, “It’s another one.”

I turned to look at her. “Another what?”

Haley’s lips tightened. “Another thing they wouldn’t know unless they grew up in the League.”

I considered pointing out that none of us had technically grown up in the League since the League hadn’t existed since 1983 when our grandparents had dissolved it. I didn’t, because while true, we’d all grown up around our grandparents. Camille’s grandfather had been a follower of Red Lightning—a supervillain by that point.

I said, “I’m pretty sure it’s supposed to be public knowledge.”

Camille’s eyes darted between Haley and I. “As cute as it is that both of you know what you’re talking about, I still don’t.”

Haley sighed and looked like she might be trying to think of a way to explain.

I said, “It’s that heroes don’t operate outside the United States without permission. It never really makes the situation better. Even when US vigilantes ignore the government’s opinion, everyone assumes they’re working for the US anyway. Except then the government’s got to step in and clean up their messes. At that point, you’re basically letting people with powers set the US’s foreign policy. That’s not a good thing, So, the government and all the major hero organizations have an arrangement that vigilante justice stops at the water’s edge.”

Camille cocked her head and looked at me. “Well, that does explain things, but I can’t believe that vigilantes like Vengeance would follow directions like that.”

I nodded. “They don’t, but if they don’t, they often find they get visits from US heroes who beat the crap out of them. Plus, I hear that even the ones that can’t possibly be working for the US have some kind of secret arrangement with our government or a friendly government.”

Camille didn’t say anything for a moment, but then she said, “So then the resistance in Turkmenistan might be ours.”

Haley and I both looked at each other. Haley said, “I don’t think so—“ At same time, I said, “I don’t think any of them are US citizens. Anyway I’ve never heard that anyone’s gone over there…”

Camille didn’t let either of us finish. “I hope someone does. What’s the use of having abilities like this, and not being able to do something about the really bad things in the world?”

“Exactly,” a voice said. I didn’t recognize it.

When I turned my head toward its source, I saw a big blond guy that could have been used for Nazi recruitment posters or to play Captain America in a movie. Weird, how they both went after the same look.

He was holding a tray of food, and wore a dark pink buttoned down shirt and a black tie that hinted he might have gone to church too. “Mind if I sit down?”

At that moment I recognized him as an upperclassman even if I didn’t know his name.

“I’m Gordon,” he said. “You fought my younger brother Gifford yesterday.”

15 thoughts on “Burning: Part 1”

  1. In other news, I’m interviewed about Legion and the Kickstarter in Nick Ahlhelm’s podcast.

    http://superpoweredfiction.com/2014/11/02/superpowercast-42-jim-zoetewey-and-the-legion-of-nothing/

    Also, Legion’s mentioned in Eric Searlesman’s Superhero Novel blog. You’ll find the blog interesting if you care about superhero fiction.

    http://superheronovels.com/2014/10/31/live-in-the-link-age-11-01-14/

    Beyond, that, as you can see, we’re now closer to the end of the Kickstarter than we we are the beginning. Consider donating if you haven’t.

  2. “Dark, haired with light brown skin, ”

    Erroneous comma after Dark.

    I’m enjoying the politics of a supered world, it was one of my favourite things about Worm. Keep going with those.

  3. Nicely done bit about the politics of super hero-ing. I like the bit about church attendance, too – where religion mixes into the world of supers often isn’t well observed. Personal time being used to explore the larger issues of your world is, I think, one of the more interesting ways you write stuff.

    Now, is Nick tempted to see if he has the means to figure-out better what the foreign politics is about, or, is he wise enough to leave well alone? 🙂

  4. The League has done one international mission, when they went into Canada to save Captain Commando from the Nine. I don’t remember a lot of blowback from that, though in retrospect the Canadian supers who stopped them were awfully ready to go along with the Nine’s manipulation.

    It probably came under a “hot pursuit” and “rescuing a team member” sub-clause of the agreement, but even so it did result in a nuclear device going off on Canadian soil. I wonder how much back and forth politics went on behind the scenes to clean up that mess.

  5. Is it just me, or did this “We all go co church!” bit come out of left field? I don’t remember churchgoing as one of the things that Nick ever mentioned, even in passing descriptions of ‘boring weekends’ or something he missed when heroing. No religious iconography in any of their homes, etc. etc… About the only thing I recall ever being said about religion was Daniel being Jewish.

  6. @Matthew, I think it also must have helped that they were attacking the lair of an infamous bad guy, away from civilians, and weren’t doing anything that would impact the nation’s political situation. I imagine there’s a sliding scale of sorts, informally, that is determined by 1) the relationship between two nations, 2) the type/extent of intervention taking place, 3) the target of that intervention, and 4) the people doing the intervening. I suspect the Heroes League, revered as they are, might cause less trouble and catch less flack than another group would, even if they were also engaged in a rescue mission in “hot pursuit”, though those two aspects remain important. We’ve already seen that heroes in this setting have their own community, of sorts, and it wouldn’t be shocking for the Canadian and US communities to be tightly tied together.

  7. A Catholic church attended by supers named after St. Francis of Assisi. I can see it. While canonization usually requires some miracles, St. Francis was said to have abilities that were compatible with superheroes: talking to animals. It was said he preached to man and animal alike, having birds fly close to him as he preached and even getting wolves to do as he said.

    Another good one would be St. Joseph of Cupertino. St. Joseph was said to be a bit on the slow side, but they also said he tended to levitate or fly.

  8. Perhaps my brain isn’t working properly, but can somebody help me parse this. It feels like there’s a mistake in there somewhere, but I can’t put my finger on it:

    Camille put down her fork. “So what’s going on in Turkmenistan? I overheard people talking about it, and haven’t had a chance to ask anybody. Back home we go to the eleven o’clock mass. I can’t believe you dragged me to the nine-thirty.”

    Dark, haired with light brown skin, Camille still wore the blue dress she’d worn to church. She didn’t look particularly angry. Smiling brightly for a moment, she said, “So, Turkmenistan?”

    1. My guess is this: I intended to have Camille jump from Turkmenistan to getting up earlier and back to Turkmenistan without much warning. I did that, it may be that I should punctuate it differently to make the fact that she’s jumping clearer.

  9. Nick did mention before that his family frequents a Lutheran church, Haley and Izzy are Catholic, Daniel is Jew and observes Shabbat unless there’s people to save, and Vaughn also attends church regularly somewhere Nick’s father gave a talk at during a Sermon, although I don’t remember which denomination it was offhand.

  10. [ Around noon, Haley and I were sitting in the cafeteria with Camille, one of Haley’s friends and a Heroes League recruit. We’d taken the van to Castle Rock’s Catholic church—St. Francis of Assisi. ]

    So they are eating at the church cafeteria? 🙂 “The cafeteria”, as opposed to “a cafeteria” would imply the school’s but I inferred from the last sentence that it was at the church. Perhaps something like “Earlier that morning” could precede the last sentence?

    [ “Well,” I said, “all I know is that since after their last president some kind of supergroup took over. ]

    I had to read this sentence a couple times. I think it was the “since” that threw me. Even without it, there seems to be something missing but perhaps it is filled in my something I’ve forgotten from a previous post (the hazard or reading so many different stories at once >_<). Or maybe a comma after president? Also, not sure, but should president be capitalized or is that just for the US?

    Keep up the great work! ^_^

  11. Oh, man, Turkmenistan. If that last President-for-Life was the same one they had in the real world, dude was about one shot of power juice away from being a legit supervillain, Doom-style.

  12. Huh. So Turkmenistan is… a real place. That kind of blows my mind. Politics and geography have never been my forte though, so you could tell me it’s run by leprechauns and I wouldn’t have batted an eye.

    Incidentally, yeah, the church thing was a bit awkward. It took a couple reads before I figured out that they had left and come back, then there’s the bit Luke brought up, and even after it parsed for me, I wondered why it was only the three of them… couldn’t Camille have gone with some other people to the later mass? Or are Nick and Haley really the only people she knows who were going? Ah well. Nice to see a guy wearing pink.

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