Burning: Part 7

I wondered if anyone in the program could match Guardian. I’d heard that he wasn’t even limited to this dimension in his abilities. Brooke, his daughter (who I actually knew better) was limited to a few miles last I’d heard.

Last year we’d tracked down Chancy Harris, and even if he wasn’t in Guardian’s league, he appeared to be able to send people hundreds or even thousands of miles easily.

The impression I’d gotten when we met him though was that he wasn’t all that fussy about his customers. Case in point, he’d actually been working for aliens who turned out to be trying to destroy humanity last spring.

Bearing in mind that what we’d be doing was likely to draw adult disapproval whether they ultimately decided to help or not, his lack of strong convictions might be a plus. He struck me as the kind of guy who would keep his mouth shut if you paid your bill.

Of course, he hadn’t seemed to like us much the last time we’d met him. He’d disappeared after sending us to meet his clients, and it wouldn’t surprise me if he blamed us for the loss of a paying client.

Still, he was an option. Bearing in mind that his prices were probably high though, I might be better off finding a student who would do it for free.

Come to think of it, we might be able to pull Izzy in. I didn’t know how quickly she could fly, but the impression I got was that she could make it halfway across the planet and back before anyone realized she’d left.

Provided I could control the bots from here or allow them to act independently enough that I didn’t need to pay attention, that could work out. She could fly there, release them, and be done with it.

I’d have to do some research on what kind of powers the supers in Turkmenistan had. Then I’d need to design bots that they couldn’t casually catch.

Depending on their powers, roachbots might not even be a practical solution, and I’d actually have to think.

About the time I’d come to that conclusion, I reached the front of the line.

Dr. Nation sat in one of the chairs, holding a tablet in one hand, and tapping on the screen with another. Not stopping, he said, “Pardon me. Just a moment. I’ve got to get this down before I forget.”

When he did stop, he looked up from the screen and said, “So Nick, where are we with the nanobots?”

“Still working on the van, and I’ve got some ideas for the suit. That said, I’ve been doing costume replacements for the group, and that’s been going pretty well. It’s easy to work up something that covers a person’s body and has their logo and colors. Once you get past that, things get more complicated. With Jaclyn’s costume, I’m trying to solve a problem. She can jump tall buildings and everything, but she can’t control where she comes down. The obvious solution is a small rocket pack and maneuvering jets, but she’d prefer not to have anything like that. Actually, she’d prefer wings, and the ability to glide. I don’t feel like that’s the best solution, but I can see where it might make sense to her.”

Dr. Nation listened, nodding as I talked, and then chuckled. “Ah, yes. Client relationships, the hard part off the job. Well Nick, I’ll try to coach you on that, but, most of that you’ll have to learn on your own. For now, let’s talk about your short term goals. Chances are you’ll be working with the nanobots for the rest of your life. What do you want to accomplish in the next two months?”

I thought about it. “I…” I began, and then stopped. Then I started again. “I’ve been thinking lately that with all the bots I’m using, I can’t fit everything I might need in the Rocket suit. I’ve been thinking about it as an aircraft carrier lately, but what I need are actual aircraft carriers–roachbot carriers. Essentially floating, quick moving, armored supply platforms.”

Paying attention to my surroundings again, I looked up at him. He nodded.

“What sort of power source?” He asked.

“I don’t know,” I said, and shrugged. “I assume batteries, but fusion would be better if I could do it.”

Dr. Nation gave a wry grin. “A working fusion plant that isn’t an obvious copy of the Xiniti’s design would be nice. I hear one’s only twenty years away.”

He paused, and I laughed a little. Wasn’t it always?

In the back of my mind (and not for the first time), I wondered if the requirement that Earth come up with all its own equivalents to galactic technology for power and interstellar travel might not be a way to prevent us from ever leaving our planet.

“Right,” I said. “Plus, even beyond annoying aliens, making a fusion plant small enough would be a major challenge.”

Dr. Nation nodded. “Let’s assume batteries then. How will they fly?”

“Anti-grav. Here I’m going to use alien tech if I have to, Oh, and before you ask, one of the big issues is likely going to be controlling it from a distance, so that’s what I ought to work on first.”

He nodded. “You might not have to rely on alien tech. As I know you’re aware, Keon’s using anti-grav, and I believe he came up with his own system.”

I glanced over at Keon. He’d stopped next to the exit, talking to people I didn’t know, still sitting in his wheelchair.

“It sounds like a good project. It will likely take you longer than the time we have–especially given everything else you’re doing, but putting together a long distance remote control system will pay dividends in a variety of projects.”

I couldn’t argue with him there. That was a large part of the point. Hoping I hadn’t revealed any cues that would hint at my other project, I nodded.

Then my turn was over, and Courtney sat in the chair I’d vacated. I considered talking to Keon, but he’d left.

I walked away from the desk, but stayed close enough that I overheard part of Courtney’s talk with Dr. Nation.

“My project,” she said, “would kind of be me? I can change how I look, but that’s only part of what I can do. I can modify what’s inside, but I don’t know how far I can go. Can I make poisons? I can make my hearing better and improve my night vision, but could I breath underwater? Or give myself sonar? I don’t know, but I want to find out, and I want to do it here where people can help me if I make a mistake.”

She looked up at Dr. Nation. “It’s so easy to shift myself around, but there’s no owner’s manual for my powers, and the changes are permanent. I don’t know where to start, but I thought I might start with the poisons because I’m a chemistry major, and at least that’s something I know…”

They went on talking after that, but from that point on it was mostly Dr. Nation pushing her to narrow down her focus–which was interesting. I knew Courtney could change more than looks, but her power sounded like it was much more flexible than I’d imagined.

I thought she’d talked about making her skin bulletproof, but the idea of breathing underwater felt like one step further than I would have expected.

I would have listened in a little longer, but my phone beeped.

Pulling it out of my pocket, I clicked a button and learned that it wasn’t a call. The news alert I’d set in case there was more Turkmenistan news had notified me that the regime had executed a democracy activist.

13 thoughts on “Burning: Part 7”

  1. Ooh! It sounds like Nick’s plans to secretly influence foreign politics is getting a boost! What will he do next?

  2. Funny. I appear to have updated closer to my preferred time than normal, completely surprising everyone–or that’s what I’m assuming since most posts have a comment by now.

    For what it’s worth, I mostly wrote this one at my kids’ regional Lego Robotics tournament.

    Their team got 2nd out of 47 teams, and will be going on to the state tournament.

    On another note, vote Legion up on Top Web Fiction if you feel the urge. Legion could be higher.

    Edit: It looks as though I took so long writing my comment that I am actually the second post.

  3. Still dangerous to mess with foreign policy.
    And … of course, the swarm of nanobots would be a nice instrument for world domination. You start spying on a foreign leader …. things escalate … you end with robots controling the Earth and creating a paradise, YOUR paradise.

  4. Nicks going to be experimenting one day, and he’s going to create some nano bots that can replicate themselves by taking parts from other matter, and he’s going to destroy the world with his nano disassemblers accidentally.

  5. I’m wondering if Nick will ever get in contact with his new Xinti clan members. I imagine it would open up a lot of options that he has not ever been able to seriously consider, and I also imagine that it comes with a set of new rules.

  6. @cultist (and others)

    I wonder if Nick has yet realized that as he is now part of a Xiniti clan, then most of the restrictions regarding humans and alien tech most probably don’t apply to him any more – or at least, don’t apply in the same way….

  7. I keep expecting the Xiniti to come to Nick, and drag him off by the ear to a family picnic.

    Or something like that. He’s a new member of a clan, and as far as we know, he hasn’t even acknowledged them yet.

  8. A possibility that I just considered. Anyone with half a brain and some knowledge of what Nick has already accomplished would have to know that something like what Nick is planning is well within his capabilities.

    Was Gordon used to set this up so that others could watch Nick and see what his reaction would be? If Gordon agreed, then had a little mental protection put in place to keep Daniel from seeing what Gordon was thinking (or some other sort of mental or magical shenanigans), it would be a very ideal situation to find out if Nick might be grey-goo dangerous.

    Teenage kids playing with nanotech should be really scary for any adult to contemplate. It’s bad enough imagining adults playing with it. The number of people who know how mature Nick is must be dwarfed by the number of people who know nothing about him.

    The fact that Daniel is working with him, if they are being watched, would make the Oshit! meter jump into the redzone. In a dark, dark world, Nick creates the gizmos of mass destruction, and Daniel helps him deploy them effectively by co-opting the minds and memories of people with powers.

    If there is some sort of oversight board, and they are watching Nick and Daniel, I’d love to be a fly on the wall 🙂

  9. I don’t know if it’s changed since then, but way back when Nick thought they were “a bunch of kids with middle-of-the-pack powers” and I don’t see that his perception of how easy it would be for him to sink North America into the ocean with the technology he already has…

  10. I know this is late, but it’s just a little type:
    In: the hard part off the job.
    the ‘off’ should be ‘of’

  11. “could I breath underwater” (breathe)

    I almost wonder if Courtney’s a little misplaced. I feel like she’d be more at home with a strictly biological elective, hanging out with the Cabal guy who grew gills. But then, maybe that’s all lumped into this one area.

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