Remote Control: Part 2

I blinked. I knew that Lim probably had an agenda, and felt fairly sure that in a choice between me and the government, Lim would choose the government, but I couldn’t fault a man who’d sworn to serve the United States for actually doing his job.

Plus, when it came down to it Lim had admired Grandpa as the Rocket, and I had a hard time believing he’d deliberately screw the League over without a reason.

Something of that must have shown on my face because Gordon sat a little straighter in his seat. “I’m not saying anything other people aren’t saying. Look, you weren’t here before the program exploded.

“When I started, the Stapledon program wasn’t more than a twenty people per class, sometimes not more than ten. It only expanded because the government wanted in. Before that, capes did it together, and funded it themselves.

“I didn’t grow up in a compound, but we were part of the cape community in Seattle even after my dad died, and I heard how this went down. They knew they didn’t have the manpower or the money to train all the capes that were appearing because of all the new power activation tech, and the government got wind of it. After some negotiations, they convinced them to split Stapledon half and half.”

That was new information.

I raised an eyebrow. “So this is all new? You weren’t here every summer?”

He shook his head. “No way. It’s been here before, but they’ve swapped the summer training around between groups. Sometimes it’s been in a compound. Sometimes it’s been at a Defenders base. They also used the bunker in Nebraska a lot. You know the one I mean?”

I nodded. “I hadn’t known it was in Nebraska. They never told us.”

He grinned. “I heard it from some of my dad’s teammates. Did you know that place started out as a fallout shelter? Back in the 1950’s, they were making them everywhere. I guess the capes back then set up their own system of shelters in case the world got blown to hell.”

“That part,” I said, “I did know. My grandpa was one of the people who created the plans for the shelters. He set them up with the idea of saving as many heroes and civilians as possible and then having enough supplies and equipment to begin to rebuild. The Heroes League’s headquarters is one too. That’s why it’s a lot bigger than you’d think.”

He sat back and raised an eyebrow. “Big enough to host Stapledon?”

“Well,” I said, “yes and no. Definitely yes for the old version of Stapledon, but not now.”

At the same time, I wondered how many people it could really hold. The hangar and the main room were all on the first level. We didn’t even use the second level. Of course, the second level wasn’t much more than a giant homeless shelter, and supplies for rebuilding the world.

Well, maybe. For all I knew Grandpa had filled the place with Abominator relics like he had storage rooms three and four.

What are you supposed to do with a fallout shelter when the nuclear apocalypse fails to show up?

Gordon pulled out his phone and checked it. “I should go. My girlfriend said she’d be done soon.”

“Girlfriend?” I wasn’t surprised that he had a girlfriend, but I didn’t know who she was.

“Dude,” he said, “you don’t know her? She’s in your specialty.”

That meant nothing to me. I barely knew anybody in my specialty–none of the older students for sure.

More to the point, I’d never seen him in the lab before. I didn’t know he knew where it was.

Frowning, he said, “Stephanie. You know Steph, right?”

I didn’t, and didn’t manage to say so before he said, “Hologram. I’m sure you’ve heard of Hologram.”

“Oh,” I said. “Not the original Hologram or she’d be in her fifties. If I remember, Hologram got most of her press in the 80’s and the early 90’s before she retired. Except then there was a Hologram in the 90’s who barely appeared before vanishing permanently.”

He checked behind him before he said, “You might not want to put it quite that way if you ever run into her. Her mom was the first Hologram. The second one was her aunt. And it’s not like they were nothing. They were both big at fighting human traffickers in the early 90’s.

“Besides, they’re a helluva lot more recent than the Heroes League.”

It took me a moment to absorb that last blast of… something. Hostility seemed like an overstatement, but if it wasn’t hostility, I didn’t know what to call it. Besides, where did it come from? I hadn’t insulted his girlfriend that I’d noticed. I didn’t think I was being particularly harsh in my summary–just factual.

He pushed his chair back and stood up. “Hey man, it’s been good to talk to you. I’m a little surprised you and the other techie didn’t stop the photographer, but I’m glad for what you could do. I’d have been pretty pissed if you’d done nothing. Can’t say what I’d have done. Nothing personal. Just protecting my brother.”

Then he started walking away.

I stood up to follow him, not sure what I was about to do. Had he just threatened me? That last statement almost sounded like he was saying he’d been planning to do something to me if it turned out that I’d done nothing to help his brother.

I didn’t get to ask him.

He took the hand of one of the upperclassmen who had labs near the front of the common area. Dark haired and half a foot shorter than Gordon, she wore shorts and a grey t-shirt that were somehow more stylish than the shorts and t-shirt I had on. The sleeves went a little past the elbow and billowed or something?

It wasn’t anything a guy could wear in any case.

He waved his hand at me as they walked away. She glanced in my direction and gave a brief smile.

Not sure what had happened, I walked back to the table and continued to test the bot.

16 thoughts on “Remote Control: Part 2”

  1. Here I am reading “Emotional Vampires at Work”.

    Categorisation: “Competitor” / “Antisocial”
    Probable threat.

    But I can also see “hey, it was just a misunderstanding” (at least until I get you alone)

  2. Error : They knew didn’t have the manpower or the money to train all the capes that were appearing

    Fixed : They knew we didn’t have the manpower or the money to train all the capes that were appearing

  3. Hmm. Sounds like Nick might need to do some study on the Power Impregnator, and maybe think about whether it implies a Power Locker could be built… Even if that only affected those who’d been through the Power Impregnator it’d be useful… Not, of course, that locking powers so that they’re more-or-less unusable makes someone harmless… Does make it a lot easier to use conventional forms of confinement, though…

  4. I wouldn’t have taken anything Gordon said all that negatively if it weren’t for Nick’s internal monologue interpreting everything he said in the worst possible light,

  5. @Matt and @alexander – As someone who’s got the same sort of ‘Social skills? What’re those?’ that Nick’s got, it’s not that he’s taking everything in a super-negative light. It’s rather that he’s attempting to accurately evaluate the other person’s meaning so that he can respond appropriately.

    Most people can automatically sense when someone’s being ‘catty’ or sincere or resigned or whatever in spite of what words they’re using, without even thinking about it and thus are able to put themselves in the proper mood to correctly respond with defensive/receptive/sympathetic inflection themselves- all unconsciously and without even realizing they’re doing it.

    However, some folks don’t have that automatic response system, and so take words at face value- they learn at a young age to respond neutrally to everything everyone says, and it’s not really until they’ve been run through the crucible of High School and get going in the Collegiate social circles that they start learning via trial and error and sheer rote skill aquisition (think driving a car vs. walking) how to interpret the ‘between the lines’ messages and respond in kind. High School is such an intense and fast paced storm of these non-word social cues that people like that tend to just hole up with old friendships or among like individuals (Anime clubs or DnD groups especially wind up as havens for the ‘socially colorblind’), while clamming up among the wider student body for their own protection- just watching and learning without participating.

    So the internal monologue is basically Nick doing the normally autonomous work of interpreting cues- “slightly narrowed eyes and a lower register in voice without less volume, eyebrows are pulled down and in, upright balanced posture=hostile, prepared to fight- phrase:”you’d better not” suggesting attempted intimidation…” etc etc. It’s true that he might be wrong about what’s going on, but I know personally that when I’ve decided to focus on a conversation with a ‘stranger’ (that is, someone who I’ve not known for at least half a decade) I’ll basically be reviewing every sign I can via their posture and register and specific choice of words, consciously attempting to figure out what they actually mean rather than what I’d like them to mean- because the two are often wildly different.

    1. I have Asperger’s Syndrome/ aka high functioning Autism and this basically describes my life.

      The “between the lines” threads of Gordon’s convrrsations are “you’re with us or against us” and the “us” is “superior powered humans” – the government is only an asset until it’s a liability. I think it is fair to say he looks at everyone that way, apart from maybe his closest relationships.

      Things are a lot more complicated outside of Grand Lake.

      1. Gavin: Too true. Things are much more complicated outside Grand Lake, and will only get more so.

        As for Nick noticing/not noticing things, that’s something I have some experience with, but I had a relatively easy time figuring out what people were meaning. Figuring out what to do about it was the bigger challenge.

  6. I like to think of nick as a computer/person sort of person, so emotions are detatched, and he’s not good at picking up on others emotions.

  7. I don’t see Nick as someone who is happy with being threatened. He also seems to be someone who thinks about the consequences of his actions.

    If a lot of the problem would seem to be a massive influx of people who were empowered by the Power Impregnator, I’d suspect he’d go looking for a (technical) solution. A ‘Power Stripper’, that’s something that’s really asking for trouble. A weapon in its own right. A ‘Power Locker’, that’s the sort of thing usable by law enforcement, though, it still, of course, has potential for abuse.

    From a slightly different point of view, you can’t go backwards (unless you’re playing with time travel), you can only make further changes. A ‘Power Stripper’ implies that you can (neatly and safely) undo the effects of a Power Impregnator, which is a dangerous and unsafe way of thinking. You could also make a case about human rights abuse of a ‘Power Stripper’. Not having one around in the first place would be wise.

  8. In the community of legacy super hero families how well your family is known is currency and how long they have been known is the difference between “old money” and “new money” social status wise. So Nick, as a member of the oldest and richest of “old money” supers, accidentally chose words that insulted Gordon’s girlfriends family’s status by their communities standards.

  9. “program wasn’t more than a twenty people per class” (no ‘a’, or perhaps ‘about’)

    This was interesting. Definitely more than a social call, I almost wonder if the camera was an excuse for Gordon to “evaluate” where Nick is in the spectrum of “people in this bigger program”. Especially when combined with Gifford stepping up to fight in that battle some days ago. And I feel like the jury’s still out – they’re not sure he’d be with them (against the government?) but they’re not calling him out either. I wonder if anyone else in the League has also had visits, like Travis or Rachel who aren’t in the same year.

  10. Slight edit:
    Sometimes it been in a compound. Sometimes it’s been at a Defenders base.

    Should be:
    Sometimes it’s been in a compound. Sometimes it’s been at a Defenders base.

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