Bullies and Counselors: Part 5

“I can’t believe he said that.” Haley’s voice crackled over the cellphone and I could hear someone shouting that they were getting low on plates.

“I’m going to move someplace I can hear better,” she said.

Scraping noises followed. Then a door shut.

The next time she spoke, I could hear her perfectly.

“I went outside.”

“Hope you’ve got your coat.”

“I’m not stupid.”

I sat at my desk in my room, looking out the side window toward the street. Against the light of the streetlight, I could see snow falling.

“I didn’t say you were. It just looks cold out there.”

“It’s not as bad as it was.”

Haley didn’t say anything for a little while. I began to wonder if we’d lost the connection.

“Haley?”

“He’s such a jerk. He’s such an… asshole.”

She stopped talking again. This time I waited.

“It didn’t go like he said it did. We were making out, and he might have been thinking about sex, but I wasn’t. I don’t even know if the pill would work for me. All I knew was that he was pushing me further than I wanted to go.”

“Are you saying he was trying to rape you?”

“I didn’t think so then. Right now… I don’t know. It might have been going that way. He wouldn’t listen to me and I got nervous and I started to feel the change begin. So I stabbed him with the dewclaw and I called my parents.”

“Wow.”

“The worst part was that it didn’t end there. His dad knew someone at the police department, and the police wanted to know how a neurotoxin got into his blood. It just went on and on. Eventually they gave up, but not before everyone had hired lawyers. It was awful.”

“I never heard about any of that.”

“By the time you and Daniel and Cassie started having DVD nights, it was over and I wasn’t going to bring it up.”

“There wasn’t even a hint, though.”

“I didn’t want to think about it any more,” she said.

I heard the sound of a door opening and a voice in the background.

In a slightly annoyed voice she said, “I have to work. Talk to you later.”

* * *

During spring semester, the first class I had in the morning was American History. I enjoyed the class anyway. History was really more Daniel’s thing than mine, but, I liked Mr. Beacham. Every school had a teacher that resembled the teacher in “Dead Poets’ Society,” the kind who had the class rip pages out of textbooks that he thought ridiculous or stood on his desk to make a point.

Mr. Beacham hadn’t done any of those things specifically, but he was the closest we had.

In school, people knew him most for a lecture he delivered to every American History class near the end of the semester. In it, he took a contrarian point of view on superheroes, arguing that they made the Bill of Rights irrelevant and subverted the rule of law.

No one knew what he really believed, but, from all I’d ever heard, he made a good argument.

Since it was still early in the semester, we were nowhere near that lecture. We were talking about the controversies surrounding slavery prior to the Civil War.

I scribbled notes as he lectured, enjoying the class less than usual because I was more aware than usual that I shared it with Sean.

Mr. Beacham lectured about the Dred Scott decision without any theatrics. It didn’t make for a bad class, but it didn’t come up to his normal standards either.

On the other hand, theatrics might not have been appropriate for the story of a slave whose attempt to become free ultimately played a role in causing the Civil War.

When class ended, I followed everyone else out of the room and started down the hall to my next class — physics.

Sean walked out as I did and walked with me.

“Nick, I got a call from Haley last night. She told me to leave you alone. Do I scare you?”

He made a scary face.

“I didn’t know I scared you so much that you had to sic your girlfriend on me. Is she going to beat me up if I don’t leave you alone? I’m so frightened.”

I ignored him.

Just three rooms further down the hall and I’d be able to step into the physics classroom.

I walked a little faster, pulling ahead of him, but not being able to make a break for it because the halls were basically wall to wall people.

He grabbed my right arm.

I stopped and twisted my arm, moving it downward and out of his hand. I’d practiced the move for years, but this was the first time I’d used it for real.

“Can’t you just stop bothering me?” I asked — which probably ranks high on the list of least clever responses to high school bullying.

I’d also moved my feet into a subtle version of a basic stance, not pulling my arms up ready to block and strike, but giving myself the option.

Now that I’d turned around and stood facing him, I couldn’t help but notice that he wasn’t in anything resembling a fighting stance. Basic targets — nose, solar plexus, groin, and knees — were completely open and unprotected. Didn’t he know anything? What had he thought he was going to do once he caught me?

People pushed past us, not really aware of what was going on. Jamal, from my physics class, passed us saying, “Can’t you guys stand somewhere else? You’re blocking the hall.”

“Fuck off, Jamal,” Sean suggested.

Jamal gave him the finger and walked away.

With Sean distracted, I followed Jamal, pushing through a group of girls (“Hey!” “Sorry”), and managing to get to the side of the hall which, if I were willing to risk bumping into lockers and trophy cases, was almost always free of people.

I got into the classroom just as the warning bell rang.

I spent the beginning of class wondering if Sean had any idea of how badly he could get hurt if he kept bothering us.

I also wondered how far I was willing to go to stop it.

14 thoughts on “Bullies and Counselors: Part 5”

  1. “With great power comes great responsibility…”

    Plus the potential to beat the living crap out of high school bullies.

    I really like Beacham’s argument. Laws exist only so long as their are people who enforce them, and individuals with the powers of superheroes would make ordinary law-makers and officers almost redundant, as they could so easily over-power them. They can do what they want because only their fellow supers can stop them.

  2. Yes but the laws apply to all and the government can only enforce them and others with the consent of the governed. They only are in power through the goodwill of those that they lead. The fact that the people can rebel makes them think about their decisions and ensure that they are the best possible ones.
    /soapbox

    ~pyroarcher

  3. The ability to take down super-powered assassins and villains who can morph into power-cement, and yet totally vulnerable to asshole ex-boyfriends….

    Ah, life.

  4. Pyroarcher: Feel free to stay on the soapbox if you want. Or come down… Your choice. Either way you’ll get opportunities to get back on it. I’ve always thought that superheroes would affect government/law in a bunch of different ways. They may show up in the story if it works.

    Gavin: That’s just the barest summary of Beacham’s thoughts. We’ll get more of them later — hopefully at a dramatically appropriate moment.

    Bill: It’s funny how social norms that stop all of us from responding to something like that stop Nick too. Daniel’s powers (telepathy, telekinesis) would be so much more useful at that moment.

  5. I take a somewhat different view about the subject.

    First of all, ‘law’ as we know it is relatively recent. Even as recently as the early 1900s, one sheriff could be the end-all and be-all of legal authority in a town. In more settled areas the body of legal precedent is more extensive, but not nearly as much as most people tend to think it is. Vigilante justice was not only common but necessary in many areas of the country from its beginning.

    As people found out what works and what doesn’t, eventually tolerance for amateurs who make the same mistakes that their predecessors had overcome disappeared. But it was a slow process.

    Another good example of cowboy law in progress is the Web. Very often, it’s been hackers catching hackers, sometimes with opposition and outright hostility from government and/or corporate authority. Sometimes because the black hats were causing the white hats grief; sometimes simple rivalry; and sometimes the lines aren’t even that clear, as the people involved play musical hats. Congress has passed sweeping laws making technological intrusion illegal, and there are laws about privacy, spam, and pornography, but the boundaries are still fuzzy… and so we have DEFCON, and the recent browser cracking contest at CanSecWest, where the winner of the IE8 exploit chose to remain anonymous–even though his efforts go directly towards a more secure browser for everyone, he is liable for prosecution under current laws. So his hacker pseudonym could be considered his mask and cape, no? The dude impressed his peers enough to be considered 31337, no question… how does that translate in a world where superheroes really exist?

  6. very good point parahacker . . . that would seem to make them our modern day superheroes! I love computers and have nothing but respect for the top notch hackers who make the internet better for all.

  7. That’s actually pretty close to the line I’m taking for this serial.

    The thing for me is that you’ve got the practical considerations i.e. people with powers would often need to be stopped by other people with powers.

    You’ve also got the ideals of the society in question and the various groups within. Some people think that the state should have a monopoly on force. Some think that the general population should have the right to as much arms and armament as they want. Others are somewhere between.

    I’m just inclined to think that supers would affect the argument, possibly in a stranger way than is obvious.

    EDIT: One other thing, while I’m at it… Whatever I think, it’s worth noting that the system the society in this story has worked out is partially screwed up. Perfect systems are boring. Feel free to spot the screwed up parts as we go.

  8. Talking about powers affecting laws and societies in strange ways, I wonder what would happen if the general public (or even some paranoid higher-ups) found out about what Daniel’s grandfather did with the blocks and mind-messing. Given the fact that both Daniel and his father are obviously capable of the same things, I can see a very strong “Superman Protocol” type reaction, where the authorities develop plans to lobotomize (maybe figuratively, maybe literally) mentally-powered individuals as soon as they feel any of them get out of hand. Because, really, force is just force — people have been responding to extinction-level threats from group, individuals and their environments since the dawn of time — but free will is supposed to be unassailable. It’s our “God-given” right, and what sets us apart from the Angels.

    (Let me be clear that I’m not any type of evangelist, I’m just presenting the kinds of arguments that people use, deep-down inside.)

    Of course, if EVERYONE had powers, then we’d have a whole different ball of wax: super-democracy. Maybe Vaughn’s grandfather was on the right track…

    Hg

  9. That poor idiot Sean doesn’t know who he is messing with. Let alone how skilled Nick is, then again maybe Sean left himself open to get Nick to feel over confident.

  10. @daymon: I was thinking the exact same thing as I was reading it.

    I figure Sean has to know that his ex, her new man, and a bunch of their friends are hanging out together getting martial arts training after school.

    This means A) Sean is really, really, dense and has no clue that Nick can crack a few of his teeth. B) the size advantage is such that Sean can still take Nick or maybe he knows martial arts as well. or C) the most sinister option – Sean has powers and was waiting for Nick to start something so he could mess HIM up, badly.

    Jim, you sly dog. Writing all this suspense and guessing….

  11. Hg: I could definitely see that happening in some countries, particularly dictatorships. Maybe here too. It is one of those things that would make people nervous. It could get very Babylon 5-ish if that happened.

    Daymon/Bill: Guess you’ll have to wait… Probably until late tonight.

  12. Hey, have you ever read Midnight’s Children? Something very much like that happens, with the added follow through of sterilizing all of the people with special abilities. (And who says that great literature has nothing in common with common prose — the males are sterilized by surgical removal of their testicles, after which, the offending organs are fried in a pan and fed to dogs, just to be on the safe side.)

    Hg

  13. Ses the me like nick didn’t have to make Sean his enemy. The dude wasnt particularly antagonistic to him in the beginning and keeping it a little more casual would have served him better. Comes with the territory of being an antisocial genius I guess

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