Three: Part 17

We managed to escape reporters only because crossing the street had gotten Brooke out of range of the devices that stopped her from opening a gate.

We couldn’t go immediately because we couldn’t leave the mech operator — both because Alex wanted to make sure he hadn’t missed anything and because we didn’t want the mech operator to wake up and run off.

The Defenders took out the remaining Syndicate L people within a couple minutes. Blue Streak and several SWAT teams arrived while they were still fighting and joined in.

As for the press, they awed me. In Grand Lake I was always surprised at how quickly News 10’s chopper showed up, and, if not them, a few reporters from the Grand Lake Sentinel and the local TV stations. In Los Angeles, at least three (maybe four) helicopters showed up, several crews from TV stations, other reporters, and the paparazzi.

A couple photographers started walking up the street toward us. Glancing over at them, Jenny handed me the only surviving copy of my guitar. “We’d better go.”

I pulled the strap over my head. “I know.”

We got up from our seats on the curb.

Brooke and Alex had stopped arguing, and Alex was talking to Carlos as he messed with the mech. I’d already looked it over and hadn’t found anything technically interesting, but, I had learned two things. First that the mech and the powered armor shared enough similarities that I was almost certain the same person had designed them. Second, numerous small signs made me think that the mechs were being mass produced.

We stayed only long enough for the police to pick up the mech operator. Brooke opened the gate and we all walked through. Still tired, Jenny ended up hanging on to my shoulder as we stepped into the Junior Defenders room.

* * *

My last day in Los Angeles felt anti-climactic.

I slept over at Alex’ house because Brooke felt too tired to port me directly into my hotel room, and I wasn’t up for flying over there.

Waking up in one of the guest bedrooms, I found that I had a small headache and felt sore in more places than I’d expected. I got up and found my suitcase next to the bed. Apparently Brooke had felt less tired this morning.

I put on clothes and went down to breakfast.

In one corner of the huge, combined kitchen/family room/living room, Alex’ half sister and brother watched cartoons on the large TV. Alex and Brooke sat at the table eating french toast and sausage. Sylvia, Alex’ step-mom, stood behind the counter next to the stove, turning off the burners as I approached.

“Help yourself. Everything that’s left is on the warming tray.”

The pile of sausage, and french toast slices on the tray left me with no worries about whether I’d have enough food.

“Thanks.” I picked up a plate, served myself, and sat down near Alex and Brooke.

As I sat down, Brooke had actually just fed Alex a piece of french toast from her fork. It seemed a little more intimate than I really wanted to deal with at breakfast, but I supposed it could have been worse.

“Nick,” Alex said. “I’ve been thinking about last night, and we had some serious problems. The only thing saving us about half the time was your weapons. With Jenny multiplying the guitar, we did some serious damage to Syndicate L, but without it we’d never have gotten out. We ought to have you make stuff for us, you know, like your grandfather sometimes did for my dad.”

I wasn’t convinced that a lack of heavy weaponry was the major cause of the problems we had had the night before. Still, they could use heavier weaponry than they’d snuck out of the Defenders armory.

“Sure,” I said. “We ought to talk about what you want.”

“Yeah,” Alex said. “We need something that can take out mechs. My dad’s fought supers tougher than that, so we need something at least that powerful… And, while you’re at it, we need a communication system so we don’t have to use the Defenders if we don’t want to. Oh, and I don’t know exactly what, but other weapons too… Weapons that can be used for more than just blowing things up –”

“Alex,” Brooke said, “let him eat.”

“Sure,” he said.

I ate, thankful to Brooke for the chance.

She didn’t know how much I’d underestimated her. I’d dismissed her as a blond, cheerleader type when we’d first met, but she really deserved most of the credit for getting us out. She’d pretended to be paralyzed, managed to get Alex to heal us, and coordinated Jenny’s and my counterattack — all of it with telepathy so weak she had to touch us to make contact.

And now we were here, and, she was making eyes at Alex and giggling.

It made me wonder which side of her was real and which was fake.

Anyway, I ate.

Jenny came by before noon. We all talked for a while, but Alex and Brooke stepped out onto the deck, leaving Jenny and I alone together at the table.

Of any of us, she seemed the least tired. I asked her why.

“Oh, you know… The obvious. I put my equipment away and then I absorbed myself. This body didn’t fight Syndicate L last night. I always leave a version of myself home being normal when I’m out with Alex and Brooke. Like last night, my boyfriend took me out to dinner. He was really sweet about it.”

“Oh,” I asked. “Does he know about everything?”

She shook her head. “No, and I’m not going to tell him either. I try to keep all the parts of my life separate.”

“You’ve got a better chance at that than most people.”

“I know. That’s why my costume’s got a full face mask. My dad keeps on telling me that he doesn’t want me to grow up in ‘super-world,’ and that’s why we’re not living in this development with everyone else, and I go to a different school and everything… I don’t think it worked — I mean, look, I’m here all the time — but I try to keep a part of me in normal life. I think Alex and Brooke could both use a little more of it.”

She looked out toward the patio. Alex and Brooke were kissing.

“Does that count?” I asked.

“Only if they’re going out now,” she said. “I shouldn’t have to put up with that much PDA, and angst about whether or not they should date at the same time.”

My parents came about an hour later and we left for LAX. My mom asked me whether I’d had a good time, and I told her that I had. Even with the explosions, hanging around with Alex had still been more fun than sitting at a booth in the convention hall, trying to sell my dad’s books.

13 thoughts on “Three: Part 17”

  1. I agree with Nick, Alex has serious issues if he thinks weapons were the problem the night before. His lack of tactical savvy … has me worried.

  2. I think Brooke and Jenny are way smarter, but I don’t know if Alex can set aside his ego to let them lead.

    I’m actually up in the air about which of them is more powerful. Jenny is almost unkillable, if she’s leaving a copy at home. She can create new objects (like multiple guitars) which has so many applications.

    But Brooke can teleport and has the telepathy thing, so that’s pretty versatile too. Plus, she’s sneaky.

  3. I suppose using tactical weaponry to make up for lack of tactical thinking does seem somewhat un-heroic, but the Three do need to pack a bit more heat if for their own good. As is, they seem fully dependant on wacky teleporting antics to deal with anything armoured.

  4. I think Alexs’ problem is that he feels his power active all the time. So feeling invincable will make you do stupid things and take more risks than you should.
    Well here is to hoping that he learns sooner than later, and his friends are still alive when he does.

  5. I’m with Eli. Alex is a bigger idiot than I thought if he came away from that fiasco thinking that the problem was artillery.

    @ Jim: You have been perfecting these post fight scenes; and this may be the most perfect.

    I don’t know about anyone else but I’m detecting a level of strain and resentment from Nick. Not jealous resentment but a kind of ‘seriously pissed-off’ attitude at seeing that Alex almost has a clinical disability to use any degree of common sense or forethought.

    I too noticed that Jenny and Brooke are far superior to Alex, maybe even Nick, in the superhero world. And I was deeply impressed by Nick’s ability to see that he severly underestimated Brooke. But then maybe we all did.

  6. @ Jim; about Nick; this goes back to my earlier question about Nick’s power, of whether or not his power is simply a heightened scientific and engineering ability, or…if he possessing a greater and more intricate analytical ability to not only size up the technical aspects of a given gadget, but the ability to formulate strategies and analyze flaws.

    I ask this, because as I said earlier, Nick greatly impressed me with his ability to realize his own mistake in underestimating Brooke.

    I congratulated earlier on your well-written post-fight scenes..I wonder if part of your effectiveness is that Nick effectively comments on summarizes all that happens.

    I think Nick may be far more than just a great engineer. I think he’s approaching Bruce Wayne/The Dark Knight territory; a super hero whose greatest power is his superior intellect. There is no way to defeat a great mind; and I look forward to budding career as a superhero.

  7. About Nick: Nick is smart and analytical in all areas of life, more so in in engineering than others. I tend to see observing other human beings as less of a strength, but the Legion of Nothing is in many ways the story of Nick moving from child to adult.

    Thus, every so often he makes some progress in terms of his ability to understand other people — some progress. He’s not all the way there. He recognizes that Brooke’s smarter than she sometimes shows, but doesn’t understand why she’d mask it.

    About Alex: I don’t see Alex as stupid as much as rash, something he can get away with for reasons people (daymon, Thomas in the last post’s comments) have already pointed out. He’s got his own arc. I don’t know how much of it will show up in the near future, but I’ve got ideas.

    Wrapping Up: The scenes after fights usually amount to epilogues. The challenge is to let the effects of the conflict show up and fit the flow of things. There are a bunch of other side effects that didn’t fit and thus weren’t included because Nick wouldn’t notice. I do my best to tie up the biggest loose ends though.

  8. A couple more thoughts:

    On the relative power of Brooke and Jenny: The thing I found fun about the group of them in that area was that they all had powers with a lot of potential for subtlety. Jenny can copy objects if they’re within a certain limit in terms of mass. Jenny can also communicate with all copies of herself so she can act as an alternate communication system if she’s with different groups.

    Brooke, if she wants to, can teleport things into people or people into bad situations…

    Even Alex has the potential for subtle uses of his power. Bringing people around him into peak condition has a lot of potential –especially if they’re supers.

    That being said, they really don’t have much outside of teleporting people to a height and dropping them in the cases of really tough threats. So Alex has a point there. He’s just missing some really important details about his own personality’s contribution to things.

  9. Is it just me or does anyone else lost some respect for Nick when he didn’t say anything to Alex or an adult about Alex’s recklessness? The dumbass almost got everyone killed and now is asking Nick to get him weapons and a way to co-ordinate his shitty plans behind the real Heroes backs.

    I wish Nick could be a leader back at home, but he doesn’t have a backbone or a decisive streak in his character. It kind of leaves me disappointed. I’m sorry, but I can’t help seeing him as a very weak person. :l

    Either way, I’m still loving the story. (:

    1. Well, a person can just not be interested in being in leadership without being weak. A lot of techies of various kinds much prefer working on machines to leading people.

      As for Alex, there’s mitigating circumstances there. Alex’s power encourages people to listen to him while they’re in his presence.

      That said, it’s kind of boring to write a character with no room for growth and change. You’ll likely see some of that over time.

  10. I’ve been pondering how ridiculously good on the strategic scale Jenny’s power is…
    Every super or fbi agent with alien supertech
    not to mention the personal uses

  11. I wonder. Is Alex’s power of enhancement an always on effect? If so, being captured by the enemy for more than a brief time might allow the enemy to gain the benefit of his power’s enhancement effect – and I could easily imagine some pretty ugly potential there.

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