Claws & Eyes: Part 2

“That would explain the coincidence, but it’s so weird that Higher Ground would include people who actively murder people. I’d have pegged them for the kind of people who do it indirectly by working with the Nine—because if they hand over their research to the Nine, the Nine will use it to kill people.”

Tara shrugged. “I told you I don’t have enough information to really do my thing well. If I could talk to someone else who worked there, I’d be able to make more connections. Like maybe if Stephanie came over here again and I asked her questions…”

Tara’s voice trailed off as she leaned back on her stool, eyes unfocusing, thinking about something only she knew.

Then she straightened. “I never thought I’d be near the beginning of any version of the True. For both of my parents, the creation was far enough in the past that they didn’t think about it. And this place? Even if it’s not exactly the same, some of the same people are involved.”

She paused, staring into space and then continuing. “Even if Emmy’s not the base for the True here, versions of her must have been the basis for both my father’s and my mother’s version—which makes her another version of me or at the least an ancestor.

“I hope that I can meet her somehow. I know it’s a dumb idea, but I want to know what we were like before we became… whatever we are. Maybe after it’s all over if Lim thinks it’s okay?”

I’d say yes, but I have no idea what Lim would think.” I hoped she wouldn’t try it on her own. She’d never tried anything like that, but everyone has things that will push them to act in ways you might not expect.

She nodded and continued talking her voice growing more intense as she went. “I get it. I don’t expect you to make any promises you can’t keep, but here’s one you can. If this all ends in violence or some other situation where you have to stop them at any cost, bring me in.

“You don’t know how bad they can be. I know you’ve heard about them, but hearing about them isn’t enough. No one should be hunted like my family was. If I can do anything to stop the creation of more True, I will.”

She stopped there, eyes bright, face tight, and her attention focused on me. It didn’t take much to imagine her running into battle. I wouldn’t have wanted to be on the other side.

Looking at her, I knew I didn’t know what it felt like to move all over Infinity City, trying to keep away from the True. At the same time, I knew she felt it.

“In that situation, I’ll bring you in. I promise. It would be stupid not to. I can’t promise that you’ll get to meet Emmy, but I’ll see if I can help talk to Agent Lim once this is all over. It shouldn’t matter anymore.”

“Thanks,” she said and she hugged me so hard that it hurt for the first couple seconds.

In a romantic comedy or a sitcom, Haley would have walked in in that moment and we would have had 30 minutes to an hour of misunderstanding to work out.

Then she let go, saying, “Sorry, I’m sweaty. I’m going to go clean up.”

As she backed away from me, I asked, “How’s the internship going?”

She smiled. “Great! We’ve been working on a training regimen for your team and Rhino and C and Mindstryke have all been dropping by at different times and they all have so much to teach. It’s better than I thought it would be when I realized I’d been blackballed from I-don’t-know-how-many-teams.

“Please don’t take it wrong, but I’d have taken anything.”

“I get it. I don’t know what I’d have done in your position.”

She shook her head. “You won’t be in my position. Half of the major superhero teams owe your grandparents somehow, but I’m sure you know that.”

Giving me a wave, she walked out the lab’s door in the direction of the showers.

She wasn’t wrong. I’d walked into Stapledon as the grandson of one of the earliest known superheroes. She’d walked in as a refugee from another reality with no connections. Also, the guys in her class at Stapledon had hit on her constantly. I’d even heard that they had a contest to see who could sleep with her first.

Her response had been to beat up all of them during a training session. Unfortunately, they were from influential families in the superhero community and that had consequences.

Once she left, I got back to monitoring the robots, wondering if I’d done the right thing by promising she could be involved in what we did with the True. When push came to shove, we would need her. She’d be our best authority on how they thought and probably the only person who could match their abilities with strategy and tactics.

On a gut level, I couldn’t help but wonder if she might find herself too personally involved with the True to make her best decisions. Her ability to turn vast numbers of small details into patterns argued that she’d be fine, but the True could do the same thing and they were genocidal, near fascist super-soldiers.

That’s the kind of thing that made me think that Tara’s feelings, hopes and fears mattered a lot.

On the one hand, she wanted to stop the True from being created here, but on the other, she wanted a connection with Emmy. With her mother dead by the hands of the True and her father dead here, Emmy was Tara’s only connection to her own history.

I shook my head. This was a problem for later. For now, I had devices to make and then to install in Higher Grounds’ offices.

18 thoughts on “Claws & Eyes: Part 2”

    1. If memory serves the Stapledon program was more informal and a bit of a good-old-boy institution. Kids with well off parents kept hitting on her not believing her abilities. She hurt them in practice and the ‘system’ tried to lock her out.
      Similar to how Paladin warned Rocket not to make enemies with the new Moon Glider since he was well off. And aid could be withheld by other teams in retaliation.
      Very cliquish. (I can’t believe I spelled that word right.)

      1. I do not think it was Moon Glider the warning was about, I think it was Kid Biohack. It was not IIRC the shaper kid from the Not Exactly Hogwarts book either.

    1. I ran across that recently too. As someone with an interest in politics, I found myself wondering if I’d heard that name while trying to come up with the name for the company for the internship.

      There’s no relationship between the two.

  1. Talking of facts long forgotten, I was looking back at the beginning of Book 5 and got to the introductory Stapledon lecture.

    I had completely forgotten that the former Abominator-servants human empire is actively trying to infiltrate and take over the Earth.

  2. Sorry to reply to myself, but I just found an even more interesting bit:

    [Now, if you’re wondering why we’re so focused on the aliens around us in this program, it’s because their influence is so pervasive. The Cabal—the group that a lot of heroes fought last year—shows evidence of coordinating with aliens. The Nine have been collecting Abominator artifacts for years, and we think their organization may have been infiltrated. I’m not going to go into detail about why we think that, but we’ve got good reason.”]

    The Nine may have been infiltrated by aliens, which is why they’re so interested in Abominator artifacts… are we finally, in Book 10, going to get a follow-up on that plot hook from Book 5?

  3. how exactly would his internship work anyway? By the time he graduates he’ll have 6 maybe 7 years experience as an active hero on an established team, with extrasolar capabilities. Hell he’s even going to have experience mentoring a hero intern.

    1. This isn’t a real internship. This is a “do this so normal people think you did an internship but really you’re a spy for us”. 🙂

    2. I think Nick is getting a triple score here. Intern for college, the evil genius brigade, and Stapledon at once. But most know of only one or two of them. And he could unravel all of the tech on his own. But the science guys want to do it themselves. So no heroes.

  4. “In a romantic comedy or a sitcom, Haley would have walked in in that moment and we would have had 30 minutes to an hour of misunderstanding to work out.”

    Alas, Nick, what do you think she’s going to do when she *smells* Tara-sweat all over you?

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