Courtesy: Part 62

“For what it’s worth,” I said, “I was ready to take a chance on it. We will have to face the Nine and it would be easier with whatever you got out of Arete.”

He gave a weak nod and coughed, “There’s another chance. I knew you had to destroy us completely. I created a spore, separated from us, and encased it as completely as I could. Look past me. I’d give it to you, but I shouldn’t touch it.”

I stepped around him. Hidden from direct view, a ball made of a pearl-like hard substance sat on a bare spot of concrete.

“We put as much of ourselves into it as we could, taking Arete’s knowledge, but not his faction. We understand that in order to live together, we have to respect your personhood. They did not. Please don’t let this be our end.”

Could I trust him? I had no idea. My gut said yes, but I didn’t feel like I was amazing at reading normal humans, much less gestalt intelligences created earlier in the day by accident.

Taking a quick look at Amy as I squatted, I pulled a hazardous waste container from a pouch on my belt. Amy didn’t stop me, but if she had a caption over her head, it would have been, “He’s not really going to take it, is he?”

The hazardous waste container didn’t even look like a container. It looked like a ball. People familiar with my tech might have recognized it as similar material to my suit.

I dropped it over the spore and the ball fell, expanding and absorbing the spore. The new golden ball was designed to contain hazardous waste of all kinds—radioactive, chemical, or biological within a specified range of characteristics.

It could also be reconfigured to be a water bottle in a pinch, but then it was best to pay close attention which container you were drinking out of.

I set the ball’s accent color to red (don’t drink this!) and attached it to my belt.

The boy watched me and as the ball clicked into position, he said, “Thank you.”

“We need to go,” Amy pointed her spear toward the portal. Tall enough to drive a truck through, the glowing, silver circle was wide enough for multiple people to go through at once and they were.

“I’m sorry,” I took a last look at him lying on the decaying mushroom flesh that covered the floor. He didn’t look much different from it. He’d pass soon.

The boy shook his head, “You’ve saved me in every way that’s important.”

Then he laid his head against the ground and watched as Amy and I flew across the room. I didn’t go at full speed, turning on the anti-gravity and firing the rockets at a speed that wouldn’t have kept me in the air by itself.

I dropped out of the air about ten feet short of the main group. Alex and a group of Jennys were directly ahead of us.

Amy eyed me, “I can’t believe you took it. You’re such a softy.”

“I guess,” I checked my HUD. The boy hadn’t moved since we left, “but we could use the information on the Nine. Besides, if everyone thinks it’s too dangerous, I’m sure Cap’s gun will be happy to help us dispose of it.”

Amy laughed, “I’m sure and it’s not the only one. Some of the past Bloodmaidens think you’re doing the right thing. A few others have been giving me suggestions about how to magically dissect it. They think we might be able to get Arete’s memories of the Nine out without the risk of releasing the creature.”

I thought about it, “Is this a sure thing or speculation?”

“They’ve never done it to whatever the Fungus Collective is, but they’d like to try,” Amy shook her head. “A few Bloodmaidens were mad scientists, but with magic. I wouldn’t trust them with anything you’d like to keep.”

“That’s a no then,” I stepped toward Alex and the Jennys. Alex turned away from watching people step through the portal to point at the ball on my belt, “You’ve got coffee?”

Watching the Jennys move to stand behind us, I said, “I set it to red for hazardous material.”

Alex cocked his head, “I’m never carrying hazardous material. I use red for hot coffee. It’s better than a Yeti.”

One of the Jennys said, “I told you that would cause problems.”

She turns away from Alex and asked me, “What do you have in there?”

“Not coffee. It’s worth a team discussion later, but I don’t want to start one now.” I noted that Dayton was still carrying Jody, but that Jody’s head had turned toward my voice.

Then Dayton stepped through the portal and Sean followed him. 

A deep ripping noise came from behind me. Checking my HUD, I saw that the mushroom flesh on the ceiling of the far end of the circle had fallen in, pulling away from the concrete above it along with the  concrete it had been attached to. The fallen flesh covered the mounds like a decaying blanket.

Ahead of me, standing next to Kals who carried Katuk, Daniel said aloud, “Everyone hurry up. I don’t know if everything will fall in, but it might.”

Following his own advice, he stepped through the portal.

11 thoughts on “Courtesy: Part 62”

  1. Why does Part 61 have no next?
    But Part 63 exists.
    But Part 62 doesn’t.
    and Part 63 links back to Part 61?

      1. I suspected.
        If I typed random IDs in the URL and got the 404 page, this showed in the recent posts list, but not in the list on the previous page.

        But it had been at least 8 hours since you’d posted the update, which seemed excessively long.

  2. Jim:

    I like your writing and I very much appreciate you putting it out regularly and FOR FREE. It’s more than I could do or have ever done, so thank-you.

    Obviously, “The Legion of Nothing” is your story; I didn’t write a word of it, but I am a long-time reader, and I have some observations — for whatever they’re worth.

    The ‘Courtesy’ chapter seemed to drag on endlessly. The forward momentum of the chapter started slow, slowed further, sputtered a bit and then slowed more; the pacing was startlingly slow, and each update offered only more of the same.

    For me, the problem may have been that the updates all seemed very similar…. It’s hard to see progress in a story when the setting (or small group of settings) is the same in update after update. The characters don’t help to differentiate the different parts of the story either; we have a vague, amorphous group of secondary characters that never get listed definitively, so that any NPC, villain or member of the Legion could pop up in the story “because they’d been there all along, just not mentioned” — and that does nothing to help “ground” the story.

    Of course, the villain here being the Fungus Collective means a huge number of interchangeable opponents for our heroes, and very few of said opponents have any distinguishing features. The lack of distinct enemies feeds into the narrative blur… until I’m not sure who is doing what (except for the Rocket), and who’s with him, who’s fighting him, where he is now and how much time has elapsed/is elapsing. With details indistinct and unfixed in the narrative — without a firm point of reference — I couldn’t see any progression in the story; how can you judge speed or direction when everything’s hidden in the fog?

    1. Before I say anything else, I should say this first: this is useful feedback.

      Here’s the problem: this is a first draft. If I’d written it all out before posting it, I’d probably have cut chunks to make it tighter and more direct. Sometimes I manage to do that in a first draft, but I’d agree with you that this part is longer and less focused than I wanted it to be. I’ve this mistake a few different times–the end of the arc on Hideaway is another example.

      I am going to be trying to focus on a smaller part of the cast for the last arc of the series. So that should help.

      The core problem is that in an ideal world, I’d be writing this, getting editor comments, and then revising it before anyone sees it. That way I’d have found the important parts and cut everything else first. This way I have to write it to find the important parts, but unfortunately people see the stuff I have to do to get there.

    2. I think having the mushroom opponents kind of level up as they fight, from animal based to infected humans to purely fungoid mimics of superpowered humans does show a version of progress as the chapter goes on. I also think all the mobs towards the end being copy pasted versions that they could murder without moral quandary messed with the stakes a bit, tho.

      1. I was trying to have progression, but that’s one of those things I could have done better. Particularly near the end, I wasn’t sure how far I should go. In retrospect, it might have been better if I’d made the last opponents mind controlled supers or maybe League members.

        On the other hand, I do like having that be largely impossible because the League prepared ahead too because that represents progression in the League’s skills.

        1. I agree that having everyone outfitted by Nick not getting infected by fungus spores makes sense, preparation is key, although I do often wonder at everyone’s armor. Like, does everyone have full helmets with their own air supply on, all the time? No batman style exposed mouths?

          There were apparently about two hundred super suited national guardsmen involved, which are enemies that they can’t murder with a clean conscience, but they don’t really represent an increase in threat level. They were treated more as an inconvenience, and I’m not sure it’s possible to make them more of an obstacle without drastically changing some world building around.

          1. I tend to think that if you’re bothering to wear armor, why leave an unarmored spot? You could make the lower half of the face transparent using Nick’s technology, but keep it covered.

            In any case, I do have an idea for how to make the stakes go up better. I’ll try it on revision.

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