Decisions: Part 7

We spent the next few days bugging the houses and cars of any family members Vaughn thought had connections to his family’s medical interests or worked in medicine.

Giles Hardwick, Vaughn’s grandfather, had had five kids and they’d each had two or three children of their own. Plus, he had a brother and two sisters and they’d had children and grandchildren too. Not all of them stayed in Grand Lake, but by the time we were done on Wednesday night, we’d bugged twenty different people.

Vaughn seemed positively tickled that his older cousins were our targets.

We were on the last house. It was 10:30 PM, and we’d landed behind an older white house not too far from Grand Lake University’s campus. I guessed than it dated from the 1950’s. Most of the houses around campus did. Vaughn was in costume, and I wore the stealth suit, complete with guitar.

According to Vaughn, his cousin’s family had bought the house because it would be cheaper than having their kids live in the dorm. The oldest, Lucas, was in medical school.

Vaughn stood next to me while I let the roachbots out of the pouch on my utility belt. “Lucas was always perfect. Never got in trouble. Good grades. Piles of awards all the way through school — he got into med school — and we’re bugging him because he might be planning to be Red Lightning 2. It’s funny.”

I looked up from the remote control. “I’ve got them in place.”

“Cool. Let’s get out of here.”

I activated the rocketpack, and shot into the night sky, high enough that I could look over the Grand Lake University campus, and surrounding neighborhoods. The lights of their windows, and a few well placed spotlights, made the chapel, the administration building, lecture halls, and dormitories practically glow in the dark.

I’d probably be going there next year. I only had a month and half of my senior year in high school left.

That felt a little weird.

Above the sound of the rocketpack and the wind keeping Vaughn in the air, Vaughn said, “I’m going there next year. You?”

“Yeah, that or maybe Abraham Kuyper College. I got accepted both places.”

“Did you look into the Stapledon program? Isaac Lim sent everyone an email about it.”

“I looked at it. Student loan forgiveness for four years of government service after graduation? If I go to Grand Lake, I won’t need it between what my grandfather left me and scholarships. With Kuyper, that’s another story, but I’m probably going to Grand Lake.”

“I’m doing it. If I’m going on their dime, my parents are practically going to pick my major for me. If the government’s paying, I choose. They’ve got no control.”

“Won’t your parents wonder how you’re affording it?”

“Nah. The government’s got a system where they award fake scholarships, and with my ACT scores, it’ll work. Shit, it’s the ACT scores that are the problem. With my grades, my parents would have been happy if I even got into college, but I got in the top ten percent in my test scores for just about everything. After that, they got way too involved.”

“I didn’t know you did that well.”

“Didn’t try to. Anyway, Cassie’s doing it too. She was planning to even before the email. I think it was part of the deal for her treatments last summer.”

“Maybe I’ll think about it, but it seems like trading off one form of control for another, you know?”

“I know, but I look at it this way. The government can already expect us to show up whenever they want in exchange for giving us access to their databases. This is a little more of the same.”

I felt pretty sure it was ultimately going to amount to more than that, but didn’t say anything. I got distracted.

I’d been monitoring the police band the whole time we were out on the off chance that someone noticed us, and called 911.

No one had, but as Vaughn had been talking, the dispatcher sent cars to deal with, “… a robbery and fight in the Meijer parking lot. Metahuman involvement. Proceed with caution.”

Vaughn and I flew off.

Meijer had several stores around Grand Lake. We flew to the oldest one, the one on the corner of Jefferson and 28th.

From the air, I could see the big, boxy building, surrounded by its huge parking lot. Meijer stores sold everything — groceries, clothing, electronics, building supplies, whatever.

We’d had to cross town, flying directly over Grand Lake itself, arriving at the same time as two police cars and a Box.

The parking lot looked like a disaster had hit. Cars had been smashed and destroyed around the entrance, and group of costumed figures stood around four unconscious people.

At first, I didn’t recognize anybody.

The unconscious guys looked kind of scruffy — a couple were unshaven, one had a chest length beard that went all over. Their jeans and Carhartt jackets looked worn. I guessed they might be in their mid-thirties.

A line of TV’s (with smashed screens) lay on the ground, leading from them into the store. As I got closer, I noticed that one TV had been embedded in the grill of a Ford Bronco, and another, a particularly large plasma TV, had smashed in the door of a semi-truck at the far end of the parking lot.

One of the costumed figures held a rifle. Its barrel had been bent backwards into a “U” shape.

I recognized Sean then, and everyone else almost instantly — Dayton, Jody, Julie, Shannon (the barista at the coffee shop), and that girl I’d seen with them at school.

They had matching costumes, and expensive matching costumes at that. Dark bodysuits with masks covered their faces except for the mouth. Each had a different color combination, but they all had a clenched fist on their chests and a similar look.

They had to have hired a designer for the uniforms.

I’d recognized their costumes’ material before the people. The military used it instead of kevlar. My grandfather had sold the design to a military contractor ten years ago. It was an older version of what I used in the stealth suit.

Between the material and the designer, someone had dropped at least twenty thousand dollars.

As Vaughn and I landed, Sean said, “Don’t worry about it. We’ve got this one.”

Vaughn nodded. “No problem. What’s up?”

I heard the answer, but didn’t pay attention. In the upper right hand corner of my helmet, the Heroes League alert had started blinking yellow.

25 thoughts on “Decisions: Part 7”

  1. Was this brought up already? I find it hard to believe that it hasn’t, but here goes anyway:

    The arcs are out of order. If you read them by clicking the link at the bottom of each post, the end of arc 6 links straight to the start of arc 10. The sidebar lists them out of order, too.

  2. I’ve noticed it. It’s a screwy WordPress/programming thing. The blog attempts to sort the chapters alphabetically, not by date.

    It’s one of those things that I plan to fix in the next version of this site, but also one that I haven’t fixed because I want to spend my spare time writing more than working on websites (which I get paid to do…).

  3. Matching outfits in different colours? I wonder if they’ll also come up with a group pose and a catchphrase…

    Can’t wait to hear what they call themselves.

  4. Shouldn’t that be, “If the goverment’s paying, I choose.” instead of “I chose.”

    And yes, a Meijer store does have everything. Funny thing is the next place I lived (Seattle area) has a local chain called Fred Meyer’s that also has everything.

  5. Notto mention: Fixed. Thanks.

    I’ve heard of Fred Meyer. I don’t think they compete in the same markets, but if they ever do, it’s going to be really confusing. A person named Fred Meijer lead Meijer for years.

  6. For the record… A while back, I though I’d put up advertising and a donate button. That was in December…

    I finally got to it.

    Just for what it’s worth, while I like the look of the last version of this site, this version is more functional for taking ads. I’m hoping that people find the chapter list along the side more functional too, but I imagine that it will be most useful for new readers.

  7. Hrmm…Personally I loved the last version, and think this one is ugly and irritating, but there you go. If it makes things easier for you it’s probably worth it.
    I’m looking forward to seeing Chris and the League facing off against the Justice Fists or whatever they are sometime soon.

  8. I liked the last version a lot actually — the picture mostly.

    On the whole, I see this current version as pretty bland visually. On the other hand, the other one was less flexible in terms of adding things. Also, though I like the look of a dark background, it does tend to make it harder for some people to read. Black text on a white background is easier.

    On the bright side, this is also temporary. With this in place, I’m going to start developing a “completely from scratch version.”

    I’ll probably end up using a friend of mine to do some art, and I may use some personal photography.

  9. Just my two euro cents, but the new version is awfully bright. I know it’s not my place to say, but could I suggest easing the white a bit to a light grey?
    Could be just me though. Feel free to ignore.

  10. Jim,
    Just a random thought from me: how about a sidebar link to your sketch of the Rocket Armor?

    I’ve been noodling an idea to maybe do a fan-art fleshing out of your rough draft (if you wouldn’t mind, of course!!).
    Getting a better ‘look’ at the Rocket would help me visualize the story.

  11. PR: I’ve linked to the sketch up near the top.

    Mazzon: I’ll take a look at it, but I worry that darkening the white part would have a cascading effect, requiring me to change all the colors.

    Actually, does anybody else have comments or suggestions? I’ll probably show people my work as I do the next version of the site in my own theme.

  12. Well, I highly recommend re-instating the tag cloud. I find they tend to give a bit of hook for people first coming into the site.

    Also, it might be a useful to put the chapter listings into a box with scrollbars. Maybe one box per volume? Ideally, you could have a page dedicated to the entry listings, organized by volume and arc. (And what would be really cool would be some sort of interactive tag- or search-based ranking tree, with cool javascript and flash effects, and… okay maybe it would be better to have more content, and less flash.)


  13. Jim, I agree with most on this sight. The dark background of the original site, along with the top graphic of a darkened street at night, were very stylistic and evoked a kind of mood of superheroes guarding the night that I felt positively worked for the serial.

    With that said, I do find the serial listing very comprehensive, along with the cast list. And I was OVERJOYED to see the Donate button. Payday for me is about a week away, but I can’t wait to finally contribute to the making of such a dynamic superhero story.

    I think a corner is turned, sir.

  14. My two cents: I agree with UnwiseOwl and Mazzon preferring the other. For me the white on a dark back ground is really easy to read while this grey on a white background is a bit of a strain on the eyes.

  15. Oh and maybe some kind of open an arc and close it (I can’t remember what that kind of menu is called.) I can’t imagine having to scroll through all of that to find which part I’m on. Guess for once, I’m glad I caught up a long time ago!

  16. Given the commentary so far, I’m giving serious thought to going back to the previous theme and seeing how far I can modify that for my needs.

    Worth mentioning? If that happens, it won’t be until the end of the week. Saturday probably…

  17. Hey… Thanks for suggestions. I’m open to more. Actually, as mentioned earlier, I’m going to start working on the next version as soon as possible.

    I’ll be showing it to people as it goes on.

  18. Typo: “I guessed than”… likely “I guessed that” but maybe “I guessed then”.

    From the perspective of the future, I find the comments discussion there kind of fascinating, given that I’m looking at what the site turned into later. I’m glad there’s enough remarks there to help me visualize what it might have looked like originally.

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