Dupes: Part 3

On Saturday morning around 6 a.m., I drove the Ball over to Man-machine’s lair. It was far too early to get up for a Saturday, but it was the best time to go.

Taking the Ball apart turned out to be a bit of a pain. Chris and I kept on discovering new wires and cables to detach from the back of the dashboard, but then we discovered an access panel for the weaponry on the outside of the Ball.

Granted when you’re making weaponry for supervillains, making access panels clear and obvious probably isn’t the highest priority, but I still wished it had been a little higher up on the designer’s list.

Once we got the dashboard back in place, we activated the button that opened the access panel.

The front of the bottom section of the outer shell fell at my feet, giving access to a button on the inside shell that opened straight to the guts of the weaponry.

I understood how the laser worked more quickly than I expected. I’d used similar technology in the guitar.

What surprised me about the paralysis ray was just how familiar I turned out to be with its design. The paralysis ray wasn’t exactly what I would have imagined a “ray” would be. Like most people, I imagined something based on visible light, or at the very least, radiation.

The device caused paralysis using low-frequency ultrasound to stimulate the brain into creating the kind of paralysis that prevents sleeping people from physically reacting to their nightmares.

At least that was what it looked like. Between removing the dashboard, putting it back in, making sure the various cables were still connected, removing the access panel, looking over the paralysis “ray,” and talking about everything as we did it, we easily used up the six hours I had available.

All that, and getting donuts around 8 a.m.

I had to go, and I still didn’t fully understand the details.

“Well,” Chris said as we closed the access panel, “you’re halfway there.”

“Maybe less. I’m still trying to figure exactly how it works.”

Chris shrugged. “You can always come back. I’ll be here a lot. I’ve been thinking of modifying my suit.”

“I thought you weren’t even sure if you’d ever put it on again.”

“I might not, but it’s still fun to mess with it. It’s kind of like modding a car, you know? The difference is I know this doesn’t have to be street legal.”

“True. It’s not going to be any kind of legal. Are you thinking about a codename at all?”

“I shouldn’t be, but I have. Trouble is, all of them suck. The first thing I came up with was Laser Rod… The suit’s got one, but you know that’s just asking for jokes.”

I snorted.

“But on the bright side,” he said, “I checked the registry, and it’s available.”

“I wonder why.”

“Yeah. Well, it’s not like it matters.”

“However much it sucks, at least you know it. Did you hear that Sean’s group called itself ‘Justice Fist’?”

“As in fisting? That’s the worst name I’ve ever heard.”

* * *

Haley picked me up at the end of the block. She could have picked me up at Chris’ grandmother’s house, but that would have gotten weird since Chris’ grandmother didn’t even know we were there.

Haley came by in her mom’s Trans Am which was cool. As we drove off, I thought about improvements I could make to it. Not that I would. I had more sense than to turn Haley’s mom’s car into… something.

As I leaned forward to check on some details to aid my daydreaming, Haley said, “Nick, don’t do it.”


“Whatever you’re thinking about doing.”

“How did you–”

“You were mumbling to yourself, and it looked like you were inspecting the glove compartment.”

“I wasn’t going to do anything much. Sorry.”

She looked like she wanted to say something more on the subject, but she didn’t. She turned back to the road and asked, “What happened at the meeting yesterday?”

I told her, finishing with, “The crazy thing about it is that they seem to expect us to make friends with Sean’s group, and then once the law changes, I’m supposed tell them to stop. I really don’t think they will. It doesn’t matter how much influence I have. They’ll still have their parents telling them to do it.”

Haley slowed the car, and stopped at a stop light. “Do you really think they’ll outlaw it?”

“I don’t know. I don’t follow the news all that much, but people are scared about the juice. I think I saw footage of Logan from prom on TV again yesterday, and that was two weeks ago.”

“Where did they get it?”

“I think it must have been from somebody’s cellphone.”

The light changed, and Haley followed the cars forward.

She paused as the cars ahead of us started moving and then said, “Let’s just go to lunch. Do you still want to go to Solid Grounds?”

I did, and we got there within a couple minutes.

Lunch time on Saturday at Solid Grounds was a total crap shoot as to whether or not it would be busy. On that particular day, the place was maybe half full — ten or fifteen people, most of them our age.

Trance music played over the sound system.

I bought lunch — soup and some sandwiches wrapped in plastic.They weren’t bad. I also bought coffee, which was really the whole point of going to Solid Grounds in the first place.

We sat together next to one of the windows and ate. I tried to think about something we could talk about in public, but nothing came to mind.

My first hint that things were about to go wrong came as Shannon walked in with her cousin Julie. She didn’t go into the back to get ready for work either. The two of them bought coffee, and pushed three two person tables next to the far wall together. Then they sat and talked, sometimes laughing.

I wondered who else they were meeting.

As I watched them, Julie noticed me, and smirked.

Minutes later, Sean, Dayton, Jody, and the girl I’d seen with them before walked in.

I considered leaving. We had every right to stay, but it probably wouldn’t be fun.

“Haley,” I began.

“I know. I saw them. I’m not going to leave just because they’re here.”

We didn’t have the opportunity. After Sean and the others got drinks, he said, “Julie, get them out.”

Julie turned her face toward us and in a strange tone said, “Leave.”

We stood up and started walking for the door.

Over at their table, Shannon said, “But they’re not even done.”

“Don’t forget your coffee,” Julie said.

We got our drinks, and found ourselves standing on the sidewalk before we even had time to think.

21 thoughts on “Dupes: Part 3”

  1. Huh. Nice twist, Jim. Hopefully, Nick will recognize the sonics for what they are, and build protection/cancellation into his suit (and maybe ear buds for the rest of the team).

    And, of course, the same sort of protection is applicable to the paralysis weapon’s ultrasonics.

    Heheheh. “Laser Rod”


  2. Wanderhome: You never know. He hasn’t committed to anything yet. Personally, given the choice between Man-machine (with the obvious association with a former villain) and Laser Rod (with the obvious penis reference), Man-machine looks surprisingly good.

    Hg: “Laser Rod” is just one of those names with the potential of bringing out Freudian analysis in force. That and Beavis and Butthead.

    G.S., Gladi, NM: I think that would be an easy power to abuse if you didn’t think through the implications.

  3. Hmm. I thought the Block was supposed to help in situations like that. Maybe it’s time for Daniel to do some tinkering of his own.

  4. His block only helps against mind powers and that only cuts off his memories to most things, hers could be in her voice which would make it sound. Or at least she could be using a type of hypnosis (sp?) to get them out.

  5. You know, those mind control power people are one reason why I’d never make a good superhero. Just can’t help thinking it’d be best for all to just shoot her in the head now before any proverbial excrement connects with The Dyson Air Multiplier™.

  6. Luke: I was going to avoid responding to your question (because I prefer to let things like that show up in the story), but Daymon and Hg got it largely right…

  7. Am I the only one who thought it would be mildly hilarious if Nick’s block kicked in and he karate chopped her without meaning to, like he did the mayor?

    Obviously, we all subscribe to the Spiderman rule of superpowers around these parts.

  8. Get fisted by Justice! Man that’s funny. XD Kudos to Chris for seeing to the heart of the matter so quickly. Also shame on them for such blatant bullying.

  9. 1 month of reading and i’ve finally caught up! Found this via tvtropes. It sucks that im going to have to wait for the next part from now on.

    Love the story but i can say that i hate Sean and “Justice Fist”. I hope at some point they somehow lose their powers in a huge fight and need the Heroes League to bail them out. On television.

  10. Still getting caught up… yeah actually I’m pretty sure TVtropes was how I found this place too. Normally I read webcomics or full on stories, not blog entries like this. Still, this has been worth the read so far.

    Oh, and Laser Rods were a sub-line of Transformers. They came around during “Generation Two” of the Transformers line(1995 or so), and their gimmic was that, besides transforming from hot rod to robot, they also had LEDs built into the toy, often with light piping, that simulated either “lasers” shooting out, or when pumped into semi-transparent plastic swords(or other melee weapon) the plastic would light up and glow LightSaber style. Added to this the Laser Rods were some of the first articulate Transformer action figures, prior to that line most Transformers posability came from the joints needed to transform them rather than any intentional ability to pose the action figure.

    Not all of them were hot rods of course, but that’s presumable where the name came from. There was even a Laser Rod Optimus Prime…

    Hey, I’m not saying “Laser Rod” isn’t somewhat Freudian, I’m just pointing out that other people have used it with a straight face…

  11. That’s funny. I hadn’t been aware of the Transformers “Laser Rod” line.

    I don’t assume “Laser Rod” has to be Freudian, but it seems like a lot of things become Freudian with the “right” mindset.

    I’ve gotten a surprising number of readers through TVtropes. I’m glad you’re still going.

  12. You’re completely correct about that. Either Ray was using a different sort of paralysis ray, and people are assuming it’s the same, or I’ve got to do some editing.

    We’ll see which one turns out to be true.

  13. Just trying to preserve their secrecy. Daniel did worse in service of the same goal.
    Its funny how we are far more tolerant towards what the protagonist does and far less tolerant of things the hero dislikes. Oddly, Nick is far more reasonable regarding Sean and co than half the commentators and he has a schoolyard spat ongoing with Sean

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