Graduation: Part 8

Chris came over fifteen minutes later, and parked in Grandpa’s driveway. I still had about an hour before I had to really worry about people showing up, and unintentionally revealing the person behind the mask. I thought Chris could be trusted, but I wasn’t about to out people without permission.

We ended up talking in the living room. It didn’t have much more than a thirty year old brown couch, and an old TV set. The family had taken all the furniture and decorations that anyone liked after Grandpa died.

Standing while Chris sat on the couch, I explained that people in armored suits and mechs had broken Ray and his team out. “Which means they’re either with Syndicate L somehow, or they’re connected with someone who buys mechs from the same people.”

Like the guy Man-machine had taught — the guy who’d made the Ball, the Maniacs’ powered armor, and probably the paralysis guns Ray and Syndicate L used.

“That’s my theory anyway,” I told Chris. “I’m thinking we should finish the last Man-machine suit. The big one. Speed, and a laser will only last so long against those guys.”

Chris sat on the couch. “That’ll be good if I get a chance to get into armor, but what if they get me at school? I’m not going to have it with me in study hall.”

“Yeah. Uh… Well, we’ve got Heroes League suit technology that you could wear under your clothes. That’d stop bullets at least. I wear it all the time myself. Not much head protection, but you can carry a mask of the same material for emergencies.”

“That would help. Do you really think I’ll need heavy armor?”

“I don’t know. I’ve kind of got an ulterior motive here. I’m thinking I might need the backup.”

Chris took a breath and thought for a second. “Yeah. I read about Ray and those Executioner guys when you captured them. The paper said they’re responsible for hundreds of deaths. And Syndicate L’s with them too?”

“That and the remains of the Cabal’s enforcers, plus the descendants of people who worked for Red Lightning, and about half of Justice Fist.”

“Geez. Do you go around looking for psychos to piss off?”

“I don’t try to piss anyone off.”

A car rolled into the driveway. I didn’t see it because it went up the driveway before I could turn toward the window, but it sounded like Daniel’s.

A voice in my head said, “Good guess.”

Daniel stepped through the door a moment later. “Hey, Nick.”

“I didn’t expect to see you.”

“Because it’s Shabbat? We’re observant, but not crazy. If lives are in danger, you do what you have to.”

He turned to Chris, “You must be Chris Cannon. I’m Daniel Cohen, also known as the Mystic.”

So, whatever standards Daniel had, Chris passed them.

Chris said. “You know who my grandfather is.”

“Sure. So, are you and Nick going to work together?”

Chris didn’t say anything at first, but then said, “I think so. I’m not planning to turn cape, but I’ll help.”

Daniel smiled and said to Chris, “The two of you could do a powered armor barn raising. Nick’s two suits down.”

Chris looked over at me. “What are you using now?”

“The stealth suit. It’ll be okay. I’ve got a guitar that shoots lasers –”

Chris raised an eyebrow.

“– and I’ve got some backup plans I’m working on. I’m not going to get either version of the Rocket suit fixed any time soon, but I can mass produce the roachbots.”

Chris looked over at Daniel, and then back to me. “What’s a roachbot?”

“Think predator drone, but teeny,” I said. “I mostly use them for bugging houses.”

“With teeny, tiny bullets?” Chris asked.

“Not for bugging houses, but they do have shaped charges. I realized if I had enough, I could send them into crevices, and do targeted demolitions.”

“That could be pretty cool.”

“I hope so, because I don’t have time for much else.” I stopped for a second, a thought nagging at me. “How far do you think your Grandfather’s heavy suit is from being done? I remember it as being half finished, but then we removed the boots.”

“Closer than that. You remember how I said I liked messing with Grandpa’s stuff? I’ve been working on it.”

“What were you planning on using it for?”

“Nothing. I got curious if I could make it work.”

I thought about that for a second. Then… “What’s it got on it?”

We talked about that for a while, but Daniel said, “Unless Chris is planning to stay for the team meeting, he probably ought to leave soon.”

Chris got up. “Right, I’ll go.”

* * *

Lee arrived exactly at 1 pm. We were all there. Normally, Marcus or Vaughn might have been late, but they weren’t.

Today Lee appeared as we saw him at the studio — a twenty or thirty year old Asian man with shoulder length hair. He wore jeans and a leather jacket instead of a martial arts uniform though.

It felt a little weird. Normally when we got together with him, he called us to attention, and we started class. I wasn’t sure how the rules went here. Everyone stood or sat next to the table eating hamburgers, and drinking pop. Cassie had put an order on the League credit card along the way.

Daniel’s dad had provided us with cards with $200 limits for day-to-day operations.

Lee may have have caught my hesitancy about how to start the meeting. He grabbed a cheeseburger out of one of the bags.

He unwrapped it, took a bite, and started waving everybody to sit down.

“It’s been a long time since I’ve been down here with this many people. I think the last time might have been when Cassie was one — the League’s last, unofficial mission. Did they ever tell you about Dr. Mind? One of Captain Commando’s enemies. I think the guy wanted to make some kind of clone army, but in the end, we handed him his ass. Good times.”

Lee finished the burger, and walked a few steps away from the table, standing between it and the wall screen.

He crumpled up the wrapper, and threw it in the trash. “So, you’ve got four different forces that might go after you,” he said. “I dealt with a similar situation back a few years when I was living in Constantinople. We can’t really use the same tactics, but I had a good time. I infiltrated each group and gave them secret information about each other. In the end, they all somehow became convinced that they were full of traitors, and decimated themselves from within.”

21 thoughts on “Graduation: Part 8”

  1. Interesting… I could see lee creating some major havok by setting all of the teams enemies at each others throats. Also hi, I’m a first time poster who has been reading this for a while and really enjoying it.

  2. Patrick: Thanks for commenting. Lee’s prone to creating havoc, I think.

    Logan: Thanks. I’m always amused when people read through it all at once. I end up wondering if that makes it easier to remember things or not.

  3. Yeah body armor is a good thing to have when you know someone is out to kill you, I am sure that Chris just might need the armor before long. And that suit should help turn the tide if it’s ready.

    Havok is fine, but controlled havok is better. That way you know who is getting hit. Intel is what the team needs at the moment, and maybe find out where the Fist stands on this.

  4. Somehow I doubt the fist is a single fist on this.

    Also there’s a word missing in the last sentence of the Shabbat paragraph.

  5. “Because it’s Shabbat? We’re observant, but not crazy. If lives are in danger, you do what you have to.”

    Unless that’s already been fixed, Notto, I don’t see anything wrong with the way it was written.

    I must say, Jim, it must be seriously simple to infiltrate groups when you can not just LOOK LIKE anyone but actual BE anyone, and have everyone automatically accept it. Marcus could do some infiltration, I assume, but he’d still have to be careful to not use the same speech patterns or say things he, as the person he’s pretending to be, shouldn’t know.

    Also, I wonder how aware you are/careful you’re being that Lee doesn’t become the old Deus Ex Machina. Since he can accomplish just about anything, and knows almost everything, the temptation as a writer must be strong and subtle, sometimes.


  6. Notto: Thanks for pointing it out. I’ve fixed it.

    Hg: Very careful actually… Lee’s got some specific abilities and some specific limitations that are related to his nature (which I still haven’t revealed), and the circumstances that have left him linked to Nick and the others.

    Deus Ex Machina kind of sucks as a plot device. Watching a friend of the main character solve the problem is really not why the reader is reading the story. Thus, I’m kind of careful with Lee.

    I’d have a lot of fun having him be the main character, but not in this story.

  7. Why do I have a feeling you have this Dr. Mind thing all planned out?
    I love the camp silver-age feeling about all the old heroes leagues villains.

  8. Not enough time to get the proper Rocket armour fixed so building roachbots with the time he does have, but those are essentially consumables so once they’re used he’ll have to build more since there probably still hasn’t been time to fix the armour… I can see a sort of vicious circle forming here.

  9. Unwise Owl: Well, I know the story of what happened there and why. What I don’t know is if it ever gets written out or merely referenced as it does have some contemporary side effects.

    Also… I get a kick out of naming things.

    Mazzon: Ah, but summer vacation is coming up. He’ll have all the time in the world.


  10. Welcome Patrick. Hey gang.

    “Geez. Do you go around looking for psychos to piss off?”

    “I don’t try to piss anyone off.”

    Seriously, Jim, I think you have to have a poll of the best LON lines.

  11. I’m curious about Lee’s agreement with the old Rocket. It’s unclear if he’s specifically to keep Nick from dying of unnatural causes or any of Gramp’s descendants. I don’t think lee will need to be a deus ex machina. He shouldn’t have to act, just give the kids the benefit of his many, many, many years of experience.
    As for a name for CC, how about Man-Machine. Folks are going to recognize the armor right off anyways, it’s available, and he might even get to work off some of the negative pr his grandpa built up over the years. I think of greater concern though is that no matter what name he uses without a full redesign of the suit before appearing for the first time his civilian identity will be known immediately.

  12. Oh yeah, I was very disappointed when I moved to click on the button for the next installment and there wasn’t one. I’m really enjoying this story.

  13. Lee’s arrangement will become known in the near term (as opposed to distant) future. How soon precisely, I’m not quite sure.

    For what it’s worth, I’m kind of disappointed that the next installment isn’t up yet too. I’m working on it.

    And thanks.

  14. Seeing Chris and Nick togather, makes me bit sad for there grandpas who from the flash back story clearly had a lot in coman, but found through circumstaces ended up enimies. They would have been an indanly good team.

  15. I don’t agree with Chris using the name Man-Machine, for the same reasons Vaughn didn’t use Red Lightning, it will automatically make the public think he’s following in his grandpa’s shoes as a villain. You are right that the armor would be recognized, The framework armor he used was different enough in design to pass but completing the other Armor wouldn’t be.

    Let me suggest “Howitzer” as a name. It’s a type of cannon =) so he’s entitled.

  16. Hey Jim, Guys n Gals,

    I’m a fairly new reader – bought the book, then found the webserial, now I’m utterly hooked 😀 (and believe me, I’ll be buying any and all other books as they come out too even though I’ll have read them by then – same as I do with potentially rival webserial/books I’ve found but shall remain unnamed :p )

    Got a quick one to point out though if it’s not too late by now “It didn’t have much more than a thirty year old, brown couch, and an old TV set. ”

    Makes it look like Nick’s old grandads house has a brown couch, an old TV set and a random 30 year old hanging around in it – makes more sense to me if you lose the “,” after “old”

    Loving the story Jim, can’t wait to see how it pans out… thankfully, I have plenty to keep me going for a while yet!


    1. It’s never too late to point out typos. Thanks. I’ve fixed it.

      As for other webserials… Feel free to mention them. I probably know and am friends with the author. If you look around at Web Fiction Guide, you’ll find that many of us hang out there.

      Beyond that, I’m involved in doing a podcast along with other writers (Drew Hayes, Christopher Wright, Cheyanne Young…) as part of the Pen and Cape Society (a group of superhero prose writers).

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