Targets: Part 22

Haley parked the car by the side of the road. As we got out, I couldn’t help but notice who wasn’t there–Jaclyn, Cassie and Julie. And that sucked because Cassie could have chopped them to pieces, Julie could have told them to stop, and had a pretty good chance that they’d listen, and Jaclyn…

Jaclyn could have done something. Physically, she was the only one of us who was in Prime’s army’s league. Plus she was a whole lot faster than any of them.

I couldn’t say that we were doomed, but part of me would have felt better knowing they were with us.

Not that rescuing the hostages wasn’t important.

Gunther waved us to stop as I shut the door. “Rocket, stay by the car. Night Cat, Ghost, over here. Everybody else, get into formation on the road. Mystic, how soon?”

Daniel stepped out from behind a couple trees. “They’re going to be a couple minutes. They’re waiting for the group that hit Camille’s anti-gravity wall to come down, and she’s letting them down one at a time. Also, if you can believe it, they’re scared. They know we’re herding them, and they don’t want to find out what’s waiting on the other side of the trees.”

“Good. What about Ray?”

“Can’t sense him or his people.”

“Figures. Kayla, do the roachbots have anything on Syndicate L?”

Her voice only barely modified by her armor, Kayla said, “Nothing yet.”

“Keep watching. Syndicate L’s coming. Everyone, remember to buddy up, and if I tell you to retreat, retreat, and make sure your buddy’s doing it too. Ghost, Night Cat, you’re together. Mystic, you’re with the Rocket. Everyone else, the way I said before.”

Sean, who had just gotten off the ground, followed Alex and everyone else into the road. He wore a black, basic, League uniform–same material as the stealth suit.

He looked over at me, his expression unreadable.

I heard Daniel’s voice in my head.

I gave them a choice–they could stay and help, but be blocked like Chris and Kayla, or leave, and have everything about our identities be mindwiped.

All of them, including Sean, had stayed.

That said something good about him, I supposed.

Meanwhile, our lines firmed up. Chris, Larry, and Marcus stood in the front. Alex, Brooke, and Jenny lined up next to them which seemed crazy. They were basically hand to hand fighters, and Brooke’s shining alien armor counted for something, but Alex would crumple after a hit from Prime’s Reserves, and I couldn’t think of anything he could do to seriously hurt them.

Haley, Rachel, Gunther, and Sean were in the next line. Daniel and I stood next to the car, and at orders from Gunther, Kayla and Carlos stood way behind everybody.

Carlos wore my armor–the one I designed with Chris? Even if I hadn’t figured it out by the process of elimination, I’d have guessed Carlos was inside from the way he kept on extending and retracting the laser, and the two goo guns.

“Hey Rocket, thanks for letting me borrow it. It’s so cool!”

So, yeah. There’s that.

I tried to work out a reply that didn’t sound annoyed when the final piece of our formation appeared.

At least thirty copies of Jenny appeared (all in her bright, red costume), and took positions on either side of the main group.

She carried a goo gun just like Future Knight’s, and aimed it toward the forest.

“Where’d you get that?”

“Your friend, Chris, brought one, but he only had ten shots in its size. Gunther told him to give them to me. That’s not really the same Gunther who served with our grandfathers, right?”

“Actually, yes. It’s kind of weird,” I began.

I didn’t get to finish.

Daniel shouted, “They’re coming!”

They burst out of the forest, knocking down trees that stood in their way, reminding me more of a barbarian horde than a Roman Legion.

A big one fell only ten feet from the car, which would have been a lame way for the car to get crushed, not to mention a lame way for me to get crushed.

I aimed the guitar at one of them, only to find he’d been hit three times with balls of gray goo.

Expanding, they covered his chest, and ran toward his legs, hardening. He tried to take another step, and toppled.

The other guys charging along with him didn’t do any better.

Unfortunately, the guys immediately behind them jumped, flying over, and landing directly in the road with all of us.

Ahead of me, Haley dodged a blow that could have killed her, rolled, and came upright as Rachel delivered a shock directly to a Cabal soldier’s eyeballs.

Behind them, Larry took a few steps, bringing the Rhino suit up to speed, and mashing a grey furred Reservist into a tree.

I heard cracking noises, but wasn’t sure whether they were from the Reservist or the tree.

Two more charged Alex and Brooke. The one going for Brooke simply disappeared. Water splashed across the ground where he’d been.

A massively muscled, red haired guy knocked Alex to the ground, holding him down with his left hand, and raising his right arm, ready–I assumed–to punch through Alex.

Except he didn’t.

Alex grabbed the arm on his chest.

It withered, and shrunk.

20 thoughts on “Targets: Part 22”

  1. Interesting, I should have thought of that. Health is also accompanied by anti-health. It might mean that Alex is the only on that can deal with these guy non-lethally. Also, as of this moment … first!


  2. Ohhhh, JN. I feel so bad for you. Beat to the “first” punch, and by 15 minutes! 😛

    I wonder how regeneration handles a withering like that. I guess it would be similar to some sort of acid effect, but scattered throughout the limb, instead of just applied from the outside. I guess the big question is, can Alex “turn off” their regeneration? If he can block it permanently, I’m guessing my of the “immortals” would choose to walk away from the fight, and retire to a little farm in Tuscany.


  3. Regeneration is iffy. The end result appears identical in most situations but how exactly it works varies greatly.
    For example, magical regeneration is usually stopped by a thematically opposed energy, biological regeneration needs fat for fuel, wolverine’s regeneration works against anything the writer wants it to work even though, for example, he is a mutant and radiation frying his DNA should nullify his powers.

  4. If he can cure all kinds of diseases, why can’t he use other tricks associated with the body or with the diseases he messes with?

    Massively increase the metabolism of the person so that their body quickly eats through their fat and moves onto the reserves: protein. Also, would generate quite a bit of body heat that would further disorient the foe.

    Mess with the telomerase of the Legion and get rid of that nice immortality some of them have. Then, for salt in the wound, get rid of their immune system’s protection against Chicken Pox.

    What’s the matter, Prime? Chicken…Pox?

  5. I’m under the impression Alex’s healing/harming ability is something like increasing/decreasing some kind of “life energy” or something rather than conscious manipulation of specific biological parts and functions. That’s probably good, too, since otherwise to be effective with the healing he’d pretty much need a medical doctorate to know what exactly needs to be done…
    Would also explain his aura of general well-being.

  6. True. You have a bunch of people using advanced equipment and injecting themselves with all kinds of chemicals to give themselves greater-than-human powers so they can beat the crap out of each other, make lots of money, and otherwise be on top of society in exchange for keeping their rage-fueled rampages subdued.

    And then you have the Legion of Nothing stories.

  7. So Carlos gets Nick’s armor and Nick goes into battle with a lightweight super stealth suit and a guitar.

    BTW, the 2nd sentence in the 2nd paragraph seems to be missing the little word, “the”.

  8. So, PG, you’re hypothesizing that a non-degrading telomerase chain is the source of Prime and company’s immortality? I’m not sure that would have that much to do with it. Shortening of telomerase in the cells certainly provides an effective “timer” for cell death, but I don’t think that’s the sole root of their undying nature. In fact, I think the common “wisdom” these days of high-level regenerators being effectively immortal because they replace aging cells with brand new healthy ones is more likely. So if Alex cut their telomerase really short, those cells would just be replaced with healthy ones (with full telomerase chains) as soon as they started dying.


  9. HG, my understanding is that telomerase kinda wears out as your cells multiply, which is why things start aging and breaking down on your body. My view of regeneration is a superpower-induced ability to allow cells to quickly multiply and recover flawlessly from any condition so long as life is maintained in the body. If he messed with the telomerase, then every resulting cell they replace aging ones with is affected as well and they will at the very least become aged and feeble. Immortality doesn’t equal eternal youth.

  10. Okay, sure, but then your description of regeneration that includes the ‘recover flawlessly from any condition’ statement means that even telomerase destruction would be recoverable. (This is basically what I said with, “if Alex cut their telomerase really short, those cells would just be replaced with healthy ones (with full telomerase chains)”.)

    Basically for this level of regeneration to work at all, the encoding for the “flawless”, healthy, pre-damaged condition would have to be stored somewhere outside the actual physical body. Wolverine’s power is just that — a power. Just like Superman-level strength can’t exist within the confines of even the most enhanced muscle and bone structure, and therefore must be extra-physical, so too must such regeneration be extra-physical. And since such regeneration requires and relies on a definition of what the ideal target state is, that definition must also be extra-physical.

    Perhaps it is encoded in the regenerator’s “life force”, or in some sort of sympathetic quantum energy state — whatever the case, it can’t be in the body. That is, it can’t be in the body, with one exception. Since, generally speaking, super-regenerators require at least a small bit of their original bodies from which to grow back, the encoding could be stored redundantly in every single cell (i.e. in their DNA). In addition, it would pretty much have to be stored in a redundant, self-correcting encoding (similar to a shard of a hologram containing all of the information of the original whole hologram) to survive the DNA mutations that would occur from even the more mundane of attack vectors (radiation, poison, disease, carcinogens).

    Immortality doesn’t equal eternal youth. Super-regeneration pretty much has too. Eternal youth doesn’t actually require either, assuming you can be young and dead at the same time. (Young and permanently maimed being an obvious possibility.)


  11. I’m with Hg on this – why doesn’t regeneration also apply to DNA? Our body does, after all, have DNA repair factors (and multiple levels, to boot!)

  12. Notto: Thanks for noticing the typo. It’s fixed.

    Damien/JN: I’ve been waiting for ages to have this ability of Alex actually show up.

    Hg/Psycho Gecko/Eli: From what I’ve been reading, though telomerase and telomere shortening has some connection to aging, it’s complicated enough that they’re still not completely sure how telomere erosion contributes.

    Bill/Psycho Gecko: I’ve been intending to make an in-story comparison to power juice and steroids/”performance enhancing drugs” for a while. Looks like you beat me…

  13. News Break: Tragic News today as several baseball players were found to have used power juice to attempt to boost their performance on the field. Suspicions were first aroused when Sammy Sosa, now retired, was seen with an extra pair of arms hidden in his sleeves. MLB was content not to investigate when Sosa repeatedly and furiously denied the use of any performance enhancers in a press conference. Ever since last year’s incident with the now-supervillian “Atomic Gasbang” there has been major efforts to both detoxify Yankee Stadium and investigate other ballplayers suspected of using power juice.

    The Yankees are still without a home stadium, having chosen to go without rather than relocate to New Jersey.

  14. Looks like I was wrong. I figured that Alex was “healing” them by removing their enhanced physiques and unstable powers.

    I remembered him saying something about the massive cell die-offs and growing that he sensed, and I was thinking his powers might consider that to be some sort of cancer.

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