Turning Eighteen: Part 1

I turned eighteen a few days later.

It had been an odd few days. After the fight, the police came, taking Ray and Gina away in a Box.  They questioned Mom about her kidnapping too, and she went to the police station to answer questions without us.

Dad brought her home late on Thursday afternoon.

Rachel and I wanted to talk about it, but we couldn’t quite find the right moment. Theoretically we could have asked her at any time. Dad wouldn’t have been able to pay attention to the conversation with his block, but somehow using the block’s side effects to make Dad zone out right in front of Mom didn’t feel right.

We didn’t even try.

On Sunday night, Dad ran back to the office to grab something. Rachel watched an artsy movie with a lot of shadows in the family room while Mom grabbed leftover pizza from the refrigerator in the kitchen.

I’d grabbed a ham sandwich, and sat down on the sofa in the family room. I watched the movie for  a few minutes, and then the actors started talking.

They were speaking French. I realized I’d have to follow the subtitles.

Rachel may have heard me groan, or maybe she’d been intending to pause the movie there. Either way, she got up, and walked into the kitchen.

With the counter being the only thing separating the family room and the kitchen, I heard everything.

“Mom, do you want to talk about Thursday? You know about what Nick and I are doing now.”

“I’m sorry. I don’t think I can handle it. Maybe later.”

Mom sounded tired.

I wondered if she’d ever want to talk about it.

When I went to bed, she was sitting in the living room, using her laptop.

I said goodnight, but nothing else, and she said goodnight, but didn’t volunteer anything either.

Then I walked up the stairs.

I didn’t know where Mom went on the Internet that weekend, but she couldn’t have watched the television or listened to the radio much.

Locally, we were the news.

The slant on what happened didn’t bear much of a resemblance to my experiences. The way the news told it, Prime’s people were working with Ray and Syndicate L to capture Vaughn’s uncle, Russell Hardwick, and Justice Fist (and their parents) for a ransom.

I’d never heard anything about a ransom, but I wouldn’t put it past Ray to try to get some extra profit out of the deal.

The newscast explained my parents’ involvement by noting that my dad had been the therapist for Julie and Lucas before either one got any powers. They didn’t mention Haley’s parents at all.

Much of the rest of the coverage focussed on how the Heroes League had fought Syndicate L mechs throughout Grand Lake.

I couldn’t help but notice what didn’t make it in. They barely talked about the battle near the old radio station, or the fact that they hadn’t caught any of Prime’s people. They didn’t mention that I’d been held captive, or say anything about Syndicate L wanting me as an employee.

They didn’t mention much about Ray’s death either. They mentioned that he’d been accidentally killed while fighting the Rocket and the Power.

That was it.

I guessed the Feds might be involved, and later Isaac Lim confirmed that FBI telepaths had removed my real name from Gina and the two guys in powered armor’s memory.

That was a relief until I started to wonder whether there were other circumstances where the FBI was allowed to do mindwipes.

Nationally, the story got some press, but it faded in a couple days. In the Double V forums though, it started a fairly lively debate. They knew about Ray’s superhero kills, and the way he’d hunted heroes’ friends and families.

They wondered how “accidental” his death really was, and who had killed him, making some uncomfortably good guesses.

I found the subject depressing and stopped following the forums within a day or two.

On Wednesday (my birthday), Rachel and I were meeting Lee for lunch, and a talk.

So while I got to be like every eighteen year old in that I was finally eligible to vote and be drafted,  I was also eligible to hear the full story behind Lee and Grandpa’s deal.

12 thoughts on “Turning Eighteen: Part 1”

  1. I love love love love this story. Like, a lot. And, yes, I want to hear the Lee/ Gunther story and see some more of the original League.

    But are you KIDDING me there isn’t going to be any team conflict about killing, or consequences for Sean? There’s no Superman/ Batman face off about methods, no Professor X/ Magneto disagreement about purpose, no Wolverine/ Cyclops fight over the way we do things? No Punisher/ Spiderman throw-down over the definition of a hero?


  2. Not yet.

    The rest of the team wasn’t there. Even Rachel saw what happened from a distance, and missed the details.

    Nick’s not prone to rushing up to Sean to hash this out, and just after the fight everyone was just too tired to deal with it.

    But will that happen? Definitely. Just maybe not quite in the way you expect.

  3. Jim, I love how the characters feel the way I feel at the same time. Or rather, I feel the way the characters feel at the same time.

    My chest, neck, and head all hurt from the sustained high-blood pressure of the past few weeks (for them, a couple of days). Afterward, I’m sitting here winded.

    And I realize, so are they. I know exactly how Mrs. Klein feels.

  4. I’m not trying to be critical, it’s just the first scene ever in the history of the Legion of Nothing where it seemed out of character. Nick tries so hard not to kill people, and thinks about consequences so much, that it just seemed out of place.

    I totally get that he also processes things, and everyone had already been through a tremendous amount. I can picture him trying to be compassionate and understanding since Sean is grieving for his father and Nick was worried about his own family.

    I just have my own bias towards old-school heroes — Spidey’s “with great power comes great responsibility,” and Superman’s “Truth and Justice” style where he and Batman strive to make sure no one dies. Supes didn’t hesitate to arrest Magog even if the Joker’s death prevented hundreds of murders, and the city of Metropolis approved of Magog’s actions.

    I’m sure the story has its own direction — I’m just shocked Nick was patient about something he takes pretty seriously when it comes to his own actions.

  5. Bill: To be honest, I’m relieved to be out of tension and fight scenes for the moment. I looked back on things, and bearing in mind that “Targets” started in November, I’ve been writing tense stuff for four months. Amusingly, more than half of “Targets” and all of “The Executioner” are set on the same very bad day.

    Gavin: Part of this is pacing as much as anything else. After Ray’s death, Nick was almost to the point of hitting Sean, stopped only by the fact that Gina attacked. Having them continue their argument afterward (at least as I envisioned it) would have led to a conflict that trailed off without being fully resolved (and even a little anti-climactic).

    I decided it would be better to leave that issue at some level of tension, and hit it at the end of this chapter in a slightly different way. If it doesn’t work, I’ll revise it later when I’ve got some distance from this part of the story.

  6. Pacing and direction are entirely up to a writer, they know where they’re going better than anyone. I’ve NEVER questioned the characterization in this story before, it’s that good — so it’s just that this was the first time I was like “hold up, Nick’s taking a death in stride?”

    The pace has been exhausting (constant build-up, well done) for a long long time, and most of it was a single day for the characters — they can be forgiven for not handling one detail on such a busy day. I have a different perspective because I’m an outside observer comfortable on my couch with 30 years of superhero reading to draw on. Nick’s just a kid who does the best he can.

    So it’s believable — but throwing down and fighting Sean and then seeing his whole team choose sides over murder versus justified killing would have been believable too.

  7. Yes and no. As in ours, the “Selective Service” exists. Even though they haven’t used it recently, the system for running a draft is out there and ready to be used if necessary.

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