Turning Eighteen: Part 3

I thought about that.  “Uh… Is there anything you’re likely to do that would put the human race in danger?”

Lee took another piece of pizza. “Anything that I’m likely to do? No. I’ve been keeping my head down for a long time now, but sometimes I’ve been known to take a risk. Now I take less.”

“I’m assuming that you’re hiding from your people, whatever they are… What happens if they catch you?”

“End of the world, Nick. Rivers of blood. Fire from the sky. Disease. Death. The usual.”

“So… Just by being here, you’re putting the entire planet at risk.”

“Exactly,” he said, and then he took a bite of the pizza. “Don’t worry about it. The way they search, I’m thinking we’ve got ten, maybe twenty thousand years. By that time, I might not be here anymore, or better yet, I might be ready for them.”

“Or if you make a mistake,” Rachel said, “they might come tomorrow.”

“It’s a risk, but if you think about it, they’ll destroy the planet if they happen across it anyway. I say, you might as well have a fighting chance.”

She eyed him. “What are you planning to do? Turn humanity into your personal army?”

“Something like that. I’ve been here a while, and I’ve been following certain people and their descendants if they show any talent.”

“For fighting?”

“For anything useful. Talent with technology. Organizational talent. And yeah, sometimes powers. Useful talents sometimes show up more than once.”

“You’ve been following us,” I said. “Our family, I mean.”

“One among many, but yes, I’ve been keeping in contact every few generations. It’s useful. This isn’t the first civilization that I’ve watched develop. You’re on the cusp of the interesting stuff–immortality, faster than light drives, and then, within four or five thousand years, real power. It’ll be fun.”

I thought about what he’d said.

On Grand Lake, a speedboat pulled a water skier west toward Lake Michigan. They couldn’t possibly be planning to pull the guy down the channel. It was a no wake zone. Part of me wanted to find out whether they were that crazy. The other part…

“What happened to the other civilizations?”

“Totally destroyed,” Lee said, “but I’ve got a good feeling about this one.”

Rachel’s jaw dropped a little. “Oh god.”

“Don’t worry about it. The last time my people came through this part of space was fairly recent, so they aren’t likely to come back. Besides I’ve set up a few false sightings of myself for them to waste time on.”

Rachel began to open her mouth as if to talk, and Lee said, “Far from here.”

“But seriously,” he said, “don’t worry about it. I’ve got some inside information that says we’ve got time. I don’t experience time completely linearly, and I’ve seen things. Nick, someone who looks like you is there when I fight them. Whoever he is, he’s older, maybe forty.”

“We’ve got twenty years?” That was worse than getting hit with some random asteroid.

“No,” Lee said. “The tech’s so advanced that no one’s going to come up with it any time soon. I figure it’s got to be an alternate you, a clone, or maybe a time traveling version. Maybe all three. Maybe something else.”

Very calmly, Rachel said, “What about me?”

Lee shrugged. “Don’t know. You’re mostly good at not being seen, and I didn’t see you.”

I tried to think of another question. I knew that I should have a lot. The end of the world was a big deal.

“Look,” Lee continued, “you’re both focusing on the wrong thing. This might not happen to either of you ever. You should be thinking shorter term if you want to be afraid of something.”

Rachel nodded. “OK. What should we be afraid of in the short term?”

“Our stuff. We left ruins, and planted some things for younger races to fight over.”

“That sounds interesting,” I said. “What kind of stuff?”

“Remember how I said we wanted to destroy everybody? Stuff that helps with that.”

“Oh. Like trapped weapons or something?”

Lee shook his head. “Not the kind that blow up, or something obvious. Think superweapons that need to be fed sentient beings to work, or implant a permanent, irrational need to kill in whoever uses them. Anything that makes you kill a few of your own people to get the enemy, or starts a war that comes home with you after you win, well, that’s what we wanted.

“Because you know what? Once people got used to the idea, they usually came up with their own versions, and we didn’t have to lift a finger.”

“That’s sick.” Rachel nearly spat.

“You got it. Ever hear of the Abominators?”

“No,” Rachel said, while at the same time I said, “Yes.”

Looking over at both of them I started talking. “That’s not their real name, but I think Grandpa and the League fought them once. And all the decent aliens pretty much hate them. Aren’t they basically extinct?”

“Right. They found a lot of our stuff.”

10 thoughts on “Turning Eighteen: Part 3”

  1. Well, sounds like last time was indeed perfect timing to mention that SCP Foundation stuff.

    This seems to be taking on quite a different tone. We’ve always known that was something dark about Lee, but here he’s admitting to using our species as a way to fight off his. You’re not going to turn this into some sort of superhero Lovecraftian horror story on us, are you? And who would win between Godzilla and Cthulhu?

    Either way, I see an opening for this to tie in to those aliens that have been a problem for Earth lately.

  2. I think this is a good example of the answer to the question, “How could it possibly be worse?”.

    The answer is, of course, “Easily”. [grin]

  3. So in Nick’s world, Lovecraft was right! As for the highly advanced technology, Nick already has access to a fusion reactor and possibly FTL drives. And he’s a fairly good inventor.

  4. Reminds me more of something between Vorlons (from Babylon 5) and Celestials (Marvel) than Lovecraftian incomprehendabilities from beyond.
    And it’s not so bad really. Sure, everybody might get hosed tomorrow but how’s that different from everyday life?

  5. Highly advanced technology that people fight over, that are “fed sentient beings to work, or implant a permanent, irrational need to kill in whoever uses them.”

    Is this foreshadowing the need to save Lucas, et al.?

    And just when we’ve all breathed a collective sigh of relief that we can quit worrying about Nick and worry about Japan for a few days.

  6. I like this. The whole bit about building weapons to get civilizations to destroy themselves just strikes me as good writing after all why go to all that work to exterminate all life if you can get them to do it for you. that’s just efficient. Also that bit about real power only comes in 5-6 thousand years after obtaining ftl and discoverig how to make yourself immortal something about that just makes me gleeful I’m not sure why.

  7. Jeremy: It amused me to write that line. If I’m going to make people fear the end of the world, I figure I might as well be funny.

    Psycho Gecko: We’re not going to full time horror, but I reserve the right to turn in that direction whenever it works.

    Mazzon/Belial666: I don’t know whether I think of it as Lovecraftian or not, but if we’re talking Babylon 5, I’d say there’s more of the Shadows than the Vorlons in Lee’s people.

    Notto Mention: Well, there’s plenty of foreshadowing for sure. What it’s foreshadowing, I’m not saying.

    Thomas: I liked the idea of immortality and FTL being the stepping stones to the real stuff a lot myself. Much as I wrote to Psycho Gecko, not only do I reserve the right to head in the direction of horror when necessary, I also reserve the right to veer wildly in the direction of space opera.

    Superheroic fiction gives me an excuse to include anything that works together without having to say, “But does it fit the genre?” Of course it does. Almost everything fits.

  8. @immortality/FTL:
    Immortality can be as simple as not aging – which opens up the way for accumulation of knowledge and skill as scientists, leaders and great people in general keep living and benefitting society. FTL drives open up exponentially increasing resources and prevent the overpopulation/social friction problems caused by immortality. For a galactic civilization they are as important as writing and animal husbandry/the wheel were for a planetary one – and they serve a very similar purpose.

    @real power:
    Generally speaking, real power is when you can effect significant changes on your environment. Humans got real power on Earth as soon as we were capable of draining significant lakes, changing the course of major rivers, converting the flora over extensive regions to our needs and constructing buildings within the same order of magnitude as geographical features.
    Real power for a galactic civilization would be construction on a galactic scale – such as the ability to move around planets to make more habitable zones, the ability to move around stars to improve interstellar trade routes and the ability to destroy planetary objects or build construction comparable to planets. The Star Wars human civilization has seen only its first glimpses of such power. The Star Trek human civilization is considerably further behind.

    @weapons caches as species-killers:
    There are nearly 200 billion stars in this galaxy, with average distances between nearby stars being about 10 light years. Even if your FTL speed is 500.000 times the speed of light (roughly 1 light year per minute), you’d need 4 million years to visit all the stars in the galaxy – once, and without stopping to search in every system. Considering that 4 million years is about the time it takes for a sentient species to develop civilizations if they evolved as fast as us humans, you would find a new civilization every time you searched the galaxy.
    So, if you wanted to ensure no civilization ever developed in a galaxy without destroying the galaxy, you could spend 1 minute travel between systems and another 1 minute to launch an automated ship with a dangerous tech cache for 8 million years total time to do it in the entire galaxy – that’s a significant improvement over 4 million years per civilization.
    Of course, there are over 100 billion galaxies visible from Earth with current technologies alone; even if you had a hundred million different search parties each with the resources to booby-trap a galaxy, you’d still need about half the theoretical lifespan of the entire universe to trap what’s visible from Earth.

    The universe is damn big. If you destroyed 50 million stars per minute, you’d still destroy them a lot slower than the universe can rebuild them. That’s why universe-threatening Big Bads that can be meaningfully opposed by comicbook heroes are kinda silly. If it takes less power to kill Superman than to blast apart the Sun, a universe-threatening Big Bad could annihilate a planetful of Kryptonians as easily as he could blink. And that’s without even snuffing out the stars that gave them power.

  9. Belial, to my memory most of the universe threatening entities weren’t all that much more powerful than the heroes. They just happened to get their hands on something that was universe shattering such as Thanatos trying to collect all the soul gems, or the Anti-Monitor trying to see the beginning of the universe, thus causing the splintering of the cosmos the first time and threatening to destroy those splinters when he tried it again.

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