TBD: Part 8

“No reason you should remember me. Like a lot of people I attended your grandfather’s funeral, but not as myself, and I wasn’t around much during the years when you were your grandfather’s lab assistant.”

That had to be how it looked from the outside. “After the Rocket’s retirement as a hero, he stayed home and worked on devices for the community with his grandson as an assistant.”

It was accurate as far as it went, but it felt less like my life, and more like I was an appendage to Grandpa’s.

“Now,” Dr. Nation continued, “let’s talk about the program. What we expect is ridiculous. We expect you to become at least semi-competent at police work, military combat, and fire and rescue operations. You’re going to be better at some than others, but you’ll have to pass minimum standards at all of them. Plus, we’re requiring people to learn about alien technology and magic.”

“I’m going to learn magic?”

He shook his head. “You can’t learn to do magic without a gift for it, but we can train you to recognize supernatural creatures, devices, and spells.”

“Huh. That sounds interesting.”

“I know. I wish I’d known anything at all about it when I started, but that’s not everything. You’ve also got to choose an area to specialize in. I’m assuming that will be technology?”


He’d opened a folder with my name on it when I sat down. With that, he crossed out “TBD” where it appeared next to “Specialization:” and wrote “Tech” next to it.

I thought about it. “Is that alien tech or regular technology?”

“Both. And since it’s official now, it’s time to discuss examples of your work. What did you bring?”

I’d brought my guitar hero controller (complete with hidden laser and exploding charge), and some roachbots. We spent the next half hour going over how they’d been constructed and how I used them.

He’d opened the back of the guitar,and was looking it over. “Blowing up the guitar when you fire the shaped charge is very rock and roll, but it leaves you without a weapon.”

“Well, it was more of a concept weapon than something I actually intended to use. Kind of taking an idea and seeing how far I could go. I’ve used it, but it’s been more accidentally useful than intentionally useful in some ways.”

“I can see that, and honestly, I shouldn’t complain.”

“Really? Why?”

“Ever heard of ‘Yellow Burrito?’ Up until the early 80’s, that was me.”

“Yeah. Wow. You were in the Heroes League in the mid-70’s, right? You were out of San Francisco, and all your stuff was burrito themed. Uh…”

A guitar hero controller with a laser had to be hundreds of times cooler than the “Burrito Gun,” right?

He gave a lopsided smile that made me think he might be embarrassed. “It made more sense in the 1970’s, or at least it seemed funny,” he said. “Besides people underestimate a guy with burrito themed weapons.”

I would have.

“You knew my grandfather?”

“He was great, Nick. Best teacher I ever had. They invited new kids into the League all the time. I’d bet half the faculty of the Stapledon program cycled through.”

I wasn’t sure how to take that. I knew they’d had a lot of members outside the core group. I’d never realized there were that many.


“They never said, but I’m sure they wanted the new kids to be prepared.”

* * *

Still thinking about my meeting, I went back to my room, changed into shorts and a t-shirt, and headed for the hotel’s gym. It had a floor with a track running around the outside of the room, and weightlifting equipment in the middle.

A total lack of powers wasn’t going to stop them from getting a baseline on my physical abilities.

Never mind that they were irrelevant. If I had anything to say about it, I wouldn’t ever be facing anyone without armor. The closest I’d come to doing that had been fighting Ray early last summer. I’d worn the stealth suit, and it had still been too close.

I thought about it more. There had been that time when Vaughn and I were attacked by two different groups of guys while we were out running. Plus, I’d had to fight Sean, Dayton, and Jody all at once before they got powers.

OK. Maybe getting a sense of my unassisted physical abilities might be useful.

I’d been attacked a lot last year.

When I got near the gym, I noticed that no members of the hotel staff were near it. When I stepped inside I knew why.

People with physical powers were still being tested.

They’d walled off a section in the middle of the room with plates of a black material I didn’t instantly recognize. Seriously strange and bulky machines filled most of the space, and all of them were being used. Some of the people running on the track hit speeds that wouldn’t have been out of place on the highway.

Meanwhile, all the regular exercise machines had been moved into a small corner of the track.

Vaughn sat on a stationary bike, sweating, and looking annoyed. They’d taped some sensors to his chest and arm. The wires led to a laptop on a table.

He wasn’t the only one either. Daniel sat a few bikes down from Vaughn, steadily pedaling, and barely sweating at all. I wondered if he’d started later, or if he’d tricked his body into performing better than it should.

From within the crowd of people on bikes, someone said, “Nick!”

I followed the voice, and noticed Jenny Nakamura getting onto a bike. She waved at me.

A woman in green scrubs taped a sensor to her arm.

“Hey,” I said, simultaneously noticing that no one here seemed to have physical powers.

The woman next to Jenny said, “Nick Klein?”


“Why don’t you get on this bike over here?”

I walked over to the bike next to Jenny’s. That would be okay. Maybe we could talk?

A noise came from the bike on the other side of mine. Tall, blond, and pedaling hard, the guy looked familiar.


Well, crap.

23 thoughts on “TBD: Part 8”

  1. “Some of the people running on the hit speeds that wouldn’t have bee out of place on the highway.”
    Think it should be them, not the.

    Interesting to think the heroes league ran a kind of superhero induction program way back when. Almost prescient really

  2. Yay! I get to be first to complement you on an excellent update!

    Random thoughts as I read:
    A burrito gun has to be the funniest weapon I’ve ever heard of. Does that come with a salsa-grenade launcher attachment? Yellow Burrito must have been defending the barrio: “Death to you, criminal, and lunch for everyone!”

    Getting a baseline on Nick’s fitness shouldn’t be too hard. He runs track, and practices several flavors of martial arts on a regular basis. I’d say he’s fairly strong by most (normal) standards. All he’s got to do now is concentrate on the pretty girl, and ignore the lug on the other side.

    “I assume you’re specialization will be technology, Nick?” My response would have been, “Well, duh!”, but then, Nick is better behaved than I ever was.

    And now for the inevitable nit-pick: (Think of this as free proofing. Most authors pay big for this!)
    “Some of the people running on the hit speeds that wouldn’t have bee out of place on the highway.” I believe you dropped an ‘m’ and an ‘n’. Let me get those for you: “them“; “been” Or perhaps you meant:“Some of the people running on the treadmills hit speeds that wouldn’t have been out of place on the highway.”

  3. And, if I hadn’t been so long-winded, I might have succeeded at beating Lingy…

    Curses, foiled again!

  4. I’m seeing definite crossover potential here;
    The Yellow Burrito vs. Condiment King! The ultimate fight for flavour!

  5. I think I’m beginning to have an influence on Jim.

    “Stand back, villains! That’s nacho money!”
    “I’m not going to kill you, Bizzaro Pizzaro, because I know that you’ll be convicted and then the state is going to be the one to refry you.”
    “I swear, honey, it was the dog, honest.”

    Still, I can kinda get it. The Burrito Bazooka, firing burritos at enemies. Ever been hit by a hot, cheesy burrito going 30 miles an hour? Wow, that’ll really bean him.

    Of course, the obligatory…Fart Gun! Better In Jail than Out, Burrito Man always says.

    Of course, we’ve got the Salsa Slingers, gauntlets that you wear. You appear to be unarmed, but what’s this? Salsa to the face!

    The Taco Taser, the Guacamole Mine, the Fried Icecream Flinger!

    Also, the Quesadilla Lunch. What, even superheroes get hungry.

    Yep, that’s almost the whole enchilada, but wait! If only he’d had Rocket II’s assistance, he could have built….dun dun dun dun! The Mariachi Marauder! A laser mariachia guitar with a shaped charge!

  6. You forgot the most impressive one…the Tequila Slammer-criminals wake next morning in jail with a massive headache :p

    Or maybe Montezuma’s Revenge, but enough said about that

  7. probably no one will know what i am talking about but when they said yellow burito i pictured the episode of Kim Possible when Dracon is in the cheese wheel and they make bad guy con ceso

  8. Of course, any spanish speaker knows “burrito” means “small burro”, or “little donkey”; incidentally, calling someone a “burro” implies that he’s stupid, an oaf, or pigheaded. I don’t know how many spanish-speaking supervillains (and mooks, and heroes) were around in 70’s era San Francisco, but odds are that they didn’t lack banter when faced with the Yellow Burrito, either. Wonder how long before mooks braying at him got old…

  9. And to be yellow at some point came to mean afraid…. So Yellow Burrito…. a priceless name…

  10. Lingy/Psychlone Ranger: Thanks for noticing the typos. Fixed.

    Lingy: Interestingly, the original League included one member (The Mentalist) with the ability to sense the future.

    Psychlone Ranger: Alas, we probably won’t ever get to see the Burrito Gun in action (unless it’s in flashbacks) since he’s got a different superhero identity these days. Also, it shot off things that resembled burritos, but actually did other stuff (trapped people in burrito-like goo).

    Mazzon: Condiment King. Wow. Every so often I think I’ve come up with something more ridiculous than characters that appeared in actual comics, but I am always wrong.

    PG: As some people have noticed, I occasionally create characters that are similar in flavor to previous periods in comic history. I imagined Yellow Burrito to be similar to a 70’s era indie comic–the kind of thing you’d get if R. Crumb attempted to parody superhero comics.

    Captain Mystic: I’ve heard of Kim Possible, but somehow never managed to watch it.

    Amaral: Wow. I knew it meant “small burro,” but I never thought that through. That adds something to the mix.

    Err… Well… I didn’t think it through unless you assumed I had, and were impressed by it. In that case, I totally thought it through.

    Notto Mention: I briefly considered the possibility that he might have been Green Burrito, but Yellow Burrito seemed more funny. Also, a local (to me) restaurant has green burritos on the menu (and I like them), and didn’t want to think about the character when I went there.

    DWwolf: I don’t know that I can do better than PG’s list, but I’m pretty sure Yellow Burrito also had a Jalapeno Salsa Spray. Other stuff may come up, who knows?

  11. I just figured he was your attempt at one of those advertisements they used to have. You know, with Hostess snacks or Little Debbie or whatever. You’d have some snack-themed hero or you’d have a comicbook hero stopping some ridiculously stupid villain from either stealing the snack or by giving them a snack.

    Besides, man, there’s just nothing more ridiculous than the famous Flash villain: The Rainbow Raider, aka Roy G. Bivolo. He gained a special visor or something that let him do different things when he shot differently colored light. After his death, his gear was divided up amongst a gang of criminals who then called themselves the Rainbow Raiders.

    During Blackest Night, when the dead were coming back, they figured they’d join the winning side, and all drank the kool-aid (that’s right, that phrase is more than a metaphor). However, the rings passed on bringing them back because they needed villains who would actually get an emotional reaction from someone. Yep, that little was thought of them.

    Then again, there’s also the Mad Hatter, though he at least has the goods to back up his name. His hats mind control people. Aside from him, we’ve got The Ventriloquist and Scarface. Now that is truly a terror to the world right there.

    I believe Marvel had The Atomic Hobo or Nuclear Bum or whatever he was called. He was just a homeless guy with some sort of radiation powers (I guess), who wanted a cup of coffee. He proved to be more than a match for the New Warriors until Slapstick, who turns into a cartoon character, bought him a cup of coffee. Dun dun dun DUN!

    Then again, Marvel also still has Howard the Duck who showed up to register during Civil War but was turned away because he wasn’t important enough and didn’t really have any powers. Now he was in line with some real fun ones. All the delusional people who think they have powers, or all the American Idol wannabe-types, were in the same line as him, like some guy whose “power” was having a helmet shaped like a bull’s head and ramming his head into things.

  12. Hey if you’re going to count a guy who dresses as a bat a superhero then snubbing a guy with a cow helmet is just blatant favouritism.

  13. http://xkcd.com/1004/




    Aside from all those, you may note I’ve previously referred to Batman as a spoiled rich boy being traumatized because a crime actually happened to him, as opposed to if a poor person’s parents were murdered, they’d just wind up in foster care, eventually get over it, and go on to be a normal person.

  14. Burrito means ‘small burro’? That totally changes things!

    Villain 1: “That was a good haul, vato! Let’s get out of here before the local Hero shows up!”
    Villain 2: “Who? The Yellow Burrito? What’s he gonna do? Toss nachos at us? I ain’t afraid of hi–urk!”
    V 1: “Yo, esse, why you got a miniature hooved ruminant sticking out of your chest? Oh, holy crap! It’s the Yellow Burrito!!”

  15. Mazzon: In their defense, Civil War (and the associated super registration) was a Marvel thing, and the Man Dressed Like A Bat is a DC hero. That being said, Iron Man, the lush in powered armor, was one of the super-registration poster boys.

  16. Soy El Burrito Amarillo! Lucho por libertad y dereches humanos por todos! Esta tiempo comer mi justicia caseosa, criminales!

    Salsa a la cara!

  17. Google Translate should serve you well there. It has a few iffy pronoun and verb choices, but it taught me a new word! I had never even wondered if “cheesy” had a translation…

  18. @PG: I read Shortpacked faithfully, and that Comedy Gold one is one of my all-time favourites of all the webcomics in the universe. I regularly point other people at it, and even made my students look it up as part of their HTML course.


  19. “Some of the people running on the track hit speeds that wouldn’t have been out of place on the highway.” Should read “would have”, methinks.

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