TBD: Part 9

I got on my stationary bike, and ignored Sean. I didn’t have anything to say to him.

As the woman in scrubs taped sensors to my arm and chest, and after she’d explained to me what I had to do, I turned to Jenny. “I saw Brooke before I met my adviser. I don’t know where she is now.”

From the row of bikes behind me, Brooke said, “Back here.”

I turned toward her voice and saw her. “Hi. I didn’t notice you.”

She looked just like she had last spring—tanned with long, curly hair. Based on looks, I’d pegged her as good looking, but not necessarily smart. I’d been wrong. When we’d been captured by Syndicate L, she’d been the one who organized us to escape.

Then I said, “Is your hair different?”

Jenny laughed while Brooke said, “Yes, now that I’m dating Alex my hair grows faster. I was dyeing it blond, but my roots kept on showing so I gave up.”

That explained it. Her hair was still blond. It just wasn’t as blond.

“Less talking, more pedaling,” the woman monitoring us said.

“Troublemaker,” Jenny said, but she knew me well enough to know exactly how much of a troublemaker I wasn’t.

“Yeah,” I said, and pedaled.

On my other side, Sean kept on pedaling, and didn’t say a word.

It was so different from high school. If I’d known her in high school, I’d never have spoken to Brooke. Honestly, I probably wouldn’t have spoken to very many people there. We wouldn’t have had much in common.

Because of my grandfather, I knew people here anyway, and even the people I didn’t know had good impressions of the Rocket—both past and present versions.

Except for my senior year, high school had been pretty lonely. When I considered the number of times people tried to kill or kidnap me last year, it seemed strange to think that socially at least, it had been the best year of high school—even including the time Sean and his friends tried to beat me up.

Hey, Daniel broke into my thoughts telepathically. I’d watch out for Sean. He’s angry at you.

What does he think I’ve done now?

It’s not what you’ve done, and really I don’t think it’s even you. He was a big deal in your high school, right?

Yeah. Very.

So he’s here, and nobody knows him, but lots of people know and like you—

And he’s always seen himself as popular, and me as, well… not. I finished Daniel’s thought for him.

Yeah. Plus you’re dating his ex-girlfriend, who’s friends with his sister, who he’s angry at for being friends with his half-sister, because she proves that his late father cheated on his mom.

Crap. I’m starring in a soap opera. Or possibly an episode of Jerry Springer.

Except unlike Jerry Springer, the violence here is real. Nick, I get brief prescient visions of him attacking you. Make sure you don’t end up alone with him.

I’m not planning to. Wait, is he thinking about attacking me right now?

No. He’s not intending to hurt you at all. Think “crimes of passion.” He’s feeling angry, grieving, insecure, and out of place. If you’re nearby, he might lash out.

OK. I’ll stay away from him. I was planning to anyway.

So after that, you know what happened? Nothing much. They tested how much I could lift, ran me through an obstacle course, tested how well I sprinted and a few other things too. A few hours later I was done.

That night around 2am, I found myself awake. I couldn’t put all the blame on Daniel, but first of all, he snored. Second, we’d been friends as long as we’d been alive, constantly talking to each other through his telepathy. The upshot of that? Not only did he snore, but sometimes I could feel his dreams while he slept, if he slept nearby.

In this case, nearby meant across the room in my own bed. I didn’t know what sort of dreams he was having, but I woke up with my heart racing, and feeling panicky. Thirty minutes later, I still hadn’t managed to fall asleep.

I pulled on jeans and a t-shirt, and grabbed a book. I’d been reading Iain M. Banks’ Player of Games. Reading it in the lobby might help me calm down.

I didn’t even make it to the lobby.

The floor’s vending machine stood next to the elevator, and Sean stood in front of the vending machine. To be fair to him, he wasn’t stealing pop. With magnetic powers he could have.

I should also say that despite what Daniel thought, Sean didn’t start out being hostile.

He pulled a can of pop out of the vending machine and said, “So, what’re you doing up?”

It wasn’t friendly either, but it could have been worse.

“I couldn’t sleep.” I didn’t want to explain that I’d had Daniel’s nightmare.

35 thoughts on “TBD: Part 9”

  1. Sean probably doesn’t even realize he could steal from a vending machine, though he can’t really force the cans themselves. Just never figured aluminum as being all that magnetic, though I could be wrong there. He’d probably have to learn more of how the machines work, though, to steal.

    And personally, the whole sharing dreams thing sounds pretty darn interesting. If he has the same dream or nightmare as Daniel, only with himself in Daniel’s place, then I laugh for the day that Daniel starts having dirty dreams about Nick’s sister.

    Man, that kind of thing would be freaky no matter who he dreamjacked (I meant like hijacked, pervs), but I think the point was that it had to be someone he’s close to who he’s done a lot of telepathic communication with.

    If his grandpa can do the exact same thing, only with mental instability thrown in there, things could get pretty darn wierd out at their house. That’s just alzheimer’s too. Imagine someone with PTSD or other disorders, or even if they’re just on acid.

  2. Psychlone Ranger: And that would be bad. Vending machines are really heavy. People have actually died after having one fall on them.

    PG: Aluminum’s not magnetic, but you’re right, an indirect way to go about it could work.

    It used to be that if you tipped (or was it rocked?) a vending machine just enough forward, a can (or more) would fall out. The bad point was that if you tipped it too much, you’d never be able to hold it.

    Thus you’d have to weigh “free pop” vs. “possibly being crushed to death.”

    As for dreams… The side effects of that could be pretty weird, or at least icky.

  3. I would just like to point out that his name is Iain and if it’s Sci Fi, which it is, you need a m in the middle.

    Iain M banks fanboy awaaaaaaay~~

  4. Mystic; how do you know Travis and Vaughn don’t have girls? Daniel, assumedly, doesn’t. I’m sure Nick would know if he did at least. But Travis and Vaughn? Probably has never noticed if they have or not…unless he’s walked in on them or something.

  5. Jim, did you know what “TBD” meant in the story or did it come to you in writing?

    Also, Sean is a sniveling douche. Waa, waa people like this guy instead of me. Waa.


  6. Beating up Nick is probably one of the worse things Sean could do right now. He already doesn’t really know anyone and if their first impression of him is ‘that dick that beat up a powerless Rocket’, he probably won’t be making any friends.

  7. *walks up to a drink machine, sets up an amp, pulls out a guitar, and plays Coheed and Cambria’s “Welcome Home”, then the machine spits out a few free drinks*

    You’re right, rocking a vending machine does work.

  8. Josh: Oops. Thanks. I like Banks’ work a lot myself.

    Bill: Kind of? Kind of not. When I put the title in, I felt simultaneously that it could possibly fit the opening chapter, and that it might be a good placeholder. By the time I realized there would be a scene where Nick met with his adviser, I remembered there were a bunch of TBD’s on my schedule freshman year of college. From there, the next step seemed obvious.

    Ace/Bill: I remember people coming to college and realizing they were not the smartest person in school anymore. I’m sure there must be people experiencing similar things socially.

    How Sean will handle it remains to be seen.

    Silas/Captain Mystic: Vaughn did go with someone to the prom. Whether he dated her afterward is completely open. Travis’ social life has never been mentioned. Daniel’s will actually become more important as time goes on.

  9. When it comes to crimes of passion, I just feel sure somehow the trouble involved is going to have to do with Sean trying something with our dear Rebel.

  10. Yes, Jim. I know it would be bad. Those things weigh almost as much as a car (800-1000 lbs) and are top-heavy. I was counting on Nick’s reflexes to keep him from getting, you know… dead.

    (When I was in the Navy, there was an individual on base when I was there who was severely injured when a soda machine fell on him.
    Apparently, a crushed pelvis is good for a medical discharge! After, of course, his Captain’s Mast, reduction in rank and monetary penalties for damaging the machine…)

    1. Psychlone Ranger: Forgive me for being dense, but was he trying for a medical discharge? Because that sounds crazy if he was. He could have just as easily ended up with worse injuries than a broken pelvis.

  11. Sean does not need to move the aluminum cans just the mechanism that holds them in place, same with a chip machine, the spiral that pushes them forward is usually metal.

    I like how Dan and Nick have a psychic bond it makes sense as best friends but yeah dreams would get weird. It is like having a well travelled neural pathway only through two minds instead of one.

    1. Gavin: That’s more or less how I thought about it. What are the ramifications of being best friends with a telepath? Well, more comfort with telepathy than most people for sure.

      I didn’t go as far as sharing dreams about sex though. Gack. Thank you, Psycho Gecko.

  12. I could be wrong but I haven’t gotten any impression of Sean having fine control of his powers. Maybe it’s just a matter of practice and mindset but even then I don’t expect it to happen very quickly if ever. He’s crippled in that direction because things until now have pretty much been handed to him and by a viewpoint that things can always be fixed with a bigger hammer.

  13. Oh frell me, just “Gonna hurt” I give up. I haven’t felt this stupid since the brains in the jars stole my brain and then let it get lost but put in the coils. The TESLA coils. The COILS of Nikola Tesla!

  14. Jim: I think he was just trying for a free soda or two. Think of it as a Darwin Award Runner-up…

  15. @Daniel, I re-read the end, then noticed yours was the last comment and for a split second, I honestly thought you were the Daniel in the story.

    Wow, I spend too much time reading this thing.

  16. So as I re-reading previous chapters since a certain author keeps leaving us with all these cliffhangers, and I came across this from back in the day. This is in Arc 1 when Nick has just decided to give reviving the Heroes League a chance and is still unsure of his and his friends’ places as superheroes.

    ” We weren’t heroes coming back from a war. We were a bunch of kids with middle of the pack powers.

    They’d done a great thing and the best I could follow it up with was a kind of mediocre sequel. ”

    And now, they’ve defeated immortals, uncovered government conspiracies, taken down corrupt leaders, defeated superhero killers, and have even beaten their own evil mirror universe counterparts.

    Some sequel there, Nick.

  17. so i check back and i find 30 responses? and this is not even one of the greatest posts just average (no offence of course) so i was wondering what the record was for responses?

  18. No offense taken. I know what you mean.

    I think the highest so far is 32 (on TBD: Part 3). Of course, with this response, the two posts are now tied. A number of fairly significant posts didn’t get anywhere near this many comments.

  19. That’s because people were too distracted by the awesomeness of the story. It spoke for itself on those posts. Also; tie breaker.

  20. The upshot of that? Not only did he snore, but sometimes I could feel his dreams while he slept, if he slept nearby.

    In this case, nearby meant across the room in my own bed.

    The way you put this, it sounds like Daniel is sleeping in Nick’s bed while Nick is across the room from it for some reason.

    I didn’t know what sort of dreams he was having, but I woke up with my heart racing, and feeling panicky.

    Here, the comma before and seems incorrect, but, if you leave it out, it seems like nick’s heart is feeling panicky…

  21. I hate being so far behind and still catching up, so many relevant comments that are now too late to say =_

    Aluminum is diamagnetic, it can be effected by an extremely powerful magnetic field but doesn’t acquire magnetic properties, like iron would, from that field.

    Coke machines use chutes to separate coins and counter. Used to be if you put the coins in too fast it would miscount but the current machines use an optical circuit to count and that’s a lot less likely.

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