Settling In: Part 2

Marcus followed them, lengthening his legs as he jumped, and stretching his arms to grab the ledge on the other side. His leap reminded me of a frog somehow.

If it weren’t night, I could have blamed it on his green costume. I only recognized him because I knew he was coming, and because no normal human could stretch like that.

Frog-like or not, the way his shape briefly blocked the stars made me think of Batman cartoons—which ironically brought me back to reality.

We should have attacked them when they passed over us. If we’d called Marcus and told him to hang back, that could have worked beautifully.

Sparing everyone else my 20/20 hindsight, I said, “I’m going up,” started the rockets, and shot into the air.

Suddenly above the row of buildings, I had to decide how I wanted to handle this. We didn’t have a plan. Okay, we kind of had a plan, but it didn’t amount to much more than, “Find out who Marcus was chasing, and help him.”

I leveled off, and angled sideways, flying above the street.

I’d gotten ahead of them, giving me a second to detach the guitar from my chest, and send a message to everyone on the comm.

“Hang back, I’m going to blind them. One…”

The stealth suit’s sonar filled in the details normal human vision couldn’t, assisted by a computer. I’d improved it during the summer. Each of the seven figures running across the roof appeared to be wearing more than just boots.

Hard supports ran up the sides of their legs, arms, and chest. Small rockets or jets hung on the supports, probably to help stabilize the boots. The design reminded me of Jack Maniac’s a little, but unlike him, I hadn’t seen any sign these guys could do more than make rocket-assisted jumps.

Large bags hung by straps across their shoulders. I guessed they might hold the bank’s money.

Marcus had lost ground or he’d heard my message. Either way, he ran half a rooftop behind them.

Cassie followed him, staff in hand, sword on her back. Vaughn flew above her.

“Two…” This could work, I told myself. Blind them, and we could take them hand to hand. Reports of their actions during the chase showed no indication they were anything more than normal humans. Sure, their exoskeletons might be strong, but they weren’t armor.


Switching the setting from communicator to voice, I shouted, “Hey,” through the suit’s speakers. As they turned their heads toward the noise, lasers from my guitar bathed the rooftop in bright, multi-colored light.

My helmet blocked most of it, but from the shouts, their helmets hadn’t done as well.

Better than the shouts, lightning flashed from Vaughn’s black gloved hand to hit one of them. The bank robber’s arms flailed, and he fell over as electricity crackled.

The crazy thing? I recognized that as one of Vaughn’s smaller “taser sized” blasts.

I turned and flew toward them, landing a few feet from the edge, and letting the guitar hang while I gave them a blast of pain with the sonic weapons.

The two directly in front of the blast tensed, and one put his hands uselessly on the side of his helmet.

Marcus, in the meantime, had shifted from his long-limbed form into a muscular, humanoid shape that appeared to be made of rocks and reminded me of a comic book character.

Shouting, “It’s clobberin’ time,” he punched a guy in the face, cracking the man’s helmet, and knocking him down.

Cassie came out of the darkness behind Marcus, sweeping a guy’s legs out from under him with her staff, and hitting him in the head with it when he tried to push himself up.

He stayed down after that.

I charged the two guys standing in front of me, taking one down with a punch to the solar plexus. While he gasped for breath, the other backed away. He must have been disoriented from the light and my sonic blast because he tripped.

The exoskeleton restricted his movement more than the Rocket suit because he had a hard time getting his arm into a position to push himself up.

The big bag of money couldn’t have helped him either.

That left two effective fighters—one guy in an exoskeleton, and another who (I only then realized) wasn’t wearing rocket boots at all.

He’d been jumping between buildings with nothing but his own strength.

Dressed in black combat gear like the rest of them, he pulled out a pistol with a solid barrel—a paralysis gun in all probability. He pointed it at me before I had the chance to move.

I didn’t have time to worry, but if I had, I probably wouldn’t have. I’d worked out a device that countered the sounds the gun used to trigger paralysis.

He pulled the trigger.

The device on my belt didn’t hum at all.

24 thoughts on “Settling In: Part 2”

  1. “Oh no, don’t have him say clobberin’ time! Not with the lawyers around!”

    Psycho Gecko watches helplessly as the lawyers shamble after Jim, then charges up the ole power armor. “Hey ambulance chasers!” he calls after them, “I created Superboy!” The lawyers stop in their tracks, turning as one to face Gecko. Their mouths are stretched too far open, rings of jagged black teeth shining like obsidian as their eyes glow green.

    He reaches into a compartment on his belt to pull out a pair of gingerbread-arangs, sharp metal throwing objects in the shape of gingerbread men. Chunking them into the eyes of the lead lawyer (from the firm of Choronzon, Astaroth, and Goldman), he leaps over the group of litigous soulsuckers and pulls the door to the secret frathouse chamber closed, only to be grabbed and yanked back into the mass of flesheating court honkys.

    Harvard Law does their best to ignore the profane sounds emanating from that chamber for the next hour, since the attorneys are alumni. They don’t even send security over when a loud cry of “Oh yeah? Well I didn’t like that arm anyway! It was a jackoff!” When the door swings slowly open everyone’s favorite commentator steps out, smashing a gleaming cube against his armor.

    The cube sticks, then ant-sized pieces separate and crawl off to cover all the holes, pits, and leather shoe-prints on the armor. Breaking apart and using themselves for material, the machines restore the armor to pristine condition, save for the pea-colored stains marring the untouched portions.

    Stepping forward and throwing his head back, Gecko raises his hand to reveal a skull in it.

    “To be or not to be, that is the question: and it turns out you bastards can’t touch this one because it’s a few hundred years old,” he chuckles mockingly, seemingly unaware of the slimy shadow rising up from the Summoning Chamber/Toga and Keg Room, “Whether tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, or to take up legs and add boot to ass, and by kicking, end them. To die, to sleep no more; and by a sleep, say we have very disturbing dreams about former Australian Prime Minister Paul Keating joining the NWA. Tis a consummation devoutly to be wished because it’d be funny as hell. One moment, Agent Skully.”

    Psycho Gecko turns just as the surviving lawyers claws are nearly upon him and shoves the skull down its wide maw to let it catch in its throat, then grabs it by the shoulders and kicks it between the legs. The evil from beyond falls to the ground, in a great deal of misery due to the three round objects that have been forced into its body in rapid succession.

    Satisfied, Gecko walks away into the night, muttering something to himself about “Celebration! Cheese for everyone! Wait, scratch that, cheese for no one. That can be just as much a celebration if you don’t like cheese…”

  2. one: agreed Marcus did not have to exactly copy “The Thing.” we fans got the general idea whom you meant. 2. @Gecko at your secret frat house do you have scret frat house parties with super girls? If so I am so there

  3. Keep in mind that the Marvel stuff also exists in this universe, it’s a valid cultural reference.
    For the hero handbook : when people that I’m fighting point a GSO at me I shall assume its harmfull and I’ll try not to look down the barrel.

  4. DWwolf: I revised a couple lines near the end that made him look more confident than I’d intended. I’d wanted to remind people of the counter-paralysis device as it hasn’t appeared in a while. I didn’t want to give people the idea Nick regarded it as an impregnable shield.

    Lawsuit/Clobberin’: I figure I’m safe from lawyers on this one. Marcus can only change shape once he turns into “gray stuff”–not color. So currently Marcus is gray instead of orange. Totally not the Thing. He’s the Gray Thing. Completely different.

    Or something.

    Oh… Somewhere in his comment, PG, made a reference to Dana Scully of X-Files. I live in the same town in which Gillian Anderson (the actress who played her) grew up. One of my friends was set up to go a on blind date with her in high school (which did not happen for some reason).

    Strangely, the friend in question ended up marrying someone named Dana Sculley.

    Cue the X-Files theme…

  5. I realize it should just count as a reference and not a violation, I just thought a follow up using that would be entertaining to people.

    Strange coincidences happen, though. Sometimes it seems like Terry Pratchett has the right idea about the laws of Narrative Causality, in particular the one that says that if you have a 999,999 to 1 shot, it’ll never work, but if you mess yourself up enough to get a million to 1, it has to make it.

    Of course, there’s confirmation bias there too. Think of all the people you knew in high school who aren’t famous. A lot more of those, I bet, unless it was one of those really tiny schools.

  6. Algae: A phrase that I first heard because it was the name of the company that produces “Car Talk,” a radio show I listen to every so often.

    I was amused when I learned that both the Three Stooges and Groucho Marx used the phrase much earlier.

    PG: I know. You were funny. I just have an irresistible urge to point things like that out every so often (even when it’s clear and obvious to everybody).

    As for famous people and coincidences… Definitely true. I know many more people who aren’t famous than are. I really can’t say I know anyone who’s famous particularly well. Despite that one of my friends almost dated her, I don’t know Gillian Anderson. I did go through school with Erik Prince (founder of Blackwater), but I don’t know him well, and I haven’t run into him in years.

  7. I went to the same barely-known college as the writer of the books True Blood is based on. Oddly enough, one of the other students there was the little sister of a musician I like who had bad things to say about the state I come from. There was also a Rockefeller there that I got to know.

    I also attended the same high school as at least one member of the Tennessee Titans football team, and one guy who recently did very good in sports, and one Playboy Cybergirl who was a classmate while I was there, unlike the other two.

    So there’s my brushes with fame. A Playboy Cybergirl I could have dated in high school and a Rockefeller my mom probably wishes I gay married in college.

  8. …why have you suddenly gone into the traditional internet dickwaving thing but in the form of which “celebs” you’ve brushed with? lol

    Ah heck, I can join in and possibly win (well, in England, I doubt you Americans have heard of the celebs I’ve met)? 😛

    Lets see, I taught Dougie Howser from the boyband McFly at school. Not as a teacher, as one of those older students/younger student study buddy thingies.
    I have the author Dan Abnett (whom you might know, as he has written a reasonable amount for Marvel and DC, among other things) as a personal friend. Although I really can’t remember how we met now.
    And I regularly go to Denise Van Outen’s (model/actress here in England) parents BBQs (although I’ve yet to actually meet her…)

  9. I blame myself. I’m pretty sure I brought it on.

    That said, I think you definitely win in terms of people I’d actually want to talk to. It’d be interesting to find out how Dan Abnett broke into writing comics, for example.

    By contrast, if I ever do see Erik again I’m unlikely to have the nerve to ask him what it’s like to be part of a huge political scandal.

  10. Gecko, I nearly choked on Pepsi laughing at your battle against the Super Villan Lawyers.

    Jim, should I be nervous, Nick’s anti-paralysis device is silent??

  11. I’m going to wager the silence of the anti-paralysis devices was merely because it wasn’t the paralysis gun after all, but something different.

    And speaking of connection to celebrities, I went to the same school as… wait for it… it was… meh, I got nothing. Nobody I’ve ever known is famous for anything. Also nothing remarkable ever happened on my birthday, and I’ve never been anywhere near when anything noteworthy happened.
    In fact, I’m probably reducing the fame of this serial by commenting. Sorry about that.

  12. It’s ok. I figured we were better than imagining we were in some sort of measuring contest here.

    But there you go, Bill, something to enjoy of my writing.

    Yeah, we’re supposed to be nervous about why the paralysis gun didn’t get blocked. Could be an advanced version, could be something that isn’t paralysis, could be that Nick left the anti-paralysis device elsewhere, or didn’t give it enough batteries.

    The ancients wrote of days like these, when a story would stop for a little on a note of danger. They called them cliffhangers, presumably because a saber-toothed lion had just chased them off the edge of a cliff to hang from for a few days until the story picked up again.

    I need to go spelunking or I’ll never find out if Thog’s evil twin brother Marco successfully took over his marriage to Ugnatha.

  13. Wow. When my kids were little (which they still are, but not as little), they liked “Between the Lions” (the show it comes from) a lot.

    I was actually amused by it myself-which was surprising. I’d expected all children’s programming to be unwatchable by adults (for examples of that, see Teletubbies and Barney).

  14. while it is still in the comments about meeting famous (or not so famous) individuals I beat you all. Because I am a blind individual I got asked to test a new website that the Canadian National Institute for the Blind had made. Because of this I got to meet C.E.O. of Microsoft Bill Gates. I will be taking applause now.

  15. That’s cool. That said, I’ve got to admit that as a programmer/sysadmin, I’ve spent hours and hours of my life both using, and occasionally loathing Microsoft’s software.

    Strangely, over the past couple years, I’ve unintentionally managed to move entirely off Microsoft’s software, and thus the majority of Legion of Nothing has been written on non-MS software.

    Initially it was in Word on a Mac, then using Google Docs with FreeBSD as the OS, and currently I write it within Scrivener running on Linux–not that anyone has to care.

    Incidentally, how are you reading this? Are you running the text through a program that reads it aloud?

    I ask because I’m now seriously working on a redesign, and don’t want to screw up your reading experience.

    “Seriously working on a redesign” in this case == have designed the look, but have not turned it into a WordPress template yet. Also, have given specifications to the artist working on graphics.

  16. So that must mean every time a jackass like me posts “We are the Borg. You will be assimilated. Your technological and evolutionary diversity will be added to our own. Resistance is futile,” you get to hear it?

    Of course, what’d be real interesting is if they could make a pad that is made of a material that can mold itself into Braille dots when a current is passed through various sections. Like if every blind person got a Batman cape to help them see on the internet. Don’t worry, your program isn’t broken. Yet.

    They also need a version of it that can form 3D versions of images so the blind can enjoy the porn portion of the internet to its fullest.

  17. I know this is an old post, but. On the sports side of things, I went to high school with Scotty Gomez, Treyjon Lengdon, and Tamika Walker. I have no idea what happened to Tamika, I lost track of her after she graduated from Duke.

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