Taking Control: Part 5

Isaac turned his head to look down the hall—or so I assumed. The gray wall on my screen could just as easily have been outside.

“That’s a lot of questions, and I’m in the middle of something. We’ll have to make this quick.

In the background a series of baritone horn blasts sounded. An alarm?

“Do you have to go?”

“No. It’s been like this for the last hour here. Let’s try to cover what we can…

“To get the easy stuff out of the way first, I don’t know anything about Logan. We did the initial interview once the juice wore off, but we passed him on to the CIA’s labs because they had better facilities. I don’t know what happened after that. Do you need to know?”

Did I need to? Not really, but it would have been nice.

Keeping my voice quiet so that it wouldn’t be heard outside the van, I said, “Just curious. I haven’t seen him since then.

“Then about the Stapledon program—nope. We can’t take anyone else. We’re on our way to go over our budget already. They’ve been running anybody with the right connections through the M.E.D., and between that and the kids with new powers we’ve got the biggest class ever. We set aside ten times as many slots in the program this year and used every one of them. They won’t open any more.”

Isaac sighed. “So this friend of yours with the powers, what kind does he have?”

“Appearance. She can change what she looks like, and I guess quite a bit inside herself too.” I paused, trying to think of something that might persuade him. “It’d be useful for undercover work.”

He nodded, not showing any special eagerness.

“If she wants to use her powers, I’d tell her to join the military.”


“They’ve been testing their people. They’ve put a few into Stapledon—people from the military academies mostly. We suspect they’ve got hundreds of people using power juice now. It’s legal for military use. Plus, that way they’ve only got powers while they’re in the service. They only run people they can trust through the M.E.D’s.”

“OK. What’s an M.E.D.?”

“Metahuman Expression Device. It’s a better name than ‘power impregnator.’”

“That doesn’t take much.”

Isaac grinned. “Can’t argue with that. Anyway, have her contact a military recruiter, or wait for a year, and we’ll get her into the program. In the meantime, keep her off the juice. If she gets caught, the program won’t take her.”

I couldn’t see Courtney joining the military, and convincing her to wait would mean I’d have to tell her I was the Rocket.

“Um… Any chance we could run her through an M.E.D.? That way she’d have powers and wouldn’t be tempted.”

“No,” Isaac said. “Not quickly. She’d have to pass the background check, and after that, she’d be at the end of a very long line. If you want it to happen, you’ve got the pull, but we’re still going to consider whether it’s worth the risk.”

“Huh.” I thought about that. “Is there any way she could use power juice legally?”

“In the long run, yes,” he said, making another quick check to the right. “Not now though. We’re still working on the details of that. Right now, we’re getting it off the street.”


“Why? The obvious, Nick. It’s hard enough for your average cop to handle a supervillain. We don’t need three times as many.”

“I was thinking more along the lines of ‘Why now?’”

“Not a bad question. It’s politics. Last spring we floated the idea to the big guys in the superhero community. We thought they’d be all for it, but they weren’t. Some of them didn’t like the idea of the government regulating powers, but a lot of them… Well, you know how they say powers skip a generation?”


Isaac smiled, quietly amused at something.

“It turns out they don’t. It’s just difficult to make them active. A lot of supers had started letting their non-powered kids use power juice to get around it. Once we learned that, we offered them the use of M.E.D.’s and that was the end of the problem.”

So basically Courtney would have to wait until the rush on the government owned power impregnators was over. I could probably get ours working with her powers before then.

A boom came from Isaac’s end of the connection. He kept his cool, but said, “Is that all?”

“I think so.”

Looking squarely into the camera, he said, “Good. Then I’ve got something important to pass on. The Nine have something big going on, and we’ve good reason to believe Cassie’s a target.”

Crud. I’d forgotten to bring up Cassie’s “brother”…

“Nick,” he said. “We’re putting people in place to watch all of you, and in case you’re thinking of taking the Nine on, don’t. They’re not Syndicate L. They’ve got powered people throughout the organization, and even the normal people are armed with advanced technology. Plus, we’ve reason to believe they’re trying to reverse engineer Abominator tech.”

“OK. We’ll call you if we see anything.”

“You definitely will,” he said, “and we’ll send in the Midwest Defenders. The word is that the mission is being run directly by one of the Nine. Let us handle it.”

17 thoughts on “Taking Control: Part 5”

  1. What? Normal people using advanced technology while reverse engineering technology from an invading alien species? Sounds preposterous.

    *Jumps, turning around to blast at something wildly with a Sonic Blasta Rifle*
    Ah! Tentaculats! Die you bloated, brain-beaked bastards! Someone get me X-Com on the line. We’re going to need more red shirts.

  2. So they got the needed support for government regulation of access to powers by giving the elite preferential treatment.

    Seriously? This is about as far from how democracy is supposed to work as you can get without internment camps. Basically any responsible citizen who wants to live in a free nation should be making power juice in their basement.

  3. Very nice chapter, thank you.

    Isaac is very cool under pressure, not that Id expect different from someone who answers their phone during an alien invasion. Still, it would be funny if he wasn’t actually in a dangerous situation. Like, his entire department is playing a really realistic game of paintball….

    “Let us handle it.”
    All of a sudden the screen goes red and Nick hears a muffled thump before the screen goes blank.
    He rushes to his van and using triangulation homes in of Isaac’s last known position. He send a red to the whole team and they bust into a large government building… only to be peppered with paint-balls… by Isaac…
    “Yeah! That’s how the SAB gets it done!…Shock and Awe! Shock and Awe!”

  4. ” – – Just curious. I haven’t see him since then. – – ”

    “Seen him since then,” I think you meant.

  5. This being the U.S., you could try to start a long and protracted legal battle claiming second amendment rights to power juice. That would become prime material for presidential candidate official policy, but I doubt whoever gets elected would actually push for legalization on these terms, due to the reasons explained by Isaac.

    I’m guessing Nick could get their MED (Power Impregnator?) working for her powers pretty quickly, though getting a reasonable explanation as of where they got the equipment would take a lot longer; both for Courtney (without revealing secret IDs) an for Isaac (“No, sir, we don’t know nuthin’ about them new-fangled Power Impregnatators”).

  6. All I can think of besides yes M.E.D. is a better name than Power Impregnator, sorry Jim.

    Is I wonder if anyone told the government about the booby trap Lee’s people built into the design of the machine, and if they did does anyone think they “fixed” the design?

    Plus I bet groups like the Nine & Syndicate L probably don’t even care of the people they run through the machines go nuts, they might even prefer that in some cases. Things are going to get bad soon, very bad, Thanks Jim I’m looking forward to seeing what happens.

  7. IIRC the guvmint was aware of the devices origins and its flaws. If they fixed them sufficiently remains to be seen.

  8. Personally I think the device only magnifies what was already there. And Red Lightning was already bonkers before he used it so….

  9. I like ‘power impregnator’. It had character. MED is such a typical government name, bland and boring.

  10. I’m waiting for a military nickname to stick to it. I keep thinking of the ‘little doctor’ from Ender’s Game. Molecular Disruption Device, MD Device, Doctor Device, Little Doctor.

    So, MED. Med School. Graduate school. The Graduator. And getting put through it is Graduation. Welcome to the real world, boys and girls, you’re real super heroes now!

  11. Jeff/Bill: Thanks for noticing the typos, and bringing them to my attention.

    PG: Wait, other people have done that in stories? Oh no! But more seriously, I’ve never played any of the X-com games.

    Mazzon/Luke: My general observation is that the US (and probably other countries too) is capable of doing the right thing and the wrong thing simultaneously. (ADDENDUM: And as Luke mentioned, fighting Nazis in Europe while having Japanese internment camps here is a great example of that).

    Fortunately no elites have an unfair amount of access to our actual government (heh).

    Saru: You just hope Isaac wouldn’t get zapped by lightning before everyone understood what was going on…

    Amaral: The side effects (in terms of one’s relationship with the government) of making a power impregnator available for “unofficial” use could get very interesting.

    DWwolf: How well they’ve dealt with the side effects of the power impregnator remains to be seen.

    Piccolo/Bill/Luke: For better or worse, the names definitely sound like they’re supposed to. “Power Impregnator” was always supposed to evoke the sound of some of those things in older comics that sound a little off to the modern ear, and then the craziness would be compounded by putting it in big, bold letters (and possibly adding a “MWA-HA-HA!” to the sentence).

    MED is supposed to sound like it came out of the same language deadening process that came up with MRE’s, “materiel inventory objective”, and “QUADCON”.

  12. It’s not that uncommon I guess. I had X-com on the brain as I’ve been playing Terror from the Deep lately. It’s difficult even before including the zombifying giant deformed floating brains with mouths and tentacles.

    Besides, you’re right, like the U.S. would ever have a system where a few wealthier, better connected people had more influence in things…reminds me of the advice my college career center gave me about how I could get any job I wanted with hard work, persistance, and by using the alumni network. Actually, they cut out the hard work and persistence part. Much more realistic like that.

    The name does fit that shorthanded way that they do things. Just eat an MRE on the APC armed with an anti-material rifle escorted by a UAV to the LZ to inspect the U2 and F22 that’ll be headed to the DMZ, ASAP. As Danny Devito said in the movie Renaissance Man “Can I buy a vowel?” Not that I have anything against MREs. Some of them are good and I kind of like the wierd chocolate dessert bar some included. Everybody around here enjoyed the tiny bottle of Tabasco sauce too. When you live in hurricaneland, you sometimes get to enjoy things like that.

    But let’s try this out with the old name:

    You’re too late heroes. I’ve had ample time to assemble my…*pulls the sheet off* power impregnator, mwahahahahahahahaha!!

    For those of you speaking spanish, allow me to translate… jajajajajajajajaja!

    For those of you speaking FF6, kekekekekekekekeke!

  13. Jim you are 100% correct. That was indeed exactly what I was thinking when I wrote that… like to the letter… spooky…

  14. “Lee, how much would you charge to update our MED design and remove the negative effects?”

    Oh, sorry, the government already asked that question, and paid for it.


    Also, I believe Isaac just hinted that Nick’s mom could use the MED device to improve her small abilities if she wanted.

  15. “didn’t like they idea” (the idea). Also saw Bill’s typo there. I’m not trying to be nitpicky, if anything it’s what drives me to stop and comment given the large archive.

    Regarding the name MED, it’s really hard to change that sort of thing once a “catchy” name is already out there, but good luck to Isaac. It’s also interesting how we’ve entered the story at a pivotal time, given how huge the program is getting, and who’s going into it (which I imagine is no coincidence, just kudos)… the politics is definitely a realistic touch. And the Nine is a nice lead into the next section too. I notice the Arcs seem to be getting shorter through this stretch, for whatever reason.

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