What She Asked For: Part 4

Despite my anxiety, I understood how the Nine had failed to find her. The girl in the picture resembled Cassie the way a picture might if, hypothetically speaking, they didn’t have any idea what Cassie looked like, and instead had to resort to gender-flipping an exact clone of her father in Photoshop.

Cassie could thank Dr. Mind, and splices of DNA from unknown (possibly alien) donors for not having a cleft chin, for lighter blond hair than her dad, and other small details that made her not quite the same.

Of course, we were all still wondering what else he’d hidden inside her.

Courtney glanced at me out of the corner of her eyes as I said, “No. Never seen her in my life.”

“Me neither,” she said. “Hey, thanks. I’ll call you.”

She gave him a smile, and we walked out.

It was a nice night for walking. September in Grand Lake still felt like summer, or at least it could. Tonight was one of those nights where you couldn’t tell the difference. I felt warm air, and a little bit of a cool breeze.

The moon and stars shone through the trees.

Once we got a few houses away, Courtney checked behind us, and turned to me. “Was that Cassie?”

Then it was my turn to check behind us. Courtney had been right. We were alone.

“It looked a lot like her, but not quite.”

I tried to keep my tone casual. Maybe she would buy it.

“You’re right, but you have to admit it’s close. It could have been a picture of her sister… Wait, does she have a sister?”


I fought back an urge to pull out my League communicator, and check people’s positions. Haley, or Travis could easily still be watching the house, and who knew where the others were.

It all depended on “Davis” and whether that house was his base of operations, or whether he’d just borrowed the kitchen for the meeting.

For now, my job was to get Courtney away from the place before anything happened.

She took a breath. “Nick, I think we should tell Cassie. I don’t know who he represents, but I’m betting it’s one of the big organizations—Syndicate L, the Mafia, or if she’s really unlucky, one of the powered organizations like the Nine, or the Dominators.”

I nodded, and we crossed a street, and turned right. We weren’t more than half a mile from campus by then. Given that most of the houses around here were rented by students, you could argue we were there already—just not officially.

“I’ll tell her, but it’s not going to do her much good.”

Courtney furrowed her brow. “Why?”

“Well, if you’re going through with it, you can’t set the police on them. If you’re not going through with it, you still probably can’t, not without risking revenge.”

Speaking quietly, she said, “I’m not going to do it.”


“Well, you heard him. I’d pay, but afterward I’d be in hock for any favor they’d want for the rest of my life. I’m not that desperate.”

“Yeah. That didn’t sound good to me either. Not that I have the option, but if I did, it wouldn’t have sounded good.”

We walked without saying anything for a little while then, our footsteps audible in the darkness.

We were going to have to tell Courtney something soon, but I wasn’t going to tell her I was the Rocket without Daniel vetting her first. I’d been that cautious about telling Chris last spring and I knew him better than I did Courtney.

What a pain that Daniel went to school in Chicago.

Oh well.

Noting something about Courtney that had been nagging at me, I decided to try to clear it up without telepathy.

“What’s with the over-sized sweatshirts? You’ve been wearing them a lot lately.”

She’d worn her Grand Lake University hoodie.

Giving a short laugh that sounded a little uncomfortable to my ears, she said, “I’ve been feeling like I get a little too much attention, so I’ve been dressing down for classes, and not wearing makeup all the time.”

“Oh.” I could see how that might happen.

She bit her lip. “There’s also another reason. You remember why Keith and I broke up?”

I did. She didn’t want to use her powers as a superhero. He did.

“If I changed my mind,” she said, “I could hide a lot under a sweatshirt, so I thought I’d let people get used to seeing me that way.”

I rolled that around in my head, not sure what direction I should go with questions—if any.

I didn’t get to ask anything though, because then my phone beeped. I pulled it out of my pocket, and checked who’d called.

It was Haley.

13 thoughts on “What She Asked For: Part 4”

  1. I was going to add in my own version of Haley yelling at Nick for cheating on her with Courtney, but I decided to go elsewhere with this.

    Jim, I notice that first person past tense seems to be a common. Were, was, said, -ed. Whenever I’ve written, it’s sounded off as far as doing the story, but correct as far as most I’ve ever written.

    “I nodded, and we crossed a street, and turned right. We weren’t more than half a mile from campus by then. Given that most of the houses around here were rented by students, you could argue we were there already—just not officially.

    instead of

    “I nod, and we cross a street, and turn right. We aren’t more than half a mile from campus now. Given that most of the houses around here are rented by students, you could argue we are there already-just not officially.”

    Just seems off when I think about it, even if it’s common. Is that just one of those English/Literature/Writing techniques passed on in secret only to those formally educated in such matters?

    If so, I must prepare some book-related weaponry for my infiltration…yes…the Tolstoy Launcher should do nicely. Silent, but deadly blunt-force trauma…I’ll hunt them down like a Russian army officer going after the guy who tried to seduce my young, naive fiance and then transfers to a different army post one step ahead of me…

  2. Ok, what have I done? The story text is REALLY tiny and the comment text is REALLY huge!

    I also have no idea what PG is babbling about.

  3. PG: Point of view and tense are pretty crazy. Each one provides a different tone to what you’re writing. I don’t know to what degree it’s covered in most writing classes, but in the fiction writing classes I took, it was always covered somewhere. Most books on how to write cover it too.

    The key thing I learned is that first and third person, past tense are the easiest ones to write.

    As soon as you write in present tense, you alienate people who dislike reading present tense unless you’re so good no one notices (see further Zephyr in the sidebar). Maybe someday I’ll have the nerve to try something harder, but since most fiction seems to be in first or third person, past tense, there’s not much of a motivation.

    And anyway, who really wants to read a story in second person, future tense? “You will walk down a street. You will feel the wind. You will hear the sound of cars. You will order a pizza. You will wonder what DRUGS the person writing this is ON.”

    SilasCova: I dunno. That’s weird.

    Jeff Pegues: Thanks. Every time I finish writing this, I find myself thinking that I wish I’d gotten just a little bit further. I find many scenes take more words to handle than I’d expected.

  4. Ah ok, thanks for clearing that up. Chances are my work isn’t some of that then. All I ever took as far as creative writing was a beginner short story course and we just had to write in first and third person. It was fun, but no stories that “broke the laws of physics” allowed. I wish now I went back and used current bleeding edge tech to mess with them, like the attempts at invisibility, exoskeletons, and something like that one baby born with like pure muscle instead of fat, or that one beetle that’s shell is so strong you need a drill to get through.

    Also, as far as weird POV and tense, might I introduce you to SCP-426, I am a Toaster?

    “Description: Hello, I am SCP-426. I must be introduced this way in order to prevent ambiguity. I am an ordinary toaster, able to toast bread when supplied with electricity. However, when any human being mentions me, they inadvertently refer to me in the first person. Despite all attempts, there is yet to be a way to speak or write about me in the third person. When in my continuous presence for over two months, individuals begin to identify themselves as a toaster. Unless forcibly restrained, these people will ultimately harm themselves in their attempts to emulate my standard functions.”

    Oh, and read the rest to see how SCP Foundation can even make toasters creepy.

  5. o and awesome chapter as usual. i think that Courtney might have some sort of super intuition since she referred to the nine. She is a super fan girl who knows a bit more than is good for her.

  6. Captain Mystic: That or Courtney’s just got a good mental list of all the probable options in her head.

    Psycho Gecko: It’s interesting that the prof didn’t allow science fiction/fantasy. I’ve run across writing profs like that. In some cases, they simply don’t like genre fiction. In others, they (more reasonably) think that it’s hard enough getting character, plot, grammar and the basics of writing going without adding the difficulty of learning how to do world-building at the same time.

    I had a prof who asked us to avoid that, but I couldn’t quite make myself do it. In the end I wrote a story that made use of time travel and local history. Oddly enough, the prof liked it more than the more normal fiction I’d written earlier in the class.

  7. It was probably more a case of the world building.

    They still thought mine had some fantastic elements in it in one story, which is the same one they failed to figure out how so many references to O. Henry in it. One guy outright said that something being called Magi didn’t matter, despite the Professor trying to hint that it did. It didn’t help that some other people have used that name for towns and such and that so many of his other stories aren’t as well known. Those con artist stories of him are great, and The Man Higher Up was what mine was based on, but I didn’t just lift the plot from it. Even had an apperance from a rather famous criminal at the time, a Mr. Bernie Mad- *The tv showing the news gets turned off*

  8. That’s funny… I haven’t read much O. Henry beyond his more famous stories, but it is amusing to imagine people in a writing class utterly failing to catch literature references.

    On a related note, take a look at Jim Butcher’s blog (author of the Dresden Files) for some really wonderful writing tips. It hasn’t been updated much lately, but it’s very practical.


  9. Thanks. I’ll give it a look sometime, maybe when I finish my in depth look at the Epping AquaTarkus.

    To be fair, it was an introductory class and didn’t require any other English courses to get into. I took it for fun. I know, I was “that guy” who picked courses based on cool things he liked. To be fair to me as well, my major wasn’t even set in stone until early 2008. Hindsight, eh?

    O. Henry is a good read for picking up style, fancy words, ideas for conning people, and lessons on how to do a short story. In particular, I would recommend any of his stories that feature the con artists, though I have a soft spot for The Man Higher Up due to its discussion of how social class relates to stealing people’s money and because of the familiar sentiments about Wall Street.

    O. Henry also sounds vaguely like some of us when he wrote, as said by one of the con men: “‘Let me go alone,’ says I. ‘Two of us against one farmer would look as one-sided as Roosevelt using both hands to kill a grizzly.’

    Others featuring one or both of the team of Jeff Peters and Alex Tucker, the con artists, are:

    The Exact Science of Matrimony
    Jeff Peters as a Personal Magnet
    The Octopus Marooned
    Modern Rural Sports
    The Chair of Philanthromathematics
    The Hand that Riles the World
    A Midsummer Masquerade
    Shearing the Wolf
    Innocents of Broadway
    Conscience in Art
    The Ethics of Pig

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