Ready or Not: Part 2

I clicked for more information, and realized that it wasn’t Cassie’s new communicator sending the signal. It was her old one.

The old League had alert signals that allowed them to show status using green, yellow, and red like ours did, but didn’t allow them to send sound or pictures—just location.

They’d been great at what they could do, but I’d replaced them last spring.

Some people had turned the old ones in, but not everybody. I didn’t have a problem with that. The original League had trained a lot of supers, and most of them had kept their devices as mementos.

On the off chance that someone else might have picked up an old device from the original Captain Commando, I checked the device’s broadcast ID.

It matched up to the one I’d given Cassie.

And that meant, that in all likelihood Cassie had kept her old device, and when Rook’s people had taken or destroyed her new one, she’d signaled us with the old one.

Or, she’d kept the old one, and they’d taken it too and were using it to throw us off or trap us.

By the time I realized I’d been ignoring Daniel, the signal ended. It had lasted less than thirty seconds.

“Nick?” Daniel looked concerned. “What just happened?”

“I don’t know. Cassie’s old tracking device just sent us her location. That or someone’s trying to trick us into believing she just used it.”

“What do you think?” He asked.

“The way Grandpa did the encryption, I’ve got a hard time believing anyone could imitate it. At the same time, they could probably activate the alert if they got a hold of it.”

Izzy leaned into the picture, moving next to Daniel on the bed. For the record, both of them had clothes on. We hadn’t interrupted them in the middle of having sex or something.

I felt grateful for that.

From behind her screen, Haley caught my eye. She probably wanted to know who Izzy was. She’d been on vacation when I’d met her last summer, and Haley wasn’t yet old enough for The Stapledon program.

I thought about trying to tell her, and then wondered if the Stapledon program’s version of the block would let me.


“Hey,” I told Daniel, “if we’re going to check it out, I think we’ve got to go now. If it was Cassie, and she deliberately gave us a short burst like that, there’s a pretty good chance that Rook noticed it too. They’ll probably take it and move her. The crazy thing is that if she’s there, we’ll need everybody, but we don’t have time to pick people up.”

Daniel nodded, “Where is she?”

“Way up north. The signal came from near Hudson Bay in Canada.”

Izzy drew her lips together nervously, and then said, “I can get him to Grand Lake before you take off.”

“Great,” I said, remembering when she’d carried me. I’d have to ask Daniel what was up when they got here.

Not that it would be bad if they were dating or something. She’d tower over most other people I knew.

Daniel gave a brief smile, but then looked a little more serious. “Oh, Nick? You might have a little trouble leaving when you want.”


“You’re about to get interrupted a few times.”

I barely had any time to think about that when the screen began to beep. Meanwhile the words “Guardian, Midwest Defenders,” appeared near the bottom of the screen.

“Crap. I should go.”

“Sorry,” Daniel said.

I took Guardian’s call, wishing that Daniel could see further ahead. If we’d stopped talking earlier, I might have missed this call entirely.

Guardian stood in full costume—a silvery substance that covered him from top to bottom. Between his muscles and his height, he looked as impressive as his reputation, which was also huge.

I tried to think of an appropriate greeting for one of the better known heroes in the world.

I went with, “Hi.”

“Rocket,” he said, and held up his right hand. The silvery costume parted enough to make a ring visible. An inset “gem” glowed red. “My League alert ring just turned red. Who’s in trouble?”

“Captain Commando just got taken by Rook. We’re pretty sure he was working for or part of the Nine.”

I didn’t expect to surprise him with that, but he didn’t say anything at first.

He recovered, though.

“How did that happen? You weren’t fighting the Nine’s people, were you? You were supposed to leave that to us.”

It was my turn to stumble.

“I… We… didn’t know it was the Nine. We were going to check it out, but then the situation kind of got out of hand.”

He took a breath, and then let it out.

“I don’t think you know what this means,” he said. “Now that they’ve got her, they’re in possession of secrets that could change the balance of power between them and us, and I don’t have time to handle it because I’m in the middle of something equally critical.”

I hadn’t noticed it before, but he wasn’t standing. He was flying, and other people in costumes flew near him.

“That’s okay,” I said. “We know where she is, and we’re going after her.”

His eyes widened. “No. Absolutely not.”

25 thoughts on “Ready or Not: Part 2”

  1. score ! And in more ways than one a predictable response by Guardian. Izzy would be a great ace up the sleeve for Nick and co. though. Not known to be involved with the league, relatively unknown but powerfull.

  2. Darn Guardian didn’t let me know they were having a luau either, Nick. You and me, let’s wreck their night.

    I’ll call out for pizza, you get someone to get us a few cookie cakes, and see if you can pull up some horror movies for the tv screen.

    Don’t worry, they probably want Cassie alive. I mean, not like there’s a way to lobotomize her and leave her whole, is there?

    Crap, there goes pizza night.

  3. Izzy is going to be a big ace in the hole. Other than the fact that she is pretty much superman (woman). She is a complete unknown, Only making a brief appearance last summer. And if the 9 even know of her, they would think she is a villain.
    The 9 may have the upper hand when it comes to man power and experience but they will most likely underestimate the league, add Izzy in there it could tip things in there favor.
    Loving this twist. Really interested in what her new name will be.

  4. This is the part Nick actually tells off Guardian. It can be a trap, it might even be pure suicide, but you don’t leave a friend/teamate behind. Start doing that and you might as well retire or go villian, because you left your honor behind too.

  5. Ok, if the Legion can not go to the rescue and the big guys are busy? Who will go?
    Retorical question, the legion will go, but the guardian should be thinking about helping and not forbiding.

  6. First of all who is this everybody that Nick is talking about? With the exception if Nick, Haley, Daniel and Jacklyn, everybody else is out of action. I don’t remember where Jacklyn is, but I don’t think it was nearby. The former members of justice fist were all younger, and even greener than the heros league. Chris has never committed to the group, and Kayla(?) handles HQ duties. It would be nice to see uncle Larry AKA the rhino again. I thought he was an interesting character. Apparently a lot more interesting than Rachael who I completely forgot about until I was just about to post. Of course she is also away at school somewhere, so I don’t know if my forgetting matters. I did not forget about Lee, I just don’t see this as something he would involve himself in.

    So Nick gather’s together on really short notice whoever is avalable and goes to check out the signal which could be one of four things.
    1) A trap set by rook and his men.
    2) A call for help from Cassie that Rook is aware of so it might as well be a trap.
    3) A call for help from Cassie that Rook is not aware of. This is the best case scinario.
    4) A call for help from Rook because he let Cassie too close to some Abominator tech that the Nine had sitting around and Cassie has decided to let loose on him.

  7. Christopher, I never thought I’d get a chance to use a clip of this. It was a great movie, and I love Gary Oldman in it, so I am extremely happy to finally use this as a reply to your answer.

    Still, it’s a question of duty. Some things you have to do because to not do them is to go against who you are and what you need to do. It may be tough. It may be nigh impossible. It may involve walking in the dark through a barn in the middle of a rural area that looks like it’s perfect for a zombie movie after watching a marathon of Slenderman videos. But no matter what, it has to be done.

  8. nick should hook up his laser lightshow on a pivoting mount on his shoulder coupled with autotracking software. on the other shoulder he should mount a real laser.

  9. “We hadn’t interrupted the in the middle of having sex or something.”

    Missing “m”

    “I’d have to ask Daniel what was up when she got here.”

    She works, but don’t you mean he?

  10. Are you looking for a full 360 firing arc or just a 45 degree forward zone of fire? A couple of possible problems. Your firing arc is limited by the head even if using a pivot mounted system. Another is if I see an armored guy with exposed weaponry I’m going to take it out first. That’s one thing I never liked with the War Machine configuration. I was thinking integrating the laser into the back of one or both forearms with a safety that they can’t be fired with the hand flexed backwards. They could still be auto aiming once a target is designated with the suit servos adjusting the arm. Something I can’t remember is if the suit uses purely mechanical controls or if it reads brainwaves like later models of the Iron Man armor. This is important because you want to prevent the suit overriding the intentions of the wearer.

  11. Andrul: Just for the record, it’s mechanical/electronic (with redundancies). I haven’t made a big deal out of it, but you’ll note that a lot of things are started by Nick touching his palm. There’s actually an additional interface allowing him to control things by touching different spots on his mouth guard with his tongue. That’s a somewhat simplified interface though. Plus it makes it hard to talk.

    Jaunt: Thanks for noting the typo.

  12. dwwolf: if we add the laser light show to the guitar, won’t Nick have to change his name from “The Rocket” to “The Rock Show” or something entertainment related? 😉

  13. Auto-targetting shoulder mounted weaponry is a good thing. Sometimes you need to shoot the guys behind you without dropping the thing that you’re holding, because it happens to be a car full of civilians, and you’re half a mile in the air.

    Also, if they’re blasting your shoulder mounts, that means they aren’t blowing your arm off at the elbow instead.

    It’s pretty much impossible to disable Iron Man’s weapons without coming dangerously close to killing the pilot. Some would call that a feature, some would call it a flaw. I’d say it depends on who you’re fighting, and whether capture is a fate worse than death, or if it’s just a chance to be rescued.

  14. On a tangential note, with villains like Rook running up a body count in the triple digits, throwing around military-grade hardware and breaking people like the Executioner out of prison wouldn’t rule of law break down or at least be affected at some point? Yet society doesn’t seem to be functioning any differently despite the possibility of city-wide attacks- is there some sort of warning or shelter system not mentioned earlier? Are most of the people killed those who go looking for fights? It seems like some villains can instantly turn a city into a warzone and there is no countermeasure in place for this.

  15. Mayhem isn’t the goal, it’s a means to an end. Unless you’re a true nut like the Joker, crime is just a way to make a quick buck. Higher body counts are going to attract more attention and opposition from stronger and stronger heroes. The Rook would likely be feeling the coast to coast beatdown were there not bigger (alien) fish to fry at the moment. And villains of the ‘crimelord’ variety tend to kill each other (or each other’s goons) more often than ‘innocents’.

    That’s how I suspend my disbelief, anyway.

  16. That and because there’s a lot of screwed up things happening in the world all the time anyway. Kid’s show puppeteers getting arrested for conspiracies to kill and eat kids, shootings at movie theaters, town hall meetings, seafood markets, a conspiracy to kill cops and then bomb the funerals, someone shooting at the White House, people eating other people’s faces off, high finance types stealing or losing billions, people burning down or blowing up medical clinics that adhere to policies they don’t like, judges wives taking money from political groups, mass joblessness, increased homelessness, increased mental illness in veterans, increased suicides in veterans, people increasing the likelihood of future disease outbreaks because they think the preventative method causes mental disorders, a prominent news corporation wiretapping people all over the place and winning a lawsuit saying it’s ok for them to lie or mislead on their news programs, the deaths of Kurt Vonnegut, George Carlin, Gore Vidal, Christopher Hitchens, Leslie Nielsen, a huge drought that is adversely affecting the world’s food, and the Ice Capades.

    Almost all of that just in the U.S., and yet we still march on.

  17. Also, for a shoulder-mounted weapon, you’ll want to take the head into account. You don’t want a weapon on your left shoulder so smart that it tries to fire on someone running by on your right.

    Maybe you should have a head-mounted weapon? The consequences of aiming for the weapon and the head are the same like that no matter what, plus it gives you a way to aim that is just sightly off your own sight. Could be mounted on the side, top, or even fitted in with whatever equipment allows him to scramble his voice. A Rocket that could fly, use a laser guitar, and fire a sonic blast from its mouth area would be a lot closer to a Rock It.

    There is also the hip area, if you don’t have a utility belt in the way. It’s not as flexible at aiming, but it could be useful for a good range in front of you. I was just thinking of BattleTech’s Atlas, but that’s a ponderous mech meant to fight head-on anyway. They also have an example of a mech with a head-mounted weapon in the Hauptmann. Created by this one German-descended nation that is known for its share of cocktail party generals (who you know is much more important than what you know in their officer corps.), the Hauptmann mech appears to be smoking a cigar that is actually a small laser. Sometimes a cigar is not a cigar. Given a good enough weapon and a sufficient range, pretty much any separate piece can be sniped off.

    BattleTech also provides plenty of examples of mechs that can also get their shoulder-weapons blasted off, like the Madcat/Timber Wolf and the Catapult. The Thor/Summoner and Loki/Hellbringer are also notable for their shoulder-mounted missiles, though they are secondary weapons when compared to the Madcat and Catapult. The Vulture/Mad Dog design uses long range missiles prominently, but has a way of integrating missile launchers so that they are the shoulders themselves.

    Almost all shoulder-mounted weapons in that universe are missiles, to cut down on all the swiveling and need to aim.

  18. Psycho, an interesting rundown of the battlemech universe. Man, I haven’t played that game in years! But the problem with a head mounted weapon kind of conflicts with what Luke mentioned. IE: shooting at the weapon would incidentally mean also shooting at his head. Probably not a desirable action. 😀

  19. Phizle: A worthwhile question. People are prepared to a degree for what happens when a supervillain comes to down.

    It comes down to a few things:
    1. First of all, Grand Lake isn’t representative of everywhere. Most people in most places don’t run into people with powers very often at all–much in the same way that you and I don’t run into celebrities. Granted, celebrities seldom blow up city blocks.

    2. For the most part, they don’t cause very much damage. Most supers can do cool things (shapeshifting, strength, project energy in some form), but your average powered person can’t destroy stuff like Rook can. Because the League is who they are, they tend to attract attention from the upper crust of people that suck.

    3. In many cases, the local heroes can handle the problem. Most of the time, a supervillain turns out to be someone that heroes or the police can take down. If the police can’t, they call in someone from the regional Defenders group, and they can usually handle it.

    4. Also, yes, kids (and adults) do drills and get public reminders of how to handle supervillain attacks. I haven’t shown that, but I did mention PSA’s early on in the story.

  20. Nah, the point of the head weapon works like this: If they’re trying to kill you, they’ll readily aim for the head anyway. If they’re trying to not kill you and keep you alive, then they’re less likely to fire on the weapon as it is right on your head, a killshot.

    I never played the original BattleTech game. I read the novels, but nothing chronologically past the FedCom civil war, and I played Mechwarrior 3 (anyone remember facing Psycho Gecko in multiplayer?) and Mechwarrior 4 and Mechwarrior 4: Mercenaries.

  21. Mechwarrior 2 ftw. Give me a Nova any day. 😉 i like a small fast mech; a loki was good fun, and the old Mickey Mouse Timberwolf. 🙂

  22. Is Nick about to learn how to be a field leader? Certainly seems to be moving in that direction, starting with the “Fuck You, we don’t abandon our team members.” to Guardian.

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