Picking Up Pieces: Part 10

Daniel had taught me how to telepathically get his attention so long ago I didn’t even remember when.

As we walked down the stairway, I gave him a mental poke. Hey, what did you learn from Courtney? How’s she handling it?

I felt a mental pause, and concentrated on the next step as Daniel answered my question. Chances are he was checking what was behind it.

Our footsteps tapped on the brown linoleum, and a few steps later, he replied. She’s scared. She’s wondering what she’s gotten into, and she’s wondering how we’re so calm about it.

I took a few more steps, thinking about that.

Walking down the stairs next to me, Haley looked up at me, and then over at Daniel.

I wondered what had given us away.

Calm? I didn’t feel calm. Every time I thought about the dome, I wondered how many people died, and if we could have stopped the bomb.

She’s got no idea.

Hey, I know. I’m just telling you what she’s thinking. If you’re really asking whether I think she’s stable, and if I think she’ll flip out if you run her through the power impregnator, she’s stable. I don’t sense any reason she’d do a Red Lightning.

Is there any reason to think you’d miss that?

Daniel frowned.

Well, she’d have to have a really good shield, and by good I’m meaning one so well hidden I can’t detect it. That would have to be really good though. The other possibility would be if she kept part of her brain in a machine. I’m not saying it’s likely, but the Dominators could arrange both of those, plus a few.

There were a whole lot of reasons I never wanted to come to the Dominators’ attention.

We reached the bottom of the stairwell, standing in front of glass doors in a grey metal frame.

Don’t worry about it, Nick. I’d put the chance of that as near zero. My dad’s faced the Dominators. I didn’t see any signs, and believe me, I checked. It’s just safer.

We walked out the doors, feeling the cool fall air. October would turn into November soon, and it already felt like it. I was already regretting not wearing a thicker jacket.

I pulled my phone out of my pocket and checked the time—5:41am. I decided not to think about it.

I put the phone back in my pocket. It still felt closer to the dead of night than only an hour away from getting up.

With no sign of the sun, it felt like we were the only people awake in the world.

Haley took my hand. “Are you two done talking?”

“I guess.”

She didn’t say anything, looking up at me as if she were still waiting for an answer.

“And we should probably tell you about it, but not until we get in the car.”

The car wasn’t far away, practically as close as you could get to the building while still being on the street. It was amazing the spot had been open. A long line of cars ran down the side of the road.

As we neared the car, I noticed the fire hydrant next to the back door. How had I missed that?

Daniel said, “Don’t forget to check the windshield, especially the left side windshield wiper.”

We got closer, and I did.

Campus security had given me a ticket.

* * *

On Saturday, I got a call from Cassie to come over to her house. Not having a car, I called Haley. She picked me up from the dorm around 10 in the morning. She’d borrowed her mom’s car.

Haley’s nose wrinkled as she made a face. “Do you know why Cassie said to come over?”

“No. She’s barely gone home since college started. Her mom’s been complaining about it.”

We turned the corner, starting down Cassie’s block. She lived in the suburbs, a neighborhood that could have been anywhere—big, newish houses. Cassie’s house was a big, two story white house that stood next to a big, two story tan house.

It stood out from the others only because of the semi-truck in front.

Men carried boxes out of the house, and up the ramp into the back of the truck.

Cassie stood on the front lawn, watching, and talking to Vaughn.

Haley parked the car, and we got out.

“No fire hydrants,” she said as we walked across the street. She gave me a sidelong glance.

I sighed, stepping over a small pile of brown leaves by the curb.

As we joined Cassie and Vaughn, I said, “Your mom’s moving?”

Cassie shook her head. “We’re both moving.”

“What about college?”

Cassie opened her mouth, taking a breath, and then saying, “I think I’ll be able to finish the semester by following my classes on video. Even if I can’t, it’ll work out.”

None of us said anything, knowing who would work it out—Cassie’s mom’s connections in government or the Stapledon program.

Assuming Cassie would still be in the program.

In a quick movement, Cassie turned toward the house. “We should talk about it inside.”

We walked in.

The whole place looked empty—no furniture or pictures—just rooms with carpeted floor. The boxes we’d seen movers carrying must have been the last ones.

A few movers stood in the corner of the living room talking.

One man leaned against the wall. His Carhartt jacket hung open, revealing a gun hung in a shoulder holster. He noticed me looking, and nodded.

I wondered who they worked for.

22 thoughts on “Picking Up Pieces: Part 10”

  1. Well that stinks…join in on secret government intelligence work, get clearance, be able to go undercover in the field. Higher ranking former wife of a superhero notices you, says you look fit, asks you to come over because she’d like to see just how far you can move her bed. Next thing you know, you’re a mover loading furniture up because her cover’s blown.

    It’s either that or call out some real movers and get them clearance, so it looks like operation Put Your Back Into It is underway.

  2. semester be following my classes on video.  Should be: “semester by following my classes on video.”

    I guess witJ Cassie home, there is an opening for a new female powerhouse. Enter Izzy stage left

  3. [quote]We walked out the doors, feeling the cool fall air. October would turn into November soon, and it already felt like it. I was already regretting not wearing a thicker jacket.

    I pulled my phone out of my pocket and checked the time—5:41am. I decided not to think about it.

    I put the phone back in my pocket. It still felt closer to the dead of night than only an hour away from getting up.

    With no sign of the sun, it felt like we were the only people awake in the world.[/quote]

    I loved this description. My first job had nights that required someone to work straight through till about that time and it really was like that especially in the fall.

    The only thing missing is the watching of sunrise as it comes and washes the illusion away. Nice touch of real.
    J.L. Dobias

  4. Jim, you said on a podcast a while ago that if you could back and do things over again you would have done this with fewer characters. Accelerando (she is going to college somewhere else right?), the Mystic, and Captain Commando have all moved away at this point- is this your way of paring the cast down without killing anyone? The roster’s starting to look pretty thin and the Rocket is the only really durable person left in Grand Lake itself.

  5. leinadrengaw/PG: I’m not intending (consciously) to par down the Heroes League. One thing am doing consciously is to include things that feel like college to me. For example, it seemed like my friends ended up in a wide variety of colleges, and since some of them were in high school while I was in college, it was a slow but constant process whereby people temporarily or permanently disappeared (and reappeared).

    Plus, though I have friends that I’ve known since elementary school, I saw practically none of them on a day to day basis in college. That said, I still saw old friends–just not as often.

    I’m not saying it’ll be exactly like that, but I don’t see any reason not to draw on it.

    On Cassie leaving: She’s not exactly going to disappear.

    J.L.Dobias: Thanks. I’ve spent enough time awake in the middle of the night and early morning that that suggested itself.

  6. FYI: Conspiracy Theory Number One: Courtney is still a spy. Her mind shield was set up by a mentalist with greater powers than Daniel. That is why he can not detect it. We already know that both his father and grandfather are far greater mentalists than he his. I am sure that an organization like the Nine has someone on its payroll.

    Conspiracy Theory Number Two: The real reason that Cassie is leaving is to go into “old school” hiding. I mean really “old school” as in when an unmarried girl had a little something in the oven, her parents shipped her away to a relative to avoid family shame in their hometown. It is obvious. The Rook and the Nine were unable to make an acceptable “Cassie Clone” (hence the gooey half made clone thingies in the large vials). As such, the Nine decided to make a “Cassie Copy” the best way they knew how…. Boom-Chicka-Bow-Wow.

  7. Evil Twin:
    RE; Conspiracy Theory #2
    I’m not sure I’d want to be the guy who tried to get busy with Cassie, even if she were restrained! Super strength vaginal muscles could be rather…emasculating. If you catch my drift.

  8. Sounds like a job for our old friend the Grey Giant, or someone else with rock hard everything. Seriously, though, these guys have some serious tech, I’m sure that they could manage IVF.

    Why doesn’t she abort?
    A) The fetus has immortality powers too.
    B) Captain Commando is far too ‘traditional values’ for that sort of thing.

  9. Oh great, let’s hope we don’t wind up with an abortion debate in here now.

    I’m Anti-Choice. I think everyone should be forced to have abortions for religious reasons. It’s the only guaranteed way to stop the antichrist.

  10. Jim, do you appreciate having small errors in your writing pointed out so you can fix them? Or is it aggravating? Because I’m the sort of person to point out things like that by default, but I can hold off if you’d rather not deal with them.

    “I think I’ll be able to finish the semester *be* following my classes on video.”

    1. I’m fine with people noting errors and typos. I do get intimidated when I find 20+ in my inbox, but that’s not what happened here (and even then I get to it eventually).


      You know what surprised me though? With as many as people have found, there were still more to find when the first novel was being prepared for publishing.

  11. @zombie phoenix
    Nice catch I missed that one myself.

    If Jim is like I am he is probably doing something like this.

    “Awesome! Free editing services. keep it coming.”

    1. His editor probably hates commetators now. “Darn internet people, I need the hours. Jim, you have to write the next one drunk.” You DO know it’s online and already written, right? “A troll! A troll on both you houses!”

  12. Who’s to say that he didn’t write it drunk, though?
    Some of the things that he comes up with, writing drunk could explain a lot of things.

  13. I know you’re both joking, but for the record…

    PG: 1889 Labs (my publisher) is a small, small press… As in part time labor of love kind of thing. Anna (my editor) is probably relieved. Terra (the person who did the copy editing) is probably also relieved. Anna works full time doing financial publishing. Terra’s a scientist of some kind (as well as the author of The Antithesis).

    Unwise Owl: I drink max one beer per post (when I drink something alcoholic at all while writing). Otherwise I typically drink tea or hot chocolate.

    For what it’s worth though, the poet A.E. Houseman believed it helpful to drInk a beer, and take a walk before writing. I’m just skipping the walk.

  14. From experience:

    It does not matter how many eyes look at the work prior to sending it to an editor. Anyone who thinks that there are no errors is insane.
    Even editors who publish have other editors look at their work.

    All that said : even after all that ;that doesn’t mean that all the spelling errors have been caught. It just means that you your publisher and your editor all care about what the reader sees as a final piece of work. Those people are not going to be out of work until people stop publishing.

  15. Heh, I just thought of something.. It’s funny to me that Nick doesn’t have insomnia, or that he at least hasn’t developed it. It just seems that a lot of the more introverted types who spend a lot of time obsessing over their particular field/curiosity (cough, like me, cough) tend to be insomniacs–plus, they’ve been heroes for what, a year now? And a lot of sporadic late nights surely has thrown off his sleep schedule somewhere.

    BLAST. I forgot again about the whole “waiting until I’ve caught up to comment” plan..

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