Doom: Part 3

Once I was off the call with Rachel, I checked the time, and it was seven-fifty something, so I walked toward the lab.

I would have gone there from the beginning if I’d thought it through. I wasn’t quite finished with Cassie’s suit, but I was almost finished, so if I was in the lab when I talked to her, I’d be able to show it to her more easily.

This was great logic, but it didn’t account for one possibility—that Cassie might call a little early—which she did.

I heard the phone ringing from both directions—behind me at the main table, and ahead of me in the lab.

I broke into a run, crossing the old, olive green carpet, dodging forty years worth of the original League’s mementoes, trophies, and awards in their cases. As I did it, I remembered that I’d left my socks and shoes in front of a register in the main room.

Obviously, I wasn’t going back for them, but the lab didn’t have carpet at all.

Grandpa hadn’t seen the point when he knew he’d be spilling chemicals in there. The lab had a concrete floor that he’d coated with a ceramic, preventing spills from soaking into the concrete.

The practical upshot for me? My feet were going to be cold.

I did manage to make it into the lab before Cassie hung up though, and not because I ran quickly. She let it ring.

That gave me time to run into the room, touching my feet on the very, very cold floor, dodge the tables, the fabricators, a row of 3D printers, different versions of the Rocket suit, and the suit’s replacement parts.

I made it to the counter on one of the side walls, pulled myself up on a stool, and logged in. When I clicked on the mouse, allowing the computer to take the call, Cassie appeared on the screen, saying, “Nick, that took forever.

“You called early,” I said.

Continuing as if she hadn’t heard me, she said, “The only reason I didn’t hang up was because I could see on my phone that you were in HQ. I gave you something like, God, fifteen rings. Not that I was counting.”

“You caught me as I was walking from the main room into the lab.”

“Figures,” Cassie said.

She looked like she always had—nearly white blond hair, and pale skin with a reddish tinge. She wore a hoodie and jeans, as usual. Unlike when she’d lived in Grand Lake, this hoodie was black with blue letters saying “Georgetown Hoyas.”

Whatever a “hoya” was.

In the pixelated view of her phone’s camera, she sat on a bed—one with a big brass headboard. She was in an old house somewhere around Washington D.C. The question was which house. She and her mom moved frequently.

Above the headboard hung a poster for the band “Vincent Sucks.” I’d heard about them somewhere.

She leaned toward her phone. “So what have you got? It better be something good because otherwise I’m not getting out of the house except for school and Stapledon.”

I nodded. “I think you’ll like this.” Setting the camera to follow me around the room, I walked over to one of the tables. A shapeless pile of metallic bits covered most of it. She couldn’t see it, but an even bigger pile lay on the floor below. A line of shiny, metallic chunks connected the two piles.

“Okay, you know how the Rocket suit mostly hasn’t been metal since the early 60’s? It’s a kind of ceramic that my grandfather invented and then kept on reinventing and improving throughout his career?”

Cassie frowned a little. We were already heading into a more technical direction than she wanted.

“I think you mentioned it.”

“Okay, you remember the new grappling hooks aren’t really hooks? The lines stick to walls and stuff, but what’s more important is that you shoot the lines out, and reel them in, and they change back to a kind of goo while they’re inside the gun?”

Cassie’s eyes were beginning to glaze over. “Don’t tell me how it works, Nick.”

“I wasn’t going to. I was just going to explain how they’re different forms of the same—“

She shook her head, “No, no. Stop talking. Show me.”

I took a breath, “Okay, fine.”

I put my hands into the middle of the pile, and felt the armor form around my arms and legs. Seconds later, it had completely surrounded my head and body.

A few seconds after that, the helmet began scrolling messages down the screen

[Section 00000000001: connection made]
[Section 00000000002: connection made]
[Section 00000000003: connection made]
[Section 00000000004: connection made]

And so on—basically forever.

Cassie’s voice cut through the rustling as the sections rearranged themselves, the outer layers building on the inner.

“That kicks ass. I’m surprised it’s not the next version of the Rocket suit. You could put it in a briefcase or something.”

I shook my head. “Kind of, but no. See, I started with it, thinking I could fit a Rocket suit into a briefcase, but by the time I put everything I wanted in the suit, it was the size of a suitcase, and weighed more than I did. I couldn’t lift it.”

Cassie started laughing. She must have been holding her phone in her hand because it wobbled like crazy, showing her bed, her face, the ceiling…

When the picture became steady again, she said, “You are completely nuts. You know that, right?”

I didn’t have an answer for that—which was okay. She didn’t stop talking.

Leaning forward toward the screen, looking the suit up and down, she said, “Does it have to look like that?”

“No. We can change it to make the standard form pretty much however you like. It’s going to be more work for me if the shape’s not basically humanlike, but even there it shouldn’t be too bad. Plus, within limits it’ll fix itself provided you’ve got a spare supply of repair materials. Even better, we can make it look like a motorcycle or car or something for its other form.”

“So basically, you’re making me a transformer.”

“Kinda, yeah.”

26 thoughts on “Doom: Part 3”

  1. Something I ought to mention…

    For the last year and a half, my dad’s had terminal cancer. He was given 6 to 8 months to live initially, and has done better than expected. However, we’re now at the point that the doctors guess he’s got 2 to 4 weeks to live, and there’s good reason to believe they’re right.

    I pass this along because while I certainly intend to warn people if I have to skip an update, I might not get the chance to do that. If I don’t, that’s why.

  2. It’s ok, I think we all understand real life is more important. The story can wait. Enjoy the time you have with him and make some more good memories to look back on.

  3. Yeah, pretty darn understandable there.

    One thing to keep an eye on is your mom, afterward.

    In more story-oriented stuff, “See, I started with it, thinking I could fit a Rocket suit into a briefcase, but by the time I put everything I wanted the suit, it was the size of a suitcase, and weighed more than I did. I couldn’t lift it”

    Everything I wanted in the suit.

  4. I wish you and your family all the strength you need Jim.

    It might he heavy but if he puts it in the van it would allow him to have a full rocket suit that he has access to quickly. Instead of having to drive or fly back to HQ and take 10 min to cbange into the full suit. Im sure it would beat the stealth suit in a straight up fight.

  5. Having been through the same situation myself, you and your family will be in my thoughts and prayers. Let me know if there’s anything I can do.

  6. Thank you for the heads up. Will keep your whole family in my prayers.

    Hmmmm…. very interesting “living” suit? Guess we’ll find out later if it has to activate to only one set person’s touch or can anybody activate it. Right now it activates to Nick’s touch.

  7. Thanks for the support, everybody.

    Just so that you know, they’ve revised estimates of how long my dad has somewhat downward even since yesterday. They’re guessing that he may not survive the weekend. We will see what happens.

    What this means for Monday’s update, I don’t know. On the one hand, I may be too busy to write it. On the other, it may serve as a necessary mental break from everything else.

    Honestly, if I had to bet, I’d bet that it won’t happen, but I prefer to keep things open.

  8. Don’t think about Monday’s update right now. If you have to skip it, that’s fine with us. I know that’s the kind of situation where you want to be there and we aren’t going to stand in your way. You won’t regret the last days and hours with him.

    It’s a better way to spend your time and the rest of us will manage while you look after something more important.

  9. To reiterate PG, go spend time with him. If not for you and him, for your mom and other family members. I haven’t lost a parent, but I remember how much it meant to my Grandma that we drove 1/2 way across the country to see Grandpa just before he died.

  10. You don’t have to worry about that. My plans for tonight changed before noon today. We’ll be driving to my parents’ house (only 40 minutes away, fortunately). I don’t want to risk him dying before the weekend.

    What else we’ll be doing this weekend I’ve really no idea. I know what we were doing, but what will happen is very open.

  11. Ouch. I’m really sorry to hear that Jim.

    Looks to me like that suits gonna take too long to form/crosslink.

    Might go faster if it can “remember” how it was set for the last 1 or 2 forms though.

  12. Take the whole week, or the next couple, if you have to. Make sure everyone is taken care of.

    On the story front, and continuing the cliches from last update’s comments, it appears that our hero is getting cold feet.

    Also, the new suit had to be able to know what it’s touching to configure properly. I wonder what kind of contact access that gives to whatever is touched. For example, what if she got desperate enough to pick up the abominator gun?

  13. Just letting people know that my dad did die last night.

    My family was there on Friday and Saturday evenings. Not sure when the funeral will be. I’m betting Wednesday as that will allow family members more time to travel (my dad grew up in Colorado and we live in Michigan).

    So, that’s where things are.

    1. Very sorry for your loss; please accept my condolences. Hope you do ok…and thanks for keeping in touch.

  14. I wish you the best in these hard times, Jim. You’ll get through it, but it’s a painful assurance. Perhaps that’s what makes it all the worse is that a part of you dies with them but you go on. Good luck.

  15. For me at least, it helps that I’ve had a year and a half to get used to the idea. The other thing that “helps” is that it still hasn’t quite set in yet–that despite the fact that we helped my mom get Dad’s clothes out of their room yesterday.

    I was amazed at how many bags of clothes it took.

  16. Jim,

    My condolences, very sorry to hear about your dad. Losing my dad four years ago was one of the toughest times of my life. It’s a club no one wants to be a member of, but once you are a member, there is great understanding of what it means.

  17. Thanks Bill, and Mike.

    I miss him, but I’m also glad that death was relatively quick and comfortable for him. Plus, he was only bedridden for the last two days of life. During the last year and a half, he and my mom got to do a lot of things together including going to Hawaii and China.

  18. “Whatever a “hoya” was.”

    What? Is this the same Nick you’ve been writing about for years? Not geeky enough to google something that weird sounding, just to know what it is?

    I suppose it’s not an articulated joint design or a winding pattern for a three phase motor, but it *might* be something interesting.

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