Rattling Cages: Part 7

After supper, I sat on my bed and started to read “The Ringworld Engineers.” I’d intended to read it earlier in the fall, but I’d been too busy to get much reading in. With Daniel generally busy on Friday nights and Haley scheduled to work, tonight looked like I had a good chance of getting somewhere in the book — provided I could concentrate on it.

“Nick, do you mind if I come in?” Rachel stepped through the doorway.

So much for reading.

“Go ahead.”

She pulled my chair out from my desk and sat down.

“I thought you’d be out with friends,” I said.

She shrugged. “I spent half the morning packing, drove for three hours, and then I unpacked. I’m done for the day. Besides, I don’t think anyone else is home yet. What are you doing here? You’re going out with Haley and you’re still home on Friday night?”

I put down my book.

“Haley’s working. Daniel’s busy. I figured I’d read.”

“I half expected to find that you’d snuck out of the house. I saw your face just before supper… The guy on TV. You know him.”

“I met him once. I can’t say I know him, but he grew up in the San Francisco Compound. I visited once with Grandpa. I didn’t play with Brian, but I got to know a few of his cousins. I saw him a couple times there and here once when his dad had Grandpa fix something.”

“Something?” Rachel said.

“Grandpa never let me look at it. I ended up playing hide and go seek with Brian’s younger brother Theo in the hangar.”

“With all the things you took apart, I’m not surprised. I don’t think you ever put anything back together again. Remember my music box?”


“You shouldn’t. I barely had it a week before you took it apart.”

“I remember you being mad about something I took apart when I was a kid.”

“Some things,” she said. “Note the plural. Grandpa managed to put the music box back together at least.”

“I don’t remember that at all.”

“Do you remember taking the back off the TV?”

“Dad got kind of angry about that.”

“You took it apart on Superbowl Sunday after unscrewing a couple cupboard doors. He didn’t get kind of angry. He freaked out.”

“Think Dad got any material out of that?”

“I doubt it. Normal kids don’t do things like that. Now your bedwetting, that he got a book out of.”

“I remember.”

He didn’t actually ever mention my name in the book, but that didn’t stop people from figuring it out. Annoying. Especially annoying when you considered that the whole point of the book was that I had stopped.

“So Brian’s a Compound kid,” Rachel said.

“Yeah. Perry’s not his real last name. I think it’s really Alexiou or something like that. I’m pretty sure he’s one of Helios’ grandchildren.”

“I was always jealous of them. The 1970’s were pretty crazy, but they had some good ideas. They threw secret identities to the wind and just decided to be themselves. They’re people. They have powers and they don’t have to hide.” Rachel pulled her legs onto the chair and hugged them to herself.

“Moot point,” I said. “There aren’t any powers to be had in this family. It might have been a good deal for everyone else.”

“So what did you think I was doing with Grandma while you were with Grandpa in the lab?”

“I don’t know. I never really thought about it.”

“Why didn’t you think about it?”

It was a good question. I am, and almost always have been, a fairly curious guy.

“The block?” I phrased it as a question, but it really wasn’t. “Wait. So you’ve got Grandma’s powers and you can walk through walls and stuff?”

She faded into invisibility, back to solidity, and followed it up by sticking her left hand through my desk’s top drawer and pulling out a pen. Then she dropped it on my desk. It bounced twice.

“Wow,” I said. “Why didn’t you ever say anything?”

She put her legs back on the floor. “I couldn’t when I was a kid, and by the time I could I didn’t have a reason to bring it up.”

“You couldn’t even say something to family?”

“They set my block so that I couldn’t even use my abilities without permission for years.”

“I’m sure they had a reason, but it does sound kind of harsh.”

“A reason? They did. They were worried I might float under the ground and become corporeal somewhere they couldn’t find me.”

17 thoughts on “Rattling Cages: Part 7”

  1. Man that block is something else, but question.
    It would seem by conventional standard that Nick does not have a power. But based on the background story on Nick and Rachel childhood. She has a power but so does Nick as well, albeit an understated one.
    The need to take a part things and see how they work like a mad scientist seems like a power to me. You know they are the ones that are gonna end up making that death ray and try to rule the world…”Soon I will be Invincible” 🙂 Luv that book…little convoluted but greata read.

  2. If you want to think of it as a power you can. I kind of do, but kind of don’t. A lot of my friends ended up doing science/engineering/computer programming for a living.

    In Nick, I take some traits I’ve seen in them (and to some degree myself) and exaggerate them. The kind of person who can come up (or improve) a working jetpack or powered armor on their lonesome without a team is going to have to be something of a genius anyway…

    Normal people can’t do that.

    So anyway, that’s not much of an answer, but it’s the one I’ve got for the moment.

    That being said, I read “Soon I Will Be Invincible” myself and liked it a lot shortly after I started writing this. I’m sure bits of it (as well as bits of Narbonic) surface in Nick occasionally.

  3. I’m with Curve on this. Ever since the Iron Man movie, I’m convinced that Nick’s superior engineering and scientific prowess is a bona fide superpower.

    I don’t see him as a mad scientist, however I think mad scientists have the same power but use it for evil.

    Like any superpower there are flaws to using it, like the fact that the all-consuming need to know how things work (i.e. Sylar from Heroes).

    Hey Jim, why don’t you have Nick get kidnapped and trapped in a basement; then have him make a rocket pack IN A CELLAR! WITH A BOX OF SCRAPS!

  4. No wonder you were talking about how superpowered genes are affected by gender and all that. And I LOVE the last sentence – I’d always wondered what’ll happen if Kitty Pryde fell through the ground and solidified at the Earth’s core …

  5. So maybe I should just ‘fess up then… I’ve pretty much always avoided saying something in the comments that isn’t said directly in the text, but I do imagine it as a kind of superpower. I’d just been intending to keep it ambiguous.

    But as long as people have figured it out…

    Eli: Imagine a seven year old with an ability like that. What kind of messes would they get into? Even closer to the surface you’ve got underground caves with possibly poisonous gases or even other people’s basements…

  6. “Imagine a seven year old with an ability like that. What kind of messes would they get into? Even closer to the surface you’ve got underground caves with possibly poisonous gases or even other people’s basements…”

    Yeah, except her Grandmother managed to survive — of course, if her powers were gained (and therefore her genes altered) as an adult, the point would be, as Nick said, moot.

  7. A good point — though personally I’ve noted that people (okay, maybe just me) tend to be more cautious about their kids or grandchildren than they were about themselves.

  8. Well, now that you’ve opened a can of worms (albeit, a trans-phasing intangible can)…

    If Rachel is the Executioner, her powers would certainly make her quite invincible.

  9. Hm… guess it just kind of answered my question. About Rachel I mean. Good way of putting that together, it really made me wonder- and then the answer was right here! 🙂

  10. I’m guessing
    You’ve going out with Haley and you’re
    should be
    You’re going out with Haley and yet you’re

    welle maybe, I’m not sure about the addition of “yet”

  11. Slight edit thing –
    “You’ve going out with Haley and you’re still home on Friday night?”

    Should be (change you’ve to you’re):
    “You’re going out with Haley and you’re still home on a Friday night?”

  12. Yeah, I saw the comment from 2014 and when I saw it was still off I figured I’d say something. Trying to read it all as like I said came here from Drew’s page you did the guest story on. Did you do one there (or somewhere else) in the past with Nick and Daniel testing powers in a supermart parking lot? I vaguely remember something like that in the past and the situation (one guy with tech and one with psi powers) seems to match with your characters.

  13. Great to hear! Also, was that in one of “The Good Fight” books or posted online? I know I’ve read those books too and now I wonder if I read it there.

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