Not Exactly Hogwarts: Part 3

I considered my next step. We were on an eight lane highway with no median between the northbound and southbound. The only thing between them was a four foot high concrete barrier. That was on the left.

When I looked to the right, I realized that the lane must be a little lower than the road running alongside it because the concrete sloped down to the highway.

We were the second lane in from the right on the southbound side. Thanks to the catmecha’s legs, we might be able to move over the front of the red Chevy Cavalier to my left. I wasn’t completely confident though, that it wouldn’t step on the car’s hood, denting it at best, pushing the engine through to the concrete at worst.

That was the nearest we got to the side of the road. To the immediate left we had semi-truck, and whatever happened to be in the lane past that.

So, I went with plan b.

The catmecha crouched, and leapt into the air.

“Whoa,” Vaughn said, “Why can’t we have this kind of view all the time?”

“In normal mode, it’s supposed to look like a normal van. I don’t want to blow our identities if I need to drive someone somewhere.”

The inside didn’t look like a normal van anymore. Roughly egg shaped, its smooth walls showed everything surrounding us. Clear as windows halfway up the cabin, the view lost color as it neared the floor. The floor wasn’t completely opaque, but showed the ground like a black and white television might have.

My original plan had been to be able to see everything completely clearly, but I realized that most people would want a better sense of where the floor and walls were.

Incidentally, the walls weren’t see through. I’d used a variation on the technique I’d used to make the paint change color instantly to turn the walls into live streaming, extremely local television screens.

Checking the rearview screen, I was relieved to note that the conversion hadn’t left anything behind.

We were already too far away to see the expression of the guy who’d been beeping at us, but judging from the expressions of the people I could see, his jaw had to be somewhere below the steering wheel.

Okay, that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but people were leaning toward the windows and staring. A lot of people were pulling out phones.

We’d probably be on Youtube before we even landed.

Now that we were in the air though, I checked the gravitics. They were all green—no problems. I didn’t feel fully comfortable with the technology yet (probably because it was at least fifty years ahead of when we’d naturally figure it out), but I felt comfortable enough. I’d given the catmecha the ability to float, and make much bigger jumps than it ought to be able to manage.

Then I turned on the directional rockets, and we shot forward. Since flight wasn’t the main point of having a mech, I hadn’t made an effort to create the most powerful rockets I could. The mech could actually run faster on its legs than it could fly.

I stayed in the air anyway. No matter how quickly the mech could move on the ground, flying over the entire traffic jam was much cooler.

Also, if the catmecha were running at three hundred miles per hour down the highway, and accidentally flipped a piece of concrete into the air, well, that could kill somebody.

All the same, we covered the distance quickly.

For the first little while, we all looked out the windows. In my case, it was more because I didn’t want to hit power lines or a bridge.

After a little while, Haley said, “It didn’t.”

“What?” I tried to figure out what she was talking about while deciding where to land. Below us, the cars had spread out again and were traveling at normal highway speeds.

“With Courtney.”

“Yeah,” I said, deciding to stay in the air a little longer. It wouldn’t hurt to travel further at a couple hundred miles per hour instead of seventy-five.

“Technically though, it wasn’t the van that gave it away then as much as that Courtney had enhanced her hearing, and I didn’t know.”

“That was such a mess,” Haley said, staring out the window at the highway.

“Tell me about it,” Cassie said. “You didn’t get kidnapped by some nut.”

Haley turned around. “Sorry. I’m sure that was worse. It was just that Courtney didn’t know and then she knew everything. Nothing against her, but I wish we’d had a choice.”

“Me too,” I said. I wasn’t lying either. We hadn’t had that many people figure out who we were, but every time someone did, the choices stank. They amounted to: trust them to keep quiet, make them forget using telepathy, or put in a mental block that stopped them from telling anybody.

Vaughn looked up from watching the cars below us. “How’d it go with Courtney?”

I shrugged. “It worked. She’s got permanent powers now. That’s why she’s in the program now.”

Jaclyn shook her head. “I can’t believe you ran anyone else through that machine. Vaughn turned out okay, but you remember his grandfather. The guy went crazy and turned on everyone. That’s enough of a warning for me.”

I decided to stay in the air for as long as this conversation went on. There wasn’t any way I’d be able to concentrate on landing at the same time.

“I know it looks bad, but I talked to Lee, and he said the machine didn’t contain any booby traps. He told them how it worked, and Grandpa and Red Lightning figured it out on their own. Plus, I made sure Courtney hadn’t been using any juice before she got zapped, and it turns out she’d barely used power juice since it became a controlled substance. Grandpa said that Vaughn’s grandfather had already withdrawn a bit even before they zapped him in the machine. Who knows? Maybe it was unrecognized PTSD that caused the problem.”

In the rearview screen, Vaughn nodded. “Hope that’s true. People know what it is now. I don’t want to find out that whatever made him do it was part of him. Then I might have inherited it. If it’s an outside thing then I can avoid it, you know?”

I nodded. “Hey, I should land. I’d bet that the Castle Rock Compound has air defenses, and I don’t want to find out about them the hard way.”

13 thoughts on “Not Exactly Hogwarts: Part 3”

  1. In case you’re curious, part of the reason that I didn’t show what happened immediately after Nick through the switch on the power impregnator is that it was anti-climactic. If Courtney has problems, they’ll take longer to develop than that.

    That said, she’s not the only one who’s gone through a power impregnator these days. She and Vaughn are the tip of the iceberg.

    And in other news, you can still vote on the path for next PCS update till noon on Thursday. Plus, Top Web Fiction, if you’re so inclined…

  2. Hi Jim,
    I don’t know if you saw my question on an earlier post.
    I was wondering if it would be okay with you if I used one of your characters in an online game I play.

    1. I don’t have a problem with it. If you were writing fiction about one and claiming it was your character idea, that would bother me. Playing a character with one of my character’s names and powers is fine. It is also potentially free advertising if anyone asks you about it or googles the name, so that’s okay too.

  3. Rynhold, the trick with using other people’s characters is to change the names around, and file the serial numbers off. 🙂

    Honestly, very few characters are totally original, and the way you learn about what makes sense is to privately play around with existing characters, until they effectively become something new. Exactly where this happens is a bit fuzzy… So, ‘using’ one of someone’s characters is iffy, being ‘inspired’ by one of someone’s characters…

    Also, the DC Universe is rather different to the LoN verse, so you’d be strongly recommended to carefully think about what sort of interactions would occur, and how any character you use would sensibly be different. And, once you changed the character, and renamed them, viola, they’re your character! 🙂

    Jim is, of course, entirely at liberty to take a totally different view of things. 🙂

  4. The catmecha is a really nice bit of kit, but you might wonder if and how having created it is going to turn-around and bite Nick. (Not with large metal cat teeth 🙂 At least it can change its colour, and probably its registration, maybe even legally if Nick has gone about things right.

    The business about PTSD being new-ish, might mean the LoN universe is different, but ‘shell shock’ goes back to WWI, and was replaced or is related to ‘combat stress reaction’:
    The journey from ‘shell shock’ to PTSD, and that PTSD is still not fully understood, says a lot about the changing understanding of the brain/mind.

    You might wonder just how many people have been treated with the Power Impregnator and how many people have been as careful as Nick about the Power Juice issue… And, whether Nick might have any ideas about (medical) instruments that show treated people are at risk…

    If this follows the usual distribution of human variability, 5% can use a PI irrelevant of their PJ use, 90% need to avoid PJ before their PI treatment, and 5% will have a bad reaction to a PI whatever (unless, maybe there is something like a buffer drug to make things safer). Figuring out who is which, however, will require further research. 🙂

  5. Thank you Jim.

    Now I just have to figure out who to play and which city to play them in.

    Oh I know, Night Cat in Gotham, mentored by the Joker. LOL

  6. “…and in other news, tonight was perhaps the only time in recent history when you could ask ‘Did you see the size of that pussy?’ and not get slapped. Yes, a giant robotic cat bounded its way through traffic, seemingly in a hurry to get to an appointment. Nobody yet knows who the owner of the mecha cat was, or why he or she didn’t take the toll road, but one thing’s for certain: that was one big pussy. Now back to Dan in the studio.”

    “Thank you, Laurie. Wow. ‘Did you see the size of that pussy?’ We haven’t been able to say that on air since the Pussy Man and his sidekick, the Human Coward, got into a tussle with Big Earl. Big Earl suffered major spine and heart problems due to his growth powers, but all accounts from the nursing home say that Big Earl is better in bed.”

  7. I don’t know if you noticed, but the links to each chapter stopped at the end of the last story arc, that is with When It Is Over, Part 10. You may want to consider switching over to an arc select and chapter select method. This window scrolls a long way down.

  8. After what MathKnight, said, there’s a set of scaling issues which affect human perception and selection (such as a LoN chapter). The eye seems to handle immediate selection from up to about five items in a list, there is a quick scanning process which can handle up to about twenty-five items. Beyond that a more methodical, but frequently less thorough, scanning process seems to be used. Beyond about a hundred items there’s a strong tendency to give-up, and not bother. The numbers seem to sort-of go up in multiples of five.

    All this says interesting things about user interface design. And, I’m sure these are things Nick considers, at least on an unconscious level, in designing his interfaces. 🙂

    Artificial intelligences will probably behave differently. 🙂

  9. It’s always good to ask though. I also got Jim’s permission before creating a gold armored character with a guitar on his back in Champions Online when he was still doing Book 1. I included this site as the origin in the bio and included a link.

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