Not Exactly Hogwarts: Part 5

Even if the architect who designed the place had recognized the impact of the view and designed to make use of it, he or she hadn’t wasted much of it on the access road for service vehicles.

I had to turn right almost immediately, and drive straight in toward the buildings on a road that ran parallel to the wall.

We quickly left any kind of interesting view, passing all the shops, and driving the van into an elevator three times its length.

It started moving downward immediately after the van stopped moving.

From the back, Vaughn said, “What do you want to bet the dorms are inside the mountain? We’re going to spend the entire summer surrounded by rock.”

“It probably isn’t a mountain,” I said. “I think we might be officially in the foothills of the Rockies at this point, so this is probably a hill. If it’s not a hill, it’s probably some technical name I don’t know.”

With exaggerated solemnity, Vaughn said, “Thank you, Captain Geography.”

I didn’t point out that geologists were probably the ones who were most interested in the exact term for the geological formation we’d entered.

When the elevator opened, I drove the van into a parking garage hewn from the rock around it. This was a little disappointing. The part where it had been hewn from rock was very cool, even mind-blowing, but when you consider the top ten things you might want to see at one of the Western Hemisphere’s seven known superhero compounds, a parking garage did not make the list.

It’s safe to say that for the vast majority of people, parking garages don’t make any list at all.

I chose the closest spot to the door I could find, and then we all got out. Our directions told us that someone would be in the parking garage to meet us. Of course, our directions assumed that we’d be riding on the bus. I’d gotten alternate directions through email from Dr. Nation when I’d explained that I was currently working on the van as a project, and more generally on the technology I used to form and repair it.

As we unloaded the van, I noticed that the arrows pointed in the opposite direction on the ground. I guessed they must lead out, probably to the first level of the complex.

Jaclyn grabbed her suitcases, purse and duffle bag. “I guess we’re early. I’m a little surprised that we’re not even seeing security people yet.”

Cassie jumped out of the back of the van, carrying a suitcase and her duffle bag, landing next to Jaclyn. “Could be their security sucks.”

Vaughn stood next to the back of the van. He’d grabbed his suitcases first. “Isn’t security the selling point of these places? You hear about supers and their families getting killed, but these places are supposed to be safe.”

Waiting next to Vaughn, I said, “They might be so good that they know we’re not a threat.”

Vaughn grinned. “I don’t know that I’ve ever encountered any security team that good. I’ve run across teams with negative values though. Back when I was having problems, I had a bad reaction to some drugs, but I was with it enough that I tried to get my dad since he’s a doctor. Except he works for my family’s company, so I had to get through security to get to him? They wouldn’t let me into the building. They called the police, and you know what’s crazy? The police recognized me and got me to the hospital. It was a near thing though.”

Haley stepped down from the back of the van, grabbing her suitcases’ handles, and pulled them away. “Your turn,” she told me.

I climbed up the back of the van, grabbing my suitcase out of the cabinet along with my backpack. I left the Rocket suit block inside. I could come back and get it later.

When I stepped out of the van, I shut the door, and said, “Lock.”

All the doors locked, and Haley’s window rolled shut.

“Nice,” Vaughn said. “Hope nobody left anything inside. What happens if someone tries to break in?”

“Not much,” I said. “It’s made out of the same materials as the Rocket suit, so mostly it resists being broken into by being hard to break. It would be cool if it fought back, but I don’t trust any pre-programmed reactions I put in to fit all situations. What if a little kid starts hitting it with a hammer or something?”

The door opened—not one of van’s doors. They stayed shut.

The door we’d been told to park next to had moved. Metal, and painted green with a big, white “1” next to the window on the upper half, it looked like a door that could have fit in any parking garage I’d ever seen.

At first glance, the man who walked through the door looked like he’d have fit in at any barbecue I’d ever seen. Wearing shorts and a blue and white shirt with spots that made me think of Rorschach tests, he could have passed for a football coach on vacation. A big man who looked like he’d passed from muscular to fat a few years back, he had close cropped white hair, and an equally white mustache.

Then I recognized him.

“Whoa,” Vaughn said, “Didn’t you used to be Earthmover?”

Earthmover had been a massively powerful terrakinetic—exactly the sort of person who’d build a small city into a rocky hill.

The man had been smiling, but at that he winced. Recovering, he said, “Still am, but I’m taking civilian work these days. As the most important employee of Earthmover, Inc., I’m heading to the United Arab Emirates to reshape an island next week.”

Vaughn nodded. “No kidding? I heard you were the most powerful terrakinetic ever. I’d think you’d get bored being out of the fight.”

His smile had become a little more genuine at Vaughn’s comment about being the most powerful terrakinetic ever, and by the end of Vaughn’s statement he appeared to be on familiar ground.

“Of course I miss all the Defenders, but there comes a time in a man’s life where you have to step back. Other heroes are more than capable of taking over for me, and I, in turn, am more than ready to let them. Now, everyone take your bags. You’ve beaten the busses here handily. As president of the Compound’s council, I’m here to welcome you to your temporary home. If we hurry, we’ll get you settled before your friends arrive.”

10 thoughts on “Not Exactly Hogwarts: Part 5”

    1. Little late, but I think the answer is that Vaughn tends to speak his mind. Good and bad. So he is uber impressed with Earthmover and is genuinely awed. He finds someone he dislikes he also won’t edit his responses. IE if the psycho with the living knife shows up again.

  1. Nick is really pretty brave. He’s building loads of stuff based on nanotech, and, apparently active nanotech at that. Of course, he might be being a bit more subtle, and the active nanotech is turned-off unless he needs to do reshaping, or repair work. So, the Rocket suit for example is normally just relying on being made of really tough materials, rather than the programmed properties of active nanotech.

    You might ask why he should be concerned? Nick has already shown that he’s smart enough to know that relying on programming to handle unforeseen circumstances is a really bad idea.

    Something you might wonder about is whether Nick is just using properties of nanotech that he knows works, or whether he’s tried to study all the alien and other supers use of nanotech? The second would mean that he might be able to anticipate how they could try and attack him, so as to subvert his nanotech programming. Possibly he could guess well enough that he could build-in decoys, attack analysers, other things like that. Of course while this sort of thing might be briefly interesting we don’t want LoN to turn into “Rocket’s Armor: The Nanotech Wars”. 🙂

    I continue to be impressed by the high quality of this work and the ingenious way you explore ideas. Thanks!

  2. Ah, Captain Geography. If you’re thinking of facing him, you’d probably better butte out and keep on steppeing. It’s plain to sea, you’ve reached the peak of the superhero world.

  3. We’ve heard references to Dr. Nation before, but I don’t recall them that well. Does he live in the Castle Rock Compound? If so, I wonder if Nick’s curriculum is going to be a little different this summer. Is he going to have a chance to train with/study under a super-scientist type?

    @dwwolf Not sure if you were being sarcastic, but I thought Vaughn recovered pretty well. He realized he had annoyed Earthmover and recovered by asking a more flattering question.

  4. @Dreamer: I don’t think he’s using actual Nanotech. Microtech, maybe, but not Nanotech. Different scale entirely- I think the individual ‘particles’ in what he’s making would be small enough to, say, fit up your nose, but not nearly small enough to be absorbed through your skin or go swimming in your veins. And I also don’t think he’s using discreet entities- it’s less an ant colony, and more like an intelligent puzzle.

    The way I’d do it, if I wanted super-configurable systems in that vein is that I’d have modular components, but still separated into different ’tissues’- some components would be specialized for use as bones, others as armour, others as circuitry. There’s probably a couple solid chunks in there (most likely kept next to the torso or in the head) that are central processing units to organize and categorize everything, along with re-distributing damaged and un-damaged ‘cells’.- then each individual part (cell) has a variety of ‘organelles’ to it- little hooks and braces designed to solidly latch onto other cells of the same tissue type, small motors, electric impellors and servos to facilitate movement, universal information hookups in each connection point to allow for the transmission of data and power, that sort of thing. Each individual cell would either have a unique generated serial number, and the central processing units would micromanage and direct them individually (a ton of serial processing power would be required) or else each cell has a basic microprocessor with some ‘instinctive’ information programmed in- how to connect to other cells of the same type, self and adjacent diagnostics, what to do when adjacent or self is damaged- and programming that can allow an entire tissue group to receive “Make left foot” commands and figure out, based on relative position and information from adjacent cells, where to go and how to lock together.

    The brilliant thing is, if you design the cell with the proper sort of outside and linking devices, they should be able to attach together into essentially solid, smooth pieces, in any configuration. A lot of the programming for individual cells could easily come from studies on flocking behaviour, taken (as is always the case with Nick) about a decade or two further than pure observation can get you, by dint of intuition and advanced reasoning/engineering.

  5. Yes, I did a google search of the site to remind myself. Freddy Nation, used to be the Yellow Burrito, currently goes by “Brawn”. (As opposed to Brains I guess?) He’s Nick’s faculty adviser in the Stapledon program and on the Heroes League Board. Apparently lives in San Francisco, so he doesn’t live in Castle Rock.

    I guess not-Hogwarts is going to be a pretty big deal. We’ve spent five chapters just getting as far a the parking garage. Presumably there wouldn’t be this kind of build-up for a location if the story weren’t going to spend serious time here.

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