Fame: Part 3

Haley said, “No.” Then she stood up to pick up her shoes from where they had fallen. She’d obviously been in a hurry. One lay next to the bench. The other hung from a bush about two feet away from the bench.

Her ears looked a little red around the edges.

Well, at least they hadn’t caught us in the middle of anything.

Diva’s smile hinted that she likely understood what they’d interrupted. She didn’t let the moment stretch into an embarrassing silence though. She said, “Pardon me, but are you Nick?”

“Um… Yeah.” I wouldn’t have chosen to tell her that.

She walked closer to the bench with her son following a little behind and looking uncomfortable.

“We’ve met before,” she said. “I had your grandfather do some work for me.”

All at once I did remember her. I’d only been eight, but I already had a sense that Grandpa found her frustrating. She’d needed storage containers that could keep food fresh. Her power involved creating biological organisms out of nowhere, but they needed food to grow, and not every place had enough food. She wanted containers that kept a lot of food fresh and hidden.

The way I remembered it, she couldn’t seem to understand how the two goals conflicted with each other. In the end, Grandpa had actually shouted at her, telling her that she needed a wizard not an engineer.

I never found out what she’d done. Hoping that very little of what I remembered showed on my face, I said, “I don’t remember much of that. I think I was eight.”

She said, “No, you wouldn’t, but it’s good to meet you again. This is Hunter, my son, and Hunter, this is Nick, the current Rocket.”

It wasn’t likely that she could remember my name and not guess that I was the Rocket, but there went any hope that she’d missed it.

Haley, now with her shoes on, managed to say, “And I’m Haley.” Then she added, “Night Cat.”

Diva gave a small nod. “I remember Night Wolf. I never met him outside the mask, but he was an impressive fighter. It’s good to meet you too. I’d—” she began.

Then she pulled her cell phone out of her purse. “I’m sorry. Back in a sec.”

She retreated, stopping past the trees around our bench, holding her phone to her ear.

Hunter glanced back at her, shook his head, and turned toward us. “I’m sorry. She does this a lot. You don’t have to wait for her. If you want to leave, I can keep her out of your hair.”

Haley shook her head. “Don’t worry about it. Is this your first year?”

He nodded. “What about you?”

“Me too.” She seemed genuinely excited about it.

“It’s my second year,” I said.

Hunter grinned. “I guessed. You were all over TV this spring.”

I thought back to New York. I supposed I’d also been on TV for the robots we’d fought after visiting Chicago, and then of course there was St. Louis. I wasn’t sure if that counted as spring though. In Grand Lake, it had definitely been winter.

I shrugged. “I didn’t try to be.”

“Doesn’t matter. You got a lot of attention. It’s most of the reason the crowd’s this big this year.”

That seemed unlikely. The Heroes League had gotten a lot of attention in the last couple years. It wasn’t just me.

Responding to whatever expression I wore, he said, “I’m not saying it was all you personally. Think ‘you’ as in the whole program. Stapledon hasn’t been real popular with people in the cape community. A lot of them see it as way to gain control of the super community—kind of like that program where they give some supers access to federal criminal databases.”

I didn’t know what to say. No one has said anything like that to me. I glanced over at Haley. Her eyes were a little wider that usual.

“Most people I knew didn’t have much use for it, but once New York came around and you guys were fighting aliens and winning? My mom decided I had to attend. A lot of my friends came around too. Though it didn’t hurt that the Defenders and the Feds really turned up the recruiting after New York.”

“Wait,” I said. “Who’s against Stapledon? I don’t know anybody who has a problem with it.”

“You’re mostly friends with kids whose parents are in Defenders units. They’re not government, but they’re close. My friends are kids of vigilantes, indie hero groups, and people who left cape life altogether. You’re going to think this sounds crazy, but some of them are angry with you.”

I felt my jaw drop a little, and I said, “What? I don’t even know them.”

At the same time, Haley said, “Seriously?”

Hunter glanced back at his mother taking on her phone, frowned and turned back to us. “I know it’s stupid, but some of my friends won the lottery when it comes to powers, and they’ve been assuming they’d be big deals. They totally forgot about the Heroes League, and you showed up and started people fighting the Cabal, you’ve stayed in the news. No one’s had a chance to forget you. They feel like they’re battling to be afterthoughts now.”

I let out a breath. “That’s dumb.”

Hunter put his hands in his pockets. “I’m not arguing with you. I think it’s the old indie vs. establishment thing. Plus, some of my friends might think they’re better than they are.”

In the background, Diva hung up her phone and put it in her purse.

Hunter must have noticed that we were looking, turned, and saw her too. He said, “It’s not that I don’t want to talk to you, but it is embarrassing when she pulls this crap. I’m going to get her out of here. See you in class.”

He met her before she made it back to us. She gave a wave, and they walked away.

Haley and I both sat silently for a little while. I don’t know what she was thinking, but I needed a second to take all of it in.

Haley broke the silence with, “Did you notice that she faked the phone call? She pretended to take a call, but then she called her agent after she walked away.”

17 thoughts on “Fame: Part 3”

  1. I can’t believe I’m awake right now, but so it goes. Instead of working on the update this weekend, I put it off and worked on the Kickstarter video instead.

    It’s not done yet, but it’s so close. I’ve shown it to a few family members, and people at least laughed at the right spots.I’m thinking that means it doesn’t entirely suck.

  2. Diva creates life? That could potentially be a very dangerous power. Especially if she has fine control over it. Even more so if she can modify things to make what she wants rather than just duplicating what already exists elsewhere. Toxic biological organisms in the bloodstream or lungs?

    If she can communicate with them, well, that pretty much means that she gets to know anything she wants, because even in sterile environments, people have microorganisms inside themselves.

    So, if Diva just “tagged” them with microorganisms, Haley might have just told Diva that she knows Diva lied.

  3. “Youuyy’re mùostly friends with kids whose parents are in Defenders units. They’re not government, but they’re close. My friends are kids of vigilantes, indie hero groups, and people who left cape life altogether. You’re going to think this sounds crazy, but some of them are angry with you.”
    Not sure what happened with this; typo?

    1. I’d like to blame that on software somehow (which will work perfectly since my software is non-sentient and unable to defend itself). Thanks. It’s now fixed.

  4. These vigilante kids seem really suspicious. It’s as though they care more about fame and acclaim than they do about using their abilities to better the world. Hopefully the Stapledon program with train that attitude out of them before they end up dead or in prison due to stupid choices.

  5. If you are working outside the law as a vigilante you have the worst of both words when it comes to money. You can`t work legally to sell products or technology and you may not wish to sell in the black market.
    The guys working with the government became an elite of warriors paid by the estate, this also tends to attract animosity.
    I see Nick facing a lot of prejudice in the future, complicated by the fact that outside of armor he is just a normal guy.
    Anyone with half a brain will realize that hurting Nick will a – bring fast and painful retribution and b – be very, very unpopular with normal humans that certainly see the rocket as one of them.
    But, they are adolescents or young adults … not all of them have half a brain dedicated to long time planing.

  6. I just now realized that we might get the opportunity to see Lee encounter young vigilantes with a bad attitude in his Stapleton martial arts classes. Perhaps even young vigilantes with superb fighting skills that don’t really think they need to train. Lee would probably just let Darwin sort them out normally, but if they interfere or disrupt the learning of others, he might take exception to it and prove a point. It would, of course, be completely unfair, but we know Lee isn’t the nicest of beings in general… But, still, letting him have a little creative fun at the expense of a vigilante troublemaker surely wouldn’t hurt, right?.

  7. Anyone can be beat. So it’d be nice to see young vigilantes try out their McDojo karate skills against Lee. It’d be like that Play Pals Let’s Play of Five Nights at Freddy’s where I eagerly anticipated the guys learning about the blind spots and Foxy. I hear one of them had to dry his pants.

    But seriously, they’re probably no match for a martial arts style emphasizing multiple ball strikes and ass shoves. Remember, 63 degrees on a random axis, then release.

    As for Diva, smart move. She backed off specifically to give her kid some bonding time with the heroes, knowing it would be partially aimed at her being seen as an annoyance to all three of them. Reminds me of the act some officers and bosses put on when their underlings are getting grouchy. Be an asshole and direct their anger at the boss so that at least they’re unified and on the same page.

  8. When Kerrie, the Cabal telepath examined nicks mind, what was up with her talking about that inhuman thing in nicks mind? And why wasn’t it referred to again in the story (especially because it seemed like a major thing that Daniel should have/would have noticed.) also. Why did she end up screaming while examining his mind?

    By the way these are questions about the executioner arc

  9. I forgot about that, Logan. Maybe lee had something to do with it, or maybe Nicks a little bit special.
    I… Is Diva an actress? I’m not really clear on her position in the world besides a pushy mom.

    1. Chance/Logan: in that book, I mentioned that being near Lee is hard on telepaths. On the same page as when Kerri appears, the story mentions that Daniel had improved Nick’s block with Lee’s permission/help. I don’t know if I said it in the story, but Daniel left traps that imitate Lee’s thoughts in Nick’s mind.

      Diva: at the end of the last page, Nick notes that she’s a movie star.

  10. I’m surprised to see that all the comments are leaning towards suspicion of the vigilante faction. Yes, Diva was being manipulative, but on the other hand….

    For a long time now I’ve thought that Nick hasn’t looked deeply at the government’s interest in supers and how much the Stapleton program is an effort to control them. A little more suspicion and doubt of authority figures telling him they know best couldn’t hurt. I’m not saying the doubters are right, but Nick ought to at least hear their pitch and understand what their concerns are.

  11. Hey, I dislike all heroes, regardless of age, race, creed, or country. Trust me, with heroes you’ll have to get use to a lot of country.

    As for telepaths reading Nick, he’s had a block in there courtesy of Daniel. When the mayor tried to read him, all he got was martial arts knowledge. All the stuff about Nick’s identity repressed itself. Especially that time on a camp-out with Daniel off in the woods where no one could hear them when they were just entering puberty.

    AKA, the Rocket’s first lift-off. Eh? Eh? You know what I’m sayin’.

  12. “They totally forgot about the Heroes League, and you showed up and started people fighting the Cabal, you’ve stayed in the news.” … there’s a ‘since’ or ‘then’ missing somewhere there.

    So Hunter’s mom is trying to make him some friends? Though it seems like there’s more circles out there who dislike Nick and Company… not just Cabal people. (Or agents of the Nine for all we know.) Hm. Groundwork indeed.

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