Entry Assessment: Part 1

On Saturday morning, we gathered at the compound’s athletic fields. They had two football/soccer fields with tracks running around them. The first year students gathered in the middle of one and the second, third, and fourth years gathered in the other.

The first years seemed to take up most of the middle of their field, but that wasn’t really true. It wasn’t just them. Adults in costume (both superhero and medical scrubs) were scattered throughout the crowd.

I recognized what they were doing from last year—entry assessment. The program was getting a baseline of their abilities. They’d set up a walled room on one end of the field. I wasn’t sure of the material, but from here it looked like stone.

I didn’t know what kind of powers they had to work with, but an awful lot of powers had the potential to kill if they weren’t contained.

I couldn’t actually see Haley anymore. She’d disappeared into the rest of the crowd with Camille, a friend from Grand Lake.

“Please move closer everyone. I need all of you to hear me.”

A voice broke through the talking, and I recognized it. I felt a little surprised hearing it in the context of “physical training” though.

All of us moved forward, surrounding the person who’d called out to us. Dr. Freddie Nation stood there in his “Brawn” costume. Between the black and white striped tank top, and the black pants, it drew heavily from strongman costumes. The domino mask and mustache completed the retro look even if the black utility belt didn’t quite fit with the theme.

His bare arms and shoulders made it obvious that he was in very good shape. Even if he didn’t look like a professional bodybuilder, his muscles were clearly defined. I knew that his physical abilities were well outside human norms, but I supposed it could have been due to training on some level.

Mostly it surprised me because he taught Stapledon’s technology specialists.

Looking around, I could see that I wasn’t the only one confused. The expressions of most ranged from flat acceptance to disbelief. They might not be in tech, but they knew what he taught.

“That’s good. Everyone can hear me?”

Nods came from the crowd.

“Excellent. I imagine some of the second years are wondering why I’m here. I’ll explain. A few years ago I became interested in powers and whether it was possible to improve them. We all know people whose powers have expanded over time. My question was whether we could make it happen at will, and the answer is yes. Our training program is built on my research.

“Those of you with physical powers should find noticeable improvement in them over the course of the year. Those of you without physical powers will have less intense workouts based on the same system. Some of you have small physical powers you haven’t noticed yet. The rest of you should still benefit.”

Then he began to go into the overall theory about his system and why it worked. It fit with what I’d learned about how powers worked when fixing our power impregnator.

I considered asking questions, but didn’t. From the expressions on their faces, a lot of people were struggling to pay attention already.

It wasn’t the greatest place for a lecture. We were all wearing shorts, and t-shirts. Some people had sweatshirts, and as interesting as Dr. Nation was, I wished I had one too. It couldn’t have been much more than sixty degrees Fahrenheit (15 Celsius), and the athletic facilities were between the bottom of the rocky foothill our dorms were inside and the wall that surrounded the compound.

Half the field seemed to be in the shade, so it felt even colder.

Dr. Nation seemed to sense that, and cut the lecture off, saying, “But we’ll talk about it more later. For now, we’re going to start doing it. The upperclassmen will guide you through any special exercises. You will all help the first years when they start on Monday.

“Time to divide into groups.”

For all the talk about increasing physical powers and giving less intense workouts to those of us limited to a normal physical potential, Dr. Nation’s first exercise was, “Six miles on the track for group 1.”

As Dr. Nation moved on, the guy next to me said, “That’s not bad. It’s bootcamp light.”

I recognized him, but couldn’t match his face to a name. A little taller than I, he had brown skin and short, curly hair along with a long distance runner’s physique—thin.

As we started walking toward the track, I finally did remember his name—Malik. He’d been in New York with all the rest of us, but he’d been carrying a rifle then. I couldn’t for the life of me remember his power though.

“Bootcamp light?” I glanced over at him as we began to run.

He grinned. “We aren’t carrying a pack or wearing boots, and there’s no drill sergeant to give us hell.”

I must not have looked as happy at that news as he’d expected because he continued, “Trust me, this is easy.”

After we ran the six miles, we went to the weight room, and after a break, came back out and ran an obstacle course. This was followed by more exercise.

By two, even with a lunch break, I felt sore all over.

I never got to ask Malik if he still thought it was easy by the end. Lee showed up. As was normal at Stapledon, he showed up as “Gunther,” a WW2 ally of my grandfather. He looked almost like he did in the old photos–tall with brush cut blond hair, and combat fatigues. The fatigues were more modern than the ones in the pictures.

I walked across the track toward him, feeling like I was limping on both legs.

“Heya kid,” Gunther said, “I need some help. The entry assessment’s mostly over, and I’m going to give the first years their orientation to combat training. I need some help with that. Grab a team, suit up, and meet me at the other field.”

I nodded, too tired to argue. “Sure. What do you want us for? Assistants? A fighting demo?”

He grinned at the last one. “A demo? Sure. That’s about right.”

26 thoughts on “Entry Assessment: Part 1”

  1. Nick gets “didn’t quite fit with the theme”? He can learn.

    “Malik if still thought”

    “I some help with”

  2. Looks like Nick is being trained in that really fun procedure, “fighting while already exhausted”. [grin]

    Its good to see that senior supers have studied the process of improving super powers – in many stories that often seems to be a very hit-and-miss process.


    “It could have been much more than sixty degrees”, should that be “couldn’t”? (As Nick’s a tech/science person, would he have thought ‘Fahrenheit’, rather than ‘degrees’?)

  3. “I some help with that”

    And with Nick’s scientific background, he likely should have been thinking 15 Celsius rather than the obsolete system in any case.

  4. I admit that I got lost with the reference to temperature. I really don`t understand Fahrenheit nor take the time to use my “unit converter” (have one in the computer) while reading fiction.
    Also, people standing in a field at any time after 7 AM = very, very hot to my imagination independent of position, wind or season of the year.
    Of course this kind of misunderstanding is normal and I am used to it by now. If I want to read fiction from other countries I must understand that some misunderstandings will happen.
    Same for the measurement units, I always try to get the height of the characters from context since it would get really boring to stop all the time.

  5. I haven’t commented much lately, but still reading and still loving it ^_^

    Minor typo: “They had two football/soccer fields with a tracks running around them”

    Should it be “with 2 tracks” or “with a track”? “a tracks” doesn’t work.

    Also, “It could have been much more than sixty degrees”

    Should this be “couldn’t have been”?

  6. @Club: 288 Kelvins. Celsius degrees aren’t any more scientific than Fahrenheits, they’re just what the rest of the world uses.

  7. Some of those students have got to be distinctly unimpressed. Dr. Nation gives this big lecture about how he researched powers and came up with a development program designed to boost physical abilities, and what does it amount to? They run laps, followed by lifting weights, followed by an obstacle course.

    (sarcasm) Oh wow, what scientific GENIUS could possibly have designed such an advanced training program? (/sarcasm) Beyond, you know, your average high school gym teacher. I mean, I presume there’s more to it later, but I would have expected things to be much more individualized from the start.

    There’s also the question about why stick Nick into this program at all. I mean, of course it’s a good idea that he maintain high physical fitness, but that could be covered with some standard morning/evening training. Ultimately his hero career is all about fighting in an armored suit. Surely in the limited time he has here, he could be studying more valuable things.

    I am highly amused that Nick continues to refer to the device as a “power impregnator” in his internal narration, despite everyone else agreeing that’s a terrible name.

  8. @Matthew:

    If it’s any consolation, Isaac Lim also refers to it as “power impregnator” in his speech during Fresh Meat: part 2, so even if everybody agrees the name blows, it’s already stuck.

    Either that, or it was a slip on Jim’s part, but I prefer to think that the memetic potential of the power impregnator is just that high. 😛

  9. I’m thinking that saying athletic fields would suffice instead of football/ soccer fields with a track running around them. And damn, running six miles and then a work out afterwards? Personally, I’d be a little more than sore after that sort of workout.

  10. Yeah, six miles is one hell of a distance to be running. Brawn there doesn’t even know if these kids have been working out at all. It doesn’t seem like that was overly emphasized based on Nick’s prior experience with the program.

    Also, Brawn’s not retro enough. I can easily think of two different masks he could go with instead that would make him look better and fit his theme.

    First, he could go for the look of Dasher Hatfield, founding member of the Throwbacks: http://www.d-mitchell.co.uk/uploads/1/4/8/5/14850562/_3926941.jpg

    Alternatively, trying to look like the gentlemanly Jervis Cottonbelly would also be fine for him: http://www.profightdb.com/img/wrestlers/thumbs-600/b8929b2952jerviscottonbelly.jpg

    1. It is a terrible distance to run with no preparation. I remember doing it on the first day of track–for me. The swim season had ended two weeks after track began. I had the necessary endurance in some parts of my body but not everywhere. Specifically not my legs, but yes in terms of my arms and heart.

      It was not fun.

  11. “Figure tall with brush cut blond hair, and combat fatigues.”

    Are we missing a word in there somewhere?

    I wonder how far Lee is planning to go with this “demo” of his. Also, I wonder in what scope they can increase abilities. There has to be at least a few villains who have access to whatever training program this is, and it only takes a few heroes who haven’t sufficiently developed their powers to make for some really bad days. I personally will look forward to this plot point being developed, even though I’m not sure A) it’ll do much–if anything–for Nick; and B) it doesn’t seem like much more than an endurance program at the moment.


    Seriously, are none of these supers the least bit genre silly? Are there no “Villains” who rob banks in burglar outfits and deliberately set up cliche’d doomsday scenarios?

    Methinks that the Legion of Nothing should have a day with THE TECHNO QUEEN *crackathoom*

    1. I think C put it rather flat out: the silliness (mixed in with occasional existential threats) was mostly back in the 70-s and 80s.

      I like to parallel with computer viruses and hacking:
      Back in the 80-90’s, the visible stuff was most often a pastime for bragging rights, with the occasional state- or industry-backed espionage probably never publicised beyond closed door politics.
      I the 00s and early 10s, it became more organized. With the ever rising complexity and ubiquity of networks, security became a thing that every company had to take seriously, lest their secrets be trivially laid bare to their competitors or the public (if the secrets were juicy). Botnets became more common to enable spam campaigns and DDoS attacks. Those were still occasionally for bragging rights or civil disobedience or protest actions.
      Nowadays? It’s all profit-driven crypto botnets and ransomware, with the occasional botnets for selling stuff like pageviews.

      Security researchers have expressed their disappointment in their opposition: you get a new sample in, eager to discover its secrets. You trace its behaviour in a virtual machine, decompile it, deobfuscate it, figure out how it gets past the many safeguards in modern OS-es, how it avoids or disables third party antivirus, trace its command servers, recover the keys used to encrypt the payload that the command server sends (modern viruses are often just the delivery mechanism, with the actual payload sent only once the defences have been breached), and what does the payload invariably do?

      Mine crypto and send spam.

      That’s it. That’s the gift you get from all that shiny wrapper. It’s the scratchiest knitted socks packaged in a PS5 case.

      My theory is that it’s part of what drives the enshittification of the internet: If most of your traffic is bots, profits from ads fall, meaning to keep your site financially viable, you need to place more and intrusive’er ads. Meaning no-one but bots can tolerate using your site.

  13. Super BRIAN BLESSED! would be great. Considering he’s been the Yellow Burrito, that his new identity borrows from late 19th century strongmen, and his behavior during the “When It’s Over” story arc, Dr. Nation doesn’t seem like the kind of guy that takes himself too seriously. Of course, as a moustachioed Freddy during the eighties, in my mind’s eye he looks just like Freddy Mercury, so I might be projecting more of a free spirit onto him than actual evidence suggests.

  14. The training is interesting… I’m assuming that the initial ‘classic’ excessive exercise stuff is to stress people’s bodies, so that a more modern regime, say one involving carefully designed nutrition combined with a precisely tailored exercise scheme, and maybe some super-science treatment to optimise to growth of the stressed bodies, can be created for them. Unfortunately, I wonder if this system can be effectively scaled-up to the larger number of students that they now have…

    I’m presuming that some initial filtering has been done so they know that this exercise program wont disable, permanently injure, or maybe even kill, any of the students. I didn’t think having a super power made you meet a minimum level of fitness in this setting, but, I could have missed that.

  15. A cold start into a 6 mile run followed by a workout could indeed cause physical problems for people. I think pretty much the only people prepared for that is anyone with experience in long distance running. Your cross country and marathon runners. Football players don’t do nearly that kind of running and they operate in violent bursts with minimal breaks between impacts and minor armor that adds 10 degrees Fahrenheit to what it feels like outside.

    Not sure at what point your nipples get rubbed raw by the salt crusted in your shirt, but that happens, as does shitting yourself eventually. There’s a reason running that kind of distance isn’t done casually.

    At a minimum, we’re looking at cramps, dehydration, muscles sore enough to keep someone from walking the rest of the day if they’re untrained. Endurance may be good to train up to, but go overboard from the very start and you’ll be useless for a short while. Oh, and vomiting, can’t forget the vomiting.

    Making it worse is that damn copper taste that tends to come up while running in the cold, as well as how the cold seems to get into your lungs if you run long enough.

  16. I can agree with the statements of many that a six mile run is no small potatoes for a person with a normal metabolism who does not maintain a high state of physical fitness. However I would like to draw attention to the fact that there were so many costumed heroes and medical personnel present that it appeared to make the largest incoming class of students look larger.

    I suspect there was plenty of puking, wheezing, and falling down. These things were likely watched casually, and nothing done unless there was real distress involved. There were probably a couple cases of heart palpitations, lung scar rupturing, knee or hip injuries, or really terrible cramps. That’s when the medics step up, and/or heroes with healing powers.

    Today might have been the day when a super discovered that had a congenital heart problem. Today might have been the day when that problem was fixed so that it would no longer be a problem. Better to discover it on the track when being supervised, as opposed to in a fight when your team is depending on you.

  17. If Nick has always trained in Michigan he has probably never run above 1000′. Denver is 5200 to 5400 feet. That difference is crippling for running. Someone in good shape can adapt quickly, but running 6 miles the first day they are up higher…. That would require superhuman abilities. Good thing this is a story about superheroes.

  18. Okay so reading this again for I don’t know the how manyth time. But what is the official laws in this universe for military supers? First off the military can’t enforce law. So any military super going after a criminal is going to get a military trial for this. Then on the suspicious side is the clause that your contract can be extended as long as the military decides. Meaning you could enlist for four years, then they keep you for the rest of your life because you are essentially superman. We have heard how the government uses loopholes to allow vigilantes to do their jobs and essentially the supers stay out of regular law enforcement unless it escalates to include powered persons or gear equivalents.
    So how does this work if they join the police? Are they essentially a S.W.A.T. member now?

    1. Military supers are in the military. They don’t do law enforcement except when specifically authorized. Authorization is given when crime borders on invasion. Specifically if some mad scientist created a robot army, they might be called in to handle the army.

      Military people are in Stapledon if there’s any chance that they’ll use their powers as civilian heroes. Also, it’s good to have people who know each other’s methods in both communities. It tends to prevent misunderstandings.

      When they get out, they’ll do whatever–join the police (as SWAT or a specifically metahuman unit), go into a registered and official superhero group, become a vigilante, or turn their backs on all of it.

      That said, the military can pull them back in for a period of time after they get out, but that’s true of the US military even in the real world.

      It’s not something you want to overuse, partly because people are less likely to enlist, and in a world with superheroes, well, you don’t want a bunch of recalled supers being really pissed at you.

    2. Stop-loss is a thing (if a deeply unpopular and short-term thing), as is being essentially discharged and living a civvie life, but being in “hot reserve” where you’re expected to show up for a specified maximum time if needed. This usually comes with a small ongoing monetary compensation during the time you’re in the hot reserve. It’s all in the contract.

      And of course, most states retain the right of conscription in times of war.

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