Off Campus: Part 10

In my rearview mirror, I saw Courtney’s shoulder’s tense. “That bothers me. Remember Mr. Beacham from high school?”

Keon glanced over at Courtney, and said, “I can’t say I remember him at all.”

Courtney nodded. “I know. You didn’t go to high school with us, but give me a second. Nick and Camille will remember him.”

“Nick’s mentioned him,” Haley said, “and I met him once. He was the teacher Evil Beatnik possessed.”

Courtney looked from Haley to me (to the back of my head, anyway). “Evil Beatnik possessed Mr. Beacham?”

Keon frowned. “Wasn’t Evil Beatnik a big deal back in the 1950’s or 60’s?”

From the back Camille said, “Yes. It was awful.”

“Okay,” Courtney said, “that was not the direction I was trying to go with this. Mr. Beacham teaches history back at the high school that Nick, Camille and I went to. He’s a good teacher, but he likes to play devil’s advocate on issues, and push students to defend what they think.”

Keon nodded. “I’ve had teachers like that.”

Courtney didn’t give anyone else time to add anything. “Every year he’d give a lecture on superhero history where he’d argue that the US had given up on taking it’s laws seriously and was on it’s way to creating a class of warrior lords.”

She had Keon’s full attention then. He nodded as she talked. “I think I know where this is going. Hunter’s going to get away with it because he’s got powers?”

“Well,” Courtney paused, “I guess that’s it, but it seemed deeper when Mr. Beacham talked about it all. I didn’t like that lecture. Back then, it was obvious to me that superheroes weren’t taking over, and even if they didn’t always obey laws, they obeyed the spirit of them.”

Courtney stopped there, swallowed, and said, “But since being here, I’ve been wondering if he was underestimating how far things have already gone. I knew about the compounds, but I never thought about the compounds. We’re being kept away from people, and only interacting with them when we want to have some fun. We are almost literally descending from the castle to interact with the peasants.”

“What,” Keon asked, “didn’t you like going to the club?”

She shook her head. “No. It bothers me that I wasn’t thinking about it very much until Hunter destroyed the camera’s memory, and Gifford was all, ‘Thanks for saving my butt…’ I didn’t think about it—the fortress, the private room, or the way we can break people’s stuff whenever we make a mistake.”

Keon shook his head. “I get that. I was mostly joking a minute ago. I didn’t like breaking the camera either. I didn’t want the guy to get away with Gifford’s face, but it seems like the guy’s going to have a grudge from now on, you know? He’s going to hate us, and he might look for us. What do we do if he goes after us? Call in a telepath and make him forget everything?”

“No,” I said.

Courtney laughed.

“For real though,” I said. “Daniel has done that a couple times, but the longer the person’s known what you want him to forget, the more you have to change to get it done. Imagine the guy’s been obsessing about how to get back at us for a couple months. What do you put in his head to explain why he’s been hanging around clubs looking for teenagers? Worse, what if he’s been at it for a year?”

In a normal tone of voice, Courtney said, “Is that why you didn’t try that with me?”

Keeping my eyes on the dark highway, I said, “No. You’d figured out who we were, but also we knew you, and knew you weren’t out to get us. What we did with you was what we’re doing with all the League members—a mental block that stops people from giving away identities accidentally.”

“Like the one we got too,” Camille said.

Haley turned in her seat to face Camille. “We trusted you. That kind of block only works if we trust you.”

“That’s what Daniel told me,” I added. “It turns out to be relatively common among telepaths. It’s basically the same block the Stapledon program uses. So, if you keep looking, you’ll eventually be able to find a skilled telepath who can get rid of it.

“See,” I continued, “I don’t even know what we’d do for that guy. The best thing would have been if someone erased all of our faces from his memory back at the club.”

“Except that would assume that we’ve got the right to decide what he remembers,” Courtney said.

“Yeah.” I sighed at that. She was right. “It would have been the most practical choice—probably not the most moral. But that’s the problem, after a certain points all your choices are basically varying shades of gray.”

Keon nodded. “Point made. Should we have called it in back at the club?”

Haley and I looked at each other.


14 thoughts on “Off Campus: Part 10”

  1. This whole “are superheroes above the law” concept has been popping up through the entire story, but it never actually seems to go anywhere or advance as a debate. I mean, it’s being resurrected back in this chapter and you are quoting all the way back to the original high school setting without much change to the argument. It feels pretty likely that it’s just going to be dropped here too.

    I understand making it one of the really long-running plots to boil over the entire series, but even in that case it’s necessary to advance the debate or add new considerations once in a while. Just bringing the idea up only to immediately drop it again doesn’t do much. Right now, there’s been no real new arguments since Arc 1.1.

  2. I agree that in the fiction the debate has to advance somehow, but must add that in real life similar debates are practically stagnant at this point.
    When reading worm I saw many debates like this between commentators and there was no clear conclusion.
    And along the text there is some evolution, only slow. Everyone believes that something must be done but, while they can`t agree on what, things are evolving.
    Superheroes are getting more and more isolated as a warrior elite. New people are getting powers, but they tend to join the old caste, some supers already have a lot of political power, …

  3. [And along the text there is some evolution, only slow. Everyone believes that something must be done but, while they can`t agree on what, things are evolving.]

    I don’t even think that everyone agrees something must be done. Our viewpoint characters briefly worry about it every once in a while, then drop the issue. Nobody else seems interested in acting on it. In fact, I was rather disappointed when Dark Cloak showed up as a convert to the party line a few chapters ago. It would have been nice to hear from somebody who really does think something must be done and is actively trying to do it.

    As you said, similar debates are often very stagnant in real life, but this is fiction. Needs to be some sense of progress.

  4. Honestly, my original conception of the scene included less attention to this, and started the next scene. It may well be that in the end that would have been better.

    Some things have to be tried and viewed in context to determine if they really need to be there or not. Knowing what follows, something like this has to be here. It might be that the discussion needs to be compressed or possibly only hinted at.

    In any case, it is the first time the issues have been brought up in a group of people with powers that’s larger than just Nick and Haley, or just Nick’s head.

  5. In the real world, most social issues fester until there is a trigger event that forces people to pay attention to them. In that regard, the fact that Jim’s been skating around this issue literally for years in and out of story feels real.

    Sometimes the trigger event is unintentional. Sometimes it’s intentional. Sometimes it seems like, to those directly involved, that what is happening is going to be “it” that the event they are involved in is too big to be ignored, but people ignore it anyway. People, in general, do not want to change the way they think or act. The more comfortable they are, the less they want to change.

  6. @Matthew:
    This idea is the reason Sean doesn’t have a secret identity and all the problems that followed.
    It came up when they discussed giving Courtney permanent powers.
    And I expect it to play a big role in the future with the country with supers as leaders.
    Also I just guessed Nick will have to choose sometime to give everyone powers or take all of them away.
    So even if it is not discussed openly, you see it in the story.

    Why did they even go to Stapledon? Their greadparents keeped their identities hidden, even deleting memories of their own children and putting invasive blocks in. Nicks parents got targeted by Ray.
    At least they should use fake names instead of their real ones. Maybe even fake costumes.

    Btw great work, I loved it.

  7. The issue of superheroes being above the law is basically built into the whole genre, going all the way back to golden age Superman which was essentially just a childish power fantasy of getting to beat up everybody you don’t like and being hailed as a hero for it. It just so happens that violent vigilantism is illegal so if you’re telling a story about violent vigilantes the issue is going to crop up.

    There are some traditional ways of dealing with the issue. First, and most popular, is to just ignore it. Everybody loves Superman so why would anyone have objections if he destroys a city block or two while beating up someone?
    The second is to have the vigilantes technically be criminals. Hands up, Spider-man, now that you saved us all yet again we’ll arrest you for being a masked vigilante.
    Third, you have the official, government licensed superheroes, which is what we have here. Meshes poorly with secret identities, and depending on which way it runs you either have superheroes enforcing whatever tyranny happens to be in power, or a tiered society with the new warrior elite.

  8. Wait a second… where’s that lovely link that sends me off to the next chapter? How silly, someone has forgotten to add it. I mean, seriously, it’s not like I have caught up and now have to wait around like a common peasant… No one would dare do that to me… would they?

    I feel like I’m in that one Game of Thrones scene, where Denearys has had her dragons stolen. “WHERE. ARE. MY DRAG… CHAPTER?”

    Anyways, as awesome as ever, man. Catching up is never fun, but I’ve had had fun doing so, never the less.

    Soon enough, I’ll probably drop this story like an exploding potato head, but I’ll try to stay around for each chapter as they come as long as I can take it. I have the attention span of a 5 year old, so I prefer to let them collect over a few months before I indulge in a massive binge. (I say let, but I mean forget that I was waiting for updates in the first place).

    I do believe that this story has made into my top 20 works of fiction of all time. I’m not only talking of online fiction. There’s something about this story that makes me feel that without it, my life would be lacking in a major way.

    Enough with my mushy feelings. Onwards, Captain!


    1. That link might be coming sooner than you’d think. I got started writing earlier than normal today, and thus I’ll be able to stop sooner.

      At which point, I’ll then go walk the dog or practice bass, but probably not both at the same time.

      That would be weird.

      Anyway, you’re not alone in letting posts pile up and then binging. A lot of people do that–to the point that I’m likely going to be working on some things that will make that easier for people to do.

      I’m just not up to it yet. Publishing the next two Legion books is higher priority.

      Also, I’m glad you enjoy the story that much. That always makes it easier to continue writing.

  9. @required: Going to Stapledon isn’t a major risk in terms of secret identity in the sense that the government already knows who they are (or at least a few individuals do), and the superhero community does too to a degree. The block is only useful if they stay in Grand Lake and don’t ever meet with anybody in the larger community–though it helps even if they do, obviously.

    At that point, they might as well get training they won’t get anywhere else.

    @farmerbob1: Crud. I’ll have to find out how to change that. The report says you can, but I can’t find the link.

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