Remote Control: Part 1

I spent the largest part of Saturday morning working in the lab. No one was in when I walked through the door, and that part of the morning may have been the best part.

Lost in my thoughts, I worked on a bot that could use a satellite connection. Combined with bots that could tap into a phone line, I’d have redundant communication methods.

Neither of them, unfortunately, would allow real time control.

For a moment, I thought back to equipment in League HQ, specifically the device that had once been part of an extradimensional transportation network. I didn’t know how it worked or much beyond the basics of how to operate it, but it almost certainly offered a way around the problem.

Deciding that there were too many open questions and unknowns there, I pushed it out of my mind. Besides, it was back in Grand Lake, and thus half a country away.

Instead, I spent the rest of the morning working on the satellite bot.

Around nine, I heard music turn on in the distance–something with a thumping beat. I didn’t know who it was, but knowing that it came from the far end of the common area, I guessed it had to be an upperclassman. Most of the labs near the front were theirs.

By ten, I heard talking in the common area. The sounds of welding came from the lab next to mine.

About that time, I began to wish that the lab’s design had included doors. When I’d been shown my lab, I’d been told that they’d used an open design to encourage collaboration and sharing knowledge–the same reason they’d given for putting the larger machines in the common area.

It was a nice idea in theory.

In practice, I wanted to shut the door, and block out the noise.

It was naturally at the peak of my frustration that I heard a knock on the wall. I looked up from the bot’s casing to see Gordon, Gifford’s older brother, standing in the doorway.

Taller than Gifford, Gordon’s muscles showed up clearly through his blue t-shirt–not to bodybuilder levels, but toned. He hadn’t shaved.

“Hey,” he said, not waiting for me to invite him in. “I heard what happened last night with the photographer.”

He pulled a chair up to the table I was sitting at.

“Yeah,” I said, watching his hands. Lee had trained me to watch people’s movements almost reflexively because that was one way to tell if they planned to attack.

That wasn’t why I was watching Gordon though. I had a lot of tools and small parts on the table.

His hand moved toward one of the screwdrivers. “Please don’t touch anything,” I said.

He moved his hand away. “Sorry. I should have known better.”

“No problem.” I thought about moving everything further away from him, but didn’t.

“Gifford forgot to put the dust on his face, and the photographer got a few shots of him. It doesn’t matter though because Hunter trashed the memory cards.”

Gordon grinned at that. “Good for him. He inherited a useful talent. His mom worked with my dad a few times. It caused a little tension in my parents’ marriage back in the day. They got over it though, so we’ve known him for years. A good guy.”

I nodded. “He seems nice, but I haven’t spent a lot of time with him.”

Gordon nodded back. “Well, there’s nothing to worry about, but let’s get back to the camera. Hunter’s not a tech guy like you. Do you think he missed anything?”

“Well,” I said, “that’s a good question.”

It was, in fact, an awesome question, and one that had popped into my a head a few times during the night when I’d rather have been sleeping.

I put down the screwdriver that I’d picked up without thinking. “Most digital cameras,” I began, “have short term and long term memory. It depends on the design, of course, but basically, there’s temporary memory that you might use while processing something inside the camera, and then there’s long term where you actually store it.

“I’m reasonably sure that Hunter trashed the expandable long term memory. I don’t know if he thought to destroy the memory that comes inside the camera.”

Gordon frowned. “Didn’t you ask?”

“Uh… No. He said he’d learned how to do it from his mom, and I’ve only met her once, but I get the impression that she’d be pretty thorough about protecting her image. I didn’t start to worry about that until later.”

He laughed. “You’ve got her pegged. If she taught him how to do it, the memory’s dead.”

I gave him brief smile. “That’s what I’ve been telling myself. I just don’t know it for sure, so I worry a little. Actually I’m also a little worried about the short term memory. It’s not likely anyone would get anything at all off that, but you never know.”

Gordon nodded slowly, following it up with, “But it’s not likely, right?”

“Not at all,” I said. “Anyway, I called Lim, and he had Feds track the guy down. I’m not sure what they did after that, but I know that no photos have appeared.”

His eyes narrowed. “How do you know that no photos appeared? If the guy sold them online, they might sit on them for a day before publishing.”

I’d asked our jet’s AI to watch for photos.

I kept my face as calm as possible. “Let’s just say I’ve got sources that would know if any major online sites had copies that showed Gifford’s face.”

He didn’t say anything at first, but then he slowly began to grin. “What did you do? Did you hack them?”

When I didn’t say anything, he laughed out loud. “Good. The bastards deserve it.”

Then he turned serious. “About Lim. Don’t trust that guy. Nothing against him, but he’s a Fed. Everybody knows the Feds are only involved in the program so they can take over. They’re starting by making us dependent on their training, but soon enough there’ll be mandatory cape registration like in China.”

20 thoughts on “Remote Control: Part 1”

  1. His hand moved toward one of the screwdrivers. “Please don’t touch anything,” I said.


    I know what Haley needs to get him for Xmas. Space Marine Figurines to paint.

    I’m not entirely certain where that thought came from 🙂

  2. Gordon probably does have a point, the government is not running the program for altruistic reasons. However it’s not what he thinks it is. Why bother with registration? The government already knows everything about everyone in the program, why piss them off with registration. This way they have all of the best trained capes, who are mostly sympathetic to the government thanks to the program. Even the ones like Gordon, the government will already know his stance concerning them. The one thing the government doesn’t want is a horde of well trained pissed off capes.

  3. It’s time to play Mr. Beacham:

    From a certain point of view, registration is a good thing. It allows for a level of accountability and transparency that you can’t have with ‘true’ secret identities. The government has to know who is capable of what in order to be able to hold supers responsible for their actions, and the knowledge that you will be held responsible for said actions is an excellent deterrent to irresponsible action, like say, using your powers in an illegal fashion.

    Baseline humans are already ‘registered’ in the sense that (theoretically) all Americans have to register their children with the Social Security Administration shortly after their birth.

    This assumes that the government is a trustworthy source of authority, and is expected to held accountable for the actions of its citizens.

  4. @Luke, wouldn’t all American-born supers be registered in that sense anyway?

    Registration in China seems to imply that identities, both secret and public, are known by at least the government there. While Lim and the other Feds do seem to know at least most of the capes, does it need to be forced? I sort of get the sense Gordon either doesn’t really know what he’s talking about here or is arguing such for a different reason entirely. So far Lim and the Feds have not shown significant reasons to distrust them, have they?

  5. Registration doesn’t do squat about accountability to the government because the government by itself doesn’t have the power to enforce laws to supers without using other supers. If the government annoys supers in general by oppressing them, why would said supers help it enforce the oppression?

    Also, a super can destroy the government without doing anything illegal with his powers. A precognitive could manipulate the stock exchange into crashing the economy. A tech guy could start selling almost-free energy or supertech devices, breaking monopolies held by nonsupers. A mentalist could make public all the dirty government secrets and the government couldn’t legally hunt him down since they are the criminals in that case.

  6. Reflexive distrust of government… You run into people like that in all walks of life. Government can be thought about in all sorts of ways, but, it is definitely about having something, outside the individual, with power (from some source) that makes larger society work.

    Whether you can trust your government, and for what, is another matter. Super heroes actually can have enough power (as can some people in the military) that they can upset or badly damage government(s).

    Gordon seems to distrust Lim because “he’s government”. This is really asking for trouble because it sets up a ‘them’ and ‘us’ situation, which is the basis for all sorts of… unfortunate ways of thinking. Does Gordon think Nick is “one of us” because he thinks Nick’s a hacker, and hence anti-large organisation, maybe anti-government?

    What can Nick do about this? Well, be could surveil Gordon, and friends, which would get him in all sorts of trouble if the wrong people found out. Like Hunter quite possibly would, given the nature of his powers. He could talk to older supers, like Larry, but Nick’s smart enough to guess what they’d most likely tell him. He should certainly talk to his friends about it. Talking to Lee might produce… messy results.

    On a different topic… Is it just me, or can people imagine Nick putting roach-bot tech into the handles of his tools, so they scuttle away from unauthorised users? [grin]

    Given Nick’s work on the guitar, and all his Grandfather’s work on sonics, how easy would it be for him to put a sound-damping field up, or, at least a sonic curtain across his open lab doorway? Could he tweak the block that ‘grows’ his armour around him, or something derived from that, to easily generate one?

  7. Error:
    I spent the largest part of Saturday morning working the lab.

    I spent the largest part of Saturday morning working in the lab.

  8. I can’t really see superhuman power registration being a viable thing until full gun registration in the US becomes a viable thing (which will likely be never). Otherwise, you’re stepping on civil liberties in a very serious way. Registering the powers of superheroes who have been found guilty of committing crimes is one thing, but forcing registration on citizens who have done nothing wrong isn’t likely to fly very well.

    At the very least, there will be at least a few states that don’t buy into the registration, and those states would become havens for people with superpowers.


  9. Also, @Ereshkigala: a precog causing a stock market crash would be committing a crime. There are specific laws in the US against using privileged information to manipulate the stock market, and also against trying deliberately to cause a widespread crash. (As an aside, most of these laws were created, if I remember correctly, in response to JFK’s father, Joe, manipulating the stock market for his own ends.)


  10. While Gordon may be wrong about mandatory registration, he is certainly right that the federal government would prefer to control ‘capes’ to as great an extent as they can manage. The only question is what degree of hardball they play. So far they seem to prefer sticking with soft power.

    I don’t know exactly what Gordon thinks Nick should do, though, if indeed he is urging any action at all. “Don’t trust that guy.” Well… what does that mean? Don’t ask him for help when he could conveniently solve problems for you? Eh. Keep information from him? Nick sometimes does that (though Gordon doesn’t know it), as when he kept the fact that the League has its own Power Impregnator a secret.

    If Nick wanted to go full-on paranoid, what he probably needs to do is establish a secondary secret laboratory/base at some location the Government doesn’t know about. The Grand Lake base is almost certainly compromised; I’m sure the government knows approximately where it is, even if they may not have the key to the entrances. That way he has a back-up to make/equip tech if he ever needs to go on the run.

    Of course, that would take a lot of time and trouble, and it’s uncomfortably close to how guys like Rook operate.

    Glad to see this plot point wasn’t dropped as a feared, though I’m still interested if Gordon actually has a serious proposal about how Supers should hold off government control, or if he’s just flapping his lips.

  11. What people seem to be forgetting about Registration is that registration isn’t Control. Yes, it’s Knowledge, and yes it’s Power. But Registration doesn’t say whether or not you can have something, or what you can do with it. It’s just saying that you need to let us know that you have it.

    You’re required to ‘register’ your electronics and luggage in carryons when you go on airplanes, but unless you have something ‘forbidden’, nothing is taken from you. It would essentially be the same with powers- “Markdown: real name, Joe Schumacher; Powers, gravity manipulation via mystical runes” “Hydrant: real name, Anne Arbour; Powers, hyrdrokinesis” etc. etc. And maybe a small rundown of ‘weaknesses’ or ‘power stunts’, maybe not. Depends on how the legislation goes through. At the most it can be used by the Gov’t to ‘expose’ a super (and what does that get them?) and at the least it can be used to more easily find a super that commits a crime. It’s one of those situations where the only people who really need to worry are the ones that are breaking the law, and worry because it would make it harder to get away with crimes. At best, it allows the Gov’t to utilize its country-spanning, pre-existing networks and logistics to support and organize heroes during crisis events. We can see this at work during the invasion, even, with the gov’t coordinating supplies and relief to different scattered teams, providing medical response and transport to those who needed it.

    I will never sacrifice Freedom for security, but I will gladly abandon any shred of privacy I have for it. There’s a big difference between being watched and being controlled.

  12. @Anvildude:
    “Registration is that registration isn’t Control. Yes, it’s Knowledge, and yes it’s Power”
    The reason these sort of arguments continually crop up isn’t because of the happy case where the government is just ensuring well maintained data for the purposes of “insert benign reason here”. It’s all the bad cases that the government could do, and the vastly more likely scenarios where the government just stuffs up.

    In the UK, a government official left a disk with details of everyone receiving government child payments on it. That contained (probably) enough information to access the affected individuals bank records in the wrong hands. How much worse would this be if the Nine just got their hands on all the heroes names, short power description and maybe a weakness or two?

    And ultimately, ask yourself how OK you’d be if everyone in your country had to register as Muslim or non-Muslim and the government assured you it was just for some innocent purpose (let’s say like ensuring prayer time notifications being accurately published).

    At the end of the day, requests for government management of information need to consider not just the stated current reason, but also all the ways the data could be used.

    That said, America’s lax gun laws are still nuts.

  13. I’ll cautiously state here that what Jim’s government is doing is very much like what I’d like to see our own government in the real world do with firearms. High quality training for as many people with powers as they can manage.

    The fact that they are allowing the children of villains to attend as well is disturbing on one level, but at the age of adulthood, if they aren’t already criminals, they might not follow in the footsteps of their parents.

    Switzerland provides a clear example that the number of guns is meaningless if the people who have them are well-trained. I think that Jim’s United States is hoping to model their policies around supers to encourage education and responsible (or at least careful) use, as opposed to just pointing the “good guys” at the “bad guys” and letting them beat on one another to prove who’s right.

    Even future criminals, with proper training in the use of their powers, would be safer and less likely to injure others, at least by accident. One could even use that against them in a court of law if/when they did injure bystanders.

    Training, training, training.

  14. @Hydrangeum:
    That assumes his precognition works by information at all, rather than a subconscious instinct – he might not even know himself that he has powers. It would just appear as extreme competence and skill. As for deliberately crashing everything, it is only illegal if they can prove it. I doubt non-superhuman officials could ever legally catch someone with the apparent brilliance and tendency to be always prepared for the right situation of, say, Batman. The more ridiculously always-prepared versions of him at least.

    As one of my high-school teachers said, it’s the group of people in a nation who have the most effectively applied power, to the point that their exercise of power makes itself legal.
    How any given group gets to achieve that can vary. In a democracy, it’s whoever can persuade, buy or deceive the majority into supporting them. In a military regime, it’s whoever has and is willing to use the most guns.

    In the case of superheroes, they have by definition the most “guns” or equivalents. The only reason they aren’t the government is that they don’t want to be. And they don’t really need force to achieve that either; if Guardian wanted to have political or economic power, he could just charge for his services. Merely paying him for saving the day anywhere close to what his services were worth would bankrupt the government.

  15. While poking around at links in a few places earlier today, I found this:

    It’s a webcomic, not webprose. It might, at first glance, seem to be feminine-centrist. The title and some of the first pages seem to make it lean that way, but it explores quite a few different things from the point of view of a heroine who decided to “quit” being a hero, because she realized that being a hero wasn’t fixing the world’s problems.

    I found fairly large chunks of it to be very compatible with the social questions I’m seeing in recent LoN posts.

  16. I don’t like it much myself. Too much social crap and angst IMHO. But hey, that’s personal preference. The writing is actually good and the visuals are not too bad either.

  17. Part of the wariness of the government stems from multiple sources. From the government setting off an atomic bomb then sending men to march toward it to see when they might die. (True or not this one is still around)
    To eminent domain, where a municipality can just seize your home from you and sell it to a private contractor. The town leaders pocket the money but justified it by saying it ‘could’ have improved the tax base if they had gotten that sweet deal they hoped for.
    To police being told to stop looking for major crimes and keeping kids on the straight and narrow and go write some tickets for violations and giving them quotas.
    Both of these things are seen now today. Also government is very fluid. The genuinely nice guy Lim may only want to work with heroes and protect the world. But how many future politicians might get into office by promising to reveal identities of these so called protectors so they can be held accountable? What if they now can pass laws preventing action without congressional approval. Imagine the last entry about the asteroids sent to destroy the earth. Or Nick figuring out where a stash of neutron bombs were stored.
    Congress would take a while to reach a decision. The military might want the bombs kept intact so they could be reverse engineered and once such a small portable threat is available how will the world react?

    All to hand government control. Right now in the story the government at some level knows who even many of the secret heroes are and where to find them. So why demand more. You already have effectively a watch list. The only purpose for a stricter list is as a political weapon.

    And on the subject of allowing the children of villains to join. Note: Vaughn is a grandchild, and since when did our laws include the sins of our fathers?

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