Go Time: Part 3

Ms. Hemming waved me into her office. “Take a chair.”

She shut the door behind me, as I walked inside. Pikes Peak rose among the mountains viewable from her windows.

I sat down in one of the chairs across from her desk. Unlike every therapist’s office I’d seen in cartoons, it did not have a couch–not that I expected to see one. My dad was a clinical psychologist. He didn’t have a couch.

Her office had been carved out of the rock by Earthmover’s mind and included bookshelves. They’d been cut out of the rock too, but were almost entirely empty. One half shelf held books.

I supposed that they might not have planned to hire as many psychologists as they needed. As crazy as it seemed, the Hrrrnna had attacked Earth only a month or two ago, and the Stapledon program’s expansion probably only included psychologists as an afterthought.

Regardless, between the sunlight and the view, it felt comfortable.

Ms. Hemming sat down behind her desk, giving me a smile, and picking up a folder. As she opened it, she said, “I know you’ve gone to a couple group sessions by now, so some of the questions I’m about to ask might seem redundant, but remember, I haven’t heard you talk about them before.”

“Sure,” I said.

“Good,” she said, nodding. “How did you come to be in Stapledon?”

“In a roundabout way because of my grandfather. I’m guessing you know he was the Rocket?”

She nodded.

“Okay. Well, he left me everything I needed to be a superhero, and I helped my friends handle some problems. That made me and my friends eligible for the Stapledon program as it was then–which was basically a way to train and educate people who were already acting as vigilantes anyway.”

She’d pulled out a notebook as I talked, and jotted something down. “I’ve read reports on what you did prior to being recruited for the program. What appealed to you about being a vigilante?”

That was a question. I couldn’t say it made a lot of sense, but it was a question.

“Um… Nothing. I don’t have any kind of burning need to dispense justice. Look, most of the early stuff we did was to keep from dying. The Cabal was collecting information on us, and so we did what we needed to find out who they were, and survive meeting them.”

She wrote a little more. “But you could have handed off everything to the Midwest Defenders. You chose to keep it to yourself.”

I shook my head. “Not really. We brought adults in, but we didn’t have enough information to hand it off when we fought the Mayor. Later, when we fought the remnants of the Cabal when they teamed up with the Executioner, well… That was more complicated. We didn’t know we were fighting them at first, and when we did we brought in adults.”

She looked up from writing. “But you still stayed involved.”

“Unless we wanted to run for our lives there wasn’t any way to avoid being involved. They were after us, and if we ever wanted to live in Grand Lake again, we didn’t have a choice.”

Ms. Hemming put down the notebook. “And after that?”

I thought about we did after that–Evil Beatnik, saving St. Louis, the attack by the Hrrnna, and the time we rescued Cassie from the Nine.

“Well, there are still a lot of times where we weren’t so much acting to save civilians as we were acting to save ourselves or one of our team members. Granted there are exceptions to that. We went to St. Louis, and there we really did save civilians, but that was one of those things. We had the ability to save them, and no one else did.

“I don’t see that as a superhero thing as much as simply the right thing to do. You don’t let people die if you have the power to stop it from happening. So, I mean, getting back to your first question, there’s nothing that appeals to me about being a vigilante. Occasionally though, when I’m not dealing with people who are trying to kill me for one reason or another, I notice that people need help, and then I help.”

We talked about other aspects of the program after that, finally turning to the fight in New York and on Manhattan island.

She looked up from her notepad, asking, “How did the fight make you feel?”

I looked at her, thinking about it. “I didn’t feel much. At different points, I felt scared and sometimes relieved, but mostly feelings were the furthest thing from my mind. I kept my mind on the next step, whatever we all had to do to stop the aliens from winning.”

She nodded. “My notes say that you killed a Xiniti and other aliens as well. Do you often find yourself thinking about that?”

I considered it. “Not really. I did right afterward, but not very hard. They were all in armor, so I couldn’t see their faces, and so that looked very similar. It was almost like fighting robots. They didn’t seem like real people. I thought about the Xiniti a little more because there was only one. He wasn’t human at all though.”

She kept on writing notes. “You can say more about that if there’s more to say.”

“I don’t think there is. I expected more guilt if I ever had to kill something, but I haven’t felt any. Maybe it’s still coming. Maybe it was all too weird for me to feel like they were real. I don’t know.”

She looked up. “Is there anything about the battle that does come back to you?”

“Not really. I have had dreams about being on the mothership as it was going down, but not lately. I’ve also had the occasional flashback to being on the ship, but not for a few weeks now. My last one was not long after I arrived here. I wonder why they stopped?”

“These things fade over time. You might have gotten over it. You might not have encountered any triggers lately. Try to be aware of it if you do.”

10 thoughts on “Go Time: Part 3”

  1. Things written in Ms. Hemming’s notebook:

    “Nick Klein = soulless robot created by original Rocket?”

    “Claims not enjoy punching people. (craaazy??!!)”

    “Thinks other races weird and OK killing”
    “other races” is crossed out and “aliens” is written above
    An additional note “the ET kind” is written above “aliens”

    …but seriously, one thing that surprised me a little is the implication that the published adventures are the only ones that Nick has had. I figured the Heroes League was ‘going on patrol’ and busting the occasional criminal in between stories. Have they not been doing that?

    I’m also surprised to read how much Nick is backing away from the idea that he’s a vigilante. The stuff about just wanting to help people because he has the power to do so seems a little disingenuous. As an inventor type, Nick has that power through his own effort. No one forced him to repair the Rocket suits and later build his own. He decided to do that. Is it really the case that the only reason he wants that power is self-defense? If he had a guarantee that no one would ever come after him again, would he toss the armor into the sea?

  2. We brought adults in, but we didn’t have initially have enough information to hand it off when we fought the Mayor.
    This sentence seems a bit akward. Maybe you could leave out the first “have”?

  3. This actually fits the early Nick pretty well. He liked tinkering around with ridiculous super science but didn’t have any interest in cape stuff. He more or less went along with the others in that regard, especially Cassie.

  4. Error: I thought about we did after that–Evil Beatnik, saving St. Louis, the attack by the Hrrnna, and the time we rescued Cassie from the Nine.

    Fixed: I thought about what we did after that–Evil Beatnik, saving St. Louis, the attack by the Hrrnna, and the time we rescued Cassie from the Nine.

  5. What most people do not know is that PTSD or formerly known as shellshock is known since world war 1, because it develops if a person lives a long time under pressure (the kind where death/survial always depends on split second decisions.
    So a person who runs a long time on adrenaline and any form of chemical help avaiable.
    If there is enough time in between to relax and let ones guard down, and the person has an sense of having control over going into danger and out of it out of own will the likely hood is way lower.
    Then there is the preparation, as more someone is trained to act in dangerous situation as lower the risk they develop an traumata.

    Nick is trained from early childhood on, even before he was aware of it, so he is very competent even without knowing it (trained reflexes from the games who were simulations made by the AI and Gunther, martial arts training and so on, so a lot of trained reflexes and preparation.

    Most people who develop this traumata where tossed into situation where they where not feeling as if in controll of the situation, like soldiers who do have half or one year of training and then send of to war where they life day in day out under pressure.

    So it is to me not very surprising that Nick does not have many issues.

    Then Nick got told by Gunther that he will have to make an choice at some time to kill or die.

    Given Nick is the analytical type who tends to overthink things rather than wait and see (rather too much at times) I doubt he went into the new york alien thing without having spend a few thoughts about that, so killing the Xinti did not come as such a big surprise to him, not a situation he was tossed in without much preparation either.

    He considers himself as someone who tends to avoid killing, build his suit and weapons with that in mind but is prepared to protect himself and his friends.

    So in his mind there is doubt if he did his “best” but at the same time he is with himself at peace that he did try his very best to avoid killing, in this situation and with the knowledge and tools he had at hand.

    But i think the important part is that he feels in control, and not send out to “do stuff” he is not even sure what it is about.

    And he can take of the suit and have a rather normal mundane exitence in between.

    That is at least my take on why he will not snap that easy.

    He is even if he is not self aware of it highly trained to deal with issues before they become such due to his upbringing and because he is never for weeks in dangerous situations and constantly on the edge.

    Old saying about war is long stretches of boredom and short moments of terror, but today war for an soldier is constant terror and then poof civilian life, so people snap, especial if they had an very peaceful up bringing like most people do nowadays without the benefit of having an grandfather and an immortal preparing them to control the enviroment they find them self in, even if it is chaos.

    I do not know if the shrink is aware of his upbringing for example so he may be an enigma to her.

  6. Pounce,

    You definitely have a point that being trained to be a fighter by the right person, who knew what they were doing, could easily prepare him to be resistant to PTSD.

  7. An big part is the person self, emergency personal for example showed me that the people who are very self sure can be hit hardest while the softy type draws through, people who are not full of them self so to say are not surprised that much if they “crack”, they pick up the pieces and repair, while for the hero type who has smooth sailing under normal circumstances any form of “personal weakness” is a revelation hard to swallow.

    Then you have of course the psychopatic one who do not give an s… .

    But everyone can break, off course.

  8. Quick edit, “have is in here twice:
    We brought adults in, but we didn’t have initially have enough information to hand it off when we fought the Mayor.

    Should be:
    We brought adults in, but we didn’t initially have enough information to hand it off when we fought the Mayor.

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