Demo: Part 4

“Huh.” I stared into the distance as I wondered how exactly we’d handle a faerie invasion, and also, why they’d bother.

I happened to have aimed my staring vaguely in the direction of the door, and so I was watching as Samita and Tara walk though the magically guarded doorway.

Technically, I heard Tara before I saw her. Her voice cut through the silence, a torrent of words with barely any space between them. She was very excited about whatever it was.

As she stepped through the door, the first intelligible word I heard was, “—bananas! Of course they weren’t real bananas. The Paperclips, a scientist cult, had created a kind of bacteria that tasted like bananas, but grew on rotting food. My dad would take me to an ice cream shop that froze it in layers with chocolate and ice cream. I’ve never found anything like it here.”

Samita nodded and frowned briefly. “I can’t imagine that you would find much that grows on rotting food, but a lot of desserts combine banana, chocolate and ice cream.”

Rod didn’t give her the chance to reply. “Did you say rotting food?”

Tara hesitated for a second, but then said, “I know it sounds terrible, but the Paperclips had decided to solve world hunger—all the worlds’ hunger—and what would be better to turn into good food than rotting food?”

“Look,” Rod said, “I’ll be the first to admit that my standards when I’m a troll aren’t high, but weren’t you at least a little worried?”

Tara shook her head. “No. We knew one of the Paperclips. He’d done tests that proved it was perfectly safe, and it was. No one got sick, and it worked better than their next project.”

Amy grinned. “And what was their next project?”

Tara met her eyes. “They started on meat. They genetically modified some pigs to be small enough to live in an apartment, but to grow very large, very quickly if you had the food to feed them. Oh, and also they ate rats because there was a rat problem.”

Rod folded his hands across his chest. “That doesn’t sound that bad. I’m not sure I’d want to eat pigs that ate rats, but I guess it works.”

Tara shook her head. “When they grew, they stopped caring about rats. They went after bigger game—dogs, cats… people.”

Amy covered her mouth with her hand. Rod stared, and said, “Fuck.”

Samita asked, “What did you do?”

Tara shrugged. “It was back when both my parents were alive. We were living in Infinity City and they were paid to protect a city block. Once they understood what was going on, they organized a hunt, killed them all, and we had an amazing barbecue. Of course we had to move on after that. Too many of the wrong people had seen us.”

She smiled for a moment, “Strange as it sounds to you, it was a good time.”

Rod snorted. “It’s Infinity City. I’m prepared to believe anything.”

Amy raised an eyebrow. “Infinity City?”

Sliding further onto my computer desk, Rod said, “It exists in multiple dimensions, maybe all of them.”

Nodding, Amy said, “I think I might have heard of it, but under a different name.”

“Hey,” I said. “We probably ought start talking about our strategy for the tournament. I don’t think we’ve got more than an hour if we want to make the tail end of supper.”

Rod checked the computer screen, and pushed himself off the desk, saying, “I didn’t know it was that late.”

We all grabbed chairs, and sat around my worktable. I’d cleared it before everyone arrived this time. It was better than having to tell people not to touch roachbots, experimental weapons, or Rocket suit parts.

Tara sat up in her chair, waiting as we all got settled, and then saying, “It looks like we can start. We need to come up with strategies and tactics for fighting each of the three groups, knowing that we’ll only have to fight two. Nick, you were already beginning to analyze the other groups when we were there. Please continue.”

It was as if she were a different person. She’d entered the lab moving her hands as she’d talked about ice cream. Now she sat, intently watching each of our reactions. I knew what made the difference.

“Sure,” I said. “We’ve got group 1 which includes two hand to hand fighters, and three people with area of effect attacks, two of whom are mobile.

“Group 3 has two speedsters and three hand fighters. Group 4 has two flying bricks, but also has a speedster, a guy with force fields, and a guy with a bow.”

I’d never been completely sure how marksmanship with a bow and arrow was equivalent to a superpower. It looked like I’d get the chance to find out.

The corners of Tara’s mouth curved into a hint of a smile.

“What about our group?” She asked.

I thought about it. “We’ve got two people who are good with magic, one massive hand to hand fighter, an inventor, and one hand to hand fighter with an unusual head for tactics. I’d say the way we stand out from each group is in flexibility.”

13 thoughts on “Demo: Part 4”

  1. Im thinking Nick and Tara make for a great team. Nick has the really deep thoughts and Tara brings focus and practicality.

  2. “Tara walk though”

    Tara walked through

    I like the banter from Tara at the beginning, it’s always cool to see the normal side of the capes, but on the other hand I feel like I’m missing something. Was there a point or message to the Paperclips thing like a foreshadowing or was it just conversation?

    1. Starshadowx2: The conversation may have gone on too long and given too much emphasis to that bit of background. Right now it mostly exists to remind people of Tara’s background.

      I’m not ruling out having the Paperclips appear in some future story though.

  3. “I’d never been completely sure how marksmanship with a bow and arrow was equivalent to a superpower.”

    Personally, I think its Instinctive Trajectory Awareness, everything else is hard work, training and the nerves necessary to do an Apfelschuss.

    That or the thick skin to personally go through The Hawkeye Initiative.

  4. Nice reference to paperclip maximizers, Jim! For those unaware of the concept, here’s a link:

    http://wiki.lesswrong.com/wiki/Paperclip_maximizer

    Now, I’m wondering when Tara is going to ask Nick “Can you use your little remote platforms to spy on the other teams? It would be nice to know what they are planning.”

    This should lead to some interesting glances and interactions. Tara will probably be clued into the fact that Nick is “Up To Something” outside the team combat event.

    In fact, it wouldn’t surprise me at all if Lee knows exactly what Nick is up to with the roachbots in Turkmenistan, and intentionally put Tara on his team knowing that one way or the other, she will probably find her way onto Nick’s ‘project’ team.

    For Lee to use the entire team combat event to provide Nick with a person Lee believes Nick needs, at least temporarily, seems entirely in character.

    1. Farmerbob: It’s actually a reference to “Operation Paperclip,” the operation the US used to get a hold of as many Nazi scientists as they could post WW2.

      Your link would have been a good reference too.

      With regard to Rod, he’s half human, half troll. Someday I may explain how that works.

  5. Jim, I just realized something. I’m not sure which form is Rod’s normal form?

    Is he a Troll with the ability to become a human, or a human that can become a Troll?

  6. One last thing. Jim it bothers me a bit to hear Nick be imprecise when he could be a little more precise without using more words.

    “Group 3 is about half speedsters and half hand to hand fighters. Group 4 is about half flying bricks, but also has a speedster, a guy with force fields, and a guy with a bow.”

    He could use actual numbers here without making the statements much longer.

  7. Wow,

    I’m amazed that you nailed the concept so perfectly while coming from a completely different direction. The pigs you described are exactly the sort of thing that one would expect from a classic ‘paperclip maximizer’

  8. “I was watching as Samita and Tara walk though the magically guarded doorway” (walked)

    Honestly, I worry that this section is getting a bit too derivative. Back in 6.4, “Stardock”, the narrative led in with the whole “Earth is undefended” line… only to have that subverted with “nothing happening”, instead introducing the ships angle, along with another altercation with Sean, and more on the Izzy/Daniel angle. The invasion started several parts later, as they were headed out. And that was great, it played with expectations and did more with character and world building. (It also ultimately gave us Amy!)

    This feels like more of the same (leading in with the Turkmenistan plot). Except it’s not as well done. I say not as well done, because the stakes are lower. Back then we had the whole “spaceships” angle, some play fighting with new characters, and stuff like the Sean antagonism was still (reasonably) fresh. This time the angle seems to be play fighting for reporters (rather than to defend the stardock), a re-tread of old characters (not all, Blue Zorro and Baseball guy looked interesting – except everyone on Nick’s team are old favourites!) and Nick is STILL kinda angsty over Sean (which is in character, but it might be more interesting to consider how he would interact with Gordon instead of keeping it personal).

    I grant that some of my frustration might be my own memory (I can still remember how “Vincent Sucks” plays into things, so Tara is no problem) and by no means am I saying the writing is bad (the whole paperclip thing was fun to read even though I didn’t get the reference), but I can’t shake this “Been There, Done That” feeling. Except this time, I can’t see how it will fit into the bigger Government/Fairy picture. Hm, maybe that’s what’s bothering me? So maybe it will make sense in retrospect? For right now though, I don’t feel like “Demo” is introducing anything new to the LoN universe, aside from how Rod is also seeing fairies. (If you got to the end of this long winded ramble, good for you…)

  9. As a nerd, I have to raise an objection to the utility of solving hunger by turning rotten food into something edible. The reason should be obvious: if food has time to rot, clearly no one was hungry enough to eat it.

    The only way it could help is with food that spoils in transit from a plentiful source, or if a location has seasonal excesses of food. Both of these can in turn be solved by food preservation, which isn’t exactly bleeding edge technology.

    Perhaps you could make it more believable by saying that the bacteria feed off of other things that humans can’t or won’t eat? Such as grass clippings, excrement, or other offal.

    /end pointless nerdrage

    1. One of the major features about the scientists involved is that they’re supposed to be a little bit ‘off.’ They’re trying to solve the problem while failing to take into account basic human aspects of the solution. At that point, it’s not impossible that they don’t fully understand what leads to the problem either.

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