Demo: Part 6

In the first sinking moments of understanding what she’d asked, I thought I might be able to get away with pretending not to know. Then realism set in. She’d realized who was missing from the common areas simply by walking through them and remembering our normal habits—whatever they were.

Lies would be useless. She’d probably be able to match up everything we’d ever said in her presence.

In the face of that, I had no choice.

Sighing, I led with, “It probably doesn’t matter anymore anyway. You know how Turkmenistan’s been in the news lately? Most of the Heroes League was involved with a plan to bug the presidential palace, steal files, and set the regime up for embarrassment or overthrow. We weren’t going to go forward without permission. Unfortunately, someone gave all the stuff we’d collected up through the fourth of July over to Gordon and Stephanie, and they gave it to the Coffeeshop Illuminati, and now, well, who knows what’s going to happen?”

Tara blinked. Given how emotionless she appeared to be, I guessed that the blink might be worth an “Oh my God, you’re kidding me!” from her normal mindset.

Nodding, she said, “That explains a lot. Are you still collecting data?”

I grinned, shrugging as I said. “For all the good it’ll do, yes. I’ve been tempted to turn it off, but then I thought that if things go pear-shaped for the Illuminati, well, at least we’ll know. We might even be able to rescue them if they need it.”

Tara broke. The emotionless mask her face had become changed, her jaw tightening, her skin getting redder. I wasn’t sure if she was angry or about to cry.

“It’s so like them,” she said, fists clenching.

I was beginning to suspect that the impression I’d had of the upperclassmen was wrong. I’d assumed that the smaller classes would have ended up being really close. My guess was that they knew each other pretty well, but liking each other might be optional.

Plus, I could see how Tara might not fit in. She was a little ditzy when she wasn’t using her powers, scary smart when she was, and then there was the whole “daughter of super-soldiers who grew up in Infinity City” thing.

“One of the True got out of Infinity City, and went looking for the man who created them, but in this world, where he hasn’t yet. Stephanie’s sister brought him to the Coffeeshop Illuminati. She didn’t even know what he was.”

Tara’s lower lip trembled.

Not sure where to go with that, I asked. “What happened?”

“My father had to hunt him down and kill him, but it’s okay. He never found the True’s creator, and there’s been no sign of the Abominator birthing chambers he used to create them.”

Whether from thinking about her father, or what the True super-soldier could have done, her eyes glistened around the edges.

Something in what she’d said prompted several memories, and I knew that if I thought about it long enough, I’d be able to pull them together into something that made sense.

My League phone rang, or more accurately, beeped like it did when I had a text. Saying, “Sorry,” I pulled the phone out of my pocket and checked the screen, figuring I’d ignore it if it wasn’t important.

It was a message from Dr. Nation. It said, “Your therapist attempted to have you removed from tournament due to ‘dangerous PTSD.’ Lim squashed it.”

That was weird. If anything she’d be surprised by my lack of PTSD. This kind of a turnaround made no sense. I typed back, “Thanks.”

“What’s wrong?” Tara asked, voice calm.

“Nothing.” I held out my my screen so that she could see. “It was alright even before he texted me.”

Tara read it, and said, “Interesting that she would say something now.”

“Even more interesting that she seemed surprised that I didn’t have PTSD during the actual visit. Her evaluation of me completely flipped between seeing me and now.”

I put my phone back into my pocket, thinking about Abominator birthing chambers. Last year when we’d been fighting the alien invasion, we’d been on Long Island. Near Medford, we’d stopped the invaders from making off with Abominator artifacts that were being studied at a science lab.

One of them had been a platform with tubes. I felt fairly sure it was a birthing chamber. Cassie said that it was used for genetic manipulation, and would even work on someone who was fully formed.

No doubt Cassie had a head start on controlling one, but I felt sure that someone out there could come up with an interface that didn’t require whatever it was that made Abominator created devices identify her as an allowed user.

I’d told Isaac Lim about it, and because of that, the government had taken the birthing chamber after the battle. I wondered where it had gone. Had I prevented the True’s creation or set it in motion?

Tara shook her head. “We should go. You might have to talk to someone about that. And thanks for telling me about your project. If you do need help with it, you can call me.”

19 thoughts on “Demo: Part 6”

  1. I can’t help but wonder why they bothered having therapists if they’re going to ignore them. Yes, it’s clear to us that Nick doesn’t have PTSD, but if someone’s therapist is going to go so far as to declare their client dangerous, it should absolutely be acted on in at least an investigative capacity.

    It’s really kind of terrifying the stuff that heroes in this world could get up to. With supertechnology, memory control, and government support to help them.

  2. Sounds like Nick now knows where the True might have come from… If the government is concerned about controlling supers, someone might think that super soldiers created by Abominator tech is a good way to be prepared for future problems…

    Strange matters with the PTSD claim – is someone influencing or mind-controlling therapists? Or, at least misinforming them?

    And, now Nick has Tara as an ally in the Turkmenistan mess – if nothing else she should be a good analyst, and maybe useful if they need to plan an assault or a rescue.

  3. I assume Lim is comfortable overruling the therapist because she had to file some sort of report after meeting with Nick before, and didn’t say anything about ‘dangerous PTSD’. I think we need more data before we can differentiate between possibilities like mind-control and straight-up misinformation. It is sort of strange that she didn’t, say, request another meeting with Nick (and that Isaac isn’t saying something about that).

    What I’m surprised about is that Nick is in doubt about the Abominator birthing chamber they found. Isaac Lim and his superiors completely freaked out when he passed that information on; in many ways, it was that that pushed Nick and his team to go on the offensive and attack the mothership — I don’t think they would have reacted like that if he had said “some sort of Abominator tech for genetic manipulation, maybe?” Cassie and the gun seemed pretty clear on it.

    I get if this is supposed to be a re-introduction to the Abominator tech they’d previously encountered, but between that confusion and Nick’s vague thought about, “hey, I wonder where that self-repairing, nigh-indestructible engine of chaos and destruction ended up, anyway…,” Nick comes off a little flightier than usual, and not in the lovable way where he’s oblivious to social stuff, either.

  4. This reeks the same like our heroes supposedly being mindcontrolled after getting Rook to nuke his own base.

  5. I think someone is setting the Rocket up to be mind controlled. Then, after he goes crazy and kills someone in public during the demonstration, they trot out the “official warning that was ignored/covered up by government higherups” then trot out how they need a good response to rogue supers, then trot out how they’ve created super soldiers, “humans who have been boosted to be able to fight/contain supers, if need be”, then tell everyone that everyone in the military will soon be getting boosted so that “everyone is equal”, which people will love. Who wouldn’t want to be Captain America’d into a supersoldier? 😉 Of course this Abominator tech is really going to go over poorly in the long run.

  6. I just realized that I’v read up to the current post….. Weird I starred reading this story a few weeks ago.

    1. That is the hazard of archive trawls. You’re reading, and reading, and then suddenly there’s no more and you have to wait.

      Which kind of stinks.

  7. Although I think that instantly assuming that the therapist is being mind controlled is going a bit far (personal theory is bribery), Jim did mention the “Dominators” a while back. If I recall correctly, they are exactly what their name implies, capable of mind control etc. It seems that pretty much everybody is afraid of them, but they’ve only been mentioned once or twice, leading me to think that they may be alarmingly expensive mercenaries. For some reason the whole “scary but not in the limelight” thing reminds me of Worm’s Nilbog. I also remember Nick being very clear on what the birthing chamber was, although that may just be me. With the creation of the True at the forefront of my mind, I have to wonder if the government (actually, it could be any government, not just the U.S. government. Maybe even the government of Turkmenistan. Let’s not be egotistical here) would still support the creation of the True, seeing as they have stories (and evidence?) from Infinity City about how the True basically kill everybody.
    As always, keep up the good work.

  8. We don’t know how the therapist made the request, could simply be a hacked email for all we know 😉

  9. Heh,

    To me, it appears as if one of the demo teams might be trying to mess up the confidence of the other teams.

    A little self-doubt here, a few rumors there. People aren’t quite so trusting of themselves and their teammates.

    Sneaky mentalist tricks!

  10. And I’ve finally caught up, been reading for over a week now. Good news is my posts will be current. Bad news is the wait for new chapters. =) Loving the story so far.

    Izzy definitely needs to settle on a code name before the media pins one on her. They will be ruthless if they do. Battlemaid, Sirocco (a hot fierce desert wind because of her speed), Guarda (Spanish for guard or watch because of her ancestry) perhaps even Ángel Guardián (Guardian Angel) or just Guardián though that might be confused with the current Guardian in this world. OR she might go with something completely different like Diamond. ^_~

    As for a codename for Chris, while catching up I suggested “Howitzer,” a type of Cannon and a play on his last Name. I still think that’s a good one

    1. I’ve been watching your comments appear as you’ve been reading. It’s always nice when people do that–partly because it’s nice to be told you’ve done something right, partly because it encourages me to reread.

  11. “One of the True got out of Infinity City, and went looking for the man who created them” … the prior “them” referred to the Illuminati, which had been the topic to that point, so I thought a True was searching for that group, for some reason. And found them. Got a little confused until I realized this ‘them’ was the True. Probably me.

    I’m liking the links back to older stuff (apparently I made the connection faster than Nick…) though I’d have preferred more info on the Coffeehouse Illuminati, as they seem like the more immediate threat.

    I’m also curious as to why Dr. Nation gave Nick the PTSD information at ALL… as Nick himself said, it was alright before the text! So why the text?? (As an analogy if someone told me “Hey, your doctor said you might have this skin disease, but your x-rays look fine, so never mind”, I think I’d say “Why even tell me if I shouldn’t worry? Why did my doctor think that? How do x-rays relate to a skin disease?” as opposed to figuring, “That’s weird. Oh well.”) Granted, it’s a nice hook back into the Tournament… maybe if it came earlier, before the discussion in Nick’s lab, I would have been more invested in that conversation?

  12. Discovered this 5 days ago and I’ve already read all the way through. Soooo Good. Just excellent sir. I had to come back to this entry though because it contains the only serious continuity error that I noticed in my 5 day binge of all 7 and a half books online and I really want to see it fixed before you print it. Here where Nick remembers the birthing chamber….

    ‘One of them had been a platform with tubes. I couldn’t remember whether anyone had called it a birthing chamber, but it looked like it would fit with that name. Cassie said that it was used for genetic manipulation, but I wished I knew more details of what it could do.’

    However here is a passage from 6.4.27

    ‘Cassie walked onto the lawn, stopping on the grass. “I wasn’t going to tell you much, just a bit of the usual. You know the Abominator birthing platform back there? It’s alive, and it’s repairing itself.”

    Doing my best to keep my voice low enough that it didn’t carry past the helmet, I said, “It’s got the materials?”

    “Doesn’t matter,” Cassie replied. “It’s got alternates that are good enough. It leeches metals out of the computers and the building. It told me it will be fully operational within a year or two.”

    There wasn’t a good reason to be afraid, but that chilled me. “Fully operational? What does that mean? Can it do more than clone?”

    In a matter of fact voice, she said, “A lot more. It can modify people long after they’re born.”’

    And then from 6.4.28

    ‘“I’m not sure that we can leave,” I told him.

    Lim, sounding frustrated, asked, “Why?”

    “They’ve got an Abominator birthing platform. It’s got twenty tubes or so, and even though it’s only partially working right now, it seems to be repairing itself.”’

    Then Lim asked them to destroy it and they couldn’t in the time available so this is something that Lim would have kept track of, especially since those Merc supers landed at the facility during clean-up.
    Also during the escape from Rooks’ base there were birthing tubes where it looked like they were cloning Cassie but they weren’t Abominator tubes-no alien metal. It only makes sense that after that Nick had looked at the records and found out what they were, and it sets up for his flashback in 6.7.

    Please fix this otherwise when reading straight through Nick come across as even more oblivious than he is. It was Tech, of course he paid attention and would remember the details, Gramps and Lee trained him for Abominator situations.
    My previous favorite piece of Superhero fiction is ‘Prepare to Die’ by Paul Tobin, absolutely incredible book and I lost count of how many times I’ve reread it, but there is one Huge continuity mistake in the ebook copy from Baen that hits me in the brain Hard every time.He can’t seem to remember how old his character is, the flash back portion takes place when he’s sixteen and then he can’t seem to settle on if his character is now 25 or 30…. It’s really distracting and a huge editing error and I don’t want to see it happen to LoN. (And I said previous favorite because LoN just knocks everything out of the park because of the steady narrative, depth and sheer amount of material you’ve produced here. But seriously if you haven’t read ‘Prepare to Die’ you should, gives a good example of a character who will kill if necessary and how he justifies and deals with it as well as facing his own impending doom.

  13. Reading this plus skimming the comments. I would say Nick half forgetting the birthing chamber is how his PTSD was smoothed over. The ugly details were blurred so he could process them at a slower pace. And it is one of those details.
    Interestingly I still think Agent Lim might be said creator if say he went with the super soldiers as a way to compensate for the Heroes League being wiped out or similar catastrophe. And the Coffee Shop Illuminati couldn’t find him because their distrust of the government and FBI in particular left them a blindspot.

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