For His Own Good: Part 3

“They’re okay with that?” It seemed like something I could ask. The Galactic Alliance requirement that we couldn’t copy their technology had passed into general knowledge.

Dr. Strazinsky nodded. “The aliens aren’t as concerned about the math as the technology. I like to think that I’m exploiting a loophole in the system. Don’t tell anybody. The administration might get nervous.”

I thought about that. I’d heard of people doing that kind of thing in STEM courses. Our scientists and engineers seemed to be more bothered by the Alliance’s version of Star Trek’s Prime Directive than your average guy.

You could argue that the idea had some wisdom behind it. If a world got technology before they’d had any chance think through the technology’s potential impact, they might destroy themselves before they figured out how to integrate the new technology into their culture.

I knew of at least one alien race that was deliberately passing out new technology that would be far outside any species’ natural technological development. They were counting on younger species’ lack of experience to destroy those species.

“Are you sure?” I could play the clueless undergrad as well as anyone.

He smiled and in a voice that was likely intended to be reassuring, he said, “Yes. There’s nothing to worry about. Better minds than mine cleared the idea.”

“Okay,” I said and tried to think of something that would help me understand what was going on here.

The only thing that came to mind was, “Which super villain was it?”

Keeping his voice low, he said, “The Master Martian—not the first one. The second.”

My implant didn’t give me a massive brain dump worth of information. So either the Xiniti didn’t know anything about the second Master Martian or I didn’t yet have the right information to trigger recognition.

Still, it made sense in a way that someone whose schtick was claiming to be the son of the last Martian might be working with jump drive math.

My grandfather and his best friend, Giles Hardwick, had fought the first Master Martian and won back when they were twelve or something.

I frowned. “The second Master Martian… Is he still out there?”

Dr. Strazinsky nodded. “The last I heard. We were studying his journal to find out what he was up to next. I don’t know what the others learned, though. I only got the sections with math.”

I thought about that, remembering an unrelated but important event that I didn’t want to miss at home. “Is that it?”

Sitting back in his chair, Dr. Strazinsky said, “Yes. That’s it. You’re the only one who’s ever solved that calculation. That means that you’re either brilliant or that you’re very smart and happen to have the right background. Either way, people are going to be watching what you do. Make the best choices you can, ones that you’ll be able to live with later.”

“Sure,” I said, not sure why he felt compelled to start giving advice. “I try to make the best choices I can.”

Then we said goodbye and I left, unsure of what had happened there. All I knew for sure was that contacting Isaac Lim to find out if he knew something about Dr. Strazinsky was now on my list of things that needed to be done. That and checking if the Federal databases we had access to included anything about him.

I’d be able to do something about that sooner rather than later because I wasn’t living on campus this year, meaning that it was time to go home.

I stopped by the parking garage and grabbed my van, driving across Grand Lake in about ten minutes. It wasn’t a bad drive. I had the window open because it was still in the first week of September. The temperature was in the low seventies, the grass green, and sometimes, when the highway ran alongside it, I smelled the lake.

I rolled up to the small, white 1920s bungalow I’d inherited from my grandfather and drove inside the garage. The van barely fit. Making my way past the shovels, rakes, trimmer and other implements of lawn care that hung on the wooden wall, I crossed the distance to the house and walked through the door.

No one greeted me and I hadn’t expected anyone to. My grandfather was three years gone by now and the only one of my housemates that was home right now was waiting downstairs.

I took the hidden elevator down into the Heroes’ League’s headquarters. When the elevator opened, I stepped into the main room. Over the last year, it had come to look like a working superhero base again. We’d long since removed the cardboard boxes of memorabilia and placed them out of sight. Bearing in mind that one of the trophies our grandparents had collected had actually contained the disembodied essence of a supervillain, we’d gone over all the other trophies by technical and later magical means to make sure there wouldn’t be any more surprises.

As of now, none of the weapons on display worked. The big, black and silver disc that I referred to as the starplate still worked, but I’d set up a system that should allow us to catch anything that appeared on it whether we were there or not.

On the other side of the room stood a huge screen and in front of it several tables with smaller screens, but that was a long ways away.

The people were over here with me. As I stepped out, I heard Kayla say, “People should have been here by now. I hope nothing’s wrong. They haven’t called for backup or anything—oh, it’s Nick. So, I’m guessing that everyone’s just late.”

Two figures stood in HQ’s open kitchen area. Kayla was the smaller of the two. Tan with shoulder length, dark hair, thin, and a little taller than average for a woman, Kayla wore a gray Heroes’ League costume as she had at work for the past year.

Next to her stood Tara. Unlike Kayla, Tara wore street clothes (jeans and a green blouse) and carried a duffel bag. Two big suitcases stood next to her.

Maybe an inch taller than me, Tara’s shoulders were a little wider than many women the same size and her arms and legs hinted at muscle. Knowing what she was—the offspring of two nearly identical lines of genetically engineered super soldier—her size and strength made sense.

What I’d never understood is why the designer of the True had made them attractive. With dark blonde hair, blue eyes, and wide lips, Tara could have modeled.

If I were making super soldiers, I wouldn’t have made them stand out so much.

14 thoughts on “For His Own Good: Part 3”

    1. He does like Tara, but he sees things from an engineering/design perspective. Designing an effective soldier requires many specific things. If you decide that they have to be an effective soldier and also attractive, it makes things harder and more complicated. Some beauty ideals might work against being an effective soldier.

      1. Yeah but attractive people have a much easier time getting close to people and gaining their trust, so it could be beneficial from an espionage perspective

        1. That is true. Attractiveness does help with that. Ideally, if you were going to create an army of cloned soldiers, you’d have different clone types for different specialties, each one optimized for their function.

          So far as we know, the True have only one set of DNA, differing between the men and women only by the X or Y chromosome.

          Of course, it could be that only espionage models survived or were made for some reason and there were others planned. We may never know.

          1. For that matter health and good looks are strongly correlated. If you try to max one, the other might come easily. And who doesn’t want their masterwork to look good? Even Nick’s powered armor is shiny.

      2. Attractiveness basically boils down to “make them symmetrical and healthy”. Arguably Nick is over-estimating the difficulty. But then, he’s an engineer not an genengineer!

        1. That’s true–that and also relatively simple facial features. Apparently, a psychologist created a composite of facial features of criminals in an attempt to see if there were patterns. All he managed to do was create pictures of attractive people.

          That said, there are traits that are viewed as attractive by different cultures–breasts, butts, the proportion of muscle to fat, and so on.

          Thinness is viewed as attractive now, but in the past being fatter was more desirable. Having a slower metabolism is supposedly helpful when food is less available.

          Similarly, I’m told that larger breasts can be painful when exercising. Also, there have been periods where having obvious muscles wasn’t viewed as attractive at all. There are other things like that where things that are culturally viewed as beautiful aren’t necessarily functional for fighting or survival.

          Tara, though I don’t say it in this post, has a body like a female comic book character–larger than average breasts, lower body fat percentage. That’s a look that isn’t common in real life. It isn’t common in female athletes either (though you can find exceptions to that).

          That’s what’s going on in my head when I’m thinking that Nick would view making the True attractive is a little strange.

    2. We consider healthy appearance sexy because reproducing healthy offspring, so super soldiers would arguable be very healthy people, so…

  1. [What I’d never understood is why the designer of the True]

    (looks at title for Book 10) Well, I have some suspicions that this Book is going to involve answers to questions about the True. Perhaps we’re doing to see their attempted creation in Nick’s Earth.

  2. Okay I need to ask. I am rereading, again. And I got a bit of geography from Rocket putting Grand Lake and Lake Michigan west of town. Which after looking up Grand Lake is technically true. But it goes into Lake Heron because Lake Michigan is on the other side of the state.
    So my question is this. Invented town? Or am I looking in the wrong place?

    1. Invented city. The real Grand Lake, Michigan is not the one we’re talking about here.

      Grand Lake, Michigan in the story is a combination of Holland, Michigan, Grand Haven, Michigan and Traverse City with many specific bits from Grand Rapids, Michigan. Also, it’s the size of Grand Rapids or larger.

      I grew up in Holland, currently live in Grand Rapids, have vacationed in Traverse City, and am familiar with Grand Haven.

      For what it’s worth, the picture next to my name is Holland’s lighthouse.

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