Claws & Eyes: Part 3

Hours went by. I lost track of time as I worked. I’d redesigned the remote control for my bots. Though I’d recreated it as software in the Rocket suit, my new version acted as an interface between my implant and the bots, allowing me to control them directly with my brain.

I probably could have figured out a way for the implant to connect to the bots directly either by imitating their control signals or creating a system for the bots that connected to the implant, but this was easier.

It meant I didn’t have to redesign the bots and that my first attempt at connecting to alien technology didn’t have to fit inside a bot. Instead, I’d designed it to look like a portable phone charger.

I tested a spybot, sending it in a circle around the room. The connection stayed strong and it responded to my directions as well as it did from the suit—better maybe.

I did feel a little weird to have a little window showing the bot’s camera feed in my head, but the Xiniti had systems for controlling devices remotely built into the implant. Figuring out how to make the video and sound convert over had the side effect of answering if it were possible to translate my conversation with Ryan (Higher Ground’s head scientist) into Earth audio-visual formats.

As I began to bring the spybot in for a landing, Haley stepped through the door. She wore her costume which was grey with an abstract head of a cat on her chest.

“I can’t believe you’re still here.” She stepped to the side as I lost control of the bot and it skidded across the table and hit the wall next to the door.

I felt my eyes widen. “Sorry.”

Haley glanced down at the spybot where it lay on the floor. “It’s my fault. I should have given you more warning.”

“I’m not sure that would have helped.”

She laughed. “I doubt it. You weren’t paying attention to anything, but if I had made a noise maybe you wouldn’t have broken your bot this badly.”

Bending over, she picked it up and put it on the counter I sat next to. Its nose had been smashed in. A quick look at the bot’s vitals showed that it was still connected to the remote and that the main rocket would still respond.

“Don’t worry about it. It’s an old bot I only keep around for testing anyway.”

“Good.” Then she frowned. “Do you know what time it is? It’s after midnight.”

The implant gave me the exact time—12:14 am. “I kind of knew that. Why are you here?”

“I went out on patrol with Tara. Chris and Camille were out too, but they were flying so mostly it was Tara and me.”

“How’s that going?” I’d heard Tara’s perspective. Haley’s might be different.

Haley cocked her head. “It’s good. It’s a little strange to have Chris in the suit instead of you, but I think Tara makes us coordinate better and she notices so much about how we fight. I think she’s good for the team. If she wants to stay after she’s done with her government service, I think we should take her.”

“I’d be for it. Ignoring powers, I think she’s the best hand to hand fighter I’ve seen in the program.”

Waving her hand at the tables in the lab, she asked, “So what have you been working on?”

“Stuff for bugging the lab. I’ve got an interface for the bots and my implant and a couple of new types of bots.”

Haley looked over at the tables full of parts and a few finished bots. “I only see one kind.”

“One of them doesn’t look like a bot. The box full of little black dots about the size of ant heads? I’m calling them ‘dotbots.’ They can only move a little bit, but once they get into the right spot, they can burrow into concrete if they have to and at worst they’ll look like a speck on the wall. They’re the bugs. They’ve got a decent range for both audio and visual and as usual, they’ll self-destruct.

“The bigger bot—the wasp-sized one—I’m calling a ‘spitbot.’ It contains several dotbots which it’ll spit out wherever I want.”

She raised an eyebrow. “Dotbots? Spitbots? Not all of your names have to end in bot, do they?”

I shrugged. “It’s easy and I’m not telling everybody their names—just the team.”

Haley shook her head. “That might change. Chris has been talking about how the two of you should set up some kind of business. You need some kind of normal way to support yourselves after college. He’s been thinking you should invent something.”

I thought about it. “Maybe. We’ll have to have some kind of civilian job.”

Haley reached out and put her arm on my shoulder and leaned into me. It felt good and I reached out, wrapping my arm around her.

Her head neared my shirt and she took a sniff. “What did Tara want?”

I wasn’t surprised that she’d noticed. “To talk about Emmy and the True mostly, I think. She hugged me when I said that I’d see if I could convince Lim to let her meet Emmy when this is all over.”

She looked up at me. “Sometimes I wish Tara weren’t quite so touchy-feely with you, but I know she doesn’t mean anything by it. It would smell different. And anyway, she’s like that with all of her friends.”

“I know.” My sister Rachel didn’t always feel comfortable with it either.

Haley frowned. “I think we might be the closest thing to family she has.”

She shook her head. “I didn’t mean to get into all of this. I was really stopping by because I’m hungry. Do you want to go to the Chinese buffet on State? They’re open all night. If you’re not in the mood for Chinese food, I guess there’s Denny’s.”

“You know, I don’t think I had supper.” My stomach growled, underscoring the point.

We left for the restaurant and I left the details of how I’d bug Higher Ground for the next day.

15 thoughts on “Claws & Eyes: Part 3”

  1. The chapter felt really good and left me feeling good. The two chapters before it as well. This story is sitting pretty well with me so far. I admit, Chris in the Rocket suit bugs me a little. I guess I’ll get over it lol.

  2. You know Jim, I’ve been consistently surprised that you’ve chosen to keep the Nick and Haley relationship going for so long. Not that I have anything against Haley as a character, but the soap opera of relationship drama is arguable nearly as much part of the superhero genre as fights are. At times when we’re talking about characters like Tara you can almost see the alternate universe story of, “What if Nick was having to navigate the complexities of a new relationship while this was going on?” buried under the actual, “He has a girlfriend so it’s not even an issue.”

    Granted it’s certainly possible to go too far and have characters constantly bouncing in and out of relationships in a way that starts to seem negative, but it wouldn’t exactly have been a surprise if Nick ended up breaking up with his high school girlfriend. Many people do, as they grow up and change and find they’re not quite the same people.

    I don’t know; sometimes it seems like Nick is just happy to have “a girlfriend” so that he can consider that part of his life settled. He certainly likes Haley, but I never get the impression he considers her The One or his Soulmate or anything soppy like that. She’s just the person he happened to start dating first and if you pumped him with truth serum he might admit that the relationship with her is “good enough”.

    1. I sort of agree. I think the Nick/Haley relationship, while clearly positive in the sense that they’re mutually supportive without being unhealthily dependent, hasn’t gotten developed much in some ways. It’s clear that they’ve gotten closer, of course, in terms of willingness to talk about things they wouldn’t have when they first got together, but I’m not sure what exactly it is that Nick likes most about Haley or vice versa.

      I think part of that is just because of Nick’s perspective – he’s thoughtful, but not super introspective. Plus, they’ve consistently avoided the kind of relationship drama that would force them to have more open, emotional or emotion-focused conversations, and Haley’s powers seem to help her know how Nick is feeling anyway, thus letting her cope with his not being that talkative better than most people could.

      I’m mostly okay with it, and I’ve accepted that their relationship is more of a long-term minor subplot than a major plot, I guess. It helps that I like Haley a lot, as a character. The brief part from her POV is definitely a highlight, to me.

      With that said, I do wonder sometimes if Nick is (or both of them are) sort of coasting, relationship-wise. It’s hard to say, but I would expect that sort of thing to be more common among super-folks, because the number of people they can date who will actually understand their lives is a lot smaller than for the average person.

    2. Don’t think I’m ignoring this comment or the replies, but I don’t have a reply that doesn’t go further in to spoiler territory than I want to.

      What I can say is this:
      1. I’ve often disliked the relationship whiplash I get out of certain comics or even TV series (I’m looking at you, “Friends”). Over time, I’ve become somewhat disenchanted with caring about whether (for example) MJ and Peter Parker are currently together–in much the same way that I’m kind of sick of the revolving door of death in comics.

      2. As a result, if Nick and Haley break up or have major relationship difficulties, I’ll feel like I can only do that story once and so I’ll want to time it well. Also, it’ll have to permanently break them up or move them forward in a significant way.

      3. There are a lot of comics and stories with constant relationship difficulties. I’m okay with doing a story where a long term relationship basically works.

      That said, I am passing up a lot of opportunities by choosing that route. If you think about Harry Potter for example, there were at least a few potential relationships in there and they were all interesting. Leaving that part of a character’s life uncertain does add something.

  3. I think I like Nick and Haley’s relationship status at the moment. The fact that they each adjust to each others quirks and habits kinda reflects how longer lasting relationship tend to be in real life. Though I confess that their age is way too young to have a mature mindset like that, people their age tend be reckless in life and love.

  4. I like Nick and Haley’s relationship. They play off each other and it’s a fun read when they work together. You need to keep in mind that Nick not the type to go on about what he likes about someone. He hasn’t said what he likes about anyone on the team or even his own family.

    1. To be clear, it’s not that their relationship is bad. It’s good. It’s too good is the thing….

      LoN is a long-running superhero story, and romance is deeply embedded in the superhero genre. Couples having arguments, breaking up, and getting back together is a narrative dynamo. I’m sure having a stable, loving relationship makes Nick happy, but stories aren’t there to make the protagonist happy. When I see that Nick’s relationship with Haley is an anchor that helps keep him stable and clear-thinking in a chaotic world, I kind of want to see that anchor taken away. See if it makes him upset and and unhappy and turns up the melodrama.

      1. I disagreee, there are stories with broken/conflicted relationship a ton for a dime out there.
        On the other hand Nick/Haley other that being positive&cute is also a distinct point to LoN. And if you think this kind of relationship is unrealistic think about Jon Bon Jovi, he is married to his high school love (and they have 4 kids) so this can happen in RL too

        1. [I disagreee, there are stories with broken/conflicted relationship a ton for a dime out there.]

          In web serial fiction? Not as many as you’d think! For various reasons it actually seems kind of rare for lead characters in web serials to have a real relationship and then break up. (Thought do sometimes have their romantic partner die.) At least in my experience. Not sure exactly why, especially when it’s so common in comics/books that web fiction is often inspired by.

          1. It may be as simple as web serial authors having less experience and working without editors–who would likely be pointing out that relationship issues do increase dramatic tension even when they’re not the main plot.

            I’m pretty sure there are a lot of editors who would have told me that I should have broken them up a couple books ago (and brought them back together near the series’ end) if I’m going to let their relationship be part of the background (as it has been for a few books now). I’ve never been against doing that, but it also didn’t feel like a natural movement to me. It felt like I’d be doing it just to follow writing advice I’ve gotten.

            That doesn’t mean that doing that sort of thing is a bad idea though.

            A good example of where constant relationship movement works for me is the Dresden Files. Harry Dresden can’t seem to keep a girlfriend (alive) for the first 15 books. Though it appears that a long foreshadowed relationship is finally coming to pass now, it’s taken a long time to set up.

            Bearing in mind that there are likely 24 total books in the series, there’s plenty of time for that romantic interest to have horrible things happen to her.

            And I’m still hoping things work out happily anyway.

          2. You are right not so many as I first believed are in webfictions. I group together all readable medias. But I stay of my Idea that Nick/Haley relation is fine as it is now. There so many interesting things happenig that I fell there is no need to add also romantic shanenigans.

  5. I agree, I like the stability of the relationship, in the sea of challenge and change with each books problem to solve. It is a nice balance. Jim’s action and thoughtfulness are a nice change from comics or stories that have to twist and turn to the very last sentence for no other reason than to keep the reader guessing. Don’t get me wrong, I like a bit of intrigue, but Jim’s stories seem thoughtfully considered instead of just intrigue for intrigues sake.

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