Memories: Part 1

If you asked a random person on planet Earth what a superhero did all day, the answer you’d get is something like “beating up criminals.” If you asked me or anyone else in the business, it would be some combination of training, your day job or your cover, beating up criminals, and checking out leads on whatever case you were working on. Of all of those, beating up criminals was the least likely to actually take place.

In my particular case, the list would also include working on new technology since I could now, for the first time in my life, do that for hours at a time if I wanted to.

Today I was combining testing new technology with what could be called personal business. I felt that a case could be made for the idea that I was checking out a lead on a case even though the case in question might be six years old.

I was flying to Minnesota.

I hadn’t heard from Martin Magnus since high school when he’d tried to recruit me into working with him against the Mayor. That might not seem like a big deal in the grand scheme of things except that 1) he’d called my personal phone to have that conversation and 2) we learned that he’d been part of the Cabal and was in fact the guy who’d recruited the Mayor into it.

Combining that with my dad’s story about how he’d kidnapped my parents while they were dating made it clear to me that finding out more about Magnus had to be higher on my personal priority list. Grandpa Klein might know more about that if my mom was correct about him knowing that Grandpa Vander Sloot was the Rocket.

Even if he didn’t, I still might learn something useful and even if Grandpa Klein didn’t know anything useful, well, at least I got to test my new variant on the suit’s flight systems.

I’d set off from Grand Lake in the early morning and while the sun was rising, you’d never know it from what lay ahead. Flying westward this early meant that I was chasing the night. While I could see the dawn behind me if I wanted to look, my helmet filtered the light. I didn’t need the distraction.

Ahead of me lay darkness and stars even though dawn had begun to light up the ground, cities still glowing in the morning’s dim light. I wasn’t aiming for any city. Grandpa and Grandma Klein owned a small cottage on Lake Superior, a couple of hours from Minneapolis. When I texted Grandpa to ask if I could meet him there, he didn’t ask how I’d get there or why I was coming. He’d told me that he could make it there by eight.

I landed at the cabin a few minutes early, taking an hour and half to get there. The jet would have been faster, but harder to hide. Taking a moment to look around, I didn’t see anybody.

To look at the lake, you’d have thought it was in the middle of an uninhabited wilderness. Pine trees surrounded the cabin, a rectangular building with walls of stained wood and a wooden porch in the front. A rocky beach lay around ten feet from the cabin with a weathered wooden dock extending around thirty feet into the water. The grey, metal rowboat tied to the dock figured in my childhood memories of visiting grandparents.

With the sensors showing no one in the trees or on the lake, I walked up to the picnic table and told the suit to transform. It sloughed off me in a moment, reassembling itself into a working copy of a motorcycle—not the same one I’d driven during the summer in Detroit, but a design built on that work.

Between that and the helmet in my hand, anyone passing by would see my grandfather talking to a guy with a motorcycle instead of the Rocket.

I sat down at the picnic table as the door of the cabin opened and Grandpa Klein walked out on the porch. Built much like dad with the same wide shoulders, but around 25 years older, Grandpa stood around six feet tall. Thinner than my dad, he had a short white beard and wore a light grey jacket and jeans.

He walked over to the picnic table and sat down next to me, glancing over at the motorcycle and grinning, “I was wondering if this conversation would ever happen. And nice job on the motorcycle. I don’t recall Joe’s suit ever changing its shape.”

I shrugged, “He could have worked it out if he were active now. It’s my work, but it’s built on his foundation plus ideas from teachers at Stapledon and even profs at GLU.”

He smiled, “It’s good to know those of us in normal, mundane academia aren’t wasting our time. So, what do you want to ask me?”

I looked over at him, “I barely know where to begin. You know my Dad’s got the block, right? It’s coming undone and that’s a good thing, but maybe not. Also, were you actually fishing when Grandpa  Vander Sloot came to visit you every summer? And if you weren’t what were you really doing? Plus, what do you know about the guy who kidnapped my parents or about their kidnapping in general?”

He shook his head, “You don’t start with the small stuff, do you?”

7 thoughts on “Memories: Part 1”

  1. It’s funny, back when I was writing book 3 and specifically the Graduation chapter, I fully intended to have a conversation with Grandpa Klein where he hinted that he knew more about Grandpa Vander Sloot and the Rocket than you’d expect, but it never fit. Now, more than eleven years later, I’m getting to write a scene that covers a little bit of the same territory, but a lot of things that couldn’t have come up at the time.

    And the Top Web Fiction link:

    1. He did mention testing new variant on the flight systems. Maybe he figured a way to remove the rocket fuel requirement to lower weight and increase range? I am a little surprised Nick didn’t go on a tangent about it.
      Though perhaps more concerned that I do not see mention of destroying ‘it’.

  2. This is a critical comment, but I’ll make it. The previous Arc “Never Go Home” had big “something almost happened… but then it didn’t” energy. There kept *almost* being tense situations, which then got diffused without anything bad happening. It was a lot of narrative shuffling but it didn’t really have an arc to the arc. Nick poked at some stuff, talked to various people and asked questions, and then that was it.

    Honestly “Rematch” felt a little that way too. It had intrigue and fights, but in the end everything went pretty much smoothly and according to plan. The Grey Giant was a threat, but at no point did I feel Nick had lost control of the situation and at the end of the arc there didn’t seem to be any longer term consequences.

    I really like Legion of Nothing and have been reading it for years, but Nick sure does get a lot of softballs. There are a lot of arcs that lack that “oh no, oh no, this is really bad” moment that I think superhero adventures are made for. I mean, LoN does have some… Nick having to disarm a city-destroying bomb and the dragon showing up comes to mind.

    1. That’s a comment worth making. From my point of view, what I’m doing right now is balancing buckets of water on top of a partially open door, all of which will come crashing down when the door gets fully opened or shut. If I escalate too far, too quickly, I’ll find myself skipping things that I want in the mix when things start to go wrong.

      “Rematch” was intended to show people where Nick and company are now relative to where they were the last time they fought the Grey Giant. My goal was to show them being competent and effective. That wouldn’t feel out of control by definition.

      “Never Go Home” was intended to bring up a number of issues that people may have forgotten over the intervening 10 years and more than one million words written during that period.

      The goal was to bring them up and not solve a single one of them.

      There was probably a better way to do both of those things, but, you’re reading my first draft and have been for the entire series–which means, unfortunately, that it’s a given that I’m doing something wrong, probably many things. So feel free to make critical comments. They’re something that I reread as I revise.

  3. I think Nick has more than a few close calls. He barely found out he had ties to Lee’s people. And using that with little exercise and training saved his life versus Rook. But almost killed him through the Destroy faction.
    That Nick can handle things that used to be over his weight category when he started shows he has grown. It would be boring if every single threat could down him the same way. Spiderman got better over time till some of his rogue’s gallery were easy to him later on.

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