Friday, March 18, 2011
Doing What You Can't See
The Amazing Spleen [Brad Neilsen]: "The kids drive you crazy?"
I Have To Think of a Codename Now? Can I Get Back To You? [Vijay Singh Kumar]: "Yes, yes, and yes sort of no." [Vijay counts off in the air with his index finger for two "yesses," then does a curvy loop for the last: May.] "Are we going to do anything now, or just watch the Old Man talk to Colonel Future Constable?"
Brad: "Ah, when you've been in the superhero business as long as I have" [Brad gives a little grin to show that he's making fun of himself. Hopefully Vijay will get that. If not, Brad thinks, why did I put it that way? He'll think I'm a douche--] "I mean, not that I've been doing this for very long, but I've learned that once everything is taken care of and you're absolutely ready to go, something will come up and you'll end up standing around forever."
Vijay: "Hurry up and wait. I know about that. I'm from India. I thought I'd done with it when I came to America."
Brad: "Some day, I'm going to go to the country you moved to, Vijay. How are the girls handling it?"
Vijay: "So I'm your liaison with Team Pulchritude now?"
Brad: "I have never, ever heard that word used in conversation. But yes. It's either that or pull my sister out of gigglecluster."
Vijay: "They're all very excited to be in the future. I think May likes me. May is mad at Rebecca for finking on her to her Mom, and Rebecca is mad at May for riding her about being Amochenian, wherever that is. And I think that May likes me."
Brad: "You repeated the last part."
Vijay: "I think May likes me."
Brad: "I get that."
Brad: "May's cute. A little young for me. Awfully young for you."
Vijay: "Five years. Five and a half. My parents are 20 years apart!"
Brad: "Did they meet when your Mom was just going into Junior, and your Dad was, uhm, starting his PhD at a very advanced age?" [But Brad's heart wasn't in it. He wanted to protect Jennie's little sister, but it was too late now, and Vijay was too much of a goof to hurt May intentionally. He hoped.] "You know what, never mind. Her brother has been dating my cousin since she graduated, and it's about the same thing."
Vijay: "But Rebecca doesn't look Amochenian. I think." [Brad could see the relief on Vijay's face at the subject of the age difference being dropped. How far into May was he? Probably a good long way. Well, I'm watching you, buddy.]
Brad: "Amagogenetic. Means "clone." Becky is her Mom's clone. They just say "amagogenetic" as a joke about being politically correct and not hurting Becky's feelings. But I think it does hurt her feelings, and that's probably why Becky finks on May."
Brad: "Mainly about her being a bad influence on boys by jumping off grandstands, rollerblading in heavy traffic. That sort of thing."
Vijay. "Yeah. So, uhm, is it true that the Old Man is going to be May's Dad?"
Brad: [Oh, crap.] "Keep it down, dude! The guy had plenty sharp enough hearing when he was, like, sixty! Will be? You have to keep stuff like that secret, or the universe will implode."
Brad: "No. More likely, you'll have a heart attack just before you say it, and it actually turns out to matter. So don't say it."
Vijay: "So if he finds out, then he'll try to figure out who the mom is, and then he'll do something wrong in the courtship, and they won't end up together, and May won't have existed in the first place,but of course she exists because she's here in the future with us, and it doesn't make any sense, so the universe is, like, the proctor shushing the library, and you die? But he does know who the mother is! The 'half-Turkish traitor!'"
Brad: "Yeah. That's not very fair to Mrs. Wong, though."
Vijay: "How about 'Tatar bitch?'"
Brad: "That one's on the money."
Vijay: "So the Old Man likes his women a bit bitchy?"
Brad: "What can I say? I hang out with her daughter." [How could I say that? Now it will all go wrong! What kind of a douche thinks he's even worth being with Jennie?] "No. The thing is, at this point in his life, Mrs. Wong is a supervillain mastermind plotting to overthrow the world and restore the Tang dynasty. And, as far as the Old Man knows, doing it with the assistance of his Uncle Kwan, who killed his grandmother, betrayed his father, and stole the secrets of Eight Dragon Spirit Kung Fu."
Vijay: "So what actually happened?"
Brad: "What do I look like? Wikipedia?" [Please take that for an answer. Please. I don't know if I could manage to lie about what happens next.] "I'll tell you this, though. He already loves her. He just can't see it."
Vijay: "Oh by the Granth...Speaking of things I wish that I couldn't see, what are those?"
Brad: "Uhm, Aliens? C'mon. They're going for the Old Man and Captain Future!" [Brad can feel the Earth, or at least the grass, screaming. There are intruders everywhere, too small to see, latching hurtful hooks into the flesh of the Earth, and he channels the green Earth's fire into a flick of fire that catches from one end of the sea of buildings in which this wide, perfect lawn stands, to the other. It doesn't burn ground or building, but where it touches the chitinous grey aliens, they klick and buzz with agony, their mouth mandibles waving. One leaps at Brad as three more grab the police officer and five, partially dissected, fly free of Mr. Wong. There's more coming behind them, but Brad can't afford them attention as he fires a green blast at the leader. A voice goes off in his brain, too alien to be a notion, too friendly to be an intrusion.]
EarthNet Instanced Crisis Control AI Partition "Fred": "Thank you for suppressing the nanites, Amazing Spleen. Now could you gentlefolk please rescue Superintendent Acharya? His supervisory link to EarthNet is still open, and I'd rather not have Xenovore malware uploaded through it."
[Brad thinks to himself that that would be a very nice thing for some of the others to do. He'd even help, as soon as he was finished not throwing up from the burning tired that made his legs all rubbery.]
The Furious Fist [Henry Wong]: "Tridel: protect the Spleen. Be prepared to teleport him if he can't run. Avenging Daughter. Take out Acharya's bearers. Gun Girl. Cover her. Vijay. With me. We're going to stomp bugs."
[Brad can only watch, helpless as things unfold. Mr. Wong has, indeed, taken on the lion's share of the work, and there won't be many of the horrifying aliens left in a very short time indeed. But he has sent May into the middle of the action to take back the aliens' prime target, and even with Jaime laying covering fire, that's just asking for trouble. For all their waving stingers and razor sharp claws and teeth, most of the aliens were just cannon fodder. If there were an exception, though, May was about to meet it. Girl, he thinks: your father thinks that you're the daughter of his two worst enemies. Please, please be careful.]
Brad: "Uhm, Fred, is it? Can you do something?"
Fred: "I'm very sorry, Mr. Neilsen, but I can't. For six hundred years-dead aliens, these Xenovores have very up-to-date ideas about how to fight wars. I've got nanites over half BosWash trying to upload. We'll be done purging them in a few minutes, but until then I won't be able to provide you with any support. The thanks of a grateful Earth for pointing them out. Now, if only you'd manage to do that an hour ago...."
[Thanks for the extra load of guilt, Brad thinks, as May grabs Superintendent Acharya and pulls him free, dropping her guard just as a particularly fast Xenovore comes up and puts its stinger right through her abdomen. Oh God, Brad thinks, as he turns to look at the hard-eyed man who will be her father fighting a full block away. Until the moment that daughter's eyes lock with father's, and the man is --at her side. Is it Brad's imagination that Mr. Wong is as surprised as he to find himself leaping across the battle to protect May?]
Henry Wong: "Get away from her."
[The stinger comes out in a rush of abdominal blood and whips at Mr. Wong far too fast for the eyes to follow. There's another spurt of blood. Mr. Wong's blocking arm is impaled. Oh God, Brad thinks. They're both dead. Who are the Mr. Wong and May I thought I knew? Agents of Yin Wu? We're all doomed.]
Mr. Wong: "'Xenovore,' is it? I imagine you've eaten a few humans in your time. Ever paid attention to anatomy? Cracked a wishbone? There's two bones in the human forearm. And your stinger is lodged between them. I hope you don't mind going without it." [And he lifts his other arm and drops it on the stinger while ducking down. Three rounds from Jaime's absurdly oversized Desert Eagle (not that it fires real ammunition, mostly) lift it into the air as the stinger gives way with a loud crack, spurting surprisingly human-looking red blood --not acid, thankfully-- in its own bright, arterial pump. It seems disinclined to rise again, and the fall of their champion is too much for the rest of the Xenovores, who retreat.]
[By the time that Brad hobbles over, Mr. Wong has May stretched out on the bloody grass, and, with the rest of the team crowded around and Vijay crouched at her head, is thrusting his hands into her abdomen. The blood from his unheeded wound pools with hers as Brad's bizarre new sensory powers see his chi'i pulsing. Brad touches Mr. Wong's shoulders, and feels a presence, so like Jennie's that he could almost cry. Some gate is open, and he pours the borrowed energy of the lawn beneath him through Mr. Wong and into May.]
Brad: "Oh, live and touch the Sun! Grow and bear seed."
Gun Girl [Jaime Neilsen]: "The hell, Big Bro?"
Brad: "I was ....imagining what the grass was saying, sis."
Jaime: "You're weird enough already without cosplay crap. Oh, wow. May. You're awake!"
Henry Wong: "Don't, girl. Just lay quiet for a second while I tell you about the time I fought your mother in a grocery store. By the time I'm done, you'll be ready for a rematch."
This is the sixteenth installment in my Champions Universe fan fiction focussing on Philadelphia's Liberty Legion, and the fourth installment of the second arc that may someday go in between "Jenny's End, Part Two" and "Jenny's End, Part Two, Two," because inserting a book or two between a cliffhanger and its resolution is the way that G. R. R. Martin would do it. Not that that's foreshadowing or anything.
The principal antagonist in this episode doesn't talk very much, but he's Maraud, the "Xenovore Captain America." Maraud appears in Galactic Champions, Darren Watt's awesome supplement that introduces us to the 31st Century, the Champions 3000, and villains such as Maraud and Sovereign. Unfortunately, Maraud, although an awesome character, is, at 660 points, a little underwhelming to be an appropriate enemy for "cosmic" scale heroes, or even The Furious Fist. Although the vagaries of Fifth Edition are such that he's probably worth more than many equivalently pointed characters due to the relative efficiency of a "stats monkey" build. For the purposes of the fan fiction, you can assume that Maraud has been boosted a little bit to make him a more worthy opponent. And, by the way, I am not the person who decided to introduce evil alien enemies who look just like Aliens into the Hero Universe. I do, however, applaud the way these things are done in "superhero universe" setting. It's polysemenous. (Or, rather, allows a species of tropic polysemy.)