B002 Rising Stars (Part 3)

“That. Was. Awesome!”, shouted Dalia as the cameras cut away from the scene of the hotel and back to the studio. Her excitement turned to irritation as the screen switched off. “Hey!”, she shouted at Basil.

“Calm down. They are not going to tell anything I can not tell you. So why listen to a talk show”, he replied with some contempt in his voice – aimed at the show, not Dalia.

“What do you have against talk shows?!”, Dalia asked in a befuddled tone of voice. He just looked at her like she was asking a stupid question and turned towards his computer terminal.

“Polymnia took one of my ravens. My first one, to be precise”, he murmured as her ordered his remaining robots to collect the scraps of the one robot that had been crushed by El Conquistadore. He also sent a signal that would cause the memory chip in the one Polymnia had taken with her to burn itself out.

“You don’t seem to be put out about that. I would have figured you to throw a fit over losing one of your toys”, Dalia commented.

“It is, as you say, just a toy. And she did exceptionally well, so why not let her keep it? Besides, it is not like I did not get something out of it”, he replied. The girls looked at him, befuddled. He explained: “I had one of my ravens remove some of the memory chips from the destroyed keyboard and parts of the sound system in one of her speakers, as well as take pictures of the rest, while everyone was focused on Gloom Glimmer. It is only fair if I give her something in return, right?” He did not mention that he was far more likely to get some use out of the scavenged parts than she was, since the only parts of his ravens that were his own original work were the memory chips he had burned out.

“Back to the main topic, please”, Vasiliki said.

“Yes, teacher”, the other two replied in unison. Then they looked at each other and laughed. Vasiliki just rolled her eyes.

“Well, I can tell you why they played this out as they did and what Patrid is going to say. But I’ll have to give you some more background first, so now I am finally getting to ‘make some exposition'”, Basil said, grinning at them. The two just groaned, but remained silent.

“As you know, we have many more supervillains than superheroes – the average is one hero for every four villains. Also, supervillains tend to be, on average, more powerful than heroes. The main reason why villains have not taken over the world is because they suck at working together, while most heroes, and especially the members of the United Heroes, are capable of putting their egos on ice and coordinate. Incidentally, that is also the main reason why the Savage Six are so successful – six villains, each at least low A-Class, all working together in perfect coordination. Furthermore, heroes almost always cooperate with unpowered law enforcement for increased effectiveness.

Despite this, we have a situation where the good guys are slowly loosing ground, since more and more villains are working together and the repeated attacks by the Savage Six, DiL and the tension of the Cold War are producing more and more metahumans, the majority of which become either outright villains or, in the case of attacks by the Six, demented killing machines that do not cooperate with anyone but just cause as much pain and suffering as possible-“

“Like Caliban, right? He used to live down in Texas before the Six raided his city, right?”, Vasiliki threw in.

“Exactly. The running theory is that the Six did not immediatelly expect the effects of their raids, but that they are now actively working towards producing more metahumans”, he continued. “Apart from that, unpowered crime is on the rise as well. Ever since Sovereign took over all the parts of Africa worth the trouble, cutting off all trade with the outside world, the cessation of trade with the Reds and the devastation of Cuba, Brasil and South Mexico by DiL, prices for alcohol, cigarettes and drugs have gone up, with the last two being restricted to the point that the normal citizen is unlikely to get more than one package of cigarettes every two or three months – not to talk of the rising prices for food and water. So smuggling is very profitable, with everything that entails.”

He made a break to get himself some water and then sat down again.

“And now DiL has wiped out the leaders of the Sovjet Union – meaning the UH will be asked by the United Nations to redeploy their people along the Iron Wall, in case their new leadership decides it is time to turn the Cold War very, very hot. I suspect that the appeal will go out within the next few days – at which point only a minimum of superheroes will be available to stop superpowered crime that is not at A-level.”

Vasiliki’s eyes lighted up. “I get it now! They basically want to build up a new Lady Light – her daughter, the new premier superhero. Young enough that they can justify not sending her off to the wall, powerful enough to pick up the slag left by the absence of her mother and the premier superheroes!”

Basil nodded, but Vasiliki made a concerned face again: “How is this going to help if The Dark and his five attack again? I doubt she is as powerful as her mother, at least she did not look like it. Maybe she can fight the Five, but certainly not- Hey!”

Dalia gave her a slap on the back of the head. “Numbnut. Were you so focused on checking out your little idol’s ass?”, she said. “Even I picked this part up!”

“What are you talking about?”

“Think! Gloom Glimmer. You think she chose that stupid name for fun?”

“‘Gloom is a low level of light which is so dim that there are physiological and psychological effects. Human vision at this level becomes monochrome and the place then seems dull and depressing'”, Vasiliki quoted from memory. “And Glimmer is a small light in the dark… – Oh. Oh!

“Yeah. They actually went and did it – Lady Light and The Dark had a child, again. Which basically makes her untouchable”, Basil answered.

“Oh come on, she can’t be that powerful, I mean, she’s obviously not like her sister!”, Dalia replied.

“No, I meant untouchable in a different way. Think about it – even if they do not advertise it, anyone with half a brain will figure out just whose daughter she is. And no one with that much brain is going to risk pissing off Lady Light and The Dark. Have you heard about that time back in the eighties, when a mob lynched that boy he had had with the psychiatrist who had tried to cure him? They never found all the pieces.”

“The Dark Five are not going to risk pissing off their boss. They may fight her, but they will be holding back, being as careful as they can. Normal villains will probably rather surrender than risk fighting her – if they are even powerful enough to threaten her. So now the UJH division of America’s biggest city, with the highest number of metahumans of any city in the world, both in total numbers and relative to its size, has a young, winsome new superheroine who is unlikely to be beaten. Big PR move, plus something to take people’s minds of the threat from the Reds”, he finished. Then he took a look at his audience. “Uh, what?”

The two shook their heads. “Wow, you really love your exposition”, Vasiliki said.

* * *

Gloom Glimmer had teleported herself back to the girls locker room at the headquarters of the UH in New Lennston. She immediately reached into her locker, pulling out a plastic container filled with her blue-and-white pills, popping it open. The song in her head got stronger. Her power warned her against it, giving her impressions of the future, calculations and images to dissuade her from taking them. The visions were so vivid, the wish not to take the pills so strong, her hands began to shake. She had to will herself to drop them into her mouth. Actually swallowing them took almost half a minute. The song became a bit quieter.

The next dose, three more pills, was easier to take. The song was down to a loud conversation. The third one almost effortless. Normal conversation.

She took another, single pill, this time with barely any interference. Finally. Quiet. Except for the song. But it was down to background music.

Stripping out of her costume, she took a hot shower. She spent almost twenty minutes under the steaming hot water before she heard the door open.

#Polymnia. Completed her check up, wants to take a shower to relax before she goes to th-#

She swallowed another pill, cutting the analysis short. It took almost a minute for Polymnia to come in. Gloom Glimmer felt her power trying to analyze the situation, so she took another pill. She could imagine the problem.

When Polymnia came in, she saw Gloom Glimmer under the shower and froze, a blush spreading all the way down to her… chest. #Heterosexual. Uncomfortable with being sexually attracted to another girl. Lingering effects of gl-# Another pill. Usually it did not take this many to shut it up.

After shaking her head, however, Polymnia advanced with a defiant look on her face. Her eyes were coloured like dark chocolate – a rather mundane colour for an adonis-type. Coming to a stop in front of the girl, she stretched out a hand. <I don’t think we have been introduced. I’m Polymnia in costume and Melody out of it. Nice meeting you>, she signed with her other hand. Her power translated the signs for her.

Gloom Glimmer gave her a smile she hoped would put her at ease and took her hand. She noticed that the girl was very tense, probably expecting the glamour’s effect. And she offered her hand regardless. I think I can like her. “Gloom Glimmer in costume, Irene out of it. Not that it makes much of a difference, since I don’t bother with a mask”, she answered, releasing Melody’s hand again.

The latter rubbed her hand. <Jesus, how hot do you shower?>, she asked, considerably more relaxed, now that she no longer felt a glamour.

“I’ can take a lot of heat. Just feels better like this”, she explained.

<Well, to each their own>, Melody replied and went a few showers away – both to get some distance from her and to take a colder shower.

They spent the rest of their showers with meaningless chit-chat. The only interesting thing was finding out that she was brownhaired after she got the hair dye off.

Afterwards they dressed up – Irene put on her bodysuit, leaving the cloak behind, Melody dressed put her workshop-attire on, a deep blue bodysuit with several hooks all over the front and sides.

“Interesting clothes”, Irene commented.

<I tend to hang my tools from the hooks. Makes it easier to keep them handy>, Melody explained while zipping up her bodysuit (though she left a sizeable cleavage) and binding her long hair back into a ponytail. <Well, let’s get to the debriefing.>

Irene nodded and led the way out, humming quietly to the song in her head. Not that she noticed.

* * *

Following Irene to the debriefing, Melody could not keep her eyes from moving down her back to her hindquarters. Damn, this girl’s got a ni- NO, stop it! She just could not keep her mind from wandering back to the shower, and the si- Dammit, stop! Why can’t I get over this! Come on, Mel, find something else to think about, to feel about… Jealousy, there! That’s nice and safe!

Damn, I haven’t been jealous of another girl’s looks since I manifested. I mean, alright, I met Lady Light and she looks better, but she’s grown up – not to speak of her being, well, Lady Light! First time I meet someone my age who looks better than me…

She went on like this, trying to think about increasingly unrelated stuff, so she almost ran into Irene when the latter stopped in the debriefing room.

The debriefing room was a hexagonal room with wall-screens surrounding it. In the middle stood a circular table with several chairs arranged around it. The gadgeteer-made table currently sported a three-dimensional map of the hotel grounds.

The rest of the team had already arranged itself around the table. Tartsche and Spellgun had pulled two chairs next to each other, both in casual clothes, while Outstep was sitting two chairs away at an angle to them so he didn’t have to watch them hold hands and give each other the occasional kiss. He was wearing a clean, undamaged costume, with his helmet on the ground beside him.

Irene turned and looked at Melody, who nodded and walked past her to sit next to Tartsche. Irene took the seat between her and Outstep.

Jerk’s not going to try and hit on the daughter of Lady Light. At least not here.

After a few rather uncomfortable minutes, the door opposite the one they had entered opened, and two men entered. One, a man in his mid-thirties – thin and wiry with large glasses, messy brown hair, really, really unflattering clothes that were even worse in combination – looked like every movie director’s wet dream of the adult computer nerd – Jason Widard, Chief Mission Control. Melody liked him.

The other one was tall, handsome – a low-level adonis, in fact – and immaculately groomed. He had blond hair that had been combed back, deep green eyes, a finely trimmed beard and a light tan to his skin. His clothes consisted of a white suit with a black shirt and a white tie. Patrick Patrid, the United Heroes’ PR-Manager.

“Team, good to see you. Let me open this debriefing by saying that I am very proud of the team’s performance. You did better than we could have expected. Especially you, Polymnia. You went up and beyond any expectations”, he opened smoothly, his voice a silver-tongued blessing for the ears. Giving her a dazzling smile, he continued: “I can’t stress this enough – your show out there was better than Gloom Glimmer’s, relatively of course. Which, however, brings me to what did not go well.”

He turned towards Outstep, who cringed for a moment before giving him a defiant look. “Outstep, you completely, utterly dropped the ball on this. Before Gloom Glimmer entered the fray, you were the most powerful parahuman out there, by a big margin. You should have taken out at least El Conquistadore and Slice Bride, their two most vulnerable members. Instead you dropped the ball and got taken out without causing more than superficial damage. You are an A- superhuman and you got overshadowed by a B- newbie – no offense, Polymnia – not to talk of the fact that you deployed your bike only for it to be completely and irreparably destroyed. We only have one spare until Hotrod makes a new one!”

Outstep was trying to keep his defiant posture, but Patrid’s speech cowed him quickly.

“From a PR-standpoint, this battle was almost perfect. It gave Polymnia an outstanding start into the cape world – again, that was beyond exceptional – and it introduced Gloom Glimmer in a way that showcased her powers, without giving too much away or stealing the show completely from you.”

He took a deep breath and said: “And with that, I am handing this debriefing over to Mr Widard for the tactical evaluation. A good day to you all.” And he left.

Polymnia let out a breath she hadn’t realized she had been holding. That guy was just creeping her out on a level she couldn’t define. She didn’t even know why he creeped her out so much.

Widard was kind of the opposite – he reminded her of some kind of father/brother combination. Safe, friendly, sympathetic. All in all, the kind of person you wanted to trust.

“Alright team, let’s get over-“, he started, only to be cut off by Spellgun.

“Ah’m sorry, Mr Widard, but Ah have to cut in”, he said. At a nod from Widard, he continued: “It has bugged me ever since Ah got the description of the fight from Tartsche – namely, what is your power? Somehow, I don’t think you’ve got flight, invulnerability, density-shifting, geokinesis and all those other powers individually.”

Everyone turned towards Irene, who first pulled out her pills and swallowed three of them.

“You’re right, I don’t have those powers. I only have one power myself”, she started to explain, before stopping to take another pill. “My power is adaptive. I get whatever power and skill I need to deal with a situation – or at least, whatever my power thinks I need.”

“Wait just a minute. You’re talking like your power is intelligent”, Melody threw in.

“We’re not sure on that account. My mother believes that my power is actually being controlled by me, only subconsciously. My father believes it is actually semi-intelligent, maybe even a true intelligence, only so different from a human one that we cannot directly communicate with it. Personally, I prefer the subconscious control theory. Doesn’t sound quite so Lovecraftian, you know.”

“So when you hit us with that glamour and you said ‘I take what I get’…” Melody began.

“I meant it – I have no control over the powers I get, nor can I not get any powers”, Gloom Glimmer finished for her.

The others looked at her, stupefied. Outstep finally broke the silence, asking the next question: “So, since we are not getting the mental whammy right now, I guess those pills of yours are power suppressants?”

Whoa, guy’s got brains. Who would’ve thought, Melody thought.

“No. These help me with my control – they let me push the powers back, so I don’t get a glamour every time I need people to like or trust me and so I don’t get telepathy every time I ask myself what someone is thinking. Or I don’t get world-class dancing skills when I’m trying to learn them the hard way, and so on. Unfortunately, when I do use my powers, they burn the drug away quickly, so the pills are only usefull when I am out of combat or other high-stress situations.”

“Still, that’s one helluva power you’ve got, Miss”, Tartsche said.

“It sounds more awesome than it is. Plus, it only gives me the powers necessary for me to deal with a situation. The only thing I can be sure about is that I myself am always perfectly safe. I don’t necessarily get the power to protect others or take down an enemy, though I usually do. Which is the reason why my mother was hiding up behind one of her veils, just in case things went wrong. Father theorizes that I have some kind of upper limit as to the power I can hold at a time, so a particularly powerful enemy would shut me down just by being present, since I would first get defensive powers before I got any offensive capabilities. Not that we have been able to properly measure this upper limit – it seems to fluctuate and we have no idea why. Any other questions?”

“Wow, we had Lady Light for emergency backup? Awesome! And you’ve already mentioned your dad twice. Whose the lucky guy that scored with Lady freakin’ Light?”, Outstep asked.

So much for having brains. Though the lack of proper behaviour was already evident, she thought. Though, looking around, it looked like Spellgun was curious as well. Tartsche seemed to have figured it out already and Mr Widard had probably access to her files.

The latter stood up from his seat and looked at the offender. “Outstep, you will immediately apologize for your that! And you will watch your choice of words in the future!”

Irene however just waved it off and turned to Outstep, giving him a glare that had him squirm in his seat. Looking at her reflection on the currently black wall screen, Melody could have sworn that her eyes flashed red for a moment.

“My father’s name is Ismael Franz-Peter Goldschmidt. Though I suppose you know him better as The Dark”, she explained.

Three things happened at the same time. Widard slammed his hand on the table. Spellgun whispered ‘Oh Shit’. And Outstep vanished from his seat, standing from one moment to the other in front of the door from which the adults had entered. “Are you guys insane?! You knew about this, didn’t you, Widard? And you let her in?!”

“Outstep, shut up and sit down!”, Widard thundered, his voice dropping several octaves.

“No. Fucking. Way! I’m not staying in one room with DiL 2.0, you got me!? I’m getting at least a city’s worth of distance between us!”, he shouted hysterically. It looked like the situation was going to get worse as he tried to open the (locked) door, but Tartsche stood up and turned to him.

“Goddamit, Outstep, SHUT UP AND SIT DOWN!!!”

And it worked. Outstep snapped upright, then, with a glare towards Irene, moved back into a seat – this time, next to Spellgun, so he didn’t have to sit next to Irene or look at her.

Melody turned to look at Irene, worried that the girl might be hurt, but to her surprise she seemed just as serene as when she had entered. She may be used to this kind of reaction by now. And isn’t that a sad thought.

Widard himself sat down again and rubbed the bridge of his nose. “Good God, I just hope this recording won’t be shown to the Board”, he murmured. “Alright, we’ve derailed this debriefing enough!”, he said then, louder. “Let’s get back to business.”

The 3D-map changed to show the situation just before the fight began – the heroes and villains lined up opposite of each other.

“You made good on all those simulations we ran. Your positioning was good, though in the future I would suggest that Polymnia stand closer to Tartsche in the future to benefit from his Absolute Defense Stance”, he began.

“However, you made some tactical mistakes in choosing your enemies”, he went on and got into the meat of the debriefing.

They went over it second by second. Praises were handled out just as numerous as reprimands. Spellgun’s ineffective focus on Bloodbath. Outstep’s careless behaviour and waste of a million-dollar motorcycle. Polymnia’s outstanding performance and her adaptation. Her refusal to retreat from battle once Gloom Glimmer showed up.

At the end, Widard finally got to the point that interested Polymnia the most. “Now, let’s get to the two things we did not, in any way, expect – the seventh member and those ravens. Let’s focus on the seventh member first – not that there is much to say. We believe that he had some kind of extremely long-ranged psionic power that made anyone who perceived him forget him and also lose focus on the results of his actions. However, after-the-fact reviewing of the video tapes reveals that they did record him and we are currently running him through every database we have access to. Thankfully, those ravens managed to take him out of the fight before he could harm Polymnia and Bullrush’ stampede killed him afterwards.”

He took a break to drink some water before continuing. “Now let’s get to those ravens. Polymnia, you brought one of them along for examination?”

“Yes Sir. Though I immediately turned them over for decontamination. After this meeting I’m heading to my workshop to see what I can get out of it”, she answered, typing on a keypad that vocalized her words.

“You think it is a gadget? Ah would have thought those to be a contrivance, given their size”, Spellgun replied.

“No, I only got a short look before they were taken for decontamination, but I’m sure that they are gadgets. And sophisticated ones, at that. Whoever made those probably put in weeks, if not months of work into them. I’ll have a report in by tonight.”

“Good. But I also feel I should show you this”, Jason said, letting the map zoom in onto the pile of her destroyed equipment at the time when Gloom Glimmer was wiping the floor with the villains.

The group could see some of the ravens ripping small pieces out of her keyboards and speakers, as well as some others that seemed to be taking closer looks at the bigger parts, spending a few seconds on each.

Melody shot up and shouted (in her thoughts): Dammit! They took away my chips – they took pictures! She turned red again, this time out of anger rather than embarrassment. “He got the basis for my sonic system out of that, I’m sure of it”, she typed into her keypad.

“Yes. And if the creator of those ravens is a gadgeteer, then he or she may be able to reverse engineer your work. And we don’t know whether or not they are on our side or not”, Widard explained.

Outstep spoke up again: “What are you talking about? Even if they are not a registered superhero, whoever made those saved Polymnia’s ass out there!”

“That doesn’t say that much about them”, Irene said. “Even most villains would help against the Rabid Eight. Maybe not to the same extent to which they tend to help fight the Savage Six and certainly not to the extent to which they cooperate against my sister, but still. The eight are scum, even by the standards of the villain world.”

“Gloom Glimmer is right on the money. So, I want everyone to wear protection against sonic attacks from now on, just in case. Your job to construct them, Polymnia – you know best what you might have to face on that front”, Widard said. “And that’s enough for now. Go eat something. Write your individual reports, then get some rest. Polymnia, I appreciate your enthusiam, but a report need not be handed in ten minutes after a mission, nor does it need to be sixty pages long.”

With that, the team left the room. Irene flew up and through the roof, Melody walked with Tartsche and Spellgun – or rather, Harry and Thomas, now that they were out of costume and off the record – to the cafeteria.

* * *

Though the HQ cafeteria was headed by a low-level gadgeteer who focused on cooking, Melody still found herself eating as quickly as she could, entering her workshop just ten minutes after the end of debriefing. Food could be as good as it wanted, it stood no chance against the Siren’s call of new technology.

And there it was, on a metal tray deposited onto her main worktable. It was the only part of her workshop not filled with various musical instruments and also the only place anyone other than herself was allowed to interact with without her say-so.

The bisected raven lay there with a note from the decontamination team. It told her that parts of the raven had burned out without warning. A fail-safe, so the crucial parts can’t fall into enemy hands. I should have thought of that as well, she thought. Her respect for the designer of these robots went up a notch.

It skyrocketed when she saw which parts had been burned out.

* * *

An hour later, Thomas walked in from his workshop – the two of them kept their work apart, since mixing real science and contrivances tended to result in explosions – with two cans of coke in his hand.

“Any progress on the ravens? Anything interesting you can already share with me?”, he asked and handed her a coke.

She gave him a thankful smile, before leaning back from her work, opening the can and taking a swig. “Thank you, Thomas. I was so thirsty, but I just couldn’t tear myself from this”, she typed.

“Don’t Ah know that. So don’t sweat it – besides, anything for a beautiful girl”, he replied, winking at her in a way that made her blush despite herself. “So, regarding those ravens?”

Her blush faded and instead she got a gleam in her eyes. “Oh God, this is awesome and frustrating at the same time. Look at this!”, she said, showing him burned black structure looking like a very thick computer chip.

“What’s that?”, he asked.

“Well, whoever build this had a fail-safe that burned out two of these chips – and only the two chips”, she said.

“So, the creator thinks that they are the most, perhaps the only, valuable parts of the raven”, Thomas deduced.

“Yes. And if I’m not completely wrong, then she is both right and wrong at the same time!”


“Yeah, this is a girl’s work, I’m sure of it. No way a guy built something this smooth”, Polymnia told him.

“Ts ts, sweetie, don’t talk like that. People will think you don’t like men”, he reprimanded her playfully.

“Oh, I like men, I just don’t think that many male gadgeteers have much in the way of smooth design ethics”, she replied.

“Oh, Ah don’t know. You should see some of the stuff my father has built”, came a voice from above them.

They looked up just in time to see Irene float down through the roof. She was wearing a long-sleeved, white blouse and an ankle-length dark blue skirt. No footwear, though.

Landing beside them, she looked at the raven. “Though I have to say, this looks much smoother than the work of most teenage gadgeteers. And, to be fair, my dad is not actually a Gadgeteer.”

“Teenage? You’re sure?”, Melody asked.

“It’s what my power’s telling me. 90% chance it’s a teenager, 67% it’s a female, fifty-fifty on the hero/villain question. But that’s already all I can tell you. I’m curious as to what you’ve found out.”

Melody shook her head, then turned back to dismantled raven. “Well, as I said, these chips are the most valuable part, but the rest is nothing to sneeze at, either. Nothing new, nothing groundshaking, probably taken from online-sources and then refined. But the refinement is the key, because this stuff is way improved over anything I could find online. More efficient, cheaper, more easily reproducable. Whoever did this probably put a month just into the servo-motors for the wings and the frames!”

“You sure? Because my power tells me that this raven is no more than two weeks old and has only been worked on for a few hours”, Irene said.

“Seriously? You can read that out of the scraps?”, Thomas asked.

“Only out of combat. This kind of ESP is apparently enough to hit my power limit very quickly”, she replied.

“I’ve got to show you my ice-cups. Think you can tell me which of my siblings always eats them?”

“Back on topic! Maybe this raven was only made two weeks ago, but there were many, as well as God knows how many prototypes. Still, I can use this – I can scale up the improvements on the servo-motors and the framework for the next iteration of my robotic legs. But the real money’s in these chips – which is why I’m frustrated, because they are useless now!” She waved the burned-out chip in front of her audience. “If I am not completely wrong, then this is a real 3d-chip. It’s been burned down to uselessness, but the interface with the rest of the raven suggests that it uses light instead of electricity, which would make it thousands of times faster than anything I have – not that a simple remote-controlled raven robot would ever need this much computing power-“

“Unless these ravens weren’t remote-controlled”, Irene threw in. “During the battle, my power picked up only momentary signals being sent to them – it’s more likely that they have very sophisticated programming and were simply given orders they executed, instead of being remote-controlled.”

“Oh, that would explain that. Which makes this even worse, because I would LOVE to see the programming work done on these! Well, either way, I’m going to spend the rest of the day trying to salvage what I can. I just hope I can get half as much out of this as whoever made these gets out of my work.”

* * *

“EUREKA!”, shouted Basil, startling the two girls who were still in his workshop.

57 thoughts on “B002 Rising Stars (Part 3)

  1. Dammit, dammit, dammit! I actually had this one done on schedule! Uploaded it sunday afternoon! Then, today, I go online to check on the comments and I see that it somehow vanished!

    And I was so glad to be finally back on schedule!

  2. [prizes for alcohol] . . . [rising prizes for food and water]

    Pretty sure you want prices. There were some others I noticed, but then lost track of them when reading the story. I really hope Basil and Melody get a chance to meet and geek out.

  3. Dating is going to be a bit awkward for Irene if she has to prevent herself from making anyone she fancies instantly fall in love with her.

    Polymnia grossly overestimating the time it took Basil to work on his ravens suggests that either he’s a lot better than her to find stuff online, he is a particularly powerful gadgeteer… or he’s just THAT obsessive-compulsive about efficiency and smooth design. 😛

    • Then is his sister subtly prodding his mind in the right direction or providing him with another Gadget’s schematics?

    • of course, I’m not going to TELL you if anyone gets it right. but I’ll remember it and give you guys a very special bonus chapter once it comes out in-story.

      how about that for motivation? you have time to guess it till it comes out in-story

      • Well, you seem to hint at it when you discuss the fact that the ravens were not being constantly controlled. He was giving them instructions, and they were following those instructions, on a battlefield, with a significant degree of success.

        This tells me the Ravens are rather smart, and those 3D chips do more than just increase linear computational skill. Those Ravens have brains. Brains capable of combat tactics.

        Those were small brains though. Something the size of a large computer tower with a significant portion of the mass devoted to maintaining a very large number of those brains in parallel?

        If Brennus doesn’t have a AI running design optimization for him, I’ll be surprised. He pokes in every now and then and makes adjustments based on what his power tells him, then lets the AI model and optimize what his brain creates.

        In essence, Brennus has apparently used his power to build super-advanced computers to run super advanced computer assisted design.

        That’s my guess, and I’m sticking to it. Unless I read differently.

        And I bet that’s what The Dark took away from him.

    • Originally I would have said the last two, but alright, challenge accepted.
      – The Dark or someone else fiddling with his mind
      – Some sort of secondary psychic/whatever power that gives him ideas or otherwise cuts down his time requirements
      – Efficiency being his specialty, like with Worm’s Tinkers
      – He actually is a Contriver instead of a Gadgeteer, but due to his Background in Science makes very good imitations of the real thing, alternatively he is both Contriver and Gadgeteer
      (rather far-fetched and against established rules, but included for completeness sake)
      – He’s just that smart.

    • I think I already said it, but gadgeteering does not include super-intelligence. he may have above-average intelligence, but that is just him. in game terms (again, Mutants and Masterminds 3rd edition, for those who know it):
      He has mental quickness limited to uses of expertise:science, expertise: medicine, treatment & technology
      he has physical quickness at a way lower level limited to technology and treatment (efficient work, faster than normal)
      he has enhanced intelligence LIMITED to expertise:science, expertise: medicine, treatment & technology

      so no super-smarts

      also, contrivers who gain or retain a scientific background become WEAKER because they know more and more what they CANNOT do and doing things by thinking they CAN do them is the core of their power. a combined contriver/gadgeteer power would chancel itself out, as the gadgeteering would always be sabotaged by bits and pieces of contriving – and mixing science and contriving, as noted in this chapter, usually results in explosions. If not worse (ever played Genius: The Transgression? Think Berserk Wonders).
      there are exceptions, mainly artifact-style contrivers (not introduced yet), who have only a single or a set of fixed artifacts they “empower” – e.g. Green Lanterns would be Artifact-style contrivers. these contrivers can be scientists on the side, but they cannot create any new artifacts, only use the ones they have

    • OK you say he’s not super intelligent, but back in the prologue when he’s talking to his sister he explains that he had to build his own computer as the off the shelf stuff couldn’t keep up with him doing math in his own head.

      So that has to put him at a genius human level at least doesn’t it? Unless he has a type of high functioning autism that has affected him socially but allows him to do high value math faster then a computer.

    • the super-math bit falls under the super-intelligence SOLELY IN RELATION TO SCIENCE/TECHNOLOGY 😉 he basically has a super-calculator in his head. it doesn’t make him smarter, it only allows him to do certain stuff way better.

    • i would say his power is more like that of The Dark, what so ever that power is
      “And, to be fair, my dad is not actually a Gadgeteer” (Irene)

      • nope. she meant that The Dark is a mundane scientist. he’s just so good (and so old/experienced) that he can compete with most gadgeteers

    • I can solve it now, though I freely admit that I couldn’t have at the time. Brennus can come up with these so quickly because the designs were already in his mind, courtesy of you-know-who. He just has to access them subconsciously.

  4. Well it’s a nasty world. Any reason why the villains are stronger on average? Looking forward to seeing how he affects the world.

  5. Just noticed that I screwed up a small, but important detail: every time polymnia ‘speaks’ it’s either through sign language (in the shower) or over a keypad that vocalizes her typing. rewrote the chapter to show this

  6. Just a suggestion, a possible name for the ravencycle: Valravn. A possible name for the sonic weapon system that Brennus adapt from Polymnia’s stuff: The Hrafnsmál.

    Heh… A gadgeteer who focused on cooking. Has anyone tasted the results of what a contriver who focuses on cooking does? Or are they all dead from food poisoning?

    • nice names, thanks for the ideas. don’t know if I’ll use them, but I appreaciate it very much.
      though I have to ask, where did you find hrafnsmál? not the kind of name you’d find normally, unless your a norse mythology buff

      • The same way anyone finds info these days, Wikipedia. Besides, you named Brennus after the chieftain of the Senones who sacked Rome & wore a raven totem helmet right? I almost expect him to cry out “Vae victis!” sometime when a criminal he captures try to cut a deal.

    • Cooking contrivers work for fast food restaurant chains.

      Remember Olestra? Once upon a time considered to be a boon to the junk food industry, now relegated to being mostly a light industrial lubricant or wood stain.

      • not even the worst junk food chain would allow a contriver as a cook. in fact, that’s highly illegal. remember, anything they create is in some way unnatural. you don’t want that in people’s stomachs

      • It was created as an artificial fat to use in foods, but it’s now being used as low viscosity lubricating oil and wood stain. Most people can’t tolerate the stuff in their food.

      • Synthetic fat substitute that adds no calories. Lost popularity a few years after introduction. Tends to inhibit absorption of certain vitamins, requiring supplements of those to be added to any food that contains it. There was also a common belief that it contributed to loose stools and abdominal cramping, but lab tests indicated that foods made with olestra didn’t cause those any more than the equivalent foods made with real fats. And just like artificial sweeteners, eating olestra-based foods leads to weight gain because the food itself has fewer calories, but it tricks the body into wanting to eat more of other things because of the mismatch between what you taste and the energy you get from it.

        Not legal for sale in Canada or the EU, but still used as an ingredient in light potato chips (both Lays and Pringles) as of 2013.

      • It’s great for industrial lubricants, because it never releases any toxic fumes (unlike most petroleum-based oils). Also useful for treating dioxin poisoning, because it bonds to them just like natural fats, and there are strong indications that it’ll help with BCP exposure too.

      • But really, it’s just chemically combining sugar and vegetable oil in such a way that it won’t be absorbed by the intestine. You wouldn’t want to eat a lot of the stuff, but that goes for any fat or oil. And it’s very useful for a lot of applications.

  7. Just found your story through Worm, loving it so far. I saw you compare Basil’s powers to Mutants and Masterminds. Are all of the characters made in that system, or was that just a comparison for convenience?

    • thank you for your interest!

      many of the characters were previously used in m&m campaigns, though I adjusted many of them. all main characters are worked out m&m chars I either created first for the story and then later converted into m&m or the other way around. though I am not using m&m rules for the story and powers, I’m just the kind of nerd who creates a new char whenever I’m bored^^
      also, many charactes would simply not work under m&m 3E, even though it is one of the most open systems I know (and I know a lot). Gloom Glimmer for example simply breaks one of the rules for the variable power (needs to be somehow limited on what kind of powers it can give), while Lady Light and The Dark, if they were worked out, would have save and effect dc’s, as well as skill levels and power combos that are just unholy.

      • You know you’re creative when you come up with a concept for a character that wouldn’t work in M&M’s system XD.

  8. I wonder if some of the design sense had something to do with his sister planting information into his head, like martial arts. It’d be information, but from a female perspective, like how to do this kick or that punch while accounting for boobs and hips.

    Nice callback where Little Lady Light gives a 50/50 chance of the maker being hero or villain, much like The Dark did.

    Sounds like Lady Light has a rather complicated relationship with the head of the supervillains too. Maybe it was mind control, maybe it wasn’t.

    Either way, I sense a bit of Smurf in the whole DiL and Gloom Glimmer stuff. Definitely things that suggest influence by Worm.

    Interesting too that GG really needed to get laid in the showers after a fight. Whateley influence on you too there, but at least the other girl was able to get around it.

  9. Any reason why Spellgun uses “Ah” and “Ah’m” instead if “I” and “I’m” but Thomas doesn’t? Is it just an affectation while he’s in his superhero persona?

      • After reading the following chapter and in the interest of appearing to be slightly less of an ass, I would like to stipulate that my earlier statement regarding “comparing technical schematics” should be taken ENTIRELY LITERALLY and was in NO WAY innuendo. No, really.

  10. These two should have a nerd get together and discuss the stuff that NOBODY else cares about amongst each other. I don’t really see them getting together though. There would be maybe too much of a power imbalance between them since Basil is clearly a gadgeteer 9 or 10 (assuming his applies to every field as you have loosely implied), and Melody is only a three. I think the relationship would devolve to her being wide-eyed with admiration for him 24/7 and he being casually indifferent because she can’t intellectually keep up with him. I think he needs at least a gadgeteer 6 if he is to have any real meaningful connection.
    This is all just my opinion. A good writer can make almost anything work and seem believable. If you wanted them together, I bet you could work their personalities and surrounding circumstances to make it a wonderful relationship.

  11. “As you know, we have much more supervillains than superheroes”
    much -> many
    Might want to look at that whole paragraph for sentence structure. There are quite a few places where commas are missing, and/or sentences might be broken up into cleaner writing.

  12. “he murmured as her ordered his remaining robots”

    Should probably be ‘as he ordered’.

    “And now DiL has wiped out the leaders of the Sovjet Union”

    Unless I’m missing something, that should probably be ‘Soviet Union’.

    “powerful enough to pick up the slag left by the absence of her mother”

    Should probably be ‘pick up the slack’.

    It’s very amusing that you’re making your main character a lover of exposition, and a good excuse for all the infodumping the readers need to understand the world.

    “he could harm Polymnia and Bullrush’ stampede killed him”

    Missing a ‘s’ there on the end of ‘Bullrush” I think.

    Loving it so far. On to the next chapter. Cheers.

  13. Oh you genius sunavabeotch!
    So I wasn’t wrong that she’d try to steal his technology. Just turns out he stole her technology and screwed her over on the important parts. I’m gonna love seeing how this tech war unfolds. Although I’m hoping she doesn’t get any of his epic stuff. Sounds like he may be an S class gadgeteer. (Or was it in the number ratings? I forget…)

    You sir/madam are a fricken GENIUS.

  14. Ah so that’s what’s going on with his sister and the dark, the whole glamour bullshit. It’s also creepy as shit that the most powerful supervillain is already onto everything our protagonist is doing and even mind controlled him to forget about one of his projects on a whim.

    I really hope Basil isn’t gonna be forever at the mercy of telepathy and other mind control bullshit like the glamour crap. Seems like his sister is way too far gone in being charmed by that dudes mind tricks tho.

    Also wtf is with the strongest superhero and strongest supervillain pumping out 2 babies together? What are they married? How does this even work? Shouldn’t they hate each other’s guts? Shouldn’t their entire existence more or less revolve around killing each other? Is it just that whenever they meet they ‘glamour’ the fuck out of each other by default and so they can’t really fight, just fuck? This seems a bit weird tbh.

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