Monday, April 18, 2011
'u did this didnt you?'
I groaned, rolling over in bed to smush my face into the pillow.
Unfortunately, when text messages go directly to your head, rolling over doesn't exactly help with ignoring them.
'What?' I sent back to Victoria.
I really should be getting up anyways. I had school, and as much as I hated it, my dad wouldn't just let me blow it off. No matter how easy it got.
With a sigh, I rolled out of bed and shambled to the bathroom.
'u said u were goin 2 do smthing last nite'
'and ur the only one that hangs around in the ship gravyrd'
'so had to be u'
No, Victoria. That's not… just because I had something to do and I'm the only one that normally is around the graveyard does not mean that it was me. That's a causal fallacy. Correlation does not imply causation.
…Even if you're right.
'so was it?'
Ugh. Victoria, why did you have to ask me that?
I didn't want to lie. But even more than that, I didn't want to have my full capabilities known. At least not to anybody that didn't need to know. With Dad… well, Dad deserved to know at least the basics, sure, since it was his daughter this had all happened to, but even he was still unaware of what an existential threat I was. With Leah it was probably all going to come out sooner rather than later with her power, but I wasn't eager to make that go any faster than it had to and I didn't exactly have any control over it.
Victoria didn't need to know. Not right now. Not… not when I still didn't know her enough to trust her with something like that.
Even if we were becoming friends.
Friendships were built on trust, but this was just too big for right now. Maybe later, if things went well and when it wouldn't jeopardize things as much.
'What are you talking about?' I asked, starting the shower as I reabsorbed my 'clothes' and then stepped under the water.
'the gravyards gone. it was u, rite?'
Deflect. Deflect, avoid, redirect.
'How would I even do that? I'm an Alexandria package with force fields and no flight, remember? And I was busy last night.'
…Even if I was busy doing exactly what you're thinking.
I cleaned off as I waited for her response, before getting out and making my daily fractional avatar adjustment as I dried off.
'well yeah, but… idk.'
'so if it wasnt u who do you think it could be?'
'Uber and Leet could have done something like this, right?' I sent back.
'yea, i guess. but theyve nevr done anything like this before.'
'Or maybe a new cape?' I offered.
'maybe, yeah. whatever. kinda wish i could thank them tho. the view from the beach is gonna be sooooo much nicer now.'
I felt myself smile. It was nice to know somebody appreciated it, even if it was for something as small as that.
'How did you find out?'
'its all over tv. probs pho too'
'ppl are flipping the fck out'
I couldn't help it; I laughed.
A second later, I got another text.
'whoops, moms yelling, gotta get ready for school. ttyl'
I just grinned. 'Bye.'
Leah was already at the table when I got downstairs, a bowl of cereal and a cup of orange juice in front of her.
I have no idea how she managed to appear bleary-eyed, considering the lack of blood vessels to cause it, but somehow she did.
I went about getting myself a bowl of cereal as well, figuring I might as well follow routine. As soon as I sat down, Leah opened her mouth to say something, but immediately snapped it shut as my dad walked into the kitchen with the newspaper under his arm.
Instead Leah just gave me a withering glare.
…What the heck had I done to her?
Her glare softened, and she rolled her eyes.
"Later," she mouthed at me, and I nodded.
Breakfast was awkwardly quiet, Dad's eyes darting between Leah and I a couple times, though he never breached the silence that surrounded us.
I almost expected him to bring up the Graveyard thing, considering it had to be in the paper from what Vicky had said, but… he didn't, and I couldn't really understand why.
I wasn't even sure how I would have responded if he had brought it up. I want to say that I would've admitted to it, but I really don't know. I may have told Dad the basics of what my trigger had done to me, but he didn't know the full details, didn't know about the Fog or my full capabilities, and I don't know if I would have told him even like this.
After I ate breakfast I cleared my place, getting up and heading towards the stairs to finish getting ready. There was the sound of rushed movement in the room behind me, and then quiet padding footsteps following me up the stairs.
At the top, I turned around, facing the blonde girl who'd trailed me.
"What?" I asked shortly.
She pursed her lips, eyes darting down the stairs and towards the kitchen. She didn't want Dad to hear?
With a sigh, I led her into my room so we weren't just standing in the hall, closing the door behind us. This seemed like it was going to be a conversation.
I directed her towards the bed, Leah taking a seat as I leaned on the side of my desk across from her.
"So. The Graveyard. That was you, right?" she asked slowly.
She let out a small breath of relief. "Good. I thought it was, but I wasn't one-hundred percent sure."
"What was your other idea?" I asked curiously.
Leah blinked, refocusing on me from having apparently gotten caught up in her thoughts again. "Oh. Um. Mostly someone trying to make a preemptive strike against you, since you're the only semi-public cape who bothers with that area."
I nodded. That made sense.
"So what'd you do with all of it, anyways? Heck, why did you do it?"
"It was in the way and a good source of metal," I said, shrugging.
She tilted her head. "Is there something you needed it for?"
I opened my mouth, but hesitated.
"Not that you have to tell me if you don't want to!" she rushed.
I frowned thoughtfully. Honestly, she already knew I was a Tinker, so it wasn't like the primary reason for hiding this really applied to her. Plus she'd probably find out herself somehow, better to just say it. "I recycled it all into a new ship."
She stared blankly at me. "Overnight?"
Ah. "Uh. Yes? I turned it all into nanomaterial. Like the stuff I used yesterday to show you that recording. Or the stuff that was in that container when I was… rebuilding your body."
"A programmable metamaterial?"
"No, er, nanomachines. They can mimic pretty much anything I want."
"Ohhhh. Can I see?" she asked.
"…The ship?" I assumed that was what she was talking about, since she'd already seen my nanomaterial working first-hand.
"I… guess? Sure? Not right now, but later?" I didn't really mind, and I did kind of want to show it off. I had a lot of pride in my ship-self.
She waved her hand at me. "That's fine. This afternoon?"
"…Alright," I agreed.
And that was that.
School was unremarkable.
Really, that's the best compliment I can give a day at Winslow.
Emma was back, but she was silent and withdrawn, staying away from the girls she hung out with and even keeping a little distance between her and Sophia. Neither Sophia nor Madison, nor any of their hanger-ons tried anything.
I ate in the lunchroom, even if it was by myself, but I did it, and did it with my back straight and head high. Compared to the past week, school seemed ridiculous.
I'd fought Lung, Squealer, a dragon the size of a 747, and saved multiple people during a major crisis alongside a well-known hero group. I had a shipyard and over a hundred eighty thousand tons of nanomaterial, as well as a my first hull. I had twenty four fusion reactors and eighteen particle colliders for dark-matter synthesis, with enough power to supply the entire eastern half of the continental US without breaking a sweat.
I was Relentless, what could I possibly have to worry about from high school?
So yeah, that was school. Unremarkable.
And afterwards, for the first day in over a week, I went straight home.
Leah looked over at me as soon as I walked in, sitting on the couch with the nanomaterial laptop. The moment she saw me she closed the laptop, putting it next to her and standing up. "Hey," she said with a smile. "Can we go see it now?" The smile expanded into a grin. "I've kinda been waiting. …Unless you have something to do?"
I shook my head. "Not… really? But it's like forty minutes away, driving."
I sighed, glad that I'd brought the bike I'd made the night before home with me, making it a bit less conspicuous, imitating a real-life motorcycle I'd found on the internet minus most of the noise.
I wasn't Squealer, thank you.
"Come on, then," I said, heading towards the garage on the side of the house.
"Where are we going?"
I looked over at her. "The old shipyards. Well, not so old now," I said, changing my clothes to add a jacket and my shoes to boots. I turned to see Leah eyeing the jacket.
"Can I get one?" she asked as we entered the garage, the motion-activated light clicking on.
"There's not really any point, but if you want, sure," I said, adding a jacket that matched my own to the clothes she wore formed out of my nanomaterial, but with blue highlights instead of lime green. "I'm really just doing it because I read that drivers tend to respect cyclists in proper protection more and we're less likely to get flagged by the police. Unfortunately, helmets are required for under twenties, so…" I tossed her the helmet I'd left on the seat from last night.
She looked it over for a moment, before lifting it and putting it on.
"In a contest between you and semi-truck, you'd lose, but only just," I told her. "Your frame right now is mostly plain steel from the ships that were in the graveyard. The next one is going to be closer to mine."
"Which is…?" Leah asked, adjusting the helmet on her head.
"Diamond and carbon nanotubes and a material casing that's stronger than it should be by existing in more than three dimensions. It was the closest I could get to invulnerable without exotic effects. And I'm looking into making it better," I said. My sword—the claymore—was giving me trouble analyzing it, but the potential benefits of understanding the metal were huge considering how durable it was in my tests.
A helmet of my own formed around my head, and I walked over to the garage door button to open it.
Leah pushed the green-accented motorcycle forward without my prompting, moving it outside before stopping and getting on the rear seat. I closed the garage door and moved over to the bike.
"Besides, the chances of us getting in an accident are astronomically small. Steering something like this isn't exactly hard for me," I said, adjusting myself and then sinking in. Not as far as I did with the jet, but enough that I wasn't really controlling it with my humanoid body.
Kickstand up, and we were off.
Leah paid attention to the surroundings, watching the streets and buildings we passed, asking questions every so often about shops and places that I sometimes had to admit to not knowing the answers to.
Driving was… anticlimactic. I'd experienced it last night, when there weren't so many people out, but even with the increase of people using the roads it was underwhelming. Everybody else reacted at human speeds and I… didn't.
What I was doing was… technically illegal. I guess? Driving without a license? But do driving licenses even apply to artificial intelligences? To self-driving motorcycles?
How would that even work?
I wasn't hurting anybody, I was safe, the drivers around me were safe, and I obeyed all traffic laws. Hell, I was better at it than the people around me were.
Isn't that what mattered?
I pushed my musings aside as we rolled up to the gate of the shipyard, which I was already opening. After it opened far enough we moved inside, weaving through the paths between warehouses until we were at the docks themselves.
The bike halted, kickstand down, my helmet absorbed into my head and jacket disappearing as I stared out at the bay. After a moment I turned around and looked at Leah, who'd hung her helmet on the handlebar and unzipped her own jacket.
"Will you show me?" she asked, looking at the dry dock where my ship-self was submerged.
I blinked. "Sure?"
Without any signal I lightened the gravity ballast and allowed my other self to rise, breaking the surface.
It was beautiful.
I was beautiful.
The only thing that would have given it away as something other than a normal, unremarkable Balao-class submarine was the coloring above the resting waterline: a light grey steel tone contrasting the dark matte-grey color below it.
I looked over at Leah, and saw her staring at my hull, eyes wide. She was completely silent, unmoving, and didn't even react until I snapped my fingers in front of her to get her attention. "Are you coming?"
She nodded, trailing behind as I walked towards the ramp I formed and then up it onto my deck.
"I just can't…"
I looked back at her as I opened the port fairwater door. "What?"
"This is part of you, isn't it? This is you. Just like that stuff on the wall yesterday."
I stared at her. "…Yeah. All of my nanomaterial is, really."
I entered the fairwater, immediately turning left and going into the conning tower through the aft bulkhead as the lights came on silently.
I already knew what it looked like. I was it, after all, but like Leah had said, seeing it was an experience. Where you would expect old electronics, mechanical parts and the bronze/copper that was so characteristic of the Gato and Balao-class subs, where there might have been huge mechanical computers and controls that took up over half the room, there were flat walls and empty space. Everything was sleek metal and white surfaces, which combined with the lack of huge components gave the sense of the space being larger than it actually was.
To be honest, the conning tower was rather superfluous. All of my imaging and targeting was internal, though I still had physical periscopes in the middle of the room for amusement and nostalgia.
Humming to myself, I moved towards the front of the cylindrical room and then down the metal stairs into the control room.
This resembled nothing like the original. No pressure valves or buoyancy wheels, no physical helm or engine controls. I was the most advanced vessel in the world, and it showed.
Instead, it looked more like a curved bridge out of a spaceship from a sci-fi show, lit with soft light that seemed to come from nowhere. All that existed was a captain's chair in the middle on a platform, more for my satisfaction than any other reason, and I took the opportunity to sit in it, relaxing.
Behind me Leah had descended the stairs, and looked around.
"It's… a bit empty, isn't it?"
I swiveled around to look at her, lifting an eyebrow even as I reshaped the room, adding a few control stations and consoles. Each had a screen to the front, left, and right, and a small flat desk/low counter surface surrounding the station's chair in a horseshoe shape. To my own right on the raised platform I added a chair and screen that would normally be taken by the XO. And in front of the room I added large screens that blinked on, showing a 180° view of our surroundings, which was really only the shipyard.
Leah just blinked, looking around at the stations. "Um. I take it back."
She trailed towards the XO station on my right, moving around the back to seat herself in front of the screen and poke at it, the overall statistics and current state of myself appearing in front of her as I let it access that information.
"Engines. Wave-Force Armor. Sonar. Life-support. Weapons!?" she twisted around to look at me, and then blinked. "Oh. Submarine. Right. Torpedoes."
"And anti-aircraft guns," I added. I wasn't even a destroyer or anything, so my weapons weren't particularly impressive, but they still weren't anything to scoff at. My photon cannons could melt through and destroy steel in microseconds.
She navigated around a bit as I relaxed, a calm coming over me as I was finally where I belonged.
After about fifteen minutes she stopped looking around my systems, her curiosity apparently satisfied, and turned to me.
I opened my eyes and looked at her. "Yeah?"
"I'm in," she said.
"This… thing," Leah said, waving her hands around. "This stuff you're doing. I'm in. I want to help."
I stared at her.
She huffed. "Look. You may be good, you may be effectively invincible and able to do nearly anything, but that doesn't mean you can't screw up, as I think you probably know."
"You can't do this on your own. You can't… you need someone in your corner. Someone to watch over your shoulder and keep you from going too far. People to help you. People you can rely on," she said. "And I think you know that."
I did. I really, really did. I needed the grounding that having other people around me provided. The human element that I was losing as I sunk further into my nature as what I was.
"So I want to help you. Now could you please say something I feel like I've been talking to a brick wall."
For a moment I left her hanging.
She sat up. "Okay?"
I nodded. "If you really want to help me I'm not going to tell you that you can't."
Leah deflated. "Oh. Well. That makes things easier. …I still have five points left in my argument if you want to hear them?"
I shook my head, smiling. "So how do we do this?"
Leah bit her lip. "So um, I was thinking."
"Thinking or Thinking?" I asked.
"Just plain thinking," she responded, sticking her tongue out. "Anyways. From what I've read everyone seems to think you have this Tinker supplier or backer of some sort, right?"
I nodded, starting to see where she was going with this.
"And well. If you're trying to keep people from figuring out you're a Tinker, what better way than to give them one where they expect it?" She grinned widely. "Besides, it would be a good way to hide the fact I'm a Thinker, since I think people would be pretty suspicious if a cape with the same powers as one that reportedly just died showed up."
I… could work with that. It would be an excellent smokescreen. Plus if Leah actually learned how the things I made worked, it would mean she could potentially maintain her own equipment.
My stuff wasn't actually tinker-tech, after all. You just had to have a very good understanding of fields like particle physics, chemistry, electrical engineering, mechanical engineering…
Okay, so this might not be so simple.
But Leah had some kind of intuition-based power. If she could somehow get her power to connect the dots with more complex concepts and technology as well as her normal social aspect, she might be able to actually fake being a Tinker for real. Or, enough of one that a rating for it wouldn't be out of the question.
I nodded slowly.
"Alright. But if we're going to do that, we're going to do it right."
Her brows furrowed. "Right? What does that mean?"
I gave a slow grin.
"So how's your grasp on particle physics?"
After three hours of explaining stuff, assisted by the ability to simulate everything with three-dimensional holograms, we stopped, Leah looking a bit overwhelmed by everything.
The half-hour after that was spent discussing what would go into her portrayal of a 'Tinker' —including a rather makeshift exoskeletal 'armor'— as well as the abilities she would be showing. All of which needed to match the themes that I'd shown so far that were attributed to my supposed Tinker support, especially the new armor I was making based on Greg's designs.
Exposed segments, spine-like armor down the back, hard pieces over the shoulders and forearms, flexible impact-resistant undersuit, antigrav discs and thrust outlets, etc.
As for the abilities, I was partial to her using things that were electrical, taser-like capacitor systems that could be powered by her own internal power source, beams of crackling electricity and plasma, maybe even an extendable staff like Dauntless' arc spear. It lined up well with the technology I had and wouldn't be too hard to replicate with non-nanomaterial pieces.
All part of the image, the act that she would be a cape like people were expecting.
By the time we finished, it was six o'clock, and we agreed that we should probably go home so that we could start on dinner and have it done by the time my dad got home from work.
I was still working on Leah's second frame, the differences in the fact that she still had an actual brain and the requirements that necessitated making enough changes that it wasn't simply "buy lots of charcoal and sheet metal, construct copy of my body".
Still, I estimated that I'd have it done by the next day, probably after school.
Meanwhile, I was going to leave Leah with enough study materials about what was happening both with her body and the pieces of armor and tech I'd be making for her that she could learn. I wouldn't lie and say it wasn't edging into university-level stuff for multiple fields, but that was kind of the nature of what I did. No Tinkertech bullshit that couldn't be explained, this was all a science and anybody devoted enough could learn how it worked , even if it wasn't knowledge that humanity had discovered themselves yet.
However, I had manufactured enough synthetic skin that she no longer needed my nanomaterial, which took away the persistent discomfort that had been lingering in the back of my mind.
After dinner, I did homework, and then after that, I finally went on PHO to see what they were saying about everything.
And then I realized I didn't have an account for my cape identity.
I could have just edited the servers and added it myself, along with all the relevant tags, but doing that felt… wrong?
Which is totally hypocritical considering what I'd done the night before, I know, but it still felt different somehow. Also drawing mod attention if I suddenly showed up and none of them had records of me going through the verification might be kinda counter to what I was trying to appear as.
Either way, I just bit the bullet and made a new account with my name, made a small camera out of nanomaterial, took a picture of myself in costume against the blank wall in the hallway, and sent it off to the mods. Not even five minutes later I had my tag.
Anyways, it was honestly pretty predictable: lots of people freaking out over the fact the Graveyard was suddenly missing, the PRT saying they were "investigating it", and people slowly calming down as nobody came out and claimed responsibility, (probably) realizing that it didn't affect their lives all that much and that life still went on.
There were a couple people who talked about the impact to the local shipping and fishing industry, which were then countered by people talking about the fact that there were still the old shipping containers on the shore and facilities that had been largely abandoned other than basic maintenance. All of those would have to be evaluated and cleared, and the facilities brought back up to working condition before anything could happen, though they did acknowledge that it was much more likely for companies to invest in that now that the biggest barrier was gone.
Hopefully that would mean more work for the Dockworkers in the future.
I just… It would definitely help Dad, I hoped, having work and making progress instead of the constant decline that the shipping industry had experienced ever since the Dock's riots.
I could theoretically fix all our problems in a snap. I could fix the house and his car, take care of our money issues… everything, but it was like how Dad and I had built my shelves by hand instead of taking the easy route and using nanomaterial: nothing worth doing wasn't worth taking time and putting in the effort for. It was the journey as much as the destination, and I think it would hurt our relationship just as much it would ease our life if I forced Dad to accept all that. Being forced to accept charity from your fifteen-year-old daughter who was going out in costume?
Yeah. Not the best feeling, probably.
So instead I wanted to help indirectly, like with the Graveyard. It wouldn't fix things overnight, and it wasn't something that was obviously me intending to improve our situation, but it probably would in the long run anyways, all without Dad losing his drive and sense of purpose.
I went to sleep feeling like even if the day hadn't been as… eventful as the week before, I'd still made progress in some direction.
That feeling was gone when Leah woke me at three in the morning, her face grim as she stood in the door.
"Taylor, we have a problem."
A/N: Welp. This took far too bloody long. And is too short, in my opinion, but that's how it goes.
As people have noted, ship is finally happening.
In all senses of the word. :D