Monday, January 05, 2015

Blink: Superhero Summer Camp, episode 3

Blink’s earlier adventures:

Blink
Blink’s First Adventure | 2 | 3 | 4

Superhero Summer Camp (this one): 1 | 2



“Blink, I presume?” Professor Zero asked, approaching the golf cart. “Welcome to Zero Point. You had a good trip, I hope?”

“Uh… sure.” Stevie glanced at Captain Heroic, who was looking away. Your show, in other words. I’m a super. I can do this. “Thanks for, uh, inviting me. This is totally awesome.”

“The pleasure is mine,” said Zero. Next to Stevie, Captain Heroic gave Stevie an approving nod and smile. “Grab your bag. The good Captain and I will show you your quarters, once we’ve shown you some of what we have planned for you. I’ll admit, though, I was sorely tempted to convince you to skip the rest of the school year so we could get started sooner.”

“That would have been okay by me,” Stevie laughed as they walked. “Middle school totally sucks.”

Professor Zero laughed with him. “Believe me, I do remember those days. Structured education is a special hell for anyone of above-average intelligence. Speaking of which, how are your grades?”

“Good enough. I aced Geometry, and got As and Bs in everything.”

“Then you’re not just coasting through your classes. That’s good.” Zero opened a pair of double doors, leading into a vast room. Snap, and floodlights showed it to be as big as the middle school’s football field, including the bleachers. “You’ll be spending a lot of time in here, Blink. I’m sure you know we’ll test your teleportation ability, and much of that testing will happen in here. If necessary, we’ll conduct some tests outside. But we’ll use this area where possible. We can control the conditions better, and it gives us more privacy.” He shut the doors.

“Over here,” Zero continued, “across the hall, is the classroom. Your training here is part charm school, part public relations, and part law enforcement. Some people are naturally comfortable facing the public, but it’s a skill that can be learned. You’ll need to know how to deal with the media, answering questions without giving away things you don’t want them to know. For example, the few questions I asked you earlier could help someone narrow down your secret identity. Your grades are good enough, or almost, to put you in the honors program, which would weed out eighty percent of the student body.”

Stevie blushed, and Zero laughed. “Not that you gave away much. It’s pretty well-known that supers tend to be intelligent. There are exceptions, but they’re rare and mostly Type IIIs like the good Captain here. But Cap’s a smart guy, too. You do know the super types, right?”

“Yeah,” said Stevie, “Captain Heroic told me about them. I’m a Type I, someone born with it. A Type II is a lab accident, like Miss Siles. Type IIIs are regular people with gadgets.”

“Ah, good. And Cap’s report about how you rescued your classmate tells me that you at least understand the fundamentals of being a superhero.” Zero opened another door down the hall; this was a workout room, and Stevie had never seen some of these machines. “Part of your training is physical. Even a Type I needs to be in good physical condition. Not only do you need to be able to hold your own in a fight, regardless of your special abilities, you need to have the stamina to outlast your opponents. The Masked Warrior who traveled with you here will be training you and several others in hand-to-hand combat techniques.”

“Cool.”

“It’s something I hope you won’t have to use for a while. Experience tells us that being a superhero is a full-time job. If you’re out at all hours, or cutting classes to fight crime, you’ll soon find yourself falling behind. We don’t want that, especially at your age. But the more you know now, the better chance you’ll have of staying out of the spotlight until it’s time to take your place.”

Zero led them to yet another room, more cluttered than Stevie’s room on a particularly bad day. “This part of your training, I hope you will find fun in the end. It will certainly be frustrating to begin with. But Improvisation is the most important learned skill you can have. You’ll not only learn to build and repair gadgets from junk laying around, you’ll learn to keep your head in a crisis. As a superhero, you’ll have your share of crises, trust me. Captain Heroic is a master at this, and he’ll be your instructor.”

“A lot of the things I used in my work, I first improvised,” Captain Heroic added. “When they worked, I refined them and added them to my toolkit. But I’ll save the rest of the speech for tomorrow.”

“I’m sure young Blink appreciates that,” said Zero, leading them to an elevator. “Let us proceed to his home away from home for the next six weeks, though.” He turned to Stevie. “Level R-3. The button’s about midway up.”

Stevie looked at the huge array of buttons, all with different letters and numbers. None of them were in order. He finally located one that read R3, and pressed it. “How many floors does this place have?” he asked.

“Not as many floors as there are buttons,” Zero replied. “By the way, you will press F-2 to return to the floor we just departed. The elevators are part of the defenses here—if an enemy does manage to get in here, he would probably assume that P-7 would take him to my quarters.” He pointed at the button on top. “However, it drops the elevator into the holding cells and keeps it there until Security can take over. So be very careful to press either R-3 or F-2 when you’re in the elevator, or you’ll have an embarrassing moment to add to your journal.”

“I don’t have a journal,” said Stevie.

“A journal is waiting for you in your room,” said Zero. “You need to spend some time every evening, writing your impressions about the day into your journal. By the time you’re home, it should be a habit. Preferably a daily one. Most days seem to have little important going on, but you’ll learn that every day is important in some way.” The elevator slowed and stopped, and Zero led them down the hall.

“What if Mom sees it?”

“She won’t.” Zero brought them to a stop at a door marked R306. “This is your room, Blink. We need to key it to your palmprint, though.” Professor Zero stuck a card into a slot above a grey rectangle. “Put your hand there.”

Stevie did as he was told, and the door popped open. “Your door is now keyed,” said Zero. “And that’s a key you can’t lose or lock in your room.”

Stevie chuckled, then dropped his bag on the bed and checked out the room. It looked like a hotel room—there was a private bathroom, a small fridge (stocked with snacks and soft drinks, he learned later), and a big window with curtains over it. “Looks nice,” he said.

“Your journal is on the desk over there,” said Zero.

Stevie checked it out; it had a battered-looking cover. But when he opened it, he found it concealed an iPad mini. “Wait,” he said. “This is mine?” The last word came out in a squeak.

“It’s a specially-modified version,” said Zero. “The journal app is only visible when you’re touching the device, and it has a secure link to the Zero Point network. There’s a Bluetooth keyboard already associated with it in the drawer. You can use that if you can touch type.”

“Whoa.”

“We have time to figure out how you won it,” said Captain Heroic. “Maybe some kind of drawing or contest.”

“Plenty of time,” Zero agreed. “But for now, we have more to see. We need to register you, and give you a complete physical. I want to establish a baseline for your conditioning. That should take us to lunch, then we’ll begin testing your ability this afternoon.”

“Yeah.” Stevie closed the cover, wishing he could just sit here the rest of the day (or the week) and load up the iPad with stuff. This is a dream, he thought. In a minute, I’ll wake up.

8 comments:

  1. Have I read this before, or am I imagining it. Looks like Steve is going to enjoy Summer Camp!

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  2. I hope Stevie remembers to press the correct buttons. I'm bad at that sort of thing, and I'm sure I'd have a few embarrassing moments. Now that Stevie is settled in...

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  3. Ohh an iPad! Cool. I think Blink will have a lot of fun!

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  4. I'm biased because I've already read the whole story, but even on the first read-through it struck me how this is both a subtle homage and a quiet criticism of X-Men and Spider-Man. Peter Parker's pro-level camera collection was a lot easier to explain away when a careful trip to a pawn shop could net you some very nice, if old, gear -- a lot harder to make plausible now when digital is everything. And for all the fancy setup, Professor Zero seems a lot more practical than Professor X -- you don't have to be a billionaire genius to get an elevator panel with lots of button spaces and do some creative rewiring, but it certainly would be a simple-yet-effective deterrent for unwanted visitors.

    The iPad Mini is a great detail for the theme -- for someone like Zero or even Captain Heroic, it would be a fair chunk of change, but not something they'd have to think too hard about buying. For someone in Blink's income bracket, though, it really is an overwhelming luxury.

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  5. Hi all!

    Helen, if you got the book, you did read this. But yes, Stevie's going to have tons of… um, fun…

    David, now that he's settled in, things should start getting interesting!

    Sonia, I hope he does.

    Thanks, Katherine. This is one of my favorite comments ever. As far as Zero goes, his true genius might be at getting research grants. ;-) And you really "got it" about Blink's income level and his overwhelmed feeling.

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  6. This was an exciting chapter–even if it was just learning all that Stevie would have to learn himself. =)

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  7. I love the idea of an app that only responds to him!

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  8. Awesome app idea, Larry! Wish I had secret identity and cool gadgets that go with it.

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