When even your most private thoughts are available to the public, can you have a secret identity?
And should you?It is the near future, and things are NOT good. Superheroes, sort of superheroes, regular people, supervillains and politicians all co-exist uneasily in a world where things are both immensely different and more or less the same as this one, marked by one major difference: this world is on the brink of the greatest conflict humanity and its superior brethren have ever seen, a fight that will pit heroes and villains against each other in a war where it's not always clear who is on what side, with the government and private individuals each fighting for their stake of the human race.
Watch as this stunning story unfolds..This is the beginning of a serialized novel; if you want, you can read it on this site, or you can download it for free from Scribd and read it at your leisure. Totally your call:
Only Nixon could go to China_______________________________________________________________________________
Things began to fall apart long before this point but this point is where things begin for this story:
Andrew Nova had lived on more planets, now, than he could count – if you assumed that planets include any solid object orbiting the Sun and capable of maintaining permanent (or semi-permanent) habitations. All those planets and none anything like this first one, the one which saw his birth, the one which had fierce thunderstorms like this that rolled across the Great Plains of the second-largest continent, rolled being a misused word: yes, the clouds rolled and tumbled over each other, sometimes visibly so, nature in stop-motion even in real life, but there was nothing gentle about that. The rolling associated with hills, or perhaps child’s play, was not the rolling of a thunderstorm. A better word was stampede: like the bison that used to roam these same flatlands, the thunderstorms trampled everything before them in a rush to pummel, to dominate, to wipe clean.
He fell, his tired feet unable to miss the tiny irregularities in the cold-packed field: no snow yet, not yet, but the ground hard as rock anyway, little pothole divots not visible from far away, but up close they caused him to trip, stumble, turn his ankle, roll onto his back where his jetpack used to be, until it was taken from him by the men in helicopters.
He wondered why he ever felt he could run from the helicopters, anyway?
The ones hovering over him, right now.
He hoped the storm rol… stampeded in faster than expected and they crashed.
“And, time for one more question. Jay, you. You’ve got it.”
“Tom, will the President sign S-224?”
“He’s indicated his support…”
“But will he sign it?”
“In the past the President has always supported anything that helps guarantee the safety of…”
“But will he sign it?”
Tom did not rub his nose with his fingers, grimace, frown, wrinkle his brow, or pound his fist into the podium as a surrogate for Jay’s fat, probably-alcoholic face. Tom prided himself on being a pro. He kept the same blandly impassive face as he gave another blandly impassive answer.
“As I said, Tom, the President is in favor of making sure Americans remain safe, and one of the possible ways to guarantee that safety is to…”
10 Amazing Things That Happened Before You Read This:
1. The State Of California declared bankruptcy and was dissolved into three administrative districts. By permission of Congress in special session, the Northern District of California was absorbed by Oregon.
2. The first wifi-connected/voice-activated contact lens was created and then became obsolete.
3. Oil ran out.
4. Most of South American formed a loose confederacy governed by a triumvirate.
5. Elephants went extinct.
6. A giant field of solar panels was erected over 90% of North Dakota. 227 people are employed as sweepers, brushing snow off of them in the winter to keep them working properly.
7. A corporation ran for president. It got 23% of the popular vote.
8. The United Nations contracted with the American military to provide peacekeeping services.
9. Regular signals were received from the direction of a little-researched constellation; the signals, when decoded, turned out to be a Morse Code rendition of the Declaration of Independence.
10. That same solar system is now transmitting Das Kapital in binary code. Scientists are concerned.
That was why Jay maintained his professional demeanor: because everyone might well see this.
“I’m certain that the President will give every consideration to the bill and make the right choice for his country and the people he protects,” Jay said.
A clamor was cut off by the sound of a muffled explosion outside.
“If you’ll excuse me,” Jay said, “It sounds as though the protests have gotten worse outside and I’m being told that we have to help you all with secured exits. Through the yellow door, please, that’s the end of today’s briefing.”
Jay watched as the reporters grumbled and flicked fingers over tiny display screens or pressed them against a tattoo on their hand or (for some of the younger ones) their cheek or side of their neck, subvocalizing reports or concluding remarks, all while two business-suited men helped them through the Yellow Door, the security passageway used to get reporters at least ½ mile from the White House.
Once they were all gone Jay activated his own telecom and asked, without moving his lips, How bad is it?
See for yourself and he was then:
The Only ‘Data’ You Can Have Is This, with a picture of some actor from an old TV series
And others like that…
I don’t care about the signs, he said.
An old man, wearing a military uniform, the badge-stamps indicating service in Mexico, Japan, and Iraq
Two boys, really, could they be 18, getting stoned.
A young pretty college girl with a tattoo on her forehead, probably a transmitter.
Two fat women holding up a banner, one with a cup of coffee in her hand
A man with sunglasses on, and graying hair, hunched near the middle of the pack?
There was Steve, doing his job. Steve smiled at Jay as he realized they were connecting.
Another pretty girl; why were all the pretty girls so committed to things they couldn’t win?
Steve: the businessman or sunglasses?
His viewpoint shifted, and Steve let him seethru, first the businessman.
Jay was walking through the blue door now, back into the underground communications center. He nodded at the guards and at the Vice President as he sat down at the desk.
Get closer he told Steve.
Closer up, Jay focused on trying to see the man’s face, but the target kept himself angled so that it was difficult to get more than a glimpse. Jay instead zoomed on the man’s coat, which he saw had been stitched and restitched over and over.
That’s Titan he told Steve.
The code went out, and the crowd – already dispersing after the concussion grenades that had been detonated had made their ears ring and made the people closest to them physically ill – those poor saps, covered in vomit, would be taken to the nearby Naval hospital – was further infiltrated by young men and women who, underneath their sweatshirts and jeans, had FlexArmor and wristrockets, and who were linked to four different views of the crowd beyond simply their eyes.
Jay watched now on the terminal on the desk, giving his chip a rest, as the seven different views from the operatives he was focusing on showed varying degrees of confusion, noise, marijuana smoke, signs being rolled up or tucked under arms, traffic beginning to move, and the man in the sunglasses nearly knocking over several people as he abruptly turned and began moving quickly towards the White House gates.
The move was unexpected, and Jay realized (flicking through the views of the 13 people sent out to get Titan) that none of them were between the gates and the man himself – probably because it was so unexpected that he would head in that direction, from where there was no escape.
He did not need to tell anyone to take precautions, because they were doing that. He saw out of the periphery of his vision the Vice President whispering into his own telecom.
On the screen, in fragmented views of picture-in-picture, Titan – Jay was sure it was Titan, now, based on no better evidence but just an increasingly-certain hunch – moved away from each of the views, and those operatives became more aggressive in their efforts to reach Titan.
Across from Jay, the XO of security on duty stood over the soldier tasked with defending the date remotely. Jay watched them as he watched the screen.
Were they going to fire?
Would it work?
On the screens, the man in sunglasses was getting closed in on, and he couldn’t reach the gates it seemed, before at least one or two of the operatives got to him. The man – Titan, it had to be – grew more frantic now, tripping over people and stumbling into them and then his sunglasses fell off as one of the pretty college girls so concerned with a fight they could not win yelled at him to watch where he was going – and then an operative was right next to Titan, had a hand on his arm, and Jay smiled, and then the man in sunglasses was gone and
Did you see
Too fast to really know how it happened
The last from the operative who had been standing next to the man in sunglasses, a man who had suddenly been replaced by possibly the largest iteration of Titan ever seen, and the behemoth – a deep crimson, Jay noted – was raging around, arms wiping clean a circle of bystanders some of whom were smashed into by fists nearly half-as-big as a person, and the operative that had been closest shut down her feed.
A nod from the XO.
On the screen, Jay saw small dots over Titan’s shoulder. He watched in fascination as Titan loomed larger and larger on one of the feeds, the blandly-square face contorted by anger as its giant mouth howled incoherently, the wrist rockets from this probably-doomed operative exploding without any seeming effect on Titan’s skin.
A second feed down.
On a third one, explosions crumpled dirt and grass and a bush into the air and sent people flying, probably-just-bodies falling like rag dolls on the impact and all the remaining feeds going dark for a second with debris before clearing and moving in quickly on the now-prone body of the man in sunglasses.
“Got you, you bastard,” Jay said.
TODAY IN GOVERNMENT: President Cromwell signed S- 224, the bill recently passed by both houses of Congress, not that that is a necessity anyone pays attention to anymore, so now your relay/reviews are going to be monitored by the government anytime they want. The President emphasized that this move is, in his mind, designed to “carefully balance the needs of the public and the private.” How you can ‘balance’ the ‘public and the private’ when you’ve just made it possible for any number of unknown individuals to tap into anyone’s thoughts and feeds at any time is beyond me.
Don’t tell me either that people don’t need to get relay/reviews because while we all still use screens everyone knows that you can’t really do much of anything without a relay/review and practically every employer requires them now, too, so it’s no use to say you can have privacy just by not having something that everyone pretty much has to have.
What’s really sad about this is that Cromwell himself should know how bad this thing is. He was the head of the ACLU for God’s sake and he made his name suing over stuff like this? Does anyone remember that? DOES HE? Am I the only one who still cares about ACLU ex rel United States Senate v. Fourteen Servers of Anonymous Ownership? THIS SAME PRESIDENT who once fought so hard for the right of people to maintain records on a computer server without putting their name on those records now just said “Ok we’ll let the CIA tap into your very thoughts but only with review by the executive branch first.”
And it is thoughts. I’m certain relay/reviews can convey thoughts.
Andrew raised his hands over his head. The helicopters landed only about 30 feet from him.
One of the men got off the helicopter began shouting something; Andrew couldn’t hear it over the wind, the helicopters, and the ever-growing crackles of lightning and thunder that now surrounded them. The first few cold raindrops were pelting down around them. He shook his head, pointed to his ear.
The man, approaching, nodded, and pointed to his throat, where a small symbol was tattooed.
Andrew shook his head.
The man nodded again, and held his hands out carefully in front of him, a gesture of nonhostility. Andrew let him approach to within 10 feet before holding up his own hand, a gesture of stop.
The man nodded again.
“WE DON’T WANT TO HURT YOU!” he shouted over the tumult.
The rain was growing stronger.
“I DON’T WANT TO GO WITH YOU!” Andrew shouted back.
“I’M AFRAID WE AREN’T ASKING YOU,” the man said.
“I JUST WANT TO GO BACK TO SPACE,” Andrew shouted. “THIS ISN’T MY FIGHT. THIS ISN’T EVEN REALLY MY PLANET ANYMORE,” he added after a second.
The man took one more step forward, and Andrew shook his head, hoping the menace showed through.
The man stopped. He held his hands towards Andrew, palms out.
“PUT THOSE DOWN,” Andrew said.
The man shook his head again, almost sadly.
“I’m afraid,” he said, in a voice Andrew could not have heard, “That we’ve run out of options.”
Andrew didn’t, in fact, hear him, but knew the score anyway, and Andrew raised an arm, hoping that the latest thing he’d come up with worked as it promised too, but he was nowhere near fast enough. Two greenish beams of power shot from the helicopter-man’s eyes, striking Andrew in the chest, and paralyzing him.
 Andrew Nova: Andrew was an astronaut who began flying space missions when NASA was recommissioned after 25 years in shutdown status. Advances in communications and fuel systems made interplanetary travel possible by then, and Andrew flew the “Venus Route,” a rather pedestrian mission that called on him to spend three months aboard a spaceship that was boosted in the general direction of the Venus Orbital Line, to drift towards oncoming asteroids that had been geosynched into the Venus orbit in order to help thaw them and free up valuable minerals for mining. Once he intersected them, Andrew would load up whatever minerals, gasses, and other materials had been mined from an object before moving to the next. When his ship was full, he erected the solar sail and used the solar wind to fly back to Earth.
Status: Semi-super. Andrew’s exposure to radiation from poorly-shielded cargoholds led to mutations in his genes that resulted in his skin having the consistency of leather – difficult, but not impossible to pierce. Andrew’s time spent in weightlessness resulted in a loss of bone mass but his dedication to exercise means that while his bones are very brittle, his muscle mass is phenomenal and he has the ability to leap as though he is in gravity roughly equivalent to Earth’s former moon. Andrew also is an tinkerer/inventor. He holds 552 patents, and it is unclear how many of those objects he has built. 3 of his patents were seized and declared confidential by the military upon filing, and he was prohibited by executive order from discussing them or building even prototypes. After the third was seized, Andrew never filed another patent application. It was learned that he continued making items, though.
Objects: Andrew has a jetpack that works on ion charge, converting deuterium into phaseshifted atoms that act as propellant while being physically absent from this continuum, much the way dark energy exists. He has a ‘ray gun’ (the term is believed to be ironic) that uses a similar but as-yet-unknown technology and which has demonstrated the capability of melting steel.
 Titan: Real name unknown, aliases listed in Appendix, they change frequently so not worth updating maybe. Titan first appeared roughly 13 years ago, in Milwaukee. Little is known about the man himself, but much has been captured on video about the monster. It is seen on average 2-4 times per year, and most often seems confused but semi-helpful. These pictures[1x] show crowd images captured by remote surveillance and/or closesats in the instant prior to Titan appearing and these four men [2x] are believed to be the man who becomes Titan.
Status: Beyond Super. Titan’s size ranges from roughly 1.5x normal human to as large as 4x, with variations being based on criteria that are as yet unknown to us. Titan is sometimes normally pigmented but has also appeared in a blood-red hue, again, seemingly random, but more often than not, red hues correspond with larger size and greater power. Titan is bulletproof and laserproof and the strength appears to increase at the square of the square of his size (e.g. if he is 1.5x normal human size, his strength is estimated at 1.5squared, squared, and so on.) Titan has never demonstrated cooperation for any significant time but has helped children and sometimes adults during attacks/crises. Twice at least Titan has attacked government property; other attacks are suspected but closesat and other surveils were unable to obtain confirmation.