Inception

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There’s an old saying: beware the Ides of March.  It’s an inauspicious day, one on which Julius Caesar was stabbed to death by his friends.  And throughout history, there have been…probably wars or something?  I actually can’t think of anything else bad that’s happened on the Ides of March, even though it’s got a Friday-the-13th kind of vibe in my head.  But I mean, Caesar got stabbed over two thousand years ago.  It can’t be just him and me.  Not that I got stabbed but — well, as usual, let me back up.

This particular story starts at the beginning of March, but the whole thing began early last year.  That was when I got assaulted by a super-strong ape-man while at work, and discovered I had superpowers.  Nothing convenient and reliable, though, nothing I can train up and learn to use over a long period of time; my powers crop up solely so I can deal with a specific nemesis, and fade once the threat is handled.  It’s a real pain in the neck, to be honest.

I’m Dan Everton, by the way.  I’m your average white American early-thirties blue-collar male, a little bit slow on the uptake, a little bit wide in the waistline.  Less so than I used to be, in both of those cases; remnants of super-intelligence helped with the thinking bit, and working in construction helped with the extra padding.  I’ve still got some there, but my belt’s a couple of notches tighter than when I was working a desk job, and there’s a solid core of muscle under it all now.  I don’t like to brag, but I could probably pick up the back end of my car.  If I had a car.  And to be fair, some of that strength is left over from another faded superpower, too.  This is why I don’t like to brag.  I’m not very good at it.

Anyway, since last year I’ve been personally involved in the destruction of two buildings, one by storm and one by fire.  I’ve been punched, kicked, shot, beaten, hit by a car, hit by lightning and generally persecuted.  Plus I’ve been fired twice.  It’s been a rough year, is what I’m saying.

I’ve been in and out of the hospital often enough that I’ve made friends there.  One of them, Doctor Simmons, just wants me for my body.  More specifically, the nanomachines I was somehow infected with that are causing these superpowers.  She’s a lady on a mission, is Doc Simmons, and you do not want to be between her and her goal.  She’s taken enough blood and tissue samples from me at this point to build an entirely new copy of me.  Shoot, for all I know, she’s done just that.  I haven’t heard from her in a little bit.  For all I know, she’s grown a new Dan to experiment on.

Honestly, I’m glad that Doc Simmons is so intent on finding out how these nanos work, because otherwise she’d be the best candidate I can think of to have created them and stuck them in me.  She’s brilliant, she’s driven, and while she’s not amoral, exactly, she’s…let’s say that she’s not one to let minor impediments stop her.  When I do finally track down the mysterious Dr. A., the person behind the nanos, I’m probably going to need to keep Doc Simmons from finding out.  Otherwise, there’s a decent chance that she’ll steal his notes and continue his work.  I mean, she’d probably get volunteers for a study and run it in a controlled environment.  As long as there was funding, and not too much bureaucratic red tape.  “Probably” might be a slightly strong word here.

My other hospital friend, an EMT named Brian, has rapidly risen in the ranks to become my best friend.  Admittedly, the ranks mainly consist of people whose posts I sometimes “like” on Facebook, so that wasn’t that difficult of an ascension.  Still, he’d be my go-to guy even if I had a dozen friends.  I’m sure that some of you are laughing right now that the number I picked for “can you imagine having this many friends?” is only twelve, but whatever.  I like my privacy, I like my solitude, and I don’t need a bunch of people chattering around me all of the time to keep me entertained.

Speaking of which, my temporary roommate Regina found a job and moved out a couple of months back, so I’ve got my place to myself again.  My parents’ place, fine, but I rent it, which makes it mine.  The point is that although Regina’s great, it’s fantastic being able to walk around in my boxers and sprawl out on the whole couch again.  Plus it was always sort of awkward since, while under the influence of nanos, she’d tried to kill me with lightning, and I’d made her magnetic and gotten her temporarily committed.  We were past all of that, but it still sort of lingered.  You know how it is.

She’s still dating Brian, though, so it’s not like I don’t see her on the regular.  Honestly, this is the most active my social life’s been in years.  I’m not a hundred percent on board with it, actually, but I figure that relationships require sacrifice, and I can give up a planned quiet evening once in a while when my friends want to hang out.  It feels like sort of a stupid thing to complain about, anyway.  “Ugh, people want to associate with me when I have important Netflix shows to watch.  Being popular is hard!”

Besides which, when we hang out, a lot of the time it’s at home anyway.  I had a persecution campaign run against me by a nemesis with the power of persuasion a few months ago, and although there were retractions issued and the authorities did what they could to clear my name, not everyone believed them.

“The authorities” in this case mainly consist of Officer Sam Peterson, a local policeman who’s stuck his neck out for me more than once.  He was there shortly after my first superpower kicked in, and managed to gain my trust over time with a mixture of apparent concern and the ability to put me in jail if I didn’t open up to him.  As far as I can tell, his concern for my well-being is real, as is his concern for the city.  He’s a good guy, and I feel badly for having gotten him into this insanity sometimes.  He’s helped keep my life from turning into a total media circus on more than one occasion, and I’ve basically done nothing for him in return.

On the other hand, he seems to have a lot of clout now for a random city police officer, so it’s possible that being connected to me has done good things for his career.  I don’t ask; it doesn’t seem like the sort of thing that would make me happy.

Anyway, despite his work to convince people that I was not a destructive vandal bent on ruin, many people still seem to just remember the negative press.  I see a lot of sidelong glances when I’m out in public, and hear a lot of whispering with my name in it.  Hopefully it’ll fade in time, but right now I feel like a celebrity who just got busted for drunk driving.  Everyone knows who I am, everyone’s talking behind my back and no one’s saying positive things.

Again, I’m fine with that.  My social interaction consists of getting up before the sun, working until early afternoon on a construction site (Tanger Construction, now under new management), then vegging out at home.  Sometimes I go shopping for food.  I have a couple of close friends and no one else vying to get into that circle, and that’s exactly the way I like it.  When you have too many friends, that’s where you get into the kind of trouble Caesar had.  You think that everybody loves you, but then it turns out that you didn’t know any of them half as well as you thought you did.  Next thing you know: knives in the Senate.

I keep my friends circle tight, and I avoid these problems.  Or so I thought in early March.

So it’s March 1st, and Brian, Regina and I have gotten together for dinner.  I’m third-wheeling it up as usual, but Brian’s the one who’d texted to invite himself over, so it’s not like I’m crashing their date night or anything.  We’re hanging out post-meal, playing cards and snacking on chips while people scream and die in the background in some B-grade Netflix slasher offering.

Brian’s phone buzzes, and he checks to see if it’s anything important.

“You on call?” I ask.

“Nah,” he says, scrolling up on the screen.  “Just a marketing email from the hospital, looks like.”

“Well, you going to bet, then, or what?  We can skip your turn if you need.”

“Whoa, cranky, chill!  All right, I’ll call.  Man, for a dude who spends half of the game staring at the TV, you’re awfully fussy about this, you know?”

“Half, nothing!  I spend two-thirds of the game watching the TV: your turn, and her turn.  The remaining third — my turn — I spend playing.”

“Did you know you always get angrier about the game when you’ve got a good hand, Dan?” asks Regina.

“I do not!” I scowl.  She’s almost certainly right.  I should really work on my tells. The disadvantages of a small friend circle, I suppose; I’m not good at social lies.

Brian, meanwhile, is still looking at his phone.  “Hey, man, you might actually want to see this.”

He turns the screen around so that it’s facing me, and I stare at it in confusion for a few seconds.  “What?  So the hospital’s hosting some symposium on biomedical advances.  So what?”

“So that seems like the sort of thing that people who are into cutting edge medical technology might be into,” he says.

“Yeah, and?  I don’t care about advances in medical technology.”

Brian looks at me like I’m an idiot.  “Yeah, but people who build human-interfacing nanomachinery might.”

Oh.  No wonder he’s looking at me like that.  I am an idiot.


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