I have never, ever liked hospital waiting rooms. I've never liked waiting in them, I certainly have never liked waiting for service in them, !@#$ I don't even like walking past one. They remind me of things I'd really rather forget, and even if they're clean as a whistle as well-kept as a Senator's "special play friend," there's always that underlying stain of sadness, worry, despair, and pain.
(And they always have the television on some !@#$ awful channel with shows and ads that you do not need to be watching when you're writhing in pain. Always.)
So you have to understand that it takes a great and mighty reason for SPYGOD to be cooling his hot pink heels in one, son. And, no, it wasn't anything those five new kids did to me yesterday in a futile but well-tried attempt to get a free day (they came close, though). It's something a lot better, in some ways, though it reminds me of something really !@#$ sad at the same time.
Here's the story. Just this morning, some little kid went doddering out into traffic. Mom was talking on her !@#$ cell phone and didn't see a god!@#$ thing. And along comes a humvee, going a little too fast for that neighborhood at that time of morning.
Fortunately, an older girl on her way to school saw the toddler heading for what was going to be a one-way ticket to squish city, and ran out to try and stop the tragedy. She succeeded in knocking the baby out of the way, but got hit by the humvee, and thrown about twenty feet down the street.
I know, that sounds awful. It's even worse when you consider the mom's planning on suing the girl because her toddler got bad bump on the head. (Why don't we require parenting licenses? Is that too liberal of me?)
But here's the thing. The older girl is fine.
Okay, she's really tired and sleeping off the experience, which is a nice way of saying she's floating in and out of what could be a coma, and is in the hospital for observation. But she should be in really bad shape. She should be suffering from broken bones, crush injuries, burst organs, probably a concussion too the way her head hit the pavement.
But there isn't a !@#$ scratch on her. And the humvee looks like it ran into a concrete wall.
The COMPANY has people working around the clock, keeping an ear open for emergency coms chatter that match certain parameters. This case hit all the flags. And when we looked into the kid's past, we found out that her life's been more than a little interesting, lately: stories of accidents at school that should have sent her to the nurse's, if not the hospital, but that she just shrugged off.
Now, you might be thinking "Aw, cool, SPYGOD! She's got powers! This is a good thing, right?"
And yes, it is. But at the same time it isn't. And, one step below (or above) all that, there's something else lurking behind the curtain that I don't like peeking at.
I'm sure you've heard old farts like me talk about the War, and the time before the War, when there were heroes and villains and costumes and powers. Around the late 20's the metahuman population in the civilized world increased by a factor of ten, and it increased by that same amount by the time the War rolled around. And while a lot of powered people got killed in the fighting, or the homefronts, there were still more than enough to breed, as well as people just developing powers through freak accidents, weird science, or some quirk of the genes, right?
You'd think so. And you'd be right. And if the rate of increase had remained steady, we'd probably be up to our !@#$ eyeballs in Supers, right now.
So, why aren't we experiencing a metahuman renaissance, then? Why are the only supers coming out of first world nations, these days? Why aren't the skies just full of flying men and women, and the cities patrolled by squads of capes?
Because we're !@#$ chicken!@#$, son. That's the short answer.
The War showed us what could happen when nations weaponized metahuman talents. It was !@#$ scary, too. Ask anyone on the Russian front when the Third Reich's ubermenschen went stomping towards Stalingrad, or folks in London when some of the bombing raids were carried out by fliers. Ask the Chinese and other Asian and Pacific nations who had to bear the brunt of pre-war Japanese colonialism.
(And be sure to ask the folks in Berlin and Tokyo when us, the Brits, and the Soviets got a superior response together and returned the favor.)
After the War was over, we went on like we didn't learn a !@#$ thing. We discovered horrible things in Germany, Japan, and China, but just wound up grabbing the scientists responsible and putting them to work, just like we did for the nuclear physicists and aeronautical engineers. The Soviets did the same !@#$ thing, and there we were, playing dueling Strategic Talents across the oceans.
Then came Korea. Then came the question as to whether we put supers into the conflict. Then came the moment when both sides realized that, if they didn't, the other side would. And things went !@#$ downhill from there, let me tell you.
After the Armistice, the Security Council of the United Nations had a few secret meetings regarding the Strategic Talents problem. The fact was that, much like nukes, the genie was out of the !@#$ bottle and wasn't going back in. But something had to be done, clearly. It would only take a few rogue elements in a regime to set some really powerful folks loose, and then someone else would pay the price, and retaliate in kind.
(Yes, this should sound eerily familiar. We had the post-Computer Hell Virus WMD talk behind closed doors in the 50's. You're welcome.)
The dialogue in that room was horrible, but candid and realistic. At the time I didn't have the clout I do now, so most of the time I just spoke when spoken to and kept my !@#$ mouth shut the rest of the time. But I'm sure they could read my thoughts on my face when they talked about forced sterilization programs, camps., mandatory screenings, and the like.
That was me they were !@#$ talking about. Sure, I'd volunteered to become a strategic talent, but if I ever had kids (yeah, yeah, never say never) then they'd be condemned because of my decision. And what about all the people who just woke up one morning and learned they could fly?
Finally, someone shut them the !@#$ up. I can't tell you who, as that's still classified, but he was one of the people who'd been to Auschwitz just after it was liberated. And he took every single one of those smug, detached !@#$ apart by explaining that there was a word for their attitude, and we'd lost a lot of good people fighting a war against it not more than twenty years before.
I could have kissed him. (Okay, I did, but that was another time and another story)
So we came up with another solution. It wasn't great, but it beat the others. It involved using certain secret scientific techniques and concocting a few formulas. It also involved putting suspicious additives into the water, and tainting certain medicinal supplies that the UN had a hand in passing around in less fortunate countries.
That's why the world isn't full of superheroes, son. Because almost everyone drinks the water out the tap. And if they don't, then they're probably getting some kind of medicine or food supplies from a UN hunger relief program.
And once you've got that gunk in you, turning off the parts of your genome that would turn you into a super under certain conditions, or make your kids more likely to have powers, then you're as good as neutralized.
Of course, the gunk can't fix everything. Some people slip through. Some people are just !@#$ immune. And there's always the possibility that, over time, the stuff's losing its efficacy, as humanity's evolved a little further down the pipe from where we were in the late 50's.
And on those days, when we get a story like the one that's got me sitting in this waiting room, I feel a lot better about myself. I tell myself that we just needed a cooling off period. We just needed to get away from the shadow of ABWEHR and Unit 731 and all the horrible things we all did to try and get ahead of each other.
But I wonder what we've lost, too. Out there could be some superbrain kid who might have woken up one day and figured out a cure for cancer, or a way to power the world using two tin cans and a rock. There could have been someone who saw a tragedy like the Computer Hell Virus occur and stopped it.
There could have been so much good amongst the bad, maybe even more of it. But we were scared and smug and stupid, and told ourselves it was better to deny the positives out of fear of the negatives.
How many Beethovens did we deny the joy of music to just to avoid one or two Florence Foster Jenkins? I may never know. I don't think I want to.
But I do know one thing. Sleeping in a room down the hall is a young lady who just found out that she's special, and she has no !@#$ idea just how special special is. So I am going to go down there once she's awake, and give her the same talk I give to everyone else who slips past the gunk. She may not like to hear it, but it'll be what she needs to know.
And no, you don't get to listen in, son. Some things are still !@#$ private. This is one of them.
(SPYGOD is listening to X-Ray Vision (Moon Martin) and avoiding the tap water)