"Did you get a chance to look at the modifications?" Jason calls through the bedroom door.
"Not yet," I reply. The closet is so jammed full of Jennie's clothes that I can barely move mine enough to identify the pants I want to wear for the party. I don't normally dress up (unless you count the uniform), so I want to look nice for her big night. Plus, I know she'd like me to look nice more often, and I figure tonight's a good time to start.
"Jesus. Do you know how much time I put into this stuff? Do you even care that I doubled your protection but decreased the weight by almost 17 percent?"
I slide the pants on. "Of course I care. I just got home for chrissake. I need to get dressed. Please, tell me how you did it, oh genius of spandex."
"So I've got an acquaintance in Oslo who knows I've been experimenting with some multi-state chemical hardeners, and he gave me a call about this new polymer he and a colleague have been wrestling with for like three years. I couldn't get it to do anything, but it gave me an idea about the bulkiness of your armor, so I pulled all of the ceramic fiber plates and wove a layer of hollow silicon fibers through the whole suit like capillaries, doubling and tripling them up in the important places."
I start digging through the piles of junk on the shelf above the hanging clothes, looking for my grey sweater. "The groin, of course."
"Chest, back, knees, outer elbows. Groin, neck and head are important, but you insist on moving a lot, so I can't bulk those up. Anyway, so I pump those capillaries full of this lightweight pressure sensitive carbon/kevlar/collagen suspension. Under normal conditions it moves like liquid, but it's pressure-sesnitive with a reaction time of microseconds and a relax period ony a little longer. Same principle as my buddy's polymer, except that mine works. The long chain polysynthetics were hell to work with especially in combination with the delicate organics, but after a lot of testing I got the whole system surprisingly stable."
I pull the sweater over my head. "Ask me how much of that I understood. Grey and blue match, right?"
"Yes, please ask the chemist for help with your couture. Good call." Jason laughs. "Basically, I replaced the armor plates in your suit with a liquid which turns into armor when something hits it."
I open the door and then go back to the bed and sit so I can put on my socks. "Seriously? Does that really work?" I ask.
He follows me in. "Yes. Well, in theory. Yes."
"Great. Grab me my boots, will ya?"
"I mean, it works great against projectiles -- bullets, arrows, y'know -- and against like clubs and swords and stuff. I'm a little worried about lasers and other non-physical death-rays and things." He grabs my boots from the doorway. "Don't you own any dress shoes or anything?"
"I am worried about lasers and death-rays as well. Jen bought me some Kenneth Coles last year, but I left them behind during a quick change a few months ago. Arrows? Did you arrange a death-match with Robin Hood later? Don't tell her about the shoes."
"I won't," he replies. "Here's the only thing about the new suit - you can't dry it. You can still wash it, but only on cold and gentle. It has to hang to dry. The dryer will totally melt the capillary system. Maybe."
I lace up my boots and stand to check out the effect in the mirror on the closet door. "Okay. Wait -- if the dryer melts the ... whatever, what about fire? I don't see a lot of death rays, but fire is pretty common."
"I guess." Jason sits on the bed. "It shouldn't be a problem as long as you keep moving through the fire. Just don't stand still in fire for more than a few minutes."
"I will try not to stand still in fire if I can at all avoid it." I frown at myself in the mirror. "Is this sweater too tight? Can you see my love handles?"
Jason considers for a moment. "Not too much. You are getting a little flabby, man. You need to spend a little time at the gym."
I lift my sweater and stick my index finger in my belly button. It goes in well past the first knuckle. "Do you have any idea how hard it is to get a decent workout when you can run 200 miles and hour and dead-lift almost three tons? 24 Hour Fitness doesn't have a superhero machine."
"You should try Pilates. It's a lot of stretching, and it uses your own strength as resistance."
I turn around to face him and lean agaist the wall. "Really? Hm. Is it expensive?"
Jason shrugs. "I get free excercise classes at the school. Probably. It is Los Angeles."
"Yeah. Hey, thanks for the upgrades. I'm excited to try them out. I don't think I'm gonna go out tonight with the party and all, but I'll get some guys to punch me tomorrow."
Jason grins. "Cool. Let me know how it works."
"I will." I cross my arms. "Hey -- did you have that girl give you that IQ test like I asked?"
He looks at his shooes. "I've been busy. I'll get around to it next week or something. I don't see why it's so important to you all of the sudden."
I cross over and sit beside him on the bed. Jason and I don't look a lot alike at first glance, but when you see us side by side something changes. His hair is a good deal longer than mine thanks to the Oregon-hippie-academia lifestyle, and he's been a vegetarian for almost a decade, so he's skinnier, but there's something alarmingly similar in our faces. Not like twins, you know, but like we're both made from the same ingredients. Which, I guess, we are. "I just want to see if you are super too, you know. Like super-smart. I was thinking that maybe you could suit up with me sometimes."
"That sounds like a great idea. You could punch guys, and then I could demolish them at Scrabble. Kind of attacking their bodies and their intellectual self-worth."
"Shut up. I'm serious. Super-brainiac isn't unprecedented. Look at Tony Stark and Hank Pym and Reed Richards."
"As soon as I make my first hundred bazillion dollars, I will build a robot armor suit and then we'll see. And thank you for bringing up Richards, to whom I just lost like my twelfth grant in five years."
"I'm sorry, man," I say. "I didn't know. It's hard to compete against the Fantastic Four publicity."
"The man is a fantastic asshole. At least I've still got that DOD grant. As long as I keep churning out new flame-resistant flight suits, I can afford to support your armor habit."
I stand up and close the closet door. "Oh, so the Air Force gets flame-proof suits, but mine melts in the dryer."
"I'm sorry that you are too lazy to properly care for your bleeding-edge armor that I make out of the goodness of my heart to keep you alive." Jason stand and heads out the door. "I'm gonna grab a beer."
I follow him out. I catch our new television out of the corner of my eye and am once again startled by its size. I can hear Jen singing softly in the shower. "Grab me one, too."
Jason opens the refridgerator and takes out two Sammies. "All right, but I'm not taking out your suit, so this is the last one of the night, fat-ass."
The intercom by the front door buzzes. I push the button. "Hello?"
"CPK," someone on the other end replies.
"I'll be down in a second," I say. "Jen, " I yell, "the food's here. We're gonna run down and get it." She doesn't reply -- she can't hear me over the shower. I set my beer on the counter. "Dude, give me a hand." Jason sets his beer down and follows me out the door.
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