For a couple of hours, Arika McClure dreams about nothing in particular: elevators, motorcycles, a big empty green-carpeted building made of glass which she is trying to get out of but she keeps getting lost, rooms full of oddness (not specific odd things, just rooms filled with the mental label, "odd"), being back at school, being late for school but her parents can't wake her up, flying across big blue oceans shaped like doughnuts, big eyeballs, Jason Chilton, hot acid, brick walls being pulled down, enormous towers of playing cards--

In the background, a long deep slow-motion voice is shouting something. It takes a whole minute for one word to come out.

She senses movement. She's taken away from the apartment, down the stairs and out of the front door. She's stuffed in the back of a big heavy military truck which has pulled up, a black hood is pulled over her head, and for a long time there's nothing but grumbling of the engine and momentum shoving her from side to side as the truck drives. After half an hour they get to a big ramp leading down underground. She becomes tired and irritable and confused as they drive deeper into the Brooksburg Air Base's underground tunnels. The tunnels get darker and narrower, quieter and slimier. The truck seems to become smaller to navigate them. It closes in around her. They've been driving for miles, now. How long is this tunnel? Brooksburg doesn't have tunnels, even. Wait, yes it does. She heard about them. Never saw them. But this is exactly what she imagined they'd be like.

--pancakes and penny sweets and the smell of being at the beach--

They stop at a checkpoint and turn off the engine. Two big soldiers - airmen - or is it three? - pull her out of the back and drag her through utterly, oppressively black corridors, boots crunching on gravel while she just watches the ground roll past and drags her toes behind them.



In the background.

Arika's so tired. She just wants to sleep. She knows the alarm went off. She's supposed to be getting ready for school. But she can't summon the willpower to get out of bed. She hits 'snooze' again.

Three (four?) men in dark blue flight suits drag her into a room with a chair in it. One of those comfortable dentist chairs with an array of dentist's tools on a tray nearby, which is fine, because dentists are highly trained people who know exactly how to use all of those tools properly without causing you pain--

But this is all a dream. I'm still asleep.

--but big restraints too. Restraints she can't get out of. She was driven underground. She was knocked out by the bullet and they grabbed her and Susie, who she's supposed to be--


--protecting, and took them to Brooksburg air base--

I'm still asleep. How do I know this? My eyes are still closed.

In the scary dream there are people holding her down as the dentist comes in. She's two hundred and fifty-six times stronger than a regular human and she can't get free or do anything but stare straight forwards at the huge whining drill bit moving gradually towards her face and--



Arika opens her eyes.

The dream was a rough approximation to the reality. Four airmen in big blue flight suits just like hers are holding her. One for each limb. One of them has a diamond-needled syringe aimed at the back of her left hand. She knows it's a diamond-needled syringe because it's the only thing they've found that's sharp enough to puncture through her skin. On Jason, even they don't work.

But she's still in the street. Broad daylight. That's as far as they managed to bring her while she was unconscious. Susie's over there on the other side of the road being dragged away. Being taken away down the street by that Moxon bloke.

I just got a good night's sleep in about sixty seconds. I didn't know I could do that.

Arika focuses back on her own situation. She is being held down and a man is about to inject something into her. So she pulls her left arm free, grabs the slowly crawling syringe and smashes it.

Like all the men, he has a big dark blue helmet and goggles on, just like the one she discarded in the apartment. His face is completely covered. She can't see his expression change. She can't even see his eyes through the mirrored orange lenses. But he looks wrong. In her sixth sense, all four of the people holding her look broken. They look inside out. Like optical illusions.

Moxon has his arm around Susie and is holding her head down as if they're running from gunfire. In the distance there are a few jeeps approaching. They'll be here soon. They couldn't bring the vehicles in without making noise, without giving themselves away. So they sent a few people ahead on foot. Moxon and these four.

The man whose syringe she just crushed slaps Arika in the face. She flinches. But she's still accelerated. So how did he move so fast? These men are drawing power.

They're Powers.


She punches him back. She twists in mid air, wrenching her legs and remaining arm free. She whirls upright and punches the next nose she sees, bounces off in the opposite direction to elbow a third man in the face, and then the fourth grabs her by the scruff of the neck and yanks her off-balance.

"Kkiillll hheerr!" shouts a voice from down the road. Moxon.

Can they fly?

Arika plants her feet and launches upwards with the fourth airman hanging on. At about rooftop level, she glances around. He's got something in his other hand. It looks like a string with a dozen squidgy lumps of dough attached in a row, a big transparent plastic bag full of hot dog buns. But the string is actually a twisted pair of red and black wires, and there's a chunk of metal in the piece of dough at the far end. He has one corner of the wrapper in his teeth. He's pulling the wrapping off. A quick and practiced move. Arika mentally likens it to soldier pulling a grenade pin with his teeth.

The words plastic explosives bolt through her head.

She starts flailing at him to get him to let go of her scruff. He lets go, but even once he's got both hands off her he stays with her, which answers her question: yes. He can fly. With the string of explosives torn open he whips it at her, over-arm. She dodges and, at first sight, it looks like he misses, the string going over her right shoulder. But then the wire connects with her collarbone and it wraps downwards and she feels a series of small impacts on her back. They stay glued to her. Sticky bombs. The man kicks over and dives backwards, letting out wire from a spool in his right hand. In his other hand there's a thing with a button. The trigger.

Arika struggles for a moment but the bombs won't come off her back. So she starts to dive after him. She could have gone for the wire, but she doesn't think of that. She gets there fast enough to put a fist through the front of his face, but too late to stop him pushing the button.


This time she doesn't actually pass out. She feels the series of detonations slamming into her back like cannonballs, a few milliseconds apart. Boom-boom-boom-boom-boom. Arika doesn't have time to wonder if she has spinal damage. She spins wildly in the air, propelled by the explosions, and doesn't have time to think about broken bones or the asphalt she's about to hit shoulders-first or the man whose head she just destroyed and whose blood and skin and hood are still wrapped around her hand.

Someone intercepts her before she hits the road. It's the sniper. She can tell because he's got the special rifle, the one which fires bullets four times faster than sound. Bullets you can't hear coming. Bullets a girl like her isn't fast enough to dodge. He cannons into her from below, tosses her over his shoulder and grabs one of her ankles. Now she's hanging in front of him and the rifle in his other hand is braced at his shoulder and aimed down into her jaw. (Not that "up" and "down" really mean anything with the horizon gyrating wildly around them.) This is his mistake. Now they're together - static with respect to each other. Arika is no longer disoriented by the spin. She gets her head together a fraction of a second before he fires a bullet through it. It's just enough time to put a hand in front of the barrel. POW. The bullet takes a chunk of webbing from between her first two fingers and ricochets off her eyelid. She howls in pain, takes hold of the sniper rifle barrel with the other hand, wrenches it out of the sniper's hand, whirls three hundred and sixty degrees (pulling her foot free) and aims to smack him in the head with it. He sees the blow coming a mile off and blocks it with the outer right forearm.

He's slower than she is. All four of them are slower than she is. But she's two hundred and fifty-six times stronger than a fifteen-year-old girl. And they're who-knows-how-many times stronger than strong, trained airmen. And she's hurt. And they never taught her any combat.

There are anti-Power weapons, thinks Arika McClure. There are super soldiers. They harnessed it. They can build super soldiers now.

They're trying to kill me.

Arika swoops around behind the sniper and brings a chop down at his neck. He twists with her and blocks it again. She kicks him, retreats a metre, brings the rifle up to her shoulder, prays that it's still loaded and pulls the trigger. The sniper is too slow. He takes the bullet in the left lung. Blood spurts out of the wound in his suit and falls sideways.

Sideways. Arika has lost track of the horizon. They've descended to just half a metre above the road, and are moving down it at high speed, as if they were fighting while hanging off the underside of a speeding truck. The dead sniper hits the asphalt shoulder-first and begins rolling, spraying blood in a rough cycloid. Arika tightens her grip on the rifle, rotates and stabilises on the air, just above the road, as if riding an invisible hoverboard.

She's aching all over now, and exhausted. She's never felt exhausted before. Not since she was Born.

Way down at the far end of the road she can see Moxon and Susie and the two jeeps. Susie. She clutches the rifle in her good hand and starts accelerating towards them.

There were two more of them, she remembers, but this time she isn't lucky enough to look around in time to see the shadow shooting across the face of the nearest apartment block towards her. All she feels is the impact. The car weighs two tonnes and lands on her at most of two hundred miles per hour, with the front bumper turned sideways to line up with her torso, hitting her head, shoulder, spine and legs all at once. Arika ploughs into the road under the weight of the vehicle, tumbles confusedly over and through the shattered wreckage which spins out in all directions from the collision, and rolls to a halt in the middle of the white line, about a block short of where Moxon is now holding Susie at gunpoint.

She lies there for a long moment, taking stock. She counts off her injuries: the hole in her hand, the bruise on her eyelid, painful sprains in ligaments she didn't even know she had, bones in her shoulder rubbing against each other in ways they shouldn't be and blood from her forehead wound trickling across her eye and dripping off her nose onto the asphalt under her head. She wants to sleep. She wants to go back to sleep until she wakes up in the hospital and it's all better, and for a moment she lets her eyes close. But a tiny part of her brain screams, You are vulnerable now. You are vulnerable and people are trying to kill you. GET READY. AND DON'T THINK ABOUT IT.

Shaking, Arika manages to lift her head a few inches off the ground and get an elbow underneath her. There's a flat shard of metal under her hand. Big enough and jagged enough to take someone's head off.

The last two come in from ahead, flanking her. She doesn't see, she just senses the shapes approaching, shapes which shouldn't exist, which make her feel ill to look at.

Don't think about it, goes the knowledgeable-sounding little voice in Arika's head. She gets herself up to one knee, leans forward as if to steady herself as she stands up, takes hold of the shrapnel, screams and whirls it in a figure-of-eight. The first slice passes horizontally through the eyes of the man on her left, around and back up through the rib cage and collarbone - the jolt as the blade tears messily through bone and organ almost takes it out of her hand. She gets a better grip by the time she reaches the man on the right and pulls it cleanlier through his throat and C5 vertebra.

Schrwwrk. Skharrrrchk.

Arika drops the blade and covers her eyes until they're both dead.


"Ssttoopp oorr Ii kkiillll hheerr," bellows Moxon from the end of the road. Digitised, of course. It's impossible to give verbal commands to men who are listening hundreds of times faster than you're talking. He has a box which records what he says and plays it back at high speed. And "stop or I kill her" is all he's had time to record since this started... what? Five seconds ago?


Susie Kuang has watched most of this. She hasn't been able to follow it. Susie has only been dimly aware of dark blue blurs streaking around her field of vision and the incredible noise of the bomb, two gunshots, several hard collisions between fist and bone, and the smash of the Lincoln Continental landing on Arika's back. She sees a few corpses tumble out of the air and she sees the explosions of gore after Arika recovers from the car. It's not until a few seconds after this that Susie even realises that Arika is the one who has won.

Moxon hasn't been trying to keep up with the fight. He knows how it's going just from the sounds; the choreography is all his. The fact that the gunshots go off at all is a bad sign; it means the explosions didn't work. The car impact is bad too, because it implies failure on the part of the sniper. And the final two wet deaths mean that despite all calculation, the car, too, has failed to kill Arika McClure.

The other reason he doesn't try to follow the fight is that he has no time to spare in preparing his backup plan. While Susie is distracted by the fight he positions her in front of him, facing away, hands up, his gun to the back of her head, barrel buried under her hair, obscured from Arika's point of view. At the same time he has recorded his second message and hit the button to broadcast it at high volume. He hits the button several times to get his point across, and after the fourth try he is certain that Arika has slowed down to regular speed, to talk to him directly.

He waves at the jeeps to stop before they reach him. Men get out with machine guns and take defensive positions aimed at Arika, now standing over two bubbling corpses with a gout of blood splattered across the whole lower half of her suit.

"You take one step forward and I swear to God she dies," shouts Moxon, directly, this time. "This is a conventional nine millimetre Beretta M9. It's not like that sniper rifle. You can catch its bullets out of the air without raising your heart rate. But there's no way you can get from there to here before the bullet gets from here to her head." He positions his hand so the trigger finger isn't visible either.

Susie hears what Moxon is saying and tries to stand as still as she possibly can.

"Let her go," shouts Arika, also not moving.

"I want to let her go," says Moxon. "I really do. The last thing I want is for more innocent blood to be spilled! That's the whole purpose of Defense, after all. To protect innocent people from people who might want to hurt them. You're up to a nice round two hundred and twenty-two people today, McClure! And you're not even eighteen! That's a pretty good record! Where are you from?"

"You were trying to kill me! All you've ever been trying to do is figure out ways to kill me!"

"We were trying to stop you from killing more people!" shouts Moxon. "We were trying to stop you from hurting yourself even more by hurting people who are close to you! Do you understand what'll happen if you let word of this get out? Do you know how many civilians would have died today if we hadn't had the area evacuated and kept you contained? We need to study this--"

"You are a liar!"

Moxon keeps talking, "How long can this go on? A new superhuman every year until there are no humans left to be killed? You want to help people. You want to be on the side of the good guys. If you let us study you we can make more of you. We can train you and put you to work. And save lives."

"Then put the gun down."

"I can't," says Moxon. "You know I can't. You have to stay where you are. And we'll work this out."

Arika thinks. She stares at Moxon. He looked like such a nice guy when they first met. He's shorter than she is (and she almost never sets foot on the ground anyway) so he felt unthreatening to her and he felt like he had her best interests at heart. Almost everybody she met on the base was like that. Some were more irritating than others, but all of them seemed to be well-meaning. But it was because they were scared of her. And scared of Jason too. This is about Power, she thinks. They wanted Power. They have that. Then they wanted the power to kill other Powers. They just need to be a little faster, and they'll have that too. They can just crank out armies of them.

She transfers her attention to Susie, whose hair is in disarray from being dragged down the street by Moxon and who has tears in her eyes and who is trying not to shake as she stands still with her hands knitted on top of her head. Arika spends a long time trying to think of ways to save her. She can't come up with anything foolproof. She could cover the distance in a tenth of second, to be sure, or maybe even faster still, but how good are Moxon's reactions? And he's looking right at her, waiting for exactly that move. And still talking, waffling away, stalling for time. She could hurl the shard of metal at him, but no way in hell is she that good a shot. Not with Susie in the way.

Stalling for time...


Moxon resists the impulse to dive for cover when he hears the approaching roar, just in case McClure realises what's about to happen. He keeps talking right up until the impact, keeping her distracted and listening and thinking at human speeds.

There are bigger missiles; this one had to be small for agility and most of its interior is occupied by the fastest guidance processor package known to mankind, but even so the explosion is big enough to shatter every window for a three-block radius. Moxon and Susie are both hurled backwards by the shockwave and hit the ground hard. Moxon cracks his head on a jeep fender before he stops rolling. His ears ring. His insides judder, pummelled by the sound of the blast.

By the time he shakes the stars from his head and locates Susie Kuang again, Arika is there, floating over him, fists clenched, eyes fiery, her hair and the side of her face blackened. Somehow, he still has his gun in his hand. He can't think of anything else to do but raise it at McClure and pull the trigger until it's empty. She stands there and lets him do it, snatching each bullet out of the air with the same hand, one by one. They both know it's not a serious attempt to kill her. It's a gesture of defiance.

She screams an ultimatum at him. He can't hear it. He'd still be deaf from the blast even without the gunshots and the impossible thunderclaps from the caught bullets. And then she turns, picks up Susie Kuang, and carries her away.


Unable to think of anywhere else to go, Arika flies back out into the desert, with Susie in her arms. She gets a few miles out before the adrenaline rush of the fight begins to subside and the pain in her shoulder rapidly becomes so bad that she can't even carry Susie properly. She sets her down on the plain and stomps away a step or two, refusing Susie's help, clutching the joint and wincing as she tries to roll it around. And finally, she breaks down and cries.

Next: least significant bits

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Discussion (53)

2008-10-21 22:20:19 by Thumpy:

great story, just an editing comment, in the final paragraph, should "She sets her down in one the plain" be "She sets her down in one of the plains"?

2008-10-21 22:42:57 by qntm:

Fair warning: From this point onwards, comments reporting typos will be silently deleted. They just clutter the place up, and they make no sense once the typo is corrected. (I will, of course, correct all reported typos, though.)

2008-10-21 23:42:54 by Josh:

The image of Akira hovering over Moxon is really something. I'd love to see that in movie-form, along with the rest of the fight. That was pretty well choreographed if you ask me.

2008-10-22 02:53:54 by Ian:

That was a wonderful fight. I didn't even think of how fast they were moving until it shifted to Suzie's point of view for perspective.

The obvious question raised is, have they really discovered how to give people Power?

I'm glad this is all freely provided. I'd be broke if you charged, Sam.

2008-10-22 08:49:41 by Rob:

I spent most a working day reading alot of your fiction Sam, its really awesome, and now I check back regularly! Loved this installment, really great feeling of haste and urgency about it. And its nice to see such powerful things are not as invincible as first thought :)

Look forward too the next!!

2008-10-22 09:36:28 by scotherns:

Another superb instalment! You just keep getting better at writing the action scenes :-)

The latest twist with the Power soldiers is interesting...


2008-10-22 12:09:58 by Kwak:

Sam, you are doing a great job with this story, not many texts can keep my attention for as long as your stories do.

now for the analysis how it fits in with the rest of the story:
my theory is that the military artificially making powers will be looked upon as abuse by whoever does that, and that in a short amount of time starting from this story, powers will be shut off as well in the script, which would explain why there are no powers in other story arcs.
this installment does shoot down part of the thinking that anne poole is a power as well, since her skin was impenetrable, and arika's can be penetrated using diamond needles. Since arika is presumably much further down the Line than anne poole, anne's skin wouldnt have the measurable effect i think.

2008-10-22 14:45:58 by Luca:

I don't know, maybe Anne was a later power (although that makes little sense), or possibly someone from the power experiments gone wrong.

Excellent stuff, Sam :) Very well written action scene.

2008-10-22 15:40:13 by Thrack:

It seems that Powers that are created look different than Powers that are Born. At least that's how I interpreted the description that they didn't look right and that they seem inside out.

2008-10-22 16:44:41 by Knut:

That comment about looking inside out makes me think of the other time we heard about people beeing inside out: when Mitchell "the 4D man" Calrus told us about how his 4D sight worked.

I agree with the idea that the government is using some illegal scripttech to make these guys and that the line therefore gets shut off, thus explaining the lack of powers seen in the later installments.

Also, man that's some good action Sam!

2008-10-22 18:46:00 by Tarun:

Wow. It certainly looks like the game is going to escalate. The problem with even trying to fight against Arika and Jason is that you'll be almost immediately outmatched.

But now it appears that they have Powers too.
a) The more obvious explanation: They've figured out the scientific principle and are getting ready to mass-produce them.
b) These are powers earlier down the Line. If I remember right, Arika and Jason make numbers 8 and 9. There's lots of space below them to account for these soldiers.

Personally, I feel (a) is the more likely option: To feel 'wrong' to Arika. That implies that not only are they not conventional Powers (if all Powers felt that 'strange' to her, she'd be used to the feeling because she's familiar with Jason) and that conventional Powers can sense the fake ones.

This feels strange though. I find it hard to believe that they've figured the principle out, because I'm certain that Ching would have solved the problem long before they would've...

P.S: I'm pretty certain that only real Powers can sense the strangeness of the fake Powers.

2008-10-22 20:49:32 by Andrew:

Absolutely brilliant again. It's about time we had usselves a Powers fight! I'm really interested to see how the Fauwer (Faux + Power) army angle plays out. Only thing is, I kept anticipating the death of Arika from the chapter title. Boy was I glad to be proven wrong!

2008-10-22 20:56:04 by Scott:

Anne is either the thing Mitch was fighting, or perhaps the last one standing from a different 'line'

2008-10-22 22:46:06 by Knut:

@ Scott
I don't think Anne is the thing Mitch was fighting, since he is shown cooperating with her for several thousand years.

I also don't think (or like) that she has anything to do with the line at all, other than being in a way superpowered. The whole way she was created with the teleportation and the disorientation, that she doesn't apperar to have any powers at all exept for being invulnrable and the fact that she has her own entire storyline sets her fundamentaly apart from the other line members. She is destined for something more.

And again, realy great story this one. Right up there with the original "Powers of two"

2008-10-22 23:07:59 by William:

So Arika is Eight, but she's faster than the created powers. What power of two are the created Powers?

2008-10-23 00:36:24 by Andrew:

From the way they're presented, Will, it sounds like they're 2^6s.

2008-10-23 01:53:49 by Andrew:

Hmm. I know this isn't the place for it but this is where the most people are likely to see it.

There are 1024 "parenthetical heavens" in Unbelievable Scenes. The man Moxon and co. killed in Nevada was 1024 times stronger than your average human. Correlation? Causation? Let's hear some guesses.

2008-10-23 03:01:26 by YarKramer:

I think these guys are artificial, too. I can't help thinking that any *natural* Powers would be responding to Moxon's deal with words to the effect of, "How about I give you the finger instead?"

2008-10-23 04:55:22 by scratskinner:

Here's a thought:

Perhaps, instead of the supersoldiers being an imitation of the Powers, it was the other way around. The Powers could be a reaction to the military's attempts at making supermen.

2008-10-23 05:01:07 by scratskinner:

""to her and he felt like he""

That first he, I think, needs to be a she.

2008-10-23 16:38:48 by kabu:

It looks like the natural powers have some sort of "affinity" for the script, as Arika sees the artificial Powers as "shapes which shouldn't exist, which make her feel ill to look at." (btw she ended a sentence with a preposition. She doesn't have super grammar, I guess).

So far, there have been four or five "Script" technologies: Teleportation (even though this was discovered independently), the Powers, the Conduit (the copper box in Berlin), the Crash, and maybe the Egg. The Conduit and teleportation worked for a while and were shut down. Presumably the same thing will happen to the Powers now that humans have started meddling, but what about the Crash mechanism? Why hasn't that been shut down in the 1970- stories? Maybe the script "likes" the Crash.

My theory is that Script tech can only be used on a certain condition (maybe the Permission mentioned in Unbelievable Scenes) and that only Anne and Mitch managed to secure Permission.

And who figured out how to give people Power? Not Ching, obviously.

And are there any more artificial Powers left, or did Arika kill the only four?

I can't wait to find out.

2008-10-23 16:45:50 by kabu:


In regards to the rifle,
Mach 4 / 256 is about 5.5 meters/second?
But I guess it still has a heck of a lot of kinetic energy behind it in normal time, so it still works.

2008-10-23 17:53:24 by Huinesoron:

"The Conduit and teleportation worked for a while and were shut down. Presumably the same thing will happen to the Powers now that humans have started meddling, but what about the Crash mechanism? Why hasn't that been shut down in the 1970- stories? Maybe the script "likes" the Crash."

Alternately, it's possible that there is a time-based limit on how much it can be used. It happens once, and a warning flag goes up. A second time, a second flag, and a certain number of flags (dependent on the tech) means it's shut down. These flags are set to degrade over time, since after a certain period it presumably won't be the same people doing it, so it's a fresh slate. The teleportation experiments were ongoing, the Conduit ran for several hours continually. We don't know about the Powers, but presumably they haven't hit the triggering point yet. As to the Crashes, they were massively far apart -- the system doesn't take higher-dimensional intruders (Mitch) into account, nor whatever Anne may be. That's my theory (which will doubtless be turned upside-down soon).

2008-10-23 20:13:37 by Mick:

The thing I love about all of our theories, and indeed these stories, are that we "can't" predict what's going to happen, and yet everything makes since. That is the sighn of great fiction. Good job, and thank you for the entertainment.

2008-10-24 05:24:31 by StretPharmacist:

Perhaps the artificial powers are the result of testing done on Anne Poole. From the end of Amber: "And, if possible, we want to know if this result can be reversed. Or duplicated." This would also point to her being a power, which could also point to that process having a same kind of power duplicating effect.

2008-10-24 14:26:07 by kabu:

I just thought of something

This is the very beginning of year 11, right?

In Zanjero, Powers are being Born (I love all the Capital Letters) up until at least year 16, and they mention somebody named "Brent" as a Power, and the "now iconic" blue flight suit. At least one Power is killed at the end of the story. I originally thought Brent was number 15, and that 14 was killed, but maybe they were artificial Powers instead! Or maybe not! I have no idea, but I hope we find out!

Anyway, that implies that the Script doesn't kick in for at least 6 more years.


2008-10-24 20:50:34 by MGargantua:

Never stop sam.

2008-10-25 00:11:12 by cube:

Hmmmm. I'm not sure where to put this, but I guess it'll go here.

Anyway, I was thinking about cruising speed for a power. About what speed do they comfortably travel? So I found this in Power of Two:

"After one second I can't see the city below anymore. Another and we're almost out of atmosphere."

Now, the edge of space is commonly defined at 100 km. This isn't very accurate, but it's all we've got. So let's say Jason flies approximately 100 km in two seconds, giving him a speed of 50km/sec. This is very, very fast. Theoretically, he may have been pushing himself, but still, he's goes very fast most of the time.

Now, Jason is 512 times as powerful as a middle aged man, however I think it is safe to assume that your flying speed is unaffected by your age, body mass, or anything like that. So Arika, at 256 times normal, should be half as fast as Jason, with a speed of 25km/sec. This is somewhat interesting, but what we try next is more so.

Number ten, the Chinese guy, is 1024 times normal. He has an extrapolated speed of 100km/sec. Number eleven, the one who just got killed by jumping into the earth, is 2048 times normal. Possible speed: 200km/sec. Now, how about the next Power? Number twelve? He will be 4096 times as powerful as normal and have a projected speed of 400km/sec. That is seriously fast. He can travel just under 6000 km in the time it takes to be Born. He could get to another continent to kill people if he had too.

Moving on; Numbers thirteen, fourteen and fifteen have power multipliers of 8192, 16384, and 32768, respectively. They have speeds of 800km/sec, 1600km/sec and 3200km/sec. This is really, really, mind bogglingly fast. Number fifteen has more then enough time to fly to the moon in the space it takes him to be Born. And he will still have plenty of time to slaughter people. Power sixteen has a multiplier of 65536, and a speed of 6400km/sec. Number seventeen has a multiplier of 131072, and a possible speed of 12800km/sec. Remember nine's half hour commute across the Atlantic ocean? Seventeen can cover that some distance in the time it takes to read this sentence.

Eighteen, nineteen and twenty: They have power multipliers of 262144, 524228, and 1048576. Speed is now up to 25600km/sec, 51200km/sec, and 102400km/sec. This is ridiculous. Number twenty can circle the earth two and a half time EVERY SECOND. But we have almost reached a theoretical limit-

Power twenty-one will have a multiplier of 2097152. He will have a speed of 204800km/sec. He can fly from the earth to the moon in two seconds, and the sun is a thirteen minute flight away.

And...twenty-two is the game breaker. He will have a multiplier of 4194304. But this places his top speed at 409600km/sec. The only problem with that is that it is faster then the speed of light. Which I think we can assume is impossible. So either twenty-two can't achieve a speed greater then 300000km/sec, he isn't constrained to the speed of light, or the line stops at twenty-one.

Furthermore, realize that Jason's top speed has never been measured. So their speeds may actually be even HIGHER then this. Or perhaps, the speed for all powers is constant, and does not increase with multiplier. I find that unlikely, though, because Arika is clearly faster then the synthetic powers.

2008-10-25 00:56:51 by cube:

Oops. just realized I messed up with number fifteen. He can circle the earth in the time it takes to be Born, not fly to the moon.

2008-10-25 05:48:10 by atomicthumbs:

Cube: you also have to take into account the strength they need to resist being turned into vapor flying through atmosphere at those speeds. :P

2008-10-25 10:43:06 by qntm:

A better guide in "Power Of Two" is that Jason travels from the North Pole to Lanzhou, China, a distance of roughly 3726 miles, in about 35 minutes. This is about 2.855 kilometres per second. After two seconds of vertical travel this puts him nowhere near space, to be true, but this is Jason's error. He is still far enough up that the air is very thin and cold and it certainly looks like he could be in space.

It is true that later Powers will become increasingly fast to the point where they can reach relativistic speeds, but obviously we are talking about perceived speed, not actual speed. From the point of view of an observer they will be moving closer and closer to the speed of light. From the point of view of the Power, time dilation will mean that they *feel* (or measure) that they are moving much faster than light, when they are not. This is what happens in reality when you accelerate up to such speeds.

The interesting upshot of this is that the 16-second Birth rage will, due to time dilation, last longer. It'll be 16 seconds for the Power, but 20, 40, 100 seconds for the observers.

Of course, whether we'll actually get to that point is unknown...

2008-10-25 17:18:04 by Tarun:

There's one more factor we'll have to include in these speed calculations: What the Powers can do is just apply force to themselves in any way they see fit.

This implies that what they're really doing is simply accelerating themselves: They have no "top speed", just an exponentially rising acceleration vector (for subsequent Births). Since it's trivially obvious that Powers like Jason and Arika (and all Powers after them) can penetrate the sound barrier, I'm not even sure if they have conventional terminal velocity (where they're stopped by air friction).

In summary: Any Power can reach a fraction of the speed of light, given time.

Sam's observation of the time dilation effect is something that I haven't thought of yet. Due to the extreme acceleration vectors they regularly subject themselves too, they would certainly seem to be slowed down in time (making their Birth periods even longer).

The question here is whether this will really make a difference to the damage they can do: if a Power can kill 100 people per second in his reference frame, then he'll kill 1600 people from everyone's reference frames.
External observers will see him killing, say, 50 people a second over the course of 32 seconds.

This means that the time dilation is a GOOD thing: It'll give slower Powers and normal humans more time to react to the Newborn's frenzy, as their rampage is extended over longer periods of time.

2008-10-25 23:50:08 by Mick:

But it isn't a good thing: I would rather the super powered killing spree end quickly than have more time to react to it. They can kill massive amounts of people in a small amount of time- why does extending that time make it better?

2008-10-26 01:04:01 by MGargantua:

If Jason had accelerated from rest in sam's figures he'd be pulling an acceleration of 2.7m/s² in atmosphere with a speed of 6.3 km/s when he hit the city. That seems far to low. Assuming he was 100kg he'd only be applying a foce of 270N to himself to accelerate. A force of 9800N to keep himself aloft while stationary but that force is reduced as his velocity tangental to the earth increases. So he has the ability to apply ~10,000N. Lets round that up to a nice 10240, 512 times more forceful then 20N, which isn't that unreasonable for an average human to apply as a constant force.

2008-10-26 01:06:32 by Mick:

Also, even though the point where Jason maxes out is 2.855 km/sec (you can't really say 'top speed', since theoretically he can just keep accelerating), it will take till around the 25th (I think, you might want to check for yourself) power to reach speeds approching the speed of light.

2008-10-27 06:28:19 by Y:

This would make an epic movie.

2008-10-31 23:41:16 by Thrack:

I was thinking about this talk on the Powers' speed today and what a couple of people have said about future Powers that will be able to reach the speed of light. Should the energy used to reach the speed of light be seen as a graph with an exponential (or maybe faster/slower than exponential) curve on it? The horizontal side represents the speed of, let's say a 100 kilogram object, and the vertical side represents the energy required for the 100 kilogram object to reach that speed. For instance, the bottom left corner of the graph (coordinate 0, 0) would show the energy required to reach a speed of 0 km/s to be 0 while the coordinate at the speed of light would show that the energy required had increased to infinity. Due to this no Power will reach the speed of light no matter how many Powers are Born. This also means that the speed of the next Power is not quite double that of the last Power to be Born. Is this idea correct or does reality work differently than this?

2008-10-31 23:53:19 by Artanis:

A highly confusing movie...

Probably a tv series would be more suited to the complex storyline.

Fine Structure the Anime, anyone?

2008-11-01 00:55:26 by qntm:

Regarding Power speeds, from an external frame of reference, yes, each Power isn't quite twice the speed of the last. But from the Power's point of view, that line has no asymptote, it's just straight, it goes up forever.

And personally, I kinda wanted the Powers stuff to be a comic book. I'm considering the idea of making it (or a future chapter) into a webcomic, but my art-fu is weak.

2008-11-03 02:14:02 by Paradox:

Speaking of comic books, I would suggest the title "mask killer" for this one. Watchman reference. You can never have too many.

2008-11-03 10:31:16 by qntm:

I'm quite happy with the title of this one, thanks.

2008-11-04 01:05:24 by CJ:

Thrack: If you're talking about real world physics, then (if I'm recalling my Special Relativity correctly) then the kinetic energy increases like E = m*v*v/(2*gamma), where m is the 'rest mass' of the particle, v is the modulus of the velocity, and 'gamma' is 1/(sqrt(1-(v*v)/(c*c))), so that the increase in energy required is not exponential (indeed, it is in numerical terms larger, since we have it going to infinity for a finite value of v).

2008-11-05 19:51:04 by Tarun:

Making this into a webcomic would certainly be interesting. It does have a very comic-ish feel, albeit a serious and more 'widescreen' comic than standard superhero-based ones. I suppose that's why it feels like an anime to some (what with anime essentially being cartoons taken seriously).

Also, CJ:

E = sqrt(m^2 * c^4 - p^2 * v^2)
where p = momentum = (mv / sqrt(1 - v^2/c^2))

It certainly is an exponential function.

2008-11-07 12:43:03 by CJ:

No; an exponential function would there have E^2 some function of exp(v/c), which it does not. v^2 does not qualify as an 'exponential function'; it is algebraic. Unless you are referring to gamma as exponential (and I really don't see why you should), the increase is not exponential.

To put it another way: Take E as a complex function of v a complex variable. We plainly have a branch point at v=c, extending to infinity, but we nowhere have an essential singularity, which is characteristic of exponentials.

2008-11-07 13:47:26 by Tarun:

Ah, I see your point. I wasn't referring to the mathematically rigorous definition of 'exponential', just the colloquial one (which is essentially "slope increases over time").

It does have a singularity at a finite value.

P.S: In hindsight, I also made a small mistake in my earlier equation: It's supposed to be
"E = sqrt(m^2 * c^4 + p^2 * v^2)"

2008-11-07 17:22:07 by Tarun:

Argh, I meant (p^2 * c^2), not (p^2 * v^2)... I am certainly having a math day. :(

2008-11-08 04:57:23 by Bauglir:

On a matter unrelated to the math, I'm fairly convinced that the Powers are the result of whatever Mitch was fighting in Fine Strucutre. Not sure why, but it seems to make some sort of sense. Any reasons it's not plausible?

2008-11-08 11:16:49 by kwak:

i thought there were already powers when mitch had his fight.

2008-11-08 23:31:09 by Felix:

I was thinking Mitch was one of the powers, just not from the same line. Perhaps in the universe Mitch lived the powers were active, and when he (and another similarly powerful power) brought the fight to our universe, it triggered the Births, starting with year 0.

2008-11-09 15:57:44 by CJ:

Well, there's no need to make the assumption that it was Mitch that was fighting the beast - indeed, from his description of himself, it sounds more like Mitch was the beast itself.

2013-01-31 11:06:02 by Joe:

It's occured to me that Moxon isn't too bright (and not in the academic sense, but strategic - although his tactics are sharp) . He obviously the kind of idiot who would send chemical weapons on missiles aimed at a country armed with nukes. What's to keep them from just dropping a little atomic surprise on his boss's steps if he creates a debt with his insanely-irresponsible blood bath? #1 rule of vendettas: Don't let anyone live to carry them out. He should have arranged to kill her _before_ she went rogue or not risked her going rogue in the first place. But then again, he seems to be modeled on a comic-book 'ends justify means' (no matter how stupid/ultraviolent) villain. XD

2013-06-21 06:12:53 by hobbs:

"The bullet... ricochets off her eyelid" is one of the cleverer things you've written.

2017-07-26 21:12:45 by stellHex:

I think the conversation about time dilation that was had here undercomplicated things. The slowdown would come from a simple gamma, since that's always symmetrical; instead, it would come from the fact that a relativistic Power would be constantly changing speed and direction. It might actually be pretty disorienting for the Power, since if they, for example, threw a punch, or turned on the spot, their limbs and extremities would be moving through time at much different speeds than their head and torso.