“So beautiful!” Summer says, clapping her hands. The sound is almost perfect, which is a real trick to accomplish.
“Yeah, very cool,” Jason murmurs, glancing up briefly, then turning back to the game on his Qphone.
Summer rolls her eyes. “Is she not metahuman enough for you?”
She nods toward the screen. “Women’s figure skating.”
He puts down his phone. “Well, yeah, they’re impressive.”
“But not as impressive as some super-human individuals.”
He shrugs. “Well, yeah, I can know some supers being able to leap higher, faster, more impressive. That’s why they test for metagenetics and energy auras and enhancing drugs and cybernetic components before the competition.”
“Do you think they should let metahumans compete, even if they would win everything?”
“You know – I’m not super-powered that way.”
“Have you ever ice skated?”
Jason snorts. “I once tried escaping from a band of Tamil terrorists in Leiden by skating down the – well, some side canal off the Rhine, never got the name.”
“That’s speed skating.”
“Not when people are shooting at you. There were triple-lutzes, I tell you.”
“They were crappy triple-lutzes.”
Summer giggles politely at his joke, then looks at him, one eyebrow slightly raised. “So?”
Jason sighs. “What? These people are far more elegant, artistic, well-trained – and, no doubt, better to look at than me.”
She pauses for a moment. “So you can’t do that sort of thing. But the people who do are looked up to, admired, called heroes. So why are you called a hero?”
“Because they, uh, achieve pinnacles of human achievement. And I punch out creeps like Troll. So we get different segments in the TV news.”
“But both of you are called heroes on the news. Who’s the actual one, and who’s hype?”
“Why do you ask?”
Summer pauses for a long moment, unusually long for her. “I seek to … excel. To be human, but at such a level that nobody can question my worth. To be the best I can be.”
Jason is sober, and puts down his phone. After a moment, he answers, “Sometimes people don’t like people who are … too good. Envy. And someone who’s …” He stops, turns more fully to Summer on the couch. “There are going to be people who want to pull you down because you can do so much, just because of what – of who you are. And there are going to be people who want to pull you down because they think you’ll never be as good as a hu–” He stops. “-- as a meat person.”
“So – are you saying I shouldn’t --”
“No!” He purses his lips, considers. His eyes drift, picturing what he wants to say. “There are people who are looking for me to stumble. I mean, I’ve had all the advantages, right? Genius father. Cartoon. Money. All the advantages. So I’m supposed to be a target to stumble, so that they can say, ‘See, someone with all the advantages, but still had feet of clay.’ It fits their world view that good fortune isn’t doled out just to the people lucky enough to have what I have.” Jason pauses, picking his next words. “Leo – if people knew about him – would also be a target. Criminal father, genius turned to madness. They want him to stumble because they think he should. That he deserves it. That it fits in with what they believe to be true about the world, that bad people end up badly.” He shakes his head, like twitching off a fly. “Some people want to pull anyone down who is doing better than them in some ways.”
“Then why would anyone seek to excel, if it makes them a target?”
Jason looks down at the bowl of pretzels between them. “Because to do anything less is to betray yourself.” He turns his eyes to her. “That’s what Dad used to say. When he wanted me to work harder.”
“That seems a negative way to look at it. Something designed to invoke shame.”
“Yeah. Like I said, Dad.” He shrugs. “So maybe – you excel because that’s what you want to do – and fuck the people who want you to fail.”
Summer smiles. “That’s still … sort of negative.”
“Yeah, but it’s a negative about the ones who want tear you down, not about yourself.” He leans back. “And we’re all trying to do that. Harry’s trying to become someone who is better than his parents expect, but I can see him trying to break out of that mold. Adam’s trying to become a good person beyond both his family and his cosmic handler’s ideas. Charlotte’s making her own place among the living and the present. Leo’s defying the expectations of the world, and his worst fears. Pneuma – and Otto, for that matter – are defining the world for themslves.” He stops.
She nods. “And Jason Quill?”
A crooked smile “He’s trying not to embarrass him–”
A sigh. “He’s trying to figure out what it means to excel as Jason Quill.”
Summer smiles back at him. “Fair enough.”
“And what about --” He has to catch himself on the name again. “-- Summer Skye?”
She looks down. After a moment, she reaches down, grabs a pretzel from the bowl between hem, palms it into her hard light as she seems to pop it into her mouth. “Trying to figure out what it means to excel as Summer Skye.” She then throws the pretzel at Jason. It bounces off his forehead.
“Fair enough,” he says.
“But is that heroic?”
“Jesus,” Jason says, leaning back into the couch. “If I knew that, I’d be my cartoon character. It’s easy for cartoon characters to be heroic – they have music tracks behind them.” He lifts his head, looking at her. “I think being a hero is what others think of you, their perspective on what you’ve done, and what you’ve overcome to do it.” A soft snort. “That’s different from what you do yourself to be the best you. Sometimes a lot different.”
“Oh, that was an unfortunate move,” says the commentator on TV.
“Sometimes very different.”
“So why,” Summer says, “does everyone admire these athletes?”
Jason close his eyes, shakes his head. “Talent. Dedication. Effort.” Pause. “Results.” He opens his eyes, looks back at Summer. “All of which are admirable qualities. And all of them together are big headlines and gold medals. Miss any of the first three, you don’t get the fourth. And no headlines, or gold medals. So the ones we admire the ones who get all the pieces together.”
Summer nods, smiling. “The admiration of others is one level of achievement. The admiration of oneself is a different level of achievement.”
After a moment, Jason nods back. “Yeah, I guess. It’s – really easy to get the two mixed up. Believe me, really easy. I spent a lot of time trying to be the best Jason Quill my dad wanted me to be. I probably always will, to some degree, since that’s a lot of what I consider ‘best.’ But the paramaters are changing in my head.” He taps his noggin. “I don’t need his applause. Heck, at this point, if I got it I’d worry about what I’m doing wrong.”
“That’s … amazing.”
Jason shrugs. “Well, it’s almost a cliche, but I know I’ve --”
“No, that triple axle the she just did.”
“Triple? That’s – yeah, amazing.”
“Harry could do that.”
“I’m not sure he could.”
“He could do that.”
Jason considers. “It’s different.”
Jason closes his eyes. “It just is. I’ll never win the Nobel Prize in anything, either. Even though it’s for the work, not the individual. Because I’m still ‘special,’ a Second Generation Hyper-Genius. Google it. Leo, too. Alycia. That gal in England who calls herself ‘Hermione Prime.’ A kid in Japan I’ve seen a file for. Some others. We don’t qualify, even if we invent a cure for world hunger, or solve climate change, or make cold fusion practical. Whatever.” A long breath in, and then out. “The achievement is its own reward. If I ever have the wherewithal to solve some major world problem, that’s the cool thing, not if I get a trophy for it. If Harry beats up some interdimensional djinn who’s trying to eat all the pickup trucks of Halcyon City, it doesn’t matter if he doesn’t qualify for the Olympics.”
His eyes open, and he looks at Summer. “Dad talked a lot of shit at times, but this thing he said made sense. Whatever you choose to be or do, don’t do it because of the awards you’ll get. Do it because it’s what you’re striving toward, for the higher purpose you serve.” He lets out a deep sigh. “And, yeah, sometimes he was serving his own fame and recognition as the highest purpose, but I think what he said was right.”
He gestures at the TV screen. “Those people are amazing. Even if someone has some metahuman power that lets them slide on ice or do some inhumanly perfect acrobatics, it doesn’t take away from what those competitors do. Ultimately, I think we don’t get judged – or judge ourselves – based on how many gold medals we win, but on how we help others, how we inspire, how advance human achievement, the advancement of humanity.” Jason meets her eyes.
“You’re part of humanity, too. So it’s the same for you. What matters isn’t whether others think you’re a hero, but whether you do.”
She cocks her head. “Then how does Achilles Chin fit into that?”
Jason stares for a moment. “Um --”
“Or Alycia Chin?”
“Well, uh, that’s, um --”
“If the drive to excel and get satisfaction with the result is a purely personal matter, then any megalomaniac or devoted follower of same should be considered a hero, shouldn’t they? Just as you talked about with your father.”
“That’s not quite what I --”
“That was the point of that song in that video we watched. ‘Everyone’s a hero in their own way,’” she starts to sing.
“Oh my God, did you see that?”
“Yes, we streamed it last --”
“No, the – thing, whatever it was, that the Russian just started with.”
“Oh. No, I was looking at you. You weren’t looking at me” A raised eyebrow. “Are you trying to change the subject?”
They watch the Russian finish her short run. At length, Jason says, “Polonius.”
“Polonius was full of shit, too, but his line pertains here. ‘To thine own self be true, and it must follow, as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man.’”
“Shakespeare is cool,” Summer observes.
“Sooth.” He turns to her. “But it’s what I was saying before. Be what’s important for you to be. Be true to that. Become the best Summer Skye you can be. That’s the best thing you can do, not just for yourself, but for everyone else. So maybe that’s where the definitions of ‘hero’ come together. I don’t know how it works with folk like Dr. Chin, or Dad, but … well, I’m still working that out.”
She nods, smiles, turns back to the TV. After a moment, she adds, “Jason Quill is cool, too.”
He blushes slightly, and reaches for the pretzels.
author: *** Dave H.
url: Community Forums: Watching the Olympics [Cutscene] | Roll20: Online virtual tabletop