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Author Topic: EP257: Union Dues: The Sum of Its Parts  (Read 7456 times)
Swamp
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« on: September 09, 2010, 07:09:48 PM »

EP257: Union Dues: The Sum of Its Parts

By Jeffrey R. DeRego
Read by P.G. Holyfield of Murder at Avedon Hill

Original fiction debuting here at EscapePod.org.

Langton has been under lock-and-key observation since two weeks ago when he sucker punched Paul right in the middle of a publicity shoot for Stars and Stripes at a USO hall in Phoenix. The five of us almost couldn’t bring him down. The melee wrecked most of our stage props — Van De Graff Generators, Tesla Coils, a whole bunch of blinking and flashing, stuff bought from a bankrupt low-budget film studio. Frida recovered the 30 seconds, or so, of 16mm footage shot that morning. Police found the reporter a few hours later unharmed but minus any memory of the previous two days.

The DC3 taxis to the hangar. Paul joins me at the base of the control tower then the four of us walk down towards the plane.

“Hi gang,” The Corporal says and waves as he lumbers down from the fuselage to the sand. He walks right to Paul. “How’s the chin? Sorry about popping you one. I don’t remember any of it, but Frida says I was a real dope.”

Paul laughs a little. “It’s okay. No broken teeth or nothing.” He rubs his anvil-like jaw with a boxing glove-sized fist. “Next time I won’t go easy on you.”


Rated PG

Show Notes:

For more about progress with Union Dues, check out 1-800-go-union.com


Listen to this week’s Escape Pod!
« Last Edit: September 16, 2010, 06:46:46 PM by Swamp » Logged

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« Reply #1 on: September 09, 2010, 07:40:51 PM »

YES!!!! MORE UNION DUE! I love this universe and Mr. DeRego's writing.

I haven't even listened yet and already giving it two thumbs up!

Excellent universe!
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More Union Dues, please!

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« Reply #2 on: September 10, 2010, 01:01:32 PM »

i agree with chornbe! i LOVE union dues stories and look forward to them more than christmas. i especially love when i can match up character's histories with other stories, makes my day! more union dues!
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Cool story, bro!


« Reply #3 on: September 10, 2010, 07:19:04 PM »

i agree with chornbe! i LOVE union dues stories and look forward to them more than christmas.

+1. Especially since I've really liked every UD story, but have liked only one of the Xmas stories and been lukewarm on one or two others.
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« Reply #4 on: September 12, 2010, 09:36:54 AM »

It's good to have some more background to the UD world. Of course, now I'm going to have to go back through the other stories when I get a chance, and see how it ties in. These guys are the... Luminals (?), right? I'm sure Frida's been mentioned before, at the very least.

Of course it does raise the question of what happened between five deliberate army experiments and supers being born to the population at large. There's at least one story in that gap, plus it (once again) ignites my interest in how supers fare in the rest of the world; even if they're only ever born in America, I'm sure some of them manage to emigrate, and the Union may have difficulty getting them back from Canada, let alone China...

Anyway, overall this was excellent, and I'm glad to see JRD back in the saddle. More please Wink
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« Reply #5 on: September 12, 2010, 01:29:10 PM »

It's good to have some more background to the UD world. Of course, now I'm going to have to go back through the other stories when I get a chance, and see how it ties in. These guys are the... Luminals (?), right? I'm sure Frida's been mentioned before, at the very least.

Of course it does raise the question of what happened between five deliberate army experiments and supers being born to the population at large. There's at least one story in that gap, plus it (once again) ignites my interest in how supers fare in the rest of the world; even if they're only ever born in America, I'm sure some of them manage to emigrate, and the Union may have difficulty getting them back from Canada, let alone China...

Anyway, overall this was excellent, and I'm glad to see JRD back in the saddle. More please Wink

"Of course it does raise the question of what happened between five deliberate army experiments and supers being born to the population at large..." [*See "Union Dues: All About the Sponsors - true believer"] (that's the extent of my Stan Lee impression, sorry.) Smiley

Thanks for the kinds words, this was a fun story to write, and I'm glad you dug it. Check out 1800gounion.com for a few Union Dues easter eggs.

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« Reply #6 on: September 12, 2010, 03:34:17 PM »

I also love the Union Dues stories, including this one.

There was another origin story a while back, also set in the 50's I believe about a group that invaded an army base to steal something. I kept wondering if this was the same characters and wether this was before or after that story. I think I may need to listen to that story again. I can't recall the title though.  Huh

As for the ending quote on this episode; saying ABBA wrote 'Chess' isn't really correct since neither of the women from Abba were involved in that musical in any way. Björn Ulvaeus and Benny Andersson wrote the music for 'Chess' while Tim Rice wrote the lyrics. I just felt I needed to point that small detail out. Credit where credit is due sort of thing.
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« Reply #7 on: September 12, 2010, 03:43:00 PM »

I also love the Union Dues stories, including this one.

There was another origin story a while back, also set in the 50's I believe about a group that invaded an army base to steal something. I kept wondering if this was the same characters and wether this was before or after that story. I think I may need to listen to that story again. I can't recall the title though.  Huh

As for the ending quote on this episode; saying ABBA wrote 'Chess' isn't really correct since neither of the women from Abba were involved in that musical in any way. Björn Ulvaeus and Benny Andersson wrote the music for 'Chess' while Tim Rice wrote the lyrics. I just felt I needed to point that small detail out. Credit where credit is due sort of thing.

Yes, this deals with the same characters as featured in the story All About the Sponsors, though the events of this story occur earlier.
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« Reply #8 on: September 12, 2010, 09:24:22 PM »

Ah yes, here's some of that "fun" I've been craving out of EP.
Mur, even if it tires you so to include content advisories, understand that I am grateful for them.

So yeah, I love super-hero stuff of all stripes, and Union Dues is no exception.  I seriously can't wait to see UD blow up all over tv in the near future.  Also, as others have said before me, I love hearing my own name and that was great!

This story took a couple of tries for me to listen to though, and not because it was bad or the narrator did a bad job.  The story was great, and I really liked the narration.  I have to admit it was hard to wrap my head around this with out Steve doing the narration. It was unfair to pass by this episode just because he wasn't reading it, so I made a special sit down time for it today.  It kinda felt a little like Made Men meets The Golden Age (the graphic novel, not the Stephen King story), and all in a good way.

I'd really like to hear more UD stories.

5¢ (yep, you get a whole nickel today)
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« Reply #9 on: September 13, 2010, 08:47:25 AM »

Before the open conflict I felt that it was really slow, especially since it didn't seem to be telling me anything of interest that I hadn't already heard in All About the Sponsors (which was in itself stuff I could guess from watching other superhero plots).

I liked this one well enough once the Colonel more actively opposed them.  Hooray for Villains!  Some of my favorite supers have been those who can match the powers of their opponents (i.e. this guy, Mimic, Peter Petrelli).

One thing that bugged me, though:  WHY did 2 members of the team have Frida wipe their memories of the incident?  That struck me as being pretty messed up to just ask your teammate to wipe a bad memory.  Even if they blamed themselves, how the hell can you learn from your mistakes if you can't remember them?  And she seemed genuinely surprised when Alex didn't want the wipe, as if memory wipes are the rational thing to do.  He's the team strategist, so if he forgets their past conflicts how can he incorporate lessons learned into strategies?  To me it seemed that the memory wipe was less something that would happen in this world, and seemed more like an author's license to explain why this person will never be talked about again (not the first time I've seen that sort of thing in a comic backstory). 

Oh, and the fact that Frida is nonchalantly planting unwanted suggestions in her teammates' minds--I have a lot less respect for her after hearing this story.  I had no idea she was a mind-rapist.  I guess I mistakenly assume that all telepaths have moral codes akin to Charles Xavier.
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« Reply #10 on: September 13, 2010, 10:12:18 AM »

One thing that bugged me, though:  WHY did 2 members of the team have Frida wipe their memories of the incident?  That struck me as being pretty messed up to just ask your teammate to wipe a bad memory.  Even if they blamed themselves, how the hell can you learn from your mistakes if you can't remember them?

My impression was that they didn't ask to be mind-wiped.  Frida just did it to erase the existance of Langton from the team's minds; and she was planning to wipe their "manager" as well when he showed up.  She probably would not have given the stategist a choice either if he hadn't proved he could push her out.

Oh, and the fact that Frida is nonchalantly planting unwanted suggestions in her teammates' minds--I have a lot less respect for her after hearing this story.  I had no idea she was a mind-rapist.  I guess I mistakenly assume that all telepaths have moral codes akin to Charles Xavier.

Never trust a telepath, my friend.  Not everyone can be as moral as Professor X (and even he has slipped up in the past).  The deliberate use of their powers regardless of violation has been a trademark of most of the Union Dues telepaths.  Why not the first?
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« Reply #11 on: September 13, 2010, 10:55:01 AM »

My impression was that they didn't ask to be mind-wiped.  Frida just did it to erase the existance of Langton from the team's minds; and she was planning to wipe their "manager" as well when he showed up.  She probably would not have given the stategist a choice either if he hadn't proved he could push her out.

Ah, VERY good point.  I had gotten the impression that the other team members had asked for this treatment but what you say makes MUCH more sense.  He was the only one who had the ability to choose and choose he did.

Quote
Never trust a telepath, my friend.  Not everyone can be as moral as Professor X (and even he has slipped up in the past).  The deliberate use of their powers regardless of violation has been a trademark of most of the Union Dues telepaths.  Why not the first?

Oh, this behavior is totally consistent with Union Dues Universe, and since she's one of the founding members this explains a lot about the later hypnosis regiments that all the members have to go through--I bet they were her idea.  It just surprised me, because in All About the Sponsors I'd gotten the impression that she was a pretty good person by the narrator of that story.  Then again, she's capable of making others THINK she's a very good person, so that explains everything.  "Never trust a telepath"--I got that impression after I watched Push, so this echoes that nicely.
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« Reply #12 on: September 13, 2010, 11:22:39 AM »

Mur, even if it tires you so to include content advisories

It does?

Yes, this deals with the same characters as featured in the story All About the Sponsors, though the events of this story occur earlier.

Hm, it's been too long since I've heard that story - I'll have to go back and listen again (unless it's available as text somewhere? he hinted, with great hope).

"Never trust a telepath"--I got that impression after I watched Push, so this echoes that nicely.

Not to mention reading (and discussing) the story "Pusher"Smiley
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« Reply #13 on: September 13, 2010, 02:47:23 PM »

This one missed the mark for me, especially if you take it on its own merits, rather than one episode of a larger body of work.  If we look at this as a comic in a series, for example, it is a weak issue, but one that gives depth to the history and background to the overall work.  What I'm going to take away from this story is more info on the starting group of the Union, not the conflict itself, nor the Colonel.  I would consider this an ancillary story, something that belongs in a kind of a Union Dues Silmarillion. 
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« Reply #14 on: September 13, 2010, 11:23:28 PM »

I generally approve of the Union Dues stories, overall, but I have to agree with Gamercow that this one wasn't a favorite. 

I think the biggest issue, for me, was the really weak plan the alleged genius strategist came up with.  The Colonel was admittedly raving rather a lot and thus presumably not wholly himself, but even Elmer Fudd would have been suspicious about entering an old mining shaft in pursuit of his crafty adversary (especially after said adversary made a pretty clear stop at a supply depot to arm himself; whether the Colonel followed their tracks or their minds, he couldn't have failed to notice that detour, could he?)  I feel like the Colonel had to play the game with an Idiot Ball chained to his ankle, and that noticeably impacted my enjoyment of the otherwise interesting backstory.
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« Reply #15 on: September 14, 2010, 08:05:01 AM »

Good reading.

It took me a minute to realize that Alex and Jim were Alex Nova and Jim Jaguar, but then, I haven't heard/read all the UD stories yet -- I only started EP at episode 98 and I just don't have enough time to listen to the backlog, especially during football season.

Once I knew when (about) this was, I got into the story much more. I liked the conflict between Langton and Alex, the chess matches, etc, and the whole point of creating one super who has just enough of the others but not as much was cool. Alex's attitude toward Frida got tiresome fast (okay, we get it, women = kitchen/nurse/teacher), and I agree with previous comments that the plot was slightly flimsy... but I can overlook that, because this is superhero fiction, so it doesn't have to be perfect. (I mean, really, Lex Luthor, breaking off a huge piece of California so you can corner the real estate market???)

I also enjoyed Mur's commentary on ratings.

A solid EP episode all around.
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« Reply #16 on: September 14, 2010, 08:31:53 AM »

I generally approve of the Union Dues stories, overall, but I have to agree with Gamercow that this one wasn't a favorite. 

I think the biggest issue, for me, was the really weak plan the alleged genius strategist came up with.  The Colonel was admittedly raving rather a lot and thus presumably not wholly himself, but even Elmer Fudd would have been suspicious about entering an old mining shaft in pursuit of his crafty adversary (especially after said adversary made a pretty clear stop at a supply depot to arm himself; whether the Colonel followed their tracks or their minds, he couldn't have failed to notice that detour, could he?)  I feel like the Colonel had to play the game with an Idiot Ball chained to his ankle, and that noticeably impacted my enjoyment of the otherwise interesting backstory.

Yeah, good points.  This isn't the first time that a UD super strategist has failed to notice vital details that non-superpowered commenters were able to point out.  Maybe the super strategy power is just majorly flawed?
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« Reply #17 on: September 14, 2010, 01:00:42 PM »

I love the unuion dues stories, from the old timers to the kids.    This was just another of a good read/ listen for me from a great universe.  I would love to see a graphic novel....
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« Reply #18 on: September 14, 2010, 03:13:22 PM »

Yeah, good points.  This isn't the first time that a UD super strategist has failed to notice vital details that non-superpowered commenters were able to point out.  Maybe the super strategy power is just majorly flawed?

This is the problem when writing super-intelligent/super-strategist characters.  Unless you yourself are one of these things, they will likely fall apart when put under the scrutiny of several people.  I run into this a lot as a GM for D&D. 
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« Reply #19 on: September 14, 2010, 03:20:11 PM »

Yeah, good points.  This isn't the first time that a UD super strategist has failed to notice vital details that non-superpowered commenters were able to point out.  Maybe the super strategy power is just majorly flawed?

This is the problem when writing super-intelligent/super-strategist characters.  Unless you yourself are one of these things, they will likely fall apart when put under the scrutiny of several people.  I run into this a lot as a GM for D&D. 

I'm not sure.  It might help if the Strategists got to have a little more Xanatos Gambit action.  Like, if Alex had secretly planted the bombs during their runs three days earlier because his subconscious Strategist mind already knew Langston was going to be a threat, that would have helped make it more interesting for me.  I liked that he was the only one already wearing his armor, though I would have preferred some indication that this was a purposeful preparation on his part and not just paranoia.  Like, if he normally didn't wear his armor, but he did that day because the maelstrom indicated problems up ahead.

When running super-smart baddies in D&D (or Aberrant, which is where I specifically ran into the problem), the basic solution is to just cheat.  Whatever the heroes plan for, assume that the super-smart baddie foresaw their first plan, whatever it is.  If your players are good gamers, they'll have a backup plan or two or will be able to come up with something on the fly, but the super-smart baddie should always have seen at least the first punch coming.  Assuming you pair super-intelligence with arrogance (its traditional partner), that should be sufficient to allow the heroes to exploit something and at least get away.  Comfort yourself with the fact that a TRUE super-genius who didn't have crippling narcissism would just become a massively successful businessman or stockbroker or e-mail spammer and not NEED to rule the world overtly.
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