Sunshine Superman

3 06 2009

As inspired by Basic Instructions.

So, let’s play a game. The old “If you could have one superpower, what would it be?” game. But let’s put it this way — “If you could have one superpower, what would it be, what advantage would it give you, and how could you get away with using it?”

Let’s take for granted that if the public figures out you’ve got superhuman abilities that you’ll either become a massive media celebrity and/or be stored in individually labelled jelly jars in a refrigerated secret government storage facility under the Olympic stadium in Neo-Tokyo. So, you’re gonna want to keep it quiet, without skimping on using it. How do you swing that?

For starters we’ll look at the top ones folks usually pick: Invisibility, Teleportation, Mind Control, and Healing.

Invisibility. Reenacting your favorite scene from Porky’s and sneaking into a cheerleader locker room is quaint, in a Chris Hansen-y sort of way, but let’s consider the problems. You can’t just be invisible — you’d need to be inaudible too, or get some massive ninja training to avoid your footsteps and breathing being an issue. But even if you had that, you’re not intangible, which means people can bump into you and then the jig is up. The Spy in Team Fortress 2 knows all too well the limitations on invisibility.

And in the end… what’s it get you? A spy camera or wiretap could get you sneaky things people don’t want others to know with a lot less muss, less fuss, and less chance of being caught with your invisible pants down. There are very few GOOD uses of this power, only evil ones. You could sneak up on evil people, sure, but then what? Beat them up? You didn’t take Beat People Up as a superpower. And the chain of evidence collection required by police procedure means your invisibly gathered evidence can’t really fight crime.

Teleportation. This one’s the ultimate convenience — and one I’d likely take given my mobility impairments. And for all its many, many, many flaws, that recent teen action flick Jumper showed a lot of the possibilities for how this could be used creatively. …assuming you know where you’re teleporting to, so you don’t teleport into the middle of a solid object and die in a hilarious physics proof. …assuming you don’t teleport into a moving object like a person that you didn’t expect to be there. …assuming people don’t see you materialize, or question how you got from A to Z in moments without that those pesky B through Y steps.

Hiding this one is tricky business, using it without killing yourself is tricky business, and in the end it’s just a movement hack. Overreliance on it could lead to morbid obesity or muscle atrophy, given you’d be limiting your walking about to the minimum possible. You’d have to limit your use if you didn’t want to waste away or end up in jelly jars… and if you’re cutting back on the ‘porting that much, why bother?

Mind Control. Choice of evil overlords everywhere, why bother with those pesky oratory skills to persuade someone when you can just change their mind? Why have a day job when people can just give you money? Ahaahahaha!

…except, of course, that the forensic evidence left behind would be a complete mess to clean up. You’ll have to make up fake memories to explain where someone was when they weren’t giving you their money, make up memories for where the money went, maybe even forge receipts to ensure there’s a paper trail that points away from you. A thousand little physical trace clues can be left behind that point to what REALLY happened when you were playing Evil Mastermind.

Even trying to use this for good — say, convince drug dealers to leave the neighborhood, or muggers to go take up a hobby basket weaving — pose the same exact problems. You need to make up a chain of reasoning and logic that led to the drastic decision change, or else they’ll ‘figure out’ that something’s afoot. You know the tropes. You KNOW the first thing someone who’s been mindbent does is they get their memories back, and then whack you over the head with a tire iron at the first opportunity.

Healing. So let’s say you don’t want to break someone’s brains, you want to mend them. Heal broken limbs, cure disease, fight off cancer. It’s very noble, very commendable, very impossible. This above all the others suffers from jelly jar avoidance issues; people don’t mend overnight, they don’t suddenly stop having AIDS, etc. And once miracle cures start turning up, questions get asked in short order. Again, we end up needing to cover all the little bits of trace physical evidence to keep the benefactor a mystery — because otherwise they’d be promptly murdered or kidnapped by someone who wanted their cure lost / a monopoly on their ability.

So!

What powers could you get that WOULDN’T put you in dire straits, but still be useful? Any big ones, or only tiny, practical ones that help your day to day life without anybody noticing?

Advertisements

Actions

Information

61 responses

3 06 2009
meagenimage

If we’re going to be boring about it and actually consider the full real-life implications… any single individual having an ability that directly contradicts the laws of physics would basically put in doubt everything that we know about the universe, and mean that our entire civilization exists only by a highly improbable coincidence. Or alternately, that the laws of physics are shifting in such a way that we can no longer assume any of our science and technology works.
Given that, my choice is “absolutely nothing”. Or, alternately, “the ability to adjust the Universe to make any superpowers impossible everywhere and forever”.

3 06 2009
pyromaniac_ks

Incredible luck would be very difficult to prove, very useful, and easily concealed.

3 06 2009
pockyman

Super intelligence or the ability to see the future at will (and not the traditional “the universe has a message to send… NOW!”).
Both would be helpful in making the world a better place, and could be concealed as normal high intelligence (don’t do too much awesome stuff) and lucky guesses.

3 06 2009
Stefan "Twoflower" Gagne

Or, alternately, “the ability to adjust the Universe to make any superpowers impossible everywhere and forever”.
Some theories say this has already happened!

3 06 2009
Stefan "Twoflower" Gagne

Only if it’s controllable. If you have an off switch you can safely walk into a store without being the 1 millionth customer every time, can come within 50 miles of Las Vegas without warping time and space, and can stay unnoticable. But someone with truly incredible luck would stick out due to the simple law of statistics — that you would be an outlier in every scenario where chance comes into play. Outliers get noticed. Usually by the IRS.

3 06 2009
Stefan "Twoflower" Gagne

Not bad, not bad. It’d have the outlier problem Incredible Luck has (see above) but since you can ignore any insider information you please, you can run counterintelligence and obfuscate your ability.
Of course, tricky part will be living with yourself knowing you can see all the upcoming disasters but can’t warn people about all of them, or any one where you couldn’t logically have gotten the information through normal means, for fear of exposing yourself.

3 06 2009
Anonymous

Some sort of game save/reload or rewind superpower for real life. One variant had you automatically start rewinding things if you died or didn’t actively want to go forward with time.
This does bring up some interesting philosophical question of what happens to all those people who you just reset back five years. Automatic reloads on death could get annoying, especially if you chose your save points badly.

3 06 2009
jordan179

If I had the power of Healing I’d make some money to begin with healing some rich folk, then use it to move to a place where I didn’t have to worry about the AMA or the Feds; I’d hire some bodyguards, and I’d hang out my shingle openly. Eventually, I think I could make a deal with the US government to operate openly in America. “Benevolent” does not equal “stupid,” nor does “US government” equal “stupid.”

3 06 2009
pockyman

True, and thus the “when I want” bit – just do it once in a while, and it shouldn’t be too noticeable.
As for the living with oneself, that is the tricky part. I imagine, for me, at least, it would be the same as I feel now – I know that I can’t save everyone, even though I wish I could. Even with future sight, not everyone would believe me anyways, and that would put a damper on a lot of things right there.
So I’d help as much as I could, but with the knowledge that I can’t save everyone.

3 06 2009
jordan179

Oh, and Mind Control could be done much smoother than “give me money.” Use it to befriend rich and influential people, then make commission acting as an agent to broker deals between your rich and influential friends. Do it subtly enough and no one would even suspect you were using Mind Control in the first place.

3 06 2009
evil

Honestly I would think an extreme healing factor like Wolverine or Deadpool would be the best possible power. It extends your life, thereby allowing you plenty of time to bend things to your advantage either financially or power-wise. It keeps you alive, rendering most forms of revenge against you moot. Honestly all you really need to do is keep as low a profile as possible, fake your own death a few times, and you’ve got a Highlanderesque good life.
The downside of course is you outlive all your friends and family, you still get to experience all the pain that comes with things people do to you (being burnt alive or buried alive being the worst possible situations I’d imagine), and if you’re not careful someone might figure out your secret and come after you wanting your blood (literally, to try to become like you).

3 06 2009
meagenimage

Agree to have your powers officially tested under the watchful eye of a committee of doctors and scientists. Do not use them for the interim, producing zero results. Complain loudly that the testing method was “unfair” and “biased” and that the “establishment” is after you.
You are now completely indistinguishable from every quack ever, and any reports of your miracles will be dismissed as placebo effect, wishful thinking, etc.

3 06 2009
meagenimage

Damn right it has. I *like* living in a universe that makes sense.

3 06 2009
tozetre

Healing + movetoafrica. It’s full of bad “miracle cures,” so one more won’t get noticed right away, and they’d need it. Keep moving so nobody notices it’s you wiping out long-term diseases.
Personally I’ve always liked (high-speed) flight, partly for utility and partly for fun. Use of flight powers without being detected? Travel between cities; nearly as good as teleportation, no chance of physics proofs, and astronomically low chances of detection. Seriously, most city people think the country is just “less crowded” than the city- but you can walk for days in most directions without meeting another soul.

3 06 2009
sptrashcan

The power I would take under these parameters is voluntary unnoticeability. At any point I can will that I become unnoticeable – I will still be visible, and even recognized subconsciously (such that people will not walk into/drive over me), but my presence will not be consciously registered, and the consequences of my presence will be ascribed to other factors. This would then allow me to do whatever I pleased. It would be hard to do much good with this power, but at least it would be quite safe to use.
Under different and less dire circumstances, I would like to be able to fly at will. It’s not particularly helpful either, but it’s something I’ve always wanted and it doesn’t hurt anyone.

3 06 2009
Stefan "Twoflower" Gagne

Security cameras.
Granted, the power could be set so you or any electronic image of you becomes unnoticeable, but that’s a stretch given the tropes of that power.

3 06 2009
sptrashcan

Actually, the parameters I intended to set was that while the power is active, it prevents anyone noticing my agency either at the time or forever after. I should have made this more explicit, and I chose the wrong name for it – a more appropriate name would be the true Ring of Solomon. The whole point of the power is that it allows me to act without anyone ever noticing; that’s why I would want it under the conditions you specify, which are pretty much that any evidence of the power’s use would have profoundly negative consequences. And in fact, under those circumstances, this power is the minimum I would ask for – that is, no set of powers could be useful without including at least this one.

3 06 2009
mac1235

It’s a question of scale.
The grown-up version of Akira’s telekinesis powers might be useful. I’ve all ways wanted to encourage space flight, and if I moved Mars and Venus to Earth’s Trojan points there would be somewhere worth going. I’d have to move some of Venus’s atmosphere to Mars and maybe some of extra mass to Mars for more gravity. Teraforming would keep me pleasantly occupied for a few years. On earth, one could move Everest to the equator for the high point of a ramp for a Surface-to-Orbit electromagnetic launcher.
As for government opposition, I think I could bring myself to work with the cult of followers that would inevitably spring up, if my life and liberty were at stake. The world is varied place, and choosing the right home country or whether to have a home country would help confound those opposing me. Still, I would sleep a steel pressure vessel. It could be pushed 20km underground in 5 minutes with those sort of abilities and that amount of rock will stop nukes. Taking over the world would be more trouble than it’s worth, but Australia might be nice.
Either that or some sort speedster ability. Speed is the ultimate weapon, tactically speaking. It’d be a lot of fun, though something one would have to be much more cautious with.

3 06 2009
meredy

If it was in a situation where others had powers too, Peter Petrelli’s original ability is what I’d want, hands down. If it were just ME with powers, I’d want Telekinesis, since that can substitute for so many things(flight, force fields, super strength).

3 06 2009
k_neko

HAVOC PUNCH!

3 06 2009
kublaikhan

You could argue that your incredible luck would always let you get away with that. ;-p

3 06 2009
kublaikhan

Minor telekinesis. Say, up to 50 lbs. @ 50′, dexterity equivalent to a ‘third hand’. Wouldn’t have to worry about getting locked out of your car that way, for one thing–just flip the lock open.
Assume that the ‘third hand’ causes fatigue more or less equivalent to doing the action by yourself, and there’s no danger in indolence through inaction, especially with the weight limit. It’d be a massive convenience, and give great potential for robberies or for crime prevention; depending on your common sense, it’d be nigh-undetectable by most people (there’s a lot of “cover actions” you could take–for instance, wear a leather jacket, mosh the side of the car, then point and say “Aaaaaaaaay!” when it unlocks; people will just think you’re channeling The Fonz), and it’d be incredibly useful.
Besides, third-hand kung-fu would be a really kickass discipline to invent.

3 06 2009
mac1235

Like Gil the arm, only a bit stronger?
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gil_Hamilton

3 06 2009
kowh

Something like the Somebody Else’s Problem field from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy?

3 06 2009
kublaikhan

Very much like Gil the ARM, though I’d prefer not to go through his particular experience in order to -acquire- that ability.

3 06 2009
midnightlurker

Chameleon Boy-level shapeshifting.
Then I’d move to Japan and get a job in the more specialized sectors of the adult video industry. :)

3 06 2009
aj_hyena

I’d take the power to draw things and “lift them into reality”. If I needed money, draw a crude representation of a $100 and it turns into a real one. Need to kill SL trolls quickly and effectively? Draw a couple of circles representing an orbital death ray :)

3 06 2009
midnightlurker

I think I’d want a full-fledged Stand instead. An entire telekinetic body that you can run in parallel to your own, with a range of a few feet.

3 06 2009
kublaikhan

I personally don’t think I’ve got the concentration required to pull that one off; also, I’m not familiar with the source material–what’s that one from?

3 06 2009
kublaikhan

Actually, come to think of it, channeling The Fonz would be a hell of a superpower–essentially it’d be massive charisma coupled with the ability to perform effective percussive maintenance, especially upon music-playing devices.

3 06 2009
vulpisfoxfire

Hmmm. How about inter-dimensional teleporting? Basically, if you’re having problems…you can just *leave*. Granted, it kinda kills the whole Friends and Family plan, but still…

4 06 2009
midnightlurker

The manga JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure. Stand Users never seem to have any trouble running both bodies at once or even making sense of two different sensory inputs, and that’s not even taking into account their phenomenal range of powers beyond mere telekinesis. :)

4 06 2009
cmdr_zoom

None.
With great power comes great responsibility, and I don’t want any (more).

4 06 2009
jengagne

Sort of a variant on both mind control + healing… the ability to give people a conscience that’s about equivalent to that of an above-average responsible, considerate adult. I doubt people would notice I’m doing it and it could sneakily result in a lot of good.
Whaddya think? Flaws? Other aspects to consider?

4 06 2009
jordan179

I would actually like it to be known that I had miraculous superhuman healing powers, both so that I could do good and so that I could get rich. My point is that if you prepared properly, you could do this without being kidnapped, murdered, or having your practice made unlawful due to your lack of medical training. A lot of fiction of this sort assumes that the protagonist isn’t seriously prepared for trouble, because if he is there isn’t as stereotypical a story to tell (protagonist runs around with people trying to capture or kill him), but instead a much more complex story (what would the social effects be of there existing one super-healer?)

4 06 2009
Stefan "Twoflower" Gagne

Also, you’d have an uncanny ability at leaping horizontal distances over aquatic predators.

4 06 2009
Stefan "Twoflower" Gagne

It MIGHT raise a few eyebrows, unless you could gradually ramp it up in someone over time. And connections could be made between people you know and people turning their lives around — but that might be seen as a GOOD thing, just the force of your personality helping set people straight.

4 06 2009
Stefan "Twoflower" Gagne

Laaaaame. Go for telekinetic head implosion! :D C’mon! It’s fun!

4 06 2009
lirazel

That sounds akin to the Captain Carrot effect. You know — everyone wants to obey him because he’s King… but he doesn’t want to be King, he just wants you to be a Good and Decent Person, and because he’s Carrot, you are.
Which is why it’s important to remember that personal is not the same as important.

4 06 2009
lirazel

Hmm… well, I have a deeply rooted objection to anything that messes with people’s free will. (Being a religious type, I only recognize One being with the right to do that, and that Being has sworn off power trips for the duration. However long that is…)
But… I think I’d like the power to make other people lucky for a brief period. Enough for a worthy soul to win the lottery, for example. I could spend my time researching people who could really use a break, and then… see that they got it, all without them knowing.
“This really rude woman brushed past me, officer, and the next thing I knew, there was this diamond ring right on the sidewalk!”

4 06 2009
cmdr_zoom

The problem with that sort of luck is that it’s usually zero-sum. What one gets, others will not.

4 06 2009
shadur

The power to make all of humanity immediately, permanently, irrevocably and perfectly telepathic, altering the human genome to make sure the talent is inherited, as a single-shot use.
And before you protest, yes, I agree that the notion of everybody knowing every single thing that goes through my head flat out terrifies me, and that I’ll probably be much happier not knowing what goes through, say, Pat Robertson’s mind. But if you look at human history and see what we’ve done to one another, generally because we pretended that the other guy either didn’t count as a person or just mattered less than we did… I’d accept the risk of every single person whose opinion I value thinking significantly less of me once they see what’s in my head as a small price to pay in order to put a stop to that.

4 06 2009
iponly

Shape shifting. Side effects include being able to fix my own broken limbs, failing organs and even stop aging, turn into a bird to fly around or a stone and mail myself through the post or a mythological creature if I felt like being worshiped a little. No prison could hold me, nor any single identity. I might make mistakes if I maintained a couple identities though, and I wouldn’t be able to get together massive cash resources or anything without time or revealing myself dangerously. On the other hand, give me the ability to split bits off and I could leave a little metal sphere of myself in a desert somewhere and never have to worry about dying the true death.
Just walking down the street as a different person would give me a hell of a kick- so worth it.

4 06 2009
cmdr_zoom

That way lies extinction, mass insanity, and/or the development of mental filters until we can go back to ignoring what we don’t want to “hear” anyway.

4 06 2009
jengagne

You could do random flybys… wouldn’t HAVE to be people you know. Unless the world at large knows that superpowers exist and therefore is looking out for oddities, then I bet I could get away with it for quite a while.
And hey, if someone confronts me with an accusation? I can zap them and then their conscience will cause them to help me continue my good work, rather than land me in jelly jars. ;)

4 06 2009
pogona

A thought concerning the mind control. One of the interesting things about humans is that we are very good at coming up with reasons why we do the things we do, whether consciously (“I’m allowed the ice-cream, ’cause I had salad for lunch”)or unconsciously (“The shoes just called to me”, “We were meant to be together”, “God told me to do it”). Therefore as long as you can persuade people to do the things you want them to do, the chance are that they will invent for themselves the reasons why they did them.
As long as the suggestion can be implanted remotely, perhaps telepathically, then the superhuman should be perfectly safe, and any bizarrenesses of behaviour in the victims will be put down to the pressures of modern life, forgetfulnes, alcohol, full blown insanity, or just simple contrariness.

4 06 2009
jengagne

Yeah, I bet that’s how it would go. At the very least people would massively avoid each other and therefore remain inconsiderate…
And I bet that certain people would become even LESS tolerant of those who think differently — to the point that they’d declare that encounters with different-thinkers is so excruciating that they all must be exterminated.
How about making people _empathic_ instead, or just empathetic? The latter might be even more effective (but I guess that goes back to my conscience-granting, above.)

4 06 2009
Anonymous

Well…
I hope it’s not your fault this universe is so frustatingly boring.
-NeoVid

4 06 2009
Anonymous

Hmm.
There are two possibilities that come to mind…
The one I really like, invulnerability (to anything that can harm you, including sickness & all). I don’t know why more people don’t think of this one. A good thing about it is that it by itself really isn’t useful for much, so less dangers to worry about… and how many things would an indestructible guy worry about anyway?
Another I like is super-charisma. And not caused by some easily defensible artifical boost like David “the Envoy” Harstein’s version… I just would be that damn lovable. I find it interesting that characters with superhuman social skills are always villains in fiction, with the exception of ONE very dark superpowers RPG, Aberrant.
-NeoVid

4 06 2009
cmdr_zoom

Uncontrollable mass telepathy turns every living human into a source of noise, like having a loudspeaker strapped to your head that you can’t shut off. An office becomes a loud party, an office building becomes a rock concert. It doesn’t matter that you now understand them and recognize them as fellow people; for the sake of sanity and self-preservation, you must either eliminate or escape these. Homicide, suicide, insanity, and physical movement out of range are all solutions that will occur to people and spread almost instantly through the mindspace; what methods are practical and employed will vary.
After some 99% of the population “goes away” *cough*, the remainder can survive in seclusion; humanity ceases to be a social species, coming together only to trade or to mate. And even the last is uncertain; how many adults can and will tolerate the unfiltered, unreasoning, almost animal needs and desires of an infant?
Ah, irony. In seeking to increase tolerance, you have made the presence of other humans intolerable.

4 06 2009
meredy

Re: Hmm.
Hey, Envoy was loveable. He just chose to use his ability on the wrong person(McCarthy). Then again, no Aces ended up hating HIM for decades for screwing up unlike how they treat poor Golden Boy.
Always nice to find a Wild Cards fan!

5 06 2009
Anonymous

That’s the key with Mind Control. Subtlety, Subtlety, Subtlety. Don’t tell some random schlub to give you money in any unreasonable quantity. Asking him to break a tenner (and handing him a one and a little pulse of the mind juice) will get you a meal at Subway once in awhile. Nine times out of ten they’ll just write it off as their own mistake for not checking, and that one time you shrug, appologize, give the money back and move on.
On a slightly more grandiose scale, you can do a small extra project at work, barely a trifle, and convince your boss that you deserve that promotion. Convince people to do you a favor they normally wouldn’t every now and again, but nothing too big. Some people just inexplicably lead charmed lives, and with the powers of Mind Control, you can be one of them. The real trick is not to exceed what a person of your abilities COULD do, just make everybody else help you a little without going too far out of their way.
– TH

5 06 2009
jengagne

We work for the Feds. We aren’t dissing the gov’t. 9_9
But that aspect of the question above is based on comic book / sci-fi logic, which always seems to have this assumption that the gov’t will end up chasing the supernaturals.

5 06 2009
jengagne

The ONE well-known super-healer story was interestingly handled in the TV show 4800, character name Shawn Farrell. They set up a foundation to choose people to get healed (I forget, I think there was an application process and then a lottery) because everybody was clamoring for his help and his ability took a lot out of him.

5 06 2009
jengagne

Peter’s ability is like wishing for more wishes. ;) But hey, if you have the option, why not? The later version where he only got one at a time in sequence was more interesting plotwise to me, though.

5 06 2009
jengagne

Ah, irony. In seeking to increase tolerance, you have made the presence of other humans intolerable.
There surely MUST be some heavyhanded sci-fi story out there that’s using that as its core.

5 06 2009
Anonymous

Healing powers would be easy enough to camouflage: become one of those charismatic religious leaders. All those skeptics in power will just assume that you’re another quack, when in fact you’ve cured millions of AIDS/cancer/whathaveyou.
In any case, my option would be Mystique’s power from X-men. For the sex, if nothing else.

5 06 2009
Anonymous

Time travel. Its the Sci Fi ‘ability’ thats always fascinated me, and clearly the one I would want. I’m kinda assuming that I can’t actually alter the past, so most ways to hurt myself aren’t possible.

6 06 2009
cmdr_zoom

Probably. *wry*
It’s hard to build a better world when everyone’s screaming at each other to SHUT THE FUCK UP (which they can’t) because they (literally) can’t hear themselves think.

7 06 2009
loopychew

The ability I’d want is to accurately render “what-if” scenarios in my head on request. It’d be like predicting the future, but multiple choice! Knowing the outcome of a certain action or series of actions means the greatest amount of sweatwork would come from trying to optimize, rather than stress over unknown variables.

8 06 2009
originaljd

If it were up to me, and I could pick any power in the world, I’d choose the ability to re-write reality as I saw fit, when I saw fit. Something similar to Haruhi, but with the ability to use it at the conscious level. All of the sudden, I’m the sole winner of this tax free Powerball for $400 million dollars! Yay me! If I don’t like the way I look in the morning, I change it! And it doesn’t affect the way anyone interacts with me, because for all they know, I’ve always looked like that!
I suppose, however, after a while I’d begin to feel a bit like Dr. Manhattan. Not really a part of humanity, but trapped watching it from the outside. Eventually, I’d probably wander off to some distant planet and set myself up as a god there… It really sucks to be immortal.
Now I’m all depressed. Why’d I have to pick this stupid power…

Post a comment on this entry! All feedback welcome.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s




%d bloggers like this: