i’m super, thanks for asking

In my immediately previous entry, I described a dream in which I was the superhero brother of The Incredibles‘s Elastigirl, but in that posting I didn’t detail my own superpowers. I noted that during this dream, I had remained aware at some level that I was, in fact, dreaming; my superpowers actually were impacted by that awareness, changing on the spot in ways that mimic my own conscious imaginings of what superpowers I’d want to possess.

As a little kid I most often thought about desiring the power of invisibility or teleportation. My thoughts about the latter persisted, albeit changed somewhat–my reading of Zelazny’s Amber series, my learning of the law of similarity in magic systems, and my interest in quantum mechanics leading me to a limited form of teleportation in which places, roads or the like with the same name could be merged together, or folded like space, so that for an instant they would be the same, and one could start at one such but exit at another–even to adulthood, especially during long road trips when I’d see route numbers or highway names near my starting point that were named or numbered the same as routes and roads nearer my intended destination.

But mostly as an adult I wanted one of two powers: weather control, like the X-Men‘s Storm, or shapeshifting, which I also liked since it seemed a bit of a cheat, giving you multiple other powers depending on what shape you chose–e.g., flight, if you became a bird; near-invisibility, if you became a “fly on the wall”; water-breathing; walking through doors, or at least under them or through keyholes, by becoming a small insect; etc. Shapeshifting generally won out for its utilitarian benefits, though for sheer drama you can’t really beat summoning up a small tornado or throwing lightning bolts.

More recently, though, I’ve become fascinated by another power–a more intellectual superpower–that I don’t think I’ve come across in my own exploration of the genre. It’s a subtle power that doesn’t lend itself well to the action of comics or movies, and that on a typical mission would probably find you not out fighting the bad guys but back in the mission room monitoring everyone’s radio communications, or manning the X-Jet, yet one that under the right circumstances could accomplish amazing things, some of which would be difficult given any other power. I’m talking about the power of perfect and absolute communication, the ability instantly to understand and be fluent in any language or communication system, written, oral or even non-verbal, mechanical or alien (not just translate Ancient Sumerian cuneiform with ease and speak fluent Arabic at will, but perhaps even dance with honeybees, sniff out the territorial clues of mammals, program computers as easily as talking to a friend, etc.). These days, that’s the power I want.

In my dream, then, I kept switching back and forth between the shapeshifting of my more earlier adulthood wishes–in order to get close to or keep away from the omnidroid, as needed–and the perfect communication power of my more recent fantasies, suspecting that I might be able to disarm the robotic killer if I could just get access to its programming, effectively rewriting it on the fly, or even communicating with it wirelessly and achieving the same end without having even to get close to it.

Alas, the dream ended before I got that far. I do find myself wishing, though, I had the artistic or writing talent to explore drawing or narrating the continuing adventures of this hero. At this point, I don’t even have a name for him; I’m just pretty sure I don’t want to call him the Cunning Linguist.