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Saturday, May 12, 2012

The Hero's Son - Part II

Part II

Rip was only half right. His parents welcomed R.J. for dinner, and treated him with respect. They even allowed him to spend the night, but at one point, they asked to speak with Rip alone.
Son...” his father began with a heavy sigh. “I've decided to ground you for a week.”
What?! Why?” Rip demanded.
Because, you left during the middle of a patrol. Even if you were just riding along, you have a duty to stay until the end of the shift. If you were an official Hero, I'd have to suspend you pending further investigation.”
Rip pulled on his hair in frustration, but couldn't argue. Well, it was more like he shouldn't argue. “I wouldn't have left if you just treated me like I was actually on patrol with you! Instead, you acted like I was just an annoying bug you had to endure sitting in the car with you until we could get home! You yelled at me for catching a criminal!”
I told you – !” His father started to yell, but was interrupted.
Honey, perhaps we need to decide on what exactly R... Rip can and can't do. Obviously he's ready for more responsibility, but I agree that we would feel more comfortable if he wasn't in any danger,” Rip's mom stated.
Rip rubbed the back of his neck and stared at the floor as he ground his shoe nervously.
What?” His mom wondered curiously.
I uh...” Rip hesitated. He knew his parents were going to find out. A report would be filed and a copy sent to Hero Headquarters after all. Even so, he didn't want to have to admit that he'd been blatantly disobedient. “I uh, kinda... sorta... arrested a couple of criminals today,” he blurted in a rush hoping that they wouldn't quite hear him, and then let him go to his room.
You what?!” His father roared.
Rip sighed, knowing that he was probably going to be grounded for 2 weeks. “Here...” He uploaded the recording to his mom's laptop so that they could watch it for themselves. Of course, they couldn't see the original gunshot that prompted Rip to act, but they could see – or rather hear since the picture was constantly in motion – that Rip was being shot at by two men. The men were clearly committing a crime.
The whole incident lasted less than 10 minutes, and his parents were quiet for a few moments after it was over. His mom was the first to respond.
I think we need time to think about this. We need to talk it over before we make any decisions.”
What's to decide?” Rip grumbled low enough that hopefully they didn't hear him.
Just go to your room for now, and consider yourself lucky that we let you have your friend over,” his mom stated, and Rip couldn't tell if she was angry or simply concerned. If he had to guess, he'd say she was probably furious.
Back in his room, R.J. asked him, “Everything okay?”
Yeah, they grounded me, but I expected that.”
Wait... they grounded you for catching some criminals?!” R.J. asked incredulously.
It sure feels like it, but technically I'm grounded for walking out on a patrol shift,” Rip explained.
Well, why did you walk out?”
Because my dad got mad at me for helping him catch a criminal,” Rip stated.
So you are grounded for catching a criminal!”
Tell me about it!” Rip agreed fervently. “You know, the other Heroes bring their kids in for training, and none of them seem to have a problem letting their kids help them. Not so me! If I even try, I get in trouble!”
R.J. smiled in a way that made it clear that he still thought Rip was lucky.

*******

We've decided not to add to your grounding for arresting those two,” his mom announced the next morning at breakfast. “There was footage from a nearby security camera that showed the whole incident more clearly. It was the type of incident that no trained Hero could ignore, and you handled it more or less exactly like you should have.”
More or less?” Rip asked, relieved that his dad had volunteered to take the early shift and wasn't home right now.
We both feel that you exhibited a bit too much... attitude, but since you weren't hurt, we are going to let the incident slide. Although, do you understand that you could have gotten R.J. seriously hurt too?”
R.J. cleared his throat. “Rip didn't ask for my help. I gave it to him without giving it a second thought.”
I know, and that's the point. You are not trained as a Hero. You should have stayed off to the side and called the police or even Hero Headquarters for back up. What are your parents going to say when they find out that you could have been shot by gangsters?”
R.J. looked suddenly deflated. “My mom isn't with us, and my dad's job makes it impossible for him to come home often. I'm pretty sure he won't mind me putting myself in danger since he has a dangerous job and expects me to follow in his footsteps. On the other hand, he's not a fan of Heroes, so he might get upset that I was helping one out.”
Renee didn't know what to say to that, so she smiled and changed the subject. “Do you need a ride to school?”
No, I'm homeschooled, but even if I went to school, I've got my hoverboard with me,” R.J. replied.
Sweet!” Rip cheered. “I thought only Hero kids were homeschooled.”
R.J. laughed. “Actually, there are a lot of homeschooled kids around here. You'll see them if you go to the park when most other kids are in school.”
Ohhh.... right. I think I saw some the other day.”
Okay...” Renee responded with a frown. “Well, since you have no one at home and have nothing to do, then why don't you stay with us for a while?”
R.J. blushed. “I wouldn't say I have nothing to do. My dad calls me a lot and gives me tons of stuff to do. For example, today I'm supposed to work on an electronics project. Plus, I'm required to practice my karate for at least an hour everyday.”
No problem!” Rip stated enthusiastically. “I've got you covered!” He grabbed R.J. by the hand, and dragged him to the sparring room.
The sparring room was basically an open area with a mat covering every inch of the floor and walls. Every morning, as many Heroes as could came in to warm up, exercise, and then spar with each other. Not everyone made it every morning – some of the Heroes were out on patrol, and some of them were sleeping from last night's patrol – but since Hero kids were homeschooled, they were all pretty much required to attend morning sparring.
Hey Rip,” several people called out to him, making him smile. It seemed that the only person who had a problem with calling him by his preferred name these days was his dad.
Hey everyone,” Rip responded. “This is R.J. He's a friend of mine, and might be joining us from now on.”
Hi R.J.,” everyone greeted warmly.
Renee entered the room behind them. She was their instructor when needed, and she coordinated the details when people trained in the simulation room. She took R.J. aside.
Since this is your first time sparring, you'll partner with me,” she informed him. “First, I'll lead everyone through warm up, and then we'll do some solitary practice before pairing up to spar.”
R.J. nodded. He surprised everyone by already knowing the basic moves. With a chagrined smile, Renee remembered that he had told her that his father expected him to practice his karate.
When it came time to spar, the two of them kept hesitating because they were afraid of hurting each other. Renee had to shake off her hesitation, and encourage him to try to defeat her. “Trust that I can defend myself, and give me everything you've got!”
Meanwhile, Rip was paired up with a frienemy, and they had no problems trying to kill one another! He braced himself as he was thrown into the wall, and then used his momentum to launch an attack on his partner. They both fought viciously, picturing the other as a bad guy needing to be captured.
Renee!” Henry barked in order to catch her attention. She gestured for R.J. to wait a moment, and then looked towards her husband. He pointed towards Rip.
You know better than to let them spar with each other,” Henry reminded her.
Sorry,” she apologized. “I was preoccupied.”
Henry sighed. He stepped between the two who were fighting just a bit too aggressively. With a hand on each to keep them apart, he glared at them.
Now what?” Rip demanded, upset to be interrupted when he was winning.
You two need to learn to work together,” Henry stated. “For today's simulation, you will be working together. No matter if you defeat the bad guys or not, if you don't work together, you fail!”
Both boys groaned.
And everyone here's going to watch,” Henry added.
Renee quickly walked to the control panel on the simulation room. She typed up about a hundred commands for the simulation to follow, and then smirked at the two now waiting in front of the door.”
Don't think you'll be able to defeat this simulation so easily! I made it as hard as I could.”
They glanced at each other, reluctant to admit that they were probably going to have to work together in order to finish the simulation. The door opened with a woosh, and the viewscreen lit up as they stepped into the room. After the door closed again, Henry put a hand on his wife's arm.
As hard as you could?” He questioned.
For their level,” she amended.
Ah,” he smiled. “This should be good.”
The training bots now looked like famous mobsters from the distant past. There was about 20 bots, split into two factions. They were about to start a war to determine which family controlled the entire territory. The rest of the characters – civilians and noncombatants – were all holograms that couldn't interact beyond talking.
Rip and his partner Josh's first task was to assess the situation and come up with a plan. Then, they had to get to the cache of Hero weapons and gear. At first, they bickered more than anything, but once they figured out a plan, they cast aside their differences, and worked through the simulation together.
It took them almost 2 hours to subdue all the bots, but so long as they worked together, they were able to do so without too much trouble. Of course, this didn't mean that they didn't call each other names and try to insult each other at every opportunity.
Once they cuffed the last bot, they shook each other's hand, and then turned their backs, crossing their arms petulantly.
Henry chuckled, and then shook his head. He pushed a button and spoke into a microphone. “Congratulations on defeating the simulation. Put the gear back and clear the room so that the next simulation can begin.”
Yes dad,” Rip muttered.
A few minutes later, they stood watching as everyone else entered the simulation room. Well, everyone except Rip's parents and R.J.
Rip,” his mom said, finding it easier now to use his preferred name. “Why don't you go do your homework until lunchtime?”
Yeah, okay mom.”
That was so cool!” R.J. gushed as they walked away. “You totally kicked ass as you took down all those bad guys! That has to be like the best video game ever!”
Rip stopped walking abruptly. “You know... you're right! I'd forgotten how fun simulation training can be!”
And you do this everyday?”
No, but at least once a week,” Rip admitted.
Okay, it's official! I want to be a Hero when I grow up!” R.J. vowed.
Rip laughed.

*******

An entire month passed with R.J. more or less living with Rip. He went home during the day to do things for his dad, but otherwise was with Rip every second of the day. One night, as they were playing a video game, Renee came in to talk to them.
Rip honey, tomorrow is mail day, and I was hoping that you could take a turn.”
Sure mom,” he replied.
Okay, then get some sleep.”
He nodded, and then complied. Of course he and R.J. couldn't stop whispering for hours, but at least they were in bed trying to do what they were told.
In the morning, after breakfast, Rip brought R.J. to the gear room.
What about sparring?” R.J. wondered.
I promised I'd do mail duty, remember?”
O...kay... so why are we gearing up?” R.J. asked.
You'll see,” Rip replied cryptically.
As soon as they were prepared, Rip led them through a few corridors that R.J. had never even realized were there. The walls got thicker and more ominous as they went. Occasionally, they came to an armored and secure door that could only be unlocked by an authorized hand print and a pin typed into a number pad.
Just after Rip opened the last door, a man stepped in front of them. “Good morning, Rip. What brings you here?”
Morning Cody. Mom sent me... mail duty,” he explained.
I see,” Cody replied with a sympathetic grin. “And him?”
This is R.J. He's going to help me,” Rip stated.
Okay,” Cody responded, and then patted both boys down. After making sure that they were only wearing authorized Hero gear – tasers and personal shields being the most important equipment – he clipped a visitor's pass onto R.J., and gestured for them to continue on their way.
Um, Rip?” R.J. finally thought to ask. “Where are we?”
Hero prison... Which kinda makes it sound like it's a prison full of Heroes, but really it's an extremely high security prison maintained by Heroes. The only criminals in here are the worst of the worst. Mass murderers, serial killers, and mad bombers... guys like that,” Rip explained.
So that's why we're in full gear,” R.J. mused, immediately understanding the potential danger of the situation.
Rip lead them to a room containing a cart loaded up with boxes. “In these boxes, all the mail that's been sent to prisoners has been scanned for poison and weapons, or any other dangerous substances, such as chemicals to make bombs. So long as it's clean, the mail is delivered to the prisoners once a week.”
Why have us do it? I mean all the guards we've passed look pretty tough...”
Rip grinned, pushing the cart towards the cell block. “They are tough! They're pretty much all ex marines and special forces who appreciate that Heroes can pay them well for their skills.”
Are there really this many murderers in Marion City?” R.J. gasped when he got a good look at the size of the prison.
No!” Rip snickered. “There are only two or three Hero prisons in the entire country. They're expensive to run, and there's no way every city could afford to have one. Therefore, since we are equipped to handle the most dangerous criminals, they're sent here.”
Scary! And you live here!”
Rip laughed. “It would be almost impossible to break out of Hero prison, but – if a criminal were to escape – there's 1000 feet of secured corridors between the prison and headquarters. They'd be better off trying to go over the wall and running away. Not that they could. The wall is electrified, and patrolled by guards at all times.”
That makes me feel a bit safer, I guess,” R.J. chuckled.
Besides, headquarters is heavily fortified. If a lockdown were initiated, no one could get in or out without two of the leaders separately entering a security code at the same time.”
I see,” R.J. murmured pensively.
By this time, they were in the common room for all the prisoners to loiter in when they weren't restricted to their cells. Most of the prisoners were busy being quiet in order to prove to the guards that they deserved early parole for good behavior.
Rip called out each name. The mail was organized by cell, so that – if everyone happened to be confined – the deliverer would simply need to walk along the hall handing mail through the slot in the doors. It was so much easier to just let the prisoners come to them!
The two guards stationed in the room subtly adjusted their grip of their weapons to demonstrate that troublemakers would not be tolerated. After about 80 percent of the mail was distributed, Rip led R.J. along the cells.
R.J. took the mail Rip handed him, and stuffed it in the slots in the doors of the indicated cells. The very last piece of mail was for the prisoner in solitary confinement. They approached the even more highly fortified cell carefully. A guard accompanied them.
What did this guy do?” R.J. whispered.
Rip shrugged, but the guard answered with a grim expression.
That's Randy Blackstone. He started off his criminal career with bank robbery, often shooting the hostages. Next, he decided that stalking and kidnapping women was fun. He'd hold them captive in inescapable cells while he tortured and abused them. After he was done, he'd toss their bodies into public places with notes daring the police to catch him. Finally, he grew bored and decided to plant bombs all over Marion City. Henry Plantagenet and the rest of the Heroes had to race around playing his twisted game, otherwise he'd blow up random buildings. … By the time Henry caught him, there was no way this criminal would ever be allowed to go free!”
Rip scratched his head. “I don't understand... if he's such a horrible person, and he's never going to be released... Why didn't they execute him?”
He probably will be, but there's a group of people trying to prove that he's innocent. Some think that Henry caught the wrong guy. Until the matter can be cleared up beyond a shadow of a doubt, he's sitting here waiting,” the guard explained.
Rip handed the mail to the prisoner through the slot in his thick, shatterproof glass door. Rip frowned when he realized that the prisoner was staring at the guard behind him. His expression seemed almost angry, or perhaps betrayed.
Rip looked at the guard, and realized that R.J. looked miserable. He was standing next to the guard, and probably thought the criminal was glaring at him.
We're done,” Rip announced. “Let's go.”
Gladly!” R.J. exhaled in relief.

*******

Two months later, Rip and R.J. were hoverboarding around a park when they had some free time. Rip had insisted that hoverboarding was a valuable skill in fighting crime, and so his mom gave him permission to skip his afternoon training and go play.
The park was fairly empty, but – as R.J. had once pointed out – other homeschooled kids hung out to study and just fool around in general. Jenna's brother and his friend's invited them to play soccer, but Jenna wasn't at the park. It looked like it could be fun, so they jumped off their hoverboards.
Rip and R.J. joined opposite teams, and had fun pretending to be rivals – with a bit of mortal enemies thrown in for good measure. R.J.'s team won, and the two boys heckled each other for a couple of minutes before deciding to go search for a snack.
They entered Hero Headquarters still teasing each other. Rip was certain that his mom would have made something tasty for everyone to munch on throughout the day.
Hi Rip!” Jenna greeted him excitedly.
Jenna! What are you doing here?” Rip wondered.
I'm so excited! My parents have decided that I can train to be a Hero someday, and my karate teacher convinced Mrs. Plantagenet here to let me come each day to train with the Hero kids!” Jenna was apparently too happy to contain, and she hugged Rip before squealing. “Isn't it great?!”
Uh.... yeah,” Rip agreed, embarrassed by the hug. His face was red, which caused his parents to laugh. Though they did try not to be obvious about it.
Mr. Plantagenet!” Jenna squeaked, suddenly timid. Henry had entered the room about the same time Rip did, so Jenna hadn't met him yet, but she was such a big fan that she recognized him immediately.
You must be Jenna,” Henry greeted, holding out a hand for her to shake.
Rip thought Jenna might die from the thrill of getting to actually meet her long time celebrity crush. Instead, she managed to calm down and shake Henry's hand without swooning.
I hope that one day I can be a Hero as great as you are,” Jenna stated.
I'm sure you will,” Henry replied with an encouraging smile. “Richie...”
Dad,” Rip growled.
Henry sighed and rolled his eyes. “Fine... Rip, son, will you show Jenna around. Maybe you and R.J. can spar with her a bit to see how good she is.”
Sure,” Rip agreed.
Jenna gaped at Rip incredulously. “You never told me that Henry Plantagenet was your dad!”
Yeah well, having a famous Hero for a dad can be a pain in the a –”
Ahem!” Henry interrupted him.
Uh, butt. Anyway, I don't like to tell people we're related unless I have to,” Rip finished explaining.
Gee, thanks!” His dad responded sarcastically.
Renee placed a comforting hand on her husband's arm. “It could be worse. He could be running around town bragging to all that he should be idolized because he has you for a dad.”
True,” Henry admitted.
Meanwhile, Rip guided Jenna to the sparring room. At this time of day, the only people in the room were Heroes who were either working out before their shift, or cooling down after a patrol. He introduced Jenna, who acted like every Hero was just as famous and awesome as Henry Plantagenet.
Jack chuckled. “I think you're a keeper! Just try to stay so cheerful after you're a full Hero in your own right.”
They tried to take it easy on Jenna since it was her first day, but she impressed them all with her skill. She managed to handily defeat everyone who took a turn attacking her. Of course, since they were trying to go easy on her, they couldn't accurately assess her true skill level.
Rip was probably more surprised than anyone since she didn't seem the type to know how to fight.
Where'd you meet this girl?” R.J. wondered.
In the park... We played soccer with her older brother an hour ago,” Rip told him.
Oh...” R.J. nodded. “They don't look anything alike!”
Rip laughed. It was true. Jenna was short with long blond hair and blue eyes, and her brother was taller with brown hair and eyes. Rip also had brown hair and eyes, but R.J. was more of a dirty blond with gray eyes.
A thought occurred to Rip, and he smacked himself on the forehead. “We never did get that snack we wanted!”
It's too late for snacks,” his mother insisted as she entered the room. “Jenna, your mom and dad arrived a while ago, and we showed them around. They wanted to see where you'll be spending your days. Anyway, they're waiting for you in the lobby. Apparently they plan to take you out to dinner to celebrate.”
Awesome!” Jenna blurted out. She hugged Renee. “Thank you so much for letting me come here!” In a whirl of energy, she rushed off to find her parents.
Man!” Rip exclaimed. “She's exhausting to be around!”
His mom tried but failed to cover a snorting laugh. “Try being around you sometime!”
Rip rolled his eyes.
Anyway, dinner's just about ready. Go wash the sweat off, then come eat.”
Rip and R.J. nodded, and then raced each other to the men's locker room, which was simply the closest place to wash up. They were actually pretty grimy from their day, and decided to just take a quick shower.
Once they were clean and dressed in basic tees and shorts, they sat at the dinner table with Rip's parents. R.J. was still somewhat uneasy eating together as a family. It was something he'd never done, and yet, here he was, sharing a meal with world famous Henry Plantagenet. It was enough to keep him quiet most of the time.
Henry decided to tease his son. “Jenna's a pretty girl. She seems to really like you too... Where'd you meet her?”
Rip explained, then added gruffly, “And I don't even know her that well, so what makes you think she likes me?”
She hugged you, didn't she?” His dad asked as if it should be obvious.
Rip blushed, and grumbled, “Don't remind me.”
I think we may have just met our future daughter in law,” Henry joked.
Renee laughed. “Our grandbabies are going to be so cute!”
Rip simply shook his head, amused despite himself. Then he frowned in confusion. “Wait, so I'm not old enough to fight bad guys, but I can have a girlfriend and think about kids?”
NO!!!” His parents blurted out in unison.
His mom held up her hands placatingly. “Well, no to the kids, but yes to the girlfriend. I think it's about time you started thinking about something other than fighting crime.”
Whatever,” Rip muttered since he had nothing better to say.

*******

Jenna completely startled Rip about two weeks later when she jumped onto his back, and held him in a chokehold – er enthusiastic embrace.
Jenna!” He gasped. He and R.J. had entered the sparring room after lunch for a little bit of one-on-one training, and hadn't expected her to be there. She actually entered the room just after them, which was how she managed to surprise Rip.
It's my birthday!” Jenna announced. “That's why I wasn't here this morning. My parents have this tradition of taking us out to a movie on our birthday, and then spending the day with us doing things like going to the amusement park.”
Rip tried to pry her off his back without hurting her. “Uh... Happy birthday.”
This year, I've convinced them to let me bring friends with us. So... Do you guys want to go to the amusement park with me?”
Rip exchanged glances with R.J. who shrugged. “I guess so.”
Awesome!” Jenna squealed.
Hey wait a minute!” Rip's frienemy Josh protested. “We should all be able to go!”
Most of the Hero kids who were trying to avoid their homework were in the sparring room.
That's a great idea!” Jenna happily agreed.
Renee overheard this conversation and entered the room to dial down the enthusiasm. She covered a knowing smirk at the sight of Jenna still on Rip's back – he was now supporting her like he was giving her a piggyback ride, since all attempts to dislodge her had failed.
Let's not get carried away here. You'd all need permission from your parents, and we can't expect just two people to chaperone all you hoodlums!” Renee explained humorously.
Anyone interested in going immediately pulled out their cellphones to call and ask for permission. Renee verified this, and asked a couple of parents to help her chaperone. The entire matter was decided fairly quickly – Heroes were used to making decisions quickly after all – and soon everyone was ready to go.
Rip mentally groaned at his shirt. They were all, even Jenna who had quickly changed, wearing their basic training or workout uniform, which mostly meant that they were all wearing a black tee shirt that stated in white letters “Hero Kid” on the front, and said “Future Hero in training” on the back.
The adults had agreed that this was the best way to keep track of everyone in the group. Just 15 minutes after Jenna had left her parents in the lobby to go invite her friends, 10 teenagers – including Rip and R.J. who were actually only 12 – walked into the lobby, ready to go.
Jenna's brother looked mildly shocked to see that Rip and Jenna weren't the only two Hero kids. By his expression, Rip assumed that he must not listen as Jenna almost certainly babbled on about her day. Or else he just didn't believe her.
I'm so happy!” Jenna announced for her parents. “Practically everyone wants to celebrate my 13th birthday!”
Her parents looked seriously freaked out at the size of the group. Renee laughed, which somehow emphasized her black “Hero's wife” tee.
Don't worry, we don't expect you to wrangle this posse by yourselves!” She assured them.
Just then, two other women who also wore black “Hero's wife” shirts rushed into the room. “Ready!”
Great!” Renee cheered, catching Jenna's excitement. “I think this situation calls for the bus.”
Rip groaned as his mom checked to make sure she had the right keys in her purse. “Mom... the bus?!”
Renee laughed. “How else are we going to get everyone there?”
Rip sighed in defeat. Two minutes later, they were in the garage where all the patrol cars and other vehicles Heroes used as necessary were stored.
R.J. whispered to Rip. “Why don't you want to use the bus?”
His question answered itself a moment later when the opening garage door let in enough light to see the bus clearly. Like all Hero vehicles, it was black with white lettering. It read Hero Bus in huge letters on each side, which meant that everyone they passed would stare at them and wonder what serious crime they were responding to.
Oh!” R.J. muttered, and Rip nodded.
So cool!” Jenna squealed. Her brother managed to be the second to last one to board the bus, with Rip being the very last. He stopped Rip for two seconds.
This still doesn't mean you can mess with my sister,” he warned quietly.
Rip simply rolled his eyes and nodded, wondering why does everyone think that?
Renee asked one of the other wives to drive. She waited for everyone to settle down and they were almost there, then stood up – despite the bus traveling very fast on a major highway.
Listen up! I know that just about everyone here is trained in conflict resolution and first aid, and I'm not saying don't use your skills if the need arises, but please try to remember that this is a rare opportunity to relax and have fun. This is a birthday celebration, not an armed shootout over turf. There is no need to jump in and help out for every little problem that arises.”
Renee looked each one of the Hero Kids in the eye. “I'm serious! I know we do a lot of simulations in which crimes interrupt ordinary events, but in real life, that's really very rare. I want you all to promise me that you won't act on anything unless you are absolutely certain that it's a real and dire emergency, and even then, I want you to alert one of us if possible. Can you do that?”
Yes, Mrs. Plantagenet,” they all agreed, even Jenna who wasn't really trained enough to need the warning.
Renee glared at Rip. “Yes mom,” he muttered.
Good, then let's have fun!” She suggested just as the bus pulled into the parking lot of the amusement park.
Rip tried not to notice the stares people gave them as they walked towards the entrance, but it was hard not to bristle. It felt like everyone was whispering and speculating on why they were there. Jenna waved proudly to anyone she noticed looking her way.
They were a big enough group to get a discount on the entrance fee – which was previously collected for expedience by Renee because each kid was expected to pay their own way, except for Jenna and her brother. After they were paid for, Jenna was asked what she wanted to do first, and they let her lead the way.
Not too far inside the entrance, a TV crew was doing a live news broadcast of various events happening at the park. They spotted the group, and rushed over for an interview.
You're Renee Plantagenet, wife of famed Henry Plantagenet,” the female reporter stated. “Would you please convey our gratitude to your husband for his role in last week's attempted bank robbery?”
I'll tell him,” Renee smiled.
Is there a major crime happening here today? Is your husband here on official business?”
She shook her head, still smiling. “Nope! He's on patrol and we are here to have fun and celebrate. I hope there are no further questions.”
Just one,” the reporter grinned. “Which one of these Hero kids is Henry Plantagenet's son?”
Renee's smile evaporated. “I'm sorry, but I am not going to answer that. Now if you'll excuse us.”
Josh decided to be an attention seeking clown, and held up Rip's hand to wave at the camera. He then put his arm around Rip's shoulder as if they were best friends. Rip desperately wanted to shake him off, but didn't want to make a scene on live TV.
The reporter gestured to her cameraman to focus on Rip. “There he is! There's Richard Plantagenet! Tell us; do you plan to follow in your father's footsteps?”
Rip had about half a second to figure out what to say, and his sarcastic nature took over before he knew that he was opening his mouth. “Duh!” He turned around, and pointed at his back. “Hero in training!”
Josh piped up, reveling in his 15 minutes of stolen fame. “Don't forget the rest of us!” He also turned his back to show off his shirt, which prompted the rest of them to proudly do the same.
Jenna was bouncing in excitement, she looked at the camera over her shoulder and formed a peace sign with her fingers. “We're Hero kids!”
The reporter could see that her luck was about to run out, and was ecstatic that she'd gotten such a big scoop, so she ended the interview before it could get ugly. Facing the camera with a huge grin, she announced, “You heard it here first! Hero kids; training to be the Heroes of tomorrow!”
The three women wearing“Hero's wife” shirts gathered up their brood protectively, which meant that the back of their shirts were the last thing the camera showed before the station cut to a commercial. The backs said, “I'm a Hero too!”
Renee waited until she was certain the camera was no longer near them before facing Jenna's parents. “I'm so sorry! I didn't mean to turn your daughter's birthday into a media circus.”
I'm not!” Jenna laughed. “That was cool!”
Her parents shrugged, sensing that it wasn't their daughter who had to worry about the media. They could clearly see that it was Rip that the reporter was after, and sympathized with Renee's desire to protect him.
Josh's mom smacked him upside the back of his head. “That was stupid and I'm tempted to ground you from Hero training for a month!”
Sorry,” Josh muttered, only half sincere.
Renee shook her head. “We're here to have fun. We'll deal with this later.”
Josh's mom agreed.
Still bouncing, Jenna led them to all her favorite rides. Her parents were actually relieved that she'd brought others who shared her taste for the thrilling rides. Rollercoasters and bungee jumping being her absolute favorites.
She's so fearless!” Her mom clucked with worry.
They all are,” Renee assured her. “I think it's a quality all Heroes are born with.”
The kids all had a blast, but something strange happened. Slowly, more and more video cameras appeared. Some of them were even official media cameras. By the time Jenna decided that she was ready to go home – much later – camera crews were everywhere! They didn't bother the group, but it was obvious that they were recording everything they did. They even followed them back to the bus.
Just as they were about to board the bus, Jenna grabbed Rip's hand and pointed at something in the sky. High above, a plane had written, “Good luck Hero kids!”
Reporters of all kinds were watching them like a hawk, and managed to get plenty of pictures and footage. All of the Hero kids smiled and waved at the plane, though they knew the pilot couldn't see them. Then they waved at the various paparazzi before finally boarding the bus.
Jenna relaxed into her seat with an exhausted sigh. “I had a great day!”
Rip exchanged looks with R.J. Despite everything strange that had happened, they agreed. “So did we!”
Thanks for inviting us, Jenna!” The other kids chorused, and then settled down to talk about their day.
Only Renee looked worried about what had happened.

Go To Part III 

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