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Tuesday, May 15, 2012
The Hero's Son - Part III
“In other news, world famous Henry Plantagenet's son Richard was seen enjoying himself with a group of future Heroes. They call themselves Hero kids, and offer a bright look at what we can expect later on. As you can see from the footage, the Hero kids all behaved exceptionally well as they went on rides and played games at the amusement park.”
Henry Plantagenet stopped looking at the TV so that he could look at his wife. “Just whose idea was this?”
Renee didn't flinch in the slightest. “I'm sorry. I had no idea that a simple birthday celebration would turn into this... frenzy...”
“I thought we wanted to keep our son safe from the paparazzi,” Henry stated more than asked, reminding her of their previous agreement.
The various video clips of the kids suddenly changed to a clear picture of Rip and Jenna holding hands. “And – as you can see in this photo – Richard Plantagenet seems to have a girlfriend already. Sorry to disappoint you girls!”
Renee gaped in sheer disbelief. “That's not what happened at all! She was simply pointing out something to him!”
“How are we going to handle this?” Henry wondered.
Rip took the opportunity to sneak away. He had been watching TV with them – waiting for R.J. to come back from checking on his house, talking with his dad on the phone, and other tasks he had to do. Now that the conversation was about him on TV, he really didn't want to be there.
Rip hid in his room with the door closed. He flopped on his bed with a sigh.
“Now the whole world thinks I'm going out with Jenna!” He sighed, and rolled onto his side. “I guess I could do worse... She is pretty cute...”
R.J. entered the room just then. “I heard your parents talking. Apparently we're all over the news.”
“Don't remind me!” Rip groaned.
“Okay then... um, do you want to play a video game?”
Rip nodded. “Just remember that we can't stay up too late. I have mail duty tomorrow, and I need to be awake for it.”
The next morning, Rip and R.J. geared up before going into the prison.
“You know,” R.J. remarked as they walked along the corridor. “I think it's cool that your parents trust you enough to have security access to a prison.”
Rip laughed. “Well, when you say it like that, it does sound pretty cool, but you have to realize that it's not as cool as you think. After I passed the basic training – including first aid classes, and how to handle the phones – it was in their best interest to stick me with mail duty from time to time so that they didn't have to do it anymore. They would much rather have me doing these 'safe' things than the so called dangerous things, such as helping catch criminals. It's not so much that they trust me, it's that they want me out of the way.”
R.J. shook his head. “That's not how I see it. To me, your parents are just trying to let you be a kid as long as possible. Once you start going on patrols, then it's a full time job, and you won't have any time to hang out with your friends or have a girlfriend.”
Rip laughed. “Didn't you hear? According to the news, Jenna is my girlfriend!”
By this time, they were at the guard who needed to pat them down and give R.J. a visitor's pass. The guard grinned at Rip in a teasing manner. “Congratulations on that! I didn't have my first girlfriend until I was 14!”
Rip shook his head. “Yeah, thanks,” he muttered sarcastically. They passed the inspection, and continued on their way.
“Anyway, as I was saying,” R.J. returned to their conversation. “How many kids on the planet can honestly say that they have full security access to a prison?”
“I don't know?” Rip shrugged, pushing the cart toward the cell block.
“You have to admit, that shows some serious trust,” R.J. pointed out.
“Yeah okay,” Rip mumbled halfheartedly.
They reached the common room, and started passing out the mail. Then they walked around delivering to the prisoners confined to their cells. Lastly, they approached the prisoner in solitary confinement.
The guard from the last security station before the restricted area accompanied them as protocol dictated. R.J. stood next to the guard, and Rip realized that he was every bit as nervous as he had been last time. Rip walked the last five or six feet to the cell by himself.
Once again, the prisoner was paying no attention to Rip as he focused on the guard. Rip heard a strange sound, and turned around to see what was going on. Just then, he was shot with a stun gun.
R.J. grabbed the unconscious guard's key card, and swiped it through a sensor next to the prisoner's door. Randy Blackstone wasted no time grabbing Rip, who was utterly out cold.
“Let's hurry, before someone notices something's wrong!” He ordered.
R.J. nodded. “It's this way.” He quietly raced to the security station, then opened the door using the security card.
They kept an eye out for the any random guards on patrol as they took a hallway that pretty much led them straight back to the guard station in front of the corridor to Hero Headquarters. R.J. ran ahead so that the guard wouldn't see the prisoner following him.
“Hi!” He greeted the guard, careful to keep the stun gun out of sight.
“Something wrong?” The guard asked curiously.
“Look,” R.J. pointed towards the prisoner, who was still carrying Rip. The moment the guard was looking away, R.J. stunned him. “Now, we need Rip's hand print to open the door.”
Randy Blackstone nodded, and held Rip's hand to the scanner next to the door.
“There are three other doors along this corridor that seem to have no purpose except to delay those traveling the corridor,” R.J informed him. “Anyway, they all need Rip's hand print.”
“Don't worry, son, we're almost done,” Randy reassured him as the rushed through the corridor. “Once we're through here, we'll put your friend in his bed while I change, and then we'll be on our way.”
R.J. nodded. “With you not in prison, dad, you'll have the opportunity to prove that you didn't do anything; that they captured the wrong man.”
“Exactly, but first, I think it would be wise to leave the country,” Randy added, using Rip's hand to open the first of the three doors.
R.J. nodded, obviously sad that he wouldn't get to see his friend anymore. “There's the second door.”
Randy had to shift Rip's weight around for easier carrying, but then held his hand up to the scanner. Just before his hand touched it, the alarm suddenly blared. The door opened, much to R.J.'s relief.
“We have to hurry!” He stated needlessly.
They ran flat out to the third door. It was then that R.J. smacked himself on the head. Panic started zipping through his veins.
“I'm so stupid! Rip told me that if lockdown was initiated, it would take two people in charge to get in or out... Look, there's two scanners next to this door.”
Randy shook his head. “We have to try it.” He placed Rip's hand on the scanner. The scanner flashed green, but beeped in denial and didn't open.
“Damnit! We're trapped!” R.J. roared in frustration.
“Calm down Junior! We can't afford to panic now.”
R.J. nodded. They silently waited for someone to come after them, but long minutes passed with nothing but a blaring alarm.
“Out of curiosity,” Randy decided to pass the time constructively. “However did you manage to gain their trust?”
“It's not like I tried,” R.J. sighed.
Rip started waking up just then, his hearing returning first.
“I met Rip by chance, and I really liked him. I didn't plan to do any of this, but he took me home with him. I felt so happy to finally be part of a family,” R.J. admitted.
“Son... you know that I had to keep my distance. I'm a notorious bank robber, if anyone knew about you –”
“They'd put me in a foster home and seize all the money you've deposited for me to take care of myself, I know. I'm just saying that I liked having dinner with someone, and feeling like I belong... Anyway, Rip's my best friend. I never expected...”
Randy snorted a humorless laugh. “You didn't expect to be brought right to me. You didn't expect me to find out that you were consorting with Heroes.”
“Don't be mad at me dad! Like I said, I was just desperate for a friend; I didn't mean to betray you!” R.J. cried out emphatically.
“I'm not mad, Junior. You proved your loyalty today. I'm proud of you son.”
A voice suddenly blared through a speaker. “Put the boy down and surrender peacefully!”
“Henry Plantagenet, is that you?” Randy asked after pushing a button labeled talk.
“I'm warning you, Blackstone, I will use deadly force if I have to! Now, last chance, put the boy down and surrender!” Henry replied.
Randy shifted Rip again to make certain that any shots aimed at him would have to go through Rip first. “This is your son, isn't it Henry? He looks like a precious little version of you. Too bad I couldn't get my hands on him sooner. He would have made an interesting pawn in our little game of chess.”
Henry wisely chose not to reply, so there was silence.
“Chess?” R.J. questioned with a confused frown.
“There's no escape, Blackstone,” Henry stated firmly. “So you may as well give up now.”
Randy ignored him. “I think... I would have strapped a bomb to his chest and locked him in a dark room, and then given you a choice between rescuing him, and locating a bomb ready to take out the entire city.”
“What?” R.J. whispered in shock. “You told me you didn't do that. You said you were a thief but not a murderer.”
“I lied,” Randy confessed without any remorse. “Of course I didn't tell you the truth! I needed a loyal pawn in case an opportunity like this arrived.”
Rip twitched his fingers. He was just about fully recovered now, but pretended to be passed out so that he could take Randy by surprise at the right moment.
R.J. was so hurt and angry that he burst into tears. “You lied to me! I thought you loved me!”
“Of course I love you, son, but you are a sad disappointment. I sent you out on plenty of robberies. I gave them to you on a silver platter! They were fool proof, and yet you came back with the same excuse! I don't want to steal if I don't have to. You're whiny and pathetic!”
“If that's how you feel, then I don't want you as my dad anymore!” R.J. screamed, and then shot him with the taser.
Rip sensed this and launched himself out of Randy's arms. He scrambled to get clear as the criminal fell to the ground. Both boys looked at him in shock. Instead of passing out, he shook but somehow remained conscious.
Henry – who had been listening in on the conversation in the hopes of finding something to use to his advantage – burst through the door. He and a couple of Heroes pounced on Randy Blackstone before he could regain the ability to fight.
R.J. wasted no time in running through the now open door. He was sobbing, unable to understand how his father could be such a bad man. He wanted to run all the way to Rip's room and hide under the blanket, but Renee and a couple Hero kids caught him. They held onto him firmly, like he was a criminal under arrest.
Guards from the prison swarmed into the corridor to help, and Randy put up a fierce fight. Without warning, a gun shot echoed around the room, and everyone who couldn't see what was happening held their breath. A moment later, Henry emerged from the corridor.
“Blackstone's dead. We had no choice but to shoot him... He'd managed to grab a gun, and was pointing it at R... Rip,” he explained.
Rip followed his dad, looking so white he could have been mistaken for a vampire. His hands shook, and he clasped them together to hide this.
Renee desperately wanted to hug her son, but she still had to hold onto R.J. “What do we do with...”
Henry sighed. Rip shook off his shock, and stood between his father and R.J. He held out his arms in an attempt to shield his friend.
“Don't blame R.J.! I heard them talking... he's not to blame! He was just trying to help his father, whom he thought was innocent!”
“I know,” Henry admitted gravely. “Well, at least I know enough to know that R.J. is not a criminal. Even so, I need to confine him until this matter gets cleared up.”
“I understand,” R.J. replied, wiping the tears from his face.
Jenna squeezed Rip's hand. “It'll be alright.”
“I hope so,” Rip whispered, praying fervently.
“They'll go easy on him. Your dad is recommending leniency... The judge will listen,” Jenna assured him.
Rip nodded. They were sitting on a bench outside a courtroom waiting for the judge to decide if there needed to be a criminal trial or not. R.J. was pleading guilty, so if the Judge decided to be lenient, then there would be no need for a trial, and hopefully the sentence would be appropriate for a 12 year old who had made a mistake.
The waiting was driving Rip crazy, and he almost wished that he had volunteered for phone duty instead. Jenna squeezed his hand again, and he gave her a tiny smile.
“Thank you for being here for me,” he said.
“No problem. What are friends for?” She rhetorized.
Her comment made him smile for real, and he squeezed her hand in thanks.
Finally, the doors to the court room opened. Henry and Renee emerged with R.J. between them.
“Well?” Rip demanded, unable to wait even a second longer.
Renee smiled. “Well... we managed to convince the judge that R.J. made a mistake because he's been parentless for the last year, and was simply desperate to have his dad back. The judge was impressed that R.J. shot his own father with a taser once he realized that he really was a criminal.” She paused for dramatic effect.
“And?” Rip pressed, unable to decide if there was good news or bad news.
“And...” Henry took over. “The Judge gave us permanent custody of R.J.”
Rip couldn't contain his excitement. He squeezed R.J. in a bear hug while whooping joyously.
“There are conditions,” Renee clarified. “It's more like he is under house arrest in our care. He's on probation, and cannot commit any crimes, but other than that, he's ours.”
Rip let go of an embarrassed but happy R.J. to hug his mom and dad. “Thank you!”
“The best part of all,” R.J. added, “I get to continue training as a Hero!”
“Let's go home and celebrate!” Rip suggested, gesturing to include Jenna. Everyone agreed, and the headed to the exit.
Just as they walked out the door, they were bombarded by questions from reporters.
“Mr. Plantagenet! Is it true that Randy Blackstone almost escaped from Hero Prison?”
“Mr. Plantagenet; Is it true that he had a son?”
“Did the son actually help him escape?”
Henry held up his hands to respectfully ask for quiet. “If you would all just give us a few minutes to settle these kids in our SUV, I promise I will answer any questions that I can.”
Meanwhile, Jenna and R.J. were both mildly freaking out at the intensity of the reporters. They were literally crowded and surrounded on all sides. Jenna grabbed Rip's hand, and R.J. subtly tried to hide behind him.
A couple of security guards for the court rushed to help out. “Mr. Plantagenet asked for you to give him a few minutes! I suggest that you listen before you risk harassment charges!”
The reporters cleared a path, and Renee sighed in relief when Jack arrived just then with the black Hero van. She opened the sliding side door, and ushered the kids into the van.
“No matter what, just stay in the van. This won't take long,” she told them as she shut the door.
Standing side by side, Henry and his wife answered questions for the press, but Rip and his friends couldn't hear what they were saying.
“They're all going to hate me now,” R.J. mumbled morosely.
Rip shook his head. “No they won't. Even if they do, one day you'll be a great Hero, and then no one will be able to blame you for whatever they think happened.”
Jenna squeezed R.J.'s hand. “None of the Hero kids blame you, and we actually know what happened. If anybody else claims you did something wrong, then they simply do not know what they are talking about!”
Rip nodded in agreement. R.J. exhaled in relief, but didn't say anything.
When they got home – after dropping Jenna off at her house – they tried to forget everything that had happened and just enjoy dinner. However, the news preoccupied them.
“As a follow up to the attempted escape from Hero prison the other day, it is confirmed that the prisoner trying to escape is dead. He was killed before he even got close to escaping. Early unconfirmed reports that his son was responsible remain unconfirmed. Henry Plantagenet had this to say:
“'Randy Blackstone did try to escape. He was shot and killed in the attempt. Apparently he had talked someone into helping him, but when that person realized that Blackstone considered him a pawn, he tried to render Blackstone unconscious with a taser. When that failed, I myself had to shoot Blackstone before he harmed any innocent bystanders.'
“So there you have it. In a related note, Mr. Plantagenet and his family were seen coming out of the courthouse earlier today, and for those of you keeping an eye out, here's a picture of Richard Plantagenet and his girlfriend. Don't they look so cute together?”
Rip groaned. “Why do they care so much about me?”
“It's just the hazards of being the son of someone famous,” Henry explained. “You'll be more or less famous until they lose interest in you. The only way that will happen is if you keep a low profile. Don't do anything to attract attention.”
“Great,” Rip stated sarcastically. Then he chuckled. “But at least they don't seem to care about you, R.J.”
“True,” R.J. agreed.
“I guess I don't mind being the center of attention if it means that the media will ignore you,” Rip added.
“Thanks,” R.J. smiled, but it was obvious that he was still blaming himself for everything that had happened.
“You know what I think?” Henry asked. “I think that it would be a good idea to take you both out on patrol with me from now on. As observers... and helpers on the rare occasion when I need backup.”
Rip stared at his dad incredulously, and then glanced at R.J. It took a moment for the frown to fade, but suddenly R.J. was grinning.
Henry smiled in return. “What do you think? Does that sound like a good idea?”
“Yes!” Both boys agreed excitedly.
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