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Wednesday, May 9, 2012

The Hero's Son

But dad!”
I'm sorry son, but you're still too young to go out fighting bad guys!”
You only think I'm too young! I'm 12 years old!”
Richie...”
He slapped his father's hand off his shoulder. “It's Rip!”
No. You're mother and I named you Richard, not Rip.”
Rip rolled his eyes, and sighed heavily. “You see? You don't let me do anything I want!”
It was his father's turn to sigh. “Despite what you think, being a Hero is not all fun and games. It's a serious job, and it's dangerous! You could easily get hurt or even die. You're not old enough for that!”
How can you say that?!” Rip demanded incredulously. “You were fighting crime at my age! You were already famous at my age!”
Yes, and I almost died every other day!”
Except you didn't, or neither one of us would be standing here!”
An alarm started blaring in the background, and a computerized voice announced, “Crime in progress.”
You're not old enough, and that's my final word on the subject. I've got to go, but we'll talk about this more later!”
What's there to talk about?” Rip muttered as his father rushed off to find out the details of the crime. He grabbed his hoverboard, and trudged off to find someplace quiet.
Despite the fairly benign name of hoverboard, the device was more like a flying surfboard. It contained a field of gravity in it that kept its riding on it no matter how rough the conditions, plus it was almost intuitive. A skilled boarder knew how to make the board do exactly as he or she wanted, controlling it with subtle movements; such as leaning backwards to make the board ascend.
When the hoverboard and its rider were in harmony, it was like they were flying! Rip tossed his board down in front of him – now that he was outside – and hopped on. He had no particular direction in mind, and just let the hoverboard go.
I am not too young! I'm every bit as good as he is when it comes to fighting! I can use all the same technology he uses! He taught me everything he knows, for Pete's sake! How can he possibly think I'm not ready yet?”
A group of teens sat in a park studying. Rip hovered over them slowly, about 15 feet in the air. He wasn't paying them any attention, but their conversation caught his ear.
Ever since Henry Plantagenet proved that concerned citizens made for better law enforcement, we've had two types of police. Regular police are more like detectives who research and solve crimes that have already happened – such as a murder when the body isn't discovered until after it's dead. Heroes are private citizens who respond to crimes in progress. Such as a bank robbery.”
That's not entirely true!” A second teen interrupted the first. “Regular police still handle active crimes, they just don't have the funding or the technology to deal with aggressive criminals.”
Plus, police officers have to follow a strict set of rules so that they cannot be held accountable or sued if anything goes wrong,” A third teen pointed out.
The first resumed his explanation of heroes. Rip assumed that he was helping his younger sister learn her homework or something.
Anyway, Heroes are funded by donations from the public. They are people who feel passionately about stopping crime. They usually train their whole lives to fight criminals, and as such, have a bit more flexibility. They can use tactics and methods that the regular police aren't allowed to.”
Like what?” His younger sister asked.
For example, if a police officer accidentally destroyed a civilian's car in the pursuit of a criminal, the government would be sued for damages, and the public would band together in outrage that an officer of the law could be so reckless, but if a Hero happened to damage a civilian's car, the public would simply shrug. The Heroes have plenty of funding, and they always and promptly pay for damages. They tend to do an excellent job, and such damages are actually rare.”
If the government allows and prefers Heroes to fight crime, then why don't they simply get rid of the regular police?” Little sister asked.
Rip had long since stopped circling around them, and now sat on his board to listen to them. He'd never heard this topic discussed from an average citizen's point of view before; much less a teenager's.
There's simply too much crime in most cities, and not enough Heroes to handle everything. Even in our city, we have only one.”
Henry Plantagenet!” The girl sighed dreamily. “He's the best Hero of all! He's the reason this whole system started.”
Rip laughed. “He's not the only hero in this city. There's actually an entire team under his command.”
Is that true?” The girl asked her brother.
One of his friends nodded. “Actually, it is. The rest of them try to remain anonymous because they don't want their Hero status to disrupt their family lives.”
How do you know?” She asked him.
He shrugged. “I guess I don't, I've just read it somewhere.”
She looked up at Rip. “How do you know?”
Rip shrugged. “My dad's a Hero.”
She jumped up in excitement. “Then is it true?! Do the Heroes train their kids to be Heroes? Is there anyway that regular kids can train to be Heroes?”
Rip sighed. “Well, I guess it's true that they train us, but they don't seem to want to let us do anything with our training. Non Heroes can enroll in training, but you have to be 16, I think.”
She groaned in disappointment, but then shouted in glee. “That means I have a chance! I can enroll in training once I turn 16!”
Her brother laughed. “Like you could be a Hero! Heroes are tough! They don't whine every time they don't get their way!”
I don't whine,” she pouted.
Rip smiled at her. “If you're serious about being a Hero someday, then I suggest that you learn some form of martial arts. When they say “fighting crime,” they mean it literally!”
Thanks! I'm Jenna. What's your name?” She smiled at him
I'm Rip,” he replied with a grin. His cellphone rang, and he pulled it out of his pocket to glance at the new text message. “Sorry. I've gotta go!”
Is there a crime in progress?” Jenna asked eagerly.
No...” Rip replied sheepishly. “Just dinner time.”
See you later,” Jenna said goodbye with a flirty wave.
Hey, Hero boy! Don't think you can mess with my sister just because your dad works with Henry Plantagenet!” Her brother warned.
Rip simply nodded with a laugh, returned Jenna's wave, and then left.

*******

Two days later, Rip defeated the last bad guy, and then sheathed his weapons. “Yeah!”
A voice over the microphone cut his victory short.
Richard Indigo Plantagenet! How could you be so reckless! If your father had seen you, you'd be grounded for a week!”
But mom,” Rip whined. “I won!”
Yes, you won in a simulation against bots that are programed not to seriously hurt you. Had you been fighting for real, you would have probably died!”
I would not! God! You're just like dad! You both think I can't do anything right!”
Richard, honey...”
I told you! My name's Rip!
Your father and I are just worried about you. You seem to think you are invincible.”
Rip strode out of the simulation room, to his mother's side, and quickly brought up an old video clip on the large computer screen. It was recorded by someone's cellphone, and showed his father at age 12. He took down a dangerous criminal almost 3 times his size.
You see,” Rip pointed out. “I'm not being reckless, I'm just practicing some of the moves that dad did when he was my age.”
Honey,” his mom placed a hand on his shoulder. “Your father was crazy back then. His parents had just been murdered, and he didn't care if he died. All he wanted was to bring their murderer to justice. He fought anyone and everyone he could in order to hone his fighting skills for the day when he had to face –”
The entire Thompson Drug Cartel, I know. The point is that dad did it! He went out there and stopped criminals. He kept doing what he had to until the cartel was brought to justice. You two are so afraid that I might get a bruise or break my finger that you won't even let me try. Hell! You won't even let me help! I could go with dad when he responds to a crime and simply help out as he tells me to, but he won't even consider it,” Rip argued passionately.
His mom ignored his inappropriate language with a sigh. “Would you really listen to him? If he told you to let a criminal escape rather than chase him by yourself, would you be able to stop yourself from running after him?”
Rip wanted to shout that he would do exactly as he was told, but he couldn't agree to let a bad guy go if there was a chance he could stop him. Finally, he decided on a compromise. “I don't know. That's the sort of thing that a person doesn't find out until it happens.”
His mom planned to continue the conversation longer, but someone inadvertently interrupted them. “Man! I thought my wife would never get home from work! Staying at home with a 4 year old girl is at least three times harder than stopping a psycho bent on mass destruction!”
Hi Jack,” she greeted the man as he entered the room. “How is little Gracie?”
Cute as a button!” Jack replied with a grin. “Anything happen?”
Nah, Henry's just on patrol. It's been quiet today.”
That's good to hear. I think I'll just work out for a bit in the simulation room until my shift starts. Hey Richie.”
Rip!” He insisted, bristling with barely suppressed anger.
Jack raised an eyebrow and glanced at Rip's mother. She shrugged. “Okay then... That's actually a good code name for when on missions.”
If I ever get to go on missions...” Rip muttered, walking away.
Before you go, R.... Rip,” his mom forced herself to say after a moment's hesitation. “Will you do phone duty for a while so I can start on dinner?”
Yeah, sure...” Rip agreed reluctantly.
There weren't many calls – though the computerized crime detector reported an attempted robbery at a liquor store, and his father called in to say that he was close enough to respond – so Rip grew bored. An hour later (had his mom forgotten about dinner, or was she simply eating it without him?), a call came in that shook Rip to his core.
Heroes of Marion City? Is this an emergency?” Rip asked, following the standard script.
Yes,” a woman whispered. “I'm looking out my window, and I can see into the apartment across the street. A man is strangling my neighbor!”
Are you in any danger?”
No, but I think he's killing her!” She wailed as quietly as possible.
Okay ma'am. If you are not in any danger, can you please speak up and give me the address where the crime –”
I don't know her address, but mine is,” the woman quickly recited her address, and then gasped. “She's not moving!”
Rip knew that this call was being monitored by the computerized crime detector, and by his father if he was in the patrol car. However, his job was to locate the nearest Hero on duty to help out. He scrolled through a computer screen as the CCD announced the crime with an alarm.
Jack came on the line – in a way that Rip could hear him but the woman couldn't. “I'm in my patrol car now, and I can be there in... 2 or 3 minutes.”
I'm just finishing up with the robbery, I can be there in about 5 minutes,” Henry added.
Got it,” Rip responded. “Ma'am, we have a couple of Heroes on their way. They'll be there in a couple of minutes. In the meantime, can you describe the perpetrator?”
He's... white and he has brown hair, but I can't really see anything more. I think he's wearing a blue tee shirt. I know that my neighbor is in her 20s. She's a dancer at a gentleman's club. He's... leaving, I think. I can't see him anymore, but she's laying there, and she's not moving.”
Ma'am, I'm going to forward a digital copy of our conversation to the police. I think that this might be their jurisdiction,” Rip informed her, knowing full well that once a criminal had left the scene of a crime – unless a Hero had witnessed him commit the crime and was giving chase – it was technically up to the police to catch the bad guy and solve the case.
A hero just arrived!” The woman announced. “I'm leaning out my window and pointing to my neighbor. I just hope he gets there in time! I hope it's not too late!”
I'm at the crime scene,” Jack reported giving the exact address. “I'm going to carefully enter the apartment.”
I'm almost there,” Henry added. “I'll keep an eye out for any suspicious men matching the description leaving the building.”
We have a unit on the way,” a new voice announced. “They should be there shortly to canvass the area and hopefully find a clue about our criminal. We're also sending a paramedic.”
Rip thanked the police dispatcher who had linked into their conversation after receiving it from Rip.
Wait! I think I see him!” The woman announced. “There's a man with brown hair and a blue tee shirt walking out the front door of the building.”
I see him,” Henry stated.
The victim's dead,” Jack informed them. “I'm attempting CPR since it's only been a few minutes.”
Paramedics should be there in about a minute,” the dispatcher assured him.
The suspect ran the moment he saw my uniform,” Henry updated them. “I'm giving chase.”
Rip took a moment to talk to the caller. “Ma'am, we're handling things. Thank you for reporting the crime, but I think it's time to hang up now. Officers will be there shortly to take your statement, but please do not leave your apartment until they arrive.”
I understand,” she agreed. “Thank you for helping out so quickly.” The line went dead as she hung up.
I've got a pulse!” Jack announced.
Paramedics have arrived. They should be in the apartment momentarily.”
I've caught the suspect, but I noticed at least two other brown haired men wearing blue tee shirts around this building, so I can't be sure this is our perpetrator, and he isn't talking.”
Rip was so proud of his dad at the moment that he almost started crying.
Officers have arrived at the scene. They can take custody of the suspect,” the dispatcher stated.
Rip's mom startled him a moment later. She'd been alerted to the situation by the CCD, and now wore a headset to listen in. “Good work Henry! Just a reminder that once you hand over the suspect, your shift is over. Get your butt home!”
He chuckled. “Yes Renee.”
The paramedics have taken our victim away. I think she's going to make it!” Jack announced.
Rip silently pumped his fists in triumph. His mom had a hand on his shoulder again. She smiled at him knowingly.
See, even if you're not in the middle of the action, you can still help and make a difference.”
Rip rolled his eyes, but didn't argue.

*******

A week later, Rip had finished all of his homework for the day, his training, and his hour on phone duty. He loitered in the main room until he saw his dad head towards the door.
Hey dad! Can I ride with you? I promise I won't do anything but sit in the car!”
Richie...” his dad replied with a mostly suppressed groan.
Please?!”
Henry sighed. “Alright, but don't think this means that you get to help out if something happens.”
I know,” Rip grumbled, but rushed to gear up.
The entire shift passed with not much to do but drive around. Just 10 minutes before it was time to return home, they discovered a mugging with 3 men trying to rob a 4th man.
Do not try to help me!” Henry ordered. “You can watch, but stay out of the way.”
Yes dad,” Rip grumbled.
Henry immediately jumped into the fray, and Rip got out of their car to watch him fight. Of course, Henry tried to reason with them first, but let's just say that the muggers weren't well endowed when it came to reason. They boasted that they could take on any Hero that tried to stop them. Their victim cowered in the background, almost forgotten now.
Psst!” Rip whispered, tossing a pebble at the man who watched his muggers in terror. The third pebble caught his attention, and he looked at Rip in confusion. Rip gestured for the man to run away.
As if he suddenly remembered that he had legs, he scrambled away from his distracted attackers, and then ran off.
Henry had two of the muggers almost subdued, but the third tried to run away. Rip was going to let him go – he didn't want to disobey his father after all – but the man literally ran straight at him. He wasn't looking at Rip, instead looking over his shoulder at Henry, and Rip couldn't just do nothing.
He braced himself, and then struck the criminal down as he passed by. It was over quickly, the mugger unprepared for a punch in the face nor a kick to sweep his feet out from under him. Rip finished apprehending him by binding him with a strong – nearly unbreakable – zip tie. It was like disposable handcuffs, but didn't need a key, and therefore couldn't be picked. On the other hand, they could be cut if the detainee had a sharp knife.
Richie,” his father growled angrily. “I told you not to help!”
I didn't!” Rip protested. “Well, at least I wasn't going to. If he had run in any other direction, I would have done nothing, but he ran right at me. Was I really supposed to just step out of the way and wish him good luck in his escape?”
Not in such a smart-assed way, but yes! You weren't supposed to do anything!”
Why not?!” Rip demanded.
You could have gotten hurt, and you're not old enough to fight criminals!”
Dad! I'm not hurt, and look! Despite my age, I managed to take him down without even breaking a sweat! I didn't even need to use any of this high-tech gear that I'm trained in!”
This is why I didn't want to bring you on patrol! You don't know how to follow orders! How can I trust you to be a part of the team on a mission when I can't even trust you to follow one simple instruction?”
When we do team training, I always follow orders!” Rip pointed out loudly.
Maybe, but that's not real life!”
My point exactly!” Rip was utterly angry now. How was he ever going to be able to prove himself if his dad kept telling him he couldn't help because he had no actual experience. “Whatever dad! I'm outta here!”
He grabbed his hoverboard out of the car, tossed it into the air at his feet, and then hopped on. He made it take him a good 50 feet in the air, and then zoomed off in no particular direction.
His dad was tempted to yell after him, but decided that would make him look incompetent. Plus, he had bad guys to hand over.

*******

Finding an empty field, Rip disengaged the gravity then jumped off his hoverboard from 5 feet off the ground. He promptly kicked several rocks as far as he could. “GOD! He's never going to give me a chance!”
Problem?”
Rip shouted in surprise, and jumped to a defensive crouch until he could find the source of the voice. A boy about the same age as him sat up. He'd been napping in the tall grass, and had completely blended in.
Sounds like you're having an argument with your dad,” the boy remarked.
How'd you guess?” Rip asked.
Because I am too,” he replied with a wry grin. “I'm R.J.”
I'm Rip.”
Rip? What kind of name is that?”
Don't you think it's cool?”
Yeah, kinda, but I can't imagine what kind of mother names her son Rip.”
Uh.. Actor Rip Torn. Rip Van Winkle...”
The boy raised an questioning eyebrow.
Alright fine! It's short for Richard Indigo Plantagenet,” Rip muttered his last name quickly and prayed that R.J. hadn't heard him.
Plantagenet? As in Henry Plantagenet?”
Rip bobbed his head as he looked away. “Yeah... he's my dad.”
Cool!” R.J. exclaimed, genuinely impressed.
Yeah, I guess.”
Come on! Your dad's a Hero! Not just any Hero, the most famous one of all!”
Rip smiled. “Yeah, that is pretty cool, except he thinks that I'm useless. He doesn't think he can trust me!”
I have the opposite problem with my dad,” R.J. admitted, clearly unhappy. “He expects me to do everything! It doesn't matter if it's dangerous, I have to do it.”
Like what?” Rip wondered.
R.J. shrugged. “Everything.”
At least your dad trusts you,” Rip murmured petulantly.
R.J. rolled his eyes, and then noticed Rip's hoverboard. “You have a hoverboard too! Let's race!”
Rip wasted no time agreeing, and the two of them spent at least an hour zipping around the city. The sun started to set, and they felt so free! Until Rip's cellphone rang.
Hey... Rip,” his mother greeted, obviously trying hard to call him by his new preferred name. “Do you plan on coming home at all tonight?” She asked with a tone that made it clear she was being sarcastic.
Nah, I thought I'd stay at my new friend's place,” Rip joked.
That's not funny,” his mom replied dryly. “It's time to come home.”
Yeah okay mom.” Rip hung up his cell, and sighed. “I gotta go home now.”
Lucky you! My dad's not even home right now, so there's no one to care if I come home or not.”
What about your mom?” Rip asked curiously, a bit horrified at the thought of no one being home at night.
Who knows?” R.J. shrugged. “My dad won't tell me much about her; just that she took off when I was about 2.”
That's horrible!” Rip knew he had to go, but he didn't want to leave his new friend all alone.
Suddenly, a shout caught their attention. “No!”
A man raced down the street they were hovering a good 50 feet above. He kept looking over his shoulder and nearly tripping as he tried to escape.
A gunshot echoed around the area.
Think about what you're doing!” The man yelled.
Two more men appeared, chasing the first. “Stop running and let us shoot you like the coward you are!”
Rip didn't even think about the consequences. As far as he was concerned, someone was in trouble and needed his help. He zoomed towards the bad guys, and activated his personal force shield as he got closer to them.
I'm warning you now, I'm with the Heroes and I'm going to stop you! If you surrender without a fight, you won't get in nearly as much trouble.”
They laughed. “Get a load of this kid! He thinks he can take on two armed men!”
One tried to shoot at him, but he leaned to the side and it ricocheted off his shield.
Shooting at a Hero while he tries to arrest you automatically authorizes the use of physical violence,” Rip announced, citing the codes that they were supposed to follow so that the bad guys couldn't claim that they were mistreated later on. A recording device activated the moment his shield did, so he had proof that he was conducting himself as a Hero should.
Using his hoverboard as he dodged their bullets and waited for an opening made him nearly impossible to hit, even if he wasn't wearing a shield. Both of the bad guys focused on him so intently that their victim managed to hide, and R.J. got the drop on them. Rip disengaged the gravity on his board so that he could jump off it and land on them.
They struggled, but finally Rip managed to secure them with zip ties.
Now what? R.J. asked.
Rip sighed, reluctant now that it was over. He pulled out his cellphone, and dialed a number.
Police dispatch, is this an emergency?”
No. My name is Richard Plantagenet, and I've just apprehended two men who were shooting at a third. The intended victim seems to have disappeared, but as far as I can tell, no one was wounded.” He ended by giving general directions to his location.
The dispatcher was a male, and obvious felt that there was an unfriendly rivalry between the police and the Heroes. “You mean to tell me that a Hero such as yourself can't just haul them in? I thought you had a separate prison to bring your criminals to.”
Rip huffed almost snottily. “You know as well as I do that Hero prison is for the really bad guys. Small fry like this belong in regular prison!”
The bad guys took this as their cue to whine. “You ain't got nothin' on us! Let us go before we have to get serious!”
The dispatcher decided that it was in his best interest to do his job, no matter how much he disliked it. “Fine, I'm sending a unit over to pick them up. They'll be there in about 5 minutes.”
Thank you,” Rip responded civilly.
A minute passed in awkward silence. Suddenly, R.J. grinned.
Are your days always this exciting?”
No,” Rip grumbled. He wanted to change the subject, but couldn't think of anything else to say.
O...kay... Well, if you don't normally fight bad guys, then why do you have handcuffs, or whatever those are?”
Rip shrugged. “Actually, tonight I rode with my dad while he was on patrol. It's standard that anyone who's on patrol carry the basic gear. We started arguing and I ran off, which is why I happened to have them on me.”
As he was explaining this, the two bad guys were still threatening to hurt Rip and R.J. if they didn't let them go. It was a hard threat to carry out with their hands secured behind their backs, but they actually could continue to fight if they wanted, and their nattering was starting to get on Rip's nerves. He opened a pocket on the outer thigh of his pants, and pulled out a gun. He pointed it at them like he fully meant to shoot them. It was only a taser, but they didn't know that.
I don't technically have to say this, BUT you have the right to be silent. If you do not exercise your right and continue to mouth off, I have the right to shoot you. The police will be here any minute, and I'm sure you can hear their sirens getting louder. So do us all a favor and shut up!”
Mouthy little brat!” One roared; half enraged, half impressed at the nerve of this kid.
Rip shook his head. “I warned you.” He shot the one who wouldn't be quiet, and watched as the electrical currents raced through his body; rendering him unconscious. The other one whimpered and kept his mouth shut.
Finally the police arrived. Rip showed them his id and his Hero card. He was technically registered as a Hero since he had to be in order to answer the phones or give first aid assistance if necessary. Next, he gave a brief statement, and then uploaded the digital recording of the incident to their laptop.
They took charge of the criminals, read them their rights, and put them in the back of their vehicle. Only after the bad guys were no longer a threat did the intended victim come out to give his statement.
Rip waved goodbye to the officers now that he was no longer needed, and then gestured for R.J. to follow him. Both boys hopped on their hoverboards and flew off.
So...” Rip began hesitantly. “If no one's at your house anyway, you want to come over?”
Why?” R.J. asked suspiciously.
Because, maybe if you're with me, my parents won't yell at me,” Rip admitted sheepishly.
R.J. laughed. “Yeah okay. It'll be nice to have someone to talk to.
Great!” Rip cheered, and led his new friend to his home; aka Hero Headquarters.

Go To Part II 

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