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Wednesday, January 9, 2013

The Hero's Son - Part VII

Due to writing a missing chapter, this IS the next chapter, despite the fact that there's no chapter 6 on record. :-)

Part VII

Okay everyone, listen up!” Rip shouted a demand for silence. “My mom is busy with an emergency so I'm in charge of sparring today.”
A 16-year-old boy muttered to Jenna in the background. He was a new recruit – having been recommended by his martial arts teacher as good candidate for future Hero, and didn't know anyone yet. “On TV, Rip is always so nice, but in real life, he's kind of a jerk.”
Jenna laughed softly before whispering in his ear: “What makes you say that?”
Well, like right now, he's tripping with power.”
Jenna shook her head. “It's your first day, so you have no idea how rowdy sparring can get. The person in charge has to be in charge, even if it makes them sound like a jerk.”
New guy scoffed. “Whatever. I bet I could take him.”
You think so?” Jenna asked with a smirk.
Definitely!”
Meanwhile, Rip had been giving instructions and pairing people off into matches he hoped would be beneficial to both partners without devolving into all out war. He eventually got to Jenna and the new guy.
You wanna partner with the greenie?” He asked Jenna.
Sure,” Jenna accepted with her customary smile.
Rip returned her smile and then leaned in a bit intimately so that he could whisper in her ear. “Is everything ready for tonight?”
Jenna nodded significantly, a mysterious smile stretching her lips. Her eyes sparkled as she chuckled softly.
Great! I can't wait!” Rip murmured in her ear, trying not to be overheard by anyone.
The new guy frowned grumpily. “Oh yeah, I recognize you now. You're Rip's girlfriend.” He'd thought for a second that he had a chance to flirt with her and maybe ask her out.
Jenna laughed so hard that he almost didn't recognize the gesture when she invited him to attack her. He didn't know her level of skill, so he was cautious in his opening move. She dodged him easily and they stayed fairly close as they traded punches and blocks.
I still think I'm better than he is,” new guy muttered, referring now to his suitability as Jenna's boyfriend.
Jenna was still Rip's best friend, and she considered this guy's attitude rude bordering on aggravating. She growled at him softly. “You think so? I'm willing to bet you're wrong.”
He scoffed, confident in his skills. If he wasn't very good, he wouldn't have been recommended to be a Hero after all.
Fine,” Jenna purred with an innocent grin. She then proceeded to thoroughly kick his butt.
Rip had been distracted by his own fighting partner, but he eventually noticed that Jenna was trying to kill the new guy and rushed to intervene. He had to wait for an opening, but then he got between them and held Jenna in his steely arms.
That's enough!” Rip yelled at her.
I'm not done beating him to a pulp!” Jenna insisted vehemently, trying to break free and attack her sparring partner again.
I don't know what you did, kid, to make her mad, but once Jenna's upset, you'd better watch out!” Rip warned, still holding Jenna so that she couldn't break free. This meant that they were pressed together rather intimately. Neither noticed or cared about this fact, but R.J. felt a moment of insane jealousy. He rushed to help out.
I'll spar with Jenna today,” R.J. offered. The partner he'd been paired with automatically invited a match with the partner Rip had been sparring with before he'd had to intervene.
Jenna sighed and let all her anger go. She turned to R.J. “Whatever. But I expect you to come at me like you really plan to kill me.”
R.J. grinned almost evilly. “I can do that!”
Don't make me separate you two either!” Rip warned before gesturing an invitation for the new guy to attack him.
A couple of minutes passed in relative peace and Rip grinned in genuine respect for the new guys skills. “Not bad! So... what's your name anyway?”
Joe.”
Glad to have you on board!” Rip stated as he gave a martial artist's bow of respect. He held out his hand to shake Joe's as if congratulating him.
Joe took Rip's hand reluctantly. A big part of him wanted to grumble and then throw Rip over his shoulder, but he'd realized during their match that Rip really was better than him. It stung his pride.
Glad to be on board,” Joe admitted. “I think a part of me has always wanted to be a Hero, but I was never really sure until Sensei suggested it.”
Rip chuckled. “Do yourself a favor and don't mention that to Jenna. She's been determined to be a Hero since she was born, and anyone who seems only half-assed angers her... Unless that was how you upset her to begin with.”
Joe shook his head and promised to keep the information to himself.
Renee strode into the room. “I'm ready to start simulations now. Rip and R.J., go gear up for your patrol. Jenna, Josh's partner called in sick today, so you'll be riding with him. He's probably already waiting for you, so go gear up as well.”
Jenna nodded enthusiastically. “Yes Ma'am!”
Now that Jenna and Rip were both 18, they routinely went out on patrol. However, since they were still relatively young, Henry and Renee insisted that they never go on patrol by themselves. This was actually standard policy, and only the higher ranking veterans could patrol on their own.
As a result, R.J. was usually partnered with either Rip or Jenna for patrols. The three of them were a pretty good team, but if any of them wanted any time off, they needed to alternate. Therefore, one of them always had the day off while the other two went on patrol.
Jenna had counted on having the day off since R.J. and Rip were scheduled to go on patrol today, but she was one of those that would never take time off if she didn't have to, so partnering with Josh was a great idea in her opinion. She ran off to gear up.
Rip let his mom kiss him quickly on the cheek before he pointed at Joe. “Take good care of him.”
Don't I always?” Renee answered with a laugh, and then pushed him slightly so that he didn't feel like he needed to stick around and supervise the new guy's first day in the simulation room.
Rip left the room and Renee put a hand on Joe's shoulder. “How's your first day going so far?”
I thought I was going to be so much better than everyone else,” Joe admitted, surprising himself with his honesty. “But it turns out that I'm not.”
Renee laughed. “We spar for at least an hour every day! It makes a difference...”
Joe nodded quietly, watching Renee type in a bunch of instruction into a computer.
Listen up!” Renee demanded of everyone who was left. This was mostly the Hero kids now, who didn't have patrols to go on, but did have to participate in training. There were a couple of full fledged Heroes though, ones that loved simulation training.
I've decided that today's simulation is going to be cooperative. Heroes against bots. Everyone is required to look out for each other as they defeat the bot – and I programmed them not to go easy on you!”
Joe frowned in confusion. When it had been explained to him and his parents that he was going to spar and then participate in simulated training with the other Heroes in training, he had no idea that simulation meant hands on combat in a room that was capable of changing based on it's programming against actual robots that could potentially hurt him. A slow grin spread across his face.
Cool...”

*****

Today's been slow,” Rip stated as he and R.J. ate. They were currently on break at their favorite cafe. Their break was actually rather loosely defined.
Unlike cops – who had to account for every minute of their shift – Heroes patrolled because they felt like it was their duty, not because it actually was. In a bigger city like Marion that had quite a few Heroes to go on patrol, it was understood that a shift was 8 hours long, and that they had to keep an eye out for trouble. Other than that, they had no real structure to their patrol. Henry felt this was important to keep the Heroes from getting bored by the monotony.
In smaller cities and towns – that often only had one or two Heroes – they often kept close to their home base so that they were on hand to respond if a call came in. It was actually pretty rare for a city to have a group of Heroes as well organized as Marion City did. They were extra insurance in addition to the regular police force, and they prided themselves on their professionalism.
Even so, they couldn't help it if criminals had taken heed and stopped committing so many crimes. It was getting to the point that Marion City's Hero Squad was thinking about downsizing. Thankfully, it hadn't come to that yet.
Jack's voice entered their ears. “You boys on break?”
I didn't know you were on patrol today,” Rip responded after activating his communicator.
I switched with someone else so that I could be home in time for dinner tonight. My wife has been begging me to retire lately,” Jack informed them.
Heroes don't retire!” Rip scoffed, amused by the prospect. In truth, the entire organization had been started by his father about 25 years ago, so no one knew whether or not Heroes would retire, and if so, what happened then.
Jack laughed. “That's what I told her!”
You must be bored,” R.J. observed, switching on his communicator. Jack always got chatty when he was bored on patrol.
Yep, it's been a wonderfully slow day,” Jack confirmed.
Both Rip and R.J. laughed.
If you like the slow days, maybe you should retire!” R.J. suggested.
Actually,” Jack stated slowly, clearly distracted by his thoughts. “I was thinking about moving.
What?!” Rip demanded in shock. “Move?!”
Yeah,” Jack confirmed. “I saw an ad in the paper. There's a small town that wants their own Hero – fully trained and experienced Hero. I'd be the only one, so I'd probably be pretty busy, but since it's a small town, I'd also probably have plenty of time to spend with my wife.”
Gracie's going to kill you!” Rip pointed out.
Jack laughed heartily at that. “You're probably right about that, but – if you think about it – she'll be my only partner. What other 9 year old can honestly say they have the only Hero in town as their dad?”
R.J. nodded even though Jack couldn't see him. “I bet Gracie wouldn't mind so much if you told her that she'd be helping you take calls and go on patrol. She's even an expert at hoverboarding. Maybe she could have a short patrol of her own... at a time when there's not likely to be anything going on, of course.”
Good idea!” Jack agreed.
That's really is a good idea,” Rip murmured, lost in thought himself now.
What is?” R.J. asked curiously. He could see by Rip's expression that he wasn't talking about Gracie going on patrol.
Moving,” Rip stated, and then decided to explain himself. “If the two of us found a city – or maybe even a small town – that desperately needed a couple of fully trained Heroes... Think about it! Marion City is the epicenter! Most of the Heroes are here or have trained here at some point. Our city is mostly peaceful now... But there are plenty of big cities that have more crime than their squad can handle!”
R.J. felt his eyes bulge in shock.
Jack immediately muttered, “If your father hears about this, do me a favor and leave my name out of it! I did not give you the idea. In fact, we never even talked about the possibility!”
Rip!” R.J. added, his shock fading just a hair. “You're the heir of our squad! Everyone knows that you are going to take over for your father someday! You can't just move away!”
No think about it,” Rip insisted. “We could get some real experience in another city for a while, and then – when it's time – we can move back. It'll be like going to college.”
No seriously!” Jack interrupted them. “Promise me that you won't mention me when you talk about this with your father!”
The little sound that indicated that someone else on the network had pushed talk on their communicator alerted them to the fact that someone else was joining the conversation.
Too late, I've already heard everything,” Henry stated, sounding stern and forbidding. “We'll talk about this later, boys.”
Yes dad,” Rip muttered unhappily, knowing that his dad would never let him go.
Another two sounds of khhhk announced Henry's exit from the conversation and someone else's entrance.
It was a good idea Rip, but I for one am glad that you aren't going anywhere,” Jenna informed him.
Khhhk. “I'm not! I was actually hoping to be rid of him!” Josh exclaimed.
Sorry,” Jack muttered quickly in apology. “I didn't think I'd get you in trouble.”
Don't worry about it,” Rip assured him with a resigned sigh. He turned off the talk button on his communicator. R.J. turned his off too, sensing that he needed to change the subject and try to cheer Rip up. Or make him angry enough to forget what he was depressed about.
So... What were you and Jenna flirting about this morning?” R.J. asked, letting his jealousy shine through. He knew that the two were just friends, but they always seemed so comfortable together that R.J. half felt that it was just a matter of time before Rip got over him and went back to Jenna.
What?” Rip squeaked guiltily. “Flirt?!” He blushed. “We weren't flirting!”
R.J. stared at him silently for a moment before replying. “Well... I hadn't really thought you were... until now.”
No no no! Jenna and I... We were, uh... We were...” Rip was trying hard to think of something to say. Something believable. Something that would explain the misunderstanding. Nothing came to mind but the truth, and he couldn't confess that to R.J.
R.J. stood up angrily. “I'll be in the car when you figure out what story you want to tell me!”
Rip groaned in frustration and buried his face in his arms as they rested on the table. The waitress came by to clear away the empty dishes. She rolled her eyes at him while he wasn't looking.
Problem?” She asked.
I think I was just accused of cheating,” Rip murmured honestly, not bothering to look at the waitress.
She knew who he was and that he often came to eat here with his Hero partner, but she didn't know him beyond that. So – like everyone else – she thought he was with Jenna. She patted him on the back sympathetically.
She must have told you off over your communicator, huh?” The waitress remarked. “Well, don't look now, but I think she's planning to yell at you in person.”
What?” Rip asked in confusion, looking up at the waitress. She pointed out the window where a second Hero car had pulled up next to theirs and Jenna was gesturing for Josh to wait for her a minute.
Jenna strode purposefully into the cafe, glancing over her shoulder out the window at R.J. sitting in Rip's car. She stopped next to Rip's table.
I'm glad you're still here. I was hoping to catch you before your break was over.” She tugged on his shirt and motioned for Rip to follow her. They both looked around until they spotted the best place to have a private conversation without prying eyes from outside the cafe.
Jenna felt like she needed to whisper just in case. “I got what you asked for.” She pulled out a small package and handed it to Rip, looking around to make sure no one saw them. Rip also looked around before stashing the package in one of his many uniform pockets.
The bell above the door to the cafe jingled to announce that someone had just entered. They both resisted the urge to glance around as if they were guilty.
I can't wait until tonight!” Jenna exclaimed a bit louder than she had intended to. “It's going to be so good!”
Rip chuckled like a naughty imp. “I can't wait either.”
I should go before Josh starts to wonder what is taking me so long,” Jenna stated, reluctant to part ways so soon. She gave him an impulsive kiss on the cheek.
The waitress laughed as she passed them by. “It looks like you made up with your girlfriend.”
Rip laughed in return, not bothering to correct her. “Right...”
Jenna smirked at the waitress, enjoying the fact that the public still assumed that they two of them were a couple after all these years. It was funny when she thought about it. Their entire relationship had been made up by overzealous reporters looking for the next big scoop.
She turned to leave and then gasped. Rip looked up, his smile dying at the sight of R.J. glaring at them from just inside the door to the small cafe. Jenna forced a new smile onto her face and squared her shoulders. She exited the cafe as if nothing was wrong.
Hi,” she greeted R.J. “Sorry to run off so quickly, but I've got to get back to my shift.” She slipped past him and then forced herself not to run to the car waiting for her.
Rip followed her at a much slower pace, grimacing that he had no explanation for why he'd been caught looking so guilty. “We should return to our shift too.”
R.J. bit his tongue until they were in the privacy of the patrol car and Rip had drove away from any curious onlookers. Finally R.J. couldn't hold back any longer.
If you've decided to go out with Jenna, just say so!”
Rip growled in frustration. “I'm not going out with Jenna!”
Oh... so you're just shacking up for tonight then?” R.J. asked sarcastically.
What? I – uh – we – uh – we are not!” Rip stuttered.
You're a terrible liar!” R.J. reminded him.
No! Listen! I told Jenna that I planned to spend tonight racing around on hoverboards with you,” Rip told him. “We haven't done that in a long time.”
Which was true. Patrolling and their other Hero duties often left them very little time to do anything else.
What if I don't want to do anything with you tonight?!” R.J. roared. “You won't feel so guilty sneaking off to Jenna then.”
Rip sighed and found an empty spot to park. They were now in front of a couple of abandoned warehouses along the river front. Once upon a time ago, the warehouses used to store goods coming off barges until they could be distributed, but these days, it was easier to transport by huge trucks hauling long trailers. As a result, all the warehouses in use were now located on the opposite side of town.
Please don't be like this,” Rip begged. “I swear that I planned to spend tonight with you.”
Then why are you so flirty with Jenna lately?” R.J. growled.
God! Why are you so worried about Jenna?!” Rip shouted. “You know I love you!”
You say that, but you make secret plans with her and then refuse to tell me what is going on!” R.J. shouted right back. “What am I supposed to think?!”
That I love you!” Rip stated emphatically, and then proved it by grabbing R.J. and kissing him.
R.J. fought him off, pushing him away the best he could. “Richard, I swear to you, if you do not back off right now, I'll abandon our shift and deal with the consequences later!”
Rip sat back in stunned silence. “Randy...” he whispered emotionally, seriously hurt by R.J.'s actions. They had agreed to only call each other by their real name when they were alone, but never before had they done so during an argument. This meant that R.J. was willing to use whatever weapons he could find – even if it meant fighting dirty.
You look me in the eye, Richard Plantagenet, and you tell me that you have absolutely no plans to meet with Jenna tonight,” R.J. demanded firmly.
Rip's eyes widened and he inhaled in mild panic. “I...” Couldn't lie to his beloved at such and important time. He tried anyway. “I...”
Two shots echoed out in the distance, breaking the silence.
R.J. growled, thoroughly vexed. “Come on! Let's go investigate what's going on. We'll have to finish this later. If I'm speaking to you!”
With a heavy sigh, Rip followed R.J., checking his pockets to make sure they were fully stocked – they were – before grabbing his gun out of his holster. The 357 Magnum was real now, though he did still carry a stun gun and a taser on him.
R.J. pulled out his gun, and the two of them guarded each others backs as they slowly walked around investigating everything. Activating their shields was so automatic that neither gave it a moment's thought. More shots rang out, giving them a direction to head towards.
Two by two, shots rang out at about the rate that it would take someone to fire twice, reload, and then fire again. This told them that they were dealing with two men using shotguns. They didn't hear any shouting and wondered if this meant the victims were bound and gagged, or if they were already dead and simply being shot repeatedly for the fun of it.
They rushed to get closer, but took the time to ensure that no one was pointing a gun at them before they rounded each corner. When they finally got close enough to see what was going on, both felt certain that the men were just waiting for them with their guns at the ready.
Rip sighed in relief and put a hand on R.J.'s shoulder when they realized that it was only two men practicing shooting on targets. So long as they had the proper permits, no laws were being broken.
R.J. shook off Rip's hand, and then strode forward, his gun still at the ready in case things weren't as they seemed.
Sorry to interrupt you, but we heard shots and had to come investigate,” R.J. called out.
Well lookee here!” One of the men drawled excitedly. “Real live Heroes!”
The other cleared his throat. “I assure you that nothing is wrong. My cousin here was just helping me practice before I go visit him for hunting season.”
Rip shrugged. “So long as you have the proper permits to carry those weapons, I–”
Oh we do!” The cousin drawled, interrupting Rip. He was obviously from the south. He grabbed his permit out of the pocket over his heart. The other man promptly produced his own.
R.J. gestured that he'd cover Rip, and held his gun at the ready, pointed at a neutral spot so that it wouldn't hit anyone if it went off accidentally. Rip nodded and holstered his gun. He approached the men cautiously, and then inspected their permits. They were legitimate, but he bit his lips in thought.
Are they supposed to have a permit to shoot here, or is this now considered public property?” Rip wondered.
R.J. didn't know, so he shrugged.
Rip activated his communicator. “We're investigating shots fired. Turns out that it's just some harmless target practice, but–”
Over at the abandoned warehouses?” Jenna interrupted him.
Yeah,” Rip confirmed.
We were on our way there in response to a tip called in. I guess there's no need now,” she laughed.
Anyway, do you know if they need a permit to shoot here?”
Is there a sign?” Jack asked, joining in on the conversation. “Something like 'No Trespassing?'”
Both Rip and R.J. looked around, but didn't see any.
Nope,” Rip responded.
Then they should be fine,” Jack said, sounding like he was shrugging.
That's all we needed to know, thanks!” Rip cheered, and then handed the permits back to their owners.
Sorry again that we disturbed you,” R.J. stated respectfully, holstering his gun.
Have a nice day,” Rip added pleasantly.
No problem! Better safe than sorry right?” Southern cousin asked. “What if we'd been mass murderers?!”
We'd have called for back up,” R.J. assured him matter of factly.
Both cousins laughed at that. The city cousin shook Rip's hand.
Sorry to have disturbed you and made you come check on us. Even so, I'm honored to meet you, Mr. Plantagenet.”
Rip laughed. “Please! Mr. Plantagenet is my dad! Call me Rip.”
Southern cousin whistled in appreciation. “You're Henry Plantagenet's son? Can you give him my thanks? He helped stop a real bad guy in my neck of the woods some 20 years ago. Folk still talk about him at the old diner. It's almost like he arrests Louie the Stank ever single night!”
Will do,” Rip promised, genially shaking the southerner's hand.
And if you're ever in my neck of the woods, just ask for Bubba. I'll take you huntin',” Bubba offered with a grin, then he frowned. “That's Bubba M from Shinyville, not Bubba J. There's no relation, but people are always getting us confused.”
Thank you, Bubba,” Rip replied, trying to sound like he might actually visit Shinyville someday. “We have to go now.”
Sure thing, and you have yourself a real nice day!”
With a polite nod, Rip and R.J. left the warehouse. They walked in silence for a minute or so.
Nice guy,” Rip stated simply to make conversation.
Yeah,” R.J. agreed with no hint of emotion to his voice.
Wonder what they hunt,” Rip said.
Who cares?” R.J. asked, the anger back in his voice. “I've decided that I'm going to take a long walk by myself tonight, so you and Jenna have fun!”
What?!” Rip asked incredulously.
You heard me!”
Rip stopped walking and faced the sky. “Why me?” He asked no one in particular.

Go To Chapter VIII 

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