Sibling Rivalry

Janice stood by the food vendor’s open door. “One deep-fried candy bar for the lovely lady.” The vendor leaned out with a smile on her face. With a deft hand, he swapped the food for the five dollar bill in Janice’s hand.

“That stuff is gonna be the death of you,” a man said approaching Janice. “Not to mention destroy all those workouts you do.”

Janice turned with a scowl on her face to face the voice. The grimace turned to a smile as she connected eyes with the man. “Harold! You made it.”

“I wouldn’t miss it for anything,” Harold said. “One of four times we get together without fighting.”

“Yeah,” Janice said around a mouth full of melted candy bar. “Plus it’s public, so plenty of witnesses.”

“You’re my sister,” Harold affected a stunned look. “I would never dream of hurting you.”

“Putting me in the ICU is another matter.” Janice rolled her eyes as she tilted her head, still munching on the candy bar.

“I’ve apologized for that.” Harold leaned in close. “And I made sure Shox paid for it.”

“It’s good to see my big brother still looks after me.” Janice pulled in the last of the candy bar and tossed the stick in a garbage can. “Does he still not like midway rides?” She glanced in the direction of a large sign pointing to the rides.

“You know they make me sick.” Harold moved for the sign, following Janice’s lead. “But you are welcome to ride them all you want.”

“Let me get this straight,” Janice said walking towards the midway. “You fly at high rates of speed. Perform complex maneuvers in fights. Free fall from great heights and pull off fantastic feats at the drop of a hat without practice. But a little hurky jerk on a rollercoaster and up comes lunch.”

“What can I say,” Harold said with a smile. “I’m just born this way.” He continued to walk with his sister.

“Speaking of being born this way,” Janice said, moving closer to her brother. “Have you heard about the bill that Senator Carlton is pushing?”

“Yup,” Harold answered. “My team is working on a rebuttal as we speak.”

“The last time you rebutted something like this, six people died.” Janice by ring toss booth.

Harold handed the attendant a five dollar bill and took three rings. He tossed the first ring and it landed on the neck of a bottle. “Correction. Six bigots died.”

“They were still people.” Janice looked around. No one was really paying their conversation any attention.

“They even whined when you and your team saved the rest.” Harold tossed the next two rings in rapid succession. Both sunk onto a bottleneck. The barker handed him a large stuffed dog. Janice gave a mock golf clap.

“You didn’t have to fill their lungs with gas.” Janice reached for the dog. “They didn’t even have filters or masks.” She continued on her previous path.

“It was self defense.” Harold walked next to Janice. “They shot and killed Lariat. Even the news had that one on video.”

“OK,” Janice said. “I’ll give you that. But being violent doesn’t help.”

“Passive is too slow and the results are flakey at best.” Harold pointed to another game of chance. This one the milk bottles.

Janice put down a ten and demanded six balls. The attendant handed over seven. “Good luck lady.”

“You’ve barely managed to stop legislature and deter riots over civil liberties off Meta-Humans.” Harold, holding the large dog, watched Janice’s technique.

“Well,” Janice said, flinging a side armed pitch that knocked over all three metal milk bottles. “At least no one get hurt.”

“Are you kidding?” Harold laughed. “You’ve put people in the hospital. Even dished out a few permanent limps.”

The attendant stepped back from setting up the bottles. Janice flung her next ball. “OK, so people get hurt. On both sides.” All three bottles crashed again. “It seems that both of us are gaining ground, but just very slowly.” The attendant moved to set the bottles up again.

“True.” Harold nodded. “But I don’t have to keep reminding people. I say something once, and they get it.”

In a quick fire motion, Janice sent the next three balls at three other pyramids of milk bottles. The attendant looked at the mess of bottles, then back to Janice. She waved the last ball. Letting out a heavy sigh, the attendant set one set of bottles. No sooner had he stepped back, then Janice let the last ball fly, once again knocking them over. The attendant looked at Janice and she pointed to an extra large stuffed panda bear. The attendant handed the bear to Janice, who handed it to Harold.

“How’s the intimidation thing working for you?” Janice held the prize Harold had won for her. “You are a wanted felon and murderer.”

“I’m not a wanted felon, Smoke is.” Shifting the large panda under an arm, Harold added, “And I never killed anyone without provocation. All of them are pure selfdefense, provable in any court of law.”

“Harold,” Janice said, walking down the midway. “We both want the same thing, I get it.” She moved to allow a young couple to walk by. “It is our approach that separates us.”

“Which makes you the hero and me the villain.” Harold stepped next to his sister. “I love these outings. Peaceful and they remind me what an endearing sap you are.” He smiled and kissed her cheek.

“You’re not a villain,” Janice said. “You’re my brother.” She smiled as Harold walked through the exit and into the dark of the field beyond.

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Anti Villain

Lincoln walked to the bank and opened the door. His newly finished costume still had the new leather smell, and it carried to the guys he hired as muscle. Stepping inside Lincoln raised a hand and made it glow dark red.

In a loud voice, but not at the shouting level, Lincoln said, “Ladies and gentlemen, may I have your attention.” All heads and eyes turned towards him. “My associates and I are here to make a withdrawal. I assure you, the bank is covered by insurance you will recover the funds. That is why you pay the high fees and interest rates.” The smile below his mask widened and showed plenty of white teeth.

Lincoln walked over to the counter, depositing a bag at each teller. “Please fill these and don’t be that person. You know, the one that puts the exploding dye pack in the bag.” Looking at the last teller he pointed. “Yes. That one. Don’t put that in my bag. It really doesn’t work. I will just wash the money and most of it will come out. No one will really notice it.”

Lincoln nodded to his two companions, and they vaulted the low wall. They grabbed a man and punched a guard that moved for his gun. With quick precision, they opened the door to the vault area.

“Thug One,” Lincoln called to a partner. “Keep the violence down. Just the barest of necessities, please.”

Thug One stared at Lincoln for a beat, then shrugged his shoulders. He turned back to the short hallway and disappeared.

“Good, good.” Lincoln walked the teller line again. He pulled a bag from the counter and weighed it in his hand. “Did you put one of them dye packs in here when I wasn’t looking?” He tilted his head at the man behind the counter and made one of his hands glow dark red. The man nodded, sending the sweat running down his face off the end of his nose. “Excellent! See? Cooperation is its own reward.” Lincoln smiled like a kindergarten teacher.

In turn, Lincoln pulled the bags from the counter and held them in his fist. As he walked towards the door, he checked the clock on the wall. “So far, so good. Right on time.” He stopped and rocked back and forth on his heels, a mild tune whistled from his lips.

When the clock on the wall ticked two minutes later, Lincoln touched his ear. “Thugs, you need to be wrapping up.”

“Almost done,” the voice said over the communication device. A moment later and the two thugs, along with the man they took, exited the vault area. Both men carried bags that looked heavy.

“Excellent!” Lincoln moved to the door and held it open for his companions. “It has been a pleasure robbing you and I appreciate your cooperation. Don’t forget to file that insurance claim right away. The sooner the better.” He pointed to the man in a tailored suit. Next he waved and smiled to the customers then left.

In the van, Lincoln jumped into the driver’s seat. “Please divide the loot up according to the agreement. I am swinging by Quinn’s Place to get the items in the boxes fenced.”

The two thugs did as requested.

Thug One looked at Thug Two. “We actually pulled it off. No cops, no heroes, nothing.”

“Yeah,” said Thug Two. “This is the best so far. We have money and are going to get more.”

“Gentlemen,” Lincoln said. “If you just follow the rules, and don’t hurt anyone, they let you rob them.”

“Who woulda thought,” Thug Two said.

“That and don’t get greedy.” Lincoln smiled at his assistants. “We can’t get greedy.”

Bad Kid

Vic dashed into his living room and scooped up his crying son. “Bart, it’s ok. You’re not hurt. Daddy’s here.” The words flowed soft and easy. Vic cradled his child and showed affection.

Marsha entered the room watching the scene in front of her. “You’re an excellent father, Victor Gaines. And I love you for it.” Marsha joined in the hug-fest of their son.

***

A bright sunshiny Saturday on the playground, Vic sat on a bench watching Bart play with other children.

“Is that your kid there,” another man asks. “The one with the Champion cape?”

“Yup,” Vic smiled. “He likes to pretend he’s the hero. Swoops in and saves the day.”

“That’s cool,” the other man nodded. “Mine likes Badger or Chance. He says they’re awesome.”

“They give me the impression of media hounds and pretty violent.” Vic said as he looked at the man.

“Yeah, but I don’t want to push them too hard,” the man said. “Then they automatically go the opposite direction.”

“Good point,” Vic responded. Checking his watch, Vic said, “Ohh. Lunch time. Nice talking with you.” He stood and called Bart over.

“Dad! I want to be like Champion. A hero!” Bart bounced as he walked next to Vic.

“Son,” Vic said rubbing Bart’s head. “You can be anything you want.”

***

Vic turned into the parking lot and found a spot at the back. Getting out of the car, he dashed to the auditorium of Brownstone Middle School. Vic yanked his work ID off his shirt and shoved it into his pocket.

“Dad! You made it,” Bart ran up to Vic on the sidewalk.

“I wouldn’t miss it for the world,” Vic smiled at his son.

“You are a great father, Victor.” Marsha smiled at her husband. “Let’s get in and find a good seat.”

“Right up front,” Vic said. “Do your best.” He grinned at Bart.

“I will,” Bart said and waved as he moved with the other students into the auditorium.

Vic and Marsha took seats up front and watched as the Brownstone Middle School Orchestra walked on the stage. Using his phone, Vic took videos and pictures of his son.

After the hour long performance, Vic drove his son and met his wife at the local ice-cream shop to celebrate.

“You were fantastic, Bart,” Vic said. “Musics a great way to relax. Plus you learn timing and re-inforce your math.”

“Thanks, Dad,” Bart beamed up at his father.

***

“Dad,” Bart walked over to his father. “I need this permission slip signed.” Bart held out a piece of paper.

“What’s this for,” Vic read the paper while he sipped his morning coffee. “Football, huh? You want to play?”

“Yeah,” Bart answered. “You know to help with controlling the powers I inherited from you.”

“I think that’s a wonderful idea,” Vic said. “But be ready and be careful. You have some of my abilities, but you also have some of your mom’s. Her’s will be better for you.”

“I know,” Bart said, rolling his eyes with a big sigh. “Mom’s healing is good. Just don’t use it unless absolutely necessary.”

“Good.” Vic pulled a pen from his jacket pocket. He leaned over the table, pulled his tie out of the way, and signed the permission slip. “Keep up on practice and keep your grades up. No slacking.”

“Got it, dad,” Bart smiled as he bounced on his toes.

“I love you, Vic,” Marsha said as she encircled her arms around her husband. “We did right with Bart.”

“Yup.” Vic moved to grab his wife. “We did.” He kissed her.

***

Bart came into the living room. His mother sat on the couch watching the late news.

“We won!” Bart jumped up and put his palm on the ceiling.

“Excellent honey,” Marsha said as she patted a spot on the couch next to her. “Sit down and keep me company.”

“Where’s Dad,” Bart asked. “I know he said something about working late, but I never saw him at the game.”

“I don’t know,” Marsha said as she slipped an arm over Bart’s shoulders. “But you know your Dad. He can be a work-a-holic sometimes.”

“Yeah,” Bart smiled. “Still, it would have been nice to see him.”

The television flashed a large graphic across the screen. The words Happening Right Now in large fonts with a red background took the entire screen.

“This is Paula Anderson. It seems that Champion has taken down the archvillain Strong Arm.” A clip showed a dark clad man dragged behind the brightly clad Champion.

“Alright! Champion!” Bart shouted. “He’s the bes-”

The camera zoomed in on the man being dragged.

“Isn’t that dad’s super suit,” Bart asked, pointing at the television. “Why is he being dragged?”

“Yes, Bart,” Marsha answered. “That is your father.”

“But dad isn’t evil,” Bart shot to his feet. “Why is Champion doing this? He’s got the wrong man!”

On the screen, Champion hefted Strong Arm to his feet. A microphone appeared in Strong Arms face.

“Strong Arm. Do you have any comment,” the reporter off camera asked.

Strong Arm lifted his head. A spot of blood showed on his lip, and an eye was swollen shut. “Bart. Never forget. I love you.”

Champion jerked on Strong Arm’s arms and moved him to the van with open doors.

The camera panned back to the reporter. “There you have it, people. Strong Arm’s terror campaign is now at an end. We can all sleep peaceful tonight, thanks to Champion.”

The screen went blank.

“Champion!” Bart shouted through gritted teeth. “I’m gonna kill you.” He ran from the room and cleared the stairs to his room. Loud bashing and crashing noises followed seconds later.

“Vic, I love you,” Marsha whispered. “We did it. Bart is ready.”

Out of Work

“So Andrew, what do you think? Is this a place where you could prosper?” Howard Davis sat across from Andrew. Howard placed the resume in the manilla folder with the other paperwork and closed it.

“Mr. Davis, I would love to work here.” Andrew’s face flushed, his eyes sparkled and all his teeth showed in his smile.

“Good to hear.” Howard stood. “This was your third of three interviews and there was one other candidate. I have to consult with the rest of the team and the background check should be finished shortly.” Howard extended his hand.

Andrew swallowed hard and his eyes darted left then right. Taking the proffered hand, Andrew pumped it with a solid grip twice. “Thank you. I expect to hear from you soon. Tomorrow, I hope.”

“That is a high possibility,” Howard said.

Howard escorted Andrew out of the office and to the receptionist.

Andrew returned his visitor badge and entered his time out on the sheet. He smiled, waved, then left the office.

In the car, Andrew sat still for a few seconds. “YES!” He dragged the smile to it’s widest and pulled both fists up in tight fists. “I can stop being a lackey. Finally. That two years I did, I finished my masters degree and now I have regular job.”

Andrew started the car and drove home. He patted his jacket pocket at random intervals. The hard cased ring box, and it’s contents, were the last vestiges of the money he kept in the box at the back of his closet. After purchasing the car he was driving and fixing up his house, there wasn’t much left, but he knew what he wanted.

Arriving at his house, Andrew saw the message light blink. Opening a beer he tapped the voicemail button.

“Andy! It’s Roy. Job. Call me.”

“Yeah, Roy. I’ll get right on that.” Andrew pulled three heavy swallows from his beer and walked through his house. The smell of new paint and construction lingered from two months ago. He nodded as he looked at the pictures, furniture, and other decorations he put up.

Andrew finished his beer, burped, then snatched the phone from it’s cradle. A quick press of the buttons and he placed the phone to his ear. “Roy, it’s Andy.”

“Good. You’re the first to call me back.” Roy paused a few seconds. “Wreck is setting up preliminaries. He has a major gig in four months. The preliminaries are…well, preliminaries. You know what that means.”

Andrew sighed. “Yeah, Roy. I do.”

“Are you up?”

“No. I have a new line.”

“Oh, really? Big time?”

“No. Steady.”

“Steady? What the hell does that mean?” The speaker emitted Roy’s voice at a higher volume.

“Steady. Regular. Normal.” Andrew punctuated each word. “I’m out. Out of all of it. I did my time, I’m done.”

“You have got to be kidding me?” Roy’s voice carried the laugh he was famous for.

“Nope.”

“You’ll get bored. When you do, call me.”

“Fine. Thanks for understanding.”

“Yeah. Good luck, man. Honestly.” The line went silent.

Andrew put the phone back in the cradle. “Honestly? From a thief? I don’t think so, Roy.”

***

The next morning, Andrew went to the gym. This was a habit he developed in prison. He enjoyed how he felt with the physical exercise and just kept at it.

Nine-thirty his phone rang. On the second ring, he saw the name, Ianthe Chemical.

Snatching the phone and pressing the talk button, Andrew answered in a clear voice. “Hello? Andrew Samson speaking.”

“Andrew. This is Howard Davis. I have good news.”

***

Andrew tossed the phone to his sofa.

“YES!” He jumped and slapped both palms on the ceiling. “About time!” He skipped about his house and continued to celebrate.

Calmness covered him and he set about to organize for his first day. He set up a clothes hanger with a button-down shirt, put a grey suit next to it and laid a navy tie over it. He checked his shoes and touched up the polish.

“Now, I have to find something to do for the next four days.”

***

Saturday afternoon and Andrew picked up his phone. He called his long-term girlfriend. “Soon, it won’t be girlfriend.”

“Hello handsome!” A woman’s lilting voice sounded over the phone.

“Wendy! Lunch. One o’clock. I’ll pick you up.”

“Andy? Wow! Sure. I’ll be ready.”

“Excellent. I’ll be there.”

“I love you.”

“I know. Cause I love you, too.” He hung up.

“Now to get ready.” Andrew darted to his room.

***

Andrew mowed his lawn, cleaned his car, and showered. He checked and rechecked the ring box. Before leaving to pick up Wendy, Andrew called the restaurant to check on his reservations. They were for one o’clock and everything was ready.

Wendy jerked the door opened. Her outfit was perfect and her hair defied gravity.

“You look amazing, Wendy.” Andrew reached for her hand.

“Where are we going?” Wendy closed her door as Andrew pulled her along.

“You’ll see.” He winked at her as she sat in the passenger side. He patted the ring box again and drove off.

The restaurant was a fifteen-minute drive and Andrew couldn’t keep the smile from his face. This smile was contagious and Wendy followed suit.

Pulling into the parking lot, Wendy gasped, “Andy! How did you? What is this?” She slowly exited the car, Andrew holding her hand as she wobbled to her feet.

“I got this.”

The couple walked in to the restaurant. “Yes, Andrew Samson. Reservation at one.”

The Matre’d jerked to a stiffer position. “Ah, yes, Mr. Samson. Right this way.” He led the way to a place off the side of the main dining room. A small table with a setting for two.

Andrew held the chair for Wendy, who sat.

“Enjoy.” The Matre’d walked off.

“Andrew, this is unexpected.” Wendy glanced around, her eyes wide, her mouth open, and her cheeks flushed. “What is going on?”

“Simple,” Andrew said, sitting down. “I have a job.”

Wendy looked at Andrew. The smile vanished and her eyes narrowed. “A job?” The words were slow and deliberate. She cocked her head to one side.

“Yes, Wendy,” Andrew answered. He snapped his napkin out and laid it in his lap. “A job. A nine-to-five, honest to God, real job.”

Wendy’s eyes flashed open and her mouth followed suit. The smile crept back on her face and she inhaled, covering her mouth with her fingers.

“That’s right, Wendy. I start on Monday. I will be a Lab Technician at Ianthe Chemical.” Andrew picked up his class of water and sipped it.

“Andy! Thats…thats…thats…Oh. My. God.”

“I know,” Andrew cracked a smile and held back from laughing out loud. “I wanted to celebrate and break the news to you. I will spend the very last bit of my special money on this, so I wanted to go out with a bang.”

“And what a bang it is.” Wendy kept looking at Andrew. Even when the server showed up with plates of food instead of menus. She caught herself three bites into her dish when she realized what was happening.

“I know you and ordered ahead of time.” Andrew winked at her. “Plus, it adds to the surprise.”

The heat from Wendy’s face could be felt across the table.

***

A few minutes of eating passed, and the server came and removed the plates. Another server came behind the first and deposited a bottle of champagne and two fluted glasses.

“What is this?” Wendy stared wide eyed at Andrew.

“I think you know what this is.” Andrew pulled the ring box out of his pocket but kept it out of sight. “We have been together for several years. You have stood by me through the worst times, and now I want you there for the best times.”

Andrew slid from his chair and knelt beside Wendy. Presenting the ring box, he pulled the lid open. The ring was elegant, with a tasteful setting that bordered on the size of a thumbnail.

“Wendy, will you marry me?”

Wendy gasped and covered her face with both hands. The wait staff and the few patrons within three tables of the proposal stopped what they were doing. Andrew’s ear rang with silence as he stared at the gently sobbing woman in front of him.

“Yes!”

Wendy gripped her left hand with her right in an attempt to keep it from shaking. Andrew placed the ring on Wendy’s finger, kissed it, then kissed her.

The waitstaff and patrons of the restaurant applauded loudly. A few even cheered.

Andrew stood and waved, his face beaming.

***

On the drive home, Wendy asked, “This job at Ianthe Chemical, did they do a background check on you? You have a record.”

“I held nothing back,” Andrew answered. “It never came up on the interview. The application had the block, and I filled it in.”

“Wow!” Wendy stared at the engagement ring.

“I see this as a good omen, and I want it to work.” Andrew drove the route home. “The salary is better than I had hoped. There is a minimal commute, and they have amazing benefits.”

“You really have done your homework on this.” Wendy gazed at Andrew as he drove them to his house.

“Yes. I told you I wanted to go legit and have a regular life. No more henchmen or villain work for me.”

“Good.” Wendy smiled. “I don’t think I could take six months, let alone another two years.”

***

Sunday was a pleasant day for Andrew. He had made room in his house for Wendy and they both casually moved some of her stuff in. The discussed how to arrange the furniture and what kind of cooking equipment they would need, then the topic of kids was broached.

Andrew wanted two, Wendy wanted more. They agreed on three.

***

Monday morning came and Andrew woke to his alarm. He moved with practiced quiet as he departed for the gym. An hour later, he came home and got ready for work.

Wendy packed his lunch and ate breakfast with him.

A peck on the cheek and Andrew left for work.

Howard Davis greeted him in the lobby and handed him his work id card. Andrew filled out the HR forms and was directed to his workspace.

Around ten-thirty, while he was reviewing the research for his newly assigned project, Howard came in.

“Andy. It’s good to see you fitting in.” Howard checked on a few of the benches and talked to the other lab techs that were working.

“How is that bio-bond spray coming along, Davis?”

Andrew looked up. An older man walked in. His bearing was that of an experienced manager, and his build was solid. The suit he wore was tailored and displayed not only style, but strength.

The dark classes and the facial hair looked familiar to Andrew.

“Mr. Henderson.” Howard moved over to the new man. “Yes, the project is coming along nicely. We are experiencing some issues with the deployment device, it doesn’t hold more than two doses.”

“Perhaps a replaceable cartridge, then.” Mr. Henderson extended his arm and flexed his fist down. He moved his arm back and forth in front of him. “Like a handgun. Press a button and the spent one is ejected and I can slap in a new one.”

After hearing the man talk, seeing him move, and a good look at this face, Andrew recognized him. Dr. Graves. The arch-villain and nemesis to the super hero group, Shining Vengeance.

“That sounds like a great idea. I’ll get R&D on that ASAP.” Howard pounded on the table.

“You do that. I have other projects to check on.” Mr. Henderson whirled and left in the same hurried fashion he arrived.

“Excuse me, Mr. Davis?” Andrew stood and walked towards Howard. “Isn’t that Dr. Graves, the super villain?”

“Andrew, you, of all people, should know the value of code names. That was Mr. Henderson. He is one of our benefactors and board members.”

“But this is a respectable business. How can we make devices that someone like Mr. Henderson would use?”

“Andrew, Ianthe Chemical is a legitimate business. We make many things that the common person uses and buys.” Howard shifted to face Andrew squarely. “We also make other things that other people use and they pay us too. In fact they pay us more. Is this going to be a problem?”