Chapter 5 - Welcome to Vinton
The Blade Boy Cometh
Jet had never moved faster in his entire life. After sprinting back to his room, haphazardly packing his things, haphazardly packing his things again because he caused such a mess the first time, to finally taking his time and doing it properly the third time, Jet was ready to leave in less than twenty minutes. The only thing he was truly delicate with was the framed copy of the Alpha article, making sure to cushion it with lots of clothes.
Wheeling out all his worldly possessions in the same suitcase he had wheeled it all in with, Jet headed towards the exit of the vault with a spring in his step. Quinn was already there waiting for him, Paladin standing next to him. The two were having some kind of discussion, but Jet barreled his way through it rushing towards them.
“Okay, ready to go!” Jet proclaimed.
Quinn and Paladin stopped what they were talking about and both turned to Jet. Then Paladin turned back to Quinn.
“You sure you’re ready to say bye to the peace and quiet?” Paladin asked.
“I’m not sure, but I bet you’re looking forward to grabbing some actual sleep again,” Quinn joked. Paladin chuckled and then looked down at Jet.
“This isn’t the end of your training, but the next step. Stay safe during the day, and only go out on patrol when I come to meet you. Your uncle is going to show you where to meet me on your drive home,” Paladin instructed.
Jet nodded in understanding, his mind brushing off the part about only being on patrol when with him. Paladin smiled, and then reached behind himself. Jet realized there was a small box wrapped in colour paper with a small bow on it sitting just behind Paladin’s leg.
“I had this made for when it was time to leave. I guess that time is now,” Paladin said as he picked up the box and passed it to Jet.
Jet stared confused at the present for a few moments, grabbing it from Paladin. Jet looked from Paladin to the box, to Paladin, back to the box.
“Don’t open it until you get home, but you’ll need it tomorrow when you meet me for patrol,” Paladin said with a small smirk.
Jet continued to look from the present to Paladin until it dawned on him. His mouth went agape and his eyes were the size of dinner plates.
“Isthismysuperherocostume?!” Jet exclaimed and asked in one rapid breath.
Paladin nodded and Jet jumped up and down in the spot. It took Paladin and Quinn a few moments to calm him down but eventually Jet was just grinning as he stared at them. Extending a hand towards Jet, Paladin matched Jet’s smile.
“Jet, it has been a pleasure having you here these last five years. I know you’ve been eager to leave, but it is has been a joy watching you grow, and I’m excited to keep working with you,” Paladin said.
Jet blushed a little, and then eagerly grasped Paladin’s hand.
“I literally can’t wait,” Jet agreed.
Jet let go of Paladin’s hand, and Uncle Quinn pat him on the back.
“Alright, time to go,” Quinn stated and then grabbing some of Jet’s things he made his way up the ladder.
Jet grabbed his suitcase and began to follow, but he caught himself. Surprising himself, he turned around and looked back down the hall of the bunker. It had been five long years since he first arrived, but he still remembered the moment he came down that ladder so vividly.
Five years of memories flooded through Jet. Being tutored by Paladin in academic subjects, discussing the morals and ethics of being a hero, and lots and lots of combat training. There were also quieter moments, the moments when Jet and Paladin would watch a movie together, or when Jet would doodle ideas for his superhero costume.
He hated the bunker, but despite himself, there was a tinge of sadness as he left.
The bunker had been home.
With a small sigh, he heaved his suitcase over his shoulder, Jet climbed up the ladder.
He had forgotten what the sun felt like. Jet’s world immediately became way too bright, like a photo with too much exposure. Stumbling, Jet tried to orient himself and he reached out to grab something to support himself. His hand became immediately prickled as he grabbed something rough and pointy. He looked at his hand as his world started to refocus itself, and saw it was covered in pine needles.
A small laugh escaped his lips, he had almost forgotten about pine trees. He stared up and saw a brilliant blue sky. The sun was warm, the last few days of August bathing him in the heat. It had been so long since he felt natural heat. So long since he had been out of the poorly lit bunker.
He turned to see Quinn looking at him with an amused grin. The two were in a small alcove of a forested area, surrounded by pine trees.
“How does it feel?” Quinn asked.
Jet took a few moments, unable to formulate words.
“Amazing,” Jet replied, and then he looked up towards the sky, unable to believe there was no roof above him.
A few short minutes later and Jet was riding in Uncle Quinn’s car as they drove through suburbia. They had just been in the same park that Jed had submerged into the bunker from all those years ago, which was located in one of the safer neighborhoods in Vinton. Jet’s head was out the window like an excited dog as he watched the houses, streets, and sites of the neighborhood fly past him.
Eventually, Quinn got tired of the rushing air and closed the window as he turned on the air conditioning, and Jet’s face was then glued to the window as he continued to watch. The bright green leaves on trees, the faded colour on the sidings of houses. Other people, actual other people, were out mowing the lawn or raking the leaves.
Their drive took them through one of Vinton’s urban centers, Wernsworth. Jet watched as suburbia temporarily became a trendy street lined with cafes, pubs, and little boutique shops. If Jet’s face could have been pressed harder against the window, it would have been. People were walking their dogs, riding their bikes and drinking coffee together. The city felt alive.
The car came to a stop, as they hit a red light. Jet took the moment to take in as much as he possibly could when his eyes found their way to the corner. A relatively nondescript boy, likely around Jet’s age, stood alone staring at his phone. He had dirty blonde hair and gentle features, his leather jacket pressed tightly against himself as the autumn cool had arrived early. Jet thought nothing more of it until he noticed three older men approaching him.
All of the activity in the area seemed to quiet. Everyone who had the sense to walk to the other side of the street did, as everyone but this boy realized he was being approached by the three men. It would have all been harmless. If the men hadn’t been dressed as they belonged in a dystopian future.
Wearing black jackets rolled up at the sleeve, they wore dark sunglasses that were rectangular in shape. Their hair colours varied including green, purple and blue, and their styles were a mismatch of a mohawk, a crop top, and shoulder length. They all seemed way too serious, and for a moment Jet just thought that was the happening style. What did he know, he’s been in a bunker for five years.
But then one of them reached into their jacket, pushing it aside. At that moment Jet saw what was hiding underneath, holstered to the man’s side. It was a gun that along the shaft seemed to crackle with blue energy. It curved back slickly, with a flat trigger that just compressed into the handle.
They approached the boy and turned him around harshly. His eyes went wide, and the men all pushed their jackets back revealing more of the futuristic sidearm.
“Uncle Quinn,” Jet began to say.
“I know,” Quinn replied curtly.
Jet looked to his uncle, who seemed to be trying very hard to not look at Jet or out the window.
“We got to do something!” Jet exclaimed.
“Jet, wait-” Quinn’s sentence was cut short as Jet unlocked his car door and threw it open. Practically leaping across the street, Jet dashed towards the group. The boy was just in the process of reaching into his pockets when he saw Jet approaching.
The man angrily shoved the boy as he began to feel ignored, sending the boy to the ground. He then turned to see what had his victim’s attention only to receive a fist to the jaw. The man reeled back, crashing into the light post on the corner of the street. Jet maneuvered himself to be between the men and the boy. He brought up his fists as the men drew their sidearms, making Jet realize his sword was still in the trunk of the car.
“Now who do you think you are?!” one of the men shouted at Jet. “Some kind of junior hero?”
Jet gritted his teeth, readying himself to fight when a funny thought crossed his mind. A grin formed in his grimace’s place.
“I’m someone who’s going to kick the crap out of you if you don’t back down,” Jet said. “I’ll turn you into sidewalk street art titled ‘Stupid People make Stupid Decisions.’”
Jet chuckled to himself, and the boy behind him stepped forward.
“Dude, what are you doing? You’ll get us both killed,” the boy whispered.
Jet shook his head and braced himself.
“Nah, you’ll see, someone will call the cops. I just gotta buy the time,” Jet replied.
As he said this, his conviction sunk midway through the sentence. A look around the street revealed there was no one. No one was watching the events unfold, people had taken cover and hid. Jet took a further look and even Quinn was trying to take his cover in his car, but he at least kept his eyes on Jet.
Jet put his hand to his head as he locked eyes with his uncle, making the ‘phone call’ gesture with his thumb and pinky, trying to get his uncle to contact the authorities. At this, one of the men laughed out loud. Jet turned to look up at him, as the man he had punched rejoined the others.
“What, you think the cops will come to save you? Do you know what this gun fires?” the man asked.
Jet took a look at the man’s sidearm and shrugged.
“Water? Is it a super soaker? Are those still popular?”
“This gun will rip you through and your buddy here faster than the blink of an eye and still have enough force to create a crater the size of your head in the sidewalk,” the man boasted. “No cop wants to go up against tech like this.”
Jet put on an impressed expression and stood up straight, dropping his fists.
Jet turned to face the boy. With a small smile, he shrugged again.
“Well then. No one can really blame me for doing this then.”
Jet spun and jumped in the air, kicking at the men to the furthest right of him, aiming for his hand with the gun. The man lurched causing the other two men to jump back as his gun was suddenly pointed at them. Jet then dashed forward and grabbed the man’s hands that were clasped firmly around his gun. Taking a moment to aim, Jet fired the man’s gun while he held it.
The recoil was intense and Jet had to let go of the man as he was tossed backward from it. The blast from the gun blasted through the other two men’s guns, knocking them out of their hands and causing them to spark with electricity as they were irreparably damaged.
As the two men recoiled, Jet rolled forward and then leaped up with his two fists, punching both of them in the chin. They both fell backward, and Jet looked back to the man who was recovering in the street. The man was trying to stand back up and Jet dashed forward towards him. Grabbing the man by the collar, Jet picked him up and punched him in the face, sending him back into the ground.
Their one man with a functioning gun unconscious and their guns destroyed, the two who Jet had uppercut stood up and ran back the way they came. Jet left the one thug in the street as he shook his hand, trying to alleviate the numb feeling punching the one man had caused. He walked back towards the boy, who stood there slack-jawed.
“You okay?” Jet asked.
It took the boy a few moments to respond, but eventually, he shook his head.
“I, yeah I’m fine,” he responded.
“What’s your name?” Jet asked.
“Alan,” he replied, still staring at Jet in awe.
Jet nodded and then looked down at the guns he had hit, which started to spasm and spark with electricity.
“Uh, they supposed to do that?” Jet asked.
“Probably not,” Alan responded, though he sounded as uncertain as Jet.
Jet ran over to pick them up, but as he touched one it was extremely hot and singed his hand. He took a step back and shook his hand again.
“Here, let me try something,” Alan chipped in.
Jet looked to him and watched as Alan extended both his hands. He shut his eyes and sweat began beading furiously down his brow. Jet raised an eyebrow and looked from Alan to the guns, and became as slack-jawed as Alan was a moment before.
A translucent wall made up of swirling colours phased into existence from nothing and wrapped themselves around the guns. Alan grunted, and for a moment the wall waived, but then it solidified in time. The guns exploded with a force that would have surely leveled the corner they stood on but contained in the field. With that, the field disappeared and Alan almost collapsed.
Jet managed to catch him in the nick of time, keeping Alan standing. Alan breathed heavily and took several moments for Alan to stand on his own. In this time, the pedestrians who had suddenly vanished were back on the streets, tentatively going back to their days. Jet watched them reemerge in confusion, unsure of why they had all hid, but his attention snapped back to Alan as what had just happened was more alarming.
“What did you do?” Jet asked. “Do you have superpowers?”
Alan raised his hands in exasperation.
“Kind of. Yes. I’m just not very good with them,” Alan answered.
“Are you kidding me? You probably just saved our lives! How did you do that?” Jet argued.
Alan let out a small laugh and rubbed the back of his head.
“It’s tough to explain. I gotta get home actually,” Alan said.
Jet nodded in understanding, and then stood there awkwardly. He had never saved someone before and wasn’t sure what the exit procedure should be.
“Okay, well, bye,” Alan said finally, waving at Jet.
“Uh, yeah bye,” Jet said, but then he caught himself as Alan walked away. “Ooh! Could you call the police? So these goons here get arrested?”
Alan turned around and looked at the unconscious man in the street and then to Jet. The look he gave Jet unnerved Jet for a moment, as it was a level of hopelessness he had never seen before. However, Alan nodded and pulled out his phone as he walked away.
Jet stared after him for a few seconds, but then a car honked to his left. He turned to see Quinn, and snapping back into reality he hurried over the car. Sitting back down in the passenger seat he closed the door and fastened the seat belt.
Jet went to ask Quinn why he hadn’t acted, but the long hard look Quinn gave Jet spoke volumes. With a sigh, Quinn put the car into drive and they began rolling forward. Jet looked at his uncle in confusion for a few moments, and then he slumped in his seat. He continued to look out the window in tense silence for a few minutes until Quinn finally broke it.
“They were Brigand,” Quinn said.
Jet looked up to Quinn who didn’t take his eyes off the road.
“The Brigand is the most powerful gang in the city, and they have the police in their pocket. There are stories of them tracking 911 calls back to the caller on their guys. They don’t end well,” Quinn explained.
“Isn’t that super illegal? Shouldn’t someone get The Guardians involved or something?” Jet asked.
Quinn sighed again.
“Our Vinton branch is also in their pocket.”
Jet looked to his feet. He instantly felt guilty about Alan, asking Alan to take that chance. He wasn’t sure why at that moment, but as he looked out the window again, Vinton had lost its luster.
Back in his own bed, Jet couldn’t sleep. He had unpacked his clothes and put them away, but hadn’t even begun hanging the news articles. It felt strange being in his old bedroom after all this time. The off-white coloured walls shone with the streetlight that peered in through his bedroom window just like it used to when he was a kid.
He knew being back wasn’t why he couldn’t sleep, however. Sitting up, he wore no shirt and was just in his pajama pants. The bedroom window was located just above him on the wall adjacent to his bed, and Jet rolled up the blinds. He stared at the night sky for a few moments, and then looked to the window. Gauging whether or not he could fit through, Jet let out a helpless laugh.
“Yeah screw this,” Jet said to trying to sleep.
Throwing on a quick shirt and sneaking out the window, Jet let himself fall onto the lawn. The sensation of grass prickled and tickled his feet and Jet realized he hadn’t even bothered to attempt putting on shoes. Too many thoughts flooded his head, however, and Jet broke out into a run.
Leaping from his point, he grabbed onto a neighbor’s tree by one of its thick branches and he used it to vault himself onto the roof of a house. From there he ran across the roof and leaped from roof to roof. He ran as silently as he could, and he easily acclimated his running to accommodate for the slope of the roofs as he ran. He ran to the end of the block, jumped off the roof and rolled onto the lawn adjacent to the house on the end. He would then sprint across the street and vault his way up to the top of the houses again, and continue his run.
He knew he was running away from something, he just didn’t know what it was. Five blocks later and he reached the end of the community. The community sat on top of one of the large hills in Vinton, and at the end of the street was a large blue fence. Looking down from the hill was one of the ring roads in Vinton, and even at this time of night cars still busily drove up and down it. From the roof he was on, he had a nice vantage point to watch the lights blur back and forth, and so Jet sat down on the roof and car watched for several minutes.
The cool autumn air felt good in his hair, and he rested his arms on his knees as he sat and took in the night. He hadn’t spent five years in the bunker to remain cooped up at night, Jet figured. However, the longer he sat and stared, the more he realized that just being outside wasn’t making him feel any better.
The events in Wernsworth had stuck with him in a way he hadn’t expected. He had beaten up some bad guys, saved people, and even met another super-powered teen. So why had it all left a bad taste in his mouth? Was it because no one called the cops? Or because no one else even stepped up to try and help?
Jet knew he couldn’t expect people without superpowers or some kind of training to try and do anything. He took a risk even doing anything in civilian clothes. Paladin had told him that superheroes did their thing in costumes because that they way they could protect their identities and loved ones from fallback after stopping crime.
Something just felt wrong though. An innocent person was in trouble and no one did anything. No one shouted to watch out, no one tried to intervene. Everyone around Alan was okay to watch him be mugged or hurt. Whether they would be putting themselves in harm’s way or not, it just felt wrong to Jet. Shouldn’t people be better than that?
Jet sighed and looked up towards the stars. Maybe today was an anomaly, and people were normally better than that. Maybe people were just bad. He didn’t know. He just knew what Paladin had told him, and what he had seen in movies. But he thought back to all the heroes he had read about growing up, and Jet knew people had to be good to make that choice to be heroes.
Standing up, Jet knew there and then what he had to do. He would be as good as he could be. So in those moments when people weren’t what he wanted to be, he could try and live by example. Try and create what he wanted and hoped to see in the world. If everything failed, he was going to be someone who could protect people who couldn’t protect themselves. As if the decision hadn’t already been made, Jet knew in his heart he would be a superhero.