May 7th, 2012
Without my request, Terrence contacted Danny via The Geek. There’s no one else you would have called in this heated moment. Danny picked up.
“Danny! Where are you?!” I blurted out.
“Across the street, training with God’s creatures in the wilderness of Franklin Park. Why are you so emotional?”
“Get over to the community center. Ripps just saw video footage of the handyman destroying Linda and is on his way to seek revenge. But he doesn’t realize he’s walking into a much bigger fight than he bargained for.”
“Oh I’ll make sure this fight is real big…big enough to be seen from space. And it won’t be no bargain. It will incur a great debt on our enemies. I’m on my way.”
Terrence ended the call. I turned my head to him, “Find Future Queer, I mean Fred. Tell him to meet us at the community center. I’m heading over there now.”
Despite running in loosely tied work boots, Ripps made it down to the center in impressive time. Although the moment was full of serious anger and intensity, there was a thin layer of humor with Ripps’ entrance. Too impatient with the automatic door’s pace of opening, he plowed through the doorway before the door fully opened, causing the door to comically jerk back and awkwardly turning him sideways against his furious will. Ripps looked at the door and screamed “FUCK YOU!!!” and then shoved it with both hands as if he were shoving an impudent geek into the lockers.
This bombastic entrance caught the attention of the woman at the receptionist window. She yelled something that was meant to detain Ripps but it had no effect. Ripps sprinted across the foyer area and ripped open a door. Standing in front of him was Lily. It took her little time to turn into a raving lunatic when she saw Ripps. She probably felt her plans cracking apart and would do anything to prevent total disintegration. With surprising strength in both body and voice, she screamed, “YOU’RE NOT GOING ANYWHERE!!” and grabbed RIpps’ neck so hard, her nails drew blood from his neck. Ripps was authentically amazed as he gasped for air and felt blood run down his neck.
His amazement turned back to an even greater anger. He grabbed Lily’s wrists and quickly pried her hands from his neck and threw her arms back, causing them to hit the wall behind her. Ripps grabbed her neck, slammed her against the wall, lifted her from the ground, and demonically shouted, “HOW DO YOU LIKE IT?!!” Lily’s face only expressed shock. This quickly turned to fear and then relief as Ripps dropped her. Ripps stormed off and after a few moments of regaining her composure, Lily ran off in the opposite direction.
After a couple minutes of a frustrating search, Ripps found the source of his fury. In the far side of the same large room where the children were to have their play, was Carl the handyman. He was standing in front of the curtains on the stage. Ripps’ anger still burned bright but it was now accompanied by a certain degree of focus. He stared at his recently discovered enemy.
“You’re going to sleep with the geeks, bro.”
Unfortunately, Ripps’ focus was not enough to allow him to see how odd it was that his enemy, a handyman, should be standing alone on a stage in front of some curtains with no tools.
“I don’t think so. I ain’t too tired.”
As Ripps started to walk towards the stage, he stopped. Someone was pulling the curtains apart. As the curtains separated, six elderly-looking people were revealed. Ripps said, “Old geeks don’t scare Ripps.”
One by one, the elders removed their disguises, revealing they were youthfully dangerous. It would be a lie to say that Ripps was not disappointed at this turn of events. As he stood pondering his next move, the door behind him opened. In walked Danny with the War Doll in tow, carrying a large radio (although since the War Doll was resting on Danny’s chest underneath his jacket, perhaps this statement should be reversed). Danny was used to working alone and being outnumbered so the combat odds before him caused no monumental alarm. Danny let the door slam behind him before he spoke.
“Hello Ripps. Mind if I dance with your dates?”
“Sure thing, Danny, but they ain’t my dates. I would never bring a geek to the prom.”
Danny unzipped his jacket and as he did, the folded body of the War Doll fell down so the War Doll, in all of his standing glory, faced people he would soon surely have the pleasure of injuring.
“Well I’d still like to dance with them anyways. But we can’t dance without music.”
Without removing his eyes from his adversaries onstage, he pressed play and placed the radio on the floor while it played loud, almost thunderous, soulful music that was clearly engineered for aggressive dancing, music that was adorned with what seemed like an infinite number of wonderful little beats and syncopations that gave a combat dancer so many opportunities to punch and kick in an equally infinite number of combinations.
Perhaps under normal circumstances, Danny’s entrance would have created an undeniable pause in his adversaries but having just removed grey wigs and cardigan sweaters, the young punks had already accepted a less than conventional confrontation. Being more emotional and bull-headed, Ripps charged in. He went for Carl. During his approach, for good measure, Ripps clotheslined one of the punks that had already ran off the stage. Carl slowly jumped off the stage and soon found himself locked in with Ripps, causing them to look like a two competitors in a WWF match.
Danny walked in at a leisurely pace. He preferred to not make the first move. The odd, agitated, sometimes nervous energy of his foes is something he welcomed. He liked to look at them and learn. This was “combat foreplay” and he indulged in it, especially when outnumbered. There was something to be said, as in Danny’s case, for being outnumbered but showing no remorse or fear in such a situation. Such a cool response would often conquer his enemies before the fight began. With one of the punks being semi-unconscious on the floor thanks to Ripps brutal blow, there were five others that circled around Danny. Danny was impressed with how steady and confident most of them were. He then locked eyes with one that seemed not to have the heart for this encounter. Danny looked at him with such horrifying purpose that the young man’s face trembled. With great authority, Danny spoke and stepped toward him, “Pain is forever!” The young punk became so afraid that he sprinted away in the opposite direction without looking and ended up running into a wall at close to full speed. Danny was not above disposing of one of his enemies in such ways. Of the four that remained, one seemed a little affected by the display while the other three were unmoved.
Ripps’s battle was setting up to be less elegant, a battle more about strength than finesse. Although fat, Carl quickly proved to be quite strong. In fact, both were surprised at how strong the other was. They kept hold of each other as they circled. The look of their encounter was one of an angry dance. Suddenly, with brilliant power, Carl twisted Ripps’ body against the direction they were circling and slammed him to the floor. Before Ripps could recover, Carl threw himself on top of Ripps who was now laying on the floor stomach first. The fat and strength of Carl was crushing and nearly caused Ripps to black out.
Carl began to laugh at Ripps as he drove his knee into Ripps’ back. The humiliation stung Ripps and defeat felt close at hand. But then Ripps began to see saw dust lightly fall from Carl’s hair as he laughed. Ripps convinced himself this was the dust of Linda which helped him access a brand new, industrial-strength rage. Ripps managed to get his hands to either side of his chest with palms facing down. He then closed his eyes and pretended he was bench pressing a large pull-out sofa (something he had done multiple times). Slowly but undeniably, Carl felt himself rise from the Earth. When Ripps’ arms were extended, he expeditiously brought his legs underneath him and then pushed up and back, causing Carl to slide off his back. Ripps was sure to give a healthy backwards kick like a horse to Carl’s face upon his descent. This blow was a comical affair but physically and psychologically damaging.
The music playing on Danny’s radio was just getting good. The song playing was “Living in America” by James Brown. It was one of those rare songs that never grew old or stale for Danny. It really made him excited to be kicking someone’s ass in America. Anytime he became distraught by American politics or dumb American drivers or a long line at the Post Office, Danny would play that song to remind himself of the simple pleasures that made America a wonderful thing (like black coffee and a hard roll). Danny could be down on the ground getting kicked in the ribs but when that glorious horn section made their presence known, Danny would feel like a million dollars after taxes. The song’s affiliation with Rocky IV also elevated the song’s status for him and made it even more fitting in the arena of combat dancing.
Right around the time James started singing about super highways that run coast to coast, two of the punks rushed at Danny from opposite sides. With the elegance of Fred Astaire, Danny simultaneously spun and moved himself a half step backwards. When his body was nearing 270 degrees of rotation, he reached out in opposite directions, grabbed an arm of each invader and guided them into a violent introduction with one another. While those two fell to the floor, Danny took a moment or two to shake his hips and punch to the beat. With the lightness of a bird filled with helium, his feet slid and stepped to the beat and towards the more aggressive-looking chap of the two that remained on their feet. Danny allowed the young man to swing away, half-connecting a couple punches that stung but only strengthened Danny’s resolve. Danny knew exactly where he was within the song. He felt the great series of beats approaching, “…and somewhere on the way, you might…” Here they were and Danny had put his enemy right where he wanted him: “…FIND-OUT-WHO-YOU-ARE!” Each word matched a heavy beat which in turn matched a quick potent punch to his enemy’s face. And right as James Brown let out one of his trademark screams, Danny kicked the fourth and final fool in the stomach just as he mustered up the courage to approach Danny.
Ripps walked towards Carl who was on the floor and feeling foggy from Ripps’ horse kick. Remaining on the floor, he scrambled back towards the stage in a way that made Ripps think he was trying to retrieve something. Carl brushed aside a pile of newspapers that were on the floor, grabbed something underneath and swung around to face Ripps. Ripps stopped his pursuit and was staring at the distasteful end of a nail gun. Carl held back the catch release trigger with his free hand and fired off two three-inch nails. One passed through the edge of his neck, creating a nasty gash and the other caught him in the shoulder. It went deep enough that he felt it make severe contact with his bone underneath. Ripps screamed in pain. Carl smiled and took aim at Ripps face. He fired once.
The first two that Danny welcomed to the floor moments earlier were back on their feet. Understanding they would have little chance of eclipsing Danny in a hand-to-hand encounter, they chose now to use knives. They approached Danny cautiously. Right at that moment, Danny and his attackers were blinded by a light so bright it could only be described as other worldly. This light was paired with strange electrical sounds. One of the vandals took advantage of the confusion and lunged at Danny with his blade.
Ripps thought the bright light was his death. But when he heard the distinct sound of a nail entering wood, he became confused. The light subsided and inches from his face was Linda. Although he could not see it, stuck into the opposite side of his beloved piece of lumber was a nail whose destructive destiny was frustrated by one of the hardiest wood products known to man. Holding Linda to his right was Fred. He was smiling although his eyes remained quite serious.
“Future…Queer?” was all Ripps could utter.
“Yes, Ripps…and a friend I happened to pick up during my travels.”
Ripps gingerly grabbed Linda. He turned her over to find a nail stuck into her.
Whether Carl crapped his pants or not will thankfully never be known but his expression would lead one to believe he did. He dropped his nail gun and ran for the door as fast as his girth allowed. Fred was gone in literally a flash. Ripps grabbed Linda with two hands and threw her with all his might. She sailed furiously through the air, end over end, like a propeller.
Fred reappeared next to the War Doll, picked him up, and left again in a flash. Expecting to feel Danny’s flesh with his knife, the vandal’s knife came into contact with a different material. It felt like an armored pillow. Whatever it was, it stopped the knife completely. When the light evaporated, the attacker could not believe what he saw. The War Doll was being held by two hands that belonged to a body that stood behind Danny. Another flash and the mysterious figure behind Danny was gone. The War Doll was pinned against Danny’s chest by the knife. Danny struck each side of his attacker’s neck with the sides of his hands. The knife fell to the ground and Danny kicked him in the chest so hard that he left the ground for one delightful moment. The other knife bearer soon found himself the sufferer of an instant migraine as the War Doll’s head crashed into his head. Danny heard the doors opening. He looked over.
As I opened the door, I saw Carl running towards me. Before I could even react, I heard the sound of wood hitting bone. Carl’s head shook and his eyeballs went on vacation. He fell to the floor, revealing Linda on the floor behind him and further in the distance, Ripps stood with blood coming out of his neck and shoulder. He grimaced as he pulled the nail out of his shoulder. A large number of police officers flooded in behind me and began “securing the scene” or whatever you call it when they handcuff and arrest people.
Detective Sean Mitchells walked into the gym as Danny and Ripps briefed me on their experiences. Sean was a black man in his mid-40’s. A little over six feet, the detective work allowed him to gain a little weight and grow some character-adding patches of grey in his temples. He informed us that Lily had been arrested. Although we practically served this case to him on a silver platter, he showed no bitterness or pride issues. He was grateful and so were we to have the freedom to do what one great man thought we should do. I had known Detective Mitchells for several years and he was one of the first people I approached when assembling my team. He was happy to work with us as long as we played by certain rules. This mission was our first one and both of us agreed it was a success.
During the course of all the action, Terrence incredibly provided Detective Mitchells and I with invaluable information. In an absurdly short amount of time, pulling data that was and was not for public consumption, and with Terence’s pristine guidance, “The Geek” almost immediately constructed an undeniable pattern within the Jopman organization. On numerous occasions, they had built factories on land that was purchased for little money, in situations that seemed to reek of “distressed sales”. In a handful of them, there were corruption cases surrounding Jopman’s property acquisitions but there never seemed to be enough evidence or the desire of pursuit. One of the things that made this case different was that Sean was armed in advance with this knowledge and instantly applied the precise pressure points of knowledge, truth and guilt upon Lily at her most vulnerable point (that point being right when Sean stormed through the front doors, flanked by so many officers) and coaxed a whopper of a confession out of her almost immediately.
We more or less figured it out by the time the wench opened her mouth but Lily gracefully filled in a few details. The short of it is that Jopman wanted to construct a factory where the center now stood. As they had done previously, a shadowy figure somehow connected to Jopman decided to approach someone of importance in the community center and made a proposal: do whatever you must to close down this center, we will buy it for a low price, and you will be rewarded financially for your efforts.
Unfortunately, unsuccessful attempts were made to carry this investigation to the very core of Jopman but as is often the case, such a large powerful organization is protected by thick walls consisting of money, powerful people, brilliant lawyers, and genius sinister minds. Jopman was able to contain this loss and had no problem writing it off. The bastards probably figured out a way to turn it into a desirable tax write-off. It would have been wonderful to simply send Fred through time to gain advantageous knowledge of Jopman that could help undo the firm but the Time Travel Code of Ethics would not allow it.
Speaking of Fred, he was nowhere to be seen. This is exactly how we needed it to be. The lower our profile was the better. After assisting Danny, Fred vanished. The only one that really caught a good glimpse of him was Carl. Watching Carl trying to explain Fred to his arresting officers was more entertainment than I could bear.
Fred took an enormous risk in doing what he did. It showed how incredibly talented of a time traveler he really is. Popping in an out of certain point of time with lots of moving targets is more dangerous than cave diving. And jumping in right next to a living, mobile thing is more dangerous than hang gliding in the stormy atmosphere of Jupiter. And to make matters more complex, he had to override Juan, his supercomputer, to even gain access to such a jump. Of course, there’s also the grilling he is sure to receive from his superiors for such actions. This caused great concern for me but Fred assured me he would be able to “win the day” as it relates to this matter. Danny did not need to be told of how large of a sacrifice this was. He is quite in tune with the warrior code and can sense great sacrifice practically before it happens.
Ripps also acknowledges sacrifice but I had a talk with him to make sure he realized just how special this sacrifice was since Fred clearly knew of Ripps’ homophobic tendencies. I don’t think Ripps was ready to hang out at gay bars but he at the very least became more accepting and friendly towards Fred which was a positive start. Maybe Ripps would have lived if he got shot in the face with a nail but he was most appreciative he did not have to find out. He was even more appreciative to have his favorite inanimate object returned to him.