Jen Air: Springheel, Part Four
Spring heeled Jack stories started right at the start of Queen Victoria’s reign, in 1837, and he has of course been a villain in many other stories as well, and even a vigilante hero in some stories. But as I mentioned before, most of the time he’s a bogeyman who attacks and plays pranks on people. Still, here’s a quick list of interpretations in other tales and media (I’ve not seen most of these, so I’m just reading it off wikipedia:
The Springheel Saga – A radio series starring Julian Glover and Nicolas Parsons.
He’s been a DC Comics villain as well, as a nemesis to Knight and Squire.
He’s a troll in the Jackie Chan Adventures.
In the show Luther there was also a villain who emulated him… I must not have seen the second series because I don’t remember that episode.
And, yes, he was a vigilante superhero in UK comics in the 70′s and 80′s (as well as in some old penny-dreadful’s I believe.)
But anyway, here’s the next part of this story:
Springheel, Part Four
The police wasted little time preparing the raid on Henry John’s home, chance prepping the armoured officers in the van on the way, fumbling through the sheets Jen had given him.
“Okay, so… he’s got a suit that increases his strength, night vision goggles,” he read out, trying to make sense of all the diagrams and notes scattered around. “And some kind of actual springs in his heels…” the van jumped, papers all fanned out in his hand and he lost his place. “Okay, look… he’s freakishly strong, very fast, and extremely dangerous. Think PCP, but worse. You don’t take any chances with him. You see him make a single move toward you, shoot. Aim for the exposed part of his face, his mouth, if you can, and take that clown down. You got all that?”
“Yes sir!” They saluted, which had never happened to Sergeant Delainy before as he normally hated brown-nosing. This time he let it go.
Chance didn’t like to sound really overly macho, but few things in life made you feel any manlier than when you were kicking down a door and holding a shotgun. After he had done that, he and the other officers stormed inside.
They swept each room, kicking down more doors, cupboard doors were flung open, and the insides found to be stripped and bare. After so much manliness, it seemed there was nothing for them to do. Delainy deflated a little. He jumped, startled, spinning on his heel to face the boxes that had just toppled over… but then officer who had bumped into them apologised and everything was annoyingly quiet again. He reached into his coat and took out his phone.
“Hey Cade… guess what?” He said. “There’s nothing here.” He went over to where the boxes had fallen to be sure, but they were just filled with old clocks.
In the cottage next to the lighthouse, Kaya and Jen had left Tenley watching a programme about dinosaurs and retreated to the kitchen, which was a bit chilly as there was a hole in the wall and the robots still hadn’t done anything.
“Wait… I tell a lie,” Delainy said, video coming through Kaya’s phone. “There is something… looks like there are some numbers scratched in the floor over here.”
Kaya read them out, then mused, “what is that? Some kind of code?”
“Well, it’s not a phone number,” Delainy said, the eye of his camera lens spinning round the rest of the house. “Not an address or coordinates either.”
Jen knew that of course. And she also agreed with Sergeant Delainy’s earlier assessment, that this man, at least in part, was doing it because he enjoyed the thrill. It was quite possible that he had left a clue or trail for them to follow. She opened her mouth to speak, while in her mind she rearranged the numbers, then grouped some of them together and came up with…
“Dates!” Kaya suddenly exclaimed. Jen closed her mouth. “What? Other people can be smart sometimes too, you know.”
“Yeah,” Delainy sighed from the other end of the phone signal. “But what do they mean?” Jen was about to offer a suggestion, but was interrupted again and so politely waited. “There’s something else…”
Chance leaned closer to the floor, twisting his torso so that his ear was hovering just above the boards. There was some kind of hissing, bubbling… maybe pipes, but he didn’t think any should be there.
“Is it me,” Daramy said, tugging a little at his collar, “or is it suddenly getting warmer in here?”
Delainy gestured for another officer to come over and help him lift up the floorboard. There were pipes, but these pipes weren’t a part of the building’s plumbing. Someone had placed them here, side by side, probably quite some time ago. At intervals along their length were nozzles, and it was getting hotter… He suddenly realised why… “Out!” He yelled, leaping up and hurriedly shepherding his team toward the door. “Everyone out, now!”
But the one who had laid this trap had other ideas. Shutters suddenly came down across all the doors and windows, and while of them tried futilely banging to be released, small geysers erupted from each of the nozzles as the pipes unleashed their toxin. The officers spluttered and stumbled, Chance attempting to cover his mouth and nose with a handkerchief, although he didn’t expect it to do much good. Through the haze of vapour and his rapidly deteriorating senses, he saw Jack. He didn’t see where he had come from, where he had been hiding, but now Jack strolled across his vision, wearing some kind of oxygen mask, flexing and stretching his metal claws.
Chance tried to get up, aim his gun, but his body had become too lethargic and slow as he was being overcome by the gas. Jack glided forward, seizing the revolver from the sergeant’s hand while thrusting with his arm, knocking him back into the wall. Chance collapsed, his body finally giving in to the fumes as he blinked to sleep.
“This… this is my fault,” Jen gasped, staggering back with her head low, clenching her fist. “I-I was only focused on his suit,” she muttered to herself. “And him being a robotics engineer. I should have checked to see what else he’d been… t-the reports said he breathed fire. I should have guessed he knew his way around chemicals as well…”
“Jen!” Kaya called out, partly to snap her friend out of it, but also because she was still connected to Chauncey’s phone and now Jack’s face was hovering above the camera, irises behind his red lenses contracting to focus on it.
“Hello…” his voice croaked behind his mask and he gently tapped the screen.
The blonde stepped back, her body still tense as she grimaced, “Henry…”
He hissed and recoiled, pounding on the ground as he twitched and screamed, “Do not say the name! Horrid… b-broken… thing…”
“Henry?” Kaya repeated. Again he screamed, veins and muscles on his neck bulging as he hammered on the floor again. Jen quickly placed her hand over the microphone.
“Chance and Daramy and the other officers might still be alive,” she said to Kaya. “Don’t make him angry.”
“Alright,” the punk took a deep breath, steadying herself before she spoke again. “Jack?”
“Yesss,” he hissed, again peering into camera. “Henry… Henry’s chubby… Henry’s slow. But now I am Jack. I am… Jack Springheel…”
“You’re a crazy person,” Kay muttered. Jen shot her eyes at her and frowned, but fortunately Jack didn’t seem to hear as he just kept chuckling to himself.
“Is that what this is all about, Jack? You get bullied in school so now you’re enacting some kind of revenge? Don’t you think that’s…” Kaya swallowed and closed her eyes, trying to pick her words carefully so as not to agitate him too much. “Kind of silly?”
“Henry smells… Henry’s fat…”
“It’s not an excuse,” Jennifer sighed. “You could have chosen to be a better person than all of them.”
“Henry,” Jack spat, pulling off his mask, “could have taken all of that! But… now there is only Jack. And Jack be nimble… Jack be quick. Jack… you never catch.”
“What do you want, Jack?”
“Want?” His face ticked and his neck twisted. “W-want her… want…” he suddenly sounded somewhat forlorn as he sat back and started rocking himself, although still like a scratched record.
“Who is… ‘her’?”
Jack suddenly froze, his head rotating toward the camera lens. “Not you…” he rasped, and suddenly sprung to his feet and picked up the phone, spinning it around the room to show all the unconscious police officers. “You want? Come get. If you can catch me,” he laughed, “b-but you can’t. No one can catch Jack. But I let you try,” the camera spun back round to his pale face and dark lipped grin. Next to it, he held up a clock. “Time is a-a ticking…” he said, then crushed the phone in his hand and Kaya’s screen went black.
“He’s giving us just one hour,” Jen sighed, “we’ve no choice but to play his game. Come on.”
Tenley sat in the middle of a sofa kicking her legs as she popped corn into her mouth. The sofa seemed huge with just her sat alone in it, while in front of her the tyrannosaur stood and roared and then snapped it’s mighty jaws at the tiny mammals scurrying under its feet. She tilted her head, enthralled by the power of the beast and willing for it to crush the nasty little scavengers who were after her eggs.
Kaya and Jen passed through the room behind her, fetching their coats as they passed the hangers. “Hey, kiddo,” the punk said, “we’re going out for a little while. Will you be okay?”
“Hmm-hmmm,” was the girl’s response, as she never took her eyes off the screen.
“Hull will get you anything you need,” Jen said as she was closing the door behind, although Ten was hardly listening. “Just ask. And, um… don’t open the door to any strange people.”
Kaya quickly made sure to add the proviso, “apart from us. Let us back in.”
“Got it,” Tenley gestured impatiently with her thumb. “Bye.”