Jen Air: Springheel, Part Three
Springheel, Part Three
“Hey, dibbles!” Kaya beamed as she opened the door. Behind her Jen was silently grumbling while Ten just tilted her head curiously.
“Can it, Cade,” the shaggy police officer, Chauncey ‘Chance’ Delainy, said as he forced his way in. “This isn’t a social call. I…” he suddenly became distracted by a small bot rolling around his feet on little tracks, sweeping up dirt around his shoes with a little dustpan and brush and spraying air freshener, no doubt in response to the waft of tobacco coming from his clothes. “What the actual f…”
“Ah!” Kaya immediately shushed him and nodded her head toward Tenley. “There are children present.”
Chance glared at her for a moment. Kaya being responsible for anything was no doubt far stranger to him than any of the mechanical contraptions he saw. “Fine,” he said at last, “I don’t give a damn about whatever weird stuff you all get up to here. But we do need your help with something.”
“Hello, little girl,” Sergeant Francis Daramy smiled toward Tenley.
“Hello,” she beamed back, “average size man.”
“Are these two taking good care of you?”
Tenley shrugged. “I guess…”
“And are you getting a good education?”
“Well how would I know? I’m a kid.”
“It’s very important to learn about all the things you can. I sometimes wonder about what I could have been, if only I’d had a better education.”
“What’s wrong with being a policeman?”
“Oh, nothing,” the sergeant sighed. “But perhaps I could have been a doctor, or an engineer… someone who actually helps people.”
“But,” Tenley stared hard at him, “you’re a policeman…”
“Yes… yes…” Daramy nodded sadly. “Well, I do get to meet lots of interesting people, I suppose…”
“Okay,” Kaya suddenly clapped her hands while Delainy shook his head.
“Well, that was… pointless. What is it you two actually want?”
Jen was, still, red faced and furious about strange people showing up at her door without being invited. She didn’t say anything, leaving the talking to Kaya, but she listened in the hope that they would eventually run out of things to say and then leave. The officers had asked that Tenley not listen to their conversation so she’d gone off to beat up some wooden blocks.
“Spring Heeled Jack,” Delainy explained, spreading out photos on a table they’d cleared, which had further annoyed Jen but still she didn’t say anything. “He was a sort of bogeyman in Victorian England, although sightings of him eventually spread to other countries as well. Sightings of him started here a few months ago. It wasn’t anything much at first… he would just jump out and scare people, usually young women and girls, or maybe knock an officers hat off, then always just run away. He was just a nuisance. An annoying little thrill seeker in a stupid penny-dreadful costume. But now…”
“He’s getting bolder,” Daramy said. “Now he’s attacking people.”
“Last night he attacked a family in their car. Forced it off the road, knocked out the dad, and then assaulted two girls. Thankfully, an officer scared him off. They’re all fine… one of the girls got burned, but she’ll recover, at least physically.”
“But it’s doubtful it will end there. He’ll attack again, and next time there might be no-one there to stop him.”
“Sounds like a creep,” Kaya said and tacitly agreed with by everyone else in the room. “But, what do you want our help with?”
“Just like the old urban legends,” Chance sighed, “this Jack seems to have superhuman strength. Able to run as fast as most cars and leap over buildings.”
“So… you think he might be a faery?”
Jen shook her head. ‘Faeries’ was the name Kaya had given to the synthetically created humanoids they had fought recently, and an identity Titania had embraced for herself. Technically, the creators referred to them as ‘ELFs’ – Engineered Life Forms – but although the creature they had seen was humanoid, an ELF could actually be anything, from single cells to dragons… at least, if it was at all physically possible, there was no reason it couldn’t be designed by Stag Corps gene writers and grown in the crystal eggs. But they had killed Titania, and destroyed Stag Corp. This person, Springheel, had also assumed the identity of a legend. But his behaviour didn’t match that of the faeries, as this person seemed to want to be seen. There was no way of knowing for sure how many Titania had infected with her cells, or what they might do now she was no longer controlling them, but still… Jen decided to take a closer at the photos through a magnifying glass while the others carried on talking.
“We managed to round up most the ones we knew about,” Kaya said, “and Doctor Sarkis gave them an injection. But I suppose there’s no way to know for sure how many there were… and Lilian is definitely still out there.”
Very unusual footwear, Jen noticed, at least for a man. Of course, it was hardly unheard of for a male to wear elevated heels, but she had to pay attention to anything that was even a little out of the ordinary. Delainy had shown them some little bits of video people had captured of Springheel… there was something she found a little bit mechanical about the way he moved.
Chance grimaced. “So they could come back at any time. The whole thing could start up again.”
Obviously night-vision goggles, and under his coat, Jack seemed to be wearing some kind of silver skin-tight suit. There were glimpses of it in the pictures… there were patterns over the fabric. Wiring, or… some kind of muscle enhancing exo-suit?
“At least we know about them now,” Kaya tried to assure everybody, “and honestly, I’d have expected Lilian to lay low for quite a while longer than this.”
Jen turned to a monitor and keyboard. The materials you would need to make something like that, not to mention the tools, weren’t things that could be purchased locally. Maybe he worked for an engineering company, or maybe he worked from home. In any case, she just had to work out what she would need, and then find who had it.
“Doesn’t seem right though,” Kaya pondered, “why would any of them bother to dress up like that? And why would they have changed the way they behave so much? Maybe this guy isn’t one at all…”
“Yeah, well,” Chance exhaled, “we have to find out who exactly he is and figure out a way to stop him.”
“He’s not,” Jen suddenly confirmed, ripping out the pages she’d just printed. “His name is Henry John Foster. He started training as a robotics engineer but never finished because of ‘mental health issues’. That’s his address at the top of the page,” she said, thrusting the papers into Delainy’s arms.
But the officer just looked perplexed for a moment. “How did you…?”
“It’s all there,” Jen insisted. “So now, you have what you want. Everyone must go now,” she said, turning and pushing him toward the door. Delainy was obviously just too confused to resist. “Please? I have things to do, so, thank you for coming. Bye. Thank you! Goodbye…”
With a shrug, Daramy decided to just gather up the photos and other evidence they had brought and go out after his partner. At the door, Delainy seemed to suddenly remember that he was much bigger than she was, and pushed back a little.
“Wait!” He snapped, and quickly composed himself. “There’s something else you two should know. The girls this guy attacks… he seems to target girls aged between eleven and fifteen.”
Jennifer paused. The other night, she’d been on the roof of the lighthouse pointing out a star she said was ten and a half light years away, and so the light they were seeing must have left it at about the time she was born. Tenley had corrected her… she was eleven.
Kaya stood straight, with her arms crossed over her chest. “We’ll keep an eye on her,” she said. “Thanks.” Chance nodded and then left.
The blonde hung her head for a moment, wondering if maybe she should make some excuse to keep Tenley inside the house, at least until this villain was in custody. She didn’t want to be like a paranoid and overprotective parent, and Tenley was obviously quite capable of protecting herself. But they were responsible for that girl now, and she had already seen so much that a child should never have to see, and it had made her do things that a child should never have to do…
“Jen,” Kaya said, tapping her foot.
“O-oh…” the blonde looked up. “Yes?”
“You were very rude just now,” the punk informed her.
Jennifer winced a little, knowing that was very true. “I-I’m sorry. I just… I’m not used to people just ‘dropping by’. It makes me uncomfortable.”
“What about Doctor Sarkis?”
“She always schedules her appointments at least a week or two in advance.”
“Well… what about Sayuri? She’s a friend, right?” Kaya asked, and Jen nodded. She liked Sayuri. Sayuri was laid back and extremely well-mannered for a drummer in a punk band, and just about the easiest person in the world to get along with. “So are you saying that if she wanted to visit, she’d have to make an appointment?”
“N-no… of course not,” Jen shook her head. “I mean… I guess its fine, so long as I’m not in the middle of something.”
“You’re always in the middle of something.”
Jen sighed, as that was true as well. She supposed not every project of hers was so important that she couldn’t take a break every once in a while… apart from the ones that might explode or release a toxic gas if she didn’t watch them carefully. She didn’t do anything like that very often…
“Friendship is… inconvenient,” she muttered.
“Sometimes, yeah,” Kaya agreed. “So, what’s in the schedule now, butch?”
“Well… nothing, really. I mean, I was thinking of recalibrating the railgun but it’s not really urgent right now…”
“Great!” Kaya took her hands. “Let’s get Ten and we’ll all watch a movie or TV show together, okay?”
Jen hadn’t really watched anything for a long time… not with anyone else anyway. She supposed that might be nice. She smiled, considering that, despite how grumpy she had been about the policeman arriving, inviting Kay and Ten to stay with her was probably the smartest thing she had ever done. She liked them being around. Not that she didn’t love Hull and her bots and other things, but, she was only human, and for the first time since she’d moved in it felt to her like there was life here.
“Okay,” she said.