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May 15, 2012

I Hraet You (5)

Beat 5: No Such Thing as Consequences

“So where are we on the whole steak thing?” Patton asked.  “’Cause I’m all for it, if we’re voting on it.”
JP shook his head and continued staring out the van’s window.  “It takes both me and Lloyd to get through just half of one of your steaks,” he said, watching as the sunset-soaked stores of Mason Street whizzed by.  “It’s wasted effort -- and wasted money.  All the food ends up going in your belly.”
“It’s not a waste if someone gets to eat,” Patton argued.  “Besides, how will you and your brother grow up big and strong if you don’t get some meat in your systems?  Don’t tell me you’re going to count on --” He snorted out a laugh.  “Artichokes.”
“I’ve never had one.  And I hope I never do.”
“Then you’d better eat!  Eat some meat!”

Lloyd smiled as his partners in crime went into a debate on the merits of broccoli.  He lay in the backseat, hands folded behind his head, as he stared at the van’s cloth-lined ceiling.  I wonder if it’s really possible, he thought, ignoring the bobbing of his body as the van turned corners on its way up Porbeagle’s hills.  He shook his head.  No.  I can’t limit myself by thinking like that.  It’s not a matter of possibility; it’s all about proficiency.  A shame that Miss Walters isn’t around to help me -- but with these two on my side, I should be able to pull something off.  In which case, the time has come to raise the curtain.
He sat up and raised a hand.  “So I have a confession to make,” he began, interrupting their talk of the glory of hot dogs.  “I think I may have some sort of superpower now, and I’d like your help to put it to good use.”
JP turned back toward Lloyd.  “You really need to learn to think before you speak,” he chided.  “And I mean ‘think like a normal person.’  Not everybody lives in Lloyd Land.”
“A fair point, considering I’ve yet to build an amusement park in my name,” said Lloyd with a brush of his bangs (and a groan from JP).  “But that’s not important.  I think that the accident awakened some latent talent in me -- one that, I suspect, could help plenty of people if given the chance.  But I’d rather not do it alone, if I can possibly help it; I’ll need your smarts, JP, and your strength, Dad.”
JP raised an eyebrow.  “And what are you going to contribute?”
“My acting skills, of course!”
“First of all, no.  Second of all, are you crazy?  And third of all, hell no.  You really expect us to believe you’ve got powers?  Like what?  And where’s your proof?”  His eyes narrowed.  “Does this have something to do with that surfer girl?  Are you sure you-”
Patton nodded.  “I believe you, son.”
“It’s all right, JP.  You and I both know Lloyd’s not the kind of man who lies.  If he says he’s got powers now, then he’s got powers.”
Lloyd ran a forearm over his face and sniffled.  “Dad, I’m so moved I could cry!”
“Don’t.  Only cry when it’s absolutely necessary.  That’s how a real man lives.”
“Fair enough.”  He waved a hand through the air.  “At any rate, I’m certain about this power of mine.  I can’t give you any concrete evidence -- yet -- but give me enough time, and I can make something amazing happen, given the chance.”
“Such as?” JP asked.  “Don’t tell me you’re planning on trying to stop a train, or doing some web-slinging.”
Lloyd stroked his chin.  “It’s all conjecture for now, but it’s more of a passive ability than a physical one.  You could even argue that it’s a psychic ability.”
“So what does it do?” Patton asked, turning his head a hair from the road.
“Again, it’s all conjecture.  But if my guess is correct, it’s a power that lets me touch the heart.”
JP rustled for a bit in his seat, searching his data banks for the most applicable insult.  “Dad, I think we need a second opinion.  Lloyd’s brain is still broken.  Well, more broken than usual.”
“It’s not broken, damn it!” Lloyd wailed, pumping his fists up and down like a toddler.  “If anything, it’s better than it’s ever been, now that I’m effectively an esper.”
“So what, can you read minds?” Patton asked, wondering if his son knew he still had steaks on the brain (and wasn’t above raiding a farm two towns over to get the meat, if need be). 
“Not necessarily.  It’s hard to describe without getting some extra practice with it, but I suspect it’s more like a connection.  A bond between my mind -- or rather, my heart -- and the target.  And while we’re connected, I can influence the target with my actions.  Elevating their moods, as far as I can tell.”  He turned aside.  He wasn’t too eager to explain -- or even wonder -- just what would happen if Trixie had hit zero stars.
“So basically, you have the power to…make people happy?” JP asked.  “If I were you, I’d be pissed.  That sounds like a pretty crappy power.”
“So you believe me now?”
“Don’t get too hasty.  I’m just saying that -- IF this thing exists -- then it sounds like a power I could do without.”  He leaned out of his seat and faced his brother, his typically annoyed stare giving way to one of quiet apprehension.  “If this power of yours is real, don’t you think it’s got to have some drawbacks, too?”
“True enough.  But name me one thing in life that doesn’t have a drawback.”  He shook his head slowly.  “Regardless of the consequences, this is something that I can’t afford to turn my back on.  I can use this power to touch people’s hearts in a way no one else can.  And you expect me to relent, just to save my own being?  JP, you’ve misjudged me severely.”
JP grumbled and slid back into his seat, arms folded and head hung low.  “This wouldn’t happen to be related to your ‘big-breasted harem paradise’ thing, would it?”
“It may very well be.”
“You know, that would have been a great opportunity for you to lie.”
“It’s like I said.  Lloyd isn’t the type of person to lie -- that’s part of what makes him a man,” said Patton, his bear-scaring voice now swelling with pride.  As he came to a stop behind a red light, he glanced at his eldest son.  “You’re serious about this, aren’t you?  This ‘heart’ thing, your harem, all of it?”
Lloyd patted a hand against his chest and nodded.  “I would stake my very soul on it.  A new battle is about to begin in our fair town -- and I will lead the charge, as its impassioned genera-”
“Lloyd,” JP snapped.  “Too hammy.”
But Patton merely nodded in approval.  “If you’re serious, then go ahead.  Do whatever you need to do.”  He looked to JP for a moment, and then turned back to Lloyd.  “Show us both your proof.  Let us see that you’ve got the power -- and that you’re a man who can handle any challenge.  If you can do that, then we’ll both support you.”
“You can’t be serious, Dad!” JP blurted.
“It’s what your mother would want, son.  I’m sure she’d be happy, knowing that her boys are growing into some fine-ass men.”  He shuddered.  “And I really don’t want her haunting me anytime soon.  I mean, yeah, I can take on an angry mob or two, but how am I supposed to fight a ghost?”
JP groaned, and ran his hands through his hair.  “You’re both idiots,” he muttered.  In spite of that, he sighed and threw up his hands in defeat.  “But I guess if I don’t lend a hand, you two will be behind bars -- or worse -- in a week’s time.”
“So you’ll help me?” Lloyd asked.
“IF you can show us proof.  And the sooner the better.  After all, tomorrow’s the big day.  You can’t afford to be wasting time, and neither can I.”
“I haven’t forgotten,” said Lloyd, a wily smile inching across his face.  “In fact, I’ll do you both a service.  Before this day is over, I’ll have your proof upon our doorstep -- AND a willing member of our alliance to boot!”  He shot a thumb towards his chest.  “Heed my words, my faithful kin; by the sweat of my brow and the heat of my soul, the world will soon cheer in awe at the sound of my voice, and let loose their tears at the sight of my violet crown!  I, Lloyd B. Hoigleheimer --”
“God, our last name sucks,” JP mumbled.
“-- will use this newfound power for justice and glory the likes of which the world has never known!  For the sake of my estrogen-laden paradise, I shall triumph!  Triumph!  TRIUMPH!”
“Why did you say the last part three times?” Patton asked.
“I was going for an echo effect.”  Lloyd placed one hand on the van’s door handle, and raised the other to his forehead in salute.  “And now, dear family, I depart!  When next we meet, I’ll be one step closer to the new age!”  He winked at Patton.  “Have those steaks ready, Dad!  Tonight, we feast!”  And before anyone could object, he opened the door, tumbled into the street, dusted himself off, and skipped toward the beach -- making sure to twirl around a lamp post or two on the way there.
“It’s a miracle he survived middle school,” said JP.  “Seriously, who the hell jumps out of a moving vehi-”
Patton sent the van into a drift that would make even Vin Diesel jealous, throwing smoke and asphalt chips into the air.  JP’s head nearly smashed through the window; luckily he didn’t, but he still got a bruise that he wouldn’t forget anytime soon.  “Dad, what the hell?!” he asked, righting himself in his seat.
“You heard the man!  It’s steak night!”  Patton slammed an elephant-sized foot onto the gas, ready for a little demolition derby if it would get him to the store any faster.  “Hell yeah, steaks!  That’s my boy!”
I have to have been adopted, JP thought with a sour frown.  I…I just have to.  He gasped and pointed ahead.  “Dad, watch out for that old lady --!”
“Huh?  What old lady?”
“…Never mind.”


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