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The question of whether Vance was dead or not became more than academic when he found himself in a bathtub up to his chin in ice water like some forgotten cocktail garnish, a demonic woman standing over him, and no memory of how he got there.
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The Red Rook, sequel to Dispensing Justice and the second novel of Nova Genesis World is now available for Kindle or as a paperback at Amazon.
Read free chapters of Dispensing Justice here (or get it here).
Read free chapters of The Red Rook here (or get it here). -- Fritz Freiheit

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Dispensing Justice - Chapter 7 - I Saw You Die

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When high school freshman Michael Gurrick's father is killed by supervillains, he takes up his father's supersuit and seeks justice (or will it be vengeance?) against his father's killers. (e)

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Chapter 7 — I Saw You Die

When I opened the door to the mini-van I almost had a heart attack of joy. Instead of finding Mom at the wheel it was, impossibly, Dad. Then the cold tendrils of reality clamped down again. How could it be him? This wasn't the comic books, where every superhero keeps coming back despite dying in four-color glory. I had watched with horror the webcast news footage shot from an SNN drone. It had gone viral just hours before, so everybody would know by now. Somehow the Demolition Squad had beaten him in the end, and the final scene was etched in my memory. A filter-masked, red goggled head being held aloft by a triumphant Chainsaw, the white suited body of my father lying at his feet. There hadn't been much blood; the suit, still trying to protect him, had sealed itself.

So who was this doppelgänger? His mimicry of my father was exact, down to the faint chemical stains on his fingers, and the platinum wedding band. I wanted a closer look at it, to see if it had the gouge that had appeared after Dad's encounter with Blowback.

"Aren't you going to get in, son?" the man who couldn't be Dad said. "Don't worry about the mud."

I continued to hesitate, absently wiping at my mud-splattered uniform. Dirtying up the interior of the van was the least of my worries. Even if I wasn't worrying about whether my dad's secret identity had been compromised, or if Mom was okay, I wouldn't have hesitated because of a little mud. But it was just like Dad to miss the fact that Mom had had the interior of the van treated with Dirt-Shield---she had been, some would say compulsively, buying the White Whirlwind's line of Super-Clean products ever since he retired from crime fighting five years ago to 'Clean Up America'. The apparent lack of concern about my muddy condition on the part of the doppelganger sitting in the van's driver seat could have been from his---its?---knowing Dad wouldn't have paid attention to a Dirt-Shield treatment in the van, or it just could have been a hole in his briefing. Which led back to the question at hand. Was this a supervillain, and was he involved with Dad's killing? The analytical part of my mind engaged, slowing the barrage of questions, prioritizing and categorizing the facts and unknowns.

After what felt like minutes, but was actually only a few seconds I managed to say, "Uh, I just have to get my bike."

As I unlocked and wheeled it around to the back of the van, my mind had shifted into analytical overdrive. Either someone had underestimated me, or they had one hell of a psych profiler, a profiler who could predict my mixture of curiosity and desire for revenge. You can guess which one of those two possibilities I preferred. I clipped the bike to the rack as I looked through the rain in the direction of the tennis courts. I expected Penny to be along soon.

Through the fabric of my backpack I fingered the high-pressure chemical sprayer that I had built into a pen, considering how I could surreptitiously get it out. It was loaded with a variation of mace that I had synthesized. Give it half a twist, and the shot of high intensity irritant would incapacitate anybody but a 'brick'. Give it a twist and a half, and it would deliver its chemical load with enough force to punch through a gas mask. Or drywall. I know. I had had to do some pretty fancy verbal footwork to explain the hole in my bedroom wall last fall.

Maybe I'd get a chance to incapacitate whoever this was and ask him some pointed questions. There were five hidden video cameras distributed about the interior of the mini-van, continuously monitored by software agents that would alert the authorities if it identified any unusual activity. Installed, so I was told, because we might be kidnapping targets, what with Dad being a VP of Energy Development at Galacticity Metro Edison and all. While the kidnapping threat was real enough, it was because of the job Dad didn't talk about, not the one he did. Of course they could have been hacked, in which case there wouldn't be a timely armed response. I'd just have to deal.

I slipped the pen from my backpack and got in next to 'Dad'. "Uh, sorry, I was just expecting Mom."

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