Chapter 4:

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Other  |  House: Booksie Classic

Reads: 218

Marvin stood back, satisfied. He'd done well with the clone's wounds, in his opinion anyway. Though, he felt a little worried still. Van hadn't spoken a word, not even when Marvin had given him the stinging stuff. The black haired man just lay there, staring off into space. The teen bit his lip a little, examining the torn suit and shredded tie.
"Uh... hey..." He began. "Hey." He said a little louder, after receiving no answer.
Van sat up straight with strange swiftness. His eyes un-clouded, and he snapped to attention like a veteran soldier. Marvin took another step back, feeling a little uncomfortable. The jobman was looking at him as if he was his boss. Yes, sir?
"Erm... I was just thinking... you might want some new clothes and all." Marvin's voice cracked, and annoyance momentarily took away his thoughts.
"If it is what you think is best." Van's voice was monotone, emotionless.
Marvin raised one eyebrow, curious now. "Why do you talk like that? It's all... fancy or something."
"Formal might be a better description." Van relaxed a little, recognizing that he was not being given an order.
"Well whatever it is, you might as well throw it in a ditch. Nobody cares about that stuff around here. In fact, I'm gonna teach you just what they do care about." He leaned back against the wall. "First of all, you gotta have a gun if you're gonna live in Sandersville. I could find you one, if you want."
"That will not be necessary."
Both Van and the boy began to relax. They were alone, yet somehow that made it better. Marvin was beginning to find it was easier talking to someone who didn't make fun of you, like Dexter, or someone who treated you like a little kid, like his big sis, Riley. Van spoke to Marvin as if he was on the same level as him, or perhaps even higher up. There was something about the jobman that made him look completely trust able, and this made Marvin wonder why in the world everyone else in town was freaking out over him.
Van liked the teen. They'd only spoken to each other for a few minutes, yet #736X liked not having to grovel with submission or demand dominance throughout the entire course of a conversation. They were, for the most part, equal. And it might not be such a terrible thing to have an Erebian friend, even if it's his first and most likely only friend he would ever have.
"Then back to the original plan. Clothes. I'll be back soon, and if Claire asks, tell her I went to talk to Katie." Marvin winked, and turned to leave. Van watched him go, wondering who Katie was.
Riley's younger brother opened the door to catch Benson holding Claire in his arms and full on kissing her. A plastic box of pineapple chunks was clutched in one of his mentor's hands. Ugh. He spat a little and quietly went past them, glad neither of their attentions were on him. Get a room. He thought as he went around the corner and towards the main road. He was well past the 'cooties' stage, but grown-ups kissing still disgusted him. The major difference was it now sometimes brought a little more color to his cheeks.
The main road of Sandersville was little more than a plain dirt road with a tumbleweed or two blowing across it. It was lined on both sides with old, wild-west looking buildings mixed with strange near-modern metal ones, and partially destroyed buildings that no one had bothered to fix. Marvin was bound for a small wooden one that stood for a clothes store.
He went at a speed that was somewhere between running and walking. The young Mr. Gray was known partially for his extensive energy, and partially for how long it was taking for him to truly mature. Twelve-and-a-half years old, and still playing games like 'cops and robbers'. Most Erebians by that age were already visiting bars and smoking on street corners.
A large portion of Marvin's childish behavior was due to his mother always babying him, but what nobody really knew was that the boy had no interest in growing up. What was the point? He was either going to wind up getting shot or drinking so much he'd wish he'd been shot. He didn't have a bright future, and he knew it, so it was simply easier to ignore it all and keep the good old imagination in mint condition. It was way more fun, too.
He skidded to a stop on the 'sidewalk' (dirt and rocks thrown together) as he spotted a familiar sight. In the shadow of the bar's awning, leaning against the wall, were Riley, her dumb friend Dexter, and Eddie. He waited, and after a moment or so, his sister stopped leaning and began to walk towards the old library, Robbie's house. He sprinted after her, calling her name.
Riley Gray sighed in annoyance. She had things to do for christ's sake! And now here was her hyper-active little brother, in all his un-coordinated glory. She loved him, sure, but she rarely had time for him, and most of the time he just got in the way. Her ponytail moved against her shoulder as she turned to him, frowning.
"The jobman needs clothes; I don't know what fits him. Can you help me out or what?" Short, and to the point. That was Marvin.
"I need to talk to Robbie, and, hopefully, Benson. I don't have time for this." She muttered, but she wasn't the only hard-headed one in the family.
"Well maybe Benson knows what kind of clothes I should get."
"Well maybe you should go play with your toys."
"I don't have any toys."
"Then find some and leave me alone." She scoffed.
Marvin stuck out his lip a little. He'd asked for her help, and he was going to get it, regardless of her own schedule. "Fine then, I'll just follow you."
"Follow me and you're dead."
"Guess I'm going to be sleeping six feet under tonight then."
So, brother followed sister, and there was no further conversation. Marvin felt irritated that she would refuse to help him, even with the simplest of things. Riley was frustrated that she now had a tag-along, when what she was doing was, technically, 'top-secret'. But even with bad feelings on both sides, each would defend the other with their life. It was basic sibling rivalry.
The library was indeed one of the oldest buildings in town, but it was also one of the only ones that wasn't falling apart completely. The roof was nearly intact, there was minimal water damage and only some of the bookshelves had fallen over. A small fire had scorched the back corner of the building, but it was sturdy, there was no doubt about that. It held a complete collection of the town's history before the war, most of the encyclopedias were still there and there were plenty of fictional stories to look over when you weren't out scrounging for food like most of the town.
There was no other place Robbie would rather be. It was quiet most days and he could spend hours upon hours just reading. The only other thing he loved most about living among the dust-collecting novels was the fact that Benson, the smartest guy in town, had set up his little 'scientific workshop' in the east wing of the building.
Ben was Robbie's idol, his role model. There was no one he looked up to more. Benson was like the town scientist or something. He was always looking at things with a microscope and doing experiments and saying words no one else could understand. He was a real genius, and he'd even started teaching Robbie a few things like how the periodic table worked. Ben said these were simple things, but his freckled pupil was still enthusiastic about it.
That very day, once Benson got back from visiting his wife, he was going to show Robert what happens when you mix potassium and water. Just the thought of doing a real experiment like the ones from the sci-fi novels made Robbie's fingers twitch. He could barely read the paperback in his hands as he leaned against one of the shelves.
"Anybody home?! Hey! I got stuff to discuss with you, Benson!" Riley's voice, along with the loud boom of her throwing open the double doors at the entrance to the library, made Robbie jump as well as drop the book. He sighed in annoyance, standing up with both his feet asleep from sitting down too long.
"You ever heard of knocking?" He called over as he walked towards the two red heads. There goes my peace and quiet. He thought tiredly. Riley was his friend, and Marvin was pretty okay, but sometimes...
"Where's Ben?" Riley yawned. Marvin scratched absentmindedly at a mosquito bite.
"Gone. Why don't you follow his lead?"
"Jeez, when did you get so grumpy?"
Robbie sighed again. He just wanted to get back to his book! He was desperate to know whether Captain Nemo and Professor Aronnax were going to escape from suffocating underneath the treacherous ice. "Look, you can come back later-"
"I need to talk to you, too. About Katie." Riley's mouth stretched into a wide smile.
"What? You want me to convince her to build a submarine torpedo this time?" When it came to Kate Hale, you had to tread delicately with your words. She was one of the most sensitive in the town, but she was also the best ammunition and bomb builder. Her abilities were what made the attack on the monorail possible, but there was a slight downside to this little talent. Katie hated both war and killing people, and refused to listen to anyone on the subject matter. Anyone but Robbie.
"We'd need a submarine first, stupid." The red head leaned against the wall, her ponytail swishing like it was the real thing. "No, I just want you to talk to her a little. She's stopped making bullets again, and we're running a little short."
"Well maybe that's a good thing."
"Well maybe you need to get an attitude check. Just talk to her a little, okay? If anything, we need something to protect us from all the wild animals prowling around here."
This was true, but Robbie was also well aware of what (who) else Riley liked to use her gun on. "Alright, alright. But I'm not going to force this on her." Robbie Collins admired Katie for her innocence and lack of the desire to kill, but he was also worried he might accidentally turn her into another Riley if he kept trying to convince her that making weapons was perfectly okay.
"Great, now we just gotta wait for Benny."
Robbie winced. "You better not let him catch you calling him that."
"Calling who what?" Marvin had zoned out throughout their entire conversation.
Riley ignored her brother. "I'll call him whatever I feel like." She knew she could break Robbie easily to get what she wanted from him, however, how was she going to convince Benson? Ben wasn't exactly her friend, in fact, she was pretty sure he hated her guts, and even if she didn't want to admit it, he was way smarter than her. Simple, I'll just remind him who's boss. Her plan had several flaws, but what she lacked in modesty she made up for in persistence. When Riley Gray wanted something, she got it.
"Is there any reason the two of you are blocking the doorway?" Robbie relaxed a little at Benson's voice.
"Actually, we just so happen to be waiting for you." Riley turned with a smile. Ben, however, was not to be swayed with false friendliness. He knew she was going to ask him for something he didn't want to give, but his choices were few if he planned on sticking around Sandersvile.
"My lab." He said simply. "Only you."
"Aw, what?!" Marvin started to complain.
"Shut up and beat it." His sister snorted.
"Robbie, keep him busy." Robert felt slight disappointment at Ben's command, but he had never been one to directly disobey him. Plus, he had a feeling his sort-of tutor and his sort-of friend wanted to be alone. He gave a small nod and the two wandered off into the maze of books.
"Well what the hell are we supposed to do in a library?" The small boy pouted a little and crossed his arms over his chest.
Robbie looked at him and offered a reassuring smile. "How about we fight a dragon or two?" With the same ease as Ben pulling the pineapples out of nowhere, Collins snatched up a book. "This one's short, but it's one of my favorites."
Marvin looked at him, confused. "A book? Dexter said only nerds read books."
Of course he would. Robbie thought bitterly. "Well, I'm surprised he has enough brain cells to know what a book is."
That got a giggle out of the boy, and the older teen was glad. He pitied him for not only having to put up with Riley, but for having to put up with Dexter, the bane of Robbie's (not to mention several other people's) existence. Dexter, who'd screw you over for the fun of it, who'd kick a puppy in the morning and skin a kitten at night, who was a sexist douche that somehow managed to get all the girls. Needless to say, Robert hated his guts. Particularly for the time he'd tried to burn a pile of books because he wanted to have a bonfire night.
"Come on, there's a comfy spot over here." He lead Marvin to a mound of assorted pillows. With any luck, he'd be able to teach at least one person in town how to appreciate books. Marvin was one of the only kids around, and there may yet still have been hope for him.
As Robbie arranged the pillows into two lopsided chairs, he let Marvin look over the book. Marvin didn't really know Robbie that well, but he was one of the more friendlier faces in town. And who knew, this book thing might be interesting.
"Just out of curiosity..." Robert looked back at him, still bending over the pillows. "Why did you come here? I know your sis wanted to talk to Ben but..."
"Oh! I need to know what size of clothes jobmen wear. Van needs new ones." The boy leaned against one of the shelves in a manner that mimicked Riley.
The jobman. Robbie thought, remembering the bloody mess they had found in the back of the truck. He hadn't been to Claire's  make-shift hospital since dragging the clone there, but apparently he (the clone) had made friends with Marvin and gained a name. A weird name. Van? Was he some kind of car now?
"How good are you at reading?" He asked the redhead as they both sat down on the pillows.
"Not so good..." Marvin looked down, embarrassed.
"No problem. I'll read it to you."
As they both dove head first into a world where chivalry still lived, Robbie couldn't help but wonder how Ben was doing now that there was a jobman in town. He remembered when he had come in to tell the scientist the news, his nose twitching a little as nervousy threatened to take over. It had been dark in what Ben called 'the lab', but Robbie saw the emotions that had passed over Benson's face. Anger, confusion,... fear. They were only there for a few moments before Ben regained his stature and told Collins to find something to do elsewhere.
The teen had been partially glad for this outcome. He'd been expecting his idol to go into a fit of rage like he sometimes did when some poor soul bothered him too much. But this time Ben just worked quietly all day, never leaving the east wing of the building. In fact, Robbie had fallen asleep before he could catch him leaving to go home. He just hopped the jobman didn't do anything stupid around Ben, like make eye-contact.
Meanwhile, over in Benson's lab, Riley was testing her limits. She was the owner and leader of Sandersville, so of course everyone in town was obligated to do what she said, right? Her and Ben hardly ever made contact even when passing each other in the street, so she wasn't sure how far he would go if he got pissed off enough, but there was no way she was going to let him undermine her authority.
"What I say goes around here, buddy." She glared at him. "And what I'm saying right now is you'd better tell me every little thing you know about jobmen."
Ben regarded her with hidden amusement. She truly thought she could force him into something he didn't want to do. He began to think of all the things he could say to her, all the different ways he could exit the room, either in an exaggerated huff or in a calm and collected manor as he asked her how her bed withstood the weight of her enormous head each night. Most of the options he considered would no doubt get him thrown out of town, but, frankly, he didn't care so much about the piss-smelling, rat infested, disease ravaged, soaking-in-liquor shit heap of a town. Then he remembered Claire, who he could never convince to leave.
"Perhaps I could share a portion of what I know, if only so you know how to keep your 'guest' from losing his mind due to the lack of proper environmental settings." He knew he was going to regret this.
"Perfect, that's just what I need. That, and a basic guide on how to, shall we say, keep his future loyalty from straying." She'd won, oh yes, she could feel it. As expected, of course, no one could say 'no' to her and get away with it.
"That will not be much of a problem. He follows those whom he believes are his 'high ranks'. If you are able to convince him to add you to his 'mental list', shall we say, he will listen to everything you have to say. Unless, that is, another jobman shows up who actually is higher ranking." He blinked thoughtfully, and what he said next nearly brought a smile to his lips. "Then, nothing you say will matter anymore."

Submitted: August 12, 2013

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