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When they all went into the house, Gabriel grabbed Valerie’s arm and said, “Come on, Val. You’ve got to see the weapons room.” He took her down to the basement.

Sara looked at the Manhearts and said, “You guys, there’s something I want to ask you.”

“What is it?” Brent asked.

“That little white sphere-shaped thing that was flying all over the bank,” she said. “Gabriel said it was a small camera that belonged to your arch-nemesis. Is that true?”

All four brothers gasped and looked at each other. They started whispering low enough for Sara to barely hear.

She gave them a puzzling look. “Is there something wrong?”

Ken pointed to the couch and said, “You’d better sit down, Sara.” Sara nodded and sat. He looked at Steve and told him, “Get Gabriel and Valerie.”

“Right,” Steve replied, and went to the basement.

Moments later, Steve took Gabriel and Valerie to the couch and sat them down. Ken cleared his throat and looked at all three of them.

“There’s something you all should know about that flying white sphere in the bank,” he said. “It really is a camera belonging to Vinnie Napoleon.”

Gabriel looked at his sisters and grinned. “I knew that!”

“See, Napoleon has a computer that’s very much like our crime computer,” Ken explained. “That camera has a special connection to it, which lets him see the action it captures live.”

“So, Vinnie Napoleon uses that camera to watch his men closely, and make sure they do their jobs right, correct?” Valerie asked. The brothers nodded solemnly.

Gabriel stopped grinning. “Well, I have something to tell you guys,” he said. “After Ken took me out of the fight, the camera went over to the three of us and got some footage. It also picked up our voices.”

He buried his face in his hands. He started to wish he’d stayed in the van.

Pete went to him and brought his head up. “Then you guys are in more danger than we thought,” he said. “Napoleon knows who you are now. He knows what you look and sound like. I’ll bet he even knows your names.”

Sara became horrified. “What are we going to do?” she cried. “I don’t want him to get me!”

Gabriel put him around her to comfort her. “It’s okay, Sara,” he said. “The Brothers Manheart will protect us.”

“Looks like we’ll have to,” Steve said. “You three are his link to us. He’ll do anything to get you. And if he does, we’ll have to fight harder than ever to rescue you.”

Valerie looked at Gabriel and glowered. She said to him, “Let’s talk about wishes, little brother. You said that you wished you could be with these guys all the time. I think you just got it.”

Gabriel lowered his head. “Yeah, I did wish for that,” he said. “But not like this.”

That night, after dinner, Gabriel said to the brothers, “Okay, now you guys have to show me how to do your stuff. If Napoleon and his friends catch me, I want to defend myself.”

Steve thought about that, then said, “I suppose it’d be a good idea.”

“Do you really think so?” Ken asked.

Gabriel folded his arms and glared at him. “Stop that, Ken!” he spat. “I am not too young to learn martial arts! I get enough of that from my parents! Why, I know kids as young as five who take karate lessons.”

Valerie sighed heavily and said, “Gabriel, how many times do we have to tell you? Mom and Dad don’t want you using violence as a way to solve problems. That’s why you can’t take up martial arts. Age has nothing to do with it.”

Gabriel gave her a mean look. “Was I talking to you?” he retorted.

“Actually, you guys, that’s not a bad idea,” Pete said. “In fact, let’s take all three of you downstairs now for your first lessons.”

Valerie shook her head and said, “No, thank you.”

“Come on, Val,” Gabriel said. “It’ll do you some good. You’ll be able to stand up against the high school girls who tease you.”

“Nobody’s teasing me in school,” she insisted.

“If you run into some who will, you’ll be ready.”

But this goes against everything Mom and Dad taught us!, she wanted to say. But she didn’t want to upset Gabriel. So, instead, she said, “No, thank you very much. I’ll just stay up here and do the dishes.”

“Suit yourself,” Pete said. The Manhearts took Gabriel and Sara downstairs.

In the gym, the six of them were warming up with some meditating and stretches. When they were ready, the brothers started by showing Gabriel and Sara some basic kicking and punching moves.

“You have to bring your legs up as high as you can, if you want to bring your enemies down,” Ken said. “And you have to hit really hard to knock them out.”

He brought one leg up and jumped high as he kicked the punching bag. He did it four more times so Gabriel and Sara would catch on. He patted at the bag. “Now you try it.”

Sara went first. She walked up to the bag, brought her right leg up and kicked it hard. She did it a few more times, then bowed when she finished.

“That’s a very good start,” Steve said.

“That’s the right idea, but with time, you’ll learn to kick faster,” Ken said. He turned to Gabriel. “Okay, Gabe, your turn.”

Gabriel went up the bag, closed his eyes and did some heavy breathing.

“Good, Gabriel, you’re focusing your energies on the kick,” Brent commented. “Now, whenever you’re ready.”

He opened his eyes and brought one leg up. He tried to do Ken’s jump, but he fell on his rear, and he only touched the bag lightly.

Ken and Brent helped him up. “Are you all right?” Brent asked.

“If only Mom would sign me up for karate, like I keep asking her to,” Gabriel complained, “I wouldn’t have to deal with this.”

“Hey, all it takes is practice,” Pete advised. “We’ll practice one-on-one later.”

Next, Pete showed the children how to punch.

He made two fists and said, “A really important rule in punching is to keep your thumbs on the outside of your fist. If you punch with them inside, they’ll hurt.”

Gabriel and Sara made fists with both their hands, then showed Pete.

“Yeah, like that,” he said.

Pete asked Ken to come hold the punching bag, then the children watched as he gave it ten hard punches. He turned to them and said, “There’s a tip, you guys – the harder you punch, the faster your enemies go down. Why don’t you both give it a try?”

Sara went first. She punched the bag as hard as she could, and kept punching until her arms got tired. When she’d had enough, she sat back down.

“Very good, Sara,” Pete said. “Okay, Gabriel, you’re up next.”

Gabriel went up and gave a few hard hits. The bag was rocking back and forth a little bit. Gabriel smiled.

“Wow, I’m getting good!” he exclaimed.

“That’s the idea,” Pete said. “Now, I want both of you to give it a few more tries.”

Sara went to hold the bag as Gabriel punched, and they took turns holding and punching. With every turn Gabriel took punching, he saw a little bit of improvement. He felt great knowing that he was learning one fighting skill.

Pete was impressed with Gabriel. “Now you’re getting the hang of it, Gabe,” he said.

“Thanks,” Gabriel replied. “Can you show us some defence moves?”

“You just want to learn everything, don’t you?” Steve asked.

“Let’s save that for tomorrow, all right?” Ken suggested. “In the meantime, what do you say we practise some more kicking?” Gabriel nodded, and he watched as Ken kicked at the bag.

Meanwhile, at his headquarters, Napoleon was thinking of a way to trap the Manhearts and their new friends. One of his followers, Terry the Terror, had an idea.

“You know how the Brothers Manheart are built like four-by-four pick-up trucks?” he asked Napoleon.

“Yeah, so?” Napoleon said.

“Well,” Terry said, “this obviously means that they like working out a lot. So, I was thinking, let’s trick them by telling that there’s a new gym opening in town. We’ll put out an ad about it just for them, then rent lots of exercise equipment. As soon as they see it, they won’t be able to resist. Then, while they’re pumping iron, lifting weights and such, we’ll pull the trap. They won’t suspect a thing.”

“Where do we put the gym?” Napoleon asked. “And when do we pull this off?”

“Let’s try next Saturday afternoon,” Terry suggested. “There’s a vacant building in the shopping area. It’s big enough for a gym. Let’s use that.”

Napoleon grinned. “Pretty smart idea, Terry. But we’ll have to work quickly if we’re ever to pull it off.” With that, they went to Napoleon’s small computer to print the ad.

The next morning, as Valerie was doing the lunch dishes, she heard the mail arrive. She found an envelope in the mailbox. It was for the Manhearts, but there was no return address or stamp.

“That’s odd,” Valerie said to herself. She took the envelope downstairs, and found the brothers in the gym with Gabriel and Sara, meditating.

She tiptoed towards Ken and tapped him on the shoulder. He jumped and turned to Valerie.

“Val!” he cried. “Don’t disturb us while we’re meditating!”

Everyone else opened their eyes. Sara asked, “Val, what is it?”

Valerie handed Ken the envelope. “This just came in the mail. I don’t know who it’s from.”

Everyone crowded around Ken as he opened it. Pete, Brent and Steve looked at him with interest.

“What is it?” Steve asked.

“It looks like a letter,” Brent answered.

“It’s an invitation to the opening of a new gym,” Ken said. “It’s located in the trade area of town.”

Valerie glanced at them. “What, a public gym?” she asked. “Who’d put something like that in between a bunch of smoke stacks, and water treatment and power plants? When’s the opening?”

“Saturday afternoon,” Ken said. “But I’m worried. It might be a trap.”

Brent reached into the pouch on his belt, and took out his walkie-talkie. It gave him an idea.

“You guys, I’ll just go to my room for a few hours,” he said. “I have something important to do.”

“But we were going to teach Gabriel and Sara more martial arts,” Steve protested.

“You can do it without me,” Brent told him.

Ken, Pete and Steve were not happy with Brent that day, and the next day. There were four crimes committed downtown, and Brent had been too busy to help them fight. He stayed up until three in the morning building secret new gadgets, and slept until noon the next day. After lunch, they found out why.

Brent stepped into the living room with three walkie-talkies he built himself. He gave one each to Valerie, Sara and Gabriel, then showed them how to work them.

He took out his walkie-talkie, and had his brothers do the same. He told the children to look at the colours. Ken’s walkie-talkie was red, Brent’s was orange, Pete’s was green and Steve’s was blue. Then he said, “Now look at the little round buttons on all of yours. Notice the colours red, orange, green and blue. Those are individual contact buttons. Whichever colour button you push is the same walkie-talkie you contact.”

“So, if I push the orange button, for example, I contact you, right, Brent?” Gabriel asked.

“Yes,” Brent replied.

“And what’s this black button?” Valerie asked. “Is this to contact all of you at once?”

“That’s right,” Brent told her. “And at the bottom, you’ll see a brown rectangular button. You use that to talk.”

The brothers stayed in the living room, while Valerie went into Pete’s room; Sara, into the computer room; and Gabriel, downstairs to the recreation room. They pressed the four “individual” buttons to contact different brothers. They gave each one their location, and told them that the buttons worked fine.

They pressed the black button to contact them and said the same thing: “This button works well, too.”

Then, they went back to the living room to thank Brent for the walkie-talkies.

“You’re welcome,” he said. “And one last thing – with your walkie-talkies, you’ll be able to contact us at any distance, even if we’re one hundred miles away.”

Gabriel smiled and said, “You’ve thought of everything, dude.”

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The following comments are for "Real Adventures in a Comic Book - Chapter 4"
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