Turning Eighteen: Part 6

“Why won’t I like it?”

Sitting up a little straighter in his chair, Mr. Cohen said, “I think we need to take a step back before we talk about that. I asked for your thoughts on what happened because I think you need to hear yourself say them.

“I’m a big believer in taking a look at the whole picture. Can our legal system take care of the problem? What about letting the superhuman community handle it? And is it worth it? In my  experience, you can never ask, ‘Is it worth it?’ enough.”

From the main room of the basement, Daniel’s brother and sister started laughing, making me wish I could lower their volume along with the TV.

Mr. Cohen glanced toward the noise–though that meant glancing toward a wall covered with books.

Turning back to me, he said, “At least they’re enjoying it… But back to what I was saying, the way I see it is this. Sean killed Ray, and you think he should be punished somehow. What you’ve got are two ways to do it. The legal way, which might not work, and the way a lot of supers would handle it–intimidation, and maybe beating him up.

“The best case for doing things  within the legal system is that even if he escaped jail, he might think about different ways of handling it next time. The best argument against it would be that he could end up in jail for twenty years, converting him from an ordinary kid who went too far to a bitter, powerful enemy–assuming he’d stay in jail.

“Now the problem with scaring or beating him, your other option,  is that it doesn’t stop there. The dislike the two of you already have for each other could turn into hatred, and an increasingly violent feud. I’ve seen it happen.”

I thought about that. On Sean’s end, I wasn’t convinced that some hatred wasn’t already present, but I couldn’t know it for sure. In his world, ganging up on someone with two of your friends might be something you did when you merely disliked the person.

“Nick, I think the wisest thing is for you to stay out of it. I think I need to talk to him and then submit his name to the Stapledon program.”

“The program that’s giving Vaughn and Cassie free ride scholarships to college? That’s…”

It seemed wrong enough that I couldn’t even think of a way to say it.

Daniel’s dad took a breath. “It’s for everyone’s good. The Stapledon program is meant to help people adjust to having powers, and to teach people how, and when to use them. All of you should join up.”

I found my voice. I’d heard a lot about the program last semester. “I know that Isaac Lim wants us to, but it sounds like too much. College is supposed to be harder than high school, and then putting the Stapledon program, and normal life together… I don’t know if I can handle it. From what Isaac said, Stapledon sounds like the Army Reserves for superheroes, but with more on-duty weekends.”

Plus, the thought of dealing with Sean the whole time sounded like hell. The last year of high school had been bad enough.

“I think you’re better off in the program than out of it, Nick. Daniel will be in it. So will Preserver’s son, Alex. You’ll be among friends, and if you choose to keep on doing this, you’ll need the support.

“And that’s why I’m recommending it for Sean too. He did what he did because he had powers, and almost no guidance. That’s how a lot of kids go wrong.”

“But he killed someone. Shouldn’t something happen to him other than free tuition to whatever college he wants?”

“I know. It doesn’t seem right, but it’s not a simple situation. If he’d killed some random person, he’d be going to jail right now, but he didn’t. He killed Ray. During a fight. Ray’s got a long history of killing supers, their friends, and their families.”

I considered pointing out that I knew that, but I never got the chance. Daniel’s dad kept on talking.

“Ray terrorized people. He deliberately baited supers into going after him, and exploited their mistakes. He’d killed Sean’s father, captured his friends and family, and he was going to kill more people if he got away.

“I’m not saying what Sean did was right, but right now I think we need to look at the question of whether he’ll make a habit of it, or whether this was the product of an extreme situation. That’s why I’ll be going to talk to him.”

“But…” I struggled to find words. “You don’t believe in killing. I heard you argue about it with Jaclyn’s grandfather last fall.”

“I know. I still don’t, but in this situation I have to be fair to Sean. If I’d been facing Ray, I would have known whether or not he was faking unconsciousness, and still a threat just by touching his mind. Sean can’t do that, but he had more options than stabbing Ray with a sign. I think we’ll all be better off if he learns what they are.”

15 thoughts on “Turning Eighteen: Part 6”

  1. I can see the sense in what he is saying, but I agree with Nick, it just seems he’s being rewarded for killing Ray. Being a grown-up sure can suck. ;oP

  2. Completely agree with Mr Cohen in most of that. Sean was provoked (quite a lot! I mean, if someone killed someone of my family, and I had the opportunity, I can’t say that I definately would but I wouldn’t put it past myself…) and in court Sean’s character vs Rays…even if neither were supers, I doubt Sean would be given much of a sentance.
    I can also see the point of going into the program, for guidance and in a way to be way to be watched over to make sure, but have a vague feeling with Sean’s mindset he’d see it as being rewarded for killing Ray. Which isn’t the point there at all. Oh well.

    On another side, if Sean goes down the route of being evil and all…teaching him other options seems like a bad idea…

  3. “Excuse me, Sean? You didnt have to kill Ray, you could have beaten him unconscious, like so…” wooden bat to the temple

  4. Nick is right – that group does sound like the army. Not that there’s anything wrong with the army. One of the things pacifists are slow to consider is that there are people that truly cannot be dealt with means other than killing. Sometimes killing not only is the one way to solve the problem but, due to the type of the problem, not killing when you have to might make you responsible for the consequences.

    I.e. a genuine terrorist with a weapon that can kill hundreds – and could only be stopped on time with his death. (but wether the threat is genuine is another matter)
    A serial killer that, for some reason, the legal system is unable to handle while he is unwilling to stop.
    An enemy threatening the integrity of a nation to some significant extent and, for some reason, cannot otherwise be stopped.

    IMHO, Ray was all three. He already got a chance at the legal system. So now death is more than justified after he’s proven he cannot be held.

  5. Hmmm. Seems to me that, if Sean’s case did go to trial (which it might not anyway), it is possible that he would be found not guilty. The most he would be charged with in this case is probably manslaughter, and you can bet that a Hardwick would be represented with the kind of darn-good lawyer that could successfully argue mitigating circumstances (since his father had just recently been killed in front of him). And even if it looked like he was going to be convicted, his lawyer would probably plea-bargain him into the Stapledon program with extra community service anyway. There’s basically no way he’d end up doing hard time.


  6. And why should Nick go into this program again? He’s got no powers. He could just give the equipment to some random person on the street and they’d have just as much reasoning for going into program, or does this superhero program just go after really smart people?

    Even with the program, this thing between Nick and Sean is probably just going to get worse.

    I also can’t see any way that killing someone who has a weapon that can kill hundreds is going to instantly solve the problem. “Next time on 24, a terrorist has a bomb on a timer somewhere in New York City. Luckily, if he’s killed, it automatically disarms and sends out a harmless phone call allowing people to find it in this humongous city.

    A serial killer that can’t be stopped or put into jail…well, how about they just keep watching the guy, 24/7? Attempted murder where someone’s stopped before killing someone is a crime too, and with that much tape, it’d be kinda easy to prove it.

    “An enemy threatening the integrity of a nation to some significant extent and, for some reason, cannot otherwise be stopped.” Well that just sounds like a war, and a war is not about killing enemy soldiers. It is about forcing the other side to stop fighting. The American Civil War saw massive loss of morale as slaves fled and Sherman led a destructive path of arson and looting through the South, destroying infrastructure and creating a post-war depression in the South until WW2. World War I saw people just giving up because it was such a brutal war, fought in muddy trenches, having to be careful of the air they breathe, that disillusioned many from the idea that war was great and noble. World War 2…frankly, the Allies, with the world to work with, just outdid the Nazis. The battle of Kursk on the Eastern Front saw the deaths of millions of people and was the first time a blitzkrieg was stopped. Stalin requested more butter from his allies. And probably more alcohol, because the guy was a drunk.

    The guy who wrote the book on war(Sun Tzu, not Zapp Brannigan) felt that it was best to secure victory before any fighting occurs. Zhuge Liang’s open fort strategy forced a superior enemy force to retreat by leaving the gates open and playing a board game while they approached.

    Killing is a fairly convenient way to solve a lot of problems, like the next time you’re being shot at by Nazis. That doesn’t mean there isn’t always another way.

  7. I approve of this proposition. While it may be emotionally satisfying it offers guidance and government supervision, in the hopes of making a responsible adult out of Sean and in case that fails respectively.
    And even if Sean goes fully bad, a sound understanding of physics with a fundamentally flawed understanding of Nietzsche and von Clausewitz would serve to make him a more presentable villain, especially considering his underwear-on-the-outside name.

  8. Funny (and typical) how Nick sees Stapledon as a reward for Sean, but when offered the same “reward” reacts like he’s been offered to be put in detention for 4 years.

  9. RHJunior: It could be used either way, of course, but I see it as a very practical program from the government’s point of view. If you’ve got people with powers randomly showing up, you’d prefer to have them working for you–even if it was only part time.

    Hg: Technically Sean’s not a Hardwick, but his family’s been associated with them for a while, but yeah, he’d definitely get a lawyer hired by the Hardwicks if he were at risk of going to jail for this.

    Notto: Of course Nick would have to see Sean regularly as a result…

  10. All other considerations aside, putting the kids into a program like this becomes an *EXCELLENT* framing device for future plots. But it’s being handled so… subtly, that it’s like being in the back of a limo with a driver so smooth you can’t tell when he stops for a traffic light.

    Jim, you should teach a writing class.

  11. Hey Jim, seeing as how Zeyda Cohen became a rabbi, was your choice of the name Cohen deliberate in that sense? Or did you just like the name Cohen as a good, Jewish name? (Or are you secretly a fan of the Canadian poet and songster extraordinaire?)


  12. Hg: I was mostly just thinking of a name that was Jewish. One of my profs in college was named Cohen, and though the characters have no relation to him, I remembered the name. Also I ran across the word while learning Hebrew, making it doubly memorable because it actually meant something after that.

    Parahacker: I’d actually planned to introduce Sean into the Stapledon program differently at first, but this felt more natural. I don’t know if I should teach writing, but one thing I have learned is not to stick with my original outline when the story makes better options available.

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