Don't Date Your Nemesis... And Other Helpful Hints For The Modern Superhero

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Introducing Sergeant Maya Kurtis and Inspector Jack Docklen

Maya Kurtis has this little habit that infuriates Chief Inspector Ripley. It's not that she only has one habit, and it's not that she can't infuriate him in other ways, but this one's always guaranteed to mess with his blood pressure. Whenever she does it, the stress shortens his life by hours, days, and it only makes him angrier.

She makes a mess of the paperwork. Not subtly, not figuratively; it's not a case of sloppy handwriting or poor grammar. Ripley's spent twenty-five years working with honest coppers, he can handle signatures that look like artlessly squashed spiders. What he can't handle is bloody Maya and her single woman hurricane act. It takes longer, after the man-made winds from her incessant teleportation die down, to collect together and sort the piles of forms than it does to fill them out in the first place and everyone knows a good man can stretch a single form out across an entire morning if he times it well with coffee breaks and phone calls.

To top it all off, today is not the best day for it, not when he's supposed to be showing the trendy new Inspector around a pristine office.

It looks like he may be lucky, though. The kid only chuckles as the rest of the office responds efficiently to the call-out alarms and Maya pops in and out of existence, arriving in the most ridiculous of places already fully kitted up in her riot gear because she can get down to the basement in a second while the rest of the station is limited to the stairs.

"Chief," she wails, materialising in his personal space, "I could be there already."

Ripley sighs, lifting his eyebrows to give her a disparaging kind of glare. Maya misses it, as always, fierce earnestness battling across her features. Sometimes Ripley has to wonder how a woman so incapable of reading human emotion managed to get into the definitive 'people-skills' career.

"Maya, we've been through all this already."

She scowls.

"Yeah, protocol, protocol, protocol." She huffs, translocating across the main office. Every word is followed by yet another devastating puff of air and she reappears elsewhere to create more havoc.

"Stop ruining my paperwork, Kurtis!" Ripley yells, unable to help himself as she topples another precarious pile.

The sooner this all becomes electronic, the better.

"There's nothing about this in your special protocol!" Maya screeches, reappearing on a junior constable's chair as he struggles with the buckles of his Kevlar.

“I don’t care, I just want you to stay still for one second of your life, goddammit!” Ripley bellows as the young inspector chuckles at his side.

"How many Sapient+ have you got on the force, here?" The boy asks, distracting Ripley from his tirade as his dark eyes survey Maya with cool curiosity.

Ripley shrugs.

"More than it seems," he says, "most of them like to keep to the rules. They're good at keeping their abilities out of the public eye. It's just damned Maya. She's a good girl, good cop. It's just that she's so..." he searches for the words. "She wants the save the whole goddamn world. Maya!" This last is addressed to the girl in question. Ripley can't see her anymore, but he can certainly hear her making a mess.

The inspector nods, eyes flicking rapidly across the room as the sound of destruction alerts him to Maya's next choice of destination. Her impatient muttering, and the surprised yelping of the younger members at her sudden presence, is quite easy to discern over the wailing of the alarms.

"As ambitions go," he says, "I've heard of worse." He turns his head, looking up at Ripley with that cool gaze of his. "Everyone goes through that phase, Chief, I'm sure; even you."

Ripley nods, puffing out red cheeks. This new inspector's green as grass, can't be more than twenty five. Ripley's not quite sure the kid's old enough to be speaking about phases. However, the - newly promoted - Inspector Jack Docklen is pretty much a household name in the kid's hometown and halfway across the country, so Ripley only says:

"Maya's been here since she was seventeen, Inspector. She spent two years as a rookie, signed up for Sapient+ as soon as she was able, and only then did she suddenly want to save the world. And she's wanted to save the world for coming up three years now. That's a bloody long phase, if'n you ask me."

The Inspector laughs.

"Have you ever considered joining up to Sapient+, chief?" He asks.

Ripley shakes his head, chuckling slightly, and settles himself back on the edge of a desk as the whole room starts looking like it's almost ready to go.

"I'm too old now," he says, "but no. I'm not sure it's worth it. They fill you full of all kinds of chemicals that, let's face it, they know next to nothing about. And what? Suddenly you get magic powers? It all seems a little fishy to an old man like me. What about you?"

Docklen chuckles again, dark eyes tracking Maya almost hungrily.

"No," he says, "I might find myself suddenly wanting to save the world."

Instead of trying to pretend like he understands the kid's joke, Ripley claps his hands together sharply, drawing the attention of the entire room. This includes Maya who eventually manages to remain existing in the same spot for more than a second.

"Do me proud, boys!" He shouts.

Docklen continues to stand at Ripley's side, dark eyes running easily over the upturned faces. As the whole office begins to empty, he leans over.

"What's the emergency, Chief?" he asks. "Something pretty standard?"

"Hostage situation over in Caverny. I wouldn't exactly call it routine but things in that area aren't uncommon."

The boy nods slowly.

"I'd like to go," he says, quite simply.

"It's not really..." Ripley begins but finds himself interrupted.

"I'll just watch from the sidelines; no interfering, I promise."

Not for the first time, Ripley worries if the sudden presence of Jack Docklen, people's hero, is a good idea or not. He's getting old, getting comfortable. He's known all these boys since they joined and there's the perfect amount of mutual respect; even with Maya, whom he's always found himself quite protective of. Docklen hasn't earned his stripes with miles of pounding steps and years of patient spider signatures. Ripley seriously hopes the boy isn't thinking this new position of power is enough to start changing things.

Eventually the room empties, except for Ripley, Docklen, and Maya who has stopped flitting about now, and waits impatiently on the edge of a desk.

After a few cock ups, Ripley's taken to keeping her in the office with him until he knows the rest of the lads have arrived. She has a tendency to get impatient when she rides in the cars and Ripley hates to admit that there's a little part of him that doesn't want her materialising first, alone, on the scene of a crime and getting hurt. She's young, beautiful, innocent, even after six years on the force, and she reminds him quite strongly of his daughter.

"I could have been in there and out by now," she grumbles, "I could have saved those people before the rest of them had even put their seatbelts on."

"Maya," Ripley scolds, "how many times do I have to tell you?"

"Protocols, protocols, protocols," she spits, "How many times do I have to remind you? Sapient+ was created outside of all that. How are you supposed to have unified rules when everyone can do something different?"

"Policemen have protocols, Maya. What do you think you are? A superhero?"

"Would make more sense than following your stupid protocols when innocent people might die,” Maya mutters. Knowing better to direct the complaint at his face, she turns her head down and picks angrily at her fingernails.

"You want to do something outside of protocols?" Ripley snaps, finally breaking just as he always does. This time, instead of screaming at her to 'just get out and get on with it then', he gestures to the patiently silent boy at his side. "This is our new inspector," he says, "who you've been showing up in front of; quite spectacularly, I might add. Now call him crazy, but he's got it in his head that he'd like to be seeing our boys in action today. That's outside of protocol. If you're so desperate to break the rules, you can take him with you and make sure you both keep out of trouble."

She looks up with sudden interest then, taking in the boy with scrutiny. Ripley doesn't like that appraising look. Dating co-workers is against policy too and he knows she'd do it, just to upset him.

"I know you..." she says, narrowing her eyes as if she's not sure from where.

Ripley's not surprised. The kid's been all over the news lately.

"Inspector Jack Docklen," says Inspector Jack Docklen, stretching out a hand to shake.

"Detective Sergeant Maya Kurtis," she replies, clasping his hand in her own.

As their palms connect, Ripley's stomach clenches. He's got a copper's stomach, it's a good stomach. It even saved his life once, and he's got the tiny white star of scar tissue to prove it, but when it clenches like that, it's not a good sign. As Maya pulls Docklen closer and the final wave of air disturbs the room, signalling their exit, Ripley really starts to wonder if allowing the big jobs to force an extra Inspector on him, in the form of people's hero Jack Docklen, was a good idea.

His stomach thinks not.

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