Side Story: Washout

Brent tried not to fidget as the broad shouldered man scanned over the papers before him, turning the page every so often without so much as glancing at the nervous young man across the table.

The bigger man, Lieutenant Harris, was Brent’s final obstacle. Brent had spent the last year and a half testing, training, taking psych profiles, and generally working his ass off to get here, but it would all be for naught if the Lieutenant turned him away. While people like Brent were undeniably useful, they also carried more risk than regular officers. That risk was up to a commanding personnel member to accept or decline. People like Brent weren’t forced on anyone’s department.

The lieutenant looked up from the papers, but only long enough to take a piece of nicotine gum from his desk and pop it into his already chewing jaw. Great, so Brent not only had to interview for a spot, he had to do it with a man in throws of smoking withdrawal. There had been so many moments in this process Brent wished he’d hidden the truth instead of taking the proper channels. It was too dangerous though, even if his HCP records were sealed. All it took was one slip up and suddenly Brent Rhodes would be out on his ass and banned from any law enforcement agency. If you went in as a normal person then that was the life you had to sell every day for the rest of your life. It was incredibly difficult, but Brent knew some people had managed it.

That chance was long past, so Brent tried to focus on the here and now, on the things that could still get him in the door.

“You got high marks from the academy,” the bigger man noted.

“Yes, Lieutenant,” Brent confirmed.

“I’m not your commanding officer yet. You can call me Jim for now.”

“Yes, Jim,” Brent amended. He wasn’t sure it that was a good sign or not.

“So then, high marks, breezed through the psych exams, clean drug test of course. Says here you did two years in the Hero Certification Program too. Of course we don’t have the kind of connections to verify that, but the pretty little stamp on your record says it’s true. All in all you look like an ideal cadet,” Jim summarized, setting down the papers.

“Thank you very much.”

“Now let’s talk about the thing that makes you both more and less desirable,” Jim told him. “Tell me about your ability.”

Brent nodded. “I can take on characteristics of things I touch. Hardness from metal and brick, flexibility from rubber, slipperiness from ice, that sort of thing.”

Jim let out a soft whistle. “Pretty impressive. I’m surprised a power like that didn’t go all the way through the program.”

“If it were more developed then it probably would have,” Brent explained. “I only get characteristics. I don’t completely turn into the objects. If I could become animated metal or rubber I’d be far more powerful than just getting enhancements from them.”

“I see. So while touching a brick will make you tougher and stronger, it doesn’t completely turn you into brick.”

“Right. It seems like a small distinction, however in the league of Heroes things like that can make a world of difference. It’s all about how far a person can go. The unfortunate truth is that with my level I’ll hit the ceiling of possibility long before someone with a stronger version of my power,” Brent assessed honestly.

“So you decided to join the force instead,” Jim added.

“Yes, sir. My father was a cop, his father was a cop, and his father-”

“Was a cop,” Jim interrupted. “I’ve heard it before.”

“Actually he was a horse thief,” Brent corrected. “They hung him when my grandfather was nine, hence him deciding to stay on the enforcing side of the law rather than the breaking side.”

“A smart call if ever there was one. So you’re the first Super born in your family I take it?”

“Yes, sir. Well, first in my direct family. I've got some uncles and cousins with powers, but neither of my folks were Supers. That’s why I tried to go the Hero route first.”

“I’d have made the same call in your shoes,” Jim told him. “But that’s not what we’re here to talk about.” Jim spat the already flavorless gum into the trash. Shit, he wanted a cigarette so badly he would have lit a damn pencil if he’d thought it would give him a buzz. “No, we’re here to talk about your future with the police force.”

“That’s what I’m hoping for,” Brent replied.

“Well, you’ve given me a whole file about yourself, so I think it’s only fair I tell you a little about me. I’ve been with the department for fifteen years. I got promoted to this post four years ago. I plan on staying with this job until they hurl my grey-haired and still protesting ass out onto the sidewalk. I don’t tolerate any shady shit from my men. No money on the side, no looking the other way for favors, and no playing cowboy. Now I assume they’ve gone over the rules for a Super with a badge with you?”

“I can only use my powers if it’s in defense of civilians, fellow officers, and myself, and in that order. If I encounter another Super my only job is to protect anyone nearby as best I can. Other than that I am forbidden from engaging. The most I can do is radio in so that a Hero can be dispatched,” Brent recited.

“Good, make sure you remember it. Neither you nor I nor the department can afford the kind of fees that come from a cop with powers taking on a criminal who has them too. The only ones who get insurance to cover their collateral damage are Heroes. That said, I don’t expect you to let yourself get knocked around by some meth heads if you’ve got the ability to subdue them. Understood?”

“Yes, sir.”

Jim leaned forward in his chair, the wooden seat groaning slightly under the muscular weight of its inhabitant. “Are you sure you want to do this? You know that being a Super and cop is a tough ass job. You’ve got to walk a tightrope all the time between what you can do and what you should do. Your fellow officers will be jealous of the gifts you have and at the same time critical of any way you use them. Eyes will constantly be on you, just waiting for one slip-up they can use to bust you on your ass. Knowing all that, is this really a step on the road you want to take?”


“Then tell me why.”

“Because I have power,” Brent replied earnestly. “I can do things few other people can do. I might not be strong enough to get certified as a Hero, but I can still help people. I can make a difference. And if I’ve got the ability to do something like that, then I have to try.”

Jim looked the young man up and down once more. He was green as a Packers game, but he had heart. That, more than the scores or the power or the complication, that was what Jim looked for in a good cop: someone who wanted the badge for the right reasons.

“Congratulations Officer Rhodes,” Lieutenant Harris said. “I’m going to give you a shot.”


“Really. Now go to the front desk and tell them you’ll need a rookie starter package. Sheryl will know what to get you. You start on Monday, so be ready to work.”

“Don’t worry sir, I’ll do my best,” Officer Rhodes promised.

“You better. Oh, and one more thing,” Lieutenant Harris tacked on.


“If you fuck up, it isn’t just you that’s going to feel the heat. Shit will rain down on the entire department, me especially. Keep that in mind if you get the itch to test the rules when you’re walking the beat.”

Officer Rhodes nodded solemnly. “I will.”

“Good, because if you screw my department Internal Affairs will be the least of your concerns,” Lieutenant Harris promised. “Now go get your stuff and rest up. Starting next week you work the shit hours.”