Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Zen & the Art of Negotiating with Pyschos



The Los Angeles police department had 10,000 active officers and about 5,000 more in reserve. It had numerous airships, planes, and small tanks.  It had swat teams and canine forces. It had a larger active force then 2/3s of the world’s armies.

And if you were to have them face ‘Mazing Girl, her versus them, you would put money on her.  Yeah, possibly they could get a lucky shot, but not likely. They simply didn’t have the necessary firepower.

If you added all the other police in southern California, all of the National Guard, hell, put in the seal teams based in San Diego - again you’d probably bet on her.

It was kind of a sobering thought really for Sarah Jennings, who secretly was ‘Mazing Girl. All that was really stopping her in the world was her own sense of right and wrong, her own innate goodness. Her own responsibility.

And she was a person who watched the first season of Jersey Shore. Voluntarily.  She stopped a couple episodes into the second, as once the meatheads were in on the jokes it wasn’t as funny, but yeah. This was the kind of mind they dealt with. It terrified her.

But Sarah was a good person, and she did take her duties to humanity seriously. Her job was to help the police. Not if they became, like say, the army of Paraguay which overran and took over the country or something, but help them in their day to day ‘protect the city’ functions.

Which she was doing today. She was participating in a joint training exercise -her and the police together. They were going to respond to a simulated emergency so the police would know how to use her, and she would know how to help them. Useful in all regards.

Sarah arrived early to the large conference centre near the police academy that the first part of the day. She would participate in a kind of speech they called it - kind of a conference of LAPD personal. It was supposed to start at 9:00, she arrived at 8:00. Sarah was used to working in movies and arriving on set at 5:00 am.

However, sets usually had donuts waiting. Not here. There wasn't really a green room.

It should be pointed she rarely ever had a donut, as it could sit in her stomach, but she liked the idea of donuts. Ahh, well.

There was a woman with a clipboard.

"Oh wow!" the lady cop said. "You’re here early. This is really amazing...like, I get to meet you!"

Sarah smiled at her as she checked her name - or well, her secret identiy...or well, whatever.

It was the thing with cops. Yeah, just about all of them were amazed to see her. She had posed for a lot of photographs, shaken a lot of hands, even signed a few autographs. If you guess right, there were assholes: especially when she was alone with them - but well, for her own troubles with the world she rarely saw it in beat cops. She had never really met Sgt. Bullocks from Batman. They were never that colorful.

However, she had met Commissioner Gordon. Or Francis, as he really was. He was...not what you’d expect. She had met the Mayor, and met the Police Commissioner, and while you couldn't say they should be switched - yeah, that’s not the wrong word.

He walked over and shook her hand, walking in around 8:30.

"Hey! Are you happy here? They treating you right?"

"Yeah," said Sarah "If I can talk a little bit with the guys running this before hand want to get a little bit more..."

"No problem."

That was a frequent saying of the guy, all in a thick Philly accent. He had spent most of his career in administration in the Philadelphia Police Department - during which time he had never actually arrested anyone out in the field. Whenever she dealt with a villain’s threats to the city-she never seemed to actually meet him or have him be actually involved. Instead...

He snapped his fingers at a cop. "Take care of her."

"You don't have to do that."

"No problem," and then he wandered off.

It was odd to see a uniformed police officer be snapped at. To see the younger man race over. The room was starting to fill up with cops and that looked odd too, hundreds of them together. It felt odd to wear her costume - but it was the same thing really.

Occasionally criminals would call her 'cop', 'copper’ or 'pig' (she hoped that was a police reference and not a joke about her  weight). Of course, Sarah wasn't a cop. She was an amateur. She wondered about it occasionally, especially at moments like this - 1800 cops; a full day - that was probably costing at least a 100k. Built around her. She did know that they had 3 people in their S division whose job was, well, to make more money out of this then she did.  She felt a bit like a college athlete, playing bochie ball or something stupid like that (she hated sports, so that may have been a bad analogy) risking devastating...bochie injuries. To throwing arm. Except they had the chance to go pro afterwards. Except there was no such thing as pro bochie ball. Okay it was a pretty crummy analogy.

She had thought, on occasion, about working for the government - either local or federal. Ahh, she probably would have gone mad, either with power, boredom, or rag...possibly all three at once. It was good just to be herself, even if she had to schedule these things for a mini hiatus when their main actor was on a press tour for a movie that he wasn't actually staring in.

But as the room filed, and some of the braver cops came forward to shake her hand, she thought about it.

*********

"So yes, I operate on a basic rule of engagement that’s different then yours - I do not kill criminals under any circumstance."

A hand went up.

"I have been curious about this...and I hope this isn't a bad question...”

"There are no bad questions today" said the be glassed moderation

"So, yeah, why don't you?"

"Well, I’m not under any direct threat, so..."

"But what about other people? Civilians? What if killing someone is the only way of stopping them from detonating a bomb or pulling a trigger?"

"Well, I feel escalating the situation is never a good idea. And in every case, it’s never come to that."

"For you. What about hostage situations?"

Another officer spoke up. "Do you look down on us for using guns? I mean, I have shot two perps. Cleared for both."

"What if..." interrupted a third voice, "you were on the raid to take out Osama bin Ladden?"

These were all very good questions.

"Look, I think my job is to kind of shine a light on the world, to show it can be a better place."

Wow that was so the wrong answer for this crowd.

"We all have a job. Mine is different. I respect your job in all of its elements, it’s a different job but no better then mine. And no, I wouldn't have killed Osama Bin Ladden."

Well, she was getting on her real liberal high horse. Should she tell them her opinions on socialized medicine? She was glad her uncle back in Florida didn't know about her double life.      

The moderator stepped in. "The point of today’s lecture is how to incorporate her abilities into your tactics. We all agree that guns are the last step in any encounter. Her strengths can be useful in defusing situations."

There were parts of the crowd that where looking a little pissed. So not really.

"I will defend - I mean How quickly could you kill everyone in this room? It’s good that you have a desc..."

"46 seconds."

It was the kind of joke that really worked a little better or worse depending on her delivery.  It did not play well today.

********

After a long lecture that was fairly dry and a couple of dumb demonstrations (yes she could bend a medal bar; Yes after the  hundredth time, it was getting a little boring) they went outside.

A group of cops were to simulate a hostage situation. She was to work with four teams outside in succession to defuse the  situation.

There would be a debriefing afterwards. But no Donuts .

It was a tricky situation for her. Bullets could be simulated. Her punches, not so much. No, she didn't kill people...but  while she tried not to, she had put people in the hospital and she had done a fair amount of damage to property.

A lot less then she could have, all told. Superman in the comics once gave a speech about how he lived in a world of  cardboard. Badass when you’re talking to Darksied, but she wasn't talking to either a blatant rip-off of Darth Vader, or  someone who Darth Vader was a blatant rip-off of. She forgot. And she did live in a world of cardboard. Hell, 99% of the time  as ‘Mazing Girl she used 1 -2% percent of her power. And not just when she dealing with scientologists. It would have taken a  bar of diamond-infused tungsten steal for her to break a sweat - and probably a fairly light sweat even then.

Yeah, well it scared her. But Sarah never got into "Here comes Honey Boo Boo" so the Earth was kind of safe.

The ‘kidnappers’ were inside a small building, used usually by the police academy as a classroom, with a group of simulated  hostages. She met with a captain.

"Let’s be careful. Let’s form a good perimeter around it, don't let them escape and don't give them any room. ‘Mazing girl: Use your X-ray vision."

"As I told the group, I don't actually have X-ray vision. Which is a registered trademark of DC comics and Warner Communications."

"Just testing you. Charles: let’s get heat vision and sonar tests of the room.”

Soon a perimeter was formed and it was determined there were 20 hostages and 5 hostage-takers in the building.

"Get snipers in position," ordered the captain.

"So, what am I going to do? Use me," urged ‘Mazing Girl.

"HEY!" a loudspeaker called from within the building. "Is amazing bitch with you?"

Sarah sighed. She took a loudspeaker, walked forward beyond a barricade that had been formed  a cop held her back but.

"Yeah. I am walking forward so you can see me. Don't interpret it as a threat. Shoot me if you want...you know that won't end  well."

Sarah walked 40 feet forward into an open position...and she felt a paintball hit her right breast. It jiggled a lot.

"You just did that to provoke a reaction."

"What are you going to do, Wonder Woman?"

Okay, he was really inviting a lawsuit here. And she recognized the voice.

"Oh, its you," observed ‘Mazing. "You’re the cop who wondered why I don't kill. Do you have a death wish?"

"For these people in here. You come one step closer...I blow their simulated heads off."

Sarah paused. "Here’s the thing. Hostage-takers, from my experience, want to live. If they don't blow their heads off in the  first 5 seconds, then their goal is survival. If you were playing this right. So would you?"

"Me and my group want to get out of here. And we want assurances that you won't chase us. No tails."

"Sure no problem."

"Come on! You can't do that!"

"I can fly you out of the city limits, anywhere you want really. Won't tell the police if you don't hurt the people in the room."

"What?"

"Really. Yeah. I would do that."

"That’s insane."

‘Mazing Girl shrugged.

"Do you think I do this to punish people? I do negotiate with psychos like you."

(Movie reference!! Mazing girl was pleased.)

"Fuck you."
  
"And fuck you, simulated wack-job. Look, if the cops start shooting, 95% of you all die. 80% or more of your hostages die in  an enclosed space like that. My goal, above all, is to save people. Including you. I value human life. I value your life.  This is a game, and you can play however you want. But if this were real life, I would protect you. I would do my  damnest...and yes that does make me fucking better then you. Not because of my freakish mutant powers, but because of my  fucking morality. You don't have to like it. Tomorrow on the street you can shoot the fucking Pope...but this is how I operate."

She heard five guns drop and five people walked to the windows with there hands up.

"And yes, I was fucking lying about taking you out of town. Do you think I am a moron?"

*******

The rest of the exercises went a little smoother. And yes, in one of them several of the hostages did 'die', which was sad.  But it went well over all.

And Sarah thought better of herself for it, and good about the human race.

She celebrated that night by getting shit-faced and watching "Americas Next Top Model". That show, at least occasionally, had  some trenchant insights into the world of modelling. And as she laughed at Tyra Banks obvious attempt to out vouge the  erstwhile contestants, she took comfort. Hero, unstoppable engine of destruction, high horse sounding asshole - maybe it was  good that she could share in humanity the simple pleasures like this.