A new generation of Heroes
Part VII: Ethics
The Parahuman Ethics class was given on the first floor of the classroom building, Mace followed me closely, still carrying my bag. A move that had really surprised me; rather than his usual playful and flirty self, he’d just been nice.
As we walked to class, I noticed this person; they were white with bleached hair, you could tell by the damaged texture, and they wore a black skirt with leggings and a red top underneath a black jacket. Although obviously feminine, I didn’t feel comfortable guessing their pronoun.
I couldn’t help but notice that they were just looking around frantically, before rereading a slip of paper they held for the Nth time.
“Where are you headed?” I said, approaching them.
They didn’t answer, just looking a little startled for a second.
“Are you okay?” I then asked.
“H-hi,” They stuttered. “I’m just looking for the doctors office.” They waved a hand to their left really nervously.
“Other way,” I said with a laugh.
I gave them a smile before rejoining the others who had continued walking on, all except for Mace who had waited for me a few yards away.
“Ready to go?”
“Yeah, sorry about that.”
We rushed a little to join the others and when we arrived in the classroom we took seats together, which seemed like it was going to be the norm and waited until the teacher arrived.
After we were all seated a tall woman with bioluminescent skin entered the room. Her skin shone with blue and green hues that slowly moved about, it wasn’t blinding, but it was unmistakable. She wore a simple black skirt and matching jacket that seemed to completely block out her skin’s luminescence.
“Good afternoon students and welcome to parahuman ethics 101. My name is Valeria Contreras and I’ll be your instructor.” She said, setting her things down on her desk. “Now, I can already hear half of you groan internally and asking yourself why you need to take this stupid course.
Which is fair enough, I’m sure you’d rather learn something more practical. This class may not teach you how to fight supervillains and do heroics, but here you’ll learn how to do those things without getting lynched and avoiding media witch hunts.”
If I’d learned anything from obsessively studying Centurion’s history was that there was a very thin line between being a hero and being a criminal in the eye of the public. And that not being white, heterosexual or normal looking enough tended to make people see you as the latter…
“I think we should start with a little discussion on one of the most fundamental and most discussed element of crime fighting.” She took a stylus and went to write on the electronic blackboard.
To kill or not to kill?
She then used her stylus and underlined the words twice.
“This has been the most debated part of crime fighting, with parahuman groups forming on both sides. Can any of you tell me which side the legion takes?”
I raised my hand and she pointed at me.
“Can you tell me your name?”
She checked her student file for a second before continuing.
“Alright, Mx. Walker, what is the Legion’s stance?”
“Strictly no killing regardless of circumstances.”
“That’s correct.” She said. Unlike a certain Gimelian, she thankfully didn’t throw a caramel at my face. “The Legion has a strict no kill policy when it comes to capture.”
Centurion from the moment he’d taken on his cape had always been strict about his no-killing policy and had successfully kept a clean record for all of his five decades long career.
“Now, I have a small exercise for –” Ms. Contrera began however she didn’t get to finish her sentence as there was a knock at the door.
She went toward the door and opened it. A tall-ish guy in with ripped jeans and a black hoodie stood there, a tablet under his arm.
“Ah, you must be Jaeger.” The teacher said. “I’m the parahuman ethics teacher; Valeria Contreras, I have to say I was expecting you a little sooner.”
“Sorry…” Was all the guy said, muttering his answer, which I’d only heard because I’d chosen the desk right by the door.
“Class, this is Jaeger Smith. He’ll be joining your class starting from now.” The teacher told us before looking back toward the guy. “You can sit down anywhere you’d like. We were about to have a discussing on the ethics of lethal force in crime fighting.” The guy nodded and went for a seat.
As he passed by I noticed his paramorphic features; He wasn’t quite up to Rowan’s level of paramorphic mutation but his nose was weirdly shaped and his ears huge and triangular, looking kind of batlike. Still, I tried not to stare.
He went to the other side of the class and sat down by Charlie’s side. Once he was sat down, the teacher went back to the blackboard and made a small two by two grid, writing ‘killing and not killing’ on one side and ‘Pro vs Con’ on the others.
“Let’s have a talk about the benefits and disadvantages of each philosophy. How about we start with killing pros?” The teacher said. “Oh, before we begin, let me assure you that there will be no judgement from me or anyone else in the academy for what you say. This is purely a thought experiment, not a measure of your belief. Who wants to contribute first?”
“You don’t have to hold back.” Amber said.
“That’s a good one.” Ms. Contreras said, writing it down.
“It’s a permanent solution.” Yikaru said, in a matter of fact kind of way.
“Alright, what are to cons of killing your opponent?”
“If you make a mistake, you can’t take it back.” I offered.
“People can change, the dead however can’t…” Caroline said.
“It makes things personal.” Jaeger said, his german accent fairly thick. “Even… they… have friends and family.”
“Also a good point. What about pros for not killing?”
We went for the reverse of the killing cons; living villains could always be redeemed and if you made a mistake then you could easily correct it.
“While you do have to hold back, you also don’t escalate the situation; thieves, smugglers and many other crooks aren’t going to kill you; the last thing they want is being wanted for murder, being the subject of a massive manhunt isn’t good for business.” Charlie said, which made a lot of sense.
We then went through the standard objection to thou shalt not kill; villains escaped and could take revenge, just arresting people didn’t do any good in a corrupt justice system.
“I can’t help but notice none of you have brought up a very important point against using lethal force.” Ms. Contrera said once we ran out of things. “It creates an antagonizing relationship toward the local legal authorities. Rather than cooperating toward the same goal of bringing a criminal to face justice, you become a rival to these organization. Which is why the legion has maintained its no killing policy since its inception; the Legion responds to emergency but they are not a legal authority and so defer to those to administer justice.
There’s also the simple fact allowing killing under any set of circumstances almost inevitably lead to abuse or loopholes regardless of any rules implemented to decide when it is or isn’t appropriate.
Let’s say you allow killing when a villain threatens the lives of innocent civilians; what exactly counts as threatening their lives? Is the possibility of stray fire hurting civilians enough? What about dangerous driving through a city’s streets or side effects of powers such as fires or structural damage that could cause injury? Does it matter that these dangers to civilians only exist because you’ve antagonized a villain and if you’d let them go none of those would be a problem?”
The class paused taking her words in. She kind of had a point; if you didn’t step in, nobody get hurt in a robbery.
“Through forty-five years of history, the Legion has only once suspended its rule; during the two thousand twelve Tzari invasion because we were not facing criminals but were at war against an enemy beheld to no law. Even then, all heroes were ordered to disable their opponents unless such a thing was impossible without endangering civilians or the war effort.”
“Are you saying it’s okay to kill aliens?” Jaime asked. I noticed Ahti, who sat a few desks to my right, tense.
“No. By international laws all sentient beings regardless of species, origin or abilities are endowed with the same rights and responsibilities as human beings. The Tzari who attacked however were soldiers and legal targets for legal wartime actions.” She walked to the side of the classroom and opened a large metal cabinet, taking a pile of spiral bound books.
“This,” she said, putting the books on Annabelle’s desk, “is the Legion handbook on international law, which include the universal declaration of sentients’ rights, the customs and law of warfare and other important laws you should be aware of, it has been helpfully annotated by Centurion himself. Take one and pass it left. Reading it will be your first homework of the year.” People did as she instructed and I found myself holding a copy. “As Ravenhold students, you will follow the same code of ethics as our Legion benefactors for the duration of your stay or risk expulsion.”
Once she was done, she segued into less serious but important things to know; such as the importance of minimizing collateral damage, especially when responding to non-violent emergencies; A villain robbing a bank only stole insured money. Using a car as a shield or improvised weapon was pretty much robbing some poor smuck for tens of thousands.
The Class over, all that was left was homeroom where we worked on our academics individually. All and all, the rest of the day was really smooth.