Looking at the real world, if you have a kid who’s been
getting training from their parent… look, this shouldn’t happen. Most
responsible adults with advanced combat training won’t teach it to their kids. Most. But, it does happen. You will
occasionally run across kids who’ve had police or military hand to hand
training. They have a parent who’s a cop, or spent tours oversees. The kid may
be responsible with this information. Or, something like this could (and does)
happen. Maybe it was some misguided, “teaching them to fight,” machismo by
their parent. Maybe the kid just wasn’t quite stable, or simply made a
miscalculation. There’s a lot of potential factors.
The result is pretty messy, however. Criminal investigations,
of both the parent and the child.
Depending on the severity of whatever they meted out, you may be looking
at criminal charges, potentially being charged as an adult. A kid snaps, gouges
out the eyes of an opponent, and kills another by crushing their trachea, and
you could easily see a kid in modern America sentenced to +25 years in prison.
This can easily spill over onto their parents. It’s not hard to see a situation
where an older kid could get their younger siblings taken by CPS in order to, “protect,”
them from the parent responsible for this training in the first place.
There’s also a real liability issue for the school and the
kid’s parents. If you’re wondering about the idea of a cover-up in the real
world, that would be stopped dead by civil litigation. Say whatever you want
about America being overly litigious, but things like this are why tort law
exists. This would also become a factor regardless of the bullies being alive
after the encounter. Someone trained this kid; they’re responsible. Someone let
this kid wander around free, waiting for something like this to happen (even if
they didn’t know); they’re responsible. This means, even if he kills all the
bullies, and there’s no witnesses, you still couldn’t bury this thing fast
The irony here is, even if the bullies provoked this
response, it’s still indefensible, and in the eyes of everyone the kid who went too far, and started turning people into
meat origami, and they will be held responsible.
This is something every martial artist lives with’ the more
training you have, the less force you’re allowed to use to defend yourself. The
thought process goes (accurately) that you need to apply less force to ensure
your safety, and that of others. It becomes far easier to become the aggressor,
legally. This still applies to your kid. Age really isn’t a factor in that. It
doesn’t matter if it’s a teen or an adult, with advanced hand to hand training.
They go off and start killing people, even in self defense, it’s going to be
viewed far more carefully than if a white belt screwed up and accidentally
killed a mugger.
So, yeah, that’s not going to be fun.
There’s another factor here worth remembering, bullies are
looking for easy victims. They don’t always succeed in finding them, and they
probably couldn’t tell you how they identify their potential victims. Normally,
bullies will avoid someone with combat training. This isn’t intentional
behavior, so much as a subconscious response. Martial training builds
self-confidence. In turn, this makes them look less like ideal victims to a
bully. Somewhat obviously, it’s not 100%. Some people really are too stupid to
live, but that tends to be a self-solving issue.
So, let’s put this back in its intended perspective for a
minute. Or at least, as much as I can, having never read the Alex Rider books.
You’re an intelligence agency that just took complete leave
of its senses and trained a teenager to be a superspy. They then took that
training and used it on civilians? Your next phone call is to get a cleaner on
site to bullet the kid in the back of the head, and dump them in a landfill,
hog farm, or whatever’s nearby, then pretend that kid never existed in the first place. Let everything after that become
one more mystery, because really who’ll notice?
After all, if you couldn’t trust them to keep their training
secret, what hope do you have that they won’t flip and start spewing classified
information to anyone with a badge or a gun? You can’t afford that. No one can.
Worst case, leaving the body where it landed won’t really
lead back to your doorstep. There’s an awkward truth to homicide
investigations: If the killer and victim are total strangers, it can become
damn near impossible to identify them. A cleaner with an unregistered .44 can
leave your teen spy in a pool of their own blood, and slip the perimeter before
the local PD figures out what happened. They’re used to giving authoritarian
regimes the slip; what are the NYPD going to do? Seal Manhattan over one
homicide? Yeah, right.
Not killing the kid and just turning them loose will result
in a psychologically unstable rogue agent who may have information you really don’t want in the wild, and their
cover is now blown. So any rival groups could potentially make a play for them,
or try to disappear them for their own use. That’s another big problem, but
hey, it’s a tough world. Hell, even M threatened to have James Bond killed at
least once, right?
Also, having a kid flip out like this is a training failure for your agency. I mean, it’s one thing when
we’re talking about some guy who was teaching their kid Krav Maga in their
basement, but if you’re supposed to be a
respectable intelligence agency, you really needed to make sure your spy would
actually be able to operate in the field. That doesn’t mean shirking the issue
of bullies, but it does mean finding other, more creative, ways to neutralize
them. Not necessarily non-violent means, though those would be preferable.
Planting evidence, framing them for crimes, or just straight up blackmailing
them into public confessions are all on the table, but taking the direct
approach for no substantive gain? No, that’s just bad tradecraft. It exposes
the kid, it exposes your agency, and it does this for no benefit.
If there’s a lesson for your writing, it’s that no one is too important to kill if they
become a big enough problem. I realize this kind of flips the script on the
superspy genre. But, given the provided scenario, there’s no compelling reason
not to snuff them. Any cover-up needs to start with tying up loose ends. That
means the kid and anyone he confided in. Best case, just him. Worst case, it’s
time to dig out the tarps and deep six a few friends and acquaintances. Just be
quick, clean, and make sure there’s nothing left that can tie back to you, and
Now, this doesn’t mean that assassinating the kid needs to
be successful. The odds aren’t in their favor, but they could find a way to survive.
I mean, the entire Bourne film franchise is based off a rogue agent working
against his old handlers (the novels are slightly
different). But, it is the reasonable response, especially when working in a genre
that goes through supporting characters like popcorn. It’s easy to sit back and
think, “well, that doesn’t apply to this character, because they’re one of the
main characters.” Splat. Not so much, it seems.
One of the best ways to keep your audience engaged (in genre
fiction) is to find ways to subtly violate the conventions of your genre by
remaining true to the nature of your characters. Especially if those characters are baked into the genre itself. The
superspy genre is (usually) very lethal, selectively. It kills off characters
who aren’t important to the narrative. It will wax the mentor, the old friend,
people your protagonist cares about, because it’s expected. But, it rarely
turns around and puts a bullet in the protagonist because they became too much
of a problem… unless you’re Sean Bean.
It’s probably worth saying, in closing, you really can’t
train a teenager as a spy. Maybe for sigint, but not spies like you think of
them. Working in human intelligence includes a staggering amount of
psychological pressure. Most adults can’t handle it. Part of the training
process is about screening out recruits that simply wouldn’t be able to survive
the job. While you could subject a teenager to this, their chances of coming
out the side as a functional operative, or even alive, are extremely low. It’s
one thing to wave this for because you’re looking at the superspy genre, but that
operates with a comfortable disconnection from reality. When you start asking, “but,
how would this actually work?” Everything starts to come apart at the seams.
Since I didn’t work a reference in along the way, Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy is still a fantastic look at spies, and absolutely worth your time. Amusingly, it’s not the first novel in the series, but is an excellent book.
Also, I’ll say it again, the first couple seasons of Burn Notice are a fantastic tradecraft primer. They’re not perfect, but the narrator offers a lot of excellent insight into how to exploit human nature.
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