At thirteen annuals old, Wyatt Cain new exactly what he wanted to be when he grew up. Actually, he had known what he wanted to be long before that. As soon as he had been able to grasp the concept of what a job was, he had known the one he wanted.
He wanted to be a police officer in Central City. Just like his father and his father's father. Wyatt was going to be a tin man.
He could already see himself as an adult. Tall and lean with a long leather coat and brown hat. And a badge of course. The most important part of all. The tin badge pinned to his chest, letting the whole city know they could look to him for help.
When he was younger and adults learned of his ambitions, they'd generally think it was all about having a shiny badge. When told this, Wyatt would inevitably sigh. He'd frown, his eyebrows knitting together, as he explained-politely as possible-that what he actually wanted to serve and protect the great city, its queen, and all of its citizens from any criminals or forces of darkness that might move against them. Wyatt was concerned that so many adults didn't seem to realize that there was more being a tin man than wearing a badge.
Although he did have to admit that he thought that badge was pretty cool. And the hat. He liked the hat a lot.
At school when he was little and the other kids had run around at breaks, playing tin men and thieves, Wyatt never joined in. His father always told him that being a tin man was a serious responsibility. It wasn't a game. So Wyatt would just sit and watch, wondering which of his classmates might one day become the thieves they now played.
His father had taught him from a very young age how to read people. How to tell who was simply a bully and who was simply a bully who would eventually lead a straight life, and who was more likely to grow from youthful indiscretions to genuinely criminal behavior.
Wyatt's father also taught him that the most important part of the job was helping and protecting those who needed it. Which is why, when Wyatt was walking home from school one day and saw a couple of older boys gathered around a prone figure and kicking it, he knew immediately he had to intervene.
As he got closer, Wyatt was able to see that the victim was around his own age, though the boys beating him up were at least 15 or 16. Wyatt recognized them. Leon Coren and Sawyer Marks, they were a few grades ahead of him. The younger boy was curled up, trying to protect his head and stomach from the blows that rained down on him.
"Hey!" Wyatt said as he approached. "Leave him alone."
The larger of the boys, Leon, turned, a smirk crossing his face as he sized Wyatt up, obviously dismissing him as a non-threat.
"Scram, Kid. This ain't none of your business."
Wyatt frowned. "I think you mean it 'isn't any' of my business. But you're wrong."
The smirk slid off the older kid's face as he advanced on Wyatt. He reached out and grabbed Wyatt's shirt, pulling him towards him. "You looking for a beating too?"
Faster than Leon could have believed possible, Wyatt grabbed his wrist and twisted hard. He spun around, pulling Leon's arm up behind his back and pinning it there.
The boy struggled, but Wyatt managed to grab his other arm and secure it as well. Leon had a couple of inches and more than a few pounds on him, but Wyatt's father had taught him a few useful tricks.
Still, holding Leon wasn't easy, and when Sawyer abandoned kicking the boy on the ground and started to come towards him, Wyatt wasn't exactly sure what he was going to do. He put a knee to the small of Leon's back and pushed hard, sending the older boy sprawling into the mud, groaning in pain.
Wyatt repositioned himself, entering a fighting stance. He was quick, and could throw a pretty good punch, but Sawyer was a lot bigger than him, and had a much longer reach. Wyatt managed to dodge the first couple of punches, but the third one connected and he reeled back, stumbled and fell to the ground.
Wyatt saw Sawyer pull back a leg, prepared to aim a kick straight as his head, but he was too dazed to react. He braced himself, ready for a lot of pain, and probably a broken nose as well. But as he stared up with blurry vision, Wyatt saw Sawyer stiffen and fall to the ground.
As Sawyer fell, another figure came into view behind him. It was the kid who the other two had been beating up. And he was holding a very big stick, a satisfied look on his face. He nodded at Wyatt and tossed the stick aside, holding out a hand to help Wyatt to his feet.
Wyatt grasped the offered hand and stood, brushing the dirt from his clothes.
"Thanks for that."
The other boy shrugged. "You saved me first, I figured I owed you."
Wyatt raised an eyebrow. "Really?"
"It's Silas, actually. But nobody calls me that."
Wyatt was going to ask why, but saw movement out of the corner of his eye and realized Leon was starting to struggle to his feet, holding his hurt wrist close to his chest.
"We should get out of here. My house is pretty close, you want to come?"
Zero smiled. "Let's go."
Wyatt's mother had not been particularly pleased to see her son return home from school with a black eye and muddy clothes. But she hadn't scolded him, just sighed and ushered him and Zero to the washroom so they could clean up.
Later, Zero and Wyatt were sitting on the porch, sipping lemonade.
"So why were those guys beating you up?" Wyatt asked.
Zero shrugged and took a gulp of his drink. "I accidentally ran into one of them. He shoved me and I shoved back." He grimaced, "I didn't last too long."
Wyatt frowned. "Well, it was two against one."
"Until you came."
"Yeah, well..." Wyatt trailed off, not sure what to say.
"Why did you help me anyway?"
Wyatt shrugged. "It's what my dad would have done. He always tells me that tin men help people who need it."
Zero looked at him, eyes wide. "Your dad's a tin man?"
"Yeah, he is," Wyatt said proudly.
"My dad was policeman in Capeville."
"Did he get a transfer to Central City?" Wyatt asked.
Zero frowned and looked at the ground. "He's dead. Got shot in a bank robbery. That's why my mom and I moved out here. She said it's a better place to look for work."
"I'm sorry," Wyatt said softly, wishing he hadn't brought it up. "So," he said changing the subject, "Are you going to be going to school here?"
Zero looked up again. "Yeah, I start next week."
"You're going to have to avoid Leon and Sawyer."
Zero frowned. "Are those the guys that we were fighting? They go to school with us?"
Wyatt nodded and Zero groaned. "Oh man, that is not a good way to start out."
"Don't worry," Wyatt said. "We'll stick together, right?"
Zero nodded. "Yeah, we'll always stick together."