Torn became a hero when he was thirteen.
Thanks to whoever rated this story as Original. I'm sure someone must have written a Torn past-fic, by now, though. But I don't normally read Jak fanfics (didn't want to spoil the game for myself, but now I'm on the verge of beating the Metal Head Leader -- don't look at me like that, I haven't had access to a PS2 for over a year,) so perhaps I really am forging a new frontier in the fandom [poses until someone in the audience hurls Jak 3 at head]. Ow. Okay, I get the point. No more stupidity from me. Must resist playing until finishes Jak II...
The slum gang was one in a long series of gangs that constantly formed and reformed, fighting over the city as only children can fight. When Torn had entered the gang, the small group owned most of the slums stretching from the start of the canal district, all the way to the red steel walls of the industrial highway, including the shanty town in the flooded North End.
This large expanse of territory was due to the efforts of Tommy's big brother, and the remnants of his former gang, who now variously worked for shady people, were in prison, finally following their parents into dead end family jobs, or had simply vanished. Tommy's brother worked down at the harbor for some big man, according to local myth, that Tess confirmed when she talked to Torn about what Sachi had her do.
Everyone eventually talked to Torn, and if they didn't talk to Torn, they talked to Rylt, who in turn told Torn. The large Rylt, and the wiry Torn made a strange, but firm pair after the fight on the shanty town pier. Tommy knew this, and so it wasn't surprising that Torn became known as Tommy's Information Officer of the smallish, but growing, group. What you told Torn, the boss would know.
So Tommy knew, five minutes after Jerrel, of all people, came in through the window of the broken down little home where Torn and his little brothers shared two beds between the five of them, yelling for Torn to get on the zoomer Kyle was idling by the window, that the gang was challenged on three sides. He also knew that the challenge had come in the form of Doner and Kaspar's tied to the automated defense gun that was installed just this year near the Shanties by the Baron Whatshisface.
2. How War Begins
Tommy said the lesson had to be swift and harsh. They couldn't let something this embarrassing lie. Sachi nodded, and came up with a brilliant strategy to blow up seven zoomers in the Shanties.
Torn took the idea, and carefully tweaked it to the reality that they were kids, and unlikely to get their hands on explosives. That night he and Kyle zoomed into the pier district, and knocked every person they could find of the right age into the scummy water. When one of the Blues got violent, and jumped onto the zoomer, Torn elbowed him in the side, and his fist connected with the kid's temple, sending the attacker into the water.
When he got home, Torn was called a hero. He was thirteen.
Every kid in Haven, it seemed, was joining every gang that had sprouted in the slum district. Torn was in more fights coming home than he was when he was with the rest of the gang. But he won them, he won them. Even against the tough kids who came from the canal district, and were trying to bite a bit of the slums into their territory. They used lamp posts. Even against the sneaks from down by the steel walls of Industry, who would suddenly appear, with rags ready to choke your breath away. Even against the Shanty kids who fought the way he did, hard with their fists, and not ready to give up.
Everyone was a target. Tommy knew this, and still sent them on missions, like a general directing his troops. The cannalers were planning an attack tomorrow, so someone fast had to take out the windows of the leader's parent's store. The highwayers had mugged some idiots way into slum territory, and had to be shown a lesson or two. The Blues of the Shanty town needed to be brought under Tommy's protection, so show 'em why.
You couldn't live like this, Torn thought. You couldn't live wondering who was going to beat you unconscious first. You just couldn't. At home, his mother wanted him to give up this violent life - but Torn couldn't. He just couldn't. 'Cause Tommy was counting on him. You couldn't let him down. Jerrel knew that, and when someone like Jerrel knew things you couldn't not know them.
4. Acceptable Loss
Jerrel, Cindy, and Torn went to take down the Cannaler's leader. Jerrel was going to get them in. Cindy would lure any guards away. Torn was the muscle, because he was lean and wiry, and no one ever would have believed that he could knock down a man twice his size without sweating it. Tommy was counting on them.
Torn gazed at the blood on his knuckles after the grey mist cleared from his vision. The Cannalers had been run by someone who was fifteen, twice his weight, and he had just beaten the older kid senseless. He'd broken bones. There was a bloody /tooth/, a tooth, on the steel flags of the alley. And the alarm was all around, ringing in his long ears, as cannalers shrieked and yelled.
Jerrel grabbed Torn by the shoulder, and they ran to where they'd left Cindy. And...Cindy was broken. When Torn saw her, he got his final confirmation that he was going mad, because that couldn't be Cindy, annoying and dirty mouthed, lying in her own vomit, black bruised and bleeding.
He looked at Jerrel mutely as Kyle, trying to make sense of things, and Jerrel just looked blank. Blank, and then stirred into action, as the yelling cries came nearer, and he said: "C'mon, let's go. She'll get home. Mebbe she'll finally get it through her skull that girls don't have no place here."
Although he had never heard the words before, Torn suddenly understood the term "acceptable loss."
He picked up Cindy's limp form, and ran with Jerrel. Because he doesn't want to hear Tommy say that there was nothing they could have done, and they had to leave Cindy there for the good of the mission. If he heard that, there'd have been no point to the last three months. There'd have been no point in being able to beat people long after they were down. If Tommy told Torn what acceptable loss was, Torn couldn't fight for him any more. Torn believed in Tommy. He couldn't let that last illusion shatter.
5. All Quiet
And the months of terror and uncertainty, thrill and excitement, loyalty and honor, betrayal and cowardice, ended, because there was no one left to fight. And the slums were peaceful. The gang was bigger, and smaller. It had more people, sure, but Cindy wasn't there any more. Torn had heard that she was working in her uncle's flower shop. He didn't care. Jerrel had been ambushed one night, and found floating in the canals. Torn told himself that he didn't like Jerrel all that much, anyway. Doner and Kaspar had just disappeared. Torn was angry at them for betraying Tommy like that. Tess had been cornered in an alleyway, and - and Torn didn't really know what had happened. All he knew was some great roaring silence filled his brain when he thought about it.
So, he had gone up on the roof of his house, as soon as night decended. He knew that no meeting was going to happen, and if it was going to happen, it could happen without Tommy's Crocodog (from Information Officer to Crocodog, that was what they were calling him, and it just seemed so damn ironic, though Torn didn't know why). He lay, and looked at the stars; or at least the pollution with the occasional star peeking through, and hoped that his hands would stop shaking in the quiet of the night. And others joined him on the roof, as if by some unspoken signal they had known that the quiet they needed was to be found with Torn.
First Kyle, on a zoomer (Torn didn't comment about the gun strapped to his back, Kyle had changed), and then Rylt had climbed the stairs, (a rumble of voices had accompanied him, but then again, Rylt was a family favorite, and at least that hadn't changed), and Tess had dropped down from a neighboring house (still cheery, still accepting, just a little more quiet). The four of them didn't say anything. Torn didn't dare ask why they weren't with Tommy, and they in turn didn't ask him, the most fervent, why he didn't want to face Tommy either. All they wanted was quiet. They got it, too, plus friendship.
Rylt was the first one to tell Torn that he had started to become unpleasant, and sarcastic. So, Torn eased up on the sarcasm. Tess told him that brutal honesty wasn't any better. Torn kept it, though, because he felt something settling on his shoulders each time he revised Sachi's ambitious but (as Torn was beginning to discover now that he was old enough to think) fatally flawed plans, and only biting remarks made him feel a little better. Sachi and Gib just laughed at him, and called him the gang's grumpy grouch.
Torn never meant to be second in command. Tommy didn't need a second in command. But as things settled down, as life returned to normal, as he turned fourteen, he discovered that he was the one managing the day to day affairs. He was planning the heists that Tommy wanted. He was doing recruiting. When some of the new boys, that had joined in the middle of the war, started pushing and pulling for the spot of who got to sit next Tess, and the other chicks, or whose plans Tommy got to hear, Torn just automatically broke up the fights. It made him some enemies, but he was used to that.
The mysterious, unseen figure of the Baron decided to get tough on crime. His "Krimson Guard," quote unquote, walked the slums, terrifying many a poor drunkard stumbling home late at night, and hauling kids up to the "tanty," a make shift detention center. Torn and Rylt just watched them, from the shadows, with Kyle pretending to fix his zoomer under a street light as calm as could be.
When Torn went home he heard his mother talking about how safe the streets had become, and how glad she was that the Baron cared for the little man. It was from Torn's father, who praised the Baron for "getting tough on the scum," that Torn learn the Baron's name: Praxis.
Rylt had a different view of the Baron. His mother had been arrested for drug dealing and prostitution. It wasn't, he said, as he sat on the roof with Torn, a pillow and a moth-eaten old blanket beside him, the fact that she had been arrested. He had known she should be arrested for the stuff she did (and Torn suspected the stuff she didn't do. He had never tried to think too closely about why Rylt tended to show up around meal times, and looked jealously at Torn when his mother handed him an apple).
It was just the way the guards had treated her. Rylt didn't think that it was right for arresting officers to insult and hit arrestees who were too doped up to do anything about it.
9. Policeman's Helmet Stealing
Kyle didn't like the Krimzon Guards, either. He didn't know when they would be leaving, and this bothered him. So, he suggested a mission that Torn should have known better than to accept, but Torn was sick of hearing the guards praised.
Kyle had acquired three zoomers. Neither Torn nor Rylt asked from where. They knew better than that. The plan was simple, nab one of the face masks the guard always wore, and then lie low until the pursuit had shaken off. Kyle suggested an area under some shanty houses near the city wall.
Torn waited patiently for a target, then he kicked the zoomer onto life, and blasted past the hulking man in red armor, snatching the face plate from his head. He whizzed away, laughing, and looked back. And it was Doner's face that stared at him, retreating, dwindling into the distance. So, they hadn't disappeared.
Sachi had got it all wrong, Torn decided, when he stood before a desk with some man in red armor behind it. Sachi's brilliant plan to rob the newly built power station for a few gadgets to sell to that fat guy who owned the Hip Hog had gotten Torn and Rylt arrested. Neither of the boys had any clue what had happened to Tess. But after that chase down the alleyways, and the scrabble to get back into the slums - and then the close encounter with the turret gun, Torn could only hope that Tess had gone in the opposite direction, and he was too tired to feel much hope for that.
He was hungry, Rylt wasn't there, so he was alone, and the bruise to the face that he had received from a blaster butt wasn't helping. But what really wasn't helping was the man behind the desk, who looked sort of the way Kyle would when he was forty, that is, so average as to be invisible. He was just looking at Torn, and then occasionally at the file in his hand. He hadn't acted like the other guards, either, hadn't called Torn "punk," "idiot," "hood," or even "hooligan." He just sat and watched Torn, and Torn just stared stubbornly back, looking five inches to the left of the man's head, because the tattoo covering his face was worrying.
He wondered how long you got in the tanty for running from the Krimzon Guard. He'd never heard of anyone attacking them. Stealing a helmet seven months ago isn't attacking. Accidentally bumping into a few of them when they're swarming around you isn't attacking. A long mental pause occurred. Yeah, but do they know that?
The guard broke the silent staring contest first, although Torn received the distinct impression that the man was choosing to break it, not giving up. There was a difference between calling a truce and capitulating.
"Your name is Torn, age fifteen, you've been a fighter and a scrapper most of your young life, and you've shown fair leadership qualities for a kid in some ten-penny gang in the slums," the officer proceeded to tell Torn about his life. Torn was scared. This guy even knew about the time he had stolen food from the grand bazaar for his family - nothing even vaguely connected to gang life. Finally, however, the judgment came: "Now, Torn, I see that you have two choices in front of you," the officer said. "One of those choices is twenty years in the cells up at the palace, because you're a bright lad, and could become a major problem if you were let go now with just a slap on the wrist, and besides, we have the evidence to convict you. The other involves joining us, and going to the guard academy for three years."
Torn just stared at him.
"So, prison, or us, lad, which will it be?"
"You," Torn croaked.
The man nodded. "Go out to the back," he told Torn. "You'll be picked up with whoever else joins today."
Five minutes later Rylt was standing next to him, looking as stunned as Torn.