Do You Still Believe in Heroes?
John B. Rosenman
In the last few years, we’ve seen heroes we admired fall from grace as a result of disgusting or disappointing revelations about their behavior and character. After a while, we are likely to become cynical and ask ourselves if any of the larger-than-life celebrities or public figures we often idolize is genuine or worthy of our adulation. Perhaps they are all contemptible hypocrites, frauds hiding behind smiling, photogenic images whose hair is always in place and whose hollow words only sound noble.
In my fiction I often portray heroes. None of them is perfect because each one is only human. Most of my novels are science fiction and speculative fiction, and they feature heroes like Stella McMasters of Beyond Those Distant Stars who saves humanity from invading aliens (Mundania Press); Dax Rigby of Dax Rigby, War Correspondent, a news reporter with godlike healing powers who travels 90,000 light-years to a savage planet (MuseItUp Publishing); and Kan in Dark Wizard, a man suffering from amnesia here on Earth in San Luis Obispo, California who brings a dead girl back to life (also MuseItUp Publishing). All three heroes have flaws but wish to help others.
Turtan, an Inspector [elite agent] of the Cross, is the incomparable protagonist of my Inspector of the Cross series. The first two novels are Inspector of the Cross and Kingdom of the Jax. Book 3, Defender of the Flame, will appear in January. In a nutshell, the Cen, cruel and heartless alien invaders, have crushed humanity for five thousand years, and only Turtan’s brilliance has kept the Cross empire from annihilation. Let me tell you a few things about my hero.
1. Turtan is 3,997 years old. What’s his secret? He travels in freeze ships in suspended animation from planet to planet to investigate reports of devices or weapons that might turn the tide against our seemingly invincible enemy. In the process he has found several mechanisms that have made a difference and prolonged the war though defeat still seems inevitable.
2. Though he is chronologically in his forties, suspended animation means he has outlived many generations and has loved and left many women and children he has fathered. On one occasion he met his great grandson as an old, old man. Living outside the natural flow of time has had a terrible emotional effect on Turtan, and he has paid a terrible price. Though he is the greatest Inspector of all and has survived in his profession far longer than any other Inspector, he has suffered mental torment and deterioration, for no human is designed to live under such intolerable conditions. Only his innate strength and dedication to our cause have saved him.
3. He wants to serve and save humanity and will do anything to defeat the Cen, whom he hates for their heartless, calculating savagery toward a Tannis child when he was a young Inspector, and their arrogant cruelty and coldness ever since. Yet he is flexible and open-minded enough to have married Yaneta, a beautiful Cen female who has become his ally. Turtan is the complete hero, pure and adaptable in every respect. In some ways he is Christ-like, for he bears the sins and sufferings of many like a cross on his back and is betrayed by his own leaders.
4. He is unique and complete. In Turtan all the necessary analytical, intellectual, physical, and personal skills and attributes have coalesced to create a one in a trillion hero, a perfect composite. Perhaps such a confluence of abilities could never occur again. When he was ten, Cross specialists gave him a test that identified his potential and hinted at his immense and peerless gift.
5. Part of his greatness is that it is felt by others and influences them to follow him. Turtan possesses off-the-chart charisma. Women find him irresistible. Even the enemy Emperor says he is “the greatest of all knights” and there is “a force in this man, something even beyond his ability that is felt by others.” Kit, in Defender of the Flame, gives up her desire to explore the stars because she feels “there are galaxies inside your brain” it would take me “a dozen lifetimes” to explore, and even then I would “never get to know” you completely.
6. Yet Turtan is not impressed by himself. He feels he is a “simple man, a star-hopping nincompoop.” Yes, he knows he has skills, but his focus is on what he does, not on pride or self-promotion.
7. In fact, he hates attention. He despises speeches in his honor or statues in his likeness. In Kingdom of the Jax, the second of the series, he has to wear a stuffy suit and attend a State banquet in his honor with the Emperor present. For him it’s torture, and he has to endure speech after bloated speech extolling his virtues. Call it extreme humility. Deep down praise embarrasses and angers him.
8. Turtan has an immense capacity for love. Over the centuries, over the millennia, he has loved many women and children he has fathered, and he has been forced to leave them all because of duty and his endless missions. He wishes he could settle down like ordinary men and raise a family, have at least one child he can love and see grow for more than a few months. Turtan loves his long-dead mother deeply but with a guilty conscience he can never salve for he went into space against her wishes to serve the Cross. He loves as well the people and the Emperor he serves and wants above all that future children will one day grow up without fear in a world of peace and freedom.
9. He desires to explore the universe and its infinite secrets, to see new wonders as when he plunged down a black hole in Inspector of the Cross. To quote from the end of Defender of the Flame, “It was a vast universe, and he had only just begun to explore it.”
10. Last, he has a devastating wit and sense of humor and sometimes uses obscene and insulting language. When he meets the glacial Captain Isinger in Defender of the Flame, he thinks, “Captain Isinger or Icicle gives me a smile that would neuter a man wearing a heavy duty radiation suit.” Captured by the enemy in Inspector of the Cross, he says, “Tell your emperor for me his mother is one of the best whores.” Complex and multifaceted, Turtan is no angel.
These are major traits of my greatest hero, and I think some of them should characterize real life heroes as well. If only our leaders and role models wished to serve others rather than themselves and weren’t so selfish and egotistic. If only they realized that a flashy image for public consumption is a cheap lie, and it is what lies beneath that matters. Perhaps only a few of us can approach the ideal, but fortunately in fiction, we writers can try.
From Inspector of the Cross – http://amzn.to/1CGotAe
(In a dream, Turtan remembers his fateful decision and the first woman he left.)
Her eyes were dark with despair, though he barely noticed. Beyond her, he could see the gleaming sprawl of the spaceport, the ship pointing up at the Texas sun like a giant finger.
“Don’t leave, Tan. Don’t do this to us!”
He pulled his gaze away. “Stella, we’ve been all over this a hundred times. I have to go.”
“I’ll be an old woman by the time you get back. Where you’re going is thirty-two years away. It’s sixty-four years there and back! God, I’ll be eighty-six when you return. And with suspension, you’ll still be only…”
“Take it easy.”
“Only twenty-eight damn years old. Tan, I’ll be old enough to be your grandmother! You won’t want to hold me anymore, let alone…”
He watched tears spill down her beautiful face and stepped back.
“I’m sorry. I have to go.”
“Because they need me. Because they poured forty million credits of training and trust into me, and I can’t let them down. I made a commitment.”
“Break it. It’s a stupid, senseless war. Let the Cenknife have everything, eat every damned world in the galaxy till they choke.”
“You don’t mean it, not after they killed your brother and destroyed his ship. We have a duty…”
She shook her head. “The trouble with you is you believe their patriotic bull of country and empire. Tan, they’re only two power-hungry conglomerates. They don’t care who they kill as long—”
“No. I don’t believe it. I’m fighting for our freedom, for our children’s future.”
“If so, stay here. With me!”
Members of a flight crew passed him, their suits shiny and new. He closed his eyes. The crew smelled glazed with stardust, anointed by infinity. And she wanted to hold him back with guilt and tears! He opened his eyes and stepped forward, burying his fingers in her hair as his lips bruised her mouth. For a long moment, he held her, knowing this was all he’d ever have, and it would have to make up for everything. With a sob, he tore himself away, feeling her nails rake his back as he raced toward the ship, not looking back. The airlock doors clanged, and he floated up a gleaming corridor, feeling the engine’s immense hum. In the freezing room, falsely hearty, Cross techs slipped needles into his veins and sucked out his blood, filling him with preservatives. He lay back, consciousness fading, the sole passenger aboard a fifty meter rocket aimed at his first investigation among the stars. Space waited above him, and unlike others, he could explore it forever, his life suspended in a transparent crypt.
“I love you, Tan.”
He struggled to open his eyes, uncertainty for the first time crossing his mind. What if she were right, and he was wrong, and he was sacrificing their love on a false altar? What did wars, including intergalactic ones, ever prove? A thousand battlefields, a million cemeteries. All the propaganda in the world wouldn’t bring the dead back. It wouldn’t erase the countless names on soldiers’ tombstones, or dry up any loved ones’ tears. “Holy Wars Open Empty Doors,” his brain babbled, freezing into a marble vault inside his skull. Wars only fill industrialists’ pockets and grow widows’ weeds.
“I love you, Tan.”
Desperate, sane too late, he struggled up. Stella was right. Love and a family were worth any noble cause. He must escape, tell them he’d changed his mind, go to her. He felt consciousness return. Yes, he was going to make it, make it even though his veins were ammonia ice, and the woman he loved was three thousand, five hundred years dead. He opened his eyes.