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The Bad Element: Chris Larabee’s Origin Story

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Chapter One

Christopher Ryan Larabee was born to Michael and Anne Larabee in the spring; the perfect arrival time to grow up alongside that year’s colts and fillies. His parents owned, managed, and lived on a horse ranch in Kansas, raising their children as they raised their herds: with discipline and love. As he matured, Chris would always feel a special bond between him and his four-legged year mates.

Chris was a middle child with a much older brother and both older and younger sisters. He was not particularly close to any of them though due to either the large age gap between them or to certain gender differences. It’s hard for an active little boy to get close to someone who is never home, or who only ever wants to play dress-up and dollies (neither of which Chris was much interested in). But in spite of their differences he loved his siblings, though he often didn’t empathize with them or they him.

A demanding baby, he cultivated his infamous glare early in life, even his strong-willed parents weren’t completely immune to its effects. He also had no problem with letting everyone in hearing distance know when he had needs; young Chris was never known as ‘the quiet one’ in the family.

Growing into a rambunctious toddler, he soon wanted to be in the middle of everything, from the cooking to the gardening to feeding the livestock. As he learned to talk, he began to take great pleasure in ordering others about, and could often be found barking commands and glaring from atop his highchair. His older siblings were convinced that the bossy little brat would grow up to be an outstanding drill sergeant one day.

Chris spent his elementary school years making a few close friends, playing a few sports, and helping his family with their horses. He was a happy child who gladly skipped over the awkward, clumsy, adolescent stage and was instead always comfortable in his own skin. He knew his own mind and loved nothing more than to follow the horse trainers about all day learning their skills. His whole family doted on him, at least at first, but when he hit his teen years a stubborn, wild streak began to grow in him, causing some dissent at home.

He began to resent always being the one expected to help out while, it seemed to him, his sisters got to relax and spend time with their friends. He thought that just because he was the only boy at home it shouldn’t automatically mean he had to sacrifice all of his free time to slave around the ranch. Consequently, the blond teen started to rebel in small ways: spending more time away from home, hanging out with friends all day, leaving messy outside chores for the girls to do, and no longer helping his mother with the baking.

One thing Chris didn’t change though, was the time he spent with the horses. He especially loved working with the trainers to break the young horses to a saddle. In fact, he spent much more time at that dangerous chore than he ever had before. It frightened his mother more than a bit to see her baby boy getting tossed about like a rag doll, but she tolerated it because he loved it so much.

Since Chris was a very forthright and principled young man, one who always stood up for what was right, his parents didn’t worry overly about his new behavior, attributing the changes to simple teenage rebellion. As long as no major altercations occurred, they were content to let him play out his transformation. They figured he would go back to being their cheerful little dictator by the time he turned eighteen, giving him a few years leeway to mutiny before assuming he’d fall back into line.

Throughout his high school years Chris got into plenty of mischief, and even had some close brushes with the law, but he was, overall, a good kid with good grades. It seemed his parents were right about him, at least from their point of view. However, by the time Chris was seventeen he knew that the life of a simple horse rancher was not the life for him. No matter how much he loved the animals, he knew he wanted more out of life: he sought danger, adventure, freedom, and genuine challenges to his imagined skills.

One day, towards the end of his senior year, a pit-stop at the local library to do a little career research ended up steering him towards his destiny…

“Hey, Larabee, what the hell are you doing in here, man?” The tall geeky blond behind the library counter asked as he noticed his fellow senior enter the building. “This isn’t really your kind of scene, is it? It being a quiet place of learning and all.”

“Ha, ha. Laugh it up, Olson, won’t change the fact that I’m still kicking your ass in Physics this semester.” Chris returned with a smirk as he headed towards his friend.

“You know that’s just because you lucked out and got Old-Man Johnson for a teacher, everyone knows he goes easy on the basketball players. I’d be acing the class too if I had him instead of Ms. Mills: bitch hates jocks.” The school’s star forward complained.

“Are you calling yourself a jock, Albert?” Chris raised his brows. “I thought you were nerd-herd all the way, and proud of it. You certainly look it today, man.”

“Hey now!” Albert Einstein ‘Ollie’ Olson scowled. Skinny as a rail and wearing large-framed glasses, he looked like the textbook definition of a science geek, all 6’ 10” of him. After a quick apologetic wave to a nearby patron, and with an obvious effort to keep his voice low, Ollie snapped back. “Who kept those Husky pinheads off your back every quarter last game, huh? Who collected all those rebounds, huh? Who kept passing you the ball for those assists, huh? Me! That’s who!”

“Was that you? I thought it was your evil, athletic twin.” As point guard and captain of the basketball team, Chris was well aware of what an asset Albert Olson was to North High’s varsity team; he just liked to razz his friend. And nothing could get Ollie’s back up faster than somebody trying to pigeonhole him. The intelligent boy insisted that he could be a physical powerhouse and smarter than most of the faculty, both at the same time, with no problems - thank you very much.

“Asshole.” The annoyed teen grinned and relaxed at the friendly teasing. “So, what are you doing here, man? Besides trying to make fun of me, I mean.”

Chris couldn’t help but return the contagious smile, as he debated whether or not to tell the other teen the truth. Finally, after deciding that out of all of his school buddies Ollie would be the one most likely to actually listen to what he had to say without teasing him about it, Chris decided to enlighten him.

“I came to do some research. I’m looking into career options for after graduation. My old man wants me to go to school for business, but I’m just not interested. I’ve been doing the boring classroom setting for years, and now I want something different. I was thinking about, maybe, joining the armed forces.”

“ Really? So, you’re not staying to work on your family’s ranch?” Ollie was surprised to hear Chris was thinking about leaving. The Larabee Ranch was pretty well known in the area, and everyone knew that Chris helped his dad around the place, what with his older brother away at Harvard Law and all. Plus, with how good the opinionated teen was with horses it had been a foregone conclusion that he would train to take over the place one day, or, at least, it had been thought to be a foregone conclusion. It seemed that that widespread thought might have been wrong. Ollie should have known better, his irritable friend had never liked being predictable.

Chris frowned. That was the problem he was having with everyone these days, including his own family; it seems they all assumed he would be sticking around to work with the horses. He wasn’t sure what he had ever done to give that impression though, besides liking the big animals, and it annoyed him because it was so far from the truth. He couldn’t wait until he finally got to leave this small patch of land and go out and really experience the rest of the world.

“No, I’m not planning on sticking around after Grad Day for longer than it takes to pack up my car and drive away, or else I’m afraid I’ll never leave at all. I want to actually get out there and do something, you know?” Chris said, hoping his friend could understand how he felt.

The bespectacled blond laughed, “You sound just like my little sister. She can’t wait until she’s old enough to leave this Podunk town, wants to go to New York and act on Broadway. Says she craves independence and adventure, living the high life, and all that stuff.”

“Adventure and independence sound good to me; the high life sounds nice too, but acting is right out. Remember that ‘Romeo and Juliet’ disaster back in sophomore year?” Chris made a face of self-depreciation. How he had landed the part was still a mystery to all involved, including Chris himself, especially since he had only auditioned for Romeo on a dare. The intimidating blond with a short fuse for idiocy was not well-suited for a career as a thespian.

The other boy tried to laugh quietly as he too remembered that particular embarrassing episode in his longtime friend’s life.

“Yeah, maybe you should plan on staying far, far away from any stages in the future, Larabee. For the sake of your fellow actors, if for no other reason,” teased Ollie as he placed his elbows on the check out counter and leaned forward from his seat behind.

Chris rolled his eyes and turned away to lean his back against the front of the counter next to Ollie, head up making a sweep across the room, keeping a lookout for anything that might catch his eye - like the new hot cheerleader or his bitchy ex-girlfriend.

“So, what kind of research were you looking to do?” Olson probed.

“Well, I’m not entirely sure, really. I was just going to look up some information about the different branches of the armed forces and see if any of those sounded interesting.” The always prepared senior turned a little red admitting to that, but while he found it easy to plan for games and exams, planning for the rest of his life was turning out to be a little more challenging. He figured all he needed was a little more practice at it though.

“You’re really thinking about joining up? Going to ‘be all that you can be’, ‘aim high’, and ‘live the adventure’?” sang out Ollie.

“What are you, a walking military jingle ad?” laughed Chris turning his head to look at his friend.

“It’s hard not to be these days, man. They have those recruitment pieces up all over.” Ollie’s grin faded into a more serious look. “Really, Chris, are you serious about this? Joining the armed forces isn’t something to be dicking around about, those fuckers get shot at and shit. Is that really what you want?”

“Well, I know what I don’t want. I don’t want to be stuck laboring at the ranch the rest of my life without ever having experienced the rest of the world. I don’t want to be known as ‘the horse boy’ forever. I don’t want to be forced into being something just because it’s the rest of my family’s livelihood.” Chris looked thoughtful. “And as much as I don’t hate the horses, I crave something more. I’ve been working on the ranch my whole life, I need to get out and do something different, something meaningful. Only problem is, I’m not entirely sure what I actually want to do.”

“Well, it sounds like you have some pretty clear ideas about what you do and don’t want from a job, have you made any lists?” Ollie was well-known for making pro-con lists about everything, including girlfriends, which is probably why he was single so often.

“Dude. I ain’t making a list.” Chris looked disturbed to even be asked to consider the idea, quickly looking around to make sure no one else was within hearing range.

“Fine. I’ll make one for you.” A fancy ball-point pen and a piece of lined-paper seemed to appear magically in front of the seated teen and he wrote in large black letters across the top ‘Larabee’s Dream Job’ then underlined it boldly. Below that he drew a line down the middle of the page and titled the left side ‘Want’ and the right ‘Don’t Want’. “Made it extra simple just for you, pal.”

“Fuck. You.”

“Hah. After we fill the columns up, we can go hit the books and do a little research. Find out if the military life will, in reality, be a good fit for you.”

Chris looked on with feigned disinterest as Ollie started filling in items for each side of the list, but his front disappeared when the other teen added ‘horses’ followed by ‘close to home’ under the ‘Want’ column.

“Hey! Those are on the wrong side of that dividing line, pal.”

“Oh, really? Are you sure?” snarked the seated blond with a look of faux innocence. “I thought you weren’t interested in making a list.”

“Well, if you’re going to do one anyway, you might as well do it right.” And with those words, Chris bent over the list and started informing his friend what more to add to each side, and what to remove. Eventually the single sheet of paper was crammed full, and the boys had a good collection of requirements for ‘Larabee’s Dream Job’.

“Alright, the fun part’s over, now comes the even more fun part.” Ollie stated as he moved from behind the counter towards the book shelves. “Research party!”

“You frighten me sometimes, man.” Chris raised his eyebrows at the visibly excited teen.

“Oh, shut up, and go sit at that table over there in the corner; we’ve got to keep your negativity away from the impressionable children.” He pointed to the table farthest away from the kid’s section of the tiny library.

With a chuckle, Chris did as he was told, walking over and seating himself on one of the wobbly plastic chairs as he waited for his friend to emerge from the stacks. He was trying to see if he could balance the unstable chair on just two legs when a giant, walking pile of books approached him.

“Damn, man. What did you do, pick up every book they had with a military title?” laughed Larabee.

“Shut up and start grabbing, Mr. Witty.”

…eventually, after a few long days full of research, more lists, and an always helpful Ollie Olson, Chris decided that the high standards and prestige associated with being a Navy SEAL appealed to him the most. Joining the Army Rangers was his next preferred option, but the exciting missions the SEAL teams got sent on, and how incredibly cool they looked, at least in the movies, helped cement his decision. Now he just had to tell his folks that he had chosen to enlist. Oh, joy.