Don’t Try This At Home
New Orleans is a city that is below sea level. If you are looking for water, you can dig a one or two-foot deep hole on your property, and likely discover it. When a house has a basement, it normally is not underground. It is the first floor of the structure, which is above ground. Based on this, the second floor is called the first floor, as it is the first floor of the living area. This is the main reason many houses in the uptown and garden district neighborhoods in New Orleans are three-storied.
The first floor of the house is a basement, and the top two floors make up the living area, where people carry out their daily activities. In most homes, the basement is typically used as a garage, a storage room for tools, a workout area, or a home office. The latter is the case at the Urbanax’s house.
With as much as 2,400 square feet of living area on each floor, the Urbanax house also has quite a spacious basement, 2400 square feet, and it is perhaps the most interesting basement in New Orleans, though it was initially designed to be a garage. The previous owner of the house had installed two garage doors for his cars. However, this basement is no longer a garage – in fact, its doors are now permanently locked. Exercise equipment rests against the doors, effectively sealing them. The walk-in door has a pull-up bar, and in that same corner is the workout equipment, complete with a workout bench, and the finest climber available for students of parkour.
Along the west wall is a lab bench, extending from the driveway wall and stretching up to the back house wall. The east wall shares the staircase and features typical tools used for repair, gardening, and other household needs, and some rather unusual tools and items are stored there as well. The back wall has two oversized single beds, sitting against the wall, and someone is sleeping in one of the beds.
Reid Urbanax, 15, appears to be fumbling with what looks like a skateboard, as he nervously keeps an eye on the entrance door and the stairs leading to the two stories above. He also watches the bed of his fraternal twin brother, Eric, who he thinks is still sleeping soundly. Though his brother is the closest in proximity, he is the least of Reid’s concerns right now. All Reid is thinking about is his test project, a test he plans to finish before someone catches and stops him. Reid’s test project looks exactly like a typical skateboard from the top, but modifications on the bottom clearly show that it has been customized with many adjustments made to its original design. There are larger spring-loaded wheels, and a hole with a technological device, which from the looks of it, may become frustrating for Reid.
Although all the walls have something along them, Reid is in the middle of the basement where there is free space. Here the Urbanax family is introduced to gadgets, software, and many kinds of futuristic inventions.
Reid finally sets his test project, the skateboard, which is called a Flyboard, on the floor. Next, he steps on it and then presses what appears to be a remote. However, the Flyboard remains still, not moving at all. Reid shakes his head while becoming more frustrated by the moment.
At this point, a voice from the bed speaks out to him. “You know you could test it without standing on it,”
Eric tells him. “That way, you wouldn’t get hurt and no one would be blamed for the injury. And by no one, I mean, of course, me.”
Eric had previously disabled a tentor on the remote, which is necessary for the skateboard to operate. A tentor is similar to a computer chip but far more advanced; it can only be found in the twins’ inventions. Reid looks all over the Flyboard and tries to locate the missing piece. But the piece is not missing; Eric has just disabled it.
Eric believes that if Reid wants to test inventions and get hurt in the process that is his prerogative. However, he is bound by special directives from the two people who live in the house above, his father and his sister, to keep Reid from injuring himself.
Reid seems irritated with Eric’s interference. He is impatient and wants to test the Flyboard immediately.
“You know it’s not ready, and you know, of course, you’re going to get hurt while testing it,” Eric warns Reid as he sits up in bed.
“Yeah,” Reid responds. “So?”
“Why don’t you cut up an apple and slice your finger?” Eric asks. “That way, when you get hurt, they won’t blame me. You will face all the blame, which makes everyone happy, and by everyone, I mean, of course, me.”
Eric gets out of bed and grabs the remote from Reid, who gives it up easily.
“I’ve looked. All the components are on it, but it still won’t work,” Reid complains.
Eric smiles. “Yeah, that’s because I didn’t take anything off the Flyboard. All I needed to do to stop you was disable a tentor on the remote.”
Reid slaps himself in the head for not even considering the remote as the problem.
Reid and Eric are both geniuses with advanced degrees. Eric has a master’s degree in chemistry, with a bachelor’s degree in biology. Reid has a master’s degree in forensic science, with a bachelor’s degree in computer science. The two brothers purposely studied different majors, so they would have more education to help them with their inventions. However, they learned and discovered more on their own, as school did not provide many challenges to them.
While studying for their bachelor’s and master’s degrees, Reid and Eric used all of their electives on other studies that would help them invent and create futuristic gadgets and software. They have all the books in their possession that are needed to apply for a doctorate, and they have read them. Neither of them has pursued a doctorate because classes move at a pace that is just too slow for them. They became so bored getting their master’s degrees that they slept more in school than they did at home. This is because they create their inventions using their brain and intellect, and not their education or course books. They think 30 to 40 years into the future. A good example is the animated television series The Jetsons.
Both Reid and Eric learn quickly and easily, usually without consulting a book or the internet. They learn mostly from each other. Eric prefers to take time to analyze and think about a test project or an experiment, unwilling to test that experiment until he is fully convinced it will operate at 100%. It is not that he is afraid of getting hurt. He is just that logical and pragmatic. Why get hurt if you do not have to?
Reid, on the contrary, is more impulsive. He takes the trial and error approach in almost all scenarios. He is always prepared to test inventions and formulas, even when he knows they are not ready. He has the bruises, the scrapes, the cuts, and the healed bones to show for it. Tests are no fun on the lab table. He believes that if he tests an experiment and something goes wrong, he and Eric will know exactly what to fix. His impatience and impulsiveness add to his preferred method.
If the twins are not outside playing a sport, they practically live in the basement by choice. They do go upstairs for showers and food, but they have their beds in the basement for the little sleep they need. They have a mini refrigerator to store energy drinks and even installed a restroom. This saves them the time that they would otherwise be wasting going up and down the stairs. They value every second that the clock ticks away.
“Just tell them you tried to stop me,” Reid says, as he rips the remote back out of Eric’s hand. Now, knowing it is the tentor that is disabled, Reid enables the remote in a matter of seconds. During that very moment, they hear someone coming down the stairs. It is their 18-year-old sister, Hilly. She is the third member of the future private investigators’ firm they plan to form once they finish helping their father, Richard, with a case. Richard, 48, is a former New Orleans Police Detective and is now a Private Investigator.
Hilly has just returned from morning Mass, and immediately after coming down, she snatches the remote away from Reid.
“Careful,” Reid says sarcastically. “You might spill your best friend: coffee.”
“I drink a little coffee,” she replies casually. “Big deal.”
The boys reply in unison. “A little?!”
“That coffee cup might as well be an appendage to your body,” Eric laughs.
“We should buy stock in K-cup companies,” Reid roars with laughter.
As you might expect, Hilly is quite different from her brothers. Though all three resemble their mother, Hilly has inherited more of her mother’s personality, temperament, and patience. She has slightly wavy, auburn hair that falls about six inches below her shoulders. Hilly never really lets her hair down on ordinary days, mainly because it is too hot. It is much cooler and easier to wear her hair in a ponytail. When she has to go to a party or an important event, she will either curl it or straighten it to make it appear neat and stylish. However, her hair would usually return to its normal texture before she gets home. She is not as tall as Eric, who is about 5 feet, 11 inches, and Reid, who is 6 feet tall. She is about 5 feet, 7 inches, and slender, despite her robust appetite.
“Can’t you hurt yourself by playing football or basketball instead?” she asks.
Those sports aren’t possible as they need more people to play with them and other kids their age are in school. There is only one sport in which the boys can participate without friends: parkour. Hilly never knew what parkour was until she saw a video on YouTube. Then she watched her brothers, and as they progressed, they would take more chances, attempt longer leaps and climb higher than the people in the online video. This is why she prefers that they play some other sport – even tackle football, of which she used to disapprove. Though she cannot stop her brothers from parkour, she can still nag them, and as much as she dislikes nagging, sometimes it works.
Overall, the three siblings get along well, and there are only two things they argue about: parkour and Reid testing inventions that can hurt him. One reason for that is Hilly is as protective of her two brothers as their mother was and tries her best to protect them from getting hurt.
For their part, they may be younger, but the boys consider themselves as her big brothers. The way they see it, only they are allowed to mess with Hilly. If someone else does, there will be consequences.
When Hilly was nine-years old, she and the twins were taking tennis lessons together. The boys were on the bench, watching while Hilly and another beginner were playing doubles against the coach. The other player, a boy, came more than halfway onto Hilly’s side of the court, accidentally hitting Hilly in the head with one of his swings. It was barely more than a tap, but six-year old Reid ran from the bench and used his tennis racket to smack the 12-year old boy on the head. This is how protective the siblings have always been of her. Especially Reid with his impulsive nature and quick temper. But as quickly as his temper may rise, just as quickly does it fade away.
“I guess we could do some parkour,” Reid says to Eric.
Hilly finds a way to distract Eric and Reid from parkour. She offers to be reasonable about their experiment. However, she does not realize that Reid was only teasing about parkour in order to get her to negotiate with him about testing the Flyboard. He wanted to work on the Flyboard and knew if they pretended to go parkour, Hilly would be more reasonable about the experiment with the Flyboard.
“Can’t you stop him?” Hilly asks Eric. “You’re his older brother.”
“Yeah, by four minutes,” Eric responds.
“You were born the day before he was,” Hilly emphasizes.
“That’s only because I was born at 11:58 p.m., and he was born at 12:02 a.m.,” Eric protests.
Reid and Hilly, both strong-willed, occasionally get into disagreements. When he agrees to mediate, Eric finds logic in each of their positions and can end their disagreement by making both feel they have won. He is the peacemaker when he wants to be. There are times when he is smart enough to retreat and call his father to deal with them.
Hilly surrenders and agrees to the Flyboard test. “Can you at least try to make the crashboard test a non-hospital wound?”
“It’s not a crashboard, it’s a Flyboard,” Eric defends. “It will fly, but it’s not fully operational yet. And by not fully operational, I mean, of course, he will get hurt.”
She attempts to have Reid try the experiment without standing on the Flyboard, but he reasons the test will not be accurate without the weight and balance of a body. Hilly insists she will not help him if he gets hurt, though all three know she will. She always tends to his wounds as quickly as a mother would tend to her child’s.
Reid cannot hide his emotions, especially about his mother. He even occasionally wears one of her diamond clasp earrings. They lost their mother in an accident, and Reid considers the diamond earring good luck.
Eric feels the same emotions but keeps them to himself. The only time you hear about them is if you ask him. If someone broaches the topic of their mother, Eric is as talkative as any of the Urbanax family members – maybe more. He’ll talk about almost anything if someone else is willing to participate in the conversation. He is especially fascinated by blood types.
The twins also think differently about inventions. Reid is a big picture guy. He does not consider whether the idea can come to fruition. While Reid is smart enough to conceptualize these ideas, he allows Eric to figure out most of the finishing details to create these inventions. He knows Eric’s persistence will not permit him to stop until a project is completed. The two of them do not like to fail. They prefer to quote Thomas Edison when he was asked how Edison felt when he had failed one-thousand times at creating the light bulb.
“I did not fail one-thousand times,” Edison replied. “The light bulb was an invention with one-thousand steps.”
The Flyboard uses air and wind with a windmill-like device underneath the board. Reid initiates the remote, and air blows from the bottom of the board, raising it about 12 inches high. Hilly and Reid are amazed, but Eric is not impressed. He knows what is coming.
Reid presses the remote to move the board forward. The back air activates, but the rest of the air jets do not. The Flyboard flips forward as Reid falls, scoring cuts on the right side of his face.
“Okay,” Reid says, still lying on the ground, “the back jets work, but the front and bottom jets need work. However, the cuts are on the right side of my head.” Reid believes that if he is hurt on the right side of his body, it is good luck. If he is hurt on the left side, it means bad luck. He does not have an explanation of why he believes this, but it might be because he is left-handed. The scientist in him does not even believe in luck, with the possible exception of his mother’s diamond earrings. But, that is influenced by emotion.
Hilly sighs and her mommy-like personality tends to his wounds.
Hilly does not seem to be a genius like her brothers, though none of them has taken an IQ test to measure their intellect. Eric and Reid’s performance in pre-school confirmed what Hilly and her parents had suspected. Regardless, the boys refuse to take an IQ test. They are so close that they do not want their IQ to matter or create any awkwardness between them. Moreover, neither wants the pressure of having the higher IQ.
Hilly, however, is very smart, like Richard, and likely even more intelligent than he. She is also much more ambitious than the boys are. She came up with the idea of the Private Investigation, P.I. business, and all have agreed Hilly will be the manager. It was an easy decision. She wants to manage, and the boys do not. All three are hoping they can convince their father to participate in the business. He and Hilly will investigate. The twins want their part of the business to be in the basement, inventing gadgets that will help the family investigators with their work.
The boys are not geeks. Given a choice, they prefer parkour or tackle football rather than fiddling around in the basement. But when they are inside, they love working in their basement lab, experimenting with fun inventions, or working for their father. To avoid confronting a lecture about parkour, they do it when Hilly is in school. For her part, Hilly pretends they are not doing it while she is in school.
Their father’s take on parkour is a firm warning not to do anything that would cause serious or permanent damage. His definition of serious is hurting their neck, or their spinal cord, or anything that would require surgery. Dad says broken fingers and broken arms will heal, and these injuries are just part of being a teenage boy. Connie, his deceased wife, did not understand this way of thinking, and neither does Hilly. Furthermore, she does not want to know how aggressive and dangerous some of their parkour stunts are.
Hilly has tried parkour, and she is good, but she thinks it is too dangerous. She is not afraid of heights, but she is afraid of falling. She is much better and quite comfortable with martial arts, having achieved a second-degree black belt in taekwondo. She can take care of herself despite the fact that the boys see that as their responsibility.
Hilly’s ambition began at an early age. By skipping lunch to go to an extra class and going to summer school, she completed the first seven grades by age 11, and high school by age 14. She took the maximum hours allowed in college, went to summer school, and earned her bachelor’s degree in criminology at 17. Currently, she is in her second semester, working toward a master’s in criminology. She plans to pursue a doctorate in criminology to complement the doctorate her father has in forensic psychology.
Why the fast pace? Hilly wants to work with her father and wants clients and the police to take her seriously despite her young age. Hilly’s goal is to have a career where she is at least half as good as her father. Her father is confident she will be better. This experience will give her credibility when the teens open their P.I. firm. Hilly notices a burn on Reid’s leg and asks him how he got it. The boys explain how they upgraded their HERRCs to have a three-setting LaserTaser as part of their latest experiment.
A HERRC is a device the boys invented a few years ago. It is about the size of a large smartphone but operates far more advanced than any smartphone on the market. Instead of a smartphone, think of it as a genius device. It works using a combination of satellite and radio frequency. For this reason, no one other than the Urbanaxs knows the secrets of the HERRC or how to operate it. Its appearance makes it look like an outdated cell phone, so no one would want to bother to steal it. Every now and then the boys upgrade it with a new feature or an improvement. The HERRC has many unusual weapons, and even a few convenience features such as a quick kick of caffeine. That addition was a request by Hilly.
The HERRC’s LaserTaser feature uses the precision of a laser beam on your target, and not just a laser dot on the criminal. It is a complete beam of red light, providing the operator the accuracy of a red beam from the HERRC to the target. It is misleading to call the charge a Taser since this feature fires a charge similar to a gentle bolt of lightning. It is not powerful enough to kill someone, unless they are shot by it repeatedly. But this situation never arises, because one hit from it can incapacitate someone for ten minutes or more.
There are only four HERRCs in existence, and only an Urbanax can activate one. The HERRC scrapes a tiny piece of dead skin from your finger and uses the cells to check for DNA. This DNA tells the HERRC whether or not the user is an Urbanax. If anyone else tries to operate the HERRC, it will begin emitting knock out gas within five seconds, which won’t cause any permanent harm. This is a precaution in case a predator is trying to use the HERRC. The twins concocted this particular strain of tear gas and an oral antidote. As long as the Urbanaxs drink the antidote once every six months, they are immune to the tear gas, in the unlikely event they are near someone who initiates it.
Hilly has a gold HERRC, Eric a purple, Reid a black, and Richard’s is green. They have reasons for the colors. Hilly’s gold and Eric’s purple are LSU (Louisiana State University) colors. Hilly’s gold and Reid’s black are the colors of the New Orleans Saints NFL team. Dad picked green because it is the color of his wife’s eyes. Also, purple, green, and gold are Mardi Gras colors. They are strong supporters of their city and state. The HERRC derives its name from the first letter of each of the five Urbanaxs: Hilly, Eric, Reid, Richard, and Connie. As with many of the boys’ inventions, it works with the assistance of their own mini satellite, a comparatively small one which no one but the family knows exists. Of course, as Richard often reminds the twins, it is very illegal and very expensive.
Police SWAT (Special Weapons And Tactics) teams use firearms which have a target light that puts a red dot on the target, whereas the HERRC has a complete red beam that shines from the HERRC, all the way to the target. Think of a straight line drawn to touch the target. This makes it more accurate, especially if they are shooting at a target that is continually moving.
They can target a leg and know they will hit a leg. Moreover, the LaserTaser follows the light beam, even after the LaserTaser fires. If the target moves from its location, as long as the light is following the target, the LaserTaser will hit the target, because it is much faster than any human. They gave Richard his updated HERRC yesterday but did not have a chance to tell him about the upgraded LaserTaser. The twins will have the other three HERRCs ready today. Hilly is waiting for an answer about Reid’s HERRC wound.
“It was on low power,” Reid defends. “We added two higher settings.”
“That burn is from the Taser?” Hilly asks. She looks at Eric saying, “I knew he was crazy, but you are, too.” She turns to Reid. “Does Dad know it now has three power settings?”
Reid says he left it for their father but did not have a chance to speak with him before he left for his morning walk. Now Hilly insists on the results of the test. Reid says he gave instructions to Eric to aim at his chest. It hit him in the leg, which is close.
“You aimed at his chest?” She reprimands Eric.
“He wanted me to, but…” Eric responds.
“But what?” Reid demands.
Eric confesses to Reid. “I actually aimed for your leg. So it was accurate.” Then Eric addresses Hilly. “It’s not supposed to burn on low power, just blast a short burst of heat. After the test, we adjusted the power on Dad’s HERRC, but we were tired, so we never tested it after adjusting it.” Then he turns to Reid. “Sorry, dude, but hey, I aimed and hit the right leg.”
“And you gave it to Dad?” Hilly reprimands them. “Suppose he uses it?”
Reid admits he gave it to their father without Eric’s knowledge. Eric covers Reid’s back, trying to assure Hilly. “I’m pretty sure the power is accurate, and by pretty sure, I mean, of course, I’m not sure at all.”
Reid reasons that Richard has not ever used the HERRC as a weapon. What are the odds he will need to use it before he gets home from his walk? With all of the HERRC weapons, the chances their father would choose the LaserTaser is unlikely.
“What, Dad’s going to catch a bad guy during his walk?” Reid jokes. “The chances are one in a bazillion.”
However, Hilly knows that Richard loves new gadgets. He especially loves new gadgets invented by the twins for two reasons; they are his sons’ inventions, and the gadgets are far more futuristic than anything found on the market. Reid just finished updating Hilly’s HERRC, and hands it to her, which she slams down on the lab table, clearly concerned about whether it is safe or not. Fortunately, the twins had built the HERRCs to withstand heavy maltreatment. Reid proudly tells Hilly, “You know, we built it so sturdy it can withstand that kind of abuse.”
Eric reminds Hilly that she is always concerned when they update the HERRCs, yet there has never been an accident. Reid reminds Hilly that their father’s weapon of choice is his ConnieStick. Similar to a nightstick, the ConnieStick has a circumference of one inch, and while it is three inches long, with the press of a button, it extends to three feet. The exterior is stained oak, protected by a clear rubber-like varnish, and a baseball bat-like grip. The interior is solid metal, unlikely to break even under the most rigorous tests. It will, however, incapacitate a perpetrator. What makes it most unusual is its stun gun feature, which, when activated, turns the tip of the ConnieStick into a stun gun. It is one of the few inventions tested on metal and wood rather than on Reid. Its name is a playful one created by their father, suggesting that his wife, Connie, would have to use the threat of it to get Richard to agree to visit his in-laws. Silly, because while Richard teases his mother-in-law, he loves his in-laws, and enjoys spending time with them. His mother-in-law, laughs off the teasing.
Reid addresses Eric. “You shouldn’t have deceived me, but we’re cool because you aimed at the right leg and hit it. Success. Plus, right leg, good, left leg, baaad.”
When Hilly sees a wound on one of her brothers, she mothers them, sometimes lecturing, sometimes nagging, most of the time caring for their wound. She began acting this way since their mother died in an accident eight years ago. Hilly was only ten, and the boys were seven. Shortly after that, the boys affectionately nicknamed her Mommy-Hilly. As the only female in the home, she naturally took the mother role, but not intentionally.
At times, she does not even realize she acts this way. It developed slowly and is now just a natural part of her relationship with them. Her concern is that while the twins have more knowledge, intellect and brain power than 99.99% of the global population, they still have the maturity of 15-year old boys. The twins accept her concern and her mothering because now it is a habit, and, while they won’t admit it, they like it.
The boys have several features they are testing to add to the HERRC. They want to add a feature that may enable their HERRC to pull a magnetic piece from a distance. The feature will have the laser beam target something magnetic, like a gun, and retrieve it. Their concern now is that early testing shows it may be magnetically powerful enough to grab too many additional items along the way, rather than just the targeted one. That could be devastating and hurt many people, mainly the Urbanax family member using it. The laser beam comes in handy for another feature: shooting rubber pellets.
“We’ve never used the pellets,” Hilly says. “And they still concern me. And this magnetic thing looks more dangerous to us than to the person we’re trying to pursue.” The twins do not disagree.
The HERRC does not shoot normal bullets. That is a rule on which everyone agreed. Machine gun-style, it shoots tiny rubber pellets filled with a red liquid, which sting and explode into red paint, convincing the criminal he is bleeding. By the time he stops to notice it is fake blood, he is either captured or at least compromised.
“Depending on the distance between you and the target, the pellet only penetrates less than an eighth of an inch,” Eric explains. “On the flabbiest part of someone’s body, it may penetrate a bit further, for instance, your butt. Well, not your butt, cause it’s not flabby. I was speaking of an average person’s butt, not that you’re below average; in fact, you are well above average. Heck, you’re way above…” Reid puts his hand over Eric’s mouth, and Hilly thanks Reid.
Eric is thankful, too. “Fang whoo,” he mumbles through Reid’s hand.
“It won’t even go that far if it hits a bone,” Reid says, rescuing Eric. The house phone rings, but no one answers it.
Hilly’s HERRC rings as Reid continues. “Their main purpose is to knock a person down and incapacitate them, briefly enough to distract them as they are being captured. Most criminals will give themselves up and cry for a hospital. I guarantee. No one can be killed by these rubber pellets. They hurt about as much as paintballs. Heck, we could use them as toys.”
“Toys?” an incredulous Hilly responds. “Toys?” Hilly answers her HERRC. Yes. All this and the HERRC also operates as a satellite phone.
Eric pursues. “You want to test these toys? They do kind of sting a bit, and by kind of, I mean, of course, they sting a lot.”
Hilly reminds them they are scientists, not doctors, as she listens to the caller. The boys continue to work on updating the other HERRCs. Hilly nods as she tells the caller she will relay the message to her father. With tears in her eyes, she tells the twins it was Police Chief Susan Fisher.
“The kidnapper,” she chokes with tears. “He’s back.