J. J. Roth, a.k.a. “Bastille Boy” is an outlaw with a strong but unorthodox moral code. He believes in protecting both the innocent and the guilty. He is a dedicated thief, but he steals only to benefit other people.
Roth has gone to prison twice for his crimes, once in the United States, once in the Rogue Isles. His July 14 escape from a prisoner transport vehicle earned him the nickname “Bastille Boy”. He is currently serving a life sentence at the Port Oakes Penitentiary, the world's only minimum-security prison for supers. Since his sentencing, he has been seen in Paragon City, New York, Boston, Phoenix, Montreal, and at several locations in the Rogue Isles. It is an open secret that he is traveling with his jailers' consent. They correctly expect him to return.
The origin of Roth's physical near-invulnerability is unknown. His skills as a boxer, which are good but decidedly not superhuman, he learned in a medium-security prison in the United States. His jailers in the Port Oakes Pen appear to providing him with a temporary source of resistance to toxic and psionic attacks.
A pickpocket becomes a hero
As a college student, J.J. Roth had an unusual extracurricular activity: playing Robin Hood. Every Friday night, he would go out and pick pockets. He gave the cash to the homeless and put the stolen wallets in mailboxes so that IDs could be returned. He never used violence, and he never kept any of the money for himself. He managed to avoid arrest until late in his sophomore year. When he got caught, more victims came forward. The judge sentenced him to twelve years.
In prison, Roth was forced to fight. He was surprised to discover that punches didn't hurt him that much. One day, he got stabbed. And he was fine. He realized he had a superpower.
Roth used his invulnerability to protect other prisoners. He didn't have to know how to fight; he just had to get in the way. He kept a close watch over the friends he'd made in the library, most of them scrawny nerds. He stopped several unprovoked attacks. A respected convict with no gang affiliation offered to teach Roth how to fight properly. Roth agreed. He got a lot of practice, and he trained hard in the prison gym. As his skills grew, he became more daring. He broke up fights between gangs. He stopped several attacks on correctional officers, including two attacks that would have been fatal.
Breaking up fights made Roth a lot of friends, but it also made him some powerful enemies. One of those enemies was the warden. Gang violence was necessary, the warden thought. It kept the inmates divided and easier to control. Roth was interfering with the natural order of things. So the warden arranged for Roth to be transferred to a maximum security facility where Roth would be put on power-suppressing drugs. If Roth became a victim of the gangs there, or if he spent the rest of his sentence in an isolation cell, so much the better, thought the warden. It would be useful to make an example of him.
The correctional officers Roth had rescued decided they couldn't let Roth be transferred to maximum security. Three of them arranged to be on the prisoner transport bus. On a nearly deserted, rural highway, the bus pulled over. The guards on the bus removed Roth's restraints, handed him a backpack with food, water, and civilian clothing, and told him to run. He did. He made his way to a warehouse in Paragon City, run by an ex-con friend. His friend let him sleep in the warehouse and arranged a job for him under the table, working as a private security guard.
Roth's escape made the news, big time. The story of his good deeds in prison soon got out. A TV news anchor dubbed him "Bastille Boy" because his prison break took place on July 14. Under pressure from the public and the correctional officers' union, the governor pardoned Bastille Boy four months after his escape.
An unhappily law-abiding citizen
When the pardon made Roth free to come out of hiding, he found a studio apartment and enrolled part-time as a mathematics major at the university in Steel Canyon. He found a fully-legal job as a computer programmer. He often agreed to go on missions to protect the innocent, but he refused to accept money for “hero work.” Over time, he learned the limitations of his mysterious natural armor: he was vulnerable to toxins and defenseless against psionic attacks.
People told Roth that “Bastille Boy” needed a hero costume. At first he refused. What was wrong with protecting people's lives while wearing a plain T-shirt and jeans? But he couldn't refuse to wear a costume to the office party. He decided to wear an old-fashioned prisoner's costume, with black and white stripes.
A coworker said, “Not many heroes dress like that!”
Roth replied, “I know a lot of heroes who wear prison uniforms. And a lot of villains who don't.”
That got a reaction. A reaction he liked. It was settled: prison stripes would be Bastille Boy's hero costume. He had several sets tailored to his athletic proportions. The tailor added trouser pockets.
Though the public regarded Bastille Boy as a hero, he considered himself a former hero. As he saw it, when went out to defend people, he wasn't really putting himself at risk. When he played Robin Hood, back in college, he was risking his freedom. That was heroism. But stealing was out of the question now. Roth knew that he was defenseless against the PPD's psi-cops, and he knew that if he was ever arrested again, he would be put on power-suppressing drugs. He was terrified of losing his invulnerability while in custody. So he obeyed the law to the letter; he didn't even jaywalk. And he considered himself a coward.
A life sentence with a flexible attendance policy
Bastille Boy realized there was a way for him to play Robin Hood without risking the loss of his powers: he could go to the Rogue Isles. There were lots of homeless people there in need of help and lots of rich people to steal from. The Rogue Island Police did not have psi-cops. If they tried to arrest him, he'd almost certainly get away.
A week after finishing his math degree, Roth resigned from his programming job and left for the Etoille Islands. For several months, Bastille Boy lived discreetly in Mercy Island while carrying out thefts in Cap au Diable and St. Martial. He didn't limit himself to picking pockets now. There was also some breaking and entering, and a bit of safe-cracking. He scrupulously avoided hurting people physically.
It was only a matter of time before the Rogue Island Police caught up to him. Bastille Boy thought he was ready, but he had a weakness he did not know about. He was halfway through cracking a safe when he heard the officer shout.
“On the floor, hands behind your back. Now!”
It was an order he'd received hundreds of times in prison. He'd learned to obey instantly, without thinking. Already sitting down, he automatically moved toward the floor, then he checked himself and began to stand up. His hesitation gave the RIPD officers the advantage they needed. They had him pinned in an instant. Moments later, they had him in handcuffs.
The warden of the Port Oakes Penitentiary was always pleased to have a new long-term guest, but this one was delightful. A hero who made his name protecting prison guards? What could be better? It would be easy for the Department of Corruptions to secure the new prisoner's loyalty. They'd offer him psychological conditioning, designed to help him to resist psionic attacks, and drugs to make him immune to most forms of poison. They would train him to react automoatically to orders from corruptional officers in green, not to cops or correctional officers in blue. Two of his major weaknesses would be eliminated, the third usefully redirected. They'd also offer him work release after a year, conditional on good behavior. If he wanted to keep his new resistances, he'd have to return to the Pen. As a reward for faithfully returning, the warden would personally teach him the basics of ice magic.
Roth accepted the training the warden offered. He asked if he might be given time to do some pro bono work when he was granted work release. By this, of course, he meant stealing from the rich and giving away the proceeds. The corruptional officers of the Pen were happy to allow this. But they thought it would be best if Bastille Boy looked like an escaped convict while out on his well-intentioned criminal escapades. Thus, they have not issued Roth work release clothing. From a distance, the striped uniform Bastille Boy wears looks like the hero costume he chose for himself. It lacks trouser pockets, though, and the back of his shirt bears the words “DEPARTMENT OF CORRUPTIONS”
When Bastille Boy “escaped” from the Pen, he could have gone back to his old life, but he kept his promise and turned himself in. The warden kept his promise to teach Bastille Boy ice magic. The second time he “escaped,” he went to Paragon City, burgled a bank, and distributed the cash. (It was not a robbery, as he used no violence. He summoned ice to crack the safe.) With an internatonal warrant now out for his arrest, Roth's life sentence was now inescapable. His psionic resistance fades over time without regular training, so his ability to resist arrest has a time limit of roughly a month. Since the Port Oakes Pen is far more pleasant than an American prison, its officers can trust Bastille Boy to return quickly from his “escapes.”
Roth considers his arrangement with the corruptional officers a fair deal. He's lost his freedom to choose where he lives, who he lives with, or what he wears, but he is free to do what he most wants: to be a modern-day Robin Hood.