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Literature / Ripley's Bureau of Investigation

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Left to right: Li Yong, Zia Mendoza, Alek Filipov, Kobe Shakur, Max Johnson, Kate Jones, Jack Stevens

Ripley's Bureau of Investigation is a book series written by Kay Wilkins (uncredited on the covers), illustrated by Ailin Chambers, and (apparently most importantly) published by Ripley Publishing to promote Ripley's Believe It or Not to kids. But it still could be considered a good series in its own right. It consists of eight published books. The two latest books, "Danger Underground" and "Haunted Hotel", were unpublished, until ebook versions recently appeared exclusively on the children's reading app, Pickatale. The series was intended to have twelve books in total, but it discontinued, likely due to low sales.

On an alternate Earth where Robert Ripley started a private international boarding school for highly talented, genius, or superpowered teenagers on his private island, seven of the best students of Ripley High (or Ripley Academy, it varies between the books and the website) are part of a secret elite team called Ripley's Bureau of Investigation, or the RBI. Run and briefed by their favourite teacher Mr Cain, given high tech gadgets by their science/technology teacher Dr Maxwell, and assisted and co-briefed by their hologram AI RIPLEY. The team is dedicated to traveling the world and investigating sightings of strange creatures and phenomena, to determine the truth and to contribute to the database of discoveries made by the late Robert Ripley and the RBI itself.


Ripley's Bureau of Investigation contains examples of:

  • One-Wheeled Wonder: Subverted. Dr Maxwell was testing a motorcycle in "Sub-Zero Survival" that had two wheels close together on either side, just appearing to have one wheel.
  • Absurdly Cool City: The shiny and awesome portrayal of Tokyo in "The Dragon's Triangle".
  • Affectionate Nickname: Max calls Zia "Z".
  • Agent Mulder: Max, especially in "Haunted Hotel", enthusiastically believing in ghosts. Inevitably causing more bickering between him and Kate.
  • Agent Scully: Kate. She doesn't suffer fools gladly when it comes to their belief in ghosts. She doesn't even believe in Kobe's psychic abilities. Although she does believe in the possibility of Atlantis existing as a lost city.
  • All There in the Manual: There's more information about the school and such on the official website.
  • Advertisement:
  • Androids Are People, Too: RIPLEY.
  • Artifact Collection Agency: What the RBI partially acts as.
  • Artificial Intelligence: RIPLEY.
  • Asian Airhead: Li is an averted version of Type Two. She is sweet, pretty, rich, fashionable, and Chinese. But besides being a touch superstitious, she is not at all dumb. She is even noted as a musical prodigy.
  • Awesome Aussie: Jack in a nutshell, he is a sincere homage of the "Australian Naturalist" stereotype rather than an exaggerated caricature. He grew up on an animal park near the Gold Coast, is a survival expert, can soothe dangerous animals, and doesn't mind eating bugs.
  • Badass Bookworm: Kate.
  • Badass Normal:
    • Max seems to be the only agent with no special superpower-like abilities. Everyone else is skilled, knowledgeable, and have strange abilities, whereas he is just skilled and knowledgeable. Nevertheless, he is still their equal and is highly competent as an agent.
    • Alek could be considered as this technically. He wasn't born with super strength, he went through enough training and exercises to become as strong as he is. But he is still no longer normal, so it's debatable.
  • Benevolent A.I.: RIPLEY.
  • Benevolent Boss: Mr Cain.
  • Best Friend: The team do see one another as best friends, but it's been confirmed that Jack and Max are each other's best friend, same with Kate and Li.
  • The Big Board: The RBI base has a large, almost wall sized, view screen for mission briefings, to provide visual aids and information, like witnesses' spur-of-the-moment video evidence of what they're investigating.
  • Big Brother Instinct: Alek. He is older than at least four of the other agents and is the tallest/strongest, he is protective of his teammates and has saved them multiple times thanks to his skills and athleticism. Such as saving Max and Zia from a giant robot dragon with back flips, saving Li from a shark, and saving Kate from falling down a crevasse by diving down after her then free-climbing its sheer sides. He almost dived into a boiling hot lake to retrieve a replacement boat (to save Jack, a young civilian girl, and her dog from being stuck in the lake), until Jack reminded him that if the lake managed to melt the paint off the bottom of the boat, then it could hurt or kill him. He tries to keep an eye on agents he feels could end up in danger easily.
  • Big Fancy House: The school/mansion. Also Castle Warden in "Haunted Hotel".
  • Book Dumb: Max generally is. He doesn't get good grades at school and would groan at the sight of a thick book, only interested in/skilled at inventing and anything to do with computers. But that's occasionally subverted when he has his moments.
    Max: This is a pretty mountainous area.
    Li: Mountainous area? That sounds much more like something Kate would say, than you.
    Max: I'm not just a pretty face, you know.
  • The Bore: What Mr Willis is like when teaching to everyone but Kate.
    • In "Haunted Hotel", when Kate and Max were crawling in the pirate tunnels, Max was getting bored because Kate went on and on about how the tunnels were made. Max was also annoyed that Kate managed to make something related to pirates sound boring.
  • Boyish Short Hair: Zia.
  • Brainy Brunette: Kate.
  • Brief Accent Imitation: It's been noted that Kate would tease Max by doing an exaggerated American accent.
  • Brilliant, but Lazy: Max.
  • British Stuffiness: Downplayed. Kate tends to have a bit of this.
  • Building of Adventure: Ripley High on BION Island, once Robert Ripley's mansion.
  • Caught in a Snare: Happens to Max in "Haunted Hotel".
  • Chain Reaction Destruction: A cigarette landing in an underground abandoned coal mine is the cause behind a petrol station blowing up, a boiling acidic lake, and many sink holes destroying a town.
  • Challenge Seeker: Alek is a very competitive sportsman. He tries to play every sport imaginable for the sheer love of them and the challenge, with the skill to match. There is a reason he's an under-16 Olympic athlete after all. For example, in "Secrets of the Deep", he, Kobe, Jack, and Max have a swimming endurance competition for fun. Jack and Max gave up around a half and hour in, but Alek and Kobe kept going for (what felt like) hours because of their respective abilities. While Kobe kept going because of his enhanced endurance/stamina, Alek continued because of his refusal to lose.
  • Charles Atlas Superpower: Justified. Alek's downplayed version of super strength comes from his years of strongman training, combined with Olympian training.
  • Cloak & Dagger: Technically what the RBI could be seen as since it's not a government agency and doesn't have direct relationships with any organizations.
  • Collared by Fashion: Li wears a ribbon choker.
  • Combat Parkour: Alek. Comes from being a contortionist and part of the Russian under-16 Olympic gymnastics team. Very handy for avoiding a giant robot dragon in "The Dragon's Triangle".
  • Comm Links: The agents' R-Phones, and headsets on missions. Or radio-mics built into whatever non-civilian type clothes they're wearing (wingsuits, scuba gear, parkas).
  • Contortionist: Alek.
  • Conveniently an Orphan: Kate's parents died in a car accident, and Zia is the sole survivor of a village that was destroyed when she was a baby (her biological parents more than likely died then).
  • Cool Car: Dr Maxwell's high tech car, Jaws, from "Secrets of the Deep". It turns into a shark shaped submarine!
  • Cool House: The school/mansion. Even when no one knows about the RBI's base underneath the school, the school is still a cool mansion filled with Robert Ripley's collection. Like a room exclusively for shrunken heads.
    • Castle Warden in "Haunted Hotel" also counts as it doubles as one of Robert Ripley's museums, mentioned to have things like an animatronic T-Rex. Even outside of the museum section, there's interesting curios, like a painting made out of ants, a fortune teller machine, and wall skull lamps.
  • Cool People Rebel Against Authority: Basically what Max does at school...and what Kate can't stand about him. Their arguments are usually about this particular trait of his.
  • Cool Pet: Every animal in the menagerie.
    • Eight years ago, Jack's parents adopted a young orphaned chimpanzee, Susie, after saving it from a closed zoo that mistreated animals. They regard her as one of the family, like a little sister to Jack.
  • Cool Teacher: The team and probably other students see Mr Cain as this.
  • Covert Group: Definitely the RBI.
  • Covert Group with Mundane Front: The RBI's cover is that they're the school's Museum Club. Plus the RBI's base is underneath said school.
  • Creator's Favorite: Max is in the majority of the slice-of-life first chapters.
  • Crusty Caretaker: The school's caretaker, Matthew Clarkson. He does care about the school looking it's best, seeing it and its collection as one big showcase, but he's still particularly rude, grouchy, and nosy towards the students.
  • Crystal Skull: Max, Kate, and Alek found one in Antarctica, in "Sub-Zero Survival".
  • Cut Short: Yep.
  • Cybernetic Mythical Beast: The giant robot dragon in "The Dragon's Triangle".
  • Dangerous Workplace: The agents nearly died on missions multiple times. Scarier once you remember they're between the ages of 13 and 15.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Each agent has a few moments.
  • Determinator: Generally the team, but Kobe more so since two of his abilities are enhanced endurance and stamina.
  • Disapproving Look: While Mr Cain is generally friendly, he can use this when an agent has been misbehaving...usually towards Max. Probably one of the few things that can get Max to be quiet and mind his manners during a briefing.
  • Disastrous Demonstration: In "The Dragon Triangle", Max tries to show off a golf-playing robot he made, but Zia's electromagnetism accidentally messes with it. Causing the robot to hack a table and break a window in Dr Maxwell's classroom.
  • Do Not Attempt: "Some of the activities undertaken by the RBI and others in this book should not be attempted without the necessary training and supervision." Absolutely with good reason.
  • Doing Research: It's stated they do this before every mission by going through files/reports or asking geography teacher Miss Burrows (who doesn't know about the RBI) about the location of a particular mission, but there is a chapter dedicated to this trope in "Shock Horror". With Li, Zia, and Max going to a newspaper records office to find information about unusual storm that occurred 15 years ago and a missing park ranger. And in "Danger Underground", offscreen essentially, Zia checked out the maps of the Australian town Copper Creek and its old abandoned mine tunnels to find a connection (concerning the cause of the numerous sinkholes and freak heat incidents). Then both she and Kobe researched similar incidents that happened to an American town in the 1960s, to determine the cause in the Australian town, fires in the coal mines underneath Copper Creek.
  • Dress-Coded for Your Convenience: The RBI agents are usually dressed in regular civilian clothes, while the DUL agents wear suits.
  • Drives Like Crazy: In "Wings of Fear", when Jack drives a crystal-coated mini throughout the streets of London to chase after a flying creature. Since he was following Max's directions, he ended up on the wrong side of the road with plenty of oncoming trucks and cars, on the sidewalk, crashing through a flowerstand in a market area, and down a set of steep stone steps.
  • EMP: In "Shock Horror", Max had an EMP watch that accidentally caused Zia to faint since it upset her electromagnetic energy.
  • Early Installment Weirdness: The illustrations for the first book were somewhat rough.
  • Einstein Hair: Dr Maxwell.
  • Elaborate Underground Base: Not elaborate, the RBI's home base is simply a high tech underground cellar with a briefing room and a lab, but it is an underground base.
  • The Empath: It's implied Kobe is this.
  • Evil Sounds Raspy: What the so-called 'ghost' tried to sound like when she was threatening Li to leave the hotel.
  • Evil Tainted the Place: Castle Warden in "Haunted Hotel" is regarded as the haunted hotel in question due to a fire that killed two women in 1944.
  • Experienced Protagonist: Experienced protagonists, all the agents have done plenty of missions before the first book.
  • Extreme Omnivore: Jack's perfectly fine with eating insects. And his family, whose specialty is Vegemite-covered sucking bugs.
  • The Fashionista: Li is the most fashion-conscious of the group.
  • Flat Character: Unfortunately, there isn't really much to Kobe's character.
  • Foreign Cuss Word: It was implied in "A Scaly Tale" that Kate insulted Max with one.
  • Freaky Is Cool: Zia is self-conscious about her natural silver streak, but Max thinks it's cool and makes her look like a superhero.
  • Free-Range Children: Teenagers traveling around the world alone to big cities like London and Tokyo, and dangerous wildernesses like Antarctica. Somewhat justified, they seem highly trained, skilled, and intelligent enough to handle locations like that on their own, and the teachers outside of the RBI don't actually know. Teachers believe the cover story for all the missions, that the three chosen RBI agents went on a field trip.
  • Fun with Acronyms: The rival organization against a team trying to investigate and catalogue anything strange is called 'dull'.
  • Gadgeteer Genius: Max and Dr Maxwell.
  • Genius Ditz: Max. Not the best when it comes to school and book smarts, absolute genius with computers, robotics, and engineering.
  • Genius Slob: Li sees Max and Dr Maxwell as this, at least regarding fashion.
  • Gentle Giant: Alek. He is the tallest and strongest member of the team, with the muscles that would come from strongman and Olympic training, but he is still a very friendly guy.
  • Ghostly Chill: It's been occurring in Castle Warden, so the selected agents needed to use gadgetry to help detect strange variation in temperature.
  • The Gift: The school is specifically for teenagers who have their own unique gift. And since the RBI consists of the best students, they're the gifted of the gifted.
  • Girly Girl: Li.
  • The Handler: Mr Cain.
  • Hazmat Suit: What Jack, Alek, Zia, and Kobe essentially wore when they investigated the burning underground coal mines.
  • Height Angst: Played For Laughs. Briefly every now and then with the shortest member of the team, Li. (Cover art and official art outside of the books may not accurately depict her height.)
  • Hell Hotel: "Haunted Hotel" is called that for a reason. Potentially, at least. Still treated as creepy.
  • High School: Ripley High.
  • Hollywood Hacking: Max somehow managed to hack into traffic lights in "Wings of Fear". In "The Dragon's Triangle", it was briefly mentioned Max used to hack into neon signs of his home town, Las Vegas, and disrupt the delivery of power to make the signs spell out whatever he wanted.
  • Hollywood Nerd: Kate. Could be considered conventionally attractive despite being the school's most well-known bookworm and teacher's pet.
  • Hologram: As well as the advanced hologram interface RIPLEY, turns out the ghost in "Haunted Hotel" was a basic hologram.
  • Hormone-Addled Teenager: Done in a G-Rated way with Max in "Wings of Fear". Him having a crush on the woman who spotted the flying 'creature' in the first place, Abby.
  • Hostile Weather: Happens in "A Scaly Tale" when Kobe, Jack, and Zia are in the Florida swamplands. Again in "Shock Horror", which even makes a roller-coaster stop working.
  • I Am Very British: Kate, Mr Willis, and Mr Clarkson.
  • iPhony: The R-Phones.
  • Info Dump: In-universe regarded as one in "Danger Underground", Kate lectured Jack (through a video link on an R-Phone) about mythological examples of multiheaded snakes as a way to help him. Jack doesn't find the infodump useful at all, but doesn't tell her, only politely thanking her.
  • Informed Ability: Li's musical prowess, Kobe's other telepathic abilities, and Zia's capability to manipulate weather. Probably would've been demonstrated after the eighth book, but then the series was discontinued.
  • Intergenerational Friendship: Max and Dr Maxwell.
  • Involuntary Group Split: As the agents crawled through the pirate tunnels, falling jail bar gates cut them off from the tunnels' entrance behind them (their original way out) and then splitting up the team. They do try to get back together through side passages, but Li was tricked to follow lights she thought were Kate and Max's head-torches, and Max headed in many wrong direction when trying to go back the way he came.
  • Island Base: Technically. The RBI's underground base is underneath the school, which is on a private island.
  • Jerkass Realization: In "Running Wild", when Kate called out Max for almost exposing the RBI (because he was spying on Mr Clarkson with one of his robots as a joke and got caught, ending up being grilled by Mr Clarkson and Mr Willis about his behaviour in general...including his 'field trips'), it hit home.
  • Jet Pack: The 'flying creature' in "Wings of Fear" turned out to be a superhero with a jet pack.
  • Kid Detective: What the team partially are.
  • Kindhearted Cat Lover: Zia. Her favourite animal in the school's menagerie is Kismet, the winged cat. She even tried and failed to sneak her into her dorm. And she is the most loyal, most gentle, and kindest member of the team.
  • Knowledge Broker: This role is separated into two for Mr Cain and RIPLEY. Mr Cain seems to have numerous contacts everywhere and RIPLEY is the team's reliable and immense source of information.
  • Labcoat of Science and Medicine: Dr Maxwell.
  • Lame Pun Reaction: Mr Cain is known for using puns in his RBI text messages to give a hint about the mission in question. The reaction definitely happened in "Wings of Fear", when Mr Cain used the intentionally misspelled and punny 'pterrofied', to give a hint about a mission involving a possible flying creature. Cue the confused and unimpressed reactions from the team, including RIPLEY.
  • Land Down Under: "Danger Underground" is set in the Australian outback.
  • Laser Cutter: When trapped in a net, Max discovered Dr Maxwell tweaked his laser pointer to be a literal laser, subsequently he used it to burn though the net and escape. Then, he used it to melt the screws of the grate trapping Kate in a flooded shaft, ensuring he could lift the grate off and rescue her. Finally, he used it on a lock of a locked door, which had the culprit's gear on the other side.
  • The Leader: Mr Cain is officially the team's leader.
  • Leeroy Jenkins: One of Max's flaws is his recklessness. Most notably in "Wings of Fear". Instead of using his wingsuit properly, he nosedived and then opened up his suit to get to the flying creature much quicker...which caused the extra material to rip, and Max himself to fall until the 'creature' saved him.
  • Left Hanging: Since the series discontinued before its end, a number of plot threads have been left unsolved. Such as the clue hunt for the next artifact after the crystal skull, the implication that there's a DUL mole in Ripley High, the reason why the DUL want to sabotage the RBI, and the reason behind Zia's abilities and silver streak.
  • Living a Double Life: Seemingly just students of Ripley High, secretly an elite team of investigative field agents.
  • Long Hair Is Feminine: Li.
  • Lovable Jock: Alek.
  • Mayor Pain: Type Two, concerning Mayor Reynolds in "Danger Underground". He downplayed all the news about the sink holes, monoxide poisoning, and fiery disasters, and viewed them as unrelated to each other. Even when the agents told him about the cause of the incidents, the underground coal mines being on fire, he dismissed them as overreacting kids because he was certain the coal mines have been emptied. He only got the town Copper Creek to evacuate once the sink holes started destroying the town centre, a little too late. He showed he was more ignorant than wicked when he almost sacrificed himself saving Zia and a little girl, he leapt off the team's Quad Buggy as it was soaring over a widening crevasse to ensure his weight doesn't cause the vehicle (with Zia driving and the little girl inside) to not reach the safe side. Almost, as in Alek and Kobe pulled him up before he could fall all the way down. He realised he was wrong after going through the town's destruction and apologises.
  • The Men in Black: The Department of Unbelievable Lies. Even in their disguises, they're identified by their sunglasses and shiny shoes.
  • Mentor Archetype: Mr Cain.
  • Mission Briefing: Done in every book by Mr Cain and RIPLEY.
  • Mission Control: RIPLEY.
  • Mother Russia Makes You Strong: Alek is the strongest member of the team because, as he puts it, "I'm Russian. I grew up swimming in freezing lakes."
  • Mr. Exposition: Mr Cain and RIPLEY.
  • Multinational Team: Li's from China, Zia's from Venezuela, Alek's from Russia, Kobe's from Kenya, Max is from America (noted as the school's only American student), Kate's from England, and Jack's from Australia. Justified since they all attend an international boarding school.
  • Museum of the Strange and Unusual: What Ripley High is.
  • Mysterious Antarctica: "Sub-Zero Survival" is set there. The agents uncovered a lost mysterious station in an iceberg.
  • Mystical White Hair: Zia's streak glows white when she's charged with electricity, such as after she's struck by lightning.
  • Naïve Newcomer: Li used to be this, both a new student and a new agent. She first attended Ripley High/joined the RBI later than the other agents. At the time of the book series, she's been a Ripley High student and an agent for two years.
  • Name of Cain: Subverted. Mr Cain is definitely a good guy.
  • Nature Lover: Jack.
  • Neat Freak: Downplayed. Li just hates getting dusty and dirty, and will complain about it happening to her.
  • Nebulous Evil Organisation: Definitely the Department of Unbelievable Lies.
  • Nerds Love Tough Schoolwork: Kate.
  • Never My Fault: This is one of Max's biggest flaws. While he doesn't blame anyone directly, he doesn't admit when he's wrong, even when he knows he actually is wrong.
  • Night-Vision Goggles: Used in "A Scaly Tale" and "Secrets of the Deep".
  • No Such Agency: The RBI is not exactly an agency, but it's still supported by something bigger. Only a few contacts, the DUL, and eventually people interviewed for the database know about the RBI. Employees of Ripley's Believe It Or Not outside of the school (Mr Cain and Dr Maxwell are the only teachers who know of course) have heard stories about the RBI, but some of them regarded the stories as not true and thus believing the RBI isn't real.
  • Non-Action Guy: Max. At least compared to the other male outdoorsy survivalist, a gymnast with super strength, and a tall guy with enhanced endurance/stamina and the ability to learn new skills quickly.
  • Non-Idle Rich: Li comes from a wealthy family and manages to not be idle by being a globe-trotting field agent.
  • Nosy Neighbor: Well, nosy caretaker.
  • OOC Is Serious Business: In the beginning of "Haunted Hotel", Max was glum because he had to wait a while to visit Jack in Australia, so much so that when the perfect opportunity came to prank Mr Clarkson (pulling a thread on his jumpsuit to ensure they're torn and fall down to his ankles), Max doesn't bother. Li and Kate were stunned by his out-of-character behaviour, even Kate was hoping he would take the opportunity to cheer himself up.
    • Normally when Mr Cain sends a 'Museum Club' text message to summon agents for a mission briefing, he would add a dad joke/pun related to the mission. He didn't in the text message for the mission in "Haunted Hotel". Due to the importance and seriousness of the mission (employees of the upcoming Ripley hotel being endangered by hauntings), the text message is just 'Urgent - come at once!'. Even in the briefing, the usual five minutes of mingling time are cut short and the briefing immediately starts, with Mr Cain being all business.
  • Occult Detective: That's what the team technically are, even if they don't find real mythical monsters and ghosts, just more plausible equivalents.
  • Oddly Small Organization: The bureau is just the team, RIPLEY, Mr Cain, and Dr Maxwell.
  • Omniglot:
    • Kate can speak fourteen languages fluently. Justified though, she was born with the ability to pick up the basics of a language by hearing it only once. So technically she can know every language, but she only counts the ones she learnt to speak fluently.
    • A downplayed version applies to all the characters from non-English speaking countries (Li, Zia, Alek, and Kobe) since they definitely know English as well as their native languages.
      Zia: No, I just can't put my thumb on it.
      Jack: Finger. The saying is "I can't put my finger on it".
      Zia: Thank you. Your language is so strange.
  • Orphan's Ordeal: Kate's parents died in a car accident when she was younger; her feelings about it are highlighted in "Running Wild".
  • Outrun the Fireball: Max, Li, and Zia had to outrun exploding trees in "Shock Horror". Zia, Alek, Kobe, and Jack had to outrace a massive fire and collapsing coal mine in a runaway mine cart.
  • Paranormal Investigation: Generally what the team does, but even more so in "Haunted Hotel".
  • Passing Notes in Class: In "Sub-Zero Survival", Kate was so excited to tell the other agents about a link she found between the clues to find the next artifact, she couldn't wait to tell them after class. So she passed a note to let them know, which the other agents pass on...unfortunately it didn't end well.
  • Photographic Memory: One of Kate's main abilities. She memorized all the books of Oxford University's library thanks to it.
  • Playful Hacker: Max.
  • Power Trio: How the RBI works. Whenever there's a mission, Mr Cain would choose three agents out of the seven members of the RBI, specifically agents whose skills and knowledge are the most suitable for the mission at hand. Occasionally four agents would go if it's necessary.
  • The Prankster: Max. Through technological means, like a spying robot and an EMP wristwatch. Both times to mess with Mr Clarkson.
  • The Professor: Dr Maxwell.
  • Psychometry: Kobe's fully demonstrated psychic ability.
  • Real After All: By the end of "Haunted Hotel", after figuring out the haunting was a hoax, the agents learned the janitor they keep encountering, Albert, died in Castle Warden's fire years ago. It becomes obvious to the agents, even Kate, that Albert the janitor was the real ghost.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Mr Cain, in charge of the RBI team and not in any way unfair.
  • Rebellious Spirit: Max.
  • Recruit Teenagers with Attitude: Justified. They're not just ordinary inexperienced teenagers. They're highly skilled prodigies and experts in their fields of interests, most of them with rare strange abilities that were likely not found in any skilled adults at the time. Plus teenagers would have a good balance of skepticism and open-mindedness that would be suitable for the job of investigating such unbelievable sightings. Whereas most adults would be too skeptical to proceed properly.
    They might only be teenagers, but they knew a lot more about the unbelievable than most adults do.
  • Robot Master: Ren Nagano from "The Dragon's Triangle".
  • Sadist Teacher: Shaun Willis, the school's artifact studies teacher, goes back and forth between this and Stern Teacher. Most of the students, apart from Kate, find his lectures boring. He's very strict when he conducts his lessons, wanting absolute silence from his students in class. Seems reasonable at first, but he gets angered very easily, ready to shout when he shouldn't. He clearly favours Kate more than the other students, being much kinder to her, and treats Max in the opposite manner. And then there's the fact that he gave Jack detention for being tardy, not at all sympathetic to the reason why Jack was late...because he was taking care of a sick two-headed cow!
  • Sarcastic Clapping: Max's reaction to Dr Maxwell excitedly (in an embarrassing manner) playing a 'virtual karaoke machine' he made, aka a Guitar Hero-esque system with holograms.
  • Saw It in a Movie Once: Max used his genre savviness from horror movies to determine what opens the secret door in Castle Warden.
    Max: It actually worked! I knew watching all those films with creepy castles would come in handy one day!
    • And to determine which room had where the ghost was last seen, Max listened to the mysterious janitor...because he talked in riddles and Max learnt from kung-fu movies that whoever talks in riddles tends to have something important to say.
  • Scarily Competent Tracker: Somewhat downplayed and completely justified, Kobe is an expert tracker.
  • "Scooby-Doo" Hoax: What the DUL often does that the RBI has to deal with. The DUL would steal and trick people into collaborating with them to make hoaxes to ruin the database. In "A Scaly Tale", they attempted to mislead the RBI agents to follow a fake lead about a different monster instead of the possible lizard man. In "The Dragon's Triangle", they stole an inventor's giant robot dragon to mess with the RBI. In "Secrets of the Deep", they tricked/hired an underwater sculptor to make a fake underwater city to trick the RBI. This is especially the case in "Haunted Hotel", the most comparable to the trope in question, they tricked an employee of Castle Warden to fake a haunting to trick the RBI and sabotage the hotel's opening.
  • Shout-Out:
  • Signature Device: The agents' R-Phones and badges.
  • Skunk Stripe: Zia was born with a silver streak in her side-bangs.
  • The Sleepless: Dr Maxwell is used to staying up all night working on inventions.
  • Slice of Life: Typically at the beginning of each book.
  • The Smart Girl: Kate.
  • Smart People Build Robots: Max.
  • Smart People Speak the Queen's English: Kate.
  • Sole Survivor: Zia, she was a baby when she survived a storm that destroyed her village.
  • Something Completely Different: Usually the formula for a novel in the series is that three agents are briefed at Ripley High and go on a mission. Plus, each book is one mission after another. It was changed just for "Danger Underground" and "Haunted Hotel", both missions in each book happen at the same time, the whole team on different missions. "Danger Underground" never even involves Ripley High once. The book begins with Jack, back in his hometown in Australia for the summer, just being informed that Max won't be able to visit because he's going on a mission with Kate and Li, the one that occurs in the next book "Haunted Hotel". Instead of being briefed in the RBI's base, Jack is briefed via his R-Phone's video link by Mr Cain. Because the initial mission is a two-hours drive away from Jack and is simply about a three-headed snake, Mr Cain only sends one agent at first, Alek. But once the escalating heat-related incidents happen, Mr Cain sends over the remaining agents, Zia and Kobe, increasing the number of members of the team to four.
    • Not the first time this has occurred exactly. While Max, Alek, and Kate went on a mission to Antarctica in "Sub-Zero Survival" (mainly to find the first artifact of Ripley's artifact hunt), Mr Cain sends the remaining agents (Jack, Kobe, Zia, and Li) on a mission to Egypt. The book only focused on the Antarctic mission, the Egyptian mission remained offscreen. But "Danger Underground" and "Haunted Hotel" is the first time the reader gets to know what happens on these simultaneous missions.
  • Speaks Fluent Animal: Downplayed. This is Jack's main ability, but it's not portrayed in a typical 'he can hear English out of animals and vice versa' way. He can easily interpret animal noises, make similar animal noises and sing-song whispers to soothe animals, establish very basic communication with animals, and has a strong mutual bond with them.
  • Spiky Hair: Max.
  • A Storm Is Coming: Zia can literally sense oncoming storms.
  • Strange Secret Entrance: The RBI's underground base can be accessed by activating an iris recognition scanner (with the right eye) within the left double eye of the bust of the famous double-pupil man Liu Min. Once activated, the panel which the bust is attached to would swing back as a door, opening up to a spiral staircase that leads down to the base.
    • In "Haunted Hotel", the team finds a hollow wooden panel in the wall that is likely a hidden door. Max figures out how to open it by twisting a wall skull lamp, making the panel slide back.
  • Stuff Blowing Up: Exploding trees in "Shock Horror" and a petrol station exploded in the prologue of "Danger Underground".
  • Summation Gathering: Kate does so around in the last chapter of "Haunted Hotel", gathering the hotel employees in the gift shop to determine who is behind it. She narrowed it down to Allan, the replacement night manager. He had to explain after failing to make a run for it. He used holograms, make-up and costumes which matched the walls, and a switchboard to fake a haunting, because he was paid (three times more than his usual fee as a camouflage artist and entertainer) to do so by DUL and he needed the money for his family. He was going to quit after the original night manager fell down the stairs, but DUL weren't going to pay him unless he gets the agents to believe the hotel is haunted and leave.
  • Sunglasses at Night: Max always wears a pair up on his head, even indoors. He does get called out about it. The DUL agents definitely do this as well.
  • Super Senses: Li's sensitive hearing. Additionally, it's been stated she can use a combination of her hearing and her voice/sound mimicry ability to make herself capable of echolocation.
  • Super Strength: Alek. Not ridiculously superhero level of strength, but way above average due to his previous strongman training. For one thing, he held up the foot of a robot dragon in "The Dragon's Triangle", but he's not capable of lifting the whole robot up.
  • Super Swimming Skills: Alek, swimming is one of the many sports he's great at thanks to training and passion. It's the reason why he was chosen for the mission in "Secrets of the Deep".
  • Taking the Bullet: In "A Scaly Tale", when Zia realised the metal poles in their tent could conduct the lightning from the thunderstorm over their heads and kill them, she rushed outside to conduct a lightning strike herself. She did this because she had read RIPLEY's files about people who could absorb lightning and assumed her electromagnetic abilities would let to do the same, thereby saving her friends. Otherwise, the lightning would've struck the tent and killed Kobe and Jack, while she would've remained alive because of her powers. But this was only a guess, it could've killed her if she was wrong. She knew that and was still willing to save her friends rather than herself.
  • Talented, but Trained: How the RBI agents are portrayed.
    Alek [...] decided that the others must all perfect their special talents, too, without him realising.
  • Teacher's Pet: Kate. Even the stern Mr Willis likes her.
  • The Team: The RBI is just a team.
  • Techno Babble: Dr Maxwell and Max a little bit, a mix of nonsense and sense.
  • Teen Genius: Some of the student population of the school. Generally the team if we include their expert fields of interest and their impressive intelligence applied to missions, but more specifically Kate and Max.
  • Teen Superspy: The agents are more like investigators than spies. But since they're a trained secret team who conduct briefings in a high tech underground base, are given advanced disguised gadgets, go to far-off lands where they go through dangerous situations and occasionally face an organization of well-dressed enemies, the team counts.
  • Thrown Down a Well: In "Haunted Hotel", after crawling through the pirate tunnels and being washed away, Kate accidentally gets trapped in a flooding underground shaft. The current was too strong to go back through the tunnel and the way out was ten meters above her, covered by a metal grate (intentionally screwed down recently). So the only way she could make it out was by waiting for the water level to rise, to reach the grate. If she doesn't drown first.
  • Tomboy and Girly Girl: Zia and Li.
  • Tracking Device: In "Running Wild", Kate, Jack, and Kobe try to track Arun the feral child and his wolf pack by giving them him and a wolf tracking collars.
  • Traveling at the Speed of Plot: Subverted. The novels take an accurate note of how long it takes/the varied methods to get from the East Coast of America, where BION Island is, to wherever the agents need to go. Even when the agents used an amphibious car to get to Greece.
  • True Companions: All the members of the team see each other as friends, and they completely depend on each other on missions.
  • Tunnel Network: The hidden panel door within Castle Warden opens to a an underground passage. It leads to a narrowing network of low-ceiling pirate tunnels underneath the building and by extension the town, St Augustine, itself.
  • Useless Accessory: Max's sunglasses.
  • Video Phone: Downplayed. At some point between "The Lost Island" and "Danger Underground", Dr Maxwell installed a secure video link on the R-Phones. Pretty comparable to video chat on smart phones.
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: Absolutely Kate and Max. While they're not each other's best friend, they somehow do see each other as friends and bicker a lot.
  • Voice Changeling: One of Li's abilities, she can mimic voices and sounds perfectly.
  • Wake Up, Go to School, Save the World: Well, maybe not necessarily save the world, but the RBI still generally fits.
  • Walking Techbane: Zia's electromagnetic presence badly affects technology, mostly breaking it. Which has happened to Max's inventions more than once, frustrating him.
  • Wall Crawl: A classmate at Ripley High, Chloe, can literally do this. Which is why she's part of Li's party planning team for the school's party that intends to celebrate the seventy-fifth anniversary of Robert Ripley's first museum. She's there to help put up balloons.
  • Whispering Ghosts: What witnesses in "Haunted Hotel" thought they heard, even causing the original night manager to fall down the stairs in the prologue. When the agents investigated, they kept being lured away by ghostly whispers.
  • Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?: Ironically, Jack. He had a bad experience with snakes when he was younger, because snakes are not willing to let Jack communicate with them and calm them down like other animals. It didn't help when he was face-to-face with a Burmese python in "A Scaly Tale", and he had to face his fear for his initial mission in "Danger Underground"...investigate and bring back a three-headed snake.
  • Wild Child: Arun, from "Running Wild".
  • World of Weirdness: Downplayed. A lot of the monster of the week type stuff turn out not to be monsters, like the humanoid lizard that was really a human who went through tons of body modification to look like a humanoid lizard in "A Scaly Tale". Then again, a man who can make trees explode and furry elephants with double-trunks exist.


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