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Poem: "The Anything Goes Games" - The Wordsmith's Forge
The Writing & Other Projects of Elizabeth Barrette
ysabetwordsmith
ysabetwordsmith
Poem: "The Anything Goes Games"

This poem is spillover from the December 2, 2014 Poetry Fishbowl.  It was inspired by a prompt from ng_moonmoth.  It also fills the "Antarctica" prompt in my 6-1-14 card for the Genprompt Bingo fest.  This poem has been sponsored by ng_moonmoth.  It belongs to the series Polychrome Heroics.




The Anything Goes Games


In the summer of 1956,
Brittany Cuthbert was disqualified
from the Olympics for having Super-Speed.

There ensued much argument about how
sports were inherently unequal because
the whole point was to discover who
had been born with a better body
or had gotten better training.

The officials remained adamant:
no superpowers welcome.

The matter attracted the attention of
Ronald Wells and Aldous Fruehauf,
the current leaders of Kraken,
an organization founded during WWI
by a German U-boat captain and
the captain of a U.S. submarine.

After superpowers became
public knowledge during WWII,
Kraken had begun quietly recruiting
as many soups as they could.

"This is ridiculous," Ronald complained.
"Soups should get to play too.
We can do more interesting things
than ordinary athletes can!"

"Which rather makes scoring
a challenge," Aldous pointed out.

"You're the Super-Intellect,
you figure it out," Ronald said.

"Well, if we make it all about the goal,
and never mind how someone gets to it,
that might work," Aldous said thoughtfully,
one fingertip tapping the rim of his glasses.
"It needn't matter if you're a teleporter, a speedster,
or a gizmologist playing human cannonball."

"No need to restrict it to physical games," Ronald said.
"We could have our chess tournament right alongside
all the regular sports, maybe invent some new games
that focus entirely on using superpowers.  Anything goes!"

"That's a thought.  We'll need some rules, though,"
Aldous said.  "No direct attacks in noncontact events.
No permanent damage for the contact sports."

"No whining!" Ronald said, leaning forward.
"We should make that official: None of this horseshit
about how one person's ability or modification gives them
an 'unfair' advantage.  You play with whatever you
can bring to the field, against whatever the other
contestants bring, and may the best soup win."

The name stuck, though, and the Anything Goes Games
began in the winter of 1956 at a minor lair in Antarctica.
They held skate races between Brittany Cuthbert and Icewinder.
Icewinder then used her gift to make ice missile targets for
the skeet shooters, one of whom was a supernary assassin.

They held tournaments of chess and mah jongg and
a relatively new dice game called Yahtzee.
That sparked a conversation about how much fun
it would be to have a game based on diplomatic relations,
which inspired notes scribbled on napkins that later
evolved into the board game Negotiation.

Overstrained by the surge in population,
the life support system of the secret base gave out
and left everyone (except Icewinder, who was immune)
vulnerable to the deadly cold of Antarctica.  Unfazed,
three engineers declared a competition on the spot
and raced to jerry-rig replacement heating,
which produced enough steam that
it led to a bikini contest.

It wasn't as busy or as famous as the Olympics,
but it was more inclusive of superpowers
and it had much better parties.

One artist drew a satirical banner on the tablecloth
of a kraken holding individual colored rings
with its eight handling arms, the two longer arms
clasped above its head in a gesture of triumph.

That image was later refined and reproduced
to become the official logo of the Anything Goes Games.

In later years, Kraken opened the games
to other allies from the field of supervillains,
as the physical and mental tournaments became
more varied and creative in response to
the discovery of new superpowers.

To the ranks of superheroes, however,
the secret celebration remained merely rumor.

* * *

Notes:

Kraken -- a supervillain organization consisting of two commanders (Master level), eight generals (Expert level), twenty lieutenants (Good level), all superpowered; along with thousands of faceless followers, mostly ordinary but some with minor powers (Average).  What makes this organization dangerous is that they select for intelligence and stealth, rather than dumb thugs.  They recruit primarily from vulnerable young adults, especially those who have been harassed or violated or kicked out of home, but also disgruntled soldiers or veterans.  They pass time with strategy games including chess, backgammon, mah jongg, and go; plus they actually invented Negotiation, and Kaverns & Krakens (the local versions of Diplomacy, and Dungeons & Dragons).
 Unlike most evil organizations, Kraken does not have a single charismatic leader and a bunch of minions.  Instead it has two leaders who work in tandem.  Kraken sends out teams to accomplish missions, but the bulk of its personnel and resources always remain hidden.  Their motto is, "You can cut off an arm, but you can never reach the body."
 They have ten major lairs scattered around the world in America, Germany, France, Russia, Italy, Japan, China, Argentina, Egypt, and Australia.  There are also safe houses and minor lairs elsewhere.  Missions traditionally involve forces from two different lairs and leaders.  Kraken is not so much diabolical as ruthless.  They believe that people left to rule themselves at whim have nearly destroyed the world.  (Well, they're not wrong.)  So they're trying to take control, quietly, to keep it from running off the rails.  They go to extreme lengths to gain power, and they don't care about personal freedoms.  That tends to get them classified as supervillains, although saving the world is a laudable end.
Origin: Kraken was founded during World War I by a German U-boat captain and the captain of a U.S. submarine.  Their two ships were the only survivors out of a devastating battle which left them beached and dependent on each other for their continued survival.  They learned to cooperate, they commiserated on how people in power were destroying the world, and decided that it really needed to be ruled from beneath.  They expanded to include recruits from other nations.  Kraken always had some Super-Intellects and gizmologists, although not recognized as such at first.  When superpowers became more widely known in World War II, Kraken began quietly recruiting them on purpose.
Uniform: Dexflan and capery for superpowered members.  Chameleon cloth for ordinary members.  Jumpsuits are sensibly designed with sleek fit, plenty of pockets and fasteners for equipment.  They provide Expert (+4) Camouflage to a designated user, but if worn by anyone else, turn garish neon colors.  An assortment of zap guns and other Gizmotronic or Super-Gizmotronic equipment vary based on an individual's assignment.
Qualities: Master (+6) Stealth, Master (+6) Strategy, Expert (+4) Cooperation, Expert (+4) Wealth, Good (+2) Combat, Good (+2) Patience
Poor (-2) Working Alone
Powers: Kraken favors subtle abilities such as Super-Intellect, Super-Gizmology, Chameleon Powers, Shapeshifting, Invisibility, Illusion, Precognition, Phase, Luck Control, and Telepathy.  However, they accept people with other talents too.
Motivation: To control the surface from the abyss.

Brittany Cuthbert -- She has fair skin, brown eyes, and light brown hair.  She is  Australian.  She was disqualified from the 1956 Summer Olympics for having Super-Speed.  After that, she was recruited by Kraken and invited to the first Anything Goes Games in winter of 1956.
Origin: Her superpower grew in gradually.
Uniform: Kraken uniform of dexflan and capery.  The jumpsuits are sensibly designed with sleek fit, plenty of pockets and fasteners for equipment.  They provide Expert (+4) Camouflage to a designated user, but if worn by anyone else, turn garish neon colors.
Qualities: Master (+6) Determination, Good (+2) Athlete, Good (+2) Spy, Good (+2) Teamwork
Powers: Average (0) Super-Speed
Motivation: To go faster.
[Model: Betty Cuthbert]

Ronald Wells -- He has light brown hair, fair skin, and blue eyes.  Originally an American soldier, he left and now travels around the world organizing supervillains.  Ronald is one of the Kraken commanders in 1956, who helped found the Anything Goes Games.
Origin: He was subjected to intense training and weird dietary supplements while in the army, intended to make soldiers more durable.  In his case it worked, but when other guys in his unit started getting sick, he found out what was going on and was so pissed that he deserted on the spot.  He was soon recruited by Kraken and worked his way up the ranks.
Uniform: Kraken uniform of dexflan and capery, with commander insignia.  The jumpsuits are sensibly designed with sleek fit, plenty of pockets and fasteners for equipment.  They provide Expert (+4) Camouflage to a designated user, but if worn by anyone else, turn garish neon colors.
Qualities: Master (+6) Combat, Master (+6) Strategy, Expert (+4) Cooperation, Expert (+4) Gamer, Expert (+4) Soldier, Good (+2) Athletic, Good (+2) Resilience, Good (+2) Spy
Poor (-2) Bullshit Tolerance
Powers: Good (+2) Tough
Motivation: Fucking hell, I can do better than that!

Aldous Fruehauf -- He has fair skin, brown eyes, and black hair.  His heritage is German, Polish, and Russian.  Growing up, he had few friends, and other kids picked on him for being too smart.  A Kraken operative recruited him while he was trying to get into college.  Aldous is one of the Kraken commanders in 1956, who helped found the Anything Goes Games.  He builds model boats and planes as a hobby.
Origin: His super-intellect grew in gradually.
Uniform: Kraken uniform of dexflan and capery, with commander insignia.  The jumpsuits are sensibly designed with sleek fit, plenty of pockets and fasteners for equipment.  They provide Expert (+4) Camouflage to a designated user, but if worn by anyone else, turn garish neon colors.
Qualities: Master (+6) Analyst, Master (+6) Leadership, Master (+6) Memory, Expert (+4) Gamer, Expert (+4) Strategy, Good (+2) Building Models, Good (+2) Meticulous, Good (+2) Needs Minimal Sleep, Good (+2) Patience, Good (+2) Self-Defense, Good (+2) Stealth
Poor (-2) Vision
Powers: Good (+2) Super-Intellect
Motivation: To know everything.

Icewinder (Wilma Lerwick) -- She has fair skin, brown eyes, and short curly black hair.  Growing up, she was frustrated by people telling her "girls can't do that," but persisted and found a sport she could do.  After experimental treatment left her with superpowers, Wilma was no longer allowed to compete as an ice skater.  Frustrated by a whole new kind of discrimination, she was easily attracted by Kraken.
Origin: At fourteen, she suffered severe injuries in a car crash and was placed in experimental suspended animation until the damage could be repaired.  She was the first person to survive that treatment, and she came out of it with superpowers.
Uniform: Kraken uniform of dexflan and capery.  The jumpsuits are sensibly designed with sleek fit, plenty of pockets and fasteners for equipment.  They provide Expert (+4) Camouflage to a designated user, but if worn by anyone else, turn garish neon colors.
Qualities: Expert (+4) Ice Skater, Good (+2) Cleaner, Good (+2) Fast, Good (+2) Knife Fighting, Good (+2) Spy
Poor (-2) Cook
Powers: Good (+2) Ice Powers (Signature Stunts: Create Skates, Ice Missile, Ice Path)
Motivation: Don't tell me what I can't do!
[Model: Tenley Albright]

* * *

Read about the 1956 Summer and Winter Olympics.

Discrimination in sports has a long and ugly history, somewhat discouraged by modern laws.  People with superpowers are routinely disqualified from sports, which is a constant bone of contention in athletic circles.  Some are starting to band together for their own pleasure or performances, but it's hard to gather enough people with the same abilities out of a small pool of widely scattered individuals.

Strategy games are popular around the world.  Among the noteworthy games from the 1950s are Yahtzee and Diplomacy (or Negotiation, in Terramagne).

Not produced by anyone I know, but certainly the kind of conversation that supervillains have whilst standing around watching the Anything Goes Games in T-Antarctica, is "Evil Ethics." Because I have supervillains who are gigantic nerds, that's why.

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Comments
rix_scaedu From: rix_scaedu Date: December 8th, 2014 08:08 am (UTC) (Link)
So, do their games provide Kraken with a steady, legit income stream?
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: December 8th, 2014 08:22 am (UTC) (Link)

Yes...

The games are completely legit, well crafted, popular, and lucrative. Also the game companies are very well shielded, so almost nobody outside Kraken knows about the connection.

In Terramagne, most of the rational supervillain organizations have legal as well as illegal sources of income. That makes it harder for your enemies to cut all your supply lines. They'll look for your ammo plant. They won't expect you to be manufacturing diapers or transporting delicate houseplants. Most supervillain groups are minion contingents following a single charismatic leader; this one is unusual for having a wider structure.
starcat_jewel From: starcat_jewel Date: July 22nd, 2015 03:35 pm (UTC) (Link)
Re-reading this (or I may have missed it the first time), and my immediate reaction is, "So where does that leave Stan with football?" Because if super-powers are considered a disqualification for sports in general, I don't see how that would not have trickled down from the professional level to the NCAA (or analogue) and from there into high-school sports, and by now it would be all the way down to elementary-school level, where the competition can be all the more cutthroat because the parents are far too wrapped up in it (think about some Little League parents, for example).
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