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Poem: "The Whip of His Own Remorse" - The Wordsmith's Forge
The Writing & Other Projects of Elizabeth Barrette
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ysabetwordsmith
Poem: "The Whip of His Own Remorse"
This poem is spillover from the March 7, 2017 Poetry Fishbowl.  It was inspired by a prompt  from siliconshaman.  It also fills the "Truth" square in my 12-1-16 card for the iPod Shuffle Music Bingo fest.  This poem belongs to the Berettaflies thread of the Polychrome Heroics series.

This microfunded poem is being posted one verse at a time, as donations come in to cover them.  The rate is $.50/line, so $5 will reveal 10 new lines, and so forth. There is a permanent donation button on my profile page, or you can contact me for other arrangements. You can also ask me about the number of lines per verse, if you want to fund a certain number of verses.
So far sponsors include: siliconshaman, Anthony & Shirley Barrette

FULLY FUNDED
93 lines, Buy It Now = $47
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Verses posted = 1 of 30

Amount remaining to fund fully = $45
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Amount needed to fund the verse after that = $.50


WARNING: This poem contains some touchy topics.  Highlight to read the warnings, some of which are spoilers.  It features gengineering, Stylet's discovery of the bug-eyed puppies, acute stress response, guilt, and other angst. If these are sensitive issues for you, please consider your tastes and headspace before reading onward.


"The Whip of His Own Remorse"


[Week 4, Day 1]

When the batch of gatorbirds
hatched out 71 live births, Stylet
announced his success to Abbs.

"Mine are well into the viable range,
which means you should get marginal,
and that's twice as good as before,"
Stylet said proudly, showing them off.

"Impressive," Abbs said, and walked away.

Stylet was a little disappointed until
he came back carrying a carton of donuts
and a six-pack of Jazz cokes. "Consider
this a tip," Abbs said with a grin.

"Gee, thanks!" Stylet said, diving in.
The carton held a dozen donuts: three each
of Chocolate Coconut Cake, Butternut,
Blueberry Crumb, and Apple Crumb.

He sacrificed one of the blueberries
to feed his remaining cache of berettaflies.

Then he sat down at his computer with
one hand full of Jazz and the other
full of chocolate coconut cake.

He'd worked hard on the gatorbirds;
he deserved to relax and indulge a little.

Stylet browsed his way through
his favorite webcomics including
Mannly Menn by Mitchell Menn.

He surfed BlackSheep and laughed
so hard at the Rabid City graffiti that he
spilled blueberry filling down his front.

Then he searched for news about berettaflies.

Stylet found it a little reassuring that most people
had figured out the necessary containment methods
and replaced butterfly plants with moth plants,
although one idiot store still had not covered
the plants in their outdoor nursery.

Even though he had never intended
the berettaflies for use in the wild, he was
impressed that some of them had survived and
were most efficacious against targets.

Humming happily, he took notes about
their effects on live specimens with one hand
while clicking page-forward with the other.
Then he grabbed a butternut and looked up.

The blog post from Popcorn Puggles
hit him like a punch in the gut,
making him drop his donut.

Stylet squeezed his eyes closed.

When he opened them, though,
the appalling picture was still there:
a litter of adorable puppies with
horrible bug eyes, below which
a scathing post eviscerated him
(and Bugeye and the Spectrum,
but Stylet didn't care about them).

Sickened, he pushed his Jazz away
and closed the half-full carton of donuts.

It was one thing to design lifeforms
to protect someone's secret lair, another
to see their effects on unsuspecting citizens,
but hurting innocent animals -- puppies! --
was something else altogether.

Stylet tried to brush it off, but
he couldn't; tried to convince himself
that it wasn't his fault, but of course it was.

He struggled with the dilemma for
over an hour before admitting that
he would have to turn himself in.

The sting of public justice was nothing
compared to the whip of his own remorse.

The truth hurt.

When he first told Abbs, the other villain
laughed at him. "I didn't take you for
a bleeding-heart animal lover," he said.

"Hey!" Stylet protested, stung by
the wounding remark. "I take
good care of my livestock."

"Whatever," Abbs said, waving
his toffee-colored hand. "If
you want to turn yourself in,
go ahead. It's your life."

"Yeah," Stylet said glumly.
"Thanks for everything, though."

"Always happy to do business,"
Abbs said. "Listen, if you change
your mind, or they get squirrely
with you ... the door's open."

"Thanks again," Stylet said, although
he didn't expect his mind to change
on its own if it hadn't with him
spurring it for all he was worth.

Then he hefted the black-and-red case
with its rustling cargo of berettaflies,
and walked away into the bayou.

* * *

Notes:

Abbs Ortego -- He has toffee skin, brown eyes, and long black hair done in tiny braids that fall past his shoulders. A little scruff of mustache covers his upper lip. He has small scars on his chin and cheeks from fighting. Abbs is Creole, with ancestors primarily from Africa and Spain, along with a smattering of others. He has relatives and other contacts throughout the Gulf area.
Abbs spends much of his time smuggling humans into America from places like Mexico, Cuba, and Haiti. Several years ago, he commissioned Stylet to create the gatorbirds -- tiny voracious hybrids of alligator and parakeet that fly and bite everything in sight. The idea was to discourage immigration authorities from breaking into his compound, where he shelters his premium customers while setting them up in their new life. Abbs has no morals, and indeed, doesn't even understand what morals really are. He just tends to think in terms of contracts.
Qualities: Expert (+4) Tough, Good (+2) Gizmologist, Good (+2) Human Smuggler, Good (+2) Resourceful, Good (+2) Strength, Good (+2) Wealth
Poor (-2) Amoral

Stylet (Silas Manson) -- He has pale skin and light gray eyes. His hair is straight, so dark auburn that it looks almost black, but the bottom few inches brighten to crimson. When he uses his superpowers, the red part lights up. He wears it at shoulder length. As a small boy, Silas enjoyed pulling the wings off of flies. As an adult, he often puts wings on instead, or modifies insects in other ways. He is a skilled gengineer, but he often puts it to malicious use. He thinks of himself as a bench artist, making live sculptures.
Origin: He has always liked playing with insects, is not picky about where he gets them, and is not careful about handling them. Most likely he got stung by something metagenic, or some combination of ordinary things added up to similar effects.
Uniform: Usually lab clothes, and street clothes when off duty.
Qualities: Master (+6) Pain Tolerance, Expert (+4) Supervillain Contacts, Good (+2) Attention to Detail, Good (+2) Fearless, Good (+2) Toxin Resistance
Poor (-2) Safety Skills
Powers: Expert (+4) Super-gizmology: Gengineering, Average (0) Radiance
Motivation: Bugs are fun.

* * *

“There is no person so severely punished, as those who subject themselves to the whip of their own remorse.”
Seneca quotes (Roman philosopher, mid-1st century AD)

Terramagne has a wide range of modular units used for safety bunkers, secret lairs, and other purposes.  See the lab pod and livestock pod.

Viability expresses the percentage of created organisms that survive.  In early experiments, the success rate is often dismal; L-American cloning of sheep produced Dolly as the only survivor of 277 attempts.

Stylet uses this scale:
Nonviable -- no living births.
Unlikely -- less than 1% living births; most or all offspring have health problems and greatly shortened lifespan.
Potential -- 1-25% living births; many offspring have health problems and/or shortened lifespan.
Marginal -- 26-50% living births; some offspring have health problems or shortened lifespan, but the effects are not as bad.
Viable -- 51% or more living births; few if any offspring have health problems or slightly shortened lifespan, and those rare effects tend to be minor.

Jazz soda is a Terramagne-American brand vaguely similar to Jolt Cola in terms of extreme caffeine and sugar content. However, Jazz is electric blue and sweetened with emulsified corn syrup.  In the South, "coke" is a generic term for soft drinks.

Among the unhealthiest donuts are Chocolate Coconut Cake, Butternut, Donut Blueberry Crumb, and Donut Apple Crumb.

Louisiana weather can be capricious and often violent.

Stylet's brettafly carrier is similar to a pet carrier.  The generator for the protective forcefield fits in one side pocket, while the other holds supplies for maintaining the bugs.

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27 comments or Leave a comment
Comments
From: technoshaman.dreamwidth.org Date: March 24th, 2017 01:11 pm (UTC) (Link)
"Coke" is Northern Southern. In the Deep South (Georgia some nebulous distance south of I-20, Alabama, and Mississippi, and northern Florida) they say "Co-cola" (being an English-style shortening of the original drink's full name). (In Southern Florida, you have a combination of retired Yankees ("pop" or "soda") and Latinos (refresco or gaseosa)...)

So Stylet would be semi-lawful evil, where Abbs would be neutral?
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: March 25th, 2017 12:52 am (UTC) (Link)

Thoughts

>> "Coke" is Northern Southern. In the Deep South (Georgia some nebulous distance south of I-20, Alabama, and Mississippi, and northern Florida) they say "Co-cola" (being an English-style shortening of the original drink's full name).<<

I've heard both, yes.

>> (In Southern Florida, you have a combination of retired Yankees ("pop" or "soda") and Latinos (refresco or gaseosa)...) <<

Fascinating. I've heard "fresca" as a generic but not the other two.

>> So Stylet would be semi-lawful evil, where Abbs would be neutral? <<

That sounds about right. Stylet has principles, but they're not all that close to conventional and he doesn't feel bound by other people's rules. Or didn't -- his recent experiences have somewhat enlightened him to the relevance of those rules in preventing the problems he just created. He's outgrown much of his purposeful interest in wickedness for its own sake, like pulling the wings off flies.

Abbs is mostly in it for the money. He does human smuggling because it's lucrative, and relatively easy to hide in the bayous.
From: (Anonymous) Date: March 24th, 2017 01:49 pm (UTC) (Link)
Interesting.

I'm puzzled as to why the puppies got to him when nothing else did. Are they suffering? Because it seems to me that puppies with bug eyes could be just fine, just as Facet is just fine, and maybe even seem cool to someone who likes bugs.

--alatefeline
From: (Anonymous) Date: March 24th, 2017 05:26 pm (UTC) (Link)

CapriUni, here [deleted my LJ]

Hm. Different people have different squick triggers.

Also, Facet was an adult human when his mutation came in, and thus a) is granted more agency when it comes to coping with his mutation, and b) has a greater understanding, rationally, of what the change means.

Also, baby animals born with mutations -- even those that do not effect health or life expectancy -- are more likely to be deemed "unadoptable", and put to "sleep" almost immediately by shelters and breeders.

(okay, now I have a prompt idea of Facet or one of the others in the gang adopting the puppies)
(Deleted comment)
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: March 24th, 2017 07:39 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: CapriUni, here [deleted my LJ]

That would be awesome, because Amelia is a decent person and wouldn't disrespect Stylet to his face. Even if his face bothered her enough that she'd be talking to the wall. It's actually probable for them to meet, since Facet has been dealing with insect-related issues for SPOON. A visit from him would be a logical followup to the one from SPAZMAT, and Adalina is both personable enough and controlled enough that she'd probably come along. I suspect that Facet would assure Amelia that the puppies are okay and not a threat or anything (which is true) but Adalina is the one likely to make the leap to using them as SPOON therapy dogs or show soups. She's the one with more social training, and she's been looking for ways to adapt to her new circumstances.

By all means, prompt if you feel inspired. Next up will be "living in the cracks" on April 4, which would fit very neatly with this idea.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: March 24th, 2017 10:42 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: CapriUni, here [deleted my LJ]

>> Hm. Different people have different squick triggers. <<

This is true.

>> Also, Facet was an adult human when his mutation came in, and thus a) is granted more agency when it comes to coping with his mutation, and b) has a greater understanding, rationally, of what the change means.<<

Yes. Conversely, though, it's harder for him to adapt. Many of the surviving victims are young adults, who have not yet made their place in the world; that's much easier to accommodate major changes. The puppies have never known anything else; to them, compound eyes are normal. It's just other people who often think they look creepy.

>> Also, baby animals born with mutations -- even those that do not effect health or life expectancy -- are more likely to be deemed "unadoptable", and put to "sleep" almost immediately by shelters and breeders. <<

Often a huge threat. Stylet does not know their breeder, so he has to account for that. He also doesn't know what shape the puppies are in, other than their eyes. All he knows is what they superficially look like, that it's partly his fault, and that their owner thinks he is a despicable human being. :(

>> (okay, now I have a prompt idea of Facet or one of the others in the gang adopting the puppies) <<

They will likely take one, when the puppies get old enough for new homes. :D Superpets are a tradition in mainstream comics, and I have done very little with this.
From: (Anonymous) Date: March 24th, 2017 11:01 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: CapriUni, here [deleted my LJ]

Speaking of superpets, I've suspected for a while, and my aide Audrey recently confirmed, that our new cat, Oliver, has the power of teleportation.

Lucky for us, he does not seem to have the power to pop through walls or barriers (or who knows what mischief he'd get into), but he will pop from one side of the room to another, especially when playing (he's about 5 months old, now).
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: March 24th, 2017 11:07 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: CapriUni, here [deleted my LJ]

That is so cool.

We had a cat who could walk through walls. It was very disconcerting.

The flying mice were the worst though. Haven't seen any of them in a while, thank gods.
siliconshaman From: siliconshaman Date: March 28th, 2017 12:10 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: CapriUni, here [deleted my LJ]

Kittens seem to go through a phase of that... some retain it into adulthood.

Our Monkey-cat has, but he had traumatic kittenhood [raised by a pair of junkies who left him on his own for long periods.] He's got a thing about being near people sometimes, so he 'shadow walks' past and just appears in the middle of the kitchen when he's being called in.

ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: March 28th, 2017 05:57 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: CapriUni, here [deleted my LJ]

Diane Duane calls it sidling, in the Feline Wizards series, when a cat steps just a bit out of phase with consensus reality to pass by unnoticed.
johnpalmer From: johnpalmer Date: March 28th, 2017 04:21 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: CapriUni, here [deleted my LJ]

I think that - the owner's feelings - might be a big part of it. The puppies, alone, might have sharpened the knife and made it ready, but the "my *puppies*! My poor baby puppies!" from the owner might be what heated it to red hot and driven it into his gut.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: March 28th, 2017 05:59 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: CapriUni, here [deleted my LJ]

That's also true. Stylet isn't overly blessed with fellowfeel. But he was stabbed in the conscience by a Southern lady, and let me tell you, they know right where to put it.
siliconshaman From: siliconshaman Date: March 28th, 2017 12:02 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: CapriUni, here [deleted my LJ]

Hoo boy... Ashley would react to the idea of the puppies being put down rather negatively. I mean, she couldn't adopt one herself, but she'd start a campaign to get them adopted.

I'm betting Kaytee would be good for one at least, more if her mamma let her.

Edited at 2017-03-28 12:12 pm (UTC)
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: March 28th, 2017 11:20 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: CapriUni, here [deleted my LJ]

>> Hoo boy... Ashley would react to the idea of the puppies being put down rather negatively. <<

So would Adalina.

>> I mean, she couldn't adopt one herself, but she'd start a campaign to get them adopted. <<

I suspect the Hive will wind up with one, though. The buggles would be, if not outright immune, at least largely resistant to berettafly toxins.

>> I'm betting Kaytee would be good for one at least, more if her mamma let her. <<

:D There's a thought, too.

Easy City SPOON Base is another possibility. They've already got Ironsides.

A counterpoint is that Popcorn Puggles isn't a puppy mill. The owner is breeding them very methodically to create a new breed of dog optimized for therapy and assistance work. The buggles open up a whole new opportunity for superdogs, who will be better matched to some clients with special needs. That means checking all the puppies against the breed goals to see if any of them would make good performers, before declaring the less impressive ones as pet quality. SPOON and the Hive could get therapy ones, though.
siliconshaman From: siliconshaman Date: March 28th, 2017 11:39 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: CapriUni, here [deleted my LJ]

Hey yeah, good points. [I missed they were being bred as therapy dogs]

hmm.. you know, if even one of them tests out as immune to berettafly toxins, it'd be worth testing to see if it's also immune to the amp'ed version that Ashley produces... because if anyone needs a therapy pet, it's her!

A cat would be better for her, in terms of matching to personality, but hey, if there's a puppy that needs a home...

You know, I wonder if the puppies would produce anti-toxins if exposed to Ashley's toxin funk?
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: March 28th, 2017 11:49 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: CapriUni, here [deleted my LJ]

>> Hey yeah, good points. [I missed they were being bred as therapy dogs] <<

I'm pretty sure I mentioned in their introduction.

>> hmm.. you know, if even one of them tests out as immune to berettafly toxins, it'd be worth testing to see if it's also immune to the amp'ed version that Ashley produces... because if anyone needs a therapy pet, it's her! <<

Likely so. Not necessarily all of them, but probably at least one.

>> A cat would be better for her, in terms of matching to personality, but hey, if there's a puppy that needs a home... <<

*ponder* Well, Stylet could probably make a cat with those qualities, but she'd have to ask him, and I don't think Ashley wants much to do with him for a while. Assuming he's ever allowed in a lab again, as anything other than the guinea pig.

>> You know, I wonder if the puppies would produce anti-toxins if exposed to Ashley's toxin funk? <<

I had not thought of that, but it's a great thing to check. Since they have that scrap of DNA carried over from Stylet through the berettaflies, it seems likely. The drawbacks: they'd need months to grow big enough for that kind of testing to be safe, and no way in hell would their owner agree to them becoming lab animals. However, once the idea is afoot, it's something else that Stylet could probably build. Which is a good thing, because Stylet's advocate won't let him go more than a limited number of rounds himself.
siliconshaman From: siliconshaman Date: March 28th, 2017 11:59 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: CapriUni, here [deleted my LJ]

Pretty sure you did mention, I just missed it. Mea Culpa.

You know... would Stylet think of making her an immune cat independently? I mean, he's smart, he knows what isolation does to humans, he's motivated to try and make things better for her [maybe] and frankly, cats would be a better base to build-out from anyway. They're already immune to like half of the component species he used to make the berettaflies.

As for using the buggles to manufacture anti-toxins, all you'd need to do is culture a scrap of their bone marrow. Lab grown tissue culture works just as well to grow anti-toxins, and it's way easier to extract the end product. People object to you running puppies though a blender...
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: March 29th, 2017 12:48 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: CapriUni, here [deleted my LJ]

>> You know... would Stylet think of making her an immune cat independently? <<

Maybe? Probably not soon, because his head is full of other stuff right now, but he might eventually. However, I don't think he'd broach the topic, or consider it as a surprise, unless they were in communication. He's been warned not to bother the victims, and Ashley was pretty forceful with him.

>> I mean, he's smart, he knows what isolation does to humans, he's motivated to try and make things better for her [maybe] and frankly, cats would be a better base to build-out from anyway. They're already immune to like half of the component species he used to make the berettaflies.<<

Good points.

>> As for using the buggles to manufacture anti-toxins, all you'd need to do is culture a scrap of their bone marrow. Lab grown tissue culture works just as well to grow anti-toxins, and it's way easier to extract the end product. People object to you running puppies though a blender... <<

Yeah, but the owner still wouldn't go for it.

Stylet can still make his own lab animals, though, and that's an excellent idea. It'd go a long way toward making up for the damage he's done.
siliconshaman From: siliconshaman Date: March 29th, 2017 10:23 am (UTC) (Link)

ECR girl strikes again!

Ashley is/will be ECR girl you know... once she's gotten over being mad at Stylet, she's going to feel bad for hitting back quite so hard.

She will get in touch with him again, actually probably before she's done being mad at him though, to see how he's doing. Yeah, she doesn't like him, but she relates to his depression and anguish, and wouldn't wish that on her worst enemy. Hence, she's also worried about him and how well he is.

Which I suspect will confuse the heck out of him. It'll confuse her too.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: March 30th, 2017 02:10 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: ECR girl strikes again!

>> Ashley is/will be ECR girl you know... once she's gotten over being mad at Stylet, she's going to feel bad for hitting back quite so hard. <<

That makes sense.

>> She will get in touch with him again, actually probably before she's done being mad at him though, to see how he's doing. <<

That will be fun to see. :D

>> Yeah, she doesn't like him, but she relates to his depression and anguish, and wouldn't wish that on her worst enemy. Hence, she's also worried about him and how well he is. <<

Aww.

>> Which I suspect will confuse the heck out of him. It'll confuse her too. <<

That fits with their characterization, though. \o/
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: March 24th, 2017 07:21 pm (UTC) (Link)

Well...

>> I'm puzzled as to why the puppies got to him when nothing else did. <<

One of the intriguing things I discovered about Stylet along the way is that while he started out with a fondness for torturing animals, he worked through that and it wore off as he realized the practical drawbacks. He's lost his taste for it. Currently, he prides himself on producing quality creatures, and part of that entails taking good care of his livestock. But some of the trouble he got into along the way left him with a tender spot that still hurts if hit from the right angle. So that blog post was the emotional equivalent of a crotch shot for him.

>> Are they suffering? <<

Not that I've noticed. Any chimera has a higher risk of health problems, especially with a major gap like merging insect and mammal features. But the berettaflies are a good build with a great hitch, so the puppies are probably fine.

>> Because it seems to me that puppies with bug eyes could be just fine, just as Facet is just fine, <<

However, don't forget the "uncanny valley" effect. Something that is almost as expected can be more repugnant than something which is very different. People think puppies are cute, and a huge part of that is their eyes. If the other puppy features lead people to expect cute eyes, and instead there are bug eyes which most people find to be uncute or actively repulsive, the result is more likely to be "Ugh!" than "Aww."

>> and maybe even seem cool to someone who likes bugs.<<

This is true. I happen to find insect eyes beautiful, but then I'm weird.

The entomologists at Loyola would adore them.

Also, these aren't designer pets. Popcorn Puggles are part of a serious, long-term breeding plan to produce a small therapy dog that will combine the best traits of both source breeds, while fixing some of the problems introduced in pugs and beagles by overbreeding.

This means that buggles have a high chance of making good therapy dogs for use at SPOON, at SPAZMAT, or as show soups.
siliconshaman From: siliconshaman Date: March 28th, 2017 12:04 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Well...

As I said, I bet Kaytee would love them.. and I doubt she'd be the only one.
(Deleted comment)
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: March 24th, 2017 10:34 pm (UTC) (Link)

Fixed!

Thank you.
starcat_jewel From: starcat_jewel Date: March 28th, 2017 03:54 pm (UTC) (Link)
Question: How is Abbs himself going to deal with the gatorbirds? They don't seem smart enough to be trainable, and if they bite anything that moves, that puts both Abbs and his clients at risk.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: March 28th, 2017 11:13 pm (UTC) (Link)

Well...

I'm not sure. One option would be to keep them contained, and only release them when needed to deter interlopers. Another would be to establish them around the area in a loose ring. But there's less risk than you might think, because people don't go outside much. Less risk of anyone getting spotted that way.
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