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Poem: "Going Ape" - The Wordsmith's Forge
The Writing & Other Projects of Elizabeth Barrette
Poem: "Going Ape"

This poem came out of the March 18, 2014 Poetry Fishbowl.  It was inspired by prompts from siege, my_partner_doug, Shirley Barrette, and Trevor Edwards.  It also fills the "object penetration" square on my 10-6-13 card for the Origfic Bingo fest.  It has been sponsored by Anthony & Shirley Barrette.  This poem belongs to the series Polychrome Heroics.

Note: This poem features sexual activity.  Click through for the superpowered diplomatic er0ti4.  If that's not your cup of tea, you may skip it and read something else.

Going Ape

Fred Ehrlichmann works
in primate research, nothing special,
mostly studying how great apes
adapt (or don't) to environmental changes.

There are other people working other projects,
more impressive and more secretive than his,
and he doesn't stick his nose into any of it
until one day he gets bitten by a radioactive bonobo

and by the next day he has superpowers,
a blossoming awareness of everyone's emotions
compared with a heightening of his mediation skills.

It's not until the next month that Fred discovers
the true import of what he has gained,
when a financial argument with his girlfriend
leads to a spilled pot of pasta, a burned hand,
a truly epic argument, and a bout of makeup sex.

By the time they're done screwing,
the burn on Sara's hand has healed
and they've resolved the entire argument.

Fred is a scientist,
so he does the logical thing:
he goes to his computer and contacts the
Super Power Organizational & Operational Nexus
to ask about training for people with new powers.

SPOON does, in fact, offer such classes
and Fred signs himself up.
It requires taking time off work,
but the lab is only too happy to agree
in hopes of not getting sued over the accident.

Fred is enthusiastic over learning
about soup history and current events,
what his own powers are and how to control them.

He is disappointed to discover
that his healing ability works
only while he is having sex,
and that his peacemaking ability
is much stronger then too,
but at least his empathy
seems to work without it.

Some super powers may require fuel,
Fred reads in his textbook.

Most of the time that applies to powers
gained via super-gizmos or artifacts,
but occasionally it happens
with innate ones too.

Fred decides that most of his superpowers
aren't really all that useful, but the empathy
makes a terrific adjunct to the mediation skill
that he had before this ever started.

So he focuses his studies on that, because
SPOON can use all the diplomats it can get.
He takes the code name Pax
and declines to design a fancy uniform.

It goes well enough for a while,
and he takes a few simple missions
where he can use mediation and empathy
to help compatible parties reach a consensus.

It doesn't go so well with hostile negotiations,
as Pax discovers while trying to manage
a meeting between Mindflare and Savoir Faire
with Mr. Pernicious and Dr. Doohickey
and their assorted associates
to untangle conflicting interests.

Mindflare wants to make trouble;
Pax can see it in him, burning like fireworks.
He'll do anything to get attention.
Mr. Pernicious is wicked and insufferable,
but inside he's suffering, self-hate a deep ache
that makes Pax want to rub his own chest in sympathy.

Meanwhile Savoir Faire has already pissed off
Dr. Doohickey's assistant Crystal
and both of Mr. Pernicious' lady bodyguards,
and he's supposed to be one of the good  guys.
Dr. Doohickey is more traumatized than he'll admit
by the mere presence of Mr. Pernicious and
he's hiding enough nazars  to rattle when he moves.

Mindflare snatches an apple from the fruit bowl
and flings it hard at Savoir Faire's head.
Savoir Faire whips out a dagger,
splitting the apple in mid-air,
then vaults onto the table.

Pax grabs Mindflare by the wrist
to stop him from throwing an orange,
and that's all it takes -- heat flares between them,
abruptly reminding Pax that what Mindflare wants
is attention and sex qualifies quite nicely.

Mindflare pins Pax to the table
with a ruthless kiss, and just like that
Pax has power pouring into him,
more power than he knows what to do with.

It spills out to touch everyone else in the room,
and soon Mr. Pernicious is banging Crystal on the floor,
Dr. Doohickey is crushed between the bodyguards,
and Savoir Faire is trying to horn in
on Pax and Mindflare.

Nobody's usual sexuality seems to matter,
whatever it might be, and it probably is not
the hump-anything-that-moves common to bonobos
which Pax's talent apparently carries over.

Pax is not terribly picky.
He and Sara have an open relationship
and he's pretty much willing to have
a nice bit of frottage with anyone.

Prior to the lab accident,
he would have set some standards
about not engaging sexual activity
with people who are evil,
but this is a lot better than fighting.

Savoir Faire has abandoned his dagger
in favor of demonstrating his ability
to tie a cherry stem in a knot with his tongue.

The two bodyguards have doffed their gunbelts
and trousers to rub against each other, and
more incidentally, against Dr. Doohickey.

Mr. Pernicious has appropriated a banana
in the interest of demonstrating to Crystal
that some things considered wicked can be fun,
and Pax notes languidly that at least
Mr. Pernicious is putting his power of temptation
to constructive use for once.

This inspires Mindflare to pull away from Pax
and demonstrate what he  can do with a banana,
which involves quite a lot of lips and tongue
and Pax is wearing entirely too many clothes now.

"These hostile negotiations have turned into an orgy,"
Dr. Doohickey observes from between the women.
"Perfectly fine with me," Mr. Pernicious says.
"Fornication is as much of a sin as wrath."

Eventually they all end up in a sweaty heap
on the floor, relaxed and happy.
Even the supervillains are content,
a little bemused by their own lassitude,
but without the energy to stir trouble.

They talk, and Pax feels his talent
flex and curl around their minds
as he teases out an agreement
from the tangle of conflicting desires.

Mindflare makes one desultory attempt
to parry the influence, but Pax rolls with it
and the edge of his opponent's mind
skims along his, shivery as knifeplay,
making them both writhe with pleasure.

"Please stop that," Mindflare says.
"If I come again, my balls will fall off."

Pax chuckles and lets go of him.
Mindflare doesn't try again.

"No more death traps?"
Crystal asks Mr. Pernicious.

"I'm sure I can think of something else,"
he agrees, trying to mop her off
with his handkerchief.
"Besides, it didn't work as intended."

"He's tougher than he looks,"
Crystal says.

"No more Mad Science Scrambler?"
Mr. Pernicious asks Dr. Doohickey.

"I don't know, that works pretty well,"
Dr. Doohickey replies as he fishes
half a cherry out of his antchair.

"Did you know that it gives people migraines?
Not just once, I mean repeatedly,"
Mr. Pernicious says.  "Cumulative effect."

Dr. Doohickey shudders.
"Back to the drawing board,"
he agrees.

"You keep upstaging me,"
Mindflare grumbles to Savoir Faire.

"I'm the hero, I'm supposed to,"
Savoir Faire replies. 
"Besides, I'm a swashbuckler.
What do you want me to do,
give you fencing lessons?"

"All right," says Mindflare.

"Well, I suppose I could,"
says Savoir Faire, "but in return,
you have to stop grabbing random people
to use as stage props.  I'll show you
what to do with candlesticks and coat racks."

"No more attacking the same city
on the same day, or the same soup either,
unless you're coordinating a plan,"
Pax says, because this is
the crux of the meeting.
"That causes way too much chaos,
and then nobody gets what they want."

They grumble a bit, but agree.

Pax has to call out
for a teleporter to bring
towels and water and other supplies
outside the door for everyone
to freshen up a bit before leaving,
but it's worth it, because
he got the job done in the end.

He's just going to need
a lot more class time to handle
what he's learned about his power curve.

* * *


Pax (Fred Ehrlichmann) -- Fred is relatively short and stocky.  He has fair skin, brown eyes, and straight dark brown hair with a lot of body hair.  Growing up in the middle of a large family, he learned how to smooth over the inevitable disputes.  His paternal grandparents came over from Germany to escape the Nazi takeover, but they still take a dim view of soups and haven't spoken to him since the lab accident, a source of quiet personal regret.  Fred's superpowers are fueled by sex; each person having sex under his influence gives him a Hero Point for buffing his abilities or other awesome actions.  His official code name is Pax.  Often people call him Boner Man, or other rude nicknames, and he really hates that.
Origin: While working in a primate research facility, Fred was bitten by a radioactive bonobo, and subsequently developed superpowers.  He still has an impressive crescent scar on his left forearm.
Uniform: His birthday suit; Pax does his best work in the nude.  Off duty, Fred wears street clothes or lab wear.
Qualities: Expert (+4) Primate Research, Expert (+4) Stamina, Good (+2) Mediation
Poor (-2) Swimmer
Powers: Expert (+4) Make Love Not War, Average (0) Empathy, Average (0) Magical Healing Cock
Limitation: Magical Healing Cock only works during sexual activity.
Vulnerability: Fractious family ties.  Sometimes they're good to him, and they're not bad people, but they argue a lot.  And of course, most of his superpowers are useless with his relatives.
Motivation: To keep the peace.

Sara Becker -- She is the girlfriend of Pax (Fred Ehrlichmann), although they have an open relationship.  She has light brown hair and gray-green eyes.  Her ancestors are German, Polish, and American.
Qualities: Good (+2) Flexible, Good (+2) Pastry Chef
Poor (-2) Touchy About Money

* * *
The superpowered peacemaking, bitten by a radioactive bonobo (and can now solve any problem with sex), Boner Man nickname, and "These hostile negotiations have turned into an orgy." were all backchannel prompts.  Honestly, all I did was add the storytelling, and this one pretty much wrote itself.

Bonobos are popular in primate research due to their similarity to humans.  They are famous for using sex to resolve conflicts.

Mediation is a method of conflict resolution in which one person assists others in working out an agreement. Learn some skills for resolving conflicts and mediating disputes.

Makeup sex is a real means of processing arguments in a relationship.  Know when and how to do it right.

Some superpowers need fuel, and this is actually a form of energy manipulation or required secondary power.  In essence, a superpower that requires a specific fuel is substituting that for the usual metabolic burden supported by such things as food and sleep.  The advantage is being able to gather a lot of energy from an outside source; the disadvantage is being partially or wholly dependent on that.

A nazar  is an amulet for blocking the Evil Eye, a favored power of Mr. Pernicious.  Dr. Doohickey is ostentatiously loaded for bear.

Food fight is a popular trope, usually played for laughs, but sometimes used to express disdain or immaturity.  It doesn't get very far in this case because there is a responsible adult in the room to stop it from going further.

GG rubbing is a favorite bonobo activity; while anthropologists favor this term for two females, it's often generalized to any combination.  Frottage is a human version.  Watch two bonobo ladies going at it.

Knotting a cherry stem is a genteel demonstration of oral dexterity.  Yes, this really works.

Knifeplay is a kink that ranges from mildly edgy (with a plastic knife, using a dull metal one to remove wax from skin, or just as a visual aid) to downright risky (with a sharp knife).  A knife made of mental energy is potentially quite hazardous.  Know what you're doing and play safely.

The swashbuckler fighting style relies on wits and agility, often employing the environment as a weapon or source of weapons.  Traditionally this type of hero is a lover as well as a fighter.  Savoir Faire can be romantic, he just happens to have a flaw that makes him decreasingly impressive with repeated exposure.

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16 comments or Leave a comment
chanter_greenie From: chanter_greenie Date: March 24th, 2014 09:56 am (UTC) (Link)
*giggles at the whole thing* Oh, jeez. Oh jeeeez. And for heaven's sake, Savvy! *facepalms and squirms in some embarrassment*

Pardon my slightly incoherent squeaks there. ahem. Now I want to see Pax interact with an ace or grey.
From: technoshaman Date: March 24th, 2014 12:29 pm (UTC) (Link)
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: March 25th, 2014 05:53 am (UTC) (Link)


I'm glad you liked this. Feel free to request more of any favorites.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: March 24th, 2014 05:53 pm (UTC) (Link)


>> *giggles at the whole thing* Oh, jeez. Oh jeeeez. And for heaven's sake, Savvy! *facepalms and squirms in some embarrassment* <<

Savvy is kind of what you'd get by crossing Zorro with Pepe le Pew. Sometimes he's brilliant, other times he puts his foot in his mouth. The more I write him, the more amusing I find that dichotomy.

>> Pardon my slightly incoherent squeaks there. ahem. Now I want to see Pax interact with an ace or grey. <<

If I write another poem in this series today, I think my brain will melt and Doug's head will explode. So please take that utterly wonderful prompt, wrap it up, and return it to me on April 1 when I'm writing about "genderqueer people."
chanter_greenie From: chanter_greenie Date: March 25th, 2014 12:12 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Well...

*gigglefits* Oh no, Pepe La Pew! I was trying to avoid thinking of that stinkbomb. *facepalms!*

Is it wrong that Mindflare creeps me out even when he's in the midst of... uh, all this? Because brrrr.

*wraps up prompt in a pretty blue bow and saves it for April accordingly*
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: March 25th, 2014 03:27 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Well...

>> *gigglefits* Oh no, Pepe La Pew! I was trying to avoid thinking of that stinkbomb. *facepalms!* <<

*laugh* Not of his making, but yeah, it's in there.

>> Is it wrong that Mindflare creeps me out even when he's in the midst of... uh, all this? Because brrrr. <<

No. Mindflare is creepy. He is desperate for attention, and goes about trying to get it in all the wrong ways, so that he winds up hurting himself and others. He's like that thought you can't get rid of, that cuts you up inside.

Mr. Pernicious is creepy too. He likes to think of himself as the physical embodiment of evil. But no matter what superheroes go up against him, none of them can hate him more than he hates himself.

Most of my supervillains are deeply broken people.

I think it's ironic that the same kinds of situations underlie the creation of both superheroes and supervillains. Power doesn't corrupt, really; it reveals. Just happens that a lot of people, if you take away most of the social accountability, proceed to behave like hooligans.

Then too, a lot of it comes down to coping skills. If you have the resilience to handle a major trauma, you may gain something from it; but if not, you wind up playing a round of misery-loves-company.

>> *wraps up prompt in a pretty blue bow and saves it for April accordingly* <<

Yay! I look forward to that.
From: siliconshaman Date: March 24th, 2014 12:59 pm (UTC) (Link)
I think the Comics Code Authority just collectively spontaneously combusted.

Good job!
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: March 24th, 2014 05:42 pm (UTC) (Link)

Thank you!

>> I think the Comics Code Authority just collectively spontaneously combusted. <<

*toast marshmallows* *open chocolate* *open graham crackers*

Who wants to make s'mores?

>> Good job! <<

Yay! I'm glad you liked this.

From: siliconshaman Date: March 24th, 2014 09:55 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Thank you!

I got hotdogs too!
mdlbear From: mdlbear Date: March 24th, 2014 03:04 pm (UTC) (Link)
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: March 25th, 2014 05:53 am (UTC) (Link)

Thank you!

I'm happy to hear that.
mdlbear From: mdlbear Date: July 20th, 2014 12:34 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Thank you!

... and just as awesome the second time around. Not to mention the fun of chasing links from nazar into Tegrism.
helgatwb From: helgatwb Date: June 3rd, 2014 07:59 pm (UTC) (Link)
I can't stop giggling over this. I'm glad that they worked it out.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: June 3rd, 2014 08:10 pm (UTC) (Link)


>> I can't stop giggling over this. <<

I'm happy to hear that.

>> I'm glad that they worked it out. <<

It seems to be a foundation of this series, that people can work out their problems, or at least get to a better place.

By the way, there are two more poems with Pax: "An Unexpected Connection" and "Not the Absence of Fear."
starcat_jewel From: starcat_jewel Date: July 31st, 2014 05:34 am (UTC) (Link)
*snerk* This is good, but I simply cannot read "bitten by a radioactive bonobo" without collapsing into giggles.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: August 2nd, 2014 05:29 am (UTC) (Link)


It has the same effect on me, which is why I wrote it out. People got to horsing around with the theme that day, and this bit was so wacky I just HAD to run with it. Go, Boner Man!
16 comments or Leave a comment