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Poem: "A Perspective, Not the Truth" - The Wordsmith's Forge
The Writing & Other Projects of Elizabeth Barrette
ysabetwordsmith
ysabetwordsmith
Poem: "A Perspective, Not the Truth"
This is the freebie for today's fishbowl. It was inspired by prompts from [personal profile] aoifes_isle, [personal profile] alexseanchai, [personal profile] zeeth_kyrah, and LJ user My_partner_doug. It also fills the "alias" square in my 5-22-14 card for the [community profile] origfic_bingo fest. This poem belongs to the Polychrome Heroics series.

WARNING: This poem features some intense topics. The warnings include spoilers; highlight to read. There is government intervention with disastrous results, forced transformation, child death, mental torture of a telepath whose defenses are lousy, and disturbingly self-serving interpretations of 'truth.' Please consider your tastes and headspace carefully before deciding whether you want to read or skip this.


"A Perspective, Not the Truth"


When Agent Gabrielle Greene called him into her office,
Brad Harris knew she had a new assignment for him.
"Trepan, these are Sleuthhound --" she pointed to a man
with sad brown eyes and sagging jowls, "and Cryptid."
The latter is the most ordinary-looking woman
whom Brad has ever seen, blue-gray eyes and ashy hair.
"Code names only. We have a flicker report of a girl
who may have reality warping powers. Go find her."

"No problem," said Sleuthhound. "Then what?"

"Bring her in if you can," Agent Greene ordered,
"but in any case make sure she doesn't hurt anyone."

"Yes, ma'am," Brad said. He can work with that.
"Sleuthhound, Cryptid, who's driving?"
He tries to ignore the silly code names.

"I always drive," Cryptid said in a flat voice.
"You people don't know how to blend in."

When Brad saw the car, he couldn't blame her:
it's a five-year-old Honda Accord, lightly used,
in a forgettable shade of gray with a few scratches.

"So how do we find this girl?" Brad asked.

"We don't. I do," Sleuthhound said.
He poked Cryptid in the shoulder.
"Drive toward Arlington."

Brad read the mission file on the way,
using his vidwatch to skim for keywords.
So far this ten-year-old girl had shown
transfiguration, sorcery, and timebending
but there had been months between each incident.

It was hard to get someone put on house arrest
for flickering alone, rather than manifesting
a talent that was some kind of credible threat.

Well, there were other ways to handle matters,
as the Ventral Intelligence Agency was doing now.

"You're taking this pretty well, for a new guy,"
Sleuthhound said, watching Brad study.
"Usually they wonder if the intel is really reliable."

Brad shrugged. "What's to complain about?
Everything we hear is an opinion, not a fact.
Everything we see is a perspective, not the truth."

When they reached Arlington,
they spent a while driving in circles because
Sleuthhound said the target was moving.
Finally he announced, "She's in Glencarlyn Park."

They drove through the rolling green hills
and tufts of forest streaked with silver streams.
It was a nice day and families filled the park.

Parking the car Cryptid said, "I'll take the high watch.
Trepan, you make the approach. Sleuthhound, backup."
Then she turned into a pigeon and flew away.

Sleuthhound guided Brad to the right playground,
pointing out the little brunette and her mother.

Brad stolled over and said to the daughter,
"Heard you have quite a talent there, miss.
We're from the government. We're here to help you."

Everything went to hell amazingly fast after that.

The next thing Brad knew,
the boys playing volleyball were kangaroos,
there was an elephant crushing the merry-go-round,
not to mention a talking water fountain and
a hysterical jukebox wearing the remains
of a park custodian's dark green jumpsuit.

Brad's head was killing him and
his back ached all the way down to his butt.

So he did the sensible thing and shot the girl in the head.
Dead people generally don't use superpowers.

Everyone stopped turning into things they shouldn't be,
but a lot more people started screaming and running.
Brad was glad the VIA issued him a real gun,
even if it tended to make civilians panic.

Sleuthhound was trying to comfort the distraught mother.
Cryptid had shapeshifted back to human form and
taken over crowd control near the pavilion.

Brad was just trying to keep his head from exploding
under the strain of everyone's riotous emotions.

"You murdered my daughter right in front of me,
you evil bastard," the middle-aged woman wailed.

"I know, I know," Brad said. "You're thinking very loud."

"Oh," she said, "you're a telepath."

Then she hit him with a truck.

Then she drove a tank over him.
Then she threw him out of an airplane.
Then she fed him to a ravenous dinosaur.
Then she waterboarded him until he drowned.
Then she doused him with gasoline and lit him on fire.
Then she roped him to an atomic bomb and pushed the button.

It took a week for Brad to shake off the hallucinations.
When people hate you and you can read minds,
that tends to fill your head with all kinds of suck.

Agent Greene was sitting on his bed
when he finally woke up for real.

"This is becoming a habit," Brad said.

"Superpowers often have drawbacks,"
Agent Greene acknowledged.
"Yours is worth it, though.
We don't have many telepaths."

"Sure you still want this one?"
Brad asked as he sat up with a wince.

"I'm sure," Agent Greene replied.

"You aren't angry with how I handled the situation?"
Brad said, still expecting to get fired.

"Trepan, not many people could keep their heads
in the middle of a superpowered incident,
let alone make a perfect head shot
while actively being turned into a goat."

"So that's what happened," he muttered.

"Yes, we had you tested while you were out of it,"
Agent Greene said. "You have the horn buds and tail
of a New Zealand Kiko Goat. You'll get double hazard pay
for sustaining that damage in the line of duty."

That lifted his spirits right up.
Brad ran a hand through his hair
and found the small hard nubs.
They shouldn't be too hard to hide,
though he might need to grow his hair
a little longer from its current buzzcut.

He was willing to risk anything in the line of duty,
even losing his humanity, if it gave him a chance
to save a whole parkful of innocent people
from such an unspeakable fate.

"Thank you, ma'am," Brad said.
"I guess it's a good thing I was there."

"Are you sure that's true?" Agent Greene asked.
"Most people would be having second thoughts
after a mission that cost them so much."

Brad thought hard about how many more people
might have been turned into beasts or hardware
if he hadn't been there to stop that from happening.
"It's true for me, and that's what's important," he said firmly.

Agent Greene smiled faintly and patted his shoulder.
"I knew the VIA was the right place for you," she said.

* * *

Notes:

Everything we hear is an opinion, not a fact. Everything we see is a perspective, not the truth.
-- Marcus Aurelius

Glencarlyn Park is lovely facility.

New Zealand Kiko Goats are meat goats capable of subsisting on forage. They are independent and can be more aggressive than dairy goats.

Tags: , , , , , , , ,
Current Mood: busy busy

15 comments or Leave a comment
Comments
From: technoshaman Date: August 6th, 2014 03:45 am (UTC) (Link)
Okay, you win. Many's the author that can make me laugh. Some can make me cry. You? Pissed me off. Not at you, mind, at the story...

Only one other author that I can think of can do that.

His name is Straczynski.

That's about the biggest compliment I can give an author.

One thing, though. These people have karma coming. Even if I have to commission it personally. Maybe I can't do that in the real world, [temporal adverb deleted]... but I can damn well do it in this one. *tight feral grinchy look*
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: August 6th, 2014 03:56 am (UTC) (Link)

Thank you!

>> Okay, you win. Many's the author that can make me laugh. Some can make me cry. You? Pissed me off. Not at you, mind, at the story... <<

I'm starting to think that Brad's real superpower may be pissing people off. :D

>> Only one other author that I can think of can do that.

His name is Straczynski.

That's about the biggest compliment I can give an author. <<

*bow, flourish* I am honored.

>> One thing, though. These people have karma coming. Even if I have to commission it personally. Maybe I can't do that in the real world, [temporal adverb deleted]... but I can damn well do it in this one. <<

Yep, that is an option. Evidently there will be a line ...

>> *tight feral grinchy look* <<

Do you have a wonderful, awful idea?
From: technoshaman Date: August 6th, 2014 05:59 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Thank you!

Evidently there will be a line

Heh!

Do you have a wonderful, awful idea?

LOL! I have that face as an icon over on Dreamwidth... :)
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: August 6th, 2014 07:16 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Thank you!

>> Do you have a wonderful, awful idea?

LOL! I have that face as an icon over on Dreamwidth... :) <<

my_partner_doug has it on a t-shirt.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: August 28th, 2014 10:10 pm (UTC) (Link)

Thoughts

>> Okay, you win. Many's the author that can make me laugh. Some can make me cry. You? Pissed me off. Not at you, mind, at the story... <<

I'm glad it worked. This one is meant to be disturbing.

>> Only one other author that I can think of can do that.

His name is Straczynski.

That's about the biggest compliment I can give an author. <<

I am duly honored.

>> One thing, though. These people have karma coming. <<

Yeah, that line goes around the block.

>> Even if I have to commission it personally. Maybe I can't do that in the real world, [temporal adverb deleted]... but I can damn well do it in this one. *tight feral grinchy look* <<

Anyone can prompt for it during an open prompt call. Commissions jump to the head of the line, though, if you have a specific idea for whomping Brad & company.
thnidu From: thnidu Date: August 6th, 2014 04:36 am (UTC) (Link)
• Glencarlyn Park is ^ lovely facility.
^ a

Man, Brad is a hero.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: August 28th, 2014 09:56 pm (UTC) (Link)

Thank you!

>> • Glencarlyn Park is ^ lovely facility.
^ a <<

Fixed.

>> Man, Brad is a hero. <<

0_o For sufficiently loose definitions.
thnidu From: thnidu Date: August 29th, 2014 01:00 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Thank you!

Well... yeah. On reread I realized what a lousy way he'd initiated contact.

Also noticed on reread:
• Brad stolled over
→ strolled

• comfort the disdraught mother.
→ distraught
fayanora From: fayanora Date: August 7th, 2014 12:46 am (UTC) (Link)
"We're from the government. We're here to help you."

I nearly choked on my water at this point. This is the most terrifying pair of sentences in the world, so it's no wonder hell broke loose then.

That Brad fellow is very lucky Lyria wasn't the girl's mother. When she gets angry, she gets *creative*. A head shot... I assume brain splattered everywhere? That's one of the few things Lyria can't revive someone from. So once it was clear to her that her girl was dead beyond reviving, that Brad fellow would soon be begging for death. Tortured by someone who can keep you alive or revive you from anything short of brain damage? She could keep torturing him for years. And she knows enough mind magic to prevent him going insane from it. What's more, she knows soul magic, and knows how to inflict damage on a soul. She could destroy him utterly, soul and all, if she wanted.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: August 28th, 2014 09:09 pm (UTC) (Link)

Thoughts

>> "We're from the government. We're here to help you."

I nearly choked on my water at this point. This is the most terrifying pair of sentences in the world, so it's no wonder hell broke loose then. <<

Well, yes. Brad is not the sharpest marble in the stack. He's the kind of guy who gets hired by police departments that have an upper IQ limit on hiring people.

>> That Brad fellow is very lucky Lyria wasn't the girl's mother. When she gets angry, she gets *creative*. A head shot... I assume brain splattered everywhere? That's one of the few things Lyria can't revive someone from. <<

Brains everywhere, and traumatized observers. Brad is lucky that a lot of people don't know what he's doing.

>> What's more, she knows soul magic, and knows how to inflict damage on a soul. She could destroy him utterly, soul and all, if she wanted. <<

There are a few, very few, characters with Soul Magic in this setting.
fayanora From: fayanora Date: August 29th, 2014 06:41 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Thoughts

not the sharpest marble in the stack.

BWAH HA HA HA!!! XD

He's the kind of guy who gets hired by police departments that have an upper IQ limit on hiring people.

Don't they all?
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: August 29th, 2014 06:49 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Thoughts

I'm not sure that all police departments discriminate against intelligent people. But several have been challenged in court, and the judges keep saying "it's not discrimination" ... to refuse to hire someone based on a trait they were born with and cannot change. Riiiiiight. *looks at Ferguson* And that's workin' out so well for y'all.
fayanora From: fayanora Date: August 29th, 2014 06:54 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Thoughts

It's always been my observation that cops are bullies with guns, and I've never met an intelligent bully, as far as I know of, hence my comment.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: August 29th, 2014 07:21 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Thoughts

I have met some who behaved with honor and compassion, and others who were at least competent. But I know there are a lot of bullies with badges out there, and they are a serious problem.

There are intelligent bullies. They are fucking dangerous. Most bullies are dumb, and most cop bullies seem to fit that pattern. But in certain places you'll find smart bullies, like in academia. They tend to break people, and they tend to get away with it because they take care not to get caught doing anything actionable.
fayanora From: fayanora Date: August 29th, 2014 07:53 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Thoughts

Oh duh, I should have known that, since Forizano gets into the situation he does, after the war he loses his legs in, because of bullies who are rival academics.
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