Elizabeth Barrette (ysabetwordsmith) wrote,
Elizabeth Barrette

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Poem: "Critical Analysis"

This poem was written outside the regular prompt calls, inspired by a long string of outrageous news articles about the disgraceful state of local-American police service. It has been sponsored by Anthony & Shirley Barrette. It belongs to the Antimatter & Stalwart Stan thread of the Polychrome Heroics series, showing how the Omaha police department -- and Terramagne in general -- manages such a high level of performance.

Warning: This poem features some intense topics. Among other things, this gives a really good look at what the characters consider to be normal, canon-typical levels of violence and appropriate ways of handling that. Highlight to read more of the warnings, which are spoilers. There is a frank discussion of a BASH raid on a supervillain, shown in considerable detail. The raid actually goes quite well, but with attention to what could have gone wrong because there turned out to be a toddler in the next house. Also one of the rookies is still pretty insecure about her job, and one of the senior cops is recently widowed. The departmental culture is very supportive, but the angst remains clear. The overall tone is upbeat and constructive. If these are sensitive topics for you, consider your headspace before reading onward.

"Critical Analysis"

Hefty and Fiddlesticks came back from
their weekly session on the firing range,
zatzers cleaned and holstered again,
to find Chief Kedzierski holding
a bulky envelope in her left hand and
a big gold box under the other arm.

"Listen up, folks," she called. "We just got
a sacrificial lamb from Richmond, out in Westbord.
Anyone who's not busy with something critical
is welcome to come join the discussion.
There will be treats afterward for participants."

A brisk flurry of motion followed as people
hastily saved their current computer work,
locked things into their desk drawers, and
hastened toward the presentation room,
trailing grumbles from others too swamped
to take part in the exercise today.

Hefty grinned at his partner as they both
fell into step with the crowd. He saw Ronald
hesitating, and gently coaxed the older man
away from his desk. Ronald had lost his wife
recently, which made it harder to get him involved
in optional activities at work. He gave a wan smile,
and Hefty patted him on the shoulder.

Felicity Pearson sidled close to Fiddlesticks.
"How does this work?" she whispered.

"First crit, rookie?" Fiddlesticks replied.

"Yeah, I mean I know the theory,
but I haven't done one outside of class,"
she said, tucking back a wisp of hair
that had escaped from her blonde braid.

"Sit with us," Hefty invited. "It's not hard.
You can watch what we do and follow along.
Chief will summarize the case and then
walk us through the materials for feedback."

"Oh, and remember that a lot of the lambs we get
are from BASH teams, so they might involve
projectile firearms instead of just zatzers,"
said Fiddlesticks. "That can make a difference."

Chief Kedzierski put the goodie box on the desk
at the front of the room and turned on the array
of presentation equipment. A holographic BASH logo
flashed on the envelope as she took out a datachip
and inserted it. An assortment of other items
spread over the top of the desk.

"All right, team, the Richmond police managed
to collar Bankshot and they want feedback on the raid,"
the chief announced as she activated the screen.

Hoots and cheers echoed around the room.
Bankshot was a pain in everyone's tail because
he often stole things for other supervillains
that they needed to make a big heap of trouble.

"Tablets on, everyone," the chief said
as she set a timer. "You have ten minutes
to skim the text, and then we'll run the video."

"Wow, this is amazing," said Felicity.
"Look at the level of detail on the backcheck.
We'd be lucky to turn up half this much."

"Well spotted," said the chief.
"They had an assist from a digger."

"The Analyst?" said Fiddlesticks.
"This looks like her work. Check out
the attention to diet and shopping patterns."

"Yes, SPOON was generous with support,"
the chief confirmed with a nod.

"Good data makes good collars," Ronald said firmly.
"Here, you can see where the BASH commander
timed the raid shortly after Bankshot came back
from eating lunch, when the subject would be
full enough to relax and maybe pay less attention
to situational awareness than he usually does.
He's more alert at night, and careful in the bars."

"It's a lot better to identify supervillains from a distance
and track them so that we can stage an ambush,
rather than confronting them in a crowd where
innocent bystanders might get hurt," Hefty said.
"This kind of devoted research support can
make the difference between a slip and a catch."

When the timer beeped, Chief Kedzierski cued
the video. "Due to the subject's criminal connections
and known abilities, a no-knock ambush was authorized
to minimize the chance of escape or attack. BASH
protocols were followed for safety and efficiency.
Now let's poke some holes in their performance."

The video came from the point man's headcam,
shaky as they burst the door open and charged in
yelling, "BASH!" and "Police!" and "Freeze!"

A pair of shuriken whickered past,
making the cameraman duck frantically.

They caromed off a bookcase and
hit two different BASH officers,
fortunately striking armor instead of flesh.

The video slewed around and then steadied
to show Bankshot grinning down at the team
from his perch atop an interior door.

This time he flung throwing knives.

Suddenly Fiddlesticks sat bolt upright.
"Rewind, rewind!" he said.

The chief rewound the video
until Fiddlesticks said, "There!"

"What do you see?" the chief asked.

"Look at this," Fiddlesticks said,
using his lightpen to circle
a window between two BASH agents.
That window showed a matching one
in the neighboring house, inside which
a toddler could clearly be seen.

"Jeeeezus Christ," said the chief.
"If anyone had fired a gun at those windows --"

"Or wall," Hefty added.

"-- or wall, thank you for that reminder Hefty,
that child could have been killed," the chief said.
"Good work, Fiddlesticks. Annotate your observation,
please, so we can send a copy back to Richmond."
When he did so, she used her own lightpen
to initial the notation. "Ideas for prevention?"

"We need to be more careful about
clearing civilians away from strike zones,"
Ronald said. "Make it mandatory."

"That's a ideal goal, but it can spook the targets,
and we're already seeing increased tendency
of supervillains to bolt if both neighbors leave,"
the chief pointed out. "Mandatory evacuation
would almost certainly lower the success rate."

"Mandatory only in cases with a minor next door,"
Fiddlesticks suggested. "That would reduce
the potential for tragedy while still leaving leeway."

"What makes the bad guys bolt is empty spaces,
right?" said Felicity. "What if we replaced
the civilians with first responder volunteers?
They'd know to take cover, which would
minimize the danger from friendly fire."

"Better idea, ask SPOON for backup -- anyone
with Armor, Toughness, or Invulnerability --
there are all kinds of talents that could
keep the replacement teams safe while
still making the neighborhood look inhabited,"
Hefty suggested. "We're already coordinating
with them. There's no reason all the help
we request has to be heavy hitters for the attack."

"Phasing," said Felicity. "They couldn't get hit,
even by most other superpowers."

"A speedster could dodge incoming fire,"
Ronald said thoughtfully, looking at Fiddlesticks.
"They're almost impossible to hit, and
not all of them want to be front-line fighters."

"Illusions," Fiddlesticks said. "That way
we wouldn't need actual people
in the neighboring houses at all."

"Robots!" someone else exclaimed.
"Some soups are doing great work
with androids now -- you can barely
tell them from humans, the best ones."

More ideas poured out from the crowd
as people warmed up to the discussion.

"Okay folks, give me a second to shift the display,"
the chief said, fingers tapping. It changed
from the paused video to a blank white screen.
"Brainstorming session open. You have five minutes
to call out or write down all your suggestions for
using superpowers to protect civilians during
a BASH ambush on supervillains, and please try
to aim for things directly related to the case at hand."

The whiteboard quickly filled with wild ideas
as people shouted, scribbled, and doodled inspiration.

Someone was evidently going down a list
of superpowers and proposing how each one
could prove useful in a BASH raid.

Chief Kedzierski deftly herded the comments
this way and that, nudging people together
as they clustered into common ground,
pulling others out of a rut or a stall.

She jotted notes and called names
and asked for elaboration.

When the timer beeped again, the chief said,
"Well done. Sign your stuff." After a pause
for that, she turned the video back on.

As BASH cleared the way, the superhera Sendoff
slipped through their ranks, using a boomerang
to knock down Bankshot's weapons
as soon as they left his fingers.

A sharpshooter managed to ping Bankshot's prosthetic hand,
putting it out of commission with a spray of sparks.

"Oh, good shot!" Felicity exclaimed.

Over the course of the raid, the observing officers
picked out a few minor gaffes, but most of it went well.

Hefty's stomach was growling by the time
a fuming Bankshot -- his ankles still bound with
Sendoff's bola -- was carried out of the house
and stuffed into the BASH van. The point man
gave a thumbs-up before turning off his camera.

"Good work, everyone," said Chief Kedzierski.
"Come and get it!" She lifted the gold box.

Underneath lay three smaller boxes,
helpfully labeled by the K9 unit:
Food Reward, Play Reward, Cash Reward.

The first held the traditional donuts, supplemented
by assorted fruits, some covered in chocolate or yogurt,
to which Hefty and Fiddlesticks helped themselves.

The second held tickets to local events and attractions --
movies, plays, concerts, sports, museums, the zoo,
amusement parks, even a couple of spas.
Felicity sorted through the options with enthusiasm.

The third did not hold actual cash but rather
a flurry of gift cards for local shops and restaurants.
Ronald stirred them with an idle finger.

"Oh, that reminds me," Hefty said, patting his pockets.
"Here, this is from Roger." He offered the chief
a $50 gift card for Cow Heaven.

"Thank you both," she replied. "I'll put it in the kitty."

There was a modest limit on gratuities for
individual officers, but a considerably higher one
for those presented to the department as a whole,
which allowed community connections to form
without inviting bribery or other corruption.

Chief Kedzierski made sure that her police force
had adequate pay and supplies, promising recruits,
and clear ethical expectations from above.
She doled out the perks with a generous hand
to whomever showed initiative. It worked.

The chief kept an eye on her people, too, now
reaching out to pluck a gift card from the box
and tuck it into Ronald's pocket. "How about
visiting Donnie's Diner?" she suggested gently.
"I know you love their ostrich sausages."

"Maybe I will," he said, the corners of his mouth
curling upward a bit. "Guess I should get out more.
I have to say it's good news to hear that Bankshot
will be spending some quality time in community service."

Felicity was still bubbling with energy
as they walked out of the presentation room.

"If you have more ideas, go ahead and jot them down,"
Hefty said to her. "You did a great job back there.
Pointing out how to fill the empty spaces was brilliant."

"Thanks, I'll do that," she said. "I never guessed
how exciting critical analysis could be in real life!"

"Remember that another day, it'll be our turn,"
Fiddlesticks warned. "This is how we improve
our performance, so don't get so hyped on this end
that you forget about the other. Nobody's perfect."

"Doesn't stop us from trying, though,"
Felicity said with an irrepressible grin.

"That's the spirit, kid," said Hefty. "You never know --
sometimes you can grab that brass ring after all."

* * *


Dominique Kedzierski -- She has chocolate skin, brown eyes, and short curly brown hair. She stands 6'2" and weighs 275 pounds. She has a long, curved scar on the right side of her jaw from pulling a woman out of a burning car, and other burn scars down her right arm and shoulder. A short vertical scar on her left cheek came from taking a knife away from a mentally disturbed man. Dominique is married with two adult children. Her older daughter recently graduated from college and got married. Her younger son just entered college.
As the chief of police in Omaha, Nebraska Dominique has been instrumental in boosting the racial, sexual, and other diversity of the force. She particularly likes Hefty because he volunteered to take on the black, superpowered rookie Fiddlesticks when nobody else would. She is always watching for new techniques in teaching tolerance and civil policework.
Dominique enjoys abstract strategy games, especially African ones like mancala and senet, and mystery roleplaying games. Back in her rookie days, she was well known for drawing a mancala board in the dirt and playing with pebbles. She enjoys cooking, with her best recipes in Polish (from her paternal grandfather's family) and Irish (from friends on the police force) cuisines. She loves food enthusiastically and unapologetically. Anyone who makes rude personal remarks about her size gets invited to the gym and made an example of. The layer of fat hides a lot of muscle. She put herself through college on a football linebacker scholarship and is still a devoted fan of the sport.
Qualities: Master (+6) De-escalation Skills, Master (+6) Hand-to-Hand Combat, Master (+6) Police Chief, Master (+6) Tolerance, Expert (+4) Emergency Aid, Expert (+4) Football, Expert (+4) Strategy, Good (+2) Family Life, Good (+2) Gamer, Good (+2) Irish and Polish Cuisine, Good (+2) Politics, Good (+2) Upbeat

Felicity Pearson -- She has fair skin, brown eyes, and straight blonde hair to mid-back which she usually wears in a braid. Her father is a soldier; her mother is a paramedic. Felicity has two older brothers and two younger sisters. Cheerful and easygoing, she makes friends readily and has no trouble getting people to trust her. She also spots connections between small bits of information, and creates rapport between people. Felicity is skilled at hunting, with an eye for tracking and excellent aim. Regrettably she can't cook the game she brings home, but her middle brother is happy to take over. Felicity is a rookie police officer in Omaha, Nebraska.
Qualities: Good (+2) Cheerful, Good (+2) Cop, Good (+2) Geometry, Good (+2) Huntress, Good (+2) Making Connections, Good (+2 Speculative Fiction Fan
Poor (-2) Cook

Ronald Carlson -- He has fair skin, blue eyes, and dark hair going gray. He enjoys running obstacle courses. Ronald works as a police officer in Omaha, Nebraska where he combines his observational and people skills to solve crimes. He does a lot of community outreach and often questions people in relation to a case. His wife passed away recently and Ronald is having difficulty adjusting to the loss. His friends are a little worried about him because he doesn't smile as much as he used to and it's harder to get him involved in optional activities at work.
Qualities: Master (+6) Deduction, Expert (+4) Cop, Expert (+4) People Skills, Good (+2) Agility, Good (+2) Perseverence
Poor (-2) Widower

Bankshot (Kade Whittaker) -- He has tinted skin, light brown hair, and blue eyes. His right hand is super-gizmotronic; he still feels self-conscious about that and always wears a glove over it. Bankshot uses his telekinesis to manipulate projectiles along impossible paths. He particularly likes shuriken, throwing knives, and throwing discs. While he most often uses his talents in robberies, he is also an adept pool hustler. He can read people and bluff them into foolish choices. He is impulsive and arrogant. In addition to theft for his own purposes, Bankshot also takes commissions to steal things that other people want, and has made a terrific nuisance of himself by acquiring goods that other supervillians use to commit major crimes. He is further disliked for aiming small weapons at vulnerable spots on people, such as eyes or knees, which can leave permanent damage. He has gotten into fights with the superhera Sendoff repeatedly, due to the similarity in their talents.
Origin: He bought a gizmotronic pool cue on the black market, intending to cheat with it. Instead it overloaded and destroyed his right hand. Later, a super-gizmologist who owed him a favor created a super-gizmotronic prosthesis for him. Somewhere along the line -- he isn't sure exactly when -- he developed superpowers. But he still wishes that none of this had ever happened to him.
Uniform: street clothes.
Qualities: Master (+6) Thrown Weapons, Expert (+4) Crook, Good (+2) Acrobatic, Good (+2) Adaptable, Good (+2) Criminal Contacts, Good (+2) Fast, Good (+2) Head Games
Poor (-2) Cocky
Powers: Good (+2) Super-Gizmotronic Hand, Good (+2) Telekinesis
His hand has Super-Dexterity, Super-Strength, and Super-Toughness; but it's finicky and requires regular maintenance.
Motivation: To show off.

Sendoff (Hazel Armstrong) -- She has fair skin, golden-brown eyes, and very curly strawberry blonde hair. When loose, her hair falls just past her shoulders, but she usually pulls it back in a bun. Hazel collects figurines of favorite characters, originally just archers but now any kind. She often buys one as a souvenir after a mission.
Sendoff excels at all types of ranged weaponry. Her favorites include compound bow, recurve bow, longbow, bola, slingshot, boomarang, shuriken, atlatl, blowgun, lasso, and throwing knives. She is skilled with both rifle and handgun, but dislikes them as being less versatile than some of her other weapons. She likes bows because they can fire arrows designed to do many different things. She appreciates grenades because they come in so many types. She can handle tank guns and other heavy artillery; she loves the versatility of a hex cannon. Separately she owns bolt pistols for sleep and force plus beam rifles for gravity and shrink. She does not use her superpower for aiming, but rather for things like shooting around corners or tying rope knots from a distance. Her exceptional aim is a function of spatial intelligence, allowing her to control where everything goes, including the manipulation of people as well as objects.
Sendoff is equally comfortable working alone or with a team, choosing her weaponry to suit the mission at hand, so SPOON assigns her as needed. She prefers not to kill and only does so as a last resort. Most of the time she uses her weapons to knock loose an opponent's weapon, pin someone in place, disable an opponent, place equipment, or destroy property.
Origin: Hazel always excelled at sports and took up archery in grade school. When she was twelve, someone tried to kidnap her best friend Alyssa. Hazel used a hair tie to fire a paperclip into his right eye, blinding him permanently and allowing Alyssa to escape. After graduating from high school, she developed the persona of Sendoff and started volunteering at SPOON.
Uniform: She has no permanent uniform, most often wearing street clothes or camouflage to suit the local environment.
Qualities: Master (+6) Aim, Master (+6) Ranged Weapons, Expert (+4) Patience, Expert (+4) Stealth, Expert (+4) Strength, Good (+2) Collecting Figurines, Good (+2) De-escalation Skills, Good (+2) Math, Good (+2) Survival Skills, Good (+2) Teamwork
Powers: Average (0) Telekinesis
Motivation: To hit the targets that nobody else can see.

* * *

While many local-American police departments show callous disregard for civilian lives, others such as Richmond are taking steps to reduce the use of deadly force, thus making the streets safer for civilians and police alike. Their methods are effective and replicable.

Regular practice is essential to developing skill with firearms, as with anything else. In L-America, police typically practice about once or twice a year, while a few of the more industrious departments do so several times a year or even monthly. Meanwhile the criminals are practicing about twice a month. If the bad guys have a higher work ethic than the good guys, then the good guys are doing a piss-poor job. In Terramagne, officers in a good department will train weekly with zatzers and occasionally with projectile weapons; BASH units train constantly while not on a raid, so they may work at the shooting range several times a week. This is how people develop the mental and physical skills to make fast assessments and accurate reactions, allowing them to use less-lethal force and still get the job done. They can do it because they have the time, funding, and equipment -- and they care enough to make even criminal lives worthy of some respect. So if you want to get really good with firearms, you must practice frequently and effectively. Expert instructors recommend a combination of dry fire and live fire practice drills.

There is a growing debate about shooting to wound vs. shooting to kill. Not everyone is as sanguine about police killing civilians as America is. Shooting to kill is safer and easier, which is lazy and cowardly on the one hand, and on the other indicates that civilian lives have zero or even negative value in the eyes of L-American police. Even the L-American military has strict rules about using the minimum level of force that will accomplish the objective. In T-America, police are more courageous and more skilled. Their risk is higher due to the existence of superpowers, but they suit up and go to work anyhow, and they try to minimize damage because a mishap can have a much wider footprint if someone's superpower goes out of control. The use of force exists on a continuum, but is also more complex because of proportional factors which compare the respective threat level of attacker(s) and defender(s). This angular use of force model illustrates the thin line of ideal action which will be effective but not excessive. This circular model shows how options overlap moving from lower to higher levels of force. Public perception of police work may be improved not just by doing an honorable and effective job, but by teaching the citizens through community interaction what police work is really like. T-America gives citizen responders a copseye view of incidents through community training to show how hard the job is. That's how they wind up with about 10% of their population able to do immediate damage control when something goes wrong, and then engage with first responders to provide continuing support.

Gun safety has basic and more detailed rules. Everyone should know the basics. Anyone who uses a gun of any kind should know all the rules. Terramagne is just generally less fond of guns than our world, because when you get into gizmos and super-gizmos they are a lot scarier. The worst our guns can do is kill people. Some of theirs are quite a lot worse. It makes people twedgy.

Losing a spouse is devastating. There are ways to support a grieving person, help them cope with loss, and to deal with your own grief.

Presentation technology, equipment, and software has made public speaking much more effective.

Digger -- slang for a soup or supernary with exceptional skill in data mining. A digger can aquire, compile, and correlate information with enough depth and precision to make the impossible become possible.

SWAT protocols in L-America leave something to be desired. No-knock raids are extremely risky because they deprive the targets of the knowledge that they are not permitted to resist, making surrender effectively impossible. Also friendly fire isn't. Here a police officer explains the parameters of being the good guys, and what kind of behavior costs you your hero card. In T-America, the terms of engagement for police and military have lapped over into people with superpowers. Superheroes typically use appropriate force, principled supervillains often do, and the crackpots using excessive force are disliked by everyone. It is generally considered bad for the authorities to do things that make them look like crackpot supervillains -- like, say, negligently or knowingly harming a child.

A helmet camera is standard equipment for BASH calls, and also for most battlesuits. Regular police officers don't usually need body cameras; the level of performance and community trust are high enough in T-America to do better without them.

There are increasing reports of SWAT teams assaulting children, and then claiming that was a perfectly acceptable thing for them to do. This is rapidly eroding public tolerance for SWAT.

Brainstorming is an effective technique for generating a lot of ideas quickly. Know how to do it right.

A regrettable trend in L-America is that young women lose their ability to speak out as they grow. This is because when women speak their minds as men do, they are prevailingly interrupted, ignored, criticized, insulted, plagiarized, fired, or otherwise penalized. There are ways to help girls stay assertive and encourage them to speak up in public. You can see Chief Kedzierski consistently acknowledging and echoing contributions from everyone to make sure they stick, which helps with novices, women, people of color, low-energy speakers, and so forth. Men can help by supporting female colleagues. Employers can establish principles of equality and steps for diversity at work. The Omaha police department is diverse and adept because they work at it like this.

The concept of "play reward vs. food reward" comes from training police dogs. So too, different humans prefer different types of perks. Chief Kedzierski keeps an eye on the process to make sure that every participant gets a suitable treat. The issue of bribery and corruption is inherent to authority of any kind. A challenge is that banning all types of exchange undermines social connections and thus impairs police ability to interact effectively with the local citizens. T-America solves this by setting a low limit for personal exchanges, a moderate limit for treats extended to the local department as a whole, and beyond that it gets swapped off with some other police department. This allows citizens to express satisfaction and gratitude, without inviting the kind of undue influence caused by direct handouts. Everybody loves the "rainmaker" cops or departments whose polite and effective behavior draws goodies for the whole team. Many different methods of preventing corruption have been tried, each with their own pros and cons. "Kitty" in this context means a pool of cash or other markers usable by a group for an agreed purpose. Chief Kedzierski maintains a stock of assorted perks to reward people for optional activities or a job well done, or to cheer people up when someone's feeling low.

In T-America, Donnie's Diner is a far-flung chain usually found near interstate exchanges or in cities. They offer 24/7 service with breakfast, lunch, and supper foods. They are sensitive to special dietary needs so they do not serve nuts, soy, fish, or shellfish. The menu contains low-carb, low-fat, low-salt, sugar-free, omnivore, vegetarian, vegan, kosher, and halal options. They also carry some exotic items, like kiwifruit and ostrich sausages, to expand variety for people who can't eat more common things. Everything is made fresh to order, from fairly simple recipes, so it's easy to customize. Their slogan is, "Sure, we can do that!"
Tags: cyberfunded creativity, fantasy, fishbowl, poem, poetry, reading, safety, weblit, writing

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