Elizabeth Barrette (ysabetwordsmith) wrote,
Elizabeth Barrette
ysabetwordsmith

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Poem: "The First Requisite of a Good Citizen"

This poem is spillover from the November 4, 2014 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired by a prompt from [personal profile] chanter_greenie. It also fills the "criminal intent" square of my 9-30-14 card for the [community profile] origfic_bingo fest. It has been sponsored by [personal profile] curiosity. This poem belongs to the Shiv thread of the Polychrome Heroics series.

WARNING: This poem contains intense topics. Highlight to read the warnings, some of which are spoilers. There is a creepy telepath, really revolting use of superpowers, telepathic child molestation, telepathic violation of a nonconsenting adult, graphic violence, vigilante action by offended supervillains, mild cooperation between black and white capes, and between supervillains and police. If these are sensitive issues for you, consider your headspace before reading onward.


"The First Requisite of a Good Citizen"


Buttons first spied the new supervillain in town
when she went to pick up her son Jaxon
from the community play center where she liked
to leave him on Saturdays so he could make friends.

The man was short and slender, almost nondescript
with his fair skin and short brown hair, until you
saw the piercing green eyes and felt
a shiver creep over your skin.

"That guy in the blue plaid shirt? Creeper,"
said Barf-o-Whirl, a teleporter who had
replaced Shiv. "Feels like a head trip to me."

Buttons missed Shiv, a great sparring partner,
but Barf was someone she could go shopping with.
"I'll tell the boss we got fresh meat," she said.

Boss White was always interested
in meeting people with the psychic sort of gifts.
Augie Dwyer turned out to be a telepath,
although not too keen on being a team player.

Buttons let it ride, because that was
up to Boss White and none of her business,
as long as Augie didn't try to grab her ass.

There were meetings, now and again,
and talk of jobs that never did come together.

There were also rumors that Augie liked kids
in ways that were not, strictly speaking, decent and
made Boss White frown under his ivory hat -- but the boss
was as mentally fastidious as any superhero telepath,
nevermind that he held the whole of Omaha's underworld
in his fist, so he wasn't about to frisk the fellow
to confirm or deny criminal intent.

When one of Buttons' college friends was in town
on a job, they arranged to meet up -- Junket
had been studying business at the same time
she was studying science, although he actually
finished his degree while she dropped out.

The Lazy Ladle was a popular meeting spot
just across from the Children's Museum,
good for soup and a sandwich
and a comfortable place to chat.

They each got a cup of corn chowder
and a plate of cheese biscuits to split.

Junket bitched about how rich men
could be surprisingly bad tippers,
and how superheroes acted as if
his power was public property.

"It's like they think I don't have
bills to pay, you know?" he sniped.
"I pull my own weight -- that's the
first requisite of a good citizen -- but
I'm a business man. I work for a living.
I damn well deserve to get paid for it."

Buttons bitched about losing
her favorite sparring partner to jail,
and how the latest supervillain in town
was a creepy creeper who creeped a lot.

"Now you know I'm no supermom,
but word on the street is he's hurting kids,
and that is not fucking allowable," she said.

"You planning to do something about it,
or should I drop a hint at SPOON?"
Junket asked as he buttered a biscuit.

Buttons gave an unhappy sigh.
"Not my call to make," she said.
"That's boss business."

"Well, now it's your business too,"
Boss White said as he came to their table.
"Augie's over there staking out the bathrooms
so he can fondle kids' thoughts while they pee."

"You want I should tell Charlie to go home?"
Buttons asked, cracking her knuckles.

"Naw," said Boss White. "That'd be
over too quick, and I ain't in a forgivin' mood.
Go give him a lesson in how we don't do that,
and then I believe it's time to take out the trash."

"Scuse me," Buttons said to Junket. "Duty calls."

"Don't wait on my account," he replied,
saluting her with his cup of soup.

Buttons pulled on her muscle gloves,
the heavy leather protected with a cutproof liner
and the knuckles weighted with steel shot.

Then she marched up to Augie the creeper
and punched him right in the pelvis.
It gave a gratifying crunch underhand.

He howled and dropped to the ground.
The next moment, though, he rallied
and turned his power on her.

It was like being licked
on the inside of her skin.

Buttons shuddered and tried to
gather herself for a counterattack,
but it was hard to concentrate
with that slimy sensation in her mind.

Suddenly it was gone, and Augie was gone.

She looked around -- oh, there he was
by the bench, wobbling on hands and knees
as he struggled to pull himself upright.

Buttons trotted over and punched him
in the head until he went down with a moan
and lay there twitching feebly.

She grabbed Augie by the ankle
and dragged him over to Boss White,
who was still leaning casually on the table
where Junket sat sipping his soup.

"Got the trash bagged," she declared.

"Good job," said Boss White.

Junket lifted an indigo eyebrow.
"You folks need a lift? This one
I don't mind doing for free."

"Aren't you worried about being seen with us?"
Buttons asked. "Might not be good for your
reputation as an honest businessman,
Junket. I know you don't mask."

"I like to be prepared for special occasions,"
Junket said with a wink, drawing out
a soft roll of blue silk brocade which
he unrolled into an eye mask with
filmy black ribbons at the sides.

So Junket put one hand on Boss White,
then ostentatiously wrapped a napkin
around the other before gripping Augie,
as Buttons looped an arm around Junket's waist.

A soft squeeze of power, like settling
into a leather seat, and they were all
standing in front of the police station.

"Holy shit, that's Boss White!" yelped a rookie.

Buttons shifted into a fighting stance,
just in case, because rookies could be trouble --
and beside him stood Fiddlesticks,
the department's blue-plate speedster.

"Just here to deliver the trash,"
Boss White drawled, flicking a hand.
"Augie here had a little accident
out front of the Children's Museum.
The man can't keep his head to himself,
and that sorta thing gets people hurt."

Buttons let go of her captive,
dumping him in an untidy heap
on the steps of the police station.
Concussed to helplessness, he posed
no threat even to ordinary cops.

The rookie started down the steps
toward them, and not in a friendly way.

Fiddlesticks reached a hand
across the boy's chest to stop him.
"It seems to me that Mister White
is acting like an upstanding citizen right now,"
he said. "So we're not going to chase him, today.
Come tomorrow, I expect everything will
be back to business as usual."

Boss White gave Fiddlesticks a respectful nod
and said, "Much obliged. See you then."
They might be enemies, but there was
no need to go and be rude about it.

Buttons was just glad that she'd gotten a chance
to gather some data on Fortressa's hypothesis
that broken pelvic bones discouraged
rapetastic male behavior.

Junket popped them both back
to the Lazy Ladle, landing soft and smooth.

Boss White held out a green rectangle
between two fat brown fingers,
discreetly folded so no numbers showed.

"Told you this ride's on me,"
Junket said without moving.
"I may not be a hero, but
there's things I don't tolerate,
same as you guys."

Boss White smiled. "Sure,"
he said, "and I may come from
the wrong side of the tracks,
but I ain't no cheapskate.
I know enough to tip the cabbie."

"Thanks," Junket said, grinning back
as he plucked the tip from Boss White's hand.
"It's been a pleasure doing business with you."
He tipped an imaginary hat to them
and then disappeared.

"He's a good kid," Boss White said.
"You think Barf will be sore
that she missed the action today?"

"Naw, she don't have the range
to play tricks like that," Buttons said.
"On the other hand, Junket won't
go with me to Veronica's Closet."

Boss White's deep, booming laugh
filled the air as they strolled away.

* * *

Notes:

Buttons (Sheylinn Bailey) -- She has medium-brown skin, brown eyes, and nappy black hair usually pulled back in a small bun. She has a two-year-old son, Jaxon, who usually stays with her sister Tamicka during work hours. Sheylinn used to do science as a lab technician, but as a black woman found it difficult to get work in that field. It's a key reason why she dropped out of college, and still struggles to pay off the debt.
Currently she works as a button woman for Boss White in Omaha, doing whatever odd jobs he needs in addition to bodyguard and enforcer tasks. When she first started, Boss White remarked that she was doing the work of two men -- he hadn't gotten around to replacing the second one yet -- so she replied that she ought to get paid for both of those jobs. Boss White laughed, doubled her payout, and never did get around to replacing the second guy. That's how she got the name "Buttons."
Origin: Her Super-Strength arrived at puberty.
Uniform: Usually workout clothes or a cheap business suit.
Qualities: Expert (+4) Button Woman, Good (+2) Hard Worker, Good (+2) Science, Good (+2) Smart
Poor (-2) Brokeass Broke
Powers: Average (0) Super-Strength
Motivation: Put beans on the table.

Augie Dwyer -- He has fair skin, vivid green eyes, and short brown hair. He looks scruffy and disreputable. Augie hasn't bothered to learn much about his telepathy beyond what he needs to molest children from a distance. He's not really interested in larger-scale crime so much as satisfying his own prurient interests.
Origin: He had brain surgery to remove a tumor. After that, he developed telepathy.
Uniform: Street clothes.
Qualities: Good (+2) Accountant, Good (+2) Persistent, Good (+2) Tailing People
Poor (-2) Creeper
Powers: Average (0) Telepathy
Motivation: Pedophilia.

Barf-o-Whirl (Shelby Becker) -- She has fair skin, brown eyes and long wavy reddish-brown hair. Her face is triangular but her body is notably curvaceous.  She goes by "Barf" for short.  She is a supervillain henchwoman with Teleporting so clumsy that she gives people motion sickness. She fights by teleporting people short distances to make them sick, but has Iron Stomach herself. She specializes in confronting superheroes who are Tough, Armored, Invulnerable, etc. because it's a way to disable them that their protections can't block. She has a mean sense of humor, the kind to laugh over banana peels, rubber crutches, and twirling kids until they puke -- which is how she originally got her nickname, because some of her cousins also think it's funny and kept asking to go again.  After Shiv's arrest, Barf came to work for Boss White as a replacement.
Origin: Barf has always enjoyed testing her Iron Stomach against whatever people could bring that was supposedly edible. At a high school party, someone brought an unlabeled bottle of booze. Okay, that one made her a little queasy. When the hangover wore off, however, the room was still spinning -- and she could teleport. Sort of.
Uniform: Street clothes. She has a rather rude sense of fashion.
Qualities: Expert (+4) Iron Stomach, Good (+2) Nebraska Sports Fan, Good (+2) Strength, Good (+2) Supervillain Henchwoman
Poor (-2) Mean Sense of Humor
Powers: Average (0) Teleporting
Motivation: To have fun at other people's expense.

Boss White (Dwayne White) -- He has mahogany skin, brown eyes, and short nappy black hair. A very thin line of beard runs down from his hairline in front of the ears and along the edge of his jaw, framing his face. He is cool, tough, and yet also suave.
Boss White controls the underworld of Omaha, Nebraska. He deals in drugs, gambling, and other organized crime. Despite being a supervillain, he is as mentally fastidious as most other telepaths. While he blithely abuses information gleaned from projected thoughts, he never enters another mind without permission, and he has executed at least one criminal telepath for mindrape. His people have included Antimatter, Barf-o-Whirl, Buttons, Shithouse, and Shiv.
Origin: While in prison, he was subjected to mad science experiments.
Uniform: On duty as a supervillain, he wears an ivory suit and hat. Off duty, he wears a charcoal gray or black suit and hat.
Qualities: Expert (+4) Gangster, Expert (+4) Tough, Good (+2) Saxophone Player
Poor (-2) Internalized Racism
Powers: Good (+2) Forcefields (Signature Stunts: Invisible Jail, Invisible Staircase, Shield Bash, Trash Compactor), Average (0) Telepathy
Good (+2) Minions: Ebonies & Ivories have 9 named lieutenants, each in charge of his own gang full of common thugs. Lieutenants have Good (+2) Gangster, a Good musical ability, one other Good, and one Average superpower. These include Lieutenant Brown, Faster Blaster (Zachary Johnson), and Popgun (Tyler Davis).
Motivation: To consolidate power.

Junket (Brandon Drexler) -- He has pinkish-fair skin and vivid indigo eyes. Although born with black hair, it turned peacock shades of blue and green when he gained his superpower. Unlike many soups, he has a business degree and staunchly maintains that what he does is honest work so he should get paid for it. This clashes with a lot of the altruistic superheroes and the ruthlessly mercenary supervillains alike. He's a businessman, dammit, and he just wants people to respect that.
Origin: At his college, an experiment in Super-Gizmology got out of hand and caused an explosion. A number of students caught in the blast developed Teleporting or Super-Speed, with Junket getting the former. They all share the distinctive peacock-colored hair.
Uniform: Expensive business suit, which rather clashes with his spiky blue and green hair. He also favors heavy eye makeup in the same peacock colors.
Qualities: Good (+2) Business Degree, Good (+2) Fanlore, Good (+2) Fast, Good (+2) Ladies' Man, Good (+2) Networking
Poor (-2) Jumps to Conclusions
Powers: Expert (+4) Teleporting
Motivation: "Let me make this abundantly clear: I do the job, and then I get PAID."

* * *

"The first requisite of a good citizen in this republic of ours is that he shall be able and willing to pull his own weight."
-- Theodore Roosevelt

A creeper is a person whose habits unsettle other people, especially in a sexual way. There are tips on how to avoid being a creeper in meatspace and in cyberspace.

"Head trip" is one of the less-polite terms for a telepath or other person with mind powers. It is used most often by people who dislike telepaths in general, or for a particular telepath who gives off a creepy vibe. It can also refer to some of the more unpleasant effects of mind powers.

In Terramagne, about two-thirds of supervillains are principled. Here you can see that Buttons is protective of children because she's a mother, and that Boss White considers mind rape to be shit up with which he will not put. Plenty of supervillains practice vigilante justice when someone pisses them off.

The Omaha Children's Museum exists in local-America too.

The Lazy Ladle is only in T-America, but figure the Corn Chowder and Cheese Biscuits are similar to these recipes typical of Nebraska cuisine.

Terramagne has a quiet argument going between people who believe that superpowers are a civic duty and people who believe that superpowers are a job opportunity. Granny Whammy and Junket are two of the leading proponents of those disparate principles. There is a general tendency to view any exceptional talent as a kind of public property, which can cause problems for talented people. Just because you are good at something does not mean you are obliged to do it, and seven times never that you are obliged to do it for free. So when Junket gives out a freebie, it carries a lot of weight.

A "Go Home Charlie" is slang for supervillains killing someone who violates their code, for instance a telepath with a habit of mindraping people. A milder version entails turning the offender in to the authorities, such as SPOON or the police. Most lawkeeping organizations wish to encourage this kind of assistance and thus grant the delivering supervillain a stay of pursuit ranging from the rest of the day to 24 hours.

Muscle gloves are typically made from heavy leather lined with kevlar or another cut-resistant armor, with weighted knuckle protection.

(These links are graphic.) Testicles rank high on the vulnerable points of the body. Striking them causes a severe shock to the nervous system, frequently disabling the target.

A concussion results from a sharp blow to the head. It is the low end of traumatic brain injury, which usually heals without lasting effect, but not always. Hit someone hard enough to impair their function, and they might or might not recover.

Junket carries a blue silk mask, just in case he needs more discretion than usual.

Supervillains and superheroes sometimes hang out together or team up to fight a common enemy. Junket prefers a legal profession, but he doesn't really like taking sides on the cape issue.

Honorable supervillains are known for such things as treating the help with respect. There's kind of an odd crossover between Junket and Boss White. Junket comes from a privileged background, but he's working a very high-end version of a downstairs job. Boss White comes from a very poor background, but he has worked his way up to a position of considerable (if illicit) authority. It takes a little careful attention for them to decide how to interact with each other gracefully.

Veronica's Closet is a lingerie store similar to Victoria's Secret, but has a wider selection of things that look good on all sizes and shapes of body. Since Buttons has both muscles and boobs, she does not exactly fit into the "dental floss and postage stamp" lingerie typical of L-America.
Tags: cyberfunded creativity, fantasy, fishbowl, gender studies, poem, poetry, reading, weblit, writing
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