Elizabeth Barrette (ysabetwordsmith) wrote,
Elizabeth Barrette

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Poem: "A Cultural Control Problem"

This poem is spillover from the May 5, 2015 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired by prompts from [personal profile] chordatesrock and LJ user Starcat_jewel. It also fills the "Asked to publically support cause X -- on camera" space on my Superhero Bingo Card. This poem has been sponsored by LJ user Starcat_jewel. It belongs to the series Polychrome Heroics.

WARNING: This poem contains some intense topics. The warnings include spoilers; highlight to read. There is peer pressure, quite a lot of foul language, misogyny, misandry, accidental gunshot injury, messy medical details, ideological angst over saving someone who turned out to be a bad guy, poor responses to a supervillain, robbery, justified but rudely phrased browbeating of a minion, and other mayhem. If these are touchy topics for you, please consider your tastes and headspace before reading onward.

"A Cultural Control Problem"

"Just go to the show," Primer urged.
"You don't have to buy anything
unless you see something you like."

"I don't like firearms," Fortressa said.
"That makes it statistically unlikely
that I'll find anything at a gun show."

"But what if you need to shoot a gas tank?"
Primer argued, and all right, Fortressa
could imagine situations like that.

"Fine," said Fortressa, "but if this
goes badly, you are in the doghouse."

"I'll take a piece of that action,"
said Primer. "What do I get if you
come home with a cute gun?"

"You can redo the camo on my jeep in
pink temp paint, and I'll drive it that way
until the next rain washes it off," Fortressa said.

"Deal," said Primer, and they shook on it.

The gun show was not Fortressa's idea
of a good time. It was not only full of gun nuts
but also Jesus freaks, men's rights activists, and
every other kind of asshole she could think of.

She was grimly certain that the only reason
nobody had grabbed her ass was because
the battlesuit covered it completely.

Or maybe they just realized that anyone
who tried it would get his arm broken.

"What would you recommend for
women's self-defense?" Fortressa asked
one of the gun dealers, trying to ignore
the boobplate bulletproof vests.

"Try this," he encouraged.

Fortressa picked up the ridiculous pink pistol,
looked at it, shook her head, and then
put it back down again.

"This place has a serious
cultural control problem," she said.

Could they not see how she was dressed?

Inside of half an hour, Fortressa was
overlooked in favor of male buyers,
bingoed on the superhera card,
("Sorry, I'm not a superhera.")
offered four more pastel pistols,
bingoed on the lesbian card,
("Sorry, I'm not a lesbian.")
and pestered to sign a petition
to reinstate paternal rights for rapists.

Not particularly wanting to start a stampede
by assaulting the dickhead with the clipboard,
Fortressa satisfied herself by lighting it
on fire in a garbage can instead.

Grumbling, Fortressa stalked away.
Within her helmet, the heads-up display
scrolled through Hollaback posts that
informed her of better ways she
could be spending her afternoon.

Ah, there was a row of food vendors --
maybe she could at least get lunch
before bailing out of here.

Suddenly a shot rang out.

Fortressa whirled, already in
battle mode, her suit responding
smoothly to the emergency.

The HUD showed her a man
curled up on the floor,
bleeding profusely from
the back of his left thigh.

No active shooters appeared
on the display, however.
Evidently he had shot himself.

Fortressa crouched beside him,
already calling emergency services.

She narrated the victim and his injuries
to the dispatcher, even as she placed
one gauntlet over the pressure point
to shut off the spurting blood and
the other directly over the exit wound.

A hidden nozzle squirted skin glue
into the gaping hole. Fortressa hadn't
been able to source the good stuff yet,
but even the cheap kind would help
slow the scarlet spill that was getting
all over the floor and her suit too.

It was only when the EMTs arrived
to thank her for her quick work
and take charge of the casualty
that the man uncurled enough
so Fortressa could see his face.

Well sonofabitch shit.

Just like that, she had enough
of this place, and headed for the door.

Naturally some jackass with a camera crew
had to wave a microphone at her helmet and
demand, "So, has this unfortunate mishap
eroded your faith in the Second Amendment,
or do you still support the American way?"

"Are you out of your fucking mind?"
Fortressa snapped. "A guy just
shot himself in the crotch, he really
could have died, and you want me
to support that kind of weaponry?
Firearms are erratic and dangerous!
If you're after defense, then do yourself
a favor, and buy a goddamn forcefield."

She shoved him out of the way and stormed off.

He tried to follow her, only to be
interrupted by one of his coworkers.
"Sanford," the camerawoman hissed,
"that's Fortressa. She's not a superhera.
She is a supervillain. Don't piss her off!"

Fortressa made it outside and fired her jets
without even a cursory check for clearance.
If anyone was crowding her now, then
he deserved to get a few blisters.

The flight home was annoying.

When Fortressa tried to stop for fast food,
the teenybopper at the drive-through
screamed and slammed the window.

"Fuck it," the supervillain said,
and robbed a convenience store instead.
By the time she got home, she was
in a spectacularly bad mood.

Fortressa stalked into the garage
and pointed one armored finger at Primer.
"You are in the doghouse, bitch!" she said.
"I have blood all the fuck over my hardware,
and it is your fault. Socket, get this rig off me.
The rest of you, set up the cleaning station.
Primer is going to detail the battlesuit."

"Busted," Actuator sang softly.

"What happened?" Socket asked
as she started extracting Fortressa
from the filthy battlesuit.

"The gun show was stupid. It was
full of assholes and shitty equipment,"
Fortressa complained. "I swear, I'm sticking
with zap guns like a sensible person!"

"I'm listening," Socket said.

"Then I heard gunfire, turned around, and
saw that some idiot had just shot himself
in the crotch," said Fortressa. "So I used
the suit's first aid kit to stop the bleeding."

"Okay, and that bothers you because..."
Socket said, lifting away the chestplate.

"Remember that fork who ambushed
Cold Cash a while back?" Fortressa said.

"Officer R. Andrew Tanner, Jr.,"
Socket said. She picked up a wrench.
"What does he have to do with this?"

"It was him," Fortressa said. "I just
saved an absolute sexist pig."

"So he's still alive?" Joint said,
tugging at her Meat Mechanic t-shirt.
"That's kind of an accomplishment."

"If you believe in saving everyone,
even the douchenozzles," Fortressa grumbled.
"I am really not cut out to be a superhera."

"No wonder you're so smoked
at Primer," said Socket.
"Step out now."

"I feel like I need several baths."

"Sure, we can do that," Socket said.
"Since I'm not on cleaning duty,
let's go on upstairs and make
a ridiculous amount of bubble bath.
I'll scrub your back for you."

Fortressa thought longingly of her
Deep Sleep Comforting Milk Bath Float
with its serene blend of chamomile and coconut.

"I feel better already," she said.

* * *


Primer (Rae Lyn Robertson) -- She has fair skin, brown eyes, and wavy brown hair to her shoulders. She often gets into trouble by overlooking danger signs. Her superpower allows her to stick things together or peel them apart.
Origin: Her father worked in a car factory using the paint sprayers. An accident with the new "washless" paint left him with dermal scars and DNA damage -- the latter of which he didn't realize until his daughter was born with superpowers.
Uniform: Street clothes. She likes bold color combinations such as black and blue.
Qualities: Good (+2) Gunplay, Good (+2) Painter, Good (+2) Persuasive, Good (+2) Sassy
Poor (-2) Risk Assessment
Powers: Average (0) Adhesion
Motivation: To color outside the lines.

Sanford Ackerstein -- He has fair skin, brown eyes, and brown hair. He is short and a little pudgy, with a round face. Sanford is always chasing after one news story or another, and he works across a variety of media. He does not know when to stop or let go of anything.
Qualities: Expert (+4) Journalist, Good (+2) Network of Tipsters, Good (+2) Persistent, Good (+2) Right-Wing Friends
Poor (-2) No Brakes

Actuator (Bree Miller) -- She has fair skin with extensive freckles, sherry-brown eyes, and straight auburn hair to her shoulders. She loves playing pranks and teasing people about things that go wrong. She is bisexual and has a lot of wild flings, but little interest in long-term relationships. Fortressa has to keep repeating, "Don't bring your one-night-stands back to a secret lair so you can bang them over the battlesuit."
Origin: She learned about engines from her grandfather and grew up working on cars with him. As a tween, an accident with a car battery activated her superpowers.
Uniform: Street clothes. She likes neutral colors.
Qualities: Expert (+4) Mischief, Good (+2) Strength, Good (+2) Working with Engines
Poor (-2) Tempestuous Love Affairs
Powers: Average (0) Electrical Control
Motivation: To make the sparks fly.

Joint (Joan Summerlin) -- She has fair skin, green eyes, and short brown hair often covered with a bandana. Her parents sent her to college in a premed program, but she always had more interest in mechanical hobbies. T-American colleges often offer premed majors and minors that can be customized to suit many different careers such as paramedic, nurse, or veterinarian; although the minors and 2-year programs are more aimed at basic jobs, while the majors and 4-year programs are intended for more advanced professions. Joint didn't stay in college long enough to decide more than "I fucking hate this" and dropped out when Fortressa offered her a job as a mechanic. Since Joint is the only person in the Pit Group with real medical training, however, she still gets stuck as the meat mechanic too.
Origin: Her power grew in slowly during her late teens.
Uniform: Street clothes. She favors earth tones.
Qualities: Good (+2) Dexterity, Good (+2) First Aid, Good (+2) Household Skills, Good (+2) Mechanic
Poor (-2) Disappointment to Her Family
Powers: Average (0) Healing
Motivation: To do as much mechanical work as possible, and as little medical work as possible.

* * *

"It's not a gun control problem; it's a cultural control problem."
-- Bob Barr

A small metal cup that contains a tiny explosive charge that is sensitive to impact. A primer is placed in the base of a shell casing to ignite the powder of the completed cartridge. It is detonated by the striking of a firing pin in the firearm.
-- Gun Dictionary
The first coat of paint applied to a substrate, designed to provide adhesion and corrosion resistance.
-- Automotive Paint Dictionary

Shoot the Fuel Tank is an action/adventure trope.

Tempera paint is used for temporary decoration of vehicles. You can buy it in liquid or powder form.

Gun shows often have problems, such as someone shooting himself. Terramagne-America has fewer of these than local-America does, but they still happen.

"Jesus freak" is a rude term for ostentatious Christians.

Men's Rights Activists belong to the men's rights movement. They can be pretty obnoxious, especially to women. Some men dislike them too.

Boobplate is a bad idea. It most often appears in plate mail, but also sometimes in modern armor. For comparison, here is a woman in sensible armor.

Pink guns typify the hyperfeminization of products that don't really need to be gendered.

"Getting bingoed" refers to the repetition of common and annoying remarks, common in childfree and homosexual contexts.

In L-America, rapists often have paternal rights over children resulting from rape they have committed. In T-America, two legal principles preclude paternal rights for rapists:
1) Criminals are not allowed to benefit from their crimes, as applies similarly here.
2) When two people's rights conflict, the one at greater risk and/or the one who has been harmed takes precedence over someone with lesser risk and/or the offender.
MRA nuts often speak out in favor of rape.

Hollaback is a social network aimed at quashing street harassment.

Don't stick your gun down your pants, because you might shoot yourself. Sticking a gun down the front of the pants often results in an entry wound (usually smaller) on the inner thigh with an exit wound (usually larger) on the back of the thigh. Gunshot wounds can do a lot of damage. The human leg contains major blood vessels, important nerves, and large muscles vital for walking. First aid typically requires action to stop heavy bleeding.

Gun control is a contentious debate with arguments pro and con on both sides. Terramagne has gizmotronic and super-gizmotronic weapons in addition to conventional firearms. This makes a majority of people against guns in general, although some folks reject firearms but consider zap guns okay. I myself favor the Second Amendment, but I'm disgusted by the widespread ignorance of gun safety rules.

Detailing means a very deep cleaning.

* One that activates, especially a device responsible for actuating a mechanical device, such as one connected to a computer by a sensor link.
* a servomechanism that supplies and transmits a measured amount of energy for the operation of another mechanism or system.
-- The Free Dictionary

Bubble bath can refer to a foamy soap, or a bath taken with lots of suds, usually meant for relaxation. Fortressa is mostly a tomboy, but bubble bath ranks among her girlie indulgences. Check out the Deep Sleep Comforting Milk Bath Float. You can also make your own.
Tags: cyberfunded creativity, fantasy, fishbowl, gender studies, poem, poetry, reading, weblit, writing
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