Elizabeth Barrette (ysabetwordsmith) wrote,
Elizabeth Barrette
ysabetwordsmith

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Poem: "By Our Limited Human Standards"

This poem is spillover from the July 21, 2015 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired by prompts from LJ user Ng_moonmoth, [personal profile] ellenmillion, and [community profile] origfic_bingo fest. This poem has been sponsored by Ng_moonmoth. It belongs to the series Polychrome Heroics.

EDIT 9-25-15: For a followup, see the demifiction "In The Soup" by Ng_moonmoth.

Warning: The following poem contains canon-typical violence, hostile language, boundary violations, and other minor mayhem. No supervillains or would-be heroes were seriously injured in the making of this poem.


"By Our Limited Human Standards"


It was Mr. Pernicious who led
the Preacherman and his Posse
to Antarctica, and for sure he was
never going to hear the end of that.

There was rather more going on
in Antarctica than Mr. Pernicious
paying a visit to one of his lairs,
and naturally the large crowd
attracted the Preacherman's eye.

The Chariot of the Lord
set down smack in the middle
of the Anything Goes Games,
disrupting the sled race which
had been a dead heat between
Joystick in his gizmotronic bobsled
and Gopher in a sleigh drawn by
a team of robotic reindeer.

The Posse had not even managed
to unlock the door of their vehicle
before several audience members
with laser rifles -- or in the case of
Redeye, actual Laser Eyes --
sliced through the hull and
spilled everyone into the snow.

The Preacherman and his minions
scrambled to pick themselves up,
but they were quickly surrounded
by a crowd bristling with weapons
and more ominous abilities.

The supervillains all wore masks,
of course, made of silk or leather
or metal or less-probable materials,
but in the frigid climate of Antarctica
it was almost superfluous given that
they also wore parkas, snow pants,
hats, mittens, scarves, and enough
other gear to obscure them completely.

Undaunted, the Preacherman
took a deep breath and began
his hypnotic speech. "There are
six things which the LORD hates,
yes, seven which are an abomination
to Him: Haughty eyes, a lying tongue,
and hands that shed innocent blood,
a heart that devises wicked plans,
feet that run rapidly to evil, a false
witness who utters lies, and one
who spreads strife among brothers."

He actually managed to ensnare
the half-dozen supervillains who stood
closest to him, but then a rangy woman
snapped his control and paralyzed his mind
with a casual flick of her power.

A little girl came up to him wearing
a purple snowsuit dotted with hearts
in various shades of pink and blue,
her fuchsia scarf fluttering in the wind.
Her ski mask was striped in similar colors,
and her breath steamed through it in clouds.

"You're spoiling the fun," she said as she
yanked on the Preacherman's sleeve,
"and you weren't even invited."

"They don't seem to approve of us,"
Nanette mused, keeping a careful grip on
their leader. "Of course, they also seem to have
grossly underestimated the amount of damage we
can do even by our limited human standards.
It's not like we need infernal assistance.
After all, we're supervillains."

The Charioteer succeeded in firing
a single shot into the crowd, which bounced
off of Gargantua's massive granite breast.

The giant leaned down and scooped him up.
He kicked and screamed and struggled.
She squeezed him just hard enough
to make him drop his weapon.

His hat fell off too.

She reached down to pick it up
and carefully replaced it on his head.

The Charioteer fainted.

"Medic!" boomed Gargantua,
stooping to lay her limp captive
beside the first aid tent.
"Did I mash him?"

Ethan Wheeler stuck his head out,
clad in a red-white-and-blue ski mask.
Then he waddled over in his silver snowsuit
blazoned with red crosses, and peeled off
his red mittens to examine the man.

"He's fine, he just passed out,"
the healer declared.

"Nice try," Dr. Infanta said to the Posse,
"but if you want to make an impression
on this audience, you'll have to work
harder. Anyone else want to try?"

The remaining men looked at each other,
but without benefit of their impassioned leader
or his right-hand man, they soon surrendered.

Dr. Infanta clapped her hands together
with a soft foomp of her blue mittens.
"Attention, everyone! We have
our new ball boys for today."

Cacophony raised her mighty voice
and announced, "Attention please!
Cleanup crews will clear the sled range.
Meanwhile, the next event will feature
snowball construction for durability,
attendant upon throwing for distance and
for accuracy. Contestants, take your places."

Dr. Infanta looked up at her Guardian
and said, "Nanette, compulsions please."

With a deft twist of her mind, Nanette
placed the ligatures that would prevent
the interlopers from causing any more trouble
and would compel them to obey commands.

It was delightful to have a fresh supply of ball boys,
since nobody else had actually earned any punishment
today, and nobody wanted to go to all the effort of making
a super snowball only to lose the damn thing
in the icy plains of Antarctica.

* * *

Notes:

[Character by Ng_moonmoth]
The Preacherman (Ezekiel [Zeke] Harmon) -- Tall (190cm), gaunt (60-65 kg), pale. Stringy black hair, except for a small clump which turned silver from the event in which he gained his powers. Piercing gray eyes. He is his parents' only son, and the youngest of four children. Zeke is currently 25. Sisters one (35) and three (28) are married, live in town, and are raising families. Sister two (32) is Rhoda, who hitched a ride and got out of town in her mid-teens, and hasn't been seen since. As the eldest son, Zeke was groomed to follow in his father's footsteps and become a preacher. Home-schooled; tenth-grade equivalent level. He supported Dad in church leadership, and prepared and distributed marketing materials (tracts) for the church. Currently romantically unattached and uninvolved -- "dedicated to the Lord's work." Hopes to eventually find a woman who is a "pure and holy vessel" which he can "fill with the Lord's blessing" to "quicken a new life."
Dad started out as a street-corner preacher, who later opened a storefront church in the "bad part of town." Mom was a community organizer who gave it up to stay home with the kids and help out when Dad was preaching. She was killed when Zeke was two, attempting to intervene to stop gang members from catching and beating a kid who was about the age where kids get recruited into the local gangs and had wandered into the wrong neighborhood. Incident convinced Dad to leave "Sodom and Gomorrah" (IRL: Kansas City MO/KS) for a more peaceful place.
They headed west, stopping one day for lunch in Gilead, a town of several hundred inhabitants in a historically "dry" county in south central Kansas. Finding that the town had no active church and a mobile home for rent cheap, Dad decided to check whether the town would support a church. They did.
Zeke travels around thumping Bibles, raising Cain, and generally making a nuisance of himself. He has a strong following among forks and other zealots, with many contacts in those subcultures. Despite his high opinion of himself, his moral compass points somewhat off True North.
Origin: Last summer, with a tornado bearing down on the trailer park where the family lived and the church was located, Dad and Zeke went up to a nearby high point to "pray to the Lord" to divert the tornado. A bolt of lightning struck the hilltop, killing Dad; but the tornado changed direction and spared the town and the trailer park. Zeke survived what amounted to a grand mal seizure triggered by the bolt, and upon recovering consciousness, discovered that he was Filled with the Power of the Lord. He can now Call Down the Lightning, and Gather the Winds to Smite the Wicked.
Uniform: Having been a voracious consumer of the western stories that hold the
equivalent place to comic books in T-America (at least the morally straight ones that Dad let him have), he adopted a media-stereotypical Western preacher's outfit: black frock coat/pants/oxfords, white shirt, black string tie.
Qualities: Expert [+4] Moral Compass, Good [+2] Motivator, Good [+2] Orator, Good [+2] Zealot Contacts
Poor [-2] Fundamentalist Rabies.
In short, an archetypical D&D low-level Lawful Stupid Paladin.
Powers: Good [+2] Summon Lightning: can open electrical circuits between sufficiently charged clouds and the ground.
Average [0] Energy Projection: able to extract energy from local weather systems and direct it at what he's looking at (normal beam width approximately equal to foveal field of vision, about 2 degrees).
Average [0] Hypnotic Speech: can cause one or more people who hear him directly and believe the truth of what he is saying to become entranced (no
initiative, but can be awakened by others) for roughly five minutes to an
hour.
Average [0] Weather Control: able to redirect air masses to trigger weather phenonomenon (Spin-Off Stunts: Trigger Rainfall, Plague of Hail, Sow the Wind/Reap the Whirlwind, Dispel Clouds).
Average [0] Minions: Half a dozen of the local teens/twenties, who were already attending his church, were inspired by his hypnotic speech to pledge their faith and support. They now sport exclusively Western duds and weapons, and style themselves the "Posse." One of them is a gizmologist who has built a Chariot of the Lord for Zeke to ride in, and modified a Duck to serve as an armored assault vehicle for the Posse. Although Ducks began as open vehicles, these are enclosed for safety during air travel. These are lifting bodies, which allows Zeke to use his Weather Control powers to make them fly.
Signature Stunt: Smite the Wicked. Can target Energy Projection to those who are currently entranced by his Hypnotic Speech by Calling on the Lord to Smite The Wicked.
Limitations: signature stunt is currently only ability to combine powers. Use of powers constrained by his (limited) imagination and ability to fit them into his worldview. Weather Control and Summon Lightning are physical inputs to local weather, which might propagate side effects well beyond the immediate area, or adversely affect his plans.
Vulnerability: Smiting the Wicked triggers a pseudoepileptic seizure ("Speaking in Tongues") of duration and severity proportional to the amount of energy released, during which he is incapacitated. The same would probably be true for other combined power uses. He typically compensates for this by "rounding up the Posse" to defend him until he has recovered.
Motivation: Rid The World Of Evil.

Redeye (Cillian MacDowell) -- He has fair skin and short wavy brown hair with a single eyebrow stretching across his forehead. His eyes are ordinarily gray, but fire up red when he uses Laser Eyes. He wears glasses. He is tall and wiry.
As a supervillain, Cillian secretly blinds people, then later is caught by another supervillain and blinded himself, then eventually gets super-gizmotronic eyes and laser guns. More sophisticated than an assassin or a thug, he doesn't always kill. He can cripple someone's threat by blinding them, causing other injuries, destroying crucial equipment, and so forth.
Origin: Childhood surgery to correct vision problems left Cillian with superpowers. His parents sued the eye doctor and the case dragged out for years while they used their son as a pawn. When he turned eightteen, he left home and turned from casual pranking to more malicious use of his abilities. This attracted the attention of other supervillains, who began offering him jobs.
Uniform: Street clothes.
Qualities: Master (+6) Aim, Expert (+4) Sneaky, Good (+2) Hitman, Good (+2) Profiling, Good (+2) Sabotage, Good (+2) Supervillain Contacts
Poor (-2) Cruel
Powers: Good (+2) Flight, Good (+2) Laser Eyes
Motivation: If they're too blind to see what's right in front of them, they should just be blind.

The Charioteer (Hiram Cooper) -- He has pale skin, watery blue eyes, and limp dishwater hair receding from his forehead. Because his migraines include visual effects and bright light is a major trigger for him, he usually wears dark-tinted glasses. He excels at following instructions whether spoken or written; given a suitable manual, he can figure out almost anything, to the extent that the manual covers or up to Good level.
Origin: Obsessed with the idea of Jesus as divine carpenter, he threw himself into learning how to make and repair things during his teens. An accident in his church youth group's garage turned his budding gizmology into Super-Gizmology.
Uniform: Usually a dark suit or shop jumpsuit.
Qualities: Master (+6) Dexterity, Good (+2) Bible Studies, Good (+2) Following Instructions
Poor (-2) Migraines
Powers: Good (+2) Super-Gizmology
Motivation: "Every skillful person in whom the Lord has put skill and understanding to know how to perform all the work in the construction of the sanctuary, shall perform in accordance with all that the Lord has commanded."

Gargantua (Bertha Brunswick) -- Originally Bertha had light brown skin, brown eyes, and long nappy brown hair. Now Gargantua has skin of granite streaked in lighter and darker shades of brown, and her hair is a tough, spongy material in tufts of brown. Although she still has a feminine shape, she has lost the fine details of toes, vulva, nipples, and so forth. Her hands are mitten-shaped. Her face still looks relatively normal, though. Due to her size, weight, strength, and low dexterity Gargantua tends to break things a lot. She also sinks in soft ground. She is immune to most environmental hazards.
She has long enjoyed traveling, and has crossed much of Europe with some forays into Asia and Africa. She speaks Arabic, English, Esperanto, French, German, Mandarin Chinese, Spanish, Russian, and Yoruba. She also likes African and Middle Eastern drumming, primarily hand drums such as a djembe or doumbek. Her dancing is only average, though. She readily absorbs new ideas and gets along well with new people, crossing many cultures. In college Bertha was studying a variety of interdisciplinary classes in geography, world politics, tourism, and outdoor activities. She had not yet decided whether she wanted to be a diplomat, a travel agent, or a wilderness guide.
Then Gargantua became a stone giant and all of those opportunities dried up abruptly, which has left her sad and lonely. As a supervillain, she helps plan and guide trips for a variety of other supervillains. A drawback is that people often mistake her for a frontline fighter or bodyguard due to her appearance and powers. She really isn't. Her size and strength do come in very handy for wilderness challenges, though.
Origin: Caught in a landslide while hiking in the mountains, Gargantua emerged as a stone giant. People were terrified of her for no good reason and constantly tried to drive her away. So she became a supervillain because at least in that community there are people who aren't afraid of her.
Uniform: Sometimes Gargantua wears a simple kimono, mumu, or sarong of capery. But often she just goes nude, since environmental factors have little impact on her anymore -- and also she doesn't have much left in the way of sexual characteristics.
Qualities: Master (+6) Cosmopolitan, Expert (+4) Traveler, Good (+2) Drummer, Good (+2) Languages, Good (+2) Social Studies, Good (+2) Wilderness Activities
Poor (-2) Fragile World
Powers: Good (+2) Stone Giant, Average (0) Invulnerability, Average (0) Super-Strength
Motivation: To belong to a community.

Cacophony (Rhonda Tittensor) -- She has fair skin, hazel eyes, and long wavy chestnut hair. She came from a conservative religious family but no longer has any contact with them due to childhood mistreatment. As a mercenary, Cacophony does far more than fighting; she also does sabotage, distraction, manipulation, and other supervillain tasks. She is quite popular at supervillain events as an announcer, because she can pitch her voice to be heard without needing to shout.
Origin: Her school was stuffy and conservative, with teachers who rarely called on girls. Her parents expected her to be seen and not heard. When Rhonda was thirteen, the school locked her in an oubliette for making too much noise. And then forgot about her over the weekend. Midmorning Monday, her superpowers manifested. She blasted the oubliette open, pulverized the office and everyone in it, wrecked about a quarter of the school building, and caused numerous other injuries. Dozens of people were left with permanent hearing damage. Devastated by the scene, she ran away.
Months later, Kraken found Rhonda and took her in. When they realized what had triggered her traumatic manifestation, they went back and leveled the rest of the school (while it was empty), broke the arms and legs of the teacher who locked her up, and set family services on her parents. But it took years for her to overcome the experience well enough to build a new life.
Uniform: Kraken uniform of dexflan and capery; the jumpsuit is sensibly designed with sleek fit, plenty of pockets and fasteners for equipment. It provides Expert (+4) Camouflage to a designated user, but if worn by anyone else, turns garish neon colors. The utility belt contains a multitude of small gizmos and other tools.
Qualities: Good (+2) Assertive, Good (+2) Debate, Good (+2) Feminist, Good (+2) Mercenary, Good (+2) Tall
Poor (-2) Keeping Quiet
Powers: Master (+6) Supernatural Voice
Her metapower can be used for Deafening Shout, Fearful Scream, Heartbreaking Song, Hypnotic Speech, Infrasonic Sound, Joyful Noise, Mimicry, Penetrating Voice, Siren Song, Sonic Blast, Soporific Lullaby, Ultrasonic Sound, Ventriloquism, and various other effects.
Limitation: Many of the applications require the listener to be able to hear, so only those with purely physical effects such as Sonic Blast are effective against deaf people. Impaired hearing means the power works at a downshift on that person. Ordinary soundproofing cannot stop her voice, and gizmotronic soundproofing operates at a downshift. Super-gizmotronic soundproofing functions normally and may be resolved by a conflict roll.
Motivation: To be heard.

* * *

"Life has evolved to thrive in environments that are extreme only by our limited human standards: in the boiling battery acid of Yellowstone hot springs, in the cracks of permanent ice sheets, in the cooling waters of nuclear reactors, miles beneath the Earth's crust, in pure salt crystals, and inside the rocks of the dry valleys of Antarctica."
-- Jill Tarter

Antarctica appears in entertainment as well as real life. It is popular as a supervillain lair.

"There are six things which the LORD hates, Yes, seven which are an abomination to Him: Haughty eyes, a lying tongue, And hands that shed innocent blood, A heart that devises wicked plans, Feet that run rapidly to evil, A false witness who utters lies, And one who spreads strife among brothers."
-- Proverbs 6:16-19

See Dr. Infanta's snowsuit and striped ski mask. This is Ethan's red-white-and-blue ski mask.

Fainting is another popular trope. Know how to handle it.

About two-thirds of Terramagne supervillains have standards and a sense of honor. So they invented the Anything Goes Games to compensate for soups getting kicked out of sports, but they don't invite the whackjobs, and to the superheroes this is nothing more than a vague rumor. While they don't tend to kill people, their idea of justice is still pretty rough-handed compared to the more laudable heroes.
 
Tags: cyberfunded creativity, fantasy, fishbowl, gaming, poem, poetry, reading, weblit, writing
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