Elizabeth Barrette (ysabetwordsmith) wrote,
Elizabeth Barrette

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Poem: "Berettaflies"

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

Warning: This poem contains things that some viewers may find creepy. Highlight to read the warnings, some of which are spoilers. Here there be bugs! Insanely overbuilt, supervillain-designed guardbugs that attack and sting people. So if you dislike bugs then you probably don't want to read this poem. There is also snark, canon-typical violence, references to another failtastic hit on a supervillain lab, people getting stung by the berettaflies, and other mayhem. If these are issues for you, consider your tastes and headspace before deciding whether to read onward.


When hysterical calls came into
the Easy City SPOON office complaining
about venomous butterflies, they
sent Facet to investigate.

He found a fractured lab,
a swarm of vivid insects, and
a supervillain with a butterfly net.

The bugs had black-and-white wings
with jagged tails and rows of red spots over
red-and-black bodies with prominent stingers.

"Hi, I'm Stylet," said the supervillain.
"Watch out for the berettaflies."

Facet could see everything
through the eyes of the berettaflies,
a thousand dizzying images of the meadow
all coming together inside his head.

It wasn't much use at all.

"What happened here?"
he demanded.

Stylet shrugged, his red-tipped hair
sliding over the shoulders of his white labsuit.
"Blastwave blew up my lab. Tanger nailed me
with her Pain Ray." He laughed. "They thought that
would stop me. They're probably still off playing tag
with Mr. Pernicious, I'm sure they're all having a ball.
Me, I get to recapture my newly liberated property."

"What are these things, anyway?"
Facet asked. "I've never seen
anything like them."

"Mr. Pernicious paid me to design insects that
would make good guard animals," said Stylet. "So I
mixed up rose butterflies, which are toxic, with bullet ants,
which are venomous. A little African honeybee, a little paper wasp --
oh, and hornets! -- some other odds and ends --"

"How venomous?" asked Facet.

"You don't want to get stung," said Stylet.
"There would be lots of screaming."

"But you're not even wearing gloves,"
Facet said, staring at his pale bare hands.

"I have a high pain tolerance and
I'm pretty resistant to toxins," said Stylet.
"Tanger was really surprised, I don't know why,
it's not like that's a secret or anything.
Do you want to help me catch these
before they get all over the place?
They're meant to be expensive."

So that's how Facet wound up
helping a supervillain to recapture
his arsenal of insanely dangerous insects.
His power let him control ordinary ones, but
these kept wanting to slip through his mental grip.

Then he found out just how formidable
the berettaflies were when he got stung,
and for the next two days his whole world
consisted of pain, regret, and fevered fantasies
of beating Stylet to death with a flyswatter.

When Facet came back to himself,
he was lying in the SPOON infirmary.

On a nearby bed lay a young woman
whose light brown skin was paling to chalk
blotched with black and yellow and orange,
clashing with the lavender shock of hair.

"What happened to her?" Facet wondered.

"She got stung," said Pointer, who was
sitting watch in the room. "So far she's
the only one developing superpowers --
it looks like plain crayon or Chameleon Skin,
I can't quite tell yet, plus something insect related.
There's a dozen more victims at St. Henriette's,
and we've had three fatalities already."

"Fuck. Well, I tried," said Facet.
"Stylet called them berettaflies and
indicated they were made for Mr. Pernicious.
They're not easy to control, even with my ability."

"Do you have any good news, Bugeye?"
asked Pointer, tapping his fingers on his knee.

"Well, with butterfly wings,
the berettaflies aren't as fast or
agile in the air as wasps or flying ants,"
said Facet. "You can get them with
a butterfly net -- it's what Stylet was
using -- but for godsake make sure
people wear protective gear."

"I'll pass the word," said Pointer.
"Listen, if this girl pulls through,
she's going to need a mentor.
What do you say?"

Facet looked at the young woman,
quarter-sized welts livid on her skin.
She whimpered and fidgeted in her sleep.

He wanted nothing less than
a living reminder of this disaster,
but she deserved better than that,
since it was his fault for not containing
the insects well enough to prevent casualties.

"It's up to her," Facet said, and waved a hand
as his bulging compound eyes. "Some people
don't want to deal with me, you know."

"Some people are idiots," said Pointer.

Looking at the poor girl in the other bed,
Facet thought that chief among them
were Mr. Pernicious and Stylet.

* * *


Bugeye / Facet (Benton Reyes) -- Although he gives his codename as Facet, people typically call him Bugeye. Mostly humanoid, Benton has compound eyes in vivid peacock hues. Not only can he see everything around himself, but he can also see everything visible to all the insects around him. He has straight black hair and fair skin. When off duty, he dresses conservatively. He is a soft-spoken, quiet man who is more complex than most people realize.
Origin: City exterminators sprayed a multi-queen hill of fire ants behind the church where Benton worked. The ants came boiling out of their hive and stung everyone, causing the exterminators to lose control of their equipment, spraying toxic chemicals everywhere. The two exterminators died from a combination of ant venom and pesticides. Benton survived and mutated.
Uniform: Pixelated dexflan unitard in many colors. From a distance it looks grayish when deactivated, although up close the rainbow colors are visible. When activated it has a chameleon mode to blend into the surroundings.
Qualities: Expert (+4) Cooperation, Good (+2) Christian, Good (+2) Constitution, Good (+2) Office Worker
Poor (-2) Self-Blame
Powers: Master (+6) Control Insects, Average (0) Flight, Average (0) Super-Intellect
Motivation: God is inordinately fond of beetles. So am I.

Stylet (Silas Manson) -- He has pale skin and light gray eyes. His hair is straight, so dark auburn that it looks almost black, but the bottom few inches brighten to crimson. When he uses his superpowers, the red part lights up. He wears it at shoulder length. As a small boy, Silas enjoyed pulling the wings off of flies. As an adult, he often puts wings on instead, or modifies insects in other ways. He is a skilled gengineer, but he often puts it to malicious use.
Origin: He has always liked playing with insects, is not picky about where he gets them, and is not careful about handling them. Most likely he got stung by something metagenic, or some combination of ordinary things added up to similar effects.
Uniform: Usually lab clothes, and street clothes when off duty.
Qualities: Master (+6) Pain Tolerance, Expert (+4) Supervillain Contacts, Good (+2) Attention to Detail, Good (+2) Fearless, Good (+2) Toxin Resistance
Poor (-2) Safety Skills
Powers: Expert (+4) Super-gizmology: Gengineering, Average (0) Radiance
Motivation: Bugs are fun.

Tanger (Tanisha Lee) -- She has light cocoa skin, amber eyes, and slightly wavy hair of brilliant orange that she wears at shoulder length. Originally her skin was a much darker and less even brown, with nappy black hair. Tanisha has excellent endurance, both in terms of stamina and tolerating discomfort. She is not easily swayed from anything she wants.
Tanger belongs to the superhero team the Spectrum, along with Blastwave. Two of their original six members, Rayblaze and Thunderfist, were killed in action by the Undertaker. After Rayblaze's death, Tanger has taken over leading the team. They specialize in raiding supervillain lairs, including labs. They're good at cracking open establishments, but poor at minimizing the collateral damage. This is beginning to attract more negative attention.
Origin: As a girl, Tanisha hated the way she looked. She constantly tried different products to lighten and smooth her complexion, change her hair color and texture, etc. Her search for more impressive effects led her to gray-market makeup, and eventually a bad batch peeled off her skin and made all her hair fall out. She spent months in the hospital and nearly died of several infections before everything grew back -- but now her skin is a pure sleek cocoa and her hair is a brilliant, silky orange. This makes her much happier about her appearance. Her therapist was appalled that such a dangerous habit turned out so well. Tanisha fired her and became a superhera.
Uniform: Black dexflan jumpsuit with an orange capery cape.
Qualities: Expert (+4) Martial Arts, Good (+2) Endurance, Good (+2) Spatial Intelligence, Good (+2) Teamwork
Poor (-2) Stubborn
Superpowers: Good (+2) Pain Ray, Good (+2) Regeneration
Motivation: When life hands you lemons, make lemonade.

Blastwave (Taylor von Neumann) -- He has violet skin, shading to indigo, cobalt, and teal in places. He has brown eyes and short curly brown hair tending to purple in places, with a mustache and beard. Taylor is svelte and graceful with well-defined muscles. He has good focus and bravery, but often gets into trouble that could have been avoided with a little forethought.
Blastwave belongs to the superhero team the Spectrum, along with Tanger. Two of their original six members, Rayblaze and Thunderfist, were killed in action by the Undertaker. After Thunderfist's death, Blastwave has taken his role as second-in-command. They specialize in raiding supervillain lairs, including labs. They're good at cracking open establishments, but poor at minimizing the collateral damage. This is beginning to attract more negative attention.
Origin: As a child, Taylor loved exploring his neighborhood with his friends. One day they played follow-the-leader through a construction site after closing. Taylor's best friend found some unsecured explosives and, mistaking them for firecrackers, set one off -- which killed him and seriously injured the other children. Taylor wound up with superpowers as a result.
Uniform: Black dexflan jumpsuit with a purple capery cape. At home, he likes to wander around nude a lot.
Qualities: Expert (+4) Hand-to-Hand Combat, Good (+2) Concentration, Good (+2) Courage, Good (+2) Follower
Poor (-2) Thinking Ahead
Powers: Expert (+2) Explosive Blast, Good (+2) Tough
Motivation: To support Tanger and the rest of the Spectrum.

Mr. Pernicious -- Alonzo Donati is an Italian of mixed Moorish descent from Lucera. He has brown skin, blue eyes, and straight black hair. He wears a long black moustache.
Origin: Growing up in the foster care system, he experienced much discrimination because of his ancestry. Due to the constant recriminations and abuse, he came to view himself as the personification of evil, developing superpowers in the process.
Uniform: Classic villain garb consisting of a black top hat and cape with an impeccable Italian suit in black fabric and a white dress shirt.
Qualities: Expert (+4) Intelligence, Good (+2) Dramatic Personality, Good (+2) Fighting, Good (+2) Gizmology, Good (+2) Wealth
Poor (-2) Internalized Racism
Powers: Expert (+4) Evil Eye, Good (+2) Temptation
Limitation: Evil Eye can be blocked by traditional methods such as cornetti or nazars.
Good (+2) Minions: There are nine lieutenants and many faceless drones. Mr. Pernicious pays little attention to telling them apart.
Motivation: To be the physical embodiment of evil.

Adalina Louis -- She was born with light brown skin, brown eyes, and straight black hair. Now most of her skin is paling to an uneven chalky white marked with bold splashes of yellow, orange, and black. Her hair is a vivid lavender. She is slim and petite, with modest breasts, a soft belly, and hips a little wider than her shoulders. Her heritage is primarily Hispanic mixed with African-American, French, and various other things. Adalina is studying Environmental Science at Loyola University in Easy City, Louisiana.
Origin: While working on a class project, she was stung by berettaflies. Their venom made her very sick, but also triggered the development of her superpowers.
Uniform: Street clothes.
Qualities: Expert (+4) Constitution, Expert (+4) Gregarious, Good (+2) Naturalist
Poor (-2) Situational Awareness
Powers: Indeterminate. Some kind of skin color power, which may be static or active, along with the purple hair. Possibly pheromones, direction sense, dancing, or other things related to insects.
Motivation: To learn about the environment of Louisiana.

Pointer (Poindexter Duval) -- He has tinted skin, brown eyes, and curly dark brown hair. He speaks both English and Cajun French. He enjoys physical activity and is a pretty good lacrosse player. He also makes floats for Mardi Gras. Poindexter is studying public relations at Loyola University. He works part-time for the Easy City SPOON base, helping them locate soups and identify what superpowers people have. He also does some activism for soup acceptance, interfacing between different groups.
Origin: His superpower grew in gradually during adolescence, when he was most intent on finding other people like himself.
Uniform: Street clothes.
Qualities: Expert (+4) College Student, Good (+2) Athlete, Good (+2) Craftsmanship, Good (+2) Public Relations
Powers: Expert (+4) Power Identification
Motivation: To find other soups.

* * *

Beretta is a weapon manufacturer.

Compound eyes and simple eyes work very differently. Scientists have developed a camera that works like a compound eye. This article suggests that insects have a pixellated view instead of repeating images. But if you look closely at this image from a bug-eye view exhibit, you can see that it doesn't show all the same image, but different images based on the lens position, much as an insect's eye would gather many perspectives. We still don't know if the insect's brain integrates the images into a single three-dimensional view as our brain tends to do with binocular vision, though. These plastic lenses show different possible views too.

See the Common Rose Butterfly.

Bullet Ants are said to have the world's most painful insect sting. And what do people do but fool around with them.

African and Africanized honeybees are much more aggressive than European honeybees.

Paper Wasps can be challenging to get rid of. Know how to distinguish them from similar insects.

Hornets are known for their big paper nests.

In Terramagne, many fatalities related to superpowers are incidental deaths rather than deliberate ones. Containment breaches such as this can cause a lot of collateral damage due to things getting released in an uncontrolled manner rather than for their intended use.

Saint Henriette Delille Hospital in Easy City, often called St. Henriette's, is one of the few places with specialized equipment for treating people with superpowers or injuries resulting from same. Although there are not yet any soup hospitals per se, this is one of the places developing the field of soup medicine. Each SPOON base has its own infirmary to augment ordinary facilities in the surrounding community, and superhero or supervillain groups may also have their own resources.

Safety precautions for dealing with venomous insects include wearing a protective suit.

Mentoring is a typical way for people to teach and learn about superpowers. This helps reduce the chance of mishap or malice. It's a useful skill in other areas too. Know how to be a good mentor or find one.
Tags: cyberfunded creativity, fantasy, fishbowl, poem, poetry, reading, weblit, wildlife, writing
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