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Poem: "The Power to Curse" - The Wordsmith's Forge
The Writing & Other Projects of Elizabeth Barrette
ysabetwordsmith
ysabetwordsmith
Poem: "The Power to Curse"
This poem is spillover from the October 6, 2015 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired by prompts from thnidu and lone_cat. It also fills the "angry" square in my 8-31-15 card for the Tones and Voices Bingo fest and the "recombinant DNA" square in my 10-1-15 card for the Halloween / Samhain Bingo fest.  This poem belongs to the Berettaflies thread of the Polychrome Heroics series, taking place just after the initial events in "Berettaflies" as the Spectrum pursue Mr. Pernicious.

Warning: This poem features some rough stuff.  Highlight to read the warnings, some of which are spoilers. It contains characters fleeing from justice, ill-advised confrontation with a supervillain, a boxed-up venomous insect, canon-typical violence including nonfatal civilian casualties, vulgarity, consensual use of illegally acquired medication, and other challenges.  If these are touchy topics for you, consider your tastes and headspace before clicking through.

This microfunded poem is being posted one verse at a time, as donations come in to cover them.  The rate is $.50/line, so $5 will reveal 10 new lines, and so forth. There is a permanent donation button on my profile page, or you can contact me for other arrangements. You can also ask me about the number of lines per verse, if you want to fund a certain number of verses.
So far sponsors include: lone_cat, DW user Dialecticdreamer

FULLY FUNDED
126 lines, Buy It Now = $63
Amount donated = $60
Verses posted = 38 of 41

Amount remaining to fund fully = $3
Amount needed to fund next verse = $1
Amount needed to fund the verse after that = $1



Power to Curse



Mr. Pernicious fled along the coast of
Louisiana with the Spectrum in hot pursuit.

Under one arm he clasped a folder
full of papers and computer files.
Under the other he clutched a case
made of dymondine panes which
held a single frantic berettafly.

Stylet had done marvelous work
using recombinant DNA to develop
a strain of guardian insects, and
Mr. Pernicious had no intent of
losing them to the Spectrum.

The lab might be in ruins,
but labs could be replaced,
plans could be read, and
bugs could be cloned.

A lucky shot from Levinbolt
nearly hit him as she twirled around
a balcony post to change her direction.
That kung fu shit really irritated him.

Another lightning bolt crackled overhead
as she closed the distance, driving him
toward the far side of the street.

Limestrike swept a green beam across
the sidewalk, trying to pin Mr. Pernicious
against the side of the nearest building.

A solid hit from that could take anyone down.

Mr. Pernicious dropped flat, losing his hat
and his papers in the process. He also got
dirt all down the front of his white dress shirt.
He kept a deathgrip on his berettafly, though.

Then he scrambled behind a car, crabbing
along until he could squeeze into a doorway
that provided some deeper cover.

Limestrike's beam lanced along
the front of the building, its energy drain
making Mr. Pernicious shiver as his hairs
all stood on end, but it couldn't reach him.
One civilian fell and did not get up.

Mr. Pernicious scanned the street,
unable to spot either Tanger or Blastwave.
Maybe he'd lost at least those two.

Levinbolt was fast, though, difficult to shake
when she latched onto someone's trail, and
Limestrike was even worse -- once he had
tasted your energy, he could track you by it.

Mr. Pernicious rubbed his right shoulder
where a glancing blow had left his arm
half-numb and tingling even now.

At least Limestrike's ludicrous green mohawk
made him easy to spot in return.

Then Mr. Pernicious saw Levinbolt leap from
her current position to the balcony
of a second-storey restaurant.

He locked on with his Evil Eye and
blasted the balcony, knocking Levinbolt
through the wall of the building and spilling
several hapless diners into the street.

One woman picked herself up,
cradled a broken arm against her chest,
and began cursing like a Turk.

“Vada a bordo, cazzo!”
she screamed at Limestrike,
who was trying to extricate himself
from the rubble that had fallen on him.

Her light olive skin flushed a shade darker
as she ranted at the superhero, her black hair
whipping in the wind and her Italian-American accent
as sharp as anything fresh from Sicilia.

Snickering, Mr. Pernicious
aimed the Evil Eye at Limestrike.

"Va al diavolo!"
the woman roared, and
flipped the fig at Mr. Pernicious.

It collided painfully with his own power,
shorting out the energy and leaving
spots dancing across his vision.

The woman jerked back in surprise.

Apparently she hadn't expected that
her curse would actually work.

Wonderful, now he was facing
a superhera so new she was fighting
alla come viene, viene.

While Mr. Pernicious was still reeling
from her curse, Limestrike managed
to circle around and shoot him from behind.

It was dark when Mr. Pernicious woke up on
the crash bench of a tac van with a raging headache
and several worried minions watching him
from the opposite row of seats.

"We saved your bug," one said earnestly,
holding out a somewhat battered berettafly
still enclosed in its dymondine case.

Everyone might be after his ass because
of the damned things, but he was
still proud of those bugs.

"And your papers," added the next
as he lifted a bundle of crumpled pages.

"Most of your papers," another corrected.

Mr. Pernicious wriggled a hand out from
the cargo netting. "Narcotics. Water."
He gave an imperious wave, and
the items were delivered.

A minion unsnapped the protective net
so that he could sit up enough to swallow.
The movement made his head throb worse.

"Enemies?" said Mr. Pernicious.

"The yellow bitch got away,"
reported the first minion.
"She was limping though.
You got her pretty good."

"I stabbed the green-haired one!"
the middle minion said brightly.
"He's not much of a fighter close up."

"Italian?" asked Mr. Pernicious,
wondering about the newcomer
with the power to curse. He always
liked to keep tabs on anyone with
powers akin to his own.

"We, uh, did not tangle
with the crazy lady,"
admitted a minion.

"Ah, fanculo," said Mr. Pernicious,
and lay back down on the bench.

Better to sleep off the hangover
and fight again another day.

* * *

Notes:

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.

Levinbolt (Desiree Watkins) -- She has goldenrod skin, brown eyes, and short black hair gelled into a mohawk.  She is petite without much waist definition, but nice curves at chest and hips.  Her heritage includes Japanese, Brazilian, and British.  As a hobby, Desiree enjoys blowing smoke rings and smoke-filled bubbles.
   Levinbolt belongs to the superhero group the Spectrum, where she provides contact with the underworld.  Other than that she is a quintessential bad girl: she smokes, drinks, swears, sleeps around, and generally behaves like a hooligan.  She insists on being a superhera and not a supervillain, which is why she joined the team in the first place, but her background is a lot rougher.  She wants to be admired and respected, which creates a tangle between deriving that from her monkeyshines or from her heroism.  She is similarly conflicted between wanting approval and not caring if she pisses off some people.  This causes problems.
Origin: Her high school science teacher brought a static ball to class one day and let everyone experiment with electricity.  When Desiree touched it, lightning flared around the room and coalesced in her body.  The color change happened later.
Uniform: Black dexflan jumpsuit with a yellow capery cape.  Off duty, Desiree wears slutty clothes and enjoys picking on people who make an issue of it.
Qualities: Master (+6) Fast, Expert (+4) Wushu Kung Fu, Good (+2) Anticipation, Good (+2) Bubble-and-Smoke Sculptor, Good (+2) Friends on the Street, Good (+2) Survival Skills
Poor (-2) Conflicted
Powers: Good (+2) Lightning Bolt, Average (0) Yellow Skin
Poor (-2) Bad Girl
Motivation: To be admired.

Limestrike (Knut Atkinson) -- He has tawny-fair skin, brown eyes, and grass-green hair gelled into a short mohawk.  His heritage includes British, German, Mongolian, and Norse.  He was a sickly child growing up, so he missed a lot of school.  Combined with a learning disability, that undermined his education.  He barely scraped by with a GED.  Kraken tried to recruit him, but he found them too creepy.  Instead Limestrike put some serious effort into finding a "real superhero group" and joined the Spectrum.  He is not very comfortable with the collateral damage that they tend to do, but has mostly convinced himself that they do more good than harm.
 Limestrike serves as the enforcer for the Spectrum.  He excels at capturing and holding people, because he can disable them quickly.  Instead of working on the front line of a fight, he hangs back and watches for his teammates to set up a good shot for him.  Limestrike shoots a green beam that drains lifeforce from his target, which he can use to power his regenerative ability.  He's not strong enough to kill with it, but at maximum force he can put someone into a coma for a few days.  He prefers not to because he's always afraid that someday one of them won't wake up, and he doesn't want to kill anyone.  So usually he just uses it at stun level, so they come around after a few minutes to a few hours.  There's a lot of wasted energy, too; for every two power levels that he drains, he only gets one of them to use.  Once Limestrike has tapped into someone's energy, he can track that person in a crowd by following the signature of their lifeforce.
Origin: His childhood illness ended at puberty when he developed the ability to drain lifeforce from other people and use it to boost his own health.  He had a very difficult time learning how to control it, so he missed the second year of junior high and first two years of high school.
Uniform: Black dexflan jumpsuit with a green capery cape.  Off duty, he favors dark colors and simple clothes, often just jeans and a t-shirt in black or dark blue.  He likes shiny jewelry, though, and owns a number of gold rope necklaces.  He admires facial piercings, but hasn't mustered the guts to get any yet.
Qualities: Expert (+4) Enforcer, Good (+2) Gentle, Good (+2) Strength, Good (+2) Teamwork
Poor (-2) Not Too Bright
Powers: Good (+2) Vitality Drain (Spin-Off Stunt: Energy Tracking), Average (0) Green Hair, Average (0) Regeneration
Motivation: To contain the bad guys so they can't hurt anyone else.

Alessa Lucchese -- She has light olive skin, brown eyes, and long straight black hair. Her heritage is Italian-American; her father's family came from Sicilia and her mother's from Veneto. She is fluent in English, Standard Italian, and at least those two ancestral dialects. Alessa is divorced; her son lives with his father, who left because he disliked Alessa's temper. Although not physically violent, she can get pretty aggressive on a verbal level. Currently she lives on the oceanfront at Sand Dollar Boarding House in Louisiana. It has a lot of other boisterous residents, and they like having other robust people around so they get along quite well. Alessa loves delicate spun-glass curios and keeps them locked in a durable cabinet.
Origin: A soup fight involving Mr. Pernicious caught her in the crossfire. After she got knocked into the street, she cursed him back -- and it worked.
Uniform: Business suits. She likes deep tones such as black, charcoal, coffee, burgundy, viridian, midnight, and aubergine. She favors boots or shoes with sharp pointed toes.
Qualities: Master (+6) Assertive, Expert (+4) Lawyer, Expert (+4) Interrogation, Good (+2) Boardinghouse Family of Choice, Good (+2) Deductive Reasoning, Good (+2) Tough, Good (+2) Collector of Spun Glass
Poor (-2) Volatile Temper
Power: Average (0) Cursing
Motivation: To bring Mr. Pernicious and the Spectrum to justice.

* * *

"Personality has power to uplift, power to depress, power to curse, and power to bless."
-- Paul Harris

Recombinant DNA blends the genes from two or more sources to create designer animals such as the berettaflies.

Guard animals usually make people think of dogs, but there are many other possibilities.  I have seen a documentary about, but could not find a reference for, a store that uses rattlesnakes to deter burglary.

French Colonial architecture makes use of many porches, galleries, and balconies of wood and/or ironwork.

"Curse like a Turk" is Italian slang for highly vulgar language.  Notice that Alessa is swearing in quite fluent Italian, not the modified Italian-American version that some other characters use.  It tells you that her family stayed quite connected to its roots.

“Vada a bordo, cazzo!”
Get the fuck back on board!
-- Becoming Italian Word by Word

"Va al diavolo!"
Go to the devil—the Italian version of "go to hell!"
-- Comebacks and Curse Words in Italian

"Alla come viene, viene"
[To do something] sloppily, literally “it comes out as it comes out.”
-- Italian Idioms

A tac van is a medium-sized vehicle optimized for combat conditions but still street-capable and not too conspicuous from a short distance away.  This one has a crash bench with a weapons locker underneath along one wall, and a row of seats along the other.  Not shown in these photos, in T-America the seats usually have complete safety harnesses and the benches something like a cargo net, in case pursuit requires rough driving.

fanculo {interjection}
fanculo {interj.} [vulg.] (also: fottiti)
fuck you {interj.} [vulg.]
fanculo {interj.} [vulg.] (also: cazzo!, merda!)
fuck it! {interj.} [vulg.]
Ogni volta che avessi iniziato a pensare ossessivamente -- ancora una volta, dopo 20 trattamenti-- avrei detto, "Aah,'fanculo!".
Every time I would begin thinking obsessionally -- again, once more, after 20 shock treatments -- I would say, "Ah, fuckit."
-- Italian-English Dictionary

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12 comments or Leave a comment
Comments
(Deleted comment)
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: October 26th, 2015 01:30 am (UTC) (Link)

Well...

Mr. Pernicious has mostly his information on the berettaflies, as provided to a customer: things like performance specs, diet, etc. I'm sure he would've grabbed anything else he could find quickly, so he may have gotten some of Stylet's material too.
(Deleted comment)
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: October 30th, 2015 09:09 pm (UTC) (Link)

Well...

If I remember right, ng_moonmoth set her stuff a couple weeks before "Berettaflies" so the AGG happen before the bugs get loose. You can imagine the further effects of this on what little is left of Mr. Pernicious' reputation.
(Deleted comment)
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: October 30th, 2015 11:03 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Well...

>> Yeah, his rep with other black capes is burnt toast. <<

I'm really not sure whether they will tell Charlie to go home, or leave him at an Italian police station with nazars stapled all over him. I can imagine the Marionettes in particular being Very Displeased with this nonsense.

>> I wonder if some of his minions will start bailing, since I suppose a good reputation helps in getting, and keeping, good help. <<

Honestly, I doubt it. I have no idea how he does this, because he is an utter dick, but his minions are really attached to him. Maybe he's picking up kids with a desperate need to please or something. They're really effective minions; they're the reason he hasn't been pinned down yet, because they keep rescuing him. He doesn't even bother to learn their names. So I don't think they'd dump him. He might have more trouble gaining new ones, though.

Edited at 2015-10-30 11:06 pm (UTC)
ng_moonmoth From: ng_moonmoth Date: November 1st, 2015 07:58 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Well...

>> If I remember right, <<

You do.

>> ng_moonmoth set her <<

Your normal care with pronouns seems to have briefly deserted you. It could happen to anyone. The set I like the most is xe/xyr/xyrs/xyrself.

>> stuff a couple weeks before "Berettaflies" so the AGG happen before the bugs get loose. <<

That's correct. The initial segment of "In The Soup" ran about the time the AGG concluded. Mr. P. tried to lay low in LA so the upset about carelessly bringing a soup fight to Antarctica (which Just Isn't [supposed to be] Done, never mind that he wasn't aware the storm he was trying to outrun had a soup in it) would have a chance to die down. But I figured he was disliked enough that nobody would mind if Kraken made an object lesson of him by way of encouraging their members to mind their manners. Supervillains who want to associate with Kraken are expected to be more careful than he was.

I thought "Berettaflies" would make a really nice ripped-from-the-headlines hook for a "vs. Cranquienne" installment. This is just the sort of thing where Kraken can misdirect attention by putting the name that sounds like theirs on the side of irresponsible zetetic research when their aims are quite the opposite (which is why Kraken is funding and operating ZMT). And I had a followup segment of "In The Soup", updating the status of The Preacherman, already on tap, so I slipped in a teaser for the latest potboiler as an ad break.

After "Berettaflies", ZMT should be a nice profit center for Kraken.
rix_scaedu From: rix_scaedu Date: November 4th, 2015 06:28 am (UTC) (Link)
Does this mean that Limelight may be on the run for murder?
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: November 4th, 2015 06:33 am (UTC) (Link)

No...

Not for murder, although it's something that Limelight always worries about. So far he just knocks people unconscious for a while. However, he's still liable for any injuries sustained from the fall -- and much more seriously, for violating someone else's body autonomy, using superpowers to hurt someone, and firing into a crowd and hitting an innocent bystander. Plus the tracking effect is essentially permanent. You can imagine how well that's going to go over.

Gee, dude, if you're that worried then maybe you should stop shooting people. Or learn to fucking hit what you aim at.
rix_scaedu From: rix_scaedu Date: November 4th, 2015 07:52 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: No...

Or learn how to aim.

Does the civilian have a name? Also, is this still in New Orleans or is it another city/town?
From: (Anonymous) Date: November 8th, 2015 06:07 am (UTC) (Link)

Cursed

You know, I always think curses are a little OVER the top. Too ham-handed and wild, too hard to keep LIMITED to the one, single target... But in this case, YEAH! I hope it sticks for YEARS, given the mess they've caused, the lives lost and permanently changed.

So, I'm a shade vindictive today... Even for fictional people, I try to be careful of that. But it's such a well-executed scene that I can't help LOVE the irony of it all!

Sarah

ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: November 8th, 2015 06:17 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Cursed

>> You know, I always think curses are a little OVER the top. Too ham-handed and wild, too hard to keep LIMITED to the one, single target... <<

They can be; it depends on how they are written.

In this case, Mr. Pernicious' superpower of Evil Eye is pretty wild. He can aim it, but he doesn't bother with real precision. Alessa's power is wild because it's brand-new, and she will definitely want to refine that because precision matters to her. And of course because she's not a supervillain!

But I have seen other characters in other settings lay quite meticulous curses with downright artistic escape hatches. I think my favorite is the one that Kovid set on the two ethnic groups brawling over a valley -- he laid it to make their insides as ugly as their outsides, which of course turned them all into monsters. But the escape hatch was that the curse would pop off if any opposite pair spent a year in each other's company. All they ever had to do was solve the original problem that dragged him out there (repeatedly, this wasn't his first attempt) to address it.

>> But in this case, YEAH! I hope it sticks for YEARS, given the mess they've caused, the lives lost and permanently changed. <<

Well, the primary effect was blocking what Mr. Pernicious tried to throw, because his Evil Eye has a very explicit vulnerability: it's stopped by any of the traditional methods, of which the fig hand is one. Hence the miserable backlash. But given a novice's lack of control, I suspect that both he and the Spectrum just got their luck generally fucked up the ass for a while.

:D

>> So, I'm a shade vindictive today... Even for fictional people, I try to be careful of that. But it's such a well-executed scene that I can't help LOVE the irony of it all! <<

Thank you! I try for poetic justice. I enjoy a long windup; I don't enjoy awful people getting away with it forever.
From: technoshaman Date: November 8th, 2015 02:36 pm (UTC) (Link)

RE: Re: Cursed

"Never go in against a Sicilian when death is on the line"! :) Serves him right.

Though *to me* that tac van is as conspicuous as hell... gripping hand, I spend a lot of time near a DHS HQ, so...
helgatwb From: helgatwb Date: November 9th, 2015 02:31 am (UTC) (Link)
I like it.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: November 9th, 2015 02:58 am (UTC) (Link)

Thank you!

I'm happy to hear that.
12 comments or Leave a comment