Elizabeth Barrette (ysabetwordsmith) wrote,
Elizabeth Barrette

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Poem: "The Most Misunderstood People"

This poem came out of the April 5, 2016 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired by prompts from [personal profile] siliconshaman, [personal profile] alexseanchai, and LJ user Ng_moonmoth. It also fills "The Mentor" square in my 4-1-16 card for the Archetypal Characters Bingo fest. This poem has been sponsored by Ng_moonmoth. It belongs to the series Polychrome Heroics.

"The Most Misunderstood People"

Kraken is among the oldest
of the supervillain organizations;
indeed, it predates the awareness
of supervillains as such.

They don't have an evil agenda,
although plenty of people think
that their agenda -- to control
the surface from the abyss --
is evil all the same.

But look at what happens
when ordinary folk are left
to rule themselves at whim.

This is a thing that Captain Left
comprehends, even though he himself
is not very comfortable in crowds and
prefers to lead from the fringes.

Supervillains are among
the most misunderstood people,
fighting for survival in a world that
often wants to snuff them out.

So Kraken seeks to change the world
not from above but from below,
a slow sea-change that goes
unnoticed until it is too late
for anyone to fight effectively.

They are the power beneath the throne.

They are not diabolical,
but they are at times ruthless,
and they will do things in pursuit of
saving the world that superheroes will not.

Well, somebody has to.

Kraken is also invested in
keeping a lid on the amount of
mayhem happening in the underworld.

After all, you can't fish
in a dead river.

These are things that Captain Left
spends a lot of time teaching
to the new recruits.

Ideally, Kraken attempts
to find the disaffected before
they become the diabolical,
reaching out to troubled youth
and inviting them on board.

It is a challenging angle but
it yields good results; better
to seek those who don't fit in
than to pry loose those who do.

Kraken knows the subtlest of truths:
the most misunderstood people are
in the best position to understand each other.

The places where they congregate are
good fishing for a supervillain organization
interested in attracting new minions.

Despite his age, Captain Left likes
to think of himself as a digital native
because he has always felt more at home
in cyberspace than in meatspace, even if it
took a while for the technology to catch up
to what he knew it could become.

This is why he has thrown his support
and no small amount of funding behind
BlackSheep, a chat venue frequented by
supervillains, minions, and disillusioned youth.

It is why he has facilitated the development
of the Triton Teen Centers, a chain of
recreational and educational facilities.

Like chumming the waters for fish,
it is easier to find who you seek
if you give them a reason to gather.

Teenagers are among
the most misunderstood people,
treated like children but
expected to act like adults.

Captain Left remembers this
from the bitter frustration
of his own youth.

It makes him wonder
what would happen if
someone reversed
that paradigm, granting
teens the opportunity
to explore mature choices
in a protected place.

So this is his inspiration
for creating such spaces
and his persona as Capricorn
to keep watch over them.

He has plenty of help, of course --
other geeks like World Worker
keep an eye on BlackSheep,
and partygoers like Kaleidosculptor
nudge the vulnerable toward
the Triton Teen Centers.

It is quiet, careful work.

It takes time to set up
the venues and then
to establish them
in people's minds.

It takes trust, built up
through the wee hours
of listening to people whom
nobody else will listen to; and
sometimes, it takes a word in
the right ear to make sure that
some abuser feeds the fishes.

There is no fame, but
the last thing Capricorn
wants is that kind of attention.

It's better if the populace never realizes
how much Kraken controls or accomplishes.

There are no victory parades, but
Kraken knows from its wartime roots
how hollow those are anyhow.

Such things are for superheroes,
who have the luxury of living in the light.

Capricorn's domain is the darkness
where the scapegoats crawl away
to lick their wounds in safety.

So he's there when World Worker
warns him of a flame war that's
threatening to hit the bricks.

Capricorn waters down the fight
to keep it from flaring out of control.

He's there when Kaleidosculptor
tells him that some perv is staking out
a Triton center in the Heights.

Capricorn arranges a quiet demise
for the man before finding his first victim
who led him to the place and then
whisking her to a safehouse.

He is one of the most misunderstood people,
and that is exactly what makes him so good at
being the bad guy when it is what's needed.

He is Captain Left to Kraken,
half the voice of an undersea regime
that spans the whole planet.

He is Capricorn to the kids
growing up in a rough world
that can be particularly cruel
to people with superpowers.

He is a mentor, and that makes him mighty.

He knows that the best way
to predict the future is to create it.

* * *


Captain Left (Marko Agüero) -- He has tinted skin and brown eyes. His hair was blond but is now mostly white and receding. His body is still trim and fit. Marko speaks Argentinian Spanish, Dutch, English, Esperanto, German, Hindi, and Italian. He enjoys Kraken's exercise facilities even though he's not much of a fighter or an athlete.
Marko often finds face-to-face interaction confusing and stressful, but he does great with online interactions. He keeps an eye on BlackSheep for young soups in trouble and follows world politics through the nets. He takes an especially dim view of mad scientists, but he likes ethical zeteticists just fine. His personal assistant is a cyborg Super-Gizmologist.
Origin: Marko came out of a secret lab. Genetic engineering gave him Super-Intellect from birth. Further modifications from neurosurgery and super-gizmology made him a Telepath and Technopath. Much of his scalp is netted with tiny scars, and thicker ones trail down his spine.
Uniform: Sometimes Marko wears plain men's street clothes to blend in with local populations. On duty as a Kraken executive, he wears standard business attire. On field duty, he wears a 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. When appearing in his titular role, he wears his uniform of state, which is inspired by United States and German naval flag-rank officers' uniforms of the World War I era. The plain dark uniform is largely American, the heavy overcoat and elaborate hat German. Kraken members love The Hat: it makes them feel part of something shiny and important.
Qualities: Master (+6) Kraken Captain, Expert (+4) Stealth, Expert (+4) Friends in Cyberspace, Good (+2) Computer Games, Good (+2) Dexterity, Good (+2) Strategy
Poor (-2) Reading Emotion
Powers: Good (+2) Super-Intellect, Good (+2) Technopath, Good (+2) Telepathy
Limitation: His telepathy comes from super-gizmology, so it lacks the hint of emotion that often comes with organic telepathy even for someone not counted as a telempath. It's the equivalent of talking on a telephone. Because Marko was raised in artificial conditions, he didn't get a lot of human contact early on, and he's used to thinking of people as flat mechanical voices. Combined, these factors make it hard for him to identify other people's emotions.
Motivation: To spark connections.

Kraken ship captains, base captains, and other commanding officers wear a round white hat like this. It marks the top of the local chain of command. Most Kraken officers wear a round black hat like this. If the senior officer usually in charge of a location is wearing a black hat, that means Captain Left and/or Captain Right is onsite. Only Captain Left and Captain Right (or more typically, their stunt doubles) wear these magnificent gold-crested hats.

(Character by ng_moonmoth )
Kaleidosculptor (“Candy House”) -- She describes herself as "mongrel Asian;" her parents' families emigrated from Singapore to Rain City. She is in her mid-30s, 165 centimeters tall and 58 kilograms. She has short hair, invariably dyed in one or more neon color(s); the dye job changes every month or so.
Kaleidosculptor is a laser light show artist who creates and performs shows at raves and festivals in and around Westbord. A techno/dance/house music lover and electronics geek, she defected to rave culture after being hassled out of her high school's science and computer clubs for having "girl cooties" by male students she describes as "horny little boys with their heads stuck up their ******* asses." She was intrigued enough by the equipment being used for shows that she started hanging out with, and learning from, the folks who were running them. Eventually she started getting some gigs herself, and got better quickly. She became successful and in demand enough to start touring. Currently she travels the rave and festival circuit in an aging Class C RV, similar to this Fleetwood Searcher, packed with lighting equipment and some custom gizmoelectronics. Kaleidosculptor hasn't ever used her deadname on the rave circuit; she's only known by her handle.
She uses her superpower to create custom light show equipment, and disable surveillance cameras monitoring impromptu rave locations. She also picks up additional money and gizmotronics as a specialist and rave community talent scout/observer for Kraken. When she's not traveling or working a hush job for Kraken, she parks with friends wherever she is, or goes up to Rain City for a while to hang out with friends she met there while growing up. Kaleidosculptor also participates in art MOOCs when she has the chance, and is trying to make some contacts in the art department at the University of Washington so she can get some studio access and make some progress toward an art degree. She feels like she's ageing out of the rave circuit, and is working on establishing her next career.
Origin: She was running the light show board at a Rain City rave (roughly 2000) when someone who was near the board took a hit of what they expected to be Ecstacy, but was actually a zetetic gas. The gas concentration was high enough that the original user died when struck by a laser beam. Nearby ravers had not received enough gas to be affected, but the cloud of exhaled gas was the right concentration to cause Kaleidosculptor's powers to manifest. She can now alter the refractive index of any transparent substance, and can use Microscopic Vision to observe the effects. She's working on improving the precision with which she can use her power; right now, the edges of the affected regions are often fuzzy, and improvement is difficult.
Kaleidosculptor was recruited into Kraken a couple of years later, when she foxed a surveillance camera in a closed factory that Kraken was using to monitor a safety hideout they had set up there. An impromptu intake interview led to a couple of trial jobs; success at those jobs, and demonstrating discretion and secrecy, resulted in an invitation to become a Kraken "associate."
Uniform: Colorful tank top, clashing neon board shorts, Doc Martens.
Qualities: Expert [+4] Light Show Artist, Good [+2] 3D modeling (includes sculpture and computer), Good [+2] Electronics, Good [+2] Raver Culture, Poor [-2] Interrogate Authority.
Powers: Good [+2] Alter Materials Properties, Good [+2] Microscopic Vision.
Limitation: Alter Materials Properties only works on non-opaque materials, and can only change index of refraction.
Motivation: Succeed outside the mundane world.

* * *

"Teenagers: The most misunderstood people on earth. Treated like children and expected to act like adults."
-- Unknown

Supervillain organizations come in many flavors. In this case, however, many of the minions are actually punchclock villains. They joined Kraken for reasons similar to those for joining an ordinary gang, in particular because Kraken has a terrific benefits package. Another interesting quirk is that, unlike most supervillain organizations, Kraken is not led by a single charismatic leader. They have two. The whole structure is bifocal and always has been.

Supervillains are famous for having a vision or evil plan. This is where it gets murky. Kraken wants to rule the world, a traditional supervillain goal, but their reason is to keep ordinary idiots from wrecking it, and their style is benevolent despotism. Unlike the poor blokes in the IRA, Kraken actually has contingency plans for what to do when they gain enough power, along with pretty much every other imaginable scenario. In both entertainment and regular life, bad guys often don't think of themselves as evil. How other people feel about this varies.

Captain Left is a classic introvert, and introverts think differently than extroverts. He prefers interacting online to interacting in person, and as Capricorn he's a lot more outgoing. Introverts make great mentors and leaders, especially for proactive followers. Introverts and extroverts have different needs, too, so understand how to take care of introverts.

Being understood is a fundamental human need. Feeling misunderstood is a common and miserable experience. Mixed signals and other problems can cause misunderstandings. Know how to cope with feeling misunderstood and how to make other people feel understood.

Disaffected youth are cut off from society in various ways. When adolescents don't get their needs met, they often get into trouble. Harsh treatment rarely helps, and often makes matters worse. Kraken prefers recruiting disaffected people, and their preferred age range is teens and twenties. Understand how to reach out to troubled teens in your area. Here is a guide to group discussions between adults and teens.

The grooming process involves a common set of techniques used by a wide range of human predators, including sexual abusers and cults. They often choose victims carefully. However, notice the overlap with building trust through stages. Many of the actions are the same, such as approaching slowly, starting small, showing kindness, and deepening intimacy. What differs is the followthrough. Trust consists of multiple elements including benevolence (intending good), integrity (being honest), competence (ability to help), and predictability (keeping promises). While Kraken does get people involved in crime, most of them were already into it; and the organization does an excellent job of meeting member needs such as companionship, employment, and health care. It may be on the black side of the cape, but it's a fair deal.

Sometimes, the supervillains have a point. They do needful things that superheroes can't or won't do, and occasionally even rescue the good guys. In this as in all things, diversity has its uses.

Mentoring has many benefits. Understand the qualities needed to be a good mentor. Know how to find a mentor and make the most of one.

The best way to predict the future is to take steps to create it. There are ways to build your personal future and influence the future of the world.
Tags: community, cyberfunded creativity, fantasy, fishbowl, poem, poetry, reading, weblit, writing
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