Elizabeth Barrette (ysabetwordsmith) wrote,
Elizabeth Barrette
ysabetwordsmith

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Poem: "Whirled Pieces"

This poem began as spillover from the May 5, 2015 Poetry Fishbowl and was completed for my 5-1-16 card in the the Finish It Bingo fest. It was inspired by a prompt from [personal profile] redsixwing. It also fills the "break problems into small parts" square in my 5-2-15 card for the Wellness Toolbox Bingo fest. This poem has been sponsored by [personal profile] stardreamer. It belongs to the Antimatter & Stalwart Stan thread of the Polychrome Heroics series.


"Whirled Pieces"


Everything went to hell when
Antimatter and Stalwart Stan
tried to break up a trade between
two groups of supervillains.

Antimatter only knew one, a black man
with shoulder-length dreadlocks and
a bolt pistol tucked down his pants --
that was Popgun, whom he'd seen
from a distance but never met,
and he regretted having to go up
against any of Boss White's people.

With him was a curvy girl whose
wavy reddish-brown hair tumbled
over bare shoulders, her power --
whatever it was -- rippling ever so
slightly, like pressing on a waterbed.

They met up with a man and a woman
in red dexflan bodysuits that covered
everything, even their hands and faces:
the Red Scare that Antimatter had
only heard about in rumors.

As soon as the supervillains met up,
then Antimatter and Stalwart Stan
pounced on the whole party.

Popgun left his gun in his pants
and instead tried beating on
Stalwart Stan with a crowbar,
which didn't faze him at all.

Stalwart Stan took it away from him
and crumpled it with one hand,
then hit him back.

Popgun went down and stayed down.

Well, that's what you get for trying
to pound someone who's Invulnerable.

Then Antimatter used his powers to thicken
the air around the female half of Red Scare,
while Stalwart Stan tackled the male half.

A wave of fear rolled out, broadcast by both --
Antimatter was weirdly fascinated by
the dual epicenter of the blast.

It was disturbing, but not strong enough
to stop him; he was used to being scared,
had spent so much time scared that
he was half-numb to it by now.

Stalwart Stan didn't even slow down.

Antimatter slipped around behind the van
that Red Scare had driven to the parking lot
and jimmied the lock with a twist of energy --
ridiculously easy when a padlock just had
two simple settings, open and closed.
The combination locks were harder for him.

He opened the door and got a quick peek
of a crate full of colorful equipment.

The redheaded girl grabbed Stalwart Stan
from behind and said, "Time to go for a ride!"

Then they both disappeared.

Fuck!

Antimatter had forgotten that supervillains
sometimes used teleporters to yank opponents
out of a fight and drop them somewhere far away.

Just as he started to panic, they
reappeared -- and blinked out again.

As Antimatter watched, the girl skittered
around the parking lot so fast that he
lost track of how many jumps she made.

Bring him back bring him back bring him back,
Antimatter's mind chanted as she moved.

He tried to grab her, but every time he
thickened the air, she squirted out of
his grasp like a watermelon seed,
taking Stalwart Stan with her.

By the time she stopped, Stalwart Stan
was hanging limp in her arms. She let go
and dumped him in a corner of the parking lot.

"Wow, he didn't last long at all," she said.

Antimatter tried again to pin her,
but still couldn't get a solid grip.

A wail of sirens brought more people
into the fight, and Red Scare laid into
the newcomers with enthusiasm.
Their elastic bodies stretched
like crimson taffy as they fought.

Stalwart Stan retched helplessly,
wobbling on hands and knees.

The redhead darted past
Antimatter and into the van.

He could either go after her,
and hope that he could stop her
without getting teleported himself,
or he could help Stalwart Stan.

Not much of a choice, Antimatter thought.
He swore and scrambled across
the lot to Stalwart Stan.

The van peeled out in a spray of gravel.

At least two police cars took off
in hot pursuit, lights flashing.

Antimatter crouched over Stalwart Stan,
using his powers to shield them both in case
the fight came this way, although the redhead
had dropped him off in a corner so they were
away from the middle of the skirmish -- and
also out of easy sight from possible help.

Stalwart Stan trembled and moaned
and vomited and showed no sign of stopping.

Hell, he's jumpsick, Antimatter realized.

Most of the time, teleportation was
a perfectly safe way to travel, but
some people were allergic to it
and sometimes it just went wrong --
or someone decided to torture
people by popping them around --
which could result in this kind
of horrible disorientation.

Break the problem into small parts,
Antimatter told himself, and waved at
the ambulance crew. He needs a medic.

"Can you tell me what happened?"
the man asked as he knelt beside
Stalwart Stan, who was still heaving.

I dropped the ball, Antimatter thought.

He gave the medic a quick summary
of the fight and the teleporting bitch
and how Stalwart Stan had gotten
skipped all over the place.

"If he's jumpsick, then geltabs
won't touch that," the medic said,
shaking his head. "I could give
him a shot for the nausea --"

"He's Invulnerable," said Antimatter,
suddenly realizing how much of
a problem that could pose.

"I'm sorry," the medic said,
sounding sincere. "I don't have
any of the special equipment for that."

"Comes off," Stalwart Stan said
as he pawed at the fetish.

"Are you sure you want this off?"
Antimatter asked, reaching
for the hidden clasp.

"Please," panted Stalwart Stan.

Antimatter took off the fetish
and tucked it into his pocket.

I wonder if it will ever stop
feeling weird that he trusts me
with this thing,
he thought.

Stalwart Stan was already
so completely miserable that
even the needle sinking into
his shoulder didn't make him flinch.

"You should feel better in
a few minutes," the medic said
as he covered the puncture. "Don't
be surprised if you get drowsy too.
This stuff is strong enough it makes
most people want to sleep it off."

"Bonus," Stalwart Stan muttered.

"I'll keep an eye on him,"
Antimatter said, nodding.

"Name or number?" the medic said
as he started filling out paperwork.

"Number," Antimatter said before
Stalwart Stan could say anything more.
If the idiot who wore his heart on his sleeve
wanted this embarrassing incident attached
to his personal medical records, he could
always key it in with the number.

By the time the medic had finished
filling out the form and giving a copy to
Antimatter for safekeeping, Stalwart Stan
was starting to rock on his hands like
he meant to try standing up.

The medic put a firm hand between
his shoulderblades and said, "Do not
move until you reorient to your location.
Otherwise you'll make yourself a lot worse."

"How do you feel now?" Antimatter said.

"Whirled pieces," Stalwart Stan admitted,
and went still under their hands.

"Sometimes pressure helps?"
Antimatter said, leaning his weight
on Stalwart Stan's shoulders.

"Little better," said Stalwart Stan.

They were still waiting for him
to recover when Hefty arrived,
in his ordinary uniform instead of
the battlesuit. Antimatter didn't know
whether he hadn't had time to change
into it, or already changed out of it.

"Bad guys got away," Hefty grumbled.
"We got plates on the van, which is
stolen -- no surprise there -- but not
much else to show for it. And Wheaton
crashed his squad car into a traffic light,
the dumbass, so the Chief is gonna
rip him a new one for giving chase."

Antimatter muffled most of his snicker.
And that's why high-speed chases
are discouraged,
he thought.

"So what happened here?" Hefty said.

Antimatter related the fight yet again.
"I hoped you'd get at least one of them."

"Me too," said Hefty. "Ah well,
you win some, you lose some."

Stalwart Stan made an unhappy noise
and finally pushed himself to his feet.
Then he sat back down. "Nuts," he said.

"Still not feeling well?" Antimatter asked,
trying not to hover over him too much.

"World's stopped spinning,"
said Stalwart Stan. "I just don't
have the energy to walk."

Well, at least he's admitting it
this time,
Antimatter thought,
although the weakness worried him.

"Do you want a stretcher and a ride to
the hospital?" Hefty asked. "Or should I
just pick you up and take you home?"

Antimatter bristled at that.
Even if people more-or-less knew
who you were on both sides of the cape,
they weren't supposed to spill it like that.

Stalwart Stan, of course, didn't care.
"Yeah, take me home," he said.

"I don't dare put any stress on
your stomach, so you get to be
a pretty princess," Hefty said.
He signed off more paperwork
and shooed the medic away,
then scooped up Stalwart Stan.

"Do I get to be a fairy princess?"
Stalwart Stan said with a tipsy giggle.

Antimatter was about to die of
embarrassment, but Hefty just
went along with it. "With a tiara
and a rainbow wand," said Hefty.

At least it put Stalwart Stan
in a better mood, so Antimatter
kept his mouth shut about it.

When they reached the squad car,
Hefty settled Stalwart Stan into
the back seat with gentle care.

"Try to keep him from moving
too much," Hefty said as
Antimatter climbed in.

"I've got him," Antimatter said,
using his superpower to thicken
the air and secure them both.

"So we're really doing this,"
Fiddlesticks said. "All right, where
did you boys leave your go-bags? I
assume you don't want to go home
wearing your field gear."

Antimatter hesitated. I hate
giving up this much ... but he's
right, we can't go home like this
.

With a sigh, he told Fiddlesticks
where to find their stash, and the car
pulled smoothly into the street.

The ride was quiet until Fiddlesticks
pulled over to retrieve their bags.

"Antimatter, you get changed first,
then give your buddy a hand," said Hefty.
"I wear the armor, so I've done this enough for
Fiddlesticks, and no, it never gets any easier
dealing with your partner getting hurt in a fight.
The two of us will get out and turn our backs
while you guys change clothes."

"Thanks," Antimatter said, although
the last thing he felt now was gratitude.
Stalwart Stan was turning it into
a rote habit for him too.

It was awkward changing clothes
in the back seat of a car, any car,
and embarrassing with people nearby
even on a street this quiet, not to mention
the difficulty of getting his floppy boyfriend
out of one outfit and into the other.

"You can come back now,"
Lawrence said finally.

He felt insecure and exposed
and not at all like a hero. He
wanted to slide under the seat,
but he had to hold onto Stan,
who was half-asleep.

I wish this was over.

When they pulled up to the house,
Hefty said, "Lawrence, you go up first
and tell Stan's folks that he'll be fine, so
they don't panic when I carry him in."

"Okay," Lawrence said, although he
cringed at the thought of facing Stuart.

Lawrence trudged up the steps,
found Stan's parents, handed over
the paperwork, and mumbled
an explanation of events.

Then he hid in the study while
everyone went to deal with Stan.

Just pretend I'm not here,
he thought. Focus on Stan.

Lawrence peeked just enough
to see Hefty carrying Stan indoors,
and he could hear Sharon telling
the girls to go upstairs for while.

When the study doors swung open,
Lawrence flinched. "I'll get out
of your way," he told Stuart.

"It's hard at first, isn't it?" Stuart said
in a conversational tone. "You don't
know what to do, or how you feel, and
everything's awful." He held out a hand.

"What?" Lawrence said, utterly confused.

"You need to learn how to handle it
when someone you care about doesn't
feel well," Stuart said. "Come on, I'll
show you. Trust me, it gets easier
once you know the steps, even if
you just have to memorize them."

He has an odd way of knowing
what I'm feeling even when I haven't
said anything,
Lawrence realized.

"I know, you don't want anyone
bothering you when you're the one
who feels like crud," Stuart went on.
"I felt the same for years. Stan's
different, though, and he won't
go the heck to sleep until he
sees you, so get in there."

Lawrence had completely failed
to keep Stan safe, so the least
he could do was ... whatever
Stuart thought Stan wanted.

So Lawrence let Stuart herd
him into the living room where
Stan's mother was tucking him
into the couch under an afghan
that looked like flowers on snow.

"You shouldn't go too long
without putting something in
your tummy," she said to Stan.
"I'll get you a ginger beer."

Lawrence really didn't want
to go over there and admit what
a mess he'd made of everything.

"Sit down beside Stan, touch him,
and tell him you hope he feels better
soon," Stuart said, giving Lawrence
a gentle push forward. "Whatever else
your brain is telling you to say, don't."

Lawrence was pathetically grateful
for the excuse, so he followed
what Stuart suggested.

"Hey," Stan said softly,
lighting up with a smile as
soon as he saw Lawrence.

"Hey," Lawrence said as he
sat down near the couch and
patted Stan's shoulder. "I uh,
hope you feel better soon."

"Better now," Stan said,
reaching for Lawrence.

That was fine except that
stoned Stan apparently turned
into an octopus and wanted
to crawl into Lawrence's lap.

"Stan, stay on the couch and
let Lawrence have the ottoman,"
Stuart said, pushing Stan back down.

Lawrence felt guilty still holding onto
the fetish stuffed in his pocket, but
Stan hadn't asked for it back and
Lawrence didn't want him knocking
things around while he felt crummy.

Wracking his brain for a distraction,
he finally recalled something that
Stan had tried with him before.

"How about we watch a movie?"
Lawrence said. Oops, I'm not
supposed to say stuff on my own.
I hope I haven't broken anything.


Stuart's eyebrows went up and
he flashed Lawrence a thumb's up.

"Aw yeah," Stan said, although he
seemed half-asleep already. "You pick."

Lawrence was looking through
a stack of movies when Sharon
came in with two ginger beers.

"I'm fine, really," Lawrence said.

She just gave him that mother look
and cupped her hand over his hair
as if checking to see whether a toy
was really glow-in-the-dark.

His hair wasn't all the way out,
but it was dimmer than usual.

Lawrence sighed and accepted
the ginger beer. He didn't want
to be a mooch, but he really didn't
want to faceplant on the floor.

Not Azure Cap or Sioux City, but
better than Squeedles,
he thought
as he sipped from the bottle.

Stan's sisters tiptoed down the stairs.

Stephanie brought him a book, Sloane
had a pillow, and Susie loaned him
a ludicrous stuffed bunny.

Then the two older girls declared
they were making potato soup for
supper, and trooped into the kitchen.

"I'll keep you company," Susie said.
"We can watch the first Fantasia."

Which would probably lead
to watching all of them, but
Lawrence was so grateful that
other people knew what they
were doing, he didn't care.

"Great idea," he said,
and let her take over.

Stan was still groping after
Lawrence as if he thought
comfort could be absorbed
by some kind of osmosis.

He's not going to quit as long
as I'm in reach,
Lawrence realized.
I might as well just move closer.

"Can you sit up a little?"
Lawrence asked him.

"I've got him," Stuart said,
scooping Stan halfway
off of the couch.

Lawrence sat down, and
Stan instantly curled into
his lap with a sigh of relief.

"There, now watch your movie
and try to rest," Lawrence said.

It still felt weird, but nobody was
yelling at him or trying to hit him,
and at least he had gotten Stan
home more-or-less intact.

This could have gone a lot worse.

Susie turned the movie on, and
Lawrence let it carry him away.

* * *

Notes:

Popgun (Tyler Davis) -- He has milk chocolate skin and brown eyes. His black hair hangs to his shoulders in dreadlocks. He is pudgy over his muscles. He can teleport small objects across a range of a few yards. He likes to fight with fists, clubs, or handguns. He works for Boss White as a lieutenant in the Ebonies & Ivories.
Origin: Too lazy to get up and fetch things the normal way, Tyler always had a habit of stretching for things just out of reach. Eventually they started leaping into his hand.
Uniform: Street clothes, often a funny t-shirt over jeans.
Qualities: Good (+2) Drummer, Good (+2) Gangster, Good (+2) Strength
Poor (-2) Criminal Record
Powers: Average (0) Teleport Objects
Motivation: He just likes beating on things.

Barf-o-Whirl (Shelby Becker) -- She has fair skin, brown eyes and long wavy reddish-brown hair. Her face is triangular but her body is notably curvaceous. She goes by "Barf" for short. She is a supervillain henchwoman with Teleporting so clumsy that she gives people motion sickness. She fights by teleporting people short distances to make them sick, but has Iron Stomach herself. She specializes in confronting superheroes who are Tough, Armored, Invulnerable, etc. because it's a way to disable them that their protections can't block. She has a mean sense of humor, the kind to laugh over banana peels, rubber crutches, and twirling kids until they puke -- which is how she originally got her nickname, because some of her cousins also think it's funny and kept asking to go again. After Shiv's arrest, she comes to Omaha, Nebraska to work for Boss White as a replacement. She has a horrible effect on Stalwart Stan.
Origin: Barf has always enjoyed testing her Iron Stomach against whatever people could bring that was supposedly edible. At a high school party, someone brought an unlabeled bottle of booze. Okay, that one made her a little queasy. When the hangover wore off, however, the room was still spinning -- and she could teleport. Sort of.
Uniform: Street clothes. She has a rather rude sense of fashion.
Qualities: Expert (+4) Iron Stomach, Good (+2) Nebraska Sports Fan, Good (+2) Strength, Good (+2) Supervillain Henchwoman
Poor (-2) Mean Sense of Humor
Powers: Average (0) Teleporting
Motivation: Take 'em for a ride!

Red Scare (Nadia Pavlov Smith) -- She has fair skin, hazel eyes, and long dark blonde hair. She has a heart-shaped face and a tall, slender build. Nadia is the younger sister of Nikon. They are a pair of fraternal twins, brother and sister, originally from Russia but adopted into America as preteens. They speak Russian fluently and English grudgingly. As supervillains, Nadia plans the thefts and Nikon provides the muscle.
Origin: Genetic engineering when Russia was trying to make its own superheroes. It thought they were a failure when they were born without powers, and abandoned them first in an orphanage and then to foreign parents. But their powers manifested in puberty, and they had a lot of resentment built up, so they became supervillains.
Uniform: Red dexflan bodysuit covering everything.
Qualities: Good (+2) Creative, Good (+2) Fast, Good (+2) Strategic Thought, Good (+2) Thief, Good (+2) Twin Relationship
Poor (-2) Abandonment Issues
Powers: Good (+2) Adaptation, Good (+2) Elasticity, Average (0) Fear Aura
Motivation: To frighten people.

Nadia Off-Duty

Nadia in Costume

Red Scare (Nikon Pavlov Smith) -- He has fair skin, hazel eyes, and short dark blonde hair. He has a powerful build with a broad chest and muscular shoulders. Nikon is the older brother of Nadia. They are a pair of fraternal twins, brother and sister, originally from Russia but adopted into America as preteens. They speak Russian fluently and English grudgingly. As supervillains, Nadia plans the thefts and Nikon provides the muscle.
Origin: Genetic engineering when Russia was trying to make its own superheroes. It thought they were a failure when they were born without powers, and abandoned them first in an orphanage and then to foreign parents. But their powers manifested in puberty, and they had a lot of resentment built up, so they became supervillains.
Uniform: Red dexflan bodysuit covering everything.
Qualities: Good (+2) Fighter, Good (+2) Reliable, Good (+2) Strength, Good (+2) Tactical Thought, Good (+2) Twin Relationship
Poor (-2) Abandonment Issues
Powers: Good (+2) Adaptation, Good (+2) Elasticity, Average (0) Fear Aura
Motivation: To frighten people.

Nikon Off-Duty

Nikon in Costume

* * *

Teleportation comes with a variety of well-known limitations. In Terramagne, most teleporters deliver a relatively smooth ride, but that doesn't mean they all can. It's also recognized as a nonlethal combat option, but what gets considered as a respectable application is more variable. Dropping someone off a building is not. Dropping someone in a safe, distant location usually is. Deliberately making someone jumpsick is one of the major gray areas.

Invulnerability has been less discussed with regard to its limitations. One is that it applies primarily to physical damage. It does nothing to keep your inner ear from whirling until you puke; Iron Stomach is a separate trait. Another is that it's a static power instead of a responsive one; unless you can literally take it off, like Stalwart Stan, it can impede medical care.

Jumpsick is the metaphysical equivalent of carsick, a type of motion sickness caused by superpowered transportation; also known as dropsick. More formal terms include metamotion sickness and metakinetic disorientation. It causes nausea, confusion, and psychospatial disorientation; often with intense and prolonged vomiting. Teleportation is usually safe, but a few people are allergic to it, especially if they have navigational or other superpowers that convey a constant location. The longer the jump, or the more frequent, the more likely someone will feel unwell. While most teleporters pride themselves on giving a smooth ride, not everyone has that skill, and some are far more prone to make people jumpsick. Some people get the same effect from phasing or superspeed. Other superpowers used for travel, such as portals, may have a higher rate of disorientation. Hostile transportation can be used as an attack, and it works even against people who are Invulnerable -- although some people have abilities like Iron Stomach or Super-Navigation that protect them against it.
A key distinction of jumpsickness is the need to keep the victim stationary until they reorient. Further motion makes jumpsickness a great deal worse. Over-the-counter nausea medication isn't enough to cope with this level of upset, and even blue chamomile is only somewhat helpful. Medication strong enough to counteract the nausea also makes most people drowsy. Weighted blankets help considerably, or if those are unavailable, holding down or lying on top of the victim. Reassure them that they are no longer moving and encourage them to look at or hold onto a stable object for confirmation. Once the victim has reoriented, they may be moved. Further superpowered travel is contraindicated, at least in the short term, and even ordinary travel needs to be done very carefully.

Chunking is a skill for breaking large problems into manageable pieces.

Princess Carry (or Bridal Carry) and Fireman's Carry are two methods of transporting a person. Princess carry is more difficult, but Hefty is strong enough to do it even without the battlesuit on. Fireman's carry is easier and more secure, in several variations, but has the disadvantage of pressing on the belly and chest, thus inadvisable for victims with stomach complaints. In any case, ask permission first if the victim is coherent. Follow the steps for carrying someone.

A go-bag or bug-out bag is a satchel of essential items which can be snatched while fleeing from danger. The purpose influences the contents. For example, government lists generally expect civilization to remain accessible, while survivalist lists often do not. A soup's go-bag typically supports their ability to switch back and forth between cover identity and cape identity, and handle related emergencies. So it tends to contain street clothes, uniforms, cash or cash cards, food, and a first aid kit.

Taking care of a sick friend is something most people learn growing up. If you missed that, it's more challenging to learn later, but helps to have someone coach you. Stuart had to learn it the hard way after he left his crummy birth family; he wants to make it easier for Lawrence. You can also see that the parents have deliberately taught the kids how to handle it when a family member gets sick: first get out of the way, then after things have settled a bit, find little ways to help.

Survivors of child abuse/neglect often have gaps in life skills. Even if they deal with that, any new crisis can wreck their coping. Successful survivors learn to fill in the gaps and have backup plans in case they get overloaded. Lawrence has some major gaps, but he's young enough to patch over those; it helps that he now has better examples. See a list of life skills for youth and adults, and resources for learning life skills.

Stan's afghan looks similar to this and is easy to crochet.

This is Susie's stuffed bunny.

Enjoy a recipe for Potato Soup.

Fantasia in L-America dates from 1940 and 2000. T-America follows the original plan of recurring installments, so they have all eight, released on the decades. This is a notable divergence point across the dimensions, in terms of which installments a world has and what their contents are.
Tags: cyberfunded creativity, fantasy, fishbowl, poem, poetry, reading, weblit, writing
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