Warning: This poem contains some intense and controversial topics. Highlight to read the warnings, some of which are spoilers. It features the beginning of supervillains granting wishes for vulnerable children. It includes messy medical details, reference to past parental death, admiration of supervillains, pressuring a supervillain to commit a charitable act, mocking and menacing behavior from said supervillain, much awkwardness ensues, a supervillain meeting a little girl, expensive gifts, some of which are stolen, and other challenges. But it cheers up the kid, so I'm calling it good. If these are sensitive issues for you, please consider your tastes and headspace before reading onward.
"I Wish I Might"
Christofor Allard loved books and people
in approximately equal amounts, which led him
to study English and peacebuilding in college.
He got more interested in volunteerism,
so during graduate school he pursued
nonprofit leadership and management.
His wife Cynthia gave him a son and
a daughter, then returned her attention
to her marketing career. Christofor found
that he enjoyed being a househusband
and bonding with their children.
When Drina turned four, she joined
her older brother at the Montessori school,
which left Christofor with a lot more time
on his hands now that he didn't need
to watch the kids all day long.
He had been volunteering around
the local schools and libraries, along with
the Kiwanis Club, so he filled the new hours
by adding another organization to his list.
The Starbright Foundation granted wishes
to children with a severe illness or injury,
connecting them with mentors or excursions
to uplift their mood and give them hope.
Christofor enjoyed filling the requests
for pony rides and meeting the President
and chatting with astronauts in orbit.
Sometimes the kids asked for odd things.
There was the girl who wanted an artist
to paint her as a Cubist model, and
a boy who wanted to drive the Zamboni.
Then Minette asked for a supervillain.
Nobody wanted to make that connection,
but they didn't want to let her down either.
She had lost both of her parents in a car crash,
and nearly died herself. She came out of it with
facial fractures, skull fractures, and a bunch of
other injuries that left the doctors uncertain
whether she would survive -- even now, since
she needed more reconstructive surgery and
had so little strength left already.
Minette still browsed the news for clips
about supervillains, and had told the nurses
all about her collection of memorabilia at home.
When she saw a video of Render climbing
up the side of a building to escape from
his frustrated pursuers, she wished
that she could meet him.
Since Christofor was the newest
of the Starbright volunteers, the boss
gave him the assignment nobody wanted.
"I'll see what I can do," Christofor said.
It took him three weeks just to get the name
of the seedy dive where Render was said
to hang out, and another week of staking out
the Red Door in hopes of catching him there.
The jukebox was so old it played vinyl,
the Asteroids tabletop overheated and
quit playing after fifteen minutes or so,
and the touchscreen for modern games
was too grimy to make out the words.
The toilet was a nightmare of filth and
graffiti, and its little lounge had couches
that were cut out of salvaged bathtubs.
One barstool was covered in gold duct tape
with the name Ronson written across it in
black marker where nobody ever sat, but
the drinks were cheap and potent, and
nobody seemed to mind that Christofor
sat around reading paperbacks instead
of ordering a second drink.
The wait paid off, though, when
Render finally showed up at the bar in
a tan bodysuit and brown biking leathers.
Christofor put away Finnegan's Wake
and walked over to him, trying to ignore
how his feet stuck to the floor and also
the fact that this might get him killed.
"Hi," he said politely. "My name is
Christofor Allard and I volunteer at
the Starbright Foundation for children
with life-threatening conditions. One of
our kids would really love to meet you. She
has been through a terrible car crash and she
idolizes supervillains -- you're her favorite -- so
I'm hoping you'll agree to visit her. I'll make sure
that no police or superheroes get in your way."
Render looked at Christofor's t-shirt that read,
I volunteer, what's your superpower?
and laughed in his face.
Christofor liked to think of himself
as a patient man, because he had
two small children and plenty of training
in how to handle difficult situations, but
this was really the last straw.
"What the actual fudge, man?"
he snapped at Render. "I have
spent weeks looking for you -- I am
at this very moment missing movie night
with my own kids -- just so I could beg
a favor for a sweet little girl who is in
way too much pain and needs something
to help her get through it. Which for reasons
known only to Minette and God, is you."
"Me?" Render drawled. "You must be mistaken."
"No, she had a handmade stuffie of you
even before the video of your latest escape,"
Christofor said. "She finds you inspiring, which
helps with her struggle, but a visit would do more."
"You're out of your mind," Render said.
"You can't introduce a kid to a monster."
"I checked you out first, of course,"
Christofor said. "Everyone says that
you have impeccable ethics. Now,
are you going to stand up to them, or
do I have to tell Minette the story
about the statue with feet of clay?"
Render slowly stood up, and suddenly
Christofor realized that the supervillain
towered over him by at least a foot.
"What do you expect to get
from this?" Render demanded.
"I wish I might find the right words
that would get through to you, but I am
running out of ideas," Christofor admitted.
Render knocked back his drink.
Then he clapped Christofor on the back
hard enough to make the smaller man stagger.
"Come on, bookworm, let's take this outside."
Christofor caught the worried looks from
the customers, and even the smarmy bartender
seemed concerned as Render dragged him away.
His heart pounded as he wondered whether
he'd make it home to his family tonight, or
whether Render's reputation had been
exaggerated due to victims disappearing
without any evidence to connect with him.
Render towed Christofor around the corner
and into the dingy alley behind the bar,
looking to make sure they weren't followed.
As the supervillain pushed him against
the grimy brick wall, Christofor flinched,
expecting the famous claws even though
Render wasn't wearing them at the moment.
"I'm sorry," the supervillain said.
"... what?" Christofor's brain skipped a beat.
"Listen, people don't come up to me and
ask for favors like that," Render said. "I swear,
I thought it was a bar prank. If you looked me up,
then you know I got a rude sense of humor that
gets me in trouble a lot. No hard feelings?"
Christofor swallowed hard. "Agreed,"
he said. "So, will you visit Minette?"
"Tell me where to find her," Render said.
"I'll drop in when I can -- and you better be
telling the truth about safe passage, or I
will not hesitate to cut my way out of a trap."
"You have my word," Christofor said,
and held out his hand to the supervillain.
Render's grip was surprisingly gentle,
his dexflan glove soft and springy. "Deal,"
he said. The handshake left Christofor with
a slip of paper bearing an unmarked vddress.
"Now get home to your family, bookworm."
Christofor went home, grateful that he could.
Four days later, when he checked in
with Minette, he found her room
covered in supervillain swag.
The end table held a Lucky Frog,
a Cacophony megaphone, and
a doll dressed like DestructoBabe
amongst more conventional toys
and the latest videogame console.
A Safemode screensaver danced
across Minette's tablet computer,
and the Sarasate Carmen Fantasy
played softly in the background with
Contretemps' unmistakable skill.
Minette herself was wrapped around
an eight-foot-long giant squid plushie made
from canary-yellow Microfyne. She wore
a Dvorak t-shirt carefully modified to replace
the seams with vrip, and her less-injured hand
clutched a signed photograph of Render.
"It looks like you got your wish," Christofor said.
"Yes," Minette said, beaming at him.
One finger lifted to point at the table.
"He said I'd have to give back the one
he borrowed from the museum, but
the rest of it is for keepsies."
The Necklace of Sithathoryunet was,
thank God, still in its display case, but
the item beside it made Christofor frown.
"Are those little gold flies?!"
Minette giggled. "He said that
the Egyptians used to give those
as military medals for persistence
in attacking the enemy," she said,
"and that I deserved them."
Christofor looked at the pile of
expensive gifts, some of them
obviously stolen, and then decided
to say nothing more than, "You do."
"He was really nice," Minette whispered.
"I wasn't sure if he'd, you know, have anything
to say to a kid but he talked with me for an hour,
and then climbed out the window just before
the nurse came to check on me."
Sometimes a supervillain wasn't
a monster after all, if you could
just find the right words to reach
the man under the mask.
* * *
El Grullo / The Villain Wrangler (Christofor Allard) -- He has fair skin that tans easily, brown eyes, and short mousy hair. He comes from mixed Hispanic and American ancestry. Cristofor earned a Bachelor's Degree in English with a minor in Peacebuilding and Social Innovation from the University of San Diego. As his interest in volunteerism deepened, he pursued a Master's Degree in Nonprofit Leadership and Management. He is short and bookish and not very imposing, until he starts talking. Then people listen.
Cristofor is a househusband who volunteers at local organizations including schools and libraries, the Starbright Foundation (similar to Make a Wish), and the Kiwanis Club. He often wears a t-shirt that says, I volunteer, what's your superpower? His wife Cynthia works in marketing for Tsavorite Technology, a major player in sustainable industry based on retro-engineering. He has an older son, Timo, and a younger daughter, Drina. They live in Westbord. He has a knack for dealing with supervillains and convincing them to volunteer when a Starbright child requests a visit from them.
Qualities: Expert (+4) Nonprofit Leadership, Good (+2) Artist, Good (+2) Bookworm, Good (+2) Convincing People, Good (+2) Emotional Intelligence, Good (+2) Needs Little Sleep
Poor (-2) Short Guy Problems
Timo Allard -- He has fair skin, brown eyes, and short wavy brown hair. He is currently six years old. He is the son of Christofor and Cynthia Allard, and the older brother of Drina. The siblings are very close. Timo is glad that his sister has joined him in Montessori school. Full of energy, he often gets into trouble from moving too fast.
Qualities: Good (+2) Energetic, Good (+2) Family Ties
Poor (-2) Runs Everywhere
Drina Allard -- She has fair skin, brown eyes, and straight brown hair past her shoulders. She is currently four years old. She is the daughter of Christofor and Cynthia Allard, and the younger sister of Timo. The siblings are very close. Drina is lighthearted and loves her new Montessori school. She gets overwhelmed by negative emotions, though, and doesn't understand how to handle them yet.
Qualities: Good (+2) Cheerful, Good (+2) Interpersonal Intelligence
Poor (-2) Dealing with Negative Emotions
Render (Kardal Ansari) -- He has caramel skin, brown eyes, and short black hair with a beard and mustache. His father immigrated from Arabia, his mother from Iraq, and he was born in America. Kardal speaks English fluently, and Arabic poorly with a distinct childish accent. Although his parents are Muslims, Kardal has no real religious affiliation, and it annoys him when people assume he's Muslim because of his ethnicity. He has conspicuous scars over his face, neck, and upper chest due to acid burns. They're ugly, but careful treatment has kept them from impeding movement. Kardal saves money and favors to trade with healers to repair the scars, but very few of them have the skill to do so, because of his Amorphous Physiology. He has PTSD from the incident, although diligent work has reduced its impact so that it no longer bothers him all the time, only under limited circumstances.
As a supervillain, Render prefers thefts but also does some fighting. He is skilled with both zap guns and claw knives. He is well known and respected for his code of honor; he won't harm children, won't steal from people who can't afford it, and won't rat on his partners. His high success rate and low collateral damage makes him popular. His dubious sense of humor gets him in trouble, though, even among other supervillains.
Origin: Kardal worked in Motor City, Michigan at an illegal lab. It was not actually a supervillain lab, but some superheroes thought it was and raided the place. During the fight, Kardal suffered extensive burns from acid and spent a long time in the hospital. Later he developed superpowers. After that, he could not get a job, people constantly asked about his scars, and he felt unsafe in the city. So he moved to Westbord, where he fell in with actual supervillains.
Uniform: On duty, Render wears a dexflan unitard in desert camouflage colors with krevel armor and boots over it. He has specially designed krevel gloves with semisharp claws; he can slip his fingertips into and out of the claw cups as needed for climbing, fighting, or fine manipulation. The metal parts are connected by wiring that lets them deliver a Good (+2) Stunning Blast on contact. His favorite zap guns include a force pistol and a freeze pistol. He also carries a dart pistol. Off duty, Kardal wears a dexflan uniform in tan or milk chocolate, often with brown motorcycle leathers. For eating and drinking, he has a mask with eye and mouth holes, and a medical compression suit for when the scar tissue acts up. He rarely goes without the coverage, not because he's ashamed of his scars, but because the compression keeps them from bothering him and protects the skin.
Qualities: Expert (+4) Supervillain, Good (+2) Honor Among Thieves, Good (+2) Kinesthetic Intelligence, Good (+2) Tall Guy
Poor (-2) Mocking Sense of Humor
Powers: Expert (+4) Amorphous Physiology (Signature Stunts: Good Liquid Form, Average Gaseous Form)
Limitation: Amorphous Physiology conveys resistance to injury. It functions as Expert Invulnerability while in liquid or gaseous form, but only Expert Toughness while in human form. Regeneration of damage is Expert in liquid or gaseous form, Average in human form.
Vulnerability: Due to PTSD from the original acid attack combined with his regenerative abilities now, Render is terrified of being tortured and wary of injuries in general. He may heal, but it still hurts. This contributes to his tendency to lose solid form when alarmed.
Motivation: Mostly for the money, but Render routinely steals more than he needs. Some of the excess he stashes in case of emergency, but some he secretly gives away, such as to other victims of hate crimes.
Minette Neuebaumer -- She has fair skin, hazel eyes, and long wavy blonde hair. Her mother moved from Easy City to Westbord after falling in love. Minette's parents were killed in a car accident on her ninth birthday. She was left with facial and skull fractures, a shattered left arm, and a sprained right wrist among other minor injuries. Minette is smart and healthy, but not the best judge of people. She is fascinated by supervillains, of whom her current favorite is Render.
Qualities: Good (+2) Constitution, Good (+2) Logical-Mathematical Intelligence, Good (+2) Supervillain Fan
Poor (-2) Emotional Intelligence
See a full-size and closeup picture of Minette before the accident. Here she is at the scene of the accident and in the hospital.
DestructoBabe -- She has fair skin, yellow-grey eyes, long straight red hair. She has actually had her cape name since she could roll over, and spilled her father's ice tea and shorted out the family entertainment center. He used the same nickname "DestructoBaby" for all four of his kids; she's just the one who became a supervillain, plus she's the oldest, so she got to keep it. She went to Gargoyle High in Urbanburg, where her father teaches. Her family still loves her, even if she is a supervillain. Her specialty lies in wrecking things, so she is often invited on supervillain missions where the goal is to maximize destruction.
Origin: Her power grew in gradually over time, with some dramatic peaks and flares in puberty.
Uniform: On duty, she wears a black-and-yellow dexflan catsuit with matching boots and gloves of black krevel.
Qualities: Expert (+4) Science, Good (+2) Big Happy Family, Good (+2) Folk Music Fan, Good (+2) Lithe as a Willow Wand
Poor (-2) Manual Dexterity
Powers: Expert (+4) Entropy
Motivation: Bring it down!
* * *
Various organizations work to grant wishes for ill or injured children. In local-America, Make a Wish is among the most famous. In Terramagne-America, the Starbright Foundation is similar. EDIT: rix_scaedu adds that L-Australia has the Starlight Children's Foundation. Check out their adorable wedding favors!
Cubism is an abstract art style. See some examples of cubist art.
A Zamboni machine smooths the ice in a skating rink. There's a song called "I Want to Drive the Zamboni."
The Red Door is a dive bar where Render often goes. The floor plan is similar to this. There is another door where it says Entry, one from each street at the corner. The Asteroids game is the little table behind the Host position, because it requires regular tinkering to keep it working at all. The niche across from the bathroom has the lounge.
This diagram shows some of what makes a dive bar. You can also read about some of the people there. Christofor is playing the part of "The Guy Reading an Extremely Thick Paperback Novel Who Is Seemingly Surprised Other People Are Talking Near Him."
Asteroids is an arcade game released in many formats. The table version, popular in bars, is notorious for overheating and expanding the imagery before it crashes.
Finnegan's Wake is a famous novel that is very difficult to read. Christofor enjoys it as a mental puzzle.
Role models are idolized and sometimes imitated. They can be good or bad. Even negative role models have their uses. Know how to choose a role model or be one.
Influence, persuasion, manipulation, and coercion exist on a spectrum. Christofor uses persuasive skills such as altercasting to recruit Render. Learn how to convince people to do what you want.
A vddress is the contact code for sending/receiving messages through a vidwatch, akin to an email address aka eddress. It is short for "video watch address." Typically, a vidwatch can also be used for video phone calls using a phone number, although people tend to prefer the larger screens on smartphones now.
Frogs symbolize good luck in many cultures. Examples include the Japanese kaeru and the Chinese jin chan. In T-Japan, Kaeru is a business run by the supervillain Shigeru Fukui.
The scrolling marquee is a type of screensaver often used for humorous effects. This is the Safemode screensaver. My partner Doug has used "Touch any key to reformat hard drive" and "Enter any 13-digit prime number to continue."
"Sarasate Carmen Fantasy" is a top violin showpiece. Contretemps is a magnificent bastard, but he's also a brilliant violinist.
Minette's giant squid plushie is from Kraken. You can make your own.
Minette's Dvorak t-shirt has been modified in a manner typical of adaptive clothes. Here's a shopping guide for adaptive clothes. The side and top seams have been replaced with vrip strips, similar to this shirt; see the back half and whole shirt.
The Necklace of Sithathoryunet comes from the Middle Kingdom, Dynasty 12.
See the Egyptian Fly Necklace. Minette's version is solid 24k gold, not gold plate. The golden fly was indeed an Egyptian medal of valor for persistence in attacking the enemy.