Elizabeth Barrette (ysabetwordsmith) wrote,
Elizabeth Barrette

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Poem: "Elevator Etiquette"

This poem is spillover from the November 8, 2016 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired by prompts from [personal profile] shiori_makiba and [personal profile] janetmiles, including this lovely warren of plotbunnies. It also fills the "poor decision" square in my 8-1-16 card for the Survival Bingo fest. This poem has been sponsored by daisiesrockalot. It belongs to the Starbright thread of the Polychrome Heroics series.

"Elevator Etiquette"

Word gets around, because
Render talks about what happened
every time that he stops at a bar,
which is at least once a week
and frequently more.

So the black capes hear
about the kooky volunteer who
wants them to do their civic duty
if a sick kid asks to meet them.

It's Skink who gets the tap next.

"You're well known for eating insects,
says Christofor Allard. "I'm representing
a little boy with stomach cancer, who
needs a high-protein diet and thinks
insects and supervillains are cool."

"I, well, there could be problems
with security," says Skink. "I'm known
just as much for being a bodyguard."

"Render got in and out of a hospital
visit just fine," Christofor says.

Skink is skittish about the proposal,
but in the end he agrees to go.

The elevator door barely opens before
someone tackles him from behind.

"Hitting a hospital is low even for
a supervillain," Hubbub yells. "Don't
you know about medical neutrality?
You ought to be ashamed of yourself!"

Suddenly Christofor appears in
his green volunteer t-shirt and hauls
Hubbub off of Skink and into a corner.

"Mr. Yellow Dirt is here at my invitation
and under my protection," Christofor says.

Skink watches in amazement as
Christofor scolds the superhero for
five solid minutes about hassling
someone for doing a good deed and
thus almost ruining a kid's wish.

Once Hubbub is reduced to
abject submission, Christofor
kicks him out of the hospital.

"Here's your room card,"
Christofor says as he returns.

The card has the boy's name --
Abner Belkins -- and room number
printed out in crisp blue type, and
under that is another card with
Christofor's contact information.

"Thanks," Skink says, bemused.

"Also I brought these," Christofor adds,
handing him a three-pack of cricket snacks.
"Don't let him eat more than one serving
the first time, but it's approved. I hope
the two of you like curry or barbecue.
The honey-mustard seems iffy."

"Nah, I like all their flavors," Skink says.
"If he doesn't want those, I do."

After the excitement in the lobby,
the visit is an anticlimax; Abner eats
one handful of mixed crickets
and then falls sound asleep.

Skink sits with him through
the whole hour anyhow, feeling
useless and wishing he could do more,
which is not at all his usual response.

So like Render, he can't resist
talking about the incident after the fact,
and the legend grows a little larger.

Christofor's coworkers call him
the Villain Wrangler, but
the supervillains have
their own name for him,
and from them it spreads
to the superheroes too.

They call him El Grullo,
the Gray Man, the one between.

He's gaining a reputation as someone
not only trustworthy with personal contacts,
but willing and able to block superheroes
and other forms of law enforcement.

Gimpy is just as shocked as
everyone else when Christofor
tracks him down with a request.

"I've got a teen who lost all of one leg
and most of the other in a shootout with
a 3D-printed gun dealer," says Christofor.
"You're into wheelchair sports, so I'm
hoping that will let you connect with him."

"You know I'm an asshole, right?"
Gimpy says, staring at him. "I mean,
literally nobody who is not a supervillain
thinks any of my jokes are funny."

"Well, Edmund isn't on the straight and
narrow himself, so the usual counselors
are getting exactly nowhere with him,"
says Christofor. "Even if you can't
convince him that wheelchair sports
are real athletics, maybe you can
at least make him laugh a little."

So Gimpy rolls into the hospital with
a few surprises in his shirt pocket.

Then he almost has a heart attack
when Captain Valor walks in on him,
and Gimpy wonders if he is about
to get beaten bloody in an elevator.

Instead, Captain Valor says calmly,
"Fourth floor, please."

Gimpy is so stunned that
he pushes the button rather than
telling the superhero to fuck off.

Captain Valor then proceeds
to tell him about some little girl who
has been beaten up by her stepfather
and wants to see the Captain's collection
of comics illustrated with ball-jointed dolls.

As soon as the doors open on
floor three, Gimpy peels out and
goes in search of his assignment.

He keeps looking over his shoulder, but
Captain Valor is nowhere in sight.

As it turns out, the rude little hooligan
in 319 is still unconvinced about
the appeal of wheelchair football

but he falls in love with the fart apps.

* * *


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. 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

Christofor often wears a t-shirt that reads, I volunteer, what's your superpower?

Skink (David Yellow Dirt) -- He has tinted skin, brown eyes, and long straight brown hair. He is handsome but has a very long face. His heritage is mestizo including Yaqui, Apache, Mexican, and Spanish ancestors. He grew up on a reservation with no electricity, no running water, and a mother with Average (0) Earth Powers. He never has quite gotten the hang of things like faucets or clocks, let alone fancier technology like cars or computers, although he tries hard.
Skink works as a bodyguard for supervillains, because his scaled skin serves as a kind of Armor and he can Regenerate even severed limbs. He can also Hibernate if the temperature drops too low. After losing a limb, his body exudes a thick sticky gel which quickly seals the wound and causes it to regenerate within a day. Skink requires a warmer environment (80-85ºF) and a rich diet with extra calcium to do this. He eats crickets like candy because something about the nutrients in them helps him recharge faster. He's fond of other insects as well.
Origin: As a young man, some friends dared him to sneak into a toxic waste dump and steal one of the shiny rocks. David did so, to much acclaim, but after that he fell sick for several weeks. When he got better, he noticed that his skin was becoming dry and flaky. Over the next few months, this developed into a true coat of smooth, tough scales with a subtle pattern of light and dark stripes plus a bright blue patch on his butt. Nobody wanted to give him a job in the ordinary world after that, so Skink started working for criminals, and worked his way up to guarding supervillains.
Uniform: He usually wears Western style men's clothes. On special occasions he dresses up in tribal regalia -- for any of his tribes -- and he's also done both contemporary Mexican and Spanish Californian outfits.
Qualities: Expert (+4) Intertribal Culture, Good (+2) Bodyguard, Good (+2) Friends with the Iron Horses, Good (+2) Pain Tolerance
Poor (-2) Awkward with Modern Conveniences
Powers: Master (+6) Skink Traits
Vulnerability: Skink is sensitive to cold, becoming uncomfortable below room temperature (70-75ºF) and worse below that. He starts taking failure ranks below 60ºF, and below about 40ºF he drops into hibernation.
Motivation: To protect what he can.

Regeneration appears as a superpower, but also as established biology in species such as skinks. They can drop their tail and then grow a new one. These lizards like a warm, slightly moist environment. Normally humans cannot regenerate lost body parts, but a few people have, especially with help.

Abner Belkins -- He has tinted skin, gray eyes, and dark hair but is currently bald. He is fighting stomach cancer and is on a high-protein diet. Abner is adventurous and enjoy gross things and supervillains. So Christofor Allard connects him with Skink for moral support.
Qualities: Good (+2) Emotional Intelligence, Good (+2) Loves Gross Things, Good (+2) Supervillains Are Cool
Poor (-2) Stomach Cancer

Hubbub (Remington Rolfe) -- He has pale skin, brown eyes, and short black hair. He is originally from Richmond, Virginia but currently lives in New York. Hubbub makes the classic superhero mistake of shortchanging his relationships to run off and do super things, so his personal life sucks. Disaster response includes such skills as crowd control, first aid, water rescue, and storm cleanup. He also does a lot of crimefighting, but his skill there is only average and he focuses on stopping crimes in progress rather than solving them after the fact or hunting down supervillains to prevent future crimes.
Origin: Remington started working as a lifeguard at 16. A few years later, he got caught in a major boating accident while trying to rescue a drunken captain. Remington was surprisingly unscathed, and discovered to have superpowers.
Uniform: On duty, Hubbub wears a blue dexflan shirt, red capery cape, and black capery pants tucked into black krevel boots. Off duty, he wears nice men's clothes.
Qualities: Good (+2) Altruist, Good (+2) Charming, Good (+2) Disaster Response, Good (+2) Quick Thinker, Good (+2) Strength
Poor (-2) Relationships
Powers: Good (+2) Sonic Powers, Good (+2) Tough
Motivation: To save the day.

Gimpy (Carter Kombeck) -- He has fair skin, brown eyes, and short brown hair. He lost both legs in a high-speed chase fleeing from police after a bank robbery gone wrong. Gimpy smokes because he enjoys it and doesn't expect to live a long life anyhow. He often winds up in community service, and even makes a half-decent mentor for younger hooligans.
Gimpy makes terrible jokes about disabilities, because he loves shocking people. His favorite is slamming a pair of fake legs in the trunk, and when someone asks, "What happened to your legs?" he says, "I must've left the damn things in the car again," and points to the bloody feet sticking out the back. He thinks it's especially hilarious when he gets pulled over for it. His pea-green car has scores written in hashmarks for screams (highest number), cops, slaps, and wet pants (only 2).
Origin: While attempting to rob a supervillain's lair, Carter got caught between crushing walls. Instead of dying, he turned one-dimensional and slithered out, much to the amazement of his accomplices.
Uniform: Sporty men's clothes.
Qualities: Expert (+4) Tough, Good (+2) Athletic, Good (+2) Handyman, Good (+2) Thief
Poor (-2) Obnoxious Sense of Humor
Powers: Average (0) One-Dimensional Profile
Motivation: A life of excitement.

Edmund Ashworth -- He has fair skin, black eyes, and short black hair with just a little wave. Edmund breaks rules all the time, and gets caught most of the time, so he's often in trouble. He was working for an illegal maker of 3D guns when a shootout started, and one of the guns exploded, after which his injuries left him without his right leg and most of his left. Christofor Allard introduced Edmund to Gimpy, a supervillain who uses a wheelchair.
Qualities: Good (+2) Friends on the Street, Good (+2) Quick Wit, Good (+2) Swimming
Poor (-2) Bad Boy

Captain Valor (Brian McKinley) -- He has fair skin, blue eyes, and blond hair. He stands 6'6" tall and weighs around 290 pounds. Tattoos on his left arm include an American flag. He is married to Deirdre Braden. Brian's cover job involves working at a community center, often with disadvantaged youth. He can always get away from work by claiming a "client emergency," which is even true, just for a slightly different set of clients. Brian puts in so many hours that nobody ever complains. In high school and college, he played football as a center, and still enjoys it for recreation.
Captain Valor works as a superhero, and he is an excellent frontline fighter for stopping supervillains in the midst of a crime. He also does public outreach. He has helped to produce a series of comic booklets for children, intended to be handed out in civics classes. Some of these he has illustrated himself, with live photographs or ball-jointed dolls posed on sets. The two rules of writing Captain Valor are:
1) The Captain is always good.
2) The Captain always finds a way to convey a moral message in each episode.
Origin: In college, Brian made friends with some talented people and got a battlesuit out of it.
Uniform: Under the battlesuit, Captain Valor wears an undersuit of dexflan reinforced with krevel, in a blue camouflage pattern. For cape work that doesn't require the battlesuit, he also has a blue camouflage uniform with a matching hood, in a slightly different pattern. Off-duty, he dresses in practical men's clothes.
Qualities: Master (+6) Athlete, Master (+6) Citizen, Master (+6) Moral Compass, Expert (+4) Heals Fast, Expert (+4) Jeet Kune Do, Expert (+4) Smart, Good (+2) Collector of Americana, Good (+2) History, Good (+2) Love of Deirdre Braden, Good (+2) Photographer, Good (+2) Reaction Time, Good (+2) Talented Friends
Poor (-2) Ignoring Evil
Powers: Good (+2) Battlesuit
Vulnerability: Heavy automation leaves the battlesuit susceptible to hacking.
The battlesuit provides super-level agility, endurance, speed, and strength.
Motivation: To teach right by doing right.

Photography of ball-joined dolls is an art form of its own. Many people enjoy making photostories this way. Captain Valor's settings are simple, practical ones such as a bedroom, couch, or porch swing. In this comic, characters discuss going to the prom.

* * *

The Starbright Foundation is an organization that grants wishes for children with life-threatening conditions. Their best volunteer, Christofor Allard, is nicknamed the Villain Wrangler by his coworkers and El Grullo by the superpowered community. He's the one who handled the first request to meet a supervillain, which has expanded to soup mentors in general. This organization is similar to local-America's Make a Wish Foundation or L-Australia's Starlight Children's Foundation.

A high-protein diet is sometimes used for stomach cancer. Crickets provide an excellent source of protein.

Among the more interesting food taboos is "Americans do not eat insects." However, many insects are edible, and they are prized in plenty of other cultures. Some people are exploring edible insects as a business. Novelty foods include plain roasted crickets or flavored ones. Chefs are inventing recipes for insects too.

Some boys (and also some girls) love gross things.

Medical neutrality is the ideal that people will refrain from attacking or otherwise interfering with medical personnel, and in return, medics will treat everyone in triage order regardless of affiliation. Local-Earth barely bothers with it anymore. But in Terramagne, people are still serious about this and even most supervillains respect it. Thus it provides a valuable buffer and even an interface between the white capes and the black.

Jump Up Johnny is when someone does a good deed and gets criticized or attacked for it; this usually, though not always, refers to superpowers. It is frowned upon because it can shift people toward the supervillain side of the spectrum.

There are tips for visiting someone in the hospital and helping them feel better. But it's not rare for them to fall asleep.

Grullo is often translated as "gray" but actually refers to a mousy grayish-tan color of horses. It is inherently ambiguous, and difficult to pin down even for expert breeders.

3D printing can produce guns. Sort of. They can be made from plastic; watch a video of a plastic gun firing. They can be made from metal; watch a video of a metal gun firing. They also have a reputation for exploding. But don't blame 3D printing: this is the nature of firearms throughout their history. Before a given branch of this technology matures, it has a nasty habit of refusing to fire, blowing your hands off, or otherwise ruining your day. Since T-America has much tighter gun laws than L-America, along with more advanced technology such as 3D printers, this problem is considerably bigger over there than it is here. Yet. The path to the future of an elegant, reliable firearm in any new media runs directly through a lot of unintentional bodily losses. But hey, supervillains are the ultimate early adopters with an exceptionally high risk tolerance.

Off-duty villains appear in such tropes as Punch-Clock Villain and Villains Out Shopping. When the heroes join in, that's GoKarting with Bowser. They may share a Truce Zone, in this case the hospital. One benefit to doing this is that it may coax some villains into switching sides. Hubbub is one of those guys whose foolish behavior leads to picking avoidable fights, and thus, inspires the suggestion to avoid provoking supervillains who are not currently committing a crime. Captain Valor is far more sensible, and inclined to give supervillains the benefit of the doubt while they are behaving themselves.

Fart apps are quite popular. Enjoy a selection of the best.
Tags: community, cyberfunded creativity, fantasy, fishbowl, poem, poetry, reading, weblit, writing

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