Elizabeth Barrette (ysabetwordsmith) wrote,
Elizabeth Barrette

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Poem: "The Inner Transition"

This poem came out of the April 4, 2017 Poetry Fishbowl.  It was inspired by a prompt from Siliconshaman and conversations with various readers.  It also fills the "surrender" square in my 2-1-17 Platonic card for the Valentines Bingo fest.  This poem belongs to the Berettaflies thread of the Polychrome Heroics series.  Once it's complete, "The Willingness to Surrender Ideas" ($411) will become available.

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WARNING: This poem contains controversial topics. Highlight to read the warnings, some of which are spoilers.  Stylet turns himself in to Valor's Widow. This includes exposure to the elements, emotional shock, poor self-preservation, extreme self-blame, live berettaflies in a souped-up pet carrier, gentle handling of a supervillain, suspicion, hunger, impaired thought, reference to unintended genetic modification of puppies, Stylet crying, preliminary negotiations, surrendering proprietary information, and other angst. If these are touchy topics for you, please consider your tastes and headspace before reading onward.

The Inner Transition

[Week 4, Day 2]

Valor's Widow sat in the living room
of little lakeside cottage that she had
rented in Easy City, listening to the sound
of rain on boardwalk and wind in the rushes.

Balancing her tablet on her knee, she collated
today's notes on the berettaflies case.

Someone pounded on the door.

Wondering who would be out in
such a storm, Valor's Widow got up
and went to answer the door.

Stylet stood there, wearing a thin shirt
and a red-and-black backpack with
a plastic grocery bag over the top, but
no raincoat. Water ran in streams
from his shoulder-length hair to pool
on the smooth boards of the porch.

"Um, hi," he said. "I've come
to turn myself in." Then he sneezed.

"All right," Valor's Widow said as she
opened the door wider and beckoned him
inside. "Why come to me, though?
Why not go to the police?"

Stylet lifted his chin a fraction.
"I don't want to be tortured or killed,"
he said. "Everyone knows that you're fair.
I know nothing about the police."

Well, that was alarming.
Valor's Widow wondered if Stylet
was thinking clearly, or if something had
shattered his sense of self-preservation
to point of making such limited stipulations.

"First, let's get you warm and dry," she said.
"Get some fresh clothes out of your backpack
and change into those. Then we can talk."

"I don't have any other clothes," Stylet said.
"Besides, it wasn't raining when I left.
I didn't expect to fall off the boardwalk
and land in the marsh, either."

No wonder he was muddy and
reeked of three-day-old fish.

Something rustled underneath
the improvised rain cover
of the mesh backpack.

"Then what do you have in there?"
Valor's Widow asked him.

"There's a forcefield," he said hastily.
"The generator for that is in one
of the side pockets; the food and
other supplies in the opposite side.
I, um, brought the last of my berettaflies."

Valor's Widow stood her ground.
"Are they alive?" she asked.

"Yeah, they're just sleeping,"
Stylet said. "It's getting dark now,
so they aren't moving very much."
He took off the backpack and peeked
inside. "I put in some twigs for them
to cling to. See, they're all fine. For now.
I don't know where to put them, though."

Valor's Widow looked at the berettaflies
hanging like so many autumn leaves from
a mulberry branch, deadly and beautiful.
They reminded her of the monarchs
that she had once raised for 4-H.

"Well, this is Easy City, so the cottage
comes with a floor safe for gun storage,"
she said, kicking the rug out of the way.
"You can put them in here for security."

"They need to breathe," he said warily.

"Okay, how much?" Valor's Widow said
as she unlocked the safe with a key.
"Look inside, estimate the volume of air,
and then calculate how long that'll last
for however many berettaflies you have."

"Oh, that should be enough for hours,"
Style said. "I didn't realize it was so big."

"It has to be big enough to hold
hunting rifles," she pointed out. "You
can't leave those things lying around loose,
or else somebody might get hurt."

"Good point," Stylet said as he carefully
lowered the backpack into the safe.

He was still dripping water everywhere, and
made a surreptitious attempt to wipe it up
with his sleeve, which did not help since
that was as wet as the rest of him.

"Why don't you borrow my bathroom and
take a hot shower?" Valor's Widow suggested.
"I'll go find something dry for you to put on."

Stylet shifted from one foot to the other.
"Promise me you won't bother the berettaflies."

"Here," said Valor's Widow, handing him
the key to the safe. "You keep this."

"And if there's another key?"

One thing Valor's Widow had learned
was that supervillains tended to be suspicious,
and most of them had sadly valid reasons for that.

"The spare key is in the rental office, in case
some tourist loses the main key," she said.
"There isn't another one in the house, and
I do not want the berettaflies getting loose.
They will be fine in the safe while you shower."

"Yeah, okay," Stylet said. He sniffed himself
and wrinkled his nose. "That's a good idea."

Valor's Widow led him through the cottage,
grateful for the hardwood floors that would
make it easy to mop up the mess he left.

"Here's the bathroom," she said
as she opened the door for him.

"Wow, this is great," Stylet said,
looking around the tiny room.

Valor's Widow followed his gaze.

Pictures of songbirds hung on
the pale blue walls, there was
an electric candle in the shower,
and the mauve towels were still
rolled and tied with raffia the way
the housekeeping service left them.

It seemed like a perfectly normal
vacation cottage to her. She wondered
where Stylet had been staying before
this, and what it was like there.

"When was your last meal?"
she asked, following a suspicion.

"I had some snack bars this afternoon,"
he said. "Used the last of my ready cash
to get here, though, so my last real meal
was yesterday before I hit the road."

"Hop in the tub, then, and I'll cook
something while you wash," she said.

"Why are you being so nice
to me?" His voice broke.

"Because you're a human being,
you're wet and shivering, and
mistreating supervillains leads
to disaster," said Valor's Widow.
"Take care of physical needs first,
then emotional, then make plans
later after everyone is clear-headed."

"But I ruined everything," Stylet whispered.
Water droplets fell in a slow pat-pat-pat
against the linoleum floor. "The berettaflies
got loose, Easy City is a total mess,
people died, and it's all my fault."

"Those things happened," she said.
"What makes you feel that
this is your fault?"

"I made the berettaflies," he said.

"So you did," Valor's Widow agreed.
"Did you let them out into the city?"

"No, of course not!" Stylet exclaimed.
"I had containment. There were cages
and forcefields and precautions. They
were never intended for use in the wild.
It said so right in the design specs."

"Then you are not 100% at fault for
what happened," Valor's Widow said.
"You're only responsible for your choices
and actions, not for everyone else's too.
Clean yourself up, and when you're ready,
we can talk about what to do next."

She slipped out, shutting the door
gently behind her. Then she went
into the quaint little kitchen to make
a batch of apple pie oatmeal
and lemon-turmeric tea.

The key to reaching Stylet
would be to figure out what
he wanted, and what he was
willing to trade to get it.

Valor's Widow worried
about him a bit, because he
seemed upset about something.
If he wasn't thinking clearly, that
would make the legal situation
a lot more complicated.

She thought about what to do
while she measured out the oats,
chopped the apples, and sprinkled
spices over the bubbling results.

When it was done, she added
a generous squirt of wildflower honey
from the angel-shaped bottle that had
come with the cottage's kitchen staples.

The tea required no more than juicing a lemon
into boiling water and adding the turmeric,
along with a few other spices and sugar.

Valor's Widow piled everything onto
a tray and carried it into the dining room
to set on the sturdy wooden table.

The sound of the shower cut off.

Valor's Widow hurried into the bedroom
to grab a gray lounge outfit along with
the Big Easy t-shirt that Lagniappe had
given her. She took all of those to
the bathroom and rapped on the door.
"I have something for you to wear."

The door opened just wide enough
to let out a wet hand and a cloud of
fragrant, magnolia-scented steam.

Oops. She had forgotten to point Stylet
toward the men's basket of rosemary
that she'd stashed under the sink.

He didn't complain, though, just
snatched the clothes and shut the door.

Valor's Widow went back to the dining room,
sat down, and waited for Stylet to emerge.
A couple of minutes later, he showed up
with a towel over his shoulders to catch
the drips from his still-damp hair.

Valor's Widow opened her mouth
to apologize about the magnolias --

only to have Stylet say, "I love
your bath goodies. I haven't had
anything that nice in weeks."

"They came with cottage," she said.
"There's rosemary under the sink if
you'd prefer something more masculine."

"Nah, I usually use florals," he said.
"It keeps the insects more relaxed."

"Okay then," said Valor's Widow.
"Here, I made oatmeal and lemon tea.
There's more honey if you want it."

He wanted it. He drowned his bowl
in a solid layer of golden goodness,
and he kept the cute little angel
within easy reach of his hand.

Valor's Widow suspected that Stylet
was one of those soups whose powers
ran up his metabolism, although as far
as she knew his abilities were intellectual.

At least the hot meal should help
warm him up and reduce the chance
of catching cold after getting soaked.

Stylet sipped at the tea and then frowned.
"I thought you said this was lemon."

"Lemon, turmeric, and a pinch each
of cayenne, sea salt, and sugar,"
Valor's Widow recited.

"Oh," he said, taking
another drink. "Good idea."

Valor's Widow waited until Stylet
had finished eating before she
brought up the elephant in the room.

"So, you're here to turn yourself in,"
she said. "What brought that on?"

"The pu-pu-puppies," he said,
and burst into tears.

She hadn't seen that coming.

However, Valor's Widow was
an expert in crying if ever there
was one. She got up, fetched
a box of kleenex, and silently
set it in front of him.

It took over ten minutes for
the supervillain to stop sobbing.

When Stylet finally wound down,
Valor's Widow said, "By puppies, I
gather you mean the Popcorn Puggles?"

"Yeah," he said, sniffling. "That lady
was mean. But I can't really blame her.
I messed up her puppies, and I never
meant for that stuff to happen."

Privately Valor's Widow thought that
the owner of Popcorn Puggles had taken
very deliberate aim at the several people
behind the incident, and evidently hit
exactly what she had been targeting.

"Shall we talk about what went wrong
and what we're going to do about it?"
she said. "What do you want from me?"

"A mediator," Stylet said instantly.
"Everyone respects you. So if
you take me in, then they won't
just disappear me or anything."

"Stylet, I don't know where you've
been working," she said, "but we
don't 'disappear' people in America."

He rolled his eyes at her. "Whatever."

Valor's Widow made a mental note
to check on the records of supervillains
who surrendered, and what happened
to them. If any had gone missing,
she needed to know that.

"All right, I can document that
you came to me for mediation, and
I'll make sure the police account for
your voluntary surrender," she said.
"I'm happy to serve as a mediator."

She checked the legal notes on
her smartphone, then added, "Yes,
this will work -- Easy City allows
mediation even for soup incidents.
It only goes to court if we're unable
to reach an agreement on restitution.
This is where turning yourself in will
have some huge  benefits for you."

"Like what?" Stylet asked. He didn't
lean forward, but at least looked up.
Mostly he'd been staring at
his bare feet until now.

"Better accommodations, since
voluntary surrender makes you less
of a flight risk," she said. "They'll offer you
much better terms, since it shows remorse."

Stylet reached for a fresh tissue and
blew his nose again. "Don't deserve it."

Valor's Widow was really starting
to worry about his preservation instinct.
She'd have to ask about an advocate.
Lawyers weren't trained to handle clients
in a delicate state of mind that might
impair the quality of their decisions.

"I fucked up so much," Stylet went on.
"Everybody hates me now." He gave
a broken laugh. "Never read the comments."

"All right, how about reading this instead,"
said Valor's Widow. She went to get
her tablet computer and brought up
an article by a college student about
a candlelight vigil at Clairemont Mall.
"Read the lists of requests for yourself,
the Spectrum, and then Mr. Pernicious.
You'll see that they're pretty different."

Stylet's face got a pinched look
as he obeyed, but the sole entry for
Mr. Pernicious startled him into a laugh.

"They didn't order me to leave,"
he said as he handed the tablet back.

"They did not," Valor's Widow agreed.
"Word got around that you tried to catch
the escaped berettaflies. That helped."

"Yeah, but my life is basically over," Stylet said.
"The cops are sure to lock me up and melt
the key. It's not like I could ever ...
make up for what I have done."

"Well, let's test that," she replied.

"What do you mean?" Stylet asked,
throwing his tissue in the wastebasket.

"As a supervillain, you have a lot
to bargain with in general; as one of
the principles in the berettaflies incident,
you have even more," said Valor's Widow.
"What are you willing to put on the table?"

"Everything," he whispered.

"Including the berettaflies?" she asked,
looking toward the floor safe.

He winced, but said, "Yeah. I brought
those because I figured the police would
want to destroy them all. Just, you know,
put them in a freezer. Don't squash them,
that's really inhumane. Also dangerous."

"The berettaflies are more valuable alive,"
Valor's Widow said. "Almost all of the ones
retrieved have been found dead. A scientist at
Loyola University has been studying them; he
will be thrilled to receive some live specimens
to work with, and of course SPAZMAT will too."

"Dammit, they were never intended
for life in the wild," Stylet said unhappily.
"They were meant for deployment in
a controlled environment. So what did
people think  would happen if they got out?"

"I doubt there was any thinking involved,"
Valor's Widow said in an arid tone. She still
wanted to have words with the Spectrum.
"You're offering the berettaflies; that is
a very high-value opening. What about
proprietary data regarding them? So far,
scientists think they've identified some of
the source species, but not everything."

Stylet unwound something from his wrist,
and Valor's Widow recognized a bracelet made
of silicone so well-matched to his skin tone
that she hadn't even noticed it before.

He pressed a fingertip over one end,
then the other, then what looked like
several random spots in the middle.
A bright green spark appeared,
floating inside the translucent band.

"Here, this is unlocked now, so you
can download the data from it," he said.
"Everything's on the RAPper band. I'm sorry
that I can't switch the control to anyone else,
but these things are strictly one-owner items.
Once it's keyed, it can't be changed."

"Thank you, I'm sure this will be very useful,"
said Valor's Widow. She wondered how far
he would keep going if she pushed a little.
"Community service? That's an efficient way
to pay one's debt to society for many soups."

"Who'd want  me?" Stylet said. "Sure, I'm
a popular guy with other supervillains, who
are huge fans of my work. But I got into
this line because I'm sick of getting kicked out
of regular labs or lectured about my behavior.
And I don't pull wings off flies anymore, that
stopped being fun when I was, what, fifteen."

"I suspect that Doctor Bhattacharya would
welcome your input, as would SPAZMAT,"
said Valor's Widow. "Beyond that, I don't
know; the police may have other ideas.
They often keep a wishlist for such cases.
The question is: are you willing?"

"Yeah, I am if they are," he said.

"Excellent," said Valor's Widow.
"Anything you can tell us about
the berettaflies will be priceless --"

"Uh, it has a price, I just never got paid,
and now I never will," he said. "I am
a working artist, not an amateur."

She wondered if she could talk him
into a municipal contract for cleanup.
It seemed a promising option thus far.

"That will come in handy when it comes time
to calculate just how much you owe society,"
Valor's Widow said. "Likewise, if you offer
to help out with damage control, we'll apply
your standard hourly rate for similar work.
We're having a hard time with amelioration."

"Smooth," he said, plainly startled. Then
he held out a hand. "Show me what you got?"

Valor's Widow picked up her tablet computer,
unlocked the publicly accessible materials,
and said, "Here's a sample. If you want more,
we'll discuss that later at the police station."

Stylet took the computer from her,
attached his RAPper band, and
stared intently at the screen.

His auburn hair, so dark that it
looked black except for the tips
of crimson, began to glow.

The soft red light caught in
the droplets of water that
still beaded in his hair, like
Christmas lights under ice.

"Oh!" Valor's Widow said.
"Your hair is glowing."

"Yeah, it does that." He glanced
down at it, then ran the towel over
the wet ends again. "I start thinking,
and then the red part lights up."

"It's pretty," said Valor's Widow.

"It's distracting, is what it is,"
he muttered. "People used to bitch
about it in the laboratory. I like
working alone, it's easier."

No wonder he ate so much; that energy
had to come from somewhere.

Stylet pulled out his own phone, which
seemed to be made from the same
flexible, flesh-colored silicone as
his RAPper band. He attached
the free end of the RAPper to it, then
began tapping on both sides at once.

"How are you doing that?" she wondered.

"Calculator on the back," Stylet said,
showing her the molded keys, then turned
the phone around. "Touchscreen on the front.
I am a Super-Gizmologist, even if my field is
gengineering. I get my super-gizmos from
a colleague. Don't try this at home."

"It's okay, I know I'm no superhera,"
Valor's Widow assured him.

He gave her a funny look. "Uh ... huh."
Then he turned his phone around
"Here's what I have so far."

List of component species.


Summary of behavior patterns,
complete with maps and time charts.


List of known larval food plants.


List of known adult food plants, and ...

"Jazz syrup?" Valor's Widow said,
baffled. "What in the world is that?"

"You know, what they make Jazz cokes with,
before the machine adds the soda water?"
he said. "It's pretty good stuff."

"So don't drink Jazz outdoors,
because it could attract berettaflies,"
Valor's Widow extrapolated.
"Oh, that's useful already!"

So useful, she'd need to send
an anonymous tip to warn the police
tonight, rather than waiting until tomorrow.

"Definitely don't drink Jazz anywhere
the berettaflies could smell it," he said
with a nod. "That's how I found they like it,
they kept getting into mine when I'd go
into the big walk-in cage. Early on, I had
some problems with adult viability, but what
do you know? Jazz fixed that right up."

"Remarkable," said Valor's Widow.
"You know, you've already made good
on the first three citizen requests."

"What?" Stylet's head jerked up.
He cleared the screen on his phone,
brought up the article, and his jaw dropped.
"Huh. I guess you're right about that."

He cleared the screen again,
then began entering some kind of
equation that Valor's Widow couldn't read.

She let him work on whatever it was
until he started drooping in the chair.
Then she cleared her throat.

Stylet did not respond.

Valor's Widow had seen it
before, though, the way that
some brains would zone on
their work and then forget
to eat or sleep or anything.

She reached over and gently
wrapped a hand over his wrist.

Stylet startled. "What?" he said.

"You're falling asleep," she said.
"Save your work, and it will still
be here in the morning."

He sighed, but obeyed. "Time
to go get arrested, I guess."

"Time to go to bed," she corrected.
"Stylet, it's getting late. You're exhausted,
I'm exhausted, and everything will be
a lot easier to deal with when we're fresh.
I'll take you to the police station tomorrow."

Stylet looked at the door. "Then ... what'm
I s'posed to do tonight? I can't afford a hotel."

"Technically, this is a two-bedroom cottage,"
Valor's Widow said. "I picked it because
the spare is done up as an office, so that
I can work on the berettaflies case. It has
a loveseat that folds out into a twin bed."

"Wow, thanks," Stylet said. "But what
about the berettaflies? They can't stay
in the safe all night, or they'd smother."

"How secure is that forcefield?" she asked.

"You could drive a tank over it, and it
wouldn't pop," he said grimly.
"I learned that lesson."

"Then put them in your room
for the night, visit the bathroom,
and go to bed," Valor's Widow said.

Stylet yawned. "Mmmkay," he said,
but made no move to get up.

Valor's Widow put his RAPper band
back on his wrist and his phone in
his pocket, then ushered him to
the floor safe for the berettaflies.

Meanwhile, she unfolded
the hide-a-bed and brought
a light blanket in case Stylet
got cold during the night.

He put the backpack in the room.
The berettaflies were silent now.

"Thanks for loaning me this,"
he said as he returned the key.

"You're welcome," said Valor's Widow.

Stylet seemed to have stalled out again,
so she steered him back to the bathroom.

When he came out of there, he walked
right to the hide-a-bed and collapsed
onto it, face down, without moving.

Valor's Widow carefully adjusted
his position so that his face was clear,
then draped the cotton throw over him.

"If you need anything, come and get me,
even if it's the middle of the night," she said.

A faint snore bubbled up from the bed.

Valor's Widow tiptoed out of the room
and closed the door quietly behind her.

Nothing was settled, of course;
this was just the beginning of
a long and difficult road.

Yet Stylet had chosen her
to be his guide upon it, and
that spoke of some hope.

Valor's Widow knew that surrender
was the inner transition from
resistance to acceptance,
from no to yes.

If she could help Stylet
make that transition, then
all her effort would be worth it.

* * *


Valor's Widow -- Deirdre Braden has milk-pale skin and wavy auburn hair. Her eyes have changed from hazel to glas, sea-color lit with sorrow. She has a slender, delicate build. Superheroes and supervillains alike respect her and stand aside for her. They are coming to her more and more often for help resolving disputes or other problems. Deirdre lives in San Jose.
Origin: Deirdre was the wife of Captain Valor. When Haxxor planted a bomb in San Jose and took over Captain Valor's gizmotronic armor, Deidre activated a failsafe and destroyed the armor, killing both Captain Valor and Haxxor. The sacrifice changed her from an ordinary woman to a supernary hera.
Uniform: Deidre dresses all in black, in sober styles. Sometimes she wears a black veil too.
Qualities: Master (+6) Aura of Valor, Master (+6) Loyalty to Honor, Expert (+4) Love of Captain Valor, Expert (+4) Historian, Expert (+4) Leader, Expert (+4) Mediation, Good (+2) Compassionate, Good (+2) Contacts Among Soups, Good (+2) Forethought, Good (+2) Graceful
Poor (-2) Broken Heart
Motivation: To keep the peace and uphold the memory of Captain Valor.

Stylet (Silas Manson) -- He has pale skin and light gray eyes. His hair is straight, so dark auburn that it looks almost black, but the bottom few inches brighten to crimson. When he uses his superpowers, the red part lights up. He wears it at shoulder length. As a small boy, Silas enjoyed pulling the wings off of flies. As an adult, he often puts wings on instead, or modifies insects in other ways. He is a skilled gengineer, but he often puts it to malicious use. He thinks of himself as a bench artist, making live sculptures.
Origin: He has always liked playing with insects, is not picky about where he gets them, and is not careful about handling them. Most likely he got stung by something metagenic, or some combination of ordinary things added up to similar effects.
Uniform: Usually lab clothes, and street clothes when off duty.
Qualities: Master (+6) Pain Tolerance, Expert (+4) Supervillain Contacts, Good (+2) Attention to Detail, Good (+2) Fearless
Poor (-2) Safety Skills
Powers: Expert (+4) Super-gizmology: Gengineering, Good (+2) Toxin Resistance, Average (0) Radiance
Motivation: Bugs are fun.

* * *

"Surrender is the inner transition from resistance to acceptance, from no to yes."
-- Eckhart Tolle

See the rental cottages in Easy City; Valor's Widow has the white one, #9.  Here is the floor plan.  The living room has two linen chairs, a matching couch (not visible in this picture), and an old trunk used as a coffee table.  The dining room holds a wooden table, two chairs, and two benches plus a china cabinet. The cottage comes stocked with tableware for eight.  The kitchen has white cabinetry with a rustic sink.  The bathroom is decorated in pale blue and tan.  The master bedroom has a full-size bed with an antique ironwork frame facing two corner windows. The office-bedroom contains a wooden desk and rolling chair, a white easy chair, and a white loveseat that folds out into a twin bed.

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A typical vacation cottage will provide some basics like kitchen utensils, and often bathroom supplies the way a hotel does. But the farther up the scale you go, the more goodies they add, and this is a nice resort that caters to people spending several weeks there. So they include housekeeping service and the place is stocked with cheap, healthy, nonperishable pantry basics plus food bars and other snacks. A weekly fruit basket features good keepers such as apples, oranges, and bananas; the baked goods basket includes bread and sweets. In other words, when you forget to go shopping because you're on vacation, you won't starve or wind up eating junk food. The resort buys this stuff in bulk and then divvies it into small containers to distribute among the various cottages. Unlike a hotel, they don't charge an arm and a leg for each item, either: it's part of the rental package.

Wildflower honey has many benefits, including the ability to reduce some plant-based allergies.

This angel honey comes from a Louisiana apiary called Blessed Bees, run by an interfaith community. Yes, it's blessed by clergy of assorted faiths, and comes in assorted shapes of container; in Louisiana the angels are really popular. The makers believe that you are what you eat, and that blessing food promotes better spiritual and physical health. They have slogans like "Put a sweet little prayer on your plate today!" printed on stickers. This stuff is so popular that they have contracts with several resorts to stock it for guests.

This bread basket holds a week's worth of baked goods for 1-2 people. The larger lodges get a similar package, just more frequently. These are made by a local bakery, so they're affordable for the resort to offer. The fruit spreads come from Blessed Bees too.

Valor's Widow loans Stylet a set of gray loungewear and a Big Easy t-shirt.  It's not quite unisex but at least it's not too girly.

The cottage comes with baskets of bath products intended to please men and women.  The women's bath set is magnolia and includes hand wash, hand lotion, body cream, bath salts, and bath soap plus a magnolia hair care set of shampoo, conditioner, and hair spray.  The men's bath set is rosemary and features hand wash, hand & body lotion, shower gel, foot soak, and soothing salve plus a rosemary hair care set of shampoo and conditioner.  But anyone can use either batch, and Stylet goes for the magnolia.

Mediation is a form of alternative dispute resolution.  A mediator assists a discussion between the parties in conflict, intended to reach a mutually agreeable solution.  Valor's Widow doesn't have exactly the same parameters as some other mediators do, but the core concept is the same: a respected neutral party helps people resolve a conflict.  Community justice and restorative justice often use mediation because it is collaborative rather than competitive.  Stylet may not care about breaking laws, but he does actually have standards and he feels bad because what happened with the berettaflies crossed some lines he is not comfortable crossing.  So now he wants someone to help him repair that damage -- without subjecting himself to levels of risk he considers unacceptable.  That his levels of acceptable risk are far out of bounds and should be more stringent is a separate issue.

Valor's Widow is thinking about impaired consent. While local-America gladly takes advantage of distressed captives, even though egregious violations can invalidate confessions and milder ones can cause mental injury, Terramagne-America requires that suspects be of sound mind -- or if not, that they have an advocate to assist them in making valid decisions. In this case, Stylet is not only exhausted but mentally jarred by the realization of his wrongdoing; he's not acting to protect his own interests to a degree that would be considered rational. The impairment is situational (exhaustion, in custody) and global (mental shock). It is acute, and probably time-limited, although if not handled carefully then lasting damage could occur. T-America prefers that criminals not get any worse than they already are.

A RAPper band is a type of super-gizmotronic data storage; the initials stand for Record And Preserve. It's Invulnerable. It uses the owners DNA as a key and code. So it's only usable by one person, but it holds an incredible amount of data and doesn't require enormous energy to run. That's 20 terabytes data storage, more than L-American hard drives.  One human genome has about 1.5 gigabytes of data, which would fit on two CDs.  So a RAPper has enough room to store many, many genome files along with computer programs, text documents, and the owner's pr0n stash. They can be connected by snapping the north magnet of one RAPper to the south magnet of another, and will communicate with each other.

Like the regular kind of spiral silicone bracelet they resemble, RAPper bands come in various colors.  They can be matched to any flesh tone as well, from alabaster to ebony.

Flexible calculators do exist.  I don't know why, it'd drive me nuts, but apparently some people like them.

Read "Candlelight Vigil at Clairemont Mall" to see the list of citizen demands for the Spectrum, Stylet, and Mr. Pernicious.

Tags: #9, cyberfunded creativity, fantasy, fishbowl, life lessons, poem, poetry, reading, weblit, writing

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