Elizabeth Barrette (ysabetwordsmith) wrote,
Elizabeth Barrette

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Poem: "Interchange"

This poem came out of conversation with Dreamwidth user Dialecticdreamer.  It also fills the "authority figures" square in my 5-22-14 card for the Origfic Bingo fest.  It has been selected in an audience poll as the free epic for the September 2, 2014 Poetry Fishbowl reaching the $200 goal.


Green Man and Backdraft
are not exactly rivals,
both supervillains,
but sometimes they do
get in each other's way
and there is a certain
tension between them.

Green Man is a bit damaged
after a hunting accident
attracted a strange spirit stag and
left him with ancestral superpowers.

He wants to wipe out the
entire fossil fuel industry and
everything that it produces,
from raw petroleum to cars to plastics.

Backdraft is a pyrokinetic
who gained his fire powers
after some gay-bashers
tried to light him up.
It did not end well for them, but
they were never brought to justice.

He is far more precise
about his targeting, though,
and he takes a very dim view
of those who are not -- he only
burns down government buildings
or banks or the like, and only
while they are empty of people.

Today Green Man has caused
a massive pileup of vehicles on
the business exchange cloverleaf.

Cars are burning, along with
the tanker trucks that had been
the focus of his attention,
torn apart by animated vines.

There are people trapped on overpasses,
well above safe falling distances, and
others stuck inside their crumpled cars.

"Are you drunk, or what?"
Backdraft yells at Green Man, because
they're always twitting each other and
he needs a distraction.  "I could aim
better than that blindfolded!"

"Easy for you to say," Green Man
shoots back.  "If you come off too fast
and miss, you can just move the fire."
It's ridiculous, really, because he is
moving the vines even as he speaks,
twisting them around a new tanker
that bursts in a golden spray of gasoline.

Backdraft can sympathize with
the eco-terrorism to a certain extent,
but not with the collateral damage.
The whole interchange is a mess.

When the cops arrive, they seem
shocked to find Backdraft in his
flamboyant scarlet-and-gold uniform
using his power to put out the fires,
because he is so not a superhero.

With all the gasoline splattered around,
there is no dousing all the flames,
but he can suppress them enough
to grab people out of harm's way
and stash them inside the barricade
he has welded together from the wreckage.

Green Man is resplendent in his
summer uniform of verdant leaves
as he tears apart the offending vehicles.

Backdraft takes off his gold cape and uses it
to snap Green Man on the backside,
who responds by twining a vine
around Backdraft's ankle
to yank him off balance.

They have a hard time
really hurting each other --
both of their powers give them
a lot of resistance to damage --
so they focus on attacks to annoy,
distract, disarm, or unbalance.

It's all very fine to have a
complaint with the system,
and to go outside the law to fight it,
but that still doesn't excuse
taking it out on random bystanders.

Some of whom have opinions of their own,
as Green Man soon discovers.

"You just totaled my new Tesla,
you asshole!" one man shouts,
pointing to a flaming wreck.

The poor supervillain looks stricken,
evidently realizing that he has just
removed from the road one of the few cars
that doesn't  run on gasoline.

The next moment, Green Man
wreathes himself in vines and disappears,
traveling through the network of greenery
to emerge in some forest far away.

Backdraft keeps an eye on the cops
as he frees a toddler from a bent van.
He carries her to her family,
huddled safely in the blockade
of mangled cars that he's created.

He sets the kid down
as the cops stare at him,
a strange interchange of roles.

Then with his back to the family,
he gives them a cheeky grin and the finger.

When Backdraft goes back to work
damping down the fires, the cops
don't try very hard to capture him,

and when the first fire trucks arrive
somehow nobody is close enough
to nab him before he can step
into the flames and firetrip away.

* * *


Green Man (Ackley Braddock) -- He has brown hair, brown eyes, and tawny-fair skin.  His body is tall and muscular, with big bones and broad hips.  He has large square hands.  Ackley is homosexual but kind of stuffy about it, considering it more a thing that young men do in school than a basis for a real relationship.  There is a lot of unresolved sexual tension between him and Backdraft.
 Ackley draws his power from the old Green Man lore.  He can control plants, change their shape or nature, and produce plants from his mouth.  He can also change into a sort of tree-beast, which makes him stronger and harder to hurt: effectively Good (+2) Invulnerability plus it can stack with his Green Man powers to make them better.  He is much less conspicuous in human form, but considerably more powerful in Tree Form.  He is downright irrational on the topic of petroleum and its derivatives.
Origin: While visiting family in southern England, he went bow hunting with them and was accidentally shot.  A stag appeared to him and bestowed the powers of the Green Man.  Unfortunately this came with ancestral memories that he could not handle, thus unbalancing his mind.  Instead of a reasoned defender of the Earth, he became a deranged crusader against fossil fuels.
Uniform: Leather mask of oak leaves with antlers, dexflan body stocking with leaves and vines, sturdy boots, and body paint on all exposed skin.  Despite the name Green Man, he wears green only during the growing season.  In autumn his costume (and Tree Form) changes to red, and in winter brown.
Qualities: Good (+2) Family in England, Good (+2) Hunter, Good (+2) Independent, Good (+2) Mythology Professor, Good (+2) Tough
Poor (-2) Petrol Is a Red Cape
Powers: Expert (+4) Green Man Powers (Signature Stunts: Ancestral Knowledge, Control Plants, Disgorge Greenery, Summon the Wild Hunt, Transform Plants; Spin-Off Stunt: Arboreal Teleporting), Good (+2) Tree Form
Limitation: Must be in Tree Form before he can Summon the Wild Hunt.  Traitors, oathbreakers, kinslayers, irresponsible hunters, and others who go against the natural order are the rightful prey of the Wild Hunt.  Only they are subject to its harsh justice; the Wild Hunt will not harm innocents and is not concerned with petty mortal laws.
Motivation: Destroy the fossil fuel industry and everything it makes.

* * *

Unresolved sexual tension and its belligerent version are popular tropes.

Ancestral spirits may grant superpowers but can also disrupt the current life.  This is why Green Man is not quite right in the head anymore.

Gay bashing refers to violent episodes of homophobia unleashed on people who are (or are thought to be) homosexual.  It's based on masculine insecurity.  Sometimes it involves fire.

Towel snapping is a rude locker-room prank, performed here with Backdraft's cape.

Plant Manipulation, Fire Manipulation, and Invulnerability are some of the powers on display here.

Tesla Motors has released the Model S car, which is pretty awesome.  This is why an ordinary guy totally lost his shit at a supervillain.

Tags: cyberfunded creativity, environment, fantasy, fishbowl, gender studies, poem, poetry, reading, weblit, writing
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