"Among the Colors"
Calliope kept an eye on the Rojas family
after she asked Dolorita and Alberto
to care for a baby with Chameleon Skin.
Since his birth parents had surrendered him
and few people would accept superkids
even in foster care, it didn't take long
for the official adoption to go through.
His new parents renamed him Jesús,
not wanting a reminder of birth parents
who had put out their own son like
an unwanted puppy on a doorstep.
Then one brisk autumn day,
Calliope and Vagary went to
the Tranquility Counseling Center
only to have Dolorita jump on Calliope
shrieking in her ear, "We're pregnant!"
"Wow, congratulations," Calliope said.
"I thought you were taking a break, though?"
"We were, but this little blessing
happened all on its own," Dolorita said.
"That's a challenge -- two babies
are a lot more expensive than one,"
Alberto said, bouncing Jesús on his knee.
"I just finished El Paraíso del Tiempo,
so I'm looking for work again."
"Do you travel?" Vagary said,
leaning forward. "Because if you do,
I know where you can find all the work
you can handle, plus hazard pay."
"Hazard pay?" Alberto said, then
shook his head. "No offense, Vagary,
but I'm looking for legal work."
"It is legal, it'd be the same thing you're
doing now, just for the organization that
I work for," Vagary said. "We always give
hazard pay to civilians who help us, since
most people just won't and even the ones
who do can be twitchy about superpowers."
"All right, but why me?" Alberto asked.
"I've seen your work around town,
like the rainbow mountains you painted
in the Family Services office, and I've
been to El Paraíso del Tiempo,"
Vagary said. "You're good."
Alberto really was. Calliope had
gone to see El Paraíso del Tiempo
when it opened, and it was beautiful.
The owner had remodeled a house
into rentable space for people who
lived in small apartments and wanted
somewhere nice to relax or entertain.
It had a pool room, sitting rooms,
kitchen and dining room, quiet rooms,
family rooms and playrooms, most
of them covered in Alberto's art.
"I'm not sure why supervillains
would want ombré or stencil work,"
Alberto said. "You could get stickers
or wallpaper for a fraction of the cost."
"Yeah, or program a gizmo to do it,"
Vagary said. "Thing is, you're better."
His fingers played with the hem of
his sweatshirt. "The scenes that
you make are soothing in ways
the mass-market ones just aren't.
They're subtle, but they have heart."
"Supposing I was interested,
what kind of things would you
want painted?" Alberto asked.
"I heard that you've been doing
nurseries for superkids," Vagary said.
"Yes, I did a mountainscape for
a Tibetan boy whose parents were
killed escaping from Chinese territory,"
Alberto said. "There's a plain blue ombré
for a Japanese man who got pregnant, and
a pink one with birds for a girl who flies."
"Plus you did that playroom for your friends,
and the spruce forest for Jesús," Calliope said.
"We could use things like that," Vagary said.
"Also we have waiting rooms, exam rooms,
hospital rooms, places for healthy touch
or breastfeeding -- anywhere that people
need to relax but might find it hard."
"Not really what I expected from
someone in your line of work,"
Alberto said, tilting his head.
Vagary sighed and looked around
to make sure nobody was listening
too closely. The waiting room
wasn't very crowded, though.
"We look for people who don't fit in
and aren't really happy with their lives,"
he said. "We get a lot of refugees, too.
It helps if the safehouse or bunker has
things to help them calm down some."
"That makes sense, it's just hard
for me to imagine anyone taking up
illegal activity for that," Alberto said.
"Yeah well, most of us are in it for
three hots and a cot," Vagary said.
"So we have a great benefits package
and we try to provide whatever level
of adventure people are looking for --
sometimes a little, other times a lot."
"I find it hard to believe that anyone
would become a supervillain for
the meal plan," Alberto said.
"They're not really what I expected,
either," Calliope admitted. "I've gotten
a teleporter from them, though, and
sometimes that's less of a hassle
than going through SPOON."
"A teleporter?" Alberto said.
"I can't afford anything like that!"
"Oh, you don't have to pay for it,
that's how we bring people in so
they don't see the actual locations,"
Vagary said. "If you're worried, we can
run it as medical neutrality, since you'd
be doing stuff for EFA. That means
your teleporter stays in arm's reach."
"They'd get in the way like that,"
Alberto said, waving a hand.
"I need enough room to work."
"They could stay in the room, then,
instead of right beside you," Vagary said.
"That should work," Alberto agreed.
"Are we really considering this?"
"You're looking for a job, and
this is a job," Dolorita said.
"I think you should try it."
"What do you think?"
Alberto asked Calliope.
"Would you work with them?"
"That's how I got the teleporter,
trading his skill for mine," Calliope said.
"Negotiate carefully, but they do seem
to keep a deal once it's made."
Alberto turned to Vagary.
"Could I try one gig and
see how that goes, before I
commit to anything more?"
"Sure, they do that all the time,"
Vagary said. "I don't have the rank
to make deals, but I am something of
a scout, so I know the basics of what
to watch for and what kind of deals
are available. I can put you in touch
with a negotiator, and this will work."
Alberto gazed at Calliope and said,
"It's odd, seeing the two of you together,
opposites in so many ways -- you shouldn't
fit, like green and orange, but somehow
you do, and now it's spilling over onto me."
"You really think in colors all the time,
don't you?" Vagary said with a smile.
"Of course," Alberto said. "Painting is
something that takes place among the colors.
You have to leave them alone and not mess it up,
so that they can settle the matter among themselves.
If you meddle too much, then you'll ruin it. I think
that relationships are often like that too."
Calliope thought about her aggravating
but occasionally enlightening relationship
with Vagary and how it reminded her of
the vivid colors in some of Alberto's work,
that shouldn't go together but did anyway.
"I think you're right," she said.
Jesús began fussing then,
and so Dolorita took him to
the bathroom for a diaper change.
"So what do you say?" Vagary asked,
spreading his hands. "Are you interested?"
Alberto looked toward where Dolorita
had gone with Jesús. "All right, I'm in."
* * *
Dolorita Rojas -- She has tinted skin, brown eyes, and straight dark brown hair past her shoulders. She has seven sisters and one brother, along with many nieces and nephews, whom she adores; she is the younger sister of Conchita. Dolorita is the wife of Alberto, the Ombré Hombre, and mother of Jesús. She is currently pregnant. She works at the MultiArts Center in Stillwater, Oklahoma. She enjoys growing Mexican plants in a greenhouse such as gardenia and bougainvillea. Dolorita is a friend of Calliope and Vagary.
Dolorita and her husband Alberto had been trying to start a family for several years, with all kinds of fertility treatments. After they adopted Jesús, they got pregnant on their own.
Qualities: Good (+2) Art Gallery Worker, Good (+2) Big Happy Family, Good (+2) Greenhouse Gardener, Good (+2) Pretty, Good (+2) Visual-Spatial Intelligence
Poor (-2) Overwhelmed
The Ombré Hombre (Alberto Rojas) -- He has tan skin, brown eyes, and short black hair. He speaks English and Spanish with native fluency, and a modest amount of French learned in school. Alberto is the husband of Dolorita and father of Jesús. He works as a domestic artist in Stillwater, Oklahoma, doing ombré effects on building exteriors and interiors, along with stencil designs. He is a friend of Calliope's.
Alberto and Dolorita had been trying to start a family for several years, with all kinds of fertility treatments. After they adopted Jesús, they got pregnant on their own. Once Calliope and Vagary alerted him to adoption issues with children of color and superkids, Alberto started doing nursery designs.
Origin: He was born with his abilities, but he's a Kauai -- he doesn't realize that his exceptional color vision is a superpower.
Uniform: On duty he wears comfortable work clothes, usually a t-shirt and pants during warm weather, or coveralls during colder weather. Off duty, he favors casual men's wear. He likes light colors that contrast well with his skin, or supersaturated Mexican colors.
Qualities: Good (+2) Artistic Intelligence, Good (+2) Constitution, Good (+2) Domestic Painter, Good (+2) Husband, Good (+2) Skateboarding
Poor (-2) Babies Are Expensive
Powers: Good (+2) Tetrachromat
Motivation: To make the world more beautiful.
Ombré (color gradient)
Hombre (Spanish: man)
Jesús Rojas (formerly John Dankworth) -- He has blue eyes and a few wisps of brown hair. He was born with fair skin that occasionally seemed to flush darker brown or blanch out to a bluish tint. Later he began to shift between terra cotta and sky blue. He is six months old. He has been adopted by Dolorita and Alberto Rojas.
His birth father is one of the Blue People. His birth mother has mottled terra-cotta skin that looks almost ordinary, but she has vivid yellow-ochre hair. They thought that it would be "safe" to have a baby together (i.e. their children would be ordinary) because their superpowers came from totally different sources. They were wrong. The resultant abandonment has left Jesús clingy and determined to make his new parents take care of him.
Origin: He was born with his superpowers, but they barely showed at first. When his birth parents first noticed the changing colors, they mistook him for a blue baby, but all the medical tests came back normal. After a few months, he began shifting between a mottled terra cotta and a dramatic sky blue with white patches. As soon as that happened, his birth parents abandoned him.
Uniform: Baby clothes, until he can wriggle out of them. Like his birth father, he hates clothes.
Qualities: Good (+2) Adaptable
Poor (-2) Hates Clothes
Powers: Average (0) Chameleon Skin
Motivation: To be cared for.
* * *
"Painting is something that takes place among the colors ... one has to leave them alone completely, so that they can settle the matter among themselves. Their intercourse: this is the whole of painting. Whoever meddles, arranges, injects his human deliberation, his wit, his advocacy, his intellectual agility in any way, is already disturbing and clouding their activity."
-- RAINER MARIA RILKE, letter to his wife, October 21, 1907
Ombré painting creates a gradient of colors. It can be smooth, rough, or divided into multiple bands.
This mural of rainbow mountains is in the Family Services Office.
El Paraíso del Tiempo (which means "The Paradise of Time") is located where an affluent neighborhood of large houses adjoins a much cheaper one with small houses and apartment buildings holding mostly people who work in the wealthier homes. An enterprising businesswoman bought a large house that was run down due to a lengthy divorce, fixed it up, and began renting out the individual rooms for recreational use. Because demand is high and one room can be used by many people through the day, it actually makes more than it would as rental property for a single family. See the living room, dining room, kitchen, and pink bathroom. The pool room has silver fish on the walls. The front stairs are blue, and the back stairs are pink. Upstairs areas include the reading nook, sitting room, family room, playroom, quiet rooms, nap room, and blue bathroom.
This blue and gray ountain mural is for a Tibetan boy whose parents were killed escaping from Chinese territory. His adoptive parents, who are white, wanted an ethnically sensitive nursery that would be better than plastering it with tourist trinkets.
This Totoro nursery was done for a Japanese couple who fled the country when the husband became pregnant, and took refuge in America. To make matters more challenging, their son was born with Plant Powers. Family Services has provided support to help them stay together.
Here a pink nursery was decorated for parents who adopted a baby girl with Flight. At night, they fasten those drapes over the top of the crib to keep her safely inside.
Alberto made this ombré playroom after a Hispanic couple adopted a little brother and sister who are superkids.
Jesus' nursery features an ombré forest.
Local-America has a severe shortage of foster and adoptive parents for children in foster care. In Terramagne-America, the situation for superkids is even worse, as they are more likely to be maltreated, more likely to wind up in state custody, and much less likely to be adopted. Bluntly put, nobody wants most of these kids, and it is a disaster. Dolorita and Alberto have exactly zero patience with this horseshit.
Secondary fertility can happen after IVF therapy, adoption, or other arrivals. Here are some ideas on budgeting.
Baby expenses can run so high that many people wind up not having children, or having fewer than they really want.
Hazard pay goes to civilians, first responders, and others who work in risky or grueling jobs. The better black-hat organizations tend to pay their allies lavishly for the risk of doing business with supervillains.
A comprehensive benefits package includes multiple types of perks. Here are some common benefits that companies may provide. Kraken offers full health coverage at their own facilities or options on various health nexus and insurance plans outside, fitness programs, fully paid vacations at their facilities and paid or unpaid elsewhere, paid time off for various personal needs, types and amounts of child care varying by location, relocation if neeeded, professional development and tuition coverage, hazard pay for risky jobs, disability benefits, life insurance, a thorough retirement program including pension, and very generous support for surviving family in case of demise. Slightly different but similarly bountiful packages are offered to outsiders willing to work with or for supervillains, because most people aren't. Among the reasons Kraken can afford this is that they have a ton of money, they have a lot of their own holdings, plenty of connections, and many of their jobs are intermittent rather than constant.
Minions are often punch-clock villains, particularly if that's the only job they can get. Supervillains tend to be equal-opportunity employers. People become minions for many of the same reasons they form gangs or join cults. Supervillains may use similar tactics for recruiting people into gangs or enticing them into cults. Some use similar tactics as predators for choosing and grooming victims. Notice how the early stages mimic trust building steps such as expressing interest, communicating, and spending time together. The key difference lies in how honest they are. Haboob ran the Kitab as a cult, with zealotry and violence. Shakedown has a squalid little gang that can't even feed or house members properly. Boss White runs a gang, but he takes fine care of his folks. Kraken actively seeks out troubled youth who don't fit where they are, and offers them other opportunities; the lawbreaking and other risks are very real, but so are the promised benefits. Here are some tips on how to avoid grooming attempts.
Murals have advantages whether indoors or outdoors.
Healing art offers many benefits. It is especially helpful to traumatized people, which is almost everyone who'd be in a supervillain facility.
Medical neutrality includes two aspects: that medics provide care to everyone regardless of affiliation, and that others allow them to do so without interference. Our world is doing a piss-poor job of this; Terramagne is doing much better, including recognition of mental support as a qualifying profession.
Trust comes in various types. People customarily move through the stages of trust by exchanging small amounts of information, then watching how the other person responds. If a little trust is handled responsibly, more is offered. The developing relationship incorporates different aspects of closeness. Kraken actually teaches people the process of establishing trust, because a lot of the recruits don't know it yet. Learn how to build trust and handle disclosures.