Elizabeth Barrette (ysabetwordsmith) wrote,
Elizabeth Barrette
ysabetwordsmith

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Story: "A Malice of Intent"

This story is the piece of bonus material for the March 6, 2018 Poetry Fishbowl making its $300 goal. It belongs to the Shiv thread of the Polychrome Heroics series. It follows the stories "Kitchen Conniptions," "Cooking Up Complications," and "Chaotic Complications" by [personal profile] dialecticdreamer.

Warning: This story contains some intense topics. Highlight to read the warnings, some of which are spoilers. It features angst, delivery of bad news, malicious gossip, false accusations of paternity and also statutory rape since Maia is sixteen and Boss White is middle-aged, past unwelcome advances, potential legal issues with threat to bodily integrity, willingness to use questionable methods to avoid such threats, implications of past mad science torture, and other challenges. But for the most part, Shiv is serving well and you can see why Boss White wants to promote him. If these are sensitive issues for you, please consider your tastes and headspace before reading onward.


"A Malice of Intent"


Shiv slipped through the door of Boss White's office and nodded to Dymin as he passed her tidy white desk. Toward the back of the room, Boss White's big ebony desk blocked off his personal territory. Behind him rose a library bookcase of the same dark wood, and off to the left was a sitting area with a chair and couch of black leather. The Boss himself sat at the desk, writing something in a ledger.

Shiv stood up straight, tucked his hands behind his back, and waited for Boss White to acknowledge him.

After a few minutes, the leatherbound book snapped shut, and dark hands put it back in its place. The executive chair creaked as Boss White leaned back. "All right," he said, "what's got you so lathered up?"

"They're gunnin' for you, boss," said Shiv. "Maia's parents, I mean, maybe her whole damn family. Not like a street war or anythin' that bad, just gossip, but it's pretty wicked stuff."

"Well, that's just how the inside of a human head is, sometimes -- uglier'n sin," Boss White said with a nod. "Spit it out, boy, it won't taste no better for chewin' on it."

Shiv licked his lips. "They're sayin' ... if it wasn't Deacon, then you must've been the daddy," he said. "Maia ain't been here that long, but it's where she run to in trouble, so that's their line. I figgered, better you hear it from me, 'cause I know you never touched her."

Well, not on purpose. That girl had a way of rubbing up against anyone she thought might be of some use to her. She'd quit trying that shit with Shiv after he dumped her ass on the floor that one time she sat in his lap.

Boss White's hands curled into fists, and his nostrils flared.

Shiv took a careful step back, mindful of what he'd been told about spillover. The closer the distance, the harder it got to block things out; the farther away, the easier to avoid it. Boss White didn't need Shiv's nerves raining all over him right now.

A moment later the hands opened, flexed, and relaxed. Boss White looked back at Shiv and said, "Good job. I'll take it from here."

"Yeah, boss," Shiv said, then shuffled his feet. "Uh ... they're talkin' lawyer too. If they sue for paternity, if they try to get a piece of you --"

Boss White shook his head. "That ain't happenin' so don't you worry about it," he said firmly. "Ain't nobody gonna get a piece of me without my permission, never again. If I gotta resort to rough measures, then so be it."

Shiv knew that Boss White had come by his powers in prison, and not in a natural way. Not a lot of details ever got talked about, but it didn't take much for a body to put the pieces together just by watching what the Boss would or wouldn't do.

"Okay, boss," said Shiv. "I'll leave it to you. Need anything else from me?"

"Yes, I do," said Boss White. "I need you to keep an ear on them -- if you're willin' to. I know you got a strong stomach for gossip, which not everybody does. There's a malice of intent about it that unsettles some folks."

Shiv wasn't exactly eager to go back to La Caffería near the Omaha Personal Repair Center where he'd first picked up the rumor, but an assignment was an assignment. Besides, he still hadn't gotten around to picking up a Not Today button, and the Center always had a basket of social alert buttons in the lobby. Shiv felt pretty sure he'd seen that one there before. Even if he couldn't dig up any more dirt on the Ortiz family, it wouldn't be a wasted trip.

"If that's what you need, boss, then I'm on it," Shiv said.

"Off you go, then," Boss White said with a wave of his hand.

Shiv trotted away, already making plans for the bus route and calculating whether his budget would cover a plate of paella and a glass of horchata.

* * *

Notes:

"Gossip is when you have a malice of intent or mindless, third-party conversation to someone about someone, something you haven’t said to that someone."
-- Iyanla Vanzant

This shows the outside of Blues Moon with the main floor and two layers of apartments. The two flanking buildings also belong to the Ebonies & Ivories. The taller building on the left is an apartment building. The smaller building on the right is used as storage space for artwork and furnishings which can be used in any of the apartments above the jazz joint.

The basement contains the working part of the lair. The largest office below the lunch room belongs to Boss White. The one across from it is the guest room. The accounts/manager and board room offices are shared space. The big corner office in the upper right is the patch room. They actually don't have an exercise room in their own lair; instead they have a group membership at a nearby gym.

Just inside the door of his office, Boss White's secretary Dymin Jefferson sits at a white wooden desk, its front and side panels invisibly lined with ballistic panels. This is the general sitting area near Dymin's desk at the front of the office, which includes some musical art on the wall.

Boss White has a big ebony executive desk and library bookcase, again reinforced with ballistic panels, alongside a small sitting area with a black leather chair and couch flanking an ebony coffee table. What looks like a corner window is actually a bank of sixteen viewscreens, often tuned to display a city view. On the wall not covered by the library bookcase hangs a large painting of a jazz band and their singer in a crimson dress.

The Omaha Personal Repair Center includes mental health counseling, minor to moderate medical care, and other services. See a floor plan. Here is the café ordering area. Because the center lies between Hispanic and black neighborhoods, some of the signs have a mix of English and Spanish.

La Caffería is a Mexican coffeehouse near the Omaha Personal Repair Center. See the counter and staff. The seating area includes a display of Hispanic art. In addition to coffee and other hot drinks, they also sell Mexican pastries such as pan dulce (Mexican sweet bread).

Gossip has advantages and disadvantages. Malicious gossip is especially troublesome due to theft of reputation, all the more so in T-America where reputation matters a great deal. Here are some tips for quashing gossip.

(These links are controversial.)
False accusations of paternity can lead to paternity fraud. They may also entail violation of bodily integrity if DNA samples are taken by force from an unwilling individual. In theory, it's legal to refuse a parentage test, but in practice the consequences are ruinous, so people are urged to comply -- which is about like telling a woman to lie back and enjoy rape. Violating anyone's body causes harm.

(So are these.)
Terramagne-America assumes that married parties will create and raise children together, but these are not required to be the biological offspring of both parents (e.g in cases of adoption, fostering, fertility treatments, and so on). Married parents both have the legal right to challenge parenthood at birth, before the birth certificate is filed. If they choose not to, they are the legal parents regardless of genetic relation. However, if fraud caused them to believe parentage had already been medically verified (such as a fertility clinic replacing a client's sperm or egg with another sample) then they are entitled to challenge at the time such fraud is discovered. In the case of unmarried parents, the mother may name a father but is not obligated to do so. With contested parentage, if a parent named provides a DNA sample willingly, this is not considered damage; but if they are unwilling and compelled by force, then it is a violation of bodily integrity and damages are owed.

The matter is especially fraught in T-America due to the presence of superpowers. In rare cases, the couple who had sex may not be the parents of the baby, due to someone else's superpowers interfering, such as Pregnancy Inducement. In all cases regarding people with superpowers, demands for DNA from unwilling people are extremely fraught due to numerous and odious violations in the past, and have caused violence not only from the disgruntled parties in the case itself but also from other soups who hear about it.

(This link is distressing.)
Statutory rape happens from consensual sex with someone who is not permitted to consent. Local-Nebraska has pretty strict laws. Since Maia is sixteen currently, she was probably fifteen at conception -- below the age of consent. T-America in general acknowledges that teenagers will fuck no matter what you do to try and stop them, so criminalizing that often does more harm than good. The focus is therefore on preventing the molestation of unwilling victims, or taking advantage of someone with a large difference in power. In this light, a teenage boy having sex with a teenage girl is a very different thing than a middle-aged man doing so. You can see why Boss White is outraged by this accusation.

(These links are upsetting.)
There are many types of sexual assault. T-America generally recognizes a category for sexual misconduct as behavior which is unwanted and unacceptable, but not the same as deliberate assault. Maia isn't trying to rape Shiv, she just has a poor idea of boundaries -- but she's lucky she caught him on a good day, or he might have stabbed her. What she did was wrong not because of what it was, but because it was unwelcome. The difference between malice and ignorance matters a great deal, because the effective solutions for those offenses also differ substantially.

(These are downright heinous.)
Mad science torture appears both in history and in entertainment. In Terramagne, people with superpowers are extremely protective of their bodily integrity because such violations have happened. That makes it a rational concern, not paranoia.

Paella is a Hispanic dish made from rice and whatever else you have. The classic Spanish version usually uses seafood. The Mexican version customarily includes chorizo.

Horchata is a sweet drink made from rice or other grains. Enjoy a recipe.
Tags: cyberfunded creativity, family skills, fantasy, fiction, fishbowl, reading, safety, weblit, writing
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