Warning: This poem contains some intense topics. Highlight to read the warnings, some of which are spoilers. It features Skink in a holding cell after a bad cape fight, mild hypothermia and moderate calorie shortage due to superpowers, description of the unpleasant circumstances of Skink's manifestation, flashbacks, reference to messy medical details in the past, current discussion of using Skink's injury-activated Regeneration to pay his debt to society, poverty, racism, becoming a supervillain out of desperation rather than desire, past starvation, and other challenges. If these are sensitive issues for you, please consider your tastes and headspace before reading onward.
The holding cell was quite nice,
as such things went -- it was private,
it had a little wall around the toilet-sink,
and what looked like a concrete block
was actually a big foam mattress.
The only thing wrong was that
it was cold, but then his lizard gifts
made him feel cold in many places.
Skink sat on the bed and tried not
to think about the clusterfuck of a fight
that he had been lucky to survive.
This wasn't the first time he'd been
arrested, and it wouldn't be the last either,
but that cape fight was an ugly scene.
He put his face in his hands,
but it didn't make him feel better.
Well, he'd gotten himself into this,
he'd get himself out somehow.
As a young man, some of
his wilder friends had dared him
to sneak into a toxic waste dump
and steal one of the shiny rocks.
He did so, to much applause,
but not long after that he had
fallen sick for several weeks.
By the time he got better,
he noticed that his skin was
becoming dry and flaky.
Over the next few months,
that developed into a true coat
of smooth, tough lizard 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 eventually worked his way up
to bodyguarding supervillains.
Normally it went better than this.
The door opened, startling him.
It was easy to lose time in a cell, but
surely he hadn't been in here very long.
His hair was still wet from the shower
they'd given him to wash off the blood.
"Someone wants to speak with you,"
the officer said. His nametag read
Luis Pellegrino. "This way, please."
Skink stood up, hugging himself
in a vain attempt to keep some heat.
"Hey, are you okay?" Luis said.
"Cold," Skink admitted. "I like it
warmer than most people, and
one towel won't dry long hair."
"You should've said something
sooner," Luis scolded gently as
he opened a locker. "Here, I'll get
you a blanket. Wool or fleece?"
"Wool, please," Skink said,
surprised by the courtesy.
The cop handed him a pile
of heavy blue-and-white cloth.
"We get a few of these a year from
some of the nearby reservations."
It was actually Mexican style, but Skink
didn't care. He flipped it expertly around
his shoulders, and then asked, "May I
reposition my belt to hold this in place,
so that I can have my hands free?"
"You signed the parole form, so yes,
as long as you behave, then you can
make yourself comfortable," Luis said.
Skink used his belt to turn the blanket
into a coat, and then followed the officer.
He had expected an interrogation room,
but this looked like a regular meeting room.
It was tiny, but the eggshell walls were plaster,
not concrete block like his cell. The floor was
covered in office carpet, and the far wall held
a huge whiteboard. Several plain black chairs
surrounded a computer desk with a phone.
As Skink took a chair, the cop dialed up
the heat and then said, "I'll be right outside
in case you need anything. Just call."
It was only a minute before another man
came in, though. "Hi, I'm Bartley Holloway,
a police adjudicator, and you must be Skink,
or David Yellow Dirt," he said. "It looks
like we have one thing in common
already -- almost the same hair!"
Skink startled into a laugh.
The white man's hair was
lighter brown and only came
down to his shoulders, but yeah,
there was some resemblance.
"Call me Skink. Why are you here?"
he said. "I didn't ask for an adjudicator."
"I know, but we don't have much time
if this has a chance to work," Bartley said.
"Our system flagged a match between one
of your abilities and a time-sensitive need.
You're entitled to a lawyer or other support
for this meeting, and you're free to refuse."
"Got nobody to call," Skink said, at least
not that he'd admit to here. "What do you
mean about one of my abilities, though?"
"According to our records, your ability
to regenerate severed limbs can be
shared with other people," Bartley said.
Skink winced as the flashback rolled over him
with awful familiarity: the sound of thunder as
the rockslide began, the taste of blood and dust in
his mouth, the pain of the rocks tearing off his left hand.
He crawled out only to find Dog Warrior trapped, and
the only way that Skink could free him was cutting off
the crushed leg where it went under the boulder.
Neither of them had expected the missing limb
to grow back, but it had done so anyway.
A touch on his hand startled Skink
back to the present. "Mr. Yellow Dirt,
are you all right?" Bartley asked,
looking worried for some reason.
"Fine, just ... remembering," Skink said.
"I'm sorry, I didn't mean to bring up
difficult memories," Bartley said.
"But then, it's not an easy gift, is it?"
"Strong medicine never is. I don't
regret it," Skink said. "Yes, I can
help other people regenerate,
but the cost to both is high."
"So I've read," Bartley said.
"How long do you have before
an injury would have to be
reopened for you to heal it?"
"It has to be soon enough for
the wound to bleed freely once
the scab's taken off," Skink said.
"Oh, thank God," Bartley said,
sagging in relief. "That means we
have hours at least, days at best.
I hate rushing my clients."
Skink licked his lips. The room
tasted of coffee, old but rather good,
and the tang of dry-erase markers.
Bartley's flavor was rich and sweet,
like ... like frybread with honey.
"Rushing about what?" he said,
licking his lips again to chase the taste.
"Did you know that a policewoman
lost a leg in that fight?" Bartley asked.
"I didn't know she lost it, but I saw her
go down," Skink said. "I thought she was
dead. Spirits, what a slaughterhouse."
Whenever he closed his eyes, he could still
see the whirling saw blades of crimson doom
that some unknown supervillain had been
flinging around almost at random.
"Four confirmed fatalities, names withheld
until we can notify next of kin," Bartley said.
"Nobody on the list you gave us, or you'd
know already and it'd be in your records."
"That wasn't supposed to happen,"
Skink whispered, covering his face.
Crimson sawblades. Scarlet blood.
Skink forced himself to look Bartley
in the eye and say, "What do you want?"
"We want to make you an offer,"
the adjudicator said. "For now,
heal Officer Peña, that's urgent.
Beyond that, we could work out
a number of other police officers or
policevets whose treatment would
pay off your debt to society."
Skink licked his lips again.
Coffee. Frybread. "Do you
know what you're asking of me?"
"I understand that your superpower
only activates when you've been
severely injured," Bartley said.
"I would have to cut off my hand,"
Skink explained. He'd done it before.
He really didn't want to do it again.
"Oh, my God," Bartley said softly.
"No, I did not realize that." Then he
lifted his chin. "That would greatly raise
the value of your contribution, and reduce
the number of cases necessary to clear
what social debt you currently have."
"I didn't ask for that," Skink said.
"I know, and you don't have to take
the deal. I just had to try," Bartley said.
"I really think we could help each other."
"How?" Skink said. "I'm a supervillain.
People don't exactly line up to help us."
"We don't want you just to heal our people
and walk away, Skink," Bartley said. "We want
to help you find a home, a job -- I'm sure that
some hospital would love to have you, or you
could give me other ideas -- whatever you need
to settle back into civilian life." He sighed.
"Or do you want to be a supervillain?"
"Like I had a choice," Skink said bitterly.
Bartley pounced on the admission.
"What do you mean by that?" he said.
"Did someone force you into it?"
"Not exactly, but I didn't have
any other opportunities," Skink said.
"My power makes me ... undesirable, and
that's on top of being Indian. Nobody
but the supervillains would hire me, so.
I took the jobs I could actually get."
There was no way he could live off
reservation rations, even when he wasn't
recovering from an injury. He had tried, and
almost starved himself to death before he
realized the problem and quit trying.
Skink's stomach gurgled at the memory.
"Are you hungry?" Bartley asked.
"Didn't you feel well enough to eat
after you were brought here?"
"Ate it and licked the plate,"
Skink said. "It just wasn't enough."
"Oh, are you high-burn?" Bartley said.
"You don't have to tell me, but there was
a memo earlier this month about how
some superpowers demand extra calories.
What do you need, what would help?"
Skink hesitated, wary of giving up
such sensitive information to a stranger.
He was just so hungry, though. It hurt.
His tongue flicked out over his lips,
tasting the air. Frybread. Honey.
"I need protein," he admitted. "At least
a few thousand calories, and more would be
better." He tugged down the collar of his shirt,
showing the finger-long red mark that ran across
his upper arm. "This is almost healed, but I lost
enough blood that it's taking energy to replace."
"All right, I'll get you more food," Bartley said.
"How much do you eat after similar injuries?"
"I don't know, until I'm not hungry?" Skink said,
baffled by the older man's question. Why did
white people have to count everything?
"Sit tight," Bartley said, then poked his head
out of the room to ask Luis for something.
A minute later, Luis came back with
several ProPax and a bottle of water.
"Start with these, and I will go raid
the breakroom for real food," he said.
Skink grabbed the Zesty Southwest one
which had black bean dip, lentil crackers,
and of all things a chocolate-chip cookie.
He ate as fast as he could, only pausing
to wash it down with gulps of water.
"I really hope you don't decide to sue us
over starving you," Bartley said. "We
didn't realize how much food you
needed, and you didn't say."
"You're safe," Skink said with
a shrug. "People like me don't win
court cases, so why bother."
Oddly enough, that just made
Bartley look sad instead of happy.
"All right then," he said. "What I'd like
is for you to eat as much as you need,
and then if you're willing, we'll head to
the hospital to talk with Officer Peña."
Skink peeled the top off the next ProPax.
"I'm willing, but she might not want to go
through with it," he warned. "What I do
is ... more than most people can handle."
"Don't worry about Devera," said Bartley.
"She's not a bigot, not squeamish, and
brave just one step short of reckless."
Well, that was encouraging. It would
really suck to get all wound up for this
only to have someone chicken out.
"Okay, we can try it," Skink said.
He felt tempted by the idea of not
having to be a supervillain anymore.
"What about the rest of your offer?"
"The details will depend on what
you've done and what you're willing
to do to make restitution," Bartley said.
"We really want you to succeed, though.
I can broker a deal and help you find
the kind of civilian life that you want.
Just point me in the right direction."
He kept up a gentle conversation
about possible options while Skink ate.
Luis came through with his arms full
and unloaded a chicken salad sandwich,
a carton of chili, a cup of hard-boiled eggs,
another of fruit salad, a bag of cheese curds,
a muffin, and a chocolate protein shake.
"Here you go," Luis said. "I hope this
is enough. If not, you tell me, and
I'll go back for more or order out."
Skink smiled in relief. "Thanks,"
he said. "This looks good for now.
Much more and I'd fall asleep again."
He'd crashed on the bunk as soon as
the cell door closed behind him, and
had probably slept for at least an hour,
but that was normal for him after a fight.
The fresh food went a long way toward
reviving him, though. The sandwich and
chili were savory, the fruit salad juicy, and
the muffin sweet but not overwhelming.
As Skink ate, Bartley made more notes,
sketching out a tentative plan to help
him build a new life for himself.
"Do you really think this will work?"
Skink said as licked the last of
the muffin crumbs from his thumb.
The package Bartley was making up
sounded a bit too good to be true.
"I do, or I would never have
approached you in the first place,"
Bartley said, then winked at him.
"Think of this as your severance pay."
That startled Skink into a laugh again.
He liked Bartley, with his frybread scent,
his ridiculous jokes, and his inexplicable hope.
Maybe something good would come
out of that appalling fight after all.
* * *
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 the Lost Notch 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 used to work 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 discovered by accident that this ability can be transmitted to other people if he rubs the gel on a fresh stump. It takes about a week to regrow severed digits, a month for a hand or foot, six months for half a limb, and a year for a whole limb. Multiple limb amputations have to be regrown one at a time. A drawback is that the ability is pain-triggered, so any kind of anaesthetic effect would disable it.
As a healer, Skink works with a partner who has a slicing ability to remove one of his hands and then remove the end of a patient's stump. A lot of people are willing to endure a few minutes of intense pain for the sake of having full functionality restored. Due to the metabolic burden, he can only treat one injury per day, and he only works on weekdays to give himself a chance to rest over the weekend. He eats crickets like candy because something about the nutrients in them helps him recharge faster. He's fond of other insects as well.
At one point when Skink was arrested, it happened after a bad fight that left a lot of police injured, including one officer who lost a leg. The police negotiated a plea bargain such that if Skink would restore the lost leg for her, and treat a number of other policevets with amputations, they would release him subject to the condition that he not go back into a life of crime. Since he was a criminal by circumstance rather than preference, all they really needed to do was secure him a job elsewhere -- and someone on the force had contacts with a local hospital which was thrilled to take Skink on staff and train him as a specalist for healing amputations. He still gets a lot of patients referred by the police or the military, although he treats civilian casualties too.
Origin: As a young man, some friends dared him to sneak into a toxic waste dump and steal one of the shiny rocks. He 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 he started working for criminals, and worked his way up to guarding supervillains.
Uniform: He usually wears Western style men's clothes, often deep blue or green. 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. When working in the hospital, he wears scrubs, preferably with southwestern prints.
Qualities: Expert (+4) Intertribal Culture, Good (+2) Bodyguard, Good (+2) Medical Training, Good (+2) Friends with the Iron Horses, Good (+2) Pain Tolerance
Poor (-2) Awkward with Modern Conveniences
Powers: Master (+6) Skink Traits (Spin-off Stunts: Regenerate Other)
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 fix what he can.
Regeneration is a species gift for some reptiles such as skinks. They may drop and regenerate their tail as a defensive measure. Read about caring for skinks as pets. Super-gizmotronic treatments can even enable humans to regenerate.
On this map, Nevada reservations appear in salmon pink. Terramagne-Nevada includes the tiny Lost Notch Reservation between the Nevada Test Site and the Desert National Wildlife Refuge. It is a crappy piece of land that borders a toxic waste dump on the Nevada Test Site side. The government begrudges every penny spent on the reservation, so it has even fewer resources than average. This is where Skink grew up with his mother. It is home to people descended from the scattered remnants of several Apache bands, and actually started out as a prison camp.
Most Apache reservations are in Arizona or New Mexico.
Luis Pellegrino -- He has olive skin, brown eyes, and black hair buzzed short. His heritage is Italian. He speaks English and Italian fluently, plus emergency Spanish. Luis serves in the Las Vegas Police Department. His sharp observation and quick reflexes make him a capable officer. As a hobby, Luis enjoys Latin dance. He takes care of Skink in holding after a cape incident.
Qualities: Good (+2) Cop, Good (+2) Fast, Good (+2) Helpful, Good (+2) Latin Dance, Good (+2) Observation
Poor (-2) Leaps to Conclusions
Bartley Holloway -- He has tinted skin, hazel eyes, and wavy brown hair to his shoulders. He wears glasses. Bartley works as an adjudicator for the Las Vegas Police Department. His compassion and emotional intelligence make it easier for him to form rapport with touchy people. He has a very high success rate. Although he usually wears a navy or gray suit for distinction, he likes to dress it up with brightly colored shirts, and rarely bothers with a tie. Bartley helps Skink develop a plan to move from supervillainy to health care as a profession.
Qualities: Master (+6) Emotional Intelligence, Expert (+4) Moral Vector, Expert (+4) Police Adjudicator, Good (+2) Compassion, Good (+2) Rapport, Good (+2) Stamina
Poor (-2) Vision
Dog Warrior (Jimmy Macasaet) -- He has tinted skin, black eyes, and long wavy brown hair. He is tall with a triangular face and slim body. He is 1/8 Cheyenne, 1/8 intertribal, and the rest American. Dog Warrior functions primarily as a supervillain, but still supports his tribe. He enjoys traditional Cheyenne crafts, making anything from toys for younger relatives to his own regalia. On one occasion, Dog Warrior and Skink were working together when they got trapped under a rockslide. Skink escaped first and cut off Dog Warrior's crushed leg to free him. Due to Skink getting his regenerative gel all over Dog Warrior in the process, the missing limb eventually grew back.
Origin: As a tween, he was mauled by dogs and nearly died. He still has scars over much of his body, although few of them show in street clothes. After that, he developed superpowers.
Uniform: Most of the time, he dresses in street clothes, usually with a dog motif, even when working as a supervillain. At powwows, he wears traditional Cheyenne dog soldier regalia.
Qualities: Expert (+4) Brave, Good (+2) Provider, Good (+2) Street Fighting, Good (+2) Traditional Cheyenne Crafts
Poor (-2) I'm NOT a Halfbreed!
Powers: Average (0) Dog Totem
Motivation: Never retreat.
Devera Peña -- She has tinted skin, brown eyes, and short straight black hair that she usually slicks down. She is short with a round face. Her heritage is Hispanic, and she is bilingual in English and Spanish. Devera is married with two sons and a daughter. She serves in the Las Vegas Police Department. Her bold spirit and exceptional aim make her a favorite on the force. Although not a BASH officer per se, Devera is trained in many firearms and at the top of their call-for-backup list. Unfortunately, bad guys tend to shoot at her first, expecting her to go down easily. She doesn't, but it runs up her injury rate. This is how she wound up losing a leg in a cape fight and needing Skink's help. As a hobby, Devera enjoys making Hispanic food from her family's recipes.
Qualities: Expert (+4) Aim, Good (+2) Courage, Good (+2) Hispanic Cuisine, Good (+2) Tactics & Strategy
Poor (-2) Preferred Target
* * *
See the holding cell and the small meeting room in the Las Vegas Police Department.
This video shows how to wear a blanket as a coat in Native American style. That's a traditional trade blanket he's wearing; those often have one or several wide stripes on a plain background. Luis gives Skink a blue-and-white blanket in Mexican style.
Disintegration energy tends to have a crimson color.
Terramagne-America customarily counts major crimes as murder, arson, aggravated assault, sexual assault, robbery, and grand theft. Petty theft and other small-scale property offenses are considered minor crimes. Injuring or killing someone in self-defense is not a crime at all. Minor crimes can be handled by an adjudicator. Major crimes more often require going to court. However, they greatly prefer to keep soups out of jail, which gives them more wiggle room in coping with cape incidents.
Alternative justice spans a wide range of systems and techniques meant to supplement or replace the criminal system. Restorative justice focuses on repairing broken relationships between the offender and victim(s). Community justice concentrates on the damage done to local society by offenders, and it most often covers quality-of-life offenses such as vandalism. Community court is a common manifestation of community justice, but it can actually range from something as simple as a counselor setting penalties to the complexities of an auxiliary courtroom complete with judge and jury. In complex cases such as Skink's situation, T-America prefers to clear the accounts in both directions so as to restore true balance, which has a high rate of success. L-America tends to focus only on what people owe to society, not what society owes to its citizens; since the underlying cause is not addressed, the problems often recur.
The parole form is offered to suspects in T-America after their arrest, and means "parole" in the older sense of the word: a promise to behave respectably in exchange for courteous treatment. It rewards good behavior immediately, which encourages people to do it. Signing it is not obligatory, there's an option for temporary terms, and it's somewhat customizable. So if someone signs it and then breaks it they're viewed considerably worse than if they didn't sign it at all. Most supervillains will sign either the short-term or long-term version, depending on their self-control -- unless they don't trust the local police department to honor it, which is quite a condemnation. This paperwork can have a significant impact on terms offered as well as handling in custody.
Reintegration is a vital step in corrections theory, and L-America does a lousy job of it. T-American society functions much like a Tesla fluid valve. The easiest course of action is toward healthy civilization. While it is possible to move in the opposite direction, it is more difficult to do so, and the system is designed to reroute people back in the proper direction. This process requires community support in order to allow former criminals to rejoin society successfully. Much the same is true regarding homelessness.
A key difference between restorative justice and its processes in L-America and in T-America is that L-America only considers the offender's concerns about the current incident, whereas T-America also explores what has been done to the offender. Trauma-informed care asks, "What happened to you?" rather than "What is wrong with you?" This does not make the offense less troublesome, but it often illuminates the underlying cause of misbehavior, which when addressed will allow better behavior. Here is a restorative justice workbook for students that includes a yes/no satisfaction rating in the back.
Apologizing is the Ninth Step in recovery programs: making amends to people you have harmed. An interesting feature in Terramagne justice is a tendency toward tolerable amends. Feeling guilty sucks, so if the result of confessing harm is a bearable penalty, then more people will do it. If the price is higher than they can bear, however, they have no incentive to make amends so things don't get fixed without using force. This is a prevailing premise behind all kinds of alternative justice in T-America. Know the elements of an effective apology, how to apologize, and how to make amends. SPOON has resources on these steps for supervillains who want to make up for their mistakes.
Both apology and forgiveness are necessary to repair a damaged relationship. The psychology of forgiveness is complex. Learn how to forgive the unforgivable and forgive yourself.
T-America has a legal concept of "clearing" a debt to society. After the perpetrator has made appropriate restitution, the case is marked as cleared. Passively completing a prison term or other imposed sentence doesn't count -- the perpetrator has to make amends in some active fashion. The symbol for it is the letters "CL" surrounded by a pair of arrows bent into a circle. Such records are customarily kept out of public view, although former offenders can choose to leave them open, as contrasted with unsettled debts to society which are more visible. Whereas L-America tends to discriminate against former offenders, T-America generally prefers to encourage those who have cleared the debt by giving them better opportunities.
Traumatic stress can cause a spectrum of effects ranging from acute stress reaction (a normal response that fades after a few days) through acute stress disorder (a "stuck" crisis state that lasts up to a month), PTSD (a "stuck" crisis state lasting more than one month), to PDSD (a "stuck" crisis state involving repeated traumatic experiences over time). In this case, Skink has intrusive memories from previous injuries and the recent fight gone wrong, probably not bad enough to qualify as PTSD, but bothersome under some circumstances. This is fundamentally a failure of processing that happens inside the brain. When the mind cannot file traumatic memories properly, then they don't integrate into experience, which disrupts the ability to recognize context. The events get "stuck" in a processing loop within the mind, which turns those memories into triggers that cause flashbacks. Some new therapies focus on the body as a way to "unstick" those memories and thus heal the mind. Supportive friends can help, although these symptoms are very difficult for everyone to deal with.
High-burn -- a metabolism that demands a substantial amount of extra fuel due to superpowers. Certain abilities typically require many more calories, such as Super-Speed, Super-Strength, and Teleporting. Details vary; speedsters almost always want extra sugar, strongmen need more protein, and either can go for fat. Other abilities may require more raw materials, like Regeneration which needs things like amino acids, calcium, carbon, and iron to replace lost tissue and blood. Soups often need two to four times the ordinary amount of food, especially when using their powers vigorously. An average diet is 2,000 calories/day, or 3,000 for heavy labor. That puts the soup range around 4,000 to 12,000 calories. High-burn falls toward the far end of that range.
ProPax are similar to local-American P3s. However, ProPax come in both refrigerated and shelf-stable options, have a wider range of ingredients, and not all of them contain crunchy items. You can make your own protein packs or bistro boxes using high-protein ingredients.
Zesty Southwest ProPax features Zesty Black Bean Dip, Lentil Crackers, and Flourless Cashew Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies.
Foods high in protein per calorie include lean chicken, lean pork, fish, lean beef, tofu, beans, lentils, low-fat yogurt, milk, cheese, seeds, nuts, and eggs. Luis brings Greek Yogurt Chicken Salad, Three Bean and Beef Chili, Rich and Creamy Fruit Salad with Yogurt, High-Protein Banana Muffins, and Chocolate Organic Fuel Protein Shake. Allowing for regional variations, this is pretty typical fare for police stations in T-America.