Elizabeth Barrette (ysabetwordsmith) wrote,
Elizabeth Barrette
ysabetwordsmith

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Poem: "At Certain Crucial Moments"

This poem was written outside the regular prompt calls. It fills the "Honesty" square in my 6-1-19 card for the Cottoncandy Bingo fest, and the "Bodyguards" square in my 6-18-19 card for the [community profile] hc_bingo fest. It has been sponsored by Anthony & Shirley Barrette. This poem belongs to the Shiv thread of the Polychrome Heroics series.

WARNING: This poem contains material that may disturb some readers. Highlight to read the warnings, which contain spoilers and possibly also triggers. It includes a nutjob waving a disintegration beam around downtown Omaha, sudden bystander death, gore and dismemberment, ruined buildings, telepathic spillover from bystanders resulting in mental injury, protectiveness, teleporting out of harm's way, minor medical details, post-combat jitters, minor differences of politics and procedure, wariness, emotional first aid, and other mayhem. If these are touchy topics for you, please consider your tastes and headspace before reading onward. This is an important plot point, so skipping it would leave a gap.


"At Certain Crucial Moments"

[Monday, May 18, 2015]

Boss White and Buttons sat on a bench
in front of the Downtown Coffee Company,
looking across the width of Farnam Street at
the Gene Leahy Mall as they waited for Shiv.

The park was green, trees and grass
dotted with flowers, and busy despite
the cool air of late spring in Omaha.

Even though the park sank
below street level to insulate it
from noise and traffic, they could
still hear the happy shrieks of
children on the giant slides.

Boss White smiled, basking
in the happy emotions of folks
getting outdoors after a long winter.

"Pretty day," Buttons said.

"It sure is," Boss White said, and
drained the last of his excellent coffee.

The college girl serving as barista
walked by with a full tray, Roxxie's mind
already on the summer semester.

A skateboarder rolled down
the wide sidewalk, effortlessly
weaving through the scatter
of people strolling along it.

As the barista headed back,
Boss White stood up so he
could hand off the empty cups.

Then a rope of weird red light
lashed overhead with a sizzling hiss.

The crimson beam curled downward,
and suddenly half the barista disintegrated.

The other half collapsed in a pool of blood.

People began screaming, their fear and
pain knifing through his mind. Debris
tumbled from the shattered buildings.

Something slammed into Boss White
from behind, smashing him to the ground.
His face scraped against the pavement.

"Stay down," Buttons said in his ear,
her body heavy as it covered his.

"You can't protect me from
a disintegration beam,"
Boss White said.

"I can damn well try,"
Buttons said grimly.

Her determination rained
down on him, washing
away some of the splatter
from the nearby minds.

He heard the peep of
her vidwatch connecting.

"Junket, it's Buttons, I need
emergency pickup for two now,"
she said tightly. "Some nutjob is
waving a disintegration beam around
downtown Omaha! The beam's lashing
all over the damn place, it's not stable --
I repeat, weapon is unstabilized!"

"I'm here," Junket said as he
crouched beside them. "Hang on."

And then they were somewhere else.

Junket lifted Buttons to her feet first,
then held out a hand to Boss White,
who needed it after the pounding that
his knees had taken on the pavement.

"Any injuries?" Junket asked as he
looked back and forth between them.

"Just scrapes and bruises, I think,"
Boss White said, rubbing his face.

"First aid rooms are this way,"
Junket said, beckoning to them.

They walked past the room for
advanced care and stopped
in the one for basic care.

"I have first aid training,"
Junket said, and then
patted over them.

"I remember that from
your chauffeur work,"
Buttons said, smiling.
"You wanted to make it
a real job, not like a taxi."

Boss White let Junket
clean up the scrapes
and bruises for them.

"Did you see the shooter?"
Junket asked. "It could help."

"No, I --" Boss White shook
his head. He'd been facing
the other direction when
Buttons had tackled him.

He had other options, though.

Quickly he riffled through
the borrowed memories that
bystanders had spilled on him.

"Wait, yes, other people caught
some glimpses," Boss White said.
"Someone in a field jacket and
a gas mask holding a beam rifle."

Junket used his vidwatch to relay
that to the SPOON dispatcher.

"I didn't see the shooter,
either," Buttons said glumly.

"At certain crucial moments --
an emergency or an opportunity --
one must act first and think later,"
Boss White said. "You did well."

"You both did," Junket said.
"You got yourselves to safety
and spread word of the problem."

"You got us to safety," Buttons said.

"You called me," Junket parried.
"We may not be heroes, but
we can still help in a pinch."

Buttons fidgeted in her seat,
and Boss White had a headache
getting worse every minute.

"Something else wrong?"
Junket said. "You're edgy."

"I need to work off the jitters,"
Buttons said. "It's hard when
I get wound up for a fight and
then there's no one to hit."

"I'll call you a thrash coach,"
Junket said. "Boss White, do
you need emotional first aid?"

Boss White sighed. "Not
unless you have someone
who can shield really well."

"How about a room with
a privacy field and someone
skilled in positive emotions?"
Junket said. "Would that work?"

"Yeah, probably," Boss White said.
"The privacy field should help some."

At least it would keep other people's thoughts
from stabbing him in the brain for a while.

Junket sent the requests, then led
the two of them back to the lobby.
Then his vidwatch shrilled a demand.

"Damn," he said. "I have to go --
one of my clients is in Omaha and
very sensibly wants to get out of town.
You two stay here where it's safe."

Junket blinked away, leaving Boss White
in the lobby of a SPOON Base where
he felt very much out of place.

"It's okay," the dispatcher said.
"We're smooth here. I'm Groundhog.
If you need anything, let me know
and I'll put someone right on it."

"We should go," Boss White said.
"City's gotta be in a ruckus."

"No, we should stay here, like
Junket said," Buttons argued.
"Wait until the dust settles, then
start cleaning up the mess. Besides,
we owe him for getting us out of there."

Boss White shifted from foot to foot,
then looked down at himself. His gaze
snagged on a triage tag that had
gotten onto the front of his shirt.

The bottom green strip was intact,
but someone had written PSYCH INJ?
in the white space at the top of the tag.

He reached to take it off, only to have
Buttons put her hand over his.

"Junket brought us here, and
we're safe," she said. "Let's just
play it by his rules today, okay?"

"Fine." Boss White let go.

He knew that he should
call home and put the gang
on emergency status, but he
just didn't have the energy.

Lieutenant Brown could
handle it, though. He knew
all of the gang's plans.

A muscular Hispanic man
wearing black workout clothes
came into the SPOON lobby.

"Over here, Romulo,"
Groundhog said, waving.

"Hi, I'm Romulo," the man said.
"Someone needs a thrash coach?"

"Me. I'm Buttons," she said, raising
a hand. "I need something safe to hit.
You got anything that will stand up
to Super-Strength in your gear?"

"We sure do," Romulo said.
"Come on, I'll show you our gym."

Buttons looked at Boss White.

"Go on," he said, shooing her
toward the door. "I'll be fine."

Then came a beefy young man
whose soft smile marked him
as an Emotional First Aide rather
than something more physical.

"I'm Sunny," he said. "I do
support for telepaths and
empaths after a crisis."

"Boss White. I just need
somewhere to hole up
for a bit," he replied.

"Our consultation rooms
have good privacy fields,"
Sunny said. "Come with
me and I'll show you where."

"Yeah, all right," Boss White said,
and followed him down the hall.

"In here, the Dracaena Room
has a couch," Sunny said.

It also had an easy chair and
plenty of throw pillows. The room
was decorated with potted plants
and prints of forest scenes.

Sunny flipped a switch,
and the reassuring hum of
a privacy field filled the room.

"You want some Blue?"
he asked, offering a bottle.

"Not in here." Boss White
shook his head. "I can't
afford to fall asleep now."

"I could just put a drop or two
in the diffuser," Sunny said.
"That won't put you to sleep,
but it should take the edge off."

"All right," Boss White agreed.

Sunny set up the diffuser,
and the minty-musky smell
of blue chamomile filled the room.

"You can lean on me," Sunny said.
"I'm trained for this kind of work.
I make a great couch myself."

Boss White let his superpower
uncurl from its protective crouch,
just enough to brush across
the surface of Sunny's mind.

It was warm and soft and pillowy,
and Boss White just wanted to lie
on it and forget about the mess
someone had made of his city.

Sunny sat down and patted
the other half of the couch.

With a sigh, Boss White
sank down beside him.

There was something
smooth and uncomplicated
about Sunny that other people
would probably call "simple"
or worse, but the young man
was capable and confident
in what he did well.

"It looks like you got
banged up pretty badly
out there," Sunny said.

Boss White patted his leg
above the bruises. "Yeah,
but I'll heal up in a few days.
Nothin's broke or I'd know it."

"I meant your mind," Sunny said.
"I'm an empath. I can sort of
feel the cracks, or something."

Boss White swore under his breath.
"That bad?" he said. "I got dinged
a bit when people started screaming,
but I've been through worse before."

"Junket told me that he saw a body
on the sidewalk," Sunny added.
"That's always a risk factor."

Oh. That. Boss White winced.

"Yeah, the barista went down,"
he said. "Pity, that. She was
a nice girl, thinking about
plans for summer school."

"That kind of thing can
hurt you more than you
realize," Sunny said. "Lean
on me for a little while, and
maybe we can at least stop it
from getting worse -- think of
this like putting ice on a bruise."

"But you're warm, not cold,"
Boss White said without thinking.

"I can shift that," Sunny said,
and just like that his presence
went from sunshine to ice pack.

"Ah, yeah, that does help,"
Boss White said, leaning over.

At certain crucial moments,
getting a little help could make
the difference between an injury
that healed well and one that did not.

The Blue was starting to wash away
the worst of his headache, and that
made it easier to relax muscles
that had locked up in the chaos.

Boss White let himself rest on
the nice empath and set aside
all his troubles to worry about later.

* * *

Notes:

Roxxie Perkins -- She has fair skin, hazel eyes, and long wavy chestnut hair. She has an oval face and a chunky body. Roxxie grew up in Lincoln, Nebraska and still loves the Cornhuskers. She moved to Omaha to attend the Metropolitan Community College, where she just completed her junior year in Hospitality and Restaurant Leadership. Roxxie likes people and enjoys interacting with friends and customers alike. She is long on endurance but short on reaction speed. She died when a supervillain waved a disintegrator beam around downtown Omaha.
Qualities: Good (+2) Barista, Good (+2) Cheerful, Good (+2) Endurance, Good (+2) Interpersonal Intelligence, Good (+2) Sports Fan
Poor (-2) Reaction Speed

Hospitality and Restaurant Leadership - Food and Event Management (CHFA1)
GRADUATION REQUIREMENTS
General education 27.0
Major requirements 48.0
Option requirements 22.0–28.0
Total credit hours required 97.0–103.0
GENERAL EDUCATION REQUIREMENTS (27.0 CREDIT HRS.)
COMMUNICATIONS
English level I 4.5 credits
English level II 4.5 credits
HUMANITIES/SOCIAL SCIENCES
SOCI 2060 Multicultural Issues 4.5 credits
QUANTITATIVE/NUMERACY SKILLS
MATH 1242 Applied Math for the Hospitality Industry 4.5 credits
OTHER
HMRL 1010 Human Relations Skills 4.5 credits
INFO 1001 Information Systems and Literacy 4.5 credits
MAJOR REQUIREMENTS FOR HOSPITALITY AND RESTAURANT LEADERSHIP (48.0 CREDIT HRS.)
CHRM 1000 CHRM Orientation 1.5 credits
CHRM 1020 Sanitation 2.0 credits
CHRM 1030 Introduction to Professional Cooking 4.0 credits
CHRM 1550 Customer Service 3.0 credits
CHRM 2410 Marketing and Industry Perspectives 3.0 credits
CHRM 2460 Cost Management 4.5 credits
CHRM 2465 Food Service Financial Management 4.5 credits
CHRM 2470 Hospitality Supervision 4.5 credits
CHRM 2475 Leadership Principles 4.5 credits
CHRM 2480 Purchasing 4.5 credits
CHRM 2550 Table Service 3.0 credits
CHRM 2560 Beverage Management 3.0 credits
CHRM 2980 Student Manager 3.0 credits
CHRM 2989 Hospitality Management Internship variable credits
OPTION REQUIREMENTS FOR HOSPITALITY AND RESTAURANT LEADERSHIP - FOOD AND EVENT MANAGEMENT (22.0-28.0 CREDIT HRS.)
BSAD 1100
Business Law I 4.5 credits
CHRM 1035 American Cuisine 4.0 credits
CHRM 2350 Nutrition 4.5 credits
CHRM 2610 Event Planning 3.0 credits
CHRM 2650 Banquet Service 3.0 credits
Electives - select a total of 3.0 to 9.0 credit hours from the following:
BSAD Inclusive Hospitality (T-American) 4.0 credits
CHRM Ethnic Cuisine (T-American) 4.0 credits


The Comminutor (Myrick McCarthy) -- He has fair skin, brown eyes, and brown hair buzzed short. After his military career ended abruptly with a medical discharge, he became a supervillain because it paid better than his pittance of a pension. The Comminutor has focused on making shorter, more powerful beam rifles. Unfortunately, that makes it difficult to keep them stable, and sometimes the beams flare out of control. He doesn't care, because he's not exactly stable himself.
Origin: Myrick used to work in munitions development for the U.S. Army. An accident left him with disfiguring injuries, superpowers, and the conviction that the military didn't really care about people.
Uniform: On duty, he wears a field jacket and pants in olive drab with a gas mask to cover his face. Off duty, he often wears lab clothes or military surplus.
Qualities: Good (+2) Agility, Good (+2) Constitution, Good (+2) Courage, Good (+2) Industrious, Good (+2) Intimidation
Poor (-2) Mentally Unstable
Powers: Average (0) Super-Gizmology
Motivation: Money and revenge.


Sunny (Noam O'Brien) -- He has ruddy skin, blue eyes, and reddish-brown hair buzzed short although his eyebrows and body hair are a lighter red-gold. His heritage is mostly Irish with miscellanous American thrown in. He is large and strong. Noam has Down syndome, and is completely comfortable with that aspect of himself. He enjoys making food but has difficulty with hot or sharp things. So he specializes in recipes that do not require equipment such as stoves or sharp knives -- torn salads, sandwiches, no-bake cookies, etc.
Sunny works at the Onion City SPOON Base, providing comfort to traumatized empaths or telepaths who need someone with rock-solid positive emotions to lean on. This also makes him popular in general, because he tends to project a field of positive energy around himself unless he concentrates on containing it.
Origin: Noam was born with his power, although it has gotten stronger over time.
Uniform: On-duty he wears the Onion City SPOON uniform of navy blue shirt and pants with the SPOON logo embroidered in silver on the chest pocket. Off-duty he likes casual, comfortable clothes in happy colors, often with cartoons or funny quotes on the shirt. He buys a lot of things from fashion lines catering to people with Down syndrome or other developmental disabilities, so that the clothes fit well and are easy to put on.
Qualities: Expert (+4) Emotional First Aid, Expert (+4) Cheerful, Good (+2) Big Beefy Guy, Good (+2) Emotional Intelligence, Good (+2) Loves Animals, Good (+2) Simplified Food Preparation, Good (+2) Soup First Aid
Poor (-2) Logical-Mathematical Intelligence
Powers: Empathy (Expert on projection, Average on reception)
Motivation: To help people feel better.

Clothing for people with Down syndrome and autism includes features that make it easier to use.


Romulo (Juan Halperin) -- He has black hair, black eyes, and caramel skin. He is the older fraternal twin brother of Remos (José Halperin). Romulo works at the Onion City SPOON Base as a thrash coach. He does well with physical activities and helping people work off their stress. He finds reading tedious and struggles to learn anything from books.
Origin: His abilities grew in slowly during high school athletics.
Uniform: On duty, he wears workout clothes, usually black. Off duty, he favors practical men's clothes.
Qualities: Expert (+4) Thrash Coach, Good (+2) Confident, Good (+2) Interpersonal Intelligence, Good (+2) Leader
Poor (-2) Book Learning
Powers: Average (0) Super-Strength
Motivation: To help people channel their energy.

* * *

On this map of downtown Omaha, you can see the Gene Leahy Mall, which is actually a park. A crime map shows a warm spot in this area.

The Gene Leahy Mall lies between Douglas Street (north) and Farnam Street (south), South 14th Street (west) and Conagra Drive (east). It has a pair of giant slides.

In T-Omaha, the Downtown Coffee Company is located on Farnam Street near Matsu Sushi, across from the Downtown Slides in Gene Leahy Mall. It has a bench out front and an outdoor dining area. Inside, the lobby holds potted palms and easy chairs, along with the counter. The dining room fills the back left side of the restaurant, beyond the lobby. The kitchen fills the back right side of the restaurant, beyond the counter.

The Onion City SPOON Base has an advanced patch room and a basic patch room. In the waiting room for the consultation wing, the chairs all have tail holes. The Dracaena Room includes a couch and a chair. Dracaena or corn plant is a popular houseplant.

The main room of the thrash gym includes mats, gymnastic rings, heavy bags, free weights, yoga balls, and other equipment for a variety of ability levels. The heavy bag room offers an assortment of long and short, hanging and standing bags in different shapes for people to hit. This mat room features a corner cage. A sparring ring offers another option for mock combat. The weight room includes weightlifting benches with barbells, handheld dumbbells, and assorted weight machines.

Beam rifle -- a long gun that fires beams. The long barrel is required to generate the beam, and a large heavy stock is necessary to house the power source. The effects last longer than those of bolt pistols. Freeze (sky blue), heat (vermilion), lightning (yellow?), pain (orange), sleep (indigo), force, gravity, and sound are some examples. Notably the death (green), disintegration (crimson), gamma, and shrink rays work only in this form, not bolts. Plasma (orchid) does not work in beams, only in bolts.

A mass-casualty incident occurs when the number of victims exceeds the supplies and personnel available to care for them. Cape fights frequently result in mass-casualty incidents. This requires triage. Most first responders will use medical triage developed for civilian contexts. Due to its origins, Kraken trains its people to military standards and thus uses combat triage. This flyer explains combat casualty care (Page 1, Page 2, Page 3).

A MET Tag is a popular type of triage tag. Read the instructions. This design is so simple that it uses only pictures, no text, thus removing the language barrier. It can be used effectively by minimally trained or even untrained people. It's much faster than more complicated modern tags. which require a lengthy training manual. Explore the design history of triage tags. In T-America, the more detailed tags are often used by trained personnel or situations with a moderate number of casualties. The simpler MET tags are used by citizen responders, larger incidents, and situations where people may speak different languages.

Aromatherapy diffusers come in various types. They disperse essential oil through the air. Here are some of the best ones.

Telepathic contusion -- an injury caused by the crushing weight of negative thoughts. A less clinical term is telepathic bruising. Telepaths can be harmed by mental pressure. Mild cases aren't much worse than what happens to ordinary people, and the superpower will heal itself in about as much time as it takes for a physical bruise of similar size. Worse cases can occur during disasters or other occasions where extreme distress affects large numbers of people. Telepaths caught in that can be seriously injured, because a shield can only fend off so much pressure before it breaks. Treatment typically consists of blue chamomile and other soothing herbs, stronger painkillers if necessary, insulation from negative mentality, and sometimes positive thoughts to lean on if desired. Talk therapy can help restore a sense of self and select coping skills. In extreme cases, superpowered assistance may be needed such as another telepath, a mindhealer, or a power healer.

Psychological trauma can cause traumatic stress, acute or chronic. Among the known risk factors is seeing someone else get killed. Prompt and appropriate support can reduce the chance of a normal, short-term reaction developing into an unhealthy, long-term one. Know how to help someone with post-traumatic stress.
Tags: cyberfunded creativity, fantasy, fishbowl, poem, poetry, reading, weblit, writing
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