ysabetwordsmith: Damask smiling over their shoulder (polychrome)
[personal profile] ysabetwordsmith
This poem was inspired by the "rejection" square in my 11-25-14 card for the [community profile] hc_bingo fest. It belongs to the series Polychrome Heroics and is a direct sequel to "A Perspective, Not the Truth" and has some roots in the events at Ferguson, Missouri. I have posted it here as a reflection on how people can, collectively, work on creating a society worth living in.


"A Show of Faith"


Stalwart Stan checked his uniform one last time,
making sure that everything was in place.
Then he screwed up his courage
and knocked on the door.

The man who opened it was much smaller
than he'd expected, barely six foot three,
a little podgy over his muscles. He wore
nothing but jeans and a bathrobe, which
revealed fair skin covered in freckles
and a veritable rug of reddish hair.

"Can I help you?" he said politely.

"Uh, hi," said Stalwart Stan.
"I'm looking for my friend Hefty.
Is he available?"

The man turned toward the hallway
behind him. "Gary?" he called softly.
"You have a guest at the door,
if you're up for some company."

Shuffling footsteps approached,
and then Hefty appeared, dressed
in a bathrobe over worn sweatpants.
He had dark shadows under his eyes
and the kind of worried frown that
just would not go away no matter how
you tried to forget what was bugging you.

"I appreciate you coming to me,
but I'm off duty and not really
up to wrangling supervillains today,"
Hefty said, the gravel in his voice
another clue of his condition.

"We've had a rough night,"
the smaller man said as he
put an arm around Hefty.

The obvious affection between them
made Stalwart Stan smile.

"It's not that kind of visit," he assured them.
"I heard the news about that little girl
getting killed in D.C. and then the protests,
and it's hitting not just police but all kinds of
government workers because nobody can
track down what branch the shooter was
supposedly from." Then Stalwart Stan
opened his hand to show what he held.
"So I decided to do something about it."

"Flash badges!" Hefty exclaimed,
grabbing them out of his hand.
As he did so, the radiance faded
from their capery-embroidered dexflan.
"Where did you get those?"

"From SPOON," said Stalwart Stan.
"I thought it might help if some soups went out
walking with officers they knew, to show that
the police were still trustworthy. So I called SPOON
with the idea, and they sent a courier with these.
Antimatter is taking the other pair to Fiddlesticks.
We have to send them back as soon as we're
done, so somebody else can take a turn."

"What did you have in mind?" Hefty asked.
"I'm not exactly at my best today. When one cop
goes off his nut like that, it makes all of us look bad --
and the word is, the D.C. shooter used to be a cop,
whatever he's working as now." Hefty shook his head.
"Nobody wants to be around the police today, and
that's some heavy stuff for the rest of us to deal with."

"Yeah, I thought you'd feel awful about it,"
said Stalwart Stan. "That's why I came here.
I figured we could take a loop around the Mall,
let people see us together so they'll know
that cops don't just shoot soups on sight."

"I think you should go, Gary," the smaller man said.
"Moping won't bring that kid back, but this is a good way
to do some damage control on the backlash."



"You're probably right," Hefty said, shaking himself
as if to throw off the cobwebs from a crummy night.
"And I'm being rude, leaving you two wondering --
Stalwart Stan, this is my boyfriend Roger; Roger,
this is Stalwart Stan, one of our local superheroes."

Stalwart Stan stuck out a hand
and said, "Pleased to meet you, sir."

Roger laughed, his soft belly rippling.
"I'm a grill cook, son. I'm not 'sir' to anyone
but the dishwashers at Cow Heaven,"
he said, but shook hands anyhow.

"All right, I'll go get dressed," Hefty said.
He handed one of the flash badges
back to Stalwart Stan.

The capery threads flared to life again,
responding to his superpowers.
This wasn't the kind that would indicate
the broad categories of power, but it was
sensitive enough to show a variety.
Stalwart Stan fastened it carefully
to the front of his uniform.

Roger invited Stalwart Stan inside while
Hefty disappeared deeper into the house.
The entry had a coatrack with a mirror on one side,
and a framed map of WWII Europe on the other
with a blue ribbon dangling from an upper corner.

Stalwart Stan couldn't keep his hands
out of the bowl of mixed nuts, but
Roger encouraged him to eat
as much as he wanted.

A few minutes later, Hefty returned
in fresh sweatpants and his favorite
Omaha police department t-shirt,
jogging shoes neatly laced and tied,
flash badge unlit on his broad chest.
"Let's do this," he said.



Outside, Hefty headed for his car,
but Stalwart Stan murmured,
"A bus comes by the corner stop
in five minutes; more people
will see us if we go that way."

"Bus it is, then," Hefty agreed.

When it came, the bus proved
crowded but comfortable,
just a few seats left open and
even Hefty fit into one, although
there wasn't enough room for
anyone to sit beside him.

They arrived at the Mall to find it
just as busy, full of people
jogging or walking along the paths
through the rolling green grass
and around the water features.

Stalwart Stan led the way,
keeping a close eye on Hefty
as the crowd milled around them,
some people moving closer
and others shying away.

Hefty flinched every time someone
rudely turned his back on them --
the rejection clearly stung him --
but he stuck to Stalwart Stan's side.

"Pigs in the park!" someone jeered.

"He's with me," Stalwart Stan replied
in the same firm, even tone that
he used for handling bullies.
"We're all here to enjoy the sunshine,
so let's keep it clean and everyone
can go on having a nice day."

"Are you sure this is worth it?"
Hefty muttered as they walked on.

"I'm sure," Stalwart Stan said,
patting him on the shoulder.
"I've been counting crowd responses
as we pass people, haven't you?"

Hefty shook his head. "Not really."

"We're getting three out of ten smiles,
six out of ten not smiles, and one jeer,"
said Stalwart Stan. "I think the smiles
are going up. Let's do another lap."

They strolled around the park again,
and Hefty seemed to be paying
more attention to the people now.

A group of preschoolers were
clustered around a bucket of chalk,
eagerly covering a section of pavement
with Floppits and cartoon characters.

One of the kids fearlessly tugged
on Hefty's pants and asked,
"Who's your favorite Floppit?
Miss Danvers can draw any of them."

"I like Courageous Gus," said Hefty,
smiling for the first time that day.

The young woman in charge of the group
pulled out some purple chalk and sketched
the famous chinchilla. Then she winked
at Hefty, took the blue chalk, and added
Policeman Paul alongside Courageous Gus.

Hefty was still smiling as they walked away.

"All the kids looked happy to see us,"
Stalwart Stan said. "Their pictures were cute."

"Yeah," Hefty said. "It's good to see folks
enjoying themselves and playing outside."

Interestingly, the next person to swear at them
was quickly shushed by her companion,
who turned to them and said, "Sorry about that --
her cousin is flickering and it has the whole family antsy."

"There's a resource page on the SPOON website
for family support," Stalwart Stan said as he
handed out one of the business cards with the
silvery logo stamped above the address.

"They loaned us the flash badges for
community outreach too," Hefty added.
"The Omaha police department is talking about
the recent tragedy in D.C. but hasn't come up
with an official response yet. Stalwart Stan here
was a little quicker on the bounce with his idea."

The smiles they got in return were nervous ones,
this time, but seemed to be sincere all the same.

When Stalwart Stan and Hefty rounded the bend,
they saw a small audience gathered ahead.

Fiddlesticks had brought his eskrima batons
and was dancing with them, from slow motion
to faster and then a blur of super-speed.
He wore a dark blue hoodie emblazoned
Omaha Police Department Officer on the front,
the flash badge glowing steadily below the logo.

Fiddlesticks tossed one of the batons high in the air --
and Antimatter flung up a hand, making the stick
slow and then come to a complete stop overhead.
A spatter of applause broke out, and he let go,
allowing it to fall back into the owner's waiting hand.

The flash badge on Antimatter's black lab coat
was a scintillant glory of color, the capery threads
sparking and gleaming in response to his superpowers.
His long hair flowed like moonlight as he took a bow.

Show over, Fiddlesticks flopped down on the grass
and began rummaging in a large picnic basket.
"You guys want snacks?" he asked, pulling out
an entire foot-long submarine sandwich.

"We always want snacks if Diamond is cooking,"
Hefty said, diving into the basket.

He handed a box to Stalwart Stan, which
proved to contain some kind of coconut cookies.
"Wow, thanks. These are amazing," said Stalwart Stan.

"Plain or chocolate chip banana bread?"
Hefty offered next.

"Chocolate chip, please," said Antimatter.

Hefty handed over a loaf wrapped in foil, then
opened a gallon-sized tub of corned beef hash
for himself. "Our undying thanks to your
talented wife," he said to Fiddlesticks,
who nodded in acknowledgement.

"So how did your walk in the park go?"
Stalwart Stan asked Antimatter.

"Pretty well," Antimatter said. "One dumb kid
tried to squirt water at us from one of the fountains
but wound up falling in, which was pretty hilarious
when Fiddlesticks stopped to help him climb out."

Stalwart Stan chuckled. "Nothing that exciting
for us, just a few rude remarks, and some kids
asking about our favorite Floppits."

"It's hard to believe what happened at that mall
in Mercedes, attacking a guy while he was
trying to buy food," Antimatter said quietly.
"Even supervillains need to eat."

"That's true," Hefty said. "That cop was
clearly out of jurisdiction, and way out of line.
I heard that his station fired him for it."

"Good for them," said Fiddlesticks. "Speaking
of California, Richmond still holds the record."

"What record?" asked Stalwart Stan.

"Seven years without a police-caused fatality,"
Fiddlesticks said. "They're also averaging
less than one police shooting per year, including
both zatzers and the BASH projectile guns.
Plus none of their officers have been shot."

"Wow. How's Omaha doing in comparison?"
said Stalwart Stan, leaning forward.

"Pretty well, but not that well," said Fiddlesticks.
"The last fatality was two years ago, and
the previous shooting of an officer was last year.
We have a great chief, but not as much training."

"I wish we could get one of their presenters to come
lead a workshop here. They do weapons training
once a month and live-action roleplay four times a year,
plus discussions of incidents from other precincts,"
Hefty said wistfully. "I think it would help."

"So ask them," said Stalwart Stan.

Hefty shook his head. "They're swamped
with requests from all over the country."

"Maybe they'd agree if we had something
to trade," said Stalwart Stan. He turned
to watch the crowd flowing along the sidewalk,
then flagged down a young man with a camera.
"Would you mind photographing us four together?"

The fellow agreed, and soon they all had
digital copies sent to their respective
vidwatches or smartphones.

"How does this help?" Hefty asked.

"Well, the flash badge idea was mine, and
it started here with you," said Stalwart Stan.
"So you can send a copy of the photograph
to the police department out in Richmond.
Meanwhile I can tell the Westbord SPOON base
that Richmond has that really low violence rate
and maybe they'd like to borrow some flash badges
to do what we did here. Then if you ask them
about swapping speakers, they may say yes."

Hefty grinned. "That might just work."
He definitely seemed to be feeling better.

"I like when people actually try to solve problems
instead of just standing around pointing at the mess
and demanding that someone else clean it up,"
Antimatter said. "A lot more gets done this way."

"Thank you both for the invitation," Fiddlesticks said.
"We really appreciate the show of faith."

"It's not faith," Antimatter said softly.
"It's knowledge. We've seen you in action."

So they had, and what Stalwart Stan
thought silently to himself was,
It's not just knowledge. It's trust.

* * *

Notes:

Roger Morrison -- He has fair skin with freckles and copious body hair. His eyes are brown. On his head, the hair is cropped short, an auburn so dark that it looks almost brown; but his beard and body hair are a much brighter chestnut red. He has a soft beer belly and padding over respectable muscles. He is 6'3" and 256 pounds, but looks petite compared to his enormous boyfriend, Hefty.
Roger works as a cook at the Cow Heaven steakhouse. He has a strong sense of civic pride and duty. He cares deeply about friends and family. He enjoys a variety of board and miniature games, but his favorites are those that rely on making and breaking alliances in combat or politics.
Qualities: Expert (+4) Grill Cook, Good (+2) Affectionate, Good (+2) Bear Pride Activist, Good (+2) Citizen Responder, Good (+2) Cornhusker, Good (+2) Strength, Good (+2) Wargamer
Poor (-2) Moody

* * *

The shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri reflects a pattern of injustice. Grand Jury materials reveal a miscarriage of justice and implication that it was legal to shoot a fleeing suspect, and the process itself has been criticized as improperly performed. Naturally that angers people.

Addressing injustice is an important step after a conflict such as this. It's not just about expressing outrage, but about discussing and creating the world you hope to live in. Here are some class exercises for doing so.

Good cops can help counteract the effects of bad ones.  Here's a policevet standing with Ferguson protesters.  Here's a black officer speaking about corruption within the police force.  Here's a commissioner condemning police brutality.  Several officers revealed a ticket quota and then got fired for it.  Good cops need more support than they're getting from society, or we'll be stuck with just the ones who think of violence as their first solution to problems.

Flash badge -- a small fabric patch made of dexflan and embroidered with capery, so that it responds to the presence of superpowers. The purpose is to reveal when powers are being used by, on, or near the wearer. Simpler retro-engineered models only have an on/off mode, and aren't very useful. Fancier gizmotronic ones may distinguish between the wearer's talent and someone else's, or not respond to the wearer but only to other soups. The most elaborate super-gizmotronic ones can identify what the power is within broad categories; i.e. a different part of the badge will light up for empathic, telekinetic, or illusionary powers. There are various models, all useful for distinguishing soups from naries.

See the coatrack and WWII map in Hefty's home. The map belongs to a wargame in which Roger won a tournament. Assume that the Terramagne rules are more coherent than the ones mentioned in the post.

The Gene Leahy Mall is a popular park in Omaha, Nebraska.

Rejection hurts as much as physical pain. Know how to treat this type of emotional injury. In this case, Stalwart Stan realized that the shooting would upset his friends on the police force, so he took steps to reaffirm their connection with the community.

Angry people can do mean things. There are ways of coping with rude people, prejudice, and inappropriate remarks.

People watching is a fun pastime that anyone can learn. Here Stalwart Stan is quietly exercising his math skills by counting things around him, which is not just good practice but also reveals useful information. Counting smiles offers an effective measure of the overall mood in an area. Some places in Terramagne use gizmology for that, with the goal of improving public mood.

Courageous Gus is a Floppit designed by [personal profile] dialecticdreamer, a chinchilla with purple fur, introduced in "Patchwork Families" Part 5. Policeman Paul is new. He has short, pale blue fur and a navy blue uniform; he teaches a lot about safety rules -- not just what the rules are, but why they are important and how people decide what they should be.

This is the Omaha Police Department hoodie that Fiddlesticks wears. Yes, I dressed my black cop in a hoodie on purpose. This image demonstrates the similarity of blaming the victim based on clothing: a miniskirt is not asking for rape, and a hoodie is not asking for murder. In fact violent, abusive people cannot be pleased no matter what the victim does; attempts at appeasement just encourage them.

Diamond packed high-energy food because super-speed has a tremendous metabolic demand. So there are coconut energy breakfast cookies, high-energy trail mix, chocolate chip or plain banana bread, corned beef hash, and other goodies. Of course, trail mix can be made with many combinations of things.

Diligent work by the Richmond police force delivers an exceptionally low rate of injury and death, both among police and civilians, despite them working in one of the most dangerous cities. That is not due to luck. It is not due to submissive citizens. It's due to a lot of hard work: the officers busting their butts to practice aim, decision making, conflict resolution, and incident analysis; and to the chief providing firm guidance and accountability. Your city has spent its money well. Now if we could just get other departments to make a similar effort ...

Trust may be given or earned, but in any case must be sustained or it erodes. There are ways to build trust for individuals and governments. In this instance, Antimatter and Stalwart Stan are simply observing that honorable action tends to make people think highly of you.

GOOD cops

Date: 2014-11-28 06:12 pm (UTC)
dialecticdreamer: My work (Default)
From: [personal profile] dialecticdreamer
Are part of the solution, not the problem. We need more officers like Hefty -here- to speak out against /bad/ cops, rather than keeping the Blue Solidarity.

(no subject)

Date: 2014-11-28 07:14 am (UTC)
ext_12246: (Glory Variation #2)
From: [identity profile] thnidu.livejournal.com
Oh, very good! I wish such wisdom and care would come to all police forces.

• As he did so, the radiance faded
from the capery-embroidered dexflan.
> What radiance? Whose dexflan? There's no mention of either before this.

I guess that Stalwart Stan's uniform was glowing till Hefty grabbed the badges, but why wouldn't Hefty or Roger notice that and comment on it?

(no subject)

Date: 2014-11-28 08:22 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] little-lynnet.livejournal.com
What radiance? Whose dexflan? There's no mention of either before this.

I think that's referring to the flash badge itself, rather than Stan's uniform. The badges glow if held by someone with superpowers. Since Hefty isn't a soup and he's just taken them out of Stan's hand, the glow fades.

That was how I interpreted it anyway, so I hope it helps. ^_^;

Yes...

Date: 2014-11-28 08:46 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ysabetwordsmith.livejournal.com
That's correct. I'm glad it came through for you.

I've also pasted in the description of flash badges that I forgot to include earlier in the notes.

(no subject)

Date: 2014-11-28 09:20 am (UTC)
ext_12246: (Default)
From: [identity profile] thnidu.livejournal.com
Ah, yeah, thank you. Now that you mention it, I remember that flash badges are made of fabric —and can be attached as patches —rather than the metal I associate with badges in our universe.
Edited Date: 2014-11-28 09:20 am (UTC)

Well...

Date: 2014-11-28 09:24 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ysabetwordsmith.livejournal.com
Think scouting badges, not police badges.

Re: Well...

Date: 2014-11-28 09:26 am (UTC)
ext_12246: (Default)
From: [identity profile] thnidu.livejournal.com
Yupyup.

Thoughts

Date: 2014-11-28 08:39 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ysabetwordsmith.livejournal.com
>> Oh, very good! I wish such wisdom and care would come to all police forces. <<

I wish that too.

>> • As he did so, the radiance faded
from the capery-embroidered dexflan.

> What radiance? Whose dexflan? There's no mention of either before this.

I guess that Stalwart Stan's uniform was glowing till Hefty grabbed the badges, <<

Flash badges are made of dexflan and capery, to respond to the presence of superpowers. These particular ones are point-blank range, meant to advertise that the wearer is a soup. Let go, and the light goes out.

Sorry that I forgot to include the reference for flash badges in the footnotes; I've put it in now.

>> but why wouldn't Hefty or Roger notice that and comment on it? <<

They know what flash badges are; the things aren't common, but they are talked about -- or more often, argued about. Consider a world in which superpowers are sometimes admired, other times hated and feared, and what some people do with that kind of knowledge.

Walking around with your status literally pinned to your clothes is a pretty amazing show of trust and solidarity. But if you whack the society that a hero is standing on, he'll do nutty things like that, and usually bring a few friends along for the ride.

Re: Thoughts

Date: 2014-11-28 09:22 am (UTC)
ext_12246: (light bulb)
From: [identity profile] thnidu.livejournal.com
Thanks, got it from [livejournal.com profile] little_lynnet. And that also covers my other problem, since it wasn't the uniform that was glowing but the badge, and yeah, they know about them.

(Heh, and my "idea / the light dawns" icon can cover "glow" as well!)

Re: Thoughts

Date: 2014-11-28 09:25 am (UTC)

Re: Thoughts

Date: 2014-11-28 11:11 pm (UTC)
ext_12246: (smiley)
From: [identity profile] thnidu.livejournal.com
«"Flash badges!" Hefty exclaimed,
grabbing them out of his hand.
As he did so, the radiance faded
from their capery-embroidered dexflan.»

That makes all the difference, clears it up completely.

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