ysabetwordsmith: Damask smiling over their shoulder (polychrome)
[personal profile] ysabetwordsmith
This poem came out of the November 2014 Creative Jam. It was inspired by a prompt from [personal profile] chanter_greenie. It also fills the "ritual marks and body decorations" square in my 9-1-14 card for the [community profile] genprompt_bingo fest. This poem has been sponsored by [personal profile] stardreamer. It belongs to the Backdraft thread of the series Polychrome Heroics.


"In Dublin's Fair City"


Backdraft appeared in an alley
where a heap of rubbish burned fitfully.
He examined the address on the note he held,
compared it to the colorful street signs,
and headed to the designated pub.

Every television he passed in store windows
was blaring live updates of the news about
the Irish Independence Referendum
that might -- or might not -- reunite
Northern Ireland with the Republic of Ireland.

Backdraft found The Merry Wren, its wooden sign
depicting a bird perched on the rim of a foaming mug,
boisterous sounds already spilling from the door.

Inside, the pub was clean and brighter than he expected,
broad mahogany bar backed by mirrors and many bottles.
The bartender looked several years older than Backdraft,
and leaned forward to fix him with a stern gaze.
Other patrons had turned to watch them.

"I'm Dylan Flynn," the bartender announced.
"Who might you be? You're not from around here.
You are a bit out of the ordinary."

"I'm Backdraft." He ruffled a hand through
the red-orange-yellow mane of his hair.
Even when not in costume, that made it
difficult for him to pass.

"You a friend of ours?" Dylan asked.

"Not exactly," Backdraft said with a grimace,
"I don't mind your goal; can't say I approve
of all your tactics." He pushed up a sleeve to reveal
the tattoo of Brigid's Flame on his left shoulder, which
he'd gotten when he was younger and more innocent.
"I guess you could call me an occasional ally."

"Then you got some special reason
for being here?" Dylan said, nudging
his sleeves to show the bands
of thorny knotwork above each elbow.

"Guy I know asked me to keep watch in case
things heat up after the results are announced,"
Backdraft said. "I owe him a favor, so here I am."
He wished that Ticker could have been arsed
to provide an introduction along with directions,
but Backdraft wasn't in a position to make demands.
If Ticker hadn't said anything more specific,
then Backdraft wasn't about to spill the beans.

"You expect me to trust some Red Hugh
I don't even know," Dylan said, frowning.

"I'm chaotic," Backdraft said tartly.
"That doesn't automatically equate to
irredeemably evil lost cause, you know."

"Lad, in case you hadn't noticed, this building
is full of very valuable, very flammable liquor,"
Dylan pointed out, waving at the bottles
which lined the wall behind him.

"I'm here to stop fires, not start them,"
Backdraft said. That was mostly true:
if someone called him for help, then
he'd need a light to jump to the location.

"Aye, if the vote goes to the Brits,
there's sure to be trouble," Dylan said.
"If it comes to us, there will be much rejoicing --
and happy drunk people have accidents,
sure'n I can tell you that."

"Here's where I was told to wait,"
Backdraft said. "Is that all right with you?"

Dylan nodded. "Have a seat at the bar.
I'll pull you a pint -- what's your pleasure?"

"Hard cider, if you have it,"
Backdraft said hopefully.
It was difficult to find at home.

"Try the Bulmers," Dylan advised,
sliding a large mug toward Backdraft.

Backdraft reached for his wallet.

Dylan waved him off. "If you're here
to help keep my city from burning down,
drinks are on the house," he murmured.

Well, maybe there was something
to the idea of alliance, after all.

Backdraft sat at the bar, quietly nursing his drink,
and making a point of not getting drunk
because he had a job to do.

Surreptitiously he watched the crowd
of wild young things who filled the bar,
some of them sporting tattoos of their own --
Irish flags, shamrocks, wrens, all kinds of knotwork --
gazing back at him with wary regard.

The audience hushed as the announcer came on.
"Northern Ireland has decided on reunification!" he said,
and the news anchors popped a bottle of champagne
right there on live television.

The pub erupted in cheers, with everyone
slapping everyone's back and buying rounds.
Dylan scrambled around to fill all the orders.

Someone smacked Backdraft hard enough
to knock him into the bar, probably on purpose,
but fortunately he was Invulnerable.
So he just grinned and hit the guy back.

Before long, though, Dylan came over to him
with a grave look and a mobile phone.
"There's a fire, a bad one -- somebody spilled
a keg of rum, somebody dropped a fag --
I've got your coordinates here," he said.

"Thanks," Backdraft said. "I'll go outside --"

Dylan lowered his voice and said,
"Don't try tripping on just a lighter flame, eh?
Go out back and there's a rubbish barrel you can light."

Backdraft wondered if Ticker had been flapping his lips
or if Dylan just had a knack for guessing well.
He thanked the bartender again, then
hurried outside to change and go.

When Backdraft arrived at the fire, he found
a whole student housing complex ablaze,
and the firefighters were having a hard time
getting the conflagration under control.

Backdraft used his gift to damp down the flames
at the base of the structure, allowing the firehoses
to suppress the upper levels more effectively.

"Hey! You can't be here!" shouted a policeman,
yanking on Backdraft's sleeve.

The cheek of the fellow, really.

"I'm a bit busy here," Backdraft said as he
shrugged off the clutching hand. "Sod off."

"You're under arrest," the policeman said.

Tired of the pointless argument,
Backdraft punched him smartly in the face
and then firetripped to the far side of the building.

Within a few minutes, the fire died down enough
that Backdraft could return to the pub.

"Oh, thank God you're back," said Dylan,
pushing two scribbled notes at Backdraft.
"There's a smash-up not far from here
and some fool sassenachs throwing Molotovs."

This would be so much easier if Ticker
trusted him enough to use Backdraft's phone,
but then again there was something to be said
for having a secured base of operations.

"I'm gone," Backdraft said, taking both notes.

The smash-up involved a dozen different vehicles.
Backdraft clamped down on the flames,
but there was so much fuel and oil spewed around
that even he couldn't get them all the way out,
and the firetrucks were trapped in traffic
with only an ambulance on the scene.

Backdraft crawled through the wreckage,
pulling people out and shooing them
toward the waiting medics.

Then he reached a car so crumpled that
he couldn't find a way inside, but
a man's arm stuck out, twitching feebly.

Backdraft flitted back to the ambulance.
"Listen very carefully," he said to the nearest medic.
"I don't have the skill to get people out of mangled cars,
and you do. Just walk through the fire -- I'll keep it off you."

The woman stared at him, but nodded and obeyed.
Soon they had extracted the victim and loaded him
into the ambulance. "You're a bleedin' hero, mate,"
the medic said to Backdraft.

Well, no, he wasn't really, but it
felt good enough that he didn't argue.

When Backdraft tracked down the damn fools
throwing burning bottles at celebrating crowds, he
was sorely tempted to explode the Molotovs
right in the hoodlums' hands, but that
might have gotten more people hurt.

Instead he melted the lighters they were using,
and left them to the tender mercies of the police
who quickly realized that the troublemakers
had just lost their ammunition.

It went on like that for hours,
but as midnight approached,
things finally began to wind down.
Backdraft returned to the Merry Wren,
exhausted and reeking of smoke.

"Last call," Dylan said as he made the rounds,
dropping a mug in front of Backdraft.

It looked like coffee.
He tasted it.

Oh. Irish coffee.
The cobwebs melted off his brain.

"God, I needed that," Backdraft said.

A slim hand, tattooed with a melted clock,
patted him on the shoulder. "Good work, mate."

A flick of the same hand bent time
throughout the pub, giving Dylan
a few extra moments to catch up
on the many orders. The bartender
raised his fingers in a jaunty wave.

"You're a dick," Backdraft said to Ticker.
"Dylan there bit my head off when I showed up."

Ticker just grinned at him. "Yeah, wasn't it a gas?"
he said. "I'm a dick, you're a git, people
like us ought to watch out for each other!"

"Go away and let me die in peace,"
Backdraft muttered into his coffee.

"You look knackered," Ticker said.
"Here, you'll be wanting this."
He dropped a jingling keychain on the bar,
patted Backdraft again, and sauntered away
to shake hands with the other fellows.

Backdraft looked down and found that
the keychain had the name and address
of a local hotel printed on it.

Well, that didn't suck much at all.

The news on the nearest monitor
had shifted from celebratory mayhem
to more thoughtful discussion of the future.

"Hey Ticker, what do you think this
will mean for people with superpowers?"
asked a man with glowing green eyes.

Ticker shrugged. "Northern Ireland is Ireland now.
Guess they'll help us catch up to the sodding Brits."
Then he headed back into the crowd.

Dylan came by to top up Backdraft's mug.

"What do we do now?" Backdraft said,
taking deep drink of Irish coffee.

"Eh?" Dylan said, tilting his head.

"Think about it," Backdraft said,
jerking a thumb at Ticker's back.
"You have a bunch of guys in your group
who've pretty much devoted their lives
to bucking off the British rule.
Okay, great, they've done that.
What are they going to do
with themselves afterwards?"

"Well ... bollocks," Dylan said faintly.

* * *

Notes:

Dylan Flynn -- He has fair skin, brown eyes, and wavy brown hair. He has knotwork thorn tattoos banding both arms just above the elbows. Dylan belongs to the branch of the IRA that is more-or-less precise in its use of terrorism to protest British dominion and bring justice where the courts won't. He has little tolerance for bigots or bullies, and tries to maintain his bar as a safe place.
Qualities: Expert (+4) Bartender, Good (+2) Fast, Good (+2) Listener, Good (+2) Sports Fan
Poor (-2) Quick Temper

Ticker (Alroy Collins) -- He has fair skin with freckles, amber eyes, and short wavy red hair. He is tall and slim. He has numerous tattoos, including a melted clock over the back of his left hand, inspired by his Time Control gift. Ticker belongs to the branch of the IRA that is more-or-less precise in its use of terrorism to protest British dominion and bring justice where the courts won't. He is an ally of the Marionettes.
Origin: When Alroy was seventeen, his mother fell ill suddenly and was dying. There was no way to save her, and the family was scattered far and wide. His superpower manifested, buying enough time for the family to gather and say goodbye. Which was great until he passed out on the floor from overexertion, making everyone think they were about to lose another relative. They've never really relied on him knowing his own limits since then.
Uniform: Street clothes.
Qualities: Expert (+4) Revolutionary, Good (+2) Dexterity, Good (+2) Drinking Buddies, Good (+2) Spirited, Good (+2) Storyteller
Poor (-2) Nervous
Powers: Expert (+4) Time Control
Motivation: Irish freedom and reunification.

* * *

Local-Earth had a Scottish Independence Referendum on September 18, 2014. In Terramagne, it was for Irish independence, a related issue. The Republic of Ireland, part of the island of Ireland, has had a fractious history with the British.

Red Hugh -- Irish slang for a someone with Fire Powers

The Irish Republican Army actually spans several organizations. Some of them are particularly known for terrorist tactics.

A variety of supervillain organizations and other extralegal groups in Terramagne use tattoos to express affiliation. See some IRA tattoos. Brigid is a fire goddess, often shown holding a flame or with blazing hair, and Backdraft's tattoo looks something like this.

Bulmers is among the best brands of cider. You can also make your own hard cider.

fag -- cigarette
-- Irish Slang Translated

rubbish -- garbage
-- Irish Glossary

cheek -- disrespect
-- Irish Slang

sod off -- go away
-- UK Slang

sassenach -- foreigner, British person
-- Gaelic Glossary

A Molotov cocktail is a type of bottle bomb meant to set things on fire.

Irish coffee is made with coffee, sugar, cream, and whiskey.

a gas -- funny, a joke
-- Explaining Irish Slang

git -- a horrible person
-- Irish Slang

knackered -- very tired
-- Irish Slang

Once you achieve your goal, you are no longer the same person you were while pursuing it. Therefore many people feel lost after achieving a major goal, such as graduating from college. There are tips on moving forward after you achieve a goal and on setting new goals.

bollocks -- testicles; also a general expression of frustration or dismay
-- Irish Slang

(no subject)

Date: 2014-12-17 01:05 am (UTC)
chanter_greenie: an older house and surrounding autumn scenery (Wisconsin autumn: smells like fall)
From: [personal profile] chanter_greenie
Ooooh, now I just wish I could be/have been in Terramagne's Dublin on this particular evening. The large majority of this one makes my Irish heart sing. Raven wings, you know. Here was me with my fingers crossed like mad for the Scottish referendum to succeed in our own world, for the record. Alas. :(

I say large majority. Good gosh, that accident victim. I may prompt you for his story someday, post crash.

(no subject)

Date: 2014-12-17 03:36 am (UTC)
stardreamer: Meez headshot (Default)
From: [personal profile] stardreamer
This is lovely. Amusing side note -- between some of my tastes in reading and a fair number of British online friends, I didn't need the glossary at all.

I suspect that Backdraft thinks of himself as Chaotic Neutral, but from the outside it sure looks as if he leans more toward Chaotic Good -- he pursues Justice, won't be tied down by Law, but also rejects Evil in the process.

I also like it very much that he's thinking ahead to the next thing. Okay, you've won -- what are all of you going to do now with the rest of your lives? That's important, and worth calling a group meeting about as soon as the initial exhilaration has worn off, and before the inevitable letdown hits. Because if they can come up with a new course of action (or several -- this is the point at which "different people have different priorities" will start to kick in), they can transition more or less smoothly into being a positive influence on their newly-freed home.

Hmmm, that may be another Fishbowl prompt...

Re: Thank you!

Date: 2014-12-18 12:53 am (UTC)
stardreamer: Meez headshot (Default)
From: [personal profile] stardreamer
Part of that is foresight, part because he's just far enough from the issue to take a longer view of it, and part because he enjoys pitching a pigeon into a roomful of cats.

*snerk* Oh, yes he certainly would! So it's a combination of kinda-sorta wanting to help out and thinking about the entertainment value. Which isn't necessarily a bad thing; a lot of people do a lot of things for multiple motives, not all of which are high-minded and virtuous.

One thing I forgot to mention above is that it was really nice of Ticker to think ahead and get Backdraft a place to spend the night, since he was going to be wiped by the end of the evening anyhow. Makes me think well of Ticker as a thoughtful friend (well, ally).

(no subject)

Date: 2014-12-17 04:45 am (UTC)
thnidu: my familiar. "Beanie Baby" -type dragon, red with white wings (Default)
From: [personal profile] thnidu
I think I like this guy, or most of him.

• island of ireland
→ Ireland
> capital I

• sassenak -- foreigner, British person
→ sassenach
> That's how I've always seen it; more to the point, that's how it's spelled in the dialogue.

• a gas -- funny, a joke
> That's funny, I'm a New York Jew and this idiom is absolutely native to me. :-)

Edited Date: 2014-12-17 04:46 am (UTC)

OOH, more happy!

Date: 2014-12-17 05:55 am (UTC)
dialecticdreamer: My work (Default)
From: [personal profile] dialecticdreamer
Tail wagging my butt, here. AGAIN! HAPPYDANCE.

I like Backdraft because he is out for himself and a very narrow set of interests. Clearly, he's repaying a favor by keeping Dublin damped down after the referendum, but he's doing it /his/ way. And it's PROFESSIONAL. Clean. Even if he's a /villain,/ it doesn't mean unprincipled. It means you have to know how to APPEAL to him, and his reputation for doing something right the first time has to /matter/ to him.

One of the things I am /definitely/ going to prompt for are follow-ups in Ireland.

(no subject)

Date: 2014-12-16 09:01 pm (UTC)
ext_74: Baron Samadai in cat form (City of Heroes)
From: [identity profile] siliconshaman.livejournal.com
And now I'm chuckling, because when the peace descended in the real world there was a whole load of Irish Scallies, provo's and sons of Cullain, who found themselves with bugger all else to do. So... they went around and 'took care of' all the drug dealers, gangsters and general bad guys. Not exactly heroes... especially how they did it.. but well... it's their community, and they cleaned it up before moving on. [probably best not speculate what they're up to now though.]

Makes me think that something like that might just happen in Terramagne, bunch of bored ex-terrorists, anti-heroes and not-quite-super-villains deciding to do something about the real bad guys.
Edited Date: 2014-12-16 09:02 pm (UTC)

(no subject)

Date: 2015-01-14 02:14 am (UTC)
technoshaman: Tux (Default)
From: [personal profile] technoshaman
And thereby hangs a tale?

Like this one.

(no subject)

Date: 2015-01-13 11:39 pm (UTC)
alexseanchai: Purple lightning (Default)
From: [personal profile] alexseanchai
Heh, yeah.

(no subject)

Date: 2015-01-17 07:30 pm (UTC)
onewhitecrow: Joker from The Batman series, uncharacteristically frowning (frown)
From: [personal profile] onewhitecrow
You're American, huh.

Re: Well...

Date: 2015-01-17 08:26 pm (UTC)
onewhitecrow: Period photo of two Texan cowboys eating tomatoes. One appears to be trying to find his tomato with a magnifying glass. (tomatoes)
From: [personal profile] onewhitecrow
Except not understanding what Ulster is, apparently.

Now, I will state that I am biased by almost being blown up by the IRA once, knowing a fellow whose friend was 'disappeared', and a childhood of being concerned whenever my mother was late home after a bomb scare. They will never be glorious freedom fighters to me, and I say that as someone who would get a rifle and walk to the border if things got crazy enough down in England that we had to make a break for it sharpish (Sassenach is a Scottish word, by the way - they're just Saxons in Ireland). However.

Objectively, if Ulster was in a position to want re-unification, it wouldn't exist in the first place. Independence, great - they don't want it, but in theory in an alternate universe where England's hold over the rest of us was weaker, Ulster could try giving England the finger and going it alone, sure. Unification with a country that's been attempting to stamp out the ethnically-divergent culture (and/or population) of Ulster since...well, Cúchulainn was kicking arse, but since the country was created all the more so...that's not 'mild rioting', that is 'bloodbath shortly followed by all-out civil war'. Not in Dublin, sure (I can't think you'd find a pro-UK person in Dublin, unless they were an English immigrant), but you'd lose Belfast pretty quickly. That'd be on the news.

'scuse. [takes a moment to breathe and calm down] Look, moving a union jack to be less obvious caused two weeks of rioting and an attempted church-burning last year. Moving a union flag. That is how strongly the people of Ulster feel about not being part of the RoI...and it's not because they're West Brits in their hearts, so don't go comparing them to the passel of rogues up here who're merely afraid of currency change and England's threats against our commerce, it's because they're not what the rest of Ireland is, and I don't think, given the similarities to our Earth shown here and that the friend who pointed me this way was deeply bothered by this piece too, that this alternate history is alternate enough for the scenario to be plausible without erasing an entire culture to make a nicely black and white scenario that solves "the Irish Question".

TL;DR - the base concept doesn't make sense because the UK is a lot more complex than here portrayed, and is not portrayed differently enough from our Earth to make said concept plausible (except to Americans, who also tend to think the IRA's various splinters are friendly terrorists, hence the guess).

I like the super's hair, though. He's pretty.

Re: Well...

Date: 2015-08-20 04:33 pm (UTC)
technoshaman: (cascadia)
From: [personal profile] technoshaman
Gee, I know that feeling. (See icon)

(no subject)

Date: 2016-10-11 07:10 am (UTC)
callibr8: icon courtesy of Wyld_Dandelyon (Default)
From: [personal profile] callibr8
Enjoyed this, especially Backdraft's response to the interfering policeman. Except... it would've been such a terrific opportunity to use "Do you know who I am?" in a context where it would *belong*. :-)

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