ysabetwordsmith: Damask smiling over their shoulder (polychrome)
[personal profile] ysabetwordsmith
This poem was written outside the regular prompt calls, inspired by this video. It also fills "The Heart of the Jungle/Forest" square in my 12-17-14 card for the [community profile] genprompt_bingo fest. It has been sponsored by Anthony & Shirley Barrette. This poem belongs to the series Polychrome Heroics.

WARNING: This poem contains more violence than typical for this setting. The warnings are spoilers; highlight to read. Some Kraken supervillains on an illegal mission are taken completely by surprise. Out of a five-person team, three are killed, one has unknown injuries, and one escapes with emotional rather than physical injuries. This is what can happen when a critter has superpowers and doesn't realize how much damage it's doing. Support from surrounding characters varies. The PTSD on Hoon's character sheet below the poem is from this incident. Consider your headspace and tolerance for violence before reading onward.

"The Siren Song of the Super Lyrebird"

It happened so quickly that even Hoon
barely reacted in time to save himself.

One minute they were scouting Birdsville
in preparation for rigging the races.
The next, their cameraman was teasing
a gray bird that scurried across the dirt road --

-- and then everyone was falling.

Hoon's super-speed had kicked on reflexively
as he scrambled away from the crazy bird,
taking him to the edge of the tiny town in a blink.
He slunk back along a different route
to figure out what had happened.

A siren whooped briefly.
It was the bird again.

Superball was there, checking
the bodies sprawled on the ground.
A line of livid bruises tracked down one arm.

The superhero looked at Hoon.
"Mates of yours?" he asked.

Hoon gave a wary shrug.

"So far I've only found one alive;
he's in the ambulance," said Superball.
"I'm sorry I didn't get here in time
to save anyone else. The barrage
mostly just bounced off of me."

"It was a bird," Hoon whispered.

Nearby was a little girl
feeding worms to the lyrebird.

It cocked its head at him
and sang the ominous theme song
that played on the game CrackWar
whenever the villain Chill Queen appeared.

Hastily he backed away.
"That thing is a menace!" Hoon said.

"It's a concern," Superball agreed.
"However, it's also very fond of the locals.
I wouldn't like to try prying it loose from here."

Hoon vehemently agreed with that.

"I came out here to investigate reports
of strange wildlife activity and someone
faffing about with the races," said Superball.
"You see how those two things mix up trouble.
It might be best to stop mixing them."

"I can't make any promises," Hoon hedged.
"I mean, I can say what I saw, but
who'd even believe me? Hell,
I hardly believe it and I saw it."

Superball leaned over to pick up something
from the ground. "Here," he said. "The case
is broken but the memory chip might still work."

Hoon took it from him, looking down
at the shattered remains of the video camera.
"Thanks," he whispered. "I'll just ... go now."

By the time he returned to the Kraken base,
Hoon half-wondered if he had hallucinated
the whole disaster from start to finish.

"We were doing fine, until this bird
brassed up like a bang stick!"
didn't sound like a very sane report.

He made it anyway, though, and
turned over the broken video camera
to the gizmologists in the lab.

Saul Omar shook his head over the mess,
but within an hour he extracted the video.

"When we first heard the noises, we thought
it was just some larriken fooling around," said Hoon.

The video captured the first trilling notes of song,
the sharp pew-pew-pew they'd missed at first
because it hadn't actually done anything until later,
then a burst of static at the jamming signal,
a few more idle chirps and squeaks, and finally
another spray of gunfire that blacked the screen.

"Well, that corroborates your story,"
Saul said in a heavy tone. "Three dead
out of a five-person team, one more injured
in unknown condition. So much for our plan
to raise revenue at the Birdsville Races."

"Yeah," Hoon agreed. He loved betting,
and he was good at it too. He never
wanted to see Birdsville again, though.

It was terrifying to get into a battle
with a superhero who had no idea
about the customs of fighting just to see
who was the bigger boss, instead of
trying to kill everything in sight.

Sometimes what you found
in the heart of the jungle
turned out to be scarier than you,
even if you were a supervillain.

Hoon hoped that Superball would
find a way of containing the situation,
or maybe he could talk to the bird --
some of the super-critters were
as smart as a person.

He was shivering, even though
the air conditioner barely gave off
a wheeze of tepid air.

"Hoon, are you all right?"
Saul asked, leaning closer.

The room blurred for an instant
as Hoon trembled at super-speed
and then dropped back to normal.

"I don't think so," he said. "I didn't get shot,
and Superball never laid a hand on me,
but something ... I'm not sure what's wrong ..."

He just felt so helpless. And cold.

"Let's take a walk down to base medical
and have a healer check us out,"
Saul said. "That video shook me up,
and I didn't even see the real thing."

"Okay," Hoon agreed,
leaning on the senior agent.

Some days, being a supervillain
wasn't as much fun as Kraken
had made it sound when they
first recruited him, but at least
the organization always took
good care of its people.

* * *


Saul Omar -- He has light brown skin, sherry-brown eyes, and ginger hair with blond roots although his facial and body hair is darker brown. His heritage includes Israeli, Palestinian, Arabic, and American. He speaks Arabic, English, and Hebrew. Saul favors gizmotronic or super-gizmotronic weapons; his favorite is a freeze ray. He also wears a multi-tool tread bracelet. He likes musical games such as Moosiqar.
Origin: When his superpower manifested at puberty, that made him a target in Palestine. Kraken won him over simply by offering to get him out of the country, which is one of the bottom-ten for soups. Saul's experiences left him suspicious of religion, and he really dislikes zealots.
Uniform: Kraken dexflan and capery uniform. Jumpsuits are sensibly designed with sleek fit, plenty of pockets and fasteners for equipment. They provide Expert (+4) Camouflage to a designated user, but if worn by anyone else, turn garish neon colors. An assortment of zap guns and other gizmotronic or super-gizmotronic equipment vary based on assignment.
Qualities: Expert (+4) Spy, Expert (+4) Hand-to-Hand Combat, Good (+2) Gizmology, Good (+2) Languages, Good (+2) Musical Games, Good (+2) Palestinian Folk Music, Good (+2) Politics, Good (+2) Teacher
Poor (-2) Touchy About Religion
Powers: Good (+2) Shapeshifting
Motivation: To make things fit together.

(I have a model image for Saul, but regrettably I just pasted it into the document and forget to save the picture or its URL so I have no way of sharing it.)

Hoon (Ian Wenck) -- He has fair skin, dark hair, and brown eyes. He comes from Victoria, Australia. He loves horse racing, can ride as well as watch, and has a good enough knowledge of equine body language that he routinely makes pocket money by betting on long shots. Hoon works for Kraken. He is not nearly as good a driver as he thinks, and has wrecked zoom vehicles five times. They don't let him drive anymore, even ordinary vehicles.
Origin: His youthful aspiration was to become a racecar driver. He didn't have the skills for it, and one pileup left him under a pile of mangled metal and questionable substances. After that he developed Super-Speed.
Uniform: Kraken dexflan and capery uniform. Jumpsuits are sensibly designed with sleek fit, plenty of pockets and fasteners for equipment. They provide Expert (+4) Camouflage to a designated user, but if worn by anyone else, turn garish neon colors. An assortment of zap guns and other gizmotronic or super-gizmotronic equipment vary based on assignment.
Qualities: Good (+2) Awareness, Good (+2) Endurance, Good (+2) Followship, Good (+2) Horse Racing, Good (+2) Spy
Poor (-2) PTSD
Powers: Average (0) Super-Speed
Motivation: To keep up with the group.

(Hoon is Australian slang for a fast, reckless driver.)

Superball -- Ned Wilson is a short, compact superhero from Australia. He used to be a professional gymnast, and has since retired to become an unofficial culture hero. He has an elastic body that can bounce. It also makes him harder to injure.
Origin: He gained his powers when a rubbery substance that was supposed to be "better than that old-fashioned chalk" bonded with his skin.
Uniform: A spandex tumbling unitard, in rainbow swirls. He has a bundle of them in different color combinations -- some really loud -- that he bought on sale.
Qualities: Expert (+4) Gymnast, Good (+2) Outback Poet, Good (+2) Plenty of Friends in the Pub, Good (+2) Wide Temperature Tolerance
Poor (-2) Can't Walk Away from a Fight
Powers: Good (+2) Bouncy
Motivation: Never stay down.
Model: Blaine Wilson, gymnastics, 5'4" 135 lbs.

Larriken -- He is a superb lyrebird. He is about the size of a pheasant with dull gray-brown feathers and a fantastic tail shaped like a lyre. Larriken protects the village of Birdsville in Queensland, Australia. He is quite fond of the villagers, several of whom feed him, and he considers them part of his territory. One of his superpowers allows him to produce the effects of some things he has heard, such as jamming signals and zap gun fire. Lyrebirds are smart mimics to begin with, and his super-intellect gives him the potential for average human intelligence, although it's not fully developed yet.
Qualities: Master (+6) Mimic, Good (+2) Flight, Good (+2) Village Protector
Powers: Good (+2) Effective Sound Effects, Good (+2) Invulnerability, Average (0) Extended Lifespan, Average (0) Super-Intellect

Larriken is Australian slang for a mischievous young person, also spelled larrikin.

Kraken -- a supervillain organization consisting of two commanders (Master level), eight generals (Expert level), one hundred lieutenants (Good level), all superpowered; along with thousands of faceless followers, mostly ordinary but some with minor powers (Average). What makes this organization dangerous is that they select for intelligence and stealth, rather than dumb thugs. They recruit primarily from vulnerable young adults, especially those who have been harassed or violated or kicked out of home, but also disgruntled soldiers or veterans. They pass time with strategy games including chess, backgammon, mah jongg, and go; plus they actually invented Negotiation, and Kaverns & Krakens (the local versions of Diplomacy, and Dungeons & Dragons).
Unlike most evil organizations, Kraken does not have a single charistic leader and a bunch of minions. Instead it has two leaders who work in tandem. Kraken sends out teams to accomplish missions, but the bulk of its personnel and resources always remain hidden. Their motto is, "You can cut off an arm, but you can never reach the body."
They have ten major lairs scattered around the world in America, Germany, France, Russia, Italy, Japan, China, Argentina, Egypt, and Australia. There are also safe houses and minor lairs elsewhere. Missions traditionally involve forces from two different lairs and leaders. Kraken is not so much diabolical as ruthless. They believe that people left to rule themselves at whim have nearly destroyed the world. (Well, they're not wrong.) So they're trying to take control, quietly, to keep it from running off the rails. They go to extreme lengths to gain power, and they don't care much about personal freedoms. That tends to get them classified as supervillains, although saving the world is a laudable end.
Origin: Kraken was founded during World War I by a German U-boat captain and the captain of a U.S. submarine. Their two ships were the only survivors out of a devastating battle which left them beached and dependent on each other for their continued survival. They learned to cooperate, they commiserated on how people in power were destroying the world, and decided that it really needed to be ruled from beneath. They expanded to include recruits from other nations. Kraken always had some Super-Intellects and gizmologists, although not recognized as such at first. When superpowers became more widely known in World War II, Kraken began quietly recruiting them on purpose.
Uniform: Dexflan and capery for superpowered members. Chameleon cloth for ordinary members. Jumpsuits are sensibly designed with sleek fit, plenty of pockets and fasteners for equipment. They provide Expert (+4) Camouflage to a designated user, but if worn by anyone else, turn garish neon colors. An assortment of zap guns and other gizmotronic or super-gizmotronic equipment vary based on an individual's assignment.
Qualities: Master (+6) Stealth, Master (+6) Strategy, Expert (+4) Cooperation, Expert (+4) Wealth, Good (+2) Combat, Good (+2) Patience
Poor (-2) Working Alone
Powers: Kraken favors subtle abilities such as Super-Intellect, Super-Gizmology, Chameleon Powers, Shapeshifting, Invisibility, Illusion, Precognition, Phase, Luck Control, and Telepathy. However, they accept people with other talents too.
Motivation: To control the surface from the abyss.

* * *

Birdsville, Queensland, Australia is a real village with a population just under 300. It is known for the Birdsville Races.

The Superb Lyrebird lives throughout much of Australia and is famed as a mimic. It can repeat a chainsaw, car alarm, jamming signal, bolt pistol fire, etc. In this poem, the bird first scrambles everyone's gizmos with a jamming signal (0:33-36), then shoots them dead with sound effects (pointing directly at camera 0:49). I would love to get a fanvid of this with the static spliced in for the jamming, then a spiderweb fracture and black screen as the camera is shot out.

Mate is Australian slang for "friend."

Elasticity as a superpower can make the person harder to injure. Superball is less stretchy and more bouncy. His superpower works similar to body armor to block penetrating injuries. (These links show injuries.) High enough force or power can still leave nasty bruises, akin to those left by bullets under body armor or by paintballs through clothing.

Faffing about is Australian slang for idle or mischievous activity.

Brass up is Australian military slang for firing a lot of rounds at a target.

Bang stick is Australian military slang for a rifle. In Terramagne-Australia, it refers to any kind of zap gun.

Emotional trauma often results from a bad experience where someone feels threatened and helpless. Know how to treat emotional shock after an incident.

Horse racing is very popular in Australia. Match fixing can provide a great deal of revenue for organized crime. It is not victimless but it is (usually) nonviolent, and a favorite of Kraken in Australia. However, too much can destroy the industry, as people are discovering in Thailand. Presumably the supervillains in Terramagne-Thailand are overgrazing their pasture. Not all of them are as smart as Kraken.

A dominance fight establishes respective rank with regard to authority and access to resources. Ritualistic display behaviors are the most common form of agonistic behavior, followed by scuffling that may produce minor injurious. Serious fights that end with major injury are uncommon, and death is downright rare. In Terramagne, the vast majority of soup battles are dominance fights to determine social authority, because most of the time neither party has official authority and the goal is control rather than death/destruction. Collateral damage to property is very common, but a majority of soups try to minimize casualties especially to civilians. Larriken actually has the instincts for avian dominance fights, but doesn't understand yet that his voice has gone from a warning and a display of prowess to something which can kill.

No matter how talented or scary you are, there's always someone better.

Sometimes evil is exciting and gratifying. Other times it just sucks. When recruiting minions, evil organizations tend to emphasize the former and gloss over the latter.

Kraken is off on a tangent related to cults. They lack the single charismatic leader and downright parasitic behavior, and they deliberately seek smart, thoughtful converts. They do target vulnerable people to recruit as new members, and cults use similar grooming techniques as sexual predators do. (Kraken doesn't sexually assault members, though.) Contrast this with the Marionettes who don't target converts, but do allow some rescuees to join up. But like many supervillain organizations in Terramagne, and unlike most cults, Kraken follows through on its promise of a good benefits package. Know how to recognize cult features.

(no subject)

Date: 2015-01-26 03:10 am (UTC)
mdlbear: the positively imaginary half of a cubic mandelbrot set (Default)
From: [personal profile] mdlbear
I should have realized that bracelet would find its way into your writing. :)

(no subject)

Date: 2015-01-26 03:26 am (UTC)
stardreamer: Meez headshot (Default)
From: [personal profile] stardreamer
How adorable!

I'm guessing that Hoon is now dealing with a touch of PTSD? Not surprising.

Your evil guys

Date: 2015-01-26 05:44 pm (UTC)
dialecticdreamer: My work (Default)
From: [personal profile] dialecticdreamer

This is totally, utterly different than the first thing which sprang to mind: why is she making a T-America version of HYDRA?

The answer: you didn't.

These guys were committing crimes with the goal of making money, not "ruling the world" (which I doubt is actually possible). The last bit, with Saul taking care of Hoon (and himself) in a way which doesn't make Hoon's reaction seem unreasonable, weak, or worse... That's much, much better than mainstream HYDRA in the Marvelverse.

Your links suggesting "cult" rather than Mafia also shift the dynamics a bit. Red Skull ruled as much by fear as anything else, but "cult" doesn't automatically imply exploitation. It fits the needs of a particular kind of mindset, where there is comfort in being given the "right answer" and then KNOWING "the right answer." Fine, it can stop there, or devolve all the way to Jonestown. One of the things that's clear in Kraken is that they make outsiders "legitimate targets" for things like money scams and such, but will probably take an EXTREMELY dim view of internal exploitation in the same way.

Like I said, this is definitely different. It's evil, but it's evil-directed-elsewhere, rather than the total anarchy, "friendly fire" and ruthless exploitation often attributed to evil. Which makes it more subtle, and more insidious. They're far, far more dangerous than an obvious organization like Hydra, that's for sure.

I wonder how they missed recruiting Juan?

Re: Your evil guys

Date: 2015-01-26 09:03 pm (UTC)
dialecticdreamer: My work (Default)
From: [personal profile] dialecticdreamer
Had another thought on this topic. You said Friendly fire isn't. That holds true throughout most of the supervillain organizations in Terramagne, though not quite all of them.

Which makes me think of the other reason FORK has even had a chance to APPROACH former officer Tanner: he's ON his second-and-only chance. He caused not only friendly fire damage, but a swath of property destruction (because he caused Cash's powers to go wonky with a direct electrical attack to the man's nervous system) which may result in the entire mall having to be renovated in a few months. They don't know yet.

Juan just doesn't seem to have the same desire for "herd" as a lot of others, so if he was approached, it was probably very shortly after he'd already slipped the leash of the gang he was working with/for. Rather along the lines of --

Juan: "I spent YEARS being a lookout for those morons because I didn't have anywhere else to go. Way to show up a day late and a dollar short!"

Kraken operative: Sorry to hear that. You think they're still using street kids as lookouts?

Juan: I wouldn't have any interest in finding out. I'm staying as far away from Castillano 321 in Pier Montenegro as I possibly can!

Kraken operative: (Nods thoughtfully.) I see that. If I want to get there on time, if not early, perhaps?

Juan: Right when boys' voices start to change. That's when they test to see if the kid is going to sample their supplies, or worse, steal them. I outsmarted the supplier, and got moved up a step in the food chain.

Kraken operative: Thank you.

Juan: (looking mildly confused) For what, telling you no? Have a nice life.

Re: Your evil guys

Date: 2015-01-27 02:50 pm (UTC)
dialecticdreamer: My work (Default)
From: [personal profile] dialecticdreamer
Dave's testimony-- I haven't forgotten this; it's just on a longer list of things I want to write than I expected!

The problem I foresee is the defense lawyer trying to paint Dave as some kind of "soup groupie" and thus biased against naries. Despite the setting, Dave would have to actually smother laughter at that, then ask the judge if he can get a clarification of whether an accusation like that, appearing in a court document, is libelous (in print) or merely slander, because Dave's going to pursue it.

Because that's about the only way the defense CAN discredit Dave's performance on the job. Oh, he didn't get pictures of the wound before removing the device and suturing it? When did his job become collecting police evidence? And so forth.

Re: Your evil guys

Date: 2015-01-28 12:50 am (UTC)
dialecticdreamer: My work (Default)
From: [personal profile] dialecticdreamer
Logged all four books for LinkPlus at the library. Thank you!

Re: Your evil guys

Date: 2015-01-28 04:11 am (UTC)
dialecticdreamer: My work (Default)
From: [personal profile] dialecticdreamer
For poisons, I'll just borrow my son's copy of "The Handbook of Poisoning." Accurate, technical information along with symptoms and likely treatments.

My kid has some strange reading habits, LOL.

Re: Your evil guys

Date: 2015-01-28 07:01 am (UTC)
zeeth_kyrah: A glowing white and blue anthropomorphic horse stands before a pink and blue sky. (Default)
From: [personal profile] zeeth_kyrah
Courtroom drama would have been a slam dunk for Daredevil (public defender), but instead of following his cases in the court, the comic almost always follows his cases in the field and barely remembers he's a freaking lawyer (and like many supers, supposed to be a GOOD one).

(no subject)

Date: 2015-01-26 12:22 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] rix-scaedu.livejournal.com
I may have to scrounge funds for a donation to find out how Larriken got to Birdsville - it's really not lyrebird habitat out there. :)


Date: 2015-01-26 12:42 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ysabetwordsmith.livejournal.com
I did the best I could with articles and maps, which cite Queensland as lyrebird range, and Birdsville is in Queensland. But there's a lot of habitat variation within Australia's very large territories. My best guess is that -- like human soups -- Larriken found himself unwelcome in polite society. :(

Re: Okay...

Date: 2015-01-26 12:49 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] rix-scaedu.livejournal.com
True. Birdsville's definitely too arid for forests though - they're pretty much on bore water I believe.

Evil thought - he was so much of a problem that someone who could dumped him out there. They must have been desperate, Birdsville a long way from anywhere and pretty much almost desert.

Alternatively, someone was making off with him and Birdsville was where he escaped... I'm thinking light plane, animal smuggling, that sort of thing. People are caught trying to smuggle quantities of native birds and retiles out of the country in luggage on what seems like almost a semi-regular basis.

Re: Okay...

Date: 2015-01-30 02:31 am (UTC)
zeeth_kyrah: A glowing white and blue anthropomorphic horse stands before a pink and blue sky. (Default)
From: [personal profile] zeeth_kyrah
Being smuggled and escaping suggests Larrikin's powers could have awakened during the experience, or he'd have tried to prevent his capture.

Re: Okay...

Date: 2015-01-26 01:22 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] rix-scaedu.livejournal.com
Animal smuggling is enough of a problem that Customs has a facts sheet http://www.customs.gov.au/webdata/resources/files/wildlife_smuggling_fact_sheet.pdf

(no subject)

Date: 2015-01-26 12:47 am (UTC)
ext_3294: Tux (Default)
From: [identity profile] technoshaman.livejournal.com
"Faffing about" made its way to Australia from Britain, AFAIK...

Oh, you saw the new Leatherman too? :)

I like your supervillains. They're interesting, three-dimensional (or better, evil!Schrodinger), and are often sympathetic... and they're smart enough to accept a helping hand from the other side of the aisle.

Thank you!

Date: 2015-01-26 06:58 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ysabetwordsmith.livejournal.com
>> "Faffing about" made its way to Australia from Britain, AFAIK... <<

So it seems.

>> Oh, you saw the new Leatherman too? :) <<

Yeah, that's obviously going to be popular with gizmologists. It's like a utility belt you can wear on your wrist.

>> I like your supervillains. They're interesting, three-dimensional (or better, evil!Schrodinger), and are often sympathetic... and they're smart enough to accept a helping hand from the other side of the aisle. <<


I think that Hoon was so obviously wrecked, Superball could have collared him easily but felt that would've been punching down, and heroes don't kick a guy when he's down. Hence, Hoon got let off with a warning that time.


ysabetwordsmith: Cartoon of me in Wordsmith persona (Default)

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