ysabetwordsmith: Damask smiling over their shoulder (polychrome)
[personal profile] ysabetwordsmith
This poem is spillover from the August 4, 2015 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired by prompts from [personal profile] librarygeek and [personal profile] siliconshaman. It also fills the "do something new" square in my 8-1-15 card for the As You Like It fest. This poem has been sponsored by Anthony & Shirley Barrette. It belongs to the Officer Pink thread of the Polychrome Heroics series.


"The Individual's Own Reason"


"I want you to start taking
more of the soup cases,"
Chief De Soto said to Ansel,
entirely without warning.

"What?" Ansel said, startled.
"I don't ... I mean, you know that
I'm not a real soup, right? That is,
the color change is real, but I don't
have any powers beyond that. I can
do the outreach, talk to kids like Skippy,
sure, but supervillains?" He shook
his head. "I don't know if I'm
cut out for that, Chief."

This wasn't the first conversation
they'd had about Ansel's new status,
but there was a big difference between
agreeing to help with kids flickering and
agreeing to go chase supervillains.

"I understand that the teddy-bear hair
is all you got --" the older man said.

"Okay, that one's new," Ansel said with
a grin, pulling a candy bar out of his desk.
"You win a prize for originality."

"You're keeping track of descriptions?"
the chief asked as he accepted the gourmet treat,
this one dark chocolate with malted milk.

"Sure, it's kind of fun," said Ansel.
"Cotton candy, thistle, every Floppit
between red and purple ..." Then he
sobered. "Seriously, though, why me?"

"Because you're all I've got," the chief said.
"We don't get a lot of cape fights in town, but
sometimes it happens, and other times it's just
minor supervillains sneaking around committing
ordinary crimes in extraordinary ways."

"What about superheroes?" Ansel said.
"Dealing with supervillains is usually their job."

"We've got the Rescuer willing to give us
a hand with abuse cases, and Savoir Faire
drops by occasionally to handle a cape fight,
but they are not police," said the chief.
"They don't have the same training or
authority that we do, and it matters."

"I'm not BASH, and that's the closest
we have to anyone trained for soup fights,"
Ansel pointed out, shaking his head.

In fact, they didn't have a whole BASH team in
Bluehill, just four trained officers who usually worked
in pairs for major drug busts or other risky details,
including reports of a supervillain incident.

Of those, Bert Armbruster was the only person who had
transferred from a bigger city with serious experience, and
Justin Bates was talking about switching from BASH to
a tamer department because his wife was expecting.

"I won't ask for miracles," said Chief De Soto.
"I'm only asking you to shore up a division where
I could really use another badge on the roster."

Ansel thought about his discussion with Skippy
regarding the importance of soup representation on
the police force, and how similar it was to race relations.

So much came down to the individual's own reason
for service, what each person believed was right,
and how they worked through solving a problem.
The department needed the best crew that
they could get, and Ansel had to admit
he had relevant qualifications now.

"Yes, sir," he said. "I'll do my best."

So Ansel took some time getting to know
the BASH officers better, along with extra practice
on the shooting range since he wasn't very good
with a zatzer, just enough to qualify annually.

He politely declined their offer of training
to carry an actual firearm, and after they saw
his scores, they didn't pressure him further.

That shook his confidence a little.
"What do you think about this?"
he asked his girlfriend Janie.

"I think there are a lot worse people that they
could put on soup patrol," she said. "Remember
that disaster in D.C.? Or the one in Mercedes?"
She shook her head. "Neither of those men
had superpowers, but they made a total
mess of things. I know you won't."

"Thanks," said Ansel. "I needed that."
It gave him enough of a boost to return
to work and focus on his expanding duties.

It was almost a letdown to discover that
most of the supervillains in Bluehill
just weren't all that scary.

There was a string of very petty thefts --
mostly picking pockets and snatching purses --
by a teenager with Super-Speed.

A case of acquaintance rape with
an accusation of superpowers turned out
to be ordinary date-rape drugs, which would
still put the man in jail for a considerable span.

There were, however, shipments of
super-gizmotronic drugs arriving from
time to time thanks to traveling supervillains,
which worried everyone with a bit of sense.

Ansel managed to collar a few
of their hired thugs, but so far nobody
had gotten close to the leaders.

Another string of crimes gradually revealed
tentative connections -- small to middling thefts,
but also disruptions of service, some intimidation,
and signs of a gang getting more troublesome.

The frustrating thing was that they always seemed
to strike when the police were already occupied
with a disturbance somewhere else.

Ansel spent one particularly worthless morning
chasing after leads that all petered out to nothing.
At noon he gave up and headed for lunch.

With the air conditioning on the fritz in
his patrol car, he rolled the windows down,
and that helped to let out the overheated air.

The drive-up microphone at the barbecue joint
wasn't working either, so he just parked
his car in the parking lot and walked in.

Ansel browsed the menu, ordered,
and soon returned with his food.

Debating between the car and a picnic table
left him deciding on the table, but it was covered
with some kind of sticky seedpods, so Ansel
stashed his bag in the car while he attempted
to make a clean space using some napkins.

That's when he saw the dog, or at least,
he thought it was a dog at first glance.
It had a triangular head with erect ears and
it seemed comfortable in broad daylight.
The tail, though, was enormous
and as fluffy as that of a fox.

The markings made it stand out
even more, because the coat was
an impossible shade of pale blue,
like aquamarine, liberally mottled with
black, its ears a deeper cornflower and
its face spotted and striped in patterns
of intricate black, white, and silver.

It was extraordinary, which was worrisome,
because Ansel wasn't sure if the color
was natural or dyed, and the last thing
they needed was a gengineered superdog
fresh out of some mad scientist's lab.

It was still the most beautiful creature that
he had ever seen in his life, with long legs like
a wolf revealed when it suddenly reared up
to put its forepaws against the car.

It was elegant, it was amazing ...

It was stealing his sandwich.

"Hey!" Ansel shouted in surprise. "That's mine!"

But the dog-fox-wolf-whatever leaped in through
the driver's side window, across the seats,
and then out through the passenger's side
with the white paper bag clenched in its teeth.

Ansel gave chase, because he wasn't sure
if barbecued pulled pork would be good for it,
but the long legs easily outmatched him.

The last he saw of it was the white tip of
its fluffy tail disappearing behind a dumpster.

After that he admitted defeat and returned
to the police department to seek comfort
in the cafeteria before writing up the case.

Ansel kept tracking the incidents,
and over time, the blue canid was
joined by reports of a teal deer.

That had led to a heart-stopping chase
by a motorcycle officer, who received
a scolding from Chief De Soto about
the importance of not engaging in
high-speed pursuit for minor crimes.

Plain old police work enabled Ansel
to catch one of the pushers who distributed
the super-gizmotronic drugs, and getting her
off the streets reduced the supply.

Just when he thought he was starting
to get the hang of this, Bert dropped
the first report of a periwinkle ferret
onto Ansel's desk for analysis.

"I am not doing well at this part
of my job," Ansel muttered.

"You're doing fine," Justin said,
patting him on the shoulder.
"We just have a crazy spell
going on with all the animals
showing up in funny colors."

"What do you think is causing it?"
Ansel said. "I really hope it's not
some mad scientist breeding
every shade of blue fur he can."

Justin shook his head. "My money
is on tracer dye," he said. "It's easier
to train animals or guide them with
Animal Control than it is to grow them
special to order in a super-gizmotronic lab."

"That's reassuring," Ansel said as he
picked up the report and began reading.
This incident had involved a jewelry kiosk.
"Whoever is behind this racket is turning
into a giant pain in my tail."

"You know we're glad to have you,
though, right?" Justin said to him.
"You bring a whole new perspective
to our investigations. It's helping.
We honestly don't mind that you're
not much of a door-breaker in the field.
Just keep doing what you do best."

Ansel thought about how much he was
learning, even if some of the lessons
proved frustrating or embarrassing.

Changing his hair color had
changed so much more in his life
than just his power status, and he was
still making new discoveries because of it.

Ansel smiled. "Thanks, Justin,"
he said. "I'm glad to be here too."

* * *

Notes:

"The ultimate authority must always rest with the individual's own reason and critical analysis."
-- Dalai Lama

This is the candy bar prize.

The effect of superpowers on law enforcement can raise problems. Terramagne is in fact evolving toward assigning ordinary police to ordinary crimes and superheroes to supervillain crimes. You can see the steps along the way in these episodes about police with superpowers, or cases where the civil authorities are coordinating efforts with SPOON. It's difficult to capture and punish supervillains, or get superheroes to testify in court. T-America addresses this by treating the cape name and legal name as two different aspects, hence why a superhero can testify in court in costume -- and why a supervillain with a lot invested in his cape name may be subject to losing that identity as a penalty for his crimes. Superheroes may break laws in pursuit of supervillains, but really, supervillains commit a lot of those same crimes. Some of these are less illegal in Terramagne, especially for superheroes known to the local authorities, which is one reason why so many soups have a stable territory. Supervillains often resort to crime even when legal activities would be more lucrative. Sometimes it's because they don't want to be bothered with regulations, or because they have no business skills, or their past experience just indicates people will screw them.

Now consider that local-America has a crappy history of race relations and police work, and Terramagne-America is only somewhat better. This includes both Irish and Italian folks, both of whom have since built a significant presence in the police force; and Jews, who preferred to become lawyers. Currently a key challenge in T-America is integrating superpowers with society, including law enforcement. There's always tension when members of one group attempt to control the actions of another, so the most effective approach is to promote self-regulation, in this instance by recruiting soups into the police force and assigning super officers to soup cases. This helps improve police-community relations.

Taking on new responsibilities is a natural part of work. There are tips for convincing a hesitant employee to accept and for adjusting to changes on the job.

Date rape drugs are bad enough in L-America, and worse in T-America. Due to similarities in effect, few but experts can tell them apart. Chemically assisted assault can have devastating effects.



Enjoy a recipe for Barbecue Pulled Pork Sandwiches, a staple of Southern comfort food. Many small barbecue restaurants have their own recipes.

See the blue canid, teal deer, and periwinkle ferret.

High-speed chases are dangerous police work, not just for the officers and suspects, but for innocent bystanders. Many parts of T-America have restricted or banned them, and similiarly, some discourage pursuit of supervillains outside of violent crimes. Instead they capitalize on alternative methods, such as tracking devices -- a fleeing suspect loses the general right to be free from nonconsensual tracking. T-America's greater investment in technology and de-escalation skills enables them to solve crimes in safer ways, but it still relies on officer self-control and chief enforcement of the rules. After all, they wouldn't have taken the job if they didn't have a strong instinct to catch crooks, and that's hard to hold back.

People often feel nervous when taking on new work. Understand how to help new coworkers feel welcome and appreciated.

(no subject)

Date: 2015-08-22 01:13 pm (UTC)
capriuni: Text: If you want to be a Hero, be Good to the Storyteller. (Default)
From: [personal profile] capriuni
"Teal Deer?"

Bwa-ha!

I think I smell a new story branch a-budding. ;-)

Re: Yes...

Date: 2015-08-22 11:28 pm (UTC)
capriuni: Text: If you want to be a Hero, be Good to the Storyteller. (Default)
From: [personal profile] capriuni
I'm also suspecting that these creatures are more than crayon soups in non-human form...

(no subject)

Date: 2015-08-23 01:44 am (UTC)
chanter_greenie: a cream-colored yellow Labrador lying at the top of a staircase, one paw draped over the top step (mellow yellow)
From: [personal profile] chanter_greenie
Teal deer! *giggling*

That blue canid sounds absolutely gorgeous. I'm really hoping it was just scavenging for food for itself, possibly with souped-up intelligence enough to know how to access the inside of a car via the window (so young, mobile child levels of reasoning), but wasn't out for anything more malicious. That description biased me in its favor, whoops!

(no subject)

Date: 2015-08-31 07:01 am (UTC)
stardreamer: Meez headshot (Default)
From: [personal profile] stardreamer
I am SO tempted to post "tl;dr", but that would be a lie. :-)

the BASH trained cops

Date: 2015-09-01 01:48 am (UTC)
dialecticdreamer: My work (Default)
From: [personal profile] dialecticdreamer
are as much a sidelight as the crayola canids...

but I love that they appreciate Ansel's skillset, especially because SWAT cops here are incredibly focused on their own skillset, and tend to rank themselves against fellow SWAT officers.

That one moment of difference is not only AWESOME, it gives me FAITH in the T-American system, individually and collectively.

It leaves the two bad apples as outliers, where they belong.

Re: the BASH trained cops

Date: 2015-09-01 01:56 pm (UTC)
dialecticdreamer: My work (Default)
From: [personal profile] dialecticdreamer
>>Most criminals just plain don't have the social skills for fluent cooperation. <<

Prevailingly true, but also why the people who DO have those skills drift toward Kraken and the Marionettes--organized crime may as well be called sociable crime!

BTW, I still have notes on Tanner's hometown cops in interviews after the shooting. Which would tick Cash off, because he's like "If he set off the Jerk Alarm in your head, WHY didn't you go to your boss?"

Which is very, very different than "another suspect shot" discussions WE have here.

Re: the BASH trained cops

Date: 2015-09-01 05:27 pm (UTC)
dialecticdreamer: My work (Default)
From: [personal profile] dialecticdreamer
I'd always planned for the latter, because I loathe automatically-bad-cops stories. It took YEARS for him to slide from good ol' boy attitude into BIGOTRY, and from there into specific soup-fear and THAT bigotry.

His captain even started putting pressure on by assigning him partners who were black, Latina, Vietnamese... She was HOPING he would say or do anything actionably bigoted, even if it was just an internal complaint to the ethics department.

She's got a styrofoam "tombstone" tucked in her desk drawer now, with Tanner's badge and ID clipped to it. She feels like they failed to help him early enough, failed to redirect him, etc. She's completely determined to make sure it doesn't happen again.

Which makes her a good resource for Bluehill, BTW; her suburb of Chicago doesn't have a lot of budget, but she's making every penny count with better training. Sharing that with other cops is one way she's dealing with her reactions to Tanner.

Re: the BASH trained cops

Date: 2015-09-01 08:49 pm (UTC)
dialecticdreamer: My work (Default)
From: [personal profile] dialecticdreamer
I finally realized that I've half plotted out a story in the COMMENTS of one of yours. That's not what I meant to do, LOL!

You've gotten me thinking about another set of interconnections, too!

(no subject)

Date: 2015-08-22 07:33 am (UTC)
ext_3294: Tux (tux)
From: [identity profile] technoshaman.livejournal.com
Good talk story... and the *name* of that candy bar? Hottttt! ;)

Thank you!

Date: 2015-08-22 07:39 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ysabetwordsmith.livejournal.com
I'm glad you enjoyed this. Yes, the candy bar sounds awesome.

(no subject)

Date: 2015-08-22 07:58 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] paantha.livejournal.com
Hooray! More Ansel! ^____^

Yes...

Date: 2015-08-22 08:46 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ysabetwordsmith.livejournal.com
This is the first of several poems dealing with Ansel's introduction to local supervillains and how he handles those new responsibilities. So it unlocks "Forgotten to Breathe" which can now be posted whenever someone sponsors it.

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