ysabetwordsmith: Damask smiling over their shoulder (polychrome)
[personal profile] ysabetwordsmith
This poem followed prompts from the June 2015 [community profile] crowdfunding Creative Jam from [personal profile] chanter_greenie and [personal profile] dialecticdreamer. It also fills the "housecleaning" square in my 5-20-15 card for the Wellness Toolbox Bingo fest and the "places of work" square in my 6-10-15 card for the [community profile] genprompt_bingo fest. It has been sponsored by EdorFaus. This poem belongs to the Pain's Gray thread of the Polychrome Heroics series.

Warning: There are some references to past violence, racism, and other mayhem but the current environment is positive and this is mostly fluff.


"What Makes a Team Work"


Gray sat at the secretary desk
in Ricasso's office that served as
a spare work station for anyone
too injured to go out in the field but
recovered enough for light tasks.

As soon as his arms healed enough
that moving his fingers no longer hurt,
Thriver had cleared him for desk duty,
first in short spans, then longer, and
now Gray could get through a full shift.

The work wasn't exciting, but he liked
the rows of little cubbyholes that made it
easy for him to keep the desk tidy.

Doing paperwork kept Gray close
to Ricasso, whose executive desk
had a tall hutch along the wall and
another leg at right angles forming
a barrier between him and the door.

Gray hadn't realized how much work
being the boss actually entailed until
he got stuck riding shotgun for it.

Suddenly the gentle buzzing at his wrists
cut off, a chime sounded, and the screens
embedded in the lacy black casts lit up
with the message, Repairs complete.

"That's a new sound effect,"
Ricasso said, looking over at Gray.

"Yeah, it says they're done," Gray replied.

"Let's go find Thriver and get those casts
off of you," said Ricasso as he stood up,
sending Gray ahead of him.

They found Thriver in the patch room that
was the closest thing they had to a clinic,
decked out with a desk and chairs
alongside an exam bed. Cabinets
full of supplies lined the walls.

Being gang members and supervillains
meant that they couldn't always rely on
outside services, so they had to meet
their own needs as best they could.
Each lair offered its own little cluster of
resources for work, recreation, and survival;
Ricasso moved among them to make it
harder to pinpoint their center of operations.

"It's time to take the casts off," Gray said,
and Thriver urged him up onto the exam bed.

Ricasso put a reassuring hand
on Gray's shoulder, which wasn't
strictly necessary but made him feel better.

A few taps on one screen brought up
readings that made no sense to Gray,
but made Thriver smile. "Yep, all done,"
he said, pressing a finger against
each of the screens in turn.

Nothing else happened.

"What's wrong?" Gray asked.
"I thought these were smart casts.
Do they need a tool to snap open
like the regular printed ones do?"

"It's a two-key biometric lock,"
Thriver explained. "Just put your
right fingerprint on the left screen
and your left one on the right."

Grey obeyed, and the screens gave
a soft click of acknowledgement.

The metallic black frames opened up
all down the inside of his forearms,
the material seeming to melt and flow
as it crawled over his skin to collect
in two lumpy bricks around the screens.

The lattice left behind a pinkish imprint
on his skin, but the muscles felt only
a little weaker than they had been before
the injury, thanks to the open lace of
the cast and its gizmotronic program.

A combination of ultrasonic stimulation for
the broken bones and electromagnetic pulses
for the muscles had helped the injury to recover
much faster than it would have otherwise.

"The bones have knitted, and the muscle loss
from restricted activity is minor," Thriver said.
He rummaged in a drawer, then handed Gray
a figure-eight hand exerciser. "You still need
some recovery work, though. Here, switch to
medium-density on this, and bring me back
the soft one when you remember it."

Gray gave the new toy an experimental tug.
It felt stiffer than the one he'd been using, but
nothing he couldn't handle. "I will, thanks."

"Go take a shower; that'll help wipe
those marks off your skin faster," Thriver said.
"Tomorrow you're cleared for the gym, and
I'll give you some new exercises to get
your arms back in proper condition."

"Finally," Gray said with a grin.

"What about sparring?" Ricasso asked.

"For now, I'd say superpowers only,
minimal contact, or foam weapons like
that bucket of fake rocks and bricks --
throwing light things is good exercise."
said Thriver. "The idea is to get back
into the swing of things slowly and safely."

"We can work with that," Ricasso said.
"Gray, take the rest of the day off.
After gym practice tomorrow,
come and talk with me."

"Yes, sir," said Gray, and went
to shower off as instructed.

Next he went to the kitchen. It wasn't
elaborate, but it gave people a place to make
more than just snacks and sandwiches at work --
a vital resource for supervillains whose powers
could place a heavy demand on their metabolism,
and compensate for a lifestyle that meant they
couldn't always count on kitchen access at home
or being able to buy food at a restaurant.

Gray celebrated his recovery by baking a batch of
chocolate macarons. That required grinding almonds
into flour, making meringue, carefully folding the meringue
into the batter for the outsides of the macarons, and
finally piping blobs of batter onto the baking sheets.

Once the rounds were all cooked, he whipped up
the ganache filling and assembled the macarons
one at a time like tiny chocolate sandwiches.

Gray set aside a plate each for himself,
Ricasso, and Thriver, even though he'd bought
his own clinical-grade chocolate this time
so he wasn't obligated to share. He just
liked feeding the people he cared about.

Then he sealed most of the remainder into
a cookie tin with a picture of a lighthouse on the lid,
and handed it off to the teleporter Boogaloo
for delivery to World Worker in thanks
for the truly great gizmotronic casts.

Boogaloo was still a bit skittish, but he
made a reliable courier. Gray couldn't
blame him for being twitchy, given that
Boogaloo's manifestation had come from
being shoved in front of a subway train.

Getting a couple of macarons in exchange
for the trip helped settle the wary teleporter.
Everyone wanted Boogaloo to think of this as
a desirable place to work, not like his last gang
who had beaten the crap out of him after they
saw how he escaped getting hit by the train.
The poor guy still wouldn't go near a subway.

Gray couldn't fix the phobia, but he could
think about what kinds of treats Boogaloo liked
while tidying up the kitchen. Gray took
good care of himself in the process, and if
his arms were still a little wobbly, at least
he had his full range of motion back.

He thought about that as he gathered up
all the dishes and put them into the sink.
He had belonged to this gang for a while,
but as an ordinary enforcer and errand boy.
Now he had more to offer, and he needed
to discover what that meant for him.

Gray was learning that part of
what made a team work was
how people worked when they
weren't actually together.

It was there in the building itself,
the way Ricasso chose houses or
commercial space that could be fixed up
with something approximating bedrooms and
offices, a kitchen and a patch room and a gym,
all the little things they needed to get by.

It was there in Thriver making sure
that every room and vehicle had
at least a basic first aid kit and
people knew how to use them.

It was there in Gray learning
how to bake fancy pastries, not just
because he was bored and needed
something to do, but because he
enjoyed pampering people.

That was how Ricasso kept Thriver
from overextending himself, how Thriver
took care of everyone who got injured,
how Gray provided delicacies, and how
the two boys kept their boss from exhaustion.

That was why Gray washed the dishes
instead of just leaving them in the sink
for someone else to clean up after, and
why he ticked off the used items on
the inventory list so that whoever did
the shopping would know what to restock.

Back when he first joined the gang, Gray
had mostly run errands, and he had hated it
when other people left the place a dump or
didn't bother to give him clear instructions.

If they wanted to have a nice place to work,
then they needed to pay attention to what
each person could do, and how to fit that
into what everyone else needed.

No wonder the boss was buried in paperwork.

So Gray needed to figure out what
he could do with his superpower to help
the gang, and that would be easier now
that he'd healed from his injuries.
Obviously he could use it in combat,
but maybe it had other uses too.

That kind of thinking made them a team,
whether they were in the same room or not,
which helped them learn each other well enough
to fight as one mind and one body in combat.

It was what made the difference between
a good gang like this, and a bad one like
Shakedown's miserable little cluster of crooks.

Gray hummed as he wiped down the counters.
It was what made work a joy instead of a chore.

* * *

Notes:

Pain's Gray (Gray Agamau) -- He has fair skin, gray eyes, and ash-blond hair swept up toward the crown of his head. He's on the slim side for a fighter, but still has nicely defined muscles; they're just not overbuilt. He is heterosexual, but omnisensual, and often mistaken for homosexual. He tends to take out his temper on the homophobes when they pester him. Gray is popular among supervillains for combat support and running errands. He works for Ricasso, who sometimes loans out his services. He's prone to low blood sugar after stress or exertion, and needs to be careful to eat often enough. He is discovering a knack for making fancy pastries.
Uniform: Charcoal dexflan suit piped in reflective silver, with a cape of Payne's grey capery. His utility belt contains a well-stocked first aid kit; he's known for treating both sides in a fight, and for having the best bleeding-edge equipment from friends in zetetics.
Origin: Torture. He was an ordinary mook until someone decided to get information out of him the hard way. That really did not end well for them. Gray escaped, returned to his boss, explained his new talent, and got a raise.
Qualities: Good (+2) BDSM Switch, Good (+2) Observant, Good (+2) Pastry Cook, Good (+2) Supervillain Henchman, Good (+2) Tough
Poor (-2) Low Blood Sugar
Powers: Good (+2) Pain Ray
Limitation: This is a gaze attack that requires eye contact for maximum effect. Without that, it's only Poor (-2). It becomes combat-ineffective, merely uncomfortable, if the target is nearby but he can't see them.
Motivation: "You're not as tough as you think you are."


Ricasso (Antonin Torriani) -- He has fair skin, hazel eyes, and short wavy black hair with a mustache joining a complex beard. His eyes are the shade of hazel that blends amber and green toward the outside with darker brown near the pupils. His name refers to the unsharpened part of a sword blade that allows greater precision by placing a finger over it. His father's family comes from Duno, Province Varese, Lombardia, Italy. His other heritage includes French, British, and Spanish. Antonin is first-generation American.
Ricasso runs a supervillain gang, providing muscle and showmanship and other services. His preferred weapons include knives and swords, which he learned to use before gaining superpowers. As a hobby he enjoys kink and other forms of power exchange; he's a talented gentleman dom. He also likes dancing and other fashionable entertainments.
Origin: He inherited a sword pendant which granted him superpowers. It was made during the French Revolution.
Qualities: Expert (+4) Crime Boss, Expert (+4) Power Exchange, Good (+2) Ballroom Dancing, Good (+2) Fashion Sense, Good (+2) Lockpicking, Good (+2) Strength, Good (+2) Suave
Poor (-2) Coping with Crudity
Powers: Good (+2) Cutting, Good (+2) Precision, Average (0) Minions
The Spadonari include both superpowered and ordinary gang members. Their name means "sword dancers." While they aren't as numerous as some other gangs, their quality is beginning to attract attention.


Thriver (Alec McKinney) -- He has fair skin with freckles, green eyes, and short wavy brown hair. He is slender and graceful. He can go for a long time without resting, if necessary, because of how his body stores energy.
After his superpower developed, Thriver lived on the streets for a while. He earned money by selling himself, not for sex, but for the thrill of playing with superpowers. Some supervillains in particular liked the fact that he could juice them up. Ricasso met him in passing, gave him money and food more than once, and tried to convince him to go to a shelter. Thriver always refused. Then one night, Thriver gave away too much of his energy. Ricasso found him passed out on the pavement and took him home. After some coaxing the next day, Thriver agreed to stay with him, and eventually joined the gang. His job is basically taking care of the other gang members, things like food and medical care and a sympathetic ear when they're upset.
Origin: His superpower manifested while he was in paramedic training, probably stimulated by the intense study. They kicked him out.
Uniform: Street clothes. He often wears a black leather jacket.
Qualities: Good (+2) Endurance, Good (+2) First Aid, Good (+2) Loyal, Good (+2) Soup Friends, Good (+2) Supervillain Henchman
Poor (-2) Hates to See His Friends Hurt
Powers: Good (+2) Energy Transference
Motivation: Keep everyone running.


Boogaloo (Mauricio Lee) -- He has light brown skin, brown eyes, and short brown hair. He has a triangular face with a wide nose, and he wears glasses. His body is slender and graceful. Mauricio is mixed race, with heritage including African-American, Mexican, Dutch, Italian, and Korean. He has a large, loose-knit African-American family on his father's side and a smaller, tighter Mexican family on his mother's side.
Boogaloo works for Ricasso as a courier, primarily in exchange for protection. He delivers packages and people for the gang. He can carry two people while teleporting, but only one while phasing.
Origin: When Mauricio was a teenager, someone yelled, "Die, n*gg*r!" and shoved him off a subway platform. He eluded the oncoming train -- and still isn't sure whether it was the Teleportation or the Phasing that manifested first -- to reappear safely on the far side. Unfortunately, his fellow gang members saw the whole thing and proceeded to beat him almost to death. Thriver stopped them by the simple expedient of draining their energy until they all collapsed. He then used that to help Mauricio recover. Thriver took him in, and asked Ricasso to let Mauricio join their gang instead. When Ricasso found out the boy's talents, he extended the offer with great enthusiasm, and Mauricio accepted. Although they have helped him as best they could, Mauricio remains terrified of trains.
Uniform: Street clothes. He tends to get chilled easily, so prefers long sleeves and often wears a cabbie cap.
Qualities: Good (+2) Courier, Good (+2) Gang Member, Good (+2) Hip Hop Dancer, Good (+2) Reliable, Good (+2) Spatial Intelligence
Poor (-2) Afraid of Trains
Powers: Good (+2) Teleportation, Average (0) Phasing
Motivation: To stay safe.

* * *

"Individual commitment to a group effort -- that is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work."
-- Vince Lombardi

Secretary desks come in various styles. This is the one in Ricasso's office.

Ricasso has an executive desk.

Being a good boss is hard work, with a lot of ups and downs. You have to know how to teach your followers, be a good leader, and also be a good follower yourself.

Ultrasound can help bones heal faster. Treatment for muscle atrophy includes electrical stimulation and this can also prevent atrophy. So the gizmotronic casts promote healing and minimize collateral damage.

Broken arms benefit from rehab exercises after healing is complete. Stress balls, and hand exercisers can help too.

Foam rocks and bricks offer a safe way to practice throwing things at each other. Some supervillains like these as a way of encouraging the use of situational awareness and improvised weapons.

Chocolate Macarons are a type of French pastry that Gray enjoys making.

This is the lighthouse cookie tin.

Teamwork is important for many reasons. This is what distinguishes a good gang (or any other workplace) from a bad one. Understand how to build effective teams and work together. Here are some exercises in teamwork.

(no subject)

Date: 2016-05-23 08:17 pm (UTC)
thnidu: my familiar. "Beanie Baby" -type dragon, red with white wings (Default)
From: [personal profile] thnidu
I really like this, with the members of the gang thinking of themselves as like a family, the boss working very hard to take care of them all, and the "kids" thinking of ways to lighten his load.

In your notes on Ricasso, the name of the gang only appears at the very end. I think it would be a bit easier on the reader if you also mentioned it earlier, e.g., as an appositive after: "Ricasso runs a supervillain gang, the Spadonari ("sword dancers")...

To borrow a term--

Date: 2016-05-23 10:42 pm (UTC)
dialecticdreamer: My work (Default)
From: [personal profile] dialecticdreamer
ECR! Thank you for this one, too. I'm still unpacking how I feel about it.

(no subject)

Date: 2016-06-11 12:51 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] paantha.livejournal.com
Oh, my. So true. Wish a few more people in the world understood this...

Thank you!

Date: 2016-06-12 07:18 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ysabetwordsmith.livejournal.com
I'm glad you liked this. Ricasso's gang has a lot of lovely teamwork.

Re: Thank you!

Date: 2016-06-13 05:15 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] paantha.livejournal.com
They do! <3

(no subject)

Date: 2016-08-26 04:30 am (UTC)
alatefeline: Painting of a cat asleep on a book. (Default)
From: [personal profile] alatefeline
Very topical and also a likely cause of mixed emotions when I have more energy and reread, as I am adjusting to a new workplace and a new team and getting ready to meet new students. I can see some of the indicators of things working and things not working, and I'm noting both, but there is a LOT going on.

(no subject)

Date: 2016-10-10 05:03 am (UTC)
callibr8: (Yaaaaay)
From: [personal profile] callibr8
I thoroughly enjoyed this, especially the part at the end where Gray is thinking about teamwork and the gestalt thereof!

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