ysabetwordsmith: Damask smiling over their shoulder (polychrome)
[personal profile] ysabetwordsmith
This poem came out of the August 2, 2016 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired by prompts from [personal profile] rix_scaedu and [personal profile] shiori_makiba. It also fills the "common failure modes" square in my 8-1-16 card for the Group Dynamics Bingo fest. This poem has been sponsored by [personal profile] rix_scaedu. It belongs to the series Polychrome Heroics.


"Fifty Feet and Climbing"


It's barely into August and already Kelvin's here;
He's benched outside the office where he winds up every year
As victim of a bully or purveyor of a prank,
His fingers busy fidgeting, his face a careful blank.

The principal's indifferent, and he sends Kelvin home
For fighting back when seniors sprayed his books with shaving foam.
The anger and the shame are friends and enemies of old,
And there in Kelvin's head a new idea is taking hold.

He's working in his mom's garage and playing to a hunch
When something spooks the kitten into spilling Kelvin's lunch
Upon the giant robot that he hopes will win a prize
And laser beams start blasting from the robot's ruby eyes.

So Kelvin climbs aboard the thing and takes it for a walk;
If people want to laugh at him, he'll give them cause to talk.
They're always scared he'll build some thing they can't control at all --
It's fifty feet and climbing up the Weeton high school wall.

The principal is panicking, the teachers break and run,
The bullies dive for cover -- Kelvin's never had such fun.
The robot's hands are hammers and his lasers cut like knives;
He tears the school to pieces while the kids run for their lives.

The robot gives him powers Kelvin never thought to wield;
He builds a schoolbus Stonehenge in the Weeton football field,
Evaporates the swimming pool with lengthy laser gaze,
And turns the crowded parking lot into a pavement maze.

The cops are called but average men can't even slow him down,
So Kelvin points his robot up and flies away from town,
And Weeton's left to clean up what they wouldn't fix before
While Kelvin rides his robot and discovers how to soar.

They go to Kelvin's mother but her scorn rebuffs their cries;
With narrowed gaze and crossing arms she stands up and replies,
"I warned you what would happen and for this I blame you all --
It's fifty feet and hammered down the Weeton high school wall."

The stories drift back now and then of Captain Kelvin's cause,
A supervillain hunting bullies outside of the laws.
No matter how the superheroes try to take him out,
He always gets away from them to plan another bout.

The years go on and rules are passed to ban young soups from school,
Then challenged and struck down again since bigotry's not cool.
The people slowly realize what they should have understood:
That bullies make more black capes than the white capes ever could.

For people want to win respect from those they call their peers
And if they can't attain it, then some turn to fanning fears --
The easy way to stop a supervillain's great rampage
Is head it off before his lonely tears can turn to rage.

So pay attention to the brains and loners you may know
And hold a friendly hand to them wherever you may go.
Then you won't be the one at fault when karma comes to call --
"It's fifty feet and climbing up the local city hall!"

* * *

Notes:

Captain Kelvin (Kelvin Devolski) -- He has fair skin, brown eyes, and short brown hair. He wears glasses. Kelvin is among the generation of 1980s schoolkids who began manifesting superpowers at school age and spooked adults into trying to ban superkids from school. He is most famous for building a giant robot and riding it into town to tear down his school building. It's the source of people criticizing bullies or other social problems with, "This is what leads to kids riding to school on a fifty-foot robot with Laser Eyes."
Origin: Kelvin's superpowers grew in during his childhood, beginning at Average for both, with Super-Intelligence increasing to Expert and Super-Gizmology to Good.
Uniform: He favors casual, comfortable, geeky clothes instead of anything fashionable. As an adult, he has a set of Super-Armor for combat occasions.
Qualities: Expert (+4) Nerd, Good (+2) Activist, Good (+2) Dexterity, Good (+2) Intimidation
Poor (-2) Unpopular
Powers: Expert (+4) Super-Intelligence, Good (+2) Super-Gizmology
Motivation: To beat down the bullies.
Equipment: Good (+2) Giant Robot with Good (+2) Laser Eyes
Expert (+4) Super-Armor with Good (+2) Super-Strength, Average (0) Flight, and Average (0) Invisibility

Kelvin as a Boy

Kelvin as a Man

* * *

Superpowers have shifted in Terramagne over time, first appearing primarily in adults and then gradually in younger people. The Fruit of the Boom continued the curve with a rise in manifestations among school-age children. Here's where you see the bump during the 1980s with people panicking over superkids and the realization that the younger people are, the less control they have. So there were efforts to keep superkids out of school, some of which were blocked, some passed and were later repealed or modified, and a few remain. By the end of the decade, some basic protections were in place, trying to balance everyone's safety and rights.

Bullying is a pattern of hurting people for personal gratification. People take on different roles in this process, which has short-term and long-term effects. There are tips on how to stop bullying for adults and children. I've picked the most useful I could find, but the fact is, the most effective method of stopping a bully -- filing a lawsuit -- is permitted only to adults and has a dismal 16% success rate. In other words, NONE of the methods recommended are likely to work, although most of them have worked in limited situations. For children, one of the most effective -- hitting back -- is often punished severely. But look at the long-term health impact: bullying can kill people. You're fighting for your life and sanity. By all means, give the authorities an opportunity to solve the problem rationally. If that doesn't work, fight back with everything you've got. They can't kill you any deader for pissing them off. Terramagne-America has learned these lessons better than local-America has, and consequently puts more collective effort into prevention. That actually does work, because bullying can't happen if the nearest people consistently interrupt it.

Gifted people think differently and do things better. It's like being a hummingbird in a flock of sparrows. This causes problems for gifted children and gifted adults, especially a sense of isolation. It's hard for gifted children to form friendships and adults to form romances because they need true peers, who are statistically rare.

This brings us to smart supervillains. Quite often, they want to change the world, but the superheroes don't want them to do that. Sometimes the conflict happens because the supervillain's idea is inherently harmful, but often it's basically a political difference of opinion. The status quo is defended by the people it benefits. Changes are promoted by outcasts. And if rational methods do not solve problems, there are people who are willing to use less-rational methods. We call them supervillains because they're inconvenient, often destructive, and rarely blessed with social graces. But sometimes, they're right anyway.

(no subject)

Date: 2016-08-13 10:16 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] ari_the_dodecahedron
Not much to say, but (because?) so much of it rings true.

(no subject)

Date: 2016-08-14 12:29 am (UTC)
thnidu: edited from img383.imageshack.us/img383/3066/ss35450qf7.jpg (smiley)
From: [personal profile] thnidu
Oh, yes. (And how unusual, and surprising and rewarding, to see a rhymed and metrical poem from you.)

If Captain Kelvin is considered a black cape, that only goes to highlight the loose, non-dichotomous spectrum of "capes". Yes, his means are illegal (outside of the laws), but his goals (hunting bullies) are good. What he did at/to the school as described here is the only real damage we know he's done.


Suggestion:
• So Kelvin climbs aboard the thing and sends it for a walk
→ takes it for a walk
> "sends", to me, means that he stays put and causes it to go, which doesn't apply at all once he "climbs aboard the thing".

Re: Thoughts

Date: 2016-08-14 03:07 am (UTC)
thnidu: Double spiral, spinning out from the empty space at a common center (heyiya-if)
From: [personal profile] thnidu
And Dr. Infanta is a black cape because of what she largely does with her powers — robbery, iirc — but she's also careful to avoid any unnecessary damage, and (also iirc) will intervene even in situations she hasn't been involved in to help people who've been hurt.

(Icon: The heyiya-if. See Wikipedia: Always Coming Home and Zen Circle, Yin-Yang, Heyiya-if, Mu.)

(no subject)

Date: 2016-08-14 02:11 am (UTC)
technoshaman: Tux (Default)
From: [personal profile] technoshaman
I think the chorus to _Chicago_'s Cell Block Tango is apropos for that stupid principal:

♫ He had it coming!
He had it coming!
He only had himself to blame!
If you'd'a been there
If you'd'a seen it?
I betcha you would have done the same! ♪

(no subject)

Date: 2016-08-14 02:59 am (UTC)
thnidu: A shield-shaped hunk of watermelon rind, with bits carved away to make 2 staring eyes and a mouth. By bensanaz (melonhead)
From: [personal profile] thnidu
Hey, that's gotta be a hella huge garage to hold a 50-foot-tall robot! Till reading the latest comments & your replies, I thought the "Fifty feet" in the title and the refrain-like lines referred to how high it had gotten already.

Re: Well...

Date: 2016-08-14 03:22 am (UTC)
thnidu: blank white robot/avatar sitting on big red question mark. tinyurl.com/cgkcqcj via Google Images (question mark)
From: [personal profile] thnidu
Hmmm... If I crouch as far as I can from my 5'11" and bend my head, I measure about 23", which is as close to 1/3 as no matter. That'd still take a 15' ceiling. But of course Kelvin could have made it with other contractions, like telescoping limbs.

Re: Well...

Date: 2016-08-14 03:45 am (UTC)
thnidu: my familiar. "Beanie Baby" -type dragon, red with white wings (Default)
From: [personal profile] thnidu
Fairy nuff.

(no subject)

Date: 2016-08-14 01:49 pm (UTC)
siliconshaman: black cat against the moon (Default)
From: [personal profile] siliconshaman
Let me tell you a story...

There was this kid, lets call him Paul. Paul was gifted, but he had problems expressing himself and was socially inept. Paul was in school at a very average place in a backwater town, so Paul got bullied. Badly enough that his grades slipped from top of everything, to just below average...deliberately so he wouldn't draw attention and because stress.

Paul managed to survive school, only just as he nearly took his own life a couple of time. He went to University, studying biology and genetics. Paul picked a third year project studying drug resistance, and needed to use a gene sequencer in an isolab, which he had to himself. And he picked a supervisor that left him alone so he had the run of the place and no-one asked him any questions.

See, Paul had a plan...one he'd come up with in school, one that he intended to change the world with. Then, one day, just before finals, he held in his hand a vial that contained a chimeric super-virus. One that was infectious as influenza, as deadly as Ebola and that spread as silently as HIV. One that in the lab rats had a 100% infection rate, a 98.5% mortality rate..and a incubation time of several months while remaining infectious... and as an added bonus, those rats that survived were sterile. he also had a vaccine, one that he intend to share with only a few people.

So, he held the ability to wipe out most of humanity, and had the means to distribute it. He had a train ticket to London, and airport security was laxer back then. He planned on hanging around the departure lounges in Heathrow and Gatwick and letting the airborne virus go it's way. But instead he thought to himself 'What the hell am I doing?!'.

See, things had changed for Paul, he had friends now, geeky people like him. He'd met someone and fallen in love, and they had a daughter on the way. It looked like his life was turning round, and although he'd stuck to the plan..he wasn't filled with rage like he used to be.

So.. Paul put the vial in the autoclave and destroyed his notes. And that's why the human race wasn't wiped out back in '87.

Super-villains don't just exist in comic books and stories... and it only takes one to go though with it.
Edited Date: 2016-08-14 01:51 pm (UTC)

(no subject)

Date: 2016-08-14 06:15 pm (UTC)
stardreamer: Meez headshot (Default)
From: [personal profile] stardreamer
And it's a good thing he re-thought his plan, because there's no way he could have saved enough people to maintain the infrastructure of civilization. He would have been dooming himself and whoever else he vaccinated to an extended and very unpleasant death spiral. But he didn't think that far ahead, did he?

For a good look at the way things would be likely to shake out after a catastrophe that wiped out ~90% of the human population (between the event itself and the aftereffects like plagues), take a look at S.M. Stirling's Changed World series.

Re: Thoughts

Date: 2016-08-15 05:16 am (UTC)
stardreamer: Meez headshot (Default)
From: [personal profile] stardreamer
We've already had this discussion. :-) I have a better opinion of the series than you do, that's all.

(no subject)

Date: 2016-08-14 10:48 pm (UTC)
siliconshaman: black cat against the moon (Default)
From: [personal profile] siliconshaman
Pretty sure things would not have gone as planned, in hindsight that should have been obvious. But that's the thing, at the time 'Paul' wasn't thinking straight. It was pretty much straight up revenge against a world that seemed cruel and hurtful.

Re: Yes...

Date: 2016-08-15 10:01 am (UTC)
siliconshaman: black cat against the moon (Default)
From: [personal profile] siliconshaman
I guess it depends on your view of humanity in general, and whether any of them are worth squat. It's pretty easy to sink into a generally misanthropic point of view under those circumstances. Hell there are still days when I wonder if humanity would be worth saving or whether letting them all die wouldn't be doing the rest of the biosphere a favour.

Re: Yes...

Date: 2016-08-15 10:44 am (UTC)
siliconshaman: black cat against the moon (Default)
From: [personal profile] siliconshaman
Agreed yes.. although in the event of a pandemic it couldn't strike fast enough that there wouldn't be some operators left alive long enough to do a controlled shut-down. However... given that it might be decades before civilisation recovered, the problem then is one of slow degradation of systems from lack of maintenance and the slow leakage of stuff as seals fail and rust erodes containers.

The effect is the same, just less dramatic.

Re: Yes...

Date: 2016-08-14 10:51 pm (UTC)
siliconshaman: (Face of Evil)
From: [personal profile] siliconshaman
That's the moral of the tale, such as it is, there's a group of people who've no idea that they saved the world, just by being nice to 'Paul'.

(no subject)

Date: 2016-08-15 03:18 pm (UTC)
redsixwing: Picture shows a red-winged angel staring at a distant blue star. (Default)
From: [personal profile] redsixwing
Ooooh, I like this one. It's fun to see something often referenced get fleshed out.

The more formal form (?) makes this feel more historical, as well. It works nicely as a history lesson.

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