ysabetwordsmith: Damask smiling over their shoulder (polychrome)
[personal profile] ysabetwordsmith
This poem came out of the June 3, 2014 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired by prompts from [personal profile] rosieknight and [personal profile] chanter_greenie. It also fills the "taking a chance" square in my 5-22-14 card for the [community profile] origfic_bingo fest. This poem has been sponsored by Anthony & Shirley Barrette. It belongs to the series Polychrome Heroics.


"SPOON in Every Pot"


After the end of the War,
Whammy Lass mustered out.

For a while it was wonderful;
all the dashing young men
wanted to step out with her
and the other young women
asked for her autograph.

It didn't last, though;
pretty much everyone was
intimidated by a gal who could
bench-press Sherman tanks.

(She was never going to
live down that photo.
It was on more posters
than she could count.)

Whammy Lass missed the Army.
She worked in construction a while,
but it just wasn't the same.

Then someone calling himself
the Anathema decided to
attack the Veterans Day parade
in Washington, D.C.

Whammy Lass roared a battle cry
and dove off her float
onto the shocked miscreant.

Moments later a wave of fear
blasted through the city.

Whammy Lass realized two things:
it was coming from the Anathema,
and she was not alone in her power.

Still, she'd gone through the War;
she was familiar with fear
and so it did not stop her from
punching the Anathema into the pavement.

It took the surgeons six hours
to put his face bones back together.

It took the jury six minutes to convict him
of forty-seven assorted charges and
send him to jail for the rest of his natural life.

After that, Whammy Lass thought about
the stories she had heard of others
who were ... different.

There weren't many:
that little activist in India,
and the SS man who built
the Sterbenfeld device that cast
a broad green glow killing all it touched.

What was America going to do
the next time some fool supervillain
took it into his head to make trouble?

What about other people like her,
who had superpowers but
didn't want to be villains?

She decided to take a chance
and answer those questions.

Whammy Lass went to India,
where the British scoffed at her for
believing "that superstitious nonsense"
about Gandhi being able to read
other people's thoughts and feelings.

The man himself was perfectly polite,
confirming that he could do those things,
but no thank you, he was not interested
in helping her start an organization.

Discouraged, Whammy Lass went home.
She shuffled from one job to another,
sometimes respected but often feared,
and it wasn't easy making the rent money
or feeding her considerable appetite.

She kept an ear out for other people
with special powers like herself,
and before long rumor said
that she had a spoon in every pot.

Then in 1950, Whammy Lass met
a German immigrant, Herr Franz Brandt,
who could shoot lasers from his eyes.
He didn't want to be a villain;
he didn't want to be a hero;
he wanted to be an engineer.

Clearly this organization
that she wanted to build
would need a little work.

Franz was a dynamo, though;
he didn't mind listening to her
go on and on about her dreams
of bringing together special people,
teaching them how to use their powers,
and protecting the world from evil.

By 1952, they had collected
a few more people, along with
a dilapidated office building
in a shady part of Eastbord.

They sat up late one night, getting drunk
and noodling around increasingly ridiculous
suggestions for a name, settling on the
Super Power Organizational & Operational Nexus.

They salvaged a wretched little press
and ran off educational leaflets to help
people with superpowers find each other;
they wrote down what they could learn
about how their abilities worked.

Six years later, Franz figured out how to
use his Laser Eyes for making optical discs,
and SPOON became (secretly) the first place
to use high-density recordings to store data.

Whammy Lass threw away her tape recorder
and congratulated herself on a job well begun.

* * *

Notes:

Whammy Lass (Helen Laguardia) -- She has olive skin, brown eyes, and wavy black hair. She is one of the first really famous superheroes. She serves in World War II, later founding the Super Power Organizational & Operational Nexus. See a picture of her undercover in Italy with another soldier posing as her husband.
Origin: Always a big strong girl, she came into her superpower at puberty.
Uniform: Whammy Lass served in the army and wore camo fatigues. Afterward, she favors dark green pants with a cream or white blouse.
Qualities: Expert (+4) Stubborn, Good (+2) Activist, Good (+2) Armor, Good (+2) Carpenter, Good (+2) Commanding Respect, Good (+2) Organizational Skills, Good (+2) Soldier
Poor (-2) Intimidates People
Powers: Good (+2) Strength
Motivation: Use the right tool for the job.

The Anathema (Amund Robles) -- He has short brown hair, brown eyes, and fair skin. His face is triangular with a broad forehead and a weak chin. He dabbled in a wide range of crimes from theft to beating people up for fun or money. When he assaulted the Veterans Day parade, Whammy Lass beat him to a pulp. The mug shot is from a previous crime; his nose is not that straight anymore.
Origin: Working as a criminal, he loved making people afraid of him. Gradually he got better at it, until it emerged as a narrow kind of projective empathy.
Uniform: Black shirt and pants, stretch black mask with a white circle over the face.
Qualities: Good (+2) Sadist, Good (+2) Troublemaker, Good (+2) Tough
Powers: Good (+2) Fearcasting
Motivation: To see them cower before me!

* * *

You can follow Terramagne through stages of superpower development.



Women have always been involved in war, across various capacities. "World War II: Women at War" details some examples.

Veterans can face many challenges in adjusting to civilian life. There are tips for returning soldiers and people who support them which can make the process smoother.

Veterans Day is a longstanding holiday commonly observed with a parade to honor those who have served. It is an exceptionally foolish place to pick a fight, but the symbolism sometimes makes it a target.

Mohandas Gandhi was a famous activist and a master of nonviolent resistance. In India, what we call superpowers are known as siddhis or "accomplishments" of enlightenment. Some Indian researchers have done serious studies of telepathy and other paranormal abilities. In Terramagne, India is one of the most soup-friendly countries but they are also pretty reclusive about it.

Sterbenfeld means "death field," a deadly force broadcast as an area effect rather than as a beam. This super-gizmo was one of the more horrifying weapons of WWII. The flashbacks or other disturbing psychological resonance associated with it are akin to those of air raids and sirens, or the death camps. It just really creeps people out. But if you're working with extremely dangerous research that is attractive to supervillains, sometimes a self-destruct switch is useful, and this one doesn't do any material damage. It just kills every living thing in range.

Optical discs include a variety of information storage tools over time. In mainstream comics, people pretty much only use Laser Eyes for shooting each other. I figure Laser Eyes should be good for anything you can use a laser for, because not everybody wants to shoot people.

Starting an organization requires a lot of thought and work. Amnesty USA has produced an Activist Toolkit for this purpose. There are steps to become an activist and start a nonprofit organization. Really it's all about finding ways to be the change you want to see in this world. You don't need superpowers for that.

Sixty years ago

Date: 2014-06-09 03:18 am (UTC)
dialecticdreamer: My work (Default)
From: [personal profile] dialecticdreamer
And yet it feels like /today/. The events mentioned /feel/ current, feel as important and confusing and muddled as politics is today.

I love that. Thank you for posting this, too.

(You've been stacking up new poems like MAD this week! Congrats!)

(no subject)

Date: 2014-06-09 04:57 am (UTC)
thnidu: my familiar. "Beanie Baby" -type dragon, red with white wings (Default)
From: [personal profile] thnidu
I like these characters!

There are a LOT of pictures on that "World War II: Women at War" page. The specific link for your model for Whammy Lass is
http://www.theatlantic.com/infocus/2011/09/world-war-ii-women-at-war/100145#img15

(no subject)

Date: 2014-06-09 09:47 am (UTC)
From: [personal profile] chanter_greenie
Warm fuzzies for a kickass World War II veteran. Kickass in lots of ways, mind. :) I also really like the idea of Gandhi as a soup. It fits him. It also gets me thinking about other historical activists and leaders, and a few others... hmm. Mandela, an empath, and a powerful one; Toure from Guinea seeing possible futures, lots of them all at once, which might explain a few later tendencies; Nasser, something to do with lightning?; Nehru, also an empath of indeterminate strength; Lula da Silva, maybe dual earth and water elemental?; Graca Machel, empathy and precognition; Walesa, telekinetic; Winnie Mandela, fire for sure; Nancy Wake from WWII, illusion like Mira's; hmm...

Now that I've idea-dumped all over, I'll hit post. <3 this poem, though!

(no subject)

Date: 2014-06-09 01:45 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] janetmiles.livejournal.com
I really like the idea of Laser Eyes as optical disk recorders.

Yay!

Date: 2014-06-09 01:47 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ysabetwordsmith.livejournal.com
I'm happy to hear that. I never liked how mainstream comics make everything about violence. Superpowers are SO much more versatile than that. So I'm always watching for opportunities to show other options in Terramagne.

(no subject)

Date: 2014-06-10 01:02 am (UTC)
zeeth_kyrah: A glowing white and blue anthropomorphic horse stands before a pink and blue sky. (Default)
From: [personal profile] zeeth_kyrah
I'd probably have to combine this with some form of special thought-processing, or super-engineering, because laser eyes are normally considered a concentration-based effect (or if flawed, always-on or with an unreliable trigger). The recording itself could be holographic (two eye-lasers means intersecting beams, which is required for holographic recording) or pulse-based (Morse code or binary recording).

That said, explanations of these sorts of things are basically window-dressing; if the character sheet says it can be done, it can be done. It's up to the writer/storyteller to say how.

Well...

Date: 2014-06-10 01:14 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ysabetwordsmith.livejournal.com
That's why it took years for even one person to learn how to do it, and then a lot more time for other people to figure out different ways so that it could, eventually, be mass-produced. You can't retro-engineer a super-gizmo to get ordinary tech. But sometimes you can use the knowledge that a certain thing is possible to arrive at it by a different route.

Thinking about how this would work, first you'd need the ability to fine-tune your Laser Eyes. Some people can, some can't. I imagine that it is similar to focusing ordinary eyes on near, middle, or far distance. To burn a readable design, you'd need to shift your focus within the shallow layer of burnable media to create a pattern. You would also need to invent the machinery to make the blank discs and to read the full ones, which is a gizmology task. But imagine the awesomeness of going from tape recorder levels of storage to laserdisc storage.

I like exploring how things can be done because it often makes a difference in storytelling. I've got at least two characters who can edit reality, Antimatter and Aubrey the Alabaster. Antimatter does it by altering the laws of physics, which means that he needs to know how things work before he can influence them, but also that in changing them he can learn more about how science works based on what will or won't bend and how. Aubrey does it with magic, which means she needs to understand mystical principles, a completely different data set. She works via intuition rather than logic, although spellcasting has parallels to certain types of science. Both of them have what might be considered sysadmin authority over reality. But they deal with very different types of problems and they employ different solutions.

(no subject)

Date: 2014-07-15 04:47 am (UTC)
mdlbear: the positively imaginary half of a cubic mandelbrot set (Default)
From: [personal profile] mdlbear
I'm not sure I saw this when you posted it. I love what you did with Gandhi.

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