ysabetwordsmith: Damask smiling over their shoulder (polychrome)
[personal profile] ysabetwordsmith
This poem was inspired by something that my partner Doug spotted recently, which also fills the "Magical Creatures" square in my 6-10-14 card for the [community profile] fanbingo fest. It belongs to the Polychrome Heroics series.


"Leaflets Three, Let It Be"


"SPOON Dispatch, how may I help you?"
Groundhog said, opening a call log.

"We need you to remove some poison ivy,"
the caller said, and gave an address.

"I'm sorry, you have the wrong number,"
Groundhog said. "This is SPOON.
You need the Noxious Weed Control Center --"

"This is the Noxious Weed Control Center,"
the caller said. "I'm Benjamin Harris, Supervisor.
We have sprayed everything we've got
on this damn thing, and it refuses to die."

"That's still outside our area of expertise,"
Groundhog said politely.

"I'm telling you, this plant is a supervillain!"
Benjamin insisted. "It's wearing armor."

"I'm going to need you to back up
and explain a little more," Groundhog said.

"There's a road sign with a square post
made of hollow metal, with holes in it,"
Benjamin explained slowly.
"The plant is growing inside the post
except where it emerges at the top.
We can't get at the roots, and even when
we spray the leaves, they come back."

"That still doesn't sound like a supervillain.
Really, most of these incidents are just
ordinary herbicide-resistant weeds."
Groundhog said. "Have you tried --"

"The last time, it grabbed my sprayer
and hosed me with Garlon," said Benjamin.
"I wound up in the emergency room.
It's indestructable and it tried to kill me.
Does that count for anything?"

That made Groundhog sit up straighter.
"All right, Mobility has been established
as a superpower for plants and sessile animals,
and attacking a human qualifies it as a supervillain
although technically this sounds like self-defense.
I'll send someone out to take care of it."

"Thank you," said Benjamin.

"Also, we're going to need samples
of everything you've sprayed on that plant,"
said Groundhog. "Over the last decade or so,
we've seen a rise in superpowered flora and fauna
brought on by mutagenic chemicals."

Groundhog dispatched Buzz to
deal with the supervillain poison ivy.
His talent was a narrow type of telekinesis
which allowed him to chop things very finely.
He wouldn't need to get within reach
of the plant's mobile tendrils, and
its resistance to herbicides would not
protect it from being puréed.

Then Groundhog finished filling out the call log.

An hour later, Buzz called. "Hello, Dispatch?
The poison ivy isn't Invulnerable. It's Immortal.
I've reduced it to paste three times now,
but it just keeps coming back. I think it knows
I'm here -- it's hiding inside the sign post.
You need to send someone else
to slay the Green Knight here."

Leaflets three, let it be, Groundhog recalled
from Stalwart Stan's wilderness lesson.
They couldn't simply leave the poison ivy
where it was if it posed a hazard to people.
However, this wasn't the first time that SPOON
had to deal with an immortal supervillain.

Groundhog called Backhoe, who usually
worked in construction but was willing to take
the occasional non-combat call from SPOON.
"Backhoe, I need an earthmover to dig up
a supervillain poison ivy vine," said Groundhog.

"Sure thing," Backhoe said, and later that day
he had the supervillain -- sign and all --
interred in a planter made from half a wine barrel,
and transported it to the Nirvana Vault where
SPOON kept things that were harmless
unless someone meddled with them.

It never hurt to have another guardian
to help ward off the unwise and unwary.

* * *

Notes:

The Green Knight -- This is a poison ivy plant with superpowers. Immortality means that it can't be killed. Mobility allows it to grasp things. Super-Intellect in a plant means that it has animal-level awareness, perhaps equivalent to a cat; so it can do things like figure out how to hide inside a metal sign post or grab a sprayer. Its perception is based on tactile input from vibrations in the soil picked up through roots and air currents picked up through hairs and leaves. It's named after the Green Knight in the Arthurian Cycle.
Origin: It is suspected that repeated application of herbicides may have accelerated the evolution and adaptation for sake of survival, somehow leading to superpowers.
Uniform: A hollow square sign post made of galvanized steel, with a yellow T-intersection sign on top.
Qualities: Master (+6) Poison Ivy, Expert (+4) Armor
Powers: Average (0) Immortality, Average (0) Mobility, Average (0) Super-Intellect
Motivation: Survival

Buzz (Toby Mendoza) -- He has fair skin, black eyes, and straight black hair in a wild buzz cut. He usually has a scruff of beard. He has pierced ears, often with claw earrings. He likes to say, "Let's go, chop-chop!" Most of the time he works as a prep cook in a restaurant, chopping things for everyone else.
Origin: When Toby was ten, a telekinetic supervillain tried to rob a bank and grabbed him as a hostage. The supervillain tried to kill him, but instead the power broke off and attached itself to him. The supervillain was so badly sliced up in the power struggle that he later died of his wounds. Upset over his inadvertent role in the man's death, Toby was afraid of his power for years and it took a long time for him to learn how to control it. Recently he has begun taking simple jobs for SPOON.
Uniform: In the restaurant he wears black pants with a white shirt and white apron. Off-duty he wears fashionable men's clothes. He doesn't have a superhero outfit.
Qualities: Good (+2) Cook, Good (+2) Coping Skills, Good (+2) Fast, Good (+2) Legendary Tales, Good (+2) Self-Defense, Good (+2) Teamwork
Poor (-2) Impatient
Powers: Good (+2) Telekinesis
Limitation: So far his telekinesis only works for creating a localized 'blender' effect of tiny blades chopping things apart.
Motivation: Cut problems down to size.

Backhoe (Theo Reynolds) -- He is a middle-aged black man with medium-brown skin, brown eyes, and short nappy brown hair. Most of the time he does construction work, but he takes occasional non-combat calls from SPOON.
Origin: As a boy, Theo always loved digging. One day he hit some kind of line in the back yard, and wound up with superpowers.
Uniform: No official uniform. He often wears jeans and a sleeveless t-shirt at work, or in colder weather, a long-sleeved flannel shirt.
Qualities: Expert (+4) Construction Worker, Good (+2) Gardener, Good (+2) Manners, Good (+2) Unflappable
Poor (-2) Changing Plans
Powers: Good (+2) Earth Control
Motivation: To be reliable.

* * *

Poison ivy is a noxious weed, which is getting stronger due to climate change. In Terramagne, this contributes to the rise of superpowered plants.

This kind of hollow metal sign post allows the vine to grow inside.

Just as predicted years ago, new "superweeds" are emerging which resistant to one or even several herbicides. This was obviously going to happen; it's basic biology that a stressor can't kill everything, so the survivors breed and pass on their resistance. You see this in superweeds, superbugs, super everything people keep trying to kill. In Terramagne, this lends itself to actual superpowers such as Immortality, Invulnerability, Regeneration, and other survival traits.

Garlon is a powerful herbicide popular in roadside spraying. For humans, it can cause skin or eye irritation, and it's downright dangerous if inhaled.

The Green Knight is a character in the Arthurian Cycle who survives having his head chopped off. He is a vegetative god-figure in armor.

A half-barrel planter provides generous space for plants to grow.

(no subject)

Date: 2014-06-26 08:40 am (UTC)
lynnoconnacht: A brown-haired girl, laughing with her eyes closed. (!Me squee)
From: [personal profile] lynnoconnacht
*squeals* STAN! <3

Okay, just a reference to Stan, but that totally justifies fan-squees.

*ahem* Anyway. I heart this. I love Groundhog's reaction to the phone call and the desperation in Benjamin's voice in trying to get Groundhog to understand why this is a SPOON matter. I love how subtly you point out that, in some cases, what constitutes a supervillain (versus a superhero) isn't as clear-cut as it may seem. It's all in people's perspectives and I really like how subtly you've handled that. Just a tiny little line (coupled with the last stanza) and it says so much about how perspective can affect interpretation.

I also loved seeing Backhoe and how he's not a superhero and doesn't seem interested in being one. So much of what I've read has (understandably) focused on the superheroes and villains, and the younger generations, that it's a lovely treat to see someone a little older who isn't interested in the combat aspect that can come with the territory.

And Green Knight is pretty neat too, as well as particularly scary given how much of its origin story, ah, roots in modern practices. It's as much a cautionary tale of sorts as it is a story about perspective and interpretation.

Thank you for sharing it! ^_^

Re: Thoughts

Date: 2014-06-26 09:34 am (UTC)
lynnoconnacht: A brown-haired girl in a gingham dress looking at the viewer over her shoulder. (Thinky Thoughts)
From: [personal profile] lynnoconnacht
Stan's a love. ^_^

Stalwart Stan, being a boy scout, is the logical person to be teaching at least some of that.

And he'd be pretty good at it too, I think. I could see Stan settling into a teaching position later on in life if he enjoys doing it.

There's a real element of risk here, because of the drawbacks on both sides of mistaking an unpowered thing for a supervillain vs. ignoring a genuine one.

Definitely. I think you captured the tension really well. It's a wonderful shift when Groundhog realises that SPOON does need to act/intervene.

On moral grounds, everyone and everything has a right to self-defense. It's not wrong to fight back against someone who's trying to kill you. But on practical grounds, a hazard to people is something that SPOON wants to take seriously, so anything with powers that threatens or hurts a human will meet their threshold for intervention.

*nods* And, as we can see here, intervention doesn't always have to mean 'kill it'. It does start out that way and it would have meant that if the Green Knight hadn't been immortal, though, which creates its own layers of complications for us to consider. It's a slightly similar risk to the one in the phone call itself because Groundhog has to weight whether to call in someone who'll try to kill the Green Knight or someone who can find a different kind of solution. It might be clearer with your example of the whale, though. There are a lot of tough choices in this poem is what I'm getting at. ^_^

So the safest and most responsible thing to do is simply move it out of the conflict zone.

Unless, perhaps, they had someone on call whose superpower was "Communicate with any form of sentient being". That person might be able to convey the same message to the Green Knight. (What if it doesn't like the Nirvana Vault, after all? That'd make it even more dangerous than it already is.)

There are more people using their talents quietly in ordinary jobs than there are in crimefighting. This is something I'd like to explore further in the future.

Mmmm. You've already been doing that a fair bit, though, haven't you? Just by focusing on smaller family dynamics. Most of Stan/Antimatter's poems do this, except that both of them were on the crimefighting track initially, for example. ^_^ Damask is going in that direction, but... would Farce necessarily do the same? You did hint at things potentially improving for Farce.

Sometimes it's surprising how little I have to change in order to suit things to this setting.

I can imagine! This case is particularly terrifying since it can serve as such a strong cautionary tale, and the more powerful because the Green Knight isn't sapient. It's a lot harder to shrug off the correlations this way. (At least I think so.)

Re: Thoughts

Date: 2014-06-28 07:33 am (UTC)
lynnoconnacht: A brown-haired girl in a gingham dress looking at the viewer over her shoulder. (Thinky Thoughts)
From: [personal profile] lynnoconnacht
I think Stalwart Stan is pretty set on becoming the emergency-response kind of superhero. But he's likely to do things such as teaching and wilderness guiding as a sideline, and teaching would be a great retirement job for him.

*beams* Yes, that's what I was getting at. ^_^ (In my wordfailagy way.)

If the Green Knight had been a rosebush, Groundhog would probably have thought, "Let's just move it to somewhere safer."

As somene who's managed to fall into rosebushes, I facepalm at his logic. But, yes, there is definitely something speciesist going on which adds more layers to it too.

(This is not always feasible in a combat situation but is a good ideal.)

Indeed. (No. No, I do prefer 'sooth'. *pets the pretty word*) It's something to strive for once they realise it's there to be striven for. That's going to be one heck of a poem when SPOON needs to look at the situation and set its policies accordingly. I'm not sure whether that potential poem between Steel and Aquariana is something I'm dreading (because of the shit hitting the fan potential) or looking forward to it. Both, knowing me.

Or plant communication. SPOON has some people with those abilities, but evidently not within easy reach of Groundhog's call radius at that time.

Alas. I hope they think to ask someone to go check up on Green Knight.

Some of the poems focus on their personal relationships, others on crime. That's likely to continue.

Which is good. Crime matters to them, especially to Stan since he wants to be a crimefighting superhero. I just wanted to note that not all their poems are like that since a lot of them do fit that focus. ^_^

I'm not sure yet where Farce will go, because she's still trying to find herself. There are so many things going on with her.

<3 *good thoughts to Farce* There are. But she'll figure something out in time. ^_^

I find that tying the phantasmagoric stuff to real events is an effective way to raise the impact.

It is. I think it gives a lot of readers a chance to distance themselves a little from the events. Tying them to phantasmagoric stuff allows readers that little bit of distance to keep the kneejerk reaction of "I'm not like that!" (or its variants) at bay, so it's easier to see the problem and its causes. The opposite can be just as effective too, though.

Love it!

Date: 2014-06-26 02:20 pm (UTC)
dialecticdreamer: My work (Default)
From: [personal profile] dialecticdreamer
Dispatch is never an easy job, whether it's for police, firefighters, paramedics, or super heroes.

Honestly, I love that the "supervillain" becomes part of the vault defenses. And I had a very, very scary thought-- Cheersquad can't /touch/ it, limited mobility, but they could /talk/-- communicate feelings, depending on how aware the plant is.... Move him up to the /office/ eventually, to help protect it and Cheersquad in particular.

FUN.

Re: Love it!

Date: 2014-06-26 09:26 pm (UTC)
dialecticdreamer: My work (Default)
From: [personal profile] dialecticdreamer
Oh, I know it wasn't /Cheersquad/ in the poem, I just had a funny image of him with an "assistance plant" (rather than assistive technology.) I have a deeply weird imagination; maybe you've met it?

Re: Love it!

Date: 2014-06-27 01:31 am (UTC)
zeeth_kyrah: A glowing white and blue anthropomorphic horse stands before a pink and blue sky. (Default)
From: [personal profile] zeeth_kyrah
There was one MU* I played on where one of the regular characters was physically disabled (bodiless by choice) and carried around by a mobile plant instead of a wheelchair or hover-unit. The plant also served as an assistant for carrying and manipulating things. I found that refreshingly different.

(no subject)

Date: 2014-06-26 02:21 pm (UTC)
mdlbear: the positively imaginary half of a cubic mandelbrot set (Default)
From: [personal profile] mdlbear
I love this. I wonder how much of my aversion to gardening comes from the suspicion that the plants are out to get me. (Probably not much, but it's fun to think about.)

And whatever you do, don't try to burn poison ivy!

(no subject)

Date: 2014-06-26 04:20 pm (UTC)
redsixwing: Picture shows a red-winged angel staring at a distant blue star. (Default)
From: [personal profile] redsixwing
Hee! I love this - the Green Knight spraying the herbicide back, the traffic sign-turned-uniform, the confusion over whose problem this superpowered plant is anyway.

Have you seen the research about plant communication via airborne chemicals and mycorrizhae? Here's a good example, and another one. Green Knight may have senses and communication methods that SPOON doesn't realize.
Edited Date: 2014-06-26 04:22 pm (UTC)

Re: Thoughts

Date: 2014-06-27 01:44 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 did a little bit of looking-up of things, and perhaps a Redwood tree whose name in Yurok translates to "Redwood Who Makes Hills" would be an interesting semi-mythological character. of course, I'm simplifying things. Bleah. Anyway I went looking for Californian tribes and languages and that one caught my attention.

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