ysabetwordsmith: Damask smiling over their shoulder (polychrome)
[personal profile] ysabetwordsmith
This poem came out of the March 18, 2014 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired by a prompt from an anonymous Dreamwidth user. It also fills the "Places of Work" square in my 12-8-13 card for the [community profile] genprompt_bingo fest. This poem has been sponsored by [personal profile] chanter_greenie. It belongs to the Polychrome Heroics setting.


"Heroic Physics 101"


One of the advantages to joining the
Super Power Organizational & Operational Nexus
was the depth of educational opportunity.

Some of the classes were taught
by Granny Whammy herself,
who in her youth was Whammy Lass,
one of the first really famous superheroes.

She wanted to make SPOON
a good, safe place to work
and that meant ensuring that everyone had
a firm grip on his, her, or its superpowers.

Besides, she liked teaching Heroic Physics 101.

"Today's lesson covers the differences
between intrinsic and extrinsic superpowers,"
Granny Whammy began, looking around the room.
"Intrinsic powers come from inside your body.
Extrinsic powers come from an artifact,
a super-gizmo, or some other outside source."

This class had approximately an equal supply
of students with intrinsic powers,
like Savoir Faire with super-speed;
and those with extrinsic powers
like Dr. Doohickey with super-gizmos.

"Intrinsic powers typically come with
enhanced reflexes, inertial compensation,
and other things to make them safe,"
Granny Whammy said. "Super-gizmos don't,
unless you're good enough to build it in.
Artifacts vary, so if you use one, make sure
to test whether it grants that kind of support."

She looked at Stalwart Stan,
whose powers came from the fetish
that he always wore around his neck.
Granny Whammy was pretty sure
that he hadn't figured out all its uses yet.

Stalwart Stan waved his hand in the air.
"How can we tell the difference?"

"Well, let's start with super-strength,"
Granny Whammy said with a smile
as she picked up her desk with one hand.
"I can do this because my superpower
doesn't just make me stronger than ordinary,
it also generates a potent forcefield
that both protects what I'm lifting
and prevents me from sinking into the ground."

Dr. Doohickey blushed deeply
and cringed behind his desk.
This sort of thing was exactly why
he was in a beginner's class.

"Dr. Doohickey, would you show the class
a recording of the counter-example?"
asked Granny Whammy.

"Yes, ma'am," he muttered,
flicking a knob on one arm of his antchair.
A video played on the screen at the head of the class.
"So I forgot to build all the necessary compensators
into this thing, which is a work in progress,
and when I tried to lift a car with it,
the fender ripped right off."

"Thank you, Dr. Doohickey," said Granny Whammy.
"Now, you did program that with its own agility,
which is a supportive trait that, along with reflexes,
typically appears with super-speed.
Can anyone tell me why that's important?"

"Without those supportive traits,
super-speed is just a spectacular way
to splatter yourself all over a wall,"
said Savoir Faire. "Your body can go faster
than your brain can really keep up with."

"And that's why almost everyone
who earns a Class Z license
to drive a zoom wagon has super-speed,"
said Granny Whammy. "The enhanced reflexes
are essential to safe driving at those speeds."

"Is it true that anyone with super-speed
can get a job as a Class Z driver,
even if that's all they have?"
asked Stalwart Stan.

"It's true," Granny Whammy said.
"There are soups with no more than
average super-speed who drive
ambulances, firetrucks, and
other emergency zoom wagons.
They save the day a lot."

"I'd rather save the day myself,"
said Savoir Faire.

"Then you'll probably want to practice
so that you can develop enough control
of your super-speed to drive
a zoom wagon of your very own,"
said Granny Whammy.

She knew perfectly well that
Savoir Faire had asked Dr. Doohickey
about building him a zoom wagon,
and that Dr. Doohickey insisted
on him earning his Class Z first.

"Don't worry, class, there are plenty
of exercises for everyone in today's homework,"
Granny Whammy assured them.
"You'll all have a chance to practice,
and more importantly, compare
your powers with everyone else's.
Here at SPOON we want to understand
our gifts so that we can match
every soup to the right jobs."

"What if we don't know
what kind of jobs we want yet?"
asked Stalwart Stan.

"You can learn as you go,"
Granny Whammy assured him.
"We offer a wide range of options.
For now, turn to the next section
in your textbooks -- and Dr. Doohickey,
would you come lead in physics, please?"

"Yes, ma'am," Dr. Doohickey said
on a happier note this time.
He was super-smart too.
His antchair backed away from his desk
and carried him to the front of the room.

Some of the younger students looked away.

Everyone knew the story of how
he'd lost both of his legs
in a death trap set by Mr. Pernicious,
from which he was rescued
not quite in time.

Occasionally saving the day
came at a high cost,
and that too was something
that Granny Whammy
taught to all her students.

* * *

Notes:

Powerful objects are able to grant superpowers to otherwise ordinary people. These subdivide into mystical artifacts and advanced technology, which often behave in different ways.

Required secondary powers span a wide variety of abilities and senses necessary to manage a primary superpower. They are not automatic, but without them a superpower may not be useful or even viable. Therefore most soups have these.

Superpowers often seem to conflict with known science. How do we fix this? Even more science! Biology, energy fields, atomic forces, and more can suggest ways that superpowers could work. That's not even counting the fact that there are people with superpowers even in our world -- abilities far and agone beyond what anyone else can do.



Putting the right person in the right job is crucial to success. There are lots of ways to screw it up. This is especially crucial for SPOON assigning people with totally different talents to situations that call for specific abilities. Know how to find the right people and match them to the right jobs. You should also figure out which career is ideal for you.

Heroism is dangerous, and scientists are still trying to figure out the psychology of it. Some people seek out risky jobs or just respond to ordinary emergencies in ways that could cost them life or limb. While this is rarely acknowledged in mainstream superhero stories, I feel that it's a vital part of heroism that deserves more attention. In Terramagne, superheroes are like police, soldiers, firefighters, and other people who fling themselves into harm's way -- they have a significant rate of injury, and some of that is permanent.

Everyday heroes pay attention to dangers. Would you be a hero if something suddenly went wrong? About 20% of Americans have done just that. Learn what it takes to be a hero in real life, because you never know when it might be needed.

Another good teacher!

Date: 2014-07-21 04:14 am (UTC)
dialecticdreamer: My work (Default)
From: [personal profile] dialecticdreamer
I like the way Granny Whammy engages both categories of students, and both positive and negative examples. The "about 20 percent" link was interesting, which means we've actually met more than our share of heroes as a family. I'm /so/ glad of it, too.

Re: Another good teacher!

Date: 2014-07-25 11:33 pm (UTC)
stardreamer: Meez headshot (Default)
From: [personal profile] stardreamer
IMO one important trait that ties into heroism is empathy -- the ordinary everyday kind that lets you feel sympathy for someone who's having a hard time, or work for social justice. I don't think you'll find many heroes among the hard-core "self-reliance and personal responsibility" Libertarian/teahadi types, because they don't think of helping other people as something that might ever be their job.

(no subject)

Date: 2014-07-21 02:28 pm (UTC)
mdlbear: the positively imaginary half of a cubic mandelbrot set (Default)
From: [personal profile] mdlbear
There are mental superpowers, too -- musical, mathematical, and chess prodigies come to mind. One of my favorites is programming: there's about a 100-1 range of productivity between average programmers and the best. I'm probably somewhere around a 5 these days.

Re: Yes...

Date: 2014-07-21 11:07 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] chanter_greenie
First off, this's fun. I'm now curious who some of the other students in that class are. :)

Second, and my reason for replying under an already-started thread rather than starting my own... hmm. Mental superpowers. I wonder if synaesthesia, perfect pitch or both could qualify? I'm a multivariety synaesthete who uses it in her writing, and the perfect pitch ties in to the tone>color and musical key>color synaesthesia I've got going.

(no subject)

Date: 2014-07-21 04:14 pm (UTC)
corvi: (Default)
From: [personal profile] corvi
I love your character summaries and was sad you didn't post one for Dr. Doohickey. :)

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