ysabetwordsmith: Damask smiling over their shoulder (polychrome)
[personal profile] ysabetwordsmith
This is the freebie for today's fishbowl. It was inspired by prompts from [personal profile] aoifes_isle, [personal profile] alexseanchai, [personal profile] zeeth_kyrah, and LJ user My_partner_doug. It also fills the "alias" square in my 5-22-14 card for the [community profile] origfic_bingo fest. This poem belongs to the Polychrome Heroics series.

WARNING: This poem features some intense topics. The warnings include spoilers; highlight to read. There is government intervention with disastrous results, forced transformation, child death, mental torture of a telepath whose defenses are lousy, and disturbingly self-serving interpretations of 'truth.' Please consider your tastes and headspace carefully before deciding whether you want to read or skip this.


"A Perspective, Not the Truth"


When Agent Gabrielle Greene called him into her office,
Brad Harris knew she had a new assignment for him.
"Trepan, these are Sleuthhound --" she pointed to a man
with sad brown eyes and sagging jowls, "and Cryptid."
The latter is the most ordinary-looking woman
whom Brad has ever seen, blue-gray eyes and ashy hair.
"Code names only. We have a flicker report of a girl
who may have reality warping powers. Go find her."

"No problem," said Sleuthhound. "Then what?"

"Bring her in if you can," Agent Greene ordered,
"but in any case make sure she doesn't hurt anyone."

"Yes, ma'am," Brad said. He can work with that.
"Sleuthhound, Cryptid, who's driving?"
He tries to ignore the silly code names.

"I always drive," Cryptid said in a flat voice.
"You people don't know how to blend in."

When Brad saw the car, he couldn't blame her:
it's a five-year-old Honda Accord, lightly used,
in a forgettable shade of gray with a few scratches.

"So how do we find this girl?" Brad asked.

"We don't. I do," Sleuthhound said.
He poked Cryptid in the shoulder.
"Drive toward Arlington."

Brad read the mission file on the way,
using his vidwatch to skim for keywords.
So far this ten-year-old girl had shown
transfiguration, sorcery, and timebending
but there had been months between each incident.

It was hard to get someone put on house arrest
for flickering alone, rather than manifesting
a talent that was some kind of credible threat.

Well, there were other ways to handle matters,
as the Ventral Intelligence Agency was doing now.

"You're taking this pretty well, for a new guy,"
Sleuthhound said, watching Brad study.
"Usually they wonder if the intel is really reliable."

Brad shrugged. "What's to complain about?
Everything we hear is an opinion, not a fact.
Everything we see is a perspective, not the truth."

When they reached Arlington,
they spent a while driving in circles because
Sleuthhound said the target was moving.
Finally he announced, "She's in Glencarlyn Park."

They drove through the rolling green hills
and tufts of forest streaked with silver streams.
It was a nice day and families filled the park.

Parking the car Cryptid said, "I'll take the high watch.
Trepan, you make the approach. Sleuthhound, backup."
Then she turned into a pigeon and flew away.

Sleuthhound guided Brad to the right playground,
pointing out the little brunette and her mother.

Brad stolled over and said to the daughter,
"Heard you have quite a talent there, miss.
We're from the government. We're here to help you."

Everything went to hell amazingly fast after that.

The next thing Brad knew,
the boys playing volleyball were kangaroos,
there was an elephant crushing the merry-go-round,
not to mention a talking water fountain and
a hysterical jukebox wearing the remains
of a park custodian's dark green jumpsuit.

Brad's head was killing him and
his back ached all the way down to his butt.

So he did the sensible thing and shot the girl in the head.
Dead people generally don't use superpowers.

Everyone stopped turning into things they shouldn't be,
but a lot more people started screaming and running.
Brad was glad the VIA issued him a real gun,
even if it tended to make civilians panic.

Sleuthhound was trying to comfort the disdraught mother.
Cryptid had shapeshifted back to human form and
taken over crowd control near the pavilion.

Brad was just trying to keep his head from exploding
under the strain of everyone's riotous emotions.

"You murdered my daughter right in front of me,
you evil bastard," the middle-aged woman wailed.

"I know, I know," Brad said. "You're thinking very loud."

"Oh," she said, "you're a telepath."

Then she hit him with a truck.

Then she drove a tank over him.
Then she threw him out of an airplane.
Then she fed him to a ravenous dinosaur.
Then she waterboarded him until he drowned.
Then she doused him with gasoline and lit him on fire.
Then she roped him to an atomic bomb and pushed the button.

It took a week for Brad to shake off the hallucinations.
When people hate you and you can read minds,
that tends to fill your head with all kinds of suck.

Agent Greene was sitting on his bed
when he finally woke up for real.

"This is becoming a habit," Brad said.

"Superpowers often have drawbacks,"
Agent Greene acknowledged.
"Yours is worth it, though.
We don't have many telepaths."

"Sure you still want this one?"
Brad asked as he sat up with a wince.

"I'm sure," Agent Greene replied.

"You aren't angry with how I handled the situation?"
Brad said, still expecting to get fired.

"Trepan, not many people could keep their heads
in the middle of a superpowered incident,
let alone make a perfect head shot
while actively being turned into a goat."

"So that's what happened," he muttered.

"Yes, we had you tested while you were out of it,"
Agent Greene said. "You have the horn buds and tail
of a New Zealand Kiko Goat. You'll get double hazard pay
for sustaining that damage in the line of duty."

That lifted his spirits right up.
Brad ran a hand through his hair
and found the small hard nubs.
They shouldn't be too hard to hide,
though he might need to grow his hair
a little longer from its current buzzcut.

He was willing to risk anything in the line of duty,
even losing his humanity, if it gave him a chance
to save a whole parkful of innocent people
from such an unspeakable fate.

"Thank you, ma'am," Brad said.
"I guess it's a good thing I was there."

"Are you sure that's true?" Agent Greene asked.
"Most people would be having second thoughts
after a mission that cost them so much."

Brad thought hard about how many more people
might have been turned into beasts or hardware
if he hadn't been there to stop that from happening.
"It's true for me, and that's what's important," he said firmly.

Agent Greene smiled faintly and patted his shoulder.
"I knew the VIA was the right place for you," she said.

* * *

Notes:

Everything we hear is an opinion, not a fact. Everything we see is a perspective, not the truth.
-- Marcus Aurelius

Glencarlyn Park is lovely facility.

New Zealand Kiko Goats are meat goats capable of subsisting on forage. They are independent and can be more aggressive than dairy goats.

(no subject)

Date: 2014-08-05 11:32 pm (UTC)
alexseanchai: Blue and purple lightning (Default)
From: [personal profile] alexseanchai
Sad poem, but at least it ended sort of well?

Uhh....

Date: 2014-08-06 12:08 am (UTC)
dialecticdreamer: My work (Default)
From: [personal profile] dialecticdreamer
Am I /supposed/ to be left thinking that the WHOLE FRAGGING MESS could've been avoided if Brad had one WHIT of common sense?

- Do not approach a minor who is minding her own business and obeying the law.

- Do not attempt to interfere with a parent's right to decide for their minor child IF they need to speak to Mr. Federal Agent.

- DO NOT DROP EMOTIONAL NUKES on an already fragile situation. "I'm from the government; I'm here to help," VERY RARELY gains instantaneous trust, respect or even calm. What it generally does is PROVOKE PANIC.


And this jerk thinks murdering the kid was a good solution???

HM. New prompt idea forming.

Re: Uhh....

Date: 2014-08-06 12:41 am (UTC)
dialecticdreamer: My work (Default)
From: [personal profile] dialecticdreamer
I don't consider myself a particularly vengeful person. I don't particularly condone or enjoy violence...

But part of me is actively wishing for him to get hoist on his own petard, Wylie Coyote style.

Re: Uhh....

Date: 2014-08-06 12:56 am (UTC)
dialecticdreamer: My work (Default)
From: [personal profile] dialecticdreamer
Yeah, in this 'verse, the label says APEX...

Earthquake pills... Make him babysit two bored kittens he CANNOT harm or neglect.

Y'know, HORRIBLE things.

EEK

Date: 2014-08-06 01:27 am (UTC)
helgatwb: Drawing of Helga, holding her sword, looking upset. (Default)
From: [personal profile] helgatwb
I'm really starting to hate this guy...

I'm also starting to hate the VIA, as well.

Re: EEK

Date: 2014-08-06 01:38 am (UTC)
helgatwb: Drawing of Helga, holding her sword, looking upset. (Default)
From: [personal profile] helgatwb
*shudders*

Y'know, I read the ENTIRE 'Monster House' series, and didn't get as many willies from that, as I got from this guy and the VIA.

He needs a good whack from a clue-by-four.

Re: EEK

Date: 2014-08-06 01:44 am (UTC)
chanter_greenie: Commander Seth Goddard of Space Cases fame (SC: Goddard - do the best they can)
From: [personal profile] chanter_greenie
I really hope it doesn't say what I think it does about me and my own state of ethics or lack thereof that I'm more disturbed by Brad's cavalier shooting of a minor, and especially the warped good intentions behind it, than I am by the child's mother's reaction.

I want to see this man get some sense, and some remorse, knocked into him. If it's by someone on the order of Granny Whammy on the ethical/respectable scale, all the better.

Re: EEK

Date: 2014-08-06 04:51 am (UTC)
zeeth_kyrah: A glowing white and blue anthropomorphic horse stands before a pink and blue sky. (Default)
From: [personal profile] zeeth_kyrah
Any job that has lying as a job requirement is going to have trouble attracting ethical workers.

That makes Phil Coulson doubly amazing.. SHIELD was supposed to be an ethical organization, but they do so much on the down-low, with such questionable backers, that it has to be hard to stay that way.

With just two poems on them, I'm starting to think of the VIA as SHIELD gone wrong, actually. Who backs these guys?

Re: EEK

Date: 2014-08-06 07:50 am (UTC)
From: [personal profile] chanter_greenie
SHIELD gone wrong, ooh. I keep coming back to the V in VIA. Ventral, so says school biology and a long history of watching ER, as opposed to dorsal. Underneath, or, as my brain immediately supplied and has insisted upon since, underbelly.

Was that deliberate, Ysabet? I'm going to bet it was.

(no subject)

Date: 2014-08-06 10:49 pm (UTC)
brushwolf: Icon created by ScaperDeage on DeviantArt (Default)
From: [personal profile] brushwolf
I'm not sure how I feel about this one. On the one hand it does a good job with a more realistic understanding of superpowers - there's going to be regulation, unintentional endangerment, and some not very nice judgment calls intended to save lives - but I think in this case it winds up being a little too grim and gritty for my tastes.

Re: Okay...

Date: 2014-08-07 04:25 pm (UTC)
brushwolf: Icon created by ScaperDeage on DeviantArt (Default)
From: [personal profile] brushwolf
This is gonna sound a little crazy, but my perspective is really influenced by having been a comics fan for years. So my dislike for grim and gritty here isn't just "hey, something nasty happened and I don't like having this in my spandex-punching-superscience-fantasy," but for nearly my whole life, superhero comics have been migrating through this pattern of trying to have a more "realistic" edge, especially when you throw in guns. So I'm having more of a "oh no, grimdark supers again" reaction. Which, eh, is more and more my problem the more I think about it.

(no subject)

Date: 2014-08-11 04:40 pm (UTC)
redsixwing: Red-winged angel staring at a distant star. (Default)
From: [personal profile] redsixwing
*quietly joins the line*

I wonder how many other people ended up with assorted nonnative hardware after that incident.

This is the sort of idiocy that leads to a self-perceived hero generating a string of nemeses of their very own.

(no subject)

Date: 2014-08-06 03:45 am (UTC)
ext_3294: Tux (Default)
From: [identity profile] technoshaman.livejournal.com
Okay, you win. Many's the author that can make me laugh. Some can make me cry. You? Pissed me off. Not at you, mind, at the story...

Only one other author that I can think of can do that.

His name is Straczynski.

That's about the biggest compliment I can give an author.

One thing, though. These people have karma coming. Even if I have to commission it personally. Maybe I can't do that in the real world, [temporal adverb deleted]... but I can damn well do it in this one. *tight feral grinchy look*

Thank you!

Date: 2014-08-06 03:56 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ysabetwordsmith.livejournal.com
>> Okay, you win. Many's the author that can make me laugh. Some can make me cry. You? Pissed me off. Not at you, mind, at the story... <<

I'm starting to think that Brad's real superpower may be pissing people off. :D

>> Only one other author that I can think of can do that.

His name is Straczynski.

That's about the biggest compliment I can give an author. <<

*bow, flourish* I am honored.

>> One thing, though. These people have karma coming. Even if I have to commission it personally. Maybe I can't do that in the real world, [temporal adverb deleted]... but I can damn well do it in this one. <<

Yep, that is an option. Evidently there will be a line ...

>> *tight feral grinchy look* <<

Do you have a wonderful, awful idea?

Re: Thank you!

Date: 2014-08-06 05:59 pm (UTC)
ext_3294: Tux (Default)
From: [identity profile] technoshaman.livejournal.com
Evidently there will be a line

Heh!

Do you have a wonderful, awful idea?

LOL! I have that face as an icon over on Dreamwidth... :)

Re: Thank you!

Date: 2014-08-06 07:16 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ysabetwordsmith.livejournal.com
>> Do you have a wonderful, awful idea?

LOL! I have that face as an icon over on Dreamwidth... :) <<

[livejournal.com profile] my_partner_doug has it on a t-shirt.

Thoughts

Date: 2014-08-28 10:10 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ysabetwordsmith.livejournal.com
>> Okay, you win. Many's the author that can make me laugh. Some can make me cry. You? Pissed me off. Not at you, mind, at the story... <<

I'm glad it worked. This one is meant to be disturbing.

>> Only one other author that I can think of can do that.

His name is Straczynski.

That's about the biggest compliment I can give an author. <<

I am duly honored.

>> One thing, though. These people have karma coming. <<

Yeah, that line goes around the block.

>> Even if I have to commission it personally. Maybe I can't do that in the real world, [temporal adverb deleted]... but I can damn well do it in this one. *tight feral grinchy look* <<

Anyone can prompt for it during an open prompt call. Commissions jump to the head of the line, though, if you have a specific idea for whomping Brad & company.

(no subject)

Date: 2014-08-06 04:36 am (UTC)
ext_12246: (Default)
From: [identity profile] thnidu.livejournal.com
• Glencarlyn Park is ^ lovely facility.
^ a

Man, Brad is a hero.

Thank you!

Date: 2014-08-28 09:56 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ysabetwordsmith.livejournal.com
>> • Glencarlyn Park is ^ lovely facility.
^ a <<

Fixed.

>> Man, Brad is a hero. <<

0_o For sufficiently loose definitions.

Re: Thank you!

Date: 2014-08-29 01:00 am (UTC)
ext_12246: (Default)
From: [identity profile] thnidu.livejournal.com
Well... yeah. On reread I realized what a lousy way he'd initiated contact.

Also noticed on reread:
• Brad stolled over
→ strolled

• comfort the disdraught mother.
→ distraught

(no subject)

Date: 2014-08-07 12:46 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] fayanora.livejournal.com
"We're from the government. We're here to help you."

I nearly choked on my water at this point. This is the most terrifying pair of sentences in the world, so it's no wonder hell broke loose then.

That Brad fellow is very lucky Lyria wasn't the girl's mother. When she gets angry, she gets *creative*. A head shot... I assume brain splattered everywhere? That's one of the few things Lyria can't revive someone from. So once it was clear to her that her girl was dead beyond reviving, that Brad fellow would soon be begging for death. Tortured by someone who can keep you alive or revive you from anything short of brain damage? She could keep torturing him for years. And she knows enough mind magic to prevent him going insane from it. What's more, she knows soul magic, and knows how to inflict damage on a soul. She could destroy him utterly, soul and all, if she wanted.

Thoughts

Date: 2014-08-28 09:09 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ysabetwordsmith.livejournal.com
>> "We're from the government. We're here to help you."

I nearly choked on my water at this point. This is the most terrifying pair of sentences in the world, so it's no wonder hell broke loose then. <<

Well, yes. Brad is not the sharpest marble in the stack. He's the kind of guy who gets hired by police departments that have an upper IQ limit on hiring people.

>> That Brad fellow is very lucky Lyria wasn't the girl's mother. When she gets angry, she gets *creative*. A head shot... I assume brain splattered everywhere? That's one of the few things Lyria can't revive someone from. <<

Brains everywhere, and traumatized observers. Brad is lucky that a lot of people don't know what he's doing.

>> What's more, she knows soul magic, and knows how to inflict damage on a soul. She could destroy him utterly, soul and all, if she wanted. <<

There are a few, very few, characters with Soul Magic in this setting.

Re: Thoughts

Date: 2014-08-29 06:41 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] fayanora.livejournal.com
not the sharpest marble in the stack.

BWAH HA HA HA!!! XD

He's the kind of guy who gets hired by police departments that have an upper IQ limit on hiring people.

Don't they all?

Re: Thoughts

Date: 2014-08-29 06:49 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ysabetwordsmith.livejournal.com
I'm not sure that all police departments discriminate against intelligent people. But several have been challenged in court, and the judges keep saying "it's not discrimination" ... to refuse to hire someone based on a trait they were born with and cannot change. Riiiiiight. *looks at Ferguson* And that's workin' out so well for y'all.

Re: Thoughts

Date: 2014-08-29 06:54 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] fayanora.livejournal.com
It's always been my observation that cops are bullies with guns, and I've never met an intelligent bully, as far as I know of, hence my comment.

Re: Thoughts

Date: 2014-08-29 07:21 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ysabetwordsmith.livejournal.com
I have met some who behaved with honor and compassion, and others who were at least competent. But I know there are a lot of bullies with badges out there, and they are a serious problem.

There are intelligent bullies. They are fucking dangerous. Most bullies are dumb, and most cop bullies seem to fit that pattern. But in certain places you'll find smart bullies, like in academia. They tend to break people, and they tend to get away with it because they take care not to get caught doing anything actionable.

Re: Thoughts

Date: 2014-08-29 07:53 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] fayanora.livejournal.com
Oh duh, I should have known that, since Forizano gets into the situation he does, after the war he loses his legs in, because of bullies who are rival academics.

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ysabetwordsmith: Cartoon of me in Wordsmith persona (Default)
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