ysabetwordsmith: Damask smiling over their shoulder (polychrome)
[personal profile] ysabetwordsmith
This poem came out of the June 2016 [community profile] crowdfunding Creative Jam. It was inspired by prompts from [personal profile] technoshaman and [personal profile] alatefeline. It also fills the "vicious" square in my 4-19-16 card for the [community profile] genprompt_bingo fest. This poem has been sponsored by [personal profile] daisiesrockalot and [personal profile] technoshaman. It belongs to the Shiv thread of the Polychrome Heroics series.

WARNING: This poem contains graphic and controversial material. Highlight to read the warnings, some of which are spoilers. It's about Dr. Bloch's response to the incident in which Jimar got sick from contaminated drugs. Many people have debated the best way to discourage anyone from using or selling drugs. Those all having failed, Dr. Bloch decides to try describing the medical effects and how to treat them. It's a logical consequence; it's intended to teach, not to humiliate or to harm. But it is meant to make them uncomfortable, and some people may consider that a gray area in the spectrum of discipline and punishment or of medical ethics. Other challenging content includes involuntary education, of people who probably already have educational trauma, awkward attitudes about disability, discussions of loss, vulgar language, graphic description of messy medical details, mental combat against largely unarmed opponents, in which Dr. Bloch cleans everyone's clock, terror weapons, graphic descriptions of their results, nausea and vomiting, harassment, not-so-veiled threats, remorse, painfully honest discussions about addicts, and other mayhem. Folks with a history of substance issues, medical abuse, or school trauma may want to think twice about this one. If these are sensitive issues for you, please consider your tastes and headspace before deciding whether this is something you want to read. It does develop Dr. Bloch's activities and there's a later poem that builds on it, but it's not in Shiv's main line, so skipping it shouldn't leave a huge gap.


"To Suffer the Selfishness"


Dr. Niles Bloch surveyed his temporary domain
as people filtered into the classroom that he
had commandeered for today's lesson.

Most of the audience consisted of inmates,
a majority of them Peckerwoods who ran
the prison's supply of illicit substances.
Dr. Bloch easily picked out Bain Callaway,
a young dealer; Roscoe Worcester, one of
the lieutenants; and Jimmy Don Ahrensmeier,
the head of the gang in this facility.

Sprinkled among them were other men
interesting in having what they should not.
There was Dustin Hall, trader in light contraband;
Tremon Elliston, who specialized in the interface
between prescription and prohibited drugs; and
Alejándro Duran, who preferred mellowing agents.

Alejándro was hovering over the one trader
who wasn't supposed to attend this event.

"Mr. Rapallino, what are you doing here today?"
he asked, looking at Ragno over the rim
of his glasses as the boy sat down.

"It's my beat," said Ragno. "I'm not
going to skip out on the lecture just so
people can say I'm playing the crip card."
He waved the stump of his left arm.

Dr. Bloch debated whether to argue,
then decided that it was prosocial behavior
and ought to be allowed, within limits.

"Very well, you may stay for the first half
but not the second," he declared.
"And you, Mr. King?" He turned
to the big black man.

"I lost a man to a drug reaction once,
don't aim to lose another," he said. "I thought
you might be teachin' something good for that."

"So I am," Dr. Bloch said, although that
was a half-step aside from his main goal.
"There will be first aid information in
each of the presentations. Also, I'll
be offering CPR classes, so anyone
interested should check the schedule,
thanks to Nurse Scott for suggesting it."

Besides the inmates, Nurse Scott
and Nurse Espinoza were both present
to help with materials and any mishaps.
Dr. Bloch put the former on the projector
and the latter passing around handouts.

Then he turned his attention to the guards.
"Mr. Raybourne, please keep an eye on
our students," Dr. Bloch said, his gaze
flicking between Jimmy Don and Kincade.
The guard took a seat in the middle.

"Mr. Vanburen, you're closest to the door.
Please stay ready to open it in case anyone
has urgent need of the bathroom," he continued.
"Those of you here by summons may leave only if
you become unwell; everyone else may excuse
yourselves upon request. Anti-nausea medication
is in the first aid kit here." He tapped the desk.

"Are you dissing us?" Bain said.
"We're not pussies, we're not gonna
get sick over some stupid Just Say No flick!"

"Neither are you medical students,"
Dr. Bloch said with a razor-thin smile.
"Funnily enough, my first lab partner
in medical school said something similar.
He wound up vomiting on our cadaver."

"Pussy," Bain said again, but now
he was leaning back in his chair.

"I'm sure you've all heard what happened
to Jimar," said Dr. Bloch. "Investigation showed
that someone was smuggling drugs by hiding
them in bags of pesticide for the yard."

Ragno and Dustin turned around
to glare at the Peckerwoods.

Dr. Bloch clicked his tongue to regain
their attention. "As the typical methods of
education have failed to make an impression,
I've decided to try something different," he said.

"Oh yeah? Like what?" Bain said, sneering.

"I don't expect to change your mind or
profession, but I will ensure that your choice
to act as quasi-pharmacists is an informed one
and that you have resources tailored to your needs.
Today we're studying the clinical effects of your trade,
and how to compensate for the problems that they
cause," Dr. Bloch said, waving to his assistant.

Nurse Scott turned on the projector, showing
the first slide with a simple overview of
effects from pesticide exposure.

"We will begin by considering
the consequences of the mistake
you just made," Dr. Bloch said as
the next slide appeared. "I call
your attention to male sterility."
He highlighted the phrase.

Everyone blanched, some of them
more obviously than others.

From there, Dr. Bloch went into
a ruthlessly thorough discussion of
what pesticides could do to living tissue --
illustrated with numerous graphic photos --
the symptoms of exposure, first aid, and
the more elaborate treatments that were
sometimes required in an emergency room
to keep a hapless victim alive.

"But not all drugs are contaminated,"
someone finally protested. That was Tremon,
who preferred to peddle products liberated
from more legitimate medical suppliers.

"That's true," said Dr. Bloch. "Let's move on
to adverse drug reactions. These can occur with
any drug, from over-the-counter to prescription
to prohibited. Of course, the chance of difficulty
rises with cross-contamination, multiple drug use,
certain types of drugs, and other factors ..."

He went through the symptoms, complete with
graphic photos of bodily damage, first aid, and
medical care for several different classes of
drugs and the problems they could cause.

Dustin put a hand in the air.

"Yes, Mr. Hall?" said Dr. Bloch,
waving for him to speak.

"That's just allergies and stuff,
you said symptoms usually show up
within a few weeks if they're going to,"
said Dustin. "So if ... someone ...
was using regularly and it didn't,
then they should be safe, right?"

Dr. Bloch smiled as the teeth of
his trap ratcheted closed another notch.
"Ah, but there are so many other things
which can go wrong," he said smoothly.
"I'm sure the class is intimately familiar
with what is known as a bad trip ..."

He described the common causes,
not only in terms of poor quality drugs,
but also laying out in loving detail
those aspects of particular concern
in prison: user headspace and
surrounding environment.

Then he moved into techniques
for surviving a bad trip or helping
somebody else through one.

The men perked up at that,
beginning to shuffle and whisper.

"By all means, please share with the class
if you have any suggestions for safety or
the relief of suffering," said Dr. Bloch.
"I may be leading this presentation thanks
to my clinical familiarity with medical matters,
but I'm sure that some of you have exceeded
my personal experience on this topic."

That started a lively discussion
as the inmates exchanged ideas.

While the Peckerwoods offered
only occasional input, Dustin gave
some thoughtful advice on caregiving
for sick and belligerent criminals, while
Tremon had considered the interactions
between certain drugs that could cause
problems ranging from nightmares to anxiety.

"And don't try to make up for a bad trip by
using some other drug," Alejándro added.
"It doesn't work, just makes things worse."

"The wrong combination of drugs
can be fatal," Dr. Bloch confirmed.
"If first aid doesn't fix the problem,
then you should call for help."

He made careful note of who nodded,
who looked away, and who actively scoffed.

Ragno fidgeted in his seat, caught
Dr. Bloch's gaze, but then shied away.

"Would you like to contribute,
Mr. Rapallino?" asked Dr. Bloch.

"It's more complicated with soups,"
Ragno said quietly. "No matter how
careful you try to be, you just never know
what's going to happen. If ordinary guys
have a problem, it mostly stays their problem
unless they get ahold of a gun or something.
If an illusionist or a telepath has a bad trip,
suddenly it can be everyone's problem."

"Please don't give drugs to telepaths,"
Dr. Bloch said, adjusting his glasses.
"I really do not want to have to bring out
materials about the ill-advised prison
that Argentina tried to manage."

Everyone looked at the current slide,
which showed the corpse of a young man
who had fled from his hallucinations only
to plummet over the edge of a building.

They looked at Dr. Bloch, shivered
and shuffled their feet, then looked away.

After that, Dr. Bloch turned to overdoses.
He put extra energy into this part because
he had to treat those periodically, and
not just heavy users like Jimar.

So he went over the causes,
such as variable quality of drugs,
the major and minor warning signs,
the importance of calling a medic
as soon as possible, and how
to keep someone alive until then.

Nurse Espinoza, who was currently
taking a unit on this very topic, chimed in
with first aid advice, then concluded,
"Do the best you can with what you have.
Even if it's not perfect, don't let that stop you
from trying. You could still save a life."

"On that note, I'd like to add that
recent changes in prison management
have opened more options for harm reduction,"
said Dr. Bloch. "We will be adding naloxone
alongside the heavy-duty first aid kits, so guards
interested in this should see me for training and
a key. The possibility of inmate access is
under discussion, not active at this time."

The guards nodded, which Dr. Bloch had
expected. So did Kincade, Ragno, Dustin,
and -- interestingly -- Tremon.

The Peckerwoods just looked bored,
variously picking their teeth or tapping feet.

Time to wake them up.

"Mr. Rapallino, you're excused,"
Dr. Bloch said, waving at the door.

Ragno set his jaw. "I don't want
to skip out," he insisted.

"And I am not going to pull
a trigger that I know is aimed
directly at you," Dr. Bloch said.
He leaned on the desk. "Stop and
think about what I would logically
want to cover in the second half."

It took a moment for the penny to drop.

"Oh," Ragno said faintly, and then
scrambled toward the door.
Mr. Vanburen let him out.

"Since some people seem determined
to punch holes in our secure perimeter,
we will now discuss zetetic terror weapons
and their consequences," Dr. Bloch said.
"In addition to volunteers, those affected by
the chayne incident and currently in counseling
for it may leave if distressed. The rest of you
are still stuck here unless you become unwell."

Kincade and Dustin both nodded.
Bain just had a death grip on his desk.

"Zetetic terror weapons include a wide range
of chemical, mechanical, superpowered, and
other variations. We have already suffered
one assault at this facility; since it did not reach
its goal, they will try again," said Dr. Bloch. "This
may be attempted in parallel with your smuggling,
or they may try to contact you directly. Consider
that you are in the crosshairs before deciding
how to respond to that situation."

"Not with all the freaks out of
the room, we ain't," Bain muttered.

"Thank you for raising that point,
Mr. Callaway," said Dr. Bloch.
"Mr. Scott, the next slide please."

A picture of a dissolving stadium
appeared on the screen behind him.
"The Wúbiānwújì incident in Beijing began
in a stadium and then spread to a radius of
nearly one mile, dissolving buildings and
other infrastructure before Safemode
managed to hack the signal and shut off
the nanobots, " said Dr. Bloch.

The next slide showed part of the city
slumping into dust with fires everywhere.

"The official death toll was 10,857 but
since China falsely claimed it was due to
an 'industrial accident' instead of admitting
terrorism --" He made air quotes with his fingers.
"-- I suspect their numbers fall short of the truth."

Dr. Bloch moved on to a hand trying to claw
its way out of some thick, clear gel.

"North Korea was working on a new material
to protect against car crashes," said Dr. Bloch.
"It proved too dangerous for that purpose,
the program was closed -- and a year later
it reappeared in a Seoul high-rise development
as a terror weapon, where it killed 1,014 people."

Then came an image of a German army camp
from World War II, with all the soldiers dead.
The bodies simply lay where they had fallen,
wherever they had been working at the time.

"I'll mention the Sterbenfeld device only
in passing, since there's nothing to be done
about it -- when that goes off, every living thing
in its range drops dead," said Dr. Bloch.

Most of the audience flinched.

"But World War II was last century; China
and North Korea are both bottom-ten countries,"
Jimmy Don argued. "We may be a bunch of crooks,
but we're not fucking barbarians like that!"

The trap clicked another notch tighter,
but the audience didn't know it yet.

"And yet we had a vicious chayne attack
right here in this facility," Dr. Bloch said.
"Have you ever seen one up close
and personal? Because I have."

The next photo showed the remains of
a woman and child, their clothes still vivid,
but little else left besides bleached bones.

"During college, I joined a relief group in
Cameroon, not far from the Nigerian border.
A mad scientist crossed over with his minions.
753 people died in about ten minutes," Dr. Bloch said,
polishing his glasses on his shirttail. "I remember
that the mountains were very beautiful, though."

Some of the men had closed their eyes
to shut out photographs on the screen.

"You might like to think that you don't care
about other people, wouldn't mind hearing them
screaming and dying," Dr. Bloch went on. "Studies
show that the survivor guilt can be even worse for
people who are not casualties. The minions were
quite careful not to harm the medical students,
you see, but they wiped out the rest of the village."

"Bleeding hearts," someone muttered.

"You may belive that," said Dr. Bloch.
"You are criminals, after all, so perhaps
it wouldn't bother you. I myself would
prefer not to test that hypothesis."

From the looks on their faces,
a majority of the audience agreed
with him, despite the rude remarks.

"The human body contains several grams of iron,
plus trace amounts of assorted metallic elements,"
said Dr. Bloch. "Among the things that chayne does
is strip out the iron and other metals in order to make
more of itself. Upon contact, it burrows in search
of the bloodstream both for rapid transit and for
the rich source of iron in hemoglobin, thereby
contributing to the virulent spread of infection."

Bain was scratching himself as if
to get rid of some irritating memory.
"It's just meat, though, right?" he said.
"It only breeds in meat, it can't ... jump?"

"If you consider people to be a type of meat,
Mr. Callaway, then that is correct," said Dr. Bloch.
"Chayne only multiplies in living flesh; it can spread
from body to body but not through air or over ground."

"That's good," Bain said. "That's good."

"As amputation is the only effective treatment
after exposure, we likely have Mr. Harrison
to thank for our lives," said Dr. Bloch.

Dustin raised his hand, received permission,
and said, "Uh, Dr. G told us not to pester
Shiv about that because he doesn't come
to our therapy sessions and doesn't like
to talk about what happened that day."

"Quite so," Dr. Bloch said. "Thank you,
Mr. Hall, that was a courteous reminder
and of course we will follow it."

Dr. Bloch kept a sharp eye on his audience,
wanting to push them just far enough to make
a lasting impression, but not to traumatize anyone.

At least it was easier to monitor the skin tone of
the lily-white Peckerwoods, many of whom were
starting to turn green as they grew queasy.
The people with tan or brown skin didn't
show as much, although Mr. Raybourne
was beginning to look a bit grayish.

Mr. Vanburen had a grip on the doorknob
so tight that his knuckles turned white, but he
raised his hand and said, "Could you go over
the initial symptoms in more detail, please?"

Impressive.

"Yes, of course," said Dr. Bloch.
"At first, chayne is not visible to
the naked eye, but within seconds
it forms a grayish patch on the skin."

Nurse Scott turned to a slide
with a closeup photo of the damage.

Dustin slipped out of the room without fanfare.

Since he was one of the attendees of
the group therapy for the incident,
Dr. Bloch let him depart.

"The other symptoms include
agonizing pain and metallic streaks
appearing on the skin, soon followed by
rapid dissolution of flesh," said Dr. Bloch.
"When removing an affected limb, it is
advisable to cut at least six inches above
the visible symptoms, and more is better, so --"

Roscoe lost his battle for oral continence,
clapped a hand over his mouth, and bolted for
the door, where Mr. Vanburen let him out.

Bain didn't even make it that far and
vomited on the floor beside his desk.
Blushing scarlet, he fled from the room.

A few of the other Peckerwoods jeered
at them, but most were engrossed in
their own struggle. Jimmy Don was
the worst, calling them both weaklings.

"Mr. Ahrensmeier, shut your mouth,"
said Dr. Bloch as he turned off the projector.
"Nurse Espinoza, please bring a mop."

When the mop arrived, however,
Tremon took over cleaning the floor.

Dr. Bloch opened the first aid kit.
"Nurse Scott, please take the right side
of the room; and Nurse Espinoza, you
take the left. I will supervise everything
from here. Any audience member in need
of anti-nausea medication, raise a hand."

Hands went up all around the room,
and the two nurses responded.

"While you're waiting, if you feel queasy,
lower your head and take deep breaths,"
Dr. Bloch advised. "If you're anxious,
find an object to focus on in the room."
He turned the projector back on. "I'm
setting the display to a selection of
the most popular Soothing Images,
at one minute apiece. Speak up
if that's too fast of a blink rate."

Alejándro was visibly shaking, but
Nurse Espinoza got to him before
anything unfortunate could happen.

Nurse Scott turned to Mr. Vanburen, who'd
been at the heart of the chayne incident and
now seemed to be running out of cope.

"Mr. Vanburen, remember that you
can't take anything that might make
you drowsy while on duty," said Dr. Bloch.
"Do you need to clock out? I can call
a replacement if necessary."

The guard hesitated over the package
of Chuckie's Tummy Tabs that Nurse Scott
was offering him. "Got anything else?"

"We have Chuckie's herbal candy in
ginger, cinnamon, or honey-chamomile;
and Testamints in spearmint or
peppermint," said Dr. Bloch.

"Ginger," said Mr. Vanburen, and
Nurse Scott handed him a packet
with several hard candies in it.

Dr. Bloch kept up his soothing patter
until the audience began to calm,
reciting from memory some of
the exercises that he liked
to use for relaxation.

Mr. Raybourne left the room
and returned with both Bain and
Roscoe in tow, freshly washed
and dressed in clean shirts.

They slipped back into their seats
without a word, keeping their eyes down.

Dr. Bloch surveyed the much-cowed crowd
of criminals, and decided that this had
gone far enough for today.

"All right, gentlemen, this concludes
our main presentation on drugs and
zetetics," he said. "While your choice
of profession and activities is up to you,
I'd like to wrap up with an invitation for
anyone who needs help, or knows
someone else who might."

"Yeah, right," Tremon said in
a bitter tone. "Last time I tried that
with a guy who had a pretty bad habit,
you know what he got? A month in
the private wing, which did not help."

"Understood," Dr. Bloch said, which
made Tremon twitch in surprise.
"I did not approve of the limitations
in support under previous management.
In light of recent changes, I encourage
everyone to consider trying again."

"And what the hell good would
that do?" Tremon asked.

"We're launching some new programs for
substance abuse, including secular and
psychological options," said Dr. Bloch.
"Anyone struggling with both addiction
and mental issues can get integrated aid."

"What if somebody's got a problem
that talking won't fix?" Tremon said,
leaning forward in his seat.

"Since it was that precise situation
which led to the highly regrettable event
that inspired today's presentation, I've put
serious effort into pursuing new methods,"
said Dr. Bloch. "It will take a little while
to set up, but we'll soon have a variety
of new medications available that were
formerly omitted as too controversial."

That got people's attention, and
more of the inmates sat up to listen.

"If you or others you know are struggling
with a habit, or you've decided that you want
to rethink the risky business of trading drugs
in a prison targeted by terrorists, then please
consider talking with me or a counselor whom
you trust," said Dr. Bloch. "We'd really like
to help keep folks alive and comfortable."

Craig raised his hand.

"Yes, Mr. Raybourne?" said Dr. Bloch.

"I'm good with teamwork, and I've been
studying peer counseling with Simon,"
said Craig. "If you're starting new groups
for self-help, I'd like an experienced leader,
but I'd be willing to pitch in there. We could
maybe use more inmate volunteers on
this topic, if anyone else is interested."

"Might could be," Tremon said, which
reminded Dr. Bloch that despite a few scares,
none of Tremon's customers had died.

Maybe the young man already had
some skills they could build on.

"Anything else?" Dr. Bloch asked.
Nothing came up. "All right, then,
class dismissed. Thank you all
for coming today, and I hope you
will give the material due thought."

"I don't like how you done my boys,"
Jimmy Don said as he stood up.

"A safety lecture is a logical consequence
for unsafe behavior," Dr. Bloch said. "If they
don't like that, perhaps they should consider
making different choices in the future."

"Welp," Jimmy Don said, pushing himself
to his feet, "that's two hours of my life that
I ain't gettin' back." He glared at Dr. Bloch.
"Man oughta be careful takin' out bits of
people's lives like that. Somebody
might decide to take it back."

Then he stalked away.

"Looks like you went and made yourself
a real enemy there, doc," said Kincade.
"Might could be you'd wanna take care."

"I appreciate your concern, Mr. King,"
said Dr. Bloch. "However, as I am
the senior physician here, my position
is fairly secure. Should Mr. Ahrensmeier
find himself ill or injured, I am among
the most likely sources of assistance.
This limits how much he can afford
to offend me, let alone harm me ...
though I will keep an eye on him.
He makes many poor decisions."

"Ain't that a fact," Kincade said with
a dry chuckle. He headed for the door
held by a much-revived Mr. Vanburen.

Meanwhile Nurse Scott had tidied up
the projector and class materials,
while Nurse Espinoza had done
the same for the room's first aid kit.

When Dr. Bloch left the room, however,
he found Dustin waiting for him. "Is there
something I can do for you?" Dr. Bloch asked.

"Mostly listen," Dustin said. He looked at
his feet a lot, but kept sneaking glances
up at Dr. Bloch. "I needed to say that ...
I'm sorry, if what I've been doing has
made extra work for you."

"Mmm," said Dr. Bloch. "Are you just
saying that to relieve a guilty conscience,
or are you willing to do some real restitution?"

"I've been thinking that I ... might need
to make some changes, but I don't
know what to do," Dustin said.

"Body or mind?" Dr. Bloch asked gently.

"Mind," said Dustin. "What you said
was really ... I'm not sure I want to be
trading all the same things I used to."

"Well, that's a little out of my league,
although I'm glad you're considering it,"
said Dr. Bloch. "Do you have a counselor
that you like to talk with, or at least tolerate?"

"Not really," Dustin said. "I mean, there's
Dr. G, he's terrific in group therapy, but
he has his hands full with that and Shiv.
I kind of like Father Elliott, but this ...
isn't really his turf either."

"Try Ambrose," said Dr. Bloch. "He
makes an excellent sounding board,
and he will never pressure you."

"I'll think about that," Dustin said.

"Okay, then," Dr. Bloch said, and
stuck out his hand. "I forgive you
for whatever extra time and effort
your trading may have cost me."

Dustin shivered a little and
closed his eyes. "Thanks, I think."

"Are you all right?" asked Dr. Bloch,
setting a careful hand on Dustin's shoulder.
The muscle tone felt normal, at least, so he
probably wasn't too wound up. "I know that
I pushed pretty hard in class, but I wanted
to make an impression about certain risks
and how to manage them better."

"It's not like we didn't have it coming,"
Dustin said with a shrug, but he didn't
pull away from the doctor's touch.
"It's just ... oh, I don't know."

"Hard," Dr. Bloch suggested. "It's hard,
isn't it? When you try to feel sympathy for
people caught up in drug use, even yourself.
It's hard to look at users and see them not as
trouble but as sick people in need of help."

"Yes," Dustin whispered, leaning toward him.

"It's hard to suffer the selfishness of addicts,
who will cheat you if they can and betray you
if they must to get a fix, especially if you feel
that your own selfishness contributed to it,"
Dr. Bloch said, giving him a gentle squeeze.
"I do it all the time, even though they curse
at me and snitch my supplies if they can.
It never gets any less difficult, I'm afraid."

"Then why do it?" Dustin said. "We all
wonder why you're so patient with us."

"Because," Dr. Bloch said, catching
the young man's eye, "moments like this
make it worth every effort that I make."

* * *

Notes:

Dr. Niles Bloch -- He has fair skin, brown eyes, and short dark hair starting to turn silver. He is tall and sturdy, with a notable presence. His hands possess fine manual dexterity, though, allowing him to do very delicate tasks. His roommate during premed, Donovan O'Dearg, was studying to be an herbalist; they've kept in touch, and Dr. Bloch has developed excellent connections in alternative medicine. Mostly he uses things like prescription herbal sodas or suckers as bribes to entice wary patients. It works. It also makes him popular as well as effective.
Dr. Bloch works at the Nebraska State Penitentiary in Lincoln. He enjoys exploring the boundaries of medicine, looking for new information or creative ways to use current resources. One of his recent projects involves trying to figure out who is likely to develop Super-Immunity from using the Aegis vaccine base. He's comfortable working with prison inmates, even supervillains, and balances gentleness with firmness. However, his observational acuity makes it difficult for him to get close to people, because he knows so much about them, and everyone has dark parts.
Qualities: Master (+6) Doctor, Master (+6) Observant, Expert (+4) Dexterity, Expert (+4) Contacts in Alternative Medicine, Expert (+4) Influencing People, Good (+2) Fearless, Good (+2) Innovative Medicine, Good (+2) Gentle, Good (+2) Listener, Good (+2) Soup Friends, Good (+2) Stern, Good (+2) Video Gamer
Poor (-2) Things He Can't Unsee

Bain Callaway -- He has hair skin, brown eyes, and wavy dark blond hair. His skin is so oily that it breaks out in red blotches, and his hair looks greasy an hour after it's been washed. His unkempt appearance makes some people want to avoid him. He is currently serving time in the Nebraska State penitentiary in Lincoln, where he belongs to the Peckerwood gang. He has a woodpecker tattoo on his left leg. He is disrespectful and rude to most people.
Qualities: Good (+2) Drug Dealer, Good (+2) Fast, Good (+2) Ingenuity, Good (+2) Networking
Poor (-2) Oily Skin

Roscoe Worcester -- He has fair skin, hazel eyes, and brown hair. He shaves his head but wears a short mustache and beard. His cover job in the outside world was fixing cars, but he never took it very seriously and thus was not good at it. Roscoe is a lieutenant of the Peckerwoods at the Nebraska State Penitentiary in Lincoln. He thinks a great deal of America and enjoys studying its history. He is working his way through all the classes on that and related topics that the prison offers. His harsh temper often gets him in trouble, though.
Qualities: Good (+2) American History, Good (+2) Smuggler, Good (+2) Tough
Poor (-2) Belligerent

Jimmy Don Ahrensmeier
-- He has ruddy skin, dark blue eyes, and curly chestnut hair. He leads the Peckerwoods at the Nebraska State Penitentiary in Lincoln. His cover job in the outside world was repairing home heating/cooling systems, although he was not very good at it because his real attention was elsewhere. As he largely serviced poor areas, his customers had little recourse, until his ineptitude burned down an apartment building and got him thrown in jail.
Qualites: Expert (+4) Gang Leader, Good (+2) Enduring Hardships, Good (+2) White Supremacist
Poor (-2) Flabby

Tremon Elliston -- He has light brown skin, brown eyes, and nappy black hair. Growing up poor and black has left him with low self-worth, a problem worsened by his experiences with the legal system. People think badly of him, and he tends to agree with them. Tremon is a drug dealer who prefers to peddle medical-grade materials on the street, and he pays attention to the interaction between different types of drugs. He is currently serving time in the Nebraska State penitentiary in Lincoln.
Qualities: Good (+2) Prescription/Prohibited Drug Interface, Good (+2) Thoughtful, Good (+2) Strength
Poor (-2) Internalized Oppression

Dustin Hall -- He has tawny-fair skin, brown eyes, and curly black hair to his shoulders. His heritage includes Winnebago Omaha, Mexican, Nepalese, and American. He's been called everything from "spic" to "prairie nigger" -- also "spoon-licker" because he likes people with superpowers -- and is heartily sick of all of it. He is 21 years old.
Dustin used to handle supplies for Boss Batir in Lincoln, Nebraska until he was captured in a police raid on a weapons cache. He is currently in the Nebraska state penitentiary in Lincoln. There he networks with Ragno and some other inmates run the shadow economy of the prison. He's happy to deal in light contraband, doesn't really want to deal in weapons anymore, but feels conflicted about whether or not to return to his old boss. Who has done bupkis to help him in prison.
As a quartermaster, Dustin can find just about anything, anywhere, and enjoys the challenge of getting the goods. He is a people person, but until recently he hasn't been around very good people. He's very good friends with Ragno, and completely freaked by the chayne incident. Shiv made Dustin uneasy before the incident, and downright frightened after it.
Qualities: Expert (+4) Quartermaster Skills, Good (+2) Loyal, Good (+2) Supervillain Henchman, Good (+2) Strength
Poor (-2) Internalized Oppression

Alejándro Duran
-- He has fair skin that tans dark, green eyes, and dark brown hair cut short with a short beard and mustache. His parents are Puerto Rican but they moved to Nebraska in 1975. His heritage includes Spanish, Greek, and a little American. Alejándro has a Ñeta gang tattoo and shares their loathing of abusers. He has a serious tendency to hold grudges, too. He is currently serving time in the Nebraska State penitentiary in Lincoln, where he allies with other Hispanic inmates. He is one of Ragno's contacts for trading contraband.
Qualities: Good (+2) Loyal, Good (+2) Observant, Good (+2) Smuggler, Good (+2) Subtle, Good (+2) Tough
Poor (-2) Unforgiving

In T-America, the Ñeta gang specializes in "mellow" drugs, primarily hallucinogens and downers. Ñeta means "worm" in Spanish but also is an acronym for Never Ever Tolerate Abuse -- a reference to their violent vendetta against pedophiles, sex offenders, and other abusers.

Ragno (Corrado Rapallino) -- He has light olive skin, black eyes, and short wavy black hair. He is missing his left arm from just below the elbow, after a superweapon incident; and he was left-handed, which makes the adjustment more difficult. He is Italian-American, and his ancestors came from Genoa. Corrado excels at dealing with people, primarily in the underworld but also in more honest areas. He's not picky about the divide between soup and nary either. While his physical strengths protect him from the worst risks of smoking, Corrado is keenly dependent on tobacco for pyschological reasons. He gets incredibly antsy and cranky without it. He also likes stringy foods and enjoys picking them apart with his fingers: licorice laces, spaghetti squash, any jerky that's soft enough to shred, string cheese, etc. Other favorites include Italian food, carbs, and cured meats such as pepperoni.
Amusingly, people often think his cape name -- which means "spider" -- implies that he has Spider Powers. He doesn't. He has supernal constitution, which enhances his resistance to disease or toxins, as well as enhancing his stamina. The name refers to his skill at building networks. Ragno views other people kind of like human tinkertoys: not for sake of manipulation, but to see how big a structure he can make with them. Although he does not belong to the Marionettes, he has worked with them and for them as muscle or button man as needed. Most recently, Ragno was a witness to an incident that the police would very much like to hear about. They offered him an excellent deal, and he turned it down, so the Marionettes are pleased enough to be working on getting him out of jail. Ragno is currently serving time in the Nebraska State Penitentiary in Lincoln. He is doing quite well as a smuggler of cigarettes and other contraband indulgences.
Origin: Ragno got his Super-Immunity from the Aegis vaccine base, and his Super-Constitution developed later. His body seems to be slowly optimizing itself.
Uniform: Currently provided by the Nebraska State Penitentiary, a zebra uniform with reflective white stripes. Outside, he wore street clothes.
Qualities: Master (+6) Loyalty, Expert (+4) Making Connections, Expert (+4) Tough, Good (+2) Alternative Economics, Good (+2) Iron Will, Good (+2) Leatherworker, Good (+2) Mobster, Good (+2) Wine Connoisseur
Poor (-2) Smoker
Powers: Average (0) Super-Constitution, Average (0) Super-Immunity
Motivation: To put the pieces together.

Kincade King -- He has brown skin and black eyes. He has black body hair, but his head is completely bald. He has prison tattoos over much of his front, his left arm, and a little on the right. Across his collarbones is a large banner saying "Lord Have Mercy" and his belly says "Warrior." Originally an enforcer, Kincade worked his way up to boss. His gang outside deals primarily in protection services and the occasional side of revenge-for-hire. He is currently serving time in the Nebraska State penitentiary in Lincoln, where he leads most of the black inmates. Kincade grew up in the inner city and has little education. He has quite a sweet tooth, and loves chocolate. He also appreciates cars, with a good grasp of models and mechanics.
Qualities: Master (+6) Gangster, Master (+6) Tough, Expert (+4) Leadership, Expert (+4) Strength, Good (+2) Adaptable, Good (+2) Car Fan, Good (+2) Favor Trading, Good (+2) Strategic Thinking
Poor (-2) Uneducated

Dasante Scott -- He has milk chocolate skin, brown eyes, and nappy black hair buzzed almost down to the skin. His heritage includes African, American, and Scottish. As a teenager, he worked odd jobs. Dasante earned a scholarship to become a Nurse Practitioner, and currently works at the Nebraska State Penitentiary in Lincoln. His quick thinking and knack for connecting people with opportunities have made him adept at filling in whatever needs to be done.
Qualities: Good (+2) Cheerful, Good (+2) Connecting People, Good (+2) Jack of All Trades, Good (+2) Prison Nurse, Good (+2) Strength
Poor (-2) Light Sleeper

Hanh Espinoza -- He has tinted skin, black eyes, and short curly hair of dark brown. His mother is Vietnamese and his father is Mexican, so Hanh is mixed-race and first-generation American. He speaks English, Spanish, and Vietnamese. He loves ethnic fusion, especially in cooking.
Currently Hanh works at the Nebraska State Penitentiary in Lincoln, gaining experience and earning money to put himself through school. He is a Licensed Practical Nurse with the rather thoughtful plan of taking a cheap basic degree and then beefing it up by earning certification in multiple specialties. He recently completed a three-month paramedic course and has just signed up for one on addiction care. Between work and school, he has little time for socializing. He gets most of his contact with coworkers and classmates, and has no romantic aspirations at this time.
Qualities: Expert (+4) Compassion, Good (+2) Ethnic Fusion, Good (+2) Prison Nurse, Good (+2) Stamina
Poor (-2) Work-Life Balance

Craig Raybourne -- He has brown skin, brown eyes, and black body hair. He is bald. He has tribal tattoos sleeving both arms from wrist to shoulder. The one on the right combines Maori designs and Celtic knotwork, which he got on a trip to New Zealand just after graduating from college. He serves as a security guard at the Nebraska State Penitentiary in Lincoln. While he excels at bringing people together, he is also easily swayed by his peers.
Qualities: Expert (+4) Strength, Good (+2) Emotional Intelligence, Good (+2) Influencing People, Good (+2) Prison Guard, Good (+2) Teamwork
Poor (-2) Prone to Groupthink

* * *

“It is difficult to feel sympathy for these people. It is difficult to regard some bawdy drunk and see them as sick and powerless. It is difficult to suffer the selfishness of a drug addict who will lie to you and steal from you and forgive them and offer them help. Can there be any other disease that renders its victims so unappealing? Would Great Ormond Street be so attractive a cause if its beds were riddled with obnoxious little criminals that had “brought it on themselves?”
Russell Brand

This classroom is used for presentations and lectures with medium-sized groups.

(Some of these links are gross.)
Pesticides can contaminate drugs such as marijuana. The health impacts are ugly. See slides on harmful effects and long-term effects. There are pictures of pesticide injuries. Read about first aid for pesticide exposure.

(Some of these links are gross.)
Adverse drug reactions can occur due to cross-contamination or other reasons. Explore first aid and treatment for adverse drug reactions.

(Everything having to do with this topic is ghastly.)
Krokodil is a hideous drug that began in Europe but has reached America. It destroys the body not just with toxicity but with decay. Users feel they have no choice, an example of how cutting off supply of less-dangerous drugs drives people to use more-dangerous ones. Specifically, their lives are so unbearable that having their limbs rot off somehow hurts less than being sober.

Bad trips are an inherent risk of drug culture. Many drugs are entheogens, and those have protections to discourage the ignorant from playing with them. Bad trips can also happen with prescription drugs, especially psychotropics. Understand how to cope with a bad trip or help someone else through it.

Eye language can provide clues through the direction of the gaze and other parameters. Averting the gaze can indicate discomfort or disdain. Learn about the body language of discomfort and defense.

Drugging telepaths is bad. Drugs are always risky for soups, even when medically necessary, because the greater variety of body parameters causes scattering of effects. But it's worse with superpowers that can affect other people, such as telepathy, empathy, or illusion. Among the more alarming adverse reactions are power incontinence, projection of awful memories, and broadcasting unpleasant emotions.

(This link is gross.)
Death from falling can occur at surprisingly low heights, beginning around three feet -- which is less than the distance between your head and the ground while standing up. Drugs (illegal or legal) are implicated in many falls.

(These are disturbing.)
An overdose means taking more of a drug (or combination of drugs) than the body can handle. This can kill quickly. Different drugs require different treatment for overdoses. Know the first aid for overdoses. Here is an addict's eye view of overdose first aid. Naloxone or Narcan is an antidote for opiates. While widely available in some areas, it is unavailable in many places where people are more interested in hurting addicts than keeping them alive.

The principles of harm reduction deal with minimizing the subsidiary problems that follow a primary problem. While most often used in regard to drug abuse, they apply to many other challenges, including supervillains. Harm reduction is a goal accessible to more people than quitting altogether. This guide explains some methods for harm reduction, and here's another one for therapists. With supervillains, befriending the enemy seems to be the leading technique for dissuading them from raising hell.

(These links are alarming.)
Nanotechnology deploys tiny machines to do all kinds of work. Gray goo is one of the many risks that nanotech could turn very destructive. Chayne is a more limited version of gray goo which only affects living tissue. The ethics of nanotechnology are supposed to reduce such risks.

(So are these.)
Locals often describe Beijing using an expression for "boundless" -- wúbiānwújì or 无边无际. See statistics for the population. Here is an image of gray goo in Beijing and from above.

See a hand encased in nanotech.

Seoul is one of the largest cities in South Korea. It is densely crowded.

(More creepy links ahead.)
Sterbenfeld victims simply collapsed where they stood, like this German Soldier.

Chayne reduces its victims to skeletons.

A political map of Africa shows Cameroon.

The human body contains several grams of iron, plus trace amounts of assorted metallic elements. Among the things that chayne does is strip out the iron and other metals in order to make more of itself. It burrows in search of the bloodstream both for rapid transit and for the rich source of iron in hemoglobin, thus contributing to the rapid spread of infection. Here's an image of the first visible stage of infection.

Disturbing content can cause upset. Know how to handle nausea for yourself or someone else, and how to get through an anxiety attack or help someone through it. Grounding techniques can help with anxiety and flashbacks. Notice that Dr. Bloch calls a halt as soon as anyone gets sick -- a key distinction between discipline and punishment (or abuse) is the limit of how much distress is considered acceptable.

T-American emergency workers often carry packets of peppermints or ginger candy to help with nausea or low blood sugar. Many superheroes do the same, and emergency candy appears in many first aid kits too. Testamints have Bible verses on the wrapper, very popular with Christian clergy and other religious folks.  Chuckie's is a brand of digestive aids including emergency candy (hard candy like ginger or honey-chamomile) and Chuckie's Tummy Tabs (a transdermal stick-on gel tab with antinausea medication).

The presentation of Soothing Images is not meant to be a slide show, it's meant to be like posters that change periodically. If people are queasy, looking at fast-moving things can make it worse, but it helps to have a distraction. Timing of an actual slideshow depends on many things: intricacy of photos, amount of text, how long the presenter wishes to speak about each item, audience attention span, etc. Slides that are complex (i.e. diagrams or detailed scenes) can go up to 3 minutes. Experienced advice is to vary the length per slide so simple ones appear for a few seconds while complex ones stay up longer.

It also depends on how closely you want people to study that picture. These are big, eye-catching pictures like computer wallpaper where you can move your gaze around the image and discover different things. The prison has a bunch of these things done up as movies, meditation videos, slideshows where you can choose your own pace, etc. Some are mixed, others thematic. This not only helps the inmates to stay relaxed, but also teaches them a useful coping skill: looking at beautiful things, especially nature as in landscapes or waterscapes, helps people relax.

To calm yourself down, you may look at relaxing images or visualize a safe space. Visual meditation and other techniques can help people unwind.

Addiction recovery benefits from treatment. The original 12 Steps program has its pros and cons, and has spawned rational and secular variations. There are religious and other programs of many kinds.

Controversial care for addiction includes such things as safe houses and medication. Psychedelics have been used to treat PTSD. Medical marijuana drastically reduces the deaths from opiate overdoses. Alas, many people in power would prefer citizens to suffer. Dual diagnosis allows people to get integrated treatment for addiction and mental issues. Without this, many people have found it impossible to get effective help. There are also controversial ideas about the nature of addiction and treatment itself. Rethinking treatment could improve the diversity and quality of options available.

Positive discipline uses many techniques to teach better behavior. Among these are natural consequences and logical consequences. Understand the difference between punishment and logical consequences.

(no subject)

Date: 2016-11-26 05:26 pm (UTC)
technoshaman: Tux (Default)
From: [personal profile] technoshaman
Any outfit that proudly calls themselves Peckerwoods are quite the piece of work...

At least if Dr. Bloch is gonna have to make an enemy of Jimmy Don, he seems to have Kincade on his side, and Kincade is a better boss in a whole lotta ways... and G-d help the Peckerwoods if the Latinos throw in with Kincade, which they seemed to be doing (or at least going along with) when Jimar went down...

Come to think of it, the Peckerwoods are *already* on the low end of the totem pole as of current time, qv getting shuffled to the back in the perp-walk...

This bothers me not one iota.

And yet, I seem to be getting in the habit of this: How do you *deal* with people like that? When I doubt they'll even answer the question "What's wrong in your life?"? I don't think simply warehousing them is something Terramange as a society is gonna deal with very well.

Re: Thoughts

Date: 2016-11-30 05:30 am (UTC)
thnidu: cat staring out at you, photoshopped into wild colors (Pow Wow cat)
From: [personal profile] thnidu

• "Jimar doesn't just have
a monkey on his back, he has
the whole damn Bandar-log."
> Oh, did that ever take me back!


• Alejándro
-> Alejandro

> Penultimate stress is the default in Spanish orthography, unless the word has an accented vowel or ends in a consonant other than n or s.


• "You may belive that,"
-> believe


That paragraph about discovering that Shiv was an abuse survivor… I've seen this before in your notes and comments, but it never fails to give me a bit of a frisson: the intimation that the characters are real and the stories are true, and that your writing is more biography and journalism than fiction.




(no subject)

Date: 2016-11-28 02:09 am (UTC)
From: [personal profile] chanter_greenie
If I were in that prison, I'd much, much sooner throw in with Kincade (if he'd have me) than Jimmy Don Racist-tastic Jerkface over there, and I'm white. Hence the 'if he'd have me' stipulation. Then again, my bias is already known. Decent boss with a wild side >>> a chest-thumping jackass.

... This whole poem is one example of why you do not frak with medics. They are an authority not unto themselves, but in and of themselves, and benevolent force applied... is still force applied.

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