ysabetwordsmith: Damask smiling over their shoulder (polychrome)
[personal profile] ysabetwordsmith
This poem came out of the January 5, 2016 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired by prompts from [personal profile] chanter_greenie and [livejournal.com profile] rix_scaedu. It also fills the "self-destruct" square in my 1-1-16 card for the Spies, Secret Agents, and Noir Bingo fest. This poem has been sponsored by Anthony & Shirley Barrette. It belongs to the series Polychrome Heroics.

Warning: This poem contains some intense stuff. Highlight to read the warnings, some of which are spoilers. It features a weapons cache, Haboob's minions the Kitab, Dvorak's boob window in action, canon-typical violence, embarrassing nemesis dynamics, violent use of superpowers, male nudity, and other angst. If these are touchy topics for you, please consider your tastes and headspace before reading onward.


"On the Axle of Mindless Aggression"


The offer had bounced around through
several middlemen before reaching
Mr. Grenade, and he didn't usually
take gigs from the white capes, but
the money was good and he knew
that getting superheroes in here
would be practically impossible.

Haboob had a weapons cache
that nobody wanted him to have,
so Mr. Grenade was willing
to bend his rules a bit.

One of those was that he preferred
to work alone, for the obvious reason
that Self-Detonation was not a team talent.
In this case, however, he needed a hacker
and his backers had promised to provide one.

Mr. Grenade may have started out in the military,
but he was a mercenary now, which meant that
he only took orders that he wanted to take,
and he could bend his own rules if
the situation warranted it.

That was better than letting Haboob
grind the entire Middle East to gravel
on the axle of mindless aggression.

When his backup appeared, though,
it was all that Mr. Grenade could do
not to roll his eyes at her.

Dvorak had dark blue eyes and
a short ruff of wild white hair. She
wore a hip-length cape of white capery,
a utility belt, and a catsuit of platinum dexflan
with a large round boob window outlined in
the glowing blue ring of the "Power" symbol.

Mr. Grenade wore a pair of cheap black gym shorts
and a pair of high-tops that already had sand in them.

"Let's get this show on the road," he said.

"Anything you say," she said lazily,
popping her bubblegum at him.

Mr. Grenade hoped that she
wouldn't get them both killed.

Her hands were quick and capable
on the keyboard, though, and she
hacked through Haboob's security
with the speed of a machete
cracking into coconuts.

It was therefore quite dark inside
when they slipped into the base,
only a few emergency lights
glinting in the distance.

Dvorak's cleavage was outlined
with a ring of luminous blue
that made a perfect target.

"Why do you wear that thing?"
asked Mr. Grenade.

Two guards leaped out at them
from around a corner -- then froze
for just a split second, staring
at the bare circle of chest.

Dvorak dropped both of them
with some weird ninja shit.

"That's why," she said with
a grin. "I love being a girl."

"Uh huh," said Mr. Grenade.
He secured the two enemies
and then headed down the hall.
"Find some discreet way to make sure
that the doors can't lock behind us
and trap us down here."

Dvorak hummed as she examined
the hardware. Then she painted over
the contact points with clear nail polish,
waited for it to dry, and shut the door.

"That will block the signal and
keep it from latching electronically,"
she said. "If you want me to disable
the manual deadbolts, though, I'll
have to break out the toolkit
and that takes longer."

Mr. Grenade shook his head.
"I'm primarily concerned about
electronics," he said.

If necessary, he could simply
twist off the locks himself, but
that would make it obvious
something was wrong.

There were more guards after that,
but they were neither bright nor skilled,
and most of them merely ordinary.

They were, however, still terrorists
and so Mr. Grenade took pleasure
in the dull crack of bone as he
bounced them off the walls and
left them groaning or unconscious
on the floor behind him.

He kept a sharp eye out for bombs,
vest or suitcase or otherwise. The Kitab
were infamous for using those, never mind
that they couldn't regenerate after
an act of self-destruction.

"Looks like our target is this way,"
Dvorak said, pointing to a door as she
fiddled with the vidwatch strapped to
her victim's wrist, her thighs still
clamped around his throat.

"You might want to let him go now,"
Mr. Grenade said. "He's out cold,
and his lips are turning blue."

"Hm," she said, and stood up,
leaving the limp man on the floor.

A faint patter of footsteps,
different from the heavy tread
of boots, snagged his attention.

"Someone's following us,"
said Mr. Grenade, "and
it's not one of them."

"Ohhh, crap," said Dvorak.
"She's not supposed to be here."

"Who's not?" he snapped.
This was a complication.
He didn't like complications.

"My nemesis, Qwerty," she said.

"You didn't mention that this job
was legit for once?" he asked.

"Of course I did!" Dvorak said.
"She just didn't believe me.
I lie to her a lot."

Mr. Grenade rubbed a hand
over his craggy faced. "Kid,
you need to learn how to keep
your personal shit out of the job."

"I'm trying," Dvorak grumbled.
"She just won't leave me alone."

"Then why didn't she interfere
sooner?" he wondered.

"She's always a day late and
a dollar short," said Dvorak.

"You make her sound like your kid sister."

"Oh god no, we met in college!"
Dvorak said, waving her hands.

Just then Qwerty skidded around
the corner, her long brown hair flying,
dark-rimmed glasses sitting askew on her nose.

She wore hyperlight trail shoes, a utility belt,
and an ankle-length cape of gray capery over
a jumpsuit of navy blue dexflan, the knees and
elbows thickened with leathery krevel armor.
It wasn't pretty, but it was practical.

Mr. Grenade heartily approved of the practicality,
especially contrasted with Dvorak's ridiculous outfit.
It was, however, a professional embarrassment to
side with a superhera over his assigned partner,
so he squelched the impression as best he could.

"Oh -- my god -- you're huge,"
Qwerty blurted, staring at his muscles.

Mr. Grenade was really only average
for someone with Super-Strength.
Didn't she have any experience at all?
Or failing that, at least a filter so that
every thought in her head didn't
fall right out of her mouth?

"No, she doesn't, she's always
that awkward," Dvorak said,
just as if he'd spoken aloud.
"No, I'm not reading your mind,
everyone wonders pretty much
the same things about her and
I've known her over two years."

"It wasn't funny to ditch me in Cairo
like that," Qwerty complained.
"You almost got me arrested!"

"That was the plan. I guess you're
starting to smarten up a bit; I'll have to try
harder next time," Dvorak said. "It was
supposed to keep you out of trouble."

"So. Not. Happening."
Qwerty bit off each word
like strips of jerky.

"Listen you two, this is not
the place for your girltalk,"
said Mr. Grenade, slashing
a hand through the air.

"I agree. Surrender and come
back to SPOON with me," said Qwerty.
"We can catch up in the interrogation room."

"Is she serious?" said Mr. Grenade,
turning to look at Dvorak.

"She likes to think so,"
said Dvorak. "Just tie her up
or something and let's get going."

It was at that moment the platoon
of terrorists tramped around the corner.

"Aaaand our genius plan
just came together at the worst
possible time," Dvorak murmured.

"Get ahead of me," Mr. Grenade said,
shoving the girls toward the ammo room.
"I'll hold them off. They won't fire into --"

Bullets wanged past them.

"Nutjobs, remember?" Dvorak said
as they hustled into the room.

They could hear more enemies
approaching from several directions.

"Draw them in," said Mr. Grenade
as his skin turned from smooth flesh
to rumpled, shiny metal. "You two
need to hole up somewhere, now."

"There's an office this way," Dvorak said,
dragging Qwerty along by the wrist.

"Make a barricade," Mr. Grenade advised.
"You are about to need a good one."

He had time to see Qwerty flipping
tables and chairs into place before
Dvorak slammed the heavy door.

More bullets flew, some of
them pinging off his metal skin,
but it didn't matter now.

Dozens of terrorists poured into
the space that was already crammed
with crates of contraband weapons.

"Once you have pulled the pin from
Mr. Grenade, he is no longer your friend,"
the mercenary said softly.

People asked him, sometimes,
if it hurt when he blew off his skin.

No, it didn't.

It felt good, like relaxing,
like laying a heavy weight
back in the rack at last.

He gave a sigh of relief as
the shrapnel tore through the Kitab.

When Mr. Grenade regenerated,
he had vulnerable pink skin
bare to the dusty air.

Quickly he cased the room,
but fortunately not much ordnance
had been triggered by his blast.

He found no sign of resistance.
Most or all of the men assigned
to this base must have piled into
the room, just as intended.

Only the ones closest to the walls
were still moving at all.

"Walking wounded, get up and
start carrying the rest of your casualties,"
Mr. Grenade ordered, hoping that
at least some of them could
understand English.

A few of them obeyed, and
soon others followed suit.

There weren't many mobile,
but the wounds were all small,
proof that his control had held true.
There should be few if any fatalities,
but these men sure wouldn't be
causing trouble any time soon.

The office door swung open,
allowing Mr. Grenade to see that
while some shrapnel had perforated
the room, none of it seem to have
reached the girls behind their
barrier of tables and chairs.

Qwerty gave a faint, girlish eep.

"Nice package," Dvorak said smoothly.
"Now let's blow this pop stand."

"Charges?" asked Mr. Grenade,
holding out a hand for them.

That was another advantage
to having a partner: someone
whose gear didn't get smoked
by their own superpowers.

Dvorak passed him the charges and
he began applying the little silver stickers
to the sides of the weapon crates.

"Everyone grab two handfuls of idiot
and start making tracks," said Mr. Grenade.
By the time he was done distributing explosives,
almost all the casualties had been carried away.

He grabbed the last few terrorists himself
and hauled them out of the room, leaving them
safely outside the range of the super-charges
that were about to reduce the contents
of the cache to useless puree.

Mr. Grenade found the bolthole
that went almost straight up and out,
hustling the girls away from the cache.

The Kitab were spread all over the sand,
mostly moaning and clutching their wounds.

Dvorak moved from victim to another,
deploying hair ribbons as makeshift tourniquets.
Qwerty seemed to have an actual first aid kit
distributed around her utility belt, which she
put to good use on the less-critical casualties.

"Everybody breathing is out of there,"
said Mr. Grenade as he shut the heavy door
behind himself. "Nothing left but the weapons
that we came to destroy. Light 'em up."

Dvorak punched a code into her vidwatch.
The door glowed red for a moment,
then cooled so quickly it cracked.

In the distance, Mr. Grenade could already
hear the rumble of someone's military
approaching for the promised mop-up.

"I can't believe you really meant
to hit another supervillain lair,"
Qwerty said, shaking her head
at the carnage around them.

"I told you that's what I was doing,"
Dvorak said. "You shouldn't have come."

"You girls need to work on
your communication skills,"
said Mr. Grenade.

"We are good with technology,"
Dvorak said. "Don't push your luck."

"People don't come with adequate
instruction manuals," Qwerty said.
"It's just ... painfully awkward."

Well, he couldn't blame them; he
wasn't any good at close relationships
either, although he had put more effort
into developing his professional bearing.

Tired of arguing, Mr. Grenade reached out
and activated the retrieval function on
Dvorak's vidwatch. "Pickup, pair and
a spare," he said over the line.

It was Ripcord who appeared
to pick them up, the distinctive zip-snap
of his superpower depositing them safely
if not smoothly at the SPOON office.

The first order of business
was replacing his shorts, which
Mr. Grenade swiftly did.

Next, payments were duly made and
thanks extended for a job well done,
while Qwerty stared at them and made
artless comments under her breath.

Given his Super-Armor,
Mr. Grenade declined the offer
of a first aid check but waved the girls
toward the clinic room to make sure
that they really hadn't been injured.

"All right, spit it out now," he said
to the dispatcher, Groundhog.
"You've been staring at me like
you got another gig in mind."

"Not a paying job, actually,
but volunteering," said Groundhog.

"Not interested," Mr. Grenade said shortly.

"We have a young Self-Detonator who
really needs a mentor," said Groundhog.
"She had an especially traumatic manifestation
and while there hasn't been another incident,
she can't learn real control by never
using her superpower."

Mr. Grenade sighed.
"I'm not good with kids,
or hell, socializing in general,"
he pointed out. "Get someone else."

"There are two problems with that,"
Groundhog said. "First, you know
how rare Self-Detonators are."

That was because most people who
developed the ability didn't survive it.
You needed Regeneration, or something
like it, to rebuild yourself after a blast.

"Yeah, I know," said Mr. Grenade.

"The second reason is that Boomer
is staying with the Muffler, who due
to unfortunate circumstances is not
on speaking terms with SPOON
right now," Groundhog said.

Mr. Grenade recalled the several weeks
that he'd spent with the Muffler, leaning on
her neutralization field while he struggled
to learn how to control his new abilities.

That was a debt he could never repay ...
but he could pay it forward.

"All right," he said slowly. "Send them
my contact info. I won't butt in where
I'm not welcome, but if they're both
willing then I'll give it a try."

"Thank you," Groundhog said.
"We really appreciate this."

The girls came back,
bitching at each other,
their shrill voices echoing
along the hallway.

Mr. Grenade winced
and decided to get while
the getting was good.

"Back door's that way,"
Groundhog murmured,
aiming a thumb over
his shoulder.

Mr. Grenade beat a strategic retreat.

* * *

Notes:

Mr. Grenade (Borys Bergmann) -- He has fair skin, brown eyes, and short brown hair. He is tall and broad, with bulging muscles. His heritage is primarily central European, including German, Polish, and a little Russian. He speaks English, German, Italian, and Russian.
Mr. Grenade is a self-detonator who works as a supervillain henchman. His people skills focus on professional or casual interactions; he doesn't know much about how to handle closer relationships. Although primarily inspired by money, he is also known for a slow but serious temper, hence his tagline. Borys spends a lot of time outdoors where he enjoys hiking, camping, and various other wilderness activities. Since gaining his superpowers he has also paid attention to rocks and metals, but his knowledge there is still only average. He knows Hannah Patterson from spending a few weeks with her as part of learning how to control his superpowers.
Origin: Borys served in the military, and enemies threw a grenade into his unit. He dove on top of it, expecting to die. Instead he turned into a living grenade. He calmly walked over to the enemy position and detonated himself. But the military wanted to exploit his new superpower, so he quit and became a mercenary. Now he chooses his own missions, and only takes orders that he agrees with.
Uniform: As little as possible. Because activating his superpower ruins whatever he's wearing, Mr. Grenade dislikes wasting money on clothes. In warm climates he often wears nothing but shorts and shoes -- he doesn't even bother with socks. In colder weather, he favors cheap tracksuits in dark colors.
Qualities: Expert (+4) Unflappable, Good (+2) Iron Will, Good (+2) Mercenary Fighter, Good (+2) Outdoorsman
Poor (-2) Intimacy
Powers: Good (+2) Metal Skin (Signature Stunt: Controlled Burst), Good (+2) Regeneration, Good (+2) Super-Strength
Mr. Grenade can turn his skin to living metal, and it serves as Super-Armor. Then if he wishes, he can use Self-Detonation to produce a cloud of shrapnel from it. His Regeneration takes about five minutes before he can re-arm his Grenade Skin. During that time he is vulnerable, his soft human skin unable to turn aside attacks.
Usually he blows off his entire skin at once, but he can use the Controlled Burst stunt to fire a small burst or single rounds at a specific target. This version reduces his Super-Armor to Average for five minutes.
Motivation: "Once you have pulled the pin from Mr. Grenade, he is no longer your friend."

Dvorak (Imogen Kron) -- She has fair skin, dark blue eyes, and short wild white hair like milkweed fluff. Her hair used to be a slighter darker platinum blonde, a little thicker and more manageable. When she developed superpowers, it moulted over the course of a few weeks and came in much finer, a pure silver-white. Imogen has a heart-shaped face and a tall slender body, but generous cleavage for her size. She is an only child.
Imogen lives in Rain City. She has a two-year Associate of Applied Science degree in nanotechnology from North Seattle College. For a foreign language, she took Esperanto. She loves movies, especially science fiction ones, and collects movie posters. One of her favorites is The Little Ninja. Dvorak wants to be rich and powerful. Also she just kind of loves playing with people. Beautiful and sexy, she doesn't hesitate to use seduction to get what she wants. However, she can just as well take it by subterfuge or force. Her nemesis is Qwerty, and Dvorak usually runs rings around her.
Origin: Her powers developed after using a metagenic vaccine base called Aegis. It causes about 1 in 100,000 people to develop Super-Immunity, and about 1 in 1,000,000 to develop additional superpowers.
Uniform: On-duty she wears a hip-length cape of white capery, a utility belt, and a catsuit of platinum dexflan with a round boob window. A glowing blue ring around the rim of the boob window makes the "Power" symbol: Her white boots have heels high enough to look sexy, but low enough to run and fight in effectively. Off-duty she enjoys wearing fashionable clothes, and her favorite pair of earrings resemble paperclips. However, she dresses for locale, so often that means business chic. In the workshop she changes to a slim jumpsuit with many pockets and a tool belt.
Qualities: Expert (+4) Computer Wizard, Expert (+4) Corporate Espionage, Expert (+4) Sexy, Good (+2) City Girl, Good (+2) Concentration, Good (+2) Geek, Good (+2) Logical, Good (+2) Movie Fan, Good (+2) Ninjutsu
Poor (-2) Dealing with Nature
Powers: Average (0) Super-Gizmology, Average (0) Super-Immunity, Average (0) Super-Intellect
Motivation: Money and power.

Qwerty (Nora Hale) -- She has fair skin, brown eyes, and long straight brown hair perpetually escaping attempts to contain it. She wears glasses with heavy lenses and thick rims to correct her terrible vision. She has three older brothers. Growing up in rural territory near the Hoh Rainforest has given her an understanding of nature, but she finds cities overwhelming and confusing. One of her favorite movies is The Aikido Kid. Nora has a two-year Associate of Science in Engineering degree from North Seattle College. For a foreign language she took Spanish. She sings filk songs and plays 12-string guitar. Her nemesis is Dvorak, and Qwerty has a hard time trying to keep up with her.
Origin: Her powers developed after using a metagenic vaccine base called Aegis. It causes about 1 in 100,000 people to develop Super-Immunity, and about 1 in 1,000,000 to develop additional superpowers.
Uniform: On-duty, Qwerty wears hyperlight trail shoes, a utility belt, and an ankle-length cape of gray capery that's big enough to roof a lean-to in an emergency. (She knows it is. She's done that, more than once.) A jumpsuit of navy blue dexflan hugs her body, the knees and elbows thickened with leathery armor. It's not pretty, but it's practical. Off-duty she favors denim and flannel and other practical wear, although she can dress up if she has to. She loves hats, though, and enjoys collecting ones to suit different occasions.
Qualities: Master (+6) Determination, Master (+6) Smart, Expert (+4) Gizmology, Good (+2) Aikido, Good (+2) Country Girl, Good (+2) Geek, Good (+2) Filker
Poor (-2) Awkward
Powers: Average (0) Super-Immunity
Motivation: "Always practice, even when I fail."

Ripcord (Chad Cordoba) -- He has tinted skin, brown eyes, and black hair which he shaves off. He is tall and robust, with a powerful body. His heritage includes Argentinian, German, and British. Chad enjoys games that can be played with cards, dice, other portable materials, or improvised on the spot. He drives the way a fighter pilot flies, fast and rough; and he teleports the same way.
After completing his tour of duty in the Army, Ripcord went to work for SPOON. He specializes in teleporting people into and out of combat or other dangerous situations. He also provides transport for people who may benefit from added security or just having a big badass on their side. Ripcord is stronger in terms of passenger weight and distance than on finesse. He is also nearly untraceable in transit.
Origin: During deployment, his parachute failed to open. Chad teleported, landed safely, and completed the mission anyway.
Uniform: Although no longer in active service, Chad still favors camo fabric and clothes with Army motifs.
Qualities: Master (+6) Grit, Expert (+4) Paratrooper, Expert (+4) Protective, Good (+2) Alertness, Good (+2) Military Family, Good (+2) Portable Games
Poor (-2) Not a Luxury Ride
Powers: Expert (+4) Teleporting
Motivation: "This I defend."

* * *

"The question that we must ask is whether we are making progress toward the goal of universal peace. Or are we caught up on a treadmill of history, turning forever on the axle of mindless aggression and self-destruction?"
-- F. W. de Klerk

Self-Detonation spans a variety of superpowers that involve people exploding. Regeneration may be considered a required secondary power, but that's just for people who live to do it again. In Terramagne, the two often appear separately, and a key reason for the rarity of Self-Detonation is simply that most people don't survive it.

It took me 355 pages of character notes to reach the first boob window, back when Dvorak originally appeared. But I give her credit for putting it to practical use.

Yes, nail polish blocks electricity. This is useful for building motors and sabotaging supervillain lairs. Who knew.

Thighs of Doom is a popular attack mode for female ninjas. However, strangulation is a high-risk technique.

It's pretty embarrassing when arch-enemies act like siblings even though they're not.

Habitual lying tends to ruin relationships and the rest of life. It is nevertheless popular among supervillains, and even superheroes -- where it does exactly the same kind of damage. Learn how to stop lying or deal with a habitual liar.

A grenade is basically a tiny bomb. When it explodes, it throws shrapnel in all directions. Some grenades have a casing designed to fragment. Some have pellets packed around an explosive. A claymore mine uses similar principles, and has well-defined arcs of effect. Here are some examples. Large, ragged shrapnel does far more damage to a body than a bullet does. Tiny round pellets, such as used in some grenades or claymores, behave more like bullets.

Stopping power refers to a weapon's capacity to eliminate the combat effectiveness of a target. This is simple in concept but elusive in practice.

Walking wounded are casualties with minor to moderate injuries, who are mobile and not in immediate danger of dying. In a mass-casualty incident, they are often pressed into service to assist the more serious casualties.

All kinds of accessories, including ribbons, can be tucked into hair of any length. There are even hair-clip multitools.

A first aid kit can be distributed among the pouches of a utility belt, and indeed, soldiers do this with tactical belts. You can buy or make a first aid kit suitable for heroic action.

(no subject)

Date: 2017-01-01 01:13 pm (UTC)
siliconshaman: black cat against the moon (Default)
From: [personal profile] siliconshaman
Man, someone needs to lock those two girls in a room until they either work it out, or only one walks out...

Mr Grenade is kind of more like a grey cape I think...or his cape is black one side, and white the other..either way, not a total bad guy.

(no subject)

Date: 2017-01-01 06:39 pm (UTC)
technoshaman: Tux (Default)
From: [personal profile] technoshaman
Error in the character sheets: Dvorak's references North Seattle College; Qwerty's references North Seattle University. I think you probably want College there; most universities don't bother giving out associates' degrees. (And I had to giggle because it's L-America analog, North Seattle Community College, lies along one of my Sneaky Back Routes™ and I'm somewhat familiar with its buildings, being as they tend to loan/rent them out for other community-oriented functions... )

DARN, I though they were gonna Go Home Charlie Haboob his own self, given Mr. Grenade.... ah, well. They got the weps cache but good, and a whole bunch of guards are gonna be wondering whether they don't wanna find a new gig... them as are not contemplating their Ultimate Reward...

And there you go, making supervillains I *like* again... Ms. Titley Windows would be doubly effective in Sharia law areas, no? *evil grin* ♫ They had it coming... ♪ Normally I like the earth-girl type but she's not only a goody-two-shoes but she's hopelessly naive.. she's "up against" two people either of whom can run rings around her, who are on an op to save the world a LOT of trouble, and she demands surrender? *pained look* Hefty needs to take her aside and teach her some street smarts. If she doesn't hit the roof when he drops that he deliberately partnered with Dr. Infanta on an op... :P~~~~~~~~~~~

Re: Thoughts

Date: 2017-01-02 03:45 am (UTC)
technoshaman: Tux (Default)
From: [personal profile] technoshaman
Wrong style. Qwerty needs to learn from someone like Aidan or Officer Pink. She's not a hitter and, clumsiness notwithstanding, she's not heavy-handed either. She needs someone to teach her the higher-level peacemaking skills.

You know, Pink came to mind first... I don't know why I dismissed him at the time. After working with Turq...

(no subject)

Date: 2017-01-01 07:13 pm (UTC)
alatefeline: Painting of a cat asleep on a book. (Default)
From: [personal profile] alatefeline
I really liked all three of the main characters separately, and I enjoyed this glimpse of (back)story putting them all together. :)

(no subject)

Date: 2017-01-01 10:10 pm (UTC)
corvi: (Default)
From: [personal profile] corvi
Yay! It was fun to see more of Mr. Grenade, who has a cool power, very at odds with his phlegmatic personality.

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