ysabetwordsmith: Damask smiling over their shoulder (polychrome)
[personal profile] ysabetwordsmith
This poem is spillover from the January 3, 2017 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired by prompts from [personal profile] siliconshaman, [personal profile] thnidu, [personal profile] technoshaman, and [livejournal.com profile] daisiesrockalot. It also fills the "powers" square in my 1-1-17 card for the Dark Fantasy Bingo fest. This poem has been sponsored by [livejournal.com profile] daisiesrockalot. It belongs to the Dvorak & Qwerty thread of the Polychrome Heroics series.

Warning: This poem contains intense topics. Highlight to read the warnings, some of which are spoilers. It has Dvorak running rings around Qwerty, failure, self-blame, feeling useless, feeling inferior, complex discussion of moral quandaries, Dvorak running even more rings about the Primaries, and other angst. If these are sensitive issues for you, please consider your tastes and headspace before reading onward.


"Beyond Their Failures"


Blue Law and Qwerty sat on the steps
of Emmer & Sons Enterprises, which
Dvorak had just stripped of its database.

"I feel so useless," Qwerty moaned,
putting her head in her hands.

"I know, it feels awful when you
can't catch the crooks," Blue Law said.
"However, this could've gone a lot worse.
If you hadn't arrived when you did, then
Dvorak would have stripped the vaults
as well as the IT servers. She had
just started hacking at the finances
when you showed up and called us."

"Yeah, but it's still frustrating
to be such a failure," Qwerty said.

Despair hung over her like a cloud,
leaching into Blue Law's awareness
through his Telempathy. He did not
know her well enough to try soothing her
directly, but he could still try chatting her up.

"You have passion, and that matters," he said.
"Passion will move people beyond themselves,
beyond their shortcomings, beyond their failures."

"But that doesn't get this poor business
its data back," Qwerty said sadly.
"I just wasn't good enough at
tracking Dvorak, or fighting her,
to stop the attack in time."

"I'm going to tell you something
very important, and I want you
to listen carefully," Blue Law said,
putting a hand on her shoulder.

"Okay," Qwerty said, leaning into
the small touch with large desperation.

"You do not have to be good
at everything," he told her.
"Nobody is good at everything.
It's essential to concentrate on
your strengths, and avoid beating
yourself up for your weaknesses."

Qwerty sighed. "Yeah. I know
all about weaknesses," she said.
"My motto is, Always practice,
even when I fail.
And I do that.
It's just ... it's hard, you know?
When my nemesis can run rings
around me without half trying."

"I think you need build up
more skills that will fit with
your peacemaking personality,"
Blue Law suggested. "You're
never going to beat Dvorak
in a toe-to-toe fight."

"I've tried that," said Qwerty.
"I've learned aikido and geek skills
and Dvorak still wipes the mat with me.
She's stronger and smarter and ...
just a better supervillain than
I am a superhera."

"But not a better person,"
Blue Law said firmly. "You can't
outdo her in combat. I'm betting
you can in nonviolent confrontation.
She might excel at hacking computers,
but you're better at hacking relationships."

Qwerty laughed a little. "Yeah, maybe,"
she said, sitting up to wipe a hand across
her face. The dust and tears smeared in
wide streaks. "I was in college, anyhow."

"Then it's familiar," Blue Law said.
"You can work with it now, just like
you figured out how to handle her
when you two were in college."

"The weird thing is how we always
seem to understand each other, even
when nobody else could," Qwerty said.
"What sort of world is it where my nemesis
always makes more sense to me than
anyone on my side of the cape?"

"A crazy one," Blue Law said.
"We're soups, Qwerty. Life isn't
always going to make sense for us."

"Humanity doesn't have a proper guidebook,"
Qwerty grumbled. "Computers are easier.
Sometimes I wish I could just ... debug her."

Blue Law felt his Moral Compass
shiver inside him, like a metal needle
tilting in response to a magnet. He
dragged it back where it belonged.

"Such things are possible,"
he said with great care, "but
they are not always ethical."

"What do you mean by that?"
Qwerty asked, tilting her head.

"Your nemesis has a right to
her own mind and choices, even if
she makes bad ones," Blue Law said.

"That's just it, she does," Qwerty said
as she twisted around to look back at
the building behind them, still swarming
with upset executives like a hill of ants
that someone had kicked over. "It's awful,
and Dvorak does it all the time. The world
would be a better place if I could stop her."

"Consider this -- if you 'debugged' her,
would she still be the same person?"
Blue Law said. "Do you have a right
to do that to her, or to anyone else?
Just because you can do something,
doesn't necessarily mean you should."

"She'd be a nicer person," Qwerty said,
"but I don't think she'd be Dvorak anymore.
It might be better for everyone, though."

"Well, let's turn it around then," said Blue Law.
"What if she could change your personality
and allegiance, instead of you changing hers?
That would solve the problem too -- you
wouldn't be in conflict anymore."

"But then I'd be hurting other people,"
Qwerty protested. "That's not the same at all."

"True," said Blue Law. "How about if I
changed Dvorak instead? I might be able to."

"You leave her alone!" Qwerty snapped.
"It's one thing to lock her up for breaking
every law she ever saw, but you can't just
reach into someone's head like that."

"Exactly," Blue Law said with a smile.
"That's why it's important to think over
these things now, so that we don't make
bad decisions in the heat of the moment."

"I don't know where to start," Qwerty admitted.
"I mean, it sounds good, but I'm a geek.
I scraped by my humanities classes."

"Leave it to me," Blue Law said.
"I know a guy." He wrote down
Officer Pink's contact information
and handed her the slip of paper.

"What's this for?" Qwerty asked,
rubbing her fingers over the edge.

"Go to SPOON, they'll get you
a teleport to Bluehill," said Blue Law.
"Ask for Officer Pink and tell him that
I sent you. He will introduce you
to techniques you can use when
violence is not a viable option --
and his ethics are impeccable."

"Wow, thanks," Qwerty said.
The bleak pall of discouragement
burned away in a flare of new hope.
"This will be a really big help."

"To protect and to serve,"
he said with an answering smile.

"You still go by that?" Qwerty said.

"Sure do," Blue Law said. "You can
take the cop out of the force, but you
can't take the force out of the cop.
If you really stop and think about it,
superheroes are first responders too;
we're just working in a different branch."

"That makes a lot of sense," Qwerty said.
"Maybe it'll help me figure things out."

"I hope so," Blue Law said.
He watched her get into
her little green electric car.
Then he went back to work.

He had a supervillain to hunt, after all.

In the weeks that followed, Blue Law
managed to pick up the trail, but Dvorak
kept giving him the slip and then he had
to start over from scratch. It gave him
a whole new appreciation for Qwerty's skill.

Even with Red Hot and Yellow Jack to help,
Blue Law couldn't keep up with Dvorak.

They had one job to do --
because SPOON had made
Dvorak a priority for their team --
and they screwed it up.

That was really frustrating.

Finally they caught up with her
in a warehouse that she was
busy sacking and burning.

Dvorak kicked Yellow Jack
in the crotch and into the river.

She nailed Red Hot to a wall with
some throwing-star-net-contraption
that was freaking fireproof.

She hit Blue Law with a vial of
some zetetic stuff that flowed over him
and made it impossible to move
anything below his neck.

Fortunately he wasn't out of
options yet. Blue Law reached out
with his Moral Compass and
tried to sway her that way.

Dvorak brushed off his attempt
with a casual sweep of her hand,
and his superpower slid away like
a pat of butter slipping off teflon.

"I'm a ninja. I am one with the night,"
she said. "That shit doesn't work on me."

"Stop in the name of the law!" he shouted.

"What, you didn't think I was going
to slow down for you, did you?"
Dvorak said, staring at him.

Then she popped her gum in his face
and sauntered away through the smoke.

Blue Law began to suspect that
sending Qwerty off to Officer Pink
may have been a tactical error.

* * *

Notes:

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."

Blue Law (Veril Edinger) -- He has azure skin, sky blue eyes, and Yale blue hair slicked back. He is short and slight, but physically fit, and quick on his feet. His low tolerance for alcohol means that it takes very little to affect him and soon makes him sick, so he doesn't drink and prefers to avoid foods made with alcohol. Veril has a master's degree in philosophy. That and his mellow personality made him a good cop. After developing superpowers, he retired from police work in favor of freelance public safety. Veril handles public relations for his team because he's good with people.
Origin: Someone bombed a First Responders training camp. He was one of the three people to develop superpowers as a result. Their shared origin and Telempathy give the Primaries a team link which helps them make plans and coordinate their powers.
Uniform:
Azure dexflan speedo and shoes.
Qualities: Expert (+4) Policeman, Good (+2) Calm in a Crisis, Good (+2) Fast, Good (+2) Observant
Poor (-2) Alcohol Intolerance
Powers: Expert (+4) Moral Compass, Good (+2) Telempathy
Motivation: To keep the peace.

Red Hot (Conley Niles) -- She has crimson skin, merlot eyes, and carmine hair that stands up in a short topknot. Her body is average height and slightly pear-shaped with small breasts, a soft belly, and broad hips. Conley has a bachelor's degree in civil engineering, but later got more interested in firefighting. After developing superpowers, she went freelance on public safety efforts. Conley does most of the professional growth work for the team, finding information and exercises to help them develop and apply their superpowers.
Origin: Someone bombed a First Responders training camp. Conley was one of the three people to develop superpowers as a result. Their shared origin and Telempathy give the Primaries a team link which helps them make plans and coordinate their powers.
Uniform: Crimson dexflan bikini and shoes.
Qualities: Expert (+4) Firefighter, Good (+2) Civil Engineering, Good (+2) Stamina, Good (+2) Passionate
Poor (-2) Argumentive
Powers: Expert (+4) Temperature Control, Good (+2) Telempathy
Motivation: To put out fires and flamewars.

Yellow Jack (Jackson Collier) -- He has dandelion skin, amber eyes, and no hair at all; he's completely bald over his entire body. He has to wear prosthetic eyelashes to keep debris out of his eyes, along with talcum powder and special underwear to avoid chafing. He is tall and muscular. Jackson has a bachelor's degree in psychology. He used to work as a lifeguard, then after he developed superpowers he retired to do freelance public safety. Jackson does most of the work booking events for the team and keeping their records.
Origin: Someone bombed a First Responders training camp. He was one of the three people to develop superpowers as a result. Their shared origin and Telempathy give the Primaries a team link which helps them make plans and coordinate their powers.
Uniform: Dandelion dexflan speedo and shoes.
Qualities: Expert (+4) Lifeguard, Good (+2) Organized, Good (+2) Psychology, Good (+2) Strength
Poor (-2) No Hair at All
Powers: Expert (+4) Forcefields, Good (+2) Telempathy
Motivation: To keep people safe.

* * *

"Passion will move men beyond themselves, beyond their shortcomings, beyond their failures."
-- Joseph Campbell
http://www.azquotes.com/quotes/topics/shortcomings.html

Feeling useless often comes along with unemployment, traumatic stress, and other challenges. It's important to understand the difference between feeling used and feeling useful. Then you can work on how to stop feeling useless and make yourself useful. That includes making people feel important and feel good.

Failure is a natural part of life. People react to it in different ways, some constructive and others destructive. If you learn from failure, you can gain some valuable lessons.

Among the more salient points about police and superheroes in Terramagne is that many of them understand how to handle conflicts when force won't work. In order to settle conflicts peacefully, people need effective alternatives to violence. Good tools include verbal self-defense, relationship skills, de-escalation techniques, and mediation. It also helps to know some general ways of making the world a better place. Understand the principles and best practices of conflict resolution. You need a good grounding in life skills and leadership in order to inspire people to follow your guidance. Learn how to be peaceful and live in peace. Explore how to solve conflicts and teach children to do so.

Magnetic deviation
is what happens when something pulls a compass off-true.

Ethics and morality tend to follow stages of development in people. As there are many different schools of ethics, there are many different approaches to ethical decision-making. Think deeply on these complex issues. Then follow the steps for making an ethical decision; it may help to use a worksheet. Here is an extensive archive of resources on this topic. You need to develop a code of ethics in order to act ethically. Learn to use your moral compass in order to be a good person. Strengthen your character so you can persevere in the face of difficult ethical dilemmas. Notice that all of this is a lot harder than just punching people really hard in the face. Do it anyway.

These are primary themes in superhero literature, due to issues created by the presence of special powers, but the portrayals are often questionable. However, they can raise valuable questions, which through careful consideration may illuminate how to respond to challenges that come up in everyday life. One fascinating article raised the point that superheroes seek permission, and citizens signal theirs with a show of approval such as displaying the hero's emblem. You can really see this play out in how citizens respond to different soups -- look at how fast Easy City yanked its approval of the Spectrum after their colossal cockup. Supervillains rarely seek permission, although some of the principled ones in Terramagne do. That's because, for the best superheroes, this isn't a job or a hobby: it is a vocation. For more on the ethics and legality of superheroes, see Law and the Multiverse. These issues get all the more complex when talking about superpowers that can influence the mind and morality directly, such as Telepathy or Moral Compass. A key reason why T-America does not have whole asylums full of supervillains is their better grasp of both morality and mental care -- which leads to two superheroes sitting down and talking out what is and is not okay in handling supervillains, and why. This is why they can have nice things. Keep this in mind should you choose to develop the skills for becoming a hero.

The most important ethical principle I've found is, "Just because you can, doesn't necessarily mean you should." My favorite illustration is this memorable poster about the respective values of science and humanities. Which is rather the gap that Qwerty is facing, albeit different in the details.

Slowsand is a super-gizmotronic nanotech material of fine particles that can be distributed around an area to create a field effect which impedes motion, or contained in a vial and thrown like a grenade. They can be programmed to slow everything all the time, or activate only on a certain threshold of motion, and therefore can be used to slow down only speedsters instead of everyone. Different batches can be made to work in different ways. Some draw their power from speedsters, leaving too little for the person to move fast. Some hitch together to "thicken" the air and impede motion. An advantage of this is they're fairly safe to use against speedsters due to affecting the whole body, rather than just sticking someone's feet to the floor and risking a case of speedster's knee.

Knowing yourself is an essential life skill. It also conveys some resistance to mind control, alignment alteration, and other mystical manipulation, because "the Force has a strong effect on the weak-minded," but not so much on well-centered people. In this case, Dvorak uses her Ninja quality to blow off Blue Law's attempt at using his Moral Compass to sway her. It's not just surface-level martial skill; like most martial arts, ninjutsu holds that you must know yourself. She really has done all the hard work of integrating that into her identity, and it just paid off. Moral Compass has the most effect on people with vague or mixed feelings, which is most folks. But it doesn't work well on those who know and accept themselves, even if they're criminal or downright evil. Regardless of your role in life, it is necessary to know and understand yourself in order to make the most of yourself, which is helpful if you ever need to resist soft or hard tactics of brainwashing.

(no subject)

Date: 2017-01-14 09:20 am (UTC)
alatefeline: Painting of a cat asleep on a book. (Default)
From: [personal profile] alatefeline
I am lauuughing after reading this one. Excellent! Wow, thanks! :D

Re: You're welcome!

Date: 2017-01-14 06:13 pm (UTC)
alatefeline: Painting of a cat asleep on a book. (Default)
From: [personal profile] alatefeline
>> Qwerty makes one hell of a yip dog. <<

And I LOOOOOVE that about her.

>> Laughing at the ending, I assume? <<

I think ... inefficiency often seems laughable on the surface unless one empathizes with its frustrations. Seeing Qwerty get a break was a relief, and relief also sometimes prompt laughter.

The ending was golden super-style physical comedy, plus irony.

(no subject)

Date: 2017-01-14 05:04 pm (UTC)
mdlbear: the positively imaginary half of a cubic mandelbrot set (Default)
From: [personal profile] mdlbear
Fun! Must remember to prompt about filk in T-America next time the opportunity presents itself.

(no subject)

Date: 2017-01-17 12:57 am (UTC)
From: [personal profile] lone_cat
Now I'm wondering how Ms. No-Filter will react to Turq.

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ysabetwordsmith: Cartoon of me in Wordsmith persona (Default)
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