ysabetwordsmith: Damask smiling over their shoulder (polychrome)
[personal profile] ysabetwordsmith
This poem came out of the March 7, 2017 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired by prompts from [livejournal.com profile] rix_scaedu and[personal profile] sweet_sparrow. It also fills the "Post-traumatic Stress Syndrome" square in my 3-1-17 card for the Disability Bingo fest. This poem has been sponsored by Anthony & Shirley Barrette. It belongs to the Officer Pink thread of the Polychrome Heroics series.

WARNING: This poem is very intense. Highlight to read the warnings, some of which are spoilers. This is the big raid on Mr. Dipper's place, which is stressful for everyone, although it's well planned and largely effective. He lives in a squalid little shack, so expect to see scenes of extreme poverty and moderate filth. There's also general angst, child endangerment, assorted fears, crying, body language of extreme distress, hostile use of superpowers, gunfire, gang activity, canon-typical violence, a forest full of hazardous trash, panic and brief abandonment, minor to serious injuries, messy medical details, some sexually inappropriate behavior by a teen girl, Missouri Family Services has dropped the ball again, post-adrenaline crash, self-blame, perfectionism, out of cope, and other challenges. If these are sensitive issues for you, please consider your tastes and headspace before reading onward.


"What Real Courage Is"


Ansel and Turq rode with Emmanuel
in the chaplain car until they came
to the staging area. Emmanuel
dropped them off there.

"I'll fall back to the warm zone
and wait for you," said Emmanuel.
"When you get the kids out, bring
any nonviolent or traumatized ones
back to us for assessment."

"Will do," Ansel said. He knew
that Crackleball would put up a fight,
and possibly some of the others, but
he hoped that Turq was right and
most of them would run or hide.

"I'm scared," Turq said, clinging
to Ansel as they went to meet
the other cops on the raid.

"Raids are scary," Ansel agreed.
"It's not too late for you to back out."

"No, I promised to help and I'm
sticking to that," Turq said.

They met up with the breach team,
and Chief De Soto introduced them
to the BASH leaders from Rollo.
"Major Catriona Deyne heads up
the BASH team, and Bingo York
is her second-in-command. Folks,
these are Corporal Ansel Nicholson,
also known as Officer Pink, and
our civilian volunteer Turq."

Bert went over the plan, and
again Ansel translated for Turq.
"The breach team will go in first,
while we hang back a bit. We can
either follow them in, or sweep the yard,
depending which seems more useful."

"We're supposed to get the kids,
right?" Turq said, licking his lips.

"That's right," Ansel said. "Breachers
will only contain noncombatants, not
try to capture them. Their job is security,
ours is getting the kids out safely."

"Got it," Turq said with a nod.

The neighborhood was quiet
as everyone hustled into place,
which meant that they still had
the element of surprise.

Then the breachers hit the door.

Turq flinched, startled by the sounds
of the BASH team even though he
knew that the noise was coming.

"Wait for it," Ansel murmured.
"When we go in, stay behind me
by about an arm's reach. If there
is any trouble, then I'll cover you."

"Or I could just teleport out,"
Turq said, looking toward
the scraggling woods that lay
beyond the dilapidated houses.

"That also works as an exit plan,"
Ansel said. "I can handle either."

"Follow," his comm said, and Ansel
relayed to Turq, "That's our cue."

They picked their way across
a yard strewn with junk and weeds
to the shabby green house.

Inside, the kitchen reeked of
spoiled food and Ansel could see
pots and plates piled everywhere.
Behind him, Turq gagged.

Catriona had someone backed
against the grungy countertop,
an older teen or young adult, but
she had her gun pointed off to
the side as she talked him down.

Ansel decided the BASH leader
had the situation well in hand,
so he moved onward in search of
someone who might need him more.

The living room was little better,
with toys and trash on the floor
underneath the sagging furniture.

BASH members waved them past,
and the sounds of a scuffle emerged
from the flop room ahead of them.

"I hear someone crying," Turq said.

"In the flop room?" Ansel asked.
"I don't think that's clear yet."

"Outside, behind the house,"
Turq said. "We can go through
the back door in the bedroom."

"Officer Pink and Turq, coming
out the back door," Ansel said
into his comm, then moved in.

The bed was unmade, the mattress
propped up on concrete blocks, and
the floor littered with the usual debris
of dirty clothes and stuffed animals.

The floor sank underfoot as they
stepped on it, and when they reached
the back porch, Ansel almost tripped
over the rotten carpet slumped across
the cracked square of concrete.

"Ahead left," Turq murmured.

Ansel looked around and spotted
a girl cringing against the wall
of the neighbor's shed, arms
wrapped around her knees.

Ginger hair hung down to her chin,
hiding most of her face. She rocked
back and forth, ignoring their approach.

Ansel waved Turq forward, so that
she could see a younger and hopefully
less-threatening person when she looked up.

"Hey," Ansel said gently. "You look upset.
"How about we go somewhere safer?"

Despite his careful overtures,
the girl startled hard enough
to whack against the wall.

"Ouch, that didn't sound like fun,"
Turq said. "My name's Turq, and
my friend here is Officer Pink.
What's your name?"

"Tacy," she whispered.

"Hi, Tacy," said Turq.
"Come on, you'll be safer
with us, and we've got a place
where we can get away from the --"

The crackling snarl of energy
came from the far side of the house,
and more alarmingly, a burst of gunfire.

"Shots fired!" and "Officers down!"
rang out from Ansel's comm.

Ansel grabbed the girl by
the wrist. "Move," he snapped.
"It's too dangerous to stay here."

Turq darted ahead of them.
"Follow me, we can lose 'em
in the woods," he said.

Since the sound of combat
was between them and the rest
of the team, Ansel went along with it.
They could circle around later to regroup.

The forest was a tangle of trees, vines,
and berry canes all coated with snow
which crunched underfoot as they ran.

Tacy stumbled, crying so hard that
she could scarcely see her path.

"Watch out for barbed wire," Turq said.

"What?" Ansel said, horrified by
the implications of the warning.

"People can't afford trash pickup,
so they just dump stuff back here,"
Turq said. "There's all kinds of old wire,
lost camping crap, appliances, and such."

"I don't like this place," Tacy whimpered.

"Neither do I," Ansel said. He paid
more attention to where he was putting
his feet, trying to watch out for hazards
both human and otherwise.

Then more gunfire sounded
ahead and to their left.

"Shit," Turq said. "I forgot about
the hunting weapons! I'm so sorry!"

"You're new to this, you can't think
of everything at once," Ansel said.
"What can you tell me now?"

"Mr. Dipper likes shotguns,
but there's a few rifles too,"
Turq said. "I think he's got
ties with some other gang, but
he doesn't like them very much --
keeps calling them peckers."

"Peckerwoods," Ansel said grimly.
"They're a redneck gang into drugs
and guns and all kinds of trouble."

"Yeah, that sounds right," Turq said.
"Some of them had bird tattoos?
They sure like their guns."

"I've seen them too," Tacy said.
"Those guys scare me."

Ansel dutifully relayed this
into his comm and received
Bert's crisp acknowledgement.

"I can't do this anymore,"
Turq said, his jaw clenched.

"Do what?" Ansel said.
"I'm afraid it's a little too late
for you to pull out now."

"I'm not leaving you," Turq said.
"I just -- I can't hold human anymore."

"Can the caney handle this kind
of situation?" Ansel asked. "We're
in a bit of a fix at the moment."

"Not the caney." Turq shook
his head. "I need to be the deer.
He's better at running from danger."

"Okay, how do we do this?" Ansel said.
"If you can't speak, that's a problem."

"Step where I step, don't go anywhere else,"
Turq said. "Tail down means fine. Tail up
means stop. Pawing or snorting means
something could be wrong. If I run, you run."

"We can't keep up with the deer," Ansel said.
"Won't he just lose us in the forest?"

"No, deer have a herd instinct," Turq said.
"He thinks of you as part of his herd, so
he'll signal you and lead you, not just bolt."

"So basically like whitetail body language,
except you could answer yes-no questions
by nodding or shaking your head," Ansel said.

"Pretty much, yeah," Turq said. "The deer
is skittish as hell, but he's still smart."

"Okay," Ansel said. "Do it."

Turq blurred, and then the teal deer
stood in his place, tail twitching sharply
and ears swiveling to catch the noises.

Tacy squeaked in alarm. "What -- how --"

"It's all right, that's still Turq," said Ansel.
"He just has some extra shapes. He's
going to lead us out of here safely."

On cue, the deer tucked his tail
against his butt and began slinking
through the underbrush, careful to duck
his small, four-pronged antlers under
the low-hanging boughs of the trees.

Ansel followed, grateful that Tacy
seemed willing to go along with them.

Sure enough, they had to step
over a strand of barbed wire
grown into the trunk of a tree.

Then they came to a refrigerator
and a freezer lying side by side,
without so much as a padlock
to keep the doors closed.

Graffiti sprayed across
the tops read, Keep Cool.

"Wait a moment," Ansel said
as he reached for his vidwatch.

The deer gave him a hard look.

"I just need to tag these so that
they can get picked up before
someone gets hurt," he said.
"There, that's taken care of."

Before long, the deer led them
to a path that was more like
a tunnel through snowy mounds
of blackberry and raspberry canes.

In one area, someone had abandoned
a clothesline, and twice Ansel had
to pause and cut loose someone
who got tangled in the strands.

Turq's ears swiveled rapidly,
tracking something that Ansel
couldn't make out, but it seemed
to worry him; he picked up the pace.

One more gunshot sounded in the distance.

Up went the flag, the deer dashed ahead,
and suddenly he disappeared from view.

"Turq, where --" Ansel began and
then his feet went out from under him.

Tacy squealed as they both stumbled
down the side of a gully toward a stream
that was no more than a line of dark water
between the steep, snowy banks.

Their hands scrabbled against rocks and
trees. Ansel managed to keep them from
falling in, but they both got their feet wet.

Then Turq reappeared, curving
his strong neck around each of them
in turn to boost them up the deerpath
on the far side of the ravine. Carefully
he kept his antlers out of the way.

At the top, he turned sharply right,
leading them in the direction where
the warm-zone rendezvous lay.

Tacy was starting to slow down,
clearly not accustomed to
this much exertion.

"Almost there," Ansel said
as they followed the line of
a barbed-wire fence defining
a loose boundary between
volunteer forest and farmland.

When they reached the hedge
at the edge of the parking lot,
the teal deer shook the snow
off his coat and turned back
into the lanky human.

"Officer Pink and Turq
coming into the Yellow Zone,
with one female child in tow,"
Ansel said into his comm, then
stepped through the hedge.

Several cars crowded the lot,
including the paramedic unit which
was currently occupied with Bingo
who was laid out on a stretcher with
several paramedics hovering over him.

Where they had cut his uniform away
from his legs, plasma burns showed, and
the tourniquet tied around his upper thigh
meant they sank into major blood vessels.

Catriona had one arm in a sling,
with a paramedic picking buckshot
out of her shoulder while she grumbled.

Leaning against the chaplain car was
a young lady in clothes two sizes too small,
trying to rub herself against the priest in
what had to be the most futile attempt at
manipulation that Ansel had ever seen.

Emmanuel looked up to see them
coming, gave Ansel a harried smile,
then returned his attention to the girl.

"Friend of yours?" Ansel asked Tacy,
hoping to coax out more information.

"No," Tacy said. "Jerney creeps me out."
Her hands made an abortive attempt
to rub across her jeans, then stopped.

"Are you hurt?" Ansel asked.

"I'm fine," Tacy said hastily.
"It's really not important."

"I can smell the blood," Turq said.
"You can show Ansel. It's safe.
He won't hurt you or anything."

Hesitantly Tacy turned up
her hands to show the scrapes
over the palms and fingers.

"When we almost fell into
the creek?" Ansel guessed.

"Yeah," she admitted. "I wasn't
expecting the trail to turn so rugged."

"It looks like all the paramedics
are busy, so it's a good thing that I
brought my own first aid kit," he said
as he unzipped the pouch. It was
a larger model than the tiny ones
that he normally clipped to his belt.
"Let's get you cleaned up a bit."

Tacy trembled -- even Turq was
shaking like a willow bush -- as Ansel
started blotting away the blood.

"I hate this," Tacy whispered.
"I hoped ... but it's all so awful ..."

"It's been a rough day," Ansel said.
"Let's think about something more pleasant.
Do you have a favorite place to visit?"

"Big Prairie Conservation Area,"
said Tacy. "I love to go hiking there.
It has wildflowers just everywhere."

"That sounds nice," said Ansel
as he carefully picked out bits of
gravel from her skin. Later on,
a paramedic could make sure that
he'd gotten all of it. "I like biking.
Do they have any trails for that?"

"Oh yeah," said Tacy, finally
beginning to perk up a bit. "There's
bike trails and hiking trails, so that
people don't crash into each other.
They have playgrounds and pavilions
around the visitor center, but most of it
is wild. They're reclaiming the prairie."

"Maybe I'll visit there some time,"
Ansel said. "I've taken the bike trail
that runs through Rollo, but I haven't gone
out to the Big Prairie Conservation Area
before. What else is good to do there?"

"Hunting and birdwatching," said Tacy.
"There are educational gardens, too,
and greenhouses where they grow
native plants. My Aunt Abilene lives
near there and that's where she works."

"Nice work if you can get it," Ansel said.
"Do you like your aunt? How's your family?"

"I've just been bounced around from
one foster home to another," Tacy said.
"Sometimes they put me with relatives, but
it's not much better than living with strangers.
I'd rather stay with Aunt Abilene, but my parents
are in Rollo and she lives outside that area,
so the social people wouldn't ask her."

"That doesn't sound good," Ansel said.
"They are supposed to check for
all possible in-family options before
they place anyone with strangers."
He sighed. "I don't think that
Missouri Family Services is
doing its best right now."

"Now where have I heard that
before," Turq said bitterly.

"How about if you tell me how
to reach Abilene, and I'll check with
her myself," Ansel said. "Maybe that
will shake loose Social Services."

"Okay," Tacy said. She knew
the address but not a current phone
or vidwatch number. "You can probably
get in touch with Aunt Abilene by calling
Big Prairie Conservation Area and
just asking to talk with her."

"If I can't reach her at home,
I'll try that," Ansel said. He dabbed
antiseptic cream over Tacy's hands.
"All done. Anything else?"

"No, I'm fi--I don't have
any more scrapes," she said.

"Oh, good," Ansel said.
He leaned back against
the side of the chaplain car
and closed his eyes for a moment.

"Are you okay?" Turq said,
looking rather worried.

"He'll be fine, he's just crashing,"
said a new voice, and Ansel
blinked his eyes open to see
Justin approaching them. "It's
been a few hours since you woke
him up, and when that happens,
then Ansel falls asleep later."

"Mmmhmm," Ansel agreed.
He really was running out of steam.

"How do we fix it?" Turq said,
jittering around him but not touching.

"Take him home and pour him back
into bed," Justin said. "Don't worry, Ansel,
I have already called Janie to come and
drive you home. Chief De Soto knows
that you'll need tomorrow to recover."

"Okay," Turq said, shifting from
one foot to the other. "I can
maybe help with that."

"I've already handed over
my first catch to Emmanuel,"
said Justin. "Can I take yours
off your hands now?"

Ansel tried to stir himself
to make introductions, but Turq
beat him to it. "This is Tacy, she's
in foster care but it's not going great.
She likes prairies and stuff. Tacy, this
is Justin, he works with Officer Pink."

"Okay," Tacy said. She went with
Justin, shy but not resistant.

"Thanks for helping out,"
Ansel said to Turq. "I think
you really made a difference."

"Yeah, but you could've done it
without me," Turq said. "Why
did you invite me to come, really?"

"I wanted you to see what real courage is,
instead of getting the idea that courage
is a man with a gun in his hand. It's when
you know you're licked before you begin
but you begin anyway and you see it
through no matter what," Ansel said.

"Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird,"
Turq said. "I read it school, before --"
A shudder wracked his body. "Before."

"It's a favorite of mine," Ansel said,
struggling to stay awake. Talking helped
a little. "It helps me think about justice and
injustice, and how people can overcome
terrible things that happen around them."
He brushed Turq's arm. "You're getting
better, Turq. You did great today."

"I panicked when that gun went off,
and I jumped down the ravine," Turq said.
"That's awful, especially after I told you
that the deer wouldn't ditch you."

"Didn't," Ansel said. "Came back
to help us up the slope." It was
getting harder to talk every minute.

He blinked, and then Janie was there,
gently ushering him toward the car.

"Turq, would you like to ride with us?"
Janie asked as she helped Ansel
clamber into the passenger seat.

"I, I can't," he said, shuddering again.
"I think I've used up all of my cope
for the day. Or maybe the week."

"I know how that goes," Janie said.
"Come by whenever you want, though."

The last thing Ansel heard before
he drifted off to sleep was Turq saying,

"Thanks. I'll meet you at home."

* * *

Notes:

Turq (Drustan Moreau) -- He has pale skin and hazel eyes with hints of blue, green, and gray. His hair was originally brown, but is turning turquoise from the top down. His eyebrows, beard, and mustache are still brown. His ears are pierced. He is slim and muscular with a heart-shaped face. He is left-handed. Drustan is Scorpio with Pisces as a moon sign. His heritage includes Welsh, French, and German. Following incidents of child abuse and neglect, he grew up in the foster care system, so he had no real family support for years. The results of that have not been very good.
When Drustan reached the Liáng family, he finally found a comfortable home. This lasted until Mingxia's baby was born with severe medical problems, and Family Services dispersed the foster children to other locations. Drustan suffered through several bad placements, sometimes running away from them. Then his last foster parents sold him while pretending that he had run away again.
As a result, Drustan fell prey to a mad scientist whose disturbing experiments gave him superpowers. The body horror from his ordeal has left him full of dread and melancholy, making it difficult for him to connect with people. He also gets anxious about being tied up, locked in, or confined in any other way. That has given him a nasty set of striationary marks, more than once.
Turq has worked as a supervillain; he is a capable thief and a useful distraction, but iffy in a real fight. Most often he uses the shapeshifting, although his neural blast allows him to disorient people or shock them unconscious depending how much force he puts into it. He does his best to conceal the drawbacks of his superpowers, because he doesn't want anyone to take advantage of him. He is fatalistic about injuries and sometimes resistant to help. His cape name is a double tap. It's short for turquoise, in reference to his hair. It also touches on the Turk chess machine, which in Terramagne was not a hoax but an early gizmo.
Currently Turq lives in Bluehill, Missouri where he often interacts with Officer Pink (Ansel Nicholson). It has taken a lot of work, but Turq is starting to move back toward everyday society. He has also reconnected with the Liáng family, although that's an emotional roller-coaster of its own. His new support networking is helping him overcome the trauma he has survived.
Origin: Mad science torture. The supervillain Carl Bernhardt locked Drustan in a strange metal chamber and bombarded him with mysterious energies that caused his body to warp. He escaped when he finally manifested teleportation. Turq has since worked as a henchman for hire.
Uniform: Street clothes. He prefers clothes with stripes, spots, or other patterns because they hide bloodstains better. Usually he wears dark or neutral colors, but he also likes the blue-to-green range.
Qualities: Good (+2) Adaptable, Good (+2) Chess Player, Good (+2) Comforting When Fuzzy, Good (+2) Fast, Good (+2) Finding and Fixing Things, Good (+2) Supervillain Henchman
Poor (-2) Body Horror
Powers: Average (0) Teleporting, Average (0) Neural Blast, Average (0) Regeneration, Average (0) Shapeshifting
His alternate forms include caney, deer, and ferret. In caney form he has a violet gland with a pronounced floral scent, which is less intense but still present in his other shapes.
Vulnerability: Turq has difficulty controlling his superpowers. Shapeshifting screws up his body in ways that leave him coughing and vomiting blood afterwards. However, he can heal the damage -- anything that doesn't kill him instantly probably can't kill him at all. Teleporting can leave him disoriented and twitching from misconnected nerves, or scrambled inside, or all of the above. He actually travels by disintegrating and then reintegrating somewhere else, rather than by blinking from one place to another the way most teleporters do.
Motivation: Get through the day without screaming too much.

The teal deer currently has four points; here he is in velvet, earlier in the year.


Officer Pink (Ansel Nicholson) -- He has ruddy skin and hazel eyes. His hair starts out light brown but he has it changed to pink by Paintrix, after which it also tends to stand straight up. He discovers that the pink color just feels right for him, and decides to keep it. Ansel is tall and athletic, with a rectangular face, wide shoulders, and trim hips. He is heterosexual and has a girlfriend. He sleeps so deeply that he's easy to sneak up on after he's asleep.
Ansel works on the Bluehill police force with a rank of corporal. He often volunteers for youth outreach and other public speaking. His pink hair helps other soups identify him, breaks the ice at presentations, and encourages people to ask him for help. On the downside, it also makes forks and other bigots hate him.
Origin: Upset by the increase in bullying, Ansel starts doing presentations at schools in Bluehill. The kids give him the idea of coloring his hair pink so he can see firsthand how people treat someone who is visibly different.
Uniform: On duty, Ansel wears the Bluehill police uniform. Off duty, he likes casual, sporty clothes.
Qualities: Master (+6) Compassion, Expert (+4) Citizen, Expert (+4) Cop, Expert (+4) People Skills, Good (+2) Athletic, Good (+2) Catcher in the Rye, Good (+2) Cheerful, Good (+2) Jigsaw Puzzles, Good (+2) Kindness, Good (+2) Listener, Good (+2) Problem-Solving Skills
Poor (-2) Deep Sleeper
Powers: Average (0) Moral Compass, Average (0) Wild Pink Hair
Motivation: To make the world a kinder place.

Mr. Dipper (Earle Barcroft) -- He has fair skin and gray eyes. His short dark hair is rapidly going gray from the chin back; his beard is almost white, the crown of his head gray, and the nape still dark. Also his hairline is receding, so he is almost half bald on top. He is a small man, and not very strong on a physical level. Mr. Dipper lives in a small house in Bluehill. The landscaping looks like it's meant to support wildlife, but it's more designed for visual cover.
Mr. Dipper excels at spotting and exploiting vulnerable people. He runs a gang of disaffected youth, sending them out to steal things for him, but he does not take good care of them in return. He is a lousy provider and an abusive bastard. Always punctual himself, Mr. Dipper does not tolerate lateness from others. This is the gang Turq belongs to, hence why he's leaning more toward Officer Pink now that he has better options.
Origin: His superpower grew in slowly as he spent years learning how to make people do what he wanted.
Uniform: Men's street clothes.
Qualities: Good (+2) Exploiting Vulnerabilities, Good (+2) Punctual, Good (+2) Strategic Thinking, Good (+2) Thief, Good (+2) Tougher Than He Looks,
Poor (-2) Fagin
Powers: Average (0) Persuasion
Motivation: Self-aggrandizement. He is greedy, selfish, and demanding of respect that he does not really deserve.

Crackleball (Grady Detwiler) -- He has currant skin, brown eyes, and short nappy black hair. He is slim with wiry muscles. He is fifteen years old. Grady had been in "temporary" foster care for several years, due to questionable reasons, when his superpowers manifested. His foster parents kicked him out of the house, but lied that he had run away. Currently Crackleball lives in Bluehill, working with a loose-knit gang run by Mr. Dipper. Turq is another member of the gang.
Origin: While playing with a plasma ball he'd been told not to touch, Grady broke it, injuring his hands in the process. Not long after that, sparks began trickling from his fingertips, and later from his eyes.
Uniform: Street clothes, considerably nicer than he could afford on his own. He likes to steal current fashions from students at the good schools.
Qualities: Good (+2) Alert, Good (+2) Knife Fighter, Good (+2) Opportunistic, Good (+2) Street Smart, Good (+2) Thief
Poor (-2) No Family Ties
Powers: Expert (+4) Plasma Bolt (Signature Stunt: EMP Field)
Crackleball can fire plasma bolts from his hands, eyes, or forehead. He can channel all his energy into one burst or launch up to five bolts simultaneously. That makes him far more versatile than most bolt shooters who can only do one or two bolts, usually from only their hands or eyes. He's even pretty good at hitting different targets simultaneously. He can also discharge the energy as an electromagnetic pulse which shorts out all electronic equipment in the area. Because it is a super-power, it has a chance of affecting super-gizmos, which ordinary EMP can't.
Motivation: Scrabbling up the social pyramid. However, Grady harbors a secret desire to reunite with his birth family.

Edwin De Soto -- He has fair skin, blue eyes, and brown hair sprinkled with silver. In middle age he has crow's feet and smile lines on his face. His body is sturdy and a little padded around the edges. Edwin lives in Bluehill, where he serves as chief of police. He runs the kind of police department where an annoying person may come back from vacation to find their cubicle filled with gumballs, but their coworkers will still pitch in to help them empty it. He's a real people person, well liked both at work and in the community.
Qualities: Master (+6) Police Chief, Master (+6) Happy, Expert (+4) Coping Skills, Expert (+4) Public Relations, Expert (+4) Resilience, Good (+2) Constitution, Good (+2) Family Man, Good (+2) Fixing Things, Good (+2) Party Games, Good (+2) Practical Jokes
Poor (-2) Dealing with Negative People

Bert Armbruster -- He has sorrel skin, brown eyes, and short nappy black hair. He is sturdy with a muscular build. Bert grew up in the St. Louis part of River City through grade school. Then he moved to Onion City, where he later trained for the BASH team. Eventually he moved to Bluehill for an opportunity to lead their handful of BASH officers. Bert excels at overwhelming difficult targets. However, he's no good at delicate tasks that require de-escalation, and prefers handing those off to someone better qualified. On vacation, he loves traveling to interesting places off the beaten path, and always comes home with great stories to tell about his adventures.
Qualities: Master (+6) Teamwork, Master (+6) Tough, Expert (+4) BASH Officer, Expert (+4) Integrity, Expert (+4) Mixed Martial Arts, Good (+2) Courage, Good (+2) Leader, Good (+2) Strategy, Good (+2) Traveler
Poor (-2) De-escalation Skills

Justin Bates -- He has peach skin, gray eyes, and short ash-blond hair. He is slim and graceful, fast on his feet. He orients most on scent and taste, which very few people use as their dominant sensory mode, so he's often a little out of phase with people around him. Justin is married to Celia with a baby on the way. As a BASH officer, Justin excels at identifying and protecting vulnerable parties during a mission, like if a raided lair happens to have children inside it. He works in the Bluehill police department.
Qualities: Master (+6) Fast, Master (+6) Fidelity, Expert (+4) Anticipation, Expert (+4) Driver, Expert (+4) Family Man, Good (+2) Aikido, Good (+2) BASH Officer, Good (+2) Cooperative Games, Good (+2) De-escalation Skills, Good (+2) Housekeeping
Poor (-2) Scent/Taste Dominant

Emmanuel Harrison -- He has fair skin and brown eyes. His hair is chesnut, with a brighter red beard just beginning to go gray on the chin. His name comes from the fact that the song "O Come, O Come Emmanuel" was playing when his mother went into labor. Emmanuel lives in Bluehill, Missouri where he serves on the police department as a chaplain and Emotional First Aide. He is Catholic, and gregarious with people of other religions, and so he does most of the department's interfaith outreach work. His hobbies include carpentry and choral singing. Emmanuel has a low tolerance for alcohol, and prefers not to drink outside of ceremonial occasions.
Qualities: Master (+6) Existential Intelligence, Expert (+4) Chaplain, Expert (+4) Nonanxious Presence, Good (+2) Carpenter, Good (+2) Emotional First Aide, Good (+2) Singer, Good (+2) Strength
Poor (-2) Low Alcohol Tolerance

Major Catriona Deyne -- She has pale skin, dark auburn hair, and sherry-brown eyes. She lives in Rollo, Missouri where she heads up the BASH team, with the rank of major. Catriona likes having a job that lets her wear armor, because people tend to pick on her first out of a group. She builds models as a hobby, and also enjoys outdoor activities.
Qualities: Master (+6) Dutiful, Expert (+2) Athletic, Expert (+4) BASH Officer, Good (+2) Building Models, Good (+2) Outdoorswoman, Good (+2) Strategic Thinking
Poor (-2) Preferred Target

Binghamton "Bingo" York -- He has pale skin and silver-blue eyes. Most of his body hair is white-blond, although his eyebrows are a little darker. The top of his head is completely bald. He lives in Rollo, Missouri where he serves as second-in-command of the BASH team with a rank of police corporal. Bingo is their best doorbreaker, but he can't always control his strength; he often breaks things. An avid football fan, he loves pickup games at the park and hosting game day parties. He also enjoys classic fantasy; his nickname is not just based on his own name, but the original name for Frodo Baggins, visible only in Tolkien's early manuscripts.
Qualities: Expert (+4) Courage, Expert (+4) Strength, Good (+2) BASH Officer, Good (+2) Fantasy Fan, Good (+2) Football Fan, Good (+2) Tactical Thinking
Poor (-2) Fragile World

Lena Pulaski -- She has ruddy skin, olive eyes, and straight red hair to her chin.
She is Baptist like her mother, although her father is a Secular Humanist which Lena finds very useful in working with less-religious people. She lives in Bluehill, Missouri where she serves on the police department as a chaplain and counselor. She handles most of the department's interaction with atheist, agnostic, or otherwise secular folks. Lena enjoys trail sports such as jogging, hiking, and biking. Many of her relatives live a few counties away in Big Prairie and Rolla; sometimes she takes a weekend trail ride to visit them. She also enjoys reading cozy mysteries and other gentle fiction. Lena has a strong dislike of crude language, which sometimes causes friction because she works in an environment with some rough people in it.
Qualities: Expert (+4) Counselor, Expert (+4) Emotional Intelligence, Good (+2) Chaplain, Good (+2) Endurance, Good (+2) Fan of Gentle Fiction, Good (+2) Trail Sports
Poor (-2) Dislikes Vulgarity

Tacy Saint James -- She has pale skin, mossy-green eyes, and straight ginger hair to her chin. She is 13 years old at the time she leaves Mr. Dipper's gang. Originally she comes from the town of Big Prairie, Missouri, locally nicknamed Saint James, which has many people of that surname in the area. The town lies in south central Missouri, a couple of counties away from from Bluehill. Tacy enjoys exploring the local wilderness, especially Maramec Spring Park and Big Prairie Conservation Area.
Tacy has been in and out of foster care or staying with various relatives for several years. A survivor of child sexual abuse, she has not said anything about it because her uncle threatened to kill her if she spoke out. Her birth parents are currently in Rollo, Missouri but Tacy would prefer to live with her Aunt Abilene.
Qualities: Expert (+4) Quiet, Good (+2) Fast, Good (+2) Missouri Wilderness
Poor (-2) Sexual Abuse Survivor

In Terramagne-America, the town is still called Big Prairie. In Local-America:
The settlement was originally known as Big Prairie because of its location on the natural prairie of that name in the area. In 1859, when a man by the name of John Wood anticipated the extension of the St. Louis-San Francisco Railway, the settlement became known for a short time as Scioto, named after the town of Scioto, Ohio, where many of the town's early settlers originated. In 1860, the town was named St. James to honor Thomas James who came from Ohio and created the Meramec Iron Works.

L-America has only the Little Prairie Conservation Area in Phelps County, Missouri (342 acres). In T-America, the Big Prairie Conservation Area is nearly twice that size.


Jerney Neidlinger -- She has pinkish fair skin, brown eyes, and long straight hair streaked in shades of lighter and darker blonde. She is slender with narrow hips and large breasts. Her ears, nipples, and navel are pierced. She wants to get her pussy pierced too, but so far hasn't found anyone willing to do that. Originally she came from Farmington, St. Francois County, Missouri. Jerney is an accomplished pickpocket and even better prostitute, catering to men who like young girls instead of trying to look older than her age. She is currently 15 years old. She tends to dress in snug yet casual clothes, so that she looks sexy and fresh but not specifically like a prostitute. Jerney enjoys trying to manipulate people, but she isn't very good at it yet.
Qualities: Expert (+4) Prostitute, Good (+2) Pickpocket, Good (+2) Pop Culture, Good (+2) Street Smart
Poor (-2) Manipulation

Farmington is a city in St. Francois County located 72 miles southwest of St. Louis in the Lead Belt region in Missouri in the United States. As of the 2010 census, the population was 16,240. It is the county seat of St. Francois County.
• Zip code: 63640
• Population: 17,796 (2013)
• Area code: 573


Abilene Saint James -- She has pinkish-fair skin, ginger hair, and blue eyes. She lives near the Big Prairie Conservation Area. She is the aunt of Tacy Saint James, and deeply disappointed in her younger brother who is Tacy's father.
Qualities: Expert (+4) Habitat Restoration, Expert (+4) Naturalistic Intelligence, Good (+2) Introvert, Good (+2) Patient, Good (+2) Stamina
Poor (-2) Taking Risks

* * *

"I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. It's when you know you're licked before you begin but you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what."
-- Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird

To Kill a Mockingbird is a classic novel about racism. I myself am not a fan of it for various reasons, but many other people are.

[These images are really ugly.]
Mr. Dipper's house is a squalid shack. The floor plan is similar to this. The yard is full of junk. This is the back door. The overhang wraps from the front porch around part of the side. The kitchen is filthy and falling apart. The living room is a mess. Mr. Dipper's bedroom is slightly less awful. Note that he put the good viewscreen in there, and the little old television in the living room. The flop room is crowded, but it's dry and does have actual bunk beds in it. The bathroom looks the way it will when cheap fixtures are shared by a dozen or two poorly raised youth.

The house belongs to a poor, dilapidated neighborhood that's a patchwork of trailer parks and tiny houses. Behind it lies a tangled stretch of second-growth forest and brush that used to be farmland before it peters out into the fields. The woods are full of trash and hazards like old barbed wire and abandoned refrigerators.

Here's a map of Phelps County, Missouri showing Rolla and St. James (which is Big Prairie in T-America). On the scaleable map you can see the towns better, along with Little Prairie Lake. Interstate 44 connects Rolla with St. James (Big Prairie), and has a bike trail alongside it. Here you can see more of the bike routes in Rolla. This is typical of T-America where the weather is decent for biking and towns are passably close together. At least the core of town has bike routes looping through it, and many towns are connected by cross-country trails for biking, hiking, or horseback riding. Some towns like Bluehill take it a lot further.

In T-America, Big Prairie Conservation Area in Phelps County, Missouri has about 640 acres (1 square mile area). Land cover types: 20 acres of small grain food plots for wildlife such as deer and turkeys, divided into ten 2-acre plots scattered around the area; 88 acres of woodlands including forest and savannah; 72 acres of ponds, creeks, marshes, and other wetlands; 241 acres of old fields slated for restoration to prairie, 40 acres of developed area including a visitor center, playgrounds, picnic areas, greenhouses and restoration facilities, roads, etc.; and 179 acres of native prairie. Featured activities span hiking, biking, birdwatching, swimming, canoeing, fishing, and hunting. The small waterways are most prone to producing catfish, crappie, and sunfish; caught fish may be kept or donated. Hunting is excellent for deer, squirrel, and rabbit; good for turkey and waterfowl; fair for dove and quail; poor for pheasant, but that's deliberate. Most game is donated to local food pantries and soup kitchens, although some is cooked onsite for park events. Amenities include boat ramps, picnic tables, barbecue grills and firepits, pavilions, playground equipment, campsites, hiking trails, and biking trails. The developed area has a full showerhouse with flush toilets. The rest of the site has some mobile composting toilets scattered around; when each hole gets full, it is capped with topsoil and (depending on location) a tree or deep-rooted wildflowers are planted on the spot.

The plot originally consisted of about 100 acres of old-growth prairie remnants, to which several dozen acres were added over time as adjacent land became available, thus providing room for park facilities. Some parts came from private hunting ranges, and these have largely been maintained as such. As a conservation area, the goal is to maintain healthy populations of native species, but exotics like ring-necked pheasants are unwanted and thus have no hunting limit. Hunting supports conservation through economics and practical means. The big score was the 2001 donation of a 300-acre farm dating back to the pioneer period, when the last surviving member of that branch of the Bradford family passed away. The Bradford Farm roughly doubled the size of the conservation area.

"First White Inhabitants [...] James Harrison, Adam Bradford, John York, and Jack and John Dugan, with possibly a few others. [...] Adam Bradford first settled on Little Piney, but soon moved to Spring Creek. He was among the first to erect a mill. He was a noted marksman."
History of Laclede, Camden, Dallas, Webster, Wright, Texas, Pulaski, Phelps, and Dent Counties, Missouri. John Morris Company, Printers.

The paramedic unit of the Bluehill Police Department can provide Advanced Life Support. See the front, side cabinets, and back. The cab has two bucket seats in front and two more in back. See the interior and some of the medical equipment.

Bluehill is a modest-sized town that doesn't have (or need) a very large police department. Therefore, many of the employees cross-train to fill more than one role. This allows the department to cover all the tasks with a concise workforce. It also enriches their work life and ensures that most positions can be covered easily when someone needs time off. Among the crossovers are police with extra medical training, up to and including paramedics. These are deployed on risky calls such as domestic abuse where a mono-cop might not be able to handle the medical issues and a mono-medic couldn't cope with the high threat level. They're also useful as combat medics on raids. Here are some tips on cross-training employees.

In Terramagne-America, a raid is the preferred method of coping with supervillains. It may be planned well in advance, or hastily composed in an emergency as shown here. Ideally, it incorporates both civil authorities and superheroes, but that's not always feasible. BASH is the T-American equivalent of L-American SWAT, used in dangerous missions. However, T-America places much higher value on citizen life, so police are obligated minimize the potential of casualties by discreetly evacuating bystanders prior to a planned raid. You can read about planning operations and clearing buildings online. This page explains the hot/warm/cold zone system for support crew such as medics and chaplains. Trauma risk management aims to lower the risk of PTSD by providing education and Emotional First Aid.

Police ranks include SWAT (L-America) or BASH (T-America) officers. Here's a look at the St. Louis / River City insignia.

Terramagne-America has tighter gun laws and fewer guns than local-America. For this reason, few police officers wear armor routinely. However, gizmotronic and super-gizmotronic weapons can raise the stakes. Hence the use of battlesuits, which are not affected by most ordinary weapons short of tank rounds, and some also resist gizmotronic or super-gizmotronic weapons. Modern body armor is lighter and more comfortable than historic armor, but still becomes heavier and stiffer the more protective it is. Therefore, most police officers wear light (stops handguns) to medium (stops rifles) armor even on a raid. BASH personnel on the penetration team wear heavy armor (stops armor-piercing rounds), because they expect to get shot at; and if powered armor is available, that's where it goes too. In L-America, armor that protects against edged or pointed weapons is usually separate, and the combined armor is a nuisance to wear; T-America has better tech and thus their combined armor has similar weight and flexibility to single-purpose armor here. Ansel chooses light armor on this mission because he needs speed and flexibility more than protection from heavy weapons. He also needs to avoid spooking the kids he's been assigned to protect.

Ansel's tac knife is small for a tactical knife, and folding knives aren't as secure in combat as fixed knives. However, it's not as intimidating, and it's lightweight enough to use for everyday carry in a noncombat zone. The extra features -- a saw edge near the hilt, a seatbelt cutter, and a glassbreaking point on the pommel -- make it far more useful than a regular pocketknife. It is sturdy, discreet, and effective in a wide range of situations. Under the badge is an ID chip that will furnish Ansel's badge number and other identification to a police scanner, making it a backup to his regular badge.

A utility belt or duty belt carries much of an officer's gear. Always put your most-used items front and center. Put less-used items farther back. Balance heavy things in equivalent positions to both sides. Don't put anything rigid where it could hurt you if you fall or lean on it. In L-America, the most-used item is handcuffs. In T-America it's often a minor first aid kit, especially for someone like Ansel. His other most frequent item is the ticket book, which includes warnings as well as serious ones. Then there's the Citizen Assistance Kit, which contains whatever small items people frequently need but don't have -- a few quarters, mini-map cards, a meal bar, a pacifier or finger puppet to distract children, etc.

Here's a look at some popular first aid kits for police officers. A first aid kit stocked for minor problems is something Ansel uses several times a week. It packs into a small pouch on the belt, marked with a blue cross patch that's popular for police first aid supplies. A trauma first aid kit such as the Chinook LEMK-OR is useful in treating major injuries. These are customary carries for T-American police officers. For this occasion, actively expecting trouble, Ansel has switched to a larger first aid kit whose contents cover both minor and major injuries.

Hugging knees can appear in body language of discomfort, fear, or other distress.

The Peckerwoods are a white gang active in the Midwest including Missouri.

Whitetail body language includes a variety of signals involving the head, ears, and especially tail:
Calm -- head low, grazing or browsing, ears and tail relaxed or swishing slowly
Interested -- head up, scenting, ears pricked forward, tail wagging
Nervous -- head up, scenting, stamping, snorting, ears or tail flicking rapidly
Suspicious -- stiff legs, slinking, pawing, tail at half-mast or clamped down
Aggressive -- ears down and back, head lowered, sidling gait, glaring
Alarmed -- snorting, bawling, tail at full flag, running or bounding

Abandoned refrigerators can trap and kill people, usually small children. L-America has changed the closure method to reduce this risk. T-America prefers to remove all discarded refrigerators and freezers to a safe disposal location. Even if you take the door off, they remain a risk for drowning and for breeding mosquitoes. However, you can still upcycle the shell to make a great fishpond or raised garden. Just don't dump it in the woods.

L-America offers a variety of GPS devices for hikers. One thing they can do is mark a location for future reference. All Ansel has to do is key his vidwatch to the location of the refrigerator and freezer, so someone can read the location and go pick them up.

I couldn't find a reference on plasma burns per se, but plasma is a hot ionized gas that reacts strongly to electromagnetism. Thus, plasma burns probably have similar characteristics to steam burns and electrical burns. The exterior appearance probably resembles steam burns, but with a higher rate of neurological damage as seen in dry electrical burns. In particular, consider high-pressure steam burns as similar to plasma bolt damage. A direct hit at high power can be fatal; lower power may cause harm at levels comparable to a bullet wound. Deep burns may also affect major blood vessels, causing fluid leakage or even hemorrhage. Know the first aid for treating different types of burns. Now imagine trying to extrapolate those basics into trauma care for superpower-caused burns, which might be similar or quite different, with an officer down and no official guidelines for this weird shit.

Shotgun shells come in various sizes and styles. Dixie Tri Ball is a type of shotgun shell works great for large game such as moose or elk that buckshot won't drop. T-American boarshot features one large ball plus three to six smaller balls, a compelling balance between stopping power and spread. The large ball is more prone to breaking bone while the smaller ones tend to do soft-tissue damage. It's quite effective against human targets. This is a variation on the historic "buck and ball" shot. T-American boarshot is better than L-American buck and ball shot, engineered for superior flight dynamics. You won't see its real power on paper, only in the field. It uses some similar concepts as the HeviMetal birdshot available here. The good stuff is retro-engineered tech, but plenty of rednecks like to make their own, and some of them are quite adept at it. Watch a buck-and-ball shot fired and see what it can do to a deer. In this case, some of the Peckerwoods were shooting boarshot instead of the buckshot that Ansel was expecting, hence Lena's broken arm and surrounding minor wounds. Guns may be more discouraged in T-America than here, but the South is still the South.

(no subject)

Date: 2017-03-16 11:47 pm (UTC)
thnidu: Lucy bright and bold. Lucida Bright font, boldface: backslash, small-o, slash: YAY!! (yay)
From: [personal profile] thnidu
Brave Turq!

At first I thought the girl's name was Stacy and she had some temporary or chronic speech impediment. (NB: I'm not complaining or recommending any change.) Initial /st/ → /t/ is common, I think especially but not exclusively among young children who haven't yet mastered all the complexities of English pronunciation.

• Officer Pink and Turk coming into the Yellow Zone,
→ Turq

• Emmanuel Harrison -- He has fair skin and brown eyes. His hair is chesnut
→ chestnut

(no subject)

Date: 2017-03-17 01:09 am (UTC)
technoshaman: Tux (Default)
From: [personal profile] technoshaman
Funny thing is, I just heard the Mockingbird quote as an audio track a few days ago. <3 (Now I can't help but heat it in the black gentleman's voice, even though I know Atticus was a white guy.

Good stuff!

(no subject)

Date: 2017-03-17 01:20 am (UTC)
we_are_spc: (Default)
From: [personal profile] we_are_spc
I should read your deal on why not to see a different perspective. I have memories of being kind of 'meh' about it due to some of the 2-D/stereotypical things, and the girl on trial seemed to 'just want to be rid' of all black people because they 'all take advantage of me, waaah'. but maybe that's how it was supposed to be written, I dunno. It's been years (And an entire staff switch) since we've read it, so.

So good, though!

Re: Well...

Date: 2017-03-17 01:56 am (UTC)
we_are_spc: (Default)
From: [personal profile] we_are_spc
OK, that's fair. And I get that. Although I didn't see it that way back then; I just saw it as a portrayal of what happened at that time, which is probably how most people see it.

That said, looking back at what we remember, I can see where that would come out now.

-Fallon~

Sigh.

Date: 2017-03-17 01:28 am (UTC)
dialecticdreamer: My work (Default)
From: [personal profile] dialecticdreamer
So very difficult for Turq, and yet so IMPORTANT, especially now that the action is done and others can tell him //repeatedly// that he did not "screw up" or "abandon" anyone.

That he is, in fact, courageous.

So much damage to his self-image will just take time to heal.

I'd love to see follow-up care for the rescued kids, too.

(no subject)

Date: 2017-03-17 02:17 am (UTC)
siliconshaman: black cat against the moon (Default)
From: [personal profile] siliconshaman
Wowsers... Turq was brave, although you'd probably have to work hard to convince him of that, if you could.

Regarding plasma injuries, although I can;t find any scholerly articles on the subject, from personal observation I'd say the injury pattern is like a localised, smaller-scale version of a lightning strike injury. [link]. So, unlikely to be fatal unless they're unlucky enough for it to hit near to major artery or organ, but high probability of localised temporary paralysis and permanent nerve damage to the affected limb.

Most of the effects are thermal and concussive, produced by the sudden heating and vaporisation of the top few millimetres of clothing or epidermis. Basically, it dumps most of the energy in a small shallow area because the human body has a very high resistance per centimetre, and that goes off like a hand-grenade at point blank range [only usually without the shrapnel.] The emp and electrical cytokintic effects are less noticeable at first, but do more long term damage.

Deeper burns can be avoided by rapidly cooling the affected area, not unlike a steam-burn as you surmised, as the heat conducts outwards from the original wound.

Thinking further on it though, a plasma beam weapon would probably produce injuries more like accidental contact with a welding arc, than lightning. Most of the injury would be sustained contact burns, not flash burns, with the discharge cooking the flesh as it burned down through the epidermis.
Edited Date: 2017-03-17 02:33 am (UTC)

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