ysabetwordsmith: Damask smiling over their shoulder (polychrome)
[personal profile] ysabetwordsmith
This poem was written outside the regular prompt calls and fills the "I'm on Fire" square in my 2-1-17 Love Songs card for the Valentines Bingo fest. It has been sponsored by Anthony & Shirley Barrette. It belongs to the Officer Pink thread of the Polychrome Heroics series.

WARNING: This poem contains intense material that many readers may find disturbing. It also contains a hefty serving of poetic justice. Highlight to read the more detailed warnings, some of which are spoilers. There is mad science, Carl Bernhardt is always a warning, graphic description of medical torture and experimentation on sapient people, centaurs produced by mad science, a distorted response that could be learned helplessness or Stockholm syndrome, references to sapient trafficking and sexual exploitation, graphic description of injuries, messy medical details, unethical employees, and other challenges. If these are touchy topics for you, please consider your tastes and headspace before deciding whether this is something you want to read. It does advance the plot a bit, but a lot of the general trajectory is already established, so it's only a minor gap if you choose to skip this one.


"The Source of Pain"


The centaurs were proving
a most gratifying success.

Carl Bernhardt had discovered
that while humans were unlikely
to survive the grafting process
without superpowers, there was
no significant difference between
natural and induced superpowers.

A range of abilities would serve, too --
Healing, Regeneration, Toughness,
Super-Immunity or Super-Constitution.
Some of those were even common.

So now he had a fine series of
the creatures, whose herd instincts
discouraged them from escape attempts
which had cost him so many other subjects.

The one currently in the stanchion --
a pinto girl with brown spots and black hair --
was a favorite whose easygoing nature made her
simple to work with. She was actually trying not
to fight against the restraints as he swabbed
caustic substances on her skin to observe
how long it took to regenerate each burn.

Even though he was the source of pain,
she tried to obey him, tried to be good.

She would make someone a marvelous toy
if he ever decided to sell her, although
with her sweet temperament, Carl was
more inclined to keep her for breeding.

When he poured the drain cleaner on her,
though, she bucked so hard that he jerked back
in reflex, hitting the cart which held his supplies.

Caustics slopped over his hand and arm,
making him flail at the source of pain.

The Bunsen burner caught his sleeve
and lit it on fire, blue flames leaping up.

He screamed and ripped off his lab coat,
batting out the flames and trying
to wipe off the caustics.

The damage was already done.

Skin sloughed off in long shreds,
allowing blood and lymph to bubble up.
He could even see some of the bones
through the back of his hand.

Carl grabbed a syringe of anaesthetic
and stabbed himself repeatedly around
the injuries until the pain began to fade.

He looked at the ruin of his arm.

There was no alternative; he would
have to bargain for a healer if he wanted
to keep it. Few of them wished to work for him,
so this would be difficult and risky to arrange.

It could attract unwanted attention, and
the local environment was already turning up
the heat on human trafficking. People were
sniffing around in places where they had
no business being, but he could not afford
to 'disappear' them and draw even more eyes.

The centaur girl was sobbing about how sorry
she was, as if that made any difference.

Carl's hand shook as he completed his notes
for the session, then pushed the button
to summon the livestock nurse.

Hagatha Vener was cool and competent,
without the pesky ethics that had cost him
so many valuable employees over time.

When she saw his injuries, she exclaimed,
"Doctor! What happened, what do you need?"

"Never mind that, I'll deal with it," he said,
forcing his voice not to shake. "Put the subject
back in her stall. Have the lab cleaned."

"Yes, doctor," she said, and set to work.

It was so hard to find staff who didn't argue,
Carl realized. He should give her a raise.

With Hagatha on the job, he could finally
stagger out of the lab and go lie down
while he sought a healer who could be
bribed to come repair his arm.

It still hurt, damn it, and he didn't
dare take anything stronger before
negotiations this delicate and vital.

How ironic, that his very expression of
being should become such a source of pain.

* * *

Notes:

Carl Bernhardt -- He has fair skin, beady black eyes, and short black hair that is going gray and receding at the hairline. His ancestors moved from Germany to Argentina during World War II, carrying on less-than-ethical scientific research. When people objected to that, his parents moved from Argentina to America to escape the heat. In high school, Carl studied Spanish and went to Argentina with his classmates, wanting to visit some of his relatives there. Upon discovering that some of them were still in the family business of shadowy experiments, he decided to stay and get involved himself. His personal interest developed into studying superpowers, connecting with the family background through his desire to replicate superpowers as a way of furthering evolution. Eventually his research led to him fleeing from Argentina and bouncing around several other countries. Wanted by various authorities, he is currently back in America.
As a psychopath, Carl excels at manipulating people for his own ends, and feels no empathy or remorse. He disregards laws, morals, and the rights of others. He views the whole world as a lab and everything in it as materials for his experiments. However, Carl also fakes being normal well enough to fool almost everyone except for his hapless captives. He is calm, logical, and organized in his plans. Most people take him for a respectable scientist and tend to do whatever he wants. But anyone who has dealt with psychopaths or narcissists gets a bonus for recognizing him -- you can see it in his creepy, soulless eyes if you know what to look for. The problem is that nobody else will believe you when you try to warn them about how dangerous he is.
His experiments have produced a number of substances, gizmos, super-gizmos, and even a few people that Carl has sold for exorbitant prices. Turq is one of the few to survive and escape. That's an example of the skill level: a lot of theoretical knowledge, some equipment, but in live subjects the results are often fatal and even when they're not fatal there are significant flaws. This irritates Carl to no end, and sometimes makes his buyers unhappy too. But that's okay: he can always kill them if they complain.
Origin: Eugenics. The family has spent decades dabbling in everything from breeding programs to genetic engineering in hopes of improving the human race, and occasionally they take personal advantage of techniques that seem promising.
Uniform: Usually a business suit or lab wear.
Qualities: Master (+6) Psychopath, Expert (+4) I Can Kill You in So Many Ways, Expert (+4) Master's Degree in Biology, Good (+2) Dexterity, Good (+2) Knowledge of Superpowers, Good (+2) Wealth
Poor (-2) Wanted by the Authorities
Powers: Expert (+4) Super-Intellect, Good (+2) Super-Gizmology
Motivation: To learn everything about superpowers.

Lilita Nieves -- She has fair skin, brown eyes, and long straight black hair. She is a centaur with a bay pinto coat showing large brown spots on a white background, black feet below the knees and hocks, and a black tail. She is only 14, but already has full breasts. Her human heritage includes American, Hispanic, and Jewish. Her horse heritage is mustang. Lilita suffers from traumatic stress as a result of human trafficking which landed her in a mad science lab. It manifests primarily as shyness and a pronounced fawn response. She clings to other members of her herd when they are together, trying to hide behind them as much as possible.
Origin: Mad science torture. Carl Bernhardt cut her in half and spliced her upper body to the lower body of a mare.
Uniform: None. She is kept nude.
Qualities: Good (+2) Easygoing, Good (+2) Graceful, Good (+2) Observant, Good (+2) Pretty
Poor (-2) Shy
Powers: Good (+2) Regeneration, Average (0) Centaur
Centaurs are stronger and faster than ordinary humans. Most of the surviving centaurs have an additional superpower which helped them to withstand the trauma of their creation. The more common ones include Healing, Regeneration, Toughness, Super-Constitution, and Super-Immunity. Some of them also have Super-Strength or Super-Speed, and they are stronger or faster than other centaurs.
Vulnerability: Digestive issues.
Due to Carl Bernhardt's erratic pratices, centaurs also tend to have physical problems. In Lilita's case, her human and equine digestive systems don't work together very well, leaving her prone to colic and other problems. She needs a special diet and gets even sicker without it.
Motivation: To avoid punishment.

A bay horse has a brown body with black points (mane, tail, and lower legs). A pinto horse can be any color splashed with white. Often the legs are partly or wholly white, although they can be dark.


Hagatha Vener -- She has fair skin, brown eyes, and short hair streaked in lighter and darker blonde. She works for Carl Bernhardt, taking care of the livestock. Hagatha has a cruel streak and sometimes takes trophies from dead subjects. Among them is a pink fur coat from one of Turq's cohort.
Qualities: Good (+2) Livestock Nurse, Good (+2) Logical-Mathematical Intelligence, Good (+2) Methodical, Good (+2) Reliable
Poor (-2) Ethics

* * *

"This is your karma. You do not understand now, but you will understand later. The source of pain is within your own larger expression of being."
H. Raven Rose

(Some of these links are horrifying.)
The mad scientist is an entertainment trope, but also appears throughout much of history. Unlike most horror archetypes, mad scientists are scary precisely because they are real; the fictional ones derive their terror from the real ones. People sometimes wonder what makes a mad scientist and whether they could be one. There is actually a link between genius and what is considered insanity. Most mad scientists are really just mad engineers, but Carl Bernhardt is at least attempting to go through the motions of scientific method. He's a shitty scientist as well as a deplorable person, but more than just a mad engineer.

(More ghastly links.)
Research on human subjects is supposed to have careful ethics. However, human experimentation and medical torture have a long and ugly history. Efforts to stop them have been haphazard, often hindered by people who find the proposed laws or rules to be inconvenient. The motivations are questionable.

A stanchion is a device for restraining livestock, which can be as simple as a head latch for milking or as elaborate as an articulated cage. For mad science, the cage model is preferred. This type of stanchion is used for restraining cattle, such as for hoof trimming, and the lab model would likely be similar. By the way, when working on livestock, never pick up two feet at the same time as shown in that second picture; only do one at a time, to maintain stability.

(These links are gross.)
Chemical burns are caused by caustic substances, and are difficult to treat with conventional methods. Because hands have relatively thin skin, serious burns may expose deep structures such as tendons and bones.

A Bunsen burner is often used in labs for heating materials.

(More gross links.)
Thermal burns occur from exposure to high temperature, such as a flame. They range from mild to severe.

(Third link includes minor cruelty to animals.)
Karma can take many forms. Instant karma is often a direct result of one's own negative actions.

(no subject)

Date: 2017-03-24 05:40 am (UTC)
technoshaman: Tux (Default)
From: [personal profile] technoshaman
S'funny, I found that under the *right* dose of oxycontin I was *sharper* than I was in level 4-5 pain...

OTOH, I also found that if I got too much (taking my previous dose after I had healed more, then I felt distinctly fuzzy headed ...

Made it real easy to calibrate the dose. :)

The penalty for slaving is spacing ... but I would settle for simply translating him to L-America, sans access to funds.

Re: Thoughts

Date: 2017-03-24 11:21 am (UTC)
siliconshaman: black cat against the moon (Default)
From: [personal profile] siliconshaman
Lets *not* throw him to the Reavers... ok, they most likely would kill him, rape him, skin him and eat the remains...and if he's lucky in that order... but what if he's crazy enough to get along with them?! Absolute last thing you want to do is hand the psychopathic mad scientist an army of crazed assistants who'd just looove being experimented on!

My vote's drop him in a Black Hole... he can have the rest of eternity to enjoy being spaghetti-fied.

Re: Thoughts

Date: 2017-03-24 01:30 pm (UTC)
technoshaman: Tux (Default)
From: [personal profile] technoshaman
Throw him to the Reavers

Point. I was just thinking he wouldn't be here very *long*, but you're right, getting et is even better...

Re: Thoughts

Date: 2017-03-24 02:00 pm (UTC)
alatefeline: Painting of a cat asleep on a book. (Default)
From: [personal profile] alatefeline
I vote no on sending him here, amusing as the idea is. He'd probably kill some people, steal their stuff, and set himself up in business again. Eaten alive sounds good; eaten alive by his own mad science materials is appropriate, and the arm is a start on that. Tossed into outer space by a telekinetic whale...not bad but it'd be over quickly.

(no subject)

Date: 2017-03-28 03:51 pm (UTC)
johnpalmer: (Default)
From: [personal profile] johnpalmer
It's a complicated thing. When a person is suffering a fresh injury, the body has many responses that will wipe a person out, and enough meds to dull the pain might also trigger the "finally I can rest and try to recuperate!"

When a person is in pain but the heavy lifting of recovery is over, pain meds can be energizing for the very reason you mention - it takes the weight of "OMG this hurts" off of the brain so it can function better.

So: "I've just been injured, I dare not take enough pain killer to stop hurting or I'll fold up and sleep" makes sense, as does "Ow, and fog; painkiller AHHHH, much better."

(no subject)

Date: 2017-03-24 08:08 am (UTC)
thnidu: Jolly Roger, black w white skull & cross-snakes, THNIDU in creepy orange caps. tinyurl.com/c32ajat (skull)
From: [personal profile] thnidu
«As a psychopath, Carl excels at manipulating people for his own ends, and feels no empathy or remorse. He disregards laws, morals, and the rights of others. He views the whole world ... and everything in it as materials for his .... ... But anyone who has dealt with psychopaths or narcissists gets a bonus for recognizing him -- you can see it in his creepy, soulless eyes if you know what to look for.»

Hmm, reminds me of someone I keep hearing about. Did you have anyone particular in mind?

Re: Well...

Date: 2017-03-24 10:03 am (UTC)
thnidu: warning symbol, black exclamation mark in yellow triangle (warning)
From: [personal profile] thnidu
With specific reference to the parts I excerpted in my quotation, I was thinking of someone quite contemporary, who lacks all empathy and sympathy, has no respect for the truth and possibly no understanding of what that means, views everything in the world as being there solely for his own benefit and profit, and whose cold eyes along with his habitually angry mien are a clear expression of what goes on, or doesn't go on, behind that angry face.
Edited Date: 2017-03-24 10:04 am (UTC)

Re: Well...

Date: 2017-03-24 11:23 am (UTC)
siliconshaman: (Face of Evil)
From: [personal profile] siliconshaman
Someone who's last name is a synonym for fart perhaps?

Re: Well...

Date: 2017-03-24 01:34 pm (UTC)
thnidu: my familiar. "Beanie Baby" -type dragon, red with white wings (Default)
From: [personal profile] thnidu

Something like that, yeah

Re: Well...

Date: 2017-03-24 05:55 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] chanter_greenie
I thiiiink I see where you're going with this one, [personal profile] thnidu. A certain villain-in-chief, if I'm not mistaken?

Re: Well...

Date: 2017-03-24 06:00 pm (UTC)
thnidu: my familiar. "Beanie Baby" -type dragon, red with white wings (Default)
From: [personal profile] thnidu

Indeed. Or, as I sometimes refer to the only individual to have held this position with zero previous government or military experience, the Amateur-in-Chief.

Re: Well...

Date: 2017-03-24 06:12 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] chanter_greenie
Heh. Good one. That is, the nickname is a good one, quite unlike the person the nickname's pinned on.

Re: Well...

Date: 2017-03-28 03:52 pm (UTC)
johnpalmer: (Default)
From: [personal profile] johnpalmer
A fan favorite seems to be the initialism for So Called Ruler Of The United States, or SCROTUS.

Re: Well...

Date: 2017-03-29 08:22 am (UTC)
thnidu: my familiar. "Beanie Baby" -type dragon, red with white wings (Default)
From: [personal profile] thnidu
HA! (Though, by the way, that *is* an acronym, strictly speaking, because it is pronounced as a word rather than being spelled out as initials – which is essential to the whole point.)

Recognition

Date: 2017-03-24 10:42 pm (UTC)
librarygeek: cute cartoon fox with nose in book (Default)
From: [personal profile] librarygeek
As you said, dealing with a psychopath or narcissist before, gives you a bonus to recognize the NEXT one. It's infuriating when it's the same one who got a bigger stage.

He HURT my hometown, but he couldn't break Atlantic City, though he tried. I recognize one of the last names from this article!
http://6abc.com/news/good-samaritan-caught-on-camera-breaking-up-fight-honored-in-ac/1813971/

I wish HIM a giant mirror, where everything he does that harms others kicks HIM back, and Secret Service agents are OUT of harm's way.

amateur in chief

Date: 2017-03-26 07:57 am (UTC)
callibr8: (hodag)
From: [personal profile] callibr8
The parallels with a certain orange (that I'd love to see crushed) are obvious, yes. Nice bit of highlighting, there.

(no subject)

Date: 2017-03-24 11:24 am (UTC)
siliconshaman: black cat against the moon (Default)
From: [personal profile] siliconshaman
Hmm... is it too much to hope that this marks the beginning of the end for Carl?

(no subject)

Date: 2017-03-24 01:57 pm (UTC)
alatefeline: Painting of a cat asleep on a book. (Default)
From: [personal profile] alatefeline
Horrible. Creepy and horrible.

That horrible burn serves him right.

I want him to GET CAUGHT though.

Well written. Deserves all the warnings.

Re: Thoughts

Date: 2017-03-25 12:34 am (UTC)
alatefeline: Painting of a cat asleep on a book. (Default)
From: [personal profile] alatefeline
Noted for prompting purposes!!!

:)

(no subject)

Date: 2017-03-24 02:56 pm (UTC)
redsixwing: Red-winged angel staring at a distant star. (Default)
From: [personal profile] redsixwing
Brrr. Poor centaurs. Poor Lilita.

Carl... well. BURN M*****F***** BURN is all I got right now.

(no subject)

Date: 2017-03-24 05:08 pm (UTC)
thnidu: Tom Baker's Dr. Who, as an anthropomorphic hamster, in front of the Tardis. ©C.T.D'Alessio http://tinyurl.com/9q2gkko (Dr. Whomster)
From: [personal profile] thnidu
Just wondering: Where'd you develop the name "Hagatha Vener" from?

(no subject)

Date: 2017-03-24 06:06 pm (UTC)
chanter_greenie: Commander Seth Goddard of Space Cases fame (SC: Goddard - do the best they can)
From: [personal profile] chanter_greenie
I was wondering the same, actually. Hagatha reads like a variation on Agota or Agata, possibly from somewhere in eastern Europe, and Vener... That one made me think venal, whatever the surname's true origins are.

I wonder. Would/could one or more of creepazoid torturer's former assistants, they who left due to the ethical concerns that Hagatha Vener lacks, talk to some authority(s) or other and, so doing, bring this **** that much closer to justice?

Poor, poor Lilita. Forced regeneration tests... good lord. This man deserved his chemical burn. I wonder if whatever healer he ends up finding would or could implicate him, if they found out how he got the injury? There's medical confidentiality, and then there's torment i.e. ongoing harm to others. Then again, would Coldheart Carl be careless or overconfident enough to let those details slip?

The Stardog in the icon /glowers/ at the damn evil slaver. Not anywhere near his ship, you don't.

Re: Thoughts

Date: 2017-03-28 04:06 pm (UTC)
johnpalmer: (Default)
From: [personal profile] johnpalmer
My sense of literary justice has this idea that the healer can see what happened - they have to sense/feel the circumstances to reverse the damage - and while they've sworn never to reveal what caused an injury, immediately start seeking someone who has been injured by him - because that sharing of what happens also shows the healed person all the links the healer has closed.

"Oh, man, wow, like, I'm sorry - how could I know that I was healing someone who loved one of your victims, and would immediately know who you are and get a sense of where you were when I healed you? I mean, sure, I KNEW my powers did that but, did you know how much it *hurts* when that happens? Do you really think I would have sought out so much horror and pain, just so someone with a grudge against you would come chase you down?" (unspoken: you better believe I would! I felt the pain and horror of every living thing near that 'lab accident' asshole!" )

Re: Well...

Date: 2017-03-25 12:51 am (UTC)
thnidu: Tom Baker's Dr. Who, as an anthropomorphic hamster, in front of the Tardis. ©C.T.D'Alessio http://tinyurl.com/9q2gkko (Dr. Whomster)
From: [personal profile] thnidu
"Vener" seems to have the same root as "venereal", "venery" (the act or sport of hunting), and "Venus" (Latin root "vener-"). Way back in Proto-Indo-European it meant "to desire, strive for". (American Heritage Dictionary, edn. 4, Appendix I: "Indo-European Roots", wen-¹)

Respectfully submitted,
Dr. Whom: Consulting Linguist, Grammarian, Orthoëpist, and Philological Busybody
Edited Date: 2017-03-25 12:54 am (UTC)

Re: Well...

Date: 2017-03-25 03:23 am (UTC)
thnidu: Tom Baker's Dr. Who, as an anthropomorphic hamster, in front of the Tardis. ©C.T.D'Alessio http://tinyurl.com/9q2gkko (Dr. Whomster)
From: [personal profile] thnidu
Happy to help :-)

(no subject)

Date: 2017-03-28 03:40 pm (UTC)
stardreamer: Meez headshot (Default)
From: [personal profile] stardreamer
Everybody else has already said what I was going to say about the story itself, and I don't feel like stressing out today. So I'll just note that your links about horse coloration sent me on quite a Wikisafari, and I've learned that several things I thought I knew are obsolete. So thank you for that!

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ysabetwordsmith: Cartoon of me in Wordsmith persona (Default)
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