ysabetwordsmith: Damask smiling over their shoulder (polychrome)
[personal profile] ysabetwordsmith
This poem was inspired by the "Free Space: Mirrors" square on my 8-13-13 card for the [community profile] origfic_bingo fest. It has been sponsored by Anthony & Shirley Barrette. It belongs to the series Polychrome Heroics.

"The Hall of Mirrors"


I look at the spiralbound notebook
repurposed from class notes
to collective diary.

It helps us to communicate,
to share our experiences,
and to learn more about each other.

However, it's not enough.
We need something more structured
to map out our personalities,
our skills, and our desires.

I choose a white three-ring binder,
then fill it with college-ruled paper
and worksheets on different topics,
neatly sorted with tab dividers.

In our old diary,
I leave a note asking everyone
to start working in the new binder too.

Journal Entry: Personal Objectives
Write down a guiding purpose in your life.

Clarity: Organize things.
Ham: Protect the vulnerable.
Maze: Keep putting one foot in front of the other.
Clement: Help people in distress.
Keane: Cope with pain.
Mira: Be discreet.


Looking at the page,
I can see how our intent
overlaps and diverges.

Judging from the pattern,
it seems that we want
to become a superhero.

I start a new worksheet
to lay out a plan for that.

Journal Entry: Goal Timeline
Make a sequence of large to small accomplishments

Long-term goal:
Clarity: Become a superhero.

Mid-term goals:
Ham: Gather supplies and training.
Keane: Identify and practice powers.

Short-term goals:
Maze: List new items to acquire.
Clement: Set up a practice space.
Mira: Inventory things useful for practice.


I walk through the house,
looking for a promising place.

The attic is unfinished,
dusty and crammed with junk.
It's a possibility,
but far from ideal.

The third floor has my master bedroom,
the medium-size bedroom,
and the big landing around the stairs
with a couch and bookcases.

The second floor has the three small bedrooms
and the little landing area
with a chair and an end table.

The first floor has the foyer at the base of the stairs,
the living room, the kitchen with its pantry,
and the dining room that doubles as study space.

The basement is semi-finished,
with a utility corner near the base of the stairs
for the washer and dryer.
There are sagging metal shelves,
more shelves made of concrete blocks and boards,
stacks of milk crates, and other stuff
left behind by former tenants.

There is also a small door
that leads to a short hallway
and another underground space.
Back there is a showerhead and a shop sink
beside a drain in the concrete floor.

I look at the mess,
but I see the possibilities.


I spend Saturday
cleaning the basement,
both the section near the stairs
that my four housemates can access
and the area beyond the little door
that only I can unlock.

I smile at the results.
For the first time
since the kidnapping,
I feel a real sense of control
over my life again.

I carry down my box
of spare theatrical supplies --
masks and makeup, small props,
and bits of costume wear.

Upstairs, I print off
a sheaf of worksheets
about various mental techniques
and add those to our binder.

Then I write a request for
each headmate to bring
at least one thing
to set up our practice space.


I look around the basement
and approve of the new appearance,
so much tidier than before.

For my contribution,
I bring the spare first-aid kit
from the bedroom upstairs.
On the lid I put a post-it note:

Save up $165.
Buy professional emergency kit.
Then return this one to our bedroom.

Then I insert a new section
of self-help worksheets in the binder.

It's pretty obvious that
if we're going to do superhero stuff
we'll be needing all of those things.
It's better to be prepared.


We need ways to discourage
other people from nosing around
where they don't belong.

I bring down a set of mirrors.

The big dressing room mirror
is taller and wider than the door
that leads into the hidden area.
With that in place, nobody will notice
the door or what lies beyond.

Then I arrange the smaller mirrors
on the walls around the staircase
so that anyone coming downstairs
will see confusing reflections,
fleeting motion in the corner of the eye,
enough to make them want to leave
as soon they finish their laundry.

To the binder I add worksheets
on personal development,
so that we can discover
who we are now and
who we're becoming.


It's amazing how much stuff
people have abandoned down here.

I find a weightlifting bench, which is
perfectly good if you don't mind the duct tape.
With it is a standard bar and two spinlock collars,
an assortment of random plates,
plus a couple of mismatched dumbbells.

I carry them through the hidden door,
where one of the back rooms
will make excellent training space,
and set them up in a corner.

On the bench I leave
a post-it note saying:

Buy matching dumbbells:
5# ($5)
10# ($10)

Save up about $50.
Buy replacement plates
to equal 100#.

I put some fitness worksheets
into the white binder.

We seriously need to
tone up this body some more
if we hope to make a difference.


After Ham finishes
with the remnant weight set,
I go back for the folding mat.
It's a cheap economy model,
not very thick or very large,
with frayed corners and a few rips.

I get the duct tape
and make the necessary repairs.
This should reduce training injuries
so that Clement and I won't have to
interrupt Ham's workouts too often.

I leaf through the binder
and add a few worksheets
on coping skills.


I assemble a modest workstation
from a folding chair and a table
left in the basement.

From the bedroom I bring down
an old laptop computer
that still works.

From the attic I unearth
a four-part folding screen
with the bottom of one
fabric panel punched out.
I'm not much good at crafts
but maybe one of my headmates
can fix it somehow.

Meanwhile it shields the corner
from direct view.

I skim the new worksheets
that my headmates
have added to our binder.
We're making progress,
and we have ideas to explore.

I read the post-it notes
stuck to some of the equipment,
making a mental note to adjust our budget.

I look at the dressing mirror
that covers the hidden door.
My reflection flickers through the room
as I move, mirrors catching mirrors.
It is delightfully distracting, the effect
only cut off when I step behind the screen.

As secret lairs go,
it's not much yet,
but it's a beginning --
our own private
hall of mirrors.

* * *


Lair: The Hall of Mirrors -- Originally, Maisie lives with four other college students in a square white house owned by her father. After the incident, Damask creates a lair underneath the living quarters; the basement has a secret connection to what was once another underground space and now has no other access.
Good Theatrical supplies. Damask can use props and costumes to aid their superhero work. However, the Fragile weakness may apply under stress conditions: such things aren't very sturdy. (Maze)
Good Computer lab. Damask can find out most information from here, study their own condition or opponents, make fake ID, etc. (Clarity)
Good Workout space. It's not much yet, just some mats on the floor, a heavy punching bag, and a weightlifting bench with a few free weights that a former tenant left behind. But it's a place to exercise and practice. (Ham, Keane)
Good Security. The upper living space has things like locks and burglar alarms; the lower lair has a baffling array of mirrors, traps, and other impediments along with an excellent first aid kit and a fire extinguisher. (Mira, Clement)
Poor Fragile. Things wear out, fancy stuff breaks, college kids are hard on any house -- and Daddy cares about damages to the house.

Attic: unfinished storage space.
Third floor: master bedroom with attached bathroom; medium bedroom; spacious open landing with a linen closet, a couch, and bookcases.
Second floor: three small bedrooms; separate shared bathroom; small open landing with a broom closet, a chair, and an end table.
First floor: foyer with coat closet, bathroom, and base of staircase; living room; dining/study room; and kitchen with attached pantry.
Basement: semi-finished with utility area including washer and dryer near base of staircase, sagging metal shelves, concrete block and board shelves, milk crates, partial weight set, and miscellaneous stuff left by previous tenants. A small door leads to a short hallway letting out into another underground space which becomes the Hall of Mirrors.

* * *

Setting goals is an important skill. This printable goal worksheet breaks larger goals into smaller ones. This one explains how to make "SMART" goals. Here is an example of writing goals. Make sure to consider both long-term and short-term goals.

First aid kits come in different sizes. The spare from the bedroom is personal size, the household one is family size, and Clement has very sensibly picked out a professional size for the lair. When picking a kit, consider the number of people, most common complaints, and frequency of mishaps. Heroes get hurt a lot; it pays to be prepared.

Additional worksheets in Damask's binder include personal development (Mira), mental tools (Maze), self-help (Clement), fitness (Ham), and coping skills (Keane).

The fitness gear in the lair includes a weight bench, a 5-lb dumbbell, a 10-lb dumbbell, part of a weight set, and a floor mat. This is the room divider.


Date: 2014-04-18 01:45 am (UTC)
dialecticdreamer: My work (Default)
From: [personal profile] dialecticdreamer
This is so exciting! They're developing a support system that's actually showing signs of working in the long term,

Their progress toward becoming superheroes is less important, LOL.

Thanks for posting.

(no subject)

Date: 2014-04-19 01:31 pm (UTC)
brushwolf: Icon created by ScaperDeage on DeviantArt (Default)
From: [personal profile] brushwolf
Originally, Maisie lives with four other college students in a square white house owned by her father.

That's interesting. That's more prosperity than I figured the character had, and it's not what I'd expected from how you generally work, too. Is it just that "the superhero secret lair" is a nearly impossible trope to pull off, and one you'd wanted to play with, so you figured there'd be some sort of wealth to play with - just more potentially believable levels than Bruce Wayne amounts of money?

(no subject)

Date: 2014-04-18 04:30 am (UTC)
ext_12246: (Default)
From: [identity profile] thnidu.livejournal.com
Mirror, Mira...

Ach, this reminds me of
•the lists I have to make
- of the things I have to do
•and the lists that I have made
- of the places in my house
.. that need so much done to them
..- to prepare the house to show
....to sell.

Rather than slump
In my chair in despair
I'll head up to my bed
And lie down to sleep there.


Date: 2014-04-18 04:35 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ysabetwordsmith.livejournal.com
>> Mirror, Mira... <<

Exactly. Most of the headmates' names either have a literal meaning, or are very close to one.

>> Ach, this reminds me of
•the lists I have to make
- of the things I have to do <<

I know the feeling. But sometimes it helps to cross things off. I like the idea of making staged lists, too, with a main goal and subsidiary goals.

(no subject)

Date: 2014-04-18 01:26 pm (UTC)
ext_74: Baron Samadai in cat form (Default)
From: [identity profile] siliconshaman.livejournal.com
I like the fact you're addressing how to build a Lair... it's one of those things in the genre that's glossed over. I mean, how did Batman, for example, get all that stuff into his cave without anyone the wiser?!

Thank you!

Date: 2014-04-18 07:00 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ysabetwordsmith.livejournal.com
That's exactly why I wrote this. I wanted to explore the whole process of becoming a superhero. How do you decide to be one? Not the inciting incident itself, because that's always covered in the origin story, but the decision process and the early steps of implementation? How do you figure out what a secret lair even needs? They never cover that. You just see the finished product, with some stuff customized to the particular hero. I thought it would be fun, and also a good way to explore the characterization.

(no subject)

Date: 2014-04-18 10:48 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] johnpalmer.livejournal.com
Nod. The getting the stuff there? Trivial. He's a billionaire.

Getting it there with *no one* knowing "boy, he's got a lot of interesting tech of limited use outside of certain specific objectives"? *Really hard*. He's a billionaire.


Date: 2014-04-18 10:52 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ysabetwordsmith.livejournal.com
So very true. I figure Batman would need to make extensive use of shell companies, discreet couriers, anonymous drop points ... and he probably builds his muscles carrying that stuff from car to cave by himself.

(no subject)

Date: 2014-04-19 12:20 am (UTC)
zeeth_kyrah: A glowing white and blue anthropomorphic horse stands before a pink and blue sky. (Default)
From: [personal profile] zeeth_kyrah
This is partly covered in an episode of the animated series in which the Batmobile is booby-trapped and Batman is taken for a joyride. The designer and mechanic for this vehicle runs a secret garage, and the parts and funding for the vehicle are all run through shell companies that get shuffled around every now and then. The compromise happened because the villain dug through enough garbage to find the receipts and trace down the companies.

What gets me is, they didn't notice that all those shells are actually divisions of WayneTech and its (presumably extensive) holdings? It's not at all hard to find out that Nestle, for a real life example, owns around 8000 brands, and most of them are food -- some of it, food meant for animals. But they also used to own Alcon, a company that makes eye care products. Why? I have no idea, probably part of some portfolio of brands they bought from another company. They sold Alcon off to another holding group in order to focus on foods, it seems.

It gets difficult when people are tracing specific materials and devices, but Bruce Wayne could potentially do that same thing, trading different companies around to keep people on their toes. Real world fact: If you're on the board of a multinational corporation, chances are you're on the board of more than one multinational corporation (these people are very into each other, you could say, and their memberships reflect that). Recommending a buy on a bundle of brands, or to bundle several brands in a purchase, when your decisions have been very profitable so far, is going to be pretty easy to do.


Date: 2014-04-19 07:21 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ysabetwordsmith.livejournal.com
>> The compromise happened because the villain dug through enough garbage to find the receipts and trace down the companies. <<


>> What gets me is, they didn't notice that all those shells are actually divisions of WayneTech and its (presumably extensive) holdings? <<

That's the easy way to do things, putting them all under one umbrella. But you don't have to, and if you keep companies separate, then the root owner is the most obvious link. This can be avoided by having other trusted individuals owning things you need to use. Split up the stuff and it becomes even harder to track. Then too, you can pay cash for key components.

(no subject)

Date: 2014-11-01 03:10 am (UTC)
pinkrangerv: White Hispanic female, with brown hair, light skin, and green eyes, against a background of blue arcane symbols (Default)
From: [personal profile] pinkrangerv
Mira, you organized person...I'm lucky if I can tack down something consistantly for more than a week without inspiration driving me. :p Working on it, though, or at least aware enough to start looking for solutions. And I LOVE the hall of mirrors concept! They're the only ones who can make it past, because they're comfortable with their own reflections.


ysabetwordsmith: Cartoon of me in Wordsmith persona (Default)

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