Identity Crisis: The Lavender Scare

Identity Crisis: The Lavender Scare

By Jenny North

So here's a little real-life background behind this story because trust me it's even funnier if you know this. This all started when my friend and I were contemplating costumes to wear for DC's pre-Halloween High Heel Race, and he suggested I wear my Prodigious Girl costume I'd made based on my Identity Crisis story. Good start, right? We then decided to invent a new super (either hero or villain) in the same universe for my friend to dress up as, which I thought was fun even if we were the only ones to get the joke. (And now, you!)

I proposed the name Lavender Scare and we worked out some concepts for the look of the costume, which came together nicely. But when it came time to work out poses for the two characters together it became wildly obvious that we knew nothing about the character. I probed my friend for details. Would he like Lavender Scare to be a hero or a villain? Or maybe a vigilante? What about background, personality, powers, abilities? By the way, are we even settled on the freaking gender?

Maddeningly, my friend was not forthcoming with answers.

In fact, he was so focused on the look of the costume that he responded to my inquiries with the suggestion that we incorporate a light-up bubble gun into the costume after seeing a little girl in my apartment complex playing with one. (Which we did, and—God help me—the people at the race were highly entertained. "Ages four and up," indeed.)

To get him back I wrote this story featuring the Lavender Scare and based the character's personality on a (slightly) exaggerated version of my friend. I'm not sure he finds it as hilarious as I do, but there's a lesson here: don't piss off a writer or we'll use you as a character in one of our stories!

And now I give you...the Lavender Scare.

* * *

"Hey, you! HELP!"

Ah, the call to action for a teenage superhero. Admittedly it was a little ungracious, but a side effect of the large superhero population in Faraday City was that the citizenry had become a bit used to our superheroics, so between that, our changing numbers, and our somewhat fickle attachment to costumes, many people had long ago stopped bothering to learn our names. (It's basically like referring to your waitress as "Excuse Me.") When I'd first started my superheroic career I had visions of flying up and landing dramatically at a trouble spot and saying "How can I help?" with authority while the citizen in need would breathlessly cry, "Prodigious Girl! Thank God you're here!" In reality the response I usually got was, "Hey! You in the cape! Yeah, you! You gonna do somethin' about this here raw sewage overflowin' into the street?"

Look, don't get me wrong, I don't mean to complain since on balance being a superhero was a pretty sweet gig. Notwithstanding of course the fact that my heroic identity was a buxom superheroine and I was actually a teenage guy. And my mentor was a jackass. Oh, then there was the wrinkle that since my parents thought I was transgender I had to crossdress all the time to protect my secret identity. Which also made school a huge pain. As well as the rest of my life.

Come to think of it, being a superhero was kind of a pain in the ass.

I think my problems started when…

Wait, wait. I'm getting sidetracked. Let me start again.

This latest call for help sounded while I was doing a low flyover through the downtown area, ostensibly on patrol but really it was because I'd just bought a box of stupidly expensive donuts at an artisanal donut shop to share with my co-workers. Apparently we interns were responsible for bringing in donuts on Fridays and I'd missed my last two turns, so I thought I'd buy my way back into everybody's good graces with some overpriced confectionary treats.

I hovered in mid-air to identify the source of the trouble and I spotted a sidewalk cafe where a lot of people were sitting around drinking coffee, and—looking very conspicuous among the rest of the crowd—a woman in a light purple costume that had a flowing cape that shimmered in the light.

My first inclination was to go in swinging and perhaps catch this villainous perpetrator off her guard to end this confrontation quickly. However, my tutelage under my mentor Prodigy's watchful eye had taught me to carefully assess the situation first before diving in, and since nobody seemed to be running around or screaming—in fact most of the customers seemed to be more interested in drinking their coffee and surfing on their cell phones—I decided to take a more measured approach.

Also, I was carrying a box of overpriced donuts and I didn't want them to get squished.

By this point the other super had spotted me and we made cautious eye contact as I landed not too far from both her and the young couple who'd flagged me down whom she'd apparently been threatening.

"Stop right there!" she warned me. "Who are you?"

Her voice threw me and now that I was close enough to get a better look, I was less convinced of her gender as she had a fairly androgynous appearance. She was wearing a mask and had short styled purple hair with black highlights and was dressed in a light purple unitard with black boots and gloves. It was accented with a corset and a strappy black harness that looked to be cut for a woman, although her body shape suggested a more masculine build. In addition to that fancy purple cape that glittered in the light, I noticed that she carried some kind of a high-tech gun on her hip.

With regards to gender presentation, I of course resided in a glass house and was in no position to throw gendered stones at anybody. However, I had heard stories of other metahumans who attempted to portray themselves as the opposite sex as a way of enhancing their disguise, with varying degrees of success. But I noted that this metahuman's presentation suggested something more middle-of-the-road.

"I'm Prodigious Girl," I said confidently, and a few tables away I heard someone snicker loudly. I ignored them. "What are—"

"Aha! Are you friend or foe?" she challenged.

I was a little thrown by that. "I...I guess it depends on why you're here…?"

"Ahh, well played! But what do you have in the box?" she demanded.

"Huh? Oh. These are just donuts…"

She let out a little snort of disbelief. "And how am I supposed to know that? For all I know, that box might contain a rare radioactive rock from outer space that drains my powers!"

"Are you particularly vulnerable to rare radioactive rocks from outer space?"

"No! But you didn't know that, did you?"

I felt like I'd completely lost control of this situation but as long as I had her talking I figured I was building a rapport, or something. I'd read that was important in a book that Prodigy had made me read on hostage negotiation. Or, to be more accurate, I'd read that chapter title when I skimmed the table of contents since I hadn't actually gotten around to reading the book yet.

I opened up the pastry box and angled it down for her to see. "See? Donuts."

Just then, a guy who was seated at the table right next to where I was standing peered into the box and started to reach for one of the donuts.

"Hey!" I said, smacking his hand. "I'm in the middle of a hostage negotiation here!"

The metahuman in purple perked up at that. "Who are you negotiating with?"

I stared at her in disbelief. Then, I looked to the couple at the table who'd flagged me down. "What was your problem, again?"

The woman pointed emphatically at the super. "This—person—"

"Oh, yeah. Go there, why don't you."

"What do you mean?" I asked.

The super pointed at the woman. "We went over this already. She's got her nose out of joint because I reject stereotypical gender labels!"

I shook my head. "So...are you like, genderfluid, or something?" I was actually a bit proud of myself for using that term correctly. Since my friends and family all thought I was transgender I figured I should brush up on the lingo.

The super rolled her eyes. "No," she said emphatically. "I just told you, I reject labels!"

"But…"

"Is that a label?"

"Well, yes…"

"I reject it!"

"This labelless individual is really annoying," the woman at the table explained.

"I feel you there," I agreed. "So how come I'm here?"

The man at the table interjected, "We were just sitting here having a private conversation—"

"He says," the super interrupted.

"I'm getting to you," I told her. (Screw it, I'm referring to her with a gendered label. There, I just did it again. Sue me.) "Go on."

"And then out of nowhere this—this—Turquoise Menace or whatever—comes up and—"

The super was aghast. "Turquoise Menace? What are you, color blind? Do you see even a hint of green in this costume?"

"I do actually have some red/green color blindness…"

The super grabbed the edges of her cape and threw up her arms in a dramatic flourish as the fabric fanned out like a showgirl cape. "I am...the Lavender Scare!"

She stood there stock still for a long moment after her proclamation, obviously expecting some kind of reaction. However I just shook my head helplessly and looked around at the mostly-disinterested patrons to see if I'd missed something obvious. The couple at the table gestured at her as if to say, "See?"

LavenderScare01.jpg

Lavender looked around at our vacant expressions and lowered her arms in disgust. "You know, the Lavender Scare. It's a thing."

"Okay," I said with a little shrug.

"C'mon, you know! 1950s? McCarthyism?"

"I'm sixteen."

"What, they don't teach History anymore? You've heard of Communism? The Red Scare?"

"I guess."

"Well, at the same time as that there was this push to—oh, the hell with it. Ask your parents!"

"My parents were born in the 1970s."

Before Lavender could say anything the guy seated at the table next to me nudged my elbow and held up his phone so I could see. "Check it out, I Googled it, the Lavender Scare," he said. "You want to read about it?"

"Not even a little," I muttered. Then as he continued to look at me expectantly I snapped, "You're not getting a donut! Go get a pastry inside if you're hungry!"

Losing my temper, I turned to Lavender. "Look, LS, what did you say—"

"What's Ellis?" she said.

"Could be Ellis Island," the guy next to me interrupted, tapping away on his phone.

I jammed the box of donuts into his hands. "You can have one. But only if you promise to shut up."

He took the box agreeably and started to peruse the contents.

"Lavender Scare," I said firmly. "What did you say to these people to cause such a commotion?"

"Okay, well first," she started, "I disagree with the whole 'private conversation' characterization. Because if you say something that's deeply offensive while you're sitting out on the sidewalk, I think you've surrendered your right to privacy."

The couple looked like they were about to jump to their own defense but I just held up a hand to quiet them. Then I turned to Lavender. "I know I'm going to regret asking this, but what exactly did they say that was so offensive?"

"They were talking about Blade Runner and that completely unnecessary new movie they've come out with—"

"It's got Ridley Scott!" the guy blurted out.

She spun on him. "And I'm telling you, Ridley Scott was largely uninvolved in the day-to-day operations for the first movie! Besides, the really visionary work was in the set design, which set the standard for decades to come as it brought to the public eye the concept of cyberpunk and a dystopian future where—"

"Wait, you're arguing about a movie?" I said.

The woman at the table cut in. "Oh, please, it was just film noir with robots and neon lights! The fact that Hampton Fancher came back to be involved in the sequel tells you that—"

In a blink Lavender unholstered her high-tech gun and aimed it at the woman's head. "Say Hampton Fancher again. Say Hampton Fancher one more time. I swear to God."

That was all it took to spook the herd. The other patrons, who up until this point had been content to let this absurdity play out, bolted and cleared the area in seconds. (The people of Faraday City tended to have a lot of experience in rapidly vacating an area.)

The only people left were myself, Lavender Scare, and the couple who were still seated at their table, cowering in fear.

"Okay…" I said gently. "Let's all just calm down, now. Lavender, why don't you let them go and you and I can talk this out reasonably."

Lavender kept her gun trained on the woman's head. "Not until I hear her say that Blade Runner 2049 is a meaningless play for money that's totally devoid of originality or purpose."

"Look," I volunteered, "for what it's worth, I saw it and I actually thought it was pretty good…"

Her gun was now squarely trained on me. (So not entirely like I planned it, but it was an improvement.)

With Lavender's attention riveted on me the couple took advantage of their narrow window of opportunity and edged away until they bolted for cover in one of the nearby buildings.

The street was surprisingly quiet as the two of us squared off against each other, sizing each other up, wondering who was going to make the first move.

Lavender gave a little shrug. "So...how do we do this? Do we have to roll for initiative or something?"

"Wait a second," I said as I peered at her weapon. "That's a bubble gun."

LavenderScare02.jpg

She looked vaguely uncomfortable. "No, it's not."

"Yeah, it is. It lights up and blows soap bubbles. My six-year-old cousin has one."

"Maybe it just looks the same."

"It is the same! I can see the inner workings right through the clear plastic. You just removed the label from the bubble solution container."

She shifted uncomfortably and then gestured with the gun emphatically. "Well....I'm only using it as a delivery vehicle for my concentrated fear gas solution!"

I eyed her uncertainly. "No, you're not," I said.

"You don't know that."

I sighed and then as I glanced to the side I did a double-take. "Why that little...that jerk stole my donuts!"

"Yeah, those looked good. Where did you get those?" Lavender wondered.

I closed my eyes and let out a long whimper.

Twenty minutes later I was back in line at Powdered Ring artisanal donuts, staring off into space as the woman in front of me asked the person behind the counter if the bacon donuts were gluten free.

"Although if you think about it, the whole business of using the Voight-Kampff machine to identify replicants is actually pretty funny…" Lavender Scare said to me.

"Life was so much simpler when all I had to do was punch stuff," I muttered to myself.

The End

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