ysabetwordsmith: Damask smiling over their shoulder (polychrome)
[personal profile] ysabetwordsmith
This poem is spillover from the June 3, 2014 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired by prompts from [personal profile] rosieknight, [personal profile] redsixwing, LJ users Moriwen1, and Siege. It also fills the "passion" square in my 5-22-14 card for the [community profile] origfic_bingo fest. This poem has been sponsored by Anthony & Shirley Barrette. It belongs to the series Polychrome Heroics.


"Extraordinary Experiences"


Aquariana loved her new home.

She had a country that
not just tolerated but welcomed
people with superpowers.

She had a beautiful houseboat,
now christened the Jeanne Baret
after a historic French botanist who
disguised herself as a man and became
the first woman known to circumnavigate the globe.

She had quite a lot of new friends
in the Maldives who helped her
adjust to the local culture and
familiarize herself with the territorial waters,
some not even minding that she needed to go nude.

The Whale & Dolphin Company
proved especially useful in sharing
their maps of sealife activity;
spinner dolphins were ubiquitous,
short-finned pilot whales abundant,
blue whales and sperm whales regular.
Humpbacks and many other species
appeared occasionally.

Her passion was for
the waters of the world,
to protect them as best she could.

One afternoon, Aquariana saw
the distinctive forward-left spout
of a sperm whale directly ahead
of her houseboat.

Gently she reached out with her power
to nudge the great beast out of the way.

Instead of a graceful yield like usual,
she was met with a stunning mental blow
as a harsh baritone voice roared,
You have chosen the WRONG victim this time!

As Aquariana struggled to get up,
a sweeter tenor voice said,
Steel, stop harassing the wildlife.
You're going to get somebody hurt!


Dragging herself to her feet,
Aquariana managed
to get one webbed hand
on the controls and
shut down the boat's motor.

She was no telepath herself,
but she had taken SPOON's class
in unpowered thought-framing.

Hello? she sent.
Is anyone out there?

A humpback bull breached in front of her,
twirling in the air, agile as a dancer.
Hello! Here we are! caroled the tenor.
The splash sprayed water over the houseboat.

The mental voices were strange, alien,
filled with wide sighing spaces and
hard-edged shapes of ideas
that did not match closely to words
but still made sense in the realm of thought.

Aquariana reached out delicately
with her power, not trying to control,
just trying to hold up her end of the connection.
It helped her get a better sense of who they were.

Those things can TALK?
said the startled baritone.

He was Steel:
his passion was hatred
for those who had harmed him,
as hard and bitter as the old harpoon
still lodged in the right side of his head.

I told you they were people!
the tenor replied.

He was Moderato:
his passion was curiosity,
a driving desire to explore,
to learn, to know,
a signal as constant
as the radio tracker
clipped to his right flipper.

Come on, Steel, you know
I have lots of lander friends.
You should meet them,

said Moderato, rolling through
the water with easy grace.

Moderato, the last time
you tried to introduce me
to one of your 'friends,'
I almost got my fins stapled,

the baritone said as the sperm whale
appeared briefly, covered in scars.

I stopped pestering you
about your body-jewelry,
so don't nag me about mine,

the tenor replied tartly.

Aquariana smiled to hear
the two huge whales
bickering like old friends.

You don't realize how dangerous
those landers can be,
Steel said.

I'm not a danger to you,
the superhera promised.
My name is Aquariana.
I protect the waters of the world
.

Oh really? Steel drawled.
How many whalers have you sunk?

One, Aquariana replied.
They were hunting in a sanctuary.
I gave them a warning, they fired first,
and then I sent them home in lifeboats
.

A wave of shock rippled through the link.

It's not good to fight, Moderato sent,
his mental voice tight with anxiety.
People can get hurt that way.

I agree, Aquariana said.
I'd rather not fight,
but I will if I have to
.

A baritone chuckle thrummed
through the link like low thunder.
Perhaps I won't kill you today.

I think he likes you!
Moderato crowed to Aquariana.

The sperm whale spouted again,
then dove away from the houseboat.
A moment later the humpback followed.

There he goes, Moderato said.
Steel really doesn't have much patience
with the lander people. Goodbye!
I hope we meet again someday.


The mental contact slithered away
like a rope going over the side of a ship.
Aquariana let it go.

For a long time she watched
the empty turquoise water
where the two whales had been.

She knew, of course, that sometimes
unusual plants or animals appeared --
giant ones, most often, or speedsters,
and occasionally trees that could move
or had agile vines like tentacles --
and dealing with those was
all part of the job for superheroes.

It had not occurred to her
that animals could be superheroes,
or considering Steel's chilling opinion of humanity,
possibly supervillains as well.

Aquariana pulled into Malé
and asked to see the President.
His wives came out and formed
their customary phalanx around her
to preserve what modesty they could.

"I met a couple of new soups today,"
Aquariana announced.

"Customs hasn't logged any
new arrivals this month,"
the President said.
"Did they jump the border?"

"I don't think we have border security
where they came in," Aquariana said.
"They're whales: a sperm and a humpback."

"That's ... unexpected,"
said the President.
"Are they powerful?"

Aquariana thought about
the mental blow that had left
her sprawled on the deck,
and from what she could feel,
that hadn't been more than
a fraction of Steel's strength.

"Very," she said.

"That could be useful,"
the President replied.
"The new law just says
that we welcome soups;
it doesn't mention species.
So if they want citizenship, they
can apply for it like any other soup."

"Is there even precedent for that?"
Aquariana asked.

"Oh yes, India recognized
the personhood of dolphins last year,"
the President said with a nod.

"Moderato -- that's the humpback --
seems friendly enough, but I don't think
Steel likes humans very much,"
Aquariana said. "He's been hunted."

"Well, the next time you see them,
tell them that the Maldives lie within
the Indian Ocean Sanctuary, and
Maldivian law explicitly bans whaling,"
the President said. "Watch out for
the Japanese whalers, though.
They don't always respect the laws."

"I'll pass the word if I get a chance,"
Aquariana promised.

Despite Steel's irascible personality,
she hoped that she would.

* * *

Notes:

Moderato -- A humpback whale bull, he is about 52 feet long and blue-gray splotched with white. He finds humans fascinating and takes every opportunity to observe them, although he has learned to be cautious of whaling ships. On several occasions, he has rescued distressed humans and brought them to safety. His best friend Steel, however, hates humans and would gladly destroy them all. Moderato considers Steel's tool use to be weird, a little creepy, almost perverted; but he loves his friend, so he tries not to make an issue of it. Of course, "Moderato" is a human nickname. His real name is ten minutes of dulcet moans punctuated by breathy panting.
As an adult, Moderato has made a point of studying humans and helping the peaceful ones. He knows where they travel and has little difficulty making friends with them. Some of them are avid fans of his music, and they even share human music with him, which he adores. Notice that a whale is much larger than a human, with a much bigger brain; so Moderato's Super-Intellect vastly outstrips that of a human. He rarely if ever gets outsmarted.
Origin: He grew up near a research station and enjoyed playing with the scientists there. He always wished that he could really understand what the humans were thinking and feeling. In time, an awareness of that began to grow, and later on, other abilities emerged.
Uniform: None. He does still have a radio tag clipped to his right flipper.
Qualities: Master (+6) Agility, Master (+6) Singer, Expert (+4) Friends with Steel, Good (+2) Friends with Scientists, Good (+2) Knowledge of Shipping Paths
Poor (-2) Fighting
Powers: Master (+6) Super-Intellect, Good (+2) Sonic Powers, Good (+2) Telempathy, Average (0) Healing, Average (0) Immortality
Motivation: Peacemongering.

Steel -- A sperm whale bull, he is about 85 feet long and dark gray. His skin is covered with numerous scars from fighting orcas, giant squid, and most of all humans. He hates humans and refuses to admit that any of them might be decent people. His best friend Moderato, however, adores scientists and keeps trying to convince Steel that not all humans are cannibalistic, murdous monsters. ("The last time you tried to introduce me to one of your 'friends,' I almost got my fins stapled.") Of course, "Steel" is a human nickname. His real name is a series of harsh, barking clicks.
After surviving two devastating attacks from whalers, Steel set himself to studying human tools and materials. He has learned how to control the metal from which they make their great ships and weapons, along with manipulating other materials such as wood or plastic. Notice that a whale is much larger than a human, with a much bigger brain; so Steel's Super-Strength vastly outstrips that of a human -- and a human with Master Super-Strength can already lift a battleship. Whalers tend not to survive meeting Steel anymore.
Origin: His mother was hunted and killed by whalers when Steel was young. Helpless with terror, he fled and survived. Later on, his mate was also killed. This time Steel fought back, and the first of his powers (Super-Strength) emerged. He managed to damage the whaling vessel, but was too late to save his mate, and was seriously wounded himself.
Uniform: None. However, he has an old single-flue harpoon lodged in the right side of his head, and he refuses to try removing it despite his powers.
Qualities: Master (+6) Fighting, Master (+6) Tough, Expert (+4) Friends with Moderato, Good (+2) Tool User, Good (+2) Whaling History
Poor (-2) Volatile Temper
Powers: Master (+6) Super-Strength, Good (+2) Control Metal, Good (+2) Super-Intellect, Average (0) Immortality, Average (0) Telekinesis, Average (0) Telepathy
Motivation: To protect the ocean from humans. (Originally it was revenge, but he did in fact manage to track down and kill the humans who butchered his family. So he broadened his scope.)

* * *

"To have a huge, friendly whale willingly approach your boat and look you straight in the eye is without doubt one of the most extraordinary experiences on the planet."
-- Mark Carwardine
http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/m/markcarwar530322.html

See Aquariana's houseboat, the Jeanne Baret, and read about women in oceanography.

Explore Maldivian culture and the Whale and Dolphin Company.

Sperm whales spout forward and left. Watch a video of a sperm whale. They appear regularly in the Maldives. Usually whales are gentle. However they may remember -- and resent -- attacks by humans and therefore become hostile. Steel has valid reasons for hating humans, he's just overgeneralizing.

Harpoon technology has evolved over time. This one is pretty old.

Whale comparisons tell you what you're looking at. These are indicators for a sperm whale and indicators for a humpback. Compare their flukes and spouts. Here's an ebook on whales and dolphins. See a size chart of whales. Enjoy a video of a humpback in the Maldives.

Framing is the process of taking analog ideas and putting them into digital thoughts, dividing the overall stream of consciousness into data packets which can be transmitted between people via words. Telepaths can get a sense of the mind as a whole. However, it's a lot easier to communicate with someone who is thinking in clear messages than someone who is mentally babbling the way humans typically do. SPOON offers various "power compatibility" exercises and classes to help people work together even if they have different powers. Concentration, controlling your mind, focusing your mind, and sending psychic messages are all useful skills for working with telepaths. It's basically like learning to frame your thoughts in a little cloud-bubble as in cartoons, thus making them easier to read and reducing the chance of the telepath picking up anything else that might embarrass you both.

Tagging whales with a radio transmitter makes it possible to track and study them from a distance. Many different devices have been used over time, attached to dorsal fin, flippers, skin, etc. A recent model uses suction cups. Moderato thinks this is nifty, and has picked up the concept of body-jewelry from humans.

(Some of the content in these links is intense; whaling is violent stuff.)
Japanese whalers have assaulted activists and other ships in various ways, sometimes exchanging fire with water cannons. They have repeatedly been caught killing whales in protected waters.

The Maldives lie within the Indian Ocean Sanctuary, and Maldivian law explicitly bans whaling.

India does recognize dolphin personhood as grounds for banning their captivity.

 

Mopping up the laptop screen

Date: 2014-06-09 11:59 pm (UTC)
dialecticdreamer: My work (Default)
From: [personal profile] dialecticdreamer
-again.

But wow, this was GREAT. Not just fun and "WTF" kind of superhero limits, but a good hard look at cultural bias.

The line about body jewelry, though, THAT doused my screen. ROFLMAO.

Interesting, the way you've phrased "sending" to telepaths. It helps as a baseline.

I love watching an idea in chat become a part of the active world of Polychrome Heroics.

Thank you (again!) for posting this, and the series!

LINKS may be DIFFICULT--

Date: 2014-06-10 12:59 am (UTC)
dialecticdreamer: My work (Default)
From: [personal profile] dialecticdreamer
WARNING to those of us who have "weak stomachs"- BE CAREFUL when clicking on links, as several have while not graphic IMAGES, some pretty strongly-worded text describing the Japanese whaler operations. My suggestion is to take one link at a time, and decide for yourself how much of each article to read.

(no subject)

Date: 2014-06-10 12:25 am (UTC)
thnidu: my familiar. "Beanie Baby" -type dragon, red with white wings (Default)
From: [personal profile] thnidu
Wheeee!!

• "Very," she said.

^That could be useful,"
the President replied.

> Insert begin-quote.

Re: Fixed!

Date: 2014-06-10 02:53 am (UTC)
thnidu: my familiar. "Beanie Baby" -type dragon, red with white wings (Default)
From: [personal profile] thnidu

I've seen very little if any of yours that I didn't enjoy, although of course aspects and degree vary.

(no subject)

Date: 2014-06-10 01:44 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] wyld-dandelyon.livejournal.com
If the whale was a citizen, could it get the shrapnel (harpoon) surgically removed? What kind of health insurance does this country have?

Thoughts

Date: 2014-06-10 01:50 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ysabetwordsmith.livejournal.com
>> If the whale was a citizen, could it get the shrapnel (harpoon) surgically removed? <<

Yes, if he wanted to. He doesn't; he's damn possessive of the fool thing. If he wanted it gone, he could have done that with his own power. Gods know Moderato has tried to talk him into it often enough. Steel is fucking stubborn.

>> What kind of health insurance does this country have? <<

Looks like they have highly subsidized public health care.
http://www.who.int/countryfocus/cooperation_strategy/ccsbrief_mdv_en.pdf

(no subject)

Date: 2014-06-10 02:24 am (UTC)
ext_3294: Tux (Default)
From: [identity profile] technoshaman.livejournal.com
COOOOOOOL! Ever since Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH, I have loved the idea of sentient non-humans... Watership Down in particular....

I can't say as I blame Steel.

"KEPTIN!!! There Be Whales Here!"

Thank you!

Date: 2014-06-10 02:30 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ysabetwordsmith.livejournal.com
>> COOOOOOOL! <<

Yay! I'm glad you liked this so much.

>>Ever since Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH, I have loved the idea of sentient non-humans... Watership Down in particular.... <<

Mine goes back all the way to Peter Rabbit. Feel free to request more.

>> I can't say as I blame Steel. <<

Me neither. Some humans are psychotic cannibalistic monsters. Just not all of them.

>> "KEPTIN!!! There Be Whales Here!" <<

Oh gods nobody show that to Moderato or he'll start referring to Steel as "Gracie" and then Steel will bounce him off a reef or something.

*laugh*

Re: Thank you!

Date: 2014-06-10 03:08 am (UTC)
ext_3294: Tux (Default)
From: [identity profile] technoshaman.livejournal.com
You know, I only got that joke (George and Gracie in STIV:STW) a few days ago.... *snork* I just had to explain it to the Duchess (Age 10)... :)

I can just imagine.. "Say goodnight, Gracie..." *WHAM!*

On the other fin, don't show Steel any *other* Burns movies, or he'll insist on being called G-d.... :)

(no subject)

Date: 2014-06-10 11:26 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] moriwen1.livejournal.com
I love Moderato! And Steel is awfully neat, too. This and the other poem you based on a prompt of mine have put "read Polychrome Heroics" on my next-time-I-have-a-spare-minute list. (Commenting on the other poems is also on that list. :))

This is definitely something to chew over. You do a brilliant job representing how very-much-not-human persons might think. I hope we'll see more of these cool whales!

Thank you!

Date: 2014-06-10 11:29 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ysabetwordsmith.livejournal.com
>> I love Moderato! And Steel is awfully neat, too. <<

I'm happy to hear that. They are pretty popular, judging from comments.

>> This and the other poem you based on a prompt of mine have put "read Polychrome Heroics" on my next-time-I-have-a-spare-minute list. (Commenting on the other poems is also on that list. :)) <<

Feedback is candy! There are a TON of poems in that series, many published, others available for sponsorship.

>> This is definitely something to chew over. You do a brilliant job representing how very-much-not-human persons might think. <<

I love exploring how nonhuman characters think. Here I wanted to show how different experiences could influence how whales perceive humans. There are some other fun things that haven't appeared yet -- like Moderato thinking Steel's tool use is vulgar, whereas humans find it exciting.

>> I hope we'll see more of these cool whales! <<

I'd be happy to write more about them. Feel free to request that in any relevant prompt call.

(no subject)

Date: 2014-06-17 07:24 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] paka.livejournal.com
His real name is a series of harsh, barking clicks.

Question, it's been proven there's some sort of recognition system among I think bottlenose dolphins, and orcas come close to a syntax language, but would something like that actually exist in larger odontocetes? Admittedly a mutant sperm whale with a humpback as a best friend isn't exactly going to be typical and maybe it's an individual trait.

Well...

Date: 2014-06-19 05:16 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ysabetwordsmith.livejournal.com
Evidence varies but has been accruing for decades across multiple cetacean species that they are aware, have language, name themselves, and otherwise behave as people. A particularly tragic example that I encountered recently featured belugas.

Profile

ysabetwordsmith: Cartoon of me in Wordsmith persona (Default)
ysabetwordsmith

July 2017

S M T W T F S
       1
2 3 4 5 6 7 8
9 10 1112131415
16 17 18 19 20 21 22
23 24 25 26 27 2829
3031     

Most Popular Tags

Style Credit

Expand Cut Tags

No cut tags