ysabetwordsmith: Damask smiling over their shoulder (polychrome)
[personal profile] ysabetwordsmith
This is the freebie for the June [community profile] crowdfunding Creative Jam. It was inspired by prompts from [personal profile] chordatesrock and [personal profile] lynnoconnacht. It also fills the "hostile climate" square in my 6-10-14 card for the [community profile] hc_bingo fest. This poem is a prequel to "Sink or Swim" in the Polychrome Heroics series.


"Tides of Water and of Sand"


A professional swimmer,
Muriel Green also loves scuba diving.

She is skilled and careful,
but one day her equipment
snags on the coral of a cave.

By the time she works it loose,
she has fallen prey to
the rapture of the deep,
slipping farther down into
the infinite blue ocean.

Muriel imagines herself
melting away, becoming
one with the water,
dizzied by its energy.

Then something bumps
against her belly,
round and firm,
pushing her back up
toward the distant surface.

Dolphins, Muriel realizes,
and she thinks that
she can almost understand
their urgent clicks and whistles
as they usher her to the beach.

At first she thinks it was
nothing more than
a scary experience,
but then strange things
begin to happen.

When Muriel goes swimming,
she can feel the creatures
in the water all around her,
make them come or go
as she pleases.

She can even influence
the water itself, making
waves run against the tide,
or squirting up little fountains.

So that's the end of
her swimming career, because
people with superpowers
aren't allowed to compete
alongside ordinary athletes.

Instead Muriel becomes
an environmentalist,
seeking to protect
the waters of the world,
and takes the name Aquariana.

Her body is changing too,
slowly making itself more aquatic --
her hair falls out, her fingers
grow webbing between them, and
her skin becomes more sensitive.

Aquariana learns that power is like water,
existing in vast invisible oceans,
fleeing from the deserts --
and yet always returning,
like some stranger tide.

It affects the ecosystems
and the geopolitics
of the world around her
in ways that she is
only beginning to comprehend.

It affects Aquariana too,
her abilities ebbing and flowing,
weakening the farther she goes
from a large body of water
and strengthening in proximity.

Civilization requires
fresh water, wants access
to the oceans as well,
and countries quarrel over
who has which and how much.

Rainforests catch and keep
what falls from the clouds,
letting it out in slow rivers,
until humans slash and burn
so the rivers turn red with mud
and then run empty.

Aquariana follows the currents
around the globe, seeking
inroads to the dry lands
so thirsty for relief,
but she is no weather-worker.

What she can do is limited,
yet she feels compelled to try.
Sometimes empty rivers
can be coaxed to flow again
or barren springs be reborn.

This is how Aquariana
gets herself into trouble
with a terrorist named Haboob.

He is her opposite in all ways,
his powers born of fear and death
and the empty desert,
whereas hers come from
love and life and
the fullness of the oceans.

It is perhaps inevitable
that they hate each other on sight.

Supervillain and superhera,
they struggle against each other,
their powers questing and pushing
in search of advantage.

Always she tries to open the ways
for water to flow and flourish;
always he tries to shut off the flow
and desiccate the land again.

In their ferocious tug-of-war,
he drags her toward the desert and
she wrenches him toward the beach.

One night Haboob sends
his minions, the Kitab,
to kidnap Aquariana and then
he abandons her in the heart
of the Arabian Desert.

The sand rasps at her skin,
leaching away the water
that keeps her alive,
scraping her raw
as she crawls across it.

The sun blazes overhead,
burning her whole body, and
there is no escape from it.

Aquariana tries not to cry
because that would only
make her lose water faster.

She thinks she will die here,
in this barren merciless land,
cast out like a beached whale
never to swim free again.

Then she feels it,
the faintest swirl of power
trickling toward her.

Aquariana drags herself onward
until she comes to a small oasis
and dives into the shallow pool
within the shade of the date palms.

She languishes there for a week,
feeling the weird flux of energy
rippling all around the oasis,
tides of water and of sand.

Then a caravan comes by
and they rescue her.

Aquariana gives up on Arabia
and goes back to her oceans,
but she neither forgets nor forgives
what Haboob has done to her.

The ordeal has left its mark
upon her changing body.

It was bad enough before that,
but afterwards is even worse --
now her skin is so sensitive
that she can't bear the touch
of cloth and has to go nude,
and it's starting to turn
a pale shade of aquamarine --
and she hardly feels human anymore.

Aquariana looks in the mirror
and this time she lets the tears fall.

* * *

Notes:

Aquariana -- Muriel Green is a bald superhera with a swimmer's build: trim, muscular, flat-chested and narrow-hipped with slight waist. She is 5'10" and weighs 140 lbs. She has blue eyes. Her skin is beginning to turn a soft aquamarine color.
Origin: While scuba diving, she experienced the rapture of the deep and nearly died as a result. Dolphins carried her back to the surface. When she recovered from the ordeal, she realized that she had influence over water and its creatures. Other manifestations developed with time.
Uniform: None. Literally. She goes nude.
Qualities: Master (+6) Swimmer, Good (+2) Environmentalist, Good (+2) Fanbase
Poor (-2) Manual Dexterity (due to webbed hands)
Powers: Master (+6) Water Powers
This meta-power includes Control Water, Control Aquatic Life, and Beam of Water. Her use of Water Form is iffy.
Limitation: Aquariana's super-powers grow stronger in or near a large body of water, but weaker the farther away she gets. She tries to stay close by an ocean or lake. Her enemies try to get her away from there.
Her skin is sensitive, and not tolerant of clothing anymore. She can only wear clothes briefly, and it's an uncomfortable distraction that downshifts both her qualities and powers. This complicates everyday activities and travel.
Motivation: Protect the waters of the world.
Model: Staciana Stitts, swimming, 5'10" 140 lbs.

Haboob -- He is an Iraqi supervillain whose name means Sandstorm. Although he purports to be a holy warrior and likes to expound on the topic, he doesn't seem to have read the book. Many Muslims feel that he misrepresents their faith, and they resent his violent tactics. Haboob has brown skin, curly black hair, and brown eyes. Nobody, including himself, knows his birth name.
Origin: Haboob's family was killed by American soldiers searching a village for weapons. The adolescent Haboob was shot in the head and left for dead. A freak storm destroyed the troop. Haboob was found by a small terrorist cell and trained to fight. Eventually he took over.
Uniform: Traditional desert garb of loose layered cotton clothes with a headscarf to keep out dust and cover the hair.
Qualities: Expert (+6) Terrorist, Expert (+4) Tough, Good (+2) Doumbek Player, Good (+2) Leader, Good (+2) Survival
Poor (-2) Muslim
Powers: Master (+6) Desert Powers
This meta-power includes Control Sand, Control Wind, Control Desert Life, and Desiccation. The sandstorm effect makes it unsafe for Haboob to fly the way many wind-powered people can, although he's trying to find a way around that.
Good (+2) Minions: The Kitab consists of nine lieutenants, each in charge of roughly a hundred regular troops. Lieutenants have qualities of Expert (+4) Terrorist, any other Good, Poor (-2) Fanatically Devoted to Leader, and one Good (+2) superpower (often Energy Blast, Strength, Speed, or Invulnerability). Troops have Good (+2) Terrorist, any other Good, and Poor (-2) Uneducated.
Limitation: Haboob's super-powers grow stronger in or near a desert, but weaker the farther away he gets. He tries to stay close by drylands. His enemies try to get him away from there.
Motivation: Destroy America and other foreign invaders.

* * *

Cave diving is an exciting but dangerous sport. Coral caves are beautiful. See a video of cave diving.

Rapture of the deep refers primarily to nitrogen narcosis but also the deadly enchantment which the sea exerts over some people.

Dolphins do sometimes rescue humans, but nobody knows why for sure. In Terramagne, humans aren't the only ones with superpowers, so some of these may be dolphin superheroes just doing their save-the-day thing.

Aquariana's superpowers include Control Water and Control Aquatic Life. Her use of Water Form is unreliable thus far.

Civilizations need water, and this influences water policies.

Rainforests have the ability to hold and recycle water, but clearcutting can make the terrain run dry.

Dry rivers and springs may be restored with effort.

Haboob is named after a type of dust storm. He has Desert Powers. Haboob is a terrorist and a lousy Muslim.

Deserts have long been associated with fear, death, and desolation. Read about the Arabian Desert online.
 

I like the contrasts

Date: 2014-06-14 12:54 pm (UTC)
dialecticdreamer: My work (Default)
From: [personal profile] dialecticdreamer
The juxtapositions between Aquarina and Haboob are shown as multifaceted, but even more are implied. (For example, no religious affiliation is mentioned for Muriel, but I'm left with an /impression/ of Modern-American "don't really attend Church" mentality by that absence, just because Haboob's religion is so much a part of his character.

I love the interplay, even as I want to /deck/ the minions. Haven't they ever heard the term, "fair fight"?

Thanks for posting this.

Re: I like the contrasts

Date: 2014-06-14 07:39 pm (UTC)
dialecticdreamer: My work (Default)
From: [personal profile] dialecticdreamer
"Share Water, Sister. Thou art G-d."

(no subject)

Date: 2014-06-14 02:58 pm (UTC)
corvi: (Default)
From: [personal profile] corvi
One thing I really like about your polychrome heroics stories is the superhero origins. You've taken an often-overlooked part of superhero comics and raised them to a wonderful art!

(no subject)

Date: 2014-06-14 05:01 pm (UTC)
chordatesrock: The Punishment of Loki by Louis Huard (detail) (Default)
From: [personal profile] chordatesrock
I like this character. I particularly like the ending. Even if not technically a bad thing, clearly the changes are not easy for her. And even so she's using them well. And I like that contradiction and character drama.

(no subject)

Date: 2014-06-22 09:14 pm (UTC)
lynnoconnacht: Little bear holding a heart with the text "Sending love to you" (sending love and hugs)
From: [personal profile] lynnoconnacht
Yay backstory for Aquariana and Haboob! *twirls* (I'm sorry it took a while for me to get to this.)

I really like the matter-of-fact way in which you tackle Aquariana's change in career. I know it probably wasn't anywhere near as easy as the poem makes it out to be, but I really appreciate the fact that you're not really dwelling on it. So many other pieces would. It adds a great sense to Aquariana's personality for me. ^_^ (At least I hope I'm not misreading that.)

I also feel sad for the poor desert being seen as so empty, and then getting associated with Haboob. The correlations make a lot of sense given his origins and Aquariana's powers, mind! I just find the way their personal relations to the desert overlaps with the way the reader is likely to think of both fascinating.

Such a sad ending too, with Aquariana crying over all she's lost. (And my brain going "But what powers hold her tears?" and would they hold any power to change things at all?) It's the little things, isn't it? All adding up stealthily. Not that your entire body changing is a little thing, but Aquariana seemed to be coping pretty well until Haboob made everything crash down on her and the changes sped up. And then it was facing all she'd lost and losing yet more and... T_T

I have to agree with [personal profile] corvi too. One thing I like about this setting are your origin stories. I love the diversity in them (which fits the diversity in the series as a whole). ^_^

*all the good thoughts to Aquariana*

(no subject)

Date: 2015-04-16 11:20 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
I don't think I'd read this origin story before. So Haboob's organization is called كتاب, "(the) Book", eh? Yeah, lousy Muslims indeed.

I don't know Arabic beyond a few scraps, like as-salaam aleikum and kitab; wish I did. But for single words and short phrases, Google Translate is my friend.

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