ysabetwordsmith: Damask smiling over their shoulder (polychrome)
[personal profile] ysabetwordsmith
This story was commissioned by [personal profile] dialecticdreamer after discussions about our respective characters, the situation with superkids in Polychrome Heroics, and her interest in the U.S. Coast Guard. It also fills the "stranded / survival scenario" square in my 6-10-14 card for the [community profile] hc_bingo fest.

WARNING: This story contains some intense topics. The warnings include spoilers; highlight to read. There is minor character death, minor grue, a child in danger, refugee status, instinctive use of superpowers, and some other edgy stuff. However, there are people to help and it has a happy ending. Consider your tastes and headspace before clicking through.

"To Save Those in Peril Upon It"

Lieutenant Commander William Jamesley balanced lightly on his feet, one hand on the rail, as the USCGC Salvador cut through the smooth water of the Gulf. Here and there, white caplets winked against the blue. The clear sky and fair weather made for an easy patrol.

A sharp cry from the lookout brought his head up. The cutter banked smartly in response, turning toward a small dark dot on the horizon.

Less than a minute later, Petty Officer 3rd Class Edgar Atkins trotted over to report. "Sir, we've spotted a small vessel, dead in the water, probably a refugee boat. Orders?" he said.

"Intercept," said Lt. Cmdr. Jamesley. A shrill whistle alerted the crew.

When they pulled alongside, the little boat showed its age. Peeling paint spelled Esperanza over boards weathered to a silvery grey. The battered motor was red with rust.

Atkins updated the news with, "No movement reported, sir. It doesn't look good."

Lt. Cmdr. Jamesley leaned over to see for himself, keeping a firm grasp of the rail, as a crewwoman deployed a rope ladder. He counted two bodies in the boat. A warm sea breeze carried the smell of rotting flesh.

"Sir, did you see --" Atkins began, as the lookout cried, "Movement!"

Lt. Cmdr. Jamesley vaulted over the rail. One hand grabbed the rope, barely slowing his descent before he thumped into the boat. A tiny brown hand waved between the bodies. He knelt to free the toddler. Behind him, Atkins descended the ladder at a more reasonable pace.

"Cause of death?" Lt. Cmdr. Jamesley asked as they shifted the corpses. The man was bloated and foul, the woman more recently deceased.

"I'm no coroner, but I'd guess untreated injuries," Atkins said, peeling back a crude bandage. "Bullet wounds, maybe."

"Well, that makes a credible case for asylum," said Lt. Cmdr. Jamesley. "We'll turn everything over to Immigration when we get back to shore." Then he lifted the whimpering toddler away from the bodies of her parents.

Something flickered past, a not-quite-ripple in the air that washed through him with a wave of strange sensation.

"What the hell was that?" Atkins yelped.

"Superpower," Lt. Cmdr. Jamesley said. He cradled the little girl in his arms anyway. "Get on the horn to SPOON, use the emergency number, and tell them we need transportation for a superkid to a suitable hospital."

"Call a soup out here?" Atkins said, hesitating.

"A good enough teleporter can make the jump based on GPS coordinates if we use the military frequency for maximum precision," Lt. Cmdr. Jamesley said. "Say we've got a toddler maybe two years old, female of African descent, suffering from dehydration, exposure, and probable orphaning. We do not want to frighten her into an incident, is that clear."

"Sir yes sir!" Atkins said crisply. He scrambled up the ladder to relay information to SPOON.

Lt. Cmdr. Jamesley followed with more care and less speed, cradling the girl in one arm. Then he beckoned to the nearest sailors. "Record the condition of the boat. Bag the bodies with all due respect. Take the boat in tow."

"Manman," the baby whined. "Papan."

"I'm sorry, little one, your mommy and daddy can't be with you anymore," Lt. Cmdr. Jamesley said. Those two words needed no translation, although the girl's further babble was incomprehensible to him. "Somebody who speaks Spanish, get over here."

"Excuse me, sir, but that doesn't sound like Spanish," said Seaman Mejía.

Well, she would know. "Anyone else have ideas?" asked Lt. Cmdr. Jamesley.

"It might be French? Sort of," said Seaman Armistead. He asked questions in French, and when that failed, tried single words. The toddler gave a few dubious, hesitant replies. "Her name is Saraphina Dreux, I think."

"Saraphina," said Lt. Cmdr. Jamesley, and she looked up at him with wide dark eyes. "Seems to be, yes."

"Clear the landing zone!" hollered Atkins. The crew skittered toward the rails, leaving a space on deck.

A moment later, an athletic young man popped into view. He landed gracefully, and the slow roll of the deck didn't seem to faze him at all. "I'm Leapfrog, working out of the Easy City SPOON base," he announced. "I'm here to pick up the superkid you reported. Your crewman said possible empathy or telepathy?"

"Not empathy, or at least not just that," Lt. Cmdr. Jamesley said, shaking his head. "Back at the Academy, one of the men in my barracks had it, and I used to help him practice, so I know what empathy feels like."

"We'll have our spotter take a look," Leapfrog said. He tried to take Saraphina, but the toddler clung and cried. "Can you tell me anything else?"

"It felt like she reached right through me," Lt. Cmdr. Jamesley said as he gently peeled the little fingers from his uniform. "I can still feel something, but I'm not sure what."

"I'll need your contact information, in case she can't or won't attach to anyone else," Leapfrog said. "Sometimes that's a problem with orphaned superkids."

"She's a sweet kid, but I'm on active duty and not married. I really can't keep her," Lt. Cmdr. Jamesley protested.

"Just a formality, it probably won't be an issue," Leapfrog assured him, so Lt. Cmdr. Jamesley recited the information. They finally managed to transfer Saraphina into Leapfrog's grasp. Her power shimmered through them again.

"There, that, did you feel that?" Lt. Cmdr. Jamesley asked.

Leapfrog nodded. "I don't recognize it, but there are a lot of superpowers, so if it's a rare one then I might not. I'll make sure she gets the best of care," he said. With a pop of displaced air, Leapfrog disappeared, taking the toddler with him.

Lt. Cmdr. Jamesley sighed. Nothing remained but the numinous impression inside him and the decrepit boat bobbing behind the Salvador.

Sometimes, you just had to save what you could, and pray that it was enough. That was, after all, why he had joined the Coast Guard in the first place.

* * *


Saraphina Dreux -- She has dark brown skin, brown eyes, and long nappy black hair. Her age is estimated between 18-30 months, probably about 2 years. She has a vocabulary of several dozen words and can use some two-word phrases. Her heritage is Haitian and she speaks Haitian Creole, a French-based language with West African influences. However, she came to America in a boat of Cuban make labeled in Spanish, which added to the confusion. She likes to follow people and copy whatever they are doing or saying.
Saraphina has Soul Powers which so far include Soulgazing, Soul Healing, Soul Resonance, and Soul Shield. Other powers are likely to develop over time. Her abilities to date seem focused on defensive and restorative applications rather than offensive ones.
Origin: She was born with her superpowers, which have been growing for sake of survival. Already she has lost all her siblings, both parents, plus some other relatives. This has given her a worrying sense that people often go away and don't come back, which makes her try to create attachments to people she likes.
Uniform: Toddler clothes.
Qualities: Good (+2) Connection with William Jamesley, Good (+2) Durable, Good (+2) Mimic
Poor (-2) Anxious Attachment
Powers: Good (+2) Soul Powers
Motivation: Survival.

U.S. Coast Guard Lt. Cmdr. William Jamesley -- He has fair skin, short blond hair, and brown eyes. He is demisexual and rarely gets into an intimate relationship for career reasons; it's just not a high priority for him. Peer relationships matter far more to him. While training at the Coast Guard Academy, William played bugle in the Windjammers Drum and Bugle Corps. His favorite song is "Summon the Heroes," first introduced in the 1996 Olympics which added a super level of competition, later becoming a theme song for superheroes and popular among the armed forces.
When William rescued Saraphina Dreux, she formed a connection with him; there wasn't time to make it very strong, but it's still there. This also gave him a subtle awareness of superpowers, not strong enough to qualify as a superpower itself but the kind of hunch-level sensitivity that some ordinary people have.
Uniform: U.S. Coast Guard.
Qualities: Master (+6) Physical Fitness, Expert (+4) Aikido, Expert (+4) Bugler, Expert (+4) Coast Guard Officer, Good (+2) Alertness, Good (+2) Connection with Saraphina Dreux, Good (+2) Fellowship, Good (+2) Soup-Friendly Ally
Poor (-2) Working Alone
Motivation: Semper Paratus (Always ready).

The Coast Guard Academy Drum and Bugle Corps, also known as The Windjammers, is a small corps based out of the U.S. Coast Guard Academy in New London, Connecticut. All corps members are Cadets at the Academy and active duty members of the United States Coast Guard.

"Summon the Heroes" was composed for the 1996 Summer Olympics, which in Terramagne added a Super level for the first time. Sheet music and video are available.

Petty Officer 3rd Class Edgar Atkins -- He has brown eyes, short black hair, and tinted skin with a round face. He wears glasses. He is talented with any kind of cord, from crocheting to rope work. In his Guam high school, Edgar won awards on the swim team, which helped inspire him to join the Coast Guard. A good listener, he hears all the news and gossip going around, and people turn to him when they need to know what's up. He is fascinated by nautical history, especially pirates over the ages.
Uniform: U.S. Coast Guard
Qualities: Good (+2) Coast Guard Officer, Good (+2) Cordwork, Good (+2) Pirate Lore, Good (+2) Scuttlebutt, Good (+2) Swimmer
Poor (-2) Aim
Motivation: Semper Paratus (Always ready).

Leapfrog -- He has blond hair, blue eyes, and fair skin. He works full time for the Easy City SPOON base, primarily providing transportation for other superheroes and sometimes for victims. His first responder training includes a wide range of things like fire safety, minor law enforcement, search & rescue, first aid, superpower incidents, etc. He can jump into almost any situation, and either address it himself or find someone who can.
Origin: As a child, he was always getting into things and scrambling around places where he had no business being. At fourteen, he fell off a roof -- and teleported to safety. The shielding appeared later, when a load of bricks nearly crushed him; it functions on both physical and metaphysical levels.
Uniform: SPOON uniform.
Qualities: Expert (+4) First Responder, Good (+2) Making Friends, Good (+2) Parkour, Good (+2) Solving Brainteasers
Poor (-2) Impatient
Powers: Expert (+4) Teleportation, Good (+2) Shielding
Motivation: Keep on moving.

The first responder range includes all kinds of crisis response such as medical, fire, emergency management, explosives, HAZMAT, law enforcement, search and rescue, and emergency communications. Terramagne adds SPAZMAT for handling gizmology and super-gizmology. SPOON is the primary organization for addressing superpower emergencies. Training for citizen responders covers basic levels and is widely available. Training for certified first responders covers intermediate levels and is usually offered through a specialized organization, although it's common for people to cross-train.

* * *

"I reasoned that I was a Coast Guard first class boatswain mate. My job was the
sea and to save those in peril upon it."
-- Bernard C. Webber, recounting the 1952 Pendleton rescue in
Chatham: "The Lifeboatmen" (1985)

Salvador is Spanish for "savior."

The USCGC Salvador is a Guardian-class patrol boat. The Guardian is Terramagne's equivalent of the local Island class patrol boat, measuring 120 feet, with the mixed-gender accommodations and high-speed stern launching ramp as original features not modifications. They are all named after protective figures. A Guardian has a slightly larger crew than an Island, preferably mixed gender, and may be commanded by a Lieutenant Commander or a Lieutenant. Guardians are equally capable for inshore or deepwater missions. The USCGC Matagorda shows the rear launching ramp.

The Gulf of Mexico is placid for saltwater due to its landed boundaries. While it can turn nasty in a storm, calm weather often brings sleek blue water.

Esperanza is Spanish for "hope."

Boat people pose a problem for various countries, as they are among the most vulnerable refugees. In America, a large portion of boat people come from Haiti.  In Terramagne, Haiti is third on the list of the worst countries for people with superpowers, after Somalia and North Korea.  The trouble markers in Haiti are fatality (soups are often murdered), no rights (they have no legal standing), pogroms (mobs hunt them or destroy their property), and confinement (they can be driven into refugee camps).  It's impossible to fix everything,  so a majority of superheroes and supervillains have concentrated their protective efforts on countries that are large and/or influential; the worst offenders tend to be small undeveloped nations, except for China.

Local: People have a right to leave their country of origin. However, they do not have a right to enter any other country. Countries have sovereignty over who may enter or stay within their territory. Some countries have signed agreements guaranteeing sanctuary for political refugees; this excludes economic and often other types of refugees, even if their lives are in danger.

Most developed countries signed the 1951 UN Refugee Convention, which makes obligates them to accept genuinely persecuted refugees. However, countries routinely violate the principle of ‘non-refoulement’ framed in that convention. For example, the European Union denied 75% of claims for sanctuary which it received during 2013. Ironically Pakistan, NOT a signatory, is by far the most welcoming country for refugees.

Terramagne differences: Nobody may be forcibly returned to their country of origin, or anywhere else they believe themselves to be in danger, except via extradition for an officially charged crime. A few countries have offered sanctuary to refugees in general.

Most developed countries signed the 1946 UN Refugee Convention, which obligates them to accept genuinely persecuted refugees. However, countries often violate the principle of ‘non-refoulement’ framed in that convention. For example, the European Union denied 51% of claims for sanctuary which it received during 2013.

Unauthorized boats may be turned back if seaworthy and properly provisioned. If not seaworthy, they must be accompanied to a safe harbor, where people may be turned over to appropriate authorities. If not properly provisioned, they must be stocked with sufficient supplies (including a safety margin) to reach a safe harbor. It is not legal to abandon people in situations where they are likely to die. So you can see that Terramagne is in somewhat better shape on this.

The U.S. Coast Guard has a mixed reputation regarding refugees. It has turned away Haitian refugees, sometimes cruelly. Refugees often arrive in small, marginally functional boats. In Terramagne, part of the improvement was spurred by the disgraceful incident of the MS St. Louis in 1939, something which Whammy Lass and other activists harped on until they managed to shame world leaders into agreeing to do better in the future. Sometimes the Coast Guard rescues refugees, some of whom have gone on to join it themselves. There are ideas for repairing the asylum system. In Terramagne, America has ways of integrating immigrants immediately into the economy, tax rolls, health care, education, employment, etc. The real problem is not the people, but having them rattling around loose instead of being productive members of society.

Boarding ladders are required for boats, and customarily made of rope with solid steps.

manman -- mother
papa -- father
Kouman ou rele? -- What is your name?
-- Haitian Creole

EDIT 11/20/14: Changed "papa" to "papan" which is a variation of the same term.

Comment tu t’appelle? = “What’s your name?”
-- French vocabulary

Speech development includes Brown's Stage I (two-word sentences) at 15-30 months.

Refugees may experience similar challenges as people lost at sea. Exposure, dehydration, starvation, and psychological issues are all possible.

Attachment bonding refers to the connection between parents and child. I don't know why there's no direct equivalent for Anxious in children, because it's obviously there. It's a big difference between a child who clings like a burr and one who is truly ambiguous as described in the Ambivalent or Disordered categories.

Psychological trauma can be as serious as physical trauma. There are emotional first aid and more detailed instructions for helping traumatized children. Know how to identify when a child has been traumatized by an event.

Powerful, even at fifth reading.

Date: 2014-07-27 01:34 pm (UTC)
dialecticdreamer: My work (Default)
From: [personal profile] dialecticdreamer
It's not lessening the impact, which is perfect. You portray the Coast Guard doing their jobs professionally and ethically; I honestly don't think /they/ would call themselves heroes. But they are.

I did, however, finally spend enough time reading it for the emotional responses that I could pay attention to the single typo I found, LOL!

I've saved a couple of your links for follow-up in other stories, so especially thank you for those.

Re: Powerful, even at fifth reading.

Date: 2014-07-27 06:50 pm (UTC)
dialecticdreamer: My work (Default)
From: [personal profile] dialecticdreamer
I saw that twitch firsthand, and while I /think/ I understand it as seeing one's own actions as 'something anyone would do,' I see the matter differently. Every day.

Re: Powerful, even at fifth reading.

Date: 2014-07-27 07:23 pm (UTC)
dialecticdreamer: My work (Default)
From: [personal profile] dialecticdreamer
Both the young men said that their actions were, quote, "something anyone would have done."

I couldn't do much to contradict that belief-- except stand with my family to watch the two young men be honored for their actions.

(Funny thing about that-- when asked if we would like to attend the ceremony, the coordinator was hesitant, mentioning several times that it would fall on a school day. I said "This is more important than ONE DAY of schooling, of COURSE we'll be there!")

(no subject)

Date: 2014-07-27 08:32 pm (UTC)
chanter_greenie: a Band of Brothers appreciation icon, highlighting Gene Roe (BoB: my fandom needs some scissors!)
From: [personal profile] chanter_greenie
Oh wow, and ow. That poor, sweet little girl. Now I want to see her both immediately post this story and a little later, how and where she's settled in, and if she has the chance to be a happy kidlet - I hope so! Also, that commander is a wonderful person.

Darn me, now I'm wanting to see more Haitian super refugees. I'm going to guess there'll be a few Dominicanos making the trip too?

(no subject)

Date: 2014-07-28 08:14 pm (UTC)
brushwolf: Icon created by ScaperDeage on DeviantArt (Default)
From: [personal profile] brushwolf
Awesome! I don't dig everything the USCG gets pulled into doing, but they see action a lot more regularly than other service branches and I feel like a lot of what they do is pretty good and useful -- plus, nearly nobody ever writes about them. So it's good to see a Coast Guard story.

(no subject)

Date: 2014-07-31 08:49 am (UTC)
lynnoconnacht: (Default)
From: [personal profile] lynnoconnacht
Oh, that was lovely. Sad, but lovely. And very sweet.

Do you have any more plans for the commander? I know you have several for Saraphina (which yay!). I'd love to see her settling and settled in too.

(no subject)

Date: 2014-07-27 12:35 pm (UTC)
ext_12246: (Default)
From: [identity profile] thnidu.livejournal.com
Oh my, this *will* be interesting. It's pretty obvious where you might be going with this one.

• taking the toddler with him.
   Lt. Cmdr. Jamesley sighed.
→ New line betw. ¶s.

Thank you!

Date: 2014-07-27 05:36 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ysabetwordsmith.livejournal.com
>> Oh my, this *will* be interesting. <<


>> It's pretty obvious where you might be going with this one. <<

There are plans for future storyline.

>> • taking the toddler with him.
Lt. Cmdr. Jamesley sighed.
→ New line betw. ¶s. <<

Fixed, thanks.

Re: Thank you!

Date: 2014-07-28 02:35 am (UTC)
ext_12246: (Default)
From: [identity profile] thnidu.livejournal.com
BTW, the continual repetition of the rank, rather than just the last name, sort of grated on me. Is it standard protocol in our military?

Re: Thank you!

Date: 2014-07-28 02:38 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ysabetwordsmith.livejournal.com
Yes, resources indicated that it's rude to leave off the rank for a Lieutenant Commander. Otherwise I would've done what I did with the Petty Officer and switched to last name, which is acceptable for that rank.

Re: Thank you!

Date: 2014-07-28 02:52 am (UTC)
ext_12246: (Default)
From: [identity profile] thnidu.livejournal.com
Ah, excellent! Thank you.

• Atkins updated the news with, "No movement reported, sir. It doesn't look good."
→ …updated the news. "No movement…
>In this construction (ISTM) "with" wants a very short quote or description, like
- "Nothing, sir."
- a slow shake of his head.
Two sentences, even short ones, don't work.

Re: Thank you!

Date: 2014-07-28 02:53 am (UTC)
ext_12246: (Default)
From: [identity profile] thnidu.livejournal.com
2nd afterthought: Even in a narration like this rather than actual speech, then?


ysabetwordsmith: Cartoon of me in Wordsmith persona (Default)

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