ysabetwordsmith: Damask smiling over their shoulder (polychrome)
[personal profile] ysabetwordsmith
This poem is spillover from the October 4, 2016 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired by a prompt from [personal profile] siliconshaman. It also fills the "personal growth" square in my 8-1-16 card for the Survival Bingo fest.  Based on an audience poll, this poem is the free epic for the February 7, 2017 Poetry Fishbowl reaching its $200 goal. It belongs to the Berettaflies thread of the Polychrome Heroics series.


"Honeybumping"

[Week 5, Day 7]


When Adalina first developed superpowers,
she found the whole experience horrifying.
Getting stung was agonizing and almost fatal;
her changing body disrupted all her relationships;
the new abilities propelled her out of college
and into a whole new way of life.

The more time passed, though,
the more she realized that she had not
changed as much as she first suspected.

At heart, she was still the same person.

Adalina worked through most of the fear
and revulsion that she had felt when she first
met her new mentor, Facet, and he became
one of the best friends she had ever known.

She struggled to cope with the challenges
and calamities around her -- it seemed as if
they solved each one only to face another --
and learned what she could do in the process.

It was this which led her to begin questioning
why she had superpowers and what they were for.

"Don't overthink it, Adalina, it's all random,"
said Ashley, about whom Adalina still worried
when the other girl wasn't watching. "If I hadn't
gotten stung, none of this would've happened to me;
if there weren't EMTs right in the graveyard, then
I probably would have died on the spot."

"I'm glad you didn't die," Adalina said.
"You're a great artist and your superpowers
can do so many interesting things."

"Like nuke everything in sight," Ashley muttered.

"Isn't it a goth belief that death just makes way
for new life, it's not evil?" Adalina countered.

"Huh," Ashley said. "I hadn't actually thought
about it that way." She looked pensive, so
maybe the message had gotten through.

"It is God's will," said Facet. "If the exterminators
hadn't sprayed fire ants behind my church, then
they'd still be alive and I wouldn't have superpowers.
I almost died along with them; the fact that I survived
and gained new gifts is because God wished it."

Adalina was faithful enough to enjoy attending
Loyola University, but she wouldn't go that far.

Ashley just snorted and went back to her book.

"But why do we have these powers
in particular?" Adalina pressed.

"Well, I wound up able to control insects
because of the ants, or possibly the spray,"
Facet said. "It's not hard to figure out."

"With the berettaflies, you get what
they have," Ashley said. "The SPAZMAT folks
are still trying to pin down why different victims
wind up developing totally different abilities,
but it's all from the same basic source."

"See, that's what I mean," Adalina said.
"Why are you all white when I turned white
with yellow, orange, and black markings?
I mean, my snatch looks like a landing zone!"

Even the stoic Ashley giggled at that one.

"And why are you a walking cloud of doom,
while I turned into the queen?" Adalina went on.

Ashley shrugged. "I've lived my whole life
under a cloud of doom," she said. "All of
this ... just makes it more obvious."

That made Adalina sit up and take note.
"So you think our personalities determined
our powers, and the berettaflies were just,
what, enabling them to manifest?"

"No, Ashley was right the first time,"
Facet said, shaking his head. "It's about
the berettaflies. They can actually bestow
powers, they don't just activate latent potential.
That's why the results are consistent within
the general field of Insect Powers."

"That doesn't account for the variations,
though," Adalina said. "We were all stung
by the same bugs at about the same time,
yet we've got a pretty wide spread of powers.
Why make only one queen, instead of doing
that to all the girls? Why aren't all of us toxic?"

"Oh please," Ashley said. "You were
obviously the queen bee before you got stung."

Adalina blinked. "What do you mean by that?"

"Well, look at you," Ashley said, waving a hand.
"I bet you've taken every Party Monitor workshop
the university offered. You're a total extrovert.
You're always looking for ways to get us together,
improve our teamwork, all that kumbaya crap.
Why wouldn't you get the queen gifts?
You were already doing the work."

Just as Adalina could see things about Ashley
that the brunette couldn't see about herself,
so Ashley seemed to understand Adalina
in new and confusing ways.

It got her thinking, though, about what it
meant for her to have these particular powers,
what good she could do with them, and how
they might fit with her previous goals.

"Hmm ... you've got a point," Adalina said.
"I have done all the party workshops."

"What else connects?" Ashley said.

"My major is Environmental Science, but
I picked Psychology as a minor to explore
how people think about nature," said Adalina.
"I've taken Social Psych, maybe I should do
Personal Adjustment next -- or there's one
on Sensation and Perception, but that's
a 400-level class, they're pretty hard."

"You could talk to an educational consultant,"
Facet said. "All the students who survived
an attack are entitled to academic support
from the university so it doesn't throw off
their college career. That could help you
pick courses to suit your professional goals
and to explore your new superpowers."

"Yeah, mine's ... not totally useless,"
Ashley said, which was about as much
endorsement as she ever gave.
"Online classes are cool."

"You're studying the environment,"
Facet said to Adalina. "Have you
done anything with activism?"

"Oh yeah, there's a club called
Covenant with Creation that's about
taking care of the world as God's gift to us,"
Adalina said, "and then Brave Spaces has
a whole series on activism for human dignity.
Those are my ongoing connections, and I've
done other one-time things too. You two could
come along, the activism's open to everyone."

"I am so not a joiner," Ashley said
without looking up from her book.

"People don't really ..." Facet said,
trailing off with a wave at his face.

"I don't think it's right that people pick
on you for the way you look. You're not
a monster," Adalina said with a frown.
"When you back off, it just encourages
them to exclude you even more."

The corner of Facet's mouth turned up.
"You know, one word for activism comes from
entomology," he said. "Honeybumping is
a reference to how bees reach consensus
by butting each other in the head."

Adalina laughed, but once he'd put
the idea in her mind, it wouldn't go away.

So she looked up resources about
social insects and how they worked,
then compared that to the few tidbits
she could find about Insect Powers.

Queens were rare, in a field that was
already among the less common powers --
there had only been a handful recorded --
but they all seemed to share similar traits
of popularity and prosocial behavior. It was
less about control than about influence.

All right, then, Adalina could work with that.

When people pushed at her, or her friends,
Adalina pushed back, honing her arguments
as she learned which ones worked best
for quashing that kind of discrimination.

She studied supervillains, too, since her team
had had several unpleasant encounters with those.
It turned out that most monsters were made, not born.
She soon came to the conclusion that it would be
a lot easier to prevent someone from becoming
a supervillain than to stop one after the fact.

She might not be able to unmake the monsters
that they already had, but she could certainly
work to avoid making any more of them.

Adalina began practicing with her superpowers
in new ways, hoping to figure out how she could
influence people without manipulating them,
how to weave the team together with herself
as its core, to make all of them stronger
as a team than each would be alone.

The more she worked with it,
the better it seemed to fit,
and when Ashley teased her,
"Aren't you a busy little bee?"

Adalina smiled and said, "Yes, I am."

* * *

Notes:

Adalina Louis -- She was born with light brown skin, brown eyes, and straight black hair. Now most of her skin is paling to an uneven chalky white marked with bold splashes of yellow, orange, and black. Her hair is a vivid lavender. She is slim and petite, with modest breasts, a soft belly, and hips a little wider than her shoulders. Her heritage is primarily Hispanic mixed with African-American, French, and various other things. Adalina is studying Environmental Science at Loyola University in Easy City, Louisiana.
Origin: While working on a class project, she was stung by berettaflies. Their venom made her very sick, but also triggered the development of her superpowers.
Uniform: Street clothes.
Qualities: Expert (+4) Constitution, Expert (+4) Gregarious, Good (+2) Naturalist
Poor (-2) Situational Awareness
Powers: Good (+2) Insect Powers, Average (0) Super-Intellect
Developing. So far her metapower includes Chromatic Skin and Hive Mind. She also has the ultraviolet and polarized vision. The purple hair seems to be a separate manifestation from her own potential, triggered by the metagen. Some kind of skin color power, which may be static or active, along with the purple hair. Possibly pheromones, direction sense, dancing, or other things related to insects.
Motivation: To learn about the environment of Louisiana.

Bugeye / Facet (Benton Reyes) -- Although he gives his codename as Facet, people typically call him Bugeye. Mostly humanoid, Benton has compound eyes in vivid peacock hues. Not only can he see everything around himself, but he can also see everything visible to all the insects around him. He has straight black hair and fair skin. When off duty, he dresses conservatively. He is a soft-spoken, quiet man who is more complex than most people realize.
Origin: City exterminators sprayed a multi-queen hill of fire ants behind the church where Benton worked. The ants came boiling out of their hive and stung everyone, causing the exterminators to lose control of their equipment, spraying toxic chemicals everywhere. The two exterminators died from a combination of ant venom and pesticides. Benton survived and mutated.
Uniform: Pixelated dexflan unitard in many colors. From a distance it looks grayish when deactivated, although up close the rainbow colors are visible. When activated it has a chameleon mode to blend into the surroundings.
Qualities: Expert (+4) Cooperation, Good (+2) Christian, Good (+2) Constitution, Good (+2) Mentor, Good (+2) Office Worker
Poor (-2) Self-Blame
Powers: Master (+6) Control Insects, Average (0) Flight, Average (0) Super-Intellect
Motivation: God is inordinately fond of beetles. So am I.

* * *

Honeybumping refers to actions meant to discourage trolling by interrupting the negativity with more positive material. This includes everything from interrupting a creeper to start a fun conversation with his victim, to replying to rude messages with recipes in a chatroom. It derives from the use of headbutting for making decisions in honeybee hives.

A gradient of agreement helps to understand how close a group is (or isn't) to consensus. Agile leaders notice and respond to this.

Superheroes depend a lot on their origin story for psychological impact. We need superheroes to inspire not just greatness, but integrity.

The ethics of superpowers are often portrayed as showing that power corrupts. Other examples suggest that superpowers can make people more altruistic. The choice of what superpower people would want is a clue into their personality. Superpowers usually but not always match personalities.

The Tesla fluid valve provides one-way flow with no moving parts. This video contrasts the simple flow path and complex flow path. Here is a more detailed description of how the valve works. Terramagne society functions like a Tesla fluid valve: the farther someone tries to go away from civilization, the more difficult it gets.

Becoming an activist involves fighting prejudice, thwarting oppression, and dealing with difficult people. Honeybees are social insects who live in large colonies.

Social insects have eusocial traits.

Loyola University offers first-year seminars which help tie the student body together. This was Adalina's first-year seminar, part of the Loyola Core and her major.
A Life in the Life Sciences -- This course introduces students to the experiences of a field biologist working in academics and/or industry, and the staunch expectations, responsibilities and skills necessary to succeed in life science research. Using foundational and current hot button environmental and medical issues, students get exposed to a plethora of topics requiring research attention from the bright minds of future scientists.

The Psychology Minor includes the following courses:
PSYC A240 Social Psychology (3 credits)
Social determinants of individual behavior and of group interaction are examined with emphasis on current research literature.
Prerequisite: PSYC A100
PSYC A241 Psychology of Personal Adjustment (3 credits)
Good personal adjustment is defined as the effective solution of individual problems and the creation of a viable system of personal values. The constraints and conditions affecting these behaviors are examined in this course.
PSYC A416 Sensation and Perception (3 credits)
This course is an intensive study of sensory processes and perceptual organization.

A Covenant with Creation is about taking care of the environment as God's gift to humanity.

Brave Spaces: Activism and Organizing for Human Dignity encourages activism.

Influence and manipulation are two different points on the same spectrum.

(no subject)

Date: 2017-02-20 11:48 am (UTC)
thnidu: A shield-shaped hunk of watermelon rind, with bits carved away to make 2 staring eyes and a mouth. By bensanaz (melonhead)
From: [personal profile] thnidu
I'm impressed with your use of actual Loyola programs and materials, as well as by the programs themselves and the fact that Loyola offers them, and by Ashley's and Facet's influencing Adalina as they do.

(no subject)

Date: 2017-02-20 12:24 pm (UTC)
siliconshaman: black cat against the moon (Default)
From: [personal profile] siliconshaman
Adalina might be the queen, but a queen is influenced by the hive...

(no subject)

Date: 2017-03-02 04:44 pm (UTC)
johnpalmer: (Default)
From: [personal profile] johnpalmer
This makes me flash on how an actor friend of mine called the audience the invisible cast member.

(no subject)

Date: 2017-02-20 12:26 pm (UTC)
siliconshaman: black cat against the moon (Default)
From: [personal profile] siliconshaman
I do like this one.. and you get Ashley spot on. [she's not all moody goth, there's a spring-steel core of hope to her, and she's actually very observant.]

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