Elizabeth Barrette (ysabetwordsmith) wrote,
Elizabeth Barrette

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Poem: "Glorious Accidents"

This poem came out of the March 3, 2015 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired and sponsored by [personal profile] librarygeek who, being a figure skater and related to another one, wanted to explore what could happen mixing superpowers with skating challenges. This also fills the "accidents" square of my 9-29-14 card for the [community profile] origfic_bingo fest. It belongs to the series Polychrome Heroics. Be advised that this is a sequel to "April Showers" in that it follows Jackie Frost after the birth of her daughter, but it happens several months later, so that's a jump forward compared to the timeline of most other PH stuff in play thus far.

WARNING: This poem contains some intense scenes which may not be to everyone's taste. Highlight to read the warnings, some of which are spoilers. Baby Aurora needs to stay tethered to a parent for safety, so she and Fireheart are attached with climbing harness and strap. Two teen girls have a skating accident. Natalia slices her leg. Anaïs has an emotional overload and develops superpowers. That includes some messy medical descriptions. There are also hints of how developing superpowers could undermine a skating career. But the issues are nothing life-threatening and comfort is available. Consider your tastes and headspace before deciding whether to read onward.

"Glorious Accidents"

Jackie Frost ventured back onto the ice
three months after giving birth
to her daughter Aurora.

She started with simple exercises,
just enjoying the feel of ice under her feet again
as she glided through the basic figures.

From the sidelines, her husband Fireheart
watched, with their daughter tethered to him
by a long strap clipped to the front D-ring
of a five-point climbing harness.

It turned out that Aurora could fly as well as glow.

Along with getting her own body back into shape,
Jackie Frost also tutored other skaters,
particularly those whose talents or interests
set them a little aside from the ordinary.

One of them was Natalia Lubov,
as pale and slender and graceful as
Jackie Frost herself, although much taller.
Natalia liked to work with people
from different traditions than her own.

Among her friends was Anaïs Okoye,
whose dark skin and hair made a striking contrast
with the white ice and pastel costumes.
Anaïs enjoyed exploring what her unique body
could bring to the ice, especially her springy hair
that had so much sculptural potential.

The two teens were noodling around ideas
for a "Day and Night" dance, and arguing
casually about which goddesses
or culture figures they wanted to embody,
when suddenly they went down in a tangle.

Jackie Frost put some speed into her skating
for the first time in months, and Fireheart
dashed onto the ice as well, perfectly steady
even without skates underneath him.

It was the skates that had caused the problem;
Natalia was bleeding all over the ice,
a long strip of skin hanging loose
down the length of her left shin.

Fireheart carefully eased her out of the tangle
as Jackie Frost lifted Anaïs away.

Aurora bobbed above her parents,
apparently unconcerned.

"I'm fine," Natalia insisted. "Just tape me up
so I can get back to practicing."

"No, not happening," Fireheart said firmly,
and his experience as a wilderness guide
made his first aid assessment reliable.
"A few dozen stitches later you will be 'fine.'
Right now you are not fine. Skin glue
and gauze will not hold together
that much ripped skin."

"I'm sorry, I'm sorry," Anaïs sobbed.
"I didn't meant to hurt anyone."

"I could use a handful of ice here
to slow the bleeding," Fireheart said.

Jackie Frost peeled off her scarf,
wet and froze half of it with her superpower,
then folded it to keep the ice off of Natalia's bare skin.

Next she turned her attention to Anaïs,
who was nearly in hysterics over the accident.
Jackie Frost checked to make sure she was uninjured,
then helped her to a seat beside the rink.

"Okay, what happened was pretty awful,
but everyone is still alive and it's nothing
that can't be mended," Jackie Frost said.
"I didn't see any broken bones or cut muscles,
just sliced skin that will heal in a few weeks.
Skating injuries can be a lot worse."

"It's the worst I've ever seen," Anaïs said,
"and it's not over. I can still feel it.
I've got her blood all over my boots, and
I can sense the cells dying one by one."

"Well then, let's take your boots off,"
Jackie Frost said, kneeling in front of the girl
to unlace the white skates that were, indeed,
liberally splashed with scarlet ice. "We can go
to the quiet room and get you some slippers."

A frisson of energy fizzed through the air,
making her own superpower shiver alongside it.

"I feel like I should be doing something to help Natalia,"
said Anaïs, even though her hands were clenched
each over the opposite elbow. "My body keeps
insisting that I can, and I don't know why."

"That's new for you," Jackie Frost guessed.
"Do you have any first aid training?"

Anaïs shook her head. "Not really,"
she said, "just what I had in school, and
the basics for ice skating emergencies."

"Then you can help by taking care of yourself,
and let Fireheart call an ambulance for Natalia,"
said Jackie Frost. "Does first aid interest you?"

"I never really thought about it," Anaïs said.
"I just want to be a great figure skater."

Jackie Frost could recognize the ripple
of healing energy, from that time when
she'd skated into the side of a truck during
combat and her nemesis Contretemps
had to call a halt and his healer.

Precious as the gift was,
it could also put an end to
her skating career if anyone
else found out that Anaïs
had superpowers now.

Jackie Frost would need to be
discreet in summoning extra help,
because an untrained healer
could wind up in all kinds of trouble,
but nobody should get forced into
a job they didn't want just because
their power leaned that way.

"It's an option you might consider,
especially as a backup job when
you get older," she said mildly. "For now,
let's just get away from the ice."

The skating rink's quiet room
held a scatter of floor cushions
and warm fuzzy blankets in
soothing shades of blue and white.

It also had a supply of warm slippers
and spare clothes to comfort chilled skaters.
Jackie Frost got the girl's feet into some yarn booties
and deposited her in the corner of the room.

Anaïs curled up in the soft nest and cried.
"I just feel so lost," she said.

Jackie Frost patted her gently on the shoulder.
"That's a natural response," she said.
"Life is a series of glorious accidents,
some of them good and some of them bad,
or even everything all mixed together like this.
You're a strong girl. You can get through it."

She led Anaïs through some deep breathing exercises,
and then through listing the colors and objects
visible around the room.

Jackie Frost was about at the end of her repertoire
when an Emotional First Aide showed up,
astutely summoned by Fireheart
along with the paramedics.

The EFA coaxed Anaïs outside
to the emotional support van, which
was a lot easier on shattered nerves
than a ride in a howling ambulance.

"Don't worry about the girls too much,"
said Fireheart as he came up beside her.
"Gingras General has a good Shock Room
and a good Emergency Room."

Aurora had fallen asleep on his shoulder,
worn out by all the excitement,
tether trailing from under her tummy.

"I know they'll be fine, I just hate it when
things like that happen," said Jackie Frost.

"Every life has its glorious accidents,"
Fireheart said. "You just have to know
how to handle them when they come up."

Jackie Frost thought about all the surprises
in her life, the good and the bad and the bizarre,
from meeting Fireheart to meeting Contretemps
to gaining superpowers of her own.

On the whole she had come out ahead,
and after all, you couldn't spend your life
dancing on a pair of glorified knives if
you didn't have a healthy tolerance for risk.

"It's been a day," Jackie Frost said,
suddenly exhausted. "Let's get out of here."

Fireheart wrapped an arm
around his tiny wife and took her home.

* * *


Fireheart (Atka Lecoeur) -- He has tinted skin, golden-brown eyes, and long straight black hair. His body temperature naturally runs around 100ºF and he needs extra calories to sustain his powers. His heritage is primarily Native Canadian (Inuit and Anishinaabeg) with a little French and British ancestry. He has worked as a wilderness guide and a counselor. He fell in love with Jackie Frost, and they have a daughter, Aurora, who is already showing superpowers.
Origin: As a teenager, Atka went camping with some friends, and a terrible storm blew up. They almost died of hypothermia, but then his Fire Powers manifested and saved everyone.
Uniform: Usually warm, durable clothes suitable for the wilderness.
Qualities: Expert (+4) Woodslore, Good (+2) Family Ties, Good (+2) Mediation, Good (+2) Cold Tolerance
Powers: Expert (+4) Fire Powers, Good (+2) Phasing
Vulnerability: Copper shorts out his superpowers with a painful shower of sparks.
Motivation: Keep the home fires burning.

Aurora Lecoeur -- She has tinted skin, baby-blue eyes, and a scattering of dark hair. Born April 21, 2014 she is three months old in late July. She is eager and adventurous. Aurora is precocious in development, already able to hold her head up and roll over. With her superpower she can lift one of her parents several inches off the floor, although she can only keep it up for a few seconds. She stays fastened to one of them with a five-point climbing harness and tether.
Origin: Aurora developed Light Powers about a month before her birth. Her Flight grew in around the time she started to hold up her head.
Uniform: Baby clothes, mostly made from dexflan; plus a harness and tether for safety.
Qualities: Good (+2) Adorable, Good (+2) Strong
Poor (-2) Still New at This Whole Being Alive Thing
Powers: Average (0) Flight, Average (0) Light Powers
Motivation: To explore.

Anaïs Okoye -- She has brown eyes, nappy black hair, and deep brown skin with a hint of copper. At sixteen, her body is short and powerful, 5' tall and 95 pounds. She can even do back flips on the ice. Her heritage includes Nigerian, British, French, and Wendat. Anaïs lives in Ottawa, Canada where she practices figure skating.
Origin: When she and a friend crashed into each other on the ice, Natalia Lubov was injured and Anaïs abruptly developed superpowers from the stress.
Uniform: Off the ice, she wears teen fashions. On the ice, she wears warm workout clothes or dance costumes.
Qualities: Expert (+4) Figure Skater, Expert (+4) Strength, Good (+2) Ethnic Studies, Good (+2) Sympathetic, Good (+2) Teamwork
Poor (-2) Left-Brain Thinking
Powers: Average (0) Empathy, Average (0) Healing
Motivation: To explore the beauty that a black girl can bring to ice skating.
Model: Surya Bonaly

Natalia Lubov -- She has fair skin, blue eyes, and long straight strawberry-blonde hair. At fifteen, she is slender and tall for a skater at 5'5, 97 pounds. Her heritage includes Russian, Irish, and Welsh. Natalia lives in Ottawa, Canada where she practices figure skating. Although competitive in contests, she also enjoys working with dancers from other ethnicities and traditions to contrast what different things they can do.
Qualities: Expert (+4) Figure Skater, Expert (+4) Graceful, Good (+2) Competitive, Good (+2) Fine Arts Student, Good (+2) Supportive Family
Poor (-2) Knowing When to Quit
Model: Anna Pogorilaya

Contretemps (Samael Calaman) -- He has fair skin, deep blue eyes, and wavy black hair. His heritage includes French, Swiss, and Scottish. Contretemps is a magnificent bastard, and a longstanding nemesis of Jackie Frost. He calls her "Jacks," which annoys the crap out of her. Also he rarely monologues to superheroes because that would give away his plans; instead, he serenades them with a Borman violin. He uses the same technique to court minions.
Homosexual by preference, Samael enjoys a series of boytoys and has no trouble picking up a date (or a victim to manipulate). However, most people don't know this, because he's enough of charmer to have as much luck with women as he wants, and he often uses that to manipulate people. Jackie Frost does know, but usually doesn't mention it.
Contretemps has made himself a great many enemies by insisting on practicalities before pleasures. He constantly manipulates the Canadian government and business sectors with that in mind. He has no objection to people amusing themselves, just feels they should do so with their own pocket money and not public funds. So Contretemps keeps dragging budgets toward investment and infrastructure; away from the arts, many social services, and military expenditures that are more fun than necessary. Then he spends his private money on luxuries anyhow, which just drives people up a wall; one of his favorite lairs is a lovely two-storey dome with a grand piano in the music room. But he's never missed a bill because he blew the money on something frivolous; he is honorable in his own way.
Origin: His superpowers developed as a result of pushing himself to do more and better, using some rather extreme training techniques.
Uniform: Most of the time Samael wears expensive tailored suits. His combat suit is midnight blue dexflan accented with black and white chevrons at the cuffs, toughened with leathery pads of krevel at the chest, elbows, and knees. He doesn't wear it often because he's more of a mastermind than a frontline fighter.
Qualities: Master (+6) Magnificent Bastard, Expert (+4) Violin Player, Good (+2) Agility, Good (+2) Entrepreneur, Good (+2) Wealth, Good (+2) Worthy Opponent
Powers: Good (+2) Super-Intellect, Average (0) Luck, Average (0) Minions
The Ensemble have 7 named lieutenants and many faceless followers. Each lieutenant has an Average (0) superpower; one of them is a healer.
Motivation: Practicalities first, then pleasure.

* * *

"We are glorious accidents of an unpredictable process with no drive to complexity, not the expected results of evolutionary principles that yearn to produce a creature capable of understanding the mode of its own necessary construction."
-- Stephen Jay Gould

It takes time to return to skating after childbirth. Jackie Frost was in good shape, so she hasn't lost much but time. A little careful exercise and she's back on the ice a few months later, just taking it easy at first.

At three months old, Aurora can hold up her own head, roll over, glow, and fly. She has variable recognition of individuals, though, and no impulse control. Her parents use a 5-point climbing harness in an arrangement similar to a toddler leash for safety. They had about a month's warning before Aurora's birth that she had superpowers, so they were able to discuss coping techniques for protecting a superbaby. Her Flight developed around the time she started lifting her head. The strength is partly because Fireheart's first parking solution was to tie the tether to a weight while he used the bathroom. She started lifting things, so he used heavier things, and now her Flight lift is about 175 pounds for a few seconds. She can hover just herself considerably longer.

Walking on ice requires some skill; the crucial factor is keeping your center of balance directly above your feet. It's even possible to run, or to manage a controlled slide on flat soles. Skate blades control friction, and thus refine movement. Fireheart is an experienced wilderness guide adept at moving across all terrain; don't try this at home without climbing the skill tree carefully.

(These links have gross stuff.) Skate lacerations are scary but familiar ice skating accidents. Skin flap injuries, where the skin is partially detached, require very careful cleaning and stitching to heal properly; this is NOT a wrap-it-and-walk wound. They tend to bleed profusely, so controlling that is an important step. Know how to prevent skating injuries of all kinds.

Emotional first aid is crucial after an upsetting event, and can help to calm a panicky person. Many people in Terramagne have basic training in this, just as for physical first aid. The two injuries are actually equivalent. Jackie Frost would no more let Anaïs walk off with a significant emotional injury than Fireheart was going to let Natalia tape over a skin-flap wound.

Puberty and trauma are two leading causes of superpower activation. Stacking the two lowers the threshold necessary to reach manifestation. Regrettably superpowers can invite discrimination. Terramagne sports are doing a lousy job on fairness.

A quiet room is a common Terramagne facility for relaxation after stress, about as common as a first aid booth, a little less common than bathrooms. The quiet room at the ice skating rink uses floor cushions and blankets to create a comforting refuge. Booties soothe cold tired feet after skating. A local charity makes and donates these so there are always some on hand for people to take home if necessary.

Breathing exercises help people to relax. Naming things you can see or hear is another useful exercise for calm. These work for yourself, but you can also talk someone else through them as EFA techniques. Learn them, use them, share them.

Gingras General Hospital in Ottawa, Canada, Terramagne is named after Dr. Gustave Gingras.

Acute stress reaction can result from emotional trauma, such as seeing a friend get hurt. In many people, it develops into PTSD. (Not everyone gets upset by violent or scary events, especially if they have training or experience to cope with such things. In Terramagne, about 10% of the population has citizen responder or first responder training.) Multiple treatment methods have been explored in attempt to prevent PTSD, including psychological interventions such as event clarification, pattern-matching games like Tetris, and medication. Terramagne is just farther along in this process, hence having a Shock Room for treating emotional trauma alongside the Emergency Room for physical conditions.  (Local advice is NOT to go to a hospital for emotional shock because they aren't equipped to treat it.)  Prompt, appropriate treatment lowers the number of people who sustain lasting psychological damage. And that's a big part of why they have only a few whackjobs like Haboob, rather than some worlds that are littered with the likes of Dr. Doom and the Joker.
Tags: cyberfunded creativity, fantasy, fishbowl, life lessons, poem, poetry, reading, weblit, writing

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