Elizabeth Barrette (ysabetwordsmith) wrote,
Elizabeth Barrette

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Poem: "Between a Whale's Past and Present"

This poem came out of the March 2015 Creative Jam. It was inspired by prompts from [personal profile] westrider and [personal profile] alexseanchai. It also fills the "Kraken, Leviathans, and Creatures of the Deep" square in my 3-16-15 card for the [community profile] genprompt_bingo fest. This poem was sponsored by Anthony & Shirley Barrette. It belongs to the Aquariana thread of the Polychrome Heroics series.

WARNING: This poem contains intense topics and imagery that many readers may find unsettling. WARN ALL THE THINGS! Highlight to read further details, some of which are spoilers. In today's entry for Worst Idea in the History of Ever, a ship full of Japanese whalers has trespassed into Maldivian waters and targeted Steel and Moderato. Steel promptly goes berserk and starts tearing the ship to shreds. Moderato squawks for help from Aquariana. She manages to convince Steel not to finish killing all the whalers. They scoop the survivors into a boat. Then Aquariana discovers that Steel is injured, which requires another long argument to convince him to get that taken care of properly. Graphic violence beyond canon-typical levels, onscreen death of some very bad guys, emotional trauma including flashbacks, rough use of superpowers, conflict between help-seeking and help-avoiding behaviors, strain on friendships, references to considering sentient beings a food source, unsympathetic handling of prisoners, messy medical details, and other mayhem. There's actually a good bit of comfort after the hurt, for them as deserves it. The less deserving are furnished with basic medical care and protection from the berserk superwhale. Consider your tastes and headspace before deciding whether this is something you want to read right now.

"Between a Whale's Past and Present"

Aquariana was collating research
from the aft deck of the Bilimbi when
the first wave of rage washed over her.

She swayed on her feet, one hand
groping for support at the edge of the cabin.

Quickly she ran through an exercise
to identify the feeling -- terrible anger,
not her own, not nearby either, but
familiar -- Steel, she realized.

Aquariana tried to reach out to him,
hoping that their previous encounters
would leave enough of a connection
for her to make contact, even though
she was not a telepath herself; if she
was picking up his signal, then she might
be able to piggyback a return message.

For her trouble she got a swift smack
in the head that left her seeing spots.

In the wake of the blow came
another wash of implacable wrath.

Then she heard Moderato crying,
Aquariana, help! A ship is trying to kill us,
and Steel has gone feral. Help help help!

With a sickening lurch, Aquariana realized
that she could feel a faint echo of the sailors
in the water around Steel, the terror as they
were sucked down by the swirling currents
or the superpowers of a furious whale, and
the hideous sensation of those minds going out
as they were drowned or crushed by the depths.

It reminded her all too much of the time when
she had almost suffered the same fate.

Desperate, she pulled away from Steel,
struggling to break the link between them.

With another wrench of effort,
Aquariana focused on Moderato.
I'll help, she replied. Where are you?

There followed a muddle in which they
both struggled to translate concepts and
coordinates across the very different ways
that humans and whales navigated.

We are far apart, Moderato concluded.
Then he added, The whalers are trying
to ram us! Steel is tangled with the ship

Can you reach Nautilus? Aquariana asked.

I will try, said Moderato. She may or may not answer.

Not long ago, the blue whale had joined the Maldives;
while barely more tolerant of humans than Steel,
she was a teleporter of considerable power
who could move either whales or ships and
had occasionally deigned to assist.

"Aquariana, are you all right?"
Captain Koul asked, his voice
sharp with concern as he
patted her shoulders.

"I have to be," Aquariana said.

A moment later, Moderato said, I have
found Nautilus. She will bring you to us

Aquariana leaned into the boat's cabin to warn Seth.
"Brace yourself," she told him. "We are about
to get a lift from a teleporter, ship and all."

They sat down and fastened
the safety harnesses, just in time.

The cuddy cabin rocked as the water
underneath it heaved and swelled.
Then came a sensation of
cold dark pressure and
sliding down a wave.

They landed with a great WHOOM!
of displaced air and water, their ship
shuddering underneath them.

Nearby they could see a Japanese whaler,
the Tōgō Heihachirō, listing badly to one side.
Parts of the vessel were crumpled as if struck
or squeezed by a giant fist, and a large hole
gaped in the metal hull, taking on water.

The sea around the ship fizzed and rippled,
strange sounds echoing through the Bilimbi.
"What is that?" asked Captain Koul.

"I don't know," Aquariana said.

What is going on? she asked Moderato.

The ship hit Steel and he hit it back,
Moderato said. He shouted at its tail end
and broke the part that spins

At first Aquariana wondered how shouting,
even at whale volume, could cripple a ship.
Then she recalled how precisely the dolphins
had controlled their bubbles. Cavitation could
do ugly things to propellers. One good breath
and some sonar might do serious damage.

Steel's voice pierced her then, as sharp and cold
as a knife. Have you come to help hunt the whalers?

I have, Aquariana said. Whaling is illegal
in these waters, and Maldivian law explicitly bans it

You may stay, he said slowly.

Do we need to worry about the ship's weapons?
Aquariana asked. Japanese whalers had
gotten into fights with water cannons,
or worse, on multiple occasions.

No. I have crushed them all,
said Steel. Soon the ship will sink.

It was already sinking, bubbles
and whirlpools churning around it.
Metal moaned as another piece tore free.

Aquariana, there are more landers in the water!
said Moderato. I cannot get Steel
to leave them alone

"I will help gather them," she said.

Several lifeboats bobbed on the waves,
along with individual sailors in the water.
A man in one of the lifeboats actually tried
to aim a gun at Moderato.

Aquariana swept an arm toward the boat,
bowling it over with a surge of white foam
that broke over it and flipped it upside down.

When the men surfaced, there was no sign of the gun.

Steel snatched one in his teeth and dragged him down,
not biting hard enough to kill, but holding him
under the bitter water.

Wrath swirled in his wake like oil.

"Steel, stop it!" Aquariana shouted. She had
to clench the side of the boat for support as
the harsh telepathic contact dizzied her.
"Is this really what you want?"

I want VENGEANCE! he roared,
all his old pain slicing through her.

Between a whale's past and present
lay no more than a thin film, like that
which divided ocean from air --
and just as easily breached.

Holding onto the connection felt like
trying to grab a flying rope with her bare hands,
the contact a long sizzling burn.

Aquariana held on anyway,
grimly determined to make a difference.

"If you kill them, it will be all over,"
she argued. "Don't you want something more?
Don't you want to see them pay for their crimes?"

What crimes? Steel snarled back.
Landers never care when we are hunted
and butchered and EATEN!

These landers have broken many laws, Steel.
Aquariana said. You are a citizen of the Maldives now,
and they are not allowed to murder you! Let them go,
so that we can put them on trial for it. Then
the whole world will see their shame

That reminded her how Japanese people
sometimes 'apologized' for failure, and
she made a mental note to have
all the survivors kept on suicide watch.

Everyone will see that they have done wrong?
Steel rumbled, his voice shaking the boat
under Aquariana's feet.

Everyone will see, she promised.
We have ways of sending our voices and images
around the world, just as you do, only ours
travel through technology

Steel spat out the hapless captive,
who floated limp on the surface.
I want that, he said.

Aquariana dove into the water,
swam over to the unconscious man,
and towed him back to the Bilimbi.

"I know first aid for drowning," Seth said
as he took the captive from her.
"You deal with the rest of this mess."

A wail of rending metal echoed over
the water as Steel took out his temper
on the whaling vessel. As they watched,
another piece sheared off and disappeared.

"I called the Coast Guard," said Captain Koul.
"The nearest patrol should be here within half an hour."

"Good," said Aquariana. "Let's get the offenders
secured and stabilized as best we can."

They took the lifeboats in tow,
safely away from the Tōgō Heihachirō,
so as not to get sucked under when
it finally subsided beneath the surface.

Captain Koul and Seth guarded
the captives on board the Bilimbi,
while Aquariana searched for
other men still in the water.

Moderato helped her corral
a few more survivors, adding
most of them to the lifeboats.

Three of them are fighting me,
he said. I have taken control of them.
I will bring them to you

The humpback surfaced beside the cuddy cabin
with the three men balanced on his head,
blank and pliant as mannequins.

Seth and Aquariana moved them
onto the boat, already crowded.

Do you have them? Moderato asked.

"Yes, we have them," Aquariana said.

Just like that, the men all shuddered free,
loosed from the great whale's control
to resume their own motion.

One of them promptly flopped to the deck
like a cut puppet, sobbing hysterically.

Another clung to a support post as he
vomited seawater over the side.

The third stood stoic in his sodden uniform,
gold braid glinting at the sleeves.

"Congratulations, everyone,"
Aquariana said with a grim smile.
"We've captured the captain."

Captain? Moderato wondered.

"The captain decides where a boat goes
and what its crew does," Aquariana explained.
"He shoulders most of the blame for breaking the law."

Ah, like a pod leader, Moderato said.

Seth took charge of their captives,
binding each one meticulously.
Nobody was getting out of knots
tied by an angry sailor.

The whaler captain tried to protest
in his barely intelligible English.

"Shut your mouth before I shut it for you,"
Seth said darkly as he worked the ropes.
"I may have been an unwitting slaver,
but at least I'm not a fucking cannibal."

When they finally had all the whalers
bailed out of the water and secured,
Steel surfaced to see them.

That's when Aquariana noticed
that he was pouring blood, enough
to turn the white foam pink
around him as he swam.

"Jesus Christ, why didn't you
say that you were injured?"
Aquariana barked at him.
"What happened to you?"

Part of the boat was sharp,
he said indifferently.

"I'm calling the Whale & Dolphin Company,"
said Aquariana. "They have a sling boat and
a sea vet. He'll take good care of you."

I don't need care from a lander,
Steel grumbled. It is just a scrape.

The wound was at least as long
as Aquariana's arm, an ugly slash
that arced above his right flipper.
She recalled Moderato saying that
Steel had tangled with the boat.

"You are a Maldivian citizen now,"
she reminded him again. "That means
you're entitled to health care when
you need it, and right now you need it.
That much blood in the water will
attract sharks, and you know it."

A mental shrug. I can handle sharks.

"You mean kill them, and I think there's been
quite enough killing for today," said Aquariana.
"Besides, the sharks are protected here,
and some of them are endangered."

Steel, let them help, said Moderato.
There's no reason for you to keep bleeding
when they can make it stop

Steel's reply was as sharp and gritty
as coarse coral sand, not so much words
as a long rasp of resentment for landers
and everything to do with them.

The whaler captain unwisely chose that moment
to start struggling and demanding his release again.

Aquariana grabbed him by the hair and
shoved him against the edge of the boat.
"You have two options," she informed him.
"You can deal with me and have a ride
back to a nice jail cell in the capital,
or you can deal with him."

Steel spouted, showering them both
with salt water and whale snot.

"Y-you," the whaler whimpered.

Aquariana dumped him back with his crew.
"Then shut up and sit still. I'm busy," she said.

"Don't worry, I'll keep an eye on
this waste of deck space," Seth said.

Aquariana nodded, then turned her attention
back to the wounded whale. "Steel, I know
you're used to looking after yourself, but
you have friends now. Injuries need
to get treated. It's a good seafaring rule,
and I'd really appreciate it if you would
just humor me on this one."

By the time she managed to talk Steel
into letting someone at least take a look
at his cut, the Coast Guard had arrived
in a sleek gray patrol boat bristling
with alert, angry sailors.

Aquariana handed over the captives,
pointing out the captain and
the idiot with the gun.

The Coast Guard medic took charge
of the worst-off drowning victims.

A booming wave heralded the arrival of
the sling boat Qasim, delivered by Nautilus,
and Aquariana abandoned the remaining whalers
in favor of helping Moderato coax Steel
into the long loop of canvas.

The huge sperm whale kept up
an unending grumble of complaint
as the crane operator carefully rolled him
onto his side with the bloody flipper upward.

Aquariana used her superpower to keep
a thin film of water flowing over him
so that his skin wouldn't dry out.

It helped somewhat that Steel already knew
the assistant Sheck Caperton and had at least met
the marine veterinarian Dr. Caspian Barlough.
That meant he only bitched at them
instead of mashing them to paste.

"It's not bad. We've seen a lot worse than this,"
Sheck assured them while and Dr. Barlough poked
at the long wound, sloshing disinfectant over it
to rinse away the blood. "Last week, some asshole
finned a whale shark. We managed to catch it
before it drowned and put on a prosthetic fin."

"Did that work?" Aquariana asked.

"So far, so good," Sheck said. "The tracer
is still moving, so the whale shark must be alive."

"I know it looks awful, but proportionally speaking
this is no worse than when you nick your finger
washing the dishes," Dr. Barlough said.

"The last time that happened, I needed
six stitches," Aquariana pointed out.

"Well, it'll take more than six to close this, but
it's essentially the same -- a row of stitches
and Steel will be fine," Dr. Barlough said.
"We can try out the new suture gun. I'm hoping
the dexflan line will hold up better for cetacean soups,
since it can adapt to their superpowers."

"That sounds promising," said Aquariana.

"Steel? Permission to proceed?"
Dr. Barlough asked, laying a hand
on the thick gray skin.

Steel flinched, a long ripple of flesh.

Dr. Barlough let go at once.
"Skin contact not so good, or
you hate my ideas?" he asked.
"Sheck's been sitting on you
and you haven't minded him..."

Steel replied with a long raspy whine
that keened from vocal to telepathic
and back again.

Moderato and Aquariana conferred,
struggling to translate the concepts that
Steel hadn't -- couldn't -- put into words.

"I think he's coming to the end of what
he can tolerate from us," Aquariana said.

Steel wasn't really comfortable with humans
at the best of times, let alone right after
a fresh attack in supposedly safe waters
on top of old, ugly memories.

"Something about me was just
the last straw, huh?" said Dr. Barlough.
"Okay, Sheck, you're up. Close that cut vein
by hand, and then I can seal up the outside
without making skin contact again."

The vein in question was the size of a garden hose
and gushing blood at a rapid rate. It was hard
to remember that it really wasn't serious
for someone the size of Steel to be
losing buckets like that.

Still, it took only a few minutes for Sheck
to seal up the leak, then pull the edges
of the wound together for Dr. Barlough.

The suture gun made a loud, rhythmic
ka-chak, ka-chak, ka-chak  as it turned
the gaping slash into a neat seam
of neon-blue sutures that quickly
faded to the gray of Steel's skin.

"See, the dexflan is already adapting,"
Dr. Barlough said. "Steel, I know you have
telekinesis, so don't pick at these."

Get off, Steel growled.

"Soon as we're done," Dr. Barlough said.
"Just give us a minute to cover this first."

Sheck slathered the seam with thick salve
and then topped that with something
that instantly turned into a waxy coating.
"All right, you can go now," he said
as he climbed off of Steel.

As soon as the crane operator
dropped the far side of the sling,
Steel rolled away from the Qasim
and sank like a stone.

Thank you for stopping the whalers
and taking care of Steel,
said Moderato.
He's not really -- he can't -- I should go after him.

"We understand," Aquariana said.

The humpback spouted and
then dove after his friend.

"I'm worried about Steel,"
Dr. Barlough murmured.

"You said it was minor,"
Aquariana said, frowning.

"The scratch on his side, yes,"
said Dr. Barlough.
"I meant his behavior."

Aquariana sighed. "Steel doesn't
mean to be so rough with people,"
she said, even though her head still ached.
"He just doesn't always understand
how strong he is, and doesn't
care much for humans."

"I've seen it before,"
the sea vet said quietly
as he stowed his equipment.
"The hostility, the defensiveness,
even the aversion to skin contact --
in trauma survivors and abused animals."

"It's not exactly a secret that Steel
has a terrible past," said Aquariana.
"He wears a harpoon in his head
and considers it body jewelry."

"I don't think it was my touch that upset him.
I think it was my concern," said Dr. Barlough.
"Touch makes telepathy come clearer,
and that's what made him react."

"It could be," Aquariana said.

"Have you tried emotional first aid?
Or suggested he talk with a counselor?"
Dr. Barlough asked.

"Are you kidding?" she said.
"Steel barely tolerates me as it is."

"Well, I can relate to that," said the sea vet.

"He didn't kick you in the head, though,"
Sheck pointed out. "From Steel,
that means he kind of likes you."

By the time Dr. Barlough had arrived,
Steel had worn out most of his ire
on the whalers, although Aquariana
had caught the edge of it as well.

The superhera gave a rueful chuckle.
"Moderato said something like that too,
the day we met," she recalled. "I think that
Steel is learning, though. It just takes time
to realize that the people around him now are
truly different from the ones who hurt him before."

"All we can do is give him some good examples,"
Dr. Barlough agreed. "Hopefully it helps."

"Maybe I should have let him
drown the damn whalers after all,"
Aquariana said. "I thought about it."

"Why didn't you?" Dr. Barlough asked.

"Because there are more civilized ways
to resolve disputes than by killing people,"
Aquariana said. She waved a hand
over the sling boat on which they stood.
"This is what I want people to think
of the Maldives, not random violence.
Besides, superheroes don't just
murder people without a fair trial."

"You think of Steel as a superhero?" Sheck said.
"I like him, but he's kind of prickly for that ..."

"It's more of a hope," Aquariana admitted.
"I think he'd make a great patroller,
if he can get his temper under control."

"If he can get his grief under control,"
Dr. Barlough corrected. "It was
rather louder than the rage,
at least when I touched him."

Sometimes it was difficult to get
between a whale's past and present.

"Maybe the trial will help," Sheck said.
"He caught the whalers, and this time
they'll be up for assault and attempted murder
instead of just trespassing and illegal hunting."

Aquariana gave them a grim smile.
"Well, that's another reason why I wanted
to take them alive," she admitted. "We've tried
the usual fines and sanctions. That hasn't stopped
Japan from violating boundaries and breaking laws.
They're very sensitive to shame, though. Perhaps
if we humiliate them in front of the whole world,
they'll stop misbehaving like this."

"I hope it works," Dr. Barlough said.
"Keep us posted, would you?
And call us if you need us?"

"I will," Aquariana promised.

The Bilimbi pulled up alongside the Qasim.
Aquariana dove over the side of the sling boat
and swam to the sea ladder at the stern
of the cuddy cabin to climb aboard.

"Is Steel all right?" Seth asked.
"I saw him bail out of the sling
like somebody lit his tail on fire."

"He's all patched up, just not
in the mood for human company
right now," Aquariana said.

She wished that she could have
done more, though. Steel and
Moderato didn't deserve to get
attacked in their own home.

A warm hand squeezed her shoulder.
"You did a good job today," Seth said.
"Whalers and pirates are hard to handle
even with proper training, and most
of yours has been on the job."

Aquariana dredged up a smile.
"Are you offering to give me some tips?"

"I could," the old sailor said.

They sat and talked until Nautilus
came to teleport them home,
the colorful harbor lights of Malé
winking a welcome as they arrived
with a thump and slosh of waves.

A pod of dolphins came to greet them,
leaping fearlessly around the Bilimbi,
as they headed toward the dock where
Aquariana's houseboat was moored.

This is what I'm here for,
Aquariana reminded herself.
This is worth protecting,
even on the hard days.

* * *


Nautilus -- She is a blue whale. She measures just under 120 feet long (36 meters), larger than the record capture of 110 feet (33.5 meters); she weighs about 220.5 short tons (200 metric tonnes). Blue whales typically travel alone or in pairs, although occasionally pods of 50-60 have been sighted in food-rich environments.
Nautilus has been keeping her pod safe for years by shadowing cruise ships and research vessels, having learned that whalers avoid witnesses. It has given her a tendency to think of humans as meat shields at best, and barbaric marauders at worst. On the upside, she enjoys loud music -- the noisier, the better -- especially the death and doom branches of heavy metal. Blue whales are the loudest living things on the planet, whose ordinary speaking voices are around jet engine level (170 decibels) and whose shouts can reach levels up to 188 decibels. For comparison, a human shout is about 70 decibels, 120 is the threshold of pain for human ears, and 150 dB is the peak of rock music. Heavy metal emerged in the 1980s, and Nautilus was bemused to discover that landers were finally producing something worth paying attention to.
Her Teleportation ability is scaled to her mass. Nautilus can teleport several blue whales (who average around 120 short tons / 109 metric tonnes, so a subtotal of at least 480 short tons / 436 metric tonnes), plus her own weight makes for a transmit mass of at least 700.5 short tons / 636 metric tonnes. That makes her the strongest known teleporter in terms of absolute mass, although not necessarily in proportionate mass.
Recently she has ventured into Maldivian waters and claimed citizenship in the Republic of the Maldives. This makes it easier for the cetacean citizens to travel. Previously just the dolphins were small enough for most human teleporters to carry.
Origin: Uncertain. The Immortality and Telepathy may have grown in gradually, the Teleportation as short hops getting longer.
Uniform: None. She goes nude.
Qualities: Master (+6) Blue Whale, Expert (+4) Navigation, Good (+2) Heavy Metal Fan, Good (+2) Stealth
Poor (-2) Disdain of Landers
Powers: Expert (+4) Teleportation, Good (+2) Telepathy
Motivation: Safety.

Dr. Caspian Barlough -- He has fair skin, brown eyes, and short curly brown hair. He is married, with a daughter and a son. He lives in the Maldives, working part-time for the Whale & Dolphin Company and several other organizations to ensure the health of the local marine life. Since the discovery of cetacean soups, Dr. Barlough has come into contact with them and Aquariana as well. He knows many of the other people who live and work on the sea in this part of the world.
Qualities: Master (+6) Compassion, Master (+6) Marine Veterinarian, Expert (+4) Equanimity, Expert (+4) Strength, Expert (+4) Swimmer, Good (+2) Friends on the Waves, Good (+2) Gizmology, Good (+2) Interspecies Relations, Good (+2) Meditation, Good (+2) Teacher, Good (+2) Watercolor Painter
Poor (-2) Altitude Sickness

* * *

"I wanted to make connections between Whale's past and present."
-- Bill Condon

(Some of the content in these links is intense; whaling is violent stuff.)
American whaling has a long history. Most countries have quit trying to kill whales, but not all. Japanese whaling has a bad reputation these days. The Nisshin Maru is one of their vessels. 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. They really don't care about anyone else; they just want what they want.

There is some question about the actual popularity of whale meat in Japan, with certain sources indicating that it is warehoused or put into school lunches due to low demand.  (Links courtesy of [personal profile] dialecticdreamer.)  Statistics correlate eating whale meat with demographics: it is most popular with the postwar generation, because it was common in school lunches at that time.

In both L-Earth and Terramagne, 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. Other animals have also gained recognition as nonhuman persons. In Terramagne, this helps provide a foundation for whales having Maldivian citizenship.

Sperm whales have been known to attack ships when provoked. Since the whalers tried to kill Steel and Moderato, Steel was justified in stopping them on grounds of self-defense, but continuing to attack after they were helpless was unethical. Since Steel has effectively spent his life in a warzone, he has little grasp of mercy; his experiences of humans have been brutal and dangerous until recently. However, he is a decent person under all the survivor issues, and is capable of learning when people poke him hard enough with a cluebat.

Telepathy can be used as a mental attack. Occasionally, Steel swipes at someone on purpose; but most of the time, he's just being rough and not really understanding that it hurts. That doesn't make it okay, but does help his friends figure out what needs to change and how -- it's a very different problem than someone who is just plain vicious. Touch tends to strengthen telepathy, along with many other superpowers. This puts Steel into even closer contact with other people, which can become uncomfortable for everyone.

Anger is a natural response to threats or harm , and many trauma survivors have anger management issues. There are ways to deal with an angry person.

Emotional trauma has a lot of unfortunate effects. There are ways to cope with traumatic stress and help a loved one overcome trauma. Because Steel has been hunted for years, and humans murdered his family, he has a hard time dealing with the loss. It helps to have friends who support the grieving process.

This kind of awful background can lead to post-traumatic stress disorder (from a single incident) or prolonged duress stress disorder (from a lengthy distress, such as prisoners of war). Getting attacked yet again in supposedly safe waters has just reopened all the old emotional injuries for Steel. Understand how to cope with post-traumatic stress or help someone else with it.

Both wild animals and domestic ones can show signs equivalent to PTSD in humans. That includes whales.

Ideally, help-seeking behavior has positive results. That first link is over-optimistic, but a tolerable description of how things are supposed to work. Regrettably, they don't always work that way. In order to promote help-seeking behavior, the help must be: 1) readily accessible, 2) effective, and 3) free from negative preconditions or subsequent consequences which outweigh its benefits. If the help is unavailable, useless, actively makes things worse, or otherwise problematic then people will not accept it -- nor should they. Therefore, promoting help-seeking behavior requires first convincing people to give it a try and then following through with practical benefits they can appreciate. The more negative the prior experiences, the harder this is and the longer it takes. In light of that, Steel is actually making great progress.

Feral originally refers to domesticated animals that have ceased socializing with humans. Atavism concerns archaic traits. When a rational creature behaves in a bestial manner, this is sometimes referred to as being atavistic or going feral. Steel has a notable tendency to lose his shit when provoked, and it's very difficult to reach him in that state. In humans it's more often called going berserk.

Flashbacks are a prime symptom of PTSD, but they can happen to anyone. Aquariana rarely has this kind of problem, but under stress it can happen. It becomes a disorder when it happens often enough to undermine daily life. Know how to get through a flashback or help someone having a flashback.

Tōgō Heihachirō was a famous military leader.

Cavitation can do amazing damage. Sonic weapons have been explored in local-Earth and can cause injuries; they are well known in Terramagne. This is the kind of thing Steel meant when he said that bubbles aren't toys: to him, they are weapons.

Revenge is a common desire after an offense. Often people believe it would make them feel better, only to find out that it doesn't. Other times, it may be necessary to walk through the darkness on the way to the light. Aquariana helps Steel by explaining some of the differences between revenge and justice. However, she also speaks to his own perspective by appealing to cruel mercy, thus convincing him to back off.

Superheroes typically don't kill, and in Terramagne even most supervillains prefer nonlethal combat. However, Steel's past has made him willing to take advantage of incapacitated opponents, or even kill them. This well of rage makes him go berserk under certain circumstances. Aquariana may be thinking the classic "if you kill them, you will be just like them," but that's not the argument she uses in addressing Steel. She points out the advantages to him if he agrees to her proposal, and it works.

Suicide in Japan often entails honor suicide aka seppuku. Considering the probable response of of the surviving whalers when the extreme gravity of their situation sinks in, Aquariana's cultural awareness likely just saved several lives ... not that they'll appreciate that. There are ways to deal with suicidal thoughts and to help someone who feels suicidal.

Drowning can have serious complications even for people who don't die of it immediately. Proper first aid helps minimize the damage.

The Republic of the Maldives has a sizable Coast Guard but no navy.

Mind control is one application of telepathy, in this case actually used as protective restraint to prevent further harm in an already volatile situation.

Cannibalism may refer only to same-species consumption or may describe eating any sentient creature. Seth feels about whaling the way Puddleglum felt about eating the talking stag. He plays the "I may be X but at least I'm not Y" card, partly as a criticism of the captives but also to shore up his own damaged self-image.

(More messy links follow.)

Whale injuries often result from boat collisions. Because a whale's heart is so huge, and their volume of blood so vast, they can lose quite an extraordinary amount without being in any danger whatsoever. Harpoons cause bleeding that goes on for hours, and the novel Moby Dick describes at great length the gory process of killing a whale. Steel can lose more blood than a human has in their entire body, and not even notice it. Of course, another part of that is because -- like many trauma survivors -- he has come to think of pain and injury as normal, which is not good.

Sharks in the Maldives are protected.

The sling boat is named after Syed Zahoor Qasim.

Animal prosthetics have included replacing tails and fins.

Trauma-informed care coordinates the mental and physical aspects of damage control, preventing further harm, and then healing the injuries. It also helps you not get splatted into a bulkhead by a completely freaked out superwhale.

People may resist help for multiple reasons, particularly if they have previously been hurt by people who were supposed to help them. Just as good hurts evil, sometimes compassion feels miserable if you're not used to it. Like warming up a chilled body, it's necessary to make changes slowly and carefully to avoid causing further harm. There are ways to help someone who doesn't want help, without either forcing or abandoning them. Understand how to stop thinking of help as weakness, how to ask for help, and how to deal with the uncomfortable feelings that may bring up.

When previous solutions to a problem have failed to work, look for a new perspective and try to break the cycle.

Malé is the capital of the Maldives.
Tags: cyberfunded creativity, fantasy, fishbowl, poem, poetry, reading, weblit, writing

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