Elizabeth Barrette (ysabetwordsmith) wrote,
Elizabeth Barrette

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Poem: "See Clearly Now"

This poem is spillover from the March 1, 2016 Poetry Fishbowl and was inspired by discussions with [personal profile] siliconshaman regarding Adalina's reaction to what happened in his stories about her kidnapping. It has been sponsored by EdorFaus. It belongs to the Berettaflies thread of the Polychrome Heroics series.

Warning: This poem contains things that may be squicky for some readers. Highlight to read the warnings, some of which are spoilers. It's in the aftermath of a nasty fight, so there are messy medical details and a lot of closeup attention to Facet's insect eyes. Adalina has mostly gotten over her uneasiness about his face by now. Also they're not being very sympathetic to the downed enemies. It's basically a lot of hurt/comfort. If these are touchy topics for you, please consider your tastes and headspace before reading onward. It's a major turning point for the team, though, so skipping it would leave a gap.

"See Clearly Now"

[Week 3, Day 1]

The weary heroes gathered
after the fracas to take stock.

Facet, Adalina, and Ashley checked
themselves and each other for injuries.

Tsubasa had stepped outside to wait
for the summoned backup, because
her wings made an excellent signal.

"How do you feel?" Adalina asked Facet,
anxiety stirring in her belly. "I was so worried
about you after the way I saw you go down."

"I'm a little sore, but mostly just tired,"
he said. "I thought I was more recovered
from the stings than this. I guess my body still
needs more time to bounce back all the way."

"The berettafly venom is really toxic,"
Ashley said. "Just because you're back
to everyday activity doesn't mean you're
ready for crimefighting hijinks."

"They took Adalina. We had to do
something," Facet said stubbornly.

"And I agree with you," said Ashley.
"It just means that you shouldn't be
surprised about feeling exhausted
now that the excitement is over."

"I could use some rest," Facet said.

"Let me see your face," Adalina said,
trying to get a better view of Facet.
What she could see of the left side
looked awful, covered in blood.

"You hate my face," he said,
turning farther away from her.

"I don't hate your face. I was
uncomfortable with your face when
I first met you," she corrected. "Now all
that I can see is that my friend is hurt,
and I want to fix that if I can."

"You have first aid training?"
Facet asked, slowly angling
back toward Adalina.

"I am a certified party monitor,"
Adalina said proudly. "I've taken
every workshop that Loyola offers
on how to handle minor injuries
and other common problems."

"You don't have to do this," he said.

"I know," she replied. "I want to.
Come on, just let me look. If it's
all minor stuff, I can take care of it.
If it's worse, at least I can clean
it up a bit so the medics can
see what they're doing easier."

"Okay," Facet agreed finally.

Adalina steadied his chin
with her hand as she peered
at his face. Scrapes covered
most of the left side, shallow in
some places but deeper in others.

"How did you do -- oh wait, you
were unconscious when you fell,
so you couldn't break the fall,"
she guessed, frowning over
the damage to his skin.

"I broke it with my face," he said.

"Some of the scrapes look pretty bad,
and all of them need cleaning," she said.
"Anything more than trivial on your face
needs professional attention anyway."

"Is there a first aid kit in this dump?"
Ashley said, looking around.

"They kidnapped me in an ambulance,"
Adalina said. "We could check that."

Ashley glared at the fallen supervillains.
"I don't want to leave these jerks alone."

"We won't be," Facet said, as a line
of cockroaches marched across
the floor and took up guard.

Ashley laughed. "Perfect."

They found the ambulance,
its doors hanging askew and
the inside thoroughly trashed.

"Did somebody throw a grenade
in there?" Facet said, his mouth
falling open in shock. "Look at --
there's blood everywhere!"

"I, uh, stabbed the driver,"
Adalina confessed. "Well actually
I stabbed him and that man-mountain in
the legs, but it only worked on the driver,
the other one's impervious somehow."

"Badass," Ashley said in an admiring tone.

"Anyway, the big guy told the driver
to patch himself up here. Why wouldn't
he just drive away in the ambulance,
though?" Adalina wondered.

"First, we know about it, so we could
report that," Facet said. "Second, if you
stabbed him in the leg, it would hurt as much
for him to work the pedals as to walk. He's
better off sneaking away on foot and then
catching a cab as soon as possible."

"I'll call that in," Ashley said.
She activated her HUD again.

"Let's start looking for supplies,"
Adalina said as she climbed into
the ambulance. Stuff was scattered
everywhere, both from her own efforts
and the wounded driver's turn.

"Ashley, do you want an ice pack
for your ribs?" Facet asked. "Even with
body armor, getting shot leaves bruises."

"It'll never get through all these layers,"
Ashley said, shaking her head. "That's
one disadvantage of an iso-suit that I
couldn't figure out how to get around."

"Yeah, that's why the better battlesuits
have integrated first aid functions,"
Facet said. "Standard EMT gear
can't get through those either --
not to mention the poor guys with
Toughness or Super-Armor. Anything
that gets through their defenses is
hard to fix due to their superpowers."

"That's gotta suck," Ashley said.

"Don't worry, SPAZMAT can take care
of you later," said Facet. "If the bullet
cracked a rib, they'll figure out how
to deal with that, one way or another."

"How do we know if it's cracked?"
Ashley asked, looking down at herself.

"Imaging back at SPAZMAT," said Facet.
"If you want an estimate now: Does it
hurt worse when you inhale, or not?"

"No, and it's just sore, it's not
really painful," Ashley said.

"Then it's not cracked, just bruised,"
Facet said. "Broken ribs hurt a lot."

Just then Adalina stood up with
the contents of a bottom drawer in
her hands. It had escaped attention,
and held backup supplies of gauze,
antiseptic, and other basics.

"I found what I need," she said.

"Do you need a hand with that, or
should I go keep an eye on the captives?"
Ashley said. "It's not like ordinary first aid
is going to do me any good here."

"Go ahead," Adalina said,
waving her off, and Facet nodded.

First Adalina set the supplies on the bench
that ran along the right side of the ambulance;
drawers and cabinets lined the left side, now in
complete disarray. Then she put the tipped gurney
back onto its wheels and patted the thin mattress.
"Sit here, Facet, so I can take care of your face."

He obeyed, somewhat gingerly, and
Adalina flipped on the overhead lights
so that she could see what she was doing.

She carefully cleaned the scrapes on
Facet's cheek, and most of them weren't
too deep, but they were filthy. The one high
on his cheekbone, though, had bits underneath
the skin that she didn't want to try removing.

"You will definitely need a visit
to urgent care for this," she told him.
"Your face is kind of a mess."

"They're just scrapes," Facet said.

"Which are decorated with bayou mud,
parking lot gravel, and who knows what else,"
Adalina said. "Do you want an infection?
Or a set of not-so-handsome scars?"

"Not really," Facet said, and let her work.

"Your eyes have dust and mud on them,
too," Adalina said. "Can you see all right?"

"It's just like looking through
a dusty windshield," Facet said.

Then Adalina spied something else,
down where his left eye met the cheekbone.

"What's this?" she murmured,
tracing a fingertip under the area.
"It looks like a scrape or something."

"Yes, that can happen," Facet said.

"How many fingers am I holding up?"
Adalina asked, starting at the inside
of his eye next to the nose.

"Three," Facet said, and then
tracked as she moved her hand,
"two, four ... uh wait ... three again ...
crud. I can't see anything now,
it's just a smudge there."

"I'm holding my hand right over
that scrape," Adalina said. "Your vision
seems fine elsewhere, then gets worse
the closer I come to this part."

"If it's scratched, then it should heal in
a day or two," Facet said. "Even if it doesn't,
my eyes will moult eventually and come out of that
whole again. It probably just needs cleaning."

"Do you have your lens cloth?" she said.

Facet didn't have eyelids, so he couldn't
blink to clean his eyes. Most insects had
special combs on their legs to clean theirs.
Facet used microfiber fabric to wipe his.

"Yes, it's in my pocket," he said,
patting himself to find it. Along
with the cloth, he brought out
a bottle of cleaning fluid.

Then he looked around for a mirror.

"There isn't a mirror back here,"
Adalina said. "Just let me do it."

"Are you sure ..." His voice trailed off.

She could see the skin underneath
his eyes twitching, the way it did when
he forget that he didn't have eyelids
anymore, and tried to close them.

"When I first met you, yeah, it was
scary," said Adalina. "But the more
I worked on that, and the better I got
to know you, the less it bothered me.
It's like the line from a song, you know?
I can see clearly now. Let me help."

"Okay," said Facet. "Just wet the cloth --
the fluid has liquid silk in it to smooth out
the chitin, like fancy skin care stuff does --
and wipe over my eyes the same way I do."

"I can do that," Adalina said. She dampened
the cloth in her hand. "I'll start on the far side."

She hadn't realized quite how dusty
his eyes had gotten until the cleaner
left them glossy and brilliant with
their splendid peacock colors.

Usually they stayed pretty clean,
but landing face-down in a muddy lot
had overwhelmed their natural resistance.

At first Facet tensed under her touch,
but by the time Adalina had finished
the first eye, he relaxed more.

It was a little weird that he didn't flinch
from having his eyes rubbed, but apparently
compound eyes were solid instead of fluid-filled
like human eyes -- something she'd learned
in therapy -- and much more sturdy.

"You're good at this," Facet murmured
as Adalina stroked the cloth over
the curve of his left eye.

"Are you sure this doesn't hurt?"
Adalina asked, dabbing hesitantly
at the ugly scrape marring his eye.

"It really doesn't," Facet assured her.
"One good thing about compound eyes
is that they're pretty durable. I didn't even
realize that I'd scraped one until you
pointed it out to me. My vision has
a lot of redundancy in it now."

"That's good," she said. "How does
it look now? Can you see any better?"

"Definitely better," he said. "In most places
I can see clearly now. The part that was blurry
is sharp now, and the part where I couldn't see
has some fuzzy shapes. I don't think the corneas
are damaged, just the chitin got scuffed up some."

"Oh, thank goodness," Adalina said.
She nibbled on her lip. "I was so worried
about you. I think I need to call my therapist
and talk about refocusing my therapy."

"You think you're done, now
that you're not so afraid of me
anymore?" Facet guessed.

"Now I'm afraid for you, and
that's something else that I need
to deal with," Adalina said.

"I will be all right," he said,
covering her hand with his own.
"I'm a superhero, Adalina, I've been
doing this for a while now. I know
when I'm seriously injured, and I'm
not right now. I'm just dinged a bit."

"I'm glad to hear that," she said.

Just then a call came through
from Tsubasa. "Our backup has
arrived," she said. "First wave is
two cop cars and one ambulance.
SPAZMAT is still a few minutes out."

"Let them know Adalina and I are in
in the ambulance that the supervillains
used to kidnap her," said Facet. "Ashley is
guarding the captives, and tell SPAZMAT
that she needs someone to check her ribs."

"I'll take care of that," said Tsubasa.

Adalina scratched at her wrist.
Now that she wasn't helping Facet,
the irritation became more noticeable.

"Don't scratch," he said, gently pulling
her fingers away from the red skin.
"The medics are here now, and
they'll know what to do for that."

"Will they?" she said, her lip
wobbling. "I'm a soup now,
that's the whole problem ..."

"If these medics don't, then we'll
go back to SPOON," Facet said.

"You should see a healer about
your eye anyway," Adalina urged.
"They could probably keep the scrapes
from developing scars, too."

"I will if you will," he bargained.

"Deal," she said, and they shook on it.

* * *


"See clearly now" is a phrase from the song "I Can See Clearly Now." Enjoy it on YouTube.

In Local-America, a few universities offer party monitor training. In T-America, it's more common and more comprehensive. Official on-campus parties usually have to include one party monitor per so many people, and rules about student behavior, alcohol, etc. are enforced. Unofficial, off-campus parties have the option of hosting a party monitor but cannot be required to do so. Monitored parties have a lower rate of police and ambulance calls, but some people find that being watched makes them too uncomfortable to have fun. There is customarily a basic class to get the badge or t-shirt and your listing with the university. Beyond that you can usually take other workshops on such things as basic first aid, emotional first aid, taking care of a drunk, mediation, sexual assault prevention (like "Here's the tampon you asked for"), and so forth. By the time you're done with that, you're well skilled as a citizen responder; and if you happen to soup up, you've got a head start on first responder skills too. So Adalina is second only to Facet in terms of preparedness; the others will need additional training to catch up on the basics, while she tackles intermediate stuff -- or advanced stuff like compound eye care. There are instructions for safe parties, party safe programs, and hosting a good party.

This is the inside of the ambulance before it was wrecked, so that you can see approximately where things would be.

(Some of these links are gross.)
Abrasions are similar to burns in terms of damaging the skin's protective functions. So you can use the same rules of size and location to estimate the severity and whether you should see a doctor. Scrapes can usually be treated with ordinary first aid, but there are more advanced instructions for serious abrasions such as road rash. Regarding the latter, consider the input of medics, but also pay attention to people who ride rough and deal with these injuries all the time. A hardcore biker may well know more about abrasions than a doctor who sees them only occasionally among all the other injuries.

(These links are full of bugs.)
The differences between compound and simple eyes are fascinating. Frex, human eyes are liquid and fragile; insect eyes are solid and durable. Insect vision is variable. Facet's eyes are similar to those of dragonflies, which have 30,000 facets; his are much bigger so he has many more facets. That's still not enough to give him human-level resolution, but he has other advantages. Instead of relying mainly on individual nerves for detail, they have ten times as many types of color receptors as humans. They can also see 'faster' (about 200 images per second to a human's 60) so that things in motion are clearer; it takes more speed to blur in a dragonfly's vision, and their depth perception is spectacular. There's a whole documentary on how dragonflies hunt. Bees have a different set of color receptors too, including one for "bee's purple." Exoskeletons cover the eyes too, so Facet's eyes moult the way insects do, which is a terrific way of healing damage. Here's a good description of honeybee compound eyes.

Observing dragonflies can reveal many exciting features. Fly eyes have tiny hairs to help protect them from dirt. Here's a closeup of dragonfly eyes showing facets and guard hairs. Watch a dragonfly cleaning its eyes.

Corneal scratches and acid can cause damage to eyes. Compound eyes are not indestructible, but can shrug off damage that would destroy liquid eyes.

Microfiber is among the best materials for cleaning cloths, especially lens cloths. This is a good piece of adaptive equipment for someone who got insect eyes but not the chitin combs needed to groom them properly.

Chitin and silk are kind of related as biological constructs. Liquid silk really does appear in fancy skin care products. The proteins can help smooth out shallow scratches in Facet's eyes, similar to fixing a scratched CD.</user>
Tags: cyberfunded creativity, family skills, fantasy, fishbowl, poem, poetry, reading, weblit, writing
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