Elizabeth Barrette (ysabetwordsmith) wrote,
Elizabeth Barrette

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Poem: "The Course to Peace"

This poem came out of the June 7, 2016 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired and sponsored by LJ user Ng_moonmoth. It also fills the "person of mass destruction" square in my 4-1-16 card for the Archetypal Characters Bingo fest. This poem belongs to the Aquariana thread of the Polychrome Heroics series.

Warning: This poem contains some intense topics. Highlight to read the more detailed warnings, some of which are spoilers. It features discussions of legal action, traumatic stress, emotional first aid, references to past incidents of extreme violence, mental incompetence, and other challenges. If these are sensitive issues for you, please consider your tastes and headspace before reading onward. This poem is a significant plot point, though, so skipping it would leave a gap.

"The Course to Peace"

Aquariana took the Bilimbi
and one passenger out to sea
in search of Steel and Moderato.

Irene Palomar wore a black t-shirt
that said Peace in Arabic calligraphy,
and over that a spectacular black jacket
whose patchwork sleeves were
vivid with embroidery.

"How long do you think it will take
to find them?" Irene asked.

"A few hours if they're paying attention,
a few days if they're not," Aquariana said.

In fact, it took less than an hour before
Moderato breached gloriously
in front of the little ship.

Good morning! he sent
to Aquariana. It's so good
to see you again.

Steel was no more than
a sullen grumble far below,
still withdrawn in the aftermath
of the recent whaling incident.

Please come up, Steel,
said Aquariana. There's
someone I'd like you to meet

She could feel his protesting groan
through the hull of the boat,
but soon he surfaced.

"My friends, this is Irene Palomar,"
said Aquariana. "She's a peaceworker
from Westbord who has come out here
to help us with the case against the whalers.
She wants to improve relations between
different nations and species."

"This will be my first interspecies case,
but I have plenty of experience with
conflict resolution of all kinds," said Irene.
"I'm hoping to find out what people want
and how we can make that happen."

I want the landers to stop trying to EAT US,
snapped Steel, but what would you
know about being hunted?

"I think we have more in common
than you realize," Irene said quietly.
"Why don't you come in here
and see for yourself?"

Aquariana could feel the weight
of the great whale's mind, like
the ripple of his body passing by
in the water, as he turned his attention
to focus on the unfamiliar woman.

His startled snort sprayed them with seawater.

You were hunted? Steel said, amazed.
But you are a lander, like them!

"People can be vicious to each other
as well as to animals," Irene said.
"Part of my job is to discourage that,
and another part is to take care of
the survivors afterwards. Perhaps
I can help you come to terms with
what has happened to you."

Perhaps, Steel rumbled,
which was more of a concession
than Aquariana had expected.

"A date has been set for the trial.
The President will be attending, due to
the political issues," Aquariana said,
projecting an image of the process.
"He'd like you to attend, as witnesses,
but since you aren't human, it's
not an obligation for you."

We can't go on land, Steel said.

I do not think we would fit into
your little boxes,
Moderato said
more diplomatically, nudging
at her image of a courtroom.

"If you're willing to come, then
the court can be moved to the harbor,"
Aquariana said. "It's deep enough
for you to come alongside the docks
where the big ships anchor."

Clearing a lane for that would be
ruinously expensive, but the President
had insisted that all Maldivian citizens had
a right to justice, even if it meant moving
an entire court session to the sea.

Besides, they could bill the Japanese for it.

"Facing your attackers in court is a good way
to hold them accountable for their actions,
and to settle yourself so that you can
put this behind you," Irene said.
"I encourage you to attend."

Would it work? Steel said.
From what I felt, the landers
do not care how they hurt us.

"Court is a time for you to tell
your story about what they did
to you," Aquariana explained.
"Everyone would listen and know
what happened. The whalers would
have a chance to tell their side. Then
a judge decides who is right and
what the penalties are."

All of them will be there?
Moderato said. They will not
be able to attack us again?

"Nobody will attack you,"
Aquariana assured them.
"All the whalers but one will
appear in this trial. One of them
was ruled mentally incompetent,
so he will not be there."

?? the whales wondered.

"His mind is too broken,"
Aquariana said. "He would not
understand a trial, so instead he
has to stay in a mental hospital.
If the doctors can fix him, then
he'll stand trial after that."

"I wonder how that happened,"
Irene said, glancing at her.

"Apparently there's an argument
between people who think it happened
because of Steel defending himself
with his superpowers, and those
who think it happened when the whaler
realized he was trying to murder people,"
Aquariana said. "I suspect that it was
actually a combination of both."

She had seen the wreckage of
the whaling ship as it went down,
and pulled the shattered crew
out of the bloody waves --
those who had survived
the wrath of Steel.

They hadn't realized that they were
attacking a person of mass destruction,
and it had cost some of them their lives.

What will be done with them?

Steel asked, circling the boat.

"That depends on the judge,"
Aquariana said. "At minimum,
they'll be sent far away from here."

"There's no question that they
violated Maldivian waters, and
sailing a vessel rigged for whaling
counts as breaking the laws against
whaling," Irene said. "They can be
charged with piracy for committing
violence on the high seas, along with
assault and attempted murder
since the two of you are people."

"We'd really like for you to come,"
Aquariana said. "It's up to you
to decide what you want, though."

I want to feel safe again,
Moderato said sadly.

I'd like to know what
that even is,
Steel said
in a much darker tone.

"That I can teach you," Irene said,
touching the silver pendant she wore.
It was no bigger than a dime, and
solid rather than outlined, but
Aquariana could make out
the sowilo rune upon it.

I will come, Moderato declared.

Then I will come with you,
Steel said so fast that his thought
crowded hard against the first,
the way their bodies jostled
together in the water.

"Thank you," said Aquariana.
"I'll pass the word back to the court."

"I'm glad to hear that," Irene said.
"I think you will find that justice
is the master of virtues and
the course to peace."

With that, they turned back toward
the harbor and the glittering lights of Malé.

* * *


Aquariana -- Muriel Green is a bald superhera with a swimmer's build: trim, muscular, flat-chested and narrow-hipped with slight waist. She is 5'10" and weighs 140 lbs. She has blue eyes. Her skin is beginning to turn a soft aquamarine color.
Origin: While scuba diving, she experienced the rapture of the deep and nearly died as a result. Dolphins carried her back to the surface. When she recovered from the ordeal, she realized that she had influence over water and its creatures. Other manifestations developed with time.
Uniform: None. Literally. She goes nude.
Qualities: Master (+6) Swimmer, Good (+2) Environmentalist, Good (+2) Fanbase
Poor (-2) Manual Dexterity (due to webbed hands)
Powers: Master (+6) Water Powers
This meta-power includes Control Water, Control Aquatic Life, and Beam of Water. Her use of Water Form is iffy.
Limitation: Aquariana's super-powers grow stronger in or near a large body of water, but weaker the farther away she gets. She tries to stay close by an ocean or lake. Her enemies try to get her away from there.
Motivation: Protect the waters of the world.
Model: Staciana Stitts, swimming, 5'10" 140 lbs.

Moderato -- A humpback whale bull, he is about 52 feet long and blue-gray splotched with white. He finds humans fascinating and takes every opportunity to observe them, although he has learned to be cautious of whaling ships. On several occasions, he has rescued distressed humans and brought them to safety. His best friend Steel, however, hates humans and would gladly destroy them all. ("Stop harassing the wildlife! You're going to get someone hurt!") Moderato considers Steel's tool use to be weird, a little creepy, almost perverted; but he loves his friend, so he tries not to make an issue of it. Of course, "Moderato" is a human nickname. His real name is ten minutes of dulcet moans punctuated by breathy panting.
As an adult, Moderato has made a point of studying humans and helping the peaceful ones. He knows where they travel and has little difficulty making friends with them. Some of them are avid fans of his music, and they even share human music with him, which he adores. Notice that a whale is much larger than a human, with a much bigger brain; so Moderato's Super-Intellect vastly outstrips that of a human. He rarely if ever gets outsmarted.
Origin: He grew up near a research station and enjoyed playing with the scientists there. He always wished that he could really understand what the humans were thinking and feeling. In time, an awareness of that began to grow, and later on, other abilities emerged.
Uniform: None. He does still have a radio tag clipped to his right flipper.
Qualities: Master (+6) Agility, Master (+6) Singer, Expert (+4) Friends with Steel, Good (+2) Friends with Scientists, Good (+2) Knowledge of Shipping Paths
Poor (-2) Fighting
Powers: Master (+6) Super-Intellect, Good (+2) Sonic Powers, Good (+2) Telempathy, Average (0) Healing, Average (0) Immortality
Motivation: Peacemongering.

Steel -- A sperm whale bull, he is about 85 feet long and dark gray. His skin is covered with numerous scars from fighting orcas, giant squid, and most of all humans. He hates humans and refuses to admit that any of them might be decent people. His best friend Moderato, however, adores scientists and keeps trying to convince Steel that not all humans are cannibalistic, murdous monsters. ("The last time you tried to introduce me to one of your 'friends,' I almost got my fins stapled.") Of course, "Steel" is a human nickname. His real name is a series of harsh, barking clicks.
After surviving two devastating attacks from whalers, Steel set himself to studying human tools and materials. He has learned how to control the metal from which they make their great ships and weapons, along with manipulating other materials such as wood or plastic. Notice that a whale is much larger than a human, with a much bigger brain; so Steel's Super-Strength vastly outstrips that of a human -- and a human with Master Super-Strength can already lift a battleship. Whalers tend not to survive meeting Steel anymore.
Origin: His mother was hunted and killed by whalers when Steel was young. Helpless with terror, he fled and survived. Later on, his mate was also killed. This time Steel fought back, and the first of his powers (Super-Strength) emerged. He managed to damage the whaling vessel, but was too late to save his mate, and was seriously wounded himself.
Uniform: None. However, he has an old single-flue harpoon lodged in the right side of his head, and he refuses to try removing it despite his powers.
Qualities: Master (+6) Fighting, Master (+6) Tough, Expert (+4) Friends with Moderato, Good (+2) Tool User, Good (+2) Whaling History
Poor (-2) Volatile Temper
Powers: Master (+6) Super-Strength, Good (+2) Control Metal, Good (+2) Super-Intellect, Average (0) Immortality, Average (0) Telekinesis, Average (0) Telepathy
Motivation: To protect the ocean from humans. (Originally it was revenge, but he did in fact manage to track down and kill the humans who butchered his family. So he broadened his scope.)

Irene Palomar -- She has fair skin with freckles, hazel eyes, and chin-length chestnut hair which is mostly straight but curls outward at the ends. As an undergraduate, Irene had a major in Philosophy from the University of San Diego with a minor in Peacebuilding and Social Innovation from the Joan B. Kroc School of Peace Studies. As a graduate, she majored in Peace and Justice at Kroc. Then she earned a Ph.D. in Leadership at USD. During college, Irene survived a brutal gang rape. She didn't let that stop her, but instead, added trauma care to her studies. She wears a sowilo pendant, but it's a subtler solid design than the more visible outline version. Irene lives in a sharehouse with six other adults in Westbord, where she works for the Serenity Hill Association doing conflict resolution and support for trauma survivors. She enjoys singing and fusion cooking. She loves all kinds of patchwork crafts from quilting to boro to decoupage.
Qualities: Master (+6) Emotional Intelligence, Master (+6) Peaceworker, Expert (+4) Rise Up Singing, Expert (+4) Survivor Support, Good (+2) Endurance, Good (+2) Fusion Cook, Good (+2) Sharehouse, Good (+2) Patchwork Anything

Terramagne uses the sowilo rune to identify survivors of sexual abuse/assault who are willing to help other victims. This is a similar style pendant, although it's usually cut out, like this copper one.

* * *

"Justice is the master of virtues and the course to peace."
-- Islamic saying

This is Irene's Peace t-shirt.

Various people have waged lawsuits against Japanese whalers, who are notorious for violating international laws and boundaries. They have been charged with piracy, but have also used the same against protesters.

According to maritime law, piracy means "Any illegal acts of violence or detention, or any act of depredation, committed for private ends by the crew or the passengers of a private ship or a private aircraft, and directed on the high seas, against another ship or aircraft, or against persons or property on board such ship or aircraft (or) against a ship, aircraft, persons or property in a place outside the jurisdiction of any state;" Therefore legalized violence is not considered piracy, and neither is any nonviolent action -- no matter how aggravating it may be. Protests and blockades aren't piracy; sabotaging a ship probably is; shooting at one definitely is. Water cannons may or may not be considered weapons in local-Earth but Terramagne has a tendency to parse them as guns.

Peaceworkers focus on facilitating harmonious conditions in times of conflict. They may be individuals or organizations, volunteers or professionals. Here are some ways of promoting peace. You can also teach peacemaking skills through class lessons.

Traumatic stress often results from violent incidents. It is essential to provide a calming presence for survivors and support their recovery. Peer support from others who have survived similar experiences is especially helpful, and indeed, some survivors heal by helping other victims.

The difference between being safe and feeling safe can be difficult for trauma survivors. Many survivors do not feel safe regardless of current circumstances -- especially with the repeated violations that cause Prolonged Duress Stress Disorder. You can take steps to make yourself feel safer, such as making a safety plan. There are also ways to help trauma survivors feel safe again, such as this list of tips for parents of abuse survivors. I made a safety tracker for people who have difficulty making objective measurements of safety or danger.

The port of Malé has facilities to serve large ships, including a channel depth of 76 feet and anchorage of 21-25 feet.
Tags: activism, cyberfunded creativity, fantasy, fishbowl, nature, poem, poetry, politics, reading, weblit, writing
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