"The Ocean from Above"
Aquariana loved the Bhuvana villages,
two settlements populated primarily by
scientists of assorted fields including
astronomy and marine biology.
They used to be resorts but had since
been bought out by the scientists with
help from the Maldivian government.
Most of the amenities remained, though
the bars had quit serving alcohol in favor of
other delicious and sophisticated beverages.
Bhuvana Fushi had two nature reserves,
one for dolphins and other cetaceans,
one for sea turtles, with lovely villas
along the developed beaches.
Bhuvana Jani had a marine biology center,
and in addition to the land village also boasted
a sea village with small villas along a boardwalk
shaded by rows of solar panels that tilted
to catch the sun like glass leaves.
Both villages had docks, observatories,
diving schools, restaurants, a common house,
a cinema, and other facilities for the residents.
Aquariana made a point of visiting them
regularly on her rounds, partly because of
the scientific amenities and partly because
the whales and dolphins hung around there.
Siggy generally worked out of the dolphin refuge
when he wasn't studying at the university in Malé.
Steel liked the shipwreck just off the beach at
Bhuvana Fushi, while Moderato had friends
among the scientists of Bhuvana Jani.
Today Aquariana pulled the Jeanne Baret
into the boathouse at Bhuvana Jani and
strolled along the shady boardwalk
until she reached the common house.
There she found Cress Ibrahim showing
her children Breeze and Horizon how to make
a collage from bottlecaps and other plastic trash
found on the beach. Aquariana had seen
her giant jellyfish at the Eco Center.
It went a lot faster now that Cress had
whale friends to bring her interesting bits of
garbage from the bottom of the lagoon.
Pradeep Ibrahim hurried over, barely pausing
along the way to acknowledge his wife and
adopted children, which wasn't like him at all.
"Is everything all right?" Aquariana asked.
"The whales are becoming a bother,"
Pradeep said, wringing his hands.
Aquariana frowned. "What are they
doing, crowding the boats?" she said,
looking out at the pale turquoise water.
"I thought it was too shallow for them
to get any closer than the landing dock,
and none of you are fishermen."
"Your whale friends keep staring
at me inside my head while I work,"
Pradeep complained. "They do not talk,
only watch, but it is like having someone
looking over my shoulder all the time,
and that gets on my nerves."
"I'll talk to them," Aquariana said.
"They'll probably get bored in
a few minutes or hours, and
then they'll leave you alone."
Pradeep said, "It's been two days."
"Oh. Well, I can see how that
would get annoying," Aquariana said.
"Tell me though, what was it like when
you first discovered the stars?"
"Okay, you got me," Pradeep admitted.
"My father's first project in America was in
a city, but the second was in the countryside.
My Sankofa club did a presentation on star myths
from around the world, and I got so hooked,
I camped outside so I could skywatch."
"For how long?" Aquariana asked.
"Ah ... until the weather turned cold
and my mother made me come indoors,"
Pradeep said. "I didn't want to come in."
"What happened next?" Aquariana said,
imagining him in a frost-studded tent.
"She took me to the university and
enrolled me in some junior classes for
hobby astronomy," Pradeep said. "She
also promised I could go to astronomy camp
in the summer, but insisted that it had to be
an indoor hobby in winter. The rest is history."
"Thank you for sharing that. It's a sweet story,"
Aquariana said. "Now let me tell you that Steel
and Moderato recently made some new friends,
as a result of which they just discovered the stars.
Whales see fine underwater, but not in the air.
To them the night sky is a black swath with
a fuzzy white moon and maybe a few flecks
of the planets and brightest stars. That's it."
"Then how did they find out about
the rest of it?" Pradeep wondered.
"They're telepathic, remember?"
Aquariana said. "They can 'see'
things in our memories, or even
look through our eyes, although
Moderato is better at the latter."
"No wonder they're so obsessed,"
Pradeep said. "I can't blame them ...
but still, the contact distracts me
when I should be working."
"Most people don't even notice it,
but I'll ask them to give you a break,"
Aquariana said. "They don't mean
to be rude, they're just curious."
"As curious as cats," Pradeep said,
but he smiled. "It will be easier
to direct their attention elsewhere
than to make them stop looking
for stars in other people's heads.
Perhaps someone else could
take a turn entertaining them?"
"I know just the place," Aquariana said,
recalling an article she had recently read.
It took a while, even going through
SPOON, to send a message to
the International Space Station and
get a reply that, yes, the astronauts
would be happy to entertain the whales
with stargazing during their free time.
Next she explained to Steel and
Moderato that watching someone
for a long time could bother humans.
It wasn't their fault, really -- they lived
in clear water instead of buildings with
opaque walls, and they could even
hear through solid objects somewhat.
Whales just didn't have much grasp
of human concepts such as privacy,
although they were trying to learn.
We did not mean to be rude,
Moderato said. Most landers
don't even notice us when we're
only watching, not talking to them.
Steel sighed, a long basso groan.
We will stop bothering the star fisher.
"Don't worry, I have another idea,"
Aquariana said. She checked the app
on her smartphone that showed where
the International Space Station was.
"I found some new friends for you,
and they should be coming overhead
right about now. Reach way up."
They floundered around for a minute,
uncertain exactly what she was asking,
but then Steel spouted in surprise.
There are people in the sky!
he exclaimed. Above the air!
A moment later, Moderato found
the astronauts also. He leaped out of
the water, dancing his exuberation
across the sapphire waves.
They are happy to speak with us,
he reported. We have new friends!
Aquariana followed along on
her tablet computer, using a live feed
to see what the off-duty astronauts
were doing as they "met" the whales.
Mostly the astronauts had their noses
pressed to the space station's windows.
Colleen Steren brought out her flute
and played a lilting tune as she
floated casually in place.
First Moderato and then Steel
began humming along with her.
Turn on the watermike, Moderato said.
I feel like making a song, and I think
people will enjoy listening to it.
So Aquariana flipped a switch
to activate the underwater microphone,
and moments later the eerie lilt of
whalesong echoed through it.
She had heard Moderato sing
plenty of times before, but this one
tugged at her heartstrings in
a whole new way. Aquariana
found her face wet with
more than sea spray.
"What will you call it?"
she asked hoarsely after
Moderato finished singing.
The Ocean from Above, he said,
and she wrote down the name.
Colleen is a good singer, Steel said.
I could listen to her all day long.
She likes the feel of us, too.
Aquariana did her best to explain
the idea of a schedule, which the whales
were sort of learning from her but still
struggled to remember reliably.
We can learn to ask if people have
time to talk with us, Moderato said.
Eventually, Steel said. It is hard.
"Learning new customs often is,"
Aquariana agreed. "I'm still trying
to get used to the Maldives myself.
I'm glad that the you of two made
some new friends today."
I like the astronauts, Steel said.
"Really?" Aquariana said. "I mean,
that's great, but usually you're not
the world's biggest fan of humans.
Why do you like these so much?"
Because in night's ocean, they
swim all the time like everyone else,
Steel said, his voice soft with wonder.
Up there ... they are not landers.
"Okay, that's an interesting perspective,"
Aquariana said. "You know that nobody
lives on the space station all the time,
right? They rotate the crew, so everyone
comes back down here eventually."
It does not matter, Steel said.
Something about it changes them.
I do not know how to describe it,
but I can feel it. Their minds
are different from the others,
but they are like each other.
I feel it too, Moderato agreed.
It is easier to reach their minds.
Their thoughts are clearer, calmer.
They are thinking about the stars and
looking down on the ocean from above,
how very small it is against the night.
This is so much better than
listening to landers think about
who they want to nip or mate with,
Steel said. I like astronauts. They
make me feel quieter inside.
Anything that helped to soothe
Steel's mood was a good thing in
Aquariana's book, no matter how
odd the description might sound.
"Maybe," she said, "it's because
astronauts have a better view of
what we all have in common."
What is that? Steel said,
with a raspy texture of thought
that cast doubt on himself having
anything in common with landers.
Aquariana gently floated a memory
of the little blue marble toward him,
finite and fragile against the black.
"Our home," she said softly.
* * *
Pradeep Ibrahim -- He has sorrel skin, brown eyes, and short black hair buzzed almost down to the scalp. He is also going bald. He has a short dash of beard just under his bottom lip. He is short and wears dainty gold-framed glasses. Pradeep was born in the Maldives but spent part of his childhood in America, because his father is a scientist and traveled to work on different projects every few years. His mother is Hindu, his father Muslim, and Pradeep happily practices both. As a result, he often helps friends to navigate religious differences. However, he dislikes public speaking and becomes anxious if people pay too much attention to him.
Pradeep lives in the Republic of the Maldives, in a sea village called Bhuvana Jani that houses mostly scientists of various types. He works as an astronomer, taking advantage of the beautiful skies there. He has a wife, Cress; and has adopted her two children, a daughter, Breeze; and a son, Horizon. They hope to have more children together, although it hasn't happened yet.
Qualities: Expert (+4) Astronomer, Expert (+4) Kindness, Good (+2) Family Man, Good (+2) Interfaith Relations, Good (+2) Physically Fit
Poor (-2) Stage Fright
Cress Ibrahim -- She has tinted skin that tans easily, hazel eyes, and shoulder-length hair streaked in shades of lighter and darker blonde. She speaks English and some Dhivehi. She married in college and had a daughter, Breeze; and a son, Horizon. After Cress graduated, however, she traveled around the world to various scientific projects. This placed great strain on her marriage, and eventually her husband abandoned her in the Republic of the Maldives. Cress settled in a sea village called Bhuvana Jani that houses mostly scientists of various types, where she struggled to raise two small children and a career. Later she fell in love with a neighboring astronomer whose kindness made her life a lot easier, Pradeep Ibrahim. Soon they married and moved from their 1-bedroom villas to a larger 2-bedroom villa. They hope to have more children together, although it hasn't happened yet.
Qualities: Expert (+4) Beach Crafts, Expert (+4) Naturalist, Good (+2) Activist, Good (+2) Mother, Good (+2) Physically Fit
Poor (-2) Baby Daddy Issues
Horizon Ibrahim -- He has fair skin, blue eyes, and short straight blond hair. He is the son of Cress and her former husband, adopted son of Pradeep Ibrahim, and younger brother of Breeze. Horizon is currently 7 years old. He loves stuffed animals, puppets, and masks. He enjoys telling stories with them and acting in children's plays. However, he has to take care when going outside, because his fair skin burns quickly in the tropical sun.
Qualities: Good (+2) Making Friends, Good (+2) Theatrical Personality
Poor (-2) Sunburns Easily
Breeze Ibrahim -- She has tinted skin, hazel eyes, and straight light brown hair to her shoulders. She is the daughter of Cress and her former husband, adopted daughter of Pradeep Ibrahim, and older sister of Horizon. Breeze is currently 10 years old. Unlike her brother, she tans easily, and spends a lot of time outdoors. She enjoys making beach crafts and reading books. Breeze misses her birth father, but he wants nothing to do with his former family.
Qualities: Good (+2) Bookworm, Good (+2) Crafts, Good (+2) Tans Easily
Poor (-2) Misses Her Birth Father
Colleen Steren -- She has fair skin, brown eyes, and long wavy brown hair. She is tall with small breasts and wider hips. Her hands have long nimble fingers. Her toes are a little longer than average, and she can write with them. Colleen keeps trying to learn how to play musical instruments with her feet, so that she can play two things at once in space, but has not yet succeeded. She is an astronaut who works on the International Space Station, studying zero-g agriculture.
Although not currently working for Kraken, Colleen had a brush with them as a teenager and they paid her way through college. She has returned the favor by furnishing them with copies of her research and inventions which may be of use to them. Notably this includes the Ouroboros Garden Drum and its multi-drum module, useful in providing food for bunkers and other secret lairs. The device consists of a cylindrical drum holding the plants, which rotates around a central grow light. It can be rotated electronically or by attaching it to exercise equipment such has a stationary bicycle. Colleen also consults with the people who make the popular television show Nightshades in Space.
Qualities: Expert (+4) Astronaut, Expert (+4) Gardener, Good (+2) Conversationalist, Good (+2) Quadridexterity, Good (+2) Flute Player, Good (+2) Gizmologist
Poor (-2) Idiot Tolerance
Powers: Average (0) Super-Intellect
The Ouroboros Garden Drum consists of a cylindrical drum holding the plants, which rotates around a central grow light. It can be rotated electronically or by attaching it to exercise equipment such has a stationary bicycle. Colleen Steren invented the rotating drum model of hydroponic gardening, which can be packed together into a large cannister. On the ground, the drum dips into a vat of nutrient solution beneath it. In space, a reservoir of nutrient solution travels along the growth medium by capillary action.
Nightshades in Space is a near-future science fiction series about the challenges of raising food in space, with a great deal of attention to the technical problems of growing plants in zero or partial gravity contrasted with the expense of shipping everything out of a gravity well. Enormously popular, it is currently in its tenth television season and still going strong. The tone is a cross between the zinnia article and The Martian movie.
* * *
These two science villages, Bhuvana Jani and Bhuvana Fushi, used to be resorts, but were bought out by the scientists with help from the Maldivian government as many soups are scientists. Portions of the island around Bhuvana Fushi were turned into nature reserves, one of them for dolphins and other cetaceans. This is where Siggy stays when he's not studying at the university.
Cetacean swimming speeds make it reasonable to travel among the atolls and islands of the Maldives. Sperm whales swim casually at the surface at about 3-9 mph (4.8-14.4 kph). They can swim faster when fleeing danger, around 21-27 mph (34-43 kph) for up to an hour. Humpback whales customarily swim 3-9 mph (4.8-14 kph), but they can go up to 15-16.5 mph (24-26.5 kph) in bursts when fleeing danger. Their feeding speeds are slower, about 1.2-3.5 mph. Blue whales typically travel about 12 mph (20 kph), especially when interacting with other whales. They can reach speeds of 31 mph (50 kph) in short bursts if threatened. When feeding, they slow down to around 3.1 mph (5 kph). Dolphins usually swim at speeds of 7 to 8 mph (12 kph), but they can speed up to 25 mph (40.2 kph) when in a hurry. Individuals with Super-Speed, Super-Strength, or other special abilities may travel faster.
Whereas city neighbors may pool resources to buy a shuttlebus, in the Maldives people often share a boat or an airplane. Each of the Bhuvana villages has an air taxi with pilots and support crew. The village has a boathouse for storing private vehicles. Boat ownership here is about as common as car ownership in most places: not everybody has one, but most people do.
See a map of Bhuvana Fushi with amenities. This is an aerial overview. Here is the international airport. Turtle Beach provides a safe nesting area. This is Dolphin Beach. The end of the pier holds equipment for human/cetacean interaction. One is a two-way seabell; pulling the cord in the water rings the air bell, while pulling the cord in the air rings the water bell. An underwater microphone may be used for recording sounds from the sea, or as the lower pickup for the seaphone which also has an air half. This facility is a work in progress between the human residents of the island and the cetaceans, mostly dolphins. A shipwreck lies just off the island.
See a map of Bhuvana Jani with sciences and villas. Here is an aerial overview and closeup. The amenities include a movie theater and a telescope. The common house has a living room, dining room, kitchen, buffet, library, children's playroom, and spa.
The dive school has an equipment room, a classroom, and a jetty. See a dive lesson. People often use a bicycle trailer to haul their gear.
The beach is a popular place for picnics and even more elaborate dining. A small farm grows some of the food for the residents.
Pradeep Ibrahim lives in the sea village at Bhuvana Jani. This is the floor plan. The roof has a skylight and the house has a water slide. See the back view. Inside is the kitchen, living room, bedroom with skylight, view from bedroom into bathroom, bathroom, toilet stall (with showerhead for wudu), vanity, window nook, and shelves with portholes. The second floor has the children's bedroom and upstairs living room. Outdoors is the bathtub, round couch, sitting area, lounge, basket swing, and home telescope.
See Aquariana's houseboat, the Jeanne Baret, the floor plan, and read about women in oceanography. Captain's controls are at the prow of the boat, hidden behind the railing.
Making a trash collage can be fun. Here is an example of a beach collage by Cress. This one is by her children, Breeze and Horizon. Cress also makes large-scale sculptures from beach trash, such as this jellyfish.
Follow the current position of the International Space Station.
The Overview Effect expresses how seeing Earth from space changes people. Even seeing pictures of Earth from space can have a similar effect. Read what astronauts have to say about it. To telepaths -- especially telepathic whales -- the effects can be dramatic.