Warning: This poem contains some touchy topics. Highlight to read the warnings, some of which are spoilers. It includes an emergency call, a baby with Chameleon Skin surrendered at a safe haven, past zetetic terrorism, personal eugenics FAIL, some people really should not be parents, Family Services refusing to accept a superbaby, Calliope asked to help find a placement for him, calling on Dolorita and Alberto Rojas, reference to infertility, paperwork from different organizations, and other challenges. If these are sensitive issues for you, please consider your tastes and headspace before reading onward.
"Always Ready to Receive"
Calliope was eating lunch
when she got an urgent call
from Raymond Meinecke at
the Stillwater Fire Department.
When she arrived at Station 2,
she found Raymond outside in
the fine summer day, pacing with
a pale blue baby on his shoulder.
"What's going on?" Calliope asked.
"Someone just surrendered
this baby," Raymond said.
Calliope understood that
the Safe Haven program kept
parents from abandoning children
in hazardous locations, but it still
bothered her for people to do it at all.
"The baby's father is one of
the Blue People," Raymond said.
"Yeah, I heard about the time when
a supervillain bombed a nudist colony with
something that turned several thousand people
various shades of green to blue," Calliope said.
"The mother is some other kind of crayon soup,
with terra-cotta skin and yellow-ochre hair,"
Raymond said. "They thought it would be
'safe' to have a baby together and expected
a 'normal' infant." He made air quotes with
one hand. "When John here manifested
Chameleon Skin, they brought him here."
"Both parents together?" Calliope said.
"They wanted to get rid of him permanently,
and that takes two," Raymond said. "They
couldn't sign the papers fast enough."
"Okay, what does this have to do
with me?" Calliope asked.
"Family Services refused delivery,"
Raymond said grimly. "They claim
that they don't have any foster parents
willing and able to care for superkids."
Calliope sighed. "That's horrible, but
they're probably telling the truth. There's
a serious shortage of adults who can
handle children with superpowers."
"That's where you come in," Raymond said
as he handed the baby to Calliope.
"What, me?" Calliope yelped. "I don't even
know much about taking care of ordinary babies,
let alone one with superpowers! Why don't
you take him, you've got six already."
"Which is why I can't take him, because
Karina just turned one and that let Signe
come back to work here at the station,"
Raymond said. "There is no way we
could handle another infant right now."
"We have worked together a few times,"
Calliope said. They'd done fire suppression,
mostly, but also one nasty SPAZMAT call.
"That means you must know my job is
even crazier than yours and Signe's."
"You've taken the basic babysitting classes,
and you're a superhera," Raymond said.
"You don't have to keep him yourself,
just use your connections at SPOON
to help find someone who can."
Calliope thought about the organization
and its sometimes patchy response.
"Wait, I've got a better idea," she said.
"SPOON and Family Services agreed on
expedited processing for superkids, so adults
with Green Heart certification get fast-tracked."
"You know someone who might agree
to take a superkid?" Raymond asked.
"It's a good bet. I'll call and find out.
Here, take -- we can't keep calling him
'the baby,' what's his name?" Calliope said
as she handed the boy back to Raymond.
"His name is John Dankworth," said Raymond.
"Once he's adopted, though, his new parents
can change that if they wish. Sometimes people
don't want a reminder of bad birth parents."
Calliope couldn't blame them. She disliked
John's parents, and she hadn't even met them.
A quick vidwatch call got ahold of Dolorita Rojas.
"I have an emergency," Calliope said, and then
quickly summarized the situation. "First, where are
you and Alberto on the topic of adoption or fostering?"
"We're actively looking into adoption," Dolorita said.
"We still feel ambivalent about foster care, but we
have started an application with Family Services."
"That'll help," Calliope said. "I know that you
mentioned diversity and special needs ..."
"We're considering a multicultural family,"
Dolorita said. "My friend Adriel has cute kids.
She got the first two from a Magdalen House
and then the triplets from embryo adoption.
Alberto and I are discussing whether we
think we could handle some disabilities."
"Well, John isn't disabled. I figured that
if you didn't mind transracial adoption, and
Alberto has been doing some decoration
for soup families, then you might not mind
a baby with Chameleon Skin," Calliope said.
"What are you thinking?" Dolorita said.
"We haven't even finished our paperwork!"
"There's a fast track for superkids,"
Calliope said. "Could you take care
of John, at least while SPOON looks
into more permanent arrangements?
He is adoptable, but I have no idea
how this will turn out in the long run."
"We'll do our best," Dolorita said.
"Where are you right now?"
"Fire Station 2, the one on
campus," Calliope said.
"Alberto and I will meet you
there," Dolorita said. "We're
about ten minutes away."
Calliope and Raymond waited
for them, Raymond walking up
and down the sidewalks with John
to keep him quiet while Calliope
called SPOON to ask them about
support services for superkids.
Soon Dolorita and Alberto
arrived and hurried over to them.
"Oh, he's adorable," Dolorita said
as she took John from Raymond and
draped him expertly over her shoulder.
"Are you sure that there's nothing
wrong with him?" Alberto said.
"Not that it matters, but ..."
"Quite sure," Raymond said.
"When his parents surrendered him,
they left a copy of his medical records.
Apparently his color-changing started
with very subtle shifts, and at first they
mistook him for a blue baby -- but
all the tests came back normal."
That was reassuring. Sometimes
superpowers had serious drawbacks.
"I just can't imagine someone
giving up a healthy baby, when
they supposedly wanted one
to begin with," Alberto said.
"People should be grateful for
the blessings they're given."
"Come inside and I'll see what I can
do about paperwork," Raymond said.
"Our usual forms don't quite fit this."
"SPOON promised to send their forms
dealing with exceptional situations
for superkids," said Calliope.
"Oh, good," said Raymond.
"Ours assume that children who
aren't injured will go to Family Services
or directly to a foster parent they send."
Everyone went indoors and settled
into a small meeting room. A secretary
came in to deliver the forms from SPOON.
Those had space for the initial sanctuary,
reference to whether the child was surrendered
by one parent or both, the attending superhero
if any, and foster parent(s) receiving the child.
"These should connect with your local forms,"
Calliope said, pointing out the places to fill in
the identification numbers to match them up.
"That looks good," Raymond said as he
handed a stack of papers to Alberto.
Dolorita had her hands full of John.
"I'll go get you a baby box now."
"Baby box?" Dolorita said.
"Yes, we stock boxes full of
basic baby supplies in sizes
up to one year," Raymond said.
"John is three months old and
pretty big, so I'll bump up to
the four-to-six month size."
The box, when he brought it,
opened to reveal an assortment of
diapers, clothes, blankets, toys, books,
breastfeeding and bottle feeding supplies.
"Wow," Dolorita said. "This is amazing.
I bet my sister wishes she got one of these!"
"We get our baby boxes from a charity,"
Raymond said. "Some hospitals and
states distribute them for all new babies.
Finland has been giving one to everyone
for over seventy years, and it has brought
their infant mortality rate way down."
"Here, you'll need one of these too,"
said another firefighter as she brought in
a car seat. "People donate these things
at our seat inspections, so we usually
have spares. This will last until you
find time to buy a new one."
Dolorita finished signing the papers.
"Thanks for thinking of us," she said
to Calliope as she tucked John
carefully into the car seat.
"Thank you for helping us
in a crisis," Calliope said.
"I wasn't sure you'd be open
to this, but I hoped you would."
"A generous heart is always open,
always ready to receive our going and
coming. In the midst of such love we need
never fear abandonment," Dolorita said.
"This is the most precious gift true love offers,"
Alberto said, leaning down to kiss the baby.
"the experience of knowing we always belong."
* * *
Raymond Meinecke -- He has pinkish-fair skin, blue eyes, and short wavy blond hair. He is married with six children. His oldest son Bertel (7 years old) and daughter Elica (5 years old) are from his first marriage. His first wife Vedetta was a fellow police officer. After she was killed on duty, he resigned from the police force and became a paramedic. Then he fell in love with a firefighter, Signe, remarried with her, and adopted his stepdaughter Noel and stepson Leon (twins, 4 years old). His youngest son Huey (3 years old, conceived on their wedding night) and daughter Karina (1 year old) are shared with his second wife.
Currently Raymond works for the fire department in Stillwater, Oklahoma. He also consults with SPAZMAT. He leads the Activity Scout troop for his son Bertel, while Signe leads a Bunny Patch for the younger children. He feels a certain amount of parental guilt for working in risky professions, and worries about his children losing another parent, but he just isn't satisfied with less-adventurous work. He tried that for a brief period after Vedetta died, but quickly got bored and went into emergency medicine instead. Later he joined the fire department to spend more time with Signe.
Stillwater firefighters are equipped with gizmotronic watches in vivid red. Features include Multi-Band 6 Atomic Timekeeping, World Clock, Countdown Timer, Compass, Thermometer, Backlight with Afterglow, Solar Powered, 200M Water Resistant, Magnetic Resistant, Shock Resistant, Triple G Resistant, and Tough Movement. While it lacks the video display screen of a vidwatch, it has some limited ability to send and receive phone calls and connect with certain online apps.
Qualities: Master (+6) Blended Family, Expert (+4) First Responder, Expert (+4) Strength, Good (+2) Activity Scout Leader, Good (+2) Calm in a Crisis, Good (+2) Hunter
Poor (-2) Parental Guilt
Blended families may be created in various ways, such as remarrying after a loss.
Bunny Patch is a combination play group and club for young children learning the Bom Bom Bunny skills for situational awareness and safety. It is customarily led by parents.
Raymond and Signe have gold unity rings. The children have silver ones with adjustable bands, although only Bertel is old enough to wear his.
Dolorita Rojas -- She has tinted skin, brown eyes, and straight dark brown hair past her shoulders. She has seven sisters and one brother, along with many nieces and nephews, whom she adores. Dolorita is the younger sister of Conchita and wife of Alberto, the Ombré Hombre. She works at the MultiArts Center in Stillwater, Oklahoma. She enjoys growing Mexican plants in a greenhouse such as gardenia and bougainvillea. Dolorita is a friend of Calliope.
Dolorita and her husband Alberto have been trying to start a family for several years, so far with no luck, despite all kinds of fertility treatments. It is a source of pervasive grief for them. They've talked about adoption off and on, but haven't decided yet.
Qualities: Good (+2) Art Gallery Worker, Good (+2) Big Happy Family, Good (+2) Greenhouse Gardener, Good (+2) Pretty, Good (+2) Visual-Spatial Intelligence
Poor (-2) Infertility
The Ombré Hombre (Alberto Rojas) -- He has tan skin, brown eyes, and short black hair. He speaks English and Spanish with native fluency, and a modest amount of French learned in school. Alberto works as a domestic artist in Stillwater, Oklahoma, doing ombré effects on building exteriors and interiors, along with stencil designs. He is a friend of Calliope's.
Alberto and his wife Dolorita have been trying to start a family for several years, so far with no luck, despite all kinds of fertility treatments. It is a source of pervasive grief for them. They've talked about adoption off and on, but haven't decided yet. After Calliope and Vagary alerted him to adoption issues with children of color and superkids, Alberto started doing nursery designs.
Origin: He was born with his abilities, but he's a Kauai -- he doesn't realize that his exceptional color vision is a superpower.
Uniform: On duty he wears comfortable work clothes, usually a t-shirt and pants during warm weather, or coveralls during colder weather. Off duty, he favors casual men's wear. He likes light colors that contrast well with his skin, or supersaturated Mexican colors.
Qualities: Good (+2) Artistic Intelligence, Good (+2) Constitution, Good (+2) Domestic Painter, Good (+2) Husband, Good (+2) Skateboarding
Poor (-2) Infertility
Powers: Good (+2) Tetrachromat
Motivation: To make the world more beautiful.
Compare ombré (color gradient) and hombre (Spanish: man).
John Dankworth -- He has blue eyes and a few wisps of brown hair. He was born with fair skin that occasionally seemed to flush darker brown or blanch out to a bluish tint. Later he began to shift between terra cotta and sky blue. He is three months old.
John's father is one of the Blue People. His mother has mottled terra-cotta skin that looks almost ordinary, but she has vivid yellow-ochre hair. They thought that it would be "safe" to have a baby together (i.e. their children would be ordinary) because their superpowers came from totally different sources. They were wrong. The resultant abandonment has left him clingy and determined to make adults take care of him.
Origin: He was born with his superpowers, but they barely showed at first. When his parents first noticed the changing colors, they mistook John for a blue baby, but all the medical tests came back normal. After a few months, he began shifting between a mottled terra cotta and a dramatic sky blue with white patches. As soon as that happened, his parents abandoned him.
Uniform: Baby clothes, until he can wriggle out of them. Like his birth father, he hates clothes.
Qualities: Good (+2) Adaptable
Poor (-2) Hates Clothes
Power: Average (0) Chameleon Skin
Motivation: To be cared for.
Adriel Bade -- She has pale skin, brown eyes, and long straight brown hair. She is the wife of Esau and mother of Hosea (black boy, 5 years old), Magdalene (Hispanic girl, 3 years old), Sophia, Samuel, and Sebastian (black-Hispanic triplets, newborn). They live in Stillwater, Oklahoma. Adriel is friends with Dolorita and Alberto Rojas. Because Adriel's parents are missionaries, she grew up in Argentina, also traveling to other places in South America. She met Esau while responding to a hurricane and they fell in love.
When they discovered their infertility, they considered it a sign from God and decided to adopt diverse children to form a multicultural family. Brought together by their faith, they share a pro-life stance and believe that adoption is a natural expression of this belief. They started by adopting first Hosea and then Magdalene from a Magdalen House. After hearing about embryo adoption, they tried that and wound up having triplets. Adriel speaks English, Portuguese, and Spanish. She has a wide mix of friends among missionaries and other folks. However, she doesn't get along well with atheists or other nonreligious people.
Qualities: Expert (+4) Christian, Good (+2) Energetic, Good (+2) Emotional Intelligence, Good (+2) Stay-at-Home Mom
Poor (-2) Dealing with Atheists
Esau Bade -- He has pinkish-fair skin, blue eyes, and light brown hair. He is the husband of Adriel and father of Hosea (black boy, 5 years old), Magdalene (Hispanic girl, 3 years old), Sophia, Samuel, and Sebastian (black-Hispanic triplets, newborn). They live in Stillwater, Oklahoma. Because Esau's parents are medics, he grew up traveling around the world, mostly to underdeveloped countries. He met Adriel while responding to a hurricane and they fell in love.
When they discovered their infertility, they considered it a sign from God and decided to adopt diverse children to form a multicultural family. Brought together by their faith, they share a pro-life stance and believe that adoption is a natural expression of this belief. They started by adopting first Hosea and then Magdalene from a Magdalen House. After hearing about embryo adoption, they tried that and wound up having triplets. Esau speaks Arabic, Chinese, English, French, German, Hindi, Italian, Latin, and Spanish. He has a wide mix of friends among medics and other folks. However, his cosmopolitan past has left him with a lower understanding of American culture.
Qualities: Expert (+4) Christian, Good (+2) Languages, Good (+2) Paramedic, Good (+2) Constitution
Poor (-2) Americana
Shortly after Magdalene's birth, Esau is holding Hosea. Adriel is holding Magdalene. Here Magdalene is a toddler and Hosea has just entered kindergarten; Adriel is holding Magdalene. Esau is holding Hosea. In this picture of the triplets, Adriel is holding identical twins Samuel (left) and Sebastian (right). Esau is holding Sophia.
* * *
"A generous heart is always open, always ready to receive our going and coming. In the midst of such love we need never fear abandonment. This is the most precious gift true love offers - the experience of knowing we always belong."
― bell hooks, All About Love: New Visions
The Stillwater Fire Department Station 2 on Campus has a small meeting room. See the reserve truck, brush truck, engine 2, and ambulance.
Minimum Viable Population refers to the number of breeding individuals needed to sustain life, and it varies by species. Estimates for humans vary radically. For generational space travel, 160 has been suggested. This worldbuilding discussion includes many estimates, along with some real-life examples including one with only 15 adults. To start a colony, this article recommends 10,000 and preferably 40,000. Now consider that humanity has already survived at least two major bottlenecks, one at around 10,000 individuals and the other 1200. In light of these -- and the fact that they can pass on their new skin colors -- the Blue People should be considered a viable population unto themselves. While many crayon soups consider themselves people of color, and are certainly treated that way, most do not have an ethnic identity and society. The Blue People have that opportunity, if they take it.
Local-Nebraska passed a law allowing parents to surrender children at a safe haven, but did not limit it to infants as other states did, and consequently many older children and teens were given up. This is customary throughout much of Terramagne-America where children may be surrendered at fire departments, police stations, hospitals, Family Services, Green Heart offices, and other suitable locations. They would rather that parents surrender children in a safe way than neglect or abuse them.
Blue baby syndrome refers to certain birth defects that have a side effect of cyanotic skin.
Adoption and fostering are two of the many options available to infertile parents. This includes embryo adoption, which is quite popular in T-America and much better supported than here. It is a go-to solution for parents with two flawed sets of gametes but a working womb.
L-America has a severe shortage of foster and adoptive parents for children in foster care. In T-America, the situation for superkids is even worse, as they are more likely to be maltreated, more likely to wind up in state custody, and much less likely to be adopted. Bluntly put, nobody wants most of these kids, and it is a disaster. Dolorita and Alberto have exactly zero patience with this horseshit.
A Magdalen House is a refuge for pregnant people who plan to give up the baby for adoption. Unlike the horrible examples scattered around local-Earth, most versions in Terramagne-America are usually decent. They provide financial support, legal services, training in life skills and job skills, etc. which can make a crucial difference in happy outcomes for unplanned pregnancies. Some are run by pro-choice organizations that want to enable free choice among all options, while others are run by pro-life organizations who want to enable birth-and-adoption as a path for the majority of women who choose abortion for financial reasons. L-America has a few, small-scale-organizations that offer financial aid to pregnant women and that can make a difference, but the need is greater than the supply of resources.
Finland gives a box of baby supplies to every newborn. In T-America, some states and charities have similar programs. Family Services and other places where babies may be surrendered will keep boxes (typically sized for 0-3 months, 4-6 months, 7-9 months, and 10-12 months) to send home with the baby's new caregiver. Customary items include diapers, clothes, blankets, toys, books, breastfeeding and bottle feeding supplies. The box itself serves as a bed for babies up to about a year old.