"Reveal to the Universe"
Aquariana was working on the Bilimbi
when Steel abruptly thrust into her mind
and said, I need your help. Moderato
is not being rational about this.
"About what?" she asked,
straightening up to look
around the Malé harbor.
Siggy has been talking with
friends at the university where
he takes classes, said Steel.
There is a woman trying to make
tool hands that will work underwater!
"That sounds fascinating, but why
is Moderato upset?" asked Aquariana.
I want the hands. Gladhammer wants
the hands, said Steel. Moderato
thinks it's a filthy habit and says
that we shouldn't have them.
Steel and Moderato had been
arguing for decades about Steel's
love of tools and Moderato's love
of humans. It didn't usually get
this prickly, but it sounded bad.
"Where are you?" said Aquariana.
"I'll come see if I can help."
Here, Steel said, a visual image
of the dock and the people.
When Aquariana got there,
she saw a young woman sitting on
the dock who had two robotic arms,
one of them jerking up and down.
Another woman with vivid peacock hair
leaned over her, saying, "I don't know what's
gone wrong with the darn thing this time."
Tell her it is the pressure, Steel said.
It does not take much to change things.
I had no idea landers made tools with air!
"We do; it's called a pneumatic system,"
Aquariana said, then relayed his input
to the women and made introductions.
The gizmologist was Phan Thị Rangsey,
who worked in prosthetics; her partner
was Meredith Earle, a marine biologist
who lost her arms in a diving accident.
Well, that explained the quest for
mechanical arms that would
function even underwater.
"A whale and a dolphin want
prosthetic hands?" Rangsey said.
"Wow, that's ... weird, but kind of cool."
"I wanted fins as soon as I saw them,"
Meredith said. "I got my first set when
I was seven. Technically those are
augmentations rather than prosthetics,
but the underlying concept is similar."
"Not if they're prosthetic grade,"
said Rangsey. "Almost all of
the Mer Systems products are
genuine prosthetic devices."
"I miss my mermaid gloves,"
Meredith said with a sigh.
"I will make you mermaid hands,
after I figure out how to keep this rig
running underwater," Rangsey said.
Then a mechanical hand crawled
out of her duffel bag, making her squeal.
"Is that thing haunted?" Meredith said.
"I am a devout rationalist, so I am
going to say no," Rangsey said,
but she didn't sound confident.
"Steel, put that down please,"
Aquariana said. "It's polite
to ask before touching things
that belong to someone else."
"Oh, let him have it," Rangsey said,
fascinated by the hand scuttling
across the dock like a crab. "We
broke the attachment joint on
that one this morning."
Steel manage to wrap the hand
clumsily around a wrench, dragging it
thump-a-thump down the dock.
Then something went crunch
and the thumb abruptly lost its grip.
This is more difficult than it looks,
Steel said as he dropped both items
back into Rangsey's duffel bag.
You should not want HANDS at all!
Moderato snapped. Those are for
landers. You are a WHALE.
"Ouch," Aquariana said mildly.
"That was pretty harsh."
Look at what tools do to landers,
Moderato retorted. They make people
greedy and slovenly. He backed that
with images of humans pumping oil,
dumping garbage, and fighting.
"Well ... yes, some people are
like that, but not everyone is,"
Aquariana said. "Isn't that what
you usually tell Steel? Don't
judge the whole species
from a few bad examples."
I do not want Steel to change,
Moderato said. What if having hands
makes him more like a lander instead of
a whale? We are as we are. These are
our bodies. It is not right to tamper
with the shapes of ourselves.
Gladhammer bobbed to the surface
with a scolding chatter, her sleek form
cutting through the low waves.
"I don't think Gladhammer agrees
with you," Aquariana said. "Moderato,
people do change, it's our nature.
Aren't you glad that Steel is nicer
and happier than he used to be?"
Using tools is vulgar, Moderato said.
It is not a decent thing for whales to do!
"Okay, you can make that decision
for yourself but not for other people,"
said Aquariana. "Steel and Gladhammer
have the right to decide for themselves --
just as you get to wear a radio transmitter
even if Steel thinks that it's dangerous."
That does not make me any less
of a whale, Moderato insisted.
What Steel wants is -- The rest
of his argument trailed off into
an aggrieved groan that made
the dock vibrate under their feet.
You see? Steel said. He will talk
about this only for a little, and then
he dives away and will not listen.
"That sounds really frustrating,"
Aquariana said. "What got you
so curious about mechanical hands
in the first place, Steel? I know that
you like toys, but this seems different."
I saw Halley and Edison making things,
Steel said. I saw how they used their hands.
If I had hands, then I could do so much more.
I cannot grow flesh hands like a lander, but I
could use tool hands. He spouted a sigh.
I like watching the astronauts, too. I wish
that I could swim in the night ocean.
Aquariana remembered how desperately
she had wished to breathe underwater,
before her body changed to allow that.
Even with all its drawbacks, like going
nude because most fabric hurt her skin,
she would not trade it away if she could.
Gently Aquariana pushed the memory
toward Steel. "Sometimes we all wish
that we could be more than we are,"
she said. "Once in a while, we get
lucky and our wishes are granted."
"I don't believe in luck," said Rangsey.
"I believe in physics." She put down
her wrench. "Okay, Meredith, hop back
into the water and see if those work."
Meredith used her own prosthetic hands
to check the harness that held them
against her torso. "So far, so good,"
she said, then pushed off into the water.
"Am I allowed to fangirl a little over
a whale and a dolphin wanting me
to make them prosthetic hands?"
Rangsey asked Aquariana.
"Because it's really hard not to."
Aquariana laughed. "Go ahead,
they won't mind," she said. "It took me
weeks to stop staring every time I saw them."
Meredith surfaced, both arms hanging limp,
and said, "Nope, they gave out again
halfway to the bottom of the channel."
She started kicking toward the dock.
Steel scooped her out of the water
and set her on the boards.
"What the hell did you do that for?"
Meredith snapped. "I may have lost
my arms but I can still fucking swim."
Steel's response was nothing but
a worried rumble that echoed
through the water and the wood.
"Steel, it's considered rude to do
things for someone without asking,"
said Aquariana. "People with disabilities
have problems with that fairly often."
Landers swim poorly enough
with all four limbs, Steel said. I
did not wish for this one to drown.
"He's dissing me, isn't he?"
Meredith said. "I can tell.
Nobody ever believes that --
you know what, fuck it. Rangsey,
take the whole harness off, it'll take you
half an hour to fix the arms anyhow."
Rangsey helped Meredith out of
the complex harness. Meredith said,
"I relearned how to swim like this, so
you all watch and don't touch me."
She slipped into the water and swam
along the dock, first on her front and
then on her back. Gladhammer
followed alongside Meredith but,
as requested, made no contact.
Extraordinary, Steel said. She is
more powerful in the water than
I had realized. My apologies.
Aquariana relayed his sentiments
and Meredith surged back onto the dock
like a sea lion beaching herself.
Gladhammer poked her head up
again and chittered at them.
We agree that it is the pressure,
Steel said. Going down, the water
gets very heavy very fast. Air tools
must adapt to this change or they break.
For us it is the other way, we blow bubbles
that rise up -- they must be made so that
they will expand without breaking.
This time when Aquariana relayed,
Rangsey exclaimed, "Oh oh oh! I get it
now, I need to add some valves so that
the system can adapt to the changing
pressure as Meredith moves up and
down through the water column."
"Great, we can go back to the lab
and do that, then test again tomorrow,"
Meredith said, hugging Rangsey with her chin.
Then Meredith turned back toward the water.
"And tell your huffy friend that your limbs
don't get to define who you are."
Steel surfaced with a soft snort
of greeting. I will tell him, but
I do not think he will listen.
Moderato is quite upset.
"Eee! He talked in my head!"
Meredith said, hopping up
and down on the dock.
"Steel and Moderato are
telepathic," Aquariana explained.
"Gladhammer isn't, she just likes
using tools more than most dolphins.
The whales can translate, though."
"Okay then, tell her I'm happy to build
prosthetic arms for both Gladhammer
and Steel," said Rangsey. "Those two
were a big help today in figuring out
why the prototype wasn't working."
They could tell when Steel relayed,
because Gladhammer got up and
tailwalked around the entire dock.
"Steel is telekinetic, as you saw when
he was playing with the loose hand,"
Aquariana said. "He just needs arms,
not a control system. Gladhammer will
need some kind of controls for hers."
"I'll mock up something, and we'll
find out what works," Rangsey said.
"See you tomorrow, water people."
She waved, then walked away
with Meredith at her side.
"Well, that was fun," Aquariana said
to Steel and Gladhammer. "I hope
you two have fun learning how
to work with your new hands."
It was very interesting to play
with the little hand, but I think that
I will need something bigger and
sturdier than that, Steel said.
"Probably so," Aquariana said.
"It looks like you have found
your own personal prosthetist
to help you learn, though."
Yes, Rangsey is nice, Steel said,
but Moderato is still worried.
Aquariana reached out.
"Hey, Moderato, are you
coming back, or are you not
speaking to me today?"
The humpback spouted,
but did not breach as usual.
I am here, he said quietly.
How do you know that hands
will not do to Steel what they
have done to so many landers?
"There's no way to be certain
except to try it, but I don't think it will
be the same because Steel wasn't born
with hands like us," said Aquariana. "We
can watch for problems, though. Steel, will
you agree to stop using hands for a while
if that happens, at least until we can
figure out what's going wrong?"
Yes, Steel replied. His mental voice
took on a distinct sour note. I do not
want to turn into a lander, Moderato!
I simply appreciate their tools.
I don't understand why you want
prosthetic hands, Moderato said
on a long, vibrato whine.
They are not prosthetics.
They are my bones. They
come out when I’m inspired,
Steel replied. They've always
been inside of me, but I have been
waiting for the right time to reveal
to the universe who I truly am.
If he felt that way about it, then
no wonder he was so persistent,
Aquariana realized. She wondered
if other cetaceans would want hands
after seeing Steel and Gladhammer
with theirs, or if more of them would
sympathize with Moderato instead.
I don't like it, but I won't try
to stop it, Moderato grumbled.
"That's all we ask," Aquariana said.
I really would like to swim in the sky,
Steel said wistfully. The astronauts
enjoy it very much, and we are
learning a lot from them.
Aquariana chuckled. "Hands first,
then worry about how to make
a cetacean spacesuit," she said.
* * *
Phan Thị Rangsey -- She has tawny skin and almond-shaped brown eyes. Her hair starts out straight and black, but as it grows, it turns wavy and develops shades of purple, blue, and green. Phan is her family name, Thị her middle name, and Rangsey her personal name. Her mother is Cambodian and her father Vietnamese, both refugees. Rangsey speaks Cambodian, Dhivehi, English, and Vietnamese. She is asexual and partnered with another woman. She has a Ph.D. in Biomedical Engineering and a Master’s degree in Materials Engineering. When her zucchini Meredith Earle suffered a diving accident and lost both arms, Rangsey began working to invent prosthetics for her that would function underwater, unlike standard ones. Rangsey enjoys Cambodian dancing and plays several percussion instruments including gong, xylophone, and drums. Like many refugees, though, she finds politics intimidating and prefers to avoid the topic.
Origin: In college, a lab accident produced an explosion of exotic materials. Rangsey knocked her lab partner to the ground, taking the brunt of the blast on her own back. Aside from spending several hours in the emergency room to have the splinters picked out over her back, it seemed that nothing much came of it. The scars healed to no more than small dimples. But then her hair began to turn colors.
Uniform: Typically jeans and a t-shirt. Rangsey isn't fond of lab clothes or engineering work clothes either.
Qualities: Master (+6) Gizmologist (Signature Stunt: Off-the-Shelf Parts), Expert (+4) Mechanical Intelligence, Expert (+4) Loyalty, Good (+2) Cambodian Dance, Good (+2) Cambodian Music, Good (+2) Partner of Meredith Earle
Poor (-2) Politics
Powers: Average (0) Crayon Soup
Motivation: To push the limits of prosthetics.
Meredith Earle -- She has fair skin, brown eyes, and long straight brown hair. She wears glasses. She lost both arms in a diving accident. Her zucchini, Phan Thị Rangsey, has been working to build her some new mechanical arms that will work underwater. Terramagne has great prosthetics, but most of them are designed for humans working in air. Meredith wants to be able to do marine biology again, and she's also curious to try flippers to see if they would work better for swimming. Originally she thought of herself as heterosexual, but when she met Rangsey in college, they became very close; Meredith realized that she'd rather stay with Rangsey in an asexual relationship than try to find a male partner. They're very happy together.
Qualities: Master (+6) Naturalistic Intelligence, Expert (+4) Marine Biologist, Good (+2) Partner of Phan Thị Rangsey, Good (+2) Cuddly
Poor (-2) Amputee
* * *
"They're not prosthetics. They're my bones. They come out when I’m inspired. They've always been inside of me, but I have been waiting for the right time to reveal to the universe who I truly am."
-- Lady Gaga
Here are some illustrations of dolphins with mechanical arms and in a spacesuit.
Mer Systems is a company that makes all kinds of aquatic equipment. AquaSilk is a material spun by genetically engineered spiders which pulls air out of water. It is used in soft wraparound face masks, medium-weight hoods, and also as filters for semirigid face masks in diving gear. There are monofins for children and adults. Here are some instructions for swimming with a monofin. Full-sleeve mermaid tails are both functional and beautiful. Webbed gloves also assist in swimming. P-hand, with the letter P inside an outline of a hand, marks products as prosthetic grade. This distinguishes them from similar items meant as toys or costume props.
Swimming with fins depends on the skill of the swimmer, so the appropriate starting age varies. Typically 7-8 years old is the earliest someone develops the necessary techniques.
Rationalists focus on logic and intellect for understanding the world. Therefore, they tend to disbelieve mystical things like New Age practices or ghosts.
Watch a woman demonstrate swimming without arms.
Dolphins love playing with bubbles, and some of their maneuvers are quite sophisticated.
Family conflict is natural and necessary for healthy relationships. Understand the keys to resolving a conflict. Getting past a major argument or moral disagreement may prove harder. Therefore, you should know what your deal-breakers are. These are some common examples.
Tailwalking is a fun dolphin stunt. They do it both in captivity and in the wild.