Elizabeth Barrette (ysabetwordsmith) wrote,
Elizabeth Barrette
ysabetwordsmith

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Poem: "Better to Meet Danger"

This is a Mother's Day gift for my mom. It's spillover from the July 16, 2019 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired by a prompt from [personal profile] readera. It also fills the "storm chasing" square in my 8-2-19 card for the End of Summer Bingo fest. This poem belongs to the Calliope thread of the Polychrome Heroics series.

Warning: This poem contains some touchy topics. Highlight to read the warnings, some of which are spoilers. It includes supervillains calling in a favor (as agreed, for legal weatherwork), underground lair, awkward social interactions, hurricane, exhausting weatherwork, caught under a tree (don't worry, they're fine other than a bit of scuffing), and other challenges. If these are sensitive issues for you, please consider your tastes and headspace before reading onward.


"Better to Meet Danger"

[Thursday, September 10, 2015]

The first leaves were beginning to fall,
so Calliope was sweeping her driveway
with a handful of wind when Vagary
arrived on the arm of Kong Vault.

"We're calling in our favor,"
Vagary said. "There's a storm
heading for one of our bases,
and we need to blunt it enough
that it won't wreck the place."

"Just my usual weather control,
no funny business?" Calliope said.

"Well, you get me for the power boost,
but yeah, just weather work," Vagary said.

"All right, let's go," Calliope said.

"Ah, there are some ... security concerns
on this trip," Vagary said, looking at Kong Vault.

"What kind of concerns?" Calliope said.
"Should I worry, or are you worried?"

"We take extra precautions to ensure
that outsiders can't trace the route,"
said Kong Vault. "Given the nature
of this call, drugs aren't an option.
I can offer you a blindfold or just
put my hand over your eyes."

"I'll take the hand," Calliope said.
"I've done that in teamwork exercises."

"Do me too," Vagary said as he
moved closer to the teleporter.

"Why?" said Kong Vault. "You
already know where we're going,
you've been there plenty of times."

"To make it fair," Vagary said softly.

Calliope hadn't expected that, but
she appreciated it anyway. "Thanks,"
she said. "Okay, we're ready."

Kong Vault draped an arm
around her shoulders and
covered her eyes. "Breathe in,
breathe out, and swallow hard,"
he said. "You ears will probably pop."

That meant a significant change in
air pressure, either due to altitude
or to the threatening storm itself.

They made the jump, and
sure enough, her ears popped.

Calliope worked her jaw, but
made no move to pull away
until Kong Vault let go of her.

They were standing inside
a concrete room, centered on
a compass rose pressed into
the middle of the floor.

"Clear the landing zone,"
Kong Vault said, shooing them
toward the door. "The guard room
is next, and then the control room."

The guard room was a little niche with
a rack of guns, shelves of ammunition, and
two alert guards only one of whom was
remotely human, the other wolfish.

Calliope ignored them, striding
past their post to follow Vagary
into the control room beyond.

This one was much bigger,
with large screens at one end,
a bank of small screens at the other,
and multiple workstations in the middle.

A white-haired man met them at
the door. "Thank you for coming,"
he said. "I'm Captain Evans."

"Calliope," she said. "What
do you need me to do?"

"Damp down or deflect
the storm heading for us
so it does as little damage as
possible," said Captain Evans.

Calliope extended her awareness
up and out, seeking the sky.

It was muffled -- they were
underground somewhere --
so all she could get was
a vague sense of pressure
and a whole lot of water vapor.

"I can't feel much from down here,"
Calliope said. "I think the storm is
too big to stop altogether, though."

"Then deflect it away from
our location," said Captain Evans.

"I need more information before I
can do that," Calliope said. "There are
several tropical storms that I know of
right now. Where are we, approximately?"

"Don't ask things like that!" Vagary hissed
as he elbowed Calliope in the ribs.

"You can't know that," Captain Evans said.
"Just deal with the pending storm."

"I can't do that unless I know where
we are," Calliope insisted. "The storm
is too big to break up the way I would
a thundercloud. I can't quash a hurricane!"

"So push it away from us," said Captain Evans.
"We can take a glancing blow, just not a direct hit."

"That's just it, I can't push it anywhere unless
I know where is safe to send it," Calliope said.
"If I don't know where we are on the map,
then I could wind up shoving the storm over
a more populated place. Do you really want
that kind of catastrophe on your conscience?"

"No," Captain Evans said. "That would be bad."
He turned to look at Vagary. "What do you think?"

"She's with me," Vagary said quietly. "She's
a white hat, but if you explain the rules,
I think she'll go along with them as long
as it gets her access to a map."

"This facility provides a refuge for
people with superpowers, and a base
of operations for suppressing problems
like human trafficking," said Captain Evans.

"Understood," Calliope said. "We may
disagree on politics, but we agree slavers
are legitimate targets. Your rules are ...?"

"The rules are that information given in confidence
cannot be used in combat, or passed along
to anyone else who might misuse it,"
said Captain Evans. "That goes
for us as well as for you. Politics
shouldn't stop us from cooperating."

Calliope thought about it, and
more particularly, how Kraken had
sometimes proven more useful
to her efforts than SPOON.

"I agree to those terms," she said.

"Shake on it," Captain Evans said,
holding out his hand to her.

Curious, she took his hand.
His mind was tightly controlled,
so much that she barely sensed
anything from him, but he seemed
to be watching her very closely.

"Enhanced Vision, if you're
wondering," he murmured.
"I see things that other people
usually don't, including patterns
that tend to indicate lying."

Calliope couldn't resist
poking at that just a little.
"And what do you see when
you look at me?" she asked.

"A very interesting person," he said.

That made her wonder if he had
seen more than just Calliope.

Then he turned and said, "Inode,
bring up the map, please."

Inode projected a map onto
one of the large screens for them.

"We're in the Caribbean," Calliope said.
"Okay, so that means we are facing
Hurricane Fahd. That's ... not good."

"We can handle it," Vagary said quietly.
"We're a lot stronger when we're together."

"This is Skellington Cay," said Captain Evans.
"It's been a pirate island all along; most people
just don't know that. This facility is strong,
but it's also old. If a hurricane rips off
the tree cover, we're not in good shape."

"Understood," Calliope said. "I promise
that we'll do our best." She looked at
the map, plotting possibilities in her head,
then tracing them with a finger in the air.
"We'll have to push it somewhere ..."

"South, west, and northwest all have
populated areas," Vagary said. "If we
push it northeast, though, that way lies
mostly open ocean. The only thing
in that direction is Bermuda."

"Okay. We're committed."
Calliope clapped her hands.
"Let's get this show on the road."

"What do you need for that?"
asked Captain Evans.

"Somewhere to stand and
reach for the sky," Calliope said.
"Down here everything is muffled,
and this is going to be hard enough
already. We need a clearing or
a beach, something like that."

"Skellington Cay has a ridge
of stone; that's why we settled
here," said Captain Evans.
"You'll find clearings there,
and it's much safer than
the beach in this weather."

"Agreed," Calliope said.

"Are you sure about this?"
Vagary asked, looking at her.

"I'm sure," Calliope said. "It is
better to meet danger than to wait
for it. He that is on a lee shore, and
foresees a hurricane, stands out to sea
and encounters a storm to avoid a shipwreck."

"Well, I can't argue with that," Vagary said.
"Kong Vault can take us up to get started."

"You do not need to accompany her,"
said Captain Evans. "Someone could
stay here to monitor the screens."

"If she goes, I go," Vagary said firmly.

"Our powers are stronger together,"
Calliope said. "We don't have to touch,
but the closer we are, the better it works."

"All right then, you two know your abilities
better than I do," Captain Evans said.
"You have free range of the island."

In the meantime, someone had
found Kong Vault for them.

"Take us up," Vagary said,
already reaching for him. "We
need a clearing on the ridge."

"Hold tight," Kong Vault said,
and his power swept them away.

It was chaos when they landed.

A wall of wind and water hammered
at them, and the rocks underfoot
made balancing even harder.

Vagary just grinned at her,
wet hair plastered to his face.

She'd seen people dancing
in hurricanes before, but
never this close before.

Calliope pushed with
her power, and then felt
Vagary's hand slip into hers
even as she made a bubble of
calm to shield them from the storm.

Kong Vault nodded his thanks
and teleported back inside.

The sky was dark gray and
boiling with clouds, even on
the edge of the storm.

Hurricanes were huge,
and brought wind and rain
far in advance of the main storm.

It was part of what made them
so dangerous -- they could
cause heavy floods before
the storm surge ever struck.

Calliope reached out, feeling
for the shape of the storm
and where it wanted to go.

The spin, if they pushed it
just so, would actually help
it turn away from the island;
many hurricanes naturally
curved in that direction.

It felt a bit like pushing on
a merry-go-round, only
this whirlwind moved
when they pushed it.

The fringe of clouds
crumpled and compressed
under the steady pressure as
the storm changed course.

That made the local conditions
even worse than they already were.

The wind blew harder, the rain
fell faster, and Calliope could
barely see through them.

She didn't really need to see,
though, because she could
feel the hurricane swerving
away from Skellington Key.

Calliope didn't know how long
they stood out there, facing down
the storm and forcing it aside.

She only knew that the angle
of the wind slowly changed, so that
instead of blowing toward them,
it came more from the side.

The rain began to slacken
from a downpour to a torrent,
then a more ordinary shower
interspersed with brisk drizzle.

Calliope was exhausted, they
both were, but they would keep
going as long as they could.

Every minute they managed
would push the storm farther away
and safely out to sea where it
could do the least damage.

They were almost done
when a tree fell on them.

* * *

Notes:

Captain Vern Evans -- He has fair skin, brown eyes, and short white hair with a chinstrap beard. He wears glasses. Captain Evans commands the Kraken base on Skellington Cay. His intution and strategic thinking make him an excellent leader. He does poorly at tactical thinking, though, and leaves that to his partner. He enjoys gaming, especially board games with pegs or magnets to hold the pieces in place.
Origin: Corrective surgery for eye problems gave him his superpowers.
Uniform: On duty, Captain Evans wears a Kraken uniform of dexflan and capery, along with a captain's hat. The jumpsuits are sensibly designed with sleek fit, plenty of pockets and fasteners for equipment. They provide Expert (+4) Camouflage to a designated user, but if worn by anyone else, turn garish neon colors. Off duty, he favors nautical wear, often in white or light colors.
Qualities: Expert (+4) Kraken Base Captain, Expert (+4) Intuition, Good (+2) Constitution, Good (+2) Gamer, Good (+2) Strategic Thinking
Poor (-2) Tactical Thinking
Powers: Good (+2) Enhanced Vision
Motivation: To protect the souls on board.

* * *

"It is better to meet danger than to wait for it. He that is on a lee shore, and foresees a hurricane, stands out to sea and encounters a storm to avoid a shipwreck."
-- Charles Caleb Colton

The favor comes from "A Tornado of Thought."

Hurricane Fahd September 10, 2015

See maps of the Caribbean Sea, Bermuda Triangle, Caribbean Sea Islands, Turks and Caicos Islands.

Skellington Cay is a tiny island in the Turk Islands of the Caribbean Sea, just inside the Bermuda Triangle. In Terramagne, it has been a pirate island all along, as no nation ever quite managed to claim and keep it. A low beach of pale yellow sand surrounds an inner rise of yellow-gray limestone that supports a dry forest of mahogany, native oak, wild tamarind, gumbo limbo, Jamaican caper, and assorted palm trees. Near the center, a limestone ridge creates a clearing of stone with patches of tough grass.

skellington (plural skellingtons)
(nonstandard, childish, dialectal or humorous) A skeleton.

A cay is a small island on the surface of a coral reef.Pacific,

The teleport pad stands in a small room of its own, adjacent to the regular exit. It has a compass rose pressed into the concrete floor. The guard room stands between the entrance points and the control room.

The control room has large screens at one end, workstations in the middle, and a bank of smaller screens at the opposite end.

The clinic includes an exam room, operating room, ward room, double rooms, single rooms, and a lab.

The multipurpose room is a big open area. A conference room and classrooms provide meeting space.

The cafeteria is near the bathrooms and the dotties (regular and accessible).

A study hall lies between the cafeteria and the residential area. There are bunkrooms, double rooms, and private rooms. The captain's state room includes an ensuite bathroom.

Reach about the geology, ecology, and climate of the Turks and Caicos. Dry forest fills the solid ground with a variety of tropical trees and shrubs, such mahogany.

The Atlantic hurricane season runs from June 1st to November 30th, covering the Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea, and Gulf of Mexico. The 2015 Atlantic hurricane season was slightly below average in activity. Variations in weather and nomenclature mean that Terramagne had Hurricane Fahd whereas local-Earth had Hurricane Fred.

The Trolley Problem is a classic example of an ethical dilemma, about whether it is better to allow more people to die or to kill one person on purpose. When someone's superpowers can shift deadly storms, that thought experiment becomes very real. If you can shift storms, is it ethical to refrain when doing so could push one into a less-populated area? Or is it wrong because moving the storm would make you responsible for the people it killed? Not everyone necessarily feels the same way about this, because the "moral" answer differs depending on which ethical system you prefer, and it's an area where white hats and black hats often disagree. See also Kohlberg's stage of moral development.
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