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Author Topic: Ursus Arctos [PG-13] (Some scenes may scare young children)  (Read 4741 times)
djinn
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Fish genetics is a very small field


« on: Nov 24, 2013 10:49 pm »

Synopsis: How many men does it take to build a Bear?


1

The door to the throne room shut quietly enough, the minister bowing out humbly like any other that came before King Kuei. But the subservient smile melted from his face as soon as the door closed, replaced with a look of pure and utter terror. Park quick-stepped, then jogged and finally abandoned dignity and ran down the hallway, legs taking as long a stride as his robes would allow. He reached a tucked-away door, in an equally tucked-away building far from the palace centre, out of breath and red-faced. He slammed the door behind him and leaned heavily against it for support. His breath came in panic-riddled gasps. His associate looked up at the noise.

“Stones!” Park swore loudly. “Stones and scree! Kim, we are dead.”

****

Life in Ba Sing Se palace was one of preternatural bliss. Bad things did not happen there. The impossible did not exist. It was said that in the palace all your dreams came true.

Of course, that bliss was ruled by an iron grip, and the impossible was destroyed from thoughts in a most clinical and frightening way. And dreams? Well. Dreams were manufactured to come true.

“I want a bear.”

Park, titled as Ministerial Advisor of the Sciences but in truth the greatest magician alive, had blinked at the demand.

“A platypusbear, Your Majesty?”

“No.”

“A Gopherbear, then?”

“No.”

“…Armadillobear?”

“No!” the young King pouted. “I want a bear!”

It was then Park had felt the first trickles of sweat run down his neck. “Just…a bear, Your Majesty?”

“Yes, Park,” His Majesty said with exaggerated patience. “Is that so hard?”

Park had to swallow the hysterical laughter bubbling up his throat. “N-no… Not at all, Your Majesty.”

****

“A bear?!” Kim shouted. “Good grief, Park! Why didn’t you just promise him the sun while you were at it?”

“And what was I supposed to say, Kim?” Park yelled back. “‘No, Your Majesty’? ‘It can’t be done, Your Majesty’? We would be dead!”

He slumped to the floor and dropped his head into his hands. “Who am I kidding? We’re dead anyway.”

After a moment Kim came and joined him on the floor. They were in silence for a while, processing and wallowing in despair and terror in turns.

“A bear?

“A bear.”

“But…how are we supposed to-”

“I don’t know.”

“…*sigh*”

“*sigh*…”

“And when are we supposed to present this miracle?” Kim asked.

“On the King’s birthday,” Park moaned. “In three months.”

Kim turned his head sharply to see if his friend was joking. His look of defeat said everything.

“Oh boulderdash. We are dead.”

****

After a night of commiserable drinks, bouts of weeping, a full rendition of ‘That Girl’s Got my Bricks’ (all twelve verses; the dirty ones sung about six times each) and a truly incredible hangover the next morning, Park and Kim decided to give the problem a proper go. After all, ‘die trying’ was supposed to be the in thing nowadays.

They soon discovered that, yes indeed, what their great and noble King asked for was impossible.

“The platypusbear gestation period is four months!” Kim pulled at his hair. “Four months! And that’s the shortest available to us.”

“How many ‘bears do we have kept at the palace?” Park asked.

“Three Armadillobears, one gopherbear, four platypusbears and nine skunkbears,” Kim read from a list.

Nine skunkbears?” Park turned his head at the number. “Why do we have nine of them?”

Kim read down the list. “‘Distributed to the Ministry of Cultural Heritage Preservation’.”

“Oh.” Park pulled a face. “Well, how many are pregnant?”

“The gopherbear and two of the platypus bears,” Kim replied. “Furthest along is the gopherbear – seven months. The next is one month and the last is 2 weeks in.”

“Scree,” Park swore. “That doesn’t give us much to work with.”

“It gives us nothing to work with,” Kim said crossing his arms. “Breeding takes years of work. We have three months, Park. The best we can hope for is to cut up a cub and make it look as bear-like as possible, whatever the scree that means.”

“And have it die on the table as soon as the King puts his hand on it?” Park said. “No, we need a real one.”

“There’s no time,” Kim said. “Even if we figure out what he means by ‘bear’, we can’t breed one in time for his birthday.”

Park was quiet for a moment, weighing his options. “There is one possibility.”

Kim turned to him, trying to read the unspoken message on Park’s face. “What possibility? You and I are both out of our league here, so unless you can pull a miracle out of your robe, we’re…”

And then the same possibility occurred to Kim and he did not like it one bit. “Out of the question.”

“You said it yourself, Kim,” Park argued. “We are out of our league here.”

“If you are thinking of what I think you are thinking, Park,” Kim smartly replied, “then stop thinking it. It does not bear thinking.”

Kim considered what he said and then added: “No pun intended.”

“Well unless you would prefer to be buried quietly under a mountain, we have no choice,” Park replied. “We need her help.”
 
****

The ‘her’ in question arrived almost a week later. Slim and severe in her Water Tribe blues and black hair pulled back in a scalp-tearing bun, it seemed when the door opened for her that a cold gale wind followed.

Kim gulped audibly at her entrance and shifted uncomfortably. It was left to Park to scurry over and greet her.

“Welcome, Sun,” he said, a nervous creak in his voice. “I can’t thank you enough for agreeing to come. Our circumstances are dire and we are in sore need of your expertise. Why, we’ve been-”

“Enough bootlicking, Park,” Sun broke in with a voice in stark contrast to her appearance. Despite its callous tone it was like honey on the ears. “I’ve come to help you fix your mess and I’d rather we’d get through this as quickly as possible. To spend another minute of unobligated and unpaid for time in both your company would surely kill me.”

Pay?” Kim called from his hiding spot.

“Yes, Kim, ‘pay’.” She shoved her bags, both enormous and heavy, into Park’s arms and strode into the room. “You will be paying me for my services, starting from today.”

She marched to the blackboard and studied their so-far efforts, back to both of them. Before Kim could explode into a likely impending fit of rage, Park broke in. “Usual rates then, Sun. Half the percentage of our commission.”

Sun’s head whipped back to Park and she gave him one of her infamous icy smiles. “Oh no, boys. If you’re in anything close to the trouble I expect you’re in, then I expect more. Equal shares.”

The silence that followed was broken only when Park dropped the bags to the floor.

****

The problem with Sun was that technically she was on the payroll of the King. Technically. It wasn’t really considered proper for a woman to be studying the sciences in the Earth Kingdom. Spirit’s forbid she got paid for doing so. But Sun’s mother was Water Tribe and so when her waterbending manifested it was decided that she would study in the North. In their outlandish ways of letting their women benders study science and medicine, it was discovered that Sun was very good at animal sciences. Very good. So good, in fact, that the North quite happily shipped Sun back to Ba Sing Se with a please and thank you that she never come visit again.

Of course, the rumours went around as to how and why exactly she was kicked out of the North. Mutilating the Chief’s polardog or creating a mutant nightmare tigerseal monster were the top contenders among the betting folk.

 Needless to say, certain members of Ba Sing Se’s ministerial staff thought they could do with a mad scientist in their employ. Even if she was a woman.
 
Park had previously asked for Sun’s help on only two occasions. The first time had been through simple correspondence; ‘what would you suggest I do with such-and-such if this-and-that were already in place?’. Her advice, though slightly avant-garde, had been hugely helpful and had ensured that Park kept his position as miracle-maker extraordinaire to the King. On the second occasion, Park had asked for Sun’s help in person.

Problems ensued.  

It quickly became undeniable that the rumours of her genius were true. However, at the same time several other rumours turned out to be true as well. By silent agreement Park and Kim did not speak of that time. For days afterward Park heard Kim gibber in his sleep about ‘those chickenpigs, those poor, poor chickenpigs.’ Perhaps the most difficult part about that time was that Sun undoubtedly helped Park succeed in his project. Indeed, without her he would have failed.

Just as he would now if he turned her away.

“Alright, Sun,” he told her finally. “Equal shares.”

Her smile widened and she turned back to the board. “Excellent. Let’s get started then. I see you decided to define the problem of ‘bear’ beforehand.”

“It seemed like the best place to start,” Park replied as he stepped nearer to the board.

“You are not wrong there. But I see once again both of you are being sandfooted about the topic.” Sun frowned at the board. “How many ‘bears do we have at our disposal?”

Kim sighed as he took up the list. “Three Armadillobears, one gopherbear-”

“Bring them all in,” Sun cut in. “What better way, gentlemen, to note differences in anatomy and physiology than going to the source?”

She turned to Kim “After you acquire the ‘bears prepare the autopsy room.”

Kim’s face blanched and he walked away stiffly. As he passed by Park heard him mutter to himself “The chickenpigs”.



To be continued~
« Last Edit: Oct 07, 2015 10:42 pm by djinn » Logged

guyw1tn0nam3
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« Reply #1 on: Nov 24, 2013 11:02 pm »

As a person that studied a bit of biology, I giggled. A lot.

I'm expecting more.
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AvatarStateYipYip
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« Reply #2 on: Nov 25, 2013 02:31 pm »

that was good. "the chickenpigs" lol  Grin can't wait for more, this should be very entertaining.
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« Reply #3 on: Nov 25, 2013 07:59 pm »

I'm loving the dark humor used in this. I didn't realize you could do so well with that, djinn.

Also digging your mad scientist character. Good backstory, especially getting kicked out the NWT.
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Mr Grieves
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« Reply #4 on: Nov 26, 2013 03:29 am »

Love this djinn. Its a wonderful concept and the tone is just right.

It also seems in line with a lot of your interests, and a way to put a sci-fi bent into the Avatarverse. Update soon? Smiley
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AmonKorra
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« Reply #5 on: Nov 26, 2013 03:43 am »

Sounds interesting.
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Icy_Ashford
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« Reply #6 on: Nov 26, 2013 04:50 am »

You should have used "ta ma de" instead of "boulderdash" for a touch of Chinese flair since you're using Korean and Chinese surnames as their names. XD
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guyw1tn0nam3
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« Reply #7 on: Nov 26, 2013 07:23 am »

You should have used "ta ma de" instead of "boulderdash" for a touch of Chinese flair since you're using Korean and Chinese surnames as their names. XD

Yay! I get it.  Grin
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djinn
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Fish genetics is a very small field


« Reply #8 on: Jan 07, 2014 06:59 pm »

Thanks to Guy, AvatarstateYipYip, Loopy, Mr. Grieves and Icy (and AmonKorra; apologies for missing your name!) for your comments and liking this silly little project. It's been a little long in the waiting but here the next installment. Hoping for only 5 chapters on this but we'll see. Enjoy!

2

“Ah, you see, Park? The vena cava of the Platypusbear is the same as the Armadillobear’s. Add it to the list, Kim.”

Park and Sun were quite literally up to their elbows in Platypusbear. The stench of blood and death lingered like bad cologne on Park even after he washed and rubbed himself in oils. Sun smiled gleefully as she held up the Platypusbear’s heart, pointing out the details of the organ. It was not unlike some sort of ancient sacrificial ritual. Park prepared for the moment when Sun would tell him it was now time to drink its blood.

“Excellent, Sun.” Park made sure to keep his voice as neutral as possible. Difficult to do with a quivering organ shoved under his nose. “Don’t you think we’ve gathered enough data, though? I mean, that’s our third heart. Isn’t that a little excessive?”

“You can never have enough hearts, Park,” Sun replied matter-of-factly.

“Well, I’m comfortable with our assessment of the definition of ‘bear’ now,” Park stated.

Sun waved her hands dismissively, casually loosing bodily fluids everywhere. “Nonsense. Our work is barely half done. Kim, bowl.”

“I don’t understand, Sun,” Park said. “We’ve-”

Sun dropped the heart into the bowl with a decisive slap. Kim flinched as blood delicately spattered his face.

“We’ve pretty much figured out…” Park tried to continue, noticing Kim dramatically wipe his face. “…figured out the detailing on the ‘bear’, haven’t we? We’ve been at it for three weeks and know the animals from hide to hair, so to speak. Can’t we start making, or breeding, or building, or whatever it is you do?”

“Park, please,” Sun cleaned her hands on cloth and began to remove her apron. “There is still much to do on our preliminary work.”

“Such as?” Park had washed his hands and now fumbled with his apron strings.

“Kim, would you please put that heart away?” Sun stepped behind Park and took the strings from him. “We still do not have detailing on the Skunkbears.”

“And we won’t,” Kim called. “They’re Dai Li property.”

“And on top of that,” Sun continued, ignoring Kim, “we’ll need to examine the foetuses. There; untied.”

She patted Park’s shoulder and he and Kim watched her leave the room. Park held his apron, Kim his heart, the table overwhelmed with blood, and the both of them began to realise how over their heads they were.

****

“Fetae?”

“Foetuses,” Sun corrected, not looking up from the writing table.

Park and Kim looked at each other, the same though crossing their minds.

“Correct me if I’m wrong,” Park said, “but don’t we need the foetuses for breeding?”

“You are wrong,” Sun replied.

Again, there were shared looks between the men.

Sun finally noticed the silence that pressed down on the room. Her head lifted and she studied the both of them.

“Did you both think we wouldn’t need to examine them also?” Her honey-tongued voice was mystified. “How extraordinary. Do you know nothing at all of animal sciences?”

Park puffed out his chest. “We never claimed to expert animalists like you.”

“Certainly not,” Sun remarked. “An alchemist and a…what is it you do again, Kim?”

Park’s voice sprang over Kim’s would-be outburst. “Which is why we called you, didn’t we? For assistance, not condescension and insults on our chosen fields of study.”

“Yes,” Sun replied. “And as leading expert here, my decisions should not be questioned.”

“Expert,” Park countered, “but not leader. I am the head of this project, Sun. All your suggestions will be passed through me. And if I do not understand feel free to explain. I will not be offended. Kim, shut up.”

Kim’s mouth clicked shut and it marked the arrival of another tense silence. This one hung around for a shorter time period but was louder than its predecessor.

“Fine,” Sun answered, spitting the word like chipped ice. “You are right, Park; you are lead on this. My apologies. Shall I now suggest your next step, then?”

Park nodded his head graciously.

“You think you have the makings of a ‘bear’, do you?” Sun asked.

“Don’t we? There are features and characteristics in all the ‘bears that are the same. You have pointed that out all along.” Park shrugged his shoulders as if that said everything.

“But when do the differences appear?” Sun questioned. “How long is a foetus in such a generic state to be indistinguishable from other species? What are the first defining characteristics to appear? Could you stop those features even appearing? If so, for how long? Will it die without its distinguishing marks? How much-?”

Park cut his hand through the air. “Enough, I get it.”

“Do you?” Sun persisted. She punctuated her words with a finger shoved into his chest. “This is not a parlour room trick, Park. You cannot bluff your way through this one. Sacrifices must be made, and first on the altar with be your reservations and morality. Selfless duty to science calls you to sacrifice your own pride and do whatever it takes to make a bear.”

A third silence, the embarrassed and nervous little brother of the three, fell across the room. Park stared at the finger stabbed at his chest and swallowed.

Kim cleared his throat. “Well, look on the bright side, Park. At least you don’t have to save the world.”

****

Kim stared down at the note Sun had given him. “What’s this?”

“The address of my supplier. You can get us more bears there.”

“‘East Gate’?”Kim’s eyes widened. “But this is in the lower ring!”

“Yes?”

“I don’t go to the lower ring!” Kim sputtered.

“There’s a first time for everything, Kim.” She patted his shoulder. “This will be a good learning experience for you.”

Kim sputtered away, a look of mortification plastered across his face. Park turned hesitantly to Sun. “And what will we do then?”

The smile she gave him sent shivers up his spine.

“We are going to pay a call on the Dai Li.”

****

The world was full of injustice, partiality and all-around unfairness. Kim knew that better than most.

Take, for instance, his current circumstances:

Forced into yet another life-or-death situation by the whims of their magnificent idiot King. Cornered into working with a Spirit World banshee who had a tundra for a soul. And he, Assistant Minister of the Sciences, made to ride public transport.

This went beyond humiliation. This – all of this – was an attack on his person.

He got off at the stop Sun indicated and almost keeled over. He had thought the smell inside the train was bad but this was assaulting, like a latrine on a hot day. Could it be possible the noise was worse? The train bellowed its horn and rattled off, leaving Kim to hold his ears as well as his nose.

Kim treaded the directions Sun had given him. The East Gate was a crowded affair. There were few actual stalls here, even less hawkers. Instead the streets were filled with animals. Cockerelgoats, cowhens, koalasheep (the three of them had briefly looked at adding koalasheep to their research. But, as it turned out and despite popular belief, koalasheep were not bears) and, of course, chickenpigs. Hundreds of chickenpigs. A shudder went through Kim as their squealing reached his ears. Ever since Park and Kim’s last encounter with that demon from the North in the guise of a woman, he had become a hardline vegetarian. He could not shake the feeling there was something keenly human about the cries of a chickenpig.

With one last shudder of revulsion Kim set off following Sun’s directions.  He pushed his way through the crowds, keeping one hand tight on his money pouch and his feet well away from hooves. He should have added pats to the list as he firmly stepped into one.

Sun’s directions led Kim down side streets and narrow lanes. The roads became increasingly empty of people and filled rather with industrial buildings, storehouses and stock sheds. There were no trading farmers here, no merchants inspecting product. This was a place only the locals travelled. Kim swallowed and counted the buildings on the street.

There. The fifth one. A weathered storehouse with a faded signboard: Vui’s Stock and Trade. With great hesitancy Kim entered the front door.

It stank. Badly. The musk of dozens of penned animals clung to the air like those cheap oils Park had been using lately. The noise was bearable, at least. As far as he could see the storehouse only kept koalasheep and they seemed content enough.

Kim stumbled as someone clapped his shoulder.

“Can I help you?”

Kim turned to yell at the man. He had an issue with personal space, the issue being never to cross his. Except the man who’d broken his unseen boundary was not a man.

To be fair, she could only be described as a woman in the loosest sense of the word. She was as broad as one of palace guards and taller than any of them. Her hair was short cut and she had dark, peasant skin.

Kim stared up at her. “Um?”

“Vui,” she said with an easy smile. “The one and only.”

“Indeed,” Kim murmured.

“Looking to invest?” she asked. “Master sent you down to check my stock?”

Master?” Kim drew himself up to his unimpressive full height. “I am no one’s servant.”

“Oh, sorry,” Vui said with a slanting smile. “Had the look of a number cruncher about you.”

“I’m a scientist!” Kim fumed.

“Ya don’t say?” Vui’s eyes brightened. “I know a scientist myself. Can you make fireworks? Lightning from stone? Turn water to that fogsmoke?”

Kim frowned. “That’s alchemy, my compatriot’s work. Nothing but showmanship and nonsense.”

“Oh. So what do you do, then?”

“I don’t do; I study physical science.”

Vui’s blank stare ruffled Kim’s already stirred up temper.

“What’s that?” she asked.

“Physical sciences,” Kim repeated, this time with slower enunciation. “You know? How things move and the laws that apply to them.”

Vui’s brow creased. “Like bending?”

“No.” Kim’s voice was positively flat-line. “Not like bending.”

“Can’t bend, can you?” Vui’s eyes twinkled mischievously.

“I study the very essence of the cosmos!” Kim steamed.

She slapped him on the back again and almost threw him on the ground. “Don’t worry, yeah? We all compensate somehow.”

 “But-!” Kim rubbed a hand across his face frantically. Oppression! The world was oppressing him! But he would be the better man here. He calmed himself as best as he could. “Sun… Sun sent me.”

“Well, why didn’t you say so, Little Man?” Vui replied happily. “What she want this time? Not wolfbats, I hope. Sold out on those just the other day. Guess you were lying before, eh? Master did send you down.” She guffawed. “Come along then.”

Kim stumbled after her. “Little man?”

He hated the universe.
« Last Edit: Jan 08, 2014 02:11 am by djinn » Logged

AmonKorra
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« Reply #9 on: Jan 08, 2014 01:05 am »

...And interesting it certainly is. The exchange between Vui and Park was the best.
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« Reply #10 on: Jan 08, 2014 07:53 pm »

The narration of Kim's visit to the Lower Ring was superb. Cheesy Sun's methods make sense and have a logic to them, but dang if she ain't creepy. Grin
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djinn
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Fish genetics is a very small field


« Reply #11 on: Jun 10, 2014 07:25 am »

Thank you, AmonKorra and Loopy for your comments! Your thoughts and encouragement helped me get this next chapter out Smiley

Ahem...

IN YOUR FACE, DEPRESSION! SUCK IT, I GOT THIS CHAPTER FINISHED! YEAH!

I am ridiculously happy, in case you can't tell Cheesy Just...blood, sweat and tears, I tell you. Thank you thank you thank you for being patient with me, for your encouragement, and for telling me that I could do this.

Dammit, I'm crying again. Just enjoy!


3.

“And that’s how I made a winged boar,” Sun concluded rather smugly.

Park carefully side-eyed her. It was difficult to gauge when Sun was telling the truth or simply pulling his leg for a laugh. Firstly, nothing could be put past her and, secondly, Park doubted whether she actually had a sense of humour. That kind of thing was reserved for humans. “I’m sure Lord Bei Fong was overjoyed.”

“He was,” Sun confirmed, “until I showed him the bill. The fool refused to pay me.”

Park winced sympathetically. Sun was going to cost him a fortune also. “I bet that went down well.”

“Not for him,” and she gave a predatory smile. “Though he should consider himself lucky I left him the other one.”

Park started. “The ‘other one’?”

“Yes,” Sun said matter-of-factly. “I mean, men come with two but you hardly need both of them.”

Park blanched. “You mean you cut off one of his-“

“Ah!” Sun piped happily. “There it is.”

They had arrived at the doors leading to the Grand Secretariat’s offices. Park plunged into a cold sweat at the sight of those imposing double doors.

“On second thought, maybe you should just speak to him, Sun,” he suggested. “I mean, this was your idea.”

“Oh, do man up, Park,” Sun sighed, exasperated. “I honestly have no idea why you are so frightened of the Grand Secretariat. After all, he’s only a man.”

Sun pushed through the doors and Park reluctantly followed. Just a man? Ha! If the Grand Secretariat was just a man then the Avatar was a just a 12-year-old boy that had been stuck in an iceberg all these years. HA!

The anteroom was grandly furnished, as opulent as any for the King, if a trifle smaller. There was another door directly ahead, flanked by two Dai Li agents. That was an extravagance not even afforded to the King. Park gulped unsteadily.

Almost immediately someone was at their side.

“Hello!” the bubbly woman greeted. “I am Judi. It is a pleasure to meet you both!”

Park frowned. There was something wrong with her face. Like a wineskin stretched to bursting. The mouth was cranked too wide, the eyes were shiny and moist, the nose flared a little with excitement. It took Park a moment but he finally pinned down what was wrong.

Judi was far too happy.

“We…” Park turned to Sun and his voice trailed off. Sun was…terrified. There couldn’t be any other word for it. He knew that look having worn it himself countless times during the past four weeks. But for Sun to be scared…

He spun, scanning the roo, trying to follow Sun’s line of sight. He expected to see an army of flesh-eating spirits, a host of undead animals – Sun’s past victims – or, worst of all, her mother.

But there was no one in the room, nobody but himself, the Dai Li agents and-

“Excuse me? Sir?”

Judi.

He turned slowly back to the attaché. Her face was simple, wide-eyed earnestness. He looked back at Sun who, if it could be believed, actually sank from the sight of her.

He looked back at Judi. Then Sun. Then Judi.

“Sir?” Judi asked through a smile. “Your appointment?”

At least one thing was clear from this situation: That none of it made any sense. But Sun was not going to be any help at the moment. Park would have to do most of the talking. Fortunately performance was something he thrived on. He was a showman and unashamedly so. It was time to step up.

Park inhaled deeply, puffing out his chest. “No appointment, my dear.” He gave the attaché a knowing smile. “But the Grand Minister of Sciences hardly needs one.”

The embellishment of title and the inclusive smile were small tricks on both aweing and drawing the audience in.

Judi was unperturbed. “All visits to the Grand Secretariat are by appointment only.” The smile flashed at him. “No exceptions.”

Park tut-tutted a finger at her. “Now now, my dear, don’t say that. Our time is both precious and short. Plus,” and here he sidled up and put his arm around Judi and smiled at her slyly, “we’re on urgent business for the King. Wouldn’t want to get in his way, wouldn’t we?”

Judi turned her head to his, that smile still plastered on her face. “No exceptions.”

Park’s eye twitched.

Well, charm was getting nowhere; the woman was like a stone. Perhaps he needed a little force. “Madam, we are going to the Grand Minister, and there will be no exceptions on that!”

Judi was still for a moment, apparently processing.

“Very well,” she said finally and moved behind her desk.

Park dropped his head to hide his smile. Gusto, that was all he needed. Gusto and a bit of bluster.

“I shall fill out an appointment for you,” she continued.

He started. “What?”

“Our next available time is…” she scanned down the pages of a book, flipping them over and over. Finally she raised her head to him, that insipid smile never leaving. “6 months from now.”

What?”

“Would you prefer a morning or afternoon meeting?”

Park gaped at her.  Judi smiled back.

“I’d like to talk a moment with my assistant,” Park said finally.

He didn’t wait for the nod from Judi. He turned, grabbed Sun by the arm and practically dragged her along. He stopped them a few steps closer to the exit.

“Is there something you want to tell me?” Park asked.

Sun’s eyes were fixed on Judi. Park sighed and gave her a nudge.

“What?” Sun blinked, coming to.

“Do you need to tell me something, Sun?” Park asked again. “What’s with you and the attaché?”

Sun’s face contorted into violent, angry horror. “She is an abomination.”

“Um?”

“A carcass that walks, Park. Her mind is as decomposed as a week-dead wolfbat. Can you not smell the stench of death rising from her?”

“Eh?”

“Look at those spiritless eyes, that vacant smile.” Sun’s honeyed-tongue dripped with venom. “She is evil.

Park looked at Sun. Then at Judi. Then back at Sun.

Mad. That was it. They were both mad. Park eyed the stone-faced Dai Li. Were they snickering at him? Well he, Park, Ministerial Advisor of the Sciences and Magician Extraordinaire would not be made a laughing stock. What had Sun said?

“Time to man up.”

Park grabbed Sun’s hand and dragged her to the inner door. Judi exclaimed.

“Ah!” Park stabbed a finger at her.

She shut up.

The Dai Li guards stiffened.

“Move!” Park swung his hand.

Like some kind of strange people-bending magic, they shifted.

Park put his hand against the door and shoved. They slammed open.

“I require the use of all your Skunkbears and require them now! Understood?”

The Grand Secretariat and Minister of Cultural Preservation, Long Feng, coolly raised his eyes from his papers.

Park swallowed. Perhaps…perhaps this hadn’t been such-

“Fine.”

Park blinked. “Really?”

Long Feng cocked his head. “Now get out.”

No man had left that chamber faster than Park had.

****

The eyes were black and soulless. To stare into them was to fall into an endless void, a hole in the fabric of the cosmos. And yet, it seemed that if one reached further, beyond the void, one could find the first stones lying on the path of eternity. There was truth at the end of that road. Truth and enlightenment and-

The koalasheep blinked.

Kim emerged from his trance-like state. He pulled his head up and it took him a moment to reorientate. Yes, that was right. He was in Vui’s Stock and Trade; a smelly, dry and dimly lit place. He frowned at the penned koalasheep. It bleated  at him.

“Filthy animal,” Kim tisked.

He turned back to the office. Vui had been gone for a while, apparently counting the stock in her, ahem, private wares. She had offered for Kim to join her but he had quickly declined. The longer he was in the company of Vui the more of a pain it was. Quite literally. The developing bruises on his shoulders were testimony to that. He stepped closer to the office. “Vui? What is taking so long? I don’t have-”

The warehouse doors slid open, letting in a stream of sunlight. Kim squinted, trying to make out the new arrivals. Their features were shadowed; Kim could only make out that they were two men of enormous girth. Something about the two made Kim prickle with anxiety. They hadn’t seen him and Kim closed his mouth and ducked beside the animal stalls to keep it that way.

“Vui?” one of the rasped.“You there?”

Kim frowned; did he know that voice? They entered the warehouse and made their way to the office. As they passed the stalls the koalasheep began to bleat loudly, their noses rose to the air. What? What could be causing…?

Wafting ahead of the two newcomers was a smell.

Awareness dawned on him. Kim dove in to a stall, heedless of the muck, and pushed three koalasheep out the way to make space for himself.

“Vui?” the newcomers called again. “Come on, woman; where are you?”

Kim peeked his nose over the stall rail. Here, closer to the warehouse’s windows, he could make out the features of the two men. And, despite the fact he was squatting in koalasheep pat, their hideous odour as well. Faces like pulverised meat and a smell that reeked of food slop and garbage.

The Scullery Twins.

Kim shuddered uncontrollably. Before there was Sun and her chickenpigs there were these two; Luong and Truong. They were vicious, nasty guttersnipes who delighted in nothing more than tormenting those smaller and smarter than them. That included practically everyone but they had a certain something for Kim. He tried to lower himself quietly down again. The animals were agitated, though, and he unfortunately sat on one of them. There was an outraged bleat and Kim got a hard shove in his backside. He crashed loudly against the wooden rails.

Kim curled himself up into a ball and begged the universe that the Scullery Twins thought it was just the animals.

He had no such luck.

“Well, well, well,” one of them said.

“Well, well,” the other finished.

They grabbed him and hoisted Kim to his feet.

“If it isn’t the Professor,” the one of the right side; Kim called him Luong.

“Sifu Smartypants,” the other, Truong, continued.

“Out of the book…”

“…and in the big, wide world.”

Their grins made Kim shrink in on himself. They made him feel so small in so many ways.

“Professor Kim, did you like that red bean cake you ate the other day?” Truong asked.

“The one we made for you?” Luong continued.

“With extra special love…”

“…and attention to detail?

Kim whimpered. The koalasheep around him bleated madly.

“Did you, Sifu?”

“Did you?”

Did you?

Kim remembered the cake. And the squirrelrat head that had been inside it. The Twins grinned viciously and one of them pulled something from his pocket.

“Oh look at that, Luong. I’ve got another red bean cake on me.”

“How fortuitous, Truong.”

Luong turned his grin on Kim. “’Course I’m willing to share. What do you say, Sifu? Care for a bite?”

Kim desperately tried to pull away but they held him at bay. With high-pitched laughter they pushed the cake at Kim’s face.

“Help!” Kim yelled. “Help!

Like some spirit emerging from the other world Vui put her thick hands around the necks of the Scullery Twins. Their laughter cut off with a strangled squawk.

“Boys, boys, boys,” she said cheerfully. “What’s all the ruckus?”

Both of the Twins opened their mouths. Vui’s hands tightened and they gurgled. “Ah, ah, ah, one at a time.”

She eased her hand slightly on one of their necks. The twin swallowed roughly.  “N-nothing, Vui. Just talk- er, talking.”

“Chatting, eh?” Vui eyed them both with a smile. “How absolutely amiable of you both. True. And in the pens, no less.”

Her eyes turned to Kim. “Better hop along, Little Man. And tell your Mistress that I’ve got that order settled for her. It’ll be delivered by tomorrow night.”

Kim nodded jerkily and awkwardly squirmed his way between the Twins to get out of the pen. He ran for the shed doors, before stopping to look back. The sun, however, did not reach far enough into the interior to make out Vui and the Twins. Kim still raised a hand in thanks and ran for the trains.

****

Park practically bounced off the walls.

“Did you see me, Sun?” He beamed. “I seeped authority in that room. I commanded it! The Grand Secretariat fell before my orders.”

Sun was withdrawn and silent.

“Oh, please.” He smiled mockingly at her. “Don’t tell me you’re still sulking. About that girl, um, J-”

“Don’t say that name, Park!” she snapped.

He grinned. “You mean, Juu-”

He gasped as Sun grabbed him by the collar and shoved him against the wall. “NOT THE FACE!”

“Listen to me, you scat smear,” Sun hissed.  “I haven’t seen horrors; I make them. But thatthing!”

She dropped him like a sack of potatoes and shrugged her shoulders uncomfortably. “That was a nightmare.”

“Huh.” Park straightened his collar. “Didn’t think anything could spook you.”

Sun raised her eyebrows. “I am human, Park.”

“Eh. Debatable.”

Sun frowned. “I seem to recall only a few minutes ago someone squealing in panic as they ran from the Grand Secretariat’s office.”

Park straightened. “I didn’t squeal.”

Sun shrugged impassively. “Could have fooled me. I’ll have to think of different punishment if you don’t pay me at the end of this. Doing the same to you as I did to Lord Bei Fong seems out of the question now.”

Park’s faced darkened several shades of red. “How dare you-!”

And then Park swallowed his anger and his colour dropped to white.

“How dare I what?” Sun asked. “Park?”

But Park’s gaze stared beyond Sun. A man, unhealthily thin, approached. He was dressed in white robes smeared with dark stains. His eyes latched on to Sun’s and a smile slid across his face like oil.

“Hello, Nguyen,” Park muttered out of a clenched jaw.

Nguyen’s smile took on a greasy edge. “Hello, Park.”

“Don’t you have something to deep-fry?”

Nguyen oily smile slipped only a little. “Who’s your lovely companion?”

“Out of your City Ring.”

His smiled widen and he held out a hand to Sun. “I’m Nguyen, Culinary Head of the Palace.”

“Responsible for your cold breakfast this morning, Sun,” Park huffed.

“Sun?” Nguyen asked as he took her hand. “That’s a lovely name. I promise you, Sun, that from now on I’ll personally make sure your meals are not only delivered on time but with my personal touch also.”

“Eww,” Park shuddered.

Nguyen turned to him with a flat expression. “Are you quite done with your childish banter?”

Park opened his mouth and then shut it with an angry click; Nguyen had already forgotten him.

“If you don’t find it too presumptuous of me, I’d love to invite you to dinner tonight, Sun.”

Park butted into his view. “We’re busy. Working.”

“Actually,” Sun said. “I’d love dinner.”

Nguyen’s greasy smile widened. “Excellent! If work is on your mind you can tell me all about it. But I think your thoughts shall be occupied with the delicate wonders I can show you through food. Your taste buds will scream and melt and then gasp for more.”

Park felt his cheeks grow hot. “Sun!

Sun smiled. “A date.”

Nguyen bent and kissed Sun’s hand before slipping away.

Park eyed Sun disbelievingly. She smiled to herself happily and began to walk away. It took her a moment to realise he wasn’t following. She turned back to him. “Coming?”

“What was that all about?” Park demanded.

“What?”

“A date?” Park sputtered. “With Nguyen?”

“Yes,” Sun said. “Is there a problem?”

“Yes!” Park said. “Very much so! That man is my arch nemesis!”

Sun burst into peals of laughter.

“I’m not joking, Sun,” Park said.

“I know,” Sun said through giggles. “That’s what makes it so funny.”

Park snorted. “That man has caused me more trouble than you can imagine. He’s evil incarnate.”

“No,” Sun said with a smile. “Truly?”

Park clenched his jaw. “You don’t know him like I do, Sun. Poisoned meals, sabotaged experiments, getting his bully boys to tear apart our laboratory and offices.”

“Sounds fascinating,” Sun replied. “I’m looking more and more forward to dinner.”

“Yes, and so is he,” Park huffed. “Did you hear him? He wants to know what we’re working on, Sun. So he can ruin it.”

“Paranoia doesn’t suit you as well as it does Kim, Park,” Sun stated.

“I’m serious! Sun, he’s ruined countless experiments of mine all in the name of getting points with the King.”

“And you can honestly say you haven’t done the same, Park?” Sun asked.

Park’s temper burst. “Are you comparing me with him? That grease pit?”

“That’s getting rather personal now,” Sun remarked. “Where’s your authoritarian nature, Park? Your command.

Something popped like a fizzing firecracker in Park’s head.

“Fine!” He threw up his hands. “Fine! Go to dinner with him. See if I care! Mark my words, though, Sun. He’s not after you because he’s interested in you.”

Sun raised an eyebrow. “Oh?”

“No!” Park yelled. “No sane man could bear to keep company with cold-blooded mad scientist who butchers animals for fun! I think I’m losing my sanity the longer I work on this project. Before you know it, by the end of this I’ll be threatening to eat people’s hearts and drape myself in gizzards! Ha! Hahaha!”

A tremendous rush of adrenalin flooded Park. He had wanted to tell her that for so long. He felt absolutely invincible.

But the look Sun gave him made the adrenalin wash away as quickly as it had come. Was that hurt in her eyes?

Her honeyed voice, though, was frigid cold. “That’ll be a sight. But I’m afraid I won’t see it. Enjoy your last few months of life Park. It gives me pleasure to think that in a short while you’ll have your head crushed slowly by a boulder.”

She turned and walked away.

Park felt his temperature drop. “What? Where are you going?”

“After dinner?” Sun answered without turning or breaking stride. “Home. Good bye, Park.”

“Home?” Park repeated. By all the Spirits, what had he done? “Wait, Sun? Sun!”

He found himself rooted to the spot, though. What had he been thinking? The stress and anxiety of the past few weeks had just burst out of him like a broken dam. Great Spirits, what had he done?

Killed himself, that’s what.

“Park! Park, there you are!”

That was Kim, heaving for breath as if he’d run the whole way here from the Outer Ring.

“Park, I got the order through to Sun’s supplier – she’s amazing; you need to meet her – and the Outer Ring was as horrible as I imagined, and I think I almost discovered the secrets of the universe in the eyes of a koalasheep and then the Twins showed up and they were asking questions and there was a red bean bun and, Park? I think we’re in trouble.”

Park watched as Sun turned corner, disappearing from view. “I know.”
Logged

Graywand
Never Gonna Give Yue Up

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« Reply #12 on: Jun 10, 2014 09:51 pm »

This is awesome Smiley Djinn Smiley

I like how Sun was able to sense the...abnormality of the Judi. And her understandably revolted reaction to it.
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Sig by CherryRose, read the revised story it goes with here. (http://tinyurl.com/29jqpe3}
Loopy
Never Gonna Give Yue Up

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I'm Loooooooopy!


« Reply #13 on: Jun 15, 2014 04:07 pm »

This update is so full of good stuff, I'm going to have to give reactions as I go...

- So there's a real flying boar? Cheesy I wonder what happened to it. And I guess now we know why Lao was so protective of his only offspring. Cheesy

- Sun's reaction to Joo Dee was interesting. While it was funny to see that even she can be horrified by something, I can't help but wonder if that's because it was a human, or if it's because it's the mind that's involved instead of the body, which Sun considers much more malleable.

- Loved Long Feng's quick line. He doesn't have time for this nonsense. Cheesy

- The Koalasheep paragraph was trippy and hilarious.

- Kim's encounter with the Scullery Twins seemed a bit random, although a great way to continue to poke at his sense of self-importance, but then I got to the next section with Nguyen and realized that there's a whole rivalry thing going on with the kitchen staff. That the kitchens could be just as gruesome as some of the "applied" sciences shouldn't be surprising, and it neatly explains how Nguyen and Sun might get along a little too well. Cheesy

- This chapter has done a lot to add vulnerability and humanity to Sun, first with her reaction to Joo Dee, then finding a kindred spirit in Nguyen, and finally taking real offense when Park revealed his true opinions of her. I like this slow reveal of such a distant, disturbing, and compelling figure.

Great to see another chapter of this! Thanks for the update.
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djinn
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Fish genetics is a very small field


« Reply #14 on: Mar 03, 2015 06:17 am »

Special thanks goes to Icy Ashford for the info on funky Asian cuisine

4

Sun admitted that when Nguyen promised to blow her mind with dinner she didn’t think he meant literally.

Dinner had been a fairly flamboyant affair. They had started with an appetiser of deep-fried frog legs. They had moved on to first course; soup: black duckchick soup, decoratively garnished with feathers and skin. Second course had truly been extravagant. Nguyen squirmed with excitement and watched her face carefully as the meal was wheeled in.  A large cockhog, basted and golden, stared at her. Its back had been opened and swimming inside it was an offal congee. Spectacular. Sun had never seen anything like it. She wasn’t sure if this kind of thing was Nguyen’s true style or if he was cooking like this to try and impress her. Either way, really, it had worked.

But the real kicker, dessert, had been served. Sun did not have a ‘sweet tooth’.  Incisors, canines and molars, yes, but nothing about her could be described as even verging on ‘sweet’.  Still, how could she pass up on eating a giant jelly shaped as her head?

“I wish I had more time to prepare it,” Nguyen stated with obvious false modesty. “I mean, I could have done so much more to bring out all your features.”

“It’s amazing,” Sun said. The colours of the jelly and glutinous rice were vibrant and happy; pinks, greens, yellows and quite a bit of blue. The dessert had picked up her features with surprising detail. “How did you manage such a likeness of me in such a short time? We only just met this morning.”

 Nguyen shrugged and looked embarrassed. “I admit I’ve been watching you since you arrived at the palace.”

Sun raised an eyebrow.

“You captured my attention completely,” Nguyen continued. “I wondered how a buffoon like Park managed to keep you all to himself.”

 “Keep me?” Sun replied. “No one ‘keeps’ me, Nguyen.”

Nguyen spread his hands, placating. “Of course.”

Sun held his eye for a moment longer before picking up her spoon and gouging out her dessert eye. She popped the gelatinous rice eyeball into her mouth and chewed.

“Well?” Nguyen inquired.

“The texture is wonderful,” Sun answered with genuine appreciation. “I never knew I tasted so delicious.”

Nguyen gave a little laugh. “You sound surprised.  You don’t become Culinary Head without knowing a thing or two about texture.”

“Well, perhaps my opinion of you was a little undercooked,” Sun replied, straight-faced.

Nguyen gave a wide smile and watched her eat.

“You won’t have some of me?” Sun asked, gesturing with her spoon at her one-eyed dessert face.

“I never eat my works of art,” Nguyen said. “And you, Sun, are nothing less than that.”

Sun cut off her sticky rice nose and found that it did indeed spite her face. “I’m flattered.”

“Oh, you deserve so much more than flattery, Sun,” Nguyen continued. “And certainly more than those boys can offer you.”

Sun felt a shiver of annoyance, swallowed and said, “’Keep’, ‘deserve’; you make it sound as if I’m incapable of decision-making.”

“I meant no disrespect,” Nguyen replied smoothly. “I’m simply saying your talents could be applied to better use than whatever Park can offer.”

“And where should I apply them, then, Nguyen?” Sun responded with honey-toned irritation.

Nguyen leaned back in his chair and spread his hands. “Why, with me of course.”

****

She rocked me like the earth and rolled me like a stone!

Kim screwed up his face and rubbed his brow. “Park! Will you shut up!”

He bent back over the sedated skunkbear, an unsteady scalpel in hand. “I’m trying to work.”

There was a crash behind him and Kim turned his head quickly. Park stumbled into the room, holding a bottle by the neck. “Boulderdash, Kim; what on Earth do you think you’re doing?”

“I’m trying to save our lives, idiot.”

Park sidled up and wrapped an arm around him. Kim gagged. “Your breath smells like a distillery.”

Park only looked intently at Kim’s hesitating hands. “You’re holding the scalpel wrong.”

Kim unconsciously adjusted his grip before realising what he was doing; taking surgical advice from a drunk.

“Will you go away, please?” he hissed.

“Sure, buddy,” Park said, giving Kim’s shoulder a squeeze and pulling away.

Kim turned back to the ‘bear’s shaved abdomen, the one he planned to cut open. He swallowed down his nausea. This was not just to save their lives, he told himself. This was for science.

“Incidentally,” Park bellowed, making Kim jump, “how much sedative did you give the ‘bear?”

Kim huffed. “I gave it four ampoules, thank you very much.”

Park choked audibly. “Four? It needs at least eight!”

Kim screwed his face up in agitation. “Well, I can’t give it eight, can I, because of the foetus!”

Kim pressed the scalpel into the ‘bear when a sudden weight tackled him.

“What are you doing, you imbecile?” Kim yelled.

Imbecile?!” Park shouted. “Stones and scree, Kim, why are you cutting up one of the mothers?!”

A very poor and drunk attempt at biffo ensued as both men tried to hold the scalpel.

“Because,” Kim said attempting to push Park’s head away much the same way a panthercat would push away from an embrace, “in case you’ve forgotten, the King’s birth is in six weeks. And I do not. Want. To die!”

Kim abandoned his attempted push and sucker-jabbed Park in the ribs. His friend doubled over and the ‘fight’ was won.

“Ha!” Kim triumphantly held the scalpel above his head.

Park was still bent over, his hands on his knees. Every now and then he would retch.

“Park?” Kim called. “Park, I didn’t hurt you, did I?” The idea of actually physically harming someone was even beyond Kim’s expectations.
 
Park mumbled something between dry-heaves. Kim rolled his eyes a little and stepped closer. “You say something, Park?”

“I SAID I DON’T WANT TO DIE EITHER!”

Park pulled his head up and wiped his eyes. But the tears fell again and he gave a rueful laugh. “I killed us, Kim. I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’ll take the blame and you won’t have to worry about a single thing.”

“Oh, Park,” Kim said, coming over and helping his friend up, “the only thing more pathetic than a drunk is a sad one.”

“You’re too good to me, Kim. I treat you so terribly and you take it in your stride.”

“I know all this already. And you honestly think I’m going to let you take all the credit for this catastrophe? Please, what are friends for?”

“Oh, Kim!” Park wailed. He then attempted to kiss his friend, which didn’t end well.

“Wait, shut up!” Kim said, pushing Park away. “Listen!”

Park blinked and cocked his head. “I don’t hear anything…. Wait.”

He pointed his nose to the air and sniffed. “Do you smell that?”

“Smells like…refuse,” Kim said turning to Park.

“And road kill,” Park finished, turning to Kim.

“The Scullery Twins.”

****

Sun let out a tinkling laugh, the chimes shattering the composure of Nguyen’s face.

“Did I say something funny?”

“Just a little,” Sun giggled.

Nguyen’s finger circled the rim of his glass. “Really? I love to know what it was.”

There was, as always in these situations, two ways the conversation could go.

“Nguyen, I do like you.”

“Yes?”

“And you’re truly a wonderful cook.”

“Culinary Head.”

“Sorry?”

“I’m not a cook, Sun. Cooks are grandmothers in kitchens and the little girls tied to their apron strings.”

A ghost of a wind blew through the room. Sun exhaled slowly and it was as if the temperature dropped.

“I’m a man,” Nguyen explained, “and I cook for the Emperor of Ba Sing Se. I’m the Culinary Head.”

And suddenly it became very clear to Sun exactly how the conversation would pan out.

****

Kim grabbed Park’s arm and yanked to the floor before the man could storm off into the next room.

“Where are you going?” He whispered fiercely.

“To get rid of the Twins,” Park said with all the confidence of a drunk.

“Are you suicidal?” Kim exclaimed.

There was a crash in the room beyond.

“D’you hear them?” Park clamoured.  “They’re breaking our things!”

“Better than breaking our bones!”
 
The sound of a draw slammed heavily and it was followed by angry yells. 

“Ah, scree! I don’t even know what half this stuff means.”

“Let’s see…. Nah, that’s Kim’s scrawl. Probably more cosmic boulderdash.  Chuck it.”

Almost before he knew it, Kim stood up and charged for the door. He was yanked backwards and a hand pressed against his mouth.

“Are you suicidal?!” Park whispered.

“Found somethin’!” one of the Twins cried.  “What do suppose that is?”

“Is that…an animal?”

****

“Did you know,” Sun began slowly, “that before I moved to the Earth Kingdom I lived in the Northern Water Tribe?”

Nguyen gave a confused smile and shrugged.

“Yes, of course you know,” Sun answered for him. “Anyway, after returning to my country of birth I quickly discovered that there’s not a lot separating the two countries.”

She smiled at Nguyen, showing teeth. “That is, when it comes to women of exception.

“You see,” she leaned back in her chair now, “the men are all the same. You’re all so…insecure. “

Nguyen had long since lost his smile. Sun nodded her head in satisfaction. “Oh, you can be charming, sure. But it’s been my experience that men can never quite get rid of their condescension.”

She sat up straight now, serious as the Plague. “So why don’t you drop this pretence, Culinary Head Nguyen, and skip to the end.”

Nguyen’s face was bland as he eventually shrugged. “The problem with those tribal savages is that they give their women far too much leniency. “

“Yes, that must be it,” Sun sneered.

“You see that,” Nguyen pointed at her, “that lip? I could have your tongue cut out for that. ‘Women of excellence’? ‘insecurities’?” He laughed. “Don’t be absurd. You’re not half the Animalist I am.”

Sun pulled an amused grin. “And how do you figure that?”

“Oh, you have technical skill; I’m not denying that, Sun. But I am adored.” His eyes shone brightly with inflated ego. “People clamour for my creations. I have the Emperor in the cup of my rice bowl.”

Sun snorted. “And you think I care?”

“Of course you do. People fearyou, Sun,” Nguyen explained. “You can have all the skill in the world, but without an audience bask in it what’s the point? I can offer you greatness, Sun. Power and Glory. I can make people love you.”

****

Kim exchanged worried looks with Park. “They have our notes.”

“We’ve got to get it back, Kim.” Fear seemed to have sobered Park up nicely. “Those two morons won’t know what they’re reading but Nguyen could destroy us if he read that.”

“What do you suggest?” Kim’s whisper was more like a squeal. “Are for it back nicely?”

Park slapped him across the face. “This is no time for hysterics!”

“You’re the leader!” Kim accused as he rubbed his cheek. “So lead!”

Park met Kim’s eyes and nodded gravely. “So I am.”

Kim gave an exasperated sigh. “Got a plan?”

His friend glanced around the lab, raised his brow and smiled. “I believe I do.”

“What do you need?”

Park turned back to him. “You remember where you put Sun’s heart? From this morning?”

Kim grimaced. “Yes. Why?”

Park stood and began to scoot through the lab. “Grab it and take it into the study with you.”

“The study?” Kim squawked. “Why am I going in there?”

Park turned his head back quickly, his eyes bright with excitement. “Distract them!”

****

“And the catch?”  Sun asked.

Nguyen gave a slick grin, as if the hook was in her mouth. “Tell me everything you and Park were working on together.”

“Why?”

“So I can beat him, of course,” Nguyen answered. “So I can destroy him and that idiot friend of his.”

Sun frowned. “Rivalry? Is that all this is?”

“It’s more than simple rivalry, Sun,” Nguyen said with disbelief. “Though, I wouldn’t expect a woman to understand.”

That was it. Sun stood wearily and rubbed her brow. “I’ve had enough of this. Thank you for the meal but I’ll be going now.”

Nguyen stood suddenly in surprise. “My offer, Sun? Will you take it?”

She stared at him incredulously. “You must be joking. No.”

She left him as a small figure in a large banquet hall, her dessert face half-eaten.

****


Kim trembled and involuntarily squeezed the heart in his hand. Muscle gave way a little beneath his grip and blood ran rivulets along his fist. He started, almost dropped the organ, juggled it a little, before getting it fist again. He swallowed, gave his head a shake and burst dramatically through the door.

The Scullery Twins turned surprised faces toward him.

“That,” Kim said, pointing with his free hand to the papers the Twins held between them, “is mine. Hand it over, you sad sacks of scat, or you’ll regret it.”

There was a look of absolute dumbfound shock on the Twins’ faces.

“Are you deaf as well as ugly?” Kim asked shrilly. “Hand. Over. The notes.”

“Do you just hear what I just heard, brother?” The one on the right inquired.

“I think I did, brother,” the one on the left answered. “Sifu Smartypants just insulted us.”

“Are you sure that’s wise, Sifu?” Twin One asked. “There’s no girly here to save you this time.”

“I’m…” Kim swallowed again, his breath catching in his throat. “I’m not afraid of you.”

A bald lie, if ever there was one.

“Then your head’s not on straight,” Twin Two said. “Let’s see if we can’t fix that for you.”

They came for him with slow menace. Kim backed away but there was nowhere to run. The lab door – a dead end – bumped into him.

“Oh, boulderdash,” Kim swore.

The Twins reached for him. Kim acted on some kind of primal instinct, closed his eyes and threw his arms out. There was a loud splat!

Kim opened his eyes.

One of the Twins had blood splashed across his face; he blinked stupidly. The other picked the heart off the ground.

“What the scree is that?”

The door opened behind Kim and he was yanked backwards. Park put a hand over his friend’s mouth and pointed to the lab interior. Kim’s eyes almost popped out of his head.

“What the scree is that?!” The Twins repeated.

A two hundred kilo, almost seven foot long animal shook her sleepy head. She raised her snout to the air and sniffed. It’s highly sensitive nose picked up on the scent of refuse and road kill. The animal took in the sight of the Twins spattered with blood and the fresh meat in their hands. It growled and the sound reverberated to the core of Kim.

“It’s a ‘bear, you twats!” Park declared.

The animal roared; a sound to tear a man’s courage to pieces. Almost in synchronisation the Twins screamed and fled. The Skunkbear charged after them.

Kim and Park gripped each other in terror and stared after the retreating party in numb silence.

Suddenly Park grabbed Kim’s head and kissed him on the brow, laughing. “I have never been so thankful for your mistakes in all my life! Boulderdash, if you hadn’t under-sedated that skunkbear…”

“Yes, alright! Get off!” Kim pushed him away and wiped his forehead.  But he found himself laughing too. Dear Spirits, it sounded like hysteria but he could care.

There was a quiet knock at the door.

Sharing a worried look, Kim and Park entered the study again. For the second time that night Kim’s eyes almost fell out of his head.

Sun?” Park squeaked.

“Did I just see a Skunkbear chasing Truong and Luong down the palace corridors?”

Park gave an uncertain laugh. “Are you here for something, Sun?”

“I was coming to get my things.” She entered the study and paused, examining the rifled tables and flung out drawers.

“You were right, Park,” she said finally. “It was about you and not me.”

“I’m sorry, Sun,” Park replied.

Sun gave an unconcerned shrug. “I’ll be out in a minute.”

“You deserve better!” Park said quickly.

Sun looked at him and quirked an eyebrow. “Let me guess: power and glory?”

“Respect,” Park said. He bowed his head in shame. “I acted like a louse.  You’re…”

He went to his knees. Kim gaped at him before awkwardly joining him on the floor.

“You’re the greatest scientist I’ve ever met,” Park said quietly. “Kim and I literally can’t live without you. Please, don’t go.”

Sun looked at them both sternly for a minute. “Oh, get off the floor, you imbeciles.”

“You’ll help?” The hope shone bright in Park’s face.

Sun sighed dramatically. “Yes. I’ll help.”

Park gave a cry of triumph and ran over to embrace her. Sun shot out her arm. “Don’t touch me.”

Kim’s friend backed away carefully. Kim looked over at her and frowned. “Not to push my luck, Sun, but why?”

Sun regarded them both. “Because unlike a certain someone, you and Park may not be the hopeless causes you make out to be.”

She strode out of the room, no more said. Park looked over at Kim, grinning. Kim tried to hold the smile off his face and failed. They hugged each other like the mad fools that they were.

****

“So,” Nguyen mused as he read the notes. “This is what they’re working on?”

“As far as we can tell, boss,” Luong said. He sported a bloody gash across his eye.

“They were real interested in getting this stuff off of us,” Truong, who looked like he'd lost a fight with a brick wall, continued.

Nguyen examined the diagram on the page before him; an animal of some sort. He smiled.

“Interesting.”
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Loopy
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« Reply #15 on: Mar 05, 2015 06:47 pm »

I have to say, that was one of the most intriguing opening lines I've ever read. Cheesy Nice payoff, too, with the funky foods building up to Sun eating her own likeness. Even without any weird surgeries, that scene could represent this whole story.

And wow, Nguyen thinks the NWT is too lenient with its sexism? Yeah, he's definitely a hopeless case. I like the reason Sun gave for forgiving Sun and Park, as she's not excusing what Park said to her or what he thinks of her, but while their apology comes from a desire for her help, they at least lack the pride that would prevent them from acknowledging that need for help, and they really do respect her abilities.

And I think I'm going to use that method to fend off burglars: keep some bloody meat around, and an angry bear, and then combine the two on top of the burglar. Cheesy Too bad the Scullery Twins got away more or less intact. Some maimings would have worked well with the tone of this story. Grin
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« Reply #16 on: Mar 23, 2015 11:39 am »

Strangely enough, the day before I thought to read this, I was re-watching the end of season two when Savitri (my wife and ancienne ASN mod) walks in and laughs, "Oh yeh, that bear is like the only animal in the show that isn't a cross of anything. I remember that!" We chatted a bit and wondered how the Earth King ever got his hands on just... a bear.

So, apparently the universe heard this burning question and sent a message back through time to you circa late 2013, so you could furnish the answer to Sav and I mere hours after the question was entertained here in 2015! Bravo! Man, I wish the rest of life were like that. Or, well, maybe I should say rather "I hope we will get to the answer", since this is still in progress... Smiley

I like Sun and she reminds me (probably inappropriately) of Aeryn Sun from Farscape. Her handling of Nguyen is well done, as his attempt to induce her to betray our two academic buddies. Her background of getting kicked out of the NWT is interesting to me. She's presented as cold, totally immune to squeamishness (not revulsion, which is how I would characterize the Joo Di incident), brilliant and perhaps amoral. What did she do up there? Vivisection? Mengele type experimentation?

Wondering about those very questions, I am reminded of an old episode of Doctor Who (back when they had stories that made sense, like in the 1970s...) called "Planet of Evil", specifically a scene where Tom Baker (Doctor #4) confronts the out of control scientist, Professor Sorensen, who is rapidly degenerating into a monster as a result of one of his experiments. The only solution is for Sorensen to take his own life to prevent him from hurting anyone else, and the Doctor says something like, "You and I are scientists, Professor. We buy our privilege to experiment at the cost of total responsibility." I can't help but think of that truth here in this story and I am disquieted by the possibilities.

Park and Kim are effective comic relief. As Loopy and others mentioned, the dialog (which in general you do very well) between Vui and Kim is a highlight. "Can't bend can you?" Ha! Vui may be a lifestock seller, but she sized up the pompous little man very quickly. That said, it's clear Park and Kim actually have genuine affection buried under the surface rivalry and petty place seeking. That's good, as it provides a reason for us to care about them.

The last bit is, I think, important. I can't remember ever commenting on a fic that is populated almost exclusively by OCs. This is probably a reflection of my own lack of exposure, but it's probably not a bad bet that OC centric fics attract fewer readers than, say, your average romance/portmanteau crapfest story. So, congratulations here, you're pulling off what I believe is a tough feat.

One more thought. The premise (which I love, in case you couldn't tell from my intro above) is pretty lighthearted, but the characters and plot have the potential to get dark. From my perch that's good, I like dark, but I wonder what your intentions were at the beginning and whether they have evolved since the inception of the story.
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SpiritWatcher
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« Reply #17 on: Mar 24, 2015 07:47 pm »

I like this djinn, I like it a lot!

Just the premise is nice, we need to make a bear! Not just any bear, but an actual bear! Being the scientist type myself I simply cannot get over this exchange-

Quote
“I’m a scientist!” Kim fumed.

“Ya don’t say?” Vui’s eyes brightened. “I know a scientist myself. Can you make fireworks? Lightning from stone? Turn water to that fogsmoke?”

Kim frowned. “That’s alchemy, my compatriot’s work. Nothing but showmanship and nonsense.”

“Oh. So what do you do, then?”

“I don’t do; I study physical science.”

Vui’s blank stare ruffled Kim’s already stirred up temper.

“What’s that?” she asked.

“Physical sciences,” Kim repeated, this time with slower enunciation. “You know? How things move and the laws that apply to them.”

Vui’s brow creased. “Like bending?”

“No.” Kim’s voice was positively flat-line. “Not like bending.”

“Can’t bend, can you?” Vui’s eyes twinkled mischievously.

“I study the very essence of the cosmos!” Kim steamed.

She slapped him on the back again and almost threw him on the ground. “Don’t worry, yeah? We all compensate somehow.”

Its just soooo good...and I can relate to it quite a bit XD.

Furthermore, I find Sun very entertaining to read, and has not yet disappointed at all. She reminds of a character from my own writing (which is not here on ASN or anywhere for that matter), and while very different in her own ways, strikingly similar in others. Not much to complain about here honestly, keep up the good work and I will keep reading!
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Colonel_Brian
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« Reply #18 on: Mar 24, 2015 09:27 pm »

My thoughts are the same as everyone elses.

Who knew that the Avatarverse could accomodate the science-fiction genre so well? Anyway, I am very fond of your story's fast paced delivery. The lack of "he said" and so on really contribute to the story's flow. I also quite like Sun's character despite how creepy and unethical she can be. I also like Kim and Park who have a really good dynamic going. The scene where Park is drunk and singing bawdy songs and Kim is trying to make an incision on a skunkbear was a lot of fun. As Acastus said, they are effective comic relief.

Kim's trip to the lower-ring was well writen. He is quite hilarious in that he is this self-imporant guy thrown into situation's beneath his dignity. That conflict shows me that you grasp comedy very well.

I also look forward to what Nguyen if planning. He is such a detestable sitcom archnemesis.

And I loved, loved that part with the Koala sheep's eyes. That was hilarious.

Keep up the good work.
« Last Edit: Mar 25, 2015 12:30 pm by Colonel_Brian » Logged
djinn
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« Reply #19 on: Oct 07, 2015 02:09 am »

You guys are awesome. Thanks for waiting.

Now bring a bucket.


Chapter 5

Sun paced the borders of the ransacked study.  There was little left intact; chairs, tables, and the scroll cabinets were thrown about, some of it for no seemingly good reason. Littering all the mess were hundreds of documents and scrolls. The Twins had erupted in the room, pulling out every drawer, every shelf, every sturdy box and spilling the collected knowledge like so much chickenpig slop.

“My thesis!” Kim cried and knelt to cradle papers to his chest. “Twelve years of research-! Those sand-footed, cactus-chewing…”

There was a clatter of noise as Park pulled something from under a pile of chairs. “My model volcano…”

“Enough moping, gentlemen,” Sun said and rapt her knuckles on one of the broken desks. They looked up at her with puppycat eyes. “Roll up your sleeves, there’s work to be done.”

“But our theory work,” Park said, “they took all of it.”

“The theory work’s done, Park,” Sun replied. Her smile was disturbingly enthusiastic. “It’s time for the practical.”

She glanced at Kim. “Bring a bucket.”

****

They had lined up on the laboratory tables the remaining fertilised ‘bears. There were three of them, at various stages of gestation; the earliest, three months, the latest six and nearly due. They stood before the first ‘bear, imposing despite being sedated. Park and Kim had dressed as Sun had instructed; they wore large, starched aprons and thin leather gloves that reached up to the elbow. They also wore starched clothes their mouth and nose, a newly added precaution.

“For sterility, you see,” Sun had explained. Park and Kim had just stared at one another, neither of them knowing what in the world that word meant.

Kim held a bucket filled with water; his friend’s role in this was unclear in this but at least he had a prop. Park had no idea what he was supposed to be doing. Observing?

“Are we ready?” Sun asked.

“For what?” Park asked.

“No,” Kim said at the same time.

“I’m going to be manipulating the foetuses within the womb, moulding their forms to match the markers we have identified as being common ‘bear’ traits. Combining these forms into one should skip the gestation period normally needed. If this works, I’ll have made a ‘bear’.” Sun turned to the others. “Questions?”

“I have no idea what you just said.”

Her brows knotted in annoyance. “I’m going to mush baby ‘bears together like putty until I make his Majesty’s birthday gift. Understood?”

Park blinked before giving a nod.

“I’m going to be sick,” Kim said.

Sun raised her hands over the ‘bear’s abdomen. “Let’s begin.”

She pulled water from Kim’s bucket, sheathing her hands in it.

“I’m going to start by delving the womb.” She closed her eyes and her hands began to travel to and fro along the ‘bear’s abdomen.

“There, I see it,” she said after a moment. “Park…if only you could experience this; to have a living thing pulsing beneath your fingers, awaiting your command.”

“That sounds a little disturbing,” he commented.

Her response was to smile, one that sent a chill through Park. And then Sun began in earnest and the fear evaporated for moment.

Her hands danced above the ‘bear, in graceful, purposeful gestures. Several images came to mind as Park watched; threading the eye of a needle, stirring a great alchemical pot, or – and this was perhaps the most striking – weaving an intricate tapestry, the design of which was beyond his mind to comprehend.

Park was struck with a sense of awe. Sun was like a spirit creature, playing mortals for puppets. For a second he understood her completely. This, what she was doing, was power. This was control. This demanded respect. This was Sun unlocked, uncaged and utterly in her element. She was beautiful.

And then it was gone.

The ‘bear groaned and twitched, as if in the grip of a nightmare. Sun continued in her bending trance, pulling now harder and harder. The abdominal muscles were sent into spasms, writhing like there were worms under the skin. The ‘bear moaned and the sound made something switch over in Park’s brain. He turned to Kim and saw his friend’s face was a mask of horror. He looked at Sun and saw a light in her eyes. The look made him take an unconscious step backwards. The awe in him had changed, grown larger and uncontrolled. Watching Sun work sent up a shiver up his spine.

Beautiful? But also terrifying.

“Park, prepare yourself!”  Sun called. “Stand at the rear!”

Park stepped forward again, breathing heavily through his mouth. He shook all over but put himself where Sun had indicated, at the bottom of the ‘bear. “What am I supposed to be doing, Sun?”

She grinned at him. “You’ll catch.”

Before Park even had time to contemplate that, Sun gave a might thrust with her hands and something shot out of the ‘bear. It catapulted into Park’s stomach, knocking the wind out of him. His hands curled by reflex around the thing he carried. Instantly he was thankful for the gloves. The thing he held was small, warm and juicy. Some of that juice had splattered across the cloth covering his face. The smell was nauseatingly cloying and travelled up his nose and into his mouth. He gagged and went to look down at the thing in his hands.

Sun quickly grabbed his jaw and forced his head up.

“Don’t,” she said. “I need you with a clear head for this.”

Park swallowed down his nausea and nodded. On second thought, maybe looking at the monster in his hands was not such a good idea.

“Quickly now,” Sun instructed. “To the next one.”

They stepped over to the second ‘bear. Park took a shaky breath. At least now he had an idea what to expect.

He, in fact, did not.

Sun pulled water from the bucket and wrapped up the creature in Park’s hands. Park had a sudden prophetic image flash into his mind. Kim must have had the same for he heard him scream.

Sun pushed the monster into the ‘bear.

What followed next was a blank to Park. His eyes saw but his mind did not register. He followed instructions, embryotic fluid occasionally exploding all over him. There were horrific screams, human or not he had no idea. Guttural cries pierced the air along with the occasional whimper. And with every nightmare spewing out in front of him Park’s mind retreated further and further.

Until, finally, he found himself standing before the third ‘bear, with a beast in his arms. He did not recall catching it but here it was all the same. Sun’s honey-toned voice called him out of the darkness.

“Behold, gentlemen,” she said with a breathy whisper.

Park slowly looked down at the wet thing in his arms. It had soft, brown fur, button ears, a long snout topped with a black nose. Its eyes were a glassy black. It was…adorable.

And it was clearly dead.

“The fruits of our labour,” Sun rasped wearily. “The King’s Bear!”

No one said anything, letting the momentous event sink in.

There was a heavy thud as Kim collapsed in a dead faint. Park stared at him for a second, before handing the animal to Sun and joining his friend on the floor.

****

It still made Park queasy to look at the cub. But since coming to he had not been able to take his eyes off of it. This animal, this bear, had caused him and Kim such innumerable grief over the past three months. And here it finally was, the end product of their blood, sweat and tears.

Except, of course, that it was dead.

Stillborn, Sun had called it. She had frozen the animal in the same bucket that Kim had carried earlier.

“I can keep it like that at the most for two days,” Sun explained, coming over to look at it with him. “No longer. After that permanent damage will occur to the animal.”

“I guess you would know from experience,” Park murmured, eyes still on the cub.

He jumped as Sun put a hand on his shoulder. Her eyes were unreadable. “Park, you and Kim have witnessed something few can stand. If you wish to talk about it…”

“No, thank you,” he replied a little too quickly. In a more measured tone he said, “I guess Kim and I just aren’t made from the same stuff as you.”

“No,” she said moving away from him to check on Kim; his friend was awake but still in a bit of a stupor.

“But you are made of something,” she finished.

Park blinked in surprise at the compliment. He actually flushed with pride.

“Anyway,” she said, “our work is not finished. We need a way to bring the bear to life.”

Park started. “You mean, you don’t know how?”

She raised an eyebrow at him.

“I just figured,” Park stumbled, “that you would have some kind of plan for this.”

She shrugged. “Normally the animals I work on are still alive. And I’ve never brought anything back from the dead.” She frowned. “I had an idea this would happen. I hypothesise that we’ll need some kind of energy source. A spark.”

“Energy?” Park repeated. “How much energy are we talking about?”

Sun pursed her lips. “A lightning bolt?”

“What?!” Park barked. “That kind of energy is absurd! We could never harness that kind of power, let alone generate-!”

“Generate?”

Park and Sun turned to Kim. His face was pale and sweaty. But his eyes held a bright gleam.

“I…” he swallowed. “I think I can help with that.”
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Colonel_Brian
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« Reply #20 on: Oct 07, 2015 10:21 am »

I've got to hand it to you djinn, this was a pretty disturbing chapter. You weren't kidding when you said it was leaning a little too close to the horror genre.

I'm glad that we finally got to see this update. As always your writing is amazing. I am especially fond of your style. The way you put your sentences together is very professional, and I can't help but express total admiration for them.

I am enjoying the way the three characters have come to grow closer together, even if Park and Kim are still freaked out by Sun.

In addition to all this, I enjoyed the nods to Frankenstein. I have mentioned this before, but you have shown that the Avatar world can incorporate a variety of genres pretty well. You did something that I have not seen anyone else attempt to do, and you pulled it off.

I can't wait to see what happens next.  
« Last Edit: Oct 07, 2015 10:23 am by Colonel_Brian » Logged
Acastus
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« Reply #21 on: Oct 07, 2015 10:56 am »

Synopsis: How many men does it take to build a Bear?

Answer: None! It takes a woman!

<Da dum dum ppst!>

Sorry, couldn't resist.

Sun continues to be awesome. My expectations here were fulfilled. She definitely qualifies as a mad scientist. Of course, the creation is just the beginning. What will the consequences of this act be? How will she deal with them? Only through those struggles can we hope to take her true measure.

I'm glad Kim will get a chance to shine. As much as I enjoy Sun, I'd have found it unsatisfying if Park and Kim ended up as essentially bit players. I like stories where each of the main characters have key roles in advancing the plot, otherwise why develop them?

Now, how are they going to get that 1.21 gigawatts of juice?? Can't wait to find out... I'll set my alarm clock for April Smiley
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djinn
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« Reply #22 on: Aug 23, 2016 12:46 am »

I'm sorry this died. After the last post I became suicidally depressed. I'm feeling relatively better now and I want to start again.
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Acastus
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« Reply #23 on: Aug 23, 2016 08:30 am »

Glad you're feeling better Smiley I guess I was optimistic hoping for April, but hey, good things come to those who wait!
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Loopy
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« Reply #24 on: Aug 23, 2016 05:58 pm »

Yeah, sorry to hear you had a tough time, but it's great that you're back.
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