ysabetwordsmith: Damask smiling over their shoulder (polychrome)
[personal profile] ysabetwordsmith
Based on an audience poll, this is the free epic for the June 2, 2015 Poetry Fishbowl meeting its $200 goal. It is spillover from the May 5, 2015 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired by a prompt from [personal profile] siliconshaman. It also fills the "My Guardian Angel" square in my 7-30-14 card for the [community profile] genprompt_bingo fest. This poem belongs to the Polychrome Heroics series, and it's a direct sequel to "Hercules and the Lions."


"Under Any Other Scenario"


Chikondi Kanga followed Hercules
as the young elephant ambled
through tall golden grass.

The rest of the herd milled around,
his mother keeping Hercules close to her,
the others touching trunks now and then
to reassure themselves of each other's presence.

The British photographer kept a respectable distance
as he took pictures of the elephant family.
Ellis Lambert had made his reputation
photographing African wildlife, but recently
he had expanded to animals with superpowers.

Atop the hill, Chikondi could see the silhouette of
the Jumbe-class elephant, a super-gizmotronic construct
designed to protect and transport rangers on guard.
Chinzombo Camp had recently gotten the team
to help protect Hercules and his family.

Poachers posed a constant threat
to wildlife across Africa, but especially
to animals with any kind of superpowers.
The little elephant might be Invulnerable,
but the rest of his herdmates weren't.

Maybe Ellis' pictures would help
people learn to see the elephants as
something more than ivory on the hoof.

Chikondi wanted Hercules to enjoy
a long and happy childhood full of painting
and mudfights and lazy walks at sunset.
He just hoped that he would be there
to see it; he knew that siding with
the elephants made him a target.

When the gunfire rang out, though,
it was Ellis who dropped to the ground
with a bullet through his chest near the shoulder.

The poachers used weapons on people that
rangers were reluctant to turn on wildlife.

"Go, run!" Chikondi shouted to Hercules.
"Hide and seek, just like we practiced!"

They had been playing the game for weeks,
in case something like this happened.
Now the matriarch whirled to chivvy her herd
toward a dark line of trees in the distance.
The little forest clustered around a low area
dotted with waterholes; if they could reach cover,
the elephants might lose the poachers.

Chikondi didn't care that Hercules
was Invulnerable; he was still just a baby.

The poachers appeared in --
a jeep, Chikondi thought it must be --
almost impossible to see through its camo field,
and silent as the heat waves it resembled.

The Jumbe barreled down the hill
in hot pursuit of the poachers, its long legs
eating up the distance even though
it moved with ponderous strides.

As it drew level with the fallen photographer,
Hatalimi Cawuke dropped from the construct
to land beside him, taking up a guard stance.

Chikondi hurried to them. He could do
nothing more for the elephants, but
here he might be able to help.

"I will cover you both. Tend the man,"
Hatalimi said without looking at Chikondi.
His attention was all for the poachers.

The guard was tough enough that
he could probably survive a gunshot,
but it was still brave of him to make
a target of himself for their sake.

"I have some first aid training as a tour guide,"
Chikondi said as he frowned over the bloody wound,
"but only enough to buy us some time. Ellis needs
real medical attention, as soon as possible."
The man was unconscious, perhaps from
the pain, perhaps some other cause.

"I'll call in the angels," Hatalimi promised.

The Guardian Angels were medics
who soared over the African landscape
riding aircraft designed to resemble
giant vultures, fast and agile in the sky.

Chinzombo Camp had one, but
there was no telling where she had
gone to patrol today; she could be
miles away from their location.

"Meanwhile, I'll do what I can," Chikondi said.

"ETA twenty minutes," Hatalimi said,
and that wasn't good, but it could
have been a great deal worse.

The bullet had gone through Ellis' shoulder,
in the notch under the collarbone, and
probably shattered his shoulderblade
on the way out. He was breathing pink,
not coughing up a lot of blood, but
the bullet had probably nicked a lung.

Chikondi had to stop every few minutes
to listen to Ellis' chest and make sure
that it wasn't filling with fluid. He got
the wounds plugged with gauze, and
there wasn't much more he could do
out here in the middle of nowhere.

Hatalimi stood over them, crossbow
ready to defend them if necessary.
He had a beam rifle, too, that could
deliver a punishing force ... if it fired at all.
The thing was chancy, which is why
Hatalimi preferred his crossbow.

From time to time, Chikondi could hear
the distant pop of gunfire and the roar
of the Jumbe's sonic blast.

Presently the other rangers returned,
a quartet of poachers bound and
slung along the sides of the construct
like so many captured antelope.

One of the poachers somehow managed
to draw a knife and saw at the rope.

Shumpa Valoyi kicked him in the head,
her powerful thigh muscles rippling.

The man dropped his knife and
hung limp in the heavy ropes.

"We have them all, and their vehicle
crashed into a tree near a waterhole.
The elephants are unharmed, just agitated,"
Haazita called down to his twin brother.
"How fares the photographer?"

"Still alive, but badly wounded," said Hatalimi.
"The tour guide is capable at first aid, and
I have already called for medevac."

"Scanning now," said Shumpa.
"Ah, there she is!" One black arm
stretched against the blue sky, pointing.

Chikondi could just make out a dark speck
that he would have missed but for Shumpa
finding it with her scanner and showing everyone
else where to look for the incoming aircraft.

It grew rapidly, though, and soon
the Malaika-class vulture winged to a landing
beside the injured photographer and his guards.

Lusungu Henhla stepped down and
swung the emergency kit off her back.
The white armband with its red cross
showed boldly against her black skin.

"What can you tell me?" she asked
as she knelt to check on Ellis.

"Single gunshot wound through the left shoulder,"
Chikondi said, and went on to describe what
had happened and what he had done for Ellis.

"You did well," the medic said to him, then
looked up at Hatalimi. "Help me to lift
the casualty into the support cradle."

Together they fastened Ellis into the webbing,
and the stasis field hummed to life. That would
keep him safe until Lusungu could get him to
a real hospital where they could repair the damage.

The Malaika took off, soon dwindling to a speck again.

Chikondi stood and dusted himself off, glaring
at the poachers who had caused so much misery.
The four men still hung down the sides of the Jumbe.

Under any other scenario, crossing national borders
to make trouble with guns and espionage equipment
would be considered an act of war. In Africa,
poaching was just business as usual.

These poachers would probably wind up
in Zambia's new diamond mine, if
convicted for what they had done.
Chikondi couldn't bring himself
to regret it, even though conditions in
any African mine tended toward the horrible.

"Thank you for saving us all,"
Chikondi said to the rangers.

Hatalimi clapped him on the back.
"You are welcome, but do not forget
that you helped to save the photographer,"
he said. "This is a good thing, for Ellis' work
may draw more attention to our situation,
and thus make it easier to get funding."

Chikondi nodded. "Yes, that would help
to protect the park better." If they could get more
super-gizmotronic constructs -- a rhinoceros,
a leopard, perhaps even a pride of lions
to take the fight to the poachers -- then
the park staff and wildlife would all be safer.

Carefully he gathered up Ellis' fallen camera
and found that the equipment was still intact.
Fiddling with the controls, he discovered that
Ellis had managed to snap several photos
of the fleeing elephants, the poachers,
and the pursuing rangers before
he finally passed out.

Leave it to a photographer
to keep shooting the action instead
of applying first aid to a gunshot wound.

* * *

Notes:

Hercules -- He is an African elephant about one year old as of spring 2014. After surviving a lion attack, he became friends with a local tour guide, Chikondi Kanga, who named him after a legendary Greek hero. Hercules refers to Chikondi as "Auntie" because only female elephants raise the calves. Their friendship led to an exploration of art. Hercules has a strong sense of African culture and takes pride in his homeland. When offered a choice of different colors for painting, he consisently chooses the deep bold tones popular with many neighboring humans -- crimson, hunter green, gold, lapis blue, violet, etc.
Origin: In spring of 2014, he was attacked by a pride of fourteen lionesses, and his superpowers manifested to save him. The lionesses were very confused.
Uniform: None. He goes nude.
Qualities: Good (+2) African Culture, Good (+2) Artist, Good (+2) Dexterity, Good (+2) Friends with Chikondi Kanga
Poor (-2) Still New at This Whole Being Alive Thing
Powers: Good (+2) Super-Strength, Good (+2) Telepathy, Average (0) Invulnerability, Average (0) Telekinesis
Motivation: To learn and to grow.

Chikondi Kanga -- He has rich brown skin, brown eyes, and short nappy black hair. He speaks Bemba, English, French, German, Portuguese, and Tonga.
He first became an amateur guide as a member of the wildlife conservation club at school, and he got a degree in Environmental Studies. He can barely get by in urban areas, and much prefers the wilderness. Currently Chikondi works as a tour guide at the Chinzombo Camp of the South Luangwa National Park in Zambia. There he made friends with a young elephant, Hercules, who has superpowers.
Qualities: Expert (+4) Environmental Scientist, Expert (+4) Tour Guide, Good (+2) Artist, Good (+2) Endurance, Good (+2) Enthusiasm, Good (+2) Friends with Hercules, Good (+2) Languages, Good (+2) Mechanic, Good (+2) Tea Service
Poor (-2) Not a City Boy

Ellis Lambert -- He has fair skin, brown eyes, and short brown hair with scruffy stubble on his face. He is British, but works most of the time in Africa as a wildlife photographer. His steady hands and good grasp of equations make him a talented shooter. Ellis has recently expanded his interest from ordinary animals to superpowered ones. His curiosity sends him poking into everything, but he easily loses awareness of what's going on around him. Plus his sense of ethics puts him at odds with poachers, which has gotten him into trouble more than once.
Qualities: Master (+6) 'Satiable Curiosity, Expert (+4) Concentration, Expert (+4) Steady Hands, Expert (+4) Wildlife Photographer, Good (+2) Activist, Good (+2) Equations, Good (+2) Football / Soccer Fan, Good (+2) Gregarious, Good (+2) Principled
Poor (-2) Situational Awareness

Jumbe-class Super-gizmotronic Elephant -- This construct can carry a crew of two to five rangers. This one has a crew of three rangers, two men and a woman. A Jumbe is heavy and cumbersome; it cannot sneak, or travel over unstable footing such as mud or rubble. It excels at the same kind of territory frequented by live elephants: African savannah and plains. In those areas it makes a formidable vehicle for rangers or soldiers.
Qualities: Master (+6) Cargo Hauling, Expert (+4) Armor, Good (+2) Communications Platform, Good (+2) Fast, Good (+2) Weapons
Poor (-2) Heavy
Powers: Good (+2) Sonic Blast, Good (+2) Super-Strength

Haazita Cawuke -- He has medium brown skin, brown eyes, and short nappy black hair. He is the older of fraternal twins; his brother Hatalimi is the younger. (In the picture, Haazita is standing in the back, slimmer and more graceful.) They are Vahlengwe, the original and still the largest of all Tsonga tribes. The twins work at the Chinzombo Camp of the South Luangwa National Park in Zambia. Haazita relies on speed and foresight to get ahead of the enemy. He leads a trio of rangers from the back of a Jumbe-class super-gizmotronic elephant. His prodigious appetite means he never gets enough to eat.
Qualities: Master (+6) Fast, Expert (+4) Ranger, Good (+2) Foresight, Good (+2) Leader, Good (+2) Loyal
Poor (-2) Underfed

Hatalimi Cawuke -- He has medium brown skin, brown eyes, and short nappy black hair. He is the younger of fraternal twins; his brother Haazita is the older. (In the picture, Hatalimi is standing in the front and his muscles show more.) They are Vahlengwe, the original and still the largest of all Tsonga tribes. The twins work at the Chinzombo Camp of the South Luangwa National Park in Zambia. Hatalimi depends on his toughness to withstand attacks. He rides with his brother and their partner Shumpa Valoyi on the back of a Jumbe-class super-gizmotronic elephant. He carries a force rifle, but prefers his crossbow. Hatalimi is not very good with mechanical or electrical things, and often says, "I'm a ranger, not a gizmologist."
Qualities: Master (+6) Reliable, Expert (+4) Ranger, Expert (+4) Tough, Good (+2) Followship
Poor (-2) Not a Gizmologist

Shumpa Valoyi -- She has dark brown skin, brown eyes, and nappy black hair just long enough to pull back into a bun. She comes from Copi heritage. Shumpa works at the Chinzombo Camp of the South Luangwa National Park in Zambia. Shumpa is fierce and effective in combat. She rides with the Cawuke twins on the back of a Jumbe-class super-gizmotronic elephant. Her harsh personality inclines her to shoot first and ask questions later.
Qualities: Master (+6) Ranger, Expert (+4) Strength, Good (+2) Gizmologist, Good (+2) Assertive, Good (+2) Teamwork
Poor (-2) Harsh

Malaika-class Super-gizmotronic Vulture -- The Guardian Angels are African medics who fly aircraft that resemble giant birds. The Malaika-class super-gizmotronic vulture can carry one medic, one casualty, and basic emergency supplies. They are build for speed and agility rather than strength, so lift and cargo capacities are minor. However, the soaring mode while on call gives them amazing fuel efficiency for a super-gizmo. Levitation makes them more effective than ordinary flight. Without armor, they rely on medical neutrality to keep people from shooting them down. Usually it works, but poachers are notorious for disrespecting that.
Qualities: Master (+6) Fuel Efficiency, Expert (+4) Agility, Expert (+4) Speed, Good (+2) Communications Platform, Good (+2) Emergency Supplies, Good (+2) Sensor Array
Poor (-2) No Armor
Powers: Good (+2) Levitation, Good (+2) Stasis Field

Lusungu Henhla -- She has dark brown skin, brown eyes, and a thick ruff of nappy black hair often held back with a headband. She belongs to the Bila people. Lusungu works at the Chinzombo Camp of the South Luangwa National Park in Zambia. She flies a Malaika-class super-gizmotronic vulture to provide emergency medical care throughout the park. Lusungu is good at talking her way out of trouble. She hates staying in one place for very long, though.
Qualities: Master (+6) Paramedic, Expert (+4) Vision, Good (+2) Calm, Good (+2) Dancer, Good (+2) Endurance, Good (+2) Soothing People
Poor (-2) Restless

* * *

“If under any other scenario, armed units were to cross international borders and violently take out high profile targets, it would be a front-page incident or act of terrorism. Yet this environmental terrorism happens daily in the poaching of high target species in many parts of Africa, and we sit here struggling to justify to the international community that rangers need the same access to training and equipment as our soldiers do.”
-- Damien Mander, Founder of International Anti Poaching Foundation

Mechanical elephants are real, although clunky in local-America; this one is made from recycled parts. Watch it walking.

Poaching poses major problems throughout much of Africa. Zambia has seen falling and rising rates. There are collective and individual ways to fight poaching.

Gunshot wounds can do a lot of damage. The human chest contains vital organs, and even a peripheral injury can be life-threatening. First aid typically requires action to stop heavy bleeding.

Flight paramedics use aircraft to reach isolated patients. L-America favors helicopters for this purpose.

In L-America, diamonds in Zambia are found only in alluvial deposits, not in primary sources. In T-America, someone with Earth Powers found a vein of diamonds suitable for mining.

Cheering!

Date: 2015-06-09 12:27 am (UTC)
dialecticdreamer: My work (Default)
From: [personal profile] dialecticdreamer
The poachers are caught, their gear should be confiscated (and used the benefit the rangers) and the rangers and medics should be hailed as heroes.

Ellis' photos should be EXTREMELY powerful; some of the best-known photos ever taken happened under similar stresses.

(no subject)

Date: 2015-06-08 11:13 pm (UTC)
ext_12246: (Default)
From: [identity profile] thnidu.livejournal.com
I really appreciate this story and I am looking forward to more in this setting and with these characters (hint, hint).

• good graph of equations
-> grasp
> Why equations for a photographer?

(no subject)

Date: 2015-06-09 12:28 am (UTC)
zeeth_kyrah: A glowing white and blue anthropomorphic horse stands before a pink and blue sky. (Default)
From: [personal profile] zeeth_kyrah
Why equations? Try calculating an F-stop sometime...

Yes...

Date: 2015-06-09 02:49 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ysabetwordsmith.livejournal.com
I actually looked up some examples of photographic equations to reference.

(no subject)

Date: 2015-06-09 03:00 pm (UTC)
ext_12246: (Default)
From: [identity profile] thnidu.livejournal.com
Never had to, but agreed!

Thank you!

Date: 2015-06-09 02:38 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ysabetwordsmith.livejournal.com
>>I really appreciate this story and I am looking forward to more in this setting and with these characters (hint, hint). <<

Feel free to prompt for them in any open prompt call.

>> • good graph of equations
-> grasp <<

Fixed.

> Why equations for a photographer?

Things like these:
http://matadornetwork.com/notebook/5-photography-formulas-worth-geeking-over/
https://forums.finalgear.com/photography-tutorials/photography-optics-equations-and-formulae-49320/
http://io9.com/5880329/photographer-finds-the-equations-hiding-in-her-pictures

Most people can learn to shoot decent pictures with intuition, some basic calculations, and a camera that does a lot of the work for them. Being able to do the real math, however, enables you to accomplish more and get shots that other people couldn't. It is one of the things which separates an amateur from an expert.

(no subject)

Date: 2015-06-09 03:08 pm (UTC)
ext_12246: (Default)
From: [identity profile] thnidu.livejournal.com
I especially enjoy the final stanza.

Yay!

Date: 2015-06-09 06:50 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ysabetwordsmith.livejournal.com
I'm happy to hear that.

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ysabetwordsmith: Cartoon of me in Wordsmith persona (Default)
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