"The Ground Is My Ocean"
Ansel was pushing a light fall of snow
off his driveway when a car pulled up
behind him, wheels crunching on ice.
He leaned the snow shovel against
the garage and turned around.
The man who got out of the car
had tawny skin and a triangular face,
his dark hair sprinkled with silver,
and he moved with a fluid grace.
He wore a charcoal suit just
a shade lighter than black,
a white shirt, and a silk tie
striped in blues and grays.
"Good afternoon," he said with
a shallow bow. "I am Fang Liáng.
I am looking for Ansel Nicholson,
also known as Officer Pink."
"You've found him," Ansel said.
He copied the bow, hoping it was
polite, or at least close enough
to pass for it. "I'm afraid that
Turq isn't home right now."
"I did not come here to talk to him.
I came here to talk to you,"
Fang said quietly.
"About ...?" Ansel said.
"My nephew, and the people
who hurt him," Fang said.
"Which ones?" Ansel said bitterly.
There were so many, over the years.
"All of them," Fang said, showing
his sharp white teeth in something
that was alarmingly unlike a smile.
Ansel remembered Turq warning about
Uncle Fang's formidable prowess as
a lawyer, and bared his own teeth
in reply. "Let's take this indoors,"
he said. "Come into my office."
Fang followed him inside,
raising his eyebrows at
the sleek leather and
wood of the furniture.
"A handsome place,"
Fang said as he sat down.
"Thank you," Ansel said.
"What can I do for you?"
"I want to hear what you can
tell me about Turq," said Fang,
"and I want to tell you about
my own investigations."
"There's a limit to how much
I can tell you about him without
his explicit consent," Ansel warned.
"As there is for me, but I want
us to compare our perspectives
before adding his," Fang said.
He leaned forward and placed
his briefcase on the coffee table,
its rich black leather fastened
by a silver lock on each side
of the curved handle.
Ansel leaned forward to get
a closer look. They seemed like
biometric locks, or even gizmotronic.
While Ansel couldn't imagine that
Fang was a supervillain, a lawyer might
receive a gift from a grateful client.
The case clicked open with a sigh
of equalizing air, revealing a liner
with different pockets full of books,
folders, discs, and a cell phone.
Fang opened the thickest folder
and spread out the contents.
"I am offering to exchange
information," he said. "I will
give you what I have, if you
share what you have."
Ansel's fingers itched
to get into that file. "I'll
be happy to, if we can
get Turq to agree."
"Of course," Fang said
with a thin but genuine smile.
"Meanwhile, what do you have
for me here?" Ansel asked.
"These are pertinent copies
of my various investigations
into Family Services," Fang said.
"They have failed my family gravely.
I have suspicions and even clues
of other failures, but not enough
to warrant filing lawsuits. Yet."
"I have some information that
suggests a wider problem than
just Turq," said Ansel. "Missouri
has one cluster of incidents, but
several other states do too."
"Easy City," said Fang. "I have
reports that point in that direction."
Ansel winced. The berettaflies
had made quite a splash. He
felt sorry for the Easy City police.
He took out his smartphone. "Okay,
here's an access form," he said.
Fang signed it and offered one
for his files, then fanned out
the top pages so that Ansel
could see permission forms
from both Dao and Mingxia.
"I have been working on
some of this for years,"
Fang said. "Turq's input
about his lost years is new,
but the rest of it is older."
"You couldn't build a case
without him?" Ansel said,
looking through the papers.
"Some of this looks pretty bad."
"We have filed and won some,"
Fang said. "The first for failure
to provide support to a family in
distress was easy. However, we
could not sue on Turq's behalf
without his participation."
"I can show you some parts
of my investigations outside
what Turq told me personally,"
Ansel said. "Some of it is public,
some private police business."
Enough of the material was
in electronic format that Ansel
could bring it up on his phone
to give Fang an introduction.
Fang started pulling out pages from
his own stack to cross-reference.
"Yeah, we need to merge these,"
Ansel said. "I'll talk with Turq and
ask if it's okay to share with you.
Some of what he told me is ...
pretty harsh stuff, though."
Fang twisted his wrists
to settle the cuffs of his shirt.
"I have seen many harsh things,
walking out of China," he said.
"Yes, of course," Ansel said,
but his gaze snagged on
a barely-glimpsed pattern.
Fang raised an eyebrow and
then unbuttoned his sleeves,
showing Ansel the dragon and
tiger branded on his forearms.
"Wow," Ansel said. "Dao
showed me his, but I didn't
know that you had them too."
"Yes, although my brother and I
have very different styles," Fang said.
"My tattoos aren't that impressive, but
some of them tell a story," Ansel said,
pushing up his sweater to show off
the colorful artwork on his arms.
"A handprint?" Fang said.
"That one is in a different style."
"That's ... not a tattoo," Ansel said.
"Turq gave me that, by accident.
It's fading slower than expected."
"You sound disappointed," Fang said.
"Honestly, I value the reminder,"
Ansel said. "Dao told me to talk
about it with Turq, because I'd like
to get it inked before it vanishes."
"Good advice," Fang said,
reaching out to touch the line.
"No wonder your energy is
so entangled, though, it
looks like he got --"
The touch felt like
sandpaper, sharp and
biting. Ansel jerked away.
"What the hey was that?"
Fang pulled back at once.
"My humble apologies," he said.
"I had no idea that you were
so sensitive, or I never would
have touched you like that."
"Yeah, Turq says that too,
that I'm sensitive," Ansel said.
"But what was that?"
"My energy rubbing
against yours," Fang said.
"Most people don't notice it,
unless I sharpen it for combat."
Ansel rubbed a hand over
his wrist. "Weird," he said.
"I can't imagine not noticing."
"Turq has always been sensitive
too, and Andeana, but none of
the other children so far," Fang said.
"It is not all that common to have."
"Do you know why your energy
is like that?" Ansel said. "I thought
only soups had enough to do
much of anything with."
"Some martial arts draw
inspiration from animals,"
Fang said. "Mine is ...
unconventional, but as
you found, quite distinct."
"Like a dragon?" Ansel said.
"No," said Fang. "Would
you like to see him?"
"Sure," Ansel said.
Fang took off his jacket
and shirt, then turned around.
A shark swam over his back,
rendered in vivid inks.
Ansel said. "So you
have ... like sharkskin?
But it's not a superpower?"
"Decades of training,"
Fang said. "For a Shaolin,
even one who is not a master,
many things become possible."
Well, Ansel could do things
thanks to his training that
most people couldn't, so
maybe this wasn't as
strange as it seemed.
Fang turned back around.
"I am a shark," he explained.
"The ground is my ocean, and
most people can't even swim."
"You must be something
in a fight, then," said Ansel.
"Just touching your skin
would be uncomfortable."
"I prefer not to fight with my fists,
although I can if I must," Fang said
as he dressed with careful motions.
"Fighting with words, however ..."
He spread out the pages
of the file, and showed
Ansel his teeth again.
"I see your point,"
He thought about
the foster parents who
had neglected Turq and
ultimately sold him.
He thought about
the social workers and
even police who had failed
to notice or stop any of that.
He thought about the man
who had bought Turq and
tortured him with mad science.
He thought about what would happen
when Fang Liáng hunted them down with
a file full of evidence and a mouth full of teeth.
Ansel felt no sympathy for any of them.
* * *
Fang Liáng -- He has golden skin, almond-shaped brown eyes in a triangular face, and short black hair just beginning to show gray. A shark tattoo covers his back. He has a tiger brand on his left forearm and a dragon brand on the right. He is 38 years old. Fang's family moved from China to America when he was a little boy, as political refugees. He is the younger brother of Dao who is a paramedic, husband of Xiaoqing Liáng, brother-in-law of his brother's wife Mingxia, and father of Jun (boy, 18) and Huiling and Huiqing (twin girls, 13). Dao and Mingxia had a daughter, Baozhen, who died of congenital problems at the age of two; plus Baozhai (girl), and Chung (boy) currently living. They have also parented a number of foster children, including Turq, so Fang has a lot of more-or-less nieces and nephews. Currently they have a white girl, Gwenllian (whom they have adopted); and two black brothers, Zachariah and Zaire (waiting to see what happens). Fang speaks Chinese and English with equal fluency, using Chinese as the home language so that the children can learn it. Fang is a formidable lawyer and amused by the way English speakers respond to his name.
Fang enjoys both Chinese and American classical music, whether playing or listening to it. In Shaolin kung fu, he excels at hard qigong and Guard the Home style. He does not hesitate to engage in social or physical combat, but is squeamish over injuries. Because his family had to flee China due to politics, Fang keeps a a sharp eye on it from the local to the global level. Introducing him to Turq will get him interested in cape politics. Won't this be fun?
Qualities: Master (+6) Formidable, Master (+6) Lawyer, Master (+6) Protective, Expert (+4) Intimidation, Expert (+4) Family Man, Good (+2) Chinese Games, Good (+2) Classical Music, Good (+2) Logical-Mathematical Intelligence, Good (+2) Politics, Good (+2) Shaolin Kung Fu
Poor (-2) Squeamish of Actual Blood
Shaolin monks put a great deal of study into conflict resolution. Fang favors the Guard the Home, or Special, style (看家拳; kānjiāquán). You can explore the steps to become a Shaolin monk.
The Shaolin tradition is old and deep. It follows certain principles. In L-America, Shaolin monks used to wear brands of a dragon on the left forearm and a tiger on the right, or in the O mei shan temple, a crane on the left and a mantis on the right. The Shaolin tradition has three lineages. In T-America, the Shaolin tradition is now in its fourth lineage, dating from the time when China tried to wipe it out and surviving monks fled. They have adapted their customs somewhat to give students the option of learning specific skills applicable to their life goals, rather than seeking to make monastery disciples out of all students, although only those with high enough mastery are allowed to attempt the (grueling and risky) graduation ceremony. The result is a wider dispersal of trained monks displaying the Shaolin teachings in everyday life.
Shaolin practices may be divided into "inner" and "outer," "hard and soft," or "yin and yang." It follows certain principles. There are many techniques in Shaolin kung fu; here is a list of 72 in summary, or read the whole book. There you can see the techniques listed in publication order. More than one skill may be practiced at the same time, and the earlier ones feed into the later ones. It takes 10-20 years to attain a good level of skill; Fang has been practicing longer, but not all of that in full-time training.
I have listed Fang's skills by the amount of time required to learn them. The Four-Part Exercise balances soft and hard training,and is brief. Iron Bull concerns speaking and silence along with resistance to blows, taking 7-8 months. Some physical fighting skills take several years to learn. Diamond Finger, a piercing skill, takes 3. Twin Lock for strong hands and arms takes 3. Sweeping with an Iron Broom for kicking takes 3 or more. Rubbing Palms for hand strength takes 4 years. Fist Like a Bullet, punching, takes 4-5. Iron Bag, throwing, takes 4-5. Some skills take a very long time. Pulling a Silk Thread leads to walking on water and takes 10 years. Skill at Light Body, walking on fragile things, shows some accomplishment after 2 years but takes about 12 to master. Swimming and Diving Skills covers a variety of techniques and lengthy study. Fang has been studying this for decades and has complete mastery. Other techniques don't specify a timespan, just imply a long time. Striking with Foot involves kicking stones. Pulling Out Nails is for thumb and finger strikes. Skill of Water Separation parts things by hand. Skill of Sand Bags is for fighting with the whole body.
* * *
"I am a shark, the ground is my ocean, and most people can't even swim."
-- Rickson Gracie
This is the home of Officer Pink (Ansel Nicholson) which used to be part of a resort alongside a lake. When the resort closed, the rental cabins were parceled into individual lots and sold, while some of the resort's main facilities -- such as the lodge and the main boating dock -- were set aside as neighborhood resources. See the exterior, a floor plan of the lower level, and the upper level.
Ansel's office has a leather couch and loveseat along with a tapestry rocking chair around a large square coffee table. His desk and its chair are along the inside garage wall, not visible in this picture. The carpet is short tan-and-gray pile. One stone wall has been plastered over, but the other has been left bare and features a stone bench, fireplace, and entertainment center. He has a writing desk with bookshelves along the front and drawers underneath, which faces into the room. The chair is brown instead of black, to match the couch. A matching computer desk with a tall hutch of bookshelves stands against the interior wall.
This is Fang's briefcase.
Family Services is a complex system that is supposed to offer diverse services to families that need help. Often it falls far short of actual help. T-America does somewhat better, because they prefer for people to get help before it becomes an emergency. It doesn't always work out that way.
According to traditional Chinese medicine, the meridians are lines of energy in the body which closely follow the paths of the nervous system. As you can see in the body diagram and arm diagram, there are several important points in the wrist and forearm. Fang was about to mention that Turq's handprint overlapped several of these, possibly contributing to why it hasn't faded entirely.