2008-05-31: Truths Less Spoken Of


Novak_icon.gif Quinn_icon.gif Jamie_icon.gif Joule_icon.gif Elisabetha_icon.gif

Summary: A trip to the zoo turns into a debate on the nature of truth, and more.

Date It Happened: May 31st, 2008

Truths Less Spoken Of

The Bronx - Bronx Zoo

It is afternoon, and Novak is taking Elisabetha to the Bronx Zoo for a 'lesson'. She requested it, and he felt it was a good idea. So here they are, dressed (comparatively) casually, and walking the paths, looking at various animals and so forth. Novak is enjoying himself a good bit less than Elisabetha is, most likely, as the various stenches of a mix of animals assault his senses, and various little kids screaming and such, and the bright sunlight, all blast him from every direction. But he is not here for himself.

Quinn isn't exactly nature girl, nor is she a day person. But even a nightclub crawler such as herself has to go out in the daylight sometime. And here is as good a place as any. She has taken a station by the monkey cages, watching people more than she is watching the animals.

Normally one doesn't find a kid Jamie's age in the zoo by herself. But then, Jamie's not a normal kid. She can be found today, running from display to display, stopping long enough to look at each of the animals for a few minutes, then running on. Coincidentally, her path brings her to near Novak and Elisabetha's, and Quinn's, coming to stop to look at the monkeys.

Joule arrives at the world famous Bronx Zoo with her gear on her, because she contacted the zoo after reading about budget cuts. She has come to take pictures of the baby animals, now that they're old enough to be out and about and terribly cute. Because who doesn't love baby animals? And whose heart wouldn't melt to see them looking up at a viewer with big, limpid eyes over a caption urging a viewer to help keep them with their mamas?

Elisabetha tires easily, so with all the walking they've been doing, she is pretty exhausted. It's only been an hour or so tops, but she's just not physically up to extended excursions. Still, it was HER who asked for this trip, so she doesn't complain, even when her legs go practically numb. The pain is great, but she is also trying to pay strict attention to everything her Teacher is telling her. As he points out various things about the animals they see, and tells her all kinds of details that not even the zoo keepers probably know, she just nods and makes appropriate noises of interest, eyes wide. Occasionally she asks a question, but mostly she just listens and learns.
It has been months since the last time Novak taught her things like this. It's… Fun to be out and about again, learning new things. Though her emotions have been gradually fading again, she still has enough left to feel pleasure at spending time with her Teacher, and seeing all these wonderous sights.
When they reach the monkey cages, she pauses and stands there, her hand on the rail. Jamie running around distracts her momentarily, and she smiles at the little girl, but otherwise she is paying attention to the funny monkeys.

Novak looks over the primates in the cages with very well-concealed displeasure. He listens as some zoo guide drones on about the diet of the monkeys and similar useless trivia, and says over him, loud enough for Elisabetha and those nearest him, such as Jamie and Quinn (and Joule if she's nearby taking pictures of baby monkeys on the backs of their mothers, or being cradled in their arms), but not TOO loud, "It is believed that both the ebola virus and HIV were transmitted to human beings from primates like these. In Africa. The ebola virus kills relatively quickly, but HIV draws it out, resulting in a slow and painful eventual death, as the immune system itself breaks down. It is estimated that in Africa alone, HIV is set to infect ninety-million people."

He pauses after this grim recitation of the facts. Then he says, "On a lighter note most monkeys are much more peaceful compared to the human-relative chimpanzees. Unlike chimpanzees, monkeys are not well-known for cannibalism, killing other primates for food, or randomly murdering infants in their own tribes." He points to one monkey swinging from branches, and says, "See how that one climbs? In the wild, climbing swiftly and swinging around like that is the only thing that would save them from being hunted down, killed, and eaten by fellow primates. They aren't acrobats just because it's impressive. They evolved to be instinctively capable in that department."

Then he puts his hands behind his back and watches with a thin smile. He despises most primates. Monkeys are among the few he can tolerate. They still stink though.

Quinn has, in the meantime, before that grim recitation, collected a group of kids around her. Odd, she never can figure out why. But, hey, an audience is an audience, as she pulls out some small balls, about the size of ping pong balls and starts to idly juggle them. She seems to ignore the kids, who start oohing and giggling at the performance. Hearing the speech, though, she starts to sing, "You are my Sunshine." Yes, playing it straight, but the rather amused sarcasm is there.

Jamie doesn't make a comment to the talk of disease, if she even notices. Stubborn optimist that she is, though, she whas to comment to the last. "Bet they're still having fun! There isn't anything more fun than doing stuff like that. I've been chased lotsa times, got specially good at running 'cause of it. But now nobody can catch me, and I have *lotsa* fun running. Don't matter why they got good, can still be fun." As she hears the singing she looks back, and smiles, giving an energetic wave to Quinn.

Joule has captured a couple baby capuchins, and a little baby rhesus, and a little baby chimp. "But there are doctors who are seeking the cures for both of those," Joule says, casually, as she catches sight of Jamie. Not a monkey, clearly, but definitely a 'save the zoo'-worthy shot, because cute little blonde girl cartwheeling amongst the exhibits having a great time? How can you not love it?

"Medical science produces new miracles every day, to make life better for man and animal alike. And hunters are locked up when they're caught, because their behaviour is neither legal nor condoned. So, mate, how 'bout you not bring us all down on such a lovely day, hmm?" That's Joule. Outspoken as always. All this without missing a picture. Oh, look, a little girl on her daddy's shoulder. Click, click, click.

Elisabetha listens to Novak, and is a bit startled by the sudden shift in topic. He has always taught like this, providing the truth as he understands it, even if it is negative. Sometimes it's very pessimistic sounding, but other times it can be very positive. Usually it's somewhere inbetween, or mix of both. She nods, watching the monkeys, and thinking of that term… 'Evolved'. She has heard it somewhere before. Maybe when she was being tutored back in Italy?
"What is evolved—?" she starts to ask, but then Jamie speaks up. "…Yes. I think doing what you are meant to do in life… Would be very fun. Doing what you grew up specifically to accomplish… Knowing you are doing RIGHT… That would be the most fun of all." She smiles.
Quinn's juggling and singing starts to draw her attention, but then Joule speaks up. "…Hm. Hunters? It's hunters who go after monkeys?" Then she shakes her head. "I am sorry, miss, but Teacher is giving me a lesson. I am the one who asked… So… Please don't be angry at him?"

Novak listens to the various commentary and objection from others. He considers telling Quinn that the song she is singing is about someone's daughter dying, not about happiness and sunshine, but does not feel like being quite that negative today, even if it's true. It is not part of the lesson plan.

When Joule speaks up, he says, "Yes, a transfusion of bone marrow has apparently cured one man of his AIDS. Everyone else who has undergone the procedure has died, because it requires using radiation bombardment to kill most of the existing cells, including the ones in bone marrow, so that there is nothing infected remaining. Then the new bone marrow is transplanted, and all further cell divisions derived from the un-infected bone marrow — taken from someone immune to HIV — are free of the retrovirus. So, yes, assuming we get over the nasty bit about the radiation killing all but one or two of those treated, a cure is already on the way."

He smiles at Joule and says, "I could point out that that would not save those ninety-million people, as the treatment would most likely be rather expensive, not to mention the logistics of supplying bone marrow from immune donors to that many people, but I would not want to appear overly negative." Seems someone else is playing it straight besides Quinn.

Turning back to Elisabetha, Novak says, "No, I was referring to chimpanzees, not human hunters. Humans do a lot of things. Not much point in educating you about that any further. It might upset the other visitors." When Jamie speaks, he looks at her briefly, making sure that his memory serves him correctly. "Hello," he offers. "Did you enjoy that comic book?" Yes, he recognizes her.

Quinn is too busy entertaining happy, giggling children to pay much attention to the creepy man. The balls move faster, balls sometimes disappearing from view, then more reappearing. She pulls some from 'behind' the children's ears, sending them into high pitched gales of laughter.

Jamie watches Quinn's performance with a grin as well, but then she looks back up to Novak, nodding, "Yep. Lotsa shooting and stuff in it, but some of it was fun." Duck Tales probably would have been more her speed after all. In any case, the disease talk goes right over her head, or maybe she's just too distracted by Quinn and the monkeys. She doesn't notice her picture being taken either.

"…Is that so?" Joule asks. Funny, she heard the 'You Are My Sunshine' song was about a cuckolded husband, but that's neither here nor there. "And you customarily teach your students one-sided like that? Teach them that everything's bollocksed, and everyone and everything's gonna die and there's no hope? So you're what, professor of Nihilism 101?" She scoffs, shaking her head. "Death is a part of life, kid, and life isn't all roses, but it isn't all suck either. Besides. School is Monday to bloomin' Friday for Christ's sake. No wonder there's all this drama about homeschooling on the 'net."

Elisabetha hmms, as she manages to tear her crimson gaze away from Quinn long enough to pay attention again. She doesn't know all of what Novak said, but then he was addressing Joule, not her. Except at the end. "Ah, I see. Chimpanzees… I guess Planet of the Apes was wrong, then. Sort of." She then stares at Joule, frowning. "Selectively telling the truth is no good… Either positively or negatively. Teacher is telling the truth, and you don't like it, miss… But I bet Teacher doesn't like the truth you're telling either. There is good and bad in the world. I shouldn't focus on just happiness, because there are people suffering that need attention. And they can't get help if… If everyone just ignores them!" She says this firmly and nods her head. Then her legs give out on her. Plop. She just drops down so that her legs are splayed off to the sides, and sits there in confusion. "…My legs are numb."

Novak wasn't going to respond to Joule. Or at least he was going to say something neutral, like, 'Maybe so.' But then Elisabetha's legs stop working, and he turns to her in surprise. Bending down to help her up, he says, "Well, it seems this excursion is over for today." He glances back at Joule and says, "What you said is true. There is some good in the world. But there is so much pain that sometimes I forget how to see anything else. I'll work on that."

Then he smiles at Jamie and says, "Well, I was unaware. I am used to the radio plays of a hero called 'The Shadow'. That might be a bit dark for you, though probably less violent… I recommend 'Donald Duck & His Nephews' if they still print it. Much more humor." Then he hauls Elisabetha up and tries to guide her to a bench to sit down and recover before they head home.

Quinn doesn't drop the balls, she lets them drop in a row into her pocket, and rushes over to the lady plopped on the ground. She already has a cellphone in her hand, obviously worried about the girl. "You sure she is alright?" looking from the girl over to Mr Happy Funshine.

Jamie blinks as Elisabetha falls, almost taking a step forward but then hesitating. Letting the adults help, since they probably have a clue what's wrong. She says, though, "If her legs are numb, shouldn't she stop walking for a bit, sit and rest?"

"I don't mind he doesn't like my truth. But hey, nobody's ignoring anything. That's why medical science is working so hard. And it's a whole other conversation as to why it's too expensive to really help those who need it most—" Joule begins, but then Elisabetha drops down right onto the hot concrete, and her whole focus shifts. "Oh, kid —!" She slings her digicam back snug into her bag in one smooth motion and moves to offer her a hand up. "Where does it hurt, then?" Despite enjoying poking Novak, she is genuinely concerned. "Go get her some cool water, would ya, Jamie?" She remembers the kid from a few months back. Photographer's memory. "And maybe we ought to lift you into the shade." As she moves to help Elisabetha to a spot out of the sun, she concentrates her ability on causing the neurons to stop firing distress signals so that the girl can be out of pain and relax more comfortably on the bench Joule hopes to steer her toward.

Since both Joule and Novak are guiding her towards a bench, yes, what Jamie said is probably right. She blinks at everyone's reactions, looking at Quinn as she comes over asking if she's alright. "My legs were… Really tired, and hurting… From walking. But I kept going so I could learn more… And then they stopped hurting… And then they stopped working too!" She shakes her head, trying to clear it of the fog of apathy that keeps threatening to overtake her again. She's really trying not to sink back into what she was before, but it's so HARD.
When Joule uses her ability, she manages to make Elisabetha's legs work, even though they are stiff and the muscles themselves aren't functioning properly, from being overwhelmed by pain signals. But she can't feel the pain anymore, so she manages to walk over to the bench with the help of the two others, and then sit down in the shade. "Thank you," she says to Joule and Novak. Then she smiles and calls to Quinn, "It's okay. I'm just… Tired. In my legs. Not used to walking or standing… This much. But I feel better already! …I think." She tests her legs, but they still seem to rebel against her, the muscles overworked and weak.
She looks at Jamie and shrugs her shoulders as if to indicate she doesn't know much more than Jamie herself does.

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