For those friends and followers of my assorted projects here, I have good news and bad news.
Good news: I've started recapping two series:
1) "18 vs 29", a 2006 Rom-com KDrama; recapped in standard Dramabeans fashion (short sentences and lots of screenshots) - As of August 2th, I am up to Episode 4 of 16 total.
2) "Baby-Faced Beauty", a 2005 Rom-com KDrama; recapped like a novel, with minimal visuals. An excerpt of Episode 1 is already available.
Good news: My current fiction, "Hidden Love" Chapters 5 and 6, are completed.
Good news: My www.Dramabeans.com -inspired fanfiction, "The Prince and His Harem" has been converted to a pdf file. If you would like a copy, just send an email to email@example.com, and I will send it to you! If you want it sent to a Kindle device, please include the request in the subject line, and I will send it to your kindle.free.com email as well.
Bad news: For some reason, I am forced to reset my passwords over and over again for my google accounts, and I am closing this blog. Not to worry; everything has been transferred to my new blog now located at WordPress. I'm sorry for this inconvenience, but given my (and your) busy schedule, I just can't spend time over and over again resetting my access points.
The WordPress template is also a little easier to navigate, I think. On the right side under "Categories" I have separate files for each project: original fiction, recaps, etc. For any questions, please send me a note!
Bad news: I haven't been able to move my livejournal poetry blog to WordPress, so I will more than likely have to retype all my posts. I will probably try one more time before I just manually move everything.
After that, all my online Musings will be in one location, but it will probably take some time.
My new blog? www.shukmeister.wordpress.com
And, always always thank you for your support an encouragement!
Thursday, August 9, 2012
Paul trotted up to the neat white cottage and opened up the wooden gate with one hand, a bottle of wine tucked under the other arm. He always enjoyed his grandmother fussing over the gifts he brought over. He knocked politely, then let himself in. Walking towards the sunny kitchen in the back of the house, he heard mumbling coming from the right parlor room.
His grandmother must be on her computer again.
Leaving the bottle on the countertop, Paul walked through the archway and observed the spare form of his favorite relative, who was typing busily on the keyboard and staring intently at the glowing screen of the laptop.
“Hi, Nana”, Paul leaned over and kissed a wrinkled cheek, “where are you going today?” His grandmother looked up briefly to beam at him.
“Millie found a site where you can try and find people you knew from your past. I think I found an old girlfriend I used to knock around with in the 40’s.” Paul smiled at her, but grimaced internally as he recognized the name of his grandmother’s co-conspirator. The crazy schemes the two of them had tried were almost legendary; tandem skydiving, motorcycle lessons, a belly dancing class; the list was endless. Paul only hoped that the computer websites would keep them out of any dangerous situations and also out of his hair.
Recently, they had been both subtly and overtly throwing out the names and statistics of potential women for him to date. It was sometimes a trial to sidestep their matchmaking attempts without hurting their feelings. Any time they got together, Paul knew they going to try and change his life. On the other hand, if the two old biddies, err, old friends were busy looking into their own lives, maybe they’d leave his alone.
“Good hunting, then, Nana. I just stopped to see how you were doing before I go on-shift.”
“You’re a good man, Paul. I can’t imagine why some woman hasn’t snatched you up. Why last week, I spoke with our old neighbor Alice Masden who has a cute niece that’s almost your age…”
The ringing of his cell phone allowed Paul to gracefully back out of the sticky conversation she was trying to set up. He gave his now-frowning grandmother a cheerful wave as he headed out the front door again and pressed the green button on his phone. “Hello, this is Paul. What’s up?”
Christine smiled as she began the final cleanup of the wonderful old desk. Lifting the gabled overhang, she carefully screwed the hinges and lifted the top off, revealing the final two shelves to be cleaned and restored. After placing the lid on a worktable to be disassembled and clean, she turned back to the desk, and peered into the recess between the two narrow shelves. She saw a vague patch of white in the rear left corner.
What could that be, she wondered as she picked up a small flashlight. Looking closely, it appeared to be some type of paper, but it was out of reach to her questing fingers. She walked back to the worktable and sifted through the tools and items until she found a narrow wooden dowel. She cautiously wiggled the stick behind the paper until it loosened and moved closer to the front of the desk, where she was finally able to get a hold of it and gently pull it out of the cubbyhole.
It looked like a crumpled roll of onionskin, the brittle edges slightly brown with age and wrapped with a faded blue ribbon. Christine tamped down her growing excitement as she untied the ribbon and attempted to spread the pages across the table. The roll slowly yielded to the gentle pressure she exerted, gradually revealing several small envelopes.
She picked up the topmost one. The upper right of the envelope sported a large “V” circled by “U.S. Mail” and a right-side postmark “March 13, 1943”. The envelope window had what looked like a photocopied paper with the name William Jackson and an address in Richmond. Christine put the envelope down, sat down in the office chair next to the desk and called her grandfather on the shop phone. His gruff voice was welcomed in her ear.
“What do you need, kitten?”
“Pop-pop, can you please come to the workshop? I have to show you something from the desk.” The timbre of her voice must have cued him because he quickly hung up and was at in the shop in a very short amount of time. He stared down at small pile of curled envelopes, his brow furrowed.
“Where did you find these again?” he asked.
“In the upper compartments, under the overhang and wedged in the back of the second shelf”, she replied, “I think they are letters for you, but I don’t know what they are.”
Ned took a moment to clear his throat, and touched the paper almost reverently. “In World War II, they used V-mail as a way of reducing the size of letters. Sometimes it was the only communication we had from back home when we were Europe. I had forgotten I had even kept these in the desk.”
“Are they from Grandma? I know you married her right after you got discharged from the Army.” Christine thought for a moment, reached for the yellowing papers and said, “Is it okay if I read them?”
Ned resisted an urge to snatch them off the desk. “No, they weren’t from your grandmother. They were from my first love.” Christine stared back at him, wide-eyed.
Wednesday, July 4, 2012
“My dearest Vivian –
Thank you for the last letter you sent. I can almost picture the snow on the ground when you describe it. The long nights are the worst here at … socks are at a premium as the humidity makes it impossible to keep your feet dry. When I am homesick, I think about the last time I was in Indiana, when the leaves where just starting to change colors, and when you and I strolled down to Anderson’s Drug Store for a single sarsaparilla with two straws. With girls like you at home, we’ll push back the … straight back to their island. I hope…until I can once again walk hand in hand with you. Ever your knight, Bill.”
“Come on baby, relax and let me take it off.” A female voice crooned as Ned Jackson walked into the furniture shop and smiled. His granddaughter was up early and already working on his antique Wooten desk. Although their company employed several individual restoration specialists, the desk with its 110 cubbyholes and family history was one that Christine personally was restoring first by carefully removing the layers of grime that had built up over the 125 years that the desk had been in existence.
Ned grinned when he saw his granddaughter on her knees on the bottom shelves of the center console, patiently wiping an orange-based solvent along the paneling that made up the bottom compartment. Christine had patiently removed and categorized all the hardware from the desk, placing it in carefully labeled plastic bins. His hand strayed to container that held the plaque that proudly displayed the Wooten name and patent date. The desk had been in his family since it was new. His grandfather had seen it in a store and fell in love with its Indiana black walnut construction, drop writing board, and simple design inspired by the Aesthetic Movement.
“Make sure you don’t get stuck in there or I’ll have to call the Fire Department,” Ned spoke to Christine’s back, eliciting an affirmative grunt. Amused, he continued past her to check on the other projects in various stages inside the warehouse. A chorus of voices greeted him as he inspected each piece of furniture.
Both the sounds of the other workers and the voice of her beloved grandfather faded as Christine focused on a stubborn spot of grime on the bottom of the cabinet. Cautiously, she added a tiny spot of solvent with a cotton applicator, waiting several seconds before she blotted and reexamined the area. Excellent, the stain was gone, without any damage to the original finish. She backed out of the cabinet, rocked back on her heels and stretched to ease her aching back.
Once she finished the bottom, the gabled overhang, with its two layers of shelves, she would reach the final stage. The last part that needed to be cleaned prior to replacing the green cardboard drawers that filled the cubbyholes. However, that would have to wait until tomorrow, so that any minute amounts of solvent still on the wood would evaporate. She wiped her hands on a towel, and made her way back to the rambling house that she and her grandfather shared.
Since a vehicle accident killed both her parents when she was sixteen, she had been living with her widowed grandfather. Ten years later, their relationship was very close, both professionally and personally. She loved being involved with restoration, seeing a neglected piece of furniture become a shining thing of beauty, and sharing that joy with her beloved grandfather. She screwed the cap back on the solvent and carefully stored in under the workbench.
As she proceeded up the steps to the wraparound porch, she thought her life was pretty great, here in Richmond, Indiana.
Life was pretty great, Paul thought, as he ran a soapy brush over the door and side mirrors of a bright red fire truck in Baltimore, Maryland. Well, not great, he hedged, but better. This was the three-year anniversary of his wife’s death from cervical cancer. For the first two, he had spent them in the darkened confines of their home with only a bottle of tequila on the coffee table to hold vigil. However, about eight months ago, he made the decision to volunteer in the local fire department. Now he looked forward to his shifts at the station, both as a relief from his somewhat uneventful employment as a bank manager, and as a positive way to help his community.
This was not the way that he had originally planned his life, he thought ruefully. Sometimes, at night, his condo seemed too silent and still. But, Paul thought, giving himself a mental shake, maybe someday they’ll be another person to share the quiet times. He knew that his late wife would have wanted him to move on and find someone else to love, but it was hard to imagine anyone else in his life.
Once the truck was cleaned and prepped for the evening he was going to have a quick visit with his grandmother. She lived a short distance away from the station, and was always delighted when her favorite grandson stopped by. If only she would stop matchmaking…
A young man stepped out from behind the fire station and trotted over to the truck. Paul smiled as Mehdi Koch walked to the soap bucket, pulled out the brush, and began to scrub the hubcaps. Too young to become a firefighter, he nevertheless hung out at the station, helping with odd jobs and chores, and becoming a sort of mascot to the crew members than manned the building. Paul rinsed the side of the engine, the water a rainbow-hued arc in the bright sunlight.
“Hey Mehdi, how are you doing today? Are you happy school is out for the summer?”
Mehdi shrugged. “I guess so. There’s nothing to do, though. I mean, I have my part time job, but I get bored just hanging out with the guys. It’s still another six months until I turn eighteen.” That was the minimum age to become a volunteer firefighter by OSHA regulations, and Paul knew that, given his enthusiasm and knowledge he had already gleaned, Mehdi would be a valuable asset to the company. He clapped a hand across the young man’s shoulders.
“It’ll be here soon enough, kiddo. In the meantime, let’s go ahead and get this truck clean.” Laughing, Paul stepped back and sprayed the young man with the hose, eliciting a yelp of surprise before Mehdi gleefully dipped into the soapy bucket and pelted Paul with a foamy sponge.
A Wooten desk, circa 1884
Friday, June 15, 2012
Epilogue – 6 months later
“Thank you so much for coming to our bersanding ceremony.” Rickie paused for a moment, and surveyed the throng assembled to celebrate the third and final phase of the marriage ritual.
Meaghan was laughing with Tina, who was looking at the henna designs adorning the bride’s arms. As if she felt his gaze, she looked up at him, warm chocolate eyes meeting his, and he momentarily lost his speech. A few individuals sent knowing looks towards her, radiant in her white and gold gown. She walked over the dais where he was standing, and placed her hand on his. He turned back to the crowd of well-wishers.
“And so begins the final, and best part – the feast!” A cheer rose up from the good natured crowd. “So eat up and enjoy yourselves!” The partygoers began to line up behind the bride and groom to go down the buffet line.
As they picked up their plates and walked down the table, the groom laughed to the bride, “That is an interesting combination of food.” Alongside traditional Malaysian wedding fare, plates of sushi were strategically placed next to a large tureen of spaghetti. Meaghan smiled happily.
“I wanted to include some of your favorite foods. Besides, there are foreigners here as well.”
The crowd included personnel from his companies, former coworkers from the BKN, the members of his task group, relatives, and neighbours. Since the incidents in June, most of the terrorism indicators dropped down, and the Harem was disbanded.
Rickie thought it was great to see Ahjummabunny, Alua, MJP25, and the others from the think-tank. In the corner of the tent Meaghan’s boss Cynthia and Hillary were chatting. His father, along with JoAnne at his side, was at a table talking with several investors. Leaf and Sethe were over by the entertainment stage; Leaf was playing an impromptu tune on her seruling while the members of the music ensemble followed her lead. Sethe was trying her hand at playing the congas and laughing.
Rickie was amazed at everything that had happened since that fateful day at Miri in May. Now he was beginning a new phase of his life at the beginning of the calendar year. He turned to the woman who was now his whole world and kissed her cheek, careful not to spill anything on the lace and satin of her traditional gown. She smiled with eyes full of love, and carefully brushed a few hidden kernels of yellow rice out of his hair.
~ ~ ~
The makan beradab was winding down as the guests left the property with final wishes for the couple’s happiness.
Rickie hugged his wife, sharing a moment of peace after the hectic pace of the bersanding.
“Thank you, sayangku. Thank you for becoming my wife. I love you.” He placed a hand where the neckline of lace was open, and rubbed his thumb against the curve of her collarbone, before swooping down to nibble at her lips.
After a moment, Meaghan broke away to take a breath, placing a finger against his mouth when he would try to steal another kiss.
“You’ll love me even more, when I tell you a secret.” She dropped her voice lower and stood on tiptoe to breathe into his ear.
“I have peppermint ice cream and cheesecake in the kitchen just for us later on.”
With a whoop, Rickie picked her up and swung her around, her laughter pealing the sky. She looked into those cerulean eyes sparkling with laughter and love, and knew in her heart.
This impossible, wonderful man was hers forever.
Rickie was sipping his second cup of coffee when a tentative knock sounded on the office door, a knock that could only be one person. He grinned as he opened it, and saw the vision in front of him.
Meaghan was dressed in a baju kurung of red, orange and yellow batik. She looked like a pillar of flame; it was very different from her usual cool tones.
“You should wear more colors like these.” Rickie wrapped a hand around her waist and pulled her towards him. Meghan willingly moved into his embrace, putting her hands on his shoulder and tiptoeing up for a kiss.
“That’s a fun way to begin the day!” A tinny voice came from the desk, and Meaghan broke away to see Raine’s face on the laptop. She hoped the creeping warmth on her face couldn’t be seen on the other side of the webcam.
“Hi, Raine. I didn’t know you and Rickie were still talking.”
“You’re looking rosy-cheeked today,” Raine smirked, “I can wait.”
Rickie sat down at the desk, and grabbed one of Meaghan’s hands. “So what did you find on the SD card?” He used his thumb to idly stroke across her knuckles.
Raine became all business. “After you dropped it off last night, we cross-referenced the data and found the organization had been using your Nice office to launder and funnel money to their main organization in Shanghai. Because of the data backups here in Malaysia and the files we received from Meaghan and the late Ivoire, we have a complete history of all their dealings, accounts, and overt personnel.”
Meghan tensed at the mention of her friend’s name; Rickie, sensing her distress, placed a swift kiss to her palm and pulled her a little closer. She sat on the armrest and rested her other hand against his nape, taking comfort in his presence.
“With the intelligence that we gathered, we coordinated a strike team with the Chinese Ministry of Secret Service, and overnight we captured almost the entire organization, including Mystisith. She had apparently made it into the country. She is going to be extradited back to France to stand trial for the explosion. As far as we know, everyone identified in the Tornos' file has been either captured or killed.”
“So it’s finally over,” Meaghan whispered, a lump in her throat. After everything that happened, it was an almost painful relief to know that those who caused her parents’ deaths were brought to justice, and that she and her sister were safe.
A lone tear slid down her cheek. “Thank you,” she said to Raine, almost inaudibly. Rickie moved her to his lap and caught her in a strong hug as the tears began to flow in earnest. Rickie nodded at the screen; Raine gave a quick salute and disconnect the comlink.
Rickie rocked Meaghan gently and waited for the storm to pass. Eventually the tears slowed down, and with a final hiccup, she pulled back and looked at him, still perched on his lap.
Even with her face swollen and red from her meltdown, she never looked more beautiful to him. He leaned forward to open a drawer on the left side of the desk and pulled out a small purple velvet box.
“Maybe this is the wrong time to do this, but I’ve got you captive now.” She became still as she realized the import of his words. “I want us to become a true family, to live together, have children together, and grow old together.” With that, he opened the box and pulled out an exquisite square-cut solitaire diamond ring. Meaghan touched it with her finger and admired the rainbow flash of the perfect X within the faceting. “I love you, Meaghan Torno. Will you be my princess?” He slipped it on her finger; it was a perfect fit.
“Yes,” she said and began crying again, this time tears of joy.
The constables and agents finally left after what seemed like hours, leaving the house blessedly quiet. Rickie had left with Raine, the precious memory card in his hand.
Meaghan was upstairs sitting on the edge of Tina’s bed; she marveled at the resilience of her younger sister.
“Where did you find that memory card?” Meaghan asked the drowsy teen.
“Abang Rickie asked me to look for it among everything I brought with me from our house. I was going through it all when I noticed the frayed edge of ibu and bapa’s wedding album. I wiggled it a little bit, and that card fell out. I stuck it in my pocket, intending to give to him, but Shel showed up, and she…she…” Her bottom lip quivered slightly, and Meaghan stroked her hair to soothe her.
“It’s okay, Leaf. No one is going to come to this house uninvited again. I’m sure Tuanku Ahmad will make sure of it.” Meaghan remembered seeing the unraveling threads on the corner of the wedding album after she dropped it, but had no idea that the information that had caused her parents’ deaths was hidden there beneath their smiling portrait on the cover.
A quiet knock on the door had Tina rubbing the moisture from her eyes. Meaghan stood up and walked to the door, opening it to reveal the wheelchair of the elder Ahmad.
As JoAnne wheeled him in Meaghan felt a wash of gratitude for their actions that day.
“Thank you, Tuanku Ahmad, and En JoAnne, for protecting my sister.” He made a careless gesture as JoAnne smiled.
“Where did you learn to shoot like that?” Tina asked JoAnne, her eyes aglow with something akin to hero worship. “That was amazing!”
JoAnne negligently shrugged her shoulders. “I am an excellent shot with several different weapons. And I know how to use a grenade, plus I have great aim. I’m just saying.”
Rickie’s father broke in.
“Never mind that. I wanted to make sure the two of you were comfortable.” He shifted in his wheelchair to face Tina. “How are you holding up?” Tina climbed out of bed and gave him a tight hug.
He patted her back as she murmured, “Thank you, Bapa Ahmad, for everything.” Meaghan gave a start and looked at the pair, but the gentleman looked pleased and not upset at Tina’s words. He gave a wink to Meaghan and gently pushed the younger girl away.
“Now, get some sleep, and I’ll see at breakfast tomorrow.” Tina nodded and climbed back into bed; Meghan kissed her cheek and followed JoAnne and the wheelchair out of the room.
Once the door to Tina’s room was shut, Meaghan turned to the pair.
“I can never be grateful enough for everything you two did in taking care of my sister.” Meaghan was alarmed at the tears that threatened but was too tired to stop them. JoAnne stepped over and embraced the younger woman. Meaghan felt her spine almost collapse as the weight of everything that recently occurred. She felt rather than saw her hand being squeezed gently by Rickie’s father before JoAnne led her to another bedroom down the hall.
She barely remembered JoAnne’s assistance in changing into light cotton pyjammas and was asleep almost the moment her head hit the pillow.
After a long interval of dreamless sleep, Meaghan became aware of heat radiating against her back and a warm weight around her waist. Looking down, she saw a muscular arm draped over her. She twisted a bit, and gasped at Rickie, who was spooned against her.
At her movement, Rickie tightened his arm and snuggled in closer, planting a kiss on the top of her head. She thought about elbowing him, but he was still injured.
“Sleep a little longer, sayangku,” Rickie murmured. Meaghan paused in her struggles to hear the rumble of sound, and loosened a tiny bit. Rickie smiled into her hair.
“What are you doing here?” She asked in a hushed tone.
“This is my bedroom,” he cheekily answered, “and this is my bed. I’m happy you were here; it saved me time looking for you.”
Meaghan relaxed further. “JoAnne brought me here last night. I didn’t realize it was your room.” Rickie choked back a laugh, but Meaghan could feel it across her shoulders.
“Remind me to give her a raise.”
Susceptible to Rickie’s charm, Meaghan nevertheless tried to wiggle out of his grasp. He easily held her, and kissed her neck, freezing her in place. She tried reasoning.
“I don’t want your father to know I’m in your bedroom.”
“I’m sure he already knows. JoAnne wouldn’t have done this without his knowledge. We can ask him at breakfast, if you want. Sleep now, my Meggie.”
Meaghan decided to worry about the future later and just stay with the man she adored. “Rickie, please move your arm.”
Reluctantly, he released his hold around her waist, only to have her rotate around until she was facing him. Reaching out a hand that only trembled slightly; she cupped his face and kissed him, a benediction and a promise. His breath went out on a sigh as she laid her head against his chest.
They both fell asleep, their hearts beating together in sync.
~ ~ ~
Meaghan woke up when the sunlight from the mullioned windows moved into her eyes. She stretched, automatically reaching across the bed, only to discover she was alone. She felt a pang of disappointment, then chided herself. It was better that he left the room so they weren’t seen leaving it together.
She noticed a small note left underneath a bud vase containing a single bird of paradise. She carefully slid the paper underneath the crystal and unfolded it.
[Meggie – I wanted you to sleep as long as possible. I wanted to speak with my contacts at the BKN this morning. When you are ready, come down for breakfast; I’ll be in the office which is the second door on the left once you reached the bottom of the stairs.
She felt a giddy leap in her heart as she jumped out of bed and padded towards the bathroom. A thump on the door halted her in her tracks. Cautiously opening the door, she saw JoAnne there, holding a bundle of colorful cloth.
“Selamat pagi, Meg. I hope you slept well. I thought I’d bring you some things to change into. They’re Sethe’s, but they should fit alright. And guaranteed to make Rickie happy!”
Meaghan opened the door and JoAnne stepped inside.
Thursday, June 14, 2012
|Ahjummabunny||Part of think-tank|
|Alua||Part of think-tank|
|Ani||saboteur on FLNG platform|
|CMRPrindle||Prindle, phone contact - Chinese mole|
|Hillary||Jambu Restaurant owner / computer nerd|
|Ivoire||French connection, fled to Thailand|
|JoAnne||Rickie's father's Assistant|
|John||saboteur on FLNG platform|
|Jules||took over for Meaghan|
|Leaf||Tina, Meaghan's little sister|
|MJP25||Part of think-tank|
|Mystisith||French connection - saboteur|
|Raine||BKN Agent, Rickie's former boss|
|Ricky||Rickie the main lead|
|Sethe||Rickie's little sister|
|Shel||Meaghan's neighbor, kidnapper|
|Shuk||Mercenary, kidnapper on Bayliner|
|OT Object||Chapter||OT thread|
|"always be by my side"||Ch 47, Ch 79||trope|
|"Kotohuadan" (Thank you in Kadazan)||Ch 18|
|"Pillow Prince"||Ch 75||224|
|"sequinned silver-thread-embroidered harem pants"||Ch 29|
|"Why, do I sparkle?"||Ch 16|
|Back hug||Ch 33, Ch 75||trope|
|Bourbon's Bar||Ch 11, Ch 17, Ch 25||223, 235|
|bubble tea||Ch18||220, 229|
|chocolate cake||Ch 12, Ch 33||224|
|coconut ice cream||Ch 12, Ch 33||224|
|CREATIVE SPARK||thread 56.4.2||223|
|Durian - "buttery pungent goodness"||Ch 16||221,223,|
|Durian (name)||cake, Ch 8 fruit, Ch 16, Ch 74||224|
|Eyelash wish||Ch 34|
|"Fruits" instead of "fruit"||Ch 74||238|
|green apple (cruelsummer's paint color)||Ch 16|
|Hiding in a cave||Ch 73, Ch 74|
|Hospital Gurney run||Ch 55||trope|
|In some bad book / Kdrama||Ch 37, Ch 58||trope|
|Internet in Malaysia||Ch 9, Ch 16, Ch 47||233|
|Korean Pop||Ch 81||trope|
|Nasi Lemak||Ch 4||221, 226|
|Number One on the Speed Dial||Ch 60||trope|
|Nutella||Ch 60, Ch 76|
|Patrick Starr boxers||Ch 43|
|Raine's cello rant||Ch 11|
|Rickie's Abs shot||Ch 74, Ch 75||236|
|Tragus piercing||Ch 5, Ch 13||223|
|Tucking hair behind ear||Ch 31, Ch 75||trope|
|White Bathrobe||Ch 29||223|
|Wiggle and pout||Ch 25||ongoing|
Glossary and Information
Abang – “Older brother” in Malay
Air Harimau Bintang - The name of Rickie’s boat “Water Tiger”
Apa khabar – “How are you” in Malay
APMM – The Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency and the equivalent of the US Coast Guard. The acronym comes from Malay: Agensi Penguatkuasaan Maritim Malyasia
The Astana - The Astana is a palace in Kuching, Sarawak, on the north bank of the Sarawak River, opposite the Kuching Waterfront. It is the official residence of the Governor of Sarawak.
Bapa – “Father” in Malay
BKN – Malaysian’s National Security Division. The acronym comes from Malay: Bahagian Keselamatan Negara. It is a department under the Prime Minister, and is responsible to oversee and regulate the intelligence community for the country
Compliant Tower (CT) – A form of petroleum platform that consists of a flexible narrow tower permanently attached to a foundation on the seafloor that extends up to the platform, used in deeper water (up to 3000 ft) wells
Damnoen saduak – The Floating Market in Bangkok, Thailand; it’s a famous area where hundreds of boats sell everything from produce to hot food
Duanwu / Dragon Boat Festival – Held on the 5th day of the 5th month based on the lunar calendar. The focus of the celebration is eating rice dumplings known as zongzi, drinking realgar wine, and racing dragon boats, similar to sculls.
Durian – A spikey-skinned fruit popular in Southwest Asia, with custard-like edible seedpods, and is native to Brunei, Indonesia, and Malaysia. It is known for have a strong odor
En – Malaysian honorific; the equivalent of Mr. / Ms. / Miss
Engkala – A fruit-bearing tree that grows wild in the Philippines and Indonesia, and cultivated in Peninsular Malaysia
Farang – “Foreigner” in Thai
FLNG – Floating Liquid Natural Gas platform – A petroleum drill that extracts natural gas from underground petroleum deposits and concentrates it into liquid form for shipping
Forteen – A four-boy Malaysian idol group
Gawai Dayak – A festival celebrated in Sawarak on June 1st. It starts at sunset on May 31st, and includes a ritual cleansing of the family home, visiting relatives or going to the ancestral homes, dancing and other forms of celebration
Ibu – “Mother” in Malay
Itaewon - Shopping area in Seoul, Korea, known to be the main area where foreigners shop
Jalan – “Road” in Malay
Kakak – “Sister” in Malay
Khabar baik – “I am fine” in Malay
Khao San Road – An area in Bangkok, Thailand which is known for eclectic clubs and fancy restaurants that is a favorite with travelers and tourists
Kotohuadan - "Thank you" in Kadazan
Kuching, Sarawak – A port city on the South China Sea
Leftenan Komander – A Grade 41 Major position in the APMM
Leftenan Madya Maritim - A Grade 32 Lieutenant position in the APMM
Michael Veerapan –A Malaysian jazz pianist
PASKAU – The acronym comes from Malay: PASukan KhAs Udara. A special counter-terrorism force and special operations tactical within the Royal Malaysian Air Force. It’s main responsibility is to conduct combat search and rescue missions and the recovery of downed aircrew and is a fully-qualified coutnter-terrorist assault unit
Perempuan – “woman” in Malay
Perempuan bodoh – A very strong insult, the equivalent of “stupid woman”
Pulau Burung – An island off the coast of Penang
Pulau Serasan - A small island in the South China Sea between Malaysia and Indonesia
Putrajaya - Capitol and government seat of Sarawak
Sayang – “Beloved” in Malay
Selamat pagi – “Good morning” in Malay
Selamat petang – “Good evening” in Malay
Selamat sejahtera – A formal greeting in Malay
Selamat tengah hari – “Good afternoon” in Malay
Seruling – A small wooden flute native to Malaysia
Si Manis – “sweety” in Malay
Siti Nurhaliza – An internationally-known Malaysian singer, songwriter, and record producer
The Solianos – A four-generation vocal group specializing in 7-part harmony
STAR – Acronym for Special Task and Rescue, it is the Special Forces for the MMEA, tasked with hostage rescue works in shallow waters under MMEA jurisdiction, as well as anti-terrorist action in Malaysian waters alongside the Malaysian Navy
Terima Kasih – “Thank you” in Malay
Tuanku – Traditional honorific for Malaysian individuals that are descended from certain royal lines
Yusof Ghani – Malaysian sculpture artist, specializing in stylized metalwork
The speech by the Chinese Foreign Minister in Chapter 30 is fairly accurate to an official statement made in September 2011, disputing India’s state-run petroleum explorer’s 3-year agreement with Petro Vietnam for developing long-term cooperation in the oil sector in certain blocks of the South China Sea.
In February 2011, PETRONAS awarded the first contract for a FLNG platform to a consortium that included Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering. It was scheduled to have a capacity of one million tons per year.
Friday, June 1, 2012
“I can’t believe this whole time you were working for the group that killed my parents,” Meaghan ground out between clenched teeth, as anger and hurt overcame her fear. The object of her anger just shrugged.
“Our goals and responsibilities are heavy burdens, but we gladly bear them. It’s important that the world understand that we are a force to be reckoned with…”
A snort interrupted her. She looked sharply over at Rickie, his hands on his hips and a cheerful smile on his face.
“You are some of the worst operatives I have ever seen, Berry. After all this time, you didn’t manage a single goal, and your so-called responsibilities are a joke.”
The mercenary flinched as if he struck a physical blow, but then she straightened up and stared malevolently at Rickie, who was standing tall but relaxed, as if she was a guest in the house. Meaghan looked at him with growing concern. What was he doing? She almost immediately answered her question: he was making himself the center of attention, and forcing Shel to become angry enough to make a mistake.
Rickie began ticking off on his fingers.
“You failed to destroy or even significantly damage my FLNG tower. You failed your kidnapping attempt. You failed in procuring the data file. You’ve lost troops with no casualties on the other side to balance it out. Let’s face, perempuan,” Rickie deliberately put as much contempt as possible in his voice, “there was no significance in anything your little group planned.”
Shel narrowed her eyes at him before visibly forcing herself calm. She took a step behind her and picked up her bright cellphone.
“I still have the card, and with this knowledge, we will correct our mistakes and disappear. Then your precious BKN won’t discover our next mission until it’s too late.”
“It’s all false information on the chip,” Rickie said bluntly, “I even added some Korean Pop music to it. Big Bang, to be exact. I thought it was apropos.”
Rickie now openly laughed at the incredulous look on her face, and couldn’t resist. “It’s fantastic, baby.”
“Stop laughing.” The calmness was now gone, and the terrorist was vibrating with anger. "Maybe this will change your tune.” And she swung the barrel towards Meaghan, who was still standing near the coffee table throughout this exchange.
“Now!” A deep voice yelled to their right.
From their respective locations, Rickie and Meaghan sent a startled look over at their family members as Tina unexpectedly leaped from her chair, the fireplace poker in her hand.
The rest of what happened was a blur in Rickie’s mind, yet crystalline clear in slow-motion.
He saw the mercenary swing her handgun towards the younger girl, sensing the threat that bloomed from that area, and he knew he was too far away to stop her from bringing the gun to bear.
His father came to life and grabbed a crystal ashtray with his good hand. He tossed it, and the object arced through the air until it connected with Shel’s arm and knocked her gun aside, spinning her slightly so that she now faced Rickie.
Rickie hesitated a moment too long, torn between protecting his love, and saving his family.
The hate from Shel’s eyes was almost palpable as she took aim at him.
Meaghan felt her heart speed up when she realized how unstable her former neighbor was. Without a thought for herself, Meaghan lunged for Rickie and pushed him out of the way.
The sound of a single shot was loud in the ensuing silence.
“Meg!” Tina’s cry was faint over the sound of her blood pounding in her ears. Face down on the floor, for a brief moment, she thought she was hit. But there was no sharp pain, only a dull throbbing where her body impacted the floor. She scrambled to her knees and crawled over to Rickie, who was still on his back, staring at Shel.
“Are you okay?” Meaghan cried, cupping his face and staring into his eyes. Realizing her back was to the mercenary; she twisted around and placed her body between Shel and Rickie.
Shel was standing, arms akimbo and with the gun hanging loosely in her grip. A bright red stain spread quickly across the front of her blue t-shirt, as she stared uncomprehendingly past the couple, then, with almost a graceful movement, the woman collapsed to the floor.
Meaghan swiveled around and saw that JoAnne was standing by the door, a vicious looking handgun still pointed at the now-prone extremist. She walked over to the body and competently checked for a carotid pulse. Satisfied, she holstered the weapon and smiled at Meaghan, who was stock still for a moment.
“Great timing, JoAnne,” Rickie said, as Tina dropped the andiron and ran to Meaghan, where she hugged her older sister and cried. Rickie touched Meaghan on the shoulder, not wanting to break in but needing to make sure she was okay. She gave a steady nod of her head and turned back to Tina.
Rickie stood up, brushed his pants, and walked over to his father, who was watching the two sisters.
“Are you okay, bapa?” He grabbed both of the older man’s hands; he nodded and squeezed back.
“It was Tina’s idea for me to pretend to be incapacitated. Even with this almost-useless hand, I was able to untie her while we were alone. Your sister hid among the staff, but since that woman knew Tina, we couldn’t do that for her.”
The sound of pounding feet was heard outside the still-open door, and soldiers poured into the room with drawn weapons.
“Glad to see the troops have finally arrived,” JoAnne stated sardonically. Rickie left his father’s side and talked briefly with the lead soldier; he gave him the location of the house staff and Sethe. The soldier gestured at the other men to withdraw room. The lead snapped off a salute and followed behind his team after promising to update Rickie.
Meaghan held fiercely onto her trembling sister and stroked her hair, barely noticing the troops leaving the room.
“I was so scared,” the younger girl hiccupped, “but I knew I had to pretend in order to protect everyone. Why, Meg? Why did Shel become our friend?” The last part was said with bewilderment.
“She was after something she thought our parents had,” Meaghan replied. She decided not to bring up the facts of their parents’ deaths, until she could find a quiet moment with just the two of them. “I found out that she had our house confiscated, just to find some electronic file.”
“You mean, like a memory stick? Like this?” Tina reached into the front pocket of her jeans and pulled out a small blue SD card.