“You’ve got a new mission, Kite.” Eagle’s voice, strong as ever, sounds over the phone. Jungkook’s eyes narrow, staring at the clock, blinking slowly as his vision clears and he tries not to yawn.
4 : 5 2 A. M.
“Now, sir?” He tries to keep the sleep from his voice, but it’s undeniable, and he can swear he hears a laugh from his boss on the other side of the phone.
“Yes, now.” A small sigh and Jungkook is pulling himself from bed, dressing himself and preparing to go to the compound to receive his mission. It’s been a few weeks since he’s had a mission but he’s always prepared, holsters sitting next to the bed and jackets lining hooks next to his front door. Boots on, beanie on, out the front door. He’s at the compound in less than half an hour, knelt on the mat on the floor in front of Eagle’s chair. Almost immobile except for the yawn that wracks his body as he tries to keep it silent.
“I’m here, sir. What’s the mission?” He looks up, meets Eagle’s eyes, and all the other male does is nod, motioning for him to rise.
“Work with the Cyphers–”, an eye roll from Vulture in the corner, a reciprocated questioning glance from Jungkook, “protecting one of their members at her fight this evening.” Eagle’s eyes meet Vulture’s, and Vulture exits out the back door. “You’ll receive more details whenever you arrive from their leader, I assume. She’s a possible target from their rival gang, from what I understand.” Jungkook’s eyes are still questioning, but he can’t help the tone in his voice.
“I’m a bodyguard, sir?” The tone is almost condescending. Eagle just nods. “Now be on your way. Here’s the address.” A slip of paper enters Jungkook’s hands, and off he goes. Never questioning, only accepting. He doesn’t know half of what he’s getting himself into.
Next in my series of gouache paintings for the Shanghai Natural History Museum. The cinereous vulture, Aegypius monachus, is a large bird of prey endemic to central Asia and portions of Europe, where it is currently being reintroduced. As an Old World vulture, the cinereous is only distantly related to the vultures of the Americas, which have relatively similar coloration and habits. Old World vultures are members of Accipitridae, the familiar group of birds of prey which includes the hawks, harriers, eagles and kites. New World vultures, by contrast, are their own family (Cathartidae) which includes the condors.
This makes the cinereous vulture the largest true bird of prey in the world, with wingspans approaching 11 feet in length and with weights up to 31 pounds in the largest (female) individuals. Despite cursory similarities, Old and New World vultures are fundamentally different in a number of ways. Like other raptors, the cinereous vulture has extraordinarily good eyesight, which it uses to locate carrion (or other vultures circling it). The American vultures, by contrast, rely primarily on smell to locate meals. Old World vultures also show some of the predatory adaptations that evolution has honed to a fine point in other accipitrids: most notably remarkably strong bills and grasping taloned feet, which enable them to indulge in occasional predatory behaviors on top of scavenging.
The cinereous is currently listed as near-threatened due to poisoning (to control predators), carrion reduction (from improving standards for hygiene on farms), trapping and hunting, and habitat destruction. Recent reintroduction efforts in Europe have resulted in a mild but hopefully improving reversal.