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Old 08-25-2015, 11:36 PM
RVM45 RVM45 is offline
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I kinda hate to do this--having two versions of the same story up at one time...

This is my thoroughly reworked version of the first chapter of "Chi".

I had an Epiphany about my writing recently. I am in constant battle with my natural tendency to include huge amounts of exposition.

And too much of anything is bad.


My natural forte is to write a somewhat more cerebral story that will support more exposition than a Pulp-Fiction type of writing where it is important to get the Sheriff shot no later than page 2 and to throw in a shootout or at least a knife fight every chapter.

Edgar Rice Burroughs included a lot of exposition, that's why some of his fictional worlds or lost civilizations were so memorable. Robert E Howard is an example of the second type.

A more contemporary example of a Pulp Writer was Jerry Ahern. Ahern wasn't the equal or even near equal of Howard--but he made a living writing.

I'm constantly striving to wrench my foot into the tiny glass slipper like Cinderella's step-sister.

I can get 2000-3000 words on a good writing "Day' and so I tend to do a short 2 or 3 thousand word mini-chapter per day so that I can post it.

This is a LONG chapter. I spent several writing days rehashing it even though I already had the basic storyline down.

Ain't gonna be posting 3 or 4 times per week if I keep writing like this.

IF anyone can suffer through the same basic story twice, let me know which version that you prefer.


Chapter One

The origins of The Outfit are shrouded in mystery. I’ve never examined them, but I’m told that the oldest fragmentary records are in Gaeilge and some later documents are liberally sprinkled with Romany words and terms.

Be all that as it may. The Outfit today is a distinctly American institution, though a very secretive one.

Go to any skeptic and he’ll be happy to tell you that chakras, chi and chi meridians are pseudo science and superstitious claptrap.

Let me point out that in some special circumstances—right where self-hypnosis, visualization and biofeedback are hard to distinguish—some visualizations are surprisingly powerful.

Imagine—not ordinary imagine—but visualize very strongly that you’re lounging by a sunny beach and your blood pressure will drop—not all day, but for ten or fifteen minutes. Imagine a clogged sink breaking loose and your sinuses will drain. Surprisingly this works even when the subject hasn’t been told the purpose of the exercise.

Spend two or three years learning to visualize and manipulate The Outfit’s chakra tree and you can use it to manipulate your body and even your immediate environment in surprising ways.

The chakra tree is as real and as unreal as the clogged sink and the sunny beach.

Once The Outfit used another mental construct to work their craft, but sometime in the mid seventeen hundreds they encountered the Hindu system of chakras and the Chinese system of chi and their acupuncture charts of chi meridians.

They modified the system a great deal, but the new mental construct was so much simpler and versatile that no description still exists of the old system.

“What difference does it make, since they’re all purely mental constructs anyway?” as Coach O’Brian once told us.

Yeah, The Outfit goes out of its way to declare its Occidental roots. Nonetheless you will find many Oriental terms and martial arts weapons in use. There are two reasons: they are a good fit and many outsiders who are recruited into The Outfit come from martial arts backgrounds.

About two thirds of The Outfit’s Adepts are born into the organization and they will have been training in some way all their lives. For the other third there is a rather laid-back three-year training program.

The Outfit’s two Golden Axioms are:

#1} Nothing of lasting value ever results from haste.


#2.} Pressure and anxiety is evil.

It is blameworthy to try to motivate people through pressure and anxiety…

{An exception is given for attacking enemies.}

But it is also blameworthy to allow pressure into your life. If you can’t posses, practice or pursue something without getting uptight about it or its possible loss, then you need to ruthlessly cut it out of your life.

Nonetheless, one of The Outfit’s Silver Axioms is to always cut yourself and others a good deal of slack.

I trained for three years at the village in Northern Georgia in the foothills of the Appalachians. It’s a small town of about thirty five hundred with only about fifteen hundred being trainees and Adepts. The rest are carpenters, masons, plumbers, electricians, cooks, clerks, schoolteachers and children among other things.

Some of those children—whose parents are not Adepts—will join the ranks of Adepts some day.

I could give you a detailed topographic map pricked with a pinhole right where the town sits, a compass, detailed directions how to get there and the GPS coordinates and you probably couldn’t find the place even then. For that you’d need a guide who has been there, not once but several times.

The Outfit can hide things in plain sight and make you detour all around them while convinced that you are forging straight ahead.

The Outfit supplied me with a nice private room. The mess hall served three tasty and plentiful meals every day at no cost. They also paid me six hundred and fifty undeclared dollars in cash every month.

The pay went up every year. Now as a graduate and a casual—meaning that I was between assignments—I drew eight hundred and eighty dollars per month. It was kinda like a salesman’s guaranteed minimum.

The training covers five things: martial arts, acrobatics, people manipulation skills, meditation and visualization skills and finally throwing.

The Outfit has their trainees put in some time throwing almost everything that can be thrown: baseballs, Frisbees, chakram, Irish darts, spears, bolas, spikes, tomahawken, lumberjack throwing axes even rocks.

The two items that they stress most though are Kunai knives and throwing stars.

I’d had high school and college wrestling, a third degree black belt in judo and a couple years serving as a sparring partner for an aging pro boxer in exchange for boxing lessons. I’d stack my martial arts expertise up against anyone.

I came in at six foot and two hundred and forty pounds. I was fit and trying to get lighter hurt my strength and endurance while giving me a 24/7 obsession with food.

Nonetheless, I came in with a few tumbling skills unusual for someone my size: cartwheels, headstand, back walkovers and such. Under The Outfit’s expert tutelage I added several more maneuvers that I’d never thought to master.

I figured that even if I was terrible at visualizing, who could tell? I did spend the recommended time every day in lone meditation—and generally a few minutes extra—often more than a few.

There was no way to practice people skills in a village full of cognoscenti. I just diligently memorized scripts and axioms.

My great weakness was in throwing knives—particularly left-handed.

I’d been pursuing the will-o-wisp of ambidexterity since the age of five or six. The list of things that I could do and do well left-handed was impressive. I could draw, paint, shoot a pistol, and shoot a left-hand bolt-action rifle or a left-handed bow. I could cut my meat or butcher an animal with my knife in my left hand. I used a left-handed saber.

Two things that I’d never been able to do at all well left-handed was write legibly and throw things accurately.

The Outfit encouraged trainees to be able to throw from unorthodox positions with either hand out to ridiculous ranges.

As my first year had drawn to a close, I was very afraid that my poor throwing would get me eliminated from the program. That fear turned out to be ill founded. Very few people are ever eliminated from the program against their will.

At any rate, I’d gotten into the habit of heading for the outdoor knife throwing range when weather allowed and practice my knife throwing. I got steadily better—even without using chi to guide the missile and to drive it harder.

The range was typical of many of The Outfit’s facilities. The targets were 4’x4’ slabs of end-grain pine. There are less exacting ways to make an end grain target but The Outfit laboriously piled and stacked ten inch butts of 2”x4”s and fastened them together with both dowels and glue.

There were stacks of straw several feet behind the row of targets to make it hard to lose a knife regardless of how egregiously wide of the target it might fly.

O’Brian, who’d been my coach all through the training walked out to the range to speak to me.

“They have a mission they’re going to offer you. You have some special expertise that they feel will be helpful.

“Spoil, there are reasons why it’s been almost a year since you graduated and this is the first mission that you’ve been offered,” Coach said.

“Coach, I’m willing to serve The Outfit, but I’m also more than happy just to hang around being a casual. I’m not ambitious or greedy. I have more than enough,” I said.

************* ******************* **************************

I went to see Harold the dispatcher by myself. That was SOP. He might have special instructions for me. Also, if I opted not to take the mission there was no need for me to know who was going or what the detailed instructions were.

“You will be going against the Russian mob in Chicago. These dudes play a very brutal game,” Harold warned me.

**************** ******************* **************************

I went by my room to pick up some gear.

All the buildings in the town seem to be made of the same roughhewn lumber and dark brown paint like they use in all the boy’s summer camps that I’ve ever seen.

Two-story buildings serve as dorms or barracks for single trainees and Adepts. They are built along the line of the old military barracks—except that the buildings are all subdivided into single rooms inside.

They don’t put the quarters all in one spot. They spread them more or less evenly and randomly throughout the settlement.

The rooms vary in size a bit. Mine is ten foot by thirteen.

Inside they dispense with the rustic roughhewn look. The walls are lined with amber colored knotty pine and most of the furnishings are from the village. There are many gifted craftsmen living here.

My room has a single bed, a chest of drawers, an armoire, a desk, chair and a recliner. They supplied a seven-shelf bookcase and there was a four-position horizontal gun rack solidly bolted to the wall.

I’d brought an industrial sized fan, several wall hangings and three bright colorful bed coverings with me when I arrived. I had a faux Navaho blanket, a tie-dyed bedspread and one in eye-popping psychedelic.

On my desktop is my plastic artist skull, several artist mannequins, a big plastic two gallon pickle jar about two-thirds full of Magnetics, some Legos and my comically oversized windup alarm clock with the huge twin bells that were oversized even on the big clock.

I’d ordered a dorm refrigerator, microwave, toaster, blender, hot plate and electric coffee pot through the quartermaster and I’d picked up a big black beanbag chair at a yard sale.

That room is my home and it means a lot to me.

When I was in the US Army—busily trying to convince them that we weren’t right for each other…

They brought in a temporary platoon leader for a few days and he wanted us to repeat a marching cadence that contained the words:

“I like it here;

“I love it here;

“I’ve finally found a home.”

I got dressed down—I was surprised that I didn’t get worse—because I wouldn’t say the words or even lip-synch them.

Not even God Almighty on his throne has the authority to order someone to lie. God wouldn’t, because he is righteousness but I’m just saying.

I damn sure wasn’t going to tell an egregious lie like that at the beck of a buck sergeant filling in for a sergeant first class.

I could truthfully say that about the outfit though.

********** *************** ***********************

There is a reason that the outfit doesn’t stress firearms very much.

One of the most common and basic of the abilities—and one of the more powerful and versatile ones—is to create copies of yourself. They call it “Spawning”.

Metals don’t spawn at all well. Small metal objects like zippers or dental fillings seem to do okay—but nothing much more massive than a thimble will copy well.

Lets say that I have a 1911A1 .45 Automatic. Lets also say that I spawn two copies. My .45 will still be fine but both Alpha and Beta’s 1911A1s will be as bollixed as all Hell. The copied guns probably won’t fire. They’re likely to explode if they do fire.

It takes some serious chi to copy a 1911A1. I would be extremely likely to omit copying the pistol. While I can’t spawn what I don’t have, it is simple to omit whatever I chose to leave out.

Cast iron and wrought iron as well as lead copy fairly well. The old Japanese Kunai was a multi-tool used as a bricklaying trowel, a garden spade and a small pry bar more than as a knife. It has a very thick blade. And they were usually made of cast iron.

All those qualities made them good weapons to carry and copy.

No, the Ninja seldom if ever threw the damned things. People in the outfit watch martial arts movies and anime as much as anyone else though.

The fact is that people who diligently practice throwing for years tend to get very good at it. Then at some point one learns to use chi both to guide and flatten the Kunai’s trajectory and to add three to five hundred percent more impact energy.

Our armorers had also come up with an obscure alloy that seemed to copy very well. We call it “Mystery Metal” since no one except the metallurgists seems to know its composition.

It is heavier than aluminum and only marginally stronger than wrought iron. It comes in a rainbow of blue-white tones. The armorers have succeeded in turning out a dazzling array of layered Damascus-like composites of wrought iron and mystery metal.

You can’t make a good sword of wrought iron or of mystery metal, but some of the other groups must have better metallurgists or at least more accomplished metal workers than we do because squaring off against rival Adepts armed with big katanas, dao or gen isn’t unheard of.

How would I fight an Oriental swordsman who’d been mastering kendo, iaido and jodo since early childhood?

Given the opportunity, I’d cheat like Hell.

Use of the Saber is a legitimate martial art though modern day fencers have gotten away from true combat applications, but there has been a resurgence of Historical European Martial Arts and traditional Polish style saber fighting.

I’d match my thirty-nine inch blade left-handed saber against any Oriental adept. I’d take him far out into uncharted water and let him drown.

It is all kinda academic because our armorers can’t make me a saber with a blade that won’t snap like a piece of peanut brittle when blades are crossed. They did make me a matched pair of hangers though—right handed and left.

A hanger is a mini saber. Mine have twenty-five inch blades. Sometimes the guard is minimized along with the blade but mine have full-sized guards. Surprisingly a hanger gives up little utility in defense compared with a saber but it does suffer in offense. They do allow me to go through squads of knife wielding foes like Samson going through the Philistines though.

Although it is a bit short, I generally limit myself to the left hanger. It’s quite enough of a problem to hide one hanger under halfway normal clothing.

Be all that as it may. I’d been working with the armorers to develop a semi-automatic pistol that could spawn. That was one reason that I hadn’t been placed on a team or offered any missions—but there was no reason to tell Coach O’Brian that. Being an Adept means living much of your life on a “need to know” basis.

My pistol was made of wrought iron and mystery metal sandwiched in tens of thousands of tiny layers and it had the same approximate size and shape as a Star PD.

We’d made over a dozen of the small pistols but this was the only one that had proved able to spawn without picking up ruinous inclusions. It was a bit worrisome that there were only five magazines prepared.

That meant thirty-one shots on tap. Folks say that you’ll have killed all your opponents, been killed yourself, taken cover or have broken contact before you can possibly fire thirty-one rounds. This is less true of an Adept with skills that ordinary folks cannot equal.

Brass doesn’t spawn very well so the cartridge cases are also made of mystery metal and we’d found that a slightly lighter charge and round flat-point pure lead bullets worked best. I had a hundred and fifty of the loads. Running out of ammunition wouldn’t be a problem.

Since there was nothing to prevent me from carrying two pistols, I didn’t have to rely on the cranky little pistol—only the spawn that I threw would depend upon it.

The armorers had made a few muzzle-loading weapons prior to my Star.

Josh the leader of my new team was a fellow large enough to have been an NFL lineman and he carried a Colt Walker replica and sometimes a short barreled 10 gauge muzzle loading shotgun when conditions allowed.

Gerald was the second in command. He was an albino. If he had any firearms neither he nor anyone else felt the need to tell me. I really didn’t care.

Ladonna was the third team member. She was a six-foot and one hundred and eighty pound black amazon. She had three cap and ball revolvers—two .44 caliber replicas of the Colt Navy and a five-shot .375.

Organic materials spawn well so it was no problem for her revolvers to have pearl grips or for my Star to have stag grips.

The two men and I were supposed to pick up Ladonna in Knoxville on our way to Chicago. I didn’t need to know what she’d been doing apart from the rest of the team.

************** ****************** ******************************

We split up in Knoxville and drove two different cars into Chicago. We rented the cars at two different car rental agencies using fake ID and charge cards that The Outfit supplied. Even under torture, I couldn’t tell you what make of car Josh and Gerald were travelling in or what names that they used because I simply didn’t know.

Even if we passed them on the road I wouldn’t recognize them. It is relatively simple to use a mind effect to obscure facial recognition.

Yeah I can see the effects if I really look. I made it a point not to look too deeply en route to Chicago—just in case.

Ladonna said that I drove too slowly and cautiously so she wouldn’t relinquish the wheel all the way to Chicago.

“Why do you keep staring at me?” she demanded.

“If you’re some sort of racist then spit it out. We don’t have to like each other to work together,” she said.

“First of all, everyone is racist. Get over it. Second, I’m sorry that you caught me looking at you. I may be blond and fair with glacial gray eyes, but my ideal woman has always been deep chocolate brown.

“There aren’t many black women in The Outfit—especially dark ones like you,” I told her.

“Don’t white girls turn you on at all?”

“A very few—mostly, they might as well be men,” I said.

“So in essence, I’m the first woman that you’ve seen in a long time?” she said.

“That’s about the size of it.”

“Looking is free, but quit looking away when I glance your way. It makes me feel paranoid.

“Here, I want you to practice. Look me up and down while I look right at you,” she said.

That was a very hard thing to do.

My father frequently said that a young man that starts chasing girls and dating before the age of thirty is a sissy and probably a homo too. I never believed that myself, but what teen wants his father to think that he’s a pouf?

I made sure that he never caught me looking at a girl and I got a lot of my values from reading Victorian novels. I’ve always believed that for a gentleman to ever show overt sexuality unless he were one hundred percent convinced the feeling was mutual was the height of vulgarity and crudeness.

Misreading a situation and making an unwanted advance—even something so mild as to try to take the lady’s hand—was the greatest insult that a man could give a woman. It was insulting for you to think that she might return your interest when she did not.

Another rule I lived by was that a gentleman presumes that every female that he meets is a lady. Even when a woman has proved herself a whore and a pickpocket, he still treats her as if she were a lady.

I mean sure break her arm if that’s what it takes to save your wallet, but don’t use coarse language or let your hands wander while you do it.

I’m not shy—not even around women really. If the purpose of the exercise is to be rude and obnoxious I can do so without the slightest reluctance. When sitting on my hands and trying desperately to think of something to say that helped my case…

That saw me staring off into space and given broken-off replies to all attempts at conversation.

Fortunately there was little need to engage Ladonna in any sort of dialog.

************* **************** *******************************

When we got to Chicago it was daytime so we went straight to the hospital to meet our client.

I’d seen photos and even a couple videos of the old man. He was sixty-three years old and until a few weeks ago he’d been slim, active and agile.

A gang member had raped his daughter. She had pressed charges largely at the old man’s insistence. The gangster was tight with one of the Russian gangs. You couldn’t say that the old man and his daughter weren’t warned more than once. The old man had remained admirably obstinate even after a beating that cost him a kidney and much of the sight in one eye.

The old man and his daughter both disappeared the same day. They’d killed the daughter—after they’d repeatedly raped her and then tortured her.

What they had done to the old man was worse—far worse than mere torture and death.

They’d amputated both his arms close to the shoulder. Then they’d taken both of his legs close to the hip. They split his tongue just to add insult to injury and then they’d kept him injected full of LSD-25 for ten terror filled days.

Then they’d tranked him and left him on his doorstep early one morning for his wife to find.

Any butcher or maniac with a meat cleaver or machete could have cut off arms and legs, but they’d wanted him to live and be a lesson to others. The blood vessels had been neatly tied off and the stumps were well done. Sure, a doctor could have done it, but so could a surgical nurse or a veterinarian. Truth be told, I know enough to have done it—though I never would have.

The old man slurred his sibilants and drooled a bit, but he was surprisingly coherent. I suppose that his body had endured enough traumas without trying to fix his tongue. I’m not sure that you can fix a split tongue.

We talked with the old man about two and a half hours. We pumped him for every relevant detail. Then I set to work.

I was a reasonable portrait artist and I’d read a how-to about how police sketches are done and I’d practiced. I ended up with eight recognizable likenesses. The fact that the old man had been pumped full of hallucinogens might have been enough to thoroughly impugn his testimony in a court of law, but they were good enough for me.

The old man’s nephew pulled me to one side.

“I’m a reporter. I’m a sports reporter, but I still have contacts and my co-workers have contacts. The old time mob is footing your fee here through what is supposed to be charitable contributions.

“I want to see the dirty SOBs who did this pay out the ass, but my conscious tells me that I should warn you. These old school guys are as crooked and as brutal as the Russians. They just go about it differently,” he said.

I thanked him briefly for the heads-up. Then I told the nephew and Ladonna that I needed to talk to the old man alone. Ladonna gave me a brief hard stare but I stared back just as hard and gnashed my teeth at her out of the nephew’s line of sight.

************* ******************* ***********************

“Some folks believe that it is an unforgivable sin to commit suicide. I’ve never believed that myself,” I began my spiel.

“The thing is, you shouldn’t tell a lie even if it costs you your life. God wouldn’t want you to lie. He couldn’t ask you to do that.

“In your position I’d be wanting someone to end it for me.

“So unless you tell me that you’d rather go on living like this and say it with conviction…

“I’m going to end it for you,” I said.

His eyes teared and he placed a hand on my shoulder in gratitude. It seemed so right at the time that it wasn’t until much later that I remember the hand and wondered where he got it.

I drove my index finger through his skull into his brain. Since the chi sealed the skull against leakage there was an audible pop as I withdrew it. It is poor tradecraft to kill someone only once, so I drove my finger through his sternum as well.

Some Adepts have mastered chi finger to the point they can punch a fist through a man’s torso. A finger to through the sternum into the heart is just as effective if less sensational.

I left a “do not disturb” sign on the door. A nurse would ignore it but Ladonna and I should be well clear of the general area before that happened.

“That wasn’t very professional,” Ladonna said as we rode the elevator down.

Just then the door opened to reveal a half dozen security guards waiting for us with drawn weapons in the lobby. I didn’t even know that Illinois had armed security guards.

“Apparently not,” I said.

For just the briefest instant I allowed myself to feel anger. I was tempted to draw my pistol and show them just how far they’d stepped outside of their class.

Neither of us could teleport nor become invisible.

Have you ever watched a stage magician do his tricks? Nine out of ten times the difficult part of the trick has already been accomplished before you even start watching to try to catch him at it.

Neither Ladonna nor I were ever actually at the hospital. We’d sent two wet spawn. When a spawn pops his cork there is a human-sized vacuum formed and there is a characteristic “Pop!”

Witnesses? Never mind witnesses. Within a half-hour they will have convinced themselves that they’d seen something—anything besides two people vanishing before their eyes.

We hadn’t been wearing our own faces anyway.

************** ********************* ***********************
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Old 08-25-2015, 11:44 PM
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************ *************** ********************

We were both checked into a single room in a medium quality hotel as per Outfit doctrine.

Ladonna left the door to the bathroom open as she showered. I wasn’t a child and I wouldn’t sneak a peek, but we often dealt with people with unreal skills. If somehow, someway someone managed to sneak past me into the bathroom, having the door open would make it marginally harder for him to neutralize Ladonna without me knowing.

“Ding-Dong!” Ladonna shouted in the shower.

That was her way of saying that she’d gotten her spawn’s memories.

************* ***************** ***********************

There are broadly speaking two types of spawn. Wet spawn can eat, eliminate and bleed. They can last for hours or days—possibly even longer but the investment of chi would become enormous.

Although wet spawn can eat or drink their assimilation isn’t on par with a human’s. When they run out of chi they send a request for more.

Wet spawn cease to exist when they decide to pop their own cork, when the original pops their cork for them, when they’re slain or when they run out of chi. In the first three cases one gets back at least a portion of the chi invested.

You always get all the spawn’s memories and experiences.

Broadly speaking, you must divide your chi evenly with your spawn. There are ways to cheat and hold back a bit extra for yourself, but that’s an advanced technique.

That means that if I can throw four wet spawn but I decide to limit myself to one, he gets twenty percent—not fifty percent—of my chi.

Incidentally a human—unlike a spawn—can survive exhausting all of his chi. He’ll be mighty drained until he generates more, but he can live.

The human brain has a bit of difficulty keeping track of multiple simultaneous time-lines. It resembles reading a novel that gives multiple first person descriptions of the same event.

While the spawn is alive I have very little contact or control over him. I can sense his chi level and I can choose to terminate him. I can talk to him. I can give hand signals or I can phone him, but I have no special connection to him.

Dry spawn last three to four minutes at most. Their skin is about a quarter inch thick and tough but pierce it with so much as a hatpin and the spawn pops. Strike him two or three stout blows and he’ll pop.

Dry spawn cost very little chi, but when they pop you don’t get any chi or experience back.

Wet spawn can throw dry spawn if they have the chi, but it is axiomatic that wet spawn cannot throw other wet spawn.

********** ************ ******************************

Ladonna came in from the shower.

“Gather your things, we’re leaving,” she said.

I’ve never met an Adept who could see the future. If I did, I’d think that the source of such ability had to be demonic. Quite a few Adepts seem to get premonitions or forerunners though. They’re usually accurate and I take them seriously.

“We can leave the car,” I said.

We had several sets of fake ID and charge cards. We’d left nothing behind in the vehicle.

I placed my Star in one hand and my left-hand hanger in the other and threw two spawn. All three of us sheathed the small sword and the Star. Both of my spawn checked to make sure that the four extra magazines and the Kunai knives had also spawned.

It would be a once-in-a-lifetime occurrence if they hadn’t, but it was procedure.

Ladonna also threw two spawn.

She had a Browning Highpower and a double-barrel 20 gauge with barrels just barely long enough to be legal. She loaded it with magnum loads of buffered and plated #4 birdshot and the gun had custom extra-full chokes tuned to throw the tightest possible pattern with her pet load.

At very close range—about as far away as you can spit—birdshot can do impressive amounts of damage—more than buckshot or a slug. Farther than across a medium room though and it rapidly looses effectiveness.

She’d told me that didn’t concern her. She had her pistols for longer-range shots.

One of her and one of me exited our door and went left, and then one of me and one of her exited and went right.

Within a second or two there was gunshots. It sounded like there was at least two AK-47s on full-auto—one on either end of the hallway.

One of my spawn went down, but not before his side was all clear and he’d gotten a good look all around.

I threw a single dry spawn and handed him two Kunai knives. It takes about as much chi to spawn a Kunai knife as it does to spawn the dry spawn himself. I had several extra Kunai knives in my gear, but chi might soon be a factor.

My spawn looked up and down the hallway and threw his knives in less than a second. One hit the sole remaining gunman right in his eye and into the brain. The other penetrated the man’s bullet resistant vest and then his sternum.

I was wearing a vest of sorts—a rather weak one. It wouldn’t stop 9mm or +P .38 Specials but it was all that I could wear and move freely. I’d always figured that even if a round penetrated the vest it would have lost some of its potentially tissue destroying energy doing so.

My remaining wet spawn had taken a round to his right hand that had mangled the first three fingers. One of Ladonna’s wet spawn seemed to be gut-shot but mobile.

I whipped a quick tourniquet on his wrist for him and helped him sheath his hanger. When he’d lost his Star along with most of the fingers on his right hand he’d went medieval.

“Having your right hand blown off hurts,” he said.

“Did you think that it wouldn’t?” I asked him.

I picked up a long barreled but pistol gripped double-barreled twelve gauge off of the floor for him and made sure that it was loaded.

I handed the Star and two of the magazine’s from the wet spawn’s belt and handed them to the dry spawn. He’d already reclaimed his Kunai knives.

“You and the wounded Ladonna take the service elevator to the basement,” I told them.

“Why?” Ladonna started to ask.

“He has less than two minutes left—but if this one dies his pistol and magazines will vanish too,” I explained.

“You two, ride the main elevator to the lobby. Hold out as long as possible,” I said.

My duplicate stared into my eyes and gave a brief nod of assent and respect.

Within a few minutes—if I lived that long—we’d be one again and all duality would have been left behind. For that moment, we were two different beings and I was the one willing to sacrifice him to preserve my mission and my life.

Ladonna had broken down her shotgun and stowed it. She had acquired an AK, found a fresh magazine to load it with and had stuck another magazine into the front of her pants.

“The team in the basement encountered light resistance but they cleared it,” she said to me.

**************** ******************* ****************************

As the elevator stopped I created three dry spawn and launched them out of the door in all directions. I gave them all a pair of Kunai. I wasn’t long for this world. I would certainly bleed out, get shot or simply run out of mission well before I ran out of chi. There was no point in hoarding chi.

I wished that I could have given them all whole right hands, but you can’t spawn what you don’t have.

I heard two of my dry spawn pop as Ladonna’s dry clone and then the wet one rushed out into the lobby. I heard many rounds fired. It sounded like Mac 10s or Uzis. I’d heard both and I’d fired a Mac 10 a couple times. I wasn’t anything like an authority.

The shotgun was clumsy for one-handed use. It was meant to be halfway concealable without being an NFA weapon. No one had ever intended to fire it one handed like Roadwarrior.

I ran up to point blank range and let one rapid firing enemy have both barrels. I drew my hanger and looked all around.

The wet Ladonna and my single remaining dry spawn were just finishing off the last. I’d been shot again, more than once, but I was too numb to tell where.

I took one last look all around on the off chance that my eyes might see something important and then I popped my cork.

*********** *************** ************************

As we rode the elevator down to the basement, I said to Ladonna:

“Can you send a couple of dry spawn out to draw fire? I’m a bit wasted right now.”

“I can do better than that Honey,” she said to me.

She threw off two wet spawn. They stepped out into the basement with a pair of six-shooters in each of their hands.

“All clear!” one of Ladonna’s spawn shouted.

“Take this,” Ladonna said to a spawn as she handed her the AK and the spare magazine.

“I’ll take this,” she said while grabbing one of the spawned girl’s pearl handled Navy pistols.

We left via a service exit. Ladonna held the pistol low. Once we were on a busy city street the pistol abruptly vanished.

She’d kept the pistol ready for six extra rounds right at the outset as well as having the spawn listening for gunfire until we were almost clear.

We went through a dozen tail-spotting and tail-loosing maneuvers.

There was a Dairy Queen three blocks further away from the hotel.

“I’m beat. I need food to recharge my chi. I need to sit down for awhile. Most of all I need to make a deposit in the porcelain bank very badly,” I told her.

She laughed at my lack of stamina, but she agreed.

*********** ************* ************************

“What do you want?” Ladonna asked.

“Get me a large cone, a large vanilla malt, a hotdog, a fish sandwich and French fries,” I said.

“I’m headed for the restroom,” I added.

After we’d eaten and rested for awhile, Ladonna had gone into the women’s restroom to send a scrambled text to Josh and Gerald. We had several burn phones with us and even so they were kept in foil wrap except at designated contact times. Phones can be hacked to send out homing signals.

“None of those people who came after us were Adepts,” Ladonna commented as we walked briskly down the sidewalk.

“That means that they were probably Russian mob. That means they’re already onto us. Josh said to go to ground, stay out of sight and await further orders.

“I memorized a list of safe locations. I’ll take you to one,” she added.

Some of what she said was coded of course.

************* **************** **********************

We had taken a long circuitous route to end up in a run-down crackhead hotel. As I walked into the room I took several deep breaths through my nose. My father had told me that bed bugs have a very distinctive ****y smell. No bed bugs.

I pulled the bedspread back and sprinkled sevin dust all around and then remade it.

I took my 1911A1 out of my pants—summer special holster and all—and placed it on the small round table beside the bed. Wallowing around on a holster will ruin it very rapidly.

“The bed should be safe now. Leave the covers up so you won’t be rolling around in sevin dust. You can sleep first,” I said.

Ladonna walked up until she was right I my face. She took my Star out of my waistband and laid it beside my full-sized.45 on the table. My left hanger was next.

She kissed me and then she hooked my heel with her foot so that I fell backward onto the bed. She wiggled and crawled astraddle me.

“Now is the time…” she started to say in a curious monotone voice.

Men knocked the flimsy door in with one of those two-man battering rams and rushed into the room.

My guns and knives were all a couple steps away on the table and Ladonna had me at a severe disadvantage. Someone gave me an injection. A couple of the others used stun guns about the same time. Then they forced a pillow over my face.

************* **************** **************************

When I woke I felt like I had been unconscious for geological eras. I felt achy and cranky and my mouth was both very dry and tasted incredibly foul.

“So you’re awake,” a fellow in a blood stained surgical scrub shirt said.

He held an extra big empty syringe in his right hand. I guess that was what had awakened me.

“Look up,” he said while pointing upward.

There was a full-length mirror on the ceiling. I could see myself clearly. My arms were bound out to my sides as if I was going to be crucified lying down. Most of my legs were gone leaving just a freshly bandaged stump about six inches long on each side.

“The first time that you refuse to answer I’ll put you under again and when you awaken you’ll be minus your right arm,” the doctor said.

There were four men in the room besides the doctor. They all wore expensive dark suits. None of them wore ties and bright colorful shirts seemed the rule. They all left the top couple buttons undone—exposing hairy chests, gold chains and prison style monochrome tattoos.

A man with blond hair stepped forward to play the “good cop”.

“My friend, think of all the things that you an still do with what you have. Don’t force us to turn you into a total freak,” he said in a sympathetic and heavily accented voice.

“We’ve been at some pains to drain your vital energy. None of your tricks will work here,” the doctor chimed in.

“And even if you managed to create a copy of yourself, he’d be as legless and helpless as you,” the doctor rambled on.

Mind control starts with getting your own chi to resonate. I had never been particularly good at it. With my legs gone, along with over a dozen minor chakras and meridians I found that not only was it far easier to get the chi to resonate but also it resonated at a notably higher—and more effective—frequency.

I took over the doctor’s mind momentarily. I had him suck the big syringe full of air and then ram it deep into the Russian good cop’s right eye. He filled the pierced eye with a syringe full of air just in case a big syringe needle wasn’t painful and destructive enough.

The Russian reacted on instinct. He drew what looked like a 9mm Beretta and emptied the magazine into the doctor. He had the presence of mind to reload and transfer the pistol to his left hand before he pressed a clean handkerchief to what was left of his eye.

The door opened and two Oriental gentlemen walked in. They had a brief parlay in Korean while the Russians reverted to Russian.

Guess what dudes: while I have little ability with languages, I’m persistent. A Half-hour per day for three months with a Pimsleur’s stage one, two and three makes me fairly fluent in one language—sometimes I have to repeat so many lessons that it takes me four or five months to finish. That doesn’t matter. I get there eventually.

Learning languages is a sort of obsession with me for one simple reason. I hate for people to be able to talk around me. I can’t learn every language on Earth, but every widely spoken language that I can knock in the head cuts the number of people who an talk around me dramatically.

I was well into my thirteenth language when I started this mission. I can speak and understand both Russian and Korean.

The head Korean was a fiftyish dude with a shaved head, barrel chest and wide shoulders. He gave off a faint aura of a metabolism heavily augmented at every level by large amounts of chi.

“What is the meaning of this?” he snapped at the head Russian.

“Your instructions were to leave the interrogating to us,” he finished.

“We just softened him up a bit for you comrade,” the one-eyed Russian said in a “gee-whiz” joking tone.

The Korean hit the Russian in his neck with the little finger side edge of his extended hand. The Russians head flew clean off.

That was heavy-duty! I was impressed. It also gave me the distraction that I was hoping for.

Could a legless Adept throw spawn with legs? Perhaps, but it wasn’t going to happen today. Imagine a legless man with about three times the upper body strength of an Olympic gymnast and far more agility.

While I can’t throw spawn arbitrarily far away, I do have several feet of discretion to play with.

While the doc half blinded the Russian, I’d thrown two dry spawn. The left handed one hid behind a taboret with surgical instruments covering the top. The right side spawn scrabbled to get under a low shelf on a table.

While the stump of the Russian’s neck still spurted blood the right hand spawn grabbed the pistol that landed no more than a foot from him. The left spawn grabbed a half a dozen of the disposable scalpels off the taboret.

The spawn with the Beretta shot the boss Korean right in his calcaneus. Adept or not, when your ankle is shattered with no warning, you’re gonna fall. Even as the boss fell my spawn fired three double taps at the heads of the three Russians. Five of the headshots connected.

A scalpel with a cheesy plastic handle is a very poor throwing knife, but with a chi assist it can fly true at short range and cut a swath almost an inch wide.

The first scalpel hit the tall skinny Korean right in his Achilles tendon, practically severing it. The second missile went through the thick part of the calf. The third blade half severed the patellar tendon at the knee. The fourth and fifth scalpels went through the thigh in search of the femoral artery. One penetrated the right leg and almost went all the way through the heretofore-undamaged left leg.

The last scalpel must have been aimed at the throat but instead it buried itself in the man’s right deltoid even as he was reaching for me.

Even as the boss hit the ground and my right spawn sent a bullet into the man’s shoulder, the boss Korean popped. He was a spawn. Imagine that.

The tall skinny Korean wasn’t a spawn. I got that as he touched me. He had to actually be there for his mind reading to work.

As his leg was cut from beneath him, he fell towards me and then he fell on top of me with a hand on my forehead.

There was a dead doctor, a headless Russian and three Russians who’d been shot in the head. The boss Korean had popped his cork and the mind reader had a bollixed leg. I had collected all he intelligence and done all the damage that I could reasonably expect to…

So I popped my cork.

************* ****************** ***********************

“Sweet Jesus,” I said as a brief prayer as the memories of the mutilated wet spawn hit me.

I’d spawned in the Dairy Queen restroom. I’d given my spawn my 1911A1 and its spare magazines. I’d called Josh on my cell phone and asked him to come pick me up.

I’d also planted a small homing device on the fake Ladonna. That was why I faked exhaustion, so I wouldn’t be expected to throw any wet spawn any time soon.

********** *************** ************************

A week later I made contact with the fake Ladonna.

“How did you make me?” she asked.

I shrugged.

“The Outfit knew that you were an imposter when they briefed me for this mission. How I don’t know.

“I’d have known in an instant though. Ladonna was a close personal friend and you killed her.

“I pleaded to be the one to take you out,” I said.

“You can’t take me out,” she said.

“I’m far too strong for you.”

She made a gesture and there were four wet spawn surrounding her. Each spawn held a curved bladed Chinese dao sword.

“I feigned weakness and fatigue,” I told her.

I gestured and threw five spawn and each one drew a right hand and a left hand hanger.

Each of her wet spawn threw two sword-bearing dry spawn.

I gave a brief stage chuckle and each of my wet spawn threw three dry spawn.

When she wasn’t impersonating Ladonna, she was one of the Adepts who eschew firearms. That’s why I could try out my twin hangers against her dao.

It was purely a matter of time since I had her soundly outnumbered. Besides she knew that the fight was being observed and even if she somehow defeated me she would still die.

She hadn’t kept Ladonna’s form, but she was still black. I assumed that was her true form. As she lay dying though, she became a Chinese looking woman with long straight hair.

I put my hand on her forehead and grabbed a few random bits of useful data as she expired.

The best way to explain it…

When the Korean mind reader was prying into my mind while assuming that I was an original—and when I popped my cork—it was like surprising a burglar and having him leave a large but random assortment of burglary tools behind.

Some were very useful. Some others were only useful occasionally. Some were fragmentary or beyond my ability to assimilate and some rapidly faded away like dew.

Now that I had the basics though, I could use my own chi to strengthen my mind powers both for defense and offense.

************ ****************** **************************

“What are you so glum about?” Josh asked as we travelled back to the camp in Georgia.

“I knew that there were cruel abominations in this world but that was the first time seeing a victim up close and then being a victim.

“If that had been my real body I’d be ruined for life,” I said.

“Never trust anyone completely. Watch your six diligently. Never go into danger if there is a way to send a copy,” Josh said.

“I’m putting you in for a raise in pay grade and I’m requesting that you be permanently assigned to my team,” Josh said.

That was okay, but it failed to cheer me up.

“Are you still sad?” Josh asked.

“Ladonna was a couple years ahead of me in the program, but Coach Brown put us together.

“I tutored her in the martial arts and she helped me to learn to throw well and how to do a number of mind skills.

“I’ll really miss her,” I said.

“Ladonna isn’t dead,” Josh said.

“But I saw her body in the fake Ladonna’s memories,” I said.

“Very few Adepts can throw five wet spawn. The natural tendency would be to go for even more. I’d recommend that you stop trying to increase the number any further and work on the chi level and quality of your copies—at least for awhile.

“Ladonna can only throw three wet spawn but she has a number of tricks that they can play.

“One of the tricks that Ladonna’s spawn can do is to hang around for twenty minutes to an hour after they’re slain. That can convince someone that she’s really dead.

“I’ve never seen anyone else who could do that.

“You can talk to her when we get back to camp.”

That cheered me up.

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Old 08-25-2015, 11:46 PM
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Chapter Two

It turned out that the Koreans wanted very badly to get their hands upon at least one Adept from The Outfit for reasons still unknown. We’d known for some time that there were at least two different Korean organizations. Some of the fallout data we collected in the wake of their botched kidnapping allowed us to ascertain that these Adepts belonged to an organization from North Korea.

The old man, his granddaughter and the nephew were all very real but a small faction of the Russian mob had manipulated them. The Russians in turn had been hired and coached by the North Koreans.

The Outfit felt obliged to follow through on their contract and they’d sent several other teams in addition to Josh’s and they struck some hard blows after we’d left.

It happened that Ladonna and I had about five months between missions and we trained diligently.

Josh’s main abilities were a keen tactical mind and strength and power far above most Adepts. He could only throw two or three spawn on his best day, but even when divided four ways his chi levels were very high and he replenished them much faster than most.

Gerald was a virtuoso at throwing wet spawn. He could throw as many as six wet spawn. Josh’s spawn were at power level six, Gerald’s would all be close to four.

There are some differences both in capacity and talent, but generally once a trainee has accumulated the chi and has learned to do something useful with it, his power level will be close to “one”.

Generally you can’t throw any sort of spawn at all until you have enough to make two spawn of a power level about point four with a remainder of point four or point five for yourself. It is difficult to impossible to cast a wet spawn with power much below point four and even if you manage to do it they would be spectacularly useless.

Chi tends to grow rather linearly until about level three-and-a-half to perhaps five. Then someone’s power can get much harder to measure meaningfully. There are any number of specialized chi that can only be applied in a rather limited manner.

It was like the ability to read minds with skin-to-skin contact that I’d picked up from my encounter with the North Korean. None of my spawn had that ability—only me. It wasn’t of much value in hand-to-hand combat, but I was closing in on having three points worth of chi set aside for mind reading. I couldn’t utilize that chi to spawn or to throw harder or even to heal myself. It was good for little else but mind reading.

Whatever resources I had for generating mind reading chi worked independently of the rest of my system. It wasn’t generated at the expense of other chi but in addition to it. It was also conceivable that someday I’d find other specialized uses for that chi.

But it gets very difficult to compare two people’s strength when they each have more than a half-a-dozen different kinds of chi with only a couple kinds in common.

Chi levels for straight-up power fighters like Josh and Gerald are more reliable gauges of overall power. Even then, Josh had exceptional night vision and the strength and range of Gerald’s hearing was very high.

Superior senses—sight, sound, touch, smell, even balance—need very little chi to keep them running—rarely more than point one at the very most. Most Adepts senses have all been tweaked at least a bit. It’s more a question of degree.

I had been able to cast five wet spawn at about one point four or one point five each when I’d fought the Ladonna imposter. Josh had advised me to try to raise each spawn’s power dramatically before going for higher numbers of spawn.

I’d gotten each of the spawn close to two, but I’d also added several game changers to the mix.

First of all, after I’d thrown five spawn at close to power level two, I threw a second wave.

Sure, once a wet spawn or two is destroyed many Adepts can cannibalize the returned chi to throw another and generally somewhat weaker spawn or two. I was throwing three wet spawn with power ratings marginally above one in my second wave and I still had a general power rating of almost two and a half.

If I chose to go for pure numbers, each of the outer five could throw three dry spawn immediately after he’d been thrown. Each of the second wave weaker spawn could throw two dry spawn each while I—the original—could throw two or three dry spawn myself.

That was an awfully big crowd of me to have walking around.

Added to Gerald’s proclivity to multiply and Josh’s brute power it made us a very powerful strike force.

Ladonna’s main power was to create a variety of illusions. A few of her illusions relied solely on mind power and a couple others—like the persistent cadaver—were completely the result of physical manipulations but most of her strongest illusions wove both the physical and the mental seamlessly together.

She could throw three wet spawn with power levels close to two. Working with me, she’d managed to throw a “second wave”—if you want to call it that—of one wet spawn of about point seven power level while she’d managed to increase the power level of her original a tenth of a point.

I’d learned how to detect and to break free of mind attacks skirmishing with her while she’d added some ability to overcome purposeful resistance.

“You really need to work on building up your general chi reserves,” Josh told me.

“Bulk up the inner three first of all, but you can use more power in your outer five as well. I’m serious. There is no point in having forty wet spawn all with a power rating of point four,” Josh added.

One new team member was named “Randy”. He was tall and skinny to the point of being emaciated. He threw one very pale and sickly looking spawn with a power level of point seven. I’d never before seen anyone with the ability to throw one and only one wet spawn. There seemed very little point to creating a single spawn of such weakness.

The other fellow was named “Cary”. While he didn’t look any too stout, Cary looked in far better condition than Randy.

“I can’t throw a spawn—not even one,” Cary said sadly.

“What can you do?” Ladonna asked sympathetically.

“I’m a rat runner,” he said.

I’d never heard the term and I said as much. Cary reached into his shoulder bag and pulled out a rat. It wasn’t white like most pet rats, but jet-black in color.

“This is Bocephas. I have about three-dozen rats that I’m linked to. I can send them into places that a man can’t go. They can gather intel or commit acts of sabotage. I can only stay telepathically linked to one rat at a time, but I can move back and forth between them very rapidly. They’re stronger, faster and far more agile than normal rats and they have intelligence well above normal too,” Cary said.

“Let me show you something else,“ Cary said and placed the rat on the ground.

“Try to catch him.”

I reached for the rat and he seemed to explode into all directions at once. The rat had momentarily produced a dozen spawn. Nine of them only lasted a couple of seconds and then they popped but three spawn and the original rat—now all several feet apart—all threw off another eight dry spawn each. The third time they spawned they only threw off five dry spawn each.

Cary walked over about thirty feet to where a single jet-black rat stood smelling of the grass and clover and picked him up.

“He’s exhausted his chi for the moment, but they recover very quickly. Josh said that you can do contact reads. That’s similar to how we communicate. Take him and read him. You won’t hurt him,” Cary said.

I took the proffered rat and cradled him in one hand while I stroked his head with an index finger.

A riot of unfamiliar sensory impressions flooded into my mind. The rat could hear very well but his ears were far better than mine in the higher ranges including a big swath of supersonic frequencies.

His smell was far better and permitted far more subtle nuances than my own sense of smell admitted. He was very tightly connected to his vibrissae.

It was his sense of sight that really rocked me though.

“Rats see in black and white. That’s less than ideal for my purpose of course. I’ve enlarged the eyes, thickened the optic nerve, enriched the retina and enlarged the visual cortex in my rats a great deal,” Cary relayed to me telepathically through the rat.

“If you have a rat able to receive my signal you can use him as a communication device. The signal can’t be intercepted, blocked or even detected. Unfortunately you and Randy are the only telepaths on the team,” Cary added.

“You won’t catch me touching a dirty nasty rat,” Randy sniffed.

“Rats are filthy and germ-ridden,” He added.

“They’re no dirtier than your pigeons,” Cary said.

“Someone who can’t cast a single wet spawn is hardly an Adept,” Randy said.

“I have to admit, you can cast a single wet spawn—a very weak single spawn,” Cary said.

While they’d been arguing Randy had been summoning his pigeons from somewhere close by without any of us noticing.

A huge flock of pigeons—well over a hundred strong—fell out of the sky seemingly from nowhere. That was only because we hadn’t been scanning the sky of course but it was still dramatic. The pigeons dive-bombed Cary and Bocephus. They pecked at the rat’s head and made a point of targeting Cary’s eyes.

Didn’t I say that I had a few game changers in my repertoire? I was about to demonstrate one.

I drew air from all around me. I shoved it all into a sphere of compressed air about thirty inches in diameter. I could only get the air up to about a hundred and thirty five pounds, but I was working at increasing it. Eventually I wanted at least five hundred PSI.

Then I spun the air in my spherical force field faster and faster. I got the revolutions close to eighteen hundred RPMs. I wanted to increase my maximum rotational speed eventually as well.

Then I really cranked down and ratcheted the ball another three inches smaller in diameter. The smaller the sphere the more concentrated the blast. I threw the ball with both hands like a man passing a basketball or throwing a medicine ball.

I could only get the velocity up in the high ninety miles per hour range—about the same speed as a major league fastball pitch in baseball.

I threw it upward into the largest concentration of pigeons. It hit several of them before the threshold was reached and the chi containment field abruptly vanished.

Ever hear one of the one hundred PSI semi tires pop? It is loud.

My air ball threw out quite enough force in all directions to kill at least fifty pigeons and maim another twenty or thirty of them too badly to fly.

I didn’t stand around with my thumb up my behind awaiting developments.

I had four wet spawn on Randy fast—before the last pigeon had dropped from the sky. Two of the spawn drove Kunai through his jeans legs and into the ground beneath. The other two drove knives through his palms and then kneeled on his forearms in case the blades through his palms weren’t enough to convince him.

His single weak spawn moved to intercept me. I quickly got behind the clumsy copy and cut his throat from ear-to-shining-ear.

My main intent hadn’t been to read him. Actually my reading ability wasn’t on my mind at all as I grabbed his chin with my right hand.

A load of twisted hatred, pain and fear along with a fairly comprehensive view of the convoluted consciousness of the bird master gushed into my mind.

I made a bone deep cut on the right side of his face—from the corner of his nostril to within a quarter inch of the outer corner of his right eye.

“Don’t kill him!” Josh shouted.

It was half command and half a request one would make to keep a friend from getting in trouble.

“Peace,” I replied.

I cut across the first cut at ninety degrees and neatly bisected my first cut.

“I should kill you now and be done with it. You’ve already felt my blade cut your throat when I slew your candy assed spawn. If I ever see you and you are not walking as rapidly as your spindly limbs will take you in the other direction…” I paused momentarily for effect.

“Then I will presume that you’re challenging me. I’ll kill you—no questions asked and no second chances. Now when I release you, go tell Cary that you’re worthless—I won’t make you lie and say that you’re sorry—and then go away,” I said.

************* ***************** **************************

“Whore’s spit!” Josh said.

“Groups of Adepts are on the move all across America and the world. Our mission is to go to Atlanta and help gather intel. Even folks with no idea that our village is so close—and Adept groups aren’t likely to overlook such a thing—still consider Atlanta a major hub and crossroad.

“Rats are very good at sneaking and gaining intel at night but birds have a big advantage during the day. Another thing, most people aren’t horrified to see pigeons. And we don’t have any aerial surveillance capability at all now,” Josh said.

“Sorry,” I said.

“Nah, on second thought, I’m really not sorry. We’re well rid of that mental case,” I amended.

“How many of those air bombs can you throw?” Josh asked.

“About three. The third one will be a bit anemic and after that the power drops dramatically with every shot,” I said.

“How about your wet spawn?” Josh asked.

“The outer five can all throw one each—just a bit weaker than my number three. Any second air bomb they throw—or any the inner three throw will be more noisemaker than anything else,” I said.

“Why do you call them ‘inner’ and ‘outer’?” Josh asked.

“I think of the first five as an offensive force intended primarily to take the fight to the enemy. The second three are more of a Praetorian guard intended to hang back and protect me. Of course once most or all the outer five are put out of action then it is time for the inner spawn and any recycles that I can manage to cannibalize to go on the offensive,” I explained.

“That’s why you saw some utility to Ladonna’s single weak second wave spawn. If her main duty is to protect Ladonna then she is better than nothing,” Josh said.

“Yeah, I’m not sure if she’d be better off with two point seven second wave spawn or a single one point four. The decision is largely made for you by your body and chi system,” I said.

“Do you have any other surprises?” Josh asked.

“A couple small ones. Nothing anywhere close to the air bombs,” I said.

“Let me see if the dispatcher can get us some sort of long range and hopefully aerial surveillance. We should be leaving for Atlanta within ten days,” Josh said.

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Old 08-25-2015, 11:49 PM
RVM45 RVM45 is offline
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Chapter Three

“Uncle Ralph stuck his hand inside my panties and rubbed me,” Gina said.

“Okay,” was all David said.

David was eleven years old and Gina was eight. His father had been an Adept and he’d died when David was six. A year later his mother had moved back in with her parents who lived on a farm outside the village. She was not an Adept and she’d never fully grasped the village’s quaint mannerisms and clannishness.

David had been surprised how little was known about the village just a few miles outside of its territory. Many thought that the village was mere superstition and hyperbole. Several older boys from the school had beaten David very badly when he stubbornly refused to recant his claim that his father had come from the village.

“Why didn’t you tell them what they wanted to hear? They’d have quit beating you once you said what they wanted you to say,” his mother said.

“For one thing, it wasn’t true. For another, if I’d let them intimidate me I’d have lost face,” David replied.

“What if they’d went too far and beaten you to death?” David’s mother demanded.

“Game over. I win,” David said.

“Life isn’t a game,” she said.

“No, life is nowhere near significant enough to qualify as a game,” David replied.

She’d lost her temper and slapped him in reply.

“Thus obviously demonstrating the superiority of your logic,” David said.

When he was fully recovered, he’d taked a two-pound ballpein hammer and caught each of the older boys alone. He’d managed to put enough fear of God into the peckerwoods that they didn’t dare even hint that David was involved in their misadventures.

************ ***************** ***************************

When his mother had been killed in a car crash, his mother’s side of the family had shuffled David and Gina around in a most ungenteel fashion until they’d ended up with his mother’s cousin Cornelia.

Cousin Cornelia thought that it was undignified being called “Cousin” and insisted that the siblings call her “Aunt Cornelia”. David refused of course.

*********** **************** **********************

David got into Cousin Cornelia’s stash and stole two of the yellow four-milligram Dilaudid tablets. He crushed them into a very fine powder and poured the powder into Ralph’s pint of McCormick Bourbon as soon as the opportunity presented itself.

Once Ralph was dead to the world David filled the big cast iron skillet with Wesson Oil and brought it to a burbling roiling boil. He pushed “Uncle” Ralph forward in the easy chair until his torso lay solidly against his thighs. He poured the boiling grease evenly from the nape of the pederast’s neck down to the crack of his ass.

The effect was electrifying to say the least. Ralph abruptly lost all interest in sleeping off his boozy high. He slam-danced all over the living room singing—screaming paeans of praise to someone or something every step of the way.

As the man completed his third agonized lap around the living room, David struck him a resounding smack upside his head with the hot skillet.

David took a spray can of black paint and put these simple words on the front room wall:

“Next time, pick someone else’s eight year old sister to feel up you buck-toothed pervert.”

David already had bug-out bags for him and Gina with some food and a couple changes of clothing along with a couple extra days’ worth of underwear and stockings. He had Ralph’s Buck lockback, a couple of butcher knives from the kitchen and Cornelia’s old H&R Breaktop—a six-shot .32 S&W Long.

He hesitated but at the last moment he’d dialed “911” and left the phone off its hook. He hoped that he and Gina would have at least a half hour’s start before someone came by to check if there was a bona-fide emergency or not.

Four hours later David had found his way through the mental labyrinth that surrounded the village. He’d been in and out of the village a number of times with his father. The village recognized him as a friend. Even if it hadn’t, David had a very sharp mind with very penetrating powers of observation.

************* ***************** ******************************

David had an IQ of 167. The fact often sent him into brooding melancholy.

David had his own classification system for genius. Those geniuses with IQs of 140-175 were minor geniuses. Those with IQs between 175 and 205 were major geniuses and those above 205 were super geniuses.

The way he viewed it, life had cast him into a grim no-holds-barred scuffle for prestige and status with folks far better equipped for the struggle than he was. Anyone who outperformed him in any mental task shamed him. Intent or knowledge didn’t matter.

A man on the other side of the World could put shame on him. It mattered not at all that they would never meet or know of each other—if that man learned something with less effort than David—then he shamed David. God might not be keeping score, but reality was. Unlike God, reality was an unforgiving scorekeeper.

David mastered several mnemonic systems and he practiced them until he was very good at them. He memorized facts relentlessly—trig tables, logarithms, physical constants—whatever. He drove himself to learn methods doing very complicated sums in his head.

He learned to handle binary, octal, duodecimal and hexadecimal arithmetic as easily as he did decimal calculations.

Then he learned about The Outfit’s chakra tree.

The Outfit taught that chakras were horizontal flywheels—at least the seven major chakras were horizontal. Some of the minor chakras had all sorts of orientations.

The Outfit taught that some folks’ chakras turned clockwise and others turned counterclockwise. It varied with the individual, but The Outfit believed that it was not arbitrary and there were means to test to see which way a given chakra turned.

A few folks would have a pair of twin chakras at one or more sites. In that case one chakra would turn one way and the other turned the opposite. Double chakras often meant better ability to generate various kinds of chi.

The chakras both generated and stored chi, but they themselves consisted of chi—kinda like E=MC2. A chakra could store chi by spinning faster, becoming denser, becoming thicker or becoming bigger around—and they used all of those strategies.

One of the first visualizations was to imagine a chakra with a perpendicular handle sticking out. Grab the handle with an imaginary hand and give it a crank to store more chi. The clockwise chakra needed a left hand while counterclockwise flywheels needed a virtual right hand.

Twin chakras could both be cranked at once. The virtual hands passed through each other without incident since they were immaterial.

David found that he had five twin chakras. The top of the head, the one about where the pineal gland was and the one near the thyroid were all very influential on the brain, mind and intellect. David boosted the chi in those chakras with single-minded determination.

The hand-crank exercise was only a demonstration tool for beginners. It was a very inefficient way to generate chi. David went through all the other chi bulking exercises that he’d mastered. When those were topped off for the moment he’d sit and manually turn his mental chakras for hours at a time.

When David was fifteen he’d applied to go through The Outfit’s three-year training program—but then they’d noticed what David had been up to on his own.

David was a master hacker and an electronics wizard. He’d been working on remotely controlled drones—both flying and creeping.

Josh’s group needed some sort of aerial surveillance and so David ended up in the field with only a month of training and his own hodge-podge dabbling at chi building.

*********** ************* *********************

Spoil’s Story:

We were in Atlanta to try to keep tabs on what all the Adepts flooding the town were up to. We didn’t have programs so we didn’t know who the players were or whose team they played for. At least a couple of the Adept groups were using gangs as cat’s-paws. That added a whole other level of complexity to the game.

As I saw the situation, it was pretty much a hopeless task. I said so but I didn’t harp on my opinion. Even if we couldn’t track anything like all of the rival Adepts we might still get a handle on what some of the other groups were up to.

I had never given much thought to Atlanta except to go wide around it when travelling to avoid the metropolitan traffic snarls. I’d thought of it as being a very big city—just behind Chicago and New York. I was surprised to find that both Louisville and Indianapolis had larger populations than Atlanta.

I’d spent some time in both those cities and I often used them for rule-of-thumb comparisons.

Truth be told: I’d pictured Atlanta as being a bit larger than two Louisvilles slammed chaotically together.

Both Indianapolis and Louisville have incorporated counties while Atlanta does not. Also, after the incorporation of Jefferson County, Louisville had experienced a huge surge in population growth. It was bigger and more sprawling than the town that I remembered.

Still Atlanta had an urban center with about forty buildings above four hundred feet—the cutoff height for “Skyscrapers”. The Bank of America Plaza is reputed to be the tallest building in North America that isn’t in Chicago or New York City.

Much of the city was single-family dwellings though with grassy front yards, garages and all the accouterments of suburbia—just like cities with a tenth of Atlanta’s population or even less. Atlanta just has many more of them.

All that meant that there wouldn’t be much tailing folk afoot in an urban jungle like something you’d see a big city law or private investigator do in a TV show.

Our headquarters was an old but structurally sound warehouse. I don’t know what kind of cover story The Outfit used. It would prove inconvenient to end up under surveillance by the laws because they thought that we might be selling drugs, manufacturing meth or LSD-25 or maybe running a whorehouse.

The outfit meant to use the headquarters indefinitely. There were a couple other headquarters but this was where Josh’s team and maybe thirty other folks were stationed.

Many Adepts—especially the one’s whose main ability is physical power—like to do weight training—heavy-duty weight training.

The welders created a couple power racks, an incline bench and a decline bench, dipping bars, chin-up bars and other accouterments. A bankrupt gym sold us two flat benches, six Olympic bars with a generous amount of plates, and a set of dumbbells going up to one hundred pounds.

A couple guys didn’t think a gym was complete without a Scott curl bench and cambered bars. For a while a few guys snapped up any cheap exercise bars and plates at yard sales or whatever, to fill any miscellaneous gaps…

And mirrors—gotta have those mirrors.

And before you knew it, we had a gym—a very good basic weight gym.
The warehouse had five stories and our carpenters partitioned the top two floors into small private cells. Men can and have lived in open barracks, but having people coming and going all hours of the night on odd errands isn’t conductive to the best rest.

The Outfit practices grappling arts on several surfaces: ankle-deep sand, big chip sawdust ten or twelve inches deep, carpeting, grass, canvas covered mats and even modern mats of vinyl-coated foam.

Amateur wrestlers, judo players, and practitioners of Brazilian jujitsu or Russian sambo get used to modern wrestling mats and learn gliding and sliding moves that will only work on the wielding and very low friction surface of a modern wrestling mat. Sweaty arms and legs or tight fitting spandex britches all lower the coefficient of friction even further.

Sand pit and modern wrestling mat would have to do in the warehouse—until someone figured out how to shoehorn another surface into the warehouse.

There was end grain target knife throwing ranges and a tightrope suspended three feet in the air with crash pads clustered tightly underneath. There were heavy bags, speed bags, an uppercut bag and a couple mook jong.

I called a carpenter over.

“I want a balance beam and a climbing wall as high as you can make it. Everyone isn’t advanced enough to work out on the tightrope,” I told him.

That’s something that I like about the village. When you make a reasonable request the craftsmen don’t argue or ask for credentials. They simply get to work.

***************** **************** *************************

It was time to talk to our two new team members.

“Why,” I asked Cary, “Are you rated an adept when you don’t have any tradecraft at all?”

“Roland Sensei said that I would be of the most benefit to my eventual team by concentrating exclusively on rat-running,” Cary said.

“The best part of being an Adept is learning about yourself, strengthening both body and mind and growing as a person. You’ve largely been short-changed of that by your dumbass sensei. What does he look like? If I ever meet him, I want to tell him he’s a dumbass to his face,” I said.

“He’s about six-eight and weighs about three-eighty. He has a shaved head with a big scar on his crown. He’s a muscle fanatic and extraordinarily strong,” Josh said.

“He’s tough,” Ladonna added. “I can see him lasting four, even five minutes against you. You, Josh and Gerald are the only three that I know that I’m reasonably sure they could take him.”

When Josh gave her a surprised look she said:

“You’ve never fought with Spoil. Even then, he holds back a lot because all his best techniques are far too damaging to use in a practice fight.”

“What about you?” I asked David. “What’s your excuse for being a limp-wristed wimp?”

“I was told that my skills were needed here. If you don’t need my drones, I’ll go back to training,” David said.

“There is no need for that. We have everything that we really need to train you right here,” I said.

“Look at the weight room. Neither of you is really strong. Weight training will work for almost anyone. The trick is to be patient. Come to the weight room three times per week and forget about it most of the rest of the time.

“You want to lift in a workmanlike manner—not like it’s a holy crusade. I am almost certain that over a year’s time that both of you can add sixty or sixty-five pounds to your 5x5 bench press and over one hundred pounds to your 5x5 squat.

“You’ll be carrying about ten more pounds of muscle by then and maybe a couple pounds or so less fat—though neither of you are obese.

“Both of you should be fair knife and star throwers in a year’s time and since you both have a head start on manipulating and storing chi, I want to see your power level close to four and you able to throw three spawn with power levels close to one,” I said.

“Everyone can’t teach tradecraft,” Josh cautioned me.

“Really, then how does someone know if he can teach tradecraft?” I asked.

“It’s a knowing deep inside you,” Josh said.

Gerald and Ladonna nodded in agreement.

“Well then, I have a knowing. I know that I can teach tradecraft. I just assumed that everyone could,” I said.

*************** ********************* ******************************

Sixteen months passed.

Most of what we did was tailing or surveillance. I also climbed a few telephone poles, penetrated houses to install bugs and hidden cameras and sometimes I intercepted mail.

This was all done with spawn. My original was never alone and unprotected on the street and at risk of being snatched. In fact, except for excursions to the flat roof, I very seldom left the building.

I took advantage of being in a big city to fill some gaps in my education.

Monday, Wednesday and Friday I spent three hours at a dojo learning tae kwon do. I’d never studied a martial art that stressed katas. Yes, if katas are all that you practice you won’t be a balanced martial artist—but that is not to say that katas are without value. I made sure to select a sensei who stressed very precise and picture perfect katas.

Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday I studied capoeira. Capoeira with its free-form dances was at the opposite end of the spectrum from the rigid katas of tae kwon do.

I spent two and a half hours training in a boxing gym six days per week in the afternoon.

When my two protégés learned to throw spawn I took both of them to the boxing gym with me every day. David went with me to capoeira while Cary learned tae kwon do.

If I sent a spawn to lift weights or run for me, I’d get little training effect. Skills were different. Any skill acquired by a spawn integrated seamlessly into my skillset as soon as the spawn popped his cork.

I also found an artist’s club that paid live models to pose and I drew or painted four or five nights per week.

Yeah, I can throw one Hell of a bunch of spawns at one time. If headquarters couldn’t spare me a comparatively few spawn hours for personal stuff, then we were all hurtin’ fer certain. Also, if I couldn’t go out and stretch my legs a bit occasionally and do stuff with spawn that I wanted to do the warehouse would have been a prison.

I talked Ladonna into going to the archery range and the shooting range with me once per week.

We had cooks, janitors and what have you in the headquarters. We weren’t firemen and Adepts didn’t cotton much to KP or sweeping duty. I had several support personnel come to me and ask to join our informal training.

Some of them had applied for Adept training and been turned down. A few were still young enough that they might still get accepted in the future. I didn’t turn out any Adepts in sixteen months but I taught some solid useful fighting skills, built up bodies, taught some tradecraft and strengthened folks’ chakra trees as well as showing them how to keep strengthening them in the future.

Well, maybe Cary and David became full-fledged Adepts under my tutelage, but they both had big head starts.

************* ***************** ********************

I had several projects that I worked on during that sixteen months.

I wanted to be able to behead someone with a shuto hand the way the boss Korean had beheaded the Russian mobster. Among the other advantages in combat, it should thoroughly demoralize any remaining clients.

I started with 2”x4”s and 2” PVC pipe. The object wasn’t to break board or pipe but to cut it cleanly with a chi-shielded hand. My skin should never actually touch the board, pipe or client.

All of these type strikes are called “chi finger technique” regardless what body part is used. It is rather easy to sever flesh with chi finger so I was supposing the vertebrae would be the biggest obstacles to a clean cut.

Once severing the 2” PVC got easy; I started pouring them full of cement for more of a challenge.

Josh stopped by to watch me one day.

“I see why Ladonna says that most of your best techniques can’t be used in sparring. Can you do this?” he asked.

He rammed his first two fingers deep into the broad surface of a 2”x6”, then he pivoted his hand so that his thumb penetrated as well—all in one rapid motion. He pulled a big chunk of wood out of the plank when he withdrew his pincered fingers and thumb. He repeated the demonstration several times.

“You do know about the small chakra in your hand? Storing a bit of extra chi in the hand will make many of your chi finger attacks work better,” Josh said.

“No I hadn’t Josh. Thanks,” I replied.

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Chapter Four

There were several small sheds atop the warehouse that had been intended for Randy the pigeon-runner. David used one of them as a mini-hanger for some of his flying drones. Drones that you don’t want seen need to fly high enough to be invisible. Starting from six stories up the drones climb to invisible height sooner and save power getting there.

Cary had told me that contact reading is similar to the long-range mental links that he used with his rats. He also told me that much of the chi used in telepathic type skills are generated by the enigmatic seventh major chakra.

Like David, I have five double chakras, but with a bit different distribution than David’s.

The first major chakra is at the tailbone. Number two is a couple or three inches below the navel. Number three is about an inch below the cartilaginous tip of the sternum—the xiphoid process for those keeping score.

I never could quite tell the difference between these three. Both in The Outfit’s chakra tree visualization scheme and in the Hindu system the function of them all seem very similar—leaving out the weird Hindu theology.

At any rate, all these have a strong influence on absorbing both food and chi from food and drink. Since all three of mine are double, I have a lot of stamina and after a day of backbreaking work I can eat a hefty meal or two and be as good as new the next day.

There are limits of course and I need plenty of calories to take advantage of my gift.

Number four is in the high sternum. I only have one of those and so my ability to absorb oxygen from my lungs and transport it via the bloodstream isn’t as pronounced as my digestion. Of course since it is a perceived weakness I stress aerobic conditioning.

Number five is about even with the thyroid. Some of what it does affects the intellect—especially verbal processing and being able to influence others via speech. I have twin chakras there.

Number six is between and slightly above the bridge of the nose. The Outfit doesn’t teach or believe in a third eye, but that is where the sixth chakra sits, right where you see pictures of a third eye. This one is very important in logic, abstract reasoning and contrarily—in intuition and pattern recognition. I have two of this chakra.

Seven sits atop the highest point of the head and explanations and descriptions of its purpose and function range from enigmatic to incomprehensible. I only have a single chakra there.

Where am I going with this?

I said that hand cranking is an inefficient way to generate chi. Well…

You have to know a bit about the relative size and power of the chakras. Think of the size of a 10-pound barbell plate from an exercise bar. That’s about the size of chakra one and two. 7.5-pound plates are comparatively scarce, but I’ve seen a few. That’s about the size of number three.

Number four is about the size of a 5-pound plate. Five and six are about as big as the tiny 1.25-pound plates. Seven is about the size and thickness of a silver dollar.

The visualization training begins at chakra number one. The hand cranking visualization is mainly used on the first couple of chakras—three at most. Truth be told, it is very hard to add meaningful amounts of chi hand-cranking those.

David told me though that if one envisioned an extended pump handle with plenty of torque and hand-cranked diligently that he could easily increase the power of the top three—especially mysterious little number seven that the telepaths and animal handlers used so much.

David also put me hip to five minor chakras in the cerebrum.

By the way, once you’ve managed to store more chi in a chakra, that chakra will tend to accept that level as the new “normal” and will tend to return to that level easily and without much fanfare when depleted.

I’d been diligently storing chi in the silver dollar chakra for a while and I’d decided that I wanted some beasts of my own.

I already carried one of Cary’s rats at all times so that Cary and I had a failsafe way of communicating. Rats were okay, but I didn’t particularly want to be a rat-runner. I had no special affinity for cats, pigeons or coons. I couldn’t see sending dogs into harm’s way.

No Adept could be held up as a poster child for normality and animal handlers tended to be more eccentric than most Adepts. Bat-runners were reputed to be the most fey of all.

Bats can see. Some of them have very good eyesight. Their main sense is sonar though and the true consummate bat-runner has altered his interior hard and soft wiring to handle 3-D sonar images in detail. As interesting as that may sound, apparently it has deep and abiding impact on the personality.

I decided to go with ravens. I’d gotten in touch with the area’s local super poacher and managed to obtain several breeding pairs of ravens. It is best to start reaching into the animal’s mind and stimulating extra intelligence, broadcasting power as well as chi generation and storage before birth—or with birds, before hatching.

Even before conception I’d been feeding the parent ravens doses of my chi.

How? By putting small amounts of my blood that I‘d supercharged with my chi into their food. Ditto once the small ravens hatched.

Sometimes it takes three or four generations of ever increasing modulations to zero in on exactly what you’re looking far and eventually that’s what I’d have if I lived that long.

In the meantime I was tending to my small flock of ravens…

Ravens? Well I had twenty-six first generation ravens. After the young were grown I‘d freed the parents but I’d connected deeply enough that seven of them decided to stay—though I’d never have anything but a half-assed mind link with them…

But my poacher hadn’t been able to completely fill my order—though I was paying out my rear—so he’d offered some substitutes.

I had thirteen first generation crows. Though smaller than ravens, only an advanced bird watcher would see anything amiss with a few crows in my flock of ravens.

I had four turkey vultures. What good is a turkey vulture? Well he can soar effortlessly riding thermals and studying the ground with eyes better in almost all ways than a pair of 18x binoculars.

There was one redtailed hawk, three great horned owls and a screech owl. Can you say “night surveillance”?

Anyway, I was tending to my flock and just as happy as if I were in my right mind when Ladonna showed up.

“Put on something nice. There is a concert at the Woodruff Art Center and I want you to escort me,” she said in a voice that brooked no argument.

I wasn’t going, of course and neither was she. We’d send spawn in our places but you can’t spawn what you don’t have. Sometimes I’d change costume four or five times in a day just to throw appropriately attired spawn.

I put on black jeans, a black knit turtleneck and expensive custom cowboy boots. I had a three hundred dollar Stetson and several expensive pieces of silver and turquoise jewelry. I had a Rolex watch and since I will only wear leather watchbands, mine was custom and featured some silver conchos with small topaz centers.

What the Hell? The Outfit paid all my living expenses—I even got a clothing allowance while on a long-term mission. I was drawing generous combat pay. And there was a limit to how much money that I could spend on custom guns, knives, swords and holsters…

Especially since I wanted my life to be at least moderately portable.

Might as well spend the cutter on flashy threads.

Did Ladonna appreciate the trouble that I’d gone to array myself in such sartorial splendor?

“What would I have to do to get you to wear a tie?” Ladonna said.

“Blow my brains out and tie one around my corpse’s neck,” I replied.

“It would make me happy,” she said.

“What if you told me that it would make you happy if I castrated myself? So far as I’m concerned a tie is a flag to tell the castrador not to bother. This one was born without any,” I said.

“You always go to extremes and you want to argue,” she said.

“I’m going with you to hear the orchestra even though I ain’t particularly into classical music. I take you most everywhere that you want me to take you with very few exceptions. What more can you reasonably expect?”

“Are you ever going to cut your hair?” she continued.

She was on a roll.

“I might concede to having the split ends trimmed occasionally, past that—no,” I answered.

“Why come?” she asked.

“My father would set in and bitch and moan until I cut my hair—this is well after I became an adult. I’d give in and have five or six inches of hair that I’d really liked to keep whacked off. Then he’d swear on a stack of Bibles that he couldn’t see any difference. When he died, I decided not to cut my hair ever again. With him gone, there would never be any valid reason to,” I said.

The rest of our trip was passed in silence.

“We’re about three hours early. I know that you like to go to the High Art Museum and look at the paintings,” She said as we arrived.

We were just about to walk into the museum when she said to me:

“Are you ever going to make a pass at me?”

“Not while I have even a tiny portion of sanity and self-control left to me,” I replied.

“Are you trying to insult me?” she asked.

“I don’t compete—not for anything—not ever. Competition defiles everything that it touches both winners and losers—but especially the winner,”

“Didn’t you compete in wrestling and judo?”

“I competed in wrestling. I didn’t know about competition back then. What teenager does? I never looked at judo matches as anything but training,” I said.

“So how would be asking me for a date be competition?” she asked.

“I’d be in competition with every man that you ever dated before me and assuming we didn’t stay hitched for life, with every man who came after. And to head off your next question: it matters not the slightest bit whether I or any of the others choose to view it as a competition,” I said. “Like Earth and sky, it simply ‘is’ whether anyone chooses to recognize it or not.’”

“Don’t you compete with rival Adepts for your life?” she persisted to my annoyance.

“That isn’t competition. Nothing but my life is at stake. It has negligible value. They are more than welcome to it, if they can take it and no hard feelings. Death isn’t a defeat regardless of how inconvenient that it might be,” I said.

“I don’t understand your reasoning,” she complained.

“Alexander Alekhine was one of the greatest chess grandmasters of all time. They claim that at a tournament once, he leapt atop the table and screamed:

“’Why must I lose to this idiot !?!’

“Ecclesiastes says:

“’I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all.’

“If I competed I’d be the strongest, wisest and the most skilled, but if time and chance hit me—as it hit Alekhine—I’d end up losing to a lesser man. Things like that cut a giant swath through one’s self worth. Note—I did not say ‘through one’s conception of his self worth’. Things like that take away from the core of one’s manhood,” I said.

“You’re willing to live your whole life alone over metaphysics?” she asked.

“Of course, but I think that we’re talking ethics or perhaps aesthetics,” I said.

Later I was glad that our little discussion had slowed us enough that we weren’t in the building yet when they attacked us. I’d have felt really bad if a stray shot had damaged one of the paintings or sculptures.

I slipped my hand into my pocket and sent word to Cary via the black rat. That’s right, I did say that my wet spawn couldn’t contact read. That was before I started obsessively cranking the silver dollar chakra to build up my spooky “action at a distance” mind powers.

The rat? I piggybacked him and used my chi to spawn a copy of him when I spawned. A small black rat takes negligible chi to copy though I may have been the first to use the maneuver—though Cary was quick to see the advantages and learn the skill.

We could have both immediately popped our corks and been back at headquarters, but it was possible that staying and surviving a while longer might net a bit more intel. Of course it is conceivable that we could be knocked out and captured, but either an attempt at a contact mind scan or letting us regain consciousness and torturing us would only result in an immediate popping of the cork.

Nah, either of us might have withstood torture for a span if it gave a rewarding opportunity to study the torturers.

At any rate, the message sent by “Rat-a-Gram” might get a heads-up to headquarters a few minutes ahead of us.

**************** ******************** ***********************

Cary, David and I walked out of the boxing gym. We rode the bus to the gym so that we could simply pop back to headquarters and save half the transit time.

Most of the time it wasn’t possible for spawn to ride the pop-cork express home. It isn’t even remotely possible to spawn a car. So the spawn were often driving cars or trucks that were carefully registered in such a way that they couldn’t be traced either to The Outfit or to a member.

Yeah, if it really furthered the mission a spawn might abandon his vehicle though there was often more than one rider. There was a team detailed to pick up any abandoned vehicles. But cutting spawn hours by popping back was a luxury.

We had just turned into an alley to pop the old corks when a van drove into the dead-end alley mostly blocking egress.

Four big-ass black dudes got out of the cargo door. They looked like they were in costume for an over-the-top hip-hop music video—gold chains and all.

Things like that are of minimal import. Hell, the dudes might actually have been Korean, Japanese or albinos from Norway. The muscle-bulging physiques might have all been illusion too.

Those eight two hundred and fifty pound cartoon caricatures of Pit Bulls—spiked collars and all—were real enough. They were regrettably real. Those dogs had been force-fed chi until they were all but falling apart inside. They were on their last legs with only days—at the moist—left. But as long as they lived they posed extreme danger to everyone around them.

I threw two super-charged air bombs, one with each hand. They carried almost six times as much power as the ones I’d slain so many of Randy’s pigeons with. I could prepare them gar faster—two at a time if I had both hands free—and a wet spawn could throw about five pairs before the power level dropped below 4x the air bomb that I’d shown everyone on the practice field.

I hit the lead Pit Bull with one. It hit him with enough force to knock him dead.

The second ball was aimed at the dog’s handler—a fellow with ritual scarring, teeth filed to points and then gold capped, and deltoids that looked as big as halved volleyballs. He knocked upward with a chi-shielded forearm. It was almost three feet over his head when it burst, but it still stunned him a bit. I saw him wince.

I grabbed a pair of the attacking dogs by the throat and ripped out a chunk of flesh from each that included carotids and jugulars as well as windpipe, esophagus and a big chunk of muscle.

While I merely cast the right-handed one to one side I had enough of a grip on the left one to cast him into the path of the other dogs. I did a bounding high leap up and over dogs and thugs until I got my strong left hand on the trainer.

I figured that he was a spawn, but I could read him nonetheless. I even managed brief contact with both hands with my right hand touching his forehead.

When I was young I was regrettably easy-going and amiable but the other children always picked on me—inerrably smelling out the one that wasn’t a herd animal. I was subject to berserkers back then when my friendly goodwill had finally been exhausted.

My finishing move back then was to grab someone by the throat with my strong left hand and to lift him one handed until his feet cleared the floor. I always stopped short of strangling anyone to death though I remember several dudes walking around with my handprint visible in the bruising around their neck.

I was enraged. I really didn’t care very much if they popped all of our spawn’s corks—though if you’re going to play rough don’t cry when you have to try to pick your teeth off the floor with broken fingers. I was enraged that someone would misuse and mistreat their dogs that way…

I flashed-back on my childhood berserkers. I had my strong left hand on his throat as I lifted him clear of the ground and shook back and forth him like a Rat Terrier shakes a rat. He tried to surround himself with a force field of chi like it was the World’s most heavy-duty aura. My own chi nullified his—at least where my hand touched his throat.

I could see through his frantic eyes that looked over my shoulder and behind me. Cary was down on all fours with both hands and fingers eaten and a dog savaging his genitals. He popped his cork and who could blame him? I wondered why it had taken him that long.

David had the right side of his face, neck and shoulder ravaged down to the bone. As he held a dog at bay with his right arm, he threw one of the two-inch washers that he carried through the center of one of the gangster’s forehead with his left hand. Then he popped.

I was holding the dog-runner overhead and slowly strangling him despite his resistance—while downloading ever larger hunks of his thoughts, memories and personality without consciously willing it so.

Then one of his pals pressed both barrels of a sawn-off 12 gauge right against my spine between my shoulder blades and fired both barrels.

Interestingly enough, I retained consciousness and continuity for over a second before I popped.

*************** ******************* ***********************

“We have an all-out alert!” David shouted into the PA.

“The three man boxing team was just wiped out. Spawns of Spoil and Ladonna are under attack at the museum and trying to pick up any miscellaneous intel before popping back. Spawn are being attacked all over Atlanta.

“Wait, our rat-runner tells me that men are gathering at several points preparing for an all-out assault on headquarters. All recon teams pop back here immediately,” David spat out in a rush.

All my errant spawn rejoined me except the spawn at the museum with Ladonna. If he felt that there was useful data to be gleaned, I trusted him. After all, he was me. I was a bit impatient to have his first hand experience though.

I downed a handful of vitamins; three caffeine tablets and some herbal tablets brewed by The Outfit to both increase chi production and speed its replenishment. The effect was subtle and it took a couple hours to kick in. If I were still alive in two or three hours, I’d be glad that I did my Christmas chi shopping early.

I munched on one of those high-energy protein bars with thirty grams of protein and washed it down with twenty ounces of whole milk fortified with four ounces of whipping cream and a big scoop of whey protein.

Josh walked into the situation room about the same time that I did—after fortifying my chi every way that I could think to.

“Damn David! Can’t I leave you alone to monitoring incoming intel long enough to grab a quick nap?” Josh grumped.

He was joking a bit—to relieve tension I suppose. There was no way David or anyone else in The Outfit could have prevented this.

“Well dudes, looks like the cold war just got hot,” Josh said.

Ding-a-Ling mates, I just got my spawn from the museum back.

I can’t drink carbonated beverages too soon after drinking milk. I was counting down until I could wash some brewer’s yeast tablets along with some dessicated liver capsules down with a twenty-ounce Coke. It might even be time to pop a couple Benzedrine tablets.

I drank a big cup of sugared coffee and used it to wash down some kelp and ginseng tablets to pass the time while I waited for my milk to be ready to accept some carbonation.

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Old 08-26-2015, 11:14 AM
223shootersc 223shootersc is offline
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Good stuff as usual, Thanks RM45
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Old 08-26-2015, 01:46 PM
RVM45 RVM45 is offline
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This story is far off my beaten path. I'm feeling my way along and getting less feedback than ever.

I did have a very nice correspondent tell me that I should leave out all description of the village; start the story from where the three men pick up Ladonna in Knoxville, stop spending time explaining how the powers work and eliminate most of Spoil's eccentricities.

A.} I see the village in great detail for some reason and describing it and the kind of laid-back loafer's lifestyle that can be led there…

Describing the village and Spoil's room is a big part of the fun for me.

God knows, it doesn't look like I'll ever make enough in one royalty check to set me up with a Lee single stage loading set-up—much less a RCBS or Lyman…

So if I don't enjoy the writing, why bother?

B.} I only groove on main characters who have enough idiosyncrasies to be a villain in a "**** Tracy" comic strip or to audition for the role as the next regeneration of The Doctor.

"**** Tracy" Huh?

How about "Richard Tracy"?

On one Art Forum, whenever I referred to a very prominent Art Supply Business I had to write "Richard Blick"...

The powers? I've toned them down a good bit from what you see Ninja doing in some of the Anime or Manga…

But when I watch all sorts of questions occur to me—like "Why this?"; "How exactly DOES that work?" AND "What would happen IF?"

So whatever.

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Old 08-26-2015, 04:24 PM
DWwolf DWwolf is offline
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Lack of reply doesn't mean we don't like it.

Personally I do think this version is better than the previous one.
I can't really describe why, your stories do and did vary in the amount of exposition and fantasy content (I enjoyed all of em ) but somehow this version feels better.

I enjoyed your hi-tech, fantasy and mundane story lines.

I hope that is enough feedback for you.

With regards,


ps. I think the time your story was posted at and the night and workday following have precluded a fair amount of feedback of happening already. It is a lengthy sitting to be reading.
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Old 08-26-2015, 10:01 PM
boomerweps boomerweps is offline
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I, too, like this story so far. I started chi a while back and dropped it quick. This is much better.
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Old 08-27-2015, 01:15 PM
Nift Nift is offline
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Ok finally got back to finish. This rewrite is better. No focus on drugs like first. Better cohesion of the chi power ideas. Better explanation of it in general.

Best improvement is the removal of the drug popping. That just took away from it and made it seem too far to the "alternative" life style.
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Old 08-28-2015, 12:02 PM
RVM45 RVM45 is offline
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Originally Posted by Nift View Post
Ok finally got back to finish. This rewrite is better. No focus on drugs like first. Better cohesion of the chi power ideas. Better explanation of it in general.

Best improvement is the removal of the drug popping. That just took away from it and made it seem too far to the "alternative" life style.

Anabolic Steroids are unfortunately Government Controlled—just like Guns are subject to Unreasonable Government Controls.

While I have no problem with people altering their state of consciousness through mainlining Heroin or Cocaine…

Steroids are long acting drugs injected into the muscle—Not a Vein—and they can, when used wisely—have a number of beneficial effects.

Hear about that "Testosterone Replacement Therapy" so many 50-ish dudes are so high on?

Increases muscle mass and strength, cuts fat, reduces or eliminates depression and unfortunately it can also rekindle the sex drive (though some see this as a good thing for some unfathomable reason).

That's nothing but rather mild doses of LEGAL Steroids.

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Old 08-28-2015, 02:00 PM
Nift Nift is offline
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First version just seemed to focus on the usage. Second version mentions them but more in passing. Never said anything wrong just don't see need to focus on them.
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Old 08-30-2015, 03:59 PM
RVM45 RVM45 is offline
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Chapter Five

“They outnumber us about twenty five-to-one and they have automatic weapons, grenade launchers, hand grenades and I don’t know what else,” Cary said.

I started to sneer at the mention of automatic weapons. Take a belt-fed, tripod-mounted, crew-served weapon firing full-powered rifle cartridges and you have something.

Handheld full-auto is overrated. A true expert can milk a small bit of extra performance out of a selective-fire weapon. They also let a total putz that hits largely by chance buy lottery tickets faster. Even then a poor shot isn’t especially effective. For most shooters in the middle auto fire serves mostly to make more noise and waste ammunition.

I’d told Cary that a number of times and perhaps it was because of that he added:

“They have a number of M-60s and a few BARs. They’re using walking fire, but those rounds are very penetrating. Many of the others have MAC 10s with big suppressors,” Cary said.


In walking fire one carries the weapon at hip height—usually supported by a special sling. Every time the right foot touches ground (or the left foot—pick one) you fire a three to five round burst. Walking fire with a .308 or .30-06 almost qualifies as true machine-gunning and house clearings with machine pistols like the MAC 10 is one of the few times that automatic fire does gives a slight advantage to an expert.

We were on the third floor. The command center was there. Josh was the overall commander of the headquarters. David and Cary were a large part of his eyes and ears while Ladonna and I stood by as their trustworthy bodyguards.

We didn’t need craft to hear the gunfire coming from the first floor—though the intervening floors muffled it to a large degree.

“It is time for some of us to escape. How many first wave Spawn can you throw now?” Josh asked me.

“Nine—with power ratings of about 3.7,” I told him. “I can throw five 2.5s in my second wave.”

I didn’t tell him that I’d developed a third wave of three at about 1.4. I hadn’t ignored his advice to concentrate on power over sheer numbers, but several things had happened during our more than sixteen months in the warehouse.

For one thing, I had very little to do with my real body but focus on increasing my chi levels. I’d gotten notably stronger with the weights and that helps. It helps some Adepts more than others, but I got a good return on my chi for the time invested lifting—over and above the increased muscular strength.

The martial arts training had helped as well.

Since I was already on a roll, I had made a point of ingesting plenty of the bitter, pungent and heartburn inducing herbal concoctions guaranteed to give a modest boost to the ability to generate and store chi. You had to dig in, grit your teeth and settle in for the long haul though. That kind of medicine had to be ingested continuously over a span of weeks or months to effect permanent changes.

The second big factor was that I was continually throwing and absorbing spawn. Also some of my wet spawn were called upon to last for days.

Throwing spawn was a capacity that my circumstances continually enhanced. The day came when without even trying; I knew that I had additional spawn available. All of their power ratings inched steadily upward as well.

“I have seven now all above 5,” Gerald said with a glance and a small smirk at me. Very few Adepts have a rating of 5 even before they throw spawn.

“I have four—stronger than they used to be when I threw three and I have a second wave of two at 1.6,” Ladonna said.

“Okay Ladonna, give me two first wave spawn and keep two in reserve. I want one of them primed to be a persistent corpse. Can you give me that without losing too much chi?” Josh asked.

Then he continued, “Spoil, give me your nine first wave. David and Cary—I know that both of you can spawn thanks to Spoil’s tutelage. Keep them. You will probably need them before the day is done. I want y’all to escape via the chute. Gerald and I will stay behind. There are things that we need to attend to before we can flee. We ought to be able to stall them ten or fifteen minutes. That’s all the lead time that we can give you.”

“Would you like me to add a couple second wave? Their power levels aren’t inconsequential,” I said.

“No, nine is enough. Hang onto the others as long as you can. Spoil, you are the ranking Adept in the absence of Gerald and me,” Josh said.

“Ladonna has seniority,” I objected.

I have always believed that seniority should trump both popularity and ability. It is the only fair way to operate.

“She doesn’t want command. You have a problem following orders and you only do what you want to do—but you’re exceptionally gifted. Sometimes the only thing to do with such people is to put them in charge,” Josh said.

There was a sheet-metal lined chute that went straight from the third floor to a small sub-basement below the first basement. The chute was carefully assembled so that there were no sharp edges to snag a bare hand. A non-adept might have been able to ride it down without serious injury—maybe.

“Ladonna, ladies first. Don’t argue. I need to protect the other two until they’re safely gone. The basement may need clearing. Six of one, half-a-dozen of the other,” I said.

David was probably more unique and the more valuable of the two. Even that was debatable, but was it safer for him to go before Cary or after?

“David, you go first. As soon as he’s clear, Cary goes. I’ll come right behind Cary. Now jump! Remember to rub the chute all around with your chi to slow your descent,” I said.

I took on last glance at Josh, Gerald along with two Adepts “Scot” and “Eli” that I barely knew—along with a bunch of spawn.

I stepped into the chute.

**************** ******************* *****************************

They rushed the third floor about ten minutes after the others had dropped down the chute. I have no idea where all the BARs came from. Back in the Roaring 20s there were quite a few robbed or pilfered from National Guard armories but that was a long time ago. The gun hadn’t been in production since the 1950s.

The M-60 isn’t quite as powerful as the BAR but being belt fed and with quick-change barrels it had a far higher effective rate of fire. The machine-gunners ripped apart walls and barricades and even made serious starts on tearing holes in the brick walls. They were backed up by five times their number firing MAC 10s or M-4s. They were throwing grenades like they were within a couple hours of their expiration date.

They made it through the first two floors rapidly. Most of the defenders had been called to the third floor to buy time to defend the situation room or to slide down the chute.

Also, the opposition seemed to know where the situation room was. They wanted to try to take the room with at least some of the computer hard drives intact and perhaps to take a high-ranking Adept prisoner. There was nothing they valued on the first two floors so they went at it like it was a Nihilist’s Holy Day.

Once they had a beachhead around the stairwell they pulled back the trigger-happy gangsters and brought the Adepts forward. None of them used firearms.

Seven of my spawn fell in the hallway leaving two of me in the situation room.

Revolvers are not—vulgar superstition to the contrary—more reliable than semi-autos. It is a bit simpler to qualify folk with room temperature IQs with revolvers if by “Qualify” we mean that he poses minimal risk of shooting himself or other friendlies with the weapon.

We were working with second grade ammunition though with relatively weak cartridge cases and rims and a semi-auto made with the materials on hand didn’t like full-powered ammunition.

I’d switched to a pair of revolvers patterned after the Smith and Wesson N Frame. The used +P .45 ACP in full moon clips and they could use regular .45 ACP in a pinch. I’m not sure how well the ammo would spawn, but after spawning or for my original it was a possibility for resupply.

I shot out my last six round clip and drew my hangers—one in each hand. I popped a couple of dry spawn and then a sword master with a relatively long katana cut me from my trapezius to my spine on my left side without me even seeing the blow coming. I threw my right hand hanger and pierced him through the sternum. Then both of us popped our corks.

************** **************** ************************

Now there was just one of me and it was my geas to be the last one standing. I had a single round left in each revolver and I made two headshots and holstered my guns. I wouldn’t use them again in this life but it went too much against my core values to drop them carelessly on the floor.

A little guy came forward. He carried no visible weapon. He was maybe five-six and thin—very thin. He had short hair that looked like it had been carefully parted and then sprayed in place. Unlike everyone around him, he wore a business suit and it looked expensive. He didn’t look like had been touched by a single drop of blood, plaster or dust particle.

I could see with my chi-enhanced vision that these Adepts were both very powerful and very arrogant. I couldn’t read anything at all coming from the little chief. Those proud and haughty Adepts stepped out of his way as if they were afraid to even brush against the hem of his garments.

“You know that you’re going to die,” He began. “But why not make your death entertaining? If you will fight my champion hand-to-hand, I give you my word that no one will interfere as long as Duncan is alive. In the event you kill him then we kill you.”

I threw a Kunai with no windup and no warning. Somehow the Kunai stopped ten inches from his sternum and hovered there momentarily while he examined it like an art connoisseur studying an abstract sculpture and then he let it drop to the floor.

“Duncan come here,” he said.

Duncan was what Adepts call “a sumo”. He’d used his chi to build as much muscle as it was conceivable to build on an almost human frame. He was about six-five and probably weighed about five hundred and fifty pounds. He probably didn’t have more than eight or nine percent body fat.

His lower body especially his gluteal muscles were huge out of proportion to the rest of him. They had to be to support his oversized bulk and to allow him to jump and move with as much grace as an NBA Basketball player or an Olympic gymnast.

His gut was big. It had to be to keep those super-sized muscles and bones nourished. You could see all eight of his abdominal muscles in bas-relief though.

He was bare to the waist. He had a shaven or hairless head, thick cauliflowered ears and facial features like a troll—huge nose, thick supraorbital ridges and cheekbones and an outthrust lantern jaw.

All else being equal, a bigger muscle is a stronger muscle. I mean that you may have better or worse insertion points for leverage than me and you may have more or less intramuscular fat—what’s called “marbling” in prime beef. But if you exercise until your muscle is bigger without increasing the fat—then your muscle will have become stronger.

A muscle supercharged with chi can put out about five times the strength and power of a natural muscle—for a few minutes.

So if you use your chi to grow your muscles as large as possible—as large as possible for an Adept—far larger than possible for a normal—and then supercharge those muscles with chi the strength becomes astounding. Such Adepts can also supercharge the super-sized muscles even more intensely than other Adepts.

There are trade-offs though. There always are trade-offs. Duncan’s heart, lungs, digestive tract and chakra tree would all be put under heavy stress to maintain such a physique. His grocery bill would be astronomical. It would be very hard for him to avoid being conspicuous.

He wasn’t built like someone who’s grossly obese and muscle is about twice the density of fat. With the right clothing and a bit of a chi glamor he could pass himself of as a fatty—but then if he forgot himself for an instant and went bounding around like a kangaroo folks would wonder.

He couldn’t fit behind most auto steering wheels and he couldn’t even fit as a passenger in small cars. His bulk made certain stances and postures impossible to attain and once he developed some momentum it would be very hard for him to stop or change directions.

I was down to two hundred and twenty three pounds and stronger than ever. I’d have liked to test myself against the sumo strength to strength but that didn’t fit my agenda.

I took off my weapon belt with the hangers and my revolvers and advanced to meet Duncan.

He used a straightforward rush with a fast flurry of palm-heel strikes. He was all but unstoppable. I closed with him and gave him a mighty chi enhanced slap to his left ear with my right hand. It should have sent a mighty wave of high-pressure air into the ear canal destroying the eardrum and semi-circular canal at the very least.

I alternated slaps and slapped each side of his head three times.


I took my left index finger and hit his right eye with a chi finger poke and he didn’t even blink.

Now that I was reasonably sure that I wouldn’t kill him I used my right hand to strike knife edged shuto hand blows—three of them—on the side of his neck. I’d worked up to cleanly severing pine 4”x4”s. My chi cut the posts so cleanly that they looked as if they’d been sanded smooth. My blows didn’t even make a red mark on Duncan’s neck.

We slammed into the brick wall hard enough to crack a half a dozen of my ribs.

Duncan slapped a bear hug around me. You hear about folk who can break your back in a bear hug, but that’s mainly nonsense. Duncan could actually do it though.

I grabbed his head with both hands and pushed his head back trying hard to break his leverage. At least that’s what it looked like I was doing.

What I wanted was a glimpse inside Duncan’s head. I’d never before managed to get both hands in contact with a client’s head in combat.

Duncan had the mind of a small child. He didn’t have the mentality to turn himself into a sumo. It had to have been done to him from the outside. I’d never known that such a thing was even possible.

His mind was an open book. I didn’t think that he even knew that I was there.

There were two factors or three. Duncan only stored the things in his memory that he could comprehend. I couldn’t download his memories in perfect fidelity and I was bound to miss a few key memories simply because it took too long to capture everything.

A few things came to light right away though. Not only was Duncan strong but he could also drain someone’s chi. He’d been told to try to drain my chi so they could capture me alive. They thought that I was an original. It was a reasonable assumption with the corpses of Josh, Gerald, Scott and Eli as well as Ladonna’s persistent corpse all cluttering the floor.

Also I’ve been told that my spawn just happen to have chi signatures closer to originals than most—nothing significant except that it makes it easier to send one of my spawns to impersonate an original.

I also gathered that the little chief was an object of fear, reverence and affection for Duncan.

I had gathered enough information from the sumo—about all that the child-man’s mind had to offer. And he was stating to drain my chi.

While I still had the chi, I formed an air bomb at struck the overhead sprinklers. Water would add to the confusion and further damage any computer parts or documents that had escaped the scuttle team and scuttle protocols.

I threw three air bombs at the little chief one after another. He deflected them without moving and he seemed unmoved when one of the blasts hurt a couple of the Adepts. I couldn’t read his chi body at all. He didn’t even seem to be alive to my chi enhanced eyesight. He just looked like a big human shaped hole in reality.

I gathered a modest air bomb in each hand and slammed both of them into Duncan’s ears. The bombs damaged Duncan and he collapsed. They also ruined both my hands and I popped my cork an instant after the blast.

**************** ******************* *******************************

When I touched down in the basement not only were there several Adepts besides what was left of my team but also there were sixteen of my students—cooks, janitors and building maintenance people. They all had at least a few Kunai, throwing stars, washers and many had a firearm or two.

“Guys, we gotta run silent and run deep. Cary, are all your rats away? We need to be as quiet as possible. Don’t shoot unless it is absolutely necessary. If we get separated head to the village,” I told them.

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Old 08-31-2015, 04:26 PM
RVM45 RVM45 is offline
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Chapter Six

James looked around the small sub-basement. Today wasn’t going to be anything like what he’d hoped for. At least he was armed. He was fairly well armed so far as that went.

He had a Mossberg pump 20 gauge cruiser, a Smith and Wesson Model 19 .357 Magnum with a 4” barrel, a pair of the Ka-Bar Swabbie knives with their foot-long deeply curved blades along with a pouch full of throwing washers.

He was better off than most of his friends and co-workers. In fact he’d armed some of the others. He’d donated a short barreled 20 gauge H&R single-shot, a Ruger Blackhawk in .357/9mm and a .44 caliber Colt Navy replica to folks he felt could make good use of them.

No Adept within pistol or shotgun range was likely to give anyone time to shoot him though. An Adept would throw a knife though an eye or a sternum, close and destroy you with devastating techniques or he’d stand back and hit you with some mysterious jutsu.

Still, being armed was a positive good in and of itself and it hurt a man’s pride to think of going down without a fight.

************** ****************** **************************

By the time James was fifteen years old, he’d been drifting and travelling on his own for a couple years. He was taking shelter from a downpour under a railroad bridge that fortuitously had a solid bottom—otherwise it would have been of little value as a shelter.

As he sat shivering and wishing that he had something to eat a fellow drifter—a mere boy—had joined him.

“Howdy stranger,” the boy had said while looking James up and down and giving him a flash appraisal. “Are you hungry?”

The boy pronounced it “Hunk—Ar—Ee”. Though he had no accent, James noticed that the boy chose to give a number of words his own idiosyncratic pronunciations.

The boy had a small pack under his poncho. He collected some twigs and small branches from debris in one corner of the area beneath the bridge. He soon had a fire going in a coffee can hobo’s stove. He put a smaller coffee can with a coat hanger bale to heat over the small blaze. He made some coffee first and then he made some rice.

“Canned Spam is heavy, so I never carry more than two or three. They’re for emergencies. You know—for times that I really need a caloric boost,” the boy told James.

He cut the spam into tiny pieces and put them into the can to boil with the rice. He handed James a couple of big pieces of jerky-jerky to chew on while the rice cooked.

As James sat and chewed jerky-jerky and sipped the scalding and heavily sugared and cinnamon laced coffee the boy expounded to James on a number of topics.

“Jerky-jerky isn’t heavy but it is expensive,” the boy said. “So I make my own from venison.”

“Where do you get the venison,” James asked with his mouth full.

“I kill deer. They’re largely made of venison,” the boy said.

“Do you have a gun?”

“No. It’s foolishness, but folks get all wet and soggy, remarkably saline and damned hard to get along with over someone my age having a firearm,” the boy said.

The boy took a steel ball bearing about an inch in diameter and placed it into a sling. He threw it so hard that it buried itself about an inch deep in one of the 24”x24” creosote soaked columns that supported the bridge.

“Where did you learn to do that?” James asked.

“In the village.”

“Could I learn to do that?” James asked.

“Probably not,” The boy said as he used a small tomahawken to retrieve his steel ball.

In the morning the boy gave James a good sling and a small aluminum mold to cast one and a quarter inch lead balls.

“I’d give you some steel balls, but you’d only lose them and that’s quite a long time to carry them until they’d be of use to you. You should practice with round stones until you get fairly accurate. Those big balls of lead are fairly dear too,” the boy said.

“About this village…” James had started to say.

“Do you want to go there? You’d probably never find your way there, but I can guide you.”

The village hadn’t cared that James was underage and a runaway.

James managed to feed himself quite well by working part-time as a dishwasher at a small restaurant. The chef fixed James up with a cot in an unused room upstairs.

School wasn’t mandatory in the village, but for those who choose to attend some of the free classes or lectures, school was only three days per week—Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

One day James had seen some teens his own age throwing Kunai knives, throwing stars and spikes at targets at one of the knife throwing ranges.

“They are training to become Adepts,” Chef had told James.

“What is an Adept?” James asked.

“They’re kinda like ninja or shaolin monks—except they’re the American version,” Chef said.


“Don’t you ever watch television or go to the movies?”

“I very seldom watch TV and I’ve never been to a movie theatre,” James said.

“They have powers and the village was built to be a refuge for Adepts as well as a training facility. No one knows how old the village is, but many native villagers are partly descended from Cherokee who took refuge here rather than take The Trail of Tears. There is more to this hidden watch pocket of a world than easily strikes the eye—or mind. It is over half again as big as Rhode Island and even today much of it is virgin hardwood forest and it feathers seamlessly into the outer world at a number of points,” Chef told him.

“What kind of powers do the Adepts have?” James asked.

“It’s hard to say. The Adepts have powers and some of those powers are to trick the mind. They study sleight of hand, cold reading, hypnosis as well as the use of mind-altering drugs. They believe that such tricks are a legitimate part of total warfare and it generally helps to be over-rated by the normals,” Chef said.

“Can anyone attend the Adept school?” James asked.

“In theory, but you have to convince them that you’re worth training. We can start getting you better prepared to apply if you’d like,” Chef said.

Chef moved James off of dishwashing and started training him as a chef. The bad news was that James had to spend more hours in the kitchen.

James bought some Kunai knives and stars and started practicing throwing for an hour or more almost every day. There was also a school for non-Adepts that taught kenpo and MMA style grappling. He started running regularly and Chef taught him the basics of shooting pistols and shotguns.

He grew closer to his goal when he landed a job as an assistant cook at one of the cafeterias for trainees. None of the basic techniques were secret though many trainees were reluctant to share, but some were willing to show James a few tricks and exercises.

When The Outfit had needed support personnel for the Atlanta stations they were a bit challenged. Many native villagers were very reluctant to spend much time in the outside world. Some of them flatly refused to even set foot outside. Normals from the outside would be a very poor fit.

The Outfit had promised James that if he’d spend two years—twenty-five months they’d said “just to make it an odd number”—working as the head cook at the warehouse mess-hall that they’d guarantee him a spot in the Adept training program.

Then an odd Adept—though to say that an Adept was odd was rather redundant—with the charming name of “Spoil” had started his own mini Adept training academy in the warehouse.

James had been training diligently for almost fifteen months now. He’d learned to do things undreamt of before the training, but much of his training had only served to spotlight the huge gap between himself and a true Adept.

************* ***************** ***************************

Now James was huddled in the small chamber in the sub-basement wondering what they should do next.

One of the janitors wore a Glock in a shoulder holster and another shoved into the front of his pants. He literally bristled with spare magazines many of them extra long ones with higher than standard capacity.

“We should find the escape tunnel and go,” the janitor said.

His eyes showed the white sclera all around.

“Ain’t no ‘searching’ to it. I know exactly where the hidden panel is. We wait. If we all start exiting willy-nilly we’ll give away the exit point and they may very well be able to set a trap for any Adepts who come after us,” James told him.

“Screw the Adepts! It’s everyman for himself,” the janitor said.

“I won’t show you where the exit is and if you manage to find it I won’t let you leave,” James said.

“How will you stop me?”

“I’ll kill you,” James said.

“You are going to show me the exit!” the man said while reaching for the pistol in his belt.

James wore his Cruiser in a sling that carried it across his midsection—muzzle to his left. The janitor kept a worried eye on James’ right hand resting lightly on the shotgun’s pistol grip.

James stepped close and trapped the man’s right hand with his own right hand.

The man never saw the blade in James’ left hand. James slashed across the man’s throat severing everything in front of the vertebrae. Then he slashed at the back of the man’s right hand, rolled the blade until he held it in a saber grip and then thrust upward under the rib cage and into the heart.

“What in Hell kinda knife is that?” Chandra—one of his assistant cooks—demanded.

“That’s a Cold Steel Magnum Tanto Twelve,” James said. “Over priced but very sharp and almost unbreakable.”

“How many knives do you carry?” Chandra demanded.

“Classified,” James said.

A moment later Ladonna landed in their midst. She took in the bloody scene in an instant.

“I’ve told you that the pleasure of cutting someone’s throat is fleeting and the consequences are often prolonged and tedious,” Ladonna said.

“If he didn’t want his throat cut, he shouldn’t have tried to pull one of those nasty Glocks on me,” James said. “ He was going to find the exit and leave you Adepts exposed.”

“I trust he knows better now?” Ladonna asked.

“One might hope,” James said.

“Spoil will be glad to see that all of his students made it here,” Ladonna said.

David, Cary and Spoil followed in close order.

“No one else is coming,” Spoil said. “Ladonna leads. James you back her up. David, I want you about in the middle. I’m pulling rear guard. Cary, it’s more dangerous back here than in the middle but I need your rats to scout ahead and I need you here to relay the information to me directly. Are you willing?”

“Yeah I’m willing. What about your ravens?”

“They got the order to leave the roof and disperse as soon as I got word of the attack.”

“Okay, move out everyone.”

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Old 09-01-2015, 09:54 AM
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This is getting very interesting like it!
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Old 09-01-2015, 12:14 PM
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I like it!!! Good stuff RVM45, James the new guy is quite the charmer also, will work well with Spoil.
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Old 09-01-2015, 12:22 PM
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Always an enjoyable journey, many unexpected turns,please give us more at your earliest convenience. Thank you!
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Old 09-02-2015, 12:38 AM
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Chapter Seven

There were fourteen of our Adepts waiting for us at the end of the tunnel.

“We’re it,” I told them. “Everyone else has either bailed in some other direction or they have fallen. Lets make sure that their sacrifices weren’t in vain.”

“Josh left Spoil in charge,” Ladonna said.

“Thanks Ladonna,” I told her.

I was a bit aggravated. I’m a loner and I wasn’t at all sure that I wanted the challenge of leadership. It was a moot point for the duration thanks to Ladonna.

“Let me scout the outside,” I said. “The rest of y’all protect our perimeters.”

“Spoil is a crow flier,” Cary told them.

Most of my birds were ravens but in Outfit parlance “Crow Flier” and “Raven Runner” were used interchangeably. Some of the Adepts rarely if ever came to the rooftop and since I rarely talked about my birds there was no reason for them to know about them.

The floor was clean and dry and I sat cross-legged to better concentrate.

I can fully enter into one raven at a time. It literally feels as if I’ve become a raven and I’m perched or flying through the air. If I am willing to settle for just a slightly jittery look through the bird’s eyes—it feels jumpy and jittery to me because I’m not fully in sync with the bird’s eye’s rasters—I can look through five or six pairs of eyes at one time.

I probably wouldn’t fall down but remaining upright took a small modicum of concentration, as did processing my own eye’s data stream. Seated with my eye’s closed let me see through my minions’ eyes bit more easily.

After about ten minutes of scanning I let my ravens go and opened my eyes.

“The streets are clear but there is one Adept lying in wait in the parking garage,” I told them. “Let me draw him out with some spawn.”

The situation was like a really big 3-D chess match and it made sense to send an expendable pawn or two to reconnoiter. I let David and Cary send a spawn each. They weren’t expendable but one of their spawn was. The weak power levels of their spawn—1.1 and 1.3—might also encourage the Adept to reveal more of himself.

They made it halfway across the floor of the garage when they were attacked by a score of hard plastic automatons about three feet high. I watched through a perched crow’s eyes—hoping his somewhat smaller profile might make him a wee bit harder to detect.

The little plastic doll robots had sixteen or so quarter-inch curved spikes on their palms to give their clumsy and chubby little hands a bit more grasp. They seemed immune to strikes by thrown Kunai or Bowies wielded with plenty of chi assist. They just didn’t seem to have any vitals.

Once they had a grip on someone they used razor sharp triangular metal teeth set close together to mimic the shearing effect of piranhas’ teeth. David and Cary’s spawn went down in a bloody mess. I had half wanted them to experience their spawns dying by violence. The first few times that you experience that, it really sharpens you up.

Ladonna sent two of her front line spawn for round two. She lasted only marginally longer than the two scholar’s spawn.

“I’m sending five of my second wave spawn. We can’t afford to bollix around all day with this. We need to get going. If this doesn’t work then its time for an all-out assault,” I said to my friends.

************ ***************** ******************************

A plastic doll leaped at me. I used chi finger in a broad chopping motion and cut him in two. A second robot leaped at me. I caught him but although he was all but weightless he was strong and he writhed very powerfully in my grasp. He managed to score my forearms rather badly with his palm spikes.

Another doll leapt and by the time that I flung the one that I’d caught far away he’d taken about four ounces of muscle tissue from my right deltoid. I twisted that one’s ugly little head off. Just then I felt a pain and looked down. The doll that I’d cut in half had crawled across the floor unnoticed and now he’d hamstrung my right leg.

One leapt upon me from behind and bit a big hunk out of my left trapezius. Somehow one of them bit off two fingers on my left hand.

There was no way that this was going to end well. Popping my own cork as opposed to being slain delivered a bit more chi to the original. I popped my cork.

***************** ********************** ***************************

I was the last one standing. I’m tempted to say “yet again”; but in truth I had no stronger claim to the last spawn in the situation room than the other four spawn in my second wave. It felt like one more time though.

I was angry and disgusted enough not to care about conserving chi. I made an air bomb and threw it at the evil dolls. I got enough of the back blast to addle me just slightly and I “saw” for the first time.

Have you ever read Castaneda? Many Adepts believed that some sort of half-assed Adept trained him. Perhaps by a group that used a lot of hallucinogens and a very cluttered and unnecessarily complex visualization scheme. There is another and darker interpretation.

At any rate Castaneda stressed crossing the eyes to “see”.

That’s really not right. Ordinary sight involves light rays being focused on the retina. An Adept’s eyes generally have absorbed enough extra chi to be able to see chi lines and chi auras somewhat.

But just coincidentally, the eyes are two irregular spheroids filled with a viscous semi-liquid. They make bang-up fluid chambers to sense chi particles. Chi penetrates most objects fairly freely ands the eyes are bombarded with chi from all sides—but a few end up captured momentarily in the vitreous humor before they disintegrate.

It is similar in concept to those huge neutrino collectors that physicists use—though chi detectors can be far smaller and absorb far more detail.

The trapped chi particles are perceived directly without the intermediaries of lens, retina or optic nerve.

The thing is, when you focus on the eye’s chi sensing function you’re not strongly focused on using them for visual images and so you might feel that the visual world is blurry and out of focus.

At any rate I “saw” for the first time. It is impossible to describe it fully. Each of the wicked little automatons was driven and powered by a brilliant blue-white sphere bigger than a golf ball but smaller than a tennis ball. It was centered in the torso as much as possible for maximum protection.

Five glowing half-inch diameter chi meridian branched out from the chi ball going to five minor chi ball about an inch across. One chi meridian went to each hip—right about where the ball of a man’s femur would be. Two were where the ball of a man’s humerus would be and one was centered in the head.

The little bastards couldn’t hear or smell or taste. They had very poor proprioception and tactile sense by human standards—but it was beyond the best state of the art for robots. And they saw very well. They were largely self-motivated but specific instructions could be sent to them and their master could see through their eyes and feel their bodies if he chose to.

I popped my cork.

****************** ******************* ******************************

“There is a ball of chi right in the center of those doll’s torso—right about where the fourth chakra resides. It seems to be their only vulnerable spot. Everyone attack,” I said.

I scraped together enough chi to throw three first line spawn—a couple of tenth points lower than the first time I’d used them today. I threw two second-wave spawn and all three of my third wave. There was no time to hold anything in reserve.

Ladonna came out with two first line and two second. Cary and David both had two. Several of the other Adepts could spawn as well as a few of my students.

A dude climbed out of a panel trunk. There wasn’t anything remarkable about him—except the eyes. He had wildly rolling crazy eyes.

“I’m the Grand Master Geppetto and you are all gonna die,” he shrieked and then laughed maniacally.

Okay, this squirrel food thinks he’s in a Disney cartoon. Whatever. It is remarkable how seldom people get dismembered in Disney cartoons.

I drew my pistol and shot him right in the center of his face. He popped.

One of the little dolls jumped at me. I used the pincher hand attack that Josh had shown me over a year ago. My first and second fingers on my left hand penetrated right up to the palm and then the thumb. I grabbed that chi ball and yanked it out. The doll stopped instantly.

Once I’d fended off the initial attack I resumed shooting my revolver. Yeah those central chi balls seemed vulnerable to .45 bullets. James emptied his six-shot 20 gauge and then drew his .357. Pretty soon it sounded like several folks firing an IPSC match all at one time.

When we finished there looked like about fifty of the little automatons lying on the floor.

The mad operator popped up before us and screamed his rage and then popped before anyone could target him.

“Spoil!” David shouted.

Geppetto had David in an arm-lock with a Kunai to his throat. I don’t know if he knew that David was a prime target or if it was happenstance.

“I’m leaving. If anyone tries to stop me he dies,” the wild-eyed madman said.

David had palmed the little .32 breaktop that he habitually carried. He slipped it behind his back and solidly against the man’s abdomen and pulled the trigger. When you fire a weapon in contact with the skin the muzzle blast follows the bullet and tears the wound cavity vastly magnifying the effect. A .32 S&W Long cartridge fired that way is probably equivalent to a .357 Magnum fired the ordinary way.

But gut shots aren’t terribly effective man-stoppers—especially with Adepts quite skilled manipulating their chi.

It did cause him to loosen his hold on David momentarily. Ladonna shot him through his right eye with one of her .44 Navy revolvers. A thrown Kunai struck him in his left shoulder while a hard thrown washer hit his left hand—the one holding the knife—hard enough to break a couple of meta carpals.

David twisted free and kicked the man on the way down. James walked up to spitting distance and shot the man in his head to make sure that he never rose again.

I had thought that Geppetto was alone in the panel truck. Out came the most bizarre creature that I’d met so far.

I’m not sure if it was male or female. I’m not one hundred percent positive that it was human.

She was very tall and skinny with extra long legs and arms like a spider monkey. She had very long black flyaway hair, huge hooked nose and extraordinarily long fingers with four-inch long nails. She cackled fiendishly and spiders advanced upon us from all sides.

These spiders were bigger than the biggest tarantulas and my new ability to see told me that they were very poisonous and they seemed able to leap eighteen inches at a jump.

There was no point in shooting at them with a revolver. I’d be out of rounds long before I made a dent in them.

I concentrated on surrounding myself with as many dry spawn as humanly possible. James crouched down and fired round after round of magnum #4 Birdshot at a shallow angle to the floor. The shot fired that way tends to bounce up just a bit and fan out travelling parallel to the floor. He was taking out fifteen or twenty spiders with one shot.

I started throwing air bombs into the fourth and fifth row tiers of reinforcements. Any closer and the over pressure would be a hazard to my people as well as to the spiders. At least there was a respite coming if we could persevere that long.

Cary had perhaps fifty rats forming a protective ring around him. When a spider tried to leap Cary’s chi supercharged rats leaped too. The rats were averaging eight or nine spiders before being bitten so there was a steady attrition in the ranks of the rats.

I called in my ravens. I didn’t have the numbers to throw away like Cary did and ravens and other birds are far slower breeding than rats. I told them to attack a spider only when it was reasonably safe to do so. One powerful blow of their chi-enhanced beaks would render a spider immobile and dying. They managed to thin the numbers of the spiders attacking me enough to help.

I only had one wet spawn still operational and we had both depleted our chi throwing one dry spawn after the other until we were light headed. I popped him in the interest of retrieving a portion of his scanty chi.

Someone came walking into the parking garage through the auto entrance. He was clad in silver coated nomex from head to foot and he carried a super jumbo-sized flamethrower—I mean the fuel tanks were oversized.

He started spraying long streams of napalm on the spiders turning them into crunchy corpses. It took him few moments to angle around to where he could fry spiders without getting our folk in between.

I sent a command for my birds to get completely away. I threw three wobbly dry spawn to stand guard around me and used most of my remaining chi to throw an air bomb at the panel truck that the spider woman had ducked back into after cackling at us.

The truck rocked violently on its shocks and I thought for a moment that it might turnover. The spider woman bolted out of the truck only to get a three second blast of napalm.

She stood burning and melting like she was made of paraffin.

“You are all vey bad boys and girls,” she cackled when she was nothing but a blurred runny three foot caricature of a woman—like she was channeling The Wicked Witch of The West from ‘The Wizard of Oz”.

What was it with these dudes and children’s stories? Would Bambi and Thumper attack us next? The book characters not the exotic dancers…

The spider woman left only a big puddle of what appeared to be flesh colored wax. Then the puddle popped.

Wet spawn? Dry spawn? Paraffin spawn? I still don’t know to this day.

I was down on my knees. I had a handful of pills that I’d prepared earlier—eight brewer’s yeast, eight dessicated liver, one vitamin C tablet, one Benzedrine and two Lortabs—on the principle that by the time that I needed such a pick-me-up I’d be hurtin’ for certain.

I’ve always been good at swallowing multiple pills. I washed the pills down with one of the little eight ounce bottles of The Outfit’s chi restorer. For taste, I’d have preferred an equal volume of bile. I had a twenty-ounce cola in my pouch as well. It was a local energy drink high in both caffeine and ginseng. One of those would keep you wired for about eighteen hours—presuming that you weren’t totally wiped out beforehand.

The cola didn’t taste bad and usually I can take some big drinks of cola. The hot soft drink coming on the heels of the bitter chi restorers didn’t go down well. I got about four ounces down and for a moment it fought to come back up. I put the lid tightly on the soft drink and put it back in my bag. Then I fought to rise once more.

What? No I was too drained to offer even token resistance to any further threats so I might as well have gotten the wheels greased to turn a little faster toward my recovery.

When the flamethrower wielder took off the silver hood I saw Gerald’s snow white hair and red eyes.

“Someone help me get these tanks off,” Gerald said.

“Why not dump the whole thing?” I heard myself ask.

“I have a couple of sets of spare loaded tanks in the van Jefe,” Gerald said.

“I thought that you were dead. What about Josh?” I asked.

“I had just managed to master throwing a persistent corpse like Ladonna. It was down to two of you and one Ladonna spawn. I saw my chance and spit a low-powered persistent spawn and dove down the chute. I stopped by to get my flames and arrived via a different route. I hope you don’t feel that I ran out on you,” Gerald said.

“No protecting the lives of originals are what spawn are for. Any chance that Josh might have emulated you?”

“No he’s definitely gone. And he left you in charge,” Gerald said.

“You’re second in command,” I interjected.

“That’s right. I was second in command under Josh. Now I’m second in command under you.”

A white van pulled even with us.

“This is the van with my reloads for the flame thrower. Why don’t you ride with me?” Gerald said.

Ladonna was driving. James shoved an Adept out of the way and inserted himself into the passenger side.

“I have the shotgun,” he said. ”So I’m riding shotgun. My sensei needs protection. He’s exhausted.”

I saw that David and Cary were in a black ford four-wheeler right behind us.

I hesitated long enough to take another swallow of soft drink before I got into the vehicle in case the drink did come up this time, but it stayed down. After I climbed into the van I fought to stay awake until I’d finished the energy drink. I passed out afterwards and didn’t wake till they dropped me at my room.

It was time for ten hours sleep, a really big breakfast and then onto the lengthy debriefing.

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Old 09-04-2015, 08:13 PM
RVM45 RVM45 is offline
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Chapter Eight

“When I was a boy, I saw a kung fu movie where a Shaolin monk was throwing coins a bit bigger than a quarter into a wooden post hard enough to half bury them in the wood. I thought that would be a marvelous skill to master. My father saw me throwing Kennedy half dollars at a shoe box propped against the headboard of my bed—and I wasn’t even penetrating the box,” I told my students.

“Don’t throw coins, you’ll lose them,” he said. “Let me bring you some washers from work.”

“The washers were a bit bigger around than a silver dollar and a bit fatter too. I couldn’t hold them between my first two fingers the way the monk did. I developed a throwing style like this,” I told my students.

I wrap my index finger around the leading edge and my thumb around the back. I throw the washers vertically with a snappy back fist motion. It’s not hard to be reasonably accurate across a back yard and they hit hard enough to leave a deep dent in a plywood target or a plank. They don’t stick, but they leave an impressive dent.

Interestingly enough you can throw up to five or six of the stacked washers at one time. They don’t seem to lose force. They spread horizontally but not vertically. The only real drawbacks are that it isn’t quite as accurate and you exhaust your supply of washers faster.

As a man I turned a few washers on the lathe to give them a chisel edge just dull enough to keep you from cutting your finger as you threw them—kinda a mini chakram, but I never threw them enough to see how big an improvement the edge made. Then as an Adept trainee I learned to give them a hefty chi assist.

“I want y’all to experiment and get pretty good with the washers before you start sharpening them or pumping them up with chi. I never had any luck throwing them horizontally like a Frisbee or overhand like a baseball but try both methods out. The great thing about the washers is that you can find them anywhere. They’re cheap and they’re not controlled,” I told my students.

Fourteen of my students made it out of Atlanta alive. When word got out that I was teaching Adept classes and took anyone who wanted to learn, I picked up thirty-five or forty students very quickly.

Farnsworth was typical of one type of student. He was a bit on the fat side while lacking in muscle. He was twenty-eight years old and he’d applied for Adept training every fall for the last fifteen years and he had been turned down each time.

“The school is right, you seem to have zero potential but I can’t see what that has to do with anything if you want to study. Maybe you have hidden potential. Even a poor student can learn something from a patient teacher. Even if you never learn a damned thing going to classes will keep you out of worse mischief,” I’d told him.

I mixed advanced students in with rank beginners and asked the skilled to help the beginners. Since some of my students were shift workers I ran three sets of classes though some managed to attend more than one set of classes. Since I could send spawn to teach it didn’t cut into my time much.

Today though, I was teaching my class with my original. As I’ve said, you can acquire almost any skill using a spawn but you get a poor return on physical fitness training done by a spawn. It isn’t a zero return but it is minimal. A bit of throwing followed by some grappling would help me keep my edge.

A dude from Administration walked up to our group. It isn’t a requirement but many in Administration wear violet colored gi tops—quilted cotton when it’s cold or chilly and light weight silk, nylon or thin muslin when it’s hot out. This dude took the royal purple seriously enough that he also wore purple jeans.

“The mayor wants to see you ASAP,” he said.

When I acknowledged him with a nod and a wave he popped out. How charming.

**************** ******************** **************************

The mayor didn’t wear a violet gi. He wore a suit and tie every day. Few people in the village even owned a tie let alone made a practice of wearing one. He was short and plump. He was very bald on top, but instead of covering it up decently he left it exposed to God and everyone else’s casual glance.

Gerald and Ladonna were there as well as David and Cary and four Adepts I remembered from the warehouse.

“First of all, quit teaching unofficial classes in tradecraft,” Dunno the Mayor said to me.

“No,” I replied.

“What!?!” Dunno demanded.

“Never raise your voice to me Dunno and be very careful how you address your betters. As you should know, we don’t take an oath of secrecy. The only thing keeping us from spreading knowledge widely is our own sense of propriety and prudence. If you were an Adept you’d know that,” I said.

“I am an Adept!” he shouted.

I grabbed his tie and yanked him across the polished surface of his walnut desktop towards me. I used a big Bowie to cut the tie off an eighth of an inch or so below the knot in one fast swoop.

“I told you not to raise your voice. I trimmed your garrote so I won’t be tempted to use it to strangle you with it the next time you shout at me. Fact is: don’t shout at anyone in my presence. Now as I was saying—I schedule my classes to use facilities when the academy isn’t using them but if that’s seriously dragging your beat I can set up my own grappling areas and throwing ranges,” I said.

“They say that you’re running a big flock of crows,” Dunno said.

“I have a rather small flock—mostly ravens,” I corrected.

“You are not authorized to handle animals,” Dunno said in a querulous tone.

“You are not authorized to play the skin flute. I guess that isn’t hindering either of us from following our geas,” I replied.

He turned all red and I thought that I might have to cut the rest of his tie off to keep him from choking to death. On second thought: why should I bother?

“It has been three months since the debacle in Atlanta. We can’t afford to field large compounds like the warehouse anymore. They’re too easy to ferret out and they’re too tempting a target. Nonetheless, we need to keep a handle on what is happening in Atlanta and elsewhere. We’re going to use three and four man cells in loose contact with other groups and move them every few days. McVeeblefester is going to assume Josh’s old position,” Dunno lectured us.

“That’s a big negatory Good Buddy,” I said—using the olde tyme CB slang just to be annoying.

“I’m the leader of Josh’s old squad. If you put McVeeblefester in charge, I opt out,” I said.

“Good!” Dunno said.

“Gerald and I opt out too,” Ladonna said.

“That includes Cary and me as well,” David said.

“I don’t want Josh’s job—Spoil’s job now—so add me to the ‘declined’ list,” McVeeblefester added.

“Fine, I’ll put Spoil in charge. It’s y’all’s lives you’re putting at risk,” Dunno said.

“Yes, they’re ours,” Gerald said.

Then he leaned close and made a ridiculous funny face at Dunno.

************* ************** ***********************

I took Gerald with me to the briefing because he was second in command and segundos were invited. I took David even though he wasn’t invited because he was the brightest Adept that I knew and I wanted his mind to get to work on the situation ASAP. The black rat in my pocket would relay the info back to Cary immediately as well.

There were four other bosses and their segundos in Harold’s office.

“I’m going to lay it all out on the table for y’all,” Harold said. “Does anyone know what kinjutsu or forbidden techniques are?”

“They are techniques that are dangerous and/or seriously detrimental to a user’s health and well being,” I said.

“That’s a big part of it but also there are techniques that could drastically change our world. Not physically but politically. Some folks possessing these techniques would set their eyes on world conquest—or at least becoming the absolute ruler of North and Central America,” Harold said.

“Not for me,” I said. “Dictators have to put in too many long hours and get up too early in the morning. And besides that, you have to use people skills far too often. I hate dealing with greed heads, idiots and suck-ups.”

“Everyone doesn’t share your distaste for power. Besides what if the only way that you could protect those dear to you was by wielding ultimate power?” Harold said.

“Well a ‘good’ end never justifies evil means. In fact having a ‘good’ end in mind makes the bad means even more heinous,” I said. “But I see your point. Anyway, forbidden jutsu is the stuff of legend.”

“I wish it were so. We’ve never had any books of forbidden jutsu, but we know that they exist. Now several groups are trying to collect all the different books. Our job is to find as many volumes as we can and destroy them,” Harold said.

“I don’t hold with destroying books,” I said. “The Bible says:

“’Then I saw that wisdom excelleth folly, as far as light excelleth darkness.’

“Wisdom will make you sad but wise sadness is preferable to blissful ignorance,” I said.

“Spoil, what do you know about the skin heads and white supremacists in Montana? Did you know that some of the groups are led by Adepts? How about crack-brained polygamists from Utah and New Mexico? They have Adepts. Some of the Mexican Drug Cartels are run by Adepts.”

“You’re a Christian aren’t you? Do you know that there’s a group right here in Appalachia that practices witchcraft and demon summoning along with their tradecraft? Do you want any of those groups to get ahold of all the kinjutsu?”

“Reckon not,” I replied.

************ *********************** ****************************

I insisted on bringing James and Chandra on board as full-fledged Adepts.

“Guys, you aren’t really full-fledged Adepts—but two thirds of the things you’d be taught during your three-year sojourn at the academy would be redundant. In peaceful and prosperous times I’d say to go through it anyway, strengthening and polishing your technique along the way. But we’re on a war footing now.

“We’re mostly going to be running spawn into Atlanta and a few other selected places. For anything within a day’s ride we’re going to be using spawn. Our bodies are going to stay right here in the Village. That means that I need you to be working hard to build your strength, chi levels, physical skills and tradecraft,” I told James and Chandra.

The next year proved uneventful. We ran surveillance teams. I could cast multiple spawn so I was often on several stakeouts or tailings at once. We’d stay on the job for three or four days—about the maximum lifespan of most Adept’s spawn—and then someone’s spawn would come to relieve us.

Remember I couldn’t sit in the village and cast a spawn umpteen miles away in Atlanta. I had to create him within ten or twelve yards of myself and then he had to travel to Atlanta or wherever. Of course my spawn could return to me instantly by popping his cork or having it popped. Also, recall that except for a general awareness of my spawn’s chi level and his general compass bearing in relation to me, I have no particular link to him. I had to contact him by telephone, radio, “E” Mail or whatever just like with anyone else.

We did go on some missions to cities like Knoxville—Knoxville is an obscure suburb of Lafollette—Chattanooga, Cincinnati and Louisville. We stayed gone for up to six or seven weeks. In that case our originals would go and set up shop a few miles outside of town and send in our copies.

I left a couple spawn behind to mentor my students for as long as they lasted—and the students invariably had some open-ended projects going that they could profitably spend their time on when the spawn expired.

At any rate, I became very interested in longer lasting wet spawn. I started doing basic research on my spawn.

Does a spawn have a chakra tree? It turns out that he does, but it is very subtle and hard to perceive. Spawn don’t absorb chi from food or their environment very well.

Would bulking up the first three chakras—the “digestion chakras” help? I found that it did, but the main chakras were all undersized and malformed. They were small enough that hand cranking them made a difference—if you kept it up long enough.

I also went back to my early training to find and plug leaks that let chi out. They were bigger, harder to patch and far more numerous than my own body’s. Progress was very slow at first but there was just enough to keep me at it.

Fortunately improvements that I made to one generation of my spawn’s chakra tree seemed to carry over to the next generation of spawn that I cast.

The improvements to my spawn also seemed to cause their power levels to creep upwards even as I picked up the ability to cast more spawn here and there.

I had another idea. Dry spawn are comparatively weak. They last three or four minutes at most. Two or three stout blows or something that pierces their quarter inch thick skin will pop them—they’re hollow inside—but I could cast a great many of them.

Jeff Cooper scoffed at what he called “Inconsequential Increments”—“IIs”. Sometimes though your strengths multiply each other and three or four IIs can become a small but consequential advantage.

What if I could boost my dry spawn to last four or five moments instead of three or four? To require three or four stout blows to destroy them? What if their skin was even a few thousandths thicker? Finally, what if they were all just a bit more powerful?

The fact that I could field so many meant that a minor overall gain in efficacy would be multiplied many times over. And while we’re at it, why not try to increase the number that I could field at one time?

It sounded good in theory. In practice, altering my dry spawn as I cast them seemed as impossible as sculpting complex forms from my feces as I passed them.

Then I “Discovered”—or perhaps I invented them because the whole thing is a mental construct—but anyway, there were a couple chakras that seemed to heavily contribute to dry spawn formation.

The two chakras sit with their centers about three fourths of the way forward on the iliac crest. They are the size of half dollars and only as thick as a CD disk. They are cocked at crazy angles and part of them freely penetrates the crest since they’re immaterial. And by spending inordinate amounts of time “tickling” them, marginal improvements in one’s dry spawn can be realized.

************ ***************** *******************************

When the new nesting season arrived both my first generation ravens and crows multiplied over three-fold—and the new birds were all second-generation chi supplemented creatures—they were subtly but noticeably improved over the first generation.

Then there were the wild birds that had opted to stay with me. They raised a few fledglings as well even though their offspring would still be first generation. I’d bought five more breeding pairs of ravens and two pair of crows from my commercial poacher. I had come to value my turkey vultures for aerial surveillance so I bought three breeding pairs of vultures as well as miscellaneous owls and red tailed hawks.

There are a few folks who keep a raven or a crow as pets. The same can be said for owls though it is far less common. Falconers—legal and illegal—often buy red tailed hawks. There is a Noah’s ark scam—meaning the scam has been around for a long while—whereby one substitutes a poached red tail for the one that you have a permit for but which died or flew away. Many falconers’ birds live to surprising ages in captivity…

Very few people have any use for Vultures—so I had to pay out the wazoo for them. My determination to have breeding pairs so I could start modifying their descendants in vitro also upped the ante. It would have been far easier for my supplier to simply wait until eggs had hatched and the offspring were almost ready to fly to harvest them—but there you have it.

************** ****************** ********************************

My mission was to bug an attorney’s office in Nashville. McVeeblefester was driving and would be my watch out. Neither of us was real, but if they knew we were onto them they’d sweep the office for bugs and they might very well relocate—or feed us false data. It was better to pop my cork instead.

“What in the Hell sort of ethnicity is ‘McVeeblefester’,” I

“I wouldn’t know. ‘McVeeblefester’ is my first name. I think my father may have fabricated it. You can call me by my last name. It’s ‘O’Brian’ or by middle name. It’s ‘Enn’,” Enn said.

“Are you kin to O’Brian Sensei?”

“He’s my older brother—about sixteen years older.”

*************** **************** *********************

Cats gather about 11x or 12x as much light in dimly lit situations than humans. Dogs gather about 8x. My chi-boosted eyes were just a little bit above 3x. My hearing, ability to sense electromagnetic fields and my sense of feel were all boosted as well. What helped me the most though was the small screech owl who perched on my shoulder.

He looked all around randomly—or so it seemed to me—but my brain used his crystal-clear perception to build an accurate 3-D mental map of my surroundings. I could also direct his gaze somewhere of my choosing for three or four heartbeats at a time though when it helped. I also kept his bowels tightly locked via mind control. Owl crap all over would clue the office’s inhabitant that something was going on.

I know a dynamite method to bug an old style phone with the screw off microphone caps. Unfortunately they don’t make them anymore. People generally don’t leave their cell phones lying around to alter though the cell phones’ signals can often be intercepted.

I replaced several wall receptacles where their landline phones plugged into with an identical one that included a device to record and send each message to our recorder. I had no idea how The Outfit knew exactly what model was in use.

The next step was something that I hated. You can put a microphone to bug a room for sound into a wall receptacle. That way you don’t have to worry about dead batteries. Only any sane person would turn the current off before replacing the receptacles . Only you have to know where the breaker box is and which breaker to throw. Even that can leave a host of telltales: blinking digital clocks, interrupted flow to computers etcetera. Turning off the whole floor or building makes it worse and harder to hide.

I was an Adept so I could insulate my hands with chi as well as surgical gloves for all the good the gloves would do if my chi faltered. And if I electrocute myself or worse yet, fry my fingers I can simply pop my cork. But I hate being shocked with a fiery passion and it would reveal my intrusion if I left the wall receptacle half assembled.

I finished bugging the last receptacle and retrieved the portable hard drive that had been industriously downloading an ingenious Trojan—the malware, not the condom—Into one of the desk computer’s hard drive.

Mission accomplished—almost. Then I got caught.

“Duncan remembers you. You hurt Duncan,” the sumo said.

“I’m about ready to hurt Duncan a lot worse,” I said.

I’m big into doing the five big compound exercises for five sets of five and throw in a few accessory exercises in various set and repetitions. When I’d started training at the warehouse I’d bench pressed 365 5x5. Before I started the chi building I’d have been thrilled to get 315 once as a lifetime best.

Sure, I could have supercharged my muscles and lifted three times as much weight, but that would have drained my strength instead of increasing it. I found though that I could supercharge just enough to use about eight to ten percent more weight than I was able to lift unassisted and the muscles would grow just as though they’d been capable of lifting the heavier weight all on their own. Then chi could also be used to speed recovery and stimulate a bit of extra growth.

I was up to benching 425 5x5 and squatting 550 25x3—not with many long pauses to take several deep sobbing breath between repetitions—but up and down like a sewing machine needle. There were very few lifters—natural or steroid enhanced who could equal my bench stats—particularly at a body weight of 221. I’m not sure that any Non-Adept could equal my squats.

I could supercharge my muscles to 6x or even 7x for a few minutes and one of Duncan’s arms was stronger than both of my legs. He wasn’t slow or awkward either. Dim witted perhaps but not clumsy or slow moving.

I looked forward to fighting him again but instead he whistled and a dog came to him—and what a dog! The dog was over four foot tall at his shoulder. He might have weighed almost as much as Duncan. The dog was covered all over with chitin plates that he’d grown. His eyes were as big as golf balls and they glowed with an internal red light. He had fangs longer and thicker than my middle finger.

“Saul is my friend. Saul won’t let you hurt Duncan. Duncan loves Saul,” the huge man-child said.

“What kind of dog is Saul?” I asked.

“Saul is a Hellhound.”

“Duncan, please don’t force me to hurt your dog. You can tell them that I was here and they will undo all my work. I have my pride too and I can’t simply pop out, but if you will let me, I’ll walk out of here and consider this a draw,” I said.

“Kill him Saul!” Duncan screamed in his booming bass voice.

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Chapter Nine

I “saw” Duncan’s dog. The dog was so cram-jammed full of both chi and drugs that he made the hip-hop gangster’s monster Pit Bills look natural in comparison.

The dog leaped and I reached inside him with an immaterial chi hand—similar to the chi hands that I used to hand crank my chakras with. Maybe it was the very same chi hand. I reached deep inside Saul and grabbed a handful of thick knotty chi meridians and twisted them into a hopeless tangle. The dog collapsed in a quivering heap.

Duncan rushed to his dog’s side and started bawling to my amazement.

I grabbed one of Duncan’s arms and yanked him urgently.

“Get out of the way Numb Nuts! I think that I can save your dog for you,” I said.

I reached inside and started untangling the snarl that I’d just created. It is always far easier to bollix something than it is to set it right. I had no apprehension lest Duncan attack me while I was preoccupied. I just knew that he wasn’t going to. It might have helped that he was too dim to know that he had close to zero chance to prevail against me in a contest of close range social engineering skill—or maybe not. He really loved his dog.

I’ve said that a human can survive for a while with zero chi. The same applies to animals. Saul’s body and chakra tree had been pushed so far and so hard though that chi was the only thing staving off total system collapse.

“He should be alright now Duncan. Tell whoever is pushing him to ease off on the drugs and chi infusions though or Saul won’t last much longer,” I said.

I walked out the door. Our bugging mission was shot all to Hell. It would be just as bollixed if I’d left Duncan and Saul’s dead bodies inside—or wherever.

The little suited boss had captured Enn—McVeeblefester—and he was holding him suspended in the air with his feet a good yard from the ground. Enn’s mouth was wide open in a scream of agony but something muted all his moans.

Something weird was definitely going down. That much agony should have popped the spawn’s cork. Failing that, Enn should have popped his own cork—to prevent his mind being scanned if for no other reason.

What really caused my hair to stand on end though was the fact that Little Boss wasn’t using either chi or any sort of electromagnetic force to levitate or torture Enn. He seemed to have a jet-black aura all around him and Enn.

What is the spirit of the bayonet?

Kill! Kill! Kill without mercy!

When facing a superior foe the shrewdest course of action is generally a freewheeling all out attack while holding nothing back.

I charged while throwing air bomb after air bomb at the little boss. I’d upped the power about forty percent since I’d used them in the parking garage and I’d drastically increased the speed that I could create and fire them and the number of bombs that I could launch during a barrage without running out of bombing chi.

My bombs didn’t explode, they just seemed to fade, fizzle out and vanish.

Since we were on a stealth mission I hadn’t wanted the constant challenge of keeping a hanger sheathed in chi to keep the Non-Adept from noticing it. I had a nice big Bowie for my left hand though.

I hacked at the little boss with a powerful overhand smash. He grabbed my left forearm and sent me tumbling with a mere flick of his wrist.

Damned nation! It was like the cartoon judo masters popular in my childhood or one of those complaisant aikido throws that just might work in the real world but wouldn’t be anywhere nearly as spectacular and photogenic.

He hoodooed my air bombs out of existence but he had to physically touch me to alter my trajectory. That was interesting.

I threw a Kunai at him with my right hand. Then I aimed a dozen sharpened and chi accelerated but unsheathed washers at him one at a time. Then I followed up with three at once followed by five at once. Then I attacked with my body and every ounce of power that I could muster.

Little Boss calmly tipped each washer aside with an index finger. He seemed able to slow down time and although I’d never trained to slow time—or even known that it was possible—time seemed to slow for me as well.

As I launched myself at Little Boss he seemed to suspend me in mid-air like he’d done Enn. Only it was different. Enn had hung motionlessly and had been in pain. I was moving glacially and I wasn’t experiencing any pain.

Then I “saw” it. Something powerful, nonmaterial and nonhuman possessed and indwelt Little Boss. He was a huge black dragon of the oriental type. He had a long scaled serpentine body with fins and crests here and there. He also had two powerful arms about three feet back of his head. He surrounded and suffused Little Boss completely.

While the demon needed the shell of Little Boss’ body to give it a foothold in the material world it had long since erased and displaced any trace of Little Boss’ personality. Little Boss had become no more than an avatar and place-keeper for a powerful demon.

Then the lobstrousity reached for me.

Guess again dude!

Something—so silver-shining white that it qualified as argent enveloped my body. I’m sure that it was always present, but the contrast created against the absolute blackness of the dragon caused it to be visible for the nonce.

Little Boss’ demon dragon fingers slipped off of me again and again—like someone trying to lift a big greased watermelon. Except that he never could actually touch me and he seemed unable to come within two or three feet of me.

Time speeded up. Little Boss seemed to lose his grip on me. He twisted enough to avoid my Bowie but I fetched him a hard punch in the face with a booming right hook.

Even before I’d touched ground I’d thrown a luxuriant group of five dry spawn and I’d given each a dozen washers and a Kunai knife. They threw washers hard one at a time and then they charged with Kunai.

Little Boss was bleeding from a broken nose. Somehow I read his astonishment. He had never before felt pain. He tipped washer after washer from the trajectory that included him. The washers were coming too hot and heavy though. He caught one to the forehead above one eye and blood ran down into that eye. Then he got a finger on his left hand broken and then another.

I stepped close and planted an enormous uppercut to his liver and then a powerful backhand to his temple with the butt of my Bowie. I’d have been more than happy to stab or slash him but he seemed to have a healthy respect for my blade and he made sure not to leave an opening for it.

While Little Boss was momentarily stunned I grabbed Enn. He lay on the ground moaning in agony. I don’t know why he couldn’t pop. I cut his head off in one smooth motion using a chi shielded shuto hand. His headless corpse and his head endured for almost three seconds before popping. That was weird enough.

Duncan came walking out of the attorney’s office carrying Saul gently as he did so.

“Drop that worthless hound and kill him,” Little Boss screamed at Duncan while pointing a bloody finger at me.

Later to this noise, I thought to myself—then I popped my cork.

************* ****************** **************************

“Kill the dog. If he can’t defeat that Adept’s shadow then he’s worthless,” Little Boss screamed at Duncan.

“You couldn’t defeat him either. Should I kill you too Little Brother?” Duncan asked innocently.

“Fine then. I’ll kill the dog myself and then you have some discipline coming,” Little Boss said. “And don’t call me ‘Little Brother’. The part of me that was kin to you died a long time ago,” Little Boss said.

When Little Boss’ back was turned Duncan lifted one of the concrete slabs that marked the parking spots in the lot—four foot long, eight inches wide and perhaps six inches deep. It was close to one hundred pounds of rebar reinforced concrete.

Duncan swung the slab in a big wide ark like someone swinging one of the big wooden sledges at a carnival. He brought it down on the top of Little Boss’ head with every ounce of momentum his five hundred and sixty five pound body could muster.

The slab crushed Little Boss’ skull, it ruptured multiple vertebrae in his neck and it wreaked havoc with many ribs and thoracic vertebrae in Little Boss’ torso.

Somehow though, Little Boss remained conscious. He trained his single remaining eye on Duncan.

“I can repair even this,” his little brother told Duncan in a fluting hiss. “And when I do, you will rue the day that you raised a hand against me.

Little Boss liked to quote Machiavelli:

“Men ought either to be well treated or crushed, because they can avenge themselves of lighter injuries, of more serious ones they cannot.”

Duncan was no great thinker but he remembered how his brother had quoted that line so many times over the years. He thought about it as he used the remains of the concrete curb to beat Little Boss’ brains into pudding, smash his hands and feet to bloody pulp and to thoroughly smash his legs.

His brother could probably repair even that, Duncan thought, but it stood to reason that it would take him longer to do so.

Duncan relieved Little Boss of his wallet. Duncan had money but his brother carried much more—just for “eventualities”. He was facing a long walk carrying an exhausted friend much of the way. He’d have liked to borrow his brother’s van but he couldn’t fit behind the wheel and he’d never learned to drive.

Duncan wasn’t completely stupid. He’d known that the day might come when he’d have to travel cross-country on his own. His father had always stressed looking ahead and being prepared.

He hadn’t thought of his father in a long while. It made him sad for a moment to think that he’d virtually forgotten his father. He had quit practicing much of what his father had taught him but he still remembered—in a blurry non-centered way.

Duncan was neither idiot nor savant and he didn’t have total recall—but his wide-open and simple mind could memorize things far faster and easier than most mentally gifted folk. He knew how to hop a freight train very well in theory and he had an excellent grasp of where the main railroad lines were.

*************** ******************** *********************************

A few days after the debacle in Nashville there was a loud and urgent knock on my door in the wee hours. I opened the door with a pistol in my hand. There stood a fellow wearing the blue gatekeeper’s uniform with an AR 15 slung diagonally across his back.

“What in the seven burning Hells do you want? It is 3:00 am,” I grumped.

“A huge sumo turned up at the gate. He was carrying a giant Hell Hound and he said that he wants to speak to you,” the guard told me.

Okay, Duncan was challenged but he’d found the village somehow. He knew that I was in the village and he’d made his way through the mind labyrinth to accost the gatekeepers.

************** ***************** **************************

They had Duncan sitting chained hand and foot in a detainment cell. Saul was muzzled. He had a great collar around his neck and two great tow chains bound him to the wall.

This didn’t look like something hastily conceived and thrown together. It made me wonder precisely what went on in the interrogation department.

I was still groggy and I sat down wearily.

“What do you want Duncan,” I asked. “On second thought, never mind,” I said as I placed a hand on either side of his head.

Duncan’s mind was simple and open but it had seemed to have acquired a bit more sharpness since he’d been away from the constant repression of his personality by Little Boss.

“Okay,” I told him. “I do have one favor that I’d like to ask though.”

I was too weary to demand keys to Saul’s collar and then have to debate the desirability of setting the Hell Hound loose with the guards. Instead I worked my index finger inside the wide collar and used chi finger to sever it effortlessly. Duncan flashed on my agenda and he pulled the multiple chains nominally restraining him with no more stress than if they’d been made of liquorish.

A guard came running up as I opened the door.

“What are you doing?” he demanded.

“It’s late. I have a guest. I’d intend to get him to the all night mess hall and get him fed and then get him settled into a room. With any luck I might be able to do that in time to grab another couple of hours sleep before my day starts in earnest. That’s not going to work out if you insist on playing twenty questions,” I told him.

************** ****************** ***************************

Saul, Duncan and I were about halfway across one of the grassy commons that dotted the village when we were met with a dozen violet clad administration personnel with AKs in hand.

“Halt! What do you think you’re doing?” the sergeant of the guard shouted.

“Don’t raise your voice to me and watch how you address your betters,” I said wearily. “I’ve already had this conversation with your boss.”

“Check your by-laws. I can bring a guest of my choice into the village at any time. I don’t know what group that Duncan belongs to. I’m not sure that he knows,” I continued. “It doesn’t matter. There are no exceptions to keep me from bringing in an Adept from a rival group—and we aren’t officially at war with anyone anyway.”

“This isn’t open for discussion. I told you to halt!” the sergeant shouted.

I kept a black rat with me at all times. That meant that I could contact Cary via “Rat-a-Gram” any time. I’d told Cary to contact the others and come before I’d even sliced Saul’s collar off.

Gerald, Ladonna, Cary, David, James, Chandra and McVeeblefester all showed up along with eight or nine of my more advanced students.

“Do I really need to throw large numbers of spawn this early in the morning to prove to you that you’re outclassed and out numbered?” I asked them.

They stepped down reluctantly.

I stepped up close to the sergeant. I sucker punched him in the pit of the stomach and when he went down I grabbed his right hand and broke his index finger and then the one next to it—the middle finger.

“I told you not to raise your voice to me. Now we’re still not even, but I’m going to let you off easy this time. If you ever shout at me again, I’ll also collect the rest of the debt that I’m letting you slide on today,” I said.

“Have you taken leave of your senses?” Gerald demanded as we walked to the all-night mess hall. “What do you intend to do with the sumo and the Hell Hound?”

“Duncan and Saul are our newest team members,” I explained to my crew as simply as possible.

It was early in the morning and none of us had even had our morning coffee.

“Duncan, do you like donuts, rolls and chocolate milk? Chocolate is bad for dogs, but I’ll get Saul a platter with about ten pounds of bacon, sausage and scrambled eggs. How does that sound to y’all?”

Duncan beamed happily. I felt Saul’s mind caressing the image of the high fat and protein treat that I intended to procure for him and he barked joyously.

I was used to reaching out to touch animal’s minds. Saul was the first animal that seemed able to reach out on his own without prompting.

Note to myself:

Duncan might lose a hundred or more pounds of muscle and even some bone without the ruthless outside manipulation of his chi and anatomy by someone who really didn’t care if he was happy and healthy and who didn’t mind shortening his life expectancy drastically.

Still, even then Duncan was going to be very big. I needed to get a cabinet maker or two working on a big room with oversized bed and chairs bulked up to handle him or Saul’s weight. In the meantime, Duncan could sleep on a mattress thrown on the floor.

************** ******************* ******************************

I had just finished eating a big breakfast when Mayor Dunno and a score or more of his purple clad Praetorian Guards showed up to make my early morning joy complete.

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