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Old 12-02-2015, 09:46 PM
RVM45 RVM45 is offline
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Cool Coil The Adept (Flywheells II)

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Who thinks that this is a fair start on a Sequel?


Coil The Adept

Chapter One

They had started a judo dojo close to my home and I started training there a week before I graduated from the fifth grade. I was twelve years old.

More than anything else I remember the smell. A gym where men come together to sweat acquires a certain von. It’s part sweat and part mildew and it isn’t overwhelming or anything, but it is always there. It’s a happy nostalgic smell for me.

Supposing that there was a gym just for ladies and they all worked and sweated hard—would their gym acquire that von that I’ve come to associate with manly activities? Maybe, I don’t know.

Children’s practice was a couple of hours on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. The gym was also open from morning till early afternoon on Saturday for anyone who wanted to spar or free fight. The proper name for free fighting is “Randori”.

At first I only got to go to the Saturday scrimmages every second or third week. My father said that three times per week was sufficient. When I got a little older and he felt good about letting me ride my bicycle to the dojo he dropped his objections. It seems that he didn’t object to my going nearly as much as he objected to having to drive me there.

The Christmas of my sixth grade year, my aunt gave me a very nice boxed set of the writings of Spoil O Warren also known as Spoil Airgetlám. There were only the first four volumes of magic or “Tradecraft” as Spoil Airgetlám called it along with his autobiography “My Life to Date.”

They say that much of the later volumes aren’t fit for youngsters. They also say that much of it seems to be incomprehensible gibberish. The last four books are far harder to track down. Be that as it may. My aunt figured that since I’d taken an interest in the martial arts that I’d enjoy reading about one of martial arts’ more notorious personalities.

Those were very nice books physically. They were bound in rich black leather. The pages were the finest heavyweight cotton linen paper and all the page’s edges were gilded with gold leaf.

Back then it had been over a hundred and eighty years since the first of the tradecraft books was published. Nowadays very few folk really believed in the chi-building exercises. Some folks said that Spoil Airgetlám was a liar and a scam artist. Kinder and gentler folks said that he was delusional. A significant fraction of the folks who cared enough to have an opinion believed that there never was a man of that name. They thought he was a legend or a myth.

The thing is, Spoil O Warren didn’t ask anyone for anything. He freely admitted that chi and the chakra trees were nothing more than mental placeholders that could be manipulated to one’s advantage.

He also stressed that it would take a few year of diligent practice to be able to master even the simplest skills in his books.

I was embarrassed to tell anyone, but I started meditating and doing the visualization exercises to imagine my chakra tree that New Years’ day—and I stuck to the exercises over the long haul.

Sensei said that judo was simply Japanese style wrestling with winter clothing on. Brazilian jujitsu, aikido, sambo and several other martial arts were other styles of winter wrestling. Folkstyle wrestling along with freestyle, Greco-Roman and several of the myriad British and German grappling styles were simply wrestling with no more clothes than most folk would wear on a hot summer day.

I suppose that sumo is an extreme example of wrestling in summer attire.

At any rate Sensei wasn’t upset when I told him that I needed to take a few months off so that I could wrestle in high school.

Wrestling toughened me up quite a bit. Sensei only had a limited amount of time to teach and he used most of his time to teach techniques. He expected his students to run, lift weights and stretch on their own. Practice was often repetitious and sometimes it became tedious. It wasn’t particularly grueling.

My wrestling coach kept us at it for four or five hours every weeknight unless there was a match that night. Coach set the thermostat on about eighty-five degrees. Many of the wrestlers wore a sauna suit or a couple of layers of sweat clothing…

Wrestling is the hardest thing that I’ve ever done and one of the most rewarding.

When I returned to the dojo after wrestling season my freshman year I’d grown a great deal as a martial artist—even more when I came back from my second wrestling season.

Now I’ll tell you a secret. Throwing Kunai knives, throwing stars and washers has nothing at all to do with judo. Neither did balance beams, tightropes and climbing walls. Thing is though—every since Spoil Airgetlám’s autobiography was published—people expect dojos to have a restricted back room where folks practice incredible physical abilities.

I threw at the end grain knife targets almost every time that I came to do judo—and I trained to throw with either hand. I just wasn’t very good at it. I also clowned with this and that. There was also fairly good archery range in the back. Rumor had it that it was there because Sensei and two of his brothers were avid bow hunters.

There was an assortment of punching bags and a fairly good basic weight room in the back—though I had a better weight gym at home. There were padded mats to jump rope. It isn’t good to jump up and down on a hard surface over the long haul. There was even a good wrestling mat well over half the size of the big one in the front part of the building.

I was standing on the tightrope. It was a good thing that the tightrope was only a couple feet off the ground and said ground was liberally covered with crash pads and other padding. I could walk from one end to the other—sometimes. Sometimes I lost my balance and fell. Tumbles weren’t unusual.

I had never tried even the simplest stunt while on the wire.

Today was different. Something had changed inside me all at once and I could feel my newfound skill. I did a slow motion cartwheel to a handstand. I did one-legged squats—several with each leg. Then I did a double back sumi for a dismount.

A black belt named Stephan met me as I touched ground and then he slapped my face. Then he seized the belled sleeve of my judo gi and dragged me into Sensei’s office.

“What’s the deal dude? You can’t run around striking your betters,” I said to Stephan.

“Look at your eyes in the mirror!” Stephan replied.

Yeah, about that…my eyes were solid black. The “Whites” were black. The Iris was black and assuming that I still had a pupil it was black too. My eyes shined like black glass.

“Listen carefully. People who manifest either learn to hide their light under bushel very quickly or they disappear. Think about that for a moment. Can you possibly be the only one this has ever happened to? What became of the others then? Stay here a moment. I’m serious, stay here!” Stephan said.

When he came back he had my street clothes and Sardou. She said her name kinda halfway between a “Z” and an “S”—“Tsar-Dough”. She was a very tall woman and rather mannish and she had very straight long blond hair that hung down to her black gi belt in the back.

She promptly got up in my face like a cat all the while her eyes turned into solid glowing scarlet orbs analogous to my black ones. That’s something that you don’t see everyday—or I guess you could if you were Sardou and you looked at yourself in the mirror.

“I’ve seen red eyes like mine, white eyes and golden eyes. I’ve never seen black ones. He’s got some sort of visual power but I can’t tell you what it is,” Sardou said after intense scrutiny.

“Use Sensei’s shower and then get dressed,” Stephan said.

“I’m not comfortable using Sensei’s shower. I can skip the shower today,” I said.

“No you cannot skip the shower. The Powers That Be seem to be almost prescient sniffing out Adepts. I don’t think that anyone noticed your little display on the tightrope…but if you have to go on the run Sardou won’t need the added handicap of you smelling like a Billy goat,” Stephan said.

“You don’t have time for modesty,” Sardou snapped. “Get naked. Take a quick but thorough shower and get dressed.”

Stephan threw me a stick of deodorant as I exited the shower.

“Use it,” he said.

“No. I’ve never used that crap. It’s alien to the body’s chemistry. I don’t intend to start compromising my principles now,” I said.

I still hadn’t forgot that he’d slapped me. Good intentions? Good intentions are an aggravating factor not a mitigating one.

Sardou gifted me a pair of shades. They were the kind that wraps around the sides and is all one large lens. The lens was mirrored and it had several iridescent shades of violet and indigo playing on its surface.

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

“My father will be home in a couple hours. The very idea of me having a woman stay the night would cause him to defecate big gold-plated and razor-edged bricks while walking on his hands,” I told her.

“What about your mother?” Sardou asked.

“She’s with Jesus—at least I have a relatively sound basis to believe that’s where she is. You’re never one hundred percent sure with other people though.”

“Do you have a dog?” she asked.

“We have four dogs and a cat,” I said.

“Introduce me to your dogs and let me get the lay of the land. Don’t worry about your father. I can be as elusive as a ghost,” she said.

Did I say that Sardou was mannish? She was six four with wide shoulders with very good traps and deltoids for a woman. She had fairly thick arms as well. She had a rather deep voice to boot. On the other hand, she wasn’t flat chested—quite the contrary and she had thick lips and a feminine face. When her eyes weren’t blood red they were a washed out gray.

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

My eyes were still black when my father got home. There was no help for it. I tried looking away and keeping a hand in front of my eyes.

Yeah, about that…

“So you’ve got the eyes,” he said. “Your mother had eyes like that. She could make them look normal though.”

“Mother was an Adept?”

“That’s about the size of it. I was the one who suggested that my sister get you those books,” he said.

“And you?” I asked.

“I’m far from being an Adept but I’ve picked up a few skills over the years. For instance, tell your friend that she might as well quit hiding. I can smell her,” Father said.

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

Father gave me a small notebook that Mother had left for me in case I manifested. It was mainly an owner’s manual for the black eyes. Father had added his own addendum. He wasn’t great at many Adept skills and he was far from being a visual power person but he’d worked hard to increase his hearing and sense of smell—particularly the sense of smell. He’d also shaved a few percentage points off his reaction times by speeding up his neural impulses.

But as I’ve said, my eyes were my biggest problem and my biggest aset at the moment.

I tried the mental exercises that Mother had recommended as well as a few that Sardou had used to perfect her visual skills.

In the visualization that Spoil O Warren and The Outfit used, there are seven main chakras lying horizontal and turning either clockwise or counter-clockwise. The little tests they use to tell which way a given chakra spins are similar to tests to determine the master eye.

The Adepts are quite willing to be agnostic or even downright atheistic about whether the chakras and the chi meridians that tie the chakras together actually exist. However once you decide to play the game, the direction of each chakra’s spin is not arbitrary or subject to whim, alteration or improvisation.

Lucky me! I had double chakras at all seven of the major nexuses.

There are more minor chakras than you can shake a Kunai at. It gets complicated. No one is sure that the chakras even exist in the first place—but some don’t seem to have the same minor chakras in the same places as others…

Or does the Adept create the minor chakras to order? If he does, then why can’t he create minor chakra any which way to abide and assist wherever they’re most sorely needed?

All of that is a roundabout introduction to the fact that Sardou turned me onto a couple minor chakras that lie inside the eye itself.

How to explain? The minor chakras hold tiny amounts of chi but it is advantageous to have them and build them ever larger nonetheless. It is partly like placing a small auxiliary water heater under the kitchen sink. In another way having a chakra stronghold along the chi meridian serves to keep the meridian wide open and clear to move big blocks of chi around.

Most boosting of the senses requires relatively small amounts of chi anyway.

I took Monday through Friday off as well as the following Monday for a total of six school days missed. By the time I went back I had my eyes under control insofar as they didn’t just up and turn black for little or no reason.

According to all that I’d read and what Sardou told me, once someone has accumulated enough chi to manifest the accumulation of chi accelerates drastically.

The beginner has many “Leaks” where chi drizzles out and is lost. The beginner both primes the various chi pumps and sources while plugging the leaks one by one. Typically once forty to fifty percent of the leaks are plugged one will manifest. There is generally enough surplus chi at that point to plug all the remaining leaks at one time or at least in short order.

So not only did I work on mastering my eye transformation and accumulating chi on the tiny ocular chakras that Sardou had shown me but I also put in a good amount of time accumulating chi all over. I wasn’t going to make a big difference in nine days but every little bit helps and every step taken shortens the journey.

Dropping out of school completely, wearing shades to class or bringing Sardou along as a bodyguard would all have gotten me talked about in all the wrong circles. Sardou, Father and I decided to try to hang tough until school let out in mid May for summer vacation.

Planning is a good thing—particularly if one builds in multiple contingency plans and exit protocols. On the other hand, things seldom go even the least bit the way that you’d have preferred for them to.

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

I went to the dojo every day but I didn’t arrive until everyone except Sensei, Stephan, Sardou and two or three other black belts had left.

I mostly worked on learning boxing style punches on the bags. As a wrestler and judoka that’s where I was weakest. We skirmished and Sensei turned me onto a number of tactics that would have been rude, dangerous and unsportsmanlike in the extreme in a judo contest but could be lifesavers in a lethal brawl.

Sardou was good with knives and she preferred big nine to thirteen inch blades. Stephan had studied Kali and he drilled me relentlessly with stick, Balisong and Karambit.

There wasn’t any time to master swordplay but I was set on by people using split bamboo kendo swords, bokken and wooden and nylon wasters just to give me an idea of the reach and tactics that I might have to face. Concealing a sword length blade on the street is very hard to do until one learns the proper illusory cloaking skills.

Overtraining? It would be very difficult to drive an Adept to exhaustion let alone long-term overtraining syndrome.

One thing no one stressed was throwing. I found that now I could hit the seven-inch circle at twenty-five feet as consistently as I used hit the ten-inch circle from fifteen feet. I was getting the knives launched faster and burying them over twice as deep in the soft wood. My washers zinged and were actually burying themselves deep enough to stick—all without any real effort to improve on my part.

When we got home Sardou had me lifting weights. I was lifting a bit over twice the poundage now for higher repetitions.

“Your muscles aren’t twice as strong. You’re simply supercharging them with chi. You are growing stronger though. There’s no way for your muscles to ignore the new load you’ve placed on them—but they can only grow so fast. The speed that one can strengthen his tendons and ligaments is even more limiting.

After the weights there was more visualization and meditation. I found that I only needed a little over four hours sleep to feel as rested as I used to feel after a heartfelt ten hours.

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

Sardou and I were walking home. Yeah, she was a new fixture in my life. She accompanied me almost everywhere except school. Even then she had me wired and stayed as close as practical. She slept on a mattress beside my bed at night.

What? Didn’t I explain? I hadn’t known beforehand but Sardou was a ghost. She had no job and no official existence. She wasn’t listed in any government database anywhere. So far as The Powers That Be and The Man were concerned she didn’t exist. She was like sixth or seventh generation Murim.

So anyway Sardou and I were walking home when twelve big rough looking dudes materialized out of the shadows.

“Hey dude, do you have a light?” one of them in front of me asked.

“Move or be moved,” I told him.

I could “See” that they meant to attack so there was no sense in trying to placate them. I could also tell that they weren’t Adepts. They were simply street toughs though extra-large and extra-strong ones.

My eyes activated.

Sardou had said that she didn’t know how my visual prowess worked. I had a three-dimensional model of everything within thirty-five or forty yards of me in my mind. I sensed everything as if I was looking at it from every possible point of view simultaneously. I didn’t see much beyond the surface though I could see beneath the surface when I needed to.

That was good in and of itself but when I was in that state, my mind went into hyper-drive. Fighting a battle was more like playing Chess. Though I could probably move about twice as fast as a normal human physically I had time to plan my movements like the choreographer of a Chinese kung fu movie.

It was possible for them to pile so many clients on me that I couldn’t satisfy all of them of course. I could also paint myself into a corner where I could see the blow coming but didn’t have time to move far enough to get out of harm’s way. I might be seeing things slowed down 25 or 30x but my own body—even moving at a bit over 2x was almost as ponderous to my mind as my clients.

I used the Karambit that Stephan had given me because it was easy to use in hidden attacks.

The leader held up his hand to block me. I sidestepped effortlessly to his left getting handily outside his left jab. I severed the tendon on his left bicep where it attached to his lower arm.

I turned my gaze once I was convinced that the slash to the bicep was a done deal. That was a bad habit that I needed to break. My eyes didn’t need to be pointed at something to “See” it and turning my head gratuitously was an unneeded complication.

I poked my right index finger into the eye of the man on my right as I went by. I could see the slow motion shockwave start to build on his eyeball and I frantically pulled back. I didn’t care about his eye, but I didn’t want to subject my finger to such a ridiculous amount of force.

Cut a major arm tendon here. Sever a thigh bicep at the outer edge of the knee’s backside here. Give this dude a hammer fist to the sweet spot on his jaw. Push the next dude’s foot forward just enough to get that “banana peel” effect and dump his ass on the ground. Sure it won’t hurt him much, but he’ll be out of my misery until he regains his feet.

Well not necessarily. I also need to stay out of his arm’s reach.

I suppose that to an outside observer that it would seem that I was simply very lucky. A knockout punch just missed my jaw by a quarter inch. My Karambit blade just happened to slice someone’s arm from the back of his hand all the way to his deltoid. Grab a finger in passing and bend it backwards until it snaps.

Before you knew it they were all down or incapacitated in one way or the other. I don’t suppose that any of them died. They weren’t important enough to make a deliberate effort to kill them.

“Your power…one thing that you might not realize—you shared your power with me. I never heard of a power that can be shared that way,” Sardou said.

“Don’t you have visual powers?”

“Not like yours,” She said.

The street gang was just to slow us and possible weaken us a bit. When we raced to my house the front door was open. Jethro—one of my Bloodhounds was lying close to the door in a puddle of blood.

“It’s a trap,” Sardou said.

“I know,” I said as I stepped across the threshold.

My eyes went black. They should have sent Adepts to catch an Adept.

“My father wasn’t an Adept, but I am. Fall to your knees and tremble in terror,” I shouted—echoing Spoil Airgetlám’s old battle cry.

There was a black clad agent with a tangle-net gun hiding in the walk-in closet just off the living room. I threw a Kunai through his right eye into his brain. A black clad reprobate started down the stairs with a Taser. My second right hand Kunai hit him between his clavicles hard enough to firmly embed in his spine.

I only had two throwing knives for each hand. I threw one Kunai high enough to snatch it from the air with my right hand and then drew the last thrower to reload my left hand.

Two of them came rushing in from the kitchen with their carbines in hand. Keep in mind that none of them surprised me even a little. I’d grasped where each gunman was in the first instant after I saw the front door lying open. I awaited their glacial attack with patience and fortitude.

I threw right hand and then left and two more clients were serviced.

There were four men running up from outside—two with pump shotguns and two with handguns. I paid them little mind. If I could see them then Sardou should see them as well.

I had my good old Bowie with the nine-inch blade on my left hip and an oversized Kunai with an oversized ten-inch blade that Sardou had gifted me in my right hand.

The rearmost guard from the kitchen stepped into the front room. He had a weapon that looked much like an old MAC 10 with the foot long suppressor firmly attacked.

Sorry. With my new powers of observation I could see into the weapon’s innards and I could cite a dozed departures from the true Ingram.

There was a couch between us. Vaulting the couch in an exaggerated laid back manner both got me horizontal in such a way that the horizontal burst the storm trooper was laying down passed harmlessly beneath me and it also served to clear the couch and take me nearer the gunman.

I cut his left hand off with a short precise chop of my fighting Kunai and then I chopped off his right hand with the Bowie in my left hand.

I seized a spurting stump with each hand. I knocked him off his feet and got into the top guard position.

“You’re going to lie there and feel your life slowly drain away. That is partial compensation for you having killed my father,” I told him though it was hard to unclench my gritted teeth enough to speak.

I knew—but for the first time I firmly grasped the concept in all its fullness. After all the martial arts drills she’d inflicted on me during the last few weeks, Sardou had struck her share of the federal agents down with two-hundred and forty-five grain Keith style bullets fired from a pair of four-inch barreled .44 Magnums.

We were well on our way in less than two minutes after the last agent fell.

Bad craziness. Time to do the escape and evade thingy. There were far too many questions that needed answering, throats that needed cutting and Murine to be bought.

My mother’s book assured me that the black eyes wouldn’t damage my eyesight—but the unaccustomed use had my eyes itching as if I’d been scrubbing them with poison oak.

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Old 12-03-2015, 10:10 AM
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Go for it !
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Old 12-03-2015, 01:50 PM
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Please continue this story. Loved the last one and this one is starting off just as good.
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Good stuff, sir. Please continue.
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please keep goin
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Old 12-04-2015, 01:50 AM
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Chapter Two

“What’s the deal?” I asked Sardou. “How can you afford to drop everything and become my fulltime bodyguard? I mean; I know that you’re Murim but don’t you have other Murim things to be doing?”

“You’re picturing Murim as it must have been in Spoil Airgetlám’s heyday. Things have changed a great deal since then. All the big enclaves—The Outfit’s main enclave in Northeast Georgia, the big one in Northern Idaho, the one near Huntingburg Indiana—they’ve all faded from the ken of men,” Sardou said.

“How could such a thing happen? And when?” I asked.

“No one really knows. We can’t really pinpoint a last date that anyone went into or came out of one of the large mega-enclaves. When you try to be specific the data fuzzes out. There is some kind of powerful glamor involved,” Sardou said.

After a couple of miles went past Sardou resumed her narrative.

“Back in Spoil Airgetlám’s day there was a network of dojos all over the Southeastern United States to identify and recruit as many Adepts and potential Adepts as possible. There were a number of other minor league feeder systems both here and abroad.

“Nowadays the Adept biker gangs are no more and The Outfit’s network of dojos is nothing but a handful of tattered remnants.

“Coil, protecting and recruiting new and potential Adepts is my fulltime occupation. Nothing is more important. Sometimes great talents ripen late and we never turn an Adept away regardless of his power level—but we’re always looking for strong Adepts. We’re always hoping to find someone who can halt the decay and decline of our world.

“I’m one of the more powerful Adepts in the modern day—and you’re running neck-and-neck with me as a rank beginner. Of course you’re Kekkei Genkai,” Sardou said.

“What does that mean?”

“Your abilities are inherited to a large degree. Spoil Airgetlám probably couldn’t have duplicated your eye jutsu—or mine either for that matter.”

I didn’t have anything else I particularly wanted to ask her at that moment. I processed my grief for a few moments but there was nothing that I could do for my family except to try to survive and avenge them when it proved feasible. Doing that required power.

I put my grief forcibly to one side and spent the next three hours strengthening and building up my chakra tree. From the outside it would look as if I’d gone catatonic.

“We’re almost there,” Sardou said as she gave my thigh a small tap.

“You don’t let up for a moment, do you?” she chided.

“I can’t afford to let up. Something is already gaining on me,” I said without humor.

“And if they catch you?” she asked.

“It may be my geas to fall at the first blow. However it is my intention to occasion beaucoup singin’ and flower bringin’ amongst family of the other side,” I answered her.

“You’re scary,” she said.

“You’re the one with blood red eyes that glow in the dark like laser sights,” I told her.

“We’re the Hellarewees,” I voiced my allegiance to the ancient clan.

“Ever hear of Bowling Green Indiana?” Sardou asked.


“You have now. There’s a small enclave in the forest south and west of the town,” Sardou.

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

When Sardou said that the enclave was small she wasn’t exaggerating. The enclave only contained a bit less than nine square miles—most of it hilly and forested.

Back in the late 1900’s and early 2000s when Spoil Airgetlám was fighting the legendary kinjutsu wars the world population was about 7.3 billion and America had roughly 300 million people.

Somewhere along the line the urge to procreate single-mindedly has largely fizzled out—at least for the nonce. Today the world population is about 5 billion and America has about 210 million people.

No one really knows exactly what causes “backwash”. It seems as though when the population of a city falls noticeably many people tend to migrate to the next larger city—almost as if there was a homeostatic urge to preserve one’s current state of misery—or crowding—intact.

So cities like New York, Tokyo, London and Bombay have almost as many folk as they had during peak population. The relative shrinkage of the cities and towns becomes greater as the size decreases and the boondocks are very sparsely populated indeed.

Giant agricultural corporations grow most of the food that city dwellers eat nowadays. The corporations make heavy use of hydroponics and aereoponics and they cultivate every acre of soil that they do use very intensively. That leaves a lot ground lying fallow.

So the boondocks are boonie indeed. Many of the subsistence farmers and hermits are independent to the point of mania. They’re clannish and very slow and reluctant to accept newcomers. Of course any Adepts will posses these traits even more strongly than the “average” mundane hillbilly.

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

The enclave was home to about sixty permanent residents and a dozen to perhaps three-dozen temporary residents at any one time. They strive to be as independent of the outside world as possible though full independence isn’t fully possible for such a small group—but they rate an “A+” for effort.

Sometime in the past they’d been using old school busses for homes and there was a couple dozen sitting in a herringbone pattern on the side of a hill—twelve on one side of the gravel road and twelve on the other.

Though they’d boarded most of the busses’ windows and put in a twelve-by-twelve foot concrete block antechamber at the entrance of each bus, some whimsy had caused them to preserve the yellow and black school bus painting on most of the busses.

That didn’t apply to all the school busses though. Someone had painted one of the busses a shocking violet color while another industrious soul had painted his bus fire engine red. There was one bus painted psychedelic.

Someone had contrived to add a loft to a buss by setting the chassis of a Ford van without tires or engine atop his bus and tying it all together.

Two or three of the busses had extra additions while the last bus on one end was united via an oversized antechamber like a Siamese twin to an extra buss pointed the other way.

Somewhere along the line it occurred to these dudes that with only a few families and plenty of free labor free labor that it made sense to build concrete block apartment houses. One could have sufficed but they were on a roll and they built three.

Someone had built a big Japanese style building complete with polished hardwood floors and sliding paper panels for a dojo. The traditional Japanese building was connected via a raised walkway to a big pole building higher up the hill. The pole building was covered with vibrant graffiti.

There was a huge swimming pool right in the center of the enclave where it could cause maximum impediment to foot traffic.

Spoil Airgetlám had a mild mania for putting in swimming pools every which way and the Adepts at Bowling Green gave every indication of carrying the tradition forward.

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

“They call me ‘Weiner’, “ the Green said.

“Why would they call you that?” I had to ask.

“I’m twenty years old. I’ve been training for over thirteen years now and I’ve never manifested the slightest ability,” Weiner said without a trace of shame or embarrassment.

“About half the trailers are empty. Do you have a preference for your quarters?” Weiner asked.

“Is the one with the van atop it empty?” I asked.

“Yeah,” he answered.

“How about the one that’s painted all psychedelic?” I asked.

“Its empty too,” Weiner said.

“I’m conflicted, but if I choose the one with the van I’ll have a good view of the psychedelic bus though,” I said.

“Would you like to have the bus with the van painted psychedelic? All you have to do is buy the paint. Since you’re a VIP The Group may very well foot part or all of the bill,” Weiner said.

“I’m a VIP?”

“Anyone with your power and ability would be,” He answered.

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

Of course a bus floor will be about a couple of feet off the ground but there was a small offset toward the rear of the bus into an antechamber raised even with the bus floor. It was about twelve feet by ten.

“Hey Sardou, there’s an extra bedroom. We won’t have to share anymore,” I said.

“So long as I’m your bodyguard we’ll share a bedchamber,” she said in a tone that brooked no argument.

“Damned nation! That will get a bit awkward if I ever get a girlfriend,” I joked.

That frosted her somewhat for some obscure reason.

“Weiner, what can you bench press—no equipment but belt and wrist wraps—one second pause and good tight form?” I asked him.

“About 405,” he said.

There are so many boasters and fakers online that a good many Adepts or trainees have no idea how elite their physical strength is. Weiner looked to weigh about 220 pounds. The number of men that size who can bench 405 without steroids and a bench press shirt is vanishingly small.

Spoil Airgetlám had devoted several chapters to his system—an old system he believed in—of weigh training and most Adepts or aspiring Adepts were at least familiar with the basic exercises as Spoil had advocated them.

“What about a full depth paused squat?’ I asked.


Well he wasn’t one of those who neglected his lower body.

“Do a moment of light sparring with Sardou—hand techniques and nothing too damaging. Humor me,” I said as they both gave me a funny look.

As expected, Sardou shut him down. She was elite and he wasn’t even “Good”.

I let my eyes turn black and I let Weiner share the power but not Sardou.

“Try it again,” I said.

He didn’t shut Sardou down but it was pretty much a draw.

“If you had my eyes you’d be elite. Thing is, I can share my power with anyone within a very long stone’s throw—perhaps a good deal farther than that,” I said. “An Adept who can bench 405 and with my eye jutsu is a powerful force in the land. I’m asking you to join Sardou and my team.”

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

Weiner, Sardou and I practiced martial arts together for about five weeks. I had a strong desire to improve myself dramatically. Weiner had been stagnating due to having a rather limited number of sparring partners and asking him to join my team had served as a form of validation. He was in an area where an increase in confidence raised his ability.

As Sardou had said, the muscles can only grow so fast and the connective tissue is even slower to improve dramatically. I didn’t raise the poundage any higher. I just added repetitions.

Friday of week five a girl of about seventeen came to the enclave to talk to me.

“I’m Vee. Word has gotten around that you’re recruiting a team. I want to be on it,” she said.

She was five-eight, muscular and she had long red hair.

“What can you do?” I asked her.

I’d read Spoil Airgetlám’s accounts of throwing spawn, but I’d never seen it with my own eyes.

First there was just Vee. Then there was four extra Vees standing around the original at the four points of an eight or nine foot square. I “blacked out” and examined the spawn in detail.

“What power level are they?” I asked.

“Who knows? The electronics to measure power levels isn’t nearly as common and available as it was in Spoil O Warren’s time. Put it this way: I’m an elite on my own. When I thrown four I’m still elite—but weaker. The four of them are solidly in the ‘good’ zone,” she said.

“Four spawn isn’t very many,” I said a bit dubiously.

“Spoil Airgetlám eventually got over a hundred and fifty spawn and he references over a score of Adepts who could at least cast nine or ten. Thing is: that kind of talent is very rare nowadays. I can’t throw even a single spawn. You can’t. Weiner can’t. I’ve only met one other and he could only throw two,” Sardou said.

Question: Can I share my vision and hyper-drive with spawn?

Yes, but imperfectly. They don’t see as far and in as much detail and they only accelerate to ten or twelve times normal.

Question: Can I share my vision and hyper-drive with Weiner, Sardou, Vee and four Vee spawn all at the same time?

Yes, the number is a non-issue so far.

We all spent the first couple hours of every day at the throwing range. Neither Weiner nor I had ever made a determined attempt to improve our throwing dramatically. We both got a lot better with the intense practice. Even the two elite women improved some.

My weights weren’t going up but having a whole new determination caused Weiner to get measurably stronger.

The enclave had some very high-speed video cameras and some rather advanced computer graphic capability. My mind raced at 35 or 40x but my body was stuck at about 3x—yeah, both my numbers were improving. The girls were moving at about 1.6 or 1.7x and even Weiner was hitting 1.4 on a good day.

Learning to move efficiently and expeditiously without wasted motion made noticeable improvements in our ability.

They filmed us sparring with each other, with some of the local Adepts and with Adepts who came from far and wide to have friendly sparring sessions with us. We also did a number of house clearing exercises with rooms filled with dummies.

The techies analyzed our performance extensively and pointed out each and every tactical inefficiency and wasted movement.

As I said, it is a waste of motion for me to turn my head to track people or objects since I see everything around me anyway. On the other hand, holding my neck rigidly immobile wasn’t the best biomechanics either.

My teammates had to learn to move well both when I was there to loan them my power and when I was elsewhere.

I’m not sure if I ever made it clear. My partners weren’t simply tuning into my 3-D model of the world. That might have caused some sticky issues of poor coverage on the more distal portion of their field. No, they all had their own zone of coverage.

Sardou was wed to her .44 Magnums. Vee had a silenced .22 LR semiautomatic pistol that she sometimes used. Weiner had a small .38 Special that he was fond of.

I had my father’s .357 Magnums but for someone who could move at my speed, there was one Hell of a lot of time wasted hanging around waiting for the hammer and trigger to reset. They beefed up the trigger return spring until a normal human being might get a hernia trying to cycle it quickly and there was still.

Also, cranking the double action with the strength of an Adept and at over 3x normal speed beat the revolvers to death—not that I worked with my father’s .357s. I stuck with practice stand-ins while testing the concept.

I ended up with a pair of high-capacity 9mm semiautomatic pistols backed up with a lone single action revolver in .500 S&W Magnum. The 9mms were mostly beefed-up Browning Highpowers with some nods to the S&W 5906 in external confirmation. Even with a semiauto tuned for maximum rate of fire I still had the subjective time to practice pinpoint accuracy. And although the pistols would function with regular 9mm, the hot-loaded 148 grain hollowpoints were more like +P .38 Super loads.

Most of the time it didn’t make sense for me to shoot people since I could usually kill them faster with manual weapons.

I’d never studied the sword. Sardou was a so-so swordswoman. Weiner was no better with swords than he was with anything else. It turned out that Vee was a nationally ranked competitor in both kendo and traditional saber.

Also, since Vee had demonstrated her four spawn I’d had everyone working diligently to master the jutsu. I got to where I could throw two. They were better than “Fair” but not quite even “Good” much less “Elite”. Their range was about 60% of mine. They couldn’t share their power and they were slower mentally and physically than me as well as being noticeably weaker.

Sardou could throw two “Good” spawn—closer to merely “Fair” than Vee’s four but still solidly in the “Good” zone. Vee added a single extra spawn though she was in the “Fair” catagory.

Weiner made the biggest improvement of anyone. He could now throw three spawn. Of course Weiner hadn’t even gotten into the bottom of the “Good” classification. His three spawn were in the middle of “Poor”—only “Very Poor” was lower.

It isn’t so much that a trained pig can play the piano well. What is noteworthy is that the pig can play the piano at all. Weiner had gotten better and in a battle royal I’d rather have Weiner’s three poor spawn than not to have them at all.

We trained together a little over three months that way.

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

There was a small stairway leading up to what had once been the body of a van atop the bus. There wasn’t an engine any more and whoever had placed the van body atop the bus had been loathe to waste a single cubic foot of space. What had been the engine compartment was sealed against the outside and served as a sort of storage hopper.

The driver’s side seat was in the usual place. Where the van’s passenger seat had been was where the narrow stairway entered the van.

The van still had mirrors all around and the driver’s chair rotated freely giving a 360-degree panorama.

Spoil Airgetlám had described his and his cousin’s van with the moonlight/ceiling riser made from a Volkswagen Beetle in some detail in his autobiography and there were several drawings and photos of the two vans. Apparently the architect of the van loft had studied Spoil’s diagrams and he’d added a moonlight/ceiling riser to the van body.

It might have been fun to lay and look through the Beetle windows at the moon and stars—except there are no heavenly bodies visible from inside an enclave.

What? The sunlight is stolen from the sun. It is sunlight that would have missed the Earth in any case. It comes diffusely from overhead during the day. It is noticeably richer in both the red and the blue wavelengths that plants crave and the growing seasons are always weeks longer than the standard growing season in the area.

That was one reason that the Bowling Green Enclave could grow such a large percentage of their produce on about three hundred and fifty cultivated acres, a few acres of orchard and vineyard and a couple square miles of pasture.

The light at night is stolen sunlight as well—there is just a lot less of it.

Anyway I was sitting in the captain’s chair enjoying the view when Sardou stuck her head up the small stairwell and hollered up at me.

“There is an Adept here from Kentucky. He says that he’d like to speak to you. Is that alright?” Sardou said.

The dude that climbed the stairs looked like a kid. He was about five foot tall and he was built like a kid. Well, if you got an artist to draw a skinny kid and then get another artist to add bodybuilder style shredded muscles here and there—3- D cannonball deltoids, Popeye forearms, biceps that aren’t epic but high peaked and showing the full split bicep. He had epic serattus anterior and washboard abs that stuck up in exaggerated bas-relief. His quads and calves were thickly muscled.

I don’t think that he had an ounce of fat anywhere and with all the muscle he still managed to look like a child. I suppose it was the relative size of his head and his bodily proportions.

“You are Coil Durbin? My name is ‘Neat’—‘Neat O’Grady’. I’m nineteen years old. Yes, I’m some sort of mutant. No, despite the name I’m not a little person—either in the Irish sense or in the politically correct description of dwarves and midgets,” Neat said.

“My aren’t the walls vertical? Do vegans eat animal crackers?” was all I could think of in the way of repartee.

“These walls deviate from the vertical in any number of ways—being curved in cross section in a number of places for instance. I want to be on your team. There hasn’t been a real ass-kicking team of Adepts since the days of Spoil O Warren. Did you ever ask yourself what the ‘O’ in Spoil’s name stood for?” the little dude who was not a little person asked me.

“Haven’t you read Spoil Airgetlám’s books? The ‘O’ doesn’t stand for anything. His middle name is ‘O’. And yes, his name is a sort of pun. His father meant for it to be a pun—or a play on words,” I said.

“I know. I was checking your patience for dumb questions. I brought you gifts,” Neat said.

There were a couple books—rare hard come by books. First was the tiny pamphlet sized book that gave the kinjutsu to create hidden enclaves. The second was Spoil Airgetlám’s last book. So many folk had asked Spoil how he managed to create so many spawn, the various kahuna spawn and how he’d used a kahuna spawn to cheat death that he’d combined everything he knew, had witnessed or had read or even had told to him under one cover.

All of Spoil Airgetlám’s books have been in the public domain for well over a century. There is an abiding interest even if most readers merely gawp…

And nonetheless reprints of some of his works are far harder to find than others. Rumor has it that The Powers That Be strenuously act to suppress would-be reprinters of some of the books of kinjutsu.

Both of the volumes were well-bound though of course they were bound in a completely different style, color and format from the books that my aunt had given me so many years ago—God rest her kind soul, and not just because of her gift either.

Then there was also a small suede leather drawstring bag among Neat’ gifts. Inside the suede bag there was a slightly smaller bag of black velvet. I thought of the bag of diamonds that Spoil had described in his book. Inside there was something far more rare and harder to obtain than mere diamonds.

There were twenty-three nearly petrified gumdrops in the bag.

“The craft to refine chi has been lost to mankind. The means to transfer the chi to foodstuff has been lost. Even the method of preserving them against decay or loss of potency until they’re finally consumed has been lost. There may be a few others somewhere in the world, but I sincerely doubt it. These are chi-drops dating from the time of Spoil Airgetlám. Do you have the courage and the recklessness to eat one?” Neat asked.

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Old 12-04-2015, 04:44 PM
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Chapter Three

Neat turned out to have only “Good” power level. Even with amplified strength, the shorter lever arms in his child-sized arms, legs, neck and torso placed him at a disadvantage. He compensated for his size to a large degree by being superhumanly agile. He could perform tumbling maneuvers that would baffle Olympic gold metal gymnasts.

What really made him worth adding to the team though was his skill with animals.

In Spoil Airgetlám’s day Murim seemed so full of animal handlers that their legs were sticking out the windows. They even had different names for them; “rat runners”, “bat fliers”, “raven runners”, “crow wranglers” and so on. Nowadays an Adept might live and die and never meet an animal jutsu user.

Neat had six ravens under his control as well as eight rats. He told me that the modest numbers were all that he could keep control of. He did tell me that he had spares bred from his bloodlines, but he had never shared any sort of connection to them—except to subtly alter them in vitro.

That seemed unimpressive compared to the large number of ravens, crows, rats and cats that Spoil Airgetlám and his aides had once fielded. You know what the old proverb says though:

“In the kingdom of the deaf a man with a runny nose rides a bicycle.”

Everyone might be deaf in our modern world, but Neat had a very runny nose—not literally. That would be off-putting in the extreme.

We trained with Neat added to our team for five more weeks. I insisted that everyone load up on chi-building substances: ginseng of course—though the American variety that they say isn’t as potent as the Oriental variety, “tea” made from sassafras, or dandelion root or sarsaparilla root. We consume ground ginger root, ground deer antlers harvested while in the velvet and all kinds of other stuff that tasted nasty, gave us heartburn and caused us to pass great amounts of foul-smelling gas.

It was a form of homeopathy. If you want to be ready to accept a huge influx of chi the best strategy is to store as much chi as humanly possible beforehand.

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

My team sat around a round wooden table—not as in “Knights of…” This table wasn’t so grandiose and there was no symbolism intended. It just happened to be the table that was in the small meeting room the Greens had assigned us.

I had laid one of the chi-drops on the small plastic saucer located in front of everyone. There was a twenty-ounce Coke beside the saucer to help wash the gumdrop down. I had already put the chi-drops out beforehand. There was no reason for anyone on my team to know how many chi-drops that I possessed or to now what sort of enchanted container they resided in.

Of course Neat knew. There was no help for that.

“Dudes, it is like: eating one of these chi-drops is inherently risky. Nonetheless there are better jutsu to deal with them since Spoil Airgetlám first ate one. I’ve been diligently building y’all’s chi reserves with those bitter herbs—and I’m sure some of y’all hate me for it. Also, these drops are very old. Well, comparatively old. The writings seem to indicate that while they don’t get weaker with age, the shock mellows out…some,” I told them.

“Do you know what these chi-drops are worth?” Neat asked.

Neat had a very raspy and “froggy” voice.

“Not really,” I replied.

“I can sell each of these for a half-million dollars apiece right now. If you’re willing to wait a week to ten days I can probably triple that figure,” Neat croaked.

“I suppose that you think that I should choose money over my teammate’s welfare? If we’re in a life or death rumble—how much is having one of them fifteen or twenty percent stronger worth?” I said.

Neat seemed very amused while the others looked a bit surprised.

“Nah, I just wanted you and your friends to understand the price of what you’re doing for them—and the potential value,” Neat said.

“Friends, one of these is said to contain as much chi as a reasonably talented and diligent Adept could accumulate in a normal human lifetime. Not all the chi that he could use, lose or waste during a lifetime, but how much he managed to accumulate,” I said.

I held a drop aloft.

I told them:

”The Powers That Be seem to be stepping up their pogrom against Adepts and especially the remaining enclaves. At least three of y’all are Kekkei Genkai. They’re really after us. If we want to oppose them, we don’t have time to paint by the numbers. Remember the Navajo poem:

“’Earth and Sky Last Forever.
‘The Aged are Poorly Off.
‘Do Not Be Afraid.
‘Every Day is a Good Day to Die.’’’

That poem was attributed to the Navajo and unlike the Apache or the Comanche; the Navajo weren’t particularly celebrated as warriors.

I added an old proverb that I’d picked up somewhere:.

“Live If You Can.
“Die if You Must.
“Always, Always Cheat!”

“Friends, eat your chi-drop. Save it for later. Sell it. Give it away. Shoot it out of a slingshot at a squirrel. It is yours to use or lose as you see fit. Those who would, eat one with me now,” I said.

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

There wasn’t much to tell. Everyone ate a chi-drop. We all spun like supercharged tops for several days. I suppose that its comparable to chinging with a super powerful stimulant that just doesn’t stop.

Vee could now throw seven spawn. They were still just “good” but they were on the very threshold of becoming elite. Weiner had five spawn now. They were still in the “poor” category but their power had shifted higher. Weiner had edged over into “good” and he barely stayed “good” even after spawning.

Weiner’s ability finally manifested. He was a healer—a rather weak healer to start off, but a healer nonetheless.

If you had a cut that would have required stiches, but it wasn’t much if any more than skin deep, Weiner could put it back together like closing a zipper. Weiner could stop the bleeding of minor arteries and veins. He couldn’t stop the bleeding from a severed carotid or femoral artery but he could slow the blood loss down eighty or ninety percent.

He could compress the first three or four weeks’ worth of healing into a fraction of a second for first degree and some relatively minor second degree burns and he could ramp the healing of a broken bone up to day seventeen or eighteen.

He’d also ratcheted his base strength fifteen or twenty percent higher.

Sardou still had two spawn but they had passed well over into “Elite” and her own power level was much higher. My two spawn also became about twenty percent more powerful. Their mental speed and the range of their visual acuity zone grew about ten or fifteen percent. My own physical strength grew steadily.

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

“My name is ‘Jason’. I’m one of the top-rated bare-knuckle fighters in America. I hear that you’re looking for sparring partners. I’m your man. I can’t wait to try my strength against yours,” he said.

I didn’t have his exact measurements when I first met Jason. He turned out to be only five-nine but he weighed 311. He was wearing blue denim bib overalls, whit Converse high-topped tennis shoes and a white “T” shirt.

“You’re not an Adept,” I said.

“I’ve heard the word,” Jason said.

He pronounced it: “Here-ed.”

“I’ve never been perzactly sure what it means. I guess that rules out my being one,” Jason said.

“How did you hear about me and my team and how did you get here?” I asked him.

“He’s my cousin,” Neat said.

“Don’t gawk. I may be Kekkei Genkai but that doesn’t mean that everyone in my family inherits the ability. Jason is from my mother’s side of the family and the power comes from my fathers lineage,” Neat explained.

“That begs the question. How did he hear about me and my team and how did he get through the mental labyrinth around the alcove?” I said.

“It isn’t exactly top secret that you’re hiding and training in the Bowling Green Enclave—at least not in Murim circles. He overheard me talking to the chief. Chief encouraged me to come here. He thought that it would be a good fit. Jason wanted to come too but I told him ‘No!’ You see how much good that it did,” Neat said.

He broke off to glare sourly at Jason.

“As for how he got here—he’s got a tank mind. You know—like the hacker God Ganesh. He breaks through all barriers. Give him sufficient motivation and I have no doubt that he could find his way to Macersville,” Neat said.

“Spoil Airgetlám said that he met Odin and a big stone Buddha. He said that Odin was just an extremely old and powerful Adept. Is Ganesh real too?” I asked.

“How in the seven burning Hells would I know that?” Neat almost shouted.

“Well it’s nothing to get mad about dude. Jason, what is your motivation?” I said.

“I just like to try myself against the best,” Jason said.

“Well then, lets see what you’ve got,” I told Jason.

Jason paused long enough to put a mouthpiece in his mouth and he came at me swinging.

Jason boxed Orthodox. The left jab followed by a straight right is boxing’s most basic combo. Then there is the classic left jab, straight right followed by a left hook. Both the initial left jab and the terminal left hook can be doubled.

You don’t want to pose in one spot like a mannequin so you move and reset every two to five punches.

Jason had good head movement. He added a good right uppercut and a right hook to his repertoire. He also swung his elbows, made an effort to butt heads and continually tried to step on my feet.

He was fast and he was very powerful and he could take a punch.

He was a handful without blacking out. After a couple of minutes I’d had enough and I turned my eye power on—in other words I blacked out.

It was easy to evade Jason in my black space. I had no desire to seriously hurt him so I just evaded his punches by narrow margins and tripped him up every which way.

“You’re very good,” I told him. “Lets take a breather. Do you want to see what I’m doing to you?”
After a moment’ rest I called Weiner over.

“Spar with him. Don’t hurt him but protect yourself. Halfway in he’s going black,” I ordered.

“Why?” Weiner asked.

“I want him to experience fighting in the black,” I replied.

When Jason blacked out he laughed in childlike glee.

“How do you do that?” Jason demanded.

“Something I inherited from my mother. You probably can’t do the black out unless I’m somewhere nearby. Almost everyone has jutsu that they can master. Mastering any jutsu is very satisfying. If you join my team and study to be an Adept we’ll find a jutsu or even two or three for you,” I told him.

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

Something had things in an uproar on the outside. The laws hadn’t rounded up boxcar loads of citizens like this in over seventy years. All martial arts were outlawed. Almost all guns were outlawed. Anyone accused of being an Adept—however flimsy the pretext—was likely to be arrested and tortured.

I thought Jason could be an asset even as he was but we didn’t have much time to wait on him.

He’d been a baseball pitcher in high school and he picked up all sorts of throwing skills very rapidly. I’d thought that a good fastball pitcher would be very stubbornly strong handed but Jason managed to master weak hand throwing so rapidly that he made me envious.

I was in a rush to get Jason to the point that he could accumulate chi and bulk up and strengthen his chakra tree even if we were forced to run and disappear into the underground.

The Greens had audio versions of the first three of Spoil’s tradecraft books. They also had some remarkable animations of the chakra tree system. It was almost like “Jutsu for Dummies.” Jason wasn’t a dummy but we needed to speed him along. Seeing the desired visualizations while wearing virtual reality goggles and hearing beat frequency audio tones piggybacked onto rousing musical scores shaved months off the first year one’s training time.

Three weeks in I presented Jason with a chi-drop. I explained what it was and the possible dangers. Was I reckless? Not so much because I could “see” that he was particularly resilient.

He ate a chi-drop and I ate one at the same time. There went a million dollars worth of artificial chi. Come easy-go easy.

Ten days later they had the Bowling Green Enclave surrounded on all sides. They had some sort of new device that gradually forced an opening—It just took a few days.

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

“Friends, it is like: the laws will be here soon. We haven’t been assigned any defensive posts because we’re not residents. I like these people a great deal without necessarily feeling duty bound to stand and go down with them. However the very best thing that we can do for our friends here is to mount an overwhelming counter attack at just the right moment.

“If we cut a swath through the center of the forces while they’re grouped in a wedge formation in preparation for an imminent breach of the barricade…

“We’ll rack up beaucoup hostile casualties. We will create a grand opening for those who wish to flee—including the old, the sick and children. And we’ll set their timetable back by days.

“And maybe—just maybe we’ll get an insight into how this enclave-buster works.

“Everyone who’s with me—eat a chi-drop. We should have about three days until we need to strike. Even if you’re not with me—you can still eat a chi-drop—or do whatever you want with it. It’s yours,” I told my team.

Eating two of the chi enhancers so close together would give me epic increases in chi. Jason too—but he had so much less chi to start with.

The Greens guesstimated that it would take about three and a half days until the barrier was breached. None of us would have time to fully assimilate and integrate the new wave of power that quickly—but like the home owner who’s just bought his first handgun and fired it twenty-five or fifty rounds on the range…

Sometimes just having it can make all the difference.

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Old 12-07-2015, 07:49 PM
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Chapter Four

It seemed that we had about two hundred black BDU clad federals within about a sixty-degree wedge pointing toward where they planned to breach and enter. Our best guess was that they’d defeat our barricade sometime between twenty and fifty hours.

Of course there were other troopers arranged around the enclave barrier or hanging well in back of the shock troops. The idea was to break through their picket lines and be gone before they could bring more manpower to bear.

Jason had a long barreled Ruger Super Blackhawk .44 Magnum. He stoked it with those 330-grain large meplat bullets and quite frankly he overloaded it—but the super tough Ruger single action wasn’t due to expire anytime soon. Sardou had her matched pair of four-inch S&W .44 Magnums. Her loads were very orthodox Elmer Keith.

At any rate—Jason could empty his hot loaded single action in about the same amount of time that it used to take Bob Munden to empty a .45 Colt Peacemaker. Sardou was shooting as quickly as Jerry Miculek. Using my speeded up visual jutsu both of them were uncannily accurate.

Jason shot the seven-and-a-half-inch single action dry and then holstered it empty. Sardou shot one Smith and Wesson dry; reloaded and then holstered.

Having fired their opening salvo they charged the troopers to do close-range combat. Jason had a brush axe that he favored because it could be swung two-handed like a baseball bat. It was a foot-long piece of upswept steel blade on a four-foot long hickory handle. Sardou attacked with an oversized Kunai Knife with a ten-inch double-edged blade in either hand.

Vee’s original waded into the fray wielding an O Katana with a yard-long blade. She cast four frontline shock troops and each one of them had a twenty-three-inch bladed wakizashi. She had three second-wave spawn. Each of them had a thirteen inch Tanto and they served as Vee’s bodyguard as she attacked.

Weiner had one talent that he’d never seen fit to brag about. He was a very good archer. He cast three spawn and each spawn picked up an original unspawned double-recurve bow with a seventy-five pound pull and a dozen bodkin-pointed arrows that had a container of fast acting poison in a pod right behind the iron point.

Weiner’s original had his own bow and arrows. Weiner and his copies launched a dozen arrows each with unnatural accuracy all within three or four seconds. Then they discarded the bows and charged. Their mêlée weapons were a homemade maces with seven sharp angular flanges and a fourteen-inch hexagonal rod of steel for a shaft.

Neat carried a short barreled 20 Gauge but the plan was for him to protect himself when necessary but not to take the fight to the clients.

Then there was me. I fired one of my 9mms dry and reloaded before holstering. I have no doubt that both Jason and Sardou were both six-for-six with their .44 Magnums. Weiner was probably batting about .700 with his arrow barrage. I was more like .500 with the hot loaded 9mm. Sometimes even good hits against the armored troopers didn’t put them down for the count.

I had a short sword—Greek or Roman style with a twenty-inch double-edged hourglass profile blade in my left hand. It was just enough longer to extend my reach while being short enough to be comparable to the long bladed knives Sardou had drilled me with. I was throwing washers with my right hand. They were sharpened and I was throwing them supersonic.

We were backed up by four long range Green snipers who didn’t intend to leave the enclave—just snipe from within while the ninety second opening held.

There were five Adepts or near Adepts riding herd on thirteen children and five mothers. Including these fellows in my blackout was as likely to confuse and disorient them as it was to increase their combat effectiveness since we hadn’t had the time to let them try the blackout much less to master its idiosyncrasies.

There was a sense of ponderousness about the whole battle. When I got close enough to someone I cut his throat in passing or thrust my sword a palm’s breadth through the throat gap in his armor.

Jason threw up great gobbets of severed limbs and flesh not to mention geysers of blood as he marched through the ranks. Weiner and his three stooges were neater with their maces though about once in three or four headshots his clients would end up with gray matter flying through the air.

Vee with the O Katana was a fastidious fighter usually opting for a shallow thrust just deep enough to pierce the heart or to skewer a crucial blood vessel in the neck. The four Vee spawn with their shorter sword blades were necessarily more given to hacking and slashing.

I’ve said that I move over three times as fast as a normal human. The fastest sprinters reach almost twenty-eight miles-per-hour briefly. My 3x speed didn’t mean that I could run at seventy-five miles-per-hour or even forty-miles- per-hour. It meant that I could use my unnaturally strong muscles and my speeded up neural impulses to throw kicks and punches and to dodge, block and change directions over three times as fast as a normal when I was up close and personal.

The fact that my mind moved so fast that I could literally ponder my most effective path through the bunched Philistines was a whole other ability in its own right.

To tell the truth, having everything go by at a relentless glacial pace made hand-to-hand combat a rather cold-blooded and boring activity.

At any rate we’d almost gotten through the federals and we’d inflicted eighty-five to ninety or more casualties when we come face-to-face with a game-changer. The storm troopers had managed to screen their weapon until it was all but invisible—not with jutsu but with some kinda weird electronics.

It was one of the tracked and armored vehicles that mounted a matched pair of miniguns in 7mm08. The guns fired 140-grain boat-tailed partitioned soft-points about ten percent faster than the old 7mm08.

The most significant number was that each gun fired 3000 rounds per minute and the small tank carried several seconds’ worth of ammunition.

The gun started well to my right and started a traverse while the point of aim wandered drunkenly up and down over a ten or twelve foot beaten zone. I couldn’t move fast enough to get out of the twinned miniguns’ path of destruction.

Red haired Vee gave me one of the bigger surprises of my life. She inhaled deeply and her chest grew and swelled until it must have been fifty or sixty inches in diameter…

Then she blew it all out in less than a tenth of a second. Her exhalation contained improbable quantities of burning napalm at about 2500 degrees.

No, the minigun tank was protected against fire. An engine can’t work at all well when all the oxygen has been exhausted by burning napalm though. The miniguns cooked off and the barrels sagged and melted from the heat.

Vee still had two of her first wave spawn and they both spat out brief bursts of less intense and less voluminous quantities of burning gel—spraying it just wherever it seemed that our tactical situation would be enhanced by a brief burst of dragon’s breath.

“Fall to your knees and tremble in terror!” I shouted at the incestuous fascist knob-gobblers.

I might as well have saved my breath. There weren’t that many federals left within earshot.

We departed the area without shilly-shallying but without reckless and wasteful haste either.

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

When we got to our staging area we found that we had a single casualty—one of the children. It was a little boy who was only nine years old. Somehow he’d taken a stray round right in the forehead. His mother had picked him up and she had carried him over the previously repaired eight-mile shielded exit corridor.

“I am truly sorry,” I told the mother. “Please let us take care of him. You can’t continue to carry his lifeless body. You put others—even other children—at risk by hanging onto the body.”

Later I spoke to the mother.

“Vengeance is largely pointless. The murderer only steals something that a man couldn’t have kept for very long anyway. If you track the murderer down and take away his life—what he has left of it—the same logic applies. In a year, in ten years or even in one hundred years from now the murderer will stand before God’s Judgment Throne even if no one hunts him down. A man may escape Earthly vengeance. No one eludes old age or death. Even a thousand years is very tiny span of time compared to infinity,” I said.

“On the other hand it grieves me that some think that they have the right and the authority to steal other’s lives. It angers me that they believe that their actions will not have consequences.

“Insofar as it is within my geas I will try to track the folk responsible for this atrocity. I will try very hard to point out the flaws in their thinking. It will accomplish very little. It won’t even cheer me much…

“But if it gives you any comfort, I intend to track these men down and burn the memory of your discontent into them.” I told her.

We disembarked in several vehicles and prepared to do the shell game on the highways and byways to avoid leading the federals back to our safe houses.

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

Our team met at a relatively large enclave between Calvert City and Eddyville Kentucky. There were my five teammates and a couple of non-descript Adepts from Bowling Green Indiana who had opted to cast their fate with ours.

“Vee, I didn’t know that you could control fire that way,” I said. “Had you told me ahead of time I might have been able to make better use of your talent.”

“I’ve always had a bit of fire talent. It runs in my family. I assure you that I never had anything near what I used on the tanks. It was orders of magnitude greater than anything that I’ve ever manifested before. I think those chi-drops had a lot to do with it,” Vee said.

I pondered long and hard what to do with the remaining chi-drops. Logic suggested that since they took awhile to be fully assimilated that we all take one well before an anticipated need.

Vee’s power had grown a great deal. Another drop might push her up into unheard of fire jutsu or spawn jutsu—maybe both. Jason was still groping after Adepthood. Weiner also seemed poised on the verge of some great power.

Then there were the two Adepts. John was in his mid-twenties while Robin was thirty-two. They were both full-fledged Adepts. Neither was particularly powerful and neither seemed to have any special jutsu. Gifting them both with a drop might cause them to round the corner—maybe.

While I was sure that both Sardou and Neat could use the extra chi neither seemed to have an overwhelming need for it.

Then there was me. I wasn’t sure about me. I was afraid that I lacked objectivity so far as I was concerned.

If I gave everyone a chi-enhancer I’d only have a few left—very few. I certainly wouldn’t have enough to turn everyone on again.

In the end I insisted that everyone go on a chi-building diet rife with foul tasting substances for six weeks.

Then we had another chi-drop party. I cheated and took two though I didn’t tell anyone.

“John, Robin you guys may have been boosted across a threshold. At any rate your power levels should grow right across the board,” I told them. “I hope so.”

Jason sat rocking and every once and awhile he’d nod and smile at nothing at all—as if in fervid agreement.

“That’s right. That’s right!” he’d mumble to himself.

“I’ve got to get out and move around,” Vee said.

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

“Alright, throwing objects and hand-to-hand grappling are both skills that almost anyone can improve with practice,” I told my team. “While we’re waiting for the new chi to settle in we’re going to work hard on throwing knives, stars and washers as well as fighting,” I said as I started handing out assignments.

“Vee, I want you to practice both your fire jutsu and your spawning. Neat, you know far more about your animal jutsu than I do but I do know that anything that strengthens your body or your chakra tree will result in stronger connections to your animals.

“Jason, you’re already great at fighting. I want you to continue to improve at fighting without ignoring your meditation and chi-building.

“Weiner, you probably won’t get much chance to use your healing jutsu in practice. However I want you to treat ever scrape, abrasion and strain that any of us get while training. In the meantime, work on your fighting and agility skills,” I said.

Weiner had a round butt S&W Model 10 .38 Special with bobbed hammer and two-inch barrel. He mainly carried it as a last ditch weapon when everything else had failed.

I insisted that he practice with it if he was going to carry it. I also located a S&W Model 31 in .32 Smith and Wesson caliber. The .32 was like a miniature of his .38 Special and I gave it to him.

A man with a back-up gun in addition to his primary weapon tends to become a much more serious pistolero—at least it seems that way to me.

I kept everyone on the chi-rich diet for another five weeks. Chi accumulation tends to snowball given the right circumstances. A week of eating the foul-tasting herbs might have increased the total chi a total of one percent per week and that is only under the most advantageous circumstance.

Coming on the heels of a chi-drop the gain might be one-and-a-half maybe even two percent gains per week—and it was two percent of a noticeably larger initial amount of chi.

At the end of the five-week period I dropped another chi-drop without making a point about telling anyone.

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

Neat caught me walking back to my quarters a couple days after I’d dropped the gumdrop.

“You dropped another one didn’t you?” Neat asked.

“Yeah, what’s your point?” I asked.

“I had intended that you take the bulk of the chi-enhancers yourself. Your open-handed generosity was unexpected in the extreme and it frustrates my long-term goals,” Neat said.

“Do you have an agenda Neat?”

“Remember this well my friend: everyone has an agenda. I want to see Murim restored to its former power and glory. I calculate that a single powerful leader—someone in the same general class as Spoil Airgetlám is far more likely to accomplish this than a moderately powerful team. Fate has favored us in some ways but not in others,” Neat said.

“You are going to be forced into total war long before you are at your peak. I wish that you could have trained for at least another six months at your home and then spend at least a year longer in the Bowling Green Enclave. At any rate, we have to play the cards as they’re dealt,” Neat added.

“I hate to wax repetitious but what is your point? What is to be done at this point?” I insisted.

“Do you take your word seriously?” Neat asked.

“Of course, I’m a warrior.”

“Would you like to have enough power pills to dose everyone in your group—including yourself—three more times? I’ll even throw in a couple extra for Jason and Weiner since you seem to feel they’re lagging behind. All I ask in return is that you keep seventeen chi-drops for your own use and take them as rapidly as your constitution and chakra tree allows,” Neat said.

“I want something else,” I said. “I know that the technique for making the chi-balls has been lost but I want to have everything that is still known about the process placed in my hands.”

“You have brass balls to ask for more after what you’ve already been offered. Never mind. There’s no real reason that you shouldn’t have that information though I doubt that it will do you any good,” Neat said.

“It’s a deal,” I said to Neat.

Neat handed me another suede bag full of the promised number of drops. Then he produced two extra chi-drops by sleight of hand.

“These are extra,” Neat said.

“They’re bigger,” I said.

Indeed they were the size of the gumdrops that mimic orange sections though they’re even a bit smaller than even tangerine sections.

“They’re extra power. There are only the two still in existence. Take one of them with me to seal our deal,” Neat offered.

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

I was thoroughly indisposed for three days. It didn’t matter much. I’d insisted that my team be capable of carrying on in my absence.

When I was able to navigate without seeing too many streamers and psychedelic auras around lights and people all the while some very haunting and inhuman melodies ran through my mind, I did several things.

I buttonholed Jason and gave him a chi-drop.

“What about the others?” Jason asked.

“Don’t worry about the others. I’m the leader and that means putting limited resources where they will do the most good,” I told him.

Then I looked up Weiner. I wanted to see him increase his healing power and his general fighting ability. I finally found Weiner at a deserted basketball court inside a hangar-like building.

“Watch what I can do Coil,” Weiner shouted. “And by the way, I heard you coming. That increased hearing jutsu of your father’s really worked well for me.”

I thought that Vee was the top spawn producer in the modern age but that reckoned without the power of Weiner.

Weiner threw nine first-wave spawn. They were o so close to “good” but still in the “fair” territory. Then he threw five second-wave spawn. These were all in the lower third of the “fair” class. Then he threw three third-wave spawn. It was just a matter of opinion if these guys were just barely fair or if they’d dropped to “poor’.

Still, that was seventeen wet spawn. That was an extraordinary number of spawn in our modern world.

“Dude, I know that it isn’t completely under your control but you desperately need to raise the power of your spawn far more than you need to aim for larger numbers,” I told him.

Then I gave him a chi-drop to help him do just that.

Last of all I looked up Sardou. I still had a few discretionary rounds left and I had decided to give her one.

“You can spread the word if you will. We’re going to tank up on the foul-tasting swill for the next five weeks and we’re also going to hit the meditation hard too. At the end of week five I’m going to hand out chi-drops once more,” I told her.

That was exactly what we did. Weiner got to where he could throw one more third-wave spawn and far more importantly he’d increased his own power about fifteen percent and the power levels of his first and third-wave spawn both edged up about eight to ten percent—though for some reason his second-wave span only went up two to three percent—just barely enough to measure.

Vee’s flames got hotter and longer lasting and the strength of her spawn increased too—though not in proportion to her strength in the original.

Jason got faster. His fists, elbows, feet and shins become far tougher and harder to injure. His punches more than doubled in power and he lost about seven pounds of fat while gaining nine pounds of muscle. Physical power seemed the extent of his jutsu—that and his super hearing. Everyone seemed enamored of my father’s hearing jutsu.

Then when we’d completed the fifth week I gave everyone a chi-drop. I took two myself but I didn’t advertise my recklessness.

I wanted everyone to train and eat heartily along with loading up on the natural chi-enhancers. I was going to hand out round two of the gumdrops after the seventh week. Thing was, the local dispatcher asked us to take a mission at the end fo week three.

The enclave wouldn’t be that hard to find if the feds came looking hard. The missions provided the necessary cash to grease the right palms to keep the locals assuring the feds that there was no sign of Adepts or enclaves in the area.

It was a rather risky and perilous black market transaction and the dispatcher wanted my team for security. Yeah, technically we could have declined but eventually the locals would ask us what we’d done for them lately…

And our back was to the wall and we had nowhere else to go.

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Chapter Five

Robin found a new power within himself. It was unusual for a man in his thirties to find a new ability. First of all, if he hasn’t found it in thirty some-odd years there’s an excellent chance it’s because it isn’t there.

Also, most Adepts get to a level and then settle in and cease to strive for further improvements. Also there is a tendency to start to neglect the chi-building meditations that got one to the Adept level in the first place. The visualizations can become stultifying and extraordinarily tedious.

As the books say: once one attains a higher chi level—however briefly—the body accepts the new level as “normal”. It may take years to reach a certain level but once it is attained, even if one exhausts every iota of chi the body seems capable of regaining the new level again in a manner of days or even hours. So no one’s chakra tree ever shrinks from neglect. It just ceases to grow and improve.

Then again, martial arts are a staple at every step of the way, but as the years accumulate one tends to spend less time drilling and sparring.

Robin, John and Weiner had a very limited number of sparring partners and their martial arts practice—such as it was—had become stagnant. Then Sardou and I showed up and then Vee. And then martial artists like Jason showed up to challenge folks on a regular basis. All three of the stagnant fighters found new challenges to meet.

We had to evacuate the Bowling Green Enclave and we had put our lives on the line. We’d had to kill to avoid being killed. Miyamoto Musashi said that one’s understanding of the way grows dramatically once was has faced death by violence.

Then there were the outside infusions of chi that I’d been feeding everyone.

Robin found that he had wind nature. He could swell up his chest much like Vee but he sent out a massive blast of wind instead of burning napalm. Truthfully, he wasn’t shooting his wind out much harder than Vee shot her flames—but then Vee had more than three times as much chi stored as Robin.

He could take a quick partial breath and hit me hard enough to almost knock me down out to ten or twelve feet. It wasn’t a finishing move but it could very well set someone up for the coup de grâce. He could only do it three or four times at full intensity but that is the way that most jutsu start.

The full-power long blast would make me need to lean forward and grab my hat and the blast went on for two or three minutes.

“Robin, this is good. We can definitely use this. You need to put in an extra five to ten minutes daily bulking your fourth chakra—the one even with the mid-sternum. That controls much of your breathing and oxygen transport,” I said.

“Look, there’s a minor chakra about halfway down your trachea and it affects your bronchial tubes. There’s another tiny one on each of the two main bronchial tubes right before they start to branch big time. You should give all of these some hand-cranks as often as possible,” I said while sketching a diagram.

“What’s a good number to shoot for?” Robin asked.

“You should do at least five minutes on the big one and three minutes on each small one. You’ll see improvement if you can do the bulking exercises three times in a week. Five days is much better than three. Six is better still. Missing one day per week shouldn’t hurt you too much, but if you can hang with seven days in a week—even every other week—it will eventually add up. It’s also a good practice to add an extra minute or two here and there. Eventually it all accumulates,” I said.

“Would bulking those minor chakras help my fire Jutsu?” Vee asked.

“I’d imagine. Your fire and his wind comes from the same general area,” I said.

“Why did you never tell me about this until now?” Vee demanded.

“It never occurred to me to try to instruct you,” I said.

“Alright everyone, there is a minor chakra here just below the center of the diaphragm. It’s actually a bit bigger in diameter than the first two major chakras but its very skinny—like an old time 75 RPM vinyl record. If you’ve never seen one, that’s bigger than a 45 but smaller than a 33…,” I started.

Seeing the blank looks I used hand gestures to outline the size of the imaginary discs.

“I want every one of y’all to spend ten minutes per day—extra, not in place of something else—but over and above hand cranking the diaphragm chakra. Spend another five extra minutes hand cranking the silver dollar disc atop your heads.”

The seventh chakra—sometimes called “The Spooky Chakra” seems to be the fount of all sorts of oddball jutsu—and of all the seven major chakras it is the one easiest to bulk by the brute force method of cranking.

“Now we’ve been asked to ride shotgun on some sort of black market transaction the management seems determined to follow through on. I don’t like it. Something about this deal just seems fishy. And that’s my weird based on very little hard data. Nonetheless, we have to pay our rent somehow. We also need to accumulate some cutter for our organization and of course I ain’t gonna cut any of y’all out of the piggybank loop,” I said and paused for that to sink in.

“In three days we start training to work together with the other teams on this mission. In eight days we roll. I’m favorably impressed that management is willing to spend five days on walk-throughs and letting us get used to each others’ profile and MO.

“If we all drop a chi-ball today that will give us eight whole days to get our feet firmly back on the ground for M-Day.”

That’s Adept for “Mission Day”. Some groups prefer MSD for “Mission Start-Up Date”.

“Once we start training for the mission, I don’t want anyone to slack off on the visualizations and meditations that I’ve assigned you. I don’t care how tired they make you. When you quit chi-building you’re losing ground. You’re losing ground to the person that you could of and should have been,” I said.

“Now is anyone confused about how our chain of command works? I’m number one. Sardou is segundo. We really ought to rate everyone all the way to the last man, but I’ve chosen to delay for the present.

“None of these others are anywhere in your chain of command. We need to humor these dill-weeds right now. Play nice, but if there is ever a question of where your loyalties lie—your loyalties are to this group—period. If they ask you to do something totally outrageous let Sardou or me know. We’re going to try to play together like good children the next few days.

“I don’t care how many hours or how hard they work you in training. When they tell you to pack it in, you come to Sardou or me to see if we’re through with you for the day,” I said as my final instructions.

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

“You are investing fortunes worth of very valuable magical drugs on these half-baked peckerwoods,” Sardou said when we are alone.

I shrugged.

“They’re my team. We take care of our own. Its in The Adept Code,” I said.

“People lived by the code, they played by the code and when necessary they died by the code back in Spoil Airgetlám’s day. Trying to live by that code now will get you killed or worse,” Sardou said.

“No, people were a bunch of lying, back-stabbing and brown-nosing bastards back in Spoil Airgetlám’s days too,” I said.

After a few minutes I thought that I might have offended her with my abrupt answer so I tried to explain.

“There are few things as distressing as realizing that you’ve outlived your time by compromising what meant the most to you. God willing, the code and other moral and tactical guidelines are there to guide me away from that. I’m not willing to become a grasping, backstabbing and cowardly toad to try to keep other grasping and cowardly toads from backstabbing me. They’re welcome to try their luck with me if they have the balls,” I said.

“Cheer up and I’ll give you a present,” I said.

“What?” she asked.

I helped my uncle clean his kennel many times. He had both Beagle Dogs and Bloodhounds. I used to pick up the friendly little Beagles and give them a hug and a petting before I cleaned their pen.

Most Bloodhounds are very honest dogs—meaning they don’t crave overt displays of affection. But there were always a couple of friendly ones and they would almost knock me down in their mindless craving for love. Then one day I had an epiphany.

I was always big and strong. I picked a one hundred and fifty pound Bloodhound up and held him against my chest hugging him just as I had held the Beagles. So long as I made a point of picking them up to hug them they were easy to deal with from then on.

They didn’t give a damn how big they were. They wanted—no, they craved to be lifted and petted and shown love too.

Sardou was older than me. She was taller than me and honest to God, her speaking voice was deeper than mine.

Yeah, like many folk who live along the mighty Ohio River I speak in a slightly nasal tone. Listen to some real Indians talk and you’ll hear the same nasality even stronger. Yeah, most of my ancestors moved into the country while there were still Indians around to pick up accents from.

So if I talked like a goombaugh then I’d probably have as deep a voice as Sardou—maybe.

At any rate she might be a great big mannish woman but just like the giant Bloodhounds she craved attention just like some tiny lolicon.

“It’s here in my hand. Do you want the red pill or the blue one? I never can remember—which one makes you get vomited out of the machine? If it was me, I’d take the red one, the blue one, two or three Benzedrine tablets, a couple hits of blotter acid and wash it all down with a pint of Jack Daniels. Wonder what that would do to the Matrix?”

We wrestled around a bit on her mattress and then we both got embarrassed a bit by the easy-going physicality of our situations.

In truth, there are things that are perfectly civilized in the dojo on a wrestling mat that become downright risqué and gauche when done in a bedroom on a mattress.

“I am truly sorry for losing myself in the moment there. There can be no excuse for such aberrant behavior,” I said.

“Here, I have two chi-fortified gumdrops. See one’s red and the other is blue—well kinda blue-gray. You can have either one you want,” I said.

“We have already taken one hit today,” Sardou objected.

“Won’t hurt you none. I’ve doubled up the last two times that we’ve taken them,” I said.

“Coil, that was extremely reckless,” Sardou said.

“Spoil Airgetlám took five to eight in one mouthful,” I said.

“You’re not Spoil Airgetlám.”

“No I’m not. The way you say it though seems to imply that I will never be even remotely in his league. I find that as offensive as all Hell,” I said.

“Coil, do you really believe the things written in Spoil O Warren’s books? The man is a freaking legend. He probably never even existed. If you try to follow his example you’ll end up dead,” Sardou said.

“Sardou, if you believe that, why did you even bother to become an Adept? Listen, this saga can only end a few different ways. We can surrender to the Govie and spend the rest of our lives in a concentration camp. We can defeat them like the Adepts are said to have done back in the day or we can die trying. I’d rather OD on chi-drops trying to get to Spoil Airgetlám’s level or die from taking a bullet to the brainpan than to live to be eighty-nine years old and nutless in some detention center.

“Damned nation! I though that you’d be honored. You heard Neat say that the gumdrops are worth a million dollars each. I’ll never have anything else one-tenth as valuable to give you and I’m not doing it for the team. These are mine and I wanted to make you happy,” I said.

“Performance enhancers should make me happy?” she said.

“Don’t you care about your jutsu?” I asked.

“Screw jutsu! Coil, would you give me one of your father’s .357s instead?”

“Absolutely not! My father is gone. We won’t meet again until Judgment Day. I miss him so much. His revolvers are everything that I have left of him at least physically. If I was cast into the sea far from land and my father’s .357s were on a gunbelt in my hand and they were dragging me to the bottom, I wouldn’t turn them loose. Life is too dear if it’s bought at such a price,” I said.

“I’ve eaten two chi-drops today. I’m going to take another tonight. Past experiences have taught me that the risks incurred are relatively minor. Unless you give me your word that you’ll eat the second one tonight, I’ll take it myself for a total of four,” I said.

“You’re a rotten bastard.”

“No, I wouldn’t have taken this from its secure hiding place if I hadn’t wanted to give it to you. I don’t intend to leave it sit out overnight nor do I intend to get up at this time of night to go to my hidey-hole. It is too valuable and it is haphazard in the extreme to leave it lay out overnight,” I said.

Sardou took the blue-gray gumdrop and ate it as if I had contrived to force her to eat a rabbit turd and chew it thoroughly before swallowing.

I sat in a lotus seat with my eyes half-closed and built up my chakra tree all night. Sardou kneeled in the formal judo position and scowled fiercely all night.

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

“Maybe I was wrong last night. I’m not saying that I was. I’m saying that it is possible. You’re my bodyguard. It is your place to put yourself on the line for my benefit—but nonetheless I’m a force to be reckoned with in a fight. I gave you the gumdrop to make you happy. That didn’t go at all well. But also, if the day comes when I fall—through no fault of yours—If you’re left all alone, I want you to be strong enough to fight your way free and survive on your own. In the interest of that, I manipulated you into eating the chi-drop,” I said.

“Okay, I’ll try hard to put that in the past. Try as I might though, it will be in the very recent past for the next few days,” Sardou said.

She was better than her word though and we were back to normal within a couple hours.

While I sat between waking and sleep and explored the ins and outs of my inner consciousness I kept having a dream or a recurring hypnagogic image or a vision. Spoil Airgetlám sat on an ornate oaken throne with many detailed carvings upon it.

I knew that it was Spoil Airgetlám because he was attended by scores of oversized ravens and his right hand and forearm when his silken robe uncovered them were the purest silver.

We talked for a long time but my ability to attend his words came and went randomly.

He started to tell me something about the chi-drops several times. Sometimes I would interrupt him with some inane question or stupid jest. Sometimes he seemed halted by a pain in his head. We were interrupted by very noisy outbursts from the crows. Once a parade of trained and elaborately tacked African elephants marched through the great throne room like they were on parade. The elephants’ riders and the elephant handlers looked to be a hybrid of Arabian Nights characters and equal parts Shriners at Shrine Circus time.

The elephants traipsed perpendicularly across the red carpet aisle though there were no other seats and no other people in evidence. The floor and pillars were highly polished marble and the throne room must have covered acres. I couldn’t see to the end of it in any direction. God alone knew what the light source was.

I’d lied to Sardou. I kept the chi-drops in the bags Neat had given me around my neck. The bag was invisible. It couldn’t be felt and though I soaked myself in water for hours the drops would not get the least bit damp. Even if you knew about the bag you couldn’t even contrive to cut the neck string loose by slashing every which way in the space around my neck.

Spoil Airgetlám gestured and my magic bag became visible. He caused a large plum to materialize hovering over his hand. The plum dried, became corrupted and moldy ad then shrank to a puckered form the size and shape of a raisin. Then the raisin turned briefly to a dried up chi-drop and then the scene turned to a very gaunt greyhound lying dead somewhere.

Okay, grapes and raisins are supposed to be poison to dogs—but one raisin shouldn’t kill even that emaciated greyhound unless it was simply the straw that broke the camel’s back.

He repeated the show with an apricot, a peach, and with a humongous strawberry. No matter what the fruit stared out as it ended up slaying Spoil’s greyhound.

Okay, whatever…

The king gestured in such a way that I knew that he wanted my bag of gumdrops.

I didn’t think that I could actually lose the bag in a vision and anyway if the gumdrops were going to occasion OBEs like this, I was well shut of them.

Spoil Airgetlám poured the drops onto the extra wide oaken arm of his throne. He peered at them intently with an oversized Sherlock Holmes style magnifying glass and then made an exaggerated facial expression of disgust and swept most of them onto the floor. He held a few back but for the life of me I couldn’t see how many.

Then he offered me an oversized cherry. I took a chance and ate it. The cherry taste ran riot through my body. As I finished he offered me an apricot. I got the same exaggerated feeling of electric apricot flavored bolts of electric flowing through me. My final electrical fruit was a good-sized strawberry. Then he threw the few shriveled drops along with a great number of great round gum drops over an inch in diameter into my magic bag and he rose and placed it around my neck.

“Can you show me how to do the wind jutsu?” I asked him.

“It isn’t given unto you to command the wind,” he said.

“Can you teach me your water jutsu?” I asked as a fallback.

“It isn’t given unto you to move the water to your will,” he replied.

“Well then, tell me how to raise an entourage of black birds.”

“You won’t get anywhere trying to imitate me. We are too different for that to work,” He said.

“O Hell no! I at least want some birds,” I insisted.

“Do you want birds that badly? I can give you a pair of ravens. Odin has but a pair of ravens. Will a pair satisfy you?” Spoil Airgetlám asked in amusement.

“I’ll take two. Its better than nothing,” I said.

“You wouldn’t leave here empty hand with or without the ravens. Pick your pair,” he said.

“My first thought is to ask for the two largest ravens. On second thought ask them if any of them would like to be my friends ad companions,” I said.

“That is a wise and considerate choice,” Spoil Airgetlám said.

And then I was back in our room sitting in meditation and I had momentarily forgotten my vision or whatever in Hell it was.

I remembered as I left my morning shower.

As Sardou moved past me to the shower I grabbed her and hugged her.

“You are the only kin that I have left—you and my team. We should not allow angry words to pass between us,” I told her.

I went to set at the breakfast table when an ungodly big raven landed on the back stoop and pecked on the glass of the sliding doors.

“Hurry up and let me in!” he croaked in a rasping voice.

I let him in but I eyed him dubiously. He was over two foot tall from the floor. He was way bigger than the golden eagles that I’d seen fairly close at the zoo.

“Aren’t there supposed to be two of you?” I asked.

“My brother is running a little late. Give it to her! Give it to her!” the oversized raven urged me with utmost haste.


“It’s I that invisible bag around your neck.”

I took out a big round gumdrop. It was red. Once the gumdrop was proud of he bag it immediately turned into a pink box about four inches on a side. At he raven’s fervent urging I placed the box on Sardou’s plate a bare instant before she walked into the kitchen.

Do you know what was in the pink box? It was one of those ginormous chocolate covered strawberries.

“I must have told you that my birthday was on Valentine’s Day. I haven’t seen one of these since I was a little girl. I didn’t think that they made them anymore. I love them better than anything. How did you know?” Sardou said all in a rush.

I’d left the sliding door open and my second raven had appeared on the scene.

“A little bird told me,” I said sardonically.

“Who are your friends?” Sardou asked nonchalantly as if ravens as big as turkeys were an everyday thing.

“I’m Fear,” my first raven said.

“I’m Trembling,” the other Raven said.

“They talk. That’s fantastic. Where’d you get them?” She asked.

“Spoil Airgetlám gave them to me,” I said.

“I’m too happy to even get angry with your smart ass remarks this morning,” Sardou said.

And then she grabbed me and kissed my cheek.

I spent most of my morning waiting for the opportunity to catch each of my team members alone.

“It’s Valentines Day and I seen these at the drug store and I wanted to make sure that someone gave you some candy this year,” I lied to Vee.

“Chocolate covered cherries! Those are my favorites!” Vee enthused.

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

“Dude, do you like apricots,” I asked Weiner. “Sardou as put some in my bag every day for the last two weeks and truth be told, I’m getting tired of them. Do you want them?”

“I never get enough apricots,” Weiner said. “Want an apricot?” he generously asked Robin.

************* ***************** ***************************
“What if Robin had taken an Apricot?” I asked my winged advisors.

“Spoil Airgetlám created each bundle of chi for one person. Robin might have taken an apricot but it wouldn’t have contained any of Weiner’s chi. Don’t worry. Although someone has been foisting adulterated chi-balls off on y’all, once your friends eat Spoil Airgetlám’s package—not only will it clean out all the toxins, but it will more than double everyone’s current chi level,” Fear said.

“I’d far rather be frank with everyone,” I said.

“We don’t want to tip our hand,” Trembling said.

“If that’s the case I shouldn’t have told everyone that Spoil Airgetlám gave you two to me,” I said.

“Nope that’s perfect. Telling the truth and having everyone be convinced it’s a lie is one of the most artful ways to deceive. Everyone is convinced that you’re a sarcastic smart ass,” Trembling said.

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Old 12-09-2015, 04:45 PM
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So it seems Neat has a somewhat flawed hidden agenda for our heroes.
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Old 12-10-2015, 12:23 PM
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Chapter Six

“Those chi-drops that Neat gave you were not only adulterated with something, they were also very feeble. They’re said to have a lifetime’s worth of chi. In point of fact, they’re closer to having a year’s worth of chi—a year-and-a-half at most,” Fear told me.

“Adulterated? With what? Why?” I asked.

“I don’t know who, what or why—or even how. Judging from the effects though, it seems that someone was trying to make them addictive. When you shared them so freely you derailed that train of thought,” Fear said.

I noticed that Fear spoke more often and at greater length than Trembling.

“Those chi-balls that Spoil Airgetlám gave you are a vastly different form of chi-enhancers. Each one was carefully matched to each of you. They contain enough chi to more than double each of your friend’s chi level—and all of them already have relatively high levels as they stand today,” Fear chatted.

“I ate three of them but it was only in the vision,” I said.

“That makes no difference. However, your chi levels were already much higher than your friend’s. Each ball that you gave your friends contained—O say—one-and-a-third to perhaps one-and-a-half times their former chi-level. Each of your chi-balls barely contained the equivalent of one times your power level. Since you ate three of them you’ll rapidly become about four times as strong as you were last night—not five-to-seven times as you might extrapolate from your friend’s results,” Fear said.

I’d managed to give surreptitious gifts of chi to everyone in my team except Neat.

“I’m not so sure about this. If I give Neat a gift of power won’t he know that we’re onto him?” I asked.

“Not necessarily. Neat probably doesn’t know that his chi-drops aren’t the real deal. He’s been taking them right along with everyone else. Also, those orange gumdrops that Neat shared with you—those were his personal property and they were genuine. If you pressed him, he’d probably fuzz-up about where he got the drops. He is living in a very subtle but extraordinarily powerful induced state of unconscious amnesia. He probably can’t even tell you what enclave he’s from,” Fear said.

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

“Neat my good man!” I greeted Neat. “I am in your debt for all the chi-drops that you’ve laid on me. I got something to show my appreciation.”

Believe it or not I had a small loaf of prune bread—I never even knew that there was such a thing—topped with a thick layer of faux chocolate icing made from carob and aspartame. I wouldn’t touch the thing with the tip of a two-handed great sword but I had it on good authority that it was Neat’s favorite. He was definitely an abhorrent mutant.

“How did you know?” Neat asked in amazement.

“You don’t remember telling me?”

A question cannot be a lie.

“Hey where’d you get the ravens?” Neat asked.

“There were four and twenty of them baked in a pie,” I said.

[But definitely not in your foul prune bread.] I added mentally.

“Aren’t they heavy?” Neat asked.

“I weigh fifty-seven pounds,” Fear said.

“I weigh sixty-five pounds,” Trembling added.

“Hey! Y’all can talk!” Neat said.

“Your grasp of the obvious is awe-inspiring,” Fear said.

Fear leaned towards biting sarcasm.

“But aren’t they a burden riding on your shoulders that way?” Neat inquired.

“Nah, they don’t feel near as heavy as they should. I’m cool with them riding so long as they don’t crap on me,” I said.

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

“Neat is an annoying shrimp,” Fear said when we were alone.

“He’s a hair below five feet. Amongst other things, his gift will stimulate his body to grow about three-and-a-half inches in the next few weeks,” Trembling countered.

“He will still be a shrimp and he will still be highly annoying,” Fear said.

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

We all met in one of the hangar-shaped pole buildings. There was an ersatz firing range with double thicknesses of baled straw backed up with a three-fourths inch plywood with a triple row of woven polyester sandbags as a last line of defense.

There were numerous wooden crates full of machine pistols. They were mostly faithful replicas of the old British Sten with thirteen inch barrels and folding shoulder stocks. I noted in passing that they were stainless and had polygonal bores.

At the urging of the group leader we all took out a machine pistol to examine.

“There is an enclave down by Harlan that has a fairly sophisticated firearms manufacturing facility. We’re playing middle-man to a militia in Missouri and making a hefty profit in the process,” the group leader said.

“By the way, my name is ‘Gary’. There is an even bigger mark-up on the ammunition,” Gary bragged.

“Can’t you convince your clients to buy better weapons?” I asked.

“Like what?” Gary demanded.

“Bolt Action Scout Rifles with thirteen inch barrels and under-folding stocks, Stens in .30 Carbine, folding semiautomatic .223s or 7.62x39 or even bumping your Stens up to 10mm would all be improvements. A carbine sized machine pistol is no more effective than a pistol in the same caliber,” I said.

“Giving it a high capacity magazine and full-automatic capability just makes it harder to conceal and encourages extravagant expenditures of ammunition,” I said.

“You’re not a firearms expert. Just try shooting one of these guns and then say that,” Gary said.

I took one of the Stens and inserted one of the pre-loaded magazines that they had prepared. Parenthetically—they had increased the Sten’s magazines from thirty-two rounds to thirty-five. That was pretty much an Inconsequential Increment.

I blacked out and shot the Sten in short three round bursts. I fired the gun as quickly as I could shift it from target to target. There were small pauses that slightly lowered than the gun’s rate of fire but they resulted in one hundred percent hits and the pauses were imperceptible to the non-speeded-up mind.

Then to prove my point I drew a high-capacity 9mm with each hand. The pistols held eighteen rounds each. I fired them at the next lower pie-plate target. I’d hit eleven pie-plates three times each with the Sten ad then only had two rounds left for the last target. I hit each target three times each with my custom created 9mms. And my rate of fire was as fast—probably faster than with the machine pistol.

“Actually, I am a firearms expert,” I said to Gary. “And I know more about firearms than you can ever hope to learn.”

“You’re an Adept so you demonstration doesn’t really doesn’t apply,” Gary sniffed.

“Adept or no Adept—the relative differences are the same. I don’t like your tone. Be mindful of how you speak to your betters if you don’t mean to challenge me to a contest of hand-to-hand combat skill,” I said.

“You are no better than me!” Gary shouted.

“Yes I am. I’d suggest that you leave it at that,” I said.

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

It was probably a good idea to let everyone in on what our package was and truthfully, shooting a few magazines through a few of the Stens resulted in a more visceral knowledge of exactly what Stens were and could do.

The thing was, they wasted a whole training day on it when it could have been done in half a day and left the other half free for more perfecting far more specific and useful team skills.

I made sure that my team got to fire the Stens both with and without being under the aegis of my black out. That led to a few complaints about our crew Bogarting the Stens and hogging ammo.

Pond and honor people! There are crates of Stens and crates full of +P 9mm Jacketed Truncated Cone Flat Points laying all over the floor. Break a few more Stens out for crying in a Kerchief!

After the Group training ended my group headed for our designated practice field to work on a few things. No, I wasn’t the least bit worried about anyone spying on us. Fear and Trembling could create an extremely potent privacy screen between the two of them.

But before we could get entirely shut of the group cluster grope one of the other team members came after us.

“My name is ‘Billy’—‘Billy Trudeau’. You folks seem to have you act together. I’m tired of the nonsense. Any possibility of joining your team?” He said.

“I’ll consider it. However you can’t switch teams when a mission has already stared—severe breach of etiquette,” I said.

“You’re right,” he said.

He sounded so disappointed that felt led to console him.

“We’ll go and talk to your team leader mission. We have all the formalities over and done with before we leave here for the mission. In the meantime, Have a peach,” I said while doing a sleight of hand to produce it.

Is it still “Sleight of Hand” when you actually pull something out of the subluminous aether? The peach was as big as a softball, mostly red and very ripe.

“Where did you find a fresh peach like this in dead of winter?”

“Classified. Tell you what though—assembly is at 8:30am tomorrow. Meet up with us at our practice field at 5:00am and you can scrimmage with us,” I told Billy.

“His chi will be at about two-point-three by game day,” Trembling said. When Billy was out of earshot.

He turned back toward me, cupped his mouth and shouted.

“I meant to ask you. Where’d you get those crows?” He hollered.

“Found them at the bottom of a Crackerjack Box,” I said.

“Fear, you and Trembling are going to get me in some serious crap if you don’t quit prompting me to hand out massive gifts of power to everyone we encounter,” I said.

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

Billy made it to our early morning shake out.

“By the way Billy, what’s your main power?” I asked.

“I’m a giant,” Billy said.

While I was waiting for him to elucidate further he expanded until he was eight-and-a-half feet tall. He was thicker and wider than he should have been and his fingertips reached an inch or two below his knees.

His torso was bare and very hairy—like a very histute human not like a beast. He wore a pair of suede drawstring balloon pants dyed deep purple and bloused into the lime green thick-soled paratrooper boots that he wore. He had a thick studded leather wristband on each wrist. He had a two-handed phantasy mace with a steel head bigger than a basketball.

Alrighty then…

Since Jason was our unofficial designated power fighter he seemed to look upon the existence of the giant as an outrageous affront to everything good and pure and proper in the world.

Billy laid aside his mace and Jason stepped forward to fight the giant first.

Jason ran up close and hit the giant as hard as he possibly could right in the pit of the stomach. Billy seemed unaffected and he used a backhanded slap to knock Jason tumbling backward for twenty yards.

Jason got to his feet and charged the giant in a rage four more times. Billy knocked him ******* over appetite four more times. I was about to call a halt to the unequal and unfruitful contest…

This time though Jason stopped just outside of Billy’s reach. He pointed both palms at Billy and a huge stream of high-pressure water shot from each palm. I’d guess that one of the streams had three times the volume and half again the velocity of the big bore fire hoses.

Jason directed both streams at one of Billy’s legs and knocked him well off balance and then down.

Jason was on him in a flash and he had Billy’s neck in a potentially neck-breaking hold.

“Surrender or die ****-ant,” Jason screamed.

“You won Jason. This isn’t war. It’s a nice friendly contest between comrades. Let the nice man get up,” I said.

Billy climbed to his feet in a state of near euphoria.

“Do you see why I want to join your team? I can grow here!” Billy shouted.

Everyone else sparred with Billy both with and without black out and I let Billy experience blackout. That pretty much exhausted our practice time. I shared the special minor chakras that everyone was diligently working to bulk until further notice with our potential new member.

“When did you manifest the water jutsu?” I asked Jason as we walked to the group meeting.

“Just now,” Jason said. “I feel full of power since the water jets manifested though.”

“Those type of jutsus burn beaucoup energy and protein. Eat some of this jerky-jerky,” I said while handing him the package.

“How much chi was in the jerky-jerky?” I asked the kibitzing ravens when we were alone.

“About as much as he would accumulate for himself in about three years of diligent practice. On the other hand that chi will infuse him relatively slowly and gradually over the next two or three weeks,” Fear said.

The ravens had insisted that I pass the jerky-jerky to Jason.

I caught up to Weiner and handed him a small bag of dried apricots comparable to Jason’s jerky-jerky. That wasn’t Fear and Trembling. That was me.

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

Gary sent us through a bunch of assault obstacle courses the next two days. As general training it was good so far as it went. It left much to be desired as a means to integrate the teams into a comprehensive group.

Then the last two days we walked through the exchange with white chalk lines drawn on the concrete floor to represent the crates of guns and ammo as well as solid walls.

I’d gone to talk to Billy’s team leader after practice the first day. The man had the odd name of “Asylvester”—long “A”.

“Billy Trudeau tells me that he’d like to join our team,” I told him. “I told him to wait until after the mission.”

“Take the Quisling now. I don’t want weak vacillating SOBs on my team anyway. I’ll tell you: you think that you’re a bad ass strutting around with your giant crows and that butch Morrígan. You tell tales and lies about Spoil Airgetlám . You poach other team’s members. You mean less than fly droppings to me. I can read your chi levels. I have over five times as much chi as you,” Asylvester said.

“You have five times my chi but you’re still a quaking aspen with no sense of how to interact with your betters. If I’ve offended I’ll be happy to offer you satisfaction,” I grated out between gritted teeth.

“Leave him,” Trembling said. “A hard days training, a long bicycle ride followed by a big bite from a dill pickle would kill this pretender to maleness.”

I sensed something coming and I blacked out. Asylvester shot a long looping left hook at Trembling. I stepped back just enough to make him miss. I left one of the mini Kunai shoved to the full depth of the three-inch blade in his left fist.

“O I’m sorry! I can’t abhor violence and you startled me. Please don’t hurt me,” I said while wringing my hands like the heroine in an old serial melodrama.

My exaggerated mecha monotone and my jet-black eyes belied my words.

“If Coil hadn’t moved when he did, I’d have taken all four fingers off that hand. You got off very easy,” Trembling said.

I grabbed him by his neck with my left hand and lifted him clear of the ground.

“There is only one strategy for you to follow in a fight with me. Fall to your knees and tremble in terror,” I shouted loud enough to make my own ears hurt.

I threw him hard enough that he couldn’t regain his balance and fell to the ground.

“Billy, you’re part of our team now—starting from yesterday,” I told him with a hearty pat on his shoulder.

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

There was one more bit of drama before we embarked on our mission.

“I hate you! I loathe this team. I don’t intend to lay myself on the line to go on some half-baked gunrunning mission. I quit!” Neat screamed at me.

He’d decided to take his fit right in front of God and everyone—including Gary, Asylvester and the rest of the group.

“I never liked you anyway!” I shouted back. “You are an ugly little piece of mutant trash. You are weak. You have no worthwhile powers and you smell. Tell you what though; I’m going to pay you anyway. That way you won’t have to earn your bus fare home in the men’s rooms.”

I threw the bundled banknote of one hundred dollar bills at him.

It was time to do it to it.

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Old 12-11-2015, 04:59 PM
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Chapter Seven

We were transporting the cargo in several cargo vans. Sardou, Weiner, Billy and I rode together in one van. My ravens could have ridden in the van but in a battle or a crash they might become trapped so I had them follow us by air.

I have no idea how fast normal ravens can fly. I doubt they could come anywhere near the speed of a vehicle on the interstate. Fear and Trembling had no trouble keeping up and even flew ahead and gave me scouting reports. I didn’t have the ability to link myself telepathically to animals but Fear and Trembling were unique exceptions.

Everyone on my team was stronger now. I could throw three spawn now and their strength levels had risen about twenty percent. My black out zone had grown about twenty feet. I could mentally slow everything about fifty-to-one. That wasn’t a great improvement because even thirty-to-one is more than sufficient for almost any practical purpose. My physical speed was up to about 5.5x.

I was about fifteen percent stronger than I’d been at the Bowling Green Exodus. I was launching Kunai, stars and washers more quickly and more accurately.

I could hit out to about thirty-five or forty yards now. My sharpened washers were not only supersonic. They were up to a bit over Mach 1.5. My stars were barely supersonic while my Kunai were sometimes a wee bit faster than sound and sometimes a wee bit sower than sound.

Sardou also had three spawn now. Sardou’s power had grown about thirty-five percent. Her three spawn were all comfortably in the “Elite” category while Sardou was in the top ten percent of the “Elite” ranking.

Vee had added a single spawn to her repertoire, but all of her spawn’s power was about ten percent higher. Meantime her flame was hotter and could last longer and she was spewing it out with more force. Added together I’d guestimate that the overall strength of her fire jutsu and went up over sixty percent.

Weiner had added five spawn to his first wave, three to his second wave and one to his third wave. His first and second wave were elite and the third wave were in the high good range. He’d even added a feeble fourth wave—two spawn in the low poor range. Still, as bodyguards or as the last spawn standing in the endgame of a protracted battle when most or all the higher-powered spawn are gone the two wimps were well worth having.

We’d had little time to help Robin and Jason develop their wind and water jutsu, but still—every little bit helps.

Billy was just huge. My ravens assured me that his giant form was a good two inches taller and proportionally thicker and wider since I’d given him the chi-peach. Is eight-foot-eight a noticeable upgrade to eight-foot-six? My ravens also insisted that the peach had made Billy about five percent stronger pound for pound.

It was hard to properly weigh the ravens’ tactical strength. With their mighty beaks and talons they were at least equivalent to an attack trained Bullmastiff. But then again Bullmastiffs cannot fly, talk, send telepathic messages and accurately measure most Adept’s chi level.

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

We’d crossed the Misses’ Hip into Missouri without incident but about twenty miles from our rendezvous we were pulled over by a law car with an improbable number of blue and white of flashing lights as well as an impressive array of headlights on the patrol car’s front end.

The town marshal wore a light brown uniform and a dun colored felt Cherokee style Stetson. As he approached the door I blacked out and took my three friends into the jutsu as well.

He looked at my ersatz driver’s license and then he noticed the crates just visible through the driver’s side window.

“You’re the gunrunners! You’re the one’s who’re arming our militia. Follow me and I’ll escort you to the meeting place,” the tall law said.

“Quick, someone hit me a few times in my chest with a brick to get my heart started again,” I said.

There is no such thing as an “Innocent Bystander.”

As Jesus said:

“He who is not for me is against me.”

If you ain’t for me and you step into the crossfire—well it’s your geas. That’s what you get for being neutral when good fights evil. What if someone I’d never met who is one hundred percent in sympathy with my goals and philosophy gets caught in the crossfire and expires? Casualties from friendly fire are a regrettable but inescapable part of fighting and warfare.

I hadn’t been anxious to have to take out the law notwithstanding. It was sure to bring all sorts of negative attention.

The law car led us into a small town where he parked and walked back to talk to us.

“It’s 9:00pm and the meeting isn’t until midnight. Why don’t you go into the café and get some coffee and a bite to eat. It’s on me,” the law said.

He had me more than a little suspicious with his wide-eyed amicability but try as I might I couldn’t sense anything false about him.

“It’s safe to park your van here. No one will disturb your vehicle or your cargo in this town,” the law said.

I stayed in blackout mode to keep watch on the van. Weiner and Billy’s eyes went black in sympathy with the blackout as I shared. Sardou’s eyes reverted to her default scarlet. It made us look a bit outré if anyone examined our faces with any more than the most cursory fashion but it made the best of a tricky situation.

The café would have been a suitable subject for a Hopper painting. The whole place had a heavy-duty retro feel to it. There were a dozen little square four-person tables with red and white-checkered oilcloth tablecloths. There was a black Formica covered counter with ten round stools with bright chrome tubes for legs.

The ceiling was high and there were four extra-large ceiling fans turning ponderously while the flickering fluorescent lights gave the scene an outré and slightly surreal feel—but there were no bad or dangerous vibes coming from the place or from the handful of customers.

“Everyone, these are our gunrunners. They’re going to meet up with Rabbit later tonight. Millicent give them whatever they want and I’ll settle up,” the law said.

“You will not! It’s my town too,” Millicent said.

“My name is ‘Style’,” the law said.

“Mine is Coil. Sardou, Weiner and Billy,” I introduced everyone.

Every one of us—with the possible exception of Billy—had our photo and profile on the govie’s “Drop Dead” list already. There was no need to play coy—especially since glamors to change the face’s appearance and the fingerprints were very elementary tradecraft that any Adept could do and do well.

The café was an interesting place. The cook and both the waitresses wore concealed handguns, as did most of the customers—particularly the menfolk.

There were four double barrel 12 Gauge shotguns with eighteen-inch barrels and twelve-inch length of pull stashed in quick-access secret hiding places around the café. There was also a single double-barrel 20 Gauge. There was one single-shot H&R 12 Gauge with intact stock and two others sawn as short as possible while staying barely legal—well until recently.

The cook was a tall muscular fellow who wore an apron that had: “Chef Ringer” embroidered on it. Each inch-tall letter was a different vibrant color.

Chef Ringer had a twenty-two-inch barreled double 10 Gauge close to his grill as well as a pistol gripped buntline roadwarrior in 12 Gauge and three mint Colt Diamondback .38 Specials with bone grips and bright nickel finishes. The Diamondbacks were museum quality and one of them would sell for more than enough to buy the whole café—minus the other two Diamondbacks of course.

Chef carried a .45 Auto and a .25 Auto and an improbable amount of blades upon his person.

Still there was no feeling that we’d been lured into a trap. Those good ole boys just liked to be armed—I guess.

Remember my black out lets me see everything around me—the surface and whatever is beneath the surface—everywhere.

Sometimes it is hard to know how much detail to include. I could tell which guns had reloaded ammo, what the bullet weights were and what powder they’d used. I could see—if “See” is the right word—all the miscellaneous debris in men’s pockets and women’s purses.

Not that I cared one fig’s leaf, but one of the high school aged boys stuffed a sock ball in the crotch of his jeans to exaggerate the size of his package. It was not as if my glance had settled there momentarily. Quite the contrary—in black out my glance is everywhere at all the times. Even I can’t fully apprehend the sensation when I’m not in black out mode.

I’d ordered pancakes with blackberry syrup and Millicent brought it to my table. She was about five-ten, black and very busty without being overly self-conscious about it.

Style was about six-two. He looked rather young for a law and he had long blond hair. He was the only uniformed law that I’d ever seen with a double-gun rig—two cocked-and-locked 1911A1s.

As I say, it was a surreal sort of place.

I was halfway through my pancakes when there was a hellacious rattling of the café’s door. There was a raven with a body the size of a turkey making noises like hailstones striking a tin roof as he pecked at the glass.

“Is he with y’all?” Millicent asked.

“Yeah he’s mine,” I said.

Millicent let Trembling inside. He took two long running hops and then he flew to his accustomed perch on my shoulder.

“Coil, they’re setting a trap! The other four went to the meeting place early. Some of the other teams did too. About half of Gary and Asylvester’s team stayed back. I think they were Judas goats to get us here,” Trembling said in one long run-on.

My mental reception wasn’t the best and it might be vulnerable to interception and hacking so Trembling had come in person.

I’d planned to have Neat’s rats and ravens scoping everything out. They’d tell Neat and he’d tell Fear who was flying in a holding pattern over the area. Fear would send a message to Trembling who would be with me.

My quarrel with Neat had been a subterfuge of course. I wanted for Neat to be able to act both secretly and completely autonomously while he stood watch over us.

If only Jason, Robin, John and Vee had hung back as well we could just skip the whole bad scene and fade into the background. No we couldn’t. The other Adepts in the trap were comrades in arms. We take care of our own. That’s in the by-laws.

What had all the infusions of chi worked in my body, mind and jutsu?

Hee-Hee! Haw-Haw!
Kill the bad uns!
Kill and Saw!

Neat’s rats and ravens were tapping my black out from over three miles away. Neat was blacked out as well as Fear and Trembling. Do you recall that I said that numbers weren’t an issue? Keeping all those humans, rats and ravens in the jutsu from so far away was stretching my black out jutsu to my limit.

But the best way to warn my other team members was to put them into the state of black out and let them see their tactical situation in detail.

Somewhere in the estate that is beyond right and wrong I strove mightily against those casual suggestions that we call “Reality”. Reality flowed slowly like the thick viscous medium in a lava lamp. I held on grimly—like aged toothless Pit Bull whose geas and whose honour it is to never turn loose and no excuses accepted—not even the excuse of having no teeth—or strength—left.

The team members in the old grave yard—the meeting was in an old cemetery next to a boarded up church way back in the boonies—snapped into my black out and shared.

Every one of the folks in the café also blacked out.

“Our friends and neighbors and our kin are about to enter a trap!” Millicent shouted. “Are we gonna stand by with our thumbs firmly inserted in our rectums?”

“It is like: really man, be for real,” I agreed.

Style had acquired a Stevie Wonder sway from side to side.

“Solid O my brothers,” Style said. “This partakes of solidity and is redolent of precipice.”

Note to self: black out acts like LSD-25 on some folks—I guess.

I strained a little more and I was able to project an image of the graveyard into an area covered by a couple of tables and the aisle between them. No the 3-D map was immaterial and needed no support. That was only to give an idea of the map’s size.

There was no need for the locals to stand around my map and gape. They were seeing everything in both the café and in the cemetery in far greater detail than they’d ever seen anything in their lives with or without pointing their now black eyes at it.

As I laid out my plan Millicent went into the back of the shop and up the stairway to the living area atop. She came back with a gunbelt and two rifles. Not that any of us were the least bit surprised. We saw her coming and going.

Millicent handed a highly customized Lever Action Marlin .45-70 to Style. Amongst other custom features it was now a quick-takedown model. She also handed Style a bandoleer bristling with .45-70 cartridges and a big Bowie hanging from the bandoleer’s lower end.

“You can use my father’s rifle tonight,” She said to Style with a hint of asperity.

Then she handed him two extra twenty rounds of .45-70.

“Style is always trying to get me to swap or trade my father’s rifle to him—as if!”
Millicent kept a .30 M1 Carbine along with an improbable number of fifteen and thirty round magazines. What the Hell? Firing the carbine at revenuers should keep her out of worse mischief.

“Dudes, it is like: You will be going against superior numbers of government agents as well as some very powerful rogue Adepts. You will be very much thrown into a battle between titans. I have no idea how or why y’all got sucked into my blackout jutsu—but let me say that this jutsu is a parlor trick next to the jutsu that the opposition posses. You’d be well advised to stay shut of this,” I told them.

That was a bit of a lie. My black out jutsu was right up at the higher echelons of modern day jutsu. Telling them that would not influence them to sit out this dance though.

Yeah, about that…

They were outraged to a man. I‘d have created less overt hostility if I’d advocated homosexuality, pedophilia, necrophilia and cannibalism.

“We aim to live free or die,” Style said.

As I said there were about a dozen locals in the café but somehow my greatly enhanced but unpredictable black out jutsu was really reaching out and touching many someones.

Armed and outraged small town folk with blacked out eyes came from every direction like ants at a picnic.

“Alright dudes it is like: listen up!’

“Why do you stick in that gratuitous ‘Like’,” Millicent demanded.

Damned Nation woman! If loaning your father’s .45-70 to Style makes you this cranky you shouldn’t have done it. Nothing compelled you. That was what I thought.

“It isn’t frivolous or gratuitous. If I say something ‘Is’ I’m saying that it precisely equals that to the N’th degree. If I say: “It is Like” I mean that it roughly approximates. Strictly speaking I should stick ‘Like’ in front of almost every subject object, and subordinate clause that tumbles out of my mouth. That is unless I’m discussing Pure Mathematics, Philosophy or Theology. That would make both my speaking and your listening remarkably tedious…

“And it would kinda make me sound like a Valley Girl. Gag me with a Spoon!

“But I stick the word in occasionally to remind myself and others that we live in an imperfect world with fuzzy boundaries and indeterminate sums.

“Why am I standing here discussing metaphysics, semantics, logic and rhetoric with you when there are far more pressing concerns?” I spewed out.

Yeah about that…

“Dudes, black out gives a potent edge in combat but it also acts like a big jolt of Amphetamine, LSD-25 or Cocaine. There is a strong tendency to get distracted and sidetracked. Be warned!

“But the point I was about to make was this: Everything that you see once the fighting starts will be slowed down 50x. You aren’t going to be able to move anywhere like 50x though. Depending on your personal power and strength and fitness you will be functioning at about 1.5x to 2x. I am very elite as an Adept and I only function at about 5.5x.

“Take your time and shoot like you’re in a precision slow-fire target match. I assure you that you’ll sound like you’re firing full-auto to anyone not blacked out. Some of you will find yourself waiting and waiting for your revolver to reset or your semi-auto to cycle. Expect that.

“Once you run out of ammo or drop out of black out just take cover and sit the rest of the battle out or do the ‘Escape and Evade’ thingy when possible. Those revenuers—as you call them—are almost as hard to attack with edged weapons or blunt instruments as a knight of old—at least from the crotch up. Adepts are even harder to fight,” I told them.

“If you find yourself painted into a corner and your survival seems improbable just remember the wisdom of Yamamoto Tsunetomo:

“’Cowards theorize with the goal of surviving firmly in mind’

“Nobody is telling you that you have to go with us—but if you choose to come then fight with bravely and if necessary then die with honour.

“Now as Robert E Howard had several of his characters shout as a battle cry:

“To Hell or plunder, comrades march!”

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

Firearms don’t spawn at all well. There are ways around that. Billy Trudeau was very powerful even when normal sized. He walked silently through the forest with a crate holding three-dozen bolt action rifles inside.

Weiner and his two scrub fourth wave spawn carried a case of ammunition for the bolt actions as well as two or three more rifles each.

Weiner threw his first, second and third wave spawn. Each of Weiner’s spawn armed himself and took up good firing positions and settled in.

Keep in mind that in black out no night sight or even scope was necessary. Weiner’s spawn could “See” everything without any optical aids.

Billy transformed and picked up the bolt action chambered in .50 Browning Machinegun. The oversized rifle had been carefully fitted to Billy’s giant physique. He had four extra ten round magazines. If fifty rounds of .50 BMG don’t do it odds are that it won’t get done.

Sardou’s three spawn and my three all picked up their weapons and went to their previously decided firing points.

I mentally guided the town folk to good positions. That is very hard to convey. It was like I highlighted part of the vibrant and extra 3-D image of the world that we largely shared.

The view in black out is very dark and noir, without superfluous detail and stripped down for combat. And at the very same time it is the most intensely lit scene that you could ever hope to see with as many rich details engraved on the scene that it is reminiscent of an Albrecht Dürer engraving or maybe an Escher drawing.

There is some resemblance to the exaggerated parallax of a stereopticon, View Master or 3-D movie but then again, the glare makes everything argent and extraordinarily flat. The image is the summation of the all images of an infinite number of paired eyes viewing everything from every conceivable position and then summarizing it into a walk-through mental image superimposed over an ordinary view.

Somewhere in that maelstrom of visual input I managed to mentally tap into each and every townsman’s magical teleidoscope inner world and say:

“Hey dude, set up your firing point here.”

And do it all in dumb show—like a psychedelic game of charades.

“Everyone drop your weapons, fall to your knees and lace your fingers behind your neck,” A giant bullhorn voice shouted. “You are surrounded, out gunned and out numbered.”

“If you have the area surrounded with armed men then you must be in one of the Kentuckian firing squad’s formation. I have a counter offer:

“Fear and Trembling are upon you. We will take no prisoners. Fall to your knees and tremble in terror!” I shouted.

After all that build up the gunfight was over very quickly although it seemed to drag on interminably to my 50x speeded up perceptions.

Folks in black out very seldom miss and they pick up new targets very quickly. The denouement of Adept-to-Adept was a whole other thing,

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

Style and Millicent

Style owned and often shot a couple of .30-30 Lever Actions and he also owned several different pistol caliber lever actions as well as a .22 LR. He’ always admired the .45-70 that Millicent’s father owned ever since he and Millicent had been children. For some reason though, he’d never got around to buy himself his own .45-70.

He had shot the rifle a number of times going back to when the rifle could have bowled him over if he hadn’t took precaution and leaned far into it.

He settled the rifle’s generous red recoil pad into his shoulder and aimed—if that was the right word for what a marksman did when shooting in black out.

The revenuers were armored. There had to be relatively lightly armored areas in the armor though or the revenuers would walk around like rusty tin men. He was shooting some of the special penetrator rounds with hard bullets made from exotic metals. Millicent’s father had loaded them a couple of years earlier right before he died.

Style pulled the Marlin’s carefully tuned trigger. The trigger group was expertly improved and adjusted. It was so smooth that it caused Style to think of buttermilk pancakes with a big blob of real butter slowly melting on top while he poured real maple syrup on the pancakes.

He couldn’t have told why the fine old gun’s trigger pull made him flash on an image of a stack of perfect pancakes made just the way that he liked them—but it did.

Style was holding very tight indeed because he could see and squelch the random wobbles sooner and more completely. He got a beautiful surprise trigger pull because pulling the trigger at 2.9x was a whole other thing. He conscientiously followed through on his shot until he saw the bullet in flight towards his target.

Style saw the revenuer hit from the side with the .45-70 bullet. The bullet took a chunk of bone from the spinal column and messed up a fair amount of erector spinae muscle but didn’t touch the spinal chord. It did destroy both kidneys.

His next shot took a revenuer in the face from the front. Then his best target was a client’s thigh. The big bullet shattered the femur to the point of severing it completely. High velocity bone fragments contributed to the damage to the muscle tissue all around nearly severing the leg. The most salient issue was the severed femoral artery pumping out rose water fluids in all directions.

He had never had much use for multi-taskers but in the aegis of the black out jutsu he was very aware of Millicent beside him. She needed to aim the .30 Carbine much more precisely than he needed to aim the .45-70 an unlike the lever action there was no way to speed the little rifle’s firing cycle. As a practical matter, she needed the whole of the little gun’s firing cycle to find another chink in her client’s armor to aim at.

Soon there weren’t enough revenuers to fill up the counter at Millicent’s café.

A couple of the govie troopers raised their hands to try to surrender. Style remembered Coil’s stressing “No Prisoners”. He shot one of the surrendering troopers in the hollow of his neck. Before he could pull the .45-70 out of recoil several of his fellow townsmen had cured the client of his surrender delusion.


Just when the battle seemed won a Cyclops twenty or thirty foot tall came out of nowhere. He seemed able to cloak himself even from Style and Millicent’s black out.

The Cyclops carefully plucked. Style from the ground and carefully extracted the .45-70 from Style’s frenzied grasp and let it drop to the ground.

Millicent emptied a thirty round magazine into the Cyclops’s Achilles tendon. The Cyclops’s but the .30 Carbine round was feeble—even with the +P zingers that her father had custom loaded—and while the Cyclops’s skin was thick and bullet resistant.

She drew her EMF .357 Single Action Army with the four and five-eighths inch barrel. She aimed three shots at the Cyclops’s eye but there seemed to be some sort of force field around the monster’s single eye. The third shot seemed worrisome to the Cyclops. He took the time to bend over and swat at Millicent.

Millicent was knocked tumbling but she managed to hold onto her .357.

As she charged the Cyclops she reloaded her revolver and shoved it deep into its holster. Off-the-wall stunts like that seemed perfectly reasonable in black out.

The Cyclops took a half-a-dozen steps to where he would be more visible and he held Style high so that everyone could see him.

“You little mice come out and surrender or I will make a wish and eat this little mousey,” the Cyclops bellowed.

Somehow even with one’s perceptions speeded up to 50x the spoken word was comprehensible.

The Cyclops held one of Style’s thighs in each hand. He tugged hard enough to cause Style to screech in pain and rage.

Millicent had blood coming from both nostrils. One lip was split open and both of her lips looked like someone had tried to give them the biggest collagen injection of all time. One of her eyes was swollen shut and she had an ear partly torn off.

She held the carbine bayonet in one and a Cold Steel Tanto in the other. She charged the Cyclops in a blinding rage. She made a vertical leap half again as high as she’d ever done in high school basketball.

She stabbed the Cyclops with both daggers and started climbing him like he was a pegboard.

The Cyclops screamed in rage and swatted at Millicent with Style still in his hand. Millicent cringed at the idea of Style’s neck being broken in the monster’s fist. She had heard her father and hid friends discussing how one must never fail to attack evil because he has hostages. Kill the evil and let God decide the fate of the hostages.

When Millicent was halfway up the monster’s thigh he tossed Style aside and pulled Millicent off as if she were a woman-sized tick or leech. He held her up and glared at her momentarily.

And that was precisely what Millicent had been fervently hoping for. She had seen the movies and read the stories about Spoil Airgetlám’s adventure. Putting out a Cyclops’s eye to destroy him was as much a part of the folklore as staking a vampire with a wooden stake or shooting a werewolf with a silver bullet.

She hadn’t believed in Cyclops and she’d never expected that she’d ever meet one. Now that she had encountered Cyclops she knew exactly how to respond.

Her father had always wanted a six-shooter in .45-70. Five-shooters were. Six-shooters also were but they were far more rare and far more expensive. A six-shooter that only has five shots isn’t really a six-shooter now, is it?

While he’d hoped that providence would cause him to meet a nice 45-70 six-shooter that he could afford he’d made do with a .45-70 Contender style gun with a thirteen-inch barrel and muzzle brake.

Millicent fired the .45-70 Single Shot pistol into the automobile tire-sized eye of the Cylops.

The bullet was turned from very strong bronze, hot loaded and coated in Teflon. Men had hunted Africa elephants with that style gun and load. The Cyclops teetered for a moment and then he tumbled and fell apart as if he’d abruptly became a sand sculpture without the structural integrity to hold together. Then even the sand itself vanished.

Millicent fell.

Billy was already in his giant form and he managed to get up in under Millicent and help break her fall.

“Are you alright?” Billy asked.

That was how Millicent came to understand that Billy was an ally and not a client.

Millicent rushed to where Style lay expiring.

“You took him down Millicent. You’re a better man than me,” Style said.

He leaked bloody froth from his mouth with every word.

“Style, if you will just live, I will go out with you. You are right. Me being five years older than you isn’t a deal breaker. I’ll give you Daddy’s 45-70. I’ll marry you,” She sobbed.

“We will meet again on the other side,” Style gasped out and closed his eyes.

Someone—one of the Adepts that she’d met at her café—was pulling her gently off of Style.

“He isn’t quite dead yet. That’s good. Bringing back the recently expired is a huge drain. They call me ‘Weiner’ because all my jutsu are weak and pretty much useless—but I can do this,” He said.

Blue-white mini bolts of lightning two and inches long ran all over Weiner’s body. The lightning soon engulfed Style from head to foot and after twenty or thirty seconds he opened his eyes and sat up.

“Yes!” Style shouted.

“I just have a little bit left. You are going to be sore all over—but with those swollen eyes you aren’t going to be able to see at all when you come out of black out,” Weiner told her.

He grasped her head and Millicent felt like she’d stuck her tongue in a light socket for a moment. Her eyes, torn ear, busted lips and some small cuts and scrapes were all gone—but the healing had gone nowhere but to her head.

“Weiner is it? You aren’t still blacked out. Why are Style and I still blacked out?”

“That is an interesting question. I don’t know. I’m just a screw-up that the team keeps around for comedy relief,” Weiner said.

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Chapter Eight

We whipped the revenuers soundly. Everyone on my team survived but three townspeople were killed along with five Adepts. Gary and Asylvester had escaped us.

I wasn’t sure how high up the rot penetrated the Central City enclave and consequently I didn’t deem it safe to return there.

The govie retaliated against the small Missouri town before we even had time to return. Fortunately most of the residents were either with us or they had evacuated in anticipation of some sort of retaliation.

Drones: sometimes at least some men may balk at the order to brutally murder men, women, children and house pets in a designated area. The drones have all the piloting and targeting skills in their hard drive so all it takes is someone with the wit to call up a satellite map display, click on an area and punch in how many drones, how many rounds of ammunition and what caliber that you want to strike your highlighted area with and you’re good to go.

The drones had apparently pounded the town with the 35 mm depleted uranium rounds to really bust things up and then they’d pounded the rubble with a mix of .50 Caliber BMG and the military +P 7mm08 rounds.

All my team members were in persistent black out except for Sardou who was in persistent red out. We had twenty-four men from the town and seventeen women in persistent blackout.

“What means this?” I said to Fear and Trembling.

“You have been steadily increasing your chi and strengthening your jutsu. Today you stretched your black out jutsu beyond all sane limits. You were pumping so much energy into your shared ability that some folks’ body/mind/chakra tree or whatever said ‘Yes!!’ and then pinched off big piece and kept a bit of the jutsu for themselves,” Fear said.

“So they all have black out now?” I asked.


“But most of them aren’t even raw beginner Adepts. Why don’t they turn the black out off?” I asked my Ravens.

It burns beaucoup chi as well as bodily resources to leave the black out on for long periods of time.

“They will turn it off when it has been thoroughly integrated in their bodies. Until then they won’t be able to turn it off. It’s more than a bit worrisome because at some point if they don’t find the off-switch they will be in danger of burning out completely—even unto death,” Fear said.

“Can we help them?” I asked.

“No, they must live or die by their own efforts—or their fitness to field a powerful jutsu. I’m not being callous. There is simply nothing we can do to help them,” Trembling added.

I was more than a bit glum. The black out was the only noteworthy jutsu that I’d mastered. It had been unique in Murim. Now there were other folks with black out. Now there were folks with black out crawling out from under every rock and out of every crack in the plaster.

The chef named Ringer had black out. The café was pretty much collapsed but with his black out he knew exactly where his Colts were were. He got Billy in his giant form and Jason with what had become close to superhuman strength to help him move roof beams and such.

Two of the Colt Diamondbacks were dusty but undamaged but the third one had taken a direct hit and was warped beyond salvage. Ringer’s face twisted into rage as he examined the antique weapon. His 10 Gauge would need a new butt stock but wasn’t damaged otherwise. His pistol-gipped double 12 Gauge was undamaged.

Ringer also dug out two of the double 12 Gauges and the double 20 Gauge. He gave a double 12 Gauge to a man with persistent black out. He gave the other 12 Gauge and the 20 Gauge to women who had black out. Each shotgun came with a bandoleer of cartridges and a reasonably good but cheap Kabar knock-off knife. The 20 Gauge also had a bargain .38 Special revolver riding in a holster on the lowest part of the leather bandoleer.

Ringer came to me once he had his guns distributed to suit him.

“Know anyone who can make a new stock?” he asked me.

“I can do it but it’ll take me long while. We’ll ask around,” I said to him.

“Do you know much about Missourians?” Ringer asked.

“No. I am from Indiana. I’ve spent time in Northern Georgia, Eastern Tennessee and the Western Portion of Virginia. I’ve spent a lot of time in Kentucky. I’ve only driven through Missouri a few times,” I said.

“You will understand then. Country kinfolk are mostly the same the world over. They say that long ago the old ways had almost died out. Nowadays with most of the folk in the cities those of us who want to live off the land or at least live free have had to learn to sick together in troubled times,” Ringer said.

“Everyone here has someplace to go to and has kin willing and able to take them in. On the other hand those with The Mark of Cain have decided to band together and become a new clan. We’d like you to be our leader,” Ringer added.

As he dropped that bombshell in my lap his eyes went back to normal.

“Without expert training the black out ability will be a huge liability for them,” Trembling said.

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

I ended up with almost eighty townsfolk. There were forty-one with persistent black out but some had wives, children and even brothers, sisters and parents who were loath to be separated from them.

I found a four hundred and eighty acre farm a bit south and west of Robards Kentucky well off Highway 283.

There was a big farmhouse with a big kitchen sized to suit cooking for a large extended family with several hired hands. There were two barns though they were both rather ready to fall down.

Many of our menfolk and even some womenfolk were handy at carpentry and bricklaying. I used much of our team’s joint money as well as some of my own and what I could raise from some of the others to get the barns in shape as well as doing some work on the house.

We housed as many women and children in the house as we ccould. We turned the larger barn into a sort of dormitory. There was a hodgepodge of vehicles parked in the yard of the farmhouse. There were a couple cab-over truck campers a converted step van and two busses we converted as living spaces. One of the busses had no engine but had been bought and towed to the place purely as a living habitation.

The rest of the winter and spring were hard. We had some foodstuffs and canned goods that the townsfolk had been able to salvage from their homes—especially those that had lived outside the town limits. We bought bulk foodstuffs—corn, wheat, rice and suchlike—and milled it by hand to make bread, cornpone or whatever.

I used the guidance of my ravens and Sardou and Vee helped boost my chi output and put a half-assed barricade around the property. If someone were to approach the place he would find himself guided around it without being aware that he was being charmed and guided. If he were determined enough and kept backing up and hitting it again he’d get through eventually though.

I added in about a hundred and eighty acres of both woodlots and pasture that lay on the boundaries of my property. No one was using it so we might as well take squatter’s possession.

The woodlots were good places to hunt, poach and scavenge food. They were also the source of deadwood to burn and even a few live trees were cut for various uses although that had to be done with circumspection if we didn’t want to end up without any woodlots. Of course our few expert hunters ranged far afield and venison became one of our staples that first winter although many of the late season deer were more than a bit lean and tough.

Spoil Airgetlám said that throwing a spawn and keeping him alive as long as possible and diligently working to the limit builds up both numbers and the power of one’s spawn but also increases one’s overall chi.

There were only a few trades that I could do for cash. I send one spawn to work in a small slaughterhouse as a kill-floor butcher. I worked four days per week and I was paid one hundred dollars per day in cash. I also got a good bit of meat as a fringe benefit of my job. Some of it was offal and stuff that few folks eat. Some of it was low quality meat or meat due to go bad soon and some of it was a genuine bonus.

I was a reasonably good machinist though there was small call for that in the professional computer driven modern manufacturing world. Sometimes out in the boonies though a farmer or manufacturer would need a one-off replacement part and there were a few master machinists around to serve them.

I found a thirty-hour per week job as a tool and die making apprentice. The job payed minimum wage but in cash without taxes being taken out. I spent over half my time sweeping floors. I did get to learn a few more machining skills or tricks and I often got to rustle through the scrap dumpsters and claim the occasional piece of usable scrap.

The simplest thing would have been to pop the corks of the two spawn at the end of their workday. Instead I had them stay alive as long as humanly possible while eating, training or meditating to increase their chi reserves.

I could throw three spawn so in one way I wasn’t really pushing my limits unless I had all three spawn in play. The third one hunted, gathered herbs in the woods and fished a great deal in the Green River. He also managed to pick up some day work occasionally—though he was paid by foodstuff or barter as often as not.

Much of my cash went to buy food. A few of the townsfolk also netted jobs but unlike me they couldn’t don a fake face and if they were caught they couldn’t simply pop their cork.

Things started looking up about mid spring. We bought chickens, rabbits and a few goats to raise. We were fattening several pigs and we had a pair of milk cows.

There was a small tractor that came with the farm. It wouldn’t run but it wasn’t hard to fix.

We used the small tractor to plow up several acres and farm them intensively. We also put in quite a few grapes, blackberry vines and strawberries though we didn’t hope to get much return on them the first couple years.

I got an excellent deal on a wrestling mat and some exercise equipment from an old high school that I helped to tear down. Several of my compañeros and I managed to salvage a great deal of glass and usable lumber from that job.

The second barn was now suitable to be a small and simple—but genuine dojo.

“Dudes it is like: it is the first day of June. By my reckoning that is the first day of summer. The whole idea of y’all hangin’ with me is so that I can train you. We haven’t done a bit of training since we came here in early march. I’ve trained and a few of my team trained a bit, but group training was not,” I said.

“There is no criticism intend. We haven’t had opportunity or the wherewithal to do any serious training until now. Truth be told, we were too busy surviving,” I added.

“We’re all going to start training as of today. We’re going to start out with three good solid hours of judo starting well before sunrise. Tomorrow I want everyone dressed and well warmed up and ready to start training at 4:30am,” I said.

“Friends, judo can be fun but it can also be boring and tedious. Most people enjoy free-fighting but getting the skills to free-fight safely and effectively tries many folks’ patience,” I continued.

“Falling properly the judo way is a rather simple tumbling skill but you need to practice until the falls become automatic.”

“Our next activity will be drills. That is where you throw someone who isn’t resisting again and again with me criticizing your technique. If you don’t drill you won’t get good and if you don’t continue to drill then you won’t get better,” I said.

“I’m not some starving sensei who needs to make living off of his dojo. You need me and not the other way around. We’ll do it my way. The first six months will all be falling drills, tumbling drills and throwing drills. When we have six months in I’ll consider letting you fight,” I said.

“After morning judo you’ll all be free to go to your daily tasks. If anyone simply cannot make it to morning practice there will be an alternate judo practice at night. Starting at 6:30 in the afternoon we will have our second practice. It will run until 10:30pm,” I said.

“Judo is good insofar as it goes but it is not the answer to all things. In the second practice we will study Adept skills, striking and throwing,” I said while shaking my head.

That was a whole bunch of stuff to cram into an afternoon practice.

“Friends I wish that I could train y’all Monday, Wednesday and Friday for eight or nine hours and then leave you free the balance of time to practice on your own as well as to do other things. The books say that is how the Adepts trained in Spoil Airgetlám’s day. We don’t have that luxury. We have to earn our living as we go and the government isn’t making that easy for us,” I said.

“Now a big part of becoming an Adept or more importantly a powerful Adept is to accumulate chi. Accumulating chi takes a long time. There are ways to artificially create chi and bolster one’s power. Once there were chi tablets that would add a lifetime’s accumulation of chi to your reserves in one tablet but the techniques to create such tablets are largely lost.

“I do have a number of chi supplements that will give each of you as much chi as you could accumulate on your own in about three-and-a-half years of very dedicated practice. Chi isn’t everything. You need to learn to open your chi meridians. You must be able to control and direct your chi and finally, chi is of no use without you having techniques to use your chi.

“We have the cart before the horse here because most off you have inherited a powerful jutsu without the proper training to use it or the chi reserves to really get into it.

“Everyone gets a ball with three-and-a-half years worth of chi. Then we’re going to put in three years of good solid training. Then I have another tablet for you with another three-and-a half-years worth of chi. Hopefully most of you can handle ten years worth of chi quite well with three years of intense training under your belt.

“Most of you won’t get any interim supplements though if I think that someone could truly benefit I might give him extra. Eat up friends,” I told them.

“Is this dangerous?” Sardou asked me.

“Not so much,” I said. ”Much of the risk has been distilled out of these. Besides they’re already at risk with my black out jutsu inside them. This is the safest course to get them to where they don’t have a black out booby trap sitting ready to kill them or seriously mess them up anytime they happen to jostle it.”

“Those aren’t the chi-drops that I gave you are they?” Neat asked.

They were physically larger. They didn’t have the bitter aftertaste of Neat’s drops and I was in the possession of far too many of them for them to be Neat’s.

“No and I’m going to tell you to your face. Those pills that you gave me only had about three years worth of chi and they were severely adulterated with several noxious chemicals and jutsus,” I said.

“I swear to you…” Neat began.

“It’s alright but let me ask you a couple questions. You don’t need to tell me. If you did in fact know then it would be privileged information. Where did you get the chi-drops? Who gave them to you? What enclave are you from? Where is it? You don’t know and if you pick at it enough then all sorts of seemingly urgent mental red herrings will show up to get you off the trail. Stay after those questions without becoming obsessed and without letting them spoil your happy moments. That is your path toward mastery,” I told him.

After I gave everyone his chi-drop I took one myself.

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

I met my team good and early the next morning.

“I wanted to give each of you an extra chi-drop. You’ve had almost twenty hours to assimilate the one from yesterday and I wanted us to take these together as a team. If something should happen to me I want y’all to have at least this much from me,” I said.

“What could possibly happen to you? Weiner demanded.

“Well you never know,” I said.

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

I waited until the evening class and the make-up judo class was finished. I’d asked all three of my spawn to join me.

I handed each of them a chi-drop.

“I have no idea what giving a spawn a chi-drop will do. Spoil Airgetlám’s big kahuna spawn took a handful of them after Spoil crossed over to him. But a big kahuna isn’t a regular spawn and after the transmigration he was even less so. If you survive then I want you to meditate and improve your chakra trees as much as possible whenever you can spare the time,” I said to them.

I spoke to Fear and Trembling.

“Would you guys like one?” I asked them.

“Yes, I’d…” Trembling said.

“It’s too dangerous,” Fear cut him off.

“Dangerous or not, I want to try one,” Trembling insisted.

He took a bright red one.

“If that kills him then I might as well be dead too. Give me one too,” Fear said.

I counted out five of the petrified chi-drops that Neat had given me. Spoil had said that one of the pure chi balls that he’d given me would purify any amount of Neat’s impure drops. I counted them out and chewed and swallowed seven of Neat’s drops.

I washed the dry gumdrops down with some cola. I chewed one of Spoil Airgetlám’s pure chi-drops and then I ate another.

After finishing the second pure chi ball I felt bloated and I didn’t want to consume anymore. I sat and sipped cola for a long time—maybe it took an hour for me to finish the now lukewarm soft drink.

I only had one of the chi-drops left that was supposed to contain a whole lifetime’s worth of chi. I had to take small bites and swallow hard to get each piece down, but at long last I’d finished the ball.

There was a small icebox in what served as my office in the dojo. I poured myself a large glass of ice water and chugged it. Then I got out one of the chi-enhancing drinks. This one had ginseng, ginger root and he ground antlers from deer in the velvet stage. The drink was based on pineapple juice with a bit of sugar and yogurt added—and just a wee mite of Everclear—just for a wee bit of biting taste. The ethanol content was only about four percent.

I poured myself about a pint-and-a-half into a big insulated cup with a no-spill top and took it over to the judo mat.

The bare walls annoyed me.

“What this dojo needs,” I told myself. “Is some psychedelic and fluorescent paintings on the walls.”

I decided to acquire some hardboard or Masonite and see if anyone in our happy band had any artistic skills. I knew that I did but there was no need to hog all the potential spots on the wall.


If I could acquire some UV lights fairly cheap I might place them over a few of the better fluorescent paintings. That’s right, UV functions best in subdued regular lighting. How about I make some fairly wide strips of the brightest possible LEDs with about half of them red and about half of them UV…

Kanō Jigorō the founder of Judo had two axioms:

“Maximum efficiency with minimum effort”


“Mutual benefit to all.”

Over the years I’d come to realize that you can only pursue maximum efficiency when deadlines are of no concern. Speed generally means sacrificing quite a bit of both frugality and efficiency on the altar of expediency and the almighty dollar.

Men cannot work to their mutual benefit while some are determined to do nothing and exist by the efforts of others or at least to bleed some unearned cutter from the producers to give to non-producers.

Still Kanō Jigorō was a grand fellow and if someone could write those maxims in Kanji they’d make bang-up wall hangings.

I was tempted to sit in the lotus position and meditate on my chakra tree and chi distribution. Meditation and visualization were certainly in order. Siting in the lotus…


If one or both of my legs were to go to sleep and I was too zonkered to notice, I might have serious nerve damage or gangrene by the time my morning students showed up...

I placed a small pillow under my butt and leaned against a padded wall with my legs spread straight out before me on the vinyl padded wrestling mat.

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

“Are you alright Sensei?” one of my new students said while shaking me vigorously.

“Huh! Yeah I be fine. I just fell asleep there for a few minutes.

I managed to get through class though my talk was a bit monotone and my eyes a bit glassy. Fortunately I had Sardou as an assistant instructor. I’d ask her to demonstrate each formal position and break fall procedure.

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

Yeah but the interesting thing is what happened in between taking the last pill and awakening that morning.

I went to visit Spoil Airgetlám again.

This time there was a comfortable stool before the throne for me to sit on. My mind was clear but my body seemed drunk all on its own. Sometimes keeping my seat on the stool felt like staying on bareback of a bucking bronc.

“You are absolutely incorrigible,” Spoil Airgetlám said. “What am I to do with you?”

That was the first thing that he’d said.

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Chapter Nine

“Coil,” who and what do you think that I am?” Spoil Airgetlám asked.

“I am not sure how to answer that,” I said.

“Am I the ghost of Spoil Airgetlám?” he asked.

“No. God doesn’t suffer the spirits of the dead to wander the Earth. There are no ghosts,” I stated confidently.

“Okay, the dead don’t walk the Earth, but could you meet one in a dream or vision?”

“I don’t know. God chooses his own means without let or hindrance from man and his ways pass understanding—but it seems unlikely on the face of it,” I said.

“Okay, two other possibilities are that I’m angelic or demonic. I assure you that I’m neither. An angel wouldn’t lie so that rules out me being an angel. A demon or unclean spirit would be happy to lie but let’s let that one hang momentarily,” Spoil said.

“Alright, what are you and what is your point?” I said.

“I am a flesh and blood man just like you. Although I’m still alive, I mostly dwell elsewhere—and not entirely of my choosing. You are the first but I’m persuaded that there will be others over the years. You are among my kin living on Earth that I can contact and aid,” Spoil said.

“Let me get this straight: I’m kin to you?” I said.

“As a point of fact, your mother was my great-great-granddaughter but you know that all kin don’t share DNA,” Spoil said.

Then he shook his head sadly.

“Why are you eating chi boosters as if you were striving to overdose? Why the tactics of despair?” he asked.

“The black out was my unique jutsu and truth be told it was my only real claim to being special. Now there are close to fifty folk with my black eyes. Weiner has his healing power and his huge number of spawn. Robin commands the wind. Jason summons water. Neat has his rats and ravens. The only real thing that I have going for me now is Fear and Trembling and only because you gave them to me,” I said.

“You are the leader of a very powerful clan. You are kekkei genkai. The others with black out are not kekkei genkai but their children and grandchildren will be. You are a competent leader and a talented teacher—is that not enough for you?” the king asked.

“When you say it like that I suppose that I should be content. Perhaps I’m ungrateful,” I said.

“Perhaps, but men always strive for more. I have three gifts for you. While your supply of chi-drops will last through the three-years of preparation that you’ve planned they will be all but exhausted by then—and I have no more of them for you,” he said.

“Right now you are relying on them too much—but there are reasons. But the art of creating and properly using them should not perish from the Earth. They have a place in Murim,” Spoil Airgetlám said.

He gave me a book that told how to create chi-drops. The book would always be merely an artifact in my memory or inner world but there was nothing to prevent me from copying the book in the outer world for the benefit of my clan.

“Thank you,” I said.

“ You know how to create true enclaves that exist outside of ordinary time and space but you lack more than just enough chi to proceed. You also need a big kahuna. Big kahunas come to exist when the number of spawn grows large. Your friend Weiner should start manifesting big kahunas soon,” He paused and looked at me.

“You will never be able to field very large or even large numbers of spawn. That isn’t one of your abilities. Yet you need a big kahuna,” Spoil said.

There was nothing to say. He seemed to be saying that I was constitutionally and congenitally unable to fulfill my geas.

“Always—and I mean Always—cheat. I can rearrange your chakra tree to allow you to throw a single big kahuna. The big kahuna and the three spawn that he will bring will add four spawn to your entourage. More importantly it will let you create an enclave when the time is upon you,” Spoil Airgetlám said.

“You want a fighting jutsu. You will never master wind, water or fire. You have little capacity to use Earth power—very few do. You know how there are five “Elements” in The Outfit’s Scheme. Some Chinese systems include wood and metal as key elements. You have just enough wood nature to stoke your groves and orchards into bounteous good health, very rapid growth and productivity. Your modest wood nature also makes you a subtle worker of wood yet your command of wood will never become strong and fast enough to be a weapon,” he said.

“You could become very good at commanding metal—and you should—but it will always be a secondary skill for you…

“Your main skill is commanding lightning and electricity. I have almost no ability with electricity but watch what I do,” Spoil Airgetlám said.

Then he created tiny one-inch bolts of static spout from his right—and silver—index finger.

“Thank you,” I said.

That was all that I had time to say.

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

They took three years to train Adepts in the old days. Most of our people had to divide their time and energy between training and either a job or farm chores. Also several of our trainees had children.

On the other hand most of the trainees already had black out in their repertoire. It might take six months or sixteen but once they could black out at will their fighting power would soar. Also we were speeding up everyone’s chi accumulation with the chi-drops. It might be two years until they could harness the chi to good effect but nonetheless when the day came they’d have a large windfall of chi to draw on.

That wasn’t exactly correct either. Both the black out—even if it wasn’t in actual use—and the large reserves of chi made skills easier to master and speeded the body’s development of its own chi-building structures.

At any rate I had planned three years of training and practice before we advertised our services. More is generally better though and when three years came I mentally postponed “Graduation” a week at a time until we were halfway through the eighth month of our fourth year when I finally pulled the trigger.

Sardou and a few others asked for a brief meeting to be held the day before graduation. I called everyone who was free to come to the assembly. Truth be told I was curious.

“Your sensei asked me to give you this when the time was right,” Sardou said. “As some of you know, third dan or sandan in judo means that one is qualified to teach. If anyone thinks that Coil isn’t qualified to teach without supervision please say so.”

Everyone had a good laugh at that.

Honestly though—it wasn’t so much that I was good at teaching or poor at it either. It needed to be done and no one else stepped forward.

I was still wearing a brown belt. I’d never even been awarded even shodan or first dan black belt in Sensei’s class. I felt that I was overdue for my black belt but Sensei always said not to put too much stress on ranks and belts.

Murim ranks are generally awarded by a local quorum of black belts instead of through a nation wide organization. It is open to occasional abuse of course but awarding myself the title: “Supreme 118th Degree Platinum Belt Field Marshal Coil,” would just make me look delusional—especially if I had nothing to support my grandiose titles.

The belt had “Sandan” embroidered with white thread in kanji on one end and my name rendered phonetically in Hiragana on the other. I removed the brown belt and donned the black one to everyone’s intense delight.

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

My mystic bag didn’t have anywhere close to enough room to hold all the chi-drops that I’d extracted from it but my ravens had warned me that the bottomless supply was about exhausted.

I sat and counted the remaining drops several times. Fear demanded a drop and then Trembling wanted one too. Then to my surprise they both insisted on a second one. I was willing to give them both two. They were important enough to me to be well worth the investment. It was just that they generally wouldn’t touch the chi-enhancers.

I summoned my big kahuna and had him summon his three underlings. I gave each of the underlings a chi-drop and then I presented the big kahuna with two of them.

“Eat those and then go meditate and bulk up your chakra tree until further notice. Of course you can stop occasionally to eat, drink or go to the bathroom,” I said.

I still had three of Neat’s bitter little petrified gumdrops left and I was loath to let them go to waste. I ate them and washed them down with some coffee. The big chi-ball in a couple days would purge out any impurities.

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

“Dudes, it is like: it is graduation day! As I promised, I have a chi-drop for each of you. This may be the last one most of you ever get. My supply is rapidly approaching zero—so make the most of this power,” I told them.

Our farm was nowhere near hermetically sealed so I wasn’t shocked when a half-a-dozen Adepts had come from far and wide to join us. Sardou was a fair contact reader so we were reasonably sure that they weren’t spies or saboteurs. We picked up about three-dozen aspiring Adepts from all over and we still had twenty-five of them so far.

Some of the children who’d come to the farm with their parents also wanted to take part. Some trained with us from the beginning and others had only become old enough to join out training somewhere along the way.

Strangely if even one parent was a black out then all of the children “inherited” black out as well—even though the children were born well before their parent’s acquired black out.

My ravens assured me that although these chi-drops were powerful that they were also super safe—safe enough even for the teens.

I got everyone lined up and handed out the chi-drops to everyone. I gave Sardou two because she was my ever-present bodyguard. Weiner, Billy and Jason got two—Weiner because the multiple spawn he threw ate chi. Jason and Billy because their gigs were also chi-intensive.

Vee got two because I valued her fire jutsu very highly. Finally I held back two for myself. That left only eight in the bag. We’d have to make do with what we had or make more of our own.

“People, you have today off and tomorrow too. After that I want everyone back in practice. It may be difficult or even impossible to train many skills on the road or on assignment—but training never ends—that goes double for the visualizations and the meditations. You can do chi-building anywhere,” I told them. Then we all ate our chi-drops together.

Yeah, about that…

Spoil Airgetlám had said that each chi-drop held about as much Chi as an Adept with good chi-building skills could amass in three-and-a-half years. I think his exact words were: “at least that much.”

Each of these last chi-drops held about sixty-five years worth of chi—and I’d taken two of the damned things on top of the three impure drops a couple of days earlier.

No one got sick but several folk thought that they were on a trip that would never end—especially those of us who’d eaten two.

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

The man’s name—or at least his handle—was “Julian Anagram.” It might have been a pseudonym or a nom de guerre but if so he’d put it on his building, delivery trucks and stationary.

Julian was modestly fat but it was hard to express just how physically soft he was. I don’t think that his pudgy pink hands had ever held a hammer or a saw. I’d wager that he’d never had a blister. He wore a tailored suit that was very expensive but the prime desideratum was that the cloth be soft and the cut comfortable.

I was undecided whether I wanted to work for him or not. He was as dangerous as a two-headed coral snake with piles.

His weapons were a razor sharp mind, a complete lack of conscious, ample funds and a big stable of armed and brutal thugs in expensive three-piece suits. Those dudes would hurt, kill or torture without the slightest hesitation.

He was having his interstate deliveries hijacked by armed gangs of brigands. I had no idea what he was delivering. More likely than not, I didn’t want to know. Obviously he’d paid off the proper laws and it was probably one of his bribed laws who was tipping off the brigands—but who can you go to complain?

We had decided to package ourselves in three to five man teams. We weren’t a fighting force as much as we were a force multiplier. I expected much of our business to come from other Adept groups once word got around.

In one way, having the ins and outs of our jutsu widely known wasn’t a good thing. On the other hand there was no way to keep such things secret if we wanted to advertise and pick up work.

Juian’s standard procedure was to transport the goods in a semi with a shotgun rider and then have a car with two or three gunmen in front and another car following the truck.

“Do you understand what I’m offering? I will supply three adepts with blackout. One sits by himself in the back seat of the front car. One rides in the semi and one rides in the back seat of the trailing car,” I said.

“Why are you so particular about the seating?” Julian asked.

“The best shot rides alone and in the back because then he can fire out either window. Your man will ride passenger side and your driver will be armed. If you want to get some three-seat vehicles and add a man I’m cool with that. You might also want to send a couple of guards on motorcycles,” I said.

“This ain’t Roadwarrior. Dudes on bikes will only get squashed,” Julian’s lieutenant said.

“That’s shows that you don’t understand. When my Adepts black out all of your men will black out too. Imagine seeing and thinking thirty times as fast as normal while your body can move twice as fast all while you have perfect awareness of everything around you,” I said.

I let Julian and his segundo black out for about three seconds.

“O yes!” Julian said. “How delightful!”

“You say that you send a shipment every two weeks. Fifty-two weeks in a year. That’s twenty-six in six months. Divide by two is thirteen. I will send three Adepts to guard fourteen shipments. The price is $500 000—in cash and up front with no refunds for early cancellation. That is non-negotiable. I’ll guard your next sixteen shipments for $350 000. We’ll consider the price of future escorts after the first two terms have expired,” I said.

“That’s a lot of money,” Julian said.

“Don’t pay. Goodbye,” I said.

“I’ll pay, but I’ll need a demonstration first,” Julian said.

“Do you have a place where men can fight? Three of your men with black out should easily be able to whip ten of your men without it. We’ll specify a serious but friendly contest—no deliberate attempts to kill, maim or break bones. Stack your best men in the group of ten and give me average fighters for my team,” I proposed.

“I want eleven men on my side,” Julian said.

He was a chronic chiseler.


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

They’d cleared out a section of warehouse—or maybe they kept that area clear for whatever. Everyone took off their jackets, ties, jewelry and whatever. I spent five minutes showing my three how to use black out to their best advantage.

I don’t think that the eleven took my instructions to heart much. They come in seriously swinging to hurt my people.

I’ve said before that a lot of fighting in black out looks like simple good luck. A knockout bunch just barely misses a jaw. A finger pokes an eye seemingly by accident. When you can see really fast and move fairly fast the effect is much like the attacks of drunken style kung fu insomuch that craft looks like happenstance.

Even my claims as to the efficacy of black out had been deliberately watered down. Never reveal your true strength until you have to.

Julian was steadily edging away from me as the fight progressed. He thought that I wouldn’t notice because of the fight even though I’d let him experience 360-degree awareness.

He pulled a little gold-plated .25 Automatic with mother of pearl grips. It was a pretty little gun. He shot it into the air and shouted.

“Take him,” he screamed.

Ten men in the hard-shelled black armor of the federal storm troopers came into the room from several entrances. There were four sumos weighing well over four hundred pounds each. There were five regular troopers with round Lexan shields and four-foot hollow aluminum nightsticks weighted with a bit of lead in the distal end. The tenth man stayed back and shouted at me to surrender through an electronic megaphone.

A sumo dove at my legs. Keep I mind that these weren’t true sumos but Adepts who’d concentrated on bulking their muscles to the maximum extent their chi allowed them to. An Adept sumo weighing over four hundred and fifty pounds probably has less than thirty-five pounds of fat on his body.

I placed a hand on his helmeted head and did a one-armed cartwheel over him.

A second sumo grabbed me from behind while his mundane partner loaded up to hit a home run across my mid-section.

There was a tremendous bolt of lightening and I disappeared. It fried the sumo and blinded and deafened anyone who wasn’t protecting his eyes and ears with chi.

“I’m over here dumbass,” I said from behind the fellow who’d just tried to baton me.

As he went to turn around I grabbed his helmet and wrenched it quite hard enough to break his neck. I grabbed a charging sumo and used a jujitsu style throw that broke his wrist and dislocated his elbow and shoulder all at one time.

He’d probably regain his feet and fight on one-armed so I drew a saber seemingly from thin air and ran him through. Their armor isn’t all that effective against a chi-sheathed sword.

I threw three Kunai right handed and eliminated the last three of the fighting mundane—unless you counted the dude with the bullhorn who as hanging back.

A sumo had picked up a pair of discarded four-foot batons and he charged me like an oversized practitioner of kali. I humored him a bit catching his blows with my saber instead of simply severing the batons like they were corn stalks. I could have chopped off the ends of the thick-walled aluminum tubes but that would leave him with a pipe knifes. Pipe knives are dangerous weapons up close and personal and that’s just the way that most sumos preferred to fight.

I threw a sharpened washer hard enough to penetrate the supervisor’s visor and neatly bisect his nose. After three more super-sonic sharpened washers the boss man was down.

“Pay attention to me!” the sumo with the pair of batons shouted.

The sole remaining sumo had picked up a tangle gun lying on the floor and fired it at me.

A tangle gun fires a net about four-and-a-half feet in diameter almost as fast as sound. There are twelve ball bearings about two-inches in diameter placed all around the net’s periphery.

The tangle gun strands are about a half-inch thick, very sticky and they will bend to three or four times their length before breaking. Even the laws resort to spraying it with a release agent to get someone out of the net.

I had a number of courses of action open to me but I resolved to simply let the tangle net strike me. The lightening bolt fried the tangle net even as I transported my body about seven yards away from the baton wielding sumo and behind the one who’d fired the tangle net gun.

I was no longer in the mood to clown around so I simply sliced his head off his shoulders with my sword.

There’d been too much playing around so I simple fried the last sumo with my last bolt—even though I wouldn’t be able to use the lightening jutsu again for several hours.

Julian ordered all of his men to attack. I simple put each of them down for the count with open-handed slaps—reinforced with chi of course.

Julian had fallen to the ground and was frantically trying to scurry away.

“That’s a damned shame to drop a nice little gun like this. Mother of Pearl is rather fragile. You’re lucky that you didn’t crack one of the grip panels,” I said.

“I’m going to help you to always smile and look cheerful,” I said.

I slashed both of his cheeks open from the corner of his mouth to where his jawbone began. Then I cut out and removed a narrow curved piece of skin above each eyebrow. If they scarred over well they’d give his expression of either perpetual joy or surprise.

Finally I shot him in both thighs and through both of his palms with his Lilliputian pistol.

“Just think, now you know what pain really is,” I said to him.

All that was a warning and an advertisement since word of what happened would get out. There was no way for Julian to prevent it.

I was considering taking the trouble to try to take the cute little gun home with me but it was too much hassle. Instead I set the gun down close to Julian and popped my cork.

I hoped that abrupt disappearance of my three spawn didn’t discomfit anyone. It can’t be helped. When the big kahuna pops his cork all of his spawn cannot help but be absorbed.

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

Well that was interesting even if it was a bit unprofitable.

Did they really think that I’d send my original without my bodyguard and at least a four or five man team?


Spoil Airgetlám had related how his big kahuna were stronger than his original for a long while.

I don’t know if it was because I had comparatively few spawn and only one big kahuna. Perhaps feeding the big kahuna and his three spawn chi-drops—sixty-five year chi-drops—had something to do with it.

At any rate my big kahuna was about forty percent stronger than me. Each of his spawn were over ten percent stronger than me.

It only made sense to send my big kahuna. Like a right-hander who fights southpaw—and many martial arts advocate just that—I was putting my best foot forward.

In addition my big kahuna and his three stooges were expendable and infinitely renewable over a long enough period of time. And although it bothered me a bit that the big kahuna was so much stronger than me, in the end he was just a bit of myself that I could throw like a cartoon boomerang. He’d create beaucoup trauma and carnage and then return to me to be reabsorbed.

The use of spawn had seriously declined in the modern world. I don’t think that anyone deliberately turned away from using spawn. There were just far fewer folks who could really excel at spawning.

Vee’s number of spawn was impressive. Weiner was off the modern day scale even if he never got to the stage of throwing big kahunas. Many Adepts couldn’t even throw a single spawn—try as they might.

Adepts rarely spoke of “wet spawn” and “Dry Spawn” nowadays. If the use of wet spawn had greatly diminished the use of dry spawn had almost vanished completely.

Perhaps that made sense. Dry spawn are easier to throw and they take far less chi but on the other hand one doesn’t master dry spawn until he can throw three or four wet spawn as a general rule.

Dry spawn generally last three-and-a-half to four minutes at most. They are hollow with a tough skin about a quarter of an inch thick but even a pinprick that penetrates the skin will pop them. Three or four reasonably hard blows or one powerful blow will pop them and when they do pop the original doesn’t get anything back—no unused chi and no vicarious first person awareness.

Spoil Airgetlám had worked diligently to increase the number of dry spawn that he and his spawn could throw. He worked to add even half-minutes to their maximum life span, increase the thickness of their skin even marginally, to increase the punishment they could take and even to give them a bit more offensive capability. Any dry spawn is rather weak compared to his original but there is room to improve the power level quite a bit.

At any rate, Spoil Airgetlám found a pair of minor chakra lying on the crests of the pelvis that seemed pivotal in throwing more and better dry spawn. The oddball minor chakra had an unusually big diameter—as big around as the fourth chakra at mid-sternum. Of course they were very thin—thinner than most hacksaw blades.

I started diligently hand cranking and practicing a half-a-dozen other obscure maneuvers to build the minor chakras up. I had my big kahuna and his three spawn bulking their minor chakras as well. I even had my three spawn working on it for whatever good that did.

I intended to bulk those mini chakras to Hell and back before I even tried to throw dry spawn.

In the end though there was to be scant time to master new jutsu or hone and strengthen old jutsu. Several of the oldest and most powerful of the American Adept organizations decided that our kekkei genkai posed a threat to the modern status quo and they decided to nip us in the bud so to speak.

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Chapter Ten

“They have scouts on foot sniffing all around the barriers,” Style the one time town marshal said to me.

Style had become a full-fledged Adept over the last four years. He had black out of course. Everyone and his dog had black out nowadays. Style had very good strength and fighting skills. He was one of the minority of Adepts who choose to place a lot of emphasis on firearms after becoming proficient with the various jutsu. He could throw three spawn and since four out of five Adepts can’t throw spawn at all that wasn’t bad and it could be a lifesaving skill.

The one specialty he had was stealth and near invisibility—not invisibility jutsu. No, Style just had the knack of picking the right clothes, movements and pausing spots to fade into the background. That was why I’d had him working outside the barrier as a roving sentry.

“Tell the original to get all three of you stalking the opposition and to get back here himself,” I told him.

The Style spawn acknowledged my order and popped his cork.

We’d had another graduation ceremony and graduated another dozen Adepts since the big graduation. That was all to the good but over half of our new crop of Adepts were young enough that I didn’t want to use them yet unless there was no other recourse.

“I’ve warned you that this day would come,” Fear said. “Your forming a clan based on a kekkei genkai threatened them. There is a way that this can be handled with minimal casualties if you will trust Trembling and myself and follow our instructions.”

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

I summoned Neat, John, Robin, Vee, Weiner, Jason and Billy to my office. Sardou was already there of course.

“Neat, stay with me. Get those ravens and rats of yours watching these shabnasticators’ every move and relay anything that seems even marginally important to me. When it comes time to do it to it I want you to bravely run away. Your courage has never been in question, but you are of the greatest value to me for your irreplaceable ability to reconnoiter,” I said.

Neat had grown a few more inches and added a rat or a raven to his entourage here and there over the years as well as some range, clarity and ability to mind scan folks at a distance. He now looked like an oversized prepubescent.

“The rest of you—when the time comes you are my rear guard. It is your job to buy your kin the time they need to make a semi-orderly withdrawal. Depending on circumstances as yet unborn, it could turn into a suicide mission. Anyone who’d rather be somewhere else has my permission to go there,” I told them.

“Right now there is something that I need to attend to. I’m going into my private office. Don’t disturb me unless it is something truly urgent,” I said.

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

Once I was alone I cast my three spawn and my lone big kahuna. Them my big kahuna threw his three. Six spawn, a big kahuna and me. That makes eight. I had eight of the big chi-drops that Spoil Airgetlám had given me. That seemed a very long time ago now.

Eight chi-drops! I’d worked many schemes of how I would distribute them when the time came—three for me, maybe five for me—who should get what I left?

I’d never imagined in my most egocentric reveries that I’d take all eight. Still the numbers matched.

I gave each spawn a chi-drop. I gave my big kahuna one and I kept one myself. If I was going through with this crack-brained scheme I’d have preferred to give two to the big kahuna, two to me and at least one chi-drop each to Fear and Trembling.

Still, I had to make do with what was on hand.

“Eat up friends,” I told my selves. “Here’s to sixty-five years’ worth of chi in one big bite.”

“Those are the most powerful and the purest chi-drops ever made,” Fear interjected. “Sixty-five years’ worth? Ha! Try two hundred and sixty-five years’ worth!”

There was no need to give instructions to my spawn. They had all been me less than two minutes earlier. They knew perfectly well what the game plan was.

We all sat cross-legged and went into our inner worlds to try to guide and apportion the tidal waves of chi that washed through our chakra trees from one end to the other and then back again and again.

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

There was a timid knock at the door. Sardou stuck her head in cautiously.

“They just broke through the second-to-last barrier. As the outer barriers are breached the inner barricades become ever easier to pierce and destroy. I thought that you would want to be told,” Sardou said.

“How long have I been in there?” I asked.

“Just short of ninety hours,” Neat chimed in.

I shook my head. Almost four days had seemed less than a half hour. It seemed astonishing that I hadn’t needed to empty bowels or bladder in the interim.

“Bring me some fast food that is calorically dense for the eight of us. I specifically want you to include eight quarts of whole milk in eight pitchers with about four ounces of cream and a big scoop of whey protein added to each pitcher,” I ordered.

“I also want you to bring me all of the foul chi enhancing drinks that you can lay hands on. Send the word for everyone to load up on calories and chi drinks—but not to the point of being too bloated to move well,” I said.

Chi enhancers on top of that massive blast of chi was kinda like throwing a few wooden toothpicks into a bonfire—but still…

I took advantage of the delivery time to make a deposit in the porcelain bank.

I spent the twenty some odd minutes that it took to get my food delivered studying the situational maps and diagrams that Sardou, Neat and Style had kept up to date minute by minute as I was on my epic trip.

All my copies sat and got in just a bit more chi balancing meditation. Every little bit helps—but also, every hour—or minute that they logged made the next minute the least bit more productive.

Food—Fried link sausage, ham, pan sausage, pancakes with beaucoup syrup, whipped cream, vanilla ice cream, apple and cherry turnover fried pies…

And once the quart of fortified milk was chugged the tasty food was washed down with some of the world’s foulest tasting but chi rich and chi building beverages.

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

Five hours later—not that it took me anywhere near five hours to eat—I stood up and addressed everyone.

“It’s time. Style I forgot momentarily that I summoned you here. Pop your spawn’s corks and grab some restorative food and elixirs. I want you to escort Neat. Can you do that?” I asked.

Style had to chumble his assent around a big sausage sandwich that he was already wolfing down.

“Style, do be careful. Neat is invaluable and if something happens to you Millicent will climb my frame.”

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


Style wasn’t sure exactly what type rearguard that his leader planned but he did know in broad outline what was going to happen next. The circular barrier would elongate and become linear.

The protected zone would only be about seventy yards wide but it would protrude a half-mile toward the front and about two miles to the rear. The sides hardened and become all but impossible to break through but there was a price. Both ends of the corridor would be wide open.

Coil and his strike force would try to keep the rival Adepts from pouring in from the front—or at least delay them. There were also a number of strategies in play to funnel and draw most of the opposition to the front.

There would almost certainly be a few die-hards waiting at the back door lest someone pop out.

There was a small covered parking lot hidden close to the far end of the corridor with more than enough vehicles secreted to transport all the refugees to their next refuge. Some of our people were very tired of retreating and it took some heartfelt rhetoric to sway those who wanted to stand and fight till the bitter end.

No one in the Black Out Enclave was weak—even those who would never be Adepts and the younger children had a certain dignity and strength. Our Adepts were even farther from being weak or timid—or even prudent. Fighting to protect their families, friend and neighbors—in short, their kin—had boosted their strength and resolve past all sane limits.

Style saw five of the fifty-foot tall Cyclopes barring the way at the exit along with seven normal-sized Adepts.

His only reaction was one of rage. He blacked out and screamed a curse made unintelligible by his bellicosity as he charged the giants.

Style had a boar spear seven-and-a-half feet long that he carried in the slipstream out of time and space. Carrying weapons in the slipstream had once been a relatively rare jutsu but it was common in our clan.

He launched the large spear at the eye of the Cyclops that was straight ahead of him. Even as he threw the spear a part of him thought that it might be better tactics to hold onto the spear rather than casting it. He was too angry to care.

The middle Cyclops roared and grabbed his ruined eye. According to the old books, once a Cyclops’s’ single eye was destroyed he popped out of existence. These Cyclopes were bigger and pumped with chi. They weren’t able to continue to manifest on this plane without their single great eye—but it took them thirty to forty seconds longer to pop.

Style could read the monster’s greater staying power and he mentally crossed off the idea of waiting until the Cyclops’ disintegration freed his spear.

He had a plan and he charged the next nearest Cyclops on his left. He unslung his mighty .45-70 as he did so.

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

Two rival Adepts were armed with kanabo. The five-foot wooden staffs were round like a baseball bat on the holding end but the last thirty inches was a robust octagonal section with a row of closely spaced and vicious inch-long spikes running down each of the eight flats.

Style was thinking that he’d need to take on the two Adepts before he could attack another Cyclops. The objects in his black out world map started to glow argent all around the borders in sympathy with his rage.

Then Millicent attacked the two Adepts with berserker fury. Millicent used a pair of shamshir with relatively long thirty-three-inch blades and saber style guards.

Both Style and Millicent had seen some convincing demonstrations that three hundred and sixty degree whirling attacks rarely worked in the real world. That was less applicable to an Adept in a black out that gave 35x thought and reaction time with about 4x speed of motion.

One had to take into account that at one hundred and seventy eight pounds Millicent could clean and push-press six hundred pounds for eight repetitions.

Millicent would take one of the “Captains of Crush” spring grippers in both hands. She used the number three—two hundred and eighty pound grippers. It was quite an accomplishment for a strong man to squeeze one closed once. They were intended for low repetitions—after all who could squeeze one closed twenty or even a dozen times? Millicent would rap out one hundred and fifty repetitions then she’d turn them over and squeeze them one hundred times upside down and then do a hundred more right side up.

Ordinary axioms of hand-to-hand combat didn’t apply to Millicent.

She was angry that her clan was under attack. She was furious that her husband’s life was at risk.

Millicent flew at the kanabo armed Adepts like a whirling dervish or the whirlwinds that heralded the presence of little folk.

Style climbed the left hand Cyclops creating climbing spikes of chi for the soles of his feet. When he had attained the giant’s shoulder he paused momentarily.

He shot the Cyclops to his left in its eye. He was using hot .45-70 loads. The old black powder buffalo hunting .45-70s weren’t weak. Style’s load added a good five hundred and fifty feet per second to the old load’s velocity and he was shooting a harder bullet with a lager meplat—or flat nose—for maximum tissue disruption.

Style wasn’t yet aware of it, but he sheathed each bullet in an envelope of chi as it left his barrel. It would fly truer and penetrate deeper while the chi envelope more than doubled the bullet’s ballistic coefficient.

He turned and shot one of the Cyclopes to his right. At that point his own Cyclops had turned his head toward Style while reaching for him with his right arm.

Style shot the Cyclops’ at close range. He went through what seemed an interminable follow through to ensure that he didn’t pull his shot. He shot the thumb on the giant hand that was reaching for him in a key tendon and at the exact instant that the bullet left the bore of his rifle he did a back somersault from the Cyclops’ shoulder.

He had meant to somersault once to clear the giant’s hand. He had no doubt that it would do its best to smash him in the thirty to forty five seconds that remained to it. He’d put way too much “Oomph!” into his spin though and he did a triple before he hit the ground.

“Hell’s belles!” Style ejaculated as he hit the ground.

He started to move toward the last Cyclops only to see that somehow his townsmen had contrived to get the monster down. One of his townsmen had appropriated his spear and was ready to skewer the giant’s eye even as Style beheld it.

Of course in his super fast mental state the tableau around the Cyclops’ head resembled the statue of the marines raising the flag on Iwo Jima.

He spied a sixteen-year-old adept named “Christopher” armed with a medieval style longsword going toe-to-toe with a kanabo armed Adept. Adepts were generally bullet resistant but when Style targeted the back of head of the club-swinging Adept his head exploded.

“Damned Nation!” Christopher shouted. “You and your wife could learn to be just a bit modest. You kill four-out-of-five of the Cyclopes while your wife kills four-out-of-seven hostile Adepts. Then you shoot the last one.”

“You have to excuse Millicent. She’s older than me and she’s getting a bit senile,” Style said while pointing to his head.

“I heard that!” Millicent bellowed across the battlefield.

Chi could be used to drastically raise one’s volume to heroic levels of course. It wasn’t even a hard jutsu to master.

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

They sent twenty-five of the fifty foot Cyclopes and fifty of the djinn in the vanguard of the invasion. The djinn were similar to—or perhaps identical to—the ones that Spoil Airgetlám had fought at Gatorworld almost two hundred years ago.

The djinn were shirtless and wore big silky ballooned britches with shoes that turned up on the end like elf shoes. They had big hooked noses, great thick handlebar moustaches and big silky turbans. Each of them carried a big leaf bladed scimitar. No, lets not forget those scimitars with forty-five-inch blades.

The Cyclopes came about by transformation. Slaying the Cyclops also slayed the Adept that had transformed but as long as the Cyclops lived he could transform back to a human.

The djinn were different. They are the closest thing to the outright demonic that I’ve encountered in Murim. They’re summoned at the cost of sacrificing three dogs per djinn. They are very hard to kill. They are mindlessly homicidal to the point that they can be a danger to the necromancer who summoned them.

If I ever learned that one of mine was dabbling in such demonic wickedness I wouldn’t exile him. I’d kill him.

I prepared to defend the entrance to the corridor. Unlike the right-handed southpaw I like to lead off each flurry with a stinging left jab or two.

Vee stepped forward and Robin “grabbed a knee”—meaning that he knelt on one knee—before her. His head was approximately centered on her sternum.

Vee could lam loose with stupendous bursts of flaming napalm. She’d gotten the speed of her napalm up to close to one hundred miles per hour and it now burned hot enough to melt some steels. She could keep it up much longer now too.

Robin waited until she’d already started momentarily. He’d managed to get his wind powerful enough to add two hundred miles per hour to Vee’s blasts. Pure air would have fanned the three hundred mile per hour napalm quite a bit but Robin had also gotten the oxygen content of his air blasts up to thirty five percent when he worked with Vee. It wasn’t quite pure oxygen but it was one more boost.

Vee and Robin launched flame after flame at the advancing hosts. The Cyclopes were moderately fire resistant but this wasn’t a modest flame. Cyclops after Cyclops went down and vanished.

The djinn were infernal beings though. All the flames did was to create a smell of burning sulfur coming off of them and it caused them to grow slightly.

Vee was close to being out of flames a long time before Robin ran out of wind. Before Vee faltered she moved back and let John take her place.

Jon had found that he had earth power. By himself he concentrated on pencil thin high pressure blasts of dust, dirt and sand that cut like a sword—like the most powerful sandblaster ever made extrapolated ridiculously powerful.

When he teamed up with Robin his sandblasts became bigger than a basketball and at lest thirty percent more powerful.

The djinn so didn’t groove on the combined sandblast jutsu. One after another melted like a slug in a salt storm.

Soon enough though, John’s jutsu was exhausted.

Vee threw nineteen spawn and Weiner threw forty. They both held back two or three.

Each of Weiner’s spawn and the original Weiner carried custom created double recurve bows that pulled two hundred pounds as well as thirty special extra robust arrows in an over-the-shoulder quiver.

Sixteen of Vee’s spawn and thirty-seven of Weiner’s archer spawn went forward to attack. Most of the spawn paired up two archers to one Vee. There were five Wieners left over. A couple of them attached themselves to one of the three man teams. Three Wieners went wide around wanting to snipe at any possible leaders hanging back in the rear guard.

Each Vee had an O Katana and the ability to spit some serious flame—though far less formidable that the original Vee’s blasts. Remember Vee was nationally ranked both in kendo and saber.

I had three Wieners and three Vees to hang back and protect the originals that stayed behind. Neither John nor Robin had totally exhausted their jutsu. Original Vee still had some flame too—though spawning had lowered her chi even further.

Jason threw three spawn and all four of the charged the clients. At five-nine and three hundred and sixty pounds and very little fat, Jason was a sort of mini-sumo.

Billy grew to nine foot and two inches and ran into the fray with his giant mace as a single. The fifty-foot Cyclopes infuriated him. He took their greater size as a not-so-subtle putdown.

In point of fact, both Jason and Billy were both stronger than the Cyclopes. I don’t mean pound for pound—although they were certainly that. I mean that they were stronger. There is a limit to how much pure strength can over come far more mass and much longer lever arms—and the Cyclopes were much more resistant to damage.

Billy ran up to a Cyclops and bashed him in the shin with his mace at just the right moment and the big giant fell to the ground. He little giant swarmed over the Cyclops’ torso to get to where he could smash his eye.

As Billy looked around for another monster to slay five of the djinn approached him in a group. Billy was in black out of course and he contemptuously batted away the oversize scimitars and bashed djinns almost hard enough atop their turbans to push the skull down into pelvic area. Djinn are reasonable vulnerable to damage to the head or beheading.

Two Wieners would run up to point blank range and shoot his chi assisted arrows at their eye. Vee would stand and guard his back while he was totally engrossed in archery.

The djinn started to target the three man teams. Vee managed a reasonably good score against them. She was quite good enough to behead a few. Their turbans made attacks to the skull difficult. Also as hard as it was to pierce the djinn’s torso it was harder yet to pull the blade free again.

Several Vees died—or more accurately popped—while she tried to pull her Katana free.

I don’t know what Wiener treated his arrows with but they worked against the djinn. Eventually the teams ran out of both Vees and arrows and then it became a rout.

The four Jasons with their brush axes attacked the giants as a team. When the djinn came after Jason he met them with jets of water from his palms that could have shattered six-inch thick Lexan slabs.


The infernal creatures proved relatively vulnerable to attack by water.

Most of the first wave of Giants and djinn were down and out. There was a very modest second wave of Cyclopes and djinn but I was more concerned by the fifty-seven hostile Adepts…


Wiener just got one of the Adepts with an arrow. Make that fifty-six hostile Adepts.

I threw my three spawn and then my big kahuna. The big kahuna threw—what did he throw? He threw three kahunas—not big kahunas, just regular kahunas. The kahunas threw two spawn each. That gave me six more spawn. It was probably true that I’d never throw huge numbers of spawn but the numbers were edging upwards.

The spawn and the three kahunas charged boldly into battle. For them there was noting for to do it but to do it.

My big kahuna touched Trembling and the raven grew enough to have picked up a van in his talons. I touched Fear and got the same result. We mounted the mighty birds.

What’s that old rap about Thunderbird wine?

"What's the word? Thunderbird!
“What's the price? A dollar twice!”

I’d about as soon drink Everclear spiked urine and bile mixed together as Thunderbird wine. My big kahuna and I weren’t going to be handing out cheap-ass rotgut wine.

Fear and Trembling had become the mighty Thunderbirds of legend capable of calling down lightening and thunder and vastly magnifying my own mighty thunderbolts.

“Fear and Trembling are upon you dumbasses. Fall to your knees and tremble with terror!” I shouted in a voice that was so loud that it shattered windows miles away.

The mighty thunderclaps that I was ready to unleash would dwarf the volume of my battle cry.

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Old 12-18-2015, 04:20 PM
RVM45 RVM45 is offline
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Counting on my fingers I have about six loyal commentators. As my writing Improves--stylistically--and the more of myself that I poor into my writing...

It seems that the less people read and comment on it.

I understand that this story is quite a bit removed from ordinary Prepper or Survivalist Fiction. I'd hesitate to put it some places if I wasn't already posting everything that I wrote there.

So far as cliff-hangers...

I'd been mushing this chapter around for several days. Today I deleted the last four fifths and started over and the words flowed.

I could write another 3000 words--except my writing time is growing to a close today. I probably won't work on it much over the weekend and I thought that y'all would sooner have 3800 words today rather than 7000 Monday or Tuesday.

Friends, truth be told:

I "Borrowed" a whole bunch of ideas, powers and themes from Manga, Manwha and Anime...

I have only recently found out how much even gifted Mangaka freely borrow ideas from each other.

I wish that I'd just used the term "Shadow Clones" or "Kage Bunshin" instead of "Spawn". "Spawn" is a very awkward word both as a verb or as singular vs plural. My text editor hates me--says my quantities aren't in Agreement.

****** you Text Editor!


Thanks a LOT Friends.

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Old 12-18-2015, 05:11 PM
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Eagle Scout Survivor Eagle Scout Survivor is online now
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I am glad you are still writing this story. I don't understand all the terms but I still love the story. Makes a nice break from the doom and gloom that is a little to possible in the world.

I might not comment or hit the thanks enough but I do check twice a day for updates.
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Old 12-18-2015, 05:44 PM
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Originally Posted by RVM45 View Post

Counting on my fingers I have about six loyal commentators. As my writing Improves--stylistically--and the more of myself that I poor into my writing...

It seems that the less people read and comment on it.

I understand that this story is quite a bit removed from ordinary Prepper or Survivalist Fiction. I'd hesitate to put it some places if I wasn't already posting everything that I wrote there.

So far as cliff-hangers...

I'd been mushing this chapter around for several days. Today I deleted the last four fifths and started over and the words flowed.

I could write another 3000 words--except my writing time is growing to a close today. I probably won't work on it much over the weekend and I thought that y'all would sooner have 3800 words today rather than 7000 Monday or Tuesday.

Friends, truth be told:

I "Borrowed" a whole bunch of ideas, powers and themes from Manga, Manwha and Anime...

I have only recently found out how much even gifted Mangaka freely borrow ideas from each other.

I wish that I'd just used the term "Shadow Clones" or "Kage Bunshin" instead of "Spawn". "Spawn" is a very awkward word both as a verb or as singular vs plural. My text editor hates me--says my quantities aren't in Agreement.

****** you Text Editor!


Thanks a LOT Friends.

Personally I dont feel the need to comment on everything a writer puts on ( virtual ) paper. It's his or her story after all. If I post it is usually at the end of a story or if a certain part of a story bugs or stands more than usual out to me.

The threshold for some inconsistency bugging me in a story like the fantasy/action-manga you are writing is vastly higher than for "Realistic" fiction.

I can only add that I like your unique writing style and adventure settings.

With best regards,

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Old 12-18-2015, 06:26 PM
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I am also one that doesn't comment on stories much but I hope you keep posting them. I have to admit, that it took me awhile to get into your last Adept story but once I did, I was hooked. Your writing style is completely different than pretty much anything I have read or usually read but it's nice to read it for a change.
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