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Old 12-18-2015, 11:24 PM
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Srchdawg Srchdawg is offline
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RVM You have a very unique writing style that I for one love and every time I see you come up with a new story smiles happen. THANK YOU for the time you spend to keep us Moar crowd happy.

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Old 12-19-2015, 07:48 AM
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I encourage you to keep going. You are doing well enough that many of us are following your story because we enjoy what you are writing.
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Old 12-21-2015, 07:02 PM
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Keep going -I love it! I'm just too busy reading to comment.
In my opinion , you have never written a bad story(at least that I've read)
I look for your work, and read all that I find.

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Old 12-21-2015, 08:37 PM
Nift Nift is offline
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I have really liked this and the previous story. Something different for here and fun. I have found that as I read more here and have less time the comments are a bigger and bigger distraction for me, so I refrain as much as possible from commenting. I know the writers appreciate the comments and some are very helpful.

I find that a thanks click is just as informative as most comments. Seeing 20 thanks for 20 nice story comments seems the same to me.

Your writing is at a level where most of the folks that give good constructive criticism see no need to comment. Thanks for the work you do on the stories and sharing them with us. Sorry if we are leaving you feeling you need more comments, but I appreciate the number of thanks you get and less comments.
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Old 12-22-2015, 03:52 PM
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Chapter Eleven

Jack London once said in “Call of The Wild” that there is a pinnacle beyond which life cannot reach.

I believe that he meant a pinnacle of both clarity and ecstasy.

One of Robert E Howard’s stories a very minor characters opined that the love cries of women soon pall and fade but that the longsword sings a new song with every swing.

That is how I felt as I flew toward the front lines of battle astride a giant raven throwing gargantuan thunderbolts at my clients.

I read once that a very large lightning bolt has more power for the tiniest fraction instant than all the electrical generating stations on Earth. Take all the power expended in the largest of thunderstorms—not one lightening bolt but all of them—both large and small—combined—and then triple or quadruple that. Then make it last five times as long as the longest running natural lightening bolt. That was what I was throwing at the second wave Cyclopes, the djinn and any rival Adepts that came to my fervid blacked out awareness.

My spawn and I had cleared over eighty percent of the hostiles when I came under ground-to-air attack.

Imagine a ball of water about five feet in diameter. It is travelling faster than sound while it is spinning at astonishing rates all the while the surface is extremely turbulent.

Yeah, I saw it coming in my black out. The thing was, even in black out I couldn’t see inside of the sphere—and it was destined to miss me by a good seven feet.

When using electricity I’m reasonably vulnerable to water attacks but spreading the current randomly around is a two-edged sword.

Some Adepts count wood and/or metal as fundamental units of existence. I don’t think that anyone numbers either light or sound amongst the fundamental properties but they’re as good and as fundamental as wood or metal.

The water walls were only about five inches thick and inside was an extraordinarily dense sphere of compressed sound. Sound is movement nicht wahr? How can one subtract movement and still have sound? You got me.

When the ball was at its closest approach to me it exploded into a gigantic burst of stupendous noise.

When I was in black out at that stage of my development I perceived at over 50x and could move a bit over 7x—and sound waves or anything super-sonic was still fast even to me.

Birds have great hollows in their chest to contain lungs to supercharge the flight muscles with oxygen. Beyond that, their humorous and some ribs are hollow, communicate with the lungs and are lined with oxygen absorbing tissues.

I mean, given “X” amount of bone “Y” inches long—a tube of the proper wall thickness will be stronger than a solid rod. Adding a bit more oxygen absorbing ability is a bonus.

A bird’s head is filled with sinuses and hollows on the same general principle—of structural strength, not oxygen absorption. I don’t know about ordinary birds but Fear and Trembling’s clavicles and scapula were also deeply hollow and connected to their lungs.

There are trade-offs. There always are. One of the side effects birds must deal with is that all sorts of respiratory ailments like tuberculosis or influenza travel through the system with far more ease and rapidity.

A bird is also more vulnerable to sonic attack. All those hollow spaces made bang-up resonance chambers.

Yeah, ask me how I know that Fear’s clavicle, scapula and sternum are all hollow and in contact with the lungs. Because when that wave of sonic pain traveled from one end of Fear to the other I felt it magnified 7x. I can still recall it in perfect fidelity today.

My eardrums were burst. My semi-circular canals had shattered. All my muscles were in spasmophia and my head ached abysmally. Fear was knocked out and falling.

Trembling and my big kahuna flew an intercept course.

“Grab hold!” the big kahuna said.

How did I know what was said? I’d never used black out for lip reading but I found that it was a hidden talent that required no prior rehearsal. As for Trembling—black out let me see his larynx and vocal cords at work.

“I won’t desert Fear!” I raged.

“Fear is going to hit the ground regardless. The impact won’t be as severe without you pulling Fear’s inert body down faster,” Trembling argued.

I grabbed my big kahuna’s arm and the spawn and the Thunderbird managed to slow my descent enough that Trembling could safely release me a dozen feet from the surface. Trembling just managed to avert slamming into the ground himself.

Fear’s body had reverted to its normal size. Fear was beaten and broken but there was still life in Fear’s body.

And here came a rival Adept to try to stomp out what little life remained to Fear.

I had started the battle riding a tidal wave of chi higher than I’d ever been able to imagine—but the gargantuan lightening bolts had depleted my chi as had the sonic blast.

Nonetheless I still had some chi and my body prioritized. It had healed my hearing and my equilibrium via my semicircular canals as well as stopped my palsied quivering. In fact my hearing and balance as well as my fine motor control were at all time highs—at the cost of more of my precious chi.

“Leave the bird and I’ll let you live,” the rival Adept said.

He looked like his whole body was made of red glossy terra cotta though he didn’t seem to suffer from any sort of stiffness, slowness or immobility. He also wore what looked like samurai armor of the same material as his body. Or perhaps the armor was a part of his body.

“I don’t think so you incestuous knob goblerian. Now is the time for you to fall on your knees and tremble with terror. If you don’t move around it will be much easier to leave a neat corpse,” I said.

He ran at me and while he moved quite nimbly his joints creaked as if someone were grinding unusually robust pottery shards together under high pressure. He drew a sword that was part nodachi and part oversized dadao with an inch-thick, four-foot long blade of glazed terra cotta.

The sword that I pulled from the slipstream was a beefed up longsword though not a true zweihander. It had a gently curving forty-inch blade and instead of a cross-guard it had a rapier style hemispherical guard six-and-a-half-inches in diameter. Of course it didn’t have all the rapier-style busy work behind the bell-shaped hilt guard.

“It is said that having a sword that is longer—even by just the width of a finger gives the length of a hand’s advantage. My sword is longer than yours by a hand’s length,” the earth-using adept taunted.

“Whoever says that doesn’t understand strategy dumbass. At any rate, this is combat and not a yard-matching contest. Speaking of which, you had better loosen your grip on your yard. It’s starting to turn purple and I’d think a weak and awkward swordsman such as yourself would need two hands to manage that unwieldy hunk-of-junk sword,” I said.

He gave a cry that was part rage and part battle cry and very redolent of creaking pottery.

As much as I hated to resort to subtlety I didn’t meet him strength to strength. Instead I crossed blades with my blade always angled to deflect his blade and not to stop it dead. Every time blades were crossed great sparks showered off accompanied by a squeal as if someone was dragging a large flowerpot full of earth across a sidewalk—or a horizontal chalkboard.

I took my right hand off the rear of my sword’s guard momentarily and threw a half a dozen supersonic washers at him. Each washer in turn ricocheted against both his exposed “skin” and his armor and went howling off into the surrounding sky. I managed to get a full-powered thrust into his chest but his armor was adamantine.

If you can’t pierce it try smashing it…

As I prepared to swap sword for long handled mace the ground between the two of us swelled and grew. I found myself facing a jet-black glossy simulacrum of the earth user that towered one hundred feet into the air.

Before I could prepare a response the giant statue kicked me backward fifty feet. The stone robot advanced upon me while its master advanced upon the now unprotected body of my friend Fear.

Have you ever heard an Indian’s battle song? They seem rather laconic like a haiku when written down. Partly the Indians insert a bunch of null words comparable to our “la-la-la” in between every word and partly they loop it.

I remember reading the war song of a Plains Indian whose name was translated—probably rather poorly—as “Buffalo Boy”. I mean “His face is like an angry storm” became “Chief Rain-in-Face”.

Like the hacker’s god Ganesh, he broke through all barriers.

“When I Run
“Nothing Stops Me.
“If Something Impedes Me
“I Trample it Underfoot.”

I ran toward the deviant Adept and the unconscious body of Fear. That dumbass one hundred foot glossy black golem thought that he stood a chance of halting my forward movement.

I have no idea what became of my sword. It wasn’t truly a weapon created by mortal smiths but rather it was the embodiment of my will drawn from the realm that lies beyond right and wrong or “is” and “is not”.

The monster tried to crush me as I charged him. He used a two-handed mace with a ball eight-feet in diameter on the end. I brushed the aggravating flyswatter attack aside with one forearm.

The golem wasn’t so easily deterred. He slammed a foot down so that his lower leg was in my way.

I wasn’t in the mood. I crashed into the statue’s lower leg and for just the barest instant you could see the ankle and lower calf of the thing with a hole shaped just exactly like my silhouette before the whole robot broke into thousands of shads that disappeared before they could hit the ground.

The terra cotta Adept hadn’t quite touched Fear when I hit him as if I could avenge every wrong and sleight that I’d ever suffered at the hands of man or fate by smiting him.

“How?” he had time to stammer.

“Earth power? Well then metal jutsu,” I said as my left hand got a firm grip on the back of his neck.

He had time to glimpse my right fist and forearm temporarily turned into the hardest metal imaginable and then I shot it through his midsection on a devastating uppercut that penetrated is solar plexus and ripped out a five inch section where his spine should have been.

I wasn’t completely sure how a stone man’s vitals worked so my second right uppercut went through his sternum and destroyed much of the heart area. A shuto hand on his left shoulder severed his clavicle and put a deep gash into his scapula.

I took out much of his throat with a pincer hand attack. Finally I grabbed his head with both hands and ripped it free of his body.

Even as the headless corpse fell I was stomping at it but all I did at that point was scatter some very fine ashes.

Just as I started to take notice of my surroundings and myself once more when a score of earthmovers came up from the ground where they’d been lying in stealth mode. They were about fifty feet away and although it took them a few seconds to fully solidify they wasted no time in coming towards me when they were able. They all looked like the terra cotta man but they were glazed in all the colors of the rainbow.

I had little hope of prevailing against so many. I felt like surges of electrical current was running through my body and all my hairs stood pleasantly on end. I had never felt such a bountiful rush.

From the realm that is beyond right and wrong I manifested a pair of maces. Each shaft was as long as my arm. There was a ball as big as a bowling ball at the end of each shaft. No one but a powerful Adept could wield such an ungainly over-sized weapon. Each ball was amply covered in two-inch conical spikes that terminated in flats almost a half-inch in diameter since the goal was to smash and break rather than pierce the stone men.

Fear regained conscious and looked around.

“Fly away!” I ordered the oversized raven.

Fear flew rather shakily to the usual perch on my shoulder.

“I think not.”

At the last moment Sardou and all three of her spawn showed up and they interposed my body between my clients and me.

“You must kill me and step over my dead body before you can touch Coil,” Sardou shouted.

“I need no one’s protection!” I protested.

Billy showed up a moment later with his oversized mace. Jason was there with one raggedy spawn still extant.

Then five Weiners and a breathless Style stepped onto the stage. Style had brought a half-a-dozen RPG launchers with several grenades per launcher and he and the five Weiners—all in black out—started launching one rocket propelled grenade after another with many theatrical but entirely unnecessary bellows of:

“Back-Blast Area Clear!”

Every time one of them launched missile.

The stone men couldn’t withstand the force of the RPGs nor did they seem able to retreat fast enough to do any good. Soon the battle was over.

“How did you know to come and bring RPGs?” I asked.

“Trembling summoned us,” Style said.

“When I saw the earth-style Adept attack I knew that was my best chance to save my mate. The big kahuna agreed and he popped his cork and the corks of the kahunas and spawn under his aegis. Didn’t you feel a stupendous burst of power?”

“Fear is your mate?” I asked.

“Fear is female.”

“You never said.”

“It never seemed important,” Trembling said.

“But you’re a great deal larger than Fear. By all rights Fear should be the male,” I objected.

Falconers often refer to a male bird as a “Tiercel” from the Latin “Tertius” referring to the fact that male birds are generally about one third smaller than the female.

“Fear and I are both the results of a breeding program. One of the desired characteristics was increased size and in that area I’m a bit more advanced than Fear.”


At this point he astute reader of my memoirs will probably realize that I’ve consistently played the pronoun game with Fear so that the reader might share my surprise. I hope that I wasn’t too obvious about it.

What? Birds’ genitals are much different than mammals’ but yes; one can fail to notice things—even in black out.

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

I’d seen both the Bowling Green Enclave and our own mini-enclave—such as it was—breached. The Bowling Green Enclave was destroyed. We had stood off the attack but at the price of alerting every Adept in North America as well as the government to our precise location.

Most of the smaller enclaves were protected by nothing but a mental labyrinth that guided non-dedicated persons around the place. The big enclaves—the true enclaves—had taken a bit of this space and relocated it into the slipstream. Aside from a handful of hard to find and easy to defend entrances most of the enclave was literally a case of “You can’t get there from here.”

I was damned tired of being chivied from pillar to post. It might stretch my available chi past any sane limit but I was determined to create a true enclave.

There was a bit over twenty-seven hundred acres available across the mighty Ohio from Madison Indiana. Long ago Madison was known for its very large mental hospital. There was a bridge over the Ohio to Milton Kentucky and the plot of ground was between Milton and Bedford.

Land located away from the urban centers and the intensively cultivated commercial farming districts was relatively cheap—but they weren’t giving it away either. My group had very limited means at that point in time.

Fortunately the land belonged to a tycoon named “Maxwell”. Maxwell owned the only remaining pottery in the United States that still turned out porcelain sinks and toilets. He also owned a furniture factory that turned out beautiful custom furniture.

He lived in a mansion built like an old time southern plantation house on a seven thousand acre piece of ground across a gravel road from the piece of ground that he was offering to me.

Maxwell was something that I had yet to encounter. He wasn’t an Adept and he said that it was too late in life for him to start down that path. Nonetheless he was an enthusiastic supporter of Adepts and his knowledge of Murim was encyclopedic and went well beyond what the typical non-Adept—and many Adepts knew.

Maxwell had three sons and a daughter by his first wife—who had died—and he had two sons and three daughters by his current wife. He very much wanted them to undergo Adept training when they were old enough.

He also sheltered and supported quite a few Adepts of a type that I’d never known existed and I wasn’t alone in my ignorance.

These Adepts had a powerful and exquisite control of earth, wood or metal jutsu. Their jutsu was just a bit too slow and ponderous to be of much use in combat—but it turned them into gifted masters of wood working, pottery, metal working and growing green things—most notably trees.

“Once you create the enclave and twenty seven hundred acres becomes inaccessible by ordinary means everyone and everything—including the damned earthworms will know that something powerful and massive has just gone down,” Maxwell said.

“The government knows quite a bit about me. It can’t be helped. I have far too high a profile to be anonymous. They know that I’m the owner of that land. When you sequester your enclave I will become a stink in their nostrils,” he continued.

“So what is your point?” I asked.

“I have a number of artisan Adepts that I’d like you to add to your clan and take under your protection. I want my children guaranteed Adept training including plenty of tutoring and extra coaching should it prove needful. Finally I want for you to take my plantation into the slipstream along with the piece of ground that I will sign over to you as payment for services rendered,” Maxwell said.

“I ain’t sayin’ ‘No’ but it is going to be problematic for me to sequester such a huge piece of territory. Sequestering the twenty-seven hundred acres in and of itself is liable to strain my ability to the breaking point,” I said.

“Have you seen my orchards and my pecan groves?” Maxwell said.

I thought at first that he was off on a non sequitur but eventually he circled back to his thesis.

“Folks think that you can’t grow pecans this far north. You can but it takes the trees longer to grow to good size and many will remain a bit stunted. The pecans are also likely to be fewer and smaller. I have cultivators with earth power and others with wood power to supercharge both my orchards and my pecan groves. I get wields that are little short of fantastic,” Maxwell said.

“I’m happy for you,” I said.

He set a small basket in front of me. It was filled with gargantuan pecans as long as my middle finger.

“These pecans have been filled with chi. They have the chi of forty-five years’ worth of wood users’ chi, about twenty years worth of earth users’ chi and about twelve years’ worth of metal users’ chi. The artisans tell me that it takes awhile to transform one type of chi into another type of chi but it can be done,” he said.

“I have the artisans concentrate on filling a few pecan trees with chi—particularly the pecans,” Maxwell said.

He placed a bushel basket overflowing with pecans on the table. His servants also started loading many baskets full of apples and peaches into the back of my truck—along with a couple tire-sized wheels of sharp cheddar cheese.

It turns out that apples and peaches aren’t a very good receptacle for chi. The apples have maybe three years worth of chi each—the peaches maybe one year’s worth. The cheese has even less but it is unnaturally nutritious and it goes good with the pecans. Eat at least one pecan a day for two or three weeks and then see what your chi is,” Maxwell said.

Maxwell you dumbass! Do you think that an Adept like me can’t tell by any number of means that you’re up to something?

My hearing is about 3x in the aftermath of the destruction of my middle ear and the chi rebuild—and I’d been practicing my father’s hearing building jutsu for a few weeks to fully integrate my new ears. My sense of smell is hovering at 5x. Even my tactile sense when we shook hands is about 3x.

That isn’t taking account of my black out. I have formed the habit of rubbing my closed eyes when seemingly in deep thought. The true reason is to conceal my black out. I can see just as well with my eyes closed and or covered while in black out—just as well as if they were wide open.

Maxwell was a mosaic of truth, half-truth and outright deception.

It was true that he wanted the enclave built. He was sincere when he gave me the fruit, nuts and cheese. Most likely once his children were all Adepts he could use them, his henchmen bodyguards, his multiple employees, the Adepts that he thought that he was concealing from me as well as his great wealth to become the Jefe of our little world.

Why would he have his artisans cramming nuts full of chi well in advance of any real need? The answer was obvious to anyone with black out and many Adepts without back out.

Maxwell wasn’t an Adept—though I can’t tell you why that he had never even tried the path—but he was using some combination of chi-enhanced food and the ministrations of multiple Adept healers to extend his lifespan. The scheming backstabber was well over one hundred years old.

Nonetheless I needed the land and the bottled chi was welcome. I’d just have to keep my eye on Maxwell and stand ready to put him firmly in his place.

It is always something.

Like the song says:

“I wish the real world would just stop hassling me.”

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Old 12-22-2015, 09:27 PM
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Another great chapter Thanks RVM and Merry Christmas
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Old 12-24-2015, 04:46 PM
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Chapter Twelve

When creating an enclave—I started with our twenty-seven hundred acres and Maxwell’s seven thousand acres as well as a few dozen acres all around the edges. I preferred to treat Maxwell’s land as something that I kept my hands off of with a strictness that approached a mania.

But it is quite possible to create extra space. In fact it is impossible to completely avoid it but in my estimation extra ground—territory if you will—was highly desirable.

There are some issues though. There always are.

The rationale that:

“I’m only using some very vivid visualizations of imaginary avatars that for some reason are effective in modifying the outer world…”

That rap really starts to drag its beat when creating enclaves.

From the realm that is beyond right and wrong—I suppose that you could call it “The Primordial Chaos”—you can create air and water and even soil.

You can create perfectly sterile and lifeless soil.

Chemically anything that contains carbon is an “organic chemical”. Indeed there are very few compounds that a living organism uses that don’t contain at least a carbon atom or two. Water, oxygen and salt are a few noteworthy exceptions.

By the way—the idea that the human body is ninety-seven percent water is arrant nonsense. Sure two-thirds to three-fourths of the human body is water but dry it out like jerky-jerky and what remains is protein, fats, carbohydrates and what not. Burn it in the presence of plenty of oxygen and the products of combustion will largely be water and carbon dioxide. But those products aren’t “Water” in their unburned state anymore than dry wood, or candle wax or gasoline is “Mostly water”.

Be all that as it may. When I say “organic” with relation to freshly minted soil I am using the term more selectively to mean humus—rich leftover material from the decay of living organisms. Freshly created soil is perfectly sterile and totally bereft of any humus and it will only support the most hardy of pioneer plants and mosses until humus builds up. That can take decades or even generations.

Rhode Island has one thousand square miles. I forget but either Vermont or New Hampshire has very close to seven thousand square miles. They’re very close in size anyway. A square mile has six hundred and forty acres and a football field without the end zones is about one acre.

Our new enclave had somewhere between three thousand and ten thousand square miles. Is that a bit vague? Space isn’t completely Euclidean in a created space nor does it always lay inert and unmoving. It is a hopeless task to accurately survey it.

Most of it was covered with sterile soil—very rich in minerals but almost totally without organic materials.

I’ve never seen an Adept who could weave non-living materials together and create true and enduring life. Believe me, I would have preferred to simply create large hardwood climax forests. Creating life seems to be something that God reserves to himself.

How could I speed it up so that some of my people could relocate to pleasant farms outside the original area as well as everyone having pleasant forests and meadows to walk through? I wanted that in by lifetime.

The land we brought with us was largely circular now. I divided the circle up into fifteen-degree sections—twenty-four all together. There was nothing magic about the number. More would have better and less not so good.

What about Maxwell’s plantation? I just had them start about a half-mile from where his property line ended.

My laborers plowed a fifty-yard wide swath for a mile like the spokes of a wheel. All along the swath charcoal, manure, and tons of crushed mussels dredged from the mighty Ohio were plowed into the soil. Then ants, earthworms and beaucoup fungi and mosses were added to the mix. Within a couple years the ground would support clover, bees, bumble bees and grazing mammals that created more manure and what have you.

At the end of each mile long section a square mile of the sterile soil was also cultivated. All that was done fairly quickly. When that was completed some of my teams started thirty-yard wide arcs to connect the square mile zones. Others started leaving spokes to a set up forty-eight square mile plots a half mile from the first circle.

I almost forgot to add—although it seems self evident—sterile soil bordering on living soil becomes converted to living soil far faster than sterile soil in isolation. Life would spread out and convert fifteen or twenty feet of adjoining soil every year in our hothouse growing conditions.

Soon enough the project dropped far lower in priority. Work slowed dramatically—but none of that was central to my presentation.

The earth-using Adepts along with the wood-users a bit later in the cycle could speed up the growth of rich soil, plants and forest trees tenfold or more. Once they had a good grove of trees growing it was time for them to move on to other square mile plots and eventually most of them moved on to other lines of endeavor completely—at least most of their time.

Life spread in all directions. Would-be farmers simply relocated wherever they chose. A man with a Roto-Tiller or team of draft horses can convert a sixty-acre plot of dead dirt to living soil plot in a season. Even a six hundred and fifty acre plot in a couple or three years is possible if he sets his mind to it.

No a man working with a team of draft horses or a Roto-Tiller isn’t going to be able to grow crops on six hundred acres but pastures and woodlots have value and many folk—including me—take the sterile Martian looking dead dirt as a question in need of a response.

Once the ground was plowed and sown it was time to hire an Adept or two to come supercharge both the soil development and the plants—particularly trees—that could grow once the soil had matured enough to support the flora.

It became a custom after a few years for a bunch of young people to disk and plant fifty or a hundred acres—usually more than a mile away from the settlement—just to help life take hold. It all added up.

Sunlight is stolen from the Sun. Just place a virtual screen somewhere to catch sunlight that isn’t bound for Earth and send it to the enclave instead of out into empty space. It is possible to increase the strength of the light subtly and add an hour or two of daylight per day during growing season and lengthen the growing season itself four to six weeks.

We had no surprise frosts, no hailstorms and no droughts. We more or less kept everything close to ideal for plant growth and soon enough the growth of greenery started to take off exponentially.

But I get ahead of my story.

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

I threw every spawn possible. I gave them all a sack full of pecans, some cheese and a few apples and peaches.

“Go somewhere out of sight. Eat at least one of these pecans every day and spend as much time as possible building up your chakra tree,” I told them.

Then I called in all my original team members and gave all of them seven of the chi-enhanced pecans. They were under no time pressure so I recommended one weekly. Then I made sure that that everyone under my care—Adept or not—got at least two of the chi-nuts.

That still left a nice bag full of pecans for Fear and Trembling and me.

When confronting some sort of complicated and unknown scam the best strategy—if you don’t feel free to walk away—is to play a hard, fast and straight game. Schemers often trip themselves up in their own tangled intrigue.

I believe that one miscalculation that Maxwell made…

First of all I don’t believe that Maxwell had a clue how powerful that I already was. Given a big basketful of very valuable and irreplaceable chi-nuts Maxwell’s instinct would be to hoggishly hoard them—but spreading them around strengthened many of my allies.

Maxwell really only wanted to have a small plantation-sized fief where he could be a big turd in a small punch bowl. I wanted to build a big enclave comparable to The Outfit’s, one of the bigger Cherokee or Seminole enclaves or the mammoth one near Huntingburg Indiana—the legendary and vanished enclaves. That’s why I was scrounging high and low for chi.

Of course once he saw the size of the enclave that I created his greed kicked in. He figured that more is always better. That isn’t always true but even when it is true there is inevitably tradeoffs and caveats. There always are.

Maxwell was something that I’d never seen or even contemplated. He used up prodigious quantities of chi just to prolong his unnatural existence and when he burned chi up it was gone.

There are boxcar lots of chi out in the world. The problem is importing enough chi into the body to do anything useful with it.

The chakras are flywheels that generate and store chi. A peculiar thing is that once the chakras reach a new high water mark they are forever altered. Suppose that my chi level is “10”. Suppose I take a pill that contains “1000” chi. Nothing is ever 100% efficient but that much chi might very well raise my chi to “700” or “750”.

From that point on my chi level will return to “750” easily and with little or no fanfare. Even if I exhaust all my chi I can get back to “750” in a couple of days, three days at most. Even the opening ports that admit chi into my body will have grown proportionately larger.

Actually if my chi were “10” a chi pill of “1000” would probably kill me, but if I managed to survive then the relative amounts would still hold true.

When Maxwell ate chi he had nothing to show for it in the long run. That’s why he had his weird Adepts frantically cramming chi into pecans. He probably thought that Adepts burned chi much the way that he did.

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

Once the enclave was established Adepts and refugees came from far and wide.

There was a large crew of carpenters who worked in the Japanese style of nail-less joinery. They built us three large dojos in the Japanese style. One dojo taught judo. One taught tae kwon do and the Brazilian who ran the third dojo put equal emphasis on capoeira and Brazilian jujitsu. Having left an indelible stamp on the center of town they settled to building homes and small shops for those who grooved on that style.

We had masons and some of the earth-style Adepts built a brick-making factory. The Artisan potters couldn’t supply everyone in town with utensils but many homes had exquisite pitchers, mugs, cups or plates imbued with earth style chi.

It was much the same with the artisan woodworkers. Many homes had a treasured piece or two. Much of their stuff was sold outside and the artisans were responsible for much of the outside currency that came into our town.

The metal artisans supplied the potters, stonecutters and carpenters with many of their tools. They also turned out wonderful knives, swords and other edged weapons.

Orchards were established far faster than usual through the stimulation of wood Adepts.

Much of the outside was experiencing hunger as the economy tanked. Our farmers sold food relatively cheap and of far higher quality than all but the best outside produce. While the fruits, nuts, cheeses, wines, pork chops—or whatever—weren’t rich enough in chi to qualify as “magic” they had enough extra chi in them to strongly stimulate the well being of unsuspecting consumers.

It seemed a charitable thing to sell them—even on the black market—to hungry outsiders.

We managed to put together a very good small arms factory and much of the black market weapons and ammunition sold on the outside in America were produced in our little factory. The metal-using Adepts could turn out steel, brass and aluminum—or whatever—that was free of even the most minor inclusions or flaws and was consequently noticeably stronger than comparable alloys used outside.

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

I had never declared myself a King or even a feudal lord but nonetheless I found that I must needs devote hours to holding court.

They brought a man before me with his three children. They were all rail thin and wearing threadbare clothing. The man had a wracking cough while the children all had runny noses.

“They tell me that you’ve been running around outside raising so much Hell demanding to talk to me that they brought you here. What do you want?” I asked.

“I want my sons to be trained as Adepts,” the man said.

“Have any of you trained in the martial arts?” I asked the boys.

They stared at me blankly.


“The father has tuberculosis. It is antibiotic resistant. He wants the boys entered in the Adept training so that they’ll have room and board for the foreseeable future. They have no apparent potential as Adepts,” Sardou said after she’d contact read them.

“You,” I said to the eldest. “What is your name?”

“’Brick’ my name is ‘Brick Tyler’,” he said.

“’Sir’, don’t forget to say ‘Sir’,” the father said.

“No, that’s cool. I haven’t been knighted—yet. Tell me Brick, do you want to be an Adept?” I asked the boy.

“I don’t know,” Brick said.

His father glared at him.

“That’s a great answer because it is an honest answer. Let me tell you a bit about Adept training. There is one question that you have to answer correctly in order to enroll. When the man asks you if you want to train, tell him ‘yes’. Now do you know what you have to do to continue training?” I catechized Brick.

“You can skip most of the training and sleep through the rest. You can argue with the instructors and get mad and shout that you quit and storm off once per month. You can fail final exam twenty years running…

“There is only one thing that will permanently disqualify you from Adept training—that is graduating. So you really should be sure if you want to pursue Adept training before you begin,” I said.

I gestured to a page. We needed pages now. Hell, donating six or seven hours per week shouldn’t hurt any of the Adept trainees. They might even learn what a pain in the rear it was to be in charge of anything.

“Get these people fed, bathed and get them some decent clothes. Take them to my house and tell my housekeeper to set them up in a spare bedroom.

“Tell me Brick—can you read? Okay, get the boy his own copy of Spoil Airgetlám’s first four books. How old are you Brick?”

“Thirteen,” Brick said.

“That’s a good age to start Adept training but you’re a bit run down and peeked. Study those books for a year and then apply to Adept school,” I told Brick.

“O yeah, once you get them settled in go by and arrange for a healer to come by and check them out,” I added to my page.

“Sardou, can you show them your red out and then spawn?”

After Sardou’s sour faced performance I blacked my eyes out, turned my right hand to metal and let some six-inch bolts of lightening run all around my fingers.

“See Brick, Adepts can do neat stuff,” I told him.

“Where did you get those eagles?” Brick asked.

“They’re ravens. Spoil Airgetlám asked them if they would like to come live with me. I was blessed and agreed to come. There aren’t any others like them—either in this enclave or in the outside world,” I told him.

“Fear will be nesting soon,” Trembling said.

I didn’t see that one coming.

“Would you like a giant raven as a companion?” Trembling asked.

The boy was speechless but he managed a terrified nod.

“You are the first in line then. You get pick of the brood,” Trembling said.

When the rag pickers were gone Sardou turned on me in a fury.

“What do you mean asking them to stay in your home?” she demanded.

I shrugged.

“The father isn’t long for this world. I know what it is like to lose a father,” I said.

“The father is contagious. There is no cure for that will work against that super strain of tuberculosis. What happens if you catch it?” Sardou demanded.

“Then I’d be ill?” I hazarded a guess. “The best way to help the poor is not to impoverish yourself until you join their ranks. We turn many away with naught but a brief prayer. Most of the refugees that we are both willing and able to accept are put up in the temporary housing—otherwise my home would be overrun with refugees. I felt that I had a special calling to go all out with these. So far as getting super tuberculosis—I’m not going to court it, but neither am I going to turn aside from my geas to try to avoid it.”

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

They say that no good deed goes unpunished. It had been sixteen years since I’d created the enclave and eleven years since the starveling sculptor had brought his three skinny and sickly children to the enclave.

The sculptor had lived three-and-a-half years after he moved into my house. That surpassed his most optimistic prognosis by at least a couple years.

He spent much of his time and energy creating his final and greatest sculpture. He got ahold of some big slabs of marble and persuaded a couple earth-users to combine the large slabs into a single flawless marble slab—all of it of just the right grain to be ideal for sculpture.

They put the damned result in the lobby of the town hall where I have to walk past it on my way to hold court or to attend a town council meeting.

There is a 2x statue of Fear in roc mode and her wings semi-folded in a stoop. I sit astride Fear’s neck with a great thunderbolt in one hand. He made the thunderbolt of polished bronze and I’m holding the jagged lightening bolt in the middle as it were a javelin that I’m getting ready to hurl.

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

I hate town council meetings. We’d wrangled and argued until we’d decided on seven seated members and seventeen standing members. Standing members had less status and less right to be heard. To avoid fractions, seated members had three votes. The chief speaker of the standing faction had two votes and the rest of the standers had one. Occasionally an extra and temporary standing member or two would be appointed.

I was chief spokesman for the seated members. Sardou sat on my right because I’d demanded that she be a council member. Neat was there because he was the head of our intelligence gathering. Neat had grown to six-one but his physique still looked like a scrawny eleven year old with improbable slabs of muscles grafted on every which way. His mental powers were a bit scary.

Wiener was also a sitting council member. Persevering in training for so long with zero results probably indicated above average perseverance. At any rate, Wiener had the drive and the IQ.

Maxwell was there. His son Nathan and his daughter Trisha were the other sitting members.

Brick was a standing member and he had his constant companion Shock riding on his shoulder. His youngest brother Stone was also a standing member and he had a raven from Fear’s third brood named “Awe”.

The middle brother Bronze had also became an Adept but he mainly used his abilities to sculpt wood, metal and stone in myriad unique and curious ways. He was seated in the balcony where the public could observe open meetings.

Maxwell’s son “Zone”—I doubt that was his real name but nonetheless that was what he went by—had just manage to procure a position among the standing members.

Most of the other standing members either worked on Maxwell’s plantation in some capacity or were soundly in his corner for other consideration.

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

“I think that we should open this enclave. We have an obligation to help the disadvantaged and it isn’t right that we have all this and aren’t paying our share of taxes,” Maxwell said.

“Maxwell you dumbass, we don’t ‘owe’ the outside world doodle-squat. We especially don’t owe the tax-gorging state anything. We contribute more to the well being of our poor outside neighbors via selling them good affordable food and we run a couple food panties for the truly bereft. That’s not counting the hundreds that we’ve brought into the fold of the enclave,” I didn’t shout but my volume went up.

When Maxwell had urged me to create the enclave he hadn’t had this compulsion to pay taxes. Yeah, he was up to something.

“At any rate—I have veto power and I will never go along with such a crack-brained scheme,” I added a bit more composedly.

“I have the necessary resources to force you,” Maxwell said.

“O do try!” I purred.

I hadn’t felt so free and easy in a very long time.

I blacked out. Sardou redded out. Brick hadn’t “inherited” black out and he’d been rather bummed out by it. By that time Sardou was on better terms with the boys. While there was no record of it ever having been done before, she managed to give him the red-out power. Red out was inferior to black out but it had its own unique abilities and it was a major ability.

Stone hadn’t gotten the black out either but he’d managed to teach himself white out from Spoil Airgetlám’s books of kinjutsu.

Zone had mastered black out with no problems it seemed. Several of Maxwell’s entourage carried curious electronic weapons concealed. Could they be the power robbing devices that Spoil Airgetlám encountered?

I noticed all those things without conscious effort in the black out.

“Father! You do not have the wherewithal to take over the enclave. If you did you’d already have done so. You are not a reckless gambler so this posturing is mere bluff. However, if it comes to open warfare I will not side with you,” Zone declared.

Yeah, duplicity and insincerity are easy to detect in black out. I had Sardou confirm it later because you cannot be too careful around intrigue…

But Maxwell’s son Zone—a powerful Adept with black out was solidly on my side.

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Chapter Thirteen

Thoreau once said:

“It is not a man's duty, as a matter of course, to devote himself to the eradication of any, even the most enormous, wrong; he may still properly have other concerns to engage him…”

When the government put up a detention camp just north of Cincinnati it was too close to ignore. It wasn’t particularly large as modern day concentration camps go. The population hovered around thirty five hundred—but it was right in our back yard.

I observed the place any number of ways—crows, ravens, starlings, rats and turkey vultures outfitted with wide angled lensed cameras.

I saw men and women half starved with gaunt hollow cheeks and vacant stares. They wore faded gray coveralls that were ragged more often than not and they shivered miserably when they had to stand in formation in winter and much of the spring and fall. At least they weren’t forced to do hard labor—at least not in that camp.

Those faces haunted me and I resolved to do something about it.

I assembled my strike team. Sardou was there. Jason and Billy’s raw physical power would be a help knocking down barriers and keeping them knocked down. Wiener was there. His ability to become a crowd was invaluable in this sort of hit and run raid. Vee, Robin and John—who ordinarily worked as a three-man team—were there.

One of the sad facts of clan warfare is that the people that you most want and need to guard your flank or your back are the same friends and family that you’d most hate to lose.

Brick and Stone were there. Their experience as homeless refugees put fire in their bellies when examining the papers I’d passed out to everyone. Hell, the middle brother Bronze would have come if I’d read him in despite the fact that he wasn’t a martial Adept.

Brick’s giant raven was named “Shock” and his brother’s was named “Awe”.

Zone was there. Over the last three years I’d ran every sort of spooky Adept test that I could imagine and he always passed. Beside which he was always skilled and diligent at any assignment that I gave him. Could he be a spy for his father? Of course, but so could anyone else on my team if you wanted to go full-bore paranoid.

There were over three-dozen recent graduates from the academy. Most of them had been out at least six months. Serious Adepts tend to continue to train and improve after graduation while others are content to coast. Six months is generally long enough to sort them by type.

I tried to select only Adepts who were over sixteen years of age and adding six months made that easier to do as well—since several barely qualified. I did have two fifteen year olds and a fourteen-year-old prodigy. The plains Indians and the Vikings took children that young into battle.

It was a case of competing harms.

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

“Okay, is everyone in? I’ve got one last secret to share with you—and this is the biggest secret of all,” I said.

“We all know that Old Man Maxwell has a process to infuse some of his pecans with chi. It is a very rich golden chi that is very mellow and long lasting. Be that as it may, Maxwell isn’t very forthcoming with his chi-nuts,” I said.

“That may be just as well. We don’t know precisely how Maxwell makes his power nuts but we do know that it involves compelling artisan Adepts to force chi into the pecan trees to the point of passing blood and being too wiped out to do any artisan work,” I said.

“My big secret is this:

“Spoil Airgetlám passed the method of making the old style chi-drops down to me and we’ve been doing just that for well over a decade now. Our products are undergoing continual improvement,” I said.

“I’m going to give each of you a two hundred year chi-drop and I’d like for you to take it. Our raid is tentatively scheduled for five weeks from now. It is regrettable in one way, but a number of things will be noticeably easier if we wait until spring is well under way before we move,” I said.

I passed them out but omitted five of the recent graduates and all of my long time confederates.

“If you have a chi-drop please eat it and leave. Spend the next five weeks building up your power reserves and learning to harness your newfound power—without showing off outrageously. The rest of you please stay here,” I said.

When they had left I spoke again.

“Anyone who can throw spawn, throw the maximum number now,” I directed.

I passed out a one hundred and twenty year chi-drop to each spawn and then gave each original a two hundred and fifty year chi-drop.

“Have y’all read how meditating and building up the chakra trees in your spawn results in both more powerful and numerous spawn and eventually strengthens the original as well? How many of you have been diligently practicing this jutsu?” I asked them.

“Never mind. For the next three weeks I want all of your spawn to eat chi-rich food and to spend the rest of their time meditating and visualizing. After three weeks, reabsorb them and then take this fifty-year chi-drop and throw them again. Don’t worry, they will last the whole three weeks with the addition of one hundred and twenty years of chi,” I told them.

“Billy, your two spawn are feeble. Nonetheless they are large. I’m giving them each a two hundred year chi-drop and even then they may only last a week. I want you to take three of the two hundred and fifty year drops,” I said to him.

Jason had worked up to four spawn after years at three. From that point on he’d concentrated solely on increasing his power and his spawn’s power. He was one person who definitely had his spawn meditate and do chi-building exercises regularly.

I gave the four mini-sumo clones two hundred years worth of chi each while I gave Jason four of the two hundred and fifty year chi-drops.

“Take one now and then one every week until they’re gone,” I told Jason.

If I didn’t give those two and their spawn far more chi than most of the others it would be like whizzing in the ocean to raise the sea level.

“Neat, I’m giving you a dozen because you turned me onto a bunch of chi-drops back when it made a big difference. You won’t be taking part in the raid directly but you will be our eyes and ears,” I said.

“Alright, now it’s time to dose the ravens,” I said. “I’d hate for them to feel left out.”

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

“If my father knew that you’d perfected the process of refining chi to this point, he’d have a screaming hissy,” Zone said when we were alone.

“I’m not gonna tell him. Are you?” I asked.

What? Yes Sardou was there. When I went to the bathroom she stood outside like a blond Amazon honor guard. The rest of the time…

Have you heard of the skydivers who consider it a major milestone when they accumulate twenty-four hours in free fall? That is about how quickly I accumulated time—exclusive of potty time—that I was either more than ten yards from Sardou or out of her line of site. So unless I specifically exclude Sardou, just assume that she was present.

Maxwell wouldn’t be angry because he felt betrayed or out of the loop. He wouldn’t even feel hurt except for dramatic purposes.

No, he’d feel threatened because I was on to something that might shift the power balance precipitously my way. He might go so far as to risk a preemptive strike.

Machiavelli said:

“…One may note that men must be either pampered or annihilated. They avenge light offenses; they cannot avenge severe ones; hence, the harm one does to a man must be such as to obviate any fear of revenge.”

He also said that:

“A prince must realize that he has two options: benevolence and destruction. Because the latter option will cause resentment among the people, he should choose it only if he is absolutely sure there will be no ill consequences—that the destruction he incurs will eliminate or disable any parties that might seek to revenge themselves against him. Feelings of pity or compassion are meaningless. Self-interest and self-protection are in this case the motivating factors and are to be pursued ruthlessly.”

There were a number of factors that came into play in my situation though. First of all I didn’t feel good about striking someone with lethal force when they weren’t a clear and present danger. Maxwell was balanced precariously on the cusp.

Second, I had made it clear to Maxwell that if he leaked our location to the government—or any other group for that matter—that I’d kill him without mercy or remorse. If I were already trying to kill him he’d have no reason to forebear.

Third, there is a downside to leading at pistol-point like the old time Communist Party Members with their Nagant or Tokarev pistols shooting soldiers in the head if they lagged in the assault.

If I drew a pistol and shot Rastus Elijah in the head with little or no provocation—just to appear to be a tough homicidal hair-trigger psycho—how long will it be before Rastus Alphonso or Rastus Gonzales start to wonder when I might decide to shoot him too and decide to Pearl Harbor me first?

Taking out Maxwell might cause anyone who disagreed with me in the future to wonder if they were about to get what Maxwell got.

Damn Maxwell anyway! I only encountered the term once—can’t remember where—and I’m not sure of the exact spelling—but Maxwell was a strudelbug or studelburg or whatever.

I don’t think that the Illuminati exists—or still exists. Maxwell was probably what people mean when they talk about “The Gnomes of Zurich” though. They were folks obsessed with money. They generally had their fingers in the country’s banking system and they lived to fantastic ages even by Adept standards.

They didn’t stay in the bloom of youth though. They became ever more shriveled and dried up over the years—ending up as toothless aged men crones—human prunes—who had to be pushed around in wheelchairs and who had to be fed baby food through an oral syringe.

That kind of longevity wouldn’t have had any appeal for me. To folks like Maxwell though, the scrambling for money and power was the only thing that mattered and the more their body wasted away the sharper their calculating minds grew and so did the strength of their greed and their malice.

The quest for money and power took the place of appetite, thirst, libido, camaraderie and even freedom from physical discomfort.

The Gnomes had apparently waged war on the Adepts going back to the beginnings of human civilization although Spoil Airgetlám never mentioned them in his books and I had never heard of them until Zone told me about them and cited a few obscure sources.

There is no sense of solidary amongst the Gnomes. They are a treacherous backstabbing bunch. They did recruit new members regularly though. Vacancies weren’t that unusual amongst that mutinous bunch and an organization without new recruits is a dying organization. They instantly close ranks when threatened by outsiders though.

If the very fragmentary reports can be credited the most senior of the Gnomes were almost three thousand years old. Maxwell was a very young Gnome as such things go. Even so, I wouldn’t have made common cause with him if I’d known what he was and what I was getting myself entangled in.

Zone? Well even a couple months of Adept training changes one in such a way that he could never become a Gnome and Maxwell had his sons and daughters training as Adepts from early childhood.

When Zone learned the truth he was struck by the coldhearted way that his father used his children as a Praetorian Guard and elite strike force while forever disqualifying them from the Gnomes’ near immortality.

While he said that he would have chosen to become an Adept, he resented never having been given the choice. He said that it opened his eyes to the type bastard his father was the way few other things could have.

He also warned me continually that his siblings would carry out his father’s orders with no regard for either morals, mercy or their own mortality. Unlike Zone they were one hundred percent true believers.

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

People often have trouble understanding my words until I spell it out for them.

I often say that good ends never justify bad means. On the contrary, bad means employed in the service of a good end are more blameworthy than the same means employed in the service of a bad end.

For instance, I was going to break into a government concentration camp and free as many of the government’s clients as humanly possible. I needed transportation. I’d decided to steal quite a few school busses.

Stealing is wrong. It’s one of the Ten Commandments:

“Thou Shalt Not Steal.”

Should I believe that stealing those busses was somehow justified because I was trying to free people who were being tortured and starved?

No, no, Hell no!

As a Christian I stand with a full and unconditional pardon, but I also expect my every action to be carefully scrutinized to see how well I stayed the course over the days of my life and to see what rewards and rebukes that I have coming.

If stealing a bus to use to rob a bank or to use for a suicide bombing or just to joyride rated a single proverbial black mark in my life’s book, then stealing a bus to save people’s lives would rate three black marks and if I was the sort of braying ass who believes that ends justify the means then I’d deserve five black marks—maybe ten.

On the other hand, I was at war with the State. Seizing the enemy’s resources and putting them to one’s own use is not theft.

Besides as the Zen maxim says:

“Concerns with:
“Right or Wrong;
“Good or Evil;
“Success or Failure;
“Profit or Loss;
“Life or Death
“Are All the Delusions of a Deranged Mind.
“The Sage Acts Solely for the Sake of Action
“Without Regard for Consequences.”

Yeah, I had my people steal scores of School Busses from Louisville, Indianapolis, Columbus and Lexington. They were stolen at night where they shouldn’t be missed until early morning.

Think about a yellow school bus. Think about the power that some Adepts have to cloud the mind and create illusion. By dawn all the busses were hidden away. Hell they could be sitting beside a highway in plain sight but with a couple of camo nets over the bus and a couple Adepts concentrating on shielding the bus they were highly unlikely to be found.

Now the government wasn’t that clueless. They had to know that someone was up to something. Because of the way the thefts were coordinated and the way they all went off without a single thief being caught they’d strongly suspected that Adepts were involved.

But ask yourself: does large numbers of school buses being stolen necessarily equal a mass prison break? If you weren’t reading about a prison break already?

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

Wiener had worked up to over three hundred pound draw weight on the longbow. No human had ever pulled such a mighty bow weight. Some want to cite crossbows but the old time magnum crossbows had a much shorter length of pull and generally somewhat less whippy limbs. His bows required special arrows. They’d break ordinary arrows before they even cleared the bow.

Wiener threw a large crowd of archers and once they were in position they started raining arrows on the guards in all the gun/observation towers and other key posts. It only gave us a few seconds of lead-time at most. Some guard would inevitably sound an alarm before being skewered. Still a few seconds and a few less belt-fed machineguns spraying death was all protein for us.

Billy’s two spawn attacked one chain-linked fence with the custom bolt cutters we’d made for that purpose while Billy’s original stood guard. Billy was up to eleven foot something now in giant mode while both of his spawn were well over ten foot tall—and they were both far stronger than they had been six weeks earlier.

Two of Jason’s clones attacked the fence elsewhere while Jason’s other two clones attacked yet another side. Jason’s original threw in the towel and simply attacked the fourth side of the enclosure with powerful jets of water that cut like a space opera’s disintegrator-beam raygun.

The fence was electrified of course but neither Billy nor Jason was easy to stop with electricity—even at voltages that would have instantly fried a non-Adept.

An instant later a thunderbolt fried the transformer station feeding the camp. Of course there were a redundant number of back-up generators inside the camp but I struck them one after the other in short order. That was only a subtle gain for our team though. The guards were trained to work with all their electric shut off.

Dozens of Adepts entered the camp. Some rounded up the inmates and catechized them in chi-amplified voices explaining just what was expected of them over the next few moments. While it was sad it helped that most of them had become inured to acting on commands promptly without question or dissent.

Other Adepts were tasked with killing every guard that they come across.

I was there because I wasn’t the type to send my troops into harm’s way while I lollygagged behind the lines in complete safety.

And there was that one other thing:

There were rumors that the government was experimenting with kinjutsu and genetic engineering and high tech cybernetic implants to create all but unstoppable demi-human Adepts or haints or whatever you chose to call them.

My people might need me to fight for them.

One of the haints burst out of one of the pole building warehouses—only it was more likely a laboratory in drag.

Think of a centaur but give him eight spider style legs coming off a single barrel shaped abdomen. The “human” portion had four arms and two long-necked heads with generous horns and three eyes per head. So far as eyes, the abdomen also has a few front facing eyes as well as a generous line of eyes going all along both sides of the abdomen’s length.

There was an extra air intake right where a man’s pubic hair would start as well as a line of air intake stomata running the length of the abdomen.

Now cover the whole creature in thick black chitin that would stop a .50 caliber Browning Machinegun round and make the human torso’s clavicle about seven feet off the ground. His unnaturally long necks added another yard to the thing’s height.

The Japanese have a saying:

“Oninikanabō o ataemasu.”

“Give an oni a kanabo.”

A Kanabo is a five-and-a-half foot long baseball bat. The last three feet are octagonal and there is a metal strip covered with half-inch metal spikes running along each flat.

Some kanabo are all steel and some of them weighed up to eleven pounds. Some writers have their heroes wield swords and axes with ridiculous weights but the kanabo is probably the heaviest practical weapon that was ever widely used. They say that a skilled user could break both of a charging horse’s front legs with one swing.

Oni are ogres or giants and they are traditionally depicted using great kanabo like a man would wield a nightstick or baton.

“Give an oni a kanabo” means to hand a substantial advantage to someone who already posses an overwhelming advantage.

The terracotta kanabo wielding earth user made me have a desire for a kanabo of my own—a twenty-four pound weapon that was mostly 4340 tempered steel with a wooden sleeve around the grip to cut down on the shock transmitted to my hands when I struck something unyielding.

I might not be as tall or as ugly as a classic oni but I had the strength and power to qualify. I already had the oni’s advantage and now I had an oni kanabo as well.

“Fall to your knees and beg me for mercy haint and I might be persuaded to spare you,” I said to the monster.

Both the haint’s heads bared their fangs and roared a slobbery and largely incoherent challenge while each of its four arms brandished a double-edged battle-axe that a man could barely lift.

“Well then, since begging for mercy seems beyond your limied intelligence simply fall to your knees and tremble in terror!” I bellowed with a chi-enhanced booming bass voice.

The spidertaur mustered a scuttling charge. I used my black out to dodge his axes by the barest of margins while moving to his left. I got to his flank and swung my kanabo like a left-handed power hitter swinging for an out-of-the-park home run.

Those skinny legs might be super powerful and strongly armored but his drive train needed all of the legs functioning to work at all well.

My club broke his front two legs on his left side with one mighty chi-enhanced swing.

He managed to wheel around to face me. I doubt that he had any pain receptors. His sole purpose was to fight fiercely on command and die when expedient—expedient for his masters.

“It’s over,” I told him. “All I need to do now is to play a conservative game and keep striking your legs when I get an opening.”

Maybe I’m too tender hearted. Seeing the spidertaur try to navigate with two crippled legs made me feel a bit sad. I resolved to finish him quickly and without further fanfare.

Meanwhile there were three more of the haints stalking me from my rear. One of them brought a great two-handed axe down on my unprotected head.

An instant before the axe would have touched my head there was a huge thunderbolt that stuck the place that I’d just been.

I’d transported myself to the rear of the haint. As I swung my mighty kanabo hard enough to break two of his rear right legs I said:

“Did you forget my black out dumbass?”

As he tried to lurch away I got his back two left legs. Then as his rear end collapsed I got one of his middle legs. It wasn’t that challenging at that point to crush both of his heads and the brain that lay between the necks in a place heavily protected by both bone and chitin.

I snatched up one of the heavy-duty one-handed battle-axes. I sprang at another spidertaur. My kanabo blocked his axe blows and vicious head-butts long enough to bury the chi-reinforced axe into the central brain.

You can fail to notice something even in black out.

I launched myself at the sole uninjured spidertaur. Yeah I saw it coming at the end but I can be in a situation where even when I can see it coming but my body can’t move fast enough in the time remaining to avoid the strike.

The last haint had ten legs instead of eight. He scuttled noticeably faster than the others and he had a huge scorpion’s tail. He struck me right I my chest like driving a railroad spike through my sternum. Then he injected over a pint of corrosive venom.

Billy came roaring out of somewhere. He snatched the scorpion stinger and yanked it off. Then he started ripping the scorpions limbs off one by one like someone doing that “she loves me—she loves me not” thingy with a daisy.

Jason used his water-cutting high-pressure jets to completely dismember the first spidertaur while Robin and John sandblasted through chitin, bone and whatever to erase all traces of the spidertaurs and scorpion from the face of the earth.

Vee moved from her place beside her two teammates to kneel by my side.

“Can you be helped? Someone find a Wiener spawn. We need some healing here!” Vee shouted in a voice that shattered windows.

“It’s okay dumbass,” I told Vee while placing a hand on her shoulder to take the sting out of my words. “I’m a spawn.”

“Why don’t you pop your cork then? That has to be agonizing,” she said.

“It is, but enduring pain builds strength and when I do go I want to take back the latest possible intel,” I said.

I popped my cork then because I was seconds from having it popped involuntarily and it saved a small bit of chi that way.

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Old 01-01-2016, 02:43 PM
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Chapter Fourteen

Having loaded the refugees into the school busses it was time to do the “Evade” portion of “Escape and Evade”.

We hadn’t stolen any busses from Cincinnati so although they had sentries patrolling the municipal parking lots where the busses were kept overnight they still used them during the day. We’d timed our raid to coincide with school busses being on the road taking the children to school.

Yeah, if that was as far as our planning went it would be no better than having no plan at all.

We had a limited number of Adepts who could broadcast illusions at a distance, so we sent the busses out in mini-convoys of twelve with an illusionist both in the front bus and in the back bus. Large numbers of Adepts and even non-Adepts had been lined up as drivers three days earlier. There was no need to recruit so many too soon.

Some of our Adept drivers were of indifferent strength. Strength as an Adept simply wasn’t important in drivers. Even so, even weak Adepts can be a force to be reckoned with against the mundane.

We sent just enough busses into Cincinnati to make them think that was the extent of our evasion strategy.

Our illusionists made the busses look like semis to the viewer’s eye. Some found it easier to make the busses invisible. That took a high state of alertness to make sure no one driving on the highway tried to pull into a space that wasn’t empty.

We had a number of other distractions going on. Dozens of bogus bomb threats were called in. The opposition knew that they were probably bogus but still they needed to evacuate just to be on the safe side.

Meanwhile five of the busses had been packed full of more C-4 than a full-grown man could carry. Each bus was piloted with Adept spawn that could create illusions even as spawn. The illusion was that the bus was cram-jammed full of school children instead of being empty.

Calls were made and standoffs were reached. Of course our Adept was equipped with a dead man detonator. We’d located areas—like a city park softball field—that were easy for the laws to evacuate.

Granted, some of the federal storm troopers probably didn’t care too much about children. We tried to insure that the local laws arrived on the scene first. Some of them still had consciences. Even the locals without conscience still had an uncomfortable knowledge that they had to continue live in or near Cincinnati.

Whether one loved children or hated them, few people are all that anxious to charge into a bomb’s blast radius.

There was a minor fringe benefit. News reporters were welcome at the parked bus scenes. The government never let a crisis go to waste and the sight of children held hostage would give the Adepts a bad name.

Forty-five seconds before detonation the children mirages vanished—too quickly for someone to reach a policy decision and shut down all the live video images being broadcast by the numerous camera men.

While no one was hurt by the blasts, the huge explosions rattled windows all over Cincinnati.

Some of our convoys crossed the river in Cincinnati while others travelled west to the Madison-Milton Bridge. That was another reason the bus scheme by and of itself was flawed. How many municipal school busses would you expect to cross the Ohio River into a whole other state?

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

We’d been preparing for the school busses’ arrival for a bit. I’m sure that Maxwell knew that I was up to something laying concrete slabs to the ground and laying down gravel roads. He just hadn’t known what.

I’d been impressed by the school bus trailer park that they’d had in the Bowling Green Enclave. Instead of one gravel road fronted by about two-dozen angle-parked school busses, we had more than enough busses to fill seven parallel gravel roadways.

The slab to park the busses on as well as the foundation for the 12’x12’ concrete block buildings that joined each bus were already laid.

I had seven van bodies on hand as well as enough loud spray paint to cover fifteen or sixteen of the busses with custom psychedelic paint jobs and two-dozen busses were slated to become twelve of the neat Siamese-twin double shelters.

The first order of business was to get all of the busses underpinned with blocks so that they wouldn’t settle as the tires rotted and flattened. I needed all the seats and interior wiring stripped out and I wanted the engines pulled.

I had no idea what use that I would make of so many diesel engines. If nothing else the iron in them could be salvaged. Also, while the middle portion of the busses could be boarded and insulated over with the bus windows in place I preferred to remove the windows to store them against some future need for window panes.

My best guestimate was that my construction crews could convert a bit more than twelve busses per week—maybe adding two—maybe even three busses per week after a couple of weeks as experienced was gained. I was on a tight schedule to have all the busses ready to house refugees by the first of November. That was my tentative deadline—though God knows the chill winds can blow in mid-September and in October.

Then wouldn’t you know it? My refugees started being mulish and raising Hell about being asked to perform manual labor.

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

I had called an open-air meeting for all the refugees.

“Dudes!” I boomed with a chi-amplified voice a full octave lower than my natural voice.

“As much as I dislike the concept of welfare, y’all are definitely on the dole at the moment. I’m feeding you and truth be told our rations are going to be stretched thin over the next year-and-a-half. Those gray coveralls that y’all came in were mostly rags but come winter you’re going to need warm clothing, coats, blankets and what have you,” I said.

“Y’all may not mind living in pole-buildings, tents or even sleeping out under the stars right now—though I hear that there are numerous complaints. Flash on living like this come Thanksgiving,” I continued.

“I have some of you out cultivating the soil with Roto-Tillers or planting where men with tractors have plowed. These will be relatively late gardens but nonetheless they’ll take up some of the slack this winter so far as feeding y’all. Do any of you even realize the logistics of buying and laying in something as basic as Mason jars and lids to can for y’all? I mean buying very large quantities without laying down a huge arrow pointing straight at our enclave?” I said.

“Unfortunately I don’t have Moses for a quartermaster,” I added.

“There are a bit over two hundred and sixty of these school busses. Lets go with two hundred and fifty because it simplifies thumbnail computations. My best count is a bit over thirty two hundred of y’all,” I said.

“What is the average family—Daddy, Mommy and two-point-two children? Can we say ‘four’? Four times two hundred and fifty busses still leaves about twenty-two hundred of y’all homeless. Don’t despair. We can double up the first year. We did have some unutilized housing before y’all showed up and those of you still left over will be housed in the tightest and best of the temporary shelters,” I said.

“Damned nation people! Quit bitching and get to work,” I ended my talk.

“Excuse me Mister Head Adept,” a big burly man shouted.

What? Yeah, I had coached him and primed this question. What of it? It was a point of legitimate concern for many and my answer was sincere.

“You speak of families but there are very few children here. Many of us have children, spouses and even aged parents still under government control in the outside world,” He said.

“It would be irresponsible to fetch large numbers of children here when we can scarcely support the adults. Some of your children are with family but many of them will be in state sponsored orphanages or foster-parent families. When we make our move we’re going to need to move all at one time,” I said.

“Moving piecemeal will result in security being ratcheted tighter. The same applies to seniors involuntarily committed to nursing homes. You need to get with your case worker and give him all the information and be patient, your case manager may require a couple of weeks to consult with every one,” I replied.

I speeded up the process marginally when I took the unprecedented step of declaring the Adept Academy was on holiday through the Summer. I requested that the aspiring Adepts volunteer to renovate busses. That got me three or four extra trailers per week throughout the summer.

I’d also been accumulating old panel trucks that I’d wanted to use as stand-alone housing for singles. Adding the trucks on hand with the few that I’d just purchased gave me twenty-seven units and of course they could house two or three through the first long year. The panel trucks were done using weekend volunteers who weren’t already renovating buses.

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

I started peddling the sixty-five year chi-drops to other friendly or neutral Adept groups. I kept amounts low and prices high. I never admitted that I’d started manufacturing them once more and I never made any reference to higher dosage chi-drops whatsoever.

For a few heady years I was in a place where money was plentiful and my only constraints were my available manpower, expertise and equipment on hand.

I purchase multiple table saws, jigsaws, circular saws, drill presses, hand drills, air compressors and hand tools for my carpenters. While I was at it, I picked up some charming old iron—LeBlanc lathes, Bridgeport mills, assorted large bench grinders, surface grinders, metal shapers and such for my metal working factories. That especially applied to my small arms factory.

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

“How many of our refugees stand ready to take on full Adept status?” I asked Neat and Wiener.

“Less than sixty—depending on how low that you want to set the bar,” Neat replied.

“Okay, many of them were in the stir for learning or attempting to learn tradecraft—or more likely because they had some of the books on hand. How many can we expect to become full-fledged Adepts over the next three years?” I asked.

“A little more than three hundred or a bit less can probably become Adepts. Once again it depends on how low that you want to set the bar,” Neat said.

“Though I might be a wee bit more optimistic than Neat. I pretty much agree with his predictions,” Wiener added.

“Okay, I’m thinking of having a first year and then a second year test. Aspiring Adepts who pass the one-year test will get a sixty-five year pill. Upon passing the second year test they’re given another sixty-five year chi-drop. Then give them a two hundred year boost upon graduation,” I said.

“I see what you’re doing. Someone who hasn’t reached a certain level might not be able to successfully assimilate the first boost while the second year test prevents coasting. That won’t increase your number—much—but you should end up with much stronger newly minted Adepts with that scheme,” Wiener said.

“Once the word spreads you’ll be out of the closet as a manufacturer of true chi-enhancers,” Neat observed.

“It will soon become apparent regardless of how we go about it. I want y’all working out optimum min-max quantities to make money for things that will strengthen our position while maintaining a chi-balance well in our favor. I also want to try to raise the chi-levels of all of our present Adepts at least thirty percent,” I told my inner council.

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

Maxwell had screamed bloody murder and demanded a town council meeting almost from the moments that the busses arrived at the enclave. I counted it as a satisfying victory that I’d managed to put him off for ten days while I dealt with issues of consequence.

“How dare you revolt against the government’s rightful authority?” Maxwell blustered.

That one raised my eyebrows until they bade fair to touch my hairline. I simply left that question go and abode in silence.

“You should have secured the approval of the town council before you undertook such an ill-conceived stunt!” Maxwell raged.

“Sardou, could you and would you kill Maxwell this instant if I asked you to?” I asked.

Maxwell’s loyal Adept children Nathan and Tabitha both reached for their Katana hilts while a dozen of Maxwell’s mundane bodyguards reached inside their suit jackets to lay hands on the curious Taser-like pistols they carried.

Were those silver-spiked weapons akin to the ones that temporarily separated Spoil Airgetlám from his powers?

“I’m willing and able and I would be positively elated. Please ask me!” Sardou said.

“Well maybe we can discount Sardou’s response. One might expect her to be solidly in my corner. Neat prefers to use his brain rather than brawn. Neat, would you kill Maxwell if I asked?”


“HMMMmmnnn…? Lets ask your own son. Zone, would you take your father out if I asked you to?”

“Ask me!” Fear shouted from his perch beside me while Trembling made a rude farting noise.

“Yes, but please act and quit toying with the old bastard. He’s tricky and dangerous,” Zone spat out.

It seemed that Zone was stressed—all my other allies managed to maintain a poker-faced façade of serenity.

“Maxwell, you’re skating on thin ice here. I haven’t even polled Wiener with his three-dozen spawn or Billy or Jason. Then there’s Vee, Robin and John one at a time or as part of an all but unstoppable team. Style is in the balcony and I’d almost guarantee that he could take out all twelve of your bodyguards before they could clear leather with those power-stealers they’re carrying,” I said.

Few things fatigue me as much as explaining to the obnoxious what should already be obvious.

“I created this enclave and I run things to suit myself. This council exists at my sufferance and its purpose and authority is completely advisory. Let me add that you weren’t advised because I don’t like you. I don’t trust you and it’s none of your damned business anyway,” I said.

“Why wasn’t I informed that you’d perfected the chi-drop manufacturing process?” Maxwell continued to rage.

“You force me to reiterate:

“I don’t like you. I don’t trust you. It’s none of your business,” I told him as tactfully as possible.

“I’ll tell you what: the council is dissolved. That should end your delusions of having a power base here in this enclave,” I told him.

“But…” Maxwell started.

He paused when he saw my kanabo poised to hit his face for a home run.

He started to speak once more. I positioned the kanabo at about microphone distance with the three-inch terminal spike pointed at his mouth.

“I mean it—not one more word from you,” I said.

“Oninikanabō o ataemasu,” I told him. “I’m the oni here in this enclave and I not only have a kanabo—I also have beaucoup strong allies. I have to get down to my tenth or eleventh rated Adept before I find someone too weak to destroy you and all your confederates single handedly. Go!”

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

Seven years passed in relative peace. Children, spouses, parents and other kin were deftly removed from their circumstances not only by skilled Adepts but also very stealthy Adepts.

Maxwell stayed out of sight and out of my misery in his seven thousand acre plantation—though he’d been steadily pushing his boundaries outward as the enclave grew. He had around twelve thousand acres now.

I could have preempted his claim to land along the backside of his property and hemmed him in. I preferred that he continue to annex land and build his massive brick walls all around—complete with towers and machinegun turrets. As far as I was concerned it kept him out of worse mischief.

I had learned a lesson. I strove to keep enough surplus housing on hand to house two or three thousand refugees should the need ever arise once more. I also stored large quantities of long-term storage foods—mostly dry grains, but what the Hell?

The grains could be used to make flour and bread, corn meal and tofu. They could also be fed to our pigs, chickens, rabbits and whatnot to help increase our meat production.

Somehow Maxwell managed to put together his own Adept academy. Something was off about the Adepts that came from Maxwell’s academy. Most of them seemed to just give off dark ominous auras…

Most of them seemed evil. We accepted a few graduates into our organization—such as it was. And there were occasions for aspiring Adepts thoroughly disenchanted by Maxwell’s methods to transfer to our academy. And Maxwell lured away a few of ours with undisclosed attractions.

As I told everyone:

“Stay or go. This isn’t Jonestown.”

I sensed that Maxwell would have preferred to run his academy as a closed cult-like organization but we managed to have just enough of a presence to prevent his academy becoming a locked-down facility.

Assimilating so many folk into our village proved problematic. We strove to grow most of our food. We had an abattoir, a couple dairies and they turned out excellent cheeses as well as several varieties of ice cream. We had a factory that turned out boots and shoes and a cobblers shop that repaired shoes and boots.

We had a tannery and we processed raw wool into felt and yarn. We didn’t weave our own cloth—though we could should it become necessary. We did have excellent tailors and seamstresses to turn bulk fabric into comfortable and long-lasting clothing. Our potters and cabinetmakers sold pieces that were works of art at dollar-store prices.

Of course we had our small arms factory. We bought our farming equipment from the outside but we had gifted mechanics along with great machinists to create replacement parts. Our machinery lasted a very long time.

At some point though, there was a limit to how many people could profitably be engaged in tail-chasing make-work jobs. We had scant use for cubical-worker skills and there was a limit to how much unskilled labor that we could profitably absorb at one time.

A day laborer could live in comfortable housing, eat well, dress well and even accumulate a fine weapon collection if his tastes went that way. That was because we kept the true essentials of living dirt-cheap.

What were hard to come by in our enclave were luxury items.

A few gifted artisans opened a jewelry store—but it was small and anything with gemstones was relatively expensive—by enclave standards. Televisions were in demand and a few made a business out of rehabilitating discarded computers and televisions.

There was even a business that made pirate copies every CD or DVD disk that they could get ahold of. Since we weren’t technically a part of the United States—in fact, the government had declared war on us—I wasn’t terribly concerned about copyright violations. As much as I despise taking pragmatics into consideration when determining policy—the pirated songs and movies helped keep the citizenry relatively content.

We had our own enclave landline phone system. We had a large library and we had our own mini Internet. We strove to store as much data on our internal servers and memory banks as possible.

Suppose that you wanted to download an “E” book from Gutenberg. You would have to put in a request and wait until someone outside downloaded it for us. We kept a copy in our internal web though so that the next person who wanted that book wouldn’t have to wait.

Jeff Cooper once observed that people who are on the ragged edge of starvation rarely take up arms and brigandry except to go after foodstuffs. Folks who have little more than a few days food on hand and have no idea where their net lot of victuals will come from have no time or energy to throw rocks, post graffiti, host sit-ins or whatever.

Those things are a product of an idle and pampered proletariat and a bored and disengaged middle class—my words, not Coopers.

People were stirring up dissention in the ranks and raising Hell largely because I ran things well enough to give them that leisure.

Some might find it hard to believe but some of my most hardcore and intractable residents were among those I’d rescued from the refugee camp and the second wave of kin that had followed them.

The government in the outside world still managed to dole out grub and host some fascinating circuses. At some point our immigrants realized that they’d climbed far enough up our internal social ladder to see that they’d never get back to the level they’d “enjoyed” on the outside and it made them bitter.

While Maxwell hadn’t set foot outside his ever-growing estate since the last town council meeting, his agents fomented insurrection and dissent every which way that he could.

I hadn’t let the last seven years go to no purpose though.

I called a meeting of some of my top advisors.

“No one told them that they had to come here,” Sardou vented. “If they hate this place that badly, why don’t they go somewhere else?”

“You can’t reason with someone who feels he’s being cheated and who is in a state of high moral outrage. Whether he’s right or wrong isn’t the point. He doesn’t want to improve his lot in life as much as he wants to attack the institutions that he believes slighted him,” I said.

“Yeah but…”

“Yeah I know where you’re all going. Maxwell is the source of most of our problems. I’m about to do something massive about Maxwell but I need y’all to prepare the groundwork. O and Zone, put your mind at rest. We aren’t going to kill or even irreparably damage your father,” I said.

Zone started to expostulate.

“I know, you’ve demonstrated your loyalty again and again—but everything else being equal, wouldn’t it be nicer if we didn’t have to kill your father—yet…” I said.

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Chapter Fifteen

We had gathered the largest assemblage of Adepts that our enclave had ever had. They were spread more or less evenly around Maxwell’s plantation. The gaps between Adepts were sprinkled with non-Adepts armed with some high-powered magnum rifles. The rifles weren’t completely ineffective against Adepts. Against the mundane they were overkill.

“I want every human being and dog out here now!” Sardou shouted. “I will know if you try to hide anyone inside.”

Tabitha—one of Maxwell’s Adept daughters came out under a flag of truce.

“What is the meaning of this?” Tabitha demanded.

“It is necessary to stabilize the enclave. There will be a bit of a risk to anyone left inside while we stabilize. We came in force because we anticipated your father’s reluctance to comply,” Sardou said.

“You have my word and Coil’s word that nothing untoward will happen to anyone who comes out. On the other hand, if we have to go in searching for holdouts we will make a bloody mess of your homes—and we will undoubtedly see many things that you would almost certainly want to keep secret,” Sardou added.

Tabitha negotiated for a couple hours to make sure that there was no loophole that Sardou was using to keep the letter of her word while keeping to the literal interpretation…

Then Tabitha accepted the terms and went back inside the compound to relay Sardou’s words.

It took half a day to get everyone moved outside. Our Adepts moved Maxwell’s people into three groups—Adepts, Maxwell’s close mundane henchmen and rank and file mundane.

Like the Fenrir the Wolf, Tabitha suspected some sort of ruse when she saw the hastily erected concertina encircled compounds. In the end though, she moved her people into them.

I’m not sure that something like this had ever been tried before.

An irritation causes an oyster to form a pearl. Men find pearl’s precious but to the oyster it is simply a seal on something that would be problematic otherwise. I don’t suppose that a hypothetical sentient oyster would regard the pearl with any great fondness.

Maxwell had wanted an enclave as a sort of sanctum from other gnomes but once it was created he found it too large for his purpose as well as being far too hard to wrest from our group’s control. That’s why he wanted to bring in the government. He knew how to play the civilization game both with his fellow gnomes and with the proletariat and their civil masters. We continually baffled and vexed him.

Maxwell’s fetish for high brick walls all around his plantation was like one layer of nacre. The big no-man’s-land of thirty to fifty yards wide that we surrounded Maxwell’s zone with was another. The strained hands-off attitude that our folks and Maxwell’s maintained when they had to interact was also an isolating factor.

An oyster can only surround an irritation with layer after layer of nacre. It has no way to expel an irritation so it must endure it. I thought that there was a way to expel Maxwell like someone would spit out a watermelon seed outdoors while going for distance.

Spoil Airgetlám mentioned how that a dry spawn could be cast as far as ten or fifteen feet yards away. No one used dry spawn very much in the modern world except as training tools. Wet spawn could also be cast away from oneself but nowhere nearly as far—perhaps five yards at the outside. Dry Spawn could probably be thrown farther because they were hollow and had far less “pseudo-mass” than wet spawn.

I tried surrounding Maxwell’s compound with chi. I cut it lose from the infrastructure of the enclave and cast it as far as possible from us.

There was some of the enclave-creating jutsu. There was some of the casting of dry spawn for distance technique and there was a big chunk that I had to make up as I went along.

Maxwell’s compound ended up over a hundred miles away across the mighty Ohio somewhere north and west of where Derby Indiana used to be. I’d bought a few hundred acres there to serve as a nucleus. I felt a little bad about it. After all, what had the people in that area ever done to deserve Maxwell?

Still, Maxwell’s new enclave would have over six hundred square miles. I imagined that once he was sole master of all that he surveyed that he would lose his obsession with bringing in the government and paying his “fair share” of taxes.

The same force that removed Maxwell’s piece of ground also filled it in with the same sort of dead and sterile ground that we’d started out with. If the ground had simply been allowed to close in all around the gaping sinkhole it would have caused massive ground tremors—something like a Richter 9.0.

The whole enclave was put under stress though. The ground shook a bit—something like a long running 5.0. Some heretofore-straight streets were now gently curved. The enclave’s terrain had been fairly flat like much of the flood plain in the general area but now there were far more gentle rolling hills and valleys…

And we’d increased our net size of our enclave about forty percent and all the new land all around the periphery was hilly indeed—what some Kentuckians refer to as “corduroy land”. That occasioned a lot of tree and weed planting concentrating on the crest of the hills on the assumption that seeds and humus would tend to wash downhill. Erosion can wreak havoc.

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

I only had one big kahuna and he was needed as in integral part of the enclave altering process. However as I continued to consume big chi-drops—that is to say, they were all the same size but some contained more chi than others—my big kahuna worked up to throwing three kahunas. Each kahuna cast two small kahunas and each small kahuna cast two wet spawn.

I didn’t know if the small kahunas would ever work up to casting little kahunas. It was largely unimportant since unlike Wiener, Vee—and even Jason to a large extent—I didn’t rely on large numbers of spawn to obtain my objectives.

However while the real me and my big kahuna were both largely wiped out by the enclave altering jutsu, I had a kahuna all cranked up with as much supplemental chi as his lopsided unbalanced chakras could handle.

And for the benefit of folks who worry about such things, I was improving all the spawns as rapidly as I could without unproductive haste. His chakra tree was already considerably improved from its original state.

At any rate, my kahuna went to talk to Maxwell and I doubt that he even noticed the difference.

“You tricked me and destroyed my compound!” Maxwell raged.

“Maxwell, ask yourself if I have ever lied to you or tried to take unfair advantage of you. I tricked you because I wanted to avoid a lot of posturing. I give you my word that your compound is safe and undamaged—it has even grown many times larger. I just moved it elsewhere. In a little while you and your people—the ones that choose to—can leave and go to your very own new enclave. It’s a couple or three hours drive from here,” I said.

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

“Maxwell, before I return your people I’m going to scan each of them to verify that they’re following you of their own free will an not because they’re under some sort of threat or coercion. I’m not in the business of protecting slave-owner’s rights to their chattel,” I said.

Have you ever been in a slaughterhouse and watched them kill the animals? Sheep and cattle are relatively unconcerned. If they could talk they’d probably say something like:

“I’d just as soon not die today but if there’s no way around it…O well whatever.”

Goats seem to enjoy the process. They are like adrenaline junkies and they’d say:

“It is like: Really man be for real! This is like the ultimate rush! This is far out!”

Pigs? Well if pigs could talk they’d be squealing something like:

“No! Please no! I don’t want to die. Take one of the others first! I beg you!”

When I told Maxwell that I was going to scan all of his people to see if they genuinely wanted to go with him, he screamed like a fat barrow on his way to the sticking station. Except that Maxwell had less courage and integrity than a barrow.

Only about a third of Maxwell’s people decided to stick with him.

Tabitha was one of the last ones left in the holding pen for Maxwell’s henchmen.

“You can go,” Sardou told Tabitha. “I assume that you’re loyal to your father.”

“You shouldn’t assume. Go as deep as you can and take your time. I guess I’ll come under more scrutiny than most of the defectors and I want to get as much of the probing over with as soon as possible,” Tabitha said.

We had a few of Maxwell’s mundane bodyguards defect as well. Maxwell insisted that they return the Taser-like weapons. I refused on the principle that if you issue it to someone that’s very much like giving it to him.

Mainly though, I wanted an exhaustive look at one of the infernal devices. I didn’t think that they’d work against me, but there was no need to put it to a test. Even if it was ineffective it might be a pivotal step in that direction.

“One last word Maxwell—you have a number of children in your group. Some of those children begged to stay here. I don’t hold with separating children from their parents unless something is seriously amiss. I’m sending all the children that are less than fourteen years old with their parents—even against the child’s will and my better judgment,” I said.

“Jesus said that if any man messed with his children that it was better to be cast into the sea with a millstone around his neck. Each one of the children in your enclave is under my protection. You won’t hurt them or cause them to be hurt. When a child turns fourteen, if he says that he wants to come here, you won’t stand in his way,” I said.

“If you do anything to these children—any children…” I paused to let it sink in.

“I don’t measure up to Jesus in any number of ways. A couple of the areas where I fall far short are mercy and forgiveness. Jesus might very well forgive you if you repent. I won’t. I will follow you to Outer Mongolia if necessary and I wouldn’t hesitate to drag you from a monastery. When I get through with you death will be a mercy. Do you understand?”

“Yes but…” Maxwell started.

I pulled him from his wheelchair and broke one of his trigger fingers.

“Yes or no—no equivocations. Yes ends our interview. No necessitates more genteel nonviolent discussion. Anything else but a simple ‘Yea’ or ‘Nay’ gets you another broken finger. Verstehen Sie?” I said.

“Yes, I understand!” Maxwell shouted.

I can’t think of a single other instance where he was so remarkably easy to reason with.

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

“You gave him a powerbase to work from,” Sardou accused.

“We gained some material in return. We picked up a couple dozen Adepts even if they need remedial training to come up to our standards. We gained over thirty skilled artisan Adepts and a bunch of young people. We even have more room in our town where Maxwell’s compound used to be and our enclave is bigger too,” I said.

“This will end up coming back to bite you in the ass,” Sardou said.

“I know but it was the best course open to me. Look at all those Adepts milling around over there—including Maxwell’s daughter. If I’d met Maxwell with killing intent they’d all be dead now. Some of our Adepts would have died too. We’d have torn up our village—and to what good purpose? We would have also set a precedent for Pearl Harboring folks in less than lethal circumstances,” I said.

“Breaking Maxwell’s finger will get you a bunch of negative gossip,” Sardou said.

“Tell everyone that as the spawn of a spawn, I’m but an imperfect copy of the original. No doubt my original wouldn’t have handled the situation with such unseemly brutality and cruelty,” I said.

“What? What did I say that was so funny?” I demanded but got no answer.

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

I saw a cartoon once where several scenarios for nuclear war were discussed while showing a cartoon map of the world. For comedy relief each scenario ended with a cartoon kangaroo in Australia saying:

“WTF ‘Might’!?!” in an exaggerated Aussie accent.

{Pronouncing “Mate” as “Mait” or “Might”…}

Since seeing that cartoon I’ve always pictured that bewildered kangaroo when either I or someone else is completely shocked, startled and nonplussed.

I felt like the clueless kangaroo when Sardou led five dudes from Oklahoma into my office.

Three of the five were Indians. Yes, unless I specify Bollywood Indians you should assume that I mean America Indians.

Read in Genesis how God had Adam give each creature a name. Later at the Tower of Babylon God caused the people to have different languages. All those names that Adam gave the animals—there is only One True Name for them. Every other name in every other language—while it may be handy as a designator—is not the One True Name of those animals.

Similarly, I believe in each of the myriad languages there are “True Names” for things and there are false names that designate but don’t resonate.

Columbus was mistaken when he thought that he was in India but when he dubbed the dudes that he met “Indians” that became their One True Name. In fact I believe that the American Indians actually have a stronger claim to the word “Indian” than the dudes on the subcontinent…

In the same way that I believe that the “English” language belongs to America in the modern world and not to Great Britain. Where they differ, American usage should be considered the correct usage.

I hate people with an agenda who try to substitute politikally korrect pseudo names instead of the One True Name. For instance:

The Chairman, Postman or Paperboy may be female but there is no such word as “Chairperson”, “Postwoman” or “Papergirl”.

Be all that as it may, these dudes soon had me thinking:

“It is like really man, be for real!”

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

“My name is ‘Crow’,” the spokesman for the group said.

“It is a good name,” Fear remarked from her perch.

Crow didn’t bat an eye at a talking raven that had a body bigger than the largest turkey and a wingspan that dwarfed a condor’s.

Trembling chuckled from his perch on the other side of my desk.

Crow unrolled a big topographical map on my desk.

“There is a detention camp here in Oklahoma. There is another here in Kansas and another here in Missouri,” Crow said while pointing to various red circles on his map.

“If we attack them piecemeal, each attack will cause the next camp to be more prepared and quite possibly reinforced. They might even preemptively kill the detainees,” Crow said. “So we want to hit all three of the enclosures simultaneously.”

“And you’re telling me because…” I prompted.

“We don’t have the manpower to carry this out,” Crow said.

“Most of our Adepts have black out. Black out is powerful in and of itself. What truly makes it shine though is as a force multiplier. If I put one Adept in a group of ten or fifteen of your men, they will also have black out for the duration, “I said.

“It is a temporary but powerful jutsu. That means that not only can our Adepts fight with their own special techniques but they’re also force multipliers. But do you have a force large enough to be worth multiplying?” I asked.

“We don’t have sufficient forces at the moment we’re still seeking supporters and useful allies. Also, ninety percent of our people aren’t Adepts—just riflemen who have no fear of death,” Crow said.


“Leaving aside all that—how many detainees do you plan to free?” I asked.

“There are well over ten thousand detainees in the camps,” Crow said.

“Can your enclave absorb and assimilate so many at one time?” I asked.

“That is something else we want to ask you,” an Indian named Two Rabbits said.

Crow was average height and stout with a big barrel-chest while Two Rabbits was about six-ten and built like an NBA pro basketball player. His face was deeply pockmarked.

“We need you to create an enclave for us—the bigger the better,” Two Rabbits said.

“Okay, do you all have anything but the habit?” I asked. “Is there anything else that you need to tell me?”

The third Indian was named “Conner”. He was about six-five and at first glance he looked like one of those Indians that eat a lot of starchy foods, took little or no exercise and washed the beans, cornbread and potato chips down with plenty of beer.

In Spoil Airgetlám’s day sumos were much more common than they are nowadays. Jason was kinda like a mini-sumo while Billy was a sort of uber sumo in giant form. We only had two or three real sumos in our enclave. I had met less than a half-dozen sumos from other groups.

Conner was a full-fledged and powerful sumo and he did a good job of camouflaging himself as one of the grossly obese.

“We don’t have a dime to pay you with Bro,” Conner said.

WTF Might…

“Okay, let me look at your plans and see what I can come up with. If I took these type missions for money, then I probably wouldn’t take them at all. There are far easier ways to earn cutter,” I told them.

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

In one of the Zen stories a Zen Master remarks that it is the giver who should be thankful. In the olden days—particularly amongst nomadic peoples—there is a sentiment that when a man is much enriched that he should feel heartfelt gratitude when other people think enough of him to come and share his bounty.

This is good Christianity as well. A wealthy man has been chosen by God to be a good steward since ultimately everything belongs to God anyway.

How many houses can a man live in? How many beds can he sleep in? How many fine guns and knives can he carry?

You can’t take it with you and at some point more is an unsupportable burden.

A man may have more meat and grain than he could possibly consume or transport—especially before modern transportation and preservation techniques came to be.

Ecclesiastes says:

“Moreover the profit of the earth is for all: the king is served by the field. He that loveth silver shall not be satisfied with silver; nor he that loveth abundance with increase: this is also vanity.

“When goods increase, they are increased that eat them: and what good to the owners thereof, saving the beholding with their eyes?”

When the broke, hungry and downtrodden come to a righteous man’s camp he washes them, gives them new clothes and weapons and asks them to sit in the seats of honor at his board.

Have you ever heard of the Game Theory Stratagem known as “Tit for Tat”?

Generosity is an excellent survival strategy in turbulent times.

Ecclesiastes also says:

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

“For man also knoweth not his time: as the fishes that are taken in an evil net, and as the birds that are caught in the snare; so the sons of men snared in an evil time, when it falleth suddenly upon them.”

This phenomenon is known as “Gamblers Ruin” in Game Theory. Planting seeds and/or herding stock are forms of gambling and if they didn’t pay off as a general rule, mankind would have long since perished. Nonetheless a statistically unlikely but possible run of bad luck can wipe out all your holdings.

This is a roundabout way of saying that famine happens.

I may take you in and sit you in the seat of honor today. Who knows, in five or six years I may be flat broke and in need of your generosity and be sitting in your seat of honor.

None of that is meant to justify the state robbing the rich to establish a welfare state. Neither is it meant to justify militant poor demanding largesse as their rightful due.

A close friend who also happened to be an Indian once told me that being destitute and asking for charity doesn’t make you a bum. Demanding things as if one has a claim to them—that’s what makes you a bum.

So all though the audacity of the Indians momentarily surprised me, in the end I was flattered that they thought enough of me to come to me and ask for my help…

That did not mean that I was at all sure that their schemes were at all practical or even possible.

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Wow - I really like where this seems to be going. Please keep it up.
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Chapter Sixteen

I found myself in Spoil Airgetlám’s throne room again. I had no idea what I had been doing when I was summoned. Sleeping or meditating would be no problem. If I was in a life or death struggle or driving down a narrow mountain road at eighty miles per hour when the summons came…

This time my team was with me: Sardou, Wiener, Neat, Jason, Billy, Robin, John and Vee. Brick, Stone, Style and Millicent were also there—as well as Zone and his half-sister Tabitha.

I’d never brought anyone else with me to the throne room before. Now there was a whole gang of us.

Also there were about a dozen perches behind the throne with oversized birds sitting on them and Spoil Airgetlám wore a leather falconer’s glove on his left hand.

Bad craziness…

Spoil Airgetlám called Sardou forward and after praising her loyalty and devotion he put something in her hand and presented her with a pair of giant red tailed hawks.

One by one the king called them forward and one by one he gave them birds and he placed something in each of their hands as well.

When it was Zone’s turn, he already had his giant raven but Spoil gifted him with a double handful of something.

As each person accepted their gifts with heartfelt words of gratitude they promptly disappeared. Finally there was no one left except for Wiener and me.

“You have done well for someone with no natural talent,” Spoil told Wiener.

He said it with more than a little sarcasm.

“Coil, it will take the both of you to handle building the type of enclave that the Oklahomans ought to have. Wiener, you have the requisite big kahuna but you lack some sort of flying companion to make the thing work. There are three pairs to choose from. Try to feed them and see which ones will accept you,” the king said.

“There are two pairs that accepted food from my hands,” Wiener said.

“Then you must choose,” Spoil said.

“You choose. I don’t want to hurt their feelings,” Wiener said.

The ravens squawked and screeched outrageously for a couple moments.

“Well that settles that,” Spoil said. “All three mated pairs are going with you. You throw enough spawn to keep them all mounted and then some.”

“I thought that the one pair didn’t like me,” Wiener said.

“It wasn’t a matter of liking or not liking you. They simply sensed that at that precise moment it wasn’t time to accept you,” Spoil Airgetlám said.

“Tell me something Coil—what exactly is chi?” Spoil Airgetlám asked.

“Do you mean what is it made of? I haven’t a clue. In a fully quantized universe I’d suppose that chi was a collection of chion particles—analogous to photons, gravitons and chronons,” I replied.

Spoil Airgetlám laughed long and hard about that one.

“That’s a delightful answer,” Spoil said.

“In many ways chi resembles static electricity—not entirely though. There is both positive and negative chi and each is subtly different from the other but they don’t tend to repel or react—at least not when they’re pretty thoroughly mixed. In point of fact, chi tends to draw still more chi,” Spoil said.

“The vast majority of Adepts don’t separate the two types of chi at all. They figure that chi is chi and the more the better. At the level that they’re working at they’re absolutely right. You on the other hand, have come to a stage where segregating your chi will start paying big dividends—all the more so because all your major chakras are double,” Spoil said.

“How is it better to sift and separate the two types of chi? And what is the purpose? And the procedure?” I asked.

“I have a small book for each of you that tells you how to start separating your chi. You won’t be able to segregate all of your body’s chi. That would be impossible. It is helpful to have a quantity of pure negative chi and a portion of positive chi—the purer that you can get them the better. There are some advanced jutsu that only work well enough to bother with if one you have some fairly pure positive chi and there are just about as many that only work well with negative chi. Then there are a few rarified types of jutsu that are fueled by suddenly mixing the two types of chi together,” Spoil Airgetlám said.

“How long will it take to refine samples pure enough to be good for anything?” I asked.

“Anywhere from a few weeks to a few years,” the king said.

“There is something else though. How well acquainted are you with Maxwell’s Equations?” Spoil asked.

“It’s a different Maxwell,” I told Wiener when I saw the look on his face.

“Electromagnetism is caused by voltage while magnetism is caused by current also known as amperage. Electromagnetism is a wave in one plane while magnetism is a wave on a plane lying at right angles to the first—and never the twain shall meet,” I said.

“They do meet though—every time they go through the common line that they both use as a zero state. I expect that the shared origin point is why current can be swapped for more voltage and vice versa. I can’t quantize that for you and I can’t write Maxwell’s Equations down from memory,” I said.

“Does that have anything to do with the coffee,” Wiener interjected.

“Damned Nation Wiener! If you’re ignorant there is no remedy for it—at least not fast enough to make a difference today. I’m ignorant of a lot of things myself—but you’ll never see me interjecting nonsense to proudly draw attention to my non-apprehension. Being proud of your ignorance is buck stupid,” I said.

“Okay, you are very close to topping out your chi levels. O you can contrive to add ten times as much or a hundred or two hundred—but to very little purpose because your transport system won’t let you handle very much more than you’re using now. Using polarized chi will allow you to progress a bit farther…” Spoil Airgetlám said.

“There is another force in the world. We call it “Virtue”. That is just an arbitrary name. Don’t let it confuse you,” Spoil said.

“Virtue is as different from chi as the principles of hydraulic circuits are different from electronic circuits. If chi is static electricity then virtue is analogous to magnetism,” Spoil said.

“It takes more effort to store than chi. It is harder to learn to use than chi. Truth be told, virtue is less versatile than chi. But you can do some things with virtue that you simply cannot do with chi. The largest payoff begins when you start to learn the jutsu that combine virtue with chi,” Spoil Airgetlám said. “I have a book of kinjutsu for each of you.”

Spoil Airgetlám also gifted both of us with a number of gems—particularly moissanite. Amongst other gewgaws he gave me a three-inch diameter faceted spheroid of the whitest moissanite to be found.

Diamond is carbon in crystal form. Quartz is crystal composed of silicone dioxide arrayed as crystals. Moissanite is a beautiful crystal made of carbon and silicone atoms in equal amounts and alternating in the crystal lattice. Moissanite is noticeably clearer than diamond and over 95% as hard.

Life revolves around carbon and living beings both create their own chi and though eating and breathing they absorb chi. Chi is in the air, the water, the sunlight and the soil. It is very rich in the biosphere.

Very few living creatures utilize silicone at all. Virtue seems to be mostly below the surface of the Earth and it is largely perceived of as inorganic force. As has already been said, chi is also produced inorganically and virtue has no grudge against living things.

Still, crystals composed of equal amounts of carbon and silicone seem especially suited for a number of advanced exercises.

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

It was time to build an enclave for the Indians. I’d never tried to create an enclave while working with a partner to allow a larger enclosure. No one, not even Spoil Airgetlám had ever attempted such a feat. It hadn’t been done in centuries—perhaps not in millennia.

They wanted as large an enclave as possible. Wiener and I managed to create a lopsided enclave with about as much surface area as New England—about 72 000 square miles in the northeast corner of Oklahoma.

Then we created four outlying enclaves of about 10 000 square miles each—one in Kansas, one in Arkansas and two on the border between Missouri, Oklahoma and either Kansas or Arkansas. The five enclaves resembled a huge dog’s paw-print. Then came the trickiest part—tying them all together.

A long skinny external enclave two hundred miles or so long would mean that the mundane would get unconsciously routed around the whole northeast corner of Oklahoma and fairly good sized chunks of several counties in the other three states. Notice would be inevitable. The idea with enclaves was to be at least halfway discrete.

The delicate part was creating bridges twenty-five or thirty miles wide to connect the enclaves with territory that only existed in the space where enclaves existed—wherever in Hell that was.

“You’re going to have absolute Hell terraforming such a huge enclosure. What need do you have for such a large area?” I said to Crow.

“In the modern day we can’t get away from some intensive agriculture but we’re going to turn most of it into prairie and let the buffalo roam,” Crow said.

“It will take decades to get grasslands growing over large parts of the enclave,” I said.

“It doesn’t matter if it takes a week, a thousand years or if it never happens at all. The important thing is to work toward a worthwhile goal,” Two Rabbits said.

“Well, I’ll help you all that I can. Adjusting the daylight and the seasons is tricky—but I can give you seven years of never-ending summer with sixteen hours of enhanced sunlight every day to get your crops, forests and grasslands off to an accelerated start,” I said.

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

It was time to form a war party and attack the detention camps.

A little experimenting proved that black out could be shared with the mundane—for an hour or so and at the cost of considerable chi.

We had our own arms factory now. We armed all the Indians and their allies from our arsenal.

Both Jeff Cooper and Elmer Keith felt that semi-automatic fire in an infantry rifle was a pointless frippery and leads to undisciplined fire. Our standard infantry weapon was a slightly beefed up bolt-action scout rifle in 7mm-08.

The barrel was a bit thicker—both to retain accuracy when firing long strings of fire—as infantry sometimes have to do—but more to resist bending when one falls on his weapon or some such. But the rifle was only thirty-five inches long.

They had detachable twelve round magazines—but not for quick reloads in the field. The detachable capability was to facilitate armory repair to the magazine should it become necessary.

The rifles come with a 1.75x forward-mounted scope with quick detach capability and a spare. However the back-up ghost ring iron sights were less of an afterthought on these rifles.

Each thirteen-man squad of riflemen had an attached three-man machinegun team with a belt-fed biped equipped 7mm-08 with quick barrel-changing capability.

As I’ve said, explosives scare the beejeeburs out of me, but everyone doesn’t share my apprehension. Our armories turned out 60mm mortars, RPGs and hand grenades as well made and probably safer than the ones turned out in the government arms factories—at least they weren’t any less safe.

There were several hundred folk in the Oklahoman’s group—more than I’d ever envisioned rising up at one time. I managed to get someone with black out in each platoon of sixty-five—though some of them were still in the Adept academy.

A beginner’s black out generally only reaches out a bit more than thirty yards. There is a way to stretch it out and make it long and narrow for long range sniping.

I managed to house and feed the strike force long enough for all of them to get in three weeks of heavy-duty shooting. It also took awhile to learn how to fully use shared black out. Since the platoon’s Adept might be the very first to fall, they also needed to be good shots even without black out.

Finally it was time to attack. Like Sensei drilled into me:

“Attack! Attack! Always attack!”

The Kansas detention center was the largest. I’d gone to that enclosure and brought Jason for his gatecrashing expertise. Billy was in the group attacking the Oklahoma concentration camp. Vee, Robin and John were with the Missouri force.

Jason, for all his tank-mindedness—not that he was slow, but brute force was his default state—had worked up to seven first wave spawn. He sent five to tear the fences down and kept two back to help guard his person.

There is nothing cowardly or timid about holding back spawn to guard the original. After all, if the original dies so do all of his spawn.

While I watched and directed the attack I was carefully hoarding my lightening chi.

Jason used his high-powered water jet to explode all the mines in a ten-yard swath leading up to the electrified gate. Then he cleared a path through the no-man’s-land between the fences. The mines in the minefield between the fences were much thicker. Then he started to hit the inside fence when a bunch of claymore mines ripped him asunder.

“Damned nation!” Jason said. “Well that’s why I sent a stalking horse and that’s why I assigned two spawn to that section of fence.”

In the meantime, almost a score of platoons of sharpshooters started sniping at anyone or anything that wasn’t an inmate. The machine guns started to fire five-round bursts at the guard towers and suchlike. Our mortars fell on the guard’s barracks and they plowed a path through the mines to include a patch well to each side to take out the enfiladed claymores.

After a hundred seconds the “mad minute” ceased. Riflemen topped off their magazines. Machine gunners switched barrels. Four Jason spawn cleared out the remainders of the fence.

The invasion and clearing of the camp had begun.

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

“Coil, come here. You need to see this,” Conner told me over the headset.

I had no idea what his malfunction was but I took him at his word. There was something that I needed to see.

Ovens—crematoriums—new and just recently put to use.

It is hard to put into words. I didn’t hold any illusions that such actions were beyond human wickedness—or even beyond the wickedness of the current administration. It was more a feeling of:

I’ve long suspected such things either were or soon would be going on. Now my worst suspicions are confirmed.

Okay if that’s the type of game that y’all want to play…

Maybe my anger and disgust caused me to be a bit careless. I jumped astride Fear and I hadn’t climbed thirty feet into the air when an attack helicopter with a 20mm minigun tore Fear and me into pieces small enough to hide.

“I’m over here dumbass,” I told the chopper though I was far too far away for him to hear me—As I aimed a RPG at him.

Yeah, Fear and several of the other birds had accumulated enough chi to spawn themselves. It was about time—what with all the chi-drops that I’d been feeding them.

The attack choppers were pretty much flying tanks with high tech composite armor with layers of graphite, chitin and nacre—don’t laugh—grown synthetically without any ruinous inclusions, mother of pearl is extraordinarily tough.

Our “Excaliber Class shaped-charge RPGs” were supposed to be a partial answer to the pestiferous flying tanks.

Yeah, it was like hitting a full-battle tank with the old LAW rockets. One shot gave you a brawler’s chance of knocking out a tank—nowhere near a certainty—or even a probability—just a chance.

Yeah but we were hitting the flying tank with so many RPGs that the pilot must have thought that he was flying through a hailstorm. Someone used some sort of low-pressure air jutsu and the chopper dropped very abruptly and it crashed. Fortunately it had enough forward momentum to clear the compound.

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

The liberation of the detention center in Missouri didn’t go nearly as smoothly.

Vee had the second highest spawn count in our group. She also had a sizzling fire jutsu. Nowadays she generally worked with Robin and John. Robin seemed to have an almost never-ending supply of two hundred mile per hour wind an it fanned Vee’s napalm blast even hotter.

Vee would run out of flame well before Robin ran out of wind so John would step in with his sandblasts. His sandblasts were already a powerful weapon and his fellow Bowling Green Adept Robin supercharged his sandblasts.

Neither Robin nor John could throw more than three spawn powerful enough to have anything close to one hundred percent wind or sandblasting jutsu—though they did have a couple of spawn in reserve ready to serve as a relatively feeble Praetorian Guard for the originals.

That was a minor concern. Three teams hit three sides of the enclosure while five napalm spewing Vee spawn hit the remaining side of the fence.

Our machine-gunners, sharpshooters and mortar men raced to see who could eliminate the most guards. I was there as a kahuna—a spawn of a spawn—to observe, command and aid if possible.

Once the battle was won, our people went from building to building. They were checking both for unneutralized defenders as well as detainees. We didn’t want to lose people to a hypothetical kamikaze counterattack and we didn’t want to leave any victims behind either.

There was a squat concrete block building. It was mostly underground with no more than a yard aboveground. Inside was a laboratory. There were children inside that they’d used as laboratory animals.

When I was a boy—I was five years old—my father took me to a carnival and we went to a “Freak Show”. Decades later I learned that that show was the very last of its kind. “Freak” isn’t the Politikally Korrect term? Well don’t blame me—that’s what the damned thing was called.

At any rate, there are a number of ways to subtract limbs, eyes, and organs etcetera. It is far harder to truly add something—not that it is beyond human ingenuity.

The inside of the lab reminded me of that old time freak show. I could almost smell the dust, sawdust and the smell of corndogs in the air.

I dragged a fellow in a white lab coat over.

“What is the meaning of this?” I demanded.

“I’m an inmate too! I just sweep and clean and sometimes I can sneak a bit of extra food in for the children of get a brief message to their parents on the outside,” he pleaded.

A couple of the children who could no longer speak walked over and patted the man as if to confirm that he was a friend.

“What is the point of these Hannibal Lector Games?” I demanded.

“They’re trying to create ready-made Adepts or perhaps Super Soldiers. Alternative hypothesis: They’ve all lost their minds,” Doc said.

I pointed to a young boy who had a second right arm grafted on.

“What on Earth possible use could that be?” I almost shouted.

“He had a twin. They sacrificed one to graft his arms onto the other. Its not just an arm—they needed a whole shoulder girdle if the arms were to be of any use. The left arm died and had to be removed. The subject was ruined but they carried on the experiment for the sake of gaining more data,” Doc said.

“You don’t sound like a janitor,” I said.

“I have a Bachelor’s degree in Chemistry and a PhD in Biology. Hellfire and damned nation! It takes a certain amount of knowledge to even clean glassware without introducing contaminants. I assure you, I was a prisoner here just like the other inmates,” Doc said.

“Alright, get some cameras in here and document this. Doc, if there’s anything that you think we need to know—lab books, hard drives—whatever—let my people know,” I said.

“Once we have what we’re taking with us—trash everything else,” I said to my people.

Then I heard a ginormous roar.

“That was one of the things that they were working on,” Doc said.

“They have been trying to wipe the brains so that they have a tabula rasa for programming. All they’ve managed to do is create a giant cyborg that is almost indestructible, has the mind of an enraged animal and is as dangerous to friend as to foe. That’s why they weren’t released to try to repel your attack,” Doc said in a rush. “But apparently your people have compromised their pens. All you can do is run!”

“O Hell no!” I said aloud when I saw the two cyborgs.

There is no good reason to make weapons of war in the shape of giant men. Some sort of multi-articulated leg, low to the ground armored spider or tortoise would almost certainly have a lowered center of gravity, have legs to spare and present a far lower profile for hostile fire.

That leaves out one key point though. Nothing quite has the same psychological intimidation power when trying to put down a domestic insurrection as forty-five foot tall “Men.”

These things weren’t piloted. What had once been men were fully grafted and integrated into them and they were covered in the same sort of graphite mesh fiber, aluminum mesh, chitin and Nacre laminated armor as the flying tanks.

With a Knick-Knack
Give an Oni
A Kanabo

Yeah wait, that doesn’t rhyme, or scan or anything.

That is so sad…

I’d been working on a transformation similar to Billy’s giant transform. And just like the government’s giant cyborgs there were elements purely for psychological impact…

Though any psy-op would be wasted on these giant mechanical zombies.

The two-giant cyborgs were grabbing my people and ripping them apart. Occasionally they’d go through the motion of eating one. Psy-war indeed!

They were met by a furious ten-foot tall red oni with a seven-foot long thirty-five pound kanabo—a massive two-handed club. That wasn’t all though. I could sheath the kanabo in chi and make it cut like the sharpest sword—but with far more momentum.

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Old 01-12-2016, 02:03 PM
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Cool Oni & Kanabo


Just to help you visualize…

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Chapter Seventeen

I didn’t feel much like engaging the giant cyborgs in witty repartee. They were pretty much mindless and the human parts hadn’t chosen to follow that path.

“Fall to your knees and tremble in terror!” I shouted.

I swung my jumbo oni-sized kanabo and struck the lead giant’s ankle inward just before he’d put his weight on it. The effect was much like a foot sweep. He wobbled ponderously and then fell with a huge crash.

I’d thought such a huge, slow and ungainly creature would be unsteady on its feet. An octopod built lower to the ground would have been far better tactically.

I crushed its head as it floundered around gracelessly like a tortoise on its back.

As I turned toward the second monster two of Vee’s spawn were hosing it in a crossfire of super hot flaming napalm streams. Just as number-two collapsed inward having been reduced to a smoldering hulk the headless first cyborg climbed drunkenly to its feet.

Yeah, the head had some eyes and high gain microphones but all the human parts and the thing’s silicone brain was housed in the mid-section. It also had a number of heretofore redundant eyes and ears facing both front and back.

One Vee was dry. The other Vee sprayed a desultory stream of napalm at the infernal contraption.

I was supposed to be saving every bit of lightening jutsu possible—but damned nation!

I struck the headless giant robot with one thunderbolt after another. I wasted five lightening bolts where one or at most two would have sufficed simply because the wreck hadn’t had enough time to fall to the ground yet.

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

It was time to do the “Escape and Evade” thingy. There were a number of drawbacks. We had far more people this time. We had farther to transport many of them and we had far less rolling stock.

I mean with three concentration camps almost within Kunai throwing distance of each other folks would catch on if we started stealing school busses in large numbers once more.

We loaded those who couldn’t walk onto open flat-bedded semi trailers. Seeing the loved ones would help stiffen the reserve of the walkers. The trailers also served to carry the refugee’s pitiful belongings. Many of them were loathe to leave their issue blankets for instance and I quite understood. For many, those two military surplus wool blankets were all that they had left.

There were also a few semis carrying food along with more weapons and ammo for the troops.

So within a couple of hours the federal troops were hot on our trail.

Wind jutsu is. I cannot do it, but it is nonetheless. We had some strong wind jutsu practitioners that we’d been force-feeding chi for two or three weeks.

An F-6 tornado formed at the rear of our column. I’m not sure that such a mighty tornado had ever come about naturally in the history of the Earth. Jutsu is one thing but we’d waited for prime tornado season and weather to give our wind Adepts the strongest possible foundation to build on.

A jacked-up super tornado is one thing. A super tornado guided by an intelligent and malevolent hand is something else again—especially with my spawn surfing the gale force peripheral winds on spawned giant ravens raining down lightening bolts on anything the F-6 hadn’t completely trashed.

Once the F-6 had pretty well trashed the pursuit our Adepts kept up a steady procession of F-5 tornados to screen our flanks and our rear. There was no cause for unseemly haste.

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

When we arrived at the closest newly created enclave I saw how the Indians spelled relief to thousands of homeless refugees—teepees. I mean: no excrement Sherlock.

In the old days teepees were made of buffalo skin but even many Indians had switched to canvas before they were all confined to reservations. Tent grade canvas works just about as well and even has some advantages. You need fifteen or sixteen sixteen-foot-long poles and a quantity of canvas. The true teepee was more than a mere conical shell. There was also an inner wall that increased the insulation considerably.

The old traditional teepees had a small fire pit in the center. Each of the Oklahoman teepees had one of those wood stoves made from two 55 gallon barrels stacked one atop the other.

It was a sight well worth seeing—all those mostly white teepees arrayed in row after row. It brought to mind the old Western movies or television shows that were so common at one time. The movies seemed to imply that in the old west, that just over any hill might be an Indian village with a population in the tens of thousands—like South American Army Ants—or Uncles—or some such.

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

“Well I think that y’all have things under control here,” I told Crow and Two Rabbits.

“Feel free to send folks to our Adept academy until you have enough Adepts to start your own school. Let me know if you need food, weapons, advice or any other help that I can give you,” I said.

“I want to go with you to study at your Adept academy,” The boy with an extra right arm said.

“Don’t you want to stay and try to get rid of that extra right arm first?” I asked him.

“Why? The extra arm works and it is all that I have left of my brother. I want to try to fit an advanced prosthetic on this,” he said.

He pulled up the smock that they’d given him. He had more remaining on the left side than I’d thought at first glance. There was the entire upper arm and a good four-inch stump below the elbow.

“They will long rue the day that they strengthened my hand to be used against them,” he said.

“What’s your name?” I asked him.

“They call me ‘Lefty’,” he said.

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

Chi pills continued to sell well but the market was becoming semi-saturated and we couldn’t continue to sell them at the same price per carat as gem quality emeralds. Our farmers continued to sell impossibly high quality foodstuffs to the outsiders in our area. Our artists and craftsmen did a booming trade.

When the government outlawed virtually all firearms it opened a large market for our small arms factories.

One must understand something about the arms trade. Weapons that are well maintained and fired a judicious number of rounds can last for a century or two. One isn’t likely to fire many hundreds of rounds per week in the face of black market ammunition prices.

Ammunition is both consumable and perishable—though stored in a cool and dry place it can be perfectly good after fifty years or more.

Lead bullets are easy to cast. Even swaged and jacketed bullets aren’t beyond the determined home armorer. Hand jacked or hydraulically driven presses can swage brass cartridge cases. Failing that, cases can be laboriously turned by hand on a lathe.

Powder is an order of magnitude harder to manufacture but a man can make a modest amount of black powder for his family and for himself. Nitrocellulose can even be extruded into gun cotton—though this results in the less desirable “Single Base” gunpowder. Double base powder requires nitroglycerine—something most prudent folks would sooner avoid fooling with.

Primers are the bottleneck. Priming compound—well I don’t like to say that something is flat out “Impossible”—but safe manufacture of priming compound in a small home workshop is exceedingly difficult. I’ve never seen a recipe that looked good enough to risk my eyes and fingers to experiment with.

Someone is thinking: “Yeah but…”

Sure places like DuPont and Remington turn out primers by the million. Yeah and they have invested millions of dollars to build factories that turn primer manufacture into something sane people are willing to labor at.

We not only had millions of dollars to invest in a primer-manufacturing factory and we could employ spawn to do anything risky.

High quality primers packed a thousand rounds per brick didn’t sell for an equal weight of gold but they did sell for almost an equivalent weight of silver.

There were other requirements. We produced and sold high quality reloading equipment at a very modest profit to create a market for our primers. We created and sold bullet molds and sizers along with swaging equipment.

We sold brass cases and loaded ammunition. We sold books that showed how to manufacture black powder and nitrocellulose/gun cotton. We sold books showing how to draw brass into cartridge cases. We even sold books on primer manufacture thinking that would cause many to throw up their hands and resolve to buy our primers ahead of all other expenditures.

If someone used our forbidden techniques to go into competition with us—hey, that was cool too. The most important desideratum was that men be armed. Earning an honest profit by helping men achieve that virtuous objective was secondary.

That’s not to say that we didn’t make guns…

We made beaucoup very fine guns.

Long before the government had decided to limit most of their ammunition use to 9mm, .40 S&W, .223 and 12 Gauge. There was some special use of .22 LR—mostly for silenced weapons, and something like the 7mm Magnum for snipers/sharpshooters…

Chitinous body armor was. It would stop any and all pistol rounds except for the hard-kicking and special purpose modern armor-piercing rounds. The armor would also stop many rifle rounds. Laws went into battle with almost as much body coverage as knights of old. Meanwhile the chitin body armor was forbidden to “civilians.”

Even the local laws went about their business with a breastplate, backplate and football uniform sized thigh-protectors. The thigh protectors didn’t give the thigh one hundred percent coverage but it made shooting for the thighs a very uncertain method of dropping a law.

Past experience had shown that laws on patrol simply wouldn’t wear a protective helmet day in and day out. So the higher-ups compromised by making the helmet available when the law felt he was going into harm’s way. When the hypothetical law may or may not be wearing a chitin helmet practicing headshots becomes less than a cure all.

The best protection that most “civilians” could come up with would be a level IIIA vest—perhaps with trauma plate and side panels. IIIA armor is bulky and uncomfortable as well as expensive. Few “civilians” even had IIIA armor—though the lighter level IIA and level II vests were somewhat more common.

The hypothetical insurgent would be going up against opposition that was largely immune to small arms fire at the torso. There was just enough armor on head and thighs to rule out that being the stand-up go-to point of aim.

Some hard core activists went into street-level confrontations armed with medieval type armor-busters—bearded axes, war hammers with a long spike on the backside, maces even kanabo. Meanwhile the government—that could have simply stayed back and used nerve gas or called in an airstrike—felt for some reason that it was necessary to engage the protestors man-to-man.

Be all that as it may. Laws were well enough armored that it wasn’t worth the trouble to worry if they might be “Out-Gunned.”

We turned out quite a few Enfield-style bolt-action rifles with under-folding stocks. No, the Enfield’s lock-up was somewhat weak. It was the stock that was two-piece like the old Enfield. With a folding stock and a fourteen-inch barrel the rifle was reasonably concealable under a jacket or carried in a briefcase or whatever.

The under-folding stock was reasonably fast to open and it locked up tight enough for reasonable accuracy. Chambered in our proprietary 7mm-08 Caliber Armor-Buster ammo it was a reliable vest penetrator.

The government wasn’t the only opposition that folks faced. Urban gangs and roving rural brigands were an increasing problem and for whatever reason the state didn’t expend much effort targeting the gangs. For one thing, they were far more interested in rooting out dissidents and people trying to practice tradecraft. It also seemed that the actions of the gangs generally aided the state’s aims The gangs gave the state more excuse to crank down and made the victims more complaisant.

Some folks didn’t groove on being victims though. Some folk’s resolve to avoid becoming helpless victims approaches being a mania.

Hey dude! If you got a craving for weapons let me help you scratch your itch!

So we also did a brisk trade in “gang-busting” firearms. We had a couple of submachine-guns in .30 Carbine. There was a fairly good copy of the Sten fitted with our 32-round .30 Carbine magazines. The other gun was a PPSh-41. The PPSh used the same 32-round magazines as the Sten but it could also accept an 88 round drum.

Our proprietary .30 Carbine rounds were nickel-plated, used large primers and were loudly advertised as unsafe for the old .30 M1 Carbines that might still be around—though no one had produced a .30 M1 in over 120 years.

Our loads got a wee-bit more velocity from the 13” barrels of the sub-guns than the old .30 Carbine loads obtained from an 18” barrel—and they screamed out of the muzzle like a Banshee being raped by a Sasquatch.

We also produced any number of semi-automatic pistols as well as beaucoup single and double-action revolvers in myriad calibers and myriad styles.

Standardize calibers and actions? Why? For many folks, collecting beautiful firearms is what makes life worthwhile. Who wants to go into his secret gunroom and look at three-score parkerized 9mm as well as two-score .40 S&Ws—all with exactly the same action, barrel length, black plastic stocks etcetera?

As Castaneda had Don Juan say once:

“Your resolutions injure the spirit.”

Where we really made money though was selling drugs.

Get your mind out of the gutter. Some street drugs can have some beneficial effects and it is annoying to have to have to search for them on the street when and if you feel the urge. If you get right down to it—much of the undesirable effects of chronic drug use is caused by the black-market culture rather than drug use per se…

Nonetheless drugs in combination with the black-market subculture ruin many folk’s life and I didn’t feel comfortable contributing.

But Yippie-Ki-Ay dudes!

Can you say: “Socialized Medicine”?

Can you say: “Rationed Health Care”?

Can you say: “Black-Market Health Care”?

My enclave produced Penicillin, Amoxicillan, Streptomycin, Tetracycline and several Sulfonamides. We produced Aspirin, Dextropropoxyphene (the old Darvon), Pethidine (Demerol). We manufactured Procaine (Novacaine) and Lidocaine (Xylocain). We also made Ketamine, Benzedrine and Valium.

We turned out beautiful surgery kits with the old style reusable scalpels. We made autoclaves and dozens of other gadgets that would come in handy for the black-market physician or surgeon to set up a secondary—or primary—place of practice that was off-the-record.

The aim was to sell the medical drugs and equipment for minimal profit. I stuck by my rule that if there was no profit to be made then there was a minimal need for that product or service.

The way that medical gear and drugs flew off our proverbial shelves convinced me that there was a booming demand for those products.

There is no equitable distribution system that cannot be abused. However throughout history the best equitable distribution system that has ever been conceived of is the Free Market. It may seem cold and cruel to sell life-saving drugs to the highest bidder. On the other hand, why give them to the lowest bidder?

At least with the Free Market, high prices alert potential investors that there is a profit to be made.

An investor may be a thoroughly rotten human being, but if he makes Penicillin and sells it cheaply enough to outsell the competition then he benefits many Penicillin users. Eventually Penicillin becomes cheap enough that most people in need can obtain it at a price that they can afford.

No, nothing is ever one hundred percent efficient. But social utility isn’t the main justification for Capitalism. The best justification is moral:

A man owns himself and the products of his labor.

Thou shalt not Steal.

Thou shalt not Covet.

If God choses to bless a man abundantly and that man choses to be a miser and hoard his wealth rather than being a good steward, then that is between him and God. Anyway, the Bible says that the evil rich man is industriously laying up treasures that will eventually be inherited by the righteous.

Sometimes it takes a few generations and since history is an ongoing process there will always be some rotten greed-heads laying up treasures. You simply must leave some things up to God. We weren’t put on this Earth to play Robin Hood or to be flyswatters.

Having said all that, even though we increased our production of medical equipment and drugs dramatically, the street level price continued to grow precipitously as word got around.

And yes, I did donate some quantities of healthcare supplies to folks that I felt were poor but deserving. No, that isn’t a violation of my Capitalistic principles. I can do anything that I want to with my property. If I choose to flush one hundred dollar bills down the toilet—that too is my prerogative.

I just earnestly felt that the best thing that I could do was to sell at least ninety-five percent of my output on the open market. Certainly I couldn’t have afforded to double and triple our drug output year after year without the generous funds provided via the free market.

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

Things had settled in for the long haul. I received several requests to create more enclaves.

Some Adepts or even mundane freedom fighters raided a few more concentration camps. Our enclave as well as the Oklahoma group sent along tornado creating Adepts. Adept created tornadoes lack a certain “Oomph!” outside of Tornado Alley and/or out of season. Nonetheless even comparatively feeble F-4s or even F-3s were more than enough to thoroughly discourage pursuit by forces that weren’t dedicated enough to risk life and limb to apprehend fugitives.

Then the government tumbled wise. They fitted the detention centers with suicide switches that could flood the camps with neurotoxins on short notice. There is no point in rescuing corpses.

I read once that back in the 1800s the British started executing ten Irish civilians for every British soldier slain by the IRA. The IRA replied by proclaiming that for every civilian executed in retaliation that one hundred British civilians would be executed. I’m not sure, but I think that halted the retaliation against civilians before it ever got started. If not, it quickly brought it to a halt.

My people weren’t involved but a number of aggrieved Adepts and even non-Adepts retaliated against the extended family of detention center guards all the way down to second cousins for the mass executions.

We had become almost totally self-sufficient in our enclave and I had hopes that our enclave and most of the other enclaves could largely set this wave of repression out on the sidelines much like Switzerland sat out WWI and WWII.

Maybe we could have…

Except that folks set up a busy underground railroad to move dissidents to the nearest enclave. Yeah, and supplying the guerillas with weapons, ammunition, explosives and how-to manuals didn’t set well with them.

They already had a few government-sponsored Adepts and a rudimentary ability to find and breach enclaves. The ongoing hostilities led them to take their enclave busting to a whole other level.

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It has become fairly easy to rip out one of these 3000+ word chapters—except when I can't envision what comes next. That is the current delay.

Here is a picture of a folding stock Enfield.

I HATE saw-handle grips and slab-sided pistols—especially Revolvers. {The 1911A1 is rounded on the top of the slide and has some interesting contours at the Muzzle—compare to the SIGS or Gag! Glock…}

Anyway, the Enfield Could have kept the Pistol Grip from the Original Wood…

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Thanks for the last few chapters. Good stuff as usual.
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Chapter Eighteen

The man’s name was “Chester Overton.” He was young and tall and blond. Apparently he ran around clad in a three-piece suit most of his waking hours. He had what looked like a three carat diamond ring on his left ring finger and a Masonic ring with a more modest diamond on his right ring finger. He also wore a Rolex watch with a gold colored case and band.

His minions had sniffed all around our enclave and left enough “messages in bottles” that I’d agreed to meet him.

“This country is going to Hell in a hand-basket,” Overton began.

That is an old rhetorical technique: start out with something the listener will almost certainly agree to. That gets a speech or an interview off on a positive note. I wasn’t playing so I just sat and looked at him waiting for him to go on.

“There has got to be a drastic change,” he continued.

That is a dubious statement. There is no metaphysical necessity for things to change for the better. They were just as likely to continue on in the same vein or start deteriorating even faster.

“I have started my own political party. I’m running for president. We have a number of candidates for Governor, Senate and The House as well as many local candidates for state senates, mayoral offices, city council and sheriff,” He said.

“I’m happy for you,” I said.

“What do you think of my platform?” he asked.

“Politics is a wacked game. There are numerous homeostatic mechanisms that work against reform and the natural progression is always toward more control. In the modern world there is a sharp dichotomy between the character traits needed to be elected to office and the character traits needed to do a creditable job in office,” I said.

“Also, the public has been force-fed so much socialist nonsense that one doesn’t even know where to begin to reason with them. Additionally most people today ‘reason’ by quoting short snappy slogans. Given all that, your platform is largely beside the point,” I said.

“Are you saying that I shouldn’t even try?” Overton asked.

“So far as I’m concerned, you’re free to do whatever you wish—including slitting your belly and committing seppuku. I’ll even lend you a wakizashi but please do it outside to keep down the mess and clutter in my office,” I said.

“I—in contrast—am not going to make any campaign contributions to your party. That would amount to flushing paper fiat currency down the toilet,” I said.

“I’m not here soliciting contributions. I want to contract with you for bodyguards for key personnel and folks who are at high risk and to provide security at some of our rallies. I may also want to hire some of your people as investigators. I don’t plan to start by flinging mud, but I want to have my own stack of slush-balls on hand if this turns into a snowball fight,” Overton said.

Executive protection, security and espionage were supposed to be some of our fortes. In addition we could always use more funds and our Adepts needed to try their skills in the outside world occasionally. There didn’t seem any reason to turn Overton down—even though I thought his proposed reforms had almost no chance of coming to fruition and wouldn’t restrain the beast much—or even a little—even if he somehow got them passed in law.

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

Jealousy and Envy were identical twins. They were seventeen years old and they’d graduated from the Adept academy a little over a year earlier.

They were both five foot-nine and weighed a bit over one seventy. They had long very straight black hair that reached past their belts when they let it hang freely.

Usually they braided their hair and pinned it into a bun when training or a mission. Their complexion was just a bit swarthy and their cobalt blue eyes glowed with an eerie inner light when they weren’t consciously suppressing the glow.

Now you have to understand Adept training—and don’t judge by my early training or lack thereof—I was highly atypical.

As the chakra tree and the chi meridians are developed, usually dramatic physical skills and abilities are the first to come into being. The skills are just on the edge of what is possible in terms of biology and ordinary physics.

Chi stimulates the muscles to perform a bit beyond what they could do via ordinary stimulation. Then chi helps the Adept recover and prosper from the grueling workouts far faster and fully than a mundane could recover even if somehow he could spur his body to such efforts.

In time the muscles, nerves and bone—not to mention connective tissue—are rewoven.

Mundane muscles move via actin and myosin fibers working kinda like rack and pinions. Adept’s muscle works via a different mechanism and it is stronger pound-for-pound. The nerves carry more messages faster than mundane nerves. The bones are denser and stronger.

Some Adept abilities appear to violate the laws of physics but even before an Adept can get into the gray spooky realm filled with “Woo”, the physical ability explodes in all directions.

The bounciest NFL football players and NBA basketballers have a standing vertical leap of about four feet. The girls were jumping over six feet straight up midway through their second year of Adept training. The record for standing broad jump is about twelve feet. The girls could do close to seventeen feet.

Mundane ninjas in Japan work up to leaping from five-story scaffolding—usually without serious injury. The girls could have added a story or two to that with far less need to suck-up the pain to stand again after landing.

Strength? Take the weight that was the world record for a man in their weight class—with super-squat suit, reinforced bench press shirt and lots of skill practice on the Olympic lifts. You should take the record these men set on their very best day ever.

The girls could add eighty to one hundred pounds and lift that weight five to eight repetitions. That is “Raw”—without any specialized lifting paraphernalia. The girls could do that on any given day and given an hour or two to rest between sessions, they could do those lifts two or three times in one day—and the next day and the next.

The girls decided early on that they wanted to specialize in stealth, tracking, stalking and surreptitious entry and exfiltration. They would have had crazy skills even without any true jutsu. They had numerous Adept abilities—including multiplying their physical strength by seven or eight hundred percent for twenty or thirty minutes at a time with no damage or backlash except the need to rest for a few hours and probably eat a big meal before they were able to do it again.

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

Jealousy, Envy, Lefty and two other Adepts named “McIntosh” and “Beagle” were summoned to the dispatcher’s office. The dispatcher introduced them to Overton and left them to confer with the potential client alone.

“The government is doing all sorts of genetic and cybernetic experimentation that is illegal even today,” Overton said.

“I find that hard to believe,” Lefty said.

Lefty had two right arms of course. He had one of the silver prostheses that Adepts used replacing the stump where his second left arm had been.

Lefty could cast a glamor to pass among the mundane without too much scrutiny He’d never be a low profile stealth fighter though.

There was more to his alteration than simply grafting his twin brother’s arms onto his ribcage. Without a scapula and clavicle for leverage the extra limbs would have been feeble. Then there was a crying need for something like pectorals—major and minor—and so forth and so on.

The cracked-pots had lengthened Lefty’s torso, given him extra ribs and a sternum long, wide and robust enough to serve as attachment site for two sets of pectorals and hinged in the middle for greater torso flexibility.

The end result was that Lefty was seven-foot six. He had huge lungs and two hearts to support all the extra tissue.

Somewhere along he way he’d developed a lump on his forehead that split open to reveal an oversized third eye.

People speak of parallax as the means of perceiving depth. There are about thirty-eight ways that the eye can perceive depth and only about eleven make use of parallax.

Someone used to having only one eye does a good job of perceiving depth. What they really miss is peripheral vision on the blind side.

At any rate, parallax only works out to about eighteen feet—beyond that the two views are virtually identical.

Be all that as it may. What parallax that exits is horizontal. Estimating the distance to vertical posts or trees should—hypothetically—be simple. Figuring the distance to a horizontal figure—like a crocodile—not so simple.

Lefty’s new eye came online fully functional and now he had vertical parallax as well as horizontal. Never mind that his new eye was bigger than the other two and had far more data gathering power than both of his “regular” eyes added together.

There really seemed to be no useful purpose to Lefty’s conversion—except perhaps to learn techniques that might prove useful in less ambitious transformations. Lefty really seemed to be the result of some mad scientist’s febrile tinkering.

He would have been a fierce fighter—for a few moments. Even with extra lungs and two hearts Lefty got winded rather quickly. He really wasn’t twice as effective as two regular soldiers. He ate more than two soldiers and needed beaucoup special gear.

Apparently the experimenters had cloned Lefty and his brother and had used large amounts of undifferentiated embryonic tissue to knit their patchwork creation together. Since Lefty had no memory of any life outside of the laboratory it was quite probable that he and his brother were clones themselves.

Lefty had become an adept though. His muscles and bones had been rewoven and supercharged. Since he could only pass himself off as normal with the greatest difficulty anyway he’d packed his frame with heavy-duty Adept bone and frame.

A seven and a half foot man with four arms who only weighed four hundred and sixty pounds was only a semi-sumo—like Jason. There was nothing “Semi” about Lefty’s strength or jutsu though.

Overton passed out purple plastic folders to everyone. The bound paper within was over an inch thick.

“These folders mustn’t leave this room. You will return here for several days until you’ve committed the important points to memory and then they will be burned in the thermite can,” Overton said.

Lefty flipped through his folder casually as Overton spoke and drew diagrams on the chalkboard. Marker boards had replaced chalkboards almost everywhere except the enclaves. Overton’s hesitant draftsmanship betrayed his lack of familiarity with the medium.

“What do you expect to accomplish by documenting the experiments being carried out in this covert laboratory?” Envy asked.

“If the people knew what the government was doing behind the veil of secrecy they would rise up in righteous moral outrage,” Overton opined.

Jealousy snorted in derision. Beagle broke off a short chuckle. Lefty continued to leaf through his folder as if he were reading a Spiderman comic book.

“I think that you give the proletariat too much credit,” Envy said.

“I wish that you’d pay attention to me. You can read the folder’s contents later,” Overton said to Lefty in a tone of barely suppressed pique.

Lefty handed the folder back to Overton.

“You can burn mine. I’ve already committed all of it to memory,” Lefty said.

“Give the rest of us five minutes to catch up and you can burn ours too,” Envy said.

“What do you think?” Overton asked Lefty. “Do you think bringing all the secret and immoral and illegal experiments done at this facility to light will accomplish anything?”

“Don’t care,” Lefty said. “The sage acts solely for the sake of action without regard for consequences. I hate the type of dirty knob-gobblers who do things like this to people.”

Lefty did a quadruple front bicep pose for emphasis.

“If you tell me that I may have a chance to kill dark crafters that is enough for me,” Lefty said. “Count me in.”

Beagle and McIntosh said that they were in as well.

Envy and Jealousy looked at each other momentarily then Jealousy said:

“We are in.”

Overton had guaranteed them twenty five hundred dollars each with several generous bonuses for either partial or fully successful completion. The twins could be very selective indeed about what—if any—future missions they accepted with that kind of money put by.

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

Envy caught Lefty outside the dispatch building.

“Jealousy and I are twins,” Envy said. “I know that you had a twin and I know what became of him. I sympathize—but nonetheless you can’t expect Jealousy and I to tiptoe around the fact that we’re twins while we’re around you.”

“I wouldn’t expect that,” Lefty said. “But please allow me to intrude in your business just a wee bit. You may not always have your sister. Cherish your time together.”

“That is quite okay. I take no offence and you’re absolutely right,” Envy said.

“What did you think of the photos of the site?” Envy then asked Lefty.

There were more than enough satellites with high-powered optics turned toward Earth to give one a very close-up photo of allmost anything he might crave to examine. Except that views of certain areas were redacted.

So one had to engage a hacker, corrupt a civil master or corrupt civil masters from other countries.

There were other ways. There were drones that could pass as a bumblebee or a butterfly. There were drones that looked just like vultures or red-tailed hawks. They could soar far overhead for hours taking digital snapshots all the while.

“He seems to have used many sources of data and incorporated all of them into creating a virtual 3-D model and then used 2-D stills of his virtual model from multiple viewpoints. At least his photos don’t quite look real and that’s how I’d have handled the problem,” Lefty said.

“Could you have written the software?” Envy asked.

“Yeah, but I’d have labored at it…

“Wait a minute! You want to know if I’m more than just a pretty face sitting atop an iconic body don’t you?” Lefty asked.

“Envy, do you have black out?” Lefty asked.

“No, Jealousy and I have blue out. It’s even less of a power than red out although it beats having nothing,” Envy said.

“I have never had any eye jutsu previously. Watch this,” Lefty said.

His big eye turned black and he brought Envy into his black out. Lefty’s super black out extended well over a hundred yards in every direction.

“There is something about this mission that doesn’t make sense. Public opinion just isn’t that big a factor in the modern world. I know that you only care about fighting the dark crafters, but all else being equal wouldn’t you prefer to survive to fight them again, and again?” Envy asked.

“Lets keep your black out a secret between you and me and Jealousy. It’ll be an ace up our sleeve,” Envy said.

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

The facilities weren’t any artificial wombs filled with glowing cyan fluid with monsters gestating inside. The research was in weaving gene sequences to order and getting neurons to form lasting bonds with computer chips and other electronic gear.

Almost all the things had already been done. This lab was simply searching ways to do it faster, cheaper and better.

That was just one of the reasons the Adepts were dubious. Nonetheless the money was good and the mission seemed doable.

Beagle controlled a number of Beagle Dogs. He sent a cadre of small dogs around the outside of the compound as scouts and as an early warning system should reinforcements be sent from unknown quarters.

Lefty did a black out. The twins already knew that Left had black out but both the others glanced at him in surprise. None of the others had their own black out but they’d trained while being piggybacked on someone else’s black out many times. They could tell that Lefty’s black out was especially powerful for the same reason.

McIntosh could levitate. He wrapped one arm around each twin as he lifted them over the electric fence. Lefty and Beagle used a concealment jutsu that hid them better than well-crafted ghille suits and waited outside.

Once inside, McIntosh who wasn’t as skilled at surreptitious movement hunkered down to wait on the twins.

Envy and Jealousy split up. Each of them had directions to get to a different stand-alone computer terminals to download all the data. The girls were comparatively strong hackers but with limited time they were relying on code words and canned programs that Overton had obtained somehow. They didn’t need to know.

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

Envy’s download finished a minute or two earlier than they’d planned. She stepped out of the building and eluded a walking guard…

At that moment sirens started screaming. Multiple high-powered lights lit the compound up brighter than noon on a sunny summer day.
McIntosh had the bad luck to be silhouetted when he was between some very bright lights and the guards. They hosed him with multiple rounds before he had a chance to react.

Some kind of knockout gas flooded the complex of cubicles where Jealousy crouched by a computer anxiously waiting for the data to load into her portable hard drive. She had time to retrieve her hard drive and she made it outside just as her knees started to buckle.

The three remaining team members knew that McIntosh was dead and that Jealousy was down on her knees gasping for air. Envy ran towards her sister. Beagle was sending some of his dogs to ground and using a few others to check for ambushes along their favored lines of retreat.

Lefty was supposed to stay put and provide fire support for the entry team when and if they made it to his position.

Instead Lefty ran to the electric fence. It was charged with enough current to kill a mundane—or a charging elephant or rhinoceros. He grabbed the fence in his hands—all four of them—and he ripped it asunder like the temple veil.

Lefty drew two oversized “Broomhandle Style” semi-automatic pistols made to take advantage of his XXXL physique. The fifty caliber rimless rounds rivaled the .500 S&W Magnum for power. He held a Confederate style Bowie short sword with knuckle-bow and eighteen-inch blade in each of his lower hands. He bared his teeth in a grimace that was part anger and part joy that he could finally strike back at his most hated enemy.

Lefty wrecked a double squad of rifle-toting guards on his way to where Envy was trying frantically to revive her twin.

He threw Jealousy over one shoulder and said one short word to Envy.

“Out,” Left bellowed in a tone that assumed that non-compliance was not even an option in this corner of reality.

As they passed McIntosh’s position Lefty grabbed his bloody body as well.

None of the five had known that there was a considerable back-up team on call. There was no need to share that bit of intel with them. In a few moments most of the guards in the compound had permanently laid aside all Earthly concerns.

“You can put her down Lefty. She’s dead,” Envy said in a monotone.

“She was dead before I picked her up. That is no reason to leave her body for the dark crafters to analyze,” Lefty said.

“You hate them, don’t you?” Envy said.

“I wouldn’t spit on them if they were ablaze. I’d go considerably out of my way to spit on their shadows though,” Lefty said.

“Things will be very different for you now. I can’t say that I know what you’re going through because each of us is different. I can’t live your grief but I can relate to it. If you need to talk, I’m always available. If there is anything that I can give you that will help…” Lefty started.

“It is no use. Words are scant comfort. You grieve but you aren’t alone,” he said more succinctly

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Really enjoying this. Thanks for the update. Hopefully that was a spawn that died.
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