"...has just been arrested."
"Mobile One, could you confirm that?" came a tinny voice with a burst of static.
"Hai, Taira-senpai. Upper Parliament House member Sanshita Kaoru has just been brought in for questioning on an alleged confession of graft, conspiracy to murder, and obstruction of justice. Sergeant Hayabusa Hayato has just informed WTX of this shocking development, there's a really huge
crowd gathered here now even this early in the morning. Everyone's very surprised that the alleged attempt on Sanshita's life would turn out this way. I'd predict this event will be all over the morning editions of every
paper in the city..."
A slightly wrinkled hand grasped a remote control and lowered the volume of the comm device from whence came the AM radio intercept. A disdainful snort came from the Admiral as he stared out into the sable void of outer space through the viewport in his office. It was very symbolic of the man who ran Black Lotus: one face running the organization, the other staring down at the world.
Here lay the Black Lotus mother ship, camouflaged within the dark side of the moon, not a hundred stone's throws away from the nearest orbiting satellite, barely outside the range of Earth's space centers' scanners.
For a considerable number of years, the Black Lotus organization had resided high above the world undetected, camped out in the soundless vacuum that was space.
All in one night, that was subject to change.
He forced open his nervously clenched hand. This was a real emergency, a very serious one, yet another much more serious one was imminent. He swiveled around in his seat, and faced Kinomoto, O'Reilly, and Chandra. "No thanks to Sanshita's slip, the word 'Black Lotus' will be all over Japanese news networks and law enforcement records, and then possibly the world's." Kinomoto's head bobbed in stony agreement. Media exposure was one of Black Lotus' greatest threats, even more so than detection by agencies such as
the CIA, Interpol, or the Israeli Mossad.
Kinomoto brushed the hilt of his tameshigiri katana. "We are to deal with the evidence and all who've seen it then?" The Admiral reluctantly shook his head. "I was considering that, but I've recalled all of our operatives to their home ships, including this flagship. Trouble has already brewed on Earth, now I believe it has come to our doorstep and we will need all our manpower." To ease his nerves, the Admiral withdrew a fat Cuban cigar from the folds of his uniform.
There was silence for a few seconds as he held on to his cigar, watching his men intently as if waiting, then the Admiral sighed and slowly reached into his other pocket to retrieve a lighter. "I'm rather surprised with
you, Chandra." he dryly commented as flame touched the cigar tip and smoke arose. "You're usually the first to offer me a light when I smoke."
The swordsman and the chaingunner turned to glance at the Indian. Even with the brief duration of their return trip to the heart of Black Lotus, neither of them had not failed to notice an anomaly about their partner. Something had changed in Chandra's demeanor since their harried flight from Sanshita Kaoru's mansion. His face, indeed his whole manner was solemn and brooding. While their current situation did seem to warrant such behaviour, it still wasn't the Chandra they'd come to know and work with. For despite
his new silence, his attitude was oddly relaxed and languid.
The Indian chortled an uneasy laugh, showing rows of blackened teeth. "Sorry sir." he began slowly, Indian accent strangely more stressed than it usually was. "I don't have it with me this time. I must have dropped it
The Admiral shrugged and let it pass, continued to puff nervously. After a brief silence, he looked up across his desk to the three agents, deciding to get to the point. "While you were at Sanshita's, word spread that a mysterious explosion had wiped out a serious portion of the Yasukuni Jinja's interior. We have lost all contact with our forces there, including Matthew, Xao, Andrew, Andaraya, and Amanda."
The swordsman leaned back on one leg. "It must be the Desert Ghost coming to reclaim his son." he conjectured. The Admiral nodded. "I believe so, and with any luck, living up to his own legend, the possibility exists that he made it all the way here. I have already placed all guards on red alert,
they are sweeping the entire ship from nose to stern. If they find something they will report back at once. The Desert Ghost's possible presence is not the only thing that worries me however..."
The Admiral tapped a button. The viewport behind him shimmered into an opaque video screen. He turned his chair sideways towards the image of a blond blue eyed man wearing a black overcoat with his mouth open in a silent scream, his eyes rolled straight upwards. "Prior to the explosion at the Jinja and events leading to Sanshita's arrest, two of our other agents died, both were found in an alleyway in Tokyo's Ginza district. You know Ritter, one of our marksmen. Someone had overpowered and strangled him
after a fierce scuffle."
O'Reilly held the non-gun hand up. "Och, wasn't Mendoza also one of the boys ye sent to kidnap the Desert Ghost's kid?" The Admiral nodded as the screen switched to the image of a mustached long haired Mexican, tightly bound with chains in Black Lotus' sick bay. His eyes bulged in horror, an insane smile was spread across his cheeks and his mouth was slightly parted as if he had been laughing. The pallor of his face was deathly pale, eliciting a shiver from Kinomoto and O'Reilly.
"Yes. This was Mendoza before he died from the effects one of our own cyanide pills. I find it strange that he succumbed only an hour after its ingestion, as if the effect had been delayed. Before that, he had been
laughing hysterically, his eyes were wild and almost nothing the doctors did could calm him down." said the Admiral.
The memory of Mendoza's hysteric and deranged smile clung to his memory. As did the agent's words, poring through his mind like prayers in a rosary. "What bothers me now is what Mendoza was mumbling before he died. They were the only words he could say in between his fits of frightened laughing."
O'Reilly sneered. "What was he sayin, sir? 'Boogieman'?" The Admiral bit his lip for a moment and glanced up.
Kinomoto's head came up. "Sounds Spanish." he commented. The Admiral mopped some sweat from his brow. "It is. It means..."
"...'living shadow'." Three heads turned in unison towards Chandra, who had been silent this whole time. The Admiral did not know how he noticed it right then. It could have been the slightly dark tone to the room's lighting, but Chandra's gaze seemed steady and piercing, even defiant. The Indian had never had the courage to look a superior in the eye before. This time, it was the Admiral whose gaze was wavering. "Isn't that right, sir?" inquired Chandra.
"Precisely." The Admiral responded after awhile, drawing himself up to his full height as if taking command again. Kinomoto thought for a few seconds, then spared a glance to O'Reilly and an odd one to Chandra as he remembered something. "You don't think...?" He turned to the Admiral with a new light in his eyes. "That reminds me sir. We haven't even debriefed you yet regarding our flight from Sanshita Kaoru's residence..."
At this point, Kinomoto briefly explained the entry of a black clad man who had slain nearly half of thirty yakuza gangsters before O'Reilly had wounded him. The Admiral nodded at intervals in his story, seeing the truth behind what the radio newscasters said happened at the government official's home. "When the police broke in, we had no choice but to leave for the risk was too high. Maybe the police captured that black...thing. I have my doubts however." O'Reilly grunted. "His laugh's still bouncin in me ears, scared the crap outta me. Like he knows somethin you don't. Banshee wielded 'em 9mm slugthrowers like they were .22s. He could easily put some of our best gunfighters to a bloody shame. Like he'd been practicin for
decades or something..." There was no exaggeration in the Irishman's voice.
"Say...ye don't suppose that boyo in black coulda been the Desert Ghost, aye?", O'Reilly followed up. "Probable, but very unlikely." declared the Admiral. "The explosion at the Yasukuni Jinja and your gun battle at Sanshita's house happened at nearly exactly the same time. Not even the Desert Ghost can be in two places at once. Besides...bullets aren't quite in keeping with Jamar's style. The Yasukuni incident is more of our ex-star agent's handiwork. Still...who is responsible for what happened to Sanshita?"
Kinomoto spoke with finality. "The implication, the way I see it, is quite clear." His eyes met the others' in the room.
"We have another enemy."
The Admiral, Kinomoto, and O'Reilly seemed to share the same thought. Black Lotus was enmeshed in a considerable dilemma. Besides the possiblity of exposure to the world, a man who had once been one of their own had turned all his resources against the same people he had once worked with. Now he
had destroyed a number of their man and a waystation in his fury to get his son back. Still worse, and frightening, was the prospect of this unknown foe. Who was he? What was he? With Jamar they at least had some idea on how to deal with him.
But with this newcomer, they knew next to nothing.
The Admiral's eyes roved around the room, from corner to corner, again nervously brushing sweat from his face. Somehow, he was possessed of the inescapable knowledge that this spectral persona, this living shadow who had come from depths unknown, who had caused the death of two of their agents and shot down yakuza thugs, had actually made it to the Black Lotus mother ship as well.
His chain of thought was broken as the video monitor on his desk came to life. On the other end was a man in light gray armor, brandishing a Black Lotus laser rifle. "ADMIRAL! WE'VE FOUND THE DESERT GHOST! WE HAVE HIM CORNERED IN TELEPORTATION ROOM DGX-1190! He's wounded but still dangerous, requesting for backup!"
Black Lotus' supreme leader almost bolted out of his seat, face a study in astonishment. "YOU HAVE?!" That expression turned into one of satanic glee. "If money was ever a worry of yours, Sergeant, think no more of it! I'm sending three men down there now! Hold him until then!"
"Yes sir. Thank you sir. Over and out."
The Admiral sniggered a malicious laugh, banged a fist on his table in triumph. "We've got the Desert Ghost, men. He -did- make it to the shrine where our teleporters are hidden, after all." He stabbed a finger at Kinomoto and the other two. "Head down there at once, but don't kill him." He was positively gloating. "I want to see every minute of this..."
The three saluted and dashed out the door, heading towards teleportation room DGX-1190. Chandra who had displayed little reaction to any of the conversation in the Admiral's office, brought up their rear, a sardonic mocking smile once again frozen on his face.
The doors were shortly kicked open in the room where Jamar was standing. A quick kick immediatly had taken care of one of the guards that was with Kinomoto. Kinomoto was in shock at Jamar's speed, but wasted no time in attacking the Desert Ghost. After a brief battle, the weakened Jamar was brought down to one knee, holding his shoulder. Kinomoto stood there injured a little himself. A smile spread across his face. "Admiral! Admiral, I have him now! He is captured!" The other Black Lotus agent walked over and cuffed Jamar in strange high tech pieces of metal. Jamar recognized them easily. Any movement away from certain boundaries would send jolts of lethal energy through his body. He had no choice but to follow them.
Outside the door, Kyle and Chad spied on the men. Kyle was barely holding Chad back. "Don't interfere just yet. I am beginning to see what the deal is. That stupid Admiral is planning something. Why does he have to be so damn mean?" He said in an angered whisper. Chad had his fists clenched angrily. "We had better tell the Lieutenant about this." Kyle nodded. "Yeah." As they began to walk away Chad stopped. "What about that other guy? The one that helped me in the alleyway?" Kyle stopped. "What are you talking about?" Chad looked over. "There was this guy dressed in all black, he gave me a blanket. He was really cool. He kicked the crap out of some Black Lotus guys. It was something else! I've never seen anything like it. He disappeared into the shadows after he had saved me. I wonder...If I talk to the shadows, if he'd show up." Kyle chuckled. "You're crazy." Chad narrowed his eyes. "Maybe, but sometimes, demons exist maybe to help us....?" He said looking at a dark corner. "Hey.....If you can hear me....Can you please help me again? My father is in a lot of trouble." He whispered. He crossed his fingers and hoped that a miracle would spawn in the form of the Shadow.
There was indeed truth to the saying in the Good Book about the Kingdom belonging to those with the unwavering belief of children. For Chad, young in body and mind and the ways of the world as he was, did not yet realize that a child's faith in things he did not fully comprehend could and did work miracles. Though not in a way he had imagined nor expected.
With Jamar in tow, the Black Lotus cadre began to amble out of the teleportation room, Kinomoto in the lead. O'Reilly's chaingun arm was covering the Desert Ghost, as were two of the five gray clad guards armed with assorted weaponry. From their spot outside the door, the two brothers spied them leaving. The former wanted to duck somewhere that provided better concealment, but the latter had his eyes closed, fervently willing for the shadows around them to converge into the form of a living being. Kyle hissed and tugged on Chad's shoulder, whispering that if they didn't hide from the outgoing squad, they'd be captured too. Steadfastly, his brother held on. Kyle hissed again.
And when the eight man squad exited the room, with the two brothers directly next to the entrance making discovery certain, Kinomoto's eyes gazed downwards at the open spot where the two huddled. The brothers believed they had been discovered.
He might as well have been ignoring the two, for the swordsman's eyes went straight ahead and passed right by them as if they were no more than natural hallway decor. His proximity was near enough that Chad and Kyle could veritably reach out and touch the jutting sheath of his katana. O'Reilly clumped by as well. For all the mechanical enhancement in his eyes, he failed to register Chad and Kyle's presence as well. Two pairs of little eyes blinked in curiosity. Kyle's especially, for he knew of the different ranges of vision available to O'Reilly besides infrared. How could they not be seen?!
This was undeniably weird.
Chad boldly waved a hand as one of the rifle packing guards came out of the room.
No response. Kyle waved too. Still no response.
To the eyes of that squad, Chad and Kyle simply did not exist.
The two guards dragged Jamar along with them. The Desert Ghost raised his head straight up towards their spot and his eyes widened in relief and confusion as he sighted Chad. Relief that he had not been discovered, confusion for the same reason. Jamar cast bewildered glances at his captors. One guard stared right back at him but said nothing as he dragged him on.
The Desert Ghost's brow furrowed, mind racing. Why could he see his son and the other boy, but not everyone else?
The truth was revealed to the two boys as Chandra formed the rear of the group. For a moment, they thought the Indian would pass them by as had all the others. This belief was smashed when that Indian craned his head towards their spot and lingered there. There was no denying the fact his brown eyes, half-closed, were looking straight into theirs. The Indian's eyes met the two, both brothers felt it was himself alone who was being stared at. Their hands tightened around each other, feeling the other's fear. An unsettling aura could not conceal itself from Chandra's face as they looked on. The expression on that face was blank, unfathomable, sphinxlike in nature. As if fashioned from a sculpt of clay. Kyle blinked.
He had never known Chandra to be so serious or unemotional...or to have a weirdly frightening gaze at all.
That expression dissipated like parting storm clouds as an eerie smile played across Chandra's visage. The Indian's left hand, encased in a black glove, slowly raised and touched a finger to his lips. They caught the
meaning right away. For just a moment, one long moment, the brown in Chandra' eyes suddenly blazed and was washed over by pupil-less icy yet burning optics of emerald light.
Kyle meeped and gripped tighter on his brother's wrist at the sight of this creature's supernatural gaze, a creature he knew could not be Chandra. Chad's mouth was agape, instinctively remembering he had gazed at those burning verdant orbs before, that they were eyes that belonged only to one being. Another token of this strange persona showed itself to him, fully confirming his theory. Chad was smiling back now at the man, his heart had risen in elation and mended hope.
For trailing on the floor below and behind Chandra, cast by the corridor lights, was a mammoth blot of extending blackness. A shadow that lived and moved of its own volition, though it faithfully followed the actions of its owner. An owner both brothers knew to be impersonated.
Chad turned to Kyle, blue eyes shining their joy. He knew now that the living shadow was here to lend a hand, and that he had not let Chad's prayer go unheeded. "See?! He's here! What'd I tell ya...?!" he whispered excitedly.
Smoke from the Cuban perfecto framed the Admiral's face in a hideous gray smog, matched by the ugly leer on his lips. Atop the Admiral's desk now was a monitor divided into eight screens. Below that video screen were eight corresponding life monitors like those used in hospitals. It was standard ops for Black Lotus to keep track of their agents' health in battle, as well as to see what they could see. And filling the Admiral's own sight now was Jamar, bruised and weary from his battles. He grudgingly had to admit, the Desert Ghost had boundless courage and will. He could think of few others who could triumph in a battle with five Black Lotus agents and more.
So absorbed was he in drinking in the image of his defeated foe being brought to him, that it was several seconds before he glanced elsewhere on the screen. Right then and there, his line of sight dropped away from one of the guards' sight and spotted an anomaly with one of the monitors, the very last one which belonged to Chandra. Rather than show a view of Jamar from one of eight different angles, this monitor showed something else, something else entirely.
Chandra appeared to be lying on his back, absolutely immobile, in the back of a bouncing vehicle. A face leaned over into the viewscreen and though it seemed he was looking right at the Admiral, he was actually looking at Chandra's eyes. The observer was Japanese, wearing a blue uniform. He spoke and the Admiral could make out garbled words. "A gaijin?" he inquired. "Hai. Some dead Indian they found over at the basement in Sanshita's place. Sarge'll place an inquiry to the Indian embassy..." returned his partner.
Perplexed, the Admiral's mouth opened in consternation. What was this?! Dead Indian?! Chandra was very much alive. In fact, he had just gone to capture the Desert Ghost...
His eyes happened to drop further, away from the screens and onto the life sign indicators. All were green and beeped at medium length. Save for one.
That was Chandra's. Bloodred was its color, and the ordinarily sweeping line that indicated a healthy status was flat.
Tightly gripping the sides of the screen, the Admiral gave out a startled cry of confusion and disbelief. Only moments ago had Chandra come into this very office with his two fellow agents. Only moments ago had he been standing here. Yet Chandra was dead, as shown by the life monitor and the words of the two Tokyo crime investigators. He glanced at the view of one of the guards bringing Jamar in, seeing a glimpse of an alive and walking Chandra in it. Strangely, an odd mysterious smile was on the Indian's face.
The inexplicable sense of dread that had been lurking in the Admiral's heart paled his face. Two Chandras, one dead and one alive, were in his sight now. The answer seized him right away. Chandra's unusual behaviour, his abrupt change in manner.
His voice rose to a hysteric scream. "KINOMOTO!!! HALT YOU FOOLS!!!" Confused grunts came from the squad. Apparently they had stopped. He yelled at the top of his lungs again. "Agent Chandra's body was just found dead in Sanshita Kaoru's residence!" O'Reilly frowned. "Eh?" said the Irishman,
casting a glance at Chandra before turning back to his commlink.
"That Chandra with you is not our agent!!! That's an impostor!!! That's...!!!"
His frenzied yelling was interrupted by a chilling sound, a sound that could not have come from a living being of the mortal realm. Through the commlink static connecting him to his men rippled a strident gibing burst of sinister laughter. Even across the radio, the taunting mirth bounced and echoed across the waves and onto the walls of the office, as if a squad of gremlins hidden within had answered their master's call.
The Admiral's blood chilled to the frozen wastelands of Siberia, the ghostly disembodied laughter faltering his senses. To the Admiral, Mendoza had risen from the dead, his insane laughter a sign of that resurrection.
That was when the screaming started.
With the Admiral's warning, Kinomoto whirled, gripping the handle as he turned to face the fake Chandra. "Get...!!!" There was a startled cry from the guards before him, then the sound of hollow flesh thumping on bulkhead. Chandra's lethal biotoxin darts had found their first victim, internally liquidating the hapless agent. O'Reilly, bringing his chaingun to bear away from Jamar, never had the chance. A second dart, launched from an uncanny darkness that had been absent before, buried into the Irishman's unprotected neck. For the most part, O'Reilly was machine. Yet he could not function with the human side of him dead.
Nary a grunt, the Irish cyborg crashed to his knees with face flat on the floor. Like the previous victim, his human parts were nothing more than a sack of flesh. The four laser rifle packing Black Lotus agents collected themselves at last, raising their weapons. "SLAG 'IM!" Gold shafts of light blasted from their weapons, weapons which no army on Earth even possessed.
A taunting burst of spectral laughter was their answer, as the last laser bolt sizzled centimeters from the fake Chandra's side. Another dart, flicked like a child's marble, lanced out and claimed its third target. The agent's rifle blasted carelessly into the ceiling as he fell, dead before he hit the floor. The remaining three kept up their wild barrage, firing at spots they thought they had seen the darts coming from. The effort was futile, for by the time a bolt had been discharged to a new location, the fake Chandra had fled to a new position. The last guards fell, one by one.
Kinomoto folded his arms as the fake Chandra stepped from the sable darkness. "So you are the living shadow that killed two of our agents and half a yakuza gang." A grim smile played across his face like a jagged scar. "I grew up north of Hokkaido, with the Ainu natives. Belief in the supernatural is rampant there, as it is in other regions of rural Japan. I have always believed such beings existed among us. Since I learned the ways of the sword, I've wanted to test my strength against such oni." Kinomoto crouched lower into an iaijutsu stance. "This day, I will slay a demon in the form of you, the Kage."
The Admiral clasped his hands together. Cold sweat dripping down his face as he watched the monitor. He watched as his enemies were all together on the same craft. He watched as one of his greatest men, Kinomoto, prepared to do battle with what he believed to be a shadow. "I want to apologize, Kinomoto. I want to apologize for the sacrifice you have unwillingly made to rid me of my enemies. You have done well, you all have. But the ultimate price must be paid so that Black Lotus may continue to rise. I once again apologize, but it must be done." The Admiral reached in his desk and pulled out a strange device. It had a keyboard and a red button on it's side. He punched in some numbers and keys and a green light showing a digitized picture of the Black Lotus ship that the chaos was breaking out on. The Admiral smiled as he looked at the red button. "With a single push of this button, I can eliminate the very threat and the very mockery of my organization! And this, you fools...IS WHY YOU DO NOT DARE TO CROSS THE BLACK LOTUS!"
Elsewhere, The General and Lieutenant Travis rushed to the scene. They had picked up the presense of Jamar, and also the presense of outside forces the Admiral had sent. But Chandra was not picked up, so why was he on the ship? They rushed to the hall and stopped a few feet before Chandra and Kinomoto. General glared at the men. "What is it you think you are doing?! Why is Jamar in such pain?! What is going on here?! Explain yourselves, now!"
Lieutenant Travis glanced around. "Where are the boys? They are not in their rooms!"
Jamar coughed slightly as his vision slowly came to. He heard Lieutenant Travis' voice as well as the General's. They were talking to Chandra and Kinomoto, but why were they fighting? Soon, his senses took over. The force he felt, the very essense, was not Chandra at all, but The Shadow's. He slowly sat up and leaned against the wall coughing a little. "The boys are not of your concern, Lieutenant. They are of mine. Leave them be, or you will regret it."
Lieutenant Travis glanced over at the injured Jamar. "Jamar, don't talk, you're injured! The boys should be safe, you realize I want no harm to come to them! If they are walking about, they could get into some of the weapons and injure themselves! Kyle knows how to handle the weaponry, but Chad does not! I want them to be safe, you realize! What have you done with them?"
Just then, Chad and Kyle ran out from the shadows. "We're fine, take care of Jamar, brother!" Kyle shouted. "He's Chad's father, and we don't want him to die! He's the only family Chad has! You've got to help him, PLEASE!" Kyle pleaded constantly, soon the begging reached listening ears.
Lieutenant Travis glanced at the General and bowed. "I'm sorry, General. I know he is our enemy, but sometimes, family business comes before business. Please forgive me."
The General himself nodded. "There is nothing wrong with showing compassion for a fallen warrior. Make sure he recovers, He's been poisoned."
Jamar struggled, but the Lieutenant was strong enough to lift him with little trouble. "Come, boys. Let's get out of here, before you get injured. General, be careful!" With that, he as well as the two boys walked towards an infirmary. Chad looked back at the shadow and smiled. "It's alright, Lieutenant Travis and The General are our friends! They've helped us against that nasty Admiral! They don't like him either! I think it's him that wants to kill all of us, not these guys!"
Kinomoto growled slightly as his eyes did not move from the kage's. "The boy has a vivid imagination. Black Lotus' Admiral seeks nothing but the best for Black Lotus! The General and Lieutenant make mockeries out of us, and soon, they should be eliminated as well!"
The General crossed his arms and listened carefully. It seemed as if faintly, yet surely, he heard a beeping coming from somewhere. He listned even more carefully, and at last heard what it was. "Detonation in 15
minutes, 10 seconds." His eyes widened as he glanced at Chandra. "You obviously have come to help these chilren! We don't have much time! Hurry your business with Kinomoto and let's go! I'll get Lieutenant Travis and the others! We have to be quick!" He ran down the hall after the departing Travis along with Jamar and the boys. The ship would soon explode, much to Kinomoto's delight.
"Ha ha ha ha ha! Did you hear, Kage?! Not even a living shadow such as yourself, can escape and explosion such as this! But don't worry, your death will come much sooner than the explosion! It will come by my blade, as a warrior, not as a shriveling coward as the chilren and the others will soon be! Come! Let us finish! I am proud to sacrifice myself for such a noble organization!"
Thus, the battle began, as did the countdown.....
The Admiral laughed as well, sending more sacrifices and casualties down to keep the Lieutenant and General busy, while the ship detonated. He wanted no chances of them escaping. The men rushed down the hallway, heading at the General, who with little effort, knocked away several of the attackers. The Lieutenant, busy with Jamar, heard the ruckus and ran outside with his sword. He ran into the battle and assisted the General. Chad and Kyle also started to run outside but Jamar yelled for them. They stopped and turned around and glanced at the elder man. "Father, what is it?" Chad asked. Jamar smiled slightly. "Chad, I want to ask of you a favor. I want you to leave here, I want you to go right now. While everyone is fighting, and use the teleporter to get out of here. Set the teleporter for these coordinates." Jamar gave Chad a piece of paper with numbers. "Do you know how to work the teleporter?" Chad shook his head, but Kyle nodded. "I do, sir. I'll help him escape." Jamar smiled. "Good. You two get the hell out of here, I'll be fine. Tell Umira that I love her, alright?"
Chad closed his fists. "No. I know how you are. You are gonna try and fight if those guys get in here! Let's go!" With a great deal of strain, Chad and Kyle lifted Jamar to his feet and with an arm over each of their shoulders, did their best to carry him. He walked a little on his own, in near disbelief at how strong they were together. Every once in a while, one would let go to go fight away some of the lower classed members while the other carried him. The strength of their determination was unbelievable. Finally, Jamar rose to his feet himself and helped wipe out the members attacking The General and Lieutenant. He glanced over at them and smiled. "Like old times..." The Lieutenant nodded. "Yes, but for this time, a just cause. Let's go! This place will soon explode!" The group ran for the teleportation room, having more troubles along the way. They overcame them and continued on.
"Detonation in 08 Minutes 28 Seconds"
Kinomoto's answer was a hushed jibing laugh from the lips of the false Chandra, a laugh that spoke more than mere words and momentarily trampled the agent's brittle courage. It was a laugh of scorn and defiance, a challenge to the swordsman who had waited all his life to slay a demon. The Black Lotus agent involuntarily bristled at the black mirth. If he didn't know any better, he thought his every word was being insulted, derided by this living shadow.
He snarled. "We'll see if you have cause to laugh soon. Come Kage. Your return to Jigoku awaits." A clank as Kinomoto shifted his grip, setting the scabbard with the curved side facing outwards. His left thumb, under the hilt, pushed the blade up a centimeter while his right hand gripped the handle itself. Iaijutsu was a very ambiguous and lethal art, to those who had mastered it. A single draw of an iaijutsu master's sword could double as an attack or a defense move. In either purpose, a well delivered cut could and did kill.
Around them blared flashing crimson lights, a mechanical voice droned the latest update to the countdown.
Kinomoto was waiting for the false Chandra to make his move. So he gave it to him.
Shining pieces of silver in a ring formation lanced from the pretended Indian's hands like shards of glass, seeking Kinomoto's face. A fraction of a second later, the swordsman's image was blurred by a swirling wall of blades. Even as the diced darts fell harmlessly to the floor, another blur signalled Kinomoto's movement. On a straight head on course to the Kage. More darts were thrown, those same darts were deflected. The blade spun for the Kage's neck. At the last instant, the black form hurtled up and sidewards in a dodging flip. A final dart launched in midair failed to find its mark as the blade sliced out upwards, then the Shadow landed to see Kinomoto in his old position, sword sheathed again but ready to draw. There was no denying his speed was phenomenal.
The false Chandra grunted as a thin red line suddenly blossomed on his chest. One hand squeezed hard to stay the bleeding. Kinomoto saw it. "I'm impressed. No one I've killed ever survives the first cut. The dart you launched at the last minute forced me to divide my strength. But you can't evade forever. You will fall, if not by my blade, then by the Admiral's act of courage!"
The bravado was ignored. Keen burning eyes swept over the swordsman's stance as the left hand stopped the bloodflow, probing for a weakness. Iaijutsu truly was a powerful art, but even it had its weaknesses, its
follies. In five seconds the Kage had found one, laughter deliberately suppressed.
This time, Kinomoto went on the offensive. He dashed impossibly fast from his point, only his foe's sharp eyes catching it. Kinomoto would draw his sword in a sweeping slash at the last minute unless his opponent launched an attack of his own. Chandra's darts came forth again, again the wall of blades as a counter. When Kinomoto was too close, the Kage leaped up and over, launching a dart at the top of Kinomoto's head. This too was deflected. A spray of blood from above caused the Black Lotus agent to
smile. Another line, deeper than the first, slashed into Chandra's chest.
Kinomoto grimaced as he glanced down. One of Chandra's darts had embedded itself in his scabbard. He deftly plucked it away and tossed it aside as his opponent slowly rose from his crouch on the floor, more blood dripping from his chest. Weakened in such a way, there was slim chance another maneuver like the previous two would work. "I know how many darts Chandra carries, Kage. And you're down to your last. There's no way you can pentrate my defenses. Defeat is yours."
"No, my foolish friend." rasped the Kage, the unsettling sardonic smile on his countenance. "It is yours." Kinomoto took the Kage's tone for arrogance. How could the living shadow thought he'd won? He'd been cut twice and was down to his last dart! He sent a silent invocation to the Ainu god of the hunt as his gloved fist found the handle, ready to draw for the third and final time. His foe's eyes seemed to have lost their glow, raising his courage. Chandra straightened up. Kinomoto took it to mean his foe had given up.
"DIE KAGE!" he screamed, right leg propelling him forward. No dart blasted from the false Chandra's hand. Steel left scabbard and flashed in a wide arc. Kinomoto could already picture his blade cutting the living shadow in half. Right before the agent's eyes however, the Kage dropped. His blade, fomerly aimed for the Kage's stomach, clanged into the wall with a scraping noise. He smiled. So what? All he needed to do was change his aim and thrust straight downwards...
And right before his eyes, his blade shattered into dust as it scraped the wall.
Kinomoto came out of the slash, staring now at a blackened bladeless handle. "Nani...!"
A silent whoosh from below him and a pain likened to the bite of an ant manifested itself on his forehead. Horrified, Kinomoto reached up slowly and pulled Chandra's final dart free.
As deep within him, all his innards felt like shattering glass. His heart screamed and pounded wildly, his ribs felt like they were being torn from the inside going out. His lungs whined for air. He gasped and cried out in utter pain, as his internal organs began to implode on themselves. He choked, fingers clawing at his own throat and he doubled over to see the false Chandra looming before him. His shadow, cast by one of the crimson lights, enveloped Kinomoto in their sinister folds. The agent's world was darkening as his chest came apart.
Doubled over, groveling low on his knees, he could only stare up at the oni come to life in the form of a shadow. "H...h...ow...?"
The Kage's tone knew no more potent spite and irony for the doomed agent. His words came in the form of a spectral sarcastic whisper, much like the ghosts who prepared to welcome him to their world. "You are so like your dear Admiral. Slave to the belief in your own infallibility, never believing that there is someone who can see through your infantile tricks like an open book." The eyes had regained their frightening glow, pulling Kinomoto deeper and deeper into their cold light.
"Your stance protected all the vital spots you knew I would target. But not even you, master swordsman," those last two words were delivered with whispered scorn. "could have thought about protecting the one spot you'd never believed would be assaulted." The Kage's hand pointed down towards the scabbard on Kinomoto's side. The dying agent, insides as crushed as his mind, realized as last. The dart that had embedded there had not been luck. He had done it on purpose. The dart had released its toxins into the
scabbard, and the next time Kinomoto had sheathed his katana in ready position, the chemicals had spread to the entire sword blade itself. A hard impact was all that was needed to trigger the effect.
The Kage's foot toed that scabbard, and it too crumbled into dust. "I applaud you. Indeed you sacrificed your life, Kinomoto. For a worthless cause did you give your soul for. Does it feel so...heartwarming inside, knowing how well you surrendered yourself?"
Kinomoto's anger flared deep. "Kuso...you cunning wretched son of a..."
"Jigoku awaits." came the Kage's final judgment, Kinomoto's own words returning to mock him. Even as Kinomoto's vision faded and totally darkened from this world, even as they focused into a realm of terror where demons reigned, one sound alone persisted. It came amidst the joyous hungered vengeful screams of all the souls Kinomoto had taken, dragging him to join them for eternity.
The Kage's laughter.
The Admiral gloated even more as sweat stood out on Kyle, Chad, Jamar, Travis and the General's foreheads. He had turned his attention away from the duel between Kinomoto and the fake Chandra. Kinomoto had never failed and it was highly doubtful he would this time. That living shadow was
Now he was viewing the desperate fight from his soldiers' eyes. Hordes of Black Lotus men had come not only from within the flagship, but from the others as well. All to trap five people in flight. They were fighting well and courageously, but not even that alone could help them now. And if somehow they did fight their way past them all, they would have been delayed enough that they could not escape the bomb. By that time, the Admiral himself would have fled to another ship. It was all over, as the horde pushed closer and closer, his foes weakening.
A new staccato of sounds intruded onto the battle, punctuated by soldiers' screams. The Admiral, bewildered, could only watch as skin beneath some of the agents' armor were flayed and torn to crimson chunks. More and more agents nearer to the five sprawled to the floor, mangled in a dozen different places, as automatic weapons firing true from behind the five tore into the human flood.
Mocking malicious laughter, so unreal and filled with such evil that it could not be believed, rippled from the shadows behind the five heroes. Upon its echoes came the roar of guns that screamed like cannons. Rows of soldiers yelled in agony as bullets found their mark. They fired back with laser weaponry. Superior numbers and technology however, could not hope to match pure skill and talent. Their lasers missed and another burst of laughter answered them, as did a fresh hail of bullets.
Jamar chanced a glance behind them.
Two black gloved hands protruded from that darkness, each gripped a blazing Ingram MAC-10 submachine gun chambered for .45 caliber ACP. Nicknamed the American Uzi, it had at one point been a weapon of choice for the US Navy SEALS. Now out of production, it had the dubious reputation of being the favorite armament of Columbian drug cartels, thanks to recent action movies in these late 80's. The MAC-10 was said to be a veritable bullet hose, having a high rate of fire and capable of unloading large numbers of rounds in mere seconds.
Jamar saw not one, but two, of those lethal weapons move now, sweeping left and right, slaying the charging soldiers where they stood. In these short seconds, the entire tide of battle had been turned to the five's advantage by this hidden shooter.
He had only to see the flashing multi-hued ring on the owner's left hand to know who owned it. Light from a girasol, or fire opal, that mesmerized him with its ever-changing colors, shining from unfathomable depths as a beacon of hope.
Jamar smiled slightly, while Chad grinned happily. "You came! You came! Thank you so much!" Chad ran over and embraced the Shadow. "I knew you'd show! You didn't let me down!" Jamar smiled. "It's good to see you made it. I take it that you had a little trouble with Kinomoto?"
"Detonation in 5 Minutes 34 Seconds"
Jamar didn't wait for an answer, he rushed as fast as he could, along with the others. In a matter of moments they reached the teleporter room. Jamar noticed that the door was sealed. All of the doors had been sealed away by large metallic doors. It would take 3 men to hold one of them up. Jamar winced in agony as he felt as if their doom was soon upon them. Immediately Jamar reached down and attempted to pull up the sealed door. "Help me!" He shouted glancing at The General and Lieutenant Travis. Both men nodded and helped him attempt to lift the door. After a few more moments and a matter of 2 minutes before detonation, the three men had it up for the others to escape. Chad smiled and started to rush through the door, when a part of the ceiling collapsed and struck him in the back of his head. The boy fell down, silent. Everyone, in shock, glanced over at the child. "CHAD!" Jamar couldn't let the door go, or it would fall. He glanced over at the Shadow. "You have to get him to that teleporter! Chad has the coordinates in his left pocket!"
The General shouted after the Shadow. "Never mind the coordinates! I'll shout them to Kyle! KYLE! LISTEN CAREFULLY!" The General shouted the numbers to Kyle as the young boy punched in the numbers quickly. The teleporter activated with a glow. Kyle looked up. "What about you three?! Hurry up! We only have a minute!"
Lieutenant Travis smiled. "Kyle, I want you to go! I'll be there shortly! GO NOW!"
Kyle watched as their faces were in great strain. A longing to help them had come over him, but he didn't know what to do. He knew that they would not come out of the ship. They had said this to make him feel better. To give him hope. Hope...What had it gotten him? What had it done other than take his family from him? With clenched fists he started to the teleporter. His back turned to the men. "I'll carry on the legacy, Lieutenant. I'll avenge you all...." He punched in some numbers on the other teleporter and took one step looking back at his real brother as he was being carried into the teleporter room. "Tell Chad when he awakens that we'll meet again someday. But for the next few years, I have my own mission to accomplish." With that, Kyle had vanished, ignoring the pleas of the General and the Lieutenant. The boy had teleported himself to the main ship with the Admiral. As soon as his departure, another part of the ceiling gave in and destroyed the teleporter he left on. There was no way to track him, no way to catch up and save him from the Admiral. What would become of the boy?
Jamar looked over as the Shadow entered the room quickly going to the teleporter. "Shadow....You stand for all that is right, I know this. You cloak yourself with a frightening disguise and your mocking laughter sends chills down even my spine. However, I want to ask a favor of you. One final favor I know would be a great task. I won't be able to watch over the boy in the physical plane anymore. I want you to be there in case Black Lotus follows him. I want you to make sure that they don't get him like they got the other boy. I will hold you to this, and if for some reason you fail me, I will haunt you from the shadows that you haunt with." Jamar got a slight smile on his face. "Get going! We have a few seconds before it goes up! GET
OUT NOW AND PROMISE ME, SHADOW!"
Lieutenant Travis and The General smiled at the Shadow as well and nodded approvingly. Lieutenant Travis chuckled. "Thank you, Kage. Thank you for saving my little brother's life earlier. I know you couldn't do anything about his choice to go after Admiral, but I know he'll be fine. I sensed something within him that was most abnormal just now. I think the Admiral is about to get what he finally deserves, and from a mere 6 year old. Goodbye, Kage, for the brief time I have met you, I thank you as well for your assistance."
The General nodded and let his serious face regain it's composure. "I die a soldier, but not of Black Lotus. I am with my friends in death. We are an army of righteousness as of this moment on. I don't want to be remembered as a man of crime, but as a man of great honor and sacrifice. If you see Kyle again, remind him of who we were and what we stood for....."
Chad's body floated upwards, seemingly levitated by a steady powerful wind. The unconscious boy was gently laid across a mighty shoulder. The Shadow, garbed once more in the all-black apparel that marked him as who he was, kept up his relentless defense. The last Black Lotus soldier's body clattered to the floor as did the pair of MAC-10s. Their entire ammunition load, already including spare clips, had expired. Another shower of collapsing tiles came from above, and the sable avenger knelt and shielded the boy under his cloak, hollow block-size fragments slamming into a lithe but powerful back.
A cough as the cloaked being stood and glided swiftly across the floor and stepped onto the lone remaining device that would return them to Earth. Regret and disappointment passed the darkness of his heart as they caught sight of the ruined teleporter Kyle had escaped in. He had sought to save both boys from the toils of Black Lotus, but one had gone of his own free will, with no more chance for reclaiming him. Out of their reach and into the enemy's, Kyle's fate would be for the worse, whether he lived or died.
The moment the black creature accepted that Kyle was beyond their help now was the moment Jamar, Travis and the General bid him their thanks and farewells, with Jamar swearing that if he did not hold true to his promise to protect Chad, he would haunt the Shadow as the Shadow haunted men of evil. The ebony stranger's gleaming eyes touched theirs, and in that brief yet eternal moment, the three could have sworn a pang of sincere pity and regret had softened those wraithly orbs. They knew he felt the same way they did, however incredible that seemed. The individuals they could have been in a world without Black Lotus...
Through the decades, he had played a game of lone wolf in his eternal war with the darkness in men's hearts. True, he had his agents, but they were no more than subordinates. On rare occasions had he met individuals of principle and integrity, ready to surrender their lives and fight for a noble and just cause like he was, yet in their own unique ways and with their own beliefs that did not always equate with his.
Now was one such rare occasion. And here were three such characters.
For all of five seconds, there was no other sound in the room but collapsing tiles and blaring alarms. When the Shadow's laugh came, slow and low in tone, this time it made them smile. For not only did it indicate he too had been deeply honored to fight alongside heroes like them but it was also a solemn vow to keep the promises they'd demanded of him, knowing full well he had the power to keep them. They would not be remembered by each and every one who knew them as scoundrels for an organization of evil. Kyle if he lived would be reminded, someday and somehow, of the noble principles his old friends had stood for. And Chad would never know the dehumanization that being one of Black Lotus' ilk came with, not as long as his shadow moved in the boy's.
To Jamar came the black stranger's words, as verdant flaring eyes rose and fell slowly in affirmation. "I swear to you, by the soul I just barely have, that should I falter, you will have every reason to drag me down with you, my own broken promise as my own welcome." The Shadow's gloved hand slowly raised its own farewell, as the lights of the teleporter glimmered above him and the sleeping Chad. "Rest in peace, brave sons of the light. A world without the suffering and hardships of this mortal coil is yours to
The light grew brighter and brighter as the cloaked avenger's voice rose, all the venom and malice suddenly returning as he hit the switch for a comm device right next to the teleporter. "Your words hold true, Admiral.", jibed the Shadow's voice amidst a shuddering peal of laughter, drawing out the Black Lotus supreme leader's title as if it was a word to be scorned. "This -IS- one reason not to cross you..."
"Detonation in 2 seconds..." droned the mechanical voice.
Jamar, Travis, and the General shut their eyes and smiled again as the Shadow's final burst of sibilant sinister mirth echoed about the walls and sounded their own triumph, a death knell for the enemy. Never had it sounded so soothing to them before. His eyes, the last thing they had seen, shined as eternal lights of the swift justice he had delivered this day, as they knew he would for all time.
For the three men, the future had never looked so bright to them...
Following the sound of the living shadow's mockery came an ocean of static. Simultaneously, from the viewport of the ship the Admiral had retreated to, came the detonation of nearly a dozen craft, one after the other, like exploding beads on a necklace. The combined shockwaves of the exploding ships slammed into the mother ship and rocked it violently, knocking the ship like a rag doll tossed by an angry child. The Admiral yelled and stumbled as he was shaken off his feet and the lights of the ship died out.
He fell flat onto the floor and growled.
After a time, head jarred, he slowly rose and stared once more out the viewport.
As a cry of the blackest hate, rage, and frustration wafted down the corridors.
No more was the magnificent albeit hidden fleet of Black Lotus. Not even debris littered the cold silent void around the remaining ship.
In his eagerness to destroy all his enemies, open and hidden alike, he had brought about the destruction of his own empire. He, who could have ruled the world from far above, had pushed the button that rewinded his goal dozens of steps backwards.
Deep inside, a part of him saw what the living shadow had meant by his final taunt. Not only had he brought about his organization's own major setback, but their operations on Earth, once reaching far and wide, had been severely cut as well. Black Lotus would now be a clear and present danger to the world's law enforcement and self-defense agencies. Never again could Black Lotus regain its former glory, no matter what they did or how hard they sweated blood for it. True, he had slain three of his foes, but at what cost?
The darkness of the room was but a parallel to the Admiral's anger and hate, as another scream threatened to tear the ship apart.
On the Admiral's ship, bodies layed everywhere, all deceased, killed by an unknown force. The Admiral heard footsteps coming to his room. He smiled and ordered his men to open the door for the visitor. As the door opened, Admiral prepared to perhaps taunt the child in his loss, but that ambition faded quickly as he noticed the boy's eyes. Glowing?! What was this?! The Admiral rose to his feet quickly and shouted at the guards. "KILL HIM, NOW!!" Both guards placed their guns towards the young man, instantly the guns fell apart, exploding. The boy continued forwards glaring at the Admiral, his eyes glowing pure white. The Admiral stood quickly and staggered back. "What are you?! What kind of monster are you?!" He shouted falling over the chair, and sprawling into the floor. "You aren't human!"
"No, I'm not." Kyle's eyes glowed brighter, and instantly a shockwave sent the two guards hurtling out the room, the door slamming shut by itself. Kyle stood near the Admiral, anger rushing through his every thought. "MURDERER! Why?! Why did you do that?!"
The Admiral rose to his feet shaking. "I....I did that to eliminate that which was holding us down! We're an organization dedicated to assassination, apprehension, and destruction! We are NOT a daycare for children! All chilren are to be raised as soldiers! They did not see that, and therefore, created weak soldiers such as you! But....You aren't as weak as a thought, are you? You have the potential to become a strong soldier! Perhaps even the best! Kyle, join me, and anything, EVERYTHING can be yours!"
Kyle stopped. "All I want......IS FOR YOU TO DIE!"
Instantly a memory struck the boy. A memory of a woman and a man both gazing at him lovingly. The woman, long golden hair, was holding him gently, singing a....lullaby? What was this? The thought gave the Admiral enough time to reach for his gun and with the setting on stun, knocked Kyle out with a simple blast to the chest. The boy lay on the floor helpless, and losing conciousness. He frowned as he closed his eyes. "Big brother, I'm sorry........I failed my mission..." His world went black, and his concious mind went to rest. The Admiral picked Kyle up and took him to another room and threw him on a board with some covers. "Stupid boy...I should eliminate you for your actions against me, but your potential just might have saved your life! I suggest you watch yourself next time you decide to cross me! I won't be so forgiving next time." The Admiral walked out and slammed the door shut. His eyes glancing around. He looked at his own shadow and for a moment, sheer chills ran down his spine. Who was the supernatural being that was assisting Jamar and the others. He then noted what he would do. He would raise Kyle into the perfect fighting machine. The ultimate soldier. And use that as a weapon against the man who defended him. The Admiral let out his own mocking laugh. "Soon, Kage, the very boy you helped to protect will be the one that takes your life! HA HA HA HA!"
On an obscure side street in pre-dawn Tokyo, a dark haired man with grey eyes in a black overcoat emerged from the kitchen of a sleepy twenty four hour deli, a tiny form hoisted over one shoulder. He barely received any comment from the dull-eyed proprietor as the man shouldered his burden out the main door. A rush of warm summer air from beyond the door greeted the two as the man carried the boy to the sidewalk. Around them was excited chatter and camera flashes from scant passersby on the street, pointing up at the sky to the glowing sphere that was the moon. Somehow, they said, it had flared up brighter than before in a few seconds, almost to the sun's level, then mysteriously darkened again, much to their bewilderment.
The man's face, a firm hawk-like visage, spread thin lips into a knowing smile.
The world had one less band of cutthroats to plague it from above, at least for awhile.
A black gloved hand gently smoothed away the fine crop of blond hair on the sleeping boy's forehead. The youngster stirred in his arms, head resting on his guardian's chest. The same hand brushed a trickling tear from under the boy's right eye. Though he had not been conscious, he must have instinctively known some misfortune had befallen him in the form of loss of a loved one.
In a third action, the gloved hand reached for the handle of a nearby payphone, as a cloud of random automobiles passed them by. A number was dialed and the hawk-faced man steadied the boy carefully on his shoulder. There was a click on the other end as a quiet voice answered.
"Send Yamazaki to this payphone's position." came a low rasping whisper from the American's lips, knowing the one on the other line would utilize a tracer for that purpose. "Inform Harada Medical Center of an incoming patient for the emergency ward. Head concussion and cuts."
The phones hung up at the same time and the man's grey eyes touched the sleeping form on his shoulder. A powerful presence made itself known to this man's sixth sense as he looked on at the child. It made a subtle warning throb in his mind. He was carrying, he felt, some being that could not be an ordinary child. Or if he was, he had startling potential of some sort. But such an aura could not have originated from this Earth.
He had felt the same power from the other boy, the one he had failed to save.
Could the two have been connected somehow, despite the different people who had been their mentors? Was it Fate that had brought them and other elements together? Had there been more to all this on the surface than a terrorist organization's drive to wipe out one of their former own?
Something not of this world perhaps?
The stranger's train of thought broke minutes later as a yellow taxi stopped by the curb and the rear door opened. The hawk faced man and the blond boy were swallowed by the darkness within the cab. As the first lights of dawn played their faint rays across the metropolis, the taxi cast a monstrous elongated shadow across the road as it sped away.