Friday, May 30, 2014

23 - Flying Lizard

I bend low and lean to the side. It’s beak tastes only rock and dirt. It pulls up quickly but not before I flip onto its back. My hand is around its neck. I am in control. It carries me across the last half of the moor to Amazat’s cottage. I land on the roof – the place from which he’s least likely to expect an attack – and leave the beast bound and ready in case I require an areal escape.
Amazat has surely been alerted to my presence. The flying lizard’s howl can be heard for miles. I’m curious what his reaction will be when he sees me.
I enter thru a trap door in the roof. The lock is easy to pick. I’m wondering why it has a lock. Is it merely out of habit to put a lock on every door and window, or has he had problems with unwanted guests entering from the roof? And why is there a trap door on the roof? Does he use it to expose subjects to lighting like Dr. Frankenstein in the Boris Karloff film? Amazat always was an admirer of the bizarre and occult.
I make my way thru the house. It’s lit only by windows and candles. I wonder what the candles are made of. They appear to be wax and not electric, and yet the wax doesn’t melt. Such a substance could prove useful. I take a sample.
I hear no one moving about. Is he not home? Or is he waiting by the front door for me? I hurry down the stairs.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

22 - Genetic Engineering

The DNA molecule had only recently begun to be unraveled. Dr. Amazat told me that DNA was the basis of all life and that humans shared much of their DNA with other life forms including bananas. He said there was no reason we couldn’t incorporate the abilities of other species within our own. This was exactly what I thought I was looking for, so of course I agreed to be his guinea pig.
I suppose I was lucky. I lived and I gained a greater lifespan, heightened senses, and the strength and agility of the fiercest marsupial hunter. Most of the other test subjects never made it out of the lab. But the side effects continue to plague me to this day. Maybe after all these decades, the good doctor has made progress towards alleviating them or even eliminating them. I’m just not sure how to broach the subject. We didn’t part on the best of terms. He probably still has that scar on his left cheek.
I perform the Ritual of The Hunt before coming here. I don’t anticipate trouble, but then I didn’t anticipate trouble the first time either, and I’m still paying for that. The sins of youth – can one ever truly be free of them?
 It swoops down as silent as the cloak of night, but no sound is too low for my heightened senses. I wait until it is almost upon me before I make my move giving it no time to react.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

21 - The Middle of a Burnt Out Forest

The Doctor lives in the middle of burnt out forest that, for some reason I have yet to learn, has never grown back. Between the gnarled trees and the craggy rock formations, the area would make the perfect set for one of those old German Expressionist horror films from the 20s. I half think the Doctor purposely manipulated the fauna, flora, and landscape to emulate that. His house is an asymmetrical, ill-proportioned cottage that looks like the home of Rotwang or Dr. Mabuse. Nothing has changed in the nearly four decades since I was last here. I can’t say I’m all that surprised.
I first encountered the Doctor shortly after facing Kyle the first time. I wasn’t in my right mind and was looking for something that would give me the edge over any opponent. Atomic power was the cool new kid on the block with science fiction predicting it could give humans incredible new powers. I knew it wouldn’t make lasers shoot out of my eyes or allow me to crawl up walls, but I figured there had to be some kernel of reality buried beneath all the fantastic speculation.
My search eventually led to Dr. Amazat. He recognized that radiation was able to manipulate life at the genetic level, but that it was a rather crude and limited method. He believed there was a more direct and predictable approach. I was desperate enough to listen to him.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

20 - A Grand Hotel then a Nearly Deserted Moor

Chapter III - A Grand Hotel then a Nearly Deserted Moor

I sit in my hotel room and star out the window over the city. It’s beautiful at night with a cloak of darkness to cover up the crime, poverty, and ugliness that is an inseparable part of any large city. The lights shine like Christmas decorations, but I’m too preoccupied to enjoy any of it.
I decide the next two tests I have planned for Kyle will be inadequate. Ordinary hit men – even the best in the business – won’t suffice. I am forced to enlist the aid of someone who deals in much more … exotic fare. Someone I had hoped to never deal with again. But I see no other option.
Dr. Emil Amazat has been spearheading the research in genetics and genetic engineering since the late 60s. Some of his experiments make Dr. Frankenstein look like a family practitioner. But unlike other mad scientists (and I mean that in every sense of the word), he is still a highly regarded and well-respected member of the scientific community. He’s even dean of the science department at a university on the West Coast. He has successfully kept his public research, which he does for the university and publishes about in journals, separate from his private research, which he does for high paying clients. He is the paradigm example of ‘It’s only wrong if you get caught’. He’s never gotten caught, so he’s honored.

Friday, May 23, 2014

19 - You'll never believe what they have in the Vending Machines

“You’ll never believe what they have in the vending machines. We found – ” Kyle’s two friends stop. They have just returned and see him hovering over a big bruiser and a crowd giving them a wide girth.
“What happened?” The one named Brent asks.
“I swear, we can’t take you anywhere. Always getting into a fight,” the one named René jokes. I wonder if he’s always so flippant.
“That big guy just came up out of nowhere and tried to choke the little guy, but he went all Bruce Lee on his tail and put him down but good.”
“I’ll bet the little guy was asking for it. No one just attacks another person without a reason. Probably stole from him, or cheated him, or made a pass at his wife or something.”
“I can assure you, the little guy did not cheat or steal from anyone,” Brent says.
“Although I WOULD be surprised if he didn’t do something to provoke this attack,” René adds. “He has a track record of ticking off the wrong guys.”
I disappear into another car to plan my next test.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

18 - Scream!

The look on Derek’s face tells me he is even more surprised than I am. Derek put the weight of his entire body behind that punch, and Kyle blocked it like it was a love tap. He didn’t even flinch. What a psychological blow! And the cracking sound from Derek’s fist tells me the damage isn’t limited to his ego. Shock should compensate for the rest of the fight, which shouldn't be long.
I still can’t figure how he was able to take the force of that blow. Derek must have nearly a hundred pounds on him. That punch should have sent him flying thru the door. There is definitely more to him than I ever suspected. I’m glad I decided on these tests.
I see the Wandering Koala clench his fist crushing the bones in Derek’s hand even more – he may never use it again. He is able to somehow force Derek down to his knees before delivering two swift kicks to the stomach that end this fight. Someone had better find a body fluid kit.
My photographic memory captured every moment of the skirmish, but I wonder if I shouldn’t have supplemented it with a mechanical recording. Kyle is so much more than I ever suspected. The strength, the agility, the strategy – it’s almost beyond belief. I saw it with my own eyes, and I can still hardly believe it. I’d better hold off on the next test until I’ve had sufficient time to study this one. There was more to learn than expected.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

17 - Fight!

He walks down the isle flexing his rippling muscles and bulging veins beneath leathered skin. A bit clichéd for my taste, but theatrics never hurts in a fight. They often provide the psychological advantage to turn defeat into victory.
The Wandering Koala remains planted at the end of the aisle, his hands both hanging at his side. He gives no indication of his next move. Risky, but clever. And a great improvement from the last time I faced him. Back then he broadcast every move long before he made it making it easy to prepare a counterattack. But he appears to be much quicker and more lithe now. He can afford to take the gamble. And it forces his opponent to react to his lead.
Derek stops inches away from his foe in a forward stance. I wouldn’t be surprised if Kyle can feel his breathe. They stare into each other’s eyes. Are they waiting for the other to make the first move? No, Derek cocks his arm back slowly, deliberately announcing his next move.
Kyle doesn’t twitch an eyebrow.
Derek steps into the punch throwing the entire weight of his body behind it.
Kyle’s hand stops the punch two inches from his face. The whole car can fell the smack, but there isn’t even a hint of pain in his eyes.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

16 - Catch Me If You Can

The Wandering Koala slithers out from underneath his 240+ pound attacker and is on his feet in one motion. He gestures ‘come on’.
Derek holds his side as he rises to his feet. He wipes his mouth. “You got lucky. It won’t happen again.” He pounds his fist into the opposite hand repeatedly. He feints a strike then sends his other fist barreling thru the air. Kyle’s body moves to the side. Derek stops the punch in mid air and reverses it into a backhand strike. Kyle drops to the ground. The fist brushes over the tips of his hairs before smashing the back off an empty seat.
The onlooking passengers scurry over each other to the back screaming both out of fear and out of amusement.
The Wandering Koala springs into the air and leapfrogs over Derek’s head. Derek reaches up to grab him but is launched several feet forward by a sidekick in his back. He reaches out to catch himself but is thrown farther than he thought and sprawls forward onto his belly. The humiliation must be killing him.
Derek picks himself up, turns around rubbing his chin, and grins. “I’m surprised such a little guy packs so much wallop in his kicks. Maybe my employer didn’t overpay.”

Monday, May 19, 2014

15 - To Choke a Sleeping Man

Derek is first. His 6’ 2” height, 57” chest, and 22” biceps command the attention of everyone in the room the moment he enters. Even the passengers glued to their phones look up as he passes by. I wonder if Kyle will sense him approaching or if Derek will get the drop on him. That would be useful information.
Derek reaches his row but still no response from Kyle. He slowly reaches across the two empty seats towards Kyle’s head leaning against the window. Several of the other passengers are now watching, curious what he’s doing.
Derek’s hands are inches from Kyle’s neck when Kyle’s left arm shoots up blocking Derek’s right hand. Kyle’s eyes snap open. Derek grabs his wrist and twists it down reaching for his neck with his left hand, but Kyle’s left arm is in the way. Derek grabs the other wrist and lifts Kyle in the air scraping his back across the ceiling. He arches him over and slams his body into the floor with a thud that echoes thru the entire car. Derek drops, planting his knee into Kyle’s chest and pinning his arms down above his head. A wicked smile crosses his face. “You’re not so tough. I think my employer overpaid.” The smile turns to a gasp as Kyle’s leg wraps itself around Derek’s neck and throws him against a row of seats. An armrest plunges into his side causing his eyes to bulge.

Friday, May 16, 2014

14 - A Gang of Thugs

I stare at him, watching his chest rise and fall. I still can’t believe this is the great fighter, the unconquerable silent wanderer who has crossed more powerful men and groups than a Saturday movie serial champion. He still looks pathetic, like an indistinct nobody that would get lost in any crowd. If I hadn’t faced defeat at his hand personally, I would never have believed it. But that is one of his greatest weapons, his completely unassuming demeanor. His foes underestimate him giving him the advantage. I fell victim to that once. It won’t happen again. This time I will be fully prepared.
While waiting for the train in Lost Wages, I hired three of the city’s top hit men. I know none of them will be a match for him, but watching them fight will provide me with valuable information.
I’ve heard many stories about the Wandering Koala. It’s one of the most popular ghost stories that people on my side of the law like to tell to try and spook each other. I never thought any of them were real. Most people were just repeating stories they’d heard from someone else. The few people I met who had actually tangled with him were so messed up, I logically assumed they had either lost their minds or were telling tales to cope with the loss. I’m still having a hard time wrapping my head around the idea that even a fraction of the stories I’ve heard may be real. I will find out soon enough.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

13 - Thinking on the Past

How fortunate for his friend that he chose to leave when he did. When I saw him begin blogging on his palmtop, I thought he would be there for hours. That would have been most unpleasant. For him.
Kyle’s alone, slumped against the window sleeping. He looks so calm, so peaceful, so completely opposite of the angry, scared, and lost young man I knew at master’s dojo. And yet I swear he hasn’t aged a day. There is more to him than meets the eye. I never would have believed it back then. Pride was my downfall. It was a painful lesson, but one I needed to learn.
I mentioned the incident once to a master I had been hired to silence. He was incredibly skilled, and for a time I wasn’t sure I would come of victor. When I finally did overpower him he made one last request of me: he wanted to know what had forged me into such a perfect and undefeatable weapon. He was worthy of an answer. He told me I should be grateful for the lesson. It had corrected a serious character flaw that would have prevented me from becoming the unrivaled master of death that I had.
I could see his point, but the humiliation of losing to … him – he wasn’t even a top student and had lost to several lesser fighters – haunted me in my dreams every night. It still does. It must be avenged. I must be avenged.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

12 - Fast Asleep

I’m hoping this ride will be less eventful than our first one, but I’ve been traveling with Kyle long enough to know better. Some might say he attracts trouble, but it’s actually the other way around. He has this compass that points to wherever he is needed. I’m still not sure how it works. René claims it’s magic, but I know better. There’s no such thing as magic. Everything has a perfectly rational, scientific explanation. We just haven’t discovered them all yet.
I look over and see Kyle is sound asleep. Looks like that compass hasn’t pointed to trouble yet. Good. Maybe I can get some rest. It’s been a crazy past couple of days.
René is still on a quest for some new and unusual snack food he’s never tried. I wonder what’s keeping him. Maybe he ran into girl and is trying to talk her into accepting his friend request.
Normally I’d describe him as a roustabout or goof off, but when something is important to him, I’ve never seen anyone more focused or more determined. Fortunately he occasionally deigns to find our current mission important, like our most recent affair in Califia. I hate to admit it, but I don’t think we would have been about to save so many lives if not for his expertise. If only he’d put even a fraction of that energy into something really important instead of the quest for a new kind of donut. But a snack actually sounds really good right now. Maybe I’ll go find him.
* * * * *

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

11 - Across the Desert

We’ve just passed Lost Wages on the second maiden run of the Jupiter, the first transcontinental bullet train. I know what you’re thinking: second maiden run? It’s a long story. Maybe some day I’ll go back and recount all of our adventures since meeting Kyle, and there have been a lot of them in the short time since he showed up at my doorstep. I’m still not sure why I let him in. I’ve always been weary of strangers, especially at night. But there was something about him, and I’m not the only one who says that – I hear it from almost everyone we help. He just has a way about him. Which is good, because he can’t speak, so he’d be pretty easy to ignore otherwise. I once asked him if he was born mute. He grew quiet and distant, so I don’t think he was. I think something happened later in life, something he won’t talk about.
We just made a brief stop in Lost Wages to pick up passengers and are once again on our way. The train is full. I wonder how long they will have sold out trips. The convenience of traveling across the country at the speed of a jet but without any of the security nuisance is worth the premium they charge. I wonder how long it’ll be before some government agency creates a slew of new regulations because they must control everything. They’re probably already plotting how to install eyes and ears into every car. Better enjoy the brief moment of privacy while we can.

Monday, May 12, 2014

10 - Transcontinental Bullet Train

Chapter II - Transcontinental Bullet Train

After our experience in Califia, I’ve decided to keep a journal of our adventures. I’ve always believed the old saying ‘Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it’, but now I am more convinced of it than ever. Without thorough documentation, we would have never been able to distribute the serum and cure millions of lives across the state. Who would have ever guessed I’d learn such an important lesson from René?
I thought about using a blog so others could read and benefit from our experiences, but then I thought back to one of the last things I said to our new friends: ‘The fewer people who know who we are, the easier our job is’. Right now anonymity is our ally, but that may not always be true, so I’ve created a private blog that can be read by invitation only. That way we remain under the radar, but it would be a simple matter to make it public. I guess I ought to clarify who we are.
My name is Brent Jakes. I was an accountant who discovered the Unified Field Theory, published it, and then was immediately ostracized by the scientific community. I still don’t know why. Now I work for Kyle who is also known as the Wandering Koala. He travels from place to place helping those who are at end of their rope. And then there’s René. Yeaaaah. Let’s just say there’s René.

Friday, May 9, 2014

9 - I Accept the Contract

“I know it’s hard to believe, but look at yourself. You certainly don’t look your age.”
“I have had some … exotic treatments.”
“Maybe he has too.”
I look at the photo again. It isn’t possible. It looks exactly like him. Exactly. As if the tournament were yesterday.
“Tell me, do you have any audio recordings of him?”
“Everyone we’ve tracked down who has met him personally confirms that he is mute as legend states.”
“It’s a coincidence or some weird family genetic anomaly.”
“We assure you beyond any doubt, this is the same man.”
I can’t believe it. Their experts must be mistaken. They must.
The woman leans forward, arching her back slightly to get the most out of her low-cut top. “Can you really accept being defeated by a defective creature? Show the world who the better man is – you, not that cripple.”
They have done their homework. They know exactly the right buttons to push. But I will not be manipulated. I will not let THEM or THEIR agendas affect MY decisions. That also means not doing the opposite of what they want out of spite or to make a point.
“I accept the contract.”

Thursday, May 8, 2014

8 - I See You Recognize Him

“I see you recognize him. When you turned down our offer the first time, we couldn’t understand why. So we looked into your past. You’ve done an amazing job burying it. It took over a billion dollars and a dozen experts to find just a few scraps about you, but one of them did uncover an incident that happened several decades ago and was able to use those few details to connect you to the Wandering Koala as he’s known by in urban legends. It took another half billion to acquire this picture.”
 “This is the Wandering Koala?”
“We triple checked. There is no doubt.”
“Where did you get this picture?”
“One of our agents took it four days ago in Califia.”
“Took it? From a museum or an archive?”
They look at me confused. “No … took is as in with a camera.”
“Four days ago? Impossible. This can’t be Kyle. He must have a grandson who looks just like him. Your researchers got it wrong.”
“As far as we can tell, it is the very same man who shamed you at the Tournament of Fire.”
My hand is across the table and around his throat before I realize I’ve even moved. Although the restaurant is crowded and noisy, a few diners do look over. It’s been a while since I’ve lost control like that. I pull my hand back.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

7 - Where Did You Get This?

“He may have upset a few powerful secret societies, crossed a state government or two, and gotten on the wrong side of supernatural entities, but he is still just a small time operator. I only go after big fish. And now you have one minute to leave this restaurant and never come within two hundred miles of me again or you will join the rest of the patrons six feet under.”
They don’t move, only grin more broadly. They really are fools. I reach into a pouch on my belt without twitching any part of my exposed upper body when the lady reaches into her purse and pulls out a photograph. What is it – a picture of a child who was tragically taken before his time because of this wandering interloper’s interference? She sets the photo down on the table in front of me. I glance down dreading the sob story that is sure to follow.
I gasp! For a moment the world around me disappears, and I’m unsure whether or not this is a dream. I pick up the photo and rub it firmly. It feels real. I blink twice and count my fingers to make sure I’m not imagining this. No, this is real.
I take a deep breath and recompose myself. I pride myself on always being in control, always aware of my surroundings, and never taken by surprise. But this photo … I was not expecting this. “Where did you get this?”

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

6 - A Mysterious Couple

Now that my job is finished, I can concentrate on the couple that has been following me for the past few days. They haven’t even tried to be discreet. They really must have no idea who they are dealing with, or they’re even more foolish that my agent reported. They get up and walk over to my table. Looks like Option B.
“Well played, my dear chap. Well played. We almost didn’t see you slip whatever it was you slipped onto the pizza, and we were watching you carefully waiting for you to do your deed.”
“Enjoy your small victory, because you won’t have long. I never leave loose ends, and you have both just become just that.”
“Now, now, my dear sir, there’s no call for that. We wish to engage your services. I am – ”
“Kim Sainsworth and his wife Becky Broodgewith-Sainsworth, owners of Eternal Eden Skin Care, Inc. I know who you are, and I know why you are here. My agent has already told you no. Approaching me in person won’t change the answer.”
“But this wandering interloper is the most dangerous and difficult prey ever. His head would be the crowning trophy of your collection.”

Monday, May 5, 2014

5 - Enjoying a Slice of Pizza

Over the decades I’ve acquired some rather unorthodox methods of carrying out the job. I prefer methods most wouldn’t ever think of, so when a body expires, everyone assumes it was natural so no one bothers looking any further.
Tonight I’ve selected a rather potent parasite, rare enough most medical facilities would be ill equipped to treat it. When the waiter brings the fourth pizza, I prepare to distract him and then sprinkle the eggs onto it until I see the chicken hearts. I wait. It would be a sin to desecrate a chicken heart pizza. That is one of the few signs of civilization on this otherwise backward continent. I take two slices of this gourmet masterpiece and savor each bite as I wait for the next round. It’s a rather pedestrian canned corn and carrots pie – very popular down here. It deserves to be spiked.
Out of the corner of my eye I watch to make sure my mark eats a slice. He does, as does nearly everyone else in the restaurant. Perfect. In two days the news will report a third city has been struck by a rare parasite. I’ve already spread the bug to two other nearby cities to completely obfuscate my actions.
When the body is finally identified, it’ll look like a karma reaping her ironic revenge against a man who turned on his government. I’ve already found a journalist desperate for a scoop.

Friday, May 2, 2014

4 - All You Can Eat Pizza

Daniel Snowflake worked for one of the many intelligence (and I use the term loosely) agencies that keeps tab on the state’s own citizens without their knowledge. He felt a pang of conscience and decided to go public with what the powers that be were doing. Despite his public promise to protect whistleblowers, the Chief Executive declared him a traitor, and he was forced to flee the country. He hired me thru third party to try and obscure the assassination as an official action, but I know where the money came from, and his critics won’t be fooled. He believes Snowflake is currently being granted asylum by one of the nation’s chief rivals, but I have my own sources that tracked him to his real location. If all their intel is that faulty, one has to wonder if the spying is really anything to be concerned about. But like most people, they fret over the idea of something more than the reality. No wonder the masses accomplish so little – lack of discipline, humanity’s greatest sin.
I do nothing for the first three courses. I don’t even look at my quarry. The last thing I want is to spook him and draw attention to myself. The client wants this to look like an accident so Snowflake doesn’t become a martyr. That’s no problem. All my hits are quiet with the case closed after minimal investigation.
By the fourth course my target is feeling relaxed and probably a little sick from gorging himself on pizza. Now is the time to strike.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

3 - A Rodizio Pizzaria

My reconnaissance tells me he will be dining at a local restaurant serving a rodizio of pizza tonight. He’s been so careful about guarding every word to conceal his identity and whereabouts. But no one is perfect. Everyone slips up, and his mistake will cost him his life. But that’s the price of crossing those in power. Maybe he’ll receive a hero’s funeral when they ship the corpse back home.
The restaurant is crowded, as I knew it would be. While it’s open daily for lunch and dinner, the rodizio of pizza is offered only on the fourth Saturday of each month. People begin lining up hours before the doors open. I’ve never understood why. One would have to be nearly dead from hunger to find it anything but edible. But I am a connoisseur with extremely discriminating taste when it comes to food, drink, and the finer things of life – something this squalor could never understand. I still can’t believe they live with open sewers running thru their neighborhoods. How can they not see … ehhh! It pains me to even think about it.
I find a table close enough to provide an unobstructed view of my prey but far enough away he won’t notice me. The client gave me full details on my target. Like most clients, this one felt it was important that I understand why the target must be eliminated. It makes no difference to me. Like any professional – lawyer, plumber, accountant – the why makes no difference. I just do my job.