Sunday, February 8, 2009

Noir Lore

Act 6: Nova Kane

I didn't hafta think about it, I quickly rolled out of the way of Kane's deadly feet.
Kane landed, barely missing me. I was getting more air, but it still burned like all get out. Yep. I got me some cracked ribs. Ouch.

I shoulda followed up when Kane landed on the table. Master Toshiro was adamant:
"When your opponent is down, always follow through and make sure he is out. Hopefully, you'll never have to use your martial arts to defend yourself or others, but that's unlikely in the real world. If, and more likely when you find yourself in a situation where you can defend and protect others, or yourself, never, ever, give your enemies a second chance to hurt or kill you."

Sorry Master. I knew what to do, and yet I had foolishly hoped my punch would be enough. Kane won't stop until I am dead, or he is. Period. I will not make that mistake again...if I survive.

Master despised pacifists. "What good comes from choosing not to protect and defend yourself and others? Absolutely nothing. No, worse than nothing!" Master said, passionately.

"This is important to understand: the path of pacifism leads to slavery at best, and death at worst. Pacifists," Master said in disgust, "depend on their betters to defend their life, liberty and property! It doesn't take courage to die or let others be murdered at the hands of evil. Pacifists are cowards and without honor! One doesn't have to be a warrior to protect and defend what is good and right. Anyone can do this. Indeed, it is our responsibility and duty to do so. If we do not, evil will spread and destroy all that we hold dear. There are far worse things than death in this world. Don't ever forget that."

That day two of Master's students quit in protest. One went to a nearby paper which tried to smear Master Toshiro for "encouraging violence and hate." "Barbaric" and "dangerous," they called him.

Of course, they didn't print Master's response to those damned lies. No, those cowardly jackals found a few other so-called "Masters" that taught pacifism, and instructed their students to never use their martial arts to hurt others, no matter what. The reporter called them "enlightened," and "true teachers of peace."

How can they be so blind and stupid? I had wondered. What is noble about allowing evil psychopaths to rape, rob and murder? To become slaves? Did these idiots really think that our enemies would respect them any more for choosing not to defend and protect? Evil don't sing kumbaya except maybe to get close enough to cut your throat.

Hell, these are the same kind of morons that hate our military men and women, who look down their smug noses at our heroes, be they military or law enforcement or individual citizens who bravely risk life and limb to defend and protect folks, our liberty and our property. Scumbags! I thought.

I shoved a chair on the other side of the table out of the way and got up...just in time to see Kane tossin' a chair at me. I ducked just in time, cursing under my painful breath.

Akira rushed in, and quickly surveyed the room.

"Akira! Good. Give me your sword," Kane ordered.

Master Toshiro didn't let this cowardly attack on his character stand. He made several calls and visits until he found a radio station willing to let him speak against these false accusations.

"You must never allow evil to go unchallenged," Master said, smiling grimly. "That is how we lose our liberties, even here, in America. We must not be apathetic, because evil never stops."

The vast majority of those who had listened to Master Toshiro on the radio sent many letters and e-mails expressing their agreement and support, as well as phone calls. There was such a positive response the manager asked him to come back, even offering him a job. Other stations also requested him to speak, or debate.

Master didn't take the job, but he did go back occasionally. A few small town newspapers in the area printed editorials which agreed with Master's wise words and eventually, the paper that had tried to besmirch Master's good name printed one of Master's letters to the editor. Not because they agreed with him, no, far from that. Because it sold more papers. Still the hypocrites, I thought. Worse than useless idiots, they're fighting fires with gasoline.

"Why, Master Kane?" Akira asked.

"So I can kill this gaijin!" Kane replied. "Don't you EVER question me again, do you understand? Give me your sword!"

"I cannot do that, sir," Akira said. "Mack is a guest of Master Yukio."

Kane cussed out Akira real good and threatened to kill him, but he didn't attack Akira. I was thankful for the breather, but I was unsure what Akira was gonna do.
For the moment, it appeared he was nominally on my side.

Two more men rushed into the room. "It's about time!" Kane shouted. "And you call yourselves bodyguards. Kill him!" Kane pointed at me.

One day a student, Joe, a former Marine said, "I agree with what you say, Master, but aren't you just preaching to the choir?"

Master looked at Joe intently, until Joe looked away, apparently reconsidering the wisdom of asking that question.
Master just smiled, and replied, "that's a good question, Joe. Consider this, have you ever forgotten my words?"

"No Master," Joe replied, looking down. Master raised Joe's head up.

"That is why I "preach" to the choir," Master said. "So you don't forget or fall asleep. Someday, you might have to sing a solo."

Everyone, except for Yukio had chuckled at that. Joe smiled too, and joined in the laughter.

"Joe, the next American Idol," I said, slapping him on the shoulder.

"Trust me, I can't sing worth a damn," Joe said, to more good natured laughter.

"Trust me," Master said, when the laughter and Simon jokes subsided, "you can sing, Joe, you can sing beautiful songs. You can sing...with your soul."

I pondered that profound statement. At least it was profound to me. From the looks of my fellow students, they were also pondering thoughtfully. Except for Yukio, who looked puzzled and then dismissive. He wasn't much for esoteric philosophy or religion.

Kane's stooges reached into their suits. Uh oh, I thought, reachin' for my .45.

"No guns!" Akira ordered.

One bodyguard stopped, but the other drew his weapon. Akira drew his sword faster than greased lightnin'. The bodyguard screamed as his gun and his right hand landed on the floor. Blood gushed from his arm. The other stooge backed away from Akira, but his hands stayed away from his gun.

"You idiots! I said, kill him!" Kane ordered.

Master Toshiro was born in Japan. He loved Japan, and he loved China, but he hated the Communist government there. But he loved America the most. He had become a United States citizen when he was 33, and he knew more American history than just about anyone I knew.
Often he would quote our Founding Fathers, and other great American patriots.

Someone had once asked Master his opinion about politics. Master replied, "I support any politician or policy that promotes life and liberty and maintains our rights. I also support a strong defense, for they protect our rights. Ideally, our President and Congress will do very little or nothing and our Courts will support our Constitution. It's when they attempt to "help" us, "fix" our problems or legislate from the bench that they get my scorn."

I was pretty sure Kane had a gun, bein' a high-level Yakuza, but so far he had chosen not to use it, although he didn't seem to have a problem with his bodyguards blowin' me away.
The uninjured stooge and Kane went around the table towards me. Great. Now I gotta fight them both. I considered using my .45 but I didn't wanna piss off Akira.

"Hold it!" Akira shouted. "Have you no honor?"

Honor? I thought. I guess there is some form of honor, even in Yakuza, albeit inconsistent and warped.

"Master," I began one day, "You are an inspiration to me. Thanks."

"Mack," Master took a deep breath and was silent for several seconds. "You and many of my other students who are or have served in the military or as police officers inspire me. You live to protect all that is good. Thank you," he finished, choking up, which choked me up. Then he hugged me.

Master had a great love for veterans. Often he would visit the local VA, and he always thanked those of us who had served or were currently serving. Whenever someone who was still serving deployed, he would always make a point to ask us all if we wanted to bring anything to send them in care packages, or if we wanted to write notes to include. When someone returned, he would hold a celebrationary BBQ, with beer and saki.

Master didn't charge us any money for teaching us, although I think pretty much everyone had offered to pay him. He always refused. Based on his small and modest house, and the used and very old 1970 blue Ford Mustang he drove, and the Walmart clothes he wore, Master didn't appear to be wealthy. When he declined offers of money he would simply say, "I have more than enough. I encourage you to give what you can afford to a worthwhile charity, or help someone who needs it."

The only requirements to become a student of Master Toshiro, other than Yukio that is, was to answer a few of his questions to his satisfaction and to survive Master readin' your heart. Trust me, I don't know how he did it but Master could practically read your mind. He would've been an interrogater without equal.

He was lookin' for comittment, honor, patriotism and love of liberty, nobility, honesty, courage, and an attitude to survive and overcome adversity and challenges, and a humble heart, among other qualities that exhibit good character.

Master turned away a lot of people, although there were a few who were persistent and after a year or two Master had finally accepted them. The thing is, they wanted to learn from him so much, they had changed. Although he had the upmost respect for those who had or were in the military or law enforcement, that was no 'get out of Master readin' your heart free card' or guarantee of acceptance.
Many who were turned away were angry and resentful, and easily demonstrated why Master had refused to teach them. Sadly, they failed to see the irony.

Master was always polite about turnin' folks away. "You are not ready yet," he would say. "I cannot teach you at this time."
Rarely, a student would quit. Master would sigh and say, "he or she has changed."
Although he could read people, he couldn't see the changes they would make in life later.

Master's training regimen was arduous and extremely challenging to say the least. I had never been a SEAL but I knew one of the students that was one, and he said other than not losing sleep and bein' able to leave after training sessions, that Master's regimen was as tough as SEAL training. High praise indeed, I had thought.

Kane and his stooge stopped and Kane turned to Akira.

"Akira, you are really starting to piss me off. I will finish this, and you would do well to not interfere if you value your life," Kane said.

"If you are so intent on finishing your fight, then it will be on my terms," Akira replied. "First rule is this, only one at a time."

"Fine!" Kane said. "Go kill him," Kane ordered his stooge.

"Ah ah! Your gun," Akira said to the stooge. "Place it on the floor and kick it to me."

"The stooge looked at Kane and Kane nodded. He wisely took his gun out, slowly, and did as directed. Then he approached me. Had he concluded Akira was too far away to use his sword, he would've found himself full of holes, 'cause I was positive Akira was packin' heat.

Terrific, I thought. I get to fight the freakin' Hulk. Stooge towered over me, and he was easily three times my width. His biceps were bigger than my thighs. This wasn't gonna be no cake walk. Odd that Akira didn't ask for my gun, I mused. I don't think he aims for me to use it, but I will if it means impending death, I decided. If I get a chance, that is. Should've known Kane would have bodyguards. Kinda surprised there are only two, although they are both big enough to make six, in size anyways.

"Many sensei's will say size does not matter," I recalled Master saying once. "Well that's bullsh*t."

Master rarely cussed, but when he did, he meant it. Although, bein' a squid then a cop, bullsh*t to me didn't even qualify as a cuss word. I was sorta surprised at what Master was sayin', and even Yukio was intrigued.

"Now, I'm not saying a little man can't beat a big man," Master said. "But it is highly unlikely a good little man can beat a good big man, all things being equal, which is rare but happens often enough."

Our resident former SEAL nodded. He would know about that. He didn't talk much about his experience as a SEAL, being humble and the fact that most of the stuff he did was classified. About all he could talk about was some of his training. Master himself often asked questions about it.

"But what about speed?" Sam asked. He was the smallest guy in the dojo, and one of the fastest.

"Of course speed is very important," Master said. "However, so is strength. And so is the ability to fight through pain and any disabilities you incur during a fight. We all know you are tough, Sam," Master continued, smiling.

"Again, I'm speaking from all things being equal. Even that doesn't guarantee the big man will win, but the odds are in his favor in a fight. When I say all things being equal, I mean spirit, intelligence, wisdom, mental and physical toughness, speed, strength, conditioning, flexibility, endurance, and thriving under adversity, and so on. Now, a real fight won't usually last long. Certainly not as long as a boxing match can, or a football game, so endurance may not be as much of a factor.
The big man doesn't have to hold back in that case, and it doesn't take very many blows from the big man to cause a lot of damage," Master said.

The abominable stooge was within' striking distance, but I waited for him to strike the first blow. I had to take him out fast, the sooner the better, if at all possible. This would be another death match it seemed. I certainly wasn't gonna take a chance and try to knock this bohemoth out, not when I knew he meant to kill me.
No, this was a take out all the stops moment.

One of the hard parts was mentally gettin' past his formidable size. Psychologically, my natural brain was sayin' there is no way to beat this tank and to run like hell! What I needed to do was ignore that, actually bypass it and go into what Master called the "David mode of being."

"All things being equal, you must access your spiritual powers," Master said. "Your David mode of being. Or Gideon, if you prefer. There are plenty of underdogs to choose from. Does anyone seriously think that David would have beaten Goliath without having more spiritual strength? No, of course not. And let me remind you of this, there is no guarantee you will always be able to access that spiritual energy, but there are ways to make it easier to access," Master said, lookin' at me.

I had thought he meant just our own spirit, at the time. I sort of filtered out the God part of the equation, which is what Master meant by it not workin' any time we might want. Hell, at the time I just wasn't very concerned about religion or God. Since then, that had changed, when I got married and had kids.

Since the murders I had avoided God and religion. I was at first mad at God for allowing the murders to happen. Eventually, I realized it wasn't God's fault, and I had asked Him for forgiveness, but I still rarely prayed or had much of a relationship with Him.

No, up until Annie had entered my office I cared not whether I lived or died. In fact, I was shootin' for an early grave. The only thing that kinda kept me goin' was the drive to bring the murderers of my family to justice. And since this was California and the death penalty no longer was enforced, that justice would come from my own hands, I had decided. Some would call that revenge, but it wasn't just revenge and I was determined to be absolutely sure, in the event I found the killers. Is that wrong in God's eyes? I don't know. Maybe He would tell me someday.
In the meantime I was prayin'.

Not havin' much time I made it short n' to the pont. Need some help here. Thanks.

Bluto was a top notch fighter, and very confident. I could tell from his eyes and his movements. He led off with a punch, and I ducked, knowin' he would follow through with his left, which I quickly side-stepped. I elbowed him with all the strength I could muster in his side "crack!" And backed off.

Bluto smiled. Crap.

I hastily swung my bamboo sword and Master sidestepped easily before striking me in the back of the head.

"Ow!" I exclaimed, rubbing my head.

"Why do you think I'm so fast?" Master asked, smiling.

"Um, because you are?" I replied.

"No...I'm 65 years old. You are faster than me, Mack. I still know a bit more than you, and I'm spiritually stronger than you, but only because you limit your spirit. But I'm only faster than you because you think I'm faster, not because I really am. You are one of my best students. You are good enough to now be faster and stronger.
Now you must believe it," Master said, chuckling.

"If you say so, Sensei," I laughed, drinking in his wisdom.

Bluto aimed a sidekick and I barely moved outta the way. Damn! He's a lot faster than he looks, I thought. But not as fast as me, I decided. Bluto punched, I stepped to the side and then Bluto stepped in and swung the same arm in a backhand arc, catching me on my left cheek. The blow knocked me back into the table, which I grabbed to stop from falling.

Damn! Such force! I thought, as hot blood began to trickle down my face and neck. The left side of my face was almost completely numb, before the pain seeped in as the blood seeped out. Bluto smiled. No more mister nice guy, I thought, gritting my teeth. And suddenly, I saw.

And time...slowed...down.

I immersed myself in eternity and my senses heightened. My spirit leapt within me and power coursed through my veins. I had forgotten to do this, seeing only the obvious and not goin' deeper. For the first time in over three years I felt my spirit and I felt the hand of God, there, with me...within me. A door opened and channeled the pain I felt into my spirit, makin' me stronger still. Stronger and faster. My mind was sharp and clear. I had total recall of all of Master's teachings.

Bluto kicked again, and it was so slow I had to wait, stopping myself from reacting. I felt like tapping my toes and laughing it took so long. I easily avoided the kick and moved in, striking Bluto's throat with a flurry of punches. By the time his eyes widened, I had hit him several times. Then I jumped, striking Bluto's nose but aiming for the back of his head. "Crunch!"

I stepped back. Bluto blinked once, a look of utter shock n' awe on his face, then he closed his eyes, and fell backwards. It seemed to take several seconds before he fell, "boom!" lifeless, to the floor. I turned and looked at Kane, who's mouth was hanging open. His eyes narrowed as he tried to grasp what had happened.

Akira pursed his lips, his gaze leavin' Bluto and then resting on me. Then he smiled. He gave a slight nod, and I nodded back, smilin'.

"What is with you people?!" Doc entered the room with her bag, obviously upset.

"He needs help first, dear," Akira said, motioning to the one handed leviathon stooge.

"Geez, dad, did you do this?" She asked, checking leviathon dude out.

Dad? I wondered.

"Yes. I did tell him no guns," Akira said almost apologetically. "And Mack was kind enough to provide the tourniquet."

"He needs to go to ER," doc said.

"No hospitals!" Akira and Kane said at the same time. "They'll ask too many questions, honey," Akira said. "Just take him to your office. I'll have some men help you."

"I'm getting tired of the no hospital rule," doc said, lookin' angry. She glanced at me, after gettin' leviathon stabilized. "You tore your stitches!" She exclaimed firmly, her hands on her hips.

"Um...don't look at me, doc, he did it," I said pointing at Kane who scowled.

"Is that true, Kane?" She asked.

"Yes, that's true! Now get him out of here so we can finish this!" Kane shouted impatiently.

"Don't yell at my daughter," Akira said, his hand on his sword and his eyes flashing. "Do you understand?"

"...Yes, well...I apologize, doctor," Kane replied, glaring at Akira.

"Whatever!" Doc said. "My name is Hanna, Mack, okay?" Hanna said, sternly. "Don't tell me you forgot already!"

"Right. Um...sorry Hanna, it won't happen again," I said, hesitantly.

"Wait, you told him your name?" Akira asked, lookin' at Hanna in disbelief.

"Of course I did, daddy, Mack isn't going to hurt me, silly, are you Mack?" Hanna said, giggling.

"No, of course not," I replied, nervousely as Akira glared at me. "Honest," I added.

Akira scowled. I knew that look. A father's frustration with clueless daughter look.

"You are going to stop this nonsense, right daddy? Please?" Hanna pleaded.

Just like that, she went from angry to giggling to pleading. She is very beautiful no matter what emotions she expresses, I thought. I had no idea she was Akira's daughter! Apparently, she got her stunning beauty from her mother.

"Are you okay, Mack?" Annie asked, from the doorway.

"How long have you been there?" I asked, surprised.

"Well, after getting Akira and the doctor..." she began.

"It's Hanna!" Hanna exclaimed.

"I mean Hanna, sorry Hanna, In time to see your last fight," she said, lookin' worried.

"What?" I hadn't seen her but then again I was sorta preoccupied. Still, how could I not know? I felt so...aware.

"I'll let you know when this is over," Akira said, smiling. "Why don't you go with my daughter, Miss Annie."

"Oh! This isn't fair!" Annie protested.

"Tell me about it," Hanna quipped.

"I...apologize, dear lady," Akira said, bowing. "This won't take long, I suspect."

"Okay, but you better not get hurt anymore, mister!" Annie said, lookin' at me with concern.

"That goes for me too. Watch yourself," Hanna said, lookin' worried.

"Uh...I'll do my best," I replied.

Akira spoke into his earpiece and two men arrived. They looked around the room, obviously full of questions, but they said nothin'. Professionals, I thought.

"Help the doctor..." Akira began.

"Daddy!" She exclaimed.

"Help my daughter, the doctor," Akira said, turnin' red, and Miss Annie, take this man to her office. And if you so much as look at these ladies wrong..." Akira finished, his eyes sayin' what he didn't hafta say.

"Hai!" "Hai!" Both men replied, bowing profusely and doin' everything they could to not look at Hanna or Annie.

"I want you both to support him and help him up. Are you listening to me?" The doc said, angrily.

"Hai!" "Hai!" Both men replied, averting their eyes like the dames were Angels or somethin'.

They do look like angels, I mused. Angelic, anyway.

It took longer than I thought it would to get leviathon outta the room, since the men were afraid to look at Hanna or Annie. Plus, leviathon was still in shock.

"Get up you big baby, your legs still work!" Hanna ordered. "Will somebody grab his hand? Not that one, cutie, the one on the floor."

Akira's employee turned beet red, at that, and he kept glancin' at Akira, bowing, and finally picking up the hand like it was a dead rat with his forefinger and thumb. His embarassment melting into disgust as his nose wrinkled.

"It hurts!" Leviathon shouted, crying.

"Well next time you'll think twice about trying to shoot Mack now won't you?" Annie berated.

"Here's your hand," Akira's employee said, trying to give it to leviathon.

"Waaahhhh!" Leviathon moaned, sobbing uncontrollably.

"What are you doing, you moron!" Hanna snapped.

"Well I, I don' see..." he stuttered, lookin' down.

"You carry the hand and don't show it to him again. It's like tryin' to work with a six year old! Hanna said, lookin' up and gesturing.

After they finally got leviathon outta the room, Kane said, "can we please get on with this?"

"Okay, wait a minute," Kane replied, whispering into his earpiece. About a minute later, another man arrived carrying two swords.

Akira took the swords throwin' one to me and one to Kane, which we both caught easily.

"Please follow me," Akira said. "There's been enough blood shed in the dining room.
You'll finish your fight in the training room. No fighting until we get there."

"It's not too late to call this off, Kane," I said.

"Shut up! I'm going to enjoy killing you!" Kane answered.

"You really need to lighten up," I said, as we followed Akira. Kane cursed under his breath. Still the same jovial Kane, I thought, wondering how I could find humor in the situation.


julie said...

"Evil don't sing kumbaya except maybe to get close enough to cut your throat."

Another good one, Ben!

jwm said...

Woo Hooo!
This is gettin' fun, Ben. I love the bit with the hand. That is some black humor.
By the way, did you ever see the film "Sin City"? It's by the same guy who did 300. I can't think of his name right now, and I'm too lazy to look over to the bookshelf, and check the DVD.


walt said...

A thrill-spender!
A speller-binder!
With just the right whiff of Eau d' Wisdomme "accenting" the action scenes!

I was pleased that Master Toshiro became a hit on the regional talk show circuit. Real talent mixed with the truth just won't be denied! As they say, let the market decide!

And sheesh, what is it with Mack and beautiful dames?? Is it his studly good looks? -- his ability to take a punch? -- does he call out the primal "nurture" in the female? -- or is it just the general cut of his jib? One look at him and they become mere puppets in his story-line! That's power!

So: ex-Navy guys are called "squids?" I didn't know that. This is an educational blog!

Now, I know Kane is pissed, and all, and not thinkin' too clearly -- but I suspect that he won't enjoy the next chapter. Just guessing! I say, put the "Squid Move" on him and slice him into eight pieces from eight directions simultaneously -- but, uh ... you know: with respect, just like Master Toshiro taught us!

Seriously now: it's pure pleasure to start a Sunday off with another thrill-packed must-read from Ben!

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Thanks, Julie.
It was a bit longer than I meant, but I couldn't stop typin', ha ha!

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Hi John,

Yes, I liked Sin City and 300!
Frank Miller wrote them both as comics, or graphic novels which are just bigger comics in a nicer format.

I also loved his Batman and Daredevil. He's an excellent writer and a decent artist (some say great artist, but I like Joe Kubert kind of art better, but Miller does express himself well).

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Hi Walt,

Aye! I was tryin' not to be preachy there, but what Master Toshiro believes greatly influenced Mack growin' up, and still is.

Ah yes, the dames do seem to dig Mack, don't they. And there may be a few more dames entering his life before long. It will be interesting to see how Mack reacts to all this, um...attention.

Aye, ex-Navy and current Navy is called squids. It can be endearing or slanderous depending on the tone one uses. Ha!

I suspect Kane has a few tricks up his sleeve. He's been in Yakuza for a long time, afterall.
And he has the advantage of seeing Mack fight. Gotta watch those old treacherous Yakuza guys.

QP said...

Squids trained by Master Toshiro = Denizens of the Deep!

And more babes on the way you say?
So that's what 10 squid arms are for!

Really a fun & suspenseful Noir Lore Ben!

Robin Starfish said...

And suddenly, I saw.

And time...slowed...down.

Do you ever! Does it ever!

better than movies
zoning in to the capn's
sunday serial

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Thanks, QP!

I like that, Denizens of the Deep!
Has a nice ring to it, and it's, well...deep.

Ha ha! I hadn't made the squid arms connection to babes. I don't think even Mack can deal with ten babes! He has enough trouble with just Annie, but the dames ain't gonna give him a break. :^)

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Thanks Dojo!

A cool haiku in the comments make my day! :^)

I always find it fascinating what parts of the story jump out at youse guys.

mushroom said...

Great philosophy interspersed with great action -- I don't see how you can beat that.

Jimmy J. said...

"And time......slowed......down."

Yes, great stuff describing entering into that mind within the mind where calm and focus are melded into flow. Where past and future no longer exist and there is only the NOW. Much better than using the gat.

You are the Master.

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Hi Mushroom,

This is a good opportunity to try new stuff (for me) out.
You guys are the test subjects, so to speak. :^)

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Hi Jim,

I like how you put that! Of course, you bein' a pilot, in war and in peace, I'm bettin' you have experienced that more than a few times. :^)