Friday, March 27, 2009

My Bloody Noir-In-Time

Act 14: Warrior, Heal Thyself

Alune and I made good time. We must've put at least 3 miles between us and the giant lizards. I kept checkin' my arm, but although the fang marks from the rattler were still there, there was no swelling, and my heartbeat was fine. I felt no effects from the snakebite. Perhaps it was a warning bite, I thought. Vipers don't always release their venom when they bite.

How do I know this? I pondered. Just who in tarnation am I? Does Alune know me? She acted as if she did, and she trusts me. I still can't understand why we can't communicate by talking, but be that as it may, we could communicate to a lesser extent.

I stopped and drank some water from one of the canteens. Alune also stopped and drank. She offered me a smoke and I accepted. It wasn't until I took a drag that I wondered if I smoked or not. I was inclined to say yes, since I didn't cough from the smoke.

Alune nudged me to show how she was cupping her cigarette to prevent it's light from giving away our position. Good idea. Who knows what the hell is out here. She didn't hafta explain why it was important, I quickly recognized why by watching her smoke.
Therefore I must know that for a reason. Either I was paranoid or I had a job where I wouldn't wanna give myself away. I still didn't know what my profession was but at least I was narrowing it down.


A twig snapped and I quickly looked in the direction I thought it came from and raised my hand, in case Alune hadn't heard it. But she had. She already had her rifle in the ready position, after burying her smoke. We both got down low, crouching.

The night was clear and there was a half moon in the sky. Not very bright, however, we could still see shadows, and I saw one obscure a sagebrush I was looking at as it moved by. As I tracked it's movement, it seemed apparent it hadn't noticed us, but that could change if the low breeze shifted, and it smelled the cigarettes.

I decided to follow it, and I tried to indicate that to Alune by pointing to myself and the shadow. She nodded. I silently moved to intercept the shadow. Occasionally, it would stop, and I would lose track of it. At those moments I crouched down and froze. Thankfully, it wasn't very nimble in the dark.

"Ot! Gand Fevstrem!" It cursed after stumbling into a small barrel cactus. It wasn't loud, but loud enough.

"Gan. Ni Poingpon!" another voice said, perhaps berating the first voice.

They talked for a bit and then my cover was blown when one of them lit a coleman lantern.
They both froze in surprise when they saw me. And I almost did too. It's not everyday you see talking hyenas with lanterns and rifles on shoulders.
I quickly raced towards them, drawing my sword in the process. They were no more than 15-20 feet away.

"Aaaa!" One of them barked, which was an odd noise coming from a hyena. But that's all it got out before I slit it's throat, following through and depriving the other hyena of it's head.
I furtively looked around before extinguishing the lantern, but I saw no other hyenas.

Behind me I sensed Alune before I heard her barely audible feet running across the desert floor. I held up two fingers when she reached my side. She nodded, I think. I'm not sure since it would take some time for my eyes to readjust to the dark.

"Mapo? Sheenk!" Damn! I froze and looked in the direction of the new voice. I heard a hammer click behind me and then a gurgling noise. I ducked down and kicked towards the sound, only to see Alune duck my kick as she let the hyena fall.

How did she move so quickly and detect the hyena before me? I wondered. Granted she could see better, but still, she is very good, I thought. We heard more voices in the distance, and we both got down. I indicated to Alune to take the lead, and she did. I grabbed a bag I had seen near one of the slain hyenas and followed her. We moved behind a juniper tree and waited.

There seemed to be several voices talking in whispers as they proceeded to where the dead dogs lay. We were approximately fifty yards away. It wouldn't be long until they discovered the bodies. I pulled out my revolver. The sword would be useless from this distance.

Alune tapped me on the shoulder and showed me her rifle. She pointed to the scope and offered it to me. I took the rifle and looked through the scope. Night vision!
Yeah! I quickly found the pack of hyenas we had heard. There were seven of them but none of them had scopes on their weapons so I assumed they had no night vision scopes or goggles. At least not on their weapons, which consisted of uzi's, shotguns, and a few AK-47's.

I nodded and smiled but not for long. Were there anymore? I wondered. And why were they out here? What kind of dogs carry weapons anyway? Was the world goin' mad or just me? Alune tapped my shoulder and requested her rifle. I gave it to her. She had trusted me, and I figured I could trust her. I decided to look behind us. We didn't need any surprises.

"Kpow! Pow, pow! Pow!" And the remaining hyenas opened up. They couldn't see exactly where we were but they did shoot in our direction. Amazingly, Alune's rifle was fairly quiet, and had a very small muzzle flash.

"Braaaap! Brraaap! Boom! Boom! Braap! Boom!" The hyenas were scared as hell, and their undisciplined shooting and screaming, confirmed that fear.

"Pow! Pow.......Pow! Pow....pow!" And that was that. Eight shots, seven kills. Damn fine shootin', I thought, patting Alune on the shoulder. I wonder where she got that kind of training? She smiled and gave me a nice kiss. This we didn't need words for.
That perfume! I...I know it! I remembered. I have smelled it before. Alune must know me.

It was a pretty long kiss and reluctantly...very reluctantly, we both stopped and got out of there. If there were anymore of those things out there, they would be headin' this way.
But first, I wanted to check somethin'. I went and searched some of the things we had killed...well, that mostly Alune killed. I was lookin' for anything that might be helpful. I found an earpiece in one. A pretty sophisticated communications device, I reckoned. I wiped it off and put it in my ear.

"Slentor zee borane? Woonchi lax portev yan loken." The receiver, or maybe it was a transceiver, transmitted.

Aw hell, why did I think I could understand their language? And this means there's more of 'em. I gave it to Alune. Perhaps she could decipher their language.
She put it in her ear and listened.

Meanwhile, I shined a small penlight into the bag I had picked up earlier. C-4! Several bricks of it and detonator cord with caps. This could be useful, I thought.

A minute or so later, she indicated we should vamoose, so we did. Must mean that hyena reinforcements was comin', based on Alune's urgency. She took off double time, and I followed, after grabbing an AK-47 and some clips. Not my weapon of choice for accuracy, but it was a reliable weapon and although a shotgun was tempting, I already had two weapons for short range.

As we ran the pain resurged throughout my body. It wasn't long before I could feel my energy waning fast. We got about two miles before I collasped face first in the sand.

"You what?" Hanna shouted, angrily.

"We didn't have any choice," Akira said, tryin' to calm Hanna down. "He saw us as enemies. To stop him, I would have needed to hurt him more or kill him."

"But daddy! He won't last long in his condition. And with those thugs out there..." Hanna shook her head and put her hands over her face to hide her tears.

"He has Annie with him," Sensei said, entering the room.

"How will she help? She might be able to fight a bit, but really, against an organized gang of killers like that? They do not have a chance," Hanna sobbed, no longer trying to hide her emotions.

"She is more than she appears," Sensei said.

"What do you mean, Gramps?" Hanna asked, sniffling.

"I mean...she has been trained to fight, and to get through situations like this. She does hide it well, but she cannot fool me," Sensei replied.

"R-really? You think Mack...and Annie will survive?" Hanna asked.

"Hanna that much for him?" Akira asked, his eyes wide with surprise. Up to this point, he hadn't seen that look on Hanna's face. An expression that betrayed far more than just a doctor's care.

"I love him, okay? Is that so wrong, Daddy?" Hanna asked, crying again.

"You just met him!" Akira protested, harsher than he intended.

"How long did you know mom before you loved her?" Hanna countered. "You both were always talking about love at first sight. Did you think you were the only people capable of feeling that?" Hanna asked.

Akira didn't reply. What could he say? I am going to have...a talk with Mack, if he survives, Akira thought, clenching his fists in frustration.

Later, they all heard the gunfire in the distance. Akira and Hanna looked at Sensei.

"What?" Sensei asked.

"It sounds like a war out there!" Hanna exclaimed. "Who is winning?"

Sensei raised his hand. Soon the shooting stopped.

"Annie or Mack fired the last shot," Sensei said, smiling. Hanna smiled back, looking more hopeful.

"Shall we go find them now?" She asked.

"We have company," Akira said. "Show them no mercy."

Hanna took her position, bracing the winchester on the overturned sofa. Akira took position on the other side of the room behind the dresser. He looked around for Sensei who had disappeared. Where did he go? Akira wondered.

It didn't take long for the front door to get kicked down, and the first ninja entered the house. There was sounds of glass breaking in the back of the house and then a scream, cut short.

Ah, that is where he went, Akira thought. Two more ninjas rushed inside the front, before Hanna and Akira opened fire, efficiently taking all three ninjas down.
More glass breaking in the kitchen, and then a thump of dead weight.

A smoke cannister was thrown in through the front door, and Akira unsheathed his sword. Idiots, he thought. Smoke will not protect them. Akira made his way to the door, covered by the smoke and stood to the side. The next ninja who came through did so without a head...which none of his fellow ninjas saw. Two more entered the same way, and met the same grisly demise. Akira heard another scream, this time outside, in the desert. Then total bedlam and chaotic gunfire.

Akira peeked outside, in time to see one ninja shoot another by mistake. Sensei has them spooked out of their senses, Akira thought, smiling. There were shouts of "retreat!" and "ghosts!" as utter chaos struck throughout the ranks of the enemy.
Akira picked off a few more with his shotgun. Soon, the shouts and the screams were silenced. Sensei appeared with some communications devices and one live ninja, unmasked, bound, and shaking with fear.

"How many?" Akira asked.

"Eight," Sensei replied.

"That makes seventeen," Akira said, "including this one."

"I could have helped more," Hanna protested.

"Yes, Hanna. I know. But I work better knowing you are safe, so please understand," Akira replied.

"I-I understand, Daddy," Hanna said, her voice softening.

"Now...who sent you and why?" Akira asked the prisoner, who said nothing but was beside himself with fear.

"Talk," Sensei said, which caused the prisoner to cower and cry.

"Hei! Anything! B-but please...get him away f-from me!" The ninja begged, nodding towards Sensei and sobbing.

Akira nodded and Sensei left the room, motioning Hanna to join him.

"I will not ask again," Akira said. "And if you lie, he will be back. I do not have to tell you that there are worse things than death."

"It was the GrandMaster, by proxy," the ninja said. "We were sent to eliminate Mack Westphal."

"Why?" Akira asked.

"Because...because the GrandMaster knows what he did to Kane and his bodyguard. I guess he thought this Mack would eventually come for him," ninja guy said.

"Why would he think that?" Akira asked.

The ninja sat there on the floor, shaking his head. "I do not know. The rumor going around is that the GrandMaster murdered this man's family or ordered it done."

"Did he order Master Yukio's death?" Akira asked.

"Not that I am aware. Yukio has too many ties to men of power in Yakuza, so the GrandMaster is unlikely to call a hit on him directly. In addition, Yukio is useful because of his connections in the Triad and several gangs in California. Once the GrandMaster learned you had moved the target..." he said.

"How did he know?" Akira asked.

"Kane's daughter," he said.

"How did she know?" Akira asked.

"I do not know, truly. It is said she uses witchcraft, since she knows many things she should not know," he replied.

"How many were sent?" Akira asked.

"Forty," he said.

"Forty? Are you sure?" Akira asked.

"Hei! The GrandMaster wanted to be certain. And...he knew you would be here," he replied.

"My driver?" Akira asked.

"He...fought honorably," the prisoner said, bowing his head.

"You have been most cooperative," Akira said. "Now, if you remain cooperative, and quiet, you shall keep your life."

"You have my word," the prisoner replied.

Akira opened his cell phone and dialed a number he had memorized, but there was no answer. I will call him later, Akira thought.

Annie poured some water in her hand and splashed it on Mack's face, but he was too groggy to respond.

"C'mon Mack, get up," Annie said, washing the sand off of his face. "My God, you are burning up!"

I don't know how, but the remaining ninjas are after us, Annie thought, listening to the earpiece. How do they know where to go? No way could they track that fast at night without dogs and search lights.

"Oh Mack, you're bleeding," Annie whispered, checking his wounds. All that runnng had torn some of the stiches.

Annie checked the area out with her nightvision scope but saw no sign of their pursuers...yet. Then she glanced at her watch: still a few hours before sunrise. Annie looked around some more for some possible places they might hole up. About a hundred yards away she saw a wash. Perhaps there? But first she had to get Mack awake and moving.

"Mack! Wake up!" Mack mumbled something incomprehensable and tryed to move but couldn't get up.

"On your feet sailor! Now!" Annie ordered as loud as she dared, pulling on Mack's arm.

Mack groaned from the pain, and slowly got up, leaning on Annie.

"Yes, that's it! One more step, sailor! You can do it! Keep moving!" She ordered, using all her strength to help.

Mack gasped and sweat drenched his face as he struggled to follow Annie's orders. She wasn't sure if he understood the words or the tone, but he was doing his best.
She fought back tears as his face contorted in obviously excruciating pain.

It took five minutes to reach the draw. Annie looked left and then right. To her right there was a black hole in the bank of the draw as it rose up. A small cave or indentation? Only one way to know for sure. She steered Mack in that direction, and half carried him there. She carefully lowered Mack to the ground and retrieved a flashlight, shining it on the dark spot.

It was a small cave! It went about fifteen feet in before turning. Before exploring it she gave Mack some more water, which he drank thirstily before choking. She raised him up and patted his back, trying to cover his mouth as he coughed.

"Quiet, they'll hear us, Mack," she whispered, trying to cool his fever by splashing more water on his brow with her hand.

Next, she poured some on his hair while holding him. The cold water got on Annie too, but she was too worried about Mack to mind. Then it occured to her to use radio Sensei had given them.

"Hello? Sensei? Do you read me?" Annie said in a low voice. She tried a few more times and was just about to switch it off when she got a reply.

"Annie? It's Hanna! Are you both okay?" Hanna asked.

"Mack is burning with a fever and we got more hostiles heading our way," Annie replied.

"Where are you?" Hanna asked.

"Approximately five miles east of Sensei's house. Hanna? Mack is delusional from the fever. What should I do?" Annie asked, her voice breaking.

"Oh Annie...try to cool him down as much as you can and pray. There may be thirteen more bad guys left. We are on our way so hold on, okay?" Hanna said.

"Okay," Annie said, switching the radio off.

Funny, my voice sounds like a little girls voice, Annie thought. The CIA had prepared her for a lot of things, but not everything. Most of her undercover work wasn't supposed to be like this. She would feel better if Mack's life didn't hang in the balance.

"I won't let you die, do you hear me mack? So you better fight! Don't leave me alone...please," Annie whispered.

She gently laid Mack down on his back and quickly searched the cave. She crawled in holding the flashlight in one hand. At the end where it turned left she saw another twenty feet of cave where it appeared to stop. Seeing how it narrowed she decided not to investigate further. There was no way to turn around down there and it would take to long. She quickly returned to Mack and helped drag him to the bank of the wash near the cave.

She hadn't heard anything over the earpiece for quite some time. Had they caught on? She saw a tree above the wash and made her way up. Mack must really be out of it, she thought, or he wouldn't miss this opportunity to look up her dress. She smiled at the thought. Too bad I didn't have time to change before we left.

Annie checked the area with her night vision scope. Nothing. Wait! Over there, about 500 yards back she saw something. Yes, there they are. She counted only ten hostiles though. Hanna said there were thirteen. Where were the other three? No Matter. She kept them in her sights until they got to within a few hundred yards and opened up on them.

"Pow, pow, pow!" And three fell before they scattered. "Pow! Pow!"

Braap! Boom! Bang! Zing! Came the response.

"Pow! Pow!" Bang! "Ohh!" Annie said in surprise as a bullet missed her head by half an inch and a plume of bark went flying.

She ducked behind the tree. Dammit! Someone over there has a night vision scope too!

The shooting died down as Annie caught her breath. Three more in that group and three missing, Annie thought. If Hanna's information is good. Annie peeked out on the other side of the tree in a kneeling position and reoriented her scope.

"Pow!...Pow!" Bang! Bang! Annie ducked behind the tree again, as dirt flew up at her from the enemy sniper's bullet.

She rolled off the bank and entered the wash again, ran up it for twenty yards and crawled up on the bank, searching for the sniper.

"There you are. Pow!" Bang! Bang! It was a trap! The sniper had never been in that group! Annie discovered, rolling back into the wash.

Annie took a breath and calmed down. Let's see...the bullets were still coming from the same general direction, Annie thought, give or take probably thirty degrees. When Annie resurfaced on the other side of the wash she quickly scanned within those parameters.

Bang! "No!" Annie shouted, her rifle shot from her hands, struck by the sniper's bullet.

Once again, Annie rolled off the bank and back into the safety of the wash, her weapon back up on the bank, no doubt targetted by the sniper who was waiting for her to get it. And Annie had no way to know if it was operational or not. At any rate, she didn't think she could move fast enough to get it without getting shot. All the sniper had to do was send the others ahead while waiting for Annie to make a move.

Annie ran back to Mack and poured more water on him, then she offered more for him to drink. Mack guzzled as before and Annie tried her best to slow him down but he still coughed as before. Not that it mattered much, since the enemy sniper knew where she was, within fifty yards or so, and had told the two other assassins. Again, if hanna's info was accurate.

"I'm sorry sweetie, I really screwed this one up," Annie whispered to Mack. "Any ideas?"

Annie grabbed the AK-47 and checked to see if it was ready. Then she rumaged through the bags.

"C-4? Good haul, Mack. Let's see what I have time to rig up," Annie said, smiling grimly.

"But first," Annie said, turning on the radio. "Hanna, anyone, you there?" Annie asked, pressing the transmit button.

"Akira here," Akira replied.

"Be advised, pinned down by sniper. Possibly two more bogies as well. They have night vision," Annie said.

"Understood," Akira replied.

"Be careful," Annie said.

"You too," Akira replied, apparently running.

"You know it," Annie said, clicking the radio off.

Annie went to work, checking over her shoulder constantly. Thankfully, it didn't take long.

"Let's go Mack. Hurry! Please! We don't have much time!" Annie whispered in Mack's ear, trying to drag him towards the cave. "I need you, Mack! I love you."


Mack kept fading in and out of awareness as his energy faded. It felt like his very soul was on fire. So tired. Just wanna sleep.

"Don't you die on me! On your feet Sailor! Never surender. Never give in to the darkness. You must fight...Please! I love you, Mack. Trust me, my friend, hang in there, I love...don't you die...on your feet, Sailor!" Said all the voices swirling around in my mind.

Were they recent? Old? Some merged into others, different voices and all. I had no way of knowing when or where, but one voice seemed more urgent than the others.

"Don't you die on me! Please! I need you, Mack!"

I know that voice. Am I Mack? Are these my thoughts?

"Miss me, beloved?" An enchanting, white haired lady asked, walking towards me. "Don't tell me you forgot who I was? Me, your loving wife?"

My wife? I wondered, looking at my left hand. Sure enough I had a wedding ring on.
But her voice, although I had heard it before, didn't sound right. No, it wasn't just that. I felt no love from that voice. Not like the other one I heard earlier.

"Come to me, my love. Come and hold me," she said, holding her arms out.

I walked slowly towards her and stopped. That other voice also beckoned. The one that...stirred love within me.

"Come, I will help you. One embrace and your mind will clear and all this confusion will end. All your pain will vanish," she said.

On your feet, Sailor! Don't you die on me! I love you. Please!

Flames erupted around me, except between me and the lady with the white hair. She winked and smiled in a come thither fashion.

Don't you die on me! On your feet, Sailor!

I shook my head and tried to speak but only nonsense came out. The fire appeared to be getting hotter and closer. Above the white haired lady I saw a face...she was my wife. My real wife. My dead wife. I fell to my knees and wept.

"I'm sorry," I said, surprised to hear any coherent words coming from my lips.

"I forgive you, Mack," my wife said as the white haired lady disappeared and she took form before me, her arms outstretched.

I stood up and smiled. My I stepped forward.

Yes! My name is mack! I am Mack! Everything made sense now.

It's not your fault, Mack a voice from the past resurfaced.

"Jim?" I asked, looking around.

"Jim isn't here, Mack," my wife said.

My God, she's gorgeous! I thought. Beautiful!
I took one step closer...and the flames got higher.

Beautiful! I heard my own voice say.

"Don't you die on me!"


"Mack..." my wife said.

The flames grew closer, hotter, higher. The only way out was to take that last step towards my wife.

Beautiful. Alune. Annie. Annie!

"On your feet, Sailor! Please! I love you!" Annie whispered.

"You...forgive me?" I asked.

"Why of course I do!" My wife exclaimed.

"For what?" I asked.

"What do you mean, for what?" My wife asked, obviously confused.

"My wife would never say that," I said. "You see, I sought her forgiveness, true enough, after she was murdered, but my wife knows it wasn't my fault and she would never blame me for that. Therefore she would never forgive me. Witch!"

The image of my wife morphed into the white haired witch. Man, is she pissed, I thought. Good.

"You're still too late to save your soul. You will never see your family where you are going," she spat.

The flames enclosed me and burned. I awoke, screaming. It took me a second to realize I wasn't actually on fire.

"Mack! Your awake! Shh!" Annie said, hugging me.

"Thank you, Annie, for saving my life," I said, hugging her back.

"Listen, there are still three left. Three bad guys. We have to get to the end of this cave," Annie said.

"Bad guys?" I asked.

"I'll explain later. Go on. Here's a flashlight. Go! Take a left and keep going," Annie said.

"Okay, I'm going," I said, crawling into the cave. Annie followed me in. I turned left and kept going.

"Let me know when you reach the end," Annie said.

"Okay, but why don't we just wait for them?" I asked.

"Because one has a sniper rifle and mine is gone," Annie replied.

"Ookay. I must've been really out of it," I said.

"To put it mildly," Annie replied.

"Alright, I'm at the end, Annie," I said.

"Good. Now, as i recall I put this in here, and...let's see how long this cord is," Annie said.

"What?" I asked.

"Nothing. Just our last chance. No quiet. I need to hear when they get near," Annie said. I saw her light getting nearer.

Finally, I saw her round the corner. She put her finger to her lips and I nodded.

Soon we heard voices. I strained to hear. It sounded like two men. They both talked for awhile and then it was quiet. Annie had turned around and was peeking around the corner that led outside.

Not much later we heard voices again. This time I heard a female voice as well. The witch!

"We know you are in there, Mack, with your slutty little friend. Come out now, and I promise you she will live," the Witch said.

Neither Annie nor I said a word.

"This is your last chance. There is no way out of there. Do the bitch a favor and give yourselves up," the Witch said.

Annie heard a click from Annie's direction. What the?

"Do you promise you won't hurt Mack?" Annie asked.

"I promise I won't kill him," the Witch replied.

"Okay, but I'll need some help dragging him out. He's unconcious," Annie said, "and he's losing blood. His stiches have tore open."

We heard the Witch yell something in Japanese, and then we heard both men as they crawled inside.

"This better not be a trick or all promises are null and void," the Witch said.

Annie had turned around and was holding her fingers in her ears. She motioned for me to do the same. I stuck my fingers in my ears and I heard one of the men shouting.

KBOOM! It was still a very loud explosion. I felt the concussion as well, as dirt rained in through cracks in the ceiling. For awhile I heard nothing but a lound ringing. I backed up towards Annie. She was lying there, motionless. When I had room I turned around.

Oh God! Please, let her be alright, I prayed, as I reached her. No wonder she wanted me to go first.
I took her hand and rubbed her face with my other hand. No response. Next, I opened a canteen and poured some water into my cupped hand, splashing it on Annie's face.

"Don't you die on me!" I shouted. "Wake up, Annie! I love you!" I said, kissing her dirty face.

Annie coughed, and opened her eyes and I laughed, kissing her again.

"I heard that," she said, smiling. "Let's see if there is still a way out, before we get to lovey-dovey."

Annie turned around and I followed her. I could see a faint light as I rounded the corner.

"Eww!" Annie shouted in disgust.

"What's wrong?" I asked, alarmed.

"There's ninja parts all over the place," Annie replied.

"I'll buy you a new dress," I said, laughing. "By the way, the view from back here is great."

"You better not ne looking up my dress!" Annie exclaimed, laughing.

Soon, we were out, after a little digging at the entrance of the cave. The Witch was lying on the ground, her face a bloody mess. The sun was just beginning to rise, and it matched the hue of red on the Witch.

Annie hugged me and we kissed, long and deeply. I still hurt. Not just the stitches tearing or the bruises, but inside, I still felt a burning sensation. I didn't say anything though. No use ruining the moment.

"I better call Akira and let him know the coast is clear," Annie said, pulling away reluctantly.

"Okay, but make it fast," I said, smiling.

"Akira, you there?" Annie asked into the radio.

"Hei!" Akira said, huffing into the radio.

"You can slow down old man. We are both okay, and the bad guys are dead, including the wicked Witch of the east," Annie said.

"Good! Hey! Who are you calling old?" Akira replied. "Daddy! Let me talk!" Hanna said. "What? I thought I told you to stay with Sensei!" Akira shouted.

Annie and I laughed as father and daughter argued.

"Okay fine! But you are in so much trouble!" Akira said.

"Are you sure you are both fine?" Hanna asked, ignoring Akira.

"Yes, Hanna. Other than ringing ears, but I'm sure we can both use some rest and a shower. I just crawled through two dead ninjas," Annie said.

"Eww! That is gross!" Hanna replied.

"That was my reaction too," Annie said, laughing.

I loved her laugh, I mused. So melodic and infectious. I smiled, trying to shake off the pain. I focused on Annie's voice and laughter. And then all hell broke loose. Out of the corner of my eye I saw the Witch turn over, with a gun in her hand, and she was aiming for Annie's back.

No! I ran towards the Witch drawing my sword. But she was too far away. No matter, I thought, as she fired the gun.

Just as I Annie...the bullet ripped into my chest...that's all that matters. I threw my sword and it struck the Witch in the heart, killing her for good.

Annie screamed. It's okay Annie, I tried to say. It's okay.

"Annie? Annie! What was that? Annie?!" Hanna's voice said over the radio.

"Mack! No! Oh God! No!" I heard Annie weep.

Somehow she had managed to catch me before I fell. Something symbolic in that, I thought, as Annie cradled me in her arms. The fire, that hellish fire is gone, Annie, I tried to say. But only blood came out of my mouth.

I love you, I said with my eyes, before the sun set again.


walt said...

Whew! Had to step outside for awhile, and get some fresh air. The stench from the battlefield, the blood, the trace of C4, and the echoes of ninjas whose last words were "WTF!?!" nearly made me call up the Starfish and cry, "Me too!"

The whole adventure just sounded exhausting! Killin' just ain't easy! And I'll bet ol' Sensei worked up a real hankerin' for some breakfast; thank goodness the fighting stopped at sunrise! Once Annie rinses off her hands, I'll bet she just naturally trends toward the kitchen, huh? What a gal!

Speaking of "ain't easy," I note that your production schedule is running full tilt. I was getting all lathered up for another weekend Tour de Noir, then BAM! In-My-Face on a busy Friday! Really, I was lucky to be able to fit it into today's calendar!

But, of course, Noir doesn't wait!

I don't know what to say about Mack's yearning to look up girl's skirts ... Oh, I know, he only does that to the ones he likes, but still ... I guess he's a modern sort of man ... it's troubling.

On the other hand, this is a Kung-fu Thriller -- anything less than X-treme violence and sex would be disappointing!

Robin Starfish said...

I wuz thinking, I know just how Mack felt this week, the swirling part with hyenas that is, out of it, wanting to die...but that's the flu for you.

Aren't bad guy ninjas funny? They spend their whole lives training to be badass assassins and then on their first job they all get killed by a girl. If they weren't dead, they'd be embarrassed.

Ya gotta love Annie. I do.

Come on Mack. It's a simple flesh wound, buddy. Good way to get the girl, too.

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...


You know, I just realized this is a much longer chapter than I usually write. But I couldn't help myself. I plead the Oth.

Killin' does take a we have seen perhaps most explicitely with Mack. Tragic and heartwarming at the same time. At least that was my intention. Love, grace n' the light of truth among blood, sweat n' tears, surrounded by death.

Indeed, noir don't wait.

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...


Ha ha! Aye! There are many parallels to be drawn with your epic battle with that horrible flu bug.

I have always noticed that about many badasses. Sure, they talk tough, but when the sniper bullet hits the arteries it's game over man, game over!
Imagine how embarassed the GrandMaster is gonna be.

Oh Dojo...I don't know how to break this to you my friend...

Skully said...

Aw no! You didn't! Say you didn't!

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Hey, I feel yer pain, I really do. I had no idea it would end this way.
But I gotta take what is given to me unadulterated, you know? Youse guys are gettin' the raw feed here. No punches or bullets pulled. Not for the feint of heart (you mispelled "feint", Ben) (no I didn't).

It just ain't fair, I tell you.
That's not to say justice won't be done, though. And Mack did succeed in healin' his soul by sacrificin' himself so willingly.
Still ain't fair.

I'm eager to write the next act, to see what happens to Annie now. Poor thing. From overjoyed to grief in an instant.
I've grown quite fond of her too.

Skully said...

NOOOO! Damn it! Damn it all to hell! You just can't do this! It ain't right! Where's my damn grog?!


mushroom said...

Take a couple of days off, and see what I miss. I can't believe it. You are doing some great writing, Ben.

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