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[Fiction] Long - Dead Men on my Doorstep


Preston

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It wasn’t so much that he never expected anyone to come to his house, but the fact that this someone had appeared there without Long sensed the approach. There was less than twenty people, Long estimated, had that much mastery of the Invisible Art/ the Way of the Ninja. Two of the three interlopers weren’t likely to be ninja. Hell, two of them weren’t even alive … or so the world thought.

“Well, are you going to let us come in, Ryu,” a Caucasian male in his late forties asked, “or are you to attack?”

Long blinked rapidly. The man, Chandler Faulk, was hardly what Long would have considered a friend. More appropriately, he had not been someone Long had liked or trusted when the man had been alive.

Behind and to either side stood two other terribly lethal men, who were Faulk’s companions. Like Long, Koji Tawara was a retired elite. He had retired to an estate on his home island of Okinawa and was never known to leave it. The third man was Chestosie Kwatsa. He was a tall and powerfully built African from Tanzania, and, like Chandler Faulk, a man reportedly dead.

After a few more quiet seconds, Long spoke,

“Why have you come here?”

Long tensed as Chandler reached inside his jacket. He sensed Long’s reaction and moved with sure deliberation and pulled out an elaborately carved Go board. To the left, Koji brandished a bottle of some kind.

“A quiet night’s relaxation and conversation, Ryu. Nothing more.”

Long hesitated for another moment, eagerly sensing any deception on the visitor’s part.

“Okay.”

Long steps lightly aside and the three novas entered his home. Koji made a slight submission to the house’s guardian by the doorway as he entered. The three novas looked about the place as the moved toward the open living area. Long’s heart fluttered slightly as Hideki entered from another wing of the house. The three novas were between Long and his son. Before Long could react, Chandler moved rather subtly toward the far end of the room and exposing his back to Long. The other two followed suit, clearing a path for Long to rush to his son if he desired to.

Chestosie nodded to Hideki and then to Long.

“Your son?” the African asked.

“Yes,” Hideki responded even as Long nodded.

“And, I am a nova,” Hideki continued.

The slight outburst brought a guarded smile to Chandler’s lips. Koji appeared to not notice the exchange.

“Ryu … father, who are these men?”

‘Too much time being ignored by his mother,’ Long thought. Still, this was not the time or place to reprimand his son.

“Hideki, these novas are …” he hesitated, “old colleagues of mine.”

The look he gave Hideki gave the young man pause. He waited at the step into the room, unsure of what his father was trying to communicate.

Chandler broke the impasse.

“We are a bunch of retired killers, just like your old man, son.”

“My father is not a killer,” Hideki responded hotly. “He is an elite.”

Still smiling as he plopped himself into a chair, Chandler fixed the young man with a sinister gaze.

“Son, what do you think elites do? We go were we are told and kill the people we are paid to kill.”

The man’s voice carried the barest whisper of all the pain and death he had dealt in his career. Chandler had been with the CIA way back when. He had ramrod operations for the US government in Africa at the start of the millennia. His contact with the emerging nova elite cadres had led to his own eruption. After that, he had his fingers in almost every conflict on four continents for ten years. Then, in 2012, his number had finally come up and a group of elites he had manipulated caught up with him and killed him, or so the legend said.

Chestosie brought out a bottle of what smelled like a home-brewed Ampwell cut with battery acid. Long walked over to a table and took out four wooden cups. Chestosie poured out some of the foul-smelling liquid and the four men raised them.

“To absent spirits,” Koji said then the men downed the liquid heat. It hit Long’s stomach with a warm glow. At least it was something that his advanced metabolism couldn’t immediately neutralize.

Chandler raised up two closed hands, palm down.

“Choose,” he asked Long.

Long looked at him for an explanation.

“Well, since you are the host, you get to play the first game. Since it’s my board, I play the winner of the first match. You chose Koji-white, or Chesie-black.”

Long tapped the man’s left hand and a black stone was revealed.

The game lasted longer than Long would have initially predicted. Chestosie was an excellent player and a cagey defender. It took Long over thirty minutes to beat him. As the game progressed, Hideki had come into the room and taken a stance behind his father and studied the game.

Chandler was next and proved to be an even more formidable opponent. So formidable that Long went down to defeat after nearly an hour. Long took the break to get some food prepared for his guests. Hideki remained watching the game as Long worked and Chestosie helped. The two men began talking about family and life away from the action.

For Chestosie, the choice had literally been one of life and death. He had been a revolutionary Pan-African nationalist even before his eruption and had made name for himself attacking elites in defense of his homeland and other African states. Eventually, he had become good enough to be sought out by both ANC intellectuals and elite agencies. His strong anti-elite stance had eventually lead to death threats then actual attempts on his life. Finally, an attack had nearly cost him the lives of his family and he realized that his days on this earth were numbered. That had been when Chandler Faulk had appeared in his life. The two novas had been able to face Chestosie’s death to the satisfaction of a DeVries elite team sent to kill him.

Now, he could observe his family, but he missed actually interacting with him. He missed being able to advise his sons as they grew into men and dreaded the day his daughters married without him. On the other hand, he could now make his way around dormed and not be attacked. Still, he liked these small get-togethers that Chandler arranged. He liked talking about the battles he had fought in, the enemies and friends he had made, and to be with men who would understand what life and death struggles were about.

Long listened and felt a sudden pang of regret for having known his son for such a sort time, but also a sense of understanding of one worried father talking to another. He also understood the sacrifice Chestosie had made removing himself from his children’s lives.

Coming back out, Long noticed Hideki and Chandler setting up for another game. Hideki brimmed with confidence and chatted amiably with the ex-CIA man. Koji was examining the Feng Shui of the room and nodded his approval to Long.

Hideki’s game didn’t last long. A game of poker was proposed next and Chandler and Koji pulled out some aromatic Havannas and lit up. The conversation drifted to current events and politics then to music (which Hideki finally showed real interest in) and Mammoth meat. Ryu found himself relaxing and laughing for the first time in a very long time. Despite their obvious differences, they all shared the common bond of being men the world considered killers, but who had willed themselves to move on.

After the game had ended and the sun began to rise, the conversation had gone onto what was next. They talked about Zen Spiritualism, Transhumanism, and Teras. They talked about how they saw novas adapting and evolving, for right and wrong.

Finally, Long could sense the mood fading and Chandler rose.

“Thanks Ryu. I hope we haven’t been too much of a burden upon you.”

“Hideki, it has been nice to meet you as well.”

Hideki nodded sleepily.

The others made their farewells and made their way to the door. Long and Hideki bowed to them as the filed out and faded down the pebble walkway into the morning mists. In seconds, they were gone and Long was still unsure just how they did it.

As Long closed the door, he caught Hideki staring at him.

“Yes son?”

“Father, I had no idea. I mean, I knew from reports and what mother had said that you were an elite, but I now know that I had little idea what that really meant.”

“Yes?”

“Those men … I know they were trying to be polite around me, but I have never seen such deadly and serious men … besides you.”

Long waited for his son to continue.

“I thought … I thought there was something about me that made you act that way. Now I know that this … this danger I sense from you is as much a part of you as breathing. You can’t help but be dangerous. I didn’t know.”

“We have honed our minds and bodies for years in the most dangerous of pursuits, Hideki, that of confronting other novas … and we are the best at what we did.”

“Will I see them again, father.”

Long looked at his son.

“Perhaps … if you are good and show proper improvement in your lessons, I will take you to our next get-together next month. Would you like to see Okinawa?”

Hideki looked at his father for a second then nodded.

“I will, father. I will.”

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