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Duel at the Feet of the Sun (part 2)
Sat Nov 7, 2009 11:31pm


Trigger gasped for air. Though a replicant humanoid, and a ranger model to boot, the oxygen levels in the high cloud-shrouded peaks of the Himalayas had quickly reduced him to a fatigued mess too lightheaded to manage anything more than just putting one foot in front of the other.

The mercenary’s sherpa guide had turned back hours ago, refusing to trespass any farther. They’d reached the roof of the world, the brown man had said, and he dared not venture to the feet of the Sun. Now Trigger was alone and in agony, lost in a place of rock and ice that looked as alien as another world. All he knew was that his destination lay somewhere in the clouds above him, so he continued the arduous climb.

Weeks ago the leadership of the Freelance Reploids had sent Trigger on an urgent mission that’d led him from the sparkling palaces of New Kiev to the whore-infested back alleys of Bombay. Now he was in Tibet and feared that his quest was a fool’s errand. The sun itself seemed to mock him by shining brightly without offering any warmth, and the biting wind cut to his core like the breath of Death himself.

Yet it was this wind that parted the clouds and revealed to Trigger a first glimpse of his fabled destination: The Temple of Boundless Light. To his eyes the monastery looked exactly as it must have when constructed nearly three thousand years before. How the ancients had managed to carry those massive stones to the mountaintop was a mystery that he could not even contemplate.

It required another two hours of trudging to reach the temple steps and when he did Trigger felt like an intruder in a place so untouched by technology. The only thing in sight that did not look centuries old was the monastery’s massive doors. They must have been carved recently, for their intricate etchings still bore unweathered splinters.

The monk who greeted Trigger was a small man in simple robes with a scar across his face. He bowed low to the frigid wayfarer and silently gestured for him to enter.

“Hello.” Trigger said, then sheepishly asked “English? Do you speak English?”

“All my life.” The monk answered with pronunciation so perfect that it startled Trigger and caused him to laugh once.

The mercenary continued, “My name is Trigger. I’m hear searching for someone named Kail.”

The monk shook his head, saying “No one here goes by their Earthly names. You may call me Ktai, but that is not the name that the world gave to me before I climbed the mountain.”

“He has gray skin.” Trigger explained. “And black hair. Black like a bird’s wing. He would seem very strong to you.”

“You mean he is a reploid. As are you.”

Again shocked, Trigger stammered “Y-yes.”

“Yes, I know of reploids.” Ktai said with a little smile. “I was an executive for Satori Industries before coming here. I believe you are describing a member of our order that we call Tsung. Please follow me, honored guest, and I will take you to him.”

The monk led Trigger deep into the monastery. The place was not as untouched by technology, or at least the Technology Wars, as he’d first believed. He’d heard that the Temple of Boundless Light was home to an order of warrior monks several hundred strong. Now its vaulted chambers lay empty and only one or two residents could be seen wandering the halls.

Ktai led Trigger to a courtyard where small plants grew under the open sky. Kail sat among them in a traditional meditation posture. He wore a simple peasant tunic and looked extremely clean in the sunlight.

“I will leave you.” Tsung said, bowing again before he left.

Trigger spoke Kail’s name and approached warily. The assassin sat so perfectly still that he may have been deactivated. After a long moment Kail’s eyes opened. It was the first time in six months that Trigger had seen him and the ranger was unnerved by the strangeness of those black and red eyes. They looked demonic in this holy place.

“Oh, it’s you.” Kail said so calmly that he sounded bored.

Trigger blinked and asked “Sir, what are you doing here?”


“I see that.” the other blurted. “I mean what are you doing on top of this mountain? The Freelance Reploids are in trouble. We need your help!”

Without rising, Kail answered “I’m here because these humans are teaching me something. They’ve let me join their order.”

“Some order.” Trigger snorted. “You’re only the fourth one I’ve seen in this place.”

The dark reploid closed his eyes again. “They weren’t always so few.”


The droning chants of two hundred monks ended abruptly when The Temple of Boundless Light’s massive thousand-year-old doors erupted in a fireball of plasma and debris. Through the cloud of black smoke an armored figure flew like fired from a canon. It landed in the midst of the bewildered monks and from its talons sprung a glowing blade of liquid fire. Before the monks even understood what was going on, two of their brothers lay on the ground cut to pieces.

“So that’s the stuff that warrior monks are made of!” Kail shouted. He then waded into their ranks like a tiger, lopping off limbs and heads with ferocious abandon. The beamsaber's kiss caused cloth robes to catch fire and some of the corpses burned where they fell.

One monk tried to obstruct the killing machine’s destructive path and actually blocked the energy blade with his own hand. A lifetime of discipline kept the selfless man from crying out as his arm flash-melted into a gory nub, but the brave act was wasted on Kail who promptly hacked the man down like so much grass.

The assassin actually welcomed it when the his victims finally started fighting back. At first it was not much of a challenge, for what good are wooden quarterstaffs and prayers against a blade of burning hellfire, but Kail did notice that when one of the humans was lucky enough to land blow the fist actually managed to dent his black armor.

However the real surprise came when several of the monks formed a line before Kail and pointed their empty hands at him palms forward. What initially seemed comical grew very serious when an invisible force struck the assassin like a gust of wind and pushed him back fifteen feet. Cursing the attack as some kind of magic, Kail used a burst from his jetpack to leap over the phalanx attack them from behind. By this time the stink of the burning bodies was sickening.

Deciding that these monks were less of a challenge than he’d heard, Kail deactivated his beam saber and began dispatching the men using only his dual gauntlet blades. (It was from those that Ktai received the slash across his face.) The slaughter continued as one would expect, and the blood that trickled down the temple steps formed steaming pools outside that were lapped at by the monastery dogs.

Eventually all lay dead or dieing except for Lao Che, eldest member of the order and keeper of its deepest secrets. Against this ancient man all of the reploid’s slashes and thrusts failed to find their home. In frustration Kail resorted to his megabuster and discharged the weapon fruitlessly until its power cells were drained. He then lobbed a concussion grenade, but it also seemed to have little effect.

“Human sorcery!” the assassin snarled

“This is no magic.” Lao Che replied calmly. “Merely a skill that is greater than your own.”

“We'll see about that.” Kail shot back, then produced his beamsaber hilt with a practiced twirl and activated it in one fluid motion. The red blade of plasma glowed brightly in the dark sanctum of the monastery, bathing its walls in eerie crimson. The light reflected from a thousand places on the assassin’s sleek black armor and gave him the appearance of an infernal creature of volcanic glass.

Though deadly even with the most mundane of items, Kail's weapon of choice was his beamsaber. He was programmed with a mastery of over a dozen different fighting styles and had invented several others, but despite his uncanny ability the reploid’s blade failed to even singe the monk Lao Che. As they moved the shadows being cast by Kail’s beamsaber moved as well all around them as if an audience of specters were watching the contest.

They danced for nearly three hours, both refusing to admit defeat, the reploid fueled by anger and hatred, the monk guided by some sort of inner peace that his opponent could not understand. Only loosely could it have been described as a battle, for Lao Che made only defensive actions. He dodged, jumped and spun, but didn’t throw a single punch or kick.

Once satisfied with him demonstration, Lao Che disarmed Kail in three moves and threw his deactivated beamsaber away into the darkness. Kail, by this time helmetless and breathing harder than the old man, halted his assault and demanded “How are you doing this?”

“I will reveal that to you only if you submit to my teachings.” the monk replied. “Stay with us here on the mountain and all your questions will be answered.”

The assassin’s twin gauntlet blades extended with the staccato screech of metal on metal, and he asked “Why do you think I won’t cut your throat when you're sleeping?”

“Because if you learn what I have to teach you then you will no longer need to kill me while I slumber.”


Kail found Lao Che painting.

“I’m leaving.” he said matter-of-factly. “There’s business I have to attend to back in the world.”

Without looking away from his work, the monk said “Do not forget your meditation exorcises.”

“Those are a waste of my time.” Kail grumbled as insolently as a teenager. “Every day when I do them I slow my inner clock down so much that each hour passes like a day. It’s gotten me nowhere.”

Loa Che put more paint on his brush and explained “The duration is of no consequence. Your spirit must be willing. Meditation is an attempt to find clarity through tranquility.”

“Well it hasn’t worked, so now I’m going to seek clarity through havoc.”

Finally looking at his pupil, the monk warned “You haven’t completed the challenge I set forth for you.”

“I will.” Kail replied with gravity. “I’ll return in six months after I’ve beaten your little dare and when I do… I will kill you. And the others too. Then I’ll burn your monastery to the ground and leave no stone atop another. I’ll do all of these things just to prove what it means to be Kail the Destroyer.”

Lao Che continued his painting, saying “Pity. It will be the end of a line that goes back three thousand years. The end of a way of life.”

“I know.” the assassin said, finding the thought more bitter than he ought to. “I’ll mourn it. It’s a good way. But that isn't going to stop me.”


Trigger found the descent down the mountain only slightly easier than the climb up it. Between ragged breaths he told Kail about how the Freelance Reploids had gone broke and now the entire organization, including compound, equipment and even individual merc contracts, were being put up for auction. Everything was doomed to go to the highest bidder.

"So they sent me to find you." he concluded. "I think they're hoping you'll make it all better by killing somebody."

Kail, who was handling the trek down considerably better than his companion, said "I won't be able to do that."

"Why not? Isn't that how you made that legal trouble go away that time we were sued by-"

"I can't kill anybody." Kail interrupted.

Trigger stopped in his tracks. "What do you mean you can't kill anybody? That's like... what you do."

"Somebody told me I'd be a better fighter if I didn't try going for killing strokes all the time. Something about freeing my combat style from the perpetual persuit of deathblows. He challenged me to go a full year without taking a single life. I accepted, so that's it. I have six months to go before I can kill again."

Trigger pondered for a long moment before rushing to catch back up to Kail. Once there he asked "So what're we supposed to do?"

"We'll think of something."

"Geez. No killing for six months." Trigger mused. "Some assassin you are."

Kail glanced at him coldly. "I can still break your legs and let you crawl down this mountain."


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