Category: Ji


From Within


“Zeke, I have a vessel waiting. Join me,” said Ji.

From dry to wet eyes silently twinkled like so many stars in the heavens, illumination, not reflection. “I can’t.”

“Which is why you must.”

Categories: Story, Zeke, Ji

Fire of Truth


“Von, you knew Papa when he was a young hynerian. What was he like?” asked Kyra.

“He was unlike any hynerian I ever knew, one of a kind. His exploits on Zael were legendary,” said Von.

“I know, heard the story a thousand times,” laughed Kyra.

“As great as Ji was, he knew he needed a native to take the Tao to another level, and there was no one, and I mean absolutely no one, that could have done what Zeke, your Papa, did for the order. Did he ever tell you about the Fire of Truth?”

“Never heard of it Von.”

“Ahh, well, it is all you need to know about Zeke. In the days after Ji handed him the reigns . . .”

“Sorry to interrupt your story Von,” interjected Snazzle, “but I think you might want to look at this transmission I’ve just picked up from the target area.”

Catagories: Story, Von, Kyra, Zeke, Ji, Snazzle

Ji’s Sanctuary

Solitude


A
nnual 21 day treks on Silus, the barren desert Hynerian moon, were mandatory for all Blue Onyx Zing Tao. Ji believed strongly in time alone and time alone on a consistent basis.

Long after his retirement Zeke still took an annual solitary sabbatical. He always returned with a glow, a peacefulness, a grounding that touched those around him. In all his years he made only one exception to the solitary stipulation and Kyra was forever grateful for that extended time alone with Papa.

“Everything moves Kyra. Nothing sits still. Nothing is solid. Nothing stays the same. Only Love endures, only Love persists and only Love is. Remove the filters from your mind, see clearly and you will see only one thing–Love,” said Papa. “When you don’t see Love, my child, then you know you are deluded and there is work to be done. And Kyra, few of us see Love as it is.”

Only one thing, thought Kyra. Only Love. She wore that thought in her mind like the Blue Onyx ring around her neck–always. Only Love.

Marauders

Carnage equalled Marauders in the Zael system. No such creature existed around Hyneria and what Zeke saw next had never been seen by Hynerian eyes.

Sitting in front of the baby Zael with John’s words of dispair ringing in his ears, the purplish vultures of the subsystem swooped into sight.

Zeke sat helpless. Unknown emotions flooded his being. No words could describe the horror of what he saw next.

Back on Command, Rogers monitored Zeke’s vitals. All numbers spiked to personal highs. And then, as if by exhaustion, each number started dropping. Slowly at first, then faster and faster. 210, 190, 170, 130, 80, 40. Zeke’s heart rate dropped. 40 beats per minute was a new personal low.

Rogers sensed movement. Turning, and snapping to attention, he greeted Ji.

“Captain,” smiled Ji, “bring our Zeke home and have him report to my quarters. We have much to discuss.”

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Epiphany! Part 1

“John, can you read me.”

“Loud and clear Zeke,” replied John.

“Check your monitor. Can you ID this object? I’m zooming in now.”

“Zeke, that appears to be the remains of a Zael space station. We’re picking up a transmission and what appears to be a life form of some sort. Signal is very weak but your drone should be picking it up. Can you check that out?”

“Roger, moving in now,” replied Zeke. “John, I’m picking up that same transmission but the language decoder seems not to be working. Can you override this Vanguard’s system and patch me in to your signal?”

John hesitated. “Be just a minute on that Zeke.” Command had been jamming Zeke’s signal awaiting Ji’s consent. Timing was important. Rogers nodded. “Zeke, sending. You should have it now on channel 6.16.”

Ji mentored and taught like a master sculptor, and in this case, Zeke was his prized piece of marble. Just the right break required a hundred small hammer blows on the end of the chisel. From the outside, nothing appeared to be happening, and then, well, and then on the hundred-and-first blow, the perfect break. To the uneducated eye, it seemed that the last blow created the perfect break, but Ji knew otherwise.

The looped distress signal from 643 was one series of small hammer blows. The serendipitous arrival of the Raptors created several more. This transmission amplified the steady hammering, building to a break. Each event created stress, created opportunity. Yet, the stress had to come at the right pace. Not too fast, not too slow, but such that each event build upon the other.

The signal was faint. Reaching forward Zeke slowly turned up the volume. There were actually two signals, one loud and clear and another much fainter. The adrenalin from earlier in the day had worn off. But like a second wind, what Zeke heard . . . .

Command monitored his vitals. Heart rate up. Blood pressure up. Breathing became rapid. Untranslated, Zael language sounded like whales or even dolphins. The creatures were as peace loving as any species in the known universe and their language sounded more like relaxing music than urgent communiqués.

Zeke sat stunned. Tears rolled down his cheeks. His visor fogged over. Arms fell limp by his side. The Zael’s had not resisted. They went to the slaughter like lambs, knowingly lying down their lives before the Javalina onslaught, in the hope that a few of their kind could escape unnoticed. The attack had been merciless. The scale of destruction and wholesale butchery of every living Zael exceeded comprehension. To read about such things in history books was one thing; to hear the plaintive cries of children and babies were another.

“Sir, should we alert Lieutenant Zeke we have a clear feed on the second signal?”

“Proceed John.”

“Zeke, we’ve got new information on that weaker signal. Tune to channel 6.17. Tell me what you hear,” said John, his tone as somber as Zeke had ever heard him, which was saying quite a lot for a “blank voice.”

If a transmission could whiplash one, Zeke was there. This signal was not a recording. All indications pointed to someone, something that was still alive.

“John, what is the vector on that transmission.”

“Zeke, you’re two minutes away on a heading of 345.32S.”

What Zeke saw next turned his tears to anger. A baby Zael, fatally wounded was cuddled in its parents dead remains. Zaels, like whales, were huge creatures. Javalina gunships had ripped them apart with ease. Floating debris of this scale and size caused Zeke’s gag reflex to kick in.

Excitedly Zeke, hit his comm. “John, we need rescue vacs out here now!”

Silence.

“John, do you hear me. We’ve got a baby Zael that needs immediate attention. Over.” Zeke always ended his communication with “over” as a form of emphasis.

“John, damnit! Come in.” Zeke caught himself. Everything he had been taught about the gap was here, or in this case not here. Whiplash was the right word. And he knew it. Circumstances and stimulus had seized him like a bouncer’s hands on a drunk and rowdy patron. Taking a deep breathe, focusing his mind, he hit his comm. Again.

“John, Zeke here, come in please.”

John looked at Rogers for the okay. “I’m here Zeke.”

“John, we –“

“Zeke,” John’s voice broke ever so slightly, “Zeke, this little one is lost. Nothing we can do.”

No training on Hyneria had prepared Zeke for this. And the worst was yet to come. Ji sat in his private chambers monitoring events. He knew what was coming next and he knew the time was right for that final hammer blow. Perfect break or find a new piece of marble. He would know soon.

(to be continued)

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Frequency 643z

Vanguards operated in complete silence. Zeke had never been aboard a craft, of any type, that simply made no noise. How this was possible remained one of the Institutes most closely guarded secrets. Unnerving to say the least, to travel through space in complete and utter silence. To create your own silence was one thing; to have it imposed, entombed upon you was quite another. Zeke nervously smiled at the thought.

Ji smiled at the added difficulty. The volume of one’s thoughts magnified in the vacuum of sound. Like walking outside in the deep wilderness and witnessing stars forever unseen, silence revealed the ever constant flow of thought, and the sound was deafening. Like the stars, these thoughts had always been there. Silent operatives in most lives, pulling strings and issuing orders from the shadows. These thoughts feared the gap like evil fears the light. Nowhere to run, nowhere to hide. Zeke would face his tormentors, his captors and he would face them alone.

The questions flowed faster than Zeke could catalog them. Seemed each one came hand in hand with “Why.” They begged to be heard, begged to be addressed. Like the incessant knocking of a child at the front door, the questions banged from the inside of his skull begging for release, demanding answers. Zeke watched. No resistance, no judgment, nothing solid or enduring here. Watch, listen, watch again. Notice how they come. Notice how they distract. Notice how they leave like the caged animal who realizes you have no food for them.

“Lieutenant Zeke, come in please.” Startled, Zeke replied. “Roger, Zeke here, over.”

“Lieutenant, look to your right and switch your frequency to 643z.” Radio techs must have all gone through the same training. Zeke was damned if he could ever deduce any flavoring of tone in their communication. He called them blank voices.

Zeke couldn’t quite make out what he was seeing. The glare from Z16 made seeing difficult. He lowered his amber antiglare visor. Chills electrified his spine. The assault came not by way of vision but snuck in the twin back doors on the side of his head.

“What the hell is this transmission,” reacted Zeke. Almost immediately he regretted the tone in his voice. “Apologies. Transmission is garbled. Need clarification. Over.”

“Change the alpha channel two clicks to the right Lieutenant. That should clear most of the static. What you are hearing is being beamed from . . .”

Zeke didn’t hear the rest. He knew.

“Outpost surrounded. Stop. Situation desperate. Stop. Transmitting all scientific logs. Stop. Last rites performed. Stop. May Ji Qong revenge our souls. Over.”

The message was looped. Auxiliary battery power had been transmitting since inception. The signal was weak but unmistakable. Outpost 643’s last communiqué. The blank voices were no longer blank.

“Situation desperate. Last rites. Revenge our souls. Situation desperate. Last rites. Revenge our souls. Revenge our souls. Revenge our souls. Over.”

The words echoed within Zeke’s heart like unexpected hammer blows long after he had clicked the receiver off. His eyes fixed on the sight before his drone. Not much remained of Outpost 643. Still golden, still beautiful. Still a tomb.

Surrounded. Annihilated. Defenseless Hynerian scientists had met their end here. Right here, in this place, floating before his eyes. The silence roared with the power of a hundred crashing waves on the beach of Zeke’s mind.

Zeke didn’t know it, but his first test had arrived. Ji sat silently in his chambers watching the events unfold. Did he have a bowie knife or did he have a samurai sword. He would know soon enough.

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Before

Vanguard drones normally flew without pilot, but Ji had them modified for this mission. Zeke held more potential than any recruit Ji had ever seen but potential did not mean actualization. Potential was a fool’s game and Ji was in no mood to play. The Order needed a successor and no suitable candidate had emerged, yet.

The Tragedy of Zael provided the test Ji needed. He would learn, and so would Zeke, just how far this young Hynerian could take Zing Tao. Saving a few Zaels was important but uncovering the next leader of the Order was paramount. Ji was not getting any younger and all great movements demanded leadership. Contrary to popular bedtime stories, leaders, Ji knew, were born, not made. The knife could be sharpened but a pen knife, no matter how sharp, was never going to be a bowie knife, much less a samurai sword capable of greatness.

Vanguards were always first in battle. They possessed thousands of delicate sensors capable of gathering more information on the field of battle in an hour than a commander could process in a week. Seen as an engineering marvel, they were the pride of the Southern Scientific institute. Zeke would be the first to ever actually fly in one.

“This way Lieutenant,” motioned the tech. “Watch your step sir, we’ve had to make some rather interesting modifications.”

Zeke ducked his head and settled into the drone. Pilot not needed. He would be a passenger on this ride. Price of admission—his future. “Lieutenant, if you look this way you will see the main control panel. We’ve modified the display so that you will be able to see all the data normally beamed back to central processing. Any questions sir?”

“I think I got it,” Zeke said to no one in particular. “When will she be ready for launch?”

“She’s ready now Lieutenant. Should we initiate the launch sequence?”

“Yes. Initiate the countdown. No time like now,” Zeke intoned with an unintended edge.

Less than twenty minutes to the surface. Three hours until return. Never before nor ever after would Zeke experience such a dividing line of before and after. The Hynerian that left on that Vanguard drone was not the Hynerian that returned.

Ji’s taskforce arrived. Silence. No radio traffic. No distress signals. From orbit, Zael looked normal, peaceful, tranquil. But then again, so did every other world from space.

Zeke sat in his cabin wondering what his heart would feel and his mind see that Ji had warned him about. One of two Zing Tao chosen to survey the planet in Vanguard Drones, Zeke sat and meditated in silence. Ji knew what he would see, the emotions that would assault his mind and heart. He also knew that to know was one thing; to experience and conquer quite another. The difference between the two, Zeke had been taught, should be as clear as night was to day.

Zeke dressed in silence. Fear sat beside him trading in whispers of doubt. Ji had postulated his path would go one way or the other depending on his performance. Years of training hung in the balance and it appeared his adversary was not out there, but in fact lived within. What he would see would simply reveal the shadows. That those shadows were there was not in question. How he would handle them was.

Ji expected perfection in working the gap. Stimulus and reaction, for most there was little to no gap between the two. Zing Tao lived the gap, to know stimulus as stimulus and reaction as reaction. Between them, if one could cultivate awareness, existed possibility.

The essence of Zing Tao existed in the gap. Most recruits were never able to overcome their habitual conditioning, never able to expand the gap and were subsequently washed from the program. Zeke thought he had passed, thought he had proven himself. Yet, here he was, being tested again and this time with Ji himself watching.

Like twin walls of a trash compactor, Zeke felt the pressure of Stimulus and Reaction closing in. He also knew his own resistance was not helping. Mind the gap. Work the gap. Within the gap would his future lie.

A Rare Encounter

“Lieutenant Zeke, this way please.” Lampré didn’t walk, didn’t fly, but rather glided.

“Master Ji will see you in his private chambers. He’s expecting you.”

Zeke drew a slow steady deep breath. Letting the air out at a slightly faster nervous cadence, he stepped into Ji’s private quarters. Immediately his mind felt like mush, time seemed warped, and his thoughts slowed. His eyes took in light in the dimly lit room, yet even light seemed to move at a different tempo. An unusual lightness lifted his body as if Ji’s room operated at a different gravity than the rest of the ship. Zeke felt like a Hynerian who had checked his wits at the cloak room. He had them but they weren’t here now.

“At ease Lieutenant.” Words registered. Ji had spoken. Body failed to respond. Then laughter. Ji could manifest as either body or spirit, and preferred his spirit form whenever possible. Invisible to the normal eye, Ji employed an ocular oscillator so that others could visually interact with him.

“Sorry Master Ji. I . . .” and then nothing. Zeke felt like his vocal cords were frozen. More laughter. Ji always seemed to know how to break the tension. “Everyone reacts the same the first time they use the ocular Zeke.”

“Our time is short and there is little to say,” laughed Ji. “No need to speak my son, I know your mind and I know your heart. If I didn’t have faith that both were exactly where they needed to be, you would not have been invited on this mission.”

“Javalina Destroyer’s will attack before we will arrive. The planet is lost but our objective is to save the Zaels we can and bring them back to Hyneria. For you, my friend, this mission has a different purpose. You will see things your eyes have never seen before. Your heart will feel vibrations and tremors of terror new and alien to anything you have felt before.”

“The days ahead Lieutenant determine where you go from here within the order. First contact has a way of blunting growth. The heart grows callused in some, and a callused heart becomes dull with anger and bitterness.”

“Watch your heart. Let it grow not in revenge, not in justification, but let it expand in compassion for our adversary. Hate begets hate. Watch your heart. Cultivate love and compassion. Only love is truth and only truth conquers. Zing Tao, Lieutenant. Prepare yourself. Much is expected. Much you will do. Dismissed.”

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