Category: Zing Tao


Night of the Red Robe


What was before, is left behind. Zeke takes his vows.

Categories: Story, Zeke, Zing Tao

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Dawn and Dusk


Silus was not a completely barren world. Near the polar caps, at the right time of the year, assuming one knew where to go and Von did, lush mountains and pristine lakes could be found.

Von would often sit from dawn to dusk watching the change in light and the beauty of nature unfolding in perfect solitude. Stillness calmed the soul and soothed the mind. Most Zing Tao would tell you after day fourteen, the mind and body settled on a new level as if reaching the floor of the ocean after gently floating down from the choppy surface above. The metaphor made sense. The feeling of isolation and peace seemed most like being underwater, floating in soundlessness within the great expanse of interconnectiveness.

In these moments, called by experienced Zing Tao, third-week insights, Von saw most clearly the mind as tool—an instrument to be used when needed and set aside when it was the wrong tool. Finding the off button, well, that was the challenge.

When he entered the order, Von never saw himself as anything other than one and the same with his mind and his thoughts. On Silus, however, the gap between the two, especially in the third week, became most discernible. It had always been there, much like the Milky Way does not disappear in the city, but time on Silus was like seeing the sky in complete darkness, or in this case the mind, from a place of absolute stillness.

In these moments of stillness Von swam in direct experience, a sense of no separation between himself and the experience before him—no filters, no layers, no opinions, no judgments, no concepts, no words or ideas. As soon as words appeared in his mind to describe what was happening, he immediately saw and felt separation and falseness. Learning to let the words drop, as if falling from the sky of his mind, he saw clearly again.

Von’s first reaction to this third-week insight led again to false view, or unskillful reaction as Zeke called it. He judged it and in the judging created the very separation he thought he had overcome. Quickly, he realized his folly; yet again the mind wormed its way in the backdoor in the guise of pride. Von saw that too and neither resisting nor judging allowed the mind to dance its dance. As often the case, the mind became bored and grew weary. And Von returned to the stillness of direct experience.

To know a matter, was one thing. To be able to assimilate the knowledge and apply it was quite another. What Dauculus had been for the order as a whole, the Javalina inquisitors had been for Von himself; namely, the opportunity to put into practice the lessons from the classroom. Without Silus, Von felt he would neither have survived his torture nor recovered after the event. As strange as it sounded to the average Hynerian, Von forever thanked his inquisitors, sending them as much compassion and love as he could. He truly had no hate, no bitterness in his heart.

Opening the door, Von walked into Kyra’s room and took a seat right next to her bed. She still slept, looking as peaceful as the mountain lakes in his memory. General alarm sounded. Von heard it and let it go. Rog would handle whatever the emergency was. He was needed here now; each to their own, in time and place, unfolding in the natural order. His time was now, and his place was here.

As if on queue, Kyra opened her eyes. “Where am I?” she asked.

“Exactly where you should be,” smiled Von.


Horrors without, horrors within. Dauculus represented the single greatest loss of Zing Tao in the history of the Order. AAR’s were never released to the public and those within say even time itself failed to wear down the gates of regret. Zeke never spoke of the matter and until the meeting with Rog, neither had Von.

“Peace is not a place Rog,” said Von. “Physical wounds heal. Sometimes the emotional ones, well, sometimes they take a little longer.”

Rog took another sip of snoot and Von continued. “We all make mistakes. We all have regrets. Hindsight is 20/20. Would we have done things different on Dauculus if given the chance? Absolutely. Mistakes were made and lives lost. The real damage, and I want you to listen to me very closely, the real damage was not what happened to us, but what we thought about it.”

Von leaned back in his chair without breaking eye contact with Rog, judging the measure of the Hynerian’s comprehension. Rog gazed down at his glass and swirled the snoot to bring the aroma into play. He wasn’t sure if Von’s words or the snoot was making him the most dizzy.

“She’s going to make it Rog. And she was right; if you had interfered you would have put her life at risk.”

“How do you know that Von? How do you know she is going to wake? How do you know I shouldn’t have done something when I could?”

“Trust me Rog. Matters of this nature happen for a reason.”

“Speaking of reasons, you never did say why you, a mighty Zing Tao, are onboard our ship?”

“I owed a debt.”

“What kind of debt?”

“Dauculus Rog. Why do you think I told you that story? I screwed up. My career should have been over. I thought it would be. The Hynerian that should have been most angry, I’m talking about Zeke, took the blame for me. He never reported to Ji nor told anyone else that I was the one that failed the others. Hynerians, some of the most highly trained Zing Tao, reporting directly to Zeke lost their lives because of my mistake.”

Rog sat stunned.

“My Kestrel crew failed to provide covering support. Zeke’s deployment got ripped to shred’s by chaos engineered Raptors. They were defenseless. Caught in the open waters. I can still here the distress signals and radio chatter in my head as if it were yesterday. By the time we arrived it was too late. The damage had been done.”

“I’m sorry Von.”

“When we landed and I exited my Kestrel, Zeke was the first one to greet me. I expected court martial, on the spot.” Von paused, looked down at his drink and then back up at Rog.

“And?”

“With tears in his eyes he hugged me.”

Rog looked askew at Von.

“Only a Zing Tao with the ability to make it to the ninth order could have responded with that level of compassion in the heat of the moment. I learned more in that one embrace than my entire training up to that time. And I owe everything else I accomplished because of that Hynerian.”

“And how does that lead you to our little ship?”

Von laughed and standing up slapped Rog across the head. “Maybe you should lay off the snoot a bit. I’m here because of Kyra bonehead. Zeke asked me to look after her. I knew it was my chance, my chance to repay the debt.”

A loud knock at the door interrupted Rog’s response. Yul had found her Hynerian.

The Shield

Rog walked over and opened the closet door. Sitting against the back wall, slightly hidden from direct view was a rather large round object. “Holy Shiott, Von, where the frail did you get this,” said Rog.

“Bring it over here. Ever see one of these before?”

Rog shook his head side to side. “Didn’t know they still existed. How did—“

“It was a gift.”

“Come on Von, you don’t get a Ji Shield as a gift.”

“You do if you pulled Zeke’s hoodie from the fire.”

“No shiott?”

Von laughed. “No shiott. Dauculus campaign, I’m sure you’ve heard of it.”

“No fricken way,” said Rog, “are you telling me–“

“Yep, recruited by the Hynerian himself, and it was a damn good thing he did,” Von winked.

“So you were Zing Tao?”

“Am.”

Rog’s chin moved to his chest and his eyes rolled up as if he were peering over the top of imaginary glasses. “You’re shiotting me, right? I mean what would a Zing Tao be doing on this little podunk ship?”

“Right now, looking at some sorry ass cowhand with his tail between his legs,” laughed Von. “Hold that shield and tell me what you feel.”

Rog stood taking the shield in his right hand. The center section glowed a warm orange and then Rog felt it. “Holy crap Von, what is that?”

“Feel familiar? Concentrate.”

Maneuvers

Zeke on morning maneuvers. Kestrels were single-seat Zing Tao fighters.

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.

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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