Pay Attention: “The Way of Invisibility”

“Cloaking device? What are they, Klingons?” — Casey Jones

Written by: Marty Isenberg
Original Air Date: March 22, 2003
Teaser Narrator: Raphael
Introduces: Foot Tech Ninja; The Guardian(s); The Navigators

Synopsis:

As Raph wakes up, he narrates how, in old movies, private eyes always ask “Where am I?” after they regain consciousness.  Naturally, this is what he says.  As he tries to regain his bearings and figure out where he is–strapped to an operating table in what appears to be a lab, with Baxter Stockman watching behind a two-way mirror–he recalls that, before losing consciousness, he’d been fighting thugs with Casey.  A light turns on, and Raph sees a buzz-saw approaching him.

Theme song.

At the Ominous Tower of Tentative Data Analysis, Hun, Baxter Stockman (who is now minus his left eye) and The Master discuss a field report on the turtles. Hun theorizes that they’re costumed punks; Stockman dismisses the entire thing as a “fantasy novel”. The Master is not amused, however: whatever the green-skinned ninjas are, they’re too skilled to be mere punks, and too dangerous to be ignored. Hun theorizes that they may be in league with The Master’s old enemies; Stockman considers that they’re probably the result of a government experiment. The Master, however, wants concrete answers, and assigns his two subordinates to work together in order to find out everything they can about the new thorns on his side, and if necessary, to destroy them.

At the lair, the turtles are balanced on a series of vertically-positioned bamboo poles. The lesson: to combine the Way of Balance with The Way of Invisibility by moving between the bamboo beams to try to knock Splinter off-balance while avoiding his attacks. Splinter claps the lights off to begin the exercise, but the exercise doesn’t go too far before Mikey claps the lights back on. Splinter retaliates, making the turtle lose his balance. The Sensei claps the lights off again and begins a sermon on how mastering these lessons is the only way they’ll be able to handle the unexpected.

Cue Casey Jones, who enters the lair unnoticed, and, unable to see, knocks off the field of bamboo poles, and the turtles with them.
Splinter quickly attacks the intruder, but backs off when the turtles explain that this is Casey the “nutca–guy” they’d told him about, whom the turtles had told about the lair. The Sensei apologizes and welcomes his sons’ friend into their home.

After complimenting the turtles’ lair, Casey gets down to business: a series of disturbing graffiti has been appearing on the streets. He shows them an example: a purple tag featuring four turtles skewered by a sword. He doesn’t get to explain much, however, as he gets distracted by the Sword of Tengu laying on a stand. Noting that it looks just like the sword in the graffiti, he tries to touch it but gets shocked clear across the room.

As Splinter helps Casey up, he begins leading him outside, thanking him for the warning while informing him that the turtles really must get back to their training. Casey tries to argue, saying that the turtles should head topside and kick some ass over the tags, but finds no supporters; the tags sound like a set-up, the turtles explain, and since they can’t be hurt by bunch of drawings, it’s best to simply ignore it. They take Casey to the door, but before they get him to leave, Casey notices the turtles multi-tv entertainment system, and plops himself on the couch.

At the Ominous Tower of Tentative Tech Demos, Stockman presents his newest creation before an audience consisting of Hun (whom Stockman insults as a matter of course) and The Master. The invention is a suit of cyber-armor that grants its wearer enhanced strength, speed, and agility, as well as the ability to turn invisible. The Master and Hun watch as two ninjas sporting the armor–whom Baxter dubs “Foot Tech Ninja”–demonstrate.

Once the demonstration ends, Stockman notes that he obtained the technology for the cyber-armor from a small piece of the artifact The Foot had fished out from the East River. He tells The Master if he had any sense, he’d allow the scientist to study the entire thing. The Master replies that before that happens, Stockman will need to bring “the creatures” to him. Stockman guarantees that, as long as Hun is kept out of the way, his Foot Tech Ninja will do just that. The Master accepts that guarantee, and reminds Stockman that his failure has already cost him, and that future failures would carry even steeper prices.

Back at the lair, Casey Jones has overstayed his welcome, and seems intent on remaining on the lair, despite the turtles’ hints.   Finally, Splinter puts his walking stick down and asks Raphael to join Casey topside, a proposition that Raph accepts with glee.

As Casey and Raph jump from rooftop to rooftop trading insults, Casey hears the familiar sound of spraypaint.  They check the surrounding area and find a trio of Purple Dragons working on yet another turtle-themed tag.  The two vigilantes attack the street punks and defeat them easily, but not before one of them makes a phone call, saying that they’ve “got one”. Not long after, two Foot Tech Ninja appear and activate their cloaking devices.

Despite getting a few licks in–Casey, in particular, manages to drench one of the ninja with spray paint and then hit him with enough force to break his mask’s eyepiece–the two buddies prove no match for the invisible ninja, who knock the two hotheads against a scaffold, knocking them out. Their mission accomplished, they drag Raphael away from the scene, leaving Casey behind for the Purple Dragons to deal with.

As the three Purple Dragons prepare to enact some payback, Casey unexpectedly douses them all with paint from their discarded cans, allowing him time to escape–but not without picking up the discarded Foot Tech Ninja eyepiece.

Raph wakes up at the examination table from the teaser, where he’s quickly accosted by Hun.  After they trade barbs–Hun compliments Raphs’ sai and breaks his shell cell; Raph insults Hun’s tattoo and mother–Hun gets down to business–namely, finding out “just what kind of freak” Raph is.

The lair.  The turtles are once again doing the bamboo beams excercise when an unsteady  Casey Jones arrives and knocks them all down again.  After seeing his bruised state, the turtles demand answers.  Casey informs them of the “invisible ninjas” (eliciting guffaws from Mikey) and shows them the  eyepiece he retrieved from the scene.  As Casey breaks several pieces of furniture in despair, Don tries to track down their kidnapped brother, first attempting to track down his Shell Cell, and then by trying to tap into the Foot Tech Ninja’s comm signals in order to track their location.

At Hun and Stockman’s Chalet of Torture, Hun and Raph are at a stalemate, and Hun is getting impatient, saying that if the “freak” won’t answer his questions, then his DNA will do the talking for him.  As he’s about to cut Raph with a buzz saw, the turtle, taking advantage of a loose strap, breaks his arm free and hits Hun with a dose of anesthetic gas from a nearby mask.  Taking his sai and Shell Cell remains, he escapes the room, only to find that he’s actually on a boat in the middle of the river.  Thankful for being an amphibian, he jumps ship and swims toward the docks.

Back at the boat, Stockman berates Hun for letting the turtle escape.  A self-satisfied Hun explains that that had been his plan all along; once Raph rejoins the others, the squadron of invisible Foot Tech Ninja following him will have them all.

Don has finally got a beacon on Raph, and realizes that he’s not alone: there are several people tracking him–the invisible ninjas, they conclude.  Realizing the that Raph cannot be allowed to return to the lair, they decide to meet him halfway.   The three turtles plus Casey head out, but not before Don hands them a series of thermal goggles he’d built, which will allow them to see the ninjas heat signatures.  They split up, with Casey and Mikey scanning the streets in the Battle Shell, while Don and Leo search the sewers in the Sewer Slider.  It’s the latter group that actually finds Raph, who’s stopped for a second at a drainage junction, still followed by the Foot Ninja.  The two turtles attack, explain the situation to a bewildered Raph, and are eventually joined by the other party.

Thanks to the thermal goggles, the turtles find the Foot Tech Ninja to be much less formidable than Casey and Raph initially did.  With the tide now in their favor, the turtles begin to give the Foot Ninja a sound trashing–until they realize that one of them has taken Casey and is holding him over the drainage suction–a huge whirlpool that sucks in anything that falls into it.  He tells the turtles to surrender.

As the turtles comply and try to figure out what to do, they realize that one of their number, Mikey, is missing.  They eventually spot him walking on one of the pipes over the Foot Ninja, unseen by his foes.  Mikey attacks, freeing Casey and causing the ninja to fall into the whirlpool.  Thinking quickly, Don uses his bo to rescue Casey, before he, too falls into the whirlpool.  With all of them now out of immediate danger, they easily defeat the rest of the ninja.

Victorious, Casey comments on how tired he is, and asks if he can crash at the turtles’.  Terrified at the possibility, the turtles do their best to convince him to return home.

At the Foot HQ, Hun, Stockman, and the defeated Foot Tech Ninja face a very displeased Master.  Stockman tries to deflect the blame towards his partner, but it doesn’t work: the Master says that Hun’s plan was sound, and it was  Stockman’s Foot Tech Ninja that failed to successfully complete the mission.  With a wave of a hand, he dismisses the Foot Tech Ninja, who carry a dumbfounded Baxter Stockman outside.

The Master asks Hun what he gleaned from his interrogation.  Hun tells him that he believes they have no connection to the Masters enemies.  The Master considers this information, saying that if that is the case, the creatures could prove to be useful in the future.

Somewhere else, a dark-skinned man wearing a trenchcoat, a conspicuous medallion, and sunglasses approaches a trio of people sitting on what appear to be high-tech wheelchairs.  He tells them that their suspicions were correct, and that their enemy has discovered their presence in “this city”.   Speaking with the same voice, the three wheelchair bound people–two men and one woman–ask their subordinate of the four mutant creatures; he replies that more information is needed.  He is tasked with finding more about the creatures, and to determine which side of the conflict they lie on.  If they’re not in league with their enemies, they’re to be left alone; if they are, then they are to be neutralized.

—-

Even with six competent-to-good episodes under its belt, TMNT until now has been little more than your average Saturday morning cartoon series. This episode, however, kicks things up a notch, showing that Lloyd Goldfine and Co. have loftier goals, and a pretty sizeable set of balls.

This episode compensates for its simple A-plot, by going full throttle with the sub-plots, effectively declaring “yes, you have to pay attention to every story”. Not only do we get the return of The Sword of Tengu and Baxter Stockman, but we a bit more info on the Shredder’s enemies, meet a new mysterious group, and finally get some development on Hun, who proves to be more than just Saki’s muscle.

First, lets talk about Hun.   We’ve been seeing him in the background for about three episodes now, mostly as a sounding board for The Shredder, and doing nothing that would take away the impression that he’s merely The Muscle. Here, he’s given his first chance to shine, and he makes the most of it by showing that he’s not just a brawler; he’s got tactical chops as well.  Given how ingrained the “strong guys are mentally slow” trope, it’s a worthwhile development, and one that pays of handsome dividends, as he eventually becomes a much more interesting character than his boss.

The episode’s second biggest surprise is, of course, the fact that Baxter Stockman now sports a nasty scar and is sans one eye–the initial step in a running gag that will drive his character arc throughout the series.  Given that most cartoon Big Bads are usually forced to tolerate failure after failure from their subordinates–the status can’t remain quo if incompetent subordinates are let go/punished–its refreshing to see one who actually treats it as a punishable offense.  Granted, it’s a tad counter-productive when it comes to morale, but Saki’s never really cared about that.  And then there’s the fact that, well, the series has a running gag involving the progressive mutilation of a character, which when all is said and done, is more South Park than Batman–even if the writers didn’t mean for it to be funny.

There’s also an interesting bit of subtext to the gag, for whomever cares to find it–and that’s the fact that Baxter Stockman, a black man, is the only regular character getting punished in this manner while the caucasian Hun–who eventually accrues his own share of failures–doesn’t.  Setting aside the logical details–it doesn’t make sense to mutilate a guy whose one asset is his physical prowess, on a better known show, this would probably have elicited a minor brouhaha, particularly since, given Stockman’s status as a fugitive, he’s pretty much Saki’s slave.

What does exactly does this mean?  Had Stockman been the only African-American on the show, I would call it a sign that the showrunners are, at best, tone deaf.  However, since that’s far from being the case–African Americans introuduced this season alone include the guardian, The Professor, Angel (who appears to be bi-racial, given her grandmother) and Silver Sentry (whose race comes as a minor subversion, given that he’s a Superman analogue)–I’d be comfortable saying that this is a case where cigar is just a cigar.  Even so, I wonder if this subtext ever actually occured to the writers.

Finally, the third surprise is the out-of-nowhere appearance of the Guardian and the Navigators in the  episode’s final scene–an Omniscient Council of Vagueness–which was when I first realized that the show was something special.  Not only does the scene not have anything to do with this episode–they’re actually discussing things from the last one–it’s a scene that serves only as foreshadowing, which is something rather rare, even those with continuing arcs.

Random stuff:

* One thing that bugs me about the Foot Tech Ninja is that they never seem to use their swords while they’re actually invisible and have the best chance of actually striking succesfully with them–any contact they make is inevitably presented as being blunth trauma.  Sure, it can probably be fanwanked away–maybe the cloaking device doesn’t cover the swords when they’re unsheathed, but it’s yet another reminder that this is still a Saturday Morning cartoon.

* On that note, the fact that the Foot Tech Ninja are also stronger than the norm never really comes into play after this episode.

* Also, I’ve always felt that the Foot Tech Ninja would feel right at home in a Metal Gear Solid game, as the final mooks before the Metal Gear encounter.

* During one of the scenes where Stockman is thrown around, you can see that he apparently wears no socks.

* I’ve heard at least one person suggest that Casey’s terrible houseguest etiquette was part of a gambit by Raphael to be let outside.  Even if there’s really no evidence for it, I rather like the idea.

* Speaking of Casey, he’s still firmly in his “kick-ass” phase here, as he actually does better than Raph during their first encounter with the invisible ninjas.

* Once Casey enters the lair after Raph is kidnapped, you can see that he’s bruised all over.  While it’s a nice idea–if you can’t show blood, bruises are an acceptable compromise–they don’t really work–they end up looking too much like purple paint.  Fortunately, the artists eventually get better at depicting them, although they won’t use them as often as they do here.

* One nice detail I like so far is how the Foot has been dealing with the turtles so far.  Most, villains, I think, would have immediately placed the turtles on their shit list, but Saki is actually finding out everything he can about them without drawing conclusions–smart.

Illuminati P.O.I. Profile: John Bishop

Name: John Bishop
Known Aliases: The Unkillable
Birth Date: Unknown; estimated to be sometime in the year 1776
Nationality: United States of America
Occupation: Director of Earth Protection Force
Affiliations: E.P.F.; Department of Defense
Special Abilities:Superhuman longevity; healing factor.

John Bishop first became known to The Society in 1815 when he, then a Major of the United States Army and a veteran of the war of 1812 (Crossref: Battle of New Orleans), wrote a letter to the then-Secretary of War (William Harry Crawford, although the position belonged to James Monroe when Bishop wrote the letter) detailing his experiences as an alien abductee (Crossref: Alien Life On Earth). The letter was intercepted by Crawford’s secretary, Society Member James Roivas (34), who brought it to The Society’s attention.

After concluding that allowing the leadership of the still-young Union to become aware of alien life was not in The Society’s best interest, the upper echelons outlined a plan to neutralize Bishop, which was then carried out.  Sending out an agent to gain his confidence, The Society led Bishop to believe that the U.S. Government had taken his letter seriously and had declared him insane, committing him to one of The Society’s asylums (Crossref: Hotel Cabal), where he was held and interrogated for three years until his escape and subsequent disappearance.

The supernaturally long-lived Bishop resurfaced during the Civil War, where he became decorated for his performances in both battles of Bull Run and was promoted to the rank of Colonel*. According to several accounts, he would shrug off wounds which most people would find fatal, a feat which earned him the title of “The Unkillable”.

After the war, Bishop continued serving in the U.S. Army, and would continue there until July 1876, when he and the men under his command brought down an alien spacecraft on the fields of Southern Virginia. Now possessing the evidence he needed, he successfully made his case before President Grant, who authorized the creation of the Earth Protection Force, a branch of the U.S. Armed Forces dedicated to the prevention and cessation of further alien invasions.

Since its creation, Bishop has served as the Earth Protection Force’s sole director, a job he carries out with ruthless efficiency and considerable zeal.  Under his tenure, the agency has obtained several important successes, such as the 1947 takedown of an alien ship over Roswell, New Mexico (Crossref: Roswell Incident), and in 2004, he single-handedly negotiated a secret treaty with an intergalactic Federation (Crossref: Gen. Blanque), which proved instrumental in the defeat of the Triceratons the following year (Crossref: 2005 Triceraton Invasion).  With time, the organization has become ever more secretive and independent; while it still theoretically answers to the President, reports from our men inside (Crossref: Naveen Shah), suggests that most of the organization’s work, as well as decisions such as the hiring of Dr. Baxter Stockman is done outside the chain of command.  This behavior reached its zenith in 2006, when Bishop, Shah suggests, engineered the abduction of the P.O.T.U.S. (Crossref: Joseph Bond; October 12 , 2006 Alien Invasion) in order to stage a rescue and thus assure further funding for the E.P.F.

Captivity and experimentation by aliens: Despite intense interrogation, the specifics of Bishop’s time under alien captivity are not known, beyond the fact that he was throughoutly experimented upon, and that he was eventually released some indeterminate time after his abduction.  Whatever the details of the alien experiments performed upon him, it is clear that the results have granted a number of extra-normal abilities.  Not only has Bishop apparently ceased to age, he possesses a healing factor that allows him to recover from most injuries.  Attempts to study and replicate these abilities has so far proven unsuccessful.

Conclusions:Bishop is calculating, secretive, and strong-willed. His obsession with protecting Earth could prove troublesome for The Society should he ever come to believe that its interests clash with his, and should he ever become aware of our existence, his actions could prove problematic. While this would normally make him a prime candidate for induction into The Society, as established in our bylaws (Crossref: “To Succeed”, DocID# 333), it is this profiler’s opinion that doing so would run the same risks as inducting Oroku Saki would; allowing him access into the fold and our resources, even on a limited basis, would make him more, not less, dangerous.  This profiler would also suggest that there is little benefit to be gained from making Bishop aware of our existence, as his principles would make him even open to negotiation than Saki was.

This is not to say, however, that Bishop cannot be controlled.  Although  rarely used, the P.O.T.U.S. still theoretically wields considerable over the Earth Protection Force’s makeup and organization, and while Bishop has proven that he will rock the boat, it is also clear that he would rather not do so if possible.  Done subtly, having Bond appoint someone more aware and sympathetic to our interests to the E.P.F. in a supervisory capacity would allow The Society to have a bigger say in the way the E.P.F. is run, without riling Bishop enough to cause him to go rogue.

—-
* It’s worth noting that Bishop did not retain his previous rank of Major, and had in fact re-begun his military career from scratch shortly before the Civil War began.

—-

Last updated: July 25, 2007

Rogue Galleries (pt. 1): TMNT

Author’s note: In the unlikely chance that you haven’t seen TMNT, note that this essay contains several important spoilers.

—-

It’s become sort of a lost art (at least in comic books, where long-running franchises have found it increasingly hard to create new characters with lasting power*), but a good rogues gallery has always been an essential part of the super-hero story**.   Batman and Spider-Man would not be where they are today were it not for recurring antagonists like The Joker, Green Goblin, Two-Face, Rocket Racer, etc… Thus, one of the things I can appreciate about both Gargoyles and TMNT is their success in creating an excellent collection of people for their heroes to fight.

Granted, TMNT already had an established rogues gallery to draw from; the Shredder, Baxter Stockman, the Rat King, etc. may not have had much lasting power in the original comic books, but time and subsquent adaptations turned them from two- or three-shot characters  to Characters You Must Include If You’re Adapting The Turtles, so Lloyd Goldfine and Co. had a definitive starting point.  Still, as  their decision to not include equally recognizable characters like Bebop, Rocksteady, and Krang indicated, they were going to go their own way.

And they did.  Take away the villains taken from the comic books, and you’re still left with a very respectable list of characters.  Some of them may not have worked (The Garbageman was an early dud), and a lot of them were clearly not meant to be anything more than villains of the week (which is fine, since usually, that’s exactly how they were usually used), but they were, far an large, fun villains who served their purpose and managed to make the series stronger.  Combined with the villains from the comic books, they form a formidable group that runs the gamut of villainy: unrepentant bastards, manipulative family members, hunters, conspiracy theorists, gangsters, aliens, species supremasists, Texans…there’s a lot of variety, and most of them work.

And then there’s The Foot.

In the original cartoon, The Foot (or rather, the crew of the Technodrome) was a disfunctional sitcom family; funny, but not the biggest of threats, and arguably not a group deserving to be the main antagonists for seven seasons.  In the original comic books, without a strong central character to unite them, they’re mostly just there, to be used however the writer likes: hardly Big Bad material.

However, with the Shredder rewritten to be a total badass, the Foot likewise became a much stronger organization.  You have a solid group of characters connected to it–Saki, Hun, Baxter, Karai, Chaplin…and Khan–each with their own viewpoints, capabilities, and goals, which helped make the stories featuring them shine.

However, the Shredder’s strenghts eventually turned out to be one of the show’s biggest liabilities.  While the writers clearly had no intention of disposing him off after a couple of storylines like in the comics, they also knew that he had a definite expiration date: after three seasons, they attempted to give him a swan song, writing him off during the season finale.  Usually, this tends to leave a hard-to-fill void in the character dynamics, but with secondary villains like Hun, Karai, Baxter and Bishop to take the spotlight in his stead; and plenty of minor villains to draw from as necessary, the show actually did very well without its primary villain; the Oroku Saki-less fourth season is arguably the series’ best.

However, it eventually became clear that a Shredder-less series was not going to be an option, and that no, having Karai take up the mantle wasn’t going to cut it.  Creative insecurities?  Economic concerns?  Without information, impossible to tell.  Eventually, however, wheels were set in motion that would bring back the Shredder twice, even if his story had already been told.  To the writers’ credit, their first attempt at bringing back the character turned out something rather different; instead of bringing Oroku Saki back, they created another, drastically different one.  The end product may not have worked as effectively as the original, but in the end, they managed to create a character that could stand on its own while still using the character’s trappings; if they had to bring the Shredder back, their approach wasn’t a bad one–unlike their second attempt.  The third incarnation of the Shredder, like most things in the show’s seventh season, had no bite; he had a cool character design, but the writer’s minds–perhaps due to the astoundingly short amount of time they had to complete the season–were clearly not in it.

Fortunately, the original Shredder eventually got a chance to go out with a bang.  In Turtles Forever, which put a cap on not only the series but the entire franchise as a whole, they bought the character back to prove just why he’s the Big Bad.  And in the end, Lloyd Goldfine got a chance to do what he’d been itching to do for four seasons: kill the character off.

On the other hand, Gargoyles, as an original property, had no Shredder to use, and had to create its own awesome villains from scratch.  But since there’s only a couple more hours left on the Friday, I’ll leave that for some other time.

—-
* Thanks in no small part to Geoff Johns whose names I will not mention, who are intent to bring the DCU back to 1984, progress be damned.
**And yes, I know that I’ve previously said that neither series is a super-hero work.  Sue me.

The Other Side: “Temptation”

“Don’t be afraid. I just want to talk.”Demona

Original Air Date: November 11, 1994
Introduces: Phil Travanti
Timeline Placement: November 7 – November 13, 1994

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MoNY Timeline (994-1993)

This is the second part of the overall timeline for the relevant events in the shared Gargoyles/TMNT-verse. The first can be seen here.  As before,  most of the relevant Gargoyles segments are taken from Gargwiki’s own semi-official timeline.

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Ooh, Shiny Sword: “Darkness on the Edge of Town”

“The Sword of Tengu. Still just as potent after all these years.”The Master

Written by: Marty Isenberg
Original air date: March 15, 2003
Teaser Narrator: Donatello
Introduces: The Sword of Tengu; mysterious exoskeleton

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Electric Boogaloo Chapter 4: Lin Koyobashi

Author’s note: Yeah, yeah, I know I haven’t exactly been sticking to that “one story chapter a week” schedule.  There are several things I could blame–writer’s block, poor planning, school work, Slacktivist (it’s a time sink–an awesome time sink, but I’m always like “Go Fred! It’s your birthday!” before I realize that, hey, I’ve just lost an hour), friends, 9/11…  In any case, I’d been having severe trouble with this chapter, but finishing it has at given me a better sense of direction of how I want to go through the rest of the story, and if all goes well, new chapters should appear on a more frequent basis–maybe not once a week, but more frequently.  So yeah.

—-

The first thing that Sean Kessler noticed as he slowly regained consciousness was just how cold it was.  Is this hell? He’d always expected it to be hotter.  Heaven, then? No way he was that lucky.

Although he was awake, his eyes remained closed—not only did he feel as if he’d spent several rounds on the ring with Hun, he wasn’t sure he wanted to face the world just yet.  With nothing else to do but lie there on his back, he began filling in the gaps on his memory.

A few hours (years?) ago, he’d been “watching over” a meeting between the four members of the Foot Elite when he was spotted by one of their foot soldiers.  Fortunately, the syndicate’s receding fortunes had apparently taken its toll, as only one of their ninjas was sent after him, and a couple of bullets had quickly taken care of him.  Unfortunately, the ninja had managed to take a battlefield trophy—namely, his left forearm, leaving him no choice to seek the nearest hospital.

Hospital.  Hospitals are cold. He tried to feel if his arm was still missing, but the cocktail of painkillers he had undoubtedly been administered made it impossible to tell, and like his eyes, his right arm wasn’t responding, making manual confirmation an impossibility.  Had the hospital staff told him they could or couldn’t reattach his arm?  He’d brought it with him, so it seemed logical to him that they could, but he couldn’t quite remember what they’d said.

So yeah.  Heaven, hell, or hospital?  Kessler wasn’t a regular church-goer, but feeling numb, cold, and immobile didn’t feel like anything he’d ever heard about the first two.  Then again, being immobile and unable to see for all eternity seemed hellish enough. Only one way to find out. After a Herculean struggle—he’d always loved Greek mythology—he opened his eyes, only to find what a appeared to be a New York City detective staring at him.  Hell!

The detective, it turned out, was named Longer (no first name given).  He’d apparently stumbled across the Foot Ninja’s corpse and had decided to go looking at various hospitals until he’d found the man responsible (a.k.a. him).  He was eventually joined by Koyobashi, who immediately entered his internal sexual fantasy DVR; and Hacker, FBI.  The gave him the spiel about how he was In No Way Under Arrest and how They Were Just Here To Ask Him A Few Questions.

Drug cocktail or not, Kessler had plenty of experience dealing with the police—more than a decade’s worth, in fact.  After finagling a meal out of them, he proceeded to give him the silent treatment, demanding to see his lawyer.  Eventually, officer Asian McHottie called a time-out to restrategize, leaving him a measure of peace.

Alone, Kessler, found himself dozing off again, until the return of Officer McHottie, this time without her back-up, shook him back to alertness.  For a minute, he dared hope that life, for once, would turn out to be just like a porn movie, but when had life ever been that fair?

“Purple Dragon Sean Kessler, your superior addresses you.”

HolycrapshesFoot.

*          *          *

Meanwhile, Lin’s two partners made their way to the commissary; once there, Longer ordered a cheeseburger, Hacker an egg salad sandwich.

“So what do you make of all this?” Longer asked, as they awaited their food.  “The whole gang war thing—had you ever dealt with anything like it?”

“Once: I was working on the Dracon crime group during their fracas with Tomas Brod back in ’96—’97?—anyway, it lasted a few months, including a pretty bad day or two—although nothing quite as bad as this.  You?”

“Not really—I’d just started at the academy back then, so I managed to just miss that one.  There really hasn’t been any huge gang war since—until now, anyway.”

“Funny thing about that…” Hacker commented.  “Back then, we were on top of things—we might not have been able to build a solid case against the Five Families, but we had a solid idea of who they all were. Until one day, we didn’t.”

*          *          *

Kessler felt as all the blood drained from his face.  He felt his left arm burn like mad, even thought it was no longer there.  “You’re Foot…?” he stammered.

Foot Ninja Lin Koyobashi gave a small smile, the kind one gave to a particularly stupid pet after it pissed itself on the carpet, because really, who could get mad at something so adorably dumb? “Sean Kessler,” she repeated. “You have betrayed the Foot Clan and killed one of your own.  Retribution must be exacted.”

*          *          *

Longer waited for Hacker to continue, but it was clear he was waiting to be prodded.  “So what happened?” he obliged.

“Well, we’re not quite sure.  Suddenly, a log of bigwigs are let out of prison, and their people on the street are nowhere to be seen.  The Purple Dragon gang steps ups in a big way, taking over every group and disappearing any that wouldn’t join.  Now normally, this wouldn’t be at all strange, except for one thing: no bodies.  No blood. Absolutely no chatter.  One day the Purple Dragons were lucky to hold on to three blocks, the next, they’re the fucking C.I.A.”

*          *          *

What the…what the fuck? As Lin prattled on, Kessler struggled to keep his breath steady.  Whatever drugs he’d been administered seemed to have worn off, and now he seemed to be in the middle of a full blown panic attack. His vision became unsteady.  The curry the FBI guy made several trips up and down his esophagus, never quite spilling out.  “What the…what the hell did you do to me?” he pleaded.

*          *          *

Longer and Hacker were finishing their lunch when they heard the hospital’s P.A. system switch on.  “Code blue over at room 394.” However, they did thought nothing until they arrived at Kessler’s floor and witnessed a gaggle of hospital personnel hurriedly making their way through the halls.

“You don’t think…” Longer began.

“Yeah, I do…”

The two men sprinted in the direction of Kessler’s room, and found Lin standing outside, downcast.

“What the hell happened?” Longer asked.

“Cardiac arrest,” Lin said.  “I was just talking to him when he…he just began convulsing.”

“Is that so.” Hacker commented, icily. He stared at Lin’s eyes and found them unexpressive.  “Interesting.”

At a nurse’s request, the three lawmen retired to a waiting area so as not to interrupt the hospital staff.  They did not have to wait long for news, however; within ten minutes, Sean Kessler was pronounced dead from cardiac arrest.

*          *          *

Six years ago, Elisa would have relished nights like this, when she didn’t have to do anything; it meant she could have dinner with or go flying with Goliath, or simply spend the night with the rest of the clan.

Of course, that was no longer possible.  Goliath was gone, as was most of the clan. Worse, the reason she didn’t have any work was because the detail had shifted her hours to the daytime hours, which wreaked havoc on her internal clock; now she was exhausted but couldn’t find it within herself to fall asleep.  By two a.m., she  had prepared two days’ worth of spaghetti, finally finished the fifth Harry Potter book, cleaned Lacey’s litterbox, and was still nowhere near falling asleep.  In the end, she resorted to turning on the TV and watching C-Span.  It nearly worked; as she found herself nodding off, a harsh knocking on her door returned her to consciousness.

Muttering obscenities, Elisa made her way to the door. As she pondered possible places when one could hide a body at this hour, she looked over the peephole to find a complete stranger.  Caucasian male, white hair, mid-to-late forties, average body type, ragged appearance—nobody she knew.

“C’mon Maza!  Open up!  I haven’t got all night!”

Elisa went to her kitchen cabinet and removed her gun from its lockbox—the man seemed sincere, but that was no excuse for being stupid. “Okay, here’s what’s going to happen,” she told her visitor through the door.   “I’m going to let you in, but I’ll let you know I have my gun out; try anything, and you’ll be lucky if you ever manage to eat solids ever again.  I’m tired and I’m cranky, and I do not have time for this crap.”

She opened the door and let the man in. “Oh, thank god, Maza!  I swear, you have to help me,” he rambled.

“Forgive me if I’m skeptical, but I need answers.  Who are you, for starters?”

“What?  Oh, come on, sugar, don’t be that way!”

Tony Dracon.