About Us

Contact Us


The 21st Century

Hacktreks Travel

Hacktreks 2

First Chapters
Lifestyles 1
Lifestyles 2

The International Writers Magazine
: Continuing our great serial from beyond death
If you haven't read the previous seven chapters start at Chapter One here

The Great Beyond Chapter VIII
Brodie Parker
'Whenever possible, poetic justice is the preferred means of liquidation.'

Training was a lot tougher than I expected it to be. Urimaru took me down to his basement where the training course stretched off impossibly out of sight. It was a maze of ropes and tires and rusting junk heaps and dirt piles and rain forest and crumbling brick tenements and Death Valley and horrible boiling pits of lava and much, much more. The massive cavern held every type of climate and landscape imaginable in a brutal series of impossible scenarios. In the middle where we started was a large, square, sand-covered flat with a white line running in an unbroken circle; touching the edges in tangents. There he told me I needed a new body.
"I had a body once, and look where it got me. What do I need with another one?"
"It’s to keep you from getting soft. Don’t worry, this body will be much improved over your last one."

I gave it form, but he had to guide me. Every cell was built from scratch. I could exert total control over every function. As the tissue formed a layer at a time, it became easier rather than harder to consciously keep it all working properly. Once I learned how the process became a simple reflex; hardly worth noticing unless something wasn’t working right. Urimaru showed me how to develop the muscles and shape the bones, tendons and joints for a more efficient and athletic disposition. It proved worth the effort when later he had me concentrate my volition on normal physical movements. No levitation or non-physical manipulation. My flexibility and strength took some getting used to. We also spent a long time on how I could fuel the physical cells with readily available energy all around us.
"Just like when you’re surfing, and you have this massive amount of kinetic energy in the form of a wave breaking," he explained, "and you ride along using some of it to move you on your board. It’s the same principle. There is energy everywhere, largely in the form of heat and motion. It can be harnessed and used instantly, or stored up and released later."

He showed me all kinds of tricks that he had learned over a period of several thousand subjective years. He helped me test the limit of my new body’s abilities. I could leap easily over hundreds of feet using only my new leg muscles. I could run almost as quickly as I could think. He put me through some yoga to show me just how flexible I had become. My bones would bend if or when I needed them to, and so, appeared to be unbreakable. My tendons could stretch like surgical tubing. Having complete control over every level of cell function changed the way in which I moved and breathed. The speed and strength of my motions changed the way I fought. I had to relearn everything, but it didn’t take too long. Urimaru was a good teacher.
He told me that exaggeration was the most effective tool in long term memory retention. Even at the level of depth and complexity with which I learned things now, this seemed to be true. Everything we went over was very subtly presented in an extreme. Maximum and minimum limits were accentuated when I learned new techniques. When he told me I was ready for the course I was still skeptical about the need for another body. If I was already dead, what was the point?
He very patiently told me, "Keep your movement down to physical only. Kill the pain receptors and keep your senses limited to the body’s standard five. The full course takes a year of subjective time. Start now and come back in two weeks. Don’t retrace your steps, just return directly to this place in two weeks." He vanished.

The course was brutal. Even with my new high performance body the traps were deadly and the conditions were so harsh that I began to wonder if it were possible for a body to survive a year of this sort of steadily increasing danger. After the first day I wondered what the big deal was. I couldn’t see any reason why limiting my sense of touch would make a difference. Over the next thirteen days I was too busy to think about it. At the end of the two weeks Urimaru was waiting for me when I reappeared in the white circle. He told me to open all of my senses and examine my body. It was severely damaged. I had cuts and scrapes all over my arms and legs. My back was torn to ribbons of flesh that barely clung together, and I was a mass of bruises. I had barely noticed the damage as I went through the trials. My body’s new senses were as enhanced as the muscles, bones and organs. I could hear dust settling all over the cavern, and my eyes could see details from miles away, or focus in to see cells dividing. My olfactory sense was as sharp as a bloodhound’s. Even so I didn’t notice the extent of the wear and tear I had accumulated. I didn’t have the time to dwell on it out there. He lectured me as I slowly repaired the damage.

"You can’t keep your edge without your body. The ability to feel pain is an essential element in cultivating the instinct for self preservation. Ask anyone with Hansen’s disease. You have to develop the instinct and keep it sharp or you won’t last, even with your unique advantage. You might get by well enough for what you could see coming, but the dangers come from all directions. They always will."

I set out on the course again with my tail stuck firmly between my legs. I was still restricted to physical movement and senses, but I was running my pain receivers at maximum sensitivity. I understood what he meant and resolved to hone my skills to their finest by the end of the year. Urimaru insisted that I would have to if I wanted to complete the course. The year of subjective time did not take stopping for rest into account. Without the need for sleep, ingestion, re-hydration or waste evacuation, the body could be constantly bombarded with demanding trials and ceaselessly conditioned with the ever present threat of Urimaru’s fatalistic gizmos. There were a few times when I paused to heal a carelessly received cut, but the course was designed to keep you moving. I had to learn to lick my wounds on the run; an ability that I suspected would be something I would learn to cherish. It seemed that much more than a year had passed when I at last saw the wide white circle on the sand flat. Urimaru was waiting patiently.

He had my sword with him, and another resting on his shoulder. I could see that it was Japanese steel. I guessed late 1300’s; the metal folded over and over again, producing thousands of fine, strong layers of edged death. He tossed me my own blade, then removed his from the saya. Its cold black finish contrasted sharply with the sand as he tossed it to the ground. The naked blade in his hand fairly glowed with silvery menace as he brandished it.
"This isn’t the original of course. Just a faithfully reproduced imitation of one of the finest works of one of the finest sword smiths I have ever known. The interior of the saya of the original blade was lined with the same steel, folded as many times. Were it not, the sword would have sliced through it as soon as it was sheathed. The rules are different here, and so is the construction of this sword, which is at once beneficial and unfortunate. However, it serves just as well for my skill." The katana sliced through the space around him as though frictionless. I could hear it hum.
"It’s beautiful. What are the rules?"
"Survive. Cut or be cut. The only rules that ever truly matter. This is the last test I’ll put you through. After this, if you make it, we’ll see what develops. For now put that out of your mind." He stabbed the sword into the air in front of him, which seemed to hold it in place then turned to disrobe. When the fabric fell off his shoulders, it revealed a powerfully muscled back and the physique of a warrior in his prime. His face looked Japanese, but his hair jutted upward in short, sharp blonde spikes all over his head. The five o’clock shadow was gone. The beer gut had vanished with the kimono. It collapsed in a pile next to the empty saya. In the instant before the cloth touched the sand, four thin, well balanced, razor sharp throwing knives flew from his hands in my direction. I had anticipated them, and dodged them all easily. I managed to catch one reflexively and returned fire. But he wasn’t there anymore. Neither was his sword. I drew and parried blindly on my left flank, just in time to deflect a killing blow. Steel rang against steel as we went back and forth. The tones made up an ugly symphony of clashing chords; faster and more savage we lashed at each other. The howl of mutant wind chimes echoed through the air. I could see his uncovered torso very clearly. Thousands of small white lines covered his hands. They stood out starkly against tanned skin in a spider web of scars across his neck and up his arms and shoulders, and on his chest and stomach. He noticed my interest and made polite conversation while trying to cut me in half.

"Each scar is for a student. I keep a reminder of all their cuts, because each one is a success for the master as well as the pupil. If you can cut me, you can count yourself among the truly dangerous and the fearfully bad-ass. If not, you have to go through the course again. Each time I cut you first, you have to return to training. My most difficult student went through it three times, but he gave me the worst cut." He indicated a prominent, wide scar that traced down the left side of his face. It began high on his forehead then ended briefly at the top of his eye socket and began again, continuing down from his upper cheek just below his left eye. He used the fraction of a second I spent in examining the disfiguring wound to put me on the defensive. I had to jump wildly backwards in a high arc to avoid some particularly close stabs, but he was at me again almost instantly, fairly flying in a straight line across the circle to where I landed. I met his attack, and barely escaped being skewered. This continued for days. I began to learn from his fighting style, and slowly plotted out a finishing attack. He fell for a feign, and I planted a nick across his left jaw line, then immediately pulled back and lowered the weapon. He stopped his attack to examine the wound. We both knew I pulled the punch, so to speak; I could have taken off the top of his head. He bowed to me solemnly, and I returned the courtesy. We retrieved our scabbards and he put his robe back on. He had a fresh white scar in place of the cut, but no more of the appearance of the bum I met when he first opened the front door. We flew up out of the basement and up into the first floor. He led me to a Turkish bath where we slipped into a large pool of steaming water.

"This is the other reason for having a body." He said as we began to relax. Not that I needed it. The control I had over every muscle kept them from cramping or over stretching. No twists or sprains or hyper-extensions were possible when my mind controlled my body so completely. I wasn’t tired at all. My mind was sharp and focused. I felt invincible and keenly aware of everything around me. I was more alive than I had ever been. I wasn’t about to argue with the water though. I slipped under and came to rest flat on my back on the bottom of the pool, staring up through the water. Urimaru started floating around on the surface. He circled around lazily above me. "Have you given any thought to what you want to do next?"
"I want to go after my murderer. If I can stop him, maybe I can stem the loss of the remaining timelines. Even if I can’t, this guy knows all about me. He knows the people I left behind, and he might decided to go after them to draw me out. I won’t have it."
"Sounds sensible. Would you like to visit the council first? It’s about time I checked in with them. They should know you’re in good hands."
"Can they help me find him?"
"Sure. Or we can do it alone if you prefer. I know very well who it was. I knew he was going to try, but I didn’t know when or how. I expect that when his superiors find out that he failed, he’ll want to make himself scarce for a while. It shouldn’t take much effort to find him though."
"You’ve known all this time and you didn’t tell me?"
"Yes, of course."
"Why for God’s sake?!"
"Because I’ve done this many times, and I am wiser today than I was yesterday. Had I told you, you would have been tempted to rush off into an impossible fight. I’ve seen it before. Don’t worry, you’ll get your turn at him. He’s been off limits since your murder. That’s one of the conventions shared by the council. Whenever possible, poetic justice is the preferred means of liquidation. I’ve provided you with the training, now it’s up to you to settle the score if you wish. Or you can defer the task to someone else; there’s a long line of people waiting for this one. Don’t worry about your family. There are people watching them for now. We anticipated you concern, and we share it. You are a potentially invaluable asset for our side. We’re looking out for you and yours."
"You keep saying ‘we’. I should probably meet with the council, but only with a few at a time at first, and only the ones you are certain you can trust. Your training course has made me cautious. I mean paranoid."
© Brodie Parker November 1st 2004

To be continued...

Only in Hackwriters…
Missed Chapters One & Two of our serialised novel - it begins here
Chapter Three here

Chapter Four here
Chapter five here

Chapter Six here
Chapter Seven here
Chapter Eight here
Chapter Nine here
Chapter Ten here
Chapter Eleven here
Chapter Twelve here

I sold my soul to rock and roll right here at Hackwriters…
If you like Brodie\s writing, tell him so, every writer needs feedback and nourisment Ed

More Fiction in Dreamscapes

More First Chapters


© Hackwriters 2000-2004 all rights reserved