Author : Julian Miles, Staff Writer

Seventeen days to travel two kilometres through the most extreme security ever deployed. My rations are finished and I have drunk the last of my urine. The moon is bright yet anyone monitoring the meeting hall roof would find nothing. The scions of Iga have not been lax in their attention to the arts of the unseen.

I reach down to crush the vials filled with a cocktail of combat drugs that replaced my testes. With a rush of false invincibility they bring me to a state of readiness alien to any except followers of my ryu. Even in these times of star-spanning technological dominance, there is still a need for men of dedication and purpose.

Below me, ‘Mad Mike’ Santori hosts a gathering of his elite: officers and brutal men of less honour than garbage collectors. I see him step out in front of them and it is time for the pretenders to realise their unworthiness. I roll forward to smash through the crystal panes, showering those below in razor-sharp shards as I drop twenty metres to the floor and kill twelve men on the way down. Graphene tipped caseless deforming rounds cut through their expensive ballistic armour as if it were cheap cloth. I land and roll, continuing to pick off those with range weapons.

Another thirty-eight shots and they are a further thirty-four men down. The door guard enters to deal with me. He looks like a monstrous mechanical samurai in his powered armour. I wait until he fires his pulse cannon before running in an arc that curves in front of the greatest concentrations of my opponents. He fires in bursts with deflection for where I should be for someone with only enhanced speed. He succeeds admirably in wreaking havoc amongst those he tries to protect before I leap six metres to descend on him; my sword screaming as air molecules part before its single-use molecularly aligned edge. I bisect him from crown to right knee before rolling and coming up in a leap that lands me in the remaining cluster. They grin and ready their weapons, then die as I execute a flawless ‘Eight Gates’: a movement created centuries ago to kill an octet of surrounding opponents. It has not lost its efficacy.

I am kicked five metres into a pillar by an absolute brute. My reinforced bones dissipate the point of impact damage and my sealed backpack takes the blow from the pillar on its shock fields. I use the rebound to speed shurikens through his eyes.

As I return to the centre of the hall, the doors crash open and troops pour in. Mad Mike laughs as I use every weapon and technique. In the end, I only kill a hundred and seventy-three of them. He has thousands. They surround me, crowding the hall and the grounds outside to see the lunatic who dared to strike at their leader. He steps forward, katana held lazily.

“You fool. Did you think to kill me here, in my stronghold?”

“Never. I am assured that you will kill yourself.”

He sneers and with a passable flourish runs me through five times, wrenching the last so my intestines spill onto the floor, the intricate webbing of polymer reinforcing grey against the crimson.

I feel dizzy as my blood deserts me and I take a breath before my heart stops. Heightened awareness feels the coupling release in my backpack as the system detects my lack of heartbeat. I look up at the moon through the shattered panes and whisper “Iga” as the six kiloton S-nuke detonates.


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