Mid 20th Century Hong Kong
Week 2, Exploring the Island
There are three days before Nguyen Cat's tournament. One of them has already passed. Comparing our best martial artist, Dr. Wu, to the local talent, we see he is good, but far from the best here. Cheng Lee Cho, the Bruce Lee clone, has no obvious superiors.
The second day dawns. Wu asks the majordomo for Mei Ling again tonight, ostensibly because she is a fun date; really, so she and Cho can reach each other if necessary. At breakfast, Nguyen Cat seems irritated, possibly because of Victoria, Cho, and Cantrel's tricks the night before.
There follows more warm-up drills and sparring for everybody. More people have shown up. One new arrival is swathed all in black, like a ninja (but none of the pantope crew have heard of ninjas). All we can see are his eyes, which show him to be oriental. He keeps entirely to himself and refuses to spar with anyone, including Wu or Cho.
At lunch, Cho tells Wu that the man in black is called Kyoto-san, apparently referring to his place of origin. Tom has been taking surreptitious readings on the diadem tracer and feels that the segment is in the general vicinity of Nguyen Cat's personal quarters. Of course. Nothing is ever easy. Victoria Lawless arranges to sit by Cantrel (actually she shoos some guy away), and tells him that her room was disturbed last night, presumably searched.
After lunch, Victoria spars with a house guard and "accidentally" delivers some real blows. When they carry him away, Dr. Wu spars with her, with no adverse effects. Then Victoria spars with Cantrel, padded staff vs. nunchuk.
The Naza, in her gorilla disguise, doesn't get any sparring partners, so Tom, to keep up the image of gorilla-trainer, goes into hysterical agility and plays cat-and-mouse with her -- as mouse. She accidentally cuffs him a good one, and Cho shows up, volunteering to spar with "him." (The gorilla appears to be a male.) "Sure. wheeze He's really very gak gentle." Pfusand can't lay a hand on Cho, but no one else seems anxious to play with her.
Dave, meanwhile, has encountered a Zen archer, all in orange, who impresses him mightily. They sit together at dinner and talk. Dave is sure all this Zen stuff must be very profound -- he can't understand a word of it.
Victoria brushes off a macho Japanese whom we last saw on the dock, studiously avoiding the gorilla. She then latches onto Cantrel again and arranges to go a-stealthing with him tonight.
After dinner, Tom, Lorelei, and the Naza "take the gorilla for walkies" out on the grounds, giving Tom a chance to do more triangulation with the diadem tracer. They narrow it down to Nguyen Cat's quarters, or the adjacent temple.
Once darkness falls, the professional sneaks come out of the woodwork. Cantrel conceals himself beneath Victoria's window, almost gets stepped on by her, then leads her up onto the roofs. They are both seeking information, but this time Cantrel is equipped with the tracer. (Victoria, we think, is seeking an opening in Nguyen Cat's defenses, so she can kill him.)
They come to a walled courtyard at the center of the former monastery, which both Nguyen Cat's quarters and the temple face. While Cantrel tries to take a tracer reading, Victoria cleverly falls down the wall. Thump. Two guards show up in rapid succession, but she kills them both. A third sneaks up, but she hears the sound of Cantrel's knife lodging in his flesh and finishes that job, too. But one of the late guards got off an arrow into her side and she is leaking blood.
Cantrel helps her back to her room and summons Wu. He practices his patharchic art of Distraction and slips unnoticeably down the hall to her room, where he surprises the hell out of her. "Jesus! Don't any of you ever knock?!" Shortly after Wu finishes his patch job, the captain of the guard, plus some men, come storming down the hall, making a bed check. Victoria is in, of course, and it is hard to make a thorough check safely with all these touchy ronin-types around. So the captain learns nothing and Wu easily Distracts his way through the ruckus.
When everything quiets down again, Cantrel comes tapping at Victoria's windowpane again. "Wanna go out again?" "What?! There'll be guards thick as fleas out there. You'd have to be crazy to go out now." "Yep. Wanna go?" "Sure." And off they sneak.
Out on the roof again, they run into Cho. The 3 of them now go off to the topiary maze, which Cho knows the way through. Pausing only to polish off another guard, they arrive at a tower connected to the wall. Cho and Cantrel dash in and kill two more guards. (Are you keeping score?) They go down to the ground floor and discover they are in the boat house. Outside are the docks, with a steam yacht, a couple of junks, and lots of row boats. They hear guards coming. The scores for this round are: Cho, 2; Cantrel, 1; Victoria, 1; home team, -4. (Victoria's jumps out of a second-story window, onto her waiting spear.) We have rubbed out a grand total of 13 house guards, since arriving on the island.
Cantrel and his lethal lady take one of the row boats and hide it in a nook on the other side of the island, after Cantrel and Cho disable the steam yacht. They then go back to Victoria's room and, much later, are surprised by guards making a special check of Victoria's room. She and Cantrel manage to hide the bloodstained ninja-garb and act realistically indignant.
In the course of the night, Cantrel managed to determine that the diadem segment was in the temple. Nguyen Cat uses it for an art-museum/treasury. The party believes that we should strike quickly, before Nguyen Cat's security gets any tighter. Stay tuned....
Copyright © 1998, Jim Burrows. All Rights Reserved.