The X-Files: Way of the Warrior.
PRELUDE: A blade in the night.
An icy wind blasted through the grimy New York City streets, penetrating the slick business suit of a tall balding man as he pushed his way onward past the rubbish and homeless people scattered across the footpath.
He shivered and drew his collar closer against the Autumn chill.
The businessman was mildly irritated at having to walk the few blocks to his home, his Buick having unexpectedly died in the underground parking lot of the building in which he worked, even despite regular service and maintenance. It was strange; the car had never broken down before.
The dangerous ferocity of the city streets weighed heavily on his mind, and the man felt a sudden chill that had nothing to do with the temperature – the eerie, sub-conscious knowing that one is being observed. The hairs on the back of his neck pricked up and he turned his head to peer behind him. A streetlight illuminated the grimy footpath; there was nothing there.
He grumbled to himself, cursing the car and his own foolish fear, and continued along the street at a quicker pace.
Reaching the alleyway through which he would travel to reach his apartment building on the next street, he paused briefly, peering into the semi-darkness, always aware of the real danger of mugging. The narrow, garbage-strewn alley appeared deserted so he began walking quickly through it.
Halfway along, he stopped. There was a whisper of something, as if a shadow had moved somewhere, though he was not sure where. An indefinable sense of movement lay beneath the stillness, and sound beneath the silence.
His breath came quickly and his hands trembled.
Suddenly, from the impenetrable darkness above, a black-garbed figure dropped down behind the man, landing lightly on the concrete with scarcely a sound. The person was clad entirely in dark flowing clothes so that not even the face was visible.
"Your blood is demanded," the person whispered in a rounded voice. The man did not hear. He stood with a bemused expression on his face as a trail of blood resolved itself, running from the top of his head, down the centre of his face, neck and chest, and ending at his groin. The two halves of the man slowly fell apart, landing beside each other limply with a splash of blood.
The black-garbed person slid a gleaming, gently curved katana into a dark, unadorned scabbard in a sash at his waist before turning away and disappearing into the night.
CHAPTER 1: The two halves.
Special Agent Fox Mulder was a patient man by nature, adept at waiting, used to having to sit still for extended lengths of time. He was accustomed to working tedious stakeouts and enduring month-long waits for case leads… but his patience was now beginning to wear thin.
He and his partner, Dana Scully, had been called on by Assistant Director Walter Skinner to provide assistance for the NYPD in an unusual homicide case. Mulder and Scully specialised in unusual cases.
Without having been given any real detail as to the specifics of the case in question, they had boarded a Lear-jet and flown from Washington to the city that never sleeps. While Scully made arrangements for accommodation, Mulder had made his way to the forty-seventh precinct to meet the Detective in charge of the investigation.
That had been two and a half hours ago.
Mulder glared about him at the bustling police station; scantily-clad prostitutes and gold-chained drug-runners were being led back and fourth like some kind of twisted fashion show. He looked again at the indifferent desk secretary who continued to file her nails and studitiously ignore him.
At great length, a lanky sandy-haired man in suspenders strolled out of an office to the rear of the station smoking a cigarette against government building regulations. He walked up to Mulder, who was already standing, about to leave.
"You FBI?" asked the man in a broad New York accent.
"Yeah," said Mulder, turning to face the man.
"How ya doin?" the man stuck out his hand. "I'm Detective-Sergeant Gabe Reilly, I'm the Detective in charge of the investigation. I'm the one who called you bigwigs in. Thanks for coming up."
Mulder shook his hand. "Special Agent Fox Mulder," he replied. "Thanks for coming out of your office."
"Not a problem," said Reilly, completely missing the sarcasm in Mulder's tone. "I gotta tell you, this one's got us pretty much stumped," he said, turning away from a bemused Mulder who hastened after him as he strolled quickly back toward his office.
"My partner and I were sent without much notice," said Mulder as he followed Reilly into the sparsely furnished cubicle-like room. "Typically of governmental lines of communication we have been given absolutely no idea as to the nature of the case or why it requires our… particular expertise."
Reilly didn't reply, he instead opened a draw on the old desk sitting in its place of honour in the centre of the office and began to rifle through its contents, emerging at last with a wad of photographs. He handed them to Mulder.
"Holy… crap," Mulder muttered, his eyes widening as he studied the colourful glossy prints. They depicted a crime scene bordered by festive yellow police tape, though there was nothing festive about the macabre sight in the centre of the pictures. From all angles Mulder looked at a human body bisected straight down the middle.
"Your particular expertise," said Reilly quietly, gauging Mulder from under his brows, "is in dealing with really weird sht, right?"
"You could put it like that."
"Howsabout you try your hand at figuring out how the hell this happened."
"New York, New York," muttered Special Agent Dana Scully as she sat drumming her fingers on the steering wheel of the Ford Taurus amid the unfettered anarchy of the city's traffic. She was hot and flustered; the hire car's air conditioner wasn't functioning and an irritating trickle of sweat had found its way between and under her breasts.
Having arranged the hotel rooms and dropped off their baggage she was heading to meet with Mulder at the police station where he had eagerly left for by cab as soon as they had landed.
Her cellular phone chirped shrilly and she reached across to the passenger seat to pick it up. "Scully," she said tersely into the mouthpiece.
"Is this Madame Gena's escort service?"
"Listen, I need you at the city morgue ASAP," Mulder said, the sounds of bustling activity coming across in the background.
"Mulder, I'm stuck in traffic," she said, running a hand impatiently through her auburn hair.
"I'll meet you there," he said, as though he hadn't heard, and hung up.
"Sure, fine, whatever," she muttered into the dead mouthpiece.
Mulder paced across the linoleum floor of the morgue foyer, cracking a sunflower seed between his teeth as he went and glancing at his watch for the third time in as many minutes. He was anxious, as always, to get the investigation underway.
When a dishevelled-looking Dana Scully pushed through the door he immediately gestured for her to follow. "Now that you've decided to show up there's a body I need you to take a look at," he said quickly as he walked up the tiled hallway.
"Fine, how are you?" muttered Scully as she jogged slightly to keep up with his long-legged stride.
"I've taken the liberty of checking it out myself while you were getting here," Mulder said, ignoring the comment. "While the cause of death is more than obvious, the cause of the actual injury itself is something of a conundrum." He paused to push open a door, allowing Scully to pass in front of him.
"What kind of injury?" she asked.
"A spooky kind of injury," he replied with a wry grin.
Scully looked at the two gurneys in front of her. At first glance it looked as though there were two bodies, but as she moved closer it became apparent that they were, in fact, two halves of one body dissected perfectly down the middle.
"Oh my God," Scully whispered.
"Looks like someone's taken their fascination with anatomy a little too far," said Mulder, kneeling down and peering with distaste at the grizzly cross-section in which various internal organs were clearly visible.
"So it would seem." Scully looked closely at the flesh along the cut line. "Mulder, whatever did this was extraordinarily sharp," she said, switching into professional mode. "There aren't any tears in the flesh which would usually accompany cutting with normal blades, even microtomes - whoever did this took great care."
"So, you're saying the victim would have had to be dead or unconscious before he was chopped in half?"
"I don't see how he could have been alive, Mulder. If this man was conscious and struggling there would be some indication, the knife wounds would be erratic." Scully stared at half of the dead man's face, a section of brain hung obscenely from the open side of his head. "I think this mutilation is ritualistic in nature, Mulder. The killer takes pleasure in disturbing the public with the horrifying state in which his victims are found."
Mulder nodded thoughtfully. "The preliminary examination found no other wounds aside from the…primary one," he said slowly. "If we accept that the man was incapacitated when the cutting took place, as you suggested, it brings about the question: how?"
Scully frowned. "Perhaps he was poisoned; toxicology should reveal it," Mulder raised an eyebrow. "What's your theory then?" she asked.
"The only other half plausible explanation is that it happened suddenly, that the man was quite unexpectedly cut down the middle with something that redefines the word sharp," he paused. "But it's unlikely," he said. "There is no blade on earth that can slice so fine without causing rents and tears in the flesh as you observed. Matter of fact the only thing that could is a laser, as odd as it sounds, but a laser would leave burns."
"So what are you thinking did this?"
Mulder was silent for a moment, appraising his partner's mood, her degree of acceptance. "A tear in the fabric of time and space," he said carefully, "that opened up a ribbon of non-existence which led to the atoms the man consisted of to separate through…" he trailed off, Scully was frowning at him. "I'll just leave you to it," he said, turning away and stalking out of the room.
Detective Gabe Reilly led Agent Mulder down a short cement ramp into the underground parking facility. The area had been sealed off to workers in the insurance company offices above and against the far wall was an area partitioned off by yellow police tape, inside which sat an immaculate blue Buick.
"Corporate life pays," noted Mulder, looking at the car with appreciation.
"Yeah, didn't think the car would be important but I know how you Feds like to be thorough so I had it quartered off," muttered Reilly, tapping a cigarette out of a Morley's packet. "Our victim's name was Gavin Wainwright; he was the CEO of this company, a real mover and shaker."
Reilly offered Mulder a cigarette but he shook his head. "Never touch them," he said, "that seems to be a popular brand though." Reilly shrugged. "Alright," said Mulder, ducking under the tape, "so why does this man decide to take a walk in the dead of night through the streets of New York when he has this car sitting here?"
"Not sure," the Detective replied, following him. "His apartment was only a few blocks from here, he may have decided he needed some air after a day in the office."
"He certainly picked the wrong night, you got the keys?" Reilly produced a set of keys from the pocket of his tweed pants and tossed them to Mulder who unlocked the car and slid inside. Inserting the key into the ignition, he turned it to start, producing only a dull click.
"So it broke down," offered Reilly. "That's why he was out walking."
"Maybe," muttered Mulder absently. He tried the ignition again with the same result then took out a white rubber glove and snapped it on. Reaching down, he pulled the release lever for the hood.
"Thoughts?" asked the Detective as Mulder got out and moved to the car's engine.
"Hunch," he grunted, lifting the hood and setting it in place. He quickly located the starter motor at the back of the engine block and began to probe behind it with his gloved hand. "This car didn't break down," he said at last.
"What? What do you mean?"
"Look," Mulder pointed. Reilly moved around to the side and peered closely at the area Mulder was indicating. Clearly visible were three severed electrical wires; the starter motor had been disabled.
"It was sabotaged?" the Detective said in surprise. "Why?"
"To get Mr. Wainwright into the right position," Mulder said. "To draw him into the killer's domain, onto the streets where he's vulnerable."
"That's unnecessarily elaborate, why not just wait by the car and kill him here?"
"Unnecessarily elaborate seems to be this perpetrator's MO," said Mulder. "Perhaps he thought the risk of discovery was too great if he was to wait here."
"Alright, so this guy's a higher calibre of scum than I'm used to." Reilly hooked his thumbs in his belt. "What do you wanna do now?"
"I'd like to go all over Wainwright's personal and professional life," Mulder replied, "find out if he had any enemies, if anyone bore him any grudges or personal ill will. Since we're already here I think we should start by talking to the people in the building above us."
The Detective nodded. "I hope your partner is having some luck working out how our guy actually died," he said.
"Subject's name is Gavin Wainwright. White male, fifty-six years old. Height is five-nine, weight: one hundred and eighty pounds," Scully said, her voice-activated tape recorder taking in her words. She put down the clipboard and continued. "At first glance the cause of death appears obvious - a single cut wound that dissects the body lengthways. However, various impracticalities make it probable that this sectioning was performed post-mortem, indicating the possible use of poison to kill the victim before the mutilation took place.
"Proceeding with thorough examination of the… wound." Scully adjusted her gloves and bent to the task of closely searching along the exposed section of cut flesh for any indication of the weapon used; metal fragments or any other piece of evidence that may have been embedded in the unfortunate victim's body.
She delicately plied aside folds of bloody tissue with her forceps for what seemed like an eternity, moving painstakingly along both lengths of the halved body. Finally she straightened, painfully easing her tortured vertebrae back into their natural position.
"Extensive search of the cut line has revealed absolutely no trace of any foreign materials, metal or otherwise," she said, letting out a sigh. "That is, needless to say, very odd… and quite frustrating," she added. "Beginning gross examination of internal organs for signs of discolouration due to possible ingestion or injection of drugs or poisons."
After several hours of tiresome slicing, dicing and all-round handling of bloody gizzards Scully was still no closer to an answer.
"…So, in conclusion," she said wearily, "there is, as yet, no evidence to suggest the actual cause of death nor the manner by which the mutilation was performed. I maintain that the victim would have had to be incapacitated before the cutting took place and I believe the toxicology report, when complete, will reveal this." She peeled off her gloves and dropped them unceremoniously in the yellow biohazard bin by the door. "I hope Mulder's enjoying himself," she muttered.
Across town, in a penthouse apartment with wide, floor to ceiling windows that offered a breathtaking view of the cityscape, a portly man was engaging in a heated telephone conversation.
"It isn't going to happen," he said into the receiver. There was a pause as the voice at the other end of the line argued its side of the debate. "I don't care what my board of directors thinks," the man snapped. "In this situation, as the CEO, I get the deciding vote! I haven't built this company up for so many years to see it overrun by a greedy money-monger like you! That is all I have to say on the matter." He slammed the phone down into its cradle and closed his eyes briefly before walking across the room to where a cabinet stood against the far wall. He took out a square bottle and poured himself a generous glass of scotch, swallowing it and pouring another.
He turned around and stopped dead. Silent and motionless before him stood a tall figure garbed in swathes of black material. Through the eye slit of the dark shawl there could be seen nothing save for shifting shadows. The black-garbed man had appeared without a sound, nothing to alert the fat businessman to the fact he was not alone.
The scotch glass fell from his hand and he opened his mouth to speak. The sound was cut off as a sudden, explosive streak of movement swept between the two men.
The assassin held his bloody sword aloft as he watched the businessman's head topple back off its severed neck. The headless body fell forward, blood gouting from the sheared carotid arteries and staining the plush carpet.
"May your soul find peace," the man whispered softly as he knelt to wipe the blood from his long samurai blade on the dead man's suit. The metal of the sword gleamed with an otherworldly blue glow wherever the light struck it.
Sheathing his sword, the man turned and soundlessly walked out of the room.
CHAPTER 2: Those who serve.
Mulder and Reilly sat in the plush CEO office of XHE insurance. They were waiting to meet with the company's newly-appointed leader, one Shinji Osaka. The room was being redecorated with Japanese ink paintings and a number of ornaments from the Orient, including a samurai sword in an ivory scabbard that took pride of place at the top of the shelves. The recently deceased Gavin Wainwright's personal possessions were stacked in boxes near the door.
After some minutes the far door opened to admit a compact Japanese man who strode briskly inside and welcomed the men apologetically.
"I am sorry for the wait," Osaka said, shaking their hands.
"Not a problem," Mulder said. "I understand this is a difficult time for you and your co-workers, professionally as well as personally." Mulder also noted that Osaka had wasted no time cleaning out his predecessor's personal effects, but he kept the thought to himself.
"Yes, yes it has been a grievous blow to us," Osaka said, seating himself behind his desk. "Anything we can do to assist with the investigation, you need only…"
He was cut off as Reilly's cell phone chirped. The Detective grimaced in annoyance and stood, moving away to answer it.
"What we need at this stage is full access to the staff of this building," Mulder said. "The investigation won't interfere with the running of this company, but we will most likely need to interview everyone who works here."
"Of course." Osaka inclined his head.
"That's gonna have to wait," Reilly said, coming back. He held his phone to one side and wore a strained expression. "We got another one."
Scully surveyed the room. There was no evidence of a forced entry or a struggle of any kind. The portly man had fallen where he stood, the fallen scotch glass beside his decapitated body. She leaned closer to the corpse and peered at the cut through the neck; not surprisingly it was perfectly clean, straight and fine.
NYPD officers were all over the room, scouring every surface for fingerprints, and through the bustle Scully failed to notice Mulder enter with a man in tow.
"Scully," Mulder said, and she turned to face him. "This is Detective Gabe Reilly, the man who requested our presence." He gestured to the sandy-haired Detective who was looking Scully up and down appreciatively.
"It's good to meet you Detective," Scully said, putting her hand out.
Reilly shook her hand. "Very nice to meet you too… miss?"
"Scully, Dana Scully," she replied, clearly uncomfortable with the way he was smiling at her.
"I can tell it's gonna be a lot of fun working with you, Dana," he said with a wink.
"And what exactly is that supposed to…"
"What have we got, Scully?" Mulder broke in quickly.
"Another murdered businessman," she said, eying the gangly Detective. "Another insurance CEO in fact - Barry Cruz, this time decapitated."
"Another insurance CEO?" Mulder repeated, perplexed, glancing with distaste at the chubby head of the man, which lay face-up on the blood-soaked carpet a few feet away.
"The CEO of Mutual Insurance, to be exact."
"Someone must have gotten stiffed on 'home and contents'," Reilly chuckled.
"Someone with a liking for extremely sharp weapons," said Scully.
Mulder kneeled by the headless body lying front-down. Across the back of the dead man's shirt were smeared two slightly curved, red stripes of blood as though someone had wiped blood from an object onto the fabric. A long object. Covered in blood. Mulder frowned. "A katana," he muttered to himself.
"What?" Scully asked, recognising immediately the intense, focused gaze that always signified the cogs of her partner's mind were turning.
"A katana," he repeated, standing up. "A samurai long-sword." He pointed to the blood smears across the victim's back. "The swordsman wiped his blade clean, as is traditionally proper when a battle has concluded in bloodshed."
"Swordsman?" Reilly said excitedly. "You think it was Shinji Osaka? He's Japanese, and he had a sword in his office - he could be one of those ninjas like you see in movies!"
"Scully, what was the time of death?" Mulder queried, looking at his puzzled partner.
"About forty-five minutes ago, three-thirty," she said. "The man's wife was in the next room, she heard him have a telephone conversation and then there was a thump. When she came to investigate she found the body. She saw nobody else."
"If it was forty-five minutes ago then it couldn't be Osaka," said Reilly.
"No, we were just about to be led into his office when we got this call." Mulder pursed his lips.
"Mulder, who is Shinji Osaka?" Scully asked.
"The new CEO of XHE insurance," he replied, "the man who succeeded Gavin Wainwright."
"He's a suspect?"
"He didn't kill this man so I don't think he killed Wainwright either. Also, the sword in his office was not the murder weapon, it was dusty and looked to me like a display piece."
"I sense a 'but', Mulder."
"But the guy's Japanese and he owns a goddamn samurai sword," Reilly said again.
"That's racial stereotyping," Scully muttered.
"I believe that Mr. Osaka may employ a personal samurai warrior," Mulder said bluntly. Scully and Reilly were silent for a moment, staring at him in blank incomprehension.
"In more conventional words," Reilly said slowly, "you think he paid someone to off these folks?"
"Yeah," Mulder said, not entirely sure if that was what he actually meant. "His… friend… killed Wainwright in order to elevate him to the position of CEO at XHE. Now the same person has killed the CEO of a rival company, we need to find out all about the dealings the two companies have had together, see if it would be in Osaka's interest for Mutual's CEO to be dead."
"Mulder, that's an overly dramatic theory," Scully said. "While it's obvious these two murders are connected, I think it's more likely to be the work of a disgruntled anti-establishmentarian than a rogue CEO. That's the more logical explanation. We can't place Mr. Osaka under suspicion just because of his race and the fact that he owns an artefact of that race."
"It isn't racism, Scully," Mulder objected. "These men were most likely killed by a sword of some kind. A very sharp sword. Samurai swords are the sharpest in existence, even blades thousands of years old must be handled with steel gloves. The samurai were from Japan. Osaka is Japanese. Logic."
"Did it occur to you that the murder weapon could be any one of thousands of samurai swords in the possession of non-Asian people in this country, brought back from Vietnam or as a souvenir from an overseas vacation?"
"A strange coincidence though, don't you think?"
"Undoubtedly, but nothing more."
"Do you guys always fight like this?" Reilly asked, bemused.
"She started it," said Mulder.
"Detective, can you humour my oftentimes intractable partner?" Scully said, looking at Mulder sideways. "We'd like your team to compile all the data of these two companies' activities, transactions and the like for the past two months."
"Done." Reilly moved away.
"Happy?" Scully asked, smiling at Mulder.
In another part of the city a darkly-clad figure stood perfectly still in the centre of a large room high above the streets, the Manhattan skyline stretching across the smoky horizon beyond the wide windows. Sitting at a desk before him was another man, wearing a suit and tie.
"A problem has arisen," the seated man said, drumming his thin fingers on the smooth desktop. "Two Federal Agents are in the city, investigating, drawing closer."
"To kill them would be to draw further undue attention to your actions," the black-garbed figure whispered, his voice whistled strangely, almost like a bird.
Shinji Osaka looked hard at the man (if indeed it was a man); beneath the flowing folds of black material there could only be seen shifting shadows, more shades of black.
"Equally, if they are allowed to live they could come closer to uncovering our sordid affairs," he said.
The dark man touched a gloved hand to the hilt of the scabbarded sword tucked into the sash at his waist. "I tire of dishonouring myself playing childish games in the service of a fool and a coward," he whispered suddenly, his voice like the rustle of dry leaves in the breeze.
Shinji sat in shock for a few seconds, hardly able to believe what he had heard. "You dare…?" he glared. "Enough! You serve me. The Agents will die tonight, you understand?" There was no response from the shadow-shrouded swordsman, and for a moment Shinji thought the dark man was challenging his command, but then a strange optical phenomenon emerged before the businessman, a congealing of shadows centring on the figure of the swordsman until all that remained was a ponderous area of darkness in front of the desk that slowly dissolved to reveal empty space where once the man had stood.
"Good," said Osaka, satisfied. But the moment of dissent had troubled him, and he pondered it long after the dark man had departed.
Mulder paused in his study of the wad of documents before him on the table to wearily rub the bridge of his nose. Finance reports, customer volume evaluations, monthly turnover and minutes from board meetings. He had been at it for hours and night had descended on the city that supposedly never slept; the box full of papers had been happily delivered to the hotel room by Detective Reilly who expressed no interest to stay and help Mulder wade through them, citing some vague family commitment.
The documents revealed nothing unusual in the financial state of XHE insurance, but Mutual had experienced a steady decline in business over the past four years and was close on being bankrupt and filing chapter eleven.
Mulder picked up a coffee cup and raised it to his lips. Annoyingly, frustratingly, it was empty. He got up from the table to refill it, but as he moved his sleeve caught on the corner of a pile of papers and sent them spiralling to the floor. Uttering a string of obscenities, he crouched to retrieve them and as he did so a word on one of the sheets caught his eye. 'Takeover'. He picked up the piece of paper and examined it; it was a report from a meeting of Mutual Insurance's board of directors. As he read further his eyes widened with excitement.
He glanced up, startled, as the door to the room opened and Scully slumped inside, looking for all the world as if she had been put through a physical and mental wringer.
"Hey," he said simply, standing up.
"Hey," she replied testily. "I examined our headless friend. Same result, perfect cut. Personally I don't believe even a samurai sword could have done it. Toxicology from Gavin Wainwright revealed no trace of any kind of poison or sedative. Now I'm going to have a shower and go to bed." She turned and stalked across the floor, entering the door to her own room and slamming it behind her.
"Okay," Mulder said to himself. He moved to the telephone and picked up the receiver, dialling a number.
"Reilly," the Detective answered.
"It's Mulder," he said. "I've found something. XHE was trying to buy out Mutual but Mutual's CEO, the man we just found dead, was the sole voice of opposition."
"Jeez," muttered Reilly over the line. "You want we should put surveillance on Osaka then?"
"I think so, we still don't have any real proof so we'll need to tread carefully and find something concrete."
"Phone taps would be helpful," said the Detective. "Reckon you could organise that?"
"I'll try," said Mulder. "Meanwhile you get a team on Osaka's house." He hung up the phone then picked it up again and dialled another number. After a short wait he heard a receptionist ask for his name, he identified himself and gave the name of the man he wished to speak with.
"Skinner," came the stern and perpetually impatient voice of Mulder's superior.
"It's Mulder," he said. "I need you to authorize a phone tap."
"And may I ask why?" said Skinner. Mulder went on to tell the Assistant Director the specifics of the case and the linkages that had been made to Shinji Osaka.
"All right, Mulder," Skinner said at last, probably relieved that his friend had not attributed the killings to sewer mutants or ghosts. "I'll organise it through the New York field office."
"Thank you, sir," Mulder said.
"Try not to step on too many toes."
"I'll do my best," Mulder replaced the phone in its cradle and sat down on the squeaky double bed, kicking off his shoes; it had been a long day. He was about to reach for the television remote when a shout from Scully's room stopped him – his name was called urgently. He jumped up, taking out his sidearm, and ran to the door, throwing it open. Scully stood in the centre of the room with dripping hair and a towel wrapped around her wet torso.
"What is it?" he asked, lowering his weapon and moving to her side. He tried to avoid staring at her body, barely covered by the towel.
"Mulder, look," she said, pointing to the wall behind him. He turned and stared at the vandalised plaster wall; with straight and deliberate cuts a word had been carved into the surface: saburau.
"Saburau…" Mulder pondered, holstering his gun.
"It wasn't there a minute ago," Scully said, looking around the room.
"Could you have missed it?" Mulder asked.
"No, I don't think so."
They searched the room for several minutes, looking for any hidden person, but found nothing. Giving up, Mulder reluctantly left the room, allowing Scully to get dressed while he reported the incident.
The two Agent's movements were watched through the windows from an adjacent rooftop by a pair of strange, otherworldly eyes that were accustomed to the darkness.
"Saburau…" the young Japanese-American police officer pondered for a moment. "To serve," he said at last. "That's what it means – to serve. Although it's been written in Romanized form as though intended for you."
"Thank you, Watanabe," said Reilly, "you can go now." The officer nodded and strolled out of the office. Reilly turned to where Mulder and Scully stood. "I guess this means your samurai theory ain't dead in the water yet, huh?" he said.
"I'm convinced that these killings are connected to Osaka," Mulder said, "and we know for certain that he did not commit the second one himself. The CEO of XHE is murdered, allowing Osaka to ascend to that position after which the CEO of Mutual – the only one preventing the purchase of Mutual by XHE – is also murdered. Both men are killed in a manner indicative of the use of a sword. We know, of course, that Shinji Osaka has a cultural connection to Japan."
"That doesn't mean anything," Scully chimed in.
"Do we always have to be so Goddamned politically correct?" Mulder snapped suddenly, glaring at her. "Aren't we all getting just a little bit too sensitive when I can't even link a man to his own native culture without upsetting somebody's delicate sensibilities?"
Scully seemed momentarily lost for words and Reilly glanced between the two; he was tempted to remark on how much they resembled an old married couple but instead decided to take the conversation in a different direction.
"But now we have someone cutting Japanese words into your motel room wall," the Detective said.
"Yeah…" Mulder said. "I get a feeling someone is trying to tell us something. Saburau – to serve. One definition of the word samurai is 'those who serve'. Perhaps the man who has been killing for Shinji Osaka is trying to contact us."
"Or scare us away," Scully said.
"I just had a thought," Mulder said. "Detective Reilly, what intel have your boys picked up about Osaka's daily movements?"
"We've only been watching him since yesterday but we already know he visits a Buddhist temple in Queens every Wednesday."
"Do you have an address for that?"
The hired Ford Taurus slid to a stop outside the elaborate building set incongruously in residential Queens. It had all the markings of a Japanese temple - spiral roof emplacements and ornamental tiled surfaces – but with the unique New York touch; bars on the windows and obscene graffiti along one wall.
Mulder and Scully climbed out of the car and surveyed the scene, it was fairly quiet with few cars passing on the road, and two small children were playing in a front yard across the street.
"You're hoping to find your samurai here?" Scully asked, trying not to sound sarcastic for her partner's sake.
"I dunno." Mulder mused quietly for a moment before turning to Scully. "I'm not a racist," he said.
Scully sighed. "I know that Mulder, I'm sorry," she patted his arm. "Ingrained overzealous morality, that's all."
Mulder smiled, satisfied at the resolution of their argument – he hated it when they fought. "This is a long-shot, Scully, but we don't have much to go on," he said, starting off up the uneven concrete path toward the temple entrance.
"Do we ever have much to go on?" Scully muttered, following him.
"Existentialist philosophies, Scully," Mulder chuckled. "Nobody really knows what's going on around them in an incomprehensible world, thus the only way to maintain sanity is to come to an acceptance of meaninglessness."
"I'll just take your word for that."
They entered the foyer of the building and glanced around at the ornate golden statues of Buddha that lined the rose-pink walls. Mulder followed Scully's lead and removed his shoes, wondering why she seemed so at home in the temple.
A short Asian woman at an information desk bowed to them and Mulder and Scully returned the gesture with different degrees of grace.
"My name is Fox Mulder, this is my partner Dana Scully; we're with the FBI" Mulder said, producing his ID.
"Ma'am, could you please tell us if you know this man?" Scully took out a printed picture of Shinji Osaka. The woman peered at the picture for a moment and nodded.
"He is a sponsor of the temple," she replied. "Mr. Osaka comes here often, he is a businessman. Is he in trouble?"
"It's just a routine enquiry," Mulder reassured her.
"How much do you know about Mr. Osaka?" Scully asked.
"Ah…" the woman pondered. "I don't know… not much. I don't think he is married… he sometimes comes here with his father. That is about it."
"Thank you very much," Mulder said quickly, moving away. Scully followed him to a large double door at the end of the foyer.
"I wish I'd worn my good socks today," Mulder said quietly. Scully glancing at her partner's hole-ridden socks before following him through the door to the worship hall.
The vast chamber was practically empty save for three worshippers in the front of the hall praying before rows of lighted incense sticks, one of them a Monk with a shaven-head. The lacquered wood panel walls reflected the tiny flames of hundreds of candles. They both stood, glancing around aimlessly, as though some shining ray of inspiration would lance out of the darkness and reveal the truth to them.
"This avails us nothing," Mulder said at last, frustrated. "Maybe we should talk to the minister or something?"
"It's a Buddhist temple, Mulder, they don't have a minister," Scully said.
"Then what do they have?"
Scully smiled at him lopsidedly. "Listen, Mulder," she said. "How about you trawl around here for a while and I try to find Shinji's father – that woman said he comes in here every now and again. Perhaps he knows something."
"Okay," Mulder nodded. "Good idea, Scully. I'll meet you back at the Precinct this afternoon." Scully turned and walked away. Mulder watched her firm, gently rounded buttocks as she walked, then caught himself, suddenly aware of where he was, and looked away.
He spent a few minutes walking around the perimeter of the room, inspecting the elegantly carved statues along the walls. Returning to the centre of the room he peered up at the massive oriental chandelier that hung from the high, vaulted ceiling.
"A beautiful culture, is it not?" a musical voice whispered and Mulder's head snapped back down to see a dark-garbed figure standing a few paces from him; the person had not been present mere seconds before.
"How did you…" Mulder stopped, staring at the strange man. He/she/it was covered entirely in swathes of dark material, no skin was visible. At the waist, tucked into a black sash, was a scabbarded samurai sword.
"Who are you?" Mulder asked, his hand moving to the butt of his gun.
"I am a Tengu," the figure whispered.
"Are you the samurai?" Mulder asked hesitantly.
"After a fashion, yes. I knew that you would come here."
Mulder drew his weapon from its holster and pointed it at the man. "Did you kill the CEO's of XHE and Mutual insurance?"
"Yes I did." Still whispering. One of the worshippers had caught sight of Mulder's pistol and shrieked loudly, running from the hall, the others followed.
"And you were the one who carved 'saburau' into the wall?" Mulder edged closer to the figure, the man was standing in a relaxed pose, arms folded.
"A hint," the samurai explained.
"You're under arrest," Mulder said, moving closer still. "Slowly remove the sword from your belt and lay it on the floor."
The black-garbed figure made a sound that could have been a chuckle then went on in a whisper. "The testimony you require can be found with Shinji's father," it said. "Now I must depart." The samurai turned away.
"Hey!" Mulder yelled, reaching out with his free hand to grasp the figure by the shoulder. His fingers encountered an area of intense cold and closed around nothing. The samurai's from became a pool of shadows, intangible and shifting, before dissolving and leaving Mulder standing alone in the empty hall.
CHAPTER 3: Feudal age.
Scully glanced down at the address scrawled on the piece of paper that Reilly had given her over the phone before turning off the car and stepping out. It was a secluded residential street in Forest Hills, Queens, with rows of trees shading the road and large, expensive looking homes fronted with lush gardens. The house was set at the top of the dead-end street, nestled amongst trees, a two-storey brick home that was far larger than necessary for its one occupant.
Scully walked up the narrow, winding path that led through the garden, noticing various oriental ornaments sitting amongst the foliage. Reaching the front door she pressed the button and waited. A few moments later the door opened to reveal a small, white-haired Japanese man in his sixties.
"Yes?" the man said, eying Scully's suit, obviously suspicious.
"Mr. Osaka?" Scully asked.
"Sir, I'm special Agent Dana Scully, with the FBI, may I come inside?"
"What have I done?" the old man looked frightened.
"It's alright sir," Scully reassured him. "I just want to talk to you about your son."
There was a brief flicker of some emotion across the old man's face - not shock but perhaps a realisation? Scully pondered as she was led inside the home past traditional Japanese landscape paintings; it had seemed almost as though he had expected this.
Osaka senior led Scully to a large living room where he showed her to a chair.
"Would you like some tea?" he asked.
"No, thank you," Scully replied. "I don't want to take up any more of your time than necessary." Osaka seated himself opposite her and folded his hands on his lap.
"What is it that you would like to know?"
Scully paused, realising that she was not entirely sure what she wanted to ask him. "Do you know if your son has any acquaintances," she said slowly, "people who do things for him?"
Osaka stared at her intently before responding. "Why do you ask?" he said.
There, Scully thought; a hint. He hadn't said: 'what are you talking about' or 'how should I know'.
"Mr. Osaka, I believe your son may be employing somebody to commit crimes for him, if you know anything about this it would be wise to tell me." She was in deep water now - knowing that the father would most probably tell the son that the feds were scooping for him – but it was crunch time, they needed answers soon.
Osaka closed his eyes for a time, leaning his head back and remaining motionless, and Scully thought that perhaps he had lapsed into sleep. Then he spoke.
"People have been killed?" Osaka said.
"Yes, sir," Scully prompted.
"This world is no longer a place for the warrior, there is no longer honour here," the old man said, opening his eyes. "Relics from the past who try to make this a world they understand only bring about death and pain… I should have known."
"What are you trying to say?"
"That the warlords of old killed enemies of the flesh but today there are only enemies of the dollar and the old methods no longer apply."
Scully thought for a moment then decided to go the whole way. "Does your son employ a samurai warrior?" she asked, grimacing inwardly at how the question sounded.
"Not a samurai," Osaka said quietly. "Something else. It has served my family for thousands of years; it is bound to us."
"What's going on?" came an angry shout from behind and Scully turned in her chair to see a younger Asian man enter the room. Although she had not met him personally she knew Shinji Osaka from the photo Mulder had shown her.
Mulder held the cellular phone to his ear and steadied himself against the armrest with his free hand as the taxi sped through the narrow residential streets; he had made the mistake of asking the cabbie to get him to Osaka senior's address quickly.
"Just put him on the line!" he snapped into the phone as the cab swerved to avoid a garbage truck. Reilly got off the end of the line and was replaced by the voice of Watanabe, the Japanese-American police officer.
"What's up, Agent Mulder?" the young officer asked.
"Watanabe, I need to know what a Tengu is," Mulder said, grimacing as the driver passed through a red light. He was in a hurry to be with Scully, to tell her what had happened and to speak with Shinji Osaka's father.
"It's a demon," Watanabe replied. "In Japanese mythology it's supposed to be some kind of trickster that inhabits forests and is related to martial arts in some way. If a person is to defeat a Tengu in combat then it will reveal something to them, give them a gift of some kind."
"Right," Mulder said. "Anything more you can tell me?"
"A story," Watanabe said. "Tengu are teachers of combat, of the way of the warrior. Some legends say they actually taught the first of the samurai and the ninja. There is a tale of an old samurai master that escaped from the field of a losing battle and fled into the mountains; he was intercepted there by a Tengu and returned as a ninja."
"So they're tied-in with the warrior classes of feudal Japan?"
"Thank you, Watanabe," Mulder said, and switched the phone off.
Shinji stared across the room fixedly at his father, ignoring Scully completely. She got the impression that she had inadvertently caused a massive family dispute, thought that was not her primary concern.
"Shinji Osaka…" she said, standing up. Osaka cut her off, shouting something in Japanese at the old man who replied calmly, Scully couldn't tell what they were saying but she could guess what it must be about.
Finally Shinji turned to her, looking her up and down appraisingly as a predator inspects its prey. "You are from the FBI too?" he asked.
"Special Agent Dana Scully," she replied, aware of the weight of the holster at her hip.
"I would have appreciated being made aware I was under investigation," he snapped. "As for you," he continued, turning back to his father, "you are nothing but an old fool!"
"What people have you had killed?" the older Osaka asked coldly, slowly standing up.
"Nobody!" Shinji yelled. "What kind of person do you think I am?"
"You're not being accused of anything yet, Mr. Osaka," Scully said diplomatically, stepping between the two. "The FBI is just making enquiries into the deaths of the two CEOs."
"CEOs?" the old man said in disbelief, stepping around Scully. "It is not a money-making tool! Its purpose is to eliminate threats to your life - enemies, not financial competitors. You have disgraced your family."
Shinji's face went ashen, rage glowing in his eyes. "You are a relic," he snarled, then turned on his heel and stalked out of the room. Scully heard the door slam.
"Are you alright, Sir?" She asked Osaka. The old man nodded detachedly. "I'm sorry this happened," she went on. "Please, I need you to tell me everything you know."
Osaka looked at her. "I will tell you a story," he said.
Mulder paid the driver and stepped out of the cab, glancing up the street at the home of Shinji Osaka's father. As the taxi sped off he walked quickly toward the house, eyeing the red BMW convertible parked next to the hired Taurus Scully had driven. Mulder quickened his pace, moving along the pebbled path until he rounded a large hedge and stopped dead.
Standing in the middle of the path was Shinji Osaka, glaring with undisguised malevolence at Mulder. The unexpected appearance of the businessman made Mulder instantly uneasy – had he done something to Scully, or to his father?
"Mr. Osaka…" Mulder began.
"Come to me, serve me" Osaka muttered, closing his eyes.
Mulder frowned. "Excuse me?"
Osaka began speaking in Japanese, slowly and deliberately, and as he spoke a pool of shadow formed behind him, solidifying into a standing figure. Mulder's mouth dropped open and he drew his pistol from its holster.
"I am here," the Tengu said, stepping forward.
Osaka's eyes snapped open and he half-turned to glare at the creature. "You did not kill them!" he snarled.
"No, I did not," the Tengu whispered.
"You will kill them now!" he shouted, pointing at Mulder.
The black-garbed figure paused a moment then stepped a few paces forward and stood in front of Mulder, who straightened and tried to look like a man who wasn't about to soil himself.
"You're both under arrest," Mulder said, raising his pistol and cursing himself for how weak his voice sounded. Staring into the impenetrable inky black through the eye-slit of the creature's headgear Mulder realised the Tengu had no face – it was as if it consisted entirely of shadow. How could he arrest an entity like this? How could something so inhuman be brought to justice? More importantly, how could Mulder hope to subdue it?
The Tengu stood stock-still, staring at Mulder who raised his pistol. "You are a man of honour," the creature whispered at last. "A warrior." Mulder said nothing, watching as it untucked the scabbarded sword from the sash at its waist and held it aloft.
"Put it down," Mulder said as firmly as he could.
"What are you waiting for?" Osaka snarled from behind. "Do my bidding, kill him!"
The Tengu turned slowly and thrust the weapon into Osaka's hands. "Kill him yourself," it whispered. "Show me that you are worthy and I will serve you again." With that the creature's form dissipated, evaporating into shadow.
Mulder stared at the space where the Tengu had stood then looked at Osaka; confusion and anger competed for control of the man's face as he looked down at the dark scabbarded sword in his hands.
"Drop it," Mulder commanded, levelling his pistol at the businessman.
Osaka chuckled suddenly, letting the sword fall to the pebbled path. "You can't touch me," he said. "You've no proof I've done anything."
"That's for me to worry about," Mulder muttered, taking a pair of handcuffs out of his jacket pocket.
"It was the feudal age," the elder Osaka said, absently kneading the padded armrest of his chair. "My ancestor, Yoshimune Akira, was a samurai warlord who plied his deadly trade on the battlefields of ancient Japan."
"I see," Scully said, not entirely sure if she really did.
"One day, whilst returning with his army to his castle, he received a report from a forward scout that a strange person had been encountered in the forest ahead." The old man stared directly into Scully's eyes. "When Yoshimune rode into the forest he found that it was not, in fact, a person, but a Tengu," he said slowly.
"A Tengu," Scully repeated, arching her eyebrows.
"A trickster demon, a spirit devoted to war and the ways of war." Osaka senior paused, glancing at the ceiling.
"Some kind of ghost?"
"A being older than man, one of the many presences that, in their own way, guided man from his beginnings."
"Right," Scully said, closing her eyes. She could already see the excited gleam in Mulder's eye.
"The creature challenged my ancestor to single combat," the old man went on. "Promising that, if he were to win, the Tengu would serve him and his family – protecting them from harm."
"And he won?"
"You're telling me that your son is having people killed by a mythological entity from ancient Japanese mythology that has been serving your family for thousands of years?" Scully said, not trying to sound unkind.
"My son must be stopped," Osaka said sadly. "I have been foolish in allowing this to pass beneath my notice. Ours is no longer a world for the warriors and the Tengu can no longer be bound to petty men who would greedily seek to further themselves."
Scully breathed deeply. "How do we stop this Tengu?" she asked.
"The creature cannot be stopped."
"Your ancestor beat it."
"I didn't tell you," Osaka senior said with a smile. "When the Tengu challenged Yoshimune it agreed to a fair fight."
"And?" Scully asked.
"The Tengu is a trickster spirit – normally it would never fight fair."
She sighed and took her card out of her pocket, putting it on the coffee table. "If you think of anything that may help, give me a call," she said.
"Agent Scully," the old man said as she rose to leave. "A samurai without a master is called a Ronin – he has no cause."
Scully stared at him. "What are you trying to say?" she asked.
"The Tengu answers to the youngest in my family and my son would never willingly free it from its servitude."
"Are you telling me to kill your son?" Scully asked, astonished and appalled.
"Sacrifices must be made," he said. "You are a guardian of the people, you must decide which the lesser evil is."
Scully stared at the man for a moment longer then turned and walked out.
"As you say, yours truly is no longer a world for the warriors," came a soft, musical whisper from the shadows of the room and the senior Osaka smiled slightly.
"Welcome, my old friend," the old man said in Japanese and the Tengu strode silently out into the centre of the room.
"Though true warriors still exist," the creature went on, "their role is different now."
"Many things are different," agreed Osaka.
Scully walked down the front steps, deep in thought, and failed to notice the two figures in front of her.
"Scully," Mulder said, and she jumped in surprise, looking up. Mulder held a calm-looking Shinji Osaka by the back of the shirt, the man's hands were manacled behind his back.
"Mulder," she responded. "What happened?"
CHAPTER 4: Elusive truth.
"I thought we'd agreed that we would take some time to gather hard evidence before we bagged Osaka," Reilly said. He was with Mulder and Scully, looking through a one way mirrored window to where the suspect sat quietly in a small interview room, alone and talking quietly to himself.
"Things happened faster than they should have," Mulder muttered.
"The suspect became aware of our inquiries before we were ready," Scully said, "and Agent Mulder…"
"Bagged him," Reilly finished for her.
"I met his samurai, Detective," Mulder said.
"Yeah, yeah, this Tenchu thing," Reilly said.
"Whatever, it's a person, right?"
"I don't think it's human, no," Mulder said quietly. "I saw it teleport… twice."
"Teleport?" Reilly asked, perplexed. "You gotta be kidding me."
"Detective, I can't vouch for what Agent Mulder says he saw," Scully said, "but during my time on the X-files I've seen and experienced things far stranger than that."
Mulder glanced at her, surprised and grateful.
Reilly stared at her. "You're serious… aren't you?" he said.
"Like I said, sir, I didn't see it. But we shouldn't discount the possibility out of hand."
"And this sword that he said the Tergu gave to Osaka, is it the murder weapon?"
Mulder had lost interest in the conversation and was watching Osaka behind the glass; the man's lips moved silently with his unheard words. "Can we monitor what he's saying?" he asked suddenly.
"Uh… yeah, I think so." Reilly looked about the tiny observation room, reaching for a switch mounted on the wall and flicking it on. Quiet mumbled Japanese could be heard through the speaker system.
"Can we get officer Watanabe in here?" Scully asked, staring at Osaka.
The Tengu stood motionless and silent as the elder Osaka slowly sipped his tea, its thoughts unreadable beneath the impenetrable darkness that surrounded its form.
"Have you come to a decision?" it whispered at last. "I leave the choice to you, though you are aware of the choice I would make."
The old man nodded slowly. "I love my son," he said. "But I know that your servitude to our family must end." He sighed.
"I cannot kill him, as you know, it is impossible for me to strike down one I have sworn fealty to." The Tengu walked to an ornate wardrobe on the wall and opened a cabinet.
"You have selected a champion, then?" Osaka senior asked.
The creature removed two identical samurai long-swords in ornate, lacquered scabbards. "Yes, I have," it said, before disappearing in a shroud of shadow without another word.
"Come to me," Watanabe translated slowly. "Come to my aid, come and serve me… that is the general gist."
Mulder nodded. "I figured it'd be something like that," he said. The four of them stood for a moment, staring through the glass at the man.
"So, he's calling the Tengu?" Scully asked.
"Yup," Mulder replied, fishing in his pocket for a small bag of sunflower seeds.
"Then why isn't it here?" Reilly asked.
"I think it's rebelling against him," Mulder said quietly, offering the Detective a seed that was refused. "The Tengu spoke to me, it dropped hints and left that message on Agent Scully's wall. When Osaka told it to kill me it refused. I believe that it has a mind of its own and that it no longer wishes to serve Osaka."
Scully looked at him. "Mulder, Shinji's father said that the only way for the Tengu to be freed from its servitude is for Shinji to be killed."
"So, perhaps it is still bound to him, despite its defiance," Mulder mused.
"Alright, lets waste him then," Reilly said, gripping the butt of his pistol. Mulder and Scully gaped at him. "Don't worry kids," he said, grinning, "just a joke."
"Right," Scully said, eyeing the Detective. "If the Tengu, or the individual who is impersonating one, actually wants Osaka dead then what's to stop him or her from doing the deed?"
"Bushido," Watanabe said, blushing a little when all eyes swung to him. "Uh… the way of the warrior," he went on. "It's an honour thing – if this guy, Tengu, is bound into Osaka's service then he… or it… can't really kill him, it's against the code."
"I see," Mulder said, snapping his fingers. "When Osaka asked it to kill me it handed him the sword and told him to do it himself… the Tengu was trying to make Osaka goad me into shooting him."
"Splitting hairs a little bit, isn't it?" said Scully.
"That's just the way it goes," Watanabe said. "There are rules and regulations that have been passed down from generation to generation that have begun to stagnate in more modern times and have become empty and meaningless… yet people still cling to them."
"This is all very fascinating," Reilly muttered, "but meanwhile, back in reality, XHE has sprung for bail, Osaka is walking outta here… now."
With the usual round of stern warnings along the lines of "don't leave town", Osaka quietly left police headquarters in the company of his lawyer and two business associates. Mulder sat on a seat in the hallway outside of Reilly's office, absently drumming on his knees and staring into space. It was frustrating beyond words – the elusiveness of truths that would flirt so close to the light but never fully reveal themselves into a tangible, provable form that could be taken and shown to others with the words 'here it is, I told you so'. He sighed and rubbed his eyes, wondering bleakly how he could possibly bring a man like Osaka to justice – his high-price lawyers would tear apart a case based upon the questionable testimony of an eccentric FBI Agent nicknamed 'Spooky' that revolved around mythical creatures and ancient swords.
"Are you okay, Mulder?" Scully asked suddenly, appearing beside him. He looked up; her sky blue eyes emanated concern and he smiled slightly, thankful for her presence. He could draw strength from the love he felt for her in order to find the determination to fight on.
"Just peachy, Scully," he said.
She sat down beside him and closed her eyes briefly. "I guess we can take some comfort from the knowledge that the…Tengu is refusing to do Shinji's bidding," she said. "But apart from that we don't have anything left to look into."
"You think it's time to head home?" he asked.
"I don't think there is much more for us to do; we were brought in as consultants, we provided a scenario that is probably mostly accurate, and now the local law enforcement agencies will do their utmost to take care of the rest."
"There's gotta be something…" Mulder muttered. "I dunno, Scully…there has to be something we're missing."
She smiled and patted his knee affectionately. "I know I can't argue with your questing mind," she said.
Detective Reilly rounded the corner, stared at Scully sitting beside Mulder with her hand on his leg, pulled a strange facial expression, and began to talk. "Uh…the boys in electronic recon just intercepted a call made from Osaka's cell phone to Thai Airlines, he was arranging a flight to Japan."
"His passport is barred?" Mulder said.
"Of course, I just thought I'd keep you in the loop." Reilly looked uncomfortable and made a big show of looking like he had just remembered something. He turned away swiftly.
"So Osaka is trying to flee," Scully mused.
"Yes," said Mulder.
"There goes the last lingering doubt I had that he was behind the deaths."
"Indeed." Mulder sighed and in that instant there was a whisper of sensory experience around them somewhere between sound and movement.
"You're chasing your proverbial tails," a chill voice whispered. Scully and Mulder's heads shot up to see the dark-garbed figure that had inexplicably appeared before them.
"You!" Mulder shouted, reaching for his pistol. Scully remained rooted to the spot.
"Fret not, my friend," the Tengu whispered, lunging forward at Mulder. "I am not the one you must battle." The creature grabbed Mulder by the shoulders, a liquid-like darkness flowing from its outstretched arms and across Mulder's form, enveloping him in a cold shadow. In a second both the Tengu and Mulder had disappeared.
Scully surged to her feet, eyes wide, looking at the spot where Mulder had sat and glancing fearfully around the hallway.
"Mulder!" she yelled. "Mulder! Mulder! Somebody, help me!"
CHAPTER 5: Of swords and honour.
The darkness receded from his vision and Mulder became aware of space around him. A tingling sensation suffused through his entire body and for a moment he found he was unable to move, hanging onto the physical realm through the vision of the Tengu's shadow-shrouded face only inches from his own.
"Your services are required," the creature whispered. It released his shoulders and Mulder fell heavily onto his backside. "I apologise for the impoliteness of this abduction but it was necessary."
"What do you want?" Mulder snarled, regaining control over his body. He sprang to his feet, dragging his pistol from its holster and aiming it directly between where the Tengu's eyes should have been.
"Freedom," it whispered. "Freedom from the service of petty, self-serving fools."
Mulder stared at it for a moment then glanced around, noticing for the first time that they were in a massive, darkened room, deserted, with a multitude of chest-high cubicles and computers atop desks. "Where are we?" he asked.
"The offices of Osaka San's business," the Tengu replied.
"Why did you bring me here?"
"Do you always have conversations across the metal of your firearm?"
Mulder frowned. "You've already admitted to the murders of two men, I'm not sure I can trust you not to disembowel me."
The Tengu chuckled - a harsh rasping sound through an inhuman throat. "I like you, Mulder San," it whispered. "Men such as you are a breed I have watched slowly die over thousands of years to be replaced by cowardly hypocrites and insidious manipulators concerned only with their own success."
Mulder lowered his pistol slowly. "I'm not going to kill Shinji Osaka," he said. "I know that's what you want, but I wont do it. I'll bring him to justice, I'll put him behind bars, but I won't murder him."
"Commendable," it said. "And once again I must apologise for putting you in this position, but you will do what you must for I cannot defy my master indefinitely. A man can not be aware of the perceived atrocities he is capable of when necessity demands them."
"Osaka is going to attack me?"
The Tengu didn't reply. It reached to its waist sash and drew one of two Katana swords that nestled there. The blade shimmered with tiny blue streaks of energy.
"Whoa!" Mulder took two quick steps back and lifted his gun again. "Put it down!" he yelled.
"Oh, do dispense with this toy," the creature whispered. The Tengu swung the blade through the air, impossibly, untraceably fast.
Mulder pulled the trigger of his pistol belatedly. The weapon made a dull click and the severed rear half of the chambered round dropped out of the neatly sliced cross-section that had been cut through the length of the weapon. The other end of the gun dropped onto the carpeted floor.
Mulder stared with disbelief at the stump of a pistol in his grip; the severed edge was smooth, the steel gleaming.
The Tengu reversed the blade and offered Mulder the hilt of the weapon. "Guns are dishonourable," it said. "Take this sword."
Not really knowing what he was doing, Mulder let the remains of his gun fall to the floor and reached slowly for the handle of the sword. He gripped the hilt of the blade and, as the Tengu released it, the shimmering blue energy vanished as though that strange power was an extension of the Tengu itself and now the sword was just an ordinary weapon of steel.
At that moment there was a soft chime from the other end of the room and an elevator door whisked open to reveal Shinji Osaka.
"Hey, hey! Take it easy!" Detective Gabe Reilly took Scully by the shoulders and made her look him in the eye. "Tell me what happened," he said firmly, trying to calm her.
"The Tengu," Scully said, wide-eyed. "It took Mulder."
"What? What do you mean 'took him'?"
She shrugged out of his grip angrily. "It appeared, grabbed Mulder, and they both vanished into thin air," she snapped in frustration.
"Teleported, right?" Reilly asked, incredulous.
"Yes, they teleported!" she all but screamed in his face.
"H-Hey, cool it Agent Scully," Reilly stammered, following her as she jogged down the hallway. "Where are you going?"
"I'm going to find him," she replied.
"By finding Shinji Osaka."
"Well, well, well," Osaka muttered darkly as he stepped into the room. He glanced between the silent Tengu and Mulder. "It seems my darkly-garbed associate likes you, Agent Mulder," he said.
"No need to get possessive, we're just friends," Mulder said warily, glancing down at the sword in his hands.
"This ends here," the Tengu whispered, reaching for the second sword at its waist. It took out the scabbarded blade and tossed it through the air to Osaka who caught it and looked questioningly at the creature.
He seemed to be about to say something when the sudden grating chime of his cellular phone screeched unexpectedly. He reached into he pocket and took out the phone, keying it on and lifting it to his ear.
"Osaka," he answered. There was a short pause and he narrowed his eyes. "Hello?"
"Okay, we have him," the stocky FBI technician said, swivelling in his chair to face Scully and Reilly. "The microwave signal has been triangulated to an area on third and Park Avenue South."
Scully and Reilly glanced at each other.
"That's the offices of XHE," the Detective said.
"And that's where Mulder will be," Scully said. "Get a response team together."
Perplexed, Osaka turned off the phone and dropped it back in his pocket, facing Mulder.
"This whole thing has destroyed me, you know," he said.
Mulder shrugged. "Compared to the men you had killed I'd say you came out on top," he noted quietly.
"Their troubles are over." Osaka slid the scabbard off the sword in his grip and tossed it aside. "As yours soon will be."
"Yessssss!" the Tengu hissed. "Do for yourself what you would have others do for you."
Osaka lunged forward at a surprised Mulder, sweeping his sword across in a wide arc.
Mulder reflexively brought his own blade up, almost too late. The swords clashed loudly and Osaka swung again, a savage downward stroke that would have cleaved into Mulder's chest had he not lifted his weapon and parried the blow.
"Hey, back off!" Mulder shouted, stepping back.
"You should have thought of this before you ruined my life!" Osaka spat, lunging again. Mulder clumsily stopped another forceful sword stroke, the clanging as the steel met rung in his ears. Osaka spun around; delivering a vicious cut across the belly that would have disembowelled Mulder had he not jumped back.
Mulder swore, touching the bloodstain where the blade had glanced his stomach.
"You don't need to do this," he yelled.
"You know nothing of honour!" Osaka snarled.
The Tengu, perched birdlike atop a swivel chair, watching the battle, snickered quietly to itself at that comment.
Shinji attacked again, swinging his sword back and forth and weaving an ever-tightening web of steel around his reluctant opponent. The blades clashed again and again as Mulder fought to hold his own against an enemy far more skilled than he. Even in the frenzy of the fight his mind was working rapidly, piecing together the circumstances and various mentalities that had brought about his current situation; the Tengu wanted Osaka to die with some semblance of honour – the purity of a traditional sword duel – because its own honour was tied to the man and, though it wanted him dead, it did not want him disgraced.
Great, thought Mulder as he knocked away a would-be decapitating blow. But where does that leave me? Up the creek without martial arts training. He couldn't help but wonder why the Tengu thought he would ever be able to defeat Osaka.
Fortifying his stance, Mulder went on the offensive – stabbing forward with his blade. Osaka smashed his sword aside and swung for his head, Mulder barely managing to duck in time. All Mulder needed was a moment's lapse; although his Smith and Wesson 1056 sidearm was in two pieces he still had his Walther PPK 9mm in its ankle holster – if he could get to it he would be able to immobilise Osaka, hopefully without killing him.
As the two continued fighting the Tengu looked up suddenly, as though noticing something that it had failed to detect before. It dematerialised quietly, fading away into shadows and leaving the two gladiators alone to battle.
Kevlar vests were never particularly compatible with women's breasts, and Scully shifted hers around uncomfortably, trying to make it sit in a position that somehow didn't squeeze her assets painfully against her chest. Abandoning the battle between combat gear and anatomy as hopeless, she checked her pistol and held it tightly in a double-handed grip.
"Alright, guys," Reilly said to the rest of assembled tactical response team, standing outside the foyer of the XHE building. The offices were closed, so there was no concern for workers in the building who had all gone home hours before. "We got a Federal Agent missing, perhaps abducted, who may or may not be in there with a suspect in a double-homicide case and maybe another guy who thinks he is a creature outta ancient Japanese mythology…" he turned to Scully, "is that all?"
"Yes, Detective," Scully said coldly.
"Right," he turned back to the men brandishing submachine guns and clad in black body armour, appearing not unlike modern versions of the samurai themselves.
"Let's move it, people. Remember, this whacko has offed two people with a samurai sword – stay alert!"
Mulder spun with all the grace of a falling brick out of the way of a powerful downward stroke that cleaved into the top of a cubicle barrier.
As Osaka freed his sword from the chipboard wall, Mulder took the opportunity to reach down with his left hand. Bringing the Walther PPK up, he swung the barrel of the little pistol at Osaka.
"Now drop the Goddamned sword and take three steps back!" he yelled, infuriated. His next words were unrepeatable; Osaka did not pause for a second – his blade lashed out, catching Mulder across the forearm and the back of his hand and opening up a long cut that exposed bone in one place.
Blood splashed onto the carpet beside the fallen PPK.
The team burst through the door with a mobile ram and then rushed inside, Scully and Reilly in the lead.
They came to a gradual stop in the middle of the foyer and all looked on in puzzlement at the black-cloaked figure of the Tengu standing in a relaxed pose, directly in their path.
"What the hell?" muttered Reilly, taking in the dark garb and shadow-shrouded appearance of the ninja-like creature.
"Where's Mulder?" Scully demanded.
"He is occupied," the Tengu whispered.
"You're under arrest," Scully said, lifting her weapon, "for the murder of…"
"I'm quite sure this is all very serious for you," it interrupted, "but events will resolve themselves shortly. I cannot allow you to interfere."
Mulder swung his sword one-handed, trying to protect his injured left arm. He flung himself at his opponent now, attacking as best he could because it had become blatantly obvious that if he did not defeat Osaka then the businessman would kill him.
Shinji had kicked his PPK away – no help from that now. His only hope was to defeat Osaka, he thought, and if that meant killing him then so be it; the Tengu would get its wish.
"He doesn't look that impressive to me," Reilly muttered. "Look, he ain't even carrying his sword."
Scully said nothing. She eyed the Tengu across the barrel of her pistol; the creature remained motionless. "Put your hands up!" she commanded. Surprisingly, the creature obeyed, raising its thin arms above its darkly-cowled head.
"Uh… Yeah," Scully said, taken aback. Two policemen moved forward cautiously on either side of Scully, approaching the Tengu in readiness to grab it.
They never got a chance.
Its arms shot out at an impossible speed, faster than the eye could detect, and hammered bony fists into the faces of the two men with a pair of gut-wrenching crunches. They went down, thumping to the marble floor at Scully's feet and lying still. Scully's eyes widened.
"Alright you sonofabitch!" Reilly snarled, raising his colt 45. He snapped off three shots at the Tengu who remained motionless, unaffected as the rounds passed through its body without disturbing a single molecule. The bullets bit into the cement wall behind the creature, spraying fine concrete dust.
"I can become as ethereal as a dream," it whispered to the astonished group. "And in an instant as devastating as a typhoon." With that, the creature launched into an impossibly high leap and planted its foot in Reilly's face.
They were both tiring and sweat was cascading from their faces as they circled each other in predatory death stances.
"Okay," Mulder wheezed. "Howsabout we call it a draw?"
Osaka spat and renewed his attack, swiping at Mulder's neck. Mulder brought his sword up and knocked the blow away, the blades shrieking in high-pitched steel agony.
Osaka was put momentarily off guard, unbalanced, and Mulder took the opportunity; he lunged forward with a quick stabbing movement, the tip of his blade sinking into the soft flesh of Osaka's stomach. The businessman screamed, dropping his own sword and scrabbling at the blade embedded in his gut as it slid further inside, skewering organs as it went.
Shots rang out as the tactical response team fired at the Tengu, peppering the ceiling with bullets from their high-powered assault weapons, trying to pin the shadow-shrouded demon as it leapt back and fourth in their midst, spinning, punching and kicking through the inadequate police force.
Scully fell to her knees beside Reilly to avoid the crossfire. "This is insane!" she yelled above the din. Reilly, stemming the flow of blood from his mouth, only nodded. "It's distracting us," she continued, "diverting our attention from something. I'm going upstairs!" She got up and bolted off toward the elevator.
Osaka kneeled; hunched over, blood pooling about him. Mulder stood in front of the prone figure, gripped his dripping sword, frowning as though unable to believe what he had done.
"Do it…" Osaka gasped. "End it; let me have my honour. Do it!"
Mulder stared at him.
Down in the foyer the Tengu leapt over a policeman swinging his rifle like a club. It landed, spinning around to kick the man in the back of the head.
"Do it!" the creature whispered to itself.
Scully stood silently inside the elevator as it whisked her up through the deserted office building. She gripped her pistol by her side as she stopped the lift on each floor to check, praying that she would not find her partner dead.
"Mulder!" she called out into the dark office space and, hearing no response, allowed the door to close.
"Do it!" Osaka rasped. "I'm dead anyway, at least do me the courtesy of ending my life quickly."
Mulder opened his mouth but no words came out. He looked on at the dying man and lowered his sword slowly to his side.
"You're a fool!" Osaka snarled. He fell forward, reaching out to where Mulder's Walther PPK lay on the carpet in front of him. His hand curled around the pistol's stock and he lifted the gun to point it at Mulder.
The pistol didn't fire. Osaka's arm dropped limply to his side and his head rolled back off his severed neck, gouting thick blood. As the headless corpse slumped to the floor, Mulder lowered the blade again and dropped it, taking a few steps back.
In the foyer the Tengu smiled to itself suddenly and vanished into thin air, leaving the squad of policemen milling around, confused and frightened.
The elevator door opened and Scully looked out into the gloom of the office.
"Mulder!" she called.
"Yeah…" came the weak reply.
"Mulder, are you okay?" she yelled, running toward the sound of his voice.
She found him, sitting with his back against a cubicle and nursing his bloody left arm. There was a strange, vacant look in his eyes.
"Mulder, what happened?" she asked, kneeling down beside him to look at his arm. He gestured and she turned to look across the aisle to where her line of sight had been obstructed before.
"Oh my God," she breathed, taking in the decapitated body that lay there.
"Think he'll pull through?" Mulder muttered, climbing to his feet.
"Did you…?" She looked at him and his face told her not to ask. "Mulder, the Tengu is in the foyer, it is battling a squad of…"
"No," Mulder interrupted. "It's gone."
EPILOGUE: A place for warriors.
"So, you decapitated an insurance executive with a sword?" Skinner said, glaring across his desk at Mulder who sat uncomfortably beside Scully. They were in the assistant director's office, three days after the New York debacle, and Mulder's left arm was tightly bandaged.
"Uh…" Mulder shifted in his seat and tried to think of something funny or intelligent to say. But he wasn't feeling funny or intelligent so he said nothing.
"This is even worse than the time you impaled that boy you thought was a vampire," Skinner muttered.
"He was a vampire!" Mulder protested.
"Sir, Agent Mulder wasn't given much choice," Scully broke in quickly, warning her partner with a stern glance.
"Yeah? Well I wasn't there," Skinner said. "The FBI can protect you on this one, Mulder. Luckily Shinji Osaka's father isn't pressing charges."
The meeting went on and at the end Mulder and Scully were sent away. They walked silently down the hallway, each pondering the bizarre events of the week.
"You know what?" Mulder said when they stepped into the elevator.
"What?" Scully asked.
"I hope that Tengu is laughing it up, wherever it is."
The Tengu flitted invisibly through the mean streets of the ghetto it its spirit form, intangible and unseen. It marvelled at the new sense of freedom it felt but at the same time railed inwardly at the aimlessness, the lack of purpose. Serving a selfish, money-mongering master for so long was not the way of a warrior – but was there a need for a warrior anymore in the post-feudal world? The creature wondered for a moment if the FBI man, Mulder, was in need of a guardian spirit then chuckled at the thought; Mulder was more than capable of taking care of himself, and besides, his morals prevented him from using the services of the Tengu.
It paused for a moment and floated above the scene of a fight in an alleyway. Two African-American teens were pummelling a third who lay curled up on the ground, shouting obscenities and the like at him.
The Tengu drifted down, gathering its molecules together to slowly materialise into solid form, and landed silently behind the two attackers.
"The seed of brutality lies in cowardice," the creature whispered. The two youths, clad in the baggy apparel of street culture, whipped around to face the Tengu who hammered the first with two quick blows to the face and kicked the second in the head in a blindingly fast burst of movement. They both fell, unconscious, beside their battered and bleeding victim.
"Oh sht!" the boy said, spitting blood and looking up at the strange, dark-garbed figure before him. He climbed unsteadily to his feet and appraised the Tengu. "What you s'posed to be, dog?" he asked.
The Tengu said nothing, eying the youth ponderously.
"Damn, you messed them fckers up good," the boy went on, looking down at the prone forms of his attackers. "That's stupid sht, man! I was in their territory, now they'll come after me harder next time."
The Tengu tilted its head, a smile crossing its unseen inhuman face. Perhaps there was still a place for warriors after all.
"What if I was there to protect you?" it asked.