ASHES OF THE PHOENIX
written by Victar, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
Victar's Archive: http://www.victarfanfics.com
PART III: DESTRUCTION
Chapter 14: Super Police
"Deep down in his gut he was absolutely certain that he
had learned everything he needed to know, that if he could just find some way to juggle and
rearrange the bits of knowledge and information he possessed, the entire picture would finally
take shape and become clear."
-Mike Resnick, Stalking the
Unicorn: A Fable of Tonight
Where am I...?
My head hurts. I raise it gingerly, and try to think.
The Order of Light believes that when mortals perish, their
souls may go to the Black Abyss,
the Grey Kingdom, or the Paradise.
The Black Abyss is hardly ever discussed. There is dissent
as to whether it is the bottomless
gulf of N'Kai, the unquenchable desert of Limbo, or the nameless void of utter nonexistence. One
thing is agreed: the souls of the cruellest and most despicable beings, those who are thoroughly
beyond hope of redemption, shall go there and never return.
This would explain why it is
seemingly impossible to resurrect a truly evil being, after a certain amount of time has passed. The
soul is simply irretrievable. This also may be why pseudo-immortal necromancers such as Shang
Tsung fear Death so greatly. They know, or suspect, what awaits them.
The Grey Kingdom is where the overwhelming majority of
mortal souls shall pass. Much is
rumored of this mysterious land and its enigmatic rulers, if indeed it has any. It is a place without
cheer or sorrow, pleasure or pain.
What happens next is also a disputed topic. Some say the
Kingdom brings a peace not known in Life, and eternal sleep. Others think a soul is cleansed of its
past, and reborn in an appropriate mortal body. Still others claim the Grey Kingdom is the first
stop on a longer road to the depths of Hell, where a wicked yet not irreparably corrupt soul may
redeem itself through penance, or a restless soul may find ways to involve itself in mortal affairs
once more. Perhaps all of these are true.
The Paradise is something else entirely. Precious few
mortals earn passage to its unknown
lofts, for to reach it, a soul must not only be pure. Love is the key. If the bond of true love
mutually binds the hearts and souls of two virtuous beings, for as long as they live, then Death
itself does not have the power to separate them forever. The Paradise is a land of joyful reunion
and eternal contentment, and the love preserved within is said to be the foundation of the Cosmic
This is why the Order of Light allows its monks to marry.
Believing what they do, how
can they deny their adherents' inalienable right to search for their one true soulmate?
These are not the only things that may happen to a soul,
however. It is possible for a
consummately skilled, supremely powerful necromancer to recall a soul, and return it to Life in its
repaired vessel of flesh. Yet the necessary cost of blood sacrifice Power is so enormous, requiring
so much murder and torment, that only a monster will undertake the crime of resurrection.
It is more common for a necromancer to simply trap a soul
upon the mortal planes of
existence, preventing its final journey. Displacement, you see, is a way to accumulate energy.
When you use a rope and pulley to lift a heavy sandbag up to the ceiling, you store an amount of
potential energy. You may let go of the rope at any time to release that energy, in the form of a
weighty crash as the falling bag hits the floor. Or, to take the reverse direction, tie a balloon filled
with helium to trivial note. The helium, displaced from the lower-density atmosphere above,
strains to pull the note upward; if the strain is great enough, the note flies.
So it is with a soul. A proficient necromancer may, under
the correct circumstances, contain
a soul and channel its inevitable effort to depart into great Power. That the soul suffers terrible
anguish from being so abused is of little concern to merciless fiends such as Shang Tsung, the
Shao Kahn, or Kazuya Mishima.
With his name comes partial remembrance, for he is,
indirectly, responsible for my... death?
I am Raiden, god of Thunder.
What happens to a god when he dies? Where does his
*Where do you
The Angel is before me.
I stand and study her, learning nothing new. Her aqua eyes
the end of everything. The azure gem in her forehead radiates a Power that transcends mere
elements. Her austere stance is in keeping with her penultimate authority over all that draws
breath. She is both elegant and terrible.
She destroyed me for overstepping the boundaries of the
Divine Sanctions, just as I feared she would. Yet here I am, manifested before her.
"Did you bring me back?" I
can scarcely believe that I am
asking the question. The Angel is one who rends, not one who rebuilds. She never returns those
who fall within into her dominion to Life. Never.
*I told you that if you
manifested before your Chosen
Ones, your essence would be unmade. I did not specify for how long it would remain that
way.* Haughtiness drips from her excuse, as though she has completed
some distasteful chore and no longer wants to think about it.
Well, that is her problem.
"You were bluffing. You were
bluffing all along!"
*Do not tempt me to
"I do not care! It was all
for nothing! For six months I have
waited, hearing the desperate entreaties of my Chosen Ones, and unable to answer a single word
for fear of you. For fear of your bluff! Now, I know that I could have called it at any time. I could
have prevented Chief Thunder's murder. I could have exposed the traitor in Sanctuary! I could
*You shall be
quiet,* she says, and
my mouth harshly shuts itself, with my teeth biting painfully into my tongue.
*It was not a bluff. I
could not let you
respond to the prayers of your Chosen Ones, or the prayers of any common mortal, because of
the Divine Sanctions. If you had tried, I would have unmade you before you could manifest, and I
would not have remade you.*
Then I remember. When I finally garnered the courage to
act, it was in response to the
heartfelt plea of-
"Jun Kazama," I say, as the
Angel frees my teeth and sore
*She is one of
my Chosen, as is Lei Wulong.
That is why you were allowed to appear in Sanctuary, and why you are restored
It is then that a small riddle clears itself up. The Angel must
have sent Kazama's prophetic
dream, to encourage the healer to call for my aid.
*You have served me
well - without intention, as the
ancient laws demand. Even so, it is only because you were a god that I could undo what I had
*Now, you may do as
you will. Stay here, and continue
to record events of the Mother Realm; or go, and continue to influence
"Am I immune to the Divine
*In a manner of
"What do you-"
Something is wrong with my voice. It is flat, and shallow.
Gods do not sound like that. I am
experiencing the unorthodox hurt of a bitten tongue.
I touch the sore member with my index finger; the digit's
tip is moist with spittle and reddish
blood. Gods do not bleed. Not in this celestial domain.
"Wh-what have you-?" I
stutter, another absurdity. Gods do
not hesitate upon words; our communication transcends the tool of language. I reach for the
cosmic Power that is my essence, yet all I find is a pitiable sack of flesh, with a limited magical
Talent concerning elements of the storm, such as might be wielded by a-
"You have made me a
*It is both a boon and a
price. You wanted so dearly to
be liberated from the Divine Sanctions, and I cannot be troubled to worry whether you shall
violate them again.*
"B-but is this
*Should the Mother
Realm reclaim its independence - an
unlikely, yet possible outcome - it shall be in need of a thunder god. Otherwise, I see no reason to
return you to what you were. If you travel to the mortal planes of existence, you shall become
trapped upon them until you regain divinity.
*If you perish as a
She smiles. It is an exquisitely beautiful expression, yet not
a kind one.
*Are you certain you
do not wish to remain my
I am not at all certain. Still, duty compels me; I must warn
my Chosen Ones about-
What was I going to warn them about?
I have previously assumed the likeness of a mortal, even
had my Power temporarily limited
to the realm of mortal abilities, when I participated in the corrupt Tournaments of Shang Tsung
and the Shao Kahn. But never, never before have I forsaken my divine knowledge. Trying to
concentrate, I hold my hand to my forehead. The action does not help.
It is gone! The universal wisdom, the multitude of hidden
secrets, the intertwining paths of
possible futures, it is all gone. My mind is a mortal brain, and it cannot hold the nigh-omniscience
of a god. I sacrificed myself to preserve the cursed demon Lei Wulong, and I cannot even recall
Perhaps I will scribe the fate of the Mother Realm for a
while longer. Somebody has to do it.
The makeshift jail cell contained six alert guards, one
apparently unconscious prisoner, and
three of his friends, all awaiting Nightwolf's return. For hours, the three friends had pored over a
mystery they could not solve, until their minds went numb from the strain. Finally, they had
agreed to give themselves a rest, and engage in a temporary diversion. Each of them possessed a
hand of seven cards, spread in a fan-shape, and a small deck of additional cards to draw from.
They peered first at their hands, then at each other.
"Okay," Sparky decided, as he set down a card with a
finely brushed picture of a red
mountain range. He turned it lengthwise and added another card, depicting a straw doll in a
clamp. "Black Vise on you, Lao."
"Me? Why me?" Kung Lao indignantly returned.
"So I can fantasize about putting your head in one. I'm
"Well, fine. Dark Ritual, Hypnotic Specter, I'm done.
Guess who the Hippie will attack next
"Quite inaccurate. My parents were happily married. If you
wish to cast aspersions, they
should be directed to me personally."
"Okay, you're not a bastard. You're cheap."
"Much better, Sparkles."
"I told you to stop calling me that!"
Kung Lao snickered, and nodded to Jun. "By the way, it is
"Um." The healer bit her lower lip. "I think I want to
summon these Scryb Sprites?"
"Well, go ahead. Put down a Forest and tap it for
"Uh, okay." She set down a card with an illustration of lush
woodlands and rapped it
with her fingernails, making a soft tap-tap sound. "Now what?"
"Are you sure you've played this game before?" Sparky
"You asked if I knew magic. I've never heard of this game.
Lei, are you sure you
don't want to join us?"
She looked over her shoulder, to where the cop reclined on
wooden bench. His eyes were closed, and he had been positioned on his back, though his arms
drooped on the floor. His breathing had settled into the slow, shallow rhythm of a sleeper.
"Say, I just remembered," Kung Lao said, snapping his
fingers. "Lei, here's a little something
I should have given you a long time ago. These once belonged to the late, great Johnny Cage.
You've seen his movies, haven't you? He's best known for Dragon Fist, Dragon Fist
II, and the
award-winning Sudden Violence.
"Anyway, Cage always loved his fans. I'm sure he'd want
you to wear these in his name.
Well, mostly sure. I know you'll find them helpful when you get out of here." The monk removed
a soft, rectangular leather case from his divided vest, and loosely tossed it by Lei's motionless
"You're wasting your breath," Sparky grumbled. "He's in a
"Soo desu ka?" Jun mused, rolling her eyes.
"Suuuure he is," Kung Lao drawled, with a wry smile.
"Aw, c'mon. Look at him. He's been out like a light ever
since that god died."
"Gods do not perish so easily. Raiden has died before -
Sub-Zero's brother killed him, in fact
- and he has returned to when and where he was most needed."
"Oh, yeah? Where was he when Shao Kahn invaded the
"The gods of Light help those who help themselves."
"I oughtta clobber you for that. And if I run into any more
'gods of Light,' they'd better have
a real answer for me, or I'll 'help' them to a fat-"
"You needed to see me?" growled a new voice.
The three card-players turned to face a
thoroughly exhausted Nightwolf. His clothing was stained with sweat, and his long hair was
matted from days of neglect. Dust and toil sullied the red war-paint on his face, and the feathers
on his headband. The shaman probably would have collapsed, if not for his ability to borrow
strength from Sanctuary's sacred lands. Though he must have felt grief and great anger upon
learning of Chief Thunder's murder, his only display of emotion was a stern frown. Jax was with
"Thank you for coming," Jun gratefully acknowledged.
"Did Sonya tell you everything?"
"We exchanged information. While all of you flew into a
panicked frenzy over some demon,
a great mass of mutants and Centaurians surrounded Sanctuary's outer borders. The enemy
knows where we are. They swarmed so thickly we were barely able to steal past them."
"Funny thing is," Jax noted, "they weren't looking for us,
and we thought they'd been
alerted. Any type of organized search could have brought at least one of their squads close
enough for Nightwolf's cloaking magic to fail, but it didn't happen."
Nightwolf continued, "We have warned Raven and
Lieutenant Blade of these dire straits.
They have declared a state of emergency. I have maintained my personal concealment spells since
we set foot in Sanctuary, but my range is limited. As soon as this business is finished, I must
replenish myself in the shadow of Liu Kang's concealment, and review Sanctuary's wards.
"So, is this the demon that brought such uproar?"
Nightwolf scrutinized Lei's tainted aura,
while Jax scanned the cop with his microcomputer. "I cannot believe that our Chief would invite
such a creature without taking precautions."
"He did," Jun affirmed. "He said that Lei should be guarded
at all times, and made him swear
"Indeed. Did Chief Thunder warn the demon of 'swift and
severe' consequences, should its
Oath be broken?"
"Well, yes. I'm pretty sure he did."
"And did the Chief touch him at all?"
"Um, soo desu nee... yes. Yes, he did. He shook Lei's
"Right or left?"
"Right, I think."
Nightwolf crouched next to Lei, and picked up his limp
right hand. The shaman chanted a
series of syllables.
Golden light radiated from Lei's palm.
It shone brighter, so strongly that the others had to avert
their eyes, then dimmed to a steady
glow. The illumination marked Lei's hand with the symbol of the Phoenix, bathed in fire.
"He is innocent," stated the shaman.
"That's what I've been saying all along," Jun smiled.
"Finally, someone listens to me."
"Not that I don't agree," Sparky interjected, "but what
exactly is the pretty light, and why
does it convince you?"
"This Oathbind has been in place for four days, and no one
has tampered with it. If the
demon had violated his Oath to obey the laws of Sanctuary and the Nation, even while
under another's control, the Oathbind would have immolated him."
Jun sucked her breath in a startled gasp. "Wh-why didn't
anyone tell us? I never would have
let Lei fight!"
"Our laws do allow one to fight to protect oneself, to
protect others, for purpose of
instruction, or to answer a challenge. As to why the Chief did not tell you, I presume it was
because he did not want you to remove the Oathbind. It is easily undone, yet subtle enough that
one would not detect its presence unless one knew where and for what to look."
"But what if Lei had, say, picked up a glass of brandy and
carried it outside Sanctuary's only
"That would have been an unlawful deed, and would have
resulted in his destruction. I
surmise that the purpose of assigning a guard was as much to protect Wulong while he learned
the Nation's laws as it was to protect others from Wulong."
"Can you take the spell off, please? I don't want Lei to get
hurt by accident."
Nightwolf tilted his head one side. His strict face showed
little change of expression. Jun
half-expected his ears to swivel away and toward, like the ears of a true wolf do when it is
uncertain about a potential enemy.
"I understand that Raiden has manifested on the demon's
behalf," he finally said, as if that
were the answer to everything. Perhaps it was. The Nation would not be alive and
free save for the thunder god's warning of the Apocalypse. Nightwolf touched Lei's palm, causing
the golden glow to vanish.
The shaman turned to the cop's six guards. "I have proven
innocence. Go spread word to Raven, Thunderbolt, and the rest of Sanctuary."
"No, DON'T!" Lei exclaimed, sitting bolt upright.
Sparky jumped nearly six feet up from his seat. "What?
"According to my computer scan, you were definitely in a
lower state of consciousness two
seconds ago," Jax observed.
"That's nothing. You should see him play dead," Kung Lao
"Listen to me," Lei urged of Nightwolf. "You must realize
that Kazuya has found a way to
spy on Sanctuary. Right now, he thinks I'm blamed for the murder, and you're masking us from
his eyes with your cloaking magic. If word circulates that we're trying to find the real killer,
Kazuya will find out and warn it. Let's see if we can figure out who it is first."
Nightwolf snorted, but the head guard, T. Hawk, motioned
for the other watchers to stay
where they were.
T. Hawk studied Lei as a bird of prey might assess a
rodent, and said, "I
thought Kazuya used a dream to speak to you. He called you his tool, and said you had to fulfil a
"Oh, Kazuya wasn't lying, he did need me to help
him, but not as his assassin; I was
a, a..." Lei's hands clenched into fists, and shook with frustrated ire. "...a freaking
DISTRACTION to keep you all busy while the real murderer went about its work!"
"What 'work'?" Jax demanded.
"That's the question, isn't it? But it has to be something, or
else why bother with a
Suddenly, Lei's eyes became wide. "Oh, no. Could it be?
That? Even though Jun
said - eh, I'm a fool, I should've known better than to assume.
"I thought the assassin hadn't killed
any more victims because it was me, and I was being guarded, but guess what? My being in
Sanctuary had nothing to do with Kazuya's original plan. It couldn't; there were too many
variables involved. It was pure chance that I happened to run into Jax's patrol, or that they needed
me to stick around and help them, and if it hadn't been for Jun they would have left without me.
No, my arrival was just a convenient stroke of good luck, because I made the perfect decoy.
"Before I say anything further, Major, might I ask where
you were when Chief Thunder was
murdered, three nights ago in the hour before dawn?"
"With Nightwolf, on our mission."
"Nightwolf, is that true? Or should I say, were you asleep
at the time?"
"It is true. I was not asleep; we traveled from dusk to
"You're sure the major was with you every step of the
way? He never could have
disappeared for a few minutes, without your noticing?"
"With his dead weight on my back? I could only hope he
"Hey!" Jax cut in.
"That settles it, Major; you have an ironclad alibi," Lei
concluded. "I had to be sure you
weren't - Nightwolf, what in blazes are you doing?"
"None of your business, demon." The shaman had
crouched and rested his hands on the
His fingers flickered with emerald tendrils of mystic power.
Lei's mahogany eyes narrowed. "Do you know who
murdered Chief Thunder?"
Nightwolf stood and locked stares with Lei.
"Unfortunately, I do not."
"Do you have any idea where to look?"
"I fear not."
"Do you have one freaking clue to go on?"
"Your point being?"
"I am Detective Lei Wulong of the Royal Hong Kong
Police, and I have a suspicion as to
who killed the Chief. A hunch isn't good enough, though. I need more information to form a
complete picture, which means that I need you to answer the freaking question!"
"We do not share the workings of Mystery with outsiders."
Nightwolf's achromatic eyes
flashed with scorn.
"Which do you care more about? Your precious little
secrets, or avenging your Chief and
preserving the safety of Sanctuary?"
"I..." The shaman recoiled. His chin had been proudly
thrust out, but now he turned his head
to the side and scowled.
"I was... checking the wards. These past four days, there
has been little unlawful behavior
recorded. T. Hawk committed the most serious infractions; he choked someone, and later
challenged that same person to a duel without first gaining approval from the Council of
Lei glanced to T. Hawk, and raised an eyebrow. The
wrestler flinched, looking away.
"No need to apologize," the cop muttered. "I was so
tanked up, I hardly felt the
"You can tell that from the wards?" Kung Lao asked of
Nightwolf. "All we knew was that
they're unchanged, and stronger."
"I created them, so that I know how to read their
subroutines and request output. However,
I would need to stand before the sacred altar to learn any more from the wards, or rewrite their
"'Programming'? Are we talking about sorcery or
"Sorcery. Some shamans use archaic tongues as the
language of their Mystery. Jun uses
music. I use C++."
"Wait a minute, wait a minute," Lei broke in. "Exactly how
is it that you can touch the
ground and know if anyone in Sanctuary broke a law?"
"By swearing the Oath, one registers in the focus of the
wards. They will record-"
"What if you don't swear the Oath?"
"Then one would not be registered, which is why the Oath
is so important."
"Do you know of anyone in Sanctuary who hasn't taken the
"No. Everyone must swear the Oath before they are invited
"What about Kabal?"
"The Chosen One fetched by Jax's last patrol. He was in
pretty sorry shape. I don't think you
could have roused him without killing him. Did he swear the Oath?"
"No. Lieutenant Blade swore the Oath on his behalf. If he
had committed an unlawful deed,
she would have been recorded as the perpetrator."
"Hm. Which means that - actually, it means two things.
First, Kabal is definitely eliminated
as a suspect. Second, the assassin managed to sneak inside Sanctuary without taking the
"What you say is impossible. No evil being could find
"Unless someone who knew the way served as a
"He would become weak while crossing the outer
"What's so bad about a little weakness?"
"If he tried to cross the inner border, he would become like
"Unless someone extended a gracious invitation."
"Every person invited into Sanctuary must take the
"Ah. Nice little closed circle of logic, that. Jun told me that
only you and Chief Thunder have
the authority to invite people in, is that correct?"
"What if both of you were gone?" Sparky quizzed.
"Then the privilege would transfer to-"
"Never mind that," Lei dismissed. "The assassin gained
entry when Nightwolf and Chief
Thunder were still here. Am I right to assume that if anyone else had tried to invite an evil
creature in, the wards would still keep it out?"
"Of course," the shaman confirmed.
"Okay then, what exactly do you have to do to invite
someone? Are the literal words 'I invite
you in' absolutely necessary?"
"No. Any phrase, gesture, or action which communicates
one's permission to enter will do,
as long as it is clearly expressed and delivered with full intent. One cannot be coerced with threats
or sorcery to offer an invitation."
"Do you have to be physically there, speaking or waving to
whoever wants in?"
"It would be possible to communicate an invitation through
individual telepathic contact, or
writing. This is moot because Chief Thunder and I have never invited anyone without personally
inspecting them, and having them swear the-"
"Okay, okay, I get it. I was just double-checking about
invitations, because I think I already
have most of what I need. Had it for a long time, in fact, and if I hadn't been so guilt-ridden I
would have seen it ages ago.
"You see, Nightwolf, the assassin is Kazuya's nonhuman
shape-shifting reagent, posing as
one of Jax's last patrol. We know-"
"Hold. If one of the patrol is a traitor, then we must arrest
them all at once!"
"Bad idea!" Lei snapped. He started pacing back and forth
like a caged animal. "If we start
rounding up a bunch of people, it'll create a stir that you can't hide with your limited-range
cloaking magic. As soon as Kazuya learns of it, he'll warn his assassin, and it'll bolt. It's a
shape-shifter, remember? It can hide by morphing into anyone or anything. Our best chance of
it is if we confirm which patrol member it is, and concentrate on nailing that person. Now shut up
and pay attention, all right?
"We know the killer isn't human because Sub-Zero
deduced that from a sample of its blood,
we know it's a patrol member because Kazuya needed inside help to break Liu Kang's cloaking
spell, and we know it's a shape-shifter because it assumed my demonic form long enough to
murder Chief Thunder - in front of his wife, might I add - and pin the blame on me.
"There are two possibilities. One is that a shape-shifter
replaced a member of our patrol
sometime during its mission. The other is that the shape-shifter has been in Sanctuary all along,
posing as a person whom the major eventually selected for his patrol, but I doubt that. I know
how Kazuya thinks. He is determined, decisive, and he doesn't care to play waiting games if he
can help it. If he really did have a plant in here prior to when Jax set out, his army would have
converged on Sanctuary a long time ago.
"No, there was someone in Jax's patrol who had the bad
luck to be in the wrong place at the
wrong time. It was the perfect opportunity for a shape-shifter to unobtrusively substitute itself for
Lei stopped his pacing and fixed Jax with a steady look.
"You remember, don't
The major's ebony brow furrowed. Then his khaki eyes
bulged, and he sputtered, "No! I
"That's all right, neither did anyone else. But we really
should have figured that something
was up when Liu Kang's cloaking spell failed and that golden Centaurian singled out Jun, even
bellowed something about taking her dead or alive."
"Um, Lei, I thought you didn't suspect me?"
"Huh? Oh no, of course not, Jun. Like I said before, you
guided me into Sanctuary. You
couldn't have done that if you weren't already invited, which neatly eliminates you as a
"But as I was saying, there was something very strange
about that attack. You know what
I'm talking about, don't you Lao?"
"No. We just barely survived."
"That was very strange."
"Think about it. There were what, nine Centaurians plus
Baek? I killed four Centaurians,
including the golden one, and Jun and I were separated from the action. How did the rest of you
"I killed one Centaurian, but that was all. When Sonya set
off her explosion, the remainder
of our enemies teleported away and didn't come back."
"Why not? You'd used your little trump card; they got
away before it could hurt them. The
rest of you were weakened. Why didn't they teleport back and finish you off?"
"I'll tell you why: their primary goal was not to destroy
you, because a renegade had already
been planted among you. Their primary goal was to remove Jun from the picture, maybe pick off
a few of you in the process."
"They came damn close to 'picking off' me!"
"Like I said. The point is that Jun's exit opened up a
window, to mix my metaphors. It
provided a cover story, to explain why one of you had to stay in physical contact with the others
as you crossed into Sanctuary, and felt weak while you traversed Sanctuary's outer borders.
Perhaps it even made getting an invitation easier. Now do you remember?"
"Well, I was hurting pretty bad for the rest of the trip, but I
did overhear some things..."
Kung Lao's mouth fell open. "Gods of Light! You
"Wait for it. This is still a hypothesis, and there are other
possible explanations. Kazuya
might have wanted Jun for more personal reasons-"
"Nani?" said the healer.
"-and the individual we're thinking of might not be the only
patrol member who was dead on
their feet when they reached Sanctuary."
"I think I passed out when we arrived," Kung Lao
"And after you arrived, the assassin was free to wander
around Sanctuary, take notes, look
for weak spots, find good patsies, make a telepathic report to Kazuya or whatever. This is what
really scares me, you see; if Kazuya could break Liu Kang's cloaking spell with help from his
reagent, then he could break Sanctuary's cloaking magic as well, couldn't he? That's why his army
knows where we are. If Nightwolf weren't shielding us right now, I'd be nervous about saying all
this out loud. I'm gambling that the reagent has to be in the shadow of Nightwolf's cloak to help
Kazuya see through it, or else Nightwolf would never have made it back to Sanctuary alive.
"Anyway, once Kazuya has a good idea what's going on,
he devises a new plan and puts it
into motion. His assassin murders Chief Thunder and sets me up. This almost makes Sanctuary
tear itself apart in civil war. The killer probably could have sparked that war if it had committed a
few more murders or fanned a few more flames, but it doesn't bother.
"Because it has something more important to do.
Something Kazuya told it to do.
Something that's been keeping it very busy, while the rest of us were conveniently distracted by
my trial and execution."
Lei appraised Jun with a thoughtful glance. "I think you
might realize who I'm talking
"Lei, I didn't stop to count all the people who
"Okay, okay, maybe you didn't, but I did. Let's try one
more piece to the puzzle, and if it all
checks out, we'd better take action right away. Nightwolf, you were there when Jax's patrol
returned, weren't you? They called you to get your seal of approval on Kabal, didn't they?"
"Yes, but we have no time for this little game! You have
narrowed the possibilities to a few
people. We must subject each of them to a mind-probe!"
"Another bad idea! Mind-probes can be really, really
dangerous when performed on an
unwilling subject, or even on a willing subject. Trust me on this. But you bring up another tidbit,
which I hadn't thought about - out of the entire patrol, one person was vehemently paranoid about
being mind-probed. Now do you remember, Jun?"
Jun's swallowed, and hugged herself fearfully. "Masaka!
Ano hito wa-!"
"Hang on just a little longer. After the first onslaught of
Centaurians took its toll, our patrol
had eight survivors: Jax, Sonya, Liu Kang, Kung Lao, Kabal, Michelle, Jun, and me. We've
eliminated Jax and Jun here, also Kabal and me. You'll notice that I don't think it's Kung Lao
either, seeing as how I've let him listen in on all this. That's because even though Lao's a
shape-shifter, he let Sub-Zero perform all sorts of experiments on him, and he let Liu Kang probe
mind. Both are convinced that Lao is a human being, unlike the killer.
"That leaves three people. Nightwolf, when you greeted
the patrol, I think one of these three
said something to you - a question, I'll bet it was a question, and I'll bet it had something to do
with Kabal. It wasn't blatant, it wasn't obvious, but when you got around to answering that
question, you inadvertently granted entrance to a shape-shifter who should have already taken the
Oath, but hadn't. Now do you know who we're talking about? Can you say the name we all have
Nightwolf closed his eyes in thought. Seconds passed, and
wrinkles formed in his forehead.
Suddenly, a tidal wave of surprise surged upon his features;
it crashed into a surf of
outrage, the fury of a wounded wolf. Weariness sloughed off his shoulders. There was no time to
be tired now, not when the enemy who has used and betrayed him was still at large.
Nightwolf clenched his hand. A shimmering hatchet of
emerald psychic force appeared in his
"Dark Mane," he pronounced, in the same tone Raven had
used to speak Lei's death
"That is her true name among the Navajo. You know her
as Michelle Chang."
The young warrior held out her hands before the sacred
Her eyes were closed as she chanted a litany in Navajo.
Completely absorbed in her task, she
remained oblivious of the seven inquisitors surrounding her, until Kung Lao gave his hat a steep
downward tilt and raised his voice.
"Praying for forgiveness, Michelle?" The monk's question
dripped with acerbic sarcasm,
rather than his usual light jocularity.
The young warrior whirled to face them. Tension pulled at
"Whatever you're planning, don't try it," Sparky warned.
His M16 rifle was approximately
two meters from her heart. His threat carried the implicit warning that no sorcerer can
shape-change or teleport faster than a speeding bullet.
"What are you talking about?" Michelle snapped.
Nightwolf pointed to her with his psychic hand-axe. "Kabal
was near death; you sustained
him in Jun's place. You asked, 'Do we bring him in or let him die?' When I told you to bring him
in, I invited my own Chief's death into Sanctuary! I am unworthy to wear this!" He tore off his
feathered headband, throwing it to the bloodstained, ash-streaked floor. Wrath and bitter
recrimination, directed both inward and out, constricted his red-painted face into a nightmare
grimace. "Now, step away from the sacred altar, and let me learn what you have truly
done to Sanctuary's wards!"
"Fine," she said, spreading her empty hands and backing
away from the emblem. Nightwolf
moved to where she had been. His psychic hatchet disappeared, since he could not sustain it and
enact the necessary rituals at the same time.
Jax gave the mental command to turn his bionic arms into
keen blades, long and sharp
enough to decapitate Michelle with one swipe. "When the enemy's first ambush surprised my half
of the patrol, you were with them, weren't you? I didn't see you, but you were with them. It was a
massacre. I was knocked unconscious - probably by you, since a Centaurian hoof can
crack open a man's skull. It was the perfect chance for you to 'rescue' me, make yourself look like
Michelle, and gain our confidence. You USED me!"
"And ME!" T. Hawk rumbled. "On the night of your crime,
you pumped me for information
about Sanctuary's security. When the sleep spell descended, you pretended to yawn until I
succumbed. I slept until you woke me up, having cleaned our Chief's blood from your hands! You
murdered him so that you could take his place before the sacred altar!"
"You planned to frame Lei all along," Jun quietly stated.
"That's why you kissed him in the
bar, isn't it? He wanted to drink there until he passed out, but it was a public place. You needed
him in an isolated room with few or no witnesses. You baited Hawk into brutalizing him, so that I
would - how did you put it? - 'have no trouble making him go home.'
"When it looked like Hawk might kill Lei, you became
upset. I assumed it was because you
cared about Lei's life. The truth was that you needed a live scapegoat." Sparkling white Ki flashed
on the healer's fingertips. Her ginger eyes reflected more sorrow than anger.
"Lei was right about me. I do cling desperately to what I
want to believe. I knew
something was wrong with you, that your life-essence had become darker and crueller ever since
the night of the patrol massacre, but I dearly wanted to believe you were still my friend. Kung Lao
told me that the only way to see through a shape-shifter's disguise is if you catch it doing
something that the person it mimics would never do. The Michelle I used to know did have a
temper, but she never drank, never manipulated men into fighting over her, would never cast
spells in a shrine stained with innocent blood, and certainly never treated me like a doormat."
"Just out of curiosity," Lei added, "anyone ever tell you it's
a total cliché for the
return to the scene of the crime?"
Michelle shook her head. A trace of apprehension clouded
her cinnamon-brown eyes. "This
is all speculation. You have no proof."
Nightwolf's chanting terminated in a terrified gasp. The
shaman became rigid.
"What is it?" Jax prompted. He had never seen Nightwolf
fall into a state of shock before. A
sinking feeling settled in the major's stomach.
"She... she has not corrupted the wards, or drained their
power. She did not have to! In the
course of three days, she has-"
While everyone's attention was riveted on the shaman,
Michelle's hands moved faster than
thought, projecting a lime-green sphere of bio-kinetic energy. It exploded with a deafening
BOOM, a ground-shaking earthquake, and a blinding flash of light.
T. Hawk and Nightwolf were thrown off-balance.
Nightwolf cracked the side of his head
against the altar and blacked out. Unable to see, Jax made a wild swipe with his blades; they
whistled on empty air. Kung Lao's thrown hat did the same. Sparky fired a single burst from his
rifle; it missed, and he dared not continue shooting blind for fear of hurting his friends. Michelle
sprinted toward the open door.
"Shogai!" Jun cried. Though she had not yet
recovered her sight, she remembered
where the shrine's only exit was, and blocked it off with her soul barrier. Michelle collided with
the wall of force; sparks of Ki briefly framed her in a nerve-wracking jolt of pure white
The young warrior cursed. Her outline shimmered, fluidly
molding itself into the likeness of
Kung Lao. The space about copy-Lao began to warp, in a dazzling hypergeometric display-
-but before the shape-shifter could complete its teleport,
the one person who had not been
struck blind connected with his running side kick. Lei's extended left heel dug deep into the small
of copy-Lao's back, slamming him against Jun's soul barrier and drilling him with another painful
Copy-Lao's body blurred, and reformed in the image of
The blood-red mark in the copy-demon's forehead shone
brilliant gold. Lei dropped on his
left hand, sweeping his right leg in a low curve just above and parallel to the ground. His kick
cleanly knocked the copy-demon's ankles out from under it; the golden glow on its forehead
sputtered out. Lei accelerated his motion into a full circle, spinning and raising
his right leg for a second, waist-high turning hook kick. He voiced his battle cry again as his heel
smacked against the falling copy-demon's chest, driving it into Jun's soul barrier one last
Jun and the others were beginning to recover their vision
when the shape-shifter flopped on
the ground. Its body lost resolution again, but this time its borrowed form seemed to melt away
instead of rearranging. Livid blue demon skin became viridescent green, with overlapping scales.
Though its eyes remained blood-red, vertically slitted cat's pupils formed in them. It blinked with a
cloudy third pair of sideways-moving eyelids. The creature's face lengthened into a toothy,
snub-jawed iguana snout. Its breath smelled faintly of vinegar, and its moan deteriorated into a
"Ugh," Lei grimaced, squinting over the top of Johnny
Cage's shades. "I can't believe I
"Lei, you did it!" Jun jubilantly exclaimed, hugging him.
"You really are Super Police!"
"Eh, well, ahem... y-you know, I-I think I do like it better
when you use my name." Lei's
face flushed and his heart pounded, but not from the effort of his fight. "Uh, Jun, I..."
"Yes?" She let him go, and showed her most beautiful
For one, timeless moment, he seemed about to say
something emotional; then his right arm
pressed unconsciously against his midsection, and he turned his face away.
"I was... just wondering. Last thing I remember, the firing
squad was about to, eh... well, not
that I'm complaining, mind, but could you tell me why I'm not dead?"
"The thunder god Raiden appeared, and asked the Nation
to grant you a stay of execution."
"No, really. Why?"
"You heard me."
"I don't believe in gods."
"Maybe not, but at least one god believes in you."
Jax interrupted with, "Jun, if you're finished debating
theology then we need your help over
here. Nightwolf's suffered a concussion."
"Oh, my goodness. I'm sorry, I'll be right there." Jun
approached the insensate shaman,
directing her Ki to heal and revive him.
While she worked, Sparky studied the defeated saurian. He
couldn't believe his eyes, yet
neither could he be mistaken. "You - you're Reptile! You saved my life once!"
"And you helped us escape the Outworld Tournament,"
Kung Lao added. "I thought we
Reptile weakly raised his head.
"Yesss, I have helped thee
and thine in the passst. And what
didssst it bring me? The demon sssorsscerer Ssshang Tsssung wreaked genosscide on mine
kindred! HE MURDERED THE RASSCE! They all died becaussse of me, and thee, and mine aid
to thee! For that, thou Chosssen Onesss ssshall have mine everlasssting
The creature pointed to Lei with a trembling, scaly
"Thou art a
ssshape-ssshifting demon, sssame asss he who
ssslew my kin. Now dossst thou wonder why I hate thee!?"
"No. I'm wondering why you want to help the bad guys,
instead of getting even with them."
"The Rassce isss dead!
Canssst any among thou bring them
back? Wouldssst thou if thou couldssst?
"The Ssshao Kahn isss the
only one who can and ssshall ressstore them to Life. He
promisssesss me revenge on Ssshang Tsssung, who hasss fallen into hisss disssfavor. He tellsss me
to ssserve hisss ally, Kasszuya Missshima, and ssserve I do.
"Yesss, I killed Chief
Thunder. I wouldssst ssslay a thousssand thousssand like him, if the
Rassce canssst live again! If only a few of the Rassce canssst live!"
Reptile's teeth gnashed, and his claws dug into the floor.
a sssingle mate can live..."
"The Shao Kahn deceived you," Kung Lao sighed, shaking
his head. "In the Outworld
Tournament, we broke his power and freed all the souls he'd imprisoned. His reserves are
depleted. He's desperate for energy now, which is why he had to take over the Earth. Even if he
gained total control over our world, he'd still be in debt, needing to conquer more worlds just to
sustain himself. He no longer has a power surplus to splurge on resurrecting people."
"No! It isss not
"The Order of Light never lies."
"Enough of this," T. Hawk intervened. "What have you
done with the real Dark
Mane, you monster!?"
Reptile's lips drew back, smiling with a mouthful of deadly
sharp teeth. "Asssk Kasszuya."
Kung Lao was pondering how even a nonhuman could
remain in a shape-shifted body for
nine days and retain his own identity, when something distracted him.
It sounded like a loud noise that had covered a fair
distance. A reverberation that could have
been a scream followed. He exchanged glances with the others; they had heard it, too.
Jun's fingers paused in midair above Nightwolf's face.
"Something is horribly wrong! I can
feel it on the wind."
Reptile's threatening smile stretched a little wider.
too late. Everyone isss too late."
Nightwolf's eyes opened. He groaned, muttered something,
and struggled to sit up.
"What is it?" Jax demanded. "What did that thing do to
The shaman answered in a low, stunted monotone. "When
neither Chief Thunder nor I are
present, the privilege of extending invitation transfers to whomsoever maintains the wards in our
Lei looked through the shrine's open door. The shouts and
screams were louder now; he
could feel the rumbling of hooves on the earth, hear bursts of gunfire, and see plumes of smoke
rise from a spreading orange-red blaze.
Sanctuary was burning.
"Thessse passst three
daysss, I have sssent mine mind to
contact them one by one," Reptile sneered. "I
invited them in. I invited them all in!"
End of Chapter 14: Super Police