the Zen Hell-Kites

The following is an excerpt of a report filed to the Agency by Sticks McLellan, priestess of Nike and all-around combative young woman. Considering her love of conflict and her overwhelming perfectionist nature, we thought that she would be the best person to look into this den of mercenaries and assassins. Of course, we didn't count on her actually joining them... - Mike 013.

I'd walked all the damn way from the airport in Lhasa, a three week trek through snow, snow, and more snow. Did I mention the snow? Funny how my guide decided to bolt on me, but at least I had the map to go by, you know, the one I got from the Jensen archives matching a parallel group on Earth 84. So, two days after that, almost dead from exposure, I finally got to the monastery.

The sounds of battle rang through the air, and it seemed as though the Zen Hell-Kites were under attack from some unknown enemy; after all, most of my assignments seem to involve me getting stuck between two or more warring factions for some reason or another. However, I was so tired from my journey, there wasn't much I could do about it... I just collapsed on their doorstep.

When I eventually came around, there were four monks standing around me in a sort of circle (or square, to be precise). The first one asked me what I was doing here, so I told him. The second one asked me why I was investigating their strange order, so I told him that, too. The third asked me if I understood the principles they stood for, and I said no. The fourth asked me if I wished to.

I said yes.

The odd little men then escorted me to some sort of exercise chamber, and proceeded to test me... thoroughly. They had me exert myself in every manner possible, testing my strength, stamina, reflexes, resolve, intelligence, and of course, my fighting prowess. They were pleased with what they found, but then, being a priestess of Nike, well, one has to excel in all things to begin with.

So, after allowing me to rest for the night, the monks proceeded to really put me through my paces. Knowing of my existing skill with my fighting sticks, they forced me to train with them over the next month or two, all the while pushing my abilities to their utter limits - and beyond. They didn't stop until my sticks were veritable extensions of my being, and I could use them without thought.

That wasn't all, though. Something about their training, something I can't put a finger on, changed me somehow. I don't quite understand it, but I'm definitely different, in that I feel somehow serene. I'm more in touch with myself, as opposed to the feelings of other people. Sure, I still have empathy for my fellow man, it's just that I'm more aware of my own emotions than ever before.

And that's before one counts the combat trance.

I noticed during one practice session that two of the monks were going out of their way to be rather antagonistic towards me. Pushing, prodding, and downright insulting me, trying to goad me into a fight. It took awhile, in that it seems to take that much longer to rile me up now, but they finally pushed me too far, and I decided to teach them a lesson they wouldn't soon forget.

I threw everything I had at them, and the two monks simply kept at it, smacking me around just enough to keep me angry at them. I kept trying harder and harder to smash them into pulp, but they deftly avoided just about every move I made. I grew more and more irrational, swinging wild sticks and kicks at the damn monks, until I went right over the edge.

Then, I felt this chilling calm overtake my being, and I didn't feel anger anymore. I didn't feel rage anymore. I just felt... the fight. It was as though I had become some sort of fighting machine, and moved with a precision that I never thought I was capable of. The fight quickly turned against my monk friends, and within about thirty seconds, I had flattened both of them.

That was when I first met Master Smith.

The man pulled me off the unconscious monks and helped me return to a normal mental state, and then escorted me to his personal office. Letting me cool off, Smith offered me a beverage and asked me how I felt. To be honest, I actually felt pretty darn good, in that I'd achieved a new level of precision and grace. I haven't managed that in over a year, and it was rather pleasant.

Once I was relaxed again, Master Smith began to answer the various questions I'd posed to those monks I first met upon waking up in the compound. If what Smith told me is correct, the Zen Hell-Kites have been around for thousands of years, helping individuals like myself to elevate their combat skills into a form of art, rather than just a tool to serve one end or another.

Though they've gone by different names over the ages, such as the Serene Bowmen, the Golden Grenadiers, or even the Machine Gun Buddhists, the Hell-Kites have performed the same function for millenia. They start by testing a body to see what he or she is, in fact, capable of, and then they go all out, showing a body how to use their personal weapon of choice, and forcing them to drill with it until they become one with it.

But that's not all.

All of this physical training is overlapped by layers and layers of mental discipline, which helps the initiate to become fully aware with his or her mind. This intense training imparts a special resistance to empathic attacks of all kinds, as well as the ability to enter what the Hell-Kites call their combat trance - a mental state that, in combat, makes them truly dangerous.

In addition to acquiring total immunity to external empathic attack (above their normal resistance), this trance makes a Zen Hell-Kite completely calm and one with the immediate world around him. This deadly calm allows the Hell-Kites to accomplish things in battle that ordinary combatants, fraught with fear, rage, and other emotions, can't even come close to.

As such, Zen Hell-Kites have the potential to become tremendous leaders of fighting men, or to at least stand out above the rest as singular successes. This is just a potential, mind you, in that the Hell-Kites will take in anybody that desires and is qualified for their training - anybody. From Navy S.E.A.L.S to terrorists to freak psychopaths, the Hell-Kites take anybody under their wing.

Not a comforting thought, to be sure.

Noting my sudden uneasiness, Master Smith tried to change the subject by giving me the nickel tour of the Zen Hell-Kites compound. He showed me the gun range, where folks inclined to projectile weapons worked towards their own, personal perfection. Then there was the dummy room, where people more like myself bashed and hacked things up with their weapon of choice.

Smith then showed me to the unarmed combat chamber, where the truly dangerous Hell-Kites - those who wished to turn their own bodies into the ultimate weapon - trained with the order's masters. Though I was impressed with the two fellows in this chamber, I still didn't like the idea that these bozos would turn any two-bit nutcase with an agenda into a fighting machine.

The Hell-Kite's Master completed the tour by showing me the surrounding landscape, which was only slightly interrupted by the helipad off to the south and the lookout tower to the north. Smith then told me that I was welcome to stay with the Zen Hell-Kites as long as I liked, for there was much more I could learn about both them and myself.

Having already been here for months, I respectfully declined.

Saying something to the effect of 'I knew you'd say that', Smith had somebody warm up his helicopter, and he offered me a ride back to Lhasa - and even a plane ticket back to the States! He then told me that I could come back anytime, and not to worry too much about the bad apples amongst the Hell-Kites' ranks - most of them 'get better' while being trained.

I didn't buy it, but I didn't let him know that. He wished me well and left me to my own devices, and soon enough, my ride was ready. I got on the helicopter and rode away from the Zen Hell-Kites, and though I was wary, I had to admit that the trip overall was good for me, not only because we got the 'dope' on yet another of these odd little secret societies, but because I got better at something.

The ride to Lhasa was rather short, which was frustrating in that it took me over three weeks on foot to get to the Hell-Kites' compound, but that's not important, I guess. Anyway, while I was there, I managed to dig up some information on several prominent Zen Hell-Kites, especially one that's caused us severe headaches over the last year. Anyway, some of these jokers include the following:

Ding, Maurice: Maurice Ding is a young man who, after being mercilessly tortured by his peers throughout his formative years, spent his adult life getting even. Of course, having finally done so, Maurice finds himself without a target for his hate. Availability:

Ding, Maurice (MSH Classic)

Ding, Maurice (4C System)

Ding, Maurice (Marvel Saga)

Faith Antithesis: after her life was ruined by so-called holy men as a child, Faith Anise has waged a one-woman war against organized religions of all stripes. Whether they exist as mere local cults or span the entire globe, Faith will fight them! Availability:

Faith Antithesis (MSH Classic)

Faith Antithesis (4C System)

Faith Antithesis (Marvel Saga)

Mack 066: unlike many of his cohorts in the Jensen Congress, Mack 066 is not a scientist. He is however a student of war, and has amassed considerable skill and experience in this area, both during his time as an Army Ranger and after! Availability:

Mack 066 (MSH Classic)

Mack 066 (4C System)

Mack 066 (Marvel Saga)

Master Smith: one of the single most dangerous combatants on earth, Master Smith has been a leader of the Zen Hell-Kites for over a century years. Though he rarely brings his talents to bear, Smith can all too easily kill a man despite his advanced age. Availability:

Master Smith (MSH Classic)

Master Smith (4C System)

Master Smith (Marvel Saga)

Polanski, Lisa: after being trained in the Art by the Zen Hell-Kites, this one woman army became a professional mercenary. When her Pastordyne employers betrayed her by implanting experimental cybernetics on her person, Lisa put them on her List...! Availability:

Polanski, Lisa (MSH Classic)

Polanski, Lisa (4C System)

Polanski, Lisa (Marvel Saga)

Sticks McLellan: a priestess of Nike with a predilection for extreme violence, Danielle McLellan was chosen by Mike 013 to be one of his special investigators of the bizarre - even if, more than anything, she smashes her way through most crises. Availability:

Sticks McLellan (MSH Classic)

Sticks McLellan (4C System)

Sticks McLellan (Marvel Saga)

Zen Hell-Kites (Typical): this loosely-knit association of combatants accept anyone into its ranks - anyone. Bakers, Green Berets, IRS agents, felons, whatever - as long as they want to be a one-man army, all are welcome to become Zen Hell-Kites! Availability:

Zen Hell-Kites (Typical, MSH Classic)

Zen Hell-Kites (Typical, 4C System)

Zen Hell-Kites (Typical, Marvel Saga)

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