Enter Hiryu / First Objective

      GeissTech Corporation housed its headquarters, on the outskirts of Seattle, in a rather pompous fashion. An angular, three-story building made of polished glass and steel, surrounded by fields of green space and concrete parking lots. It stood—proud and dominant—just a few hundred meters away from the highway, miles from the hordes of the city.

      On this cloudy evening all seemed serene, and nothing out of the ordinary presented itself. But to watchful eyes, this was only the appearance of things. For of all the guardsmen patrolling the grounds and security cameras sweeping the checkpoints, none noticed the silent figure perched on the very rooftop of GeissTech’s grand nerve center.

      Strider Hunter crouched atop the edge of the roof, unaccompanied and completely invisible to the rest of the world. Invisibility dictated the very crux of monitoring, and thankfully his older Stealth Imager still functioned properly. The device made him transparent, bending light and warping his outline, blending him with the dark skies. In this manner, none could detect him—not even other Striders.

      An important point, concerning this final mission. If he was to monitor young Hiryu, his presence could not be made known. From his position Hunter gazed down and carefully observed the surroundings. Three guards below cycled around the perimeter exactly every seven minutes; robotic sentries patrolled the grassy fields, lethally armed. GeissTech had many enemies, and their leaders weren’t fools. The target, Bernard Vyson, maintained his office on the top floor away from any potential ground attacks. Hunter had caught a glimpse of him on his climb up. Stocky, brimming with confidence behind the desk at which he worked. Completely unaware that he was about to die.

      Hunter glanced at his watch: 0155 hours. Just a few minutes before Hiryu’s mission officially began. It would start soon now.

      Deviating from his normal modus operandi, Hunter allowed his mind to wander for mere seconds. A dozen questions assaulted him; how good would Hiryu be? Would the young Strider have some detrimental reaction after his first kill? Would inexperience lead him to falter his hand? Would the heat of battle cloud his judgment, or worse, confuse him? And there were others. A sudden thought occurred, a feeling that he did not wish to see any more of his colleagues die meaninglessly.

      Stay on the task at hand. The harsh inner voice guided Hunter back, and he felt ashamed. If Vermillion watched him—and he felt sure she was—she might have noticed the slight shift in his stance.

      At 0159 hours, Hunter saw a dark object approach from the eastern sky. Silent, moving rapidly toward the building…toward the roof. Closer still it came, yet Hunter already knew what it was. A Glider, the vehicle of choice for most Striders on field missions, built for speed and stealth. Hiryu had arrived.

      With just the barest of sounds, Strider Hiryu jettisoned from the Glider and landed gently on his feet. The Glider remained aloft, arcing higher into the sky and circled in a holding pattern. Hiryu then stood upright, only meters away from where Hunter perched.

      Hunter trained his breathing and remained motionless, despite being visually undetectable. Here at last stood the young Strider that many spoke so highly of, about to begin his first assignment. Hiryu was dressed in a blue gi and red facemask. His long cypher blade—said to be named Falchion—looked unusually deadly in his grip. His dark eyes spoke of unrelenting determination. Hunter felt indeed privileged; other than Vermillion, he would be the first to witness Hiryu and judge him for his merits.

      Strider Hiryu closed his eyes briefly—as if he were meditating—then suddenly leapt over the side of the roof. Hunter, as he officially began his monitoring, nearly had to do a double take; Hiryu had moved so fast that everything in his mind registered in slow motion. In mid-leap, Hiryu extended his left arm and gouged a large grappling hook into the roof’s ledge; at the same time, the young Strider stiffened his legs in a perpendicular position, pointing his toes toward the glass window of Bernard Vyson’s office…


      Bernard Vyson loved working late. In the later evening hours, when everyone had left, he could think better. No employees trouncing about, no secretaries or messengers hounding him about the next board meeting. Just comforting silence, save for the hum of the water cooler in the hallway. During his marriage he found it difficult to stay late, especially when the second affair began. Now without a questioning wife, he could fuck any young intern he wanted without any hassle.

      There would be no action tonight, though. Vyson had to draw up the final draft papers, legal documents that would fence for the illegal and highly immoral negotiations with his newest friends. Black market weapons sales were a serious matter, and he’d eat shit before screwing up an opportunity like this.

      “All done.” Vyson chuckled triumphantly as he scribbled his name on the documents. Tomorrow he and the accounting team would meet with representatives from the buyers and close the deal. That would save the company, the only thing that mattered. What the rogue countries did with the merchandise was their own affair.

      Satisfied on a job well done, Vyson reached across his desk for his stamp seal. Instead he watched with complete shock when the wall-length windows of his office shattered in a strange crystalline melody. Large sheets of cracked glass flew at him, some shards tearing at his exposed face, some clinking harmlessly on the desk. Vyson sat staggered for a few moments, his mind trying to figure out what had happened. His eyes became even wider as a lean, menacing figure approached him from the void of the night.

      “Who the FUCK are you?!”

      The figure dressed in weird clothes, like ninja clothes, but there was nothing obscure about the long sword he carried. A killing sword. The ninja’s eyes were closed for a moment, but then opened with a burning fury, staring right at him.

      “Bernard Vyson.” The voice sounded harsh, unforgiving.

      “Who the hell do you think you are?!” Alarms began blaring all around the complex, and Vyson’s confidence grew. His men would be here in mere seconds to defend him. “What the hell do you want, breaking my windows? Into my fucking OFFICE?! I’ll have you arrested—”

      The ninja waved his left hand slowly, as if to silence him. It worked. “Because of you, people around the world would suffer. People would die in the wars you gave life with your weapons.” There was definite anger when he spoke, and perhaps even a hint of pity. The ninja shook his head slowly, as if to say that Vyson would never understand.

      The president of GeissTech backed away immediately. “What the hell are you talking about?”

      The armored ninja came closer, his eyes staring, his right arm gripping the sword. “Power and greed has corrupted your soul. You would take lives for your own benefit.” Another shake of the head. “Selfish ambition is the root of the world’s pain. To help end that pain, you must forfeit your life.”

      Vyson’s mouth dropped open when the ninja unsheathed his sword with a metallic shing! sound. The glare of overhead lights glimmered on the blade, he could see his own reflection. “Wait a minute!” Vyson began pleading. “Wait a fucking MINUTE! Please, you don’t need to do this! We can talk this over! Look, how much are they paying you? I’ll double, no TRIPLE it! I can make you rich!”

      He received no response…just the swinging of the sword and the cold hard eyes.

      “Please, don’t kill me! Please DON’T--!” Vyson stopped speaking abruptly when the first slash ripped apart his ample belly. His eyes looked down and bulged on seeing the writhing, purplish guts spill out in a wet continuous stream. One last look saw the final flash of light, and then Vyson’s lifeless head bounced harmlessly onto the floor. Blood gushed violently from the open wounds, spilling and staining the window shards into glittering rubies.

      Alone now, Hiryu stood in the blood now pooling from the still-warm corpse. More blood dripped slowly from Falchion’s razor edge. He stared hard at the body, taking in the moment that was his first kill.

      And then, he nodded confidently to himself. “Objective complete.”

      With the alarms still flashing and blaring around him, Hiryu stepped swiftly over the body, his padded feet crunching glass as he strided out of the office.