Tuesday, July 31, 2018

The Black Watch Part 8

One Target, One Team

The Sentinel’s wings were clipped, but she could still drive.
Karim worked the pedals with two leaden feet, breaking every traffic law and taking every turn at dangerous speeds. Dozens of voices chattered over the radio, dribbling out information piecemeal. Yamamoto sat in the shotgun seat, silently processing it all.
“The unis have cornered the turtle inside the hypermarket,” Yamamoto said. “They chased him into the building, and when he tried to escape out the back, another car cut him off. The cops fired at him and drove him back inside. He’s somewhere in the building, but no one knows exactly where.”
“This doesn’t make sense,” Wood said. “He’s armored like a tank. He could bust through the cordon easily.”
“Maybe he’s scared of getting shot,” Fox said.
“Or maybe he’s setting up an ambush,” Tan added.
“Regardless of what he’s doing, it’s on us to flush him out,” Yamamoto said.

The Black Watch Part 7


As the regular cops secured and cleared the Shard, the Black Watch muscled their vehicle back upright.
There was no art to it, no special tricks, just sheer brute force amplified by their exoframes. All six of them pressed their hands against the roof and cab of the truck and, on Yamamoto’s command, heaved as hard as they could.
Three tries later, the truck turned over and landed hard on its road wheels.
“Good work, everyone,” Yamamoto said. “Take five and check your kit. I need to update BPD Dispatch.”

Sunday, July 29, 2018

The Black Watch Part 6

The Shard

Karim flew. Yamamoto manned the radio. In the rear, the rest of the team reorganized and readied their kit. Karim dedicated half his brain to controlling the Sentinel, the other half monitoring the radio.
“Control to all callsigns, be advised, two active killers reported at Singularity Network, Shard One. Witnesses report two suspects inside the building and at least ten casualties. The suspects are Husks, say again, Husks. TAC is en route. All units respond Code Three.”
“Control, this is Black Watch,” Yamamoto replied. “We’re taking the call. TAC, pull back and support us.”
“Roger that, Black Watch. Good hunting.”

Saturday, July 28, 2018

The Black Watch Part 5

The Lotus Palace

The Sentinel howled through the storm-drenched night, its sirens blending with the background choir of a hundred scattered alarms. Karim hit the gas, pushing the armored gravtruck as fast as he dared, climbing higher and higher into the night.
Next to him, Yamamoto worked the radio, firing a series of orders.
“All BPD call signs, this is Black Watch, PSB STS. We’re taking the call at the Lotus Palace.”
“Black Watch, BPD Control. Roger that. Be advised, TAC is en route. Do you need backup?”
‘TAC’ was the call sign of BPD SWAT.
“Negative,” Yamamoto replied. “Pull back and cordon the scene. We’re coming in hot.”
“No can do, Black Watch. First responders have made entry.”

Friday, July 27, 2018

The Black Watch Part 4

The Face of the Enemy

“What do we do?” Karim asked.
“Develop the situation,” Yamamoto said. “We need more info before we can act.”
Karim returned to the living room, planting himself in an unoccupied corner. Yamamoto’s voice bounced off the walls and floated through his earpieces; the team leader was updating the team and issuing orders. Karim pulled out his earpieces, screwed his eyes shut, and willed his brain to ignore everything around him.
There were definitely three more Husks here. Four streams of eldritch pollution passed through the hallway and gathered in the living room, mingling for a while, then exited the house. Karim took a deep breath and peered at the trails.
The first resolved into the shape of an enormous frog, superimposed over a man, as though the man were wearing the frog as a raincoat. Karim knew that the frog was simply an avatar of whatever foul entity that had nested itself inside the Husk’s mind.
The frog-man sat on a sofa, completely motionless, while the frog’s lips moved. Karim strained his ears, but all he heard was gibberish in an alien tongue.
He cursed. If only he were more experienced, more skilled at drawing upon Galen’s power, he might have filtered useful audio from the Aether. He tried reading the thing’s lips, but the frog’s mouth flapped open and closed in weird ways, utterly disconnected from human speech norms, and he had no idea what the thing was saying.
He forced himself to look at the others.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

The Black Watch Part 3


The rest of the apartment was empty. The men wiped off their sweat and turned off the eyeshields’ cameras. As Karim checked his helmet, Yamamoto turned on the lights and issued marching orders. Wood went downstairs to confirm the kill and manage the scene. Connor stepped outside to guard the scene.
That left Karim alone with the team leader in the living room.
“Rookie, you okay?” Yamamoto asked.
“A hundred percent,” Karim replied. “Claws didn’t penetrate the facial armor.”
They had, however, left fine scratches across the visor. After the night was through, Karim would have to replace it.
“You got lucky there,” Yamamoto said. “Was that your first Class B Husk?”

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

The Black Watch Part 2

ROE State Red

The six operators regrouped in the lobby, dripping rainwater on the lacquered parquet. As the team gathered around Yamamoto, he summoned a a street map on everyone’s eyeshields.
“This is going to be a straightforward assault,” Yamamoto said, “but don’t let your guard down. Husks always have a nasty surprise waiting. ROE State Red.”

The Black Watch Part 1

A Thunderstorm in Babylon

It never rains in Babylon. Usually she saw short spells of drizzles, over and done in an hour or less. But some days, like today, the heavens opened and poured out their sorrow and their wrath on the city of the damned.

Monday, July 16, 2018

The Mad Monk of Geylang Part 7

I grab my flashlight and my knife. I click the light on, filling the room with faint white light, and flick the blade open. The metal snap reverberates in the tiny flat.
Lupin and Leonhard teleport into my room. Both of them are bleeding streams of multicolored light from a dozen wounds.
‘Are you guys okay?’ I ask.
‘Been better,’ Lupin mutters.
‘We bought you a bit of time,’ Leonhard says, ‘but there’s an army of nagas on the march. They’re forming up and coming here.’
‘Got it. You guys can go get a healer. I can take care of this.’
Lupin chuffs. “No. You can’t win this alone.’
‘I don’t plan to.’
I sweep up my phone, fire up Whatsapp, and send a group message.
Nagas incoming. Shields up NOW.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

The Mad Monk of Geylang Part 6

I spend the following morning preparing for the inevitable.
When I wake up, I meditate and run through a panoply of deep breathing and energy exercises, leaving my body warm and humming. I lay out candles and water at my altar, dedicating them to the Buddha. I restrict myself to nuts and granola for breakfast, and I prepare vegetable stew with eggs for lunch.
Pure, but not too pure.
I layer on shield after shield on myself and my home, replenishing and reinforcing the ones expended during the encounters with the nagas. Then I take a piece of paper, a paint brush, and a set of watercolour tubes.
Magic is the art of impressing your will into the universe. The first step is to understand your will. I frame a statement of intent in my head, expanding and paring it down, until I’m satisfied. Then I translate it into a sigil, a visual representation of my intent.
I dip my brush in a pool of black ink, touch the brush to the paper, and draw. Sharp jagged lines flow into swooping curves and back again, zigzagging down the length of the paper before curling back up again. I lift my brush from the paper and feel the energy humming from the paper, waiting to be released.
The sigil is my backup plan. Just in case everything goes wrong.

Saturday, July 14, 2018

The Mad Monk of Geylang Part 5

Successful magic, as with all things, follows the KISS principle: Keep it Simple, Stupid.
Forget complicated rituals, rare ingredients, hours-long chants and lengthy evocations of gods and spirits. Once you understand the principles of magic, complexity is a curse. I don’t usually dabble much with rituals myself. But a case like this requires extra firepower.
After dinner, we stroll leisurely to Punggol Park. Along the way, we discuss the spell, distilling and simplifying until we’re certain it’s foolproof.
The nagas, of course, would see us, and see the ritual. But I’m counting on it.

Road to $10k: The Long Slow Ramp of Death


It’s been about two weeks since I announced that I was taking my first step on my journey to $10k of revenue per month as a self-published author.

It’s been four weeks since I released the first episode of my epic galactic empire space opera serial, Salvage of Empire.

My fiction mailing list has grown by 100%, my Road to $10k list by 200%. Impressive, no?

Are you still impressed when I say each list started with one subscriber (myself), and I now have two and three subscribers, respectively?

No, I didn’t think so. 😅

You’ll be even less impressed when I reveal my revenue figures: 0% growth, still sitting at $0/month once you subtract my day job.

Am I worried? Should I be worried?

No. Find out why, over at my blog!

Friday, July 13, 2018

The Mad Monk of Geylang Part 4

Over the phone, Diana spends the next hour explaining her situation.
Shortly after leaving her home, Somchai’s followers began bombarding her. They filled her inbox with messages, some honeyed, some vitriolic, calling her to return and receive the monk’s forgiveness, else she be damned for uncountable lifetimes. The senior members kept calling her, either telling her to return and apologize to the monk or chanting secret sutras.
I suspect the sutras were more than mere words. At least she had the good sense to hang up and block them.
“Your magic was supposed to protect me!” she whines.
“You contracted with me to break the curse,” I say. “I did that, but Somchai escalated. We need to escalate too.”

Thursday, July 12, 2018

The Mad Monk of Geylang Part 3

I free my Benchmade from my pants and pop the blade open.
‘Leonhard, Lupin, what’s going on?’ I ask.
The wolf materializes before me. ‘Intruders!’
A full-throated leonine roar fills my head.
I burst out the bathroom, knife by my hip, and hit the lights.
A wind chime lay by the window next to my bed. I approach the window carefully, looking for threats.
The wind chime was a simple device, eight metal bars suspended from a small wooden circle, with a traditional Chinese coin hanging from a longer string at the center of the circle. It wasn’t broken, but the hook it was mounted to had fallen from the window frame. A 3M Command adhesive-backed hook, meant to hold strongly against a dry flat surface.

There’s no wind.
And my wards are broken.
The air shifts. A malign presence fills my home. Swarms of biting things flash into existence, gnawing at my skin.
I sidestep and spin around, arms whirling. Steel flashes through smoke. A huge presence towers over me, a serpentine monstrosity with a half-dozen arms, every hand holding a blade.
Lupin leaps from the floor, capturing a hand in his jaws. Leonhard pounces on the naga’s back, ripping and tearing. The monster screams in pain.
I crash in and stab.
There is no art in killing. I stab and stab and stab, thrusting high, thrusting low, carving through his neck and belly, feeling the creature disintegrate before the steel.
With a final wounded cry, it vanishes in a flash of light.
The swarm still engulfs me, biting and ripping, trying to penetrate my shields. I run my blade over my body, cutting them loose, and fill the world with White Light. The purifying energies rile them up, dislodging them from me, and force them to retreat.
When the last of the lesser entities are gone, I scan, both physically and astrally. No more threats.
“Is everyone okay?” I ask.
‘I’m okay,’ Lupin reports.
Leonhard curls up in a corner, licking his left hindleg. Dark fluids burst from an ugly wound.
‘No,’ he says.
‘Do you need help?’
“Don’t worry about me,’ he growls. ‘I know a healer. But the naga isn’t dead, merely wounded. You must finish the fight.’
‘It could be an ambush.’
‘If you don’t finish him, he will come back again. Nagas are vengeful beings.’
‘I will go with you,’ Lupin says.
‘Thank you,’ I say.
‘But be warned,’ Lupin continues. ‘His kin are surely on the lookout for intruders. Do not approach them with violence in your heart. Merely openness, and a spirit of peace. Seek not to conquer, only to resolve your differences, lest they attack you on sight.’
‘And if they treat me with hostility?’
He bares his teeth. ‘If they violate the laws of hospitality, escalation may be necessary.’
I cleanse my room again, put the wind chime back up, and erect new shields. Multiple layers of shields, concealed under an outer camouflage layer. Then I return to the bathroom and shower off once more, scrubbing off the negativity the naga had left in me, willing my body to calm down. Once dry, I lay out my cushion on the floor, turn off the lights, and sink into a lotus position on the cushion.
Half-closing my eyes, I breathe, and focus.
Energy. All of Creation brims with subtle energies, invisible to the naked eye and to most of what science was pleased to call detectors and sensors. This energy is a living force, and indeed it could well be the wellspring of life and consciousness itself. I fill my body with it, filling my chakras and energy channels to the brim, feeling streams of pleasant warmth flow and hum through me.
When I reach my full capacity, I shut my eyes and visualize a rope. A rope growing from the center of my chest, reaching up into infinity. I see myself grabbing the rope, and climb.
Up and up and up I climb. My fingers and feet tingle. My temples buzz. Electricity crackles and swirls and gathers in my chest. I keep ascending, breathing deep. The sensations grow stronger and stronger, my chest overflowing with energy. A ball of light gathers in my heart, growing larger and larger, until it reaches supercritical mass.
The ball erupts with a massive BANG.
Suddenly I am free. I rise above my physical body, floating to the ceiling.
Lots of people believe astral projection involves the soul leaving the soul. The truth was far stranger. The body generates a clone of itself made from pure energy, infused with your consciousness—and both your physical and your astral selves are intertwined and sentient, sharing the same soul.
Lupin swims up to me. A predatory glint fills his eyes.
“Are you ready?” he asks.
“Let’s go,” I say.
Lupin cocks his head, gesturing at a shimmering yellow thread hanging from the ceiling. The greater naga was sloppy; he had left behind a trace we could follow.
Or maybe he’s leading us into an ambush.
In for a penny, in for a pound. Whatever comes, we’ll deal with it.
We fly.
Passing through the borders of the material world, we fly higher and higher, punching through the barriers between realms, following the yellow cord. Wonderlands of vivid colours and strange sounds flash by. Sense-impressions fill me: a realm where the air is a deep shade in between fuchsia and magenta; trees melting and reforming into crystals and clocks and other surreal shapes; an unseen choir singing praises to a divine power, their voices clear as crystal and ringing like bells; a strange odour that registers as thick saffron, somehow reminding me of a sutra.
“Here we are,” Lupin says.
We halt.
I float above a grassy plain beneath a cloudless yellow sky. Framed against distant mountains, three suns shine down on me, bright but not blinding. The air is pleasantly cool, and a gentle breeze carries a subtle floral fragrance from the forest before me. Wordlessly, Lupin and I descend to the ground.
An army of nagas boil forth from the forest ahead, so many they block out the treeline. Some two pairs of arms, others have one, still more have many more pairs. Polearms and swords and shields glitter under the suns. They are all male, dressed in resplendent gold-laced tunics. They array themselves before me, forming a phalanx, and advance.
I stand my ground and watch them come.
They halt half a football field away. Suddenly they take a single step to the side, opening a passage through their ranks. A huge naga, a giant among giants, slithers through the opening. This one is unarmed, but atop his head is a crown embedded with precious gems.
The naga king approaches me, completely unperturbed. His aura washes over me, an aura of majesty and power and authority and pure killing intent.
I stand my ground and let him come.
He halts six arms’ lengths away from me and sneers down at my face.
“Human!” he barks. “This land is forbidden to you! Leave at once!”
“A naga attacked me while I was at home,” I say. “I am come to seek redress.”
“Redress?” He spits out the word like a curse. “It is I who should seek redress from you.”
“Are you the ruler of this land?”
“Indeed. I hold the power of life and death here, and all you see in this realm falls under my authority.”
“Very well. State your case, Your Majesty.”
“I sent my son abroad on a mission of vital import. He and his retinue returned bearing many grievous wounds caused by cold steel. He spoke of a human magician who hurt him so, a human named Michael Chang.” The king’s eyes narrowed. “You are he.”
“Yes,” I say calmly. “Did you authorise them to invade my home?”
“I gave my son broad license to act he sees fit to execute his mission. If he attacked you, then you must have interfered with his mission.”
“I do not know of his mission. I know only that nagas harmed my client. I banished them and healed my client, and when I returned, the same nagas stormed my home. I used cold steel to defend myself and my guides. I require answers.”
“Your son wounded my friend,” Lupin added. “He has much to answer for.”
“This is not your land,” the naga king says. “You do not tell us what to do.”
“You know my name,” I say. “You know who I represent, and what I have done. What I am perfectly willing to do again. I’m certain we do not wish to come to blows. It is best we resolve this peacefully.”
“‘Peacefully’, you say. Had you left my son and his retinue well alone, this would not have happened.”
“Nonetheless, it is my duty to protect and heal all sentient beings, including and especially humans,” I say. “All I saw in that moment was a naga who had laid a curse on my client, and the nagas who stood by him. Was that his mission?”
“Aye. By ritual, prayer and offering, we are bound to carry out the requests of those who petition us for aid.”
“Does that include cursing people?”
“It includes hindering those they declare as their enemies, yes.”
“My client did no wrong.”
“We have our ways. We care not for your human norms.” The king folded his arms. “I may even say that she offended us.”
“She bumbled into a ritual as clumsy as an elephant and departed just as gracelessly. She observed a secret prayer and offered no compensation. She must be punished.”
“Then by your laws, she has offended you?”
“I see. On behalf of my client, I offer my most sincere apologies.”
“Apologies are not enough.”
“What do you desire?”
“Dedicate to us prayers, fruit and water for a month. Do this and we shall forgive you for harming my son and his subordinates.”
“What about my client?”
“As I said, we have been charged with carrying out the desires of a petitioner. Nothing shall sway us from our mission.”
“I hear many of your kind are followers of the Buddha,” I say.
“We follow his teachings, yes,” the king replies guardedly.
“We are all his followers. Perhaps we can come to an agreement—”
He laughs.
The army laughs with him.
“What’s so funny?” Lupin demands.
“You have turned your face from the faith of your fathers,” the king replies. “You abandoned the teachings for another creed, and you do not walk the Middle Way. Who are you to count yourself among the Sangha?”
He’s right, but only partially. Like most Singaporeans, religion to my parents was little more than a series of rituals and prayers, to be performed at proscribed times and dates, but little more. I sought the truth of reality.
But there’s no sense arguing that point here. It’s merely a distraction, and to show weakness before such a powerful being in his home plane is to court death, and fates worse than death.
“I honour the Buddha and the gods, and though I do not call myself a Buddhist anymore, I still study his teachings,” I reply.
“You are but a dabbler. You lack the discipline and the faith to commit to the teachings. Begone, liar and infidel, lest we visit the punishment of the heavens upon you.”
“I speak for my client, and she is a believer also. If you will not compromise for me, surely you can do so for her.”
“I have my mission. I shall carry them out. No mortal may stop us.”
“It appears we are at an impasse,” I say.
“Indeed. And before you think of escalating, know this: I know of you have done in the infernal realms. Such behaviour shall not be tolerated here. Know this: he who harms so much as a single hair on the head of any of my subjects shall face the wrath of my army.”
The soldier nagas roar as one, raising their weapons to catch the light. Lupin scratches his nose and tilts his head away.
“I have not come all this way to fight you,” I say.
“An excellent decision.”
“I do, however, have a question for you.”
“Suppose the original petitioner rescinds his request. Would that discharge you from your duties?”
“Yes. But know this: we have covenanted with the petitioner to protect him. Should you use violence against him, we shall return it a thousandfold, and we shall ignore any request you may coerce from him.”
“Very well. Allow me to take my leave.”
“This visit changes nothing. We will brook no interference in our mission. Should you continue to aid your client, we shall continue to remain at odds.”
“Then let’s hope for an amicable solution.”
Returning to Earth is easy. Backing away from the nagas, I look up and see a silver cord stretching from my body to the skies. I lift off from the plains, Lupin in tow, and follow the silver cord home.
With a thunderous CRACK, I awake in my body.
I blink. Massage my eyes. Stretch. Slowly, gently, I stand back up, head to the kitchen and pour a glass of water.
That wasn’t an ideal outcome. But any good out of body experience is one you return from. Especially without making war on more threats than you could handle at once.
My phone vibrates on my desk. I finish my drink, saunter over, and check the phone. WhatsApp message from Diana.
Phra Somchai’s followers are harassing me. I need help.
Cheah Git San Calligraphy.jpg
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If magic, sci fi and martial arts is up your alley, check out my latest novel HAMMER OF THE WITCHES. Please nominate HAMMER OF THE WITCHES for the Dragon Awards here.
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Wednesday, July 11, 2018

The Mad Monk of Geylang Part 2

‘You dare defy us?!’ the naga roars.
I stride over to it and clear my throat.
“Naga, your work is done here,” I say out loud. “You have delivered your message and you have fulfilled your duty. I bid you now to return to your home in peace.”
The naga laughs, its sibilant voice filling my head with buzzing bees.
‘I’m not done here. My work has only begun!’
“Leave now, naga, and we may yet conclude this peacefully,” I say, filling my voice with intent.
‘Who are you to tell me what to do? You cannot order me around!’

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

The Mad Monk of Geylang Part 1

Evil spirits always do everything in their power to disguise themselves from human ken. Natives of the astral plane, they are invisible to everyone without the second sight, and they act through means so subtle most humans can’t connect the deed back to them. But sometimes, you just can’t ignore the elephant in the room.
Or, in this case, naga.